Currant Events

When the girls were in middle school, I’d be packing lunches or making dinner only to notice one or the other cutting up my newspaper. To my surprised “what are you doing?” They’d say it was for current events.

We’re enjoying a different kind of currant events around here. It is one banner crop this year.

We have three blueberry bushes that are all different varieties and ripen at all different times. The three currant bushes on the otherhand all ripen at once. And boy are there a lot of them.

The deck worker was askingwhat I was picking. They’re so red; he was hoping they were raspberries that he saw across the yard under all that netting. He hadn’t heard of currants, so I left him a few clusters. They’re an acquired taste he told me later.

They are quite tart and full of seeds, but I’m always happy when currant season arrives—I like a challenge. We make our favorite Braised Mediterannean Chicken and of course the raspberry-currant popsicles, but I have to new recipes, too.

So I’ve been searching through Yummly and Pinterest and have quite a few things in the works:

Little Big H’s Red Currant Blueberry Yoghurt Popsicles look amazing and would help use uptwo things I have in abundance.

Me and the MR enjoyed Hungry Shots’ Red Currant Banana Orange Smoothie with breakfast the other morning. The pulp from the fresh-squeezed OJ helped obscure all the seeds. And the sweet bananas off-set the tang.

The Ricotta Pancakes with Red Currants from Dare to Cook were good but not amazing. You have to get past all the seeds.

Red Currant Curd from Kleine Chaos Küchen was so good, but I’m a sucker for lemon curd so it was an easy sell.

Then there’s the Red Currant-Strawberry Oat Thyme Crisp from Our Four ForksRed Currant Popsicles from Hungry Shots, and so many more.

This week we tried Oat Cake with Currants from Everyday Flavours. Sometimes you have to try a recipe just because of the language. Google translate has its issues. When it started talking about the reaction furnace I was in. But who can resist, butter, eggs, and fruit? A little sweet, a little tart—I’d say it’s good enough to eat.

Any currant recipes to share?

Turn to Sweet Red Gems for our favorite popsicle and chicken recipes featuring currants.

 

Fall Harvest

My garden has been a bit neglected with our recent trips. It’s hard to keep up with the weeding and thinning when you’re on the other side of the world.

I’ve spent a few hours the past week snipping the flowers off all the tomato plants. I planted three marzanos down in the kitchen garden. They were lush and full when I removed the Walls-O-Water, but they’ve been late to set fruit. We’re expecting mid-60s to low-70s for the next 10 days, so by removing the flowers, I’m hoping to encourage the fruit to ripen. So far, they look nothing like my idea of San Marzano paste tomatoes. I’ll be happy with whatever we get.

Worms can’t process the tomato seeds, so when I add the castings to my garden, I get tons of volunteers. Since many of my sowings didn’t produce anything, I decided to let these plants grow. They’ve set quite a bit of fruit, so far. I also have a canteloupe peeping out from amongst the tomatoes (another seed that worms don’t process). I may wind up with more than I bargained for.

The beets have actually faired pretty well after the early problem with predators, and my onions (that were meant to scare away pests) are also looking good. I even picked a few blueberries this afternoon.

fh-veges-berries

You may be wondering what I have in mind for all those tomatoes. Well, I really like Putting Up with Erin’s Smokey Tomato Jam. (I’m having trouble with the link, so here’s where to go:  http://www.puttingupwitherin.com/2014/09/19/smokey-tomato-jam/ .) Sweet Miss has requested a jar, and what mother can refuse a food request from her kid?

The recipe starts with six pounds of tomatoes, so I may be headed to the farmstand or market. Until then, I’ve been enjoying tomatoes on toast with an Italian flair.

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It’s just toasted bread of a good quality, spread with cream cheese, sprinkled with sliced tomatoes, and dried thyme. (This is what happens when I forget to water the thyme plant in the kitchen window, and it dries out all by itself.) And then this is the final part, the kicker, the piece-de-resistance, drizzled the whole thing with black truffle oil.

On our trip, we visited an olive oil factory outside Sorrento. They had around 70 different types of olive oil that were so tatsty. We dipped bread, dipped bread, and dipped some more. I was able to drag the MR and Baby Girl away after buying five cans of olive oil, some basalmic, and some for Sweet Miss. She used her lemon olive oil on pasta—amazing.

Sometimes that little extra step makes a world of difference.

Are you enjoying a fall harvest?

Ain’t It Funny

Sometimes life is funny. I’ve planted carrots and lettuce and peas three times now this summer, and we’ve enjoyed a big old nothing. I planted a pony-pack of broccoli from the hardware store and one measly cucumber plant, and they are exploding.

