2009

Confession #8 The Shrine

“Why carrots?” is a question most people will never be asked, especially by medical personnel.

It started when I was a kid.
I never really liked my birthday. Don’t get me wrong, I liked the gifts well enough.
I just didn’t like being the center of attention.

Over the years it got worse, I basically did not look forward to my birthday at all.

It was on my 49th Birthday that my husband turned to me and asked: “So…what are you going to do about next year?”
Good question.
(It is a big day, I didn’t want it to be a Big Bad Day.)
I decided to have a good answer: “I’m going to make a few changes.”

Five in fact. I will do five things for my 50th and on that day I will start to enjoy my birthdays.

One of the five was to do something I always wanted to do but never did.
(No sky jumping for me though, scaring myself half to death isn’t high on my Things To Do list, fortunately.)

I had in fact always thought it would be fun to get a tattoo.
At first I was too young, then I had no money, then I had no time…you know how it goes.
Now I have the time and the money, God knows I’m old enough.
Funny thing, though, they still made me wait two weeks to be sure I was certain.

The subject of the tattoo was never a question, just the particulars.
I love homegrown everything, but which veggie to pick?
Potatoes?…no, too drab.
Tomatoes?…I’m sure it’s been done.
Carrots…that’s it! Colorful, Crispy Carrots.

Now if you knew me you might never think that I would go get a tattoo.
Apparently my family was a bit surprised as well.
They expressed that by giving me Carrot Gifts.

Now in my kitchen, there is a lasting reminder of my 50th Birthday (which by the way was fantastic): The Carrot Shrine.

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Plotting and Planning

My husband claims that two zucchini plants are at least one too many, and perhaps he is right. Many’s the story I have heard of a kitchen filled with zucchini at the end of the growing season, or offers I have received for cucumbers in the fall. I won’t even talk about the year I threw a handful of cabbage seeds in an empty bed (that’s another confession).
Knowing how many and what to plant in the vegetable garden may seem daunting to the new, or even to the more seasoned, gardener. There are many factors to consider: the type of vegetable, how much space you have, how much sun your garden receives, and more. When a first time gardener approaches me with this question, this is what I tell them.
The first decision to make is how each vegetable will be used, and of course you need to make adjustments for the size of your family. Generally 3-4 plants of most types of vegetables are good for a family of four if you do not plan on canning, drying or freezing. Some exceptions would include eggplant; the suggested guideline is one plant per eggplant-loving person (in our house that is one plant). One corn plant will usually produce two ears of corn, so plant six plants for a dozen ears. Adjust according to what your family likes and expect their tastes to change over time.
But the plants come six to a pack? Share. Find a friend that enjoys gardening and shop together. You can also plant from seeds, saving money as leftover seeds are still quite viable the next season.
Planting a small quantity of a variety of vegetables your first few years will help you to learn what you and your family needs. You may decide some vegetables are not worth the work they require and decide to give that space over to ones you prefer. Start small. If you cannot resist the temptation to plant all six cucumbers, learn to make refrigerator pickles. Use nice jars. You’ll be giving them away.

For information on companion planting: http://www.gardeningjones.com/companion_plants.htm

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Chocolate Raspberry Cake

Gather your ingredients:
1 box Chocolate Cake Mix
Eggs, Oil, water as mix calls for
1) 12oz. bag Frozen Raspberries
24 oz. Cream Cheese icing (16 oz. for 1 layer cake)
2 Tbs. Raspberry Preserves
¼ cup flour
Chocolate Sundae Syrup

