Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A post where I show you I'm not a total Luddite

Well, I do love a lot of modern things, I won't deny that.  But I also won't deny that I tend to side-eye a lot of things like apps and smart phones and new "needs" that shouldn't be needs but have become needs.

However, there are several technological things I love that I would not want to do with out.  They could be regarded as luxuries but they have saved my hide and my sanity.

Online bill pay.  I do this through my bank.  I love this.  First, for bills that I get every month, I can just have them automatically paid from my account.  Second, for bills that I get sporadically, I can just log on and pay them, and know that the vendor has the money.  This has saved my hide.  I am very easily distracted and when I had to write checks, some bills went unpaid--not because I didn't have the money, but because I misplaced them, or got distracted, or couldn't find the checks, etc.  (Yes, I should be more organized.  I've been striving to be that way for 43 years.)  Now they're paid.

Caller ID.  Oh, lord how I love caller ID.  If I don't recognize the name on the screen, I don't pick up.  It's a great way to screen out telemarketers.

Voice mail.  Back in the day, I had an answering machine that you could dial into to get your messages, but it didn't work very well.  Voice mail is convenient--I can dial in from where ever I am to get my messages.

Edited to add: How could I forget--I was reminded in the comments--the internet! Yes, it can be a haven for spineless bullies, trolls and Internet Tough Guys.  But if you need to find a recipe, get ideas on how to prepare a certain type of food, get information on a subject (some of it correct) and get some good how-to's on how to do things, the internet is just awesome.  I would not have had the guts to try pressure canning if I didn't see a how-to on Youtube--basically, I didn't know what the canner would look or sound like when it got up to pressure.  Now I do.  Yay, internet!

How about you? What technological things out there do you love?

Monday, July 30, 2012

Luxurious and inexpensive tea

I love using fresh herbs in my hot (or iced) teas or other drinks--they add a beautiful flavor and a rich dimension to them.

I went out for tea with a good friend of mine a couple of years ago.  We were all set to gorge ourselves on caffeine but one the teas available was rooibos cocoa mint.  Well, we had to try it.  It was addictive.

The brand they offered is not stocked by my local grocery stores, and the chi-chi stores further out don't stock that particular flavor.  I did know that I was going to grow chocolate mint so I figured I could be patient.  (It also helped that the friend who made this delicious meal got a similar tea and was happy to supply me with cups anytime I visited.)

Now that the chocolate mint in my local plot is thriving, I'm happy to say I've got that tea again.  All you need is a cup of rooibos tea and a few chocolate mint leaves.  Pour water over both, allow to steep for 4-5 minutes, and you have a rich, sweet, delicious tea that cannot be beat.  Use a little honey if you want it sweeter.  Delicious.  I made some for my mother after dinner last night.

I also like to make tea from pineapple sage.  I'll just pour hot water over a bunch of cut pineapple sage leaves and allow them to steep.  I also like it a little sweet, so I add a smidge of honey.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Friday blogaround

Holly talks about her biggest financial regrets.  Don't beat yourself up, Holly, we've all made mistakes.

CTMom shares some of her thrift shop finds with us.

Bah, headcolds.  Any suggestions for movies for Carla to watch while she recuperates?

Mother Connie posts a succotash recipe--a delicious and economical dish.  MMMMMM.

New find for me: Poor to Rich A Day at A Time.  Another new find: Two Frugal Fairfielders.  Drop by and say hello!

Donna makes the very good point that being open about being frugal will only help you and your friends in the long run.  If more people did this, it would at least be normal.  Maybe one day it will be cool.

Belinda shows you the versatility of the humble and budget-friendly tortilla.

Bryallen is skeptical about coupons.

Got tons of zucchini? Practical Parsimony has a delicious casserole recipe to share.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Where your blogger grumbles about cashless societies and new needs

I was going to snark about how I'm becoming a Luddite.  Well, not really.  I mean, I am blogging, after all.

Fortune magazine had an article about the death of cash.  There are now ways to pay for things with your smartphone, instead of using cash, debit cards, or credit cards.  My initial reaction? I winced.  Then I thought, Why are you being so reactionary?  Maybe it's a good thing.  I'm not sure how I feel about this.

On one hand, yes, GEE WHIZ TECHNOLOGY. It's amazing.  Indeed.

