Tag Archives: cooking

O Gardening, How I Love/Hate Thee…

So we used to have a really awesome vegetable garden.  We grew all kinds of tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, eggplant, cucumbers, beans, and even tried corn and carrots.  The carrots were sad, twisted, and bitter, much like some people I encounter on a daily basis, so we decided it’s better to buy them.  The corn was fun to watch grow, and even more fun to watch my Hubby HAND POLLINATING the suckers to make sure everything would come out hunky dory.  The resultant sexy corn had lots of missing kernels and looked a bit knobby, but tasted very sweet, unlike any people I encounter on a daily basis.  We decided that was also better to trust our local farmer’s market for future corn.

We took a pass on a veggie garden for the last few years because of time, weather, and general “ugh, do I really want to dig this all over again?”  But two years ago we built a lovely sturdy raised garden, and put all sorts of good soil in it.  I ordered plants online and lots of seeds, too, and lovingly started our garden.  I had not factored in the resident groundhog, Fred, or the voracious bunnies, or our newly adopted beagle Nellie.  It was an….interesting garden season.  So this year we armed ourselves with chicken wire fencing and garden stakes and whatnot, and felt sure we were all good to go.

 

There is something so sweet about blind faith, isn’t there?

 

We didn’t mail order our plants this year.  In fact, May was such crappy weather we didn’t plant until the beginning of June and used well-established plants from (forgive me, here, because it’s just so shameful to admit) Home Depot.  *shudder*  I try to be a good steward of the earth and take care to note where my food comes from and just who I support with my grocery dollars, but time was short and they were right there….

Here’s the rub:  We have gorgeous beefsteak tomatoes, although I find the flavor not as intense as a true Jersey tomato.  We have plum tomatoes that are great but they like to lay down on the ground as if they’re too exhausted to show up anymore and make it difficult for me to find them.  We have cherry tomatoes that are cheerfully determined to wrestle the plum tomatoes to the ground because they’re showoffs and they want to grab all the glory and attention.

We have cucumbers that grew astonishingly fast, wrapping themselves happily around the fencing and the strings we tied up, blossomed beautiful flowers, gave us three outstanding cucumbers, then promptly died back like something out of a body-snatcher movie.  Three. Lousy. Cucumbers.  Didn’t even get one of those hidden canoe-sized ones.

We have the tallest, strongest, most wide-leafed zucchini plants I’ve ever seen in my life, dripping with gorgeous blossoms (that I really want to fry up) and NOT A SINGLE FRUIT.  I’ve never seen anything like this.  Not one.  Ginormous leaves, incredibly thick stalks, proud blossoms…..and then nothing.  Not one sweet little squash to make bread or frittata or saute with garlic and mushrooms.

 

And that’s it.  That’s the whole garden this year.  It’s now August 29, so I don’t think I’m getting anything else this year, and I have to wonder if I count this year as a success because of the tomato bounty or a failure because of cukes and zukes.

 

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This is what I was hoping for…

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Well, Hey There!

Holy Hannah, can I just tell you how many blog posts I’ve composed in my head and was convinced I’d sit down and have jewels of words just pour out all over your monitor?  Can I tell you how surprised I was to find I hadn’t written any?  I must have the most realistic dreams in the world…..

  1.  July was a very hot month so I found lots of things to either do inside my house with air conditioning, or in my car with air conditioning, or at somebody else’s house with air conditioning, or in a restaurant with air conditioning.  In July I pretty much forgot what fresh air smelled like.
  2. I also celebrated an anniversary in July, and it always amazes me how my wedding day only feels like two years ago, max.  But it’s been twenty-eight, so either I’m the Doctor and I’ve nailed time-travel, or this is a pretty good marriage.
  3. I learned how to can!2016-08-22 22.18.10
  4. Which maybe wasn’t such a smart thing to do since it introduced a new component of humidity in my house.
  5. August was also hot, but I didn’t care because we went on an Alaskan cruise.  Do you know that it doesn’t go much above 80 on the interior passage of Alaska?  Me neither.  Did you also know that it’s a temperate rainforest?  Me neither.  And what are rainforests good for?  Sing with me, kids: H-U-M-I-D-I-T-Y!!!
  6. It was an amazing experience that I am truly grateful for; we saved up for this trip for eighteen months but it still boggles my mind just how expensive it was.  It also taught me a lesson about cruises (this was my third one): limit excursions to ONE per day.  Not because I was overstimulated or anything like that, it was just so redundant.  We went from Juneau to Skagway to Icy Strait Point to Ketchikan, and every single excursion in every single place took great pains to educate us on bears and skunk cabbage.  Go ahead, ask me about bears and skunk cabbage.  I dare you.
  7. I did get to see a glacier.  Yup!

