Cauliflower Tots

A few days ago George knocked on the door and told me a fish story. He had caught 4 nice spec’s the night before and as usual, left them on the stringer, dangling in the water overnight so as to clean them the next morning. When he went down to clean them, the stringer was empty with no sign of the fish. I suspected an otter but it was possibly something else – a gator, turtles, raccoons, neighbors – who knows. We know now. I went down this morning to put in the poke boat and as I started moving the boat toward the shore, I heard the distinctive snort of an otter. Sure enough a large one had surfaced about a 100’ offshore and made a beeline toward me. Not even a little spooked. He probably thought I was bringing him some fish. came to within about 25’ then dove and resurfaced a little farther out. He just watched me put the boat in with an occasional snort and then casually swam away. We have seen otters in the lake on several occasions but this is the first time in at least 6 months and since he knows where to get a free fish dinner, we’ll have to be a little more careful about leaving the fish exposed.

We made an interesting cauliflower dish – with an extremely large position of cauliflower in the garden, coming up with creative ways to “eat” into the backlog is essential. This one creates cauliflower “tots” – as in “tater” tots. Delicious. We had bought a 12 position mini muffin pan but the recipe created a batch big enough for 24 (with half a head) so we did a refill. Before it was over, we used the whole head and made about 50 tots – saved enough for dinner and froze the rest. I guarantee before the week is out we’ll get a 24 position pan and create them 36 at a time. They would be great for a party snack. No one would ever guess what they were eating so they would be a great conversation generator.

Nancy is crafting up a storm. More quilting and crocheting going on than I’ve seen for quite a while. All charity work. Tina came up the other day and they talked quilts and shopped half a day. Yesterday/last night Nancy attended a trunk show in Ormond which is not too far from Palm Coast. After her bridge game, I dropped her off at the show where she hooked up with one of her quilt buddies from here. I think the subject of the show was what you can make from scraps or left over chunks of fabric. Big day. I was home by 6:30 but she didn’t make it until 9.

More winter rain – very unusual. It came overnight where it woke me a couple of times so it was no big surprised to see just over 2” in the rain gauge. I won’t have to water the garden for at least a week. The garden is a raised area in the field that’s my neighbor’s back yard. It raised by the continuous loads of compost I create and layer onto the growing rows. The surrounding field is soggy wet – it squishes when you walk on it – but the actual garden dries out nicely and the deeper roots can get to all the water the plants need. The lake is higher than usual for the summer time let alone the dry season, so this could be an interesting summer. Maybe I should be thinking about a row of rice or water cress. Supposed to get cold again for a couple of days but no frost or freeze worries. Usually the last frost/freeze date is Feb 20. I give it a couple of weeks after that and then start putting out my new seedlings.
Watched the State of the Union speech last night and was impressed with the content and delivery but my favorite moments of all were when the cameras panned over to Schumer and Pelosi. The expression on their face was pure agony and I don’t think it was about the content of the speech. I think it was them coming to the realization that they were seeing the conversion of the 4 year term into an 8 year term.

Spring planting started

I planted a variety of cabbage that was advertised as best for slaw and salads. It produced a conical head as opposed to a round head. The other nice thing was the head was about 2 pounds, just right for us, as opposed to the giant heads I’ve grown in the past. I decided to make a Dutch cole slaw recipe which we found a few years ago and have used plenty of times. It’s vinegar, not mayo, based and is best made the day before. Turned out awesome but next time I’ll switch to apple cider vinegar.

I dodged a car repair bullet yesterday. We take the truck to Crescent City every Wednesday for Nancy’s bridge game. The problems I had in the past with the truck were traceable to not using it enough so we worked it into a regular time slot to avoid that in the future. It’s 20 miles to Crescent City so that puts 80, mostly highway, miles on every week. This past Wednesday I walked out to where it’s parked, started it and released the emergency brake. Oops, the brake light stayed lit and along with it, the ABS light. I exercised the brake a couple of times, restarted the truck a couple of times but the lights stayed on. No question the brake was fully released and reengaged properly so the problem had to be associated with the switch that controlled the light. Sounded like $100 to me. We drove up to Crescent City with zero problem as expected. So nothing too serious. On the afternoon trip back to pick her up, I remembered that a few months back I had a similar issue with the Mercury and learned, via the owners manual, that when the brake fluid level is low, the emergency brake light comes on. I bought brake fluid and sure enough the problem went away and has stayed away. Since the truck is a Ford and the Mercury is a Ford………….. I pulled over, opened the hood and found the brake fluid reservoir – way,way low. There’s an Auto Zone in Crescent City so I confidently went in, purchased fluid and filled the reservoir. The lights both went out instantly. Made my day. I’ll keep an eye on the reservoir to make sure there’s no serious leak but I’m feeling pretty good right now.

I started the spring indoor planting today with a dozen tomato seeds, 4 each of 3 varieties, and Basil. I had planned on starting green peppers too but found I had used all the seeds of the variety I wanted last year. I have plenty of pepper seeds but this particular variety performs so well and all others are marginal at best that it makes sense to stick with what works here. Peppers are very fussy. Assuming success with the seeds, the tomato plants should be ready for the garden in early March, maybe late Feb. The peppers shouldn’t be a problem since it’s looking like I nursed the fall plants thru the cold snaps we had and I’m actually seeing some new growth. The proof will be the appearance of blossoms.

