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Cook the Books! (Final) Upcoming Books!

Several weeks ago, I announced the selections for September & October. I also promised to fill you in on the last 2 selections in a few days. Well, it is 3+ weeks later and I’m just getting to it. It has been an incredibly painful few weeks, so I know you’ll forgive me.

  • November is Dahlia Bakery Cookbook.  Keeping it local peeps. Tom Douglas is ubiquitous in Seattle.  The man, and his restaurants, are everywhere.  I haven’t been to them all (who can keep up?), but everywhere I have tried has been fantastic.  I wanted to dig into his bakery cookbook for 2 reason: legendary Coconut Cream Pie and Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies.  I honestly don’t even care what else is in the cookbook, because if I can rock out tho I’ll be a very happy person.

grow and resist cook the books dahlia bakery
But it isn’t all pie and cookies. The book covers breakfast/brunch items, cakes, pastries, tarts, english muffins (something the Babylady has recently expressed an interest in making), and more. (Heads up: also includes his equally famous donuts and his tomato soup.)

Briggs and I thought November would be a great month for hitting a bakery cookbook with all the opportunities for baked goodness during November and December. What will be your favorite? We can’t wait to find out!

  • December we will checking out The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying and Start Making.  You already know that both Briggs and I like to push ourselves to grow a lot of edibles (!), preserve, and create food from scratch. In fact, we both started blogging because of an interest in preserving. We started with the Can Jam as a push to further our DIY-ways. Including a book that was DIY-focused seemed natural.

grow and resist cook the books homemade pantrySo many of you already prepare meals regularly that don’t use boxes, cans, or “convienence” items. Perhaps you regularly preserve what is in season for use year-round. This book will cover things that you might still purchase from the store that you could easily make at home.  Let’s face it: we all have different ideas of what makes something worth making yourself. Taste? Cost? Ease of making? Time? General interest? Availability? Ingredients?  It all plays into the equation.  For me, I know there are things I could make. Things I wish I were inclined to make, but I won’t for a variety of reasons.  But, there are other things that I know for certain would be simple to make. Things that would be cheaper, tastier, and healthier if I made it myself.

So, Cook the Bookers! That will round out the 2013 Cook the Books Challenge!  We are looking forward to seeing what you discover the rest of the year.

Cook the Books! September: Jerusalem: A Cookbook

Ok, so unless you’ve lived under a culinary rock, you’ve heard something about our September Cook the Books choice, Jerusalem: A Cookbook by chefs Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi.  The well-respected London-based chefs/authors were both born and raised in Jerusalem –  Ottolenghi in the Jewish west side and Tamimi on the Arab east side. Sounds interesting already, right?

grow and resist cook the books september jerusalem

The cookbook is centered in Jerusalem, a place of full of both richness: diversity, energy, and passion, as well as the difficulties of intense political & religious strife. It is a city of countless intersecting cultures (and subcultures) and long culinary traditions. In the introduction, the authors name some of the varied cultures, each with food histories of their own, that come together to create what has become local, Jerusalem cuisine. In studying the vast food traditions, what is clear is the cross-cultural unifying themes: the presence of chopped tomatoes & cucumbers, variations of stuffed vegetables, pickled vegetables, baked pastries, olive oil, lemon juice, and the use of local, seasonal ingredients unite many of the food cultures.

Jerusalem was named cookbook of the year and has been written about in the New York Times (a quick google search will show you it has been written about on pretty much all major food websites). There have been author interviews on All Things Considered on NPR (give it a listen!). Cookbook challenges and the corresponding Facebook page that follow along with the virtual cooking group. Basically, the cookbook Jerusalem is everywhere.

We chose Jerusalem for September, when Seattle has it’s biggest month of local produce that serve as the backbone for the cookbook: eggplant, tomatoes, zucchini, plums, peaches, peppers and more. Not necessarily from my garden. With how my summer has gone, not much happening out there other than plums.  But no worries. The farmer’s market and PCC will keep me in the goods I need.  I’m looking forward to Roasted eggplant (with fried onion & chopped lemon), fattoush, various herb salads, A’ja, Shakshuka, Sabih, Mejadra, Kofta b’siniyah, and so, so much more. I can’t wait to incorporate za’atar, sumac, baharat, and harissa into my repertoire.

Have you cooked from Jerusalem before? What did you make? We can’t wait to see what you choose! As usual, send us your link toward the end of the month to cookthebookschallenge@gmail.com and we’ll include you in the monthly wrap up.

On Monday or Tuesday, Briggs should have the August Wrap-Up posted, so check in there and see what folks made from Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones. I made quite a few things, so there is another ice cream related post coming from me too.

Cook the Books! Review: Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones!

