Blog posts categorized as: Food & Drink

The Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009

Mar 23, 2009

Ok gardeners and enjoyers of local farmers markets, etc....if you're not paying attention to this'd better. Regulating small local farmers...and potentially down the road backyard food production...out of existance is the last thing this country needs right now. We need to speak up on this one. If you're not familiar with the Act, you should be.

The Bill

Here is a good article from Rod Dreher in the Dallas Morning News:

Rod Dreher: Food safety shouldn't kill farmers markets

Dinner from the garden…

Feb 23, 2009

Just in case those of you living in Texas don't realize how much you can grow here in the winter, all winter, this is what my dinner plate looked like last night. Straight from the garden to the plate. YUM. I dedicate this plate to Rod and Julie I think this is what they'll be eating for the next month!


What to do with turnips?

Jan 14, 2009

So if you veggie garden on schedule here in Texas, you should be harvesting turnips right about now. I'd say most people my age would ask the question: "What the .... do yo do with TURNIPS?" Well, they're actually quite tasty, and super easy to grow here. Just sprinkle the seeds directly into the garden in fall and late winter (now), then the seedlings and then just leave 'em alone until they mature. Don't let the turnips get too big before you harvest them, the flavor is better when they are medium sized.

You can make a "mash", as the British would say"...I like to combine potatoes and turnips together to make a mash. Boil your potatoes and turnips (seperately) to a mash appropriate softness. Drain and mash or blend with some butter, fresh parsley, salt and pepper, a bit of cream and some horseradish. MMMM. yes horseradish, that you also grew in your garden and processed...and is sitting in it's jar in you fridge.

OR, you can make these yummy Potato and Turnip cake's from her majesty Martha Stewart:

Serves 4

  • 1 pound russet potatoes (about 2 medium)
  • 1/2 pound white turnips (about 1 large)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper


  1. Coarsely grate (with a box grater or a food processor fitted with the grater attachment) potatoes and turnips, all scrubbed and trimmed. Squeeze to remove as much moisture as possible; transfer vegetables to a medium bowl. Toss with coarse salt and ground pepper.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Form potato mixture into four tightly packed patties; place in skillet, flattening gently with a spatula to a 3/4-inch thickness. Cook patties, turning once, until browned and cooked through, about 10 minutes per side (reduce heat if patties start to brown too quickly, and add more oil to skillet if necessary). Transfer to paper towels; sprinkle with salt.

OR, how about this Turnip Puff from Cooking for 2's website:

  • 3 cups cubed peeled turnips
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 egg
  • 4-1/2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Dash pepper
  • Dash ground nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons dry bread crumbs

2 teaspoons butter, melted

Place turnips in a large saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and cook for 10-15 minutes or until tender. Drain; mash with butter. Cool slightly. 

Beat in egg. Combine the flour, baking powder, brown sugar, salt, pepper and nutmeg stir into turnip mixture. 

Spoon into a 3-cup baking dish coated with cooking spray. Toss bread crumbs and butter; sprinkle over casserole. Bake, uncovered, at 375° for 30-35 minutes or until heated through and a thermometer reads 160°. Yield: 3 servings

OR you can roast or broil them with some olive oil and salt. Super yummy. They are also good mixed into soups or stews like you'd use potatoes. The greens can be braised or steamed with a bit of garlic, butter and lemon juice.

I know, I know...turnips can be an aquired taste. I think it's time we aquire it.

Black eyed peas…

Oct 10, 2008

Still harvesting black eyed peas...Super easy to grow...can even be seeded direct outdoors in the middle of August during the blazing heat. They germinate quickly and tolerate the heat well. First peas were ready about a month after seeding so it's a quick crop. They've continued producting steadily since. Fresh black eyed (or cow) peas taste great. I cook mine up with a sliced up jalapeno for some heat. Quite tasty. You can let them dry and store them for cooking later...or for seeds to replant. Next time around, I'll definiely plant more so as to get a bigger harvest.


Sushi at the Hallecks…

Oct 10, 2008

Homemade sushi at home....yum. I'm a veggie, my husband is not, but we both like sushi. So I thought...what the heck? Let's just make some. Yes, he requires two plate fulls....he says it's like candy. Shrimp and crab rolls for him...veggie avocado, cucumber and carrot rolls for me. Served with soba noodles in a soy/white wine shitaki mushroom soup. YUM. Needless to say, I couldn't finish all my food. I am now officially in love with my new mandolin slicer...I love excuses to buy kitchen gadgets.


Pickling Habaneros…Wear Gloves

Jul 19, 2008

So I grow hot peppers. Lots of em'. My father in law told me about a dish he'd had that required pickled habaneros, and had gotten the recipe. I told him I'd do him a solid and pickle him some. He lives in Minnesota...not sure how the hot pepper growing goes up there. Pickling is super easy, so if you've never canned anything it's a good place to start. You need glass jars, mason type. Any kind that has a secure lid. For this project I used some recycled tomato sauce jars with the old labels removed. You'll need to sterilized your jars and lids. You can either do this in the dishwasher or boil them for 10 min. My dishwasher is my husband and that dishwasher is often broken so I boil my jars. You'll also need to boil some vinegar.  I was filling two 20 oz. jars. I brought 32 oz. of vinegar to a boil. It took about 29 oz to fill the two 20 oz. jars after packed with peppers. So, you'll want to time it so your jars come out of the boiling water and your vinegar is boiling about the same time. You don't want your freshly sterilized jars to sit too long before you fill them. I used whole peppers instead of slicing them well, because a pile of habaneros, plus boiling vinegar makes for an potentially eye searing experience. So no chopping. Plus, they were so pretty whole I decided to use them that way.