On the other hand, I remember those studies that show how easily we spend more when we don't actually handle the money ourselves.  Using a credit (or even a debit card) instead of cash often results in people  spending more than usual--in fact, the amount more people are willing to spend with plastic is jaw-dropping. Somehow, the act of touching your money and handing it over makes it a bit more difficult to part with it.  If you don't see it or touch it?  Well, it's not like it feels real, then. It's like play money.  I'm way more daring in a Monopoly game than in real life, and for good reason.

Also, I'm not all that chuffed about yet another gadget becoming a necessity.  I have a lower tech, pay as you go dealie mobile phone.  It's already becoming "necessary" to use a smartphone to get more information on certain products--you scan the symbol on them--and if this becomes the main way to pay for things, we'll all need these stupid things.  Or our lives will be much more difficult.  Back in 1995, it was quite possible--and common--to not have an internet connection.  Now you really do need one if you want to get a job, stay in touch, get information, etc.  Things that used to be luxuries become needs, and it's not always because we got used to having them and refuse to let them go.  It's because people who either have the money to spend, or who are willing to go into hock, use these things and suddenly it's assumed that everyone does, so the way we used to do things is almost forced by the wayside.  Prospective employers get job applications via email and job sites.  Working payphones are becoming a rarity.  And so it  goes.

If plastic and smartphone modes of paying were so ubiquitous when I was a kid or a teenager, I would have been lost.  It really helped me to actually count the money, see it, have to hand it over.  It made it real and concrete to me.  I didn't have to try and remember how much was in my account (I only went by how much was in my wallet) and I didn't have to try and remember that this was real money with real consequences for me if I blew it all.  A lighter wallet is all it took to remind me of that.

So, yes, gee whiz! Technology is cool.  But I wonder how much deeper in the financial hole people will go when it becomes even easier to spend money.  You don't even have to pull out a card anymore, you just use your smartphone.

I don't charge very many things anymore (and I don't have a smart phone so this whole new way to pay is moot for me).  Right now, I pay for gas with a credit card (I have to buy gas to get to work, so it's not like this is a frippery that I'm spending more money than necessary on.)  I pay the thing in full every month.

I used my debit card for other purchases but now I'm wondering--maybe I should go for a month by using cash only.  Even for gas.  I'm wondering if by using my debit card it's easier for me to spend more than I intend to.

What do you all think?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Pipe dreams, homesteading, and exploding goats

So, the dynamo who started and organized the community garden project in my town lent me a couple of books, one focused on food preservation, and one called The Backyard Homestead.  I haven't really cracked open the one on food preservation yet because I've been salivating over The Backyard Homestead.

Now, considering the fact that I live in a condominium and that I'm a gardening neophyte, this is more escapism for me than anything else.  However, if I had a house with a sunny yard, I'd do everything I could to use every square foot of the land.  Oh, I'd have some lawn space for leisure--and for a clothesline--heck, everyone needs grass clipping mulch, don't they?--but I'd have a lot of vegetable beds.  After reading this book, I realize I could have fruit trees and some livestock (if I wanted and if it was feasible in my neighborhood) as well.

As I've caught the gardening bug and gotten into local food, the idea of eating things locally grown and raised has become more appealing to me.  I also get a lot of satisfaction out of eating and serving food I've grown and/or preserved.  That you could, if you have neighbors who are okay with it and local laws that allow it, produce not just your own eggs (fairly common) but meat (chicken, rabbit, pork, lamb, goat, or beef, depending on the amount of land you have and the time you have to dedicate to it), and dairy (even if you can't raise cows, goats provide enough milk for a family of four, and apparently it tastes the same as cow's milk).

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Garden update

No pictures, I'm afraid.  Though one of the people at the community garden in my town took a picture as I hammed it up with one of the cayenne peppers that I harvested.

So--my local garden is going very well.  I got two cukes, lots of herbs (including basil, which I thought was overshadowed by the jungle-like growth of tomatoes), and some hot peppers.  As well as a sweet pepper.  The pineapple sage, mint, and chocolate mint are thriving and I've made very good use of them.  Yay!

