Super Quick Yellow Curry

During the field season, I kind of dread the idea of cooking… I want to eat something delicious because I’ve been working really hard all day, but the time and effort it takes into pulling something together as I would at home, FORGET IT.  For someone who loves food as much as I do, it’s a daily struggle.

Yellow Curry

I’ve learned a few tricks over the years to making food that’s good, but not quite as good as if I made it 100% from scratch.  One of my go-to dinners is a curry with rice noodles that takes about 10 minutes to pull together and makes me feel 100% satisfied.  Here goes:

Ingredients
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 head broccoli, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 block tofu, cut into bite-sized pieces
3 medium carrots, chopped
juice of 1/4 lime
1 can coconut milk
2 tbsp chunky peanut butter
1-2 tbsp curry powder (or paste!), to taste
2 dashes garlic powder
2 dashes ginger powder
1 package rice noodles

Directions
1) Typically, I have the vegetables already prepped and in the fridge to save some time later in the week when cooking.  I chop up some vegetables on Sunday, then use them throughout the week whenever needed.
2) Put coconut milk, peanut butter, lime juice, ginger, and garlic powder in a small pot over medium heat.  Stir to combine ingredients.  Add vegetables and tofu.  Cover and allow to simmer for 10 minutes.
3) While vegetables are cooking in the sauce, cook and drain the rice noodles.
4) Combine the curried vegetables and the rice noodles for the simplest dinner ever.

If you have some cilantro, garnish it with that.  If you have a can of chickpeas, add those!  You can add anything here and it would probably be delicious!

Berbere Tagine

How does it always seem that everything about life just goes by so quickly?  I think we always anticipate that it will slow down, but we just go and go like busybodies all the time…  There are so many things to do, so many things to see, so many places to go, and a million people to meet.  I love being busy, but I miss the slower pace, sometimes.  Waking up late, making pancakes, going for a walk, spending time with family, having no place to be… So that’s what I did this weekend.  Tried to slow down for a minute, enjoy the fresh air in central New York, and spend some time with family.

With no set agenda for the day, and the sun bright in the sky, I woke up late on Saturday and went for a drive into town with Tallulah.  She hung her head out the window, tongue out, loving every bit of the spring weather.  We went down the hill to check on the bees, whom were all bringing back scores of pollen.  Even the chickens were enjoying the warm weather, making a complete mess of my new flower beds (Thanks, Ladies).

Bees

For dinner, I decided to tap into our Berbere spice blend and use the handpainted tagine that we acquired on our recent trip to Morocco.  After learning of our small farm, many Moroccans decided that we were “Berberes of New York,” which we took as a compliment!  So I thought I’d try my hand at an authentic Moroccan tagine for dinner.  You’ll have to make your own Berbere spice mix, but here’s the recipe for you enjoy!

Finished Tagine

Ingredients
1 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, sliced
1 fist sized portion of meat (we used venison, but you can use chicken or beef)
1 tsp Berbere spice mix
1-2 threads saffron
1 medium zucchini, cut longwise
2 medium potatoes, thick cut
2-3 medium carrots, cut longwise
5-6 pitted dates
small handful of raisins
5-6 olives
2-3 slices of lemon
small bundle of parsley (2-3 sprigs)
small bundle of cilantro (2-3 sprigs)

Directions
1) If you have a tagine, use it!  If you don’t, no problem!  You could very easily use a dutch oven, a lidded casserole dish, or even your slow-cooker.
2) Coat bottom of tagine with olive oil.  Add a layer of onion slices to the bottom.  Set the meat in the center of the tagine.  Sprinkle the meat with 1/2 the Berbere spice.  Start layering long slices of carrots, zucchini, and potatoes on the outside of the meat to form a conical shape. Sprinkle the vegetables with the remaining Berbere spice. On the outside of the cone, add dates and lemon slices.  At the top of the cone, insert olives and raisins.  Add bundles of parsley and cilantro to the peak.
3) Add 1/4 cup water to the bottom of the tagine.  Place lid on top.
4) Bake tagine at 300F for 3 hours (less if using chicken).  If you’re using a real tagine to bake in, do not preheat your oven to prevent the dish from cracking.  Typically, these are cooked over an open flame, and if you can make a fire and cook over it, I’m sure it will be delicious!
5) Enjoy the delights of Moroccan cuisine with a side of fresh-baked Khoobz and some fresh cucumbers, beets, tomatoes and onions.

Don’t forget to wash it all down with a too-sweet-treat of Berbere whiskey!

Creamy Mushroom and Barley Soup

Yo, Vegans! This soup is amazing!

Mushroom Barley Soup

After reading a Martha Stewart recipe where she used a “bouquet garni” I’ve become obsessed with using them in my soups.  They’re so great because you put all the herbs in a little pouch, then you can remove it at the end.  No need to fish out that bay leaf anymore!  I have been using a large tea ball to make them, but you can also use cheesecloth!

