Sunday, July 27, 2008

Try It, You'll Like It

Because it is hot and because just about everything seems like anything else is too much trouble, I will post my summer staple foods:

Requires the stove to be on
Tuna Pasta Salad. Not only cheap, but tasty. This is a variation on a recipe that my Mom has made for ever. Have I posted this one before.... Please tell me if I am repeating myself.

Pasta (penne, macaroni, or something else bite sized) cook this and drain it and run it under cold water. Chop up about 1/4 cup of red or mild onion and mix it with the pasta, a can of tuna (drained) 3/4 of a regular sized cucumber (peeled and chopped) 1-2 tablespoons of capers (drained and rinsed) add mayo until it is the way you like it and add salt and pepper. It is excellent really cold. Mom's recipe is macaroni, tuna, onion, dill pickle relish (instead of capers) and thawed frozen peas (instead of cuke).

Does not require the stove to be on:
One large tomato, 1/2 a peeled cuke, 5-8 olives, 1 inch chunk of feta, 5-6 leaves of basil - all chopped, and doused with about 2T. red wine vinegar, 1/2 t. balsamic vinegar, 1 t. olive oil, salt and pepper.

Let me introduce you to my new favorite blog... One of the residents who trained with us just moved to New Zealand with his wife and two small children (3 and less than 1) for a year. His blog is pretty entertaining. All about culture shock, some professional, but mostly culinary at this point. Check 'em out.

The SB thinks I am crazy for wanting 10 ducks. Actually, he doesn't think I am crazy, he just thinks I am asking for trouble from the City if we have too many. Perhaps he is right, but they have a minimum order of 10. What to do, what to do? Anyone interested in 4 or so ducks? I am already trying to think of names for them. The SB gets to name any cat we have so I think I will reserve the right to name the ducks. I am less committed to naming the chickens, so I can offer him that.

I planted beets and beans and some late season greens. Hoping to get some broccoli started soon so I can get it in as it starts to cool down. The beets and beans are coming up gangbusters and I just put them in last weekend. I want to keep planting more since they are so successful, but I have to reserve some space for my garlic. I can't remember when that is supposed to arrive, but I ordered it this spring to arrive at the proper planting time so that I wouldn't forget. I think it is September.

Still no sign of the battery charger. If I had a camera, I would show you how great my tomato plants outside my door look and how much my wee lemon tree has grown this year and maybe even a picture of the F.A.T. groundhogs that still seem to be infesting the place, though are not currently in the garden. And I would show you the berries that are forming on my raspberry plants.

Tonight we celebrate my oldest nephew's b-day (a little early, but...) He is apparently into chocolate these days, so I will be making chocolate ice cream. I wanted to put coffee in it, but figured since it is the kid's birthday, I should keep to more kid friendly flavors. I do have some hazelnut chocolate nutella like stuff that I am going to swirl in at the end. We'll see how that goes.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Not Dead.

The SB is up in Maryland working on projects with our friend H. The weekend is planned to be 4 guys out at a cabin carving a giant crocodile out of wood and drinking beer. I will not compare this with my more regular like 8-5 government type job, but suffice to say, it ain't like that. I get weekends off, dammit. So there.

In the several weeks he was home he worked like a dog. Unfortunately, that meant I worked like a dog as well. We started his time at home by buying some expensive and useful tools. A chop saw. And a screw gun. Then we went to work on the basement. We crammed stuff into corners and cubbies to reveal wall space and eventually hung two metal cabinets that have been in the way for about 8 years. We then crammed them full of stuff. That took care of about 1/42nd of the junk in the basement. But it is a start.

He also cleared one of the property lines of brush and weeds and has created a new bed for fall planting. The SB, ever vigilant, was able to stop the tree butchers from "trimming" our trees while they were in the 'hood, and even talked them into giving us some of the chopped tree refuse. We now have about 9 cubic yards of mulch piled up. Some of it now spread on the new bed to keep weeds down and add organic matter so the new plantings will have a good go of it.

