Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Garden Misc - What?!

So I've been having a bit of an email exchange with a friend of mine who is thinking of starting a garden.  But since she's a renter, she doesn't necessarily want to build raised beds and whatnot.  Plus, where she lives, she is plagued by the Yeti-Opossum (her term) and Super-Squirrels (and mine!) who routinely steal the citrus that are growing in her yard.  So she was thinking about container-grown veggies...

Love this pic!
Can't quite read the photo-credit - but I hope he/she doesn't mind!

I managed to slam out this little reply to her, today, and figured it was generic enough to share here!


* * * * *

...Back to your Container Grown Veggies situation.  While not a solution to the squirrel problem, I thought I'd share nonetheless...

I freaking LOVE these things: http://www.agardenpatch.com/

No, I don't get spliff for suggesting 'em. Well, I could if I sent you an Amazon Affiliate link (but Amazon is more expensive than ordering directly).

In any event - I swear by these for veggie growing.  I've been using them for about 3+ years now (summer and cool season veggies) and have had amazing success. 

Last year's maters (early season):

2 maters per planter...  By season's end, they started growing up, BEYOND the cage-tops (which were taller than I could reach!).

I even grew CORN successfully in them, one year. (and I have NEVER gotten edible corn from my garden in the past).

Every spring, I dump last year's soil into another bed (that I'm trying to build-up) and I start with fresh organic garden soil (giant 3 cu-ft bag from Home Depot - although I can't remember if it took more than one bag for all three planters).  I amend with steer manure (also Home Depot) and compost (from my compost pile).  I did experience a little blossom end rot on some of my maters last year.  I've been saving/crushing egg-shells from The Girls.  I'll add that to my 'Mater Mix this year...

Crazy, huh?

Anyhoooo...  I really like how you fill the reservoir in the bottom - rather than "top-water" the plants (cootie-free leaves!).  The spun fiber mulch-sheet keeps the moisture in (and weeds out).  Very water-conscious for California.  During summer's peak, I had to keep filling them fairly regularly - but far-less frequently than the "regular" patio-pot-planters.  I mixed up liquid fertilizers to add to the reservoirs when the maters were flourishing (actually, I used flushed/"used" hydroponic solution from my hydro-lime tree - whenever I changed the 'nutes).

I put mine up on a shelf made of cinder-blocks and a hunk o' wood - to keep the ravenous weenie-dogs at bay.  I also used these 'mater cages (that can go double-decker height) http://www.burpee.com/gardening-supplies/garden-growers/supports-ties-and-fences/pro-series-cage-silver-prod001240.html?catId=cat750002&omn2pd=bz

The cages don't fit inside the planters, so the bases extend beyond the width of the boxes, and I tied 'em all together with extra garden-stakes and twine (the garden stakes go clear to the ground).  It was a very sturdy support system!   Alternatively, I think gardenpatch sells trellisy things that "fit" the grow-boxes perfectly.  Can't comment on them since I don't use 'em.

If I wanted to get SUPER-CRAZY, I'd rig the thing up on cheap movers-dollies so I could move it around to maximize sunlight thru the growing season (yah - NO!)

All told, the initial investment was pretty hefty ~$100 for 3 planters and - I think I paid appx $50 (on-sale) for the cages.  But since it's been soooo successful (very ample harvests over 3+ years), I think it was money well-spent.

As for Super-Squirrel...  Maybe try some bird-netting draped over the cages?  Not sure if that would be 100% squirrel-proof (and the plants will probably try to grow through it anyway).  Alternatively, maybe Google "Keep squirrels out of the garden" for other ideas.  I saw someone suggested cheap pinwheels as a squirrel deterrent (Maybe?  I actually do have some shimmery pinwheels in my raised beds - just 'cause I like cheesy, colorful crap in my garden beds - and I haven't had any critter-nibbling - never realized that the pinwheels were an actual deterrent!)

Ehhh...  That's it for my Brainstorm this morning.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Showgirl Sunday Brunch: Leftover Lasagna Frittata


Long Story Short (No. Really!):  We have three Polish hens now, nicknamed (appropriately enough) The Vegas Showgirls.

Henny Kravitz - Silver-laced Polish:
Henny is the 'Lead Hen' - but she's a bit of a curmudgeon.  And she b*tches a lot.

