Fill the Freezer — Blueberry Buttermilk Ice Cream

After wading through too many posts and news stories about all the recalls, hidden additives and preservatives in foods lately, I’ve embarked on an effort that I’m calling my Fill the Freezer campaign.  I decided to fill my large standing freezer with lots of food that is homemade, but can easily be heated up or cooked in the time it takes us to get delivery or drive out to grab takeout.  As part of the effort I decided that I also need to resume making my own ice cream.  I used to make my own ice cream, but there was a texture component that I just was not a fan of.  There were just too many ice crystals that got in the way of transferring the flavors.  I’m not a huge ice cream fan, but I love pudding.  There’s something about the way the flavors of a pudding develop on your taste buds in layers and leave a warming vanilla aftertaste.  I’ve read every ice cream recipe book (sometimes cover to cover) I could get my hands on to figure out how to get the right texture.  Then I found Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home and mystery solved, the texture was perfect.  All the creamy yummy texture of pudding that allowed my preference for big bold flavors to transfer perfectly.

Then, I had to ask The Hubs (my in-house ice cream expert) for ideas for flavors.  He turned to me and said, “You know what flavor you can never find in the store? Blueberry!”  I was stumped.  I’ve wandered freezer aisles everywhere and don’t remember ever seeing just a plain Blueberry Ice Cream.  There were lots of strawberry ice creams, but no blueberry.  So, I made a few changes to Jeni’s Roasted Strawberry Buttermilk Ice Cream and voila!  After 24 hours in the freezer, I asked The Hubs to try it out.  I took a spoonful and it was a gorgeous true blueberry flavor with a creamy vanilla finish that just tasted like summer.  The Hubs loved it  and gave me the “Now, when I ask you to make this again two months from now, don’t you tell me you forgot the recipe” look so I figured documentation was in order:

Blueberry Buttermilk Ice Cream

BlueberryIceCream

 

Blueberries:

1 quart blueberries

1 ½ cup sugar

Juice of half a lemon

Ice Cream Base:

4 tablespoons tapioca starch/flour

3 cups whole milk (reserve 4 tablespoons)

2 ½ cups heavy cream

1 ⅓ cup sugar

4 tablespoons tapioca syrup

½ cup buttermilk

4 ounces cream cheese, softened

¼ tsp fine sea salt

1 tbsp vanilla

 

  • Cook down blueberries in stock pot until temp reaches 220F.  Set aside to cool.

  • Make a slurry of 4 tablespoons of milk & 4 tablespoons tapioca starch.  Set aside. 

  • Add the milk, heavy cream, sugar, tapioca syrup & buttermilk to the stock pot.  Pour about ½ cup of blueberry syrup into the pot.

    NOTE: Use the same stock pot that you used to cook the blueberries (there should still be some blueberry syrup still sticking to the inside of the pot so use a wooden spoon and the warm milk to get the rest of it off the sides & bottom of the pan.)

  • Set the pot over medium-high heat and let it come to a boil.

  • In a 2 quart glass measuring cup, whisk sea salt into the softened cream cheese.

  • When the milk mixture starts boiling, set your timer for 4 minutes.

  • At the end of the 4 minutes, remove the stock pot from the heat and slowly whisk in the tapioca starch slurry.

  • Return the pot to the heat and stir with a wooden spoon while it boils for 1 minute.  Remove from the heat.

  • Ladle about 1 cup of the milk mixture into the cream cheese and whisk.  Add more ladles and whisk until no cream cheese lumps appear.

  • Add the rest of the milk mixture to the cream cream cheese mixture and whisk.

  • Set aside to cool.

  • When the steam subsides, add the vanilla, cover the measuring cup and refrigerate for 24 hours

  • Insert the frozen base into a 2 quart ice cream machine.

  • Whisk the ice cream base THOROUGHLY to homogenize it.  There will be some parts that are thicker than others.

  • Add the ice cream base to the ice cream machine.

  • Set two alarms: one for 30 minutes and one for 25 minutes.

  • At 25 minutes, Drain the blueberries and add them to the ice cream base.  If you have syrup left over you can add up to ¼ cup.

  • At 30 minutes move the ice cream to a 2 quart container and freeze for at least 4 hours before serving.

