Monday, June 29, 2009

100-Mile Desserts: Profiteroles with Fruit Whipped Cream


We heard from our favourite local organic strawberry farmer that this season has not been so good for strawberries. With the late frost during the first week of June, and the extremely hot weather that followed, the berries are now all but over. Luckily, we did manage to put several quarts into our freezer for winter use, but for now we are just trying to enjoy the last of the fresh berries in as many ways as possible. The 100-Mile Dessert recipe for today was profiteroles (cream puffs), filled with a honey-sweetened whipped cream and fresh berries. The recipe comes from the Moosewood Restaurant Book of Desserts, slightly modified to meet our 100-mile criteria. They are an impressive, yet not difficult dessert to make and can be filled with a variety of sauces, creams or fruit. Here's how to make them:

Profiteroles with Fruit Whipped Cream

1 cup water
5 Tbsp organic butter
1 cup unbleached organic flour
1/4 tsp salt
2 Tbsp maple syrup
4 large eggs

1) Preheat oven to 400F. The key to successful puffs is to have the high heat that quickly expands the egg-rich dough.
2) In a sauce pan bring water, butter and maple syrup to a boil.
3) Then add the flour and salt, stirring constantly to get a nice smooth dough.
4) Remove from heat and allow to cool for 2-3 minutes.
5) Beat in one egg at a time, stirring well to bring the sticky clumpy dough back into a smooth consistency. It can also be blended in a food processor for a few seconds to make a smooth dough.
6) Lightly oil baking sheet. Drop mounds of dough 2 inches apart on the sheet. Use about 1/4 cup dough for large profiteroles, or 2 1/2 Tbsp for small ones.
7) Bake for 10 minutes at 400F, then reduce heat and bake at 350F for another 15 minutes.
8) Restrain yourself from opening the oven until the profiteroles are done - otherwise, you risk the puffs not rising properly!
9) When the puffs are firm, let them cool and then score a horizontal cut about 1/3 of the way through the middle of the puff.
10) Fill with favourite cream or sauce and replace the top - we used 500 ml organic whipping cream blended with 2 Tbsp honey, and then mixed in 2 cups fresh strawberry slices.

Makes about 12 large profiteroles or 20 small ones.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Potato patch experiment


A few weeks ago I wrote about planting potato eyes in my experimental potato patch. I am trying to grow potatoes vertically, using an aproximately 4x4 foot patch ringed with strawbales as my garden plot. From the reading I have done on this, I should be able to grow upto 100 lbs of potatoes in this tiny patch! The idea is to continuously hill the plants as they grow, so that they send out new roots with more potato nodes on them. Today I hilled my plants for the first time. Even though they are in a fairly shady part of the yard, they seem to be doing well. The recent heat, humidity and rain has helped them to shoot up quickly.

A guest staying with us recently mentioned the idea of growing potatoes in 5 gallon pails. He said a member of his community garden is growing a series of potatoes in these 5 gallon pails, which are compact, easy to "hill" (just keep adding soil), and can be carried home. At the end of the season you could even simply pull out the plant, reach under to harvest a few potatoes as needed, and store the rest in a cool basement or garage in the pail of soil over winter.

100-Mile Desserts: Maple Glazed Peanuts


Just in time for the long weekend holiday coming up, I thought I'd add the recipe for a very simple 100-Mile camping sweet treat. It can be made ahead of time at home (it transports well), or it can also be made over a campfire in a cast iron pan. It would be a fun and easy cooking project for kids to help with! Of course, be sure to ask first if anyone has peanut allergies.

We found locally grown peanuts at Pickards (available directly, or through Bailey's Local Foods). They offer redskin peanuts that are salted, unsalted or garlic. Any variety would do for this recipe. There are also a variety of other nuts available through the Ontario Nut Growers Association (hazelnuts, heartnuts, walnuts), but they are significantly more expensive and need to be shelled by hand.

