Monday, December 27, 2010

Winter Gardening

First, I just wanted to wish all our Out in Them Sticks readers, friends and family, Happy Holidays and a prosperous, healthy New Year!  I apologize for the lack of posts lately.  The hustle and bustle of the holidays combined with the exhaustion of the third trimester has meant that I haven't really gotten much other than the absolute must-do's complete and unfortunately, the blog just hasn't been on the must-do list. 

I'm very happy to report that we had a very enjoyable, peaceful Christmas this year.  Since having children, I have to say that the last few Christmases have been the best we have ever had.  In fact, the past few years have been the best years of our lives.  Sure, not every moment is peaches and sunshine, but the kids are at a great age and life is just plain good right now!  I just wish I could press the pause button.

The kids were really into Christmas this year.  Santa came into town and spoiled the kids rotten. Nick and I have been able to benefit from quite a bit of quiet time of late with all the new toys keeping the kiddos occupied!  Nick is using the extra time to help us finally set up the nursery for #3.  I guess you could say it's about time being just 5 or so weeks left now.

My ladybug turned 4 today which is just crazy to me. We don't celebrate her birthday until her half birthday though because it is just so close to Christmas. I've been hoping to get everyone on board with that but we've had mixed success.  In the future, she will decide when she wants to celebrate but for now, I think it's good we set up this tradition so it doesn't get overshadowed.  With just a day between Christmas and her birthday I just know that we can't give her a proper celebration!

Ladybug and Olive playing in this winter's first snow.

Thus far, it has been a cold winter for us.  We've been lucky though and have only had two light snows.  Most of it has melted now.  I finally managed enough nerve to go out and pick some of the salad greens we've been growing in the garden this afternoon.  The wind was something else though and I could barely feel my fingers by the time I was done cutting.  I suppose I will have to wear gloves and a coat next time I attempt to pick salad greens!

The plants under row covers are doing fine though they certainly aren't growing fast.  They resemble more micro-greens than the mature versions we saw this spring.  The mesclun lettuce mix that sewed itself after the previous spring planting and isn't covered has mostly died back except for the Mache and Red Deer Tongue.  They are alive and well despite the light snow and hard frosts.  Let me tell you the colder weather has done wonderful things for the flavor of the mache.  It is extra spicy and delicious.  I MUST not slack next year come fall.  They are such a treat.

Red Deer Tongue

I didn't know a lot about the red deer tongue so I did a little research on the web and apparently you can plant red deer tongue during the summer for a spring harvest the following year.  I guess if that is the case, I shouldn't be picking them right now but they are so delicious and plentiful that I figure we can manage to do both.  It is AWESOME to be at the end of December and still enjoying fresh greens.  The fact that the red deer tongue will also overwinter and can be enjoyed come early spring is just all the more thrilling! 

Today's Pickins!

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Old Jars

Every year I give away some sort of homemade gift to the neighbors and those who provide services for our family.  I do this mostly because I want to show appreciation for them but also because I love getting my hands elbow deep in some project or another.  It gets me in the spirit of the season.

This year, I saved up some of my pasta sauce jars and in lieu of throwing them in the recycle bin I decided I would figure a way to use them as gifts.  The Classico Brand Pasta Sauce Jars are particularly pretty to me but they are only 24 oz. (3 cups) and most gift-in-a-jar recipes are for 1 quart jars (32 oz. or 4 cups).  I was in a bit of a quandary until I found this great recipe for seasoned bean soup here.

I'm hoping the soup mix will be a refreshing change from all the usual sweet gifts given out this time of year.  Sweet indulgences are great, but a savory gift is nice every once and a while too.  I made a few modifications to the recipe in regards to preparation to make it easier for others to prepare.  The written recipe seemed way too laborious for most to attempt so I did a little research and some testing to make it crock pot easy.  It takes a lot longer but allows you to actually step away from the stove.  The crock pot does the work, not the cook.

