Bringing Back Sunday Dinner (and an easy dinner to prepare)

Norman Rockwell’s famous dinner party.

Sunday feels symbolic of family and spending time together. In old homesteading and farming memoirs I have read, the families go visitin’ after church, or family comes to see them every Sunday. A chicken or two inevitably gets plucked and the sound of children running around while the adults chat can be heard through pages of books and memories. I love the idea of bringing Sunday dinner back. (Dinner traditionally being lunch, whereas Supper is actually the later meal.)

My cousin had come from two hours north to visit me. She hadn’t seen our new farm yet and after much chattering and catching up, she spent night. As she sat on the couch sipping coffee, catching up on news, my husband drinking his and waiting for football to start, I texted my best friend, Tina, and invited her and her husband over. I had a chicken defrosted.

I had harvested some things before we moved out of our old house and into this one a few months ago, so the meat chickens were in the freezer, my homegrown potatoes and onions were in the pantry, and I had jars of green beans. A half stale loaf of homemade onion bread became stuffing and a bottle of local Pinot Noir was opened.

I drizzled olive oil in the bottom of a cast iron Dutch oven, and placed fingerling potatoes all over the bottom. They need a sprinkling of salt and pepper. I then used my fingers to rub the chicken with olive oil and gave it a good rub with New Mexican red chile and other spices. That went breast down into the pan on top of the potatoes. Cook the chicken with the lid off for 15 minutes at 425 degrees, then lower the temperature to 350 degrees and replace lid. Total, the chicken will cook for 15 minutes per pound.

I let the chicken rest on a platter for 10 minutes, moved the potatoes to a bowl, heated up the green beans with butter, and made a quick gravy with cream and flour in the broth that was left at the bottom of the Dutch oven. The stuffing came out, the chicken was cut up, and everyone feasted. The chicken was tender and delicious, the stuffing crisp, the potatoes soft and the green beans reminiscent of summer.

Rusty, Tina, me, and Julie. Doug is taking the photo.

Nothing has to be difficult to prepare. The table settings simple. The conversation and connection is the important thing. Sunday dinner is a very nice tradition to bring back.

Two Easy, Delicious Dinners for Autumn

Green tomatoes are piled up in a basket, each turning red one by one.  There are spices in the cupboard.  We have piles of retrieved peppers before frost.

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Autumn Curry

Curries are so versatile and very easy.  For this one, I chopped up a head of cauliflower and rinsed a can of chickpeas.  I spread them out on a cookie sheet and drizzled generously with olive oil, and sprinkled on salt and pepper.  That went into a 425 degree oven for 30 minutes.

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If I had been thinking straight, I would have added one of the three dozen peppers waiting to be eaten.

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Now for the sauce.  In a good blender combine 5 red tomatoes, 1 Tb of your favorite curry powder, 2 Tb of cashews, 1 Tb tomato powder, 1 ts salt, 1 ts agave.  Blend well then taste and perfect.  Pour into a saucepan and warm slowly while vegetables are roasting.  Add 1 Tb butter or coconut oil and let that melt in.

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Get a big pot of rice made because you can use it all week!

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Alright, you are done!  Top rice with veggies and sauce and enjoy with a cold pumpkin beer!

Fried Eggs Over Greens and Potatoes with Hot Sauce

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I got out of the car after a long day of visiting relatives in Denver.  On my way to the porch I gathered the collard greens and picked some chives still in the garden.

I had read that morning in a magazine to smash parboiled potatoes and roast them, then top them with eggs and hot sauce.  It sounded so good to me.  But I always like to add a bit more.

Doug had boiled the potatoes before I got home just past parboiled.  This was a triumph because they came out of the oven creamy and crisp.  He transferred them to a cookie sheet smashed them with a saucer.  They had been in a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes when I got home.  He then added a dollop of butter and salt and pepper to each one and I went straight to work on the greens.

