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Archive for July, 2011

My husband’s friend alerted him to a great deal on fresh okra at a local market; and my husband came home today with nine pounds of okra.

(photo ganked from Wikipedia)

Aside: I have never eaten an okra in my life, and know nothing about them other than “They’re green and popular in the south.” Now, with nine pounds of the stuff inhabiting my sink, I have to school myself on this green flowering plant really quickly.

Nine pounds of okra is way more than two people could ever possibly need at once, so I’ve looked up how to can them, freeze them, and preserve them with a Foodsaver system. For the rest, I need some good recipes involving the stuff– preferably of the vegetarian, non-fried variety. I know okra with tomatoes is popular, but does anyone have a particular recipe to recommend?

Okera-dokera, that’s all for now.

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I mentioned before that we container garden due to our lack of yard. We currently have eleven containers on our patio, ranging from a small flowerpot with a tabasco plant in it (hang in there just one more day, buddy, we’re re-pot you this weekend! I promise!) to two large hydroponic planters. My husband is the Green Thumb of the family, but he’s been teaching me and I’ve been catching on.

(Disclaimer: I recently took several pictures of the plants for this post… with my cell phone. Which is now dead. These photos are from 2-3 months ago. I’ll post recent pictures as soon as I can!)

The hydroponic planters are home to our main tomato plants, which Hubs planted at the end of last summer. They produced a few tomatoes right at the end of the year; then started producing them steadily after the winter (they survived the hard freezes with the aid of an old quilt and a reading lamp). They suffered a little bit during the three weeks we were away for the wedding/honeymoon (we had a neighbor come over to water, but they didn’t get quite enough), but now they’re back in action and growing like crazy. Both the “big” plants now stand about five feet high– as tall as me!*

I usually toss some vegetable scraps into the planters to they will compost into the soil, at my husband’s advice (we’ll have a real compost pile when we have a real yard). However, I learned that if you throw a mushy tomato into the soil, you may easily end up with another tomato plant…which is how we ended up with our two smaller tomato plants. They’re both about 18 inches high and are beginning to flower.

The citronella is the only non-edible plant we have– we had a big mosquito invasion in early spring, and this plant kept them away. It’s seen here sharing its space with Tomato Plant #3, right before we replanted it.

This is what the basil looked like two months ago. They are now taller than my knees.

About three months ago Hubs came home with a Miracle- Gro Gro Bag, saying “I doubt this will work, but let’s try it.” I was skeptical, too, but we planted oregano and rosemary and they’ve been doing great. This picture was taken about two weeks after we planted them; they’ve grown so much since then that they are going to need their own pots.

I planted some garlic right before I left for our wedding. They sprouted up while we were gone and have been growing beautifully. We harvested some as green garlic and are letting the rest grow to maturity. Garlic: Healthy, delicious, easy to grow, effective against vampires. Love it.

Also not pictured are the tabasco plants. When we visited Hubs’ family last Thanksgiving, they gave us a bag of tabasco peppers from their own plant. We used some to make sauce, others for cooking, and rest for planting. All three are ready for bigger pots as well (this weekend, you guys. Pinkie swear).

***

So, there it is. We may not grow a lot of food, but we appreciate & enjoy everything that does grow within the confines of buckets and pots. We hope to have a real, in-the-ground garden when we buy our home. For now, though, we enjoy our bucket garden.

And I hope to have a post with recent pictures soon.

* (Insert short joke of your choice here)

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Home Alone

After I typed that last post, I realized that it was almost 7:00. I started preparing dinner, knowing my husband would probably be hungry when he got in (in the summertime we don’t eat dinner until 8 or 8:30 most nights).

Normally, I would have called my husband and just asked when to expect him/if he was hungry. And that’s what I wanted to do. But this afternoon, my cellphone mysteriously went dead. Screen blank, wouldn’t turn on, wouldn’t turn off, responded to no amount of button pushing. I had just charged it last night and it had a had a full battery (and worked fine this morning); yet no matter what outlet I plugged it into, nothing happened. Not even the”battery charging” light came on. I tried using a different charger, tried plugging it into my laptop, nothing.

I was beginning to worry about my husband, and was sure he was worrying if he was trying to get a hold of me. Finally, I walked to a neighbor’s house, explained the situation, and asked to use the phone.

Turns out? He had been trying to get in touch with me– to tell me his client never showed up, and he was staying out of town another night. 😦

Soo, I walked home, unplugged the grill, and put the food away for tomorrow (I had a nice big meal planned for him, complete with fancy dessert), and fixed myself a salad. Another night home alone.

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Hot.