I go down to the garden with my basket and shears, and come back with cups of broccoli and stacks of giant cucumbers. You know what? I don’t really like broccoli. When we were little kids, my folks would set a bowl of frozen broccoli straight from the microwave on the table. Then came the fine dance of whether three or for florets would be considered a proper serving. If I got it wrong, my dad would grab the spoon and pile a huge scoop on my plate. My family didn’t subscribe to the “no-thank-you-bite”. We were totally members of the clean your plate club.

Then when me and the MR were engaged we went to this wedding planning event, and he won a wok that came with a booklet of recipes. Beef and broccoli stir-fry became a staple in our household. The MR doesn’t like eggs, but he likes broccoli. I learned to adapt. After all these years, I can handle broccoli in moderation.

broccoli

But what about cucumbers? Neither of us like cucumbers. Well, why plant them you foolish woman? The girls like cucumbers, and they’ve actually done well most years unlike half of things I plant in the garden. Sometimes, it feels good to enjoy a little success. I guess the key word is little versus inundation.

So lately, I’ve been scanning Pinterest, and Yummly, and Tastespotting for recipes. It’s been a bit of an adventure. We’ve enjoyed spiralized cucumber in Mango Curried Cucumber Salad from Eat, Spin, Run, Repeat (the link to their site isn’t working). I didn’t have any mangoes, so I substituted some sad looking nectarines that really should have been eaten earlier and green peas for the soybeans, since I didn’t have those either. This is a great meal on a hot summer night; yes, we have had a few.

Sunday, we enjoyed Gluten-Free with LB’s Beef Meatballs & Roasted Broccoli. Super tasty and not too labor intensive. I made the meatballs in the afternoon and baked them in the oven. Then I heated them in a frying pan with the sauce while the broccoli (I’d prepped ahead of time) was roasting. Sometimes a little work earlier in the day can make dinner come together so much quicker.

Last week, we had Bacon, Avocado, Cucumber Sushi Rolls from My Korean Kitchen. Another tasty, easy meal. Unfortunately, we had trouble finding seaweed for the wraps at our local independent grocer, so I just made a pile on the plate. I had more success in the seaweed department at the large chain store yesterday, so I’m going to give it another go.

Sushi I

The last two nights, we’ve had Hapanom’s Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Buns. They’re served with Quick Pickled Cucumbers and an amazing Siracha Barbecue Sauce that Baby Girl helped whip up. I made the steamed buns that the reciped called for, but that was a little time-intensive. Maybe next time, we’ll move away from the Asian influence slightly and use burger buns. While, no one in our family likes pickles, these quick pickles added crunch and a little vinegar-y tang to yummy pork sandwiches.

Finally, we have Baked Broccoli Poppers with Honey-Siracha Sauce from Oh My Veggies on the menu. I think these will be fun to munch on while I’m trying my hand at rolling cucumber sushi, so I can serve it up properly.

I managed to hand off four giant cucumbers at knitting group yesterday and one to my friend that I met for lunch on Monday, that means we only have two left before the next batch. People have worse problems.

Any favorite broccoli or cucumber recipes to share?

(Sorry not to share links. I’m having some software issue. If you Google the recipe name or type in a few key words on Tastespotting or Pinterest, I have faith that you will find them. Enjoy!)

 

 

 

Oh, Deer!

Yesterday as the afternoon was winding down, I ventured out to the garden to pick broccoli for dinner. Pleased with the sideshoot production and laughing at Cocoa as she raced wildly about the meadow, I wandered over to the orchard.

It’s been raining off and on all weekend, but I figured we’d had a few hours of sunshine, so I’d pick some currants for a friend who mentioned how much she liked them at a party over the weekend. The season is winding down for these tart berries, but I was still able to pick over a pint in a matter of minutes.

I moved on to the blueberries. We have three different types that each ripen at a different time. I picked a handful and figured I’d add them to the broccoli salad for this evening. Then since I was already close, I decided to see if the remaining beauty plums were ready for picking.

That’s when tragedy struck. Apparently, the deer enjoy our plums as much as we do. One slightly squished fruit dangled from a branch, but half the tree lay on the ground.

OD Broken Plum Tree

After we’ve been celebrating our first year of success with plums here, I was hit hard by this new challenge. It took the pear tree three years to begin to recover from similar treatment by the local wildlife. I worry that the raw tear will get diseased.

OD Raw Wood

Cocoa is quite happy to bark wildly from the deck when she sees deer in the meadow or muching on our landscaping. We miss our little buddy who even with foggy vision would heroicly chase away all invaders—man or beast.

After seeing the sad shape of the beauty plum, I turned to the Shiro tree which is due to ripen soon. After watching the tree set a nice show of fruit with anticipation, I sadly saw just one lonely plum dangling out of my reach. Perhaps the deer can’t stretch any higher than I can.