Tina Turner - Golden-laced Polish:
Tina is the Food-Ho.  
She will actually leap and lunge at the fence when I come out with treats!
She also has the loudest singing voice.

Debbie Harry - aka Blondie - Buff-laced Polish:
Blondie, the Newbie, joined the fam on Jan 17, 2015
She is at the bottom of the pecking order.
And, being blonde, she's a bit of a ditz.


And all three girls are laying now - Yay!  We are getting an average of a dozen mid-sized eggs per week!

So End-Result: Showgirl Sunday Brunch has become "A Thing!"

I've become such a suck-tastic blogger, of late - yet I am making these simply scrumptious egg-dishes every week (for now, I'm trying to 'keep it different' each time), so I think I oughtta be able to manage to post ONE egg-recipe, per week - Right?!

We'll see....

Luckily, I've been posting our weekly Showgirl Sunday Brunches on Facebook, so I should be able to go back and re-construct past recipes.  And, going forward, I'll actually make an attempt to - ohhhh...  Maybe "measure" stuff as I'm going along (HEY!).

Today, unfortunately, was NOT one of my measuring days - but roll with it, k?  'Cause I'm sure it's gonna be deeeelish!

Earlier this week, I made a lasagna (mostly) from scratch, using (mostly) home-grown veggies.  Not gonna deconstruct the recipe ('cause I'll never be able to duplicate it!).  I will say that a couple of the layers were frozen-chopped spinach (thawed+squeezed dry) with a little bit of fresh pesto sauce, ricotta cheese and egg.  I note that because I made too much (that "measuring" thing I keep alluding to!), and it ended up in the frittata.

QT's Leftover Lasagna Frittata
Yield: 1 @ 9-1/2" pie's worth (serves 4-6 - depending on how hungry you are!)

Ingredients

  • 1 serving of leftover lasagna - probably about a heaping cup's worth (any lasagna will do, I expect)
  • 1/2 cup of spinach-ricotta mixture (or use more lasagna)
  • half of a small red onion, chopped (or thinly sliced)
  • 4-5 fresh white mushrooms, sliced
  • appx 2oz of cubed ham
  • 9 smallish-medium-ish eggs (less if you're using large eggs)
  • 1/4 c heavy whipping cream (or half-n-half)
  • A whole lotta shredded cheese! I used (mainly) mozzarella, 3-cheese 'Mexican Blend' (Jack+Mild Cheddar+Queso Quesadilla+Asader0) and 3-cheese 'Italian Blend' (Parm+Asiago+Romano)
  • Italian seasoning and/or garlic salty seasoning (I used Goya Adobo all-purpose seasoning and my McCormick Italian-herb grinder)
  • Olive oil

Instructions

  1. Preheat your oven to 375*F.  Drizzle a little olive oil into a 9-1/2" pie plate (I used basil-infused EVOO - yum!).  
  2. Chop-up a serving of lasagna and plop it into the pie plate.  Spoon in the spinach-ricotta mixture and smush it around with the lasagna so the stuff is - more-or-less - evenly distributed.
  3. Heat a frying pan with a little olive oil.  Lightly saute the onions and mushrooms 'til soft, sprinkle-on a little Italian seasoning.  Toss in the cubed ham.  Warm it all up then toss it into the pie plate and add a generous handful (or three!) of shredded cheese(s).  Gently combine with all the other stuff.
  4. Now you need to step back and try to guess how much egg mixture you're gonna need (I haven't perfected this yet!).  I started out with 6 eggs + a splash of cream.  Whisk it well, sprinkled in some garlic-salt, then pour into the pie plate.  It wasn't enough, so I scrambled up 3 more eggs and poured 'em in.  
  5. Poke around with a fork to make sure the egg mixture is well-incorporated into the rest of the gloop.  If any lasagna/veggie bits make it to the surface, press them down so they are covered with egg.  
  6. Top the whole thing with even more cheese.  For the top 'crust' (the melty-cheese becomes crust-like) I stuck with mainly 3-cheese Italian and Mozzarella (Heavier on the mozz-chs, The other cheeses are a bit overpowering).
  7. Put the whole thing in the oven for appx 45 minutes.  Check it toward the end to make sure it' browning evenly.  Spin it around, if necessary.  The top should be golden brown and the center should be somewhat firm.  I did the ol' stick-a-knife-in-it test, and my knife came out clean - so it's done.

