Welcome to A Tranquil Nook Blog

We welcome you to follow along on our crafty adventures. Frank is a farmer by day, jewelry and hand braided cord-maker by night. Jane simply fiddles with fabric and fiber any time she can. We share things about what we make, how we make it, where you can get it.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Lady Slipper Celebration in Blackduck, MN

The Lady Slipper Celebration takes place in Blackduck, Minnesota today, June 25, 2011. Celebrating the shows slipper orchids that grow wild in the forests and near sloughs in the damp Minnesota northland. There are both the more common yellow moccasin and the showy pink and white lady slipper, which is also the Minnesota State Flower. There is even a scenic byway with attractions from start to finish.

This year some members of the Blackduck community got together and put together the first Lady Slipper Celebration in Blackduck. There will be lots of music, guided tours to view and learn about showy lady slippers, and art shows all through the town. Most stores are hosting artists of some form or other.

Anderson Factory Outlet has not 1, not 2, but 4 fiber artists. Ranging from a fiber fiddle (Me) to quilters to Cavandoli Macrame. Dawn Standera and I have the honor of our works being shown in the windows framing the entryway.
Cavandoli Macrame by Dawn Standera

Fabric and Fiber Works by Jane Carlstrom

photo by Anderson Factory Outlet

All sorts of fabric and fiber stuff by me. My goodness it was hard to get accurate shots through the window. So you get to see two views. one taken by me, one by Anderson Factory Outlet. Between the two you get to see most of the display. :D

No lady slippers in the window displays. Notice was very short this being the first year, still how wonderful that invites were made and artists stepped up with works to help celebrate spring in Minnesota. So even though there were no lady slippers in my works, tried to pull in the pinks, greens and whites, the feel of spring in the northland. And of course the cloud and rain wall hanging. :D

The birds are singing away this morning as I type, so hopefully today like yesterday will be a glorious sunny day and the people who participate in the Lady Slipper Celebration will have a lovely time.

Last but not least, a big thank you and shout out to Karen Forbes, manager at Anderson Factory Outlet for inviting and hosting fiber artists in her windows and in the store.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Rhubarb Salsa - not dancing, eating Good

I've always been fascinated by rhubarb, so pretty yet so full of pucker power. 20 odd years ago, Mr Frank, who professes a deep dislike of rhubarb, mowed down my rhubarb plants. No more rhubarb was ever planted here and none crossed the doorstep --- Until this spring..... First there was the Rhubarb Bash at Farmers Market, then I found some amazing recipes..... Rhubarb Relish and Rhubarb Salsa....... oh me oh my..... I had to try these.
Fresh picked Rhubarb from Bemidji's Natural Choice Farmers Market June 18
how could I pass this up?

Extracting petty revenge after 20 odd years, I made Mr Frank buy rhubarb, not once but twice. Two weeks in a row, he tightened his belt, got out his wallet and purchased a 2 lb bag of rhubarb.

Week 1 -June 18, the rhubarb became canned relish. Thanks to Jocasta Innes and her fine little recipe book: The Country Preserves Companion
in which this recipe appears
Collins Publishers p.55 ISBN 0 00 255493 3
Oh YES! A sweet relish with a tang. We mixed it with some canned chicken and a little mayo to make chicken salad sandwiches. Very good, and even Mr Frank liked it. 6 half pint jars are now in the storage area, waiting on the shelf. Putting food by is our standard practice. Nice to add a new relish to the pool.

That success got me searching the web for more rhubarb recipes - relish led to salsa. Two appealed to me. Especially one using honey. Oh boy, that translated to a sweetner with minimal processing (using local honey from Kroeger and Rixen Farm) rather than refined cane sugar.
Honey from the hives at Kroeger and Rixen Farm in Nebish, MN
find Gail at Bemidji's Natural Choice Farmers Market most Saturdays

Not having all the ingredients in the recipe, and of course just like with sewing, I seldom follow the exact directions and adapt with past experience and what is available in the stash or larder at the time. Here is my version of a

Rhubarb and Apple Salsa

2 cups rhubarb, diced small, after removing all of the outer strings
1 cup apple, peeled and chopped
3 green onions thinly sliced
1 Tablespoon bottled key-lime juice
2 Tablespoons honey (from Kroeger & Rixen Farm, of course)
1/4 of a jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped fine. (yes, barely there, but aware)

Steam blanch chopped rhubarb for 2 minutes let cool.
Stir all together until thoroughly combined.
Let it sit in a glass jar overnight to meld flavors. Keep refrigerated.
- sweet and mild with a little tang, soooooo nice.

