fall salad, brussels sprouts, pumpkin, pomegranate

Life is going along here on the farm. Garden beds are mostly at rest, thirteen hens are laying about 6 eggs PER WEEK- need to work on that. I had to actually buy a dozen at the store- ouch. We are working on breeding Shirley our yearling goat. I’m so not getting any idea of when she’s in heat despite numerous youtube videos on said subject- followed by actual mating. wow. I seriously just want to get our own buck… hint hint:) I mean a critical point of having these darlings was to get milk if I remember correctly. And we can’t do that without babies!

But let’s move on…I’m not so chatty today.

fall salad brussel sprouts pomegranate-5I served this salad with a meal of slow cooked lamb and red rice. It’s similar to a fall salad from 2012 with feta and I used the same maple vinaigrette.

We have several brussel sprout plants with varying sizes of sprouts. I’ve been enjoying cutting them up finely and frying in a little olive oil. Less cooking time and more flavor.

fall salad brussel sprouts pomegranate

We also had a good harvest of sugar pumpkins and they are making regular appearances in breads, muffins, cakes and smoothies AND salads.

pumpkinI’ll bake one up for 45 minutes or so at 375°, peel it, cut it and store it in the fridge and use it for all the aforementioned. I also rinse the seeds, salt them and stick them in the oven too. Then I basically nibble on like all of them in one sitting. They are tasty enough but mostly orally addictive.

pumpkin-2

I’ll also interchange it with this red kuri squash- I got turned onto it in Germany. It’s like their pumpkin from what I could tell- as you can see we are enjoying delicata’s and spaghetti squash as well as a few sucrine du berry at the forefront of the photo below

cider pressing 2014-2It was a nice starter and easy if you have your mise on place set up ahead of time.

fall salad brussel sprouts pomegranate-2I fried the cubed pumpkin up in coconut oil on a crepe pan (sort of non stick). Had my sprouts ready, some pumpkin seeds (bought and roasted) and a splash of corn salad (mache) from the garden… wish I had more. And of course those sweet, juicy ruby beauties. LOVE pomegranates.

fall salad brussel sprouts pomegranate-3And for your smiling pleasure- Otis has a couple new friends. One very big and one very small.

Oliver, Balen, Otis Oliver, Balen, Otis-9 Oliver, Balen, Otis-8 Oliver, Balen, Otis-7 Oliver, Balen, Otis-6 Oliver, Balen, Otis-5 Oliver, Balen, Otis-4 Oliver, Balen, Otis-3 playing dogsOtis is hoping these two four leggers will be moving in with their people to our rental cabin:)

Happy continuing Fall…

cider press 2014 & cider glazed pork roast

That time of the year again…

cider pressing 2014@ wendyellenthomas.com

Another lovely fall apple pressing, year 2014! Ollie, excited about his first pressing EVER was raring to go. That’s my guy.

cider pressing 2014@ wendyellenthomas.com

He made about 50 trips back and forth with the barrels of peelings to the pile we set up for the deer (photo from last year). What a champ.cider pressing 2014@ wendyellenthomas.com

And my beautiful mermaid also got down to business.

cider pressing 2014@ wendyellenthomas.comWe started picking apples a few days beforehand- We have highly sophisticated techniques.

cider pressing 2014

I get better each year with set up-

cider pressing 2014@ wendyellenthomas.com

cider pressing 2014-8

Here’s the lot we did- with still loads more on the trees.

cider pressing 2014@ wendyellenthomas.com

Can’t say these guys were much help with picking…

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Especially when knocking over the wheelbarrow and forcing me to fight for each apple. They like to just take a nibble off each and move on.

cider pressing 2014@ wendyellenthomas.com

And so we begin…

cider pressing 2014-11

The beautiful day prompted shorts and t-shirts- our group got bigger…

cider pressing 2014-13Our youngest helper- ho hum.

cider pressing 2014-10I love it when our neighbors pull up totally ready to rock it-

cider pressing 2014 @ wendyellenthomas.comno messin’ around with these guys!

cider pressing 2014-19Our neighbors -who happen to be two adorable brothers. Thanks guys!

cider pressing 2014-17cider pressing 2014-16We all worked hard

cider pressing 2014-20

and pressed about 70 gallons :-) I promise I did more than take photos!

cider pressing 2014-15If I were a bee this is how I’d want to go-

cider pressing 2014-18In the evening, we celebrated the bounty drinking cider and using it for the pork roast. I started by reducing fresh cider.

cider glazed pork_-3The roast was searedcider glazed pork_Covered in remaining garden veggies and apples that had been seared in the same pan following the pork loin. I drizzed the glaze over it and sprinkled with fresh minced rosemarycider glazed pork_-4Cooked at 400 for only about 30 minutes till the internal temp reached 140°- we like it pink. Tack on sides of spaghetti squash and kale…cider glazed pork_-5Et bon voila… harvest dinner. yum.

cider glazed pork_-6PS- Take your juices from the pork roast and whisk into the reduced cider. Add a 1/2-1tsp to your liking of dijon mustard. This just takes it to the next level.

