Sunday Market Score

For once, we remembered when the Glenwood Sunday Market was holding a winter market – the last one of the year. Though with temps nearing 80 today, saying we were going to a winter market was a little weird. And it certainly wasn’t austere – the place was jam-packed and we came home with a nice haul – a pint of field-ripened strawberries (it’s true!) from Hardin Farm, fresh garlic from Montalbano, an entire bag of red potatoes from King’s Hill, and mushrooms from River Valley Mushrooms.We also picked up a breakfast treat from Bennison’s – two chocolate croissants for me and two chocolate doughnuts for husband. And last but not least, we got some lettuce and plant starts from our favorite market vendor, Midnight Sun – a Patio Star summer squash, a couple of Italian parsley and four miniature sunflowers.

It was great to dig in the dirt this morning planting. I put the four sunflowers in our window box on the deck railing, and they look gorgeous. Once the three morning glories get a bit bigger, I’ll plant them in front so they can cascade down to the patio. It’ll look great. The parsley went into our blue glazed planter, and the squash went into one of the mid-sized planters on the patio so it can get plenty of sun. I didn’t go hog wild at the market today with plants because Becky let me know that their seedling list is up on their website and that she’d be happy to put together an order for me to pick up the first outdoor market in a few weeks. So of course the first thing I did when I got home was email over my order –

1 dill
1 lavender
4 Improved Rainbow Swiss chard
2 Lacinato kale
1 Roma tomato
1 Sungold tomato
3 of the container tomatoes we asked you to grow (I am having a brain freeze on the name at the moment)
2 Jimmy Nardello sweet peppers
Other than forgetting the name of the tomato I specifically asked for last fall and that they obligingly agreed to grow out this season, I think I’m pretty well set on plants now. We’ve got our four types of hot peppers that are doing fairly well along with a few basil starts that are looking good. We need to restart our edamame and peas – I know it’s kind of late for peas since it’s getting hot already, but I’m going to try a couple anyway and see what we get.
And of course, despite my best laid plans for what I planned to grow, my list is always a bit different once I start to get things in the dirt. But that’s what I like about gardening – you can always mix it up and see get a lot of good stuff! It’s too bad we don’t have any batteries for the camera today (need to put that on my next shopping list) or I’d take a picture and show it all off. Good thing we’ve got the whole season ahead of – you’ll be able to see the garden in it’s full glory soon enough.

Cool Weather Comfort Food

Shhhh…. the baby’s sleeping. You know I can’t stay away for long. He’s two weeks old today, and my goal for the time being is to do at least one post here a week. It’s good me-time and I want to keep sharing all the great stuff I’m still somehow managing to squeeze in. So what have I been up to?

Keeping us all fed. With a little one that needs attention nearly round the clock, this is no small task. But with the crockpot, there is good food on the table at our house! It’s been raining for weeks here. We have little glimpses of golden fall sunshine, but mostly a lot of rain. And the weather has turned cool – tonight it’s supposed to be in the forties! So crockpot dinners and soups have been playing big into our dinner times recently.

We’ve turned to two of our favorite soups recently for quick dinners – bacon and whiskey chili with cornbread on the side and cioppino with sourdough bread. I can’t believe I haven’t posted my recipe for cioppino yet – it’s so good. If you’re not familiar, it’s a seafood stew that is rumored to have originated in the San Francisco area. It’s got a white wine, tomato and clam juice base, and usually contains a white fish (I typically use cod), shrimp, mussels (I prefer the smoked ones), and crab. I’ll have to get the exact recipe I use listed here soon – you have to try it. Since those are both quick dishes, we just did them on the stovetop. The cornbread was quick in the oven and we splurged and purchased the sourdough from Bennisons at last weekend’s farmers market.

But the crockpot has had equal play as well. I found two recipes online recently that sounded pretty good, so I decided to give them a try. My husband was able to get a pork roast at a good price at the store, so I wanted to do something special with it. CDKitchen has some great crockpot recipes on their site, including one for Apricot Glazed Pork Roast. It only uses five ingredients – pork roast, apricot preserves, chicken stock, dijon mustard and an onion. It was pretty good, and I served it with egg noodles for a simple side dish. We’ll be having it again, since my husband liked it so much.

We also did a crockpot Moroccan chicken from the site, but I need to play with this recipe a bit. It didn’t have enough of a flavor punch for me – it ended up tasting a little bland. Okay, a lot bland. I only had powdered ginger on hand, so next time I’ll use the fresh that the recipe calls for. And instead of the orange juice, I’ll use whole fresh lemons and juice. And I’ll punch up the garlic a bit too – two cloves wasn’t enough for our taste.