I used barley in this recipe, which I think is what makes it super creamy.  I also added a 1/2 cup of milk at the end, but you can just use more stock if you’re looking for the dairy-free option!

Ingredients
1
tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 pounds baby bella mushrooms (or any fresh mushrooms)
1/2 cup pearled barley
4 cups vegetable stock
A bouquet garni made with two bay leafs, fresh thyme and rosemary, 1/4 tsp whole black peppercorns, and some hard swiss cheese (optional)
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup milk or more vegetable stock (if making vegan soup)

Directions
1) Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large stock pot and add the onion. Cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and a pinch of salt. Cook about 30 seconds, then add the mushrooms. Cook until they just begin to release their water and soften a bit, about 5 minutes.
2) Add the barley, vegetable stock, bouquet garni, Worcestershire sauce and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer 45 minutes. Remove the bouquet garni.
3) Add half the soup to the blender and blend until smooth and creamy.  Leave the other half in the pot to keep the soup a little chunky. Return the blended soup to the pot, and add the milk (or the vegetable stock).  Heat until just bubbly and hot. Add salt, to taste. I served this soup with a dollop of fresh, homemade yogurt, but if you want to keep it vegan, you can leave it out.  Or use some vegan sour cream.  We also had some fresh baked bread from Muelsa, which was a wonderful compliment to a delicious soup.

Yum.

Adventures in Baking – Cardamom Cream Cake

prep
In over my head…

Have I ever mentioned that, I’m a terrible baker?

I actually tried so hard to make sure that I followed the directions to a “T” this time… I wanted this New Year’s Eve cake to be perfect.  Yet still, I used 1/2 stick too much butter in the batter, decided to add ginger to the milk syrup (a good decision!), and forgot to buy heavy cream at the store and substituted milk (a poor decision!).  For 2016, I resign myself to being a terrible baker.  I just can’t keep up with the Beths and Emilys of the world.  I will just have to experiment with new and intriguing pies instead.

Anyway, I found this amazing recipe on the New York Times Cooking website this week.  It was for a Cardamom Cream Cake by Melissa Clark that was inspired by an Indian dessert called ras malai.  The photo of the cake was beautiful.  While reading the description, I could taste the elegance.  I wanted to make this cake. And I wanted it to be perfect.

I was in over my head.

Who starts with a FOUR LAYER CAKE as the first cake that they ever make?  Well, I did.

About halfway through mixing up the ricotta filling, I realized that it called for heavy cream because I was supposed to be “whipping” the filling so that it was light and fluffy, not soupy like mine.  I also realized, after it was too late, that I forgot to cut one of the sticks of butter in half, so I used 1/4 cup more butter than I needed to in the batter, making the cakes a little heavier than they were supposed to be.  And at the end, I realized the |absolute| value of a nice cake stand to ice your incredibly amazing creation.

After all that, it still turned out okay. It was fully edible. It wasn’t nearly as beautiful as the NY Times version: it actually looked more like a pile of mashed potatoes with pistachios on top. It wasn’t pretty. At all. And holy crap that was a lot of work! Another reason to stick to pies…

Either way, it was a super fun disaster! Happy New Year, Everyone!  May your next year’s adventures be full of laughter and joy!

cake collage
Leroy’s Version
Melissa Clark's Version
Melissa Clark’s Version

Learning is Always Winning (But Sometimes it Feels Like Failure)

I realized this morning that it’s been a really long time since I’ve posted anything… Not because I haven’t really wanted to, but I suppose it’s because we’ve been busy, and sometimes it’s hard to regurgitate the moment back out immediately.  I think that’s called learning?

Anyway, we’re always posting about how this-thing or that-thing worked and was totally amazing, right?  Well, sometimes things don’t always work out as planned… And I think that’s the point of all of this (the blog, the farm, life).  We’re learning and living and loving all at the same time.  When we “fail” it’s really not so bad because we learned what is not possible and probably have some new ideas for what might work better.  Life is just a big experiment at Earl’s Acres!

Honey Collage

So our bees went crazy at the end of the summer, and we finally reached the point where we could start extracting honey.  We only have 2 hives, and it seemed a little silly to buy an extractor. Also, we feel like we’re pretty handy so building one didn’t seem impossible. We researched homemade extractors, modified a few plans, and built one out of some welded-wire mesh and a paint mixer.  Sounds like it would work like a charm, right (sarcasm)?  A giant, seriously sticky, sweet mess on the other side, still landed us 16 lbs of golden honey!  And a plan to figure out a new method for next season…

Canoe Repair

Last season, we found this great canoe on Craigslist for really cheap.  It was fiberglass, the guy said it had no leaks but that there were some “thin spots.”  He gave us a can of Bondo that he’d used to patch some holes and we were off…  Of course, there were leaks the first time it went into the water.  We did a little research on fiberglass repair, patched some holes, Bondo-ed the surface, sanded it down and took it out for a test ride.  No leaks!  So we grabbed a can of paint from the barn, painted it red, and called it a success!

