Wednesday, July 28, 2010

curried kale chips

So here are today's finished kale chip.These are very different than the other chips. The other chips were delicate and fragile, translucent and emerald green(I used curly regular old kale). They tasted of kale only sweet and vinegary and salty. These are more akin to hippie food. The kale seems to be serving as a vehicle for the sauce dried on them.( I used dinosaur kale for this batch) The dino kale is much sturdier and does not fall apart as easily when fully dried. They have a very satisfying crunch to them and the curry flavor goes nicely with the greens flavor which is kinda masked. I question the full digestability of this batch, the chips take a lot of chewing which tells me that the cell walls are pretty intact. I'm not a raw foodist so I want my veggies to have lost some of their cell structure when I eat them. I'm not a cow. But as an alternative to high carb chips or other junk snack food these are very nice. They won't stand up to dippping, but they both provide a satisfying crunch so lacking in my low carb diet.

It's been a while since I've updated my blog. The summer is whizzin' by at amazin' speed. Spencer has returned from her trip to Canada more determined to become a Canadian than ever. It has been a summer of frugal living this year so no huge projects. From the garden I have gotten a watermelon, some basil and I see that I'll have jalapenos and eggplants in a few days. The water melon is JINORMOUS, it takes up about 3/4 of the garden. I have 4 melons that I see. My tomatoes are not looking so good so I don't know if I'll get a crop out of them.
A friend moved away and bequeathed me her dehydrator. I am having a blast with it. So far I've dehydrated that watermelon I picked too early, it was flavorful but pale and not very sweet. It turned into the most delicious watermelon candy. Dehydrating watermelon seems wrong on so many levels but it really does work. I've also made kale chips. Glorious, delicious kale chips. The first batch was with curly kale and olive oil, sherry vinegar and sea salt. NOM. I pretty much ate the entire batch. Today I am making a more ambitious recipe, curried kale chips made with much less oil and tossed with a curry flavored sauce based on sunflower seeds and tomato. A very hippie, raw food inspired thing. It smells wonderful but I am skeptical about the raw food aspect. So often Raw foodists dont' seem to see food as a pleasure and a sensual endeavor. But I can't knock them until I've tried them. So here goes. I found the recipe here: a beautifully photographed expose on her process.
The alcohol project is moving along although it has hit a few bumps in the road due to the economy. Had a great time working with my collaborator in June. Slow and steady.
So I leave you for now, dear reader. I smell some kale drying.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Earth Day 2010

Well it seemed like a good day to bushwack the back yard, what with it being Earth Day and all. Kevin did a great job clearing the forest although as you can see from the pix he seemed intent on protecting his frontal lobe rather than his eyes. The garden plot had been rounded up and the grass was actively dying so I moved compost onto the bed. 4 years of guinea pig poop does not decompose very well if you don't do anything to the pile. Down toward the bottom there was soil but it is mostly still wood chips. After I get this pile moved, I need to rethink how I compost and how I attend to it. My next project is to relocate the compost pile and get a rabbit hutch. The soil here is so poor that it needs all the amendments I can get. In that pile of compost I didn't see any worms at all.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Jalapenos & habeneros

I planted my peppers in my home made self watering planters today. And I have a batch of soap in the oven. One step at a time.

Monday, April 12, 2010

life goes on.

I found out a dear friend died yesterday. I knew he ahd been ill with cancer for several months. So it was for the best for him to go now. And I also found out that some friends 25 year relationship has just ended. With so much saddness, I was heartened to see my plants sprouting today. I came home to find the carrots tomato, chives and nasturtiums had all sprouted. I put then out on the back patio so they can get sun for thenext few days since I don't have any lights to rig up. I'm really pleased with the soda bottle planters . They have worked much better than I had imagined. To every thing there is a season turn turn turn.
Rest in peace my dear Jack. Spring is hear.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

homemade barometer

Now I can tell when a High or a Low is coming in and what that means! When the level in the tube is lower than in the bottle there is a high pressure system and nice weather is headed in. If the level in the tube is higher than the bottle then a Low is coming and a storm is headed our way. AH Science!

Self Watering bucket planters

It is taking quite a while to get rid of the Dreaded Bermuda Grass of Death in my garden plot and it's time to get tomatoes and peppers in the ground. So I needed some kind of container. But things just fry here in the blazing Texas heat during the summer and I just can't keep up with the water so I decided that SIP, Sub-irrigated planters are the way to go. I found a web site( that had directions I thought I could follow and this is the result.
2 5 gal buckets ( I had some left over Tractor Supply buckets from the chickens, I could use some leftover oil buckets as well)
1 18oz Solo plastic cup
1 4'X 1" PVC drinking water grade pipe
a jigsaw
a drill
First, drill a bunch of 1/4' holes in the bottom of hte bucket

measure the circumference of the solo cup about 3-4 inches up( I used a string to do this)
Then use the jigsaw to cut out the center hole big enough for the cup to slide into. In my case it was just slightly bigger than that round ridge in the center of the bucket.