And just tonight, I improvised a bean stew in the crockpot. I used half a bag of dried white beans (pre-soaked overnight), an onion, a couple of carrots, a can of tomatoes with chiles, chicken stock and the leftover bland Morrocan chicken. I seasoned it with cumin and Mexican oregano. It was pretty good for something just thrown together while the baby napped. I also managed to make a loaf of bread on a subsequent nap! Not a time consuming yeast bread mind you, but bread! I’ve been craving home made white bread lately. Quick bread was the answer, and after some internet searching I came across a suitable candidate – herb quick bread. It’s a baking soda-risen bread, flavored with caraway, thyme and nutmeg. It’s a denser loaf than a yeast-risen bread, but still has a nice crumb. The flavorings have a bit of a Scandinavian profile, but the great thing about it being a white bread base is you can flavor it any way you want. You could do garlic, thyme, oregano and rosemary for an Italian-style bread, or layer cinnamon sugar and butter into the dough for a breakfast bread; anything really. This will definitely be a standby in our house.

Tomorrow if I can get some sausage at the store, I may do a crockpot jambalaya – I’ve been wanting to try the recipe that came with my crockpot for awhile now. And in other news, we plan on walking to the library and we need to clear out the garden and move the herbs indoors – the nights are getting cold! And I’ve been thinking about relaunching my Etsy site, so I need to some brainstorming on that… oh and plenty of baby-tending, a nap or two and hopefully a little time with a good book.

Hibernation Preparation

Well, I finally did it. The larder is stocked. In fact, it’s so stocked that I currently have a bunch of dry goods sitting on the counter at the moment. I have no idea where I’m going to put it all – I’m going to have husband help me reorganize the upper shelves of the cabinets so I can fit in these additional things later this afternoon.

We popped over to the Evanston farmers market yesterday to see Stovers for our annual supply of honey. To add to the five pound (half gallon) jug I bought earlier in the summer, I bought three more. So we’ve got twenty pounds of honey, which should be enough to last us about to when next year’s comes in sometime in the early summer.  I thought about getting some jams and jellies as well, but decided I could make my own quick versions with the fruit I’ve got in the freezer already if I’m so inclined. I did pick up a single jar of pumpkin butter though, for a little treat to stick in the fridge – so tasty on freshly baked bread when the weather gets cool. I also wanted to get a garlic braid from Henrys, but they’re not quite ready yet. Looks like I’ll have to pick that up after the baby is born. But I did get a pair of tiny, amazingly sweet yellow-fleshed watermelons there. I plan on eating one today. 🙂

This morning, we went to our own market and picked up another dozen ears of sweet corn for the freezer. The blueberries are done, so no more of those this season, though we have a respectable supply for pies and whatnot in the freezer already. For fresh eating, we picked up a pint of cherry tomatoes and a trio of hot peppers from Midnight Sun, and a pint box of McIntosh apples from Earth First. Husband tried to talk to me out of the apples since we’re getting a few bushels in October, but I couldn’t help it. I’ve been craving apple pie, and yesterday I scored an awesome Nordic Ware pie mold at Target for only $5.00 –

I couldn’t resist. Apple hand pies are definitely on the agenda for this weekend. We didn’t really need much more this week for fresh eating, since we still have a good supply of potatoes and onions from last week, so that’s all we came home from the market with.

Yesterday when we stopped at Target, I got more than the pie mold. I received a gift card from my coworkers as a baby present, so we wanted to finish our bulk shopping extravaganza. We got shampoo, paper towels and aluminum foil to round out the household goods we needed. I also found a good deal on ten pound bags of flour and sugar, Zatarains Spanish Rice, tomato paste, iced tea bags and pasta. So we really loaded up on those. Today at our regular grocery store, we laid in a serious supply of chicken stock, beef stock, soy milk , egg noodles, white rice, dried kidney beans and dried pinto beans. And since our cow and pig purchasing fell through for this year (we waited until the last minute for this year by virtue of necessity and then couldn’t find anyone to split with) we stocked up on some meat as well – ground beef, ground pork, chicken thighs, chicken legs and bacon. I also wanted a couple pork shoulders and beef roasts, but they didn’t have any at all. Weird.

Paired with last week’s shopping excursion, we’re all set. Literally all done. We have everything we need in this house to get us through at least the end of the year with household goods and toiletries, and about six to eight weeks of food, at least in dry goods and meat. We’ll have to buy the usual perishables like margarine, egg replacer and fresh produce, but it’s so liberating so know we don’t have to worry about doing big, regular grocery shopping.

So now I can relax for the entire rest of this weekend. The only “projects” I have planned are a double batch of Super Pumpkin-Pumpkin Bread,  Crumb Coffee Cake and 15 Bean Soup for the freezer, to round out the freezer meal project. But that will literally take me all of 45 minutes to put together, and I’ll like a little kitchen time tomorrow afternoon. It’s cool and breezy and feeling very fall-like this weekend so I figure that’s a good thing to do on work-free Monday afternoon. And a nap or two – that’s a very good thing to do to.

