More Easy Meals…July Casserole

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What could be easier than this summer casserole?  I am calling it July casserole since no gardener is in short supply of the ingredients come July.  I put a bit of coconut oil in the bottom of a casserole dish and then layered in slices of yellow squash, zucchini, tomato, and red onion.  After basting with some more coconut oil, and sprinkling with nutritional yeast, seaweed, sea salt, and some chili powder (you can season however you like), it was ready for the oven.  Too easy to be so pretty.  Bake for about 20 minutes at 420. You can sprinkle with cheese and pop it back in the oven for a few if you like.  We are having some local, pastured chicken drumsticks and home canned peaches to round out our meal.   I love it when the garden tells me what to make 🙂

 

Just in Time

The organizers of the Dark Days eating local blog challenge have given us some challenges.  The first was the One Pot Meal challenge that I filled with pot roast, but this next challenge was A LOT harder.  I thought about it off and on for weeks.  The challenge—make a sweet treat for your Valentine using all or nearly all local ingredients.  That coupled with my little Valentine’s allergies to corn, soy, dairy, gluten (and those are just the pertinent ones to sweets), made this seem like a challenge deadline I might just have to let slide by.  A few days ago, stopped at a red light, it came to me–meringues.  Finally, I was saved.

I beat 4 egg whites (ours) stiff, added a pinch of cream of tartar, about a 1/2 cup of Longhouse Farm maple syrup, and a few drops of red food color (I could not help myself).  It worked like a dream.  Pink heart shaped meringues that melt on your tongue.   I  did it!  The cream of tartar and food color were not local of course, but they were minor additions.  As I type this, it occurs to me that I could have thawed some frozen raspberries and used a bit of those for color and flavor.

My seven year old Valentine was very impressed.

Sometimes, I hit it out of the park

Well, if you really know me, you know that I cannot hit or catch anything, let alone out of the park.  But, in a culinary way, our Dark Days meal this week was a home run.  I am not a very good recipe follower.  If I do use one, I usually follow it loosely.  This week I decided the spare ribs from the hog we got in the fall were ready to come out of the freezer.  Since I taught this day an would no be home in the afternoon, I prepped this meal in advance and set the oven to come on later and a low temp and slowly cook our ribs and sweet potatoes. 

 

I wanted BBQ sauce–Small Wonder Farm style, so I took a jar of my canned ketchup which has 2 times the flavor of regular ketchup, added a 1/4 cup of local maple syrup and a 1/4 of yellow mustard.  After salting and peppering the ribs, I covered them in this.  We came home to the best pork ribs imaginable with sweet potatoes and fresh spinach salad (picked from our own high tunnel).  Definitely a hit.

This was the first year I made ketchup and it will definitely become a staple for our pantry.  More flavorful and so versatile.  It can easily become BBQ sauce, cocktail sauce, or an addition in dishes like meatloaf and cabbage rolls.

Small Wonder Farm: Spinach

Markle Farm: Sweet Potatoes

This Old FarmPork Ribs

Longhouse Farm: Maple Syrup

Outside inputs:  Yellow Mustard, Salt, Pepper

 

Butternut, Apple, and Cranberry Gratin

Our local meal pick of the week was a butternut squash, apple, and cranberry gratin and local sausage. The inspiration came from an online recipe from Organic Gardening Magazine. http://www.organicgardening.com/cook/butternut-squash-apple-and-cranberry-gratin

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I modified the recipe to accommodate our dairy and gluten free household. I substituted my GF flour blend for the flour and Spectrum shortening for the butter. I also used fresh cranberries for the dried ones and added 2 tablespoons of local honey to accommodate the lack of sweetness. We had this with some local grass-fed sausages from Thistle Byre Farm. This was a first time making this and we all really liked it. It would also make a great holiday side dish.

Here’s the rundown:

Thistle Byre Farm:
Grass-fed pork sausage
Fuji apples

Markle Farm:
Butternut Squash

Wabash and Reily Local Honey

Our own Small Wonder Farm:
Parsley
Thyme

Outside inputs:
GF flour blend
Spectrum shortening
Cranberries
Salt
Pepper
Cayenne

Chile Rellenos Casserole

My latest installment for the Dark Days Challenge is a riff of the Simply Recipes recipe for Chile Relleno Casserole.  “Chile rellenos” means “stuffed chiles.”  The traditional way to prepare the dish is to roast and peel whole poblano peppers, stuff them with cheese, dip them in fluffy beaten eggs, and deep fry. They are then simmered in a flavorful tomato broth—probably the best Mexican dish ever and no one makes it better than me. Needless to say, it is neither a healthy dish or quick to prepare, so we have it a few times a year.

