Think you can’t garden because you live in an apartment or other small space? Well, think again—I’ve got just the book for you.
Hi, again, Dear Readers:
My apologies for being tardy again, it’s been a busy couple of weeks. I just wanted to make this blog look good.
But the good news is that suddenly I have several topics to blog about. This includes a couple of recipes that will use the new Recipe Maker plugin for WordPress. Those will be coming soon.
First, I have two disclosures:
- The publisher kindly offered me a complimentary copy of this book to review and to request my opinion; yes, I’ve read it
- As with many of my blog posts, there are multiple Amazon links to the book and other supplies here that, if used, earn me few commissions (aka “coffee money”)
Just thought I should mention it.
Amy’s Gardening Experiences
Longtime readers have been amused by my various gardening adventures since the inception of HeatCageKitchen in 2012.
Right now, I’ve got a bunch of purchased plants in the kitchen window, along with two basil sprouts in a pot that were salvaged from last year’s crop. I’m waiting for the nighttime temps to stay above the 50-degree mark so I can start planting them. Need to start some seeds as well.
We don’t yet have a place for an outside garden. There are flowers and green berries on those blackberry vines that are all over the place, so I’m anxiously awaiting their ripening and a bumper crop for the freezer.
Some are already forming:
I’m hoping we can get out there and dig up a gardening spot soon, but I think it’s still a bit too chilly.
In my urban garden in Houston. I attempted to grow as much as I could in a 5’ x 8’ plot of land that had plenty of sun most of the year. Some plants did well, like basil and the Anaheim chili peppers, while I struggled with tomatoes and other plants.
I relocated to rural Louisiana in 2016, and gardening here has also been a mixed bag.
Current And Future State
While BF contends that “we suck at gardening,” that’s not really the case. I did well in Houston, but that was also part experimentation and part paint bucket gardening because I knew that I would be moving out at some point. Most of my plants are currently in big white paint buckets, but we’re soon going to use a tractor to dig a garden.
The 10-year-old Meyer Lemon tree that came with me from Houston with me froze over this winter. But—surprise! It’s now flowering and coming back to life. We finally planted it in a nice spot this past Saturday.
Neighbor E still does some patio gardening, although his condo has only one patio, and not a large amount of sun. His patio is mostly or all concrete slabs. He doesn’t have any vegetables like tomatoes since Houston’s heat makes it somewhat inhospitable for them. There’s always Anaheim (aka “Hatch”) chili peppers, which grew like gangbusters my last two summers in Houston. I keep saving the seeds every year and keep trying to have a bumper crop here. Only BF and another SGI member in nearby Albany know what Hatch chiles are.
From Across The Pond
So, a few weeks ago I noticed an email from someone I’d never talked to before, Christopher Crompton of Pelargonium Press. I didn’t realize at first that he is in the UK, not the US. Somehow, he found me and my humble blog, and asked if I would review their new book, Apartment Kitchen Gardening by James Jacques.
And why not? Of course, I said yes. Spoiler alert: it’s a pretty good book.
Christopher was even kind enough to send me a physical copy of the book as well as the digital. It’s not a long book, but it’s quite informative and, I have to say, interesting.
The book is geared to a UK audience, but most of it is relevant to US readers as well. Plenty of folks live in apartments, like the one I lived in for 7.5 years before I moved to Houston in 1998. It was a whopping 400 square feet, making the Houston place look like a small house. Somehow, I lived there with two cats, finished five years at Tulane University and graduated twice, cooked, sewed, and got married, all while working 40 hours a week. Then we moved all that to a larger Houston apartment. The best I ever did in Metairie was a few herbs in the windows, and unfortunately, killed an aloe vera with insufficient sunlight. This book would have been a great help.
I did give Christopher the business about the “incorrect spellings,” such as “colour.” But I’m used to those after 25+ years of watching British TV on PBS (now Britbox too) and reading overseas news.
Apartment Kitchen Gardening
This book packs a lot of information into the 133 pages of this 5” x 8” paperback. If reading more than 100 pages seems intimidating, it shouldn’t be—some pages have very nice hand-drawn illustrations, and not all the pages are full of text. The book is specific to people who live in apartments, not houses with nice-sized plots. But any gardener can benefit from the book. Author James Jacques gets straight to the point.
The book is divided into five chapters:
- Growing in an apartment
- Choosing your plants
- Growing places
- Taking things further
In these chapters, Jacques describes everything you need for a successful indoor garden. And no, you don’t need to spend lots of money doing it, because he offers suggestions for repurposing household items for low-cost equipment, such as empty yogurt containers. Clear clamshell containers used for lettuces and berries are also good for starting seeds.
Gardening In Your Apartment
Yes, it is possible. But it takes some thinking on your part to figure out how you’re going to go about creating and growing your indoor garden.
Consider what you have available. Is it just a single windowsill, can you use a window box, or do you have a small patio/balcony available? Even a small balcony can grow quite a bit.
The most important factor is sunlight. The Metairie apartment had four windows because I was in the corner of a small apartment building. There were two windows in the bedroom that got good sunlight, and two in the living area, but only one with sunlight. In my first place in Houston, I had two large windows but none in the kitchen. When I moved to an El Dorado Trace condo in 2004, there were two large glass patio doors on either side of the unit to the fenced-in patios, plus the front door.
The back patio in El Dorado Trace had the sunlight that was good for growing, so that’s what I used. I was only able to grow a few houseplants on the front patio, and those were gifted houseplants on an old washer and dryer covered in a tarp. I tried growing tomatoes and rosemary out there, but nothing happened.
Here’s one suggestion I never would have considered—growing in the bathroom. And why not? It’s usually warmer and more humid than the rest of the house, right? Pineapples, vanilla orchid, figs, and mint love this kind of environment, Jacques says. So, take advantage of it if you have a sun-lit window in yours.
What You Can Grow
Ask yourself what you want to grow and go from there. Do you love fresh pesto (like me) and want to make it yourself? Obviously, sweet basil is on your list—buy one nice plant, cut it, and start rooting them in water so you’ll have plenty. Alternately, start growing your basil from seeds.
