Monday, December 6, 2010

Montmorency Cherry Tree

So I hesitate to even post anything about the dwarf Montmorency Cherry tree that I ordered from the Arbor Day Foundation and planted in our back yard last week. I hesitate because the soil I dug was shovelful after shovelful of clay. I hesitate because I needed a handsaw to clear other tree roots from the hole. I hesitate because it's December, for god's sake! I'm just going to have to trust that Arbor Day Foundation knows what they're talking about when they say you can plant trees in EITHER spring or fall (yes, that is snow on the ground).

They shipped me my tree in the mail - it was a pencil's width wide, maybe 2 feet tall, full of nubbly little branches-to-be, and a small ball of roots. Apparently when they ship trees in the fall, they are dormant and will remain so through the winter, until coming to life in the spring. I followed their instructions, digging a wide hole as deep as I could, given the clay and other tree roots. Hoping to add SOME nutrients to the soil, as well as a layer of protection from the winter, I threw on a layer of fall leaves, rich soil from the garden, and a layer of wood chips. Being a dwarf tree, it is supposed to reach a maximum height of 8 feet, which would be just right for our little backyard urban garden. In fact, it would be darn cute.

I would be absolutely elated if this little guy took off and in 5-10 years we're getting handfuls of tart cherries for pies, cobblers, jams, you name it. I just can't help but be a little apprehensive given the state of that ground. If I had been better prepared, I would have dug the hole a while ago and amended the soil better. I guess if he lives we can call him our "miracle tree".

My grandmother who lives in Hamilton had a Montmorency Cherry tree for years when I was young. Every spring our family would drag out the step-ladders, lug gallon buckets up to the top, and pull handful after handful of tart, zingy, juicy cherries from that tree. Mom always made sure to freeze countless pints for mid-year cherry pies, one of her specialties.

Nostalgia - it's a powerful thing!

CSA: Week 30 (and the last)

Well, our CSA is done for the year, and what a year it was. We're already signed- up for the next season, that's how much we loved it. Thank you to Eaton Farm for keeping our plates filled with fresh produce and eggs for almost 6.5 months this year!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Giving Thanks

I have so much to be thankful for and am in a place where I'm able to gratefully appreciate it. This year has been a roller coaster, but that's what makes us able to really love the good times in life.

Yesterday we had my father-in-law over for a huge dinner - way too much food for three people. However, if there's ever a day to go overboard, that's the day, right? The menu included:
  • Vegetarian "Neatloaf" - Special K cereal, brown rice, tofu, ricotta cheese, herbs, etc.
  • Crispy Yummies - potato, cheese, and sour cream casserole
  • Green Bean Casserole - a delicious vegan version
  • Sweet Potato and Kale Bread Pudding - definitely not vegan, but equally delicious
  • Sally Lunn Herbed Rolls
  • Cranberry Horseradish Sauce
  • Chocolate Pecan Pie
...and a new dessert that I can't stop thinking about - Pear Upside Down Cake...

Hope you had a bountiful Thanksgiving with family and friends!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Still A Classic

Tonight I had a hankering for an old classic, something that everyone knows and loves - grilled cheese and tomato soup.

As recently as a year or so ago, you could have caught me swearing that one processed food that I would never give up is Campbell's tomato soup. As healthy, natural, and organic as our diets are right now, I was willing to make this one sacrifice.

Well, I've been working on a project for my Mom's side of the family - I'm assembling a family cookbook to record all of the nostalgic and tasty recipes from this "foodie" side of the family, with grandma as the cornerstone. In doing this, I've received plenty of amazing recipes from family members across the country. You know that aunt or uncle who lives more than just a few hours away? You might see them once every five years or so? Well, a couple weeks ago that particular aunt sent me her recipe for "Tomato Bisque". This sparked the inspiration to break free from my Campbell's rut.

