Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Cranberry Port Relish

Most of the ingredients were in the CSA box this week, so I made this suggested recipe.

10 oz. fresh cranberries, rinsed
2 tablespoons grated mandarin orange zest (or regular orange)
3/4 cup mandarin orange juice (or regular orange)
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup Port (I used a Cab port that I had in the cupboard)

In a 3 or 4 quart pan over medium-high heat, stir together cranberries, orange zest, orange juice, and sugar. Bring to a boil and lower heat to maintain a simmer. Cook for 12 minutes, stirring frequently. The berries will begin to break apart and release their juices. Add port and continue to cook for 2 more minutes. Let cool completely.

As the heat starts to hit the cranberries, they pop like popcorn.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Goodbye Tomatoes

I pulled up the tomatoes. A few weeks ago it was the end of the road for the zucchini. There's a fresh batch of chard growing and four basil plants. The bell pepper plant continues to produce.

Notes for next year's tomato crop:
  • Plant in the back bed
  • Try Roma tomatoes if you're thinking of making sauce
  • Staking the plant to a piece of rebar in the ground is a good approach
  • Also use the square cage
  • Keep the plant trimmed if it starts to get wild

Monday, September 8, 2008

Homemade Grape Juice

After receiving several pounds of grapes (muscat, I'm told) and getting a bag of grapes (Crimson) in our CSA box I decided to see if I could turn all this into grape juice instead of letting it go to waste. Since I don't have (yet!) one of the juicer steamer contraptions I decided to search the Internet and see what I could find. I put together the following steps:

Wash and de-stem the grapes. This was the most time-consuming task. It took about an hour to get all the grapes off their stem and into the colander.

Mash the grapes. The recipe I was following said to use a potato masher which I didn't have. So I just used my hand blender and pulsed it on the grapes in the pot.

Cook the grapes. I let the smashed grapes simmer over medium heat for around 15 minutes. As the grapes softened I continued to use the hand blender to mash the grapes more.

Prepare cheesecloth sieve. I lined the colander with two sheets of cheesecloth. I used a rubber band to keep it in place and set the lined colander over another pot.

Strain grape mixture. I ladled the grape mixture into the lined colander. I let it sit for a few hours and then threw it in the refrigerator overnight.

Finishing. I removed the grape mixture and cheesecloth and threw it in the compost pile. What was left was the juice. It was naturally quite sweet and didn't need anything else. The web sites talked about sending the juice through another strain to remove more sediment. I tried a gold coffee filter but the juice was actually too thick. I moved on to a paper coffee filter which worked better since I was able to squeeze the juice through (not unlike a frosting bag).

The juice was quite good on its own but was also improved with the addition of a local vodka.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Labor Day

Labor Day = homemade apple pie. I was given a bag of Granny Smith apples so I made apple pie.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Staged photos

Once our remodel was finished our designer hired a professional photographer to take some shots for her portfolio. We recently got copies of the photos. These are just a few of the shots they took. She and the photographer spent the day here staging and shooting our place. They arrived early in the morning and that evening when we came home and everything seemed to be in its original place. In addition, we got to keep the staged food that they brought in (lemons, limes, flowers, assorted vegetables, the canteloupe "brunch meal" that you see). While everything was back in its place when we came home, we can see that they were quite busy moving furniture around.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Recent Harvest

We went out back this last week and harvested lots of peaches, green beans, tomatoes, bell peppers, a yellow onion, and a zucchini.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Return from Vacation

Here's what happens when you go away for a few weeks. Our house sitter managed to harvest most of the zucchini before they got out of hand but when we returned we found one monster zuc that had escaped detection. The monster zuc is just under 2 feet long and 18" in circumference.

Yellow onions also came up. We found 8 harvested onions in our refrigerator. There are more in the garden ready for picking.

We completely missed the apricots. They were all picked and waiting for us. They were a bit old but still tasted much better than the tasteless ones you get in the supermarkets.

