Friday, August 29, 2014

Lentil Sprouts & Dinner From the Garden and Pantry

I didn't even think about this post until dinner was already consumed, cleared, and cleaned up.  Unfortunately, no photos to accompany as the dinner is in my tummy, but I did include links to the recipes I loosely used, and those sites have lovely photos.

I had remembered about my love for lentil spouts about a week ago and started some.  They are quite simple and quick to grow.  I add about 1 cup of french lentils (rinsed and sorted) to a 1 qt wide mouth jar and fill the jar with water.  After about 12 hours, the lentils have absorbed a lot of the water and have increased to about 3 cups in the jar.  Drain and rinse, cover loosely with a cap, a towel, or a piece of cheese cloth.  Continue to rinse and drain every 12 hours, and after about 48 hours altogether, you should see little tails emerging from your lentils!  You may eat them at any stage, but I generally give them one final rinse, and cap the jar and refrigerate.  I have been adding them to sandwiches, namely my new favorite of fried egg and provolone with a friend's homemade cherry tomato relish, lettuce and lentil sprouts on a whole wheat tortilla wrap. I have enjoyed two of those this week.  For additional information about sprouting, the site has a lot of useful information, but I buy my lentils from the bulk bins at my grocery store.

Last night, the lentil sprouts went into a delicious Lentil and Tomato salad from BBC Good Food but I didn't follow their instructions to a T, I used sprouted lentils instead of cooked lentils, I didn't have mango chutney so I used Apricot Jam, I didn't have spinach, so I left that out altogether, and I had shallots I had grown, so I used those instead of the onions.  I really enjoyed the cuminy dressing.

The main dish of our dinner was Zucchini Pancakes, similar to this recipe from Ina Garten.  I had noticed a zucchini lurking beneath the powdery mildewed leaves of the zucchini plants, and went to collect that one, and unexpectedly found four!  One was baseball bat size, so that will become shreds for the freezer to breads & muffins, and be added to soups. We are definitely fans for savory vegetable pancakes, potato being our favorite.  I did use whole wheat pastry flour instead of the All Purpose flour that as called for, and I am positive I added way more than two tablespoons of grated onion.  The kiddo enjoyed these so much she had seconds!  Zucchinis are definitely growing on her, thankfully.

Lastly, we like to enjoy applesauce with our savory vegetable pancakes, and as you may recall, I made some cinnamon pear sauce last week, and as always with the canning process, I am left with a remainder that doesn't quite fill a jar to be canned for the pantry, so it ends up in the fridge to be consumed right away. It was a tasty condiment for sure.

Altogether, our dinner of Zucchini Pancakes, Lentil and Tomato Salad, and Pear Sauce, required only one ingredient from the grocery store, Cilantro, because in my completely cattywampus life lately, I forgot to reseed and stagger my cilantro plantings.

Lentils, Apricot Jam, Lemons and Limes, onion, cinnamon pear sauce (via garden), Shallots and garlic (via garden), spices (cumin, salt and pepper), vinegar and oil, whole wheat pastry flour

Zucchini, tomatoes, eggs 

One random other thing today:  I was able to repair, once again, a zippered hooded cardigan that I must have purchased sometime in the mid to late 90's at Forever 21, to go on my first date with a boy whom my friends, at the time, referred to as Mr. Pisser (because he proceeded to use the restroom no less than 8 times during that date.)  He didn't last very long, as he was not very interesting to me.  Apparently the sweater is hanging in there nearly 20 years later (!) and it is still one of my favorites.  A little run appeared on the hood, and I was able to re-knit that section with the help of a crochet hook and secure the last loop to the seam.  This can be a problem with sweaters that are sewn from machine knit fabric instead of assembled from purposefully knit pieces.

Monday, August 25, 2014

One Pan Pasta Putanesca

I keep running across a one pan pasta recipe on and while it was intriguing and, at this moment, could fulfill my desire to cook healthy meals from the garden, pantry and fridge/freezer, it seemed to me like it could be a little bit bland for us.  So I bookmarked it, thought about it some more, and looked about the pantry and garden to see what was available.  Then it struck me to create a Putanesca version. The Kiddo loves olives and "baby pickles" (capers) so this was a winner in her book. In the garden I had tomatoes, basil, oregano, and parsley.  In the pantry I had red pepper flakes, capers, kalamata olives, whole wheat thin spaghetti, chicken stock, onions and garlic (which I grew in the garden).  In the fridge I had anchovy paste and Parmesan cheese.  I started with the Martha Stewart recipe and diverged from there.  I made considerably less pasta than they suggested, because there are only two of us eating here, and one is four and a half.  The amount I made fed us both, with me having seconds and there is enough leftover for me to have lunch or dinner some other day this week.  I left all the other ingredients about the same amount they had suggested for 12 oz of dry pasta, except the liquid which I cut in half, since I was cooking fewer noodles and I wanted more flavor ultimately. We both enjoyed it and I will definitely make it again.  The Kiddo did eat all the olives and the "baby pickles" first, as I suspected.  I started eating dinner and then I remembered to take the photo.  Oops!

