Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Book Club

I'm in a new book club. We had our first meeting last week, and although turn-out was low (isn't that uncommon in a book club?) it was fun. We read Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen, which maybe was a little intimidating for a first book. I enjoyed it, because it is so different from the usual murder mysteries I've been reading. Of course, now I have the desire to speak with a British accent and go around town leaving my calling card (work? who needs work? don't we all live on the interest of our savings, which of course, we inherited?)
But I digress.
I'll let you know when the new book is picked, and you can read along if you'd like. Maybe we'll have an online book club meeting to discuss. I have to go have some tea and scones now, and maybe a cordial to cure my maladies. Ta Ta!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Tomatillo Surplus, Salsa Success

This year's garden was kind of a bust.
The carrots didn't grow because, even though they were in a planter two feet off the ground, and inside a fenced yard, something ate their greens. So we got maybe ten carrots.

Something was up with the cukes: the first crop, started indoors, failed at the end of July. I replanted and got some nice plants with a ton of flowers, but everything died pretty quickly, leaving me with four misshaped cucumbers, and not all that tasty, either.

We got one teeny tiny pumpkin, but what can you expect, when you try to grow a pumpkin vine in a container.

All my strawberries were eaten by creepily aggressive chipmunks. And where are those chipmunks now? I'd rather not think about it, but if they're in my house, I will move out.

All my Roma tomatoes rotted on the vine. From the inside out. Not a nice surprise, I tell you, to cut into a shiny red tomato and find rot spilling out.

My beefsteak tomatoes were delicious, but only 5 grew to ripeness. Granted, they were each the size of a cantaloupe, but still.

My little Italian Ice grape tomatoes were tasty but yellow, not white, as advertised.

We got a ton of wax beans, but this year the kids decided that wax beans were no longer their favorite veggies, and in fact, they despise wax beans.

We had one green bean plant that gave us maybe twenty beans. One kid ate them all, refusing to share.

Our sugar snap peas were poor producers.

And what can you do with eggplant like this? (Each is approximately 1.5 inches in diameter.)

The lettuce was a success, so I have no complaints there.

The broccoli grew into plants resembling bonsai, and never even bolted.

The radishes were great, and plentiful in the spring, but a replanting failed. (Long, spindly roots?)
The chile peppers were good, but I only managed to grow four on two plants.
And finally the tomatillos: they were (are, because frost doesn't seem to be hitting them yet,) the takeover plant of the garden. We were supposed to have a frost this weekend so I picked around fifty tomatillos, leaving another fifty still growing, on my three plants. And now I have to figure out what to do with them! I'm afraid to can things, because of the whole risk of killing people if you aren't careful (and with my ability to be distracted, I'm likely to do just that)
so I have been making salsa.

I used a recipe from the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook:
Prep: 30 min Chill: 2hrs to 2 days
Makes: about 2 cups salsa
4-6 tomatillos, husked, rinsed and finely chopped (about 1 Cup), or one 11-13oz can tomatillos, rinsed, drained and finely chopped
2 small tomatoes, seeded and finely chopped (3/4 C)
1/3 C finely chopped red onion (1 small)
2-4 fresh serrano, habanero, or jalapeno chile peppers, seeded and finely chopped
2 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp snipped fresh cilantro
1/4 tsp salt
4 cloves garlic, minced ( I used 2, and it was plenty garlicky!)
Stir together tomatillos, tomatoes, onion, chile peppers, lime juice, cilantro, salt and garlic. Cover, chill for 2 hours or up to 2 days.
Unfortunately the salsa is NOT a good luck charm. The Sox still lost.

Sunday, October 05, 2008


Today was brunch at our house, for a celebration of a bunch of family birthday parties. The weekend was really quite busy, with the usual slew of children's social events and activities, so there wasn't too much time for planning, and even less time for cooking and prepping. The guests included 8 adults and 7 kids, so there weren't overwhelming crowds of people to cook for, and I though that brunch was the easiest and most relaxed way to go. Plus, it's been cookout after cookout here for the most recent social events (which may tell you how infrequently we entertain, as now it is October in the Northeast. And it's rained for the past 99/100 days, which is only a slight exaggeration. )
I decided on quiche, which I hadn't tried before, but I picked some recipes that didn't require a lot of prep. I ended up prepping the ingredients and making the crust dough last night, and it was simple to throw everything together today in between the various early morning activities we had.

It turned out to be quite a feast: my mother and sisters each brought something delicious and when the last of the guests had gone I was still feeling uncomfortably FULL.

Here's the menu. Most of the recipes I used were new to me, and I was happy with all of the results. I got most from the Food Network website, and I've linked where I could.
To Start:

Bagels and a variety of cream cheeses, compliments of my husband, who brought them home from Providence.

Crepes with berries and whipped cream: I used a basic crepe recipe, and made a berry mix of strawbs, bluebs, and raspberries, added a touch of sugar, and let it sit overnight.

The Fruit Plates:

Poached Pears in Vanilla and Champagne

I really enjoyed these: they were firm and sweet and delicious. The recipe is by Emeril Lagasse. They weren't a big hit, but I didn't really present them well. Yum.

Cinnamon Oranges

These were good, too--fresh and light, which was nice because the main options were heavy. I'll make these again because the kids liked them. This is a Bobby Flay recipe.

Prosciutto-wrapped Melon with Mint

Not particularly new and different, but everyone seems to eat these. I myself am a little leery of the prosciutto. I know, it's been made for hundreds of years, but still, not cooked?

The main part of the meal was quiche. I made three, and aside from each taking about twice as long to cook as the recipe recommended, they were really easy to make. I made my own crust for two of them. One calls for Pillsbury crescent dough. So easy.

Savory Three-Cheese Quiche

Another Bobby Flay recipe, this was the least eaten quiche. It's not as pretty as the other two, but quite tasty. This was the one I had the most trouble with as far as telling when it was done. It also had the lightest texture of the three.

Spinach and Bacon Quiche

I'll be making this again. It was really really good. Paula Deen's recipe was easy to follow and after reading the reviews of the recipe, I cut back on the cream by approximately 1/3 Cup. I think there's only one piece left now. My arteries are clogged.

The last quiche I made came out of the oven after guests began to arrive, so I didn't get a photo. It's a Ham, Tomato and Swiss Quiche, recipe by Cathy Lowe. This was by far the easiest to make, (pillsbury dough) and of course, therefore, got rave reviews. (It always seems to me that the harder the recipe, the fewer compliments you get, but I'm thinking that might be because of my lacking cooking skills.)

Desserts included a Chocolate Ganache Birthday cake, made by my sister, blueberry muffins, made by my other sister, which, to be honest, were eaten as appetizers, at brunch and for dessert. My mother brought her highly sought-after oatmeal raisin cookies, which I admit, I tried to hide from the company (darn kids always pick up on that stuff...) and I made apple pie, with a mix of Macs and Cortlands. I haven't even gotten a chance to try the apple pie yet, I'm so full (and constantly eating the oatmeal cookies is not helping...) but it looks good.

That's today's doings. I'm so tired and full, I need to go lie on the couch!

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