Saturday, June 30, 2007

lightly broiled green tomatoes rock!

ok so admittedly this is my first year working with my own home grown green tomatoes. so far i'm bitten smitten and wondering how i ever missed the green tomatoe boat up until now. yes, i've tried the fried green ones in restaurants and such but i guess i never really had the down home kind.

and also, i admit to trying to keep fried food to a limit in my life. i love it! way too much, but i can stay away from it when thinking about long term health. but here i am sitting on a good 20lbs of large sized green tomatoes. i had wrapped them all up in paper to begin the ripening process but when the bad side of my brain started thinking about a visit to k.f.c., the good side of the brain said "hey wait! what about all those green tomatoes?, they've got to be better than k.f.c." well i gave the good side of the brain the benefit of the doubt and got my butt home before i lost what little bit of will was winning out.

i unwrapped the maters, sliced them up and was getting ready to get the eggs, flour, milk, oil and all that ready when i thought. "hey! what if i lightly spray them with oil, season with a bit of salt and pepper and just broil them until tender?". Ok why not!

the result... SUPER SUCCESS!
these babies are great. i cut them thick so they hold their shape. they are tender, sweet and because i like a healthy dose of pepper they have a bite to them. mmmmmmmm! and i saved a whole lot of calories in the process. yeah, yeah, they may not be the same as fried green ones but i'm about flavor and texture and these green matters score high in both categories. so if you're health conscious or looking for a way to enjoy green maters minus sans mucho calories, this may be your next option.

the question now is: why ripen those maters up when they taste so good on the green side?

Friday, June 29, 2007

pickled green tomatoes and carrot soup

got up in the fairly cool of the early morning and hit the kitchen once again. the mission included canning pickled green tomatoes for the pantry and cooking up a large batch of carrot soup bound for the freezer.

i had mentioned in yesterday's blog that it was time to clean up some of the spring tomatoe plants. well, i did. i pulled them and cleaned them dry of all the pink and green tomatoes left on the vine. i ended up with a great harvest of both shades. not ever having cooked with green tomatoes (yup, i was not southern raised) i worried just a bit as to what the heck i would do with all the little guys and gals. i knew well enough that the larger folk would become fried green maters and/or frozen breaded maters ready for frying. and some in the pinkish shade would be wrapped in paper (brown or newsprint) to ripen up.

so i began a search on the web. and found oodles of recipes for pickled tomatoes. i had to give it a try. so last evening i sliced the little guys and gals up, placed them in a bowl, salted them and left them overnight. and here we are to today. happily the result is two full quarts of pickled tomatoes. 1 quart bread and butter style and 1 quart dill style.

while pulling the tomatoe plants i eyed one of the two remaining carrot patches (yes i am a carrot freak! gotta keep the eyes strong.) and decided to harvest it as well to get it ready for a fall crop of potatoes. it's a smaller bed 4'x4' and the perfect size for the tater patch. i got a great harvest there too. these are the danvers carrots. their shape is lovely, color great, nice and straight, strong looking, get the picture... perfect carrots. so i cleaned them up, brought them inside, gave them a rinse stuck them in the crisper for the night and thought about the type of carrot soup i would make.

i decided to keep it simple: carrots, olive oil, a few fresh basil leaves, celery seed, dill seed, pepper, garlic (4 large cloves sliced), ginger and vegetable stock. it turned out great. i packed up 3 quarts for the freezer and lucky me, there was just enough left over for lunch. mmm.

i prefer doing bits day to day rather than canning everything all at once. it allows me to work with the veggies at their freshest state and it does not require me to give up a whole day. i love early mornings. i feel most productive then and it's funny, i often look at my watch once finished with the morning chores (all performed in my pj's i'll have you know) and am shocked by just how much of the day remains. it's great. that's usually when i shower, put on regular clothes and get ready for the outside world. the outside world? that's the world outside of my picket fence.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

bread and butter baby!

when it rains it pours and that's turning out to be the case in more ways than one around town. it rained most of the night. i love the sound of the rain tapping the roof. i find it relaxing. more rain predicted today. 100% chance of rain in fact.

there have been flood and flash flood warnings on and off for the past week. i've never seen anything like it. if you're in the area. take heed, be safe. and for those saving water in rain barrels, cisterns and the like, it's been a boon year! i love it myself. i think the light on cloudy days is outstanding. trees and foliage pop and glisten unlike any clear day. if you've never noticed before, step outside and take a look. it's the moisture on the object that reflects light. observe and appreciate what is before you. nature is truly beautiful.

so far the garden has held out very well. very few signs of mildew. i touch the plants as little as possible so as not to spread anything from one to another. the transplanted tomatoes are standing proud, the okra growing to heights larger than i've seen since gardening in the south, the grape vines are just insane and often in need of a trim. the aquamelons are doing great, increasing in size daily. that's so exciting to me as i've never grown them successfully before and they are so darn cute. the cucumbers are on fire! it was just yesterday that i was able to celebrate the first cuke of the year and now they are off and running. i swear i serched those vines yesterday and all i saw were little ones. today i walked in the house with no less than 10 good sized cukeramas and a healthy handful of okra.

i knew immediately that the okra would not last another 1/2 hour. i broiled it up and noshed it right then. the cukes on the other hand begged for a different fate. i could hear them chanting "bread and butter, bread and butter, bread and butter." how could i deny their wishes? let them eat cake and so today we are making the year's first batch of bread and butter pickles.