Then cut a hole for the PVC pipe about 1/2" from the edge of the bucket. I had to make a bunch of holes with the drill and then ues the jigsaw to break the hole open and I still didn't get the end nearest the edge to come off so I just bent the plastic down. look at the above pix and you can see the circle holes I used .
Then cut 4 slits in the solo cup from about 1/2 an inch from the top to about 1/2 an inch from the bottom. Put cup in hole, put pipe in hole

Next, stick this bucket inside the other uncut bucket.

measure how far apart the bottom of each buckets are from each other. In this case they are 3.5 inches apart when inside each other. Drill a hole just below this line in the outer bucket for an overflow hole and there you have a planter ready for potting mix. The mix goes down into the cup and it acts as a wick to pull water up from the bottom bucket. Total cost 5.00/planter ( I had a bunch of Solo cups in the pantry.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

house plants in soda bottles

Here are 2 new house plants I planted in soda bottle planters. A pepperomia and a Maiden hair fern. Both need high light and like to be evenly moist so I think they will be well suited to self watering planters.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

soda bottle gardens

I've been really wanting to plant some food but my garden plot is a daunting weed filled mess right now and it is time to get planting. I found plans for 2 liter soda bottle planters on the web and I decided to give it a go. I don't drink much soda but I found soda on sale at the store for 1.00 a bottle so I bought some and just poured it out. Next time I think I'll just see if some of my friends have any leftover bottles. I hated the waste but still, a buck per bottle seemed cheap enough. I bought some polyester batting from Jo-Ann's fabrics, Pellon Thermolam Plus for 3 bucks a yard. I use a 1X5 inch strip so this will last for ever. I put the cut line on the bottle using a sharpie sitting on top of a cocontu milk can. I'd guess standard soup cans would work as well. I poked holes in the shoulder of the bottle by heating up a nail held with a pair of plyers over the stove. Then I just cut the bottle, put the strip in and pushed it down so it poked out of the neck a little bit using a chopstick. Then I added some potting mix, poked that done into the neck and put the whole thing together. The pictures above show the steps I took and the results, a strawberry plant and seeds for nasturtiums and arugula.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Milk Crate Farms

It's been too many years since I've grown a garden. My penchant for urban self sufficiency has slipped in the past few years as I try to get a teaching job. But I've been bitten this season. Out of necessity for food security or out of the desire to get my hands dirty and have green things growing that I like, I have decided that I'll have a garden this year. After the demise of the chickens, I got into a funk and really let the yard go. Those birds were amazing at keeping the plot clean and loose. And their poop made it super fertile. Just the thing for the invading masses of Bermuda grass, the demon plant form Hell. It overran everything in just a few weeks,leaving me with a garden that looked more like some derelect kudzu covered southern plantation than anything else. After going back and forth on the problem, I've decided that the Dreaded ROund-Up is the only way to tackle this malevolent presence. The roots go down about 12"and are held fast by the hard clay soil here in Dallas. I can't pull it out. I tried cutting the sod with a square shovel but that was pointless. Bermuda does not solarize well and besides that will take an entire year to attempt, with most folks saying my folly will end in failure. So as much as I don't want to use chemicals, Round-Up it is. I have to wait until the grass is more actively growing to use RU, so in the mean time I'm re=opening Milk Crate Farms. It's a good thing I don't throw anything away. These crates are from my college days and the landscape cloth is recycled from a previous gardening project. 1/4 bag of pea gravel and 1 50# bag of potting mix later and I have 3 lovely planters just waiting for some vegetive goodness.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Infused alcohol projects

These are my latest experiments. In the jar is coconut vodka, the bottle next to it is coconut rum. Then there are drinks I have made from the vodkas I have made. Dill, Strawberry Basil, Honeycrisp Apple and a Pina Colada, each of which clocks in at 2g carb or lower. They are all delicious.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Dill infused "vodka"

This infused for just 2 days. It is luscious. Sharp and dilly, green and spicy with a vegetal finish. It tastes crunchy and cool. I really like this one.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

the Experiment Table

this is all my infusion project so far. And with all of this, my favorite is still a Jalapeno margarita.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Infused vodka tasting results

Well last night I had a friend over for a tasting of my hooch. SHe & her DH came over and we tasted almost all of the things I've created so far. I have:
coffee liqueur
almond liqueur
cocoa liqueur
pineapple vodka
vanilla vodka
jalapeno lime tequila
cranberry vodka
pomegranite vodka
black pepper vodka
ti kwan yin tea vodka
basil vodka
cucumber vodka
fennel vodka
ginger root vodka

The most popular one was the cocoa one. it did not even need any sweetener, it is chocolaty and bitter and rich tasting. I've never tasted creme de cacao but my friend said it was better

The surprise of the evening was the grapefruitcello. It was made with Texas red grapefruit peels and has the most complex, intense flavor and I didn't sweeten this one either. The flavors keep changing as you swallow, going from bitter to fruity to sweet and back to bitter. It makes you think as you drink and was totally fun to ride the wave of flavor.