In anger, I picked an apple on my back up the hill. Both trees are weighted down with a heavy harvest, and I wasn’t going to let the deer get them, too. The apple was quite tart. I’ll have to keep my eye on them to make sure we enjoy their bounty.

The MR is headed to the hardware store to investigate other possible fencing solutions this week.

On a happy note, my mom’s broccoli salad recipe tasted fabulous with broccoli, blueberries, and one squished plum from our garden.

OD Broccoli Salad

Any tips on keeping out the deer? 

Grandma Donna’s Broccoli Salad

Salad:
4 cups broccoli flowerettes
1 cup raisins
1 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup purple onion
8-10 slices bacon, crisply cooked and crumbled

Dressing:
1/2 cup mayonaisse
3 T sugar
1 T raspberry vinegar

Mix  salad ingredients in a large bowl. Combine dressing ingredients and toss with salad. Let the broccoli soften a little and serve. Enjoy!

Note:  My kids have grown up on this salad. They have an aversion to raisins, so we use grapes in the winter, and lately, I’ve substituted currants, blueberries, and a squished plum on occasion. I’ve never used 8 slices of bacon; two or three is plenty for the four of us. Last night I used toasted pumpkin seeds instead of sunflower seeds, since I like them better. I usually opt ought of the onion, because it makes me burp. And if you’re trying to cut back on sugar, go down a tablespoon or too, but taste it first. The vinegar can be a little bite-y. Let’s just say, these are guidelines for a salad, that your mom probably brought to a potluck or two in the 80’s or 90’s, and we still enjoy it today.

 

 

Sweet Red Gems

June has only just arrived, and they’re already picking strawberries in the valley, and we’re enjoying currants up here on the hill.

I’m not sure what possessed me to buy a currant bush five or six years ago. The leaves were ridged and cut, the plant was attractive, and hey, it produced edible fruit. Sounded like a winner to me. The MR moved the currant bush and the blueberries from our old house to here, but I never really took notice of it until the deer.

You see the deer nibbled on the blueberry bushes without mercy, but they totally ignored the currant bush. I figured it was time to get a few more. And as they matured, they’ve started to produce more and more berries.

Now currants aren’t something we ever ate growing up. You might buy dried currants for your soda bread or singing hinnies, but red currants were unheard of in my house. So I went online and skimmed for recipes. One of my favorites encorporates currants in a meal rather than treats. With just me and the MR at home, I can’t afford to have piles of cakes and muffins around—not and keep track of my waistline.

It features braised chicken thighs with red currants, tomatoes, olives, and lemons. We had it for dinner last night, and it’s been a staple currant recipe for the last few years. If you’d like to make it, check out Apron & Sneakers Braised Mediterranen Chicken; it’s quite lovely.

As the season progresses, I’ll be making La Tartine Gourmand’s Raspberry, Currant Popsicles. This classic summer treat is simple, beautiful, and oh, so tasty.

Looking through recipes online, I came across simple popsicles featuring currants, oranges, bananas, and ginger at Hungray Shots, and some truly luscious-looking cupcakes decorated with currants at Bake Noir. Then there’s the strawberry-currant crisp that’s gluten-free and everything at Our Four Forks. (The link’s not working, so just go to the web site and search. Sorry for the trouble.)

Between Tastespotting and Pinterest, the options are endless. Thankfully, so are these beauties for the moment.

Currants Close Up

Any favorite currant recipes you’d like to share? How about strawberry recipes? I’ll be spending a few hours at the local farms soon.

 

 

 

February Fun

Reading back through the stories of February, I’m surprised to find how they intertwine.  New lights upstairs turn into new flashlights for late time walks that end with the sweet smell of daphne.  My dad’s stories, recipe stories, and seed stories all spill out.

Maybe gardening, family life, and even knitting require problem solving, planning ahead, and the joy of sharing stories.  So here’s the low-down on life at the big white house on the hill this past month.

It started off celebrating the MR’s birthday with https://bigwhitehouseonthehill.wordpress.com/2016/02/10/a-taste-of-sedona/.  We hiked, shopped, ate, and spent time with family surrounded by beauty.

IMG_2472

It sounds a lot like they way we finished off the month with a quick trip to Oregon where we visited our sweet lovelies.  We toured Baby Girl’s studio and got to see up close and personal all of her interesting projects.

BGs Studio

Then while BG headed off to a dance, Sweet Miss took us out on the town.  We stayed out till almost 11 pm—way past our bed time.  Yes, we’re middle-aged.