Happy Canada Day! Enjoy this recipe:

Maple Glazed Peanuts
2 cups peanuts (e.g. Pickards Peanuts)
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tsp salt (if peanuts are unsalted - e.g. Sifto salt)
1 Tbsp canola oil (e.g. Pristine Gourmet)

1) Pre-heat a large sturdy cast iron frying pan. Prepare a lightly oiled sheet of waxed paper on a baking tray and set aside.
2) Dry-roast the peanuts in the pan over medium heat for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly.
3) Add maple syrup, salt and oil. Stir the mixture to coat peanuts well.
4) Continue to stir well as the maple syrup boils down. This will take about 15 minutes.
5) When the maple syrup has boiled down, the peanuts will look glossy and sticky. Scrape them onto the oiled sheet of wax paper and let cool completely.
6) Break the maple-peanuts ("brittle") into small chunks. Store in sealed container or glass jar.

Friday, June 26, 2009

100-Mile Desserts: Custard & Berry Pie




Last week a local 100-Mile Diet Challenge was started in our community. Two of our community naturopaths (from the Healing Path Centre for Natural Medicine in uptown Waterloo) are heading up the challenge, inviting 100 people to eat 100-mile diet for 100 days. So far more than 160 people have already signed up! There are various slight exceptions, but for the most part participants are attempting to support only local farmers and producers for this duration. The hope is to learn more about the great food varieties in season for us locally, to build a sense of momentum around local eating which will hopefully encourage new food sources and suppliers to become available, and to become a little less reliant on the long-distance transported food system.

More info about this local 100-Mile Diet Challenge at: http://www.healingpathcentre.com/blog/index.php

We already pretty much eat a local seasonal diet, and love seeking out local farmers and producers, and supporting restaurants that feature local foods on their menu. However, my husband cringed at the thought of not having his daily morning coffee, and although he doesn't mind the odd cup of herbal tea, or even dandelion-chickory root brew I suggested, he decided that coffee would be his "exception" as long as it was fair trade and organic. Fortunately, there is a good selection of 100-Mile wine available, not to mention apple cider and other locally made fruit juices, and we are growing hops in the hopes of trying to make our own beer from scratch this fall.

I am not a coffee drinker, but do like my desserts. The thought of no sugar or chocolate for 100 days seemed a bit daunting, but then again it would probably do me good to reduce my dependence on these two items! I decided I will go without both, and will make it my goal to compile 100-mile dessert recipes during this time. We are a region rich in dairy, and there are several excellent locally made sources for organic yogurt, cream, icecream, butter, milk and of course eggs available. I am also excited about all the seasonal berries, local fruit, wild herbs & edibles (like rosehips & wild grapes), wild-harvested abandoned fruit, edible flowers, locally grown nuts, maple syrup and honey available to us, and will be posting weekly 100-mile dessert recipes on this blog along with photos of the desserts we create & sample here at home! To find a quick complete list of all the recipes just do a search in this blog under "100-mile desserts". I will only list general sources for ingredients, and more specific names of farms can be found on our region's Buy Local map, through Bailey's Local Foods, or at the local farmer's markets.

Here is the first recipe, which we savoured on our picnic blanket outside in the garden:

Custard & Berry Pie

Pie Crust:
1 1/2 cups organic spelt or wheat flour (e.g. Oak Manor)
1/2 tsp salt (e.g. Sifto salt which comes from near Goderich)
1/2 cup chilled butter
3-4 Tbsp ice water

1) Mix all ingredients in food processor. This makes a soft ball of dough.
2) Chill for 30 minutes.
3) Roll out and spread into a large pie dish.
4) Pre-bake for 5 minutes at 350F.

Custard Filling:
4 organic eggs (various good local sources, or your from your own backyard hens)
1/2 cup maple syrup (e.g. sources at Kitchener Farmer's Market)
4 Tbsp organic flour (e.g. Oak Manor)
1 3/4 cups organic milk
2 Tbsp organic butter

Plus 2 pints fresh seasonal berries or fruit (we are using strawberries right now).

1) Preheat oven to 350F.
2) Whisk eggs, syrup and flour together. Add other ingredients and blend well.
3) Pour into pre-baked pie crust. Bake for 40 minutes.
4) Cool pie completely. Then cover with fruit or berries in concentric circles.
5) This pie is not very sweet - the sweetness comes from the fruit ontop. It can be garnished with local whipped cream (sweetened with honey) or fresh mint sprigs.

