Gardens Vs. Year

A little re-cap of my gardens since 2008, I don't seem to have a picture from 2007 but it was a small shared garden with my down stairs neighbors. It's been a bit of a learning experience, what works and what doesn't. But in general if your nice to your veggies they'll be nice to you!

2009 When everything was first planted and of course the ubiquitous flamingo.

2009 after we moved to the new place, narrow little bit of thing but I packed stuff in and it grew!

2009 -Before we moved mostly herbs and lettuce and a lot of things potted up in anticipation for a smaller garden. Though just realized I forgot to bring my columbines with me. *pouting*

2008 double the size of 2007 and 2009, It needs 2 pictures to show how big it was, the pea rows in the middle block the view a tad.

The other half... (2008) It was a lot of fun having a large garden and the backyard to accommodate it !

Taste of Summer - Steak for Two

It's gone from fall colors to very cool 35F, very quickly this year. Fast enough that I didn't take any fall foliage pictures this year or enjoy a warm but slightly brisk hike around one of the parks. The one day we did get out was over cast and threatening rain, but we hurried on and picked tons of berries for my invasive species jam. Promise I'll blog about that soon....

In any event this is a fun meal that we made a couple times during the summer. We're not huge beef eaters, not that we don't like it, its just well the industry, I'd prefer grass fed beef, but its hard to find. Anyway so we tend to splurge on steak rather than burgers. The big find for us is that one strip steak feeds the two of us just fine. Served with any types of sides, though go for easy and quick to make it a relaxing summery meal! This version has a Southwest feel to it with the addition of the lime and cilantro for a quick chimichurri sauce, and chili pepper to the salad dressing.

Mmm this I think was the best picture and example of our steak for two meal.

1 strip steak, room temp, & marinated
8 corn tortillas
Lettuce (romain, arugula etc)
Cheddar Cheese
Guacamole (premade or make homemade)
Salad dressing

Bring the marinated steak to room temperature, heat gril to medium/high heat. Takes about 10-15 minutes to grill a steak so plan the sides accordingly. Heres a good guide about how long to grill steak. Take the pesto base, about 1/2 cup and squeeze 1/2 lime into it and handful finely chopped cilantro season with salt pepper to taste. Set Aside. Make a quick vinaigrette with the other half of the lime juice and chili powder, really how ever you like it. Begin assembling the quesadillas, heat a pan with oil and gently fry and flip quesadillas until cheese is melted. Assemble plate with guacamole on top of the quesadillas or inside, and little diping bowls of the "chimichurri sauce" Cut steak in half for two portions and enjoy!

The key to strip steak is the marination, its a slightly cheaper cut so I like to start in around 11am. This is a how ever you like it type of marinade. Oil, salt/soy sauce, pepper, chili powder, and some salad dressing for vinegar or apple cider vinegar, even some honey is nice. The focus being flavor, and the acidic to tenderize the beef.

Side Variations: salads, sauted veggies, potatoes, or quesadillas with guac, quinoa, etc. another variation with potatoes salad and tomato salad, and of course a good malbec

Little Update

I haven't been posting much, aside from spending to much time on facebook. But! that doesn't mean I haven't been a busy bee. Things have been cooking, and I've tested recipes on my willing though some times reluctant boyfriend. Have I mentioned that I just can't follow a recipe. No matter what I always change something, add something, or do it a completely different way. Which also make writing recipes a little challenging because I try and give my meals a lot of wiggle room. Since the likely hood of me running to the store 10 minutes before dinner to get that one all "important" ingredient. Not likely. And if I'm really hungry - not taking a picture of the final project, is bound to happen.

I've been squirreling things away all month. If the Apocalypse included working freezers I'd have a head start on surviving the nuclear winter. Of course I'd be full but I sill need a personal fallout shelter... working on that. (Though I'm probably just sensing fall.) I have made and tucked away delish english muffins, tasty blueberry muffins, two quart bags of frozen basil, frozen parsley, bread crumbs, and sliced bread loaf. I've also canned two kinds of jam, and whipped up wonderful peach pie.