Depending on how much room you have and the incoming sunlight, you can grow a nice variety of plants inside. Jacques explains the need for sunlight, how much, and what you’ll need for different types of plants. And if your place doesn’t have enough light, there’s always the option of grow lights.
If you like salad the way I do, Jacques suggests what he calls “cut and come again” lettuce. I’ve only heard that term once before, from cookbook author Nigella Lawson, who used it to describe a cake in one of her earlier books. You bake the cake and keep it for company, then put it away until the next company visit. Jacques uses this description for lettuces that grow quickly and need to be cut frequently. Otherwise, you have the mess I’ve created in a paint bucket:
I didn’t cut it before because it attracted honeybees and gave them something to eat. One of BF’s car-guy friends has a bee box at the back of the property. When the plant flowers, we see the bees. I don’t think he’s getting the “bee action” he thought he would get. The flowers are gone, the plant dried up, and I pulled all the roots out a few days ago.
Recently, I bought a few more seed packets of different lettuces to plant. Hopefully I’ll I hope to have more “cut and come again” lettuce soon, even if it is in a paint bucket.
Hydroponic Gardening Systems
If you’ve ever seen grocery store produce called “hydroponic,” it means simply that it was grown in water. No kidding. Some plants can be grown only in water with added nutrients. I haven’t done hydroponics myself, although the author does discuss it at length for the indoor gardener. It’s ideal for the “cut and come again” lettuce.
You’re probably familiar with the hydroponic gardening setups by AeroGarden and the like.
There are many brands of them now, and they’re also expensive. The cheapest model is under $100 but doesn’t grow as much. One of the top models sells for nearly $900. If you have the means and the room, and really want one, go for it. I considered buying one when I lived in Houston.
Jacques points out the differences between all the different types of kits, and that they may be a bit overwhelming at first. Some kits are basics that you can build upon, and others have more bells and whistles. Mostly, it’s dictated by budget. Like most endeavors, don’t spend more than you can afford.
Understand that even when you buy one of these units, you’ll also have to buy the seed pods to replant. You can’t just drop by Walmart, Tractor Supply, or your local gardening spot and buy seeds. It’s a bit like the Keurig or Nespresso coffee makers—you must buy the pods to make more coffee because it’s not like making coffee in a French press. If this works for you—and I know folks with these kinds of coffee makers—go for it. I’m not criticizing anyone for buying either, just pointing out that the pod thing is a consideration if you’re thinking about buying one.
The author addresses these setups, but in the last chapter. Guess what? These systems aren’t necessary for you to garden in your apartment. From recycled milk and yogurt containers to fancy pots with grow lights, there is a way for nearly anyone to garden indoors.
You’re probably thinking, “Amy, gardening books aren’t really interesting.” If you’re not into gardening and don’t think it’s worthwhile, chances are NO gardening book is going to catch your interest no matter how well it’s written.
But understand that people have an interest in gardening for different reasons:
- Supplement their grocery shopping and cooking with fresh produce
- Include more organic foods in their diet
- Get outdoors more and get some exercise
- Become more self-sufficient and secure their own food supply
- Learn a new hobby
- Increase their own food security in an insecure time (like right now)
- They grew up gardening and want to continue for the enjoyment and the harvest
My interests are a little of all these reasons. I started my little urban garden in 2008 or 2009. The GER offered advice, and he still gardens in his backyard next to the fence. The man I was dating at the time also had some gardening experience and helped when he visited.
You’ve seen the unusual gardening results BF and I had in the blog—like the septic tank tomatoes. We didn’t plan those. But I’m hoping we can dig up a garden plot in the next few weeks.
Jacques also discusses re-growing vegetables, which I’ve also done and blogged about. Right now, I’ve got several green onions re-growing outside, and three have flowered. I cut the flowers off and added them to the soil, so I hope they’ll grow more onions. I recently planted a sprouted celery base. There are two basil sprouts from last year’s plants that are also re-growing in the kitchen window. However, I had to cut that for dinner last week for a recipe that I’ll show in an upcoming blog.
On page 25, Jacques talks about growing pea shoots from “cheap, dried supermarket peas.” I haven’t tried that yet, but darn it, now I want to! (When I do, the next comment I hear from BF will be, “is this another one of your science experiments?”)
Jacques also talks about the science of soil, including mixing your own. There’s even a chapter on compositing and even a wormery! In an apartment? Well. . .I don’t know if I’d go that far. Depends on how into gardening you are.
Gardening can also yield a few flops, like when BF staked the weeds instead of the green bean vines. But it can also be a great activity that leads to a delicious meal, too.
Stretching The Limited Food Budget
With inflation getting worse, chances are you’ll see more people gardening again as they did during the last economic downturn. Who can blame them? They’ll also see the benefits in freshly grown produce that’s readily available. But the people who need it the most may not realize that they have the ability, and just need some guidance.
If you know someone who is on SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the government assistance program formerly known as “food stamps”) let them know that they can also buy seeds and plants to grow foodstuffs with their benefits. I bet you didn’t know that, but it’s true.
Anything that grows and produces food can be purchased with SNAP benefits. Planting seeds and plants along with re-growing purchased produce like green onions, celery, and potatoes, and saving seeds from peppers, tomatoes, and other fresh vegetables can help a limited food budget go further.
Gardening is also a great project to do with children and will teach them where food comes from at the same time.
While Jacques touches on re-growing vegetables from purchased produce, several years ago I found a book called Don’t Throw It—Grow It! by Deborah Peterson and Millicent Selsam. The authors describe 68 different types of grocery-store bought food plants that can be re-grown on a windowsill and eventually grown in pots or even turned into a full-fledged crop.
Successes & Failures
I’ve tried to grow avocados three ways—with the toothpicks in water, with the sphagnum moss they suggest, and then just planting the seeds. I’ve had little luck here because it’s just not warm enough and does get cold in the winter. The seeds eventually sprout when you bury them in the soil. But once it gets cold, that’s the end of it. Avocados are also good for houseplants—if you can keep pets from destroying them.
I have some organic dried chickpeas I bought so many years ago to plant, and they’re still in the pantry. They might be viable, but I’ll have to plant them to find out.