One-Pan Pasta Putanesca
Serves 2-3

6 oz dry whole wheat thin spaghetti (or pasta of your choice, but you may need to adjust the liquid to cook your choosen pasta to al dente.)
1 onion sliced
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced
2 tbsp olive oil
1 lb tomatoes, chopped (I used cherry and Campari)
1/4 cup kalamata olives
2 Tbsp capers, drained
3 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
1 tsp fresh oregano, chopped
2 Tbsp fresh basil, chopped
1 big pinch red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp anchovy paste (Amore squeeze tube)
2 1/4 cups chicken stock or water
Grated Parmesan cheese for topping

In a large skillet (mine was 12 inches) I added all the ingredients, except for the Parmesan cheese.  Go easy on the salt as the olives, capers, anchovy paste, and chicken stock all are salty.  Cover and cook on high until boiling, then stir frequently until most of the liquid is absorbed, the onions are translucent and the tomatoes are breaking down.  For me, this was about 6 minutes.  Remove from heat. Serve with Parmesan cheese.

I harvested 16 lbs of Campari tomatoes this morning, some of which contributed to this dish, most of which are destined for the freezer to be used over the winter. Note the tomato by my thumb which is from the staked and pruned plants, whereas the majority of the small ones are from the sprawling vines.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Intentions and Hope

If I had a penny for every time I had an intention, I would have a full bank account.  I intend to weed the garden, I intend to wash the kitchen floor, I intend to sew sundresses, I intend to go to the gym, I intend to shampoo the dog, I intend to write a blog post (ahem, for the past 6 months!).  Sometimes, this is from lack of time, or shall I say usable time, especially if I am up against a limit of picking the kiddo up from preschool, or showering and getting to work on-time.  Sometimes it is because I get sucked into the vortex that is the internet, and I open my laptop to investigate something, and then I am distracted by email, and other people's blog posts and all those recipes that file into my inbox, and then I fall down a rabbit hole, and forget why I am even in front of the computer in the first place.  Sometimes it is because someone else needs my attention, and their needs are deemed greater than mine. Sometimes it is because I have lost sight of hope.  Most of the time, anything not essential, and somethings that should definitely be essential, fall to the wayside for much too long. 

Today (Yesterday actually, as it took me a day to finish and post) I managed to can Pear Butter and Cinnamon Pear Sauce from the bounty of our ancient pear tree.  I must admit that most of the pears have gone to the chickens and, strangely, Booger the dog has a large appetite for windfall pears.  We still have some pear products in the pantry lingering from the past, so I didn't want to can too much, but I will have enough for some gifts for friends, and some to help carry us through until next pear season. 
Soon I will hopefully can some salsa, as the tomatoes are mounting.  The intentions got the better of me with the tomatoes as well.  I only managed to stake and prune five of the 26 tomato plants this year.  Most of the paths in the garden have succumb to tangle of vines.  My unintended experiment definitely proved the experts correct.  The pruned and staked tomatoes grew fruit that were twice the size of the unpruned rambling plants. The photo on the left are the staked and pruned tomatoes and many of the fruit are close to two inches in diameter, which is generally huge for the campari type of tomatoes I grow for eating, freezing and canning.  The rambling vines had more numbers of fruit overall, but they were mostly around the one inch diameter mark, plus being on the ground were subject to predators, namely field mice, and they seem to be ripening more slowly as well.  Fingers crossed there will still be plenty to freeze and use for soup, salsa and sauce.