i've still got about 2 or so pounds of carrots in the fridge waiting for their calling. that's not bad considering not too long ago, there was 10 pounds plus. i'm not complaining, i've made some great soups, carrot muffins, dipped them, eaten them naked, steamed them, etc. what to do. i'm thinking of apple butter with carrot. the textures match, the flavors match, the color will be beautiful, the vitamin content fantastic and i think pretty tasty. i'll create my own recipe and see what turns out. to be continued...

later that day... this is what supercat and i put up
  • 2 pints of bread and butter pickles
  • 12 pints of spiced peach preserves (6 pint jars and 12 1/2 pint jars)
    • a friend came by with a bag full of peaches before noon. cool!
and i'm done for the day. in the kitchen anyway.

i'm pondering the idea of pulling out some of the tomatoe plants. they are looking a bit tired, have provided well, are no longer setting and maybe better off retired for the season. you see the heat here really knocks them out. i practice planting a second set for the fall/winter garden rather than asking the spring tomatoes to pull double duty. some of the plants are looking strong and could stay in a while. ahh, once i get talking, it means i'm going to do it.


and hey. the mailman delivered my seed potatoes from wood prairie farm in maine. i love their potatoes. they arrived pretty much chitted and ready to go. it's a bit early to plant here. i think august is normal irish potatoe planting time but i think i'm going to try the bin planting this round. i had great luck in the ground last time but i'm concerned with all this rain. it might rot them out so we'll try an alternate method. i'll initially place the bins in a partially shaded area so as to keep them a bit cooler than a direct sun local.

i ordered 3 types, all fairly early so as not to miss their flowering before it gets cool here. ha ha ha! then again, anything is possible considering the crazy weather we've been experiencing.
  • caribe'
    • a purple skinned new potatoe w/purple flowers
  • reddale
    • a red skinned potatoe w/pink flowers
  • yukon gold
    • a now popular golden potatoe w/lavender flowers
all of the above potatoes are said to be great tasting. we'll see! wood prairie farms has never let me down.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

it feels pretty darn good!

i have to say. it's feels pretty darn good when you know that 90% of what you're eating is home grown, home cooked and made with love. there ain't much better than that.

raise um' up!

look at these colors!

a super exciting event this morning. we got to add cucumbers to this season's picks! this one in the picutre is the first. what a morning.
and look at these colors! i can see it now. a small salad of basil, shiso (the red leaf) and mint leaves with sliced cucumber and fresh tomatoe. i'll mix up a simple dressing of olive oil, lemon juice, honey, pepper, dried mustard and a bit of apple cider vinegar.
also picked this morning but not pictured yet is a small handful of christmas lima beans. they are still in the pod. i let the pod dry on the vine then pick them before the pod splits which it will do if you leave them for too long. they are smooth and creamy in soups and beautiful to look at. i'll make sure to get a photo up here soon.

so is anyone out there saying "what the heck is shiso?" i'll tell you. shiso, the red serrated leaf pictured above grows very much like basil. there is also a green variety. it's often used in japanese cuisine. i got my first exposure to shiso at my favorite sushi restaurant in chicago (KUNI'S - go there, it's heaven!). shiso has a mild lemony taste and it's very refreshing. the leaf itself has a slightly rougher texture than the smooth leaf of basil. shiso goes great with sahimi, my favorite combo, or any fresh cool mix. it's an excellent counterpart to shredded radish.

ah heck! you know what? I'm going to up the ante for the basil/shiso combo. it's PESTO time! i've got all the mixings and there really isn't a better way to enjoy basil in my book. so here's today's pesto combo:

shelly's june2707 pesto mix: the mix changes every time depending on what's in the pantry

ingredients:

  • basil - leaves only from 2 big bunches
    • today i'm also adding a bit of shiso and mint leaves
  • olive oil - gotta eye it
  • romano cheese - 1 1/2 cups of the best shredded you dare to afford
    • the quality will make a big taste difference
  • almonds - 1 cup
    • i've successfully used walnuts and pine nuts as well
    • or you could simply leave the nuts out
  • garlic - as much as you can stand (i'm using a full head)
  • juice from 1 large lemon or 2 smaller lemons
  • cracked pepper to taste (optional)
  • *do not add salt, the cheese will do that for you.
instructions:
  • this is the easy part; place garlic, almonds and cheese in a processor and process until smooth
  • place the garlic, almond, cheese mix in a large bowl and set aside
  • place the basil leaves, lemon juice and 1 cup of olive oil in a processor and process until smooth
  • add basil mix to the garlic, almond, cheese mix and stir until all ingredients are well distributed
  • add additional olive oil for preference of texture
  • add cracked black pepper to taste if you like
  • *remember, no salt! the cheese will do that for you.
you're done! enjoy.
  • store pesto in a clean, sanitized glass jar in the fridge
  • the flavor will enhance over time
how to use:
  • i'm enjoying some of the freshly made pesto on a home grown tomatoe with some feta cheese mixed in. tre' yumme'
  • mix it with some of your home made yogurt cheese (see yogurt cheese blog entry)
    • use yogurt cheese pesto on potatoes, as a dip, as a sauce, go wild!
  • on pizza, pasta and lasagna dishes
  • roast a chicken smeared with pesto
  • use it as a marinade
  • as a sandwich spread or a replacement for buttery garlic bread
    • this is much better for you than mayo!
    • and the flavor will knock you out
  • use it on fish or steamed veggies
  • enjoy a dollop on a fresh bowl of minestrone soup!
you just can't loose with pesto.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

less and less again


an update on the purging. as thought, it's not been any problem at all in the letting go of past work. it feels good actually. in some way i feel like it's bringing me closer to the now. things get heavy when you hang on.

