Tag Archives: homemade

green tomato relish

Gardening is definitely not a picture-perfect hobby.  There are many days spent dealing with powdery mildew, battling against bugs, anguishing over produce stolen by squirrels, and contemplating how on earth I can’t just grow a consistent tomato crop.  This year, we have been blessed with a classic Indian summer in Colorado, where the shades of yellow and orange have lingered well into the month of November.  In fact, I am still growing French breakfast radishes and arugula outside right now!  I finally put most of the garden to rest about a week and a half ago, harvesting hot peppers, spinach, Swiss chard, copious amounts of herbs, and some delicate, green tomatoes.  Ahhh, green tomatoes.  What to do with them?  Last year, I tried frying them, yielding excellent results.  This year, I canned them and made green tomato relish.  It turned those tart, green tomatoes into a spreadable, herbaceous, sweet-and-savory condiment, which I will enjoy well into the cooler months.

My grandmother used to “put up” and preserve, but unfortunately, we never connected on this subject, when she was alive.  As a little girl, I didn’t have the questions for her that I have right now.  In her absence, I simply wing it or consult these books:  Food in Jars, Small-Batch Preserving, or Canning for a New Generation.  When she didn’t can her greenies, she purchased Ritter’s Green Tomato Relish, which is, sadly, no longer available.  I tried developing a very similar recipe, using the pre-frost green tomatoes from my garden, and the results were beyond satisfying.

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DIY pumpkin spice sugar scrub + detoxing from seasonal “pumpkin spice fatigue”

… with a homemade pumpkin spice latte sugar scrub, of course!

It is officially time for a pumpkin spice intervention.  Don’t get me wrong – I love pumpkin and all things spice.  I even love the occasional latte {two pumps with soy milk, in case you’d ever like to send one my way}.  But the pumpkin spice empire has spiraled out of control.  Starbucks set the tone ten years ago, when they introduced their cult classic, the pumpkin spice latte, now conveniently abbreviated this year to simply “PSL”.  Now one can visit the local grocer and find products like candy, air fresheners, pasta sauce, potato chips, and perhaps even this unmentionable {ell-oh-ell!}, all proudly dressed in shades of orange, advertising the comforting aromas and flavors of fall, and prompting a satisfying, cozy sigh.  But where is the actual pumpkin?

While driving to work the other day, I was listening to NPR’s “Here and Now” segment, where Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson hosted food scientist, Kantha Shelke, on the program.  According to Shelke, most of the popular pumpkin spice-laden products, unsurprisingly, contain little or no trace of the autumnal squash.  In fact, they most likely contain artificial colors, manufactured flavors and aromas, and don’t really taste like the vegetable itself.  I am partial to all things natural, but like a lot of individuals, I do love that pumpkin-y, spicy aroma that surfaces this time of year.  So, I have decided to both have my pie and eat it, too, by using real pumpkin purée to create a deliciously aromatic and exfoliating coffee and sugar scrub.  I have made a similar scrub before, but this upgraded edition really makes me crave the aforementioned hot beverage, except the price tag on the scrub is lower, the ingredients are completely natural, and the benefits are longer lasting!

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peach sage galettes | paired with bellinis

…because summer is such a hard habit to break!

Fare thee well, summer, but just before I officially express my sorrow, concerning your all too soon departure, I think I will sit and savor the lingering ripe peaches you’ve recently sent my way.  You’d better cue the music.  I picked up about ten last-of-the-season peaches from the farmer’s market a couple weeks ago.  They were harvested a little early and tasted a bit under-ripe, but with a little bubbles-inspired creativity on a chilly afternoon, some magic happened.  And I know it has been a while since I last posted, but I’ve got some pretty good excuses for my absence…

Proudly grown by Ela Family Farms, these peaches hail from Hotchkiss, Colorado.  The almost ripe peaches actually gave the galette a firmer texture, a blessing in disguise.  Riding Colorado’s proverbial fall mood swing, along with our trending weather patterns, I have found myself vacillating between wearing sandals and thumbing fashion magazines for riding boots.  Making sangria and dreaming of pumpkin spice lattes.  Sunning on the back porch and selecting yarn for my next chunky scarf.   Our garden has also been in what I’ll call an “indecisive panic mode” for about two weeks now.  An early fall frost sent our red, ripe tomatoes directly off the vine and into the Vitamix, but our late plantings of radishes, arugula, and parsley are still thriving.  This particular recipe bridges the gap between that slow, lazy sweetness of summer and invites the cozy, spiced warmth of fall.

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What exactly is a galette?  It is basically a free-form tart or pie.  Widely used in French cooking, galettes provide a rustic, crisp crust and are much less pretentious than a formal tart.  Don’t fret that you won’t be able to bake this simple, rustic galette because peach season has ended.  Substitute fresh peaches with other stone-fruits, pears, apples, or berries that are in season right now.  Galettes can also be prepared sweet or savory; I am going to tinker around with a chanterelle and caramelized onion version this week, since I happen to have some leftover mushrooms from my recent trip to Oregon.

