Wednesday, August 29, 2018

More Herbs, Less Salt (with recipes)

While today is "More Herbs, Less Salt Day", for us that is every day.  I have a large variety of herbs and spices in my cabinet; some I have bought and some I made.

A lot of those I've made come from the herbs I grow in my yard.

I have parsley...

... sage... 


...and thyme.

Plus oregano (which is the beast of the garden, always trying to take over).

And our beloved basil.

This last very bitter cold winter took a toll on my herbs.  Two of my big lush rosemary plants were killed back completely... as was my thyme and 2nd year parsley.  So I've had to replant those.  No problem with the thyme and parsley... but it will be a couple years before I'll have plentiful rosemary again.

One of my current favorite herb blends (this a low salt recipe) is free to make.

When we have pho they always bring out a huge bunch of cilantro... far more than we could use.  I bring a little zippie bag and bring it home with us (they would just throw it away).  And when Himself buys a bunch of celery, I take the leaves from it.

Both of them are laid out to dry for a few days to get most of the moisture, then I put them in a low heat oven to finish the drying.  I keep it up until they are crisp.

I use about 2 parts of celery to 1 part of cilantro.  Then I had just a bit of salt.

It is really good on scrambled eggs.

And here are a couple other herb based seasonings you might enjoy...

Simple Sage Pesto

Makes approximately 8 ounces

2 cups fresh sage leaves, loosely packed
2 garlic cloves
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1/4 cup pine nuts
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
a pinch of pepper

In the bowl of a food processor (or in a blender), add the sage, garlic, cheese and pine nuts.  Pulse the ingredients a few times until chopped. In a steady stream, slowly add the olive oil while the food processor or blender is running.  Stop to scrape down the sides once with a rubber spatula and add the salt and pepper.  Run the processor for a few more seconds to combine thoroughly.

Transfer the pesto to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator until ready to use.  The pesto will keep in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Rosemary Thyme Marinade

1/2 cup of olive oil
1/2 cup of balsamic vinegar
5 - 4 inch sprigs of fresh rosemary
about 15 - 4 inch sprig of fresh thyme

Mix the oil and vinegar into a glass dish that will fit your meat.  Give both herbs a slight pounding on a cutting board to bruise.  This releases their flavors.  Put into the oil & vinegar mix and swish around a bit to blend the flavors.  Then add your meat, coating both sides. 

Let sit at least 4 hours, occasionally turning to get the marinade all over.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Keeping My Teas Fresh

A while back I mentioned that I got my teas organized but I didn't say what I had done...

I keep them in a basket on the microwave... out of the way but quick to access.

I like to have choices.

Loose teas in particular come in boxes or cute tins that aren't the best for maintaining freshness.

Got this one when I was in Scotland.

I took a photo of the tin and printed it off.  Then I used the jar lid as a template to cut the photo to size to make a perfect label.

Not only do jars keep the tea fresh much longer, they are really pretty to look at!

I'm still looking for a perfect option for storing tea bags.  I'm thinking I may just have to drink down some of my stash and stuff bags into jars also.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Growing My Own Shiitake Mushrooms

We adore mushrooms of all sorts... but have you looked at the prices lately?!  So when we had a chance to take a class on growing Shiitake mushrooms I jumped on the opportunity.  

It all starts with logs.

For Shiitake (each kind of mushroom has different requirements) you can use logs of oak, pecan, walnut, alder, sweet gum, hard maple, ironwood, hornbeam, cherry, sycamore, tulip popular, ash, birch, and willow.

Do not use conifers, fruit trees, elm, hackberry, sassafras, soft maple dogwood, black locust, beech, or hickory.

Those above are oak.  You start with fresh cut logs from a living tree (no snags) no older than 6 weeks from the cutting.  You want them 6" to 7" in diameter (width sets how long the log will be productive which is about a year per inch of diameter~ but remember... you have to be able to move them!).  Cut at about 3' long.

Make some sort of work station or your back will be very upset with you!

Mark all the way around the log about 5-ish inch place in a row, next row off-set from the one previous.  Go all the way around the log back to your first row.

Drill 12 mm holes about 1 inch deep.  

For the class we had a sawdust spore mix, which uses this tool.  You jam it down into the sawdust mix and plunge it into the holes.  You can also buy little plugs that you just stick into the hole.  

Here's the sawdust mix.  The white is mycelium.  It is a type of fungus that helps break down wood.  It is a good thing.

Using the plunger to push in the sawdust mix.

The hole filled.

See all the filled holes?

Then you seal the holes with a food grade paraffin.

Just brush it on good and thick.

Like this.

My finished log.

Now it goes to a dark-ish place, like the north side of a building.  Keep an eye that it doesn't get too dry.  If so, it needs to soak for about 12 hours...more than that will drown the mushrooms.

In 6 to 9 months it should start looking like this (it is called a flush).  A log should produce 3 to 5 flushes a year.  

I am hoping for my first flush in time for Thanksgiving dinner!

Sunday, August 19, 2018

KonMari Complete Shed

It's taken me a long time to go from this...

... to this.

