Thursday, April 19, 2012

Food: Mac and Cheese experiment II

So I did another mac and cheese experiment.  It turned out even better than the last recipe, if I do say so myself.  Plus I learned a lot.  Such as: never trust a mac and cheese recipe for the roux.  You have to know your roux, defend your roux, beat the heck outta your roux until it's that badass golden color and then SLOWLY add your milk and get it to the perfect simmer as it thickens all bubbly and wonderful.  I have never followed a recipe to successfully make a perfect roux.  Every time I've improvised, the roux gets awesome.  So: never trust the recipe.

Anyway, here's what I did.

grated an 8oz. block NY reserve aged cheddar, a 4 oz block of Yancey's Fancy roasted garlic cheddar, and a 4 oz block of Yancey's Fancy Champagne cheddar.

Boiled the pasta in salted water for 6 minutes and then drained.

Made the roux with a stick of butter, a pile of all-purpose flour, and a whisk.  Seriously, I just added flour and whisked until it looked like that wonderful roux you see on food channels.  Then I slowly whisked in bits of milk until it turned into a very thick gravy.  Then I added more milk slowly.  And then let that get thick and bubbly and coat a spoon.

Added: a whole ton of garlic powder (shame! but I was out of fresh garlic), probably 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (sprinkled it in), a teaspoon or so of smoked Spanish paprika, a teaspoon or so of dry mustard, 1/2 teaspoon-ish of kosher salt, and tasted.  It tasted good.

Mixed in the cheese till it melted.  Adjusted the seasonings until I tasted even more yum.

Mixed in the cooked elbow pasta.  Poured the mixture into a 9x13" pan and covered with a generous amount of panko bread crumbs.  Baked at 350 for 35 minutes.  Took it out of the oven and let it sit for 5 minutes.  Dished it up.

It was good.  And no, I didn't take a picture, because I was too busy eating it.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Gardening pictures

I finally was able to take some pictures of the garden repairs.
Here's the strawberry bed, that someday will be replete with berries (I hope!)

Basil that survived the freeze warning the other night

Rosemary, doomed to only one summer with us in this cursed zone 6.

German thyme

The cutest little sage plant that I could find, that is looking markedly perkier now that he's in the ground instead of in that terrible, horrible, root-bound peat pot.

Parsley, which grows into a large bush here.

Greek oregano

and... dock.  The cursed dock weed that invades every part of my yard and garden and threatens to take over.  Hickory-dickory dock.  I hate dock.  I took this next to the lilac bushes that we inherited from previous tenants.  Sadly, the lilac bushes never bloom, but the dock certainly flourishes.

But that's the state of affairs right now.  And I hope they stay beautiful.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Gardening: a horror story

Let's face it: I am a neglectful gardener who follows a very predictable pattern.

Every spring, I get all excited about plants and gardens and fun stuff like that, and every spring I go all gung-ho into planting edible things thinking we're going to save mother lodes on grocery bills by eating our own fresh produce.  By summer, I have forgotten to weed and prune and pluck and give the poor beds the TLC they so desperately need and deserve, and every summer I wind up with a ginormous weed bed out of which you can sort out the following:

  • enough basil to make a container of pesto sauce
  • enough chives to last a family of 4 a year or more, even if they use them heavily
  • some strawberries that haven't been eaten by rodents
  • a handful each of raspberries and blueberries
  • unidentifiable piles of herbs that have either been choked by weeks or overgrown to the point that I don't recognize them anymore and don't know what to do with them.
  • The Monster Weed that has the huge long taproot, grows anywhere, and is impossible to get rid of.  I don't know what it is, I don't want to know what it is, because it is so strong and so horrible.  I have named it Audrey II.
Every year, I say it's going to be different, and every year the weeds overtake me.

This year, it IS going to be different, because I have a new strategy: mulch with Preen built into it.  Plus, I'm actually going to get out there and do things to my garden.  Really. I promise, because I want to love the yard we have and be proud to show off my garden to visitors instead of sheepishly saying that I have a black thumb and shrugging when they tell me that they remember me being all excited in the spring...

I can't do that anymore.

So this year IS going to be different.  Yesterday we laid a sidewalk going from the patio to the fence gate and dug out the weeds from the garden beds to reveal really good soil.  Today, I planted and mulched the beds and have the following ready to go, and I hope it will work this time:
  • strawberries in their own 4'x8' bed.  Hopefully they spread like weeds and take over so that weeds cannot.
  • 2 raspberry bushes from last year, and 2 blueberry bushes from last year, with lots of strawberry plants around and between them to see if they'll grow.
  • enough chives to... well, you know.
  • leeks - 1 "set"
  • 3 basil plants, big ones
  • a single sage plant that I hope will grow into a perennial sage bush like I had in our previous dwelling
  • German thyme - single plant
  • parsley - a single plant, because I learned last year that a single plant will most certainly "do ya."
  • a single rosemary plant that is in the ground, that I hope to dig up and save before winter this year.  I kill rosemary in pots, and I don't live in a zone where rosemary survives the winter.  More's the pity.
  • oregano - single plant
My hopes are to have a nice herb garden that lets me USE the herbs in my cooking (oh boy!).  I apologize for a lack of photos, but it is blissfully raining out right now (saved me from having to water my plants as I planted them only an hour or two ago!) and gently drenching the soil of my sweet baby plants that I keep hoping will grow into something spectacular.