I can hardly believe the sprout is a year old, and yet he’s definitely turning into a toddler. He’s been practicing his tantrums, perfecting the art of going boneless and throwing himself onto the ground to sob when frustrated. Not very often, just frequently enough to let you know there’s no going back to the compliant baby stage. He’s also nearly
walking running, standing well on his own and launching himself toward you as long as you’re within about 10 quick little steps. He finds something new to get into every day, although he has not yet turned out to be a climber *knock wood*.
Most notably, he’s starting to show distinctly toddleresque food preferences. Banana imported from Peru? Yes. Delicious chicken chili made from scratch with love and local organic veggies? No. Avocado imported from Mexico? Yes. Delicious homemade organic mushroom and barley stew with fresh thyme from the garden? Not so much. Applesauce? Yes. Brown rice and lentil stew? A few bites on a good day. Instant oatmeal? Definitely. Zucchini and millet with fresh basil? Haven’t tried it yet, but I’m pretty sure I know where this is heading. Hummus, peaches, enormous bites of apple just like Daddy takes that lead to mouth sweeps? Yup. Delicious and nutritious sweet potato in all its forms? Apparently a babyish delight that he gave up just in time for Rosh Hashanah.
I am trying to be a good sport and chalk this up to teething, taking time to warm up to new tastes, a renewed preference for nursing following a cold, and the desire to feed himself whenever possible. We are still working on finding appropriate finger foods while avoiding dairy and wheat, and that’s presenting a bit of a challenge; while we don’t seem to be dealing with true allergies, an intolerance that keeps us up all night with a writhing crying baby is not something we can ignore in good conscience. Still, I fear I am staring down the tunnel to fish fingers, and I’m not liking it. That won’t be happening any time soon, though, as there remains a whole mess of veggies to chop, dice, steam, roast, mash, and purée before we even consider throwing in the towel.
Not only is it already March, but the month is nearly half over. Yikes! I got sucked into a black hole of sick household members and even less sleep than before that led me to not be able to type anything coherent but instead simply stare at the computer screen and try not to drool whenever I’ve had a couple of free moments to myself. I’ll try to do better.
What have you missed? I took the lazy man’s path and stopped doing the Dark Days Challenge when the host became unable to keep up with the round-ups due to circumstances in her own life. We continue to eat locally, I just am not making any effort to be creative or branch out from our regular recipes. I did plan to post about the soup I made in the summer that we recently ate from the freezer, and the recipe is this: make leek and potato soup, dilute with a bit more water, add pre-cooked chopped kale and a can of white beans at the end (and probably more salt; I use the mushroom seasoned salt that we get from our farmer). It’s good, and makes for more of a meal than regular leek and potato soup. I also made macaroons, since I was craving the ones I’d had in Portland with dried apricots, pecans, and a dark chocolate bottom. The macaroons were delicious, and I managed to make them last a whole week (!) by putting them in the freezer. I need to remember that option for future cookie cravings, because I love to make them but really don’t need to eat quite so many at a time.
What else? I managed to get outside and clean out the garden beds in the front of the house, so now the daffodil sprouts can actually see the sun. The crocuses are up, and I’m looking forward to seeing which daffodils bloom; you never know which ones will survive both the replanting and the hungry squirrels. I’ve been working on my garden plans for this year, but they really deserve their own post. (Stay tuned!)
Finally, politics are driving me a little nuts these days. On the local level, I was heartened by the way our surrounding neighborhoods embraced a rally in opposition to the Westboro Baptist Church (my favorite sign said, “Thanks for bringing the community together!). On the national and state level things are pretty sucktastic, as I don’t need to tell you because you’re an educated person who reads the news, right? Local delegates tried to play politics and sank Maryland’s equal marriage bill: I hope no one votes for anything those two people support for at least a decade (because I’m sleep-deprived, and that makes me surprisingly petty). All the money we have left after donating to NPR, Planned Parenthood, and the unions is being squirreled away so that we can live during the impending (Freudian slip: I nearly typed “impeding”) government shut-down. After using my energy taking care of the sprout, I have absolutely none left for filtering or using polite language: it’s gotten a little sailor-ish around these parts. Thank mother nature for oxytocin, I cannot imagine how much crabbier I would be about all of this without the mama hormones. (Of course, I’d have orders of magnitude more uninterrupted sleep, so maybe it would balance.)