I was ok to hear Trump throw a big tariff on solar panel imports. That whole industry has been unbelievably subsidized from the get go. Then I heard on the news that Al Gore agreed with Trump on this issue and that gave me pause. I can’t imagine being in agreement with Big Al so there must be something I don’t understand about the issue.
Nancy got an interesting device yesterday. It came in a small box via USPS with a return address to the Library of Congress. We opened it and found a small plastic device along with a CD labeled users guide, a regular printed users guide, and a braille users guide. I read the instructions and learned that it was a “bill reader” – a device that told you the denomination of a currency bill. You slide in a bill and it announces the value – like one, two, five,ten – you get it. As you know, Nancy is very good with her hands so she had it operating in a few seconds – whereas it took me a couple of minutes.

Nice Weather Again

I think the reason our pasta sauce is so good is that it’s more than 50% cherry tomatoes.That’s not by design it’s just that the cherries are incredibly prolific whereas the more conventional tomatoes are finicky. They pop up wild in the garden so I could populate the entire 1200 SF space with home grown cherry tomatoes and never buy another seed. The second or third or tenth generation tomatoes are smaller but make up for that with quantity.

It does look like a few of the cauliflower plants got leaf burn from the recent freeze. Don’t know yet whether that’s a terminal condition or something the plants will recover from. The good news is that most of them have edible size heads and those keep well in the refrigerator if the plants don’t recover. That, plus it won’t be too many weeks before I’ll need the space for the next crop. I’m going to start planting seeds indoors this week for the next batch of tomatoes and maybe peppers.

Went to the beach Monday and was surprised at how many folks had the same idea. You’d think that a weekday would be sparse but the yankees have invaded big time this year. Lot of Canadian tags too. You can tell the locals because they have light jackets and long pants whereas the visitors wear bathing suits and actually play in the surf. Found the same thing Tuesday when we met up with Joey and his entourage for lunch at New Symrna beach. I haven’t been there in years and we had a great time just checking out old familiar watering holes and shops – some of which I remember from the 50’s. We try to hook up with the Cocoa crowd once a month and pick a spot that is somewhere in between. Last month we met up in Sanford at a German restaurant, this time at an Italian deli.

The Monday beach trip provided the first opportunity to try the delayed bake feature on the new stove. We set it to bake a prepared dish of chicken parm for 45 minutes starting at 4:30PM. We walked in the door at 5:14 and the oven display said it had a minute or so to go. Perfect.
The other nice feature is that one of the burners actually has two heating rings. That brought a large pot of water to boiling much quicker than the one ring burners. I was a little concerned that Nancy might have trouble with that feature since you have to look closely at the controls but she had no problem.

Some Progress

The IT dept fixed one of my problems. I can now create the input on the mini and transport it to the laptop via thumb drive. The problem had to do with a difference in versions of the word processing software between the mini and the laptop. The other problem is still elusive – the ability to actually publish over the internet using my hotspot and the mini. I can publish over the internet using my hotpot and the laptop but not the mini. And I always could so something has changed. This is the kind of stuff that happens when you “upgrade” to the latest version.

The latest cold snap has ended and we had freeze warnings for a couple of days, including hard freeze notices as well. This is the second front to move through in January. The first wave cost me the basel, most of the tomato plants, hit the peppers fairly hard but left everything else in good shape. This second hit was much colder – actually had ice on a bucket of water on the porch but I did an even better job of covering up so no visual damage. The peppers, which I double wrapped, look ok but no blossoms – so the jury’s still out on those. The pineapples are not gone but looking a bit sickly. I’m mentally writing those off.

Trying three new cauliflower recipes based on the fact that we are having a bumper crop. One is a salad called fully loaded cauliflower salad. It’s basically the same as the broccoli salad recipe we love except you replace the raw broccoli with roasted cauliflower. The other is more of a potato salad replacement. The third recipe exchanges the mac in mac and cheese with cauliflower. They all sound good on paper. Last week was roasted cauliflower soup which we’ve had in the past – a good cold weather soup.

Try, Try Again

Not sure what’s going on with my ability to publish the blog but for whatever reason, I’m not able to post on the Mac Mini but can on the laptop. I’ve always been able to use either. I’ve also always been able to create the draft on the mini and then transport that to the laptop using USB thumb drives. Now, for some reason, that’s not working. This will post because I’m creating and publishing on the laptop. The IT dept is stumped too.

