Tea Time

When my son was born everyday seemed to become one LONG day, with constant night waking, not much social time and my old life rhythms, well gone.  Part of grounding myself into motherhood was creating new rhythms for our family, as suggested by my Waldorfian friends, which truly helped me orient myself to my new life.  Enter tea time– a wonderful way to breakup the afternoons, to rest, or awaken, deepening on who and how you are.  IMG_9282

I grow lots of herbs in the garden for tea like Mint, Lemon Balm, Catnip, Calendula, I even have some Lemon Grass & Lemon Verbena in the greenhouse and of course forage lots more like Nettles, Raspberry leaf, Clover &  Cota…but what about cakes for all that tea?  Here are some recipes, found & passed on by friends, for delicious and nutritious tea cakes, as requested by my tea guests of late.  Happy Tea Time to all.

Applesauce Cake

Santiago Cake

French Apple Cake

Almond Wafers(Altered this one quite a bit by substituting 1/2 the Wheat Flour for Almond Meal, works great!)

Our Daily Bread

Mmmmm, Nothing like warm fresh bread on a Saturday morning in December.  With butter and Jam, oh baby, so darn good!!  I know a lot of people don’t eat Gluten these days, but Sourdough actually pre-digests wheat so it is easier for us to stomach, according to this article in Weston Price’s Nourishing Traditions.

So, I say, “Bread and butter– yes please!!”

IMG_0177

One of my fist loaves in my terra cotta chicken pot

As anyone who has ever tried  to bake their own bread knows, it truly is an art. There are books after book published on the simple art of bread, centuries of experienced bakers with more than enough information to share.  In my quest I read, I went to a workshop at a friends, I watched numerous U tube video (some very odd!!)….But I must say– there is nothing like practice to teach the hands what they need to know.

You see, bread baking has been part of my daily practice for a year or two– a brief time really, but after hundreds of loaves, I have honed in and refined it to a place I am very happy with.  I won’t say it is perfect, or the one true way.  In fact everyone I know who makes bread makes it a just a little different from one another.  That is the beautiful essence of homemade – you can taste everyone’s soul in their food, craft, home… What ever it may be, it can’t be mass-produced, as it has a life of it’s own as individual as it’s maker, which to me, makes it REAL & wonderful…
But I will say, in this bread baking practice in the high desert, I have learned some tricks of this art of flour, water and a few lively critters and have pleased a few folks along the way with a warm slice of bread, so this one is for you my friends & family, who love my bread and want to know the secrets, here you go, bake away and be sure to tell me what you learn along your journey, remember every loaf is different!

Fresh bread mmmmm

Sourdough Bread Recipe- Made with a Kitchen Aid mixer

Dry Ingredients

3 Cups Flour-  (I like 1 Cup Whole Wheat 1 Cup White and 1 Cup Rye)or

(1.5 Cups Whole Wheat and 1.5 cups White)

2 tsp Salt-             (or more if you like)

Wet Ingredients

1 Cup Starter

1 Cup Water

Mix flour and salt in the mixer with bread hook.  In a glass measuring cup mix starter and water with a spoon until blended well, much like the consistency of thick cream.

My sourdough starter is a bit goppy & sticky creating long strands as I pour

My sourdough starter is a bit goppy & sticky creating long strands as I pour

Turn on mixer on low and slowly pour in wet into dry.  Run the mixer until the dough is mixed well, it will be a bit sticky, but should come away from the sides of the bowl.

Not a great picture, but you can kind of see how the dough comes away from the bowl, but sticks a bit to the dough hook

Not a great picture, but you can kind of see how the dough comes away from the bowl, but sticks a bit to the dough hook

Take off dough hook and cover dough in bowl with a plastic bag and let sit over night.

Plastic over the mixing bowl and let sit over night

Plastic over the mixing bowl and let sit over night

In the morning (or 12 hours later) preheat oven to 500 with the baking vessel inside (I use a terra-cotta chicken pot, but anything should work that has a lid).

Flour hands and remove sticky dough from bowl, scraping the dough off the sides, make ball, tossing only a few times between your hands  and lay on a floured towel and wrap loosely while oven is preheating (My oven takes about 30 minutes to get that hot).

