Gardening 2014

3/23: Got a little excited and planted snap peas, lettuce, radishes, and a local winter squash.

3/30: More lettuce and beets.

4/5: Recovering from a cold, so ordered blueberry bushes and more seeds. Berries were on sale; more seeds = free shipping. Also, I am ridiculous.

4/6: Redug 3/23 beds when I realized that they were too damp and my seeds had rotted. Added some amendments, planted more peas, winter squash, and radish. Also, chives and broccoli. Sadly out of lettuce seeds. Fortunately, ordered more yesterday.

I also prepped another bed, cleaned up the pot situation, and planted celery in the two large planting pots by the deck stairs. I may be foolish for trying to grow celery, but I like it and it doesn’t keep well in our fridge. It either freezes or rots. That’s the fault of our ancient fridge, not the celery.

Next weekend, if it’s warm enough, I’ll plant bush and pole beans, herbs, flowers, and summer squash.

I’m kinda-sorta doing the April Pantry Challenge, i.e. eating only what is already in the house. That is excepting eggs, because I belong to a sort of egg-CSA, so eggs will be delivered to my workplace whether I eat them or not. I’m considering the subscription “pantry” since I signed up before I began the challenge.

The point is to clear out old food before the fresh food starts coming out of the garden, then switch to a mostly fresh diet. Unfortunately, with the redig, it’s possible that the only thing available to eat on May 1st will be dandelion greens and roots, sorrel, and baby lettuce and chard. If I’m lucky… If I’m not lucky, May will also be a Pantry Challenge month, only with a slimmer selection to choose from.

Which prompts the question, what shall I eat tonight? I’ve no idea…


I made Chocolate Bread for the Other Half, today. In the course of this endeavor, I discovered that our oven is broken. Preheat works fine, but the bake setting does not, so I had to get a little creative. The bread still turned out very well–I baked it on preheat 350F for 10 minutes, then turned off the oven and counted on the stored heat to finish the job. It worked, although the top crust is a little darker than it should be.

It probably helped that I really skimped on the flour for this recipe. I’ve been experimenting, and it seems that only adding enough flour to make a sticky dough, nearly a batter, makes for a nicer crumb in a nice, moist loaf. The more flour you add, the drier and harder the bread. It’s a “doh”-dough idea, but since all the books recommend a dough that is the texture of “a baby’s bottom,” I feel quite adventurous with my sticky, unkneadable doughs. I use my mixer, and scrape the dough into a loaf pan for the final rise.

Just an FYI–you don’t get the pretty, smooth top from sticky doughs. If aesthetics are your turn on, don’t bake sticky dough.


The Midnight Kitchen

I’ve avoided gluten-free flour blends, for the past few years. My forays into baking with these products generally resulted in gummy, tough pastry and breads, so I gave up. Instead, I turned back to my roots–Southern food, specifically that of central Mississippi–and Italian home cuisine.

There are no Italians anywhere in my family history; we are Native, English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh, German, and Swiss Amish, diaspora’d across the US. I have no excuse for my passion for Italian food, other than my mother’s extensive cookbook collection, Julia Child, and my own teenaged stint working in a kitchen supply store.

Not that Julia Child cooked Italian. Nonetheless, she made the idea of European food seem accessible, and the techniques of French cookery are only one (trans-Atlantic) step from Southern cookery, so it was only a hop, skip, and jump to the Mediterranean.

Thus, when I was diagnosed with gluten intolerance, I fell back on what I know, and know that I like: cornbread and almond meal cakes. These products are heavier and denser than cakes made from wheat flour. They are hearty things, bursting with texture and flavor. Delicate French sponges and steamed English puddings seem mushy and insipid in comparison.

It was with this in mind that I embarked on yesterday’s pear cake. The basic recipe is the same as Southern corn bread. Equal parts millet flour, fine corn meal, and almond meal substitute for the usual wheat flour and corn meal, and I upped the eggs to one egg per cup of meal, doubled the butter, and added three tablespoons of sugar.

I buttered two 8 inch cake pans and lined them with parchment. I then coated the bottom of the pans with a layer of brown-sugar caramel and thinly sliced, peeled and cored pears. I poured the batter over the pears and caramel, and baked the cakes at 350F for 25 minutes, when my testing stick came out clean.

The cooled layers were stacked with the pears in the middle, and I frosted the cake with a thin layer of lemon cream cheese (1/4 cup cream cheese, a few drops of culinary lemon oil, and a tablespoon of sugar). The result is a hearty cake, rustic but sophisticated in flavor.

Next time, I might add some spices to the batter, perhaps a pinch each of mace, allspice, and cinnamon. Cardamom and anise might also be complementary.

From the Insomniac Cookery files

Hm. The crustless pie is tasty, but flatter than I would like. I suspect that butternut squash has too much water. I roasted it, because I was worried about this very thing; I can’t imagine the result of using steamed or boiled butternut squash. Yech.

