Scraps or Pantry Raid – Tomato Soup

The end result was tomato vegetable soup, served with grilled cheese sandwiches and applesauce. Here’s how it came about.

I’d been canning tomatoes a few days earlier. The process of peeling tomatoes, while not like herding cats, is time consuming and yields an interesting leftover. To peel tomatoes, I drop several into hot water for a few minutes and then into ice water. The peels slide off (almost) effortlessly. Almost. The results: a lot of tomatoes without skins, and a big bowl of water laced with tomato remains.

On the theme of the TV show “Scraps,” I decided this tomato water was too good to throw away. On the theme of a Pantry Raid, I used only ingredients that were readily available in my freezer, refrigerator, or pantry. Nothing fancy!

Step one: we skimmed off some of the water floating on top. The tomato content kept sinking to the bottom, so why not?
Step two: poured the tomato water into a large slow cooker and let it simmer on high overnight.
Step three: add herbs. A few green onions, a clove of garlic, some minced basil – all simmered in the soupy mix for several hours.
Step four: Store boiled down mixture in refrigerator overnight.

To make soup for supper, I added a few simple ingredients along with salt and pepper, thickened with arrowroot starch (Penzey’s is the best), and served with crackers.

Simple ingredients added (but not measured precisely): a dash of Worcestershire Sauce, a small can of commercial tomato paste, salt and pepper, frozen peas & corn & shredded fresh zucchini.

This tomato soup, whether you call it a Scraps menu or a Pantry Raid, is a winner. Next time I can tomatoes, I might do the same!

Health Care – It’s Personal

A few years ago, I posted this:

Strong Enough Now

 

Without access to health care, I might indeed have died or become severely incapacitated a few years ago. Thanks to health insurance through my employer, I was able to see the doctors I needed, get my stroke diagnosed, and then go to physical therapy and slowly but surely teach my left side to communicate with my brain. Ironic, I know. I lean left figuratively, politically, so leaning left literally – hey, why not? 

The stroke was only one item in a long list of illnesses and near-catastrophes. Had I not been covered through my job, I’d either be bankrupted by medical bills or – gone. Done. Deceased.

The vote on the Senate floor Tuesday afternoon allows the bill that would repeal the Affordable Care Act to be discussed, debated, amended, and eventually, it could be voted into law. Make no mistake, my friends, repealing the ACA will be catastrophic.

It’s time for us, the voters, to learn exactly what’s in this bill and how it will affect each and every one of us. Pre-existing conditions, maternity care, disabilities, mental illness, vaccinations, birth control, and more: learn what they mean and why these pieces matter in the puzzle as a whole.

It’s time for us, the voters, to pay even closer attention to our elected officials. What are they saying? What are they doing? And how do their actions affect us? And then we need to let those elected officials know that we’re watching, and what they do matters. Their votes on this bill will affect people nationwide.

For me, it’s time to get out the postcards again. I plan to remind my senators that being able to see a doctor is not an abstract concept. Without insurance, without access to medical professionals, people will die. Health care, indeed, is personal.

 

The Continuing Saga of the Soil

In which Daisy discoveries the peas didn’t do well, but the beans? Stay tuned.

The peas, those lovely little vines that filled the space in between the random flowers, didn’t bear fruit. They produced a few tiny pods, but no peas. I don’t know if it was soil troubles, a hot & dry spell, or other issues, but my garden produced no peas. I pulled the plants and set them on yet another section of garden that didn’t produce any produce. When they dry, I’ll  toss the whole pile in the compost.

Beans, however, are looking great! They’re bushy as bush beans can be, reaching for the sun with their lovely little leaves and producing flowers and actual green beans. Yum! I have enough beans in the freezer already, so everything I harvest will be supper. Or lunch. Or raw beans for a snack (oh, yeah, they’re that good).

Meanwhile, I made a few decisions. The area with the non-producing pea plants will be devoted to flowers next year. I’m seeing more pollinators, so I’d like to keep them happy. The sections that just didn’t grow are getting an infusion of organic matter (a.k.a. compost).

