Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Turn On, Tune In

Exciting news, friends! I've been asked to be on Martha Stewart Living Radio's "Morning Living" program! I'll be on for a live interview April 13th at 7:00 a.m..

The program is on Sirius XM radio, which is a paid programming gig. If you don't have Sirius, but want to give it a whirl (and catch my interview!), you can sign up for a free 30-day trial. Check it out here.

The interview will be with Morning Living hosts Kim Fernandez and Betsy Karetnick. I couldn't be more thrilled!

*Image from here.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Spring Fever

Spring in the mountains of western N.C. is a fickle muse. One day it's warm and sunny, the next wet, rainy, and dreary. Other days it's sunny and crazy windy, making outdoor tasks a real chore.

As the daffodils have begun to emerge and crocuses pop up in the most unexpected locations (um, the chicken coop? who knew?), I've found myself pining, yearning, aching for warm days and springtime loveliness. Working fastidiously from home on my books over what was an admittedly rather rough winter has me chomping at the bit to get outdoors, eat asparagus, lay in the grass with a good book, cloud gaze, and eat berries.

Oh, berries. Lately all I can think about are strawberries and blackberries and raspberries and more, their tart, plump sweetness satisfying every imaginable craving. I'm looking forward to picnics and brunch on the patio and open windows and a generally less dusty and animal-fur riddled house. I'm itching to go swimming and hiking and linger lazily in the rocking chair on the front porch. I'd also really love to learn how to sail, drifting aimlessly over swells and crests, putting down anchor, cracking open a bottle of white wine and soaking up sun. Seeing as that I live in the mountains, however, that urge is on indefinite pause...

What about you? What bit of spring fever has seized and captivated your thoughts and longings?

*Image from here.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Water Stewardship

My "Small Measures with Ashley" post is up over at Design Sponge. This week, in recognition of World Water Day (which occurred this past Monday, March 22nd), I discuss water conservation, preservation, and overall stewardship. There are several links to documentary films in the post. I highly encourage you to check them out. "Acid Test" can be viewed in its entirety, as can "The Story of Bottled Water", which "Flow" can be picked up at your local video store or added to your home delivery queue.

I'm so excited about the gardening class I begin tomorrow. My friends Beth and Christopher debut the first of a four-part, four month-long organic gardening workshop at their Swannanoa, NC outpost, Red Wing Farm. Tomorrow morning, after filming a few quick promotional videos with my best gal pal and editrix-extraordinnaire Nicole, I'll be meeting up with these amazing ladies and then heading for brunch at Posana. From there, Alisa and I will go get our dirt on, learning all about tomorrow's introductory topic, "Starting from Seed." The course will cover everything from making your own soil starting mix to germination, direct sowing, beginning seeds indoors, heirloom preservation, seed-saving, and becoming a seed steward. Should be incredible, and the weather appears to agree, with forecasts indicating a day full of sunshine and upper-50 degree temps.

Have a great weekend! And don't forget, the 2-hour premiere of Jamie's Food Revolution is at 8 p.m. ET tonight!
*Image from here.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Talkin' Bout A Revolution

I have always been tremendously inspired by folks who give of themselves simply out of a sense of obligation towards the good of their fellow humans. If those folks also happen to be rich and famous and in a position to otherwise live their lives large and grand and wholly ignorant of the plight of those around them, let alone the state of their planet, I commend them even more. I cannot speak highly enough of the advocacy that
Coldplay does for Fair Trade, or Radiohead does for Greenpeace and other environmental organizations, or Brad Pitt does for affordable, sustainable housing.

Because food, and nutrition are so important to me personally (for those of you that don't know, I have a bachelor's degree in Holistic Nutrition, as well as a second bachelor's in Sociology; my thesis specifically addressed child nutrition and socioeconomic status), individuals that campaign tirelessly, when it is certainly not required of them, for the health and welfare of those they share this planet with fill my heart with gratitude and my mouth with infinite praise.
Jamie Oliver is one such individual.