I am pretty sure at the end of every Cook the Books month I wish I had made more. August was no exception. If you’ve followed along, you know I’ve had a good reason. Due to how the situation kept changing and progressing, things have been a blur since April. I’ve been in & out-of-town. Even when I am at home, I’m just trying to hold it all together anyway I can. Somehow in there, August ended. It is over and I don’t actually remember any of summer happening.

Needless to say, the freezer isn’t full of amazing homemade ice cream concoctions, as planned. I knew what I wanted, Ginger Ice Cream (with crushed Newman’s Own Ginger-O’s). Mint Ice Cream (again with the cookies, crushed Newman’s Owns Hint o’ Mint was what I wanted.) And, no freezer full of popsicles.

So, what did I make?

The Making:

    • “Daddy Tracks” (based on Vanilla/Peanut Butter Fudge Swirl recipe p. 123) I told you about the first batch that I made for my Dad once we brought him home on hospice care.  It ended up being my favorite. A vanilla base with peanut butter, chopped peanut butter cups, kit-kats, and a dulce de leche swirl.

grow and resist cook the books august ice cream dad

    • Butter Brickle (based on Brown Butter Pecan recipe p.124) My Mom came up for 2 days after my Dad died. She has always liked something called Butter Brickle ice cream, which is a flavor you don’t really find much. It is sort of toffee-ish. I followed the recipe for the Brown Butter Pecan ice cream, but instead of pecans I added Heath toffee bits.  It was rich and delicious!
    • Lime-Blackberry Ice Pops (p. 146)  Usually in August I make countless trips to pick wild blackberries down the street. The freezer gets stocked with bags and bags to have the rest of the year. This year, we managed just one berry picking trip. At the Babylady’s request, made popsicles. They turned out incredibly tart, because even though the recipe called for 2:1 simple syrup, I decided to just go with the simple syrup I already had in the fridge. (Grief fog is real people!) I always have assorted simple syrups in the fridge for cocktails or sodas, but they tend to be closer to a 1:1 ratio. I added quite a bit of sugar to decrease the tartness to more of our liking. I really like them, and they are beautiful, but could probably go a bit sweeter. You know, or I could follow the directions.  A friend suggested dipping them tequila, a thought that is likely brilliant.

grow and resist cook the books august ice cream dad

  • Blackberry Ice Cream (p.143) and Strawberry Ice Cream (based on Blackberry recipe p.143) I really like fruit ice cream, but the ratio of heavy cream-to-milk (1&¾ cups heavy cream to ¾ cup milk) is just too much. It creams out the fresh fruit flavor. I favor a more balanced 1 cup heavy cream mix- still very rich, still fabulous, but not so reminiscant of whipped cream (which I, incidentally, don’t like).
  • Vanilla Ice Cream (p.35) The plain vanilla ice cream is rich and nearly perfect. As above, I would probably switch the ratio of heavy cream-to-milk, but for some reason the vanilla can take the heaviness of all that cream. A perfect base to experiment with!
  • Sugar (cone) Bowls (p.46) Full disclaimer: I don’t order ice cream in cones as I find them to be either stale or cloyingly sweet. And, sort of beside the point of the ice cream. I’d rather just have a straight up cookie on the side that actually tastes good than a mediocore (at best) cookie-like thing to hold my ice cream. Still, I thought the Babylady might find them fun, so I gave them a go. I tried several go-arounds and ultimately through the rest of the batter out. They either stuck to the cup and wouldn’t come off or they wouldn’t bend around the cup because they were too stiff. Or, if they did achieve a bowl-like shape, they slumped.  But more importantly, they just didn’t taste good. Too buttery in a way that tasted odd with the ice cream. I actually took a picture of the strawberry and vanilla ice cream in a sugar cone/bowl, but the kiddo decimated it with sprinkles and it looked a bit like Hello Kitty exploded.  Sorry. Or, you can thank me later.

The Review:

Recipe/Writing Style:

  • Did the recipes taste good?  I think the book is, generally, solid. I wish I could have tried more of the unique flavor ideas (such as earl grey tea, or crème fraîche) or put together some ice cream sandwiches or a cake.
  • Would I use it again?  Yep, most definitely. I still have a lot of recipes bookmarked to try and I want to make them with lower heavy cream to suit my own taste preference. I am certain that the recipes all work and taste great, with a little personal tweeking.
  • Is it reliable? Yes.
  • Does it use real food? Yes.
  • Can I replicate the recipes and are the results worth the effort?  Yes. The instructions are clearly written and easy to follow.  Most of the recipes follow the same general base and instructions, making it easy to get the hang of and them improvise.

Other:  I’ve made ice cream in the past and there really isn’t anything hard about it. However, it is one of those things that seems like it will be a lot of effort if I haven’t done it in awhile. Making so many batches over the course of a month has sealed how easy it is into my brain. I’m excited to fiddle with the cream ratio and try out some new flavors!

