Cauliflower Cutlets

For awhile we’ve been collecting cauliflower based recipes in anticipation of a plentiful crop and it’s on us now. The first on the list is cauliflower cutlets with marinara sauce. The cutlets were great but not nearly as simple to make as I thought. Next up roast cauliflower with capers and lemon sauce followed by braised cauliflower with anchovies, garlic, and capers. There are several variations on roast cauliflower, cauliflower salads, and cauliflower soup, all of which we will have sampled by the time the last one is picked. I think the adventure with Blue Apron is giving us the impetus to try things we would have passed over in past years. George’s grandson Garret is picking freely now but still we’re not making a dent in the crop. We’re all small eaters so that, for example, a single head of cabbage lasts two or three meals. Ditto the cauliflower. Ditto broccoli. At least with the leafy greens you can just pick enough for a single meal but choosing among kale, collards, chard, and spinach………… It seems that for every leaf picked, two more sprout.

For no particular reason I stopped feeding the fish off the dock about 6 months ago. A couple of weeks back I took a piece of stale bread and (tried to) feed it to the fish but to my surprise, there were no fish. Always in the past it was a real feeding frenzy when I tossed in the bread so apparently the fish had gone off to greener pastures. That bothered me because in the near future we expect some kids to be visiting and the highlight of their visit has always been fishing and catching off the dock. I had plenty of stale bread in the freezer so went back to a daily routine of sharing that bread with the pan fish that always lived by the dock. Sure enough, by the 3rd day there was good action with one noticeable difference – the fish were real giants. I’ve continued feeding them for the past week and they are for sure back with a vengeance and much larger than ever before. In fact, I think they’re the biggest pan fish I’ve ever seen. I’ll have to be concerned that they might pull one of the kids in the water when hooked.

The cabbage crop is winding down and I’m eyeing that row for tomatoes. Within the next two weeks that transition will have occurred. The row of cauliflower is not far behind, maybe two weeks, and more tomato seedlings should be ready for transplant in that row. I’m planting one row in “conventional” round tomatoes; the other in paste tomatoes – 8 plants in each row. The cherry tomatoes will be scattered as space becomes available. I also have half a dozen renegade tomato plants already growing in the garden. With these you’re never sure of the results – meaning what variety or type and how well they’ll do. but…………. could actually be picking in April whereas the regular selected varieties are late May. Just a note – the bush beans started germinating in only 4 days – a week faster than I thought.

Fridge Crisis Averted

Hooked a really, really, really giant bass last night. I got two jumps before he threw the lure back at me. Probably just as well since it was getting dark and this fish could have turned into a project.

Spotted something in the paper that may be “life changing”. I’ve tried, unsuccessfully, to find a place to access the Halifax/Intracoastal from the west side of Palm Coast. I was looking at the fishing report in the paper and spotted a picture of a kid with a nice Jack (fish) with the caption Herschel King Park in Palm Coast. Never heard of it but could tell from the pic it might be what I was looking for. If so, it will be about 5 minutes from Nancy’s bridge game and a potential alternate to fishing the surf. It’s even possible I can launch the poke boat there opening a world of new water. Can’t wait until Monday.

The refrigerator died again. I’m fairly sure it’s the compressor starting capacitor but it’s not very convenient for me to access. We cleaned out all the high dollar frozen stuff and moved it to one of our freezers and moved 2 gallon jugs of frozen water we keep for just such an emergency into the fridge and then called the appliance repair guy. Of course it’s a Saturday. The good news is that Nancy is out shopping with a friend all day so no adult supervision/hovering/coaching was necessary and, if all goes well, the problem will have been solved by the time she gets home. I know we should probably think about a new one – this one is only 16 years old – but last time we looked, all they had on the floors are super high tech giant models which would allow us to see what’s in the refrigerator from our phones at a remote location. And with Star Wars inspired lighting systems. I’m of the school of thought that thinks simpler is better and can’t ever think of a time in my life when I was away from home and wanted a look inside the fridge; Or wanted to text someone while standing by the fridge. Or watch TV while standing at the fridge. I’m not sure the repair guy we use could handle all that. Deep down inside I’m thinking we’re better off with an old fridge with a new compressor than a high tech, computer controlled model. What if somebody hacked it??? are there refrigerator voyeurs out there?? I feel the same way about cars – I must be a luddite.

