Thursday, August 25, 2011

Veggie Sauce or Cleaning out the frig before travel

Tomorrow I leave for Maine - part vacation and part serving someone else- I am looking forward to the time away. Not so much with a hurricane and the forecast but I am sure that we will have some beautiful days somewhere along the way. But first I have to clean out my frig and prepare a few meals for the menfolk who are staying behind.

Enter lots of veggies...between my own garden and my CSA share and my family dwindling in size I have a bunch of misc veggies that need something done to them. A few weeks ago I made a lasagna from a recipe that was submitted for the CSA newsletter and I tucked away the idea that this sauce could really be used for lots of things. So this morning I pulled everything out and began to reconstruct the recipe based on what I had available

Part one - You really want to do the prep ahead of time, there is nothing worse than something burning in the pan while you chop the next ingredient. The only exception to this was I saved my eggplant to chop at the last minute because it browns so quickly.
So: peel tomatoes and chop veggies. I used a leek and a red onion, garlic, peppers, yellow squash, zucchini, eggplant, okra, chopped tomatoes, fresh herbs and fish pepper.
Cook in a skillet w olive oil in the above order. When the onions and peppers are soft, add the squash, when the squash is soft, add the eggplant, etc. adding oil as needed. Then once you have everything softened add the chopped tomatoes and herbs. Then I added a can of diced tomatoes and a can of tomato sauce. Cook everything until desired consistency, add salt and pepper to taste and you have a delicious multi-purpose sauce.

Excellent in lasagna, yummy on pasta or my favorite - scooped over focaccia bread. Just for fun lets call it upside down pizza. I took one focaccia bread, topped it with grated cheese and some chunks of Brie, then put a scoop of sauce on top. The juices soak into the bread making a cross between a panzanella experience or a soup with croutons. I love it - hope you will too.

As for amounts - you can really use whatever. The first time I made it I had one of each vegetable, and 1 can of each kind of tomato. Made just enough for a 9x13 lasagna. The second time I made it I doubled the ingredients and had enough for pasta with dinner plus put a qt in the freezer. Today when I made it I used about 6 of everything, used three cans of each kind of tomatoes, two pans and will can all of it for later use. Just finishing the canning process - made 6 qts of sauce.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Small Batch Canning

this week's pickle relish

I used to enjoy canning large batches of anything. We had a larger garden so had more produce. I had friends who enjoyed canning too so every summer we would get together and put up food for the winter - salsa and spaghetti sauce with Laurie T., applesauce and peaches with Linda S., Then I got busy - I guess working or something, and canning sort of fell by the wayside. When I found myself with a little more free time and the surge of farmer's markets and CSA picked up I also found that I no longer had the right equipment. My new fangled glass top stove couldn't handle my "antique" hot water bath canner, I had given most of my plethora of jars away. I WANTED to can - I just didn't want to make the investment all over again with much fewer people at home to eat the results. I tried freezing but my freezer always seems to be full of treats from my boyfriend - I mean the Schwan's man, and I don't think far enough out to thaw things. (We do love frozen applesauce though!)

Then I discovered this - aptly named the Ball Discovery kit - and this summer I have fallen in love with small batch canning.
The schnazzy green plastic basket fits in my stock pot - flat bottom I might add, and I "can" do 4 jars at a time or just one if I want. It fits small half pints and large quarts so I can do whatever size jar works for my needs. It plus three jars cost me about $20 bucks at Southern States and I've seen it elsewhere recently so it must be catching on.

To date I have made rhubarb jam, peach jam, peach butter, salsa, and this weekend pickle relish. I love to listen to the ping, ping, ping as the jars settle on the counter. I love the bright jewel colors glistening in the sunshine. I love that I can stick them in the closet and not take up valuable freezer or pantry space. And I especially love the fresh taste of sweet summer each time I open a jar.

