Posts from January 2014

Stir-fry with Broccoli


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Tomorrow is the Chinese New Year, so Gary and I celebrated early by making the only “Chinese” dish we know: an Americanized stir-fry. In China, the New Year is celebrated by big dinners. Additionally, houses are cleaned to remove ill-fortune and to make way for good incoming luck. So although this dish is by no means traditional Chinese cuisine, I’m doing my best to channel their New Year’s themes of happiness and good fortune.

I’ve never been to China, but Gary has been twice this year for work, and came back raving about the multitude of delicious dishes. So many different vegetables and flavors and spices; he loved it all. My version would probably make a Chinese cook cry, but it’s the best I’ve got. My goal is to get more traditional Asian dishes under my belt instead of this fake Chinese recipe that I’m sharing here. Someday.

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Our garden has broccoli, carrots, and green onions right now, so of course that was what went in our stir-fry. But nearly any vegetable or meat can be used. Our stir-fries vary with whatever is growing in our garden at the time. Broccoli, any kinds of peppers, mushrooms, eggplant, beans, you name it; throw it in.


1 bunch broccoli
1 green pepper
1 jalapeƱo pepper
2 carrots
1 onion
1 lb meat (chicken, shrimp, or beef)
1/8 c cooking wine
1 1/2 c brown rice
1 T coconut oil (or canola)
1 T corn starch
1/4 c soy sauce
2 T szechuan sauce
1 T chili garlic sauce
2 T hoisin sauce


First, start your rice. I add twice the amount of water for the amount of rice, so in this case, 3 cups of water for my 1 1/2 cups of rice. Once it’s to a boil, turn it down to a simmer. Next, chop all of your vegetables. Set aside. Chop your meat. Set aside. In a separate bowl, mix your sauce ingredients. Add all the sauces except the corn starch–add that in last, and mix it in well. Set aside.

Next, get a skillet, preferably a wok, with a lid hot. Turn it on high. Add your oil. Wait a minute or so, and let it get hot. Put in your meat, being careful not to splatter the hot oil. Cook until done. Chicken, which was what we used, takes about 5-7 minutes. If there is any liquid that cooks out of the meat, in a wok you can push the meat up along the sides of the pot while the liquid cooks off. Remove the meat.

Next comes the vegetables. Have your cooking wine ready, and first dump in your vegetables into the hot wok, then throw in the cooking wine, and then cover. Let the veggies steam for about 2-3 minutes or so. Once they look done, throw back in the cooked meat, and then put the sauce over them. Toss until the cornstarch gets activated with the heat and starts to thicken. Serve over rice, and eat with chopsticks.

May we all have good health and fortune in this new Chinese year.




Gary and I attempted our first growing and making our first batch of horseradish. Why go to the trouble of growing and making a condiment that you can buy for $2 at the grocery store, you ask? Good question, actually. But, as the food writers such as Barbara Kingsolver and Michael Pollan, whom I so deeply adore claim, there is goodness to knowing where your food comes from. And this horseradish that I’ll show you here was made with lots of love.

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Last Christmas, while we were in Southern Illinois with Gary’s parents, we were given horseradish roots from Gary’s relative who grows and makes his own. Plant them in the spring, they told us, and when the first frost hits, it’s time to harvest. Here in Florida, we had to wait until just recently to get our first true frost. Until then, as the picture above shows, the plant grew healthy and strong.

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The roots are strange in that they grow horizontally instead of creating a large taproot. I think the roots are suppose to be larger than ours, but nevertheless, our three plants had quite the mess of roots. Gary dug them up, and was careful not to damage the roots.

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Next, we chopped off all the green leaves, and power-washed the roots with the garden hose to try to get off as much of the dirt as possible.

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We then peeled all the roots that were larger than the diameter of a pencil, and chopped them into 1″ thick chunks. A vegetable peeler works just great for this task. However, once peeled, be careful: whatever the chemical that makes the horseradish “hot” is activated when the skin hits the air. So, from the moment the root is peeled until it is mixed with vinegar, it will increase in intensity.

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Next, process the roots. We used a sausage grinder that we got as a Christmas present this year (thanks, Mom!!) and it worked beautifully. A food processor will work just fine, too. Grate all the root that you have. But, at this point, BE CAREFUL–the aerosolized horseradish smell is potent! As Gary said (since his task was the grating), the smell could be efficiently used for chemical warfare. There was lots of watery eyes, coughing, and some choice words used by Gary. It would be good to try to do this process outside if you can. (Just as a political aside, if anyone wants to try to ban nuclear weapons and replace them with missiles full of horseradish or hot peppers, please count me in. My thought is that bad people will surrender pretty quickly, and no one will die. Win win situation!)

To make the horseradish, mix this in a bowl:

1 c grated horseradish
3 T vinegar
4 T water
1/2 t salt

We put them in small mason jars. Horseradish pairs wonderful with beef. We ate it with grilled beef, caramelized onions, and sharp cheddar cheese on crusty French bread. Deeeelish!




When it’s chilly outside, there’s nothing better than a big bowl of chili to warm the belly and soul. Okay, okay, I can’t complain about cold weather living in Florida, but we have gotten a touch of the Polar Vortex down here. Temperatures are suppose to get in the mid-20s tonight, which calls for covering our poor garden plants in hope that they survive. This is nothing compared to the sub-zero temperatures in the Midwest, I realize. But our weather here now still calls for warm and hearty soups.

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And remember all that summer goodness that we canned back when the temperature was warm? That’s where this comes into play! My canned cupboard is my “happy place,” as Gary calls it. I open it up and it gives me solace knowing that we have lots of pickled goodness to survive on just in case of the Zombie Apocalypse. This chili recipe uses our tomato juice and our pickled jalapenos.


1 quart of fresh tomato juice (you can buy this if you didn’t juice tomatoes last summer, of course.)
1 lb ground beef (or turkey, or you can omit this and add more beans to make it vegetarian)
1 can chili beans
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 c chili powder
3 T cumin
1 t cinnamon
1 red pepper, chopped
1 onion, chopped
pickled jalapenos for garnish


Heat a large stock pot over medium heat. Brown the meat until done (7-9 minutes). Remove the meat, and set aside. Wipe out most of the extra grease, but leave some in the pot to brown the chopped onion and pepper. Saute them both until done (5-7 minutes). Next, throw the meat back into the pot with the vegetables. Add the tomato juice, and all the beans. Drain and rinse all of them except the chili beans (they normally come with a good sauce that’s good to leave in.) Add the spices–you can play with adding more or less of anything, too. Add dried red pepper flakes if you’d like, or brown sugar, or a couple of squares of dark chocolate if you’re so inclined. Let simmer on the stove top for at least an hour to let the flavors merge. Serve with cornbread (and jalapeno jam from your cupboard, too!)