Green Tomato Salsa

This is my year to make green salsa. I posted about the tomatillo salsa I made back in August. This month – it’s was with green tomatoes. It is more golden than green…but just as tasty. As usual for my culinary experiments, I was prompted by getting a key ingredient in my Community Supported Agriculture share:

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Green tomatoes (3 of them…about a pound). I’d also gotten some of the other ingredients: a red jalapeno pepper, some medium ‘heat’ peppers, and 3 garlic cloves. I put everything in the food processor with some ginger preserves, a little salt and cracked pepper, and 3 tablespoons of lime juice…pulsed a few times. Then it cooked for 15-20 minutes. Yummy!

I used it as a savory side for grilled chicken, a salad dressing, and in lieu of stir fry sauce. It didn’t last long!

Favorite Summer Foods

I have two favorite foods that are new-to-me this summer.

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The first is one I started when my freezer was close to overflowing with frozen veggies from the early weeks of the Community Support Agriculture (CSA) season (while I was traveling). I started making green smoothies for breakfast: vanilla soymilk, frozen ‘greens,’ frozen banana, protein (peanut butter, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, raw cashews).

I put them all in the Ninja without measuring exactly; the consistency is thick shake to soft serve ice cream…always cold and yummy. Perfect for summer mornings. The past few weeks I have been getting cherry tomatoes at the CSA. I freeze them…and combine tomatoes and greens. Then the banana can be room temperature. The smoothies are a great way to start the day.

The second favorite for this summer is tomatillo salsa. This was the first year for tomatillos from my CSA. We’ve had two weeks where the share included a pound of tomatillos. I had to so a little research to decide what a wanted to do with them. I decided on salsa. The husks of the tomatillos are star-like…I enjoy the shape before putting them into the bin to go out to the compost pile.

I pan roast most of the ingredients in a skillet first.

After they are cooked and cooled – I put them into the Ninja along with the cilantro (one time I used parsley because I had a big bunch of it) to make it into salsa….and then store in glass jars left over from other salsa or preserves. It lasts for a least a week in the refrigerator. The salsa goes fast since I like it for salad dressing, stir fry sauce, a topping for hamburgers, or dip for chips/veggies.

Savoring the flavors of summer!

Ten Little Celebrations – January 2019

As usual – it is easy for me to find little celebrations every day…and here are the top 10 for January 2019.

Getting rid of ‘stuff’ – My husband and I celebrated taking two loads of ‘stuff’ to the landfill (trash and recycling) and donation. I feel like we are finally making progress in getting rid of things we no longer need. We managed to fix 4 floor lamps that we thought were broken…just before we were set to take them to the landfill.

Wedding anniversary – My husband and I usually have a quiet celebration when our wedding anniversary comes around just after Christmas and the beginning of the year. We’re always pleased with ourselves for becoming long-time marrieds….but realize that it has been easier for us than it is for so many others.

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A morning hike at Mt. Pleasant – It was muddy but otherwise an excellent day for a winter hike. I enjoyed getting outdoors.

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New hiking boots – I celebrated getting new hiking boots. The lining of my 4-year-old boots was tearing. I bought the same brand (Merrell) but waterproof and a little wider to leave more room for bunions and thick socks.

No cavities – I went to the dentist for a checkup and celebrated ‘no cavities’ or anything else that required follow-up! It’s been that way for the past few appointments…and I’m glad my teeth seem to be OK and stable.

Anticipating Zentangle class – I registered for a Zentangle class scheduled for late March and started working through the pre-work….what a joy and worth celebrating both the tiles I am creating now and the anticipation of a great experience in the class.

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Walking in snow at Belmont – I celebrated the beauty of snow on the landscape….and that my boots didn’t leak!

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Witch hazel blooming – What a thrill to find the burst of color in the browns, dark greens, and whites of a winter day! I like that the petals are like little streams as well…. appropriate for a celebration.

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Peppermint snow ice cream – Yum! Yes, I was very cold after I ate it but is was well worth it…celebration-worthy food!

Macro photograph collection – I celebrated the macro photographs I’d made over the past year or so as I prepared charts for a presentation. I have enjoyed the clip on macro lens more than any other photography accessory!

Fall Harvest

My freezer and refrigerator are overflowing with foods from my CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). In the freezer I have a build up of items that I couldn’t eat quickly enough from the beginning of the season: zucchini and garlic scapes from the beginning, some kale that I chopped up in the food processor and then frozen in a sheet, tomatoes. Each week has brought more bounty, so I haven’t drawn down on much once it went to the freezer. Sometimes I manage to finish off everything from the share the week after I got it.

