September – Musings

September – Musings

I found this in my draft folder, meant to send it out last month. So, here it is a little late.

Food posts are coming, not to worry, I haven’t changed the format of this blog. Rather I thought you might enjoy a change. We’ve had a few days of warm weather, in the 80’s F, unusual for this late in September. But this heat does not feel like summer heat. Cool is there as an undertone, very subtle, almost at the edge of consciousness.

I wrote this several years ago after walking my dog through a long alleyway between the houses in our Oakland neighborhood. Plot B is an unofficial off-leash dog path, a bower of trees about 4 blocks long. Dogs love it because there are squirrels to chase, fallen trees to jump over, and usually another dog to greet at some point along the trail. Unless you live in the neighborhood, plot B is a secret. To find it you must walk a narrow path between houses. Originally called plot B, for the past few years it has been called Oak Park. I still call it plot B, and that is how my dog knows it.

Plot B

Summer

Late afternoon

Sunlight slanting through dusty air

 

Tall trees on either side

Oak, bay, redwood, plum and fig

Climbing roses

Their branches meet above the trail

A green tunnel

And secret path

 

Birds call

Announcing riches

Of ripe blackberries in sunlit patches

Fallen plums

Wealth of weeds

Forgotten place

 

I miss your hand in mine

Together quiet observers

In this hidden wild place

Watching summer end

And fall begin

 

When I wrote it I was thinking about walking our old dog with my child, now grown. It was one of our favorite places to go in the late afternoon.

Please be kind, a poet I am not.

Happy change of seasons, no matter what your hemisphere.

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Through the gate at the back of the property

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My current equivalent to Plot B

 

 

October – Black Bean Chili in the Electric Pressure Cooker

October – Black Bean Chili in the Electric Pressure Cooker

I could have called this Instant Pot Black Bean Chili, that brand of electric pressure cooker has taken the internet and Pinterest by storm. But my electric pressure cooker is not an Instant Pot, although it works exactly like one. I got it before the craze hit, and it sat in the garage for several years, sadly unused. I was still terrified by the memories of my mothers old pressure cooker sizzling on top of the stove. I was afraid it was going to blow up at any moment, as children she gave us so many warnings to stay away from it. That fear has dissipated, modern electric pots are much safer. But I pull it out mainly for soups and stews, cold weather foods. During the summer it goes back into storage. I just can’t get behind all the Instant Pot recipes on Pinterest that don’t actually save you any time. I’d rather cook things on the stove, grill, or in the oven. There are additional flavors added with those methods. Why go through the trouble of pulling it out of the cupboard and having it take up space on your countertop? Just my rant.

But, beans are a different story and this recipe is a definite time saver. Why? Because you cook the dried black beans from scratch along with the chili. That’s right, no soaking. The whole thing, start to finish, takes an hour. You end up with both perfectly cooked black beans and a delicious chili. Now that is time saving! Even better, it is vegetarian, vegan, gluten free and delicious. All good, eh?

Personally I think this is a perfect meal for Halloween night.

I combined and modified two recipes into one for this dish. The first comes from A Pinch of Yum for instant pot pumpkin walnut chili and the second from Well Plated for Instant Pot Black Beans.

This recipe makes a lot, well over two quarts, so you will have plenty to share or stick in your freezer for nights you don’t want to cook. I love having that kind of meal insurance.

The Pinch of Yum recipe calls for adding 2 or 3 14-ounce cans of black beans at the end. 1 can of black beans is about 2 1/2 cups; 1 pound of dried black beans makes about 5 – 6 1/2 cups of cooked black beans. So I used 1 pound of black beans from the start, adjusting the liquid measurements. Well Plated called for 3 cups of water or broth to a pound of black beans. Using that recipe I found the beans were cooked perfectly, but a little dry to my taste. I wanted something more soupy. Adding a little extra liquid to the Pinch of Yum chili recipe adjusted for that.

There were some other modifications, I left out the bulgur wheat and the pumpkin in the Pinch of Yum recipe; mainly because I wanted something gluten free and didn’t have a can of pumpkin in the pantry (I may try that next time). Feel free to add a 14-ounce can of pumpkin puree at the end, please let me know how and if you like it. Everything is coming up pumpkin in October and November.

I did add the chopped walnuts for texture, they add a meatiness as well as extra protein to the chili. You only need to a salad for this to be a complete meal. Do use some of the recommended finishing options though.

So here goes!

