Archive for August, 2009

I was so excited to go to the beach last week. But of course there’s a lot to do before you go. So I cooked and froze a bunch of produce and shelled pecans (2 shelled pounds worth!). By the end of the day, I had burns from the oven, lacerations from pecan shells on my hands,  and a scratched eye from more pecan shell shrapnel. “Saltwater will fix that.” That’s what we kept saying as we limped our way to Daytona.

And it worked, more or less. Or at least we had a great time.

We got a little condo with a kitchen, but I didn’t do any serious cooking. My guys aren’t really into seafood. So I didn’t cook any fresh-caught seafood. We went out a few times, though, and I had some really tasty shrimp.

I made easy food: tacos, stuffed baked potatoes, spaghetti, and sandwiches. Last year I learned my lesson about buying produce at the store. It really is different.

Last year, I went to the Daytona Beach Publix and saw all this produce I recognized and had come to love. So I bought some zucchini not even considering that it might taste different from what I was getting at home.

Same recipe, but the results were bland and kind of mushy. Blech. The guys liked it, but they’re better vegetable eaters than I am. I was really disappointed. And honestly, I wasn’t prejudging it. I was confused at first as why it wasn’t good. Not until the next day did I realize the only difference was the zucchini. So I ended up with the results of a semi-blind taste test that was a nice reminder of why I love my CSA. I wouldn’t be eating all these vegetables if they didn’t taste so good.

So this time at Publix I just bought tomatoes, onion, and a head of romaine for our vegetables. Lots of salad and nobody was disappointed.

When we got back Monday night, I made some vegetable soup with some of the stuff in the freezer to catch us up on our veggies.

For the farmers

It occurred to me that farmers don’t get to go to the beach. So for all you farmers out there…

The water was 72 degrees. That’s cold. It may not sound cold, but, when your chest deep in it waiting for a decent wave, it’s cold. Darn cold. And the sand gets everywhere.  And there were jellyfish, and the water tasted foul out of the tap.


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So here’s the run-down on supper. The broiled shrimp po-boys were pretty good but not super special. It was fun to make the garlic mayonnaise, though. I’ll definitely play around with homemade mayo again. And I loved the fresh sorrel! No one seemed to like it as much as I did, but who cares? That’s great stuff. I’m only sorry I ate it all fresh so I didn’t get a chance to make sorrel sauce.

The beginning and end of the meal were the best. The cream of tomato soup turned out great. It tasted really fresh even though some of the tomatoes were from a can. The process is conveniently timed, too. I cooked and pureed the tomatoes earlier in the day and then added them to the cream and heated it while preparing the rest of supper. If I get a chance to buy more tomatoes in bulk, I’ll make and freeze some tomato puree with a mind towards making more of this soup later in the year.

Dessert was my favorite part: frozen berries, sugared pecans, vanilla ice cream, and whipped cream.

berry yummy

I also loved the fresh sorrel on the

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So here’s my plan for Saturday’s supper. It’s all new to me, but, if something goes horribly wrong, we can have pasta with pesto or just go straight to dessert.


Cream of tomato soup

I’ll use fresh tomatoes if they don’t get eaten before Saturday. My guest is bringing bread that we’ll have with the soup.

Broiled shrimp po-boys

Marinated and broiled shrimp, homemade garlic mayo, and sorrel leaves in toasted hot dog buns. Here’s where the idea came from although I’m not going to toss the shrimp in gin and sherry before broiling. Gin and sherry?! It’s probably great, but I’ll just stick to the basic marinade for now.

Salad and green beans

Hopefully enough of the lettuce will still be around Saturday evening to serve. I can always stretch it with more sorrel leaves. I’ll toss it with a light vinaigrette and top it with craisins and toasted walnuts.

I’ll sauté blanched green beans in a little oil and top with salt, pepper, and some fresh lemon juice.

Frozen berries in whipped cream and candied pecans

I’ll whip the cream that’s leftover from making the soup. I need to make the pecans because I separated some egg whites yesterday and I’ll separate another to make the mayo. And we can take leftover pecans with us to the beach….


Off to the beach!

Next week we’re going to the beach. So this means we have a lot to eating and cooking to do along with the planning and the packing.

