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Amy’s Excellent Garden Adventure

Amy’s Excellent Garden Adventure

Good evening, Dear Readers:

Remember when I said the next post would be about waffles, unless I had something better to write about? I do–and I’m not reneging on waffles, either. In fact, after I finish writing this, I’m going to try out a gluten-free waffle recipe just for you! (Well, and me, too.)  I’m anticipating three or four different waffles on the recipe page, and one may even involve using. . .wheat. We’ll see when I get there.

Are you a Trader Joe’s fan? Well, I finally had a flash of inspiration, and decided to do something about the lack of a TJ’s down here south of Houston. I put a link on NextDoor.com, and suggested everyone in my area write TJ’s and tell their friends to do the same. So far, several people have, including Neighbor K, who became a fan after hearing me bang on about it, and made her first trip.  If you’re one of my local readers, do this now and tell EVERYONE YOU KNOW. If we get enough people writing, we might actually get one closer than the Montrose store. I suggested Friendswood or League City, but anywhere closer than Montrose or Memorial would be wonderful. If you’re in an area that doesn’t have TJ’s at all, and you miss them terribly, you can go to this link as well and ask about getting a TJ’s in your area. Do the same thing–tell your friends. Go to this link and send them a short email about where and why. Save the text on a Word document in case the site goes bonkers, like it did for me. It worked the second time.

A couple of weeks ago, I was strolling through Target and found this with a clearance sticker on it:

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Hershey’s? Ice Cream Maker?

End of the summer, an ice cream maker. However, it’s one that requires this:

It's GOURMET.

It’s GOURMET.

Now that we have Blue Bell back, we don’t need this. And of course, in fine print at the bottom, it says, “artificially flavored.” No thanks. I like my Cuisinart model and the recipes I have in cookbooks.

So anyway. . .guess who has more pesto in her freezer? Yes! ME! (You can envy me now.) As of last night, I now have SIX containers of pesto! No, I haven’t poured steroid fertilizers out back. I went on a little day trip on Monday. Let me back up a bit.

I’ve written about the monthly gardening lectures I attend at my local library, third Thursday of the month, 6:30 pm. Nice people, and sometimes, there’s munchies. (No, I passed on the cake last week.)  The lady who coordinates the lectures and attends every month is a nice person named Shirley Jackson. She’s always there, picks up the surveys, gives announcements and sometimes, she’s the friendliest face I see all day.

One of the announcements has been since the beginning the “open garden” day at the Genoa Friendship Garden in nearby Pasadena. That’s not someplace I normally hang out, and despite writing it down, I never seem to remember. Except for one day I dropped a pitcher of iced coffee on the floor, and. . .oh, never mind. Finally, Monday, I paid them a visit.

Sponsored by the Harris County Master Gardeners and Texas A&M’s AgriLife Extension, it’s a little spot where all kinds of plants are grown, and they have plant sales–cheap. I spent a whopping $3.50 yesterday, for two tomato plants and a sweet pepper plant that I’ll put into a big pot this weekend.

Take a look:

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This was a cute little display:

A diorama!

A diorama!

Here’s a closeup:

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If you like eggplant, they’ve got a garden variety that, it is claimed, actually tastes good.

These eggplants stay green, and do not turn purple.

These eggplants stay green, and do not turn purple.

Here’s another look at that eggplant:

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There are peppers of many kinds:

Sweet peppers

Sweet peppers

A closer look at the sweet peppers

A closer look at the sweet peppers

For the okra-loving folks.

Okra--the GER's favorite

Okra–the GER’s favorite

They grow green onions, just like I do, only more of them. I also got answers to questions about the garlic that never seems to grow well in my garden. One nice lady said it was probably critters. I’ll try again soon.

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A few shots from around the garden area:

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There’s an orchard, complete with berry bushes:

Blackberries!

Blackberries!

I think these are grapes, but I couldn’t find a label for it:

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And they didn’t forget the kitties, either! (I bet there’s a huge feral cat colony living there, somewhere, that comes out to party in the Garden at night.)

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I was quite surprised to see an area of desert plants, separated from the rest of the garden:

That's the biggest Prickly Pear cactus I've seen since the last time I was in the desert.

That’s the biggest Prickly Pear cactus I’ve seen since I left California. In 1988.

Prickly pear cactus produces fruit–did you know that?

Cactus pears, also called "Indian Fruit."

Cactus pears, also called “Indian Fruit.”