Already on a trajectory for wild fame and success, Oliver's empathic leanings caused him to reassess his position and clout mid-career. Becoming aware of the unique position he held for captivating people's attention, he embarked on a number of causes to lift people out of paths of poverty and diets destined for death. In 2005, he created a British program entitled "Feed Me Better" that worked towards moving schoolchildren in his native country away from unhealthy diets and towards healthier foods and dietary habits. He gained the support of the British government and his cause was chronicled in the t.v. show "
Jamie's School Dinners." From there, he began an effort to teach the townsfolk of Rotherham, South Yorkshire how to incorporate fresh foods into their diets and cook easy, delicious, healthy meals. This project was captured in the series "Jamie's Ministry of Food." And if that weren't enough, Oliver would go on to campaign on behalf of sustainable animal husbandry, providing revealing exposes of the practices of industrialized British poultry and pork production in "Jamie's Fowl Dinners" and "Jamie Saves Our Bacon."

A culinary "Public Citizen", Oliver's latest attempt at offering education and radical change about food practices and dietary habits comes in the form of a reality show based in Huntington, West Virginia, a city recently deemed the most unhealthy city in the United States (over half of the adult population is categorically obese). Airing its 2-hour premiere this coming Friday on ABC (8 p.m. ET), "Jamie's Food Revolution", previewed in the video above, chronicles the chef's attempts at overhauling the health and well-being on the entire city, placing heavy emphasis on its schoolchildren.

From the preview, it's clear that he's up against some formidable naysayers. I'm confident, though. It took me some time to come around to Oliver myself. When he was simply "The Naked Chef", his perfectly rumpled hair and cheeky talk didn't do much for me. Perhaps becoming a father is what changed him, though, and a changed man he certainly is. A clip in the preview shows a tearful Oliver, sitting in one of Huntington's playgrounds, declaring how deeply he cares of Huntington's population. He also offers a reproach, stating that if people don't find dietary education and healthful change important "well then, shame on you." I couldn't agree more.

I think it's so easy to live our lives in isolation and detachment from the strangers in our communities and in our larger human community. We're not that different, though, in the end. We breathe the same air. We drink the same water. We want to love and be loved. We all deserve healthy, nutritious, life-giving and life-affirming foods. I support Oliver's efforts as though they were my own, because, in fact, they are. He's just got the name recognition, camera crew, and perfectly coiffed bed head to get the work started now.

Come Friday night, I'll be parked on my couch, watching "Jamie's Food Revolution." I hope that you will, as well.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Onion, Orange & Thyme Relish

This month's Tigress' Can Jam was all about alliums. I should know. I choose the topic (after a bit of consulting with Mrs. Tigress herself). My mad, wild, frenzied schedule had me down to the wire, working feverishly to get my recipe in by midnight tonight. I did it, though, folks, my burning eyes a testament to my allium accomplishment.

I didn't go necessarily big or bold or molecularly gastronomic with this month's challenge. I simply made something that used alliums, sounded delicious, accommodated my schedule, and rendered an end product that hubs and I would definitely eat. Onion & Thyme relish seemed just the thing. Using a recipe adapted from this book, I tweaked the ingredients a bit, substituting thyme for tarragon and tossing in some orange zest because it sounded delicious.

Looking forward to this olfactory arousing concoction to work its way into all sorts of dishes over the next year. Happy Allium-ing, ya'll!

Onion, Orange & Thyme Relish
adapted from Blue Ribbon Preserves

You will need:
-8 c. chopped onions
-1 Tbsp. pickling salt
-1 c. granulated sugar
-1 3/4 c. red wine vinegar
-1 tsp. dried thyme (or 1 Tbsp. fresh)
-2 garlic cloves, minced
-1 Tbsp. fresh orange zest

