This year I planted the vegetable garden two weeks before Easter. Three weeks ago I side dressed the plants with ammonium nitrate and it is starting to get happy. Yep, that is the same stuff Timothy McVeigh used to blowup a building. It is pure nitrogen with a number rating of 34-0-0. It really gives the plants a boost, as they go into fruit production. It also put the weeds into a growth spurt. Last week I left town without having time to weed the garden. I fully expected to come home to a jungle. To my great fortune, my wife spent one of her off days weeding the garden. It looked fantastic when I got home.
I am growing cucumbers, tomatoes, zucchini, bush beans, bell peppers, watermelon, and cantaloupe this year. For the second year in a row, the zucchini has performed dismal. This is unfortunate since my wife and I love to eat it. I doubt I will plant them next year. This was my first year to plant bush beans, watermelons and cantaloupe. The beans have produced several meals already. Right now the watermelons and cantaloupe have lots of blooms and are starting to spread everywhere. Thankfully, I gave them plenty of room.
The last two years have produced rather small bell peppers. This year I consulted with a local vegetable garden expert about getting more size to my bell peppers. After some discussion of possible reasons, he suggested I try adding more fertilizer when I first plant the peppers. That did the trick. I am now picking grocery store quality bell peppers.
My wife loves to eat cucumber and tomato salad. Last year the garden produced a lot of cucumbers and tomatoes. The problem was by the time the tomatoes were ripe enough to pick, the cukes had played out and withered away. This year I adjusted my planting time by planting the cukes a few weeks later than the tomatoes. I am happy to report both are producing at the same time this year.
Below is a picture taken this week of our happy vegetable garden.
Last week we had our annual work crawfish boil. Don’t freakout! It was after work and no tax dollars were spent, as far as I know. At least I hope not, I shelled out $40 for two tickets. When it was over, there were plenty of leftover crawfish, corn and potatoes. Some of us began filling “doggy bags” and talking about what we were going to do with the leftovers. I thought it would be fun to share some ideas.
The simplest thing to do would be to eat the leftovers, as is, the next day for lunch, either cold or reheated. It would be good, but a boring repeat. The leftovers have soaked up some wonderful spices and can really make some more delicious meals.
Peeled Tails – étouffée, omelet, crawfish (crab) cakes, over a green salad, spread (chicken) salad, dip
Potatoes – potato salad, hash browns or simply reheated
Corn on the Cob – simply reheated, maque choux (Google it), corn fritters
Here is what I made with the leftovers from our work crawfish boil. Étouffée and potato salad
Cooks add a lot of different food items into their crawfish boils in addition to crawfish, potatoes, and corn, such as mushrooms, garlic, sausage and hotdogs. What’s the most unique food item you have seen?
This sauce has a good output of 3 flavors – Sweet, Sour, & Spice in that order – hence the name. The flavors just kind of swish around your palate. It makes a pretty glaze on chicken and ribs cooked on indirect heat when applied in several coats during final 30 minutes. For direct heat barbecuing apply during the final turns of the meat.
1 cup ketchup
1 ½ cups brown sugar
2 tbs yellow mustard
1/3 cup bourbon
½ cup apple cider vinegar
½ cup lemon juice
1 tbs garlic powder
½ tsp Zateran’s Liquid Crab Boil – be careful with this as it will overpower so maybe do less and add to taste
Combine first two ingredients over low to medium heat until sugar liquefies. Then add remaining ingredients in order stirring as you add. Simmer over low heat until thick almost like syrup.
First let me say the title is referring to my excessive attention to daylilies and not any kind of deviant behavior. So get your mind out of the gutter. As far back as I can remember, daylilies have caught my attention each summer. Four years ago my wife and I attended a spring garden show where a local daylily society was selling plants they had grown. In a spur of the moment decision I decided a grassy area in our backyard would become a daylily display garden. We picked out few cultivars, rushed home, drug out the tiller and my fetish was exposed. This tradition has repeated each year.
