Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Puree and Simple

I've said this before about being a producer at Local Roots, but it holds true for being a producer at the outdoor market, too -- end-of-market trades are a wonderful bonus!

Before I started selling at the outdoor market this year, I knew several of the farmers and other folks already.  This year I've had the chance to get to know some of the others a little better, and I've found that pretty much all of them are happy to bargain at the end of the morning for a little homemade bread.

This past weekend, the Cheerful Lady let me know that she had a bag of onion seconds she'd be willing to give me since she knows that (A) I use local produce in my baking and (B) I preserve a lot for winter.  Since I'd already bought a quart of mixed hot peppers from my neighbor at the market, I thought this was a pretty good deal, especially if she were willing to take some leftover bread off my hands.  (She was.)

So I spent time Sunday morning with rubber gloves on my hands as I peeled and chopped onions, then seeded and chopped poblanos, Hungarian wax, and jalapeno peppers.  I pulled out the mini food processor and made batches of pureed onions and peppers together, then packed them into plastic freezer bags for later use in curries and other dishes.

As you can see, I now have a quart bag of onion and poblano puree, and smaller amounts with the other two kinds of hot peppers.  When I'm ready, I should be able to hack a chunk off to throw into a soup pot or to thaw and saute as the precursor to something spicy.  It's all part of my heating plan for the winter.

That was easy!

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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

It's Bean a Good Harvest

Many things about the garden have frustrated me this year, thanks to the oddball weather we've had.  But the two varieties of shell beans I planted have given me good returns.

I finished harvesting the Saturday Night Special beans (like smaller navy or cannellini beans) a couple of weeks ago and finished shelling them last evening.  As you can see, I ended up with a quart of beans for me and a pint for the Contradance Callers as thanks for letting me use their garden space.

The Vermont Cranberry beans are still in the garden as they were planted later, but you can see the first of that harvest drying on the plate.  Such a beautiful color and design!

I will definitely have plenty of dry beans for winter...

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Monday, September 03, 2012

A New Cake on an Old Tradition

In past years, I relied on the Chef Mother to bake me a birthday cake -- her classic carrot cake, studded with walnuts (no raisins, thank you very much) and cloaked in a sweet cream cheese frosting.  Even in a year when she was recovering from a major illness, the cake tradition was carried on by My Fabulous Aunt.

But with the passing of the Chef Mother earlier this summer, I knew it was time to make a change to the tradition.

When, after my mother's death, my dear friend the Southern Belle offered to do whatever I needed to help, I mentioned the tradition to her.  She immediately offered to bake the cake, but I stopped her and told her what I really wanted: to have My Adorable Nephews help me make it.

See, my eldest "nephew," Beaker, has his birthday about a month before mine, and he loves the carrot cake almost as much as I do.  The middle boy, Scooter, celebrates a birthday in March and isn't quite so crazy about the cake (he much prefers my applesauce cake), but he enjoys cooking with me.  And the youngest, Mr. Chatty, was born less than two weeks before my birthday, and though he's three years old, where big brothers lead, he has to follow.

So we took advantage of the Labor Day holiday -- a day off school for them -- to get together and bake.

It started off well enough.  The boys wanted to help shred the carrots and mix the cake, and I was more than happy to let them do most of the work.

But the cake layers decided to stay mostly in the pans when I went to flip them out.  (Don't ever believe in "non-stick" for something like this!)  I managed to scrape out most of it, but I ended up with two pretty scrappy looking layers.  Then the cream cheese frosting turned out softer than usual (probably because I didn't use enough powdered sugar).  And since we wanted to eat the cake after lunch, I ended up frosting a warm, crumbly cake -- and that's just asking for trouble.

Still, we had cake.  And Beaker decided to decorate the top with a "carrot" made from carrot shreds and strips of basil leaves, and I added a circle of walnuts.

It wasn't as smooth looking as the Chef Mother's cakes, but it tasted just as wonderful.  The boys were happy, the Southern Belle and I were happy (we savored extra cake and conversation after the boys ran off to play), and they got to enjoy the leftovers.

And the tradition lives on...


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