Monday, October 29, 2012

This week's sources of inspiration and hurricane Sandy preparations

 Garden harvest in preparation for Hurricane Sandy

This week has been one of preparations for the impending impact of Hurricane Sandy.  I harvested all the vegetables that I could to save them being blown away or damaged by potential high winds, and made sure the fall vegetables were snug in their hoop tunnels.  I've also stocked up on materials to keep me entertained should I be stuck at home or if the power should go out as it often does when you live in a neighborhood with many old growth trees that take out the power lines as they fall.

Reading List

The Book Thing

Last weekend I had time to take a trip to a place I love to go that's a free source of inspiration - The Book Thing in Baltimore, MD.  (Yes, I did say free.)  Their mission is "To put unwanted books into the hands of those who want them."  We dropped off a few boxes of books I cleared off the bookshelves and I found a few to fill up the empty space including a classic and a newer memoir that were both on my reading wish list along with a stack of magazines to peruse and use for art journaling and mixed media projects later.

Wild:  From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail
Product DetailsA memoir of a young woman's solo hike on the 1100 mile trail after suffering from personal catastrophe.


Product DetailsA classic that I never had the chance to read that seemed appropriate for the continued struggle between civilization and nature.

Current resources for creative inspiration

After the Jump podcasts and Design*Sponge website

Check out both the podcasts and website by the Grace Bonmey,  Her website is full of inspirational art and design eye candy and diy projects.  The podcasts feature interviews of designers, business owners and up-and-comers in the art community which are great to listen to on my commutes to and from work.

The Next List

CNN has a television show and blog featuring innovators in technology, science and social change.  I really enjoy seeing how people can start with one small idea that can grow into a something meaningful for many.

Other books on my shelf to read:

Becoming a Life Change Artist: 7 Creative Skills to Reinvent Yourself at Any Stage of Life
Product DetailsThis book is about an innovative approach to reinventing yourself at any stage of life.  The book outlines 7 key strengths that some of the most creative minds in history shared that can be used by anyone seeking to cultivate change in their life.

ECOpreneuring:  Putting Purpose and the Planet before Profits.  
Product DetailsI serendipitously met the author of this book at the Mother Earth News Fair when one of the workshops I wanted to attend was completely full and I found myself at his display table.  He and his wife are innkeepers and authors and this book offers advice on starting small eco-businesses that incorporate values and priorities while creating income and meaning.

I'm all set to hunker down by the fireplace to ride out the storm, explore these creative resources and cook up a few tasty meals with my harvest.

Thanks for reading!

Fall decorations in the neighborhood

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Vegetable Pie

Late Summer Vegetable Pie

I had quite a few requests for the recipe for this pie,  It's lighter than a regular quiche and loaded with a variety of vegetables inside a flaky crust.  I made this with some harvest from my garden and didn't measure precisely, but here is the basic recipe that can be modified to fit whatever you have on hand.  I used my food processor to make the pie crust, chop all the vegetables except the potatoes and tomatoes and grate the cheese. I did not clean the bowl in between to save time.  This will take about 2 hours total:  about 45 minutes of hands on time, another 1 hour of sit back and relax baking time plus 15 minutes of cooling time.  Serve a wedge of this with a simple side salad of greens, sliced pear with walnuts or pecans dressed with some balsamic vinaigrette, and you've very tastily gotten 3 servings of vegetables for the day easily.

Vegetable Pie
serves 6 

Pie Crust
This is my favorite and is a very sturdy crust that stands up well to wet fillings

1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp sea salt
3/4 cup olive oil or non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening
1 egg, beaten
2-3 Tbsp ice cold water
1 1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar

Mix the flour and salt.  Cut in the shortening or oil (by hand or using a food processor).  Add egg and vinegar plus enough cold water incorporating all the ingredients.  (if using a food processor, this will only take a few pulses to come together.  Don't over mix or your crust will be tough.)  Roll out dough on a floured surface and fit into your pie pan creating a rolled top edge.  Prick the bottom of the crust lightly with a fork about 5-6 times.

