Monday, April 13, 2015

Simple Enough Reason to Support Hillary

No I am not going to unreservedly support Hillary but if she turns out to be the nominee then I will support her. I won't agree with her on everything but when you consider the current GOP alternatives she is the Goddess of all that is good.

Jonathan Chait offers five reasons why Hillary Clinton will win the presidency in 2016. But in the end, his sixth reason may be the only one that matters:
The argument for Clinton in 2016 is that she is the candidate of the only major American political party not run by lunatics.
via Digby

Monday, April 06, 2015

Simple Tomato Sauce from Marcella Hazan

While she is known for a lot of great Italian recipes, Marcella Hazan may be best known
for the simplest tomato sauce in the world. Don't be frightened by its simplicity, it is
very, very good and all a really good plate of pasta needs.

2 cups tomatoes, with their juices (I use home canned but  a 28-ounce can of San Marzano whole
peeled tomatoes is great as well.)
5 tablespoons butter (don't skimp here, use the best butter you can find. I use Kerry Gold.)
1 onion, peeled and cut in half ( I prefer a sweet onion like Vidalia or Walla Walla but a red onion does just fine.)
Salt (Kosher or sea salt)

PREPARATION
Combine the tomatoes, their juices, the butter and the onion halves in a saucepan. Add a
pinch or two of salt.

Don't be tempted to add anything else until you try it just like this. No pepper, basil, garlic or oregano. Nothing.

Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, for about 45 minutes.
Stir occasionally, mashing any large pieces of tomato with a spoon. Taste and add salt as needed.
Discard the onion before tossing the sauce with pasta. This recipe makes enough sauce
for a pound of pasta.

Note: I've made this sauce with a couple peeled and halved shallots as well.

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Happy Easter and Passover

I know you have probably stopped checking for anything new here. I don't blame you but I do promise to try and do better. This time of year is for getting the garden in and little else. I've been working hard and it is starting to pay off. Spinach and carrots went in yesterday and radishes and beets the day before. I'm trying to get two beds ready a day but I have failed in that goal so far. The excuse yesterday was that I had to mow the yard.

With everything else I am having some work done on my legs which eats a day a week and sometimes more for recovery. The "very close veins" as my grandmother used to call them were beginning to bother me so I am having all of the surface veins in both legs eliminated. I thought it was going to be with laser but there is a new treatment that uses a chemical and is less painful with faster recovery. So any way, the doctor only does one area a week so it took a month to do the right leg and we started on the left this week. Not too painful but there is some tenderness for a few weeks. The worst is having to wear support stockings for 30 days after the work. What a pain.

So if you celebrate the day then happy, happy. If you don't just enjoy the spring. It will be another gorgeous day here in the Atlanta burbs and after Miss Zoey has her walk we will be back in the garden.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Homemade Cheddar Cheese Crackers

Homemade Cheddar Cheese Crackers

I am a cracker person. I love crackers and I especially like cheese crackers. The problem
is I am also trying to eat well and almost all of the crackers on the store shelves are made
with weird stuff and unnecessary chemicals. It is a problem when it is so easy to reach
for the box of Cheezits.  However, you can make your own cheese crackers and it really
isn't too hard and it is just a few ingredients.

Ingredients:
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese ( I like extra sharp but shred your own, don't buy the
pre-shredded) I sometimes add a few tablespoons of grated Parmesan to kick them up.
1 cup Whole Wheat Flour
1/2 teaspoon of Kosher salt.
6 tablespoons softened unsalted butter

That is really all you need for plain cheddar cheese crackers. If you want a little more zing
try a pinch or two of cayenne, cracked black pepper, dried herbs or even granulated
garlic. Experiment with adding sesame seeds and other things to get some flavors you
like.

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400 F.
Place the first 3 ingredients in a food processor and pulse several times to combine.
Add the butter and pulse until a ball forms. Take the dough out of the food processor and
form a big ball.  The dough generally comes out fine, but you may need to add a little bit
of water (just a few drops) if your dough is not well formed.

Roll out dough on a floured surface or on top of Parchment Paper.  Don’t roll too thin
because the crackers break easily.  Cut in squares with a knife or a pizza cutter.
Bake for about 13-15 minutes until golden brown. I use parchment paper to make things
easier or a Sil-Pat works as well.

If they last this long, they will keep covered for a week or so.

Ostara Is Upon Us

Ok, here we are just a week away from Ostara also known as the beginning of Spring and it is time to plant some of the warm weather seeds like tomatoes and eggplant. All the pepper, leek, shallot and onion plants are up and going. It is also time to get your flower seeds going. Marigolds. zinnas, and nasturtium to attract pollinators and discourage pests. I'm going to try and get all my different peas in the ground this weekend as well. I'm a little late as I was waiting for my inoculant to show up. Insuring the legumes like peas have the proper bacteria they need to fix nitrogen from the air makes a big difference in yield. Everybody get planting.

