A Year of Picnics


The Essential Book of Homesteading
















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Monthly Archives: September 2009

A Slice Of Heaven

Generally, I try not to have favorites. I love all my cats equally. I’ll drink any cup of black tea you put in front of me. I found everyone on “The Cosby Show” funny, even Bud (who am I kidding, ESPECIALLY Bud; um, did I just show my age there?). 

Within that wide net of openness, however, I do have some general preferences, or affinities. Soup (any soup, so long as it’s meatless) is my idea of a perfect meal. Crisp apples, of any persuasion, bring me untold amounts of delight. And biscotti are my preferred cookie. While any biscotti will do, I’m especially fond of those studded with dried fruit and nuts, and kissed with the faintest hint of citrus. Add a bit of crunchy cornmeal and I about fall out of my chair. 
The autumnal shift has found me hankering for biscotti something fierce. I set out to recreate an exquisite version scored last week at Asheville bakery Creme-fig and tangerine. To that perfect duo, I decided a bit of crunch was in order. What I whipped up proved to be one my best offerings yet-fig, pistachio, orange & cornmeal. Dunked into hot tea and nibbled on as an early morning breakfast, mid-day tea treat, or post-dinner dessert, this twice-baked delight is a little slice of heaven. Two slices in a day? Don’t mind if I do!

Fig, Pistachio, Orange & Cornmeal Biscotti
(adapted from here)
Makes approximately 14-16, depending on thickness of slices.

The Goods:
– 1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
– 1 1/4 c. yellow cornmeal
– 1/2 tsp. baking powder
– 1/2 tsp. sea salt
– 6 Tbsp. butter, softened
– 3/4 c. sugar
– 2 large eggs
– 3 tsp. orange extract
– 1 c. dried figs, chopped
– 1 c. unsalted pistachios, roasted & chopped

The Deal: 
-Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. 
-Whisk flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt in a medium-sized bowl. Set aside.
-Add butter to mixing bowl and beat on medium speed until smooth.
-Add sugar and mix on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes.
-Scrape down sides of mixer, add eggs one at a time, and beat until well incorporated.
-Add orange extract and beat until combined. 
-Reduce mixer speed to low; add flour mixture until just incorporated.
-Remove bowl from mixer; stir in figs and pistachios until well-incorporated. 
-Using a spatula, scrape dough out onto parchment-lined baking sheet in a log shape. You want it to be roughly 3 1/2 inches wide by 14 inches long. Use your hands to pat it into shape, if you need to. 
-Bake 30-35 minutes, until lightly browned.
-Remove from oven, place baking pan on a wire cooling rack, and allow to cool 15 minutes.
-Lift biscotti log off of parchment onto a cutting board (do this carefully; if it is too hot, the log will crack in half). 
-Using a serrated knife, cut the log into slices 1/2-inch thick. 
-Place slices back onto parchment-lined baking sheet and cook for 15-17 minutes rotating sheet half-way through, until the edges brown.
-Allow to cool on a wire rack.
-Try to exercise some form of mild restraint. 

No Impact

Finding myself truly inspired by Colin Beavan and his No Impact Man project. For one year, Beavan and his family, in a radical gesture of urban eco-friendly living, produced no trash, unplugged from the electric grid, travelled exclusively by bike, push scooter, or on foot, and bought nothing, aside from food, all of it grown within 250 miles of their home. That home? NYC, the Big Apple. 

I’m finding Beavan’s book “No Impact Man” , documentary, and blog to be stunningly sincere, intelligent, didactic, and motivational. Extreme? Yes. A stunt? Without question. But I ask, where’s the harm in that? Alisa Smith and J.B. Mackinnon’s “100 Mile Diet” was nothing short of an extreme stunt. So was Thoreau’s “Walden.” Sometimes self-directed extreme acts produce the most profound catalysts for change and large-scale examination.

Like Buttah

There’s a chill in the air as I write this. Accordingly, I’ve been donning caridgans and corduroys, drinking hard cider (I’ve seriously got to figure out how to get my hands on this local cider) and pumpkin ale, and making things like applesauce cake with sauce I made last October (from my mom’s apples). Pumpkins I grew are tricking out the porch, the dogs want to play ball more, and the smell of burning leaf piles makes me slap happy. 

Busy at work on book number 3, “Homemade Dairy.” My days are full of information and research on everything from what causes butter to be yellow to why swiss cheese has holes. Riveting, right? Actually, it is. I’m loving it, all of it. It almost seems impossible that in the past year I could have written two books, begun two more, picked up a weekly column (and a paying one, at that!), and grown here at small measure, with increased readership and a gorgeous banner, courtesy of Alisa Carswell at Lucky 7 Design. It fills me up with gratitude. 

May your weekend be filled with all of your favorite things! 

Small Measure Can-Do Contest, Round 3

Woo-hoo! It’s time again for another Small Measure Giveaway! For those of you new to the contest, or to this blog, I’m staging a giveaway each month from now until the release of my book, Homemade Living: Canning & Preserving with Ashley English. Each month one lucky person will win an artfully crafted canned item featured in the book and made by yours truly. 

From my pantry to yours, this month I’ll be giving away a jar of Fig & Thyme Jam. During the photo shoot for this recipe, there was some anxious foot-tapping and serious stomach growling in anticipation of finishing the shoot and devouring the jam. We’d slathered it on top of wheel of brie, wrapped the brie in phyllo pastry, and then baked the whole concoction until golden, oozy, and delicious.  The kitchen smelled INCREDIBLE! You could also add it to a turkey sandwich, smear it on hot buttered toast, or serve it alongside mascarpone cheese and biscotti. Any way you serve them, with figs, you really can’t go wrong. 

To enter: Simply leave a comment to THIS specific post by telling me your favorite way of cooking, serving, or simply eating figs. Your comment MUST link to your particular blog or web site (and therefore to your contact information) or include your e-mail address. Otherwise, I won’t be able to get in touch with you if you win. Any entries that do not include some way of getting in touch will be disqualified. 

Deadline: Comments must be received by midnight EST September 22nd, 2009. Odds of winning will depend upon the number of eligible entries received.

Other rules: 
1. You must have a mailing address in the United States of America. (Sorry, international folks!) 
2. Only one entry comment per person. 

How it works: Each comment will be assigned a sequential number. The winning number will be selected from a random number generator, so there’ll be no favorites, simply a game of chance. 

Keep coming back each month to see the next tasty item up for grabs!    

Small Measures for Big Changes

I’ve recently learned about an international campaign, committed to creating a movement working towards solutions to the climate crisis, solutions that, in their words, “science and justice demand.” I’d love it if you took a minute to watch the video below and then check out for yourself. It might be one of the most significant “small measures” you could ever take. 

*Image from here