Showing posts from August, 2009

Peppers, Peppers Everywhere

20 pepper plants is a LOT, which has amazingly resulted in a LOT of peppers. A sweet pepper harvestwhich was mostly dehydrated
and gave me almost as many peppers as I dried all last summer:I think I'm going to need another jar or two. We kept the orange ones out because I had never grown them before, so tonight I stuffed them with a little yogurt, chopped onion, cooked red wheat berries, a little seasoning, and some feta cheese
and put them on the grill. (And in case you're wondering, the little tin foil cups are to keep them upright).

The Anaheim peppers have been going crazy next to the peas
this being only the LARGE peppers from 2 plants. I'm hoping these work out well as a dried pepper because thisis a really good way to make your eyes water all day long. Not sure if I'm even going to attempt to dry any jalapenos.......maybe only if we're going to leave the house?

Today I Wanted a Cookie

Which is sort of bizarre as I am not in general a sweets fan and cookies are pretty much at the bottom of the sweets list anyway, but today I really wanted a cookie.

Which in my world means making cookies.

Today had cooled off some, but I still wasn't going to turn on the oven, so that left "no-bake" cookies--except that shredded coconut has all sorts of additives and is off limits. So in my alternate universe, wheat bran is a good substitute for coconut....which might have something to do with why I'm not allowed to bring desserts anywhere. I am guessing that wheat bran might not contribute to the flavor of the cookie like sweetened coconut does, so I substituted half the butter for peanut butter, threw in some dry roasted peanuts and a bit of extra salt, and voila!No-bake peanut butter, chocolate, and wheat bran cookies. I don't know if it's just the fact that we don't get chocolate very often or that it's been so long neither of us would remembe…

Things I've Learned This Month

* It's best to can pickles in the morning rather than at night. It seems to be easiest to dive in when I'm not quite fully awake.

* The most prolific tomatoes are going to be the least-helpful this case, the volunteer grape tomatoes. No matter how much I want salsa, they are such a pain to peel....

* Next year no matter WHAT the tag says about "easy to grow," if it says "heirloom" I'm putting the plant down and pretending it never existed.

* If you actually have worn the rubber off of your jar lifters, you might be a bit of a canning overachiever.

* Gardening newsletters might be right about planting the seedlings for the fall garden in July and August, but they fail to explain what to do with them when they're several inches tall and it's still 90+ degrees outside.

* Julia Child makes an excellent pizza crust--even when you don't follow her directions exactly as written. This still does not encourage me to cook with an entire…

A Trip To the Dark Side

Our youngest kitty, Theo, now needs a special dust-free cat litter, and the vet said to try Wal-Mart, so I ventured there on Thursday night.

I do not generally shop at Wal-mart, and I don't think I've been there since we started our no-processed-foods experiment, so it was a bit of a shock--perhaps a bit like dropping a vegetarian into a meat-packing plant. I think I went up and down all the aisles a few times just soaking it all in.

One aisle in particular surprised me. I don't watch television or read any of the more "sensationalistic" news sources, so I fall behind a lot, but when did people start building bomb shelters again? There's an entire aisle of this stuff. Are communes on the rise again? I didn't even WANT to know what was in the 2-pound can of "butter powder," but odds are pretty high it didn't have anything to do with butter.

And look!
Bean dip is now an "impulse buy!" Yummy!

Note To Self:

When making jam, if a recipe says "cook until thick" do not make any plans for the next 4 to 16 hours.

It Worked!

Having mostly followed Julia Child's directions for her pizza crust, I blithely ignored everything she had to say about cooking it. Not even for pizza am I turning the oven on when it's 90-some-odd degrees out.

I also felt free to disregard the "tossing" of the crust part--which she says takes very little practice. Reading between the lines, I'm still thinking that means one or two pizza crusts were pried off the ceiling or scooped up off the floor, and when we're hungry and dinner is already 3 hours late is not the time for acrobatics in the kitchen. Besides, Andy was watching & would have known if I scooped the crust up off the floor and served it anyway.