 

 

So Many Apples…

Apple ButterSometimes it takes the right recipe to change your mind about a food. I could never understand why people got so hype over apple butter. It always tasted so one dimensional to me. Then, The Bestie gave me some of her mom’s apple butter. I had that eye popping moment of… “Whoa! It really does exist!” (from the M&M commercials with Santa) — There really is “good” apple butter! Her mom slow baked it with a lot of cloves so it was thick and had a ton of flavor. So, oddly enough my first thought was… This would be amazing in my yogurt! The yogurt took an extra tablespoon of honey per jar because she makes it with sweet apples and doesn’t add sugar, and it was amazing.  It would probably be amazing in ice cream too.

When it was done, I figured, I’m going to see if I can figure out how to make apple butter myself. I still had three half bushels of apples from my trip up to Weaver’s Orchard (my new favorite spot to get apples and other fruit) with The Bestie. So, I certainly had enough that if I messed it up I would still have enough to try again. Since I usually get tart apples, I knew I would need to add sugar. I laid out every cookbook I had that had an apple butter recipe in it and started trying to figure out how to get started. I couldn’t believe how many of the recipes called for just a teaspoon of cinnamon for the whole batch. I love spices so that wasn’t going to work for me. So, I opened up the spice drawer and pulled out everything that sounded interesting.

Apple Butter Yogurt

Apple Butter Yogurt

It took forever to bake, which was fine since I didn’t have to do anything but check it occasionally to make sure it reached the thick consistency I was looking for. When I was done I ended up with 5-1/2 quarts so I had to can it since the freezer had absolutely no space left. I used a huge bag of apples so you can adjust the recipe proportions down as needed. The apple butter ended up being perfect on my buttered bread with my Curried Cauliflower & Potato Soup. The tartness was fantastic with the earthy spices in the soup.

 

Apple Butter

16 pounds tart baking apples (I used courtland apples), cored and quartered (leave the skins on the apples)
16 cups apple juice/cider

Zest & Juice of 3 small lemons
2 cup sugar
2 cups maple syrup
2 Tbsp cinnamon
2 Tbsp cloves
1 Tbsp allspice
1 tsp ginger
1/2 t cardamom
1 cup port
2 star anise pods

In a large stock pot over medium-low heat, cover and simmer apples in apple juice/cider for 2 hours (from the time it starts to bubble). After 2 hours apples should be soft enough to process through a food mill to puree and remove the skins.

Preheat oven to 250F.

Put the pureed apples in a non-reactive large roasting pan (glass or stainless steel). Add lemon zest, lemon juice, sugar, maple syrup, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, ginger, cardamom, port and star anise pods. Stir to combine. Leave to bake for 10 hours or until it reaches the desired consistency.  Remove the star anise pods before storing or serving.

Serve on warm biscuits.

 

Refrigerate the apple butter if using in the next few weeks.  Use a water-bath canner to can any apple butter you can’t use (or give away).

 

Superstitions….

When I was a kid, my grandmother insisted that everyone eat Pork, Collard Greens & Black Eyed Peas for New Year’s Day Dinner.  There were no excuses allowed.  Not even the fact that I don’t like the taste/texture of cooked collard greens.  Hate may be a strong word, but sadly, it applies here.  I juice collard greens all the time because I know it’s nutrient dense, but if it’s cooked, I will pass any day but New Year’s Day (begrudgingly of course). Although I should say, soup is my only reasonable exception to the no cooked collards rule  so I usually do New Year’s Day Soup if I’m making dinner, but since I had limited time this year I went with the family’s easy fall back: The Big Salad.  Since we prefer salads that are a mix of hot and cold ingredients, I figured I could still say I “cooked” New Year’s Day dinner.

So, I set up three pots on the stove and went to work.  Of course you can make the parts days ahead and assemble at will like a salad bar so don’t let the big list fool you into believing this salad is a lot of work:

New Year’s Day Good Luck Salad

 New Years Day Salad

Pot 1: Saute Pan: Pork (Smoked Sausage):

  • 1-pound smoked pork sausage
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar (raw if you can find it)

