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The Red Hot Chili Peppers (flakes)

Hello hello! Here today with an easy tutorial on making your own chili pepper flakes or powder! It couldn’t be simpler. Well, it probably COULD be simpler, but I mean, it’s really easy.

So first, you need some dried chilies. I planted a whole bunch of different pepper seeds two springs ago, and I ended up with half a garden full of weird peppers that I had no idea what they were. I had planted some red chili seeds I saved, and from them grew a random assortment of peppers.. it was strange. But anyway, some of them were jalapenos, which we used, some we used green, an a bunch of the red chili looking ones I let sit on a plate until they dried up. You could also a)buy dried chilies, or b) dry your chilies in the oven at a super low temp for a couple hours. Or do it the lazy way, stick them in a corner and ignore them for over a year and a half, until you decide TODAY IS THE DAY! to do something with them.

Dust your chilies off with a paper towel if they’ve been sitting for a year and a half. Then cut off the tops. Because I just let mine dry naturally, I lost a couple to mold over the many months they sat, and as I cut off the tops I found a few had mold inside of them. Then decide on your preferred chopping method. I started with my handy Kitchen Aid chopper, and it didn’t quite get the bits as small as I wanted. So I dumped the (very potent smelling) crumbs into my NutriBullet with the milling blade. You can see the results below.

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So, as you can see, the milling blade made it ALMOST into chili powder! In fact, had I seeded it, that’s what it would be. Hubbins pointed out that I could have used a morar and pestle, which would have been very traditional I suppose and felt super earthy and totally self-sufficient (I mean, what’s more back-to-basics than using a rock to bash up your home grown peppers?!), but I have had this project on the back burner for waaay too long now, so I did it the fast way. Also he suggested it after I was done. Anyway, I’m pretty happy with how it turned out, here’s a side-by-side comparison of store bought and home made pepper flakes!

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You can see that mine is much more powdery, but it has a lovely intense pepper smell and I’m happy with it! I still have tons of pepper seeds saved so I think I’ll try to get a bunch going again this year and maybe sometime in the winter of 2019 I’ll be making more! Also, clean baby food jars make super-cute little spice jars!

Oh. By the way. Probably a good idea to wash your hands after you cut the peppers and not just go fiddle with the computer and then absentmindedly touch your face and mouth. Not from personal experience. Just sayin.

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Origami Seed Packets

A few weeks or maybe months back I wrote about saving seeds, and I think I mentioned posting a tutorial on making simple seed packets. Hubbins had discovered the pattern for them and made a couple, and he said he would make me some more. So I waited, and waited, and waited… until yesterday I decide I’d just do it myself. And good gravy, if I had realized that making them takes approximately three seconds each I would have done it weeks or months ago!!! They are really so so SO simple. All you need is some squares of paper.

I happened to find some actual origami paper on clearance for like two bucks, but had I known better I would have just used junk mail or something. Computer paper, seed catalogs, Trader Joes bags.. really anything you have on hand, just cut a square out of it. If you have a rectangle of paper the first step is to fold the square in half, so fold the edge of your rectangle over, making a triangle, and cut off the extra bit at the bottom. Or measure and cut squares to your desired size. The origami paper worked well for small seeds like peppers and green onions, but a larger, thicker paper would be better for beans or other large seeds, or just large quantities. Got your squares? Prepare for the hardest origami ever.

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Can you handle it?? Is it too hard?? I hope not, please don’t be mean to me if it IS too hard, blame my lousy tutorial and google it and you’ll find many many more photo how-tos. Here’s another pic to show how the seeds go in.

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It’s really that easy. Just three simple folds, fill, and you’re done. These little pouches store easily, are reusable and easy to open and close, and if you use recycled paper you’re sticking it to the man and saving the earth simultaneously. Go make a few right now! I’m thinking of lots of other uses, craft items maybe, or little treasure pouches for kids. Maybe fold one out of fabric and hand stitch the edges and make a little coin pouch or something. If I get around to it and remember to do it and actually try some of those ideas I’ll be sure to tell you all about it six months after I said  I would, so look out for that post sometime mid-summer next year!

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Still a little more paring down to do, but look how much neater and tidier my seed stash is!

