Bzzzz November 30th, 2009

People garden for vegetables, herbs and fruits. Why not condiments?

This past spring I was surprised to find a horseradish plant at my local garden center. They only had one, but I grabbed it.

horseradish 2

Horseradish is a perennial in zones 2 through 9. In fact, it’s so hearty than the underground roots can become invasive.

Since my horseradish was only planted in the spring, I was frugal in digging up just a few roots this fall. ¬†They didn’t smell of much until I processed them.

Processing horseradish in large quantities should be done outside to avoid burning of the eyes and nasal passages. It involves peeling and then grating the roots by hand or in a food processor, adding a vinegar and water mixture to preserve the horseradish. Fresh horseradish processed this way will keep for about six weeks in the refrigerator.

Since I only had a bit of horseradish, I threw caution to the wind and processed it indoors rather than hauling my Cuisinart to the back porch. I survived unscathed.

The fresh horseradish is amazingly brisk and pungent, with a much cleaner aroma than the horseradish I buy in the stores. So far I have made a sauce for crab cakes and horseradish deviled eggs—because God knows I have plenty of eggs.

The flavor is so fabulous, I’ll never be without horseradish in my garden again. I suppose that’s especially true if it turns out to be invasive.

Posted In: Food and Recipes, Gardening

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Bzzzz December 21st, 2008

Family dinners have always been an important part of my life. Family dinners with cake, especially, have always been an important part of my life. And the best dinners are those featuring oatmeal cake with coconut topping.

I remember as a kid my parents, brothers and I used to head over to my grandparents’ house for Sunday dinner after church. All my aunts, uncles and numerous cousins would gather to tell outrageous stories, build and fix things (my family is always building and fixing things) while my grandmother cooked a traditional Southern dinner and my grandfather escaped to the garden to tend his roses.

My grandmother’s dinners never had fewer than, say, 15 bowls and heaping plates on the table—fried chicken, collard greens, mashed potatoes and gravy, oniony cole slaw, lima beans, angel biscuits, salty Virginia ham, green beans. And the desserts. Oh, the desserts!

We would eat in shifts because there wasn’t enough room at the table for everyone. Afterwords, the women (no, never the men) would pitch in and clean the kitchen.

I remember one Sunday my Aunt Margaret had finished up in the kitchen and decided to mop and wax my grandmother’s floor. I watched on, chatting, as she put the finishing touches and finally managed to wax her way into a corner.

“Oh no! Here I am in this corner and the floor’s all wet. I guess I’ll just stand here until it’s dry,” she declared.

“No! You can just walk out and wax over your footsteps,” I said, my five-year-old self proud of coming up with the solution.

Of course, my Aunt Margaret was always the kidder and had let me come up with the solution. Still, it’s a fond memory—well, that and the cake.

My husband loves this cake so much he nearly dances when he realizes that I have made one. And he keeps saying—over and over again—“Have I mentioned how much I love this cake?”

Now, if this chocolate-loving gal says that she loves an oatmeal cake, you can take it to the bank that this is a good cake. And it’s one of those amazing cakes that only get better with time.

So make it now and make someone happy.

Oatmeal Cake with Coconut Topping 1 1/4 cup boiling water 1 cup old fashioned oats 8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter 1 cup white sugar 1 cup brown sugar 2 eggs 1 teaspoon baking soda 1 teaspoon cinnamon 1 1/3 cups flour pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pour boiling water over oats and let stand for 15 minutes. In a mixer, cream together butter, white and brown sugars. Add eggs. In a separate bowl, mix together baking soda, cinnamon, flour and salt. Gradually add the flour mixture to the sugar, butter and egg mixture until well blended. Stir in the oatmeal/water mixture until well combined. Pour into a 9 x 13″ baking pan. (I use a Pyrex baking pan.) Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes or until a knife inserted into the middle comes out clean. Top with topping after the cake cools for about 10 to 15 minutes.

Coconut Topping 8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter (brought to room temperature) 1 cup brown sugar 1 1/2 cups fresh grated coconut 1 teaspoon vanilla 1/8 to 1/4 cup milk

Blend all the ingredients together until well mixed. Pour over warm (but not hot) cake and spread evenly.

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By the way, if you haven’t voted on a chicken name for The Chicken Formerly Known as Minnie Ruth, please do so now.¬† I really don’t want to name this chicken Johnny.

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