I have never let my schooling interfere with my education. - Mark Twain

Saturday, December 18, 2010

When life hands you whatever

The seitan recipe mentioned in this post is still being developed. I used tomato ketchup as per the recipe I was working from and it was too sweet for my taste, so next time it shall be tomato paste instead. Plus, I used too much oil and the results were too soft. BUT. There are other ways to slice a loaf.

I used some of the round one trial results for a breakfast burrito this morning. Cubed and seasoned with some veggie grill seasoning, and sauteed before adding the veggies, the cubes got nice and crispy and almost bacon-y and added further wonderfulness to breakfast. Too much oil turns out to be great for frying seitan. Last night I sauteed/seasoned julienned strips of seitan the same way, until crispy, and they went over pasta (to much, well at least my, acclaim).

You almost can't ruin seitan if you start out with the right ratio of dry/wet ingredients. There will always be something you can do with it even if you don't love it all by itself. If I had enough left over I was going to also try some paper thin slices (breakfast strip sized), marinated in a little liquid smoke and maybe some Worcestershire sauce, and then fried up, but alas, there are not many of the 'results' left so on to a new round of trials...

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Breakfast of painters

There are some rooms that are starting to look all Martha Stewart here, even if it's only walls and woodwork. Most of the house is still trashed due to various piles of painting and repair paraphernalia strewn about. So not much cooking, although there is a lot of reading about cooking!

Hey- should count for something.

On recent weekends lunch has often been bypassed so I've decided being a piglet at breakfast is OK. This weekend I was said piglet, with a soon to be legendary (in my own mind) breakfast quesadilla.

Now to do this properly all the innards should be sauteed briefly (as they were) and then sandwiched between two tortillas (as they were) and then grilled on both sides (as they were not) to get the full quesadilla experience. Sadly, I was in a hurry to start the endless painting and the toaster oven stood in for the grill (which is packed away in the Storage Unit That Just Raised Their Monthly Fee- Happy Holidays!) But it tasted like more anyway!

Notice that in order to ensure full quality control, the frontmost quarter was chomped carefully sampled before being photographed.

The painter's breakfast was assembled with green peppers, mushrooms, and onions sauteed in some Earth Balance, scrambled tofu (about 5 oz., but 4 oz. would have been plenty) seasoned with the indispensable scramble seasoning (which has undergone some tweaking), and sprinkled with a little bit o' non-dairy cheese shreds. Layered between two tortillas, the 'dilla was heated in the little oven at 350 F for just a few minutes to make everybody nice and toasty, and I was nomming one of the best breakfasts I've had in eons in no time. Probably made a bit too much filling as things were falling out on all sides but we are not being graded on neatness.

If this were paired with hash browns I think it would make a fabulous breakfast-for-dinner meal.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Saucy Saturday

There is a 'Beefy Style' seitan roast finishing in the toaster oven as I type, one that was inspired by numerous previous posts on the magical internet, notably those at Thrifty Living, Vegan Dad, and I Eat Food, and if it works it shall beget a post.

In the meantime, here is my homemade version of one of its ingredients, the ubiquitous Kitchen Bouquet, which as far as I can tell is completely unnecessary in the taste department, but essential for coloring in many recipes, even if you are using animal meat (which we don't bother with at WTM) instead of plant meat.

Browning Bouquet Sauce

Makes about 1½ cups

5 Tbs. brown sugar
1 Tbs. blackstrap molasses
1¼ cups water
¼ cup Tamari or soy sauce, for more of a 'seasoning' (not just browning) sauce
vegetarian bouillon powder, paste, or cube, enough for 1½ cups broth

Put brown sugar in a pan on low-medium heat and allow to caramelize while stirring frequently.

When sugar darkens to your liking, add molasses, water, tamari/soy sauce, and bouillon, and stir well to break up any crystals.

Bring to a low simmer and cook for 5-10 minutes, stirring frequently to completely dissolve sugar.

Transfer to a bottle that will hold at least 12 oz. Use judiciously (i.e. notta lotta) to color gravies, soups, stews, etc.

Wanna label for your bottle?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Getting back up to speed

So summer came and went, fall came and has almost went, and no bloggin' from my noggin came OR went for nearly three months (with the exception of a steal video post). Not that WTM is overflowing with blog posts in the first place, but still. I really didn't want to have all this empty space in between posts.

Summer was supposed to have had at least a couple more recipes-for-which-you-don't-need-a-recipe, and here is number one.

