Grow + Share

Holy guacamole! How is my garden still producing so many peppers and cherry tomatoes! There has been so much rain this summer that I’ve hardly watered and fully expected my garden to shrivel up by now. What’s a girl to do with such an embarrassment of riches? Well, it’s Tuesday, so I know one of our community food banks is open so I picked what I could, washed my bounty, bagged it, and dropped it off with volunteers at the Elgin Community Cupboard.

Did you know that most local food pantries can accept home-grown produce? Contact them first, but many of your local organizations will gladly accept washed, home-grown produce to offer their clients. Ample Harvest  has a Find a Pantry link in the Gardeners Donate Food header in the main menu to help you find a local food bank or soup kitchen that would love to accept your produce and backyard eggs.

Links:
Ample Harvest
Elgin Community Cupboard

Shortcut Pie Crust

Shortcut Pie Crust

A couple years ago I needed a super quick pie crust because my frozen pie disk had taken a bad turn during a power outage. Though conventional wisdom tells me it’s unwise to try something new when entertaining, I decided to give this quick pie crust a try. I scoffed at the claim that this piecrust is revolutionary… but am now a convert. The crust is kind of shortbready, buttery, flaky, and so easy. Perfect for single crust pies.

Links:
Shortcut Pie Crust recipe
The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook

Spread it on!

Tex-Mex Pimento Cheese

Serve this spread with the usual crackers, spread on a sandwich in place of a slice of regular cheddar. I promise it will not disappoint.

Makes 4 Cups (recipe easily halved)

2 cups jalapeño jack, shredded
2 cups sharp cheddar, shredded
1/3 cup chopped pimentos
1/8 cup chopped pickled jalapeños
1/2 cup mayonnaise (Duke’s is my favorite)
1/4 sour cream
Juice of 1/2 lemon or lime
1/2  teaspoon granulated garlic
1/2  teaspoon granulated onion
1/4  teaspoon cumin
1/2  teaspoon chili powder
Pinch of cayenne
Pinch of sugar

Directions

Combine all ingredients in a standing mixer bowl. Mix thoroughly with the paddle attachment until creamy and the pimentos are well distributed. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Refrigerate at least 3 hours before serving.

Pimento cheese will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for about a week.

Pro Tip: While you can certainly use pre-shredded cheese (and I have in a pinch) your spread will be creamier and the shreds less separated if you grate your cheese with a box grater.

A Podcast to Tickle Your Funny Bone

Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend

Hallelujah! My commute just became so much more fun! I recently discovered this podcast and am listening to them backward, from most recent to oldest. His interactions with his assistant Sona alone would be a good show, seriously, they are comic gold.

This morning I was listening to Episode 33 with Mila Kunis. So damn funny. I was laughing so hard on my commute this morning that I am pretty sure everyone else on I-35 thought I was a nut. I was laughing so hard I was crying and my mascara was a crazy mess.

Pro tip: Apply mascara at work, after listening.

Listen here

Half-baked Theory

I recently read that the Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook was the number one cookbook in the U.S. It made me wonder why I didn’t have a copy of it, or the Betty Crocker’s Cookbook for that matter. When I was first interested in learning to cook the cookbook in our home was The Joy of Cooking. I was 13 or 14 so it would have been around 1978. I’ve been curious… can we determine which cookbook someone used to learn to cook by their age?

I was pretty sure that most of us who learned to cook as kids or teens in the 1970’s reached for The Joy of Cooking. I decided to put my theory to the test and created a survey asking friends about their cookbook history.

38 people participated.

