Growing Food

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I love growing food. Love. It.  There is nothing that gives me more pleasure than seeing the food I have grown, grace our plates at meal time.  And while this time of year requires a lot of physical demand (Who needs a gym when you are working 6 yards of compost and mulch into the soil?), the rewards are definitely worth the effort.  The perennials are already popping up, and the cold tolerant vegetable seeds are in the ground.  We are not far away, friends.  I can almost taste that strawberry rhubarb crisp now.

But perhaps the most rewarding of growing my own food, is sharing this passion with others.  I have the absolute pleasure of working with the students of Cathedral of St. Peter School in their school garden for the forth growing season.  And as I worked with students last week in the garden, I was reminded of why this project is so very important.  Many have lost their connection to the food they eat.  They view food as coming from the grocery store and have no idea how it is grown, or the work that goes in to growing it.  Working with these students allows them to connect with their food, see how it is grown, and become an active participant in that growth process.  Our garden project enables students to try new foods, and learn about the importance of consuming healthy foods and how that translates into fuel for our bodies and minds.  Most importantly, our school garden work illustrates how to be stewards of God’s creation, and to value and cherish all that the Earth and God provide for us each and every day.

IMG_2542Happy 2016 growing season, friends!

“Oh, Jam? I Love Jam!”

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I think I love jam just as much as I love Friends…and what could be better than an entire Friends episode dedicated to jam?  Love it!  That’s why all afternoon, as my four year old and I worked in our strawberry-coated kitchen, I couldn’t help but hear Joey’s voice in my head repeating, “Oh, jam?  I love jam?”

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Yesterday, while my oldest was away at camp, my tiny sous chef and I worked with Pomona’s Universal Pectin, a wonderful low-sugar pectin (as we did in this post as well), and ended up with some absolutely fabulous results.  When making jam last year, we used the low-sugar recipe options included with the Pomona’s Pectin.  This year, we tried out two no-sugar options, taste tested them this morning, and yummy…delicious!

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The first recipe we tried was simply the cooked strawberry jam recipe included inside the Pomona’s box.  We used the honey sweetening option and it is delicious.  The second recipe we tried is from the latest issue of Taproot.  And oh boy, let me tell you, this recipe is amazing!  It is a strawberry-maple with vanilla jam recipe, specifically designed for Pomona’s Pectin.  And the best part about this fabulous recipe is the only sweetener is maple syrup.

Happy jam-making season all!

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Strawberry Rhubarb Cream Crisp

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‘Tis the season of strawberry and rhubarb, and our kitchen is quickly becoming laden with these early summer lovelies.  This past weekend I played around a bit to come up with a variation to a traditional fruit crisp.  After some experimentation, I came up with this recipe that goes together very quickly, making it the perfect dish to bring to a summer picnic or backyard barbecue.

This crisp is not overly sweet, so it allows the flavors of the sweet strawberries and tart rhubarb to shine through.  Coupled with the rich, earthly flavors of the pecans and oats, this is a treat sure to please the masses.

Strawberry Rhubarb Cream Crisp

For the crumble:

1.  In a food processor, pulse 1/4 cup raw pecans.

2.  Add 2 cups rolled oats, 1/2 cup flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg to the food processor.  Pulse 2-3 times.

3.  Add 1 stick of cold butter (cut into bits) and 2 tablespoons raw honey to the food processor.  Pulse until a crumble forms.

4.  Set aside.

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For the filling:

1.  Combine 2 cups strawberries (diced), 3 cups rhubarb (diced), 1/3 cup honey, 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream, 2 eggs (beaten), and 1 teaspoon almond extract in a large bowl.

2.  Add 1/2 cup flour and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon to the fruit mixture.

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Assembling the crisp:

1.  Pour the fruit mixture into a 9X9 inch pan.

2.  Spread the crumble mixture over the top of the fruit.

3.  Bake in a 350 degree oven for 40-45 minutes, or until the top of the crumble is golden brown.

Enjoy!

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*A note about all my recipes:  I use all organic ingredients, local when available.  I use non-homogenized milk, and all of the dairy we use is from animals raised on pasture. I also use oils that are non-GMO verified.  All our meat is raised locally on organic feed, and our beef is grass-fed, grass-finished.  All our spices and cane sugar are fair-trade certified and purchased through a cooperative.

A Year In Review

It is hard to believe that this blustery day in February marks the one year anniversary of Making of a Home.  Thank you so much to all of you who have been following my musings over the course of the last year!  I am deeply grateful for each of you.

Today I would like to share with you some of my favorite (and your favorite) posts from this past year.  Thank you again, and be on the look out for some new and exciting changes and additions to Making of a Home over the course of the next year.

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Chocolate Anyone?

