Wild Leeks Soup

It is the season of wild leeks. That season is short. In the woods, green covers the forest floor. The bright new leaves pierce the dried maple and beech leaves that fell in the fall. When the sun shines through the bare branches, you can smell them.

My son and I popped into the woods late in the afternoon. We each had a trowel. We dug up some leeks. Drive the trowel straight down, pull it back to loosen the soil and shake out some leeks. They are sort of similar to leeks you might buy in a market, but much smaller, smaller than typical scallions. And they are softer, more fragile. We made a small pile, enough to hold in one hand. Bright green on one end, covered in dark dirt on the other.

I washed them in the sink. I collected quite the pile of soil in the trap, mixed with a few dried leaves and grass stems. I had a clean bunch in the end, ready to be made into soup. I cubed several potatoes and sliced the leeks, tossed them with butter and olive oil, and sauteed. I added some water, some stock, some salt and pepper, and cooked it all into a soup.

I also made dinner rolls. I hear yeast is getting hard to come by. We always have a lot on hand anyway, so we are good to go for now. Dinner rolls are like the lazy bread–make some dough and knead it and let balls of the stuff rise in a pan. Then bake it and… fresh rolls, easy and quick. Soup and bread–pretty standard dinner around here.

Oddly, by the time the soup had reduced and gotten thick, it turned a bit green. I mean, the leeks were green but I have never had them turn other stuff green. And this new green was much darker–not the bright green of the fresh leeks. So it had a bit of an off color, but it was dang tasty. Those cut leeks smelled strong before they cooked down so I admit was a little nervous that I had put in too many leeks, but my fears ended up being unfounded.

Our wild leek window is small so I need to dig up some more before they fade away. Omelets? Quiche? Pizza topping? I’ve got lots of options. Especially if I want some green food.

Bread and Fire

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It was Saturday. I had time. So I baked some bread. And it was light and fluffy. Bread flour, that does the trick, I tell you. All that extra gluten stretches things out. Like magic. A big round fluffy loaf of goodness. Hot and fresh and delish. It went well with the soup I made. I put kale in the soup. Trying to be trendy? Nope. It just works in a vegetable soup. So, yeah, fresh bread and hot soup. Can’t beat it.

We lit up a fire outside Friday night. All summer I was thinking it would be great to have a fire in our fire ring outside. Look out over the dark field, watch the stars, flames dancing, sparks drifting up. All that romantic business. But the sun sets late in the summer. Start a fire just before dark and you’re up until 11:00. Some of us have to go to work in the morning.

But this time of year the sun sets much earlier. So crackling flames while we  hang out and listen to the coyotes sing? That’s a good deal. We did smell a skunk that night, but we talked loudly enough we hoped to keep it away. Apparently we did.

Saturday we cranked up the fire pit again. It was windy, but at least that kept the flames alive the whole time. We nibbled on Halloween-themed Oreos, talked about summer and Christmas and school and traveling, and we watched the stars pop in and out from the behind the clouds that were whipping across the sky.

It was so much fun that when friends unexpectedly came over on Sunday night we lit a fire one more time. We polished off those Oreos, and the bread, and laughed under a starless sky. We wore jackets. Some of us had to go to work in the morning so were were not out there too late. But three nights in a row with the comfort of a fire on a beautiful night? Stellar.

A Second Go at Making Bagels

I decided to make bagels again this weekend. Friday I found some malt syrup at our local health food store. I still was out of luck with the high gluten flour but bread flour would have to do. It worked well enough last time. I quickly whipped up the dough yesterday afternoon and molded it into rings to sit overnight. In the morning I boiled them to poof them up.

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Boiled bagels draining and ready to be baked

Again they only took about 15 minutes to bake. It took me maybe 45 minutes last night to get the dough into the fridge. I took another hour this morning, but only because our stove is not the greatest for boiling a large pot of water. If the water hadn’t taken so long to boil the time this morning would have been maybe another 45 minutes. An hour and a half for fresh bagels? Not too shabby.

