Thursday, October 30, 2008

Sorghum Experiment #1

I had a lot of committments in September and October. Not much time to play with my food. The last event on my schedule was Tuesday night. It's done! They're all done! I finally had a free evening!

So I gathered up my bouquets of sorghum and tried to figure out how to proceed. I was pleased with my first sorghum harvest, but it wasn't really edible yet.

I pulled some of the grains off the stems. Each grain was surrounded by husk or chaff. I needed to remove the chaff and separate it from the grains. So I rubbed the grains between the palms of my hands and had a little bowl of kernels and husks. Hmmm. I could pick all the kernels out by hand, wearing the strong reading glasses I keep in the bathroom to use when plucking my eyebrows.

I was sure there must be an easier way, so I called my mom. She said to stand outside on a windy day and toss the grains and chaff in a pie pan. The wind would carry the chaff away and the grains would fall back into the pan. She said that's how they winnowed grains in the old days. Hmmm. I think by "the old days" she meant Biblical times.

Since it was a calm night, I gathered small handfuls of grains and blew on them. Sure nuf! The chaff blew out and I was left with just grains. In only 30 minutes I had about 1/4 cup! Thankfully, that's all I needed.

For my first experiment, I wanted to grind sorghum to the texture of corn meal and use it for frying fish. One filet would do. I found out I'm allergic to corn back in January. I grew up on fresh-caught bluegills dusted with corn meal and fried. I've missed that down home taste.

So I ground my little kernels in in the coffee grinder. The texture was pretty close to corn meal! I dusted a catfish filet and fried it up.

Voila! Down home fish dinner! It only took about TWO HOURS! Ha ha! Good thing I wasn't starving. That two hours didn't include sweeping all the chaff up off the kitchen floor.

Here's the sugar maple that brightens my view from the dining room window. It was just a wispy little sprig when I moved here. I'm glad it survived the tornado and has filled out nicely.

My rainbow Swiss chard is the last color in my gardens outside the back door. I had to reroute the ridiculous squash vines several times to protect the chard. The squash vines have succumbed to the frost, but the chard still stands tall.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

After the first frost, before the first hard freeze

I've been cooking up a storm lately! I peel apples nightly, and stash little containers of applesauce in my freezer. I've made a bazillion apple crisps, and I'll make another one today.

I've had my first ever gluten free party! Twenty-some people came over for steaks on the grill, a big bonfire and a few fireworks. I've had a lot of bonfires, but this was the best fire ever. Rich brought over a whole trailer full of well-seasoned pine. He'd taken it to his woodpile after my tornado, six years ago. By the end of the evening, we had a HUGE pile of glowing logs. It was hypnotic. We couldn't look away. We kept all the food outside, and my house was safe from wheat. Sorry I couldn't taste all the pitch-in dishes everyone brought, but I'm sure they were delicious as usual.

Yesterday I cooked a big brunch for a homecoming reunion at the sorority house at Butler. This is my 13th year of cooking for the Alpha Chi's. I was happy to see some old friends. Those young college girls have grown up to be lovely ladies.

I can't eat anything I fix in the wheat-kitchen at Butler. So I was hungry when I got home. I decided to treat myself to some comfort food. I still have baskets of ripening tomatoes from the garden. A few of my basil leaves were protected from the first frost. I had some mushrooms and zucchini in the fridge.

So I started with this.

I made a red marinara and a yellow one.

I sauteed sliced mushrooms and zucchini strips in brown butter with a little cayenne. I browned some ground beef and shredded some mozzarella. I assembled all my ingredients into a lasagna with a layer of creamy ricotta.

Here's my yummy lasagna. It was a puzzle to figure out the order of the layers. I wanted to keep my red and yellow sauces separate, and I wanted to to taste every ingredient in every bite. I ended up using three layers of zucchini strips, and assembled the mushrooms in a layer as well. I was thoroughly comforted by the gooey goodness.

Without cutting flowers, I've had to look underground for photo opportunities. I call this one "Carrot Britches."

Monday, October 13, 2008

Stone Soup

Remember the old fable about the man who made soup by boiling a stone? It was a fabulous soup because everyone around found something to add to the pot, even though they first said they had nothing.

The gardening season should have ended by now, but my garden offered up some bonus produce. So I made myself some stone soup.

These are my back steps covered with cucuzzi squash vines. I'm having a party next weekend, so I'll need the steps. I cut the vines and harvested about 50 tiny squashes.

The babies look like furry green beans. They are very tender. I also picked some tomatoes, okra, a few green beans, peppers and pulled a couple of carrots and onions.

The gluten free bloggers have been pulling out their soup recipes lately. Cindy at Cindalou's Kitchen Blues posted a great looking pepper chowder that inspired me to concoct a similar fall pot of goodness. I used all the "bonus" produce my garden had to offer.

