Friday, August 14, 2015

The Height of Summer

Last week a friend and I packed up our kids and went fruit picking. We hadn't picked peaches since Dean was a baby two years ago. The trees were laden with fruit and in just an hour I had picked 70 lbs of fruit! It goes so much faster than picking berries. That afternoon I dug out my canning supplies and we got started. I hadn't canned at all since we moved a year ago. It was a slightly crazy afternoon with three kids, two moms, lots of apple sauce, and one small fire (!!) on the portable propane burner outside. It was also my mom's birthday so once we finished canning I put on a birthday dinner for her complete with a cake. I'm so glad I had decided earlier to buy a cake. There was no way I was feeling up for much of anything else in the kitchen after that busy day.

Two days later I canned three quarts of peaches. Then the kids and I peeled, sliced and froze (and ate) the remaining 20 lbs. They were very enthusiastic and helpful. I was the pitter, Gianna was the slicer and Dean was the eater on our assembly line. We now have 3 gallon bags of sliced peaches in the freezer.

I'm planning on making more applesauce and some pear-apple sauce. I think I might try canning some of the pears too. We'll see how much time I have to devote to it; peeling pears sounds labor intensive. When I was canning the peaches, my first time trying it, I thought that it was too much work and decided I wouldn't do it next year. Then I tasted a bit of the leftover simple syrup that the peaches had been simmering in. Heavenly! They might be worth the work after all. Plus, the leftover syrup is begging to be used in a cocktail.

I remembered this morning that I had planned on making some peach liquor, but had already frozen all of our peaches. Tomorrow is the last day that the farm is open for picking, so we went back this morning to pick some more. I'm hoping all of this canning and freezing will inspire to me do more. There's another farm that has boxes of tomatoes and pickling cucumbers that I'm thinking of diving into. Homemade tomato sauce is pretty amazing...

Sunday, August 2, 2015

One More Month

One more month until Gianna starts kindergarten. One more month of summer. It has been a cooker of a summer here in Portland and I am ready for it to be winding down. Once all of my tomatoes ripen, I'll be completely ready for autumn with it's crisp leaves, winter squash, apples and rain. Until then I'll try my best to enjoy these last few weeks of summer. I've already grated and frozen two gallon bags of zucchini, with much more to come I'm sure. My pickling cucumber is producing cucumbers, but I haven't gotten around to pickling any of them yet. The bean teepee is covered in flowers, so in a week or two I'll be knee-deep in beans. Now, those I really will pickle. They're my favorite. The sunflowers have gotten so heavy that a few have bent over to the ground, where the squirrels deftly chew the flowers off and abscond with them. They've also eaten pretty much all of the hazelnuts on our tree.

My studio/family craft room has gotten a bit more organized, which is wonderful. I'm working on quilts for the kids while listening to audiobooks. The last two I listened to were Between the World and Me which is amazing, and Crazy Rich Asians which is enjoyable and on the other side of the spectrum from the first book. My fantasy of sewing while the kids draw at the table next to me hasn't come true, but maybe someday it will?

I've been preparing for a food change in our house. We are getting ready to do an elimination diet for six weeks that will hopefully clear up some health issues for Dean. His blood test recommended eliminating gluten, eggs, pineapple, peanuts, and chili. Once I stopped celebrating the fact that I don't have to give up dairy, I realized I'll be giving up eggs, my other favorite food group. You know how you start obsessing over something as soon as you know you won't get it anymore? That's me right now. At first I tried taking it all in stride, thinking that we were all going to come out healthier as a family. Our naturopath recommended looking into eating paleo style instead of just replacing gluten with starchy gluten free products. I checked out a bunch of paleo books from the library and was feeling inspired. Then I made paleo pancakes. Setting aside the fact that they have about a million eggs in them (which won't work during the elimination) they were almost impossible to flip and were rejected by half of the family members. I poured the rest of the batter into a muffin tin and baked it. It was slightly better that way, but still roundly rejected.

As if this wasn't bad enough, two nights ago I decided to watch the The Mind of a Chef. The first season follows David Chang who started Momofuku Noodle Bar in NYC. The first episode is all about ramen. I love ramen. Ramen is made out of wheat. More me feeling sad about what I won't be able to eat. The next day, through the magic of technology, I checked out his book, Momofuku, and the book for the companion dessert shop, Milk Bar, on my iPad and have been drooling over the recipes and wonderful writing since. Not only is there a recipe for his ramen broth and his ramen noodles, but also a recipe for eggs poached inside their shells! I love a soft boiled egg in my ramen bowl. So now I'm mourning the loss of ramen and a perfect egg on top of it. And don't even get me started on the recipes in Milk Bar. They're crazy. Check some of them out here. Look for Cereal Milk, Cornflake-Marshmallow-Chocolate-Chip-Cookie, and the Crack Pie. It's just a really different way of thinking about food, at least for me it is. I love it. They use gelatin instead of eggs in their ice cream, so I'll be able to make some ice cream at least, perhaps even Cereal Milk Ice Cream. There's an eggy version of the recipe here. I haven't tried any of the recipes yet, but I intend to.

Ultimately six weeks isn't that long to give up eggs and wheat, especially if it helps my little guy feel better. I am, though, going to try to eat a few bowls of ramen with eggs on them before I have to give them up!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Fisherman's Bend

Packing for a trip with children is an exercise in optimism, I think. In addition to all of the essentials, I brought a book, knitting, and I almost bought a magazine too. Hilarious, right? I also thought it would be cold at night, because every time I go camping it gets really cold at night, so I brought wool socks, wool sweaters and a wool blanket. Wouldn't you know it was a million degrees and we were sweating in our flannel sheets. And don't get me started on how the kids finally fell asleep four hours after their normal bed time on our first night there. 

Despite all of that, we had a wonderful time. Really. The cabin was very charming. The campground was great. The swimming hole was the best part. The cold water was so refreshing. I even knit a bit sitting on the bank. 

The first night we had marinated skirt steak, asparagus and corn. For breakfast I made burritos ahead of time that we warmed in the fire. They were really good. I love breakfast burritos. I could eat one everyday. For lunch we made burritos (double burrito day!) with the leftover steak, corn and asparagus. Dinner was bacon chicken burgers with avocado. 

In addition to not sleeping much, the kids also didn't eat much. I think they were just so distracted by the environment that they couldn't focus on food. Except for the 20 minute (I'm not kidding) crying/whining fest the second day, they both did really well considering how much they were lacking in both sleep and food. 

They both cried when it was time to leave camp and begged to stay one more night. On a walk last night I asked Gianna what her favorite part of camping was and she said 'all of it, but all of us being together was the best.' Then I asked what her least favorite part was and she couldn't  come up with one, which is pretty amazing. 

Going camping is a lot of work. I love this article's take on vacationing with kids. Doing the dishes by hand in cold water that only sort of gets the dishes clean really isn't my favorite, but it's worth it for a few days of living among giant trees, a beautiful river, and blissed out children.