Cheers and happy fall!

Grain free “Greens” pie and transitions

Quotations hug the word greens- just so you know it is not a green pie with an accidental s. It’s a nut crust stuffed with beet greens, green curly kale, lacinato kale, red russian kale, a fair amount of garlic, a little egg and a sprinkle of peppery goat cheese. Yes we do have a lot of kale in the garden.

greens pie @wendyellenthomas.com 2014-6

A recent three day mini yoga workshop left me high on breath and thoughts. Trying to be present while practicing produces quite a large container full of ideas to be processed either drifting off to sleep at night or on an early waking morning with time to contemplate.Which means don’t reach for your phone. Let the mind percolate.

Taught by Christine at our local studio, Orcas Mandala, we had a two hour session each morning for three days. A morning of breaking down sun salutations and solar poses, followed by a morning of moon salutation and lunar poses, ending on the third day with yin and restorative poses (almost equal in yumminess to a morning of scones and tea in bed -really-). The point of it all, was understanding the little transitions say, within the sun salutation. And the transition say, of summer to fall. How to find balance between poses and to find balance on these windy days that pull the leaves right off their limbs. It’s a time of being a little unsettled and redirecting routines. Even this post is a little scattered – but I’m going to be ok with that:)

The farm reveals blocks of time that pass. With the garden, I think in terms of cycles. Here we were in May…

early spring garden-13

The new kids in the pasture…

early spring garden-2

And now inching towards late Sept we are days short of pulling up the jungle of summer veggies and covering beds.

Sept garden-3 Sept garden-5

This is a very busy time with harvest, processing and putting things to rest for some down time (like the holidays- HA). But at least the garden gets a rest. And it’s the back to school routine. I myself have to work on staying grounded. Weekend days my kitchen looks like this.

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And this is not very grounding.

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I’m canning, drying, making kraut and kombucha; juicing, smoothies, coffee or tea for the morning- a dish to take to the neighbor’s potluck, and what shall I do with the beets? More pickled? Do I have enough spices? Should I try to harvest the cherry tomatoes this afternoon? The partying fruit flies in the pear basket shout priority. How about let’s tack on making 100 mini cookies for a friend (smiles) on and on…

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I must pat myself on the back for what I accomplish in the day vs what remains on the list. Last night after canning and drying pears and making this greens pie for the neighbor’s potluck and feeling a bit overwhelmed by the mess, I had to march myself upstairs and lie on the mat. A little back and forth over the foam roller, up and down my spine,  a couple of stretches and a few deep breaths. My mind settled in a matter of ten minutes. Remember, this advice comes from someone (me) who is no yogi guru but will attest to the benefits of my rekindled relationship with yoga. Go get em grasshopper. And then back down to the kitchen, minus the tension, to clean up before dinner. On to the pie…

This nut crust consisted of 2 cups of ground nut meal- which came from making almond milk. I finally tired of tossing organic nut meal to the chickens. The last few batches I dried in the dehydrator at about 125° for a couple hours, then whizzed it in the vitamix. And no, that pear has nothing to do with the pie.

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So 2 cups almond meal, 1/2 cup of fresh ground walnuts, 1/3 cup coconut oil, a pinch of salt, 1 egg and about 1/4 cup of water. I mixed it by hand and pressed it into the pie dish. And don’t go expecting some light, flaky quiche crust because you will be sorely disappointed. This is a healthy, nutty and for sure tasty bottom to your greens.

greens pie @wendyellenthomas.com 2014

The wads of greens came from the garden. Beet greens and chopped stems, 3 varieties of kale, 4 cloves of garlic, an overgrown green onion and a little salt. I’d call it a very big bowl full. These guys really cook down. I tossed in 4 eggs to help bind it a little. And I topped the pie with a little fresh goat cheese.

There’s no proper recipe here- that would probably delay this post another couple weeks. It’s here to perk your interest and give you something to work from.

greens pie @wendyellenthomas.com 2014-7

Here’s to feet on the ground and peaceful moments in the mind as the wind blows.

Happy Fall.

And now for your four legged smile moment. Otis taking on cardboard…

Otis takes on cardboard-3Otis takes on cardboard-2Otis takes on cardboardOtis takes on cardboard-4Otis takes on cardboard-5

And I can’t resist adding this on- the goats new play thing. Building them solid blocks this fall is also on the list instead of makeshift furniture with no purpose.

Sept garden Sept garden-2

Officially the end.

raw nutty seedy nibbles

Hello again…

Summer is winding up and we are flush with garden vegetables and fruits yet, I still love to make these raw nut and seed bars. They are a nice fit after yoga or to help fill in the hunger gaps creeping into my afternoons. I’m one of those people that rarely awaits the pang of hunger. Now and again I like to feel it… but rarely.

