Monday, May 31, 2010

Happy Memorial Day - Kiddo Recipe week postponed

Hello all -
My greatest apologies. I seemed to have forgotten this was a holiday weekend and just haven't gotten any kiddo recipes together yet. Stay tuned until next week!

I do have one yucky piece of information to post: Corn worms!
Not sure their actual name - but my lovely corn is all full of big, nasty worms eating up the sweet delicious crop. So, i harvested all the ears that were mature enough to look like ears, picked out all the nasty worms, clipped off the nasty worm chewed bits, fed the worms and bits to the chooks and stuck the untainted corn cobs into the fridge. We'll be boiling corn tonight!  I guess i'm not as keen on growing corn again next year as i thought: my body is covered in rashy itch-fest (i'm allergic to grass and corn is one big honkin' grass!) and with only about 3-4 pounds of corn harvested i'd rather just grow my beans on poles, thank you.

Have a great holiday, and i'll be back in force tomorrow!

Friday, May 28, 2010

From Sun Dress to Skirt!

I have two identical sundresses - different colors. They used to have straps, which i removed to make cute strapless sundresses. Alas, i've gained some weight and they're now a bit tight in the bosom area! I'm keeping one whole, it may be tight but it's still cute and Summery. But the other i'm chopping into a comfy, fluffy skirt!
Bonus - the top bit now acts as a cute strapless bra/ sunning top. It will help solve many "i don't have a strapless bra so i can't wear this pretty dress/shirt" dilemmas in the future, i'm sure!

I am SO in love with this skirt! It is the most comfortable and downhomecountrycute thing i have ever worn. I wore it the rest of the day: it's comfy for gardening, drawing, walking, sitting on the couch, snuggling, EVERYTHING! My husband loves it as much as i do, so i had better make at least 6 more so that i can wear one every day. I think i'll be scouring the thrift stores for flouncy sun dresses to dismantle from now on!

Method in brief:

  • Decide how long you want it to be: i cut 11 inches above the edge of the fluff at the bottom
  • This skirt has a liner, so i pinned it first, then cut
  • Straight stitch along the top to keep the liner and skirt together
  • Fold over 1/4 inch, iron
  • Fold over 1/2 inch, iron
  • Cut a length of elastic to just tighter than where you want it to set and sew together
  • Pin the beginning of the elastic within your little hem and start sewing!
  • I used a straight left stitch - this way the pressure foot (and my guiding fingers) held the elastic towards what would be the top of the skirt and sewed the hem to the edge of the fold. You'll have to stretch the elastic at the end
  • The result is a very comfortable, slightly bunched top
 Sweet golfing action shot! Circa 1 year ago: smaller me, more dress.


Lounging, playing, swimming, driving, biking: this skirt is comfy and swell in oh so many ways. 
I'm very tempted to hack the other dress too.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Recipe: Tuna Casserole

I may not have taken any pictures of this delicious meal, but i felt this particular draft worth posting. I'd been very 'good' all week long - eating small dinners with low carbs, eating the 'right' number of calories throughout the day, and limiting my wine consumption to nearly socially tolerable amounts. I felt i owed myself a Friday night meal of delicious. This is what i came up with.

Tuna Casserole
(portions are approximate - Serves two generously, 3 with smaller portions)
  • 2 cans tuna in water, drained
  • 1/2 pint raw milk
  • 2 slices cheddar, diced (about 2 ounces probably)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 onion, diced
  • Some garlic
  • Generous sprinkle hot smoked paprika
  • Pinch oregano - dried
  • Pinch turmeric - dried
  • 1 diced jalapeno
  • Frozen peas - 1/2 to 1 cupish
  • Whole wheat shells pasta
  • Splash white wine
  • Salt / pepper
  • Sprinkle chilly powder
  • 3 egg yolks
  • Seasoned bread crumbs
    • 2 pieces of bread sprayed with olive oil spray, sprinkled in salt and herbs, set on top of the toaster oven while it pre heated for the casserole
Oven at 350.
2 saucepans:
In one, bring water to boil and cook the pasta according to directions. Drain.
Meanwhile put all the herbs and onions in the other saucepan with a splash of white wine. Simmer the onions until they begin to soften, don't let it dry out. Add milk. My milk separated a little from the acidic wine. This did not bother me. Simmer the milk with the herbs until the pasta is ready - try not to let it boil or reduce overly much.
In the casserole, place the chopped jalapeno and peas. When the pasta is ready, put it in the casserole and mix the veggies into it. Add the tuna and mix. You may want to add some seasoning directly to the pasta. Add the 3 egg yolks to the milk sauce and stir very well. Whisk it up! Don't let the yolks cook, per say. The yolks will thicken the sauce and make the whole casserole super decadent. You could probably use a lot more milk than i did - it's all i had. My casserole was not soupy - so go ahead and add more milk if you care to.  Remove the bay leaves and pour the milk sauce over noodles and mix well. Sprinkle cheese on top, mix in a little, then top with the bread crumbs.

