Eating Seasonally: Summer’s Bounty and a CSA Update

Summertime is winding down here in the Pacific Northwest; the days are starting to get shorter and the mornings and evenings have a bit of crisp chilliness to them. 
Its raining today, which is welcomed! It seems like we’ve had a pretty dry summer and its nice to see rain. I know the plants appreciate it too.
Interestingly enough, my 4 year old daughter Ellie is out playing in the kiddie pool even though its raining. She sure loves the water!

We didn’t do a garden this year,but decided instead to participate in a CSA with a local organic farm. With baby Olivia joining our family in March I knew I wasn’t going to be able to get any seeds in the ground or take good care of them. I’m so glad we made it a priority to still have fresh vegetables every week!
Its been so much fun trying new veggies and learning to eat things that I NEVER would have tried otherwise.

Here are a few new veggies that we’ve eaten:

Hakurei salad turnips. I had never even had turnips before, let alone put them in a salad! I absolutely love these turnips! They are crisp and fresh and sweet and seriously I can just bite into them and eat them like an apple. They’re that good. If we plant veggies next year, these will be one of the must-haves.

Beets. I’ve had pickled beets before and they weren’t my fave, so I was kind of scared to try fresh beets and had no idea how to cook them. It turns out, they are good peeled and sliced in salad, they add a really nice flavor to stir-fry (although they turn everything pink!) and are also yummy roasted with other root veggies.

Asian Greens.  This includes bok choy, pak choy (they’re two completely different things- pak choy is smaller), and this other really good one that I can’t remember the name of. They add such a nice flavor to stir-fries and soups! And of course they are good in salad too. 

Rainbow Chard. I was nervous about being able to find ways to eat this one as well, because I’d tried steamed chard before and hated it. But its super yummy in stir fry (see a theme? we have stir fry at least once a week now and love it!) and also good in salad. The lovely bright colored leaves and stalks are so pretty! 

Of course we have gotten all of the “normal” veggies that are usually front and center at the grocery store- carrots, tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, radishes, green beans, peas, spinach, kale, lettuce, basil, parsley, dill and many more. 
I’ve even been able to put up a few baggies of extra green beans and peas that we couldn’t eat, as well as some chard and kale for fall and winter soups. If you’re thinking of participating in Consumer Supported Agriculture, I definitely recommend it! Our CSA ends at the end of September and I’m already kind of sad that its almost over. If we can afford it I’d love to do it again next year, I really enjoy getting a nice big bag of delicious surprises every week. 

Honestly, there hasn’t been a vegetable that we’ve gotten and not liked. There are definitely favorites that we each have, but overall every single vegetable has been super fresh, flavorful and delicious.  

My grandpa has been giving us zucchini and cucumbers and potatoes and squash and corn from his garden as well, so my mom and I have been putting those up, blanching and freezing and making pickles and zucchini bread. 


Lemon Cucumber Refrigerator Pickles

Now the apples and prunes are getting ripe and the blackberries are just finishing up- which means jam and pie and applesauce and maybe cider. Eating with the seasons has such a lovely rhythm to it. I love it!

What do you think about eating seasonally? Have you tried it? Did you like it, or would you rather just go to the grocery store and get what you want year round? I’d love to hear your thoughts!




Shellin’ The Beans

This spring we planted Black Beans from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds and a couple weeks ago they were finally ready to harvest. I decided to plant the “Cherokee Trail of Tears” variety, mostly because of the cool story behind it.

When the Cherokee people were forced to leave their homes and march on the Trail of Tears to the reservations in 1889, they brought the seeds for this variety of bean with them from Tennessee to Oklahoma. Since we lived in Tennessee until last year, I though it would be fun to plant these beans. They did really well- the purple pods are so pretty! When they were beginning to dry out we picked them and hung them to dry over our kitchen window for about a week. I was afraid it would start to get rainy and they would mold if we left them on the plants in the garden. Turns out, I had nothing to worry about, since we’ve had lots of sunny weather up until a few days ago. But in Washington, you never know.

Once the beans were dried out, it was time for shelling. The kids and I took the bean vines out on the porch and got to work!

We had fun chasing the beans as some of them exploded and beans went all over the place.


We ended up shelling around a pound of beans- definitely not enough to keep us from starving if we were living completely off the land, but for a first crop of about 8-10 plants, not too bad. I am going to save all of the beans for planting again next year and hopefully we’ll get enough to eat and save for seeds the year after that.


The beans are super shiny and pretty- way more good looking than the dull black beans you get in the store. I’m excited about the prospect of eating them next year. It will be worth the wait, I think.