Apart from a lot of tomatoes, including my canned juice and whole tomatoes, I also used onion, carrot, celery, garlic, mushrooms, oregano, basil, thyme, and some cream - hey, noone said this was a low fat food. Everything simmered away for an hour or so and then hit the food processor until nice and creamy.

To go along with the soup, I made grilled cheese using "Bad Boy" bread from Blue Oven Bakery, mild cheddar cheese from Gibb's, and handmade pesto from Madison's.

Our bellies are SO happy right now...

CSA: Week 29

Getting close to the end of this year's season - our basket still looks amazing, though. A couple acorn squash (which have been delicious this year), a nice bunch of mustard greens, tatsoi, arugula, sweet potatoes, some tender broccoli, radish, and eggs. I'm cooking Thanksgiving dinner for some of my husband's family this year for the first time, so plenty of these items will be finding their way into a tasty tasty meal.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

CSA: Week 28

We will be eating salads and sauteed greens galore this week - look at all this green! I love the fact that Eaton Farm explores different types of greens, especially Asian greens that I haven't really eaten or cooked with that much. My horizons are expanding every week and it's tasty as heck.

Tonight I'm going to be making my Peruvian Quinoa Bake and I think I'll throw in some sauteed kale for a little extra treat. Quinoa, black beans, onions, red and green bell peppers, mushrooms, milk, eggs, and smoked mozzarella cheese - warm, aromatic comfort food on a nippy November night.

CSA: Week 27

The key ingredient in this week's share was STARCH - look at this bounty of potatoes and baby sweet potatoes! I'm definitely putting these parcels into storage in anticipation of Thanksgiving - these will be put to good use.

I'm also really enjoying a new Asian green that I've never had before called Tatsoi - it's the dark green baggie on the left. Very tasty on sandwiches or salads, it's got a nice texture and crunch factor.

The abundance of winter squash in our fall CSA is causing me to think outside the box a little for our meals. This past week I roasted two acorn squash with some Jamaican curry powder, salt, and olive oil. I then scooped out the sweet caramel-ey flesh and rolled it in a tortilla together with Mexican rice, simmered black beans, pepper jack cheese, and fresh salsa to make a REALLY tasty burrito.

Chipotle, kiss my rear.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Happy Halloween!

CSA: Week 26

This week was the first pick-up for the "fall CSA" from Eaton Farm. It will run for 4 weeks during the month of November. The highlight of the basket had to be the absolutely humongous head of what I'm assuming to be bok choy - 3 or 4 people alone stopped me at the market to ask what kind of green it was.

CSA: Week 25

This week was our only week the whole season where we weren't able to pick up our share. My husband and I were in Columbus seeing one of our favorite bands, The Legendary Pink Dots, so my sister-in-law took our share for the week. The show was amazing, and it was good to be able to share the bounty of our CSA.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

CSA: Week 24

This morning at the market was absolutely gorgeous - the perfect fall day. Blue sky, fluffy white clouds, that crisp sweet smoky smell in the air, crunchy orange, yellow, and rust colored leaves, a cornucopia of gourds, squash, and pumpkin everywhere you look.

Surprisingly a lot of greens in the basket this week. They will go to good use in a fall salad for dinner tonight, along with some savory chili, cornbread, and some chewy ginger snap cookies for dessert.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

CSA: Week 23

This week's squash is a Cinderella pumpkin, an edible heirloom variety. And if you look closely you'll see some sweet potatoes and a small head of bok choy!

About a month ago, on a whim, I decided to try my hand at roasting some squash seeds. My family was never really big on that fall tradition, so I wanted to see what everyone always gushes about. I roasted the seeds of a Buttercup squash with a little olive oil, kosher salt, and a dusting of curry powder until they were nice and nutty with a good brown toast to them. WOW...I could eat them instead of potato chips any day of the week. Never again will I throw out my squash and pumpkin seeds.