Our summer days have fallen into a slow, leisurely pattern: Hubby leaves for work around mid-morning; returns around 5 or 6 and we go swimming until the sun starts to set and/or we get hungry. Then we eat our dinner & either relax at home or go visit a neighbor. On weekends we hang out in/around/near the water, go fishing, and have cookouts with our neighbors. Nobody here knows terms like “rush” or “fast-paced” or “deadline.”

Reason for these Lazy Days?

It’s too damn hot.

Here in Texas, the heat index has been over 100 for a few days. Not to mention we live right next to the water (which reflects the sun), on the top floor, in an apartment with a lot of glass. We sweat even with the A/C cranked.

The pool is helpful– to a degree (no pun intended). While lounging half-naked in a body of water is the most-time honored way to cool off; in this heat the water is nearly as warm as the air. When people climb into a lukewarm pool and say “this feels like bathwater,” I know now they’re lying. The pools in our community really do feel like bathwater.

Still– it helps, and we love the water and love to swim. In fact, I’m sure my husband is looking forward to a swim when he gets home from his trip….Wait until I tell him that the pool outside our apartment is closed because a kid pooped in it today.

(On the upside, maybe now we can go to the “other” pool. Sure it’s on the other end of the complex, but it never gets crowded!)

Anyway. It’s the end of the day; I’m off to pour some wine, read a book and wait for the Man to arrive.

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Cat vs. Plant

We recently bought the  Burpee’s XL Ultimate Growing System to help us sprout some seeds. So far, we’ve only planted chives and mung bean. The chives…have not sprouted, and probably never will. The mung beans, on the other hand…

…are doing pretty well. They would be doing even better, in fact, if my cat stopped digging them up every day.

Torgo, the black-faced bean-disturbing bandit.

Mind you, he doesn’t eat them. He merely pulls them out of the peat with his teeth and lays them neatly on the carpet next to the tray so I can re-plant them (at least he’s courteous). We caught him in the act last night.

…and moments ago, as I was typing that last paragraph, I turned around and saw this:

Observer, aka "The Little Cat," just helping himself to some salad.

I think the lesson here is that indoor seed starters and my cats do not mix.*

*Alternate lesson: indoor seed starts are a great way to keep cats entertained.

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Ruth 1:16

I gave my husband a Bible as a wedding present, instead of the customary watch (his ex-wife had stolen his Bible, and he already has a sweet Tag Heuer timepiece). My mother wrote “Ruth 1:16” on one of our wedding napkins (“Cassandra and Craig, June 10th, 2011”) and slipped it inside the Bible. Here it is:

“But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.”

P.S. Thank you, Facebook, for finally showing my extra last name on my profile. Io nly submitted the name change four weeks ago. *mutters, shakes head* Jeez…

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Roasted Tomato Soup

Because we’re both feeling a little blah today– and to celebrate actually seeing some rain— I decided to make us a nice soup for dinner.

I made this roasted tomato soup one night last winter, and it was face-meltingly delicious. I’ve been wanting to make it again ever since, but ever got around it.

Keep in mind that I live in Texas, where it as 92 degrees today and that was only because the rain cooled us off. Somehow, I failed to factor just how warm it was going to get in our tiny galley kitchen. *sigh* There’s a reason I call myself the Cloud Cuckoo Lander.

Spoiler alert: The end result was totally worth the four-hundred-degree kitchen.

Mm-mmm.

I never make any soup the same way twice, and I didn’t measure anything so these measurements aren’t quite exact. But here’s the general idea of the recipe– it’s easy, completely vegetarian, and delicious!

Ingredients:
1 can of diced tomatoes with juice (14oz)
½(ish) cup extra light olive oil (you can substitute canola or vegetable oil if needed)
Salt and black pepper
1 stalk celery, diced
1 small carrot, diced
2 tablespoons diced mushrooms
½ vidalia onion, diced
4 cloves fresh garlic, minced

1 cup vegetable broth
1/4 cup white wine
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons butter
garlic pepper seasoning to taste.
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Turn on fans.

Drain the can of tomatoes and reserve the juice. Spread the tomatoes out on a baking sheet, season with salt and pepper, and drizzle ½ the oil over top (add some fresh rosemary and/or oregano if you’ve got it handy). Stir so that all tomatoes are coated and bake for 12-15 minutes or until tomatoes are caramelized.

Heat the rest of the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the carrot, celery, onion, and garlic and cook for 10-12 minutes; adding the mushrooms for the last two minutes.

Stir in the remaining ingredients EXCEPT for the basil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Once the vegetables are tender, remove the bay leaf and stir in the basil.

ENJOY.

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