Worm Composting!

So it’s been a busy couple of months recently, what with starting a new job and doing a few certifications. With the weather warming up, I am no longer confined inside growing seeds in baking dishes and egg cartons, counting down the days in my gardening journal until I am unleashed on my unsuspecting garden.

I love cooking with fresh stuff, plus the nearest big grocery store is about 45 minutes away. It just seemed natural that we try & grow as much food as we could. We’ve also wanted to eat healthier & I grew up eating home grown veggies & canning stuff for winter, so this seemed the best choice.

We finally got a fence up around a 25′ x 100′ area where (hopefully) the deer will keep their little noses out of it!

We have not had much luck with gardens in the past few years. The first garden we had after building our house was eaten by cows. Our neighbors fence broke, & there was a rise in cabbage-scented methane in the surrounding area.

We had the last few gardens eaten by deer, rabbits, groundhogs, & even had a bear pass through & stomp on a few plants. We had to save the money for fencing materials, so we tried all the well-meaning advice from family & friends, ranging from fishing line ( a pain) to human hair (birds loved it) to the plant the local amish greenhouse touted as a groundhog deterrent, Wormwood. This lovely plant did seem to work, as the oil is toxic, and will actually kill a lot of the plants near it after it washes off during a rain and seeps into the ground.

I also find it immensely amusing that this is the prime ingredient in making absinthe, and is the source of the famous hallucinations.

Anyhoodles, we have the whole garden planted & were complaining that we should of made it bigger (keep in mind we plan on canning a great deal).

I did just stumble on a neat site which you can find here. That allows you to input your garden size, the # of adults in a household, & the plant varieties you want. It arranges the garden & gives you a plot of what you can plant where. This avoids cross breading and such and also helps with plants that benefit from each other.

Another thing I did was read a nice composting book. Out of the several forms of composting, the one that caught my eye was WORM COMPOSTING!

I find it both exciting and gross. Let me tell you, sticking my hands into the mass of worms for the first time did illicit a tiny full body shudder that I denied when my husband commented on it.

My one friend’s little boy supported my decision, & I ordered a Worm Farm & my 1 lb. (about a 1,000) from Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm just arrived!

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It has a booklet & a DVD (which I confess to not watching) & all sorts of things that happy worms need.

You are suppose to leave the worms alone for 3 days just to let them acclamate. I confess to not having enough patience, I didn’t even make it 20 minutes. I realized I did have to check because the next morning, it was like escape from Alcatraz. I now check every morning to put worms back in the box & I now have a bright light on above the box to keep them from doing a Free Willy.

I am so excited to have my first batch of worm compost, as it is very good for planting & gardens.
Worm updates will follow!

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New year

It’s been a while since I posted, what with starting a new job and everything. I have barely had time to cook and have eaten out a lot more than I wanted, or that I should have. Been driving myself nuts, cleaning up an old chapter of my life, deleting old emails, and stuff like that. (George, if you ever read this, I’m sorry I lost your yahoo login.). I’m just finishing my third week at my new job, and I finally found time to think of a new recipe I want to try. Anyone ever done stuffed taco pasta shells? The concept kind of floors me, as I never considered stuffed shells as anything other than an Italianesque dish.

I pretty much only have deer burger, and I’ve decided I want to mKe my own enchilada sauce! I saw a recipe on a website and had one of those arguments with my inner self. I actually won this one though. Why am I not doing this? Let me count the incentives!

1. 30+ miles from any grocery store other than bent & dents (nothing against them mind you, but the inventory changes too much to plan a grocery list around them)

2. I could do this!

3. With my new goal to waste less and make/grow more of my own food, this makes complete sense.

4. I can choose my own spices and customize flavor.

My inner voice sputtered and couldn’t give me a reason why I shouldn’t.

Does anyone have a good recipe? I’ve seen one that was just tomato paste and spices, but I was hoping for something a little different…

Super Bowl

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So as I’m laughing myself silly over Arnold’s “Tiny Tennis” and the Transformer Dinosaur (I may have screamed in excitement at the top of my lungs when I saw that one) my husband and I have been enjoying our Party For Two. I decided to make Buffalo chicken quesadillas and homemade guacamole. I visited a restaurant on San Antonio’s Riverwalk and like many, I fell in love with Boudro’s table side guacamole which they put together while you watch and drool.

I wasn’t planning on spending much effort on the quesadilla, so I fried the chicken in salt, pepper, garlic olive oil, and taco meat seasoning, with sliced purple onions and green peppers. Placing the taco shells on the griddle, I arranged the chicken mixture with shredded cheddar and buffalo sauce and heated them until the cheese is all melty. Of course, my kriptonite is trying to flip the damn things. Next time, I’m frying the top separate and just slapping it on when the rest is done! They did turn out really yummy with only minor slippage.

My real fun time was the green stuff (It’s extra by the way). A mellon baller made scooping a snap, and I stuck some sliced tomatoes and mushrooms in some garlic olive oil and roasted it under the broiler for 10 minutes. I mixed orange juice and lime juice in a bowl, mixed in the avocado and my roasted veggies. Added some chopped purple onion and garlic and just started chopping with a kife. Salt and pepper to taste and it’s already half done and it’s 2nd & 5.

