Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Farmer Holly and Thrifty Finds

I can't believe it's been over a month since I last blogged. Let's catch up a little bit...

My other adventure Drop. Swap. Grow. consumed quite a bit of my crafty time recently, but of course my love of all things sticky, messy, and colorful runs deep -- fear not lovers of craft, I was merely on a brief hiatus. Drop. Swap. Grow.'s mission is to share seeds and knowledge and encourage sustainable practices. We had our first event, a spring seed swap and the turnout was fantastic. I'm so lucky to have wonderful friends who helped me pull it off! We got more than 200 kinds of veg seeds and dozens of other types of fruit, herbs, and flowers. About fifty people attended, which meant we had plenty of leftovers seed. The bulk of the leftovers were sent to become a new vegetable and herb garden installed by HopeBUILD a nonprofit in St. Louis that builds gardens in underserved areas. The excess flowers seeds are going to be distributed to anyone who asks for some and also to promote future swaps. Spreading the love around! The next swap will be to celebrate the bounty of our gardens and will be a fall harvest swap. Stay tuned!

I'm working hard on developing my yard into a little urban farm and this past weekend I got a bunch of seeds in dirt and logged all of my upcoming gardening duties. Today, while I was waiting for dinner to cook (more on that in a moment) I checked all my little seedling sweeties and gave them a spritz of water. We have over 100 varieties of plants going in the ground this year and almost half of them are being started in seed trays. It's chilly today, it actually SNOWED which is total b.s. if you ask me, but we've got a warming trend headed our way and I'm happy for me and my seeds that need heat to germinate. 
When I got to work today my desk plant had sprouted a couple little babies over the weekend -- I love to watch things grow. 

Chickens are moving in! Construction on the chicken coop begins this Thursday. The supplies are purchased and the builder has been bribed with the naming rights to one chicken and free eggs in the future. There will be three in total: Alice, Flo, and Rontaco. Alice and Flo of Mel's Diner of course. Rontaco is a long story that I'm not sure I totally understand, but hey, the lady builds, the lady gets to name a chicken!We may call her Ronnie for short when the lady isn't listening.  The 2nd runners up for hen names are Laverne and Shirley. If Alice and Flo don't "feel" right for the chicks, then I'll go to plan B. They have breed names I can neither pronounce or spell, but colors I can - 1 black, 1 red, 1 black and white. To say we're excited about the upcoming chickens is an understatement. We can't wait!

Over the weekend we did some thrift shopping as a family. The whole lot of us hopped in to my Civic (Debbie Dawn) and headed across the river to Illinois to hit the shops in Belleville, which are wonderful and plentiful. I got a few new cute things, but my most impressive finds by include a vintage balance scale made in England with disc shaped weights (so cute), a giant water bath canner (only 8.99!), and a pressure cooker for (17.99). I've been wanting to give a pressure cooker a whirl since my friend Nupur told me she uses one. She's an amazing cook, go read her blog and drool. She's got an extensive archive and I can personally vouch for the cocoa brownie recipe -- when we had our charity knitting event, she brought some and I ate them until I was a little dizzy from my sugar high. Anyway, as excited as I am about the new gadget, I have to admit, the "pressure" part scares me a bit and I spent the first half of the cooking time debating whether or not I should get my safety goggles from the garage, just in case and the other half a little fearful of going in the kitchen at all. 

It's all shiny and pretty, eh? The bobbly part on top is the scary part, that's
the valve that makes crazy noises and spits steam.
I decided that corned beef was a good test recipe, would be a tribute to all 1/10th of my Irish heritage and holiday appropriate with St. Pat's around the corner. Plus, it was on sale hella cheap, 2.99/lb!

I tossed it in to the cooker with 2 1/2 cups of water, 3 whole garlic cloves, and the seasoning packet it came with. I put it on the stove without the lid and got it started on high heat, once the water started to boil, I put the lid on and locked it. Within a couple minutes it started making hissing noises and shooting steam out. I let it make a racket for a few minutes, then lowered the heat a bit so it would still boil, but not completely burn off all the liquid. The instructions said that the bobbly thing would wobble, I can't say it ever did, but it did make a bunch of crazy noises. After about an hour, I turned it off and used a wooden spoon (per my pal Cat's suggestion) to tip the valve and release all the steam from the pot and eliminate the pressure. I was terrified I was going to screw it up and end up with a face full of steam, but I didn't even get injured a little bit! Yay! 
I took the meat out with tongs and put it on a platter to rest while I cooked chunks of red potato, onion, and baby carrots in the pressure cooker. Instead of water, I used the drippings from the meat and about 1 1/2 cups of chicken stock (no beef in the pantry) to season the veg. Start to finish it was only about 10 minutes to heat up and cook. After that round, I rinsed the pan and tossed a couple ears of corn and a cup of water in the pan. It took less than ten minutes for that also. Everything turned out moisty, juicy and delicious! 
The picture doesn't do it justice, the meat is fork-tender and lean.
SOOO yummy. The black spot is a browned bit of meat or potato skin. Nothing scary! 
The dinner was a huge success, everyone ate it and liked it. I'll be using my scary pressure cooker more often in the future. Next up, beef roast. MMMM. Oh, and bonus, it only took an hour to cook a 4lb. corned beef versus 4+ hours in the oven. Neato! 

Toodles for now. Next up crafty chat. I have my list of upcoming shows compiled and am sorting out some last-minute details, then I'll post. 

Stay Crafty,
Holly



4 comments:

NerdyArtist said...

OK. Someone needs to point me in the direction of the fabulous Belleville thrifting. I've been drooling over your finds for a couple of weeks now. I. Must. Thrift!

Awesome stuff on the canner and pressure cooker!

Holly said...

I'll take you! We can plan a thifty day. :)

Machelle said...

All exciting stuff; what's better than spring? Spring with chicks!
machelle

Holly said...

I know! I am hoping to get them in the next few weeks. They will need to live indoors where it's toasty warm for a few weeks until they are big enough for the coop. Gram Pam is going to be the official chicken sitter and she's pretty excited. :)