Wash and chiffonade a good handful of greens.  Heat a skillet with a drizzle of olive oil over medium heat and add greens.  I sprinkled on Cajun seasoning and garlic powder, along with salt and pepper and cooked them just past wilted.  Transfer to a plate.

Sprinkle bread crumbs on potatoes and keep baking.

No need to wipe out the skillet.  Add a touch more olive oil and cook four fresh eggs to over medium.

Split greens and potatoes on two plates and top with eggs and chives.  Serve with hot sauce.  Oh my, people, I cannot tell you how incredible this flavor combination is.  We grew all of the vegetables and our chickens laid the eggs.  A true farm meal.  And delicious.  And fast.  Also good with pumpkin beer.

 

DIY Seed Potatoes and Spring Planting

20180316_121644Today is the perfect day to finish the first spring planting.  When the moon is on its way to full, imagine the energy rising, so one would plant crops that grow above ground like peas, spinach, cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, and lettuces.  When the moon is waning and heading towards a new moon the energy is focused below the ground and root crops are planted like potatoes, beets, and carrots.  The Farmer’s Almanac goes into more detail but I follow the best I can and also look at the weather.

Tonight we may have rain and tomorrow light snow.  That is a perfect finale for planting!

Last week I bought seed potatoes from a local nursery.  I usually buy seed potatoes through mail order.  Seed potatoes are not cheap, y’all.  I looked at those seed potatoes and they each had one eye.  As I planted that one eye in the ground a foot a part I remembered the potatoes with multiple eyes languishing in the basket in my kitchen.  I went and retrieved them.  I planted fingerling potatoes and red potatoes along with the Yukons.

You think a lot while you are digging in the soil and I remembered a few months ago when I stopped by a roadside stand.  The man was grumpy.  He picked up produce from all over and sold them it out of the back of his truck.  We had an argument because he didn’t believe that pinon nuts were the same as pine nuts.  He wouldn’t sell organic potatoes because they rot too quick.  He pulled out a few bags of organic potatoes with eyes growing out of them attaching to the bag.  Conventional potatoes are sprayed so that they don’t sprout.

I have been a Farmgirl a long time, y’all, why am I still purchasing seed potatoes?  Buy a bag of organic potatoes from the store in varieties you enjoy.  When they start to sprout cut them into large pieces with at least two eyes on each.  Plant in loose soil eight inches down.  Cover with straw once they sprout.

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Do a rain and snow dance after you finish your spring planting!

Spring Produce and Lemony Spring Soup

It is easy to find dinner inspiration when it is not the dead of winter!  The garnet orbs caught my eye as I was watering.  One might have thought I had found gold the way I danced over and started pulling those beautiful earthy radishes from their bed.  The first crop.  Lettuce, lamb’s quarters, lemon verbena, lemon balm, and lemon thyme joined the pile of growing dinner plans.  And a leek!  Left over from the gardener the year before, I am thankful.  I have never been successful at growing leeks!  Home it went.

Lemony Spring Soup

First gather all inspirations.  I had small potatoes, red and yellow, from the market, a Jerusalem artichoke, radishes, herbs, greens (wild and cultivated).  Use what you have!

First we start with a sofrito.  In Italy this is onion, garlic, carrot, celery.

I chopped 1 leek, 3 cloves of garlic, 1/2 carrot, 1 celery stalk and sautéed in beautiful olive oil until the leeks and garlic were savory and transparent.  I chopped 2 potatoes, 1 diced Jerusalem artichoke, the radishes and added them to the pot.

I used a few leaves of lemon balm, a few of lemon verbena, lemon thyme.  I saved cilantro for the end because I am the only one who adores it.

Chop up greens and herbs and add to pot with 2 cups of vegetable broth.

To the broth I added 3 Tablespoons of Vietnamese Lemon Curry but you could add Italian seasoning, or Mexican seasoning, or Spanish, or your favorite curry or nothing at all!

Add 2 slices of lemon and 2 one inch pieces of ginger, and a real good splash of white wine to the broth and let simmer until everything is tender.

