Saturday, October 31, 2009

Pumpkin Carving Party

I think I mentioned in my last post that I'm a big fan of Halloween. I love it all, especially the harvest bounty all around me at the farmer's market and in my garden. I think this might be one of the greatest times in the season - when we're still eating the bumper crop of tomatoes and peppers from the summer and also feasting on cool weather treats again like lettuce, peas, and chard. Need I mention the bounty of delicious winter squash? You know how much I love butternut.

So, when Jake and I decided to host a pumpkin carving party again, it was an excuse to plan a fall-themed local and seasonal party spread. It was interesting when I thought back about what snacks I had at our last carving shindig, complete with candy corns galore and a cauldron of punch - corn syrup delights. I don't mean to knock the typical Halloween party fare, but at that time, the thought of what ingredients were in those foods or how many miles they had traveled to get here never crossed my mind. So now, my party planning mind was in a different space - time to get creative and crafty with the seasonal foods around me.

The preparations for this Sunday afternoon get-together began on Friday. I roasted two sugar pie pumpkins and made pumpkin puree, which I later used to make pumpkin bread. I saved the seeds and had Jake roast them for snacking at the party. Then, on Saturday, I got dough mixed together for baguettes and soaked a pot of white beans.

Finally, on Sunday, in a frenzy of chopping and baking, everything came together.I baked the baguettes and then sliced them up with fresh farmer's market carrots, a red bell pepper, and a chocolate bell pepper. I served them on a platter with Moroccan carrot dip and white bean dip (the biggest hit of the party). To satiate a sweet tooth, I made carrot oatmeal cookies and pumpkin bread. Then, I put my green heirloom tomatoes to use by making cornmeal-dusted fried greed tomatoes.

To top it off, Jake made mulled wine. It was delicious and cozy.

Jake and I scored two huge organic jack-o-lantern pumpkins at the Ballard farmer's market for five bucks a piece. They were perfect for carving and have been a lovely addition to my porch this week.

Thank you Hollis Rendleman (one of my fabulous OntheDouble(dutch) teammates) for taking so many amazing photos.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Friday Night Fright

Halloween is one of my favorite times of the year. I love costumes - they're a chance to reinvent myself for the night. I usually choose positive, fun costumes since I'm not big on the gory variety. But then, Jake and I got invited to a Halloween party and we were asked to come dressed as a way we could die. It seemed like bad juju to dress up as a way that I could actually die, so I started looking at it as the creative challenge of coming up with a new costume idea that I look forward to every year.

After much deliberation, I decided to go with a garden-themed idea: bird flu. And how did I get bird flu, you ask? Why, the chickens, of course! Yes, I went as crazy chicken lady with bird flu. Instead of going morbid, I went over the top. Jake wore his climbing harness with a frayed rope attached, which is both perfect for the party and completely frightening for me at the same time. I think he probably saw my costume the same way. I hope this play on reality isn't actually a preview of what's to come.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

My fall garden

A few months ago, I started planning my winter garden. This was a first for me. I usually garden from April to August and then clean everything up for the winter. Now I know that lots of vegetables can be grown and harvested throughout the winter. Being the type A planner that I am, I mapped my fall and winter garden out in my garden journal before I planted everything. Jake thought this was hilarious, but it was necessary, I swear. For one thing, I had to plant some plants in a bed that would be protected by a cloche (the lettuce, spinach, and fennel). Not only that, some seeds needed to be planted in late July and others in August and October.
Another bed in my fall garden contains hardier vegetables that don't need to be protected with a cloche. I planted peas (which will just last through the fall), rutabagas (which store great in the cold ground), overwintering onions, collard greens, and kale.
On another note, I was finally able to harvest my winter squash. I didn't get as many as I hoped, but this was the first summer I've ever grown winter squash and I'm grateful for every one of them that actually grew. I ended up with four of the largest delicata squash I've ever seen (delicate they are not) and three large butternut squash.
Those of you that follow my blog know about my love for butternut squash. It was the best to crack open my own homegrown beauty for dinner on Saturday night.
I hate to admit it, but when I was cutting it open, I was halfway nervous that it wouldn't be the beautiful, firm squash I hoped it would be. However, I was delighted to discover that is was almost solid "meat" - just a little hole of seeds to scoop out. I peeled it and cut it into little cubes, which yielded about 8 cups of squash. I used five cups of it in a yummy recipe for Roasted Squash and Black Bean Tacos from Diggin Food. I served it with homemade corn tortillas, fried green heirloom tomatoes and chocolate cherry tomato salsa.
The chocolate cherry tomatoes deserve a special tribute. These are from the two plants I started from seed in February and raised indoors. In June, hundreds of little green tomatoes appeared all over the plants and from then on, about two or three pounds ripened each week. It is the most amazing harvest I could have imagined. I don't know if this is normal for cherry tomatoes, but just enough ripened each week for us to comfortably eat and share. I am still harvesting cherry tomatoes from these plants. Last week, I harvested a whopping four pounds. For the past four weeks, I've been bringing in pounds of cherry tomatoes to my staff lounge – they're inevitably devoured by noon. These tomatoes are so sweet and delicious, Jake says I've ruined him for tomatoes. If you've ever thought of growing tomatoes, try planting a few of these. You won't be disappointed.