Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A new week

This last week has passed so quickly!  When you work a 9-5 and try to live sustainably, there is never a down moment.  Of course I would not have it any other way.  Hearing the pings of the jars sealing, smelling the earth.  Watching the birds and butterflies flight about, feeling the breeze in my hair..it's all worth it.  Canning season is in full go.  But we have just learned that my MIL is passing and we have to re-adjust and take care of things in a hurry before we head to NY.  The thing is...this is what it is about...living, birth, death, growing.  It is all about the cycle of life.  I have enjoyed watching the corn form, the humming birds and finch come down to the fountain and the cat who hangs out on our patio find some comfort .  We had several family events this week so we did not get thru our whole menu.  I did get bread and butter pickles, pickled jalapenos and yellow squash relish canned.  As I said on my little farm page..if you want the recipes just let me know and I will post them.  Here are two of our favorites from last weeks menu.  We did not care at all for the black bean burgers. I have fixed other grain burgers that  I liked much better.  Can't win them all! 

Creamy Polenta served with green beans:

This recipe sent me over the top and had me saying "Oh man that was good" all night!

1 2/3 cups water
pinch of baking soda
1.3 polenta....we just used corn meal
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 oz parmesan cheese grated and extra for serving

Bring water to a boil.  Stir in a pinch of salt and baking soda. Slowly add corn meal, stirring constantly.  Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  Reduce heat to lowest possible heat and cover.  After 5 minutes, whisk the cornmeal to smooth out any lumps.  Cover and cook for another 8-10 minutes.  Off heat stir in cheese and butter.  The green beans went perfect on the side....adding a needed crunch.

Pan-seared Shrimp with Spicy Orange Glaze

1 tablespoon mince fresh cilantro
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp Asian chili-garlic sauce
1.2 tsp grate orange zest plus 2 tablespoons juice

12 oz. shrimp
1/8 tsp sugar
salt and pepper 2 tsp oil
For the glaze: whisk together all the ingredients .
For the shrimp: Pat the shrimp dry and season and heat a skillet to just smoking.  Add shrimp in a single layer and cook until lightly browned.  Add whisked glaze to the skillet.  Bring to a simmer and cook, tossing shrimp to cook until glaze is slightly thickened.  We served over a mix of brown and wild rice blend of rice.  Believe me...this is a killer!

Have fun cooking and thanks for taking my mind off grief for a while..cooking and gardening seems to help me with that.  This blog is dedicated to my MIL...who always bragged about my talents...deserved or not.. :-)

Monday, July 7, 2014


For a couple of years now we have been working toward living a sustainable life.  Food production and making our own have become a very important part of that.  I am constantly looking for ways to leave as little carbon foot prints behind me as possible.  We have been growing our own produce and shopping locally from the farmer's market and meat from the source.  The thought of buying produce or meat from a supermarket almost.....excuse me for expressing it this way but there is no other way to put it...gags me.   My next step has been planning our weekly meals working around what we have growing canned, can get from local butchers, or the farmer's market.  So last week I started this new step.  I have goals for this step written down to cut down on how many trips we make, avoid wasting food,  showing others how easy it is too cook, being in control of what and how my food is produced, supporting my local community and above all reducing the carbon foot print I leave behind me.  To start each Sunday I will plan menus around what is available.  As we eat completely seasonally, these dishes will change.  Two first steps to this are to observe what we eat and use the most and clean out the freezer using up what we have in the menus for the next 3 months.  As I go along, I will let you know what my next steps are.  This observation will also allow me to see what spice mixes I need to make and have on hand, what types of meats we need to keep in stock, what sauces, breads and rolls I need to start making and freeze for further use.  So here are the recipes from last week.  I might add that if you don't have something available..substitute or just leave it out.  With the exception of baking..baking is not very forgiving about leaving things out or changing the amounts.  Oh I also wanted to add.  I am keeping the lists of ingredients that I had to get for the dishes so that I will have a better idea what I need to can, preserve, mix, etc for the future.

                                              MENU FOR 6/23/14
                 These recipes are designed for two but you can easily adjust the amounts.

