Friday, June 29, 2012

grilled fish packets

Wrapping up a week of food (which I noticed also happened to turn into a near-week of grilling!), this is another recipe that is really just a method, and completely flexible.  

At some point, we'd like to try a little aquaponics and raise our own tilapia, so I've been experimenting with different ways of cooking it in anticipation of that far-future dream. Any white fish will do in this recipe, though, and I've also loved it with fresh-caught trout. I imagine bass would taste great this way as well!

To make these little packets, I use aluminum foil, and just layer on a base of aromatic things, followed by the fish, and topped with a marinade/sauce of some sort. I can imagine all kinds of variations, so just use what you have readily available. Here's the combination we most recently enjoyed:

Base: thinly-sliced yellow onion, thinly-sliced fresh ginger, and a few sprigs of thyme.

Fish: Tilapia fillets

Sauce: A couple Tablespoons organic soy sauce whisked with a little black pepper, a little sugar, and a little oyster sauce. Poured over the fish, and then topped with a couple lemon slices.

I put one fish per packet, and seal them up well on the sides and top (leaving an air pocket inside for the steaming to occur) by folding over and crimping the foil with my hands. They only take about 10 minutes on the grill. If you prefer, you could skip the foil and use a stovetop steamer to cook them. Using a whole fish instead of only the fillet works wonderfully, too.

When the packets are opened up just before eating, the steam releases a beautiful aroma, which I feel really adds to the enjoyment of the meal.  

Thursday, June 28, 2012

from scratch breakfast burritos

What I want to share today is more of an idea or method than a recipe. During these busy summer mornings, it's nice to have something we can quickly grab from the freezer for breakfast, but that is still homemade and nourishing. That's the need that created these breakfast burritos. It's also fun to mix it up, and add seasonal ingredients as they become available. I aim to make ours completely from scratch, using both homemade flour tortillas and breakfast sausage.

Here's how I typically make ours, using only one pan, and assembling all the components at the end:

1. In a cast iron skillet, cook breakfast sausage, which has been cut or formed into small pieces, until done.

2. Remove sausage and set aside. Add a little butter to the pan, and sautée vegetables until softened. Usually this includes onions, mushrooms, spinach and/or sweet peppers. I occasionally cut up small cubes of potatoes to include as well. If the potatoes aren't pre-boiled, cook them thoroughly in the pan first (adding some bacon grease if need be) before adding the other veggies.

3. Remove vegetables from pan, adding to sausage. Beat eggs with salt and pepper, add to pan, cooking gently with moderate heat. When the scrambled eggs are nearly finished, add shredded cheese. I often use a combination of cheeses, but have found more sharply flavored cheese tastes best.

4. Remove eggs from pan, combining with the vegetable and sausage mixture.

5. Add mixture to tortillas, topping with picante sauce, salsa, or green chile sauce.

6. Roll them up, eat some, and freeze the rest! They can be warmed up straight from the freezer in an oven or microwave.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

an everything BBQ sauce

It seems that BBQ sauce falls into many different categories - mustard-based, tomato-based, sweet, spicy, Asian style, and on and on. I'm certainly no expert, and I'm sure many people have their own regional favorite. This one is our favorite because it has a bit of everything in it (and we like it on everything, too!)

~note: this recipe makes a lot! I like to make a big batch and freeze some of it. Sometimes I don't have all the ingredients on hand, but I've found this sauce to be very adaptable, so feel free to play around with it yourself. You'll see that it's mostly about ratios (1 cup of this, 1/2 cup of that). I think the key is to aim for a balanced taste - a little on the sweet side, but also tart and a tad spicy. 


1 large or 2 small onions, diced
5-6 garlic cloves, minced
olive oil to coat bottom of a medium-sized saucepan
1 Cup tomato paste
1 Cup apple cider vinegar (I use raw, unfiltered)
1 Cup honey
1 Cup dijon mustard
1 Cup hoisin sauce
1/2 Cup soy sauce
1/2 Cup worcestershire sauce
2 Tablespoons chili powder
1 Tablespoon ground cumin
1/2 Tablespoon red pepper flakes  


1. Sautee the onion and garlic in oil on medium heat for about 5 minutes, just until softened.

2. Add the remaining ingredients and stir well.

3. Simmer the complete sauce for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Eat with anything and everything BBQ.   