Yellow flowers develop on top of the little fruit buds, that’s why there is an indentation. Then the flower dries up and falls off (just like zucchini or peppers) and the fruit buds start growing. When they turn dark purple, you can pick them and peel them, because they’re sweet. I’ve seen “Indian Candy” at truck stops in California and Arizona. (But not in a long, long time.)There were other desert plants, as well, like this, I believe is called an Ocotillo:

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Yes, those needles are indeed SHARP.

NOW–remember what I said about more pesto? Get a look at this:

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I mentioned to one of my “tour guides” that I grow basil for the sole purpose of making pesto and freezing it for the winter. I told him about Pea & Pesto Soup, and told him that if he made that for his wife, she would be very happy with him. He reached down and cut me a couple of huge branches, big as a wedding bouquet. (Don’t read anything into that.) I stopped on the way home at Randall’s because I knew I didn’t have enough pine nuts to make two or three batches. I might start using walnuts one day–I like walnuts too, and they’re less expensive than pine nuts.

He GAVE me that basil. It was HUGE!!

He GAVE me that basil. It was HUGE!! (Tomato plants in the foreground.)

Another one of my tour guides (listening to my discussion of said soup) asked me, “how do you have time to do all that cooking?” I smiled and said, “I’m single.” He was delighted to hear about Pea & Pesto Soup, but insisted that I make some and bring it to him to try. I’d guess he was in his mid-70’s, and he was not about to go online to find the recipe. (Most of the people working there were women.)

There are several varieties of basil growing, like this one:

It's basil, but. . . .

It’s basil, but. . . .

As I’ve done so many times, I picked a leaf and tasted it. Suddenly behind me, I heard a woman’s voice say, “That’s not culinary basil.

AAAAAAAHHHHH!!!!!!

It wasn’t poisonous, but I did indeed spit it out quickly and ask about it. She said, “I’ve never had anyone pop a leaf in their mouth like that.”

I got to ask lots of questions, and I found out a lot of things I didn’t get from the lectures. First, I’m under-watering my plants. DUH! Second, there isn’t enough room for all the water to drain properly, so I have to get a bigger drill bit soon and drill bigger holes in the bottom of the paint buckets. If I have time next month, I might go take a ride, now that I know where it is and how easy it is to get to from here.

I went into the greenhouse to get some plants, and there were some free seeds, limit 5. That was all I needed.

French breakfast radishes!!

Sage and French breakfast radishes!!

Lettuce will be happening again, soon, too, thanks to the seeds and the cooler weather that’s coming.

It’s not a big greenhouse, but there were plenty of plants for sale. I missed the kale, though. Sorry, K.

Nice and cozy for the plants.

Nice and cozy for the plants.

Now, to give you some perspective on why gardening can be a good thing, consider the Meyer lemons that I’m hoping will get bigger. I’ve got seeds from last year’s lemons, and I may need to prune the tree a bit. But on a recent trip to The Fresh Market, I found some Meyer lemons:

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I hope to grow more and more.

I sent that picture to Neighbor K. She was quite surprised to see how much they were. NOW do you see why I want to grow them? I do hope mine grow full size before they completely ripen.

You can find out more about the Genoa Friendship Garden at this link. The Garden is open to the public on the third Monday of the month from 8:30 to 11:00 am, and they sell plants cheap. If you’re looking for something to do in Houston, there are two gardens; this one is on my side of town.

Time for fall gardening, and I’ll be hoping that radishes finally grow back there. They grow quickly, and best in the cold winter. Fingers crossed, and I’ll tell you all about it. . .if it works.

Enjoy!

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Pesto and the Quinoa Pizza

Pesto and the Quinoa Pizza

Happy Tuesday, Dear Readers!

Have I got some updates for you–with pictures. Real pictures with the digital camera, not with the iPhone. Yes, this includes pizza, and it IS gluten-free, but stick with me, so I can explain the entire process.

For whatever reason, I was able to select and load all the pictures with one click of a button, instead of one at a time like I normally do. I was amazed that all I had to do was let them upload, and they did, although it took a while. Maybe I’ll use the digital camera more often.

You know, I haven’t had watermelon in a long time. I think I should get one–maybe a bigger one and cut it into pieces to nibble on all day. (Have I just created “The Watermelon Diet?”) I love watermelon, always have. Musician Herbie Hancock even wrote a cool jazz instrumental called Watermelon Man. (The whole song is there, but the comments can be a bit rude.)  I know there’s a whole ridiculous PC thing about watermelons, but. . .watermelon is good. People from all walks of life like to eat. . .watermelon. Maybe it’s just a southern thing, I don’t know. But is that so bad? If you don’t like watermelon, that’s OK–just don’t eat it. More for the rest of us who really like (or just LOVE) watermelon.

