canning tomatoes

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Our plants have done so well this year.  I can’t take any credit for the garden this year either, but it’s been fun seeing all the goods coming into our kitchen and into friends’s hands.   Look at this 1-pound tomato.  It was so pretty and so good!

DSC_0018 copyMy menu board is not being updated very often, for meals, but it is where we are keeping track of what the garden is producing us.

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A friend wanted to learn to can tomatoes, so we waited to pick them from the garden until that day.  We had 19 pounds of tomatoes to can.

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We set up our outdoor station, how we like doing it in the summer, to keep our house a little cooler (we can in that outdoor gas stove, is perfect.)

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Our friend brought some of her tomatoes and these were some of the tiny colorful and beautiful ones.  We’ve never canned small tomatoes.  We usually peel the bigger ones, but we didn’t these.

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We just packed them after washing them.  She said she blends her tomato sauce when she cooks, anyways.  I am excited to hear how they’ll turn out when she uses them later on.

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We put her to work too, so she can see it’s not that hard to can.  I know it takes time, but it is more fun to do it with friends anyway! We were glad to share our day with her.

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Besides, with these colors?  Isn’t it pretty?

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And then to wait to hear that pop, right? Aaaahhh… just perfect!

DSC_0045 copy DSC_0047 copy DSC_0046 copyJust perfect.

 

in the kitchen

I liked last year’s kitchen posts that Heather inspired us to do.  It was fun to see and try to keep track all the foodly things that were happening.

Here are a few of the foods we’ve eaten lately.

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An Apple German pancake of sorts.  I really like it, and it’s the best to eat it with our apples from the backyard.

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The other day I made a Blackberry Blueberry Galette.  I made the dough from Amy‘s recipe, from her cheat sheet.  (Thank you Amy!) The filling I made by looking at some recipes from this book. I decided to mix wild blackberries we had picked while camping few days before and some blueberries to make about 2-3 cups (didn’t measure).  Added about 1 1/2 tablespoon of flour, about 1/4 cup of sugar, about 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, and a sprinkle of cinnamon.  I put it over parchment paper because I knew it was going to ooze juice.  (Good idea.)

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I put this filling in the middle of the rolled out dough and then turned the dough on the edges to cover it, but leaving it open in the middle.  Then, I brushed milk and put a little bit of butter in the middle, as Amy suggested. So good it was gone very quickly.

I know we’ve eaten more than these two things. There has been lots of popcorn too, lots of it.  Some summer vegetable rolls, some grilling, pasta with the kale pesto, and more. But all and all, pretty simple meals though.

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And yes, some freezing of elderberries, to use in the winter months.  Some of these from some friends’ backyard, some from down by the river.

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This drink though…. oh, my new favorite, even though it doesn’t show what it is.  A simple syrup of rhubarb and basil with sparkling water, ice and a slice of lemon.  Oh yes! So good for hot days!

A new pesto recipe

We love pesto.  Most of us at least, here at home.  I’ve tried the regular basil pesto from different recipes.  You can’t seem to go wrong with basil and pine nuts and parmesan cheese, right?  All so good and such a summer food.

I’ve also tried Stinging Nettle Pesto, and we like it, but I think it’s better fresh.  Everything is better fresh I think, but freezing it for winter eating works too.

Last year I made Lovage Pesto from a recipe online (that I can’t seem to find now) and it was also good.  I didn’t make too much, so I didn’t get to freeze it.

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This year, we have so much kale that Mark and Siena started from seeds, I am loving it.

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I make roasted kale chips for snacking and adding to popcorn, for salads, some smoothies (I think we need a better blender though), in whatever seems to need something green, kale is present.  But oh these plants are so good looking, they’ve done so well this year.  We’ve shared them with friends, and are constantly eating them, and we still have so much more.

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After eating all this kale, I’ve been keeping the stems.  I freeze them with any other vegetable I’m saving to make stock later (on a day that is not so hot!)  But then I found an article on Rachel Ray‘s magazine (the June 2015 issue) about making pesto with kale’s stem.  Yes!  Those beautiful stems, that though I use them for something else, they re so good looking, that it was hard to leave for the compost.