Print: {organic raw nut and seed bar}
raw bars - wendyellenthomas.comI use a base of almonds, cashews and dates and sometimes hazelnuts get thrown in depending what’s on hand. I find the cashews help a little more with binding and it’s important for it not to be too dry or they really crumble apart.  I’ve tried my new vitamix (which I LOVE) but really this recipe is working better in the cuisinart.

nut and seed bars-2

I’ll start with the nuts and dates- brace yourself as it’s a bit noisy and disconcerting to get them crunched up and mixed. My favorite dried fruit to add is cherries. We had a lot dried from 2013. This year I under-ordered and we literally consumed about 20# in a couple weeks with little help from outsiders. I’ve looked up loads of these raw bar recipes and there is a lot of trading ingredients in and out. This is what we like at the moment but I encourage you to experiment.

nut and seed bars-3

From there it’s pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, coconut… and why not a few chia and hemp seeds while we’re at it? I do use a little maple syrup for further sweet and bind factors. I’m done with agave- read more from Andrew Weil here or from here. And to continue that side note, here is an interesting sweetener comparison.

Lastly, comes the dark stuff. Cocoa nibs which are still A-OK on my list and raw cocoa powder. oh and a wee pinch of sea salt:)

nut and seed bars-6Then it’s hands on. I line a glass dish with either parchment paper or plastic wrap.

nut and seed bars-8The nut and seed mix is pressed into the dish.

nut and seed bars-9Then covered with plastic wrap and I take a small glass and roll it over the top to really get it glued together.

nut and seed bars-10It spends a night in the fridge before getting cut into squares and boxed up for grabability from the fridge.

nut and seed bars-11I’ll take these to work in a little plastic baggy. There solidity often depends on the batch and how long they are out of the fridge. I’d be lying if I said they hold together like a Lara Bar. But you can easily squeeze it back together to pop in the mouth and the taste is great.

I’ll end on a farm note…

Here are a couple shots of animals at play… sort of… it might induce your curiosity and for sure make you smile. Otis loves Helen. They are working on their mode of interaction.

Otis and Helen 2-3

 

Otis and Helen

I’m still keeping him on a leash so we have control if he gets too excited. The goats are not interested as of yet. But Helen I think likes Otis too:)

Otis and Helen-2

 

new faces on the farm

We’ve been so enjoying the summer. I’m especially loving the feeling of warmth into evening. That’s maybe the only thing I miss about my home state of Florida, the sleeveless shirts worn into the evening. Although, rare is the day I wear a sleeveless shirt and I can definitely live without the sweltering heat of a day in central Florida. We did have a fantastic visit last month to my sister’s in South Florida- nice family and beach time. I also tripped down memory lane and toured Chloe around my high school. The instant we discovered my graduation stone, we looked at it, then at each other and tears welled up. A sort of cosmic connection that ventured outside of real time. She felt, for that moment, standing in front of my high school, connected to who I was at 18. A glimpse of recognition that I too have been there. It was bittersweet. My best friends Melissa and Kelly- and who we liked/”loved” at that time. Little did I know at the time that my good fortune would bring me an amazing son only a couple years later. Thanks “J”.

WPHS stoneAnd now our new farm friends:)

We have real live livestock. We put up a big fence. Built a goat shed and got ourselves three goats and two sheep. We love them! They are so sweet, funny and curious. We are all getting into a new routine and getting to know each other. The plan is to breed both goats and sheep in the fall and start milking in the spring. And here they are…

Meet blue eyed Dinah. She is a cross of La Mancha and Nigerian Dwarf. A total sweetie who craves attention. April 8th of this year, my birthday, I happened to be in the store filling in for someone. My mood lifted when I met Sherwin from Mountain Lodge Farm. Within minutes I learned she was a goat lady. I quickly stalked her farm and found there was an upcoming open house in May. Ollie was happy to go. I left out the part of the story of her four starter goats turning into over a hundred, supplying the milk for a full on dairy operation.  Point here is, Dinah is one of her babies. It was fate.

wendyellenthomas.comfarm faces farm faces-10 farm faces-9And Shirley. She is a yearling and full Nubian. She came to us as Bon Bon and we named her Etta (as in James) then changed it to shrieking Shirley cause she was so chatty and loud. Now she’s calmed down immensely and goes only by Shirley.

farm faces-12

farm faces-7 farm faces-6Then we have Nina, also a full Nubian from Myers Creamery here on the island. They make wonderful cheese. Nina feels a little intimidated by Shirley who’s a bit of a bossy cow but hopefully as Nina gets bigger she’ll be able to hold her own. Look at those ears! She’s channeling Sally Fields.

farm faces-8

farm faces-15 farm faces-11The dairy sheep, from Glendale Shepherd on Whidbey Island, are an East Friesian Lacaune cross. Having been bottle fed they are rather tame, are gaining more and more trust and are quite endearing. They are letting us rub their chins. Meet Helen and Irene named for a couple of my aunties. Better pics to come of those two.

farm faces-3photo

Time for a little walk and brush clearingfarm faces-13

 

Otis is SO EXCITED. We are hoping he’ll settle off a little more with time- He just wants to dart around and play.

goat shedBut sometimes he can contain himself. Here they all are in one shot-

farm faces-4He does love to kiss Irene through the fence.

farm faces-16And after a long day in the garden, Otis likes to kick back in bed the following morning

farm faces-2

Hope your summer brings laughter, joy, gardens and farmer’s markets!

