Work Day

As much as I would like to sit back in my Adirondack chair in the shade, I’ve got to get some work done today. First project, patch the soaker hose that snakes through the shrub bed south of the apple tree. I’m thinking duct tape. I’ll let you know how that works out. I cut it accidentally when I planted Lady’s Mantle this spring. We got so much reliable rain this summer, that I didn’t even use the soaker until a couple of weeks ago, then I turned it on and heard the gurgling and saw the mud.
After patching, I’ll water, and weed- it’s always easier to weed when the ground is wet, although it is never really easy. I hope sometime this afternoon I’ll get some time in the shade in that chair.

I can rest in the shade later.


Grandma Noodle Soup

Grandma Egg Noodles

Waiting for the stock to simmer so I can add the noodles. See my purty blue Dutch oven.


My old roommate Rhonda taught me how to love Chicken and Noodles and Mashed Potatoes, so I should probably call this Rhonda noodle soup, but instead at our house, we call it grandma noodles, after the premade frozen noodles that is a key ingredient. It could be made with dried egg noodles, but it wouldn’t be the same- check the frozen pasta section of your local mega mart, it is worth the search.

At it’s simplest, this is noodles cooked in broth, perhaps with chunks of actual chicken in it and carrots, if you like mushy carrots, then served over mashed potatoes.  It is insane, I know, to pour a starch based food over another starch based food.  It’s crazy. Crazy delicious. 

2 quarts chicken broth

1 [pack size} grandma noodles

½ cup chopped carrots

1 cup precooked chicken or turkey- leftover is great- in fact, this is a great post-Thanksgiving recipe, because you can do turkey stock.

I have made this with store bought broth- Better than Bouillon is my favorite mix, but you can use whatever broth you like. I use homemade, lately, because I’ve learned how to make it. Look for it in a future blog post.

Yes, it is a very beige meal, but sometimes you want beige. More color next week, promise.

Take the noodles out of the freezer, stab holes in the bag and defrost in the microwave. Meanwhile, heat the stock to boiling.  and chop up any leftover chicken or carrots or whatever, and scrub and chop your potatoes ( I usually leave the peel on, because I am kind of lazy. I also know it’s good for me. Fiber. I know. I’m old.) In another pan, cover the potatoes with water and boil until soft. (Huge digression- I am at about 5000 feet above sea level and potatoes take longer for me than they likely do for you- I knew this intellectually, but when I went to Boston this summer I kept burning my tongue on coffee- dang, how can you stand it? hot coffee is hot at sea level!!! Anyway, I guess that is a difference between knowing something “intellectually” and really knowing it.)

So, when the stock or broth is boiling, add the noodles and carrots and chicken, then simmer until the noodles are done.  If you do it right, the soup will be done at about the same time as the potatoes.

Drain the potatoes and return to the pan. Throw in some buttermilk and butter- I never measure, just a glug of one and a chunk of the other. Then mash. I like lumps. I grew up on instant potatoes, and appreciate the lumpiness of real ones.

Dish up a serving of potatoes into a bowl and make a well in the middle, then scoop up some noodles and broth to cover.  I made this as a back to school meal, but it works on a  busy day, before trick or treating, after Thanksgiving, home from skiing, before basketball practice…anytime, I guess, that you want some starch with your starch. Be sure to have starch for desert, as well.

More compost than you know what to do with?

"Luke, I am your compost bin..." "NO!! thats impossible!"

“Do you ever find that you have more compost than you know what to do with?’ My colleague Lindsey asked me this one winter day a few years ago. I tried to keep my cool, tried not to frighten her as I thought about how to get this bounty of excess compost into my pick-up truck.  Lindsey and her family are vegetarians, and they don’t garden. They keep a compost pile for environmental reasons.  I am not a vegetarian, I do garden, and I can never get enough. 

            “Too much compost eh? Well, I could take some off your hands…” I didn’t quite rub my hands together and laugh evilly, but it was close. In talking to her, it turned out she didn’t have too much, it is just that her bin is small, and decomposition had slowed down in the winter, but she and her family were still producing potato peels, apple cores and other vegetable matter.  I advised her to move the bin to a new location, spread the half-finished compost under her trees, and put the new material into the bin in the new location.    

