Monthly Archives: July 2018

Convertible Tomatoes

My job today is to pick up food, specifically non-red tomatoes (seconds) at the farm so I can make a large batch of stewed tomatoes to freeze. (I really need to learn to can some day!)

Why stewed tomatoes? What I make the most with tomatoes is marinara or chili. I have other favorites: a tomato-potato-cheese casserole and a tomato-potato soup. (The casserole is from the Vegetarian Epicure #2; the soup from Joy of Cooking.)

I was trying to find a common base to freeze, rather than making separate batches, like last year. It seemed that what I was describing was old-fashioned stewed tomatoes.  If I freeze cooked tomatoes with onion, bell pepper, a little basil, and parsley, I can add pesto, garlic, etc. for marinara or add chilis or salsa verde for chili or other Mexican food.  I  can use the mix for marinara, chili, or the tomato-potato dishes. Win!

So rather than making 4 different recipes this year, I intend to make one. (Last year I froze batches of marinara and chili base with both red and non-red tomatoes: 2 recipes, 2 different ways.) With my much smaller freezer area, I don’t have room! I ran out of non-red tomatoes sometime in Januray.

I needed a different solution and this is it! A dozen quarts of stewed tomatoes in the pantry would greatly help, but as I said, I don’t can . . . .

stewed tomatoes

As usual the image isn’t mine. Genius Kitchen via images.google.com .

Someone Got It!

New hygenist at the dentist. Talked about the PTSD and the hoarding/dehoarding. She asked me, “What’s your degree in, or did you get one?”

She understood the reason I never did, without my telling her specifically. I’m sure my family thinks I’m just too lazy or maybe too intimidated. That’s not it. Same thing as the dehoarding or finishing almost anything: makes me too visible and I want to panic.

I was gobsmacked. People get this who know me. But most people don’t draw the line between why I became a hoarder and why I didn’t get a 4 year or more degree.

Either I’m telling the stories better, or she’s just really bright about people.

Not sure which!

Weird Ways to Save $, Mostly in the Garden

I’m always looking for ways to implement my 3 basic ideas to save $ (use less, find a cheaper subsititute, or do without), here’s a few.

  • Manila Envelopes: Seem to fail most often on the T-shaped clasp. Use one side at a time instead of both. When one fails/breaks off, use the other.
  • Lawn:  1) Deliberately let a part of the lawn go to moss, if it wants to do that. Will you win a house beautiful contest? No, but moss usually stays green without fertilizer and doesn’t need to be mowed. 2) Fill in bare spots with a no-mow grass seed mix. 3) Deliberately let the edges of the lawn (or a patch) go to seed and collect the seed to use on any bare spots. 4) Change part of the lawn to something else, a patio or path, using stone, pavers, mulch, etc.
  • Plants: Get more plants by getting out of the way and letting them do what they want! For something like forsythia, put a rock on the middle of an outer branch and it will grow roots where the branch hits the ground. Two bushes for the price of one! (It’s called layering.) Divide bulbs and plant both bulbs slightly farther apart. Works with day lillies, daffs, etc. Or, let the plant go to seed. We have an edge of “cup of gold” day lilies lining part of our drive. Most of these were grown from seed, obtained from the one plant I bought or other landscaping. We have a layer of bracken (ferns) along the top of a stone retaining wall. Cost? Nothing. I layer leaves of the bracken where I want the ferns to be the next year and there they grow!
  • Fertilizer/Mulch: 1) Compost your grass clippings and use the compost. 2) Make use of your community’s leaf pile/shrubbery pile for compost or as a source for items to compost. 3) Find a farm who will sell you soiled straw or composted manure. Not so easy in the city, but pretty easy where we live. I have found chicken farms who would let you haul off their soiled straw for free, folks who raise beefalo who would deliver it in small area, etc. 4) Use your coffee grounds or spent tea.
  • Trellising: Find ways to reuse what you have. At one point, the bean trellis here was made from 2 paperback spinners, a TV antenna, and various card rack bits, because it was what we had to hand.

