Good evening, Dear Readers:
Remember when I said the next post would be about waffles, unless I had something better to write about? I do–and I’m not reneging on waffles, either. In fact, after I finish writing this, I’m going to try out a gluten-free waffle recipe just for you! (Well, and me, too.) I’m anticipating three or four different waffles on the recipe page, and one may even involve using. . .wheat. We’ll see when I get there.
Are you a Trader Joe’s fan? Well, I finally had a flash of inspiration, and decided to do something about the lack of a TJ’s down here south of Houston. I put a link on NextDoor.com, and suggested everyone in my area write TJ’s and tell their friends to do the same. So far, several people have, including Neighbor K, who became a fan after hearing me bang on about it, and made her first trip. If you’re one of my local readers, do this now and tell EVERYONE YOU KNOW. If we get enough people writing, we might actually get one closer than the Montrose store. I suggested Friendswood or League City, but anywhere closer than Montrose or Memorial would be wonderful. If you’re in an area that doesn’t have TJ’s at all, and you miss them terribly, you can go to this link as well and ask about getting a TJ’s in your area. Do the same thing–tell your friends. Go to this link and send them a short email about where and why. Save the text on a Word document in case the site goes bonkers, like it did for me. It worked the second time.
A couple of weeks ago, I was strolling through Target and found this with a clearance sticker on it:End of the summer, an ice cream maker. However, it’s one that requires this:
Now that we have Blue Bell back, we don’t need this. And of course, in fine print at the bottom, it says, “artificially flavored.” No thanks. I like my Cuisinart model and the recipes I have in cookbooks.
So anyway. . .guess who has more pesto in her freezer? Yes! ME! (You can envy me now.) As of last night, I now have SIX containers of pesto! No, I haven’t poured steroid fertilizers out back. I went on a little day trip on Monday. Let me back up a bit.
I’ve written about the monthly gardening lectures I attend at my local library, third Thursday of the month, 6:30 pm. Nice people, and sometimes, there’s munchies. (No, I passed on the cake last week.) The lady who coordinates the lectures and attends every month is a nice person named Shirley Jackson. She’s always there, picks up the surveys, gives announcements and sometimes, she’s the friendliest face I see all day.
One of the announcements has been since the beginning the “open garden” day at the Genoa Friendship Garden in nearby Pasadena. That’s not someplace I normally hang out, and despite writing it down, I never seem to remember. Except for one day I dropped a pitcher of iced coffee on the floor, and. . .oh, never mind. Finally, Monday, I paid them a visit.
Sponsored by the Harris County Master Gardeners and Texas A&M’s AgriLife Extension, it’s a little spot where all kinds of plants are grown, and they have plant sales–cheap. I spent a whopping $3.50 yesterday, for two tomato plants and a sweet pepper plant that I’ll put into a big pot this weekend.
Take a look:
This was a cute little display:
Here’s a closeup:
If you like eggplant, they’ve got a garden variety that, it is claimed, actually tastes good.
Here’s another look at that eggplant:
There are peppers of many kinds:
For the okra-loving folks.
They grow green onions, just like I do, only more of them. I also got answers to questions about the garlic that never seems to grow well in my garden. One nice lady said it was probably critters. I’ll try again soon.
A few shots from around the garden area:
There’s an orchard, complete with berry bushes:
I think these are grapes, but I couldn’t find a label for it:
And they didn’t forget the kitties, either! (I bet there’s a huge feral cat colony living there, somewhere, that comes out to party in the Garden at night.)
I was quite surprised to see an area of desert plants, separated from the rest of the garden:
Prickly pear cactus produces fruit–did you know that?
Yellow flowers develop on top of the little fruit buds, that’s why there is an indentation. Then the flower dries up and falls off (just like zucchini or peppers) and the fruit buds start growing. When they turn dark purple, you can pick them and peel them, because they’re sweet. I’ve seen “Indian Candy” at truck stops in California and Arizona. (But not in a long, long time.)There were other desert plants, as well, like this, I believe is called an Ocotillo:
NOW–remember what I said about more pesto? Get a look at this:
I mentioned to one of my “tour guides” that I grow basil for the sole purpose of making pesto and freezing it for the winter. I told him about Pea & Pesto Soup, and told him that if he made that for his wife, she would be very happy with him. He reached down and cut me a couple of huge branches, big as a wedding bouquet. (Don’t read anything into that.) I stopped on the way home at Randall’s because I knew I didn’t have enough pine nuts to make two or three batches. I might start using walnuts one day–I like walnuts too, and they’re less expensive than pine nuts.
Another one of my tour guides (listening to my discussion of said soup) asked me, “how do you have time to do all that cooking?” I smiled and said, “I’m single.” He was delighted to hear about Pea & Pesto Soup, but insisted that I make some and bring it to him to try. I’d guess he was in his mid-70’s, and he was not about to go online to find the recipe. (Most of the people working there were women.)
There are several varieties of basil growing, like this one:
As I’ve done so many times, I picked a leaf and tasted it. Suddenly behind me, I heard a woman’s voice say, “That’s not culinary basil.”
It wasn’t poisonous, but I did indeed spit it out quickly and ask about it. She said, “I’ve never had anyone pop a leaf in their mouth like that.”
I got to ask lots of questions, and I found out a lot of things I didn’t get from the lectures. First, I’m under-watering my plants. DUH! Second, there isn’t enough room for all the water to drain properly, so I have to get a bigger drill bit soon and drill bigger holes in the bottom of the paint buckets. If I have time next month, I might go take a ride, now that I know where it is and how easy it is to get to from here.