As for behind the garage, the raspberries are coming back, little by little. Chuck trimmed a tree that was overreaching its borders (at the edge of the next door lot), and that helped allow more light into this area. I spread lots of parsley seeds so the parsley plot can expand even as the raspberries try to take over. Last, but never least, some of the bulbs for walking onions were trying to sprout in the tray where they were stored. I dug two shallow trenches and tossed the bulbs in. If they don’t come up this season, they’re likely to bloom next spring.

And that’s the current status of the Backyard Garden, folks.

 

In Season: Zucchini Bread with Cherries!

This may become my go-to recipe for zucchini bread. I made a few minor changes (I hear you laughing, you who know me well), but the basic recipe is from the Essential New York Times Cookbook. I do have a beef with the way it’s indexed. This wasn’t listed under zucchini; I found it in the Q section for Quick Breads, and then under S for the name of the pastry chef who created the recipe itself. That’s a little bit like the way I saved so many recipes under E for Easy-to-make or D for Delicious.

But anyway, here’s my version. When cherries are no longer available at the farm markets, but zucchini is still prolific, I’ll probably make this with chocolate chips. Mmm.

Zucchini Bread with add-ins (cherries this time)

2 cups grated zucchini

1 1/2 cups sugar

3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted

3 large eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 cups whole wheat pastry flour (or all-purpose flour)

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3/4 cup chopped walnuts

1 cup fresh cherries, pitted and chopped

Combine sugar and butter in large mixing bowl. Beat together, adding eggs one at a time. Mix in vanilla.

In a medium bowl, sift flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Add this mixture gradually to the liquid mixture, alternating with grated zucchini. Fold in walnuts and cherries or other add-ins.

Bake in loaf pan or three small loaf pans for 50-60 minutes. Remove from pan and cool on wire rack before slicing.

Insanity? Frustration? Or both?

Einstein is often credited with the quote, but verification in the form of evidence is slim.

Whether he said it first or not, it’s a good point. Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results isn’t logical.

If the progressive leaders keep relying on outdated methods such as phone banks, we’re unlikely to regain the White House. Even the midterm elections in the Senate and House will be weaker if phone banking is the main tactic.

My point is this: keep training focused on messaging. Phone calls are not the most efficient way to reach voters any more, so we progressives need to find other ways to get our statements heard. With the training focused on spreading our message concisely and clearly, we can then move on to finding ways to get that message heard.

That said, I think I’ll make sure my caller ID is working. I might even reset the voice mail to kick in after two or three rings instead of its current five.

The Saga of the Soaked Seeds

in which Daisy decides she has nothing to lose and gets reckless in her planting

It was a wonderful night in June – good weather, nice breeze, rain in the forecast. The rain barrels were ready, and most of the garden was planted. I’d been filling in a few spots here and there, just to see how the combinations would work. Carrots, turnips, parsnips alongside the tomatoes; a few more peas near the flowers; beans galore. The sun was going down as Amigo and I went inside.

It was a good night for sleeping. Cool, a steady rain, nice breezes. I woke up refreshed and ready to check on my garden plots and pallet experiment. But when I looked outside, I saw something ominous on the picnic table: my basket of seed packets, soaked through. AAAAAUGH!!!

My first reaction was to try to fix it. Dry them out! Use the oven on super-low setting! Try the grow lights! Dry the seeds before they germinate all at once! Well, they dried, but I’m still not sure they’re viable.

Since some of my seed packets were more than a year or two old, I decided that this will be the year I throw them all away in the fall. I’ll start fresh with new seeds and no more hoarding. Well, maybe no more hoarding. Seeds don’t take up much space. In the meantime, I’ll play around with what’s left. There’s nothing to lose, after all. There are large sections of my garden that are only growing weeds, anyway. I might as well toss a few seeds here and a few more there.

