Dinner the way dinner should be — fresh.

Good Lord. Has it been almost a month?

It has. I haven’t been cooking a great deal — it’s been too damn hot, I’ve been gone, work has been nuts, all the usual mea culpas.  And I’m about to be gone for another week — the fam, or at least most of it, is headed south to the beach for a week, where I will eat many shrimps and drink much beer. Reports on that when I get back, because I am NOT taking the laptop.

There has been some cooking. It’s prime veggie time, so there has been corn, okra, peas, green beans, tomatoes, and all the other bounty of summer. There’s been pickle-making, and as the tomatoes are starting to come in, there have been tomatoes dehydrated and stowed in bags in the freezer. I’m going to try my hand at canning some dried tomatoes in oil, if the Romas will ever come in in enough quantity. There have been capreses and BLTs.

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Tonight’s dinner brought to you by what I had on hand.

I kept myself from going to the Farmers’ Market this morning — and it was hard! — because I had not yet worked up the blackberries and peaches I got last week, nor had I touched the yellow squash and zucchini, and I still had tomatoes. More importantly, I’m headed out of town for the first half of the week tomorrow afternoon.

Nope. don’t need to go to the Farmers’ Market. Need to use up what I’ve got.

Well, I used some of it.

Tonight is the last meal off the chicken salad I bought a week ago. It’s still very good. I just don’t think it’ll last much longer. I scooped it out over thick slices of tomato, doused in a good olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt and cracked pepper.  And a marinated veggie salad, because I could make that and it will hold until I get back, because it’s a vinegar and oil-based dressing. And blackberry cobbler for dessert, with vanilla ice cream.  And there’s another blackberry cobbler in the freezer.

And I still haven’t touched the zucchini, the yellow squash and the peaches. Sigh. Will HAVE to work up the peaches tonight before I go to bed. May make some peach muffins for church tomorrow.

This salad, though. I’ve made some variant of it for years. A lot of times I just use cucumbers, onions, carrots, sugar snap peas, cut up some tomatoes in there at the last minute. This time I went a different route. I had mushrooms that needed to be used, so I sauteed them until they gave up their water and tossed them in a bowl. Added sauteed asparagus, because the Aldi had packages of MASSIVE asparagus spears (things were bigger than my thumb!) for $1.79, and I could NOT turn them down. I cut the asparagus in half-inch lengths, left the tips whole, sauteed the whole thing, added it to the mushrooms. Added some black olives. Drained a jar of artichoke hearts, chopped them roughly, added those. Drained a jar of sliced/diced pimiento peppers, threw those in. Nuked some fresh corn on the cob, cut the kernels off, added those as well.

Dressing was a half a cup of olive oil; about 1/4 cup of a mixture of golden balsamic vinegar and white wine vinegar. Couple of tablespoons of honey. Thyme and oregano (I just used dried, too damn hot to go out and get fresh out of the herb garden. Added a little black pepper.

Whisked it all up, nuked it just to get it good and warm, whisked it again, poured it over the veggies, and stirred it up. It helps to have at least some of the veggies warm, and the dressing warm, because it seems to soak in to the veggies better.

This is possibly the most versatile thing you can make. I thought about putting some frozen green peas in it, but I couldn’t find the two packages I got at the grocery t’other day. I would have put some raw sugar snaps, cut up, into it, but they had been in the fridge too long and had gone south. Chopped up a few green onions. I had carrots out to put in it, and just didn’t; the bowl was getting full, and I like to parboil carrots just a little bit until they’re starting to get tender, and quite honestly, I just couldn’t trouble myself to do it. The orange would’ve looked pretty though.

You can also, if you want to make a big honking bowl of salad to take to a potluck or some such, make this and cook a pound of pasta, double the dressing, and make a marvelous pasta salad. You can add diced up salami or proscuitto, or both, and some grated cheese, or can throw in shredded chicken if you want to make it a main course. You can add diced, roasted new potatoes(I believe if I were using potatoes, I’d forego the pasta). Hardboiled eggs. Chopped ham. Leftover pulled pork. Truth be told, you can add whatever you have in the fridge or on the counter. If you’re going to add a watery veggie like squash or cucumbers, I’d recommend chopping it, salting it, and letting it drain a little first.

And then you can eat off of it for days. Because it’s that good. If you have another dressing you like better, use it. This balsamic (the reason it had white wine vinegar in it was I ran out of golden balsamic, so that’s on the grocery list, so I finished out with white and increased the honey a tad) is my personal go-to. YMMV.

But you ‘n y’mama ‘n ’em try it. I just about guarantee you’ll love it. And it’ll make a good start on cleaning out your fridge.

 

 

Summer bounty. Lord, I love it.

June and July are my favorite months of the year. Because they’re when local fruits and veggies are at their peak.

After July, when we get into the dog days of August, gardens around here tend to burn up, unless they’re in a spot where they have plenty of moisture and partial shade. Stuff just quits. Except for okra and cucumbers and zucchini. That’s when you get monster zucchini and the Attack of the Cucumbers. I don’t think you can get too hot and dry for zucchini and cucumbers. They suck the water from the aquifers, or something, I dunno.

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I have gardened!

May 3, 2018

These are the herbs that overwintered/reseeded themselves, along with a few pots of new ones from this year.