OK, enough of that.

The HeatCageKitchen garden looks like a jungle, particularly the tomato bushes, which are in excess of six feet tall, but not terribly productive. Last week was the July gardening lecture at the library, and they gave us some pepper plants. I got two, and intended to give one to the GER, but being the fussbudget that he is, he declined it. So Neighbor K got the bigger one, called “Holy Moly.” She likes that hot stuff. I have a smaller one, and I should put it into a bigger pot, but I haven’t done that yet.

The lettuce experiment has ended for the time being. It is, as they say in TV, “on hiatus.” In last week’s gardening lecture, it was mentioned that lettuce is. . .a winter crop. With tomatoes being a primarily spring/summer crop, how lettuce and tomato became a common salad, I dunno. What really irritated me was that the last stub that Neighbor K gave me shot up to a foot high–I even wrote about it. Later in the afternoon, the really tall leaf was broken in half and hanging down to the soil. What I figured out was that some nasty worm got in it and ate the leaf at the halfway point, causing it to bend. I trimmed it, and continued to water, but it finally dried up and that was it.

I planted the rest of the basil seeds last night. Darnit. I’ll try again in a couple of months when the temperature goes down.

This is one of the tomato plants, with just three tomatoes on it. I think it’s the Chocolate Cherry plant:

They're coming, soon, I guess.

They’re coming, soon, I guess.

This is the top of the Sungold plant:

More flowers, but no tomatoes. Yet.

More flowers, but no tomatoes. Yet.

I’ve harvested all the Anaheim/Hatch chiles, but there are more flowers and more peppers behind them. I’ve got to go on Central Market’s website and find some recipes to use them up.

The one bell pepper is growing nicely:

Weird, yes, but it will be delicious.

Weird, yes, but it will be delicious.

I plan on leaving it on the plant until it turns red. I like red bell peppers.

Now, the Key Lime plant has several in different stages of growth:

I think the last lime count was 9.

Here’s a closeup of one of them:

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Now, something’s weird with the Meyer lemon plant:

They're turning yellow too soon

They’re turning yellow too soon

For whatever reason, these two seem to be ripening before they’re finished growing. Last year, I got four, they became the size of grapefruits, THEN they turned yellow. These are the size of lemons you get in the grocery store, and there are no more flowers. I’m guessing this is all I get in the way of Meyer lemons this year, but we’ll see.

Now, at my last gardening lecture, I was given a nice basil plant, which wasn’t the same sweet basil we’re all familiar with, but it smelled the same. This is how big it got in a month:

The unspecified basil plant

The unspecified basil plant

About two feet high. Now, I just made pesto about a month ago, and while the other plant started growing back (and the worms found it) I still had a significant amount:

The basil I already had growing

The basil I already had growing. Mint and celery are doing pretty good, too.

So I think you can guess what happens next. Yes! I made more PESTO!! (Can you tell that makes me happy?) I went out and whacked down almost all of that basil, and brought it inside. If you’ve never seen pesto being made (or have no idea what it is), I’ll walk you through it.

The hack job

The hack job

Pulled all the good leaves and washed them good:

Ahh, beautiful basil!

Ahh, beautiful basil!

I also ran them in the salad spinner, then dried them best I could with clean, dry dish towels. I toasted up some pine nuts and put them in a cold bowl before I started the rest of the process. My newly refurbished blender performed perfectly!

Load it up!

Load it up!

Turn it on, and then drizzle in the olive oil:

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This was extra-virgin olive oil from Trader Joe’s. EVOO is best, since it has that potent olive flavor.

It takes a few minutes, and my blender shuts off if it runs too long, but I tilt it and shake it a bit, then turn it back on, and the process happens pretty quickly:

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Look inside, take a deep breath, and enjoy it:

Pesto! But it's not yet finished.

Pesto! But it’s not yet finished.

Dump it, scrape it and drip every last drop of the green deliciousness into a bowl and add some Parm cheese:

Now it's finished. Just mix.

Now it’s finished. Just mix.

Stir it all together (or leave the cheese out if you can’t have dairy) and pack it up for storage:

Done!

Done!

