Monday, June 30, 2008

New heights!

It's Super Kris! He climbed my wobbly ladder and picked lots of those cherries that were taunting me from the high branches. Thanks, Super Kris!

I shot this photo from the deck, which is several feet above the top of the hill. The cherry tree is near the bottom of the hill. So ladder placement is always tricky.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Random Tips

I call this one "Sunset over the cherry tree." I took it from my deck, looking west last night. I was picking cherries and looked over my shoulder. I had to climb down from the ladder and run for my camera. The glow only lasted a few minutes. This is about as close as we come to aurora borealis in Indiana.

Since I've been working in the yard day and night, I've come up with some time saving practices I'd like to share. I envy all of you who can stroll through farmers markets and gourmet stores, linger over new cookbooks, and prepare meals at a leisurely pace. But that's not me, so I've made some adjustments.

Now that I've figured out which recipes work for me, I'm baking in batches. About every ten days I need a baking day. I make a double batch of bread, slice both loaves, and freeze little two-slice packages for later use. Before I mastered homemade mayonnaise and found a good pickle recipe, one loaf would last about ten days. I only ate two slices a day with my breakfast. Sandwiches are back! And they're so easy and tasty, I'm going through more bread.

When I turn on the oven, I fill it up. I don't need the oven heating up the whole house, repeatedly. This is where my time saving practices go green! I can reheat in the microwave and the a/c gets a break.

Today I filled my oven with a small ham, four chicken thighs, two loaves of bread, and a cherry cobbler. On the stove, I cooked a pan of brown rice and sauteed some veggies. I cooked some green beans with spring onions, and boiled some potatoes for potato salad. I did all my cooking while CBS Sunday Morning was on. I love that show! Too often, good weather coaxes me outside on Sunday mornings. I was happy to work in the kitchen while enjoying some culture.

By the way, I made a double batch of streusel topping for the cherry cobbler. Half went into the freezer for my next cobbler. The next cobbler will feature different fruit, so it will be a different flavor, even though the topping is the same. The cherries taste more decadent than other fruits I've used - apples, rhubarb, blueberries. My second crop of rhubarb is coming in, and the gooseberries are almost ripe. The black raspberries are so precious I will probably make jelly from all of them. I'll feel secure having a year's worth of black raspberry jelly in my pantry.

I harvested a couple of heads of Brunia lettuce from the garden (during a commercial) and made a gallon zip lock bag of salad mix. I made TWO bottles of my default vinaigrette. (Duh! Why didn't I think of this before?) I can change it up by adding a splash of balsamic or red wine when serving.

When I fried bacon for breakfast, I added a few extra slices to use on pizza later in the week. I found some lovely fresh mozzarella at the new Fresh Market. I have piles of fresh basil. No tomatoes yet, so I'll have to use sauce. But I'm already looking forward to that pizza! I made a double batch of pizza crust a couple of weeks ago. So the extra crust is waiting in the freezer.

As a professional cook, I'm used to big batch cooking. During the school year I prepare meals for about 85 people daily. If you can get used to having lots of pots boiling at once, it's a real time saver. I'm set for the week!

Here's my cherry cobbler. It's tangy!

Kay's Cherry Cobbler

2 1/2 C pitted fresh cherries
3 T Zulka cane sugar
3 T quick tapioca

Mix together and spread evenly in a 7 x 7 buttered casserole dish.

1/3 C softened butter
1/2 C Zulka cane sugar
1/2 C brown rice flour
1/4 C gluten free rolled oats

Mix in the stand mixer using the paddle attachment. Sprinkle on top of the cherry mixture. Bake about 40 minutes at 350. I take mine out when the topping just starts to brown.

And here's my last random tip for combating poison ivy. While clearing three or four bonfires worth of brush last night, I must have encountered some. I've been lucky to avoid contamination so far this season. I forgot to follow my own rules. After I've been working with weeds, I always spray my exposed flesh with rubbing alcohol and rinse with cold hose water. If I think I might have walked in poison ivy, I spray and rinse my tennis shoes as well. I keep a spray bottle (from the $1 store) on the back stoop for convenience. But I forgot to use it last night.

This morning I have itchy bumps on my arm. Rats! So I'm using my homeopathic cure. I empty a capsule of slippery elm onto a saucer. Then I add a drop or two of water and make a paste. I put that on the blisters. The itching stops right away, and it's drug-free. The slippery elm draws out the poison and I heal up in few days.

Ah, summer!