i think i've held on to things because in some way i felt that they defined me. defined my reason for being, my success, my relevance in my chosen career and what i perceived as my importance to others and my craft. i don't want to do that any longer. it's too heavy. it's not true. the stuff is not me. i hope this is a positive sign. i'm sure it is a positive sign.

some folks may think that i'm destroying bits of my own history. i think it's just that; history, steps that brought me to where i am today.

and this is where i am at today; i like space. i like light. i like creative endeavours. i like acting on an idea the moment it occurs. i like watching things grow. i like cooking for friends and family. i like observing birds, squirrels, butterflies and little creatures on a breezy cool day. i like reading a good book. i like working hard so that the results are more satisfying. i like beer. i like my iced coffee in the morning and afternoon. i like hanging with softiesupercat. i like sharing conversation with my family on the phone. i like being out of doors. i like riding my bike just for the heck of it and with no destination in mind. i like the way i feel when i finish a run. i like keeping my home sweet and simple. i like learning the old school way of doing things. i like my neighbors. i like my comfy bed. i like my garden oh so very much. i like having tasks to do. and i still don't mind that i'm not a good speller. in fact i revel in the knowing. it makes me laugh inside.

that's just a small list. but a list long enough to prove that i don't need all the old stuff from past jobs to define me. i'll keep less and then less again.

it's the people i love i hope most to keep near as long as i am able.

rainy day garden images

these photos were taken from indoors. i love the way the rain bends the light. the colors spread and smear. ever lovely when you're dealing with greens, yellows and reds.


the herbs happy as clams in the salty sea.

spring tomatoes ripening up the last of their spring set maters. no one is thirsty today.

in the kitchen: roasted tomatoes
these are great on pasta, on brochette, as base for soup, served with some greens and a bit of cheese, you decide! they color up beautifully and the slow roasting really sweetens them up.


ingredients:
  • fresh tomatoes (as much as you've got) - cut into rustic chunks
  • olive oil - enough to drizzle over the lot of tomatoes
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • fresh basil leaves - added to the mix after cooking
cooking instructions:
  • heat oven to 300˚f
  • line a cooking sheet with foil
    • make sure to line all the way to the edge so as not to lose any of the tasty juice that will form.
  • spread the tomatoe chunks onto the cooking sheet
  • drizzle olive oil and season with salt and pepper
  • place tomatoes in the oven
  • move them about a bit at 20 minutes
  • cook for an additional 20 minutes
  • place in warmed glass jar; tomatoes, juice and all
  • add some fresh basil leaves to the jar (i use about 10 fresh leaves)
    • the basil's tasty goodness will slowly season the maters as days pass
  • seal, let cool and store in fridge
    • try to keep your hands off them for 24 hours to allow the basil to perform magic
enjoy!

Monday, June 25, 2007

purging

it's happening:
i'm moving room to room, closet to closet, cabinet to cabinet and eventually, box to box in an effort to lighten the load.
  • some items will be given away
  • some items will be set aside for a garage sale
  • some items will be recycled
  • some items will be put to the trash (if there is no way to recycle them)
this is long overdo. everything has been so go go go since the move a bit back. it's nice to finally get to this. i do see my life shifting some. in fact, i've been pondering something fairly big. not something for the right now moment but that does not mean that the planning should not begin. i think the move once made will not be surprising to those close to me. it's a natural move, one that i'm not ready for yet but one that i think is surely possible.

i've never denied my curiosity anything. why start now?


time passes...
at the end of the day we've done well. supercat supervised all of the purging. sitting in boxes, shuffling papers about, walking through the various piles of items, inspecting all. we got through a good number of rooms, cabinets and closets.

already i have found items that neighbors might find useful and some cute toys that local little people might enjoy. it's nice when an item lets you know who it should next be useful to.

we did not touch the work studio yet. that will be a full day and a tough one because getting rid of creative material is sometimes difficult. on the other hand it might be a breeze. how? as an artist, if you continually practice your craft, it's quite legitimate to assume that you would also improve in your craft. so revisiting older material that may not be at a par that you wish to claim as your level of standard may make the purging of that item quite easy. actually thinking of it in those terms makes the idea of the thinning process quite easy.

the line up:
studio tomorrow. garage the next day.
it will feel so good once this is done. this is actually a bit a exciting.