Why Ma Ingalls was the True Hero, and a Book Review

I love the Little House books. I read them multiple times as a child, and I’ve read them at least two.. three? times as an adult, and I’m thinking about reading them again soon. The main character, of course, is spunky, lovable, impulsive Laura, growing up as a pioneer girl on the prairie. Who doesn’t love reading about when she got her beloved rag doll, or when they brought all the wood in for the blizzard, or her teaching adventures? And of course when mean ol’ Nellie gets her comeuppance, and the love story of Laura and Almanzo.

Now that I’m older, however, it seems to me that the REAL star of the show is Caroline Ingalls, known to Laura as Ma. She was a homemaking superstar! My piddly efforts at self-sufficiency pale in comparison to what she did on a daily basis, and it wasn’t any throw-back, hippie/hipstery/new-age kind of compulsion to reach back to her roots, it was just LIFE, and there wasn’t any other option! Want a new dress? Make it yourself. Want it to be clean? Scrub that sucker with your hands in a tub with soap you made yourself from a pig that your husband slaughtered. And in between the soap making you also boiled the pig’s head and cured all the meat and made sausages and planned how this food would last all winter. Don’t forget you had to keep the fire going at the right temperature to cook everything. And when you were all worn out from the day’s extra labor, you couldn’t call Dominos and throw pizza at your hungry family, you had to go make them dinner too. After washing all the disher, you would finally fall into bed, which was a bed you stuffed with straw yourself, with sheets and quilts you sewed by hand on top, in your nightgown that you also made. Wake up, and do it all again, except today maybe you’re mending all the worn out clothes, making maple syrup, polishing your silver, knitting socks, baking bread, and tending the garden, in between all your other duties. Being a pioneer momma was legit.

So, I was curious to read a Little House book from Caroline’s perspective, and I found it in the book Caroline: Little House, Revisited. It is a novel written from Caroline’s perspective, of the wagon trip and what occurred during the Little House on the Prairie years. What I was hoping to find was a more detailed account of just how much work went into her everyday life. Instead, it’s kind of an emotional journey through her mind. I must say, I didn’t really like it. It seemed to me that from the authors perspective, Caroline was angry and irritated, like, all the time. Grumpy and jealous when Charles gets to go roam around in the rain, and then slightly haughty when he gets cold, wet, and disappointed. But then she spends all this time with internal struggles of being mad vs. not feeling entitled to be mad.. and there’s a lot of things like feelings of anger.. in her elbows? Or something like that. And a lot of breathing in and bitter thoughts and like a whole chapter of them stuck in the mud for a week. Basically, it’s kinda boring. And it paints her as  a reserved, strict, serious, mostly no-fun sort of Ma. There were a few insightful things, like that she had to wear a corset ALL. THE. TIME. She even had maternity corsets and nursing corsets. She took them off to sleep, but miles and miles riding in a wagon in a steel-boned corset sounds awful. It emphasizes her tidy and strong sewing skills, her love for her children, and it does show some of her housekeeping skills, with a gruesome bit about tanning hides with some brain mush goo that grossed me out pretty bad.

But I like the version of Ma that the Little House books tell better. She was busy and industrious, and taught her girls to be the same. Sure, she was more serious than Pa, making sure everyone was polite and proper, even when they were in the middle of nowhere. She made sure her girls had an education, and she kept everyone in line. But she still made time for fun, letting them cook little cakes themselves, making paper dolls, letting them etch in the frost on the windows. She danced, she sang, and she kept a tidy house. She was strong, and helped hoist logs up to build the cabin. She fought a prairie fire. She sewed beautiful clothes, and made sure her girls were fashionable even when they didn’t have much. My image of Ma is a loving, hard-working, strong woman who was proud to be a good wife, mother, and home-maker. And that’s the kind of Ma I’d like to be. So I’m going to re-read the Little House series again, and bring back the old image of Ma I had before. And if you’d like to do the same, here’s a set of the books. I think they’re a worthy read for anyone wanting to be a better Ma. Now I should probably go sew myself a couple rags and knit lace for my second-best dress, while making bread, boiling beans, churning butter, all the while wearing a corset.

Living with Less in a More Society

Just a quick post today about self sufficiency and using less natural resources. I read that quote above either in a Little House book or another similar pioneer story book, and it stuck in my mind. I will admit, I don’t follow it well enough, but who does these days? We live in a very throw-away society. If something breaks, or a sock gets a hole, the tendency is just to throw it out, rather than repair it. I mean, who knows how to darn a sock anymore? Who paid enough for their socks to justify the time spend learning how to repair a hole? Many items today are cheaply made, and cheaply obtained, and quickly forgotten and sent to fill up the shelves at your local thrift store or fill the ground at a landfill.

