The Kitchen Table

Many a good times have been had around the kitchen table. My own Grandmother’s kitchen was always a beehive of activity and I have fond memories of such things as Uncle Butch before daylight eating a huge plate of eggs, me with a five gallon bucket of okra to slice, my Aunt getting a home perm, Grandma Dall decorating someones wedding cake and many fine dinners with a dozen platters of vegetables fresh from the garden along with fried chicken, beans and Spanish rice. 

Surprise! Someone with a camera caught this circa 1950'2 - 60's kitchen table photo. Front L and then counteclockwise; Grandma Thelma Hargett Dall, Uncle Mitchel (Butch) Hargett, Odessa Hargett Severn, Bob Severn, Gilbert Hamling, Dad Kenneth Blevins and someone else. I am sure there were more adults and many children eating in the living room.

Surprise! Someone with a camera caught this circa 1960’s kitchen table photo. Front L and then counter-clockwise; Grandma – Thelma Hargett Dall, Uncle – Mitchel (Butch) Hargett, Aunt – Odessa Hargett Severn, Bob Severn, Gilbert Hamling, Dad – Kenneth Blevins and someone else. I am sure there were more adults and many children eating in the living room.

My Mother’s kitchen table when we were young was home to her sewing machine at times, a place to do homework and the nightly gathering place for dinner. It was also home to birthday party cakes and Saturday night card games.

My own kitchen table is either spotlessly clean or knee-high in some project most likely food related. It has hosted card games, pot lucks, canning and freezing adventures and quilt sewing.

This morning I happened across a FB post from a friend across the big pond, Jean. I always enjoy Jean’s posts and this one was spot on for me. I hope you enjoy it.

Printed with permission from Jean Marie Feddercke; “I don’t have a kitchen table anymore. I haven’t had one for almost twenty years because my flat has a “galley kitchen”. But I can remember a time when the kitchen table was smack dab in the centre of my life. 

When I was a kid growing up on my Grandfather’s farm in the Ozarks, the kitchen WAS the home. A bedroom was for sleeping and the front room was for ‘company’. The kitchen was for everything else.

And any time that you were in the kitchen, the radio would be playing in the background. You knew without the man on the radio telling you when summer storms were coming because there would be crackles and static from the lightning as it approached. In the summer, despite having chores in the morning, we would often sit there at the kitchen table listening to the radio until as late as 11PM. 

When I did the ironing on Saturdays, I always placed the board so that I could look out the window that was over the kitchen sink. This gave me a view past a huge walnut tree, down past the chicken house, and then on and on over the woods. With some music from the radio it was a pleasant time and not a chore at all.

But the real heart of the kitchen was the kitchen table. Now let me tell you about our table: it was ultra-modern! Yes! My Grandfather wanted to keep up with the times and he bought a metal table with a formica top and four chairs with genuine vinyl seats and back rests! It looked just like the picture below that I found after Googling, except ours was grey and white. My beloved Grandfather really moved with the times!

This kitchen table was not only just the place that you ate, it was also where you sat and peeled potatoes, shucked the corn, shelled the peas, and generally prepared meals. It was where you did your homework. It was where you sat silently yet companionably reading of an evening with your Grandfather – one or the other occasionally making a comment about what was being read (or making one more cup of tea). It was where you sat on a hot summer night, watching moths and June bugs beat against the window and little lime green tree frogs with pale yellow bellies and sucker feet would hang on to the glass and catch them for their dinner.

Looking back, I can’t remember all that we talked about on those nights at that kitchen table, but I promise you that those conversations and all the time spent at that kitchen table fed my Soul and nourished my Spirit.”

More of Jean’s writing can be found on Amazon here.

What is your favorite “kitchen table” memory?

signature, Sarah

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Garden Extras

A visitor

A visitor

This year has been by far the best garden I have ever enjoyed. It has not been the easiest. Gene and I have worked very hard to plant new ground, amend soil properly, build almost two cubic yards of compost and even hand pick squash bugs and other pests. Our reward has been likely the best eating either of us has experienced and a great healthful hobby.

Morning harvest

Morning harvest

The amendments we used include biochar at the beginning of the season; much compost, Azomite, worm castings, coir for delicate needs, and straw mulch, compost tea and foliar feed.