    That’s Hubbard Glacier, and when I saw how close the ship got and how incredibly cold the surrounding air was, I figured I’d finally found a place to live in the summer. But alas, regulations and rules and all….

  8. My knitting has been in drips and drabs.  I made a shawl to bring with me on the trip but didn’t use it much.  I’ve started two other shawls (because why not) and a couple of baby bibs, because many people I know are into the whole procreating thing.  It’s so easy to knit baby stuff, I keep forgetting.
  9. I started orientation on my new job, where I am alternately exhilarated at the thought of teaching college and appalled at the thought of teaching college.  Classes start September 7th, so if you don’t hear from me after that…..No, that’s not a fair thing to post because after all, I’m pretty bad at posting on a regular basis.  So if you see a post after September 7th and I don’t mention my job, maybe just figure it’s best not to talk about it.
  10. Like that’s ever stopped me before.
bean

I do that too, but for all the wrong reasons.

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Ten on Friday

  1.  The Mets are going to the World Series.  It is very strange to type that sentence even though it fills me with absolute joy.  I don’t think I remember how to be a baseball fan in October.
  2. My knitting seems to be all garter, all the time.  I have a huge garter blanket going right now for a gift, as well as a garter Baby Surprise Jacket for a December baby, and I’m thinking of another garter blanket when this one is done.  I wonder if that’s a secret signal that my knitting brain is fried.
  3. It is October 23 and it’s still not warm enough to think about baked apples, butternut squash soup (yes, Younger Daughter, I think you jumped the gun), and pot roast.  I think November is going to be a flurry of fitting all these things in before turkey and cranberry season.
  4. I am purging things in my house like mad.  I used to be a collector of stuff, certain I was saving the earth from needless garbage while I thought about how each item would be carefully recycled into something beautiful or useful.  Now I’m all get-that-crap-outta-my-house.  And I’m not doing the “tidying up magic” that’s all the rage now because I seriously cannot hold wallpaper scraps in my hands and divine whether or not they bring me joy and thank them for their usefulness.  I just want all-that-crap-outta-my-house.
  5. If I hear “where’s my hoverboard” one more time I may have to punch somebody.  It’s a movie.
  6. There are a bazillion ideas floating in my brain for landscaping our huge backyard, and I think back to the days when I was moving rocks and digging whole gardens.  Today I couldn’t get up from a kneeling position.  Time, you are a schizophrenic friend.
  7. Of all the things I miss about working, having the funds to hire somebody to clean my house tops the list.  It’s not that I don’t clean my house, it’s that I really suck at it.  I don’t notice stuff until it’s in full horror-movie mode and then I’m frantically trying to fix it before somebody notices.  Or worse, I think to myself “huh, I’ll have to take care of that” and then poof! it’s gone from my thought process and I’m playing another game on the iPad.  (I love my iPad.  It’s so bad for me.)
  8. This year I’m not buying any candy for Halloween.  (Gasp.)  I am getting a pumpkin and painting it teal.  Have you heard about that?  It’s to signify that you are a home dispensing treats that are safe for little monsters that have allergies, so no nuts or wheat or crushed roaches or whatever.  I am handing out little bags of potato chips instead.  And while that is making sweet-tooth Hubby a bit pouty, I am all about the chips.  Mmmmm……
  9. Can we fine all political candidates who flood our mailboxes with glossy mailers about how wonderful they are going to be if you elect them, even though they haven’t been wonderful before this and they’re surely wasting money and materials mailing out those stupid things?  Because I could get behind that.
  10. Luna bars make a perfectly decent breakfast when you don’t want to go through the hassle of making breakfast.  My favorites are Coconut Chocolate and Honey Salted Peanut.
I shall pose like this and look like I'm in charge.

