Home Grown!

I grew these on my back deck and I can’t wait to make some guacamole with them.

There is something very satisfying about growing your own food. I am less tempted to let home grown produce spoil in the fridge. I just wish my tomatoes and peppers would all ripen at the same time. This is the fourth tomato I’ve harvested. They are very sweet and mild. Yes, I have tried to eat raw and by themselves. My stomach still rejects it. So, I’ll cook with them and I’ll get the nutrition another way. The peppers are very spicy hot. In fact, I should probably use gloves with them because last time my fingers stung for days after chopping them. I suppose I’m gonna make some guacamole with these. I just wish I had some of those avocado’s cousin Julie grows.

Boredom is a bad thing …

During this prolonged unemployment I have been challenged with ways to keep busy, stay useful, and sane. There are any number of things I could be doing with my time besides setting on my ass watching TV, surfing FB, Pinterest or any other internet based time waster. Frankly, I can’t with a clean conscience turn the TV on during the day. It depresses me and saps any self-esteem I may have.

Instead, I could be mudding the bonus room we’re trying to finish. It’s tedious, dirty and I’m not very confident in my abilities. I can clean this house, again. I tire quickly of dusting and I should do it at least once a week but I usually only get the energy for that twice a month. We have carpet and even though it’s the bane of my domestic existence (well isn’t that a pathetic thing to say?) I manage to vacuum it twice a week. Oh how I yearn for hardwood floors.

What I have been doing is planning the wedding. Designing wedding programs. Shopping online and at the store I’ve learned to hate, Bed Bath and Beyond. I could literally never step foot in that store again. Ugh. I should have registered at Lowe’s and Pottery Barn. Oh well, hindsight you know.

I have also been baking. Now that’s exactly what a soon-to-be-bride absolutely should be doing, right? Ugh. It fills the time and it tastes good. Last week I got it in my head that I needed to make Italian Peasant Bread so that I could then make some proper French toast. HA! Yes, that’s exactly what I needed to do to fit into a tight wedding dress. Oh, good grief! I found a fabulous recipe online by this professor at a college. His directions were very thorough and impossible to follow. So I adapted them for my own use. The bread did in deed turn out beautiful. This picture was of his bread, not mine but mine was equally beautiful.

Pane Rustico – Italian Peasant Bread

And if this wasn’t enough trouble to get into, last weekend, upon seeing some apples in the fridge, I thought, “Hey those need to be used! Make a pie!” Yeah, not a great idea.  I put it together anyway and by Tuesday night, D and I had it all eaten. Pie, pie, I love pie! It was so very tasty!

I didn’t tell him until after he had a few bites down.

My D is not a fan of veggies. Oh, he’ll eat any veggie I put in front of him . . . if it’s fried.  He will eat broccoli, salad and the occasional green bean without the batter or cheese but that’s about the limit to his culinary range. Needless to say, I cannot be frying veggies every day and quite frankly, to me, that’s kind of a sacrilegious thing to do to a perfect summer vegetable. I, on the other hand, can eat almost all veggies, except for turnips and beets, eww. So last night I thought I’d test his mettle completely with black bean and mushroom burgers.  I researched several different recipes on the internet and most of them were some variation of the same thing. Curiously, my favorite cookbook, Cook’s Illustrated, was completely devoid of any meatless burger, which was highly disappointing. Anyway, I’ve made veggie burgers before with broccoli, carrots, zucchini and they are delicious but very time consuming.  However, I had never attempted a bean version. What I came up with didn’t take long at all. In part, because of my food processor, well actually . . . now that I really think about it, because of my food processor but not everyone has one so if you want to you can do it all by hand. I’m certain this recipe could be tweaked in a million ways depending what tastes you want at the time. I made mine with an Italian bent but they would be wonderful with curry or Spanish flavors. In fact, just thinking about it makes me want to go make some curried burgers with goat cheese and mango chutney. I suppose I should use lentils in that case, huh? **Note to self: Add lentils to your grocery list.

So, here’s what I used:

1 small onion
1/2 medium orange bell pepper (any color will do)
1 large garlic clove
1 carton mushrooms (crimini or white)
1 can black beans
1 tbsp whole grain dijon mustard (I love Trader Joe’s)
1 tbsp tomato paste
3/4 cup Italian bread crumbs
1 egg
3/4 cup parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
3 tbsp chopped parslay
a pinch of salt
black pepper to your taste

The first thing you’ll want to do is rough chop your onions and pepper then throw them in the FP (food processor) with the garlic clove and finely mince. Pour that mixture into a large mixing bowl. Next, put the mushrooms and black beans (rinsed) into the FP and chop until finely minced, then combine with the onion mixture. Add all the remaining ingredients and mix until well combined (you may need to use your hands).

