Garlic scape obsession

Garlic scapes have arrived with Week 3 of the CSA–one of my all-time favorite produce items.  Many of us get really excited when the garlic scapes arrive.  There are a lot of ways to use garlic scapes, but this is my go-to recipe because it is so versatile.  You can add any number of herbs, nuts, cheeses, or other goodies (sun-dried tomatoes, anyone?) to the base pesto mix of garlic scapes, salt, and oil–you have limitless possibilies!  I also made a loaf of bread stuffed with the pesto and some Brie cheese–talk about a yummy taste bud experience:

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Today’s garlic scape pesto uses oregano, a touch of basil, parsley, green onions, and sunflower seeds.  Last year I showed you how to make 3 different garlic scape pestos, including sage and walnut, the Asian pesto, and another parsley variety.  I’ll post those recipes on my website soon–but there are other priorities right now, like harvesting buckets o’ strawberries, for example!  Yesterday I harvested about 3 pounds of strawberries from the garden, and there’s more to come later this week.

But the video will show you the basics until I get get around to posting those recipes!  Enjoy–and be on the lookout for vampires!

So many greens: how to preserve them

This early in the season, we get a lot of greens in the CSA shares: bok choy, chard, spinach, arugula, lettuce, kale…that’s what grows in Montana this time of year.  I’m not complaining, though.  After a long winter, the abundance of greens is most welcome.  That said, there are only so many days in a week.  So what to do if you can’t eat all of those greens before the next CSA share arrives?  Preserve them!  This video shows you how I prefer to freeze my greens and enjoy them well into the winter, long after the CSA is over.

 

 

CSA week 1: baby bok choy potstickers

The first CSA pick up was yesterday, and as promised, I created a video to demonstrate a way to cook up your shares.  I used 5 of the 7 items in our share (I was so hungry after I finished making the celeriac chips that I forgot to use the mixed greens –oops!).  Not a bad way to start of the season.  Enjoy your share and thanks for choosing to eat locally!  I’ll post the recipe later this week here.

Cabin cookin’

Last weekend I went chasing after Sandhill cranes–my girlfriend and I have done this for a second year in a row now and we have deemed it an annual event now.  We mounted our cameras on tripods and set off through the willows, looking for these beautiful birds.  We found some, but they are skittish creatures, so we were never able to get very close for good photos.  We scurried from shrub to shrub like ninjas, with our tripods and packs, and I’m sure it was quite a site to see.  This pair was hard to spot–we actually heard them give away their location.

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And even if we didn’t capture any award-winning crane photos, we had a great time anyway.  The scenery was spectacular!

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We stayed in a Forest Service cabin and I cooked dinner.  We had a grilled pork shoulder steak marinated in Osaka Sauce, rice noodles with Asian garlic scape pesto, and peach-huckleberry cobbler with cranberry whiskey and vanilla Greek yogurt.  This dinner did not disappoint!  I made a video of our cabin cooking adventure, and though it is very unstructured, it does capture the essence of our dinner party in the mountains pretty well, I think.  The recipe for the Asian garlic scape pesto is here.  We’ll make this pesto (in a more structured kitchen setting) when the garlic scapes arrive in the CSA shares next month!  So stay tuned!

 

Asparagus with carrot crepes

This recipe is delicious.  I’m just going to throw that out there right now.  It’s time consuming to make, but not difficult.  Crepes can be tricky, but you just need to make sure you cook them well on one side before you try to flip them.  Otherwise you’ll end up with a “beautiful mess” like the one featured near the end of the video.  If you have some asparagus just waiting to be used, I hope you’ll give this recipe a try!