The Results

Which decade was it when you learned to cook?
Which cookbook did you use to learn to cook?
Was it your mother’s cookbook?
If it was a gift, what kind?
What was the first cookbook you bought for yourself?
What was the most influential cookbook you ever received as a gift or bought for yourself? Why?
  • The Greens Cookbook Every page, every recipe was a revelation for a budding vegetarian/food lover. It made me see food as beautiful and fascinating and complicated…sigh…I still love it so much. 🙂
  • between the Voluptuous Vegan and a paperback Hare Krishna Cookbook, because they taught me how to feed (and not starve) my new vegan husband with delicious food & the elegance of simplicity. Most influential site: 101cookbooks.com, not that you asked but, there:).
  • Homemade binder my mom made of all her staple recipes
  • The Way to Cook. My big sister recommended it, and since she’s a huge influence in my life, so was the book 🖤
  • The Joy Of Cooking because it had stories and info about countries and types of food and made everything even folding in egg whites seem doable.
  • Ottolenghi: The Cookbook stretched my experience with spices and ingredients. Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat from my sis Stacey! It explained so much deeper the intricacies of combining flavors.
  • Vegetarian by Linda Fraser. My folks bought it for me for Christmas and asked me to cook a vegetarian meal for them.
  • Barefoot Contessa at Home. I loved how most of her recipes were simple but incredibly flavorful. I made more recipes out of that cookbook than I have out of any other. I still have a couple of those recipes in my regular rotation
  • The Fannie Farmer Cooobook. Gift. Simple Easy has every recipe you will ever need
  • The Paleo Approach by Dr Sarah balentine
  • Anything from Ina Garten. Simple, straightforward and delicious
  • Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat for the practical breakdown
  • The Joy of Cooking…basics, I was raised by single mom who worked so not much time spent in kitchen until I married and had kids…it’s my basic text.
  • Taste of Texas
  • The Cuisines of Mexico, because of the history around the preparation of meals, ingredients from the earth and and the travels shared by the author, Diana Kennedy
  • The Pioneer Woman Cooks inspired confidence. Fun. Actually made food people liked. 
  • Rosie’s Baking Book. Awesome piecrust recipe using food processor
  • Denver Junior League Creme de Colorado. Gift from my parents who also had a copy but I inherited theirs eventually. It has my Dad’s annotations in it and I just love it. I’ve made a lot of good meals and good memories from it.
Please share any stories you may have about a particular book.

I would sit on the floor of a little independent book shop in Palo Alto California and pour over that cook book (The Greens Cook Book) every chance I got. It took me forever to be able to afford a copy of my own but I would always buy a cool postcard or greeting card so they would let me come back and read it in the store until I could get my own lol! 

Cookbook whore. I read like a regular book.

Proudest new cook moment was when I baked choc chip cookies that looked JUST LIKE the cover of Better Crocker’s Joy of Baking. Must have been for kids cuz of the very seventies freckle-faced kid on inside cover. The Secret: hand place inverted chips to make nice chocolate circles in each cookie. sadly, my kitchen skills were arrested at this point and I didn’t learn to make pasta till college. No apologies, because there was no need as I had a dad who was and is a GREAT cook!

I have a book that my grandmother’s friends in Medina, Texas (maybe her church group?) put together and had copied and bound. It has the weirdest recipes! Fun to look at, but I have never tried to make anything out of it.

My sister made me a copy of the family Betty Crocker Cookbook when I got married. I use it all the time and my kids know that the best cake recipes are on the pages with all the cocoa and batter smudges. 

I love cooking from so many cookbooks. The Ottolenghi/Plenty books are a big go to for me. I love how simple many of the recipes are and rustic. 

My mother’s family has a cookbook they made when I was a child. It includes stories from my great grandparent’s farm throughout it. My favorite recipe from that book is my great grandmother’s double crust pineapple pie. 

I received this book as a senior in high school and used it so must pre internet through college and when I was first married. As a stay at home mom, at the time, cooking was one of my highlights of the day. 

My Sis gave me Home Cooking with Trisha Yearwood. I know – a celebrity’s cookbook. But it is AMAZING. It’s the cookbook my husband and I cook out of together the most. Full of comfort foods and recipes you can cook together as a couple fairly easy. We enjoy Cooking together and this book helped the most.

I found and bought my mom a duplicate of her 1960 Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook because the original was wearing out, but recipes had changed in later additions.

Milling company in hometown was promoting a new cake mix accompanied by a small pamphlet of other easy bake cakes. The new cake was a butter cake. Naturally I thought if a little butter was good the tripling the amount would make it great! Not so….parents weren’t too happy about the wasted eggs and sugar… It WAS 1954 after all.