Serves 10.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Etsy shop & gallery now open!

We are very excited to announce that our etsy store is finally open! This simple shop will make things much easier for customers who wish to purchase our products using paypal.

We will be featuring a variety of earth-friendly handmade items, including handcrafted soaps, organic herbal products, loose leaf teas, mama & baby items, handmade organic / upcycled children's clothing, buckwheat dream pillows, and vegan baked treats. Everything made right here on our little homestead, in small batches and with great care.

Stay tuned for store grand opening *specials*, blog give-aways, and ongoing new items to be listed in our shop (we're working on the baked goods right now --- yummm, vegan fudge, vegan raspberry cookies...plus some slow food/100-mile recipes coming)...

To view our store go to: http://www.homesteadherbal.etsy.com
Also can be viewed from our website at: http://www.littlecityfarm.ca/herbals-6.php

Garden tasks, snow peas, new transplants, and sacred tulsi basil




This week's garden to-do list:
- hill potatoes in the 4' x 4' potato experiment patch
- make soap spray and use on fava beans
- tie up snow peas on trellis
- plant more beans (pole and french filet)
- harvest last asparagus and rhubarb
- weeding, always more weeding
- stake tomatoes before root systems get too large
- prep side yard for the arrival of the new rain harvesting tank

The snow peas are flowering and full! The blossoms are so beautiful I had to share a photo here. We should be eating fresh peas within a week. Mmmm...

I've so far managed to keep two trays of new seedlings going, so that as we harvest we will continuously have new transplants to set in. The Tulsi Basil (Sacred Basil) is up in abundance (as usual, I overseeded a little!). I did a little more research on this herb and found out it is indeed very special. It is considered the premier divine small plant in aryuvedic medicine, going by the sanskrit/Indian name of Tulasi or Vishnu priya. It's Latin name Ocimum sactum means literally "holy basil". It is renowned as an antioxidant, helping to boost the body's ability to fight free radicals which have been linked to disease and aging. It helps the body fight ongoing stress, and balances the mind, body and emotions. It is also excellent for the throat, chest, lungs and the entire respiratory tract, and acts as an anti-inflammatory. Also useful for healthy skin, rich in vitamin C and calcium, and aids digestive system. Finally, the Tulsi Basil is also used to purify the atmosphere and protects against environmental toxins. I feel very lucky to have been gifted this herb and will be sure to save seeds at the end of the season to make this a regular addition to our herb garden.

Information from: www.ayurvediccure.com

Homemade organic aphid spray

Aphids are one of the gardener's least favourite pests! They can arrive unexpectedly, and start an infestation quickly devasting a once lush looking garden plot. They are easy to spot, covering leaves and stems of the plant and causing green leaves to curl and wither. Aphids should be dealt with immediately, and there are several simple yet effective organic methods for doing so. We've noticed aphids on our fava beans and I'll be trying out these organic methods today in hopes of saving the plants!

Homemade organic aphid spray
1) Spray the plant with a stream of water to wash off aphids. Then let plant dry.
2) Make a simple soap spray with: 4 oz (3 Tbsp) dish detergent to 1 gallon water.
3) Spray onto plant making sure to get under all the leaves thoroughly.
4) Aphids should die off in about 1 hour. Spray again as needed and check daily for reinfestation (eggs may be hatching).
5) Wash soap spray off of plant leaves to avoid scalding the leaves (especially melons).

Other methods:
Cayenne & garlic spray: 3-4 hot pepper/cayennes, a few cloves garlic and 1 quart water, combined in a blender and used as spray on plant leaves.

Ladybugs: They are natural aphid predators and can be purchased from garden supply stores, and generally you will need 100 ladybugs per 1000 square feet of garden. Release them in the evening so they have dew to drink.

Companion herbs: Plant angelica or morning glory to attract ladybugs to your garden.