One bell pepper was ready and more are on the way. The peach tree and the tomato plants are loaded but not yet ripe.

Last night's dinner featured all home-grown roasted vegetables: onions, zucchini, and bell pepper.

Monday, July 7, 2008


Here's what happens when you don't check your zucchini plant on a daily basis. Harvested this 16" baby yesterday. There was another slightly smaller one that got picked as well. Looks like it's time for zucchini bread.

Strange year for produce this year as the temperatures have fluctuated. One week mild and overcast; the next week hot. I had to cut off and toss some early mutant zucchini that were just not forming into proper vegetables. I assume not enough sunshine. But now that it is warmer and sunnier we're starting to get normal zucchs.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Think Inside the Box

Our local newspaper, the San Francisco Chronicle, ran an interesting article today on the growth of Community Supported Agriculture (or CSA). We've been receiving a CSA box from Farm Fresh to You for the last number of months. It seems that the number of CSAs is growing rapidly. When we began the search for a CSA last year there were just a small handful of choices. Now there are more than 20 CSAs that deliver to the Bay Area.

Farm Fresh to You has seen...

...weekly deliveries shoot up by 1,000 in the last eight months, increasing from 500 customers in 2003 to 3,000 today.

The article goes on to talk about the impact of Michael Pollan's recent books, which describe our current food system, as a contributer to the increase in CSA subscribers.

With CSAs, customers have a direct relationship with the grower, who benefits from higher profit margins and market stability - the only way many small farms can compete.

Indeed, each delivery we get includes a letter from Thaddeus giving us an update on the farm--both good news and bad. Plus each letter includes recipes that include ingredients in that week's box.

Since most Northern California CSAs run year-round, farmers also can offer employees steady labor and benefits that are unheard of in California agribusiness.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Fireplace Complete

Today the mantel and hearth were installed. It took about two hours to get everything installed and cleaned up. It looks great. The black granite looks almost exactly like the counter top. This is basically it. We're done! It doesn't feel like it!

We have to have the baseboards touched up and painted but that's pretty minor. Our designer now wants to bring in a photographer to shoot the final product. I told her we need to rehang some artwork on the walls but we'd be ready soon.

This last Sunday we put the fireplace to work. It was a blustery day and we were sitting around reading the Sunday paper. The furnace was on but it was one of those days where it was hard to break the chill. So I kicked on the fireplace and it warmed up the living room to a toasty temperature.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Houston, We Had a Problem

Our stone/tile guy finally made it back to the house after dealing with some family health issues. He spent one day prepping the fireplace for the stone and another day getting the stone up. We got the fireplace back in its place but still slightly out from the stone wall.

Later that evening I went to push it back with the facade back into the its niche. But discovered that I had gone back as far as I could and it was still 2 inches out too far. Yikes! Lots of phone calls and excitement followed.

Our contractor Joel came over the next day and we pulled the fireplace out again. He brought in a pneumatic chisel and chipped away enough of the original brick for us to be able to slide the fireplace back where it should be. A fine layer of dust was everywhere
but in the end it was a very small price to pay compared to what it could have been. He also met with the county the following day to get the final sign offs on our building permit. So we're done as far as the county is concerned.

The black granite hearth and mantel is being fabricated right now. Once they are in we will be done. Well, almost....

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Why Bother?

Michael Pollan wrote an editorial recently in the New York Times entitled "Why Bother?" which addresses the basic question of "Is eating local or walking to work really going to reduce my carbon footprint?" He raises the question that for every effort we make here is it offset by someone else on the planet.

He argues that it's easy to be overwhelmed by the statistics and get into a feeling of helplessness. He says that "cheap energy" and "specialization" have given us global warming and fostered a feeling of not being able to provide for ourselves. Which brings us to the idea of the local or backyard garden and growing your own food and breaking down the feeling that food must be provided by others.

Pollan writes:

"But there are sweeter reasons to plant that garden, to bother. At least in this one corner of your yard and life, you will have begun to heal the split between what you think and what you do, to commingle your identities as consumer and producer and citizen.