These Clip-Art Freezer Labels are from Martha Stewart’s website, and a “Good Thing” from the magazine in September 2004. I bought the paper and made a batch several years ago, and they’re great for this kind of use. However, sticking them on the OUTSIDE of a freezer container or bag means the adhesive gets cold and falls off. But for this, it’s great. Seal it up and freeze:

Ready for the winter!

Ready for the winter!

My last batch of pesto was made just in June, and the prior batch, which I’ve used once for Pea Pesto Soup, was made back in September of 2014. By planting the rest of the organic basil seeds, I hope to make at least one more, and hopefully, two more batches of pesto for the winter.

Now–who wants pizza? No, Don’t call Papa John’s. . .

Someone posted the video for this on Facebook last week, and I just HAD to try it out. I did–twice. Yesterday, I made it a second time, mostly to take pictures and report on it, and partly because. . .I wanted some.

Now, when you say you want this pizza, you have to plan ahead, OK? You soak the quinoa overnight; Sunday’s was 24 hours, and it seemed to taste a little better. So here we go.

The setup.

The setup.

Pour 3/4 cup of dry quinoa into a bowl, and cover with water to soak for at least 8 hours (a full 24 is better, the crust had a better taste.)

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After I’d set the quinoa aside to soak, I used my mini food processor–the one for which I replaced the cracked bowl recently–and the slicer blade to slice up the sausage:

Perfectly sliced sausage!

Perfectly sliced sausage!

And then I grated cheese:

Perfect!

Perfect!

And packed them both up for the fridge:

Oops.

Oops.

You may be thinking to yourself, “Amy, why did you buy Monterey Jack cheese for a pizza?” Simple–when I was in Target, I saw a block of white cheese with an “M” on the wrapper and grabbed it. I didn’t actually READ it. It wasn’t bad, actually–but the second incarnation yesterday actually had Mozzerrella cheese on it.

Closeup of the sausage label

Closeup of the sausage label

I bought this sausage at Cost Plus World Market, and it’s pretty good. I had a $10 “shopper’s coupon,” so I went back for more, plus a few other things I needed.

After the soaking (the next day), drain the quinoa and rinse well:

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Add it to your food processor, along with 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 cup of water, and blitz it for two minutes:

This is the one that I replaced the bowl for recently; it uses the blender's motor with a gearbox on top.

This small food processor uses the blender’s motor with a gearbox on top.

After two minutes or so, stop it, and you should have a batter like this:

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You’ll need a 9″ cake pan for this, not your regular pizza pan. Spray it with a bit of cooking spray, line it with parchment, then spray again. Now you’re ready to pour in the pizza crust batter:

Yes, that's what it's supposed to look like.

Yes, that’s what it’s supposed to look like.

Smooth it out, and then bake it at 425F for 15 minutes. Take it out of the oven, and remove from the pan:

Careful with the crust at this stage, it's still kind of mushy inside. A big spatula works best.

Careful with the crust at this stage, it’s still kind of mushy inside. A big spatula works best.

Flip the crust, remove the paper, and put it face down back into the cake pan, returning it to the 425F oven for 5 to 10 more minutes, until the crust is browned and golden.

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Should look like this:

The baked crust

The baked crust

Take a closer look:

Not thin, but not real thick, either.

Not thin, but not real thick, either.

Ready for some pizza? Now it comes together:

Essential toppings.

Essential toppings, with an ice cream base cooling in the white dish on the back burner.

Start by spreading some pizza sauce on the crust:

Add the sauce. . .

Classico’s is pretty good and easy to find, but I didn’t think to make my own. Next time.

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Then add some of the sliced sausage, or whatever you like instead of sausage:

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Until you have neat concentric circles, or whatever I ended up with here:

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Now, add. . .CHEESE!!

This one has the *right* cheese on it, OK?

This one has the *right* cheese on it, OK?

Bake it for just a few more minutes at the same 425F until the cheese is melted. If you want to add other meats (ground beef, raw sausage) or veg, like mushrooms or bell peppers, you should cook it ahead.  You’re not cooking it, at this point, you’re just melting the cheese.

Are you ready for some pizza?

Tah-dah!

Tah-dah!

That’s it, fresh out of the oven. I borrowed this from Neighbor K to cut it:

The OXO 4-inch pizza wheel

The OXO 4-inch pizza wheel, which I gave her, originally.

Because I wanted it to look nice on camera. Except I think I didn’t get a picture of me actually cutting the pizza. So I go with the remains of the plate:

Ahhh. . . .

