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This Week In My Kitchen (Care to join me for a blog hop?)

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I'm going to try something new...

Each day I find myself snapping a picture or two in the kitchen - a pile of ingredients, a table waiting for us to gather around, a sink full of soapy dishes, a cup of tea, dinner as it comes out of the oven - simple, everyday moments in the kitchen. These photos never really amount to much in terms of a cohesive blog post or anything like that, but I do love having them to look back on. They serve as a reminder of days gone by and as encouragement to carry on in this busy kitchen of ours when inspiration is lacking. 

I've been trying to think of a way to capture my love for whole foods combined with the activity of a bustling kitchen, and came up with the idea to share a weekly collection of photos from the center of our home... and I'd love it even more if you joined me!

Each Thursday morning I'll post my photos from the week, no words or recipes needed, just glimpses into my kitchen and I'd love for you to do the same. How much fun it will be to visit various kitchens and see what everyone is up to!

Care to join me? Consider yourself invited. As you go about your everyday tasks in the kitchen, pick up your camera and snap away whenever the mood strikes. Post them on your blog next Thursday morning, feel free to use the title, This Week In My Kitchen, then come back here for a visit. I'll have a way for you to "link up" your post so we can all pay a visit to each other's kitchens. Though we'll officially begin next week, you could certainly leave a link to your blog in the comments for now if you'd like to pop a post up for this week. 

 

Essentially, this will be a once a week kitchen blog hop. (Hoping a few of you will join me!)

 

How to join in:

  • On your blog, post photos taken in your kitchen throughout the week.
  • No words are necessary, your photos will tell the the story.
  • Be sure to link to this series so your readers can come visit and join in. 
  • Come back here and link up so we can all come on over to your kitchen!
  • Join me every Thursday or the occasional Thursday if that works better for you. 

 

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Capturing my love of whole foods, combined with the activity of a bustling kitchen. 

A weekly collection of photos from the center of my home.


Making My Own Spring

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I've decided to forget the forecast, forget the thermometer, and just forge ahead with living this season of spring as fully as I can. I'm ready for colorful fabrics, green juice, and muddy earth. 

Recently, along with probably one million other people, I took one of those quizzes floating around Facebook that promised to tell me what state I should live in. Washington came up for me, which while I imagine is a lovely place, I'm a New England girl through and through. My sister and cousin on the other hand both (to their surprise) got Vermont! The back and forth banter that ensued, as it goes on Facebook, was so funny and made it feel like we were all back in the same 1970s living room goofing around making smart aleck remarks to each other - all in good fun, of course. There was mention of them needing to sew batik curtains for their Vermont apartment... and one of them not even knowing what batik fabric was! See how faulty those quizzes can be? A Vermonter not knowing what batik is... unlikely! (Partially kidding, I'm sure a few Vermonters have no idea what batik is.)

Anyway, I had to laugh as I thumbed my way through fabric stacks this weekend, looking for the perfect springtime combo to make a new set of coasters with. Of course I pulled batik off the shelf! Who should be living in Vermont...? Although I bet a few Washingtonians love a cheerful splash of batik fabrics too. Don't we all? Don't answer that

I made more coasters than pictured here, but my sewing brain is still coming back from hiatus and there was quite a mistake made on a few of them when stacking the three layers - patchwork front, flannel lining, linen back - when I turned it all right side out my flannel lining was exposed... oh boy... please tell me you've done that a time or two as well. Looks like I'll spend some time with the seam ripper this afternoon so my coaster basket can be properly filled. Because even though we're still sipping on hot tea over here, soon enough icy drinks will abound and we'll be needing a place to rest our glass. 

I hope you're enjoying these early days of spring, and if it still feels more like winter than spring where you are... I highly recommend just going ahead and making your own spring. Batik fabric optional.


Hurry Up and Wait (plus a super tasty mocha latte recipe)

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On Sunday I took a walk through the woods to bring Adam some extra jars for our sugaring efforts. He spent the better part of the day with my uncle in the sugar house; my uncle boiled his weekly harvest of 600 gallons to our humble 15. In total, I think we've collected around forty gallons of sap so far - with one more week (or so) of harvest to go. 

This March has been cold cold cold. We've had the strangest breaks in the cold where we were able to tap trees, collect a days worth of sap, then everything froze solid for a full week. This is followed by a 1-2 day thaw of flowing sap, then boom - all is frozen solid again. It actually makes for a nice pace if you're sugaring newbies like us. Maple sugaring is petty straight forward in theory, but like most traditional preparations, the secret to a perfect product lies in the wisdom passed down from those who've practiced it time and time again. My uncle taught me a few years ago that "sap is highly perishable, and the syrup itself is highly shelf stable."

