Sunshine in a Jar

Have I ever told you about the market here in Chicago, on North Ave, Stanley's? It's sort of infamous around here, especially with recently graduated hipster foodies with tiny budgets (it takes a lot of money to look so minimalistic!) and or "people who juice". They have the cheapest organic produce in the city, hands down. It's also probably going to go bad tomorrow, but if you are smart, you can really benefit from shopping there. I usually plan my meals around what I know will go bad first, something with tomatoes will be early in the week and the meals with potatoes, carrots or squash at the end of the week and so on. It might sound like too much work but every dollar counts, especially if it means I can splurge on something yummy like gruyere or smoked paprika. (Or, ok, good chocolate, since I don't make a habit of lying.) 

Last weekend I picked up a few pounds of organic lemons ($3 for five pounds) for two recipes I wanted to try out of Canning for a new Generation. I thought it was interesting that these two recipes were included considering they aren't "canned" but they go along with the theme of general creative frugality. It's astonishing what you can do with pantry staples and simple, often under appreciated produce like lemons. The first thing I tried was the salt preserved lemons. I could not believe how simple it was; slice some lemons and put it in a jar with some kosher salt, a few weeks later you have a nice accompaniment to salad or even rich meats like lamb. I got a letter from my sweet friend Emily which included a recipe for an Iranian lamb stew that called for preserved lemons as a garnish, and that is what peaked my interest. Recently I saw a fennel and preserved lemon salad recipe as well, that sounds delicious. The recipe for the lemon curd was on the previous page in the book, doing them together would be a good idea.  

I'm apparently late to the fruit curd party, but I'm glad I'm here. This mix of butter, egg, sugar and fruit is literally, sunshine in a jar. I get so down in the winter when the sun is hiding away, but just looking at this beautiful bright yellow jar of yummy sour sweet spread perks my day up just enough. Today I slathered it on some banana oat bread (since those bananas from Stanley's only last about two days and then you have to cook em' up!) but that day I made some greek yogurt scones to go with it. They were so good I didn't even get a picture but I will share that recipe with you anyway! (That sounds a little outrageous to me, are we really at that point in our culture where we have to take pictures of our food before we eat it, Im guilty, and laughing at myself.) I won't share the curd recipe since it's not mine, but I'm sure Martha's  would be great too. These scones get massive, and are really light and fluffy on the inside, which I love. I find a lot of scones I buy at cafes tend to be too dense, but maybe thats the point of a scone? Who knows!?

Honey, Thyme & Coconut Scones

2 c unbleached all purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder 
Pinch of salt 
1/2 tbsp sugar
1 egg
About two tbsp of honey 
1/2 c Greek yogurt (2%) 
1/3 c whole milk 
6 tbsp unsalted butter 
1/2 tbsp fresh thyme 
1/4 c unsulfured, unsweetened shredded coconut 
Citrus zest 
A little milk and turbanado sugar for the top

Oven at 400.
Sift and mix the dry ingredients together. Cut in the butter. Mix together the egg, yogurt and milk, honey, add to dry mixture, stir until just combined and no longer. Lightly flour a surface and knead for about 15 times. Pat or roll dough into a circle (1/2 thick). Cut into 8ths ( or you could make circles) and place in parchment lined baking sheet. Brush tops with milk and dust with sugar. Bake for about 10 minutes or until the tops are golden brown. Remove from parchment immediately and let cool or eat them hot! 

Thanks for reading, 


Busy Winter : Worms, kombuca, and a new sewing machine

It seems that I am often surprised by how much activity there is going on around me, especially in the winter season. When I think of winter, my mind is filled with knitting, coffee, cozy days inside tidying and reading to Julian. While, a few (very few) of this winter's days have been spent this way, more than not they have been spent busy! I find myself rushing to finish this or that, teaching myself new skills like stranded knitting using both hands, often worrying about things that I have no control over, preparing for the spring. I thought I would share what we have been up to lately. 

There a lot of new and exciting things coming our way. Last year I dabbled in gardening, with pleasant results (a.k.a a forest of kale that I could never try to eat my way out of so I was begging friends to come and take some before it took over my whole yard. ) This year I have bigger plans for our little back yard, and a new appreciation for the apartment we rent because of it. My friend Melissa and I are trading seed catalogs back and forth, drooling over heirloom tomatoes and beets, discussing which we seeds we should order and which we should try to find locally. This Saturday we are going to an "Urban Livestock Fair". I know this sounds ridiculous. I really never saw myself going down this road, but I have desperately fallen for the idea of being sustainable, of growing the food our family eats, and living an altogether simpler life, especially in an urban setting. Producing, giving, instead of just taking. It just seems like the right thing to do, on a lot of levels. I think a lot of people see this sort of thing as a little too "crunchy" or maybe they think it's too difficult, I'm not sure, but for me, it just seems like the responsible thing to do as an informed and compassionate person. 

We have started a little kitchen worm bin, since our land lord wont let us go for a full on compost pile in the back yard. So far it has been delightful having our little "baby sweepy woms" as Julian calls them. He likes to feed them kitchen scraps, and uncover them from their hiding places under the cardboard and paper piles. I love putting one in his little hand and watching his reaction, sometimes he is utterly disgusted, sometimes amused and other times he just makes little hissing sounds like a snake, to which I reply, "yes they look a little like snakes, but they are just baby worms, no need to be afraid!". I honestly thought it would smell badly, but it actually smells amazing, like a forest floor after a good rain, like rich soil. I actually take a good whiff every time I feed them, it's alright if you think thats weird.   

Malissa just gave me a huge gallon jar of kombucha she brewed from some tea that Xavier gave her, I am so excited about it. If you have never heard of it, here is an interesting article that talks a little bit about how it has recently been gaining popularity. She also sent me home with a lovely jar of home made lotion, made of african shea butter, almond oil, coconut oil, peppermint and rosemary. The recipe is here.This stuff is amazing, thick and wonderfully light at the same time? If that is possible...you should really make some for yourself to see.  

Did I tell you all that I got a new sewing machine?! The one I had been teaching myself on was from my great grand mother, my mom remembers seeing it around when she was little, so that should explain the condition. It was a good start, but I found it hard to manage once I wanted to move on to more exciting things. My mother seems to be a magnet for sewing machines, and someone just dropped of a brand spanking new one to her front porch because they heard she "likes that stuff". She gave it to me, and now Im always itching to use it. My most recent project has been a little baby swaddle, waiting to be sent off to California to friends expecting a little one soon. I have plans for a wedding quilt for some friends getting married in March, and of course, a few linen and cotton dresses for summer time. My friend Ann gifted me with a lovely pattern from the talented Jenny Gordy of Wiksten, I can't wait to pick a fabric to use with it. I was thinking of using this amazing indigo spotted  Nani Iro, I've been eyeing since last summer. Have any other ideas for a nice summer dress?

So, as you can see I have been quite oddly busy, and on top of it all, we are trying to potty train. 
That is a totally separate post, and frankly I don't want to talk about it right now. 

Thanks for reading.