The one at work--a coin toss.  We're getting zucchini (though the leaves look a little raggedy) and beets.  Lots of green tomatoes.  Basil thriving, so will have another year's supply of pesto on hand.  (I've already frozen some.)  Had one cucumber--and a small, sad one is starting.  Two of the three cucumber plants died.  Bummer.  The butternut squash isn't doing that great--there's a plot in my town that is already showcasing tons of squash, and I've got two.   I may have to get the brush and start pollinating the blooms.  The vines are quite long, however.

The pineapple sage in this plot is being eaten by some sort of bug, as is the common sage and lemon balm.  The cultivated mint is doing okayish, but I think it will really take hold by next year.  (The wild mint in the area is doing very well, and I would have just stuck with that, but it's actually not as tasty as the cultivated stuff.)

Also, despite all of the mulch we laid down, we're getting a lot of weeds.  They are easy enough to pull but they are quite numerous.  I pulled the rows clear last week and yet I came back yesterday to water the plot and pick some things and wow, back to grasslands in some areas.  I'm taking comfort in the fact that I'm not the only one with that problem in this particular community garden.  I may lay down weed barrier next year.  I was hoping the mulch would do it--we lay down several thick layers over a month or so--but the weed barrier among certain plants may be best.  (Not the herbs though--the thyme, oregano, mint--heck, almost all of them tend to spread and that's a-ok with me.  All that means is that you take what's spreading and use it.  Oh no, not that!)

The rhubarb is doing very well--I've made another two quarts of Lili's lemonade.

Monday, July 23, 2012

A special treat: chili lime shrimp, roasted vegetables with preserved lemon, and tomato, cucumber and mint salad

I had a friend who is particularly fond of spicy food over for dinner on Saturday.  I wanted to make something that used a lot of my CSA and garden produce, that was light and refreshing, and that was filling.  We were both starved so there is no picture of the food to show you.  We inhaled it.

Roasted vegetables: I roughly cut up the potatoes (red, white and blue), zucchini, and onion and tossed them with a chopped slice of preserved lemon and chopped fresh rosemary.  I also added some fennel fronds and a sprig of rosemary.  I think next time I'll add garlic (I usually do but I forgot about it) and some crushed red pepper for kick if I have someone who loves spice over.  And maybe two slices of preserved lemon (or an entire one), finely chopped.  If I don't have the preserved lemon I use a whole lemon, and squeeze some juice over the vegetables for good measure.  No worries, Frank's Red Hot sauce brought it up to speed.   I roasted these in a 400 degree oven for forty minutes.

Chili lime shrimp: This was easy.  I don't normally buy shrimp but there was a decent price on it--and I needed to make something refreshing and tasty and fairly quick and filling.  Shrimp fit the bill.  I got a pound of the stuff.  It was uncooked and it was de-veined but needed to be peeled.  Once it was defrosted and peeled, I added the juice of one lime (there was a good sale on bags of lemons and limes, so I got a bag of limes and will do with the leftover limes what I do with leftover lemons), a seeded and finely copped hot pepper, cayenne pepper and a little olive oil.  I stirred it well to coat it and let it marinade for about five minutes (no longer or it would have turned into a ceviche, which is fine, but not what I was aiming for).  Next time I'd add a lot of garlic.  I roasted it in a foil packet in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes.

Cucumber, sungold tomato and mint salad.  This was pretty straightforward.  I picked the cucumbers and mint from my garden plot earlier that morning; the tomatoes came from my CSA.  I sliced up the cucumbers, chopped some mint, and tossed them and the tomatoes with a little bit of olive oil and red wine vinegar.  I added a little salt and pepper.  This was very, very refreshing.

To wash it all down, we had Lili's rhubarb lemonade. It was a hit. (I made more for a get-together at a friend's house on Sunday, and it was a hit then as well.)

And there you have it--Saturday's dinner!  We also had desert, but I didn't make it.  We ate Ben & Jerry's Cookie Dough Ice Cream.  Hey, a girl's gotta sin somewhere.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Friday links--irony, trainwrecks, and warm hearts, oh my!

Lawns are so passe.  Just grow your own meadow because it's green and natural and beautiful and inexpensive.  Of course, you'll need herbicide and special plants, to prepare the soil, and to specially trim the growing meadow once a month in the three year period you're growing it.  Um. (Yeah, I know, I know, it's how you're supposed to do it to get a bona-fide meadow with flowers that will attract butterflies, bees, and flowers.  But the irony of requiring herbicide or other ways of killing the existing plants and maintenance for something that normally grows wild does not escape me.)

