Posts Tagged With: Food

Of Life Events and Gardens

It has been a rather long and rather eventful month here at Transient Ranch (I should explain that I briefly considered calling it Mustang Ranch, but the implications were…less than ideal). People in the hospital, friends and family with relationships ending and beginning, legal issues that demanded our attention and the myriad of everyday things we call “life” all conspired to keep me away from the keyboard, though not from acquiring more projects. Anyway, I’m back and I want to share the progress of one of those ongoing projects with you.

The garden is in, finally, and it doesn’t look, at this point, as if we’re likely to lose anything with the possible exception of the asparagus.

Last year, I did not plant a fall garden, so the beds were a little overgrown when I started work on them for this spring. As you can tell, everything was left in the beds from last year, including the landscaping cloth and stakes for some of last year’s plants. They looked like this:

Needs work

Needs work

After cutting grass and weeds and removing the leftover stuff from last year, it was time to lay down new landscape cloth in the beds and mulch the walkways in between them. You’ll note that except for two smaller beds at the top left hand side of the picture, the beds run the full length of the garden. That makes them 34 feet long.


Here it is, the walkways almost all mulched and with every bed ready to receive plants and its own mulch.


Finally done, or close to it (still need to mulch that area to the left side of the garden). Plants in and homemade tomato cages in place.


In a few days, I’ll go through and weed even the walkways and place the pavers, both for aesthetics and to keep my feet from getting quite so muddy if I have to go out there right after watering or rain.

A few other things. So far, I have placed 2 cubic yards of mulch in the garden and walkways. I estimate another yard will provide the cover I need as I add it to thin spots and “mulch out” a walkway on the left hand side of the garden. This year I purchased a new, state of the art, mulch transportation and delivery device. It’s been very useful.


The pavers that will go in, shortly.


Last year we grew, well, a lot varieties of everything, especially tomatoes and cucumbers. We discovered that as much as we like Italian food, we can’t grow enough Roma tomatoes to make sauce and adding other varieties to the sauce makes it far too wet. When it comes to cucumbers, the non pickling varieties are also too wet. This year, we are being more selective and limiting our varieties. Our plant selection looks like this:

  • Black or Russian Krim tomatoes x 9
  • Red Brandywine tomato x1
  • Boston Pickling cucumbers x 8
  • Black Beauty zucchini x 2
  • Crook Neck squash x 2
  • Serrano, jalapeno, ancho/poblano, Anaheim, cayenne and bell peppers x 2 of each
  • Hale’s Best cantaloupe x 2
  • Asparagus x 18
  • Carrots, lettuce varieties, arugula, spinach and kale x a lot of each (we have rabbits, okay?)

Now comes the hard part…waiting for harvest.

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Garden Planning…WooHoo!*

I like fresh fruits and vegetables. The colors, smells and tastes add so much to a meal that you simply can’t get any other way. Then, of course, there’s the nutritional value. We all need the nutrients that veggies contain along with things like the antioxidant and fiber benefits of some veggies. Good taste and health benefits all rolled into a single package. What’s not to like. There are only two ways of which I’m aware to get fresh fruits and vegetables, buying them from a store or growing them yourself. I much prefer to grow them myself.

When I was a kid, my mom had a garden whenever she could (with all of our moving, it wasn’t always possible). I remember how much she and my dad seemed to delight in making and maintaining the garden and how much more they enjoyed harvesting, preparing and eating what came out of it. Now, you have to understand that as much as my parents loved fresh veggies, I was most emphatically not a convert. I disliked them immensely. Then, one day, I discovered raw vegetables and I was hooked. After that, my parents would eat theirs cooked and I had mine raw. It was several years before I discovered the reason for my preference. It was both simple and sad. I loved my mom. Cooking was simply not her forte’. The one thing you could be sure of when my mom cooked something, anything really, was that it was done. It was well done and had been well done for a while before it was served. Then, one day, I discovered vegetables that were cooked but not overcooked. Vegetables that were properly seasoned. Wow! What a difference!

Several years ago, I began planting my own vegetable gardens. Then, for a few years, I stopped. Life was really busy and something had to give. Gardening was one of the things I let go. Two years ago, I started again. The veggies are nice. Like I said, I like eating them. More than that, though, I like the experience of planning a garden. Prepping and amending the soil. Planting. Weeding (okay, not so much with the weeding). Watering. And, of course, harvesting and eating. Add to that the fulfillment I get from canning the excess. It’s a special kind of gratifying to eat something, knowing it’s not only tasty, but healthy and that you grew it yourself. And, if done properly, it’s much less expensive than buying your vegetables from the store. I guess you could say I find gardening rewarding (reasonably priced food), relaxing (you can’t really hurry the natural life cycle of a tomato) and very fulfilling (I grew this).

When I was a kid, everyone I knew planted their gardens the same way – in long rows spaced about 18″-24″ apart. Last year, for the very first time ever, I put in raised beds with my own version of square foot gardening. I don’t know that I will ever grow a garden any other way, ever again. This weekend, hopefully, I’ll start my seeds in some wooden boxes I’ve re-purposed. Originally, they were concrete forms used by a neighbor, but this year they’ll be dedicated to a nobler purpose (I had planned to post pics of the boxes but can’t upload them right now. I’ll try later.)

If you like fresh vegetables, if you’re looking for a rewarding way to relax, why not plant a garden?

* Originally, I had planned on using the word “w00t” but I’ve been asked to stop embracing my inner nerd.

