Saturday, November 28, 2015

Indoor Seedlings

Gardening does not stop in Southern California.  I had to start my seeds inside because it was still too hot and dry for direct sow of winter vegetables.

This was my first successful indoor seeding.  I put the tray in the back room, where it wasn't too hot and they would get mostly afternoon sun.

They are going to town.  Still not getting many beets, but the lettuces started coming up in three days.  Two cilantros look like they're going to make it.  Once El Niño hits, I'll be able to do more beets as direct sow.  For now, I'm waiting to see which seedlings end up the strongest for transplant.  It was hard to thin them!  I took out the ones at the edges and kept the ones in the middle, figuring they would have a better chance of developing root systems.  I still tossed the thinned ones into the pond, in case any decided to take root.  Only one so far, and it's not very happy.

There is still a faint chance that the Christmas salad will be garden greens.  A very faint chance, but not impossible.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015


After posting the last one (finally), I realized I didn't do a crouton recipe.  It feels like a basic thing, but a lot of this blog is about making things from scratch.

Crouton is French for "little toast".  That's all it is, toasted bread.  But what kind of bread you choose and what you add to it makes all the difference.  Caesar salad?  Garlic.  Italian dressing?  Oregano.  Soup topping?  Depends on the soup.

So here's a basic how-to.

1.  Slice bread of choice into cubes or tear into small pieces.  These should be bite-sized, so no larger than 1" on any given side.  Place in a bowl or on a sheet pan and let them get a little stale.  This can be an hour on a dry day or overnight when it's humid.  I found Princess eating out of the bowl an hour later and was very glad this batch was not for company.

2.  Preheat oven to 350º.  Melt a little butter, only 1 or 2 Tb, and pour over bread.  Use your fingers to make sure all sides of the bread are covered and there isn't one piece soaking wet.  Sprinkle with any spice that is appropriate to your intended use.  For these, I used salt, white pepper, and thyme.  That would go with my turkey and pumpkin soup.

3.  Spread pieces evenly on a sheet and bake until toasted and crisp.  Check and stir every 10 minutes, less when they get close to what you want.  Allow to cool slightly before serving, so you can check to make sure they really are dry.  Store unused croutons in a sealed container for up to a week.

Difficulty rating  π

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Thanksgiving Dinner Soup

I caught a cold from a coworker who swore it was just allergies.  Liar.  I'm hoping it's less severe because I had a flu shot a few weeks ago.

I was going to roast up the Halloween pumpkin this week anyway and decided to make the purée into soup.  While I was at it, putting in ground turkey meatballs sounded like a good idea, and at some point this turned into a Thanksgiving menu in a soup bowl.  Food Network had a similar recipe with shredded leftover turkey and making dumplings out of stuffing, but didn't have the pumpkin.  I decided that the stuffing would get too gooey for subsequent days and opted for croutons, aka stale bread.  Dropping them onto the hot soup would soften them into a stuffing-like consistency.  Since I'm not hosting this year, I don't have any of the crispy onions in the pantry, but those would also make an excellent garnish.

I still can't get iPhoto to work, but I remembered that I do have an old laptop in a drawer with a working version.  So I can do the blog on the one with the dead battery (plug only, totally defeating the purpose of a laptop) and everything else on the faster machine.  I'm going to print my camera tomorrow.  It has nine months of photos on it.  At least I will have hard copies.  Technology can fail or become obsolete, but a physical copy endures.

*2 cans pumpkin purée or one 3-lb pumpkin roasted, peeled, seeded, and puréed
1 lb ground turkey
2 C cut green beans ( I did frozen)
*1/2 C diced onion
1 Tb olive oil
1 qt low-sodium chicken broth
1 egg
1/2 C breadcrumbs
1 tsp sage
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg
dash cloves
salt and white pepper

1.  In a small bowl, combine turkey, egg, breadcrumbs, sage, and salt & pepper to taste.  Refrigerate for about half an hour to let the flavors meld.

2.  In a soup pot, heat oil over medium.  Add onion and sauté until soft.

3.  Shape turkey into golf ball-sized pieces and place in saucepan.  I got about 20.  By the time you've placed the last one, the first should be well browned.  Wash your hands, then turn all of them to brown the other side.  Add broth and bring everything to a simmer for 10 minutes, to finish cooking the meatballs.

