Harvest time

Our year in the garden is coming to a close, but there are still treats to be had. Some things that we put a lot of effort into came to nothing (sweet potatoes), while others that we put next to no effort or absolutely no effort into have been late in the season successes (wild raspberries, radicchio). Some old stand-bys did very well (garlic, rhubarb, lettuces), some were decent in their output but far from stellar (carrots), while others never took off (my chard never happened, in spite of repeated sowings, which is downright weird for me). Locally, green tomatoes seemed to be a major trend this summer, and that’s fine by me (we love green tomato chutney as well as just allowing the fruit to continue ripening indoors).

The sweet potatoes were a huge disappointment. My husband lovingly prepared beds that would keep our plants coddled and warm (they love the heat) and did everything by the book, but some critters decimated our crop. Not to be deterred, he has plans to keep several plants indoors over the winter and to keep trying.

The raspberries were a big surprise (we’ve had none the last two years) and there are more waiting to be picked in the next couple of days. We’ve made quite a few coffee cakes with raspberries, stirred them into yogurt and enjoyed them on crepes.

Radicchio blew me away. I’d totally forgotten that I even planted any, and just recently came across several in my front garden (a small space dominated by our happy rhubarb and a variety of lettuces, and usually with a few bean plants winding their way up posts). They are absolutely perfect. Keen to try something new, I found the idea for an incredibly simple but delicious sandwich that my husband and I have enjoyed for lunch during the week a couple of times. Highly recommended.

Halloumi, Radicchio and Tomato Sandwich

Fry halloumi slices in a little olive oil till both sides are nicely golden. Toast bread, slather on mayo, and then pile on radicchio, tomato slices and halloumi. Enjoy!

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A quick fix up for the school year

Mirror frame recovered with National Geographic cover images

The blur of summer is about to terminate at the return to school and I’ve barely had a moment to record the season in even the smallest way here.

We’ve got baby chicks growing, we’re figuring out how to have more success in the garden next year (the main ingredient that we’ve been missing is time), we’re stumbling over late in the season surprises like raspberries and making the most of them, and we’re fitting in end of summer treats and chores.

My husband and I found ourselves with two successive days when the boys were with their grandparents, and we decided to take one evening to enjoy a quiet meal together and tackle a project that we’ve talked about for ages but not done anything about. Our boys share a very small, very plain bathroom, and its main mirror was in need of a new coat of paint or something to fix it up. We knew the space (which benefits from a blue and green checkerboard floor, one colour chosen by each son when we built the house) needed an injection of fun.

My husband had the idea of using covers from National Geographic magazines to transform the mirror, which turned out brilliantly I think. I chose the covers, concentrating on issues that we’d really enjoyed reading together in recent years, and suggested placement, while my husband tinkered and did the painstaking work of trimming and adhering the strips to the mirror frame (which had a metallic-type finish to begin with that was peeling badly). We used several coats of mod podge. My favourite ‘in’ joke is the cover about ‘the new science of the teenage brain’ which is featured on the left side of the frame (our boys are 16 and 11).

Some finishing touches are still needed, including using a razor to take of the residue on the glass from the painters tape that adorned it for several months after my husband first gave the frame a new undercoat. But it’s up on the wall and instantly brings to life this small space. I’m hoping it will make them smile and look closer on the school mornings that will start next week.

Mirror frame recovered in National Geographic covers

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Baby chicks at the feeding rock

Our week-old Ameraucauna chicks have been venturing out with the flock and visiting the feeding rock. In order to keep the adult birds from eating the chicks’ feed, my husband used an old plastic cake dome and base for a makeshift feeder. Today was all about exploring it and figuring it out.

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Garlic scapes

Garlic scapes in late June

If there is one thing that I hope to do in the garden each year, it’s to learn more about the plants we grow and how to make the most of them. A pretty universal aim for any gardener, especially one as new to growing food as I still am. Hardneck garlic has been an easy crop to master and become self sufficient in, in part thanks to a friend who gifted us with a starter crop of a variety that does well in our area. This year we’ll be able to return the favour by sharing some of our harvest with friends who are establishing their garden anew after losing their home to a fire last year.

When I planted our garlic that first year, I was focused solely on the bulbs that would result, not giving any thought to the scapes or flower heads that they put up before maturing. I learned enough that first season to know I should remove the scapes in order to allow the plants to maximize the energy they had to put into growing the bulb. Sadly, I didn’t know enough to keep the scapes and use them in the kitchen. Now, I now better!

More specifically, now I know to make garlic scape pesto and to pickle some of the scapes for a treat long after harvest season is over.

