Sunday, September 26, 2010

Homemade Vanilla Extract: Day 30


 Thank goodness for calendars. Had I not written the thirty day mark on the calendar, I would not have had the delightful experience of discovering that yesterday was 30 days from the beginning of our homemade vanilla extract!

It is a beautiful deep amber in color and definitely has a strong vanilla aroma.


Saturday, September 25, 2010

A bit of seriousness with lots of hope


I've been avoiding writing this post as I have very little actual information.

My health has been slowly but steadily declining over the past seven or eight years. There were always "reasons" for it, and as long as I took things slowly, I never had TOO much of a problem. Over the course of my husband's deployment things steadily got worse but were easily overlooked because of the stress of deployment.

With Joe's return and encouragement, we finally found a doctor that we like and made an appointment. That appointment finally came this past week. It was both scary and exciting to start on a journey to figure out what's going on and have the possibility of feeling well and healthy soon.

What he was able to tell us at the appointment is that I have LOW blood pressure. The scary thing is that when I get up (from sitting or laying) instead of my blood pressure going up, it plummets. It is a relief to know that there's something going on and it's not just lake of personal conviction or strength of character.

He's pretty sure I have an adrenal deficiency, vitamin a deficiency, a definite iodine deficiency, and quite possibly am hypothyroid. Many of these things are easily correctable over time through tweaking my diet and adding some supplements.

I was rather surprised at the basic diet handout that he sent with me and how little was different from how I already eat. We'll find out what we need to change when the blood work comes back in a couple of weeks.

For now, I remain hopeful.


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Gigantic Green Caterpillars on my tomatoes- Tobacco Hornworms


When going out to pick the latest batch of golden cherry tomatoes and water my thirsty plants, I discovered some HUGE caterpillars!

After some research we discovered that they are Tobacco Hornworms. If we left them there, they would continue eating all of the leaves off the tomato plants.


One particularly interesting fact about them - they only eat the unripened fruits (they like the nightshade family) and will not touch fruits once they start to ripen. You can see it happily chomping away at what was left of a green tomato in the photo above.

 In general, I figure that a certain amount of what I grow should be intended for the other living beings around us - the bugs and chipmunks and bunnies etc. This seemed a little excessive though as each caterpillar had eaten ALL of the leaves above them on the plants down to stubs. There were plenty of poop piles on the newspaper below.

Thanks Tobacco Hornworms for being interesting and teaching me something new. And thanks to Joe for taking care of them.


Saturday, September 18, 2010

Nectarine Heaven!



Oh what a pleasure it has been to "have" to deal with an entire grocery bag of nectarines.

I am in nectarine heaven. 

Over the past five days we have (left to right below) canned nectarine butter, canned nectarine slices, dried five dehydrator trays of slices (seen dried in the jar) and froze two full cookie sheet trays of slices to use in smoothies (still in bowl below). 


It has been such a delight to get to make such wonderful food for us to enjoy throughout the winter season, as well as wonderful things for now. 

I must say that roast chicken with roasted onions and nectarines was amazing both for dinner and reheated for lunches the following day. 

One of the 1/2 pints of canned peaches didn't seal, so we had to taste them. I must say I didn't mind having to try them. While canned peaches have long been a personal favorite, these are even better!

Even after a weeks worth of preserving, we still have about ten nectarines and half again as many peaches. I'm dreaming of canning peach salsa and brandied nectarines. But first we'll have to get some brandy.


Monday, September 13, 2010

Why Yes! That IS a grocery bag of nectarines.

If a girl who loves canning could have a guy who was AMAZING at finding large quantities of great produce, she would have nothing on me. 

In addition to the two large boxes of canner tomatoes for $5 a few weeks ago, my husband managed to score us half a grocery bag of bosc pears for $6 and 7/8ths of a grocery bag of nectarines for $8, in addition to peaches, concord grapes, and cider and cider donuts. I love fall!

It turns out, to our delight, nectarines are merely a cultivar of peaches and not a separate fruit altogether.  The smooth-skin gene merely is recessive and so they're treated as special because they're more rare.

Turning to my favorite canning book at home, the index merely says "see peaches." One minor difference is that because the skin is smooth and so much thinner (which does make them bruise more easily) they don't have to be removed before canning! I discovered this delightful tidbit and am so very excited to get canning. After class.

Makes going to class kind of annoying this morning. ;)



Saturday, September 11, 2010

Spanish Cauliflower "Rice"


On my list of things to try has been cauliflower "rice." It's been on my list for a while. I do like cooked cauliflower, and rarely ate rice when I did eat rice.

I have made an amazing discovery: cauliflower "rice" is more amazing than rice rice.

I kid you not.

Spanish Cauliflower "Rice" is incredible!

In the words of my husband, "I like it even better than real rice." It's more flavorful, more betterer for you, and easy! Instead of cooking rice at the beginning (or happening to have leftover rice) you merely grate up a head of cauliflower.

For this recipe, I chopped up farmer's market onion and garlic and sauteed them. I used clarified bacon grease although any frying oil would work.

Once the onions started to clear I added approximately two large tomatoes worth of chopped tomato left from the bruisers of our tomato sauce project (a post on that once I get good pictures) and left them to simmahdown.

I then grated the cauliflower and chopped up a farmers market green/red bell pepper.

To the pan I added cumin, coriander, basil, oregano, cayenne, and a teeny bit of turmeric.

As cauliflower does not absorb as much liquid as rice, I waited for the tomato to cook mostly to a sauce before adding in the grated cauliflower. I'm not much of one for mushy peppers so I added the chopped peppers near the end.

This is sure to return soon to our dinner rotation and I can't wait to try asian-inspired fried cauliflower "rice"!

Friday, September 10, 2010

New England Views - Grist Mill


In our adventures last week we came across this grist mill in Vermont. I wasn't fully able to capture the intense red of the wheel in the broad shots but the closeup gives a better idea.

The day was gorgeous, the clouds spectacular and finding such beautiful building perched on the hill was a definite treasure.


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Fantastic week and a promise of catching up


Phew! It's great to go away and it's great to come back home.

Joe and I went away for a few days and had many great adventures - three out of four of my favorite coops between here and Canada, the Vermont Country Store (including the kissing bridge), great walks, fantastic swimming, amazing food, lots of naps and so much more!

We came back Sunday and hit the ground running.

Yesterday was a busy day of making and putting food by. We made fifteen pints of homemade tomato sauce (almost two gallons!) froze two gallon bags of delicata squash quarters, made potato leek soup for lunch and leftovers, grilled chicken from our meat share, have the tomato water/juice in the crock pot (reducing the almost two gallons of liquid skimmed from the tomato sauce tomatoes for tomato paste) and the squash seeds are in the dehydrator after soaking in salt and spice water over night.

Many of these deserve their own post so I hopefully have whet your appetite and you'll want to hear more soon.