Thursday, August 31, 2017

Summer Fried Rice

Previous to Smitten Kitchen's post, I thought of fried rice as just the Asian kind with Asian flavors like soy sauce, ginger, snow peas, the like.  But Deb's version just about matched the food that needed to be used up at my house, so I plunged in.

This was the kids' supper when my husband and I were leaving them with a babysitter to go out for dinner. I snitched a few bites before we left, and boy, I was so glad there were leftovers.  I had asked Genevieve if she wanted to make mac and cheese, or if I should do something; this fried rice was so easy, I didn't mind when she demurred.

 Here's how I made it.

Summer Fried Rice
Sauteed an onion in the wok in oil. Salt and pepper.
Added a large zucchini, chopped. Salt and pepper (Deb insists that seasoning each addition is crucial for flavor).
When that was hot but not soft (a few minutes), I added about 2 cups leftover rice, plus maybe a half-cup of corn.  A large tomato, chopped, and several sprigs of fresh thyme, chopped.  More salt and pepper.
When everything was hot, I set it aside and fried eggs for each person to go on top (this recipe serves 4-ish). Then there was about 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan, some mixed into the fried rice, and some sprinkled on top of the egg.

Also, I like to set out ingredients for supper in the morning.  It's a visual comfort to see that supper is already in progress, plus it reserves those ingredients from the hungry hordes in my house and frees up fridge space. It may look like a tiny step to set a few things out on the counter, but it represents a much bigger step:  deciding what's for supper.

Here we have rice and corn in the leftover container, onion in the jar, and eggs, tomatoes, and zucchini waiting for the fried rice.  Supper decision is made, hallelujah!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Tomato Canning, Before and After, and More Canning

I got the call last Friday morning at 7am:  a half-bushel of seconds tomatoes was waiting for me at market. Thank God I finished Genevieve's school shopping Thursday and picked the beans several blocks away and in my own back yard.  Thank God I sorted the box of hand-me-downs and got caught up with the laundry.

The big kids helped me haul the tomatoes home from market (how I will manage now that they are back in school I do not know).  Ben helped with clear-the-deck chores because he wanted to be out with his lemonade stand in the afternoon.  Genevieve opted to play until lunchtime, and help with the tomatoes after lunch.

Once I got the market things put away, the bread baked, and the dishes washed, the actual canning could begin.  Genevieve peeled all the tomatoes, I stuffed the jars, and then I spent the afternoon running them through the canner.  Now I have 17 quarts of whole tomatoes, sealed and cooling.  And then I got a text from a friend on Saturday with a bunch of peppers, so I made pimentos.  And finally, on Sunday, my in-laws dropped off 10 pounds of Roma tomatoes that someone at their church wanted to get rid of.  So yesterday, I made and canned pizza sauce.

This is all going on with camping preparation and the kids starting school, with Genevieve's middle school location and schedule throwing a wrench in the works.

I love this home-canned food, I love preserving food, but you guys:  my life feels a little impossible right now.  I would ditch the camping if we hadn't already paid for it, and I want to hang with dear friends.

My children are happy which is a big consolation and one of these days, mama's going to be happy, too, when she gets a tidy, peaceful house to herself with no looming projects.  One of these years, maybe. . .

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Aunt Nancy's Typical Southern Peach Cobbler

Aunt Nancy is legendary for this cobbler in our family, but when I asked her where the recipe came from, she said it's all over the South.

I know two versions of it in the North.  One is found in More with Less, with no butter (Yankees are no fun), and the other was my childhood church cookbook and had the butter, but less fruit.  I like Aunt Nancy's the best.  The fruit to buttery-moist-crumb-part is about equal, and that's how I like it.

If you bake it long enough, the edges darken and crisp from all that butter.  Aunt Nancy loves me enough that she gave me that special edge when we were in NC.  

This is Phoebe's photo-face.  She thinks she's smiling.

Also, isn't that tablecloth great?  Years ago, I stashed it with my fabric with the idea of making a skirt, but I just absolutely love its grooviness in my summer dining room.

Aunt Nancy's Typical Southern Peach Cobbler

In a 9" baking dish, melt:
1/3 cup butter (I put it in the oven while the oven is preheating)

Peel and slice (I chop):
5-6 peaches to yield at least 4 cups

Lay them on the melted butter.

Separately, mix:
1 cup flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup sugar
1 cup milk

Pour batter gently and evenly over the fruit.  Some of the fruit will float and some butter will be up there, too.  That's just right.  Bake at 350 for 1 hour, until beautifully golden with obvious bubbling and juice action from the fruit.  Serve warm or room temperature.