Garlic scapes, parmesan cheese and walnuts in mixer bowl

I’m a big fan of pesto and have done my fare share of experimenting with flavours; chard is probably my favourite, both for flavour and because I can easily grow enough to make plenty. Garlic scape pesto is, as you might expect, pretty seriously garlicky, so it’s best enjoyed as a companion ingredient in a larger dish or meal. It can be prepared very similarly to classic Pesto Genovese with basil and pine nuts, but it’s easy to substitute other nuts and to swap out other ingredients.

Garlic scape pesto in mixer bowl

The pesto pictured here used the following ingredients in these very approximate amounts:

1 cup garlic scapes
1/4 cup walnuts
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
Splash lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

The ingredients were tossed into the bowl of my cuisinart and quickly combined. I was then stuck, as I hadn’t noticed that the button which is used to release the lid had gone missing. My 16-year old came to the rescue with a typical MacGyver move, pictured here (and it works a treat):

Cuisinart lid with stick

I prepared seven jars of pesto for freezing with most of the scapes (from roughly 120 garlic plants), but reserved a small batch for pickling.

Jars of garlic scape pesto

The recipe for pickling garlic scapes on Foodie with Family is exactly what I was looking for, so I followed the method and ingredients exactly. It’s been far too hot for canning, so I was completely on board with a method of preservation that didn’t require that step.

Ingredients for pickling garlic scapes

The cleaned and de-blemished scapes are coiled in a sterile jar, black peppercorn, mustard seed, coriander seed and hot pepper flakes are sprinkled over them, and a solution of apple cider vinegar, water, kosher salt and sugar is heated and then poured over the scapes.

Garlic scapes coiled in a jar

Six weeks later, the pickled scapes are ready to be used as a garnish; I can’t wait to try them on pizza, as suggested on Foodie with Family. Apparently they will keep in the refrigerator for up to eight months using this method. Sounds good to me!

Jar of pickled garlic scapes

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Walking on eggshells

Chicken eggs in garden shoes

Our youngest is responsible for letting our chickens out of the coop every morning, checking that they have fresh water and perhaps a bit of corn or something from the garden, and tucking them up again at night. He also tries to remember to check the coop for eggs.

One morning recently I could hear a funny knocking at the mudroom door, and found youngest son with his hands full of eggs. “I forgot the basket”, he said. “Quick, I’ve got eggs balanced on my feet in my boots too, and I’m trying not to break them as I walk!” Amazingly, not a single egg was broken.

It was time to head off for school and, pressed for time, he did the only thing that made sense to him – he tucked the eggs into my gardening shoes until I could deal with them after the run to school.

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Celebrating summer

Chocolate roulade with strawberry decoration

School’s out and today we celebrated the start of summer with friends. The younger kids played outside for hours (water play was definitely a major feature), the big kids set up on the kitchen island with several board games, and the adults chatted on the porch. There was loads of fresh fruit, especially strawberries, and a chocolate roulade, courtesy of our teenager.

Chocolate roulade is a tasty treat that just happens to be gluten-free as it doesn’t include flour of any kind in the ingredient list. My fearless teenager, who is always happy to tackle baking that involves a tricky step or two, has been making this particular recipe for several years. Today, he proudly showed me how tidy he has become in separating eggs:

Egg yolks and whites in separate bowls

He loves the old-fashioned hand mixer that I picked up for a few dollars at a flea market years ago.

Teen baking in the kitchen

The chocolate sheet cake before rolling:

Chocolate roulade in the pan

Today we took turns whipping the cream and I spread it on the cake. He took the honours of rolling (it’s actually more like folding):

Teen rolling chocolate roulade

Transferring roulade to a plate

A lovely treat that’s really quite light and a perfect companion for fresh fruit. There are many recipes for chocolate roulade easily available on the internet:

This one, from the BBC, is very close to the one my son makes.
This one, from the UK’s Sam Stern, is a nice variation.

Chocolate roulade

Here’s a sneak peek of something we’ll be doing this summer now that we’ve added a zipline from the treehouse platform (normally with a helmet and footwear more appropriate than wellies!).

Kid on zipline

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Cooking with chives

Purple chive blossoms in June

Such a common site in a garden, but so undeniably pretty: chives in blossom. It’s hard not to love chives – they are unbelievably easy to grow, easy to look after, and they tend to keep coming back each year. So lovely to look at, and such a fresh flavour for so many dishes. My garlic chives are particularly abundant at the moment, and it suddenly occurred to me that I’ve never made use of the blossoms. That left me feeling very thick for a moment, and then I got looking for ideas.