So this Kale Stem Pesto recipe I welcomed happily.  It is really good.  I changed it a little, and this is what I made:

  • 3 cups of kale stems, chopped
  • 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/2 cup walnut pieces
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/2 cup olive oil or until consistency you like
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest, grated

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Put everything in the blender and blend until smooth.  I think this pesto worked OK in our blender, but I think maybe the stinging nettle might be better in a food processor (that we don’t have.)

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But oh yes, this turned out so good!

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On crunchy, yummy bread with slices of eggs… oh yes!  It was so good! (I took 2 pictures.)

DSC_0188 copyLet me know what you think or if you have other pesto recipes.  I’m on a mission to try new green parts for a pesto.  But of course, basil is ready to be picked almost every day, so I’m heading that way next.

 

this week in my kitchen :: blog hop

Following Heather’s blog hop (from Beauty That Moves) I share here with you what happened in our kitchen this past week.

“A weekly collection of photos from the center of my home.”       — Heather

DSC_0022 copyHome made bread.  A great perk of autumn and cooler weather.

DSC_0023 copy DSC_0024 copyOn one day we had some special people coming for dinner, I made this new recipe.  I found it on the weekly advertisement of New Seasons Market (our local store) and decided to go for it.  I usually don’t make fancy, complicated-looking meals.  I guess I’m more straight forward, cook in a pot or pan and let’s gather to eat.  But in their picture it looked just so pretty all that quinoa in the cute pumpkins.  So I decided to make it.  Here’s the recipeDSC_0028 copy DSC_0063 copyJust out of the oven (after 2 hours.)

DSC_0085 copyWe paired it with Potato-Leek soup.  Oh, it was so good.  We all liked it.

DSC_0086 copyEven the super hero at our table tried everything.  Even with his new cape made by his girl-cousin, I think this meal just made him stronger.

DSC_0088 copyA fun and delicious autumn meal with those we love.

DSC_0209 copy DSC_0089 copyPotato-Leek soup.  I love it!

DSC_0094 copyAnd had some pretty popcorn as well.  Look at all those colors…

DSC_0096 copyIt was that good too. I thought.   I mixed it with some kale I roasted in the oven.  It was really good.  But I think if you’ve been visiting here for any amount of time, well, you already knew I love popcorn.

Please do go check Heather’s blog for some meal inspiration.  It has been great gathering all of us there.  So much food goodness.  You should go check it out if you are wanting to see some delicious photos and get inspired for today’s dinner.

A week of making : Kombucha

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I’ve been making kombucha for a couple of years now.  I guess it was my first fermented food I had on our kitchen counter.

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I’ve tried many combinations of tea, and have enjoyed some more than others.  I drink decaf tea, and so I’ve tried black decaf tea, as well as brewing herbal teas.  I like how it tastes.  But reading Sandor Ellix Katz’s book, The Art of Fermentation, I learned that “heavily flavored or scented teas, as the added essential oils, may inhibit fermentation.”

So this week I’m going less fruity.  Decaf Ceylon tea and another jar with a little lemon herbal tea, to see if does something different, now that I’m paying attention.

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I’ve had some batches where the “mushroom” or SCOBY has stayed in the bottom of the jar, the whole time I’ve left it to ferment.  Like in the picture above. Which I learned today too, means the “mushroom” is no longer able to work and ferment.

So now look at this jar here below… not good.

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I had three jars brewing on top of the fridge, and one of them had mold.  I had mold growing in a couple of batches in the winter, and threw those away.  But luckily I’ve had an extra “mother” (or a friend with an extra mushroom!) to start anew.

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So this one also, had to be thrown away.  I know…. it looks like a science experiment, doesn’t it?

Now this week, I have two batches fermenting.  Back to two jars, but I’m sure it will be enough to share with a friend of ours, who doesn’t like to make it or see it, just drink it when it’s strained and already brewed.  And I love sharing it.  It works out for everyone!