To make:
1) Layer 4 cups of the chopped onions in a large bowl. Sprinkle 1/2 of the salt over them. Top off with remaining onions and then cover with last bit of salt.
2) Stir with a wooden spoon or clean hands. Cover loosely with a cloth and set aside at room temperature for 4 hours.
3) At the end of 4 hours, drain onions in a colander. No need to rinse them, simply press with the back of a large spoon to remove any excess liquid.
4) Sterilize 4 pint-sized mason jars, lids, and screw rings. Fill a canner or large stockpot with water and set over medium-high heat. Bring just to boiling point. Place lids in a small saucepan, fill with water, bring to a boil, turn off heat, remove from stovetop, and set aside.
5) While your canner works towards boiling, combine the sugar, vinegar, thyme, orange zest and garlic in a large saucepan or stockpot. Heat gradually over medium-low heat until sugar is completely dissolved. Bring heat to medium-high until mixture comes to a boil.
6) Add onions to syrup, reduce heat to medium, stir to combine thoroughly, and simmer 10 minutes. Remove pan from heat.
7) Remove sterilized jars from canner; place jars on top of a kitchen cloth on the counter. With the help of a canning funnel, fill jars with onion relish, reserving 1/2-inch headspace.
8) Use a non-metallic spatula to remove any trapped air bubbles and wipe rims clean with a damp cloth. Place on lids and screw bands, tightening only until fingertip-tight.
9) Using a jar lifter, place jars in canner. Process 15 minutes in a boiling-water bath (remember, don't begin to count your processing time until the water is at a constant, rapid boil). Adjust for altitude, as needed.
10) Remove the jars from the canner. Check that a proper seal has formed (lids should become concave, you'll have heard a popping sound, and the lids should remain attached to the jar when lifted without screw band).
11) Take off screw bands, wipe jars dry, and store in a cool, dark location. Use within one year.

Triangles of Bliss

Just whipped up this platter of golden beauties. I was using this recipe from Orangette. The process took about 10 minutes. Tack on about 15 minutes of baking and these triangles of bliss can be yours in under 30 minutes.

One of the things I like most about Molly's recipe here is just how infinitely customizable it is. Don't like/have apricots? Substitute berries, or crystallized ginger, or cranberries, or dates, or...Want some crunch? Add some nuts (I tossed in a few Tablespoons of pecans). Make the scones your own, or stick with tradition and make them Molly's way, with dried apricots. Yum!

D.I.Y. Stress Reducers

My "Small Measures with Ashley" post is up on Design Sponge. Today's topic covers do-it-yourself, all-natural, homemade stress reducers.

Come Monday, once I've submitted the remaining bits of the fourth book in the "Homemade Living" series, "Keeping Bees", you better believe I'm going to employ all manner of stress reducers. I'm thinking mid-week will be the perfect opportunity to finally redeem that gift certificate for a massage the gentleman who purchased my greenhouse gave me this past December.

Have a lovely weekend! Glenn and I are off to a local government sponsored gardening class tomorrow. We'll also squeeze in a gander at the annual Artisan Bread festival during our lunch break. Soil, fellow gardening enthusiasts, fresh bread, sunshine-that's all I need.

*Image from here.

That's A Wrap!

We finished up the initial round of photos for "Home Dairy" (publication Spring 2011) yesterday. A colossal amount of shots were taken and, boy, are they ever beautiful.

I can say, with absolute certainty (and I know this with full conviction because I've researched the "competition") that no comparable book on home dairy-making will exist once this beauty comes into print. Sumptuous, enticing photographs are just the tip of the iceberg, but they're arguably the biggest initial draw.

You won't be disappointed, I promise. You'll have to rest on your laurels for another year, though! These guys can keep you company in the mean time.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

And the Rhubarb Amaretto Chutney goes to...

Sense of Home! Thank you so very much to all who commented. Rhubarb is one of those early hat-nod, homage to spring crops. Seems like we're all hankering for a bit of the tart stalks. Very soon, friends, very soon!

Only one Small Measure Can-Do giveaway remains before the publication of my book! Look back the first week of April for not only that final pantry provision giveaway, but giveaways for both books, too!

Behind the Fork

From butter to ghee.
Angling for the shot.
Hot potato.
Our homage to Julie Child and her love of butter.
D.I.Y. cheesepress (that's a wheel of cheddar-made yesterday-nestled inside that cheese mold.

More backstage shots from the photo shoot for "Home Dairy", book #3 in the "Homemade Living" series. Day number two. One more day and 19 shots left-at least, for this round of photos, that is. We'll be back at it again next month, then it's on to images for book #4, "Keeping Bees."

It's shaping up to be another beautiful book. I cannot begin to express my continued amazement and gratitude for being paired up with such a talented, cooperative, inspired, and inspiring group of individuals.

