Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Thank you Lisa!!!!

College Park Organic Garden and Diablo Day Community School Organic Garden both have a new garden angel by the name of Lisa Meyers. Her company Meyers Homegrown Organics has been selling vegetable seedlings and plants at the Pleasant Hill Farmers Market all summer and as her season nears a successful end she has donated a huge amount of winter vegetable seedlings to our gardens for the students to plant, coaxing a long and fruitful winter crop from a living gift. Lisa and her husband Phil live in Pleasant Hill but Lisa is a Martinez native herself. Lisa and Phil’s inspired gift is the definition of full fledged community involvement in the gardens and have put an apple cheeked rosy glow on all of our students faces. We are immeasurably grateful and will surely support Meyers Organics in the future and we wish them a fruitful season as their business grows. As we traverse the cool season we look forward to a stunning winter garden overflowing with kale, broccoli, spinach, cauliflower and much more. Tramping through pumpkin farms and the farmers markets always induces juicy imaginative ideas for cookies, pies, cakes and savory dishes. Especially charming are those divinely inspired Cinderella pumpkins. Deep red and magenta to almost make believe orange, the Rouge Vif d’Etampes looks like something out of a fairytale. Also known as Cinderella pumpkin, owing to the resemblance of a famous get away coach, this French heirloom cucurbit makes for excellent, long lasting décor. Legend has it that this pumpkin may have been the variety cultivated by the Pilgrims and served at the second Thanksgiving dinner. Don’t be captivated by her squashed, deeply ribbed good looks alone though as the molten orange flesh is creamy sweet, beckoning to be pie filling as much as savory treats. Gently slice off top scooping out seeds, saving them to sprinkle with salty olive oil and roasted for crunchy tidbits alongside nibbles at the Thanksgiving gorge. Create a layered casserole inside the pumpkin by throwing sliced zucchini, chopped onion, grated parmesan and cooked spinach into the cleaned pumpkin. Top off with eggs beaten with cream and seasoned with salt and pepper. Put the top back on placing on a baking sheet in 350* oven for about an hour until the egg mixture has set. Use the rich flesh for pie, cookies and breads by cutting off top, slicing in half and scooping out seeds. Place in a baking dish with a ½ inch of water, cover and bake at 350* until soft. Puree or mash and use according to your recipe. You will likely have several recipes worth of pumpkin puree from just one so I measure it out according to recipes and freeze it in batches for later culinary tricks and treats. Add chocolate chips top any pumpkin cookie or bread recipe for a surprisingly addictive sweet. My motto: Two for décor and one to eat now. You will never buy a can of pumpkin again. We have been greatly blessed with ridiculously gorgeous days and chilly evenings in our valley as the season changes and local flora and fauna in neighboring yards don sunset colors day and night with leaves turning crazy hues of almost unnatural reds and ghoulish oranges. This time of year is always challenging for adults to remain on the straight and narrow resisting urges to steal candy from wee ones amped into complete sugar induced joyfulness almost unhinged in the belief that they won’t notice a few missing peanut butter cups. Hope everyone was a little naughty and sated that annual gig. As our slightly craze inducing season creeps up, stalking with holiday décor before Thanksgiving menu’s hit the planning stage consider the fact that a good hike in the hill around us can induce an amazing endorphin created narcotic haze seeping into every brainy nook and cranny as well as a good yoga class sooths tightened muscles so while you are gearing up for frenzy take time to heal in and out and enjoy our amazing valley we call home. Homemade Peanut Butter Cups Makes around 4 dozen 1 cup creamy unsalted peanut butter 4 tablespoons unsalted butter ½ cup turbinado sugar or brown sugar ½ cup powdered sugar 2 teaspoons coarse sea salt 32 ounces high-quality dark chocolate or chocolate chips Mix together peanut butter, butter, sugars, and salt in a bowl. Taste, then add more salt if needed. Roughly chop chocolate and melt it in a double boiler or in microwave. Arrange mini cupcake wrappers on a baking sheet. Pour just enough chocolate in to fill the bottom of the wrapper about 1/8 of an inch. Let set in fridge for 10 minutes. While the chocolate is chilling, begin shaping heaping teaspoons of peanut butter and sugar filling into flattened balls that will fit into mini cupcake wrappers on top of chocolate. Remove chocolate from the fridge and pop a ball into each one. Reheat remaining chocolate and pour into cupcake wrappers to cover the balls. Sprinkle the tops with a little extra coarse sea salt if you like and let set in fridge at least 20 minutes. Remove and pack into air tight containers or devour all you can in the next hour and give the rest to friends and family.

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