Indians Fan

Here's a photo for Karen at Gluten Free Sox Fan. It's Victory Field in beautiful downtown Indianapolis. Our Indianapolis Indians, farm team for the Pittsburgh Pirates, play at The Vic.

That's the RCA Dome on the left, and the new Lucas Oil Stadium behind the steam plant on the right. I think our whole city looks like a giant Mayberry when viewed from inside The Vic. The hard lines of the cityscape are softened. The people are friendlier. We're all on the same team, and our team plays in a really great place.

The announcer always welcomes fans to "the best minor league ball park in the world." He welcomed me on Tuesday night. My friend David (owner of the oft mentioned Chatterbox,) hosted our first baseball outing of the season. The age range in our group was from 3 to 90. It was a good group, and a perfect night for baseball.

It was my first baseball game since going gluten free. So I ate dinner at home before the game. No matter. I still wanted a hotdog dripping with ketchup and relish when I got there. Next time, I'm taking along some snacks. I enjoyed a pre-game gluten free New Grist beer on the Chatterbox patio, pictured below.

If you're a race fan, or have another reason to visit out fair city in the summer, I recommend a visit to see the Indians play. And a stop at The Chatterbox before or after!

As previously mentioned, I am five years behind on my weeding. Since I'm feeling so much better this summer, I'm trying to get caught up in four short months. But I'm really glad I took a break for a little summer fun. Daylight Saving Time has all but eliminated evenings for me. I work in the yard until dark. Sunset is around 9:30. Then I put my tools away. Then it's time for a little dinner and off to bed. This weekend's fireworks displays won't start until 10:00. I prefer my fireworks at 9:00, and I'm not fond of DST.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Catching up

I seem to be in my usual summer work mode. I usually get up about 7:30. I work on the computer a bit and eat breakfast. I'm out the door and working in the gardens by about 9:00. And I stay there until dark, which is about 10:00 p.m. I take a break in the heat of the day to float in my pool and read, and I generally remember to eat lunch. But my garden chores are never done. Honestly. I've never come in the house at night and thought, "Well, that should do it."

Now that my vegetable gardens are planted, weeds have invaded the early beds. And the woods weeds are trying to take over my flower beds. So I have been armed with a weed whacker, a shovel, a hoe, pruners, a claw tool and a machete for my daily tending rituals. Soon I'll get out the chain saw.

Of course, harvesting my crops makes it worth all the work! I think I'll start a new photo feature called "What's Ripe Today." Here's my first installment:

Life is just a bowl of cherries! I have picked many, many bowls of cherries in the last few days. Fortunately, I am a contortionist and have near super human powers to climb, stretch and balance. And I have a very attractive climbing outfit. I put a gallon ziplock bag inside an old fanny pack (which I wear with the pouch in front) and I have a couple of plastic grocery bags attached to the belt on either side of the pouch. Then I perform feats of daring and return to the ground with overflowing bags of cherries and very sticky fingers.

I've picked a few of my black currants. More to come! They make a great jelly, but they're pretty sour right off the bush. I mix them with other berries to add a beautiful tint to jam.

The gooseberries are just starting to pink up. Some prefer green, I like mine ripe.

This is my largest cucumber. I've named him "Gerkin." I predict he'll be salad fare by mid-week.

My first zucchini! It's the light green variety, with a bulbous end. I might even eat his blossom.

And here are some honorable mentions:

Not nearly ripe, and three months behind schedule, my second planting of potatoes has sprouted! The first plantings were under water too long. So I dug a new bed in an area with better drainage. Looks like it was a good move.

These are black raspberries. I've eaten exactly four, so far. As you can see, there will be more!

I have 128 varieties of daylilies that offer blooms all summer long. This is one of my favorites.

Yes, I even baked something this week. This is my peach bluberry cobbler, before it went into the oven. Turned out great!

I also tried Carrie's soft sandwich bread. YOU SHOULD TOO! Although my loaf fell in the middle, I'm eating it anyway. (No fault with the recipe. I had to leave out and sub a few ingredients.) The texture is fabulous! It is SOFT and tasty. Now that I've figured out how to make my own mayonnaise, I'm really happy to have a great sandwich bread. I thoroughly enjoyed my odd-looking chicken salad sandwich. I've got some homemade sweet pickles resting in brine. They should be ready in about a week. Then I'm making ham salad.

Happy Summer Solstice! I hope you're enjoying foods from your own gardens, or great finds at the farmers markets.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Go fish!

We had two rain-free days in a row on Tuesday and Wednesday! That's the first time that's happened since April. Since we were in a relative dry spell, I finally dug a big hole and planted my new peach tree. It had about a dozen peaches on it when I bought it. Three of them are left. Wind knocked the others off.

