Thursday, June 24, 2010


Everybody is pretty familiar with the old standby veggies: corn, peas, potatoes, and carrots. Some brave souls venture into spinach, broccoli and even Brussels Sprouts. Lettuce, tomatoes and celery mostly are relegated to salads, and that’s about that.

But let’s try something new this time—let’s try leeks.

Leeks are members of the onion family, and before you run the other way, making a cross with your index fingers in my direction, let me reassure you—you won’t get digestive upsets from eating leeks that are properly cooked.

What you will get are compliments on this yummy side dish that goes well with fish, beef, or chicken. (As far as I’m concerned, it goes well with anything, and after dinner–-or ‘supper’, if you’re a Southerner like me--I just dump the leftovers in my “Soup” container in the freezer.)


Make your old standby flat container with holes in the bottom, covered by pieces of coffee filter. Don’t drink coffee? Then use pieces of paper towel. Can’t afford such luxuries? No problem! Use doubled squares of bathroom tissue or small squares of rag. They’ll all work, and one is as good as the next. Now fill your container with good dirt, either potting soil, garden soil or your own compost. See upcoming Post #10, “How to Make Compost—in the City, the Suburbs or the Country.” It’ll cover the whole process no matter where you live.

Back to the leeks: with a popsicle stick, a pencil or a twig, make ‘drills’ (evenly-spaced shallow gutters in the soil) for your seeds. Space the seeds about an inch apart, or the width of the first joint of your thumb. Plant them carefully, but please don’t go so far as to use a ruler or anything; just do your best. Seeds are innocent creatures of God, and they are very forgiving. Cover them gently, pat down lightly and water well. Some people like to use vermiculite to cover them. Do whatever you like.

In a week or two, you’ll see slender little loops of green pushing up through the soil.

Leeks are monocots, which means they don’t have the two halves of seed casing like beans, tomatoes and most others. Those kinds are dicots, which name comes from the Greek meaning “two” (“di”) and cotyledon, (“hollow;cavity.") I have no idea what 'cavity' has to do with it, but I know they're not dentally dangerous, so don't worry.

It’s easier to remember when you’re actually looking at the plant. If it has one green finger pointing upwards, and no seed split case, it is a monocot-- actually, “monocotyledonous” (sway "say "mono-cotrty--LEE-din-us." Throw THAT at your science teacher, kids, for a shock. Just make sure he has a strong heart first. Corn, bamboo, leeks, scallions and lilies are monocots; beans, lettuce, squash, tomatoes and most other veggies are dicots (“dicotyledonous.”) Hit him with that, too, if his heart will take the double whammy.

All you have to do is be careful not to overwater (or underwater) the leeks, keep them in a sunny window or under grow lights, and relax. Plant them out in the garden or in a pot when they get abaout three or four inches tall, and us them for cooking when they’re an inch thick or more through the stalk.

Carefully cut them off about two inches above the soil. This is your first and perhaps only harvest, but if you’re lucky, your plants may give you a second, smaller harvest from the same plants. You can only hope.


3-6 large leeks
½ stick (4 oz) butter, margarine or olive oil (but the butter tastes best, trust me!)
½ --3/4 tsp marjoram
salt and black pepper to taste


Remove most of the heavy medium-green portion of the leek. This gets rough-chopped and tossed into your compost container; or failing that, chop them; cook them down over medium heat in about 3 c. of water for about 30—45 minutes; drain, reserving the liquid; and add it to your Soup Container in the freezer. The solid stuff goes in the compost.

Cut the white portion and the lighter green, more tender portion of the leek into 1/8”—1/4” slices. Separate them--they will look like concentric rings--and wash well in a colander under cold running water.

Drain \thoroughly. Heat the butter/margarine/oil in a large frying pan, sauté pan or skillet, add the marjoram, and sauté for one minute, until the fragrance begins to rise. Add the leeks and sauté, stirring gently from time to time, until the leeks are tender. You will be surprised at how such a lot of volume cooksw down to a much smaller amount. Ah, but the taste of that amount! Put them into a warmed bowl and serve them to 4—6 hungry people. Mmmm…

Thursday, June 10, 2010

So Chili it's HOT!---Anaheim Chilis

When people talk about peppers, they are most often talking about sweet green Bell Peppers or Hungarian Wax Peppers, and I love all of them--but I have a particular liking for Anaheim Chili Peppers.