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Korean style beef ribs

Have you ever had beef bulgogi? We love it so, but there isn't a Korean restaurant for miles and miles, so I've tried to replicate the essence of it at home. These ribs have been a hit at many a family gathering, as well as with us on these long summer days where the kitchen gets a break and the outdoor grill is in full use.

I modeled my recipe after this one, but can never leave good enough alone, so mine has some pretty major variations, such as the addition of an Asian pear (also known as an apple-pear). Yum! 

I prefer to use thinly-sliced, bone-in short ribs, which I can only find at the Asian market. Otherwise, I buy the thick boneless short ribs and cut them as thin as possible. If you freeze them for a couple hours first, it makes slicing them this way much easier.   

Bulgogi Style Beef Ribs

~serves a small crowd of less than 10, but can be halved, or doubled (or quadrupled...)

3 pounds short ribs, thinly sliced
small bunch of green onions, finely chopped 

For the marinade:
2/3 Cup organic soy sauce
1 Asian pear, peeled, cored, and blended 
6 Tablespoons honey or cane sugar
2 Tablespoons sesame oil
5-6 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated (I use a microplane zester for this task)
big pinch of red pepper flakes
big pinch of black pepper


1. Whisk together marinade ingredients.

2. Add to ribs, and mix in green onions.

3. Massage meat with your hands. Yes, this is necessary. It says so in the original recipe, too!  

4. Allow to marinate for at least an hour, or up to overnight.

5. Grill on a hot surface. I don't put them on the grill until it reaches at least 400 degrees F. They only take a minute or two per side.

6. Eat with rice and kimchi.

Monday, June 25, 2012

in my kitchen {a week of food}

I thought it might be fun to devote a whole week to posting about some recipes and food we've been enjoying.

So, kicking off a week of food...

Baby and I spent a morning making homemade marshmallows using a recipe from this book. It was a lot of fun (a bit like making candy or taffy, I imagine) and they are super yummy. I really wanted to roast some in our new-old chiminea, but the state-wide fire ban put a damper on that plan. I'm now thinking a chocolate marshmallow cake is in order, and when the ban lifts, we can make another batch of marshmallows to celebrate!

It was a good lesson that the making of things is really more about the process than the product. (Especially when half of the product ends up in tiny pieces, near sticky baby feet, or on the floor).

Saturday, June 23, 2012

very un-cute

Well, (thankfully?) the cuteness factor of the meaty birds is wearing off. They're right at 6 weeks old now, and it seems we have some rather strong-headed males (I'm assuming they're males anyway) in our batch, who fight pretty hard for dominance. There are about 3 that have appeared to mature faster than the rest, and they always seem to tussle with each other. This morning, as I was trucking food and water about, I noticed 2 in particular in a weird stance, their necks leaning on each other, almost like boxers resting during a fight. Then they went at it, and I noticed a fair bit of blood on one, so I yanked him out of the fray. I'm now wondering if this is in fact what happened to my little injured chick. This one I pulled today is not nearly as injured, but I like to be cautious, so he's in his own box for the time-being, too.  

We might have to off a few of these boys early, knowing that they won't have reached proper weight until another month from now. I'm okay with that, though. The first go-round of any new endeavor can always be chalked up to a learning experience. Dare I say, most anything can be seen as a learning process if you chose to view it that way, even when that curve is a steep one.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


We had a little reprieve from the heat on this fine first summer solstice day. Temperatures in the mid-seventies, just the right kind of breezy, and enough clouds to shade the sun for awhile. With a sleeping baby on my back, I was able to spend a good couple hours outside weeding the raspberry patch and adding a top layer of compost. There were definitely more weeds than raspberry canes! I'm hoping this gives them much more breathing room, and that we see little flowers starting to fruit soon.

It is mighty hard work, this toiling in the soil, but the replenishing kind that reminds you sweat is good for you, and makes you grateful for a breakfast of fresh eggs just gathered. How I long for the day when most of what we consume is produced right on this very land.