Potato salad blog posts should probably be banned from ze internetz by now, as there cannot possibly be another new way to make potato salad, but here's the iteration I used anyway.

My philosophy about macaroni salad holds true for potatoes- don't make 'em slimy!

Potato Salad

3 lb. medium Yukon Gold or other boiling potatoes, quartered

1 cup mayo of choice
1-2 Tbs. pickle relish
2-3 tsp. prepared mustard
1 Tbs. cider vinegar
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
½ tsp. dried dill weed
½ tsp. sweet paprika

½ cup finely diced celery
½ cup finely diced bell pepper (multiple colors are good)
½ cup finely diced red onion (or a mix of diced onion and slivered green onion)
2 Tbs. minced parsley

Cover potatoes with salted water and cook 15 to 20 minutes, until just tender. Drain in a colander, and rinse with cold water to halt cooking.

For dressing: blend mayo through paprika in a large bowl and mix to thoroughly combine.

Peel and cube potatoes (in about ¾" pieces), and add diced vegetables and parsley, mixing to combine.

Add dressing and mix again.

Adjust seasonings to taste, and garnish with additional paprika before serving, if desired (or as Mom always called it, "red stuff").

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Don't fear the turtle

Just found this- it takes place at one of the projects I work on, but I'd never seen this video- pretty neat!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Yes, we have some bananas

...and we never eat them up fast enough, so we do what the rest of the galaxy does and make banana bread. Course the rest of the galaxy has long ago posted all their recipes for b-bread- why do we need another one? Because this one's better, that's why!

Actually it's not that much different than bajillions of other recipes, but I decided most of them were too wet. This still turns out pretty moist but it doesn't fall apart at the slightest touch. I use a bit more flour and a little less fat than the versions which inspired mine (see those at Simply Recipes and Bernard Clayton's New Complete Book of Breads).

Nuts are not usually found in my banana bread (except for the nut milk used here). Nothing against them, they are a mainstay in the WTM kitchen, but I think they make b-bread too busy (who wants busy b-bread?) They may certainly be added if desired. I use a bit more salt, and almond milk, and also some cinnamon, which I don't think Mom ever used. Mom was a champion banana bread baker, and I can't find her recipe (!*@%!) but I know she would like this one. May try a bit of nutmeg, too, next time.

The secret for easy-peasy, always ready-to-bake banana bread is the freezer. When bananas start to go south here, I pop 'em into a heavy duty Ziploc bag and then into the freezer. When it's time to bake, out come three frozen (and black, by this time) bananas and into a large bowl they go while the other ingredients get rounded up and measured out. After about ten minutes or so of thawing, the skins can be pulled back easily and the bananas are now partially-frozen puree, which makes for almost effortless mashing.

In a pinch (meaning you don't have enough/any bananas), use pumpkin puree in place of banana puree, and pumpkin pie spice in place of cinnamon. Think outside the pan!

Banana Bread
(Approved by Dad, who doesn't like most of what I make, but surprises me on occasion)

3 ripe bananas
¼ cup melted Earth Balance margarine, or other butter equivalent
¼ cup almond milk, or other milk of choice

1 cup sugar
2 egg equivalents, beaten (I use a homemade egg replacer)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tsp. cinnamon (optional, but does add some nummy)

1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt

2 cups all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C). Grease and flour a 9" x 5" loaf pan.

Mash bananas in a large bowl; whisk in melted margarine and milk.

Add sugar through cinnamon (if using); stir to combine.

Add baking soda through salt; stir to combine.

Add flour and fold in gently to combine.

Pour mixture into the prepared loaf pan.

Bake for 1 hour, or until an inserted toothpick or small wooden skewer comes out clean.

Cool on a rack for 10 minutes; then remove from the pan to finish cooling on the same rack.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Red white and blue boring

Very little in the way of innovation has accompanied much of my recent kitchen pursuits in the middle of July in the middle Atlantic in the middle of moving. Frankly, I wants the comforts of my uneducated youth. Theoretically, nothing better fits the bill than good ol' red white and blue macaroni salad. From the deli. The really cheap deli at the local Gianormous grocery store.

Problem is, I am not that fond of most grocery store mac salads any more. They are too full of mayo and too sweet. I am not anti mayo or sugar by any means, but don't understand why everything from the deli counter has to be swimming in both. Guess it's the American way? We are trying to kill ourselves with sweet mayonnaise soup?