The garden has been very plentiful, and the farmers market fun (until in a clutzy moment you fall and bang your knee...) I'm kind of wishing I had a pressure canning device - I have a small mountain of tomatoes that would be great stashed away for the winter. The 13 habanero plants are grow grow growing away - covered in little hot peppers. The first of which has started to ripen. Can my spice obsessed b/f wait before plucking it so we can see if it will actually turn red? A true dilemma. I'm hoping to make hot sauce out of my habaneros - so could they all please turn at the same time? I have a variety of hot sauce and sambal recipes that I'd like to can, or at the least get the ball rolling. So projects abound and classes start soon, so its get it done or go bust.

Random meal of the week

Lunch time gets random for me, I'm very dependent on leftovers to make a meal. Which is why I generally make a little extra at dinner. Its 80 degrees right now, and a hot bowl of pasta, might send me into a heat stroke! As a result, some of my better lunch time meals are several things at once.

Leftover rice, not much left was heated up, green onions were chopped and sauteed up with a little canola and sesame oil. Once they softened a little I tossed the rice into the pan and mixed it up. A little g/f soy sauce and sambal oleck. Voila.

Earlier I made some hard boiled eggs and made them into a no fuss egg salad. And made some "marinated" cukes. Sliced a large cucumber, one small tomato (from the garden!) , and small carrot that I julienne with my new julienne gizmo. To this I added rice vinegar (my new favorite vin at the moment) a little cider vinegar, a touch of canola oil (or any light oil) , pinch of salt, and red pepper flakes. My motto is that every thing tastes a little better with some heat!

(I'm finding that the less breads (and I mean g/f breads), baked goods and pasta that I eat, and the more veggies and fruit, the better I feel. Which is interesting phenomena since starting out just not eating wheat and gluten had helped. I wonder what it is about those sort of starches that throw me off? )

Anyway, Happy Summer time Random Eating!

Summertime Potato Salad

Starting to get to that point where I need to start doing things with my tomatoes. It's polite to not just pick and eat so that other people can eat them, and they taste so good for dinner. This turned into a slightly more complex way of using them up, than just a little olive oil and vinegar tossed over them, yummy none the less.

Something about Summer says potato salad. But those gloppy mayo laden salads that grace some tables is a little gross to me. Not that I don't like mayo, it has its place in the kitchen, as a back ground seasoning where the yummy flavors of summer can be featured. Its a little like glue, you need it, but to much and it just gets every where. This was also a nice way to have most of dinner ready before noon, and then throw some meat on the grill and serve on a bed of lettuce.
This is a much lighter herby and slightly sweet dressing, the rice vinegar give this really nice smooth taste.

A few notes about the recipe, I used a blender which helped emulsify the dressing and chop the herbs, but I didn't pay any or much attention to the amounts I was putting in. Treat the ratios like you would a regular salad dressing, but a little light on the olive oil since you are adding mayo, and the mayo thickens it a little. Pour the dressing on in small amounts until you get the coverage you want.

About 1 hr prep & make refrigerate over night or 5 hrs to marinate the flavors. Probably serve 4 as a side dish.

For the Dressing:

3 tbs lite mayo (i just got out a spoon and eye balled it in)
aprox 1/4 rice vinegar & red wine vinegar
salt & pepper to taste
honey - probably a tsp.
olive oil
handful of in decreasing amounts parsley, thyme, tarragon, rosemary,basil
large garlic clove
1/3 of sauteed onions

6 russet potatoes
large hand full of cherry tomatoes from garden
2 small corn cobs
10 green beans
2 yellow onions
tbs balsamic vinegar
red pepper flakes

Place potatoes in pot of cold salted water and bring to boil about 15 -20 minutes. Mean wheile start dressing, starting with the garlic and herbs, if doing it by hand everything was finely diced. Then add rest of dressing ingredients to blender. Thinly slice onions and saute until soft with olive oil and about 1 tbs of balsamic vinegar and red pepper flakes to taste . Chop tomatoes green beans and set aside. When potatoes are done let them cool and chop up, I left some of the skins on, but probably skinned about half of them. Pour a little of the dressing over them to start the seasoning process. Bring pot of water to boil and cook corn cobs. When cooled enough to handle strip cobs and add to potatoes. When the onions are softened add about half to the potatoes and put the rest in the dressing. Blend until smooth. Add the tomatoes and green beans last and then pour rest of dressing in, toss and refrigerate.

