Where Did Winter Go?

What do you mean – where did it go? Did it even come? It feels like winter never showed her chilly face this year. Oh sure, it’s just the end of January but take a look at the forecast! We slept with the door wide open a few nights ago. And then today I thought, what the heck I think I’ll check the soil temperature. Yes the beds are raised. Yes they are plenty warm to plant onions and peas.

onion butt onions, it’s a thing

So I made the first “To Do” list of the season. It includes the following; …plant snow peas, plant onions (they just arrived a few days ago), transplant celery and green onions, build a couple new beds, tidy up the old mulch and put down a layer of sawdust on the walkways, stir the compost pile back to life, find some seed potatoes, jalapeno M seeds and organic Celebrity tomatoes. Dig an asparagus bed, expand the berry patch for a few more plants. And why doesn’t Lowe’s have any bulbs or roots yet!? Get some tomato seed started.

It’s endless. Already.

Gene and his helper have been downing some trees to get a little more sun on the garden spot especially for the expanded berry plot. We have decided it is a now or never sort of deal. Plant some perineal fruits now (this year) or forget about it. Just leave the idea be. If I had planted fruit vines and trees 35 years ago, or 20, 10 or even 5 years ago when Gene and I first started this garden we would be harvesting and enjoying berries now – this summer.

We should have a good supply of blackberries this summer, and strawberries and melons too. But we love blueberries, raspberries, rhubarb, and would enjoy kiwi (yes it will produce here), gooseberry, fig and a few grapes. That should be enough to supply the whole county. We won’t plant all of those items…

Gene and I discussed an asparagus bed several years ago and just kept putting it off. Well the heck with that silly idea – we are going to do it this year. Not much just enough to have a little asparagus first thing in the spring. In a couple of years.

celery growing from root stock

So, what’s happening now? Aside from that “To Do” list? There’s celery plants growing, green onions from seed, onion butts (see photo), onion plants, kale, cabbage, broccoli and kohlrabi. The brassicas are just a couple of weeks old so it will be a few more weeks before they can go in the ground.

It is also almost time for a spot of pak choy, radishes, carrots (under a bit of cover) and beets. I may put in a bed of spinach too.

So not only have the seed catalogs arrived but so have the seeds and the ground is warming! There is still plenty of time for winter to make an impressive appearance but I am banking on this being an early spring. Tomorrow I plant peas.

a veggy dinner

We had this colorful and tasty meal last week. A bit of potato/corn hash with plenty of onion, tri-color rice, baked sweet potatoes, and candied jalapeno. It was delicious! Sweet potatoes and rice is da bomb!

What zone are you in? Have you planted anything yet or still checking out the seed catalogs?

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A Christmas Story – dedicated to my daughter-in-law, with love

I always want to put up a Christmas tree and decorate the house and most years I do. I really enjoy the ambiance it creates. The decor not the act. The act involves too much mess. What really holds me back the most is knowing that it will all have to be put away at some point. And for me that point is sooner than later.

Once Christmas is done I get antsy to “clean up the mess” and put it all away. But the prospect of taking it all apart, dusting it off, wrapping it up and packing it away just seems so daunting. If I could just sweep it out the door or have it all magically disappear while out shopping with all those lovely gift cards. If. If only.

So I got this bright idea.

Someone really should start a service to dismantle people’s Christmas trees and decorations after Christmas and put them all away. Don’t you think that would be great!?

You could just call, or better yet email the Holiday Dismanteling Service and schedule a dismantle time then go shopping. When you return home and pop open the front door, presto! the living room is tidy and no signs of holiday decor. Just in time for Valentine’s Day, Easter and … wait. Shake it off. No more holiday decorating for me this year.

So anyway I was like staying with my son and his young family, helping out with moving preparations and you know it’s only days after Christmas and I offered to do a thorough cleaning out of the fridge but my daughter-in-law asked me to take down the tree instead.