Bake until it's bubbly and the bread is browning to your liking. About 20 or so minutes. I like how some of the noodles show and get crispy on the sides. The yolks really did make teh whole casserole rich - like butter would, but with protein maximized.  This made for a super delicious way to end the week - and though it was a bit heavy and carb loaded, there was still plenty of protein for my growing muscles and brain cells.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

New Summer Series!

Apologies to those expecting my weekly Wholesome Wednesdays post. I'm taking a break, just this week, in order to announce a new feature for my blog: a week long series of Summer/Kid-Friendly Recipes. I promise that WW will return next week: with green beans! Their lovely, slender forms are just appearing around my garden - and being snipped off and popped into my mouth before ever making their way into the kitchen.

This is my niece, Raina. Isn't she just the cutest thing?

She may be adorable, but she's got one picky palette, and i for one would like to see her eating more than just sliced ham. In honor of the approach of Summer and all the kid free-time and the heat that entails: I will be using this next week to post a series of Summer/Kid Friendly Recipes.  Disclaimer: I do not myself have kiddos (though we might be getting a puppy soon!), and i live far enough from my dear sister that the screams of 'no way will i eat this, mom!' will be unheard by me. But i will do my very best to work around Raina's limited palette, with maybe some alternatives that suit the likes/dislikes of some other kiddos and parents i know. The main goal for me will be to write some recipes that focus on:
  1. Seasonal produce
  2. Responsibly raised meat products
  3. Easily/quickly put together
  4. Avoid using the stove or oven
  5. Won't break the budget, and may easily accompany short Summer vacation trips
I've asked my sister to give me a list of Raina's likes and dislikes, and this is what i got (and it's not promising):

  • Black olives
  • pepperoni
  • cheese
  • ham
  • bacon
  • chicken
  • some spice - mexican or italian style
  • tortillas (sort of)
  • pasta
  • not many veggies, but she can pick them out.
  • apples
  • grapes
  • cantaloupe

  • mayonnaise
  • miracle whip (nasty sh*t)
  • veggies
  • things mixed together (yes, i know it's ridiculous)
  • and most other things are not under the Likes list. :) 
So how will i put together recipes that don't involve 'mixing things together' you may ask? I'm asking the same thing!   But check back in next week and see what i come up with, it should be interesting! Good thing i already have experience in "Maguivering" food together: my husband (then best friend) would call me on the phone with a plea of 'i haven't a thing to eat' whereupon i would calmly ask for a list of what he actually DID have on hand, and then put those (sometimes very odd) ingredients together to form something delicious. But we'll see - i'm not promising anything, sister! Let's hope at least one of the recipes that show up next week are something enjoyable to the little lady, or at least for the rest of my readers!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Chrysalis I Have Known

I love watching the lifecycles of animals, especially bugs. This year is a particularly fruitful year for my swallowtail butterfly friends. My yards became certified wildlife habitats last year, and i think i'm seeing the many catterpillars of last year returning to mate and lay eggs on this year's dill. The dill is huge this year (taller than me!), which is good because there are millions of caterpillars counting on it for food. They need to hurry up and eat the rest though, as it's shading my spring crops just a bit too much and going to seed everywhere. I'm saving some to replant next year, and hope some of the dill is still flowering for pickles this spring. The rest will have to be pulled if the caterpillars don't munch it down soon enough.

Check it out - you can see where the prior instar of the caterpillar is left
as a husk behind the new instar (life cycle of caterpillar)

Then one by one they scamper off (very fun to see a caterpillar 'hauling *ss' along the ground away from the dill) to find someplace suitable to caccoon themselves. Here are a few of the chrysalises (chrsyali?) i have been lucky enough to find. I've since found a few more hidden on the parsley plants and on other things - be careful what you pull when you're thinning out your gardens, there may be friends living there!

Soon these will turn into beautiful butterflies. I can never catch them on camera, but i found an almost perfectly preserved, dead butterfly clinging to a rosemary branch the other day. She now adorns my studio wall.

These guys are all black swallowtail butterflies. I saw a pipevine swallowtail cruising along the sidewalk the other day, not sure where he came from as there aren't many of his host plants around my yards.

Do you plant host plants for butterflies? What kinds?

