The Forest Feast and the Underground Supper Club

the forest feast

I have found the most beautiful cookbook.  It is called “The Forest Feast” by Erin Gleeson.  You can taste the food and smell the forest and celebrate with friends as you flip the pages.  Cool cocktails and interesting takes on vegetables wooed me into the check out line with it.  I have spent hours lost in its pages.

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I bought it to challenge me.  Sometimes I make the same vegetables in many of the same ways as I always have.  Corn with butter and salt.  Broccoli with  uh…butter and salt.  How about broccoli roasted then tossed with blue cheese and pine nuts?  I served this dish with curried salmon and salad when friends came to dinner and the dish positively melts in your mouth and screams for great red wine.  Cauliflower steaks with cheddar and chives.  Cucumber and strawberry salad.  Paprika and cinnamon crispy carrot slices.  Sangria.

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It inspires me, as so many things out there do.  Shyanne and I have long dreamed of a supper club.  Wildflower and Fawn, after our respective Native names, would be its moniker.  Supper clubs are frowned upon when serving wines and food in a non-commercial kitchen and charging.  But, yet we dreamed.  Four courses, from scratch, organic, local ingredients, wine pairings, my creative take on main and side dishes, and Shyanne’s extraordinary flair for desserts.  A multi-star experience of fresh flowers, laughter, fine china, and delicious food and drinks.  A quarterly event.  A way to express our inner chef/sommelier/baker/entertainer without the restaurant.

The first one filled up in a matter of days.  The next is Memorial Weekend.  The ideas and inspiration keeps gathering force like stardust, and enchantment is all around.

 

The Frantic Mom’s Guide to Dinner

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Too bad supper doesn’t roll around when we have excess energy instead of at the end of the day!  “Should we just go out?” one ponders.  But if $40 is to go towards gas and not a so-so restaurant than mama has to get in the kitchen and figure it out.  Pour a glass of wine, Mama, I will walk you through an easy dinner using just what you have in the kitchen.

Choose a protein- hamburgers, veggie burgers, veggie chicken, chicken breasts, salmon, bean patties, whatever you can find.  I found a package of Ahi tuna in the freezer.

Make a sauce for the protein- Find jelly in the fridge or pantry.  Apricot, chokecherry, jalapeno, apple, blueberry, peach….Now combine it with bbq sauce or soy sauce.  The jelly should be the highest ratio.  Add a dried spice like chipotle, red chile, garlic, dill, basil…be creative.  Add a little broth or white wine to thin to desired consistency or use a jar of jelly that didn’t set!  Done.  Top cooked protein.

Meanwhile choose a frozen or fresh vegetable- artichokes, green beans, carrots, cabbage, anything tastes great with this method.  In the boiling water add a few cloves of garlic, a sprinkling of chipotle, 2 tablespoons of lemon extract (lemons soaked in vodka for two months) or fresh lemons, and sea salt.  The water infuses the vegetables lightly.  A bit of butter and salt is all it takes to transform the vegetables.

IMG_2146Make a pilaf.  I used buckwheat which cooks in 20 minutes.  Rice works too.  Cook in rich broth with raisins and salt until ready, add walnuts and walnut oil or any nut or fruit.

In twenty minutes or so you have a gourmet, delicious, nutritious meal on the table while saving money because it uses what is already there.  Now you have time to start Christmas cards after supper!

Lemon Curry Cornish Hen with Dried Fruit Rice Pilaf

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I wish I had a photograph of this fine meal but I rather fear it was gone before it could be staged!  Next time I will double this recipe and prepare a chicken!  The flavors of this dish were just mouthwatering, a perfect blend of sweet, savory, salty, sour, and umami.  About the most delicious meat dish I have ever made!

Lemon Curry Cornish Hen

Take one Cornish hen and stuff the cavity with  3 slices of lemon, 3 cloves of sliced garlic, and 1 inch of sliced ginger root.

In a small bowl combine 1/4 cup of olive oil, 1 Tablespoon of curry powder (we like Simply Organic’s blend), 3 cloves of minced garlic and rub under the skin.  Salt and pepper the outside of bird.

Place hen on slices of lemon in a baking dish and bake for 1 hour at 375 degrees.

Rice Pilaf

Cook rice in broth and a bit of coconut oil with a pinch of saffron, pinch of cardamom, and salt and pepper.  When rice is done cooking add chopped apricots, dates, and toasted pine nuts.