In the first place, they’re not as hot as many other peppers, but they have the most delicious flavor, and just enough warmth to be present without burning out your digestive system. Kind of like having a warm, funny conversationalist at your dinner, but not an arsonist.

Anaheim Chilis are grown the same way as any other pepper, but another nice thing about them is that you can make the b-e-s-t dishes using this handy pepper! Omigosh, you can practically feed an army with a handful of Anaheims, and everyone will love it!

Pick the peppers when they’re between six and eight inches long, and still green, and prepare them for cooking the same way, too. See Post #5 for growing and prep details.

In the meantime, here’s a recipe my family loves—and so do all our friends--even the kids!


6-8 fresh Anaheim Chilis OR
2-3 (4 oz) cans chopped green Chilis
1 (1#) block of cheddar cheese OR
1 (1#) block Monterey Jack cheese
6-8 large eggs
13 ½ ozs evaporated milk
4 Tbsps flour
¾ tap salt and ½ tsp black pepper


Wash the Chilis and pat dry. Lay the Chilis over an open flame, or if you have an electric over, place the chilis on a cookie sheet and broil for 1-3 minutes, keeping careful watch and turning them to blacken all sides. Remove from the fire (or oven) with tongs and place in a bowl. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let them steam. They will do this on their own. Let cool.

Remove the towel and the Chili skins, and underneath that awful black mess will be the prettiest green flesh you ever saw. Open the Chilis with a small paring knife, remove the seeds and membranes. Chop the chili flesh fine and reserve. Discard the burned skins, the seeds and membranes in your compost container, as they all go to make more fresh earth. (BTW, this recipe also works with the canned chopped green chilis. Just open and proceed. Then why, you may ask, did you bother me with all the mess?

Because, dear child, one day the world could go ‘bang’ and you’d be left not knowing what to do with those fresh chilis while your children were starving, that’s why? Would I let that happen to you?—Never! Anyway, as my mother told me, knowledge is power--and don’t you forget it. It’s true.)

Back to the recipe:

Separate the eggs, the yolks in a smaller bowl, the whites in a larger one. If you have an electric mixer, use your mixer bowl for the whites, making sure no tiniest drop of yolk gets into them. Yolk is mostly fat, and if there is just one faintest iota of fat/yolk in there. your whites will not beat up fluffy and white. They will just lie there looking at you accusingly. Use them for something else—an omelet, maybe—because they do not now and never will have the intention to become meringue for you. They have been betrayed by yolk. Terrible fate for an egg white with aspirations of becoming meringue.

Just don’t waste them. Use them for something.

Okay, back to work:

To the beaten yolks, add the flour and beat it in until it is incorporated. Add the milk, the pepper and all but a pinch of the salt, and reserve. Grease a 13” X 9” X 2” pan and reserve. Turn your oven to 375—400*F (oven heats vary.) Grate your cheeses right into the greased pan and cover them evenly with the reserved chopped chilis.

Beat the egg whites with that pinch of salt you didn’t add to the eggs, until they are stiff but not dry. Leave them in the mixer bowl and while running the machine slowly (or if you’re doing this by hand, folding constantly) add the milk/egg/salt-and-pepper mixture. Mix well but try not to deflate the whites. Keep it all as fluffy as possible.

Pour this whole mix over the cheese-and-chilis in the pan, making it as even as you can without making yourself crazy. It’s dinner, not pinochle. (More on this later.)

Place in the oven and just let it bake. It should be golden and luscious-looking when you take it out, and the filling should be set like custard, but the hot cheese will be gooey, so don’t try the knife-into-the-middle trick to see if it’s done. If it doesn’t wiggle when you shake it, it should be done. Just make sure the egg part is set, but don’t overcook. Overcooked eggs taste like something you scraped off a pan somewhere (well, actually, it is something you scraped…) Well, anyway--

This will keep on a very low oven for about an hour, if dinner is somehow delayed (and if you can fight your husband and kids off while you make the boxed Spanish rice, open and heat a can of refried beans, and whip up a quick salad and the iced tea to go with it all. Flour or corn (maize) tortillas, warmed and buttered, lend a nice touch, too. Oh. and Flan for dessert!