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This SCOBY is now in a jar with its sugared tea, ready for its magic.  Let’s see what happens.

After making the sauerkraut from Alex Lewin’s book, Real Food Fermentation, I was reading about kombucha there too.  The pictures in his book are great again.  And I’m thinking I’ll do a couple other fermentations… hard apple cider, ginger ale, mead, buttermilk, maybe?  Oh… so many foods and recipes to try, so little time.

 

 

A week of making : Fruit leather

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I found a recipe for blackberry and apple fruit leather, a couple of yeas ago.  It’s from a book called The River Cottage Preserves Handbook by Pam Corbin.  I really like it.  It has a variation for different fruits for this leather.

The kids and Mark picked a big basket of plums last week and we’ve been eating them non-stop.  But we still have more, so I decided to try the Plum Fruit Leather recipe this time.

Again, not a hard recipe.  You just need a lot of time.

After you cook the fruit you put it through a sieve, and mix it with honey.

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That’s it. It is very simple.  Spread it thin in a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

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Set it in the lowest setting in the oven for many hours.  We’ve had cooler days lately, so it’s been OK to have the oven on.

After cooking it, for I’m not sure how long it was (15 hours maybe?) I took them out and let them cool.

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I lift it off the parchment paper.  It came off pretty easy!

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Then with kitchen scissors I cut thin strips and put it on top of new parchment paper, and folded it.

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It should last few weeks it says, in a closed container.

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The kids have liked it so far, so I think it will be a great snack.  Fruit juice from hand picked fruits, and honey.  Not bad, I think.

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A week of making : Fermented sauerkraut + coleslaw

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I liked the sauerkraut I made last year.  We don’t eat a lot of it, but enough to make it fun to make our own.  And maybe we don’t eat it enough because we used to buy it from the store.  Which came first, not sure.

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If I’m going to talk about easy recipes this week, this is the queen of easyness.  Really! It’s more work to go to the store or to the farmer’s market and buy the cabbage than make the sauerkraut.

Last year and this year, I used Real Food Fermentation by Alex Lewin (Quarry Books, 2012) and it turned out so good.  My mom used to make sauerkraut growing up, but I didn’t eat it then.  Not sure why.

Here’s what I did.

DSC_0053-smallYou slice the cabbage really thin (we don’t have a food processor so I just sliced it as thin as I could with a sharp knife.) Then I added salt to it, “massage” it until some of the liquid comes out of the cabbage and put it in a jar to ferment.  You need to pack it hard.  OK, so maybe this is the hardest part.

DSC_0052-smallThen you let it sit and ferment for few days. Once you like the sourness then put it in the fridge.  That’s it!

And because it is so easy, I also made sauerkraut with the green cabbage.  Though I like the color of the purple one, don’t you?

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Few pages later in the book there is Fermented Carolina-Style Slaw.  I don’t know if I’ve ever had it, but it looks so pretty in the book and I had some cabbage left.  We had carrots on hand and green bell peppers from the garden.

So I went ahead and made a little jar of this beautiful slaw too.  This recipe needs another step adding some spices, but it’s also pretty easy.  Ours is not done yet, because I just made it a couple of days ago, but will let you know how these recipes end up tasting.

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So, I made three recipes in less than an hour.  That’s not bad.  Especially when later we can enjoy great flavors in our dishes, with just few minutes of work and few days of wait.  Mmm… can’t wait.

And yes Oh My!  I’m lucky because thanks to Quarry Books, I am able to share the recipe from this book, here with you.  How cool is that! You should try these recipes too.

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Basic Sauerkraut Recipe – Excerpt from Real Food Fermentation by Alex Lewin.

In its basic form, sauerkraut contains only two ingredients: cabbage and salt. The recipe can be varied by adding other vegetables or seasonings. By eating it young or letting it ferment for a longer time, you can choose between crunchy, slightly sour cabbage; epic, Wagnerian SAUERKRAUT; or anything in between.