Another month under our belts!  We are two-thirds done and I’m pretty thrilled with our next selection, Jerusalem!  Check in with Briggs in the next day or so for a full wrap-up of the participants from this month.

Cook the Books! November: The Dahlia Bakery Cookbook

November Cook the Books is from local restaurateur and bakery owner, Tom Douglas.  The Dahlia Bakery Cookbook.  I have high hopes for the cookbook because of 2 items: Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies and Coconut Cream Pie. The cookies are worth a trip downtown to get and savor. They contain the absolute perfect amount of crunch to creamy and salt to sweet.  And the pie! Friends, I have a wicked coconut cream pie love. Sure, fruit pies are fine and well, but I’m partial to a good cream pie. And coconut cream is the pinnacle of that desire.  The Coconut Cream Pie at Dahlia is probably the best I have ever tasted in many, many years.

A long time ago, perhaps 11 or 12 years, a group of friends of mine were going camping at Lake Wenatchee before a century-bike ride. Driving around town after work and trying to get out-of-town on a Friday at rush hour, I was in a full on (what I now recognize as) anxiety attack.  Already panicky, I made my last stop to pick up my dear friend (and amazing chef), Chuck.  He walked out toting an enormous secret box that he needed to put in my already cramped car. And this box apparently had to be kept upright. And not jostled.  And, yes, it had to come along. And, no, I couldn’t know what was inside. In my anxiety-state, I had no patience with this egregious behavior. None. Luckily, some small grasp on reality kept me from totally losing it and tossing him and the box, out of the car. Thank goodness, because  once at the campsite, Chuck unveiled the contents: a perfect, made-by-him-for-me coconut cream pie. On a decorative, green metal and enormous cake stand. I was stunned. Not only at the outpouring of friend-love and that my sense lavish tent camping had been met, but the pure perfection of his pie. I still want that pie.  (Moral of the story: Don’t freak out on your friends. They *might* have pie. And, klonopin? Helpful. Very helpful.)

cook the books november dahlia bakery cookbook

Not a fan of coconut? Not to worry. The book boasts 125 recipes covering everything from pastries to brunch, pies and tarts to cookies, cakes to éclairs, ice cream, and a side-step to tomato soup.  I have my eye on a few things already:

  • Apple dumplings with medjool date butter (yes, please!)
  • Pear Tarts with caramel sauce (I won’t be making puff pastry any time soon, but this recipe is gorgeous and will be made at some point)
  • Banana Cream Pie with chocolate. (Mmmm, my second favorite cream pie)
  • English muffins (The Babylady has been mentioning wanting to make them, so bonus!)
  • Tomato Soup. Probably with Parsley-Chive Scones.  (‘Tis the season)
  • Sour Cream Coffee Cake (I’m a sucker for new-to-me coffee cake recipes)
  • Sugar Pumpkin Crème Pie (fact: I detest regular pumpkin pie, despite loving pumpkin. In looking over the recipe, it seems I might convert)

What will you make? As usual, get your hands on a copy of the book and try out a few things. Get flour covered. Make a mess. Try a new technique. Write it up before the end of the month and send the link of your post to cookthebookschallenge@gmail.com to be included in the end of the month wrap up.  We love hearing how you are incorporating the cookbooks in your life!

September Cook the Books! Jerusalem Review and Wrap Up!

Ooooh-weeee, did I love the food and flavors this month! Though I’m still in a grief fog (understandably), I somehow managed to cook more than I anticipated this month. It is sort of a big deal given that all I have actually wanted to eat since about the week before my Dad died is arugula salad**. The fact that I cooked frequently from Jerusalem speaks volumes about the quality of the recipes. I’ve been excited about the September Cook the Books and Jerusalem since Briggs and I hatched this thing and it did not disappoint. Pretty much everything I made turned out fantastic.

**Not just any arugula salad though. It is very particular–arugula with pickled fennel, sliced pepperoncinis, avocado, and parmesan shavings. A bit of olive oil, the pickled pepperoncini juice from the pepperoncinis, and a squirt of lemon juice. I, of course, eat other things. But it is the only thing I want to eat.