Monday:  Pasta with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes, Garlic, and Basil

1 small shallot (I used our homegrown onion)
2 tablespoons olive oil ( plan on sourcing this locally but this just came from the dratted Costco)
3 or more garlic cloves (from our garden)
1 lb cherry tomatoes (from farmer's market) halved.
11/2 tsp balsamic vinegar (we had this available and it probably came from...sigh..Safeway.  Time to locally source.
3/4 tsp sugar (from the food mill)
1/3 tsp red pepper flakes (from food mill but I plan on making my own this summer)
salt and pepper to taste...we use pink salt
6 oz (2 cups) penne (I can't see making penne so locally sourced)
chopped fresh basil (we grow our own on the patio in a pot) chopped.
1 scallion....thinly sliced
1) Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350.  Toss shallot with one tsp oil, tomatoes, garlic, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper, and pepper flakes together.  Roast veggies without stirring until tomato skins are slightly shriveled.  About 30 min. Remove from oven and cool about 5 minutes.  

Meanwhile cook pasta.  Drain and return to the pot, add basil and mix.  Toss the tomato mixture in pasta and add any reserved cooking water to get the consistency you want.
Served with a salad.  Great for a warm evening!

Tuesday :  Shrimp burgers

12 oz extra-large shrimp (From Berkeley bowl..very fresh fish there!
1/4 cup panko bread crumbs (Got these from the food mill but I plan on making my own to store)
1 1/2tsp mayo (very easy to make your own.  Lots of recipes on the internet)
1 tablespoon fresh parsley (farmer's market)
1/2 tsp grated lemon zest (from our neighbors)
salt and pepper
pinch of cayenne pepper
Hamburger buns.(I got these at the farmer's market but this is one of the things I plan to bake and have on hand in the freezer.

Pulse shrimp in food processor until there is an even mix of finely and course chopped pieces shrimp.  About 7 pulses.
Wisk panko, lemon zest, mayo, scallion, salt, pepper, and cayenne in a bowl then fold into shrimp.  Form two patties and cover and refrigerate for 15 min.  Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Cook burgers until crisp and browned on both sides.  I toasted the buns on the grill.  Served with corn on the cob from farmer's market.  Perfect!  What I think would be fun next time is to make some kind of flavored butter for the corn.  Try making your own butter...it is so much better than what you get in the store...and so easty!

Thursday:  Tandoori Chicken

2bone-in chicken thighs  (from Berkeley Bowl..local .free range chicken without all the junk added in).
11/2 tsps. garam masala (very easy to make on your own
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger (farmer's market)
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 cup yogurt  (Made at home).
2 tablespoons lime juice (home grown)

Cook oil, garlic, ginger, garam masal, cumin, and chili powder in a skillet until fragrant.   Whisk  1 tablespoon of garlic-spice mix, yogurt, a 1 tablespoon lime juice, cover and refrigerate until needed.
Mix together the rest of the garlic-spice mix and remaining lime juice.  Score skinned side of chicken.  Add chicken to spice mixture.  Rub mixture into chicken until well coated.  Cover and let sit at room temp for 30 minutes.

Heat oven to 325.  Line rimmed baking sheet w/aluminum foil and set a wire rack on sheet.  Using tongs dip chicken in yogurt mixture and bake skin down and bake 15- 25 minutes until temp in chicken reaches 125 degrees. 
Remove chicken from oven and brown skin side up for 8-15 minutes until chicken reaches 160 degrees.

Serve with a sauce using 1/2 cup yogurt, 1 tablespoon minced chives (farmer's market), 1 tablespoon mint (we grow a ton at home) and minced garlic.

I served with basmati rice.

Friday:  We went to the ball game and took our own sausages.

Sunday:  Slow cooker black bean soup

1 onion chopped fine (home grown)
garlic (home grown)
2 tsp. chili powder (I intend to make some this summer with our chili)  I have an outlet outside and will do this outside so I don't kill us.  LOL
1 1/2 cups chicken broth.  (Make your own and have it on hand in the freezer)
1 cup water
3/4 cups dried black beans
3 slices of bacon ( I used a sausage link left over from our ball game)
1 rib of celery and 1 carrot chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro (farmer's market)
Sautee onions, garlic and chili powder.  Transfer to slow cooker.
Stir in broth, water, beans, bacon, celery, carrot and beans.
Cover and cook on low for 6-7 hours.  Checking liquid level every once in a while.  I used a lot more chicken broth.
Mash half of the bean mixture after cooked and return to slow cooker.  Heat thru.  Stir in cilantro.  (As we took this to a friend get together, I put the cilantro in a container so those who like it could add or if they don't leave out.