Fowering chives in the garden

The internet, as ever, obliged with quite a few delicious-sounding recipes making use of chive blossoms, and I settled on Chive Blossom and Lemon Pasta in a heartbeat.

Pasta with chive blossoms and parmesan cheese

Chive Blossom and Lemon Pasta
, original recipe from Foodie Reflections

Pick a nice selection of chive blossoms, snipping them off right at the base of the blossom; soak them in water to get rid of any visitors or dirt, then rinse. Roughly chop any other fresh herbs that you have to hand and wish to include (I used some garlic chives and fresh oregano from my garden). Throw on some water to boil and settle on a pasta shape (I had a smaller penne-type pasta to hand). Grate a generous amount of parmesan cheese. When the pasta is ready, toss in the cheese, a very generous splash of lemon juice, about a tablespoon of good olive oil, as well as freshly ground salt and pepper. Mix in the blossoms last and eat. What a fast and rewarding dish.

Chive blossoms in water

Infusing vinegar with chive blossoms also looked like a good plan, so I rinsed another collection of blossoms and followed the directions for a small test batch of Chive Blossom Vinegar from Leite’s Culinaria. You need only two items: chive blossoms and either champagne or white wine vinegar (I had the latter on hand).

Chive blossoms in glass bottle

My modest little batch was poured into a clean bottle that originally held cream. Once the warmed vinegar was poured over the blossoms, I put on the plastic airtight lid and placed the jar on the top shelve of my pantry where I knew it would be guaranteed a dark spot.

Chive vinegar infusion

Only four days later, my infusion was already a deep lavender. I’ll be straining it in another day or so, and then thinking about the best use for it. I’m rather glad that I’ve woken up to the full potential of this lovely herb. If you’ve been creative with chives, their blossoms or other herbs, I’d love to know about it.

Purple tinted vinegar infused with chive blossoms

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Impossible things before breakfast

I first published this post more than four years ago, when I began Wuppenif. Back then, I had only two readers at most, so it barely saw the light of day. It’s a special post to me, because I really love the exchange in it between my youngest son and me, but also because it still very aptly describes why I started this blog and why it came to be called Wuppenif. Youngest son is now eleven and better known to many readers here as Petkid. He is still partial to using ‘wuppenif’ or ‘wuppen’ in conversation.

Lewis Carroll gave us a wonderful idea in his oft-quoted line from Alice in Wonderland: “Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast”, and it’s something I’d like to do more of. Our six-year old is certainly a dab hand at it, like most children are.

Just this morning on our walk to school he asked me whether it was possible for humans, with all of their intelligence and firepower, to demolish the sun. I said I didn’t think that humans were up to the task, but the truth is, he made me think. We’ve proved ourselves to be capable of the highest highs and the lowest lows, so why shouldn’t we be able to bring down the sun if we choose?

The actual fishtank in our old house, as mentioned in this post. That took me back!

The actual fishtank in the upstairs hallway of our old house, as mentioned in this post. That definitely took me back!

On the way to bed this evening, as he passed the fish tank in the hall outside his bedroom, he said what sounded like “Are sheep benevident?”

I asked him: “Do you mean are sheep benevolent?”

“What does that mean?” he asked.

“Benevolent means good and kind”, I said. “A person can be benevolent or act in a benevolent way.”

“Actually,” he said “people are kind because they keep sheep from getting too hot.”

“Because they would never be shorn otherwise?” I asked.

“Right. And then they get to be warm in the winter while their wool grows back and then we have more wool next year.”

“It’s kind of a perfect arrangement, isn’t it” I offered.

And then we were back onto that tricky word again. “But I mean benevident. Ben-ev-i-dent.”

“I thought you were mispronouncing benevolent. Do you have another word in mind?” I asked.

“Yes, ben-ev-i-dent” [for the slow mother to understand].

“Why don’t we look it up in the dictionary tomorrow” I suggested.

“Or on the computer,” he said “they should both have definitions.”

***

When this same youngest son was about three, he graduated from “Why?” to “Wuppenif?” which is a short-hand version of “What would happen if?” At nearly seven, wuppenif is still a big part of his conversational vocabulary, and I’m pleased that it hasn’t disappeared. In fact, it has been shortened further to just “wuppen”.  It has a certain something that the words in full just don’t possess. It’s a concept in its own right somehow.