Truly deelish!  A bit "savory" for breakfast, but makes a mighty-fine brunch.  And I'm sure it will freeze and nuke quite nicely!

Okay, picture time (yep, phone pics and the lighting sucks 'cause one of our stove-hood fixtures decided to die - oopsie!):

Chopped Lasagna and Spinach-Ricotta Mix in the EVOO-greased pie-plate
I tossed a couple handfuls of 3-cheese Mexican Blend on top

Lightly sauteed onions, shrooms and ham were next

Lasagna + Spin-ricotta+Cheese+Sauteed gloop.
Plus a couple handfuls of shredded Mozzarella

6 eggs, ready to be scrambled.  Turned-out I needed 3 more...

Made sure all the "innards" got smushed into the eggs.
What's that?  More cheese?!
Yes, please! (Mozz + 3-cheese Italian)

All done!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Recipe: Sugar-Free Hot Cocoa Mix (Dry)

Quick!  Post it before you forget!!!

Folks who know me will readily acknowledge that what *I* consider to be coffee, really doesn't resemble coffee. At. All.

First, I like super-wimpy "Breakfast Blends."  Then I add so much crap to it, that it's really more of a coffee-kissed mocha-breve-latte.

My morning coffee consists of 1 TBS of Fat-Free/Sugar-Free Hot Cocoa, 10 oz of wimpy, watered-down coffee, a splash of Sugar-Free Coconut Syrup, a packet of Sweet 'n Low, and a couple TBS of cream.

I *used* to like Nestle brand Fat-Free Hot Cocoa - when you could find it in a big tub, for relatively-cheap.  Now I can only find it in Individual-serving envelopes (in a box), and it ain't cheap.

Plus, Nestle is one of the "Baddies" in the fight against GMO-labeling.

Ghirardelli is GMO-free.

Okay, gonna make my own Sugar-Free Hot Cocoa Mix using Ghirardelli unsweetened cocoa, then.  So there!

Sugar-Free Hot Cocoa Mix
Adapted from http://www.melskitchencafe.com/homemade-hot-chocolate-mix-another-simple-gift-idea/

1 cup Nonfat Dry Milk (Yeah, probably not GMO-free. Oh well!)
2/3 cup Splenda (Also not GMO-free.  "Baby steps!")
1/2 cup Ghirardelli unsweetened cocoa powder

Mix it all together and store in an airtight container.

To use it as hot cocoa, put 1/3 cup of the cocoa mix in a cup, stir-in 1 cup of hot milk. Enjoy!

Notes: I buy Nonfat Dry Milk in a package that contains 3 envelopes (that make 1 quart of milk, apiece).  1 envelope = 1 cup.

Sorry, no pics (I suspect you know what a cup of coffee - or cocoa! - looks like!).  I just wanted to type it out so I don't lose the recipe!

Oh, and it's quite tasty!


Thursday, November 20, 2014

Thanksgiving Day Battle-Plan

Now I have NO clue why I'm publishing this "for all the world to see" - but I *do* reference my own blog (with alarming frequency, actually), when I want to reference old recipe ideas...

So, today I decided to start my "Plan of Attack" for Thanksgiving, this year.

Now, it's not like I'm freaking Martha Stewart or anything (Good GAWD), planning a Thanksgiving Feast for 250.  Nor am I June Cleaver (Bwahahaha! *SNORT!*).

It's really just Hubs and me (and the dogs!  Mustn't forget the hounds!).  But I figure a little forethought never hurt anybody.  Plus, I know I need to do the Grocery Store Thang...  And I *want* to do the Farmer's Market Thang (realizing that the FM probably isn't gonna have everything I need, veggie-wise)...

So there's all my "Justification!"

Now, I'm just gonna post the Thanksgiving Menu, and the proper-order of Execution.  And I *may* even include a SHOPPING LIST (Woooooooooo!)

(Yeah.  I'm weird.  Deal with it!)

* * * * *
Okay, here 'tis:

Thanksgiving Battle Plan

Weds Morning – Turkey Brine and Pumpkin-Pecan Pie

Turkey Brine
- 1.5 C Apple Cider
- 1 Quart Water
- 2 TBS Fresh Rosemary
- 1-2 TBS Fresh Sage
- 3 Cloves Minced Garlic
- ¾ C Sea Salt
- ½ C Splenda Brown Sugar Blend
- 1-1/2 TBS Whole Peppercorns
- 3 Bay Leaves
- Zest from 2 Oranges

Combine in medium pot, medium heat. Stir until salt/sugar dissolve. Bring to a boil. Turn-off stove and allow to cool.

