Garden Glimpse 8/29/2013

A few pictures I snapped yesterday during the few sun breaks….

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End of the season for the artichokes…but boy did they have a good season!!!  I’ve never harvested so many!!!

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This side garden is still chugging along, mostly tomatoes and cucumbers.

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My fall crops of carrots, beets, radishes, broccoli, parsnips and rutabagas are starting to pop up.  Extending this growing season as long as possible!

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The little cucumber and lemon tree growing in the outdoor kitchen are doing great.  I’m going to see just how much stuff I can grow in there and for how long…

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I picked a large bowl of these Asian apples, the raccoons, squirrels and birds sure do like them…..

I’m hoping that I will have lots of ripe tomatoes to show in a few weeks….

 

 

Get Your Oxtails Wagging

Oxtails, oh how I love you.  So many things to do with you.  Yes, I do love me some oxtails.  For many, it’s on the alternative meats list and I really don’t know why.  I do get the internal organs, and even the tongue, but the not oxtails.  They taste just like meat, and to me, really don’t look that strange.  Again, the internal organs and tongue I’ll say do qualify as maybe a little strange looking.  There is a little Hawaiian restaurant close to where I live that makes a delicious soup using them.  It’s a pretty basic soup, but packs so much flavor.  Clearly I like it.  Tonight’s dinner is braised oxtails.  If you are not a wine fan you could always omit it, use extra beef broth and still have a really delicious dish.

Oxtails are not the cheapest piece of meat, where I live, around $5 per pound.  Depending on how many people you are trying to feed, these can add up.  Tonight I used about six pounds.  Add in the wine, which you should use something you can also drink, plus the rest of the ingredients and you are probably looking at about fifty dollars.  But divide that by four people and then it seems a little more reasonable…  I guess I’m feeling a little guilty after getting rid of my “economical eats” section on my website.

For the Recipe:

3 tbsp. olive oil

6 lbs. oxtails

salt and pepper

1 750 ml drinkable red wine

2 large onions (I only had medium size in the house so I used 3), chopped

3 carrots, chopped

3 celery ribs, chopped

3 bay leaves

1/2 c. parsley, minced

2 tbsp. garlic, minced

1 tbsp. fresh thyme

2 c. beef stock

2 c. crushed tomatoes

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In a heavy saucepan boil the wine until it reduces to 2 cups (you don’t need to be exact, but close).  Meanwhile, generously season the oxtails with the salt and pepper.

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Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven and brown the oxtails on all sides.  Be sure not to overcrowd the pot or you will not brown them, you will steam them.  You will probably need to do this in batches.  Set them aside, leaving the meat goodness on the pot.  Throw in your onions, carrots, celery and cook for about 5 minutes over medium high heat, reduce heat just a tad and add bay leaves, parsley, garlic, and thyme.  Cook another 10 minutes until the onions are translucent and the other vegetables start to get soft, but not cooked through.  Add the 2 cups of reduced wine, beef stock and crushed tomatoes.  Let cook for 5 minutes to get the liquids heated up.  Put Dutch oven into a preheated 325 F oven for 3 or so hours.  Meat should be extremely tender.  Take the meat out and keep it warm.  Take the bay leaves out, then use an emulsion blender to make the liquid and vegetables into a smooth thick sauce.  If you use a blender for this step, use extreme caution when putting hot liquid into a blender, you don’t want it to explode on you!!

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I like to serve this with either creamy polenta or mashed potatoes.

Enjoy!!

Chicken Pot Pie

We’ve had some strange weather here in the Pacific Northwest the past few days.  Rain, thunder, sun and humidity.  The rain got me craving some comfort food and since I had some chicken breasts I needed to use, what better choice but chicken pot pie.