Worked my way through the Betty Crocker Cookbook page by page.

My poor Fanny Farmer Cookbook is in shreds but I still use it.

My grandmother’s original Joy of Cooking. Still has her cut-out recipes and handwritten notes. A true treasure in time and of love. 

I loved every recipe in Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything except one. When I made spaghetti cooked in red wine, my kids refused to eat it because it looked like a plate of earthworms. I should’ve realized that when I read the recipe! This was in the early 90s and I still remember it. 

Tom Collichio’s Think Like A Chef… Thorough and clear explanation without being condescending

Samin Nosrat (Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat) is about experience not perfection. Liberating.

Whole 30 has changed my cooking, eating and how I look at food. I’m woke by how much gross stuff and sugar added to our food. 

I had the Betty Crocker Boys and Girls Cookbook. My mom didn’t have a lot of patience or focus, but on my own I made penuche icing. I still remember: “Penuche is really candy. It comes from Mexico.” That was the most impressed I had ever been with myself. I was around 8, I think.

I learned the most recipes from my American Home Cookbook. It has the most sentimental recipes because I learned how to do EVERYTHING from that book on a limited budget. Dixie marble cake with what I had in the cupboard💜

An early fave was a little treasure called The Impoversihed Students’ Book of Cookery, Drinkery, and Housekeepery. Had easy, cheap, filling meals, how to brew beer, and truly useful household hints – and it was funny

My mom bought me the Betty Crocker Boys and Girls Cookbook when we went to a book sale event when I was about 8 or 9. I worked my way cooking through that book. Years went by, the book was lost. About 16 yrs ago now, I located my sisters. One remembered that book and found me a copy. It was pretty fun to see it again. Pigs in a Blanket… cupcakes topped with those spongy candies cut into shapes… 

I really would like to find a used copy at half price books or the like of The Art of French Cooking…I’m always on the lookout 

My dad made us Linguine Imperial from the above cookbook (Denver Junior League Creme de Colorado). We loved it and made it also. When I got his copy, I flipped to the page and found where he underlined the “raw egg” part of the dish and wrote in his sweet leftie handwriting “salmonella!” Haha. So dad. 

The Takeaway

Did I find the answer to my original question? Kind of.

Yup, The Betty Crocker Cookbook was clearly the most used, but I did find that quite a few bought The Joy of Cooking for themselves at some time. One thing I wasn’t expecting from the survey was the long list of cookbooks I have would need to add to my Amazon Wish List. How do I NOT have a copy of The Fannie Farmer Cookbook? And how cool does The Voluptous Vegan look?

I loved reading the stories everyone had about their favorite. It was so much fun trying to guess which responses were from people I know… I spotted my sisters’ reponses and am pretty sure I can guess who the sotry about Linguine Imperial beloings too.

Also surprising was finding copies of The Denver Junior League Creme de Colorado and The Impoversihed Students’ Book of Cookery, Drinkery, and Housekeepery online. I was happy to see that even in the age of recipe blogs like 101 Cookbooks, Simply Recipes, and The Homesick Texan that cookbooks are still being purchased. I mean, these bloggers wouldn’t be selling them if we weren’t eating them up, right?

Homegrown Tomatoes, How do I Love Thee? Let Me Count the Ways (yes, again)

3 in Gazpacho. Few savory dishes are as refreshing as a nice cold gazpacho. It’s like a blended salad. I was craving both grilled shrimp and gazpacho yesterday. My craving was so strong that I shopped for all of the ingredients after work, peeled and deveined the shrimp, waited for it to marinate (well maybe not for as long as I should have) and grilled outside in 110º. Hello Summer.

While the shrimp were marinating I whirred up the gazpacho in my Vitamix. I am not a fan of totally pureed gazpacho, so I pulsed it until the bits were not chunky but would still have some crunch, which to me is the best part of this perfect summer soup.