The best money saving apps for your smartphone.  Smart phone data plans cost a lot more than the savings you'll get in most cases.  Maybe drop those plans and save $80-plus a month.  (And if you're out shopping all the time, stopping that habit will save you a lot more.  Amazing, I know.)

If you want to be rich and famous, make sure you pay your long overdue child support first.  Otherwise, you'll be broke and notorious.

A man found his car on eBay 42 years after it was stolen.  I'm not sure what is stranger--that he kept looking for almost as long as I've been alive, that he only paid $3K to get his now classic and valuable car back, or that he originally paid $3K to buy it 42 years ago.  Still, I'm happy for him, and it looks like a great car.

If you live in China, here's a way to make some money.  Piranhas.  Who knew??

This is what happens when you don't repay your debt!

Finally, dudes who wish Stepford was real have some good news.  Myself, I'd like to program the robots to roll their eyes at whoever gave them a command, and to respond, "Yah, sparky, I'll get right on that" or "I'll get to it when I'm done watching the Real Housewives."

OK, this has nothing to do with the theme of this post, but if you like pretty photographs and want to buy one to hang in your home or office, my friend has an Etsy shop.  

Have a great weekend, everybody!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Fried rice

This was something that worked twofold: first, I had a mad, mad craving for the stuff and came very close to running out for Chinese food.  Then I remembered that I had a couple of cups of cooked Japanese short grain rice in the fridge (which I like the best for fried rice).  And a lot of CSA produce.  And tamari and ginger paste and garlic from my CSA.  And. . .

Okay, you get the picture.

Fried rice is very, very easy to make and I have to say this was actually better than anything I've had in a restaurant.  This is what I did:

First, I chopped up a clove of garlic, an onion, a yellow summer squash, and shredded a large, peeled carrot.  I also chopped up the carrot tops and put them aside.  Yes, you can use those in cooking and in salads.  Yes, they are delicious.

Then, I beat one egg and cooked it, slid it out of the pan, cut it up, and put that aside.

I sauteed the garlic, a tablespoon of ginger paste (you can use fresh or add ginger powder after) and onion in canola oil, then added the vegetables (except for the carrot tops).  Then I added the rice and egg and stirred it until it all had equal exposure to the heat.  After it was well stirred/coated with oil, heated through, I added a tablespoon of tamari (or soy sauce), and stirred everything well to make sure it was well distributed.  At the very end, I added the carrot tops and let them wilt.

Then I ate it.  I actually ate too much, because I am waaaayy too enthusiastic about anything with starch in it.  I still had plenty left over for lunch.

What I like about making fried rice is that it is so versatile and it's perfect for leftovers--that is what the dish originally was for, after all.  Have some leftover rice and vegetables in the fridge?  Have some leftover meat?  Have something left over in an amount you're not sure you can use?  Make some friend rice.  Have some vegetables that you have no idea how you want to prepare or you're getting sick of?  They are perfect for fried rice. You can make it vegetarian or completely vegan if you like. You can put all sort of leftover beast in it if you want.  You can add whatever flavorings you'd like. It's easy and forgiving and oh, so good!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Brown-bagging it--burritos

I had written about things I took to work for lunch before.  When CSA season started and I was getting lots of lettuce, spinach, and arugula, I packed a lot of salads and soups.  Leafy greens besides chard and other hardy varieties are beginning to wilt now, and many of the vegetables I'm getting are good for snacking on--green beans, zucchini and summer squash (they are tasty in hummus), carrots, etc.

And honestly, it is much easier to go to the freezer and pull something out to put into my lunch bag.  I like the odd sandwich, but I'm not one to eat them every day.  I do, however, enjoy burritos.

You can make these very inexpensively.

Use beans or meat.  You could probably use assorted vegetables as well, but I'm a fan of beans and/or meat.  If I make chicken I will shred and season the remainder up and use that.  Or I'll brown some ground beef in crushed tomatoes with lots of garlic and some cayenne and chili pepper.  Sometimes I will just use home canned beans that I have onhand, or homemade refried beans.  