INGREDIENTS
2 pounds (900 g) cabbage (green and red cabbage work best for this simple sauerkraut recipe)
4 teaspoons (20 g) sea salt

EQUIPMENT
Large cutting board (wood is ideal)
Large knife (a chef’s knife is ideal)
Large mixing bowl
1-quart (950-ml) mason jar, or similar glass jar with a tight-fitting lid

Yield: 1 quart (950 ml)

Prep time: 10 minutes

Total time: 4 days–4 weeks

WEIGHING
If your cabbage is not exactly 2 pounds (900 g), use approximately 2 teaspoons (10 g) of sea salt per pound (450 g) of cabbage. Alternatively, you can use 2 percent salt by weight.

For best results, weigh your cabbage after you have removed its outer leaves and core.

JARS
For each pound (450 g) of cabbage you use, you will need 16 ounces (475 ml) of jar capacity, or a bit more. Depending on the size of your jars, you can use a small jar to help pack the sauerkraut into the bigger jars (in step 10).

PREPARATION
1. Peel off the outer leaves of the cabbage and discard them (Note: This is particularly important if your cabbage is not organically grown.)

2. If you are working with a whole cabbage, cut it in half, from the south pole to the north pole.

3. Cut each half once more, along the north-south axis, so that the whole cabbage is now in four pieces.

4. Optional: Remove some of the core of the cabbage by cutting diagonally into each quarter.

5. With its south pole facing you, lay a quarter of the cabbage on your cutting board, and slice it as finely or as coarsely as you like. More finely cut cabbage will ferment more quickly and will become a softer kraut. Coarser cut cabbage will lead to a crunchier product. Be careful of your fingers!

6. When it becomes awkward to slice, turn or flip the cabbage quarter in whatever way is convenient to make it more stable on the cutting board and easier to cut.

7. If you prefer, use a food processor with a “slice” wheel to shred your cabbage. You could also use a deli-style meat slicer, a box grater, or a purpose-built Krauthobel.

8. Slice the rest of the cabbage in this manner. When you are done, put it all in the mixing bowl and add the salt.

9. With clean hands, firmly massage the mixture of cabbage and salt until you are able to squeeze liquid out of the cabbage. Depending on how fresh the cabbage is, how much cabbage you have, and how hard you are squeezing, this may take anywhere from 1 to 10 minutes. You will develop a feel for it after you have done it a few times.

10. Pack the mixture into a jar or jars . Using an appropriately sized implement, such as a small jar or potato masher, push down as hard as you can to get rid of as many air bubbles as possible, so that the liquid rises above the top of the cabbage. Ensure that there is at least 1 inch (2.5 cm) of space between the top of the cabbage and the mouth of the jar, because the cabbage will expand as it ferments.

11. Close the lid of the jar and place it in a cool, dark place, if possible (between 50°F and 75°F [10°C and 25°C]).

FERMENTATION PROCESS
Check on your sauerkraut every day or two. Open the jar, smell it, taste it with a clean fork, and pack the sauerkraut back down until the liquid rises above it. After a few days, it should get bubbly. After a few more days, it should start to smell and taste sour.

You can eat it any time you want, or you can put it the refrigerator to arrest its progress. Young sauerkraut is crunchier; older sauerkraut has a stronger flavor. For maximum digestive and nutritive benefits, eat your sauerkraut raw (i.e., do not heat it beyond about 115°F [46°C]). However, if digestive and nutritive benefits are not your main goals, there’s no shame in cooking your sauerkraut. In fact, old sauerkraut that has become soggy and very sour may taste best cooked.

If you’d like to see this recipe with step by step photos, you should go check the publisher’s blog, Quarry Spoon.  It’s great!

So, now I’m still waiting for the magic of fermentation to happen.  Then, some good food to our plates.  Will share what we think later.  Let us know if you make it too.