And now: back to thinking about spring and daydreaming about the garden!
I’m not sure who else is still cooking in the Dark Days Challenge, but I am sticking with it and hoping to be more creative again in the second half. My Week 10 meal was another one from the freezer: we had bhindi masala that I made in the summer with the okra from our CSA. I am not a big fan of okra; this is the only thing I make with it and it barely makes the “not so slimy” cut. We had it with brown rice and roasted sweet potatoes. The pictures in the linked post are old (they show our old plates!) but it does (sort of) include the recipe for a change. And yes, it’s another thing I made in my dutch oven, although nowadays I just make it in my second favorite pan (the 4-quart sauté pan) because it really is not that voluminous.
Lately, we have everything with roasted sweet potatoes because we have a cupboard (still) full of sweet potatoes. I’m thinking that pretty soon here I’m going to cook and purée some for the freezer, which will allow us to have sweet potato pie in the future. I’m sure there are other things I could make with sweet potatoes, and once I find out what they are you’ll be the first to know.
This challenge is getting challenging! Having used up my go-to recipes, I am now having to get creative and I just didn’t have it in me last week. So, I went to the freezer for our Week 9 meal. We had red lentil coconut curry, which sounds like it has nothing local in it at all, right? Wrong! It is the best recipe I’ve found for using the end-of-season CSA vegetables, and another favorite from Simply In Season: it’s chock full of onions, garlic, cauliflower, cabbage, and sweet potato. Throw in some frozen peas at the end and you’re done; preferably ones you set aside in spring, but fresh peas never make it to the freezer in our house so commercial organic ones will do. The tomato paste and coconut milk are clearly non-local, but I give them a pass since the recipe uses up such a whopping pile of veg as a whole. Since this was the from the freezer, there was little to document but I dug out some photos that I never posted (because of the poor quality, as you can see) of a batch in 2007. Good enough for freezer cooking!
The cabbage and sweet potato for the stew.
Pile o’ cauliflower.
Everything in the pot.
All cooked up and about to get peas.
I didn’t know about the Can Jam challenge until December, and it’s probably for the best: there’s no way I could have canned anything more than the three things I made last year. Reading through Local Kitchen’s summary of the challenge was interesting, though, as I realized that I’ve canned something in nearly every category at least once. Just for the heck of it, I sorted through my canning results of the past few years to see how they matched up to the challenge categories. In the process, I discovered that I was truly woeful at documenting the vast majority of these efforts, so I’ve annotated the list somewhat. I’m definitely not at the stage of making up my own recipes, so I’m excited to get back in the swing of things this year and try some of the hundreds of mouth-watering recipes generated by folks who actually participated in the challenge.
The canning larder. Top shelf: mincemeat, brandied peaches, pear mincemeat, pear applesauce, cranberry sauce, applesauce, cherry sauce. Bottom shelf: cherry conserve, quince jelly, apple butter, plum jam, pear jam, pear butter, apple chutney, onion relish, pepper jelly, pickled beets, lemon-garlic pickles, bread and butters, sweet and sour relish, pickled pumpkin, summer squash pickles.
- citrus: Traditional Preserved Lemons, using Meyer lemons and a recipe from The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving : I was determined to make these, as I had visions of Moroccan dishes dancing in my head, and they were the last thing I did the night before we left for our holiday drive in 2008 (in the end, I only used them twice in rice and they mostly had to be thrown away when the went off; which won’t, of course, stop me from making them again the next time organic Meyer lemons are available); Sour Cherry Conserve  (also stone fruit), from the Ball book: this was the only successful cherry recipe, and while it’s quite tasty it’s not the most appealing-looking which will teach me to only use the freshest cherries for canning (and to not go overboard at the market); Lemon Garlic Pickles  (also cucurbits), from the Ball book: these were nice, but I think I vastly overestimated my capacity to eat pickles as we’ve only made it through the one jar we opened for Thanksgiving two years ago.
