So, not much going on here at Growbox Hill... I severely ganked my foot, and that kept me from doing pretty much anything for several days. I'm almost walking normally now so long as I'm not on my feet for too long. Started picking lots of herbs and getting them dried up...
We have gotten a lot of rain, so much so my love had to drill drainage holes in the containers before all my poor plants drowned- the layer of broken ceramics in the bottoms just was not up to the task. It was a skinky job of poo-water leaking out.
We have started picking and eating fresh green beans, yum! But the peas, cukes, and melons have totally puked, boo. The tomatoes haven't been doing much, and the squashes aren't ready yet for picking. The mullberries have been up, and been picking.. First raspberries this weekend past. Cherry trees were picked clean by the critters cept for some fresh off the tree picking by us. The apples and pear are ripening beautifully. Lawn needs mowing again, along with a lot of other neglected yardwork because of my foot. And now is the time that all this stuff is best done.
But since I haven't posted in a while, and not much is going on, figured it was time to talk about some food. A lot of my friends are wonderful cooks and kick major ass with food... Some of them are trying to do better, but aren't sure how to go about it. But everyone always likes to talk food. It's fairly easy to stock a larder, but not always so easy to creatively cook up the larder. We eat a lot of different things around here.
Seasonings are important!! A lot of folks are hooked on salt and sugar. We don't use much of either. I use lots of different herbs, and am unafraid to use lots of them. Garlic and onions are flavor staples too. One whole level of shelving in our pantry is just seasonings, from herbs and spice mixes to oils and liquid agents like soy, worcestershire, liquid smoke, and vinegars. Don't be afraid to leave out that sugar and salt, and bump up the other flavors instead- it tastes great and allows the true flavors of food to come out. Though I must say, always always salt your pasta water when cooking.
Discover the wonders of non-meat protein. Dairy products, eggs, and dried beans are your protein friends. Whole grains and other plants have protein in them too. We eat a lot of meatless or low meat dishes around here- meat is expensive, and a lot of people tend to over-consume it. That's not to say we don't have meat in the house- the freezer is always stocked with sausages, bacon, usually hamburger and chicken, sometimes other cuts in pork. Other than hamburger, beef is a rarity, mostly due to it's expense. Fish and seafood is another rarity due to cost, though we always have a couple tins of tuna in the pantry.
Make your own stock, and use it. There is always a stock or few in our freezer. Instead of making that rice with just water, try using stock.. Or instead of opening a can of veggie soup, heat up some stock and toss in fresh veggies for an outstanding (and total ingredient control) homemade soup. It's super easy to make stock. Corn stock is the easiest, just toss the cobs in water and simmer, veggie stock can be made up of all your tail end veggie scraps- just keep them piling up in a bag in your freezer till theres enough to make a batch. Poultry stocks use up the leftover carcass from that roasted turkey or chicken- you can get all that meaty goodness all over again instead of just chucking the carcass. Pork stock is a wonderous thing- ya just need some pork bones. I prefer hocks the most, though neck bones are good too. I also prefer using smoked bones, I think using unsmoked leaves you with a stock lacking depth. Beef bones should always be roasted before making stock.
Don't be afraid of veggies. Don't take it for granted that those sucktacular crappy gross things you often ate as a kid have to be that icky. Lot's of people cook veggies to shit, no wonder why so many adults don't like them. If you think you hate sweet potatoes because of those nasty candied yams that were always on the holiday table- try sweet potato fries, or mashed sweet potatoes. If you hated that slimy lump of spinach on your plate, try sauteing fresh spinach. It might just be you hated the style you were served, but there are hundreds of ways to prepare veggies. Don't be afraid to use veggies in ways not the norm. Sure, lettuce makes a great salad, but it is also an incredible ingredient cooked up into taco soup or sauteed into a veggie base for a egg dish. And don't forget, veggies have a lot of fiber, and fiber is important for your health.