Chris is coming for a quick visit next month – in Saturday afternoon, out Monday afternoon. Hardly seems worth all that flying time but……………. He does lots of CA to Hawaii flying so by now he’s accustomed to long flights.

In the garden – picking cauliflower and planting bush beans. Just about right for the cauliflower but early for the beans but since there’s no frost on into the horizon, why not take the chance. I planted 2 x 4’ rows and will do another 2 x 4’ rows in 2-3 weeks, weather permitting. Maybe an April green bean crop.

Holy Cauliflower!!!

Spec fishing is hot. Almost any time I go out I can bring in a meal or two or ten. But for some reason, they’re all small. It’s not just me but the several others fishing the lake are experiencing the same thing – loads of small ones, nothing of any size. In our collective thinking, the fish we’re getting this year were all hatched last year – which was a high water year. We all throw back about 2/3 of what we actually catch so maybe next year will be the year of the giants.

Between the lake and the garden we’re a real “mother earth” operation and it’s a lot closer than the grocery store. Right now cabbage is the go to crop since it has a finite life cycle and will start splitting if not picked. I grew a new variety this year which was touted as best for cole slaw and cabbage salad. It really is – a lighter flavor and crispy. If it’s cooked, high heat for 2-3 minutes is the limit. The other garden product that we are working over pretty good are the collards. I always grow them, primarily for trading purposes, but never actually eat them. This year we’re eating them thanks to Blue Apron that introduced us to different ways to fix them. Ditto Kale. Over abundance of spinach continues both the conventional varieties and the New Zealand variety. Nancy took 6 more grocery bags of the New Zealand to her bridge club where it’s greeted with open arms. (I read recently that this variety is considered an invasive species in California and banned whichI can believe it.) And finally the cauliflower is popping. I was starting to get worried that all we were going to get this year was leaves and was searching for reasons for that to happen. Finally one popped out and I got a little hope. Five days later I’m up to 10 and expect 18 to 20 by the end of the month. So I go from trying to explain a crop failure to how to handle the surplus. We’ve been collecting new cauliflower recipes so we’re ready for the challenge. Two I’m looking forward to is Cauliflower pizza (a blue apron recipe) and cauliflower cutlets.

We met Joey last week for his birthday lunch and he brought a bag of star fruit. He has a star fruit tree on one of his properties and it’s really prolific. I cut them up and froze them for use in my green smoothies. We went to PUBLIX and saw they were selling ones that were less than half the size of Joey’s for $3.50 each – same price currently as cauliflower and Bok choy.

Nancy’s “wounds” are healing nicely and she’ll get the last row of stitches removed today. Most of the swelling and bruising are gone; ditto the giant bandages. She has another appointment set up with them in a week or so to assess the scarring but I’m thinking that will be nothing at all. I see no scarring at all from the first one and suspect the second will be about the same.

The Ranch Next Door

Major landscape change going on here. I think I mentioned a year or so back that the house that sat adjacent to our property had been torn down. The house was an eye sore so we all viewed the development as a positive thing. There had always been a fence along the property line but it was long since broken down and, like the house, a bit of an eyesore. Apparently the guy who bought the property felt the same way and this past week sent in the heavy equipment to clear away all the trees and shrubs and create a large pasture. They dug a huge hole, filled it with all the trees and brush and set it on fire. It took a couple of days to burn it all. A new fence completed the pasture look. This particular piece was probably 10 acres and was adjacent to a much larger chunk – 100’s of acres – with a really nice home/estate on the far end of the lake. Rumor is that he’s going to add cattle to the mix which will give us a real country feel. I may have a source for cow manure right at hand but the barb wire fence looks foreboding. I think it makes the whole area look better and less cluttered – more real country.