I was horrified. And blunt. Likely way too blunt. I stomped my foot and blurted “NO”. Then tonge in cheek I said something really silly like – I would rather blow my brains out than take down the tree (counting my own tree upon arrival back home, that would count to two trees to dismantle. Shudder.).

I hurt her feelings and felt pretty bad about it. My son, in my defense, assured her that I was being melodramatic but not in the least excessive. We had a little laugh. The conversation went downhill  from there though. There was mention of just dragging the tree, decorations and all to the yard and burning it instead. But not before she spoke of the image that sprang into her mind of coming home to a smoldering heap of melted plastic in the middle of the den. This is the daughter-in-law who once sent me a card stating that knowing me was kind of like knowing a butterfly who pooped rainbow sparkles. You get the idea. And some of you know me. And my sense of humor.

We ended the day with my lovely daughter- in-law seriously stating that I was not to undecorated the tree and IF I really wanted to do the refrigerator that would be okay. I promised not to burn the tree down dismantle the Christmas tree and to work on the fridge instead.

So today is finally here and I broke a promise and I hope it is a good thing because not only did I clean out the fridge but also took down the Christmas tree and carefully put it all away. I may have Gene drag our tree to the yard and torch it. Just kidding!!

SO (again) don’t you think it would be a marv idea for someone to develop a service where they took on that task for people? Whadayasay?

We hope you had a merry holiday and a safe New Years Eve!

 

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Satsuma Marmalade

I’ve made a lot of jelly and jam in my life but never once have I made marmalade until this week. My brother (who does a lot of cooking by the way) made marmalade and sent me a jar for Christmas many years ago. It was fresh and had not thoroughly jelled yet but it finally did set up just right a couple months later. It was delicious!

But I never did see the point. If there were going to be oranges in the kitchen I was just going to eat them!

Dauphin Island Gulf side late afternoon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All that changed a couple weeks ago. We decided to make a spur of the moment trip to a southern destination and buy Louisiana satsumas. You see I made my first trip to Dauphin Island almost twenty years ago and it was right around Christmas time. Well, the satsumas were just ripe and I had my first one then. Been a fan ever since. I’ve made a point to travel to Dauphin Island as often as possible and generally when satsumas are ripe.

But Gene and I missed last winter and this one and I was missing satsumas. We heard the expected crop was expected to be a really good one this year and since we hadn’t decided what to get each other for Christmas… points south it was. To get satsumas. Satsumas are not grown on Dauphin Island but the two seem to go hand in hand.

Long story short… I have been having a dry spell with picture taking and didn’t get any pictures of the actual trip. Only pictures of the actual satsumas. And the actual juicing of said citrus AND the actual MARMALADE that I made. A triple batch. Enough to last me a lifetime.

 

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We haven’t eaten any of the marmalade yet (well there was a few spoonfuls left after jarring it up but not enough for toast!) or there would be a picture of a slab of toast smothered in satsuma marmalade. Or maybe a bran muffin. Now that sounds good.

Chopsticks and Treasures from Dauphin Island

 

I am looking forward to next years satsuma harvest, our next trip to Dauphin Island and looking forward to eating and sharing this satsuma marmalade.

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A Perfectly Wonderful Christmas

Post holiday greetings from Moonmooring!

It Was a perfectly wonderful Christmas. Gene and I are in the throes of developing our own holiday traditions and we thoroughly enjoyed this relaxed and unstructured Christmas.

A quick road trip to Hattiesburg just days before the holiday got us a few cases of satsuma oranges which as you may know are only ripe for a few weeks of the early winter and the most delicate of them are grown in Alabama – they are not shipped far – southern Mississippi about the furthest. So we got enough to eat (and did we ever), juice and make some satsuma bourbon marmalade. More on the marmalade later. We are thinking to incorporate satsumas into every Christmas.

A Christmas eve with family was a relaxed fajitas kind of evening and personal gift exchange with my sons family. We shared this marvelous pecan coconut goody that is melt in your mouth delicious!

Christmas morning found really tall glasses of freshly squeezed satsuma juice, creamy oats with apple, minced ginger and cinnamon, and sage sausage patties.

