Carrot Cake a la Cold Frame

Carrots from the Cold Frame, © Copyright 2008 Jade Leone Blackwater

For the New Year I baked a carrot cake using the last of the carrots from the cold frame.  Moving the carrots gave some much needed light-and-breathing room to the baby greens, and we enjoyed an excellent cake.

Carrots from the Cold Frame, © Copyright 2008 Jade Leone Blackwater

The pictures here do not do justice to the treasure we found when I pulled up the old carrots – one mammoth carrot, which likely weighed a full pound, and was over an inch in diameter!  It comprised half of the 3 cups of shredded carrot needed for the recipe.

I used the “Best-Ever Carrot Cake” recipe in my copy of Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book 12th ed. (p.159), substituting in 1/4 cup of whole wheat flour.  I also added my own spices, which is something I enjoy.  For dishes like carrot cake or pumpkin pie, I find it hard to resist adding a pinch of ginger, a dash of nutmeg, and perhaps a touch of lemon.

New Year Carrot Cake, © Copyright 2008 Jade Leone Blackwater

I was careful to use the finest side on my four-sided grater when shredding these carrots – if the carrot shreds are too heavy, they can sink through the cake. The cream cheese frosting was a snap, but unfortunately I made too much: remember that if you’re doing a single-layer rectangle cake instead of a two-layer round cake, you only need half the icing in the BHG recipe (p.171).

New Year Carrot Cake, © Copyright 2008 Jade Leone Blackwater

Note: If you’re looking for something different, Geraldine Hartman offers “Carrot Cake with a Twist” and “Cream Cheese Icing” from her book Not Just for Vegetarians (p.165), and she also likes “Sam’s Famous Carrot Cake” available at Allrecipes.com.

Coming up in February at AppleJade: we will talk more about cold frames and composting, continue our discussions on health and attitude, and we will also begin exploring the world of Geraldine Hartman’s Not Just for Vegetarians.  I’ll be posting once or twice per week – stay tuned.

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Healthy Holidays

If you worry about “holiday pounds” and looming “New Year’s Resolutions” to lose weight, you are not alone.  For many, the celebratory feasts of the winter season aren’t just about breaking bread, they’re about breaking diets with blissful indulgence.

Rather than set yourself up to disappoint and regret, why not try a different approach this year?  Winter feasts are celebrations – celebrations of harvests, of friendships, of community.  Essentially, the winter feasts are an affirmation of life when most life is in deep hibernation.

Feasts can also be an affirmation of health.  Here are a few ways that you can approach your holiday season with a healthy, happy attitude, and wrap a little nutrition in too!

Homemade Health

Whether you’re a master chef or a kitchen novice, you can always make simple, easy meals in your own home.  Connecting with your food can be an important part of developing your personal health and wellness.  Food nourishes our bodies – and its preparation nourishes our souls.

This season, make a little time to try a new recipe, or make something from scratch that you might normally purchase pre-made.  Got kids?  Forget about picture-perfect presentation, and bring those kids into the kitchen.  Cooking with your kids gives you a perfect chance to teach them about nutrition, help them build confidence, and give them a sense of ownership and participation in the family.

(Need some recipes?  Write me or a leave a comment, and I’ll post some delicious ideas!  OR: check out my “Homemade Pumpkin Pie from Scratch” post.)

Healthy Attitudes

We all know that holidays can be stressful, whether you like them or not.  At this season of giving, remember to set aside a little time, space, and/or money to give a little something to yourself!  If you’re feeling stressed or tired, stop what you’re doing for fifteen minutes, and give this a try:

Put on some warm clothes (if you’re living where it’s cold in winter).  Go outside, and find a quiet tree in your yard, or a local park or garden.  Park yourself under the tree, and watch the sky.  As those worries and frustrations bubble around in your head, think them through, and then watch them waft away with the clouds and the breeze.

I can’t guarantee that your problems will go away, that you’ll suddenly feel on top of the world, or that you’ll forget all the reasons you’re so hard on yourself.  What I can promise is that if you take a minute to do this, you’ll open a tiny little window in your brain… and if you listen carefully, you may hear the answer to any number of tough questions whispering through.

(Need some more ideas to help broaden your perspective?  Write me or leave a comment, and I’ll discuss other approaches to healthy attitudes.  Also, check out my post on Goal Setting.)