I made the little graphic (see below) with my instructions in Photoshop and then printed it out on card stock, punched it, and wrapped it in ribbon.  I thought they turned out to be real cute.

Note: I couldn't find all the beans in the recipe but I found others that would work just fine.  Below is the end result.

Seasoned Six Bean Soup Mix!

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Monday, November 15, 2010

Turkey Leftovers

I love this time of year when it's easy to get my hands on a cheap turkey that I can then use the receipt to submit an awesome rebate on.  I paid $3.42 for a 14 pound bird this year that I will receive a $10 rebate on.  That's a $6 money making turkey!   Yeehaw.  I'm sure Micheal Pollan (author of Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto) and others of the anti-industrialized food movement would shake his head in disgust at me for not buying a local/sustainable bird but this money making bird is one deal that is just too hard to pass up!  Besides, we grow a good portion of our vegetables on our little homestead so we are doing what we can, where we can, with the budget we have.

I'm not hosting Thanksgiving this year.   My dad and his partner is.  So that means, like last year, I have to figure out what the heck to do with the huge bird in my refrigerator.  No one wants to eat turkey for days straight, at least my family doesn't. 

Last year I roasted our turkey and then separated the meat and fork shredded it into 1 lb. portions.  I used the meat periodically to make turkey quesadillas (about every other week or so) for 3 months.  It was pretty incredible how long it lasted us and it was super convenient too. 

Photo courtesy of

This year I'm hoping to shake it up a bit. Perhaps I'll try a turkey posole, enchiladas or a hearty stew?  Do you know of any healthy turkey leftover recipes I should try?  Please do share.  I'm looking for ideas!


Monday, November 1, 2010

Guess I lied... another Monday Garden Update

I thought there wouldn't be much going on in the garden after the last post but there is.  We had our first frost on Saturday night so we had to go out and get the remaining eggplant and peppers before they all shriveled up.

After Nick mowed down the garden last month some interesting things started to pop up when the plants didn't have a foot of grass to compete with.  Apparently, I failed to get a few blue potatoes and they have started to come up.

A second crop of musclun mix is coming up where we had it this season.  Gotta love nature!  These are so yummy and I love that I didn't plant them!  They are hardy through light frosts so we will be eating these babies quickly.

We also have a bunch of garlic coming up where it was planted earlier this year.  They are in concentrated bunches.  I'm not sure if I should just chuck 'em or if I should thin them out or not touch them and see what happens?

We planted purple onions two or three weeks ago and they have popped up.  We even had some onions pop up where we had onions before.  Hopefully they will get enough of a start before winter comes so we'll have a nice spring crop of those. 

We put row covers over our planted musclun mix (not the stuff that popped up on its on) and the roquette for frost protection.  Hopefully we'll have salad greens for the next month, maybe two?  :)

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Don't Discard Your Pumpkin Seeds!

We are getting into the Halloween Spirit over here.  Yesterday we got in some early trick-or-treating at Nick's work.  Then, we spent this morning carving pumpkins, toasting seeds, and even baking some pureed pumpkin for baking purposes down the road.

I have never EVER roasted pumpkin seeds but after reading the recipe here I figured we'd give it a try.  I vaguely remember our family trying to roast them growing up but they tasted like little cardboard pieces.  We never made them again.  They were hardly worth the extra effort.

This cinnaminy pumpkin seed recipe is worth the extra effort!  I followed the recipe for the most part however I only baked them at 250 because there were complaints in the reviews that the temp was too high causing the sugar to burn.  Good thing I followed their advice.  These seeds were perfect and oooh-sooo sticky, sinful, and yummy!

Roasted pumpkin seeds along side Nick's carved pumpkin



Friday, October 29, 2010

Cloth Diaper Clif Notes

It's time for a cloth diaper follow up.  Most of you will find this post too detailed but I'm offering this out to other moms who want an honest oppinion on cloth diapers and what is working best for our family.  **Disclaimer - I am a newbie!**
Flip Diaper

I have to say I'm so disappointed in myself for not having made the switch to cloth sooner.  I've had a week to try cloth diapers on Green Eyes and I am impressed at how easy it is.  At this point, he needs only an overnight diaper but that has allowed me just enough time to experiment on him before number 3 arrives.  My only regret thus far is not doing this sooner.