Well tighten up America, it's time for a new way! If I were Queen, here's how everyone would make their mac salads: elevate the flavor, don't forget the veggies, and for dog almighty's sake don't turn it into some kind of weird fatty liquid vat of slime.

Bonus- check out the recycled deli container used for the fancy food stylin'. Way to build up the eco-points, comrades...

Deli Macaroni Salad

Makes 12-16 small side servings, or 8 larger servings

1 pound elbow macaroni

½ cup diced bell pepper, your color choice (mix 'em!)
½ cup diced red onion
½ cup diced celery
½ cup shredded carrot
¼ cup minced fresh chives, or 2 Tbs. dried chives

1 cup vegan mayo
½ cup non-dairy milk of choice, more as necessary
2 Tbs. sweet pickle relish
2 Tbs. apple cider vinegar
1 Tbs. prepared Dijon mustard
1 Tbs. fresh minced dill, or 1 tsp. dried dill
1 tsp. sweet paprika
1 tsp. salt, to taste
½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper, to taste
½ tsp. whole caraway seed, or ¼ tsp. ground caraway seed, optional

Bring a large, 6 quart pot of water (with 1-2 Tbs. salt added, if desired) to a boil, and cook pasta until just al dente- follow manufacturer's directions but check early to achieve a firm al dente, not overcooked, result.

While water is heating and pasta is boiling, prep the vegetables and set aside in a bowl.

Make the dressing by blending mayo through caraway seed, if using, in a small bowl.

When pasta is cooked, drain in a colander and rinse with cold water to halt further cooking. Place in a large serving bowl, add chopped vegetables and dressing, and mix gently but thoroughly to combine. Adjust condiments/seasonings to taste.

Keep covered and refrigerated until ready to serve. Blend in a little more milk if the salad seems too dry after refrigerating; the pasta will continue to absorb the dressing for a while as it sits.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Scrambling to catch up

Painting is about to happen. I swear. Boxes are slowly leaving the building, space is opening up, items are being purged. But I am still WAY behind where I planned to be the first week of July. Dad seems to be getting along as well as can be expected without Mom around, so the urgency is not quite as pronounced as what was originally feared, and frankly I have just been dragging my feet. Moving sucks.

The garden starts are all but abandoned; I may try to save a few of the tomato and pepper plants and miraculously discover a sunny spot somewhere at Dad's (he doesn't have much more sun than I do), but in all probability they will end up in the compost. This will not be the case forever, just keep repeating to self...

I have packed up the pantry spices in little labeled cardboard boxes for the final move, but they are still here with me and on occasion an actual recipe does get developed and executed these past couple of months. Here's the evidence.

Susan over at Fat Free Vegan did a post on her method for a tofu scramble, which of course every other veggie blogger on the planet has done as well, but hers caught my eye because of the complexity of the seasonings. However, you might not want to attempt this when you are really hungry, and short on time, and trying to get the painting done, and just not in the mood. So I thought, why not do a bulk version of the seasoning mix, keep it in the infamous WTM 1 lb. recycled peanut butter jar, and have a scramble in no time flat when the mood strikes? Why not?

Susan is a genius. I poked and prodded the original recipe, as usual, to get it to conform to my own exacting tastes (yeah right), then scaled up for a bulk version, so away we go.

Scrambled Tofu Seasoning Mix

2-4 cups nutritional yeast (update 12/11/2010: I found I was adding more nutritional yeast to the scramble after I added the seasoning mix so I used four cups of nutritional yeast in my most recent batch of mix instead of two cups. This recipe would now technically require more than one 1 lb. jar if you also decide to use four cups.)
3 Tbs. onion powder
2 Tbs. sea salt
1 Tbs. black salt (for an eggier taste: find it at an Indian grocer, or online)
1 Tbs. garlic powder
1 Tbs. turmeric
1 Tbs. dried chives
1 Tbs. dried dill weed
1 Tbs. dried parsley
1 Tbs. dried sage
2 tsp. dried thyme
2 tsp. ground black pepper
1 tsp. smoked paprika
1 tsp. sweet paprika
1 tsp. ground celery seed
1 tsp. cayenne pepper (optional)

Blend all ingredients well or pulse a few times in a food processor. Store in an airtight jar. Use up to ¼ cup per 16 oz. diced or crumbled tofu.