Because I love pomegranates, I have some from last fall still in the fridge. Time to harvest those seeds and plant them, along with garlic, bulb onions, and other frequently used things. I also saved the top of a purchased pineapple, too. The last one I grew in a paint bucket got to be quite large:
Let’s see if I have better luck this time, and maybe get to have some fresh pineapple, eventually. Jacques says it will take about two years before you’ll be able to “harvest” the fresh pineapple.
Until Next Time
I’m always looking for new topics for blog posts. I do have a few in the queue, including a couple of recipe updates and one recipe that I finally made for BF. Amazingly, he was quite happy with it, despite not understanding what was in it beforehand.
Coming soon is also a guest post! A fellow copywriter and a friend of the blog asked about doing a guest post, and I accepted her offer. We’ll be talking about it in the next week or so, and I’m sure it will be fantastic. She understands the blog’s tone but has a different idea on a blog post, so that’s in the works. Plus, she gave me another topic idea.
Springtime is here, so don’t procrastinate. Plants are in the stores now, so grab them while you can. Whether you’re an avid gardener or just thinking about a garden, get started so you can enjoy fresh vegetables, fruits, and herbs from your apartment.
Misfits Market is another player in the online grocery game, with a twist. The company partners with farmers and food producers to get potentially wasted organic produce, meats, and other sustainably sourced grocery items right to your front door at a discount. Do they deliver on that promise? I ordered my first box recently. (NOTE: this is NOT a sponsored post.)
Hi, again, Dear Readers:
After last week’s blog post on soup—which I sent to two potential clients because it was SEO-optimized—I thought about the next blog. I do that a lot, and sometimes it gets away from me. (Sorry about that.) It’s chilly again today, so soup is a great idea.
I had a couple of vague ideas which will likely manifest here later. But I did what most people do now—I checked with our old friend Google, who led me down several merry paths and to more bunny trails. That’s OK, it’s time I added to my blogging repertoire, anyway.
The New Stove
The new appliances are wonderful. This morning, BF decided to bake some canned biscuits while he cooked us a delicious breakfast. But I was kind of concerned because I didn’t show him the controls for the oven. Well, he figured them out, and baked them all by himself:
The controls are simple and you just need to remember to turn the oven off when you’re finished. But today, he proudly declared his biscuits “perfect.” I was so happy for him! Next up, I’m sure he’ll tackle a cake or brownies.
New Plugin For Recipes
The first thing that sparked my interest in the research was a plugin for WordPress called Recipe Maker. It’s a thing where you type in the recipe once, it shows it in the blog post, and allows the reader to click and print. Chances are you’ve seen it nearly every *other* food blog you’ve ever read, but not mine. There’s a reason for that.
I was this many years old when I discovered WordPress Recipe Maker. It never dawned on me to look for such sorcery, and of course, nobody ever told me, either. I blame the Banana Rat, who knows all about this kind of thing.
In a Zoom call last week with overseas guru WF, she told me, “now there’s a WordPress plugin for just about everything.” So now I want to look at plugins for hours on end, just to see what I can find. But I’m busy elsewhere.
You can see a similar example of this type of plugin on AllDayIDreamAboutFood. You can click the little box that says “Jump To Recipe” and go directly to it, or you can read the whole blog first. However you get there, the recipe plugin allows you to see it in one place and print it for yourself if you like. I don’t know if Carolyn uses WordPress or not, but it’s the same thing as the one I installed here.
And today you get a recipe for keto peanut butter eggs, sugar-free, complete with chocolate. You’re welcome.
Ready To Roll
Installing the plugin into WordPress was easy. I tested it and it works great. Going forward I’ll be using it whenever I post about a recipe—which might be more often.
And who do I have to thank for this? Aunt Ruth, sort of. She emailed me after the soup post and said that she couldn’t find the measurements for the onion and celery for one of the recipes. I emailed back and told the Recipes page had the PDFs, but I attached both PDF files to the email. Then it clicked, and I went back hunting for Recipe Maker to install.
With the new plugin, I won’t need to make PDFs—it will be a section I type in, and you can print them right from the page.
Where has this been all my blogging life? Well, I have it now. But I’m still blaming Banana Rat for not telling me about it previously.
Shopping At Misfits Market
The second suggestion from this research was to order something like a meal kit (Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, etc.) and write about your experience.
I’ve not ordered from the meal kit companies. But I have been seeing ads for some time from Misfits Market. What the heck—go check it out! So I did (and had the money to do so.)
I told BF about it. He just gave me that smile he has when he’s not sure what to think about what I just said. Finally, he said, “it’s OK, that’s your thing.” Really, he wasn’t at all interested.
Organics For Less
Misfits Market is all about organic food—primarily fresh produce—that’s either surplus or isn’t “pretty.” I did write about organic recently, and how it’s distinguished from conventionally grown and produced foods.
They also stock a variety of other organic pantry items, including meats and plant-based proteins, that are either surplus stock or near the sell-by date. On things that aren’t “raw,” like baking powder or salt, that’s probably safe. Meat out of date probably isn’t, but you knew that already.
Think about this the next time you go to your local grocer. Whether it’s HEB, Randall’s, Kroger or Food Town for my Texas readers, or Rouses, Winn-Dixie, or Walmart for my non-Texas readers, look at all the lovely produce that’s pretty and perfect. It’s especially true in Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and The Fresh Market. Few if any irregularities exist in the avocados, apples, limes, lettuce, tomatoes, and zucchini, much less any other produce.
So, what happens to the veg that isn’t as pretty? Chances are it’s discarded and becomes landfill waste. Even though it’s of the same nutritional quality as the aesthetically and cosmetically perfect veg, it’s tossed out. But if you’re going to cut them up and eat them, or cook them, or make guacamole anyway, what difference does it make? Apparently quite a bit.
An estimated 40% of fresh produce is discarded and goes to waste because it’s not cosmetically perfect. Why does this happen in uber-efficient America? Enter Misfits Market, and several other vendors like them.
