Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Living in Season

Live each Season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each.
~Henry David Thoreau (1817 - 1862)

48 degrees, wet and blustery. A typical late fall/early winter day where we live. I know many people long for year round summer but I have learned from experience (5 years in Hawaii) that I am happier living where there are distinct seasons. We live above the 45th parallel and our climate is quite mild but the change of seasons is clear.

Preparing for winter.

This winter we are in our own "new to us" home. A cement block house, built in the 50's on a 10th of an acre. A big change for us after many years of apartment living. The house is snug and much warmer than anticipated and we are enjoying the fireplace and the quiet neighborhood. After a week of sorting and putting away it is taking shape. Still don't know where some things are but it's getting closer.

Yesterday we began our 2014 garden. Re-purposed many of our moving boxes by spreading them on the backyard and covering with straw we found on craigslist. If the leaves ever fall off the trees we will rake them onto the pile and add a layer of goat or bunny manure. Soon the compost bins will be assembled in the same area. At some point a small group of chickens will be housed near by.

Husband is a WSU Master Food Preserver among other talents. The last of our big canning projects is waiting in the garage. A 40 lb. box of crisp, green Granny Smith Apples for pie filling.  The scent of cinnamon will fill the house.

As a child in the high desert of Oregon I dreaded the cold of winter and being trapped indoors by the weather. Now I look forward to long evenings knitting by the fire, playing music with our friends, sharing good food and conversation.

A simmering pot of soup will fill your home with warmth, while the herbs and spices tingle your senses. Spend a quiet evening with loved ones or gather your friends to share some seasonal delight.

Toscana Soup Recipe

1 pound Italian sausage
1 medium onion, chopped
½ pound bacon, diced
2 ½ teaspoon garlic, minced
4 cups chicken broth
3 cups water
5 medium potatoes
4 cups fresh kale
1 cup heavy cream


Brown and fully cook sausage; drain and set aside. Peel and dice potatoes; set aside in a bowl of cold water to prevent browning. Thinly slice fresh kale; set aside.

Cook diced bacon over medium heat in 8 quart saucepan until slightly crispy. Add chopped onion and sauté until translucent. Drain excess grease. Stir in garlic and cook one minute.

Add chicken broth, water and potatoes. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium and simmer for 25 minutes until potatoes are tender. Stir in kale, cream and sausage. Cook for five more minutes. Serve warm. Freezes and reheats well. Serves 6-10, depending on how hungry they are and if you serve it alone or with other items like a salad.

If using a crock pot, wait to add the cream just before serving. If cream is on sale, buy the larger container and freeze it in ice cube trays. When frozen put into freezer bags and label with contents and date.

Here is a great cookbook for this time of year.


Friday, November 8, 2013

Beans: Survival and Good Eats.

In the year 410 the Roman Emperor Honorius  responded to a request for help with the “Rescript of Honorius” telling the Romano - Brittains to see to their own defense. The years following the withdrawal of the Roman Legions from western Europe have been described as the “Dark Ages” and in many ways that holds true. Cities and roads crumbled and were abandoned. Constant local warfare made travel dangerous. Farmland reverted to wilderness. Learned skills were often forgotten in the struggle for survival.


Agricultural decline, the end of international trade and a growing lack of iron for tools led to less available food and higher prices causing a drop in nutrition among the common people. This drop in nutrition lead to a hungry populace, small and weak, subject to disease. “Underpopulation combined with under cultivated land left nearly everyone undernourished.”. (It Was the Bean that Set the Pulses Racing by Umberto Eco)

In the years leading up to the first millennium several new techniques improved agriculture. Iron horse shoes, a more efficient plow, and the promotion of planting chickpeas by the emperor Charlemagne around 800 CE.

Chickpeas, garbanzo beans, have been cultivated for 1000's of years with finds of 7500 year old remains in the middle east. One tablespoon of chickpeas yields 2.5 grams of protein and many vitamins, minerals and fiber. As the cultivation of beans and legumes spread throughout Europe the working people began to benefit from a more nutritious diet. Their health improved, the population grew and new art, architecture, science, writing and thought blossomed.

Today beans and legumes are a staple food in most parts of the world. In the United Stated most people do not rely on beans for their daily diet but we are fortunate to enjoy them in abundance. There are over a thousand different kinds of beans throughout the planet. Beans are the only food that occupies two slots on the USDA food pyramid: protein and vegetable. They are versatile and adaptable to many herbs and seasonings.

Our family eats beans a couple of times a week. We particularly enjoy beans with a Native American heritage: Anasazi beans and Black Turtle beans.

According to stories, in the 1950's archeologists in the Pueblo region of the desert southwest found a sealed clay pot with a few beans in it. Some of the beans were sprouted and the modern Anasazi bean entered the world. Another story reports that the beans were found growing wild around pueblo ruins.
Either way we enjoy these mild white and purple beans.

Black Turtle Beans have been grown in Mexico and Central America for around 7000 years. The earthy flavor and dense meaty texture of these little black beans make an interesting addition to many dishes.

Over the years we have developed our own favorite chili using a blend of Anasazi and Black Turtle Beans. We soak about two pounds of dried beans over night with a little apple cider vinegar in the water. Rinse them thoroughly, bring to a boil, drain and put into a crockpot. Add a sauted onion, about a pound of browned Chorizo sausage, one pint home made chicken broth, a little black coffee, 8 ounces of chopped green chilies without seeds and membrane, salt, pepper and a good dash of ground chipotle peppers. Add as much water to cover the beans as needed and cook on low for at least 12 hours. Eat hearty and pressure can the rest in pints for 75 minutes at 10 pounds pressure (at sea level). Store in a cool, dark place and enjoy for weeks to come.

Beans. Good eats.

Source material.