Sunday, August 2, 2009

Bad Blogger!

I've been very negligent in my posting lately, apparently being unemployed or underemployed is more conducive to blogging than having an intensive internship. Luckily (or not so luckily) you haven't missed out on much because I've been too busy to do much crafting and the weather is so bad here that not much is going on in the garden either.

There are a few interesting things though. I believe I mentioned earlier that I had bought all kinds of crazy things to start from seed this year and now some of them are actually producing!

Here is a ground cherry in action:

And here is a tomatillo:

Although I knew the ground cherry and tomatillo were fairly closely related (both being husk nightshades) I didn't realize how similar they were. Before they fruited the only really distinguishing characteristic between the two plants was the purple vein running along the stems of the ground cherries.

I'm actually really excited about both of them too. Not only are they are producing heavily (provided nothing happens before they ripen) but they are also really attractive plants (not nearly as random and awkward as a tomato) with pretty little flowers.

I also have jalapenos!

The one thing that concerns me is that after it produced these three it stopped flowering and shows no sign of starting again, possibly due to the bizarre weather we had. If it indeed is done producing those will be expensive peppers ($1 a piece!).

Finally we actually have...tomatoes!

For those of you who are already effected by the nasty late blight that is devastating tomato crops all over the northeast...don't worry these sucked anyway. I mean they were really bad, mealy and flavorless. Again the crappy conditions (cold and wet through all of June and July pretty much) are probably to blame.

I'd rather not end a post on such a sad note as the generally badness of New England tomatoes this year so here is some absolutely professional looking bread that mom made.

Although the word rustic seems to fit I also can't help shaking feeling that the one on the right kind of looks like a toe. Sorry if that puts you off bread for awhile.

Monday, June 29, 2009


I thought I was already a vegetable nerd but since I've started working on a farm I've been exposed to some new veggies I hadn't really used before. I'm sad to say one of these was escarole:

I've been missing out. Although it's in the endive family escarole looks more like a head of lettuce although I wouldn't really eat it like lettuce. It's a little tougher and has a mild bitterness (but definitely not too much) so it's delicious cooked.

Since it's featured heavily in Italian cuisine that's what we stuck with: first we made the classic escarole and beans (or more accurately: "scrole and beans"). This dish is basically cannellini beans, escarole and lots of garlic with some Parmesan for serving. We also put some sausage in ours although it certainly can be a main dish even without meat. Also: it really should be served on or near some good toast.

Next we used some escarole in Italian wedding soup. Our version had spicy meatballs, escarole, potatoes and onions in broth although there are lots of other variations of this soup. Again the escarole was fabulous.

If you can find some at your local farmer's market I highly recommend trying some. Cook it the way you would any other cooking green or throw it in a soup.

Anybody have any other favorite ways to use escarole?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Bag Balm and 100th Post!

This is my 100th post on this blog. Woo hoo! In celebration I may eat some cake. You should too.

In other news: after my recent post on hand balm a wise person sent this along in the mail to me:

Bag balm! Originally for udders but now loved by humans and cows alike, including Shania Twain! (Don't worry I didn't just call her a cow.)

Besides being awesome for my gnarly farmer hands it comes in the most adorable tin:

The best part though is probably the picture of udders on one side:

From what I've read this stuff has a multitude of uses, from soothing a fresh tattoo to diaper rash. I bet it's also amazing for dry feet. You could slather a bunch on before bed and then put socks on and wake up with feet as soft as udders! I may have to do that to someone I know (who has particularly dry feet) while they are sleeping. I'll let you know how that goes.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Garlic Scapes

It's garlic scape time of year again. For those of you who haven't had the privilege of growing your own garlic (I highly recommend it), scapes are the flower stalks that you pull off around this time of year.

They are actually quite yummy, with a fresh slightly mild garlicky flavor. Although you can use them any way you would normally use garlic they are also good chopped up in salads or grilled whole. I put them on a grilling rack so they wouldn't slip through the cracks but if you're brave you could throw them right on there, just watch them carefully so they don't burn.

These are some of what we picked at home, I think we should have about 40 clubs of garlic if all goes well and they don't rot right in the ground from all this rain.

Interesting fact I recently discovered at work: if you pick about 2000 of these you'll end up with white crystals all over your hands from the sap that comes out of the scapes. I have no idea what it is besides garlic juice but I smelled like it for the next couple days. At least I didn't have to worry about vampires.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Totally Shameless Product Promotion

I'll tell you upfront that I have no other motive for telling you about this product besides the fact that I really like it.

Back to the beginning: when I first started my current job (organic farm intern) I discovered that the combination of lots of dirt and wind can make your hands really freaking dry. I'm not really sure why mud is considered a spa treatment because in my experience it doesn't really do much for your skin besides dry it out. But clearly I've never had a spa treatment so what do I know.