Many grocers and suppliers donate to food pantries and charities that help people who are in need, This is frequently called “food insecurity,” or not knowing where your next meal is coming from. Neighbor E used to volunteer at a local food pantry in Clear Lake, packing boxes and helping with the grunt work. Local grocers donated all manner of things, including The Fresh Market (this was before they closed their Texas operations.) He was also gifted some nice things that were extra, some of which he kindly shared with me. I loved making coleslaw, since he, like BF, doesn’t like cabbage.
You’d think that all these growers and producers would be taking advantage of food pantries to gift food to those who need it. Unfortunately, most small farms and producers don’t have the logistics to get everything everywhere before it goes bad, especially on a weekly basis. That’s where companies like Misfits Market help people buy quality food that isn’t the most attractive.
Founded in 2018, they just published their first annual report. They just opened their Texas facility last June, which explains why we’re now able to buy a box. The company also supports hunger relief programs, putting their money where their mouth is, literally. I like that.
Amy’s First Order
When you sign up, you’ll see a variety of pre-selected produce in your cart that comes to the required minimum of $30. You can add, subtract, and edit what’s there, as long as it comes to at least $30 before you apply any discounts.
There was no way I wanted beets! So those were replaced with a salad bag, extra avocados, and one or two other items. You can “shop” the website’s “aisles” and select from other available produce, meats, and dry pantry items. (More on the meat order later.) I clicked the button, and I was charged the next day when it shipped—from San Antonio, or Fort Worth, I’m not quite sure. The FedEx app first showed SA, but later it was FW. So, it came from somewhere in Texas.
My first Misfits Market package arrived that Saturday. The delivery lady from FedEx said, “I see a lot of these.” So, it must be popular around these parts. I offered to open it so she could see the contents, but she didn’t have time. Thanking her, off she went.
BF was at work the moment I opened the box:
There was a lining in the box to help keep everything at cold temperatures throughout the 72-hour trip:
And the cold pack on top to continue the refrigeration:
I stashed that in the freezer to use later. Why not? Then I removed the top layer:
Not everything was wrapped in a package, but that’s OK. But everything on my list was in the box, like the purple sweet potatoes:
No kidding, those aren’t something left by Broc. . .I mean, Buddy the puppy. And Fuji apples:
A bag of carrots that maybe was too far gone:
Some sugar snap peas, another one of my favorites:
Organic, but not locally grown, like most of the produce in the US:
A bunch of avocados—a bag as well as two loose ones:
I’ll be enjoying avocado anything I want for a while. Guacamole, anyone? And some bagged salad:
I bought a similar bag of salad from Walmart the night before, and of course, HE wouldn’t eat any. “It doesn’t have Thousand Island Dressing on it,” he said. We had a bottle in the fridge, but he wasn’t budging. So, I enjoyed both myself, although not all at once.
They Didn’t Have Pears
I was supposed to get some Anjou pears, but they were out of stock. That’s OK, since it’s past pear season, and I knew that. I guess the website hadn’t been updated. The company refunded the $4.19 to my account. The company doesn’t substitute things and thank heavens—I would have tossed any beets that they sent.
I forget where I found it, but I also had a $15 discount code. I may have got it from Honey, since there was no benefit from Rakuten.
I drink limes all day long. What I mean by that is that I just stopped drinking iced tea in 2012, right after I left Boeing (long story and I still don’t.) Because I’d been adding limes instead of lemons to my iced tea for several years, I just kept drinking water with fresh lime and Sweet ‘N Low. Now I’m used to drinking this. It’s confusing to people here because I don’t drink Coke as BF does. I keep a small bowl of cut limes in the fridge all the time, on top of the iced coffee maker. Running out of limes is like BF running out of Coke or milk, it’s not a happy occasion.
But buying limes in Houston grocery stores isn’t the same as buying them in Central Louisiana. They’re expensive because lemons are more popular here. Good luck getting a slice of lime in a restaurant—IF you can get lemon, they bring a garnish slice. Only one Mexican restaurant gave me enough lime slices once, and it wasn’t the local establishment. With more Hispanic folks moving into the state, we may see more lime availability and better pricing.
Even though I’d bought a couple of bags in the prior week, I still ordered more from Misfits Market. I have enough to last a while. They’re different sizes, and still green, but will ripen in the fridge over time.
And, BTW, if you didn’t know—they sell limes green in this country so that people can tell the difference. Ripe limes are also yellow, but bright green when you cut into them. So, if you’re buying limes for juice, look for some that have a little yellow on them, or are kind of yellow. Those are ripe and juicy.
Cooking the Sweet Potatoes
Unlike BF, I prefer sweet potatoes without the stuff people add to it in the South—marshmallows, pineapples, etc. I think that baked, split, and served with melting butter and salt is good. But my favorite is the sweet potato French fries. I frequently buy sweet potatoes for this reason. They are usually locally grown, even in Winn-Dixie. BF knows someone who grows them, and we’ve both bought from the man and been gifted some. My new nickname for this man is “Mr. Sweet Potato Head.” (Well, I couldn’t resist.)
Make the sweet potato French fries: cut them, put them on a sheet of parchment paper on a baking sheet, drizzle a bit of olive oil on them, a bit of salt, toss, and bake at 400F for 40 minutes. If you have the convection setting on your oven, use it. You can also use an air fryer (Neighbor E now has a small one for himself.) Just don’t overdo it.
So I cut these little oddballs for the same purpose:
Did the same thing, cut, olive oil, and salt:
Baked them, and this is what happened:
If you burned them, how can you tell?
They tasted the same as the regular locally grown ones I buy. There is the novelty of the purple coloring, and they are organic. I did over-cook them a little bit because I didn’t take them out of the oven right away. Even though the countertop oven shuts itself off, it doesn’t cool right away, so they keep cooking for a bit. There was some burning, and the dogs enjoyed those. Or, as I call it, “Cajunizing.”
As I mentioned, the carrots looked a bit past it, but I wasn’t about to throw them away if there was some part that was useful.
Just to use up these carrots, I cooked deer roast in the Instant Pot last night with this recipe from Corrie Cooks.
First I cut the ends off and got to the “good part,” sampling them to make sure they didn’t taste bad:
Then cut them into smaller parts to put in the IP.