I made these ceramic snowpeople, angels and bell nearly 40 years ago. Emory and Coy were fascinated by them.

What Christmas traditions do you keep?

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Unseasonable Seasons

broccoli ready to cut

It has been unseasonably moderate this fall and what tomorrow is; the first official day of winter. We have sunbathed in short sleeves far more days than not. To be fair we have had a number of hard frosts but none to kill the cold weather crops yet.

The garden has continued to heap upon us a bounty of produce – enough to put fresh veggies on the table daily. Lettuce, broccoli, cabbage, kale, leeks, choy, late peas, loads of cilantro, parsley and other herbs have all graced our fall and warm winter table. Between the fresh produce and summer stash we are fairly well fed!

today’s broccoli and cabbage – it may be time for sauerkraut

We watch the weather report all day long (who needs social media when the weather forecast changes as often as it does?) because it seems to change almost hourly. This morning we were greeted with a predicted low of -2 degrees F for New Years Eve along with 6 out of 7 days being snowy. By this afternoon all those low temps had melted away and the snow prediction is down to 2 days. Really. I only know what it will do in the next hour and only plan on what to do for the next day or so.

part of our little lettuce patch

We will continue to leave everything heavily mulched and without row cover but if it really does look like temps in the teens or lower I will cut the rest of the brocoli and cover the cabbage a little better, put the dry leaves and buckets back over the parsleys and cover the lettuce.

In the meantime we have made spontaneous plans to run down south and pick up a big box of satsumas and some pecans. Who knows what else. Then we’ll dash back home in time to hunker down over our Christmas days and what may come of the cold snowy prediction. We will have to light an imaginary Yule log while sailing down the road.

 

Also in the meantime I made a batch of this yummy Coconut Pecan Candy – the original recipe to follow. Once again I apologize for forgetting the source of said recipe. Some day I’ll get better at that!

No Bake Coconut Pecan Praline Cookies

2 1/2 cups chopped pecans
2 cups sweetened shredded coconut
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1/2 cup corn syrup
1 stick (1/2 cup) salted butter – melted
1 tsp vanilla extract

 

  1. In a medium-sized bowl, combine coconut and pecans; set aside.

2. In a heavy saucepan over medium high heat, stir sugar, evaporated milk, corn syrup and butter. Cook and stir until mixture comes to a full rolling boil — let boil and stir for 3 minutes.

3. Remove pan from heat and stir in vanilla and coconut/pecan mixture. Stir off the heat for about 4 minutes, until mixture starts to cool and thicken. Drop by large spoonfuls on wax paper. Let harden completely — about an hour to an hour and a half — before serving.

I made some minor adjustments. For some reason I forgot the milk! Once it had boiled for three minutes I quickly stirred in the vanilla and coconut/pecan mixture and it was quite thick so I immediately scooped it into paper lined mini muffin pans and it made exactly 4 dozen with a couple bites left over. Yea. Yum.

The candy turned out solid enough and with a crumbly texture which was exactly what I was hoping for. So happiness! These are somewhere between a praline style no bake cookie and a real praline. Only very easy.

Last but certainly not least the gift Gene and I gifted ourselves with this year.

Supporting a local artist seems to us the best way to go so we chose this beautiful uniquely created and designed stained glass to hang in the kitchen window.

Thank you Mary Patrick for the lovely piece of work!

Whatever holiday you are celebrating, have a happy and safe one! And whether your garden is resting up over the winter or working hard to keep feeding you – it’s a wonderment either way.

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So Much Goodness!

The little Moonmooring Garden is still pumping out fresh goodies to eat every single day. But a frost will surely come soon enough and the tomatoes will be done – along with the peppers, tomatillos and the last leaves of basil.

