I thought I would start the week by doing a little recap of projects I have finished and ones I am currently working on. But first, let me say I responded to the blast of cold weather we had last week by nesting! My outdoor exercise was limited to trips to the compost bins and greenhouse, plus an occasional dash to the mailbox. It’s hard to believe, but I used to run all the time in cold weather like this. I loved running in the 44.4 mile Brew To Brew Relay race, which used to be held in early March when it was typically quite cold. I found the below photo of me and my friend Sandy all bundled up as we finished running the first leg of the relay in 2003. It was so cold that day my neck gaiter was frozen stiff!
Later in the week, the temperatures moderated and I managed to get outside and get a few things done, including some much needed walking. And though it’s been quite a while since 2003, I still have the same jacket, hat, gloves and neck gaiter to keep me warm! However, the plastic banana we used for a relay baton back then is long gone. It was warm enough I didn’t need the gloves, or the neck gaiter as it turned out.
In other news, Lynda started her annual biscotti baking marathon last week with one batch of my favorite kind: Almond with Chocolate Chips. She made it with half white whole wheat and half unbleached all-purpose flour, and baked some of it for less time than usual to see how it turned out. Not everyone likes it as hard and crunchy as we do, and the test batch was noticeably softer in the middle though still hard on the outside. I prefer mine hard all the way through, and like to dunk it in my morning coffee. What’s my role in this project? Taste-testing, of course! Looks like I will need to do plenty of walking to work off the calories from this one.
My sweet baking contribution for the week was something I made for the first time: Meyer Lemon Pudding Cake. I baked it up in individual custard cups. The batter separates into two layers, with a lemony pudding on the bottom and a light, moist cake on the top. I got some Meyer Lemons at the grocery the other day, and this made for a lovely and tasty way to use some of them. And of course, it means more walking will be necessary!
My current bread baking project involves testing rye bread recipes. I’m starting with a sandwich loaf, something that has a soft crust and is suitable for slicing and making sandwiches. So far in the past couple of months I have tried and tasted three recipes, including ones from Peter Reinhart (Transitional Rye Sandwich Bread), King Arthur (Double Light Rye Bread) and Jeffrey Hamelman (40% Caraway Rye). All had great flavor and I would make any of them again in the future. The King Arthur loaf has an advantage because it can be made in a single day and I can use the bread machine’s dough cycle for much of the work. It was a little sweet for my tastes, but that can be adjusted in the future. I scaled all the recipes to make a single loaf each.
It’s not all sweets and carbs here though. Since it was too cold to work outside most of the week, I decided to get an early start on the 2014 garden and do an inventory of my leftover seeds. I always do this before I start getting my seed orders ready. Any seeds that are too old to germinate wind up on the compost pile, along with the packets they came in if they are compostable. I keep my seeds stored in plastic shoebox type containers, kept in a cool dry area. It’s not perfect, but it seems to work pretty well for me. The seed catalogs are already starting to arrive, so it won’t be long before it’s time to start ordering those seeds.
As for upcoming projects, in the next week or so I want to do a bake-off of some of our winter squashes like Boston Marrow, Candy Roaster and Kumi Kumi. I baked one of the neck pumpkins (aka Pennsylvania Dutch Crookneck squash) back a couple of months ago and froze the puree for later use. We have now used that all up, the last of it going in a pumpkin pie Lynda baked for Thanksgiving. I was amused the other day when Michael Chiarello informed the Today Show crew that (gasp!) canned pumpkin was really made from squash and not pumpkin. He claimed it was mostly blue hubbard squash, but the Libby company says they use a special selection of the Dickinson pumpkin, which is really a C. moschata variety just like the neck pumpkin and butternut squash. Homemade pumpkin puree is so much better than canned in my book, unless you use a carving type pumpkin. I’m anxious to see how these I grew this year will taste, especially compared to my favorite neck pumpkin.
Even though the weather has been frigid, kale is still going strong in the garden. I harvested some of the Beedy’s Camden last week to go in a batch of Kale and Potato Hash. We also enjoyed Kale Chips recently, and I made a dish called Simple Farro & Bean Stew that used some Lacinato kale from the garden as well as a bit of homegrown cabbage. Kale is a garden superstar this time of year, and the taste just keeps on getting better after each frost and freeze.
And this Schlumbergera cactus started blooming just in time for Thanksgiving. This plant came from a friend who was moving away and getting rid of things. We really got it for the homemade hypertufa pot, but couldn’t bear to disturb the giant cactus that was planted in the pot. And when it started blooming we were really glad we had left it alone. The photo doesn’t really do it justice.
That’s all for now. I hope you have enjoyed this recap of things that are happening here. To see what others are harvesting or cooking up, visit Daphne’s Dandelions where Daphne hosts the Harvest Monday series.