Friday, January 14, 2011

Baked Portabella Mushrooms with Homemade Breadcrumb, Three Cheese, and Spinach Stuffing

So its been almost a year. Afghanistan happened, and then I caught the exausted. I spent the last few months wondering how to explain what happened, and seeing no way, I froze. Deer in the headlights, toaster waffles instead of cooking, three nights a week of matzo-ball soup and my new local coffee shop FROZE.

So, after compiling months and months of half-written not so brilliant posts, I quit.

I disappeared. I am a bad blogger. It will take me some time to find my creativity, both for writing, cooking, and eating again, I know. And I am full of stories I want to share. Time will work them out.

For now, for the first time in months, I created. I made something that did not exist before, I created it in my little head. Its baking now, I have no idea whether it will be delicious or a total return-to-cooking fail. And I don't care. I cooked! I created! I made! Some little part of me is back, and I am rejoicing in it.

The oven is beeping at me, so I will make this quick:

Olive Oil
Spinach (3/4 of a big bunch)
Garlic (as much as you can stand)
Cardamom (1 tsp)
4 Portabella Mushroom Caps (save stems and scooped out insides for making Veggie broth some other time- they freeze fine!
Ricotta (1.5 cups)
Two other cheeses to taste (I used goat and Parmesan)
Homemade breadcrumbs (I make mine from a mix of white and wheat bread and cornflakes, which gives things a great complex, slightly sweet flavor)
Truffle Salt (not strictly necessary of course, but a fun addition)
Balsamic Vinegar

Coat mushrooms in olive oil, then salt and pepper to taste. Melt butter and cook garlic in a pan over medium heat until fragrant. Add spinach, torn up well, and cook until spinach is soft an shrunken. Mix spinach into cheeses, add a beaten egg, and stir well. Add about a cup of homemade breadcrumbs and mix well. Divide between the mushroom caps, heaping on top. Cook for 30 minutes at 350 degrees covered with foil in a medium baking pan. Turn heat up to 45 and cook for another 30 minutes. Then remove the foil and cook another 10 minutes, or until cheese is melted and golden on top.

Serve with a sprinkling of the truffle salt and some reduced balsamic....

Will let you know how it is!

Glad to be back.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Strike Busting: This Week's Garden Report, mid-July 2010

The blooming schedule is totally out of whack now. Even the Shasta daisies are budding and looking to bloom in a week or so. They shouldn’t be starting till late august. There is without a doubt a conspiracy afoot out there. I think it could be something as innocent as like in Cool Hand Luke, a great movie, when the whole chain gang speeds up and finishes shoveling the sand on the road in a couple of hours so they can goof off for the rest of the day. I think the plants may have gotten together and decided that they would all shoot their wad early and then take the rest of the summer off. I’m at a loss of what to do about it. I could put one or two of the plants in the Box, but not all of them, not all at once.

Another possibility is the plants might be secretly organizing a union out there. If that’s the case I don’t know what to do. I’ve never been in management before. I’ve been a loyal union man since I was 10 yrs old and swore my allegiance to Boris Badenov and Local #12 of the Villains, Thieves and Scoundrels Union. I’ve participated in every boycott and job action I’ve ever run across. I still refuse to fly Eastern Airlines until they negotiate a contract with their gate workers. If the plants set up a picket line how can I but refuse to cross? How will I get in there to weed? How will I tell if what a plant picket line looks like? I actually think Lightning dog might have had an idea of what was going on for years. Every now and then he would go on a rampage through the daylilies. My own little, personal, union busting, Pinkertons Agent. God I miss him! I really should have listened to him more; he was way more tuned in on what was going on out there than I ever was. I suspect the daylilies are behind various nefarious schemes out there. If the Daylilies are behind all of it though, they have made a tactical error by blooming so early. They have shot their wad already, so this morning I cut ‘em all down. They aren’t going to get much of a following now. That plus the weather is starting to normalize a little now. The rains have been drying up and it won’t take long for the plants to remember who controls the garden hose.