The daylily pictures I have been posting on Twitter and Facebook are patented varieties. We buy a few each year and add them to our backyard garden. They are sold in a bareroot “fan” which is about the size of hand fan people use to fan themselves in church. They sell for anywhere from $5 to $80 per fan. We probably have about 20 different varieties in our backyard garden at this time. These are offspring from old garden varieties that have been hybridized for size and beauty. These daylilies typically have a shorter bloom cycle (about a month) than the old garden varieties. For me that drawback is overcome by their beauty.
Overall, daylilies are easy to grow. All you need is an area that gets some sun, but the more sunlight the better. Watering and weeding is about the only nurturing they require. Someone once told me a person with black thumb can successfully grow daylilies. Do you prefer old garden varieties or the more showy hybrids?
I first made this recipe as a stuffing for grilled pork chops and chicken thighs. (These recipes will be added later) I was starving while I was cooking. I started dipping some Triscuit crackers in this to sample as I waited for it to cool. I discovered I had also created a good dip.
1 pack of lite cream cheese
2 packs of blue cheese
1 pack of frozen spinach chopped and drained
1 tbsp minced garlic
8 slices of bacon cooked and chopped (save grease)
½ cup sun dried tomatoes chopped
½ cup roasted red peppers
1 tsp crushed red pepper
3 teaspoons creole seasoning
In a saucepan add just enough bacon grease to cover bottom. Add garlic, crushed red pepper, bacon, sundried tomatoes, peppers. Once it heats to a simmer, add the spinach. Add ½ the creole seasoning. Once this has simmered add the cream cheese. Once that blends well with the spinach add the blue cheese. Taste and add rest of creole seasoning according to your taste. Can be spiced up by adding cayenne pepper. Of course you can always play with the seasoning by adding types to your taste.
I like to use my own blends of seasoning when cooking. I feel it gives me more control over the flavor. I have used commercial brands of seasoning such as Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning or Slap Your Mama, but I prefer homemade. To me, Tony’s has too much salt and well, I just don’t like the name of the other one. Both are good, so use them if you like.
This recipe is what I use as a base seasoning for most dishes, including meats, salads and vegetables. I like it because the flavors of the different spices seem to change with each bite. I can adjust it to the type of dish I am cooking. If I am cooking Italian, I will add traditional Italian spices such as garlic, oregano, and basil. For Mexican dishes, I’ll add spices such as chili powder, cummin, and spanish oregano.
Here’s my recipe:
1/2 cup Kosher Salt
1/3 cup Paprika (Smoked Paprika if you can find it)
1/4 cup granulated garlic
1/4 cup onion powder
1/3 cup black pepper
3 tbsp white pepper
2 tbsp cayenne pepper
2 tbsp celery salt
2 tbsp dried thyme
2 tbsp dried basil
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tbsp MSG (optional)
1/2 tbsp allspice
Combine all ingredients. Makes about 14 ounces
I thought this would be appropriate for my first recipe post since it was the first recipe I started cooking for groups.
Mike’s Cajun Jambalaya
A black iron pot is best for this recipe, but any heavy type pot with a lid will do.
You can use your favorite meat or whatever meat you have available in any combination that suites your fancy. If you use crawfish, shrimp or other seafood put them in after you add the rice and the water returns to a boil. You can use just about any cut of meat, for the tougher cuts cook longer before you add the rice and water. Wild game such as duck & venison work well.
Any of the ingredients and amounts can be altered to your personal taste.
Cooking oil – Just enough to cover bottom of pan
1/2 lb sausage (smoked pork)
1/2 lb pork
1/2 lb chicken thighs
Louisiana Hot Sauce to taste
1 med onion chopped
1 bell pepper chopped
salt, pepper, red (cayenne) pepper – to your taste. I’d use a tbsp each salt & pepper, tsp red pepper
1 10 oz. can cream of mushroom soup
3 cups of water or beef broth (I use water then add a couple spoonfuls of beef broth granules)
1.5 cups of rice – converted rice such as Uncle Ben’s works best. If you use regular rice rinse it.
