Happy New Year

As a gardener, my internal calendar doesn’t quite match up with the one that governs other people.

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Garlic goes in the ground at the end of October, marking the start of my new gardening year. I planted over 200 cloves yesterday, on what was luckily for me a gorgeous fall afternoon.

If you’ve never grown garlic, I recommend giving it a try. You can find all sorts of instructions for complicating the issue, but in my experience keeping it simple works just fine. Separate your garlic into cloves – don’t peel them – and pop them in the ground with the pointy side up. Give each one enough space to grow into a head of garlic. They’ll be ready to harvest some time in July, when the leaves of the plant begin to yellow and die.

Garlic from a grocery store may not sprout, as it is sometimes treated to prevent that from happening, so your best bet is to buy from a garden supplier. But if all you have access to is what’s at your local grocery, give it a try. Food generally wants to grow, and will if given a chance.

Slow Food

Sauerkraut tastes pretty much the way its name sounds.

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I thought making it would be a bit of a chore, but it’s pretty simple, really. We shredded up a cabbage, added a teaspoon of salt, then tamped down on it with a heavy stone pestle until quite a bit of liquid came out. We packed it firmly into a large glass jar, making sure there was enough brine to completely cover the cabbage, and put a bowl with a jar full of water in it on top to ensure the cabbage would stay submerged. A dish towel over the whole business kept out dust and sunlight.

The flavor began to change after just a few days. I liked it at that point, but we decided to keep it going  a while longer, and what we ended up with has a very strong flavor that will hold up well to whatever it’s paired with. Now we’ve transferred it into mason jars, and we’ll store it in the fridge for use. It will continue to ferment, but the cold will slow it way down.

Must be a similar process that has me slowing down as the temperature drops.

Smell My Feet

Halloween is coming.

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Your payback for scooping mounds of stringy, wet, goopy mess with nothing but a spoon and your bare hand? Something good to eat.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Preheat oven to 400.

Rinse seeds.

For every 1/2 cup of seeds, mix 2 cups water with 1 Tablespoon salt.

Put the seeds in the salt water and bring to a good boil.

Remove the seeds from the water, spread them on a cookie sheet, and sprinkle with salt, cayenne, cinnamon and sugar, whatever you like.

Bake for 10-20 minutes, til crunchy.

Easy as Pie

Is it possible to make a pie without your kitchen ending up looking like a flour bomb went off?

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I think not.

If I’m going to go through all that work, there had best be cheese on my apple pie.

Apple Pie with Cheddar Crust

Preheat oven to 425.

Combine the following ingredients and set aside:

7 cups peeled, chopped apples (7-8 apples)

2 Tablespoons lemon juice

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup flour

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

In a small bowl, beat an egg to use later as an egg wash and set that aside as well.

Cut a sharp cheddar cheese into very thin slices, enough to go all the way around the edge of your pie.

Shred a little pile of the cheddar as well – somewhere around a cup.

Now for the crust.

2 1/2 cups flour

2 Tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon salt

2 sticks butter

6 Tablespoons cold water (approximately)

Combine dry ingredients, then cut the butter into them. You’re going for a cornmeal texture.

Add the water and work with your hands until the dough comes together. If you need more water, add it a very little bit at a time. It’s more likely you need to work it longer than that you need more water.

Roll out half of the dough on a floured surface for your bottom crust and lay it in your pie pan.

Pour the filling on top.

Roll out the second half of the dough on a floured surface for your top crust, and lay it over the filling.

Cut any excess off the edges and press the top and bottom layers of dough together firmly, then work a design around the edge with your fingers or a fork.

Cut vent holes in the top crust and brush with the beaten egg.

Put tin foil over the edges of the pie.

Bake for 15 minutes at 425, then turn heat down to 350 and bake for an additional 20 minutes.

Take the pie out of the oven and remove the tin foil. Place your cheese slices around the edge of the pie, just in from the outer crust, and sprinkle the grated cheese in the space that’s left in the middle of the pie.

Return to oven and bake 20 minutes.

Forewarned is Forearmed

The only problem with this recipe is that it smells like you’re baking an apple pie, and then you realize you don’t have an apple pie, so you need to make an apple pie.

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Now you know.

Apple Chips

Apples

Cinnamon

Sugar

Slice the apples as thin as you can get them. They don’t need to be peeled or cored, but do discard any seeds.

Put them on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. (I’ve tried other things – parchment is the way to go here.)

Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. You can skip this, but why would you want to?

Bake at 225 for 2-3 hours. To test, take one out of the oven and let it sit for 2 or 3 minutes. At that point it should be crunchy, not chewy.

Store in an airtight container.

Strength in Numbers

We need a lot of snacks, yes?

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It’s getting cold; it’s important we keep our metabolisms going strong.

Peanut Butter Bars

1 stick butter + 1/2 stick butter

1 3/4 cups powdered sugar, sifted (Sifting’s a pain, but makes a big difference here.)

1 cup peanut butter

5 graham crackers, smashed finely

1 cup chocolate chips

Line a square pan with parchment paper for easy removal.

Melt 1 stick of butter in a saucepan.

Add the peanut butter and stir til melted.

Remove from heat, add sugar, and stir til combined.

Add graham cracker crumbs and stir til combined.

Press the peanut butter mixture into the lined pan with the back of a spoon.

In the same saucepan, melt the 1/2 stick of butter.

Add the chocolate chips and stir til melted.

Pour the chocolate over the peanut butter and spread to uniform thickness.

Cool in fridge for an hour or two then cut into bars.

Store in fridge.

Good and Ready

Granola bars are a most versatile snack.

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They’re tasty at any time of day, and you can easily switch up the ingredients depending on your mood and what you’ve got in the house.

This is our standby recipe. We individually wrap the bars so they’re ready to go when we are.

Granola Bars

Preheat oven to 325.

3 1/2 cups oats

1 cup rice krispies

1 cup wheat flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup flax seed (optional)

1/3 cup packed light brown sugar

1/2 cup + 2 Tablespoons butter, melted

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup chocolate chips

1 cup honey (approximate)

Combine oats, cereal, flour, baking soda, salt, flax seed, and sugar.

Melt butter and combine with vanilla.

Add butter/vanilla to oat mixture and stir to coat.

Add chocolate chips.

Add 2/3 cup of honey and stir well.You will probably have some dry parts that won’t combine well with the other ingredients. If you do, add more honey, up to 1/3 of a cup, until everything’s sticking together pretty well. It should be pasty, not soupy.

Butter a 9″x13″ baking pan and press the mixture into it firmly using the back of a spatula.

Bake for 19 minutes.

Let cool and then cut into bars. We cut them in thirds the long way and then into the desired width.

These will last at least a couple of weeks in plastic wrap, but you’ll likely eat them sooner.