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Archive for the ‘organic gardening’ Category

Life has kept me from blogging lately. A relative had some emergency orthopedic surgery that kept me away from home. I’m headed back there on Wednesday, but meanwhile I’m desperately trying to get caught up on planting. Mr. Homesteader has been keeping himself busy too. Take a look. Can you guess who’s coming to breakfast soon?
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There is no question that fall has come.  Actually, we had our first frost about two weeks ahead of schedule, at the beginning of October.  

I am extremely resistant to yielding to winter in the garden.  In case you hadn’t noticed, we’re still picking summer crops.  I used an old king-sized mattress cover for moving to protect my teepee, this year laden with trombetta squash and armenian cucumbers.  We picked several pounds after the first frost.

Sadly, a wind storm last week ripped off the plastic and collapsed the teepee.  I haven’t given up on everything else, though.  Last weekend was the real test, when temperatures plunged into the lower twenties.  Everything that stayed covered survived.  Tomorrow night, we’re expecting more freezing temperatures, but I’ve tucked in the garden and hope that it stays that way.  If so, we’ll keep harvesting for a few more weeks.

How do you let go of your garden as winter comes?  Do you have a ritual of putting the garden in hibernation?  Are you like me, trying to get that last tomato to ripen?

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.

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Ozarkhomesteader's Pepper Jelly

 

Like a brilliant jewel, pepper jelly made with red chiles and cranberry juice tantalizes for fall feasts and Christmas presents.  I’ll post the full recipe in a couple of days.  It’s incredibly easy and oh-so-delicious with cream cheese and crackers, on cornbread, or even as a sweet-sour-and-hot drizzle sauce for chicken, fish, or vegetables or a dip for egg rolls, spring rolls, and other appetizers.

 

Perfect for Holiday Gifts

 

How hot do you like it?  Discuss.  🙂

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader

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I don’t remember having creamy tomato soup that often as a kid, but I do remember how comforting a can of Campbell’s could be as I moved out on my own and couldn’t afford much else.  Today creamy tomato soup still speaks comfort to me, but I quit that red can long ago in favor of brands that have fewer artificial ingredients.  The “natural” and organic brands are pretty expensive, so how about just making our own creamy tomato soup at home?  This recipe will let you use up some of that bushel of tomatoes that showed up in your CSA basket, that caught your eye at your local farmer’s market, or that mysteriously appeared in your garden or on your doorstep.

serves 2-3

Ingredients

  • 1/3 medium sweet yellow onion, diced (about 1/3 cup)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1/2 tablespoon butter
  • about 1 medium carrot (2 if the carrots don’t taste too carrot-y), diced (about 1/3 cup)
  • 2 1/2 cups (or more) of fresh or home-canned peeled tomatoes, as many seeds as you can removed (but keep the juice)
  • pinch of salt (more to taste after you cook everything)
  • pinch or two of sugar
  • tiny, tiny pinch of allspice or nutmeg
  • 1/2-2/3 cup whole milk (or more, to taste) or cream, if you’re feeling decadent
  • optional:  garnish with fresh herbs

In a non-reactive, heavy-bottomed pot with the lid on, sauté the onions over low heat in the olive oil and butter until the onions just barely start to color.  Add the carrots and let them get a little color too.  Remember to keep the lid on to retain the moisture.  Add the tomatoes, salt, sugar, and allspice or nutmeg and simmer the soup on low heat until the tomatoes start to break down and the carrots are soft.  Purée using a stick blender if you have one.  If you don’t have a stick blender, let the mixture cool a bit and then blend it in a stand blender or food processor or even run it through a hand-crank food mill.  Bring back to a simmer and add the milk.  Be careful not to boil after you add the milk, or the soup will curdle! Taste and add salt if needed.  Serve hot with a grilled cheese sandwich (or turkey-ham and cheese, like we used).

Have you developed a favorite comfort-food recipe?  If you serve tomato soup, what do you serve with it in your home?

Remember to check out the Homestead’s first ever giveaway.  You could win a Dutch oven, just for saying you’re interested.

