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February 2014
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March 2014

Yankee Thrift Bread

I thought about calling this post "Refrigerator Bread" because the recipe is  great for using up fruit that has outstayed it's welcome, but the more I thought about it, the less appealing that name sounded.  "Ice box" sounds homey and fresh.  "Refrigerator" conjures up a big humming machine which has an open box of baking soda in it for a reason. 

Refrigerator bread cut 033014

Therefore, let me introduce Yankee Thrift Bread.  The center is moist, rich with cinnamon and chock-a-block with baked fruit.  The crust is slightly sweet and crunchy.  And best of all the recipe is easy (one bowl, no mixer needed) and incredibly forgiving.  How forgiving?  The recipe started out as zucchini bread (from simplyrecipes.com) and was very good.  The next time I made it I didn't have enough zucchini, so it became summer squash bread (mixing green and yellow).  No one noticed the difference. 

For several years I've made it as zucchini carrot bread.  This version I always associate with camping trip breakfasts and early morning walks.  The bread freezes well, which is great for that stretch in August where the world becomes overrun by zucchini.   I did try zucchini, carrot and parsnips in one batch, thinking if one root vegetable works, another should too.  Not quite.  That batch was eaten, though I think it was by the squirrels. 

So it's not that surprising that today when I realized I had an overripe pear, a bruised apple and dried figs from 2013 in my fridge, I considered throwing them in the compost bin, then thought better of it.  What would be better on a gray, rainy day than cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar and fruit?

Foggy fence tree 022214

Yankee Thrift Bread

Ingredients

2 eggs, beaten

3/4 cup sugar - The recipe started out as 1 1/3 cups of sugar.  I keep reducing the sugar each time I make it.

2 tsp vanilla

3-4 cups fruit or veggies - For a smoother texture grate them.  Dicing also works, though it makes the bread more likely to crumble.  Whether to peal or not is a personal preference.

1/3 cup (or 6 tbs) melted butter

1/3 cup (or 6 tbs) apple sauce - If you don't have apple sauce on hand, you can double the amount of melted butter. 

2 tsp baking soda

pinch of salt

3 cups all purpose flour - if you use a heavier flour you'll need to add more moisture

1/2 tsp nutmeg

2 tsp cinnamon

1 cup nuts (optional)

Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (175 C).
  • Grease two 5 x 9 inch loaf pans.  A smaller size will also work, but the timing will need to be adjusted. 
  • In a large bowl mix eggs, sugar, vanilla.
  • Mix in the fruit/veggies, butter, apple sauce. 
  • Sprinkle baking soda and salt over the mixture.
  • One cup at a time, add the flour and stir.  If you do it all at once it will be very hard to incorporate.  This is a thick, sticky dough. 
  • Mix in the cinnamon, nutmeg and nuts (if using).
  • Divide the batter between the two pans.
  • Bake for 45 minutes to an hour.  I find the zuchini version takes longer to cook.  You'll know they're done when the tops are golden and a fork stuck into the center comes out clean. 
  • Cool in pans for 10 minutes.

Refrigerator bread 033014

 


Peas Glorious Peas

We're expecting single digit temps overnight.  My partner Z is wrapped up in not one, but three blankets on the couch, and I have turned on the heat in my office for the first time in a month.  The weather may not realize that winter is over, but in my mind it's a thing of the past. 

Back in February I dusted off the grow lights, poured some potting soil and planted some seeds.  This was admittedly early, but I had two good reasons.  One, was that I wanted to know if the seeds I had left over from last year were still any good.  Many of them weren't.  The second reason was less practical; I was ready to see growth!  Life!  Green! 

Snap peas soak 031014

Turns out I wasn't the only one.  Jenna Woginrich over at the ColdAntlerFarm blog was eager for green too.  She announced The Cold Antler Farm Snap Pea Challenge (click the link to see her great graphic).   The challenge is simple.  Anyone who wanted to join just had leave a comment on her blog and plant some peas on the 12th.  The benefit (aside from the excitement of seeing that first millimeter of green emerge from the earth) is that you get to compare progress and methods with everyone else who joined in. 

So here goes:

Planted: Amish Snap Peas from Seed Saver's Exchange.  SSE and Annie's Heirloom Seeds are my favorite sources for seeds since they keep the old non-patented seed varieties going.  I've read that the West Concord library branch has a seed library for patrons.  Isn't that a great idea?  When I make it over there I'll tell you all about it.

Soil: Commercial potting soil.  I would have added compost, but mine is still frozen.

Light: Grow light.  I have it on roughly 12 hours a day, but I'm not precise about it.

First Signs of Life:roughly a week after planting

Today roughly half the seeds I sewed have sprouted.   The package didn't give any information about peas' preference in terms of moisture, so I've been watering daily.  I have a spay bottle and I also pour water into the tray under the seed pots. 

Peas 032314

Those are the facts.  Those are what I capture in my gardening log, with an aim of having something to look back on in the future.  Those have nothing to do with what I love about gardening.  Each year I take notes on what I do and what happens as a result, but whether it's the way I take these notes or simply that I'm not all that interested in the science behind gardening, I haven't managed to turn those notes into anything useful.  Instead, I take photo after photo of each plant's progress, like the proud parent of a newborn.  No one else sees anything worth grinning so widely about, but I smile at the way all plant chutes start out the same verdant chartreuse, the way peas come up looking like question marks that slowly unfurl into certainty as they reach for the sky, and the way tomato plants fill the room with scent as strong as any rose. 

Unless I learn to delight in the soil and light needs of my various plants, I will never really progress as a gardener and get the vegetable yields I hope for; but for now I'm happy playing the part of proud plant mama. 

Pea closeup 032314


The Winter Hangover

March may be the official start of spring, but at least here in New England it is about as far from all things pastel as a person can get. 

March is the filthy, bleary-eyed morning after a frat party.

The ground squelches and slurps with each moist step.  Viscous fluids slick boots and cuffs.

Boston Garden pond 031514

Mud 032214

People shuffle.  Wary.  Waiting to fall.

Snow puddles 030814
  Ice walk 022214

Eyes squint in protest of the unfamiliar brightness of the sun.

Sun through clouds 022014
The world is thick with smells both ripe and sour.  Skunk Cabbages unfurl in winter's icy runoff. Furry skunks awake, stumble about in the dark and leave their own particular trail. 

Skunk cabbage 022214

Items abandoned during the snow drunk days of  winter, now lie scattered across the landscape: an old menu, flattened beer cans, frozen tennis balls, hats hung like Christmas Eve, oh so many widowed gloves, even a slipper that had no call to be out of doors.

Hat in tree 030213

Slipper 031614

In the months to come we'll remember winter's highlights, its beauty and joys, but right now winter is a party that went on for way too long,  and there's a hell of a lot of cleaning to be done.  

Trees snow 012211

My shadow 012211

Tree sunset 012211