Kay's Stone Soup

2 chicken thighs, no skin
3/4 C pork pan drippings, defatted
2 C water
2 carrots
2 sweet peppers
2 (sort of) hot peppers - I used Salsa peppers, which are pretty mild on Cindy's pepper chart
2 stalks of celery
2 small onions
12 green beans
20 tiny squash
1 C diced fresh tomatoes, with juice
6 okra, sliced in chunks
2 sprigs fresh basil
1 T chopped Italian parsley
Salt, pepper, paprika and cayenne to taste
Fresh chives for topping

I boiled my chicken thighs in the water and dipped off most of the fat. Then I added the pork pan drippings. I de-fat and freeze all my pan drippings for later use. I shredded my chicken and added it to the broth. I sliced and diced and added and tasted until the soup was perfect. The okra thickened it a bit.

I had a bowlful for supper. I'm saving the rest for a couple of days. We've had unseasonably warm weather in Indiana. On Tuesday or Wednesday our temperatures will drop like, well, a stone. I'm sure it will taste even better then.

I got to use my homegrown paprika for the first time in this soup. It has a lot more flavor than the stuff I buy at the grocery. I can't wait to sprinkle some on deviled eggs.

I cut my ripe paprika peppers in half, removed the seeds and dried them in the dehydrator. Then I broke the dry peppers into pieces and ground them in my coffee grinder. I don't drink coffee and never dreamed Mr. Coffee could become such a valued friend. This is a great little spice grinder!

Daddy Cat says, "Cook more meat. Don't need no stinkin' vegetables!"

Instead of a flower photo, you get a picture of me. I'm in the pink. Saturday was my 30th college reunion. It was 83 degrees, so I didn't get to wear a new homecoming sweater. I did, however, get to buy some new skinny jeans. They're the same size jeans I wore in college. Yahooey! I'm with my pals Nancy, Dee and Rick. I really enjoyed the weekend festivities. We had great weather, a good turnout and we won the football game 63 to 3.

And thanks to Rachel at The Crispy Cook for giving my blog an E for Excellent award! I am honored. I joined the gluten free blogging community because you have all been vital in my lifestyle transition. I'm glad you tune in to see my garden photos and share in my continuing journey. Check out her blog for links to other award winning sites.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

October! Really? Already?

Okay, September is over and I'm still behind on EVERYTHING! Every day has been full . . . too full. So sitting at the computer was put on hold. I've managed to read a few blogs, but haven't had time to write any words myself.

Looking at my last post, I'm guessing I will never make the time to re-learn those linking skills and tag some friends. If you'd like to play along, please join in.

Summer has been fading in Indy, but only for the last week or so. The last two nights have cooled to the 40s. I had to dig around and find some long pants. Surprise! Last spring's skinny jeans are now too big! I've got a college reunion coming up and I'm treating myself to new jeans to wear to the football game. I'm also trying a natural hair dye I made from boiled black walnut hulls. This whole experiment has been fairly entertaining and pretty darn messy. Vanity struck me when I met with reunion committee. Apparently I'm the only female who is allergic to commercial hair dyes. No one else had any gray showing. Thank God the guys look their age, and my age. This is my 30th reunion. I don't want to be ushered into the 50th reunion photo.

I conducted extensive internet research to figured out when to harvest my sorghum crop. I learned a lot of interesting things about the rainy season in Africa, but could not find any information about when to harvest sorghum in Indiana. Then it all became clear. When flocks of migrating birds change their flight pattern to include a stopover at your sorghum patch, IT'S TIME TO HARVEST THE SORGHUM!

So I cut the grains off the top of the stalks and put them in vases all over my house to dry. The grains are really pretty up close. I ordered seed for white popping sorghum. I think a couple of other varieties sneaked into my seed packet, including red sorghum.

I tasted a few grains before they were ripe. They were soft and starchy, a little bit sweet. I'll let them dry until they are hard enough to grind. My research did not tell me how long it should dry. I just hope birds are not involved.

I picked my last beans about ten days ago. I made this pretty pickled bean salad from a recipe in the Ball Blue Book. I substituted my orange and yellow carrots for lima beans. I didn't grow any lima beans.

I spent an evening slicing and dicing peppers, zukes and onions for some zucchini relish. See, I haven't been idle. I've been busy.

Looks like a meager harvest, but wait! I used several baskets.

I pulled a few more carrots.

I dug my second row of potatoes. Still one row to go. The long skinny one is a sweet potato. I hope there are some larger ones.

These are my paprika peppers. I'll dry them in the dehydrator and grind them to powder in a coffee grinder. I don't use the grinder for coffee, just spices.

My Lily of the Day feature has come to its seasonal conclusion. These are the last of my gladiolus. I'll miss having cut flowers in the house. I'll have to settle for my bouquets of sorghum.