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.

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I started our summer squash late this year, but we’ve still ended up with bushels of it.  Last year I posted about summer supper squash pancakes, and earlier this year I offered a can-less version of squash casserole.  Of course, you can always sauté squash with onions, but why not go a little crazy and come up with a few more variations?

Earlier this week we had squash roasted with sweet onions, pimento pepper, a little chile pepper, and strips of turkey ham.  The recipe is simple; just cut the onions into chunky slices (half the onion and then quarter and separate into leaves), toss with a little oil, and give them a head start them roasting at 400 degrees F while you cut the squash into nice chunks, the pepper into dice or slivers, and the ham into strips.  Once everything else is prepped, toss it in with the onion, season to taste, and roast for about twenty minutes more.  You can sprinkle fresh, chiffonaded basil or another fresh snipped herb across the top.  I served ours as a side dish with spinach oyster soup, balsamic fig and bleu cheese salad, and crusty grilled bread.  My husband said he could easily enjoy the squash dish as the whole meal. Of course, this squash dish with that characteristic Southern drawl used a lot of squash, but I still had a lot more.

What to do?  How about squash stir-fried with Asian flavors?  This dish is still based on onions and squash, but it’s definitely different from traditional Southern squash.  Begin by slicing a sweet onion into thin slices.  Stir-fry the onions in a blend of walnut oil, peanut oil, or vegetable oil and a tablespoon or two of toasted sesame oil.  While the onions fry, cut your squash into chunks and sliver some crystalized ginger (yes, the candy ginger!), about two whole pieces per small squash (yielding a couple of tablespoons or three of slivered crystalized ginger).  Add the squash and crystalized ginger slivers to the stir-fry along with a splash of good soy sauce and, if you want, a splash of hoisin sauce.  Sit fry until a few pieces of the squash start get brown goodness.  I served our Asian-flavored squash with citrus-glazed broccoli and ginger-sesame salmon.  

What’s next?  I’m thinking squash with scallops and grits and perhaps some yellow squash muffins on the side, with cheese to make them a savory addition to supper.  I’m also planning on trying the squash relish that reader Regina posted for me in the comments of this squash post.  And this fall without a doubt I’ll be making some squash dressing to go with chicken or turkey.

How do you use your squash bounty?  What’s the weirdest thing you ever did with squash that tasted good?

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(Just because it’s Wordless Wednesday for me, it doesn’t mean you can’t leave comments.)

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.

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Over the past week, a pile of tomatoes accumulated on our kitchen counter.  They were tasty and ripe, but a lot of them were also ugly.  Some of them had split, while others had fallen victim to tiny predators, which took bites out of each tomato and moved on to the next.  I didn’t have quite enough tomatoes to justify a canning session, but I had to use the tomatoes before they went bad.  I’d just cut off the parts that had already been compromised.  I needed a recipe for a pile of tomatoes, something other than marinara sauce.

Regular readers may recall that I fell in love with the concept behind the cookery school at Ballymaloe, an Irish estate.  Ballymaloe focuses on using fresh, local, seasonal ingredients.  Studying at the school is not in my budget, but buying Darina Allen’s cookbook was, as I described in April.  Since I got the book, I’ve used it as much for tips on breaking down whole chickens as I have for the recipes, but a recipe for tomato and pecorino tarte tatin caught my attention as I contemplated my pile of ugly tomatoes.  I ended up using Allen’s idea–baked tomato in a nice crust–rather than the recipe, so what I present here is my adaption, a right-side-up pie rather than an upside-down tarte tatin.  This tart makes a rich side dish with a light dinner but can also be an appetizer on its own or a tasty leftovers breakfast.  And you can make it without heating up your house if you use your toaster oven.

