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Small Wonders

September 23rd, 2014

One of the things I love about gardening is that it make me very observant, when I’m out I see all sorts of lovely things, often tiny things that are barely noticeable. Perhaps it’s that gardening keeps our eyes keen to see insects that we label as pests, or perhaps it’s that we learn to look for small details in flowers. Whatever the case, I notice so many tiny things that I’d probably never see if I didn’t spend so much time outside in the garden.
tiny toad 2
Yesterday I spotted this little guy while I was mowing. I like to push mow, partly because I like the exercise, partly because it’s therapeutic, partly because I can scan the grass in front of the mower and slow down to stop to rescue snakes, butterflies, lightening bugs and other insects.
tiny toad3
I rescued him and moved him somewhere so he’d be safe from the mower. What a sweet little guy this was, I haven’t had time to Google an identification yet, so if you know speak up.

What tiny wonders do you notice when you’re out in the garden?

In My Cup

September 22nd, 2014

I enjoy morning, always have. My parents said, when I was a wee little girl, I’d be up before anyone else watching Charles Kuralt, an odd choice for a four year old to be sure. I’ve also enjoyed coffee for as long as I can remember. I spent much of my childhood in Colombia, South America, and as a result I started drinking coffee in the womb, something not frowned upon in other countries like it is here in the United States. I remember my mom making us cups of coffee when we were little, we’d all sit down in the afternoon and enjoy a cup together. This is a habit I’ve carried with me to this day. (I’m the one in the curlers on the left)
wendy Susy Tea
My coffee has, however, changed throughout the years. When I was in Colombia, I loved cafe con leche, which is strong coffee mixed with scalded milk. When I lived in the U.S., regular brewed coffee filled my cup. Thirteen years ago, when I tried espresso for the first time, everything changed. Espresso is now my beverage of choice, usually in the form of a latte with steamed milk added to the espresso. I don’t just drink any espresso though, I have to admit I’m a bit of a coffee snob. Mr Chiots has spent the last thirteen years honing his brewing skills, upgrading machines, and learning to make the best shot of espresso around. Usually, if we’re out and about, we don’t even bother buying coffee, even at a small coffee shop. We find the majority of espresso to be lacking in flavor and depth.
There’s nothing like starting your day with something that you truly enjoy, for me that’s a cup of good coffee and a few chapters in the latest book on my reading stack. I get up a little earlier in the morning so I can have time to savor what’s in my cup. I firmly believe in living life to the fullest and making the most of everything. If I’m going to drink coffee in the morning it’s going to be the best cup of coffee, I’m not settling for something mediocre. That’s why we roast our own coffee beans and why we get our milk from a local farm. Every morning you’ll find my alarm going off a half hour early, just so I have extra time to enjoy the pleasure of a cup of coffee and a bit of reading before I start my day.

What’s in your cup in the morning?

Quote of the Day: Tamar Adler

September 21st, 2014

“We’re anxious about serving, but the simple, blessed fact is that no one ever comes to a dinner for what you’re cooking. We are all hungry and thirsty and happy that someone’s predicted we would be and made arrangements for dealing with it. We come for the opportunity to look up from our plates and say “thank you.” It is for recognition of our common hungers that we come when we are asked.”

-Tamar Adler from An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace
meals with friends 5
Recently I’ve been thinking about starting a supper club or some sort of way to gather around the table with people. Then I read an article on Serious Eats titled Friday Night Meatballs: Changing Your life with Pasta and knew this is exactly how I wanted to structure my weekly dinners. There are so many people we want to have over yet somehow it never works when we try to schedule it, as is common with busy people. Setting one evening a week to open our home seems like the best way to have meals with people when it’s convenient for both us and them.
meals with friends 4
When we lived back in Ohio we had a couple that we got together with weekly, there were also lots of other people that came over often to gather around our table or we went to their homes to gather around theirs. There really is no better way to fill not only our stomachs but also ourselves.
Christmas Dinner Again 2
Making Christmas Dinner 6
I love the idea of settling on one simple meal to make each week, something that makes it easy for people to choose accompanying salad, dessert or wine to bring. I love the idea of people coming when they can, bringing friends and family if they happen to be in town. I love the idea of meeting new people and sharing food with friends we haven’t seen often enough. But most of all, I love the idea of gathering around a table for conversation and community.

Do you get together with friends often for meals and conversation?

Putting up Summer

September 20th, 2014

Yesterday I spent the day getting my roasted tomato passata put up in the jars for this coming winter. I use the recipe from The River Cottage Preserves Handbook, which I discovered a few years ago. I like this book because it has recipes that are different than many preserving books, including things for slo gin and other interesting ways of putting up fruits and vegetables.
In My Library Cookbooks 3
Over the past couple weeks I’ve been slow roasting my tomatoes in the oven with shallots, garlic, and herbs. When I finish a double batch, which is the amount that fills up my oven, I have been putting them in the freezer to have a marathon canning day. I ended up making 6 batches of sauce and it took me all night to get them sealed into jars.
One of the things I like about this method is that it smells heavenly, unlike the smell up canning plain tomatoes, which isn’t my favorite. I also like the finished product, it works well for pizza sauce, pasta sauce or it makes a perfect soup if mixed with some chicken stock. If I only had one way to put up tomatoes this would be it, though my tomato soup comes in a close second!

What’s your favorite tomato recipe?

Friday Favorite: Zucchini Noodles

September 19th, 2014

I’m a big fan of zucchini and my favorite way to eat it is julienned into zucchini noodles. There are so many ways to dress them up it’s easy to eat zucchini every day and never get sick of it. Earlier this week we had zucchini carbonara and it was fantastic.
zucchini noodles 1
This is also a great way to reduce processed food and add more vegetables to your diet. These noodles are really great, but there are a few tricks to make them more like pasta and less like zucchini. You can use a mandolin or a knife, I purchased this julienne peeler last year and LOVE it. I’m not one for unitaskers in the kitchen, but this one I am glad I have. To make noodles simply run the peeler around the outside of the zucchini avoiding the center where the seeds are (this part gets mushy and falls apart). You can also cut zucchini into lasagna noodles with a knife, I love lasagna made with zucchini.
zucchini noodles 2
zucchini lasagne
After cutting your noodles sprinkle them with a generous amount of salt, I usually use a half teaspoon for each zucchini I cut. Let stand in bowl for 15-20 minutes. This step removes excess moisture from the zucchini and helps the noodles retain their shape. They are less likely to be mushy. Then strain out the salty liquid. If you use sea salt don’t throw this away, dilute it and use it in the garden, the minerals in the salt are good for the soil.
zucchini noodles 3
Steam or boil your noodles for a few minutes and you’re done. No need to salt because they will be lightly salty already. Top with your favorite toppings, a few of my favorites are: lemon, feta, and rosemary, or olive oil, black pepper, and parmesan, it’s also great with basil and olive oil, or with classic marinara. You really can’t go wrong with these, they are a great way to incorporate more vegetables into your diet!

Have you ever had zucchini noodles?

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but just recently moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine.