Kitchen Garden

Saturday Rain and a Lovely Day

Cucumber Plants

The garden and yard were excessively dry Saturday morning so I watered the vegetables. Couple of hours later it rained, then cleared up in time for a wedding at Wapsipinicon State Park.

It was a lovely day for a wedding, and for living in Iowa.

We could use more lovely days… and more rain.

I had a couple of food inspirations this week.

On Thursday I had meetings after my shift at the home, farm and auto supply store so I stopped at Estela’s Fresh Mex Mexican Restaurant on Burlington Street in the county seat. I ordered veggie tacos with the traditional mix. The line cook measured a portion of vegetables (corn, onion, peppers and other undetermined items) on the griddle and sauteed them. Next the mixture was distributed among three flour tortillas in a specialized stand and served with choice of toppings and sauce. The inspiration was more process than composition. Because I make breakfast tacos at home at least once a week, I found inspiration.

I use fresh uncooked flour tortillas from the warehouse club in our home kitchen. The typical filling is onion, bell or hot peppers according to what is available, fresh garlic, and recipe crumbles seasoned with home-blended spices. This mixture reminds me of tacos Mother used to make so I anticipate keeping it. What Estela’s traditional mix inspired is a second type of filling, a combination of sweet corn, black beans, onions, peppers and garlic that could be made fresh in a big batch and stored in the ice box. When I want tacos, I could portion out what’s needed and keep the rest — handy for breakfasts when time is short. I plan to work through some variations on this idea during coming weeks.

A second food inspiration was to begin making smoothies.

A smoothie is a use it up recipe based on what’s available. I start making them in spring as spinach and kale come in. It’s a good way to use some of the bounty. The base is home made almond milk.

The preparation for almond milk is to soak raw almonds for three days, changing the water at least once daily, and grinding them in a blender. I use two cups filtered water with one cup raw almonds. It makes enough for three or four servings. I use the entire blended mixture but if one wanted almond milk like what comes from the grocer, it could be strained with a cheesecloth. For breakfast smoothies I use everything… why not?

When I worked at the warehouse club they sent us to Chicago to be trained as demonstrators by Blendtec staff. The basic technique is to load the blender jar with liquids and soft ingredients on the bottom, then top with frozen and hard ingredients. Leafy greens can go before or after the hard ingredients. Using this technique eliminates any need to poke ingredients into a moving blade with a spatula.

A typical smoothie includes a cup of almond milk, a Cavendish banana, other fruit in the ice box, a quarter cup of Greek yogurt and a generous handful of greens. I’m also using up a home-mixed protein powder, but when that’s gone I won’t replace it. Protein comes from the yogurt and almonds.

I also made a spread from goat cheese and other ingredients in the ice box. This too is a use it up recipe, although I bought the goat cheese at the warehouse club intending to make a spread.

I put a log of goat cheese in the bowl of the food processor with two cloves of peeled garlic. Next, a generous cup of purchased New Mexico Hatch Chile mix. I’d use home-canned hot peppers if I hadn’t purchased the blend which included salt, garlic and lime juice. I added half a small jar of sun dried tomatoes from the ice box and processed everything until smooth. I added no seasoning, and after refrigeration a day or two garlic began to overpower the pepper flavor. If I did it again, I’d use only one clove of garlic and try other on-hand ingredients. The spread goes well on crackers and on toast.

Try any of these three ideas and I bet you will be on your way to a lovely day.