1. Aunt Nancy said you can use anywhere from 1/4 - 1/2 cup butter.  Obviously a Southerner would go for the full stick.
2. I used half whole-wheat all-purpose flour.  You can get this from McGeary Organics and it makes the perfect texture for chemically-leaved baked goods.
3. I cut back the sugar a little because I'm not Southern.
4. You can use other fruit besides peaches.  I added some sad raspberries and 2 black raspberries from my new backyard bush.
5.  Aunt Nancy has baked this at higher temperatures or reduced the time or changed the pan size or otherwise fiddled with the chemistry.  Good news: the cobbler is not fussy!

Monday, August 21, 2017

Just a Little Older (Beach Girls 2017)

In the past year, none of us beach girls has lived out of the country, had a baby, moved, or . . . well, actually, I'm not sure of the other categories because the years have started to melt into each other.  This past year may have had job changes and health crises, or maybe it was the year before.  The years just puddle together. 

For sure, we ate well this year and didn't bother with a restaurant.   Sprinkle some fresh tomatoes and feta on your fried egg and add a basil sprig; it's divine (the bacon and potatoes help, too). We settled into long intimate conversations whenever we felt like it, wore our jammies maybe as much as our clothes, and ate ice cream whenever it occurred to us.  Bliss.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Back Yard, August 17, 10:16am

I had just gotten done hanging up three loads of laundry, with one more agitating in the machine. I wanted to document these luxuriant, volunteer squash vines; one appears to be a butternut, and the other a small ornamental. I planted some cucumbers elsewhere in the yard, on purpose, but they did the dramatic overnight flop-wilt-die after giving us two cucumbers, whereas these crazy squash vines are not giving up.

Inbetween them are the zinnias I planted from seed. I am so proud.

 My peppers are growing well, but slowly this year.  They are not helped by the toddler who picks them too young on the sly.  And the green beans are doing fine, but the herbs are not.

There is always some kind of weird structure in the yard.  Behind Phoebe is, obviously, a guinea pig hutch for the guinea pig that the parents have already said no to.  

Phoebe means business with that hammer; she is not pounding her fingers, either.

Monday, August 14, 2017

The Good Food Fight

"The processed food industry has transformed our food into a quasi-drug. . . What happened is that cheap, calorie-dense foods that are highly rewarding to your brain are now ubiquitous.  Once you've had a glass of orange juice, you are not likely to be as satisfied with a healthier and less caloric orange that you have to peel. . . Although it's far easier said than done, just limiting exposure to high-calorie foods and recreational drugs would naturally reset our brains to find pleasure in healthier foods and life without drugs."

from  "What Cookies and Meth Have in Common" by Richard Friedman in the June 30 New York Times

Here we have roasted feta on homemade whole wheat sourdough toast, sprinkled with thyme from the front porch pots with a side of delectable cantaloupe and black coffee.   I am definitely finding pleasure in this breakfast.

But I am finding it hard to limit my my family's exposure to high-calorie foods in the general mayhem and party that is summer. One example: kids' meals at a barbeque joint served with 16-oz. sodas, even for Phoebe.  Of course, I didn't let them drink the whole things, but it takes vigilance and education to help them understand that glittering bottle. Sometimes, I am just tired of trying, but then I read an inspiring quote like the one above and push away the processed food. Fight the good food fight, everybody!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Striping Curtains

All my extra time is going to sewing stripes on canvas right now as I make outdoor curtains for our balcony.  This has turned out to be a terrible idea because of the method and time, not the cost.  The end is almost in sight.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

East of Eden

I took the kids down to Eden, NC to be spoiled by my aunts and uncle.  That and the craziness that is August accounts for the blog silence here.

My parents drove us down in their van that has a blessed TV/DVD with headphones, and altogether the kids were outnumbered by adults so that made for a good vacation.

 I asked Aunt Maggie to model the apron I made her (so charming with her gingham shirt).  Here she is standing next to a giant rosemary bush that is the envy of my Northern, newbie-gardening heart. Her gardens are full of whimsy and fun, just like her.

 Uncle John David grows fantastic melons, among other things. He let Ben drive the tractor. The kids also had access to any number of tablets and phones from the indulgent adults, and that plus the uncounted s'mores make a great vacation for them.

I got to go schnausing with my aunts and mom in the afternoons, while Dad reigned over the kids back at the farm (I have the best dad!).  Schnausing is a family word (I think) that means driving around looking for cute little shops, pretty towns, pretty scenery, snacky eats, and hijinks; in my extended family, this is done by the women on vacation.  It's the only time I shop for entertainment, without a list, and in the company of my mom and her giddy sisters, it is so fun. [Edit:  Aunt Maggie says the made-up word is spelled "snausing."]

 We also take walks, and sometimes burst into hymns.