After an AMAZING amount of research on cloth diapers talking with friends and scouring the internet, I intially leaned toward the All-In-Ones (AIO's- are cloth diapers where the cover and insert are all sewn together). I thought AIO's might make sense because they seemed the most like disposable diapers.  Hubby hasn't been exactly supportive of changing over to cloth and I thought they'd be the easiest for him. They are no fuss and hubby can't complain.  But, alas, AIO's are quite pricey (try $400 bucks for the 24 you'll need) and they take forever to dry (or so I hear).  When I calculate how much I spend on diapers with coupons, discounts, and generics it didn't make sense especially after you factor in special washing detergent, liners, time, etc.

I then looked into pocket diapers.  Pocket diapers are similar to AIO's except that you stuff in an insert.  This allows the diaper to dry quicker because the thick liner is separate from the diaper.  They are also pretty easy to use.  But like AIO's. you'll need a lot of them (like 24) to get you by because they are one time use and then you throw them in the laundry/wet pail.  This fact makes them more expensive but you can find them second hand on sites like  to keep the cost down (thanks Sara L!) 

Within each category there are versions of AIO's and pocket diapers with velcro tabs (which provide a better fit) and ones with snaps (less convenient and a little harder to get an exact fit but more durable).  There are also ones that offer multiple sizes in lieu of the one size.  Is your head spinning yet?

That isn't even half of it.  There are also fitteds, prefolds and contour diapers that you use along with diaper covers.  You have to fasten these with pins, snappi's or whatever contraption and then place a waterproof or natural wool cover, or homemade knitted cover on top.  Most of these systems are very economically but they looked too complicated to deal with (I'll have 3 kiddos mind you and a husband reluctant to change) so these options were all quickly eliminated.

I thought I was at a loss when I finally fell upon a hybrid diaper (a hybrid system is a system that allows you to use disposable and cloth inserts), the Flip System. The funny thing is that I won't be using it as a hybrid system at all. The disposable liners are neither cost effective nor are they the point! I will be using it as more of a diaper cover instead.

Flip Diaper (right) and Stay Dry Insert (left)

Flip Diaper with insert in place

Basically the Flip Diaper is just a versatile diaper cover.  When the diaper is wet you just toss the used insert into the diaper pail, wipe the inside of the diaper cover (you may need to replace the cover if it is a number 2 which we all know happens less often) and then replace the insert with a clean one. The beauty about this system is that you can reuse the cover without washing it so you aren't buying a lot of the most expensive part of the diaper, the cover.  I believe I'll be able to get by on just 6 covers and 24 inserts (around $150-$200 retail but LESS if you buy some at great deals or second hand).  What's even better is that you can use the Flip cover with either the Flip inserts, prefold diapers, or fitteds.  It's pretty darn versatile.  It is a one sized diaper that can fit babies 7-35+ pounds.  I think the only downside to this diaper is that it can't be used easily for newborns.  You'll have to wait a few weeks to get a true fit.  I'm willing to do disposables for the first few weeks in exchange for not having to buy multiples of different sized diapers because those weeks are going to be pretty darn hectic anyway.  I know the Flip diaper will grow with my third because it fits my 2.5 year old easily now with lots and lots of room to grow.

Before I end this awesome little diaper synopsis, I should mention that the Econobum is very similar to the Flip System.  The Econombum is even more economical and the only discernable difference I have found through my research is that the Flip System seems a tinsy bit more durable than the Econobum and the Flip System has flaps on the diaper to keep the insert snug in place whereas the Econobum does not.  Otherwise they are pretty close.

