Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Same day, different generation

Daniel and Ellen McFadden
in front of their farmhouse 
Summer is my busy time in the garden and in the kitchen. We grow a lot of fruit and vegetables, and we spend a lot of time harvesting and preserving them; I am a dehydrating maniac for three or four months of every year. Yesterday, I found myself getting a bit overwhelmed with all that I had to do, so I spent a few minutes comparing my day to my great-grandmother's day. I realized that many of our tasks were the same, but we didn't always do them the same way.

The first thing I did yesterday was laundry. She would have been doing laundry, too; but she would have had to pump the water, heat it on the stove, wash the clothes in a tub, wring them out with a wringer, hang them on the line, and then fold them. She had thirteen children to enlist in the process, and I know from my grandmother that she did delegate. Still, all things considered, my load was considerably less work. I put the clothes in my washing machine, transferred them to the dryer when the washer beeped, and took them out of the dryer and folded them when the dryer beeped.

Daniel and Ellen McFadden Family, 1907
Next up, transferring yesterday's frozen dried apricots into bags, and putting today's onto trays to freeze. (I like to freeze them individually before I bag them; otherwise they turn into a brick of apricots. And I freeze them because we like them best when they're not quite all the way dry; when they're still a bit soft and gooey, they are just incredibly yummy.)

Great-grandmother didn't have an electric dehydrator; she canned everything. Over a wood-burning stove. In the middle of the summer in Minnesota. No electricity, no air-conditioning, no deep freeze in the garage in which to put them.

You see where this is going?

I washed out the dehydrator trays (I have running water! Heated running water!), prepared a big batch of kale chips and plugged in the dehydrator. I gave it a little wave and left it to do its thing for the next couple of hours. I weeded the garden, picked blackberries, squash, and peppers. I checked on the peaches, plums, pluots, plumcots and nectarines; they're all getting close, but done of them are quite ripe yet. I have a couple of days respite from preserving fruit.

Yes, most of my time in the summer revolves around preserving our harvest, just as hers did; and even though she had a lot of help from her children, she had to preserve a lot more than I do in order to feed them over the winter. I am grateful for her legacy, and I am extremely grateful for my modern conveniences.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Chiles Rellenos

I'm about two and a half years into my healthy eating program, and it's still a challenge some days. Not today, though; today I had gorgeous Poblano peppers and lots of beautiful little scalloped squash in my garden, and some queso fresco in my refrigerator.

So...Chiles Rellenos for lunch!

Here's my easy recipe:

Roast the peppers and and steam them while you prepare the filling. I roast mine over the gas flame on my stove, turning them as they blister, and drop them into a bag when they're blistered all over. They sit in the bag and steam while I make the filling, and then I use the sides of the bag to rub off the skin before filling them.

Dice the squash into about 1/4 inch pieces, and put into a microwave safe bowl with a little bit of olive oil. Stir to coat, cover, and microwave on high for 2 minutes, or until just tender. Stir in a little bit of crumbled queso fresco, or any other cheese you like. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Cut a slit in the top of each chile, and spoon in the filling.


Sunday, June 23, 2013

Inspired by MRAW

Contemporary Geometric Beadwork
by Kate McKinnon
Awhile ago, I got a copy of Contemporary Geometric Beadwork by Kate McKinnon, and I haven't been able to put it down. I confess: I read it like a novel the first time through. I couldn't stop reading long enough to actually do any beading with it; I wanted to see what Kate did next. I couldn't wait to see what happened; the possibilities were just too exciting. I gobbled the book up and have been letting the ideas and new thread paths percolate ever since.

What is it about this book that inspires me so? Although I love books that contain projects and directions (and this one certainly does!); I especially like that this book gives the reader so many different options and jumping off points. The projects feel open-ended to me; Kate challenges her readers to try new things and come up with their own unique designs. That's important to me; I admire Kate's style, but it's not my style, and I love that this book gives me the tools I need to take her ideas and transform them into my own designs.

Twice as Nice Bracelet
I used the MRAW thread path in my Battle of the Beadsmith piece, and blogged about it here. And now, I've used it in a bracelet that I call Twice as Nice. (Pattern available in my Etsy Shop and coming soon to my website.)

The MRAW thread path is really fun; it is a hybrid of RAW and peyote and works up very fast with nice, even tension. I'm sold on it; it takes the wobbly out of RAW for me and makes a lacy, but firm, foundation. I am quite sure you will be seeing many more MRAW projects from me; I hope you will enjoy using it as much as I do

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Kale Chips

I've discovered Kale Chips, and I'm loving them. They're light, crunchy, and good for me - and I can add whatever seasonings I want to them. Here's the recipe:

Rinse off the Kale leaves.

Pour some olive oil in a big bowl, and add your seasonings to taste. I'm using garlic rosemary sea salt for this batch; pretty much any seasonings will work, so add whatever you like. Roll the oil and seasonings around in the bowl to coat the sides of the bowl; this step isn't strictly necessary, but makes it easier to coat the kale with the oil and seasoning mixture.

Tear the leaves away from the central rib, discard the rib (which can be bitter) and tear the leaves into pieces. I use my salad spinner to dry the kale; if you don't have one, pat the leaves dry with a clean cloth or paper towels.

Put the kale into the bowl with the oil and seasonings, and smoosh it around with your clean hands to coat the kale pieces with the oil and seasonings. The kale should look very shiny and there shouldn't be any sign of the seasonings in the bowl. Be a bit rough with it, you want to massage the oil into the kale. 

Spread the seasoned kale out onto cookie sheets; the pieces can overlap a bit, but they shouldn't be too thick; you're aiming for a single layer of Kale on each sheet.

Bake at 325° for 25 minutes, and check for dryness. The chips should be dry and crispy; if they're not, give them a bit more time, checking every few minutes, until they are quite crispy. Let cool, and store in a covered container. I have no idea how long they keep, because they only last around here for a day or two!