* My potatoes and corn were still warm so I added the cold veggies last so I didn't cook them. Also this was what I had on hand, there are lots of other veggies that you could add. The herbs might seem random, but together they create a nice flavor that isn't distinct to just one herb.

Orange Goodness under an Orange Sun

At 9pm, after a day of eating healthy good for you, fresh veggie laden meals, whats a girl gona snack on? Snacking gluten free is kind of a chore! Either you need to always have some baked bread on hand (ha!) or have recently gone to the store for your favorite rice crisps. But lets face it, for that evening snack who wants healthy things? (well I do, but I don't want it to taste healthy).

Which brings me to my other dilemma that I'm sure is far from uncommon among food allergy sufferers, after a certain point, after the novelty has worn off, quick, or pre-made snacks seem like mana from heaven. I was never really into baking to begin with when it was "easy" with gluten and all. Now that I have the privalge to bake with 9million differnt flours, the pros and cons of gluten free baking, or use of any g/f flour is very apparent to me.

The upside is that right now I'm snacking on some very delicious pancakes that were whiped up in no time, (about 2 fist sized) and happliy munched on. Thank goodness for Pamelas pancake mix, its as painless as bisquick, and super yummy. Also it handles changes and add-ons to the recipie really well. Really, I under stand the cost issues, but at some point the cost of my time trying finess a from scratch anything... oy.

My second and photographed snack is from the freezer, g/f waffels. Vans Wheat Free Waffles, I really enjoy the flax seed kind with added benifit of omegas. Whoo.

Though really the best part of all this is the home made jam on top. Yep, I really enjoy jaming but not baking, which ever. This delightfulness is an Orange Apricot Resling Jam that I was so inspired to make after reading this blog post at Vanila Garlic. (And then featured at Simply Recipes recently which reminded me to post about it) I enjoy apricots and Resling so It seemd like a fab idea. Though access to apricots around my area is, iffy. I had also manged in June to accumulate a lot of oranges in the house since I was the only one eating them but thought other people would eat them. Anyway it was a situation of be used or neglected. I used dried apricots, lots of oranges and 1 lemon plus zest and a healthy guestamet on the Resling. Since this was all the way from June I can't remember the ratios but they were all roughly based on Vanila Garlics recipe, and some quick research on fruit quanties in regular jams. All in all its some of the best jam I've made lately, it may top my clementine marmalade. I may have to have a jam off this winter holiday.

Herb's Make pretty arrangments

My herb arranging or haranguing has been rewarding, the need to move them to a new town, resulted in my pretties getting popped into planters. Seeing how its almost august already and this being NY state, I better start looking into wintering them over. From the top, yellow variegated sage with purple ageratum, a view of 2 pots, purple sage with mother thyme, and the then flowering chives with silver edged thyme.

Shameless Kitty

Check out that fluff! Hopefully the new flights of stairs will get her trim and svelte again, but don't loose that sassy fluff darlin'!

Traveling Lambs Ears

It doesn't actually take a whole month of hiatus from blogging to move, mostly unpack, go crazy and say good bye to ones garden. But now after a week or more after being kind of settled there's time to reflect, and get back to writing.

I did actually dig up and bring my lambs ears and my strawberry plant with me. Which was perhaps hilarious looking back (?). I was sick during the move and in the rain with only an old trowel that hadn't gotten packed yet, hacking at the ground trying not to destroy their lovely roots. And then the plants languished in boxes for several days before getting planted in their new homes.

They'll be fabulous next year.

I do miss the toads that lived in my old garden.