So, there you have it, a month's worth of cloth diaper research.  Don't be a putz like me and not at least seriously consider cloth diapering.  Give it a little whirl.  Experiment, even if that means borrowing one from a friend.  You might be surprised!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tandoori Chicken Recipe

My sister requested that I share the tandoori chicken recipe I have been using lately.  It's the easiest recipe EVER.  It requires only four ingredients.  You can find the recipe at Penzey's Spices here. 

To make tandoori chicken you'll need to:
Mix 1-2 TB. [of Tandoori Seasoning] with 1 Cup plain yogurt and the juice of ½ lemon. Pour [the mixture] over a cut-up skinless chicken, cover and place in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight. Remove from marinade, bake 45 minutes uncovered at 325°, turning and basting every 15 minutes. 
Note: I do not cook mine quite as long as the directions state and I sometimes use light sour cream in place of yogurt.  Add salt to taste.  If you thaw out some of the dough from your last naan dough making session while marinating your chicken you'll have a delicious meal in just minutes when you're ready.

I love Penzey's spice mixes because they save me a lot on time and money because I'm not buying several specialty spices to make one dish. (FYI: Penzey's tandoori spice mix contains 7 different spices!)  Another favorite spice mix of mine is their Italian Sausage Seasoning. I use it to spice up pasta sauces and turkey burgers.
Marinating tandoori chicken.
My husband's portion of tandoori chicken, saffron rice, broccoli and naan.

Naan - Delicious Indian Bread

It wasn't until I met my husband that I was introduced to Indian Cuisine.  Back then we didn't have kids and going to an Indian restaurant was doable.  Taking the kids for Indian these days is slightly stressful, not to mention costly so it's not something we do very often.  That doesn't mean we don't occasionally have cravings so I've resolved to making some of our own dishes at home.

An Indian dish is not complete without some naan, a traditional Indian bread.  Naan is available at most grocery stores for $3 bucks for two large pieces but it costs only cents to make your own. I find this recipe here to be a pretty good one though I do make a few modifications.

I grew up making mostly quick breads.  Yeast breads have always scared me because it was never something my mother made.  In teaching myself how to bake yeast breads I have learned that most yeast bread recipes require you to add a tablespoon or so of sugar to your starter (i.e. yeast allowed to sit until foamy in VERY WARM water).  This recipe did not call for sugar in the starter but I ignored this and added sugar to the starter knowing it would allow the yeast to foam up faster.  I also used fast acting yeast knowing it would work just fine for this sort of recipe.

I also find that as the weather gets cooler that my dough will rise better if I flash heat the oven and put the dough in the closed oven to rise.  That is to say, I turn on the oven allowing it to preheat for like 10-20 seconds and turn it off.  Doing so creates a nice warm environment for the bread to rise in without cooking it.

I then prepared the dough as instructed with my mixer (it has a dough blade attachment) then threw it in an oiled bowl.  (For the newbies, never allow a yeast dough to rise in a metal container).  I then allowed it to rise until doubled in the oven.

Doubled over dough ready to get punched (above).

After punching, I assembled the dough into balls (above) and allowed them to double again for 30 minutes covered in the oven (results below).

Once the dough had risen twice, I rolled the dough balls out when I realized I forgot to incorporate the garlic in the previous step!  We LOVE garlic naan.  So, I just sprinkled the minced garlic over top and rolled it into the dough as I rolled it out.  It worked into the dough just fine.

 Rolling the dough 

After that, I threw the dough on the grill with the grill on low as instructed per the recipe and brushed with melted butter.

 Grilling the Bread and looking bubbly.
The end result!  Yummy, cheap and easy eats!

Like most yeast recipes, this one takes some time but it's easy to prepare and doesn't require much preparation.  To save on time you can freeze your left over dough balls and make them on an as-needed basis for a future meal.  I freeze dough all the time and thaw it out a day prior to using.  It makes bread making easy even on busy weekdays.

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Last Monday Garden Update of the Year

It is hard to believe it's October already.   I spent two of the last four weeks sick so it hasn't helped me get back in the garden as I had hoped.  Nick mowed the weeds down in the garden (that's how bad the weeds were) so I wouldn't be embarrassed when the neighbors went by.  When mowed, it at least looked a little tidier.  Things are getting back to normal, thank goodness. 