Check your flavor and add salt and pepper if needed.

I add cilantro to my bowl first so Doug doesn’t have to have any.  Remove lemon and ginger pieces.  Pour yourself a big refreshing bowl.  Delicious!

What to Plant Now (4 weeks before last frost. Hallelujah!)

It’s approximately four weeks before the last frost date.  As I sit here rather cold this morning again, I am sure post-frost date is going to feel pretty darn good.

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I used to plant everything May 12th.  Which of course endured one last frost.  I planted all the seeds for cold crops and summer crops.  No succession planting, no spring, summer, and fall plantings, just all in one shot.  Now I know a little better.  Still learning, I assure you, but I know in order to get those cold crops to finish growing they need to be planted strategically.  And anything under the ground loves a little time in the spring to get started.

Here is a modest list of what you can plant now.  Remember, only cold crop seeds and underground crops can be planted now.

4 weeks before: radishes, parsnips, kale, Swiss chard, spinach, potatoes, garlic, onions, carrots, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, Alaskan or English peas, snap peas, snow peas, and asparagus.

This year I started the broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage in a greenhouse to see if they grew any faster this year (we have a rather short growing season) so they cannot go outside until after the frost date now.

2 weeks before: herb plants, flower seeds, herb seeds, strawberries, lettuce mixes, and more of the above seeds to stretch your season!

May 15thish plant the rest!  In July plant everything above again for yummy fall treats.  You’ll miss radishes by then!

Growing Potatoes Two Ways (with fiends and barrels)

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Long rows of potatoes or potatoes in containers?  What is best?  Well, y’all know our potato addiction over here so the answer is both.

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My potato order didn’t come until late this year but I still go them into the ground.  In three long rows I planted potatoes a foot apart.  Red, white, and blue potatoes because I fell prey to middle of winter seed catalogues.  It sounded super fun to have flag colored potatoes underground.  The green shoots are just coming up.  As they come up I will then cover them snugly with straw, mounding it over the hills to suppress weeds and to keep the growing potatoes from receiving light.  This turns them green and makes them a bit of a tummy ache.

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This year, I beat myself to the punch and put out the straw as I planted them.  The straw thirstily drank up all the water and didn’t let the ground beneath it get wet.  So, we moved the hay off.  Now that we have had a rain storm and daily waterings the straw will keep the moisture in longer.

Back up two months and a look in the basement would find shriveled potatoes from last year’s crop with antennas reaching for the high, bleak window.  Last year, I threw the three foot long rooted potatoes in the compost.  This year I ignored them until mid-April.  The eyes had sprung crazily forth but thinking back to olden days through books and stories made me ponder, ‘What the heck do I think folks planted each year?   What do I think I just got for a pretty penny through the mail order catalogue?’  Last year’s potatoes, folks, that’s what.

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So, I planted them in the two trash cans outside that I planted potatoes in last year with a see-what-happens attitude.  Last year’s didn’t work.  In the fall we dumped out two trash cans of very damp soil, not a potato to be found.  Already wet and composted and one with the earth.  This year we are watering the barrels less.  I planted the potatoes with the antennae-looking things pointing up.  A few weeks later I realized that those were probably the roots!  Well, somehow they have righted themselves and are coming up beautifully in the barrels.  They will be done before the long rows, didn’t cost me a thing, and made me feel like a homesteader.  (Oh my gosh, we are so far removed from our ancestors.  They are in heaven laughing I’m pretty sure.)  This year, I will save out potatoes to plant on purpose.  No seed catalogue order next year with any luck!

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The thing I do like about the barrels is that I do not have a pest problem.  See this mound of dirt?  They are all over the potato, garlic, and onion patches and are heading due east to the pumpkin patch, which is fightin’ words.  This is Pumpkin Hollow Farm after all.  The voles have lost all cuteness, but I can’t find a hole, and I can’t even see them.  Every day there are vegetables missing and a new mound to show their path.  I wish I were in Looney Toons and could just stick some dynamite down there!

