Thursday, December 18, 2014

Looking for the Spirit of Christmas

Decoration on one of the holiday trees at The Paine, in Oshkosh
I confess.

I have not put up a Christmas tree for a number of years, now.  I have several boxes of beautiful real glass ornaments many dating from the early 1950s.  Even those from the 1980s could be considered vintage at this point.  I stopped collecting when so many ornaments available started being made of shiny plastic.  I even have a string of glass beads, probably from the late 1890s.  They stay in their boxes, safe, each year.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Avocados: So Misunderstood!

Avocado on a bed of spinach
All right, all right, all right... (my best Matthew McConnaughey impersonation)...

Avocados are not a local food.  As they are not a local food, people here in central Wisconsin associate avocados only with guacamole, football, Green Bay Packers, and Superbowl games. (Did you notice that natural progression there Wisconsinites?)

Thing is, football season is the natural season when avocados start to ripen and come on the market.  Economics dictates that when there are the most avocados available the price will go down, so they sneak into my market basket when the price hits $.49 each here.  I am sure this barely covers shipping 1,800 miles from wherever in California they come from.

At $.49, though, I will eat them.

Thing with avocados, like apples and bananas, once you slice them they turn brown and are less than appetizing that way.  They turn brown for the same reason, ethylene gas.  This is why you should not store your apples, bananas, and avocados with other fruits (and no where near any bulbs and seeds you are attempting to cold stratify as it prevents the growth of the flowering parts).

You can use this mechanism to your advantage.  Notice the avocado in the picture?  It is chopped from a avocado I first sliced in half TWO DAYS AGO AND DID NOT REFRIGERATE.

All right, all right, all right...this is starting to sound like an infomercial.

A trick I learned from Beautiful Sister-In-Law who learned it from her Guatemalan sister-in-law; slice it in half, chop out what you need keeping the half shell skin in tact.  Think of the avocado as two halves of a clam shell and close it back up when you slice out what you need.  Cram both halves back into a wide-mouth pint Ball or Mason jar and do not refrigerate (ever).

A corollary to this  process it leave those bananas in the plastic, if you are lucky enough to purchase them wrapped, or place them in a plastic bag to prevent them from turning brown quite so fast.

An added note is wash your avocados when you get them home from the market.  Slicing a knife through the skin transfers germs and bacteria from the outside to the inside.  Think all sorts of food-borne illnesses here.  Do you ever buy an avocado without feeling it?

While you are at it wash that citrus and cantaloupe when you get it home for the same reasons!  Personally, I have found it seems to double the shelf life.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Short Days

We are winding down into that bottom of the gardening year I always think of a s The Short Days.  The sun seems to be on vacation and the sky seems to vary not so much between night and day as night and gray. Sometimes it takes on a more white gray look.  On other days a soft lavender blue gray.  Gray, however, is the prevailing color of the days.

I clean my house, paint trim and woodwork, maybe repaint a whole room, if I am so inclined.  I mend.  I think I am the last person who still mends clothing and reattached buttons.  I clean up after the messy plants I brought indoors.  I wait.  I wait for Spring.
An echeveria which broke off and inadvertently was stuck in the pot with the "Christmas" cactus, now blooming.

You've  gotta give up to geraniums with leaves like this!

I couldn't abandon this 4' cordyline to the winter weather, but he can't stay there..

This "Blackie" cutting might be happy in this coffee cup until spring.  

The other day I was standing in my entryway thinking I need a big, decorative sign.  One of those signs with "XX Days 'til Spring", with a changeable placard holder.  Should it have a two digit place holder, or three; a nasty thought certainly!

This year I vowed to not bring in quite so many plants to winter over and be more selective instead.  Still, I have quite a few, as you can see.  There are many more upstairs watching for the sun through the southern facing windows.

We all watch for it.  Winter seems to have come a month early this year.

When we are not making comfort food...
Impromptu Quiche

Stir fry:

1 cup of frozen peppers and onions mix
1 can of mushroom stems and pieces
12 frozen and chopped grape tomatoes (optional, and other chopped tomatoes can be substituted)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Use either an 8" glass pie pan or the Pyrex 6" by 8" glass baking dish.  Spray with non-stick cooking spray.

Place a layer of bread crumb about 1/8" thick on bottom of baking dish.  Add the stir fry mix.  Optionally add one chopped precooked sausage patty or two table spoons bacon bits.

Combine 6 eggs and 1/2 cup of milk in a separate bowl.  Mix well.  Add 1/2 cup shredded cheese of your choice.

Pour egg mixture into baking dish.  Season with 1 teaspoon of dried basil and black pepper to taste.

Bake for 30 minutes.  Serves four.  I estimate about 475 calories per serving.