Remember to let me know what you think of the recipes, and of the blog in general! If there is something you’ve always wanted to cook, or grow, or both, let me know and I’ll do a post on it. This is a gift from me to you, and as with all gifts, I’d like it to be something you really want.

Thanks, and God love you!


Monday, June 7, 2010

You Know, I Love GREEN BEANS and HAM! I Do, I Love Them, Ma’am I Am!!

There’s nothing quite so promising as the bright green ‘flags’ that green beans send up in springtime! Throughout the dark, rainy days of pre-Spring, when the air hints at warmth only to deliver a cold slice of ‘Sorry!--still Winter!’; and your windowsill flats are showing not much more than tentative pale green loops pushing up through the potting soil, you kept hoping for full-blown green plants—and now here they are!

1.) started your plants—perhaps as your childrens’ school project (the “bean seed in a paper cup” thing)—and went on to plant half a cardboard-milk-carton-with-the-requisite-holes-in-the-bottom- covered-by coffee-filters-(you knew that!)-and-filled-with-potting-soil.

2.) made several lines in the soil with a popsicle stick or a spoon handle or whatever, and planted your bean seeds twice their own depth.

3.) even let them lie down in the rows, and didn’t stand them on end. They have a lot of work to do, you knew, and deserve all the rest they could get!

4.) kept them in the sunniest window you could find, and when there was none, you kept them under a lamp, for warmth. Some of you even put the carton on tope of your refrigerator, where it’s nice and warm. (Beans hate cold feet!)

Now they’re up, and you deserve a pat on the back! Maybe two or three.

When that fleeting glimpse of sunshine out there becomes a real item, and the ground starts to stay warm even at night—well, anyway, when the threat of frost is absolutely past—plant out your little bean plants.

Put them about 4”-6” apart, and provide something for them to climb on: a trellis, some strings tied to small, rust-proof nails along a wooden fence or shed, or even some brushwood—this could be big twigs cut off the bushes in front, some reeds cut near the bayou (if you have a bayou or a klong), a piece of the latticework that people use to cover the naked knees of houses, or whatever you can think of as a trellis. Even chain link fencing makes a good trellis for climbing veggies and flowers. Use what you have.

A few caveats:

Never pick green beans before the morning dew evaporates. This encourages molds and mildew, a nasty grey powdery stuff that kills your vines. You and I want nice, healthy plants, don’t we? Of course we do. Planting flowers beside the vines encourages beneficial insects like bees, ladybird beetles and other Good Guys who will pollinate your bean blossoms, giving you more veggies per vines, as well as eating aphids and other Nasties.

Beans, like peas, are legumes, and are nitrogen-fixing. This means that they collect nitrogen from the air and lock it into the soil, where it is available as fertilizer for heavy feeders like sweet corn. I always plant corn the following year where I had beans or peas this year, so I can take advantage of God’s goodness to us, even in the plants He created. Remember, back ‘way before the European, African and Oriental immigrants flooded these shores, the Native Americans used to plant corn, beans and squash together (they called them ‘the Three Sisters.) The corn provided a ‘trellis’ for the beans to grow on, the beans fertilized the soil for the corn and squash, and the squash shaded the roots of the corn and beans, keeping them cool and moist. It’s a good example of brilliant eco-planning, and we would be wise to emulate it.

Here’s a good old Deep South recipe for green beans. It’s not elegant, but it is delicious, and children usually come back asking for ‘second helpings’ whenever I make it. It goes like this:


2 # fresh green beans
I large ham bone with some meat still on it
the more, the better; OR
1 # chunk ham, sliced Kielbasa, or hot dogs
1 tsp each salt and ground black pepper
4-6 large potatoes
1 large onion
2-3 Tbsps oil
2-3 qts water


Wash, string and snap the beans. Strings and top ends go into the comport container. Reserve. Peel and dice onion finely. Wash the potatoes and remove the ‘eyes.’ Peel if you like, but remember that the skin has a great deal of Vitamin C in it. Do as you like about peeling them. Cut them in half lengthwise, into two flat ovals. Reserve in cold water.