I started thinking more about this quote recently, with regards to paper towels of all things. We ran out of paper towels, and I kept forgetting to buy more, for probably a month. The funny thing is, it wasn’t that inconvenient! I cleaned my counters with rags (which I already do, but sometimes I’m lazy) and my floor with rags and drained bacon grease with rags and cleaned my cast iron pans with bits of old t-shirt (in fact I think it worked better than paper towels!). I have a lot of rags. So that was no problem. Sure, it makes a little more laundry, but I have a baby and use cloth diapers, so I’m pretty much doing laundry all the time anyway, no biggie. So we were at Target, I said let’s get a couple rolls of paper towels, we haven’t been using them that much, so they’ll last.

We used up the first roll in something like 3 or 4 days. DAYS! We didn’t have paper towels for an entire month and were just fine, but when they were handy, we blew through them in a hot hurry. So it got me thinking. How much money do we waste on things for convenience, when those things are not necessities and we can do just fine without them? Just out of curiosity I just Googled how long it takes for a paper towel to decompose. 2-4 weeks. So for the next month, those paper towels that took me just three days to use up will be sitting in a landfill. A wool sock takes a year. A disposable diaper takes 550 years. A plastic bag? It says 20-1000 years!!! (Here’s the link for those numbers and more). It gets even scarier if you start looking up how much goes into MAKING all of those products. So maybe I will learn how to darn socks and fix my favorite REI wooly socks instead of just buying more right away. Maybe I’ll think twice before I waste a paper towel on a small spill that a rag can clean just as well. And maybe I’ll try a whole lot harder to remember my reusable bags at the store. Just a few small actions can save a lot of money, energy, and natural resources!

Apples and Plums and Pears, OH MY!

So here at last is the long-awaited third post about free food! Apples, plums, and pears, are three types of fruit that are often found in abundance in the fall. Last year I talked about canned pears, which are one of my favorite things to make. I also discovered a delicious recipe for Spiced Plum Jam, in my favorite canning book Food in Jars. Of course you can always just eat them out of hand too, but if you’re fortunate enough to come across a large amount of fruit, it’s fun to try out some new recipes.

Applesauce is an easy and predictable use for a load of apples, especially if you try the recipe for Spiced Applesauce (also in Food in Jars). But what else can you do with applesauce besides eat it plain? You can make a fabulous moist, gluten-free, but totally decadent Maple Applesauce Cake! Marissa McClellan has a third book called Naturally Sweet Food in Jars that has another recipe for a plain applesauce, AND the recipe for this fantastic sweet. My Hubbins loves it, and I’m going to share the recipe with you today! I use my spiced (and sweetened) applesauce, but the original calls for unsweetened. Do whatever you like!

You can make this cake in one 9×13 pan, or two 8×8 pans, or 8 or 9 inch rounds. Or a bundt pan. Or muffin tins. Go wild! It tastes good plain, or with cream cheese frosting. It also uses oat flour, which is very easy to make. Just put a couple cups of oats in a blender, food processor, or in a Nutribullet with a milling blade. Whiz it up until smooth, and you have oat flour!

To make the cake, put:

2 cups oat flour, 2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda, 1 tsp baking powder, 2 1/2 tsp cinnamon, and 1/2 tsp  each ground cloves, allspice, and salt in a bowl and sift together.

Mix 1 1/2 sticks softened unsalted butter with 3/4 cup pure maple syrup in a different bowl. Add 4 large beaten eggs and 2 cups unsweetened applesauce. Mix until well combined. Then add the dry ingredient mix in three batches until smooth. If you like add 3/4 raisins and/or 1 cup chopped nuts. I like it with raisins, never tried the nuts.

Fill your buttered pans of choice and place in an oven preheated to 350 degrees. Smaller pans bake for 30 minutes, larger ones for 45-50.

After baking let cool completely, then top with cream cheese frosting:

Mix 1 stick softened unsalted butter with one 8 ounce package softened cream cheese. Add 1 tsp vanilla extract and 1/4 to 1/2 cup confectioners sugar depending on how sweet you like it. Beat until smooth and frost that cake! With a jug of syrup in the fridge and jars of applesauce lining your shelves, you’re just a few minutes of work away from this special treat anytime of year!

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Home Made Fries, no Deep Fryer Required!