Making : Blackberry and apple jelly

I’ve made an apple-blackberry jelly for a couple of years now.  With two apple trees, and blackberries growing everywhere, I feel like we have everything we need for this delicious treat.

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I found the recipe on the River Cottage Preserves Handbook a couple of summers ago, when the book came out (in 2010.)

It has been a great hit in our house.  I think it is my personal favorite jam/jelly.  We have plenty of apples and blackberries, and they both ripen at about the same time for us.  They are meant to be together in this delicious jelly.

In the past I’ve strained the apples and berries after cooking it, in a cheesecloth, hanging from the knobs in the kitchen. Like this.

DSC_0225-smallI usually leave it hanging to drain overnight.  But as you can imagine, even with all my planning and foreseeing, when someone needs a glass of milk or water before bedtime, it’s a little tricky to get the glass out of the cupboard.   The hanging bag, with the delicious (and staining) juice ends up being moved too far out of the container where it’s suppose to drain all that great (sticky and staining) juice.

So this year I decided to splurge in two jelly strainers.

DSC_0222-smallI still needed to hang it from the knobs, because I tripled the recipe.  But at least it wasn’t like an obstacle course.

DSC_0219-smallAnd now the jars filled with this delicious jelly are kept away safely for the later consumption.  Oh.  So. Very. Good.

Zucchinis

Zucchinis.  It almost seems it should be zucchinies.  It’s already hard enough to spell.  Who comes up with these words? In (Chilean) Spanish it’s called ‘zapallito italiano’ (Italian gourd.) Not sure the Italian relation there. In England ‘courgette’.

Anyways.  It is the season.  Its season.  And I know, as I’m typing this post, the zucchinis outside are growing even bigger.  And I’m sure we’ve missed some too, from the picking yesterday.

We missed a couple last week, and they turned into a 4 pound trophy, heavy enough to be carried by the littler hands at home.

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So, while the kids and Mark had gone camping I thought I’ll welcome them home (besides their clean bed and a warm shower) with a cake.  I don’t usually make cakes, but the two large zucchinis on the counter motivated me to look for a yummy recipe.

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I knew Amanda, from SouleMama would have made something.  She’s good like that, you know? So, I searched her blog and found a chocolate zucchini cake she said she made few times that summer.

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Oh my goodness.  It is so good!  I will make it again.

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And not only did I make a cake that day, I also made this zucchini bread from Smitten Kitchen.  Two loaves, and finished the first zucchini on our counter.

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More to come from the garden, I know, shared with friends and neighbors, and I’m thinking I might freeze some zucchini breads for in-the-moment summer yummyness (not a word? the computer doesn’t know… I won’t pay attention to the red wiggles under the word.)  Yes, total yummyness.

:: right now ::

It is June already.  Middle of June, almost.

As I look at my older posts of Right Now I realize that most of the time I am surprised to be in the next month or mid month already.  To tell you the truth, I don’t really keep very good track of the date.  The days I’m doing better, because we have more classes and sports practices than before, and we need to go where we are going when.  But a year ago, even, every day was almost the same.  And I like that.

The date for me has no relevance most of the time, except this month (June), when we are all counting until Papá gets off from work to our summer vacation, with the feeling of constant Saturday for two months.  Again, the days of the week won’t matter to us anymore.  It is a great feeling.

Right now:

:: I’ve been looking at this list of summer reading books from Imagine Childhood, and have put all those books on hold for us.  Read some already and looking for some more.

:: I am really enjoying seeing Lucas have so much fun playing baseball.

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:: it is fun to see Mark having fun too.

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:: I can’t believe this website.  Where you can test your hearing with sounds that the computer makes and that you can hear depending on your age.  Check it out. I can’t even hear the one sample for 39 years of age and older… and I’m barely over 39! So crazy!

:: I am loving remembering our days at the beach with our friends and making plans of going back to the dunes some day soon.