When your oven is at 500, take out the hot pot.  Open towel and place dough ball in the hot vessel, note dough will be mushy, so move quickly, just placing it in the vessel as gently as you can.  You can score the bread a few times with a knife if you like.

Cover vessel and bake bread for 30 min at 500.  At 30 min remove lid and bake for another 10-15 min ( brown to your liking).  When done, remove bread from vessel and cool on a rack.  Wait at least 30 min before slicing into, slathering with butter and devouring it will be worth the wait!!

So that is it– Try it and if you need starter I can share.

One nice thing about using the chicken pot is that is has these lines on the bottom which adds grip when slicing

One nice thing about using the chicken pot is that is has these lines on the bottom which adds grip when slicing

The Abundace of Autumn

The earth and many friends have been generous this year, look up, fruit is falling from the sky!!

Glorious sunny days spent singing, laughing and deepening our friendships in the dappled light of the laden trees

babies below us, foraging their own fruits of this bountiful time

Our baskets brimming with the perfection of sunlight, water, love and time

perfumes and colors fill the air inside and out of our homes and hearths

Rosy piles of sweetness staring us down, reminding that this abundance too will turn with the season, the time is now to eat, put up and process….

And so we do:

wash and chop and stir and stem and pack and seal and sweat and smile

And now deep signs, from full and happy hearts eagerly awaiting the long rest of winter ahead

Grateful for a full season, lived well and now gone by,

Turning ourselves sightly with the earths own shift,

to welcome autumn, with all her abundance,

to summer we say thank you, we love you and goodbye…

Broccoli- Beyond the Bud

The garden hasn’t gotten a lot of attention these days, expect for daily journeys to the Tomato/Basil patch for harvesting (Caprese salad, Pesto, Pizza Sauce oh MY!!)….But besides extraction I haven’t given it much attention.  Today however, after an epic canning journey (whole peaches in Honey Mint Syrup, mmmmm) I just had to get away from the stove and into the dirt.

The light was waning and I was exhausted, but had a last burst of energy during which I pulled out the broccoli patch.  I have harvested plenty to be happy with it’s givings, though I must admit I always feel like broccoli sure takes up a lot of room for just one little bud.   But then I remembered– You can eat broccoli leaves, & stems and they are GOOD.. High in protein and vitamins, and tasty!! I only wish I had remembered this earlier in the season. 

Luckily some friends popped in, saw the pile of discarded brassicas and said, “Aren’t you gonna eat those?  “I will if you help me pick them” I sighed….In the dying light we (thanks Ruthie & Gracie) harvested 4lbs of Broccoli leaves and had a great time!!  Broccoli chips seems to be a trend these days and roasting is good too…but I am thinking I may just dry them and make a Leafy Green Herbal Salt Sprinkle for extra green love in the winter. ( I will share the recipe when I invent it)

Drying feels like about all I can muster at the moment, but I am open any other ideas?  I am just thankful for the evenings helping hands, as it truly breaks my heart to see anything go to waste!

The Secrets of the Sauce

I am not Italian and a far cry from a chef, though growing tomatoes and saucing does run in my family. Every year my grandparents would grow tomatoes and other garden vegetables and Can big batches of sauce for the year.  They are both gone now, but my mom remembers it fondly, though sadly she doesn’t remember their saucing secrets…

So I have had to make up a few of my own to be able to handle the tomato bounty around here.  First of all let me just say thank goodness for indeterminate tomatoes– Those that flower and fruit continuously throughout the season, not all at the same time.  Most tomatoes are this way, thank goodness, let’s just say I would be in big trouble if they weren’t.  But if you are ever planting fro processing, make sure you get indeterminate tomato seed.

Over the past month I have harvested over 50 lbs of tomatoes, usually in batches of about a dozen lbs at once, which makes processing manageable.  I also have a few gadgets that help me along–

The beloved crock pot is a great way to simmer down those juicy fruits over night, giving me a more concentrated product to process the next morning.  I have been running the crock pot stewed tomatoes through a food mill and and getting a nice thick sauce base that I mix with onions, garlic, herbs and salt and pepper before canning.  The other gadgets I have come to love is the Cuisinart.  I usually quarter the tomatoes and pulse them a few times to get a nice chunky sauce, or mix it with the crock pot/food milled sauce for a half and half effect.  I also use the Cuisinart for lots if other things, but my new favorite is to pre-process garlic.  I have a huge stash this year from our 11lb harvest and I have it all sorted into use now and use later piles.  I have taken to peeling about 20 heads at a time- yep that is ALOT of garlic–but if you just smash them with a coffee mug the peeling can be pretty fast. Once peeled, I run them through the Cuisinart till minced and store in a mason jar in olive oil in the fridge– that way I have chopped garlic ready to go for all my saucing, pestoing and dinner making.  It really is a such a time saver when making these big batches of sauce.  I have taken to pressure canning all my tomato creations, though since this is new for me I have no secrets but to follow the instructions carefully.