Alright y’all, I know this post was supposed to be about making stuff from free food you get, but I’ve had a busy couple of weeks and I didn’t get to that post when I was supPOST to so now it’s POSTponed. LOL those are terrible puns.

Anywho I really am postponing that bit because I had to talk about POTATOES!! If you’ve read any of my other posts you’ll know that a lot of my recipes call for potatoes. They are cheap, they are easy, and they are probably Hubbins favorite food besides meat. He’s always up for some potatoes. So when Safeway had them for 97 CENTS for ten pounds, I bought 20 pounds, of course. And now we’ve been eating so many potatoes and honestly I’m a little over it. We’ve had Potato Leek Soup, and coming soon is colcannon. We also had loaded mashed potatoes and I’m sure we’ll have baked potatoes.. and potatoes and potatoes and potatoes. Ugh.

But LAST night Hubbins made dinner and he made deelishhhus home made french fries!!! And while it may seem daunting, it’s actually a lot easier than you might think. And you probably have all the tools you need on hand! We don’t have very many fancy gadgets, and we often start a recipe only to go “oops we need a…” and are left improvising. Nothing will beat my impromptu kitchen scale for ridiculousness, however.

Here’s what you need: a heavy duty pot or dutch oven (we use one like this), some sort of way to retrieve the fries, either tongs, a fancy skimmer, or just a simple sieve like we use, bowls, paper towels or thin kitchen towels, and a candy thermometer. If you want to get fancy you can use a french fry slicer, we actually have a really old one that I found for free at a garage sale. It does make the fries uniform and quicker to produce, but a knife works just as well. That’s it! Now the fun begins. This recipe comes from the book Real Irish Food, which has a lot of traditional Irish recipes written by an Irish guy. One of the best things about Ireland was the little chippy restaurants everywhere with fresh, hot, straight-from-the-neighbors-farm chips (fries for us Muricans). So presumably fresh, local, home-grown spuds would taste even better, but cheap .97 Safeway russets work just fine too.

First, prep your taters. Peel (or don’t, we don’t) and cut into thick fry shapes. Toss them into cold water while they wait.

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ready to go in the pot!
Heat your oil. He suggests lard for the best flavor, but we use canola because it’s cheap and practical for us. Heat about 2 quarts to 330 degrees F. Do make sure your pan is deep enough that when you add the potatoes you don’t overflow, because it will bubble up. Not that I would know.

Dry your potatoes with a large towel, and then cook in a few batches for the first fry. You don’t want them to crowd. Or bubble over. Not that ours have ever bubbled over. Of course not. I’m just sayin.  Add some potatoes carefully to the oil and fry for five minutes, stirring once or twice to prevent sticking. Remove them and place in a bowl lined with paper (or regular towels when you start making fries and realize you don’t have paper towels) towels to drain. Continue with the rest of the potatoes. (I didn’t specify an amount of potatoes, make as many or as few as you like!!) You may need to wait between batches for the oil to heat back up to 330.

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second fry
Once the first fry is done, raise the temp to 375 degrees F. Put the chips back in, in slightly larger batches this time, and fry an additional 1-2 minutes until crisp and golden. Remove and drain on fresh towels, then season with salt. Then eat them, noisily and with gusto. (That bit is optional)

The end! You can also make fried fish at the same time, or chicken strips, or we even tried fried pickles once. (strange but kinda good) Really anything you can think of, you can probably fry right in your kitchen. It isn’t too difficult, and fresh fries are soooo good! Try some tonight! (I’m making spaghetti though, because I need a break from all the potatoes.)

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Get your Berries for Nothin’ and your Crisp for Free

Hullo! Last time I started talking about how to get food for FREE and what to do when you get it! This time I’ll be talking about berries.

Berries are EXPENSIVE in the store. They are fragile and short-lived and delicious. So how can you get your hands on a bushel of berries for NOTHING? Pick them yourself! Picking berries or any wild food is so rewarding. I have long been enamored with foraging, identifying and harvesting food you find in your neighborhood or in a park or on the side of the road. There’s something very freeing and satisfying about not relying on anyone else to provide food for you. I’ve always wanted to be the sort of person who could survive in the wild on my own with what I rustle up myself.

The reality of this is that I’m usually too much of a wuss to eat anything I find.

And that’s actually probably true of most people. It’s SCARY to eat a thing you find in the woods. The store labels things with bright colors and fancy fonts that say, “Eat me! I’m safe!” But a leaf growing from the ground says, “Maybe I’m safe! Maybe your tongue will swell and your skin will erupt in rashes!” Fortunately, most edible berries are very easy to find, identify, and enjoy, without fear of death.

