Monday, May 31, 2010

It's Official.....I Am A Tomato Lemming

As of yesterday, it is finally officially warm enough here to plant tomatoes, so I have made a couple very excited trips to Fred Meyer to pick up plants.  The problem is, of course, that Andy let me go alone and unsupervised.  

We have a relatively short growing season, so my favorite tomato plants are Early Girls.  They aren't fussy, they taste good, and they come on early.  I love plants that just do what they need to do without too much input from me.  And, since do a lot of canning, I always plant Roma tomatoes.  They're really good roasted as well, so they're a MUST.

Then I found a Lemon Boy tomato plant, which we successfully grew last year & I really liked their flavor, so I needed one of those tomato plants.

Then they had a really cool purple tomato plant, and I like to try an heirloom tomato every year.  And the heirloom tomatoes seem to enjoy kicking my arse every year, so we understand our relationship.  I will diligently water it, excitedly check every day for new tomato blossoms, and it will reward my efforts with one scraggly tomato which will probably be cracked & may even harbor some bugs.  So I never really count the heirloom tomato.  It's sort of like my yearly sacrifice to the Garden God of Futility.  Or the bugs.

Then I found a yellow pear tomato--those little tomatoes that they often have on overpriced relish trays--and they're quite good, so I had to have one of those....

THEN I found a Sweet 100, and last year all my friends raved and raved about how wonderful the little cherry tomatoes were.....so I of course needed one of those.

So, for anyone keeping track.........I have now planted THIRTEEN tomato plants, which is a new record for both tomato plants AND insanity for me.

And did I happen to mention the two tomatillo plants that I got as well?  

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Public Service Announcement

I realize this might truly qualify as THE most boring blog post I have ever written, but I am writing it in the hopes that in the future, it might save some other poor sap a few hours of frustration.

If you have First Alert smoke detectors in your house, and one of them needs a new battery, and even after you change it the blasted thing STILL keeps chirping, and then all its little friends start getting into the act and you're sitting on the floor in your bedroom weeping because it's 1:00AM and you really need some sleep and there isn't a single bedroom room in your house that isn't constantly beeping, YOU HAVE TO TAKE THE DARN THING OFF THE CEILING, REMOVE THE BATTERY, PRESS THE TEST BUTTON UNTIL YOU HAVE FULLY DISCHARGED THE CAPACITOR (ABOUT 20 SECONDS), THEN YOU CAN PUT THE NEW BATTERY IN AND IT WILL FINALLY SHUT THE HELL UP.

I share this from the VERY bottom of my heart................................

Friday, May 28, 2010

Things I've Been Wondering Recently.....

*  What exactly is the point of Twitter?  Were people really finding Facebook too "in depth?"

*  If I decided I actually liked dandelion leaves in my salad and wanted the darn things to grow, does that mean they would finally die because they lost their "weed" status?

*  My 88-year-old grandmother is planting a vegetable garden about twice the size of ours.  Does optimism expand with age?

*  So if we all get to make up our own "facts" now whenever we want, when do I get to be "a 29-year-old woman who can eat all the pizza she wants without gaining an ounce and who actually understands modern art?"

* I get that worms crawl onto the sidewalk during rainstorms because they have no air to breathe once the water soaks into the ground.  What I don't get is why they crawl the extra two feet to get into the center of the sidewalk, where they're just going to shrivel up and die as soon as it warms up.  Are they just really slow learners, or is there really just so little to live for in the life of an invertebrate?  

*  Is "Those who fail to study history probably went to school in Texas" going to replace the original saying now?

*  Why is my first impulse to use my arm a whole bunch whenever I get frustrated about how long it is taking to heal?

*  I have relatives who are part of the "immigrants are ruining our country and taking all those [low paying] jobs" camp.  Since we're Irish, do you think they notice the irony?

*  Why can't we track down that one guy who keeps falling for the all internet Viagra offers and take away his computer?

*  Our European ancestors came to America, then largely decimated the original inhabitants by giving them small-pox infected blankets or just indiscriminately shooting them, THEN rounded up the survivors onto the most worthless land they could possibly find.  All things considered, shouldn't it be the Native Americans who are most concerned about immigration to this country?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

I'm a Fair-Weather Photographer

A few photo updates during a break in all the rain.

