Archive for July, 2009

Big Bertha

31 July 2009

My husband claimed, at first, that this was a butternut squash.  I think it isn’t, but I don’t know what kind it is.  I thought maybe a banana squash, but those get even bigger than these, so probably not.  So for now, I am calling it Big Bertha, after the German howitzer.

Anyone want to tell us what kind of squash it really is?



(the sandal is a women’s US size 7)

UPDATE:  my husband received this e-mail from the seed company today:

Dear Gardener,

Thank you for your order and interest in our company John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds.

Your squash looks like an off type or mutation from the Milano Black Zucchini; we actually don’t carry that type, the Yellow Zucchini is a bright lemon yellow, it is not a Butternut! I would be interested in how it cooks and tastes??

As always please feel free to contact me directly with any questions, comments and complaints at 860-567-6086 or


Lance Frazon
John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds
Ph: 860-567-6086 Fax: 860-567-5323 <>

mmmmm, mutation!

Soooo Fulllllll

31 July 2009

For our fourth wedding anniversary, we went to Horizons, THE haute vegetarian cuisine restaurant in Philadelphia.  Adding to the excitement, we tried the chef’s tasting menu with the accompanying wine pairings:


The wines are: Allan Scott Sauvignon Blanc (from New Zealand) to go with the soup, Argiolas Vermentino (that’s a white wine from Italy) to go with the ravioli, Auroch Tempranillo (a smooth, mild red from Spain) to go with the tofu, Terranoble Carmenere (another red, from Chile) to go with the seitan, and Pfeiffer Muscat (from Australia) to go with dessert.

The soup:


Fresh tasting, bright green, and absolutely lovely.  I tried the wine before tasting the soup, and I liked the wine much better after a few spoonfuls of soup.  Very nicely paired!  I confess I did not really taste the golden beet relish, but it added nice texture to the smooth soup.

The ravioli:


Well, cream and leeks will get you everywhere with me, but I also enjoyed the salty seaweed caviar and the oyster mushroom ravioli itself was yummy as well.  But the best was yet to come.

The tofu course:


Oops, I started eating this before I remembered to take a picture!  It started out much more elegant-looking.  The heart-of-palm cake was the star, for me, of the evening.  It was like a crab cake, but better!  Sweet, with a little bright acidity, soft with a perfectly crispy exterior, moist and creamy on my tongue.  Wow.  The tofu was good too, and the fresh corn and zucchini.  I think the garnish might have been pea tendrils, or at least it reminded me of that.  My husband claims I ate more of this than he did, since I totally cleaned my plate and he left a few bites, “saving himself” for the additional two courses yet to come.  It’s possible.

Grilled seitan:


My husband loves seitan, a lot.  This seitan was amazing.  The texture and flavor were beyond perfect.  I am not a fan of olives or capers, and I feared this dish would be spicy, but I ate every bit of it.  There was a mild spicyness, and a lot of deliciousness.  Probably it would have been just fine without the added “taco” with avocado and smoked tofu underneath, and certainly would have been a little less filling, but I liked how the smooth cool avocado complemented the meaty seitan.  I could imagine having all the ingredients of this dish inside a burrito…mmmmmmmm!

OK, so now we were stuffed, and I was a little sloshed from having to keep up with the wines.  I usually do not drink so fast, but since the wines were geared to the courses, I was making sure to maintain the pace.  But there was still dessert, and muscat.

The muscat arrived first, and just a sniff made me dizzy…but then I thought maybe I was just dizzy anyway.  Sweet but not syrupy like port, the flavor reminded me of the fruit candies we get with our bill from the local Thai restaurant, but also reminded me of a childhood flavor that I could not recall enough to name.  Then we were presented with an array of three desserts, saffron crème brûlée, blueberry cheesecake, and peanut butter cake:


The crème brûlée was perfect, with the paper-thin caramel crust giving way to smooth and delicate custard.  The blueberry cheesecake with drips of lemon-herb sauce was fantastic.  I think I have not yet had enough blueberries this summer.  Unfortunately, the peanut butter cake could not stand up to the magnificence of the other two desserts, and came off as a poor third, though it might have been better on its own.  Comparatively dry and without the subtlety of flavors of the other two, it lost out.  If it had been a rich, moist, smooth dark chocolate something, the story might have been a little different.

