Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Inglewoods Farm Saturday

On Saturday my daughter and I went to Inglewoods Farm, to their Harvest barn. Many of the things they have are already in my garden, but I got some fresh brussel sprouts and beets. In another post, I'll show you what I did with them! They didn't last long, for certain.

Their produce is just beautiful! and they have the prettiest eggs, some of them have sky blue shells. Just like natural easter eggs.

Such gorgeous strawberries - I bought two baskets of them. I washed them and cut off the tops, but left them whole in the refrigerator. I slice them up right before I eat them! So sweet, they don't need any sugar, but honey is a plus.

They have a really nice setup. Lots of organic vegetables, plants for transplanting, a chicken house and covered greenhouse.

There were quite a few people there, taking classes and buying produce. It was a beautiful day. I was tempted to take home some transplants, but I'm almost out of room in my raised beds, so I held myself back.

Here they are cutting up the roasted pig for our sandwiches at lunch. They had quite a setup for cooking it, I'd never seen it done that way before.

That's their cooker, that big black enclosure. I'm sure it has a name, but I don't know what it's called. But the results were very tasty!

I took a class in "Backyard Chickens" and my daughter took a class in "Juicing and Healthy Snacks." They were well done, and we had a great time. We picked up some grass-fed beef to try, too.

Do you have something similar near you? I feel really lucky to have this resource so close to me, here in Louisiana.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Pasta From Scratch, Garden Style

Have you ever tasted fresh, homemade pasta noodles? They are so good, you really don't need much of a sauce. A little butter and salt is enough, and a fresh basil pesto can be like noodle heaven.

This bowl of pasta is what I like - fresh peas and basil and baby broccoli from the garden in a light cream sauce. I picked and shelled the peas right before lightly steaming them, so they still had that garden-fresh green taste. Nothing compares to things picked right before eating.

 I haven't been able to find semolina flour locally in the grocery store, so I ordered a pound of it and had it shipped to me. It arrived this week, so I had to take it for a test run. It really doesn't take all that long to make homemade noodles from scratch, and there aren't many ingredients.

This is my pasta-making setup. I use a large bowl and my pasta machine to make homemade fettucini. It's not a fancy pasta machine, I got it on sale, and it does everything I need for pasta making. You can use a rolling pin if you don't have a pasta machine, it's just a bit tricky to get the thinnest dough. You'll need a large area and a long, skinny rolling pin. Here are the simple ingredients:

Fresh Semolina and Egg Pasta Ingredients 
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups semolina flour
1 pinch salt
6 large eggs
2 tablespoons olive oil
(use the good stuff if you have some)

Thoroughly sift together the all-purpose flour, semolina flour, and pinch of salt. I've made it many times without the semolina, and I wondered if having both types of flour would make a difference. It really does! The dough is stiffer and the noodles roll out better. The texture of the noodles is better, too. So if you don't have the semolina, make the effort to find some. It really is worth it.

In a deep bowl, make a mountain out of the sifted flour mixture then make a deep well in the center. Break the eggs into the well and add the olive oil. 
Just think, if I get hens in the backyard someday, I might be using my own eggs for this! But that's a while down the road. For now, these will have to do. 

Whisk egg and oil mixture very gently with a fork, gradually incorporating flour from the sides of the well.
Here I was using a whisk, and really a fork works much better. So ignore the whisk in the picture and just use a regular sized fork.
Or if you're really in a hurry you can put everything in the food processor and whizz it up almost to the point it's ready, and finish it by hand. But doing it by hand doesn't really take very long, and you can get the feel of the dough as it gets silky and ready to use. So try it with your hands, like this.

When the mixture is too thick to mix with a fork, begin kneading with your hands. Knead dough for 8 to 12 minutes, until it is smooth and supple. Dust dough and work surface with semolina as needed to keep dough from becoming sticky. If dough seems too dry, moisten your hands and continue to knead with wet hands rather than adding liquid to the dough. Your moistened hands will get the water into the dough much more easily.
I set a timer and really give the at least 10 full minutes of kneading. That way I know it is well-kneaded and I don't have to guess if it's ready or not.

Wrap the dough tightly in plastic and allow it to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes. This is a good time to prepare your sauce, get your pot of boiling water set up, and get your pasta machine assembled and ready, if you haven't done that yet.

After the dough has rested for 30 minutes, cut off 1/4 or 1/3 of the ball, and re-wrap the test in plastic wrap. Flatten the cut off piece with your hands so it's a ribbon shape. Then roll out the ribbon of dough with a pasta machine to the desired thickness and cut into your favorite style of noodle. I start at the largest opening, number one on my pasta machine, and roll through a couple of times. If the dough is silky and not sticky, I start going through smaller and smaller roller settings, down to number 6. I usually cut the ribbon into two pieces before I cut it with the pasta machine into fettucini noodles, so they aren't too long.

These noodles are a little too long, so I had to hang them over the edge of the counter off the drying rack.

To eat immediately, bring water to a boil in a large pot, then add 4 teaspoons salt. Cook noodles until tender but not mushy, 1 to 5 minutes depending on thickness. Fresh pasta doesn't take very long to cook, so don't overcook it. The noodles will swell up and get nice and thick.