Rose of Sharon

Rose of Sharon

meal

One of our favorite brunches – a bed of steamed greens topped with scrambled egg, diced tomato and crumbled Feta cheese. Sliced cucumbers and a mango round it out.

Mushrooms are a good sign the ___ is healthy

Mushrooms are a good sign the soil  is healthy

Pest control has been limited to discretionary diatomaceous earth, some insecticidal soap and hours of hand picking pests. Our reward has been a visible increase in the bee population and an overall decrease in pests. I plan on ditching the insecticidal soap when this bottle is gone.

A word about DE or diatomaceous earth – it kills ALL bugs. Be specific with it. We very carefully sprinkle it around the base only of squash to kill squash bugs. Keep it away from the flowers or it will kill your bees.

Another morning harvest

Another morning harvest

Another fine meal

Another fine meal

Garbanzo Bean Salad

4 C prepared garbanzo beans, drained
1/2 onion sliced thin or chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
4 T fresh basil, minced
4 T fresh parsley, minced
4 T olive oil
4 T lemon juice
1/2 C parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes, opt.
salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl, cover and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.

This is a highly flavored main dish/salad that is one of our summer favorites. Serve with a hot slab of garlic toast and sliced fresh veggies for a complete meal. We follow it up with a bowl of thawed or fresh fruit topped with yogurt.

From the south side

From the south side – those poor kayaks have not been in the water once this summer!

What is your favorite summer dish?

signature, Sarah

 

 

 

Check out the August (end of July) Garden update here. And the June update here.

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Tomato Sampler

So many good tomatoes.

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Yesterday’s dinner included six varieties of tomato with aioli sauce and a rice pilaf. It made for a light and refreshing summer meal. Starting at the top and working around counterclockwise; chunks of Costoluto Genovese, sliced Black Krim, small bites of Japanese Black Trifele, Green Zebra, Celebrity, and an unnamed bright orange cherry tomato.

Costoluto Genovese; was by far the best tomato

Black Krim, pretty good but somewhat watery flavored

Japanese Black Trifele,very watery flavor

Green Zebra; very tasty with a little bite to it

Celebrity, moderately flavorful and good texture

cherry tomato, also really good and quite sweet. My objection is the skin to fruit ratio. It seems there is always too much skin to chew up.

The rice was a simple dish. Wash and chop 3 – 4 stalks celery and a medium onion. Saute them in a little hot oil until starting to cook. Add one or two crushed cloves of garlic and cook for one more minute. Add one cup of your favorite rice (I used a mixture of brown and wild) and stir into the oil and veggies. Stir to coat. Pour in two cups liquid (I use chicken broth but veggie broth or even water would be fine). Season with a teaspoon of cumin, salt and pepper and a dash of cayenne or paprika. Use your imagination. Bring to a simmer, cover tightly, lower the heat and cook for the specified amount of time.

A good simple quick side dish for a summer meal we often have this with some other sides of vegetables and fruit and yogurt for dinner.

What variety tomato do you grow and what is your favorite?

Bonnie appetite!

signature, Sarah

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Salsa Experiment

There are lots of Green Zebra tomatoes coming in from the garden so I made a green salsa. You will find the recipe below.

The original recipe didn’t have the paprika in it and I canned the salsa without it being perfect. The next batch will have the smoked paprika added before canning.

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I really like high notes in my salsa. Really. But this had way too many and too high to totally satisfy me. So I asked my FB friends what they would do to fix it. My goal was to keep it green but sometimes you cannot have everything and who would sacrifice color for flavor?!

I used a six inch cast iron skillet and heated it nice and long and slow, then added a teaspoon of peanut oil until hot. Then added a heaping teaspoon of smoked paprika and cooked it until the flavor was filling up the kitchen air. This I added to about a half cup of the salsa and boy oh boy was it ever good!

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Here we have a small bowl of the test batch.

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The end result is so delicious! Thank you to Susan L. who first suggested the addition of chili powder. Susan really knows her cooking. I am a fine cook and can create something out of almost nothing or anything whichever the case may be but I do not know flavor science very well. Learning!

