Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween--We had a few problems with the costumes

As you can see...the kitties were not into the idea of "dressing up" for Halloween. No matter what I tried to bribe him with, Beast wasn't wearing "no stinking bat costume". The only reason Birch put up with it is because she's been around long enough to know it won't last too long. And Coffee, well, she's too little to fight back.
I'm boycotting the candy giving this year and I found some "healthy" treats...sort of. Mini packets of animal crackers-they're actually still pretty good, and low fat too; fruit sticks--supposed to be made from real fruit, and loaded with vitamin C; and mini packs of Doritos, Cheetos and Lays potato chips--by far the best tasting and the worst for you. I wish we could go back to the days when people actually made the snacks. Remember that? I may be giving my age away, but I remember when we used to be invited into the homes and actually had to do a "trick" before we got a treat, and there were usually a bunch of adults sitting around having cocktails and smoking. Then sometime while I was still a kid people started doing sick things like putting razor blades in apples and poisoning candy. So we no longer hand out homemade treats and everything has to be factory sealed in individual pouches, which most often must be inspected by mom and dad before the little ghosts and goblins get to taste the treats. That said, the costumes are still great fun and the kids love ringing the doorbells and hollering TRICK OR TREAT at the top of their lungs.
Beast's Kitchen, where we're cooking up miniature pumpkin empanada treats, Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 27, 2008


Aye-Aye-Aye-Aye...I love pepitas! I love the fall, as you've probably already learned. I love the leaves, the cool weather, warm fires on cold evenings, mums, planting bulbs, eating squash and pumpkins and Pepitas--pumpkin seeds. When scooping pumpkin for cheesecake, muffins, bread or soup I cannot bring myself to just toss out the guts, seeds and all. I have to save the seeds and then roast them for snacks, or for use in recipes. You can even use them as the nuts in a pesto recipe. Over time I've learned a couple of tricks that make them much yummier. When scooping them out of the pumpkins I put them, guts and all into a bowl and then once all the pumpkin goo is scooped out, I strain the seeds free through my hands to separate the seeds from the slimy flesh. You don't need to worry about getting them perfectly clean, as some of the gooey flesh adds flavor to the seeds. Then, soak them in salted water overnight. The next day, drain them and spread them on a sheet pan and dry them in the oven at a very low temperature until completely dried, but not shriveled up and flaky. They taste great this way, or you can store them in an airtight container until ready to use in recipes. I often make spicy pumpkin seeds by melting a couple of tbsp of butter and adding cumin, ground cayenne pepper, garlic powder and Worcestershire sauce, then baking for about 45 minutes in a 250-275° oven, then sprinkle with coarse salt, stir and cool in the pan. These usually won't make it to storage in our house, but they make great snacks and even fun hostess gifts for the holidays. So before you toss out all those yummy seeds when carving your pumpkins, think of a fun use for them and the nutritional value as well--roughage!
Happy Carving--

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Weenies Roasting on an Open Fire

Fall: Falling Leaves, Chilly Evenings, and Weenies Roasting on an Open Fire!
I love the smell of a fire pit in the fall. Last night the rain stopped just in time for roasting weenies on the open fire. I am not fond of hot dogs...they're pretty disgusting actually. And the alternative versions, such as tofu pups, like the one on the left in the photo, aren't any better. That said, there's something about roasting over an open fire, whether it be hot dogs, marshmallows or skewers of veggies, everything just tastes better. Tim loves hot dogs so about once a year I buy some really good quality hot dogs and make them as a treat, then he gets to eat the whole package and get that out of his system for a while. In addition, every once in a while when we cook out with the neighbors there are hot dogs to satisfy his finer taste buds.
I have found a few hot dogs worth trying, and here's the list (in no particular order): Nueske's Applewood Smoked Wieners, Usinger's Wieners, Bavaria Sausage Wieners, Jordandal Farm, Miesfeld's, Ruegsegger Farms

Friday, October 17, 2008

Greens, Greens, and More Greens!

