Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Fool Me Twice...

We've been eating a lot of strawberry shortcake and a few days ago we decided to move onto fool.  Hard to beat strawberry fool for an easy-to-make, delicious dessert.  I made it for my family Monday night and then made it again last night for our friends. 
Just chop about 4 cups worth of strawberries (or run them quickly through the food processor if you like but leave them a bit rough).  Sprinkle a couple spoons of sugar on top and let sit for a few hours.
Whip 2 cups worth of cream with a titch of sugar and, if you have it, the seeds scraped from half a vanilla pod.  Then fold the two together.  Spoon into serving dishes (jam jars in my case because I don't have any pretty clear glass bowls and the jars do nicely in a pinch) and top with a strawberry.  I was thinking last night that it would be really nice served with a crisp maybe a stroopwafel.  I'll have to get some next time I go to the market and test out my theory.  Then we'll have to be "fooled" for a third time. ;-)
It definitely goes down a treat!
And my Clivia is in bloom again.  I was just thinking it wasn't going to bloom this year and started cleaning it up to take outside to divide (my friend has been waiting patiently for me to divide it for faaar too long) when I noticed a bloom stalk coming.  I love this plant with its glossy green leaves and I also love that each year it reminds me to be patient and that it will bloom in its own sweet time.

Oh, how funny.  I just used my blog search to see if I could find another post about this plant blooming and I see I posted about it on June 30th last year.  I was so sure it usually bloomed earlier and that it was late this year...I guess it hasn't taught me much about being patient after all. ;-)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Low Sugar and Delicious Strawberry Freezer Jam

I've posted before about how much I love Pomona's Pectin.  I've always loved to make jam but I do not like the amount of sugar most jams call for - I like to taste the fruit not just sugar.  I've made a freezer jam for years with dried pineapple as the sweetener but this year E wanted to make strawberry freezer jam "like Gramma's".  Who can resist that?? 
So, I told him how much sugar goes into regular freezer jam and we agreed that we would use Pomona's to make a sweet jam with sugar (rather than dried pineapple)but with a lot less sugar.  He made one batch (4 cups strawberries to 1 cup sugar) tested it out and was delighted with it. 
The next day he easily convinced me to help him make another batch - a double batch this time.  It literally takes minutes and then he was filling jars to tuck in the freezer with his year's supply of strawberry jam.
How to explain how much I love that my kids can do truly fills my heart with joy.  I have a feeling when I look back on all the things my kids "learned" at home with me during these growing up, home-learning years that this - this knowledge of how food grows and what to do with it - will be what stays with me and what I'm most pleased they learned.
Since we had so many strawberries (my husband did point out that no one else was leaving the berry farm with 12 buckets full in order to illustrate my craziness, I think, but I know he'll be asking me in the next couple days if I am ready to go picking again because we are all looking forward to try the other even sweeter variety of berries on the other side of the field!) I decided to try out Jamie Oliver's Quickest Strawberry Jam. It is delicious and we've decided to keep the jarful in the fridge to use a sauce on icecream and yogurt this week as well as for jam.
 I have many memories of waking up for school on June mornings to the smell of my mom making strawberry jam.  I would come down to the kitchen and there would be a plate of strawberry "foam" that I loved putting on my toast.  I was thrilled to make this jam and be able to skim the foam for my boys. 
Such a simple thing but such a treasured memory because it reminds me of how lucky I was to grow up in a home where these simple pleasures mattered and yet were also so every day.

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Peas Are Ready!! The Peas Are Ready!!

E LOVES peas. And when I say he loves peas...I mean he loves peas - like he can down a bucketful easily in one sitting.  So you can imagine how thrilled he was to hear that I get to take care of the whole garden at work and that we get to do all the harvesting for ourselves this week.  Saturday morning we all, along with S's sis, went strawberry picking (13 buckets can be picked quite quickly when you have 5 willing pickers) at the local patch then we headed to the garden (with a quick sidetrack at a garage sale on the way - can't wait to show the treasure we found!). 
Once there he got a half buckets worth to tide him over while he did a few errands and I worked on my own garden.  Then we picked three more buckets and there are only a couple handfuls left.
It is funny because when I first brought him home a smaller batch from work he was eating all the peas and then, once done, he would eat all the pods.  Now that the peas are plentiful he isn't eating as many of the pods. ;-)
Yes, I did feel tickled to gather bunches of green onions and put an elastic around them. ;-)
The snow peas and sugar snap peas are ready as well and there are so many I have a feeling I'll be spending some time freezing some this week.  I used a recipe from Simply in Season for Thai Green Beans (shown online here) substituting peas for beans and green onions from the garden for regular onions. 
The broccoli and zucchini and red peppers are ready as well so we also made a stirfry.  I just love this time of year when so much of each meal comes directly from the garden.  Such a feeling of abundance (only the carrots are bought).
And if all that weren't enough we also get to pick the ripe tomatoes out of the greenhouse - a mug full of Sweet Orange Cherry tomatoes.
Life is good!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Divine Strawberry Shortcake