Yellow Sky Jewels

These pictures are from my mothers back yard this spring, at one point there were 10 male goldfinches sitting in her redbud tree! Super adorable! I just love their bright coloring and how the flick around the back yard. The goldfinches are here in my back yard as well, the fly and chirp around in the little tree outside my window in fast arcing swoops. Way too fast to get a picture of!

Fresh Lettuce, fun in the sun!

My salad garden, a jungle of arugula, and canopy thats become a habitat of little toads. The toads are great since I don't spray for snails of slugs, and the birds can only do so much, they are most welcome. And cute. There is Arugula (rocket), mesclun mix lettuce, and some loose leaf lettuce towards the back. I was also given three plants of spinach... but those are still working themselves out.

I have really more than enough for 2 people, and more more than enough for 1 person and a boyfriend who only some times eats salad. Maybe its time for a little farm stand?

Normally I had eaten store bought baby arugula, very yummy, but I'd never had older leaves of it. I really love it, that leafy peppery spiciness, delicious! There's really no excuse for everyone not to be growing at least a little window box full of the stuff! I know I'll be growing this for as long as I can this growing season. (Last year it took 3 frosts to kill the arugula!)

Quickish Spicy Italian

At some point over the last year & a half my recipes have evolved from subtle hints of heat from chili powder and cayenne to unabashed heat from delicious peppers like Thai peppers, poblano's, Serrano, and habanero's. Mmmm good! This is partially because my boyfriend also has a taste for heat, which surpasses my own but I am glad to keep the spicy turned up. You just won't catch me any where near scotch bonnets!
This recipe also stems from the fact that I'm in the process of packing my house up, and as a result, going to the store gets relegated to the bottom of the list. So dinner time becomes scrounging around in the cupboards time hoping you didn't use the last of the canned tomatoes for that Mexican dish last week! Of course I had, so the sauce is a combination of tomato paste and a jar of pasta sauce. My great grandmother is rolling in her grave. Also I had 4 links of Italian sausage, 2 were pork, and 2 were the chicken sausage. At that point I felt the need to something more than ground sausage. So why not meat balls? These are a quick mash up and pan seared, traditionally I was taught to make a giant vat of sauce and plop beef meat balls into the sauce to marinate for hours on end. But who has time for that? Not this time of year anyway!

Spicy Red Sauce & Sausage Meatballs

For the sauce
Half a jar of Pasta Sauce*
Half can of small tomato paste
1 1/2 cup chicken stock**
2 small onions, sm chop
1/2 of 1 habanero, diced
2 tsp of dried Italian seasoning
1 medium green bell pepper,
roughly chopped

For the meatballs
4 links of Italian Sausage
1 egg
splash of milk
1 tsp olive oli
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp oregano***
grnd pepper to taste
1/4 cup combined of ground g/f oats and cornmeal

Start by sauteing the onions and diced habenaro in a pan with olive oil and as splash of chicken broth to soften over medium heat.

In bowl combine all of the dry ingredients for the meatballs, add olive oil. Remove sausages from casings and add to bowl. Begin combining with a fork. Add egg, and milk. Add more cornmeal as preference. (These end up being very sticky no matter what, i put olive oil on my hands and that helped form them some what) Begin forming into small balls and place in pan with onions. (They really plump up as they cook so go small) Let the bottoms brown before flipping over, helps keep them together initially. Add cup of broth, tomato paste, and sauce and bring to simmer. Add peppers and last of the broth, let simmer until desired consistency of the sauce.

Serve over g/f pasta, will serve 4 with pasta or make yummy left overs for 2.
* I like to use this normally instead of paste as a thickener, with a can of diced canned tomatoes.
** White wine tastes really good with sauteed onions
*** Next time I'm going to add more seasoning, fresh herbs, but no spice, its was nice to have the mild meat balls with the spicy sauce.

Pretty delicious peas

The first of my pea plants are blooming and making the most delicious peas. Though being zone 4b I cheated and these were actually started inside before they made it outside. The rest of the pea plants are still working on growing tall. Last year I had adorable pinkish-purple flowers, similar to a paler version of Sweet pea flowers. Couldn't find find the variety this year these are pretty though too!

