Home gardening?

What great information and insight! I should be polite and name everyone I want to respond to, that would take forever. I agree heartily with the comment about taking care of the soil - whether its in raised beds (that I used almost exclusively for vegetables while living in New England - got tired of the darned rocks) or containers or a chunk of the backyard. Because I've got horses and chickens, I can generate lots of compost that always finds its way into the vegetable beds. This will be only the third growing season in my current home, so the soil is still very much a work in progress.

Mulching is my lifesaver. So is the recent 'acquisition' of a serious gardening buddy, a friend who had never grown a single vegetable, who wanted to learn how, and who has volunteered one day every other week for the past two years. After a lifetime of doing all the work on my own, I was amazed at the difference an extra set of hands can make.

Since I have been gardening for many years, there are my old faithfuls (legions of tomatoes of wide varieties, eggplant, peppers, greens, beans - dry and snap, squashes) but I have also gotten in the habit of trying something entirely new every year. Three years ago it was okra. Now that I'm in a warmer climate, I thought why not, and omg! I fell in love! I eat the babies right off the plant. Last year the new veggie were sweet potatoes, which I'm just now finishing off. This year I'm trying my hand at kohlrabi, which is something I can't get in the local groceries.

What I don't wolf down during the summer, I can, pickle, freeze, and/or dry. (My ultimate goal is near self-sufficiency.) I love the idea of drying tomatillos. I had never considered that. I dry (and freeze and can) tomatoes like crazy, and have recently taken to powdering some of the dried tomatoes. Reconstituted 1:1 with water, the powder is superb on pizza. My brother thinks it would make a great bloody mary, especially if I reconstituted with vodka. (Hahahaha!)

With seeds becoming so darned expensive, I save leftovers from one year to the next - storing them like the rest of you do - and I've started saving seeds from the heirloom tomatoes, and any that volunteer in the compost pile eventually find their way into the garden.

I have struggled with squashes since moving to the mid-South. The bugs think I plant them for their exclusive benefit. Greens are also tricky. The summer heat and humidity usually do them in. This year I'm trying to get around the greens problem by planting early in raised beds (the ground is way too soggy yet to work in). We'll see. In the meantime, I have several flats of assorted tomatoes, eggplants, and at least five different kinds of peppers sprouting in a sunny porch.

Maybe we should touch base in August and September with pictures of our summer produce and the luscious goodies we make from it?

When Breakfast Gets "Weird"

Breakfast can range from the more-or-less traditional (oatmeal laced with a great big handful of blueberries, for instance) to the less-traditional. Yesterday morning, it was a large bowl of mustard greens sauteed in olive oil, garlic, red pepper into which I had cracked a couple of eggs to poach: a virtuous start to the morning if there ever were one. And yes, I'm a committed desk diner. Just ask my keyboard.

Deviled eggs

GretchinF: you're my new friend! I've gotta try some of your combos.

what are your favorite DIY kitchen hacks?

I've been using cardboard boxes for years (decades?) as instruments of organization in my freezer. Never considered them a DIY hack. :-) Ditto the vinegar & dish soap fruit fly trap - costs nearly nothing, works like a dream. Tall spoons in the can on the counter work great for drying plastic bags, the pint-sized zip-locks of which are later used for single-servings of any dish that goes into the freezer. Stored flat, they freeze into stackable "shingles." The upright paper towel holder does double duty as drying rack for my precious collection of bread bags. I'm sure there are more things I do, but they're so natural they don't jump out at me as anything particularly novel. :-)

Deviled eggs

Egg yolks are another one of nature's amazingly receptive blank canvasses. Among
my favorite combos:
Yolks mixed with harissa with just enough olive oil or good quality mayonnaise to reach creamy perfection
Finely chopped sun-dried tomato, finely chopped kalamata olives, thyme, garlic, red wine vinegar, olive oil
Finely chopped chilpolte pepper, whole toasted cumin, lime juice, mayo or sour cream

Marie Simmons, The Good Egg, has an entire chapter on stuffed eggs - many of my versions come from there or been inspired by what I found there.

Banana Oatmeal Bread

This has become my go-to banana bread recipe, and I sub out all the AP flour with whole wheat to no bad effect. I'll also stir in blueberries or raisins or chocolate chips or shredded coconut too at the end. It's a lovely, flexible, no-fail recipe.

How do you like your hummus?