Have you ever planted heirloom beans? How did they do for you?

Crock Pot Applesauce- an easy recipe

It’s the beginning of apple season and one of the best ways to use the lesser quality apples (Transparents, Crab apples) is to make them into applesauce.

My great-uncle and aunt have Transparent apple trees and they got a ton of them this year and graciously gave a few boxes away to my mom and I.


Transparent apples tend to be kind of mealy and are not very good to eat just off the tree, so they are the perfect candidate to be made into applesauce.

Since I work most afternoon/evenings, I don’t have time to cook applesauce over the stove and then can it, (although I would LOVE to) so I’ve taken to just making applesauce in the crock pot and then freezing it.

It’s SUPER easy.

Basically, you take your apples, peel, core and slice them.

Throw them in the crockpot.


Put on the lid, turn it on high for about 2 hours or on low for 4-ish hours, until your apples are soft and mushy.

I don’t puree it or anything, just let it cook til it’s soft and stir it up really well, and it gets pretty smooth on it’s own.

Then I let it cool, and put it in mason jars (with an inch or two of headroom) or gallon ziploc freezer bags and stick it in the freezer.

And that’s it!

So easy and delicious. You don’t need to add any sugar or anything for Transparent apples, although I might add some kind of sweetener for Crab apples as they tend to be a little more tart. I’m going to use my applesauce for making Mom’s Multi-Grain Bread, or just for a “dessert” in the winter. It almost tastes like apple pie, it is so yummy.

What is your favorite way to make applesauce?

Do you can it or freeze it?? I’d love to hear from you!

Foraging: Stinging Nettles

A new thing I’ve been trying lately is foraging- using plants that are many times considered weeds as food or for herbal use. It’s amazing what is in your own backyard if you know where to look for it!

Stinging nettles are one of those plants that up until a few months ago, I considered a nuisance.  They grow all over the place; they sting and it hurts!!  I remember falling into a nettle patch as a kid and I’ve never thought of nettles fondly since then. The raised welts they leave sting so bad and then they itch- it’s just not fun to experience.


Nettles actually have a lot of uses medicinally!

They are a diuretic, can help with hay fever and urinary tract infections, they help reduce inflammation so they can be useful for helping with arthritis pain. They are also high in iron and nettle capsules or tea is frequently suggested for pregnant women to help boost iron and to help reduce or prevent bleeding. (I drank nettle tea when I was pregnant with Eliana.)

I even read that if you’re stung by a nettle, rubbing another nettle on the sting can help reduce the pain. I don’t think I want to try that one though! I’ll just stick with rubbing plantain oil on it.

For a nice list of other things nettles can help with, go here.

Also, another great article on nettles is here, including how taking nettles can interfere with prescription medication you may be taking.

Always make sure herbal supplements are safe to take if you’re on medication, because some may severely change how your meds work. Don’t just assume it’s okay to take since it’s herbal!  

Okay, so if you want to go foraging for nettles, here’s where to look: they like disturbed areas- oftentimes near the road or somewhere that has been logged- the nettles on my parent’s property grow down where an old barn used to be, near the rubble pile of wood from when the barn collapsed. That also happens to be in a wild blackberry patch, so my foraging experience was somewhat prickly- in addition to getting stung, I also got caught by the blackberry thorns!

Here are what stinging nettles look like:


They have wide, almost heart shaped leaves with notched edges and reddish stems with prickly hairs on the underside of the leaves as well as the stem. These are what sting you if you touch them.


See those prickles? Those are what have the chemical in them that creates a stinging sensation when it comes in contact with your skin. Ouch!

They grow pretty tall- I’ve seen nettles taller than me and I’m 5’9! But you want to harvest them when they are first coming up out of the ground.

Make sure to wear gloves and long sleeves, and use scissors to cut just the top few leaves off the nettles- that’s the most tender part. They are less bitter. The best time to go nettle foraging is right now- in the spring, when the nettles are just springing out of the ground. Once they’ve been out a while they lose a lot of their potency and are tougher and, as I said, more bitter.


 Even though I was wearing gloves, the sneaky hairs on those nettles got right through the knit part and still stung my hand!
I managed to get about half a paper grocery bag full of nettle tops. Not too shabby for just a few minute’s work!


I brought them inside and put them in the china cabinet to dry, since I don’ t want them to get dusty or small fingers to try and grab them and get stung.


Once they are dry, they don’t sting anymore. I’m going to crumble the nettles up and make my own tea blend with nettles, red clover flowers, chamomile and peppermint.

