Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Holiday leftovers transformed

One of our holiday traditions is to make pizza together on Christmas eve. (There's T. and DD admiring our handiwork.) My mom started it as a way to have a low-key meal during the otherwise hectic season. I love it because it's something that we can do together.

However, we invariably have a ton of the toppings left over, as I try to have a variety so that there's a lot to choose from. This year our leftover toppings included: onions, vegetarian ground "meat," pineapple, artichoke hearts, several types of cheese, and roasted peppers.

By adding a couple of staples, I've gotten 2 meals out of these leftovers.

Lemon-Garlic Linguini Mediterranean
The first was a pasta dish with sauteed leeks, artichoke hearts, roasted peppers, feta, sundried tomatoes, and a dash of olive oil. I sauteed all of those briefly and tossed with lemon garlic linguini from my favorite pasta vendor (and all around cool people) Artistic Eats NY. (I added the leeks and the sundried tomatoes, which I had dried over the summer.) YUM!

Butternut Enchiladas
Tonight I made enchiladas by sauteeing the onions and the fake ground meat, and adding cubes of butternut squash which I had previously roasted. I filled tortilla shells with this filling, topped with the leftover pizza cheese, and poured tomatillo sauce (which I had made with my garden's tomatillo windfall in late summer and frozen) over all of that. Bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes and enjoy!

Leftovers provide a great opportunity to experiment. In this case they also gave me incentive to clean out the fridge, which turned into a 3-hour job. We won't talk about what I found in there.

Now I just have to decide what to do with the pineapple!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Snow cookies

I know that Christmas day is, for many, a hectic day. For me, it is usually the first quiet day in the whole month of December. T.'s agency's big fundraiser is the first weekend of December, and the rest of the month is generally busy with school work, grading, and getting prepared for the new group of students starting in January.

Our family celebrations take place the few days before Christmas and go through the morning, then DS and DD head off to celebrate with the other side of their family.

So...I finally made Christmas cookies. Just one batch. But this one batch is all we need. These are from the cookbook Roast Figs, Sugar Snow: Winter Food to Warm the Soul, by Diana Henry, whom I heard on The Splendid Table. (I've only made a few things from this cookbook, which I got from the library before I decide to purchase, but so far, they've been amazing.)

Here's the idea: Beat 1 stick butter, 1/2 c. confectioners sugar, 1/3 t. salt together until combined. Mix in 1 egg yolk. Mix in 1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour by hand and bring the dough together in a ball, kneading lightly.

At this point my dough was still way too dry, so I added some canola oil until it just held together. (I have found this to be a common problem with the recipes in this cookbook. It was published in England, so I'm not sure if there's some difference in ingredients?) Anyway, use your common sense and add enough oil until it looks like a fairly stiff cookie dough.

Refrigerate for about 8 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350F (180C). Let the dough warm just a bit (Henry doesn't recommend this, but I found it helpful), then roll the dough out to 1/8 inch (3mm) thick. Cut out cookies and put on a baking sheet. Bake for 8 minutes. (I think mine were thicker than 1/8 inch, and they took about 12-14 minutes.) Let cool.

They were very buttery and good without the frosting, so I may not do it next time, but if you want to frost them, mix 1 c. sifted confectioners sugar with enough water (or vodka, Henry suggests) and lemon juice to make a drizzly frosting. If you scoop some up on the tines of a fork and it drops in a slow but steady stream, it's the right consistency. (I think mine was a bit thick, as evidenced by my rather globular frosting job.) Drizzle onto the cookies. Henry recommends sprinkling on some edible gold powder when the frosting is nearly set, but I didn't happen to have any gold fairy dust around.

Speaking of common sense and cooking, one of my favorite gifts this year is a book called Cooking for Geeks, which takes a hacker's approach to cooking, giving you just enough scientific information to help you understand how various ingredients work, with a healthy dose of encouragement of innovation and experimentation.

That approach worked great with these cookies, which are buttery rich and small enough to be slightly addictive.