2 qts of veggie sauce nicknamed "Clean out the frig" sauce
ready for canning

peach extras from the farmer's market

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Home Again, Dancing a Jig

the sound of freedom (way up there)

It seems like every week has a trip somewhere for the next month or so. Things always seem to pile up like that. Now that we are six weeks to the wedding I guess it just seems like things are rolling along faster and faster. This is a big year for us in some ways. Son is getting married AND just celebrated his last day of commitment to the Army for a total of 8 years! He's been counting down the days and keeping his fingers crossed that he doesn't get deployed at the last minute and now that it is passed it seems surreal. We are very proud of him and the commitment he made to serve his country and his time spent at two deployments, Djibouti and Iraq.

six weeks, but who's counting?

He grew up a lot and now he's getting married and becoming a spouse to a Naval Officer who is serving as well. They will have 6 weeks together before she is shipped out on deployment so the sacrifice on both their parts continues. I was sitting on the beach at VA Beach this past week and every few minutes a fighter jet drowned out all noise and flew over the water. A friend commented on my facebook status "That's the sound of Freedom!" and it is and thanks to my kids and many other mother's children for their part in making that freedom possible. To all my friends out there who have experienced what I am talking about - God Bless You!
Next on our list of exciting milestones is dear daughter number one who is celebrating her FIRST Anniversary of marriage this week AND her FIFTH year of teaching. Neither one seem possible. I still feel like I am planning her wedding or attending her college graduation. Little children from her first year of teaching 5th grade are now in high school and from her second year (2nd grade) are in Middle School. SHE was just in middle school - where did that time go?


AND then there is Baby girl - leaving this weekend for her Senior year in college. Be Still My Heart - how did this happen so fast? This summer was packed full or responsibility as she worked with 14 and 15 yr old boys with special needs. Her heart is SO Big and she will do BIG things for God's Kingdom, I just know it! Even if she doesn't know what that exactly looks like yet.

"For I know the plans I have for you,
says the Lord." Jer 29:11

Life is one big transition of hello's and goodbyes. My heart is full to think of my children as adults but on the plus side they add wonderful people into our family and their adventures give me something to write about :)
So I am off on some adventures of my own. Next week I leave for a vacation in Maine - with just a girlfriend, well I guess I should call her a lady friend since she is old enough to be my mother. But we do have fun together and as long as we don't carry our purses into antique shops we usually stay out of trouble (accidents not theft - haha). I am looking forward to cool temps and some away time and seeing friends along the way.

Then my agenda gets crazy with not only wedding but I have agreed to speak at a Women's Retreat in San Francisco - three weeks after the wedding so I am preparing for that as well. This is something I have always wanted to do (on my bucket list if you will) and haven't done much of since the Philippines trip in 2007 and so I was thrilled when the opportunity developed for me to speak. No butterflies yet, but I better stop flitting around and get down to business! Some of my busiest weeks are ahead of me.

AND I have grand plans for a fall garden - planted lettuce spinach, radishes and beans last week

AND I still have my Stoney Lonesome Farm blog to work until the end of October and I plan to have another Mary and Bright show in December so who has time to sit around and be sad - not me!

Well there you have it - my busy, crazy, wonderful life just got crazier, busier and more wonderful! God is good!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Around the World and Back

Well not really - but sometimes it feels like it. I have been down to the farm twice in the last 2 weeks. I've also been to Philly and have plans for the beach and Maine in the next few weeks. Unfortunately the farm will have to wait. But I am excited to have picked all of my globe amaranth and have it drying on racks in my garage. It will be a fun project very soon. I learned the hard way that mice like to eat this flower. I had a very clever screen all set up at the farm to dry flowers and filled it with the amaranth. One week later they were shredded and laying all over the floor of my bedroom along with "evidence" pointing to mice in the house again. errrrrr! So this time we hauled all the flowers home.

(this is an old picture -the wall of the garage is now full)

The farm was HOT last weekend and then we made it worse by putting in the window A/C. Really, what were we thinking? That just made everything seem hotter and humider and who wants to sit in a bedroom? It was nice to have a place to cool down the body temps before dressing for a wedding but still - next time no A/C - we'll go au naturale and enjoy the breeze that flows through the trees!