I'm just happy to be along for the ride. And, of course, for the chance to eat so much butter.


Nectarines, quark and honey.
Chris's living room/silhouette-staging arena.
A prop for every shot.
We're back at it again! I've been scarce around here because I've been prepping like mad for three days of photo shoots on book #3 in the "Homemade Living" series, "Home Dairy" (to be published spring 2011). We began yesterday, back at the home of Chris Bryant, Lark's formidably talented art director. Lynne Harty once again is working her magic behind the camera while Nicole McConville, editor extraordinaire, keeps us all on task. As for me, I'm the one at the stove, diligently tending to the curd.

Our crackerjack team is old hat by now, having previously worked together on both "Keeping Chickens" and "Canning & Preserving." We've got our work down to a science, completing no less than 44 shots on the first day! I'll post more photos as the week progresses. Oh, and I'll post the winner of the Rhubarb Chutney later in the day.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Starting Seeds Indoors

Happy Friday, ya'll! My "Small Measures with Ashley" post is up over at Design Sponge. Today's topic discusses "Starting Seeds Indoors."

Honestly, I can't imagine any topic that feels more timely. What with the frogs and the daffodils and the bees climbing around their hives and the muddy mess of a yard from the thaw and the imminent deadline of the fourth book (March 22nd, breathing down my neck!) and the time change this weekend and the gardening classes I'm signed up for, spring is definitely right around the corner.

Bring it, I say. I'm so ready to have dirt in my hair and the smell of vibrant life in my nostrils.

Have a wonderful weekend!

*Image from here.


I got my first definitive sign that spring is imminent this morning. As I opened my kitchen door, ready to head out in the early morning fog and mist to let the hens out of their coop, I heard them. Loud croaks, coming from the tiny throats of hundreds of newly emerged frogs. Our miniscule pond, frozen over all winter, finally thawed in this week's warm spell. Frogs are bursting out all over the place. Harbingers of spring. It's really going to happen, after all.

*Image from here.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Bottled Bliss

My friend Denise recently turned 30. For this threshold birthday, she'd planned a big soiree, complete with a Spanish theme and a bonfire. Fate had other plans, it turned out, dumping a boatload of snow the day of the bash, rendering the roads into a treacherous, slick, ice-clad nightmare. She was disappointed, to say the least. I was saddened, too, as I'd made a honey Valencia orange cake for the occasion.

I had to wait for almost a week's worth of snow thaw before I could safely venture out of my secluded, shade-prone, one mile dirt road-sited mountain home to make it to Denise's similarly hard to reach outpost. High up a steep dirt road (I likened it the other day to driving in San Francisco), Josh and Denise's place is not for the faint of vehicular heart.

I finally made it over, though, with the remains of the cake (we couldn't let it go to waste during the wait!), and some goodies from my pantry. The infused vinegar you see before you was one of the gifts. It's phenomenally easy to make and is a great go-to birthday, host/-ess, housewarming, or "it's Tuesday and you're awesome" gift for the culinarily inclined folks in your life.

The possibilities for infusing agents are endless. To organic white wine vinegar, I added lavender springs (dried from my lavender plant last season), fresh sage and rosemary from my yard, peeled, whole garlic cloves, and dried bird's eye chilies from the summer's crop. It looked gorgeous in the bottle and will undoubtedly be delectable on the palate.

If you've got some empty bottles lying around (we keep almost every bottle we come across, our basement a veritable treasure trove of former olive oil, vinegar, and liquor bottles), and some vinegar, you can whip up infused bottles of your own. From berries to spices, from herbs to chilies, bottled bliss can be yours for a fraction of what you'd shell out for ready made.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Heirloom Foods

Happy Friday, everyone! My "Small Measures with Ashley" post is up over on Design Sponge. Today's topic discusses the preservation of heirloom foods and animal breeds. It's a topic very near and dear to my heart.

Hope you all have a lovely weekend. We're off for a quick day trip to Atlanta tomorrow. Some beloved friends not only just bought their first home, but are having their first child in a mere 6 weeks! While I've had other friends have children, this will be the first time that I'll get to witness a very close friend fully big and round and undeniably pregnant. I'm looking forward to seeing what Asheville eco store Nest has available gift-wise (we buy all of our expecting friends gifts from there; everything from Kate Quinn is fabulous, and organic to boot!).