To make my favorite scramble, melt a tablespoon of Earth Balance margarine in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2-3 diced green onions or a diced shallot, and a few diced cremini or white mushrooms. Saute a bit to soften the veggies, then add about 4-5 oz. of crumbled or diced tofu and a tablespoon of seasoning, stirring to blend. I diced for this iteration, and 5 oz. is a very generous serving.

You probably don't need to press the tofu to remove excess water; it works better for me when I don't press. Keep stirring the scramble to evenly distribute the seasoning and heat through. Find your seasoning tolerance and adjust as necessary. I found that a tablespoon was about all I needed, and the scramble was remarkably egg-y. This is also great in a burrito!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Guarding the garden

Magnolia discovered the interloper and proceeded to attempt a dispatch of him/her. Problem was, Magnolia does not really know how to do a proper dispatch as she was ripped from the teachings of her feral mother at 'round about ten weeks, whence she came to live at WTM with her sister Rosa.

Luckily for the interloper. Snakes are not at all unwelcome in my garden, as long as they do not dispatch the gardener, so I shooed Magnolia and managed to get a portrait of our visitor before the exit stage right.

I couldn't determine the length, which was substantial in comparison to the width, which was probably no more than 5/8" at the widest (looked like a standard American seam width, for those of us who have used commercial clothing patterns). We have us a young garter snake, perhaps (or a ribbon snake)? Garter snakes are reputedly eaters of slugs, and so are deserving of the guardian title.

I hope we have not scared away our young guardian for good, even though there will be new gardeners replacing me here eventually who may not be like minded.

Monday, May 31, 2010

A plan comes together

Here is another experiment that has little guarantee of success, but we may always hope. This avocado seedling is in a pot that won't hold it for long, but it's temporary until the garden- AKA Stuff in Pots- gets moved to Dad's. Today I added a few cilantro seedlings, which will most likely start to bolt in the next few days since we're in the nineties this weekend. Just when they were almost big enough to be useful, so of course.

When the avocado plant gets moved to the next pot, I will make sure that it (the pot) is considerably bigger as I think this companion planting thing is going to be happening more and more, even after the garden is no longer just Stuff in Pots. Maybe when it gets bigger it will be able to shade the cilantro a little due to its large leaves? I don't know, but that's my plan and I'm sticking to it.

So although this avocado plant will never yield any fruit due to it living in the wrong climate, and the cilantro will not make many leaves (also due to living in the wrong climate), that's OK because it's an excuse to post my favorite guacamole recipe.

This was inspired by one Whole Foods used to sell (maybe they still do). Straight up guac is a marvelous thing, but I like it best fancied up with some extra veggies, and served with them too. So here's my contribution to the Memorial Day Fiesta.

Fiesta Guacamole

3 Haas avocados, peeled, seeded, and mashed
1/4 cup minced onion
1/4 cup diced red, yellow, and/or green bell pepper
1/4 cup diced, drained tomato
2 Tbs. minced green onion
1 jalapeño, seeded and diced
3 Tbs. minced cilantro
1 large clove garlic, minced
2 Tbs. lime juice
1/4 tsp. liquid smoke (optional)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground pepper
1/2 tsp. ground cumin

Cilantro, diced onion, diced tomato, lime wedges for squeezing, and/or hot pepper sauce

Tortilla chips, toasted pita chips, and/or crudités (cut up veggies) for serving

Mix ingredients gently, taste, and correct seasonings as necessary. Garnish as desired, and serve with chips and crudités.

Note: The jalapeno and liquid smoke can be replaced with a smoked jalapeno, if desired.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Somebody didn't get the memo

Exhibit A is the herb known as Stevia rebaudiana, or 'Sweet Leaf', which describes its use as a natural, calorie free sweetener. This was a plant purchased in 2009, and although it can be grown from seed, the grower must expect a naturally low germination rate (been there/done that, but some seeds did germinate).

I found the remains of this specimen a couple of months ago while autopsy-ing the garden that was subjected to several feet of snow this past winter, and many weeks of below freezing temperatures, a number of which were in the single digits. Low and behold, there were not just remains. There were the bare beginnings of leaf buds apparent when I found it, so out of the ravaged garden it came and into a pot on the light stand it went.

S. rebaudiana is not supposed to survive winters in the Mid-A. Matter of fact, it is supposed to expire at the mere mention of a mild frost. This guy was apparently out of the loop. It took quite a while for the leaves to approach anything substantial this season, but by golly they are there now.

