Saturday, January 31, 2009

Plant Potatoes

You need to grow potatoes, you will grow potatoes, you will eat potatoes...hypnotic moment now over.

It's almost time to start planting in my region of the country and for some reason I felt I should plant potatoes again this year. No vegetables has had better results in my garden and you can have the same experience in your garden or your apartment. That's right, potatoes are easy to grow and the clip above tells you all about it.

A great place to buy seed potatoes Seed Savers Exchange

Learn about the history and variety of potatoes in this clip.

Friday, January 30, 2009

1 + 1 = Grill Cheese

Many times I've been called a food snob. I'm sure any one who considers them self a seeker of great food or a foodie has been been called the same name in both positive and negative terms.
Well if eating grill cheese sandwiches makes me a food snob, then so be it. I feel that if I'm going to make a grill cheese sandwich I'm going to make the best damn sandwich I can. I've blogged this week about cheese and bread and thought it only natural the two came together in the classic grill cheese.
A classic can become great with just a little shopping. I could make over dozen of the sandwich above and it would have cost me under $5 for both the cheese and bread. So, if being a food snob is being both cheap and wanting great food, then guilty as charged.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Hunk of Meat Meet Plate

Earlier this week I wrote about my love for big hunks of braised meat. A few people emailed and asked what that meat was going to become. So here's the answer.

The above photo is of a braised pork shoulder served over some toasted garlic bread. My easy braising liquid for this dish is roast garlic, fresh oregano, whole canned tomatoes, and balsamic vinegar.

If you've ever made or had a great braised meat dish you always feel like you need a large crusty piece of bread to soak up all the great braising liquid. This dish solves that problem. On a side not the entire meal, with a ton of leftovers, cost under $12.

Attention $1.99 Bread Shoppers

Foodie or not we're all looking for great deals on food and I believe the above is a bargain.

Unfortunately many things at Whole Foods are very expensive and that's a topic and debate for another time but the above Italian loaf does not fall into that group. For A $1.99 this loaf is a great piece of bread at the right price.

For what ever reason there was a trend/excuse that bread had gone up significantly because of the fuel cost increase in the last two years. I will not play transported goods economist here but I never really bought into these over priced bread costs. In my area one bakery was charging as high as $9 for a cranberry pecan loaf. I've taught many a artisan bread class and have respect and understanding of the time that goes into a loaf of good bread but $9 is outrageous unless flour has gone up to $6 per pound and I'm unaware of that happening.

So, if you're in a local Whole Foods in your part of the world keep your eyes open for this loaf priced at $1.99. It is not behind the glass bread case at my Whole Foods it is located below the case in a basket. The bread is a little darker in finish then a typical Italian loaf but we can argue characteristics of different breads another time but for now we can all agree it's a great loaf of bread at $1.99.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

When I Grow Up

We had some snow fall this morning in Tennessee and that's a great excuse to take pictures. The above photos of are a large Picea abies that's about 15-18ft tall and the image of conifers in the snow gives me chills literally and figuratively.
Here's how the American Conifer Society describes Picea abies.
Norway Spruce; 1-1/2" long, dense, dark green needles; branches droop gracefully as plant matures; fastest growing spruce; full sun; 6-8' in 10 yrs, grows to 150'; z3 northern & central Europe

Peppers Make it Hot

I've had quite a few emails from new gardeners on what to grow this year. I think all gardens but particularly new gardeners should grow some hot peppers.

Large sweet bell peppers are not as prolific as their hot relatives. The smaller hot pepper plants thrive on heat and full sun and given those things a single pepper plant can produce hundreds of hot packets of goodness. You'll not only have a lot of peppers but you'll get a boost of garden confidence from your crop.

The culinary side of the equation is what do you do with all those peppers. The answer to that question coming soon.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A Hunk of Meat

There is nothing better then a braised piece of pork. I have never really gotten how the pork chop became the default Americana piece of pork at the dinner table.