So, I rolled it out and grilled it slightly before adding toppings
Two things here worth mentioning:
1. I have never yet managed to roll anything into a circle, but I'm getting better at squares and thought I should go with my strengths
2. I realize pre-"baking" isn't a Julia st…

Dinner will be at 10:30....

So the day started with 3 batches of pickles brining in the fridge, so I got up this morning, got all my canning paraphernalia set up, and set to work. I got all 6 quart jars packed, filled, and into the canner, but when I opened the canner to see if they were boiling yet I found it full of dill seed. I realize not everyone cans, so I'll just say now--that's a REALLY bad sign. One of my jars lost its bottom, but I had packed it so tightly that all the cucumbers stayed in place. I don't know if that's a good thing or not, but it did make it a bit easier to clean up. So, we have 5 new quarts of pickles today.

Then....did I mention I planted NINE jalapeƱo plants? Really, I thought I would have tomatilloes by now to be using up some of the jalapenos, so it seemed like a good idea at the time (as does so much of what I do). Well, now I have scads of peppers and nothing to add them to, so I pickled one pound of them--which incidentally, is a lot of peppers. and we now …

Never Turn Your Back On The Cucumbers

I had it in my schedule to pick cucumbers every 4 days, and really I knew better, but I ignored the garden this week. I know--in August, after giving them Miracle Grow every week and filling the beds with horse manure...what was I thinking? So tonight we havewhat is about to be a pickling marathonspaceships from the planet "Squash,"
and FINALLY specimens from our volunteer tomato plant, which are either really big grape tomatoes or really small Roma tomatoes. Hard to say, really. as I had both last year. Tasting them doesn't help either because the grape tomatoes I had last year weren't the wonderful sweet snack tomatoes that I had hoped for. They were just nondescript litle tomatoes. Sort of like these......

And if you're wondering why I don't just come to my senses and start giving away cucumbers, the pickles are really fabulous & we've already gone through two quarts and a pint and technically none of them are actually even "ready" to…

A Few Random Updates

* I was so curious about "chipped beef" that I had to go looking for it in the grocery store and sure enough, Winco had it--right next to the Vienna sausages, pickled pigs' feet, and Substance Posing As Meat (SPAM). No wonder I had never seen it. Is it just me, or does it look a lot like meat Pringles? (And need I even mention that it violates every rule we have this year?)

* We are finally getting tomatoes!!!!! Not enough to make salsa yet, but for lunch we had tomato slices and Gouda cheese. Yum!

* I have planted beets, peas, and lettuce for a fall garden. Luckily most of it is in pots inside as the returning hot temperatures would probably kill them. Now if I can just remember to water them.....

* Our compost bin really isn't getting hot enough to truly "compost," so we have added worms to it. I don't mind the worms, but it also means that there are lots & lots of bugs (which bother me a bit, I have to admit), which have attracted a litt…

Grilling Burgers

We are grilling hamburgers tomorrow night, which mean that tonight
Andy made rolls. We have homemade pickles, homemade mustard, and homegrown tomatoes. These had better be SERIOUSLY good hamburgers.

Thank heavens we didn't actually have to go butcher the cow for this little endeavor....

Things I Have Learned So Far This Year

* Garlic "planting stock" needs to be ordered before October, even though you might not need to plant it until then. Otherwise most of it will be sold out.

* Vinegar solves almost all household problems.

* If vinegar doesn't solve a problem, try baking soda.

* Potatoes come in low-starch, medium-starch, and high-starch varieties. Mashed potatoes made from low-starch varieties will have the yummy consistency of glue.

* Peppers thrive when planted next to peas or beans, so they must like a lot of nitrogen. If they are planted next to pole beans, however, you may never see the pepper again.

* Julia Child suggests putting hard to peel garlic in boiling water for a very brief period to make them easier to peel, but what she didn't mention is that if you microwave the water to almost boiling, dropping several cloves of garlic into the water might give you the steam burn of your life.