I like to use a little rice with my burritos.  I boil a cup of regular rice and toss it with a couple of tablespoons of lime juice and a half a cup of chopped, fresh cilantro.

Cheese--I use either cheddar or Monterey Jack.   I often buy it on sale, shred it, and freeze it for later use.  Sometimes the price for cheese that's already shredded is lower so I buy that.

Tortillas--I use flour tortillas and I get the least expensive burrito sized ones.  I'm going to try and make them one of these days.

Salsa--I have this on the side when I actually eat this.  I will also sometimes pick up an avocado to have on the side as well.

Assembling the burrito is easy: Lay the tortilla flat on a clean surface.  Place a spoonful or two of rice in the center and a spoonful or two of beans/meat.  Add cheese to taste (I tend to go easy on it, no more than a tablespoon for me).  Fold the ends up and then fold the sides over.  I wrap these in plastic wrap and then in aluminum foil to prevent freezer burn, then I store them in large and labeled freezer bags (refried bean burritos, beef burritos, chicken burritos, etc.)

To eat these, just unwrap the foil and place the burrito on a plate.  Microwave for a minute or two, depending upon the wattage of your microwave.  Unwrap the plastic wrap, and enjoy this with salsa and/or avocado.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Yogurt update

So, last week I gave a talk on making yogurt in the slow cooker, because I had done it numerous times over the past couple of months and it turned out well.  Then suddenly it hadn't--the day I gave the talk, I started a batch and it was runny.  And the next day I got yogurt-scented milk! Holy moly I cannot even.

So I did some troubleshooting and experimenting and this is what I found:

You need to heat milk to 180 degrees to kill off any competing bacteria.  I purchased a candy thermometer for $10 (it goes up to over 200 degrees) and took the temperature of the milk after the initial 2 1/2 hours of cooking.  My slow cooker, set on low, only brings the milk to 160-165 degrees or so.  And in order for the starter to incubate properly, the milk needs to cool down to 115 degrees.  It's quite possible that the milk was too warm or too cool for the starter to work.

So what I did was this:

I got a candy thermometer for $10--it goes up to over 200 degrees, so it will read 180 degrees easily.  I heated the milk in a saucepan over medium heat until the temperature registered 180 degrees--and I stirred the milk constantly.  Once it hit 180 degrees, I poured it into the slow cooker (which had been heating up on low), unplugged it, and allowed the milk to cool (preheating the slow cooker is likely unnecessary in the height of the summer if you do not use A/C; in the cooler months or with the A/C going, it's probably a good idea to keep the milk warm).  I checked the temperature every 20 minutes or so until I got a reading of about 116 or 117 degrees--then I took out two cups and stirred a half a cup of yogurt with them, and stirred that into the rest of the milk.  I covered the slow cooker and wrapped the blanket around it.

Eight hours later--and I had perfect yogurt!

You can also read some tips about getting good yogurt here.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Friday blogaround

This has nothing to do with the post at hand, I just thought it was very funny.  (And I'm an atheist who attends a Universalist congregation, so my friends with faith will not offend me in any way if they laugh while listening to this.  Though I was raised as Catholic and we did not listen to Gregorian chants.)

Okay, lets get to what I've seen on the intertubes recently.

Living on Foodstamps has a post about making foolproof yogurt without a slow cooker.  I have been making it in my slow cooker, and was generally successful until recently (ironically, on the day I gave a talk on how to make yogurt in your slow cooker). Last week I got yogurt-scented milk.  Not good!  The last batch turned out okay, but it doesn't tend to be very thick.  I read somewhere that you need to use full-fat milk to get it to be very thick.  I might try it this way and see how it works.

I am in awe of CTMom's mad organizational skills.  Carla's also got her food organized and a plan in place.

Katy points out that sometimes you just need to clean something rather than replace it.  And sometimes you just need to do a minor repair.  Lesson of the day: take care of your stuff and it will last.

Holly talks about using credit cards and their rewards program to your advantage.  Do not do this unless you pay off the entire thing every month and you only charge for things you need.  It's very easy to spend more when you're using plastic.

