Friday, July 31, 2009

On Food And Cooking

Many things. I have been tired from camp so a laggard poster, but I am back for at least a bit (until I drag Matt to go see Harry Potter). I am recovering from a week of sleep deprivation and alcohol, and this is exemplified by the fact that I am cooking properly again. Last night I made Matt's favorite fried rice as well as a batch of pumpkin bread (slightly dry, hmm) and tonight I bastardized a new recipe to use up all my beautiful summer veggies.

But I also got a bug up my bum. I am a fan of Serious Eats and they have great recipes, but I was reading an interesting article the other day about a writer going a week with no processed corn products in her diet. I think this is admirable. I am fairly certain nothing in my diet that has processed corn products in it is making my life any better (other than that 4pm Butterfinger at work when I think I'm going to die). But one of the commenters busted out something to the effect that the next step is to eliminate all corn, wheat and something or other else from your diet - in her specific words, "eat nothing at all from the Midwest". And I had to shut my computer down. Is this the new frontier? Food bigotry? No sweet summer corn? No Wisconsin cheese? Since when do we delineate good and evil by Coasts vs. Midwest? People, I love the West Coast but we are NOT infallible and perfect and THIS IS WHY PEOPLE HATE US! I am not pro-huge factory farms but there are good farms and producers in the Midwest too! Sheesh.

Anyways, the bastard recipe is as follows:

1/2 c. polenta
2 c. chicken broth
1/4 c. hard cheese, grated - parmesan or I think I used pecorino

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 small sausages, your choice (I used chicken portabella sausage), about 8 oz.
1 med. zucchini, diced
1 med. yellow squash, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
4 large meaty tomatoes, diced and seeds removed
1 c. mushrooms (don't cut these too small, they'll shrink)
1 bell pepper, diced
1. Pour the two cups of chicken broth into a saucepan. Add polenta and bring to a simmer. I like to add a dash of Italian spices here or whatever is fresh in the yard(sage, tonight). Stir for about 10 minutes or until very thick. Stir in cheese. Pour into a buttered glass pan - I think mine is 10" square, like I use for brownies. Put it in the fridge to set for a couple of hours.

2. To make the stew, heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat and add the sausage, zucchini, squash, bell pepper and mushrooms. Cook, stirring occasionally until the sausage has browned and the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes.

3. Add the garlic, and stir to incorporate. Add the tomatoes, and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes. This is where I add salt and pepper to taste. Keep the stew warm over very low heat while you fry the polenta.

4. Cut the polenta into 4 squares - put 1 square in an oiled pan and brown on both sides. Stick it in a bowl and pile vegetables on it. Makes 4 servings. It's easy to vary veggies, just go for the same basic amounts and try not to let the veggies get too liquidy or it ruins the consistency of your polenta.

No pictures because it was too yummy. Matt's comment "better than a restaurant!" so I say it's worth the trouble. Also, healthy!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Totally Off Topic...

Any topic at all...

This may be where we got the definition for the verb "to romp"

And, just because it's too perfect.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Survival (I'm back!)

This has been a very long week. A very good week, but a long one. And it looks like a lot has happened while I was gone!

I have been at a chamber music workshop for the last six days. This involves playing music all day with different people every day, and performing in a concert every night, and then playing more music with different people after the concert. It is one of the most fun things I get to do. I have been doing it for nearly 10 years. Thus comes the catch - these are people I only get to see once a year and we have at least one awesome thing in common so after the playing and the concert and the more playing, comes the extensive drinking and catching up and, oddly enough, playing of many rounds of cribbage. And then an 8-hour drive home.

My point? since I got home last night I have been tired and unproductive and sweaty (it was in the 60's there, it is in the 90's-100's here). I have been catching up on the blogs but I am so behind that I am tempted just to skip ahead to what everyone is talking about now.