When all is canned up I make all my labels now from old paper grocery sacks, It seems I just can’t have enough of them these days!!I am no chef, but I do love tips and tricks of the food processing trade. Got any of your own to share?

Preserving the Harvest

So much to do so little time!!  The tomatoes are coming on full force, the basil is bursting, the apples are ripening…No time to write about it all, barely time to do it!!

But then I realized, I don’t have to.  Inspired by one of my new favorite Blogs Small Measure, I have decided to just send you straight to wonderful, already written blogs about how to process and preserve your harvests.

So here are some ideas about….

What to do with abundant Cucumbers

How to save Seed from Garden Vegetables

How to Process Tomatoes any which way

What to do with all those Apricots

And all those glorious Apples oh my!!

Oh and my personal favorite Bountiful Basil!

Happy Harvesting and if you do have extra bounty don’t forget to get your name on the list for the Santa Fe Harvest Swap

Bring on the Bounty & pass it along

The Tomato basket weighs as much as my baby!!  (well almost!)

Oh the bounty of these days is so divine & delicious!! This must the best fruit year as long as I have lived here in the high desert and I am buying stock in the Ball Jar company right now! No, Not really, but I am stocking up as well as co-planning a local harvest swap with my Radical friend Kyce.  This is not a new idea, people have been swapping their bounty, well forever, and the new wave of happy homesteaders are doing this in cities all over the country, like here and here, with great success and tons of great resources like here.  As far as I have heard, this will be Santa Fe’s First Harvest Swap.

Gathered from the garden, and that’s just today

It is open to all – though you must register here to save your spot – (the room is only so big).  It surely will be a good time, just think a room full of canners, gardeners, seed savers, wild crafters, milk maids, foragers, and even a few hunters and their stashes!  It is such a wonderful way to celebrate the bounty of our abundant desert, share the fruits of our labors, and experience a truly fair version of Fair Trade. To me this feels like a way to bring our work, our livelihoods and our hearts together to eat, swap and be merry.

Better make room in the pantry for more jars, oh my!!

So here is the official invitation, Come join us!!

Dear Fellow Preservers of the Harvest,

You are cordially invited to a Delectable Harvest Swap in which the bounty of our gardens, barnyards, orchards, and wild lands will be celebrated and shared.

Consider this your advance notice to put up extra of whatever putting up you do. Bring that extra bit you know you can’t use, and let it be your currency to barter your way to a dream pantry while spending a morning amidst fabulous folk.

Wondering what to bring? 

Whatever you’ve canned (according to Dept. of Ag regulation specs, please!)—chutneys, jams, fruit butters, sauces, salsas, whole fruits, pickles, but also vinegars, condiments, fermented fare, dried fruits, cider, chiles, and garlic.

Not a big canner? How about baked goods, salves, tinctures, honey, soap, seeds, dried culinary or medicinal herbs…or whatever your homemade, homegrown, or wild harvested specialty is. Oh, and don’t forget pumpkins, cabbages, and other fresh fall crops.

Register here: Santa Fe Harvest Swap

Learn more about food swaps here: Food Swap Network

As you can see I am very excited to swap, meet and eat the bounty of our harvests together, in the meantime, I’ll be out picking!!