I was inspired by our farm tour this year and the use of lasagna gardening so we are now working on prepping our bed for next year by laying down cardboard and topping it with our homemade kitchen scrap compost in the hopes that it will naturally kill the weeds and seeds by the time we need to prep the beds again in Spring.  We have a ways to go before we are completely done.  There is a lot of area to cover.

 Lasagna Gardening

We are still getting plenty of eggplant and peppers out of the garden everyday.  It won't be long before this comes to an end so we are savoring the last of nature's bounty.

I've highlighted some of the hanging eggplant because they are hard to notice.

I also planted two short rows of mesclun mix in the garden with some arugula.  Arugula should last here until January or so with row covers so let's hope there is enough time.  We are a little late this year but I figure what the heck.

Below are some pictures of our recent adventures in the Shenandoah National Forest.  We went for a lovely little hike on Sunday with the kids.  It was cold on the mountain but a very enjoyable day.  We are so close to the mountain it's a shame not to get out there and enjoy it more often.

Ladybug examining some bugs on milkweed.


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

FRESH Peach/Apple/Pear Crisp

We are just past peek for peaches here and I finally got off my but to make hubby and the kids some seaonal peach crisp.  I know I posted my MIL's recipe for peach cobbler a while ago here.  While it can be used with fresh fruit, it really shines when using frozen or canned fruit.  That is exactly what I needed when I was dealing with morning sickness and first trimester fatigue... something easy, delicious and comforting.

Now that I'm feeling a little better and have a little more energy, I thought I'd share my go-to recipe for fresh fruit crisp/cobbler.  It is less sweet than my MIL's version which allows the fresh fruit flavor to come through stronger which I love.  It is also a lot healthier.  It is a very simple recipe requiring just a tad bit more effort.  I use the same recipe for apples or pears in the fall.  The only addtion I add to the apple/pear version is cinnamon.  It's a good base recipe that you can add your own flare too.

Yummy Peach Crisp

Fresh Fruit Crisp

1 cup rolled oats
3/4 cup flour (I prefer whole wheat, it does not overwhelm the crisp)
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 stick margarine or butter, softened

6 cups fresh fruit
1 tsp. lemon juice
1 tb. of water
(1 tsp. cinnamon for the apple version)

Heat oven to 375.  Combine the Topping ingredients.  Peel and slice the fruit if needed.  Place the fruit in a Pam sprayed 11x13 pan.  Throw in the  fruit.  Drizzle the lemon juice and water over of the fruit.  Sprinkle the topping over top.  Bake at 375 for 30 minutes or until the fruit is tender.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Farm Tour 2010

We started our morning off really early today so that we could tour local farms as part of the Meet Yer Eats Event.  The first tour started at 8:30 in the morning so we rushed out the door to learn a little about sustainable farming in our area.  I thought I'd share what I gained from the tours.  Please note that the highlights below may or may not be entirely accurate as my memory is less than perfect!

Wolf Creek Farm

Wolf Creek Farm specializes in grass fed beef and was the first stop on our farm tour today.  It was incredibly interesting to see what it takes to run a medium sized cattle farm.  The owner discussed his difficulty finding good labor, the cost of  processing his steer, what it takes to keep his heard healthy without antibiotics, the roles of heifers vs. steer, as well as how the cows are selected and bred. I knew that most of our grocery meat was from feedlot cows but I wasn't aware that most of our grocery store hamburger is actually from spent milking cows.  The milking cows are often only 3 or so years when processed (i.e. they generally last just two milking cycles) whereas his heifers last 15 or so productive years until they are sold to less selective farms for their meat. The meat from Wolf Creek farm is exclusively from steer.

Wolf Creek Farm!
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 Ladybug in her boots.
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 Along for the ride.

