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2016-06-19 17.25.142016-06-25 17.28.50When I was growing up in the south, we used to visit our cousins in Alabama and when we ate watermelon, we threw it into the pasture for the cows to eat. I actually never heard of watermelon rind pickles until I was a grown woman.  It appears to be a southern thing.

Last week we got a nice small watermelon and I decided I wanted to try to make the pickles. But it meant soaking them in brine over night and patience is not one of my virtues so I started poking around for other recipes for the rind.

The Chinese and Japanese use them quite a bit and like them very crunchy.  Since I love foods from both cultures, I headed in the direction on Google searching for the right recipe.  In my travels, I discovered one for Chutney – which I love almost as much as Oriental cuisine.

This is the recipe I found and except for adding a bit more heat – in the form of more pepper corns and some little green chilies from my garden,  I pretty much followed it to the T.

Watermelon Rind Chutney

  1. 5 cups watermelon rind, tough green skin removed and cut into small pieces – or grated.
  2. 1 cup Coconut Sugar. (I used plain sugar)
  3. ½ cup Apple Cider Vinegar. (I used plain white vinegar)
  4. 2 inch ginger, minced or grated.
  5. 4 cloves garlic, minced or grated. (I used 6 cloves – there are vampires you know)
  6. ½ serrano pepper, remove seeds, minced. (I used two small ones from my garden)
  7. ½ tsp Fine Sea Salt.
  8. This wasn’t in the recipe, but I added a tablespoon of peppercorns.

Put all the ingredients together,  bring to a boil, reduce heat and cook until the rinds are soft – about 2 to 3 hours.

Put up in jars and can, or keep in the refrigerator for several weeks.  The jar I put in the fridge didn’t make it to one week. Just ‘sayin.

Enjoy!

Recipe source: http://myheartbeets.com/watermelon-rind-chutney/

My husband and I dearly adore spring rolls. No cooking involved. Just assembly. Quite of bit of it in fact. But so worth the effort.  A friend asked me how we make ours, so I thought I’d post the process here.  Don’t really have a recipe so will try to make up one and post later.

First off, spring rolls are eaten by several oriental cultures – Chinese, Vietnam, Korea and Indonesia.  I guess the ones I make are probably more Vietnamese in nature – with a little southern twist occasionally.  Today’s demo has no southern influence except for the f2016-06-06 18.02.21act the mint came from my very southern garden.

Note – at least for me, the kitchen becomes a very busy place with everything set up to make the rolls.

Next, I quickly boil some shrimp and reserve the hot water to soften the spring rolls – which come in a package and feel like course paper.2016-06-06 18.02.26 They are very delicate so some people double them up when making the rolls.  2016-06-06 18.03.24The photo shows a package of them next to lettuce which I use to help hold the rice noodles.

Before I get started, I take a handful of rice noodles and cover them with boiling water to soften them. 2016-06-06 18.02.35-2 I drain them before placing them in the rolls.

I shred some carrots and find some mint from the garden.  I also add in bean sprouts because I like the crunch.  2016-06-06 18.02.29

 

Next I start assembly. I put the shrimp up at the top of the roll on top of the mint. The idea is to have the stuff all show through the transparent rice paper. I think you get the idea.2016-06-06 18.11.31

I then make a peanut sauce – there are bunches of recipes out there – but peanut butter is the key ingredient.

Spring rolls, yum!

Spring rolls, yum!

The finished product is then served with the sauce – no cooking, very fresh tasting and you can experiment with what you build in your creation.

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2015-03-30 17.07.41How many of you use Google for dinner inspiration? I bet a bunch.  We own our own business and when 5:00 comes around I have already been making so many decisions that figuring out what’s for dinner is the last thing on my mind.  So, I turn to Google.

Tonight’s dinner was no exception.  Hubbie had pulled out a package of sliced pork tenderloin.  This is the first part of the “frugal” pieces of this blog.  We like to buy the huge pork tenderloins at Costco and cut them up into either slices or chunks.  This was one of those packages – 4 small slices.

