A Kitchen Day

img_0511After twenty nine days with no measurable rain the garden has been seriously waning. You can water all day long and it will fail to thrive as well as if there were rain to appease the plants. The flower bed was in sad shape and dropping seeds for next year. Most of what little is left was dying, withering and producing little and that often misshapen. In spite of all that I continued to let things be and pick the few meager cucumbers and okra every day along with the last short row of bush beans.

Then it rained and I couldn’t even get out there for a few days.

There must be beans to pick and I could see the okra from the window. I could also see damage from hornworms on what was struggling tomato vines that most people would have ripped out long ago. The occasional fried green continues to grace our table and is every bit as good as a spring fried green tomato.

Finally this morning I was able to venture forth and to my surprise brought in eleven pounds from our little garden space. The peppers were the biggest surprise. I had planned on leaving them until they turned red but they too had hornworms and quite a bit of damage. So I harvested all the large and medium Jimmy Nardelo peppers, the Thai rat turds which are turning red daily, and every jalapeno as big as my little finger because that was where most of the damage was this morning. The pablano seemed fine as did the Marconi.

So I spent the day in the kitchen instead of lolling about like planned.

There were cucumbers

The cucumbers are still lounging on the counter. Horribly misshapen they continue to be delicious and sweet. We have dehydrated enough to fill three quarts.

The rat turds, tiny little peppers hot as a fire cracker.

The rat turds, tiny red peppers hot as a fire cracker. I pick a good handful of these every few days now, rinse, dry and trim the stems close. Then they go into the “rat turd” zip lock to be saved for later. I imagine they will turn in to a sauce when they are all picked. They are about 1/4 inch long.

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There were enough Nardelos to make four batches of Spanish rice mix to freeze. I brown a cup of rice in a tablespoon of hot oil then add 2 cups of chopped peppers and a whole chopped onion. Fry this for about two minutes then turn out onto a cookie sheet. Place the sheet pan on a cooling rack on the counter until it cools enough to turn in to a zip lock bag for freezing. We use six to twelve of these pre-made packs to make Spanish rice over the winter. Brown some ground meat, drain if need be then add the slightly thawed contents of this bag. Add a 12 – 16 ounce jar or can of tomato sauce or other tomato product, season and simmer with a tight fitting lid until the rice is done. It’s a pretty fast meal. We call it fast food in this house.

Jalapenos

Jalapenos are one of my favorite things to grow. I just love them. We eat a lot of them too.

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After purchasing several tools for the job I have settled on this 1/8 teaspoon to seed small peppers. Please remember to wear gloves when handling hot peppers – latex free, powder free and unscented.

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Rinse well in a colander to rid them of the stray seeds and drain dry.

Don't drink the green smoothie!

Don’t drink the green smoothie! Here I have processed the jalapenos in the blender with organic cider vinegar. Along with the last tomatoes in the freezer this will be salsa in a few days.

There was also a pound of okra which was breaded and frozen. Two pounds of green beans found themselves in a pot with bacon, onions, chicken broth and a few potatoes for dinner and leftovers for tomorrow. I picked a handful of tomatoes both red and green likely for tomorrow also. Overall a pretty darn good haul for September and a month with no rain.

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All the while this pot roast was simmering away in a big skillet drenched in Schlafly coffee stout. Add a quartered onion, some crushed garlic cloves and plenty of cracked black pepper. Simmer slowly for several hours and serve with your favorite sides.

We had the roast, green beans and some of that okra fried with homemade ketchup. Yum! Then we finished off the last of the no bake cookies and did a few extra laps on the treadmill.

What’s cookin’ at your house this time of year?

signature, Sarah

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Wrapping Up Summer – almost

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The final Cushaw weighed in at seven pounds and ten. Much less than I had hoped for but way more than last year.

To see more about the Cushaw click here.

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Breaded okra is one of our new favorites. I tried several methods before settling on this one. Wash,  dry and chop evenly. Dip in well beaten egg then in flour. Place on wire cooling racks to dry off slightly. Place the cooling rack on a cookie sheet and set in the freezer for a couple hours. When frozen solid remove pieces of okra from the rack to a zip lock bag, label and freeze. We fry 20 – 30 pieces per serving in a small narrow bottom pan with hot peanut oil then drain on paper towel. Salt and pepper and you’re good to go! Gene and I both like horseradish sauce as a condiment with most fried vegetables.

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Great edamame harvest but short of what it can be by about half. We learned a lot and will plant somewhat differently next year.

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‘Schrooms growing on the unfinished Hugelkultur after a few days of rain.

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One of many daily harvest pictures; a small Cushaw, Japanese Black Trifele tomatoes, cucumbers, and a handful of okra.

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We are particularly fond of the little patch of corn and the harvest from it. This is Bodacious and was it ever delicious!

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Genovese basil ready for pesto making.

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Another day’s “little bits”; Jimmy Nardelo, Marconi, and Jalapeno peppers, okra, Thai peppers in the little black bowl, Zebra tomatoes and a couple jars of dehydrated cucumbers. We are really enjoying the cucumbers this way!

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The August overview is available here now. Check it out. Thanks for reading my blog!

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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?

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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!

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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.

signature, Sarah

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