Pork shoulders and legs have just the right amount of fat and lean meat for braising and create one of the most perfect one pot meals on the planet.

Say Cheap Cheese

Cheese has become a lot like wine. You can buy a great wine and spend hundreds of hundreds of dollars but you can get wines that are just as good for less then $50.

Now the same can be said for cheese, there are very expensive $30 a pound cheeses but there are also great under $8 a pound cheeses. This is recent development because only a few short years ago it seemed that the only affordable cheeses were horrible.

Finding these great low cost cheeses does take some shopping and sampling but many grocery chains and even local cheese makers are having more affordable options. For the last month I've been going with a strict "I won't pay more then $6 per pound for cheese" principal.

The above two cheeses are both from Trader Joe's and cost less then $5 per pound. The two offer a great sharp cheddar flavor and are priced nearly the same as the horrible starts with K ends in RAFT and offer a great value. So, load up the car and seek out great affordable cheeses in your local.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Crazy for Abies

For the non-crazy conifer fans, I present to you the species of abies. The common name for these are firs and the two above are some favorites of mine.
The top three photos are of Abies firma 'Gold Hue' which if you live in a warmer environment many botanist feel abies firma will do better in higher humidity areas.
The bottom three photos of are Abies koreana 'Siberlocke'. The curled needles expose the silvery white underside of the needles and is one of the most striking conifers in the world, IMO. If you're a new gardener I would suggest 'Siberlocke' as a must have.

Enough Part 2

I admit I'm a masochist. I was on my elliptical machine last night with a headset on and flipping TV channels. I stumbled upon Food Network and Guy Fietti's "Ultimate Recipe Showdown" was on.

I've never seen the show but it's clear that Food Network is trying to put the Game Show Network out of business because every food network show seems to be a contest. I've even heard rumours that Chuck Woolery is developing a foodie dating game.

In the early days of TV when most of it was live the host of a show would some times walk over to a little platform and begin to sell/pitch an advertisers product. It seems Food Network is going all retro with their advertising. The Ultimate Recipe Showdown goes to commercial but suddenly Guy Fietti is back on my TV but this time he's in a kitchen. He proceeds to tell me how now I don't have to settle for just seeing all the great recipes being made on Ultimate Recipe Showdown but I can head on down to TGI Fridays and try them for myself. Isn't that great.

Typically infomercials have had to have a disclaimer place at the beginning of a show saying the following is a paid advertisement. Food Network has obviously created an infomercial disguised, poorly I may add, as a food cooking competition. Why don't we just drop the charade and admit that much of Food Networks programing is being created strictly to fit an advertisers need and they hope that the program keeps just enough of their audience to keep the advertiser happy.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

That One Meal

Every one can cook. I know you're saying "oh no I can't". We all can or should be able to cook one meal.
I'm not suggesting you become a culinary encyclopedia but have one meal you can make from scratch and serve proudly to friends or family. In the coming weeks I'll be designing video recipes that do just that, focusing on making one meal from beginning to end. All of the meals will also be ultra affordable all under $20 to serve 2-4 people.
So get your cooking gears going and start thinking about what kind of meal you would serve to family or friends and if you don't cook now, start hyping yourself up with the confidence to cook one meal.

Chicken Again?

I know many home cooks struggle with what to do with chicken. You may cook it often and feel like you've hit the idea wall. Chicken is a canvas for flavor and if you approach it that way your job might become easier.

Roasting chicken has and I feel will always be my favorite way to prepare chicken. The above chicken was seasoned with salt and pepper, some fresh tyhme and sage stuffed in the cavity, and drizzled with canola oil and roasted in the oven at 450 degrees for 20 minutes then the temp was lowered to 350 degrees for the final 20-30 minutes.

Once you have a perfectly cooked roast chicken it is a perfect canvas for any other flavors you might want to add. We could make a quick chimichurri sauce and now we've got a delicious Latin American dish. You could saute some wild mushroom in a pan and add some white wine to that and you have a fantastic simple elegant dish. In the future there will be plenty of "what do to with chicken?" video clips.