Coming soon… nut and seed bars

nut and seed bars

 

writing at wendyellenthomas.com

I often hesitate when asked to go outside of my normal blog routine. My days are often so filled that making another commitment to something, albeit not too difficult and even fun, I still quaver. But how could I pass up a chance to participate in this little tour that taps into how we go about this whole blog thing. I’ve enjoyed reading the process of other’s and felt inspired to articulate mine. Deliciously Nell over at I need a feed invited my to participate. You can look forward to hearing from Karista at Karista’s Kitchen next week. And it simply goes like this:

  • Acknowledge the person that involved you in the blog tour, giving a link to their blog.
  • Answer the 4 questions below about your writing process
  1. What are you working on?
  2. How does your work differ from others of its genre?
  3. Why do you write what you do?
  4. How does your writing process work?
  • Then select three other people to invite to take part in the tour. And link to their blogs in your post as well. Post dates are each Monday so we get to read one or more stories every week that give a little more depth in how each of us write. Miraculously my post will schedule on time for the 16th (barely) and I would love to see the blogger(s) I ask to follow up on the 23rd. I’ll cross my fingers.

1. What are you working on?

I am often working on many things all at once. I cook virtually everyday and dream of how I’d like to instagram, tweet, and post daily because I really believe in my cooking, not to sound big headed, but I do it well and would like to share it more often. But due to the fact that I also run my bricks and mortar shop, Chez Chloe, love to have some time with my family, like to take a few yoga classes, maintain a 2500 square foot garden and have as of yesterday, added livestock to the mix, I don’t post everyday. I’m happy to get a couple posts out per month. And you know what? That’s ok. That’s what works. I love blogging and don’t want to give it up. That much I know and want to continue to work on it. I have a not so secret desire to write fiction. That desire manifests through random classes I take online to stories I start and rarely finish. The desire also ebbs and flows and hasn’t taken strong enough hold to pin my bum to the chair and finish something. The writing in between my recipes has also provided somewhat of an outlet.

2. How does your work differ from others of its genre?

Does it differ? I suppose so. Is the sound of my voice different from yours? Do I articulate and punctuate the beginning and ending of my sentences different from you? Of course. I suppose the topic being primarily recipes and gardening is sort of a food genre… I would like to imagine that how I relate this redundant topic to you might strike you in its own sometimes familiar or sometimes obtuse way… Like this little baby frizz hair on the sides of my forehead that extends from my hairline and almost meets up with my eyebrows. That makes me unique. Ever since day one I think. It’s interesting when I study other cooking blogs that inspire me. I don’t want to copy them but in order to learn and find your own voice and photo skills you often emulate them. The trick is not only allowing your own style to bubble to the surface, but recognizing and grabbing hold of it for dear life!

3.Why do you write what you do?

I don’t really choose what I write per se. I’m not a novelist. Inspired by food and life, I create dialog to wrap around photos and recipes. I greatly enjoy humor and I can’t help but let that seep into my writing because that’s who I am. I find myself talking to you, a reader, as if you were pulling up a wooden stool to sit at my kitchen counter and have a cup of coffee or a jasmine green tea with a drizzle of honey. I hope to inspire a few people amongst the vastness of the web- share some thoughts, advice and all purpose good will.

4.How does your writing process work?

I take photos all the time like many I’m sure. Most frequently with my iphone and often with my Nikon D80. I’ll cruise through them every week or two and pull out a segment that I want to share. I’ll offer a recipe or at least a few broad strokes of a meal in hopes of inspiring you. I look for the most pleasing pics and work in what’s often happening currently in our lives. Though I like to hang out a little of our laundry for the public, I don’t get too personal. I do enjoy good response from readers when I have the time to really focus on a planned post. I pull out the props, maybe even the tripod and it’s a recipe that’s not just our weekly menu. I’ll even take the time to submit photos to Food Gawker, Tastespotting, Stumble Upon, etc. These efforts do garnish the ‘hits’. But rarely do I make the time for that. So my process centers more around the photos and going from there. I imagine it’s like that with many bloggers. Although, I also think we all enjoy writing as well. You can’t just stick a bunch of photos up right?

So that’s me.

Now I’m going to pass you on to a talented lady, Karista, over at Karista’s Kitchen.

She’s a food Writing, farm loving Chef.  Capturing everyday moments with extraordinary food. ~Life Happens Around the Table

I look forward to her responses myself.