Some friends are taking out much of their landscaping and gave us some day lilies

and irises, which are all doing nicely.
The front flowerbed is planted

and the strawberries are holding their own against the weeds, as I barely weed in nice weather---I CERTAINLY do no such thing in rain.
And remember when I said I had planted snap peas between the garlic rows because I thought the peas would help feed the garlic--only to read that peas don't like growing near garlic?

Yeah--the peas didn't read the same book.  They're even happily climbing up the garlic, which looks a bit mangy but works rather nicely.

And the kohlrabi are getting close to ready to harvest, and I'm hoping to harvest broccoli soon, though having 9 plants going at once promises to be VERY interesting.

The potato box is successful so far

and I'm hoping will make it easier to find the potatoes.  I think I'm a fun person, but playing hide-and-seek with root vegetables doesn't even make MY list.

And if it ever gets a bit warmer, these guys are waiting to be planted.  Since it's ALMOST June, I'm hoping to put the sweaters away very soon......

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Idaho Makes The Tonight Show - Again

Remember the candidate who didn't know Puerto Rico was part of the US? Last night he brought Idaho politics MORE of the lustrous spotlight we deserve, by making the Tonight Show:

Leno cracks jokes about Vaughn Ward | KTVB.COM | KTVB.COM | Boise, Idaho news

As if plagiarizing wasn't bad enough, he's ripping off a speech FROM A SITTING PRESIDENT, whose speeches are actually published, AND this guy's campaign was all about how much he disagrees with President Obama.........except, you know, for his speeches.........

No wonder Sarah Palin came to campaign for him......

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Cilantro

I don't know if you have noticed, but if you try to look up almost any plant in a gardening book or online, the instructions will always make them sound like they are fussy and hard to grow.  Some, of course, deserve it--like African violets.  I know there are people who can grow the darn things, but the last time someone gave me one, I just threw it straight into the trash.  That is where it was going to end up anyway, and I believe in saving time and frustration. 

This spring, we have been enjoying a great deal of fresh cilantro from our garden.  When did I plant it?  I didn't.  Or, technically, I planted it last year, but nowhere near where it has chosen to grow this year.  On the back of the packet and online, one would get the impression that it's fussy.  I particularly enjoy the "you must soak the seeds to get them to germinate" part.  Actually, what seems to be working really well for me is the "plant something else and wait for the cilantro to pop up right beside it" approach, but I guess that wouldn't sound nearly as good on the seed packet....

Saturday, May 22, 2010

A Weekend Off

Andy was planning to go camping this weekend, but as it has actually been trading between rain & snow all day today, he wisely decided that postponing might be a good idea.  So instead we declared....

A WEEKEND OFF FROM YARDWORK!

Which might have meant more if it hadn't rained most of yesterday and all day today.  STILL, it feels quite indulgent.  And since my arm feels better today than it has in weeks, the forced non-gardening is probably good for me.  Today I had to repair my sling where I had almost ripped the thumb loop off while planting flowers in the front beds.  I think that probably explains a lot.  I may be going out on a limb here, but if one has ripped one's arm sling after less than a week, one may not be fully appreciating the concept of "resting" one's arm.......

If I ever have to be in a full-body cast, you are to send sedatives IMMEDIATELY!!!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, May 21, 2010

We're SO Proud.

I hope you didn't think that Idaho had reached its limits for political foolishness with Bill "I move to repeal the laws of gravity" Sali or Larry "wide-stance" Craig, or even a governor with a DUI conviction or a county commissioner who collected state sales tax but didn't bother to turn it in (those last two still being in office, because why let a little thing like "ethics" stand in the way of living at tax payer expense).  Nope--we were just getting warmed up.