I would be hungry after writing this, but I am still feeling pretty full.  As my husband remarked, “I remember this feeling.  It’s the feeling of being completely stuffed after eating at Horizons.”

Yeah.  It is.


27 July 2009

I’m not a berry-picker.  That’s my mom.  She loves to pick berries. Yet, over the weekend I voluntarily went berry picking, and convinced my husband to come along.  Neither one of us thought it was exactly “fun,” but we were anticipating the results of our labors, so we were motivated.

We came home and made jam.  Well, first I made blackberries in chambord, a slight variation on a recipe from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving (a recent purchase), having become enamored with the photo in the book.  I don’t think mine came out as intended, as I wound up with a very large juice-to-berry ratio, but as a bonus I now have a jar of spiced blackberry light syrup in the fridge, for making pink lemonade with or making blackberry vodka tonics.  Those are good.  Or blackberry Diet Coke, which is OK.

Blackberries in Chambord look really red!

Blackberries in Chambord look really red!

So then we made jam.  Only having used some of the blackberries already, we didn’t have quite enough for the blackberry jam recipe, and I had to add blueberries.  Darn!  Now we have 7 8-oz jars of black-and-blue berry jam.

We still had a lot of blueberries, so two batches of blueberry-lime jam happened next.  Phew!  After that we gave up and froze the remaining berries, winding up with 2.5 quarts of frozen berries.

As novice jammers, we went through all the mishaps one might expect: jam boiling over in the pot and becoming burnt onto the stove top (ugh!); dropping a filled jar on the floor and denting the lid, and spilling purple-staining sticky jam across the kitchen; dripping/splashing sticky hot jam onto bare skin, not having enough hot jars and lids available for the amount of jam in the pot (recipes have been annotated!).  We washed dishes, and jars, and ourselves multiple times.  We sweated, it having been the hottest and most humid weekend of the summer so far.

But then we had peach crumble topped with vanilla ice cream and a dollop of black-and-blue berry jam for dessert, and it was impossible to regret the experience!

Rub a Dub Dub Zucchini

27 July 2009

We have one zucchini plant in our garden.  So far, it has produced one zucchini.  One large zucchini, since my husband didn’t want to pick in at first in case it was a winter squash.  Though what we would possibly do with another winter squash, I don’t know.  I’ll post on those later this week.

About the middle of last week, I picked it, since I did not want a giant zucchini to have to do something with.  It was still a pretty darn big zucchini.  Happily, my husband put on his chef hat and took care of it!  Inspired by the original Moosewood cookbook “Zuccanoes” recipe, he made zucchini washtubs (as opposed to canoes):


Then he created a stuffing out of things our CSA sends us: onions, beets, and kale, added in some of his own beans, some balsalmic vinegar, bread crumbs, and an egg for binding.  A topping of grated parmesan browned nicely during cooking, and a basil and beet garnish topped off the creation:


This is one of the reasons we don’t eat out much!  We eat this way at home!


26 July 2009

Our CSA has been giving us gorgeous purple beans lately.  Since we have our own green beans, we eat them together, which makes the purple beans last longer and compensates for the fact that we only get so many ripe green beans at a time.  Here they are:


Unfortunately, they turn green when cooked, due to the breaking of the vacuoles containing anthocyanins during the cooking process.*  They just wash away in the cooking liquid!  Here are the cooked beans, a minor disappointment:


Ah well, at least they taste good.

*McGee, Harold, On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen Completely Revised and Updated. New York: Scribner, 2004. 267- 268.