Happy whatever-you-celebrate!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Cabbage: Not just for coleslaw any more

I'm home writing (er...blogging, at the moment, and perhaps there was some online holiday shopping)...but I have to eat, right? So I whipped up these quesadillas, with sauerkraut from Small World Bakery, artisanal cheese and cabbage from the Public Market, and apples from Donovan Orchards. (We get a box of apples throughout the winter from Donovan's, which is about the only local fruit you can find around here in the winter. They harvest them in the fall and keep them in storage and parcel them out to the Winter Apple Club members.)

Place a tortilla in a cast-iron (or other) skillet set on low. Add a couple of spoonfuls of sauerkraut, some apple slices, and some grated cheese. (Measuring--who needs it?) Fold the tortilla in half, let warm for a minute or so. Then carefully flip to warm the other side. Cut into wedges and eat. 1 apple, approximately 3-4 ounces of cheese, and about 2/3 of a pint jar of sauerkraut made 5 quesadillas today. I originally saw this recipe in a cookbook, but I can't recall which one. It's so simple that I've been making it ever since.

Ironically, I made these quesadillas because I wanted something different than the cabbage lasagne that was leftover from the weekend. Um...they're both basically just cabbage, cheese, and some kind of fruit. Oh, well, they actually taste very different. Here's how you make the cabbage lasagne.

I've never made this the same way twice. All you need are tomatoes and/or sauce, cabbage, and cheese. I've used fresh tomatoes as well as canned tomatoes, and this time I used my own canned tomato sauce. I've used every kind of cheese imaginable; I went for a chevre/feta combo this time. (My goat cheese is from Lively Run Goat Dairy. )

Blanch the cabbage leaves until tender but not totally limp. Add some sauce to the bottom of the lasagne pan to moisten the bottom, then make layers of cabbage/cheese/sauce. Repeat until you're out of ingredients. End with a little cheese or even fake Parmesan. You could also sprinkle on some dried herbs, or maybe some roasted peppers. Hey, I just thought of the roasted peppers. I canned some this summer so those will be my next experiment! (Vegans, I'm pretty sure this would work well with soy cheese as well, or maybe your own homemade vegan cheese. The cookbook Veganomicon has some good substitutes that I've used in regular pasta lasagne.)

The cabbage lasagne recipe is from Ed Espe Brown's book Tomato Blessings and Radish Teachings, which was the first cookbook I read that encouraged me to experiment and improvise. I've been doing so ever since. (I also googled cabbage lasagne and found lots of recipes. But trust me, you really don't need a recipe for this.)

Someday I will learn to take better food photos. It's item #175 on my list of "Things to Do after I Complete the Dissertation."

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Holiday gnomes

I made these a couple of years ago for a holiday swap with other creative folks. I haven't had time to organize a swap for a couple of years now, but it is a wonderful way to support each other and helps with having a less consumeristic holiday.

I was reminded of these little cork people when this free pattern from Kristin Nicholas came across my Facebook news feed.

I love them! They could be ornaments, or finger puppets, or wine toppers (although I have to be honest and say that I don't really understand the point of wine toppers. Feel free to enlighten me).

These may be my next potato chip (can't stop at just one) project.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Gifts for your favorite bike commuter

(picture from Cyclelicious)

Check out my post at sew green for some gift ideas, including DIY panniers and trailers, why fenders are essential, a bicycle Christmas stocking, and more!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

When mushrooms take over the world

I recently took a 4-day business trip. When I left, there was only one little mushroom peeking through, about the size of those at the bottom of the picture, from my white button mushroom kit from Territorial Seeds.

When I returned, I feared that little white mushroom, now about a half pound, would take over my kitchen if not promptly dealt with. So, I obliged and sacrificed it to the saute pan, along with onion, garlic, pepper, herbs, and tomatoes, to go along with some spinach garlic pasta.

If you haven't tried a mushroom kit, I recommend them! They only require daily spritzing with a little water, and, as you can see, the yield is quite satisfying.

Just don't leave the mushrooms alone in the house for any length of time. I think they may grow to fill the kitchen otherwise.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Green tomatoes and other fall delicacies

If you read to the end of this post, you'll be rewarded with a recipe for a pasta sauce with green tomatoes which I cooked up today. Meanwhile, a brief recap of where I've been the past several weeks.

