Monday, October 13, 2014

Citrus Yogurt Cake

This is my go-to loaf cake for any occasion or no occasion at all. It's moist, the slices hold up, and the flavor is delicious. I have made it with all different kinds of citrus: lemon, orange, grapefruit (as in the original), lime, key lime, tangerine, and even kumquat. I have made it with 100% all-purpose flour, almost 100% whole wheat pastry flour, and usually a mixture of the two. I have made it with nonfat, full-fat, and Greek yogurt. I once made it dairy-free and it was still great. Sometimes I add random berries (raspberry, blueberry) or other fruit (pear) into the batter. This cake, it never disappoints.
A version of the very adaptable citrus yogurt cake with lemon
and poppyseed.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Grow Kale!

Let's talk about kale, even if you don't like it. First of all, if you're not growing it already, you should---it's impossible to kill, very productive, and you can grow it indoors all year 'round. Before we had the greenroom, we grew kale indoors in a planter in a sunny window and harvested tons of it and the plants lasted a few years. It also grows outside in almost any climate, but if you live somewhere with a cold snowy season I'd just recommend doing it indoors only so that you can harvest all through the winter.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Awesome Sesame Kale Chips

I never thought of kale chips as being difficult, but when I brought a bowl to a party everyone ooohed- and aaaahhed and said they had trouble making good ones. I must have lucked into a great recipe from the beginning. The chips are crispy, melt-in-your-mouth perfection (and this is coming from a certified kale hater). By the way, even if you are a kale hater, you should go ahead and try growing it anyway. It's easy and you can hide kale in a lot of things to take advantage of the health benefits without having to taste it straight-up. But these chips make kale the star, and they are awesome and addictive.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Perfect Vegan Cupcake (high altitude)

I've adapted sea-level recipes for dairy-free, egg-free cupcakes before, but they usually end up sunken and stuck to the muffin tin (or stuck to the paper liners, even worse). So, I went on a hunt for a really good cupcake/muffin that would work at high altitude. (I'm not sure what separates a cupcake from a muffin. I've reduced the sugar from the original cupcake recipe, bringing these dangerously close to muffin territory.) These can be frosted for dessert, or filled with power ingredients like nuts and raisins to make a breakfast or snack. Most recently, with autumn on its way and apples falling from the trees, I made these with apple chunks and walnuts, cinnamon and allspice, and brown sugar instead of white. It tasted like fall and it was delicious.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Colorful Upcycled Table

I mean, really. This is almost too easy to count as a legitimate DIY.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Whole Wheat Crepes

With the chickens popping out 4-6 eggs every day, we look for ways to use them up. I'm not the biggest fan of straight-up cooked eggs, but I love to make crepes, high-altitude popovers, and German pancakes, all of which use a lot of eggs with a little flour. This crepe recipe uses 4 eggs, fills the whole blender, and makes delicious crepes to last a week. Cook them all up at once and store in a baggie in the fridge.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Soft Maple Applesauce Cookies

When 30 lbs of apples show up on your doorstep (a surprise "leave the produce and run" drop-off from a friend), what do you do? We're dehydrating them, making apple jelly and apple butter, and applesauce cookies. This recipe assumes you have already made the applesauce, or you can use store-bought. The cookies are scrumptious and customizable. I made them with a boozy cream cheese/maple glaze, but without the glaze, sub chocolate chips, would be awesome, too. These cookies are wonderfully soft, but the flip side is that they're not too sturdy. Don't toss them into a backpack without any protection, or they'll be crumbs.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Scrabble Table

I made my husband a tiled "Scrabble-like" table for his birthday a few years ago. It was an easy weekend project. You do have to remember what the colored squares represent, but it's easy: the fewest one (dark blue, how I made it) is triple word score; the second-fewest (dark red) is double word score; the next most common (grey-blue) is triple letter score; and the most common (pink) is a double letter. Details below.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Gallo (Rooster) Adovada