Slice 1-pound smoked pork sausage in 3/4-inch to 1-inch slices and set aside. Set a saute pan over medium heat.  The saute pan is ready when you can drop a few drops of water into the pan and the water forms a ball that skates over the surface of the pan.  Add  the sliced sausage to the pan and move the sausage around the pan for about a minute.  (You’re just trying to get some of the oil out of the sausage.  You know it’s right when there’s a bit of a sheen on the sausage.) You can walk away from the sausage now, but every minute or so, check on the sausage and move it around the pan so all sides get browned.  You want it to start browning, but not turn black and get some fond (browned bits) sticking to the bottom of the pot.  When the bottom surface of the pot is covered with fond, Add 1/2 c. apple cider vinegar and use a spatula or wooden spoon to scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.  Toss the sausage in the browned bits so they are coated and leave the sausage and vinegar to cook together until all the vinegar is evaporated and it’s a bit sticky and bubbling in the pan.  Remove the sausage from the pan and set aside.

 

Pot 2: 2-quart Sauce Pan: Black Eyed Peas:

  • 3 cups black eyed peas
  • 1 spanish onion, minced
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic or roasted garlic puree
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp italian seasoning herbs
  • 1 tbsp curry powder
  • 1 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 1 cup stock (turkey/chicken/vegetable)

I used about 3 cups of black eyed peas that I cooked from dried peas and froze a while ago.  Some supermarkets have fresh black eyed peas in the vegetable section, but canned black eyed peas would work equally well here.  Set sauce pan over medium heat.  When water droplets curl into balls and skate over the top of the pan, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and minced spanish onion.  Move the onions around the pan with a wood spoon or spatula.   Add  (If you are using canned peas then only use 2 tsp of salt) 1 tbsp kosher salt, 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, 1 tbsp, italian seasoning herbs, 1 tbsp curry powder & 1 Tbsp smoked paprika .  When onions are translucent, add 1 tbsp minced garlic or roasted garlic puree.  When garlic is fragrant (about a minute), add the beans.  Toss to coat with the onion-garlic mixture.  Then add 1 cup turkey/chicken/vegetable stock. Use a wood spoon or spatula to scrape up any bits stuck to the bottom of the pot.  Cook on medium heat until the liquid has evaporated.  Remove the beans from the pan and set aside.

 

Pot 3: 1-quart Sauce Pan: Brown Rice:

  • 2 cups brown rice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp curry powder
  • 1 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 4-1/2 cups water or stock

Used my usual Brown Rice recipe, but added 1 tbsp curry powder & 1 Tbsp smoked paprika to the oil.

 

 

Big Bowl on the counter: Kale & Collard Greens (Raw):

  • 1 large head kale, cleaned & dry
  • 1 large head collard greens, cleaned & dry
  • olive oil

When I say “large head of kale” I mean you should have about a gallon of kale and collard greens when you’re done.  If you have a salad spinner, it should be filled to the brim.  Cut the stems off the kale and collard greens then cut the leaves to your desired size.  Save the stems for juicing.  I like them about 1/8-inch wide and 1-1/2 to 2-inches long, but this part is up to you.  You’re going to “massage” the olive oil into the kale/collard mix.  Really squeeze and toss the kale/collards as though you are trying to get water into a sponge.  When you are done all of the kale should be coated in a THIN sheen of oil.  I would say about a tablespoon per quart of greens so adjust up or down depending on how much you are going to eat.

 

The Salad Bowl…

OK…. so here’s where it gets kind of creative…. The salad can be all or some of the following ingredients adjusted to your taste/preferences.  Most of them I picked in order to stand up to the taste of kale/collards.  If you prefer really flavorful salads (ex. Spicy Chicken, Teriyaki Salmon, etc.), try using massaged kale/collards sometimes since they can provide an interesting contrast that’s a nice change from just lettuce.

  • Smoked Sausage (Pork, Chicken Apple, Beef)
  • Black Eyed Peas
  • Massaged Kale/Collards
  • Hot Brown Rice
  • Minced Red Pepper
  • Minced Sun Dried Tomatoes
  • Minced Shallots
  • MInced Hot Chili Peppers (jalapenos, serranos, long hots)
  • Corn Kernels (Steamed or Roasted)
  • Cucumbers (diced 1/2-inch)
  • Fresh Tomatoes (diced 1/2-inch)
  • Avocado (diced 1/2-inch)
  • Lemon/Lime Juice (or Salad Dressing of Choice)

Give this salad version a try when you’re absolutely tired of eating the same salad every day.  Since the Kale is more resilient than lettuce you can pack a couple lunches days ahead.  Just do hot stuff in one container and cold stuff in another.  I promise if you can finish the salad you’ll be stuffed!