I will do this again. Homemade hot bagels taste pretty dang good. I’ll have to branch out and work on some flavors in the future. Sesame seed? Onion? Maybe even pumpernickel? If I remember to pick up some ingredients, I’m in.

Bagels hot out of the oven

Bagels hot out of the oven

Making Bagels

One of my goals this summer was to make fresh bagels. A neighbor of ours told us about making them for a big group and how easy it was. I thought: We like bagels, I can make bagels, I am going to make some bagels. That, of course, did not happen. Stuff happens and other stuff doesn’t happen and then you don’t get around to making the bagels. Until last weekend.

We had a friend staying with us so I thought it would be a good time to stop putting it off and to get cracking on the bagel production. Now I can say I done it.

So, I don’t have pictures. Sometimes I think I should document new things and then I document new things. Other times I get wrapped up in the experience and the camera stays on the shelf. This was a camera-on-the-shelf situation.

Making bagels was really easy. I mean, why haven’t I done this before? Granted, they could have been better. Key ingredients are high-gluten flour (makes them chewy) and malt syrup (the sweetener). I had neither and could not readily acquire either, so I substituted, I used bread flour (not the all purpose flour we typically have on hand) and honey. A few ingredients in a mixer the night before and the dough was stretchy and workable.

I divided the dough and formed it into eight rings. Those rings sat on a covered sheet pan overnight to rise slowly. In the morning I boiled them for about 30 seconds, then baked them for 16 minutes at 450 degrees. They turned golden on top and were tasty I tell you. Fresh bread is always tasty so it was hard to tell how much of the tastiness was the bagelness and how much was the fresh breadness. In any case, they got gobbled up with high praise. You get what you get and you don’t get upset.

I definitely want to make bagels again. Next time I hope to get high-gluten flour and malt syrup. The flour I should be able to get somewhere. The malt syrup I can steal from my home brewing ingredients if necessary. Even if I use the same ingredients again it would be worth it. I now have one more item to add to our menu, even if it is only occasionally. Bagel’s baby. Finally.

Good Day for Baking Bread

Yesterday I baked up a loaf of bread as one element of our dinner. We had a bit of a pot luck–fresh bread, soup thawed from the freezer (potato leek), black bean burritos, reheated homemade pizza, fruit. Hot from the oven, the bread was good. It was quite tasty in fact. But it wasn’t the “Oh my hot yeast-risen delights this is inspirational” good. So I thought I might try again today.

At sunrise the thermometer read zero degrees. That is cold. I was hoping for colder, but one gets what one gets. An hour after sunrise, in opposition of the typical, the temperature had dropped two degrees. Now, mid-day, we are one degree above that. The sun is out now, but the air was filled with ice crystals earlier. Sublimation, that’s what we had. So it is cold–a good day for baking bread.

The dough rises now, in a big yellow bowl that works well for just such a project. Yesterday it rose less that expected. Perhaps I added too much wheat flour, or too many oats. So I added less of both of those today. Plus more honey. I find it difficult to have enough honey in my bread. It’s not like I follow a recipe. I just start with measured amounts of water and flour and mix until it has the right consistency. In a few hours we shall see what comes of it. It will rise and we will eat it hot from the oven, in any case. On a day like today, that really can’t be beat.

Zucchini Bread Recipe

Fresh From the Oven

As I write, a large loaf of zucchini bread finishes up its baking. We did give four squashes to a neighbor today, and I figured I had to make more bread. We do need to use up this squash, but this bread also happens to be tasty. Here is the recipe:

Prep time is about 15-20 minutes and baking time is 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours.

Mix:

  • 3 cups fresh shredded zucchini1
  • 1 2/3 cups sugar
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 4 large eggs

Slowly add to this mixture:

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

I use a large loaf pan (9″) and bake it for 1 hour and 15 minutes at 375 degrees. You can also use two small loaf pans (8″) and bake for 50-60 minutes.

Let cool and slice her up.