The roast chicken I see in grocery stores look awful to me so I would never suggest to buy those. The one time I've tried that chicken it reminded me of what it would be like to eat a wet sponge that had been left out in the sun to dry out. It's so easy to roast a chicken at home take the extra time and it will be worth it.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

I Leave to you this Tomato

Can a tomato be a family heirloom? Yes, you'll see how and why in the clip above.

Click Here for the Garden Years Podcast

Drum roll...........introducing the first Garden Years podcast. Click the above link and wait for the file to start, it might take a few minutes. Or you can right click the link above and save the file to your computer.

For this weeks podcast we welcome our special guest Dr. Linda Chalker Scott. Dr. Scott is the extension urban horticulturist at Washington State University. Her research papers on subjects on various gardening subjects are fantastic information for all both new and experienced gardeners. Her book the Informed Gardener will be an asset to your ever growing gardening library.

Friday, January 23, 2009

$15 Steak Dinner

In a previous post I mentioned the over priced steakhouse restaurant.

Yesterday I decided, "steak it's what's for dinner". I like to typically get a grass fed steak but I typically can only order those from a local farm, which couldn't happen due to the spontaneity of this dinner. The next best selection to me would be an organic prime steak but there are only few retailers who offer that and I don't think I have the credit score to qualify for that purchase.

I was left with few option but a choice graded chuck-eye steak at $6.99 per pound caught my eye. This cut is technically from the upper shoulder but it resembles a typical rib-eye steak and has heavy marbling. Here are a few quick steak cooking tips.

-Let the steak come to room temperature before cooking
-Pat the steak dry
-Season with salt and pepper right before it hits the pan.
-Use a medium high heat to insure a nice crust
-Allow your pan to to heat right before it starts to smoke
-I like to add just a teaspoon of a high heat canola oil to my pan until the oil shimmers

I served the steak with roasted carrots tossed with scallions and wasabi infused coconut milk sauce and jasmine rice. The total price for the meal was under $15 for two people. I'll be adding a full video clip series on cooking all different cuts of beef very soon.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Let's Lighten Things Up

So you're looking for something new and healthy to eat. May I introduce you to a lovely fennel salad.

Foodies and Farmers Lend Me Your Ears

I was going through my photo files and came across these photos of the early spring late frost of 2007.
Two years ago many people experience a very quick and prolonged 2 week warming trend. This resulted in fruit trees and ornamental trees to break dormancy and begin leafing out. The temps were as high as the mid to low 80s in the southeast. Many plants were completely leafed out.
Here's where it got bad, we were then hit with temps all the way down into the teens for three days running. This was enough to kill off entire crops of fruit trees. Costing farmers their lively hood for the year and some have still not recovered financially. If the temps wouldn't have stayed so high for so long or the cold would have been a one night event, maybe the damage would have been lessened.
So as this spring approaches even if you're not a farmer or gardener keep your eye on the national forecast and hope we don't have a repeat of 2007. If we do none of us will get to enjoy a delicious home made fresh peach cobbler or an apple tart tatin.

Bronze Winters

Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Filicoides Compacta' is a hinoki cypress. The hinoki cypress is a conifer that really stands apart from pines and spruce trees with it's fan like branches they make quite a striking addition to the garden. I've heard from conifer collector's that these plants are borderline zone 5, so they may not make it through super cold winters.

I had heard that many of the hinoki cultivars turn a "bronze" color in winter. Up until the above plant all I had seen were plants that looked near dead in winter and then looked revived in spring. This 'Filicodes Compacta' does really have a true "bronze" color and is hard to miss even at it's small size.

I have over 40 hinoki cypress cultivars in my collection and they offer great diversity and year round color. Some like the above pictures show may even add a touch of bronze to your garden.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Mulch Matters

Mulch Week continues...

The above clip will give you even more insight into exactly how important mulch is in the garden. Not only will it gain you some knowledge, but it may even save you some cash.