Information from: www.life123.com

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Summer solstice garden









Happy summer solstice! Today is the longest day of the year, and we've been enjoying it outdoors from sunrise this morning all the way through until sunset. Here are some photos of our garden, which is finally coming alive with the warm, humid weather and extra rain we've had this week. We had a little set back (especially the basil, zucchini, eggplant and peppers) in the first week of June with unexpected late frost, but now it looks like everything has revived and is picking up growing speed. Snow peas are almost ready to harvest, fava beans are forming, tomatillos are flowering, and lettuce round 3 is almost ready to harvest with four more trays of new seedlings all sprouting and soon ready to transplanting out!

Willow Construction - living fence and arbour













Yesterday we hosted a workshop on living fences/natural willow construction. Even though it was raining, we had a great turn-out of about 15 people who worked away at constructing an arbour and a woven wattle fence - both which can be rooted in the ground to create "living" structures. We also discussed wattle-hurdle construction which goes back to the Neolithic age (originally used as moveable sheep pens, huts, fences, roads, fishing and still used in basketry by weaving thin branches or slats between upright stakes). Above are some photos of the workshop and finished product.

Our workshop facilitator had harvested a large amount of green willow from a site on the outskirts of the city where a new subdivision is going in (and since the land is getting cleared he didn't feel he was overharvesting a sensititive area) and kept it soaking in buckets of water, trimming off any green shoots or leaves, until the workshop date. He mentioned there are thousands of varieties of willow, which easily cross and hybridize, so it's almost impossible to be completely certain what variety of willow we have - they also come in a wide range of beatiful colours: shades of brown, rust, red, green, yellow tinges, black, etc. There is a useful website where many of these varieties of willow can be ordered as seedlings ready for planting. Willow grows so easily and quickly that it is ready for harvest in only a season or two, and it can be coppiced (cut all the way down to the ground, to allow long straight shoots to emerge perfect for cutting). The site also categorizes the willow into those types best of basket weaving, furniture building, fence building, and so on. Check out Blue Stem Nursery, in British Columbia at: www.bluestem.ca

Other good types of wood for traditional rustic furniture construction include ash (durable, not flexible - good for handles); aspen (young saplings best); birch (great for besom brooms); cedar (best for fence posts); oak; dogwood; sumac (good for intricate bends, very flexible); and of course willow (best for bentwood, and weaving). Common vines include honeysuckle and grapevine for decorative weaving.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

June garden harvest & plantings










We've finally started the work of finishing up the outside of our strawbale house addition. We have a large wrap-around porch to build, front steps/deck, new landscaping and retaining wall along our driveway, and of course, the most important, finishing the exterior plastering of the walls. We'll be posting more photos and details as we move along on that process this summer. It's an exciting prospect to consider finishing the house this season!

After a busy weekend spent digging post-holes for the new porch, preparing building materials, hosting a variety of overnight guests in our B&B, and a short relaxing break to meet some friends at a local Kite Festival in the park, we took a few hours in the garden this evening to start our first round of succession plantings. We planted more radish, zucchini, basil, chinese cabbage, mizuna, chickory, several varieties of lettuce & mesclun greens, chard, beans, beets, coriander/cilantro, nasturtiums - and harvested fresh garlic, lettuce, orach, green onions, rhubarb and the first strawberries for dinner. Indoors we've started more kale, zucchini, greens, and tulsi (sacred) basil gifted us a few weeks ago by visiting interns from the Saugeen CSA in Durham. We hope to continuously have new transplants ready to be set out into the garden in place of the larger plants being harvested.

It's also time to start harvesting wild edibles (nettle, wild grape leaves, orach, chickweed, purslane, lamb's quarters), as well as herbs that we dry for our tea blends & herbal products. Already the raspberry leaves, mints, bergamot, sweet grass, yarrow, lemon balm, sage, lavender, marigold, wild rose, oregano, catnip, comfrey and nettle are ready for harvest.

Above are a few photos of what we are enjoying in the garden - the blossom colours of May in the garden are white (forget-me-not, bloodroot), and now early to mid June our garden is purple - orach, sage flowers, lavender, chive blossoms, purple lamb's quarters, wild rose blossoms, pea blossoms, wild lupines, and a gorgeous heritage variety purple fava bean that we're growing for the first time.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

depaving our cities!