Back at it Then Nothin’ Today

Yesterday I busted out the Camelbak (I had to wash it first, since I hadn’t used it since early summer), figured out what to wear, stashed a Clif bar in my pocket, and ran eleven miles.  Now to some, that may seem like a lot.  To others it may seem like a walk in the park.  It felt just right for me yesterday.  It was not a hot day.  It was 36 degrees when I hit the road.  That made dressing right a challenge.  It wasn’t cold enough to warrant an insulated hat but it was windy.  Would I need a vest under my wind layer?  What about gloves?  I bagged the vest, went with the gloves, and had a great run.

There was a half marathon in Shelburne today. I had considered running that, but ended up bagging it.  The eleven yesterday was the substitute. Well, it wasn’t really a substitute. It was just a longish run on a fine day.  My wife ran the half marathon. I stayed home to bake bread and let my children sleep in. Today was the truly fine day. Can you say September day? My plan was to run a short one today, maybe three or four miles, just to get out there. But with the bread baking and putting the last of the garden beds to sleep and raking and clearing some crap out of the basement and storing the summer furniture and making and apple pie and the rest of it, I just plain forgot. I have been so used to running in the morning that afternoon came and I forgot all about it.

So I got in nothing today. The long run felt good, however. My plan is to do that again next weekend. Sorter runs during the week, then eleven again on Saturday. Maybe I will plan to take Sunday off this time. That means rising early Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. I will take Thursday off since I have to head out to work way early. Then Sunday off. That sounds about right.  I am aiming for 30 miles per week for a while. I may just register for the marathon in Burlington this month, before it fills up. Six months ought to be enough time to train for it, for Mercury’s sake, so I should be fine with that.

Now that I am less nimble–I trained for my first marathon in 60 days–I need to take it easier. But I do not mean to plod along like an old man for the next several months.  Build up slowly so I don’t get injured (again), run the marathon in May, then the Vermont 50 in September.  Sounds like a plan to me.

Soup and Bread

That’s what’s for dinner. I had to be home to meet my daughter off the school bus. It isn’t always easy to work when she comes home, especially when it is just the two of us, and frankly, I want to spend time with her during that window. So we did that. She told me about her day, showed me what she brought home. The kid is a gem. She smiles and feels proud of herself. I feel lucky to witness that every day.

Once she started chilling by herself, I stuck some sweet pumpkin in the oven to bake. I started bread dough. I turned the pumpkin into soup and the bread into dinner rolls. It is the easiest dinner ever.  It took a little time but was not hard to do. So we ate bread with our hot soup together at the table. My son didn’t eat much. I think he is getting sick. It seems most kids are getting sick these days. It is only October and plenty of children are missing school. Too bad. Maybe the soup and bread will help.

We have nine pie pumpkins left. Enough for some pumpkin muffins, maybe more soup, and a pie. Later in the week I will whip up one of those. I want to make this pumpkin pie I learned about several years ago and tried only once. It is light but rich. I want to experiment with it and maybe make it again for Thanksgiving. What’s not to like about pumpkin pie?

I may be getting a little something in the head myself. I have been wondering if I run every morning, will that help me stay healthy, meaning will it prevent sickness? I know I will be healthier in general if I run often, but can it ward off the viri?  Can it keep the bacteria at bay?  I guess I will see what I can find out with my R of one.  I had a short run this morning. Maybe I will go longer tomorrow. It was awfully hard to get out of bed in the dark this morning. I am hoping it won’t be so tough the next time I try it. I love running as it gets light, but it has been all dark these past days. It is dark when I leave the house and dark when I return. Easy there, Winter; it’s only October.

So I will try my running and pumpkin health plan for a while. That soup will last for a few days. When it runs out, that’s when I’ll bake up a pie, or at least some muffins. That ought to be good, no?

