Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Garden update: Day 12

I am very pleased to announce great progress in my garden. I've had to battle early-morning slugs, which have thoroughly chomped through my basil, but my toms and peps are thriving and I've got greens making an appearance. And other things. Take a look.

Mixed chicory blend (top); French Breakfast radishes (m); Parisienne carrots (bottom, r); arugula (bottom, m); and Thai chili pepper (bottom, l)
Bowl of herbs (top); mint (bottom)
Toms. They've really taken off. I like how they deliberately staggered themselves in size. 

Peps. Still have no idea what species. Time will tell.

Salad greens.

Dixie butter peas. Three of the four seeds took root. Really pleased.

One lone okra. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Sweet & simple & I got a hat!

Now let me state up front that I am singing the praises of Sweet & Simple not because I received any products for free or pimped myself out as a reviewer. Rather, I wanted a hat. And some cookies. And I happen to think Michelle Jaffee is a tremendous amount of fun online and I'm all for supporting a local (hey, it's on the East Coast!), non-chain business, run by a woman who works her butt off. Whilst raising a family. That all being said, I really wanted a hat. So I placed my order and today received a great basket of joy:

(Note the hat. I'm going to wear it everywhere.) 

I also ate a cookie. A chocolate chip cookie. And it was very good. Very, very good. When I worked downtown, I often treated myself to local cookies sold in delis and such but not one was as good as this. Seriously. This is the best I've ever had. Not crunchy like a Chips Ahoy, nor over chewy, it was just the right combo of cakey/chewy with just the right amount of chippage. And because it's made from scratch with only natural ingredients I feel that, perhaps, I should eat another. To keep my strength up. You know, for medicinal purposes. Because M&Ms make everyone feel good. But I won't. Because I'm going to share with the rest of my family. I'm super nice that way. 

If you'd like to order a basket of joy for yourself (and I highly recommend that you do), just click here. Michelle is also on Twitter so please give her a follow. 

And no, you can't have the brownie. That's all mine. Although most likely I will share it with Jandar, because he does love a brownie sundae. And, if I can get to the vanilla ice cream lurking in the back of my freezer, he shall have what most likely will be the best one ever.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Minty green thumb

Last year, after my garden was destroyed by what I later found out were fungus gnats, I swore I would never do one again. Nothing more than a few indoor pots of herbs. No more tomatoes, peppers, nothing. I was done. As you can probably guess, I lied. Through my teeth. And here's photographic proof that I cannot be trusted. ;)

Grand overview. I decided to line up everything against the fence this year, where they'll get excellent sun and, I must admit, it will be far easier for me to manage. I used to keep the containers on the patio; however, the pots then had to be moved around and relocated every time we wanted to use the patio. I can't believe I didn't do this years ago. 

This is my sage and oregano. I planted the sage in the ground our first summer here, nine years ago, but it didn't take very well. Last year I uprooted it and gave it a better home and it's thriving. It was actually three times the size before I cut it back. The oregano was planted last year to keep it company and it's coming in really well.

Empty pots. Fascinating, no? No, I know. The yellow and red pots are Vidrines Midget Cowhorn okra, which is supposed to grow about only about three feet but produces pods that can reach 15-in in length. The blue bucket is Dixie Speckled Butterpea, which is a lima bean. I'm really excited about growing both of these. I love okra and lima beans and, if I get lucky and get a bumper crop, they'll both keep really well in the freezer.

The empty blue bucket with the bag of soil is for my lettuce seeds, which should be arriving any day now from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. I forgot to order them earlier but there is still plenty of time as it's only May.  The yellow and red buckets have six pepper plants of indeterminate variety. Because I forgot to label them. Which adds a note of intrigue, don't you think? However, if I am lucky, they should be Santa Fe Grande; Jimmy Nardello Italian; Corne de Chevre; Tequila Sunrise; and California Wonder. I also have some seeds indoors that I'm hoping to add to the collection.

Three tomatoes, Uncle Mark Bagby; Tonadoes des Conores; and a striped, whose name escapes me at the moment. Also sweet basil, cinnamon basil, and cilantro.

Left to right, my nine-year-old mint; Parisienne carrot seeds; and a big dish of German thyme; rosemary; and Texas tarragon. 

Citrus mint.


Roses. Which I didn't plant but they're coming in so nicely I wanted to share. And, if you look closely, Buddha up to your left, under the tree. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Hair nets & Jell-O salad

