Wednesday, August 25

Peter piper picked a peck of pickled peppers

The other day, while meandering at the farmer's market, I noticed that there were many booths selling mini cucumbers, for what other than pickles! I have always loved pickles as a snack or a sandwich accessory but never had I considered making them from scratch. What better of a food challenge, than homemade pickles. And to my surprise, they are as easy as could be!
Bread and Butter Pickles
about 10 medium sized cucumbers
1 onion
1 green pepper
1/2 cup of salt
2 cups of sugar
2 cups of vinegar
1 tablespoon of mustard powder
1/2 teaspoon of turmeric
10 whole cloves

1. Cut the cucumbers into little discs of your favorite thickness. Also, cut the onion into rings. Cut the pepper into thin strips. Place all of these veggies into a large bowl. 

2. Dissolve the salt in icy water and pour over the vegetables. Allow this to set for about 3 hours. After 3 hours, drain. 

3. In a large kettle, combine the remaining ingredients, add the drained vegetables and heat until almost boiling but don't boil. 

4. Pack into sterilized jars and seal. You are set to go and your next picnic will be extra special!

Happy Eating. 

p.s. Today at the farmer's market, we bought a bushel of tomatoes. Wish us luck tomorrow, as we embark on a canning adventure! 

Tuesday, August 24

The garden unit versus the fruit fly nation

Until recently, I had been battling fruit flies on a daily basis. Literally, I would go to sleep to a fruit-fly-free kitchen and wake up to the aftermath of a fruit fly fiesta, in which hundreds of the little buggers were flying free, everywhere.
Desperate times call for desperate measures. I set out to find the fruit fly cure, and I do believe I have found a pretty promising solution. Besides keeping a spotlessly clean kitchen, here are some tips to ridding your life of fruit fly fiestas:
1. Separate your trash between food waste and non-food waste. The food waste should be sealed in a small container (we use an empty gallon ice cream tub) since this is what sustains the little buggers.
2. Make sure you have no dishes with food on
them, in the sink. Also, no standing water.

3. Put all of your produce in the fridge! If its there, they will find it and probably throw a party of sorts.

4. This is the kicker: fill a little dish with vinegar and add a drop of dish soap! The dish soap breaks the surface tension of the vinegar and suddenly a fruit fly delight becomes a fruit fly grave. Sorry little guys, but you will have to party elsewhere!

I hope these tips help you to keep a fruit fly free kitchen for the remainder of time.

Quiche for breakfast

When I think of quiche, I think of a fancy cafe with expensive breakfast options. I can never afford the quiche, so I normally go with a cheaper, less elaborate alternative like a bagel. But when Jill and I embarked on a quiche adventure, we realized that this cafe delicacy was really a simple dish that is simple to make and lasts for several meals.

Here is our quiche recipe made easy. And from now on, don't be fooled by the hoity-toity cafe quiche; just make your own!

Homemade Quiche
For the crust:
2 cups of flour
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 cup of butter, cut up

1. Combine all of these ingredients and press into the base of a 9 inch by 13 inch baking dish and bake for 10 minutes at 400 degrees.
For the filling:
4 eggs
1 cup of milk
3 tablespoons of flour
Salt and pepper to taste
Spinach (from the farmer's market!)
Tomatoes (from our garden!)
Broccoli (from our garden!)
Corn (from my grandpa's garden!)
Onion greens (from our garden!)
Bell Pepper (from our garden!)
Pepper Jack cheese (organic and local!)

1. Blend together the eggs, milk, flour, salt and pepper and set aside.

2. Put any combination of vegetables and cheese in the baked crust. Pour the egg mixture over the vegetables. Bake for 40 minutes at 375 degrees or until the egg is thoroughly cooked.
Bon Appetite and happy eating!