Filling Ingredients for an 8-inch cast iron pan

  • 1/4 sweet yellow onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon butter
  • about 5-6 cups peeled, chopped fresh tomatoes, preferably a mix of paste and slicing tomatoes; okay to use cherries too, but they’re a lot harder to peel!
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • optional:  1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced (okay to use the yellow onion, but then your pie won’t be quite as pretty)
  • tiny bit of olive oil
  • 2-3 slicing tomatoes, sliced thinly
  • 1 1/2 ounces manchego or other sweet, hard cheese, like a dry, aged cheddar
  • several fresh basil leaves, chiffonaded

Crust Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup cold butter, cut into bits
  • optional but really tasty!:  handful or two of toasted pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup plain, nonfat yogurt
  • flour for rolling

Begin by sauteing the chopped onion in the olive oil and butter in a heavy-bottomed non-reactive pot (e.g. aluminum-bottomed stainless steel) while you prep the chopped tomatoes.  When the onions just barely start to caramelize, add the chopped tomatoes, salt, and sugar.  Cook uncovered over low heat, simmering until the tomato and onion mixture is reduced to about 1/3 or even 1/4 of its original volume.  The consistency should be like jam, close to tomato paste.

Meanwhile, roast the thinly sliced red onion with a little oil in your 8-inch cast iron pan for about 15 minutes at 375 degrees F.  Set aside the roasted, now caramelized onions.  We’re going to need the pan.

You can make the pie crust while the tomato jam cooks down and the red onions roast.  Put the flour mixed with with salt and leavening and cold, cut butter in a medium-sized bowl.  Cut the butter into the flour, using a pastry cutter or fork.  Once you’ve cut in the butter, creating a mealy mixture, mix in the toasted pine nuts, breaking them with the pastry cutter.  Now stir in the yogurt, just until you’ve formed the dough. Do not overwork pastry dough! Wrap the dough and chill for a few minutes.  When the tomato jam is ready, flour a clean surface and roll out about 2/3 of the dough and use it to line your 8-inch cast iron pan.  (Save the rest of the dough, well wrapped, in the refrigerator.  We’re going to use it for sweet apple turnovers!) Pre-bake the crust at about 375 degrees F for 15 minutes, covering the crust loosely with aluminum foil to keep it from over-browning in the toaster oven.

Now let’s fill!  Using a fine grater or even a microplane, grate a thin layer of cheese over the baked crust.  Spoon on about 1/2 of the tomato jam.  Add a the slices from one tomato and a little more cheese.  Put on a little more tomato jam, add more slices, and then sprinkle on the roasted onions.  Add more tomato slices, the basil, a little more jam, and the rest of the cheese.  Bake at 375 degrees F for 15-20 minutes, covering loosely with foil to avoid over-browning the crust.  Let cool briefly and then slice and serve.

Would you like to make a 10-inch tart instead?  Simply prepare 50% more of all of the filling ingredients and use all of the pastry dough.

Do you have a favorite savory vegetable pie that you make or had somewhere?  What do you do with your ugly tomatoes?

 

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader, including photographs.  All rights reserved.

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August and September end the lazy days of slow breakfasts, but they don’t have to end good breakfasts.  For a quick, healthy breakfast or afternoon snack, bake a loaf of whole-grain, low-fat, higher protein but still moist and delicious zucchini bread, chocked full of good stuff like pepitas, which contain healthy fatty acids.  Take a look at the ingredients:  your only fat is from the egg(s) and the pepitas.  All of the moist goodness comes from buttermilk and yogurt, plus those dairy products and pepitas bring extra protein, calcium, and some good fats.  One loaf will yield close to 2 dozen slices for several breakfasts, lunchbox treats, afternoon snacks, or even as Mr. Homesteader likes it best, dessert at night (warmed with a dollop of ice cream).

