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Thursday, August 11, 2016

mid August report...

So the huge load of summer workload is pretty much over. My last day at the fruit exchange was last Sunday, and I'm offically laid off from there. I might go back and work there again in the spring, depending on what happens or not in the interm.

Sunday was my last day.. I took Monday off. Tuesday was the elections, and this gal won the democrat ticket for trustee with 35 votes. I have a competitor in the ring, threw in his hat as a write in on the day of- his name is Tim. He likely made his qualifying 10 votes to be on the November ticket. We got home from GenCon on Monday, and I had a Town Hall meeting that night that mom attended with me. Guess who wasn't there? Tim. Or the other two write in people.

GenCon.. again, fucking huge. The main exhibition hall has now taken up the full space that was gaming last year, and spilled over into the basement of Lucas Oil Stadium. Lots of good folks, fun times. Steam Crow is my hands down fave of the show. And of course, doing stuff like this with my sister always makes regular stuff extra awesome! It's just a blast doing stuff like this with her.

Took most of Monday off to decompress before the Town Hall meeting. Tuesday was some petty errands and waiting on hold with bill folks.

Wed was weeding, got the kale bed and kennel bed done. Made a version of Jambalaya for dinner. It was fucking good, and there's leftovers. I did it fast and easy, using up a couple bags of cooked rice (about 6 cups worth) that were in the freezer. Added in a pint of home canned tomato juice, a cup of home canned enchilada sauce, a handful of dried tomato slices, couple cans of undrained mushrooms, chunk raw chicken, few andouille sausage, and a half package of white fish fillets. This easily fed the 5 of us, with a few leftovers, so I would say 8-12 servings, depending on portion size. If I had been feeding more of a crowd, I would have added in a can or three of various canned dry beans of any kind, rinsed and drained. If I had less sausage or chicken on hand, or wanted to make a meat free version, I would for sure add 2-3 different kinds of beans. The seafood is critical, using whitefish, shrimp, or scallops is what's needed here at the end of the simmer to suck up the rich flavors.


2-3 tablespoons bacon grease- butter or olive oil will do, but bacon grease is best for that porky flavor. If you have rendered smoked ham fat, that is even more sublime.
1 large onion, rough chop.
2-3 sweet bell peppers, medium dice. This is optional, but makes it way better. 
6 cups cooked rice
1 large boneless chicken breast, raw, chunked in large two bite pieces
5-6 andiulle saugage, left whole, room temp. If they are raw, cook them first. If they are heat and serve, leave alone.
6-8 white fish fillets, or bag of raw large shrimp, or package of scallops- frozen. This is important, you want to add the seafood in it's frozen state, not thawed at all.
2 cups tomato juice- V8 and bloody mary mix works too.
8 oz enchilada sauce. This can be fudged out with salsa, or a can of diced tomatoes with some extra seasoning thrown into the mix, or use a bigger 15 oz can of sauce if omitting the mushrooms.  Do NOT use premade spaghetti sauce or canned tomato sauce.
Canned beans, rinsed and drained. Optional.
2 4 oz cans of mushrooms, one drained, one not. If not using mushrooms, refer to the enchilada sauce note. Or add 2/3 cup water.  Or if you want to make it HOT, replace the 2 cans mushrooms with 2 cans diced chilies or jalapenos.
Cajun seasoning. Usually I add 2-3 Tablespoons per batch. Adjust to taste and heat level.
Dried minced or wet jar garlic. Usually 2-3 tablespoons per batch
1 tablespoon salt, and one teaspoon black pepper

Sautee up your onion and peppers in the bacon grease till fragrant and starting to get a bit soft.
Add in the tomato juice, sauce you are using, half of the cajun seasoning, garlic, and salt.
Once that gets up to heat, add in your mushrooms or substitute, and raw chicken, and/or canned beans. It should be a bit soupy right now. If not, add in some liquid. Water, beer, and stock are good. Up to 8 oz depending..
Add in rice and stir in well.
Layer in sausage. Cover, reduce heat to low, and let simmer 15 min.
Add in half of the seafood, stir well, cover, let simmer 15 minutes.
Add in the other half of the cajun seasoning, garlic, and salt. Add in the black pepper. Stir well. Add in the other half of the seafood. Let rest on top. Cover, and let simmer on low 15-30 minutes.

If you find yourself on a hold.. kill the heat on everything up to adding the seafood. The addition of the seafood should be in the last wee bit before service.