I served with an olive bread.  Did not like the texture of it...so will work with it to see if I can get it to turn out better.

And there you have it!  Happy cooking!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

30 Day of Sustainable Living

Today is week three of living as sustainably as I can. I am now on a journey of a life of no restaurants, no mass produced, no processed foods., growing what I can, buying locally what I can't. A life of knowing if I run out...I either make it myself or don't have it.  While this journey started years ago, on some level,  not until now have I really decided that this is who I am, this is what I want to do 100% ..with all of me.  I decided to start a facebook group of 30 days of sustainable living.  Each of us is on a different level of this journey, and to each person sustainable, frugal, simple means different things, and that is okay.  We all learn from each other, if we just listen.
First let me start out with the above picture I chose for this blog.  When most people think about sustainable living, they picture acres of produce, pasture of cows, goats,etc.  But what sustainable living to me is that all of nature works together..everything has a purpose if it is true to nature.  Sustainable is being aware of the beauty in the world, and how it all exists for the purpose of sustaining life.  Sustainable living is seeing the world in both a complex and simple context.  It is noticing the changing of the seasons, the wildlife that changes with them, the vegetation that changes with them.  It is being aware of who you are, and what living truly means.  I could go into how the bright life, loud music, instant gratification is wrong, but maybe it is not wrong for some...but then again maybe it is wrong for the future survival of the world.  I have no answers only answers for myself, and listening to what truly makes me feel alive. 
So all that being said, here are a few observations of my first few weeks of  cutting out processed, mass produced food, and where it has lead me.
The first thing that hit me, maybe after a week and a half, and it kind of came out of the blue was that I began to feel a certain itch, a certain craving that I could not put my finger on.  I started thinking about it, and then I began to wonder if what I was craving was the chemicals in processed foods.  That whether it is intentional or not, and I suspect it is, we become addicted to those chemicals in processed foods so that we crave more and more.  I thought my life was relatively free of processed foods, but the more I thought about it, I was still getting an amount of it I didn't realize, we bought crackers, we bought ketchup and other condiments, we ate out at restaurants,  I did not realize that we were still getting our share of chemicals while thinking we were living a 100% healthy life.
The second thing that struck me was that things smelled different to me.  I don't know ..I suspect again an absence of chemicals.  But it was also something else, the smells I was smelling were real smells, smells of fresh produce straight from the farmer or my garden, fresh herbs and citrus from my garden.  The smells of fresh bread  in the oven, homemade soups...smells of homemade cooking and baking.  Smells of spices as I made our own condiments.  The smells that nature intended, no longer a spray to cover up odors.  Walking into garden became a journey of sites and smells.  There is a problem with this, however, man made noise, smells, chatter, bright lights...it all assaults you on a different level...one that is almost unbearable.  You find yourself building a bubble around yourself when you are forced to go into this world.  You force yourself to be calm and to quiet your own mind...easy no...not in the least.  But for now it is the price I pay for living the life I believe in.
My final thoughts ..the ones that struck me this morning.  When you start living this way, you are suddenly aware that there is a half of a bottle of ketchup in your fridge and that you only have one jar of tomatoes left to replace it, and that it is only February.  You realize that last stack of paper napkins is the last you will use.  You know that when that plastic bottle of dish soap runs out..it is you who will have to make more.  You count the little tooth pastes that are in your linen closet.  You take stock of what you have left and what you will need to make.  Guess what...you stop wasting..you become aware of how much you use.  What I thought about this morning as I went about my chores,  most of your time is spent preparing, making, and growing.  Part of the outcome of all these chores is that you don't have time to feel sorry for yourself or wish you had what your neighbors had, or fight with your family.  You have to work together.  In some small ways I feel I am walking in the shoes of my ancestors.  Though I will probably never have the strength or fortitude they had, we are, after all a product of our society, I can work toward stepping into their big shoes.