As you can see above, I climbed a mountain. My first high peak in the Adirondacks, Cascade Mountain. Although it's considered easy by experienced hikers, I wouldn't exactly say that. You are still going uphill, after all. And on the way back, you're going downhill. Which sounds easy, but is not, particularly when it's very muddy. The view at the top was completely worth it, however. I can't wait to go back and climb another one

We also lost 2 beloved family members, our cat of 17 years, and one of our chickens, Sarah. She's the one with the hernia, which finally got the better of her. Anyway, we decided to get a new girl to keep our flock at 3. Here's Lena, a Golden Brabanter who hates to be caught, but once you catch her, she will sit in your arms forever while you pet her head. She's still young, but she should be laying within a month of so.

I also had a very productive garden this year, including peas, tomatoes, Swiss chard, lettuce, basil, oregano, mint, parsley, carrots, peppers, chives, TONS of green and dried beans, and pounds and pounds of tomatilloes.

There was much cutting of flowers. Here are some fall mums, lamb's ears, and marigolds. And those goofy looking cupcakes were for our local Chicken Club potluck. I am capable of more refined decorating, but had no time, and really, since when does one expect a chicken club to be refined?

Somewhere along the way, my DS became a college senior. I'm still not quite sure how that happened. Here he is at his senior recital. It was fantastic, and so HIM.

And finally, today I had to figure out what to do with the more than 2 pounds of green grape tomatoes which I foraged in our community garden. (They were volunteers near the fence and no one was picking them. Clearly they needed to be rescued.) I wish I had a picture, but food pictures are not something I've mastered yet, not to mention the fact that we ate it way too fast to remember to attempt a photo.

Pasta Sauce with Green Tomatoes

(Quantities are approximate).

Saute 1 sliced onion with 2-3 garlic cloves in 2 Tbsp. of olive oil. Once onions are soft, add 1 1/2 to 2 pounds of halved grape tomatoes, still green (or any green tomato). (I halved these the evening before and stirred in 1 tbsp or so of both olive oil and balsamic vinegar at that time.) If you did not add olive oil and balsamic vinegar before, add a little to the skillet now.

Cook 5-10 minutes, until tomatoes begin to soften. Taste for tartness. Add some sugar to counteract the tartness. (I added about 1-2 tbsp.).

Cook another 5-10 minutes until tomatoes are quite soft, but not falling apart. Stir in some sliced chives or whatever fresh herb you happen to have. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with pasta of your choice. Mine was Pappardelle's Pasta Chipotle Pepper, purchased from Artistic Eats.


Thursday, November 4, 2010

The privilege of biking in the rain

Hey, guess what? I wrote a post! But you have to go to sewgreen to read all about it.

But I promise to come back and tell you all about my late summer/early fall gardening adventures!

Right after my son's senior recital and reception, where I am feeding who-knows-how-many college students!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Me and the beanstalk

I was a bit bean-crazy in the garden this spring. The newest wonders are the violet podded stringless, again, from Territorial Seeds. These were 15 inches long, and still taste good.

I have beans growing in various places, but this is my main support for pole beans. Do you notice that orange string going out from the left side of the photo?

I had to tie it to the fence to support it, after the 40 mph wind gusts blew it over today. Fall may be coming to put an end to all this growing, but for now, I still have tomatoes, beans, potatoes, herbs, tomatilloes, and Swiss chard going strong. I have rutabagas just coming up for the fall, and plan to put in some more beans, lettuce, and peas before the gardening season winds down.

After a while, however, 2 beans of pounds per week gets to be a lot of beans. Fortunately, I found this recipe to give me a new way to eat them. It's got Indian-inspired spices, and with a little more tofu, makes a great one-pan quick entree. I also used chevre instead of creme fraiche.

I would love more bean recipes, if anyone can point me towards some!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Cucumber hog

The bottom cucumber is a normal-sized cucumber. The other is a freakish accident of nature wrought by a cucumber that was obviously purposely hiding from me so that it could hog all the plant's energy for itself.