We need to eat a bunch of fried rice, green beans, coleslaw, squash and watermelon. If we run out of time, I’ll blanch and freeze the green beans and squash.

I’ve already made the basil into pesto that will keep in the freezer until we return. If I have some sorrel left after Saturday, I’ll cook it into green sauce and freeze it, too.

I’m also going to make and freeze a couple of dishes of eggplant Parmesan with all that gorgeous eggplant. When I cook the eggplant, I know the guys will want to eat it instead of fried rice, green beans, etc. So I’m either going to cook it right after a big meal or just give in to the inevitable and serve it for supper one night and then freeze the leftovers.

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Summer bug successes!

A couple of months ago, I wrote about problems with bugs in the summertime. So I wanted to report two relative successes with fruit flies and chiggers.

Fruit fly trap

We’ve nearly eliminated the fruit flies with this trap. flytrap

The solution consists of water, about a teaspoon of sugar, a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, and a couple of drops of dishwashing soap. The yellow color of the bowl helps, too. We put it on the windowsill where the light attracts the flies.

Chigger prevention

I’ve been using Avon Skin So Soft lotion before I go out in the yard. (Well, if you’ve been to my house, you know it’s more bush than yard.) I rub the lotion around my ankles, waist, arms, and neck every time I head out. I use the original lotion pictured here.


I got one chigger bite yesterday after wandering out under-lotioned. It made me realize that I’ve gone for weeks without any chiggers! And I’ve been outside a lot – tending the garden and hanging out with the fish and frogs in our new pond. I’m usually covered in them if I spend anytime sitting around outside in the summer.

Avon now sells Skin So Soft in all sorts of bug sprays, but who wants to put bug spray on every time you go out? It smells bad and goes everywhere. I bought some of that stuff last year, and I never liked using it. I’m much more consistent about putting on some not-too-smelly lotion.

One time I tried a different Skin So Soft fragrance I liked a little better, and it didn’t work so well. So I’m sticking with the original lotion from here on out.

Update: I’ve been bitten a few times recently, and I’ve noticed I don’t react nearly as badly. It’s more like a mosquito bite than the past insanity of itching. Maybe getting a bunch of chiggers primes the immune system to react more violently, and not getting any for a while chills it out. Either way, I’m a much happier camper this summer.

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This week’s box8-5

  • garlic
  • sorrel
  • corn (minus two ears we ate for lunch)
  • Pioneer Porridge
  • honey
  • green beans
  • lettuce mix
  • watermelon
  • Asian eggplant
  • basil
  • eggs
  • yellow squash
  • tomatoes

Entertaining on a small scale

I’ve invited a friend for dinner this weekend, so I’ve been thinking about menus. With all the eggplant, eggplant Parmesan is one obvious choice. The sorrel and basil are interesting, too. I’ll look around a little more and report back.

Other plans

We haven’t tried the porridge yet. I think of it more as a cold weather dish. Mmm…. cold weather. Can’t wait for sweaters, snuggling, and porridge. And French onion soup on a cold night.

The green beans are delicious. I think they’re Romano green beans. I always think they won’t be as good as the skinny french beans, but they’re better. I’ve been blanching them and then quickly sauteeing them in a little olive oil and garlic and a little sliced onion if there’s any handy. We  had some for lunch the other day along with grits, summer sausage, Leiden cheese, and cooked apples.


I’m considering making cream of tomato soup using this recipe. If I cut it in half, I think I’ll have enough tomatoes. Maybe that’ll be the soup course for my Saturday supper.


The chicken with lemongrass foretold in the last post was tasty, but I didn’t make enough sauce. That supper I tried something else new and added cabbage to the stir-fried squash recipe. Big mistake. The cabbage changed the ecosystem of the pan, and the whole thing was mush. Overall, not a terrific evening but we survived. Delicious cantaloupe at the end helped.

The sausage tomato zucchini supper was better. I used a whole pound of sausage, and I think it overwhelmed the sauce. But it was still really good. Here are some pictures.


I also made some fried rice with onion, cabbage, garlic, and ginger. I liked the ginger taste; I’ll do that again. I keep ginger root in a bag in my freezer and chop a hunk off when I need it. It’s probably not as good as fresh, but it keeps much longer.

