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Archive for May, 2010

I got a much later start on my garden this year, thanks to surgery that kept me from picking up a shovel for several weeks.  I’m shovel-ready now, and, my stars! is it hot out there!  Still, with a break every hour or so (I’m on one now) I know that I’ll get the garden set in no time.  I also am removing the weeds that choked the garden in my absence, one section at a time with black tarp.  That too is sweat inducing as the heat radiates off the tarp, but it hurts the weeds more than me.

In a twisted way, I love the heat of a Southern summer.  I love getting in a car that’s been closed up, to feel the heat hit me like I’m climbing into an oven.  I guess it’s our version of a sauna, only we sweat everything out in the summer, not the winter.  I also know that the sweat of my brow will get me what I want:  homegrown, organic vegetables that are so fresh they go from garden to table in minutes.  And I take a shot of pickle juice when I get overheated, miraculously perking me up.

Right now while I am digging for summer, we’re savoring the harvest from our winter gardening.  We’ve been feasting on English peas, snow peas, cabbage, carrots, beets, radishes, broccoli, turnips, lettuce, mustard, and lots of over-wintered herbs.  It’s wonderful to sit down to a meal where all the veggies in the cole slaw came from a few feet from the kitchen window.  Unfortunately, all this digging means less time for writing here . . . .

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We went from unusually cool weather to dramatically (and unseasonally) hot weather in the second half of last week.  As a result, I found myself doing emergency harvesting of lettuce and other cool season crops, but I also got to see this lily burst into bloom.  I couldn’t resist sharing it with you.With this early heat has come a lot of humidity, like a giant’s warm, moist breath very time you walk outside.  That brought us critters, though, that might stay closer to the creek ordinarily, like this baby Ozark Zigzag salamander.  No, really, that’s what it’s called.  The photos are blurry because it was so tiny and I was so close.Can you see the little salamander on the big thumb?  Maybe that’s the giant whose breath I keep feeling.

No, that’s my husband’s hand.  The salamander must be really tiny.

Don’t worry; we set him free in a safe location near where my husband found the little guy.

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader, including photographs.

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For years we’ve understood that we need to eat several servings of fruits and vegetables every day, but I know that even with our attempts at healthy eating we don’t always hit the target number.  Breakfast is a great time to add more fruits and vegetables to your meal.  Today we enjoyed vegetable-filled migas with a side of local, organic strawberries and local, organic yogurt.  We’ve started the day a few servings of fruits and veggies ahead.

I first had migas on a trip to Texas a few years ago.  My understanding is that migas evolved first in Spain and then in the New World as a way to use up leftover bits–crumbs, as migas means in English.  Today we had migas with turkey sausage, although you certainly could make the dish vegetarian by leaving out the sausage.

Basic ingredients

  • finely sliced onion (I used leek because I had it on hand and because I like the milder flavor with eggs)
  • optional:  turkey sausage
  • sliced hot pepper (or sweet pepper if you have no tolerance for hot)
  • sliced or chopped tomato
  • optional:  baby summer squash, sliced and cut into chunks
  • fresh sage leaves, thinly sliced
  • oregano, thinly sliced
  • eggs, beaten with a splash of water
  • cheese to garnish
  • corn tortilla, cut into thin strips and then tossed with oil and baked until crispy (or fried)

sides:  salsa, tortillas for wrapping

Begin by  either toasting or frying the corn tortilla strips after tossing them with oil.  Set aside, out of the oil, until you finish the rest of the dish.  Saute the onion or leek and then brown the sausage, if you are using any.  Add in the sliced chiles, and after everything has cooked a few more minutes, add the herbs, squash, and tomatoes.  Last, pour on the eggs.  If your pan was hot to start and you are using heavy cast iron, you can probably turn it off now and count on residual heat to scramble the eggs.  Add salt and pepper to taste.Shred on a little cheese (cheddar, Monterrey jack) and spoon the migas onto serving plates.  Sprinkle with tortilla strips.  Serve with salsa and, if you want, tortillas for fork-free consumption.  Eat.  Enjoy.  

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Regular readers know I’m all about using what we grow here, in season.  Fortunately, some foods stay seasonal months after you’d think possible, such as the butternut squash that I picked in early November and kept in a cool room for winter, preserving it for our use last night.  For dinner we ate roasted  butternut squash, beets, onions, leeks, and shittake mushrooms served with Italian sausage and a sprinkling of goat cheese over a bed of whole-wheat fusilli pasta, cooked al dente.  The roasted butternut squash and goat cheese almost melted in the pasta to create a creamy, chunky, buttery sauce.  The beets provided glorious color and a caramelized sweetness.  Fresh herbs and Italian sausage rounded out the dish.   As always, we went organic with everything we could–in this case, everything.

Here’s what we used; you could change quantities to fit what you have on hand.