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Right now the refrigerator is very full. My strategy is to eat the parts that will spoil most quickly, wait a little for the winter squash…but not too long (I already have 2 in the refrigerator)….and try not to freeze anything else. That looks tough with two crispers, two plastic bins, and squashes overflowing into the other part of the refrigerator along with 2 pounds of freshly harvested sweet potatoes.

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What not to like about 3 kinds of peppers and scallions and tomatoes and tatsoi and Romaine lettuce and Napa cabbage and fennel and onions and collards and butternut squash and acorn squash….it’s just the volume that is the challenge.

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I made a yummy ‘pudding’ this morning in the food processor with half of a leftover (cooked) acorn squash: acorn squash, 1 tablespoon almond butter, ¼ cup soy milk, a little honey. I sprinkled cinnamon on it right before I ate it. Yummy!

Yummy Potluck Lunch

There is always a potluck lunch after one of the training sessions for fall field trips at Howard County Conservancy…and the big day for fall 2018 was yesterday. It’s always a delicious feast. This year I tried to take pictures just before we started eating. There were still a few things to go on the tables! This group of volunteers is cooks and enjoys good eats!

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Note that the desert table has less chocolate than the usual potluck (although there are some chocolate squares around the edge of one of the cookie trays and brownies on the other). And there wasn’t anything with a lot of sugary icing. Cinnamon was a popular spice in the pumpkin and zucchini breads and apple cobbler!

There are always a lot of salads…lean meats. The space at the end of the table was taken by a big pot of stuffed cabbage and some slice French bread just after I took the picture. Note that there were no potatoes or chips! This cohort of staff and volunteers is trending more and more toward healthy eating. Good for us all!

The only downside of these potluck lunches is that I eat too much. This time I planned for it – lunch was the only meal of the day. It was a good hour of conversation and eating…and we all had a few leftovers to take home.

Gleanings of the Week Ending September 15, 2018

The items below were ‘the cream’ of the articles and websites I found this past week. Click on the light green text to look at the article.

BBC - Future - How China’s giant solar farms are transforming world energy – Giant solar farms that, when viewed from the air form Giant Pandas. All over the world…but in China particularly…there are more and more enormous solar farms. It’s good for the immediate future but there are still issues with what happens when the solar panels need to be recycled (i.e. in 30 or so years).

New research shows how children want their food served -- ScienceDaily – I didn’t find this a challenge…my daughter always enjoyed her food. It seems more likely to be challenging in places like school cafeterias or other institutional settings.

Photos Show the Icy Glacier Landscape of Northeast Greenland – Life lurking in the ice waters. It’s a difficult place to dive.

Landscape Plants Rated by Deer Resistance (Rutgers NJAES) – Maryland is not that far from New Jersey so this list works for us – although I wish they would mark the plants native to North America. I’d rather plant natives.

How This Popular Garden Plant May Spread Parasites That Harm Monarchs | Smart News | Smithsonian – Aargh!!!! We need to be sure we are not planting tropical milkweed in areas where it is not native….the orange butterfly weed – which is also a milkweed – is native across most of North America and a good plant to have in the garden for Monarch butterfly caterpillars.

New color-generation mechanism discovered in ‘rainbow’ weevil -- ScienceDaily – The researches from Yale propose that this mechanism might be useful for screen displays to enable the same true image from any angle and to reduce signal loss in optical fibers.

What Ötzi the Iceman’s Tattoos Reveal About Copper Age Medical Practices | Smart News | Smithsonian – There have been papers coming out about additional discoveries from the remains found in the Alps in 1991 over the years --- there was a lot we could learn and new technologies have come along to enable more than anyone thought about at first.

Night-time habits of captive flamingos -- ScienceDaily – The forage and roam! Evidently, they are more active at night in the wild as well. During the day they tend to rest and preen…that’s when courtship displays happen as well.

Muscle Clocks Play a Role in Regulating Metabolism | The Scientist Magazine® - Circadian rhythms are not just from the brain! There are timekeepers throughout the body. The peripheral clock in muscles was confirmed in 2007 and it turns out that it is important to glucose metabolism. There is still a lot to learn about all the body’s timekeepers!

BBC - Future - Are hot springs the future of farming? – Maybe there is not one strategy that is the ‘future of farming’ – but this is an interesting idea that we may see in places where it can be done effectively.