And then we took it back out for a post-paint, shiny new ride down at Labrador Hollow on a beautiful evening after work.  After just ONE TRIP the paint is scratching, peeling off, and looks like a mess. Then it dawned on me… We probably should have used some kind of special marine paint for this job.

Oh well.  In the end, the canoe doesn’t leak, the honey is delicious, and life will never be perfect.  But we can smile and laugh about it today because we know that we can try again tomorrow!

Chicken (of-the-Woods) Tikka Masala

Wondering what happened to all those mushrooms?  Here you have it!

Tikka Masala.
Tikka Masala.

Ingredients
2 medium onions, peeled and halved
3 medium tomatoes
3 tbsp cashews
4 garlic cloves
1/2 inch ginger, peeled
1 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp garam masala powder
1/2 tsp red chili powder
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp tandoori powder
1/4 cup yogurt
1 tbsp dry fenugreek leaves
1 tsp salt (or more, to taste)
1/2 cup water (more or less)
4 tbsp cream or milk
3 tbsp butter
2 lbs chicken-of-the-woods mushroom
1 batch homemade paneer
cilantro, chopped (optional)

Directions
1) Boil water with a pinch of salt.  Add onions, tomatoes, and cashews.  Boil for 10 minutes, until soft.  Drain the water into a bowl and set aside.  Puree onions, tomatoes, and cashews in a blender.
2) Heat butter on medium heat.  Grind ginger and garlic with mortar and pestle, and cook in butter until aromatic (about 3-5 minutes).  Add the tomato puree to the ginger and garlic. Add the spices (turmeric, chili powder, coriander, garam masala, tandoori).  Add the mushrooms and enough leftover water to make a thick gravy.  Simmer for 15-20 minutes, until oil floats to the top and sticks to the sides of the pan.
3) Remove pan from heat and stir in the yogurt and salt.  Return to low heat for about 5 minutes, or until bubbling and hot. Stir in fenugreek leaves, paneer, and cream.
5) Garnish with cilantro and serve with rice or naan!

Bizarre Growths in the Woods

Earl here,

One thing I took for granted growing up in Toledo, Ohio was Acorn Trees. Well, I went searching for some yesterday in our neck of the woods… and didn’t find any. That being said, what Muelsa did show me was Morgan Hill State Forest. It felt really great walking around in there, it is always refreshing and grounding when you realize just how wonderful home is.

This evening I took myself out in search of an oak, I mean acorn, grove. This time, I found the acorn trees. It is a beautiful old growth forest with oaks over 250 years old. The pleasure was all mine, walking within the grove.

I was in search mushrooms… and mushrooms I did find.

 

The Findings

 

I went out looking for Chicken of the Woods, and Hen of the Woods… and I must point out that those are different than our hens in our woods. I digress.

Now, I will first off admit that this is the first time that I have ever hunted for mushrooms… so if I don’t post for a while, you can feel free to worry.

As Leroy know, I pride myself in being a self described Theoretical Biologist (and let me stress “self described”). So, here is my theory:

First off, I found the first small bright orange specimen with a yellow porous underside growing on a downed oak tree. It seems to me that Laetiporus sulphureus fits the bill.

IMG_1897

The next find was the white hairy ball, about shoulder height off of the ground growing on a stick. It seemed to me that Hericium americanum was the likely culprit… but it looks like I am not the only one confused about the name! It looked a bit like Hericium erinaceus, but I believe it is just because the specimen I found was young, so the branches were not able to be seen until I performed surgery on said specimen.

IMG_1900

The next lucky mushroom was the ol’ Hen… Grifola frondosa. There were other hens out there, but this was the only one that seemed to be of the proper maturity.

IMG_1899

After finding these lovely ladies, I happened to walk around a tree which had an impressive burl near the root system. I was inspecting the burl quite closely when I discovered a geo-cache. The last person to write in the geo-cache was in 2013, so I did my duty and wrote a bit in it, and tucked it back in it’s home.

Just when I was on my way out I found a very large (The largest one shown in the first photo) specimen growing in the roots of an oak tree. It is for this reason that I believe it was Laetiporus cincinnatus, which is (apparently) commonly confused with the “real” chicken of the woods, Laetiporus sulphureus, which grows on logs as opposed to roots!

Wow. So, I learned quite a bit today… and at this point I am not sure whether my head hurts from eating those mushrooms or from learning too much.

 

In any event, one of OUR Hen’s of the Acres laid an unusually large egg, which just so happened to be a double yoker!

IMG_1894

Peace