The Cooking:

  • Roasted sweet potatoes & fresh figs (p.26)  This was a bit of a departure for me. I don’t love fresh figs like everyone and their brother seem to love them. They are fine, but they rarely cross my mind even when they are in season. I also don’t love sweet potatoes, so I subbed yams. Ok, and one more disclosure. I don’t tend to like anything sweet with my yams. So, the recipe was a bit of a risk for me, but I took it because it called for a bunch of green onions and a red chile and goat cheese (optional, but I used feta) and I imagined all that would contrast well with the added fig sweetness.  And you know what? It was fantastic and it grew on me.  I really liked the balsamic reduction. The first few bites I thought it was fine, but then noticed I keep going for more and more.  It is definitely a unique side dish and a keeper. For my own taste, the feta was key and I’d add a bit more red chili to balance out the sweetness of the fig/yam/balsamic reduction.grow and resist september cook the books jerusalem
  • Baby spinach salad with dates & almonds (p.30) This salad is going in rotation. Red onions and dates are briefly marinated in vinegar and salt. Pita and almonds are cooked and then tossed with sumac and chili flakes. It is all tossed with spinach and a bit of olive oil and lemon juice.  Simple and perfect. I ended up eating some of the leftover crunchy pita and almonds as a straight up snack. It was the first time I cooked with sumac and I am a fan!
  • Roasted eggplant with fried onion & chopped lemon (p.32) This is another dish that I wasn’t sure about because, well, you just never know when it comes to eggplant. Right? The recipe has onions, green chiles, cumin, sumac, and feta all mixed up  on top of roasted eggplant, with a chopped lemon and some garlic. It turned out kinda magical. I really loved it!
  • Fried tomatoes with garlic (p.50) No mystery here, but fresh picked and fried tomatoes topped with garlic, chiles, and parsley. Served with bread for gobbling it all up with. Perfect.
  • Puréed beets with yogurt & za’atar (p.53)  An interesting dip of puréed roasted beets mixed with greek yogurt, garlic, red chile, date syrup (I used pomegranate molasses, because it is what I had on hand), and za’atar. It is garnished with green onions, hazelnuts (I used pistachios) and goat cheese (again, with the feta). Now, I’ll say this was my least favorite of the recipes I tried, but even in saying that I would try it again. It certainly wasn’t bad and I really liked the premise. I wanted a bit more ooomph. More za’atar? More chilis? More salt?  Something. I’m now wondering re-reading the recipe if I forgot to put in the red chile? (Like I mentioned, grief fog. I’m not to be trusted with directions.) It was so pretty. I’m trying it again!grow and resist september cook the books jerusalem
  • A’ja/bread fritters (p.64) Strange lil’ idea, but ultimately a tasty one. Bread is soaked and the water squeezed out.  Then crumbled with a bunch of herbs and feta into patties. I thought they were amazing. Oddly delicious.
    grow and resist september cook the books jerusalem
  • Basmati rice & orzo (p.103) This is my new go-with-anything side dish. Simple and turns out perfectly every single time. And, it is effing delicious. I have no idea why it is so good. I mean, it is rice, orzo, and broth. No whoop. But, it is perfect. It might just be the best rice I have ever made. Seriously.
  • Conchiglie with yogurt, peas & chile (p.111)  I don’t totally get the Jerusalem connection on this dish, other than the use of a hot yogurt sauce, but no matter. It is really good and I now want to eat my pasta with a hot yogurt sauce always. (You know, except for October Cook the Books with Marcella Hazan!) This was not just any ol’ hot yogurt sauce, but rather greek yogurt in the Vitamix with garlic, peas, and olive oil. Mixed slowly with the pasta. Additional peas, basil, feta, are added along with toasted pine nuts and a chili oil (I used aleppo chili pepper). It was perfect. I want more. I can imagine using other vegetables in place of the peas as well. Broccoli and cauliflower would both fare well, I’m sure.
  • Basic hummus (p.114) Friends. The best hummus I’ve ever made. So perfect. So smooth (more Vitamix love!) I started making it exactly as directed and then tinkered to perfection. We liked a bit more garlic and lemon juice, for our tastes. I also added a bit of cumin. I don’t know if it was using ice-cold water that helped (and I did use more than called for to get the texture I prefer), but it is hands down the best I’ve made. I’m eating it now. Mmmmm.
  • Hummus kawarma (lamb) with lemon sauce (p.118) I used ground lamb for this instead of chopping a neck fillet by myself (I assume people might do this. But I’m not that girl).  The flavors for this were absolutely spot-on perfect. The already great hummus, topped with kawarma perfection, and drizzled with a lemon sauce of lemons, green chili, parsley, garlic and vinegar was so, so, so good.grow and resist september cook the books jerusalem
  • Kofta b’siniyah (p.195) As I remembered mid-month, I actually do have a limit for eating lamb. It doesn’t skeeve me out the way chicken often does (a combination of the horrid chicken industry and having pet chickens), but it has a flavor that, while I really like it, I can only do in small, pretty infrequent doses. In making the kofta, it called for equal parts lamb and beef but I chose to do about 1/3 lamb and 2/3 beef, because I felt I was at my limit after the kawarma. The meat mixture has onion, garlic, toasted pine nuts, parsley, red chile, cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg. The cute, oblong meatballs are cooked and placed on a plate with a tahini sauce. Again, a keeper.
  • Turkey & zuchhini burgers with green onion & cumin (p.200) The slider-sized turkey and zucchini burgers will be made again again. I imagine they are easily frozen and pulled out for a quick meal, though they actually took no time at all to make on the spot. The lemony sumac sauce was a nice addition and was also great as a veggie dip later on. grow and resist september cook the books jerusalem