1 cup chopped green onions
½ cup parsley
The first step is to brown the meat. The browner the better, because the juices caramelizing on the bottom of the pot will give the end product the rich brown color. Heat the oil till it is hot, but not smoking. Add the sausage and brown it well. Add the pork and then lastly the chicken. Once the pork and chicken is brown add the onions, bell pepper and sauté until the onions become clear. Let this cook until about half of the natural juices steam/cook out. Stir in the salt/pepper/red pepper. Add the cream of mushroom soup. Stir this well and cook till meat begins to tenderize. Add the water or beef broth. (Note-you could eliminate the water and use 3 cups of beef broth.) Add the hot sauce. Add the rice, green onion, parsley and stir well. Bring to a boil and cover. Now you have choice for the next step. You can finish on the stove top or in a 350 degree oven.
For the stove top, reduce the heat to very low and cook for exactly 30 mins.. Do not peak.
For the oven method (my preferred), place in a 350 degree oven for exactly 30 mins. Do not peak.
After 30 mins. remove the lid and stir well. Taste, if the rice is still kinda crunchy you can stir in some water and cover for five more minutes.
If liquid is still present when you first open lid continue stir well and let it stand for 5 to 10 mins. I find when using the over method there is nearly always a layer of liquid on top.
Jambalaya is a popular dish in Louisiana, probably because it is fairly inexpensive to make, can feed a lot of people, and cooked with just about anything you have on hand (perfect for that left over roast, or turkey you have become tired of slicing and warming up). In spite of being cheap and made with old food, it’s very tasty. It’s fairly simple to make and you only dirty one pot for a meal. This makes this dish perfect for a family or social gathering.
There are three parts to a jambalaya – meat, vegetables, and rice. The dish is culminated when you add water and heat to bind the ingredients together. Think of making a stew with lots of gravy, then adding raw rice to soak up all the gravy. Jambalaya’s key ingredient is a lone meat or any combination of beef, pork, chicken, sausage, giblets, game or seafood.
There were originally two types of jambalaya, Creole and Cajun. Now days, you may find hybrids of both as cooks share their recipes. Creole jambalaya, sometimes called “red jambalaya,” is mainly found in New Orleans. It gets its red color from adding tomatoes as an ingredient. Creole jambalaya also tends to have more complex seasonings and seafood as an ingredient.
Cajun jambalaya, or “brown jambalaya,” is more likely found in the rural and Cajun parts of Louisiana. It gets its brown color because meat is seared in the first stage of cooking, thus carmalizing the bottom of the pot. By adding water or broth, the carmalization breaks away, adds a brown color, as well as flavor, and turns the rice an appealing brown color. Cajun jambalaya tends to have a smokey flavor from smoked meat or sausage being used. The seasoning is likely a simple combination of salt and peppers.
A third, less popular type, is sometimes called Poor Man’s. It usually consists of ground beef, cabbage and rice.
Next I’ll post one of my jambalaya recipes.
Welcome to the début of my kitchen and garden blog, a place where I can ramble about my two favorite hobbies. I suppose these are the right hobbies because for the last 30 years I have worked in a profession that deals with so much ugliness and distaste. It is my hope to share some of my experiences with you. Many of my Facebook Friends and Twitter Followers have seen my “What’s for dinner you wonder” or “Today’s gift from our backyard” and asked for recipes or gardening advice. I will use this blog to pass on recipes, gardening tips or just ramble about whatever.
Living in South Louisiana, I naturally favor Creole and Cajun recipes, but also like to cook Italian dishes, as well as, just about any type of barbecue. I have not always been a Cajun. I was raised in the Redneck part of the state (North Louisiana). I married a Cajun girl who taught me the basics of South Louisiana cooking and I took it from there.
All of my gardening posts will be specific to South Louisiana. My gardening knowledge comes from personal experience and serving, many years ago, as a volunteer Certified Master Gardener.