It’s Soup Season

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The blog goddess has been nagging so I return to the fray!  I don’t know why it is  so hard to sit down and write!  Maybe because there are so many things to do.  It has been very cold and rainy here in Southern California and when that happens my attention turns to soup. Soups of all kinds, creamy, chunky you name it.  My last ventures have been Loaded Potato Soup and a made up Italian Sausage Soup.

The Loaded Potato Soup was courtesy of the Neeley’s on the Food Network website.  What started the search was my husband mentioning my making a potato soup, but I didn’t want to make one that was too creamy.  That just means boring to me. I am so glad I found this recipe, it included chicken broth, milk and beer!! (and cheese, onions, celery and garlic)   I think you can really make a difference depending on what type of beer you use.  I generally don’t like beer, so I went with the recommendation and used a very light lager.  The soup was delicious!  So glad I doubled the recipe! Next time I will make a small batch with something with a more distinct flavor. Maybe Guiness?

The Italian Sausage soup was a matter of what was in the fridge.  I had some lovely bell peppers, onion, celery, carrots and garlic.  I browned the sausage, put it aside and sauteed the vegetable until tender. Added back in the sausage, added some fresh thyme, about 5 cups of chicken broth and a can of diced tomatoes.  Later I added a can of canellini beans and some swiss chard.  Yummy!  Served it with garlic bread.

What next you ask? A friend suggested that next I should make Posole!  For those of you not familiar with this dish it is a very nice pork, chili and hominy stew. Serve it with corn tortillas and you have it!  This will be great for next week-end assuming it is going to be cold enough. Here in California it is hard to predict.

Thank goodness my family loves homemade soup, here’s hoping yours does too!!

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Creativity in the Kitchen

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For those of you outside Southern California, Fall may have actually arrived!  We are still suffering from a very long extended summer!  While produce is still coming on strong, I long for cool fall days and making soups and baking bread.  My kale and Swiss chard are doing well and it is time to plant cabbage, broccolini, English peas, sugar snap peas, fava beans and Brussels sprouts.  I will be harvesting potatoes and sweet potatoes next month. And I have to remember to make enough pesto for those cold winter months! Oh boy, do gardeners dream or what?

The issue for gardeners is always going to be “What else can I do with this _____.  If I see another zucchini, tomato, etc. again I will go mad!”  To be a good gardener (in my opinion) is to be a creative cook!  I’m still working on that.  Almost every crop necessitates a period of creative thinking. Borrow ideas from those who are actually creative and make them your own.  It may take you in directions you might never think of.

Currently I am facing a large box of pears and a kitchen too hot to cook in. What I am waiting for is the temperature to drop about 20 degrees so I can get started. Thankfully the pears are cooperating and are still under ripe. My plan is to make some preserves with ginger and lemon and a basic preserve. I am searching for more ideas. I know! I should also make a pear tart! I also still have to make Bluebarb (blueberry/rhubarb preserves)!  So, this is retirement!

At our fair this year I entered Blackberry (this year my blackberries went crazy!), Strawberry from the previously mentioned Jam Berry Day and Peach preserves (excess peaches from a friend’s garden).  Got a 3rd place and an honorable mention.  This year I paid attention to the various entries and decided to make some things next year that are not the usual jams and preserves.  Way too much competition for those, so I will seek out the unusual and enter those. We will see.  My first entry for next year is a Plum BBQ sauce I didn’t get to make until after fair. The plums were gifted to me from yet another neighbor.  Time consuming, but according to family and friends well worth it. In fact, now my son says he is spoiled for any other sauce. Isn’t family loyalty divine? What’s there not to like – plums, red wine, lemon, tomato sauce, onions, garlic, red wine vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper!

Again, creativity is the key! During rainy days I vow to search my cookbooks for ideas for next spring and summer!

Adventures in Canning

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By way of introduction my name is Katie and I have been a friend to Kim and Blue Hill Farms for years.  With many things in common we rarely run out of things to do or to talk about. We share interests in poultry and gardening among other things. We sporadically get together once a week or so to bake, can or drool over seed catalogs! As any gardener knows, sometimes those seed catalogs fuel our delusions and lead us down some interesting paths and the inevitable happens –what do we do with all the produce we have grown? This has happened to me numerous times, but let me recount my most recent foray into canning.

About 18 months ago our mutual friend Shari gifted me with a 1 gal plant.  “What is this?” I asked.  She replied, “Oh it’s a rhubarb plant.”  Being a native Southern California girl I knew nothing of rhubarb but I gamely planted it in a corner of one of my garden beds.  What I also didn’t know is the growing pattern of rhubarb and I eventually had to expand that corner of the bed because, like Topsy, it grew and grew and grew!  Of course, now that I had it, I had to figure out what to do with it!  By the way, mention rhubarb to a Midwesterner and their eyes glaze over as they lovingly murmur ‘rhubarb’! It may be the drug of choice for the Midwest.

Research led me to the old stand-by Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie which my family liked, but not so much that they were clamoring for more.  I was fortunate to find a recipe for Rhubarb Marmalade and that is what we made this week. Simple really, 6 cups sliced rhubarb, 6 cups sugar and two oranges whirled through the food processor. That’s it, bring to boil, lower heat and cook for approximately 1 hour until it coats a spoon. Jar and water bath for about 10 min.  Simple and quite yummy.

My other canning adventure started when I ran into my fellow sheep pen mom Jan and she told me that not only was it tagging day at the fairgrounds for livestock going to fair, but it was also Jam Berry Day!!  “What is that?” I asked.  One of the berry farms sells jam-ready berries one day each year at a ridiculous price.  I beat her to the farm!  Having visions of strawberry jam, I bought 10 lbs, went home and got to work!  Not exactly how I planned to spend Saturday afternoon, but my family and friends will be exceedingly happy.

Plans this year are to enter produce, canned and baked goods at the fair.  Last year was my first attempt; now that I am retired I really have no excuse not to get my act together. We will see.

Until next time,

Katie