Today Sarah Palin, the woman who puts the "twit" in "Twitter," has arrived in Boise to stump for a congressional candidate who believes Puerto Rico is....a foreign country.  You know, like Hawaii.  It's rather interesting that Palin is here at all, as the Tea Party has already endorsed his DEMOCRATIC opponent.  That's right.  Even the Tea Party has rejected this guy.  But Sarah is standing by him, which I suppose is admirable considering he didn't vote for her in the last election, which seems to be the most popular thing the man has managed to do.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Pickle Recipe

A few days ago, Robin had asked for my pickle recipe (the one I was bemoaning being about to run out of), and it's actually a combination of two recipes from The Complete Book of Small-Batch Preserving, which I have raved about before but really, REALLY is a great book.  So, my version of the pickles:

Toni's favorite dill pickles

about 3 pounds of small pickling cucumbers
2 cups white vinegar
10 cups water
1/4 cup plus 2 TBLS pickling salt
1 TBSP granulated sugar
4 large heads fresh dill or 2 TBSP dried dill seed
4 small cloves garlic
2 tsp mustard seeds

THE NIGHT BEFORE:  Cut a thin slice from each end of each cucumber. Place cucumbers in a non-reactive container (I use glass bowls).  Combine 4 cups water and 1/4 cup salt in a large bowl, stirring until dissolved.  Add 4 cups ice water and pour over cucumbers.  Let stand for 12 hours in refrigerator or a cool place; drain and rinse under cold water.

Prepare canner & lids.  Recipe makes 4 pint jars.

Combine vinegar, water, salt, and sugar in a large stainless steel or enamel saucepan and bring to a boil.

Remove hot jars from canner.  Place 1 head fresh dill or 1 1/2 tsp. dill seed, 1 clover garlic and 1/2 tsp mustard seeds in each pint jar.  Pack cucumbers into jars and pour boiling vinegar mixture over cucumbers to within 1/2-inch of rim (headspace).  Process 10 minutes for pint jars and 15 minutes for quart.

I opened these after waiting 1 month, I think.  Provided you use a pickling cucumber, these make very crunchy pickles.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Things I've Learned This Week

*  If you don't cut your seed potatoes small enough, you don't end up with a potato plant.  You end up with a potato commune.

*  There's a big difference between actually resting my arm & me thinking I'm resting my arm

*  Julia Child's boeuf bourgignon might indeed be really fabulous as leftovers out of the freezer, but it still needs an antacid chaser.

*  If teenagers insist on parking on your street with rap music for all to hear, a little Phantom of the Opera played at full volume will, in an amazingly short time, convince them to go elsewhere....

*  While iris might indeed be pretty easy to grow, getting them to grow straight UP is a bit more of a challenge......

*  I am far less tolerant of fussiness in plants I can't eat

*  After two years of reasonably successful gardening, I am positively sanctimoneous when walking through the produce aisles and seeing all the waxed produce....

*  The strawberry plants have doubled in size in just the last three weeks.  I am getting a little bit nervous....

*  Just because a pair of scissors is advertised as being ambidextrous and one has been able to operate them with the left hand before, doesn't mean one will be able to operate them left-handed when it's really necessary.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

More American Food History

In my food research project, I am currently reading Something From the Oven by Laura Shapiro, and it's simply fascinating to me.  Shapiro is talking about American cooking in the 1950s, and the trends that define the era.  I'm not finished yet, but so far the trends are:

*  manufacturers who have all sorts of money invested in equipment to produce processed & packaged foods leftover from the war, and their attempts to convince American housewives to buy these bizarre food products--without, of course, condescending to actually consider what housewives might be thinking or what they actually want

*  the emergence of early women humor writers--the first women publicly willing to admit that ironing their husbands shirts while wearing high heels and pearls really isn't a fulfilling lifestyle

*  women's magazines producing dreadful recipes and articles in order to please advertisers

*  great numbers of women were in the workforce already (no matter what we like to pretend about the era), and the dual incomes were contributing greatly to the post-war prosperity, which afforded families better food choices

*  Poppy Cannon:  the woman responsible for "The Can Opener Cookbook," and perhaps the only person in existence to ever think of dousing Libby's Vienna sausages with brandy, setting them on fire, and still expect someone to eat it

It's been a very entertaining--if somewhat frightening--book, but I have had to stop reading it before bedtime after a few Spam-related nightmares.  Not to frighten you--and it will be best to not read this right before dinner--I do have to share a few memorable processed foods that manufacturers tried to persuade American housewives to try:


* canned bacon
* Tatonuts (some sort of "new potato tidbit")
* canned deep-fried hamburgers
* canned fruit gelatin
* powdered wine, sherry, and port
* ham sticks
* eggplant sticks
* dried lima bean sticks
* and several Spam-like substances:  Treat, Mor, Prem, and Snack.  Mercifully, I don't think any are still available for human consumption......