The pineapple was strange, it smelled totally of ripe pineapple but it had little flavor. a tich of sweetener brought up the flavor a bit but still this vodka was a bit lackluster
As was the pomegranite. I think that this one needs to infuse with more fruit than I used. I'm going to try it again by adding more pomegranite to the batch I have now and see what happens. The color is beautiful, however.

The Ti Kwan Yin was the most intreuging of the evening. It was spicy and peppery while tasting of flowers at the same time. it was not sweet at all and for those who like dry martini's , this would be an interesting variation.

It was a very fun evening, I perfected my sip, swish and spit technique so I was not flattened by the end of the evening and I feel pretty good this morning.

Sunday, January 10, 2010


a coffee made from cold brewed coffee, 1oz vanilla infused "vodka"(sweetened) and 1oz "Kahlua" makes for a smooth, luscious afternoon coffee.

Basil and Fennel

These are my latest decantations, not to be confused with incantations (tho I did mutter a few as I made them). So far I have only tasted them by drops on the tongue as they are 95% alc and really just a poison at this point. Let me say that they are GREAT and if I have to be poisoned, this is the way I want to go.
The Fennel is very fennely, with a licorice kind of flavor but also there is a vegetal taste to it that lingers after the initial hit of licorice disipates. For those who like ouzo or anisette this would be a very nice choice.
The basil is really intreguing. There are layers of flavor there that come out as it rolls on the tongue. There is a spicy flavor, a slightly minty taste, a anise type flavor and a big BASIL whallop at the end. This would take a Bloody Mary in a totally different direction of delish.
Note the difference in the green of each infusion. I hope that the color remains after I dilute them down.

Friday, January 08, 2010

infused alcohol/coffee experiment

The coffee experiment continues. I've made 2 coffee liqueurs made by 2 different methods. The first method uses liquid coffee added to everclear to dilute to 80 proof then sweetened. The second steeped cracked, whole beans in everclear then diluted with water to 80 proof and sweetened. There is a profound difference in appearance and flavor between the 2 batches.
The first batch has a very rich flavor with little or no bitterness. The color is a deep brown and although it has a bite from it's high proof, it is smooth and flavorful. I can taste all the flavors in the coffee I intitally used.
The second batch is less successful. There is a coffee aroma, but the flavor is much more bitter than the first batch. The color is a pale straw brown that I can see through. When I diluted the infusion with water it became cloudy like cafe au lait, not a color that says rich coffee flavor to me. I sweetened both batches with Sweetzfree, a sucrolose sweetener and in the second batch the bitter flavor of the sucralose is highlighted my the bitterness of the coffee infusion. Lost in the second batch is all the smoky coffee aromas and the depth of flavor that coffee has. I have yet to try this batch in a drink, it's too early in the day for experimentation, but just from the smell I can tell that a White Russian made from it will be somewhat acrid in flavor. I'm going to let this batch age and retest but I really prefer the first technique's results.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010


The stash and cucumber vodka up close and personal.

more infusions, brandy and vanilla( these are 5-7 yr old dry crunchy vanilla beans I forgot I even had. Lucky me!) cucumber, fennel, grapefruit and today I put up a coffee. I want to see the difference between using liquid coffee & everclear and beans in everclear.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

infused alcohol

Well here are more of my efforts. My coffee liquor is fantastic, the time it sat while I was on vacation really helped the flavors blend nicely. The White Russian I made with it was killer and it had no effect on my blood sugar! I'm guessing it clocks in at 2g carbs and that is very generous. My Limoncello is very nice too. At first I thought it was horrible but I had not diluted it enough. Once I got it down to about 80 proof it was smooth and lemony. I put in about half the sweetener called for as I can add more sweetener later if needed.
I found diet cranberry juice at the store so I made a LC Cosmo which I found to be meh, I don't like cosmos much with full sugar but it did taste just like a cosmo should. I think that the addition of cranberry infused vodka might give it more depth.
I am now infusing navel orange peels in Everclear, Seville orange peels in Brandy( E&J's VS), Cranberries in Everclear, and lime peels and jalapeno in tequila. I'll sweeten these when they are finished and all of them will have a carb content of about 0. Then the fun begins, mixing them!