And here is our latest adventure… livestock! Meet Dinah

goats

Time for lamb (and a little fish on the side)

Although I am completely consumed with planting vegetables in the garden, watching berries develop by the day, and still do the occasional juicing, I’m also working on keeping up with the meat in the freezer.

So before you get the onslaught of garden posts (haha- lest you think 1 or 2 posts/month is an onslaught!) I’m going to throw out a few of our dinners as of late. These are all real time. No props or primping or going out of my way to edit much. Just some solid dinners to inspire you cause let’s face it- my blogging calendar sucks. I could have stretched these photos into months but ummmm… that’s not happening.

rump roast

When you can buy meat in bulk locally, it is a chunk of change up front but still more economical with far superior quality. Last year we were fortunate, as I’ve mentioned, to purchase from Coffelt Farm located about 15 miles from us, a 1/4 of a cow along with a 1/2 of a pig, 1 lamb and a dozen chickens. We also purchased a second lamb from our neighbors. This has kept us fluid in proteins for the past year. We will be getting ready to purchase more starting the end of May. We have also finished one 10# case of salmon steaks, one 10# case of salmon filets and one 10# halibut filets.

salmon dinner

Salmon steak baked with olive oil and salt at 400 for 15 minutes. We like it RARE. Asparagus and zucchini fennel side…this huge steak fed me for dinner and lunch the next day.. FYI!

Salmon filets baked at 375 for 12 min with olive oil and lemon, side of grilled bok choy

Salmon filets baked with leeks at 375 for 12 min with olive oil, lemon and capers, side of grilled bok choy w/ bits of bacon

 

 

The freezer actually has room for a pint of ice-cream.  All went well except for one freezer partial meltdown but we all got the benefits of this Scallop Chowder.

We cruised through the steaks and chops and then had some fun with ribs (do I sound primal?)

lamb chops

Searing lamb chops on a hot pan

lambchops2

Seasoned chops baked at 400 for 5 minutes then flipped, brushed with a little dijon and pinches of fresh thyme and cooked another 5-8. Again. rare.

 

Mustard lamb chops, greens, creamy parmesan polenta, house made red kraut

Mustard lamb chops, greens, creamy parmesan polenta

 

and now we are left with large roasts- like the rump roast, (which this is not- and it took me about two hours of studying the photo to confirm this- note string tying up ROLLED boneless shoulder). Rump roasts and the LAMB SHOULDER I have here, work great on a work day when left in the slow cooker as do pork shoulders and butts which we have gone through already- Read pulled pork.

lamb shoulder

First seared in oil and butter and seasoned with salt and pepper. Then laid atop carrots, potatoes, onions, a few sprigs of time and 3-4 bay leaves- cup and a half water at the bottom. Cooked on low for 8 hours.

 

At first I thought I should be saving them for dinner parties. Dinner parties I do love to have but let’s be honest, they don’t happen every weekend.

Polenta is a great side and I use it often instead of potatoes or just for a little variety. This polenta was put hot in the tin and I fried up the wedges

Polenta is a great side and I use it often instead of potatoes for a little variety. This polenta was put hot in the tin and I fried up the wedges

 

So I just started cooking them up for our little family and invited Dad up.

Rump roast w/ polenta

Slow cooked LAMB SHOULDER & jus, veggies from the slow cooker atop a fried wedge of polenta with a little garnish of parsley

 

I love to cook a roast on a Sunday.

leg of lamb raw

Bone in leg of lamb spiked with slivers of garlic and dressed in freshly chopped rosemary, sage and thyme.

The tradition of gathering for a Sunday meal may not have been my experience growing up but I liked what I read in books or saw in movies. My mom did try to get us to sit down for dinner. But I think in my mind the image was more the Walton’s or the Ingall’s and aside from all being of the human race, we had very little in common with either family. Oh and they are all fictional characters. But I’m getting off topic…

leg of lamb cooked

Preheat oven and cook at 425° for 10 minutes. Reduce temp to 350° and cook about 15min/pound for internal temp of 125° and about 20min/pound for medium (135°) and well after that I just can’t recommend… go to Morrison’s cafeteria.

Yukon Golds sliced thin on a mandelin and layered with salt and pepper and a little melted butter

Start with a crepe pan and a pat of butter and 1 T olive oil. Yukon Golds are sliced thin on a mandelin and layered with salt and pepper and a little melted butter

Cook on low-med heat gently pressing on potatoes with a spatula for about 8 minutes then bring the heat up to medium and brown. Gently flip like a big fat pancake and repeat on the other side. Cool and flip on a cutting board and cut into wedges like a pie

Cook on low-med heat gently pressing on potatoes with a spatula for about 8 minutes then bring the heat up to medium and brown. Gently flip like a big fat pancake and repeat on the other side. Cool and flip on a cutting board and cut into wedges like a pie- you’ll see the edges shrinking from the sides. Test that they are cooked through with a toothpick

Roasted leg of lamb, pommes anna, simple veggies

Roasted leg of lamb, pommes anna, simple veggies

Sometimes we have a good bit of leftovers for work lunches and maybe even a stretch to a second dinner. And sometimes I thought, was I thinking that this would serve 6-8? We can chow down pretty good on our own in a night after a long day in the garden. And a lamb sandwich to boot- hell yeah.

