Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Curry Stew

I've been dreaming of curry since eggplant came into season. This last weekend I bought four at the farmer's market.
Several years ago I purchased a cookbook called "Greatest-Ever Thai Cookbook". There's at least one recipe on my Cooking List from this recipe book. Tonight, I used a recipe as a guide but made several tweaks. I'm only going to share my tweaked recipe.

Curry Stew

14 oz. eggplant (2 small ones), chunked
1 small zucchini, chunked
4 Tbsp oil (a low smoke oil, like vegetable oil, not olive oil)
about a dozen pickling onions, slice about half of them, the other half cut in half
1 tsp fennel seed
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 Tbsp ginger, chopped
2 c vegetable stock
2 lemon grass stalks, outer layers discarded, finely chopped
2/3 c cilantro, leaves and stems chopped separately
2 Tbsp red curry paste
2 sweet potatoes (or yams, if you can't find sweet potatoes and are really hungry for this stew), chunked
14 oz. coconut milk
1 Tbsp brown sugar
8 oz mushrooms, quartered

Lots of chopping involved in this recipe, and this only shows part of it.
In a large skillet, brown the eggplant and zucchini in about half the oil. Then place in a bowl off to the side.
Add the pickling onions that are cut in half and lightly brown. Then place in the bowl with the eggplant.
Add the rest of the oil to the skillet. Add the fennel, cloves, ginger and sliced onion and saute for about 5 minutes.
Add the stock, lemon grass, chopped cilantro stems and curry paste and simmer for about 5 minutes.
Add sweet potatoes and simmer for about 10 minutes or until potatoes are tender.
Add the onions, eggplant and zucchini back to the pan and simmer with 5 minutes.
Add the coconut milk, brown sugar and mushrooms and simmer another 5 minutes.
Add cilantro leaves right before turning off the heat.

Serve over rice. I ate it over brown rice that I soaked over night. Check out how much water the rice absorbed:
The black line about 1/3 of the way up the container is where the beans and rice were last night. I filled the containers about 3/4 the way with water.

You know that amazing smell when you walk into a Thai restaurant? That's the scent of ginger, fennel, lemon grass, stock and cilantro simmering.

Let's see if the Hubs notices this is a vegetarian recipe... 

Stuffed Peppers

 This recipe is adapted from The Joy of Cooking. It's what we had for dinner Sunday night.
Stuffed Peppers (Pretty much how I remember Yemista in Greece)

4-5 bell peppers, stemmed and seeded. Steam for about 15 minutes
1 1/2 c rice (I used jasmine rice because I'm trying to empty it out of my pantry)
1 pound ground beef
1 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 pint tomatoes
2 eggs, beaten
about 2 Tbsp fresh herbs (I used Greek oregano and thyme)
a couple Tbsp grated parmesan cheese
a couple Tbsp dried bread crumbs

Start the bell peppers to steaming and the rice to cooking.

Brown the ground beef, drain the grease and add the onions and garlic. Cook until the onions are tender. Turn off heat.

Add the rice, tomatoes, herbs and eggs to the pan. Mix it all up. Salt and pepper to taste.

Lightly spray a pan with oil (I used a loaf pan because my 8x8 pan was in the fridge with veggie lasagna in it still). Fill the peppers with the meat/rice mixture and arrange in the pan.

Sprinkle the parmesan and bread crumbs on top.
Bake at 375 for about 20 minutes.

We ate the peppers with sauteed summer squash on the side, sauteed in a little olive oil with salt, pepper and garlic powder.

Schematic Design exam

If you've ever wondered what is on these blasted 7 exams I have to take to get a license to practice architecture, here's some info about the last one I have to take, Schematic Design.

This is the only one of the 7 that doesn't have any multiple choice on it; it is only 2 drawings. One is an interior layout, which requires arranging rooms and furniture. The other is a building layout, requiring specific adjacencies between rooms, door and window placement.

 Here's the interior layout. Luckily, there is a forum where you can post your solution and then others who are taking/have taken the exam will critique your solution. For the interior layout, you get a program, which is a list of rooms and the furniture required in each room. Certain rooms require windows, or access to other rooms. There must be a 5' diameter circle for a wheelchair to make a complete turn around in each room. There must be 3' of clearance between furniture and between furniture and walls. That's what all the green circles are.

 The building layout always has two floors. The programs gives a list of rooms, their square footages, if they require windows, which rooms are supposed to be adjacent, which rooms require direct access, and which rooms require visual control. In this floor plan, LD is supposed to have visual control of CR, W and L, that's what the green lines represent.

