Last run for apples & pears

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This weekend was our last weekend for running out and buying freshly growing produce. We picked up the last of the fall pears, Minnesota grown squash and 20 more pounds of Macintosh apples from our favorite orchard in La Crescent- Bauer’s Marketplace. We were headed over in that direction for one last look at all the fall colors and surprised ourselves with an impromptu picnic. The last couple of weekends have been absolutely beautiful both here in Wisconsin and along the Mississippi near La Crescent, Minnesota. From now until spring of 2017 we will eat from our freezer all of the produce we bought this past summer and fall.
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Soon it will be my 52nd birthday and I’m looking forward to a nice meal, catching up on reading and of course a walk in nature with my husband.

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This is the time of year everything begins to move so much more quickly, at least that is how I feel. A promise I am making to myself this year on my birthday is to begin to take things a bit slower in my life, to savor the moments more rather than hurry up and on to the next thing. Everyday I want to accomplish so much, but to be honest, I need to learn how to pace myself better.  I’ll be back November 2nd with new posts, I am going to take the next week off to get ready for a Halloween Party after a birthday weekend and one of our first volunteering events of the year. Until next time– Have a Happy Halloween!

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Fall Feast Plans

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Fall is my favorite time of the year, with springtime a close second. One is a time of new and the other the time before everything rests and is renewed. Fall is also a very busy time for my husband and I as a couple, for myself as a volunteer and for tasks that at times seem never ending.  Fall cleaning is one of the first things I do on my to do list. I thoroughly dust everything, shampoo carpets throughout our home, haul our winter coats and stuff to the cleaners (though I usually do this in the spring) and decorate for fall and then the holidays. I decorate our home for Halloween, Thanksgiving and for Christmas and I go big. All of it is time consuming, but totally worth it when it is done.

A couple of weekends ago we traveled into Madison for one of the last Farmer’s Markets outside of the year.

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I found time to upload a couple pictures of our fall decor~

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freshly cleaned carpet

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cozy new pom pom throw

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My birthday is near the end of the month and all I want to do is catch up on all my reading. I have two cookbooks to peruse, and I’d love to get through my stack of magazines. Instead we will go to our favorite restaurant and let someone else cook for the night. Less than a month later I will be preparing a big Thanksgiving meal for family and friends here in Wisconsin. This year’s menu is: Turkey, apple walnut stuffing, green bean casserole with fried shallots, pickled peach and cranberry salsa, roasted sweet potatoes and salted caramel peanut butter fudge pie.

I was inspired by these menus at Country Living.

That’s all for now. Later in the week I will be back to share more fall cooking inspiration!

Biodynamic vs. Organic farming

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What is Biodynamic farming? – biodynamic farming is a system where soil is the most important component and is central to all the operations in biodynamic farming. With this type of farming each field or garden is considered a biological whole. Soil fertility is key in biodynamic farming.

Organic farming – organic farming is a sustainable system where the organic process helps both the soil, and the sustainability of the farm, farming operation and the people who consume the food. An organic farm is open to all ecological systems and benefits all.

I first learned about biodynamic farming while watching a food documentary called- Restaurant Australia . In one of the episodes, one of the chef’s visit a vineyard and the vintner explains how she is using biodynamic processes in her vineyard. Biodynamic principles are based on spiritual and ethical insights as well as practical suggestions developed by Rudolf Steiner. Biodynamic farming combines a holistic, ecological and ethical approach to farming and gardening. It is widely used in Europe especially in orchards and vineyards.

Organic farming is farming without pesticides, chemicals or fertilizers. Though organic farmers can and do use natural pesticides and fertilizers. They do not use seeds that have been genetically modified. People who want to live a more sustainable life, as well as a healthier life, (chemical free) buy and consume organic food, and meat from livestock fed organic crops (usually grass because approx. 93% of the corn grown in the U.S. is genetically modified). Both the land and the consumer benefit from organically grown food. The most important reason the land benefits is because the soil remains fertile and the ecosystems that the soil is composed from thrive and continue to thrive because there are no toxic chemicals being sprayed on them.

Biodynamic farming- uses everything that is a part of the farm to sustain the farm as a whole organism. It is a holistic approach to soil fertility and agriculture that takes from what is within the farm itself to sustain the farm. In this kind of farming everything on the farm and the farm itself benefit from the principles used. Of course those that live on the farm and those that eat food from a biodynamic farm also benefit. I am told the taste of food grown on a biodynamic farm is far superior to most foods grown elsewhere, especially those foods grown on conventional farms.

I found an interesting site that really explains biodynamic farming here.
I found information about Rudolf Steiner, the founder of the biodynamic approach to farming, here . FAQ about biodynamic farming here.

I must admit that I am intrigued and very interested in learning and even visiting a biodynamic farm. I don’t think there needs to be a competition between the two and I don’t think one needs to choose one or the other. Both practices are good for the soil, good for what is grown in the soil and good for the people who consume the products. The part I like the most about biodynamic farming is that everything is used and what is needed for the farm’s sustainability comes from within. Very little if anything is brought from the outside into a biodynamic farm. An example of this is the cattle graze the pasture and the waste produced while they graze is turned back into the pasture land from which they will once again graze. No fertilizers from the outside needed. The very richness of the land the cattle graze is made from the very waste the cattle produce. This is a good example of why biodynamic farming is considered a closed system. I’m very interested in the regenerative nature of this type of farming.

Anyway, that’s all for now. I’ll see you Tuesday with some fall photos, my fall to do list, and more.