Monday, May 24, 2010

Pondlet: FAIL A followup

Well, i failed. I was full of hope and optimism, but the old tub leaked. Luckily the fishes were not drowned, i scooped them into a bucket with the remaining water and plants until i could get them a replacement.  Neither craigslist or freecycle came through for me, and my wise mother  convinced me not to try and patch the old trough so i purchased one of  these. Boring and not re-used. I dug it partially into the ground: being in the ground will keep the water temperature more even, and being raised up will make me happy because i'll still have my foot rest. My darling husband gathered a bunch of limestone chunks (from an undisclosed location) for me to use as a decorative border: i think it looks quite nice.

The fish are quite happy, they don't mind the change. The rubber pond is made of materials non toxic to them, and they're pleased with the cooler water from the buried bottom.
There has been some drama, however: My big yellow hen, Belina was standing on the edge for a drink the other day, and slipped! She fell in! Poor fat thing flapped and struggled but couldn't get out, knocked the water plant over in the process too. Luckily i was watching and pulled her out: what's the phrase about a wet hen? She was not pleased!
What was most fascinating was the reaction of her friends: the other chickens were shaken up as much as she was! Olive, our usually silent lady was bawking all over the place. Soot, the head hen was all ruffled and panting. It's my guess and hope that the crisis was so traumatic they'll steer clear of that pond from now on, but i'll still keep my eye on them for hte next few days before leaving them out and unattended.

The new pond was cheapish- but not free, but attractive and functional enough. I sure liked the looks of that old trough, though!
Guess i'll have to make it a planter after all.

Can't win all the time.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Long Sleeves Gone Short!

Marigold's skirt challenge has really got me going on my sewing machine! I'm a force to be reckonned with, and no unworn article of clothes is safe from my meddling.

I have a lovely, lightweight, long sleeved, yellow ruffly shirt handed over from my Gramma Vivian. No idea how old it is, but the tag definitely does not look new or modern. I love this shirt, but i'm not so keen on the long sleeves that just don't feet very well. Plus i live in Austin. It's hot here. I'd rather wear short sleeves. My desire for a lighter shirt, and my increased age/size causes me to look for shirts with longer short sleeves to flatter my buff arms and 1940s figure in the best way.

Cut cut, hem hem, ruffle ruffle, TA DA. A success! The sleeves are even the same length, i'm amazed.

Method in brief:
  • Measured 8.5 inches from shoulder / 4.5 inches from arm pit and cut a straight line
  • Cut strips from remaining extra sleeve, sewed short ends together to form a double lengthed section, folded over longways, ironed and  straight stitched together with tension set to 9 and stitch length to 6
  • Gathered the material by pulling on the thread and bunching up the cloth to make cute ruffles
  • This part is too hard to explain (for me at least) but the jist: hemmed very tiny fold of sleeve, sewed ruffled to sleeve, turn over, turn over again to capture the furry end of the ruffle and stitched close to make a very nice, clean, even hem.
This shirt will be great tucked formally, over skirts or pants for breezy cool comfort, dressy or casual. Yay!

Friday, May 21, 2010

First Corn Harvest

I plucked the first of our corn last night, and this is what i have to say about it.

Firstly, delicious! We ate it mostly raw, warmed under the broiler a bit, with salt. Sweet sweet sweet!

Secondly, one of the cobs i harvested was empty inside - there was sign of nasty bug entry, and all the kernels were eaten off inside. I'm thinking corn earworm? Any other ideas? I recently learned a great tip over at Not Dabbling In Normal to remedy them: mineral oil placed on the tip of the cob after the silks wither. I'll be doing that today or the next to the remaining cobs in hopes of deterring more bandits. This harvest of 4 small ears yielded 1 pound 8 ounces.

The nasty, immature cob - a good cob, but with clearly 'messed up' kernels: 
any musings on the cause of the irregulatity? 
Served with (store bought) veggie burger and garden onions.

Thirdly, the Casino variety is doing MUCH better than the Sweet Treat variety. I plan on letting one cob mature completely and harvesting it as seed corn. My goal for next year is to plant only (or mostly) seeds saved from this year's garden, more on that later. Casino's cobs are fuller and more mature. The little Sweet Treat i plucked was more like 'baby corn' and not sweet at all.

Fourthly: nothing goes to waste around here! The girls each got their own cob to play with at the end, picking out the last minuscule bits of corn our human teeth couldn't get out, and dispatching that not so great cob of immature corn that i wasn't too keen on eating.

Overall: i think corn is worth growing! My placement seems to be facilitating its pollination alright. There are a few stragglers at the corners not developing overly well, but that's to be expected. I'll wait another week or so before harvesting any more to see if the cobs plump out a bit more, but i'll be watching those casino cobs closely: don't want them getting tough!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Homemade Clothes: a skirt sewing challenge has begun!