The battle between the Daisies and the unidentified sedum is still raging. The mutant Kudzu/Clematis let go of it’s trellis and has joined the fray. I went in there to clean out the dead flower stalks from the Daisies last week and found a bunch of Tickseed somehow managed to creep into the fight. There were even some Mums under there. Mums are some of the most docile, laid back plant you can find, so they must be having fun back there. It’s turning into quite a melee. I really should be filming it.

Meantime the Tickseed and Creeping Sedum match-up seems to be drawing to a conclusion. I guess I’m going to have to call it a draw. The tickseed is just growing straight up now and the Creeping Sedum is just creeping around below. They seem to have settled their differences and decided to coexist in peace for a while.

The Bastille Day celebration has been canceled this year. Nobody cared.

Coming up in next weeks Garden Report:

Mosquitoes must die!!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Harbingers of Genocide: This week's Garden Report, July 4th 2010

This weeks fight match up was totally unexpected. The daisies and some type of Sedum I acquired somewhere have been living side by side since the garden reorganization last spring. Apparently the unidentified Sedum was just waiting for its chance. After the daises exhausted themselves on a fabulous blooming season and Hammerdogs constant snacking on them (he says they taste like toads, I’ll take his word for it), the unidentified Sedum smelled weakness and went on the attack. It’s been quite a brawl out there all week. The unidentified Sedum quickly gained the upper hand but my Daises are starting to show their stuff. Never bet against the Daisies!

Hammerdog's bragging about his prowess at hunting toads has got him in trouble. This week all the toads disappeared just as suddenly as they appeared. I suspect the mosquitoes carried them off. The squirrels, however are accusing Hammerdog of genocide. I think the squirrels are just using the situation as an excuse to get Hammerdog to back off chasing them. He is starting to get real close to catching them. Today whilst I was mowing the lawn I saw him sneak up on one. The squirrel didn’t see him coming till the last second and it was out in the open. It was quite a chase. I now know why they have that big bushy tail. It’s a pretty good adaptation. Hammerdog was within inches of catching this fuzzy tailed rat when the squirrel sticks its tail up in the air to get Hammerdog's attention, then flips its tail to the left while it breaks to the right, like a basketball player throwing a head fake. Hammerdog broke left and almost fell on his face while the squirrel got away. He missed him by a whisker. Then the little vermin just sits on the fence, just out of range and chattered at the dog. Hammerdog was going nuts. He just needs a little patience; it’s just a matter of time before he figures out how to catch them. It will save me the cost of a BB gun.

The dogs have been claiming they’ve seen some Chipmunks out there for a couple of weeks now. I’m beginning to think though that they are just trying to trick me into setting the live trap so I might catch a squirrel instead and save them the trouble. Stelladog always has been pretty lazy and now I think that Hammerdog is getting a little too comfortable around here too. He has been getting a little thick around the middle as of late. He really likes the AC. The squirrels are now beginning to refer to him as the big round hound. He doesn’t like it!

Lilly-fest is going strong as I write. It appears the Ditch lillies and Asiatic lillies collaborated this year to bloom at the same time. Usually the ditch lillies start after the Asiatic lillies finish their show, well into July. I like this new arrangement much better. It might leave a slight gap in the blooming schedule, but I think it is worth it.

Actually, I think all the plants are in cahoots this year, scheduling their blooming times. All the Hostas are showing off, almost a month early, but I think that’s just them bragging about beating up on Charlie. The Bee balm and Rose Mallow are in their full glory almost a month early. Almost everything is blooming at least 2 weeks earlier than normal. At first I thought it was because of all the rain and a hotter than normal spring, but now I’m suspecting there might be a conspiracy afoot. It is awful hard to stay pissed though when you look at the results. Next year however I will write out a blooming schedule first thing in spring and I’m going to enforce it! With my lawnmower!