The Gift That Money Can’t Buy

What do you get the people with everything?  The one thing they can’t find.  For my parents, that is (oddly enough…) biscotti.  They used to get cherry-pistachio biscotti at a spot near my house.  It was amazing and for a while I was hooked on it too.  It wasn’t as crisp as most biscotti so you didn’t need to dip it in coffee/tea in order to take a bite.  As a complete coffee addict, I need every drop of coffee.  When you dip biscotti in coffee, crumbs pool in the bottom of the cup.  I will not be robbed of my last sip, so I refuse to dip my biscotti.  So, as luck would have it, the spot stopped making the “biteable” biscotti and reverted to the standard biscotti that required dipping.  I kept going back to the spot over and over hoping I would find the biscotti but they never went back to the old formula.  So…. I figured I’d do what I do best and try and figure out a way to make it myself. My mother tested the biscotti and has deemed them as good if not better than the original.  Although, as I said, she is my mother so you may need to take this approval with a grain of salt….lol.

 

Cherry Pistachio Biscotti

 Cherry-Pistachio Biscotti 

3 cups (15 oz) flour
2-1/4 tsp  baking powder
3/4 salt
3 eggs
1-1/3 cup (9 oz) organic cane sugar
3/4 c safflower oil
2 tsp orange zest (zest of 2 medium oranges)
1 tbsp vanilla
1-1/2 c pistachios, roasted & salted
3/4 c dried tart cherries

 

  • Preheat oven to 350F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Sift flour, baking powder & salt.
  • Zest orange into the oil.  Add vanilla.
  • Using an electric mixer, beat eggs and sugar on medium for three minutes until pale and thick.
  • Beat in orange zest, vanilla & oil mixture on low speed.
  • Using a wooden spoon, add the flour mixture.
  • Add the pistachios and cherries.
  • Using a spatula, transfer dough (which should be quite sticky) to the parchment paper lined baking sheet. Shape into one long log (will be about the length of the baking sheet & 6 inches wide).
  • Wet fingertips and gently smooth the top of the logs.
  • Bake the logs for 25 minutes.  They should be crisp and golden on the outside.  They will still be soft on the inside.
  • Line another baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Cut the logs into 1-inch wide pieces.  Use a serrated steak knife if possible.  Cut slowly and wipe the knife off between cuts to ensure clean cuts each time.
  • Using a long icing knife or long spatula, lift the pieces to the new baking sheet.  Lay the cut pieces on their side.  Space them evenly about 1/2-inch or more apart.
  • Bake in the oven for 22 minutes or until they are crisp and brown on the outside.
  • Let cookies cool on the baking sheet for 20 minutes or until cool to the touch.
  • Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.  As the cookies cool they will become crisper.
  • Store in an airtight container.

 

 

 

Freekeh-ing out before the storm

I feel the need to try any and every new grain that I hear about. I wish I could say it is because grains are healthy, but it really is just that I like trying to cook something new. And because I’m addicted to rice and know I need to diversify. Which was why when I saw a box of Freekeh in Whole Foods, I bought it before I had any idea what it was. I put it in a container in the pantry and waited for inspiration to strike. It took the odd but true combination of House Hunters International and Hurricane Sandy.

Now most people think, “A storm is coming, gotta get French Toast supplies.” I think, “A storm is coming, gotta roast a chicken.” For me, a roast chicken is always the start of an easy fall into a rabbit hole of recipe ideas. As part of the requisite storm war chest, I had already baked some multigrain bread to go with my slow baked apple butter so chicken sandwiches sounded like a good idea too.

The chicken was butterflied and roasting in the oven and for some reason a recent episode of House Hunters International came to mind. A grandmother was sitting at the head of a table with her family and watching them all eat the meal she made. One of the things on the table was Freekeh. The house hunter said they ate it just like rice. So I reached into the cabinet and pulled out the Freekeh. The box said to use 5 cups of water for 1 cup of Freekeh. I scoffed and decided to try my “Foolproof rice method” and was surprised to find that it worked.

The “sad” moment of the evening was when the Freekeh was on the stove, the bread was cooling, the kale was in the container ready to be moved to the fridge and I heard the oven timer beep.  I was looking around the kitchen completely confused.  What else could I possibly have made that would be beeping?  Ah yes…. the chicken.