Waterpenny Farm

After the awesome two hour tour at Wolf Creek, we headed on over to Sperryville to take a self-guilded tour of Waterpenny Farm.  It is a 10 acre farm growing a plethra of organic vegetables and chickens.  I learned so much information about gardening problems I can't possibly discuss it all here!  It was well worth the Farm Tour Ticket!! 

Here are some of the highlights:

-The owner stressed the importance of mulching EVERYTHING to reduce erosion, minimize the spread of disease, keep the vegetables clean, add organic matter to the soil, provide habitat for soil microbes and reduce soil compaction.  However, they warned us to not use hay for horses as the high quality hay is routinely treated with Picloram which is devestating to broad leaf plants.  Know your hay source!

-The importance of providing habitat for beneficial insects near your garden, i.e. areas that are unmowed and untouched.  They used Echinacea, BeeBalm, and Rudbeckia beds to provide good refuge for beneficial insects.

-To deal with flea beetles on eggplant the owner said she sprays the ground with Pyrethin (organic pesticide) before transplanting the eggplant and then uses floating row covers until the plant flowers.  Only then does she remove the covers.  After that she periodically sprays as-needed but once the plants are established they usually aren't a problem.

-To get rid of squash bugs the owner sprays her squash crop with kelp and baking powder every two weeks. By contrast, Radical Roots (see below) deals with squash bugs by growing his winter squash in flats and transplanting them.  He then uses row covers until the squash plant flowers.  Once the squash flowers the covers are removed and the squash bug impact is usually minimal. Good to know, right?!
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 The Mobile Chicken Unit

Radical Roots Farm

Radical Roots was our last stop on our tour.  By the time we got there it was already 3 in the afternoon and we had been farm touring since 8:30 in the morning.  It was a miracle our kids were not nightmares by that hour.

We chose to visit Radical Roots Farm (there were 18 farms to chose from) because it was the size of our property and we were curious to see how productive a community farm the size of our property could be.  We were pleasantly surprised!  They grew an amazing range of fruits and vegetables (even figs) as well as chickens.  Their system closely resembled Waterpenny's.

They had a lot of "pilot" programs/experiments including some untilled beds and such.  Radical Roots Farm was located on a hillside with sloping topography.  This was of particular interest to us because it too resembles our own yard. The owner talked quite a bit about the importance of entrapping water flow to reduce the need for irrigation. The garden beds ran parallel to the contours, hugging the hill.

These owners live by their sustainable ideals in every facet of their lives.  Even their home embodied the basic eco-principles of biomass and energy entrapment. For example, their floors were made of compacted adobe to retain and hold heat during the winter months.  The exterior walls were 18" thick and made of bricks made from recycled wood pallets and concrete pylons.  The owner was gracious enough to give us a tour of the entire home.  The house was only 1000 SF (20'x50'). but it was masterfully planned such that it felt like more than enough space for their family of four.  I was blown away.

 The Owner of Radical Roots.

Another mobile chicken unit!

Lasagna Mulching (Cardboard with wood mulch on top of black plastic). 

The house's interior.

One of my favorite features was this woman's pantry.  What a beautiful use of old canning jars!


Sunday, September 5, 2010

Experiments in the Kitchen - Carne Adovada

With the recent harvest of green chiles and New Mexico on our mind, hubby mentioned how he has been craving Carne Adovada since we left New Mexico.  He's had the dish at numerous reastaurants on the East Coast but they weren't the same as the kind you can find in Albuquerque.   I don't know what posessed me (maybe the crazy human currently habiting my womb), but I decided why not try to recreate it at home and bring the flavors to us?!

Pork marinating in a red chile liquid.

I visited the local Mexican market for a few key ingredients but I wasn't able to find the chimayo chile powder nor the chile caribe needed for the traditional version of the recipe I found here.  Chimayo and chile caribe are particular to New Mexico and it's not terribly surprising I couldn't find them locally.  I didn't let that stop me.  I perused the local Mexican market (consulting a market employee) and purchased some guajillo chile pods (for flavor) along with some arbol chiles (for heat).  When I got them home, I processed them as finely as I could along with the other marinade ingredients to create the ground red chile flavor found in the traditional recipe.

