Thursday, November 19, 2009

Berryridge Farm Holidays

Here on Berryridge Farm, we keep our holidays simple by stretching out our celebrations.

In early October, when the weather turns crisp, I know the holidays are just around the corner—John starts whistling “Good King Wenceslas” as he builds a fire in the woodstove. Back in the day, when my two daughters lived at home, I spent the weeks preceding Christmas in a flurry of mall-visits and schlepping around overflowing bags from Toys-R-Us, then when they got older, the Bon Marche. These shopping trips would culminate in a post-midnight wrap-a-thon on Christmas Eve night, and I’d be so wiped out, I could hardly enjoy the opening presents ritual—much less Christmas dinner! But now that my girls have homes and kids of their own, John and I have created traditions where gifts are an afterthought, not the main event: holiday food and music rules!

When it comes to music, take “Jingle Bell Rock” and “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”—please. Our favorites are soft, old-Englishy choral music like “In the Bleak Mid-Winter” or “Wexford Carol,” performed by St. Martins-in-the-Fields or the Clare College choir. Early in our marriage, I discovered John was listening to Christmas CDs on the sly before Halloween. For a person who was big on deferred gratification, I just didn’t get it. But now, I embrace getting into the holiday spirit early.

The first two weeks of November, I like to prepare for Thanksgiving by baking lots pumpkin pies “for practice”—which we eat topped with plenty of locally-produced whipped cream—so John and I can also “practice” eating the TG feast. We’ll spend Thanksgiving Day with our parents, siblings, and if the timing is right and the weather gods are kind, our kids and grandkids. Then, we’ve no sooner recovered from too much turkey and pie, and it’s the first Sunday in Advent…

Coming up: Downsize your holidays and upsize your joy!

Friday, July 31, 2009

The Gift that Keeps on Giving

Now that it’s August here in the Foothills of Western Washington, that means good news and bad news. The good news is, it’s zucchini season. The bad news is, well, it’s zucchini season.

You probably know this already—because with the growing popularity of veggie gardening, if you don’t grow zucchini yourself, one of your neighbors or relatives does, and has palmed off numerous oversized squashes on you. And maybe you’ve “regifted” that zucchini to everyone you know, but you still have so much around you feel if you eat any more of it you’re going to hurl—and the season’s just starting. Here on Berryridge Farm, when I harvest the first zuke of the summer, I feel a bit celebratory. For one thing, I really like zucchini. Also, I know I’ll save money by not needing to buy veggies at the store, and I’ve solved the dilemma of what vegetable to cook for dinner for the next six weeks.

Our zucchini patch may be more productive than most, because my husband John likes to help out in the fertilizing department. Instead of depending on our resident pollinators, like the bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds to transport pollen from the male squash flowers to the female fruits, John offers couples’ therapy. Here he is, getting the girls and boys together.

You’re probably thinking, why in the heck is John helping more zucchini grow, when everybody knows you always end up with more than you can eat? I guess we’re both eternal optimists. (Besides, my Boomer memory isn’t what it used to be, and it keeps slipping my mind that at one point last September, I counted twenty zukes in the fridge.) In case you, like us, have a bunch of zucchini on hand (and you’re still willing to eat it), and you’re looking for an easy way to use up a LOT of it, roasting is the way to go.

Roasted Zucchini

Cut your zukes into chunks, toss them with olive oil, garlic powder, salt and pepper and load them into a 9 x 13 glass baking dish. If you’ve got some fresh basil—conveniently, the basil is growing like crazy in August too—sprinkle some leaves on the top, then bake at 350 degrees until the chunks are golden and a little crispy. Besides being delicious, the zucchinis have obliged you by shrinking to about a fifth of their original size. You’re able to get rid of 2 or 3 nine-inch squashes and end up with barely enough to feed two people.

Still, you zucchini growers out there will do well to heed my standard advice: Pick early and often (and don’t forget to check under the leaves!) or you’ll end up with something like this baseball bat-sized specimen.