Two posts in one day!?! I know.  But it just doesn't seem fair for me to know how good this recipe is and not share it ASAP.  I know we live in a consumer culture that tries to convince us we NEED all sorts of things.  Well, I don't believe it and over the last 15 years or so I've learned that one actually needs very little to live a joyful life but trust NEED this!
Convinced?  Alright, here's the recipe.  My friend sent me this link yesterday and I made a batch for the four of us.  When I was patting out the dough to cut into squares (I didn't want to bother using a circular cookie cutter and then have extra dough to reshape so whenever I make biscuits or scones I always do squares) I realized that if I cut the dough into only 4 squares they would end up being quite large.  I cut them into 8 more reasonable sized squares and figured (possibly) we might make two dessert nights out of them. 
After we each ate a portion (and some of us may have "cleaned our plates exceptionally well" - read: licked 'em clean) the boys asked for another.  And so, why not.  We each had a second portion.  S asked if we could have it every night for two weeks and, since strawberries are such a short season for us, I believe we will.  I've already got the strawberries sliced up for a whole new batch tonight.

Solstice Camping

My oldest son W wanted us to go on a group camping trip with some of his homelearning friends.  I've had lots on the go lately and, since W is 15, I thought it would be a good idea to challenge him to get us all packed for this camping trip including our food preparation.  He got a lot done while I was at work and then when I got home we made some calzones together.  This had me remembering all our camping trips when the boys were very little and me trying to madly pack everything by myself - I much prefer this way! ;-)

We'd decided that none of us wanted to cook or do dishes while we were camping so we needed to prepare everything ahead of time.  We wanted to make things we could eat with hands only so we would each only need one bowl and spoon to take care of (for our morning yogurt and granola). 

We made our regular pizza calzones for one dinner.
And then we decided to try making a brocolli, mushroom, potato filling with a cheddar sauce for the next night's calzones (we like to buy something similar to these in our favourite health food store in the town of Paia on Maui - Mana Food's). 
We needed another batch of our latest favourite granola bars too.  I got a recipe from a friend's blog and converted it a bit to suit us (and then have proceeded to make it once a week since).  The original recipe is here if you'd like to try it.  My converted recipe is here.
Easy (and Delicious!) Granola Bars

4 cups old fashioned oats
1/2 cup walnuts
1/3 organic cane sugar
1/2 tsp salt

Put these 4 ingredients in a bowl and mix well.

In small pot put -

1/2 cup coconut oil (that I melt with the peanut butter and honey)
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup natural peanut butter

and melt at med heat.  (Watch carefully so as not to burn - ask me how I know!)

Press into a 10X15 cookie sheet(do use this size pan because if you use too big of a cookie sheet then it gets spread too thin - we know lots about being spread too thin, don't we! and it ain't a good thing!)

Sprinkle 1/2 cup of chocolate chips on top.

Bake at 425 for 5 mins turn the pan then bake for another 5 mins.  Keep a close eye on them so they don't get too browned.  Honey browns quite quickly in baking.
Take out of oven and let cool (do let cool first, if you are impatient to eat them - like me- then they go all crumbly and you think that they didn't work well but they do...if patient!) Cut into bars.  Eat.  Make another batch. ;-)
So with all the food prep out of the way there was nothing to do but enjoy -

the lake...
the persistent Columbian Ground Squirrels (which I do not feed but they never did seem to get the message )...
(here he is trying to get into my pack to get my trail mix)
our friends, lots of time to read and....
Hammock Time!  Bliss!