If you are having a typical March (for my area) of freezing nights followed by above freezing days, you really do need to boil often in order to prevent sap from spoiling. In other words, you can't hold on to sap for weeks and weeks and do one big boil at the end of March. This year however, it's been so cold that our sap is freezing solid within 24 hours after collection. 

So we've been able to collect over quite a bit of time before boiling. Another thing I learned from my uncle is that you can boil a great deal of sap down pretty low, cool it off and store in a cool spot without risk spoilage. This way we can do our big "final boil" all at once. (Although now that I think about it I wonder if this option is due to this year's cold temperatures... need to double check with him on that.)

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The sap we've collected so far, boiled to its "almost there" phase. I'll finish it up today.  This is three gallons and will probably wind up as one gallon or so. Thankfully the season is not over yet.

In a typical year, we'd probably be collecting more sap, more quickly, and have a few big boil days. But with the hurry up and wait sugaring that nature has given us this year, we seem to have a bit of breathing room between sap collection and boiling days. 

Anyway, when I entered the sugar house and was met with the incredible sauna-like air, I couldn't help but think how well timed sugaring season is. Just off a long stretch of dry, indoor air - sugaring season gives us humidity! Moisture on our skin and in our lungs - what a perfect way to welcome springtime. 

I just checked the forecast and starting today we should see six straight days of above freezing daytime temps. The sap is about to start flowing seriously now!

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One of my favorite (maple sweetened) warm drinks over the last few months has been this amazing coffee-free mocha latte. I've made a similar drink before (I think the recipe for it is in one of my courses), but now with the addition of coconut oil and teaspoon of pastured butter, it has reached an all new level of luscious delight. I thought I'd share this quick recipe with you today. 

Mocha Latte (with herbal coffee)

When blended, the coconut oil and butter emulsify to be become incredibly creamy and frothy. 

  • 1 cup raw milk (or milk of your choice), heated until steamy but not boiling
  • 1/2 cup very hot water
  • 3 rounded tsp Dandy Blend
  • 1 rounded tsp cacoa powder
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil 
  • 1 tsp pastured unsalted butter (though I use salted butter at times)
  • 2-3 teaspoons maple syrup

Place all ingredients in a blender, blend on high for 30 seconds (always be careful when blending hot liquids). Serve hot. 

Print RecipeMocha Latte (with herbal coffee)

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And finally...

Do you ever ditch responsibilities (say, grocery shopping) and sneak away to sit and stare at the lake instead? Me too!! 


Winter's Slow Departure

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Gardeners in my area look forward to planting their peas on St. Patrick's Day which is a quick seven days from today. I think we can safely say that will not be happening this year. For so many weeks now, the temperatures have remained below freezing which has not only prevented any snow from melting, it has also made the snow quite solid and easy to walk on top of (especially on our well traveled snowshoe trails), meaning it was hard to really know just how deep the snow still was in the woods. This weekend things finally began to warm up ever so slightly and now when you walk across the snow with boots you sink straight to the bottom. All of this to say, when I went out for a walk in the woods yesterday, I sunk straight to the top of my nearly knee high snow boots. Oh boy... there will be no planting of peas seven days from now. 

But we do have many sugar maples tapped! With a very generous loan of equipment from my uncle we set out thirty taps. So far we've collected close to forty gallons of sap and Adam has been boiling at my uncle's house. In part for our purposes but he also helped to give tours and demonstrations as this weekend was our town's annual maple fest - folks come from all over the state and beyond. My uncle's set up is pretty much the Shangri-La of sugaring. Imagine a spacious, beautiful 19th century reproduction post and beam sugar house filled with sparkling stainless steel tanks and evaporators, and an endless supply of meticulously stacked wood (pictured on my cousin's blog) - all nestled in the woods beside a pond and rambling brooks. His place is not only incredible fodder for a blogger like me, but it would just as easily catch the attention of an editor at Mother Earth News. One thing though... he's a really private guy who prefers to keep the internet at arm's length so I'm not comfortable sharing photos of his place. I will be sure though to take photos of our final syrup supply. Stay tuned for that! 

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I feel like we're in a place of waiting these days. Not able to recall a winter where we've had this much snow so late in the season, I wonder when spring will ever arrive! Yesterday I was out in the back field with my neighbor as our dogs played for a good thirty minutes. She asked me about my gardening plans and it felt like such an out of place question as we stared at the completely snow covered (by at least eight inches) field in front of us. Of course, it wasn't an out of place question, after all, I should be planting those peas in seven days. 

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This is a much prettier green than my camera picked up.

It still very much feels like winter here so I've been keeping warm with wintry things like knitting and cooking. I cast on my first adult sweater on number 5 needles - not sure what I was thinking, I'm going to be here for awhile! We've been enjoying lots of warm, cooked greens, and bowl after bowl of soups and stews. 

Warmer days will come for sure. As slowly as this winter seems to be departing, spring will eventually arrive just the same.