Life has definitely had many twists and turns so far this year.  I am still trying to find my place in the world.  Friendships have been made and nurtured, with some discarded, and one very sadly lost, for a very good reason, through no fault of mine.  Hopefully that one will return sometime.  Jobs have been applied for, interviewed and I've been passed over.  The kiddo is growing, struggling, fighting and learning to be a kid with two homes and how to spend most all of the day at preschool.  I am figuring out how much food to prepare and shop for, how many leftovers we can reasonably eat, how to eat more meals from the pantry and freezer, how often we need to have a carnivorous meal, or if we can sustain more vegetarian fare.  I remembered how much I enjoy listening to music, as well as playing my mandolin and singing along, and how painful string instruments can be until one grows sufficient callouses on one's fingertips.  I have realized that I do not really need most of the books in my shelves and have donated close to three-quarters of them to my local library.  This mentality has overflowed to my music collection, and my CDs are slowly being digitized, and many will end up somewhere other than in my home and on my shelves.  I have a relatively large stash (for me) of both yarn and fabric, and I have been able to put a lot of that excess to use making flirty skirts for myself and knitting/crocheting warming items for the kiddo for the impending winter, as well as organizing the remainder into doable projects.  I was able to thrift some fabric I had for years, and would never choose to use for anything.  I remembered that I really love the This American Life show/podcast from Chicago Public Media that airs on my local NPR station KUOW and I am able to subscribe to it on iTunes, and listen to it on occasion.

I have learned that when I am happy and feeling secure in my life, I am exceedingly productive: making small repairs around the house that have languished for years;  whipping out a skirt to wear to an event later that same day; producing yummy and healthy meals from the bounty that is my garden, and the slight hoard of my pantry & freezer; gracefully rolling with the punches of the unexpected, whether that be a playdate of three children in addition to my own, and another parent, that appeared at my door one day just in time for dinner (I had planned and still managed to make Tuna Panzanella to share with my neighbor recovering from brain surgery,) or a camping trip that was cancelled when the other family suddenly succumbed to the stomach flu, or hastily repair the hen run after the Booger decided to break in to eat chicken poop snacks, windfall pears (when there were 20+ pounds of pears on the ground under the tree) and bolted lettuce.  When I am sad and feeling that the weight of the world is working against me, I become a blob: The house goes uncleaned and the dishes pile up;  I can find no reason to cook, not even to nourish us (luckily four year olds love "snack" meals cobbled together from random finds in the fridge, and I have decided that I can survive on wheat toast); laundry is only washed when we run out of underwear; I retreat to watching old favorite movies, finding recipes and patterns online, only to emerge for necessary preschool drop-off and pick-up. 

I have realized that I am a person that largely thrives on hope.  When hope is high, I am charged up and ready to go, nothing can faze me, I take the problems in stride and solve away.  When hope is low, or non-existent, I question how so many hugely disappointing things can one person withstand in the span of a short amount of time.  I know in my head that all of this is just the growing pains of living the new life that was thrust upon me, but sometimes my heart gets the better of me and the tears flow.  The sad songs come out. I sing, cry and wallow, for a minute.  I still seem to have hope most days, but it becomes tempered by heartache and disappointment, and I have to remind myself of what a strong, capable person I am, and how it won't always be like this.  The kiddo will fall into a groove, I will find a job, I will work on my Master's Degree, I will find an adult male to love me, and me him, and we will share a life together as partners, the Booger will stop molesting visitors, and eating toys and toilet paper.

In the past six months of blog silence, I have harvested my best ever crop of garlic and a respectable haul of shallots. We had a huge crop of sweet cherries that were obliterated by foreign fruit fly invaders,  raccoons and crows. The apples didn't get their footie socks applied and are riddled with worms. My overzealous lettuce planting mostly went to the chickens as well as a few friends and neighbors. Sugar snap and snow peas performed smashingly, but the pole beans were mostly a disappointment this year.  The NZ spinach is threatening to take over, it has been a good summer for that, and now I will need to figure out how to preserve some of it.  My intentions were lost on the sunflowers, but luckily I recognized a freebie among the tomatoes and now there is an enormous bush covered in many 5" diameter yellow blossoms.  I have started some of my fall and winter crops but I fear I may be too late for any type of success, but I will blunder along anyway and hopefully some kale and chard will thrive.  I also think mice may be residing in the bed I was going to plant with carrots.  I will need to deal with that somehow.

I went out into the garden several times over the past 6 months and photographed, thinking I would post to this blog.  Instead, I will add some of the best to this post.

Three varieties of zucchini

Front yard garden, sweet peas, borage, zucchini
Garlic, red oak leaf lettuce, borage starts

Red Sweet Cherries

Josta Berries
Foraged White Currents

Borage forest

Nookta Rose garlic curing on the back porch
Shallots curing
Honeycrisp Apples
Zebrina mallow

Shamrock apples
Here's to hope and intentions.  I hope to follow through with my intentions.  I intend to continue to thrive on hope.  I hope and intend to make more frequent and meaningful posts in the near future.