- carrots: not a single thing (the only root vegetable recipe I made was Pickled Beets , from the Ball book).
- alliums: Onion Relish , from an online recipe: I needed to use the onions that were piling up badly enough that I canned while 7 months pregnant during the hottest summer on record in years; I’m looking forward to eating this on sausages at the pool this summer.
- herbs & flowers: Mojito Pickles , from The Joy of Pickling: not canned, but preserved by freezing in order to retain the lime and mint flavors (also cucurbits).
- rhubarb and asparagus: Rhubarb-Ginger Jam , from an online recipe that I cannot for the life of me now locate: this was the second thing I ever canned after quince jelly, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t write about it because it was out of season (I used frozen rhubarb) and it relied heavily on candied ginger, both of which made it seem at the time like I was cheating (hah!); my dad loved this jam and he was the lucky recipient of most of it.
- berries: Whole Berry Cranberry Sauce , from the Ball book: this basic has been a favorite for the past two years, and something I’m happy to be able to contribute to other people’s holiday dinners.
- cucurbits: Pickled Pumpkin , from The Joy of Pickling: this did not turn out to be something that I liked, with the strong garlicky flavor (I made it because I was intrigued by what was described as a traditional Estonian holiday food); Pickled Summer Squash , from the Ball book: sweet and tasty, this was more my style of pickle (with the advantage of using up some of the summer squash we were inundated with that year); Spicy Bread and Butters , from The Joy of Pickling: I really need to start making egg salad sandwiches again to use these up.
- tomatoes: Spaghetti Sauce , using Barbara Kingsolver’s family recipe from Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: making this sauce was a big project, made bigger by the fact that I used all Roma tomatoes that did not cook down, requiring me to add more ingredients as I went; as a result, I ended up with a double batch and we were able to eat this sauce for an entire year.
- stone fruit: Brandied Peaches : we still have a number of jars of these, as I’ve forgotten to eat them at Christmas for both of the past two years; Spiced Golden Plum Jam , from the Ball book: this was only the second time I used pectin in a recipe, and was a way for me to use some of the oodles of plums we received in our summer CSA this year.
- chiles: Pepper Jelly [2008, 2009], from Simply Recipes: I tried this two years in a row, and both times it was a pain and never really came out right, so while I love the idea of it I am not sure I have it in me to keep trying; Sweet and Sour Pepper Relish, from the Ball book: I have yet to try this, but I plan to break it out to accompany our easy dinners of grilled sausages this summer.
- pomes: Pear Butter , from Simply Recipes: delicious, and a spice inspiration for the pear applesauce; Spiced Pear Jam , from the Ball book: this was the first time I used pectin in a recipe; two types of Pear Mincemeat  (also dried fruit), from the Ball book; Pear Applesauce , totally off the cuff after making applesauce and pear butter; Apple Butter ; Applesauce [2008, 2009]; Apple Pie Filling ; Apple Chutney [2008, 2009] (also dried fruit and chiles), from Simply In Season: this has turned out to be a hit, and I plan to make it each year so we can slather it on our turkey sandwiches with abandon; Quince Jelly [2007,2008, 2009], from Simply Recipes: still a household favorite, so I make it any time the trees actually bear fruit and we hoard it through the year (although it never lasts past spring).
- dried fruit: Brandied Fruit Mincemeat  (also pomes), from the Ball book: fruit plus booze equals quintessential holiday food!
Canning goals for 2011 include blueberry jam and more spaghetti sauce, in addition to the usual apple suspects. Plus whatever else looks absolutely irresistible from the Can Jam entries!