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Recipe: This makes either one VERY generous pie or two average size

for the crust:

  • 3 cups all purpose flour  (if you want to add a little whole wheat you can, just plan on a little more water)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1/4 pound cold unsalted butter, cubed
  • 1/2 to 1 cup ice water
  • 1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for the egg wash

Put the flour, salt, and baking powder in the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times to mix well.  Add the shortening and butter, mix until all the flour is coated and it’s like little balls.  Slowly add the water, adding only enough to form the dough so it comes together and doesn’t stick to the sides.  Take the dough out onto a floured surface and kneed a few times, then wrap in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate for at least an hour.

for the filling:

  • 2 whole chicken breasts, cooked and cubed (you can always use the meat of a rotisserie chicken)
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 c onions, chopped
  • 1 c celery, chopped
  • 3/4 c all-purpose flour
  • 4 c chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 1 c. half-n-half
  • 1 c medium-diced carrots, blanched for 2 minutes
  • 1 c. frozen peas, defrosted
  • 1 c. potatoes, cooked and cubed
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tbsp. garlic (adjust to your tastes)
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper (adjust to your tastes)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, minced

I used raw bone-in chicken breasts that were halved.  I generously sprinkled them with my house seasoning, but you could us Johnny’s or your own blend of seasonings.  Bake in the oven for 40 minutes at 350 F.  When they are cool enough to handle, debone and skin, chop the meat into cubes.  Set aside.  In a large frying pan heat the butter and olive oil.  Add the onions and sauté until translucent.  At this point you can either add your uncooked cubed potatoes or if have cooked them already skip it.  I cooked my potatoes this way…. added them to the onions along with 2 cups of the chicken stock (you might need to add an additional cup of broth later when the stock is added due to evaporation during this step) and let them cook until they are tender, but not fully cooked.  Add the flour (mix with 1/2 c. water) and mix thoroughly, let cook for 2 or so minutes to get the raw flour flavor out.  Add chicken stock, with additional cup if needed.  Incorporate the stock well with the flour mixture, no clumps!!  Next add the peas, carrots (I boiled them in salted water until they were tender), corn, thyme, garlic, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper.  Mix well, then add the 1 c. of half-n-half.  Taste your gravy to make sure it’s seasoned well, add whatever you like if needed.  Lastly add the parsley.  This will need to cool before using then you are ready to fill whatever you choose to bake them in, large baking dish, individual ramekins etc…

Once the dough has had time to chill, you can roll it out on a floured surface.  I don’t roll it out super thin, a little more than 1/4 inch.  I used 12 ounce ramekins for mine and it made 8 of them. Cover the dish, poke holes or cut slits to allow steam to escape.  Bake in a 375 F oven for 35-40 minutes, or until the crust is golden.  I place mine on a baking sheet in case they bubble over.

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Twins, But Not

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When I found out I was having twins I started to cry, and not tears of joy, more like fear.  I then went into shock and thought, what am I going to do?  Thank goodness you have months and months to acclimate to the reality of multiple babies.  It actually became kind of exciting and set my planner self into motion…

Fast forward to week 37 1/2…Welcome twinadoes!!!  To say I was in shock when I saw my son is an understatement.  I thought for sure I was guaranteed two brown haired, brown eyed babies.  Oh no…what stared at me was this little fair skinned pasty white (albeit a little goopy with gunk) little baby boy.  WTH?  All I could think was “the next one better look like me”.  And boy did she.  When they brought my daughter to me I was overwhelmed (not to say that I wasn’t bawling with joy with my son), staring at me with the grumpiest face ever was my mini me.  Here were my twins…my little white baby and my little brown baby.  Even to this day when I tell people they are twins they give me the look of “you might want to have their DNA tested”.

From the moment they were born those two were complete opposites.  We instantly nicknamed our daughter Baby Beyoncé, and we still call her that almost three years later.  My son, he became Little Bird.  That’s exactly what he looked like, a 4 1/2 pound little bird…  Baby Beyoncé was demanding and moody, Little Bird was the little snuggle bug that just wanted attention (and food what seemed like every ten minutes).  Nowadays they have other nicknames as well, some of which I tell the hubs we need to stop using because if they somehow stick….let’s just say my son will never make it through junior high!

As they grew and I saw their personalities even more, I LOVED that they were nothing alike.  Loved that even in their complete opposition, they complimented each other beautifully.  She’s bossy, he’s content following.  She’s the aggressive go getter, he’s my little lovey lovey.

I think that sometimes people just assume that twins will look and act alike.  They are after all, two different people.  Two different minds and souls.  It seems that daily I see changes in them, at times, hourly!