You'll want to trim stems off completely and make sure to wash your peppers thoroughly. You'll notice my lovely bowl of peppers is flanked by a wine glass, as these activities are always best accompanied by libations...and broccoli seeds. Yes, it's time. I started broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts seeds today. I also planted black eyed peas and a second crop of potatoes, but I'll leave that for another post (I'm experimenting with some special potato containers, so I'll keep you posted.)


Notice my heavy duty rubber work gloves. It's a good idea to wear gloves when handling this many hot peppers Especially if you're going to be slicing them. The juices from the peppers will soak into your skin and it can be a less than pleasant experience. Also, when you're pickling, you're also dealing with boiling vinegar, which is an acid. If you've got hot pepper juice on your hands and then expose them to some vinegar, about an hour later you'll feel like you dipped your hands in a hot acid bath...and it can last a couple of days. How do I know this? Because I'm an idiot. I've done it before. It was one of the most painful and miserable experiences...don't be an idiot like me...wear some gloves!


So you've sterilized your jars and you've set them on a dishtowel on the counter, your peppers are washed and your vinegar is boiling. DO NOT take the lid off the vinegar and stick your face over it to see how it's boiling. You'll sear your eyeballs, and nostrils'll regret it. Keep your face at a respectful distance. Pack your jars with the whole or sliced peppers, almost to the top of the jar leaving some space at the neck. Turn the heat off the vinegar. Using a ladle, and funnel if you have one, ladle the vinegar over the peppers until it covers all the fruit. You may need to press the top few peppers down into the vinegar (hence the handiness of gloves) and make sure they are completely covered. then screw the lid on securely. Let the jars cool for a while. Whala. You're done. Pickled peppers will keep for quite some time. They don't have to be refrigerated, but they will last longer that way.


Now, you're entire house will reek of vinegar, so I suggest you open a window during this process. Here in Texas this time of year it's about 100 degrees, so it does make it a toasty project, but if you don't ventilate, you might be sorry. Ok, even if you open a window your house is still going to reek. I don't mind it, my husband thinks it's the end of the world. I used apple cider vinegar because I thought it might create a more interesting flavor. Well, that and it happened to be the only kind of vinegar I had in the house. So there you go. It is a bit dark in color, so if you want to see the color on the peppers more clearly use a white vinegar, a rice vinegar or such. Lovely. Burn your mouth to a crisp lovely.

Tasty Tomatoes…

Jul 3, 2008

Once my tomatoes start to ripen, I pretty much eat tomatoes breakfast, lunch and dinner. Tomatoes on my eggs, tomato sandwiches for lunch, tomatoes with mozzarella and basil from the garden dressed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar for dinner. That and many derivations of the like is pretty much how my summer goes. And I love it! I eat so many tomatoes I'm surprised I don't turn pink. I mean, look at these homegrown can you resist? This variety in particular is called 'Celebrity'. It's my standard hybrid backup - a reliable producer, so I always have a harvest even if the heirlooms are acting up.

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Horseradish Hot Head…

May 26, 2008

Horseradish I looooooove me some horseradish. Yes, I'm a hot head. The hotter the better. I know, I'm well aware I also have a short fuse, but that's not what we're talking about here! I harvested some horseradish from the garden yesterday - it's not the right time of the year to do this, but with the bizarre stink bug outbreak I've had on the horseradish this spring, they're not really putting out lots of new growth. So, I chopped off all the leaves, along with the stink bugs, and relocated them to the compost pile...I'm hoping they will stay there. I've put a couple of praying mantis egg sacs out in the garden in hopes they will hatch and eat all the heads off my stink bugs, buutttt the timing probably isn't right at this point. I'm sure they'll be lots of other things for them to eat when they emerge.

In any case, one usually harvests horseradish when plants are more dormant - early spring and late fall is best. You lift the plants with a sturdy garden fork (plants are strongly rooted in) and chop off the long healthy roots. Then immediately replant the main crown in the same spot. Horseradish plants are pretty tough and can actually be invasive in some climates. If you want to keep them from spreading you can grow them in containers. They prefer a sunny spot but will take some afternoon shade. I provide mine no special treatment and minimal waterings and they are usually pest free.

Off season harvest aside, the flavor on these roots is great. I ended up with about a 16 oz. jar of processed horseradish from a handful of roots. It's so hot I can't even put my face anywhere near the jar. Whoohooo! That's the good stuff.

So you want to process some horseradish? It's easy. Lift a plant and chop off some long healthy roots - replant your crown (cut off the leaves when you replant if it has any). Scrub the roots clean and then peel with a potato peeler. Make a mixture of 1 cup water and 1 cup 5% vinegar. Chop the roots into small pieces and place in a food processor. You can decide how hot you want your horseradish to be by grinding it a little or a lot before you add some of the vinegar mixture. Grind it a little, then add some liquid, and it will be more mild. Grind it longer and it will be hotter. I grind mine pretty fine, till there is a lot of grind built up on the sides of the processor, then add a little of the vinegar mixture. This blends the grind back together and "stops the hot". Keep processing till your horseradish has the texture you want. The finer you process it after you've added the liquid, the easier it will be to mix with other foods. Then pack the processed horseradish into a small glass jar. Keep processing until you have what you need. You don't want too much of the liquid in your storage jar, so if it seems too watery, simply strain some of the liquid out. The jar will keep in the fridge for about 4-6 weeks.

Hmmm, what will I make...horseradish mayo? relish? horseradish risotto? Definitely some Jezebel sauce. MMMMMMMMMM. Yum.

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