First CSA Week for 2018

Yesterday was the beginning of the weekly shares from Gorman Farms CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). I picked strawberries last week and picked up a head of lettuce that seems to be in overwhelming supply right now….but this was the first really share. They enlarged the layout for the pickup so the ‘medium share’ subscribers have a whole side to themselves; it’s much easier to move around – weigh what needs to be weighed, find a place to perch the bags if things are too heavy. I was surprised that zucchini was already in the distribution this first week and have already found my favorite zucchini bread recipe to use the increasing amount that will probably come in the upcoming weeks; a pound seems easy enough to use over the next week or so.

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When I got home I piled it all on the top of the stove…it took most of the space. From left to right – the overage head of lettuce and garlic scapes in the plastic bin, kale and butter lettuce and tatsoi next, and then charge and pac choi last.

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I’m glad my daughter is coming to visit this weekend. I’m going to send home one head of lettuce with her and more. For once, I am not going to be overwhelmed by the first week of the CSA!

Not so mundane oatmeal

I’ve eaten oatmeal all my life. I probably ate it before I can remember. But I doctor it very differently now that when I was growing up when I pilled on the butter and brown sugar.  Yes – I still start with some butter in the bottom of my bowl but not as much and earlier in my life.

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And I don’t put just oatmeal and water in the pan (I’ve skipped the salt for a long time). Now I add raisins and orange peel too….sometimes cinnamon.

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Recently, I decided to clean out the refrigerator – cranberry orange relish (using it up) as the topping. Yum!

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It was a good feeling to make something that tasted so good…and was very different from the same old oatmeal!

Instant Pot

I have finally replaced my 45-year-old Crock-Pot even though it still functions. It was a very popular wedding present in the early 1970s! Over the years, it’s gotten quite a lot of use, but I’ve always complained that it was hard to clean (it couldn’t be immersed in water since it was all one piece). It also had no way to seer or brown meat so I rarely did anything with hamburger meat in it. The knob cracked on the inside; my husband glued it back together and onto the metal stem. My daughter is checking with the grad students in her department to see if anyone wants it; otherwise, I’ll put it in the donate pile I’m accumulating.

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I replaced the Crock-Pot with a 6-quart size Instant Pot – a lot more function

And a stainless-steel pot that comes out for cleaning…can even go into the dishwasher.

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The first thing I tried was the Sauté function – making taco filling. It occurred to me that I might not ever use my electric skillet again. The down side is that the height of the Instant Pot makes it awkward to stir the contents of the pot for very long. I’ll probably still do most of my sauté (and stir fry) cooking on the stove top or move my cooking area to the kitchen table (lower than the cabinet) if I use the Instant Pot.

The next experiment used the Pressure Cook function using a spicy beans recipe in the booklet that came with the Instant Pot. I cooked presoaked pinto beans…set the Pressure Cook feature for 10 minutes. It takes longer to build up the pressure and let the pressure out than to cook! The beans were very soft and I added some cut up arugula to make a dip for corn chips….a very good winter lunch right out of the pot; my husband and I are enjoying the leftovers.

Overall – I have decided I like slow cooking rather then Pressure Cooking. I ordered a glass lid, so I can see what is cooking and reduce the bulk of the lid required for pressure cooking. Because it is so easy to clean, I am anticipating I will use the Instant Pot frequently and replace some of my oven and stovetop cooking in addition to the foods I traditionally made in my old Crock Pot. Maybe eventually, I’ll build up a repertoire of Pressure Cook meals too.

Soups for Winter

Homemade soups are my winter lunch favorites. I like Root Soup: easy to make with fresh beet, potato, and carrot…seasoned with onion, garlic and basil. I let it cook long enough for the vegetables to become soft enough to mash a little. The pumpkin seeds on top provide just enough crunch (and protein too).

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I’ve already had a cold (and ear infection) this year and Homemade Chicken Noodle soup tasted so good. I made it several different ways. This one started with chicken bouillon with orange peel, dried onions and garlic, soba noodles and canned chicken. The soba noodles only take about 5 minutes to cook. While the soup bubbled on the stove, I use the scissors to cut up some arugula into the bowl. At the end of the 5 minutes, I poured the hot liquid over the greens – gave a stir. The arugula was part of the soup but not overcooked! So good… and just what I needed to get better.