I grow poblano peppers on the farm and then roast and peel them.  I freeze them in bags in meal sized portions.  I add these to various dishes.  This preparation is one of my favorites.  Unlike the Simply Recipes recipe, I do not stuff the chilies here.  Since I am working with frozen chilies, I cook the chorizo, onion, and garlic and then add my homegrown tomato salsa.  I use this as the bottom layer and then add the chilies on top, followed by local cheese (instead of the cotija listed in the recipe), and then our own eggs.  I do add the small amount of flour and baking powder. For us, the flour is our GF blend.

This is a great make ahead recipe.  You can prepare and then stick it on the fridge–baked or not.  It also keeps well and is great reheated in the microwave.  You will notice, I made a portion without cheese to accomodate my daughter’s dairy allergy.

We added a green salad with radishes and carrots (harvested from our high tunnel), and homemade applesauce made from local apples.  Here is the complete tally of sources:

Our Farm:  garlic, onions, eggs, poblano peppers, tomato salsa, oregano, radishes, carrots

Goose the Market: chorizo sausage

Cheese–can’t remember farmer’s name, but it’s a Munster from local Amish farm.

Other items: GF flour blend, baking soda, olive oil

Strawberry Freezer Jam with Lily

Lily wanted to help make strawberry freezer jam and got very excited about being on the blog, so here she is.  I have always made regular cooked jam, but a friend said that strawberry freezer jam tastes more like fresh strawberries and it’s true.  The flavor is as close as you can get.  It somehow suspends that just picked flavor–way better than a traditional cooked jam or even frozen strawberries that always defrost into a watery strawberry soup.  We used the super-easy recipe for strawberry freezer jam that can be made with Ball’s Instant Pectin.  
2 TBSP instant pectin
2/3 c sugar
1 2/3 c smashed strawberries
Mix pectin and sugar, add berries, stir and put into freezer containers.

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It really cannot get any easier than that.  Too easy.  Sort of feels like cheating. After we finished our jam making, we went out to the barn to give the chickens the strawberry tops–a favorite food for them.  As you can see, Lily had a lot of fun.
The strawberry season around here this year was very short and the harvest meager.  The crazy cold and wet spring alternating with periods of jungle heat was a bad one for strawberries.  My high tunnel bed did ok, but the outdoor ones were lackluster.  In order to have enough to do jam, I purchased berries from farmer friends at market.
As of yesterday, it is officially raspberry season here at Small Wonder Farm.  A season that will go on and on and on and on and on.  Raspberries produce here no matter what and the only thing that really stops them is killing frosts.  They are so numerous and tedious to harvest, I am always happy to see them freeze!

Hibiscus and Raspberry Paletas

I have been busy making summer time treats for my allergic daughter.  I just bought a new book called Paletas: Authentic Recipes for Mexican Ice Pops, Shaved Ice & Aguas Frescas by Fany Gerson.  Paleta means popsicle in Spanish.  In Mexico, paletas are an art form and put our food dye and HFCS popsicles to shame.  Made with whole fruits in interesting combinations, they are worth the effort.  I can control the inputs–using my own freezer stash of home-grown fruit and making sure they are 100% allergen free.  The fist recipe I tried used raspberries and agua de jamaica.  Jamaica is the Spanish word for hibiscus.  Dried hibiscus flowers are used in Mexico to make a very popular drink.  It has a beautiful red jewel hue—exactly the color of cranberry juice and tastes wonderful.

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I loaded the mold about halfway full with sugar macerated raspberries and topped them off with fresh hibiscus water.  So lovely.  We haven’t tried them yet–that will be our after dinner treat today.

Paco and Lily have a long-standing tradition of having popsicles together after dinner in the summer.  It is their time to chat and catch up.

If you are not already intrigued, how about a few more combinations from this super-cool book:

Caramel Ice pop

Apricot-Chamomile Ice Pop

Watermelon Ice Pops

Sour Cream, Cherry, and Tequila Ice Pops

The book also includes sections on Raspados (Shaved Ice) and Aguas Frescas (coolers or drinks) in combinations such as Spicy Mango Ice and Cucumber-Lime Cooler