Wordless Wednesday: Carrot Harvest

UtHC Bulletin

Under the High Chair bulletin is a scattering of various and sundry happenings, discoveries and news.Keep reading...

Garden News

“This is what’s cruel about springtime: no matter how it treats you, you can’t stop loving it.”

Barbara Kingsolver

Truly March is the most frustrating month. It brings sunny warm days that cause you to cast away the wool scarf and haul out sneakers from the back of the closet, and then slams the door in your face with its plunging temperatures and occasional snowfalls. Still, I admit that I give in to its games and occasionally allow myself to believe that it is spring. My hope was validated today by the discovery of some very brave rhubarb poking its little heads up in the garden.
Consider this a warning that I will probably begin blathering about seedlings, compost and my garden in future posts and won’t let up until about mid-October or so. It’s almost gardening time!!

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Interview with Aimée
Mother of three and food blogger, Kate of A Merrier World, has decided it’s high time to discover the stories behind some of her favourite food blogs and guess who she picked to go first? Yep, in the very first installment of her fascinating Edible Lives series, you can read all about Under the High Chair’s humble beginnings and the journey to what we are today. Curious as to how everything began? Head on over to the interview for a trip down memory lane and also discover which popular blogger she’ll be interviewing next!!
Thank you for this opportunity, Kate!

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Raw Pet Diet
Alright, so after the last fiasco with our cat, Cassis, I decided to put him on a raw diet to avoid going through anything like that again. Correction, I didn’t really ‘decide’, more like I was told to by my little sister, resident family pet expert and B.A.R.F pioneer (Biologically Appropriate Raw Food) around these parts. Note that I don’t usually take commands from a sibling seven years my junior, but believe me when I tell you, if Miranda strongly suggests something pet related, I know I’d better listen up.
If you want to find out what is involved in committing to a raw diet for your pet or how to transition, my sister outlines the process at her informative, easy-to-understand blog My Mini Zoo. You can also follow her on Twitter.
Raw pet diets are not for the faint-of-heart, let me just say that! There’s nothing quite like hacking up chicken carcasses (bone shards flying everywhere and the baby trying to eat them off the floor), mincing chicken hearts & livers, tossing in a raw egg, serving it to your cat–and then sitting down to your own dinner. They don’t call it B.A.R.F for nothin’. Just saying.

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Making Baby Food 101
From cat food to baby food, the lovely Cheryl from Backseat Gourmet has two articles on making your own baby food that I wanted to recommend to all my mommy readers out there. I’ve always made all my own baby food, but never got it together to post a how-to on the subject, even though more than a few of you have asked. (Sorry!)
Cheryl lays out the steps simply and smartly, without lecturing or sounding ‘preachy’, so if you’re expecting a little one or about to transition your baby to solids, be sure to check out Step 1: Purees and Step 2: Textures.

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So, it’s only right that I share what has been both an inspiration and a kick in the pants these last few weeks (not to mention a darn good read). Barbara Kingsolver’s book “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life”
Written as both a love letter to the land and a wake-up call to the consumer, I haven’t been able to put this book down. Even my Tweets are suffering. Her ode to asparagus alone had me weak at the knees.
Suffice it to say, this book is a must-read for any gardener, cook, environmentalist or the like.

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Sugar Shacks
Lastly, I guess my last two posts about sugar shacks got you all fired up about sugaring off season and now you have a hankering for all things maple. Just so you know, I’ve considered all your requests and am now giving my recommendations! Unfortunately, I am not aware of any places that collect sap in the traditional method and allow you to participate as I did (lucky me! OK, now you just want to smack me). However, here are two places that allow you to get out of the city, admire the tall maples and feast to your hearts content.

  • For families, you won’t regret a visit to Cabane à Sucre Bouvrette, which we visited last spring. If the amazing pea soup and tire d’érable don’t do it for your little Johnny or Jane, the tidy petting zoo and old fashioned train ride will.
  • For grown-ups, gourmands and anyone who has $45 to spend very wisely, get yourself to Martin Picard’s sugar shack: Cabane à sucre: Au Pied du Cochon. Be sure to make reservations ahead of time to ensure there is some maple-poached lobster left for you.

Butternut Squash Muffins and Dreaming of Spring

Seed catalogs are starting to jostle for space in my mail box and I couldn’t be happier. They offer me the opportunity to mentally check-out on winter for a while and do some virtual gardening. I do this by curling up with a glass of wine, paper and pencil and devising my springtime plan of attack for the kitchen garden and flower beds.
My garden isn’t very big, but I still manage to drag the planning process out for a few evenings: hashing over the layout, remembering what thrived last summer (and what barely survived), and haggling over decisions like purple or Thai basil.

After all the deliberation (and a few glasses of wine!) I’ve decided I’m going to do things a little differently this year. Instead of using valuable garden space for my herbs, I’m going to make a movable herb garden with pots and planters on our new deck. That is how I used to do it on the tiny back balcony when we lived downtown and my basil was never so nice. Not only will it look gorgeous and free up more space for the pea patch, but the close proximity to the kitchen will be ideal for scampering out barefoot and gathering snippets to add to meals.

One of my Christmas presents from Danny was Jamie Oliver’s new cookbook, Jamie at Home. It could have also been titled The Naked Chef Gets Dirty, as he’s up to his elbows in garden soil for most of the book. With recipes inspired by his own love affair with gardening, this is a cookbook I can really get into. It’s divided into seasons and features over a hundred recipes using simple fresh garden produce. There are also pages of gardening tips scattered throughout that I hope to put to practical use this summer.