The idea here was to make carne adovada New Mexico-style, but with rooster instead of the traditional pork. Although many carne adovada recipes have you marinate the meat overnight in the sauce, I put it straight in the slow-cooker and let it go for about 20 hours. It is not a quick ordeal to cook a tough old rooster! This will go much faster if you have a store-bought, young bird or even an older hen.
Rooster adovada.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Chicken Pho

We've been cooking a few of our old laying chickens. You can follow this recipe for a store-bought chicken, too, but the timing will be different because older birds are much, much tougher and require more cooking time. When it comes to cooking the old birds, the strategy is to make the stock with all the chicken parts and bones (back, neck, etc) and cook it for a long time, then retrieve the good meat (discard the rest), shred it, and cook it for a long time more, a lot longer than you would for a store-bought chicken. This is usually pretty easy to adapt into chicken soup recipes; it just means leaving out the things that shouldn’t cook too long until the very end. Our chicken went straight from the freezer into the stock.
Enjoying a bowl of chicken pho with all the trimmings.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Ski Bench

Have a few pairs of extra skis from the bygone days when they were ultra-long, skinny, and pointy-tipped? My husband did, and we wanted to make some furniture out of them. Not feeling handy enough to make a ski Adirondack chair, we made these simple benches, and they're awesome. If you don't have old unused skis, Goodwill or yard sales may be good places to get them, depending on your vicinity to decent skiing.

Garden Greens Pesto

Continuing on the theme of recipes to help eat your greens, this simple non-basil-based pesto makes a great healthy dip for crackers and chips, or sandwich spread. It's an easy way to use up or incorporate greens into your diet. Depending on the greens you choose, the dip may be almost sweet in flavor, or more sharp. I use some combination of kale, chard, beet greens, broccoli greens, spinach, arugula - whatever's growing. If I do have some basil, I add it, but it's far from necessary. A little mint adds a nice flavor if you like that kind of thing.

The finished product - simple, delicious, healthy.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Hot Greens Dip

Make this unholy mixture of healthy greens and molten cheese with whatever greens you feel like you “should” be eating for their healthful properties: kale, chard, spinach, broccoli greens, Chinese broccoli, radish greens, and so on. Go ahead and turn it into something you’ll actually like: this is a delicious, warm and satisfying dip to be slathered on French bread slices or eaten with tortilla chips. I make this with far more greens than any other spinach-and-artichoke type recipe calls for. Just keep packing the greens into this dip until it almost feels righteous.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Brick Pattern Pieced Pillowcase

I was inspired by this design and wanted to make some bright, cheery, pieced pillowcases for our hard wooden sunroom chairs. Here are some instructions to help you out. I'm not the most experienced quilter myself, but this is an easy project. I made two pillows, one in shades of blue, green, and yellow, and the other in pink, purple, and blue. The latter one turned out a little too pink for my preference, but some of the individual fabrics in there are just so strikingly pretty that I wanted to get them used in something.

The brick-patterned, pieced pillow.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Pickled Radish

This makes a delicious pickled radish, great for snacking on as well as for garnishing hamburgers and hot dogs and veggie burgers. I've served them with Vietnamese style vermicelli noodle salad and with homemade chicken pho. They also make great gifts, with their sparkly pink prettiness, to your fellow pickle-loving friends.
Crunchy, spicy pickled radish.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Stuffed Anaheim Peppers

I highly recommend making stuffed peppers out of slightly spicy Anaheim chiles instead of sweet, boring bell peppers. See if you can find very large chiles to minimize the labor. Use whatever greens and vegetables you like – we had chard and broccoli from the greenhouse. The little cherry tomatoes in this are the best: they burst open with a hot explosion of flavor.
Large Anaheim peppers are the perfect container
for stuffing.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


I've made hummus many a time, just winging it without looking at a recipe, and I have always been dissatisfied with the results. Frustrated and determined to make GOOD hummus, I was intrigued by a recipe that claims the secret is peeling the chickpeas. Every single one of them. If this was the key to good hummus, I was willing to try it. However, being an experimentalist, I was also keen to know: how much of a difference does peeling the chickpeas make? Would anyone notice the difference between peeled and unpeeled? Fortunately for you, I did the experiment so you don't have to, including blind taste tests with my friends. Here are the results.

