Thursday, September 27, 2012


I'm eating my way through my freezer.  While it's a great idea to stock up on food, you do have to eat it, as freezer burn is not particularly appetizing.  So, I figured I'd make a concerted effort to do this and not go food shopping. 

I do still go to my CSA and pick up my weekly share, but I haven't been to the grocery store for things like pasta or rice in a while. 

I had a  tilapia fillet in the freezer.  I like tilapia--it's a light, mild fish that can be cooked in a variety of dishes.  I got creative as I had a lot of things on hand that I needed to use up.

I chopped up four or five tomatoes from my garden and sauteed them in olive oil and garlic.  I took the rind of a quarter of a preserved lemon, chopped it up, and added that in, letting the whole thing simmer over medium heat.  I added the fish fillet and let it simmer in t he sauce, turning it over after about seven minutes and letting it cook more.  Towards the end, I added some torn basil leaves.

Boom.  Dinner.  I added some steamed beet greens and rice on the side.

Monday, September 24, 2012

I haven't fallen off the face of the Earth

New Mexico Chili pepper.
I've just been really, really busy with a whole bunch of things related to work, friends, and home.

My peppers finally started turning red last week (yay!).  Those things take ages.  I tried to pick the bell pepper that turned red but by the time I got to it, there was a colony of red bell pepper loving ants inside.  Ew.  My hot peppers have been unmolested, unsurprisingly.  (HA. I DARE YOU PESTS TO EAT THEM. I DARE YOU. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.)

Cayenne peppers are finally turning red!
Otherwise. . .I had tried watching the show Revolution long before it premired on NBC--you could watch it online and on-demand.  I sat through a half hour and turned it off in disgust.  It's a dystopian soap opera.  I went without a TV for years--quite happily--as a college student and as a working adult, and until about three years ago, I didn't have cable (it was cheaper for me to get the bundle than it was for me to have DSL and phone service, which when you think about it, is kind of obscene).  Other than having really cheesy made for the Sci-Fi channel B-movies on as background noise when I'm cleaing the house, I'm not getting anything out of it.  Yes, I am a Luddite.

OK.  So I'll be back to regular posting.  I just wanted to make sure all four of my readers knew I have a pulse.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Things I've learned from gardening

Recommended outfit for chopping hot peppers. Seriously.
You'd better make sure you have the energy to process/preserve the food you're growing.  And you'd better have a backup plan if, say, one round of canning does not go well.  (Yes, I had jars that didn't seal, so I froze those tomatoes.)

When chopping hot peppers, wear gloves.  But be prepared for your hands to sting and feel hot for hours--or even a day--afterward, anyway.

Oh, you think thick layers of mulch will defeat the weeds? That is SO CUTE.

Some of those weeds are edible.  However, if you're going to point that out, make sure you're known as a pain in the rear end foodie, because then everyone will think you're being charming and green.

Some critter has a thing for taking one bite out of a tomato and leaving it on the vine.  Just take it with you, stupid animal!

When planning on planting a winter garden, it's a good idea to check on the best time to sow the seeds, lest you forget and realize it's too late.  I'm just saying.

Cutting plants back seems counter-intuitive at first.  Only at first, then you see how much better the plant (and the fruit) does.

It doesn't matter how much bug spray I wear, or chili peppers and garlic I eat, mosquitoes love me.  Apparently I'm a well-sought after delicacy.

You get way more sanguine about losing crops when you don't rely on them to eat.  But it's still disappointing.

It's very easy to go overboard in the late spring and plant more than you'll eat or need.

It's also easy to focus only on the crops you're familiar with.  Next year, I'm going to diversify more--maybe try melons, chard, kale, mustard greens, turnips, among others.

You cannot start seedlings if you have a cat.  Trust me on this one.

Coyotes are supposed to eat rodents.  The ones around here have been laying down on the job.  Well, given their size and their interbreeding with red wolves, it's more likely they're going over white tailed deer.

