What’s going on at your house this weekend?

The moon and stars are bright this morning, the air is crisp but not painfully cold.  Good time to go camping, the trees are gorgeous, and the nights are beautiful. 

Yesterday I spent outside transplanting stuff. A friend of ours gave my husband a plant from his garden – an “Elephant Ear” plant. It came to me as a tubery bulb in a little 8 inch pot folks, I never knew what I was getting into. It seemed to be bullet-proof – it sat in that dinky pot, with almost no dirt, under a spigot where it was occasionally remembered. It kept getting one leaf after another, about cake plate size. 

In spring my son bought us a beautiful ceramic pot for it, and I planted it on the patio. It had to be watered almost every day, but it took off, growing up about four feet out of the pot. It sat on the patio over summer – the leaf that stretched out into the full sun would burn and die, while a new leaf would grow out of the bulb about every three weeks. As soon as the weather started to cool off and get moist, the top leaf stopped burning, and the plant started getting reeeeeaaaalllllly big.

My husband had seen the mature plants in his friend’s yard, so we knew this plant would need some room.  We found a good, semi-shady spot under a big oak tree along a fence, where it would be easy to shelter it in the winter, and yesterday I sunk that mutha into the ground. Geez it weighed a gazillion pounds, easy.  I have misplaced my camera, so couldn’t get a picture – I’ll add that later. I saw some online that were over 6 feet tall, with leaves that a full-grown person could easily hide behind. I think it’s going to be a nice addition to this little part of the yard.

You’ve seen the dirt plumes west of town – rice harvest is in full swing. Have you cooked rice lately? Living here, where Ag is King, you should really avail yourself of one of our top products, brown rice. I get mine at Raley’s, they have several brands that compete in price. I like Hinode from Woodland – I’ve seen the plant and met people who have good jobs there – and it comes in a really nice resealable stand up bag. 

It took me years to learn to cook rice and I still screw it up occasionally. First of all, you need at least a two quart pan with a really tight lid. When you don’t have a good lid, the rice on top doesn’t cook, comes out like little packets of powder. 

Second, you need to wash and dry rice, unless you want to eat all the dust from the rice dryer. They can’t wash the rice, they hull it and blow it around until it’s almost clean, but there’s still a bunch of dust. Take my word for it – I grew up in rice country, right across the road from a dryer. Just recently we were driving by the dryer at Loma Rica and there was dust coming out the top vent like a Kansas tornado. Welcome to Rice Country, get used to it. But you don’t want to eat it, so learn to wash it first.  Some brands are cleaner – the Hinode is a lot cleaner than the slightly cheaper Safeway brand, you get what you pay for.

I measure out a cup for most meals, that’s about 3 1/2 to 4 cups  cooked. I pour it into the cooking pot and cover it with water, swish it around, and then, using my hand as a strainer, I pour the water off. It’s gray to begin with, and you can see junk floating on top. I repeat this about 5 times, and the water becomes clear, so I put it in a little screen strainer and rinse it out one more time, then set it over the pot for 10 minutes to drain.  I shake it around a little, get it drained out, then pour it onto a paper towel. No lie, it will get completely dry within half an hour, just spread it out thin on that paper towel. When it’s dry to the touch, gently pick up the four corners of the paper towel and pour the rice into two cups of boiling water (note to Mark Stemen and other sustainability gurus – the paper towel is still usable). Add a dash of salt, turn it down low, and simmer it for 30 – 35 minutes. Check it, if you still see water bubbling, it’s not done. If you see steam coming out of little holes, it’s done, take it off the heat and leave it alone anywhere from 10 minutes to hours and hours. 

Cooked rice is easier to use when it’s sat and separated into rubbery little grains. Then you can throw it into something else. I found a recipe on a box of Minute Rice, when I used Minute Rice, and I’ve adapted it to brown rice, it’s really easy. 

You can use chicken or shrimp, or even chunks of beef I assume  –  last night we picked up some frozen shrimp at Safeway, it was cheaper than the fresh.  Start with some chopped up onions, garlic, green peppers and celery in an oiled skillet – make sure to use a pot that has a decent lid. Add the peeled shrimp, and let that all saute for about 5 minutes, turning that shrimp. Then dump in your cooked rice, all of it. To this add two cups of chicken or vegetable broth. I usually keep onion soup mix,  it’s easy to have on hand, and works well in most recipes. Put a lid on this, and let it set on simmer for 10 minutes. Then take off the lid and let it set a few, let that rice soak up that broth.

You can substitute a cup of tomato sauce for one cup of soup, and you get kind of a Cajun feel – but don’t forget to add a teaspoon of sugar, it takes the acid off the tomato sauce.

I was just thinking, fresh cooked or canned beans would be great in this recipe, I’ll try that and get back to you.  Right now I need to get a loaf of bread in the oven.

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