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GF Rhubarb Almond Muffins

Gluten free rhubarb almond muffins

Don’t let the GF (gluten free) part scare you away if you like gluten or don’t need to be GF; these muffins are so very good. With an abundance of rhubarb in my front garden, I’m casting around for new ways to prepare rhubarb on most days. Rhubarb compote has made almost daily appearances around here and last night I went searching for inspiration in the form of a muffin. I took a mainstream recipe from Saveur which looked rather delicious, and simply gave it the GF-treatment.

I was glad to switch out the butter for coconut oil in the original list of ingredients for the muffins, as it enhanced the modest amount of coconut flour that I used in my flour blend. I ran out of coconut oil at that point, and ended up using butter in the streusel topping. No complaints on flavour, but next time I’ll try to stick to making these a bit healthier.

Ingredients for almond streusel topping

GF Rhubarb Almond Muffins with Streusel Topping

Muffin Ingredients
3 cups flour blend (I used 1 cup almond flour, 1.5 cups sorghum, 0.5 cup coconut flour)
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp xanthan gum
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup yogurt (mine was goat’s milk, but any yogurt or kefir would do nicely)
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup coconut oil
2 eggs (with thanks to our hens!)
1 tsp almond extract
2 stalks rhubarb, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
1/2 cup slivered almonds

Streusel Ingredients
1/2 cup almond flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 tsp almond extract
4 tbsp butter (cold, cut into small pieces)
1/2 cup slivered almonds

Method
Step 1 - Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit

Step 2 – Cut up rhubarb and place in a bowl

Step 3 - Mix dry ingredients, take out 1/4 cup and mix with rhubarb

Step 4 - Mix wet ingredients

Step 5 - Mix dry and wet ingredients, then fold in rhubarb

Step 6 – Spoon batter into muffin tins

Step 7
- Combine streusel ingredients, then top unbaked muffins

Step 8
- Place tins in oven and bake for approximately 22 – 24 minutes

Makes approximately 18 muffins

The batter is decidedly chunky with all that rhubarb and I worried that I’d overdone it with my star ingredient, but the final baked muffin is a lovely blend and has great texture. The streusel is truly the icing on the cake, nudging these into special territory.

The original Saveur recipe called for lemon zest in the streusel; personally, I’d have used orange zest if I was going to go that route, but I didn’t use any citrus and found the resulting muffin to be extremely tasty. Orange zest might have bumped it up a notch (I love mixing flavours), but I really didn’t miss it (nor did my husband, who is my trusty muffin tester).

GF rhubarb almond muffins

After a heavy evening in the garden, tilling and planting, these felt like a well deserved treat.

Rhubarb almond muffin with streusel topping, GF

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Rhubarb Compote

Rhubarb growing thick and fast in May

Rhubarb that is ready for picking and enjoying is almost too good to be true. I’m very behind in the garden after last year, when I was harvesting winter spinach and some other early treats from our greenhouse. We weren’t so organized going into this year, and waiting longer for the pleasures of harvest time is hard. But, back to the rhubarb.

It’s ready! I probably could have pulled some stalks a few days ago, but just wasn’t organized enough until yesterday. I had to laugh when I went out to make my selections.

Egg nestled underneath rhubarb leaves

Yes, that’s an egg nestled beneath the leaves. One of the hens managed to breach the makeshift fence around the front garden yesterday and she left a little gift. I just love free ranging chickens.

With the big kid and dog on the porchLast night we stayed up late working through a business plan and budget with our teen, who is applying for a grant to start a business this summer. At least we had the pleasure of undertaking this work out on the screened in porch as distant lightning flashed and the sounds of frogs and coyotes drifted up to where we sat.

It was only as we were finishing up that my husband tentatively said, “Rhubarb?” Oh yes, I had promised to make rhubarb compote. Fortunately, it only takes a few minutes to cook down some chopped up rhubarb with a bit of freshly squeezed orange juice and honey. I even washed out the pan and made a quick batch of custard to pair it with, though thick Greek yoghurt would have been really good too.

Rhubarb raspberry compote with custard

Recipes for rhubarb compote often call for companion strawberries, but last night I threw in some raspberries that I had in the freezer for a bit of colour and contrast, and the combination was really nice. Food preparation is starting to come to life again; what is it about fresh ingredients from your own garden that makes baking and cooking so much more satisfying and pleasurable?

Rhubarb Compote
4 stalks rhubarb
Handful of raspberries (optional)
2 to 3 tablespoons local honey
Juice of one orange

Cook ingredients in a small saucepan over medium-high heat until bubbling, then turn down and cook until thickened. Adjust sweetening to taste. Delicious on its own, paired with yoghurt or custard, or drizzled over cake, etc. Perfect for freezing too. This is my kind of fast food.

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