Leftover, sliced lamb, mayo, or garlic aioli even better, mustard lettuce, bread... salt and pepper

Leftover, sliced lamb, mayo, or garlic aioli even better, lettuce, bread

Please serve with a couple cornichons aka gherkins aka those little mini pickles

lamb sandwhichand a little hard cider like this one from Seattle Cider Co

hard ciderSo this should figuratively and literally give you something to chew on…

Stay tuned for loads of green posts and cute surprises to follow!

A year in sourdough

I’d like to start with a story of my one hundred year old starter, passed down from generation to generation but alas this is just not so. It started with this little packet of freeze-dried magic from Ed Woods… who I assume was a real person but I’ve no personal connection to except for our http://www.com encounter. sourdough@wendyellenthomas.com I ripped open the packet and followed the instructions to start developing my newbie starter. It took a mere five days if I remember correctly. We have had a relationship for about 18 months now so the beginning is a little fuzzy.

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I continued to nurture it with additional flour and water and the powdered stuff came alive

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Until it nearly exploded

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Full of life it was…I had to get used to the idea of either using and replenishing or tossing a little to feed it. I even had two jars going so I’d have a back-up. But I’m working from just one jar now.

sourdough@wendyellenthomas.com

My original inspirations and methods were sparked by Audra at Girl Meets Dirt. She has a very informative post to read word for word. She’s made some beautiful bread.

I also refer to this simple recipe from Stone Soup blog – rustic sourdough.

I somewhat sacrificed my Creuset dutch oven, unintentionally. I do believe a dutch oven has been one secret to success. I would also buy a cheap one if I was starting over.

Sourdough bread-11

It really only takes one baking round at 500° to toast and speckle it black inside and out. But the enamel has not cracked and the handle has not melted.

sourdough@wendyellenthomas.com

I start the night before by weighing all the ingredients… Check out Stone Soup. Sometimes I’ll use 20% whole wheat. So 65 grams of whole wheat bread flour and 260 grams of unbleached organic white flour.

Sourdough bread-17

I tend to keep a fairly hydrated starter. You can see the consistency here- it’s practically pourable. Here is a site that explains in detail about hydration. I have a broader sense of hydration and just sort of eyeball it. I might get more into it if/when I’m ready for the next learning curve.

Sourdough bread-16

I just bring the ingredients together with a spoon. I let it do its thing overnight.

Sourdough bread-18

And when my starter has had regular attention it will go something like this-bubbly and alive. When not, I just try to give it a little more time to develop.

Sourdough bread-25

I have also just started with a sponge and it too is happy when the starter is- The sponge is just the starter with a portion of the flour added to work a little before the rest of the flour and salt are added. Sometimes I skip the sponge.

Sourdough bread-24

The next morning I massage it out to a rectangle and start the ‘no knead’ method. Brilliant
Sourdough bread-19

Then fold the long edge on top down and the bottom edge up and fold in thirds

Sourdough bread-20

I love to make bread on a day off and just do the turns every 45 minutes or so- I go for 3-4 total. After the last turn I put it in a clean, floured tea towel. Or if I want to make it during the work week- I’ll do it in stages over a couple days in and out of the fridge and it will get nice and sour. The trick, I think, is not to be in a rush.

Sourdough bread-21

I wrap it up in the floured towel for a final rise for an hour. During the last 30 minutes I set the dutch oven in the oven and put it up to 500°- My oven temp can run a little under- so I might vary 25-50 degrees.

Sourdough bread-22

I gently unwrap the tea towel and it goes carefully, topside down, into the hot dutch oven. I will score the top with a sharp knife (a bread razor is ideal). The lid goes on, back to the oven, and the loaf begins to cook. The trapped steam creates an incredible crust and I’m not having to mist the oven to create humidity. Out comes something like this

Sourdough bread-12

Or this

Sourdough bread-26

And this… sourdough pizza crust cooked on a stone in my gas grill at about 500+°- SO GOOD! It was last summer with all our garden veggies for toppings- you may see this again.

sourdough pizza@wendyellenthomas.com

When the starter is neglected -

sourdough@wendyellenthomas.com

You will see this brown liquid forming- just a little alcohol and acetic acid. If it’s pink and stinky you are in trouble and it may be time for the garbage disposal funeral. The King Arthur site has some good info here. And it really takes some serious neglect to do it in.

When we are in gluten free periods the starter gets a little put off. I take it out for a night- drain the liquid off the top and let it get good and warmed up say overnight. Then I leave about a cup of starter and feed it for a couple days. Sourdoughhome.com is another valuable resource.