And speaking of what everyone is talking about now, I think I will be skipping the culinary therapy. I just like to cook too much. I am thinking maybe I can consult? If you don't know what to do with something, I can usually refer you to a recipe or at least give you an idea... for a nerdy example, I managed an hour or two volunteering at the co-op this a.m. before needing a nap, and picked up some groceries. Thus, dinner tonight was supposed to be a mushroom ragout over sauteed polenta squares with fresh salad greens from the garden. It still awaits, and will be delicious for dinner tomorrow night. But tonight I am going to bed. I enjoyed the cooking process and it will keep just fine (esp. as I haven't picked the greens yet). But I regularly use the stuff in my fridge, clean it out and keep it stocked. I have developed a reasonable habit of eating well and the toast benders are now a lot fewer and farther between ;)

So for my first suggestion, this recipe is fantastic, not nearly the pain in the butt that it sounds like and relatively healthy while still tasting rich and creamy without any dairy. Matt loves it and once it's cooked it's not at all bad lukewarm with a sandwich when it's hot out. Although that may be a personal weirdness of mine, I know some people who hate soup in hot weather but I am not one of them. I am particularly waiting for my green beans to start showing up so I can make some minestrone! Anyways, I will catch up and start following along with everyone's adventures again, but right now I need to go pass out. Good night, all!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Ummm... (more vaguely garden-related stuff)

I'm not sure if this says something good or bad about me. I was looking out my kitchen window and there was a quail family hanging out in my backyard. From where I stood, it looked like one of them was lying down funny with the others huddled around it. Thus, of course, I had to bang on the window frantically to scare the whole family away just to make sure the one lying all weird wasn't dead. Morbid, eh? Of course they all immediately got up and ran away. So I guess it's all good. Sleeping quail babies apparently just have odd posture.

I still pride myself on my wildlife-friendly garden (yeah baby!), the more I work out there, the more birds I see, which is nice. I still have a bird feeder that I am debating whether I should hang or not. The thing is, the quail like to have little dust baths in my flowerbeds and can make a huge mess, so while I'm not going to work that hard to deter them (I put rocks around one plant after they tried to squish it to death during said dust baths, that's about the extent of my efforts though), I don't really know that I want more. I swear, all my problems should be this bad ;)

From here

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Happy GBBD! (garden update)

Today is my first official Garden Blogger's Bloom Day! On the 15th of every month, good garden bloggers do a nice photo post of what is blooming in their respective gardens on that day. And I tend to be too much of a slacker to take part. But, partially inspired by my new fun magnifying filter (yes, I know a macro lens would be more fun but the price was right on this sucker), here is my first foray into GBBD...

Unfortunately, due to an EXTREMELY wet June that turned into an absolutely normal July (read: hot and dry), everything went crazy last month and kind of needs a trim now. So this is a close-up on my new beautiful blue salvia since it hasn't been cut back yet ;)
Here is my first actual flower on my now-huge bee balm! This thing was in a 4" pot and looked like it froze last winter, never bloomed all last year and has spent most of this year shooting up to a ridiculous height:

It's now much too large for it's current spot but that is only partially due to the surrounding shorter vegetation being trampled by two-year olds at a recent BBQ. They will fill in and it will look more sensible once I've done some more transplanting in the fall.

Here is a shot of my Achillea "Paprika" yarrow that I am in love with. Anyone know how easy/hard it is to divide yarrow? Because I am in love with these bright red ones and they are getting big...

This one is more for my own edification/a reminder for the future. These are my tomatoes. I bought cheap tomato cages and planted too close together (overenthusiastic, yes that's me) and now my toms are tippy and overcrowded. I'll go out and trim them tonight, and learn for next year, but right now there are a LOT of blooms crowded in there. And I've now tasted my first big fat homegrown tomato straight off the vine, and it is officially awesome. Also, my first tiny yellow plum tomato, and I need to plant WAY more of those next year. Just a little more spread out.

These are my ridiculous beans. I slightly overplanted since I didn't have any inoculant - my inoculated beans did so well last year that silly me assumed they would not be quite so happy this year. I was wrong. Darn. This is probably cheating, bloom-wise but I love the crazy shape of these things! I now have the gear to build better teepees so the learning curve is now starting to curve in my favor (did that make any sense?)