Black Bean Chili

Ingredients:

  • 1 28-ounce can of chopped fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 poblamo peppers chopped
  • 1 red pepper chopped
  • 2 chipotle peppers in adobo, chopped
  • 2 cups of walnuts, chopped
  • 1 cup of red lentils
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon of dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon of chili powder, mild (or hot if that’s how you like it)
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 pound of dried black beans
  • 8 cups of water

Method: 

  1. Rinse and pick over the black beans to make sure there are no small stones, drain.
  2. Dump everything in your pressure cooker and give it a stir.
  3. Set it to cook for 35 minutes once you get to high pressure.
  4. Let it release naturally for 25 minutes.
  5. Then release the rest of the steam.

Thin it out with extra water if it seems too thick. Check for salt.

Be sure to dress up the chili and finish it with shredded cheese, avocado, lime wedges, sour cream or plain yogurt, chopped cilantro, crumbled tortilla chips. Let your imagination go wild.

That’s all!

 

Black Bean Chili

Black Bean Chili

Black Bean Chili

This week I am co-hosting Fiesta Friday on Angie’s website. My partner co-host is Deb at Pantry Portfolio. 

Come join in the fun by checking out the posts by a group of talented cooks, gardeners and crafters. And please add your own, read the instructions for posting in order to be considered for the picks of the week.

Have a wonderful weekend everyone and thank you for reading.

In My Garden – October 2018

In My Garden – October 2018

Oh dear, I think I have missed a couple of months. The garden has managed to limp along without me for September while we were traveling, a very competent gardener house-sat for us. But, since she gardens for a living, I didn’t want her to do much more than water my plants. She had quite enough to do taking care of the two dogs. So here we are, in fall. Time clean up, prune, cut things back and put the garden to bed for next spring. It’s a bit of a sad chore because many things are still blooming. But they will be all the happier for it next year. I expect the delivery of half a truckload of compost tomorrow afternoon and 10 yards of organic soil the next, everything will get a few inches of nutrition to carry them through the winter months. The organic soil is for filling my new raised beds and to amend the newly dug beds.

October is all about putting things down for the winter, getting prepared for spring, and weeding. There is always endless weeding, although I don’t mind it too much.

I am starting to dig an expansion of the garden bed in the back of the house. That bed is all about flowers and herbs. My intention is to have flowers blooming 12 months of the year. Cut flowers to make me happy in the house, and to keep the pollinators happy outside (including the hummingbirds).

Beginnings of new expanded island bed

By the end of this week I hope to have dug over to the bed on the right, with a 4 foot path between them. Since we had a little rain this past week, the ground isn’t as difficult to dig.

Updated and now finished, it took a few days. Originally I had planned a more off-center path, but the dogs like to run straight out the sliding glass door and across the meadow. So, in respect to dog paths, we have placed it more to the center. I am afraid that otherwise they will run over the middle of the plants. I once read that, if you have dogs and are planning a garden, you should first see where the ‘dog paths’ are, then plant accordingly. They were wise words if all creatures are to live happily in a garden.

Garden Islands with the Path laid out

I’ve had my exercise digging and Casey has been a help as well. She is sure there must be reason I am doing all that digging…something down there…maybe a gopher if she digs deep enough!

Both Anna’s

Annas Hummingbird Photo from UC Davis

and Allen’s

Allen’s Hummingbird female, at UC Santa Cruz Arboretum. May 2008. Photo from UC Davis

hummingbirds are commonly found in this area. But only the Anna hummingbirds are known to stick around during the winter. Unfortunately all of the hummers I’ve seen in my garden are the Allen’s, which migrate. The Allen’s start to disappear about this time of year (it is a sad day when I notice they are gone) and come back in late February or early March. At least that is when I first noticed them earlier this year. Last winter there were no hummers in my garden for months, I was worried they would never come back. I would like to attract more of the Annas so we have those delightful little birds all year round. We were so busy with getting prepared for the sale of the Oakland house at end of last year that I wasn’t paying much attention to winter food sources. This year is different. I am hopeful with a year-round food source there will be more birds.

Salvia Amistad

Among the plants that they like, the salvias and sages are still blooming; also nicotiana, abutilon, and cuphea (although the hummingbirds don’t seem to have discovered the cuphea yet). The salvias should bloom through the winter. I planted 6 large ones and they bloom almost all year, 3 more plants are ordered for the expanded bed. I won’t cut any of them back until spring. The new plantings this month include 2 pineapple sages in large containers. The hummingbirds have already discovered the red tubular flowers, although the plants are still small.

I had swarms of native bumblebees in the garden this spring and summer but their numbers have now dramatically decreased, the weather has been cooler and they may have retreated to their dens. I am seeing a predominance of European bees.