Ahhh. . .fresh pizza!

Truth to tell, hot out of the oven, I immediately cut one of those four slices in half, and brought some to Neighbor K and her significant other, and that piece you see cut on the right was rushed over to Neighbor R. K and R are the official HeatCageKitchen taste testers, and I only asked for their opinions in return. R must have been hungry, because she gobbled that slice right up–she said she loved it! I got a text from K later that she loved the pizza too–so two thumbs up from the taste-testing team. What about K’s boyfriend? “He doesn’t eat healthy food.” Oh, well.

And I had the rest of it today. The pizza is gone, but I can always make another one. It just takes a bit of advanced planning.

Now I also want to warn you about something that Cooking Light doesn’t mention. Because of the carbohydrate nature of the pizza, you may very well fall asleep if you eat more than one or two slices. Honest. Last week, when I tried it the first time, I was thrilled at the result and gobbled up a third slice. This was in the afternoon, like 5 or 6 pm. A little while later, I found myself needing a nap, and had to crawl to the futon where I passed out cold–I couldn’t help it. I woke up when the phone rang about 7:30, and I didn’t want to answer it until I saw that it was friend of the blog AK, calling from Ohio. (THEN I was happy to answer it.) I strongly suggest having some protein with it, or at least a good salad to offset the sleepy effect you might get.

Yes, it’s good. Yes, it’s gluten free. Yes, it’s fussy, but it’s really worth it.

Remember, too, that it will NOT taste like wheat. It will not taste exactly like Papa John’s, Domino’s or DiGiorno pizza. Ever. But if you like quinoa (and I do) this is a nice alternative, especially if you have to go gluten-free.

I’ve added the recipe for this pizza crust and my favorite pesto to the recipes page so you can reference it easily, and if you like, print a copy for yourself. Credit is given, of course, and the pesto is from Giada de Laurentiis’ first book, Everyday Italian. I’ve used it for years and it works perfectly every time.

So. . .it’s not for a big family, and if you have a toaster oven, this is the perfect project for it. Remember that you have to soak the quinoa for at least 8 hours; I recommend the full 24 hours, because it seemed to taste better. Plan ahead, and you and your friends or your SO can have some gluten free pizza soon.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

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The HeatCageKitchen 2015 Garden

The HeatCageKitchen 2015 Garden

Happy Wednesday, Dear Readers!

Well, it’s mid-March, and St. Patty’s Day came and went without incident for me. That is, nobody pinched me for not wearing green (I was, and have green flecks in my eyes), and I didn’t punch anyone for pinching me. So it was a good day!

I’ve seen the GER a little more recently, and yesterday, he brought me a big box of cracked pecans from his backyard.

Some women get flowers. I get pecans. You can have the flowers.

Some women get flowers. I get pecans. You can have the flowers.

Non-GMO and all that. They are cracked, but not completely shelled. This means that if I ever stop EATING said pecans, I will sort them out into pieces, cracked ones, and the minority that did not crack. I’ll finish the shelling, then bag them up to freeze, then turn them into some delicious gluten-free treats. The GER brings the lot to someone who charges him sixty cents a pound to run them through a machine to crack them. Friend of the blog RR says I need to make him a pecan pie. I told him to bring over his Puerto Rican Mama so she can teach me to cook some tasty Spanish food.

Actually, I’ve told RR for many years that if I ever date a man of Hispanic origin or descent, I’m heading over to his house in Katy for cooking lessons from his Mom. He sort of agreed, but I bet he hasn’t told his Mom about it.

So it’s that time of year, and for us urban gardeners, time to figure out what the heck we’re going to grow this year. I’ve been attending free classes monthly at my local library, and I’ve already learned a lot. Crop rotation is important–don’t keep putting garlic into the same spot or pot year after year, plant your tomatoes there and garlic elsewhere. I have made compost for the first time (with a little help from that class in January plus Urban Farm magazine.)  Just emptied my kitchen compost crock into the container again this weekend, and it looks. . .well, you know, it’s decomposing plant matter. It’s compost.

The Meyer lemon plant that gave me four beautiful lemons that I turned into a cake last year is already cranked up for more action this season:

The fantastic Meyer lemon plant.

The fantastic Meyer lemon plant.

 

There are even some tiny lemons growing now, but there will be some drop-off before I get to harvest any full-grown lemons.

See the tiny lemons?

See the tiny lemons?