I recently read about a great non-profit organization called "depave", based in Portland, Oregon. Their mission is to work away at de-paving the many unnecessary urban concrete areas to instead create useful, living, healthier spaces with many practical benefits such as reducing city temperatures, decreasing impact of storm water run-off, and offering new places for urban food products.

Vancouver's "green infrastructure program" has a somewhat similar project called "country lanes" where the pavement of backlanes is removed in order to plant grases. These green lanes are set up primarily to help decrease the impact of storm water run-off into the city's sewage system, but also offer a beautiful alternative to regular pavement. See: http://www.cityfarmer.org/lanes.html

From the depave website here is their statement on the benefits of depaving (www.depave.org):

Impervious surfaces such as concrete and asphalt can be useful for providing access for pedestrians, bicyclists, wheelchair users, and cars. However, the paving over of millions of acres of land and vegetation have contributed to numerous economic and environmental problems. In many cities, over half of the urban land is paved for roadways and parking lots. While we may need sidewalks and roadways, we can minimize the pavement we use for driveways and parking areas, and thereby restore the natural environment. Ideally, we shouldn’t be paving over habitat and farmland to accommodate auto-centric development, but through depaving, we can reverse the damage!

Firstly, impervious surfaces prevent rainwater from entering the soil and instead divert it to nearby waterways. Along the way, the rainwater carries pollutants such as oil, antifreeze, plastics, pesticides, and heavy metals from the roads into local streams and rivers, devastating riparian habitat and polluting local waterways. In places like Portland, Oregon, which uses combined sewer overflows, the high volume of stormwater runoff forces untreated sewage into the rivers.

Pavement also increases the summertime temperatures in cities and suburbs. This “heat island effect” in urban areas often increase temperatures by about 10 degrees (F) higher than surrounding rural areas. This in turn increases the need for electricity to power fans and air conditioning units. The elevated temperatures also contribute to the formation of ground-level ozone – the main constituent of smog.

The removal of pavement allows for the revegetation of land with trees and plants.

The benefits of urban vegetation include:

  • Cooling of homes and offices by shading the sun’s rays and the protection against harsh winds
  • Ambient cooling from evapotranspiration of rain on the leaves
  • Aesthetic enhancement to areas and psychosocial benefits associated with greenery
  • Enhancing air quality by removing particulate pollutants and carbon dioxide from the air while producing oxygen
  • Visual privacy and reduction of noise from the street
  • Traffic calming when trees are planted along urban streets
  • Restoration of local habitat for birds, insects and other wildlife
  • And if the previously-paved land is used for farming, this provides food and nutrition for local residents.
  • Sunday, June 07, 2009

    Plants, Roots & Fibres: Natural Fibre Arts & Herbal Workshop Day!














    We had an amazing day here at Little City Farm yesterday, participating in the 2nd annual spOtlight Festival! Throughout the day we featured 6 workshops demonstrating natural fibres and herbal arts - natural dyes, spinning & carding, wet felting, herbal oils & salves, soap making, and papermaking - we wanted to teach a variety of simple, traditional processes that can be done at home using inexpensive materials. There was a nice flow to the day as each workshop touched on topics that had been mentioned in previous workshops (for example, after learning about various fibres and how to dye them, we could move on to how to spin the roving into yarn, or felt the roving into fabric objects).

    Thanks to everyone who dropped by to participate - we had more than 50 attendees, including many new people we had not met before - an we only wish we could have accomodated everyone who wanted to register! As a result of larger numbers of interested public than we had expected, several of the workshops had to be demonstration rather than hands-on. Hopefully if we participate again next year we can make the workshops longer or offer them more than once so as to be a little more indepth and allow for more direct participation. At least we plan to be offering several of these workshops again later in the summer/fall/winter, so hopefully people who didn't get a chance to participate can join us then. These workshop dates will be posted on our website. Finally, we want to thank the Ontario Arts Council for the funding they provided in order to make all these workshops FREE to participants! A comment heard over and over again was how much this felt like a relaxed community gathering that was accessible and affordable for anyone to take part in.