Now I’m sure that many people don’t live where berries flourish on highway on-ramps and in every empty field, but I’m very grateful that I do. Here in Washington, my very favorite berry, the blackberry, grows and prospers just about everywhere. And I mean everywhere. On roadsides, empty lots, in parks, and pretty much anywhere you don’t want them. Towards the end of summer big, juicy clusters of purpley-black berries hang for the pickin’ anywhere you go. I refuse to buy blackberries in the store because there are SO MANY you can pick yourself with just a little effort! If you happen to live where you can pick your own blackberries, you definitely should. Just stay away from spots they might be really contaminated, like the freeway on-ramp. Parks, ball fields, and quiet roads are usually good spots.

Once you have all your delicious berries, what can you do with them? Eat them fresh and warm off the vine while picking them! But if you can restrain yourself, blackberries are excellent in pies, crisps, crumbles, and cobblers. I won’t post a recipe because I never use the same one. I probably should narrow it down to a favorite, but  I usually look one up in the moment. Pick your dessert of choice, and go for it.

Blackberries make excellent jam. If you don’t mind the crunchiness of seed wild berries, just make your jam as you usually would. You can also seed them if you like to make more of a jelly. Last year I made a spiced blackberry jam, and this year we experimented with jalapeno blackberry. It’s really good, but we wimped out on the jalapenos a little. It could have used more heat. We also made a bunch of blackberry syrup, which I talked about in this post: Farm Fresh Italian Sodas and a Sad Farewell. AND of course. Spiced blackberry brandy: Yummy Yummy Spiced Blackberry Brandy Cordial . I didn’t get to drink any of the cordial last summer when I was pregnant but oooh is it ever good. Of course you can also freeze some berries so in the dead of winter you can have a taste of summer sunshine.

If you have oodles of patience and live where they grow, huckleberries usually spring up in a lot of easily accessible places too. What is a huckleberry? They are similar to a blueberry, but smaller. Some are dark and shiny, and others are lighter and a dusty blue. What they all are is a pain to pick. They are little, so it takes a long time to fill a bucket. Plus often there aren’t very many ripe ones in a cluster, and it’s easier to strip the cluster than pick the individual ones out, but then you have to sort them later… it’s a mess. However, it is FREE FOOD, and they are very very tasty. I found that they are great in pancakes because they hold their shape a little better that blueberries. They add a sweet-tart pop to the pancake. They also freeze really well and do good in the above-mentioned desserts on their own or mixed with another berry.

Where we live salal also grows prolifically, and apparently you can eat salal berries, which I never knew before this summer. I found a recipe for some fruit leather, where you mix salal berries with other berries, and the salal helps it stay fresh longer. Or something. Perhaps next summer I’ll experiment with that. This winter I’ll just sip my cordial and some Italian sodas, and plan for next years berry harvest.

Next time in the free food series I’ll talk about apples, pears, and one other surprising food you might have growing in your yard right now!

 

FREE! The Best Price for Food

I have a clear memory of getting something for free, maybe my first freebie. I don’t know how old I was, but I remember being in an antique store, and there was a trunk that said “Free” on it, filled with some random goodies. There was a little glass vase with a handle, and I could NOT believe it was free! Someone was just giving it away?! My mom had me check at the counter, where I found out that yes, it WAS in fact free, and they even wrapped it up for me so it wouldn’t break. Amazing!!

Free is still my favorite cost, and of course it is, because getting something for FREE is the best! It’s especially rewarding when that free thing is something useful. And what could be more useful that food?

Free food comes in many forms, and over the next couple of weeks I’m going to describe some ways you might acquire free food, and what to do with it when you do. Specifically I’ll be talking about free produce, which generally comes as a gift from someone, or you forage for it. (Foraging combines free with self-sufficiency which makes it a double whammy!) For this first post I’m going to talk about zucchini.

ZUCCHINI? Blech! Seriously, I hate squash. Pretty much any squash product except pumpkin pie, and even then it needs lots of whipped cream. Zucchini has a reputation too, as that never-ending garden product that you beg your neighbors to take off your hands and secretly hide in your friends cars. Seriously, why do people keep growing the stuff? No doubt you or someone you love has received an unwanted zucchini. Once the initial shock has passed, you can reevaluate your choice of friends and hide in creative ways when the squash season is in full swing.

