28 September 2010

Garden Update: Giant Squash

Today I harvested two giant winter squash and composted the spent plant. The squash had a pitiful start in June, but once the heat arrived in July it took off, climbed up the fence, onto the wisteria and hid the small tag identifying what it was. I didn't know for sure what the plant was until today when I was able to uncover the tag.

It's a "Marina de Chioggia" winter squash. Some internet research revealed that it's an heirloom variety that supposedly originated in the Chioggia region of Italy (Venice). It's also supposed to be well suited for coastal environments, which is probably why it did so well for us.

I have no clue how I'm going to use this squash.

27 September 2010

Canning: Tomatoes

I bought myself a canning kit for my birthday about two years ago.  My first attempt involved beets and you can read about that here: B-E-E-T-S.  This year, we've had an amazing amount of tomatoes from the garden, which is exactly what my kitchen has been waiting for. 

Canned Tomato recipe from Preserve It! my new favorite preserving book.
Ketchup recipe from The Complete Book of Small-Batch Preserving.

Cider: Part II

Part I

Part II:  The cider has been fermenting in the basement for a few weeks now and a couple of nights ago, Courtney and Nick came over to bottle it up!  We now test our patience and wait up to 6 months.

paintings on the walls

Ever since we moved into our new home, we've been talking about painting.  In the recent months I've been acting on those thoughts.  In my past life, I've painted my walls: purple and green, both were on the discount shelves at the local hardware store.  Needless to say, I've never had the trouble of trying to pick that perfect color just by taping up paint swatches or painting smaller sections with paint samples.  It's kind of a headache.  I want a dark and light brown for our kitchen, that matches the green cabinets, a mid-gray for our bedroom, and a brown/tan for our guest room.  I keep coming home with different samples and am disappointed most every time.  Since I have so many little jars of paint now, I've decided to start on some other house projects.

The Shoe Rack:  we rescued a shoe rack from an old housemate who was going to toss it about 2 years ago.  However, that shoe rack sucked - our shoes were never big enough and they always fell through.  I found an old kitchen cabinet in our garage, left by the previous owner.  After a little sanding and some fresh paint, it makes a perfect place to put our shoes.

The Bedside Table:  My bedside table is Bandit's dog crate, with a piece of wood placed on top of it.  Willis' side of the bed has a tiny cabinet with the alarm clock placed on top.  Besides the clock, there's not much room to put anything else, so books and things are placed on the floor.  It's also hard for me to see the time in the morning with out sitting up and leaning over Willis.  So I've decided to take this chair and turn it into the bedside table.  We got this chair from the same ex-roommate as the shoe rack.  It was left behind on the front porch after she moved out.  It has some water damage, but nothing a little sanding and paint won't fix.  I plan to paint it brown and gray.

The Gossip Chair:  This isn't a paint project, but still...I've been looking for an old fashioned telephone chair for awhile.  I was driving past Reviva! a few weeks ago and saw this one sitting outside.  It was perfect.  The seat cover was a worn and dirty white vinyl.  I searched thrift stores and reuse stores for the perfect fabric, but found nothing.  I ended up getting some fabric from Fabric Depot.  Although, I was looking for a mustard color, the only patterned canvas/furniture fabric they had was either orange, bright yellow, or green.  I went with the orange.

I've also painted the shelves in the bathroom and a little box that we keep all of our maps and zines in.  Painting other objects has really helped me narrow down my paint decisions.

18 September 2010

Marshmallow Coconut Ice-cream

I had some leftover coconut milk from a Squash Curry soup I made a few nights ago, and some marshmallows leftover from a recent backpacking trip.  I decided to put both delicious ingredients to good use in an ice-cream!  I got my ice-cream maker from a guy off craigslist.com a year or so ago for 5 bucks.  He also gave me a crepe maker and electric stirrer....both of which I've never used.  If you love ice-cream and making things and kitchen gadgets, I suggest getting an ice-cream maker, or a freezer bowl for your Kitchenaid (if you have the money).  If you get your machine secondhand from a thrift store, estate sale, or craigslist, pickyourown.org has tons of manuals online for ice-cream makers.

I combined a few different recipes to come up with:

Marshmallow Coconut Ice-cream
1 cup milk
1/2 cup coconut milk
A handful of big marshmallows
1 cup half&half

1. In a medium-sized saucepan, bring the milk, coconut milk, and marshmallows to a boil.
2. Reduce the heat and simmer gently for ten minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, and chill the mixture thoroughly.
3. Once chilled, mix in the half&half and freeze in your ice cream maker.