New and final set of Blue Apron meals arrived. Included was an enchilada recipe, a burger recipe, and a shrimp/pasta recipe. The enchilada turned out a little hot for Nancy but I thought it was good. It was another recipe with a lot going on at double time and at a high temp. The pasta recipe included broccoli and shrimp cooked in a hot pan simultaneously with the pasta cooking. We’ve had something close but the broccoli was boiled first to soften it whereas all the cooking here was in a hot frying pan. Very good. We’ll finish off this installment next week since we’re going down to Tom’s for his Super Bowl party and won’t be hungry for a day or two.

The azalea’s are in full bloom, about a month earlier than usual. Based on that, I bit the bullet and started the 2017 tomatoes. This year will be totally different from last – which was marginal at best. First, I’m planting directly in the garden as opposed to starting in the house. I just think they get a much better start in sunlight than with artificial lighting. I also think my garden soil is actually equal to or better than commercial bedding soil. This will hopefully lesson the transplanting shock when I move the seedlings. Second, the varieties are carefully selected to be extra disease resistant and are very expensive – almost $1 per seed. Since it’s very early in the season to be planting tomato seeds outside, I only planted two seeds of each variety. I want to get the plants going as early as possible so they can better handle the insect attack that comes in the spring. If we do get another burst of cold air, totally within the realm of reality, I will be ready to cover the seedlings. And even if I lose this first planting, I have seeds at the ready for a later try. I’ve planted 6 varieties including 2 plum/paste type, 3 round medium size fruit, and 1 cherry tomato. Of these, I have excellent experience with 3 and zero with the other 3. Joey has also just planted several plants (not seeds) that are supposedly good for this area so we’re going to compare notes as the season progresses. Since he put his plants in last week and I only just put in seeds, he’ll be at least a month ahead of me. My current thinking is to start the second tranche about the first of March. So for the next 10-14 days I’ll be on pins and needles waiting to see if we have a good germination.

Nancy has a tough week

Winter again. After a week or so of really great weather, we’re going to have another winter. Starting with a little rain, we’re predicted to have a 5 day stretch with highs only into the 60’s and low’s at the lower 40’s. Nothing mentioned about frost or freezes so no impact on the garden – only the gardener. And, the good news, this hit of global cooling has improved the spec fishing. For the first time this season the larger ones have started schooling and, coincidentally, the bass have started hitting in the grass. The spec’s are right on schedule; the bass maybe a little ahead.

Another large bunch of radishes, another large pot of radish soup. This time Nancy upped her game and added the carrots I picked at the same time. The garlic I planted is starting to pop as are the Floridaho potatoes. These are both 90-100 day crops which means a May harvest. The other recent addition to the garden is a small patch of Pak Choy or Bak Choi, maybe even Bok Choy – it appears in several different spellings in different catalogs. After having a nice stir fry with the last Blue Apron batch and finding it difficult to buy consistently at Publix and noticing that it is over priced when they do have it, I decided to buy some seeds and give it a try. It germinated incredibly fast, about 3 days, and nearly 100%. After a week or two I transplanted the seedlings to a prepared garden location and they’ve taken off nicely – 100% transplant success – 3 rows of 4 plants. Assuming they all mature, that’s a good return on the seed investment, especially considering the there’s probably another 100 or so seeds still in the packet. Just one plant (one stir fry) covers the cost of the entire seed packet. Fifty days until stir fry time.

In other garden news – picked 5 bags of goodies for the Crescent City bridge ladies including bags of swiss chard, spinach, collards, lettuce, and cabbage. The only thing I could have added was a bag of kale but I ran out of bags. Not sure how they’ll divvy up that loot but if you hear of riots in north Florida, chances are I’m at the root of it (not DT).

This was a bad week to be Nancy. On Tuesday she had a skin cancer procedure that ended with 12 stitches where her right eyebrow once existed. By the next morning her right eye was black and blue; the left eye on Thursday. On Friday she went to the retina doc to get her Avastin shot in the eye. The icing on the cake was a call from her Palm Coast bridge partner saying she couldn’t play this week due to illness. And then next week she has another cancer removed from her face.