You're probably looking at this wondering what the big deal is. Part of the problem is that most of us taking the exams work with AutoCAD everyday. The program that the test uses is really dumbed down. Imagine the difference between Paint and Adobe Photoshop. Now imagine you're supposed to edit a photo in Paint, when you would typically use Photoshop. It can be done, but it's slow going.
For the interior layout, you are allotted 1 hour and for the building layout, 4 hours.

After several emails and phone calls, I am finally able to register to re-take this last exam. Now I need to double check my work schedule and cough up the $210 for the exam. (My work pays for the first attempt to take each exam, but not retakes. Although, I'll still get paid for my time off to take the exam.)

Monday, August 29, 2011

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Farmer's Market Bounty

I love the farmer's market because the produce is fresher than grocery store produce, and typically cheaper.
Today I bought:
Zukes/squash 3 for $1
Eggplant 4 for $1
Tomatoes $2.50/lb (spent $2)
Cantaloupe $3
Bell peppers 5 for $2
Total: $9

For some perspective, green bell peppers run 70 cents at Dillons, and other colors are at least $2  piece. You know, those red peppers are extra special, right?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Garden Report 08.24.11

Checked on the garden this morning and was greeted by itty bitty cucumbers. It's against my better judgement to leave these plants in the ground so late in the season (actually almost pulled them up over the weekend), but they've fought so hard to make it this far!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Leave it at the Office

Since getting a smartphone in late November, I've had 24 hour access to my work email, without having to log on to a computer. For awhile I thought that was "cool" and convenient. It's handy to check my email when I'm on my way to a jobsite, or check the weather or read the news at any time.
It's not so cool that I also get email when I'm on vacation. I turn off the auto-sync feature just so I can rest, otherwise I hear that "ping" and wonder what the email is about.
Smartphones are a good invention, and are handy for keeping in touch, but they also make it harder to leave the work at the office. They make it difficult to clock out and turn your mind off of work.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Music Monday: The Hush Sound: Wine Red [OFFICIAL VIDEO]

Another one of those videos that I didn't expect the video to be so sad. I listened to the song for a year or so before I searched for it online.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Putting Food by: Mint Liqueur

Does this count as putting food by? I'm thinking Mojitos when the mint is dead this winter.

I used the Fresh Mint Liqueur 2 recipe from this website: http://healthy-life.narod.ru/nal_e39.htm

 Today I started steeping the mint leaves in the vodka. Skyy vodka is what Grandma Ettling uses for her raspberry liqueur, so I thought I'd try it with this. A fifth is 3 cups, which is good to know for next time. (For some reason that didn't occur to me and I used a measuring cup...)
 1 1/4 c of mint in vodka.
It's going to sit on the counter for the next two weeks and steep. I put it next to the coffee pot so I'll remember to shake it up every morning. After two weeks, I'll move on to the next step - straining the leaves out and mixing in a simple syrup.

Putting Food by: Tomatoes

Tomatoes are my favorite part of the summer. They're the main reason I started a garden. And they're one of many vegetables in my garden this year that have refused to produce. This summer has been too dry to grow anything.

Today I bought a 25 pound box of seconds from one of the Amish tents at the farmer's market for $12. To put the price into perspective, "firsts" are selling for $2 a pound.

I canned 14 pints today, and have enough tomatoes for at least another 7 pints. But after two batches, the house was hot and I was pooped.

For directions on how to can tomatoes , see my post from last summer: http://threecountryacres.blogspot.com/2010/08/canning-tomatoes.html

 Here's what a 25 pound box of tomatoes looks like.They're seconds because they are bruised, split, were ripe last week, or aren't evenly ripe.

 Here's what 8 pounds of tomatoes looks like. I can in pints because there's just me and the Hubs, but once we have kids, I'll probably can quarts. That means I'll need bigger pots.

 After two batches of tomatoes, there's still a lot left!

Aren't they pretty!?

Friday, August 19, 2011

Zucchini Fritters

This recipe is adapted from a recipe out of Food & Wine magazine, August 2011 issue for Zucchini Ricotta Fritters. I picked up a zucchini from the farmers market a couple weeks ago and kind of forgot about it... and then ran across this recipe a couple nights ago.