 

 

 

More wonders in the garden

Today I noticed a second, astonishing wonder in my garden this year.  The first wonder I noticed several weeks ago–I had a globe artichoke overwinter.  If you are not familiar with the ways of the globe artichoke, allow me to elaborate briefly.  Where I live in Montana, we are a Zone 4.  That means, on average, our lowest winter temperature drops no lower than -30 degrees F.  This year we bottomed out our thermometer at -21.8 degrees F, so I have no idea how cold it really got this year (I think I saw -26 reported for the airport, which is a few hundred feel lower than where I sit).  However, despite the bitter cold (and we had a lot of it this year), we also had a really good snow year.  For about 3 continuous months we had snow on the ground, and a lot of it.  Snow is an excellent insulator, so things that would normally die in the cold can be protected enough with a snow blanket to coax them through a long, bitterly cold winter.  Enter the globe artichoke.  Last fall I dug up several plants, potted them, and tucked them in a corner in the basement.  By overwintering my little babies, I wouldn’t have to start seed in January in order to plant them out in early spring to ‘trick’ them into thinking they had lived through a winter and thus flower (i.e., produce those luscious artichokes) during their first year of life.  For the record, artichokes are perennial plants in warm climates (no colder than Zone 7, which is about 0 degrees F as the average coldest winter temperatures) and they usually do not flower until their second year.  Well, I missed digging up a plant last fall and earlier this spring while removing mulch from the garden beds, I noticed a queer-looking little leaf sticking out of the soil.  “That’s weird,” I thought, “it looks like an artichoke.  Maybe it’s a thistle?”  But it sure didn’t look like a thistle, it looked like an artichoke.  And it was in the bed I had planted artichokes in last year.  Hmmmm……

I watched the strange leaf for a week or so and when new leaves began to appear, it became obvious to me that this was, in fact, an artichoke that survived a bitter cold Montana winter.  HOW COOL IS THAT?!  I yelled to everyone who would listen.  Other garden nerds thought that, indeed, it was pretty cool.  I thought this was the coolest thing in my garden…until today.

Today I was weeding a bed with a bunch of spinach and garlic and I saw this:

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What the…could those really be…?

Now I’m no mushroom expert, but my first thought was, “Those look like morels.”  And then, “That’s crazy talk.”  Fortunately my neighbors, who I know are wild mushroom hunters, were outside in their garden.  I walked across the street.

Me: Hey guys, do you know your mushrooms pretty well?

Neighbor: Well, we know a few edible ones that we hunt for, and a few that you shouldn’t eat.

Me: I have some mushrooms popping up in my garden box and [I was almost too embarrassed to say this] they sort of look like morels.

Neighbor: Well…probably not, but we’ll come take a look.

At this point I am 1) curious as hell to know what these mushrooms are and 2) a little embarrassed to think that I might actually have morels in my garden box.  I mean, c’mon!  I think of them growing in the forest–particularly forests that have recently burned.  Not in a cultivated garden box that housed tomato plants last summer.  Did I confuse them with another mushroom?  Was I a complete and total idiot?  We arrive at the garden box.

Me: See all these coming up around my spinach?

Neighbor: Well I’ll be darned, those are morels!

He plucks a mushroom and turns it over.

Neighbor: There’s another mushroom that looks similar, but that one is detached here at the base (he points to the stem).  These are definitely morels.  Wow!  Where did you get your mulch?

Me: Someone at the gym had some pine needles he was going to set out by the curb and I just happened to overhear him talking about them with another person at the gym.  I asked him if I could have them to use for mulch in the garden.

Neighbor: Wow!  That’s pretty unusual.  Amazing!

Me: Schew!  I thought I was crazy for thinking that they were morels.  Please take as many as you want!

Neighbor: Wow!  Thanks! What an unexpected surprise!  You probably shouldn’t tell any mushroom hunters about these…

Me: Yeah, no kidding!  Some people search high and low for these gems!

My neighbor came back over a few minutes later with a paper bag and cut some mushrooms.  She showed me which ones were the prime ones for eating and which ones were probably too dried out and past their prime.  I am sooooo grateful for them!  I learned something new today about mushrooms!  These neighbors have shared their hard-sought Chanterelles with me in the past, they share garden plants, and garden mulch/compost/soil.  I provide them with eggs, garlic, and now, morels!  We have a pretty nice arrangement, but I always feel like I get the better end of the deal.  I know I shouldn’t feel that way–it’s just farmgal kindness between garden nerds–and gardeners love to share (especially that zucchini)!

I’m not 100% sure the pine needles were the source of the morels.  I have other boxes with the pine mulch and they do not appear to have any mushrooms in them.  I don’t think it was the soil, which is a sheep manure-compost mix I get from a local garden shop.  I don’t think it was the soil the tomatoes were grown in last year–though I should ask the gifter where they got their potting soil, just to be sure.  The pine needles seem the most likely source.  Many of the mushrooms were past their prime, but that means they have already set spores–so I am hoping for more morels to show up next spring!