Monday, May 17, 2010

A Few Updates

*  We have harvested our first lettuce and spinach!!!!  And since I greatly over estimated in the garden as usual, we are enjoying salad at every meal--including breakfast.

*  Most of the garden is in, but I have finally learned that no matter what the weather looks like currently, peppers planted before Memorial Day are going to die.  It's as guaranteed as me trying to grow African violets as houseplants.

*  Some friends are simplifying their landscaping, so they gave us bunches of daisies, irises, and day lilies to plant in out flower beds.  I am choosing to focus on how nice it was of them to share, rather than considering that they might be choosing to get rid of them for a reason....

*  Friday night we went to a "house concert" at a friend's house.  One of the musicians was a lady who had always wanted to learn to play the electric guitar, so took it up at the age of 50.  Gotta admire her on that one!

*  Saturday night we went to another friend's 50th birthday party, and Andy has now seen his first male stripper and lived to tell the tale.

*  We have a little half-sized shovel, and with that I can dig with one hand fairly easily.  Of course, it would be a lot easier if I had injured my left arm instead of my right, but we can't have everything.

*  I'm in that dangerous gardening mode--most things are planted but aren't requiring anything else, and I'm flipping through seed packets thinking "What else can I plant?"

*  This weekend I listened to Pinocchio--the REAL book, not the Disney version.  Even though I read a lot as a kid, I had never read the original story.  Technically, I'm not sure anyone at Disney has either......

*  Remember how I planted beets about a month ago?  Well, we do have one coming up, but it's in a different bed than where I planted them.  This is becoming an awful lot of work for a vegetable I've refused to eat most of my life.

*  I may have opened the last jar of the dill & mustard pickles this weekend. (sob!)  Not that I don't still have the traditional dills, but to be two and a half months away from having more of my favorite pickles will be tragic.

*  We're already discussing plans for Canning Season.  I think other people call it "fall."

*  If I ever get it tamed, in the future I will remember to NEVER plant mint without containing it.  I was lured into a false sense of security because it didn't grow the very first time I planted it.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Meet My New Friend

Yesterday was it's first full day, and it finally struck me about half way through the day that THE WHOLE IDEA OF A SLING is probably that if I'm having to take my arm out of it all the time to do things, I'm probably not really "resting" my arm, which explains quite a bit.  SO.....I'm actually really resting my arm now and actually not using it, so it might honestly get better in a week or two.

Hm.....go figure........

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Soup Night is Tomorrow Night!

Today I made:

*  black bean and chorizo soup

*  pumpkin bisque

*  chocolate zucchini cake

Hey, if that doesn't make for a good soup night, I don't know what will!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Fun Food History Facts

* The "Good & Plenty" licorice candies are believed to be the oldest brand-named candy in the United States, although the name was not trademarked until 1928

*  Heinz never actually had the famous "57 Varieties" of his slogan--he had considerably more.  He just liked the number "57."

*  In the 1940s, to promote their tomato sauce, Hunt Foods printed tomato sauce recipes inside millions of matchbook covers--which leads me to wonder if matchbooks were bigger then, or did people have better eyesight back then?

*  John Kellogg--he of the corn flake fame--also invented nut butters as an alternative to dairy butter.  Peanuts were inexpensive, and peanut butter became an American staple.

*  Harlan Sanders operated an automobile service station in Corbin, Kentucky.  In 1930, he began serving meals to hungry travelers, and when his seasoned fried chicken (using 11 herbs and spices) was more popular & more profitable than gasoline or tires, a legend was born.  

* Lifesavers are thought to be the first "impulse-buy" food items.  Because grocery stores wouldn't initially stock them, Edward Noble sold the mint candies to bars, where the displays were placed next to the cash register--mighty handy for anyone trying to disguise the alcohol on his breath.....