Not that this is any proof of a winter-hardy strain of Sweet Leaf yet, but it is proof that there are outliers in every crowd. May try some cuttings later in the season, and see how they react to another winter exposure.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Shameless theft of other web content, for a good cause

There's been a whole lotta shakin' goin on here at WTM, but notta lotta postin'. That should resume in the near future.

In the meantime, please check out Maryland's
Grow It Eat It website if you are able to share your harvest this year- the Grow It Give It offshoot is alive and well and looking for participants!

From the website:

What do I do with all my extra produce?  Consider donating it to a local soup kitchen or food pantry!

If your surplus is good enough for you to eat, it's good enough to share with neighbors in need. Over 36 million Americans are hungry and rely on local food pantries to help sustain their families.

Now that the Grow It Eat It campaign has helped you Grow It, let's share the abundance and Give It

You know who you are, fellow planters- rally 'round the vegetable plot, and start growing!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Pot luck and other muck

In keeping with the recent theme of thrown together recipes for which you really don't need a recipe, and the fact that most of the food prep is tending towards pot luck dishes recently, here's my take on good old-fashioned boring coleslaw.

Mom always put marshmallows and pineapple in her coleslaw, and naturally we loved it as kids because it was like eating candy due to the sugar level. Not really requiring (or being able to stand) the same sugar intake now as I did in youth, the marshmallows are out ('specially since they have gelatin in them- blech), but I did do it with pineapple for this most recent iteration.

Raisins aren't bad either; I've used them in coleslaw from time to time- they work in carrot salad, so why not cabbage and carrot salad?

Coleslaw can be kind of fun if you don't mind thinking outside the usual confines of cabbage and Miracle Whip. This makes a ton o' slaw.

Cafe Moi Cole Slaw

Serves your entire neighborhood

¾ cup mayonnaise of choice
¾ cup almond milk or other milk of choice
2 Tbs. apple cider vinegar
2 tsp. freshly grated horseradish, or a bit more prepared horseradish
2 Tbs. brown sugar
2 tsp. dry mustard powder
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground black pepper
½ tsp. celery seed (or caraway seed if you're more adventurous)

16 cups chopped or shredded cabbage (1 large head)
2 cups shredded carrot (4-6 carrots)
½ cup minced onion
Optional: 10 oz. canned or fresh pineapple, cut in small dice or crushed

Combine dressing ingredients in a large bowl and blend until smooth with a hand blender (to get those brown sugar lumps out) or whisk.

Add cabbage, carrot, onion, and pineapple if using, and mix well. Adjust dressing and seasoning ingredients to taste.

Cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight if you have time, to develop flavors. I drain the extra juice the next day as I don't like it soupy.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Turn and face the strange changes

So. Moving plans are on again, and the garden here at WTM will be returned to "lawn", or something approximating it. There may be a garden at Mom and Dad's, where I will eventually be relocating to help Dad out due to Mom's passing, or there may only be Stuff in Pots (not sure what if anything will go in the ground). There are plenty of seedlings that got started before the strange changes, so I hope at least some of them find homes.

In the meantime, cooking is going to get interesting. The challenge is to come up with recipes that a meat-eater (Dad) will want to eat, as they are being prepared by a non-meat eater (me). So Two Cup Stew was born. A riff on Pasta and Bean Soup, I just ate this for dinner all by itself and I'm happy (actually I did add some Parmenon), but he can embellish it with some meatballs (bought him a two pound bag of frozen, prepared) and 'sprinkle cheese' (Mom's description of Kraft grated Parmesan). Will have to work on a veggie meatball recipe next as it was really weird to buy meat again (last time was 16 years ago). I think Mom would have liked this.

Two Cup Stew

Makes about six 2-cup servings

2 Tbs. olive oil
2 cups diced red onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups diced carrot
2 cups diced potato
2 cups shredded cabbage, firmly packed
2 cups diced tomatoes (or ~1 lb. can)
2 cups tomato puree or crushed tomatoes (or ~1 lb. can)
4-6 cups broth of choice (I used vegetarian 'beef' style bouillon cubes to make broth)
2 cups ditalini, or other small pasta
2 cups (or ~1lb. can) cooked beans of choice (white or kidney beans are traditional, but I only had black beans on hand)

1-2 tsp. salt-free seasoning blend (I used Paul Prudhomme's Magic Salt Free Seasoning)
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Saute the onion and garlic in the olive oil until beginning to soften, and then add the carrot, potato, seasoning blend, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Saute for a minute or two to warm the spices, and add broth, tomatoes, and tomato puree. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 10-15 minutes until vegetables are almost tender. Add cabbage and ditalini and simmer for another ten minutes until pasta is al dente. Add beans and heat through, correct seasonings, and serve.