The best hummus I've ever made.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Vegetable Stock

Our system for making vegetable broth for soups and stews is the following. Whenever we're cutting vegetables, we add the odds and ends to a gallon-sized ziplock baggie in the freezer (our "broth bag"). When the gallon-sized bag is completely full, it's time to make broth, whether we have a soup in mind for dinner or not (the broth freezes well).

What goes in the broth bag?
Carrot tops, celery leaves, the tough outer layer of onion between the skin and the first tender layer, pepper seeds (jalapeno, bell, whatever), green onion tops; basically any part of vegetable that you wouldn't eat straight but is still edible.

The most special, not-so-secret ingredient in our broth bag is roasted green chile skins and seeds. In New Mexico, it's culinary custom to buy a large bag of green chile when they're in season (late August-September), and have them roasted on the spot. We freeze our roasted chiles with the skin still on (some people peel them all at once before freezing). Whenever we want green chile in our eggs, stew, burritos, etc., we defrost a baggie of green chile and peel the skins off. The skins and seeds go in the broth bag. Yes, this means every single soup of ours is at least slightly spicy! We don't mind.

What doesn't go in the broth bag?
I wouldn't put stuff that's dirty or gone bad into the broth bag. The thing about the broth bag is that it gets extensively boiled, so that should kill bacteria, but food that's gone bad might still taste off. Keep in mind that any pesticides or inorganic contaminants on the surface of the vegetable will still make it into the broth, so the vegetables that go in there should be washed just as thoroughly as the parts you eat straight away.

We boil the vegetable bits 'n' pieces in a few quarts of water for at least an hour, usually longer (if it's winter, we'll leave it on the woodburning stove for 3 hours or more). If we don't have that long, an hour in the pressure cooker is great. You can add bay leaves and other spices if you so desire, and definitely salt to taste. Strain the liquid and use right away or freeze.

Chocolate "Mousse" Pie

This is one of the easiest, most impressive desserts you can throw together in a few minutes (plus a few hours to let it chill). It is a dense, firm, rich, dark chocolate pie but it can be easily made with less chocolate for a more kid-friendly dessert.   It is also very simple to make it dairy free/vegan, as the "mousse" is silken tofu (but no one will ever know, unless you reveal the secret). If you make it as-is, cut small, thin slices for your friends – it’s that chocolately rich. Serve with a dollop of homemade whipped cream (if you’re not required to be dairy-free), ice cream (coconut-based would be delicious), and/or a blended sauce ("coulis") made from your berries of choice. Really, this recipe just BEGS to be served with fruit.

Dense, dark chocolate "mousse" pie with fruit and ice cream.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Building with Dirt (Part 2)

The first post about our house was literally about building with dirt. Here, I wanted to write about the home's energy efficiency systems. Although there are a few things that we would do differently if building all over again, which I'll mention below, the house in general performs very well---cool in the summer, warm in the winter. Our total energy bill was under $20 per month for the first few years we lived there. Adding a chest freezer and supplemental heat in the greenroom---plus a rise in energy prices---brought the bill to about $28/month, where it remains today.