* In 1929, Oscar Mayer and his brother were the first to sell brand-name meats in America--and certainly the first to drive around in a humungous hot dog.  The Oscar Mayer Weinermobile hit the streets 7 years later.  We're still waiting for the "pickle-loaf" mobile......

*  Pizza Hut--the chain largely responsible for popularizing pizza throughout the US--was so named because the Carney brothers, being short on money, wanted to use the existing sign on the restaurant they purchased.  The sign had room for 8 letters and the first 5, P-I-Z-Z-A, were already in place....

*  As early as the 1870s, there were street vendors selling frozen fruit juices on the streets of New York and other American cities.  These vendors were called "hokeypokeys," but no mention is made of whether selling frozen fruit juice truly IS "what it's all about."



Source:  The Oxford Companion to American Food And Drink, edited by Andrew F. Smith

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Apparently, Third Time Is NOT the Charm...

The good news:  we have some excellent strawberry-vanilla jam here at Chateau Sutton-Goar.

The bad news:  Making jam STILL doesn't seem to qualify as a "good thing to do with an injured arm......."

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Some Experiments Worth Sharing

As you might have guessed by now, I make up a lot of the stuff I cook.  Some of it is really good, some just passable, and some that are fine once but don't ever need to surface again. 

This week, however, I've come up with some good stuff, if I do say so myself.  And since all good things are better if shared, so.....

Toasted Almond martini

2 oz. toasted almond liqueur (which I found at a liquor store recently & without having any idea what one does with the stuff, picked up a bottle)
2 oz. vodka
2 oz. amaretto
2 oz. creme de cacao

Put in a martini shaker with ice, shake until chilled, then serve.  I'm sipping mine as I write, so if this isn't entirely coherent, we all know why......

Monday, May 3, 2010

Look! A Homemade Pop Tart Recipe That Doesn't Require Lard!!!!!

homemade pop tarts | smitten kitchen

We can just add this to the list of "things I'm going to do once my dang arm is fully healed!"  As well as the "things that will make my butt big if I do it very often" list.........

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Defining Moment In American Food History?

I'm continuing to read food history--though obviously not blogging about it much--and last night I reached Prohibition--January 16, 1920, when the 18th amendment to the US Constitution prohibited the sale of alcohol.

As with most attempts to legislate morality, the "Noble Experiment" failed miserably, and I have read that alcohol consumption actually INCREASED during that time, though I am still looking for the source so please don't quote me on that one.  And like most things, there were far-reaching consequences that seem to have not been considered:  the rise of organized crime, the lack of tax revenues on alcohol causing a tax shortage and almost destroying the existing restaurant industry.

According to Harvey Levenstein in Revolution at the Table, (and considering how many footnotes & sources he lists, I tend to believe him on things) before Prohibition, restaurants--especially those of the "fine dining" variety--were for men only because of the conspicuous consumption of alcohol and were devoted mostly to French cuisine, which had been held up as THE standard for fine dining since the later 1800s, and was generally for the upper-classes only.  Hotels, which could offer large portions with fine ingredients and low room rates because they made most of their money from the alcohol, had to change to cheaper food, smaller portions, and untrained chefs or go out of business.  Many of the legendary New York restaurants like Delmonico's went out of business.  Between not being able to cook with wine, not being able to serve wine with dinner, and general cost problems due to lack of alcohol revenue, the "fine dining" segment of society basically evaporated.

However, because restaurants could no longer serve alcohol, it became acceptable for women--especially those in the work force--to visit them.  As bars were converted to soda fountains, quick inexpensive meals became a national trend.  Automats, sandwich shops, cafeterias--anything that could provide cheap, clean, fast meals flourished.  Classically trained chefs were replaced by cheap unskilled labor who could assemble meals from cans & simple cooking techniques.  Aimed at the working classes who weren't impressed by French food and weren't comfortable ordering things they couldn't pronounce, French food fell out of favor.  Since the movies had made slimness & the Flapper a national ideal, the new meals were lighter and some restaurants even posted calorie content right on their menu--and people considered it a GOOD thing.  Maybe it helped that the 1200-calorie burger was still several years into the future.....

The New Additions

Shortly after moving, we had to put our oldest cat down, so we have adopted 2 new kittens to keep Theo company: Mostly Theo is not thr...