The Review:

Recipe/writing style:

  • Did the recipes taste good? Yes. Yes, so many times, yes. Which is what I would expect when I see that a cookbook has 366 amazon reviews and a perfect 5-star rating. Seriously mpressive.
  • Would I use it again? Yes. I can’t wait. This has been one of my favorites of the year so far. And, I am adding Plenty and Ottolenghi to my list of books to get.
  • Is it reliable? Totally. The flavors of everything I made were spot on.
  • Does it use real food? Yes
  • Can I replicate the recipes and are the results worth the effort? Totally. Nothing I made was difficult and the results far outweighed the effort and time needed.  I really can’t recommend the cookbook enough

The Participants:

Aimée from Homemade Trade is also participating in Tasting Jerusalem, so she is no stranger to cooking from the cookbook. Aimée is an avid rice pudding fan so she had to whip up the Cardamom rice pudding with pistachios & rose water (p 270). She tinkered around a bit, but was pleased with the results. I am a big rice pudding fan too, so I’ll give it a try soon! For September she also made Shakshuka (p 66) that she loved. The Wheat berries & Swiss chard with pomegranate molasses (p 100) resulted mixed reviews. They really liked it at first, but they found the leftovers a bit bitter.  As part of Tasting Jerusalem, she has also made and discussed (linked up in her review): Roasted Cauliflower Salad (p 62), Baharat spiced grilled eggplant over Mejadra (p 120), Baharat eggs over Mejadra, preserved lemons (p 203), and Lamb Meatballs with Currants, Yogurt & Herbs (p 199).  Wow!

Karen from Prospect: The Pantry went all out, as always. Karen was already a fan of Ottolenghi and the cookbook Plenty.  She has traveled to Jerusalem, as well as other parts of the Middle East where, as she describes, “histories and cultures compete, clash and co-exist.” Her trip(s) were memorable and moving and led her to an even greater appreciation for the two author’s presentations of their personal recipes.  She noted that there were a lot of things she could make seasonally due to overlap of seasons (eggplant and cauliflower, for example). So, what did she make? You better sit down! She made, mastered, and her whole family loved:

  • Maqluba (pages 127-8)  I am still hoping to get to this in the next week or two. Sounds perfect for the rainy, fall days we’ve been having. And, yours looks gorgeous!
  • Chicken with caramelized onion and cardamom rice (page 184)
  • Roasted sweet potatoes & fresh figs (page 26)
  • Charred okra with tomato, garlic & preserved lemon (page 74)
  • Mixed bean salad (page 42)
  • Spiced chickpeas & fresh vegetable salad, page 56)
  • Ruth’s stuffed Romano peppers (page 165)
  • Baharat (page 299)
  • Lemony leek meatballs (page 44)
  • Turkey & zucchini burgers with green onion & cumin (page 200)  Definitely will be on repeat around here, too!
  • Fried cauliflower with tahini (page 60)
  • Saffron chicken & herb salad (page 188) I’m so glad you made this! I wanted to try it!
  • Salmon steaks in chraimeh sauce (pages 234-5)
  • Cod cakes in tomato sauce (page 225)
  • Prawns, scallops & clams with tomato & feta (page 233)

Basically, I need to move into Karen’s house.  And, clearly, I need to cook a lot more from the book because I didn’t get to some that seem like they will become classics as they did at her home.

Marisa from Marisa Makes busted out some hummus (p.114), Mejadra (pg 120), Musabaha (warm chickpeas with hummus) and toasted pita (pg 119), Burekas (pg 254), Red pepper and baked egg galettes (pg 243).  What filling did you use for your burekas? They were on my too-try list as well, so glad they turned out!

Tanja from The Paddington Foodie joined Cook the Books new this month.  Welcome! She made several recipes and found them all to be amazing! Burnt eggplant with garlic, lemon, & pomegranate seeds (p.79), Beef and Lamb Meatballs With Broad Beans and Lemon (p.196), Baharat Spice Mix (p. 299), and Chocolate Krantz Cake (p.284). I’m hoping I’m not too late for eggplant this year, because I was eyeing that recipe as well!  Impressive job on that Chocolate Krantz Cake! Glad to hear that, while it needs to be planned ahead, wasn’t particularly difficult and that it worked on the first go! Hope to see you back in October!