Reserve ½ cup of brine (for injection marinade).

Pour brine into 2 gallon Ziplock, add 3 quarts water, mix well.   Add turkey. Put in fridge for 18-24 hours.

Pumpkin Pecan Pie

-          ¾ cup Truvia Baking Blend
-          2 tsp Pumpkin Pie Spice
-          ½ tsp Salt
-          2 Large Eggs
-          1 Can (15oz) Pumpkin
-          1 Can (12oz) Evaporated Milk
-          1 Unbaked Deep-Dish Pie Crust

MIX
sugar, cinnamon, salt, ginger and cloves in small bowl. Beat eggs in large bowl. Stir in pumpkin and sugar-spice mixture. Gradually stir in evaporated milk.

POUR into pie shell.

BAKE in preheated 425° F oven for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350° F; bake for 40 to 50* minutes or until knife inserted near center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack for 2 hours. Serve immediately or refrigerate. Top with whipped cream before serving.

*Pecan Topping:
-          ½ C Pecan Halves
-          ¼ C Butter
-          ¼ C Brown Sugar
Chop about 1/2 cup of pecans and add them to a sauce pan with 1/4 cup butter and 1/4 cup brown sugar. Over low to medium heat, let the butter sizzle and caramelize the sugar, but be careful not to let the butter burn! remove from heat and set aside.  Pour on top of pie about 15 minutes before it’s done (when it’s firm, but looks soft/wet in center).


* * * * *
Thanksgiving Day

àAllow appx 2-1/2 – 3 hours for cooking the bird.

Rinse the bird under cold running water.  Then let it soak in plain water for 15 minutes.

Turkey Injection Marinade
Mine-All-Mine!

-          ½ C of Reserved brine (from yesterday)
-          ½ C No/Low-Sodium Chicken Broth
-          ½ C Unsalted Butter, melted
-          3 TBS Lemon Juice
-          ½ tsp Garlic Powder
-          ½ tsp Onion Powder
-          ½ tsp Finely Ground Pepper
-          ½ tsp Rubbed Sage
-          1 T Splenda Brown-Sugar Blend

Melt the butter in a small saucepan and add the rest of the stuff. Stir ‘til well blended.

Reserve 1/2 cup  of marinade (for stuffing)

Inject the bird about an hour before cooking.  Let it rest in a foil pan for an hour.  Then, into the cooker!

Southern Style Candied Yams (1 hour)
-          4 large sweet taters
-          1 stick unsalted butter
-          2 cups Stevia/Sugar Blend
-          ¼ C Cream
-          3 tsp Cinnamon
-          ½ tsp Nutmeg
-          2 dashes Ground Cloves
-          1-2 TBS Maple Syrup
-          ½ TBS Vanilla Extract

Wash, peel, slice yams appx ½” thick rounds. Place in 12x9 baking dish. Melt butter over medium heat. Add sugar, stir til blended.  Add cream, stirring constantly.  Add spices and maple/vanilla.  Taste-test.

Pour over yams, cover with foil, bake @ 350* for 40 mins. Remove foil, stir, then bake add’l 20-25 mins. Plate and spoon syrup over yams.

(Hubs doesn't seem to care for yams, and I'm kinda "mediocre" about 'em - but dammit! - they're "traditional!" So I haven't given-up yet!)


Green Bean Casserole (30-35 mins)

-          2 Cans (15oz) French-cut Green Beans (drained? Reserve – just in case)
-          1 Can (10.75oz) Cream of Mushroom Soup
-          Handful of Fresh White Mushrooms, sliced
-          ¾ C Sour Cream
-          ½ C Chopped Onion
-          ¾ C Shredded Cheddar
-          ¾ tsp Garlic Powder
-          1 tsp Soy Sauce
-          1 Can (2.8oz) Cheddar/French-Fried Onions
Dump everything except FF Onions into medium casserole dish.  Blend well.  Bake at 350* for 25 mins.  Stir, then add FF onions. Cook add’l 10 mins ‘til brown.

