Monday, July 12, 2010

Lots O’ Lettuce

clip_image002On Saturday we woke up to a lot of bolted lettuce and romaine that had fallen over.  Our romaine grew very oddly in general because instead of getting a neat head, we got a long stalk (as you can see on the right side of the picture)– but it was still edible, or at least, it didn’t poison us.  The immense mystery lettuce plants (in this picture they are on the left) we got at the ReStore had bolted, so we yanked those and the Romaine lettuces that had fallen over.  As you can see in the picture, they were all quite large.  Any explanations for the Romaine behavior or what the heck the mystery lettuce was would be most welcome in the comments section below.   I then sat down on the front porch and ripped off a majority of the leaves, but the mystery lettuce has quite bitter leaves, so I didn’t take as many of those.  We also added to our landscaping by going to the ReStore where they had pepper clip_image002[6]plants and tomato plants (3 plants for 50 cents!!!!), so we went crazy and now have random peppers and tomato plants stuck wherever they would fit in our landscaping. 

We got lucky at the Granville farmer’s market on Saturday and found rhubarb, so we bought 4 bunches and I chopped them up and froze them on Sunday.  We have enough to make three strawberry rhubarb crisps throughout the year (we don’t commonly eat it, so that’ll be enough for us).  Now we just need strawberries.  I also froze around 5-6 cups of shredded zucchini for baking.  We also bought some tasty peaches, sweet corn, tomatoes, garlic, and peppers.  We ended up making an excellent salsa and I will post the recipe shortly. 

clip_image002[1]Jacob’s parents were generous enough to let us forage on their land for blackberries and black raspberries on Saturday since berries are a bit pricey for us (they are quite labor intensive when it comes to harvesting so farmers have to charge a higher price).  We earned the berries by being clawed and stabbed by the massive plants to a rather extreme degree on our arms.  However, we ended up with 8 cups of berries and were able to make raspberry freezer jam on Sunday.  This is a simple recipe that calls for 2 cups of raspberries, 4 cups sugar, and .36 cups of liquid pectin.  First, wash the berries and then mash them with a potato masher or other destructive item that can cause berry carnage.  Once all the big lumps are gone, you can sieve out some of the seeds – although we didn’t – and then add the sugar (LOTS of sugar, it seems like a bit much but I guessclip_image002[3] this is normal for jam).  We used Pioneer Sugar made from Michigan sugar beets.  Once that’s mixed, add your liquid pectin and stir for 3 minutes.  Ladle the jam into sterilized jars and try to get out the air bubbles with a nonmetallic object.  Put the lids on tight.  Put the jars in the refrigerator until the jam has set – no longer than 24 hours.  Then you can stick them in the freezer until you are ready to use them.  This recipe makes 1.5 pints of jam.  With our 8 cups of berries, we ended up with a whopping 18 cups of jam!  Our goal here was 6 cups so we definitely went above and beyond.  This is good though because it lightens the pressure to get strawberries when the secondary everbearing season comes on since we won’t be depending on strawberry jam anymore.  Thanks, Donna for the beautiful pictures!! 

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Gardening in Progress

June in the garden has caused the cucumbers to go INSANE as you can see!  We finally got our clip_image002big supports put in place for the melons, cucumbers, and tomatoes.  Jacob had to do some metal bending with one of his many tools to get them into the shape recommended by the Square Foot Garden book.  That book also recommends nylon netting for the plants to grow up, which we couldn’t find anywhere.  So we checked out plastic netting but in the garden section nothing was big and strong enough, so we wandered through Home Depot and found snow fencing.  Unfortunately, it’s bright orange, but it is strong, big and will work for us this year.  We put them up with plastic ties and the plants are happy.  I said we should name our garden the “315 Garden” since all the clip_image002[5]construction is taking place on that particular highway now and both have the unfortunate orange colors.  We harvested our first very large pickling cucumber and will be picking some more today I’m sure.  All of the spinach has bolted and the drying beans still only have one successful plant.  We went out and bought the only drying bean seeds we could find which are close to cannellini beans (we think) but the actual beans are somewhat of a mystery because the people tried to look them up at Oakland Nursery and every bit of information that came up on them was in another language.  But we are desperate because we’ve gone through the Appaloosa seeds, so we’ll give these a try.

Stand Back! Jam Boiling Point has been Reached!