Instead of the fresh thyme, I substituted Everything But The Leftovers seasoning from Trader Joe’s, sold in the fall. It worked well in this dish. The seasoning is modeled on their very popular (and inexpensive) Everything But The Bagel seasoning blend and is quite good. BF really enjoyed the dear roast this time, so I must get more of that seasoning mix when it comes back around later in the year. If you can’t wait, you can find it on eBay, and of course, it’s also being sold on Amazon.
OK, so what are the good things about Misfits Market? First: it’s a great example of American-style capitalism. Find a need and fill it. They’ve done that well and grown in the process. Misfits Market delivers to nearly every zip code in the US. Amazingly, including ours.
For the organic consumer: you’re able to buy “not so perfect” organic produce and other products at a discount of as much as 40% off regular retail prices in exchange for getting the “not so pretty” agricultural products. Like those funny-looking purple sweet potatoes.
You choose everything in your shipment—there are no surprises.
They ship it right to your door. However, I haven’t compared prices to my local vendors, partly because organics aren’t widely available. Sure, I got some organic celery last week, but there isn’t enough availability here to do an apples-to-apples comparison. I do think the sugar snap peas were a good price at $3.45. (BF doesn’t like those, either.) If I were in Houston, I could compare it to HEB or Kroger and get a better idea.
The company uses eco-friendly packaging, which includes insulation made from recycled plastic bottles:
Unfortunately, we don’t live where curbside recycling is available. I’m not even sure where we can recycle this stuff. The box was nice enough to re-use in the house or burn with other paper waste. The lining? I’ll try to find a recycling place that takes it or use it for something else.
Making The Trip
Everything is packed to withstand a 72-hour trip from the packing facility to your door at a refrigerated temperature, and that lining helps. Understand that the contents may very well be a bit banged up on the trip. The box really shouldn’t sit out for long periods, particularly in warmer weather, even with the ice packs or cold packs. Bring it in as soon as you get it, if you can, to avoid spoilage. If you work away from home, it’s best to get your delivery on Saturday, if you’re going to be home, of course.
The bigger benefit is that that food that would get tossed out is re-sold. This offers healthy and high-quality food to a wider group of people who might not otherwise have it. By sourcing food that wouldn’t sell in a regular grocery store, it’s going to dinner tables instead of to landfills. By buying from Misfit Market, you’ll contribute to the fight against food waste in the US. You can read more about their mission to offer good food at better prices on their FAQ page. They discuss their sourcing here, and their farmer-to-customer process here.
Unfortunately, I’ve found Misfits Market’s website to be a bit wonky. Signing in is difficult and changing browsers doesn’t help. If you put the wrong password in, it keeps looping around to the login page. The site doesn’t tell you that the password was wrong. It took several tries on a different browser to access my account this afternoon.
Additionally, I can’t figure out how to go back to the “shop” function, but I guess it must be in the window of a shipment. In my case, the billing date is a Wednesday, and so I have until Tuesday at 10:45 pm to change the contents of the next box. On Wednesday morning, they charge me, and the shipment arrives on Saturday.
As I mentioned, the carrots disappointed me. A sharp knife made them salvageable.
While Misfits Market does claim to be 40% off regular retail, I haven’t really compared prices with local grocery stores. I wonder about buying groceries that are shipped and trucked from Fort Worth, TX all the way to central Louisiana. I’m not saying it’s a bad service—it isn’t, it’s actually a good idea that checks a lot of boxes. But is it socially responsible? Well, that’s kind of a conundrum—I don’t know if it’s better or not, but it doesn’t mean I wouldn’t do it again.
Shipping was $6.99, so not too bad, and in addition to sales tax of $1.57 for Louisiana. The box went many miles to arrive at my door. Most produce is shipped from elsewhere into every grocery store in America, and I realize that. But Misfits Market also works directly with farmers and producers, bypassing grocery stores and bringing quality foods directly to America’s doorsteps, wherever they may be, helping to improve the food chain.
I’m thinking the Pros outweigh the Cons on this one, but that’s just me. If you’re considering ordering a Misfits Market box, may I suggest a little more reading so you can decide for yourself. Signup is free, but they do ask for a payment method.
Misfits Market is a weekly subscription service, so you must pay attention and cancel this week’s box if you don’t want it. (The company also offers the option to buy and donate a box of food to a family in need instead of buying the box for yourself.) Otherwise, they charge your card and you get another box of produce and things you weren’t ready for.
I’ve skipped this week’s order because I wanted to see what was in the first box before the next one. And I wanted to make sure I had the money for it, too. If you decide to order, be aware that you are signing up for regular weekly deliveries, and you have to cancel them manually. Should you not want to continue, you’ll have to cancel your subscription entirely.
Our Next Order
We’re planning a “meat box” for the next order to see what that’s like, probably next week. BF likes to cook breakfast for us, and that generally means bacon and eggs. Since bacon has been on the high side around here, I’d like to see what Misfits Market has in the way of bacon, ground beef, and other items. If we like it, we’ll buy some to stash in the freezer, right next to the Texas Tamales.
For meat, you must order a minimum of $30 “cold pack” items. That is, to make it cost-effective, certain items like meat and plant-based protein must come to the $30 minimum, which counts toward your overall $30 minimum. But if you order less than the $30 minimum of produce or other things, you’ll still need to order $30 of “cold pack” items to make the box. You could order more, of course. Just watch your total, which is easy on their web site’s shopping interface.
I’ll let you know about our “meat box” in a future blog post.
Until Next Time
No, BF wasn’t particularly impressed, even though most of the contents, if not all, were organic. He just doesn’t appreciate it when I buy organic for us. Oh, well. Maybe the meat box will give him a little more to look forward to next time.
If you want to try new things, or make your grocery shopping a little easier, Misfits Market might be a good thing for you. I do have a referral code if you want to try it, and you’ll receive a $10 discount on your first order. That code is COOKWME-GK3IAXCZOGR. Again, it’s a subscription service for weekly deliveries, not a one-time purchase like Amazon or other online retailers, so you can’t just order once and go back later.
You also choose what’s in your shipment so that there are no surprises, and you don’t get something you didn’t really want. Like beets. And they ship it right to your door.
More to come on this blog. Meantime, enjoy!!
Shishito peppers really are a thing, and I’m not swearing. They’re delicious, and generally not hot.
