Previous Capers

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Best Kale Chips

I love Kale. It's easy to grow, often overwinters and is very versatile to use. I have three types growing in my garden and all have lasted me through the winter. I use kale in soups, stews, omelets, and salads. However, one of my favorite ways to eat kale is in the form of kale chips.

In the past, I've been coating them in olive oil, salt and herbs and baking them in a 375 degree oven on a parchment lined sheet pan. That's what other kale eaters have told me to do. Unfortunately, these chips have always turned out black with various parts undercooked, usually the thicker stems. I've modified the oven temperature somewhat, but could not get a consistent green crisp.

A few weeks ago, I was watching, Jacques Pepin's show, More Fast Food My Way and he happened demonstrated how to properly make kale chips. So, according to Chef Pepin, only preheat your oven to 250 degrees. To prepare the kale, wash it in a bowl of cold water and then take the stems off. I just grab the bottom of the stem and run my other hand up it to strip off the leafy part. I also use my handy-dandy salad spinner to thoroughly dry it. If you have large leaves, tear them down to smaller sizes. Then coat the kale with a little olive oil and sea salt in a bowl. You don't need much seasoning because the kale shrinks quite a bit which concentrates the flavors. You can also season it with dried tomato skin crumbs, herbs and pepper. Evenly spread it out on a sheet pan lined with a wire wrack so air can circulate under and around the greens. Bake for 20-25 minutes.

Voila! Perfectly crisp, green kale chips.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Stubby the Squirrel

Not long ago, while at work, I came across an interesting apparatus in the critter feed section: a bungee cord for squirrels. Now I know what you're thinking. Perhaps it's a trap, you think, that catches the little pests by the hind ankle and then drops them from great heights to have them boing up and down for an amusing show. I did buy it for the dog's amusement, but it's not a trap. Rather, it's a squirrel feeding device. An ear of corn is screwed on to the end of a chain with a heavy-duty elastic cord. The idea is for the squirrel to climb onto it and proceed to bounce up and down while enjoying its feast.

Ideally, the bungee should be attached to a tree branch where the little darlings can climb down it and start the thing in motion. Since we don't own a big tree, it got attached to a hook off the roof of the front porch. We had visions of squirrels clambering to get at the dried corn, but were sorely disappointed. There it sat for days, ignored while squirrels scurried about around it. Then one day, the dog went off and lo and behold one was interested. The only problem was that the corn couldn't be reached from below. Without access from the top, it became a dangling tease.

So Roland set up a step. Now it hops up on its tippy toes and pulls the corn husk down, chewing off the kernels from the bottom up. The only bouncing is when the squirrel lets go and the thing springs back. As far as we can tell, there's just the one squirrel visiting the bungee. It happens to be the same squirrel that kept coming into the house last fall (see ). Snorky must have been able to catch it in the house at the time because I found a piece of squirrel tail in the living room. Our bungee cord squirrel is missing the end of its tale. We named it Stubby. Snorky bonds with it through the living room window on a daily basis.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Garden Slacker

OK, I'll admit it; I've been a garden slacker of late. I've also been a slacker posting to this blog. Call it temporary burnout, laziness or just plain ambivalence, I've been rather neglectful. In fact, the most I've done since last fall is harvest and crisp up the copious amounts of kale that has overwintered, prune out the dysfunction on the blueberry shrubs and plant some seeds in starter cups. Whoopee. I've thought a lot about the blog. I've read a lot of other garden blog posts.

My lovely daughter and her new hubby
Not that I didn't have a lot going on. To start, I graduated with my degree in Horticulture. Finally. I've been working part-time at a local plant nursery. OK. And my daughter just got hitched. Even though I didn't do much in the planning of the wedding, thinking about it took copious amounts of mental energy and I did knit her a shawl which took copious amounts of my evenings. All would have been something to write about, announce, etc. but it just didn't happen. Nope, couldn't make myself do it.

Of course I had grand plans for this blog. I was a legend in my own mind. Unfortunately, the grand plans never made it to posts. So, to catch up here's my New Years resolutions to start:
  1. Stop procrastinating. New years resolutions in March - really?
  2. Post at least once a week. At least make an effort
  3. Organize your seed packs. I mean how many more packs of unopened kohlrabi do I need.
  4. Finish spreading the arborist chips on the lawn.
  5. Finish the green roof on the garden shed.... ROLAND!
So, in the spirit of new beginnings, here it goes.