(hot, dry and dusty - poor John Deare)

And speaking of trees! Earlier this spring our peach tree was full of delicious almost ripe peaches - but when we returned a week later only pits were left on the ground. Now we have a pear tree full of luscious almost ready pears but dang gommit - it appears the squirrels are waiting poised to devour them as well. They do leave us some apples - for which I am grateful but those squirrels are not going to stand a chance when I live down there and can shoot them with my rubber band gun. Argh - dumb (and insert other choice but inappropriate words) squirrels.

(the weeds that got away - actually this is a 12 ft high zinnia -
you know the neighbors are loving us)

Kayla was the photographer this weekend. I was too busy working and wiping away rivers of sweat but she insists that we must have one picture of me "farming" on my blog so I will swallow my pride and post it for your grins - but no comments please :)

farmgirl at her best - haha

Monday, August 1, 2011

A Run to the Farm

Road trip! - John and I decided on Friday that we could not put off the farm any longer. Poor neglected parcel of land, left all alone to make it or break it. We really didn't expect to see much of anything when we arrived but boy were we surprised. First of all when the last 7 miles were spent driving in rain - Rain? you say - what's that? It is the wetness that makes the grass green and the plants grow in case you have forgotten. According to our neighbor who stopped by to say HI it had also rained the past night - quite a lot.

Strawberry fields is the name of this flower - also known as globe amaranth. I dry them for use in wreaths and they make a very nice addition to potpourri by giving it color and depth. Many of these have been out in the sun too long but I did get a nice amount of them for starters.

Sunflowers are busy smiling!

So we arrived to find things in much better shape than we expected. My flowers - especially the globe amaranth that are my bread and butter this year! Oh Happy Day! So needless to say we brought back home lots of flowers, about a half dozen watermelon, some winter squash, about a half dozen cabbage and a few potatoes which we dug just to see if there were any - and there are! So after some tractor driving and some flower cutting and some atv-ing we managed to spend about 6 hours down at the farm and returned late in the evening with all of our goodies. I also found some screens that I brought home for drying flowers - yay! That old farm house turns up the most useful goodies - talk about trash to treasure.
Meanwhile back at the ranch Kayla was manning the fort and chasing down the army of ants that had appeared after our tea party. Where do these things come from? She is a trooper and today there are only a few left behind to explore my cabinets.
We will return to the farm this coming weekend for several days of work and fun. A dear friend gets married in Lynchburg on Saturday so it won't be all work and no play.

The pear tree is full of pears this year - so much better than last year. The deer have obviously been helping themselves but these need a ladder to get to them so we may even have a few for ourselves. The apple trees are looking good as well.

(uncooperative little sucker)

These goldfinch were busy eating the sunflower insides but every time I snuck up to take their picture off they went. I finally settled for one at the top of a nearby tree about 12 ft in the air while I sat on the ground and we grew accustomed to each other.

Moon and stars watermelon - sweet and juicy yellow flesh

"Purple Buddy" globe amaranth

The flower bouquets at the farm are always so much prettier than at home
even in their plastic cups.

A Tea Party

One thing I have always loved is the production of a well executed tea party. From the little sandwiches and bite size sweets to the brewing of a pot of tea, it all speaks relaxation to me. So to honor our newest family member - my son's fiance Laura, we set out to host a tea party for her. The guest list was family and friends closest to her and Mike since intimacy if always an integral part of tea. Almost a dozen could not make it simply because of the date but the afternoon was pleasantly spent with 16 of us. The table was set with three savories and three sweets and along with 2 hot teas we served 2 cold teas and raspberry lemonade and of course water infused with cucumbers. The bride to be received a nice assortment of gifts to start their new home - both kitchen and bedding were well represented and a highlight of the afternoon was stories told and advice given. I do love a good tea!

The tea table was set with grandma's china, and tea cups
Three savories included Cucumber and Boursin Sandwiches
Caprese Sandwiches
Sweet Potato Biscuits w/ Ham salad
Three Sweets included Cream Cheese crescents
Citrus Tea Cakes w/ Lavender syrup glaze
Cream Scones with Devonshire Cream and Peach Jam

Keep Calm and Carry On - the mantra of any bride to be

Advice from the mother in law

Advice from momma Parks

Delighting in a warm fuzzy blanket