Research papers referenced in video clip courtesy of Dr. Linda Chalker-Scott

Myths : Arborist wood chip mulches: landscape boon or bane?

I Love Chocolate Chunk Cookies

I'm really just sharing.

I find the cookie, in particular chocolate chunk, to be the perfect dessert. Small enough not to be overwhelming or too rich but large enough to satisfy that decadent dessert craving.

Here's a link to a previous post on cookies.

Raspberry Berret

Who doesn't like fresh raspberries? As winter, at least in my part of the country, is entering into the second half early producing fruits and veggies are on my mind.

If you want an early shot of confidence and instant gratification in growing stuff in the garden raspberries are a good choice. There are dozes of different varieties but for early spring planting you want summer bearing plants. Raspberry plants will be making their early season appearance at garden centers across the country in the coming weeks. Raspberries should be planted in full sun and like good dose of compost fertilization. After your plants set fruit and they ripen to a ruby red like above cut the cane, the stem that the fruit grew on, back to the ground leaving about an 1-2 inches.

From a culinary perspective raspberries are awesome. A very complex flavor that tip-toes the line between bitter and sweet. IMO, raspberries are best fresh tossed with just a bit of sugar a pinch of salt, and orange zest and allowed to sit until they just begin to soften, approximately 10 minutes for a cup of raspberries. For an added twist toss in about a 1/8 of a teaspoon of balsamic vinegar to the above.

If you have or haven't grown raspberries or if you're a fresh raspberry or raspberry gelato person, the time is almost upon us for fresh picked berries.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

No not the Nitrogen

Mulch Week

Mulch can get expensive, I'm talking thousands of dollars expensive if you're working on a large project. The cheapest price I've found in my area is $14 a cubic yard plus delivery. Depending upon where and how you're going to use the mulch you could need 10,20, or in my case 120 cubic yards. Some quick math tells us that we're looking at a minimum order of $100 plus $60 for delivery.
Quickly you can see that the cost of mulch can run up the price of the largest or smallest garden project. There is an answer. Tree services all across the country cut trees and chip the wood and then have to pay money to dump the chipped wood at a landfill. This material is usually a mix of wood chips, small twigs, and leaf litter which all sounds like material you might find on a forest floor, a good thing.
For many years there has been a theory that fresh wood chips would tie up nitrogen in the soil that the plants use to grow, but thanks to researchers like Dr. Linda Chalker-Scott we now know those theories are not accurate. What is accurate is that fresh wood chips are readily available act as one of the best mulches there is and may be completely free.
What I suggest doing is either email or phone local tree services in your area to see if they would dump a truck load of wood chips on your property. If you do it now in the winter the chips will even have some time to start decomposing. Another suggestion is allow them to dump the chips off of a gravel, asphalt or cement driveway. You don't need a large truck carrying your wood chips to get stuck in the lawn. I've had great success with this and have had over 40 cubic yards delivered and it's cost me nothing but some phone calls and time.
This is an article that explains in detail the nitrogen myth.

Red Onion or Not

I was chatting with someone last night about an often under appreciated issue. When to use a red onion?
At first glance this might appear to be a "who cares?" culinary issue but there are times when you should or should not reach for a red onion.
The bright color of a red onion is perfectly suit for not being cooked or quickly cooked. When used in long cooking situations the red fades and takes on more of an ugly grey color. I don't even use red onion in making stocks or broths because I feel it discolors them. Here's a quick helpful list of should and should nots
Use raw
Quickly sauteed
Quickly Grilled
Quick Pickle
Should Not:
Used Braised
Used in soups
Used in stocks
There are of course hundreds of different applications where a red onion may or may not work well. I plan on covering onions from root to table on an upcoming video series dedicate to one of the kings of the culinary world the onion.

Monday, January 19, 2009

These Mounds and You

Mulch Week Begins

Mulch may not seem like an exciting subject but when you consider in any good garden there is far more mulch then plants it may be the most important element in the garden.

