Winter Gardening, City-Style

A picture of my winter garden!
My fledgling winter kitchen garden
One of the reasons that people who know me found our move to Helsinki so shocking is, I think, because we were moving from a very rural setting (town of ~2,000, huge yard, close to open space) to a totally urban setting. The shock increased when I told everyone that we intended to live in an apartment in city center, especially since the generous housing allowance would have allowed us to have a detached house with a good-sized yard out in the ‘burbs. “But what about your gardening?” is a question I heard more than once.

And it’s a good one. Gardening is more than a hobby to me. The challenge of figuring out how to grow a new plant (from orchids to celeriac), doing battle against the changeable Colorado weather, growing something unusual, especially tasty, or heirloom, and then cooking something fabulous with it, growing something so local that no gas is required to grow it, harvest it, or bring it home, and doing so organically, is nearly religion for me. But now I have a new challenge–how to get my gardening fix in a city, and a city as far north as Helsinki at that. Read more

Festival Pasta – Meatless in 30 Minutes or Less

A photo of tonight's dinner - Festival Pasta
Festival Pasta
A few weeks ago, someone I know vaguely from town said to me, “Oh, I know you, you’re the radical homemaker who makes everything from scratch.” Since then, I’ve gone back and forth a dozen times between been well pleased that my reputation precedes me (I do live in a very small town) and feeling slightly put-off by the label.

I make a lot of things from scratch because cooking is a hobby of mine. But it is not gourmet night every night in my kitchen. Despite my desire to participate in Meatless Monday, I often struggle to come up with anything besides leftovers after a hectic day of school, swim lessons, and the general chaos that accompanies our transition from the weekend back into the week.

Tonight, the thought of coming up with something creative and meat-free for dinner sounded especially daunting because my husband just left for a business trip to Helsinki. But what I came up with–a variation on one of the first recipes I ever invented back in college–is a recipe that is healthy, meat-free, and can be prepared in 30 minutes or less. I call it Festival Pasta not only because of all the different colors in the dish, but because there are so many substitutions you can make that you’re nearly guaranteed to have what you need to make this in your kitchen on any given Monday! Read more

Birthday Cake – Localized

cakeToday is my darling husband’s birthday, so this morning the kids & I baked him a cake. I chose my Grandma’s Fresh Apple Cake recipe in part because I had ingredients on hand and in part because it was one I could adapt so that it used mainly local ingredients. Oh yeah, and also because it’s moist and delicious and one of Matt’s favorites đŸ™‚

I’ll give you both the original recipe and the modified so that you can make it how you like, but also so that you can see how easy it is to modify your favorite recipes so that they use local ingredients. Happy Birthday, Love! Read more

Garden Primer Part 2 – How Many Vegetables Do I Need?

vegIt took me longer than I’d hoped to get this post out. Part of my struggle was that choosing the veggies for your garden is such a personal choice. But a conversation with a friend last night helped me really focus in on how I choose veggies for my garden.

Start with the limiting factors
If you live in Lyons, you can’t grow bananas outdoors, no matter how badly you’d like to. If you live in an apartment, you probably can’t manage an apple tree. If you live in a suburban house, you likely don’t have room enough to grow wheat or barley. So start your veggie planning with identifying your limitations. Last week, I wrote about figuring out how much garden space you have, and how much you need. Read more

Eat From the Pantry Challenge – Week Two

My biggest lesson-learned in the Eat From the Pantry Challenge is not to send your spouse to the grocery store–even with a detailed list–if you expect to hold to eating from the pantry. Oh well, we still were able to use up quite a bit of stuff from the pantry this week, so I can’t complain too much. This week, we’re leaving town for a few days, so the pantry will remain full and unused. We’ll have to come on strong at the end of the month (and probably continue this into February) to really make a dent. Read more

The Eat From the Pantry Challenge

EFTP_button_300 This month, Life as Mom is hosting the Eat from the Pantry Challenge. The idea is that each family spend the month of January trying to eat their way through the bounty in the pantry/freezer/cupboards to save a little money in the New Year.

I am a bulk food addict and I belong to an awesome organic bulk-food co-op. That’s a dangerous combination that explains why I currently have a life-time supply of such staples as quinoa, dried beans, and rice in my pantry. I also love tea. Matt & I have been on a tea-buying moratorium for over a year now and still have probably another year’s worth (and we drink lots of tea). So the idea of burning through some of this excess, while saving a little money, appeals. Read more

Best Pie Crust Recipe Ever

Julie's Cherry Pie
Julie's Cherry Pie

The best pie crust recipe ever. That’s a bold statement, I know. But my Mom said it was the best pie crust ever, and she’s like George Washington when it comes to lies, so it has to be the truth.

After a flood of Facebook posts and Tweets about struggles with pie crust, I figured it was past time for me to put together a post about my obsession with consistently delivering pie crust heaven during the holidays. You see, I love pie. Not like a normal, healthy person likes a good pie. More like the way a crazy, OCD person loves something.

My Grandma made great pie. But she used lard (and later shortening) and I’m totally not going there for a variety of reasons. So I use butter. I won’t lie and say this pie crust is easy, or for beginners, because there’s a reason the title of this post is Best. Pie Crust. Ever. and not Easiest. Pie Crust. Ever.

So if you’ve made a few pie crusts in your time and are ready to try to achieve true pie Nirvana, read on! Read more

A few tips on making Mozzarella

I know a lot of folks who, like me, love the idea of making mozzarella from scratch. But I also know quite a few people, myself included, who have tried it and failed miserably. This weekend, I think I finally had my mozzarella breakthrough, so of course I had to share it here.

First, the recipe. I have been trying to make Ricki Carroll’s 30-Minute Mozzarella recipe, from her book Home Cheese Making. I love that she recommends local, minimally processed milk, and that her web site has lots of tips and pictures. But my mozzarella curds NEVER looked solid enough to pull back with my fingers or cut with a knife, so I wasn’t really surprised when my cheese kept not turning out. Read more

Heart-healthy & Earth-friendly look the same when it comes to diet

A friend on mine recently asked me for some advice on eating a low sodium diet because she was recently diagnosed with high blood pressure. I realized as I typed up all my tips that a heart-healthy diet looks a whole lot like an Earth-friendly one. Just another reason to think about the foods we eat and to choose carefully in ways that will likely vary from the typical Western diet.

My husband’s father has high blood pressure, and my Dad did too, so because there is a genetic factor, I’ve been watching our salt intake since before I learned  that what I eat makes such a huge impact on my carbon footprint. Here’s what I do: Read more

Making chicken and vegetable stock

Last week, LaLaGirl cracked me up with her story–including pictures–of a moldy carton of Swanson’s Chicken Broth, commenting that she really ought to make her own. I promised I would share my method, so here it is.

I say method instead of recipe, because, like so many of the things I cook up, you can use quite a range of ingredients to make stock depending as much on what you have on hand as on what your intended use. While Wikipedia goes into great depth on the different types of stock, as does my favorite, The Joy of Cooking, but I will focus in on the two I make most often: chicken and vegetable. Read more