(Oddly, we *never* had green-bean casserole when I was a kid - but I now consider it "mandatory" for Thanksgiving!) (How long has green-bean casserole been around, anyway?  Curious...) 

Stuffing!!! (20-30 mins)
Mine-All-Mine!
-          ½ C of Reserved Marinade
-          1-1/4 C Apple Cider
-          1-1/4 C Unsalted Chicken Broth
-          ½ C Butter
-          2 Boxes Stove-Top Stuffing Mix
-          Chicken-Apple Sausage (4 links – chunked/chopped)
-          1 Medium Red Onion, chopped
-          2-3 Stalks Celery, chopped
-          ½ C Craisins (appx)
-          ½ C Chopped Pecans (appx)
-          Couple of Granny Smith Apples, peeled and chopped (New addition – curious to know how it works out)

Heat up marinade, cider, broth and butter in a medium saucepan.  *Check the Salt Level* - Adjust, if necessary
In separate small frying pan, brown the sausage and saute onion and celery ‘til limp.  Add sausage, onions, celery to marinade stuff.  Dump in Stuffing mix and toss in the Craisins, Pecans and Apples.  Mix well.  Dump into an 8x8 aluminum cake pan (or two!).  Bake at 350* for 20-30 mins.

(Stuffing is THE BEST part of Thanksgiving!)

Mashed Potatoes and Gravy

Stove-top, maybe 15-20 mins?  

Pretty self-explanatory.  

Salted, boiled, peeled 'taters, water drained.  Mash.  Add cream and salt + white pepper.

Gravy: Boiled, chopped giblets (no liver!), canned gravy from store, add some de-greased turkey drippings, chicken broth and (optional) thickener (if needed)

Thickener: either flour+butter roux or corn-starch+ water (whatever you've got on-hand)

(Mashed 'taters are like the "plain cousin" to stuffing!)

Crescent Rolls

Yep, from a can!

(Yawn)

Cranberry Sauce or Relish
I'm going to use my Cranberry-Apple Jam for cranberry sauce, this year.  Maybe toss-in some finely chopped pecans and some orange zest and mix it up.

* * * * *
Now, prepare to be frightened (I know *I* am!), but here is the Master Shopping List for this year's Thanksgiving Extravaganza (bearing in mind, that I already have most of this stuff!)

Qty
Item
1 box
Brown Sugar

12oz can
Evaporated Milk

???
Flour or Corn Starch

1-2 bags
Splenda Brown Sugar Blend

1-2 bags
Stevia/Sugar Baking Blend

Small bottle
Maple Syrup

1
10.75 can Cream of Mushroom Soup

1
15 oz can pumpkin

2
15 oz cans french-cut green beans

1-2
2.8 oz cans of French-Fried Onions ("Cheddar")

2 cartons
32 oz low-sodium (or no salt) Chicken Broth

2 boxes
Stove Top Stuffing Mix - Turkey Flavored

1-2 cans
Turkey Gravy

1 quart
Heavy (Whipping) Cream

1 pint
Sour Cream

1 box
Sweet Butter (reg butter)

1 box
Unsalted Butter

Big Bag
Pecan Halves

1 bottle
Soy Sauce 

1
9" Deep-Dish Frozen Pie Crust

1 gallon
Apple Cider

16 oz.
Chicken Apple Sausage

???
Giblets (if avail)

9-10#
Organic Turkey Breast (or 10-12# Whole)

1-2 pkgs
Craisins

1 head
Garlic

1-2
Granny Smith Apples

1
Head Celery

1-2
Lemons

2-3
Medium Onions

3-4
Oranges

few sprigs
Rosemary

few sprigs
Sage

4 large
Sweet Potatoes/Yams

8 oz
White Mushrooms

???
White or Red Potatoes (I "eyeball" it)

1-2 cans
Crescent Rolls

Jar
Bay Leaves

Jar
Cinnamon

Jar
Garlic Powder

Jar
Ground Cloves

Jar
Ground pepper (fresh ground is better)

Jar
Nutmeg

Jar
Onion Powder

Jar
Pumpkin Pie Spice

Jar
Rubbed Sage

Jar
Sea Salt

Small bottle
Vanilla Extract (the REAL stuff!)

Jar
White Pepper

Jar
Whole peppercorns



 


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