Happy Super Bowl!

Corn Fritter Fretting

Tonight, I discovered that I was rather on my own for dinner as my husband wasn’t going to be home until later. He would arrive in time for the eating part, but it was up to me to make sure dinner was available for the consuming. My husband had already gotten venison steaks out last night to thaw. I knew he was having a very hectic day, so I decided to make some of his favorites.

Venison steaks in mushroom sauce
sliced seasoned potatos, fried

I decided to try something different with my usual veggie. I broke my usual rule of having at least one vegetable that wasn’t fried on the plate tonight.

I found a recipe here. Allrecipe Corn Fritters

I’ve been wanting to make these for a while. I love the little golden nuggets I get at my favorite Italian restaurant that are golden and crispy on the outside and have a gooey, sweet corn filling.

This is not what happened this evening when I attempted to make corn fritters for the first time.

Just for the record, I would like to say that the recipe itself did not turn out bad. I changed a few things for the sake of not having stuff and ended up with something that wasn’t half bad, but wasn’t what I expected either.

First off, while making the batter, I added 1 teaspoon of sugar instead of 1/4 teaspoon. I liked the taste and would have even added more. Comments I saw on the recipe state that I am not the only one to do so.

I always use fat free milk as that is what I grew up with. The recipe did not specify what type to use.
Where I goofed was when I discovered I was out of canned corn.

I had a whole bag of corn in the freezer, so silly me, I decided to use this instead of driving to the store and buying corn in the can.
I got out the equivalent amount and rinsed them under hot water until the corn was thawed.

I know know that my error was not in making sure that either the corn was completely thawed, or not cooking i in water first.
The fritters themselves turned out really well. The corn was just a tiny bit chewy. I also think that I should have added more corn, as when the fritters were broken open, there wasn’t as much corn as I would have liked in them. I did make my fritters larger, so this may account in part for the lack of kernels.

I served them with maple syrup as recomended, and they were still a hit with my husband. For some odd reason, I eat mine with French dressing. The sweet dippers make up for the lesser amount of sugar. I was rather surprised at how easy it was to make corn fritters in the end, although they seemed more like corn hush puppies after I was done.

Spiced Apple Butter

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Wow, it feels like it has been forever since I last posted. More like a month and a half, but lots of things can happen in a short time period. Between dislocating my thumb, getting food poisoning, then getting a bacterial infection which decided to make my lungs a playground, I’ve not had a chance to type, or even cook, for that matter.

With the first frost predicted for tonight, I am rushing around picking green tomatoes (Pickled Green Tomatoes recipe I want to try, will post later) and trying to get apples dealt with.

My parents had a good apple crop this year (around 10 cat litter buckets or so) and then they went on a trip. My mother requested that I use as many apples as I could. They are very good this year, very tart and sweet. The first batch was apple sauce. My mum and I have been toying with the idea of trying to process more apples at a time. So we decided to use the turkey roaster!

I peeled a bunch of apples, popped them in the roaster with some water, orange juice, apple cider vinegar, and some vanilla. They roasted low overnight and I had a lovely batch of apple sauce to process the next day. We got 9 pints and 2 quarts from that batch, after we ran out of pint jars.

One restocking trip later, we decided to try apple butter. I have never had apple butter, but my husband likes his cottage cheese with it (my mum assures me this is a local tradition). I decided I wanted to use the turkey roaster again! I added even less water this time and roasted them on high at first for 2 hours. Then We purred them in a blender in batches and proceeded to cook them on low in my slow cooker yet again for another 6 hours.

When I got home, we mixed in the spices that the recipe from Food In Jars (can’t you tell I love this book?), but in different quantities. We followed the recipe, but instead of 2 to 3 pints, I ended up with 4 QUARTS of apple butter. I added the same amount of spices that the recipe called for originally, and ended up with a mildly spiced apple butter that my husband was thrilled about.

I think in total we ended up peeling enough apples to fill my turkey roaster 3/4 of the way full.

Since I am now presented with loads of apple butter to use, I’ve decided I rather like it! I ended up with a bunch of cans of Pillsbury Crescent Cans from the local bent & dent (Chocolate croissants are an addiction of mine) and I think I am going to spread some apple butter in the crescents and roll up the sheet like a pumpkin roll…

Mulled Cranberry Tea, Also Known as the Agony of Potlucks

So I am going to rant here, and I will post the recipe first so that you can read it without wading through my grumbles.

Mulled Cranberry Tea

2 tea bags (I use peach herbal or cinnamon for this)

1 cup boiling water

1 bottle (48 oz) cranberry juice (I use no sugar added natural, because this will come out sweet)

1/2 cup dried cranberries (optional- never used them)

1/3 cup sugar

1 larg lemon, cut into 1/4 inch slices

4 cinnamon sticks

6 whole cloves (also never used these)

garnishes:  more cinnamon sticks & thin lemon slices- never done this either

In a crock pot, deposit tea bags and pour boiling water over them.  Cover & let sit for 5 minutes.  Fish out the tea bags and add the rest of the ingredients sans garnishes.  Cover and cook, either on Low for 2-3 hours or High 1-2 hours.