Peach Sage Galette

Ingredients for the filling:

  • 4 to 5 yellow peaches, pitted, and sliced [slightly under-ripe, if possible]
  • juice of one lemon
  • 2 teaspoons good quality vanilla extract
  • 1 heaping tablespoon finely chopped, fresh sage
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons raw sugar
  • lemon zest for garnish [optional}

Ingredients for the crust {yields two crusts}:

  • 2 cups  flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup butter, cold and cubed
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 3 tablespoons cold milk
  • 1 egg, beaten, for brushing the crust
  • 1 tablespoon raw sugar, for garnish

Steps:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. In a mixing bowl, combine the pitted, sliced peaches, lemon juice, vanilla extract, sage, and raw sugar.  Set aside.
  3. In a separate mixing bowl, combine the flour and salt.
  4. Pour into a food processor.
  5. Add the cubed butter and “pulse” the processor, until 1/4″ sized lumps of butter are visible.
  6. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and milk.  Add to the flour mixture and pulse just until incorporated.
  7. Remove dough from the processor and form into a ball.  Divide into two balls; this recipe yields two crusts.  Bonus!
  8. Store in refrigerator until needed, or you may safely freeze the other ball of pie crust until your next project.
  9. When ready to roll out the dough, set out a large sheet of waxed or parchment paper and lightly flour the surface.  I like to roll my dough on floured paper because I have more control, when lifting it onto the baking sheet.
  10. Set the ball of dough on the floured paper.  Roll and press the dough to form about a 12-inch circle.  You can always alter the size or quantity of these galettes.  Do not over-knead.
  11. Using your hand or a flat spatula, slide under the waxed paper and lift.
  12. Flip the dough-side down onto a floured, rimmed baking sheet.  Carefully lift the wax paper off the rolled-out dough.
  13. Spoon the peach filling onto the center of the dough and carefully fold the outer edges of the dough, overlapping along the way.  Garnish with lemon zest.
  14. Brush the exposed dough with the beaten egg and sprinkle raw sugar over the crust.
  15. Place  in the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, until the crust is browned.  I actually took a propane torch and caramelized the exposed fruit and browned the crust a little further.
  16. Let cool for at least ten minutes and garnish with some vanilla bean ice cream.

Notes:  You may make the crust ahead of time and keep refrigerated.  This particular dough recipe yields two crusts – one for now and one to freeze for later.  I use this versatile dough recipe for my pies and for quiches.  The frozen crust will keep in the freezer up to two months, if stored properly.  If you feel a little lazy or are short on time, a store-bought 9-inch pie crust will substitute nicely.

Yes, as a household, we are still awaiting the delivery of our counter tops.  Until our kitchen renovation is completed, we continue to employ our outdoor grill, the bathtub, and the camping stove as functional appliance substitutes.  In fact, I made this peach galette entirely on the back porch, baking it in our outdoor Weber grill; however, I have adapted this recipe for those of you, who have an actual ovens in your kitchens!  Goes to show that with some Pollyanna-inspired ingenuity, good things can happen.

Always seeking out a cocktail or wine pairing opportunity, I actually found the inspiration for a simple cocktail, while rummaging in my refrigerator door.  Prosecco and peaches are a classic combination:  bellinis are comprised simply of peach purée and a healthy dose of the aforementioned sparkling wine from Italy.  How to make this refreshing, bubbly treat?  Take one pitted peach and blend it until smooth.  Don’t even bother peeling it.  Depending upon the peach’s ripeness, add a little agave nectar or a squeeze of lemon to balance the acidity.  Spoon a dollop of the purée into a martini glass or Champagne flute and slowly top with dry bubbly, like Mionetto Prosecco.  I garnished my bellini with a freshly picked pineapple sage leaf.  Gently squeeze the sage leaf in your hands to further release the aroma.

I am closing with some snapshots of the garden before last weekend’s freeze.  In one afternoon, the previous months of bounty aside, we harvested almost 200 tomatoes, 6 acorn squashes, over 100 peppers, 50 tomatillos, along with one amazing cantaloupe, a head of red cabbage, one giant Blue Hubbard squash, and too many herbs to dry at once.  I am gearing up to make some green tomato chutney this afternoon, before heading in for work.  And after enjoying two consecutive days off, I can say that I feel fully rested and ready to tackle almost anything.  Over the past three weeks, I have either been studying for my level two sommelier certification exam with the Court of Master Sommeliers, creating and crafting juice “mocktails” for a farm dinner, or stomping grapes and making wine for a week in Oregon.  More on those adventures soon.  So ready for a slower paced fall.  Way too ready for another peach bellini!