Next we started to finish the wall around the basement bathroom. Oddly, our basement came with a toilet in it. No sink and no real walls, more like what you would find inside a bathroom... little stall walls with a curtain across the front. Those are all long gone and we found a pedestal sink and put that in. Half of the framing for the wall has been done for about 2 years. The SB put in more framing and hung the door. So now we have an unsheathed wall but we definitely have a door. Which is awesome since it get something else out of the way. More to do on that project, but progress.

Finally, last weekend, we put in half a patio. Under the porch we have always wanted to lay some paving bricks that we bought about 6 years ago. Over the course of 2 days we moved a lot of dirt and 3/4 ton of gravel and about a billion bricks (most of it more than once) and we are the proud owners of about 100 square feet of patio. We ate pizza on it to christen it last Sunday. Now it is covered in junk, but I am sure we will see it again someday.

I have done almost nothing in the weeks the SB has been home but work on the house, cook and babysit. My apologies to the LB, to whom I still owe a dress. Which I am working on today.

In the success column, yeah Mother Nature, who has been providing me with plenty of blackberries to go in my breakfast yogurt.

Thank the heavens that groundhogs are short, because I have managed to pick about 6 or 7 pounds of peaches from our tree this year. Most of them have a small critter in residence, so I definitely have to cut around them, but it is exciting. They are quite tasty and considering that I don't think I sprayed them AT ALL this spring, I think they have done remarkably well. I'll try to do better next year, but I think you don't get good peaches going the completely organic route. I'll have to do more research. I made peach ice cream yesterday. It turned out to be very good vanilla ice cream with chunks of peach in it. Oh well. Maybe next time I will follow the recipe and crush up the peaches. But actually, I think the beauty of a peach is sort of quashed when it is frozen. The flavor is better when they are warm from the sun. Last year I remember having my last summer peaches chopped up and mixed into hot oatmeal on one of the cooler fall mornings and it was pretty much like heaven. I am now considering a chest freezer and an ice cream maker as my next major purchases.

I planted more kale and chard and beets and some beans. The groundhogs don't seem to be in the garden right now. The potatoes are coming along. I have some teeny weeny watermelons. And I harvested quite a few small onions. Like the SB says. Good thing we aren't subsistence farmers. I pickled exactly one quart of okra pickles yesterday. I suspect some of them will be quite woody, but I thought I would give it a go anyway. If they taste good, I'll plant more okra next year. The groundhogs left it completely alone.

I harvested my first two crimson carmello tomatoes yesterday. To find that they really weren't quite done. But they were fine. I used them to make baked eggs. You cut off the top of the tomato and scoop out the inside and then put a little butter inside the tomato and crack a small egg and fill the center. Sprinkle it with salt and pepper and bake in the oven (or in my case the toaster oven) at 400 for about 30 minutes. I cooked mine too long, but they were still edible. I used the innards of the tomato to make a little salsa-y thing with red onion and vinegar and basil and put that on top with some fresh goat cheese from the market.

I have been dreaming of chickens and ducks lately. I went so far as to go here and fill out an order form for ducks (knowing full well I wouldn't submit it). I have to order 10 ducks though. Which seems like a lot. But, well, I am getting more ambitious. I think I could do 10 ducks - knowing that I would lose a few one way or the other and probably end up with 6. And now I am thinking I need about 6 chickens. I don't want to order chicks though. I just want chickens. Ducklings are another story. I really want me some ducklings. So I may have to wait until spring. The SB hopes to get a chicken house in for me before the end of summer, but I suspect that it will have to wait until winter break for him. He has so much else to do. I already have people lined up to buy eggs from me from chickens I don't even have.

I have lost my battery charger in the current chaos, so no photos. Which stinks, b/c I wanted to show you the patio and the peach tree and the baby watermelons. And I would have loved to show you a picture of the blacksnake we found on Fourth of July. The birds pointed him out as he was trying to climb the tree for the nests, but decided against it when all the attention came down on him. We saw him later crossing the giant field of just laid mulch in the new bed and shooed him into the brush pile to keep him from heading to our neighbors picnic where we didn't expect he would get much of a welcome.

I am going out to check on the bees soon. I haven't seen them in more than a month. I am sure they miss me.