I've had over 150 cubic yards of mulch delivered in the last 6 months to my property. So, I've seen the up and downs of different types and this week you'll learn through my experience and mistakes with mulch.

New gardeners will see why mulch is so important and experienced gardeners will gain some tips as well. Each day I'll have one post that with tackle the topic of mulch and there will also be a video clip that will extensively cover the topic. The best part of this week I'm going to save you a ton of cash.

Conifers Show in Snow

I know this wouldn't even be considered snow to many of you who live in colder climates. Here in my part of the US we're getting a very light dusting of snow, maybe a half an inch. We've seen very little snow fall this winter but even this light dusting shows off the greatness of conifers.

The snow falls and this picea abies looks just as good if not better then it will look in June. Conifers for me represent the best value of all plants offering 365 days a year of color and beauty.

Sunday, January 18, 2009


I've thought long and hard about this post. When I was a kid I remember watching cooking shows and thinking that's neat the people are cooking on TV and having fun, that's a good job. It wasn't till later in life that I decided that I should put my efforts into a similar career.

After teaching thousands of students and meeting great people in the process. I am about to say what needs to be said, Food Network has officially been banned in my home. Call it
"jumping the shark", there better days are behind them, or they ain't what they use to be but I have had enough.

I stood by when the former host of Double Dare appeared on my TV telling me how cool it will be for me to watch how corn flakes are made. I stood silent, well I'm never silent, when Sandra Lee came on their network and slapped the face of all things culinary on a daily basis.

Today though I draw a line in the sand at this, the Fun and Fit as a Family event.

"The Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival is pleased to announce the return of its groundbreaking childhood obesity prevention initiative -- South Beach Diet presents Fun and Fit as a Family featuring Kellogg's Kidz Kitchen. Taking place February 21 & 22, 2009 throughout Jungle Island, one of Miami's premiere theme parks, Fun and Fit as a Family will bring together the best culinary, fitness, food, and health personalities and professionals in the country to show the community how they can make healthier choices, and have fun doing it!"

So why would this be the my last straw with food network? Doesn't all of the above sound like a great idea? It does look like a great idea until you learn who will be doing the cooking demonstrations, drumroll please, Paula Deen, Guy Fieri...........PAULA DEEN are you kidding me?

I'm sure Paula is a lovely women, her shows and cooking style aren't my cup of tea but she's created a brand for herself and is successful so kudos to her. Her brand though I believe is butter not health, not fit, and arguably not fun.

I am organizing an event called "Politicians against graft and corruption". My keynote speakers are Sen. Ted Stevens and Gov. Rod Blagojevich both are sure to really connect with the topic.

In closing, I miss the Food Network where Mario Batali would speak of regions of Italy that are above the butter belt and Alton Brown was just a brainy guy who talked about the molecular reaction of molecules in a souffle and wasn't the host of a cooking contest. Those were the days when Food Network was truly about food and not shows that tell me how many potato chips are in a pringles can and certainly not send a host who has fried Twinkies to an event to raise awareness about child obesity.

Steel Cage Match

Keeping tomato plants upright to expose the tomato fruit and help air circulation can be a challenge. This is a quick and easy way to help you win your steel cage match this summer with tomatoes.

1st Time Gardener?

Three years ago I had never grown anything. So I can relate to both the excitement and trepidation many new gardeners are feeling about starting their first garden. There is a lot of information out there and that in itself besides the materials, labor, and unknown can seem confusing at times.

In the coming weeks, as we approach spring, I'll be adding dozens of gardening and cooking clips to help both the new gardener through some of the confusing issues that are out there and provide even more knowledge to the experienced gardener.

To get that first-time gardener advice ball rolling, I suggest raised vegetable beds. I mentioned them in the all about carrots video and I'll state here this is a great approach for new and experienced gardeners. If you have compacted clay soil or you don't know what kind of soil you have piling up a combination of bagged or delivered top soil or compost solves both problems. More on raised vegetable beds and all gardening and cooking topics in the days ahead.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Pasta Trend Continues

This pasta features heirloom grape tomatoes that when in season explode with flavor. We'll take advantage of that explosion of juice and flavor and use it to create a perfect sauce accent with red wine.

