Sunday, July 27, 2008


Today is Em's last day at the race track until the fall season. I'm making dinner of Tbone steaks, baked potatoes and frozen veggies. In some sense it's celebratory, yet in another sense it's maudlin. Put the spuds in the solar oven because it's 107F outside today. The pics look like potatoes EVERYWHERE, as the reflectors do their job.



Saturday, July 26, 2008

More Cooking Experiments.

Lately I've been doing some "Spring" cleaning, not "kill yourself doing it" cleaning, but fitting in something each day ... maybe reorganize/reinventory a cabinet, wash windows, blinds, carpets, etc. Today I didn't feel like fitting in a cleaning job so baked cookies and made yogurt instead.

Have had instructions published by Mary Hunt in Everyday Cheapskate saved to an Email "cooking" folder for quite a while now. It's a cookie recipe which uses boxed cake mix. For a long time (it seemed), we could buy cake mixes on sale using manufacturer coupons for maybe $.25, so we have quite an array of flavors/types in the baking cabinet. Because we're such a small family and I don't want us to go overboard on sweets, I measured half the box cake (enough for 1 dozen cookies) and saved the rest for another time. Half of Mary's "recipe" called for 1 egg and 1/6cup oil to be mixed with the cake powder and 3 oz of something like chocolate chips, nuts, etc. I chose Devil's Food for the mix and walnuts for the something.

Brought the solar oven inside to clean it of a spill made when the too-heavy glass casserole dish chosen for the BBQ chicken flipped off the "swing", shined it up and put it in the backyard this time on the patio table. The sun was pretty high in the sky and the oven quickly got to 350F. I have an almost unnoticeable little blister on my thumb because the glass pie plate I chose for a pan was (again) heavy enough to cause the swing to tip and I wasn't yet wearing my asbestos. The temp went to 325F after opening the door, tipping the plate, etc., so I modified Mary's 9-10 minutes at 350 to 15-17 at 325. I made two batches of 6, using a metal pie plate for the 2nd batch.



Em loves cookies, so I had one before he got home from work.

Finally tried another attempt at yogurt making also. We like our yogurt firm (custard-style) and my first attempt never gelled AT ALL. This time, I shotgunned it, using EVERY tip I've found online for firm yogurt: Boil it first, Add 1T of cornstarch in boil step, Add 1T of gelatin in boil step (for flavor and gelling attributes), Add 5T of nonfat dry milk after milk reaches room temperature (when you add the yogurt starter), Cook for 24 hours. So, I'll try some Monday morning.


Can't say I understand how I can measure 7 jars of milk and include 6oz of yogurt starter, dry milk, etc. and end up with only 6 full jars of yogurt, but I only got 6 jars the first time, as well. ???

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Experiments in Solar Cooking.

Despite my declaration that I wouldn't be trying this, I bought a Sun Solar Oven this past month. My garden was super-sucking because it's been too damn hot to do anything in it and I decided that the sun should be put to use. So, I bought the thing and, after it arrived, EVERY day was cloudy... until yesterday.


Billed as "partly cloudy", I saw few clouds in the morning so took the pot full of brown rice and frozen mixed vegetables that I'd put together about a week ago and had to keep in the frig until a sunny day and figured out how to get the process going. It took 2 hours to get the rice and veggies cooked. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I thought, "Why not try baking bread? It's why I wanted the thing, afterall." So, I whipped up a half wheat/half white loaf recipe I'd enjoyed for making buns. Let the solar oven pretty much do the second rise, so left the bread in the oven about 2.5 hours. Wasn't sure if it's done all the way through, but it LOOKED like bread. Still thinking positively, I decided to bake the night's chicken. It was pretty late in the day already (almost 4pm), but there was still sun!

EVERYTHING turned out pretty good. The bread was perfect, as was the rice & vegetable mix. The chicken was done faster than I'd expected.


I mixed the chicken in with the rice & vegetables and put it out again to heat up. That dried out the chicken a bit, but it was still good for a first-time experiment.


Sunday, July 20, 2008

Energy Independence Within 10 Years.

Al Gore's "challenge"

Also interesting: T. Boone Pickens' Plan, which gets discussed pretty regularly here lately on Texas television.

It's as exciting (to ME) to think about people getting involved in the environment as it is exciting (to ME) to think about people getting involved in politics again.

Since it's a nobrainer, I'll categorize it using #3's "brain" category.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Honeybees and Squash in DownTown Detroit: The Return of Mother Nature

Today in downtown Detroit, on land reclaimed by the city, local inhabitants are growing grapes, asparagus, currants, and gooseberries. And they’re raising honeybees in an attempt to create the first twenty-first century green sustainable city in America.

How cool is that? Who Knew?

In other coolness, my dental checkup revealed ... ZERO cavities!!!

Sunday, July 06, 2008

2008 Gardening, etc.

Purchased a few tomato plants and one pepper (jalapeno) from Home Depot this year and good thing I did, because all the tomatoes and peppers (save one which I forgot to photo in its dwarfedness) died. The weather got way too hot here way too soon, so the tomatoes and peppers were planted in pots on the patio because I still hadn't had the deep rain I'd needed to carve out a bed in the lawn, and it's my intention to carve out a number of beds from the lawn this year, keeping the bed along the fenceline mostly for herbs and more permanent things.


After carving out the rectangle (which turned out to be 5.5' x 10'), I lined the sides and bottom with wet newsprint.



I then took the bag of dried weeds shown on the patio with the tomatoes, along with everything on the two piles I'd made in the back of garden refuse, kitchen waste, etc., along with the humps of now dried up sod/soil, along with clippings from the lawn and dumped it all into the lined hole.


Killed a little grass letting the dug clumps lay in the sun for a week or two on it, but my goal was not to save the grass, but begin the Food Not Lawns transition period in time to engage in the discussion this month at Crunchy Chicken's Bookclub. My goal wasn't even to start a garden, now that I think about it. Summer is not the best time to garden here in North Texas. I guess my goal was to see how hodgepodge I could throw this thing together working with the stuff I have and a timetable of my choosing.

I still haven't planted anything in the carved out garden and probably won't for a few more weeks. I'm gonna let the sun bake the living daylights out of the stuff that's in there for a while, toss more stuff on it, soak a newspaper "icing" for it and THEN plant stuff in it.
New, as well, this year is a first sweet potato bed. It's a circle that we AGAIN cut out of the lawn in the back and holds the FIRST of what we hope to be many circular sweet potato beds. Sweet potatoes LOVE heat and we have a LOT of heat here.
Made that bed about 12" deep instead of the 6 of the more "general" garden area, but both go another 6 UPWARD. The sweet potato bed is actually a HILL about 4' wide in each direction to accommodate the sweet potato vines (which are edible, BTW).

In other news, #1 and I went to Thrifttown for their July 4 50% off clothing sale on Friday while Em worked the weekend from hell at the Racetrack. She got some nice things while I played dressing-room "helper".

Been looking into another video game since I won my current game. It's nice and (sometimes) fun to go back under other user names to play the current game, but I miss the struggle of figuring out how the game works, and for an old girl it's THAT stuff that grows the new gray matter, NOT the frustration of breaking through the chains once you know how.

My northern California cousin and her husband will be breakfasting with us here this month on their way through town. We're really excited about seeing them again.

It was time to take out the garbage. Good Riddance to Bad Garbage.