Ingredients for 1 loaf baked in a 9×5 inch pan

  • 1/4 cup plain, nonfat yogurt
  • 1/3 cup sugar (or less)
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk or kefir
  • 1-2 eggs
  • 1 cup grated fresh or frozen (drained) zucchini
  • 1 cup plus one tablespoon whole-wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 -3 tablespoons cinnamon (or less, if you aren’t a cinnamon nut like I am!)
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/3 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds) or 1/3 cup coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans
  • handful or two of golden raisins, regular raisins, or currants (optional if you hate raisins, of course)

Preheat oven (or toaster oven!) to 350 degrees F.  Grease the bottom only of a 9X5 bread-baking pan (glass or cast iron preferred over a flimsy metal pan, as you’re going to bake this for a while).  Combine the first five ingredients in a small bowl or large mixing cup–about 1 quart size should give you plenty of room.  Combine the remaining ingredients except the pepitas and raisins in a 2-cup measure and stir well.  Add the flour mixture to the wet mixture and stir just to combine.  Stir in the raisins and pepitas, reserving a few pepitas for the top of the loaf.  Pour everything into your prepared pan and sprinkle on the last of the pepitas.  Bake at 350 degrees F for about 70 minutes, covering the top loosely with foil to avoid over-browning about half way through the process.  Let the bread cool 5 minutes in the pan, and then slide a knife around the edges to make sure the bread is separated neatly.  Remove the bread from the pan and let it finish cooling on a rack.  Slice after it cools, as you need it, from the center outward.

If you’ve got space in your freezer, you can double or even triple this recipe and freeze loafs for easy breakfasts in the winter.  If you decide to freeze the zucchini instead, be sure to grate it first and then drain it very well after it thaws before you use it for bread.

Does your family have a favorite quick back-to-school breakfast?  Do you have a special way to bake zucchini bread?

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader, including photographs.

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Recently a Canadian reader, Anita, who has fallen in love with Southern food asked me for my squash casserole recipe.  I said I’d be happy to oblige but would need a few weeks for two reasons:  first, the squash crop around here was in the summer lull (argh, squash bugs!), but most importantly because I needed to actually come up with a recipe.  I make mine a little differently every time, just as I do with most things that I cook and bake.  Anita remembered a casserole she’d had in Georgia that was creamy, with a buttery flavor.  She hoped it did not involve the ubiquitous can of Campbell’s soup that has made most “casseroles” since the 1950s.  I’ve certainly had the souped up casserole at many a potluck, but that was not my favorite squash casserole; my favorite was my grandmother’s.

While my mother-in-law was visiting, I made a squash casserole as my mother-in-law said she did, using milk, mayonnaise, and egg as the binding agent.  It definitely was not what we were looking for, having a heavy feel, and I knew my own grandmother had used a white sauce.  I hunted to see if my grandmother ever wrote down her recipe, or if she had gotten it from that trusty 1899 cookbook that belonged to her mother.  No, that cookbook made no mention of a casserole at all, the concept of a casserole having been foreign (literally) in much of the Southern United States until the introduction of Campbell’s “casseroles” in the mid-twentieth century.  (The infamous green bean casserole with canned soup dates from 1955, by the way.) I surrendered to the inevitable; I had learned how to make squash casserole at my grandmother’s side, and I needed to just give up looking for a recipe and create my own.

My grandmother’s version of squash casserole would have involved either a standard white sauce with cheese and egg or evaporated milk with cheese and egg.  Today I’ll give you my white sauce version, using the dangerously easy cheese sauce with all real-dairy ingredients that I posted in May.  I’m going to give the recipe in proportions for one or two medium yellow squash, with the variations for more.  Remember as you select your casserole dish to keep the squash mixture at about 2 inches depth in the dish.  That way, every serving can have a good amount of the crunchy topping.

A couple of casserole sizes:

  • 1-2 squash:  Try using one of those cute little .4 L Corning casseroles
  • 7-8 squash:  Go for a 2-quart casserole dish.