Zucchini Fritters
1 zucchini, large enough so you'll have about 2-3 cups of shredded zucchini
1 large egg
1 shallot, diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
1/2 c cottage cheese
1/2 - 3/4c flour
1 tsp fresh chives, chopped
splash of lemon juice

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl.

Heat a cast iron griddle or skillet over medium heat. Sprinkle on some olive oil so the fritters won't stick. Fry about 1/3 to 1/2 c of mixture at a time, a couple minutes each side, until they are golden.

1. The original recipe calls for ricotta. I used cottage cheese because it's more versatile in our kitchen. I use cottage cheese for overnight oats in a jar. Hey! I saw you scrunch your nose. Try them first!

2. I topped mine with black bean salsa.

3. I forgot to buy a lemon, or I would have added lemon zest

4. This is a good recipe for those zucchini that are close to "beached whale" size. You can pick out the big seeds as you're shredding it.

5. The original recipe called for frying them in 1/4" oil. Way to take something with the potential for being healthy and fry it! I cooked them more like pancakes. The insides were a little gooey-er than they probably would be fried in more oil.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Garden Report 08.18.2011

 A little update on the seedlings inside... When we went home to the farm last weekend for a four day weekend, I meant to take the lid off the tray but forgot. Sadly, some of the basil and artichokes "damped off". But there's still a lot more basil! All of the seed was old, so I'm not surprised or saddened that the parsley didn't sprout. However, the cilantro is new seed and it didn't sprout either. But I've had really bad luck growing cilantro from seed this year.

 The Mesclun salad mix is getting bigger! so are the carrots.
 We got a lot of rain last week so the garden is finally perking up. The banana pepper plant is loaded.
Still have aphids on the marsh milkweed. I put dipel dust on it twice and it seems like it killed a lot of them, but there's still a lot of them alive. I think the aphids reproduce too quickly!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Garden Report 08.14.2011

This weekend we went home to the farm, and there was no one here to water my garden. I was a little worried I'd come home to slouched over, crunchy plants, but they weren't too bad. Here are the harvest totals for the day:
Thessaloniki tomato: 1.5 oz
Black Cherry tomato: 6.5 oz
Golden California Wonder pepper: 1.5 oz
Banana pepper: 14.5 oz.

The peppers were from the garden down at Terry's house. There are more peppers set on, but I'll wait until later in the week to harvest. There are several of the tomatoes set on and looking close to turning red. She had some strawberries too that are starting to turn. They're a different variety than what I have here. Mine only produce in the spring and they send out runners, hers are blooming now and are bushier.

The resurrection lilies finally bloomed! This was the third year they've been in the ground here. Last year they only put up green and didn't bloom.

The carrots and some of the lettuce and spinach I planted are starting to come up. The cover crops I planted (winter wheat and crimson clover) are coming up too.
Mesclun mix


Winter wheat

winter wheat, with a fresh molehill!

I think I've decided not to grow native flowers. I like growing native plants because they aren't invasive, but they are expensive and half of what I purchased this year has died. All three ferns have croaked, both cardinal flowers have croaked and one blue lobelia has died. I am left with a Jacob's ladder, columbine, marsh milkweed, and one blue lobelia. I started some flowers from seed and the greens are there, but not very large, and no flowers yet. These are all the flowers that are behind the greenhouse. Next year, I think I'll plant zinnias and sunflowers back there and not plant flowers in the main garden beds. Actually, the flowers that came up in the raised beds this year (bachelor buttons, sunflower and marigold) are all volunteer plants that came up from last year's seed.

Here you can see tons of aphids. Before we left on Thursday I put diatomaceous earth on them. It didn't phase them, so tonight I put pyrethrin on the milkweed. We'll see if it does anything!
Blue Lobelia

Monday, August 8, 2011

Music Monday: Dire Straits - Sultans of Swing

No music comparison today, but this is one of those songs that when it comes on the radio, I crank it up and sing along!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Music Monday: Comparison

Today instead of just giving you a song I listen to, I want to compare two songs I listen to. The first is a classic, "Money" by Pink Floyd.

The second is "Paper Planes" by M.I.A., a rapper who surfaced in the last couple years. I listen to Pandora when at work, and this artist came up one day and I was stricken by the similarities in some Pink Floyd tunes.

I know they are completely different generations and genres of music, but pay attention to how they use sounds in their music. I heard once that Pink Floyd experimented with different sounds to make nontraditional music, such as cash registers and coins, kind of like saying that different sounds are music to different people's ears. M.I.A. uses cash registers, too, and gun shots.
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