Fast Food

Last week someone said to me "do you ever get tired of cooking?"
I wouldn't say I get tired of cooking, I do get tired from cutting down dozens of trees but not cooking. So when I've been busy or tired I reach for fast food. No, I am not one of those chefs who talks about great food all day and then you'll see me in the drive-thru lane at the golden arches.
The above is my fast food. We are fortunate in the Nashville area to have a great local artisan pasta shop, Lazzaroli Pasta. How fast is fast? You can have the pasta and sauce in your freezer waiting for that day when you're to tired or to busy but still want a fantastic meal. Boil water and heat the sauce and in less then 15 minutes you'll have the above photoed meal on the table. This tortellini and marinara sauce cost less then $10.
Not all cities may have a Lazzaroli Pasta but you might have another local place making great affordable local food that you can take home and still have a meal at the dinner table. Local artisan food makers craft their foods from scratch and all they create is hand-made. The greatest thing you'll discover is what pride and excitement they have about the food they make. I encourage you to go out and find these local artisan food makers and try what great local food might be in your area.

Friday, January 16, 2009


The freezing temps are bit much and now I'm officially over winter. Looking to the future I present a SOS (Slice of Summer).

Pizza Party

My love of the $4 pizza continues. I've blogged on this subject before the above pizza cost under four bucks to make. Now, that a bargain.
The ingredient list is simple
one pre-made pizza dough, mine is from Trader Joe's, cost $1.19
1/4 lb of cheese that cost $4.99 per pound
1/4 cup tomato sauce $1.00(I always have tomato sauce on hand but if you don't you can use a canned sauce)
Here's the only other elements that add cost and make a huge difference to making great pizza at home. Once you buy these items they'll last you at least 10 years. The first is a pizza stone. The stones are widely available and the only trick to them is to allow your oven to preheat with the stone in it for at least 30 minutes. I prefer the square stones versus the circle shapes which are also available. The other is a pizza paddle to get the pizza in and out of the oven. These are available in either wood or stainless steel. The steel is easier to clean and keep but cost far more and are not as easy to find.
In the coming weeks I'll be adding a video recipe of the $4 pizza but until then start thinking about throwing away the pizza delivery number and how cool your family and friends will think you are when you make pizza at home.

Free Peaches

I was emailing someone this morning who had mentioned they have fruit trees and it made me ponder the state of my own mini-orchard.
Two years ago I was fortunate and found fruit tree on sale for less then $3 per tree. As I tend to due I went crazy and ended up with more then 50 fruit trees. The list is primarily peach, nectarine, apple and plum with many different varieties of each. This past year I was building out my ornamental Japanese maple and conifer gardens so the fruit orchard didn't get the TLC it needs.
This year I promise I will recommit to the fruit orchard and it's production, and I'll have an extensive collection of video clips covering the topic of fruit trees. Hopefully all this work will eventually, maybe not this year, but eventually lead to better fruit production and free peaches for all.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Soup's On

The deep cold is hitting most of the US. So what to eat on a cold day? The answer is a quick and easy soup. Thanks to the folks at WTVF.

The Plant or the Powder or the Paste?

This was one of the more exciting herb additions for me last year. Most of us have had curry in a dish. In south east Asia curry takes the form of a past, most notably in Thai food. In the middle east curry is in the form of a spice blend powder form.
The least known and used is the plant that has a very strong curry spice blend flavor. Helichrysum italicum's, the Latin botanical name, flavor closely resembles the Indian spice blend in flavor. This is not a flavor or herb that is for all cooking applications. The flavor is distinct and you don't need much when adding it to a dish.
In yesterday's steak dinner post I mentioned I used the curry plant leaves in the onion reduction. After the onions had started to soften I added two or three curry plant leaves and it infused them with just a kiss of curry flavor. The best way to use the curry plant is similar to dry bay leaves just one or two leaves is enough for any dish.
If you're feeling adventurous this spring or you love the flavor of curry I recommend the curry plant highly.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Steak Dinner

I'm about to lose an endorsement, I don't get the traditional a la carte steakhouses.