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Green Zebra Salsa

about 25 – 30 ripe green zebra tomatoes, rough chopped
20 jalapenos (smallish, about 1 1/2 inches long is what I had)
one medium yellow onion
4 cloves garlic, smashed
2 medium cucumbers
1/4 C. dried cilantro (fresh would be so much better but none)
4 heaping tsp. smoked paprika
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1/4 tsp sugar
4 heaping tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. ground celery seed
2 tsp. oil
season with S & P
1 C. cider vinegar

Clean and prep all the veggies. Working in batches blend the tomatoes, jalapenos, onions, garlic and cucumbers together and pour into a heavy pot. Add the seasonings and oil.

Bring to a simmer and cook for about thirty minutes. Taste and adjust the spices if need be.

Can according to your Ball Blue Book or other reputable instructions. This made about ten cups of salsa and the amount will vary according to your vegetables sizes.

Bonnie appetite! What’s coming in from your garden right now?

signature, Sarah

 

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Little Bits

You know sometimes a little bit is all you get from the garden that day.

A little bit is all I’m usually after – just enough to build a meal around.

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I didn’t get a photo of today’s “little bit” but there was all the ingredients needed to make the first batch of tabouli. So we had tabouli for lunch and it was delicious!

It has long been my goal to have all the ingredients at one time and it finally happened.

Tabouli

Pour about 2 cups boiling water over 5 ounces bulgar and let sit while preparing the vegetables. This step can be done well in advance.

Prepare the following items;

1 C finely chopped cucumber

1 C chopped green onion

1 C finely chopped tomato

1 C finely chopped bell pepper, or other sweet peppers

3 – 4 cloves garlic, minced

1 C minced fresh parsley

1/4 C finely chopped fresh basil leaves

1/4 C finely chopped fresh mint

1 – 3 tsp honey

2 – 4 Tbls olive oil

4 – 6 Tbls lemon juice, start with the lesser amounts and taste before adding more

salt and pepper

4 ounces Feta cheese crumbled

Prepare the bulgar. Chill before adding to the vegetables. Chop and mince the vegetables placing all in a big bowl. Add the herbs and honey, oil and lemon juice. Add the chilled bulgar. Season with salt and pepper. Gently stir all together. Taste and adjust the spices and add more if you like.

Eat immediately OR chill for a couple hours before serving. Tabouli does not keep well so plan on eating it all the same day you prepare it.

Serve with crumbled Feta cheese either on the side as a condiment to place on top OR stirred in at the last minute before serving. I use 4 – 5 ounces of Feta for this size recipe.

You can also serve a thick slab of good bread and butter or garlic toast. We usually follow the tabouli with fresh fruit like cantaloupe.

A great vegetarian meal! This makes 2 – 3 hearty main dish servings or 4 – 6 small side servings. Sometimes we have it with hummus or falafel. Remember all item amounts are merely suggestions. Use what you have.

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Coriander

IMG_1351aOne year I put coriander instead of cilantro in a batch of salsa. I did not care for it at all. We did gradually get it all eaten in spite of the coriander. Don’t get me wrong I love both but they each have a time and a place.

After many years of little to no success with growing cilantro, one of my favorite herbs, this year was a boon. There were four big stands of it in the garden. Can you say overkill? I wasn’t about to go without this spring. Some of the cilantro grew to over three feet tall, then it all went to seed and began to dry in the hot summer sun.

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The cilantro had turned into crisp twigs of drying coriander. It began to look as though someone had spray painted it with a glowing copper color. Having never seen such a mass of coriander before I was surprised to see this color. I couldn’t quite catch the vibrancy of it.

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I snipped and snipped at the tall slightly prickly little twigs and barely made a dent in what the mature plant offered. Finally I took a guess and decided there was enough in my bucket to fill a small glass jar. It totalled one and a half ounces of cleaned coriander seeds.

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If you look carefully there I am in the top of the picture, upside down.

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After carefully picking all the minute stems out the dry seed fit perfectly in a pretty upcycled glass jar.

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If you want to get fancy or give this as a gift the lid could be pained, decorated or even covered with a piece of dark muslin and tied with hemp twine. Add a tag and you will have one lovely hostess gift.

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A more fancy label will not be found in my kitchen but I bet most of you have them. By all means use them! I also label the top of my jars because sometimes that is the direction I’m looking at the jars – straight down on them as they line up in a bin from the freezer. The freezer – that is where I keep all the spices I use less often than weekly. And remember to date everything.