For reheating, you may need to add a quarter cup of water or so, if desired, to restore some liquid consistency to the stew, as the pasta will absorb much of the broth as it sits.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

With apologies to Thoreau, my own Faith in a Seed

Rosanne Jaekels Blakeney (my Mom, Rosie) died on World Water Day, March 22, 2010. That might seem an odd piece of trivia to share when a cherished wife, mother, and all around exemplary human has gone on to her next life, or whatever it is that we go on to, but it is appropriate in this case. World Water Day sprang from the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro. The goal was to implement access to clean water and safe sanitation for the poorest communities around the globe by the year 2015, and to help communities find sustainable ways to manage and pay for water.

Food cannot be grown without water, communities cannot be built without water, and sanitary living conditions cannot be achieved without water. The driving forces behind World Water Day recognized that pipes, cement, and infrastructure could not do the job without engaging individual people and communities.

Rosie had no ties to World Water Day, but she believed with her whole heart in the power of the individual, the power of one spirit to make a measurable, palpable difference in the lives and fortunes of others. She never abandoned her optimistic belief in the power of one, unlike so many of us who are jaded and hardened by the realities of the working week, or the idiocy of our political squabbles, or the seeming inconsequence of a simple kindness done for another, yet unseen by any other witness. Rosie believed in the power of that one seed.

She taught me about the magic contained in a seed. On her bookshelf is a volume titled "The Seed-Starter's Handbook". It is a first edition, and proves that Rosie was 'green' long before green was cool. I remember she grew tomato plants at our first house, and at the second house had Dad build a greenhouse so she could get a head start on the food that she would grow for her family for the next several years (I found the greenhouse fascinating, although I didn't contribute to any of its activities at the time). She bought seedlings on occasion, but I think she really enjoyed it the most when she witnessed the birth of a plant that would become part of a family meal.

I purchased a copy of the second edition of the same book several years after moving away from my parents' house, and it led to my own love of bringing forth life from a seed. It's funny, I don't remember ever seeing Mom's copy of that book when I lived at home, as I'm sure I was far too busy with my own important comings and goings, and much too involved with other, more pressing pursuits. Now my greatest dream is to put up my own greenhouse and tend to emerging life, and the life it may provide or enhance for others, for the rest of my own.

It is my intent to honor Rosie's Rebirth and World Water Day every year from now on. If we only had a few more Rosies in the world, we wouldn't have to conduct United Nations Conferences on Environment and Development to ensure that the least of our brethren had access to the most basic of needs. It's time to stand up and disperse more of Rosie's seeds, I think.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Rescue me

Right around the holidaze, and well into the Winter That Would Not Stop, not even for a freakin minute, and after the December snowstorm had mostly melted, guess what I found pokin' its tiny little self up through the ravaged earth? The French tarragon I forgot to dig up and bring inside in November. So it was hastily dug up right then and there, lest the garden gods snatch back its second chance at life, and it has been growing happily on the light stand since. I don't think it was more than a couple millimeters tall when I found it, and has grown several inches since then (sorry 'bout mixing the measuring standards).

Then after the February blizzards mostly melted, I went searching for the herbs that were left in the ground intentionally, as under "normal" circumstances things such as oregano, thyme, and rosemary can handle the winters here.

Sure enough, there were a few survivors, so I brought in and potted up a representative of each just in case we get nailed for a FOURTH snowstorm/blizzard/whatever before old man winter is finished with us. The rescues included thyme, oregano, lavender, and lemon balm (which nuclear fallout couldn't even kill, so I don't know why I brought any of that in). They are all recuperating in ugly little black starter pots now, and today got to spend a little more time in the sunshine, as for some unexplained reason we have had reasonable temperatures this weekend. The lemon grass on the right was actually brought in well before any snow, so it's been creeping along inside all winter, despite the occasional nibble from the cats. The lavender in the middle is pretty spindly, but should survive. I'm afraid the rosemary succumbed, so new seeds have been started.

And the basil seedlings that got started in November (inside) are actually attaining some size now, after spending two months in an applesauce cup (yes, all four of them were started in the same cup. They were getting rather snug). They are all much happier in their new (old) pot.