Pros: very, very smooth puree; lovely, delicate flavor
Cons: high water content means that the pie lost half its mass during cooking

I’m now eying the kabocha (Japanese pumpkin) for future squash pies or custards. Kabocha is even drier than the standard orange pumpkin, which is why it’s sooooo delicious as tempura.

Fixed the Other Half pancakes for breakfast, while I made her a German Pear oven pancake for the holidays. Both turned out well, although pancakes are pretty effing easy, and the German Pear thingy is basically just pancake batter poured over sliced, sauteed pears and baked. I’m pretty sure I’ve made her pancakes in my sleep.

I did not break out the mandolin slicer for one Bosc pear. Way too much trouble. Was chuffed to realize that I can still peel, core, and slice a pear with a chef’s knife. Go me! It’s been a while since we’ve had pears, but the OH got a fruit box for xmas and it’s stuffed with pears. They don’t keep as long as apples, so I’m trying to think of things to do with them. Quickly.

Last time I was laid off I made pancakes several times a week, getting creative with additives just to experiment with flavor combos and moisture content. Since I can’t eat them myself, this sort of thing always leads to o’dark-thirty pop quizzes about texture, flavor, toppings, et alia. Which can lead to a minor amount of domestic strife, when the quizzed party is still 3/4 asleep and cranky about being awake, at all. Ah, well, all life is suffering.

An Institutional Sexism Pop Quiz

What does it mean when a female in the US does the following things in the course of a week?

  • Gets a haircut
  • Depilates thoroughly: eyebrow shaping, ‘stache removal, pits, legs, etc.
  • Audits her cosmetics and wardrobe
  • Drops a dime or two in a consignment shop on suits and blouses
  • Goes to Sephora
  • Polishes her pumps
  • Cleans all of her jewelry

Take a guess…

I have had a very busy Saturday, but less than two hours was outside of the house. None of what I did is considered work or work-related, but every second of my time contributed directly to the economic health and stability of my household. And that is the bare minimum required.

Tomorrow will contain more of the same, and for the next few weeks I’ll be waking up earlier and going to bed later, because that’s whatcha gotta do to maintain the facade that heteronormative gender presentation expectations aren’t completely unrealistic, unreasonable, and deeply stupid.

The shoes are still bitchin’, though.Image


Let’s talk about poop, baby. Let’s talk about you and me…

Hopefully, we all do it. We’re built to excrete, even more than to eat or fuck. Is there an animal that doesn’t shit? I don’t think so.

What makes a good bm? Fat, water, and fiber. Yes, you gotta grease that log, or else it’s just going to lodge up in your guts, like a beaver dam. Water keeps things nice and squishy, and fiber scrapes out the bits that cling to the walls of your intestines, rotting and feeding the bad bacteria. Altogether, these three are the magic poo.

And that’s all I got. I don’t even know why I’m thinking about shit, right now, since everything is totally cool in my bowels, right now, but whatever. Also, the NYT Sunday Crossword is absolutely essential in a happy WC.

Recipe: Roasted Chile Bake

Whole Foods had roasted Poblano chiles on special last week, so I bought two boxes, one hot, one medium. I was unable to find a recipe that excited me, so I made one up. It was so deliciously tasty that I’ve repeated it, using the medium-heat chiles.

Because I am forgetful, I am writing out the basics.

9″x6″x3″ baking pan
rice steamer, or lidded saucepan/skillet large enough for rice and stove
1 cup long grain brown rice
2 cups water
1 can Ro-tel diced tomatoes & chilies
1/2 diced sweet onions (or to taste)
12-16 roasted Poblano (or other large, green) chilies
2 cups shredded, (medium) cheddar cheese
2 cups enchilada sauce

Preheat oven to 350F.

Steam rice w/ water, Ro-tel, onion.

Clean chilies, removing seeds, veins, and stems.

Stir cooked rice, gently, and layer in baking pan. Keep it loose. Layer half the chilies over the rice. Sprinkle half the shredded cheese over chilies. Layer the remaining chilies over the cheese. Sprinkle half the remaining cheese (1/4) over chilies. Pour enchilada sauce (I like Hatch brand, medium, green or red; or I make my own) over everything. Bake at 350F for 20 minutes. Remove from oven. Sprinkle remaining cheese over casserole. Return to oven and turn off heat. Ready to eat in 10 minutes, or whenever your Other gets home.

Delicious as leftovers. Goes well with a green salad with creamy dressing, and/or slow-cooked pinto beans, and/or warm corn tortillas. Would probably also go well with a tomato with bleu cheese dressing salad, but Lily ate the tomato, so I didn’t get to try that, yet.

I have no idea what the calorie or nutritional content of anything I make is, nor do I particularly care. I care that my food avoids my allergies, yet is delicious. Oh, and cheap is also quite important. This recipe make six servings as a full meal, and eight to 12 with sides.

(My friend, Deuce, would yell at me for going from spelling out numbers to using numerals, in the same text group, but when I was a wee lass, they taught that you spelled out one through ten, and used numerals for 11 and up. In writing, not algebra, obviously. Anyway, so, that’s what I do.)