My improvised recipe went like this:

6 lbs. pork butt, cut in 4  to 5 inch cubes and trimmed (leaving bone in during marination and cooking process)
4 c. diced onion
4 T. minced garlic
4 c. chicken broth
4 c. water
4 t. ground coriander seed
4 t. dried Mexican oregano
16 Guajillo Chile Pods
16 Arbol Chiles Pods (in retrospect I will use double the arbols for added heat)
4 T. honey
4 T. red wine vinegar
salt to taste

Place the coriander, oregano, chiles, honey, vinegar, onions, garlic and salt in the food processor. Add one cup of the chicken broth.  Mix thoroughly.  Once mixed and peppers are minced thoughly, add an additional 3 c. of chicken broth. Process until combined. (I tasted the sauce at this stage and worried that the pork would be too hot.  The final cooked pork turned out fine.  It could have even used more heat as hubby likes it crazy hot.)

Pour the marinade mix over the meat in a large pot, cover and refrigerate overnight. Pour the meat and the marinade into an ovenproof casserole or pot and bake, covered, for 2 to 2-1/2 hours, or until tender. (I slow cooked mine in a crock pot on high for 6 hours.)  Remove the meat and fork shred it.  Discard any fatty bits.  Pour some (a cup or two) of the remaining cooking liquid over the shredded pork to taste.  The more sauce, the more heat you will add back into the meat mixture.  Add salt to taste.  Discard any unused sauce.

Fork shredded pork.

The result for us, while not made completely traditionally, replicated the flavors we remembered.  We chose to serve ours as we had it in New Mexico.  Usually, the meat was served in a tortilla with red sauce and some shredded cheese on top and baked until the cheese was melted.  My husband routinely ordered his "Christmas" style using both green and red sauces. Green sauce is not a traditional choice, but a tasty one. 

The Final Product.


Friday, September 3, 2010

Monday Garden Update (early, late? you decide)

There was no garden update or any posts last week because we left for Hatteras Island for a family vacation.  Unfortunately, there was a mandatory evacuation on Wednesday morning so we were forced to cut it short.  We were disappointed but we are making the best of it!   Since then, we've been back home doing a few day trips and enjoying the rest of hubby's time off.

When we got back, it was nice to find that we had a nice little harvest of eggplant and peppers.

I had enough peppers from my one meager plant that I actually decided to go ahead and roast them.  I also saved what I could of some of the seed for next years crop prior to roasting. 

I learned how to prepare New Mexican Chiles while living in New Mexico.  During chile season there you can buy a GIANT 25 lb. bag of roasted green Hatch chiles for a whopping 19 bucks.  It was such a great deal, I couldn't pass it up.  Of course, I soon learned why they were so much cheaper (by comparison a tiny, itty bitty tiny can of canned, roasted green chiles costs about $2).  When I got the chiles home, I spent the next 6 hours slumped over the kitchen sink peeling and seeding the chiles in two sittings and vowed never to do it again!  It was a crazy amount of chiles and I had yet to master how to peel and seed them efficiently.  It was a huge pain but we enjoyed the green chiles throughout the following year.  Green chiles freeze well and I saved a bundle compared to the canned versions.  The flavor is also phenomenal.

There is an interesting article about New Mexican chiles in the most current issue of Organic Gardning (Oct./Nov. 2010). You won't find the article on the web just yet (I checked).  I imagine they won't post it until the magazine officially releases in October.  The article was eye opening. Apparently Hatch chiles are grown on infertile sandy soils often using genetically modified seed and traditional gardening practices (i.e. heavy fertilizers and pesticides). It's nothing too suprising but apparently there are heirloom varities grown in the Northern part of the state on richer soil that are grown more sustainably. It's a very interesting article I suggest anyone interested in growing New Mexican chiles read. This year I grew New Mexico Jim's. My peppers aren't near as big as I thought they should be but I'm pleased to know they didn't lose a thing as far as flavor and I know what's in them!