It was using the KonMari method that turned the tide for me.  It was so valuable to see exactly WHAT I had and how MUCH I had of it.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Review: Wilshire's of Georgetown

Our 'nice' dinner for the overnight trip to Georgetown, KY was at "Wilshire's".  Before leaving I checked them out on a couple of sites.  Arriving, I was full of hopeful trepidation.  The reviews are so hit or miss I was worried especially since we were a group of 28.

The old building is lovely...

...the trash around it is not.  This mess is next to the entrance.

Beware that the walkway around to the back of the building where you enter is also the roadway for golf carts.  We were nearly clipped by some jokers.

Throughout our visit there was only one other table of 5 dining, so they definitely were not busy.  We were seated in an addition to the house, basically a sports bar area.  Zero atmosphere tho ‘historical’ is what they push in their ads.

First, we were told because we were a group, we could have a limited menu.  Four entrees were offered... a steak, catfish, fried chicken, or a salad on an unpriced computer printed menu.  That was all we could choose from... couldn’t even order a burger!

Hubby ordered a cup of coffee.  Twice he was offered a refill, which he took.  Come check time he had been charged for EVERY cup he drank...$6.57 for coffee.  The server did not inform us that the refills she offered were charged each cup.  What a rip off.

Someone's fried chicken that was set down in front of me.

Both Himself and I ordered the catfish:  mine fried and his grilled.  

Catfish came with broccoli which I don’t like, so I asked for green beans instead (served with both  the steak and fried chicken).  The waitress actually gasped, saying the chef wouldn’t like that and probably wouldn’t make the change.  Excuse me??  

She said if I didn’t like broccoli I should order something else.  I insisted for the substitution.  No rolls or crackers were offered with the meal.

Forty minutes later our food was served.  My fried catfish was hot as was Himself’s grilled fish.  Both styles of fish were tasty.  He enjoyed his broccoli which was nearly raw.  My green beans (yes, I got them) were straight out of a can; not rinsed and no seasoning at all.  They were served in a third cup size ramekin.  The rice pilaf was overcooked and tasteless; the serving was smaller than the beans.

Towards the end of the meal, the owner offered 2 options for dessert~ cheesecake or cherry pie.  The cheesecake had no topping and the pie was soggy crusted and very little fruit. 

Only when we finally got the check (a long process) did we know what we were charged.  The catfish was $14.00 each and the pies were $6.00.  Ice tea was $2.69 and then there was that $6.57 for coffee.


Tuesday, August 14, 2018

A Feast of Plenty

With all that has been going on, we have not made it out to the produce auction much this summer.  Time for us to get busy putting up produce to last us until next summer, plus load up on some fresh goodness to munch on.

I've never seen a horse decked out so pretty.  Did you notice the little heart on his chest brace?  When he left he was driven by two ladies... imagine that!

Below is eye candy.  It's a bit of this and that up for auction that day.

(Asian pears)

(Heirloom cherry tomatoes)

This is where I do most of my buying... the small lot tables.  From our latest trip we brought home a half bushel of bell peppers (26) for $5 - bell peppers at the local big box were right about $1 each, a half bushel of green beans (about 20 pounds) for $11 - Big Box is selling at $1.18 a pound, and a half bushel of slicing cucumbers (about 20) for $5 - Big Box price .58c each.

Corn was selling a bit dear that morning so we stopped at a farm stand on the way home and picked up 12 ears for the same price as Big Box.  Except these had been growing yesterday...

Himself isn't into the auction buying part.  He'd rather read or talk to someone.

However sometimes he has to step in when 2 things I want are close together (the way the auction is done is a bit chaotic - there is an auctioneer on either side of the row/aisle going at the SAME TIME.  So if you want something on both sides you have to have someone to help you bid.  And I always need help at the tables.).  

He also comes over when I've won a bid and totes it back to our seat area.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Kusamono... aka 'Grass Thing'

A companion art form to Bonsai are kusamono plantings.  Basically it is artistically arranged plants in a way that mimics nature in a season.

Bonsai I do not have ready, but I can do kusamono!  Our bonsai show had an exhibit of kusamono and suiseki (more on that one later) so I was able to work up a few to put in the show.

In my studio working on one of my plantings.

We went out to my favorite moss gathering area to get some sheets to work with.  Here I am trimming a moss sheet to fit this planting of Summer Savory.  Don't you love that stem?

Using a chop stick to firm the moss into the pot.

Below are the four plants I entered in the exhibit.

Summer Savory (a culinary herb).

A tiny elm seedling.

A little fern I found growing in the moss.

Not sure what the plant is but I love its 'Dr Suess-y' look.

This is part of the kusamono display at the bonsai show... notice my savory at the top right.

Closer of someone's cool fern.

A 'kokedama' (moss ball).  When it cools off a bit I'm going to try making a few of these.

A fun kusamono display!  The exhibitor is also a potter.  He made the cute egg pot sitting in the nest.  The plant is a baby elm tree.

I'm starting to collect/gather interesting nature 'pots' (such as hollow stones and drift wood) for my kusamono.  I'm excited about what I can do with this!