Every once in a while I wonder what it would have been like to have them at different times.  I think, if they came as singles then maybe I would have had more time with each of them as infants.  But the reality, I can’t imagine them not coming together.  I’m so thankful they came together.  I hope that even in their different ways, personalities and thinking that they will always “have each other’s backs”.

Couponing….Clip This!!!

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I have to fess up, I got sucked in to the Extreme Couponing show and gave it a whirl…I think I gave it a good whirl too.  Every Sunday I pulled out the ads for that weeks’ sales, pulled out the coupons and looked through them.  I would see if I could match up sales with coupons and be like those coupon queens on that ridiculous show.  Then I found coupon sites on Facebook.  They did all the work for you!!  They would post deals with the coupon match ups, the only work left was to go get them.  Well, that and clip the coupons.  It kind of sucks you in, especially when you are at home with toddlers, it’s cold outside, and your mind feels like it needs a challenge.  Of course, with the matching done for me, there really wasn’t any challenge.  I think that’s really where my desire to do couponing started to fade.

Even with a waning desire to clip and save, I forged through the hubs eye rolls and sad attempts at coupon jokes, the looks of cashiers like I was trying to pull something, the disappointment of going to a store only to find they were out of whatever I was looking for.  Apparently, if you want to be successful at this couponing stuff you have to get up early and get everything.  But then the call of my garden started… The thought of running around looking for stuff I really didn’t need just became a hassle.  Besides, I did have enough laundry soap to last a year, and no, I’m not kidding.  I even gave a bunch away and still had more than enough.  Body soap, razors, shaving cream, dish soap and shampoo/conditioner was my thing.  Not sure why, maybe because I really do use a lot of that stuff.  The food stuff, well, they don’t have too many coupons for food that my family really eats.  The stuff I did buy either got used to barter with the neighbor or donated.

My coupon organization wasn’t really at the extreme couponer lever either.  I didn’t have a big binder with ten thousand slots for my coupons.  I didn’t have a room designated to cutting, sorting, filing and whatever the hell else they do with those things.  I didn’t have 72 papers delivered to my home every Sunday.  Nopes… I usually sat on the couch with my twins rolling, tearing, throwing and doing whatever they wanted with them.  Meanwhile my poor hubs would say “babies, don’t touch mama’s coupons, she needs them”.  It was actually comical.

I’ve read several blogs where people say they hate when people say it’s a game, well sorry folks, that exactly what I though of it.  It was like a puzzle, what coupon fits where to get me something I want for super cheap.  I think I needed something for my brain to figure out, something that would make me have to think about something other than diapers, naps, tantrums and everything else that goes with my twinadoes.  So feel free to scoff and say I wasn’t a real coupon because you would be correct.  I just wasn’t.

A few weekends ago we were at our friends Metalhead and Merlot’s house for a barbeque and he told me about how his post office had “tons of coupons in the recycle bin”.  I though, what the heck I’ll check it out.  I told him to take me there, so in the middle of his barbeque he drove me the mile down the road to look.  He wasn’t joking.  There were tons of them, and I spent a good 15 minutes picking them out.  Then to top if off, I had my husband stop on the way out and did the same thing.  And here’s where I knew my time as a couponer had really come to an end….of all the 50 inserts I pulled out of recycling I ended up using four Pediasure coupons.  Really?  Oh I still have my little wallet size divider that has some coupons, I’m sure quite a few are expired, and a stack of inserts from the Sunday paper.  But you know what?  I really don’t have a desire to go through them.  Oh, I still see posts from my favorite coupon site (I mean she was on Extreme Couponing), but the urge to participate just isn’t there.  In fact, I really chuckle when I see these women, and some men, talking about their 27 transactions they did to get free paper towels.  And for the record, I never did the ten zillion transactions.  Nopes, just wasn’t that into it.

Do You To Do?

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To Do lists…I’m a big fan.  It keeps me on track, well sort of and I just LOVE crossing off the tasks when they’ve been completed.  I have zillions of note pads of various sizes everywhere in my home.  Most have been found by the twinadoes and have scribblings on half their pages, but I still use them.  I do have a few that I keep guarded, they contain my recipes and ideas that I put on my blog and website.  I know I should be a little more tech savvy and put them on my computer, but this is how I roll!