Potatoes like water but they don’t want to compost yet either.  If you stick your finger in the soil and it is dry to the top of your second knuckle, water it for twenty seconds.  That seems to be two inches here in the prairie.  Do this daily if needed.  In the fall, we’ll peel back the straw and carefully dig up our bounty.  In late July, we may sneak a few baby potatoes leaving the rest to finish growing.

Potatoes are a staple in many cultures, a homesteading must!  Plant potatoes and you won’t be hungry this winter.

 

 

Potato Insurance

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Remember when I went downstairs to get potatoes from the root cellar and the roots were so long the whole thing looked like a monster from the deep?  Eek!  (If not, here is the post.  It’s rather scary.)  I did remember, though, that the year before that I had simply put the potatoes in a wire crate and set them in the basement (instead of five gallon buckets with (slightly damp, I fear) straw).  We ate nearly all the potatoes that year.  Very few shriveled and those were the smaller ones.  Bigger ones can have bruises cut off of them.  I did learn never to store damp potatoes.  Make sure they are all dried out.  After the plants die back, leave them in the ground for a week or so.  After harvest, I leave them in the wire crate with plenty of air flow on the porch for the day.  Then down to the basement they go.

We eat a lot of potatoes.  That would be the Irish part of me, I suppose, but I think a lot of cultures love potatoes!  I wanted to make sure I had enough.  Nothing like heading down to the dungeon on a crisp January morning to find an empty crate.  The health food store is 45 minutes away and I am trying to save money and not go grocery shopping so much!  I am attempting to provide enough to get through winter.

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A few years ago, at the farmer’s market (which is much like high school, if you must know, with people picking on so and so, and the cool kids being the farmers…) the farm booth folks were picking on the balloon guy after he purchased a fifty pound bag of potatoes to can.

“To can?” they roared, laughing and pointing (not kidding here) the whole time.  “They stay good stored the way they are.”

I giggled, attempting to be cool like the farm kids and thought nothing of it.  That is, until I ran out of potatoes in the middle of winter!  The Irish blood part of me was ready to pitch quite a fit.

This year, I bought a bushel of potatoes.  All of mine from the garden are going into the wire crate (geez, we have already eaten a quarter of them!) and these beauties from the farm are being canned. (Laugh if you will.)

Half of them, I just scrubbed and diced into one inch chunks.  Then poured into quart jars, added a teaspoon of sea salt to each one, and topped with water leaving a 3/4 inch head space.  On went the lids and into the pressure cooker they went.  Forty minutes later, I had insurance.

I have insurance that in January, Mama is going to have some potatoes to cook!

Today, I will peel the other half and do the same thing.  Variety, you know.  Yum.  The potatoes are cooked already when opening the jar and simply need a masher, a frying pan, or a quick turn in the oven with all the rosemary, thyme, and sage I brought in to overwinter in the window.

Happiness comes in many forms…mashed, roasted, pureed in soup, au gratin, fried, baked….

Early Crops for Spring

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“Take me home, country roads, to the place…I belooongg!”  I was belting out my favorite John Denver song while tilling the sweet ground.  The few inches of leaves (from my neighbor’s trash last fall) and compost that I put on before the fierce winter weather did the ground good.  It is dark and fragrant.  The moisture stayed in many parts of it.  This winter has been the most moisture we have received here in a long time and though I am still cold, it is nice to have so much damp ground.  The pastures last year were so dry that hay spiked in price, animals went hungry, people panicked.  The air is sweet with cool snow.

I raked back the majority of the unbroken-down mulch to the side.  I gently tufted the soil with a rake, not turning it (too many nice microorganisms workin’ for a livin’ down there!), just loosening the top.  Mulch will return once the plants are up.