4.  Add green beans, pumpkin, and remaining spices.  Bring back up to a simmer and taste for seasoning.  Add salt, white pepper, or anything else you need to balance the flavors.  It should have the savory edge of the sage and an undertone of cinnamon sweetness.

5.  Serve hot, topped with a generous serving of croutons.

Serves 4 to 6

Difficulty rating  π

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

9 to 5

No photos today.  I'm having trouble with iPhoto.  Probably because I haven't upgraded in some time.

I've been doing this traditional-schedule thing for over a month, and it sucks.  I appreciate the old-school way that the spouse at home would have dinner waiting for the one who worked until 5 or 6.  Since I don't have a spouse at home to cook for me, I've been making easy stuff that isn't creative and is not all that healthy.

But I did make fresh pasta last week.  I whipped up a batch of Pasta #2 in the morning, wrapped it tightly, and put it in the fridge.  (I also cooked up some chicken drumsticks and almost forgot to put them in the fridge.  Princess was disappointed when I remembered them.)  When I got home, I diced up a bunch of fresh veggies and threw them in a skillet while the pot of water was coming to a boil with some frozen peas and carrots in it.  The pasta rolled out almost as well as if it had only rested for an hour.  It took about half an hour to make fresh pasta primavera with chicken on the side.

Now that the new closing manager is fully trained, I'm going to have an easier schedule.  I won't be able to make fancy breakfasts as often, but I will get to have a proper dinner.

Aside from a few carrots, the pond is only sprouting grass.  I planted some seed strips this morning and will transplant the seedlings when they're strong enough.  So much for my Christmas salad.  I could still have beets in January.  Meanwhile, it has been warm enough that I still have a couple of eggplants growing and the peppers are going to town.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Guilt Bowl

I finally went for a basic physical.  It has been years since I had my cholesterol checked.  The doctor asked how I've been eating lately, and I answered honestly that I've been in the mood for fattening foods and salt.  I've also put on a couple of pounds.  It happened suddenly, so I think it's salt related, but I need to go back to my better habits before the lure of holiday temptations kicks in.  Been having steel-cut oats for breakfast, so lunch is the only meal I have to watch.

I am not vegan nor gluten-free, not by a long shot.  However, this recipe is.  I used up the last of two legume jars and tossed a stir-fry on top of it.  Anticipating the need for a dressing, I looked over what little I had in the fridge and decided on a champagne-cilantro combination.  And bought a lime in case it needed help.

So after four days of this, which I'll admit tasted much better on Day 1 than Day 4, I got my tests back.  Not only am I generally healthy, my cholesterol index is in the "excellent" range.  I'm having home-made pasta next week.

*1 C fresh cilantro leaves
2 Tb olive oil
*2 Tb champagne
*2 Tb lemon juice (I never used the lime)
pinch each of salt and white pepper

1.  Place all ingredients in blender.  Pulse until the cilantro breaks down, then run until smooth.  Refrigerate until ready to use.

*1/2 C dry navy beans
*1/2 C dry red lentils

1.  Soak the navy beans for 8 hours.  Drain.

2.  Add a pinch of salt to 3 C water and add navy beans.  Bring to a boil, then simmer beans for 2 hours.  Add lentils and continue to simmer until lentils are done, 15 to 20 minutes.  Drain.

1 lb asparagus
*1/2 C sliced onion
1/2 lb carrots
1 bunch kale
2 Tb olive oil

1.  Trim the tough bottoms off the asparagus and cut into 2" lengths.  Peel the carrots, cut into 2" lengths, and quarter (so they're about the same dimensions as the asparagus).  Slice and quarter about 3 strips off an onion.  Cut the kale off the ribs and chop the leaves into a manageable bite size.

2.  When you put the lentils in the bean pot, add olive oil to a large saucepan.  Heat over medium high and add onion, asparagus, and carrots.  Cook, stirring often, until veggies are bright and onion has begun to soften.  Add kale and a light sprinkle of salt and cook until wilted.  If you have a lid for the pot, that will help to keep the moisture in.

3.  When the veggies are cooked, toss in the dressing until evenly distributed.  There's only half a cup.  The veggies won't be swimming in sauce.  The point of it is a light flavoring, not to drown out the natural flavors.

4.  Serve the beans next to, under, or mixed in with the stir-fry.

Difficulty rating  π