How to Plant Garlic (And a Cute Doggie Photo Shoot!)

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This past weekend, I had the luxury of – for once – having very few plans. Aside from my usual exercise commitments in the mornings, and a late-afternoon coffee date with a friend, I was left to my own devices (Mike was working both days).

This can usually go one of two ways: I’m either uber-productive, or I basically do nothing. But the weather was perfect, and I was feeling motivated, so I decided to get my garlic bulbs in the ground while I still can. It’s a pretty good bet the earth will be frozen in no time – all I hear on the weather now is about the Arctic Chill sweeping through the country.

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There is no reason not to plant garlic – it takes hardly any time, they take care of themselves all winter and then, like magic, they start growing when spring arrives. You can plant them in the spring, but overwintering them means bigger and more flavorful bulbs.

The Internet advises planting your garlic before the first hard frost of the season, so for my little part of the world that means mid-October to early November. I waited this year because we’ve had unseasonably warm fall temps, and when I planted in October last year, some of the garlic sprouted and didn’t make it through the winter. Lesson learned!

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Simply get one or two full garlic bulbs from a local farm stand or order from a seed supplier. Don’t plant garlic from the grocery store because it might not be suitable for the climate where you live.

Separate each clove from each other and from the center stalk. Leave the papery skin casing on, but it’s OK if it tears off in places.

One end of the clove is pointed and smooth, and the other, fatter end is flat and has root tips. This is the end you want in the ground, because it will take root from the bottom and sprout out the other end.

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Plant each clove about 2 inches below the surface of the soil, and about 4 inches apart from each other. I mixed some fertilizer in with the soil before planting.

Because you’re overwintering the garlic, you want to insulate them well by placing a layer of straw, mulch, or seaweed on top. I’ve used seaweed the past couple of years and it has worked very well.

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Madison was a good sport for garlic planting day. I think she got into it. I planted 8 cloves in this garden spot (above) in rows of 2. (That green mound in the middle is a chive plant that’s on its last legs from the summer.)

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What’s going on?

Water the garlic once or twice per week, depending on rainfall, following the initial planting.

I’d love to hear from you if you have any tips, or want to share your garlic planting experiences!

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Crock Pot BBQ Pulled Chicken

In New England, there’s a funny thing that happens to everyone when summer fades, the fall leaves all hit the ground and winter’s unmistakable bite is in the air.

Everyone gets upset.

“Ugh, it’s going to SNOW soon.”

“Not looking forward to snow, that’s for sure.”

“I can’t get used to this. What happened to summer?!?”

Well I’ll tell you what happened to summer. The seasons changed, just like they do every year, and now it’s winter.

It’s because of the general unhappiness about this well-known tradition in weather patterns that most people think I’m nuts for not regarding it with the same disdain.

But honestly all I can think about is winter cooking. It’s kind of like rediscovering your sweater collection after a summer of wearing dresses and shorts. It feels new and exciting and full of possibilities (I really like sweaters).

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Out comes the crock pot. Slow cooking delicious veggies and meats all day long is one of the absolute best things about winter. Especially after a long, cold day hiking or snowshoeing, it’s all I can think about.

This pulled chicken dish was inspired by my recent trip to Syracuse, NY for a race. While there, my running travel buddy Kate and I went to Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, which is well-known for its authentic BBQ – and for good reason. It was a truly amazing meal.

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I actually found Dinosaur BBQ bottled sauce at our local grocery store (that’s how famous it is), so even though it’s not pulled pork, this dish is still slathered in mouth-watering, lip-smackingly sweet and savory sauce that you’ll dream about when it’s gone.

What You Need:

  • One whole chicken. Size doesn’t matter too much, as long as it’ll fit in your crock pot
  • 1 yellow onion (or half a yellow and half a red, like I did)
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 jar of your favorite BBQ sauce – look for Dinosaur BBQ!

What You Do:

Slice the onion and lay the slices on the bottom of the crock pot, creating a bed on which the chicken will lie. This helps insulate the heat and keep the chicken from over cooking in one area over another.

So I skinned the chicken (messy business) and trimmed off some of the fat before I put it in the crock pot. If you like the skin, that’s up to you. It’ll save some time to leave it on, for sure. Just make sure to empty the insides. If you’ve ever made a Thanksgiving turkey, it’s the same deal.

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Place the whole chicken over the bed of onions. Pour the vegetable broth over the whole thing, and then sprinkle with pepper.

Place the lid on there and set on high for 4 hours, or low for 6.

A good way to test if the chicken is “pulled chicken-ready” is to try pulling off a leg or something. If it pulls right off the bone, you’re good to go.

