Friday, July 25, 2014

A simple and refreshing snack

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I wanted to share with you a quick, easy and refreshing snack or hors d'oeuvres made with two of my favorite summer flavors. It's always a hit and perfect for summer parties and it's beautiful too. The recipe is simple but looks impressive.

Stack a cube of feta cheese on top of a cube of watermelon and top with a basil leaf. Hold together with a toothpick. Drizzle with a little olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and cracked black pepper.

This combination is also delicious just tossed together in a salad with cucumber too!


Thursday, July 24, 2014


It's the first time we have grown leeks and it has been a success.
We have a lot of them. It's not a problem because I love them. I will slice the ones we have extra and freeze them to use later. 

 Growing up my mother would cook leeks often, in soups, simply boiled, in "pot au feu" or also in a "tarte" 
This week I will share with you a "tarte aux poireaux" ( leek pie )  

Recipe : Tarte aux poireaux ( leek pie )

For the dough ( pate brisee ) : 

- 2/3 of a cup butter ( room temperature )
- 2 1/2 cups  flour
- 1/2 teaspoon of salt
- 1/3 cup of water ( room temperature )

For the filling :

- a couple of leeks
- 3 medium potatoes
- 5 eggs
- 1 cup of milk
- salt and pepper ( other spices if you want  ) 
- 8 oz. sharp cheddar cheese

In a large bowl add the flour then the butter (cut in small pieces and at room temperature- soft). 
Add the salt and mix well until all the butter is mixed with the flour, it will be still pretty dry. This is when you add a little water ( slowly until you get the consistency you want ) and mix it until you can form a ball. 
Cover and let it sit at room temperature for 1/2 hour. 

Pre-heat your oven at 350 degrees.
Roll out the dough. Fit it into a standard pie pan and make holes in the dough with a fork.
Place the dough in the oven for 5 minutes.  

Peel and slice the potatoes then boil them for 10 min.
Sauté the leeks with olive oil.
In a bowl mix the eggs, add the milk salt, pepper ( other spices ) 

Add one layer of potatoes, one layer of leeks one layer of potatoes and one of leeks.
Add the egg and milk mixture.
Slice the cheese and add it on the top of the "tarte"

Cook the pie in the oven for about 40 minutes until the top is a little browned.

With the extra dough I had I made a little heart shape one...

Enjoy !

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

putting up tomatoes: crockpot tomato base & canned tomato jam

on any given day this week, if you were to walk into my kitchen, you would find tomatoes.

lots of tomatoes.

tomatoes chopped & tomatoes simmering in pots. tomatoes in crockpots & tomatoes roasting in the oven. tomatoes in the freezer & tomatoes put up for the winter.

it's the season of tomatoes & we are oh so thankful for the bounty!

today i want to share with you two new ways i preserve & put up tomatoes for the winter:

1. crockpot tomato base - a simple way to preserve your tomatoes when you're running short on time is to chop them up, skin & all, & place them in the crockpot. i add frozen or fresh basil for flavor. i put the crockpot on high & allow the tomatoes to simmer for around 12 hours. halfway through the cooking process, i remove the lid to allow the liquid to evaporate. once it's formed into a thick tomato base, i add two cups of tomato base to labeled ziplock bags & place them in the freezer. during the winter months, we add tomatoes to soups, chills, crockpot meals & more. this is the perfect base for adding to almost any meal. 

2. tomato jam - tomato jam is a lengthy process, but your home is sure to smell amazing! to make tomato jam, i followed this recipe. for extra flavor, as recommended by a friend, i added a hint of smoked paprika. it is delicious paired with bread & cream cheese!

happy tomato season!

- natalie

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

harvesting potatoes from the garden & our favorite varieties

in our neck of the woods, it's potato harvesting time! 

we missed our window of opportunity for planting sweet potatoes (tis the farm life sometimes) so we're savoring our apples of the earth. 

early one evening, during the golden hour, we harvested our potatoes from the garden. we dug into the soil with our digging forks, sticking our fingers deep into the soil, & pulled out the most beautiful red & purple potatoes.

little chip & sweet ginger were happy to snack on the potato tops. nothing goes to waste around here!

we planted purple potatoes, red potatoes & russet potatoes. the russet variety was by far the most productive, but we were thrilled with the variety in color. 

sometimes color wins over productivity on the farm. gardening should be an experience that charms all of the senses, yes?

my handsome farmer grows some beautiful potatoes!

we harvested a big basket full of potatoes from our one row. we have been sharing them with farm customers & our neighbors. they're so delicious! 

luke has been thinly slicing them into chip-like size & roasting them in the oven with a bit of s&p, fresh garlic from the garden & olive oil.

during our garden harvest, we even found a little friend.

have you ever grown potatoes in your garden? what's your favorite variety?

- natalie

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

wonders never cease

I have avoided my beehives this summer, except to feed the one that I knew was in trouble, and try to save comb for the top bar after I let the neighborhood bees rob it out.  I'd pretty much resigned myself to buying two new packages next spring and just letting the hundred bees remaining in the top bar hive do their thing until they died of old age (roughly 4-6 weeks, this time of year).  I was sad, and although I'm not much of an avoider, I avoided dealing with it.