I love penstemon. Most of mine have been dead-headed so they will hopefully be blooming again soon, but this little guy was getting out-competed in his former spot so he was recently transplanted and I left him alone for a while. Hence, a few flowers left:

And just a little thyme:

I recently realized, my garden now has parsley, sage, rosemary AND thyme. And I couldn't be happier about it. Also basil and chives, among other herbs. I love me some herbs. Too bad I didn't make the June GBBD, that would have been much more impressive. Now most of my salvias and penstemons are past their prime and need a lot of trimming. However, this is still good camera practice, so I hope everybody else enjoys this 1/10 as much as I did! If I can make it in August there might be some different stuff blooming, but September should see a lot more stuff perking up as it cools off again.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Mixed Weekend Update

Hmm. So I did a lot of sleeping this weekend, I can't tell if this is just really bad allergies or what. But I doped myself up on allergy meds and painkillers and got a little bit of stuff done around the house, went to a fun show that we were at for about two hours longer than I'd have liked to stay (not a reggae fan, sorry), and took a little drive out to the new outlet stores outside of town on Sunday afternoon with some friends. It's actually really nice, it's all around a main walking area with fountains and trees and some hit-or-miss art. So I really tried to get only stuff I needed (I have a little list), and only ended up getting one non-list item (GORGEOUS sweater dress on super sale from BCBG Max Azria Final Cut, which is apparently their outlet's outlet). So I didn't feel too bad about that, and it was a nice day to have a little walkaround. Not much excitement other than that.

Next week I leave for camp, so main goals this week are minimal:

1. Feel 100% healthy
2. Pack all my gear up for camp
3. Go see UP while it is still in theaters
4. Put the rest of the backyard on soaker hoses so Matt has a minimal chance of letting it die while I'm gone
5. Book travel to UT for Sept. wedding
6. Stock up fridge for Matt before I go

Might add more to the list before this weekend, but the goal is just to get this all taken care of. The only cramp in my style is Saturday I went to get gas and the nice dude offered to check my oil and then pointed out that I had been driving with a leaky radiator. As in, there was a crack along the whole thing and green goo leaking all over my engine. So that was fun. But I got it taken care of. New radiators ain't cheap. But done.

Friday, July 10, 2009

For Friday

Home sick. Doing nothing. Failing at keeping the garden hydrated for the day. This makes it better.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Peeve Meme

What are some of your pet peeves?

My peeve of the day is, when farting around on AT, I find more than three misspellings, grammatical errors or misused homophones. And that's only on The Kitchn. These people are supposed to be professionals and I was under the impression they got paid. Now I remember why I don't go back there very often any more. More time spent on cranking out posts than on quality of posts. I guess that's just what happens when you get a little too big.

P.S. No offense to any bloggers reading this who might be contributors there too ;) it's not you doing it.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Quickie Holiday Weekend Update

Friday - my parents came in to town and we had a big family bbq. I picked up a massive amount of halibut at Costco and grilled it. Yum! Recipe as follows:

Take 1 lb. halibut
Rub it with olive oil and lemon juice.
Sprinkle with s&p to taste, and cover with slices of garlic and branches of oregano and rosemary.
Wrap carefully in tinfoil - not too tight but you don't want it to drip out.
Grill on medium heat for ~10 mins. per side, or until opaque in the middle.
Enjoy with a squeeze of lemon.

Matt decided we need to do this again so we can make fish tacos out of it. It makes for very moist, flaky fish.

Saturday we were bums and took naps and mostly slept through the fireworks.

Sunday we were bums and I watched Sabrina and took a nap. Sabrina (the original) holds up very well, I remember watching it as a little kid and I could not figure out why she ended up with Humphrey Bogart instead of the much more charming William Holden. It makes sense now. Although looking it up via imdb, she was 25 and he was 55 when the movie was made. So I can see how that would make no sense to me as a little kid.

(That's me with the tuba, and yes I am the youngest person in the group by about 30 years. It works.)

And last night was our second concert at the Marina. AND IT WAS WINDY AGAIN. I know, this is Nevada, I should just deal with it, but we had to tape our music stands down so they wouldn't blow away. That is not conducive to good music, I'm sorry. Mother Nature? We need to talk. Next Monday? I need 78 and sunny, with no wind above 5mph. Thanks!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Rhetorical question (kitchen help?)

So every time I find some exciting new recipe, it seems to involve frozen puff pastry dough (don't ask). The latest is from here. Except, when I go to the freezer section of my local grocery store, all anybody ever has is frozen phyllo (or fillo) dough. Why do you do this to me, cruel world?

I tried a recipe once with the phyllo dough to see if I could just pretend it was the same. It is not. Grrrr.

My asparagus is jealous of that asparagus. WANT.