Chances are, your garden will re-engage you with your neighbors, for you will have produce to give away and the need to borrow their tools.

The single greatest lesson the garden teaches is that our relationship to the planet need not be zero-sum, and that as long as the sun still shines and people still can plan and plant, think and do, we can, if we bother to try, find ways to provide for ourselves without diminishing the world."

Go plant that garden.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Beginning of the End?

Our tile/stone guy came back this week. He was on another job and also had to deal with family members with medical issues. All he had left to do was the stone on the fireplace and it's not like we really need the fireplace right now. So as long as we had our working kitchen an ugly fireplace was not the end of the world.

So he was back in on Tuesday and he did some cement prep work. Today he put up most of the stone tile. Tomorrow he will grout and he will hopefully help me get the fireplace back into the box and get it hooked to gas and electricity.

The hearth on the ground and the mantel will be honed black granite. We got an orphan slab at a good price and they will come in next week to measure. So hopefully the fireplace will be completed just in time for summer!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Spring in the Garden

I'm starting to think about the food I want to grow in my backyard this year. Last year was the first year with a "working" pair of raised beds. We had successful crops of red leaf lettuce, basil (for pesto), butternut squash, tomatoes, and more. A long wet winter has me wishing for warm sunshine. I was out in the garden over the last weekend with my new Canon DSLR and took some shots to chronicle the changes on the fruit trees.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Stone Installation Begins

Our tile and stone installer had an open day so he came and installed the stone on the wall of the island. So except for the base board the island is complete. The stone product is real stone made by RoxProducts. The stone is pre-cut and comes in ready-to-mount 6x12 pieces. The same stone will surround our fire place. That is scheduled to be completed in the next few weeks.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Tile and Electrical

During the last week in January we had the tile installed including the kitchen back splash as some tile inside the island. Today, the electrician came in and did his final touches by installing plates, switches and electrical outlets over the tile. He also installed the undercounter lighting which is very cool. We have dimmable switches on a few of the ceiling lights and now with the undercounter lighting we have so many lighting options and it's plenty bright when you need it, too.

So the only things left are two replacement cabinet handles and one custom pull out drawer being built for us. The kitchen should be DONE within the next week or two!

On the fireplace, we got a call that the stone is in. So I will try to pick that up next week and arrange to have the tile guy back out to install the stone facade.

We are enjoying the new kitchen and we're begging to settle into it.

Monday, January 21, 2008


After months of waiting the fireplace face finally arrived and everything was installed. With the fireplace in, we were able to bring out the guy who will be installing the stone around it as well as the back splash tile. Work will begin on both later this week.

The only catch was that he didn't want to come out until the fireplace was installed so that he had a clear picture of what he was dealing with. Then he came out and said that the fireplace would have to come out. Mostly, he wants to remove it so that he can build a fixed, solid base on which he can face.

This week he will concentrate on the kitchen backsplash. The stone for the fireplace in on order and will take 2-4 weeks to come in.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

The Weather Outside is Frightful

The second of three storms blew through yesterday bringing heavy rain, high winds, and a little thunder and lightning. It was a good day to stay in and cook a soup. I made a butternut squash soup using home grown squash.

It is such a pleasure to cook with gas again. The old kitchen had the hideous electric coils. The new Wolf cook top also has a down draft ventilation system. It was put to the test yesterday as I used curry in the soup. As much as I like curry, I find that the odor lingers in the kitchen for a few days. So I cooked the soup on a back burner close to the ventilation and there were no lingering curry odors today.

The down draft has a "Star Trek" like feature where the vent raises and lowers with the press of a button.

While the soup was simmering we loaded up the side cabinet with glasses and dishes. Some of which haven't been out of a box since we moved in in January 2004.

We also got some good news on the fireplace. The face has finally arrived. We set up a tentative installation date for this Friday. Once installed, we can call in the tile guy who will install the stone around the fireplace and the tile back splash in the kitchen.