I hope there’s at least one thing in there you haven’t thought of yet!

“Almost Instant” Chili from Fresh Ingredients

I dream about “bowls of red,” that is, slow simmered, meaty chili made with abundant quantities of traditional tomatoes. I grew up in So. Cal., so chili has always been part of what I eat by preference.

Except. I cannot eat red tomatoes in quantity any more. It isn’t worth the 3 in the morning gut ache, even when I make it myself. The result of this is that I make many “chilis” using salsa verde as the base, which I like. But it’s not the same.

Today was farm day and I was fairly conservative about the different items I got, in most cases I got more than 1 item. (You’re allowed so many items a week, this season, it has been 8 all year.) They had quantities of non-red, greenhouse tomatoes, so I got 4 lbs of tomatoes, or 2 items worth.

This was also the first PYO for peppers — jalpenos, so I got some of those too.

I put this together from what I had acquired today or already had on hand.

Take 4 large non-red greenhouse tomatoes, wash them and cut off any hard core or other not so great spots. Put the tomatoes into a sauce pan with a little oil and smash them down with a potato smasher. Simmer.

Stem, seed and then slice a med-lg jalapeno, add that to the tomatoes and keep cooking. In a small frypan, put in a little oil again, and cut up a fresh bulb onion in largish pieces. Saute the onion, add chili powder. Cook til almost cooked through but not quite. Add the onions to the still simmering tomatoes. Put 1/2 lb ground beef in the fry pan, add about 1T cumin and cook to crumbles (cooked not crusty). Add the leaves of about 1/2 bunch cilantro. Cook until well wilted. Add the meat/cilantro to the tomato mixture.

Pull some of the liquid from the pan, put it in another bowl and add about 1T flour, stir til smooth, return it to the tomatoes. Taste. Add beef demiglace to add richness, about 2t.

Serve with generous amounts of grated cheddar cheese.

This is acceptable  chili, but not an outstanding one. It would have been better for adding the meat and letting the entire thing simmer for an hour or so, but that didn’t happen. It’s closer to a “bowl of red” than I’ve had in more than a year, so I’ll take it! (The left overs, the next day, were better because the flavors had blended.)

NOTE: This is seasoned as it is because: I love cumin and my husband loves cilantro. I also like more salt than he does. He likes a lot more pepper than I do, so we add salt and pepper ourselves and I don’t cook with it.

Rainy Day “Almost Instant” Chicken Soup

It was pouring earlier today. Not a day I want to drive to a farm or go pick my own at the farm either, — so no farm today.

That’s a  problem only because I was planning dinner from the farm, as I usually do the days I go. Digging through the freezer, I found a package of chicken bones, $4.33 worth at $2.75 a pound. That’s approx 1.57 lbs of bones and meat. There were 3 backs in the package.

So I started a pot of water boiling and plop in the brick of frozen chicken. Skim the worst of it off in a few minutes. Separate the pieces when I can. Keep simmering. After an hour, I’m pretty sure the meat is cooked, I pull the first back from the pot. Cut off the tail, fat and skin and then scrape the remaining  meat off.

I use a tool for this I’ve never seen/heard anyone else talk about for this purpose. I use a pickle fork, like this one:

pickle forkj

The little barbs on the end make shredding the small bits of meat as I scrape it from the bone really easy. That means I don’t have to CHOP the meat. Most of it is so small I’d have to do that minimally anyway, but the pickle fork pretty much guarantees that I don’t need to.

I’ve done two of the backs (the 3rd is cooling while I write this) and I have a cereal bowl of chicken shreds, ready to go back into the soup with carrots, celery, onion, potato, and more seasoning. Pretty much just before I serve it, I’ll add some chopped red pepper and peas. (I put some rosemary and peppercorns in the water with the chicken.)