A few weeks ago I noticed that the remaining bees seemed to be huddled in a clump, so I checked to see if there were eggs, but saw nothing.  They worked on rebuilding their combs for a bit, so I stopped checking.  That is, until this morning.  There seemed to be quite a lot of activity around the top bar hive, and at first I thought that there were just robber bees coming and going.  Except there's no honey to rob.  So I suited up and checked out the hive.
The first thing I noticed was this cluster of bees at the entrance.  Odd.  In weeks prior, I'd see maybe one or two,  This is closer to 30-40.  When you only have 100 bees in the colony, well, they're not hanging out like this.  Upon opening:
 This fat comb is covered with bees.  There hadn't been this many bees in the entire hive two weeks ago.  I saw that the blank top bars I'd put in between the fully drawn combs were full of bees, too.  That bright white you see below is brand new comb.
I ran inside and filled their feeder, brought it out, and am keeping my fingers crossed that whatever goodness is happening will keep up, and that maybe there's a new queen in the hive. 

Since I was in gear and had my smoker going (though there's no need for a smoker when there's no brood- or honey, for that matter- I lit it anyway because there were so many bees), I decided to check my other (langstroth) hive.  The queen in the new hive was never very active.  I didn't see any eggs or larvae, but I saw a lot of drones, a smattering of capped brood (both worker brood, which is flat, and drone brood, which protrudes like a pencil eraser), an on the bottom of one comb, a recently-vacated queen cup:
It's quite difficult to get a phone camera to focus through a mesh veil, but the perfect circle in the center of the photo is the empty queen cell.  I'm hopeful that she's made her mating flight and will begin to repopulate this hive. Keeping both hives fed and checking for brood each week will go back on my task list.  I'm so grateful that I salvaged what I could from my dying hive (especially in terms of comb, but I also harvested almost a gallon of honey) and I hope that what seemed like clearing the dead hive help rejuvenate it.    I'm waiting with baited breath.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Gardening With My Children

With two young children (and hopefully more someday!), it's been fun to find ways to incorporate them into my current gardening style.  As much as I desire a tidy, charming cottage garden packed full of perennials, or an acre or 2 of land in the country full of edibles, I'm learning to make do with what I have.  I really appreciate what my husband and I are able to provide for our boys, in terms of an outdoor environment where they can grow and explore.  Today, I want to share a few ways I incorporate my children into my gardening.

  • Before we had children, we knew a fence would be essential.  It has been one of the best additions to our home.  I can't express enough the ease I feel knowing they are safely contained within the fence.

  • I've resisted the urge to rip out all the grass and make every open space a planter bed.  Although we don't do any upkeep on our grass (aside from mowing) and it's horribly unattractive, it's great to have room for my boys to run, play tag, chase butterflies, and play baseball.

  • I've also resisted the urge to plant every available planter bed with perennials or vegetables.  I leave a designated planter bed that is used exclusively for digging, making mud pies and getting dirty.
  • I make a special effort to grow foods they love to eat.  Blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, carrots, broccoli and cauliflower are their favorites.  I find immense joy watching them dig up a fresh carrot to snack on during the day.

  • I include them (only if they are interested) in the planting of seeds and harvesting of crops.  They love watching their seeds grow, and it offers such valuable learning opportunities.
  • After giving a safety lesson on firm footing, they have freedom to climb as high as they are comfortable in our big trees.
  • Aesthetically, I cringe at the sight of plastic toys.  We stick to outdoor toys made of metal and wood.

  • They know which plants and trees are expensive, fragile and ones they should be careful around.  They usually respect this and leave them alone.
  • They're allowed to pick any flowers that are in bloom.  They know to leave the stems long enough so they can be displayed in a vase.
  • My boys LOVE picking flowers for me to wear in my hair.  Even if it's a weed, I try to always let them see me wearing what they have picked for me.  I want them to know I appreciate the little things they do for me.
  • Fire is of course fascinating to them.  We have fires often and are sure to talk about fire safety.

  • They love practicing their hammering skills with blocks, hammers and nails.  I can't tell you how many hours they have spent hammering!

  • Two hammocks hang from our maple tree where they can swing, relax and daydream.

And finally, we let them be busy, rambunctious boys.  When branches get broken or expensive perennials get dug up or trampled on, we try to just let it be and not make a fuss over it.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Just a block away

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I work for a non-profit farming organization whose main mission is to connect communities through food, farms and education. I thoroughly enjoy working with young people and getting them excited about growing their own food.

One of the projects I became involved in a few years back was to create an after-school garden club and school garden at the local elementary school just a block away from my house. The idea was that students and their families would take turns tending the garden throughout the summer months but as we all know life gets busy. And with that, each summer I usually find myself (happily) taking care of the garden instead.

Since we walk by the garden several times a day my girls and I had noticed recently that things were getting a bit swallowed up by weeds and there was much to be harvested (there were cukes actually sticking out of the fence!). And so we grabbed our tools and baskets and got busy today. Our hard work paid off and we were rewarded with quite an abundance of cucumbers and swiss chard and Norah was thrilled to find the first ripe tomato!

We plan to make pickles this week and will save a few jars to bring back to garden club in the fall to share with the students.

With only part sun conditions in our own garden it's such a treat (and very convenient) to have a sunny prolific garden plot just a block away!