Many moons ago, I worked as a dietary aide at a nursing home.  By many moons I mean right out of high school, circa 1985.  Yes, I'm old enough to be your grandmother.  Let us not mention it again.
I started at the bottom, like everyone else, and for the first few months drew all the weekend shifts, and did an awful lot of bussing tables and sweeping floors, collecting garbage, and taking out the trash. I served questionable deli meats and cheeses to the residents and scooped more cottage cheese than I ever want to see again.  I sweet-talked diabetics into eating ghastly sugar-free ice "milk" for dessert and tried to keep the resident horny old man from grabbing my ass every time I walked by.  It wasn't a hard job, it paid well, and it allowed my 17 y/o self a hell of a lot of freedom. It even paid for my first two years at community college.
After my probation period was up, I was offered a full-time position, which was highly unusual, but they needed someone willing to work 6-2:30 who wouldn't show up staggeringly hungover from the night before and who could be trusted to work the occasional overtime until 7pm without hiding in a closet with a joint and a forty of Miller.  It wasn't that the job drove its employees to getting stoned and wasted; it was the fact that we were all fresh out of high school (and younger) and not exactly supervised by Mormons.  Every weekend, forties were smuggled in and at least one cook showed up with a bag of weed, ready for rolling on the stainless steel tables where we were pouring juice and wrapping bread. I neither drank nor smoked for two reasons: 1) my parents drove me to work and picked me up and I was no fool; and 2) I have always hated the smell of pot, even to this day.  Plus, I grew up drinking the dregs of my dad's beer and he always told me if I wanted one of my own to just ask.
As time went on, I got drafted into doing actual kitchen work involving food.  I learned to make great horking vats of salads: egg, tuna, potato, macaroni, anything that could be stretched with mayonnaise and chopped celery; sliced many pounds of lunchmeats and cheeses, learning to wear my shirt over my face to protect myself from flying pieces of p&p loaf; made about a million sandwiches for Meals on Wheels; sliced and garnished wobbly blocks of nasty gelatin salad (made with cole slaw mix and lemon or lime Jell-O); and roasted and sliced giant mutant turkeys.  I even learned to live with the occasional corpse that needed refrigeration during the warmer months until it could be taken away.  As head aide of the upper two floors, I became a whiz at pureeing everything into a semi-palatable mush for residents who couldn't handle solids.  The 2nd floor included people fresh out of the hospital, just needing time to return to their regular routine; the 3rd housed the residents for whom there was no coming back.  But they got bacon and cheese and pasta and whatever we could run through the food mill or processor; it wasn't aesthetically pleasing but the nutritionist made sure they were given proper food and not living solely on Ensure.
I left the home after several years for a position in a law library downtown.  Better pay and more in line with what I wanted to do with my life.  And I had to admit that I was tired of going home at the end of a long day with bits of food in my hair and reeking of Mulligatawny.  I look back at my years as a dietary aide fondly.  I was never screwed over, my bosses were good to all of us, and I have stories that, while they may not be funny in translation, still make me smile.  While it didn't exactly instill in me a love of cooking (you try mixing a sinkful of tuna salad with your hands) I still think government cheese makes a wonderful grilled sandwich (I use Kraft slices today) and every time I ate a little packet of graham crackers when I was pregnant I remembered how we used to sneak them out of the storeroom for the residents to stash for midnight snacks.

And I must admit that I loved wearing a hair net.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Two quirky girls and a pie

The week before Memorial Day, my local buddy Laura Freed and I were bouncing around ideas about how to include bacon in a dessert, particularly pie.  After very little bouncing (we can justify including bacon in almost anything) we decided that pecan pie would be the pie of choice.  The syrupy sweet filling and inherent butteriness of the pecans would play very nicely with the salty smokiness of the bacon.  But where to put the bacon?  It would be overwhelmed in the filling and we wanted it to be separate, not just a blended ingredient.

We decided it should go in the crust.  And behold, the Pecan Pie w/Bacon Crust was born.  (Yeah, we didn't give it a fancy name.  I mean, really, it's all about the bacon, anyway.)

The pie was made from scratch, using homemade pie dough as well.  Oscar Mayer was the bacon of choice.

I knew going in that I'd have to adjust the pie dough recipe to allow for the fat from the bacon.  I ended up using 2 1/2 cups flour, 8 Tbsp Crisco, 1/3 cup ice water, and added 5 slices of cooked, undrained bacon.  Undrained meaning I just took it from the baking sheet after it cooled and plopped it into the fridge.  This recipe was only tested this once and it worked out pretty well; however, I have a feeling it will need some tweaking should I attempt this again.  Should you want to try this, I make no guarantees it will work for you.  It will all depend on your particular ingredients; the stars aligned for me that day.  :)

Here is the finished dough:

I used the standard recipe found on the bottle of dark Karo syrup, adding a few tablespoons of bourbon to the batter.  Because I love bourbon.  And pecan pie.  And bacon.  And what could be better than all three together?  Particularly in a pie.

And here is what they morphed into:

I served this with a scoop of vanilla ice cream from Tanner's, a local dairy farm that makes out-of-this-world ice cream.  And this pie deserved it.

The result?  A very good pie.  The filling was as it should be, and the addition of the bourbon was spiky enough without being overwhelming.  The crust tasted very much like a savory scone, and the bacon taste was obvious without being overpowering.  It all worked very well together, salty, sweet, smoky, and the ice cream actually cut through the richness of the dessert nicely.

I enjoyed making this pie and but the most fun was planning the whole concoction with Laura.  So I think we can officially call this Quirky Pecan Pie and not be so damn literal with the name.  :)