Using two large wooden spoons, lift the chicken out of the crock pot and place on a large cutting board. VERY CAREFULLY pull the meat apart, separating it into a large bowl. Pull out any and all bones you find. Some will be big and obvious, but there are a multitude of smaller, more hidden bones and/or hard cartilage parts that will make a giant mouthful of pulled chicken sandwich suddenly more of an ordeal than it should be.

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Once you have separated the meat from the bones and pulled out all the bones you can find, use a fork to break it up further. I then used my hand to sift through the pulled chicken to double-check all the bones and hard part had been removed. This is a critical step so be extra careful.

Then, add your BBQ sauce! Be liberal and mix it around well with your fork.

Serve on two pieces of toasted bread and, of course, add more BBQ sauce if the mood strikes you!

 

Pro-Tip: Don’t mash too hard with the fork. Pulled chicken is pulled chicken, not chicken salad! 🙂

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No-Rise Whole Wheat Stout Bread

What’s better than bread? Bread made with beer, that’s what! AND bread that needs no rises!

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I love baking bread, don’t get me wrong. Spending an entire day carefully kneading and rising, all the while the house filling with the irresistible aromas of what can only be produced by the marriage of yeast, water and flour – it’s amazing. It’s the quintessential winter-in-New-England activity (I know, surprising that it’s not skiing or snowshoeing right?!? 🙂 )

But in a pinch, like when you decide to make soup for dinner at 4:30pm and have no bread to go along with it (and you MUST have bread with soup), there is just no time for kneading and rising.

I always thought rise-free bread was restricted to dessert breads like banana bread or lemon poppy-seed. But, thanks to my extremely talented friend and fellow blogger Leslie, those days are over.

WE WILL HAVE BREAD WITH OUR SOUP!

Ok. Anyways, Leslie made this bread with Smuttynose Porter beer – I made it with Sam Smith’s Oatmeal Stout – either way it’s delicious and so easy.

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What You Need:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar, light or dark
  • 1 (12 fluid ounce) bottle of stout beer (like I said, porter is the original recipe ingredient so choose your poison)

What You Do:

Preheat oven to 350F

Combine all dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.

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Slowly add the beer while stirring. A thick batter should form – this is more batter-like than bread dough-like so don’t be alarmed or feel like you need to add extra flour.

I used both hands to knead this around inside the mixing bowl, but it really just caused a huge mess. If you feel like sticking to a spoon, just do that.

Scrape the mixture into a well-greased loaf pan, and bake for about an hour. At around 45 minutes, insert a toothpick to see if it comes out clean. If not, give it another 10 minutes, checking to ensure it’s not burning at the top.

Pro Tip: If served with a full-bodied soup like squash soup or a creamy soup like clam chowder or cream of mushroom, dunk this sucker right in there. You won’t regret it.

 

Sweet Dumpling Squash Fritters

A few years ago, groggy from a raucous New Years Eve celebration the night before, Mike and I embarked on a fairly involved breakfast of zucchini fritters and pancakes, a cooking endeavor I can only attribute to having been younger and therefore more motivated than we should have been.

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We had followed this recipe, from my all-time favorite cooking blogger, and it was absolutely perfect. We devoured every last fritter (and quite possibly went back to bed after).

Since I went through this summer’s zucchini bumper crop without making one single fritter (the horror!!) I HAD to make up for it.

Enter: the Sweet Dumpling Squash.

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These beauties are delish – a bit sweeter than other squashes, and such a cute size! Having bought four from the farm without any major plans for them, I seized the chance to replicate those New Year’s Day fritters in a slightly different way.

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This is a super-simple dish that works as an appetizer or as a side-dish with dinner. I served each fritter with a dollop of plain Greek yogurt on top, alongside oven-roasted BBQ chicken and sweet potatoes.

What You Need:

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  •  2 Sweet Dumpling squashes, skin peeled, seeds scooped out, grated by hand (about 3 cups grated squash. More detail below)
  • 1/2 cup fresh chives, diced
  • 2 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp ground flax seed (substitute this with chia or hemp seeds – whatever you like)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup flour (gluten-free flour works totally fine)
  • Coconut oil (at least 3 tbsp but you might find you need more)
  • Plain Greek yogurt for dollops on top

 

What You Do:

Slice the tops and bottoms off the squashes and discard. Gently cut a circle around the inside perimeter of the squash, leaving about 1 1/2 inches between the skin and where you’re cutting. The circle you cut should loosen and easily pull away from the seeds and out, exposing the inside.

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Scoop out the seeds with a spoon. Then, with a sharp knife, gently slice off the outer skin. This doesn’t have to be a perfect job because the skin is actually edible. I just got as much as I could but left it in the grooves where it wouldn’t readily slice off.

Using a hand or box grater, grate the squash until it’s mostly used up (you won’t be able to grate the entire thing, but get as much as you can).