Electric Car Journey Part 1

16 July 2009

Remember this post?  Melissa offered up her old Civic in the comments.

Melissa drove the Honda up from MD this morning, and we celebrated her getting rid of her old car and me getting a new project with yummy brunch:  popovers with homemade jam (from various makers, none of them me), local organic peaches with cream, and tea.  I wish I had excuses to eat brunch like that more often!

So now I really have to figure out how to make an electric car.  It turns out that the EEVC does not meet in July or August, so I will have to rely on the internet and the telephone for now.  Of course, I am documenting this process in this blog, and the photos will all be on flickr for your enjoyment.  I had some fun taking a few photos of my first day with my base vehicle (click on photo to enlarge):


12 July 2009


Grasshopper (creme de menthe and creme de cacao) chocolate chip black-bottom ice cream pie for my husband’s birthday.

Crust: chocolate wafers, sugar, butter.

Ganache (spread on crust before adding ice cream): heavy cream, sugar, butter, chocolate.

Ice cream: heavy cream, half-and-half, sugar, vanilla, mini chocolate chips, two tablespoons each creme de menthe and creme de cacao added when ice cream is at “soft-serve” stage.

Chocolate shavings added before placing pie in freezer to set.

Candles: “congratulations” in Japanese, ordered in advance from

There is a first time for everything

7 July 2009

Inspired by the plastic-shopping-bag-full of cucumbers my husband brought in from the garden yesterday and Marisa’s facebook-status-via-twitter about making bread and butter pickles, I made my first pickles today.

I used the recipe from Slashfood that Marisa pointed me to.  First, I needed jars, which I got at the supermarket. The cashier was very surprised that the store even sold canning jars, and then it turned out that the UPC code wasn’t in the scanner and so I was the cause of the Express Lane being held up because the cashier had to send a bagger for a price check.  I felt guilty, though it wasn’t my fault.

Then, there was the cutting and slicing.  Thank goodness for the mandoline, but man, those onions made tears and mucus run down my face like a waterfall!  Here’s my sliced veggies, before and after being mixed with salt and soaked in an ice bath for three hours:


The next step was sterilizing the washed jars and heating the veggies in the brine.  The brine tasted just right for bread and butter pickles, so I think I did it right.


Finally, here are my jars of pickles!


I actually made eight jars, and I plan to do four more tomorrow, because I have enough cucumbers for at least another half recipe.  Guess what you are getting for Christmas?

Through the Roof

7 July 2009

Thank you to Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories for the shout-out!  They liked my cheer-up ice cream sandwich, and linked to it today.  That sent lots of people my way to view it.  Here is the page-view chart from a few minutes ago:


Hmm, how shall I celebrate?  Maybe I still have a fish-shaped ice cream sandwich in the freezer…


1 July 2009

Today I signed up for The Great Internet Migratory Box Of Electronic Junk, or TGIMBOEJ.  I learned about this a bit more than a year ago, since I remember discussing it with one of my AP students.  It’s an idea from a fun blog, Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories.  It’s a box of junk that you can sign up to have sent to you.  Well, there is more than one, but one will eventually come around to you.  You take something out, you put something in, and you send it on its way.

Of course, you have to publish electronically about your experience, which I will do here.

I don’t do that much with electronics, myself, but I do have kids do projects.  My biggest thing lately was the “remote control” for “my” “robot” for last Halloween.  I am doing a repair project this summer on some school stuff, too.  But otherwise, I haven’t done anything complicated since making my radio/amplifier/speaker five or six years ago so I could tell my students how to make one.  It is a little the worse for wear:


Notice that the indicator LED is out of its hole, and that’s not the only problem!

I have since acquired a copy of Horowitz and Hill’s The Art of Electronics, which is a step forward.  However, it is a textbook and what I really need is a project inspiration.  Maybe I need to spend some more time looking at MAKE and

So, look forward to reading about the arrival of the box (hopefully sometime within the next year) and photos of what I do with it!