I expect I’ll need to add some better than bullion (demiglace) to actually have flavorful stock, I don’t have time to simmer this down, skim it, chill it, remove the fat, season it and then make soup. If I was making rich stock, I should have at least put the bones back in! I’m not for two reasons: I skimmed the marrow out earlier and I don’t have time to chill it to remove excess fat. I did skim off most of the excess fat too.

This isn’t really instant soup. It will have cooked 3- 3.5 hours by the time we eat dinner. However, compared to traditional from scratch, home-made stock with fresh veggies added? Yep, it qualifies as “almost instant”!

Yield: 10C broth (NOT stock!) and 2C meat shreds, about .36 a cup (10 c broth + 2c meat = 12C, $4.33/12 = approx .36 a cup. Does not include fuel, other veggies, herbs, water, demiglace, Our typical serving is 1.5C (the size of our soup crocks). If you figure everything else costs 3x the amount of the broth/chicken, then it’s .36  + .18 +1.62. Or, it’s $2.16 a serving. Certainly cheaper than any organic broth, meat, veggie combination you can buy!)

Not Sugar Snaps!

Friday night in the midst of the heat wave, I made a double batch of rice. We had steamed veggies & rice for dinner that night, and the idea was that we’d have fried rice the next night.

Except we went out instead.

The farm didn’t have peas this week, like I expected them to, so we had no snow peas. I really wanted snow peas!

DH loves scallions in fried rice. To me? Any onion will do, we have summer bulb onions and baby leeks, but he wanted scallions.

The answer was obvious, go to the market, which we did. DH stayed in the car and I went in for scallions, snow peas and maybe ice cream or sorbet (we were low). I found the scallions easily enough. Found packages of sugar snap peas, which that wasn’t what I wanted. Eventually, I found a small display of snow peas.

But the tags over the counter said, “Sugar Snap Peas, $7.99/bag” there were bagged Sugar Snap Peas on this counter too. And the other sign with a price for peas on it said, “Sugar Snap Peas, $4.99/lb”. Except there were no loose Sugar Snap Peas there, and no price for the Snow Peas which were?

So I go to the customer service desk. The lady there pages someone from produce. Ends up it’s the only person in produce and they don’t have a price list. End result? I got some snow peas in a bag, went to the frozen food section to get a box if the price was too high. No frozen snow peas. Okay. So I grab a bag of regular Birdseye frozen peas, just in case.

Get to the checker. Tell her “They’re SNOW PEAS!” except she doesn’t have a price for those in the computer or on her list. So, they charged me .80 for my small bag of snow peas (which showed up on the receipt and her computer as Sugar Snap Peas) and I got the bag of frozen peas too.

Then DH made fried rice. And you know what? He forgot to use them, so I still didn’t get my snow peas!

IT’S A PLOT I TELL YOU A PLOT!!! (smirk)

Just so you know, this is a snow pea:

snow pea

See how it’s flat and you can see the peas through it? It’s a traditional, oriental pea. Wiki article here.

This is a Sugar Snap Pea:

sugar snap pea

Snap pea article here.  Snap peas are modern, you’ll find if you read the article.

Both peas are eaten pods and all. I like Sugar Snap Peas, but not in stir fry, because they take longer to cook and I like the taste of Snow Peas better. No real reason, I just do.

There are 3 basic types of peas btw, the two above and English or shelling peas. Those have more fibrous pods and usually people don’t eat the pods. There is a traditional English soup which uses the pods and mint (I’ve also seen lettuce). You can find a recipes for that by searching for “pea pod soup.”

I never, ever thought I’d write a blog about peas, more, I never thought I’d have a reason to!

Stigma & Shame Links

I found this about stigma the other day. You might be interested? link

And while we’re talking about the good or bad the internet can bring, you may want to listen to this TED talk I found last week which talks about shame as well.

My personal experience was that shame was the biggest single thing which kept me from healing. link

J