This week, hubbie had brought back some amazing cheeses (we are certified rats) so I went to the internet and Googled “pork and cheese” to see what kind of inspiration I could find out in internet-land.  I found a great site (I’ve put the URL below) that talked about pork medallions stuffed with sun dried tomatoes and cheese. Winner winner.

Here’s what I did with that “inspiration” because to me, that’s typically what a recipe is anyway.  I took the pork slices and pounded them out and marinated them with some olive oil, garlic, salt and oregano.  Then, I went to the fridge and realized I no longer had my jar of marinated sun dried tomatoes.  But…I did have a package of my home grown tomatoes that I had dried.  I needed to re-hydrate them but I wanted to do it with olive oil.  Also in the fridge was a jar of mushroom stems that I had left over from mushrooms caps, that I had put in a jar with olive oil and a little vinegar because I don’t throw away anything.  The olive oil was congealed, so I put a couple of teaspoons of this mixture in with the sun dried tomatoes and microwaved them.  The smell was amazing.

Next, I took out the Mobier cheese hubbie had bought (soft cheese with Ash) and crumbled it together with the tomatoes and some fresh chopped parsley from my garden.  I rolled this mixture inside the 4 pounded tenderloins and closed them with some small wooden sticks.

Next I browned them on all sides, placed them in a 375 degree oven in the same skillet and roasted them for about 20 minutes.  I removed the skillet, put the tenderloins on a plate to rest and deglazed the pan with some sherry.

OMG – what an amazing dish.  I must be candid and say I am blogging about this tonight so I will remember what I did. The flavors were spectacular.

I used Google for the inspiration and frugalness to have the pork, sun dried tomatoes and mushrooms to add to the mixture.  Inspiration – not perspiration. My favorite way to cook.

http://www.doctorsreview.com/recipes/pork-medallions-stuffed-sun-dried-tomatoes-and-goa/

Several of my friends who follow my personal blog have been gently and not so gently nudging me to be more regular in my posts.  I’ve been really tied up with family and business issues so I have been neglectful so I’m going to rectify that now.

I want to start a series of articles about being frugal by using things that are typically available in a household.  Today I used one of the tips I recently heard about and thought it would be a good start to the series.

As for being frugal, it goes back in our family a long ways.  Before the Civil War, my family was quite prosperous.  There was a large family Antebellum home in Louisiana and my grandmother was raised like a princess.  She never quite forgot that, but when the war depleted the savings, and money went out the door, the family had to buckle down and learn to do things more efficiently, while still maintaining the level of civility they were used to.  In other words, we had to learn to be poor but not trashy.  Chuckle.  My grandmother never quite got over that part of it.  She instilled in me a sense of “princess-ness” which means I appreciate the finer things in life, but know how to get them without spending a fortune – unless  I really want a good glass of wine – then money is no object.

But more about that later.  Today’s post is about being nice to yourself, but frugally.  I LOVE a nice pedicure.  It is a form of decadence to me to have someone wash and scrub my feet and give me an amazing leg massage.  But, they are expensive so I usually only get them done on cruises.  I figure, heck, I am relaxing on the ocean, why not.  Since I don’t cruise as often as  I like the pedi’s equally don’t happen as often as well.

But, I walk around barefoot probably more than I should and over the winter wearing closed shoes means my feet get really dry, so when summer comes around, and I want to have pretty feet for sandals, my feet don’t cooperate.

Well, today I tried something that still feels amazing, a good 2 hours after the project was completed.  My mom told me about something she saw on Facebook.  She raved about how wonderful it worked.  I, being the skeptical person I am, went to Google to research the process.  Basically, it’s a Listerine and vinegar foot bath.  The idea is it will remove dead skin easily and your feet are supposed to feel even better than after a professional pedicure.  Humpf, I thought.  Wrong, I was.

The instructions are 1/4 cup of Listerine and 1/4 cup of vinegar in a warm water foot bath.  You soak your feet for 15 minutes or more and then the skin rubs right off.  It turns out it actually works.  It’s tingly and the Listerine has an interesting smell.  Some of the posts said to use the blue kind, but other posts said it stained your feet. Since I wasn’t interested in looking like a Smurf, I voted for the plain Listerine I had in the house.  I also choose to use apple cider vinegar, well, because I use that for so many other things, I felt what the heck.  In addition,  I have this nifty wooden foot scrubber that is covered in two kinds of sandpaper.  A really nice manicurist on one of the cruise ships bought me one when we were in port in Jamaica.  At $5,00, it really is a frugal find.  They are not allowed to use them anymore on the ships, so I am really fortunate that I got it when I did.  Included at the end is a picture of this nifty device.  I may have to figure out how to make one when this one wears out – or go on a quest the next time we are in Jamaica.