Meet the Cats

I'd like to introduce my crazy cats. Jack, who when not taking naps is bent on the destruction of my apartment, and probably world domination. The extra toes help him out in that arena. He really is very cute, he likes to ride around on shoulders, play fetch, hide in dark caves (boxes), make dolphin noises at birds, eat raisins, and terrorize his big sister Mia. Fortunately he's starting to mellow a little. Phew!

He was rescued through a fab group of people who foster cats and get them ready to be adopted. Some day when I have a big house I'm gonna' foster kitties too! Foster programs are such good programs that should be supported and appreciated! Breaks my heart how many cats need homes and care.

Mia I adopted a while ago 3 1/2 years ago give or take. She used to be this tiny little squirrel cat, her tail was bigger than the rest of her body! At some point a long the way she discovered food. Poor little kitty hates diets! We still love her and her floofly-ness though. Mia likes to womp on Jack, play tag with her people and prefers her toys to be marinated in Catnip. Also soft blankets make for a happy kitty.

Mia was rescued the old fashioned way, a friend of a friend of a friend found two sad little kittens who lost their mother and needed good homes. I mean how can you say no to that gray fuzzy love?

Bird List

I may not have a big window or nice porch to watch my bird feeder from but that doesn't keep me from peering out my window like a kid in a candy store. "Ooo honey! look!" Or from trying to take pictures with my finicky digital camera through my dirty windows!

My main source of all bird knowledge is from my mother. "Hey mom, there's this bird with these markings, what is it? " I also suggest for those without an encyclopedic mother is this website Cornell Lab of Ornithology . Its a great source for all things bird.

Thus far the bird list includes:
Dark-eyed junco (slate colored)
Dark-eyed junco (white winged)
Black-capped Chickadee
Northern Cardinal
House Finch
House Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow

The Robins are very exciting to see, they flock together in the winter, we think they must be Canadian Robins,I never normally see them during the winter. Very cool!

Birds of a Feather...

This past spring (2008) I bought a bird feeder with anti squirrel mechanisms. Muahahaha. Very nice indeed, though it was soon shown up my my mothers bird feeder that also discourages larger birds from (crows, blue jays) from stealing all the yummy seed. Anyway much to my chagrin most of the birds that showed up were starlings, and their talent for devouring food should be legendary!

Upside was that the feeder attracted two pairs of cardinals, chickadees, wrens, blue jays etc. By the time fall came around I stopped filling the feeder, the rate of starlings emptied it was just not cost effective!

Anyway I've started feeding the birds again and it took most of a month for the starlings to find my back yard! Its been a lot of fun to watch the birds with my cats, having trees and bushes in the yard has really helped encourage day-long bird activity. The juncos and wrens hang out in the grapevine and berry bushes in between eating. Cute! I think next on my list is binoculars for increased bird identification accuracy!

Apple Crumb Pie

This is my apple crumb top pie from October, when I had an overflow of apples. This was so yummy that I made it again for x-mas dinner at my parents house. It should be noted that this was before I cut wheat/gluten from my diet so it was not allergy friendly! But I think it could be easily converted to wheat free.

Everyone seems to enjoy crumbly brown sugar goodness with their apples. There isn't an official recipe, seeing as how it was a conglomeration of pie recipes. Also I haven't experimented with any gluten free pie dough mixes, but its on that foodie to-do list.

I don't have any proportions, this was made with a variety of sweet orchard apples, and the second time with granny smiths.

Apples peeled & cut 6-10? depending on size
1 lemon
1/2 cup white sugar
brown sugar
oat meal
cold butter 1 stick
couple of tablespoons flour ( g/f all purpose flour)

toss the apples with lemon juice, white granulated sugar, and cinnamon
prepare 1 pie crust for bottom of pie pan
about a cup or more oat meal, brown sugar, cinnamon and nutme, flour, cube the butter and fork it into the oatmeal mixture making crumbs, make sure its enough for a good layer on the top

spread crumbs over apples in pie pan, bake for 40 minutes at 350 -yum