early bird catches a bit of sunshine

this was the view ten minutes before the sky opened up.
good thing i got out early this morning to snap a few shots of the garden because it looks like the rest of day might be filled with on and off heavy rains. the sun is still peaking through the clouds but the rain is steady and boy oh boy is it steamy outside. eikkhhh. even supercat has decided to come in from the screened in porch and that says something. he can withstand a good bit of humidity before seeking out more comfortable digs.question number 1 for today is "who is eating my amaranth babies?" they seem to be holding up just fine but as you can see they are laced with chewed out holes. i'm going to have to do some research on this one. if anyone can identify the lace like eating pattern, please send a comment.
right next door is the watermelon babies and they are doing great! nobody seems to want to bother them. this is the first year that i've actually had success with watermelon. i either planted too early or too late or in the wrong place last year. maybe the soil was not up to par, i don't know. then again, it could just be all the rain we've had that's really helping it out. either way, i'm thrilled. they are the cutes little things (baby watermelons). i do hope i can help them to maturity.on the other hand my baby gourds are not doing so well due to the rains. the vine itself is doing great but the gourds are not dealing well with all the moisture. the little one's, most all of them are rotting before they are even an inch or two in size. we'll see what happens with some of the later blossoms. i've not lost hope, it will just be a longer wait and that's how it goes. i'm excited about the success of the okra around the garden. i've placed it in and amongst a number of garden beds. it's a good companion to most everything and the flowers are just beautiful. i've planted both a red and green variety this year. several of them are already in the flower/fruit stage which allows little tastes every now and again. soon i expect they'll all catch up to one another and unload heaps of okra. all i have to say is BRING IT ON! i love okra. i broil it, use it in soups, roast it, bb-q it. i just love it. so i'm hoping to grow enough this summer for canning. i've doubled the plant numbers from last summer so all i can do now is cross my fingers, care for the babies and wait.

there seems to be a short lull in the rain at the moment and i'd love to get out there but the if the mosquitoes are anywhere as voracious as they were this morning, it might be better for me to stay in until things dry out a bit. you see, i'm a mosquito magnet. always have been. it will be a good day when science figures out why mosquitoes prefer some to others. maybe they'll come up with a safe treatment. if so, i'm on it.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

treats for the fruit & veggie garden today



seems the rains they have been forecasting might pass us over for a second day. the sky is a bit cloudy but nothing looks threatening. (ah famous last words eh?) that's ok as the temps are again lovely in the mid to upper 80's and still a breeze, perfection. the tomatoes actually seem to be setting which is a shocker here at this time of year. we're usually in a place where it's far too hot for setting to occur. you won't see me complaining for that.in light of the fair weather i figured it a good day to treat the veggie garden and fruit trees to a happy plant smoothie. they all got a foliar feeding of the following mix: liquid seaweed, fish emulsion, molasses and some insecticidal soap. mmm. it's great having these temps actually as it allows the plants to take in the nutrients in an unstressed environment making them stronger for the near to come day when the temperatures are relentlessly hot.

i've really enjoyed this odd year in texas. it's almost like truly having 4 seasons. well 3 1/2 actually but i'll take what i can get.


other tasks completed today:
  • shared a big bunch of basil with a neighbor
  • picked some leeks for braising later today
  • fed the veggies and fruits plant smoothies
  • checked on the transplanted tomatoe babies
    • they're doing great!
  • shopped for brothers birthday, sister in law's birthday and mom and dad's birthday
    • all with success, everything personal, useful and well crafted
    • and yes, they all fall pretty close to one another
  • burned up the collected branches and tree bits from this spring's storm fallings
  • decided to freeze some of the carrot muffins (just too many to keep fresh)
  • washed clothes
  • hung with a little person who lives across the way while his mom mowed
  • showered - yup i usually shower after the above
  • and here i am with you blogging away

i've been pondering ways to make this more interesting for readers. if you have any suggestions, please drop a line. i'd be happy to answer any questions about my gardening techniques.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

saturday canning

well everything outside is complete. i'm a machine! the yard is finally looking great again. all the plants are happy, the veggie garden is picked and cleaned up. no free mulch today, maybe tomorrow. took a quick spin down to the river - woooooooo! the river is uber high. i would not venture a kayak in the water this week. who knows what could happen?

so being the creative work-a-holic that i am, i decided that today is a good day for some canning. the tomatoes were ripe and i had bowls of them. there's nothing worse than wasting tomatoes, my gosh! it's a crime. so i stewed them up, added some olive oil, black pepper, a bit of salt, a bit of apple cider vinegar and a good two dollops of local honey. i got four pints. not bad!

and now that i'm on a roll, i'm moving on to the next item. blueberry, ginger, lemon jam. at the moment i've got two pints of blueberries, 1 1/2 cups of sugar, the juice of 1 really big lemon and a thumb size chunk of fresh chopped ginger marinating. i'll leave them be for about 2 hours then i'll bring the lot to a slow rolling boil for 30 minutes, skim off the top foam if i want clear jam or just leave it in for something less formal. then i'll can it and process for 2o minutes in boiling water.

i just love ginger. it gives a great bite to things and the flavor is fantastic. ginger and lemon are long time pals. i think the trio with blueberries will be quite good. we'll see!

at this rate. i'll be more than ready for winter (so they say). it's a good feeling to know that the food on the shelf is that which you yourself have grown and cared for. it always tastes better when there's a little hard work involved. every jar is a gift.

an added bit of info: upon testing the mix while cooking i decided to double the amount of ginger to two thumb size pieces chopped. this recipe gave me 1 pint jar and 3 mini jars of jam. that's great!