Freekeh

Freekeh

1 T olive oil
1-1/2 c Freekeh
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp smoked paprika
3-1/2 c chicken/vegetable stock or water

In a small sauce pan over medium heat, test the heat in the pan by dropping a few drops of water into the pan. When the water curls up into balls and dances over the surface of the pan, add the oil. Swirl pan to distribute the oil over the bottom of the pan. Add the Freekeh. Stir to coat with oil and toast the Freekeh. The freekeh will brown a bit. Watch carefully so it doesn’t burn. Add garlic purée and stir to coat the Freekeh. Add salt and pepper and smoked paprika. Stir to coat. Add stock or water. Leave to cook until the liquid level is about 1/4″ below the top of the grains. Cover sauce pan and turn off the heat under the pot but leave it on the burner. Leave to cook for at least 20 minutes to allow the liquid to be absorbed.

 

 

 

 

Freezer Waffles

I’ve been buying frozen waffles for The Kid for months when I had time to shop and coupons to cover them.  They were organic and multi-grain, etc. etc. so needless to say they weren’t particularly inexpensive.  This week, I finished the last box of waffles.  I was talking to the Bestie and she said she just makes waffles and freezes them for my goddaughter and I was inspired to give it a try.  I tried a mix and didn’t really like it so I’ve been putting off looking for a new one.  Due to time restraints, I’ve been shopping mostly in bulk online.  (Subscribe & Save is my version of a personal shopper.)  Unfortunately, bulk shopping makes trying out recipes easier than trying out mixes.

Of course, today, I also realized that I needed to feed my multi-grain sourdough starter (I’ll discuss this adventure later).  Which means I had to take out a cup of sourdough starter.  I still have bread from last week’s feeding. So, since I have a completely sappy inability to throw out any of the sourdough, I had to figure out something to do with it.  What can I say… I’ve become attached to my sourdough starter.  If I feed something/someone on a regular basis I tend to get attached.  I knew the risks when I ordered the sourdough starter… so this is not a surprise for me or anyone who knows me.

 

Buttermilk Sourdough Waffles
(makes 4 Belgian Waffles)

Buttermilk Sourdough Waffles

1 cup sourdough starter
1 cup warm water
1/2 cup dried buttermilk powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons honey
1/3 cup coconut oil
4 eggs (separate the egg whites from the egg yolks)
1-1/2  cups flour
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

 

NOTE: If you have an 8-cup glass measuring cup this is the ideal “medium size bowl” so you can see if something is really doubled.

In a medium size bowl, add the starter, warm water, buttermilk powder, salt, sugar and coconut oil.  Whisk to blend.  Whisk in the flour.  Whisk the egg yolks then add to the flour mixture.  Leave the flour mixture to sit until it doubles in volume.  This may take an hour depending on how warm it is in the kitchen.  (Check on it earlier if it’s warm and check on it later if it’s cool in the kitchen).  Leave the egg whites covered on the counter until they reach room temperature.

When the dough is doubled, preheat the waffle iron.

Beat the egg whites until you get stiff peaks. (Turn the beaters upside down.  If the point stands up, It’s ready.  If it falls limply to the side, keep on beating).  Add the vanilla and about a third of the egg whites to the dough using a whisk.  When the egg whites and vanilla are incorporated, add the remaining egg whites to the dough.  You want to add the egg whites without deflating them.  So, use the whisk to fold the egg whites into the dough slowly.

Every waffle iron differs so you’ll need to check the instructions on your waffle iron to determine how to make your waffles.

If serving, hold the finished waffles in a 200F oven until you are ready to go to the table.

If freezing, let waffles cool on a cooling rack then store in plastic bags freezer.  Toast from frozen when ready to serve.