However, believe it or not, there ARE things you can do with zucchini that don’t include building a catapult and launching them off a freeway overpass, as fun as that sounds. Here are two things I like to do with randomly acquired zucs.

First. Believe it or not. Because I don’t. Grilled zucchini is actually edible! (If you’re reading this post and you really, really, TRULY like zucchini, one, liar!! two, sorry to offend) I discovered this sometime last year, which inspired me to grow our own, which I will not be doing again, because they just go crazy. But with a little olive oil and salt and pepper, a few slices of grilled zucchini aren’t bad.

I also like zucchini fritters! These are actually really tasty. Here’s what you do. First, grate your zucchini and sprinkle with salt. Let it sit for ten minutes or so and then squeeze it in cheesecloth or press in a sieve to remove as much water as possible.

There are TONS of zucchini fritter recipes out there, and so you can kind of just experiment. What we did was mix our zucchini (one large or two small grated) with a little flour and some panko. I don’t find that exact measurements are needed, but of course, if you do, probably like a 1/4 cup of each. Salt and pepper to your taste, and two eggs. I’ve seen recipes with baking powder, but I didn’t use it. If you have parmesan cheese you can sub it in for the panko. Add some sliced green onions if you want. Want it spicy? Maybe a touch of cayenne or smoked paprika. Once you get your mix how you want it, heat some oil in a skillet. Form the mix into balls and press them flat, then fry for a few minutes each side. Best served warm. Serve with sour cream or yogurt or just some buttah on top. Easy and tasty and kids love them too!

One last super useful thing to do with zucchini is to stretch your ground meat. Whether you just don’t have a big meat budget, you’re trying to eat less meat, or you’re just trying to eat more veggies, this is perfect. Grate and drain zuc as above. Mix with ground meat. Done! We made a three pound pack of meat into four pounds plus ten ounces by adding three zucchinis. Once you cook up the meat with seasonings, you don’t notice the addition of zucchini instead of more meat. Perfect for stir frys or taco meat, maybe even burgers, but I haven’t tried it.

What do you do with all your extra zucchinis??

Next week we’ll talk berries and foraging!

Oh and just for fun, here is me last year at 19 weeks pregnant, when my app told me my baby was the size of a zucchini, and I picked this thing from the garden that day. And I wondered just how big she would get if this was 19 weeks! 😉

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Garden Tomatillo Salsa

What in the world are tomatillos?? They look like firm green tomatoes wrapped in a papery husk, but they have a unique taste all their own. I haven’t discovered very many things to do with them yet, but I HAVE discovered that they are so ridiculously easy to grow!! In fact, if some rogue tomatillos fall into your garden bed and either decompose there, or some get mixed into your compost, the odds are that you’ll get some volunteers the next year that will produce just as nicely as the original plant. I had two big plants pop up in my cucumber boxes this year. You can stake them or use a cage like a tomato but they’ll pretty much just grow by themselves.

My favorite thing to do with tomatillos thus far is to make salsa! Just this year I’ve experimented with oven roasting them, and I have to say, it’s amazing. And easy! Here’s my recipe for oven roasted tomatillo and tomato salsa.

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all homegrown except the garlic and lime!
Take as many tomatillos as you have (about a pound for full tomatillo salsa, less if it’s mixed with tomatoes), a couple cloves of garlic, an onion, and some peppers. The amount of peppers depends on how hot you like it. I used a jalapeno and a hungarian hot wax, both with the seeds removed, and it’s pretty warm. Peel and rinse the tomatillos (they are kind of sticky) and cut them in half. Cut and seed the peppers, and peel and cut the onion. Leave the skin on the garlic for roasting. Put on a dry baking sheet and broil on high for about 5-7 minutes until you get a little blackening on your veg.

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Mix all the roasted ingredients (peel the garlic now!) and use your favorite food chopping device to whiz them up. Add juice of half a lime, and a half bunch of cilantro, and as many tomatoes as you like to fill out your salsa. Eat!! I like it warm, but the flavors really get a chance to meld when you cool it for a while.

We’re using it on taco salad tonight, but a quick and easy recipe is to take a batch of salsa (I’ve only done this with full tomatillo versions of salsa) and mix in a can of cream of mushroom soup. Layer corn tortillas, meat of choice, cheese, and the sauce to make a tasty batch of enchiladas!

Yum yum!!