My cherries are just starting to turn. My guess is it will be ten days until harvest. And my gooseberries are big and fat. Most gooseberry pies are made with green berries. I really love jelly made from ripe, purplish berries. So I'll wait for them to turn as well.

I tried a new tuna salad replacement experiment. Still having issues with stuff that comes in cans and jars, even when the ingredients list no forbidden substances.

I really miss my Hellman's mayonnaise, with it's forbidden soybean oil. So I'd made some homemade mayonnaise. First I tried to whip some up in my mini blender. Didn't work. Came out soupy. So I tried the same recipe again using a hand whisk and a bowl. Worked great! I could have just eaten the whole bowlful with a spoon!

Then I poached two tilapia fillets in water with just sugar and salt. When they cooled, I broke tham apart and stirred in some celery, carrots, a hard boiled egg, and some of my fresh mayonnaise. I ate it with sliced yellow tomatoes. De-lish! The next day I ate the rest of it for lunch. Sorry, no photo. It's all gone now. I'll be making this again and again. I'm delighted to have a replacement for tuna salad, which I could eat every day during tomato season.

I had the great fortune to spend one winter in Key West. I fished at least a couple of days every week. I always had plenty of fish available. So did everyone else on the island. So there were many variations of fish salad recipes. Some started with smoked fish, others grilled fish, and some of us just cooked our fish on the stove. All the locals seemed to have their own "secret family recipe." Some used hot peppers, some sweet peppers. Most used mayonnaise, but I remember one we used to spread on crackers that had cream cheese and green onions.

There was one I particularly liked that started by marinating the fish in sour orange juice and mojo sauce from the grocery. I think we used that one on the cero mackeral, and maybe mullett. Orange trees produce sour fruit when their roots hit salt water, so we had a lot of sour oranges down there. There was a key lime tree across the street from my house, (house? ha! I mean the trailer from purgatory!) so I used them for lots of marinades.

I was happy to reclaim my Key West state of mind for a while. It was nice to relive an evening of cooking after a day of fishing on Captain John's Greyhound. I probably went fishing with Captain John and Mate Jeff a hundred times over ten years of vacations and one winter as a "snowbird." We fished in all kinds of weather. I came home fishless exactly twice. That's a pretty good record!

One of the biggest challenges of fishing (for me) is maintaining an even suntan. The Greyhound had a sun deck up top. So I could change positions and angles while the boat moved from one fishing spot to the next.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

History is made in Southern Indiana

If you'd like to read about the historic flooding in my neck of the woods, click on over to The lake cottage that my grandpa built (construction began shortly after I was born) is intact. It sits way above the water. But the biggest dam in the chain of lakes burst Saturday morning. Yeah, that's the lake our house is on. That's our dam.

Saturday, June 7, 2008


Boy, am I happy! Since going gf in January, my body is responding well! The unexplained puffiness of the last few years is going away! I noticed some waning right away, but I continue to shrink. I was blown up like an oompah loompah for at least three years.

And today, (drum roll) I have pulled all my old favorite shorts out of the Goodwill bag because they fit me again! Yahooey! I missed my comfy old duds! I missed being my comfy old size!

I wish I had photographic evidence, like Sally over at Aprovechar. You should check out her amazing transformation! But I was careful to avoid cameras when I was lugging around my Santa-belly. Now I have my concrete proof. Waistbands don't lie!

This tiny pitcher holds the dozen or so four leaf clovers I've found in the last two days. I am, indeed, a lucky girl!

I'm so amazed by the weekly menus many of you post! You're so organized. And you've given me lots of ideas.

I'm still in the "playing it safe" portion of my new gluten free lifestyle. I can't use any powdered spices except salt and pepper. I can have a little red meat, once in a while. I can have a little dairy. I'm not giving up butter, but I try to substitute rice milk or goat milk products. No corn. No soy. No "gums." The entire cabbage family, and legumes, bananas and pineapple are out. I can't use any products that come in a jar or a box or a can. So my options are limited.
I eat my safe foods every week. I generally spend one whole day or night in the kitchen. I bake bread. I bake a chicken and some pork. I steam a pot of green beans. Some weeks I fix a big stirfry, or saute vegetables.

I sometimes miss the convenience items I used to buy, but I'm slowly making my own from scratch. The pickles worked out well. Now I need to work on a homemade mayonnaise. I'll try ketchup when my tomatoes are ripe. I am suspicious of mustard, because it comes in a jar. If anyone knows of a "free of nearly everything" brand, I'd appreciate a comment.