Adventurous Health

If that little taste of personal freedom gets you salivating, try taking it one step further.  Get away from your TV, your bills, and your normal routine.  Visit a local park, zoo, museum, or garden.  Try a new winter project!

You don’t need a fancy vacation to take you out of your element.  Many cities, counties, states, and provinces have websites these days which provide all kinds of ideas for things to do and see right in your area.  If you try to remember that “Healthy Attitude,” and keep that little window open, you may be surprised by what you find when you just take a look around your own neighborhood.

(Need some more ideas?  Write me or leave a comment, and I’ll post some fun suggestions.  Ever made a wreath before?  I’m going to show you how here at AppleJade).

Healthy Holidays is a huge topic, and these are just a handful of ideas.  If you want to hear more, let me hear from you!  What are your biggest challenges at the holidays?  What solutions have you found to help you navigate a happy, healthy path at such a busy time of year?

Until next time, good health to you!

How to make homemade pumpkin pie from a fresh pumpkin

Thanksgiving Pumpkin, Autumn 2007, © Copyright 2007 Jade Leone Blackwater

This Thanksgiving I had the opportunity to make pumpkin pie from an actual pumpkin for the first time ever.  We grew several varieties of pumpkins in our garden this year, including Sugar pie pumpkins (which are smaller, and sweeter).

I remember how proud I felt the first time I made pumpkin pie “from scratch” using canned pumpkin and canned condensed milk.  At the time, the concept of baking a pumpkin pie with an actual pumpkin seemed completely intangible – however appealing.

I’ve been teaching myself to cook for about 10 years, and I feel good about slowly navigating away from prepared foods and becoming comfortable with cooking in ways that our ancestors from just a few generations back may well have taken for granted.

Making your own pumpkin pie from scratch using a fresh pumpkin is WAY easier than it sounds, and it is loads of fun too.  Below are some simple steps to follow with pictures from my Thanksgiving last month.  (Note: this is a photo-heavy post.  If you have trouble loading the page, please let me know).

Homemade Pumpkin Pie from Fresh Pumpkin

Recipe

The Pumpkin Pie Recipe I used comes from Rebecca Wood’s Kitchen Dakini (an fantastic site – give yourself time to browse).

Wood also includes an excellent article Pumpkin Pie from Scratch, and includes a recipe for Roasted Pumpkin Seeds, as well as a simple crust recipe accompanying her Pumpkin Pie recipe.

Directions

1.  Select your pumpkin

Select a fresh pumpkin for your pie.

Thanksgiving Pumpkin with Hand to Scale, Autumn 2007, © Copyright 2007 Jade Leone Blackwater

Ours was about 10 inches (25.4 centimeters) in diameter.  In the first picture of this post you can see where this pumpkin grew – on a little dish in the garden next to the bird bath where I like to put seeds and crumbs of bread for the birds.

Thanksgiving Pumpkin on Stove, Autumn 2007, © Copyright 2007 Jade Leone Blackwater

(Pay no attention to the time on the oven – we have a policy in our house that all clocks must never show the actual time).

2.  Prepare your pumpkin

Give your pumpkin a good wash (especially if you picked it at the grocery store).  Using a serrated knife (and possibly a strong friend), slice your pumpkin in half.

Thanksgiving Pumpkin First Cut, Autumn 2007, © Copyright 2007 Jade Leone Blackwater

Thanksgiving Pumpkin Second Cut, Autumn 2007, © Copyright 2007 Jade Leone Blackwater

Thanksgiving Pumpkin Third Cut, Autumn 2007, © Copyright 2007 Jade Leone Blackwater

Thanksgiving Pumpkin Split Open, Autumn 2007, © Copyright 2007 Jade Leone Blackwater

Thanksgiving Pumpkin with Seeds, Autumn 2007, © Copyright 2007 Jade Leone Blackwater

Thanksgiving Pumpkin Seeds Removed, Autumn 2007, © Copyright 2007 Jade Leone Blackwater

Scoop out the seeds and stringers and set that part aside (for roasted pumpkin seeds).

Thanksgiving Pumpkin Seeds for Roasting, Autumn 2007, © Copyright 2007 Jade Leone Blackwater

3.  Bake your pumpkin

Thanksgiving Pumpkin Cooked Halves, Autumn 2007, © Copyright 2007 Jade Leone Blackwater

I baked mine shell-side down for about an hour at 350 F, although many recipes suggest baking them shell-side-up.  I don’t think it mattered – the pumpkin was still nice and hot and squishy when I was done.  This picture shows them flipped shell-side-up: I pushed on the shell so you can see how soft it became.

