Sunday, May 29, 2011

Twenty-Nine on the Twenty-Ninth

Happy Anniversary!  We should rightfully have celebrated the twenty-eighth anniversary of  having stayed married for one year with a trip to Twenty-Nine Palms.  Or furniture shopping, which the Internet leads me to believe is the suggested gift for a 29th anniversary.  None of the above, instead, it was still more work and no play.

I did try something unique and relatively carb-free for an anniversary dinner, however.

Zucchini Canneloni with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce and Fried Eggplant Noodles with Chick Pea Putanesca. 

 For dessert, maybe some homemade sauerkraut!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Snake Rescue

I believe when last we spoke I promised more news of the garden.

Some of our little vegetable offspring are doing quite nicely and others not so much.  As any parents, the blame for the failures is entirely our own, the credit for the successes, not.

My radishes are little prodigies.  They are growing quite big and lovely.  Of course, any 5-year-old can grow radishes, but we seem to have struggled with them in the past.  I think the bugs usually get to them before us.  I'm not sure what I've done differently this year, but they are producing very well and it's always inspiring to get some early harvests; keeps you motivated to see the other stuff through to fruition.  (Or maybe vegition?)

The radishes are actually lucky to be around, sort of an afterthought to some other planting.  I earlier this spring built a couple of 3 x 5 planters to grow my hops.  Since the hops really weren't going to take up much room, I planted a boat load of peppers around the periphery of the planters; Anaheim, Habanero, Jalapeno, Bell, Ancho, Thai, Caribbean Ghost maybe and probably a few others for good measure.  Threw in a couple tomatillos as well.

After all of the above I figured there was still wasted space in the planters, at least until the peppers and hops start to expand, so I interspersed some radishes and beets between all the other plants.  The radishes have seized the opportunity and made the most of it.  The beets are coming along.

Lately a bunch of volunteer squash are making a go of it in my new planters. I think they may have sprouted from pumpkin seeds that survived a trip through the composter. They are starting to compete with the peppers, for which they had better watch their asses or they will be culled.

We have had a few other successes; the artichoke is going crazy and we are still pulling cabbages out of the garden.  My rhubarb is doing well, but I'll have to update that progress in the Gumbilist.

Most of our produce continues to come from the CSA.  And I continue to lack any real will to cook, but managed to throw together on meal composed entirely of CSA produce, complete down to the canned CSA mini-corn.  I guess the brown rice did not come from the CSA and the Sriracha was definitely from the grocery store, but for the most part it's all locally grown.

The result was not fabulous, but the ingredients certainly looked beautiful.  The cast included some baby carrots, spring onions, young celery, broccoli, masses of fresh cilantro, some scallions (actually from our garden) and the aforementioned can of mini corn.  Maybe a stray bug or two, this is organic after all.

Also from the CSA, organic produce conveniently repackaged into the form of a brisket.  I used a brisket from our recent purchase to brine up a homemade corned beef.  Very nice!  Sadly, I ate it so fast that the only photographic evidence is the corned-beef hash I made with some of the leftover scraps.

In other news, Jacob is home from Humboldt for summer, so I immediately put him to work on the retaining wall project.  We spent most of the first day of our Memorial Day weekend wrestling ties around, but the progress is definitely better with an able-bodied assistant.

Later in the afternoon, we returned to working in the garden, this time unfortunately to rescue a trapped snake.  We have covered our fruit trees with this idiotic netting that's sold in Home Depot to keep the birds from stealing all our fruit.  What the netting really excels at is capturing lizards and snakes.  Within a week of installing the stuff about a half dozen lizards were trapped and killed in the stuff.  This pisses me off, because I like lizards.  Lizards eat bugs.  Bugs eat my garden.  More lizards is better.

These critters slide though the netting, get stuck and can't back out because the fine threads of the netting gets caught in their scales.  Anyway, today I was walking past the apricot tree and saw what I thought was a dead snake.  On closer inspection, it turned out to be a very nice rosy boa and was actually still moving.  It was the desiccated lizard trapped with the snake that  fooled me into thinking the snake was dead.

I like snakes.  Snakes eat rodents.  Rodents eat my...well, tent actually.  I recently pulled my tent out of the garage to loan to the Pims and discovered that some little rodent had chewed a hole through the thing.

Anyway, I went into action like some action hero, Indiana Jones maybe.  Well no, he hates snakes.  But you get the idea.

Holding his head while Jake makes the final cut.

Unfortunately, Denise did not get a shot of the happy snake slithering off into the distance.  She also did not get pictures of him biting the hand that freed him.  I'm sure he hopes to return the favor one day.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Cinematic Injustice

How is it that Nicolas Cage won an Oscar for Leaving Las Vegas, but not even a nomination for Raising Arizona?  The Coen brothers have Fargo on the AFI's Top 100, but where the heck is Raising Arizona?  And while we're on the subject, why wasn't Fargo called Brainerd?