Fast Food

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We awake before the sun and make the long drives to the farmers market of the day.  After many hours and hot pavement, we make the trek home.  Then we repeat it the next morning.  We are tired, dirty, and hungry!  I put off making dinner last night to spend time with Doug in the garden.  He was watering the thirsty plants while we caught up on the day and enjoyed ice cold beer.  But then it was inevitable, dinner had to be made!  The freezer and the root cellar to the rescue!  This is what we call fast food at our house.  There were a few fish in the freezer, a two year old jar of homemade sauerkraut in the root cellar along with a jar of apples I put up with a bit of honey added.

I informed Doug and Emily in my snootiest voice what dinner would be this evening.

Freshly caught Rainbow Trout (that Rich caught for us) stuffed with savory rosemary and sage (from the porch) then breaded in organic cornmeal, barley flour, salt, pepper, and chipotle powder.  Sautéed in goat’s milk butter and scallion oil.  Topped with salty sauerkraut and honeyed apples sautéed in the pan drippings from the fish and browned butter.
I told them I would send them each a bill for $30 a plate.  Dinner took all of ten minutes to make and then I got to put my feet up!  Do enjoy with deliciously cold beer or hard cider. (You don’t need a recipe, just wing it following the ingredients in order!)

What the Freezer Holds

Remember when I wrote What the Root Cellar Holds and I used a picture off the internet of beautiful jeweled jars of product meticulously lined up in rows because my root cellar is dark and dusty?  Well, I am going to pull a picture off of the internet of a freezer too.  This time of year, it ain’t looking so good!  The freezer has its pros and cons for preserving food but I think it is worth the effort.

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I like to can.  I spend a full day once a week all summer and fall, and perhaps more this year, in the hundred plus degree kitchen (we are making an outdoor kitchen this year) just to make sure that all winter we have some pretty great vegetable dishes that taste fresh out of the garden…even during snow storms.  But some things don’t can so well.

eggplant

Eggplant for instance.  Imagine that sucker canned.  Soaked in water.  Gag.  Okay, now imagine it sliced thinly, pulled from the freezer, dredged in fresh egg and cornmeal with lots of spices and baked until crisp.  Drool.  So, no canning eggplant.  Freezing is the only way to go.  Simply slice up the eggplant, place pieces on a cookie sheet and freeze.  Then transfer frozen slices into a freezer bag labeled.  We are out, sadly.  I will freeze more this year.

tomato

The freezer is overflowing with tomatoes.  I brought tons home with very good intentions of canning yet another dozen or more jars (we are currently out of canned diced tomatoes.  Quite tragic.) and ran out of time.  So into bags they went and were placed in the freezer with more intentions to can them…sometime.  They are great though.  Pop three of them into a crockpot with half a chopped onion, six cloves of garlic, two cups of pinto beans, six cups of water or broth and some taco seasoning.  Put that baby on high for six hours and enjoy the world’s easiest and mouthwatering dinner.  They simply dissolve into a gorgeous broth.

mushroom

Mushrooms get frozen around here because mushrooms canned are a tad slimy for our liking.  They go from freezer to batter to fried in no time or added to pasta sauce or stew.  Out of those too.

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Peppers are particularly fun because all you have to do is cut them in half into little boats, take out the seeds ,and line them up on a cookie sheet, freeze, and layer into a freezer bag.  Enjoy stuffed peppers all winter long.  Once you cook them, they collapse a little and absorb the juices from the filling.  Since my family doesn’t care for stuffed peppers, they are saved for get-togethers.  I still have a ton.

zucchini

One year, I grilled slices of eggplant, peppers, zucchini, and onions.  I chopped them up and placed into sandwich bags.  They came out of the freezer as ready-made pizza toppings.  We went through them pretty quickly.  Last year, out of time, I took all the vegetables off of the grill and placed them all into bags.  I did not cut them up.  They are still in the freezer waiting to become some fabulous dish.  But alas, I will probably never defrost them and cut them up.  Prepping in the summer may seem to be a pain when one is already short on time, but so worth it when it comes to leisurely eating all winter!

Frozen zucchini slices are still sitting in the freezer.  Soggy zucchini doesn’t appeal to me.  I probably should wait until they are fresh again.  Anything that turns soggy, like greens, upon defrosting doesn’t make it into the freezer.

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Corn can be shucked and four ears can be placed in a gallon freezer bag.  Simply take out, throw into boiling water for five minutes, butter and salt and enjoy summertime eating in January.