I have some new heroes out in the garden this year. The Sparrows. They have for years been enjoying the free housing I have provided. The dogs have always provided security for them. The houses 3 each on 3 poles, 10 feet up attached to the fence in the middle of the yard. The squirrels don’t like being out in the open out there with Hammerdog and Stelladog on our side of the fence and Lucydog on the other side. Plus, from the air you have the Hawks checking out the situation, making the squirrels very nervous. These are probably some of the safest Sparrows around. It is a hoot to watch them. Sparrows are not monogamous! They are always raiding each other’s nest. They are making it with their neighbors partner as often as possible. Fighting, stealing food and nesting material, dog fur being a favorite. Ya gotta love ‘em. There is one male I saw today, he landed on the top house, serviced that female, jumped down and did the next and the next, then hopped over to the next pole and started all over. All within about 3 minutes! What a man!

The birdhouses are starting to fall apart though. They are starting to resemble a trailer park on a stick. I’m torn about what to do about it. I could easily replace them but the birds seem more active and happy the more their habitats deteriorate. I’m an avian slumlord.

Coming up in next weeks Garden Report:

Tickseed / Creeping Sedum match up; everything it was expected to be and more!

Mutant Kudzu/Clematis joins the Daisy / Unidentified sedum fray.

The delivery of Battlestar Galactica turns out to be an insidious blow to garden maintenance. Entire system nears collapse!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Garden Fight Club: This Week's Garden Report, June 2010

Hammerdog found out why that tree in the back of my yard is called a Hawthorn not just a Haw. He found a branch that got knocked down and figured he was going to have himself a nice little chew. I have never heard a dog let out a scream like he let loose! He even sent Stelladog off running and cowering. All the squirrels had a good laugh. I think they might have planted that branch just to be mean. I’m buying a BB gun.

I’ve started doing some midnight mining in Wayne’s yard. I’ve needed lotsa good topsoil for the improvements I’ve been making. Luckily, I can just dig it up from my neighbors yard. He’s got some good black dirt back there. All I got to do is throw the weeds back over the holes when I’m done and you can’t tell. Some of the holes are getting pretty deep. I think I might be able to start trapping some of those Jr. High kids that cut across our yards.

Daisy season is just about finished. What a show they put on this year! They are definitely leading in the Most Valuable Plant competition at this point. Plus Hammerdog has taken a liking to the Daisy flowers. He eats them like potato chips.

The Astilbes have made a remarkable comeback. They are in full bloom right now. Astilbes are cool if you look at them from the top. Ours are right below the porch so when you look down at them they look like little starbursts or what fireworks must look like from an airplane. I was happy with their comeback because it was my error that caused them so much grief. As coach of this garden team I’ve got to be more aware of which players are compatible. Tickseed and Astible should not be in the same lineup! When I tore the shed down I had a whole bunch of Tickseed I had to do something with. Well I figured it would fill in nicely around the bottoms of the Astible. What a mistake! I never knew Tickseed was such a vicious plant or that the Astilbes were so defenseless. As soon as planted the Tickseed went on the attack. They instantly wrapped around the Astilbe and started to choke ‘em. I intervened just in the nick of time. I put the Tickseed in with the Creeping Sedum. They don’t get along either but it’s a fairer fight. Creeping Sedum don’t take no shit from nobody.

There is an upside to the whole affair though. I ‘m going to look into filming plant fights. There must be some way of filming it then speeding it up. Plants are pretty mean to each other at times. The only thing holding me back is figuring out a way to get some suckers to place bets on the fights. There are so many cable channels now there must be one that would be willing to broadcast it. There has to be a demand for plant fights now that dog fighting and cock fighting are illegal just about everywhere.

I caught a bunch of Hostas hiding out behind the Forsythia bushes. I’m pretty sure they were trying to make their way to Canada. Their progress was slow but they were on their way no doubt! I took the lawn mower to ‘em. An example had to be made.

The borders of the garden are slowly coming under control. The southern frontier is in total lock down. The hostas I deployed seem to have complete control of the situation. Last month I got some weed and feed and accidentally sprayed about a10-15 ft. no weed zone into my northern neighbors yard. Looks pretty good. Waynes yard is slowly coming under control with a healthy application of Roundup and my midnight mining operation over there. I just might turn my mining operation into a moat. That could solve a couple of problems.