Strawberries — Grow Your Own (Part 2)

Continued from Strawberries — Grow Your Own (Part 1)

 

Where were we?  Oh right… we covered June-bearing vs. Ever-bearing and Size.  Now for the last major question:

Strawberry Pot with Mignonette Strawberries & Cuban Oregano

Container or garden. Strawberry pots are iconic. They don’t make it easy to water the strawberries, but they look cool and they make harvesting the strawberries really easy. Of course you don’t have to use a strawberry pot. You can use any pot you want. If you use pots you will need to take the containers indoors during the winter. Planting the strawberries in the ground lets you regrow the strawberries each year.  If you are growing in the ground then you’ll want to get the bare root plants.  It’s less expensive that way, but you have to make sure that you plant it so the line where the roots meet the bottom of the plant is directly in line with the soil.   Some growers recommend snipping off all the strawberry flowers for the first year so the roots grow stronger.  I usually put the plants in the pots and the bare roots in the ground so I know which is which the first year.  Most of the plants you buy are second year plants so I eat those and snip off all the flowers on the ones I put in the ground.  At the end of the season, you will need to either plant the ones you had in pots in the ground to overwinter or take them inside.  They most likely won’t survive a winter in the pots.

Alpine Strawberry Plant in Hanging Container

So, despite all the info, the best thing to do is a little of everything. You should get both June-bearing and Ever-bearing so you have a constant supply and a big bounty in the summer. You should get both big and teeny so you can eat fresh & dip in chocolate and also make preserves & sauces. And lastly you should put some strawberries in the ground and pots.  I get my strawberries online from either Burpee or Gurneys.  Burpee has a great variety of teeny strawberry plants (the white and yellow ones are shockingly good).  And Gurneys has one called the “Whopper” that should make amazing strawberry shortcakes.  I’m trying it out this year and will let you know how they do and taste.  And most important: try a few different varieties.  They don’t all taste the same so feel free to just toss plants you don’t like and try a new variety.

Early warning: Squirrels and birds love strawberries so you may need to protect your strawberries with a net so you don’t lose your harvest. Of course, they are a good scape goat when you get in the house with no strawberries and everyone wants to know why there isn’t enough for them…

Strawberries — Grow Your Own Organic (Part 1)

I (like most people who aren’t allergic) love strawberries. I used to buy huge 2lb containers of them every week.  So, when I read a while back about how many chemicals are used to grow them commercially, it really hurt me to stop. I switched to organic only and of course, I started growing my own again.

There are three main things you need to figure out if you want to grow strawberries.

  • Ever-bearing or June-bearing
  • Size
  • Containers or garden

June-bearing strawberries come in all at once during the summer and are fantastic for having big bowls of strawberries or having enough to freeze or make preserves. Ever-bearing are good for having strawberries “year-round”.  Well sort of… They wouldn’t survive outside in northeast weather so I generally keep a few ever-bearing plants on a windowsill indoors through the winter so I can get an organic fresh strawberry in the winter. When you buy your strawberry plants make sure you either have your phone to check the type online if you are in a store.  If you are buying mail order then it should tell you in the description.  Do not buy strawberry plants that just say, “Strawberries.” You need to know the variety and the bearing type.

Strawberry Shortcake (yes, I made it)

Size matters in strawberries. Everyone loves the classic huge strawberry (because they’re good), but the teeny strawberry is the true joy of growing your own. The big strawberry is great for fresh eating, strawberry shortcakes or dipping in chocolate. The teeny strawberry has a more intense strawberry flavor than the big ones.  The teeny ones are best picked ripe but don’t ship well which is why you will rarely find it fresh in the supermarket, but you may find some at a farmers’ market.  If you want to add strawberry flavor to something, use the teeny strawberries.  Oh, and if you want something amazing you can sub in the teeny strawberries for blueberries in muffins. So good!!

Wow… this is getting long quick… I’ll post the second half later today.

Roasted Garlic “Mayo”

GarlicCloves.jpg

I have a garlic problem. Whenever I go to the produce spot I buy a big bag of garlic. I always think I just ran out. Then I get home and realize I still have the six heads of garlic from last week sitting in the onion basket. So now I have 15 heads of garlic and then I go back next week and buy more garlic since I’m sure I finished all the garlic from last week and then I have 20-something heads of garlic!! I need an intervention.

RoastedGarlic.jpg

All this garlic led me to a semi-genius idea — Roasted Garlic “Mayo.” I love roasted garlic. I think it adds a great warm flavor to a lot of dishes. Although, I will admit that the idea of roasting garlic heads in foil just annoys me. I hate squeezing the garlic out at the end and knowing that there is some left behind in the garlic skins. Yes, I’m greedy. So the other day I peeled seven or nine heads of garlic (Yep, I zoned out and lost count after six) and put them in a small saucepan on the stove. I added a couple tablespoons of olive oil, covered the pot and turned the heat to Low and walked away.