JK and Angela at Tea Time Adventures  made Semolina, coconut & marmalade cake (p. 264), Baby Spinach Salad with Dates and Almonds (p.30), Burnt Eggplant salad (p.79), and Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Fresh Figs (p.26).  I love hearing about the Tea Time Adventure luncheons- they always sound so fun! And, I’m definitely giving the cake a go- it sounds right up my alley!

So, that wraps up September folks! I hope you’ll join us for October Cook the Books with Marcella Hazan and Essentials of Classic Italian. Sadly, Marcella passed away a few days ago. We couldn’t have foreseen this when we  chose it for October, but it seems only right to cook it up right this month in memory of a legend.   I noticed yesterday that Cathy at Mrs Wheelbarrow’s Kitchen put out the push for a virtual dinner party of sorts to cook for those we love. Details are on her page, but she set the date as October 26th.  I love this idea and hope that some of you do as well! I know I’m in!

The Great Chicken Molt of 2012

It doesn’t seem that long ago the girls were undergoing their first molt, but it was actually the end of last October– 11 months ago. It makes sense though- chickens typically molt yearly  starting late summer or early fall.

grow and resist september 2012 chicken molt

They shed and regrow feathers over a period of 1-4 (!!!) months. During this time they typically stop, or greatly slow down, egg production.

grow and resist september 2012 chicken molt

Poor head

Molting generally begins in their 2nd year of life– so my eldest hens all molted last year.  This isn’t always the case though- because our Speckled Sussex, Aspen, had the worst molt last year at 8 months and is going for the gusto even more so this fall.

Last year I was somewhat shocked at how hideous they looked. The feather loss was somehow different than I expected. I don’t know. I suppose I was used to a dog shedding. Dogs lose a lot of hair and make a giant mess, but don’t really look any different.

Not chickens. No, chickens look like they have lost some chicken-y battle. Chickens look diseased.  And chickens act bonkers.  They will do just about anything within their power to avoid you touching them. Apparently, when they are molting the feather follicles are painful to touch.  I can understand that. What this looks like, however, is a flock of  somewhat diseased, battle-worn chickens sneaking furtive glances of contempt, suspicion, and craziness.

grow and resist september 2012 chicken molt

Poor girl. She is one of my sweetest, calmest hens. Right now though? Skittish as all get out. She won’t even look at me!

grow and resist september 2012 chicken molt

See? Aspen has it bad. She is looking rough!

grow and resist september 2012 chicken molt

Sigh, even the fluffy chicken butts are not at their fluffy finest!

Now, cleanse your visual palate and check here to get a reminder of their fluffy awesomeness. I can’t wait till their back!

On Writing: a Daughter, a Chicken, and an Egg.

Recently I took a class at The Pantry on Food Writing with Sara Dickerman. I am not a food writer and I don’t write directly about food per se.  But I enjoy writing and write about things related to food so I thought it would be fun and relatable. (It was!)

Prior to class we read pieces written about eggs from well-known authors such as Elizabeth DavidMFK FisherTamar Adler, and Susanne Freidberg to get us thinking about eggs. Right off the bat we did a time writing piece focusing on eggs. Anything we thought of when it came to eggs.

grow and resist september 2012 egg writinggrow and resist september 2012 chicken eggs

The Awakening

Seven a.m. and I’m lying perfectly still. I need to pee, but I need to sleep more.  I could use a drink of water, but I can’t move. It is the weekend and I don’t want to wake my daughter. I don’t know when she crept in our room, but she is now spread out and hogging way more than her fair share of the bed.

Her breath is shallow and peaceful though her eyelids have flickered and I can tell she won’t sleep much longer. I know the slightest movement from me and she will pounce up and faux-whisper excitedly in my ear “Is it time to get up Mimi?”

Hoping desperately to score another 30 minutes or so, I remain still and match my breath to hers. Then I hear it. BAWK, bawk, bawk! BAWK, bawk, bawk! Oh crap. Please don’t be the Annies, I think hopefully. The Annies are our Buff Orpingtons and they take pride in their egg laying to a new height.

BAWK, bawk, bawk. BAWK, bawk, bawk!  Damn it. It is one of the Annies. BAWK! Bawk! bawk!  It is about to be game over. Lucy stirs slightly just before the next round of bawking arrives. BAWK, bawk, bawk. BAWK, bawk, bawk!

I can picture Annie now…strutting out of the next box. Wanting the world to know that she totally rocked the egg laying today. Congratulating her efforts. Confident of her place. Certain of her worth. Proud of her accomplishment.

In my dozy stage I realize these are the hopes I have for my daughter.  I chuckle quietly to myself- knowing that comparing my hopes for my almost 5-year-old  to the actions of a chicken guarantees me a Crazy Chicken Lady certificate.