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Bowls

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I have a small collection of serving bowls that I use for a ‘meal-in-a-bowl’ – where the whole meal is in a largish bowl: soup or salad or stir fry. There are 4 bowls that I stack in convenient place in the cabinet and use frequently.

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My favorite one is a clear glass bowl with a botanical pattern – smooth on the inside with the botanical texture on the outside. I only use it for salad. It is probably the lightest in weight of the 4 bowls so I can enjoy my salad anywhere, not just at the table.

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My next favorite is a shallower bowl from Praltzgraff (Mission Flower). I bought it as a single piece specifically for warm meal-in-a-bowl dishes: soups or stir fry. I liked the pattern inside the bowl and around the rim. I always eat soups at the table (too prone to spills to carry around) but eat stir fry meals anywhere in the house that there is a comfortable chair.

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There is a plain white bowl that gets a lot of use because it is the only one my husband uses too. He uses it for spaghetti. Soups and spaghetti (the squash variety) are what I put in this bowl.

The last bowl I like more for the pattern than the bowl itself. I only use it when the others aren’t available because it is so heavy. It’s usually for salad but sometimes has other things in it…since it is the last resort from the cabinet.

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Just writing this post is making me hungry!

Spaghetti Squash

The Gorman Farms CSA shares in recent weeks have included winter squash; the first one was a spaghetti squash and I have thoroughly enjoyed it.

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I cooked it first – whole, skin pricked with a fork, for an hour at 350 degrees. At the end of the hour I took it out cut off the top and then cut it in half to let it cool a bit. I had decided the first meal from it would be ‘spaghetti’ so I started the sauce: spicy tomato sauce from a jar poured over eggplant cubes that needed to simmer a bit. Back to the squash: I used a spoon to life out the mass of seeds and pulp in the center then teased out the ‘spaghetti’ that I wanted into a small non-stick skillet; I added a little oil and stir fried the squash a little to drive off excess water. I cut up some arugula for the topping while the sauce continued to bubble and I added some shelled edamame for protein. When the squash we ready I poured it into a bowl…the added the sauce and the generous handful of arugula. Yummy!

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I used about 1/4th the squash for the ‘spaghetti’ dinner. The next fourth was used for a dessert! I soaked raisins in apricot brandy for a few hours. I started the dish by sautéing the squash with a little butter in a non-stick skillet, adding cinnamon + maple syrup + raisins with brandy as it cooked. I let the liquid cook down almost completely. It smelled wonderful and tasted yummy – eaten warm. The squash is naturally sweet so no much syrup was needed. This is something I will make again.

I still have more spaghetti squash in the refrigerator…planning to make a frittata since I will be out and about a lot over the next few days and that is easy to make ahead for a quick meal when I get home.

Next up – acorn squash.

How my blog has changed since November 2011

I’ve been savoring some of my oldest posts and thinking about what has changed – and what has not changed - about my blog over the almost 5 years.  I’ve enjoyed the trip into my past. If you want to look at the old posts, select ‘2011’ from the pull down under ‘blog archive.’

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The very first blog was a recipe for Pumpkin Gingerbread Muffins…and it still is something that I would bake although I am not eating as much bread of any kind these days and not posting very often about recipes. Still – in mid-November 2017 – I probably will be in the mood to cook with those spices and with pumpkin!

I was already doing 'gleanings of the week'. There were more posts that were just text since I was just beginning to develop an expertise in photography. My first gallery resulted from a trip to Longwood Gardens; it was still warm enough for the water lilies to be looking good. I still take similar photographs but have a better camera (40x optical zoom rather than 10x) and I watch the lighting and composition more now. Still – that original gallery is not bad.

I still post about new technology. In November 2011, it was a Kindle Fire. More recently it has been my Prius Prime (plug-in hybrid).

Travel is still a frequent topic in my blog just as it was in November and December 2011. I made a road trip from Maryland to Arizona where my daughter and her husband were in grad school --- doing a blog post for each state I crossed. If I used that same rationale for a road trip now it would be to Pennsylvania (where they are doing post docs).

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The trend has been to include a lot more photographs and other images (Zentangles, clipped images from ebooks I am recommending). When I started the blog, I was in the middle of transitioning for full time career to post-career. I was thrilled to have so many appealing choices. Now, I’ve made some choices and am savoring ‘now’ – enjoying the variety of activities day to day…season to season…and further out. There are still so many opportunities to pursue and freedom to choose…or not. I’ve become more a matriarch than I was in 2011!