The boonie is inside and it’s fecund. Heavy with peppers, I’m wanting to ensure it could survive our stepping away for a few days. Last year I was a lot more cavalier about it all. This time I’m experimenting. I’ve mentioned plant water spikes already, now its time to worry about lighting.

Lighting is provided with these bulbs, day and night timing with these inexpensive timers, and the final element is a light fixture stolen from the computer room. I was (and am) looking for small portable light fixtures with a nice parabolic back stop so I can direct a beam of light at my large plant. Anyone know of someone selling office fixtures that can handle 60 watt bulbs anymore? A check of Office Depot showed fixtures that could only handle 13 watts.

The plant light bulbs are huge, with a ballast that puts a 100 watt “equivalent” bulb to shame. In the picture below, the smaller bulb is the standard 60 watt replacement bulb.

Small and locatable. That’s what I need, and will be looking for.

Update: Target has desk lamps that work well.

If you’re a bachelor, then sometimes the hardest thing to do is come up with ways to jazz up your food, make it a little better. I can’t solve every cooking problem or every cooking issue, but we’ll list a trick every so often to help you on your cooking way.

1) If you’re making spaghetti and using one of the commercial spaghetti sauce packets with tomato sauce (or canned sauce) and meat, I’ll offer a couple ways to make it a better sauce. First, double the amount of ground beef they recommend. It makes the sauce richer, it makes the sauce more like a meal. Second, get a large bell pepper or two, sliced mushrooms perhaps,  and a triangle of parmesan cheese. No, not ground cheese, a real chunk of parmesan cheese. If you have access to a cheese shop and can get parmigiano-reggiano, that would even be better, but a chunk of parmesan from Wisconsin will be far better than anything you can get preground and in a can. Get a grater too, while you’re at it, if you don’t have one.

The cheese on the right can make a marked improvement to the packet on the left.

The cheese on the right can make a marked improvement to the packet on the left.

Follow the instructions on the packet, add the meat. Core and devein the pepper, then cut the pepper into strips or squares and toss that into the sauce. Before you’re done with the sauce, grate some cheese. Don’t grate too much, as a little parmesan goes a long way. Toss it into the sauce, stir thoroughly and taste test. Add pepper, basil, garlic  or other spices as desired.

Though not essential, pimentos can add both color and flavor to a sauce, and the smaller kind are cheap.

Though not essential, pimentos can add both color and flavor to a sauce, and the smaller kind are cheap.

I’ve seen bachelor friends try this and go from, “My mom makes the best spaghetti sauce in the world” to “Oh, that’s pretty good” and helping themselves to seconds.

Now obviously this isn’t the only way to improve on a spaghetti packet, or that can of Ragu. Other sites that offer ways to improve a sauce are here and here. And finally, though parmigiano-reggiano is about the most expensive cheese I know, outside of artisanal cheeses, since it’s used more to enhance flavors than be the meal, you don’t need much, you don’t use much, and if you keep it cool and dry, it keeps forever.