I don't drain and rinse the noodles when they're done, I take them right out of the water and put into the saucepan with the sauce, to let them get lots of flavor. Just toss well with your favorite sauce right in the pan the sauce is simmering in. That means you have to prepare the sauce while the pasta is resting, and let it simmer so it's ready when the fresh pasta is cooked. To dry and store for later, hang noodles on a drying rack and leave overnight.

The noodles will be brittle when dry, so store in a tall spaghetti jar with a hermetic seal, or in a large bag sealed with a twist-tie. This is my homemade pasta storage jar.

I'm so glad my semolina flour came, it was well worth it to make these great, tasty homemade noodles. You'll have to try for yourself to see how easy it really is - and how great they taste.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Pig Roast Lunch and Learn

Tomorrow, my daughter and I are going to a Lunch & Learn at Inglewood Farm south of town. They have great topics:

Raised Bed Gardening
Organic Garden Management
Juicing / Healthy Snacks
Backyard Chickens
Container Growing
My daughter just got a juicer, so she's interested in that class, and I am interested in having a few chickens, if I get brave enough. I already garden in containers and raised beds, but you can always learn a little something new, so those classes sound good, too.

Inglewood Farm are the ones who come to the local 2nd Saturday Farmer's Markets in town, and they have a Harvest Barn Market on Tuesdays, where I've been getting my eggs and strawberries.

And goat cheese, there's a lovely man with herbed goat cheese.

You're missing out until you've eaten freshly baked bread with homemade, fresh goat cheese!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Eating What Grows, Making What Is Eaten

It's like a challenge I give myself.

How much of what I eat can I grow or make myself?

It gives me a lot of pleasure to see how many things I can grow or make for myself, without using pre-packaged or grocery store ingredients. Some things, of course, you have to buy. But as much as possible, I try to make or grow what I eat.

In this picture, I can see many things I had a hand in creating. I grew the lettuce, dill, cilantro and the broccoli in the salad.

I baked the bread, and used the cubed cut up homemade bread to make the croutons in the food dehydrator. Double-made --- don't you think I can count that twice? (Even if I used my bread machine while I was away from home to bake the bread?)

The tomato is not home grown, it is a locally grown hothouse tomato I got at the 2nd Saturday Farmer's Market. Same thing with the pastured-chicken eggs. I don't have hens (YET) but these are organic and local. I believe that at least counts as eating locally, especially since I picked up local honey and fresh-picked strawberries on the same trip.

And the salad dressing is homemade. It is an attempt to reproduce an asian-ginger salad dressing that I like a lot, from a restaurant we don't have here. It's got a sweet and sour flavor, with a zing of vinegar tanginess.

Asian Salad Dressing

1/4 cup Mayonnaise (either homemade or store bought)
4 tablespoons Rice Wine Vinegar
2 tablespoons Sugar
2 tablespoons Sesame Seed Oil
1 teaspoon Toasted Sesame Seed Oil
1 teaspoon Dijon Mustard (either homemade or from the store)

In a small bowl combine sugar, and rice wine vinegar; mix until sugar is completely dissolved. Add remaining ingredients and whisk together until well blended. It won't separate.

You can use the seasoned rice wine vinegar if you like it sweet the way I do, or get the regular rice wine vinegar if you don't. 

Look for the sesame seed oil and the toasted sesame oil in the oriental food section. You will need both, they aren't the same thing. You'll only need a small bottle of the toasted sesame oil, since you only use such a small amount for each batch.

This recipe doesn't make a whole big bottle full of dressing, more like 3/4 cup. I get two salad's worth out of it. If you need more at once, you can double the recipe.

I store it in the refrigerator in a very small jar I cleaned and saved. It doesn't last long, but there are no preservatives. And it's always fresh!

In fact, I made a fresh batch this morning for my lunch salad!

From the garden:
Arugula, Romaine and Loose Leaf Lettuces
Cilantro and Dill

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Purpose of Life is ....

What do you think is the best way to express your purpose of life? I've been thinking about that a lot lately, as things stay the same and yet constantly change around me.

I've been away from the blog for several months now, but I haven't been idle in real life, of course.

I wonder, though, if what I'm up to will be of any interest to anyone to read about here?

Gardening - planting seeds, taking care of the plants.
Learning how to cook using the things I'm growing in the garden.

Making homemade yogurt.
The regular, routine things.

So I decided just to go for it, to write about what's going on, what I'm learning and what's working or not working.

Many of the followers came here to see what I was creating with the jewelry components. Lately, life has been so full, I have not been very active in that area. So some folks may not care about the other things I'm doing.

But maybe some will.

Never know unless I start, right?

And one thing is for sure - the non-posting to the blog is definitely not interesting! Having a blog is like having a mini-magazine, in some ways. Publishing information, sharing it publicly. Some blogs are primarily about one thing. Maybe it's cooking and recipes, or gardening and vegetables. Maybe it's art and techniques, or how to use certain materials.

I think this blog is evolving.

It is about creativity.

Living creatively.

Thinking about creative ways to do things, solve problems.

So, watch this space.

I will be talking about what I'm doing, which will likely involve creativity in some way, and solutions or problems -- and probably both in equal parts.

And I hope to bring you along with me, if you are interested, too.