Lucy, now awake, begs me to go outside and check eggs with her. Still in our pajamas we walk out to gather the prize. A still warm egg. Perfect and full of possibilities.

Just like my daughter.

grow and resist september 2012 chicken eggs

October Mid-Month Meanderings III

I don’t know about you, but I always welcome the end of summer garden chores and food preservation.  Saying farewell to the general busyness of keeping up with it all feels like a relief. Sure, I’m sad to say goodbye to sandals, shorts, and tomatoes. But I’m also ready for the kale (kale, kale, and some more kale) our northwest climate offers in abundance.

grow and resist october 2012 mid month meanderings vine maple

Yes, I am ready for a break.  There is more though. It is also mixed with a sense of dread and feeling of foreboding. Gayla at You Grow Girl expressed this sentiment so well when she stated: “I want so badly to be the sort of garden writer that composes eloquent, graceful pieces that encourage gardeners to appreciate the cooler seasons and respect the importance of the winter. The fact remains that I am a summer baby. While I understand and respect the seasons, I absolutely abhor the winter months and am full of anxiety as they approach.

Yes, this time of the year is often full of angst and more than a few tears. It is the beginning of the end people. The start of incessant and relentless rain. A dehumidifier that never stops. Mud everywhere. Frequent crying jags. Seattle + Winter Happily Ever After for Meg. Thanks Gayla for feeling my pain.

grow and resist october 2012 mid month meanderings apples

The garden though. You aren’t here for my inner weather neurosis. The Scarlet Sentinel apples are perfect right now. Sweet, crisp, and just the right size!

grow and resist october 2012 mid month meanderings fall asparagus fernsThe asparagus patch has started the annual die back. I leave them in till they are completely dead as the birds really like to hang out in there and nibble on things.

A few last fall-bearing raspberries are still ripening.

grow and resist october 2012 mid month meanderings fall bearing raspberries

The garlic is in and soil covered with the most amazing chicken manure compost, followed by a generous layer of partly composted straw from the  chicken run.

grow and resist october 2012 mid month meanderings chicken compost

grow and resist october 2012 mid month meanderings garlic bed

I’ve pulled out the plastic sheeting that covers our hoop house and gotten it in place. The winter garden to be has been in place for some time now. but continues to grow and it seems like we will have healthy crops of chard, kale, lettuce, arugula, and beets.

grow and resist october 2012 mid month meanderings hoop house

grow and resist october 2012 mid month meanderings

Beautiful cosmos and nasturtiums are still blooming in the raised bed edges.

grow and resist october 2012 mid month meanderings fall lettuce and kale

Lots of mixed lettuces and kale.

grow and resist october 2012 mid month meanderings peppers still ripening

A few last ripening hot peppers. It was a banner pepper summer!

grow and resist october 2012 mid month meanderings fall nasturium

The nasturtiums just won’t quit. They are nothing if not resilient!

grow and resist october 2012 mid month meanderings pea trellis and hoop house

This is the first time I planted fall peas, but they they are growing and tasting well. I tucked the hoop house coverings behind them so they still are growing up, up, up.

I pulled our strawberries out this year. They have been there 6 years and even with good pruning their output is decreasing. They were also a mix of both june-bearing and everbearing and we are going to plant primarily june-bearing next summer. So, they are out and the blueberries are mostly tucked away. The chicken compost is on and the beds are awaiting the final layer of straw-poop mixture from the run as mulch.

grow and resist october 2012 mid month meanderings fall blueberries

The sweet chickens are still molting and putting out only a few eggs.  I haven’t put in lights on a timer yet, but I better getting on it stat or we are about to be Eggless in Seattle for the winter.

grow and resist october 2012 mid month meanderings silver lace wyandotte chicken

Daddy, our silver-laced wyandotte hen is the only one that doesn’t appear to be molting at all.  Isn’t she a beauty?

grow and resist october 2012 mid month meanderings buff orpington chicken

One of the Annies– she is undergoing a slow, or minimal, molt.

grow and resist october 2012 mid month meanderings buff orpington chickenThe other Annie is looking a bit rougher. You can see she has lost a fair amount of feathers to her chest and neck.

grow and resist october 2012 mid month meanderings sunflower head chicken treates

Spent sunflower heads are a chicken favorite and offer up some extra protein. Chickens need extra protein during molting season to rebuild their feathers. Feathers are primarily feathers and eggs are primarily protein. This is why they usually stop (or slow down) laying during their molt. They need that all that egg laying protein for feather growth.

A few winter prepping chores are left to complete. I need to get gutters up on the summer-remodeled coop.  The coop could use a good going-into-winter cleaning.  A bit more chicken run mulch will be placed around- primarily around the berries and asparagus once they are cut back.