The AFI 100 should read something like...
  1. Citizen Kane
  2. Casablanca
  3. Raising Arizona
  4. et al...
As it turns out, Raising Arizona is on the AFI's 100 Funniest American Comedies list, so I suppose I can't complain too much on that score.

But while we're on the subject, the AFI top 100 is a slap in the face to one of the finest actors of our time.  Where is Sylvester Sta...Oh Crap, Rocky is on the top 100!!  If Rocky gets recognition, where is Bullwinkle?

Vertical Limit and Cliffhanger are both conspicuously absent from the top 100.  Coincidence?  I think not.  Conspiracy more likely.  I did find one site that gives these films a bit of the recognition they deserve.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Busy Weekend

Lately I have had virtually no interest in cooking, which basically means no interest in anything.  I thought I handled the switch from carnivorous to vegetarian cooking reasonably well, but low-carb/carb-free cooking?  I have no frame of reference.

One evening last week the weather cooperated with some rain and cold, so I figured a variation on tortilla soup would be a reasonable offering.  It was not terrible.

This last weekend, Denise was kind enough to find a two-man auger (post-hole driller) at a local rental yard, to give me a little something to do.  I needed to drill holes for some railroad tie posts that will be anchoring the retaining wall at the top of our hill.  Now a two-man auger is difficult for a lone man to operate.  And while it's not unreasonable to run a two-man auger with one-man and one WO-man, the thought of me and Denise running one was a little disquieting.  Fortunately, that nice Pim boy from next door came over and helped me out.  We were also helped out because it's still early enough in the year that the clay soil around here hasn't completely turned to stone.

Denise is suddenly motivated to make some improvements on the dump that is our domicile.  Consequently we went shopping late Saturday afternoon for some new patio furniture.  Went into the Home Depot for a few miscellaneous items and came out with a new Martha Stewart Living Cedar Island Wicker seating set.  (It's very comfortable and actually nicer looking than the photo on the web site suggests.)  Left the stuff in the truck overnight; being somewhat beat I didn't feel the need for lounging in the yard on Saturday evening.

Sunday I tried to get back in touch with my Renaissance Man, dabbling in a bit of mechanical engineering, culinary arts, construction, agriculture, furniture assembly and fermentation science.

Started off the morning repairing my Toro weed-eater.  I will get in trouble for that last phrase, because weed eater is someone else's trademark.  I use the phrase because many won't know what I mean if I say line-trimmer.  Anyway, the gas line was broken off in the fuel tank.  My trip to the Home Depot on Saturday was in part to purchase a repair line and some torx fittings for my socket set, with which to disassemble said trimmer.  The repair went surprisingly easily and I managed not to set myself on fire while spilling gas everywhere.

I moved on from trimmer to chain saw and spent a ridiculous amount of time nearly getting the thing to run.  In the end, it would not run, but did not cut off any of my appendages either, so I call the a success.

Took a break from the tool repair and switched to the kitchen.  One thing that Denise has had success with lately in the garden is cabbages; we have more than we know what to to with.  So, I started a little experiment in lacto-fermentation; sauerkraut.  The ingredients are pretty basic, cabbage and salt.  A little touch of water, something to weight everything down with and time.  A week at least until we can try a taste, but up to four if Alton Brown is to be believed.  Will report next weekend.

The sauerkraut made barely a dent in our cabbage inventory, so I also made a batch of Kung Pao Salad, a recipe I sort of ripped off from the Wildberries supermarket in Arcata.  It's supposed to have green and red cabbage, broccoli, green onions, peanuts and a dressing of ginger, chile paste, honey, tamari, rice wine vinegar and a touch of sesame oil.  Alas, Denise planted no red cabbage.  We were able to supply green cabbage and scallions from the garden and broccoli from the CSA.  Out of tamari, I substituted Bragg's Liquid Amino.  I love this stuff.  Denise is trying to learn to.

Soon I had to face the furniture.  I think Martha Stewart is willing to have her name on this stuff because she's not the one assembling it at her house.  It was a little bit of a nuisance to assemble and would have been impossible if I hadn't been able to chisel some welding slag out of some of the bolt threads.  The furniture comes with separate sets of nuts and bolts for each piece of furniture and the nuts and bolts each come with these goofy little stamped metal wrenches for the tool-challenged.  They need to STOP IT!!!  If someone doesn't own at least a basic set of sockets and crescent wrenches they have no business buying the "some assembly required" brands of furniture at a home improvement center.

I eventually got back to working on the retaining wall, cutting up ties with a combination of circular and hand saws since I could not revive the chainsaw.  I wrestled a half-dozen of the posts into the holes before calling it a day.