* Though it doesn't say it on the seed packet, on the growing tag, or anywhere def…

My Day So Far

* Fixed a "potato thingy" for breakfast

* Put a batch of bread in the bread machine, which did NOT come out looking like a cartoon character* Pickled two double-batches of cucumbers after harvesting these last nightwhich was only 4 DAYS after picking the last batch of cucumbers. It's really a good thing that they're so prolific as the pickles from the botched attempt at the whole 12-quarts-at-once experiment did indeed come out a bit mushy. They taste fine, but not what I would hope for. There are two recipes here--one with a little sugar & mustard seed & one the standard dill that I've been using. Neither of us like sweet pickles or "bread and butter" pickles, but theoretically these just take a bit of the "pucker" out of a traditional dill. We'll find out in two to three weeks!

* Made a chicken, mushroom, garlic (of course) pizza for lunchand am now in serious need of a nap!

We would DEFINITELY be having takeout tonight if it …

"Good Housekeeping's Book of Menus, Recipes, and Household Discoveries"

In doing our little food experiment, I have become fascinated by food history, old cookbooks, and old books of "housekeeping." In some ways, I think it's unfortunate that we don't teach people about "housekeeping" since after all, one is presumably going to live in a house for most of one's life. One of the better books I found (published in 1949) explains everything from doing laundry and treating stains to repairing furniture to common household maintenance like switches & lights and fuses to establishing budgets and savings goals. And the cover is washable--it says so, right on the front.

Today I've been reading Good Housekeeping's Book of Menus, Recipes, and Household Discoveries. It sets out menus for meals for a week for each month. For instance, today being a Monday in August, for lunch we would have had:

Boiled Rice with Fruit
Chipped Beef (I'm going to have to look that one up)
Cream Gravy (nothing like a heart attack to start …

A Few Fun Food Facts

* Pringle's potato "crisps" are not allowed to be called potato "chips" because potato chip manufacturers were afraid that the new-fangled potato product made from dehydrated potatoes would take over the market. It never happened, but they are "snacks" or "crisps," and most definitely not "chips."

* "Philadelphia" cream cheese has nothing whatsoever to do with Philadelphia. It was just a really popular city associated with dairy foods when cream cheese was "invented" in New York state.

* TV dinners were invented by Swanson's to unload a whole bunch of leftover turkeys following Thanksgiving. .

* Swanson's second TV dinner offering was fried chicken, which had a strange banana flavor due to the yellow dye (made from banana) that was used to decorate the box leached through to the food. Most people complained, but a smattering of Florida residents loved the banana fried chicken. It takes all kinds.

* W…


You might have noticed my book tally on the left of the blog. Most of my life, I have been an avid reader--a devourer--of books, but in the last few years something--probably life itself--had gotten in the way of my joy of reading. I do not know what happened. Perhaps I burned out, perhaps I was trying to read books that didn't interest me, perhaps I felt I didn't have time...or perhaps after reading page after page after page of technical information trying to understand the world of telephony and data that I came to resent ANY form of written expression that anyone dared to commit to paper. It's hard to say, but this year I decided to rediscover reading as a form of pure pleasure.

Looking at the list, you will perhaps notice a tendency toward mysteries. I have enjoyed them most of my life (though I didn't discover them as a child and so am perhaps the only child of my generation to read neither a Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew book), so I thought they would be the most…

It Can Be Done!!!

The pumpkin "Chinese" food experiment was postponed until dinner, because at lunch I was in the middle of canning 4 more quarts of pickles, but last night I was ready!

Taking the pureed pumpkin out of the bag and finding it not very "pureed," I stuck it in the food processor with some water and a little 5 spice powder, figuring the cinnamon & spices would mix nicely with the sweetness of the pumpkin. I stir fried some veggies from the garden, then added the pumpkin "sauce"
simmering just about a minute before sprinkling in a small amount of cornstarch, then served it over rice noodles with some toasted pecans added for protein:
It was actually pretty good and EXTREMELY healthy, but ugly enough that no restaurant in the world is going to be pilfering my idea. Or any of my other cooking ideas, for that matter, but I'm sure our collective cholesterol count dropped by 10 yesterday.