My friend, Marigold over at Hideous, Dreadful, Stinky! is holding a fun selfish sewing challenge for the next few weeks. I'm up to it!  This skirt is kind of cheating, as i sewed it prior to a party a few months ago. Yes, i was invited to a party and had nothing to wear: so i made something! My friends think i'm a little crazy. They're probably right.
Here is the pattern that i sort of used.
And here is how it turned out:
Materials: Sheet bought for about 50 cents at Thrifttown, buttons from a bag of buttons i've had since high school, and thread.
**PS: The pattern calls for a long piece for the waistband that has a tie closure. I hate skirts with tie closures so i used my machine's super fancy and fascinating automatic button hole maker thingy and used buttons. This leaves a bit of a gap at the hip that i should really add more buttons to, but i don't mind showing a little skin!

I love my new sewing machine's fancy stitches. Makes ME feel fancy too! I plan on making another version of this skirt with shorter length. I like the tight/high waistband. It reminds me of 50s housewife era fashion, or maybe poodle skirts? It goes just great with the little off shoulder tank/tee of my gramma's.
Check out Marigold's blog, and get in on the challenge!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Wholesome Wednesdays: Corn

Corn is unfortunately wrapped up in a lot of controversy. Should it be grown for fuel? For food? For animal feed?  I'd rather not delve into those topics. I have some strong feelings on the subject, but i'd rather not bring those into this particular conversation at this time.
My focus for today's post is the healthfulness human consumption of corn.

I think we all know that corn will not be in the upper echelon of healthy foods: it's sweet! So it must be high in sugar. That being said, it's still a vegetable, and i'll bet it's packed with fiber, cuz it's also filling! So whatever the pros and cons turn out, i will still vote that grilled corn in the cob on a Summer evening is just the best!

The World's Healthiest Foods has some great stuff to say about corn. Corn contains folate and fiber that are good for the cardiovascular system and prenatal health. Beta-cryptoxanthin, an orange yellow cartenoid, is a great cancer fighter found in plants like corn, papayas and other red/orange veggies/fruits.

Calorie give Corn an A! Whippee:
As i guessed: lots of fiber! Corn gets lots of good points for its minerals, vitamins and fiber. Not a lot of calcium though (remember to eat your greens!). At 77 calories for an ear about the size i'm growing, i could indulge in two! Interestingly, neither or nutrition data give corn any bad points, including sugar. So i guess it's not as high in sugar as i thought. You can see from the diagram that the sugar and dietary fiber are about equal. Right on. Corn IS good for you!

One last comment on the healthfulness of corn: Nourishing Traditions has some things to say about the consumption of corn in its natural state. As we all know from high school social studies/history classes, native peoples from this continent (american) have been eating corn as part of their traditional diets for hundreds of years, along with beans to form a pretty darned balanced diet. Wasn't until modern processed corn got into their diets that problems started showing up. Today you're probably eating most of your corn in the form of processed corn syrup, salty chips, or straight off the cob.
Traditional recipes call for soaking corn or corn flour in lime water. (the mineral, not the fruit). This releases nicotinamide (vitamin B3), which otherwise remains bound up in the grain. Soaking also improves the amino acid quality of proteins in the germ. - Nourishing Traditions, Sally Fallon
 Masa flour is flour ground from corn kernels already soaked in lime - thus corn tortillas as a healthy part of the diet. I'm in fact planning on making some tortillas this weekend when i host a Ladies Night at my little homestead.

So, enjoy your Summer corn when you get it. Resist the urge to buy corn at all times of the year, despite its now being available in groery stores most of the time. Reconnnect to the earth and the growing season near you and enjoy its natural bounty. You'll be eating more delicious/fresh food, and your purchase power will send a strong message of your preference for sustainability to your grocer.

I can't wait to harvest a few of these guys this weekend. (Harvest corn about 18-24 days after the first silks appear and they've withered, and the ears feel full. Don't let it get old and tough, enjoy it fresh and sweet!)

What should i do with my first ears of corn? Grill, boil, eat it raw? Give me some ideas.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

My New Pondlet

A month or so ago i decided that my Summer project this year would be to put together a little pond in the back. I wanted to use a found/reclaimed/recycled horse trough type container, rocks from around the place, and cheap little feeder fish. I thought about using a fountain/bubbler of some kind, but preferred attempting a natural balance with plants and fish oxygenating and cleaning each other.
Coincidentally, Susy over at Chiot's Run is also dabbling in the art of pond-making. Here's to reclaimed pond forms graced to us by our parents!

