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Thursday, May 23, 2013

Grilled Pizza again

Tonight I made beans and rice for supper.  It was really good when I tasted it during construction.  I had been asked by Dear One what was for supper and I had said beans and rice or maybe pizza.  When it was actually supper time, I said beans and rice.  The question was raised, "What happened to the pizza?!"  So, since I still had some of the artisan bread dough in the refrigerator, I grated some extra sharp cheddar, some block feta, and tried to grate my homemade mozzarella.  Not successful with the mozzarella.  Too soft. Creamy. Tasty.  I chopped black olives and finely diced a little green bell peppers.  All this I did while the grill was heating.

Since I had used the previous "pizza" sauce--actually some Classico spaghetti sauce--for some black bean chili yesterday, I had to open a new jar.  No problem.  Did it.  Also while the grill was heating I rolled out the pizza dough and placed it on a cornmeal covered pan...now it was ready for the grill.

 This is a picture of the pizza after the first side was cooked then the other side was loaded for cooking.

Loaded and ready for the grill.

This is the cooked pizza.  It is a good thing I cannot show you the bottom because it was a little bit "chocolate-y"!   It still tasted really good.

You can see that the homemade mozzarella actually did melt.  Probably in the oven it would do better because I was nervous to leave the pizza grilling long enough for the mozzarella to get really drippy.

Mozzarella, HOMEMADE!!

Tonight I am smiling like crazy!  Not just quietly to myself, but a great big smile...occasionally even a tooth or two shows up!

The reason is this:  TODAY I MADE MOZZARELLA CHEESE!!!  It is the coolest thing.  It took about one-half hour, also a gallon of milk (I used whole milk from the grocery store), one-quarter cheese rennet tablet dissolved in one-quarter cup cool water, one and one-half teaspoons of citric acid dissolved in one cup cool water, and one teaspoon cheese salt.

Go to your local health food store to see if they have the Cheese-making Kit for $25.00 from the New England Cheesemaking Company in Ashfield, Massachusetts.  This cheese is so easy, and even though I thought I had a disaster because the curds didn't seem very curd-y, more like ricotta-y. I poured the curds into the butter muslin that came with the kit which I had placed in a colander in the sink so the whey could drain off then put it back in the bowl for more time in the microwave.

This cheese really does only take 30 minutes or so.  The only thing about the cheese is that it is not smooth and silk-like...more raggedy but it tastes far superior to any store-bought mozzarella I have ever eaten!  After some thought, I realize it may be that I did not heat the cheese in the microwave enough times to get it hot enough for the stretching.

Four balls of fresh homemade mozzarella!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

2013 Garden, Take Two

When we returned from vacation the first thing I did was peak under the ag cloth at 9:30 at night.  I did not see anything, but did not worry about it since it WAS dead dark by then.  Morning would tell the story.

The story was this: one sugar snap pea, one radish, three possible spinach plants, and two wax beans!  That was not much to have accomplished in the garden!  Well, not liking to be disappointed, I went out this morning in the rain to work on renovating the garden.  After sharpening the shovel (I used my very meager personal funds to purchase a nice single slant bastard file (yes, bastard..you tell me why it is called that.  I don't know.); finding the trowel I had put away last fall; collecting two small sections of 2" by 4"-maybe 6" wire that was on the trailer getting ready for the metal recycling as well as a couple pieces of PVC pipe from a defunct try at making a tomato trellis in the growbox in the field, and collecting the tray of seeds I had put in the peat moss disks on 3 May, I was ready for work.
Single Slant Bastard File--It worked great to sharpen the round-pointed shovel

Did I forget to tell you that, different from the outside garden project, the INSIDE garden project was WAY more successful, at least in some ways.  Only one of the 72 disks I had planted did not have a plant coming through the peat...the zucchinis were the winners, so to speak, as several were 6-8 inches tall.  Really, that was not success because you want short fat plants to put into the garden, but I am planting them outside anyway and will take our chances with them.

Below are some pictures of the reprised garden:

Along the right side you can barely see the wire with the white PVC stakes to hold it upright in the ground where I hope to train the tomato (maybe one more will be added) and the cucumbers.

Front garden, take two

Along the front you can see in the distance the planted carrots and beets.  Yes, I do know that you are supposed to plant them in the ground, not transplant them, but I wanted to give it a try.  Next year I am hoping to build a "real" seed starting area in the cellar...will have to save my pennies and nickels to buy the wood and light (if we have disposed of the one we had a few years ago when I tried it before) fixture.  I will also need to finish organizing the cellar so the table I have in mind to use will be available as a seed garden.  Hope springs eternal...

This shot below shows you where the beets and carrots are planted in their disks. I really do hope they work.  The "cloth" that holds the peat moss together has a hole in the bottom so I am hopeful that the beet and carrot roots will find their way through to the soil and be very happy campers.  You will notice that the pepper plant has some blossoms on it.  A wonderful friend gave me the pepper and the tomato.  I have added three more bell pepper plants in the messed-up grid beside the nice looking pepper plant.  I do not know what kind of pepper that one is, but actually hope it is not a Scotch Bonnet!  Those are bit much for my palate.

Carrots, beets, pepper and tomato

 The picture below shows the one sugar snap pea, a weed or a radish, and the one good-looking zucchini plant.  I put the zuke very near the edge of the garden so that half of its growth will be over the lawn and not taking up so much of the garden. Time will tell.  For all I know, the lawn mower with prune the zucchini regularly!
Zucchini plant bottom left and sugar snap pea plant upper right
Collard greens that I hope will survive, and even thrive this season.