Peppers take a long, long time to turn red.

No critters try to eat hot peppers.  Yet.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Beautiful blogger award!

Belinda over at Frugal Workshop nominated me for the Beautiful Blogger Award.  Thank you so much, Belinda!

 Belinda's blog is a great resource if you're trying to save money or just hone your basic domestic skills.  She's good at stretching a dollar and is a creative cook.  I really enjoy seeing how she plans her meals.  She proves that you can plan delicious meals on a budget if you're strategic and creative.

The rules for the award are simple:

  1. Copy the Beautiful Blogger Award logo and place it in your post.
  2. Write Something about the blogger who nominated you and link back to their blog.
  3. Tell seven things about yourself.
  4. Nominate other bloggers for this award, and comment on their blogs to let them know.  No number was specified to Belinda, but she found other bloggers were nominating seven new bloggers, so I will as well.

Okay, here are seven things about me:

I will try almost anything (food-wise).  Unless it's a bug.  I wish I could get past that but alas, I cannot--I'm actually borderline phobic about bugs.  (Unless it's a lobster but the little land dwelling ones? Not so much.)  I will try things because even if they sound nasty, I might like them, and why miss out if I like something?  And if I don't like it, I have a great story to tell. This ironic because. . .

I used to be the world's pickiest eater.  I ate popcorn, cereal, bacon, chicken, beef (not ground) toast and tea.  Oh, and spinach.  I did like spinach and raw carrots.  That was pretty much it.

I lived in Japan for three and a half years. I still miss the place a lot sometimes.  I got pretty decent at speaking and understanding Japanese (thought I've lost a lot of it since I came back in 1998). I'd like to learn Spanish and Portuguese.  Spanish is useful in general, and a lot of people in my town (and in this region) speak Portuguese.

I met Ertha Kitt when I was in my twenties.  I was in Washington, DC to commemorate MLK's march on Washington and she was there.  My friend waved to her like she knew her (she didnt!) and she came over to us AND OH MY GOD STARTED TALKING TO US AND SHE WAS SO NICE AND HOLY MOLY I WAS TALKING TO CATWOMAN I ABOUT FAINTED AND DIED!!  She was really, really nice.

I used to be a headbanger (and was still a total nerd) in high school.  If you don't know, don't ask. I also had. . .exquisite dress sense.

My parents grew almost everything we ate growing up.  Depending on where we were living at the time (and the space and sunlight available for a garden) they grew things like corn, tomatoes, garlic, cabbage, spinach, lettuce, onions, squash. . .you name it.  Whatever we didn't eat in season was stored in the deep freeze.  As I didn't like most vegetables, my childhood was wasted on me.  They are amused--and somewhat bemused--by the interest I've taken in gardening and food preservation.

I re-learned to swim a few years ago.  I could always dog paddle--my parents made me and my sister take swimming lessons as kids--but never could get the hang of the crawl. When I took adult swim lessons six years ago, it threw everyone that I was comfortable in the deep end of the pool (hey! I could do the dog paddle and I could tread water, so no big, I wasn't going to drown or sink). I took the beginners class over and over to make sure I got the moves right--and learned the crawl, the breast stroke (which I'm still terrible at) and the butterfly (which I'm not great at BUT OH MY LAUGHING WATER DEMONS IS IT FUN). 

Okay, so my choices are pretty eclectic.  I've stuck to people who update regularly.  (Lili over at Creative Savv nominated Belinda and Connie over at Food Stamps Cooking Club.  Consider these links an honorable mention.)

Please check their blogs out!

  1. World of Okonomy
  2. The Frugal Graduate
  3. A Homesteading Neophyte
  4. Living on Foodstamps
  5. Club Thrifty
  6. Doggone Thrifty
  7. Practical Parsimony

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Hot pepper jelly

Yes, I've been busy with hot peppers these days.  For someone who never used to like spicy things, I've been a bit obsessed with my hot pepper plants.  This may be because insects and rodents steer clear of them.  They'll munch on parsley and cilantro and leafy greens, and take bites out of random tomatoes (always a gross surprise when I'm harvesting them) but they stay away from the hot peppers.