  • 2-3 large freshly dug beets, rough parts peeled off and quartered
  • 1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and diced
  • 1-2 leek bottoms, cleaned (sliced lengthwise) and sliced across the grain
  • optional:  1  small, sweet onion, quartered and sliced (if you don’t have leeks)
  • 1 teaspoon or so finely chopped or dried Italian herbs (rosemary, oregano but probably not basil for this dish)
  • olive oil
  • butter
  • optional:  splash of balsamic vinegar
  • 1 cup or more of shittake mushroom tops, halved and then sliced  (other mushrooms will work too, but you may want to alter the roasting time)
  • 1/3 pound Italian sausage
  • 1 sweet or hot Italian pepper (ours came from our garden by way of the freezer), sliced
  • optional:  red pepper flakes
  • 3/4 – 1 dry cup whole-wheat fusilli pasta (or other hearty curly pasta that will retain its character in the face of other flavors)

Begin by preheating the oven to 375 degrees F.  (You could go to 400 degrees F, but only if you are using more, smaller beets, and then you’ll need to reduce total roast time to 20 minutes.)  Lightly coat the bottom of a heavy pan with olive oil and butter.  (I used cast iron–big surprise, right?)  Spread on your beets, squash, leeks and onions, toss them with the herbs, a little more olive oil, salt and pepper, and, if desired, the balsamic vinegar.  (You can also save this ingredient for later or leave it out altogether.)  Roast these vegetables for 20 minutes and then add the shittake mushrooms and roast for 10 more minutes.  Meanwhile, brown the Italian sausage and crumble or slice it and then keep it warm with the red pepper slices.  Pump up the heat with red pepper flakes if you want more spice.  As the sausage and peppers cook, prepare the pasta in boiling water.  Everything should be ready at about the same time–approximately 35 minutes after you started prepping the vegetables.  Put the drained fusilli in bowls and then add the sausage with peppers and the roasted vegetables, tossed with balsamic vinegar if you didn’t use it earlier.  Sprinkle the goat cheese on top.  As you eat, the goat cheese and butternut squash will start to meld with the pasta.

Vegetarian option:  substitute seasonal beans or seasoned garbanzo beans for the sausage!

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.  Short excerpts with full URL and attribution to Ozarkhomesteader are welcome. Please contact me for permission to use photographs.

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. . . a rustic pasta recipe.  Come on back and see it in detail.

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader, including photographs.

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Several years ago a friend whose mother had been in the antique business told me he had a rustic chicken coop that I could re-purpose.  I was skeptical but went to see it.  It wasn’t a chicken coop.  It was a six-bay nesting box that had been thoroughly cleaned and varnished.  I was immediately taken with the piece and decided to purchase it for the princely sum of $15.  I cleaned the piece up a bit more and then tried it out in various locations and for numerous uses.  My favorite was displaying antique quilts in them.  Unfortunately, right now it is not in an ideal location for you to see the rustic beauty and convenient service of the piece, but I’ve included one close-up shot.

I’m thinking a lot of nesting boxes today because we have discussed getting chickens as soon as we get back from our summer vacation.  Imagine my surprise when fellow blogger Polly’s Path told readers that Georgia Farm Woman is having another nesting box giveaway!  Oooh, if I win I can start my chickens for sure late this summer!  Of course, now that I’ve told you, Georgia Farm Woman could have lots more entries for the giveaway.  Go ahead; check out these great modern nesting boxes.  I hope one of us wins!

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.  Short excerpts with full URL and attribution to Ozarkhomesteader are welcome.  Please contact me for permission to use photographs.

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Today, after a few days away from the homestead, I picked a bounty of English peas.  They were mighty tasty, even though all I did was a 1950s simmer in salted water with garlic and herbs.The only problem I see with a bounty of English peas is the apparent waste of the pods that are left after you shell.  After reading that Darina Allen makes the ordinarily inedible pods into a pureed soup, I decided to use mine for a frugal pea-pod pesto for scallops.

The process is too simple to write it as a recipe.  I had two or more cups of fresh English pea pods, peas removed.  I started by sauteing crushed garlic in a little butter and olive oil.  Then I added a little water to keep the garlic from burning  plus the pods and the juice of half a fresh lemon and let everything steam.  Next I pureed them.  Then I strained them and added a little potato flour (about 2 teaspoons), a little milk (a splash), and about 1/4 ounce parmesan cheese and brought the mixture to a simmer to thicken it.  I spooned it over scallops that I sauteed in butter and olive oil with sherry to deglaze the pan.  I had visions of a bright green sauce, but that’s not really what I got.  It was still tasty, and I’ll bet your pea haters will love it if you don’t confess the sauce’s origins.  Here the scallops and pea-pod pesto are pictured with a baked potato, a pile of peas, and a salad of red romaine lettuce with diced figs, olives, and toasted slivered almonds.

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