I shall pose like this and look like I’m in charge.

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And Another Thing, Chefs…

Dear Chefs,

I know you work very hard and your reputation goes out on every plate you serve.  I can’t imagine being in a hot, steamy kitchen (see many previous whines posts about humidity and me) bending over all the time and getting what I’m sure is a walloping backache, and having to do the same dish over and over until you want to use a fork to pluck out your own eyeballs.  (Maybe a little too dramatic?)

What I don’t understand is why you need to sabotage food.  If you offer lobster, and I want to eat it, wouldn’t you think I’d want to taste the lobster?  Lobster is damn tasty food, and I don’t even need the melted butter, so why on earth would you present me with a blanket of brown stuff that looked like it should have been stuffing (which is normally reserved for bland food like turkey, not my beautiful lobster) and tasted like a salt repository?  It literally made my dinner inedible, and I couldn’t really taste anything after that, either.  Why?  Did you have a fight with your spouse?  Did you shuffle this dish off to an underling?  Are you unsure of the labels in your spice cabinet?

There’s another habit that I don’t understand.  You present a beautiful ribeye steak, perfectly done and practically a work of art.  On my first heavenly morsel, I bite down on cracked peppercorn so thick it literally made my eyes water and my breath stop in my throat.  After emergency applications of bread and water, I ask for the menu.  Scanning it, I see no description of “peppercorn encrusted” or “spice-rubbed” or anything remotely hinting at the fire in my throat.  Why, Chef?  Why you gotta sabotage me like that?  I scrape off the stuff as completely as I can, but my mouth is still burning from the pepper, and I really can’t taste anything else.  I love ribeye steak almost as much as lobster, and I am sad at this latest turn of events.

One last thing, and I promise I’m done.  I’m a fan of onions when they are fried, frizzled, or sauteed, but not when they’re raw.  Again, if I don’t see anything on the menu warning me of the impending danger, and you serve me a dish where you’ve cleverly hidden the raw onions underneath something else, I’m not going to be happy.  You have rendered my palate temporarily disabled and I won’t be able to taste anything else.  Unless, of course, that’s your master plan, that you don’t want me to taste the food for whatever nefarious reason you have in which case may I suggest you apply for a job with a local spy company?  I hear the NSA is looking for a few good folks.

A tip, if I may: STOP SMOKING.  Your mouths are coated in tar and nicotine so you are salting a peppering and hotting up your food so you can get past all those barriers you’ve put in there, and taking it out on us poor unsuspecting souls who just want to eat your glorious food even at the overinflated prices you charge.  It wasn’t until all those cooking reality shows came on that I realize every damn one of you smokes and you’re killing me with first hand heat instead of second hand smoke.

Hugs and kisses,

Your frustrated diner

OUCH MY MOUTH!

OUCH MY MOUTH!

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Ten on Tuesday

1. The potato-leek soup was DELICIOUS.

2. The to-do list is still somewhat in the mental planning stages.

3. Seven of the eight drawers in the dresser are emptied and are well on the way to being re-organized with a pared-down wardrobe.

4. Why does anyone need as many camisoles as I have?

5. See previous blog entry re: “stuff.”

6. I received new beads in the mail and can now finish my shawl project.  Thank you, Jimmy Beans Wool, for such speedy delivery.  Had I been wearing any of the 27 pairs of socks I own, you would have blown them off.

7. #6 is why the butternut squash soup didn’t get made.

8. I actually may get to Rhinebeck this year, even in the face of the no-yarn-for-a-year diet I’m on.  Buttons!  That’s what I’ll get!

9. I’m also on the no-magazines-for-a-year diet, and the new Jane Austen Knits just came out.  ::weeps quietly::

10. Oatmeal with butter, sugar-in-the-raw, and pecans is the absolute best thing on a crisp September morning.

 

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Sing it, sister.

 

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Cooking

Yikes!

 

I enjoy cooking, and this summer I’ve been cooking a lot.  Tonight was eggplant parmesan, and let me tell you, this dish is a labor of love (and breadcrumbs).  It sounds so easy but from the time I started until I sat down to eat, three and a half hours had passed.