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Pile of morels

I can’t help but think over and over how special my garden is.  Nature is a wonderful, mysterious force, that’s for sure.  What a neat gift to have these much sought-after mushrooms appear in my garden!!  Secret: I have never eaten morels.  Which makes this all the more special.  I am beyond giddy for tonight’s dinner:  morels and fresh asparagus.  I’ve got plenty of spinach in the garden and eggs, so I’m sure I’ll be able to find a scrumptious way to prepare these ingredients.  I’m going to eat like a queen!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Doggy birthday cake

MaeBelle is turning 12 this week!  To celebrate, today we made a birthday cake using sweet potatoes, applesauce, carrots, and peanut butter.  It was a hit!  If you want a printable version of the recipe, it’s here.  And of course, my goofy video showing how we made it today–it was an experiment in-the-making!

Zipper-dee-doo-dah

This week I taught myself how to sew a zipper into fabric.  This is a task I have wanted to learn for years, but 1) I’ve been intimidated to try (WHY? I ask myself…What’s to lose? Besides a ton of time and all my patience?  Nothing, I guess.) and 2) I wasn’t sure if I had the appropriate gear for my sewing machine, i.e., a zipper foot (more on that challenge below).  This is a natural problem when you inherit a 70 year old sewing machine and you don’t know doodle about sewing or sewing machines, much less sewing machine parts.  Nonetheless, I have slowly taught myself a few things about using a sewing machine and I’m beginning to get the hang of the basics.  Zippers, however, have remained a mystery.

Why was this the chosen week to teach myself to install a zipper?  As fate would have it, a few weeks ago I won a Kindle Fire in raffle drawing at work (thank you employee appreciation week!)–I would never have bought one of the things on my own, but I hardly ever win anything so I thought “What the heck?” and accepted the prize.  [Aside: As a neophyte in the smartphone/tablet world (I still have a ‘dumb phone’) I wasn’t even sure what to do with it.  I turned it on, then turned it off, sat it on the table and just stared at it.  Friends, family, and co-workers assured me this was going to be a great thing–so many Apps!  One thing I quickly learned is that many Apps are for Apple i-thingys or Android devices, not Kindles.  So I can’t put the wildflower App I wanted on there, but I do have a bird App.  Can’t win ’em all, I suppose.] I wanted a way to carry my Kindle and protect it from the elements, and since I’ve been on a knitted bag kick lately, I decided to knit myself a little tablet protector.  And I thought it would be nice to have a zippered liner in the bag to keep my precious little Kindle from falling out.

I finished knitting the bag last weekend, knit a small handle, and all that was left was to sew the liner.  Oh, and to figure out that zipper.  Can I just say, “Thank goodness for YouTube?”  There is no shortage of videos on how to install a zipper, but my favorite tutorial is Made Everyday with Dana.  I must have watched that video 5 times before screwing up my courage, then I watched it while I sewed my zipper into the liner, pausing the video so I could perform the described task, then watching a little more, pausing, etc.  Here was my first attempt:

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It turned out pretty well!  A few minor issues, like sewing the ends of the zipper so there’s no gap, but all in all it turned out just peachy.  There were two problems with this liner that made it unusable for my knit bag: 1) the zipper opening was just slightly too small to fit my Kindle inside and 2) the pattern & label needed to be on the inside of the liner so it would show when I sewed it into my knit bag.  Duh, I didn’t think about that one, just followed the video instructions.  But I have plans for this one:  I’m going to knit another bag and sew this into half of the bag so that it will have a zippered pouch and a non-zippered pouch (unlined).  So no wasted efforts!

So I had a minor setback–I needed to purchase a larger zipper and I needed to piece together my bag inside out so that when I turned it right side out the pattern would be on the inside of the bag.  This time I nailed it:

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The stitching on the inside of the liner isn’t beautiful by any means, but for a second first attempt, I’m pleased with the results.  I’ll be able to refine my approach and future editions of the zippered knit bag will be phenomenal, no?  I dare say they will.