I might also sprinkle a bit into soups to add some more vitamins into our diet. Since it will just look like basil or oregano; no one will be the wiser. Mwahahaha! 🙂

Have you ever foraged nettles before? I”d love to hear about it!
Also, if you want to read about some of my other foraging adventures, check out my new foraging page.


This post shared at Wildcrafting Wednesday

Pressing Cider

It’s halfway through November already, and getting cold and dreary and decidedly fall/winterish around here.

We had a few hard frosts and it even hailed one day. No snow yet, but it sure is getting cold!

On Saturday, my Great Uncle Gaylord invited us up (he lives next door) to have a cider pressing party and boy was it fun! And COLD! I never knew apple cider could be so cold and delicious!

None of us had really pressed cider before (besides Uncle Gaylord and my Dad) so we all got to learn how.

First, you get some apples.

These are from Gaylord’s apple trees. They’re “organic” in that they don’t have pesticides used on them. 🙂

From left to right: Ellie, Dad, Ethan, Uncle Gaylord and my youngest brother Scotty

Dad helping Ethan turn the crank on the press

Uncle Gaylord cracking jokes. 🙂

You put apples into the hopper of the cider press and turn the wheel and it shreds up the apples into a kind of pulpy mess. That falls down into a pressing crate thingy (see how much I know about cider pressing?) and when it’s full you slide it over to the press. You put a lid on the pressing crate and then turn the crank to exert pressure onto the crate, which squeezes the cider out into a canning pot.

Tim taking a turn at pressing the cider

Scotty bein’ himself. 😉

Then, when the pot is full, you move it over to the straining table and pour it through a strainer. (Or a clean pillowcase, which is what we used.) Squeeze the juice out of the pillowcase and then ladle it into jugs ( a funnel is very helpful at this point!) and Bam! you have apple cider. 

We just leave it raw, we don’t pasteurize it or anything, although you have to freeze it if you want it to stay good because it will turn and start fermenting in about 5 days if you don’t freeze or can the extra.

What did we do with the leftover smashed apples? Feed it to the cows, of course!
Once the cider was pressed out of the apple bits, we took the pressing crate over and pounded the top out of it, letting the apples fall into a wheelbarrow.

My brother, Brian, pounding out the lid and the apple bits into the wheelbarrow

 Then we dumped the apple bits in the cow field and let the girls have a nice little treat. The kids loved having the cows so close! The cows weren’t as excited as the kids. 😉

The cider is SO good! We drank it right as it was dripping out of the pressing crate, into our cups and it was cold and sweet and delicious. 

The weather was frigid too- somewhere in the upper 30’s so we had to keep running inside and warming our hands at the woodstove so our fingers wouldn’t get so cold they didn’t work.  Mine actually got so cold they couldn’t bend at one point, so I had to take a break. Squeezing that cider through the pillowcase was a chilly job!
We ended up getting around 12 gallons of  cider, which is more than we expected. We’ve been enjoying it immensely- warm, cold, putting it in muffins and bread and using it in gravy.  We’re saving some for Thanksgiving too, to drink in fancy cups with dinner. 🙂

I’ll be back tomorrow and Saturday with some recipes – it’s been a while since I posted any so I’m giving you two- Squash Enchiladas and then Apple Cider Pumpkin Spice muffins!
Have a fabulous Thursday.

Skinning A Deer

Warning: This post contains graphic, kind of gruesome images. 
If you don’t want to see raw meat or blood or a deer carcass…don’t read this.

For as long as I can remember, my Dad has been a hunter. He hunts elk and deer every year and is truly respectful of God’s creation and a lover of the outdoors. When I was a kid, we’d all go camping in the mountains for two weeks and my Mom and us kids and my cousins and Aunt would stay in camp during the day while my Dad and Uncle would go across the river and over the ridge up into the wilderness; hunting for the canny, elusive elk. It was awesome.
I remember waking up early in the morning while it was still dark and peeking out of the tent and seeing Dad huddled near the campfire, the smell of woodsmoke and coffee in the air while sparks flew up into the blackness of the sky and the sound of caps from the muzzleloader rifles snapped in the stillness.
I wrapped up in a blanket and sat in a chair near the fire, my breath making a cloud in the frigid frosty morning. I sipped a cup of cocoa to warm up and listened to hunting stories, anticipating the afternoon when Dad would come back to camp with an elk in the back of his truck. Sometimes he did, sometimes he came home empty handed but the experience far outweighed the fact of whether or not he got any meat.

It’s so cool to hand down these memories to my kids, and to see them experience the same things I did that I consider to be almost lost in our current culture of fast food, factory farming and immediate gratification.