A note to folks.. if you like eating rice a lot, and like to buy those single serve instant nuke packets of it... Consider making a double batch of rice next time, and freeze off portions. Rice freezes and reheats really well. If you tend to use pouches, use freezer ziplock bags or vacuum sealing. If you tend to do bowls of rice, use deli containers or butter tubs to give you bowl action.
This works great too for when you have a lot of leftover rice, either homemade or chinese take out.
Thursday was mulching in the kale bed, putting in the smother bed between the kennel bed and the garage, and weeding out the central lasagne bed since that's the only one that had shade, lol. Lots of watering.  We are still disturbingly dry. We haven't quite hit the drought like in 2012, but it's creeping in there.
And cheesey baked potato bake for dinner. A dear friend of mine who happens to be a firefighter and hates cooking and I were chatting the other day, and I offered to help him out with some super easy recipes to feed 20 hungry firefighters. So I'm kicking off with another round of solarium cooking.
I baked off 5 pounds of taters in the nesco. Browned off one pound of bulk sausage- Jimmy Dean, Tennessee Pride, whatever- just mild or regular flavor. Did that up on the camp stove. And I'm baking the whole thing off in the Nesco. So.. recipe formulation time, using ratios I've used before.

5 pounds baked potatoes, large dice
1 pound cooked meat- this is a great way to use up leftover meat
1 can cream soup- we like mushroom or particularly, poblano queso cream soup. But any of the cream cooking soups are good for this- particularly depending on the meat used. Cream of asparagus or celery would go will with basic chicken, cheddar or nacho cheese soup would be good with chorizo. If you are making a double batch, you can mix soup flavors to suit since you would use two cans.
1 cup cream dairy product- this can be room temp cream cheese, cottage cheese, ricotta, or a boursin style spread- that's what I'm using tonight since it was on hand and needed eating up. Do not use a sharp dairy like greek yogurt for this, use a blander/sweeter dairy.
1 cup sour cream. You can substitute sharp dairy like greek yogurt here.
1 8 oz package shredded cheese- I used a mac and cheese blend, but any blend will do. If making a double batch, you would use two packages anyway, so you can do two different packages of cheese to make a blend.
2 4 oz cans mushrooms, one drained, one not drained- if you can't do mushrooms, substitute in a 2/3 cup water with a beef bouillon cube, brown G's, beef stock. Or if doing a chicken or pork version, chicken cube, golden G's, or chicken stock.  If doing a double batch using leftover meats of various kinds, 1 cup water plus 1 each of beef and chicken flavoring.
2 medium onions, halved and sliced across the grain
1 T each of thyme and parsley
2 T dried minced garlic
1 t each salt and pepper
1 t mushroom powder
1-2 cups veggies, depending on your veggie level. A drained can of corn or  green beans, a bunch of broccoli, a couple cups a various frozen veggie tail end bags lurking around your freezer needing to be used up. Make sure you drain canned veggies, and get frozen veggies thawed out before mixing in. Even if you normally skip veggies, add in at least that can of corn or whatever. The moisture content from the veggies is necessary during baking.

Yes, you must use baked potatoes. Easy enough is to bake off a batch the night before, but doing it earlier in the day works too. Don't cook them till they are baked potato eating done- when you stick a fork into it to test it, pull off the heat when it hits about 10 more minutes till done time. Let cool at least till room temp, or better yet overnight. You want starches to set before slicing up, much like letting a steak rest to let it's juices redistribute before cutting into it.
You can use whole boiled/steamed taters for this too- but usually what you steam/boil whole is better suited for other applications like potato salad or smashed potatoes.

Meanwhile.. in a big frigging bowl, mix together everything but the taters and meat. Then fold in the taters and meat. Pour into a big baking dish and cover.
Normally in the oven, I would bake this off at 350 for an hour, then kill the heat and let rest for a bit before serving. Since I did it in the nesco, using a steam bath baking, I'm doing it at 400, utilizing the cover of the nesco for covering instead of actually putting a cover on the pan itself. I'm using a deep half hotel pan for this, and it could easily accommodate a double batch. If I were to do that, I would reduce the heat to 300 and let it bake for 2+ hours till a thermometer inserted in the middle reads at 165 degrees.  Everything should be hot and melty.
I also sliced up a large hot banana pepper to put on top of half the pan, to up the kick a bit. If doing a double batch, I would layer in half the potato mix, a layer of pepper rings on one half of the pan, then the other half of the mix with a second layer of pepper rings on top. Or do two 9x13 pans, one pepper spicy, one not with a single layer of pepper rings on top of the spicy.