My mother loves hot pepper jelly.  I have failed miserably in making jelly in the past.  I tried making mint jelly and it was terrible.  But this came out pretty well--I was quite happy with it.  Mom will be getting a gift this week.

I got the recipe from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving or the Ball Blue Book.  Just blend in a food processor 12 ounces of cored and jalapeno peppers (with the seeds removed) with a cup of cider vinegar.  Put that in a pot with another cup of cider vinegar and six (yes, SIX) cups of sugar.  Bring to a rolling boil, stirring constantly, and keep boiling and stirring for ten minutes.  Add two packages of liquid pectin and boil (stirring) for another minute.  Test to make sure it's done.  Put the mixture into sterilized half-pint jars (it will make five or six half pints), and secure the lids and bands  Process for 10 minutes in a boiling water canner.

If you've never canned before, I advise you strongly to get the one of the Ball books and read over the instructions.  There are also good resources online.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Preserving peppers, part II

Linda over at Practical Parsimony advised me that the way I'd been storing hot peppers might be risky.  I didn't want to toss these, so this is what I did.

I took them out of the mix and put them in ice cube trays.  There was about a tablespoon of chopped hot peppers per cube.  I covered them in olive oil (to keep them from drying out) and froze them.  Now I can add them to whatever I'm cooking for a little kick.

I add these things to whatever I'm cooking that calls for or could use some spice.  Stews, chilis, bean dishes--you name it.  I do have spices in my pantry--chili powder and cayenne pepper--but I get a kick out of knowing that I grew some of the spices I'm eating.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Quick sauce

This is something you can do if you want to make sauce from fresh tomatoes but don't have the time to simmer it for hours on end.  Usually, if you make a proper tomato sauce, you need roma/paste tomatoes.  There's a reason they don't taste that good--eat them raw and they taste mealy and somewhat bland.  But when you cook them in a sauce, they are heavenly.  They make a nice, thick sauce.

But sometimes, I want a fresh tomato sauce, or I don't want to open a can of crushed tomatoes.  I've got slicing tomatoes sitting right in front of me, I know I won't eat them all before they go off, and I just want some pasta.  So this is what I do.

I take 2-3 slicing tomatoes (or about eight romas) and chop them up.  I saute some garlic in olive oil over medium heat, add the tomatoes, and whatever other herbs I deem fitting (usually a mix of oregano and basil, or sometimes a cube of homemade pesto--in the picture here I used a lot of fresh basil).  As this is cooking, I start the pasta.

I let it cook until most of the liquid has evaporated (I stir it a lot).  I drain the pasta, put the pasta back into the pan, and add the sauce, stirring to coat it thoroughly.

I don't skin the tomatoes before I chop them or throw them in; if the skins in the quick sauce bug you, you can blanch them for a minute, dip them in cold water, and slide the skins off.

I'm trying hard not to eat too much pasta but dang--tomatoes make it soooo tempting.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Eggplant casserole FAIL

I've been getting eggplant from my CSA, and I thought I'd deviate from my usual pan of eggplant Parmesan early last week.  This was a bad, bad, bad idea.

I peeled and chopped the eggplant and mixed it with soft bread crumbs with a variety of spices (garlic, oregano, thyme and rosemary) and put that into a pan.  I then beat six eggs and poured it over the whole thing, arranged slices of tomato over the top and baked it at 350 degrees until it set. Then I sprinkled cheese on top. I was aiming for a strata/casserole thing.  Yeah, not so much. (Note to self--the strata and casserole recipes call for you to add cheese in while baking FOR A REASON.)

It wasn't horrible but it wasn't that good.  It was somewhat dry and bland.  It needed sauce.  I didn't finish it.

File this under: I try to make this stuff and choke it down so you don't have to.