homemade herbal tea + fruit ice cubes

These sweltering, lazy afternoons are just begging for iced tea, time spent outside and a possible dip in a cool stream.  Well, that is exactly what happened recently.  I don’t have air conditioning in my house, so sometimes, it is necessary to scope out the coolest spot around and take full advantage of its offerings!  Looking back, this particular day was especially meaningful to me:  one of my dearest friends and I hung out, for what I thought was one of the last days I would see her in a while.  While hiking at Lair-o-the-Bear Park near Morrison, Colorado, she let me know that she soon would be moving back to her home state of Michigan to look for a teaching job.  The hike was the only activity we had thoughtfully planned, but upon hearing the news, we decided to make the most of that day and soak up the time we had together.  We searched out a cool stream, started by simply wading into the water, and, after one crazy suggestion, we decided to fully submerge ourselves, in our hiking clothes, and sit in Bear Creek, passing the time and reminiscing for a good 30 minutes.  Cleansing…

In our busy, chaotic, and scheduled lives, we sometimes forget that the small, intimate, seemingly mundane moments are what actually comprise most of our lives.  The quiet moments spent perusing the morning paper, over coffee, accompanied by a soft sigh.  The seconds, when we gather our belongings, grab our keys, close the door to our car, and take in the golden colors of the late summer afternoon sun.  The times where we accidentally meet eyes with our loved ones, while doing the dishes, folding laundry, or piecing together the last perfectly composed bite on our plate.  Pauses.  Those are the moments that give “life” to our lives.  If we fail to appreciate the spontaneity, the accidents, the in-between times, we fail to embrace the richness and uniqueness of our limited days.  Those moments are the most important ones…

I took the time to craft some herbal tea recently.  With some dried herbs of my own and some that I purchased from Apothecary Tinctura, a local herbal shop in town, I mixed a hodgepodge blend that seemed cheery, calming, and delicious, all at once.  I selected a handful of licorice, a small handful of orange peel, a handful of hibiscus, a handful of lemon balm, a few rose hips, and a generous handful of chamomile.  I am loosely assembling a recipe, here, as you can see.  I combined the ingredients and stored them in a Mason jar for today’s use and for a few other brewing sessions in the near future.

I scooped a cupful of the dried herb blend and placed it into a large jar.  I added about two quarts of boiling water and let it sit and steep for about ten minutes in the sunshine.  I let the mixture cool and added some honey, as a sweetener, and a little lemon juice to brighten it up.

I save bulk, glass jars that formerly stored green bar olives. These large jars are perfect for batching drinks and soups or simply storing dried herbs. I currently have two of these jars filled with dried peppers, waiting to be integrated into our spicy dried pepper blend.

Another great touch to add to an iced tea of any sort is fruit-composed ice cubes.  I chose to make some ice cubes, freezing a piece of fruit within each cube.  I will have to try the lovely example I saw at Los Dos Aikos, where the blog’s author, Jaclyn, and her daughter puréed fruit and froze it in heart- and star-shaped molds.  It turned out adorably!  Read more about their how-to, here.

On a whim, I spied these ice cube trays at Whole Foods. You can also find them at Bed Bath & Beyond.

To make the cubes, simply add your choice of fruit to the trays, fill with water, and freeze.  I add them to iced teas, iced water, and even cocktails to brighten up the drink with fruity notes, as the ice melts.  The berries make a colorful statement to the beverage; it is such an easy way to take your drinks to another level of style and taste!

While I was waiting for my fruit cubes to freeze, I entertained Stacey’s rag doll kitty, Willow. She is notorious for photo bombs and “taste-testing” recipes!

I added the frozen fruit cubes to my herbal tea, and I was immediately summoned to my favorite chair on my back porch.  Summertime sipping simply encourages reflection.  I am grateful for my friends, like Stacey, who actively embrace a love of the current moment.  And I am happy for learning how to enjoy life in the midst of perceived chaos and uncertainty.  On a very happy note, I learned that Stacey received a job here in town, just before she began packing, and will not be moving back to Michigan.  Willow will still be able to visit me and the garden, we will purposefully take many more hikes in the future, and I will capitalize on the richness of my friendships and not take them for granted.  You never know when things may change.

Herbal tea and raspberry ice cubes, garnished with a sprig of freshly cut thyme.

Our first hike of the day, Deer Creek Canyon. I love this trail that overlooks the “hog back,” or the Front Range of Colorado. You can see downtown Denver off in the distance.

Stacey and her dog, Lucy, at Lair-o-the-Bear Park.

Jayme on the left, Stacey on the right, just after our soaking session in the stream.

watermelon + basil + cucumber + gin cocktail

Summer may be slowly approaching a close, but all of the vegetables and herbs in my garden are ripening faster and faster.  I can barely catch up with all of the weeding, watering, pruning, harvesting, preserving, and, the most wonderful part, enjoying.  To create this refreshing, gin-based, end-of-summer treat, I used fresh watermelon, cucumber, and basil from the garden.

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