I’ve seen a few hungry bees looking for nectar, which makes me happy, but citrus trees are self-pollinating. The lime tree I bought last year is starting to bloom, too:

The key lime tree. I'll be very happy if it gives me some.

The key lime tree. I’ll be very happy if it gives me some.

Let’s see if I can lower my lime cost this year. I buy at least a dozen at a time, but had to curtail last year when the price went way up. However, if I can get some limes growing, I’ll soon be having Mojitos:

Mint roars back

Mint roars back!

I recently trimmed back the mint plant and added more soil. We’ve had a good amount of rain here in Houston recently, and when the water comes back, so does the mint. Watering the mint when it’s dry helps, too. That plant is about five years old, I think.

WARNING: put mint into a container, or it will overtake the garden. RR found that out last year when he had a huge swath growing against the fence. (He posted it on Facebook.) The GER says he’s got mint thriving with some ornamentals. I hope he didn’t spend much on onrnamentals. . .or he learns to love Mojitos. (I can teach you how to make those, just ask, OK?)

I’ve also started seeds for jalepeno peppers, yellow teardrop grape tomatoes, bell peppers, sprouting garlic cloves, parsley and sunflowers. If we get sunflowers, they’ll grow against the wall that separates our patios so Neighbor K can have some if she wants. Last time I grew some on the front patio, someone came by and broke the beautiful bloom off the six-foot stem. So now they will be planted in the back patio.

I could not resist a little Jeff Dunham humor. I put in a little tag that says “Jalepeno on-a-STEEK.”

I’ve also planted some Mesclun mix lettuce in a pot, so we’ll see what happens there. I should have planted some kale for Neighbor K last fall, but didn’t think about it . Neighbor K loves kale; I like it, don’t love it, but will try next fall to grow some for us.

The GER suggested lifting the trees in pots up off the ground a little so they can get more sun, so that’s what I’ll be doing this week. All of them, if I can get enough bricks, and they’ll all be happy with lots of sunshine.

I will need to buy some basil plants, because you KNOW I want plenty of pesto this year. At least three, maybe four or five plants. I’m not messing around–I am serious about my pesto!

Here’s a childhood memory: my parents LOVE avocados. Before I was born, they lived in a house that had had an avocado tree in the backyard. They feasted on avocados when it produced, and fondly remembered that for years (until the fat-free thing came along and doctors told them  to leave them alone.) Every time my Mom would buy an avocado, she would keep the seed and try to get it to root. They were in nearly every window–four toothpicks stuck like 12, 3, 6 and 9 on a clock, water in the bottom, and she waited for it to root, then planted it with the greatest of hopes. Did this for my entire childhood, until I left home. Never had an avocado tree. So keep that in mind while I tell you more.

I’ve shown you these green onions before, but let me tell you a bit more about them.

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When I had a “boyfriend,” I got him to take me to Frohberg Farms in Alvin, TX. Aunt Ruth told me about the farm, and even though it was a drive from where I live, it’s still buying local. I need to hike it out there again one day; they have strawberry picking going on now, and I would love to pick me some. (And eat them!)  I bought a number of things, including some green onions. I’d read on the Urban Farm forum that by cutting off the white, rooted bottom of the green onion and planting it, you could regrow them and just cut what you need.

That was in 2010. . .I no longer have a “boyfriend,” but the onions are still growing, through everything, including rain, drought, no sunlight and pests. I bought some from the grocery a few months ago to make a recipe, just to make sure I had the right amount. And I planted those rooted bottoms, so now I have more. I bought the big fat ones, but they grew back very skinny. Who cares, right? Unless you’ve got to have the amount just right, you can go outside and cut some green onions, just what you need. They grow back forever.

Now, that brings me to a bigger subject that I missed writing about last year. Back in November, Urban Farm ran an article that I somehow skimmed past on re-growing food scraps. What do I mean by that? Well, the green onion bit is just one example–and just about anyone can do it. Rachel Hurd Anger’s article starts out with a lady who started re-growing lettuce after reading about it online. Now she wonders exactly what she can re-grow after shopping. Another lady grows lettuce and celery.

I gave the GER a subscription to that magazine for Christmas. . .I bet he saw it.

Have I ever mentioned that I just love salad? I mean, I REALLY love salad. So guess what I’m going to do soon? Couple it with the Salad in the Jar project I used to do, and I will be a rabbit-food-nibbling cat in no time. I’m going to get some organic romaine lettuce and celery in the next few days and sprout the ends in water. Once they start to develop roots, I’ll pop it into the soil, and wait for the magic to grow it back. I plan on doing this with a bunch of heads of organic romaine as well as a couple of bunches of organic celery.