I'm running a little slow as I am having some laser surgery on my legs and it makes them a little tender, not to mention that I have to wear compression stockings which limit my flexibility a bit. The old "very close vein" thing. Getting old sucks but the other option isn't too great either.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Spring Really Is Coming

In spite of the record cold over the last week, Spring really is coming. Here we are at the last week in February and it is time to get the slow growing garden plants going. Peppers are the big thing for me since around here I target the last week of April to get the peppers and tomatoes in the ground. Pepper seeds planted this week will, with luck, be ready to go into the garden when the soil temperatures warm. Slow to germinate and slow to get going you really need them started in the next few days.

My shallots and leeks are just peeking through the soil. I started them a couple of weeks ago and they have been in the greenhouse keeping nice and warm with a grow mat underneath. They don't mind cool but need some warmth to germinate.

I won't start tomatoes for another couple of weeks as they germinate quickly and grow much faster. If I start them too early they will be too leggy before the ground is warm enough. If the ground is too cold the tomato plants will just sit there and do nothing until the ground warms.

Time to think about companion plants for the garden as well. The right plants in the garden will go a long way in helping you with pests. They also have the added bonus of bringing some color.
You can't beat Marigolds as companions with just about any garden plant. They repel beetles, nematodes, and even some animal pests. I plant them everywhere I have a square foot of space. They typically stay small and compact and they also attract bees and butterflies. Zinnas are good too but they can get pretty tall.

Other good companion plant can act as trap plants, luring insects to themselves instead of your precious vegetables. Nasturtiums, for example, are so favored by aphids that the devastating insects will flock to them instead of other plants.

Carrots, dill, parsley, and parsnip attract garden heroes — praying mantises, ladybugs, and spiders — that munch on insect pests. I always have plenty of dill, basil and parsley planted in the garden. Besides their value as pest prevention they are a must for cooking. The parsley will even overwinter in many parts of the country.

Don't forget about what I call "quickie veges": Lettuce, radishes, and other quick-growing plants sown between hills of melons or winter squash will mature and be harvested long before these vines need more leg room.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Just Your Basic Tomato Soup

It's cold and there are snow flurries. I'm feeling it in my bones and I need some comfort. Not many things make me happier than a nice bowl of soup and there are few soups better than a plain old tomato soup. Nothing fancy...just tomatoes, onions and broth. That's what's coming down for dinner tonight along with some homemade sourdough with toasted Le Gruyere.



Ingredients

2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbs. unsalted butter
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 large clove garlic, minced
2 Tbs. all-purpose flour
3 cups low-salt chicken broth ( I prefer Swanson)
1 quart of home canned plum tomatoes or 1 28-oz. can whole peeled plum tomatoes, puréed (include the juice) try to find San Marzano tomatoes from Italy as they are as close as you'll find to home canned.
1-1/2 tsp. sugar
3 sprigs fresh thyme or 1/2 tsp of dried thyme
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a nonreactive 5- to 6-quart pan, heat the oil and butter over medium-low heat until the butter melts. Add the onion  and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft but not browned, about 7-8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the flour to the onion and garlic and cook for another couple of minutes. This will get the raw taste out of the flour.

Add the broth, tomatoes, sugar, thyme, and 1/4 tsp. each salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat while stirring the mixture to make sure that the flour is not sticking to the bottom of the pan. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 40 minutes.

Discard the thyme sprig. If you like it "chunky" its ready to go. If you like it smooth then use an immersion blender or  purée in two or three batches in a blender or food processor. If you used a blender or processor then return the soup to the pot and adjust the salt and pepper. Reheat if necessary.

Croutons, goat cheese, or parmesan  all make great garnishes. There is also nothing wrong with sprinkling a few Fritos on top either.

No need to mention grilled cheese sandwiches.

Coltrane on the recorder

I can't even fathom how long it must have taken to get this right.



Maybe Steve Bates can tell us.

Monday, February 02, 2015

Happy Candlemas, Imbolc, Brigid's Day and Ground Hog Day.

Happy Candlemas, Imbolc, Brigid's Day and Ground Hog Day. The ancients have celebrated the midpoint between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox since forever. It notes the first signs of spring and a celebration of the ancient belief in the transformation of the Goddess from the old Crone of Winter into the Maiden of Spring. Later the Christians took the holiday as Candlemas and celebrates the presentation of Jesus at the temple. It is the day candles are purified for the church. It is also Brigid's Day. Brigid is the Goddess of poetry, healing, smithcraft, and midwifery and is celebrated with candles as well. Whatever your flavor enjoy the day. As the old saying goes.....

If Candlemas is bright and clear, there’ll be two winters in the year;
If Candlemas brings snow and rain, old winter shall not come again.