And now, I'm off to the beach as I have today off.  Have a great weekend, everybody!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

CSA Breakfast

This would also make for a good light lunch or supper.  My CSA is supplying me with so many vegetables that I've had to be a bit creative.  I thought this would be a good thing to do.  It came out pretty well, though I think next time I'll go easy on the onion.  Onion is not the thing I want to eat first thing in the morning!

Basically, I sauteed some spring onion bottoms in olive oil.  Once they were translucent, I added the spinach (that I chopped) to the pan, as well as the chopped spring onion tops.  And I cracked a few eggs over them.  I think with the amount of spinach I used I could have gotten away with cracking four eggs over this and serving four people, but since it was for me, well. . .I limited it to two.

Once the eggs were cooked on the spinach, I transferred everything to a plate and ate it.  Not a bad breakfast.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Why I would rather not marry for money

Ha.  Not that it's a possibility. . .

When I was unemployed, I went into Boston a lot--mainly to meet with people I knew in my field of work, for informational interviews and actual job interviews, and basically to get out of the house.  Once, I was walking along the harbor walk to kill some time before meeting an old colleague for coffee when a woman who lived in one of the condos there struck up a conversation with me.  When she learned I was unemployed, she advised me to try and snag one of the men who lived in the buildings or who worked nearby because they were quite wealthy.  A lot of lawyers and finance guys apparently frequented the walk or lived there.  A guy I knew from my train commute gave me similar advice--find a wealthy guy.

They were mostly joking.  I hope.

Now, I don't think that money is the root of all evil and that I'm a principled and wonderful person, because it isn't and I'm not.  I'm no one to judge, but it's not for me.  Not for moral or true love reasons, but brass-tacks practicality.  Also, as the saying goes, those who marry for money earn every penny.  You're kind of always on the clock, and I don't have that kind of stamina.  Also, we now live in an era where women can own property and "respectable" women can work and support themselves, and women in fact have all careers open to them. Not living in an era where your choices were to marry or rely on a possibly resentful family to support you has its perks.

The thing is, I would be very happy with a partner who shared my values and was okay with the way I want to live, which isn't a lifestyle most people with significant wealth want to live other than as a pleasant weekend distraction.

If I was involved with a guy who say, wanted to grab some burritos and see a movie, or had picnics with me in the park, or made me dinner in his nice but not exceptionally gorgeous place (and enjoyed the dinners I made), I would have thought I had died and gone to heaven.  A guy like that would be okay with my tightwad ways, wouldn't bat an eye at me washing and reusing plastic storage bags, would be okay with my deep freeze, with be fine with my insistence on making homemade stock from vegetable ends and canning it, would be thrilled to get home-canned jam, would be fine with Zombie Apocalypse Movie Night, would be deliriously happy with homemade biscotti and cheap coffee with stove-heated and frothed milk and a dash of nutmeg.  He'd be okay with living in a small, simple house with a sunny yard with no HOA or uppity neighbors who would side-eye laundry drying on a line or a compost pile or a big garden.  Or a decently-sized but affordable apartment or condo with a dryer rack used weekly for clothes.  He'd be fine with using public transportation in the city. A man who enjoys those sorts of things would be a better match for me than one who does not, or who sort of grits his teeth through them.  (If he's rich and prefers to live the way I live, that's wonderful, but I suspect it's also rare.)

I won't pretend that there are some things I don't lust after--I'm one of the few people who would use the bejezus out of a 6-burner Viking stove, who'd love one of those tricked out kitchens in some of those flash homes you see on TV (that ironically almost never gets used).  But my happiness isn't dependent upon that, and as I'm single, I don't need it. I'm not against eating out or doing things that cost money--I do not live like a monk.  I had a delicious dinner out with a friend of mine on Sunday night, I watch movies in the theater, and I had my place redone several years ago.  I do not live in hovel, wear rags and eat gruel.  Nor do I live in a flash place and spend money I don't have on things I can't afford.  I'm trying to save my money.

But let's face it, if I was a billionaire, I'd still do a lot of these things (granted, if I was a billionaire, I might pay for some people to do some things for me to spread the wealth and provide employment, but I'm not in danger of becoming a billionaire anytime soon). I do these things because I enjoy them.  If I had a yard, I'd line dry my stuff because clothes dried in the fresh air and the sun smell like heaven.  It's satisfying to use every last scrap of what you have, to use it well, and to use it beautifully.  So I will make a delicious stock and make fantastic meals from it.  I will make jam and offer it on top of some homemade yogurt to guests.  I will watch cheesy zombie flicks on my old-school TV.  I will enjoy and treasure what I have.

