June 24, 2011

homemade mustard

Mayonnaise, ketchup, and mustard. For hamburgers, it's the condiment trinity. You may be well-acquainted with this trio already. But what you might not know is how much better these three are in their homemade version, and how easy they are to make. What's more, once you get the hang of the basic recipes, you can customize their flavors to your liking. If you've been following recent posts, then you already know how to make your own mayonnaise and ketchup. This week, we complete the condiments part of the healthy homemade hamburger meal with a simple recipe for mustard.

June 17, 2011

homemade ketchup

While I was growing up, and until a few years ago, when it came to burgers and fries, I was a ketchup fiend. I had a friend ask me once, while we were eating at a now defunct burger place we visited often, "would you like a burger and fries with that ketchup?" When it came to certain foods, ketchup was definitely a serious condiment, and though I use much less of it now, I still prefer it to barbecue sauce when given the choice for dressing basic sandwiches or fries.

Sometime during my many years of slathering the sweet red sauce on my food, commercial ketchup makers began to add high fructose corn syrup to their product. When I decided to avoid products containing the syrup, I began to look for organic versions, made instead with regular sugar. Finally, as part of this series of posts on a homemade burger meal, I made it myself, using a recipe by Susan Odell from the Vitamix Create cookbook. It's nearly an exact taste match for the organic brand I typically buy, and can be made with fresh or canned tomatoes.

June 10, 2011

summer squash & brown rice soup

After fairly mild temperatures in May, we've finally begun to warm up with 90+ degree days here in Texas. It's not officially summer yet, but the garden doesn't care. Our cantaloupe plants, once tiny sprouts, have grown exponentially and are beginning to develop large fuzzy oval fruit buds. The cantaloupe vines are gorgeous and green with small yellow flowers, and the bees love to work there. Since I planted them too closely together, the vines are growing on top of one another and have spilled over both sides of the raised bed planter onto the grass. It's still too early to tell if we'll need to remove a plant or cut them back so they don't crowd or choke each other out, but the advice from our friendly local hardware and feed store is to just let them go and see what happens. The only casualties for now may be the bell pepper plants that have seen their territory rapidly encroached upon by their neighbors, and their leaves entwined with the thin curly tendrils that creep from the cantaloupe vines.

June 3, 2011


Back in the day, we lived in a house, in a neighborhood, all built by a local contractor, who lived down the street with a huge acre-sized yard, right next to his large contractor-sized house. As the neighborhood kids we gathered there to play many a game, and during the summertime, we sometimes played even past dark. I remember lining up to the sounds of "red rover, red rover" and running full throttle in order to break through the opposing line held by linked arms, sometimes collapsing the line and sometimes being caught. Other times, we'd play hide and seek, and to evade capture by whoever was "it", you had to run to the chosen safe zone (a tree, a rock, the side of the house) before being tagged. If you made it unscathed, you were home free. Or you waited until the tagger yelled out "olly-olly-oxen-free", which meant anybody still hiding could come out without being caught. The euphoria of the chase was always a high. As a kid, it was simple to create your own fun.

Nowadays, we live in a rental, in a tract development built by a national contractor, with a huge open field by the house. Everyday I chase Hiro, our dog, through the neighborhood. (Normally, you would call this walking, but the constant pulling from the leash on the end of my arm seems more like chasing). I also regularly play in the kitchen, sometimes until way after dark. My idea of fun is still simple, requiring just a willingness to imagine, try, eat, and repeat. Sharing with others makes it even better. This week I made my own mayonnaise, also called alioli. When it comes to homemade mayo, there's no store-bought brand that compares to its silky custard-like texture or rich yellow color. Did I mention the tangy smooth flavor? With just seven ingredients, a whisk and a bowl, you can make a basic alioli. With a few tips, you can avoid the dreaded broken-mayo curse, which I'll admit still stalks me now and then. But since I also know how to fix a broken mayo and get myself out of the jam, I guess you could say I'm alioli-oxen-free.