To finish it off, I used my Dr. Scholls Cooling peppermint foot lotion and now, 2 hours later, my feet still feel amazing.  I am not sure if it’s the foot lotion or the Listerine or the vinegar.  But who cares.  It was inexpensive, and just the right thing to do for a relaxing Sunday afternoon.  Cheap.  Easy.  Frugal.  Satisfying.

So, that’s the first of what I hope to be several blog articles on other frugal things we do around here all the time.  Today’s frugal adventure was a new one, but I am adding it to my list of things I will do often.  If you have any frugal tips, please share them as well.

Ciao, y’all.

foodfile

Homemade Dolmades - stuffed grape leavesI love Spring.  It’s finally warm enough for me to get back into my garden and get my hands dirty.  It also means I can start growing fresh vegetables again.  I love saying “I am heading out to the market – and open my back door to my herb and veggie garden.  Nothing tastes better than fresh herbs and vegetables.

In the same area as my herbs is my one and only grape vine.  I don’t have a lot of garden space so I use it judiciously.  My vine produces just enough grapes to share with us and the wasps – although I hope to deploy a strategy on that soon.  The other thing my vine produces is grape leaves.  And that means Dolmades – stuffed grape leaves.  Today is dolmade day around here and I thought I’d share some photos I took a couple of years ago of this process.  The only thing different from the photos is I am using ground lamb today for more of a true middle eastern flavor.

Here’s the link to the photos and below is a recipe I like – although like most things I cook – this is more of a suggestion.

https://picasaweb.google.com/117134876064181475245/MakingDomadesStuffedGrapes

INGREDIENTS:Makes about 50 dolmades
● 1 jar preserved grape leaves, drained 
- I use fresh – just pick young leaves, remove stem, soak in hot water a few minutes)
● ½ cup longgrain (Basmati) rice
● ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
● 1 onion, finely chopped
● 3 cloves garlic, minced
● ½ pound lean ground lamb
● 1 teaspoon dried oregano
● Salt and freshly ground black pepper
● 4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled finely or grated (I tend to leave this out – not sure why, just do)
● 
3 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
● 
2 tablespoons finely chopped mint
● 1 teaspoon sugar (I leave this out – and instead use cinammon)
● 
Juice of 1 lemon
● 
1 lemon sliced, for garnish
● Mint leaves, for garnish

DIRECTIONS:

  1. 
Carefully separate the grape leaves, place in a large bowl and pour boiling water over them to cover. Let the leaves soak for 20 minutes, then drain and rinse to remove excess salt.
  2. Drain the leaves, snip off the stems (reserving stems), and lay the leaves on a towel to dry.
  3. In a saucepan, bring 2 cups of salted water to a boil, and stir in the rice. Cover, reduce the heat to low and cook rice until water is absorbed, about 17 to 20 minutes.
  4. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a skillet, add the onion and saute until soft, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and saute one more minute. Add the lamb and cook until the meat is well browned, breaking it apart with a fork while cooking, about 15 minutes. Add the oregano, cinammon and salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the feta and remove from the heat. Stir in the rice, parsley and mint.
  5. Place one leaf on a flat surface, vein side up, shiny side down. Place a rounded teaspoon of filling in the center of the leaf, near the stem edge. Fold the stem end over the filling, then fold both sides toward the middle, and form into a roll. Squeeze lightly in the palm of your hand to secure the roll. Repeat process with remaining leaves and filling.
  6. Line the bottom of a 3 quart heavy saucepan with reserved stems, trimmings and any leftover or torn grape leaves, and arrange bundles seam sides down, packing them close together in layers.
  7. Combine the remaining ¼ cup olive oil with 3/4 cup water, the sugar, and lemon juice, and pour over the stuffed grape leaves.
  8. Place a small, heatproof plate on top of the stuffed leaves, cover the pan and simmer over low heat for about 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until leaves are tender and most of the liquid is absorbed.
  9. Serve warm, or at room temperature, garnished with lemon slices and mint leaves
Enjoy. Ciao y'all.