And I'd want someone who enjoys those simple things with me.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Garden progress--the jungle

My gardens are doing well--I got a couple of zucchini from the one at work and saw some beans on the vines.  My tomato plants are getting large and my herbs are thriving.  I'm also getting some peppers on my pepper plants--yay!

The one in my town is doing very well, also, as you can see.  The tomato plants are getting big and my oregano is huge.  I picked a lot of my herbs and brought them to a friend of mine yesterday.  I'll be picking more this week.  I made a really nice tea from the pineapple sage.  Just the leaves and some honey in boiling water.  Yum!

I might try to make some herb jellies later in the season.  And of course, pestos!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Today is Independence Day here in the US

I don't plan on doing much as I live on the main street in my town, and that's the parade route.  So I'll either hang out on my balcony or bring my chair out to the sidewalk and watch the parade, which often features floats with the local Portuguese Americans and the local Brazilian Americans.  Do some chores around my home, maybe read, maybe nap.  Scritch my kitty.  Watch good British television (sorry my fellow Americans, but British TV beats ours hands down) and eat Japanese curry rice.  (No, curry is not Japanese, and anyone from South Asia would likely side-eye their version of curry.  But they've turned it into a comfort-food dish that is like the boxed mac and cheese which means that yes, I'm hooked on it.)

Maybe I'll even go watch the fireworks tonight.  Or I'll call the police when they start and complain that SOMEONE IS SETTING OFF FIREWORKS AND THAT IS ILLEGAL AND ITS RUINING MY SLEEP.

No, I won't do that. But it's funny for me to think about.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Savory mushroom, meat and eggs

This is something I adapted from a low-carb chicken cordon bleu recipe I had made for a friend who was into Atkins.  I loved the filling and thought it would be great in omelets and scrambled eggs.  I was right.

If you are having a bunch of people over for brunch or breakfast, make this whole thing at once.  If it is just for you, make the mushroom and meat (optional) filling and refrigerate it (or freeze it) and use a little (probably 1/4 cup or so) when you make omelets or scrambled eggs.

I took an 8 oz. package of sliced mushrooms (you can use any kind you like), and chopped them up finely.  I usually finely chop a small onion but I didn't have one, so I used a couple of green onions I got from my CSA.  I chopped the white bulbs and the green tops.  I also chop up either a couple of slices of prosciutto or pancetta, or smoked honey turkey meat.  Then I add one or two cloves of chopped garlic and I saute all of these things in some olive oil until the mushrooms cook down.  Sometimes I'll add in fresh or dried herbs--when I made a version of this on Saturday morning, I chopped up a lot of the oregano I picked from my garden.  When I first put them in, it looks as if the mushrooms will overflow out of the skillet, but they do cook down, I swear.

Once the filling is cooked, I take it out of the skillet and put it aside in a bowl.  If I'm making breakfast or brunch for a bunch of people, I beat eight eggs, mix in a lot (like 1/4-1/2 cup) of chopped fresh herbs (a recent combination was basil, oregano, parsley, rosemary, and spring onion).  I let the eggs cook over a medium heat, stirring constantly.  As they start to cook, firm up, I add the filling and keep stirring.  When it's almost all cooked, I add in 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese and stir it in until it's melted.  Then everyone eats it and enjoys it.

If this is in the winter, when fresh herbs aren't easy to get for a reasonable price, I use a tablespoon of mixed dried herbs, or 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup of herbs I froze from the last growing season.

The meat is optional (of course).  I have made this for family and friends before and they really liked it.  Now that the herbs are going gangbusters, I'm making good use of them in my breakfasts.

Sometimes I'll make the filling and as I mentioned above either freeze it or refrigerate it to add a little to omelets or scrambled eggs later in the week.  If I do that, I add about a teaspoon of Parmesan cheese near the end of cooking.  I don't go crazy with the cheese--it's delicious, but I like it in moderation.

This makes for a very filling breakfast--I was not hungry again until the early afternoon.  It is very flavorful and it's pretty healthful to eat.