With another onion and the rest of the cabbage, I made coleslaw. I like the vinegary kind. This recipe you just boil some vinegar and oil together along with dry mustard and celery salt. Then you dump it over sliced cabbage, onion, and a little sugar. Stir it up and let it marinate in the fridge over night. It makes a nice refreshing summer side dish. Goes well with corn and tomatoes.

Our peach muffins turned out great! I pretty much followed the yogurt muffin recipe from How to Cook Everything. They were moist and not too sweet. Perfect for morning and afternoon snacks.


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Here’s last Thursday’s supper.


You probably recognize the cherry tomatoes. To the right is some butternut squash roasted with a little butter and maple syrup. Next is zucchini tian. I broiled the zucchini slices in my toaster oven because I couldn’t find my grill pan.


I think it was easier and just as good. What’s a broiler but an upside down grill anyway?

The main dish is grits topped with half a broiled chicken breast, grilled onions, and tarragon goat cheese. I marinated a chicken breast in olive oil, basil, garlic, and tarragon and put it in the toaster to broil. Then I started sautéing some red onion slices along with some of marinade. But the chicken wouldn’t broil itself. I think it’s because I didn’t pound it like I did the last time. So the onions got a lot crunchier than I planned as we waited for the chicken to finish. But it was all still tasty with the grits and the creamy goat cheese and fresh tarragon.

Nighttime treats

Although I regained my senses about making fried peach pies, I decided I still wanted some Varsity food. So I made frosted oranges. Nothing from the CSA here – just vanilla ice cream and orange juice blended together. It’s really easy and makes a nice summer time dessert.


I’ve also made two pots of herbal tea with the hyssop and spearmint, and I take back what I said about not liking all-herbal teas. I used roughly 4 leaves and twenty flowers for each two cup pot and steeped it 10 minutes.

Italian food is yummy.

We had fun Italian food last night: fried eggplant and pasta with basil, zucchini, and pine nuts.

The fried eggplant was a great appetizer. I peeled most of the eggplant so that the batter would stick. I purged them, wiped them off, dunked them in egg wash and then in flour and bread crumbs. Then I fried them in olive oil.

We dipped them in marinara sauce (from a jar). The eggplant’s so creamy the texture is like fried mozzarella.

fried eggplant

For the pasta course, I used a vegetable peeler to get thin strips of the zucchini. That’s when I realized I could have used the peels from the eggplant, too! But I’d already thrown them in the scraps bucket. So sad! The purple peels would have been really pretty with the zucchini.

I started with this pasta recipe but ended with this one. The Epicurious recipe instructs you to peel strips of zucchini and then purge them and use them raw. Interesting, but I wasn’t in the mood for zucchini sashimi. So I chopped up my zucchini strips and sautéed them quickly in a little of the olive oil leftover from the eggplant. I tossed in some basil towards the end, too. Then we mixed it in with the browned butter and pine nuts and topped it all with pepper, Parmesan, and more basil. It was delicious, and we were molto happy.


A detour through East Asia…

Tonight I’m going to make a chicken and lemon grass dish according to this recipe. I’ll serve it over rice and with a side of cabbage and stir-fried squash. I cut up onion and squash for this dish a few days ago, so now I really need to use it.

I’ll make extra rice for fried rice for lunch tomorrow. I’m not sure what we have to go in it. It will be mostly cabbage and onion. If there’s another yellow squash in the fridge, we’ll use that, too.

…and back to Italy again

Tomorrow evening, it’s back to Italy! I’ve already skinned and seeded all the tomatoes in preparation.

tomatoprep (1)

We’ll fry the rest of the eggplant for an appetizer and, this time, save the peelings. Then we’ll make tomato-zucchini-eggplant-sausage pasta.

Here’s the basic idea:

  • Brown the sausage and remove it leaving the fat in the pan.
  • Cook chopped zucchini, some garlic, and chopped eggplant peelings in the fat for a couple of minutes. They should loose some moisture and get a little brown.
  • Add the sausage back plus tomatoes, rosemary, sage, red wine, and maybe another can of crushed tomatoes if necessary. Let it all cook together slowly. Add some fresh basil at the last minute.
  • Serve over pasta. I’m using penne this time.

    On the side, we’ll have butternut squash slices broiled with butter and a little maple syrup.

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