sun's out today and so am i


wow! finally a beautiful day, sun shining, temperatures are lovely with a slight breeze to make things even better. this was totally unexpected and so far, i've taken full advantage of it.
  • finished all the trimming around the fence
  • pulled up all grass that was creeping into the flowers gardens round the house
  • dug a 10" dirt moat around every flower garden for cleanliness
  • trimmed all flowers in the mailbox garden
  • pulled some carrots - yup i'm eating them up
  • planted the fall tomatoe seedlings/mulched them too
  • swept up exterior entries for all pathways
  • pulled lots-o-weeds (not done yet!)
what's left to do for today:
  • move all trimmings into the compost piles
  • check to see if my lawn trimming friend has bags of free mulch waiting for me
  • check w/starbucks for free coffee grinds
  • sweep and tidy the veggie garden paths
  • plant the remaining tomatoe seedlings out in the back garden
  • take a bike ride around town
  • drink a beer to celebrate a great day!

Friday, June 22, 2007

shop just a little shopping challenge

ok today i created a new yearlong challenge for myself and that challenge is to shop as little and for as little as possible. that goes for everything, groceries, house goods, garden goods, clothes, shoes, you name it, everything. so when i do shop it's about shopping for the long run; purchasing necessary items, selecting local, organic, recycled and earth friendly anytime i am able; selecting materials that allow me to create natural cleaning supplies (vinegar, borax, fels naphtha soap, washing soda, dr. bronner's soap) and buying in bulk to save a few pennies when i can.

no this does not mean that i plan on joining some club like sam's or costco. no this does not mean that i'll be purchasing ice cream by the case. ohh that would be nice but my freezer would not hold it all. off topic...

this is a further effort to live simple and to enjoy life as it is given to me rather than full of stuff. truth is i've got plenty. in fact i've got enough and then some to supply a plenty good garage sale in the near future.

how did this come about? well it's something i've been thinking about for a long time. usually i occupy my energies out of doors either in the garden or tidying up the yard or riding bike or training for the next marathon. and lately i've noticed that i need to spend some energy going through all the stuff i've collected, saved, created, been given, etc. i need to flush a bit. some of it i'll give away but some of it would do quite well in a garage sale and any funds would surely help either pay bills, build up the savings account or make a nice night out feel less guilty. and i think lightening the load would be a good thing.

great garden inspired eats: yogurt cheese

if you're anything like me, breakfast is not the american standard of cereal, eggs and toast. it's more than likely some combination of whole grain crackers, cheese, veggies and yogurt or some combination there of. to me, it's just more interesting, more colorful and often more flavor filled. whichever way you go keep it healthy.

today i'm eating freshly made organic yogurt cheese (see recipe below) with basil and garlic, wasa whole grain crackers (although fincrisp are my favorite) and sliced tomatoes. this combo provides protein, whole grain carbs and veggies in one fell swoop. it's simple: i spread the cheese on the cracker and load it up with sliced tomatoes. it's beautiful, it's yummy, low-cal and it's easy to make.


fresh yogurt cheese: today it's w/basil & garlic *see below for alternatives
note: the key is to use a yogurt with active cultures and no gelatin added. read the label of your local brands to see which will do the trick. i always choose organic. i'm a fan of stoneyfield farm plain lowfat yogurt.

ingredients:
16oz of lowfat plain organic yogurt (1/2 of a large yogurt container)
fresh basil leaves
1 clove garlic
salt and pepper to taste

you need to rig up a strainer gizmo to make the yogurt cheese. don't go out and spend a bunch of bucks to do this as many common household items are plenty good for the task.
  • colander over a deep enough bowl to assure that the colander does not touch the drained liquid whey.
  • a metal mesh coffee filter sitting in a large empty yogurt container (32oz.)
    • this is my method
  • a paper coffee filter (unbleached) or two (one inside the other) suspended in a container
*the key here is the the colander/filter/etc. holding the yogurt should not rest in the draining liquid.

once you have your rig figured out:
  • place your yogurt in the colander/filter
  • suspend the colander/filter over a bowl of liquid collecting container
  • let it sit for four to eight hours or until desired thickness
  • the cheese will be similar to creme cheese but a bit softer
  • chop the basil and garlic into tiny bits
  • fold the herbs into the cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste


don't discard the whey down the drain. plants love it. give them a protein boost and share the wealth. it will make you both feel good.

* you can mix and match the additions to the cheese or just eat it plain. i also like a mix of honey with walnuts or dried apricots. you can also try mixing in your favorite jam. it's a great item to whip up for a party and nearly guiltless calorie wise. it's a spread, a dip a stuffing for pasta a sweet topping for cakes and treats. you can shape it, place it in a pretty bowl or jar and/or lightly cover with herbs or edible flowers for a lovely presentation.

be creative. enjoy!

veggies love smoothies too!


this is not the first time i've mentioned it but we've had an unusually wet summer in texas this year which i think is great. it also makes is necessary to keep a careful watch for fungal disease and an alert to keep hands off plants as much as possible so as not to spread disease. the daytime temps rise to the 90+˚f levels which in combination with the moisture creates prime mildew/fungal formation conditions. the best way to keep plants healthy i have found is to keep them strong with weekly or bi-weekly foliar feeding of organic smoothies.
the smoothie works in several ways:
  • it feeds the plant necessary minerals and foods for proper growth
  • it strengthens the plant's ability to deal with stress (preventative and active)
    • heat
    • drought
    • pestypoos
    • disease
  • it serves as a deterrent to many of the not so welcome pestypoos
  • it makes your plants happy (most important)
*just remember too much of a good thing is too much of a good thing. try to keep a weekly or bi-weekly spray schedule. over spraying may lead to a whole lot of green and not a lot of fruiting while under spraying may leave your plants susceptible to the harsh stresses that occur during their growth cycle.