I went into the greenhouse to get some plants, and there were some free seeds, limit 5. That was all I needed.
Lettuce will be happening again, soon, too, thanks to the seeds and the cooler weather that’s coming.
It’s not a big greenhouse, but there were plenty of plants for sale. I missed the kale, though. Sorry, K.
Now, to give you some perspective on why gardening can be a good thing, consider the Meyer lemons that I’m hoping will get bigger. I’ve got seeds from last year’s lemons, and I may need to prune the tree a bit. But on a recent trip to The Fresh Market, I found some Meyer lemons:I sent that picture to Neighbor K. She was quite surprised to see how much they were. NOW do you see why I want to grow them? I do hope mine grow full size before they completely ripen.
You can find out more about the Genoa Friendship Garden at this link. The Garden is open to the public on the third Monday of the month from 8:30 to 11:00 am, and they sell plants cheap. If you’re looking for something to do in Houston, there are two gardens; this one is on my side of town.
Time for fall gardening, and I’ll be hoping that radishes finally grow back there. They grow quickly, and best in the cold winter. Fingers crossed, and I’ll tell you all about it. . .if it works.
My apologies for being late again. I’ve been busy and just haven’t felt like writing. Period. But WordPress nags you if you don’t, I’d better do something.
Neighbor K introduced me to HEB’s new line of gluten free pasta, and for a while, I couldn’t get enough:
No, the cat food doesn’t figure into it.
However, it’s corn and rice flour that makes this pasta, so it’s high on the carb scale. I think I bought it three times, but I had to quit. It’s not the $1.99 price tag, though–I kept eating it!
Let me give you a bit of background: back in the day (about 1991-1994) I used to walk six miles a day. After the walk, I would eat one of two things: frozen veg with some butter and salt, or boiled pasta with (ugh) Diet Parkay margarine and a small amount of Parmesan cheese. Because, after all, pasta is “healthy,” right? It’s no healthier now than it was, but nobody knew that yet. I would get one of two reactions: with the veg, I had a great evening, but with the pasta, I would fall asleep. It took forever to figure out it was the pasta putting me to sleep for 15 hours, so I cut way back on it.
With the gluten-free pasta, I cooked one cup, added real butter and about the same amount of cheese. I got the same delicious taste without the sudden drowsiness. However. . .I couldn’t stop eating it! So I stopped buying it. Maybe in a few months or so, but not for a while.
Yesterday was Pesto Saturday! The basil got to close to three feet high, so it was definitely time for harvesting and pesto making.
After I picked them (and picked through them) I rinsed them and put them through the salad spinner. You don’t want WATER in your pesto, do you?
One of the best parts of pesto: pine nuts. NOTE: do not eat any of the toasted pine nuts, or you will not be able to stop eating them. Trust me on this.
These burn VERY easily, so let me tell you how I keep that from happening–I put them in the toaster oven at 400 degrees for five minutes, and keep an eye on them. When they start turning brown, turn the oven off, then carefully pour them into a COLD container, like this bowl. You know, one you just took out of the cabinet, not necessarily refrigerated. Why? If you leave them in the baking pan, the cooking process continues and they’ll burn. By dumping them into a cold bowl, you stop the cooking process and they’re perfectly toasted.
Make sure you keep the rest of them sealed in the FREEZER, or else they’ll go bad–quickly.
Once I had all the components ready, I just put the parts together.
When it’s done, this is what you get.
You can find a good pesto recipe here at Food Network’s site, and it’s virtually the same as the one I got out of one of Giada de Laurentiis’ books. I add Parmesan cheese to mine, although that recipe says Pecorino. Really, with either one, you can’t go wrong.
If the plants will grow back and produce that much again in a few months, I could have at least one more batch of pesto to freeze for the winter. And that will be a good thing.
That, and finding SQUARE containers to freeze them in. The round containers I’ve been using take up too much room.
And why make so much pesto? You already know why–and I made some this week, too.
Now here comes the part where I write about the infamous ex-boyfriend known as the GER. He loves it when I write about him.
You know the old saying, “Never look a gift horse in the mouth?”
Last time, I told you about the gifted tomatoes the GER gave me. He said he didn’t get a whole lot this year, but he did give me two nice ones. Take a look:
Now, because I know a bit about this, I left them on the stove for a week, so they could ripen a bit more. Ripen they did. When I cut them open, this is what they looked like:
Not especially large, mind you, but, if you’ve ever been given the gift of tomatoes, you know why they are markedly different from the ones you buy at the grocery. Size really doesn’t matter once you taste one. If you just slice them and eat them, all you need is a light sprinkling of fine sea salt. Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing would be a crime.
I also clipped what was growing in the lettuce pot. You know what they call “bitter greens?” That, unfortunately, was the only part of the “greens mix” that actually grew, plus some kind of parsley look-alike. Darnit. In order to actually consume this without gagging, I stopped at HEB and got a head of good old iceberg lettuce and made my own “greens mix,” which also included a few chopped up mint leaves and some of the flat-leaf Italian parsley that grows back there. That was quite a harvest, and what was it became was pretty darn good:
The closest thing I could call a recipe would be one head of iceberg lettuce, a handful of chopped flat leaf parsley, some chopped bitter greens, and a few–like, 5–chopped mint leaves. Don’t add more mint or that’s all you’ll taste. Much as I like mint, I know it’s not THAT enjoyable.
With two judiciously sliced fresh garden tomatoes from the GER, it became. . .salad.
A little olive oil and salt was all that was needed. I emphasize LITTLE.
And it was SO GOOD.
Summer’s here, please stay cool and enjoy what there is to enjoy.