Pizza on a Chilly Night

Pizza for dinner. That is a standard one in our house. We sat at the table and ate together. I want to make sure we do that as often as possible. It matters. It was a quick dinner to make. The dough was made already, half what we usually use. but it did the trick. My wife had made it for a pizza breakfast this weekend. That isn’t so typical, but why the heck not? We were out of standard breakfast fare, so dinner for breakfast. I rolled out the remaining dough tonight after letting it rise a little. It was way thin. It was awesome. I’m going to use less dough more often. The super thin crust makes it crispy and just plain old dee-lish.

It is chilly. Fall is full on, winter on the way. The woodstove warms the house. I just came inside. The kids and I went out to see where my son found a cool rock. We looked at the stars, at Jupiter trying to outshine the moon, at the crescent of the moon in its humble glory. Clouds drifted. Smoke rose from the chimney. Hard to get more beautiful than that. Excepting my wife, of course.

Soon the children will get wrapped into their evening routine–showers and pajamas and books and a story. I like the routine. Cleanliness and literacy, two good things. They also need to scrub the sauteed leeks and onions from their teeth, some of the last produce from our garden. That made for a good pizza topping. I have been trying to cook more lately. I made bread over the weekend and that should be a more frequent event. I need to make some pumpkin soup, and some pumpkin pie. I want to make some pasta as well. It has been too long.

The nights are shorter. Our home feels cozy. The children already are showing signs of resistance to heading up to bed, but once they get into it, they will glide along. Here is to a quick drifting off to sleep for them. Maybe the adults in the house will have some quiet time before they as well need to go to sleep. I plan to rise early in the morning. There will be frost. The stars will be out. I want to get plenty of sleep.

I had hoped to run this morning but was feeling off, and way tired, even though I woke in time to get in some miles. It is hard to start the week without running. It needs to happen tomorrow. Venus and Saturn will be waiting to greet me. That should help me pick up the pace, my headlamp beam bouncing on the road as I go. Just imagining that, it makes me look forward to waking tomorrow. I only need to slumber well before then. And some pleasant dreams will help–give me something to stir my thoughts as I move through the cold of morning. As I run though fall.

Day of Food

I spent a good deal of time on food today. It was well worth it, but I am ready for one last trip to the kitchen, to scoop a bowl of coconut chocolate chip ice cream I made a couple days ago, then a sit with a book. I baked bread in my running clothes, after I lit a fire in the stove. I ran 7 1/2 miles this morning in the twenty degree grayness. It was a heck of a beautiful morning and I do that again. We had friends planning to come over and I was on kid duty (four of them) while my wife and company ran. I had to get started.

I was dressed in proper duds by the time our guests arrived, and I also had cut carrots, celery, potatoes, turnips, peppers, and onions. Soup was on. Since I was at it I decided to make some soup stock. The soup and bread were for lunch, along with the apple crisp I whipped up. I froze the stock, along with the remainder of the last batch of stock I made. I also spent time outside in the garden, digging and pulling the weeds that snuck in at the end. I turned compost and worked on making more with leaves and weed bits. I added compost from our kitchen scrap pile to some of the garden beds. And I covered several beds with silver maple leaves that were starting to decompose. It was a productive day.

I wish I could spend this much time on feeding our family more often. I would love to have fresh healthy food every day. We do almost every day, but we do sneak in processed food now and again, in the form of crackers and granola bars and such. Frozen meals almost never make their way to our house, and those boxed ready to prepare meals I feel like I hardly know. I was asked to do a survey recently of instant type meals. There were probably a dozen of them they asked about. I didn’t recognize any of them. I stay away from those center grocery store aisles.

I also baked up a pumpkin and a squash at the tail end of it all. I pureed them in the food processor and popped that in the freezer. The squash was a mystery plant that grew in the compost pile. We had sweet dumpling squash plant last year and this one was sort of like it. But it was orange and green. It think it may have been a cross between a pie pumpkin and the sweet dumpling. Inside it was bright yellow. It tasted sweet but different. I saved the seeds and will plant them in the spring. If it grows again as it did this year, we may have a new variety. I named it after my son.

That son of mine is asleep, along with his sister. He got tuckered out helping me spread dirt and leaves this afternoon. Now is the time to have that ice cream. I am a little tuckered myself.