After all that hard work, we took a little break, and baby had her first ice cream cone - strawberry flavor!

A perfect day for starting summer. Hope yours was just as wonderful.

Monday, June 18, 2012

hot weather makes us do odd things

Like want to hang out a lot in the basement. While noticing the alarming amount of spider webs and dead bugs on the floor (someone really ought to be cleaning down here), I peeked into the creepy window wells. Of course, if one goes looking for trouble, she's sure to find it. In one I saw a big toad. In the other, a rabbit.

As it turns out, toads in window wells are easy to catch and rescue and douse with a little cool water before releasing back near the pond. Rabbits? Not so much. Nor easy to coax into a large bucket filled with freshly picked lettuce. If there were to be a hopping contest between a toad and a rabbit, the rabbit would most certainly win. Alas, this poor rabbit could not hop quite high enough to get back out of the well into which she fell. Not to worry, though, she's free now, too. And headed straight for my garden.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

raised garden beds

We debated for quite some time just how to go about preparing the garden area this year.

till? no-till? raised beds? double shovel dug? pigs? hundreds of pots?

It's an odd space where a few established raspberry plants follow the curve of the pond on one side, a rhubarb plant is smack in the middle of the other side, and the straightest part runs along the fence where the neighbor's goats like to hang out. It is altogether rectangular, round, and square at once.

It's quirky. It's windy. It's rocky. And it's prone to the occasional flood. The combination of these factors makes for a space that at one time or another is usually overrun by weeds that have blown in as seeds (but that can't easily be managed because of the apparent rock garden lurking just below the soil surface) - or - appearing to be barren because a flood has just swiftly washed all the topsoil and newly planted seeds straight into the pond (which is what happened during our first spring here).

Raised garden beds seemed to be the best solution for this area, so that's what we've been working on this season. We'd like to move away from tilling in favor of permaculture farming, and I would say this is kind of the intermediate step. I've always had great success growing in raised beds. They're particularly valuable for crops like carrots and potatoes, which like a deep bed of soil to grow down into. Plants can be more tightly packed in the space for this same reason, too. They also give me the illusion that I have neatly managed and contained the outdoor spaces, which I every-so-often like to think I have control over.

We've got two completed and planted out, with enough space, wood, and soil for 6 more to be built, hopefully before the season is up. We squared off the middle of the garden area for the raised bed space, and I've taken to rogue planting on all the outskirts!

I must declare my absolute love of these beautiful beds, made from a cedar wood Craigslist score and hand-crafted by my husband to fit our odd space. They are each 8 feet long by 4 feet wide and 1 foot deep. As a kind of experiment, some will be lined with hardware cloth (to deter burrowing animals, of which we have several around, but don't know if they'll actually be a problem) and a layer of cardboard as a weed barrier of sorts. I also plan to layer cardboard and old hay on all the 3 foot walkways between the beds in an effort to curtail those pesky weeds.

Here are a couple of links we found invaluable in the planning of these beds:

Simple building plans

Cubic yard soil calculator

This serves as a very rugged "before" photo, and I'll be sure to share the "after" when they're all completed so you can see how everything came together! How do you grow stuff in your space?

Saturday, June 16, 2012

around here


Banana Fingerling potatoes are thriving in several of these old wooden barrels.

Peas planted late on a whim next to the front porch are looking healthy. I think they enjoy the afternoon shade, providing coolness and protection as summer approaches. They, and all the other green growing things, received a hefty dose of garlic tea.

Beautiful garlic scapes promise a great harvest.

The decapitated peppers and tomatoes are making a comeback! They are still missing their flowers, but I have hope that all will be well again in a months' time.

Weeds have completely taken over my oat field! I have no idea exactly where the oats are. I try to just move along past that part, hoping I will sort it out better in the fall. Hmn. 

The injured little chick has made an amazing recovery, and is my constant garden companion. He's put all his energy into healing, and is quite a bit smaller than the other meaty birds. I'm debating trying to reintroduce him to his flock.

Hens got out (again).

Tiny had a midnight pedicure.

The neighbors gave us this chiminea they no longer wanted! We're pretty excited about it. 

Look how the ginger has grown!

What's happening in your neck of the woods?
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