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Inspiration

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Laundry Day

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Upstream

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Let Them Read

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Rhubarb Goodness

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Spring Soup

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It’s In My Blood

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Pastaless Lasagna 

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Fuasa—Italian Easter Bread

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Generational Wealth

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Farm Fresh

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Ode to the Strawberry

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Retreat

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Grandma Dit’s Carrot Cake

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Canning Day

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New Chapter

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Suburban Homestead

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Walk with Us

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Thanksgiving 2012

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Musings

Putting Food By: Rhubarb and Strawberries

Today I bring you another quick food preservation tip.  Today’s topic:  rhubarb and strawberries…The perfect combo!  Rhubarb and strawberries freeze beautifully and it takes little time.

For the rhubarb:  Rinse the rhubarb and allow to dry.  Then cut off the rough ends of each piece.  Cut the rhubarb into 1 inch bits, toss into a gallon size freezer bag and you are done.  Throughout the year, I simply pull out the desired amount of rhubarb I need for a recipe, allow it to thaw out and you are all set.

For the strawberries:  Wash the strawberries and pinch off the green leaves and stem. Allow the strawberries to dry.  Then place the strawberries on a cookie sheet or baking pan.  Place the pan in the freezer for a couple of hours.  (This will allow each strawberries to freeze individually, so that you don’t have a giant mass of frozen strawberries in a freezer bag that you can’t use.)

Once the strawberries have frozen, toss them into a gallon size freezer bag and that’s it!  I pull these frozen jewels out all year long to add to our smoothies.  You could of course allow them to thaw and use them in baked goods as well.

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Some of our favorite home preservation books are:

Putting Food By by Janet Greene, Ruth Hertzberg and Beatrice Vaughan

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver (There are some great canning recipes scattered throughout the piece.)

The Big Book of Preserving the Harvest by Carol W. Costenbader

Ode to the Strawberry

In our household, it is always a big day when the first red, ripe strawberry can be picked and enjoyed.  And it seems that after a long year’s wait, we have finally reached that time of year again!

Each day the girls peer into the strawberry patch looking for any signs of red beneath the green mass of leaves and vines.  Their little fingers are just the right size to weave in there and snatch up any berry goodness they can locate.

This week I sat outside, looking at our first full bowl of strawberries of the season and I knew I had to make something that would showcase these little jewels.  While I was thinking, I also remembered that I had a dozen eggs from our farm visit on Saturday, freshly collected by our girls and all.  And that sparked it…I would make a strawberry custard pie.

With pen and paper in hand, I got to work.  I worked assiduously all afternoon, checking out a variety of recipes, making my own tweaks, measuring and mixing and tasting.  After a bit of time, and a little help from my always helpful sous chef (Who has now advanced to age three…she is getting so mature 🙂 ), I ended up with what looked like, and tasted like, a yummy pie.

Here is what I did:

Crust (This crust recipe makes a lot, but I have found that it is easier to make a bit more crust, so that it is less likely to break while transferring to the pie plate.  I just use the extra crust to make a quick cream and sugar pie for the girls to snack on.  See the note at the bottom of the recipe for this super easy recipe idea.)

~Mix 2 1/4 cups flour and 1 teaspoon salt in a large bowl.

~Add 2/3 cup coconut oil (in its solid state).  Mix the coconut oil into the flour using a pastry blender until it resembles crumbs.

~Then add cold water, a tablespoon at a time, until you reach the desired consistency for the crust.  (I normally end up with about 10 tablespoons of water.)

~Roll out your crust and transfer it to a pie plate.  Cut off the excess crust and make your desired edge for the pie.

~Blind bake the crust in a 375 degree oven for 15 minutes.

~Allow to cool completely.

(*Note:  I take any extra crust, roll it out and place it in a baking dish.  I then add a few pads of butter, a few tablespoons of sugar and a sprinkle of cinnamon to the top of the crust.  I then drizzle a bit of cream or milk on top of it all and bake it at 375 degrees for about 10-15 minutes.  This will give you a yummy little snack to enjoy while you are making the rest of the pie.  I especially love it because it keeps the little ones occupied while momma works on the other parts of the pie.)

Custard

~Mix 2 cups whole milk, 2 cups heavy cream, 4 tablespoons sugar and one vanilla bean (with seeds removed…you add the seeds as well) in a saucepan.

~Bring the milk mixture close to a boil over medium heat.  Stir often to avoid scorching.  Once the mixture is close to a boil, remove it from the heat and let it stand for 5 minutes.  After the 5 minutes, remove the vanilla bean.

~In a separate bowl, mix 8 egg yolks and 2 tablespoons of sugar.

~Temper the eggs with the milk mixture.  Do this very slowly and with a whisk.  Once the eggs are tempered, slowly mix the egg mixture back into the remaining milk mixture using a whisk.

~Slowly whisk in 4 tablespoons of corn starch.

~Then place the saucepan back on low to medium heat and mix constantly with a wooden spoon.  The mixture will gradually begin to thicken.  This will take some time.  Once the custard reaches the desired consistency, remove it from the heat. (You do need to be careful while heating the mixture because if the heat is on too high, or if you cook it for too long, the eggs will begin to scramble.)

~Pour the custard into the prepared pie crust and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

~Once the pudding has set, place fresh, sliced strawberries on top of the pie and enjoy!