Preheat the over to 400 degrees F.  

You can get creative and use whatever vegetables you might have on hand as long as your top layer of vegetables is tomatoes which provide juices that filter through the entire dish.  Here's what was in the pie pictured above.

1 large portabella mushroom, finely chopped
1 small leek or onion, finely chopped
1 large or 2 small cloves of garlic, crushed or finely chopped
4 cups of mixed greens and fresh herbs (kale, bok choi, chard, parsley, tarragon, oregano, basil, sage), which will  make about 2 cups of finely chopped greens.  Save about 2 Tbsp of the greens to sprinkle on top of the tomatoes
1 jalapeño, seeded and finely chopped (optional)
2 small or 1 large potato, cooked (about 4 min in the microwave) and thinly sliced
1/2 cup feta cheese
3 large tomatoes (I used 2 red and about 4 plum sized yellow ones), medium sliced
1 cup of grated cheese (I mixed, Parmesan, sharp cheddar and vegan mozzarella)
3 eggs 
1/2 cup milk
1/4 tsp of sea salt or 1 Tbsp Bragg's amino acids

In the unbaked pie shell, layer the vegetables and cheeses.  Here's the layering for the one pictured starting with the crust going up:

Mushrooms mixed with leeks (chopped together in the processor)
Greens/herbs mixed with garlic and jalapeño (chopped together in the processor)
Feta cheese
Sliced potatoes
1/2 cup of the grated cheese mixture
Sliced tomatoes
Sprinkle with 2 Tbsp of reserved greens/herb mixture 
Top with remaining 1/2 cup of shredded cheese

Beat together the eggs, milk and Bragg's amino acids or salt.  Pour over the pie ingredients.  Bake in an oven preheated to 400 degrees F for 15 minutes and turn down the temperature to 350 degrees and bake for approximately 45 minutes more until the top is nicely browned and the filling is bubbling and not too liquid.  The filling may be a little wet depending on how juicy your tomatoes were, but it will come together more as it rests.  Cool for about 15 minutes before cutting into 6 wedges.

Vegetable pie cooling before cutting

Other vegetables that would be tasty in this dish would be to switch out the greens for 2 cups of chopped broccoli or cubed or sliced zucchini, or summer squash.  Instead of regular potatoes, make a single layer of sliced or cubed acorn, delicata or butternut squash or sweet potato.  Let your imagination go and create any combination that speaks to you.

As Julia Child would say "Bon appétit!."  Thanks for reading!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Scenes from the week

Some scenes from a spectacular fall week.

A neighbor's potato harvest

A colorful shed

A plateful of scones

A mural on a neighbor's garage

Fall baking = late summer vegetable pie

Fall colors

Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Green smoothie and hoop tunnels in the garden

Garden ready for fall and winter weather under hoop tunnels

The fall/winter garden has been snugly tucked under it's blanket hoop tunnels as recommended in Four-Season Harvest by Eliot Coleman.  These hoops will protect fall greens, broccoli, beets, carrots, onions and all the rest from frost until we get to a hard freeze.  Then we'll add a layer of plastic for more protection to stretch our growing season well into the winter months.  Last year's mild winter allowed us to harvest hearty greens all through the winter months from our tunnels so we added more this year.  Even if this winter is harsher than the last, we'll extend the growing season long enough to have some fresh produce for holiday meals.

Swiss chard and beets ready to be covered in the tunnel

Herbs in one of the tunnels

To help keep me going all morning long, I prepared a green smoothie for breakfast.  Don't let the color scare you away!   It tastes great, provides an energy boost and is loaded with vitamins and fiber.  Even though you'll be getting in a full serving of green vegetable in each glass, you can't tell it's in there -  it just tastes delicious.