Find me on Bloglovin’
Hi, again, Dear Readers:
Just popped in for another blog post, this time on something new I can’t believe I discovered. Thank heavens for streaming and Philo TV. Shishito peppers are a new item in the US produce market, and of course, I’m one of the last people to know.
Let me tell you what’s been happening.
A Zucchini Recipe
If you’re seeing lots of zucchini, I have a simple recipe for you. The inspiration is out of the book from which my favorite cheesecake comes, The 30-Minute Low-Carb Cookbook by Pamela Ellgen.
I had some leftover roast chicken and zucchini. I flip open this book and there is this recipe using pesto, chicken, and zucchini.
You have my attention.
So I read it and realize that I have the ingredients, including the basil and other ingredients for pesto. I probably have 25 containers of pesto in the freezer dating back to 2018 (or maybe 2017.) Why should I make more? (I will, because I need to cut the basil soon.)
The recipe calls for spiralized zucchini, but I don’t have a spiralizer. What I do have is a Norpro Apple Master, which does much the same thing. Sort of. I’ll get a spiralizer one day, OK? For now this is what I have to work with.
Two cups of cooked chicken are called for, and so I managed to pick and chop exactly two cups from the chicken carcass in the fridge. I used some of the recently made tarragon butter. BF really enjoyed the chicken, and it was really tasty, but he didn’t want to know what was in it.
Once I finished with the zucchini (cutting the cores into matchsticks and cleaning the machine), I sauteed it in a tablespoon or so of olive oil for two minutes. Then, I added in the chopped chicken, sauteed for another couple of minutes. Then I added in an entire container of my home-made pesto from 2019, which was I presume to be a cup, but I think was more. It was the first one I grabbed when I opened the freezer. It was probably too much. Next time I’ll just use measure out one cup.
Well, when I finished it, this is what I ended up with:
The recipe also suggests serving it with additional Parmesean cheese (because you would have put some in the pesto) but I forgot to add some. It was delicious as-is, and if you’re a fan of zucchini and pesto, this is highly recommended for a quick dinner.
If you don’t have chicken already cooked, you could also pick up a rotisserie chicken (or chicken parts, if HEB still sells them that way) or cook a couple of thighs in the toaster/convection oven, air fryer, or heck, even poach it if you’re really in a hurry.
It’s low-carb, gluten-free, and without cheese, it can be dairy-free, too.
BF’s reaction to this delicious dish was to exhibit another of his retching noises.
Speaking Of Him
We’ve had another flora and fauna fiasco.
It seems that although BF remembers his Dad having a garden and a bounty of fresh produce every year, he doesn’t remember everything. I should have seen this early on and paid closer attention to what he was doing.
BF wanted some green beans, and he planted them. These beans grow on vines, and so at some point, he asked for a stake to let them grow up onto. The corn, watermelon, beans, and potatoes were pretty much BF’s domain, so I didn’t ask questions.
Last week after our garden massacre, I was out there looking for the cucumbers, zucchini, and any peppers ready to pick. Pulling up more dead cornstalks, I thought to myself, “we should have been picking those beans by now.” I look over at one stake, where I saw one bean before, and realize that it’s about dead. Not only are there no beans, but there are also no leaves.
On the other stake, there were plenty of leaves and little purple flowers. No beans, just flowers, and leaves. That’s when I realized it.
He Staked Weeds
The next day I brought him outside to ask him about it, and said, “Show me the beans.” He turned around and walked inside without a word!
I pulled out as much of the weed as I could find, and there was a considerable amount. Even off the stake, there was so much that it was like pulling a heavy quilt off a bed.
When I got inside, he said, “you don’t have to be so judgmental.” I wasn’t trying to be, but if it was indeed, planted beans, I want to harvest some.
I’m not mad at him–it’s actually funny. So now I ask him, “where’s the beans?” It’s along the same lines as asking, “didn’t you pay the light bill?” when we have a power outage like we did this past weekend. (Yes, we paid it early and everyone else was out of power, too.)
Well, anyway, we’re nursing some tomato plants. The Chocolate Cherry plants have flowers and are looking good so far.
We really need to get an earlier start next year.
On another note, the wife of one of his car-guy friends posted a picture of something they cooked out of their garden. BF mentioned that this friend keeps his garden free of Mother Nature’s creatures with the use of an electric fence. I like it.
The Shishito Discovery
As always, I’m watching Ina Garten while sewing, and it’s a show I’ve never seen before.
She starts talking about this tasty appetizer and these little peppers that you just saute up and eat, seeds and all (skip the stems.) They’re not big, about the size of a lipstick. Picked green, they’re sweet, but if left to turn red, they’re hotter.
Ina also says that there is always an occasional hot one, and she seems to get that one.
So I did a little reading on the subject. Although Ina says they are from Japan, they’re actually grown all over Asia. They’re small, with thin walls, and cook quickly.
Of course, nobody has them here, but I remembered them when I saw the plants at Tractor Supply.
If you’re in Houston, you may be lucky enough to see these small, spark-plug sized peppers in Central Market, select HEB stores, Rice Epicurean Market, Whole Foods and maybe Trader Joe’s. This being Louisiana, I can’t imagine where you’d find any unless you were in a bigger Rouse’s, or maybe Whole Foods, since they sell Hatch chiles in late summer. And of course, they would be in Baton Rouge or New Orleans–IF you found them at all.
But in our case, the local Tractor Supply store had some, and I grabbed two of the plants. I was on my fruitless search for more Anaheim chile plants, but I really wanted to try these.
Oh, am I glad I did!
They took a while to start producing. But once they did:
I just let them grow for a while, but one Friday night, I realized I had to pick them. The larger of the two plants had so many peppers that it was tipping over. I picked them and came inside to find the recipe.
Turns out the recipe is in Ina’s last book, Cook Like A Pro. I’ve used this book for several recipes, but this recipe passed me by. It’s my first introduction to these delicious peppers.
Fast And Easy Saute
Of course, I didn’t take pictures, but it’s a quick one. You can find the recipe here on The Food Network’s website.