Sunday Canning

The excitement builds! Husband will be helping me with another round of canning today. And I’m super excited that I actually got to go to the farmer’s market with him today. The market got relocated this week to the parking lot right in front of our house, due to an art festival happening on the street where it’s usually held. This was a windfall for me, since hobbling across the street for a half hour was actually feasible with husband’s help.

It’s the first time in over a month that I’ve left the house for something other than a doctor’s appointment. The sun was shining, there was a nice breeze, and the market was in full swing. We came home with quite a haul too – three pounds of absolutely gorgeous Hungarian Wax hot peppers from Midnight Sun, a five pound bag of red onions and a five pound bag of red, white and blue mixed potatoes from King’s Hill and a pint of Saturn peaches and four ears of sweet corn from Hardin Family Farms (I wish they had a website, but they do not – they’re from around Eau Claire, Michigan and at our market every Sunday – excellent fruit!). We also picked up some chocolate doughnuts from Bennison’s for breakfast. Toward the end of market, husband is going back to pick up our 50 pounds of tomatoes from Midnight Sun too.

So, the action plan for today – we’re going to can 14 quarts of tomatoes with no added liquid (just like our last batch, only more!) as well as use the Hungarian Wax hot peppers for six pints of pickled peppers. Is this ambitious for someone who’s due to have a baby in about three weeks and still in a cast? Why yes, yes it is. Good thing I have husband here to be my trusty helper.

Stay tuned for a post later today (much later today) where we show off our handiwork. Now, I’ve got to prod husband to get things into high gear. 🙂

Sunday Scores

I feel like I made up for yesterday’s doing nothing in a few short hours this morning. We were up by 8:30 so we could make it to farmers market at opening. I was glad we had the head start too, because it was really hopping today. I stopped by and spoke to a couple of farmers that I’d been emailing about bulk tomatoes, and I think we have a winner – Midnight Sun Organics is going to have canning seconds for about $1.00 per pound, starting in August. I’m going to have to do a mad dash of canning before the baby comes, but it will definitely be worth it.

And we got an amazing assortment of fruits and veggies this week – a pint of big red raspberries, a pint of cherries, a zucchini, a bunch of carrots, scallions, rainbow chard (since ours is still recovering),  a pint of small wild black raspberries (the BEST kind), ciabatta bread, two chocoloate croissants (breakfast for me) a chocolate doughnut and cup of coffee (breakfast for husband), half a pint of crimini mushrooms, and a bunch of black eyed Susan wildflowers. What a haul! The red raspberries I think I’ll make up into a tart or a small cobbler. Likely a cobbler, since I’ll be making apple hand pies later. The black raspberries probably won’t make it past today, since I’ve been craving them for my entire pregnancy. The rest of the produce we’ll just play it by ear for dinners this week.

After the market we stopped by the store to pick up the few dry goods we needed this week. For some reason, we really had to load up on condiments like rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, apple cider vinegar and such – isn’t it odd how those things always tend to run out at once? We also picked up some ribs, so we’re going to do Marinated Barbecued Ribs for dinner tonight, and I think I’ll make up some Poor Man’s Risotto with mushrooms to go alongside – we haven’t had that in awhile. To round out my food-centered day, in addition to the raspberry cobbler and apple hand pies, I’m also going to try a delicious-sounding recipe I came across recently for Spiced Chai Cupcakes. I think I’m going to leave off the icing though, so they’ll be more like muffins. So we’ll have plenty of options for breakfasts this week.  

After the market, we picked up some quart canning jars. I found a lady in our neighborhood via a great community networking site called OhSoWe who had two cases of quart canning jars that she didn’t need. I was really surprised that they’re brand new, still in the box. I’m so excited to have them, because it saves me almost $35.00, which is about what they’re retailing for this year. I will be gifting back a few quarts of tomatoes to her in August in thanks. I just need one more case to have all the quart jars I’ll need for this season. But if I can find another two cases, so much the better.

All in all, a good Sunday thus far. It’s quite hot and humid, so unfortunately we’ve had to turn on the air conditioning (which I really hate doing) but since it’s on I have no excuse not to turn on the oven and bake this afternoon. And we’ll hopefully be able to get in some time on the deck this evening once the sun starts to go down. Happy Sunday!

The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

Yeah, it’s one of those kind of days. Fifty-fifty. In good news around here, I joined up with a great group called Rogers Park Farms this week. It’s a neighborhood organization that’s just starting up to promote urban agriculture and sustainable food systems. I’m excited about contributing to their good work as much I can. I attended an informational meeting this past Wednesday and am impressed with the vision and drive they’ve got for the projects that they’re trying to establish. I hope that my modest urban gardening and homesteading skills, as well as blogging and social networking abilities, will be of use. If you’re in the Rogers Park area of Chicago, I really urge you to spread the word and get involved.