All my border security schemes are beginning to show results. My yard is remarkably weed free for this late into the season. The only hole in my defenses is Bill & Harriets yard. It is loaded with Creeping Charlie. Anything I do in my yard is futile until I can stop the infiltration of Charlie from their yard, I thought the old farts woulda dropped dead by now, but they keep hanging on and they keep a pretty close eye on me, for some reason they don’t seem to trust me. I have not had an opportunity to do any guerilla gardening over there. I can now begin understand how Nixon and Westmoreland musta felt like during the Vietnam War when they had to fight the war in South Vietnam and watch the bad guys just scamper over the Cambodian, Laotian and North Vietnamese border every time we got close to whippin’ ‘em. At least they had B-52’s. I wish I had a couple of B-52’s to play with. There’s a buncha problems I could solve, or vaporize with a couple a B-52’s.

Coming up in next weeks Garden Report:

Hammerdog accused of genocide.

Hawks gone missing, chipmunk sightings reported.

Lilly fest begins.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Toad the Wet Sprocket: This Week's Garden Report, Late May 2010

The big news this week is the plague of toads. They showed up right after I installed the Hostas I got from Reber. They are everywhere! I hope this ain’t some kinda Biblical stuff going on. Typical, ya let in some religious refugees, ya try to be a nice guy and right away they want to convert you and all the other plants. I might have to take the lawn mower to ‘em!

The upside of the Toads is Hammerdog can catch them. It’s a hoot to watch. When they hop it catches his eye, he will dash over to where it landed and just stare until it moves again. He will stand there and stare at the lawn until he sees another one move or the first one is dumb enough to hop again. He has caught a couple of them. He doesn’t quite know what to do with them once he catches them. He doesn’t want to eat them but after he has caught them they ain’t worth much anymore. He’ll put them down and wait for them to start playing again but they never do. He doesn’t understand. However, he does insist on being called Toadslayer for now on. It hasn’t stopped the squirrels from teasing him.

Spring is a wonderful time in the garden. Spring makes gardening virtually idiot proof. The weather is nice and cool, no bugs yet, lotsa rain. All the plants still have a good attitude; they’re not all stressed out yet from heat, drought and bugs. They have nothing to fear but me and my lawnmower.

There are some candidates for plant of the year already. The daisies are blooming now and are putting on a show! They came in so thick and spread so much this year I was able to dig up some volunteers for Mr. Rebers church sale. They were already in full bloom and were big sellers. People like instant gratification. Their only drawback is they will be done blooming by the end of July and come time to vote they will have been forgotten about. Another early candidate is the Bleeding Heart . That plant comes to play every spring no matter what. I wish all my plants had that attitude.

The only candidate for rookie of the year already took puke. I picked up a Trumpet vine at Meier’s, it didn’t last a week. Oh well.

I tried my home brew lawn food out front it seems to work pretty well. It’s just a mixture of beer, ammonia, molasses, and dish soap and toad urine. I suppose it could just be placebo effect. I wonder if anyone has done a study on placebo effect in plants? I oughta check out if I could get a government grant to conduct a study on that. I could milk it for years!

Coming up in next weeks Garden report;

Midnight mining in Waynes yard

Are all Astilbes gay?

Sympathy for Richard Nixon

Monday, May 3, 2010

Wei renmen fu wu: This week's Garden report - May 2010

This years Mayday parade was once again a huge bust. The plants just refuse to cooperate! Every year I get dressed up in my Dear Leader outfit, stand up on the edge of the deck and nothing, no parade! This year, no more mister nice-guy! Today I’m starting a major weeding campaign out there and there is likely to be considerable collateral damage. I don’t have to put up with this kinda disrespect!

A couple of Redtail Hawks have taken up residence in the neighborhood. The squirrel population has plummeted and the Chipmunks have totally disappeared. I think that yappy little toy poodle next door could be coming up on the menu soon. I hope so. So you can quit worrying about Chipmunks being shipped your way. It’s a huge relief to me because I suspect shipping Chipmunks to Afghanistan would have been incredibly expensive. I’m kinda hoping now that the squirrels are looking up watching for Hawks all the time, the dogs will be able to sneak up on them. I don’t think Stelladog gives a rat’s ass about Chipmunks or Squirrels, but I think it would help Hammerdogs self esteem big time if he could catch one. I think they tease him an awful lot out there.