I usually grow Basilico 'Monstruoso' as the normal summer basil, because it really does get geenormous. This one is 'Cameo', and was developed for pot culture. Despite being compact, it is supposed to put out respectably sized and flavored leaves. So far so good. The leaves are actually big enough to do a little cooking with. The plants are 3" tall or so, after being liberated from their cruel and unusual confinement, and I'm looking forward to some pesto here very shortly. Which reminds me, the herbs that will be put out in the spring need to get started- time to rustle up some more applesauce cups.

Update 3/19/10: the basil seedlings are doing much too well in one 8" pot, and will be upgraded to at least a 12" pot very shortly.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Survey says...

We don't need no stinkin' tarp! REAL birds eat right outta the snow!

They ate off the tarp too (see the last post for backstory; the squirrels found it first), but it turned out to be completely unnecessary. And despite all the admonitions from the Wildlife spokespeeps that wildlife will hunker down in bad times, and the strong will survive, and we shouldn't skew the gene pool by feeding and supporting the 'weaker' individuals, I skewed the gene pool and bet a lot of other people did too. We skew the gene pool by feeding and supporting members of our own species during bad times, so I confess to being a very bad Darwinian.


Today it is above 50 degrees F for the first time this year, I think. Spent part of the morning scratching around in the muck that used to be the garden to find any survivors (meaning herbs). The next post will detail what got found. This afternoon will be for seed starting the veggies (late again, but at least I'm consistent).

The snow from last month's blizzards is almost gone, and if our sanity and souls didn't go with it, here's to new beginnings, all.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Crawling from the wreckage

Today is the eighth day after the first blizzard began. And the fourth day after the second blizzard began (I think. It's gotten kind of fuzzy.) After shoveling the driveway four times, and the mailbox three, I see pavement now thawing in the sun.

Unfortunately there is no pavement thawing in the sun for the approximately two tenths of a mile stretch leading into my neighborhood, so all the money we have paid independently to have our own neighborhood plowed (special taxing district, so we maintain our roads) has been largely wasted for those of us without four wheel drive- meaning moi.

Just two tenths of a mile separating me from freedom. And going to work. Which is where I would really prefer to be now instead of nursing aching muscles at home. It has gotten very stale. Will check later today and see if the county finally remembered that they own that pesky two tenths of a mile...

But the power didn't go out. Yet. And the roof didn't collapse. Yet. And there's food aplenty, although the wine has run dangerously low. Many of the neighbors, however, meaning the furred and feathered ones, do NOT have food aplenty at this point. So the front iceberg has now become an all purpose feeding station.

This is an experiment, as I don't know if any of the critters will get freaked out by the big blue tarp. Could have just thrown all of the seeds and nuts on top of the snow, and a lot of it would likely get eaten, but I thought if I spread out the tarp, then sprinkled the seed over it, and anchored it with some potting trays which could also serve as feeders, less of it would get lost to the melting we'll be seeing over the next three days- until the NEXT snowfall on Monday or Tuesday, that is. The weather dudes are promising that we'll probably just shrug that one off, it'll be no big deal, but I'm not placing any bets.

So far there is one squirrel chowing down, but on the seeded snow, not the seeded tarp. I will do periodic checks to see if the blue tarp feeder is a bust. If it is, no problem, the seed can just get tossed on the snow.

Which is what I did in the back yard, over last year's garden- making it the bird garden now, I guess.
Didn't put the seed in any trays out in the back, just sprinkled it around. If the various other gardening trays were not under 3-4 feet of snow out by the shed I would have put them to work too, but at this point I'm done shoveling.

Now it's time to go see if that infamous two tenths of a mile has been rediscovered by AA County. And time for the rest of the Mid-A to go check on their furred and feathered friends- make sure the soup's on, peeps!

Update: the county has likely abandoned this stretch of road. It was white knuckle driving in and out of the entrance to the neighborhood late this afternoon. Now I know why private citizens own Bobcats. Unfortunately they do not reside in my neck of the woods.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Are we there yet?

Dear dog almighty but I am done with this mess. Is it still winter? Can I opt out? No? Let me figure out how to spell aaaggghhh and I'll be right back...

We finally came out of the deep freeze (for the Mid-A, anyway) only to get some more rain and therefore soil so soggy I can't even walk in the HIGH side of the yard without sinking in halfway up my shoes (which may help the gentle reader understand the title of this blog).