4.  Scoop out your pumpkin

Thanksgiving Pumpkin Scooped Out, Autumn 2007, © Copyright 2007 Jade Leone Blackwater

I scooped out the pumpkin with my icecream scoop.  It rolled right out like butter.  I know that many recipes suggest you blend the pumpkin with a food processor at this point.  I don’t own one (and the blender died in a margarita adventure this summer), but I don’t think it mattered – the pumpkin was as soft and smooth as if it had come right out of that can!

Thanksgiving Pumpkin Compost, Autumn 2007, © Copyright 2007 Jade Leone Blackwater

(Remember to compost the parts of the pumpkin you won’t use.  If you don’t compost and want to learn how, check back in the Spring – I’ll be posting easy-to-use compost information here at AppleJade).

5. Prepare your crust and your pie filling per the recipe directions

Crust: I stuck with my usual pie crust recipe from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book 12th ed. (but substituting in one half-cup of whole wheat flour for my own personal taste).

Filling: As mentioned above, I used Rebecca Wood’s Kitchen Dakini recipe for Pumpkin Pie.  During my initial search for pumpkin pie recipes online, I found that some folks needed more sugar in their pies than their recipes suggest.  Since I’m pretty sure my pumpkin was just a small Howden, and not an actual Sugar pie pumpkin (our husky got to the Sugar pies first), I added 3/4 cup of brown sugar to my recipe – the sweetness was just right.

Thanksgiving Pumpkin Pie Filling, Autumn 2007, © Copyright 2007 Jade Leone Blackwater

I also did not use quite as much cream as the recipe requested.  If you’ve made pumpkin pie using canned components, it’s easy to gauge by sight whether the consistency is correct.  (By the way: fresh, heavy cream is sometimes called “whipping cream” – thanks Mom for the last minute help on that one!)

Thanksgiving Pumpkin Pie Prepared from Scratch, Autumn 2007, © Copyright 2007 Jade Leone Blackwater

6. Bake and Party

Pop your pie in the oven and bake as directed.***

***Greetings from 2012: over the years many have asked me about oven baking temperatures. Here is the info you need:

The recipe I used for my pumpkin pie blog post at AppleJade comes from Rebecca Wood, Kitchen Daikini: http://www.rwood.com/Recipes/Pumpkin_Pie.htm

Rebecca instructs us to:

a) preheat the oven to 350 F while we make the crust and bake our fresh, halved pumpkin

b) increase the temperature to 425 F just before we mix the pie filling

c) bake the pie at 425 F for the first 15 minutes of baking

d) reduce the temperature to 350 F for the remaining 45 minutes of baking, or until pie is done.

For European ovens, I think these temperatures are:

350 F = 180 C = Gas #4

425 F = 220 C = Gas #7

Remember to cool completely, and for a delicious complement, whip up what’s left of your fresh cream with some confectioner’s sugar and vanilla extract.

Thanksgiving Pumpkin Pie Baked from Scratch, Autumn 2007, © Copyright 2007 Jade Leone Blackwater

Meanwhile, enjoy your holiday, and remember to give thanks (regardless of the celebration) for the fruit of the Earth, the skill of your hands, and the power at your fingertips with an in-home stove and oven.  I might think I’m pretty cool for making a fresh pumpkin pie, but it’s not like I had to gather kindling, start a fire, and keep it stoked while my pie was baking, nor did I have to feed, muck, and milk the cow whose cream blessed my meal.

I think I’ll save that for next Thanksgiving…

Thanksgiving Pumpkin, Summer 2007, © Copyright 2007 Jade Leone Blackwater

Book Review: The Curious Gardener’s Almanac

The Curious Gardener’s Almanac (c) Copyright Niall Edworthy 2007

The Curious Gardener’s Almanac: Centuries of Practical Gardening Wisdom

by Niall Edworthy

The book for today’s review was provided by: Perigee Books, Penguin Group (USA)

At AppleJade I like to share the joy of discovery by bringing you glimpses of the garden in my corner of the world. Niall Edworthy echoes this spirit with his new book, The Curious Gardener’s Almanac: Centuries of Practical Gardening Wisdom.

