Thursday, February 9, 2012

Independence Days #2 (February 9th, 2012)

Please head on over to The Chatelaine's Keys to see a full description of this project! 

Here's my weekly update!
Plant something:
      Well, I didn't ACTUALLY plant anything, but I did buy some carrot seeds and seed starter.  I've been fighting a cold this week, and although I didn't miss any work days, I slept a great deal more than usual because that's what my body needed.  I'm learning to listen to those subtle internal signals more clearly these days, and I believe my health is benefitting from it.
She Carrot

Harvest something:
      I have a non-gardening harvest story for this week.  Here goes:

      Do you remember your first steps?  The strong hands helping you, and the clumsy placement of your soft little feet in those big, clumsy shoes; first lift, then lurch forward, plant the foot and find your balance. Arms up, your hand firmly planted in a bigger, stronger one.  Always safe in your mother’s care, the first few steps were a celebration!  An occasion!  Smile inducing, worthy of kisses!

Cute Pictures
       I thought about those steps yesterday as I helped my mother down the porch stairs; place a foot, hold on tight, move the other foot and release the knee, take a breath and drop…all while holding on tight, safe in her daughter’s care.
       We plant hope, and harvest compassion.  As young children, we have no understanding of the eventual peak and inevitable decline of our physical abilities; just hope and joy, one of the many gifts our mothers give us.  I’m grateful for that gift, and grateful I can begin to balance those scales right now, late in my mother’s life; perhaps one day, my daughter will do the same for me. 

“We are a circle within a circle, with no beginning, and never ending.”
                                                                                               -Rick Hamouris
Preserve something:
      Four weeks ago, I harvested a vinegar mother from a bottle of apple cider vinegar that I bought from a health food store.  I was able to buy a gallon of flash pasteurized apple cider from Frecon's Orchard in Boyertown; this method still allows the cider to ferment; I used similarly pasteurized cider for my hard cider last fall.  This time, I added the mother, and let it turn to a lovely, mild vinegar over the course of the month.  The vinegar mother, a mixture of cellulose and beneficial bacteria, digests the natural sugars first, then the resulting alcohol, creating that nice, astringent vinegar flavor; this mother is very similar to the SCOBY used to make my kombucha.  I removed the vinegar mother then pasteurized this new, live vinegar myself (140-160 degrees).  It's waiting for me to cook with it now!  I put the mother into a jar of old red wine; not sure if it will work to make red wine vinegar, but I'm willing to experiment!

Waste not:
      My fridge is a nightmare.  I occasionally have an attack of conscience and try to catch up with the many culinary experiments festering in there.  It's not pretty.  With this weekly blog entry as incentive, I took a brave look, and found some still-viable organic yogurt, some home made beef broth, a shriveled but edible stalk of celery and the remnants of last week's mushroom bounty.  What to do?
Yogurt Cheese and Vegetable Beef Soup
     I hung the yogurt in a cheesecloth for yogurt-cheese (very tasty, with a consistency like cream cheese), made a strata from the mushrooms and celery (along with a quarter loaf of stale multi-grain bread, a sauteed onion, 4 fresh eggs, raw milk and some shredded cheese) which will be my breakfast this week, and made soup from the beef broth.  I added a handfull of sliced brussel sprouts, some frozen local corn, some dehydrated maitake mushrooms and some herbs.  Yum.  Good bye, convenience food!  Momma's got a healthier (and more frugal) plan!
Mushroom Strata
 Want Not:
     Last summer I inoculated two areas of my tiny yard with winecap mushroom spawn. I was able to harvest a few mushrooms from the sites last year, but I'm looking forward to a better harvest this spring.  In anticipation, I covered one of the areas with straw.  And I had too there's straw all over my teensy urban garden.  This week, I started cycling bunches of straw into my well-packed composter to diversify the organic load.  Perfect.

Eat the Food:
     Monday's meals: Mushroom strata for breakfast and fish chowder for lunch.  Both from the freezer. Home fermented and home canned sauerkraut and clean, local sausage for dinner.
     Tuesday: Strata again for breakfast; leftover kraut for lunch (the kraut is good for boosting immunity).
      Wednesday: I felt good for the first time in a week on Wednesday (was fighting a cold) so I made a nice one-woman date-night dinner. From the freezer: all local...corn, sauteed oyster mushrooms and onions, tomato confit, nasturtium pesto and half of a farm raised delmonico steak. Seasoned the steak with Cajun spices and grilled it in my Foreman grill; cubed one small potato and sauteed it with the mushrooms, tomatoes and a small red onion. Boiled some wonton noodles and tossed them with the confit, pesto, pepper and salt. And...corn. Ahhhh, yes; the pleasures of a garden, foraging, and a freezer. Thursday night is parents' night at school, so I won't be cooking.

Build community food systems:
    This is a vast diversion from my usual organic and local eating beliefs, but I gave it a try; I'm not sure if I will continue.  Our Elementary and Middle Schools use a fundraising technique known as "Market Day".  There is an online company from which you order various foods, and a portion of the proceeds go to the school needing the funds.  The food is delivered to the school, which is convenient for me, as I teach right on the campus.  While the various meats and breadings were suspect (at least to me), I did order some mini-omelets and some individual frozen lasagna rolls.  They tasted fine, and are convenient, but I'll have to research where this company sources its food before I order again.  I can't stand the idea of inhumanely treated chickens and cows.  I'll let you know what I find out.  I'm a little nervous about it.
    On the healthy side, I ordered a bin of local and organic vegetables and foods from my very favorite Buy Fresh, Buy Local food source, Pure Sprouts.  I love, love, love this service, and order from them whenever I need quality local foods that I haven't grown or foraged myself...although I do love to visit farmers' markets in fair weather!  

Skill up:
Balsamic Vinegar, Nasturtium Vinegar, Juniper "Berries"
Rosemary Vinegar and Gin-Soaked Raisins

     Susun Weed sent a nice tutorial on using white pine needles and cider vinegar to create balsamic vinegar.  Since I have an abundance of both, I'll be giving that a try.  I love balsamic vinegar!  Here's the link.  This seems to be a year of tonics and fermentations for me; new territory to explore!  

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