If all goes well, I’ll be growing lettuce AND tomatoes and happily consuming them. If I’m lucky, I might have too many. . .then my friends will be blessed, too. Cross your fingers.

Now, the article goes onto to talk about other things you can grow from roots and ends, like carrots. Legumes, with the exception of split peas, will also sprout for you, and you can have a houseplant from dried chickpeas.

Another example is cutting the top off the pineapple and letting it grow in a pot. Remember this one?

The monster pineapple plant.

The monster pineapple plant.

The GER took it home where it. . .died. Dunno what happened, but he said he even took it to a Honduran lady who specializes in saving plants. She couldn’t save it. GRRRR. . .I was looking forward to some fresh pineapple from the GER’s back garden, too. Oh, well; we’ll try again. But that plant came from the top of a grocery store pineapple from Hawaii I bought one day on sale for $1. You like pineapples? Grow you some!

The article goes on to talk about other plants and seeds that you can re-grow, and mentions one source that never had any luck with the avocado. Well, I know all about that one, don’t I? (I have no idea if my mother is still trying to grow that tree in her 70s.)

While you wait for your garden harvest, there is a book mentioned in this article called Don’t Throw It: Grow It! 68 Windowsill Plants From Kitchen Scraps (Storey Pulishing, 2008.) Author Deborah Peterson talks about what you can grow from leftover pieces and seeds. If you have children, this might be a great way to show them where food comes from, and how to reduce waste, too. I don’t have it yet but plan to order it, since it’s not expensive.

When I looked up that book,I also found Vertical Vegetables And Fruits by Rhonda Massingham Hart. Also inexpensive, I think this will help me grow more in the suburban 8′ x 5′ plot I have now, as well as later, when I get to a much-desired larger space. (And, I think I can make the GER just a teensy bit jealous.)

Thinking about all this, I suddenly had a hankering for Pea Pesto Soup, so I’ve made some, even though it’s not cold anymore. I haven’t had it in a while, and because I had to go yeast free for a while to get rid of the heartburn, it’s OK.(There is cheese in the pesto, and peas are higher in carbs, so it will feed the yeast.) I’ve got one full and one nearly full container of pesto left in the freezer, so I need to get some basil plants this weekend, or I’m going to run out and be very grouchy.

I’ll close with this picture of a stove that would make Suzy Homemaker, um, green with envy, but also make her wish she was a grownup. I found it on Facebook the other day and promptly shared it on my wall:

Amy's fantasy kitchen stove. I don't even care what color it is, or how much it costs.

Amy’s fantasy kitchen stove. I don’t even care what color it is, or how much it costs. I want one.

We all have a dream, right? Now, I don’t have a house yet, and when I do, it’s not going to be a straight drive on I-10 like you think it will be. And if I can pull it off, Google Maps won’t find it, either. I’ve since posted a screen porch picture that had people inviting themselves over. One friend in California said she’d be “happy to share my new house.” Another friend in New Orleans said that between the food, desserts, the clothes, “especially when she puts in that new stove she posted a while back.” Those two ladies are Buddhists, so we’ll be chanting and enjoying the country. If Neighbor K comes over with Daft Pug, she can take him out while we do our prayers. And then we’ll be some happy, hell-raising women. In the country, where we can’t get into much trouble.

Between the stove and the porch and a few other pictures I’ve shared. . .maybe I should start downloading and maybe printing those pictures out for future reference.

So, if you’re still in winter, like my friend Frannie in Arizona, give your garden some hard thinking so you can be ready when the time comes. Start now growing your lettuce, celery and sprout your seeds indoors so you’re ready to go when the frost is over.

If you’re down here in the South, it’s time to start your garden. Get moving, and grow what you like to eat, and whatever grows best where you live.

Enjoy!

 
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Posted by on March 18, 2015 in Fresh from the Garden, Fruit, salad

 

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Pesto and the gift of tomatoes

Pesto and the gift of tomatoes

Hola, Amigos:

My apologies for being late again. I’ve been busy and just haven’t felt like writing. Period. But WordPress nags you if you don’t, I’d better do something.

Neighbor K introduced me to HEB’s new line of gluten free pasta, and for a while, I couldn’t get enough:

IMG_0658[1]No, the cat food doesn’t figure into it.