And it probably isn't even going to taste good.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

In which I rescue a small dog

That's what my legs looked like after I saved Zoe's life this weekend. (Actually, this is about an hour afterwards; unfortunately, there was no camera available to document the extent of the muck that went up to my knees.)

You remember, Zoe, right?

One of our favorite weekend things to do is to put Zoe on the bike, bike a few miles on the Genesee Valley Greenway, lock the bikes up (probably unnecessary since it's very rural and there's practically no one around, but having had multiple run-ins with bike thieves, I never leave my bike unlocked) and then take a walk and let her run.

Well, T. and I were walking along, chatting about how it felt to have both kids back at college, when we realized that Zoe was nowhere to be seen. Generally this means she has stopped to roll in something that smells like it's been dead and rotting for at least two weeks, so we walked back to find her, calling her all the while. Usually she then comes running, but this time, we still didn't see or hear her.

Finally we realized that she had gone off the trail, into a swamp-like area, looking for water. Unfortunately there was mud that looked like it would swallow a rhinoceros whole between her and us. She was muddy all the way up to her belly, which tells me she had gone through it and wasn't about to come back.

We called for a few minutes and tried to get her to come back, but she was not budging. Before I go any further, I should tell you that another member of our household, our sweet kitty, died this week at the age of 17. It has hit T. hard.

As I was looking at Zoe on the other side of the muck, all I could think was, "I don't think Tanya could take it if we lost another animal this week." I had this image of Zoe moving further away from us and into more muck, and maybe drowning in it.

Way too dramatic, I know. But enough to motivate me to step into the muck to get Zoe. I imagined myself as one of those cartoon characters that disappears into the quicksand. I sunk in up to my knees, went a few steps, grabbed Zoe and handed her to T.

With a great deal of force, and grateful that I was not wearing open-heeled shoes which undoubtedly would still be back in the mud, I lifted my feet out and got back on the trail.

And promptly walked back to the bike so I could get home and clean up!

I suppose I should now thank our kids for merely leaving dirty dishes out and the gas tank empty. I'm glad I didn't have to haul you out of muddy quicksand.

Now, don't go getting any ideas...

Thursday, August 19, 2010



A local suburb has transformed a little segment of the Erie Canal from warehouses and a coal tower into a tony shopping and eating destination.


It's truly picturesque, and part of its charm is that some of the buildings still look like this.



The tall building below has been transformed into office space, and the glass elevator is quite impressive looking.


The Erie Canal is a noted cycling/walking/paddling/boating attraction as well.


I highly recommend an evening stroll along the canal. For restaurant and retail recommendations (including a good bike shop!), check it out at RocWiki.

Food, glorious food


I bought a trifle bowl this summer, just so I could make fruit trifles, using whatever fruit is in season, and the vanilla cake recipe from Warren Brown's "United Cakes of America." I love this cookbook. He also includes Puerto Rico and D.C., citing their deserved constitutional rights! This trifle has fresh local peaches and huge blackberries.


I planted about 10 varieties of beans this year. This is the Yin-Yang bean from Territorial Seeds. Gorgeous.

Here are some of the fresh bean varieties.


This one is called Violet Podded Stringless.


Here's one day's harvest: tomatilloes, beans, cucumbers, peppers, more dried beans, and cherry tomatoes.


Meanwhile, my neighbor's squash is taking over my driveway. It's all good, though. We are both curious to see what kind of fruit there is. There are at least 2 varieties, and one appears to be a gourd variety, and the other might be zucchini.


More updates to come! I hope you are enjoying the joys of late summer!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Late season garden

Perhaps you're thinking that's not a very impressive picture. But consider that a mere hour and a half before, that ground looked something like this:

Actually, even that picture was after about 20 minutes of weeding. I forgot to get a true "before" picture. This is a community garden plot that I and others have tended (or not) for the past three years. This year, there was some delay in getting it started, partly due to the fact that the building behind it was scheduled for demolition. As you can see, it's still standing, along with the painted "telegraph office" announcement that probably looked funky at one point in time.