So, readers, I’ll share the results with you soon. So far, parsnips are going nowhere, dill is hibernating (and the dill seeds didn’t get soaked with the rest, either). Lettuce looks promising, if the chipmunk will stay out of the way.

Predictions, anyone? Will the damaged seed stock be any good? What kind of results do you expect?

Skillet Green Beans

It’s transition time at the Farm Markets in my region – the transition between pea season and green bean season. I suppose I should include yellow beans and purple beans, too, but mainly I buy the green. This recipe turned up in my employer’s wellness newsletter. I wonder if it would work for the purple, without losing the color?

Simple Skillet Green Beans

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flake, or to taste

1.5 pounds green beans, trimmed

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

2 tablespoons water

Directions:

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add red pepper flakes and stir to coat the pepper in the oil. Add green beans and cook, stirring often until the beans are blistering and browning in areas, 5-7 minutes. Add garlic and salt and cook, stirring constantly until the garlic is fragrant and browning, about 30 seconds. Add water and immediately cover. Cook covered until the beans are right green and crisp tender, 1-2 minutes. Serve immediately.

With fresh green beans from the market, this sounds awesome. Readers, how about those yellow and purple beans? Any opinions?

Education: valuable or dangerous?

I went to the post office one day to mail a book. The clerk was one who knew me as a regular, often mailing my Paperback Swap books on to another reader. As he went through the standard script and asked, “Does the package contain anything potentially hazardous?” I replied flippantly, “No, independent thought is still legal.”

He laughed, thank goodness. I can just see the post service suddenly searching my mail because of my slightly sarcastic sense of humor. Oops.

There have been a few changes since that day.

  • This guy, one of my favorite clerks, has since retired.
  • There’s a new majority on Capital Hill.
  • A recent poll indicates that the new majority, the Republican side, doesn’t value education in general. Worse: the Republican caucus thinks higher education is a waste of time and even bad for the U.S. (See the Pew Study results here)

Independent thought may still be legal, but learning and thinking are less and less valuable to our government. In fact, the impression I get is that the current folks in charge want to keep the populace ignorant, malleable, and easy to control.

This is scary, people. Very scary. Dare I suggest – keep reading, keep learning, and keep connecting with your legislators. Remind them that they work for all of us, not just those who voted them into office. Call, email, send postcards, attend town hall meetings. If you dare, participate in rallies and protests.

Independent thought is still legal. Let’s keep it that way.

 

The Expansion Explosion

We were only gone overnight – just a short visit to La Petite. We came home to find this.

I’m a public school teacher, so my first instinct was to look for evidence of vandalism. Rocks? Any windows broken? Nope, nothing. This online gig, with my students scattered all over the state, keeps me safer than teaching in the neighborhood school, if nothing else.

I sent a picture to La Petite. She suggested a poltergeist holding a Fourth of July party while we were gone.

We asked our neighbor about weather. Any hail? High winds? Nope. However, the neighbor had been working on the far side of his house during the hottest part of the day when he heard an explosion. He circled his house and found nothing – nothing, that is, except more neighbors asking, “What the heck was that?”

To jump straight to the conclusion, the glass tabletop had expanded one time too many. It withstood many winters and summers, cold and hot and in between, and it just couldn’t take one more overheated day.

A friend confirmed the possibility. She’d worked for a glass company for many years and she actually had the same experience with an “exploding” tempered glass tabletop. Like us, she expects to find stray shards of glass under her deck for a long, long time.

Frankly, I almost prefer the poltergeist theory. Peeves, what it you?

 

Shoes and Rabbits – Some things never change

Here’s an old post from one of many college dorm moves. We were grateful to own a reasonably big minivan for these occasions.

The pile begins.

The pile grows…

…and grows.

Can I bring my rabbit?

Sorry, no more room. It’s either the rabbit or your shoes.

(Just kidding! The rabbit stayed home.)

Now, back to the present day. La Petite lives in an apartment with rabbits AND shoes.

Shoes! Slippers! Boots!

She still manages to keep them in a relatively small space. There’s still room for the rabbits.