Do freeze your homegrown and hand processed herbs and spices for a week or two before setting them out on the spice shelf. This will kill any stray critters that you might have overlooked. Yes critters are everywhere.

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The secret night life of cilantro. It was misting and the solar lights reflected on the cilantro.

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Masses of cilantro made many a bouquet. Do you love or hate cilantro? It’s one or the other. Do you have a favorite recipe using cilantro or coriander?

For a look at Gene’s version of kao dtom or Thai Rice soup click here.

Bonnie Appetite ya’all!

signature, Sarah

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The Flower Garden

Last week the sunflowers started blooming.

Last week the sunflowers started blooming.

Last week the flower garden was polite looking. All the flowers were just starting to bloom and they were upright and well weeded. We went away for a few days, there was a couple big rains and a bit of wind and some balmy weather. There is no politeness to be found out there now. It is a mass of tangled chaotic beauty and I love it.

I have never had a flower garden. Flower seeds and baby plants have been placed in the ground many a year but have seldom thrived for whatever reason – until this year. Marigolds usually don’t even do well for me as I have stated previously. They have made a fool of me this year by overrunning the place!

My brilliant plan was to set up a sixteen foot cattle panel, acquire a couple buckets of aged chicken manure from Adrian’s stash of about a gazillion tons in some old chicken barns on his place and purposely plant a few giant sunflower seeds, a few Mexican sunflowers and broadcast all the really old outdated flower seeds that never grew for me. We did all that. The marigolds were the first thing to cast concern on my flower deprived psyche.

Flaming Mexican sunflowers - so beautiful.

Flaming Mexican sunflowers – so beautiful.

Hundreds of marigold seeds germinated and grew. All the giant sunflowers and Mexican sunflowers sprang forth. The little marigold and ageratum plants I purchased to seed some color in case nothing else worked took hold. Then they cowered. Then they kind of came up at it again. Now they are buried in a riot of falling and blooming Mexican sunflowers too numerous to count. The marigolds have been thinned and thinned. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to pick a perfectly healthy plant and throw it away?! Shaking my head… I cannot believe how many of them I disposed of. And there are still too many and all crowded together.

Ageratum and marigolds a little close together but holding their own.

Ageratum and marigolds a little close together but holding their own.

A few zinnias came up, easy enough for me to identify, but nothing else. Unless I thought it a weed and pulled it which is perfectly possible. There is some vining thing that looks like it might be a flower but no buds yet. Time will tell. There is also a mullein but I’m not sure it can keep up. And some cucumbers because I read they like to be planted with flowers. But they too are lagging behind the effusive mangle of floral wealth in that space.

This is what an effusive mangle looks like…

One effusive mangle at your service. Hundreds of blooms are ready to pop any minute now. To my chagrin - too much orange. I had hoped for more variety and some splashes of pinks and purple.

One effusive mangle at your service. Hundreds of blooms are ready to pop any minute now. To my chagrin – too much orange. I had hoped for more variety and some splashes of pinks and purple.

Ageratum some say is an old fashion flower sometimes difficult to find in these parts. I love the purple of it next to marigolds but there is not nearly enough showing to carry the color through the flower garden.

Ageratum some say is an old fashion flower sometimes difficult to find in these parts. I love the purple of it next to marigolds but there is not nearly enough showing to carry the color through the flower garden.

This is the tallest of the sunflowers. It measures over nine feet tall now and has dozens of blossoms on it. The birds are keeping a close eye on it.

This is the tallest of the sunflowers. It measures over nine feet tall now and has dozens of blossoms on it. The birds are keeping a close eye on it. I am absolutely tickled to have this growing in my flower bed!

THis was an unkempt pot of dirt until a couple volunteers decided to use it for a home. Zinnia and a marigold plant. Imagine that.

THis was an unkempt pot of dirt until a volunteer zinnia and marigold decided to use it for a home.

Next year I will plan a little more carefully and put in less seeds. Although I imagine the marigolds will self sow and try to dominate everything again. I also imagine some blue vining flower… what is the name of that…?

Happy gardening! And look for the June garden update soon. It has been a busybusy month around here!

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