My master plan of sealing off the perimeter of the yard with Hostas had a couple of major boosts this week. A census that was taken early this spring discovered some major featherbedding going on out there. There was a whole bunch of the filthy cowards were huddling under the Hawthorne tree avoiding border duty. They claimed they were needed to protect the Hawthorn tree from unspecified dangers. After a stern lecture I was able to dig up enough volunteers to finish the entire southern frontier and still maintain a reserve force for any emergencies that might arise. A second large bunch of volunteers came forth from Rebers yard across the street. There have been rumors of trouble brewing over there for quite a while. Word is he is some kind of religious nut. I don’t really care about religion in my yard. In my yard there is no rules about keeping the Sabbath. No mandatory Bible studies. No dietary laws. In my yard if you can catch it, you can eat it. Whatever the problem was they are welcome here. They were immediately pressed into service on the northern frontier. They seem content over there.

Disaster struck the garden last week when a series of mini-tornadoes ripped the roofs off the sparrow houses. It looks like a mini New Orleans out there. All those poor little sparrows perched on the wall where their roofs used to be. I immediately applied to F.E.M.A. for disaster relief but was refused! Those no good government bureaucrats insist there were no tornadoes in our area at the time in question. Luckily, Sarah Palin and the Tea Party people are coming to town next week, I’ll be joining them. I think it’s high time the government keeps its fingers out of my government handouts!!

Next weeks Garden Report:

Coaches faulted for Tickseed and Astilbe problems.

Video plant fights for those who miss dogfights.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Chipmunks are Terrorists- This Week's Garden Report, Apr 2010

The species cleansing of the garden seemed to be a success last fall. The chipmunk population appeared to have been completely relocated to Lippold Park. Now there have been new sightings. Worse yet they appear to have made an unholy alliance with the Creeping Charlie. Last fall Charlie was all but beat; I had successfully closed off the entire perimeter with various plantings and landscaping stones. Now Charlie is gone from all the edges of the yard but keeps popping up in the middle of the lawn. The only thing I can figure is the chipmunks are tunneling in and Charlie’s coming along for the ride. I don’t know what advantage either party gets from such a sinister scheme, I think it has become personal. To think all those years I cheered on Chip and Dale in their skirmishes with Donald Duck. Now I know Donald was right all along. You just can’t depend on cartoons to give you the whole story! Half my education, right out the window.

Last years program was to capture and then parole them with the understanding that they would stay in Lippold Park. They apparently are violating the agreement. It’s about two miles and a major five lane high way they have to cross but the little terrorists are making it back somehow. I feel I have only two choices, I can go over to Wal-mart and buy a BB gun or now that I have a connection in Afghanistan, I might start shipping them over there, I’d like to see them make it back from there! So be careful when opening your packages, they will probably be pretty hungry by the time they get to you. Turn them loose on the Taliban when you get them, they deserve each other.

Otherwise things are going very well in the garden. All the transplants of last summer came back. Some are a little banged up, they remind me of myself waking up with a hangover not knowing where the hell I am. Some seem to really like their new digs. The Azalea that was being tormented by the mutant Clematis is doing spectacular. It is blooming like it did when I first installed it 20 years ago. The mutant Clematis wasn’t too happy with the move, not having its usual victim to bully. I planted it amongst the Daisies. The Daisies are tough. If you ever need a flower to back you up in a fight, go with Daisies. They’re way tougher than they look.

I had a long talk with the Crabapple tree last fall. I let it be known I was not happy with its performance the last couple of years. Boy what a difference a year makes. There are flowers bursting out of every available twig and branch. There are even flowers coming straight out of the trunk. I also think it helped to move my workbench in the garage so the tree could see me sharpening my ax through the window.

Next week I’m trying a home brew lawn food. It involves beer so it just might work. Of course it might just give the Chipmunks another reason to hang around. I better give it some more thought.