recipes and talk about:
natural foods
whole grains
local foods
the heirloom garden

about

shiny cooking and me

It’s a bit of a full circle thing, this. My grandparents on my dad’s side lived a mile down the road when I was a kid. They were farmers and grew a lot of their own food too. Grandma had a huge vegetable garden, a berry area where she grew raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, and grapes, berry bushes scattered in the yard for gooseberries and currants, an asparagus patch, a rhubarb patch, and apple, pear, sour cherry, and plum trees. Two black walnut trees grew in the yard, and down the lane were hickory trees.

And, I’ve probably missed a few things in that list.

I live there now, and while some is different, a lot of it is the same. The strawberry patch is gone, but Sis (just around the corner) has one of her own now. The huge sour cherry tree that I picked several 5-gallon buckets full from one teenage summer is gone now, but I’ve put in a new little sour cherry tree nearby (thanks for picking it out, Dad!). A new shop was built on top of the old veggie garden area, but a new one is just across the driveway behind the lilac bush (thanks again, Dad!).

Many of the blueberry bushes died from neglect (sorry, Dad!) but two survive that I pruned well this year and treated for pH, and they look awesome. Some of the very old apple trees are gone of old age, but new ones take up the slack. The ancient plum trees are on their last legs, but the pear trees produce handsomely year after year.

too bad I hate pears

I’m not a big fan of black walnuts, either, but thousands of them litter the yard every other year. I can say one good thing about black walnuts: the smell of their rind (the nut shell is encased in a thick round rind that is green and slightly spongy when fresh) is divine. A black walnut casing smells fresh and sharp, citrusy and clean. If that smell could be bottled, we’d be millionaires.

We kids groaned whenever Grandma called saying this or that was ready and had to be picked today. The family laughs at me now when I think I’m casually mentioning that the asparagus needs picking today, or that if I let the peas go one more day it will be too late. “It has to be picked today” is actually true, we’ve discovered! And when we laugh, we belatedly apologize to Grandma for disbelieving her.

ew…processed food

When I grew up and discovered the…monstrosities…that were passed off as beloved foods from my childhood, I was aghast. There is no, none, not one, store-bought jam that can come close to homemade freezer jam. I’m particular too. I won’t use any flavor but strawberry. Yes, I understand the joy to be found in various flavors, but jam just has to be strawberry for me. Store-bought corn? Chewy and tasteless. Other vegetables? Olive-green mush. Pie? If it’s not made by my mom or another Amy-approved expert, I won’t touch it. Fresh fruits and vegetables from the store? No comparison, obviously.

Along the way I went vegetarian and frequented farmer’s markets. Later I remembered that I liked the taste of fish (I don’t much like the taste of beef or chicken, or handling raw meat) so I re-introduced that. When I decided to lose weight, research told me that replacing simple starches with whole grains was an excellent step to take: whole grains retain more of their nutrients and fiber, making them fill you up more and digest more slowly. I moved home to Grandma and Grandpa’s old house and wound up gardening myself, with loads of help from my aunt.

all this food…now what?

The gigantic garden meant gigantic yields, and I found myself seeking out recipes to use this bounty of fruits and vegetables, and canning and freezing them as well. I learned how to can, then how to pressure can — scary! I collected whole and fresh foods cookbooks. I re-connected with old friends by spending an afternoon putting up salsa (yummiest salsa recipe ever). I baked and tweaked and baked some more. People began asking my advice: which tomatoes to plant? What’s in that dip you made? How did you make those awesome cookies without eggs or butter?

So I thought it would be nice to have a place to talk about all of my favorite recipes, and the garden, and whole foods. And stuff. Take a look around. Leave some comments. And try some recipes.

- Amy

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