And, oh, God, am I going to pay for it tomorrow. I’m already so sore and achy I can barely move. Damn this getting old stuff.

But, in the books for this year, so far:

Six pots of herbs, plus a significant bit of weeding and rearranging in the herb bed.

  • Fourteen tomato plants (should have been 15, but I miscounted when I was buying, so I’ll pick up another one tomorrow). I have four Better Boys, an Arkansas Traveler, a Brandywine, and I’ll pick up a Cherokee Purple tomorrow, a yellow cherry, a red cherry, and six Romas.
  • Six pepper plants. Two Cubanelles, two pimientos, a poblano/ancho (he will be an ancho, because I won’t pick him until he’s red), and a Thai hot.
  • The seed garden, which includes pole beans, lima beans, cucumbers (two kinds), carrots, cabbage, radishes, squash, and I think something else but I forgot what it was. Guess we’ll see when it comes up.

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At last!

July 2, 2016

About damn time. Fresh veggies dinner.

About damn time. Fresh veggies dinner.

Had pork chops thawed. Didn’t cook ’em. Didn’t want ’em. Didn’t need ’em.

Because the above, you see is the first farmers market dinner of the season, two or three weeks late because today was the first day I’ve been able to GET to the farmers market since I’ve been hobbled by this damn ankle.

And tomatoes by God and me. Out of my very own, terribly grassed-over, garden. That was possibly the best tomato I ever ate in my life. Seriously. Perfection in a tomato.

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Veggies, dammit!

February 16, 2016

I love veggies. You will remember me waxing eloquent about them during the summer, and many, many dinners centered around fresh garden vegetables.

So, an eating plan that wants me to down three vegetable servings a day? Piece of cake, right?

Wrong.

I started this online eating/exercise challenge three weeks ago. You get points for doing different things — drinking at least 64 ounces of water a day, eating two servings of fruit, three servings of veggies, abstaining from added sugars or sweet treats, not eating 2-3 hours before bedtime, etc.

First off, they throw you a curve ball. The fruit is easy — two half-cup servings. I knock that out in my breakfast smoothie of a morning. But the veggies, a serving suddenly expands into a full cup! Now, I ask you, is that fair? All of a sudden, it’s not THREE servings of veggies, it’s SIX servings of veggies, and when you start trying to get THAT all in, especially in the middle of winter, it gets difficult.

So I’ve been trying all sorts of tricks. I’ve made homemade vegetable juice. I’ve started putting carrot juice in my smoothies in the morning. I keep carrot sticks and hummus around in the fridge to snack on, along with raw cabbage. And yesterday, I made a big pot of vegetable soup.

It’s been a long time since I made a vegetable soup that was all vegetables, without starting with pot roast leftovers or at least stew beef. I sauteed an onion, added a little garlic, dumped in a quart of home-canned tomatoes and a pint of tomato juice. Added a package of frozen mixed vegetables, a diced potato and some carrots, an envelope of Lipton’s onion soup mix, a cube of beef bouillon and a tablespoon or so of Worcestershire. Didn’t salt, as the soup mix, the beef bouillon and the Worcestershire are all salty. Cooked it 30 minutes on high pressure in the Instant Pot. Quite tasty. It made a half-gallon, so that’ll keep me in soup all week, and that’ll make a dent in the veggie requirement.

I need to make a grocery run tomorrow, and I’m already counting on stocking up on produce. I have cauliflower and broccoli in the fridge that need to get cooked tomorrow, so that should do for tomorrow’s veggies. I need to pick up zucchini and cucumbers and radishes and a cabbage, among other things. Oh, and sweet potatoes; I’m almost out of sweet potatoes.

More and more of my grocery bill is being spent in the produce section; fortunately, Kroger here has an excellent one, and there’s always the Truck Patch (the natural foods market) to fill in with some of the more exotic things. But I’ll surely be glad when the farmers’ market opens. And I expect I will be making some early-season pilgrimages to the Memphis market as well as to Wilson Gardens for produce, as well.

Makes you ‘n y’mama ‘n ’em wish for spring and summer to hurry up, doesn’t it?

 

 

Healthy for January

January 11, 2016

After all, it’s what resolutions are made of, right?

In the event you haven’t given up in the first two weeks and chunked your resolution to eat healthier, lose weight and exercise onto the 2016 trash heap, here are a couple of things you can put together on a Monday morning for quick lunches that are your friend on the calorie/carb scale.

Healthy stuff for the New Year.

Healthy stuff for the New Year.

First, hummus. You should always, always, have a can of chickpeas in your pantry, because when you’re desperate for something for an appetizer, you can whir up some hummus and feel quite sophisticated and international. Plus, it’s good stuff, and it’s healthy. While you’re about it, you can cut up several different kinds of raw veggies and stash them in plastic baggies in the fridge, so all you have to do is spoon out some hummus and lay out some veggies for a snack or to go with lunch.

Not much is easier than hummus, which is what you want to make of it. Drain your 15-oz can of chickpeas. Dump them in the FoPro. Add about 1/3 cup of tahini (sesame paste), which, as far as I can tell, lasts indefinitely in the fridge.  Add some garlic — garlic confit, in my case, given my aversion to raw garlic. I used about 6 or 8 cloves. Add some lemon juice — at least three or four tablespoons, and leave it out because you may want more.

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