Planning Garden 2012

This entry is part 1 of 2 in the series Garden 2012

No, you haven’t lost your mind. Our family is down to one computer, and I was hoping to have mine fixed by now. Unfortunately, laptops are not too fond of mac & beef, so repair has been agonizingly slow. And when I only have a few minutes in an uncomfy chair right before bedtime, expounding upon the subject at hand is easily delayed/dismissed. I’m backdating the entries for the days they *should* have been published. Thanks for joining my time-travel team <3

I’m making a list of all the things I want to plant this year. And researching methods of automatic watering so the whole thing won’t get krispy before the end of the season.

Oh wait. I can’t do anything expensive or permanent ((Beltway coming through toward the end of the year. Hopefully at the end of growing season)). Crap. RETHINK!!!

And also? FOCUS!!! The list!!!

Carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes (mostly paste), beans (glorious beans), lettuces (Earthbox #1), garlic, corn, watermelon, canteloupe, beets, potatoes, radish, cilantro (maybe?), sugarsnaps, onions, and honestly. Who knows what else will tickle my fancy between now and then?

Resolved: container gardening is fun, but not all that successful for me. I’ll be turning the earthboxes into herb boxes and I’m not sure WHAT I’ll do with all the buckets and bins.

My take on New Year’s Dinner

I cooked y’all (don’t have a heart attack!). Mama said she wasn’t going to, and I decided that I NEEEEED the traditional southern New Year’s dinner. Since I can’t make myself be “traditional”, I turned it into soup. Collards for folding money, blackeyed peas for coins, pork for luck, and I decided that in this recipe, the carrots would symbolize gold. I served it with cornbread sticks and doesn’t it all look yummy?

Featured but not pictured is the how-to for the cornbread sticks. (Or maybe I was just ashamed of my box-mix cornbread. I don’t really like the box mix but going back to the store? Was.not.happenin.)

Also: this was my first time shooting with my daughter’s camera since mine is broken. Take that for what it’s worth…

This is what it all looked like to start with. That’s a 16 oz box of reduced-sodium broth, a medium onion, one bunch of collards, a can of black-eyed peas, a carrot, and thick sliced bacon.

Oh my darling bacon, how I love you and the flavor you add. I used four slices, chopped.

Yes, jarred garlic is in the picture. No, you really don’t need it. I used it, but couldn’t taste it at all in the finished product so we’ll just pretend like it’s not there. Okay? The soup really doesn’t need it.

Not pictured: apple cider vinegar. I stirred a tablespoon into the soup and it tasted fine to me but Mama added a tablespoon to her bowl (without tasting it first). Your mileage may vary.

The first thing I did was to slice the carrot thinly. I also didn’t use the entire carrot. See that 3″ chunk in the corner? Joe snagged it while I was trying (and failing) to get a picture of the knife in my hand while cutting the carrot.

After I sliced the carrot, I tossed it in a pot with the broth and brought it up to a simmer. The carrot needs to cook a little longer than the rest of the veggies in my world.

Since the dutch oven is missing in action, the biggest cast iron pan we own was called into action. This was not necessarily a fantastic idea as the day went on.

There is no way to fix this small problem, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the pan OTHER than the handle. Guess how many times I grabbed for that?

Hello, gorgeous. Flavor is what I’m looking for and you’ve got plenty of it. Know what else I’m looking for?

Bacon grease.

Take four slices of thick-cut bacon, rough cut into chunks, and cook until crispy. Kinda like this:

You don’t want the bacon to be hard since we’re going to be adding it back into the soup and who likes hard bits of bacon in their soup??!!??

While the bacon is cooking, dice up your onion. We’re looking for flavor AND bits floating around in the soup so feel free to rough-chop it if that thrills your soul. I did a half dice and half slice. After you’ve pulled the baconbits out of the pan, toss the onion in and cook til they’re translucent and soft.

While the onions are cooking, run your knife down the spine of the collards to remove that tough stem. Like this:

(Pretend like you like that picture and then) Once the leaves are stem-free, chop ’em down to bite-sized pieces. Yes, they’ll tenderize once they cook, but I’ve never liked long stringy greens that get stuck in my teeth. Cut ’em into strips like this

and then run your knife through the other way to chunk ’em.

Wait. Did you wash the collards? Wash ’em before you chop ’em, y’all. There’s no telling WHAT is coming home from the garden or store on those greens.

When you toss those greens in the pan, marvel at the pretty green against the translucent onion and black pan.

Isn’t that GORGEOUS?

Good lawd it’s making me hungry again and I just ate.

Stir the greens around to coat with the bacon grease and onions, then pour in the carrots and broth you’ve been simmering all this time.

Oh it just gets more and more pretty. I did end up adding a cup of water here though, because there just wasn’t enough broth to suit me. At this point, the greens need to simmer for about 20 minutes, so put the lid on and go make some cornbread.

If you REALLY want to thrill your soul, you could cook another two pieces of bacon in your other cast-iron frying pan and stir the resulting baconbits into the batter. I wish I had!

Now we’ve got the soup simmering, the cornbread (box mix) is baking – we need to attend to those bacon bits and the blackeyed peas (in a can).

I ran my knife through the bacon bits to make sure they were BITS and not CHUNKS.

That’s what about 2 1/2 – 3 slices of cooked bacon looks like getting chopped. I ate the other bits while doing the rest of the recipe.

Oh come ON like you wouldn’t do the exact same thing. At least I didn’t cook up the entire pound of bacon and eat it!

Open the can of black eyed peas, drain out the canning water and give ’em a good rinse. Then mash up half to help thicken the soup a bit.

Once the cornbread is done, pull it out of the oven. While it’s cooling, take the lid off and add the bacon bits, mashed and whole black eyed peas.

Marvel at how pretty it looks, and at how hungry you are now.

Give it a stir, taste and adjust your salt and pepper to taste. (And in my case, make sure the collards were done – this is the first time I’ve cooked collards.)

Now if y’all will excuse me…

Cooking with Friends in mind

Taking pictures as I cooked was very much an afterthought here. Michele and I lurve hummus, and it’s a recipe that comes together in no time. (We won’t speak to the fact that I forgot I had the camera riiiiight next to me.) MOVING ON! The cast of characters:

One lemon, a can of garbanzo beans, a jar of marinated roasted red peppers, and tahini. Also making its internet debut, I’d like to introduce you to my vintage VitaMix Model 517. I bought this baby for a song on ebay and have praised its power ever since (as you’ll see).

Juice your gorgeous lemon and add enough of the marinade from the jar to equal 1/3 C of juice. Toss it in the blender.

Y’know those two cloves of garlic in the jar? Toss those in the blender, along with about 1/2 C of the red pepper (I used more because I’m a rebel like that.)

Hello there, you gorgeous vat of deliciousness. This is a smidge more than 1/3 C of tahini, but I looooove tahini.

Turn the blender on and get this baby going before you add the beans. Because I love danger, I like to leave the blender running while I toss the beans in. The image of a red pepper colored ceiling just appeals to me. Add a pinch or so of salt (to taste) and then pour it into your handy dandy storage container. Then comes the REAL challenge to this recipe:

Finding it again.