However, it’s corn and rice flour that makes this pasta, so it’s high on the carb scale. I think I bought it three times, but I had to quit. It’s not the $1.99 price tag, though–I kept eating it!

Let me give you a bit of background: back in the day (about 1991-1994) I used to walk six miles a day. After the walk, I would eat one of two things: frozen veg with some butter and salt, or boiled pasta with (ugh) Diet Parkay margarine and a small amount of Parmesan cheese. Because, after all, pasta is “healthy,” right? It’s no healthier now than it was, but nobody knew that yet. I would get one of two reactions: with the veg, I had a great evening, but with the pasta, I would fall asleep. It took forever to figure out it was the pasta putting me to sleep for 15 hours, so I cut way back on it.

With the gluten-free pasta, I cooked one cup, added real butter and about the same amount of cheese. I got the same delicious taste without the sudden drowsiness. However. . .I couldn’t stop eating it! So I stopped buying it. Maybe in a few months or so, but not for a while.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Yesterday was Pesto Saturday!  The basil got to close to three feet high, so it was definitely time for harvesting and pesto making.

IMG_2185

After I picked them (and picked through them) I rinsed them and put them through the salad spinner. You don’t want WATER in your pesto, do you?

IMG_2189

One of the best parts of pesto: pine nuts. NOTE: do not eat any of the toasted pine nuts, or you will not be able to stop eating them. Trust me on this.

Pine Nuts. Legally addicting.

Legally addicting pignoli.

These burn VERY easily, so let me tell you how I keep that from happening–I put them in the toaster oven at 400 degrees for five minutes, and keep an eye on them. When they start turning brown, turn the oven off, then carefully pour them into a COLD container, like this bowl. You know, one you just took out of the cabinet, not necessarily refrigerated. Why? If you leave them in the baking pan, the cooking process continues and they’ll burn. By dumping them into a cold bowl, you stop the cooking process and they’re perfectly toasted.

Make sure you keep the rest of them sealed in the FREEZER, or else they’ll go bad–quickly.

Once I had all the components ready, I just put the parts together.

Blend it!!

Blend it!!

When it’s done, this is what you get.

Pesto!

Pesto!

You can find a good pesto recipe here at Food Network’s site, and it’s virtually the same as the one I got out of one of Giada de Laurentiis’ books. I add Parmesan cheese to mine, although that recipe says Pecorino. Really, with either one, you can’t go wrong.

If the plants will grow back and produce that much again in a few months, I could have at least one more batch of pesto to freeze for the winter. And that will be a good thing.

That, and finding SQUARE containers to freeze them in. The round containers I’ve been using take up too much room.

And why make so much pesto? You already know why–and I made some this week, too.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Now here comes the part where I write about the infamous ex-boyfriend known as the GER. He loves it when I write about him.

You know the old saying, “Never look a gift horse in the mouth?”

Last time, I told you about the gifted tomatoes the GER gave me. He said he didn’t get a whole lot this year, but he did give me two nice ones. Take a look:

GER tomatoes

Now, because I know a bit about this, I left them on the stove for a week, so they could ripen a bit more. Ripen they did. When I cut them open, this is what they looked like:

IMG_0653[1]

Not especially large, mind you, but, if you’ve ever been given the gift of tomatoes, you know why they are markedly different from the ones you buy at the grocery. Size really doesn’t matter once you taste one.  If you just slice them and eat them, all you need is a light sprinkling of fine sea salt. Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing would be a crime.

I also clipped what was growing in the lettuce pot. You know what they call “bitter greens?” That, unfortunately, was the only part of the “greens mix” that actually grew, plus some kind of parsley look-alike. Darnit. In order to actually consume this without gagging, I stopped at HEB and got a head of good old iceberg lettuce and made my own “greens mix,” which also included a few chopped up mint leaves and some of the flat-leaf Italian parsley that grows back there. That was quite a harvest, and what was it became was pretty darn good:

IMG_0652[1]

The closest thing I could call a recipe would be one head of iceberg lettuce, a handful of chopped flat leaf parsley, some chopped bitter greens, and a few–like, 5–chopped mint leaves. Don’t add more mint or that’s all you’ll taste. Much as I like mint, I know it’s not THAT enjoyable.

With two judiciously sliced fresh garden tomatoes from the GER, it became. . .salad.

Salad!

A little olive oil and salt was all that was needed. I emphasize LITTLE.

And it was SO GOOD.

Summer’s here, please stay cool and enjoy what there is to enjoy.

Happy dining!

 

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