My Dad already got an elk this year, up in the mountains about 4 hours from here and its at the processor right now.
He was at work a few days ago out in the woods here on the island and saw some deer up on a hill, and took the opportunity to shoot a nice little doe. During hunting season, what better job could you have than logging in the woods and getting to bring your gun to work so that when you see a deer all you have to do is shoot it? Pretty cool.

Anyway, he shot it and gutted the doe in the woods and brought her home for us.
I’ve grown up helping skin deer, and it was awesome for Tim and the kids to be able to experience and learn how to skin a deer since Tim wants to hunt next year.

These aren’t exactly instructions on how to skin a deer, because I didn’t do the whole thing by myself and am afraid I’d forget something vital to tell you. So this is what I remember about how we skinned this little doe. If you need instructions on how to skin a deer, you can check out Sofya’s great post at The Girl’s Guide to Guns and Butter– she has way more experience than I do, and there’s instructions on how to butcher a deer on there as well. Our deer is still hanging outside, aging and drying out for a few more days before we butcher it.

When she first saw the deer, Ellie said, “Let’s eat it for dinner tonight!”  🙂

The first thing you do when you go to skin a deer is to take the legs off. Make sure you’re using a very sharp knife. You start at the knee, and find the cartilage around it and cut, being careful not to cut the bone or the hair of the deer. This dulls the knife really fast. Also be careful not to cut your fingers.

Once you’ve cut around the outside, bend the knee and cut the rest of the cartilage. Then snap the knee off.

Tim’s first time skinning a deer. He did awesome!

The kids had fun playing with the deer legs. 🙂

Next, cut slits through the hide along the front legs of the deer to the chest,
 so that when you get to that point the skin comes off easier.
Hang the deer by its neck and start skinning from the neck down.
Pull the hide gently away, and cut at the thin white fat between the skin and the meat and the hide just peels away easily. Be careful not to cut too close to the hide, or you’ll cut a hole in it, or too much into the meat. Just go slowly and take your time. There’s no hurry.

Once you get to this point, you can usually pull the hide down and it will just peel off by itself. Grab the edges of the hide and just pull gently, trimming with the knife if needed. Pull it down to the tail, and cut off the tail.

Then, continue pulling the hide down, using your knife if needed to help it along, until the hide comes off the legs. If you want to save the hide to tan it you can, or you can just bury it deep in a hole with the head and legs so the coyotes don’t get it.

Now to the kind of gruesome part.
If you shot the deer with a gun and not a bow, you’ll more than likely have some bloodshot meat. This is where the bullet went in and came out. You need to cut out all of that icky, bloody meat so the blood doesn’t seep down into the meat and ruin it.

Once it’s all cut out, cut down the breastbone with either a hacksaw or a knife, depending on how big your deer is and how sharp your hunting knives are. Since this was a young doe, Dad just used his knife.

Then you can go ahead and turn the deer upside down to finish drying out- thread a rope between it’s tendons on the back legs and tie them up.

 Then untie the head and let it hang down towards the ground.  This is what the rope looks like threaded through the tendons.

Lastly, cut off the head. Start with a knife and go around the neck until you get to the spine, then use a hacksaw to get through the bone.

The kids thought the head was really cool, especially since they got to touch the deer’s eye and pet its fur.

And that, my friends, is how you skin a deer.

We hung the deer inside one of our shipping containers we use for storing tools (kinda like a garage) and we’ll leave it there for a week to age, if it stays cold enough.
We’ll be butchering the meat ourselves here in a few days, and I’ll try to do a post on that too.
I hope I didn’t gross anyone out too much! It’s really a fun process, and you appreciate the food more when you know where it comes from and how much work it takes to get it to the edible point. I’m thankful I grew up doing this, and thankful that my kids will grow up knowing how to skin a deer and make it into food for their future families too. 🙂

Foraging: Wild Rose Hips

A couple of weeks ago our family took a walk down the road to get some fresh air, and ran across a whole bunch of wild rose hips.

I immediately wanted to pick them all, but had nothing to put them in, so I resolved that we’d come back and get them in a few days, and went home to research how to preserve rosehips and what to use them for.
If you want to read a more in-depth description of what rosehips do for your health, go here.
Rose hips are really high in vitamin C and can be made into tea, jelly or oil to help bolster the immune system. I thought that since it’s fall and the beginning of the blustery, rainy season that we’re bound to get a cold here or there, so why not make some tea to help us stay healthy??
One cool gray afternoon, I gathered up the kids and Grandma (my mom) and we went rose hip picking.
We had fun! 
Some of the rose hips were low enough for the kids to pick, and we snacked on the blackberries remaining on the nearby blackberry bushes. Some of the bushes were still flowering!
Once we got about 4 or 5 cups of rose hips and there weren’t really many more that we could reach, we came home and I spread them out on a cookie sheet to dry. The process takes a few weeks, so they’re not dry quite yet. They look so pretty though, and I can’t wait to try them in some tea!
The mornings here have been foggy and cool, and it’s so beautiful!!
I love seeing these girls out the kitchen window when I’m stirring the sugar into my coffee:

I know- more cow pictures! I just can’t get enough of them!!
Have you ever done any foraging?? What did you get, and what did you do with it? I’d love to hear! 
This post is shared at Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways.