I'm not sure how this happened, but this week we ended up with an abundance of greens. You would think that odd for this late in the growing season, but some of the greens are quite hardy and thrive in cold weather. There was so much between what I picked up at the Farmer's Market on Wednesday and what we received in the CSA that I knew we couldn't possibly digest that many greens before they wilted. So I went to work blanching for freezing. From what appeared to be a humongous mountain of greens I stored a one gallon bag of mixed blanched greens for use over the winter. Normally I prefer to sauté them and eat them fresh, but I also like having them on hand during the winter for making soups, stews, pasta etc. I freeze some of the darndest things, that you would never think could be frozen. Tomatoes don't even have to be blanched-just wash, dry and freeze on a tray until solid, then pop them in a bag. Parsley, cilantro and basil can be washed, dried and frozen in bags for use over the winter as well. No, they don't taste as good as fresh, but at least they are local and I know where they came from. Too much arugula? Try making pesto with it. Pesto freezes beautifully and is great to have on hand for a quick pasta, pizza, foccacia or crostini. And be creative with your pesto--it doesn't have to be pine nuts--you can use any nuts you have on hand. Just toast them and add them to the mixture. I've used almonds, pecans, walnuts and pistachios in the past. You can also use a variety of different cheeses, or even leave out the cheese until you're ready to use the pesto and mix it in after thawing and just before using. Pesto goes a long way, so I've found it is helpful to freeze it in ice cube trays and then once frozen transfer the cubes into a plastic bag or container. That way you don't have to thaw out a huge container and feel like you need to use it all at once. Half pint dairy containers also work nicely, but often that's too much for just one dish as well. Be sure to have plenty of garlic on hand when making's just not the same without all the garlic, and a bit of salt too. Here's my basic recipe:
1 bunch basil washed, dried and leaves removed; 1 head of garlic; a handful of toasted nuts; a couple of pinches of salt; a small mound of grated hard cheese, like parmesan or asiago...the better the quality, the better the pesto; and of course extra virgin olive oil, again, the better the quality, the better the pesto. Throw everything except the oil into the food processor and chop until it's well processed, then gradually add olive oil to taste. YUM!

Friday, October 10, 2008

It's Blooming!

Something made me wake up at 12:01 am and venture downstairs to check on the Hookeri, and It's Blooming!
It feels like having a small child that you need to keep checking on. I woke up several times during the night and checked to see if it was still there--DUH! While awake I started wondering again what had made it bloom for only the second time ever, and I think I may now have a clue. This year we transplanted the plant into a much larger pot and it grew quite a bit over the summer. It may just be that the last time we transplanted it was the last time it bloomed. We'll have to see what happens next year. In any case, there should be another bloom, possibly two tonight and the final one tomorrow or Sunday. It would be great if more than one flower bloomed at once, but I don't know if that can happen.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

---still waiting...and Mustard Greens

It might just be the next new moon before the Hookeri flowers. It grows at least an inch a day, so it has to be getting close, but still no flowers. Since we know it blooms at night we even check in the middle of the night so we don't somehow miss the big event!
Mustard Greens: Last week and this week amongst the bounty in our CSA share has been a healthy dose of Mustard Greens. This is another of those things that wasn't on our plates growing up, so I'm learning how to use them in unique and different ways, other than just mixing in with salad. They are actually quite beautiful and would look pretty in a floral arrangement, but I want to eat them, so I won't put them in a vase. In my hunt across the Internet, I came across this recipe for a Tepary Bean and Mustard Green Relish on Gluten A Go Go Blog. I also found this recipe for Red Beet Risotto with Mustard Greens and Goat Cheese on Yum! Another idea I had was to do my favorite hot bacon mustard dressing and make a salad using the greens instead of spinach...add some almonds, hard boiled eggs, red onions and homemade croutons and Voila--Dinner!

Friday, October 3, 2008

still waiting

As of today, still no Hookeri flowers. The stems the buds will come out on have doubled in size but we appear to be more on schedule for flowering in another few days. We reluctantly took in the plant because the nights are getting so cold, but we were concerned that would mess it up, but that doesn't appear to be the case. We're hoping it will bloom over the weekend...maybe Tuesday for my birthday!
Here's what they look like now. Check back soon for a progress update...