The idea is that by keeping a wide variety of plants I will attract more pollinators to the garden, that’s my goal. So much of our agriculture is based on a mono-culture, not good overall for nature. In my own garden I am less concerned about a color or “pulled together” scheme, and more focused on a large variety of plants.

The dahlias are beautiful although they seem to acquired a dusting of powdery mildew in my absence. It has been a very foggy summer (thankfully because of all the fires) but that has taken a toll on the plants and I wasn’t here to spray with anything to help them. I think it is too late now, I will be cutting them back as soon as the foliage dies. I was able to cut a large bouquet for the kitchen counter from the ones that are still blooming.

Dahlias

The yarrow is prolific, the white one was part of a package mixed wildflower seeds and seems to really like it in the garden.

Yarrow

That is Lucy, our cat, enjoying the sun in the middle of the bed.

There is still quite a bit of color…dahlias, yarrow, black-eyed Susan’s (from that same wildflower mix), white and purple toadflax, snapdragons are on their second flowering (with our mild winters they are considered short-lived perennials), and rudbeckia.

Mixed Island Plantings

I am in love with the Verbena bonariensis, it floats above the other plantings. The sparrows love its seeds and perch on the long stalks as they wave in any breeze. It is so open and airy that it doesn’t block other plants.

Verbena bonariensis

The tomatoes are mostly finished, they haven’t done very well with our foggy summer. Maybe next year I will have a small greenhouse.

Tomato plants in a half wine barrel

Sad looking aren’t they?

Anyway, that’s my quick catch up. The compost and soil have been delivered so next month I will include an update on plantings and the raised beds. Seeds have been ordered for a winter vegetable garden.

Mom, I’ll just keep the dirt from blowing away. Casey on the job.

 

 

In My Kitchen – October 2018

In My Kitchen – October 2018

It is sooo… good to be back in my kitchen! My traveling (we had such wonderful adventures) is over for a few months. I will tell you about it in another post, but it has been a whirlwind of a summer. In June we were in Tennessee visiting family, July on a cruise to Alaska, September hiking in Italy, and then immediately off to the Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Oregon. It’s why you haven’t heard from me in a while, and why I have been out of my kitchen. But now I am back, in both the kitchen and garden.

October is my absolute favorite month of the year. Fall is definitely here, the air is full of a cool crispness, time to break out the sweaters and boots. Thankfully the heritage tomatoes are still in the stores for my last-minute cravings of Greek and caprese salads. Or a simple meal of perfectly ripe tomatoes, thickly sliced, on crisp grilled country style bread…maybe a little flaked sea salt and a drizzle of good olive oil. Heaven!

So being said, the first thing in my kitchen is a variety of wonderful fresh tomatoes, a few from my own garden (although it is looking pretty sad right now, I will be posting some pictures). The rest from elsewhere.

Heirloom Tomatoes from Ashland and my garden

Ashland is significantly warmer than Fort Bragg, definitely a tomato growing region. I couldn’t turn down gifts from my friend’s garden and the local store before driving back home this past Sunday.

Not looking sad at all are the dahlia plants in my garden. As soon as I arrived home I picked  enough for a large bouquet on the kitchen counter. Having fresh flowers in the house brings me into my happy place. I have tried to plant in my garden so I will have some flowers and/or greenery year round. It keeps me and the pollinators happy. More about that in another post about the garden in October.

Dahlias

Dinner Plate Dahlia

The blooms are huge, dahlias really thrive here on the coast.

In my kitchen I have 4 new pottery bowls from Tagliaferro Ceramics. They sell gorgeous rustic serving and other dinner ware items. These are seconds, they were handmade and came from a shop in Ashland. I love the mismatched natural shapes, light grey color and interesting glazing. I think they will add that certain something to photos and will be perfect for fall soups and stews.

See what I mean?

Chili anyone?

With the cooler weather I pulled out my electric pressure cooker, not an Instant Pot but very close. Now in my kitchen I have a big batch of vegetarian black bean chili…made without pre-soaking the beans. Yes you can do that with the electric pressure cooker. Delicious, perfectly cooked black beans in about an hour! I will post the recipe.

Also new in my kitchen is this lovely kitchen plank.

Do you see the face? It is made from antique California Chestnut Oak by Meadowlark Woods in Talent, Oregon (outside Ashland). Here is a link to their etsy page and their Facebook page. The plank is quite large and perfect for serving cheese, bread, and charcuterie. I fell in love with similar ones while we were in Italy. They were on all the buffets covered with delicious food.

