Blackberry Vinegar

One of my favorite salad dressings of all time is a good old raspberry vinaigrette.  It makes a warm day seem sunnier, and a cold winters day seem more like springtime.  It’s just plain good.

There’s been so much going on here between clean up from the storm, renovations to our kitchen and bath, and heading back to work that I just want some simplicity and routine in my life.  Something happy, sunny and simple.  So after blackberry picking today, I decided it was high time to make my own berry vinegar so we would have it.

Like the vanilla extract, this is something that you make today and let steep for a while before you can actually use it.  In this case, it’ll be about two weeks before I know if I nailed this guy on the head or not.   But it looks and smells amazing, so I have high hopes for this one!

Blackberry Vinegar
2 cups white vinegar
1 cup blackberries
Put vinegar and blackberries into a pan and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and let simmer for 3 minutes.  Let sit for 30 minutes until cool.  Pour into a quart jar, place plastic wrap on top and seal with metal rim.  Let sit for two weeks, then strain berries out and put liquid into a pint jar.  Will store for up to six months.

Begun the Garden War Has!

We’ve been enjoying greens from our cold frame for weeks now.  And with the abnormally warm weather, they have been just exploding in number.  The shallot greens are in the same boat–we’ve been using those instead of scallions or chives in a lot of our recipes.  It still might be brown and dormant outside, but life abounds in the frames.

Last weekend JGL posted a picture of dinner, which also included a fresh cold frame salad, and one of my favorite professors at my place of employment quickly posted “Fresh lettuce? Begun the garden war has!”.   We got a good chuckle out of both the thought of a gardening war and the clever Yoda reference, but later that evening JGL said, “Crap.  This means we have to step up our game, don’t we?”

Yes, JGL, it sure does.  I have full faith that the good Professor is going to kick our sorry gardening butts, but we’ve got to give it a good ole college try, right?  Right!

Having never been in said Gardening War, I’m not exactly sure what it entails.  However, lists are being drafted, the Farmer’s Seed and Supply store was scoped out today, and once these cold frames are installed, it’s on like Donkey Kong.  Challenge Accepted!  😉

Peach Barbecue

At some point along the way we acquired a subscription to Bon Appetit.  I don’t remember signing up for it and neither does JGL, but faithfully it has arrived month after month, and faithfully I read it.  This month’s issue was A to the Mazing–tons of fresh ideas, and many of which we’ll be able to start doing soon with fresh local (homegrown) produce.  This peach barbecue sauce was in the section with the fabulously and sickeningly talented Gweneth Paltrow, for whom I cannot work up enough ill will to loathe, even though I should–the woman is freakin’ perfect.  And so is her grilled chicken.  I served it over a mixed salad of greens and grilled zucchini and summer squash, and it is good enough to put on my “need to can” list for the later part of the summer.

It’s sooo close to being peach season here I can almost taste it!  The pick your own blueberries should be ripe and ready by next week, and if our notes from last year are good and true, the peaches will be soon thereafter.  I’m planning on canning a bunch, making jam, and hopefully canning some of this amazing bbq sauce.  I hope you all enjoy it as much as we did!

Peach BBQ Marinate/Sauce
Adapted from Bon Appetit, June 2011 Issue, pg 75
1 cup chopped peeled fresh peaches
1/2 cup ketchup
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp red pepper flake
1 cup plain yogurt
salt and pepper to taste
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast
Combine the first six ingredients in a small sauce pan, and boil over high heat.  Reduce heat to low and simmer for about 10 minutes until peaches are soft.  (at this point, I should note, I walked away from the stove and forgot about this for about 10-15 minutes LONGER than the recipe called for.  This happy accident left the sauce the consistency of apple butter, and we quite liked it!)  Remove from heat, add salt and pepper to taste, and let cool.  
Split sauce in half–put half in the fridge for later, and mix the other half thoroughly with the yogurt.  Place chicken breast in yogurt/bbq sauce marinate, and let refrigerate at least overnight (I let mine go 24 hours).  
Prep grill, and be sure that the grates are hot and well oiled so the chicken will not stick.  Split remaining sauce that was a part of the marinade in half.  Grill chicken until cooked through (about 4-5 minutes per side), and use part of the remaining sauce to baste chicken during grilling process.  When chicken is cooked, let rest and then use last of the sauce to coat the chicken while it rests. I sliced the chicken crosswise and served over a salad.  This would also be delicious served as a whole breast with potato salad or any other quintessential summer side treat! 

PEO Dinner

Tonight was my first solo PEO meeting and there was a “trade a bagged dinner” dinner component.  I was so in love with the shaved asparagus salad I made it again tonight for the dinner.  I also debuted the first batch of strawberry salsa (more on that tomorrow when I get the canner rolling), and the lavender sweet tea.  As I shared with someone tonight, it’s probably a good thing I do work full time because if I didn’t, I would totally spend my days doing stuff like this:

(and did I mention that I did all this cooking and crafting this afternoon in my best 1940’s housewife outfit, my second favorite half apron, heels, and fretting over my parents and friends who were in the path of the nasty Massachusetts tornado?   Good news is the Madre and the Padre are safe and sound, and I didn’t spill any salsa on my shirt.  Victories all the way around!)

Much to my delight the recipient of my bagged dinner loved it, and wanted to swap recipes.  I love it when good, fresh food brings good people together, and gnarly, nasty tornados dodge the ones I love the most!

Easter Weekend

Both JGL and I are beat.  We’ve spent most of the day outside, and I’m pretty sure I have a sunburn on my back and tan lines (Forgive me, ELF!  I’ll fix them before your wedding!!).

It feels great 🙂

We took a TON of pictures today, so rather than post them all here, we’ve put them up on Facebook.  You can still access them even if you don’t have a FB account by clicking here to see the public photo album.  I’ve tried to narrate them as we’ve gone along so you all can follow what we’re documenting. 

It’s been a stunning few days, compared to last weekend.  It’s been in the high 70s, low 80s, sunny and beautiful.  JGL cleared out the carport, and we even had dinner out there last night.  More than likely we’ll be out there again tonight 🙂  The week is looking to be the same, but with some rain towards the end of the week, which we’ll need.

But here’s the rundown of what’s been accomplished this weekend thus far:

  • Fencing put up around the vegetable garden (woo hoo!  Take THAT deer!)
  • Lime worked into the soil, “back forty” re-tilled and turned, and as many clumps of grass as we can moved OUT.
  • Salad, bush beans, and two rows of corn put into the ground 🙂
  • Grass seed put on the very bare patches of lawn–watered and hay placed on top
  • Negotiations started with Neighbor about using his truck to procure mulch for the flower beds

The seedlings are looking strong, although they need to be thinned out.  I’m pretty amazed that we haven’t killed any yet, but we’ll take it–fresh tomatoes are going to taste sooo good!

But before we get ahead of ourselves, I think it’s time to get clean, pick up the house, and take a breather–I think Carson and Lucy would like to spend some quality time with us rather than watch us run around.  Happy Easter, everyone!

It's the Easter Lab, Charlie Brown!