It took a couple hours, but as soon as I smelled something I checked on it. It was pure yummy roasted garlic. I dumped all the contents of the pot into the mini food processor and puréed. I tasted it and added the juice of a lemon. If I thought it would last I would have added a bit of salt for the sake of preservation, but one taste and I knew better. This would be great spread like mayo on a sandwich or mixed into mashed potatoes. Yum. So just so I remember next time:

GarlicMayo.jpg

Roasted Garlic “Mayo”
Cloves from 6-9 heads of garlic, peeled
2 tablespoons olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon

Put all the garlic cloves in a small saucepan. Add olive oil. Stir garlic cloves to coat in oil. Turn heat to Low. Leave covered until you smell roasted garlic (about 2 hours). Purée garlic with juice of 1 lemon. Put in a glass container & refrigerate.

The Garden — Your First Year

Basil

If you’re trying to dip your toe in the gardening pool, there are simple things I recommend for your first year. Buy a couple vegetable plants (something that you would eat) that look healthy at a garden center. I recommend peppers and tomatoes since (if chosen correctly) they will be big (but not too big) and give you something to show as well as something you can incorporate into a salad or recipe. Before we get to the plants, there are some things to consider. For the record, no one has paid me for any endorsement here, I’ve just used these companies because my mother ordered from these companies and now I do and that many years of success speaks volumes.

1. Organic. If you’re growing at home, then in my opinion, you should do it organically. What is the point of going through all the effort of growing at home if you’re going to put the same chemicals on your food that conventional growers use? Besides, there are too many studies coming out about the effects of all those chemicals on your endocrine and reproductive systems that it makes more sense to just leave them alone. I even tend to shy away from the soil that is produced by companies that produce other forms of non-organic products. I just don’t trust it. Call me nuts, whatever. All my fertilizers come from Gardens Alive. They have a fertilizer for everything and have sales all the time.

2. Watering. You know yourself. Are you going to check the water daily or are you likely to forget or get busy with work or something else and feel terrible when your poor plant is wilting in the heat. If you may be a bit forgetful, there are tons of options including water saving crystals that you can mix into the potting soil. My recommendation is to just start with a self watering planter. Gardener’s Supply Company has lots of options, including a kit to retrofit any existing round container. This is particularly helpful if you can find some containers on clearance (like I did) or already have a container that you’re partial to (like the one I “borrowed” from my mom).

3. Containers. Buy big containers. While it’s true that some plants (like dill) don’t play well in the same “sandbox” as other plants, starting off big means your plants have room to grow over the season. Small “cute” containers usually end up with roots circling the edge of the container and eventually choking the poor plants. Some of my smallest containers are only about 12″ wide and 18″ deep. Unless you have somewhere you can store the huge containers inside during the winter, find pots that are all weather. Glazed clay pots are gorgeous, but they’re not cheap and crack if you don’t take care of them. BUT, you don’t have to rule them out forever. You can graduate up to them. You have to start with a higher likelihood of success then increase your degree of difficulty. And they actually have plastic pots that look like clay now. These are your friends. They’re cheaper and lighter. Remember, the first year, the spot where you want to put the plants may not have enough sun. If you put your planter down somewhere and find the plants aren’t getting enough or in late summer too much sun, you can move them without investing in a chiropractor payment.

4. Independent Garden Centers. Find an independent garden center. Besides being trendy, buying locally is just a good idea. Independent garden center owners generally started the business because they like gardening. Once you know what you’re doing you can shop bigger stores, but the independent spots will usually have someone around that can answer your questions. They are more likely to have plants that work in your area and when they don’t work, they can help you understand why. When I moved I just made a list of every garden center in the yellow pages and visited each one. I ended up with my favorite: Primex Garden Center. They are my ideal — one stop shopping. They have information workshops, knowledgeable staff, bulk items, big shrubs, little herbs, seeds, tools, bulbs, garden supports, etc. etc. etc. If you can find a spot like Primex that has everything you need, then that’s the place to go. If not you may end up going to a few different places. Not all garden centers have the same things (which is good) so you can end up finding a good variety if you shop around.

Okay, this post is getting long so I’ll continue next week….