Category Archives: Cooking

Killing Jack

During the summer, I am busily growing veggies and standing on sentry duty for hungry moose sneaking a snack. I have NO problem running “Mama” off with a rake in hand. Crazy? Maybe. BUT…considering gardening in Alaska means all most all plants need a three month head start before they ever see REAL dirt.

Not really.

Warm weather fruits and vegetables need to grow in a greenhouse. This is where I grow my Sugar Pumpkins, THE favorite.  🙂

Pumpkin vines

This year was the first year I had great success with these little buggers. In addition, I used a vertical gardening method to keep the vines from taking over the floor space.

Taking over is a drastic understatement, and growing them upright was the ONLY way to go! With fruit set, these vines still grew to 25ft, weaving in and out of the rope lattice I’d threaded across the ceiling.

This year they’re NOT growing past 10 ft…I’ll nip that in the bud!

Figuring it will save more energy for production.

Love them!!! It’s an instant gratification thing. They grow SO FAST!

I spend a lot of time in my little Garden of Eden. Some people look at me funny as I climb up and down the ladder, hand pollinating the babies.  LOL 🙂

OK…..moving on…I swear I’m not a whack job.

BUT someone has to love growing veggies or the rest of ya’ll would STARVE! 😀

Not to mention they make the CUTEST Halloween and Thanksgiving decorations……Easily lasting that long, and longer, without any preservation assistance.

I still have four sitting in my garden window, too small to bother processing, but serve as a nice reminder of summer.

Here you can see the FAT little seeds I saved for the 2012 garden. Given that I purchased open-pollinated seeds originally, the organic growing methods and hand pollination I am relatively assured these seeds will produce a like…off-spring???

***I’m forgetting Biology 101 at the moment.***

After cleaning all the gunk out of the middle, I lined a large roasting pan with the pumpkin, cut side down. They get about an 1/2 inch of water to soak in, a tin foil cover and “steam bath” for about an hour in a 350* F oven.

With pumpkins in the oven, I turn back to the seeds I plopped in a bowl. Wash off all of the orange….guts…..brains….whatever you call them. It’s not as time consuming as it might seem.

Well….I thought I took a picture of CLEAN seeds but apparently NOT! That’s what I get for burning through files, deleting pictures willy-nilly.  lol

Needless to say, after a simple wash, spread them on a sheet of foil to dry. This is a great activity to involve the rugrats.   Word of advice, do not use paper towel, they stick to the towel and are a b**** to get off.  Spritz the towel down with water and start all over. Learned this one the hard way.

These little guys will be bone dry and ready for storage in about 24 hours assuming a relatively dry home. Alaska happens to be classified a desert, so you might have a little longer. They should be mixed every few hours to dry consistently.

 

You can also try a dehydrator, but I would ONLY use one designed with an adjustable thermostat set to less than 100*F anything above that and you will kill the seed. ***think bath tub temperature for a kid***

 

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Once the steamed pumpkin is out of the oven, remove the cover and allow them to cool down.

 

Masochistic behavior IS the sign of a true whack job…regardless of what your husband might tell you. ***giggle***

 

 

***”Not that there’s anything WRONG with that.”***

 

 

With clean pint jars waiting on the cutting board, I start sterilizing.

Do not forget to put your lids and rings on the stove to heat up.

Sterilizing back in the day meant standing over the stove turning jars in a pan of boiling water. Burning the hell out of your fingers if you were too cheap to own a pair of tongs.

 

Now…

 

…if I have my timing down, the jars would be just finishing a quick cycle in the dishwasher with the “heat dry” on.

 

****My Mummy LOVES the dishwasher trick; she’s been standing over the stove canning veggies for a millennium. :D***

 

Instead… I happen to be fortunate enough to have an “Insta-Hot” tap at my sink, therefore I just spin the jars through that boiling water and VOILA!!!

Using my trusty funnel I fill my jars with bright orange squish…

…past the recommended fill line, as you can see, ‘cuz I’m a rebel like that.

I’ll have you know, although I joke around, I’ve NEVER blown anything up!

Weeeeelllllll, except for that one time…

…at Band Camp.   LMAO!!! 🙂

 

 

Juuuuuust Kidding!!!!! It was just the blender.

 

 

A little too much soap I’d say!!! ***snicker***

 

 

BACK TO THE ORANGE SQUISH…

With 2 quarts of water in the bottom of the cooker, I start it on low with the lid OFF while I’m running in circles.  This cuts the time waiting for everything to heat up so I can start “venting”.

 

 

At this point I would highly recommend referring to the one and only reference manual for these things…

Jars filled, hot lids screwed down with rings, and into the pressure cooker they all go.   Cook at 10 lbs of pressure for 60 minutes.

 

 

BLAM….. the finished product…

 

 

 

 

For the seeds….my first batch turned out beautifully.  Air dried by hand. I even designed a cute little seed packet in Word and printed it on leftover card stock.

 

***Yes….I’m a geek***

 

They’ve been living in the freezer for months.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Second Batch….much like the second child…. back to the basics: get the job done!

 

They have been stored in the jar, on a shelf, in my pantry. This, I believe, was the first machine dehydrated batch. Relatively same  results as the first; beautifully fat clean white seeds.

****there’s a joke here….but I’ll leave it alone. Being a fat kid, I’d be allowed…..***

 

 

The third batch was taken from a commercial field pumpkin. Stored in a jar….air dried by hand, I think.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I removed them from the fridge condensation had built up in the jar and low and behold….Black Mold!  That’s what I get for rushing the process.

 

***I should really keep notes, eh?***    Grrrrr!

In a nutshell…..either leave them out to dry (forgetting about them for a week)  OR use a dehydrator…..AND LABEL EVERYTHING!!!