Light green = Rhubarb Apple Salsa Dark green = Rhubarb Cilantro Salsa
photo by Rochell Carpenter

Then because there was beautiful cilantro at market (thank you high tunnel technology and Full Moon Farm) as well as jalapeno pepper and green onions. AND Mr Frank likes spicier and hotter salsa gave this one a try.

Rhubarb/Cilantro Salsa
2 cups chopped rhubarb
1 cup chopped sweet onion (I used Vidalia)
4 or 5 green onions
1 teaspoon Honey
1 cup fresh cilantro
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1 Tablespoon bottled key-lime juice
drizzle of olive oil
generous dash of cumin

Before chopping the rhubarb remove some or most of the more obvious outer strings. Combine all ingredients in a glass bowl, add just half of the jalapeno first and try it for hotness level, add more if desired. *- based on recipe from Simple and Tasty Blog check out the link for their original which uses green and yellow peppers and less onion and cilantro.

This one received rave reviews at the group sampling taste test when offer at Rail River Folk School. One fellow suggested it would be superb with fish -- anyone have fresh Walleye? Oh YES. try the rhubarb and cilantro salsa with Walleye! He also suggested a bit of cucumber would blend well in this recipe and be make a lovely refreshing salsa.

Well it has been a tongue tingling two weeks. So much fun.

Thanks to all the producers at market for many of the fresh ingredients and thanks to Mr Frank for being brave enough to try rhubarb in these relishes and salsas.


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Gluten Free Baking

Why in the world would a guy who has no problem with gluten choose to bake gluten free cookies, cakes, muffins and other sweet treats to offer at farmers market?

Christina Thorne, friend and owner of Bad Cat Creations

Well, as with most things in life, it depends on who your friends are. Hearing Christina rant about lack of choices and lots of not so palatable commercial options inspired Frank to try his hand at gluten free baking. All winter long, he practiced, experimented, read, learned, tried again.

Oh MY! Definitely a learning curve.

Gluten is composed of the sticky storage proteins found in wheat, rye and barley. It is that sticky quality that helps create texture and smoothness in baked goods, that maybe makes baked goods light and fluffy. The glue that hold things together. Light bulb moment for Jane, well duh! yep in days long before glue sticks we made paste from flour and water to create art projects.

Baking without gluten challenges the baker to find a blend of ingredients that will taste good, hold together, and bake up light. Balancing the grains, nut flours, vegetable flours, xanthan gum, for both taste and nutrition. Many of the “flours” that make the appearance more like things made with wheat flour are highly starchy, thus more calories. Others tend to have a definite flavor that is hard to overcome, a flavor that overpowers the spices. Texture tends to be grainy and heavy, also prone to falling apart.
Frank has come up with a few really good recipes. The best so far has been angle food cake, caramel-chocolate-peanut bars, almond crispie cookies, oatmeal raisin cookie, peanut brown sugar cake, pound cake, chocolate fabulousity cake, and a cinnamon swirl coffee cake.

He has not baked anything with wheat flour since December. Partly because he needs the practice developing gluten free goods and partly to eliminate potential contamination. Even micro bits of wheat flour picked up from the mixing bowls, baking dishes, etc. can cause reactions in people with gluten intolerance. Not fun at all, not pleasant, a risk to be minimized. He bought a new flour sifter to dedicate to gluten free and also dedicated mixing bowls and baking dishes.

He has baked at least once a week, carrying samples to Christina, our gluten intolerant friend. She has had no gluten reactions, so we are feeling confident that he is not getting any contamination and is choosing appropriate gluten free ingredients. Christina has also been great at providing taste feedback, what she finds tasty, what needs improvement.
It has been a joy for Frank to be able to provide home baked food options for Christina, and now he hopes to provide more choices for others with gluten intolerance too. This year at Bemidji's Natural Choice Farmers Market he is offering gluten free baked goods most Saturdays.

There are also two other bakers at market who offer gluten free baked goods: Cheryl of Chill Creek Ridge with rich chocolate torts, cookies, scones, muffins; and Malisa of A Grain of Good often brings a few loaves of gluten free artisan bread. It is really neat to be working together, each having a little different style and thus offering a nice variety of gluten free baked goods.

Thanks for reading, have a great day,

(a few resources if you wish to learn more about gluten intolerance/sensitivity or gluten free baking

Eating gluten free - the challenges, unexpected things that contain wheat/gluten

Gluten sensitive enteropathy and wheat allergy

How Baking Works