my organic plant smoothie is often a mixture of the following diluted with rainwater or tap water that has sat in a large tub for at least 48 hours:
  • seaweed - the base for all my feedings
  • compost tea - the red bull for plant folk
    • i brew my own aerated tea in 50 gallon batches
  • molasses - for the mineral craving sweet tooths in the garden (that's everyone f.y.i.)
  • fish emulsion - somewhat stinky but well worth the fruity aroma
  • milk - a real helpful addition when mildew/fungal conditions are high
  • baking soda - another helpful option when mildew/fungal conditions are high
    • better as a preventative measure
    • less effective on active fungal/mildew
  • orange oil - just a bit helps repel some not so welcome buggies
  • dr. bronner's soap - just a bit to work as a binder and as a mild insecticide
  • epsom salts - diluted in the mix or dry spread
    • very nice for tomatoes, peppers, roses and other magnesium sulfate craving plants
    • can be applied dry at root level or mixed into garden soil prior to planting
    • also great for your lawn, shrubs and trees
there are numerous combinations that folks use in their own gardens depending on their location, crop choices and personal observations of growth successes and struggles. search the web for "compost tea" or "garden foliar feeding" and you'll find all sorts of recipes and opinions about what works best for where and for what. i'm pretty casual about the whole deal. i brew compost tea using vermicompost (worm castings) weekly and mix in whatever i've got in the garage at the moment. i do make sure i have a constant supply of liquid seaweed and molasses. i usually have some baking soda, milk and dr. bronner's soap in the house.


i'm currently searching for a local supplier of 50lb bags of epsom salt. i prefer to buy in bulk when i can to save some bucks. my local feed store carries dried molasses flakes, sold as a supplement to goat feed, which i use yearly in the garden and yard as a feeder for beneficial microorganisms and as a good carbon source and some say to repels ants. the key word here is repel. just remember not all ants are bad and some are actually endangered. do some research before you choose to attack.


another tip i've not tried yet myself is to use corn meal in the garden. folks have told me it helps with mildew and fungal issues. i'll have to get back to you on that one.


Thursday, June 21, 2007

god save the queen (of the garden... a'hem)


here's a simple solution for saving tomatoes that are not yet ripe. stick them in a double paper lunch bag (one inside the other) and fold over the top of the bag. store the bag in a cool spot out of direct sunlight. (i stick them in a cabinet) in a few days the tomatoes will show signs of ripening. check on them and use when fully ripe.

why would you choose to do such a thing? pick tomatoes before they are fully ripe.
well there are several reasons. here are just a few.
  1. temperatures above 90˚f slow the color changing process so your tomatoe may begin to split or rot before the color changes completely.
  2. stinkbugs; either you wish to share or you don't. you may wish to pick your tomatoes partially ripe if you're battling a large stinkbug population.
  3. high winds, heavy rain, weather related mater dropping
  4. you're going on vacation and you don't wish to loose your tomatoes to pests, cracking or weather.
  5. and when your mater vines petering out it signals the end of your season or that the heat has stressed the vines too much for them to continue in the harsh heat and dry weather. you've got a few options: pull the vine completely and hang in the garage or storage place while the tomatoes ripen on their own or you can try the paper bag method listed above.
whatever the mater matter is one must remember: god save the queen of the garden! long live the queen mater!

carrot day!


just a few days ago I questioned. what to do with all the carrots. i've got about 20-25lbs out of the ground and two small patches still growing. being as it's just me and supercat i figured out quick that i needed a bit of creativity to keep them from going to waste. supercat is not a huge fan of carrots in the raw but he does love some of the below combos. (carrot soup)

solution #1 - carrot, banana, apricot muffins w/flax - check! Wow, they taste incredible, shelly does it again.
*see recipe below

solution #2 - part of a great summer veggie soup (carrot, tomatoe, squash and fresh limas) - check!
*see recipe below

solution #3 - roasted carrots in olive oil cayenne pepper - check!
solution #4 - shaved carrots to go with salad, in a sandwich, mixed w/yogurt cheese,etc. - check!
solution #5 - the perfect dipping companion for baba - check!


so with a bit of thought, i have found ways to enjoy the yummy orange carrot babies without any waste. i can freeze the muffins and the soups. the rest is to eat fresh. voila!










shelly's
carrot yummyummy muffins
: these muffins are superooper healthy, packed with vitamins, fibre, flax and yeah, carrots! i'm using carrots from my own garden, everything else is organic and non-gmo including the pancake mix. the sweetness comes from the carrots, fruits, honey and maple syrup. you'll love these muffins.