This meal in a glass comes together in about 5 minutes and makes 2 generous 12-14 oz servings.  I'll often have one serving for breakfast and save the other for an afternoon pick-me-up when my energy is starting to flag and the craving for a snack kicks in.  This chases away the cravings and holds me until dinner time.   Here's a great video from one of my local creativity gurus that shows how quickly this comes together.  It isn't really necessary to measure precisely, and I've given rough estimates in the recipe below.  This recipe adapts easily to whatever you have on hand.

Basic Green Smoothie

2 handfuls of greens (spinach, chard, kale) = approximately 2 cups
1 banana (frozen if you have it, it makes it more like a milkshake, but fresh is fine)
1 cup of fruit (berries, mango, pineapple, apple, anything you like, pumpkin or sweet potato also work well)
2 cups liquid (dairy or non-dairy milk, tea, water, juice)
2 tsp flax or chia seeds (optional)
2 Tbsp oats (optional)
Spices and flavoring (cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, vanilla or almond extract) (optional)
Splash of lemon juice or balsamic vinegar (great with berries)
Sweetener to taste (honey, agave, stevia, dates, maple syrup)

For the smoothie pictured, I used a fresh banana, pear, 1 and 1/2 cups almond milk plus about 6 ice cubes (because I wanted it thick and frosty, but my banana wasn't frozen), flax seeds and oats, cinnamon, nutmeg, 2 quarter sized pieces of ginger, small squeeze of lemon juice and agave nectar.  This one reminded me of a pear crisp or crumble and the oats and flax seeds added protein and fiber that kept me satisfied until lunch time.

I hope you were able to find some time to be creative in even the smallest way this weekend.

Thanks for reading!

Flower growing along the curb

Monday, October 8, 2012

Weekend Projects

Late summer harvest

Fall's cooler temperatures have arrived and the leaves are starting to turn.  Our cool, rainy weather makes me want to nest and create comforting foods that warm up the kitchen and waft yummy smells through the house.  Here are a couple of the projects that I worked on this weekend.

Homemade Natural Whipped Shea Butter

A friend sent me this link to this how-to video to make your own whipped shea butter some time ago when we were looking for more natural alternatives to a pricey hair creme we both had been using.  This quick recipe uses all natural ingredients and comes together in about 10 minutes. I switched out the olive oil for Aura Glow almond scent for this batch.  You can add whatever essential oils you like to make a signature scent.  I added a little vanilla to go along with the almond scent already in the oil.  (When I open up the little jar I keep at my desk at the office, I often get comments that the almond and vanilla combination reminds people of someone baking cookies..not a bad thing in my book.)

Ingredients for whipped shea butter

I use this as a hand and body lotion as well as a hair moisturizer.  Since I started making this, I  no longer buy lotions which always seem to have ingredients I can't pronounce.   It looks butter cream frosting after a few minutes in the food processor.  The one pound tub of shea butter whipped up to fill two of the one pound sized containers and can be stored at room temperature.

Whipped shea butter

Whole Wheat Sandwich Rolls

The cool weather today prompted me to bake bread. My favorite recipe makes great sandwich buns, hot dog rolls or even a nice loaf of bread for slicing.  I substituted about 3/4 cup of the flour with some course ground wheat to give a chewy texture and substituted another 2 cups of whole wheat flour for 2 cups of the bread flour. Using the whole wheat flour does make the rolls a little more dense but they are still pretty fluffy and I think that's a reasonable trade-off for getting some additional fiber,   I dusted the bottom of the rolls with course ground corn meal to prevent them from  sticking to the baking sheet and add a little crunch.  These are perfect paired with Farmhouse Veggie Burgers which I featured in a previous post and freeze well for later use.   These rolls don't take too much effort for a healthy addition to your menus and are economical at about 1/3 the cost of good quality bakery sandwich rolls.

I hope you give both of these recipes a try.  

Thanks for stopping by!

Late summer flowers in a neighborhood garden