Blanching Corn

Every year my Grandpa has a huge garden.
He just turned 85, but he still plots out a nice garden and every year he gives my parents a bunch of veggies from it.
Summer and Winter squashes, cucumbers, peas or green beans, and corn among other things.

One of my favorite fall activities that I remember from my childhood is shucking and blanching corn.
I honestly don’t really like to eat corn on the cob, but I enjoy pulling the long green husks off and picking the silk out of the crevices between the kernels and watching those golden ears boil away, only to be plunged into icy cold water to cool and then be put in bags and stowed away in the freezer for wintertime.

Since we live here in Washington now, I get to teach my kids how to take care of the corn Grandpa Larry brings over!

Eliana managed to shuck two ears of corn before her hands got tired.

Ethan did a great job making sure all of the silk got off the ears of corn!

Here are a few pictures of the process:

Half Shucked Corn

A close-up of the silk

All shucked and ready to be blanched

We let the corn boil for 3 minutes…

Then put it into cold water to stop the cooking process.

After it’s cooled, it’s ready to be put in bags..

And then go into the chest freezer on the back porch.

That’s how it’s done, folks!
 We’ll sure enjoy eating nice sweet corn at dinner time during the cold winter evenings.
I’m using up some frozen corn from last year’s garden with dinner tonight and making mexican rice with it.
What is your favorite way to eat corn? I’d love to hear some ideas for new meals!

Dehydrated Apples

We’re back from visiting family in Oklahoma and it was really fun to see everyone and celebrate my brother graduating from college.
It’s nice to be home though, and sleep in my own bed and the kids and dog are really enjoying the extra space and their toys they didn’t get to play with for a whole week.
A hotel room is only cozy for a little while, right?

*Warning…gross animal details ahead…skip the next paragraph if you’re weak-stomached*

I’ve been busy cleaning and unpacking (we came home to a less than ideal situation with our cat, Solomon….apparently he decided not to poo in the litter box and thought that the tub was a better place to go…yeah. We’re still airing things out and cleaning and re-cleaning to try to get the house smelling nice again. Disgusting. I seriously almost threw up.)
*End of gross animal details*

On a happier and completely unrelated note-now that you’re grossed out and not hungry at all;
 I am going to tell you one of many ways to use up some apples you may have that are kinda mushy when you bite into them, or that are getting a little too ripe. 😉

Dehydrated Apples

I bought some McIntosh apples from Aldi last week before we left on vacation and there were three left when we got home.
They were looking a little past their prime; they were kind of mealy and slightly soft but I didn’t want to chalk them up to Food Waste Friday just yet so I got a little creative.

I decided to dehydrate them.

Now, if you don’t have a food dehydrator, you can use your oven on a very low setting (I’m guessing 135-150F or so) to dry them out into a nice crunchy snack.

First, cut up your apples into thin slices, about 1/4-1/8″ thick.

I did this and then my apples started turning brown, as apples do, and I remembered that you need to soak them in citric acid to make them keep their color. I had some oranges, so I cut one in half and squeezed the juice into a bowl and added enough water to cover the apples. Then I let them soak a few minutes.
You can also use pineapple juice, lemon or lime juice, or actual powdered citric acid.

Next, arrange your apple slices on the dehydrating trays or a greased cookie sheet if you’re using your oven, and dry at 135-150F for 4-10 hours, until the apples are somewhat leathery/bordering on crispy.
Drying them will concentrate the sugar and make them nice and sweet (not that apples aren’t already) and super yummy.

Then, if you have enough left over after snacking on them, put the rest in a sealed jar or baggie for later.

As you can see, my citric acid soak didn’t do as well as I’d hoped. Next time I’ll try lemon juice.
It doesn’t affect the taste at all even if your apples are slightly browned, it just doesn’t look quite as pretty.
That’s it!
A simple way to preserve your not-so-good apples and make them enjoyable to eat.
If you have a LOT of apples, you can also make them into applesauce or apple cider. Maybe I’ll do a post about that at another time 🙂

Now, excuse me while I go munch some apple chips.