So I’m way behind but can catch up quickly by saying that we’ve had way more rain than usual; that it’s been colder than usual; and that the garden is thriving and producing some of the nicest greens, broccoli, and cauliflower ever. According to the weather folks we were supposed to get close to the mid 20’s overnight, which is hard freeze, killing freeze territory. I did my best at covering the garden and expect that to be 90% effective. The only reason it’s not 100% is that these fronts come in with alot of wind and the covers do not always stay in place. This one surprised me. I woke up about 6AM and checked the temp. According to my thermometer it was 33. I’m always suspicious of the accuracy of the thermometer so I checked the bucket of water sitting outside and saw that there was no ice on the surface. Great, dodged a bullet. I checked again about 9AM to see how much it had warmed up but saw the thermometer was now 31. Check the water – frozen over. So much for the theory that it would warm up as the sun rises. I ran over to the garden and re-covered those areas where the covers had blown off. We’ll see!! I’m expecting almost 100% recovery since the stuff remaining in the garden is fairly cold tolerant. I double wrapped the pepper plants and the one remaining tomato plant but suspect they are goners. That’s ok because it’s time to break out the tomato and pepper seeds for spring planting anyway.

Not sure if I posted that our stove crashed and we bought a new one. It’s working like a world champ and Nancy is able to work all the controls. The first thing I tried was baking a green tomato cake using the tomatoes I picked before the freeze last week. The new oven did it’s job but the cake just wasn’t edible. I made it so I probably screwed up something. It never really firmed up and it was way, way to sugary for me.

Dallas is not in the cards for Chris. They explained choosing the other candidate as a native Dallasian who knew that market better. Personally I think they’re planning to promote him in California and didn’t want him changing regions. But there was some mention of a new Texas district in Austin coming soon. Can’t imagine anybody who wouldn’t prefer Austin to Dallas so being passed on the Dallas position might be a blessing in disquise.

It Made It!

We had 3 consecutive nights of freezing temps as forecast. I covered
the garden as best I could on Wednesday afternoon and removed the
covers Saturday afternoon when the forecast showed a warming trend –
night time lows in the 40’s and 50’s for the next 7 days and daytime
highs reaching into the lower 80’s. I really didn’t know what to
expect when removing the covers. I had mentally written off the green
peppers, tomatoes and basel; expected some light damage to the
Brassica’s – cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli; ditto the lettuce;
was reasonably confident that the spinach, collards and swiss chard
would survive unscathed even uncovered. Ditto the carrots although I
did cover those. What I found was that the only total disaster was
the basel – it was gone. A couple of the pepper plants had minimal
tip damage, a real surprise. I’m expecting those to continue
producing. About half the tomato plants were damaged but not killed,
a couple were gone, and a couple were untouched. I’ve heavily trimmed
the damaged areas and don’t know whether or not they will recover. I
picked about 10 pounds of green tomatoes before covering so whatever
happens to the plants, we’ll get some useable fruit. There was zero
damage to any of the greens. Those represent about 3/4 of the area of
the garden so from that perspective, the garden survived nicely. I
even had the basel covered with a spare plant indoors that I’ll move
to the garden when it’s safe. In the next few weeks I’ll actually
start (indoors) tomato and pepper plants for the spring planting.
One surprise was that all of the pineapples seem to make it – assuming
no delayed action. I didn’t cover them all that well due to the shape
of the plant and the kind of covers I had and also because I believed
they would probably crater long before it hit freezing. So far they
look 100% ok.

The other weather piece that’s kept me mostly inside has been the
wind. It’s been blowing steadily from the north for the past week
keeping me off the lake. I believe that same wind is what has kept
the garden a few degrees above freezing since it blows across the
length of the lake and picks up warmer moisture. Thanks but I’m
looking for it to stop and let me get back to catching spec’s. The
cold snap should have started the spawning season seriously with the
big ones moving close to shore. Of course surf fishing is out of the

All Covered up and Freezing Cold

Way to go UCF. Tom and Tina had a New Year’s Day party to watch the Peach Bowl and whatever other games were going on. Tom had 4 TV’s going, 3 in the house and one in the pool patio. The crowd was probably 90% UCF affiliated so there was plenty of loud cheering and moaning throughout the whole game. Good food, good company, and a good game – what more could we have wanted. (maybe about 10 degrees more temp).

I’ve had it with this Polar vortex thing we’re having right now. Nancy got me to hang out the sheets even though the temp and the wind were about 40. I’m dreading having to cover the garden tomorrow with a freeze forecast for the next day. It would be impossible to cover it today with the howling wind and it’s been this way for the past few days. I’ll pick the pepper plants clean since that’s the most tender crop in the garden. Last year we made a green tomato cake that made at least some use of that crop before it crashed and maybe we’ll do that again. – update – got the garden covered and we had first cold night of what looks like a 4 day stretch. I haven’t looked under the covers but the temp on the porch only dropped to 34 on the first night and I’m guessing most made it ok. Tonight is going to be the killer.

The final Blue Apron was as good as the other two. It was an Asian pork dish and a bit tricky on the timing – a lot of balls to juggle for an amateur klutz chef like me but somehow it came out just right. We’ve never had a disappointment with a dish from them.

Nancy has developed a new skill set and product. Someone at her crocheting group showed her how to make Scrubbies from a special kind of yarn. They are hot items and everyone she gives one to, loves it. They look like the old steel wool pads but softer and more colorful – from hot pink to chartreuse. She’s also designed one that is shaped like a wash cloth. People use them as vegetable scrubbers as well as general kitchen scrubbers. I used one the other day to clean my sneakers. She whips them out at night while watching TV, in between binding quilts. Busy hands.