Edited to add (since a few asked about the A Pace of Grace book)-

Yes, I think it is a fantastic read. I had this book out of the library in the wintertime and really loved it. I've recommended it to all my friends (and even a few moms I don't know well) and they've all really loved it too. It is filled with all kinds of thought-provoking ideas and potentially life-changing information. The first time I read it I read it through quickly and didn't have time to do the exercises in it but this time I am making time to do them. One of the first exercises is to consider the questions - "What stresses me?" and "What blesses me?". The book really gets you thinking about what is important in your life and how we can live our best life without spending on energy (and time) on less important things.

I highly recommend it and would love to hear if you enjoy it. It is actually one of those books that I would like to buy (I almost never buy new books) so that I could read it with a highlighter pen and go through highlighting all the especially meaningful bits. ;-)

Friday, June 17, 2011

A Long Time a Home, Not So Far Away...

A Long Time a Home, Not So Far talented husband rescued a walnut tree from its fate as firewood.  He brought it home in the back of his truck and he has been using bits and pieces of it to make all kinds of beautiful things as gifts - jewelery, bread boards and butter spreaders.  He has several gorgeous boards that he is saving to make our dining room table but in the meantime...
he decided to make us an outdoor dining table. 
It's gorgeous.  He cut one of the boards in half lengthwise and then used a piece of granite that we've had sitting around for years (picked up for free from a shop that was getting rid of it).  He put these both on a table frame that had long since lost its glass top.  I love the live edges on it.
We're looking forward to the weather drying up a bit so we can continue to enjoy dinners outside on it.  I sometimes tease my boys that they'd better learn to build/fix/make things the way their Dad does if they want to get a good wife...and I'm only partially kidding. ;-)  I have a huge amount of respect for people with the ability to make and fix all sorts of things and while I may not have been consciously looking for that in a mate I have to say that it is something I really admire about him.  The boys also know how much I love it when S brings home flowers that he has picked for me too.  Dads can be such great role models.  I feel very grateful that my boys have such a Dad and I'm also feeling very grateful and full of admiration for my own Dad.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Nettle and Comfrey and Bears...Oh My!

Well, once I found out how well the fresh nettle blended and froze into cubes I knew I needed more.  My friend and I headed up into the hills with our kids for a day of picking.  Since the both of us have serious over-do-it tendencies we came home with A Lot Of Nettle.  In fact at one point after my second day of blending and freezing (I'd long since given up on ice cube trays only and was freezing the mush in large shallow trays to be broken into chunks later) I may have had the thought "too much nettle" go through my brain...but it only lasted a moment.  I googled nettle, came across this site (filled with nettle recipes) and was re-inspired by the thought of nettle ravioli (and me with my $2 garage sale pasta maker) and nettle gnocchi. 
As soon as I had plenty of frozen raw nettle, frozen cooked nettle and a year's supply of dried nettle for my infusions I had time to make some soup.  This is a simple potato broccoli soup that I added several stems of nettle to.  I cook two potatoes in broth then add some broccoli and garlic to cook just until tender.  Then I add the nettle to cook for a few minutes and then blend it all until smooth with an immersion blender.  We like it with a little cheese (feta, gouda or cheddar).
Then it was time to move onto comfrey.
My son's friend was kind enough to bring me some comfrey so that I could make a quick batch of comfrey salve to take to my mom.  This batch I made using the heat from a candle to infuse the oil.

It is a quick method (link to a photo tutorial of my son making some) and once the oil was infused I just added a bit of beeswax and then let the oil harden into salve. 
I also filled a quart jar with comfrey and olive oil and will let it sit for a few weeks until I strain it and then use a fresh batch of comfrey to infuse it into a stronger oil following Susun Weed's method here and here.  There is just something so simple and pleasing about gathering wild goods for making remedies and food.  I love it. 
And this is a picture I just couldn't resist sharing.  Unfortunately my reflection in the window makes it a little hard to see what is outside.  Just minutes before I took this photo E went to take the compost out (we were visiting at my parents' house) and when he came back in he said that he thought there must be a bear out there because the middle bin was knocked over...this didn't surprise me (bears are not unusual there) and my mind was moving onto the next thing when I hear him say...and I heard rustling.  Well!  That stopped me in my tracks.  He didn't mean that the bears had been there last night he meant that they were!  I went to look out the bedroom window and sure enough.