But it really was simple, you saute them on a fairly high heat with olive oil. While they cook, add salt and pepper. Remove them from the heat, squeeze over some lime juice, sprinkle on some flaked sea salt, then toss. (Yes, I have Maldon’s Sea Salt as well as a few other types.)
I had to do them in two batches because I didn’t have a really big skillet. No matter.
One of BF’s car-guy friends was over, and we were also having some Texas Tamales. BF offered him some tamales, and I asked him to try one of the peppers. He had one of each, and loved both.
No, BF didn’t want any, but I did:
My little surprise was that there were no hot peppers in the bunch. I ate some of them that Friday night, and the rest I ate with dinner a couple nights later. NO HOT ONES. Woo hoo!
Ina’s Next Book
The next Barefoot Contessa cookbook comes out in early October, titled Modern Comfort Food. She announced it on social media a few months ago, and Clarkson Potter moved up the publication date by a couple of weeks because of the current events. We all need comfort food, yes?
Has the fair Ms. Garten discovered alternate waffle maker recipes? It seems so–in the description, it says:
In Modern Comfort Food, Ina Garten shares 85 new recipes that will feed your deepest cravings. Many of these dishes are inspired by childhood favorites–but with the volume turned way up, such as Cheddar and Chutney Grilled Cheese sandwiches (the perfect match for Ina’s Creamy Tomato Bisque), Smashed Hamburgers with Caramelized Onions, and the crispiest hash browns that are actually made in a waffle iron!
It’s gonna be great. All of Ina Garten’s books have delicious food with great directions, so this will also be a good one.
If You See Some, Get Some
When I went looking, I noticed that Giada de Laurentiis also has a recipe for these, but she makes a “baked salt” with olives to go with it. I haven’t tried that one yet. Like Ree Drummond, Giada is doing her show at home. I’m catching up with all my favorite shows as I can, hence Philo TV.
A Google search will turn up more results for you, like this blog from Paleo Scaleo. Jessica is in South Carolina, and also grows them herself. I will be saving more of the seeds before the season is over so I can grow them again next year.
Don’t forget that if you buy them, you can save the seeds in a Ziploc bag and start them next year. Ditto for Hatch chiles. That’s always my plan.
Shishito peppers are a delicious thing to have, whether you’re snacking on them in front of the TV, or serving them at your next cookout or dinner party (whenever that is, right?) They’re healthy, gluten-free, low-carb and keto, so why wouldn’t you? Just make sure you have some dairy milk around, even skim, for the possibility of a hot one.
Don’t worry about BF. He’ll either come around one day, or he’ll keep eating ravioli from the can. He likes that stuff.
Corn–picked fresh–is a summer favorite. We picked some.
Hello, again, Dear Readers:
I had something else planned for this blog post, but don’t worry, it’s coming soon. I already told Aunt Ruth, and she’s going to be looking at the screen funny when she reads this. Besides, just about everyone knows what corn is, right?
We had to pick some of our corn today, but we should have picked it earlier.
The Garden Massacre
When Tropical Storm Cristobol knocked over a stalk of corn, we didn’t think much of it.
About two weeks later, a very bad storm system passed through. We had about three days of very heavy rain, including lightning. One strike was VERY close to us, but we don’t know where it landed. Our neighbor doesn’t, either, but it scared all of us.
A day or so later, we noticed that there were more stalks knocked over, and this morning, it was worse:
Two of BF’s car-guy friends were here this morning borrowing tools. The elder man said, “Looks like the ‘coons found a place to eat.”
Raccoons. On TV, they’re cute and cuddly, but don’t let that fool you. They’re destructive little buzzards that pull over the stalks, then nibble on the corn. They don’t eat the whole thing, mind you, just pull back some of the husk and nibble on what they see. Then they move onto the next cob, leaving most of it to waste.
Nevermind what I was calling them this morning when I was pulling the yellowed stalks out of the ground. It wasn’t nice.
So that means we started picking the remaining corn. We should have picked it before, but BF remembers how his Dad grew corn. . .and we lost some. But we got 11 ears that were in pretty good condition.
What We Got
BF began pulling the husks and the silk off the corn right outside. I don’t know why he did, but you shouldn’t do that.
Ideally, pick them right when you’re ready to cook them, or at least, leave the husks on until you cook them. By the time I got to cook them in the evening, they were starting to dry out a little, but they were OK.
In the evening, I had to get out the biggest pot I had, which isn’t a heavy-bottomed pot from The Martha Stewart Collection At Macy’s. No, this big tin pot was given to us, and it’s the biggest one around. It doesn’t even have a lid, and it sits atop the fridge most of the time. I filled it with water, salted it, and waited forever for it to boil, even though I put the universal pot lid on it.
Of course, it’s been many years since I did this, so I had to look it up. But BF, ever so helpful, offered, “I think you just boil it.” So that’s what I did.
After I looked it up.
Help Me, Martha!
Years ago I made corn on the cob for my then-fiance and used a recipe out of Martha Stewart’s big green cookbook. We boiled the corn with a touch of sugar in the water and made a butter-lime combo to coat it. It was unusual but very delicious. I don’t believe I’ve made it since, even for the GER.
A quick search today on Martha Stewart’s website gathered 203 recipes, all for corn on the cob, and I skimmed through a few of them until I found what I wanted.
I followed the directions for boiling them, and they came out fine.
But when I saw the article on “upgrades,” I was intrigued. The one that caught my eye, of course, was the basil-mint pesto. I have plenty of basil and mint, and decided to go for it.
This is the mint after I cut it. Those stalks are over a foot high:
I only needed a quarter-cup of basil, but I need to make more pesto soon:
I thought I had too much, but it turns out I had cut exactly enough. I’m getting good at this:
After pulling leaves and measuring them out, I washed them:
Then started the process.
Now Make It
You add the 3/4 cup of olive oil into the blender with two cloves of garlic and blend.
Leave the mixer running:
Then start adding the mint and basil leaves:
To avoid a possible big mess, I just used the removable cap in the lid and added them in there, a little at a time. Let it blend for another minute.
There are no nuts, just herbs, oil, and garlic. Next, I poured it out into one of the many containers I have for regular pesto:
I felt like it needed salt added at this point, so I did, just a shake, then mixed it.