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:: I made Chicken Pho for the first time the other day.  I recently went to eat at Mekong here in Portland,  a great Vietnamese restaurant, and had their soup.  It was rainy, cold, perfect for that day and so very good.  And even though last week was a lot warmer, that cold bug caught everyone at home, and this soup sounded perfect.  So I made it, with a mix of this recipe and this one.  I always ask everyone to rate a new meal, just for fun, and both Lucas and Siena gave it a 10 (top score!) That means we’ll be having it again some time soon!

:: I am enjoying reading Honeybee Man with Lucas and Siena, again this year.  Such a great book.

:: I am trying new recipes.  Both in popcorn and margaritas.  A great dinner (together with a mix of reading!) when it comes to spending few hours by myself.

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:: I am enjoying Laura’s post from Stag Beetle Power! on the free and almost free activities happening in Portland (Oregon), again this month.  She does this every month.  She’s great!

:: I am thinking I should have moved them.  I made a few masks in a clay class I took, many many years ago. (17 maybe?) And we’ve had them hanging in our backyard in different parts through the years.  Lately (the past 8 years maybe) have been hanging in our little fence to the garden, in the backyard.  I knew it would be a matter of time when these were going to break, for one reason or another.  They are not by any means a work of art, or even that special, they were just there to remind me of my attempt to do ceramics many years ago.  And I feel so bad now, because Lucas broke them while he was playing catch one day.  Actually within two days, he broke them both.  I know, they were in the wrong spot, and I should have moved them so that Lucas didn’t feel bad accidentally breaking them. DSC_0133-small

:: I am so very proud.  My two little people, had a swim meet this weekend.  A very special one for each of them.  Siena her first meet in an outdoor pool, and Olympic size, and getting new times recorded.  Lucas, his first swim meet ever (more of his pictures coming up soon).  Both grew up just a little more in those few hours out in the water.  I am so proud of them and loved seeing their smiles all along.

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:: I feel so lucky to have these two amazing kids in my life. (Read above.)

:: I love that as we finish our last block of study, Our Solar System, Siena has a hard time being OK with us not having all the answers.  I love it that as we watch this National Geographic video (divided each time by the planet we are studying) she comes up with more solutions to answer the unknown scientists bring up in the video.  She has an urge to figure out things that we (anybody) don’t know or don’t understand.  I also have a hard time understanding the immensity of the universe.  Just how huge everything is out there, and so very tiny the Our Solar System looks, in the bigger picture. Amazing.

:: I am excited we got to see some old friends when they drove by the house, and we were lucky to be home. It was great to catch up with them and see the girls so grown up (OK, they are twenty now, but we met them when they were 3!)

:: I am feeling a little relieved that I have finally cleaned my sewing box.  Got rid of tangled and too-small to use threads, and put them in bags and organized in a way I can maybe find a color when I’m looking for it.

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:: I am happy I found these buttons (that were in my messy sewing box) my mom made many years ago.  Now I know I have them for a special project.

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:: I am (together with everyone else at home) so excited that it is the end of the week, because Mark is off, and we are all officially on summer vacation!

:: I am so proud and fascinated and excited about our homeschool year. I see homeschooling as a way of life.  The World is our classroom, I believe, and we take advantage of every opportunity that shows up in front of us (or that we search for), to learn and live and be better us.  But this (school) year was very different from any other year and we all really enjoyed how it turned out, and how we learned the academic pieces, and how the rhythm of our days were (for the most part, of course.) It is something we’ll discuss and evaluate in the summer to give us something to plan for next (school homeschool) year.

:: I will leave you with this beautiful quote by Kristen Proby.

“No one else will ever know the strength of my love for you. After all, you’re the only one who knows the sound of my heart from the inside.”

I found this quote when I was perusing Leslie’s blog over at A Friend to Knit With.  (You should go to see her space, it’s so pretty and inspiring and she posts lots of cookie recipes! I might have to try some of them soon!)

I'm posting this picture with permission from the lovely Leslie at A Friend to Knit With.
I’m posting this picture with permission from the lovely Leslie at A Friend to Knit With.

— Hope you are doing something good for your soul today.