Recipe for 1-2 medium-sized yellow squash:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil or 1/2 tablespoon olive oil and tiny pat of butter (better!)
  • 1/3 – 1/2 medium-sized sweet yellow onion, cut into very thin slices  (If the onion makes you cry when you cut into it, use less.)
  • 1-2 medium-sized yellow squash, sliced about 1/4 inch thick
  • dash of salt, pepper, and, if you want, a pinch of Italian herbs
  • 1 egg, beaten with a fork
  • 1/4 cup dangerously easy cheese sauce, cooled sufficiently to avoid cooking the egg.
  • 1/4 cup more freshly grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • fine, dry bread crumbs (like Panko) or fine cracker crumbs, sufficient to cover the top of the casserole in a thin layer (about 1/4 cup)

Saute the onion in a heavy pan in the olive oil and butter mix just until the onion starts to get a little color.  Add the squash and saute it with the salt, pepper, and herbs until a bit of the liquid in it yields and is cooked off.  (The salt will help this process.)  Let the mixture cool a bit.  In a measuring cup, add the cheese sauce to the beaten egg and stir well to combine.  Start layering the squash and onions in a lightly greased casserole dish, then pour on a little cheese-egg mixture, then more squash and onions, then more cheese until you’ve used it all.  Sprinkle the grated sharp cheddar on top, add your bread crumbs, and bake, covered, in a 350 degree F oven for about 25 minutes.  Take off the lid and let the casserole brown on top, about 5-10 minutes more depending on what type of crumbs you used.  Let the casserole cool about 5 minutes and then serve.

Let’s multiply to make bigger casseroles:

For 3-4 squash, use 2/3-1 onion, 2 eggs, and 1/2 cup of cheese sauce.  For 5-6 squash, use 1 to 1 1/2 onion, 3 eggs, and 3/4 cup cheese sauce.  For 7-8 squash, use 1 1/3 to 2 sweet onions, 4 eggs, and 1 cup cheese sauce.

As my husband tucked his fork into his serving of casserole last night and put it in his mouth, he sort of made a face.  I was downhearted.  I’d already tasted the casserole and thought it was blog worthy.  I waited a few minutes and asked him what he thought, explaining my quest.  It turned out, he was thinking about his master’s class in statistics when he made the face.  He went into Food Network judge mode to extoll the virtues of the casserole.  He described the squashy, cheesy portion of the casserole as almost custardy, with a fluffy lightness that balanced the richness of the cheese.  He pointed out that the fine crumbs had contributed to the lightness of the dish with their crisp coating on the top.  He liked the flavor too.

To be sure, there are plenty of squash casserole recipes out there, and this is just one, Anita.  If it doesn’t fit your memories of the squash casserole you had in Georgia, I’ll happily go back to the kitchen to work on it more.  My late-planted squash is about to produce a bonanza.  I’ll end up freezing a few squash casseroles by the time the season is over, for use in the winter.

Do you have a favorite squash casserole recipe, with or without canned soup?  Please share!

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.

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We raise a lot of our own food, but this year we’re growing less than usual, and I’m grateful that  we’ve now got a farmers market relatively close–Searcy–, where I can fill in the gaps.  It’s too far from my house for me to go regularly, but in my two visits I’ve been impressed with the produce at a this small but still excellent farmers market.  I have a good friend who goes weekly to this market who says she always gets great produce.

Several of the farmers grow chemical free produce, and  Kelly Carney (pictured here) has even gone through the process of getting his farm, North Pulaski Farms, certified organic.  

Kelly and a few others, such as Eddie Stuckey of Kellogg Valley Farms (not pictured) and the Latture Family of Freckle Face Farm, who come to this market on Wednesdays, are also part of the Locally Grown network I use some Fridays in another Arkansas community.

Mitchell Latture of Freckle Face, pictured below, specializes in chemical-free, pasture-raised poultry and meat.  I met two of his his kids on my most recent visit and discovered why the farm is called Freckle Face!

Some farmers here specialize in specific produce, like the shiitake mushroom man, who also grows darn good eggplants and other produce:

The market was hot, hot, hot–around 106 degrees F, so only a smattering of customers came the day I took these pictures, but the farmers hung in for the few like me who ventured out in the heat.  I hope that this market grows and grows.  It provides a great place to meet neighbors, find out how and where your food is grown, and get much better produce with different varieties than you can get at any of the local grocery stores.

Do you sell at a farmers market?  If you are a farmers market customer?  Do you have a favorite farmers market?

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.

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