I used to be addicted to Post-It notes.  I even broke up with a boyfriend (and I barely use that term with this particular person) by writing a little note and leaving it on the bathroom mirror.  Yes, not very nice, but I was young and well… not very nice!  These days my lists are for groceries, tasks, pretty much anything I can’t remember… which leads to the list my hubs made for our upcoming train trip.to do list 2

First on the list…. identification.  Forget your identification once when getting on a flight…..yeesh!!!  I learned my lesson already!!!  The hubs is a list writer too.  Not as bad as me, but he does use them.

Time to tackle today’s “To Do” list.  I’m shooting for a 70% success rate for this one, shoot high, right?

 

Another Pizza Dough Recipe…

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Yes, I know… there are ten thousand of them out there, and now there are ten thousand and one!!!  Ha!!!  Yes I do humor myself sometimes.  Anyway…. I am not a huge pizza eater.  It’s not the Friday tradition as it seems to be in so many households.  I guess we are just strange that way.  However, when I do get a craving for some pizza, and I have the time,  I have two recipes that I turn to, this one and one I have for St. Louis style which is crispy and delicious.  The latter is actually a no yeast dough, and pretty quick to make.  Today I had the time and I also had some fresh mozzarella and pepperoni (no, not that stuff you get in a bag, but that does work… just my snotty foodie comment) that needed to be used.  For the adult pizza I’ll also put slices of tomato from my garden. If I’m going to make pizza down from scratch then I make extra to throw in the freezer.  It really is nice to be able to pull out some dough and 20 minutes later be ready to roll it out.  I have seen it at the grocery stores in bags, but I’ve never actually bought any. If you don’t have a pizza stone, don’t freak or run out and get one (unless you really want to).  You can improvise and use a baking sheet.  If you are going the baking sheet route, don’t do the “preheat in a 450 degree oven” step…

Recipe: 1 1/4 c. warm water, about 110 degrees (I go a little warmer since I put it in the cold mixer bowl and don’t want it get too cold)

2 1/4 tsp. yeast or 1 packet

1 Tbsp. honey

1 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil

2 tsp. salt

1 c. whole wheat flour

2-3 c. all purpose flour (the amount you need will vary depending on different conditions, I usually end up using 2 1/2 c.)

Put warm water in the bowl of a mixer, add honey and let dissolve.  Add the yeast, mix it in,  and let sit 10 minutes.  Make sure your yeast has been activated and doing its yeasty thing.  If for some reason the water was too cold or too hot you will need to start over.  After the yeast has had time to grow, add the olive oil.  Next, add the salt and flour, starting with the whole wheat first.  Add the white flour slowly so you can make sure you stop when you have added enough.

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The dough will have a nice smooth look to it and pull away from the bowl without leaving sticky stuff.  It will still have a little bit of a sticky feeling, but not much.  Let the mixer run for another 10 minutes.  While you are waiting for the dough to finish kneading, put some olive oil (about a tablespoon or so) in a clean bowl.  You will put your dough in this, coating it with the olive oil on all sides, but not mixing it into the dough.

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Let it rest covered in a warm spot for 45-50 minutes, or until it has doubled in size.  Once it has doubled, knead it 5 or 6 times and let rise again for about 30 minutes.  Oven should be at 400F, whether that means reducing the heat from heating your stone, or preheating your oven. Next you are ready to roll it out and top it with whatever you want.  Before putting it on my baking stone (or whatever you are using) I do sprinkle a little corn meal on the surface.  This is purely optional.  I don’t like to top my pizzas with too many toppings, I find it just makes them goopy and gloppy, but that could just me.  Cook until the crust is golden and the cheese has melted.

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Enjoy!!

**I use a pizza stone when I make my pizza.  I like to heat my stone before baking my pizza by heating the oven to 450F and putting the stone in for 30 minutes.  If you are using a baking sheet, SKIP THIS STEP!!!  I suppose you could heat it a bit, but I wouldn’t get all cray cray and heat the thing for 30 minutes.  Some of the thinner baking sheets will buckle, bend and do all kinds of ridiculousness in there…