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Cooking with a Wallflower…

Is the name of a blog run by a California dental hygenist. According to the tagline, it’s a blog about “cooking, baking, crafting, writing.” While I initially looked at the site because it deals quite a bit with food (always a good choice, in my opinion) I’ve found there is much more there. The blogger, Andrea (I use her name because it’s on the site for all to see) really does write about, not just cooking, but baking, crafting and writing as well. More than that, she does so in a way that’s fresh and easy to read. There’s none of the “I’ve become an expert at everything I write about so you should just accept everything I say” tone that some bloggers seem to have. But, I want to tell you about the really important stuff…the recipes.

Asian food, Asian fusion, Asian inspired food, it’s all very popular now. Even my West Texas town of Abilene has more than one restaurant that offers sushi and a Chinese restaurant that has been ranked as the 6th best Chinese restaurant in America. My wife and I sometimes eat at them. We enjoy the experience. However, regardless of the kind of food, there is something special about making it at home. Andrea’s site has a number of Asian inspired recipes that I intend to work through. Each one sounds delicious and the photos she includes only add to the impression of good food, lovingly prepared. I’m hooked. Then, of course, there are the Italian inspired recipes, breakfast recipes, beverages, entrees, soups..the list is really impressive.

There’s much more there, both in types of recipes and non-food content (the information on blogging is helpful to a new blogger like me). I can’t recommend the site highly enough. Go to the site, here, take a look around and see what I mean.

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Of Holidays and Food

I love the holidays. My wife and I like to cook and the holidays give us a chance to do some things we don’t get to do very often. That’s good, because the other 2 residents of our house, our daughter and an elderly parent, as well as many of our friends, are uh “gastronomically challenged.” Still, even for the holidays, we can’t wander too far afield or we’ll be the only ones eating what we cook. Sometimes, that’s okay. There’s a lot to be said for cooking and sharing seared ahi tuna with a honey-soy glaze, or shrimp fried rice with kimchi, with your spouse at 2 am. For Thanksgiving dinner, though, we need to do something more traditional.

Anyway, this year I dry brined a turkey. I’ve had traditional wet brined turkey before and I found it rather unsatisfying. Tender? Yes. Moist? Very. And largely devoid of taste. I like turkey and it frustrated me to have a beautiful looking bird that had everything you might want in a traditional Thanksgiving meal except the most important thing – taste. What to do? As it turns out, dry brining was the answer! I do it every time I roast a chicken, so it seemed reasonable to try it with a turkey. It was gratifying to look online and find that dry brining is pretty highly recommended for turkeys. The result was a moist, tender and flavorful turkey, with none of the hassle of wet brining. Sadly, I neglected to take a picture of it. In the interest of tradition (there simply must be a picture of a roasted turkey in a post like this) I offer the following.

Did I say one turkey? Actually, it was two. On Thanksgiving we enjoyed our meal together as a family. The next day, our daughter’s friend and family arrived (due to work schedules they’d been unable to have a Thanksgiving meal on Thursday) and we did it all again. And, a ham (7 additional people requires quite a bit more food). There are some complex recipes out there for dry brining turkeys. Here’s the one I used. Please note, all temperatures are in fahrenheit.

  1. 1 turkey, fresh or thawed. Size is dependent on how many you need to feed. I used the same recipe for both turkeys. One weighed almost 13 pounds and the other almost 18 lbs. Fresh is best. If possible, avoid self-basting and kosher turkeys. The risk of it being too salty is very high.
  2. Kosher salt. How much? Some.
  3. 1 navel orange, quartered
  4. 3-6 garlic cloves, peeled and cut in half
  5. 2-4 celery ribs
  6. 2-4 carrots
  7. 1/2 medium yellow onion, sliced
  8. 4 sprigs fresh rosemary
  9. 1 bottle of Reisling
  10.  1 stick melted butter
  11. 1 1/2 tablespoons of smoked paprika
  1. 24-36 hours before roasting, remove all giblets and rinse and dry your turkey, inside and out (you don’t want to introduce more water into the equation, diluting the flavor).
  2. Liberally coat the outside and cavities of the turkey with kosher salt. I coated it like I do chicken – until the skin seems to sparkle with salt crystals.
  3. Place it in a food grade plastic bag and refrigerate. Alternatively, you could put it in a cooler surrounded by ice. Just make sure to check the temperature frequently. You don’t want the turkey to freeze or let the temp get above 40 degrees.
  4. Approximately one hour before roasting, remove the turkey from the refrigerator and allow it to warm a bit. Lightly rinse the outside and inside and dry.
  5. Preheat your oven or roaster to 450 degrees.
  6. Thoroughly mix the smoked paprika into the butter. Using a brush, coat the turkey with the butter/paprika mixture.
  7. Place the garlic and rosemary in the body cavity. Pour the wine into the roasting pan and lay the remaining ingredients in the bottom of the roasting pan.
  8. Place the turkey, on a roasting rack, in the roasting pan. Cover with lid or foil. Place in the oven/roaster and cook at 450 degrees for 30 minutes. Reduce heat to 325 degrees and continue roasting to an internal temperature of 165 degrees.
  9. Remove from the oven, tent with foil and allow it to rest for 15-20 minutes before carving.

Note: if you want gravy, do not use the pan drippings as they will be far too salty. Instead, use the giblets for making broth. Do not stuff the bird as your dressing will be too salty, also.

Our oven was in constant use so I resorted to using an electric roaster. I’m glad to report the results were fantastic. A wonderful bird and I was able to place the roaster on our patio. This freed up counter space and reduced heat in the kitchen.

I’m not roasting a turkey or ham for Christmas, this year. I think it’s going to be prime rib, instead. Recipe ideas, anyone?

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