CSA: Week 22

I realized this week that our share has been showcasing a different type of autumn squash for the past few weeks - I've had a chance to try quite a few varieties that I've never had before. This week we had a Red Hubbard. I love the contrast of the deep orange squash next to the velvety purple of the beans.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

CSA: Week 21

Getting some lovely fall colors in our basket these days - rusty orange, golden yellow, crimson beet...

Monday, September 20, 2010

CSA: Week 20

Week 20! Can't believe it! It's been 20 freaking weeks since we started our CSA. Time flies when you're good eatin'.

We'll celebrate with some of those beautiful wax beans. The Eaton Farm's booth this past week looked like a bean and squash explosion, a very delicious explosion.

CSA: Week 19

Two weekends ago we received a buttercup squash in our share - a type of squash I've never cooked with before. Elizabeth Eaton described the taste as a little bit sweeter than a butternut. I plan on roasting it tonight with some Jamaican curry powder. We'll see how it pairs with a side of red quinoa, swiss chard, and Field Roast Italian sausage.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


Looks like the blackberry lily's seeds really DO resemble a blackberry...

I'm sure a hungry starling or two is going to get tricked into "sowing" these seeds...

Monday, September 6, 2010

CSA: Week 18

Things picked up this week in our share, we've had a few sub-90s days and the plants are getting a teensy break, but still no rain.

I am really starting to love swiss chard. An exciting addition this week were some purple chinese long beans - these things look funky, but apparently you just steam/cook them like you would a green bean. Excited to try these guys out this week!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Been There, Done That

Looks like the birds found the birdbath...

Sunday, August 29, 2010

CSA: Week 17

Starting to get some fresh greens back in the basket this week, hopefully that means the weather is going to start cooling down...hopefully...

Saturday, August 28, 2010


August is the month where things start to feel tired and crispy in the yard. The vivid bright greens of spring and early summer change to an dusty army green, and then pale brown. The smell in the air starts to change from a lush, wet dirt to a dry, sweet leaf.

Not that August is without it's own palate of colors...

I haven't posted much lately about the yard because, well, there isn't a whole lot going on.

The tomatoes are tapering off, the herbs are doing a nice job of drying on the plant for me, and the squash plant has one butternut squash that it's been able to offer up - we'll see if it actually makes it to full size. The exact opposite of last summer, this year has been HOT, HOT, and HOT, with a side of DRY and NO RAIN. Guess this is the hand that mother nature has dealt us this year.

I've been doing a lot of cooking and canning with my new job working from home. I have more energy for the things I love, which is, well, great. I put away more than our fair share of whole tomatoes, tomato juice, and marinara sauce. We're stocked to the hilts with jam. We've probably both put on a few pounds with the good food I've been cooking. Something I'll need to keep my eye on...

I did have one exciting new addition to the garden this past week. During these hot months, every time I would water the plants a small group of sparrows would hop around the perifery of the water, springing in every now and then to sneak a drink and a splish-splash. It got to the point where it seemed less FUN for them and more DESPERATE, like they were having a hard time finding drinkable water around here. So, this led me to investigate bird baths, and I ended up purchasing a small cast-stone one, very ye-olde-english-garden-ish. It's only about 14 inches high, so it doesn't stick out like a sore thumb in the front flower bed. Now I just need to let it sit and acclimate, and let the birds start investigating.

CSA: Week 16

And here was last week's share.

CSA: Week 15

Running way behind on my updates lately. I have no excuse other than I've been on the computer too much.

Observe the eggplant!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

CSA: Week 14

Today we decided to sign up for Eaton Farm's Fall CSA - running for 5 weeks through October and November. I'm looking forward to some delicious squash this fall!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Bragging Rights

Not to sound too conceited, but I have to brag a little bit about the flourless chocolate mocha cake I made this past weekend for family. I'd say if dark chocolate cake and dark chocolate mousse got together and had a baby in a pool of espresso, this would be their sinful lovechild:


Last weekend when the family came over for dinner, my mother brought me a present - more fresh tomatoes - four flats of them, to be exact. I was a busy girl Sunday; all day was spent canning, doing both whole tomatoes as well as a batch of marinara sauce.