You can remove and get rid of the lemon slices and cinnamon sticks, but I leave them in because it looks festive and pretty.  Serve warm.  I generally pour any leftovers back into the cranberry juice bottle (straining of course) and use it up within a few days.  Enjoy.

*this is not my recipe, I have edited it a bit for my personal use but it came out of a “Rival Crock Pot Slower Cooker Recipes” book.

So, as it always seems to come to pass, any potluck dish you agonize over choosing out of the many hundreds of cookbooks, searching for that perfect combination of taste and art whilst drag your soul through the fires of self flagellation only to ferry it gently across the river of anguish and deposit on the table like a great sacrifice to the gods of potlucks, hoping that your offering will be deemed acceptable and memorable, and then it doesn’t even get a second look.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I grew up in my church viewing potlucks as a religious rite ( don’t shoot me, I’m sure I will be struck by lightening soon).  I probably put way more thought into this then I should have, but I grew up thinking that food was how my church came together.  I also saw the providing of the dishes as somewhat of a right-of-passage.  Over the years, the trends have come and gone (memorably was the quiche phase *shudder*) and a few other notables, but everyone seems to settle into a specialty over time.

Usually, I brought an apple pie I had managed to turn into second nature since middle school because it is always requested, even though I don’t even like it (yes I hate pie, yes I know it is truly horrendous, we have accepted this as fact- note the use of the royal “we”).

However, my husband has been calming the nerves that I am pretty sure were entirely made up, and trying to keep me from languishing over potluck dishes.  Lately, whether through boredom with my standard pie or laziness for not wanting to spend two hours on something I won’t even eat, I have turned to other dishes.

Today, I was tired and I hadn’t even known if I was going to show up to this potluck.  I decided to make something out of a cookbook I had been gifted with when I graduated college (one of those that is in the shape of the food/method it uses in every recipe) and do something insanely simple.

Now, I don’t even know why, but I love sharing recipes with other people.  Nothing makes me happier then to know someone enjoyed a dish I prepped and that they would love to experiment with it on their own.  Of course, this never happens with the recipes that take hours to make.  You can slave over a dish and  have maybe 1 serving taken from it at the end of the night.  Then you get the dish where you were too busy to go shopping and just threw something together, thinking that you wouldn’t’ even care if it came back untouched, and the damn thing is empty within 10 minutes of being set on a serving table.  Ironically, this is the dish that becomes the most popular out of your repertoire, and it just kills you.

This dish is such a dish.  It literally takes less then 10 minutes to prepare, and can be drinkable in an hour, perhaps even 45 minutes depending on how awesome your crock pot/slower cooker is.

I had no less than 6 people ask me for the recipe, all of whom were appalled at how easy it was.  If you actually made it to the end of this rant, bless you.

Enjoy!

Garlic Butter

One of the things I always have in my fridge is a batch of homemade garlic butter. My husband asked me to make a batch while we were cooking at his parents, and his mother asked “what would you even put it on?” I answered “we put it on everything!” Responses like this are why I tend to get “looks” from my mother-in-law sometimes. I know I am a little crazy/weird, but my husband assures me repeatedly he does not mind.

I have a confession to make…

WE ARE A GARLIC HOUSEHOLD!

There I said it. We don’t shy from garlic. We embrace it (figuratively, or I would need stronger deodorant) and lavish it upon our food with great enthusiasm.

The possibilities are only what you can imagine. My mother would put it on her bake potatoes, rolls, rice, mashed potatoes, throw a dollop in with cooking veggies or in soup. I once encountered a packet of Ramen Noodles sold in New Zealand where a packet of garlic butter was included with the noodles and seasoning. So now, I throw in a dollop if I am making Ramen.

The biggest use for garlic butter is garlic bread!

We have a pizzeria nearby with great bread, and you can by the big loaves for a dollar. My dad will get me 4 or 5 and I do one of three things.
1) Freeze them. I love having bread I can defrost in the microwave for 30 seconds. It does get soggy, but this is not a problem as I bake the bread.

2) Dry the bread for making homemade seasoned bread crumbs

3) Make garlic croutons. I cube the bread, toss it with some melted garlic butter and bake it. Amusingly enough, the croutons never make it onto salads, because my family will eat them out of the container like chex mix.

Garlic butter is entirely customizable. About the only thing that is a requirement is butter, and of course, garlic, but then again, maybe not!

I adapted this from a few recipes I saw once into the following:

1 cup of soft spread butter or margarine
1/4 cup shredded cheese (Parmesan works)
3 Tablespoons minced garlic
Salt and Pepper to taste
1/2 Teaspoon Oregano

Now, I don’t always have shaker cheese around, so I use what I have on hand. Sometimes I have added parsley, rosemary, asiago cheese, and anything I feel like adding at the time. Paprika is also a good choice or if you want your butter a little spicier, cayenne pepper works too.

I can’t post a picture because my husband just used the last of the garlic butter on some homemade dough for garlic bread to go with our pizza. I will post a picture of the garlic bread though here shortly!