Kitty contemplates the woodburning stove. Photo by Aaron.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Fig & Poppyseed Muffins (High altitude baking)

There’s nothing like that moment when you first check on the progress of your cake or muffin or bread as it bakes in the oven. What will it be: a flat, disappointing brick, or a softly rising mound that promises air bubbles and lightness of crumb inside?  Those of us at high altitude always have a little extra trepidation: the thin, dry, low-pressure air up here wreaks havoc on sea-level baking recipes, which rely on a finely-tuned balance between pressure inside and pressure outside the rising surface of the loaf or cake. I have made plenty of bricks, plenty of cakes that rose too fast and collapsed back in on themselves or overflowed their pans, and plenty of perfect and delectable desserty confections that are indistinguishable from their sea-level counterparts.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Greenhouse, Heart of Winter: Year 1

To wrap up the first year of gardening in the greenroom – March 2013 to the present, May 2014 – I wanted to write up our greenhouse growing successes and failures. This first year was highly experimental, especially growing through what I’m calling the “heart of winter,” and I think we learned some very interesting things that will help guide next year’s plantings, both the timing and the varieties. I’m more interested in “heart of winter” greenhouse gardening than mere summer-season extension gardening because this is all the fresh garden produce we get during the middle of winter. Shoulder season (spring/fall) crops and using the greenhouse to extend the summer season will be discussed in other posts; this is all about what we tried, succeeded, and failed to grow during the coldest and darkest months of the year.

Attempted crops for the heart of winter greenhouse season included basil, beets, Brussels sprouts, chard, cucumber, kale, lettuce, okra, peas, peppers, radish, tomato, and a few herbs. The short version: we’re going to become radish farmers! Much, much more detail is given below.

Heart of Winter” Summary:
Successes: Beets, Chard, Coriander, Kale, Lettuce, Radish, Tomato
Semi-successes: Basil, Broccoli, Leeks, Hot Peppers
Failures: Brussels Sprouts, Cucumber, Okra, Parsley, Peas, Thyme

Friday, March 28, 2014

Building with Dirt (Part 1)

Shortly after Aaron and I got married, we bought a piece of land. Dreams of building our own house morphed into the reality of home construction in early 2008. This is the short version of the story of our home; I hope it will be useful to anyone considering building a more-or-less green home. We made a lot of difficult choices and compromises about materials and designs, and ended up with a very happy hippie home that we adore.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Mystery Rooster

One day, a rooster showed up on the doorstep of---not our house, but the henhouse. He'd been wandering in the desert for who knows-how-long and found his way to our chicken coop with its five cute redheads (what luck!). He looked healthy, maybe a little thin, and he was friendly when we approached to give him food and water. We had no idea where he came from; we had never heard a single cockle-doodle-do in our neighborhood before. 

Rex the mystery rooster on the day he showed up.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Anytime Pumpkin Pie

After the Thanksgiving and holiday rush on pumpkin pie, a few more months pass before we make it again. When it starts to feel like summer's almost here, we always realize we still have a few of last summer's pumpkins sitting decoratively on the counter, and we finally make the last few batches of pumpkin pie before the growing season begins anew. We love the vegetabley goodness of pumpkin pie with garden pumpkins absolutely any time of year, and this is my go-to recipe.

Pumpkins and squash sitting decoratively in the kitchen.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Building a Chicken Coop

We built a coop in Summer 2012 for a small flock of 5 hens. It was our first time raising chickens, so we learned a lot along the way. Here's an overview of the design and construction of our coop and food and watering systems.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Our Greenhouse

I'll start by describing the greenhouse design and building process, and then briefly show what we've grown inside during its one year of operation to date. Later posts will cover our greenhouse growing techniques, successes, and failures in much greater detail.

About "Farewell to Spring"

Welcome to our gardening blog! We have been growing fruit and vegetables in our high-altitude New Mexico garden for years now, and our focus is growing as much food as possible, as sustainably as possible, during all four seasons. To that end, we've collected years' worth of data, which we plan to share here so that others may learn from our gardening experimentation. Our goal is to present the data in ways that are graphically appealing and easy to understand. Eventually, we hope to share tools to help readers collect and manage their own gardening data, and learn from their experiences from year to year.

A harvest of ripe orange 'Persimmon' tomatoes and other goodness, Summer 2013.