Defrost berries by placing in colander and running lukewarm water over them. Drain very well.
Preheat oven and prepare cake mix as package directs.
Prepare pans by spraying with vegetable spray (Pam). Place about 2 tbs. flour pan(s) and swirl to dust the bottom and sides. This makes removing the cake easier.
Pour batter into one 13×9” or two 8” round pans.
Using a teaspoon, put little drops of raspberries over the batter. Use the baking times from the box as a guideline, cake may take a little longer.
Let cool enough to handle.
For 13×9” cake let cool till just warm. Ice with cream cheese icing (it will melt in slightly) and serve warm.
For double layer cake:
Remove cake by inverting a plate over the cake and flipping the plate and cake over. You want the bottom of the cake to be on the cake serving plate, so do this again with the cake serving plate. Spread the cake top with some raspberry preserves. They should melt in.
Place second cake on top, both tops of the cake should be together. This gives you a flat cake surface (baker’s secret!)
I like to put some icing on while the cake is still warm so it melts in. Fill in the gaps between cake tops (middle of cake) with icing. Let cool then chill to make the icing firm.
Ice the sides then the top of the cake with the remaining icing until you no longer see the chocolate.
A nice presentation is to drizzle chocolate syrup on the plate. Warm the preserves in the microwave for a few seconds and drizzle that with the chocolate. Place slice of cake on plate and drizzle a little more preserves over the chocolate cake.
Enjoy!
Variations:
Ice with chocolate icing.
Use strawberries in place of raspberries.
Use white cake mix with chopped (canned or frozen/thawed/drained) apples and walnuts.
Use white cake mix with chopped (canned or frozen/thawed/drained) peaches and raspberries, top with vanilla cool whip.
Check out the YouTube Video for slides of the cake making process.
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Confession #19 ~The Stash

the seed stash

the seed stash

While sorting through my collection of seed packets I realized I need to make another confession.
I hoard seeds.

Ever since I found out that seeds only lose some viability each season (something the seed companies don’t want you to know) I have saved the leftover seeds each year.

Throwing out leftover seeds is about as difficult for me as thinning seedlings.
After all, that’s a healthy growing plant, who am I to decide which ones live and which do not?

I know it’s for the greater good, and I do it; but I really don’t like it.

I try to space the seeds far enough apart to reduce the need to thin, but it doesn’t always work that way. Doing that also leaves me with leftover seeds…really leftover.
I found seeds packets tonight from 2002.
More than one. (Talk about a confession.)

I know they are probably not viable anymore.
I should just toss them out and get it over with…
I can’t do it.

I think instead I’ll mix up all the seeds that are prior to 2007.
Come Spring I’ll just take one garden bed and toss them all in.
I won’t be able to space them properly, not knowing what they are.

I know, I’ll just thin the seedlings as needed.
Wait a minute…

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Not So Impossible Quiche

“Quiche” sounds complicated, but it is easy to make and inexpensive. Great for dinner or Sunday brunch.

You will need:
1 Pillsbury pie crust
14 oz. frozen loose chopped spinach
4 sliced mushrooms
½ cup chopped onion (1 medium)
2 tsp. garlic powder
1 cup shredded Cheddar Jack cheese
¼ cup imitation bacon bits*
2 cups (16 oz.) Eggbeaters (aprox.)
Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Place the spinach in a colander (strainer) and thaw by running warm water over it. Press to remove excess water, let dry.
Let the pie crust come to room temperature and remove from package. Place in 9” pie tin and crimp using your thumbs and forefingers.
Fill crust with spinach, mushrooms, onion, garlic powder and cheese. Pour in enough Eggbeaters to fill the crust.
Add bacon bits. Sprinkle parmesan cheese over the top, covering the other fillings.
Bake until eggs are solid and crust starts to brown, aprox. 40-45 minutes. Serve warm.
I just served this to my vegetarian 17 year-old and she “inhaled it”.
Hints: I cover a cookie sheet with tin foil to catch any spills.
You can also make two at a time, freezing one for another meal. For individual microwaveable servings: let cool, slice and wrap servings separately in plastic wrap before freezing.
*Substitute: chopped bacon or ham
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Tis the Season