Come on spring! We’re ready for you anytime.

These muffins were the first recipe I tried from my new cookbook. Really, they should be titled cupcakes instead of muffins, but they were lovely no matter what their name. Moist and flavorful, they reminded me of a really decent carrot cake–only better.

Jamie Oliver’s Butternut Squash Muffins with a Frosty Top
makes 12 – 16 muffins

14 ounces butternut squash, seeded and roughly chopped
2 & 1/4 cups light brown sugar
4 large free-range or organic eggs
pinch of salt
2 & 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, unsifted
2 heaping tablespoons baking powder
handful of chopped walnuts
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

For the Frosted Cream Topping:
1 clementine, zested
1 lemon, zested
1/2 lemon, juiced
1/2 cup sour cream
2 heaping tablespoons icing sugar, sifted
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds scraped out

Preheat the oven to 350F. In a food processor, buzz the butternut squash until finely chopped. Add the sugar and eggs. Buzz in a pinch of salt, the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and olive oil and mix until well beaten. Scrape the sides if needed, and mix only until everything is well combined.
(Aimee’s note: if you don’t have a food processor, just grate the squash on a box cheese grater, transfer to a bowl and mix everything in by hand. This works just as well.)

Fill a regular sized muffin tin lined with paper cups until each cup is just over 3/4 full. Cook 20 – 25 minutes until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Allow muffins to cool on a wire rack.

For the topping:
Place the zest and lemon juice in a bowl. Add the sour cream, the sifted confectioner’s sugar and vanilla and mix well. Taste, and adjust the sweet and sour accordingly. Keep in the fridge until ready to top the muffins. If you like, sprinkle the topped muffins with a little more orange zest and lavender flowers.

Monday Garden Update: Harvest

This month is a busy one: two more weddings and everything that goes hand in hand with weddings (NO not cakes, I mean like rehearsals and stuff), a funeral, a few birthdays, and that glorious holiday of feasting-Thanksgiving.
It’s hard to squeeze in time to get out to the garden, but frost is imminent and things need to be harvested. The days have been chilly, even with the bright sun, fortunately there’s nothing like digging to get the blood pumping and the body warmed up.

We only got two pumpkins from our experimental plant, one large one and a slightly smaller brother– very originally named ‘Noah’ and ‘Mateo’. We’ve been watching them grow and ripen in the garden for close to two months now so they feel like part of the family in a odd way. Right now they have a decorative function on the steps and I think we’ll spare them from being made into pies.

My purple carrots are a perfect size to make the trip from the earth to my crisper in the fridge. Too bad I don’t have one of those root cellars to hold all of them.

Here’s my young onions drying in the sun. I still have a lot to learn about growing these as about half of the crop rotted in the ground. Why would one bulb rot while it’s neighbor grew perfectly well? Curious.

These are a few plant that refuse to give up. They were in their prime about a month ago, however, even though everything around them is turning brown and drying up, they continue to produce and flower. I’m also getting a terrific second crop of sweet raspberries; they are making up for the pitiful beet production and woody turnips. Blech.

I’m sad to see my garden shutting down and I’ll miss dashing out there every time I want a tomato and a handful of basil for a sandwich, but such is the turning of the seasons and until I live a lot further south, like a LOT, I’ll be putting away my trowel and gardening gloves for six months or so come mid-October.
Who knows what I’ll try next year?!

Monday Garden Update 4

Things are not looking so good in the vegetable patch, people; it’s downright ugly out there. Don’t be fooled by these photos, someone has taken my cute little kitchen garden and replaced it with a mucky, rotting mess of weeds.

The rain did Not. Let. UP. in August and the water just pooled in my clay soil, rotting the garlic and tomato plants. Fortunately the tomatoes still ripened like crazy, giving us plenty of filling for our daily toasted tomato sandwiches for our weekday lunches, but they are mostly finished now.

As you can see, we have been harvesting something other than tons of weeds, but nothing in mass amounts. Carrots are sweet and prolific enough. Noah has learned to harvest his own and wash them off in the bucket of rainwater for an outdoor snack. Watching him munch on them is reward enough for all the work that a garden requires.

For all the people who told me I couldn’t grow corn: it was amazingly sweet and did very well. I’ll double my planting next year, since I found myself sharing the crop 50/50 with the squirrels. Ever watch a fat squirrel try to negotiate along a skinny fence with a half-gnawed corn cob in it mouth? Hilarious.

The pumpkins are more than just fraternizing with the potato patch, they have moved in and redecorated. If I had known two plants would spread around a ten-foot radius, I might have reconsidered, but the pumpkins are starting to take on a cheery orange color and look just too pretty peeking out from the foliage for me to overly complain.

It hasn’t been hot enough for the peppers, each of my three plants have been working on producing one pepper each all summer long and with that kind of productivity, it’s going to be straight to the compost for them; do not pass the kitchen, do not collect two hundred dollars.

Yellow beets are taking their time, but sure look pretty.

A big thanks to everyone who has responded so far to my spice kit giveaway and sent happy birthday wishes this way. I’m touched by all your kind words, encouragement, and support.

Thanks for reading!

PS: If you haven’t left a comment in the post below yet, you still have until Saturday to do so and your name will be entered in the draw!