Bleh….that’s all folks!

~I’m off like a crazy woman!

 

Sometimes storms are cozy

I know… I promised a pictorial review of snuffing my favorite garden vegetable but….
In Alaska, we’re having a hurricane outside, well not really, but it is blowing a gale and raining. With that, I’m moved to write about my evening comfort food.
All it took was a simple Facebook post and an “Oo, oo, oo that sounds good!!!” and I’m off like a crazy woman…dubbing it “Not-So-Tomato Soup and gooey grilled cheese”.
Channeling a little Rachel Ray, I grab all of my crap out of the fridge at once and pile it on the counter.
Then dig an 8 oz frozen bag of my own veggie stock out of the freezer…. (aka “juice a whole bunch of veggies you’re tired of dealing with and cook it until you all most forget about it” the idea was stolen from Michele at b organic)
***sigh***
I’ll start here.
In the bottom of the stockpot, olive oil and half a large onion chopped and sweating.
In goes about ¾ of a cup of grated carrot… and about the same amount of diced red bell pepper. I’m just guessing here, I’m working with fixings from our baked potato bar night.
Garlic….three cloves…no need to dirty the press, just a rough chop to expose the garlicky goodness.
A few minutes for everyone to get to know each other, this is where the beautiful dance of flavors begins.
I am the girl that believes medium high heat for EVERYTHING is a nice balance between “getting the job done in a timely manner” and racing to keep things from burning. 🙂

See, it’s a game, if I turned down the heat I would lose…and I hate losing. 😀 ***Yes, I am a dork***
One can of chicken stock….POOF it’s a hot tub party!! Whoo Hoo!!!
Pop the frosty stock out the zippy bag and bloop….into the pot.
And of course….It’s a party killer… like the cops just showed up and you don’t know what you did with your pants. 😀   ***snicker***
On to the bland and boring:
One can of diced tomatoes and one can of tomato sauce
Simmer… taste…and a LITTLE on the acidic side and not sweet enough. I am going for  Campbell’s…..but with REAL food. So how do I sweeten it up without adding sugar? Another half of a sweet bell pepper, yellow this time to change it up a bit; rough chop.
While simmering to soften the pepper, in goes a tablespoon of chili powder and a teaspoon of salt.
I can hear it now…” I don’t need to put salt in my food” Well….blah, blah, BLAH! I cry BS!
If you don’t put salt in your food then you’re either eating bland CRAP, in denial by not paying attention to your seasonings, using a hell of a lot of high sodium sauces OR you’re addicted to celery. Either way, we need a certain amount of salt in food in order to discern from one flavor from another…I swear. I made this seafood chowder once……………Oh, never mind.
Off the heat …and the soapbox……maybe.
Once all has cooled down (stopped boiling), pour the whole kit and caboodle into the blender.
***WAIT…….STOP***
Now, PLEASE DO NOT make the same dumb ass mistake I’ve seen so many of those high dollar chiefs make by putting hot liquid in a blender and lettin’ her rip. Let this little house wife from ALASKA explain; when you put steaming hot liquid in a container, under a lid, and agitate it, pressure builds…..and IT FREAKING EXPLODES!!!! HELLLOOOOO???!!!
Crack the lid away from you and hold it down, better to be safe than sorry. 😮 No need to be cleaning soup off the ceiling. Then… low and slow, gently add speed until the veggies are well-blended and silky smooth.
Return to the stockpot over low flame to keep warm until the sandwiches are ready to plate.
Buttering one side of the wheat bread, add two slices of ham to the dry side with a slice and a half of cheddar. For a little extra kick, also add a thin slice of Wasabi infused Gouda; oh, it’s just delish I tell ya. Flip another bread slice on top, butter side up, and slip the whole thing on to a hot grill pan.

I LOVE my cast iron griddle, its perfect for making cheese sandwiches.
…and this is where I need more practice, or need someone else to take over, I am notorious for burning grilled cheese sandwiches…ya, I know, turn the freakin’ heat down. I know, I KNOW! It’s just a thing…

🙂  The morning after…

…sticking my finger in the refrigerated container of soup this morning, I would leave out the teaspoon of salt. Yes, I can admit it… It was a mistake. I have a tendency to forget about the stock, or in some cases, it’s been when cooking with bacon too. However, I still stand by my salt rant.

Oh, and I would thin the soup out a tad with a little water. You play with it and let me know.

That dizzle of cheese was completely by accident but it looks delicious

 

Hide your Thanksgiving leftovers inside 30 mins!!!

This couldn’t be shorter or sweeter….

In a stock pot I threw:

– olive oil as the pan heated on medium high

– chopped one medium onion and dumped it in the bottom

– half a serving bowl of leftover shredded turkey

– two heaping teaspoons of minced garlic….probably more like tablespoons 😮

– pulled out the bag of veggies….roughly chopped up the cauliflower, broccoli and celery

– sliced up four new carrots (There is no such thing as a leftover carrot in my house….someone will dip it in something and eat it)

– dug out one of those CHEAP paper cartons of chicken broth (32 oz) and dumped it in.

***taste?………….nothing***

***Note to Self: cheap chicken broth has no taste….***

– grab a can of Swanson’s (14oz) I think….and add to the growing pot of veggies.

– about a tablespoon of some kind of poultry-friendly herb blend. I used Herbs de Provence

– Pour in 2-4 cups of water …..I can’t remember.

– Salt & Pepper to taste

Let simmer til carrots are crisp tender…………..OR “Granny grade” which ever you prefer.

Scooped into a large soup bowl with a butter bread teetering on the edge  is how we roll…but you can take it from here. 😀

 

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