If you ask a gardener in this zone 5/6 area when the growing season starts, they will probably answer Memorial Day Weekend. This is generally considered to be the time of year that is safe from frost.
If you ask a die-hard gardener, they might answer March. That is the earliest you can plant snow peas around here; that is if your garden isn’t covered in the white stuff. (I probably shouldn’t admit this, but there was a time I would shovel the snow off an area large enough to plant the snow peas. I have since recovered from that urge.)
If you ask a gardening addict when the season starts, they will answer November. This is the time of year that seed catalogs begin to arrive. Oh, the excitement of opening your mailbox and finding the first of the season, much like eating your first homegrown tomato each summer. Some days I get as many as three!
I love looking at seed catalogs. Some are beautifully illustrated. All offer the biggest, best, and most abundant. I especially look forward to the new hybrids of the season. Bizarre and beautiful are the pictures of these vegetables, enticing me to try something new.
Look out stomach…this year I’m planting Burning Bush ™ Hybrid Peppers!

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King Crab Bisque

This was one of the most popular items at our restaurant, and so easy even I can cook it.

Ingredients:

3 (6 oz.) cans Chicken of the Sea crabmeat
1 slice bacon
3 Tbs. butter
1/4 cup flour
1 cup chopped onions
2 cups diced potatoes
1 quart cream
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. Old Bay seasoning
1/2 tsp. Thyme
salt & pepper to taste

Saute bacon in butter slowly over low heat in a soup pot, about 10 minutes.

Add onion, potatoes, bay leaf, Old Bay and thyme.
Continue sauteing for 20 minutes.

Add the flour and mix thoroughly.

Cook over low heat an additional 15 minutes.

Add the crab and cream.

Slowly bring the temperature up to just below a simmer and cook for 5 minutes to blend the flavors.
You now have a delicous crab soup and can stop right here.

To make a bisque, let the soup cool and run through your blender or food processor till smooth.

Reheat.

Enjoy!
Serves 10

Here is the YouTube video
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Triple Berry Cheesecake


Ever since I saw the Triple Berry Cheesecake on Cafe’ World I’ve been wanting some. This is an easy recipe and the result is to die for.

1 Keebler Brand Ready Made Crust, Chocolate
2 pkg.(8 oz. each) reduced fat Philadelphia Brand Cream Cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 egg beaters (or 2 eggs)

Heat oven to 325°F
Beat cream cheese, sugar and vanilla with mixer until well blended. Add egg substitute, (if using real eggs, beat in one at a time) mixing until blended. Pour into crust.
Bake 25min. (ovens vary) or until the top is just about dry. Refrigerate 1 1/2 hours or until chilled.
Topping:
1 cup each blueberries, strawberries (sliced) and raspberries
1/4 cup Maple Grove Farms Strawberry Syrup
I used frozen berries, thawed. Simply mix together.
Drizzle with Hershey’s Double Chocolate Sundae Syrup.
Serves 8 (or 2 women 4 times)
View the video
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Baked French Onion Soup


3 oz. butter
5 large onions, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed
3 cups beef broth*
3 cups chicken broth
1 Tbs. white wine
Peel onions, cut in half and thinly slice into semi-circles. Sauté onions and garlic in butter over medium-low heat. The onions need to cook slowly, as they turn brownish their sugars will naturally be released and add a vast amount of flavor. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a slow boil.
Ladle carefully into oven safe crocks. Top with croutons, Swiss cheese and parmesan cheese. Bake in 350F/177C degree oven for 10 minutes. Nice served with toasted French bread.
Makes about 8 serving depending on the capacity of the crocks.
*Vegetarian substitute: 6 cups vegetable broth
*You can also use all beef broth, substitute port wine
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Digging Holes

A WWII Vet I know grows great vegetables. Really really great vegetables. His wife told me their secret: in the fall he digs holes around the vegetable bed. Then, instead of using a fancy-schmancy composter, they simply put their kitchen scraps etc. into the holes. Until the ground freezes they cover them up with dirt. Come Spring they lightly till in the compost.
Now I know this goes against the recommended method of composting: layering the right balance of brown and green materials and turning regularly to aid the breakdown. I’m not saying I’m not going to continue to do this method over the winter.
But for today, I’m also digging holes.

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