Grow Your Own Irish Dinner

Several years ago I visited Ireland with my sister and our long-time friend. One of my absolute favorite parts was climbing the mountain Benbulben. The elevation is just over 1700 feet, making it not quite a hundred feet taller than Green Mountain, which is a small peak you can climb that’s about a half hour from my house. It’s just a couple miles to the top, and it’s an easy enough hike that you aren’t totally dead at the end. How hard could climbing this little Irish hill be?

Well it turns out, it was pretty hard. Benbulben is kind of a wedge-shaped tabletop mountain, and as you can see from the picture above, it’s got some pretty steep cliffs there. (Those little colored dots are the three of us girls) In order to climb it, we had to traverse along the side of the mountain to the point of the wedge, around the other side, to an easier spot to work our way up. Then we walked across the TOTALLY flat top, to the other side, and slip-and-slided our way down. Also, there are no TRAILS, we just picked our way up and down little crevasses and over barbed wire fences and past scared sheep and through a nasty cold rain and wind storm that kicked up as we approached the top. And we were all wearing thin little tennis shoes, while we splorged across a mucky, nasty, oozy bog. SO MUCH FUN!

It was. It really was. It was hard, and gross at times, and my sister kept saying, “are you ok…?” because I guess my face was showing a rather un-fun attitude, but it was a blast. I climbed a crazy mountain! With no trails! With soggy feet! I climbed barbed wire fences! My friend took the best picture of me that’s ever been seen and then promptly lost her camera somewhere on the backside of the mountain! Climbing Benbulben was a crazy adventure, and a whole story on it’s own.

But today we’re talking about FOOD! Why am I talking about a mountain? Well, I was reminded of our glorious hiking adventure yesterday and all of our fun Irish adventures, so I decided to talk about quick and easy Irish meal you can grow in your own yard! I’m going to be honest, I did not have two of the three items grown yet so they are from the store. However, they ARE growING currently, so by fall I can make this all from the garden. What is it?

Colcannon! There are many different recipes out there, with different ingredients. According to an Irish cookbook I have the ONLY way to make it REAL colcannon is with kale, but we don’t like kale, so no kale for us. Also his recipe calls for scallions, and I found great success with leeks. This is another of my non-recipe recipes, so just do what you feel! It’s just food, man.

 

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How to Make Colcannon (my way)

You will need: Potatoes. Probably any kind will do. I use russet usually, but I have purple ones growing and I think that’ll be quite fun. Cabbage or kale. Apparently kale is traditional, I used a lovely purple cabbage. Leeks or green onions. I like the flavor of leeks and I have a lot of them, but I also used green onions. Salt, pepper, milk or cream, butter.

Wash, peel, and boil your potatoes as you would for mashed potatoes. Note I am not giving any amounts. You should have MORE potato than cabbage/kale. So decide how many you’re feeding, and go from there. I think I used six big potatoes because this was our whole meal, but it makes a good side too. While the potatoes boil, start some water for your cabbage. Cut it roughly, and boil it too, for about ten minutes to soften. I used about a half gallon bag full of cabbage with my six potatoes. While all that is going on, heat a cup of your milk or cream in a small saucepan. (If you’re making a big batch, up the amount accordingly). Don’t let it boil! As it heats, add three-four tablespoons of butter. Chop your leeks or green onions finely, and add them to the warming milk and butter mix, and simmer for a few minutes. Don’t cook too high or you’ll get a weird filmly brown milk substance. Drain the potatoes. Drain the cabbage and let it cool a little, then chop it up a little finer. Mix potato, cabbage, and pot of milky-buttery-leeky-oniony goodness together and mash! Add plenty of salt and tons and tons of pepper, and then more pepper because I’m really weird with all my pepper. Top with more butter for serving!

The end. That’s all there is to it! It’s essentially mashed potatoes, with some cabbage and onions. As I perused the vegetable section of my Irish cookbook, it seemed to me that a great many of the potato dishes are in fact just mashed potatoes with slight variances. Or mashed potatoes cooked into a different dish. Or a dish topped with mashed potatoes. Like seriously, it’s Ireland. It’s all about the potato. Which is good, because my Hubbins loves some him some potato. And onions. So stay tuned for more potato and onion recipes, because honestly, we eat them a lot. Potatoes and onions are cheap after all, so save some money, and eat like the Irish!

OHHH and for a real treat, make this dish with some Kerrygold butter, which is in fact the best butter ever made on earth.

Sláinte!

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Just another Benbulben picture for kicks