I spent part of this beautiful day and picked all the green tomatoes that are shiny – they will likely ripen if they have made it that far. And how many fried green tomatoes can we eat!? A lot, that’s how many.

simmering in hot peanut oil

We like our green tomatoes anywhere from hard-as-a-rock green to just turning pink. I dust them with flour, dip in a light egg wash and re-dust with flour. Then they are fried in medium heat peanut oil until tender. Today the pan shared space with some zuchinni. Gene grated fresh horseradish and mixed it with Dukes mayo and a splash of vinegar for a dressing. That and a glass of orange juice was all we needed for brunch.

sliced and ready to bread

Tomorrow I will sort the tomatoes culling the ones with any blemish to be eaten first or made into some green tomato mincemeat. The rest will get wrapped individually in newspaper and tucked into a big flat cardboard box. With a little luck most of them will ripen over the next couple months and as you know – any home grown tomato is likely to be better than store bought!

The broccoli is about to head up, the kale is big enough to pick and the Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, onions, lettuce and leeks are looking good. You may think it too late but I still hope to plant some root crops to overwinter in mini greenhouses or under cover (carrots, beets, parsnips).

The first bed of spinach came up real well and then cutworms got it all. Yes there are disappointments sometimes. Gene ordered and applied some beneficial nematodes and I will replant the spinach and some bok choy soon.

Have you put your garden to bed or is it still awake for the fall?

 

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Snacks For Dinner

They go by many names – antipasto, mezze platter, crudite platter, charcuterie. These usually have a specific theme assigned to each but in our home we simply call them snack tray.

A snack tray meal often happens on a night we have overworked ourselves and have failed to take something out of the freezer. Not wanting to heat up the kitchen we resort to ravaging the fridge for bits and pieces of leftover and maybe making a simple cold dip. There are always slabs, slices or chunks of off the wall bread to add for the dipping part and there is almost always some bits of cheeses. Add something pickled and a meal is born.

I have yet to grow a crop of garbanzo beans for hummus making – a couple of plants produced great pods one year, long ago but only that. The tomatoes yes, along with garlic, onions, the herbs and cucumber.

Our snack trays are usually heavier on vegetable matter but this is what we had last night!

I have been especially fond of tzatziki since visiting Greece in 2006 with my sister. We stayed for the better part of a month and never tired of Greek cooking. I returned home with several tins of olive oil, a bag full of recipe books and the determination to prepare tzatziki, skordalia, spanakopita, baklava, saganaki, halvas, souvlaki and some of those delicious semolina cakes. .

You can sometimes find a very fine spanakopita in my kitchen along with several other items but tzatziki eluded me and I had given up on it. Every tzatziki recipe instructed to chop the cucumber and stir it into the Greek yogurt. Every time I ended up with a gloppy mess. And I gave up on tzatziki.

Recently I ran across a recipe that changed my tzatziki world. Strain the (Americanized) yogurt and grate and wring dry those cucumbers! It is magic!

The following recipe is what I make for the two of us for a single meal. It is far better fresh than day old.

Tzatziki

1 – 1/2  cup plain yogurt, well strained (leaving about 3/4 cup yogurt)
1 medium-large cucumber
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 – 3 garlic cloves, crushed and minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon dry mint, crushed
1 teaspoon dry dill, crushed

Measure and set the yogurt to drain in a wire mesh strainer over a bowl for about thirty minutes.

Meanwhile peel the cucumber, cut in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. I have a melon baller with a small spiky end that is perfect. Grate the cucumber on the coarse side of a cheese grater. Place the grated cucumber on a square of cheesecloth and gather the corners up. Turn the neck of the cheesecloth tight and squeeze over the sink until the cucumber is almost dry and no longer drips. You want to get rid of that fluid.

Prepare the garlic or you can use garlic powder or granules to your liking.

Add all of the ingredients to a medium bowl and stir well. Let sit for a half hour or so if you have time.

Tzatziki should be quite thick – not watery – and almost pungent. Serve it with naan, pita, crackers, your favorite crudites, souvlaki or as a dip with chips. Adjust the seasonings to suit your own taste. Do remember to use plain yogurt!

A few food related photos from our Greece trip.

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If you try the tzatziki recipe let me know how it turns out for you!

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