It will be a quick jaunt, up and back in the same day (a total of 7 hours in the car-good thing we like each other so much, and have the likes of Portishead, M.I.A., and Penguin Cafe Orchestra to lose ourselves in!), but it will be just the mini vacation we need. The weather promises to cooperate, too, so things should go off without a hitch.

Oh, Asheville friends, two upcoming gardening classes you might be interested in: The Buncombe County government is sponsoring a "Grow Your Own-Eat Local" gardening basics class on March 20th at AB-Tech from 9-3:30. A mere $10, this class is a total winner.
Also, my friends Beth and Christopher are teaching a four-part organic gardening basics class at their Swannanoa farm. You can find class descriptions here. Each class meets from 1-5 one Saturday a month, beginning March 27th and ending June 19th. It's possible to simply take individual classes, at $40 each, or the entire series for $140 (take all four and you also get an entire flat of veggie starts!). My friend Alisa and I are already signed up. I'd love to see you there, too!

*Image from here.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A Little Bit More

The snow has, I believe, finally stopped (totally knocking on my wooden dining room table). It is seriously gorgeous and still and blindingly white. That said, it really needs to stop. We've more than filled our snow quota for this winter. Not complaining. Just stating the obvious.

That said, the power is on, the wood stove is lit, the tea is hot, the pets are happy (well, the chickens are less than thrilled, but, they've seen worse).

A soundtrack for your viewing pleasure (my 2010 winter anthem).

*To see more images of snowpocalypse, Round 25, go here.

Right Here, Right Now

Gettin' By With A Little Help

Things are always better with friends. If you've got to drive across the country, it's much better to do it with your best friend in tow (right, Bonner?). If you're going to perform, or speak, or otherwise be completely and wholly conspicuous in public, it's easier knowing a buddy is in the crowd, cheering silently from the sidelines.

To that end, "crop mobs" have begun springing up. Developed in the Triangle area of North Carolina's piedmont region, crop mobs are public calls for friends, family, and any and all interested persons to take up shovels and trowels and collectively conquer some large farm task. Participants sign up online, then receive periodic notices of pending crop mobs. The combined efforts make short work of projects that would have taken just one or two individuals days or weeks to complete.

People who might have little to no interaction with the workings of an actual farm but have an interest in making their ecological "talk" marry with some tactile "walk" are building community, crop knowledge, and the crops themselves simultaneously.

I think crop mobs are a phenomenal idea. The current model of "self-sufficiency" being espoused sometimes loses sight, in my view, of the absolute interconnectivity and symbiotic relationships that must occur in order for all living organisms to survive and thrive. Asking for help isn't a sign of incompetency or defeat; it's the smartest action, the wisest choice, and the most intrinsic component of our humanity that an individual could solicit.

*Find this image and a Raleigh News & Observer article discussing crop mobs here.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Small Measure Can-Do Contest, Round 9

It's the first Monday of a new month, which means one thing: another Small Measure Can-Do 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 Rhubarb Amaretto Chutney. I realize that last month's giveaway was also for a chutney. Wanting to keep with the book's recipe arrangement and emphasis on seasonality, however, my rhubarb chutney seemed perfect as a harbinger of spring (although, admittedly, it's not yet available where I live, showing up a bit closer to April and May, hence the lovely photo sourced online in lieu of any fresh rhubarb stalks).

Besides, can you really have too much chutney? There are few things I can think of that wouldn't be improved upon with a little smear of this chunky, zesty, puckery spread (I was going to suggest cupcakes as the one exception, but then I started imagining a dollop of chutney on top of some browned butter frosting, realized that it sounded amazing, and abandoned that notion). This particular chutney pairs lovely with Indian cuisine. It would also serve as a fine accompaniment to a tangy, fresh chevre, a smoked ham sandwich, or tossed with some roasted or sauteed vegetables like eggplant and zucchini. It's an equal opportunity chutney.

To enter: Simply leave a comment to THIS specific post by telling me your favorite way of cooking or serving or simply eating rhubarb. 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 March 15th, 2010. Odds of winning will depend on 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.

*Top image from here.