Wednesday, August 27, 2014

So many tomatoes!

Now this is a high class problem - excess tomatoes. My Dad's tomato plants are going crazy with fruit, the CSA has wonderful heirloom varieties that produced well this year, my tomatoes have been steady and have more fruit on the vine, and a friend dropped off a 5-gallon bucket of tomatoes just the other day.

Basically - I have a glut of maters. Unfortunately, I do not particularly like to can tomatoes. So I've been using them fresh in every way I can. Some recent dishes: sliced with mozzarella and basil, sliced with mayo, in salad, on pizza (lots of different pizzas), quick sautéed in pasta dishes, in chickpea salad, in fresh and canned salsa, as BLTS, and chopped on top of eggs. All wonderful.

I now have so many tomatoes that I think I may commit the sin of picking a few green ones to fry up. Maybe I'll even take advantage of the forecasted cool weather to make some southern fried chicken too.

Let's hear it for tomato season!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

What's going on in the kitchen

I've been baking and canning and cooking quite a bit this summer. Even more so than usual simply because the weather has been great for kitchen duties. During strawberry season we went to a u-pick farm and gathered enough strawberries to make jam and freeze two containers of sugared berries for later use. Technically that use was supposed to happen this winter but we got impatient and decided to try one early.

I made my favorite shortcake recipe and used it to fill 5 tart pans instead of the normal round cake pan. This gave us lots of crunchy edges.
I'd never frozen berries like this and I was a bit nervous how they'd turn out. The thawed strawberries gave off an amazing amount of liquid - which is great for shortcake. The berries themselves were a bit squishy, but the flavor was wonderful.
We had enough berries to make three desserts
We ended up with two shortcakes left over and I just toasted them and used some of the strawberry jam on them for breakfast. Worked surprisingly well.

I also made dill pickles. Last year's dills came out way too salty. I did a better job of rinsing the brined pickles this year though so I'm hopeful these will be good. I'll let you know in six weeks or so.

They kept their pretty color
The CSA share is still giving us loads of greens, tomatoes, etc, etc. I made fish tacos last week and they were great. I had quite a few corn tortillas left over so I cooked some chicken in my own salsa (another new adventure for me) and then used a spicy lettuce mix to finish them off. Fantastic! Corn tortillas may be my new favorite thing. I heat them over the gas stove burner and they have a toasty flavor yet stay soft.
Great flavor

Monday, August 18, 2014

Wow, what a Sunday

Yesterday was one of those days that you just get a lot accomplished. The weather was perfect - sunny but cool and a nice breeze blowing to keep the biting midges away. We split and stacked wood, harvested garden veggies, canned sweet pickles, made 3 loaves of bread, baked a double chocolate zucchini cake, and finished the day with a fantastic garden pizza (and a nice glass of wine).

Chris even found time to do some painting; the first time he's had the easel out since we moved here. Nice to see we're doing some stuff for pure pleasure as opposed to just working on completing the house all the time. Yesterday actually gave me a feel for what life will be like once the house is finished. Normal maintenance tasks combined with projects that feed your soul.

Exactly what we hoped for when we started this adventure.

Sawing logs - and I don't mean snoozing

Over the last two years we've cut trees that we intended to turn into lumber. It's taken a bit of time to get the sawmill out here, but it finally showed up to get the job done. We had three stacks of logs to do and it took us three days of work. Not too bad, really.

These stacks are about six feet high
We had a mix of ash, cherry, maple, and a bit of pine. Most of the wood was earmarked for specific projects - dining table, kitchen cabinets, countertops, etc.

Setting up the saw
We had a huge ash that I wanted for my dining table so we cut the lumber at 2 1/4 inches thick - that way we could plane it down to two inch planks.
My dining table "in the raw"
The grain is beautiful and width is 14 inches at some points. We're going to leave a living edge on it so we'll get to keep a lot of that width.
Beautiful boards

Nice grain
By the time we were done, most of the logs were gone, we had a huge pile of sawdust, and lots of slab wood that we'll split for kindling. A very good haul!
Slab wood and sawdust
All the wood has been stickered and stacked to dry. It'll be two years before I actually see my table, but the cabinet and countertop wood will dry more quickly as it wasn't cut as thick. Maybe I'll see that stuff next summer!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Island changes

One of the absolute luxuries that I have is the ability to try stuff out before making final decisions on placement, design, etc. My kitchen is a perfect case in point - I've got temporary shelving, a temporary sink, and a rough island design.

For the last six months, the island has looked like this:

Option 1
Temporary plywood top, baker's marble at the stove end, optometrist cabinets underneath as support, and an overhang on the end closest to the dining table. This set up worked quite well for all my baking needs.

But I found that I wasn't using my wonderful antique butcher's block which was tucked into one corner of the kitchen. Instead I kept using small cutting boards on the island.

So we decided to move the butcher's block and change the island configuration to accommodate it. I say "we", but really Chris was just willing to humor me. Let's hear it for Chris! See, the butcher block weighs about 400 pounds. And this move will make the fifth location it has occupied in this house. He's getting really tired of moving the darn thing.

You want this where now?
We removed the island's plywood top, shifted the cabinets toward the dining table and repositioned the butcher's block.
Hopefully its final home
Then he built me some shelves for the end nearest the stove, cut the plywood to cradle the butcher's block, and moved the marble to the end furthest from the stove.
Action photo!
I love the new setup. It's still fairly temporary since he still has to build real shelves and a permanent top, but it's functioning well and I now use the butcher block for all my cutting. Much more effective and I like how it fills the space much better than before. Now to figure out what to do with that empty kitchen corner between the sink and the stove. I'm thinking a long expanse of counter and lower cupboards. Yeah! More storage!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

And the closet is (mostly) done!

The main clothes closet is finally full of clothes! Which means I've emptied out many, many boxes. Woot!

Getting toward being done
It took quite a while but it's definitely been worth it. We carefully figured out what storage we needed, designed the closet, and took our sweet time building it.

Staining drawers on the Bridge
 Once we got the drawers stained and in place, I started emptying boxes.
So many boxes!
And started filling the closet rods and drawers. Seasonal storage on the top shelf, two bays for my clothes, one for Chris, and the last is shared.
So much room!
The drawer handles came out great and work very well. We'll wait until winter to build the cabinet doors since there is no sense wasting outside job friendly weather on an inside task.

Handles came out great
And I managed to empty an amazing number of boxes. Some contents went into the closet, some were donated, and others were set aside for nieces who are just starting their professional lives.
All of this is now clear floor space
It feels wonderful to finally have this done. It was a true gateway project as it freed up storage space that allowed us to clear other areas of the house of boxes. Including the @^$#^& porch! But more on that later...

Monday, August 11, 2014

CSA weeks 9 and 10

Well, I didn't quite manage to keep on track, but at least I took photos. Here are weeks 9 and 10 of my CSA share. So many veggies! 

Week 10
I've made stir fries, pesto (basil as well as leek), pizza, martinis, salads, and any number of other things to use up the bounty. I've also shared with my Dad, my sister, and my niece. Definitely doing a half share next year! I've still got some onions left over as well a bit of kale. Pretty much everything else has been eaten though. Tomorrow is pickup day and I'm hoping for enough cucumbers to make dill pickles.