Monday, August 23


The other day, when visiting my garden plot at the community garden, I found a special note left by my dear friend Alex, tucked in amongst the tomatoes and the broccoli. Alex started two of our tomato plants from seed in his apartment in early spring! On the back of the note, was a coupon for some free french fries to celebrate my successful garden. I later told Alex that I would cash in on my coupon once I had made homemade ketchup using the tomatoes on our plants. Well, I can officially cash in my coupon now, since last night, our kitchen was converted temporarily into a ketchup-making zone.

As the beginning of Meet Me In St. Louis (one of my roommate Kelsey's favorite movie) opens, we see the Smith family coming together in the kitchen, preparing homemade ketchup. Each family member has their different opinion of how the ketchup should taste. It was either too sweet, too salty, too bland or too thick. 

That is a wonderful thing about making your own ketchup, you can really make it taste any way that you want! Mine is a bit sweeter, but you could easily make it spicy or tangy or what ever your heart desires. Here is the recipe that I concocted:
Homemade Ketchup
7-8 medium-large tomatoes (homegrown are even tastier!) 
1 onion, diced
1 tablespoon of butter
1/2 cup of water
1/2 cup of brown sugar
1/2 cup of apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of fennel seed, ground

1. You need to remove the peels of the tomatoes. An easy way to do this is to place the tomatoes in a large pot and cover with water. Then, bring this water to a boil. After the water has been boiling for about 1 minute, remove the pot from heat and strain the water off the tomatoes. Then, submerge the tomatoes in icy water. After being submerged in the cold water, the peels will be very easy to remove. After removing the peels, set aside the tomatoes. 

2. In the same, now-empty pot, melt the butter and saute the onions until they begin to turn a golden brown. Then add the tomatoes and the remaining ingredients and cook over medium heat for 1 hour, uncovered (I know this takes a while to cook, but it is important to cook off much of the liquid and allow the flavors to develop. During this time, we watched Meet Me In St. Louis!). Stir about every 15 minutes.

3. After about 1 hour of cooking, remove from heat and using an immersion blender (or a regular blender) puree the vegetables to a smooth liquid. Then, return to the stove and cook for another 1 hour over very low heat, stirring every 10 minutes. This period of cooking time should also be uncovered. However, when it starts to splatter (which it probably will...), I used a colander over the pot, so the steam could still escape, but my kitchen would remain semi-clean. 

4. After you have cooked the ketchup to the consistency that you like best, you can remove it from the heat and bottle it! We reused a ketchup bottle that once held store-bought ketchup. If you don't have this, you can easily place it in a jar or any other container! 
So simple and so delicious. Let us know if you have any recipe variations that you try.

Happy eating! 

Sunday, August 22

Personal Food Challenge

Lately, Jill and I have been loving our fresh picked foods and farmers market finds. I mean, really. What's not to love: fresh vegetables for every meal that taste like they have been kissed by the summer sun.  However, we both recognize that it will be very difficult to sustain ourselves on these types of foods throughout the winter months (since Wisconsin's growing season is a bit more limited than other places in the country).

Also, we have been making a conscious effort lately, to reduce our food waste and costs. Furthermore, neither of us are too interested in chowing down on over-processed "food products".

Perhaps we sound like picky eaters to you, but really we are just trying to keep our bodies, community and planet healthy. So here is our plan:

1. Don't buy packaged foods. At least the best that we can. Our exception is dairy, but we are going to seek out farm fresh eggs and bulk cheese for as long as we can. Furthermore, we have lately taken to glass bottled milk: this is great because the bottle is returned to the grocery and the companies reuse the bottles! No new production of packaging necessary.

2. Eat as much local, in-season food as possible. This means farmer's market foods for the remainder of the growing season and we will preserve a portion of our fresh produce so that we can enjoy our summer foods throughout the winter.

3. Prepare as many basics as possible. What the heck does that mean?! Well, not eating packaged food may sound awful to many of you, since it includes packaged crackers, pasta sauce, yogurt, cereal, etc. We are going to take on the challenge of learning to make these things from scratch! Its been done before, and we are hoping to bring back the art of making-your-own food. Perhaps it might take longer to eat this way, but it will surely make us more deliberate eaters and hopefully we will learn food preparation skills that we will take with us for the rest of our lives.