I enjoy eating like a pioneer woman. It's gotten easier, and I'm accidentally poisoning myself less these days. I feel sooooooo much better that it's all worth it!

After a sweltering Friday, I was sipping a RedBridge on the Chatterbox patio when the tornado sirens roared. So I headed home to batten down the deck furniture.

I was enjoying yet another night of weather radar on tv. More big storms. Luckily, the bad stuff missed my house. But there was lots of entertaining lightning. My kitchen work counter faces north, and that side of my house holds a picture window, double glass doors and a bay window. Good for viewing summer storms! There's a tv between the picture window and the glass doors, so I don't miss weather updates. Gotta have my radar!

I was feeling bold, and decided to try a safe version of shepherd's pie. The layered dish lends itself to substitutions. I'm sure you all have a version that fits your needs. Here's mine.

I peeled one enormous Idaho potato, cooked and mashed it with salt and pepper and a little butter and milk.

I fried up about half a pound of hamburger with some diced spring onions, salt and pepper.

I sauteed a half pound of mushrooms in a tablespoon of canola oil.

Then I built my casserole. Hamburger on the bottom, then mushrooms, then Monterey jack cheese, then mashed potatoes. I baked it for abour 25 minutes at 350.

It was the perfect dinner for a stormy night. I missed the layer of sweet peas that my original recipe calls for. They're too legume-y for me. Next time I might try it with steamed snow pea pods.

The rain that missed me last night hit at 7:00 a.m. There was LOUD, constant thunder for half an hour. The trenches in my potato garden look like little canals. Again. I don't think potatoes like living underwater. I may have to replant. Maybe next year I'll try planting them above ground by stuffing starts into a bale of hay. I've seen this work for others, but never tried it myself.

I will not complain about the amount of rain I have had. Areas to my south and west got over eight inches this morning. Roads are closed, big roads like I-65 and I-70! I am a lucky (and merely damp) girl!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Garden Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

I still have asparagus spears popping up in the myrtle. I've been enjoying asparagus nearly every day for about a month now. I add it to my stir fry, I chop it fresh in my salads, I grill a handful for my dinner side dish.

I remembered a treat from my archives that is easy to convert to gluten free! I won the American Dairy Association of Indiana recipe contest with this one in 2001. It was a grilled cheese theme that year. The top six recipes got to compete in a grill off, with local food celebrity judges. My entry won by one slim point. I decorated my plate of appetizer-size sandwiches with miniature daffodils from my garden. So that one extra point might have come from the "presentation" category. Here's my gluten free version.

Kay's Garden Grilled Cheese

About half a loaf gluten free bread, 8 slices
8 slices crumbled bacon
1 8 oz. package cream cheese, softened (Because cream cheese contains guar gum, I now sub 6 oz. goat cheese and 1 to 2 oz. sour cream, blended until smooth.)
4 T grated sharp cheddar cheese
20 asparagus spears, cooked tender crisp
1 to 2 T chopped fresh dill
zest of one lemon

Combine bacon, cream cheese, lemon zest and dill. Spread mixture on one side side of each slice of bread. Sprinkle half of the slices with cheddar cheese. Place asparagus spears on top of the cheddar, cut to fit if necessary. Top with an un-cheddared slice.

Melt butter in a skillet. Grill the sandwiches, turning once, until bread is lightly browned.

These can also be oven-grilled. Brush the sandwiches with melted butter and bake on a cookie sheet at 350 degrees for about 12 minutes, turning after the first 6 minutes.

This sandwich lends itself to lots of variations, so add whatever sounds tasty. And don't be afraid to substitute.

I usually made small sandwiches and served them as appetizers. So I mostly used the oven method.

My gardens are nearing completion! I have most of my plants in the ground, and a little space left over. I've been working on these gardens a long time. I harvested my first whole heads of lettuce yesterday, as I was getting the last of my tomatoes planted. And the my beets sprouted in the root bed the same day.

This is just two heads of lettuce, one bibb and one Brunia red oak leaf. They filled my basket!

Today I'll help plant Rich's big garden. While I have seven different vegetable beds, nestled in among the flowers, Rich has one big "manly-man" garden. I'll help build the tower for pole beans. Then I'll help plant the corn that he can eat and I can't. Last year's Silver Queen crop helped me diagnose my corn allergy. It was quite tasty! We sold hot buttered ears at our little farmers market. I always ate at least one ear myself. That's okay, I'll watch others enjoy it this year.