Hornwort: a submerged plant that oxygenates the water.

My inlaws recently procured the property adjacent to theirs, and it included a garage chock full of junk (awesome stuff to be used by us!). This old tub was there, and after waiting a few months to be sure it wasn't destined to be a planter for them, snagged it to be my new pond! I think it's turning out just swell.

Still a work in progress - i bought some liner to go inside of the tub to prevent rusting damaging the fishes(yes, i like to say fishes instead of fish. It's just another facet of my quirky personality. Though fishes is actually a grammatically correct term. Look it up), but it didn't really go all the way around the tub, and the water still gets in between the liner and the metal, so i have no idea if it will be effective in the least. It sure is unattractive though. I placed some rocks in to hold the liner out, and one to stick up to help toads/ lizards/ bugs to get in and out if they happened to find the water. Could be a nice dove perch for drinking as well.

Hmm, i could stand to repaint my toenails, ay? Pond doubles as a foot rest.
Yesterday, i noticed the water level reduced by a few inches. Leak? Perhaps - or perhaps the water is simply being taken advantage of in different ways. Note on the water used: i filled this with about half rain water from my barrel and half city water. My hope is that the plants will help filter out the nasty city water. I'll try and fill it with rain water whenever possible.

So today i get the fish and see how it all comes together! Sure is a lovely backyard setting now.
I may still think about adding a trickly pump just for the pretty noise, but not for now.

What's your Summer project this year??

Monday, May 17, 2010

Review: Buitoni Pasta

Darn Tasty! 

I was graced with a coupon to try out Buitoni pasta recently, and i have nothing bad to say about it. The ingredients were fairly close to natural food, for a packaged item. The filling was decadent but delicious. The caloric value was a bit high, but a good amount to split with a hungry husband. The pasta wasn't quite as filling as it was fattening, but still a fun weeknight treat, and easy to prepare. The pasta would have been highlighted better if i had topped it with simple butter or perhaps garlic infused olive oil, but i like tomato sauce so i made some of that and served the hubby with mostly pasta and a little sauce, me with mostly sauce and a little pasta.

I think i will take this pasta as inspiration for my next homemade ravioli recipe: mushrooms, basil and ricotta, with perhaps some homemade mozzerella and homegrown garlic? Sounds good to me! Can't wait to have fresh basil growing again - it's on its way!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Recipe: Tilapia with Sorrel and Nasturtium Leaves with Sauteed Onion Blooms

This would be best served with rice or noodles for a complete menu, but as i'm trying to wittle town a few post marital pounds, i was fine with just protein and greens. A few recent posts have mentioned blooming onions - so i decided to saute some as a side to this yummy, one pan fish dish.

All told, this took me about 15 minutes (pre Bones Thursday night tv viewing) to throw together.
Helpful hint: thaw frozen fish quickly and safely by placing fillets in cool water for 10 - 15 minutes before cooking.

For the fish and greens:
  • 4 tilapia fillets
  • Large bunch sorrel leaves
  • 5- a dozen nasturtium leaves (mustardy tasting
  • One small red onion, finely diced
  • One - 3 garlic cloves, finely diced
  • Dashes cumin, cayenne, smoked paprika, curry, turmeric, just about anything you want (sorrel is quite tangy, so pick herbs with more earthy flavors. Basil or oregano would also be nice here).
  • Salt and pepper
  • White wine
For the onion blooms:
  • Clip the blooms close to the flower
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
Place half sorrel/nasturtium mixture around edge of a large flat saute pan. Sprinkle onions and garlic in the center of the pan. Heat to high medium. Place fish into pan and season heavily on top side. Place remaining sorrel/nasturtiums on top of the fish and cover pan. Once bubbling, splash a quarter glass of white wine over the mixture and reduce heat to a lower medium.

Meanwhile, drizzle olive oil, salt, pepper in a smaller pan and rub onion blooms around in the mixture. Bring heat up to medium high and cover. Let one side sear a bit, then flip the blooms reduce heat to medium low and cover until blooms wilt to your liking. You can also add garlic salt/minced garlic, cayenne, whatever you like.

After about 5-7 minutes, flip fish over. Continue to cook until fish is cooked through, about 5 more minutes depending on stove heat.

Sorrel doesn't keep as nice a color as spinach or kale, and the texture is very soft. This would be yummy with some chopped spinach mixed in or with the addition of mushrooms. What's great about the sorrel is there's no need to add lemon to the fish, the sorrel already has a lemony taste.

We both found this to be a delicious meal, but i'll admit that i made the husband a toasted cheese sandwich with Belizean hot sauce as a second course - the man's gotta eat more than i do!

Happy Friday - have a great weekend!