Use fats, real fats. Gasp, I know, fat is soooo bad for you. But it really isn't, fats are crucial for your body. Just that some fats are better or worse than others. I use oils, olive and veggie, sesame seed and grape seed.. Oils are very easy to flavor too, like hot pepper or garlic, all the herbs that are out there and citrus. Real butter kicks ass all over processed stuff- and it's the processing of the stuff that turns those fats from ok fats into bad for you fats. Use unsalted butter- you can always add salt if you want, but you can't take it back out. When you cook up bacon, save your bacon grease- makes a wonderful porky, smokey fat to fry eggs, saute spinach.. just good eats. Why waste that wonderful cooking ingredient when it can be used and you get all your money's worth out of that bacon, savoring every last bit of it.
Carbs. Man, there is so much carb goodness available, I don't know why a lot of people stick to the all white action. White bread, white potatoes, white rice. Explore a little, discover the nutty, flavorful goodness of wheat and grain breads. Try those brown and wild rices, odd grains like oats, quinoa, rye, and barley.. You will be glad you did. Don't just reach for russets every time, try yellow potatoes, and if you can, try blue and red ones too.
Learn about wild eating. You probably have some growing in your yard right now, and you have been trying to kill it off. Dandelions, plantain, chicory, kudzu... There's tons of plants to be used as potherbs and salad goodness. If you have an ethnic produce seller around you, take a look at what they are selling- quite often you will be shocked to find purselane or lambs quarters selling for a pretty penny, and here you have been weeding it out all season. Of course, there are mushrooms too all over, but I would strongly suggest you don't even think about it unless you are well trained or with a well trained mushroom hunter.
If you have the freezer space.. Cook today to eat tomorrow. I freeze up a lot of soups. Or cook up a bunch of chicken breasts or burgers then wrap them up individually for the freezer. A lasagne recipe is usually too much for two people- try splitting it up into a couple smaller pans and freeze one up for later eating, same trick applies to meatloaf. Or roast a whole turkey, and you can package up and eat a few meals off that, plus the carcass for stock.
Don't be afraid of cooking something big for two and having leftovers. Like make a roast, eat dinner.. then have yummy meat eats for casseroles, sandwiches, and so on.
Learn how to cook. I don't mean get all fancy about it. I mean learn how to do the basics, how not to be afraid of food, how to make things from scratch and how to add things into processed stuff to make it better. Learn what foods go well with each other- and what really does not. Learn what makes for good produce and meats, and what means you are wasting your money and your time. It sounds like a rather large task, I know. A bajillion cookbooks out there, and not much coverage on the basics, just recipes. Heh, maybe I should write a cookbook on just that.. How to cook.
And finally, learn how to eat. Seriously, a lot of people don't seem to know how to do that anymore than the do cooking. Learn what portion sizes are, like how much protein is a serving? An egg or two, or a slice or two of cheese, a quarter pound of burger or the half pound? Makes a difference. Or raw vs cooked portions. How much dry pasta cooks into an eating portion of pasta, a quarter pound of raw meat vs cooked shrinkage. And what is correct, the raw or cooked measurement?
How many portions of what you should eat in a day... What within those portions you need too- like you know you need produce, but you can't eat all spinach or carrots, you need different produce to give you what you need.
Learn what your tongue is like. Identify flavors.. Salty, sweet, bitter, sour, umami. Note, the receptors are all over the tongue register all flavors, just different receptors have different levels of what they register.
Textures.. creamy, fiberous, crunchy, mealy, grainy, and so on- a lot of people have identifiers with this- usually in the don't like it way. Like the spongy squish of a mushroom, the mealiness of dried beans, the grease coating slime squish of cheap bologna. "Mouth feel" is a common term for this.
Temperatures- I don't mean ice headache or scald your tongue. Like cheese- some are better at room temp, some straight from the fridge.. white wine and beer chilled, red wine and whiskey at room temp, vodka and gin from the freezer. Quiche is good right from the oven, but even better when it's cooled down to warm above room temp.
Aromas- Over half of your eating experience is scent. Use it. Figure out what you love (like frying bacon, or garlic in butter).. And what you hate (like pincee veal bones).. And use those scents.
Anywho.. I'm reading over this whole post about food, and I'm feeling distinctly preachy about the topic.. So I guess it's time to post :)