Lastly, any leftover soups or beans are placed in the freezer for later use.  Sometimes we don’t get to that big pot of soup (I am still having trouble figuring out how much to cook) in the next week and it morphs into something entirely different in the back of the fridge.  The chickens love when that happens.  But, if I place it in a freezer bag, mark what it is, and put  in the freezer, I can pop it out, place it in the stock pot, bag and all, and by the time I am ready to make dinner, I just pour it out and heat it up.  Homestead fast food.

What I did though was place bags of screwed up food in there.  I made beans, way too many beans, and put way too much pepper in them.  No one ate them.  I couldn’t bring myself to waste them so I froze them thinking I could “fix” them on the next meal.  Every time I see them in there I turn up my nose.  The chickies are about to have a feast coming up soon.  I need to clean out the freezer.

beans

The main con is the electricity use.  I have an energy saving model but it doesn’t do me any good when the electricity goes out.  I opened the door to a swimming mess of juices a few weeks ago.  Denial is my friend so I just closed the door and walked away.  I will probably have to tend to that this week!  I don’t eat meat so I don’t worry about half defrosted green pepper halves harming me.  It just irritates me that my ice cream melted.

The freezer can be your friend.  One more homesteading helper to preserve that delicious harvest, whether it be out of your garden or from a local farm’s.  Not having to grocery shop for vegetables mid-winter and the pride of having fed yourself and your family is a pretty great thing!

By the way, I do not blanche any of the above items.  They all keep just fine and if I had to take the time to blanche them, they wouldn’t ever make it to the freezer!  Happy Preserving!

Spring Entertaining (farmgirl style)

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Springtime entertaining.  Nice enough to start up the grill but still a bit chilly to eat outdoors.  So, set the table with spring colors and liveliness!  Mix matched china dishes in spring flavor, a bird cage with aspen wrapped candles, a pretty rose tablecloth underneath the lady bug vinyl cloth.  Candles scattered across the table.  Cloth napkins, mix matched silverware.  We started the meal (and finished it) with Mimosas.  I had a bottle of Champagne from my wine club and a jug of orange juice.  The bright taste was perfect with the food.

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The grill master went out to start the BBQ.  The charcoal briquettes were from last fall so they were less than effective.  Doug threw on some pieces of cedar, pine needles, and lit the thing on fire.  The smell was mountain-like, camp fires, the sweet smell of cedar permeating the air.  When it was hot, he added the briquettes.  He had prepared the most lovely piece of salmon.  He had slathered it in my homemade barbecue sauce which is kind of on the sweet side, adding his own touches of soy sauce, Worcestershire, and honey.  He placed it on the grill after wrapping them in foil, checking it regularly.  Eventually Nancy went to check on it and the flames lapping the sides of the food prompted us to bring it in.  It was perfect, sweet, succulent.

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Nancy, Faleena, and Steve joined us for a spring dinner.  They brought a little chick feeder filled with pastel colored M&Ms.  Such a clever hostess gift!  I would like to say I had a few, but all of our children were there as well.  The candy went pretty fast!

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I made two foil packets (I used Martha Wrap (as in Martha Stewart).  If you haven’t seen this marvel look for it at the store.  It is lined with parchment.  Inside parchment paper, outside foil, no aluminum in one’s food!)  I filled them with fingerling potatoes, half a bottle of Guinness (to Doug’s horror), sprigs of fresh thyme, rosemary, garlic.  sprinkled it with salt and pepper and wrapped up the whole thing and placed it on the grill.  (Note: the potatoes take an hour on the grill, plan accordingly!)  These are what we call Beer Potatoes and they are delicious!

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I snapped the ends off of a bunch of asparagus and lined them up on a cookie sheet.  A drizzle of oil and a sprinkle of sea salt is all it takes.  At the last minute they go into a 450 degree oven for 5 minutes.

These can all be made ahead of time then placed on the grill or oven in appropriate time leaving plenty of time to drink Mimosas.  A quick salad adds to the meal.  Sparkling sodas for the kids in wine glasses.

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We finished the meal with a delicious light cake topped with strawberries and fresh whipped cream that Nancy had made.  A pot of french roast.

Cooking shouldn’t be such an intense science.  Look at what herbs you have, what spices.  What is in the root cellar, what is in the freezer?  Check for doneness.  Your nose is the best timer.  Most of all, enjoy your company, your friends, the conversation, the laughs, the Mimosas!