A couple years ago my mom and I made a batch of my grandma's pizza sauce, but I had yet to make actual marinara sauce. I used the basic Tomato, Garlic, and Basic Sauce recipe from the Ball Blue Book and jazzed it up a bit with some dried oregano and red pepper flakes. I was really pleased with the taste, and ended up doing 10 pints. My goal is to perfect this recipe to the point where I never have to buy jars of marinara from the store again.

CSA: Week 13

I'm a shamefully late posting this week - lots of family/friend entertaining went on last weekend and this week. I love being able to incorporate CSA produce as well as produce from our garden when cooking for company - thankfully when you're using such yummy in-season ingredients, your cooking skills don't have to be anything fancy. Nature speaks for itself!

Monday, July 26, 2010


I broke in my new quart canner yesterday - I put away 11 quarts of whole tomatoes from my parent's garden. Lovely, juicy, sweet, tangy tomatoes, oh how I love them!

I'm planning on doing lots of whole tomatoes, tomato juice, as well as some marinara sauce this summer. The quart canner will really come in handy, as I can now process bigger batches in bigger jars. Bring 'em on!

Cherry Pie

I come from a pie making family - both sides, grandmas, aunts, mother - they all are masters at the art of the pie. I have always been mystified by pies, specifically the crust. To be honest, it's intimidated me; I have always thought it to be some magical act when everything came together in a perfect combination of flaky, crunchy, and tender. For this reason I've shied away from making pies. I tried once in college without huge success and have been reticent ever since.

Well, this past week I came to the conclusion that I cannot call myself a part of my family unless I master this tradition. I decided to use some of the tart cherries that I froze several weeks ago and make a cherry pie, a classic for my family.

I followed my mother's detailed recipe with only slight difficulty getting the dough rolled out big enough to cover the bottom and top crusts. My crimping technique on the outside crust is going to need some honing, but at least I get some extra points for attempting a cherry design on the top, right?

As for the final product, well, do I really need to say anything...?


This past weekend I finally got to do something I've been wanting to do for a while - make jam with three generations of my family - my grandma, my mother and her sisters, and myself.

We went to a delightful brunch at the Tea Cozy Cottage and then went back to my parent's house to make a batch of fresh peach jam together. I bought quite a few pounds of mouth-watering Carolina peaches from Pipkins Market. My aunts and I pitted, peeled, and sliced while Grandma served in a supervisory role and also helped crush the peaches. Mom made sure all of the canning equipment was at-the-ready, and we all took turns stirring the unctuous jam until it was ready to jar. I ladled, my aunts assembled the lids and rings, and we all sat around in anticipation until every last lid had clicked.

I learned quite a few tricks and techniques that will help me to be a better canner, while saving me time to boot. It was such a special day - I'm so glad to have such beautiful wise women in my life.

CSA: Week 12

Sadly there was no CSA pickup this week - Jerry and Elizabeth had a flat tire on their truck and weren't able to make it in time for the market. Just glad they're safe - flat tires are not fun.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

"Sweet Jesus..."

...those are the words that came out of my mouth right after I bit into a slice of this bad boy...

I know one of my recent posts claimed the "biggest tomato I've ever grown" title, but I have to say, THIS is the biggest tomato I've ever grown - Aunt Ruby's German Green. It was big as my hand and weighed at least a couple of pounds.

I can also quite honestly say it's the BEST tomato I've ever tasted - now that's really saying something - this girl has had a lot of tomatoes in her 28 years. The flavor was just fantastic - citrus, tartness, just the right amount of sweet, and a subtle little something "else" that I can't put my finger on. Some people describe it as "spice" but I wouldn't say it's spice in the traditional sense. God, I'm drooling just remembering it...