 

Thus, my “yikes!”

 

You need eggplant (obvi), breadcrumbs, oil, eggs, cheese, and sauce.  Throw it together and bake.  Easy, right?

 

Peel the eggplant.  Slice it longways with your mandoline, and decide that for once you are not going to salt it and drain it, since this is the really pretty graffiti eggplant that isn’t as spongy as your dark purple aubergines.  While the mandoline is out you say what the heck, and slice up the onion with it.  And the garlic (which really wasn’t that effective, but hey, I had mandoline fever).  And the mozzarella!  Brilliant!  except not!  But all the slicing was done, so onward.

Let the eggplant sit for a bit.  The poor things have been through the wringer, so they need to recover.  Decide to make the marinara sauce, but make enough for tonight, tomorrow, and all of next week.  Drag out the big sauce pot, throw in the olive oil, heat it up, and throw in the onions and garlic.  Open two cans of paste top and bottom; this way you press all the paste out and don’t go nuts trying to scrape every last bit out of the tiny can.  Fry it up with the sauteeing onions and garlic and pass out from the heavenly smell.  Once it looks like it’s pretty incorporated, throw in two cans each of diced tomatoes and pureed tomatoes, plus basil, oregano, salt, and pepper.  Stir it up really well.  If you stir it up lousy, something terrible is sure to happen.  When it boils and deposits ugly blotches all over your white stovetop, turn it down to a simmer and cover it and leave it alone in time out.

 

Hey, remember the eggplant?  Get out your big cast iron skillet that your parents used for over 30 years and put some canola oil in.  I’m a canola girl.  Now you have to beat some eggs and get some panko breadcrumbs ready.  I’ve stopped using normal (?) breadcrumbs because of all the processed ingredients in it and the high amounts of sugar.  I’m not a huge eater of super healthy stuff, but I try to avoid more processed stuffs the older I get.  Dip the properly chastised eggplant in the egg, press the panko firmly on it, and place into the pan.  You can’t put more than four or five slices in at a time, and your stack of waiting eggplant slices is about half a mile high, so you’re going to be here for a while.  Get annoyed because the first batch isn’t sizzling as much as you’d like, and realize you didn’t wait long enough for the oil to get shiny.  

 

Suddenly everything happens at once.  You realize you left the new package of breadcrumbs, along with oatmeal and wheat germ, at the store.  Younger Daughter who just got home (scoring some mighty fine bargains on her shopping trip, she is SO me) is instructed to call store.  Yep.  It’s there, just been listed as “forgotten bag” and I can come get it.  Hubby will have to get it as I have that half-mile high stack of eggplant to rassle, and they say all he has to do is describe the items.  Older Daughter is texting and the phone is ringing.  Gah!

 

Things keep moving, the eggplant is taking its time and things are sizzling quite nicely.  Hubby calls from supermarket.  Guess what?  They put my items back on the shelf.  They’ve been paid for, they said they would hold them, and they put them back to re-sell them.  Not cool, supermarket.  Not cool.  A sternly worded letter is going to somebody sometime when the half-mile eggplant stack is whittled down.

 

Stir the sauce!  You don’t want it to stick!

 

Finally finish the eggplant.  Grab the baking dish, ladle the sauce, and begin stacking the eggplant, mozzarella, and sauce in layers.  Get it all done neatly with about 1/32″ to spare.  Prudently place cookie sheet under casserole dish and shove into oven which you are positive you set at 375 degrees but is now showing 200.  Really, oven?  Et tu?

 

I’m happy to report that the eggplant was gratefully devoured by an appreciative family and the wonderful Hubby of supermarket escapades washed ALL. THE. DISHES.  He is such a keeper!

 

No really, I enjoy cooking.  Now imagine if I’d tried to take pictures like a food blogger.  Good heavens, I’d be under the table chewing my cuticle.  How do those people do it? I admire their acrobatic and organizational skills, not to mention their styling of food.  Guaranteed my camera would have ended up in the sauce.

 

Is there a meal you will painstakingly create?  If so, can I come over?

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