Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Presto Pesto

Is there anything better than basil?  My bsail plant is doing really well, and some of its leaves were getting pretty big.  I haven't needed basil for anything I've cooked lately, but I knew I had to prune the leaves to keep encouraging new growth.  So, off with the leaves...but how do I not let them go to waste?

I looked in my cupboard and saw I had one small clove of garlic left, and I decided to make a pesto.  I chopped up the garlic, washed and julienned the basil leaves and tossed them both in my mortar and pestle.  No pine nuts, so I substituted those leftover almonds again - they've been coming in quite handy.  A little salt, pepper, and drizzle of oil, and I was off to work.

That plant looks pretty great, huh?  And that was after pruning.  I know I'm going to have to trim it again in a few days.

Using the mortar and pestle, it took 7 minutes or so to grind everything up into a paste.  It's more work, but I wasn't making enough to be able to use the food processor.  And using the mortar and pestle made me feel a little old school.  ;)

So now with the pesto made, I had to find a way to store it for future use.  I've seen my mom use the ice-cube tray technique before, and I thought it would be a great way to store the pesto in individual portions.  I lined the tray with some plastic wrap and scooped in the pesto.

So there you go.  Homemade pesto, with some substitutions, and I didn't need anything from the grocery store.  I love that part!  This little garden is really starting to pay off!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Tin-Can Lantern

This little birdie says CHEAP-CHEAP, CHEAP-CHEAP.

I've been wanting to add a little chic to the Cupboard.  Simple project, slightly time consuming, and great use of the chick pea cans I've been collecting from making all that hummus!  Seriously, at $.89 a can, this project has Poor Man's Cupboard written all over it.  Couple of tips:

Use graph paper to make your template.  This makes it so much easier to make it even.  I measured the can and then cut out a piece of graph paper to fit.  Then I divided the graph paper into two panels: a left panel and a right panel.

I found my template online, and drew half of the image onto the right panel of the graph paper.  Then  I folded the paper in half, traced the image on the back side of the left panel, then opened up the paper and traced the copy onto the front side of the left panel.

Now I had a perfectly even template, I just needed to punch the holes.  I taped the template to the can and started punching away.  I had a test can to try different methods, and the end I used a wood boring bit, the kind with the sharp point.  It was easy to hold, and easy to be accurate with my punches.  

Not going to lie, this was a time consuming process.  I didn't even bother with the corner florets on my template...the birds and the center vine probably took me about an hour to punch out, mostly because I was taking my time and trying to be as accurate as possible.

In the end though, it's pretty satisfying.  I have the template, and I plan on making at least one more to make a pair.  I might choose a less complicated template and make a second pair of these.

I have a coffee tin, too; although I don't make that much coffee at home, and it's still half full.  But I thought it might be fun to make an outdoor citronella candle out of.

Also, I saw one suggestion online to pour water into the cans and freeze, so that you don't dent the can when you're punching the holes.  I tried this with my first test can -- and as I was punching the holes and holding the can, the ice started melting and seeping through the holes, and the paper got wet and was hard to handle.  I think as long as you take your time, you can skip this step and just be careful with the can.  Mine came out totally fine without the ice.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Chipotle Hummus

This was inspired by a hummus plate I had the other day in the city.  There were three types of hummus, and the chipotle hummus was the best by far.  It's been on my mind ever since and I've been wanting to recreate it.  I have to say, I think mine is better than the original.

(Somewhat) standard ingredients - chick peas, garlic, olive oil, fresh lemon juice and lemon zest, salt and pepper.  Really good hummus calls for a dollop of tahini...but this is Poor Man's Cupboard and tahini is expensive.  To get a similar nutty tone, I use leftover slivered almonds from last Christmas' biscotti marathon that have been hanging out in the cabinet.  Totes legit.

Also, shelling the chick peas is essential for making a really creamy hummus.  It's time consuming, but I pop them out of the shell and right into the food processor.  Feel free to deposit the husks onto any Chinese food container lid you've been hoarding (can't beat free tupperware).

So for this recipe, I just got a can of chipotle peppers and popped them in.  I probably used about half the can, or 4 peppers.  I also poured in maybe a tablespoon or so of the chipotle sauce.  I wish I had some cilantro in my garden, but instead I pulled a couple sprigs of parsley, and got to mixing.

Look at that color!  The one I had in the city wasn't as vibrant.  It's so good, too - it's got quite a kick.  And look - A&P was out of pitas, but they were selling this bag of "crutons" for $1.54...perfect for hummus scooping!  My afternoon just got a whole lot brighter.  :D

My Big Fat Garden Update

It's been about a month now since I first "planted" my garden.  I can't believe how fast that went!  There's been some really cool progress, and also some learning curves.  Let's dig in and break it down, shall we?

1.  Goliath Tomatoes

That picture above is like my pride and joy of this project.  That little guy popped up about 5 days ago and he just keeps getting bigger and bigger.  You can see below that there are some more flowers, so I'm hoping for a decent crop.

2. Cherry Tomatoes

No fruit as of yet, but there is definitely some flowering going on.  It started off as sort of a runt of a plant, so I'm glad it's making progress.

3. Parsley, Thyme, Basil

These guys are doing great!  The other day I made a little pesto with the basil for a lunchtime pasta, and made thyme chicken and parsley salad for dinner.  So good!

4. Radishes

These are by far my biggest disappointments.  These are the original starter plants my mom got me -- they haven't really gotten any bigger.  But then all of a sudden, literally in a 24-hour period, this one radish stalk grew like 5 inches and made a pretty little purple flower on top!  It's the craziest thing.  I think I'll keep it and see what happens next.

I planted some radishes from seeds and they were looking really great -- until I put them outside and fried them in the heat.  I need to start a new batch from seeds, but I've just been a little busy (and lazy).   I'll probably tackle that today.

5. Strawberries

Also a little disappointing.  I planted 10 strawberry plants in this container, and only 3 of them are growing.  I'm not really sure what to do with this -- if I should just let it be, or dig up the the ones that aren't growing and replant the good ones farther apart from each other.  I'm going to do a little research on this.

What's promising is that one of the good plants has begun to flower.  Still has a long way to go, but I knew that this was going to be a late-harvester so I'll continue being patient.

6. Snow Peas

These guys have been the most work.  I've continued building the lattices up, and every morning I inspect the plants to make sure the tendrils are latching onto the lattice and not onto each other (I've had to do a little tender untangling).  When the heatwave hit last week, I had to bring the plants inside.  They were getting dried out and yellowing up quite a bit at the bottom.  And with all the rain, I've kept them inside because they seem so fragile.  Today is their first day back outdoors.

Even with just the indoor sunlight, the snow peas have been doing really well!  They've been flowering, and we've even got some pods.  I 'snapped' one off this morning and tried it -- super crunchy and sweet, perfection!

So that about wraps up the update.  I'm going to do some research now about the strawberries, and later I'll sow another batch of radish seeds.  Will post again soon!