This weekend, we seized the third day of the weekend to begin preserving foods (something we should have started a few weeks ago).  Up until now I have been planning what our annual food consumption will be so I know how much to preserve, and I will do a more detailed entry about that soon.  For now, we sort of missed out on strawberries and peas (peas are very crucial to our personal sanity) but we are working on fixing this issue.  Our fingers are crossed that someone has everbearing strawberries which should come into a secondary season soon and we are also hoping we can do some experimentation with peas and our second planting of those.  In the meantime, we got 4.25 pounds of sugar snap peas and blanched and froze them, which came out to 13 cups.  We also blanched and froze 6 cups of garden peas (shelled peas).  On Saturday, our kitchen was filled to the brim with green peas laying out to dry before they went into the freezer. 

At the Clintonville Farmers Market on Saturday, we picked up 4.5 lbs. of peaches and 2 half pints of raspberries so we could make peach melba jam.  On Monday, I sat in front of the TV slicing and dicing 8 cups of peaches (some of which had some little wormy friends that were not harmed).  My partner in crime, Lauren, joined me – as she often does when I am trying some new and messy recipe.  We followed this recipe for peach melba jam from  I was happy that I didn’t have to skin the peaches, because I hate wasting stuff like that (I also have an unusual fondness for peach skin).  In a large pot, we boiled the peaches and lemon juice clip_image002(which we had leftover in the fridge from previous projects).  We then added the 2 cups of raspberries and 2.5 cups of Pioneer sugar from Michigan sugar beets.  Here’s where it gets messy.  While the pot boils, some crazy person has to stand in front of it and stir it to keep it from burning for 20-25 minutes.  For a majority of the time, that poor person was Lauren while I prepped the canning equipment.  The jam likes to spit and sputter which it did not only all over her but also all over the stove and kitchen floor.  We sterilized the jars in the dishwasher (the perfect number of them, which was fantastic) and we decided to do the hot water bath canning method, which we had never done before.  We had a rack from a pressure canner, a big canner which was used as a decorative piece in the living room until now, and our tongs were regular cooking tongs (no rubber grippers because those are MIA in the basement or garage somewhere), so it was all a bit risky.  However, we packed the jars, processed them for 10 minutes and listened as they all popped!  The jars are all sealed and we surpassed our goal of 6 half pints and got 9 plus a little extra for this week, which I just enjoyed on some fresh baked bread that I made yesterday.  Yummmmmm.    

Friday, July 2, 2010

Chicken Noodle Casserole

We experimented with a casserole dish on Wednesday and now have a new favorite meal.  I was craving something like tuna casserole (which is obviously out of the question for us) and was getting extremely frustrated as I was searching for chicken noodle casserole recipes ‘from scratch.’  I was especially disappointed in an “Amish” recipe that called for multiple types of Campbell’s condensed soup.  However, I did find one recipe that pointed me in the right direction.  We took the recipe from All Recipes and tweaked it a bit to match our needs.  And just for reference, the lettuce in the picture was picked a few minutes before eating and the flower is a nasturtium.


-8 oz. package of egg noodles (we got ours at Rife’s, they are not completely local but they are quite close)

-1/2 medium onion, finely chopped

-Garlic powder or 1 clove garlic, minced

-1/4 cup all purpose flour (again not local but since Jacob moved in we have had some on hand)

-2 cups milk

-Salt and pepper to taste (I also added a bit of Lawry’s seasoning salt from our stash)

-3 chicken breasts cut into bite sized pieces

-1 cup frozen or fresh peas

-1/2 cup butter

-Shredded Cheddar Cheese


-Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

-Cook the chicken pieces until they are cooked all the way through, then add the garlic, onion, and if you are using fresh peas, add those now too.  If you use frozen peas, just make sure they are thawed before you mix them in the casserole dish later on.

-While the chicken is cooking, cook up your egg noodles, drain them, and set them aside.

-To make the casserole sauce, melt 4 tbs. of butter in a saucepan and whisk in the flour.  Gradually add the milk and continue cooking 5 minutes until sauce is smooth and slightly thickened.  Season with salt and pepper.

-Combine the noodles, meat mix, and sauce into a medium sized baking dish.  Top with freshly grated cheddar cheese.

-Bake 25 minutes or until bubbly and light brown.

I highly recommend eating this with a fresh salad.  In our household, we like to mix our lettuce with our food to give it a little crunch, so we picked fresh spinach and lettuces from the backyard just before eating.  We also mixed in some local cucumber, kohlrabi, and sugar snap peas to spice it up. 

I’m used to my first attempts at recipes to be a little less than great, oftentimes they are somewhat bland, but Jacob and I both took our first bites, looked at each other with big grins, and (once we swallowed) couldn’t help but exclaim how delicious this dish was!