16 September 2010

Garden Update: squash and tomato

The tomato and squash plants are a bit overwhelming.  The tomatoes are finally starting to turn at a decent rate, and we're getting tons every day.  We've already made a batch of tomato sauce for the freezer and some tomato soup.  One squash plant has decided to attack the wisteria, which I thought was an impossible feat.  I am actually not a fan of summer squash, so we try to come with creative ways to cook it. 

Tonight for dinner, I made a quick salsa and Willis is making a Tex-Mex Squash Casserole.  It smells delicious and I can't wait to eat it!

Tex-Mex Squash Casserole 

2 lbs. summer squash
1 small block of tempeh
1 onion, chopped
2 jalapeno peppers, chopped
8 oz. cheese, shredded
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups tortilla chips, crushed

  1. Cut up squash and saute with onions and tempeh.
  2. Saute until the onion is glassy and the squash a bit softer, but still al dente.
  3. Add chili and jalapeno peppers, shredded cheese and sour cream; toss gently so squash will not be mashed.
  4. Spread half of crushed chips on bottom of a greased 2-quart rectangular dish.
  5. Pour the squash mixture in dish and sprinkle the remaining chips on top.
  6. Dust with paprika.
  7. Cook 10-15 minutes in a preheated oven at 390 F.

chanterelle pasta

Pasta w/ Chanterelle Mushrooms

1 pound linguine
1 pound Chanterelle mushrooms
1/2 cup white wine
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon Italian parsley, chopped
Salt & Pepper

In a large pot, bring salted water to a boil; add pasta and cook until tender. In a saucepan, sauté mushrooms and cook until soft. Pour in wine and simmer until the alcohol has cooked off. Add the butter, cheese, and cream and season to taste with salt.
Drain pasta. Toss pasta with mushroom sauce and chopped parsley.
Plate and serve with grated Parmesan on top.

13 September 2010

i'm a fungi!

Yesterday, we went with Courtney and Nick to hunt for wild chanterelles (currently sold in the market for $16-20/lb.).  We went in the late afternoon and had only a few hours to snatch them up before sundown.  None of us were expecting to find very much.  Courtney and Nick were amazing at spotting them from a distance.  We returned home after an hour and a half with 2.5 lbs!  We hope to return in the next few weeks to find some more.

Tonight, Willis made a delicious Chanterelle Mushroom Barley Risotto for dinner.

Barley Risotto with Chanterelles

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 shallots, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
2 cups "medium" barley
1 cup good quality dry white wine
6 cups chicken stock
Grated zest of 1 lemon
2 handfuls chanterelle mushrooms, roughly chopped
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup crème fraiche

Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat, then add the onions, shallots, garlic, and salt and saute, stirring constantly, for about 4 minutes, or until the onion begins to soften.

Add the barley to the pot and stir until coated with a nice sheen, then add the white wine and simmer for 3 or 4 minutes, until the barley has absorbed the liquid a bit. Adjust the heat to maintain a gentle, active simmer.

In increments, add about 6 cups of stock, 1 cup at a time, letting the barley absorb most of the liquid between additions; this should take around 40 minutes altogether. Stir regularly so the grains on the bottom of the pan don't scorch. Add the mushrooms with the 4th or 5th cup of stock, so that they will get cooked, but not get mushy. You will know when the barley is cooked because it won't offer up much resistance when chewing (it will, however, be chewier than Arborio rice).

When the barley is tender remove the pot from heat. Stir in the lemon zest, Parmesan, and crème fraiche. Add salt to taste.

07 September 2010

cider press blues.

willis has been talking about re-blogging for awhile now.  it's been over a year since our last posting at treestarmansion.  we're hoping to share stories about our experiences in home-ownership, experiments in the kitchen, and expeditions in the great outdoors.

i'm dedicating this first post to courtney and nick (our good friends who recently moved to portland from north carolina) and to making hard cider.

it all started a few weeks ago when nick and courtney invited us over for dinner.  while touring their new home and garden, we noticed some...ok a lot of apples in the alleyway behind their home.  we decided to gather some after dinner.  after dinner turned into after dinner plus hours of talking.  we ended up in the dark alley with flashlights picking whatever ones we could salvage off the ground and we brainstormed about making hard cider.

within a week, willis and i had gathered more apples from my oldest sister's backyard and courtney and nick gathered whatever they could find from trees they noticed around their neighborhood.  they purchased a few supplemental apples and we rented a cider press from let's brew

last saturday, we met at our house and got to work:

we started by washing, chopping and pureeing all the apples. this took forever.  we also realized we needed more than the 50 lbs. we had already gathered, so courtney went to gather more apples from around our neighborhood (and pick up some pizza and beer to keep us going through the evening). after several ours, we finally got through all the apples and began to press.

we ended up with 4.5 gallons of cider.

next, we moved inside to heat the juice, add in the yeast, and secure the airlock.  

the cider is patiently waiting in the basement for the next few weeks...