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Place the grated squash in a large mixing bowl. Add the chives, pepper, salt, flax seed, egg and flour, and stir well.

In a large pan on medium heat, add a tbsp of coconut oil.

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Form the squash mixture into small, flat patties and place them in the pan. They should sizzle in the oil once it’s properly heated.

Give each side of the fritters a few minutes to cook, lifting them periodically when a spatula to ensure they don’t burn.

You want the fritters to have a nice, golden brown coloring. The longer each side cooks (without burning) the crispier and more held-together they will be.

This recipe should make 8-10 fritters. Add a tbsp of coconut oil each time you add new patties to the pan, and add additional oil if the pan begins to look dry or the patties start to burn.

Serve hot with a dollop of Greek yogurt or sour cream on top.

Pro Tip: Any type of squash will work with this recipe. I like Sweet Dumpling because of their sweeter taste, and because the skin is edible, but Acorn or Butternut squash are good substitutes in a pinch.

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Imitation Jambalaya Stew with Chorizo

This weekend was a bit of a wash, literally and figuratively. It rained and/or snowed almost the entire two days, basically rendering any serious prospects of trail running, hiking or long walks with our dog impossible. Well, unless we wanted to get drenched and freeze our fingers and toes off, which we didn’t.

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On top of the weather, we also woke up Saturday in a bit of a haze from Friday night’s Halloween shenanigans (worth it) and sacrificed actual productivity for egg sandwiches and re-watching movies on HBO (also worth it).

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Can you guess what we’re dressed as?

But we finally put on our rain coats and begrudgingly left Madison behind to head to the Farmer’s Market’s last outdoor market of the season. I almost can’t believe we’re already making the transition to the winter market, but then again, it snowed on Sunday, so nothing really surprises me anymore.

It was raining, it was cold, and Mike had just found out that a show we bought tickets to see that night had been cancelled, so the day really wasn’t shaping up very well… until we found chorizo.

Let me tell you – chorizo has some serious mood-improving qualities. With our night suddenly wide open, the promise of a chorizo-filled dinner was the answer to turning a fairly crappy day into an actually pretty OK one. We scuttled around from market tent to market tent, buying up all different kinds of veggies to put in our chorizo stew – just a germ of an idea so far but quickly shaping into something great.

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A few mildly productive hours later, we were back home, prepping our rainy day chorizo stew. Mike wanted it to be like a jambalaya, so we gave it just enough kick to have that Louisiana Creole flavor. He was head over heels for the chorizo, and I was excited for the return of tri-color carrots into my life. A perfect match.

What You Need:

  • About 6 carrots, peeled and sliced into 1/2-inch rounds
  • 4-5 medium potatoes (any kind is fine) cut into cubes
  • 4-5 large tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp olive oil + 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 large or 3 small garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 yellow onion, sliced
  • 3 small-medium bell peppers, cut into small slices
  • 1 cup chives, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp ground cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground pepper
  • 3 large chorizo sausage links, sliced into small rounds
  • 1 cup rice cooked according to package directions

What You Do:

Because the potatoes and carrots will take longer to cook, start these first. Fill a 5-quart pasta pot about halfway with water and bring to a boil. Add the potatoes and carrots, and boil until both are soft. Don’t overcook these as you will be adding them to a hot sauce at the end.

While the potatoes and carrots are cooking, start your tomato sauce. The best thing about this dish is the spicy tomato sauce, which is easy to make by quartering your tomatoes and gently pulsing them in a food processor until they have formed a chunky sauce.

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Pour the sauce into a wok or large skillet and heat on low-medium.

Make your rice, and keep it warm until the meal is complete. This dish is great over a bed of rice, but you can eliminate the extra carbs if you want and it will still deliver.

In another pan, heat a tablespoon of oil on low-medium heat and add your sausage. Let them simmer and flip with the bottom sides are browned.

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Also in another pan, on low-medium heat, heat a teaspoon of olive oil and add the garlic and onion and cook until the onions are translucent and soft.

Add the bell peppers, chives and the jalapeno and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft. When they’re ready, add them to the tomato sauce and stir well.

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Strain the potatoes and carrots when ready and add those to the tomato sauce.

Also add the sausage, careful to leave behind any oil or juices left in the pan.

Then, add your spices, and stir well, bringing to a slight boil.

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Leave the entire jambalaya stew on the stove to, well, stew, for about 10 minutes before serving, just to make sure all the flavors can interact.

Serve over a bed of rice.

Pro Tip: Jambalaya is traditionally a spicy surf and turf dish, so this could be great (and authentic instead of imitation) with shrimp, mussels and/or scallops as well. The great thing about this dish is being able to make the sauce as spicy or as mild as you would like, so feel free to mess around with the ingredients and do frequent taste testing! 🙂

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