Here’s the latest loaf after a little starter revival..not too shabby.

Sourdough bread-28

Every now and again a bread loaf. But I just can’t get the same crust. And we are so spoiled.sourdough@wendyellenthomas.com

This one was particularly holey.

Sourdough bread-13 It toasted up nicely with some homemade orange marmaladeSourdough bread-14Last but not least – I want to give you a link to a woman in the UK- She offered kind assistance when I first called for starter rescue help. I love her recipes and philosophy. A good place to start on her site is with an informative post on why sourdough is easier to digest than “healthy” store bought bread.

Happy bread making and eating:)

Compost and pre- gardening

It is a busy busy busy time. And so beautiful. The winter veil has lifted and spring shines with sun and heat-well the Pacific Northwest’s version in the high 50′s and 60′s at least. Not like what I grew up with in Florida! We have been busy in the garden and I’ve been ordering loads of merchandise for the bricks and mortar Chez Chloe. Boy is that fun. Like consumerism on crack, I’m sure I’ve used that line before. And now we are in CA for spring break. Party on garth (that one too). We will spend two days in San Francisco and then head to Santa Cruz and La Selva beach. Once back to Orcas we will be in full on garden mode so I’m making this one long post!

Flowering currant and forsythia

spring happenings 2014  wendyellenthomas.com-8

The slugs are are making me nuts eating our daffodils

spring happenings 2014  wendyellenthomas.com-7 One of my favorites- hellebores. I get more of these every year.

spring happenings 2014  wendyellenthomas.com-6

 Just before we tilled last week. I’m trying to warm up the soil in a couple beds

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and keep the girls out of the sorrel- they love this tart, high vitamin C filled green

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Budding blueberriesspring happenings 2014  wendyellenthomas.com-9

Our garlic is doing well. My original seed came from Filaree Farm in Eastern WA. We’ve got a couple hardecks, rocambole and spanish roja, and two soft neck varieties that I like to braid, nootka rose and inchelium red. It is an easy crop that is planted the first couple weeks of Oct and harvested around the first week of July depending on the weather and amount of rainfall. We are still eating garlic from last year’s harvest but the garlic clove knows it’s seasons and they are starting to grow germ and wanting to reproduce. Still edible though.

spring happenings 2014  wendyellenthomas.com-4 Garden view from the house side. Just in front of those plastic covered beds is soil that was cover cropped with an overwinter mix of clover, vetch, rye and field peas. It will all be tilled under shortly.spring happenings 2014  wendyellenthomas.com-5

We’ve been working hard on our compost. These shots are from last year. We put the fresh kitchen scraps into this old olive oil barrel and layer with depleted soil often from the greenhouse beds, leaves, and now chicken manure/straw from the coop. We can periodically roll it around to mix it upcompost  wendyellenthomas.com

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Then we shovel it into a wood compost bin

compost  wendyellenthomas.com-4compost  wendyellenthomas.com-5

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I found the design for this compost bin at vegetable gardening with Lorraine – It was about $175 in new cedar materials but aesthetically pleasing in the garden and it will last yearscompost  wendyellenthomas.com-8 We love how they stack and the top has a hinged lid but we find we aren’t putting new kitchen scraps in here. I might make some adjustments.compost  wendyellenthomas.com-9Otis doing what dogs do- blehcompost  wendyellenthomas.com-6 compost  wendyellenthomas.com-2

The girls waiting to dig their beaks into this yummy stuff

spring 2014 spring happenings 2014  wendyellenthomas.com-2

See all that green in the back- we are seriously talking about fencing it off for sheep and maybe even a couple goats:) I’ve been stalking my neighbors with animals, I mean helping them milk their goats and it’s getting my livestock yearnings going again. Well you know I mean that in a good way.spring happenings 2014  wendyellenthomas.com-14 This is our new asparagus bed. Nice and deep, layered with our home made compost, some old recycled soil from greenhouse beds that needed refreshing and finally some sacs of Whitney Farms mushroom compost and garden compost. It’s important to do the asparagus bed the right way from the start as it will last years and years if cared for properly.It is now filled to the top. We also planted four new apple trees. I’ve never been a good long range planner but I’ve decided to change that story. We put in a Jonagold, Honeycrisp, Spartan, and an Akane. We presently get so many apples but it’s time to start insuring for the future. Next year more plums.spring happenings 2014  wendyellenthomas.com-13A couple shots of the girls- I can rarely get them all in one shot. We started with 15. Lost our 1 exotic chick the first night…Then lost 1 rooster who was left outside of the coop and was taken out by a raccoon. We sold 4 to our neighbor and then for the first time in 20 years, one was snatched by an eagle. And then there were 8spring happenings 2014  wendyellenthomas.com-11 They will soon be fenced out of the garden. They do an amazing job of scratch tilling and fertilizing when the time is right (fall/winter) but that time is over. They will do the same to freshly sowed beds and pea starts and this makes me want to put them on the dinner table. So we need to get them secured on their side of the yard!spring happenings 2014  wendyellenthomas.com-10