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The broach was just a whimsical little piece that I thought would compliment the bag well and add a little flair.  It has little orange rhinestones in it that match the orange of the bag–something kind of fun and will make it unique from other bags I make in the future.  It’s sort of becoming my signature mark on my bags–either a single button or little piece of old jewelry sewn on the outside to mark it as Urban Farmgal and add to the uniqueness of the bag.  I’m pretty happy with the results!

Now about that zipper foot.  Again, can I just say, “Thank goodness for Google?”  Earlier in the week when I began the Great Zipper Project I didn’t think I had a zipper foot for my machine.  So I got online to see if I could locate a zipper foot that would work with my machine.  I have a Kenmore Model 84 sewing machine–it is bomber but it is old and finding parts for it would be…impossible?  Easy peasy?  I had no idea.

I also had no idea what a zipper foot would look like for it because there was not a picture of one in the owner’s manual.  In my little box of accessories (bobbins, bobbin holders, tiny screwdriver, and the like) there were a few weird-looking pieces that looked like they were different attachments for the machine.  One in particular was sort of L-shaped and had a couple of holes on the side of the flat foot.  On the website that I thought had the best potential for having what I needed, I was discouraged to find that in fact it looked like they did not have what I needed.  But I kept coming back to the weirdo piece and I decided to scan the pictures on the website to see if I could identify it.  Wouldn’t ya know I found it!  And it turned out to be AN ADJUSTABLE ZIPPER FOOT!

AWESOME!!

Wait, what’s an adjustable zipper foot?  Oh, the website has videos on how to use an adjustable zipper foot!

AWESOME!!

Thank you, thank you, thank you, Sewing Parts Online–you saved me!!  After watching the video, then struggling a bit to get my own zipper foot installed and properly adjusted, I was able to sew my zipper.  And now I know what a zipper foot is AND how to use it!

 

Weekend fun in the kitchen: mini blackberry lime cheesecakes

Wow, the weekend came and went so quickly!  I spent a lot of time in the kitchen this weekend cooking since it’s usually the only time during the busy week I can afford to devote a lot of time to cooking.  I made those blackberry lime cheesecakes again!  Y’know, the ones I made last weekend, on Earth Day with my solar oven.  I used my solar oven again, but the clouds had different plans for me this time.  Time also got away from me and it was just too late in the day to finish baking them so I had to finish baking them in the oven for 10 minutes.  Oh well, can’t win ’em all…

I made another video for this recipe (be sure to watch the bloopers at the end):

And if you want to print a copy of the recipe you can find it here: uf-blackberry lime cheesecakes.  Enjoy!

Sunset hike to use my new camera

Last night I thought the sunset might shape up to be something spectacular, so I grabbed my camera, tripod, and MaeBelle and we took a quick jaunt up the trail just above our house to watch the sun set over Helena.  I love that we live so close to the trails.  This particular trail is just a block and a half from our house.  It took us about 15 minutes to get to our spot to set up the camera and wait for the sun to set over Mount Helena.  MaeBelle was happy to be out hiking.

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Although I haven’t taken much time to mess around with the manual settings on my camera (I just need to find some time to read the manual), I did play around with some of the scene settings like sunset, close up flower shots, and the like. I know I’ll get a lot more out of my camera when I can find the time to experiment manually with the camera.

I love the view of Helena from this little point–you can see the cathedral and the Sleeping Giant in the background watching over Helena.

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Although the sunset colors weren’t as spectacular as I’d hoped, there were some nice cloud formations over the Scratchgravel Hills.

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One feature I was anxious to try on my new Nikon D5600 is the time-lapse movie feature.  This is one setting I did read about in the manual, about 20 minutes before I left for our hike.  It’s a cool setting!  The camera takes a series of photos every few seconds and it stitches them together into a movie, so I don’t have to do the work on my computer.  This is a new feature to the Nikon D5000 series, and I like it.  Check out my 10 minute time lapse (condensed to 4 seconds) taking a photo every 5 seconds.  You can see a jet contrail that looks an awful lot like a shooting star, and halfway through there is a train headlight that appears near the middle of the shot.  Nifty!  This feature will get lots of use by me.