Homemade Hot cross bunsI love hot cross buns.  This year I decided to make some and couldn’t find my recipe so I went out on Google.  I found a nice one by the Pioneer Woman.  I included a link to her blog article below.  Here’s what mine ended as – I always nudge a recipe in a little different direction.  This was no exception.

However, while doing my recipe research I found a wealth of information about the mystique of hot cross buns.  Who knew sailors would carry one on board a ship to ensure a safe passage.  Hanging one in your kitchen would guarantee that all your breads would rise.

Old English folklore says if you bake and serve them on Good Friday they will stay good all year and not mold.  I made mine on Easter Sunday because that’s what we always did.  And no, they didn’t last.  But it wasn’t because of a mystical reason – it was because they were warm and soft and yummy.  Duh.

If you shared a bun, it was good luck.  My grandmother used to say “Half for you and half for me, Between us two shall goodwill be“.  Now I know why.  Her grandmother had said it to her and who knows how far back this tradition went on.

In England there are poems and songs surrounding hot cross buns.  A lot of my heritage is based around the UK so I’m not surprised they are an important part of my upbringing.  Somewhere I remember her saying one half penny two half penny which I believe was the price of the buns.  I’ll have to ask my British friends the next time I talk to them.  Still I wonder where these traditions came from.  Some of them are quite powerful.  But the people that remember are long gone.

We as a people now do such a lousy job of retaining our cultural histories.  We forget why we do things – we just know that’s what you do.  Nobody asks why.  Well, actually that’s not true.  I ask why.  My sons used to ask why.  Boy, I wish I had had access to Google back when they were growing up – I would have been the information ninja.  A client of  mine called me that one day and I loved it.  I need to figure out how to put that on a bio somewhere.

No matter your religion, these buns are wonderful.  I posted a copy on my Facebook page and a friend of mine said “even Jews would like these buns.”  True indeed.  Now I am asking myself why wait until Easter to make these (besides the “they are fattening you dope” question.  My mother in law would only eat them around Easter time – and it wasn’t because that was the only time they showed up.  You weren’t supposed to eat them – can’t figure out why.  That goes back to the lost cultural history thing.

That’s it for now.  I’ve been busy posting on my business blog (http://www.egenconsulting.com/patricia-egen-consulting-blog.html) and neglecting my favorite one – talking about food and being southern and doing neat things.  A friend of mine said you haven’t posted recently – go get at it.  Well, Nancy, here you go.

Ciao y’all.

Link to the Pioneer Woman recipe:

http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2010/04/hot-cross-buns/

The year has started off rather chilly.  It’s not snowing but it’s dreary and cold.  So, I figured we needed something warm and comforting for dinner this week.  One of the things I miss from Miami are the wonderful hearty Cuban soups.  One of my all time favorites was Caldo Gallego.  I created my own version of it years ago, and decided that would do the trick this week.

What, you might ask, is Caldo Gallego.  It’s really a white bean stew that originated in the Galicia area of Spain.  That area tends to be cooler so warm stews and soups are a staple.

My recipe goes like this:

2 cans white beans

Chorizo or Salami

1 Ham hock and small ham pieces

One large sweet onion – diced

3 cloves of garlic – diced

Olive Oil

1 large turnip – diced small

5 leaves of collards – chopped

3 medium potatoes – diced

6 cups water and 4 cups chicken stock

1 teaspoon Cumin

Instructions:

Saute the chopped up ham hock, ham pieces and salami or chorizo in the olive oil.  After they have browned a bit, add the garlic and onions.  Turn down the heat and saute until the onions are translucent.  Add in the chopped turnips and potatoes.  Saute to absorb the fats.  Next add the beans.  Stir to combine.  In about 5 minutes add the water.  Now, taste the water and add any needed salt.  Add the cumin and any pepper to taste.  Let simmer for about an hour.  Add the collard greens.  Let simmer an hour more.  The more this cooks the better it gets.