I will DEFINITELY be growing this variety again.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Bring on the Mule Team

The fourth variety of tomato that I planted this year finally had its first ripe fruit - Mule Team. It was initially the first plant to develop green tomatoes, but due to some squirrel interference, it's been the fourth plant to ripen. It was about the size of a tennis ball and would be perfect for salads or sandwiches - a nice personal sized tomato.

The only variety I'm waiting on yet is Aunt Ruby's German Green - there are some HUGE fruits on the vine that are almost ready for picking. Just a few more days...

The tomato bed is in high gear right now - about every day I'm able to go out and pick a nice slicer and a handful of cherries. I'm so glad that the changes I've made to the growing area have been for the better - using the raised beds as well as using the green plastic netting to keep the critters away. I will definitely be using these techniques in the years to come.

Also exciting - the first eggplant finally set this week. He's about the size of a golf ball.

The mint and oregano have gone to flower. I usually try to keep herb flowers pinched so their taste is sweeter, but they are so pretty and whimsical in the garden, I had to just let them bloom.

On a disappointing note, I had to pull the zucchini, yellow squash, and cucumber plants due to massive bug damage - cucumber beetle and squash vine borer. This is the second year in a row that I've had to do this - I'm starting to wonder if I need to investigate alternative methods to organic gardening for these types of plants? I hate to say it, but I'm tired of not being able to grow these garden staples. *sigh*

Oddly enough the butternut squash plants have been left relatively unharmed. They have full run of the bed all to themselves, so I'm expecting good things!

CSA: Week 11

I really feel like I made out like a bandit this week - I could barely carry the basket back to my car it was so heavy! I guess we picked a good year to introduce ourselves to CSAs - the years with ideal growing seasons are naturally going to produce fuller baskets.

I think I'm going to make a pasta salad tonight using a lot of the fresh veggies here - good eats for the rest of the week.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


This past weekend I picked up my 10-lb tub of tart Michigan cherries from Rouster's Apple House. They had been grown and picked in Traverse City, then pitted and packed fresh in their own juice.

Yet another memory from my childhood is of my grandma's tart cherry tree in her side yard. She lives on a century-old farm in Hamilton, Ohio. Every year around this time my family would grab a step-ladder or two, several buckets, and would pick pounds and pounds of the lip-puckering flame red fruit. My mom would freeze countless containers each year for cherry pies, cherry cobbler, and other delicious old-timey desserts. Needless to say, I have a deep rooted fondness for tart cherries.

In my ongoing effort to explore different kinds of jams that stray from the beaten path, I made a batch of tart cherry jam on Saturday. The recipe called for liquid pectin rather than powdered - something I've never used before. The jam didn't set up quite as well as it could have, but the taste is wonderful. Maybe next time I'll try it with powdered pectin instead. The pantry is starting to reach full capacity for jam and it's only July!

In other news, today I picked the BIGGEST TOMATO I'VE EVER GROWN! It's a Carbon variety and is just slightly bigger than a baseball. I picked it a day or two green because all of the rain we had today had made it split - I didn't want it to rot on the vine. A couple days on the counter to ripen up and it will be good eats!

Also pictured are more Sungold Select cherry tomatoes, as well as my first two Riesentraube tomatoes (top right). The Riesentraubes were really tasty - a very classic tomato taste, but not as high of a sugar content as the Sungolds.

A week or so ago I had swathed the tomato raised bed with several layers of pliable green plastic netting to keep the squirrels and birds out. It may not be the prettiest way to keep the critters away, but it has been working perfectly. No more half-eaten green tomatoes laying in the yard; the only ones who will be enjoying this garden will be myself and my husband, dammit!

CSA: Week 10

This week we had the option to substitute extra veggies for the eggs - I opted for the white pattypan squash and a pint of cherry tomatoes, both of which are long gone two days later!