Our new babies- 5 Welsummers including 1 rooster and a little cuckoo maran. We lost one cuckoo the first night home. These guys lay the dark chocolate brown eggs… in about 4-5 months. spring happenings 2014  wendyellenthomas.com-15And now a few egg dishes we’ve been enjoying with the abundance of eggs- fresh pea shoots, sorrel, chives and fresh goat cheese

farm eggsFrittata with sorrel, spinach, capers, and a little fresh goat cheese… it’s a staple I tell you
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How about a little chives, sorrel and spinach with tomatoes and avocado:) This also had a couple green garlic leaves diced and tossed in.IMG_4955 Ok- here’s a little something different. A couple fried eggs with bacon, polenta croutons and fried avocado IMG_4911 And last just a simple dish with wilted spinach, bacon and fried eggsIMG_4891Hope your spring is off to a good start!

sticky orange and almond cakes {gf}

These little orange and almond sticky cakes and me go back.

sticky orange almond cake GF @wendyellenthomas.comWay back. Back to my time in Paris working in and out of a kitchen that I think two people could maybe stand in… if one of those people was a child at least. I’m going to have to dig out some pics of that adorable little kitchen that served me and my two kids well for two years- and quite a few others for whom I catered.

sticky orange almond cake GF @wendyellenthomas.comIn real time it was 2004. Only ten years ago. But in terms of life chapters it could have been decades for some. I have the capacity to pick up and go and completely change my life and its circumstances. This can be a blessing and a curse and all in between. And I’m sure my kids wouldn’t disagree. I will say our time in France had a profound impact on broadening our cultural awareness, language skills, and we were flung far from our comfort zones. Spending nine months in a cooking school in an “anglo” class at Ferrandi and three months working in a restaurant gave me a foundation to begin building my cooking skills and the passion to bring cooking and merchandising together. I spent hours walking the streets of Paris, taking notes and creating Chez Chloe first in my head and on paper, then opened the original retail store and cafe in 2006. The cafe, though popular, lasted only two seasons. Not cut out for the stress of food service, I opted to keep going with only the retail. I suspect you might here more of this story as time goes on.

sticky orange almond cake GF @wendyellenthomas.comBut for now – let’s get on with these sticky cakes!

  • 2 whole oranges
  • 6 eggs beaten
  • 250g (8oz) sugar
  • 250g (8oz) almond powder
  • 1 tsp baking powder

This is such a simple recipe. It was gluten free before there was ‘gluten free’. I love this orange cake because it is always a no fail recipe, it taste good and travels well. The original recipe comes from a DK book, Canapés, published in 1999 in the UK. I think I picked up this version from the old Librarie Gourmande when it was small and still located in the 6th arrondissement. Published in 2007,  Hors d’Ouervres, the US version is just as good and I always highly recommend it.

In the past, I have topped them with a little greek yogurt or a yogurt/ whipped cream blend. And they are darling with a garnish of pomegranate seeds as is suggested in the book. But for this round, simple sifted powdered sugar was my desire.

{print sticky orange and almond cakes}

You start with boiling 2 oranges till completely cooked- then set them aside to cool. This is the only reason you need to think ahead as they take about 90 minutes to cook and then another 20 minutes to cool.

boiled oranges @wendyellenthomas.comThen split them up and take out the pips

orangesPop them in the cuisinart. Or maybe a blender but honestly I’ve never tried it.

Almond Orange Cake GF-3And chew those puppies up.

Almond Orange Cake GF-4Throw in 6 eggs, 8oz of sugar, 8oz of almond meal and 1 tsp baking soda. That’s it.

Almond Orange Cake GF-5I line my 9×13 glass baking dish with parchment paper

Almond Orange Cake GF-6

and here is how the thin poured batter looks

Almond Orange Cake GF-7Bake at 350 for about 40-45 minutes. It should be firm to the touch. Pull it out and as soon as you can, gently remove the cake from the baking dish and cool on a rack (with parchment). When cooled you can pull off the paper and cut.I use to follow the book’s suggestion of a jelly roll pan so they would be a little thinner. And I’d use a 1″ round biscuit cutter to turn them into bite size pieces with piped topping and a little pretty somethin somethin.

For this batch – I cut the edges off (and ate them), I like to think for a clean edge but maybe it’s just so I could get my paws on some without actually eating the ‘good’ parts.

sticky orange almond cake GF @wendyellenthomas.com

After the edges are off, I cut it into little individual square cakes.

I brought these to the concert for the band members of Ollie’s Seattle Tentet, who had their debut concert on Orcas Island a couple weeks ago:)

Almond Orange Cake GF-9

sticky orange almond cake GF @wendyellenthomas.com

So there you have it friends. Try it you’ll like it. Makes for a nice brunch menu item as well.

Have a great weekend!

sticky orange almond cake GF @wendyellenthomas.com

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