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Triumph of the Mundane

Slow blogging at its finest

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Food

Hang On Little Tomato!

2017tomato1

(A little late on this posting – the harvest is vinally over – bad pun intended!)

The title of a Pink Martini song and album has come to mind often these last few weeks as scores and scores of tomatoes ripen, and we attempt to pick them at peak ripeness.

This year’s tomato planting is in a new spot. Most of the year the south side of the garage is in the dark shadows of the neighbor’s behemoth brick house. My guess was that the high angle of the summer sun would last long enough to yield a hearty crop. And indeed it did. Another title in the running for this post was Incoming!

In a nod to monoculture, the hubs planted five roma tomato plants there and two more in pots on the deck. Producing gallons of sauce was apparently the only thing on his mind (more on that another time). But we still topped salads and enjoyed BLTs with these tomatoes. A little variety, however, would have been nice. . .

Back to the harvest, which is where all the comic material lies.

2017tomato2

The hubs rigged up this wonky trellis for better air circulation and to allow the vines to grow longer and outward, thereby increasing production. When the birds decided it provided a nice, secluded place to sit and grab a snack, he draped the whole business with netting. And the final runner-up title for this posting was Rack ‘Em Up.

What he failed to consider was picking tomatoes. The contraption is a little over four feet high, and it requires an awkward combination of yoga and limbo moves to get in and out. That’s accented with grade school-level Quasimodo imitations to plod, hunched over, and reach deep to pick tomatoes. Four times out of five, one of us smacks a noggin on the overhead trellis and at least once a week somebody gets tangled in the netting.

Hopefully the neighbors get a kick out of our point-and-pull method. I crouch on the ground, looking up into the vines, pointing out tomatoes; the hubs reaches in almost blindly while I coach “a little to the left and up” in hopes of plucking the ripe fruit hidden in the leaves.

2017tomato3
Random image of the lovely tomatoes we picked. Not necessarily representative of a day’s harvest. . .

The fun continues when the hubs attempts to estimate the day’s harvest. It’s a whole new level of husband math. Example: “Must be five pounds of tomatoes, maybe 12.” Nothing like covering your bases: Nine pounds was that day’s yield.

Then there’s the canning pot. Our newish stove has two ceramic burners and two induction. Somehow he convinced himself that we were damaging the large diameter ceramic burner by using prolonged high heat and the old-fashion enameled canning pot. I remain unconvinced.

However, since I returned to work he is unattended all day and in possession of a valid credit card. Thus, unsurprisingly, I came home to a shiny new gargantuan canning pot suitable for use on an induction stove. I informed him that we will never can enough of anything to justify the cost. He remains unconvinced.

Thus, he has spent much effort outlining possible additional uses for this pot. The best one so far is the pot is big enough to make bagels. Oy vey. Hang on little tomato, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

 

Stock Up!

Have you noticed? Lately I’m compelled to add exclamation points to my headlines. Maybe I’m just that excited about the holidays. In this case, the reason was to make it ‘sound’ like a short-order cook calling out from the kitchen.

broth

Big batch of stock from turkey and chicken bones – Chickey? Turken? Whatever the name, it is yummy and we’ve got a lot of it. I’m thinking butternut squash risotto, because wait until you see the size of the butternut squash I bought at — surprise, not! — Costco!

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Kale and Farewell! (No, I’m not going anywhere)

OK, I’m only posting this because I’m mad about the title I came up with! It’s the serendipity of two unrelated things happening on the same day.

Silly me, a little fun for you.

 

kale

The last of the season’s kale. Note the frost. Into a batch of green soup.

yogurt

And, it appears, the end of the yogurt maker. Farewell, faithful companion. While the machine itself is more than two decades old, I’ve only used it regularly for 5 or 6 years. And by regularly I mean once a week. Really. We eat homemade yogurt most days.

But from the consistency of this yogurt, well, looks like the heating element has finally gone kaput. The hubs used his infrared temp thingie and it registered only 78 degrees. That won’t do.

Now you know what’s on my Christmas list.

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How Did That Pan Out?

oven

The default cake pan for this kitchen is a Bundt pan. I bought it long ago. Not knowing better at the time, I bought a black one. The purported positive theory was things bake faster in black–save time, save energy. Well, the outside bakes much faster but I’ve always had a problem with  super crispy outer edge and a still-gooey center.

So when I saw a post on Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street Facebook page about using a baking sheet under a baking pan not just to catch bubble-over but to change baking dynamics, I decided to give it try. Oddly, the post noted that baking time would likely be affected but didn’t note in which direction.

oven-cake

For me for this cake, it increased baking time by about 10 minutes. Most importantly, the edge did not get crunchy. The hubs was pleased. This is his fav: poppy seed form cake. He maintains, however, that the center was still a titch gooey and requested a retrial. Yes, dear. Finish this one and I’ll bake another.

All in all, the experiment did pan out.

What has not panned out recently is the photo program on the ol’ PC. If it does open at all, it crashes, so please forgive the less-than-average images. As soon as I can find a solution, I’ve got a bunch of things to post. After eons in publishing, I can’t bring myself to publish anything beyond these two raw images.

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Well I Never!

A couple more food grades this week. First up: The rice cooker.

Rice Cooker

A slightly begrudging pass.

Countertop appliances must earn a place in my kitchen. Even pots and pans beyond the basic array are subject to extreme scrutiny. Space and funds are limited, cooking habits rule; behaviors of high frequency do not require new equipment; minor adaptations for one-offs are encouraged. Specialized items must top a pretty high bar.