This year will be a grand food adventure, to say the least. However, we are excited to start! Watch our blog to see our many new recipes that we discover and prepare. Also, if you have any tips, advice or brilliant recipes for us, your wisdom will be warmly welcomed. From the girls in the garden unit, happy eating!

Saturday, August 21

Peach Jam

After a summer of living at camp with no kitchen, it is sure a relief to be back in the garden unit kitchen! Before heading to Milwaukee for the school year, I stopped at my sister's house to pick some fresh fruit from her small orchard. I gathered perfectly ripe peaches and apples from her trees- all the ingredients for delicious peach jam with homemade pectin. I decided to try my hand at making pectin from scratch using the tart apples instead of using the packaged Sure-Jell that most jam recipes call for. Homemade pectin is very simple to make and can be canned to use for future jam making.

Peach Jam:
For the pectin-
5 tart apples (chopped with cores and peels intact)
2 lemons (chopped finely with peels intact)
water (enough to cover the apples)

Cook down until apples are very soft and has the same consistency of chunky applesauce. Strain the mixture using a colander. The juice remaining is pectin. So simple! If there is excess it can be canned by processing the jars in a hot water bath for 15 minutes.

For the peach jam:

2 cups of pectin
6 cups of peaches (chopped and peeled)
5 1/2 cups of sugar

Boil this mixture on medium heat, stirring often. The jam is ready to be canned when it thickens and mounds of the spoon, roughly 20 minutes.

For canning:
Prepare the jars and lids. Then pour the jam into the jars leaving 1/2 inch head space. The last step is to seal the jars in a hot water bath for ten minutes.


Thursday, August 19

Banana bread and other end of summer delights

Hello dear friends! I am done with work for the summer and excited to start cooking up a storm again. I hope you are ready for loads of blog posts, because they are coming!
Things that are new in my life right now:
1. My garden bed is producing beautiful vegetables, including tomatoes, beets, broccoli, onions and yellow squash.
2. I am done with work and have two weeks off before school starts up again.
3. Jill moved back in! This is a very wonderful thing.
4. Kelsey moves in in two days and then, the adventures will truly begin.
5. Yesterday Jill and I had a wonderful day of cooking and preserving and farmers marketing. Here are some of our wonderful concoctions:
Banana Bread
3-4 brown bananas
3 eggs
1 cup of brown sugar
1 stick of butter
2 cups of flour
1 teaspoon of salt
4 teaspoons of baking powder
1/2 cup of plain yogurt
1 large splash of vanilla
1 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spices

1. Blend together the bananas, eggs, brown sugar and butter until it is smooth. Add in the dry ingredients and blend until smooth. Finally, fold in the remaining ingredients.

2. Pour into a large loaf pan and bake at 350 degrees for about one hour. So simple and so very delicious!

We enjoyed this banana bread warm, topped with butter and we also enjoyed it this morning for breakfast: a fresh spin on the ever-so-typical french toast breakfast.
Banana Bread French Toast (a rich delight for a wonderful start to the day)
3-4 slices of banana bread (about 3/4 inches thick)
3 eggs, scrambled
1 small splash of milk
An even smaller splash of vanilla
A dash of cinnamon

1. Blend eggs, milk, vanilla and cinnamon. Then dip the banana bread in mix and saturate both sides.

2. Heat a small patty of butter in a fry pan over medium heat. Cook bread in skillet for about two minutes on each side.

3. Top with butter and syrup or jam (we used home-made peach jam made by Jill! Stay tuned for this recipe soon!!) Also, if you have excess egg mix, don't be afraid to scramble that in the remaining skillet butter. It may seem ridiculous, but there is no sense in throwing away perfectly delicious eggs! A little salt and pepper and you have a nice little side of scrambled eggs.

Really, it was a great way to start the day. Wholesome and delicious.

Happy eating!