This seed packet is something new for this season (I do not count the four collard plants I put in from transplants last year that the moles, field mice/voles, or other varmint took out very early on!) since I have become greatly enamored of collard greens.  They are so good lightly sauteed in olive oil with chopped onion and garlic.  Yummy, yummy, yummy!

So, the 'addition garden' is now planted and ready.  We can hope for the best.  If Mel Bartholomew ("Square Foot Gardening" author) is correct, it will take about two hours a week to make this garden productive.  I am hoping he is right.  I am going to try to tilt things in our favor by using Mittleider method fertilizer.  I also hope to get the growbox in the field planted at the end of the week after purchasing two more pieces of rod to hold up the climbing fence in that garden.  I am in search of 6-foot rebar.  Wish me luck on that one.  When I have those in place I will look for some heirloom tomato starts, will plant more wax beans and the rest of the zucchini and cucumbers.  AND THE COLLARDS!  I think I will plant some of them on the back side of the tomato climbing fence so they will stay cooler through the hot summer.

So, we are

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

2013 Garden

We were scheduled for a vacation in May as we had not found the time for one in 2012...and since we were going to be gone for two weeks, I wanted to get a garden in before we left, we invited J and A and family to come for dinner on my birthday and to rototill a new small garden in front of the addition where it would get full sunlight.

He did it and also rototilled the growbox garden in the field as a bonus gift!  I was so pleased.

Since gardening before Memorial Day in our neck of the woods is a little iffy, I went to Longacres' gardening center and purchased some metal rods to use as hoops and some agricultural cloth to go over the hoops to protect the garden in case of frost while we were gone.  I didn't worry too much since the seeds would not really be damaged by any frost, I thought.

So, on 3 May (the morning of the day we were leaving)  I worked like a madman or woman as the case may be, and planted sugar snap peas, wax beans, black-seeded Simpson lettuce, romaine lettuce, radishes, spinach, and dill.  Inside I planted cucumbers, zucchini, carrots, beets, and bell peppers in peat moss disks that I had re-hydrated and placed the pan on top of the freezer in the pantry.

Recently I had been reading Square Foot Gardening by ________________ and decided to give this a try.  (I chose to take that book with me on vacation as reading matter of choice in hopes I would finish it and find out more good things to do to the garden as the summer went on....)

In the first picture you can see the grid I marked out in the garden. I did not actually use a ruler, but made approximately 3 by 12 one-foot squares to plant.  You can see I was doing this very early in the morning, before the sun came around the east side of the house.

"Square Foot" grid for planting.
The second picture is taken from the porch, about the same time of day but after I had planted the seeds and placed my homemade seed markers.

Seed markers made of skewers and paper with the named seeds covered by Scotch tape to keep out the rain.
 Finally the garden was planted and covered.  Dear One came out and helped me with the heavy timbers that surrounded the garden as well as found the smaller pieces that we placed over the ag cloth to keep it down in case of wind.  I had put duct tape on both sides of the of the ag cloth where the metal rods were going to punch through the fabric.  It just seemed like a great idea.

Now the waiting was at hand. We went on vacation with a hope and a prayer and (mostly) forgot about the garden for two weeks.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Grilled Pizza, First

Dear friends are moving away.  We are all very sad (for ourselves-but not for them.  It is a fabulous opportunity for their family...but parting really pricks quite a bit.) but they are very wise with their resources and very generous with their things...deciding some things were not worth moving.  Since we are having a large family get-together this summer we needed more grilling space and E and S gave us their large and wonderful grill.

Today I used it for the first time since it arrived at our house last month.  The directions for use were clearly stated on the front and seemed simple enough so I gave it a try, and whammo!!  First thing, the grill started right up.

J and A have made grilled pizza for us several times so I thought I would give it a try.  I had started some artisan bread rising this morning before heading out to swim and do a couple of other errands and it was perfectly ready when I came home...so,  what could I do?

After lighting the grill I went into the house and rolled out a pizza crust and put it on a lipless pizza pan on which I had spread some cornmeal with the idea that would make sliding the pizza off the pan onto the grill easier.  I grated the cheese and got the sauce out of the refrigerator.

Next step was to go out and start the first side of the pizza cooking...the grill had heated up to 450 degrees F. so I thought it was just right.  Opening the cover, I slid the pizza onto the grill and closed the cover again.  I checked my iPod for the time and waited for two minutes while listening to Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver.  Lifting the cover after exactly two minutes I noted that the crust was nicely, and, in one spot,  a little more than nicely, grilled so I pulled it off the grill with tongs and a pancake turner back onto the pizza pan. Before leaving the porch I closed the cover on the grill to retain heat while topping the pizza.

In the house (the grill is on the porch...) I flipped the pizza over on the pizza pan so the grilled side was now on top and the uncooked part was on the newly cornmealed pan.  I spread a SMALL amount of pizza sauce on the pizza crust then topped with some grated cheddar, grated mozzarella and crumbled feta cheeses on top then returned to the porch.  The grill had gone back to 450 degrees F so I opened the cover and slid the pizza carefully back onto the grill and reclosed the cover.

After one minutes I looked but felt another minutes was needed.  After two minutes I opened the cover, decided the cheese was melted enough (and being somewhat gutless about leaving it longer to try to brown the cheese because I was a bit fearful the bottom would be MORE than browned), and pulled the pizza out onto the pan again and set it on the grill's side shelf so I could immediately shut down the grill.  I left the cover up for a few minutes to cool down a bit more rapidly, took the pizza into the house, cut it up, and offered it to Dear One.

He enjoyed a few pieces; I ate one piece (the quite grilled one!  but I like burned popcorn, too...), and Son ate a couple of pieces.  I call that a success.  Maybe not total success, but close enough.  I will make more grilled pizza.  Now on to grilled vegetables...I am hoping people will let me know which ones work best and how to do them.