Me & SM

With my dad moving to his new home, we had lots of time for remembrances this month. He told me about touring the glass factory and my grandma’s buying the purple vase.  It’s important to https://bigwhitehouseonthehill.wordpress.com/2016/02/05/share-your-stories/ before they’re forgotten.

IMG_2496

Looking through https://bigwhitehouseonthehill.wordpress.com/2016/02/24/the-old-recipe-box/ reminded me of my mom’s friends and the women of my childhood.  Simple slips of paper brought back potlucks and parties filled with laughter and the joy of cooking for friends and family.

Recipes

Maybe that why https://bigwhitehouseonthehill.wordpress.com/2016/02/19/exchanging-seeds-advice-and-stories/will make gardening that much better this year.  I’m looking forward to growing that giant gourd/pumpkin after hearing the farmer tell how he created this marvel with years of cross-pollination.  Don’t worry; I’ll post pictures.

Planning for success was the theme scattered throughout the month.  Sometimes you have to own your mistakes like in Building Up and Tearing Down where we pulled out the diseased nectarine tree and replaced it with two heartier varieties and began dismantling the decorative garden beds in the kitchen garden.

BU Garden Closer

I still have a lot of work to do before my spring garden can go in.  Let’s hope for some sunshine on a non-golfing afternoon.

Sometimes planning is less about being “right” and more about finding a way to be successful like in https://bigwhitehouseonthehill.wordpress.com/2016/02/17/solutions-and-an-umbrella-stand/ where we found a way to help an old dog make it through the night.  As an added bonus, we’ve added a decorative element to the entry, and we get enjoy the fragrance of daphne as we return from our late night walks (check out https://bigwhitehouseonthehill.wordpress.com/2016/02/15/dreaming-of-spring/).

daphne closeup

Then there’s times you’ve cut corners, you’ve made excuses, and it’s a mess; remember https://bigwhitehouseonthehill.wordpress.com/2016/02/29/the-dreaded-yeah-buts/.  That’s where I tried to force my sister-in-law to wear a hat that’s four inches too narrow.  Her head isn’t abnormally large, I just failed to plan properly.

Sometimes, you’ve given in and believe it is what it is.  There’s no solution; you just have to live with it.  I was certain the rooms upstairs were just dark.  I mean obviously they have fewer windows and lower ceilings.  It’s just the way it is.  https://bigwhitehouseonthehill.wordpress.com/2016/02/08/rethinking-light/ can be as simple as changing a light bulb.  We still haven’t figured out how to reposition the ones downstairs, but I have faith.

When we were hanging up artwork at my dad’s new place, the print over the couch ended up off center.  When I pointed it out, my dad suggested that we can always move the couch.  I guess I could move the easy chair, but I haven’t reached that level of desperation quite yet.

Spotlight

I’m having issues uploading the photos from last weekend.  If they show up as random boxes, my apologies.  I have no clue what’s going on.  I type, I edit, I upload.  I’ve done my part. 🙂

Hope your February was fun and fabulous.

 

 

 

 

 

The Old Recipe Box

I’ll admit it; I was a nerdy girl.  When I was a kid, I spent hours going through my my mom’s recipe box.  I’d categorize and catalogue trying to impose a system on all the newspaper clippings, pages torn from magazines, and slips of paper shoved in drawers.

As the only daughter, it was a given that the recipe box came home with me last month as we cleaned out the family home. I laughed to see my childish scrawl on many of the cards, there were my mom’s crisp rounded letters, too, and the old-fashioned script favored by my grandma.  It made me feel close to them just thumbing through the cards.

Recipes

Then I started noticing the names in the upper corners: Louise, Collette, Vicky, VaLoy, Karen, and Jean.  Many of the kind women who peopled my childhood were there.  Ladies from work, women from church, neighbors, and friends had shared their food, their recipes, and their lives with my mom and in turn our family.

Pinterest seems so cold and faceless in comparison to this outpouring of friendship and memories of potlucks, teas, informal parties, and simple taco nights.  My mom was always asking for a new recipe, complimenting others on their cooking, and willing to try something new.

So last week in honor of my mom, I made her tried and true banana bread.  Now it isn’t the banana bread my girls know; I always baked Pampered Chef’s Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Banana Bread which is delicious but tastes very little like bananas.  This is the one I grew up with—plain and simple.

-ORB Banana Bread

As I pulled it out, I was surprised to notice it wasn’t just my mom’s recipe it was from a friend and neighbor who took care of us when we were little kids.  As you can see, it’s well used.  I substituted coconut oil for the shortening and halved the sugar, and made it up in mini-loaf pans.  I can tell you, me and the MR enjoyed each bite.

Maybe our world needs some old-time potlucks and get-togethers where people share food and lives.  The recipe box can always use a few new cards.

What’s in your recipe box?