Then, I’m staying dry and working on my business for spring!

Link to past Mid-Month Meanderings.

December Mid-Month Meanderings III

I have so much to say, so much going through my mind, and no logical plan on getting any of it out.

I have things to say about guns. But nothing that hasn’t been said far more eloquently than I ever could. Because all I want to do is scream. NO ONE needs access to a semi-automatic or automatic weapon. NO ONE. It isn’t a right. And, even if it were, the perceived rights of an individual in no way trumps the safety of the community. Period.

I also have a lot to say about health and stress. We’ll getting there. It is in the works.

december mid month meanderings grow and resist chicken planter

Bawk! The nasturtiums apparently never die.

So, I’ll step back and bring you a very brief look at the garden. Why brief? Remember earlier this month when Erica at Northwest Edible Life brought you “And Then The Ugly Happened“? If not, give it a look. Because her garden is my garden. No, not literally my garden. But The Ugly? Yep, it is happening here. It is one of the reasons I never did a November Mid Month. It is one of the reasons I’m late this month. It is ugly out there friends. Ugly and incessantly raining. I am out there on a desperate-need-only basis this time of the year.

There are full plastic bins, once destined for the yard waste, now full of slimy, dead plants and overflowing with water. Crumpled up unused pieces of floating row cover (the bain of my existence- regardless of how awesome it is) littered the beds and pathways. Summer toys have yet to be put away.

december mid month meanderings grow and resist

Sometimes if something has been sitting around for a while I become unable to move it. It becomes a sort of game- wondering how long it will stay there? (as if it were completely out of my control)

The hoop houses are in place. I don’t totally know what is under them. Some radishes. Beets. Chard. Kale. Hopefully some arugula. But I know we have lettuce.  I kept us in lettuce and greens all winter last year until the spring growth arrived and am hoping for a repeat.

december mid month meanderings grow and resist  lettuce

Fresh greens and lettuce all winter long. Yay!

We have fall peas still hanging in there. Not as productive as spring peas, but still munch-able.

december mid month meanderings grow and resist  fall peas

Not only peas! We also have blown up beach balls still in the garden!

The chickens, finally done with their yearly ugly, will hopefully decide to lay some eggs again and earn their keep. We had about 2 months of molting between all the girls and they looked hideous. Hideous, flighty, and they don’t lay eggs. I say boo to molting hens.

grow and resist mid month meanderings december  chicken

The last of the horrible molts. This was last month and she appears fully feathered again. Bad, huh?

But now…all the feathered ladies.  Their combs are reddening back up- a sign that they might soon lay eggs again.  They lose a lot of color in the their combs when they aren’t laying. Cool chicken fact.

december mid month meanderings grow and resist  chickens

Slacker post-molt chickens

A final note of interest! A cookbook challenge! Did you hear? Briggs and I are doing a cookbook challenge in 2013? It is going to be fun! We are going to dive into 12 cookbooks and explore, share, talk, review, and eat. We will be making a announcement later this week giving you more details….the name, instructions on how to take part, and the first book!

Closing Chapters: Mid-Month Meanderings

Yesterday I let the chickens out to free range for the first time in a bit. I left to take the kiddo to swim lessons and returned to find them all still hanging out in the coop. They perched happily soaking up some sun post dust bath, but still! They were in their run!  I chastised them a bit. “Go forth my feathered friends! Eat bugs! Scratch weeds!  Go be chicken-y!” 

grow and resist chicken buff orpington

I encouraged the girls to go peck around (aka picked them up and put them elsewhere) the garden. I wandered around peeking under the hoop houses to see what survived of our recent freeze (seemingly everything). I broke up ice in the bird baths. Mostly though, I puttered around taking stock of the garden. Of me. Of me in the garden.

One thing I realized is that I am done posting Mid-Month Meanderings. I’ll continue sharing projects and glimpses, but it won’t be necessarily on a schedule. I’ve loved sharing the space with you over the past nearly three years, just as I love giving tours to anyone that physically comes to the house. Looking back, I am pretty amazed at how much it has changed during this time. Take a look at meanders at the height of last summer and again from a few summers ago. Wowsa!

Sharing the garden with you and being a site for Edible Garden Tours and the Seattle Tilth Chicken Coop Tours over the past few years help me realize that I wanted to start helping others edible garden and raise chickens. Blogging about gardening led me down the road to become a Master Composter/Soil Builder (last year) and Master Gardener (in process).

I’m only two weeks into the program, but it was already interesting to walk around the garden with an ever-so-slightly shifted mind frame. Plants are kind of mind-blowingly awesome and I’m so ready to geek out on the finer details.

So, I’ll still be sharing from the garden. It’ll just be different.