At this point I was pretty fully beat and filthy.  On my way to the shower it occurred to me that Leo does not care if I'm naked.  Most people would be taken aback or avert their eyes (or maybe gouge them out) at the sight of a naked man strolling from bedroom to bathroom, but Leo had no reaction at all.  I attribute his general lack of interest to the fact that Leo is a dog.  From his dog's vantage point there is no meaningful difference; I smell the same, naked or clothed.  What's more, it was certain that I was not hiding any treats on my person.

After bathing I started a batch of beer, a Black IPA, which I hope to have bottled and ready for consumption in time for Nick's return from Italy.  While the beer was brewing I cooked dinner.  Since it contains no carbs, we decided on one of our CSA steaks.  A very nice Porterhouse, smothered with mushrooms, with steamed artichokes, beets and a small baked potato.  I liked it very much.

After all of that I was too tired to blog for an evening or two, so here it is Tuesday.  Tonight I decided to make another pass at low-carb cooking.  Decided on Eggplant Parmesan with a side of Tofu Shirataki Fettuccine, a miracle low-carb substitute for your standard pasta.   The directions should have caused a sense of foreboding.  "Parboil for 2 to 3 reduce the authentic aroma."  ?????  Authentic in this case turns out to mean fishy.  They needn't have worried about the aroma.  The trick would be reducing the authentic texture.  A little like raw squid.

But enough rambling for one evening.  More on the gardening next time.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day!

Not much of a Mother's Day for Denise, but then she's not my mother.  I did make her some dinner that I hoped she'd enjoy.  Our first dinner with CSA Beef.

As a little appetizer and a way to use up some bok choy, I whipped up some Kim Chi.  This is one of those things that's difficult, when you've never eaten kim chi, but the results were serviceable.  I made a sort of hybrid of this recipe and this recipe, with a few twists of my own.  Used bok choy instead of napa cabbage and because I saw a recipe that called for some additional mustard greens I used some of those too.  Also used some other nameless greens, which I added thinking they were either bok choy or mustard (they looked kind of like a cross-breed of both, but were in fact, neither.)  Instead of the sugar in the second recipe I pureed an apple and some onion in the rice wine vinegar.  The other greens were probably a bad idea, but the bok choy was tasty.

Then to the beef.  The weather cooled off to the point of a light rain this evening, so it turned out to have been a good idea to do a pot roast.  Decided to try a recipe from Giada, Cipollini Onion and Fennel Pot Roast, because we have a fairy ring of fennel growing like crazy in the garden.

Made a side of mashed potatoes/celery root/kohlrabi.  The celery root and kohlrabi were mixed in to lower the carbs.  Potatoes and celery root I've done before with success.  The kohlrabi not so much.  Won't make that mistake again.  On the plus side, the beef was delicious.
Preparing the rub; rosemary, thyme, salt, pepper, olive oil.
Getting ready for a dip in the pool.
Finished product; pot roast, mashed potatoes/kohlrabi/celery root and gravy.   The gravy is actually all the veggies and drippings from the pot roast, stick blended to a sauce.
All that's left.
The Pims actually joined us for dinner, so we can't take credit for eating the entire roast, and Leo did his share, snacking on little tidbits of fat and gristle.  He is a happy dog!  First meat scraps in the kitchen in months.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Food News

Greetings one and all.  Haven't had much to say lately, so a couple quick food related news items.
Lemonade a la Denise

First up, Lemonade.  Denise decided we needed a little refreshment during a recent stint of work in the garden.  Let's just say Denise's take on lemonade is a little off the beaten path...see photos right -------->

Apparently she left her simple syrup concoction on the burner just a weeee bit too long.  Mmmm' that's refreshing.

A little lemonade hit the spot while working the garden.

We have had quite a few bug problems out in said garden, plants being eaten away to nothing overnight. So, one of the remedies that Denise found online was to bury little pie tins at ground level and then fill them with beer.  Bugs, like snails and such, wander in, get drunk and lose interest in the plants.  Or die, something like that anyway.  It turns out that for Denise it's not enough to just kill the bugs; she wants to torture them.  Hence the Bud Ice.

That's just not right.

In other food news, we tried another option for using up CSA produce; broccoli crepes.  Not at all bad for an evening's work.

Lately, Denise has presented me with a new cooking challenge.  Her labs showed her having high blood sugar, so now it's low-carb cooking, on top of all the other goofy stuff we've been doing.  I mean it was hard enough to figure out how to cook without meat, but without carbs?  I have no clue.

My first attempt was a shepherd's pie, substituting cauliflower for half the potatoes in the topping.   The rest was more or less my standard shot at vegetarian pie.

It was pretty good, although I don't know how big of a carb improvement it made.

Tonight being Cinco de Mayo, we went with a chili rellenos and taco salad.  Standard chili relleno recipe  except for the soy flour instead of all purpose in the batter, for that slight drop in carbs.

They don't look very good (I forgot to put the sauce on before taking the picture) but they were damned tasty.  And so good for you!