Sometimes I omit the tahini and use yogurt instead. Favorite extras include toasted cumin, crunched up dried tomato, lots of garlic (sometimes all, sometimes some); really good is hummus flavored with Harissa. If I'm planning on carrying it a aboard a plane as road food, I'll omit the garlic entirely and flavor the hummus with a toasted combo of various Indian spices (black onion seed, cumin, fenugreek, etc.). Hummus is an amazingly flexible canvas for all sorts of flavors.

Dinner Tonight?

Leftover mac & cheese, which I had to make with veggie broth because the milk I would have used for the sauch had the nerve to turn bad while I was out of town this weekend. Oh, and the cheese was an odd-ball assortment of ends hiding out at bottom of the fridge. Much to my surprise, it didn't turn out half bad, though it barely resembled conventional mac & cheese. :-)

horseradish root??

Hahahaha!! Love your story, Breezycooking! It brought back similar memories from my childhood. Home-grown, home-prepared horseradish is awesome stuff.

What's for breakfast these days?

Coffee. Grading. Coffee. Barn chores. Then either oatmeal with piles of frozen blueberries and/or dried strawberries (last summer's experiment), omelet, eggs fried sunny-side up in olive oil, or poached on toast.

Food Huggers Help Keep Cut Produce and Open Containers Fresh

These look great - and while $20 might seem steep, think of all the produce that won't get chucked and of all the plastic that you can leave in the store. I'm going to put these babies on my Christmas/Birthday lists.

Cook the Book: 'The New Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone' by Deborah Madison

So much. Too much. Tonight, it's okra fried with garlic, ginger, hot peppers, cumin, etc, laced with a big dollop of yogurt and served with masoor dal. It will be something different tomorrow. :-)

Ziplist problems

I have the same problem: ziplist won't scroll. Like rubberbandman, I have to go back to SE to use the recipe. But there I run into a further complication. One of the recipe search boxes (can't remember if it is the upper one or the lower one) doesn't work. All I get is 'zero' results. Yet I can type the same exact thing (recipe name, ingredient, whatever) into the other search box, and get scads of results. It's a good thing I like the recipes, otherwise I probably wouldn't persevere. :-)

Open Thread: Do You Lick Your Beaters?

Not if the batter involves eggs. I trust my hens, but not that much.

Ziplist problems

I have the same problem with Ziplist. It won't allow me to scroll. Like rubberbandman, I have to go search for the original recipe. Compounding the problem, only one of the SE recipe search boxes works (I think it is the one lower on the page?). The other always produces "zero" results. Good thing I like the recipes well enough to persevere. :-)

What's your favorite way to prepare cauliflower?

Sugar cookie making

Brace yourself for a messy kitchen? I quit making rolled cookies years ago because the resultant mess just wasn't worth it. :-)

Chocolate Storage Mishap?

Ditto, they'll be fine. Heck, I probably violate a million "rules" by storing my better chocolate in the freezer.

Falafel Help- Mostly The Forming of..

Okay, random idea moment: on those occasions when the falafel mix turns out too gooey, why not pipe it into the hot oil?

Dinner Tonight: Okra Curry

It's not the water on the outside of the okra that is the issue. Most indian dishes involving okra also call for one form or another of acid (tomates, yogurt, lemon juice) and it is the acid that cuts the mucous. Slicing thinly and frying in a hot pan makes the okra crisp. Young okra (under 4") in length are tender and require much less cooking than the monster, cow-horn sized specimens. The teeniest babies are delicious raw: they taste something like a young green bean.

Comfort food that freezes well.

Mac & Cheese, Tuna-Noodle Casserole, bean soups in a bazillion different forms, cheese dips, pureed vegetable soups (tomato, sweet potato, etc etc), and breakfast burritos, sliced breads and rolls of every shape and size, fruit compote, applesauce, single-serving amounts of cooked rice and other big grains, polenta (I cook, cool, slice, and freeze individually wrapped slices), marinara or spaghetti sauce, unadorned dal, blanched and frozen vegetables of all kinds, fruits (peaches, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries freeze well), and if your grandfather is anything like my dad, lots of ice cream. :-) I'm currently experimenting with frozen frittata (check back later?) and I always slice the bread before it goes into the freezer. That way I don't have to thaw the entire loaf if I want a piece of toast. I also steer clear of freezing dishes with big hunks of vegetables like potatoes, egg plant, carrots, and sweet potatoes: their texture goes to hell. If you're not sure about something, try freezing a little to see what happens.

What's For Dinner?

Kenji's kick ass vegetarian chile (and even more kick ass-ish because if two or three chiles are good, then three or four are better ...). To tone it down, I added a little cooked pasta to my bowl along with a sprinkle of cheese. I love love love the complexity of flavors that comes from using a variety of chiles.