 

Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

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Emeril Lagasse’s recipe for cabbage rolls is here 

Years and years ago I used to unwind by watching two hours of Food Network every day. Even though I had been cooking since I was twelve, and I had worked in several restaurants with positions from prep cook, to line cook and sous chef in training, I really truly didn’t know much about food. I worked these type of jobs, not for my interest in cooking or food, but rather to survive at the time because these types of jobs were aplenty. When I got married I learned quickly that my husband, although not interested where the food comes from, is interested and lets his feelings be known, that he wants home-cooked meals and he wants a variety of good home-cooked made from scratch. It’s how he grew up and never having been on his own before we married, it’s all he knew. So while I was unwinding, I was learning, and mentally preparing to learn to become a good cook. Which more than anything relies on really liking food, getting acquainted with how it grows, where it grows and how to prepare it. The chefs on the Food Network in the 90’s really saved my bacon (pardon the pun). In 2004 I started our family on our journey towards a more sustainable life by changing our diet to a more organic diet. I looked to advocates like Alice Waters for inspiration and information. From Alice Waters, I found an abundance of information both at the library, local extension offices and of course the internet. I’ve probably watched 50 documentary’s on food, and learned something different from each one.  Food has a history, food is a part of people’s culture, tradition, and history. Food is a living, growing product needed for each and every one of our survivals. The closest you can get a food to pure is to pluck it from the soil it grows in and eat it. As time has gone on I’ve found several homesteaders who have shown me great products, sustainable living practices, farming & gardening methods, food preservation and so much more.

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Sometime last fall I sat down to catch an episode of A Chef’s Life on PBS and ended up buying all the seasons of the show. Whenever I could find the time I would sit down and promise myself two shows just two shows. I always watched at least three and given the time I would have watched all three seasons right there in my easy chair. Chef Vivian Howard of A Chef’s Life lives in North Carolina with her husband, twins, and parents.  Chef Howard and her husband own two restaurants in North Carolina. The show is about her and her husband running the restaurant and her sourcing the food, from local North Carolina farmers, and cooking up all these unique food dishes with it. Each show is like a super creative history of something locally grown- peas, sweet potatoes, okra, apples, peaches and so much more. I mean three, soon four, seasons full of food information, foodie topics, watching the chef make interesting, and delicious looking food in her restaurant, the inner workings of a restaurant and of course her home life, children, husband, and neighbors are featured. I love love love A Chef’s Life. My husband asked me what I wanted for my birthday this year and without hesitation I said- Chef Howard’s new cookbook- Deep Run Roots. I received it last week- early birthday presents rock. It’s a good-sized cookbook weighing in at 4# so I’ve got a lot of reading and recipe trying to get into.

We are supposed to be getting frost tonight, which mid-October I would kind of expect. A lot of the trees in the surrounding areas haven’t changed color yet. A couple frosts and fall colors will be here. Seems like just yesterday I was sharing recipes for rhubarb a food that signals spring. Last week and this pumpkins and cabbages- foods signaling fall.  Later this week- biodynamic vs. organic.

Apple Fritter Bread

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Every fall we make our pilgrimage to an area I used to live in and buy our mums, our apples and our apple fritter bread. We bring along a thermos of hot cocoa, a pat or two of fresh butter, and head up the hill in La Crescent, Mn for the views on Apple Blossom Scenic Drive. It never gets old and I’ve been doing this for the better part of almost 30 years.

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Apple fritter bread is not hard to make, I found a recipe here that I’m going to try. But even when I try the recipe and I’m able to make my own fritter bread we’ll still make our annual trip to Bauer’s Marketplace for it. Heading out for the day in Minnesota is a tradition and my husband and I value traditional things and love creating new memories every year during this time.

Thanks everyone for the wonderful feedback regarding my posts about whole foods. It’s where my family and I are at right now. You know I started this journey twelve years ago now when I quit smoking. Once I detoxed myself from years of living like a rock star, I decided I only wanted to put organic food in my body. Boy was I in for a bumpy ride. Organic food in these parts weren’t to be found in the marketplace. Soon though things became easier until gluten started bothering me. So I tried gluten-free and then I tried foods that had 5 ingredients or less in them. Finally I chose to limit or eliminate all additives and preservatives and my gluten issue worked itself out. Probiotics and whole foods have helped me a lot with my food sensitivities.  Our diet today consists of mainly organic whole foods.  I am happy to share my experiences here on my blog about what whole foods mean in terms of meals and lifestyle.  Until next time!

Pumpkin Cheesecake

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“I am made for autumn. Summer and I have a fickle relationship, but everything about autumn is perfect to me. Wooly jumpers, Wellington boots, scarves, thin first, then thick, socks. The low slanting light, the crisp mornings, the chill in my fingers, those last warm sunny days before the rain and the wind. Her moody hues and subdued palate punctuated every now and again by a brilliant orange, scarlet or copper goodbye. She is my true love.” Alys Fowler

My favorite month of the year is here. Pumpkins galore! I love pumpkin pie, pumpkin bars, plain pumpkin puree. Pumpkin, I love pumpkin. No kidding pumpkin orange was was my favorite color for almost 25 years. I love the weather in October, halloween, fall leaves, fall foods and fall hay rides. Cannot. wait. Last weekend we made our last trip of the year to Bauer’s Market and bought 50# (wild guess) of acorn squash, 3 pumpkin pie pumpkins, 15# of apples for eating and baking, and 3 loaves of their delicious apple fritter bread. This week on my day off I made applesauce, apple pie and pumpkin puree for cheesecake and to freeze for pumpkin pies later this month. I’ve posted the recipes below- enjoy!

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first the pumpkin puree recipe and then the pumpkin cheesecake recipe

Next up is a look at biodynamic vs. organic and recipes for cabbage rolls and apple fritter bread. Have a great fall weekend!