I made an impromptu chart on the back of an index card during a sudden moment of gardening inspiration in January.  I listed all the seeds to be planted in April (my early crops), all the ones that are planted third week of May (summer crops), and the ones that will be replanted the end of July and August (late crops….same as the early crops).  I have eleven raised beds so I had to do some fancy finagling to get everything to fit.  So I gave each bed a number and set to work jotting down what should be planted where.  What will have time to finish growing in order to put in summer crops?  Where will I have space to put in late crops and still have room for perennials and medicinal herbs?

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Collard greens, Swiss chard, two kinds of kale, radishes, and two kinds of lettuce went into bed 1 which will be followed by tomatoes and peppers with greens continuously grown around them.

In a brief moment of gardening brilliance I set  up three tomato cages and planted peas around the perimeter in a circle in lieu of a trellis.  The peas and a few red potatoes and the most beautiful scarlet carrots went into bed 3 to be followed by soybeans and lettuce.

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The limited potatoes are because I purchased them from the nursery then left them on the car floor.  Where they were then trampled by various teenager’s feet and piles of this and that.  The remaining potatoes are shriveling and look rather pathetic but I still intend to plant them today in the potato barrels.

Cabbage and cauliflower went into bed 4 nestled in with surprise onion shoots from last year.  I don’t have the heart to pull them out.  I will be lucky if the delicious cabbage and cauliflower ever transpire, we have a short growing season and bugs that love them so I don’t have anything planned for bed 4.  Just a nice, long luxurious growing season for the cruciferous delicacies I love.

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The garlic is coming up with frost burned tips, slow but sure.  I do hope they make it!  One cannot survive in the kitchen without a smidge of garlic.

Onions went in to bed 8.  The possibly dead…possibly sleeping…Cabernet Sauvignon grape vine slumbers (hopefully) next to them.  And in a fit of ridiculous hopefulness, Brussels sprout seeds joined the onions in bed.

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The snow gently covered them for the last two days since I planted.  Today should shine bright and cool.  We will be nearing temperatures in the 70’s by the weekend and early germinated shoots ought to be sticking their heads up to peek at their new world.  I will have my face to the sun, singing, “Take me home, country roads…..”

Growing Potatoes in an Odd Fashion

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This is the time of year I wish I were in a warmer climate for I would surely be outside planting!  Looking out at the four foot drifts, I really need to worry about how to get to the chicken coop, not the garden!

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In the meantime, our dance company performs this Friday.  In one of the numbers the kids are alley cats and I always have crazy ideas that I then have to implement.  I thought I would get a couple of trash cans that they could crouch behind then saunter out to their positions and start their dance.  Now, I’ll have two black trash cans that I really don’t need…..or do I?

My mind wanders back to a class I took with Tammi Hartung.  I really like this lady.  She has some great books out there.  She is an accomplished author and grower.  She provides herbs for the nearby plant nursery and is an herbalist.  It was her book, “Growing 101 Herbs that Heal” that inspired me on my current journey as an herbalist.  In this class, hosted by Tagawa Gardens, she talked about growing vegetables indoors all winter, sans lights and crazy set ups.  That inspired my table you will see in my post The Indoor Farmer (under Farming).  She also mentioned in the class how to grow tons of potatoes.

Place six inches of good planting soil in the bottom of the trash can with drainage holes drilled in the bottom.  Set tubers spread a part across the top.  Top with another six inches of soil.  Water.  Let soak up sun (no lid).  When the green part starts to rise above the soil line, add six more inches of soil.  Continue to do this until you nearly reach the top or it is the end of the season.  When you dump out the trash can, you will be flush in potatoes to store for the winter!  The entire barrel will be filled!  How marvelous!

We didn’t get around to doing this last year but I told a friend about it.  At the end of the season when they dumped out the trash can, it was filled with potatoes!

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I cannot wait to turn my dance trash cans into barrels of winter potatoes.  I will plant potatoes in the garden at St. Patrick’s Day, plant the two barrels closer to Mother’s day, and then plant another set of potatoes in the garden in July.  We do like our potatoes around here.  Some great, colorful, heirloom potatoes await!

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