And since we were enjoying an unseasonably cool evening, I made ginger-g…

And Today's Challenge is.....

"Chinese" food using pureed pumpkin.

Last night we thawed out one of the last bags of pureed pumpkin, and I have one cup left to use, and Andy suggested something vaguely Chinese (vegetables, noodles, ginger or 5-spice or garlic) for lunch, so we have our own private Iron Chef challenge today.

I have either Soba noodles (sorry--Japanese), or bean thread noodles and both are legal. I have peppers, onions, just a tad bit of garlic, water chestnuts, and one cup of pureed pumpkin.

Any thoughts?

You're Never Going to Believe This!!!!

Are you sitting down?????Velveeta might be good for you!
According to Carolyn Wyman in Better than Homemade, (a seriously delightful book, by the way), Velveeta was created as a way to keep the milk solids (whey) and the nutrients that milk contains within the cheese. She also states that Velveeta is actually a more nutritious cheese than...well....cheese. Velveeta received the American Medical Association’s endorsement, the AMA even asserting that Velveeta’s protein was “complete for the building of firm flesh.” Personally, I would have said it was more about building cellulite or flab, but it does seem to have one-third fewer calories than cheddar cheese. Of course, it’s still off limits for us, but I will be taking back at least a few of the things I’ve said about Velveeta. I am still, however, going to feel free to ridicule Cheez Wiz and any other aerosol cheese products, as I am rather confident that they probably have the same amount of nutritional value as, say, the can th…

What We Are Eating

Several months ago I stopped listing what we were eating each day as I thought I was well on my way to becoming a one-woman cure for insomnia, but I thought some highlights might be of interest--especially for those who are playing along at home and DON'T have the luxury of not working. So, some of the new summer "stand-bys:"

1. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Believe it or not, this has become a breakfast food here at Chateau Sutton-Goar. Of course, we have to make our own bread, buy or make peanut butter without any additives, and we use only homemade jellys or jams, but it's still a peanut butter sandwich at the end. The peanut butter has to be kept in the refrigerator as there is nothing to keep the oil from separating and floating to the top, and that can be difficult to spread on bread, but it still beats the daylights out of eggs.

2. Smoothies. I have become Queen of the Blender. As you might have guessed, plain nonfat yogurt is good for you (like an…

Julie & Julia

Friday night--OPENING NIGHT, even--two girlfriends and I went to see "Julie & Julia." I loved it! I thought Meryl Streep was incredibly funny and engaging as Julia Child, and I came away from the movie in love with Julia Child.

And feeling guilty, as I have never been able to get through the book Julie & Julia.

I have tried. I even loved the concept so much that one year for Christmas I gave Andy the J&J book, Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking, a couple balsamic vinegars, some herb salts, several types of dried mushrooms--sort of "French cooking in a box." Andy has read the book, and my mother-in-law even sent me a copy of the book because it seemed right up my alley. And the idea of it was. Only......

I find the author whiny and annoying.

I have even scrounged out the book and am trying again....but she's still whiny and annoying. Who cries over chicken? Liver maybe--and that's only if I actually have to eat it. But chi…

We've Got Pickles!!!!

One of my friends decided she would like to learn to can, and we both had today free, and I thought--perfect, that will be one week after the last batch of pickles, which should give the garden enough time to grow enough cucumbers get about 4 quarts (liters, to those in countries smart enough to switch to the metric system) of pickles.
Does my capacity to continually be wrong amaze anyone else?This is more than 4 GALLONS of cucumbers! And I picked these things just a week ago! That's it--no more Miracle Grow for the cucumbers. I washed and cut and salted and brined while Andy dug out space in the refrigerators for:Knowing that we had cucumbers for 12 quarts of pickles, I decided to drag out the pressure canner for this. I don't know how to pressure can yet, but I bought it because the advertisements said it could hold two layers of quart jars, and we were beyond the capacity of my normal canner.