In a large, heavy Dutch Oven or pot, heat the oil and sauté the onions until the sweat. Add the green beans, the ham bone and the water. Turn the heat to medium low, partially cover with the lid, and cook for about two or three hours, or until the beans are totally limp and just don’t care anymore. The meat should be falling off the bones, and the fragrance should have pervaded the house. Add your potatoes, and cook for another fifteen minutes or until a fork pierces the potato without resistance. Add salt and pepper. Remove from heat.


With big squares of good cornbread covered with thin lashings of molasses, and big glasses of ice-cold milk. Better serve it in a soup bowl and eat it with a spoon, because that ‘pot liquor’ is too good to miss! If you have any left over, put it in your Soup Makings container in the freezer. Yum!

PS: Even my toddlers loved the pot-liquor-soaked cornbread. If the children want to soak their cornbread in the pot liquor, let them!—even if it has molasses on it. They’re only children once (well, maybe more, because don’t be surprised if your husband wants to eat it that way, too!) Try it and see!

Remember to let me know what you think of the recipes, and of the blog in general! If there is something you’ve always wanted to cook, or grow, or both, let me know and I’ll do a post on it. This is a gift from me to you, and as with all gifts, I’d like it to be something you really want.

Thanks, and God love you!


Wednesday, June 2, 2010


This is going to be a short but delicious post today. I'm so excited, I can hardly type! I just put my re-edited first novel on the Web at Check it out. It was first published in 1973, right after I stopped working for Star Trek (the old TV series--maybe some of you will remember it) and now I'm getting ready to put all five of my books online, as well as the new ones I'm working on.

So I'm really jazzed today!--but not so jazzed that I can't give you a terrific recipe for summer squash, that's s-o-o-o-o good with pastas of all kinds. Here we go:

We’re going to be talking about squash again, but this time it’s Summer Squash, that meltingly delicious veggie that almost no one has met. At least, not under very favorable conditions. It’s time to change that image, and right now, too.

You might even want to grow some, to have it on hand free, and not have to go to the store. But before you decide, be sure to try this first:

No matter what kind of squash you think you want to grow, buy one first to try it out, and--if and your family likes the taste of it, once it’s cooked--save the seeds. The process is outlined in Blog # 3 and pertains only to winter squash; of you want to grow your own summer squash, you’ll have to buy some seed packets. Sorry. I have to buy them, too.

Caveat here: I lied. You CAN grow summer squash seeds by letting zucchini grow to the size of baseball bats and harvesting the seeds. Or by letting crookneck squash get so hard and dry it's almost impossible to pry open the skin to get AT the seeds. I just don't have the room to do it any more. So mea culpa. Buy or grow at your own preference. I tend to buy summer squash seeds, that's all.

When you've grown some nice little guys, here's what to do with them:

ZUCCHINI OR CROOKNECK SQUASH (or any summer squash)

6-8 zucchini or crookneck squash, about 6" long
1/2 tsp dried OR
1 tbsp fresh chopped basil leaves, chopped
1/2 tsp dried OR
1 Tbsp fresh oregano leaves, chopped
2-3 Tbsps olive oil
1 large onion
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper


Wash, peel and slice the squash into 1/4" slices. If the skin is very tender, you may leave it unpeeled if you so choose. Reserve. Peel the onion, cut it in half from top to bottom (Arctica to Antacrtica, not across the equator) and slice the halves into ¼” slices.


Heat the oil in a large frying pan. Sweat the onion until it becomes transparent, add the basil, and fry for about 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add the zucchini or crookneck squash, reduce the heat, and braise with a few Tbsps water for 5-7 minutes, partially covered.

Serves 4-8, depending on how hungry you are and how much you like the recipe.

Summer squash is also wonderful simply peeled (when necessary), boiled in a small amoung of water—be sure to save the water in your Soup Container—buttered and lightly salted. Pattypan is especially good like this. It tastes a good bit like corn-on-the-cob, without the bits that stick between your teeth. Very nice for invalids, babies, toddlers and the elderly—and anybody with a liking for meals that taste like food!

This side dish is wonderful with manicotti, any kind of pasta, and a good lasagna!

Remember to let me know what you think of the recipes, and of the blog in general! If there is something you’ve always wanted to cook, or grow, or both, let me know and I’ll do a post on it. This is a gift from me to you, and as with all gifts, I’d like it to be something you really want.

Thanks, and God love you!