Our Homegrown Green Chiles

You can roast chiles many ways but as our grill is out of commission I went ahead and roasted them in the oven.  To roast in the oven, I broiled them on high for 20 minutes, rotating them every five or so minutes until I got a nice char on all sides.

After that I put them in a sweating bag (a.k.a ziploc bag) for 10 minutes.  Doing this makes them easier to peel as they continue to steam in their own skin.

After that I put them in a water bath to make them even easier to peel.

I then peeled, seeded, and chopped the chiles.  Easy as pie. 

Peeling and Seeding Green Chiles

Cutting the Chiles

The Final Product

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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Eggplant Experiment #1 - Eggplant Parmesan

I've had eggplant only a few times in my life.  I think the last time I had eggplant, it was at one of my favorite vegetarian restaurants in downtown Orlando.  Unfortunately, the dish was not well prepared and I got a fried eggplant sandwich that was way too greasy and soaked with oil.  Yuck.  It must have been an off day for the chef.  I never ordered it again.

Having only recently researched this glorious ingredient, I've learned how important it is to not use too much oil with eggplant as it acts like a sponge and will absorb almost all of it.  So, use oil sparingly when dealing with eggplant!  Though I really wanted the sandwich I described yesterday, I ended up deciding I'd first go with something I thought I could connive my kids into eating.  I figured I couldn't go wrong with Cooking Light's version of Eggplant Parmesan.  You can find the full recipe here.

I was very pleased with the result!  The fresh garden basil really made this dish shine.  I didn't have sliced mozzarella (just the usual bagged and shredded stuff) but it still turned out fantastic.  I told the kids the dish was a kind of lasagna and they totally ate it up (though my daughter was somewhat skeptical of the green bits, i.e. basil).  I think this recipe just may be a seasonal staple in our house.
I first dredged the sliced eggplant in an egg mixture, coated it with seasoned panko crumbs,
and then baked it until golden brown.

Then, I layered the eggplant in a pan with sauce, a ricotta mixture including fresh garlic and basil, and mozzarella cheese.

I then repeated the layers and baked as directed per the recipe.  VOILA, the end result!

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Monday, August 23, 2010

Monday Garden Club

Sorry for the lack of a post last week.  I have no real excuse, it just didn't happen.  :)

In Season Now: Carrots, Parsnips, Tomatoes, Peppers & Eggplant

I do have garden news to report.  The eggplants are finally in!!  I think this will likely be the last exciting bit of news for the year as we wind down the garden.  We "pulled the plug" on the broccoli under the house because I just don't have the energy to deal with prepping and planting beds right now.  As it is, I'm figuring next year we will have our hands a little too full to grow our tomato, eggplant and peppers from seed, let alone expand the garden as we had initially planned earlier this year.  We'll see what we can manage to fit in.  It will likely be more modest next year.

I thought the eggplant were going to get bigger so I left a couple of them on the vine and the few larger fruit I left on the plant rotted.  It seems like the size above (about 5"x4") is about the maximum size for this variety in my garden. I had a lot of picking to do this weekend and I'm not entirely sure what to do with all of them.  I found a delicious-sounding, eggplant parmesan recipe that I think I might try today for the eggplant in this month's issue of Cooking Light. 

Then again, a local restaurant I just love, Revolutionary Soup, posted this on their Facebook Page:

"We slice the Eggplant thick, batter it in local Eggs and Flour and then it is fried in really good olive oil. While crispy it is put on a roll and dressed with Basil and Red Pepper pestos, spread thickly with Chevre and then the entire sandwich is pressed on the griddle until the bread becomes nice and crunchy. Almost ...entirely local, this sandwich is healthy, tasty and refreshing. Eat seasonal veggies while you can."

Sounds serendipitous to me.  Maybe I should try my hand at that one first?  Does anyone have any tried-and-true eggplant recipes they'd like to share?  I'm sort of swimming in them.

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