Both of these items were found in a little store in Ashland called Nest. If you are ever up there I recommend paying them a visit.

In my kitchen I have a new mandolin. This is a plastic one made in Japan, very inexpensive. I had an expensive stainless steel one that never worked well (except to slice my finger), it was donated when we were cleaning out the house in Oakland. Then I realized that certain dishes really require thin and even slices. My knife skills are not quite up to snuff. I got this one on Amazon.

Mandolin

And lastly in my kitchen I have a new cookbook, appropriately titled In My Kitchen by Deborah Madison. I use her vegetarian cookbooks all the time (since I was first introduced to her cooking at the San Francisco restaurant Greens). It was one of the first all vegetarian restaurants in the Bay Area. I recommend going there if you get to San Francisco, it is right on the marina and a lovely place to walk.

In My Kitchen by Deborah Madison

This one is a collection of her new and favorite vegetarian recipes. None of them seem very complicated and they are all colorful and fresh, not overly carbohydrate heavy.

This post is part of a monthly round-up of kitchen stories from around the world. It is hosted by Sherry of Sherrys Pickings. I haven’t been around since June and am very happy to be back and part of the group. Take a peak and see what going on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

August – Salad Soup

August – Salad Soup

This hot, muggy, humid, uncomfortable month in parts of the U.S. has birthed a number of recipes for Greek salad. All of them are delicious and cooling, taking advantage of perfect seasonal tomatoes and cucumbers. This soup is a version of gazpacho, but very similar to a Greek salad. It uses many of the same ingredients and is a light, cold lunch on a hot day. Even better, it is easy…very easy. And, you can modify the recipe to use what you have on hand.

I call this recipe Greek or Mexican (you decide) salad in a soupy bowl of goodness, but without the dressing (only a drizzle of olive oil at the end, which is completely optional). It has healthy vitamins from all those vegetables, and healthy fat from the addition of avocado. You could up the protein by adding a sprinkling of feta or fresh goat cheese, or pour it over a scoop of cottage cheese. Make it spicy, or not. Got some leftover salsa in the fridge? Go for it. What about some crispy tortilla chips sprinkled on top (my husband’s favorite). It would then be a Mexican Salad Soup…you could even add a handful of corn kernels. Leftover grilled corn, you are on! And if you are adding tortilla chips a dollop of sour cream would be yummy. The options are endless.

Greek Salad Soup

This soup is even better the second day, and even better the day after that. It is my idea of a perfect lunch on a warm day. The vegetables give it a satisfying crunch and mouth appeal, the avocado is a touch of richness to fill you up. This season I keep a large bowl in the fridge to snack on or for a quick meal. Serve it instead of a salad with your dinner, it would make an appetite wetting first course with some crisp bread or flatbread.

To save time, I used V-8 juice as the base. It’s an idea my cousin in Tennessee introduced me to when we visited last June. Because I am a fan of spicy food, I added a small can of spicy V-8 to about 3 cups of regular V-8. But it is completely up to you and your own taste.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups of V-8 juice
  • 1 small can of spicy V-8 juice (optional)
  • 1 red pepper, diced into cubes about 1/4″
  • 1 green or orange pepper, diced into cubes about 1/4″
  • 1 large cucumber, peeled if necessary, diced into cubes about 1/4″
  • 1 large tomato, seeded and diced into cubes about 1/4″
  • 4-5 scallions, sliced thinly
  • 1 avocado, halved and diced
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley (for Greek Soup) or cilantro (for Mexican)
  • salt to taste (I found it didn’t need any)
  • drizzle of olive oil to serve (optional)

Avocado ready to add

Method:

  • Combine all the ingredients and chill for at least 2 hours (better overnight).

That is all, can you believe it! It couldn’t be easier.

Salad Soup

This is a light, healthy, and quick lunch.

Salad Soup

You could serve it instead of a salad, maybe as a first course for dinner. What about small cups for folks to eat while they wait for you to grill dinner outside? It’s could easily be a walk-around the garden soup.

Salad Soup

Even better, it is vegetarian and vegan and gluten free. You won’t have to worry about dietary restrictions.

I think the folks in the midwest and south, where it is sweltering at the end of summer, will enjoy this refreshing soup. I’m taking it to share on Fiesta Friday #237 hosted by Angie. This weeks co-hosts are Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook and Diann @ Of Goats and Greens

Come on over to read about the other delicious things going on around the world. Please add your own link after reading the guidelines. Hope you are enjoying the weekend.