The rice cooker wasn’t even under consideration. But the hubs saw a category review on America’s Test Kitchen and got it in his head. . . I listened, nodded, and waited. The interest did not pass or even fade. The arguments presented were reasonable. The dogs eat a lot of rice; we should/could eat more rice.

Yes, the dogs were the turning point. Dear Liza was a chubby puppy before she came to us. Her weight and exercise levels are now in the healthy range, but she maintains her exceptional food motivation. Adding rice to her dinner fills her up efficiently. Naturally Iko expects rice too; animals understand food equality. So every week we made two batches of rice in the microwave. Efficient but noisy and a little messy, and more time than I’d like to devote to the task. However overall much less muss and fuss than the stovetop method. The result was a steady diet of rice for the dogs but none for us; it rather lost its appeal.

The hubs extolled the virtues, ease, and low price of a rice cooker. For 30 bucks at Target, meh, give it a try. The ease of filler ‘er up (a week’s worth in one batch), push a button, and walk away was admittedly appealing.

We still haven’t made much rice for us. In time, perhaps. When not in use, it’s stored in the basement and presence is practically everything.

Oh, and the stars aligned on this right before the hubs marked another trip around the sun. Happy Birthday, dear! Shall I put a bow on it?

 

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Food Pass-Fail, The Hubs Edition

Is there an expiration date on this? she said accusingly. Couldn’t find one on this package of spring roll wrappers. These have been in the fridge for literally, actually, factually for more than a year.

Eliminating food waste is a big thing here; the conversation occasionally gets harsh.

An interwebs search revealed no expiration date on this foodstuff. Well, does it qualify as a foodstuff or just an edible mix of ingredients? That’s a slightly disconcerting if accurate thought.

More interwebs searching brought him to Martha and a doable recipe. Chinese cabbage, rice noodles, and onions. Not really a meal, but accomplishes the desired effect of using up the ancient spring roll wrappers.

Wrapping, it appears, is a little trickier than he anticipated.

spring roll fail

Don’t skip the egg wash to seal. This one just fell apart in the pan. Fail!

Spring roll pass

When the wrapper held, he achieved a nice crispy, crunchy wrapper. Pass!

No, we not buying another package of spring roll wrappers so he can practice.

Food Pass-Fail 5, the Trifecta

Wrapping up with Pass, Fail, and Incomplete.

My relationship with complexity pegs the extremes. The idea of immersing myself in a difficult task is so deeply appealing. The reality of doing so, meh, not always so much.

Cooking is a prime example.

Ice cream

Pass.

The ice cream is a sure and solid A; missed an A+ for flavor strength.

The plan is to serve up only homemade ice cream summer. For ease I used Vanilla Bean Paste from the ab-fab local spice shop Allspice). Guessed at the amount and went too light. Easy enough to improve next time.

Even did a by-chance science experiment. Chilled one cooling tub in the upstairs freezer (not as cold) and one in the chest freezer downstairs (deep freeze). The churning took at least 5 minutes less in the super-chilled tub. But the less-cold tub added more volume with the extra time and has a lighter feel. Also, colder-tub batch chilled about 4 hours; the other batch chilled overnight before putting it in the ice cream maker.

Overall, worth the time and effort.

Rye bread. Incomplete.

Caraway seed

Finding the right flour required visits to several stores, and not sure what I bought is the best choice. For a first go, ordering a big bag off the interwebs seems folly.

Then the weather went chilly so starting the starter in a cold house seemed an exercise in futility. Mission temporarily scrubbed.

But a bowl is on the counter so that qualifies for an incomplete.

I’ll end this project on a glorious, uncomplicated fail:

Chip shelf

Lest anyone mistake us for food purists of any stripe,  please note the above. Our love of Tostitos chips knows no bounds. The only thing we’re fussy about is the variety: Restaurant style, please! Whenever they go on sale (3 for $10 or the ever-coveted, rarely seen 3 for $9), we stock up. Clearly there was a recent sale, so the hubs added a shelf in the basement specifically to hold the bounty. Even considering unfailingly regular consumption, this perfect corporate concoction of oil, salt, and probably a touch of sugar does not lose its appeal. And it comes in Party Size — Cheers!

Food Pass-Fail 3

Asian slaw

Pass.

Asian Slaw gets a solid C. The hubs thinks it’s a B, possibly B+ but that’s grade inflation to me.

Tasty, pretty easy to make, reliable results. That defines middle ground, thus the middle grade.

If you’ll excuse me, I need to go buy a head of cabbage.

Food Pass-Fail 1

A week ago I spent part of Sunday afternoon watching The Great British Baking Show and knitting. More about knitting another time.

This past Sunday, perhaps more appropriately, I watched three episodes of TGBBS while baking cookies and a cake. The local PBS station probably calls it a marathon; more likely it’s a choice made to fill air time.

Clearly we’re set for a bit over a week with the hubs love of sweets, and I’m not joking. We might get two weeks, but that’s the longest it will stretch.

Poppy seed cake

Made me think it’s time for a review and rating of recent kitchen efforts.

This is a pass!

This poppy seed cake gets a solid B. With the cookie reserve, the day’s efforts get a B+. Maybe an A-. There’s a lot of dishes involved in the prep and I did clean up rather than my usual I-cooked-you-clean-up approach. That includes the cookie sheets for bonus points.

Poppy seed cake is on constant rotation here; the hubs pines and whines if he thinks it’s been too long since a cake graced the counter. He’s been known to employ the sad face in the grocery store to force the issue.

This time I’m patting myself on the back for exceptional texture and spot-on baking time. While mixing I feared the egg whites might not have been whipped enough (nothing like a beaten-to-infinity foam), but the results speak otherwise.

 

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