That was the obligatory winter bitch for this month; I'm all done now. March 21 is right around the corner, isn't it? (Pleasepleaseplease).

The seed envelopes are beckoning, and I am about to dive in with merry abandon to plan the 2010 garden. Until then here is a little bit of snuggle for your tummy, as I believe that Soup Can Save the Human Race, and the next garden will have lots of soup ingredients. I hope.

The croutons here really add a nice carb note- sorry, Atkins devotees!

White Bean and Sausage Stew
8 servings

Stew ingredients
2 Tbs. oil
8 oz. veggie Italian sausage, sliced
2 medium carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 large onion, diced
2 large cloves garlic, minced
3 cups or 2 cans (~15 oz. each) white beans, rinsed and drained
3 cups or 2 cans (~15 oz. each) diced tomatoes
½ cup vegetable broth or water
½ tsp. salt, to taste
¼ tsp. pepper, to taste
½ tsp. dried thyme, to taste
½ tsp. dried rosemary, to taste

Crouton ingredients
2 cups small croutons, diced from coarse bread (2 - 3 slices)
2 Tbs. oil
1 clove garlic, minced and mashed
½ tsp. salt, to taste
¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 Tbs. minced dried parsley, chives, or other dried herbs of choice

Heat oil in a 5-qt pot or deep saute pan over medium heat. Brown veggie sausage, turning frequently, until heated through and beginning to crisp, about 5 minutes. Remove to a plate on paper towels and set aside.

In the same pot, sauté carrots, celery, onion and garlic until beginning to soften, adding more oil if necessary, about 5 minutes.

Add sausage and remaining stew ingredients to saucepan. Simmer, covered, for 30 minutes, or until heated through.

While stew is simmering, heat oven to 375ºF. Lightly oil a cookie sheet.

Place croutons in a large bowl. Blend oil, garlic, and seasonings together in a small bowl, drizzle over croutons, and toss thoroughly to combine. Spread on prepared baking sheet. Bake 15 to 20 minutes, tossing once or twice, until toasted.

Remove to the bowl used previously, and toss croutons with herbs while still hot. Cool slightly to allow the croutons to crisp up, and serve over stew.

Adapted from a recipe at Woman's Day.

Friday, January 8, 2010

The waiting is the hardest part

Actually it looks like the waiting may be over.

This is what 10 seeds of Murraya koenigii, or Curry Leaf Tree, looked like on December 11, 2009, about 45 minutes after receiving them in the mail from Horizon Herbs.

This is what they still look like on January 8, 2010, so I didn't take another picture.

Curry Leaf seeds are notoriously finicky about germination, from everything I've read, and despite heroic efforts to plant them immediately, keep them warm with a heat mat, placate them with song (not really), they are apparently dead (or do they really take this long to germinate?) They may have have been deceased when I received them, but they still looked a little moist, which is required for seed of this tropical species to be viable.

The ideal method of germination, I think, is to have them fall off the plant when ripe directly into a planting pot, and then hope for the best. If you live in Sri Lanka or India this is not a big deal, but the Mid-A ain't neither.

We have had one of the most disgusting winters I can remember. And it just got started. Got cold early. Has stayed below freezing at least part of the day for weeks. Dumped 21 freaking inches of snow on us in one day (and I HATED every flake). I want me some global warming!

Don't get all worked up, I didn't plant the seeds outside, they are inside on a light stand with a heat mat. I just needed an excuse to complain.

Update 1/9/10: See here for the culprit!

The whole game plan behind growing a Curry Leaf plant was that the leaf is a key ingredient in many Indian dishes, and I would like to start trying more of them at home. Curry Leaf tree, the real deal, has absolutely nothing to do with the curry powders we buy at Giant, Safeway, or even Whole Paycheck. Those reportedly started out as Brit bastardizations of the spices used in Indian cooking, and even though I really like curry powder, it just doesn't hold a candle to Curry Leaf.

Almost forgot, I'm also trying to root a small cutting from a curry leaf branch I bought at an area Asian market. Dipped the cutting in some rooting hormone, on two different occasions even, but the branch wasn't the freshest, so this could be pointless.

So the first seed starting of the season appears to be a dismal failure. Not to worry, I am laying plans for starting some other herb seeds as we post, just to make myself feel better, but I may just have to break down and order a Curry Leaf plant (aack- quitter!) from Logee's soon...