How to preserve dried New Mexico chiles in Washington state

Ditto. Though if you're sending him a lot of chiles, one of the things I do with bulk dried veggies and herbs is to divvy them into amounts that I will use in one or two months time and then vacuum pack them. Another good way to store dried chiles (or dried anything) is to drop them into a plastic bag and then into the freezer. But seriously, the PNW is no more a swamp than Washington DC or Charleston or even Memphis.

Manner Matters: Hosting 101

You too, Molly Watson??!!! That's what I'm doing.

Ed's Final Vegan Diary: Reflecting on Vegan Month

It sounds like a wonderfully successful experience: simply being more aware of foods' origins and of the options available is a big first step. It may even be a sufficient final step. Kudos to you, Ed.

Home gardening?

What with the 17% jump in home gardening since 2008, I'm curious how many SE'ers are among that number. Who grows a part (or even all!) of what they consume? Do you grow stuff and then figure out what to do with it later, or do you grow to meet a known need (ie: plant okra because you love it and can't buy locally)? Got any labor-saving tips to share? Do you save your seeds or buy new? Garden in containers, community plot, or the back forty? Do you preserve your harvest, or gobble it down in a frenzy of seasonal eating? Tell all!

Oodles of Eggs

The girls are now producing 6-12 eggs a day (young hens, longer days, what can ya' do?) and while I have a good friend who will take many of them off my hands, I'm left with a 'fridge full and am in need of fresh ideas for using them. My preference is for recipes that 1) use serious numbers of eggs and 2) can be frozen - either before or after cooking.


The Food Lab Turbo: Creamy Brussels Sprouts Lasagna

If ultimate indulgence, supreme creaminess, and a ridiculous amount of tasty goo are what you're after, this recipe—a layered lasagna with mushrooms, seared Brussels sprouts, and plenty of cheese—is a good way to get you there. The mushrooms and Brussels sprouts? Yeah, they're in there too, but they are there entirely for the sake of pleasure. I add Brussels sprouts to my rib-stickers not because they're green and healthy, but because they're damn delicious. The green and healthy part is just an added bonus. More

Social Circle Macaroni Pie from 'Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking'

The name "macaroni pie" is confusing on multiple fronts. This recipe, from Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubart's Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking is neither a pie nor made from macaroni. It also obscures the fact that the dish in question is actually just custard-style macaroni and cheese. But this old-school title is also a reminder of the history of the dish. More

Time for a Drink: Bloody Mary

The Bloody Mary is, of course, a staple of the American brunch and a universal hangover cure. The drink's origins are oft-rumored and still open to the kind of disputed bickering that is absolutely painful on a weekend morning, so it's best to move onto the heart of the matter: what's essential in your Bloody Mary? More

Pickled Red Tomatoes

Late summer and its joyous glut of tomatoes is a bittersweet time for a canner. Tomatoes signal the end of summer fruit and bring with them the knowledge that the growing season is nearing its end. However, there's just so darn much that can be done with tomatoes that the possibilities make this preserver positively giddy. More

Strawberry Balsamic Thyme Jam

This jam is insanely delicious; equal parts sweet and sophisticated. The balsamic vinegar adds depth of flavor and brings out the juicy, sunny taste of the strawberries. And the thyme, oh the thyme! It provides an addictive, lemony, herby essence.... More

Rosemary Lemonade Cake

I developed this recipe for folks who can't seem to get enough lemon. The addition candied lemon zest lends some texture and gives the cake a beautiful appearance. I've added rosemary to highlight the tangy flavor of the citrus, but you may substitute chopped thyme if you prefer. The cake is finished with a "lemonade" soaker, which gives it tang and keeps it very moist. More

Rachel Allen's Brown Soda Bread

For many years, I assumed that Irish soda bread always meant a slightly sweet, caraway and currant laced bread easily mistaken for a giant muffin. Frankly, I never liked this version of the quick bread, much preferring to eat "real bread" with my soup. It's a good thing I was mistaken about the scope of soda breads. Most of these loaves, like those featured in Rachel's Irish Family Food, are a much simpler (and more appealing) combination of flour, baking soda, and buttermilk. Rachel Allen's brown soda bread adds a bit more oomph with a hefty dose of whole wheat flour, a couple tablespoons of mixed seeds, and just a touch of butter. The resulting bread is an exemplary accompaniment to any number of soups, pickles, marmalades, or a generous swipe of butter. More