Pesto On Corn
The corn was still hot, so I had to try it out. Brush it right on like melted butter.
I made sure to add plenty:
It was at this point that I discovered the pesto needed some salt, so I added some directly onto the corn before adding a shake to the pesto.
I didn’t wait for BF. I had mine right away.
It’s worth the trouble, honest.
The Fourth Of July
It’s this weekend. If you’re making corn on the cob. . .you’re welcome. Pick some, buy some, go to the farmer’s market if you have access to one. If not, your usual grocery store will have some too. Try out the basil-mint pesto if you’ve got herbs, or try out one of the compound butter recipes, like this chive butter. (One day soon!)
I also offered to make this delicious looking dish for us, Ree Drummond’s Fresh Corn Casserole. I hate that word, but it’s simple and uses fresh corn. From Facebook, I sent him the link and asked if he’d like me to make half the recipe so I could use the small oven.
His response: “I know you’re trying to enlighten me. You’re trying to drag a caveman out of his cave.”
I followed this comment with several amusing caveman GIFs.
Don’t forget about using your:
To make things easier this weekend if you’re entertaining or meeting up with family and friends.
Terry Boyd’s Blue Kitchen blog today sent an email that offers 15 recipes for your July 4th holiday menu. He always has some good food to share, and he publishes more than me, too. He and his wife have been busy and not blogging as much lately, but that’s OK.
You’re also welcome to check out the recipes page here, of course. Looking for a blog on a particular subject? Use the search function on the right-hand side of the page if you’re looking for something specific–I may have written about it previously. If you’re looking for something related to the slow cooker (aka Crock Pot), that’s the best way to find it.
The *next* blog will be about another delicious garden-based topic, and probably something you’ve never heard of.
Have a great holiday weekend.
What to do with that tarragon plant in the garden? I found something to start with.
Hi, Again, Dear Readers:
After I published my June Updates post, it dawned on me that I could do something right then with some of the tarragon: a compound butter. Then it became digging out that lone chicken breast from the freezer and cooking it with the compound butter, and adding some cut sweet potato fries.
Hungry yet? Let me tell you how I did it.
I was actually walking the dogs when I realized that I could do this. Compound butter!
If you’re not familiar with compound butter, it’s simply a stick of softened butter with some herbs, spices or other flavorings mixed in. They can be savory or sweet, depending on what you want to use it for. There’s a longer explanation here on The Pioneer Woman’s website with some recipes. You can always make a recipe on your own.
But I didn’t have a recipe, it was mostly for using some of the tarragon. And it was easy!
I let the butter soften up for a while, and just dropped it into a bowl. You don’t want to melt the butter, because then you have to chill it and let it get malleable again.
I simply cut two stalks of the tarragon, washed them, and began chopping it with a big, sharp knife, until it was very fine. Dumped it into the butter, mixed it up well, and, voila:
I added a small amount of salt for taste–like maybe 1/8 teaspoon of that salt. Just taste it to make sure it has enough, but not too much, to your taste. And mix it VERY well, of course.
At the same time I took out the butter, I took out the bag with the lone chicken breast in it and let it thaw as well. It was just a plain, boring, flavorless chicken breast on its own.
Because it was damp, I dried it off:
Using two small spatulas, I dug some of the butter out and dropped it on to the chicken and rubbed it on each side:
Then I added it to a baking sheet with some cut sweet potatoes coated in a bit of olive oil and salt:
Once I got the sweet potatoes in one layer, it was ready to bake:
And because I wanted to eat soon, I heated the little oven to 425F. It was ready in about 25 minutes.
Freezing The Remainder
Now, this “recipe” didn’t use the entire stick of butter. If I were cooking for me and BF, or more people, I probably would have used the whole thing. But this time, it was just me, and I froze the rest. You could also do this if you were making several types in advance.
Get some waxed paper, parchment paper, or butchers paper, and plop it down on the paper:
Because it’s soft but not melted, you can turn it into a roll, just like on the Pioneer Woman’s website:
Now roll it all the way up and twist up the edges like a Christmas cracker:
I stashed mine in a freezer bag to hopefully prevent freezer burn.
If you wanted to store multiples, just use a felt-tip pen to write the type on the waxed paper. You don’t want to mix up tarragon compound butter with orange honey butter, right?
When you’re ready to use it, just slice off what you need to add delicious taste to anything you’re cooking.
Dinner Smells Good
About the time I finished this up, dinner was ready. I plated it and it was perfect:
The chicken was perfectly cooked, tender and moist, and the butter also made it over to the sweet potatoes. Maybe I should have left off the small bit of olive oil, but it tasted fantastic.
Where was BF, you ask, when I was making this deliciousness? He was at work, and got a pizza for his “pit crew.” He came home with three slices left of it for lunch.
Ok, not everyone is going to appreciate a couple of branches of the plant–that’s OK. But I did do some checking on Pinterest for some more ideas.
I also discovered that the tarragon I’m growing is called Texas/Mexican tarragon. (Being a naturalized Texan, I bought it.) It’s not the French tarragon we’re used to buying. I found the plant. . .somewhere, and stashed it in the ground when it was time to plant. No complaints.
Tarragon vinegar is a longtime favorite, and I may check into making some of that. I did that once, a long time ago, so maybe it’s time to do that again.
Tarragon oil may not be a good idea for long-term storage because of the possibility of bacteria. I learned that back in the 90’s when I made seasoned bottles of vinegar one year for Christmas. I had fun collecting wine bottles from one lady I used to know in New Orleans–she drank a lot of wine and kept me supplied with empty bottles for months.
I also saw a reference to adding tarragon into pesto, so next batch, I’ll be trying it out. I have plenty of basil to work with, trust me.
Maybe compound butter as gifts? It’s an idea, and it’s quick. Just have to make sure it stays frozen until use.
That was just a quick glance at Pinterest, I’ll do a more in-depth look soon. If I have to start making gifts now, it’s a great time to do so and have them ready for the holidays.
Which will be showing up sooner than you think.
Need a dinner idea tonight? Here you go–try some tarragon compound butter on your next chicken, turkey or other poultry dish for a delicious herb taste.