ingredients:
1 package (3 cups) pancake mix
2 lbs organic carrots (shredded - I use a processor to do the job)
1 1/2 cups chopped dried apricots (fresh if you've got them!)
1 cup crushed or mealed flax seeds
1 1/4 cup wheat bran
2 shakes each of nutmeg, cinnamon and orange peel (or fresh orange zest if you've got it!)
2 1/2 cups water
2 super ripe bananas
1/4 cup local honey
1/4 cup maple syrup

heat oven to 325˚F

in a large bowl, mix the organic pancake mix carrots, apricots, flax seeds, wheat bran and spices dry. mix well so that all dry ingredients are evenly distributed. carve out a small crater in the center of your dry ingredients. slowly pour the water, honey and maple syrup into the crater. slowly combine the wet with the dry until well mixed. chop or process your bananas depending upon your desire for chunky banana bits or smooth banana flavor. add the banana to the mix and stir.

oil and flower your muffin pan to assure easy exit once cooked. fill each muffin tin to the top. i used a 12 muffin size tin this round. place muffins into the oven and cook for 35-40 minutes. test by inserting a knife into the center. if the knife comes out clean the muffins are done, if not cook for 5 minutes more and test again. be aware of the lower oven temp as the carrots will take a bit to cook through and you don't want to burn the outside before the inside is cooked. they may even take up to 45 minutes. trust me these are worth the wait. note: if you're using the super large muffin (6 muffins to a tin) tins you may wish to cook longer.

the muffins will come out crunchy on the outside and sweet and soft on the inside. enjoy and be happy that they are so good for you. do your best not to eat them all in one sitting.

shelly's summer veggie soup: tre' yumme'
nearly everything in this recipe is from my beautiful organic garden. feel free to mix up the veggies to your liking.

ingredients:
3 tablespoons olive oil or butter (i use olive oil)
1 large summer squash
(chopped to eating size bits)
1 lb carrots (chopped to eating size bits)
4 medium size (2 1/2" round) tomatoes chopped or 1 large can of stewed tomatoes

1 handful of fresh lima beans (i'm using christmas limas this round)
1 cup fresh chopped herbs - basil, oregano, rosemary, sage
3 cloves of garlic chopped
5 cups vegetable, chicken or beef broth
1/8 cup of chopped canadian bacon (optional, do without if you'd rather)
salt and pepper to taste

chop all your veggies into bite sized bits. throw them into a large soup pot. add the olive oil and cook over low heat for 10-15 minutes until most veggies are a bit soft. this slow cooking helps to release the very best flavors from your ingredients. add the tomatoes, lima beans, 1/2 of the chopped herbs and garlic and cook on low heat for another 5 minutes. add the broth to the mix. i use just enough to cover the top of the veggies plus 1/4". simmer over medium heat for 30 minutes or until beans are tender. salt and pepper to taste and refresh with additional chopped herbs. enjoy this soup hot or cold, either way, it's great with some crusty bread.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

10 days away

just got back from 10 great days sporting around the world. i knew the garden and yard would be in need of some special attention upon my return. boy oh boy did things need attention. grass high and scruffy, grape vines and brambles out of control and much needing general picking and clean up. 7 pm i can get a few things done before the light goes and that will make waking up that much nicer.

i started with the lawn. a good mow always spruces up the place quick. funny...
then i gave the garden a good drink while i prepared a spray mix of seaweed, molasses and insecticidal soap. the bugs always go wild when i'm away for a bit. it's as if they know, the little creeps.
and then to laundry and to brew a pot of coffee to cool for the morning's ice coffee. laundry was done before 10pm and off to bed i went exhausted. after all between the flights and the time changes i had been awake for over 30 hours. yeah crazy but i would not have been able to sleep with knowing the yard was so scruffy. i've got my pride to pay for.
this morning, early 7am, the temps were already at 8o degrees so i figured i'd do a bit of cooking before the day's oven really stoked up. from the garden i collected eggplant, basil, tomatoes, okra and carrots.
  • roasted the eggplant for baba.
  • roasted the tomatoes with olive oil, salt and pepper for a sauce
  • roasted the okra with a bit of olive oil for eating (yup! okra for breakfast)
  • set the basil in a jar and filled with olive oil (basil olive oil in a few weeks, mmmmm)
then it was out to the yard, trim trim trim, water, mulch, trim, pull weeds, sweep, turn the soil in the back garden and give the back garden a seaweed spray for strength. check on the compost pile, boy that baby is cooking. it's nearly half the size it was when i left. that's good! cut off the post flowering artichokes and trimmed a number of spent perennials around the yard. much more trimming and cleaning to do but the heat was just too much. break time!

home grown potatoe and organic farm egg potatoe salad
    • recipe
      • 1 small container light sour cream
      • two lemons peeled
      • two tablespoons of prepared horse radish (optional)
      • 1 bunch cilantro
      • 2 lbs fingerling potatoes
    • chop potatoes to happy eating size bits
    • boil potatoes and eggs until potatoes are soft but not falling apart
    • drain potatoes
    • peel eggs and chop
      • set potatoes and eggs aside
    • in a food processor; mix sour cream, lemons, horse radish and cilantro leaves until smooth.
    • pour mixture over potatoes and chopped eggs
    • mix, eat and enjoy!
  • tre' yumme'
i'll head back out later this evening when the temps drop just a bit. for now i might nap a bit though i'm feeling pretty good. not too much lag.

what to do with the carrots.....