            I have two compost piles, and never enough compost for my desires. I spread it on my vegetables, around my flowers and shrubs and herbs. The rough, chunky unfinished stuff becomes mulch. The finished stuff, the compost you read about in garden books, goes into my containers mixed in with potting soil, and it goes in the holes for new plantings, to add humus to the soil and give plants a jumpstart. People say I have a green thumb- I owe it all to compost.

            One of my bins is black plastic- I bought it from the city a few years ago. It looks like Darth Vader is buried up to his neck in my yard. (link to compost bin?) It would look cool, if that were the look I was going for. It isn’t, so I try to hide it behind a tree.(link to self)  The black plastic helps the bin heat up, speeding decomposition.  In the summer, at the height of weed season, I can stuff the bin full, hose it down and put the lid on. In a week, when I have another trash barrel full of weeds, there is already room for it.  The bacteria and fungi in the bin have eaten up the organic matter so quickly that it breaks down by half in only a week.  It’s amazing, even if it is a little gross.

            My second bin is enormous. The design is my brother’s invention- two plastic lattice panels wired together into a circle five feet in diameter and four feet tall.  If you read the same books I do, you know that a compost bin has to be at least 3 feet in all dimensions in order to heat up enough to kill weed seeds.  My lattice bin holds about 2 cubic yards, and heats up so effectively that I have never been able to fill it. I can add bag after bag of leaves in the fall, barrel after barrel of weeds in the summer, and it just continuously boils down. 

            On a  sunny day in the spring, I  spread out the finished compost, move the bins and start over.  This is the only work I do with my compost bins- some people do turn theirs, but I am not one of those people.  For a peek into another world of largescale compost production, see One Straw’s posts at htt[:/ .  If you have a yard cart that the trash trucks pick up, you probably pull weeds and rake leaves and then wheel that material to the curb. I just wheel my material to my bins and dump it.  The difference is, I get to keep the free compost.

You did what to a chicken?

This was after the thermometer rang in at 175, and I had turned the burners off.

Last Thanksgiving, I saw directions for “spatchcocking” a turkey. What is that? I wondered…it sounds dirty. Well, it is. But not in the way you’re thinking. It turns out, spatchcocking is cutting along either side of a bird’s spine and removing it, then smushing it flat, so it grills faster.
I spatchcocked a chicken today. I was going to take pictures, but I had all kinds of chicken stuff on my hands, then I pinched my finger in the kitchen shears, so I had some issues with the camera. I was going to have the girl help me, but she was on again (it’s like Facebook… for imaginary people?). She spends more time with fake Legos than real one, these days.
Anyway, no pictures of the process of cutting it up, which is gross, but easier than I expected. It goes fast- indirect grill for 15 minutes skin side down, then skin side up until you get to 175 degrees on the thigh, like another 15-20 minutes For slightly more expert advice… try I think you can do it in the oven, too, and it would speed things up.
I know there are those of you who are opposed to chicken on the bone, but I think it has more flavor. And you can’t beat the price- whole young chickens are pretty cheap.
I wondered about the word origins, being the word nut I am, and it turns out that a lot of other people wondered, too. No clear answer about what language it’s from- I like the Irish story best, but really, who knows?

Beware- onion and tomato salad

This would also be great on a pizza, or over pasta.

My kids wanted frozen pizza for dinner tonight. I was happy to make it for them, but didn’t really want to eat it myself. Tomato season is coming on, and I had a Walla Walla onion left from a party a few weeks ago.

I had marinated the onions in basalmic vinegar, olive oil and Vietnamese fish sauce, then I grilled them. My friend Grif came to the party early, and he kept snitching raw onions out of the bowl they were marinating in. I couldn’t believe he was eating raw onions, then I tried one. It was really good.

Tonight, I sliced the onion into wedges- cutting pole to pole instead of around the equator. I soaked it in cool water for a few minutes, to take away some of the bite. I learned this trick from Andrew Weil’s book 8 Weeks to Optimum Health I love the book, although I have never made it through all 8 weeks. That may be why I am not in optimum health.

While the onions were soaking, I zipped outside to get some tomatoes and basil. I chopped the tomatoes, drained the onion, and ripped up the basil, and tossed them all together with some vinaigrette and salt. Paradise in a bowl.