I have a confession. Only some of the tomatoes were from my garden. The only large tomatoes I grew this year are green and purple when ripe and I thought the color would be a little muddy to be palatable, like mixing the red and green paint in kindergarten to make brown. I mean we eat with our eyes too, am I right? I used store-bought plum tomatoes as well as the Cherry and Sun Golds from my garden. Plum tomatoes are the perfect firmness for chopping or blending.

My Gazpacho Recipe

5-6 large plum tomatoes
15-20 cherry tomatoes (yellow + red)
1 English cucumber
1/2 bunch cilantro
1/2 red onion
1 clove garlic
16-24 ounces Tomato juice
Hot sauce
A couple of glugs of extra virgin olive oil (2-3 TBS)
A few glugs of red wine vinegar (1/8 cup)
1/2 teaspoon celery salt
Kosher salt
Fresh ground pepper

Peel the cucumber, but leave a few stripes of skin to add a little more crunch and color. Toss a clove of garlic in the blender. Chop the tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, and cilantro coarsely, then toss them in the blender.

Pulse until all ingredients are small bits and not chunky.

Add the tomato juice, olive oil, vinegar, hot sauce, celery salt to the blender but just stir with a spoon. Salt and pepper to taste.

Chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour or more. Stir and pour. Serves 4.

I topped mine with more chopped cilantro, avocado, and a couple grilled shrimp. Also a nice squeeze of lemon to brighten it up even more. I brought leftover gazpacho for lunch today and plan to top with avocado and mango.

I’ll let you know how that works out.

Spa by Tractor Supply

A cool dip with a cold Topo Chico

Last year I finally got around to filling up this galvanized stock tank pool, and it may have been one of the best things I did all summer.

The water is always cool and the tank is deep enough for the water to reach our shoulders and long enough that we can both sit in it, or I can just float if I want to. I always want to. I love nothing better than jumping in after yard work and then drying off in the warm hammock. We originally set it in the sun and the tank itslelf was too hot to touch after a day in the sun and the water felt like bath water. Not the refreshing dip I’d envisioned. We moved it to the courtyard and found the perfect palce between the pines against our neighbor’s garage.

We decided to keep it simple and not add a pump or chlorine, but we hooked up a hose to the spout to drain the water for the Oak Leaf Hydrangea and trees in our courtyard.

Read this article for tips on setting up a hillbilly soaking tub of your own.

Go Spritz Yourself

I won’t lie, my first few summers in Austin I was not sure if I could make it my home. The hottest summers I’d experienced before moving to central Texas paled in comparison. The Texas heat was no joke, and I spent more time inside than out. I was sure Portland, Oregon was in our future. I lived in Humboldt County for a year and discovered I love the rain.

Fast forward 17 years or so and somehow I began to appreciate the summer here, almost look forward to it. Oh yeah, it took me that long.

I have a couple of tricks that make life a little cooler when the temperatures start hitting the triple digits.

I keep both this eye gel and this rose water spray in my refrigerator to dab and spritz when I get home from work or whenever I need a quick refresher.

Heritage Store Rose Petals Rosewater is available here or your local natural grocery.
Elderflower Unperfumed Eye Gel available at The Body Shop

Homegrown Tomatoes, How do I Love Thee? Let Me Count the Ways (continued)

2 In tomato pie. When I was 19 I lived in the San Diego area and frequented a place called Piret’s mostly for their tomato tarts and cappuccinos. To say they were amazing would not do them justice.

The closest I’ve come to recreating the experience of those perfect little tarts is baking a tomato pie with the very best tomatoes I can find.

Early 1980’s Southern California was a pretty exciting time for food. I was a live-in nanny and was lucky enough to be able to shop for baby eggplants and squash blossoms at the legendary Chino Farm’s Vegetable Shop. Read about the world’s most famous farm stand here.

My go-to recipe for tomato pie is by Vivian Howard. Believe me when I tell you that roasting half of the tomatoes is worth it. And don’t skimp on caramelizing the onions. It is also worth the time and effort. If you must cut a corner somewhere use a store-bought crust. No shame in that game.

Also, use Duke’s mayonnaise, and gruyere and cheddar is another favorite combo. I normally use basil and thyme, but think dill would be amazing, perhaps with ricotta and fontina?

Recipe link  here