Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The first among many - gardening in a tiny space

I garden in bags, pots and tiny four foot square raised beds.  I garden along the house.  I garden in empty salad clamshells.  For the price of the seeds, which were from on-line sources, I play in the dirt.
From the back - shallots, chard, broccolini, okra.  With an onion or two from last year.

Green beans on the left, soon to be green beans in the middle and radishes that want to become green beans later.  Also the cucumber on the trellis.
Advance guard
the rest of the family
The first.  Already claimed by a grandchild. Glowing in its red perfection.  The rest, waiting and soaking up today's sunshine and the plentiful rain

Greens - the forward quadrant is all lettuce, which grows as quickly as I can cut it
We have had four salads from this lettuce and probably 3 dozen radishes.  Considering the price of organic produce this has probably paid for itself.  Once the green beans start we will have them every other night.  And I did get carried away with zucchini, planting them in 4 places, but I like the way the plant looks with its prehistoric leaves.

The strawberry bed has been netted, I think birds can smell the ripe fruit for at least 2 miles.  Out of 6 raspberry canes planted, two survived the winter, so we may have a berry or two.

Oh, I also planted 10 tomato plants, 6 started from seed and 4 from the produce people at the farmer's market.  4 jalapeno plants and about 5 million volunteer cherry tomatoes.

Volunteers on the left, enlistees on the right.

and I almost forgot the snap peas, dill, yellow peppers and basil.

Peas, dill etc.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Cooking from the pantry

The weather is cool, cloudy and drizzly and soup sounded really good.  But the heavy soups of winter weren't appealing and  I did not want to make a trip to the store for anything (since I am still in shock over the price of the new curtains to replace the small mishap from washing and drying the panels from the dining room when they said dry clean only).  I started with a corn and crab chowder from Rachael Ray then adapted it to what we had on hand.
                          Corn and Crab Chowder
Serving Size  : 4    

  1         tablespoon  extra-virgin olive oil
  4             ounces  bacon -- minced (3 slices)
  2               cups  Potatoes O'Brien -- frozen
  3         small ribs  celery -- chopped (3 to 4)
  1                cup  onion -- chopped
  1         Tablespoon  garlic -- minced (2 cloves)(I used Easy Garlic already minced in oil in a jar)
  1           teaspoon  dried thyme
  1           teaspoon  Old Bay Seafood seasoning -- Generous
  2          teaspoons  chicken bouillon granules -- Tone's chicken base
  2               cups  water
  2               cups  2% milk
  3        tablespoons  butter
  1 1/2           cups  creamed corn
  3        tablespoons  flour
  6             ounces  crab meat -- 1 can undrained
     1/4      teaspoon  cayenne

Render the bacon in olive oil in a large pot or dutch oven. Add  the onions, celery and garlic - sweat vegetables.  Add the thyme and the Old Bay, stirring to release the flavors.  Then add the frozen potatoes, chicken base and water (or stock) and cayenne.  Bring to a simmer, cover and cook 20 minutes. 
Add the milk and the crab meat with the juices.  Season with cayenne.  Cover and simmer again for 20 minutes.
Blend the butter with the flour and blend into the hot liquid.  Bring to a soft boil to complete thickening the chowder and serve.
                                    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Per Serving (excluding unknown items): 568 Calories; 29g Fat (46.3% calories from fat); 25g Protein; 52g Carbohydrate; 6g Dietary Fiber; 90mg Cholesterol; 1261mg Sodium. 

This was delicious and rich without being heavy.  I made a loaf of pumpernickel bread to go with it.

The window panels shrunk so evenly it was undetectable until I hung them.  Then they looked like flood pants.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Meatballs, meatballs, meatballs

It's raining, again.  After a day of frenetic activity in the yard and garden we are once again trapped inside.

I thought about laundry - but it's caught up.  I thought about reading - but can't sit still.  I thought about cooking.  Yeah, let's fill the house with nice aromas and get something good for lunch as well.

I had picked up 2 pounds of ground chuck as a loss leader this week so my obvious choices were either meatloaf of meatballs.  Other things lured me as well, but meatballs have been on my mind. (and if that's Freudian I just don't want to know about it)
           Lotsa Meatballs

2 pound  lean ground beef
3 cloves  garlic
2 large  eggs
1 cup  grated Parmesan cheese (I admit, there is a green can in my fridge)
1 1/2    tablespoons  chopped fresh Italian parsley
                        Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
2 cups  Italian seasoned dry bread crumbs
2 cups  water -- room temperature
1/2  cup  olive oil

In a large bowl, combine beef, garlic (grate into mixture, throw ends into pan with olive oil). Add eggs, cheese, and parsley; season with salt and pepper. Continue mixing with your hand until well combined. Add bread crumbs and mix well. Add water, 1 cup at a time, and continue mixing until mixture is quite moist.  Cover and refrigerate for about an hour to allow everything to hydrate.

Shape mixture into 2-inch balls**. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Heat the olive oil with the garlic ends until fragrant, removing garlic before it browns. Working in batches, add meatballs to skillet. Cook until browned and cooked through, turning, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a baking tray and bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

**Shape some into 1/2 inch balls for soup - about 24 balls make 1 batch of soup.  Bake these directly, without browning in oil, for 20 minutes.

Cool all the meatballs and Package according to serving desires.  Freeze or eat.  I am going to freeze these in bags of 4, which will make 1 meal for two with a meatball left over for lunch for someone.
As you can see, I ended up with 23 lovely, large, light and luscious meatballs as well as the 24 meatballs that I used for soup that day.  The impetus for the soup was half a clam shell of baby spinach that was too old for salad.  Did I ever mention that I hate to throw anything out.

Italian Wedding Soup

Serving Size  : 4    

24  small   (1/2 inch) Lotsa  Meatballs(Mine were too big because I used a 1 t. cookie scoop)
2  tablespoons  good olive oil    (EVOO)
1 cup  minced yellow onion
1/2 cup  diced carrots (1 carrots) -- cut into 1/4 inch pieces
1/2 cup  diced celery (1 stalks) -- cut into 1/4 inch pieces
4 cups  chicken stock
1/2  cup  dry white wine (Chuck Shaw Sauvignon Blanc is my white cooking wine)
1/4 cup  orzo
1/4 teaspoon  dill weed -- dry or twice as much fresh
12 ounces  baby spinach -- washed and trimmed

Heat the olive oil over medium-low heat in a large heavy-bottomed soup pot. Add the onion, carrots, and celery and saute until softened, 5 to 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the chicken stock and wine and bring to a boil. Add the pasta to the simmering broth and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until the pasta is tender. Add the fresh dill and then the meatballs to the soup and simmer for 1 minute. Taste for salt and pepper. Stir in the fresh spinach and cook for 1 minute, until the spinach is just wilted. Ladle into soup bowls and sprinkle each serving with extra grated Parmesan.

  "Easy once you have the tiny meatballs"

NOTES :  "Baking the meatballs is optional.  They can be made small and cooked in the soup, which adds to the flavor.  But also adds to the fat."

Did I mention that the house smells scrumptious?