I was so impressed by the mullein that I had to leave it standing as well. Anyway, then there was a misunderstanding about whether another party wanted the plot, and several weeks later, at the end of July, feeling guilt-ridden at its unsightliness and unable to let a little piece of land on which I could grow MORE vegetables go to waste, I cleared the plot and re-planted.

I have no idea whether it will produce or not. I mixed in quite a bit of compost and planted mustard and turnips, which should be fine, as those are supposed to be good for fall harvesting. I also planted some beans with short growing seasons (55-60 days). I have no idea if they will do well or not, but at least it's better than the overgrowth of weeds.

Someone planted daylilies somewhere along the way, so this is what it looked like when I left. Mullein is supposed to be a good dye plant, so maybe I'll grab some of my natural-color yarn and give it a shot!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

DIY canning labels

Half the time, my preserves, jams, and pickles wind up sitting on the dining room table for weeks, simply waiting for me to stick labels on them. More often than not, I've run out of the store-bought labels and it takes me that long to get to the store.

But thanks to a tip from the HomeGrown community, as long as I have a package of sticker paper for my printer, I can get more labels any time I need them.

Shown above are labels from Homegrown as well as A Sonoma Garden. And here's another idea which uses card stock instead of sticky labels.

Oh, and that super neat hand-writing. Not mine. These jars a joint effort with me and T.; I pick and/or purchase the fruit, chop/hull it, make the jam, process the jars in a water bath, and print out the stickers. She writes the label, much more neatly than I ever could. Sounds like a good deal, yes?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Heat wave survival tips

After reading this interview with the author of the book "Losing Our Cool: Uncomfortable Truths About Our Air-Conditioned World (and Finding New Ways to Get Through the Summer)," I am more determined than ever to avoid air conditioning when possible. Based on the people around me, I seem to be more affected by heat more quickly than others, and I have developed some coping strategies.

In no particular order, here are Julie's Top Heat Wave Survival Tips.

1. Find a body of water. Play, boat, kayak, lounge. I am a huge fan of kayaking, and there are several places in the Rochester region. I wrote about a favorite trip here. The picture above is at Keshequa Creek in Sonyea State Forest.

2. Make a refreshing drink. I will soon be trying Frappucheapo. Meanwhile, a household favorite is herbal lemonade. Steep about 3 cups of lemon balm or mint (easily...too easily...grown herbs in any garden or pots) in a gallon of water for a couple of hours. Add one cup of lemon juice and sweeten to taste. I use a couple of tablespoons of honey or agave nectar. Incredibly refreshing!

The lemon balm would take over my driveway if I let it.

3. Window fans. We have 2 in our bedroom. Blow the hot air out during the day; turn around and blow the cool air in at night. I can't tell you how wonderful these are.

4. Spring rolls. When it's too hot to even grill, my standby is either a big salad, fruit, or if I have a little energy, spring rolls. These can be made quickly with whatever you happen to have around. I keep the wrappers on hand, and fill with some combination of lettuce, herbs, tofu, veggies, and/or cellophane noodles (which don't have to be boiled, just soaked briefly in hot water, so you don't even have to turn on the stove). Serve with your favorite dipping sauce.

5. Public library. Or an air-conditioned public space of your choosing. You could go to a coffeeshop or movie, but libraries are so wonderful, and FREE! Remember libraries? That's where we went to read things before we had the internet. Check them out!

6. Take some cues from pre-AC days. People kept their windows closed to keep the cool air in, drank lots of ice water, took it easy during the heat of the day. I recently visited Chautauqua Institution, where most places don't have AC. Their tree-lined streets made it feel quite cool, and notice the awnings on the houses, which also keep the sun away.

Feel free to share other survival tips in the comments! I'm sure I've left many out!

Sunday, June 27, 2010


On Saturday of this weekend, we got a great deal of rain. On Sunday morning, I awoke to these new blossoms in the garden. Above, mountain bluet.


Oriental lily.










Gerbera daisy.

Hanging fuchsia.

Painted tongue.

On a quiet Sunday morning, with everyone in the house and most of the neighborhood still asleep, the garden had its own celebration.


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