In his introduction, Edworthy attempts to wrap his arms around this book and explain the “what” and the “why” to little avail. Perhaps I can lend him a hand: this book is itself a garden.

The Curious Gardener’s Almanac is essentially a book of happenstance. As in a garden, you wander the pages and find yourself distracted by flowers of thought here, nuts of wisdom there, and all the while cognizant of the dark earth that engenders such a wealth of gardening wisdom.

Rather than chapters of how-to’s and when’s, Edworthy’s pages are filled with bits of poems, quotations, advice, facts, proverbs, and parables. Edworthy is not a condescending gardening guru, but like so many of us, he is a man with a basic curiosity about his garden, learning literally from the ground up.

As a self-taught gardener, I giggled with recognition when he explained the most unfortunate fate of his onions: rotted to death when left out to dry… in the rain. Those of us who did not grow up with gardens typically lack the innate wisdom of how to manage a thriving garden. What Edworthy shares with us is that not only is this wisdom not lost upon us, but that we can all find a spot of green on our thumbs if we just keep shoving it into the dirt.

Creating a garden is never an instant transformation – nor should it be. In Edworthy’s introduction he confesses, “The first year in the vegetable patch was a perfect disaster—I just scattered a variety of seeds over it, expecting it to turn into the Garden of Eden by the end of summer, like it does on the TV.

Therein lies the deepest wisdom of all: gardening is never a process to be finished. It is an ongoing process of learning and growth of which we gardeners, proficient and novice, are a part. Edworthy’s book includes accessible advice on gardening in each season. I found it refreshing that he includes information both contemporary (like why you don’t need to water your lawn), and traditional (like companion planting and uses for herbs).

This book is like a happy little backyard garden: tangible, unassuming, nourishing, and meaningful. The Curious Gardener’s Almanac is not a reference book—it is a book of discovery. Flip through its pages, and what you’ll find is a chorus of shovels and rakes, plucking at the earth to see what comes up.

Cold Frame: the treasure box

Cold frame vegetables, (c) Copyright 2007, Jade Leone Blackwater

It may not look like much, but whenever I see my cold frame I salivate and think about dinner.  A cold frame is a tool for extending your harvest through the cold months by protecting plants from wind while capturing a maximum amount of the low-winter sun to keep the plants warm.

Cold frame vegetables, (c) Copyright 2007, Jade Leone Blackwater

We built this coldframe in October 2006, and it has been feeding us ever since.  Our design is based on what we learned in Eliot Coleman’s book Four Season Harvest.  (We’ll talk more about this book in the future.)  Cold frame designs can be modified to fit your available space and materials.

Rather than use old storm windows for glass “lights”, we chose to use PVC plastic on our cold frame.  Despite our mixed feelings about PVC, I’m always glad we made this choice whenever I see our husky take a flying leap on top of the cold frame when he’s feeling “defiant.”

Cold frame vegetables, (c) Copyright 2007 Jade Leone Blackwater

This year the cold frame is filled with the end-of-summer jalapeños, carrots, and a few stray onions, as well as fresh rows of oak leaf lettuce, mizuna mustard greens, and slow-bolt cilantro.  As we explore nutrition, food, cooking, and gardening at AppleJade, you’ll be seeing a lot of our cold frame – and its bounty.

Do you have questions about cold frames?  Contact me with your questions, comments, and ideas any time, and I will try to address them in future posts.

Health discussions to continue in December

Broccoli, July 2007, (c) Copyright 2007 Jade Leone Blackwater

Well, it would seem that this week, life got the better of me!  While you enjoy another picture from my garden, here’s a peek at what we’ll be discussing in December:

– natural cold and flu remedies

– healthy holidays

– goal setting for the New Year

– cooking and gardening (including pumpkin pie from scratch!)

I hope you’ll join us for discussions!

Looking back at Summer’s garden

Summer Harvest, August 2007, Jade Leone Blackwater

 

Tomato Harvest, August 2007, Jade Leone Blackwater

 

These images were taken in August, when our garden was just entering its peak production.  For those of us in the northern hemisphere, the cold months are well on their way in for November.

This season we’ll be discussing how to prepare your garden for the next spring and summer, and how to plan for next year’s autumn and winter garden using a simple, friendly tool: the cold frame.

Since the cold months are generally less colorful, we’ll take lots of looks back at the summer garden to help keep us dreaming of next year’s growth!

I just got over the flu, so next week: natural remedies for the common cold.

 

Good health!