We cheerfully set to work--Lisa peeled garlic cloves, which was actually tricki…

What Was I Thinking??????????????????

I have eighteen POUNDS of pickles brining in the refrigerator tonight. That will translate into 12 quarts of pickles tomorrow and I still have lots of cucumbers leftover.

A week ago I canned 4 quarts of pickles, and thought, "Gee, this is great. I can make pickles once a week and keep up with this." Why didn't anyone warn me that the cucumbers were probably only getting warmed up? AND I HAVE ACTUALLY BEEN GIVING THEM PLANT FOOD!!!!!

Heaven help me, when does it usually frost???

It's Saturday Night and I Have BOTH Cheats Left!!!

What has happened to me? Usually I am frothing at stewing and planning and figuring out when I should plan my cheats for the week and trying desperately to get one for a white chocolate martini, but this week.......Let's not be stupid--I've got my white chocolate martini, but with my amazing absence of alcohol tolerance, I'll be drinking it for the next two hours. So....what to have with the second one? And more to the point, as my idea of a good night is getting into PJs as early as possible, what can I have without having to get dressed and go somewhere???

This is a tough one. There have been foods I have missed but I have not deemed worthy of a "cheat," such as chocolate or olives (which I only recently discovered to be illegal due to a color stabilizer), and there have been foods I have missed so much that I have had to find legal replacements--such as mustard and pickles, and there have been foods that were initially worth cheats up until they started cau…

Taking Advantage of Some Cool Weather

One of the problems with this experiment--and I would be the first to admit that there are several--is that harvesting the garden & canning all these great, nutritious, additive-free foods needs to happen when it's insanely hot here. I can't even imagine the brave women who did this without air-conditioning. No real challenge to guess why people pounced on the idea of buying already canned foods.

The last two days have been unseasonably cool & rainy, so pouncing on the opportunity do take care of a few things without roasting, I baked zucchini bread
which one is probably morally bound to make when one grows zucchini, and "zingerbread" for Monday's Soup Nightwhich would fall more under the "being a smarty-pants about zucchini" category. I've never actually made real gingerbread, but does it normally involve coffee and molasses? It's a VERY dark cake.

Since our tomatoes have produced ONE red tomato as of yet and the jalapenos are going cr…


As I've mentioned before, I dislike most of the American breakfast options. With all the potatoes and fresh veggies in the garden I've started doing a version of frittatas--with about twice the vegetables and just enough egg to provide protein but not enough to be visible. I still haven't found any information about why American breakfasts either involve eggs or sweet foods, but in The Secret Life of Food, Martin Elkort lists breakfasts "typical" of other countries. I thought it was really interesting--especially when he states that breakfasts might be the most typical of a country's foods as breakfast is the meal with the least pretension. Having just enjoyed a breakfast of leftover spaghetti and coffee, I can certainly agree with that.

So, a world-tour of breakfasts: France: a just-baked croissant or baguette with butter, and a large cup of steaming cafe au lait in which to dip itEngland: salty bacon and sausage with an egg, toast, and dark, tangy…


Today we're having salmon fillets with lemon-sage mustard and fresh green beans sauteed with mushrooms and almonds.

Some days this is a really good experiment.


Things I Learned Last Month

* Those who don't keep Band-Aids in the kitchen are either optimistic, foolish, or really REALLY talented.

* Chocolate makes everything better--even zucchini.

* Being gone only 4 days does not translate into only 4 days of having a cat sleep on my head when we return.

* It may only be a coincidence, but growing lots of squash and several neighbors move away in the same year does make one wonder.

* Even with something that's relatively easy to grow--like garlic--there's always someone out there who is trying to make it harder.

* Never laugh at anyone else's gardening until you've tried it yourself. If the soil is loose enough, it really is possible to have trouble finding the potatoes.

* Jewelry may be pretty, but a true expression of love is when your spouse rids the garden of aphids for you.

* Anaheim peppers apparently like growing next to peas. Either that or someone is feeding steroids to one of our plants.

* A watched tomato does not turn red

* It doesn'…