They're in every city and they all claim to have the best steak in town. I'm not saying that their steak is bad but have you seen the prices on those steaks? The $30 plus charge for a steak alone is a heavy price to pay.

These prices seem even more insane when you consider you can buy quality beef in most stores for far less than $30 per pound. Some steakhouses claim to have the highest rated USDA cuts available which are labeled "prime" but even that isn't always the norm. Most grocery stores will have "choice" beef which is the grade just below "prime" on the USDA scale and some may even have "prime". The grading scale measures marbling (fat) content in relation to meat.

The result of buying a great steak and cooking it at home is seen above. This was my dinner tonight, a seared ribeye steak with a caramelized balsamic onion reduction. I feel it's a must to have an acidic element that balances a ribeye which has heavy marbling. I also added a hint of a curry plant which I'll talk more about tommorrow.

Conifer Theater Continues

On our last episode of conifer theater we saw Bonna's jealousy of Wate's golden winter. Today, we see how little Pinus densiflora 'Low Glow' looks up at Cupressus glabra 'Blue Ice', wondering "will I ever grow that tall and why aren't I blue?"

Too Easy

Yesterday I was planning my veggie garden for this spring. In mentally reviewing what grew well or easily potatoes came to mind. I think cold weather makes it easier to think about the potato that some how seems to fit the bill for a winter food.
If you've never grown anything let me introduce you to the potato. They grow so well you can grow them in a garbage can, literally. Fill a garbage can/pail with a mix of top soil and compost and drill four holes in the bottom and you've got a planter ready for spuds. Find a potato with some eyes developing and bury them a foot deep into the soil and water once a week. When the plant starts to wilt in two to four months it's potato time. There's a ton of information here on potatoes.
If you're a first time gardener, like myself not long ago, or a serious garden geek the potato is a must to grow in a veggie garden. Here's a video clip with more on the potato.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Everybody Salsa

I know it's Winter, but when it comes to salsa it's never to early to start thinking about options. In this clip it's all about the tomatoes and herbs. Forget the cilantro and get in touch with sage in your salsa.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Here a Nana There Nana

Pinus cembra 'Nana' (above and below)
Picea omorika 'Nana' (below)
I love 'Nana', this is a phrase that could go in many directions, some good and some not so much.
The 'Nana' I'm referring to is the many conifers that are named 'Nana'. The translation of 'Nana' from Latin is small or dwarf. The conifers carry that same growth habit of being smaller then the standard growth rate of the species of plant.
As an example, the above photo of Pinus Cembra 'Nana' is a tree that at ten years will only be 3-6'. A standard pinus cembra, Swiss stone pine, will reach 6-15' in ten years. This slower and smaller growth habit of 'Nana' named conifers is great when you have limited space available.
From pines to spruces there are a lot of cultivars named 'Nana'. Each one of those is waiting for a special spot that needs a tree that doesn't get that big or that small and is just right, Goldilocks style.

Saving Seeds

Many gardeners grow tomatoes each year, but how many of us save the seeds from our prized tomato plants. In this clip you'll see a basic overview of how to save tomato seeds each year and make them heirlooms.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Maillard's Reaction to Browning

Could there be a worse culinary term for such an important technique. "Browning" it just doesn't sound appetizing in any way. I prefer the French culinary term Maillard reaction.

As I mentioned in this video clip, it's ultra important to develop layers of flavor to allow meats to cook in a pan at a high enough heat so they develop color and eventually release from the pan after enough time. Be patient, allow the meat to develop color and in turn you'll create flavor and better food. Plus, you can amaze onlookers by calling it a Maillard reaction.