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

crazy storms



crazy thunderstorms here in texas. this is the year of rain! or has been, most reports say this past week may have been it for a while. the mosquitoes are having a hay day. their family sizes have never been bigger, they are mating like crazy. i swear i've seen mosquito block parties going on! how do i know? well i'm a mosquito magnet and let me tell you, their numbers are healthy FOR THEM! and with this heat, the repellent only lasts as long as you don't sweat it off. i swear they hover and wait for me to sweat then promptly ATTACK! i must say, i don't find anything more bothersome than the sound of a mosquito buzzing in my ear. it brings terror.

the storms brought 60-70 mph straight winds. SCARY! i thought for sure there was a tornado in the area, it sounded like a freight train running through. i gathered mister man and myself and sat in an enclosed area for quite some time. i thought better not to take any chances as i'd never seen anything like it before.

i've got to get a serious rainwater harvesting system set up; cistern type for household use. i can't let another rainy season like this pass without taking advantage of it. the rain barrels for garden are full. every little bit helps.

the winds flattened most everything in the garden but with very little damage. i re-supported the tomatoes and tipped the bean tepee's back up and all was well. very few tomatoes fell from the vine probably due to their strength thanks to all the recent rain. huge tree limbs were felled around the neighborhood. i was lucky, one huge limb that is still connected at it's joint. i tried using my body weight to yank it down, no luck. it's too high for me to reach. i think it's a tree service job even though i'd like to take care of it on my own. i expected to see flowers from the eggplant, squash and tomatoes all on the ground but they too held on. it's a good sign: strong plants.

i planted some popcorn and some garbanzo beans where the potatoes were after adding a bit of homemade compost and turning the soil (before the rain- not while it was wet). i've never tried growing garbanzo's, never seen any articles about growing them but figured why not and popcorn is always good. it's organic, no genetically modified corn here! that's crazy talk.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

coffee grinds, car care and a lil' rose lovin'

it's been a simple day so far.
  • picked up more coffee grinds at the starbucks for the compost pile
  • added coolant and windshield wash to the car
  • distributed some epsom salts around the roses and blueberry bushes
  • watered it in
  • set up the irrigation system prompted by the soaring temps
  • ate some baba with carrots for breakfast
  • went to the store for some washing basics (washing soda & borax)
sounds good yeah? yes it is but for some reason, i'm anxious. it's crazy hot out, i'd rather be in for a bit but my body is telling me there's something else i should be doing. welcome to the real me. the chores are done but i still cannot relax. i'm a freak that way. it's hard for me to justify sitting, reading or relaxing in the daytime hours. i've always been this way and it can be tiresome especially when i know i can afford to relax and worked hard so that i could.

anyone else out there like this? what i need is a good knock on the head.
till then, i'm off to see what i can do... can't sit still when my shoulders are this tight.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

hard work pays


today has been a great busy busy day. i woke up thinking this is the day that i'm really going to take the time to get the yard in order, garden, flowerbeds, lawn and all. i knew it would take a while, i knew it would be hot hot hot but i was ready and i knew the pay off would be worth it. so i started first thing with the prepping of new batch of compost tea. i use worm compost, molasses and seaweed then brew it with an aerator for three days. once that was started i was off to the garden.

today's picks: 4 eggplant, 1/2 bushel of fingerling potatoes, 1 big bunch of beets (the very last of them), 4 little okra, 4 tomatoes, garlic, 1 summer
squash, 1 pottimoron squash and a 1/4 bushel of beautiful carrots. killer harvest!

once everything was washed and sorted, i decided due to the excellent carrot harvest that today was a day to share with the neighbors. i made up four little bags of veggies, herbs and flowers. the neighbors love it and i love that they appreciate the gift. it makes me feel good.

i cleaned up the former
potatoe beds now fallow for a bit. i'll direct compost right into them until i decide what will go there next. maybe some beans since they are good soil feeders. next were the flower beds. i cut and trimmed all the spent spring flowers and tamed a few perennials. a number of beds were simply overgrown with weedish creatures so i pulled those. i re-potted my container plants, gave them a good seaweed, molasses, h20 drink and they seem happy. the cleaning of the garden and the flower beds gifted me with excellent green bits for the compost pile. next was a good mowing of the lawn. that was tough in the heat of the day but i just kept pushing the mower and now the plot that we live on looks beautiful.

a cool shower was in order and felt great! lots of dust and dirt swooshing down the drain. it was then a perfect time for a bike ride around town. i was out and about for less than 5 minutes when i saw 2 fresh bags of grass clippings sitting on the side of the road. you know what happens next. i rush home on the bike, grab the car and load them up before any other grass
clippen mulch lover finds them. i decided then to see if the local starbucks had any coffee grounds ready for the taking. they did! so I packed those up too. the two bags of grass clippings mulched the peppers, eggplant, tomatoe seedlings, okra, amaranth and the baby squashes. the coffee grounds went right into the compost pile on top of the freshly cut greens from the flower beds and garden clean up. major missions accomplished.

i got back on the bike and happily jaunted round town for about an hour. i love my little town.

and now,
i'm slow roasting veggies:
  • pan 1: summer squash and pottimoron squash (olive oil, salt, pepper)
  • pan 2: fingerling potatoes (olive oil, salt, pepper)
  • pan 3: beets and baby carrots (olive oil, salt, pepper)
ohh it's going to be a yummy dinner tonight! happy day.
guarding some of the goods