Glistening Choke Cherries, one of New Mexico’s Finest Wild Offerings

Honey & The Bees

Our mid-summer honey harvest went smashingly well!!  Joel is really the bee whisper in this household, but I can’t be too far away.  I like to watch him work, so calmly, so carefully in that buzz of life.  This time I sat inside the house with babe and watched through the glass door, which was perfect cause I felt totally out of harms way, but could see the whole exciting event.  I technically know very little about the bees, but they speak to me in other ways.  These past couple of years I have had more than one serendipitous run in with my bees…( for better or worse)The first was the summer right before I got pregnant, I got stung right between the eyes and my whole face swelled up and I could barely see for days.  I was in the midst of a big shift in my life but someone asked, if I had read The Fifth Sacred Thing by Start Hawk. I hadn’t but did have a copy on the shelf, so when I could read again, I pulled it down and of course turned right to the page where a character gets the very same sting and is taken into the world of the bees for 9 days and given some pretty profound gifts.  “I am changed, Madrone thought.  The bees have marked me, as surely as their scar sits on my forehead.  She moved through a world that came to her now as much through instinct and smell as through sight.”  As chance (or magic) would have it within a week of the sting, I meet StartHawk because my husband was teaching a class with her.  Yes,  I did tell her the story and she just smiled. 

The next encounter was probably an exact year later when I was lounging in my garden waiting for my overdue baby to arrive and a Queen Bee landed on me.  I was enthralled, was she lost, looking to start a new hive, kicked out by the others? Queens rarely string humans, so I had no fear there, letting her bumble all around me.   They say that bees are the messengers of the soul, signifying rebirth and immorality…so I told her to bring me my baby!! A few days later she did.

This year seemed fine with the bees, but come February they just seemed to completely die from one day to the next.  Caught up with a busying spring we didn’t even get a chance to get into the hives to investigate, until…May 8th, our son’s birthday, when we witnessed the return… A swarm found our empty hive and recolonized it.  The set up shop and went at it.  Now Mid July is the first time we have been in to see their handy work, and let me just tell you, Pure Ambrosia!  What a blessing are the bees.!!

If you are interested in keeping your own bees- our friends and teachers Just put out a new Book about Top Bar Bee Keeping.

Picnic Ready

Oh how I have been dreaming of an outdoor kitchen.  I don’t know about you, but I have grown tired of the kitchen…not only is it hot in there, but it is in there… aka not outside where we want to spend all of our time lately.

I prefer to grow food rather than cook it anyway, but mostly because I just love being outside.  So an outdoor kitchen….would be the answer to my prayers….but in the meantime I have been figuring how to eat well outside, while spending as little time as possible inside…. yes the picnic…So I thought I would share a few recipes I have been delighted with lately and if you have any tips, recipes or secrets of summer food….please share.

Crossing my fingers for another abundant year in the garden

The idea behind all this of course, is you spend a day in the kitchen and then freeze your picnic ready snacks so you can grab them, throw them in the picnic basket and by the time everyone is hungry, food is thawed and perfect for munching.  These recipes are for Killer Hummus, Pita from scratch, and Whole Wheat Sourdough Pita, as I am a big sourdough fan.

Freeze hummus in little jelly jars so there is enough for one picnic at a time. Pita of course can be cut up and frozen as well.

All are easy and seriously good, and of course freeze really well so they are ready when you are to go outside.

Elm seeds and mallow leaves

I know you all have been muchin’ salad lately.  The fresh greens of spring are something we look forward to all year. Baby lettuce, spinach, arugula….and what of the wild greens?  My lettuce is there but often hidden under handfuls of french sorrel, dandelion greens, chervil, arugula (leaves and flowers), rocket, mint leaves…all of which I wrote about last spring here.

Arugula Flowers are Edible, a spicy delight

Arugula is in the Cruciferae family ( as in cross, see the flowers, they are all like that) though now the family is called Brassicaceae after it’s most popular member, broccoli. Arugula flowers, as well all the other Cruciferae cousins flowers are edible, just look here.  This season I have added Siberian Elm seeds and Mallow Leaves to the mix.

Young Siberian Elm Seeds

I know the Siberian Elm can seem a great nuance, and that it is when those seeds go flying and take root just about everywhere…but if you pick the seeds before they fly, when bright green and brand new, they are sweet and delicious.  I have heard they can be eaten later too, cooked with the papery seed hulls rubbed off according to eattheweeds.com

Mallow Leaves -Malva

My newest friend, ground cover, medicine, and munchy is Malva.  It has been used for everything from headaches, to poultices to post- partum cleanses.  The leaves can be eaten young and are medicinal.  This sweet little blog tells you even more.

So as your greens come up, don’t forget to eat those weeds!!