Make into patties (about six) and before pan frying them lightly dredge them in flour and Italian breadcrumbs. Cook until browned then place in the oven for 10 minutes with goat cheese on top to melt.


I served these with couscous and kale sauteed with bacon, onions and a farm fresh egg (just like Granny used to make). It was so good I may make this every night.

Black Bean and Mushroom Burger with warm goat cheese served on Couscous with Kale sauteed in Bacon and Onions and Egg.

When in doubt … just ask mom!

I’ve been trying to make cole slaw. I’ve gone to my favorite places and the results were, well, less than wonderful. Yesterday I just called mom and finally got what I was looking for. Cole slaw so good I could seriously eat all of it in one setting. In the past I have made my own version of Asian slaw, which is fabulous, but I wanted to branch out and try something different. I’m not sure what the heck I was thinking. I love moms. It’s just the right blend of creamy and tangy without being too mayonnaise-y. I didn’t write down what I did so this is from memory. Just futz with it till it tastes the way you want it to.

Blend together until you get a nice consistency, like say, melted ice cream.
3 tbsp mayo
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup cider vinegar
3 tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt

TASTE and modify as you like or need

1/2 of a small cabbage, finely chopped (I use my fancy new food processor!) but you can do it all by hand VERY easily, I promise!
1/4 of a small red cabbage, finely chopped
3 good sized carrots

Put it all in a bowl and stir till it’s all evenly coated. Try not to eat it all in one setting. Good luck.

Things I’ve learned recently …

I was recently able to spend some time back home in Kansas City. Going home after moving away proves that it’s harder to move away than I imagined it would be. Driving around the city just made me realize how much I missed the streets and buildings even. It’s a security blanket type feeling I imagine. I’m a highly social person (or so I thought) but I’m having a difficult time finding a social network in this small community. It may be I’m not trying hard enough.

Anyway, while I was home I had a conversation with my friend Trisha who is a faithful reader of my blog (thank you dear!). She is the one who was mystified by the pie weights I received as a wedding present. First of all, she was amazed I actually make pie crust from scratch. Second, she couldn’t imagine what the hell pie weights were and how in the world  they could be used. Needless to say after explaining how they are used to prevent a par-baked pie crust from bubbling up and burning, there were some lewd references and jokes made and much laughter was had. But I digress … she and I were discussing my blog and she felt that my recipes were too lengthy and complicated with too many ingredients. I suppose that could be true. If someone doesn’t like to cook then the fewer ingredients and the less time actually spent putting food together is important. For me however it’s about creating something and sometimes that requires more effort than others. I did agree to try to do more simple things for those who think less is more.

In that vein I present a BBQ Dry Rub for chicken or pork. It’s so easy and so tasty you won’t believe it. And of course, I found this in Cook’s Country magazine (from the people who bring you Cook’s Illustrated). The BEST magazines and food knowledge sources for every level of cook, hands down. I made it their prescribed way several times before I started tweaking it with my own ideas. It’s particularly good with a touch of Vietnamese* Cinnamon and Mace … but not everyone has these in their cupboard and I suppose that may be complicating the thing more than Trisha would approve of. That’s the joy of cooking. You can make it as easy or as challenging as you like … you just need to know what you like!

3 tbsp dark brown sugar
2 tsp ground mustard
2 tsp chili powder (I use chipotle pepper powder – you can use what you have on hand)
1 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp cayenne powder (or more if you like it more spicy)
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp salt

Mix all these together, pat the pork or chicken dry and coat it with half of the rub. Let it marinate for and hour or two (or not – your choice) then before you pop in the oven or grill, use the rest to re-coat. When doing chicken I use bone in and bake at 400 for 30 min. For pork steaks or chops, I bake at 350 for 20, flipping at the 10 min mark.

Voila! Easy, peasy, mac&cheesy!

* You can use what ever cinnamon you may have in your cupboard. I have recently discovered the most amazing Vietnamese variety and let me tell you it is worth hunting down. It’s so much more fragrant and vibrant. Yum-mee!