Although I have my day to day moisturizer that I really like (Nature's Gate Tea Tree Lotion since I'm name dropping anyway) it wasn't cutting it for my terrifyingly dry rough hands. I knew I needed something more in the "balm" category, ie: more oily and thick.

I went to my local food coop prepared to pay out the nose but I was amazed when I looked at the selection. Burt's Bee's was $10 for a tin and a smaller brand was $20! But this was only about $6:

Not only does it work fabulously but could you resist that badger? Now what I can't figure out is how they extract the balm from the badger. Do they have to kill it and render it or do they just provoke it into excreting it from a gland?

Monday, June 8, 2009

Recipe Organization for the Obsessive Collector

I'm sure you've figured out, based on the fact that every time I go somewhere I buy I cookbook, that I'm a rather obsessive collector of recipes. Besides buying cookbooks I also subscribe to cooking magazines, look for recipes online and take cookbooks out of the library. What this means is that I end up with stacks of recipes that I've printed from the internet, torn out of magazines or even photocopied from books.

My only salvation from being killed by a toppling stack of cookbooks is that I get many of them from the library first and if I see only a few recipes I like I just photocopy them using our handy scanner/copier/printer. The downside is that if there are too many recipes to copy I end up buying the book.

I guess there is technically another downside which is that I end up with stacks of loose recipes. They accumulate on all surfaces, even the cats, until eventually you get an avalanche of paper or someone spills something on the entire pile. Either way it's a mess.

My solution: three ring binders! Although I always pinch my fingers in the rings I still think that three ring binders are one of the marvels of modern technology. Here are two other marvels which help me get organized:

Without my paper cutter and fancy ass hole punch it would take me a lot longer to get all my recipes stored away. It also helps to have pretty binders:

My recipes are divided into several categories: cocktail recipes, canning/preserving recipes, desserts, and those I've cut out of Cooking Light (which I have a subscription to). I really enjoy the magazine and there are actually quite a few recipes per issue that I want to try so to make them easier to find I just cut them out and tape them onto paper so I can recycle the rest of the magazine. It saves space and time when I go looking for the recipe because let's face it, no matter how much we think we're going to go sift through old magazines for those recipes we liked, we never do.

I suppose I could save space by getting rid of the photographs but some of them are so pretty, it's half the reason I want to try the recipe!

Finally there is my binder of everything I've photocopied or printed from the computer. It's at least and inch and half thick.

I made dividers for the different categories to make finding things easier. I used old folders (I had a stack of legal sized ones for no apparent reason) and cut them to size so I'd have the tabs for easy flipping.

I got a little crazy with my categories: appetizers, breakfast, breads, tapas, soups, vegetable sides, starch sides, main dish: Mexican/Cuban, main dish: Asian, pasta, pizza/sandwich, main dish: seafood, main dish: veggy, main dish: meat, main dish: meat light. These are of course customizable so if you aren't as nutty as me you could simplify.

Once it's all established it's easy to keep organized. I just hole punch the new recipe and slip it in.

A final upside to cooking from photocopies is you feel very little guilt about scribbling notes all over the recipe once you've tried it, or spilling food on it for that matter, which I inevitably do.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Broken Key Fix

(I hope you're prepared for the most exciting and revolutionary craft project of this decade.)

I always though my purse was a tough place. With all those things jostling for space (keys, wallet, nail file, pocket knife, ping pong balls, chapstick, and moisturizer to name just a few) it is no surprise when the occasional pen gets broken. But when my boyfriend presented me with a broken key I realized that men's pockets may be even worse than my purse.

To be fair this key was crappy to begin with, instead of a metal top it was all plastic and I think it might have actually been partially broken when he acquired it anyway.

Whose brilliant idea was it to make the top out of plastic anyway? Seriously, I want to meet that person and have a word with them.

When it finally broke completely I realized it was a rather dire situation. With no way to attach it to a key ring it was just asking to get lost. (And trust me, he'd lose it.)

So I sewed a solution which I think was rather clever if I may say so.

It was basically a rectangle of fabric I folded in half and then sewed up along both sides. I then flipped it inside out and cut a little slit in the folded end. I reinforced the slit like a button hole so I had a tube with the key sticking out one end and the other end was open. I folded the open end over a key ring and sewed it down. Here you can see the side that was folded down:

And here you can see my reinforcing:

I also made a point of choosing nice manly fabric. Had it been for myself it probably would have been purple and floral. The best part was that it took all of about five minutes. I know I could have just gone and gotten a new key made but in my experience when you copy a key the copies tend not to work as well as the original.

I'll even admit I was tempted to make decorative floral covers for all my keys...but that would have been a little too Martha for me.