I’ve also tracked down two farmers that frequent our Glenwood Sunday Market that can provide me with bulk tomatoes for canning this year, so it looks like that’s a go for me. And via another new shiny and new Rogers Park initiative, OhSoWe (a community networking site), I found someone that has almost two dozen quart canning jars that I can have to use. I’m closer to my goal of obtaining at least 52 jars for the tomato project.

And lest we not forget the simplest good thing of all – it’s Friday. Hello weekend.

Onto the bad… I’ve been crazy for pies lately (which is not bad at all) so I’ve been making a ton. I’ve been feeling really, really good about my crust. Until tonight. I decided to make both a pork pie (still trying to perfect that recipe) and some apple hand pies, so I thought I’d “simply” double the crust recipe. Yeah, no. I got something I could cobble together for the pork pie, but it wasn’t fun, it wasn’t elegant and I’m sure it’ll be tough as hell by the time it comes out of the oven. I’m not ready to double the crust recipe yet. Tomorrow I’m going to try to regain my slightly shaken pie confidence by making a single batch crust for apple hand pies. And yes – I know apples are not yet in season. I confess, I have a can of apple pie filling sitting on my counter at this very moment. But I’m pregnant, and I’m just nuts for apple pie right now. I’m taking a few allowances.

And now for the ugly. Our beautiful, delicious, beloved Swiss chard has a spider mite infestation! One plant is just decimated. The second plant is virtually untouched, so I was able to harvest a small amount of leaves for the pork pie tonight. We’re in a bad spot with this plant though. It’s in a communal planter, so there’s huge risk that it could spread to the two thymes, oregano and other chard. We considered just ripping the whole plant out immediately, but really, everything has been exposed already. So we’re going to try to treat it and hope it clears up and becomes healthy again. I’d really hate to lose it. We cut out the worst looking leaves and sprayed it down with soapy water. There seem to be sixteen thousand ways of dealing with spider mites out there, so we chose this one for ease of application, the fact that we have dish soap on hand, and it’s relatively food safe. But if it doesn’t clear up in a few days, we’re going to have to put the chard out of it’s misery and hope the other plants make it through unscathed. I just feel really bad, because I feel like I should’ve noticed it before now. But it’s been kind of a busy week.

So, the pork pie is in the oven, the moon is shining high over the city and I’m in my favorite chair on the deck under lantern light, surrounded by a perimeter of citronella buckets. The first few fireflies of the evening are starting to float about and I’ve got a tall glass of iced tea at hand. For a fifty-fifty day, I guess that isn’t half bad.

Opening Day at the Glenwood Farmer’s Market

At long last, our neighborhood market is officially open for the summer! The Glenwood Sunday Market kicked off at 8:30 this morning with a Bread Breaking Ceremony. We showed up just at the end of the ceremony, in time for the blessing of the bread by a local pastor and the ribbon cutting by the market director and our Alderman, Joe Moore. The ribbon was awesome – it was a long woven strand of straw, with fresh bunches of carrots and radishes woven in. They used garden loppers to cut it. And the bread we sampled was a delicious challah with almonds on top.

The market started off this season with most of the vendors from last year, as well as some new faces. There was an amazing variety of product available, one of the great virtues of waiting until June for opening day. There was asparagus, rhubarb, lettuce, greens, scallions, strawberries, mushrooms (crimini, oyster and shitake), preserves from last summer, fresh bread, frozen apple juice from last fall, eggs (chicken, duck and goose), a variety of meats (lamb, pork, chicken, goat, beef) cut flowers, bedding flowers, herb and vegetable transplants, herbal tea blends, flavored vinegars, honey and beeswax products, and prepared foods like chocolates, icecream and even to-go artisan pizzas! Dave the Knife Sharpener was also in attendance. And I’m sure I’m forgetting stuff.

We came home with half a quart of crimimi mushrooms, a large bunch of scallions, a pint of strawberries and a basil plant. It was great to be able to walk a block from our house and have such an abundance of fresh, local produce once more. For those that aren’t aware, all farmers and producers come from within 200 miles of Chicago, so we’re very much supporting our foodshed. It’s a great thing.

And the market will be continuing it’s Learn & Grow educational programs this summer. We stopped by their booth so husband could grab a cup of coffee ($1.00 for a cup of Intelligentsia brew, with proceeds going back to the market) and chat with the ladies volunteering at the table about the forthcoming event schedule. They’re still finalizing the line up, but they confirmed that they will likely have another worm composting day as well have Milton Dixon lead another forgaging walk through the neighborhood – both events that I’m eager to attend since I missed them last season. The schedule will be posted on their site as soon as it’s available.

Oh, and if you love the market as much I do, be sure to vote for it in this year’s America’s Favorite Farmers Market poll by America’s Farmland Trust. I’ve already voted. 🙂