Serve with some wonderful earthy bread.

That’s it for now.  Enjoy the recipe.  Ciao y’all.

This year we decided to have a lean Christmas.  Everyone is scrambling for extra cash so I told people to either make simple gifts or give coupon books with things like “I’ll do the dishes” or “I’ll cook every night this week” (my personal favorite one).

What I elected to do was make several rice neck warmers.  I had gotten one at a spa recently and thought, gee, I can do that too.  This article will describe my simple process, ideas for which were gleaned from several Google searches, but ended up being my own design to fit what I wanted.

The main items you need are a sewing machine, some fabric, and rice.  In my case I bought packages of kitchen towels at Walmart.  We get them every year to  make crocheted kitchen towels and find them to be sturdy, soft and durable.

DSCF6247

To start off, I cut off the double seamed ends of the towels. Then, I measured 11 inches for my width.

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The standard size I found out on the web was 11 x 22 so my cut down towel was perfect.

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I folded the towel inside out lengthwise.

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Next, I stitched a seam down the open end, curving the edges at the bottom narrow end.

I left one end open.

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I trimmed the corners of the narrow end so it would not bulge when I turned the towel inside out.

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After I turned the towel inside out, I stitched a seam down not quite the middle of the towel.

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By “not quite the middle” I mean one half was a little narrower than the other. It’s not exactly in thirds. I found that the towel, once filled with rice, seemed to lay better if the two sides were not exactly the same width. I made sure the the middle seam did not go all the way to the end of the towel so I would have an edge to turn over and stitch closed.

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Next came filling the sides with rice. I created a funnel out of the top of a quart size soda bottle.

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Inserting the funnel end into one side of the towel, I poured in rice until it was almost full.

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My trial towel worked better if it wasn’t jammed full of rice.

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It needed to be flexible to move around my neck or shoulder. I found filling up the sides leaving about 2 to 3 inches open worked well.

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After filling both sides, I turned in the open end and stitched it closed, backing up over the stitches to ensure I had a nice tight closure. On some of the neck warmers I added a ring of zigzag ribbon to act as a holder. The size of the holder was designed to fit over a door handle.

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How long you put the warmer in the microwave depends on how hot you want the warmer to be. 2 seconds is slightly warm, 3 seconds is starting to get pretty hot. 4 seconds will guarantee a burn on my neck, so try it out starting at lower temperatures till you find the one you like. My husband found out that 4 seconds was too hot for him, but a friend of mine heats hers to 5 seconds. Again, it’s personal choice.

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That’s it for now. Hope everyone has a happy 2013. Ciao y’all.

Woo hoo. I harvested the first Shiitakes today. They will sauted with balsamic vinegar and wine and put over sliced Rib Eye steak over Ginger Rice. It is really cool. This experiment actually needs to be upgraded to a project – not an experiment. It’s working. Still haven’t seen any Pioppino mushrooms but they are supped to take longer. The enokitakes are starting to “bud” – I guess that’s what you call it. Mushroom farming is new to me so I need to study up on the jargon. But, I can’t wait to see how the mushrooms taste. They will probably be the freshest I’ve ever eaten. Still not brave enough to go out in the wild and harvest – but we’ll see. Maybe. One day.

Shiitake Mushrooms - first harvest!

Well, the mushroom experiment has officially started. We are actually into week two of the process. That process is basically misting the mushroom bases 3 to 4 times a day. This photo shows the humidity bags over the Shiitake and Pioppino sets.

Mushrooms!

Notice we have babies on the Shiitakes. Woo hoo.

Looking Closer

first mushrooms

This is a closeup of the mushroom babies.

All that is required is the daily misting. The hardest part was the fact the water couldn’t have chlorine. That meant boiling water every day. Mother nature came to the rescue and provided us with a deluge over the weekend. I harvested rain water and now have a proper supply of non-chlorinated water for my mushroom patch.

Mushroom Misting

Mushrooms!

Now, figuring out a way to help Don remember to mist them for me while I’m off on baby watch in Arizona will be the real trick. Wish me luck.

Ciao, y’all. And happy new year.