Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Cozy House... and a pantry stocked

Yesterday we turned the heat on, which must mean that Winter is officially on its way. I love this time of year. The air is crisp, as are the apples. The blankets are cozy, and I want to turn on my oven and bake something. This summer I've put some effort into preserving local fruit and vegetables for the winter. My stash includes chopped and sauced tomatoes, bell peppers, green beans, carrots, turnips, squash, chard, kale, and collard greens. I have strawberries, blueberries, and peaches frozen whole for winter treats. There are jars of pickles, relishes, and jams. The freezer holds meat from our CSA share, and there is a revolving supply of frozen beans.

When I think of this bounty, I find myself humming a Scottish song about the difficulties of a highland winter. The last verse goes like this:

A cozy house and a canty wife
Aye, keep a body cheery
A pantry stockt wi' meat and drink
They answer uncouth rarely

Do your worst, Old Man Winter, we're ready for you!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Halloween Costumes in the Making

I've been working on Halloween costumes for a few weeks now.  I'm going to be the Queen of the Forest, and Alessia is going to be a tree sprite. At first I was going to make her a tree fairy, but the more I thought about putting wings on a one-year-old, the more I realized that was a bad idea.  So I adjusted the concept to tree sprite.  She's in charge of the maple trees in my neighborhood.  Tree sprites are mischievous, wild creatures.  They have little in the way of a tailoring culture and their clothes resemble the leaves of their charges. If they wear ornaments at all, they are found objects - bits of ribbons stolen from passing maidens and such.

Her costume is a little tunic dress.  I'm going out of my way to avoid tailored details.  The seams will be overlapped and top sewn with heavy embroidery floss. The neck and arm holes will be left raw and fraying.  I've used fabric pastels to create leaves across the bottom hem, and I'm going to trim the fabric around the shapes of the leaves.  I have ribbons from presents she got before she was born.  Bits and pieces of them will peek out from behind the leaves and tie the back opening shut. Even if she would wear a headdress, she doesn't need one with her mop of unkempt blonde hair.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Italian Composed Salads

As much as I enjoy composed salads, I don't make them very often. For some reason I find it tedious to cook each ingredient separately. This week I got cranberry beans in my CSA share. Since I've never eaten them before, let alone cooked them, I went straight to my cookbooks. Verdura by Viana LaPlace is one of my favorites. LaPlace has multiple recipes for salads with borlotti beans, which are very similar to cranberry beans. This is my slight variation on one of her recipes:

Several potatoes, boiled and diced
Green beans, boiled and halved
Cranberry beans, boiled
Cherry tomatoes, halved
Basil (I only had two leaves left)
Olive oil
Red wine vinegar

I lightly tossed all the ingredients on a platter, which is much more impressive looking than a big bowl. I served it with sliced hard boiled eggs for some added protein. Very delicious and pretty, too.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Lamb Stew with Butternut Squash

This week in my CSA share we got butternut squash. With the weekly newsletter was a recipe for pork and butternut squash stew in a slow cooker. I don't have a slow cooker, and I didn't have any stew pork in the house, but the idea intrigued me. Participating in both vegetable and meat CSA shares often means that I can't strictly follow recipes, because I just don't have certain ingredients. I have learned certain cooking techniques though, that let me make use of what I do have in interesting ways.

So, I had the butternut squash, but I didn't have the pork. I did, however, have a package of lamb for stew, and a leftover leek, a tomato, and some scallions that needed eating. Here's what I did.

Brown lamb in a little olive oil. Remove lamb from pan. Add chopped leek and scallion. Saute until wilted. Add chopped rosemary and tarragon from the garden and saute a bit more. Add lamb back in and saute for a few minutes so that it sucks up the onion flavor. Add a peeled, seeded, and chopped tomato. Once the tomato releases its juices, scrape the bottom of the pan. Add salt and water, cover the pan, and let simmer for 2 hours. Add peeled and chopped butternut squash. Simmer until the squash is tender. Done!