June 20, 2010

Garden Update - First Harvest

It's been very dry here in the Mason-Dixon line area these last few weeks.  However, there has been sufficient moisture to produce some nice salad greens and a bountiful crop of herbs. (Yeah, New Zealand!!!!! Sorry, watching the NZ-Italy soccer game and NZ managed a tie!)

Here are some pictures of the first harvest.  I love fresh salad greens and herbs.  I picked most of the baby spinach (it has started to bolt in the heat).  I also picked a nice batch of mesclun mix, thinning out the bolting arugula which gets a bit too strong in that stage.  The mix consists of Black-seeded Simpson, Red Sails, Oak Leaf, and Romaine lettuces.  I pulled some to allow others to grow larger.  Those will provide cut-and-come-again lettuce throughout much of the summer if they get sufficient water.  The Black-seeded Simpson is very heat tolerant.  

Next, I picked herbs.  They are doing beautifully!  I cut bronze fennel, parsley, thyme, basil, sorrel, dill, and cilantro.
Everything else is going well.  The tomatoes are growing nicely and beginning to set fruit.  The squash and cucumbers are thriving.  I thinned the gillfeather turnips - they are a first for me, so we will see how they make out.  Peas should have been planted much earlier, but they are thriving and the string beans will bear next week.  These aren't primal vegetables, but in moderation (80/20 rule), they are fine, in my opinion.  I also have a few fingerling potatoes growing for an occasional treat.  Peppers look lovely.  My new find this year is an eggplant that is apparently immune to flea beetles!  I bought two varieties.  One plant has the usual chewed flea beetle appearance, while the other is full leaved and twice as tall!  It's an heirloom variety, which I will look up and post at some point.  Onions are a little sad - they like plenty of water.  I don't supplement water on my garden preferring to see which plants tolerate drought conditions better for future reference.

As some things mature and are harvested (spinach for example), I will replace those spots in the raised beds with other things like late fall lettuce, kale, etc.  For lunch today, I cut up some of the fresh parsley into the chicken salad I made (see last post).  It added just the right amount of herbal freshness.  Can't wait for tomatoes!

June 18, 2010

A Chicken in Every Pot

     It's been a while since the last post.  School wound down and finally ended on June 16th.  Then we decided to unload some stuff in a yard sale this weekend so my daughter and I were busy rounding up household items, pricing them, making signs, etc.  Pennsylvania yard sales generally run on Friday and Saturday around here, so our first day was today.  It was a bit slow but the weather was incredible - low 80s, very dry, and clear blue skies.  I packed up the sale around 2 pm, had one "late bird" and then it was time for dinner.  
     Freezers are nice and convenient but you also have to remember to take the meat out to thaw at some point and I am always forgetful about that.  Part of the problem is that I tend to cook what I feel like eating and don't plan menus days ahead of time.  Anyway, I had to decide what to do with a four-pack of frozen chicken breasts.  It's very hard these days to get bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts.  Everyone seems to think we want those flavorless, fatless, sad-looking skinless things.  I saw some nice regular chicken breasts at the local market the other day with skin and bones, thank you, and they happened to be buy one, get one free!  I picked up two four-packs.  Granted, these are not my favorite pastured chickens from a local Amish farmer, but the package did promise them to be antibiotic and hormone-free at least.  
     So, what to do with frozen solid chicken?  I decided to make some chicken salad for this beautiful summer day.  I used a heavy saute pan with a lid, added about 1/2 inch of water, placed the frozen breasts in the water, added salt, pepper, and some herb mix (more about that later), turned on the heat, and let her simmer for about 2 hours. My  "late bird" yard saler came to the door to pay for some items and remarked that "something cooking sure smells good."  One of the cats came to the porch window and cried for supper early, lured by the smell.  The dog followed me about the kitchen hoping for some handouts.  It did smell good!
     Once the breasts cooled, I removed the skin, shredded the meat into a bowl, and placed the skin and bones back into the broth.  I let them simmer for another hour.  The broth turned rich and golden.  I wish I could send some to Jimmy Moore who has been suffering with walking pneumonia (see the Livin' LaVida Low Carb side link).  Here are the before and after pictures:

That is good stuff!  Next, I took the chicken and made the salad.  I was low on mayo and didn't even have enough oil to make any, so I used what I had and added it to some sour cream with touch of wasabi. A little salt, pepper, and the aforementioned herb mix, and the result was a delicious dressing with a hint of wasabi.  Next, I cut up a few purple grapes and chopped up a few macadamia nuts, tossed them in with the dressing and meat. Grapes have plenty of sugar but the total any one person would get is about three, so I don't think that's enough to stress over.  The macadamias are high in omega-3s unlike most nuts.   The result was quite tasty!

The end result was a quart sized container of chicken salad, a quart of wonderful broth for another meal, and enough meat to make curry, or some other dish tomorrow.  Not bad from four chicken breasts!

Finally, sometimes you just have to have a little dessert.  I had some Asian pears in the refrigerator.  I cut these up into chunks, sprinkled with cinnamon, added a scant handful of dark chocolate chips (sue me), and a couple of pats of butter.  Put that baby in the microwave for a few minutes and voila, a tasty and satisfying dessert.  The Asian pears are not too sweet, the chips add just enough chocolate for a taste, and the butter, cinnamon, and juices from the pears make a lovely sauce on the bottom.  Picture, you say?  But of course!
Finally, I promised to tell you about the herb mix.  My local supermarket, owned by a local family, decided about two years ago to dedicate half the store to sections that feature organic foods, gluten-free products, vitamins and natural remedies, etc.  They even have raw milk and cheese products (allowed in Pennsylvania).  I appreciate their efforts and hope that they continue to do well.  They are Saubel's in Shrewsbury (the other two stores they own do not have these products).  Whoever buys for them often picks products that I do not find in similar sections in Wegman's or Whole Foods.  Saubel's tends to feature smaller scale manufacturers and producers and will carry local farm produce as well.  The long story short of it is I found this very tasty product a couple of weeks ago there.  It's called Herbamare by A. Vogel.  It's a very flavorful blend of sea salt and vegetables and herbs, all organic and gluten-free.  I chose the Italian blend - they do have others.  I don't have anything to do with this company but I don't mind supporting a good product.
     Satisfying end to a great summer day!

June 02, 2010

A Bacon Hot Dog Odyssey

What to have for dinner?  I don't want beef - had that last night.  I don't want eggs - had those this morning.  Chicken is frozen in the freezer and I only have whole chickens, so that would take too long to thaw.  I know....hot dogs!  I bought nitrite-free dogs the other day and using the grill will keep the house cooler.  Hmm, what to have with them?  I know... I'll wrap them with bacon.  And cheese....yeah, I'll stuff them with cheese.  Hey, Caroline, make some guacomole, will you?  She makes the best and it will go well with the dogs.  Out to the grill...fire it up.  Slice the dogs down the middle, stuff with cheese, wrap with bacon. Toothpicks would help but I don't have those, so we'll do the best we can with what we've got.

The cats follow me out to the grill, hoping for a handout.  Sorry, kids.  None for you.  Yummm, the smell of bacon on the grill.
Close the lid...cook a bit...take a peek.  Smoky goodness.  Use tongs to turn the dogs...watch the flames!

These are turning out surprisingly well.  The smell is outrageous.  Sizzling, smoking, smelling delicious!

Patience, patience.  Turn slowly with tongs to crisp all sides.  Some of the cheese drips into the flames, but there is enough left.  Try cheddar next time instead of mozzarella.

Finished product.  Time to eat.  Bye!