Thursday, October 23, 2014

Fried Apples

Sometimes we over think our food. Fried apples are perfect simplicity. This two ingredient dinner side dish also doubles for breakfast.
Start with good apples. Not the shriveled up ones in the bottom drawer of your refrigerator.
Well... would you look at that? What is going on at that orchard? Hmm an interesting specimen. Your apples don't need to have such a charming face but, fresh crisp apples will do fine.

Butter. You can't get there from here if you don't use real butter. The apples will fry in margarine or non stick pan spray. It's a sin though. Use butter.

Nooo, not the whole stick. Just a pat. I used about a tablespoon and a half to fry three fat apples tonight.

Swirl and swirl until the butter develops a slightly brown color. I mean slightly brown!
With your heat on medium, add the freshly peeled and sliced (to your liking) apples to the pan.
Tonight, I went all fancy schmancy and cored the apples and sliced into rounds about 1/4" thick. You can slice, dice, or cube the apples. Nice thick pieces, otherwise the apple will become squishy and lose their texture. As you can see, a few of mine were a little too thin and limp. Flavor was still outstanding.
Turn the apples over, stay with them until the color develops. We aren't going for perfection here. Remember...don't over think it. It's just fried apples.

Pork chops stuffed with blue cheese cry out to have fried apples on the plate beside them.

We enjoyed fried apples, baked beans, smoked sausage and biscuits for our dinner. Oh, and cottage cheese. From the dairy in the country. It's Ohio we love our dairy!

Leftover apples and a biscuit will be perfect with my morning coffee! It's cold here now. Morning coffee takes on a whole new life. It's dark and cold in the morning. Time to start crocheting something warm.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Say Cheese

A picture is worth a thousand words, can this be true? Since my last post was in June of this year, I'm easily behind in writing by around 1,000 words. And let me tell you people there isn't any picture out there that could cover what's gone down in my world since June.

Garden update:
  • Asparagus took well, survived the summer and I will be trimming back the fern portion soon.
  • Onions rocked as usual. Red, yellow, and white, a basket of bounty in the basement.
  • Potatoes were plentiful. The current supply should last at least until the new year.
  • Peppers were one big failure this year. I just don't get it. Normally my pepper plants are amazing.
  • Tomatoes...I'm over it. Next year...2 plants and that's it. I swear. We just don't use them up and the canning of tomatoes is way overrated.
  • Pinto beans were amazing in their growth. We had an entire bushel basket full. I hang my head in shame to admit this. Brain surgery took priority over pinto beans. I promise you, on one day that basket full of gorgeous musical fruit was sitting pretty as could be on the back porch and then it rained. As I sat reclining side by side with Mister the damned mildew overtook those beans in that basket. Which didn't seem to bother the local squirrels and chipmunks or birds. Who knows what ate them. All I know is between movies on Netflix, I wandered outback, dumped out those nasty mildewed beans and something took care of them for me. I never give it another care. Convalescing won over the beans this year.
  • Peas were a wonder to behold. Sweet and tender. The dream pea.
  • Carrots were gnarly and woody and left in the ground too long. Again, local critters didn't seem to mind.
  • Apple Trees, not one single apple. The freezing cold of last winter must have done them in.
  • And that's all I have to say about Garden 2014.
Canning Round-up
  • Salsa... check...we canned about 48 pint jars. Thank God because there is no way in hell I will doing that again next year. Exhausted and stumbling around with a bag of tortilla chips is not my idea of a fun weekend anymore. Thank you Amish dudes for growing tomatoes, peppers, and onions.
  • Jelly. So many wonderful combinations of jelly rolled out of the kitchen this year
 Strawberry Jalapeno jam was a great new recipe which Anna brought to my attention. I think we made 12 pints. The jalapenos were mellow and fruity. A nice match to the sweet strawberry.
 Also, our standard strawberry jam saw a turn or two or three.
Black Raspberry jelly which is of course my all time favorite was put up again this year. It won't last through the winter. It stains my teeth but, I'm a junkie for the stuff. It's a bit of a labor intense project due to straining all of the tiny seeds through cheese cloth. So worth the effort. Remember boys and girls don't squeeze the juice through the cloth, otherwise your jelly will be cloudy. Or so I've always been told. I dare not squeeze the cheese cloth.
Red Raspberry was the crowning glory of the jelly making adventure this year. Truly a scrumptious product. Expensive as heck to make. I will be a bogart with my red raspberry jelly stash. HA. I did not take photos of that beautiful batch. but, look out below for the strawberry and black raspberry variety.

The only photographic proof of the sticky business of preserves are these two fine specimens.

This summer while on our hiatus we shopped and thrifted some fantastic bargains.

Exhibit A

One skinny dollar bill ($1.00) was forked over for this pair of great mid century lamps. Yes, they are in the spare room and work as an excellent night light. The bases even light up. Score!

Exhibit B
This janky little chair cost all of .50 (fifty cents) and me being a penny pinching tight wad, counted the money out of my change purse in nickles and dimes just like a cranky old lady. Just you and wait and see, I am making this ole girl into a beauty. More on that later. Crosses my fingers and makes promises.

This year we grew vegetables, herbs, flowers, and weeds. The weeds were by far the most successful.
And that's okay. Mister has fully recovered and life has almost resumed a normal pace once again. Or maybe the new normal is stopping to pause between tasks. I always strive to single task my days. I like living life on those terms. Never biting off more than I can chew. One thing the events of this past summer hellish year 9 months has taught me is sometimes single tasking can be overwhelming too.

Hip Hip Hooray, It's like a Winnie the Pooh and Christopher Robin moment. We survived the kidney surgeries and brain tumor and all of the other out of our control bullshit nonsense to finally arrive here in October. Walking hand in hand with a red balloon, and whispering philosophical cliche`s to one another.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Peas and Pintos

Peas, let's eat them!
No pinto bean pods yet but the vine is strong and healthy.
The pintos have grown a bit...and check out that onion bed in the background!
Leave the house for a few days and come home to this. Pea pickin' time.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Victory Path

There's Cilantro to be harvested in the herb bed. I happen to enjoy a nice bowl of Cilantro Soup. Alas, no one else in this house agrees. I might still make some just for me.

Look at the color of these snapdragons. I dearly love them. Snapdragons are an annual flower but, I've had good luck with dead heading the flowers, allowing the spent bloom to disintegrate into the soil. and the following year the snapdragons have returned.
What lovely blooms are you growing?

Look at this kid. She's so competitive. Tonight, they lost their game. As she strolled towards me with her gear slung over her shoulder, she said " Don't even talk to me yet". She played a good game. Made a fantastic catch and threw the ball to third base for a double play. She's still learning that small individual victories are just as important as the glamor moments in life.

Look at my crooked little path. It's mossing up nicely. An area between two buildings was just a pile of rubble and grossly overgrown with ferns and piled with debris cluttered waist high. I managed to scrounge around the yard of what was our new home at the time and find enough old worn bricks to create a lovely pathway. The moss is just a lovely addition that endears the crooked path all the more to my heart. Some people prefer the straight and narrow path free of moss and ferns. I like my rickety old wobbly one.
Look more snapdragons. We watched a young baby cardinal bird struggle to fly the other day. Under the watchful eye of both Momma and Pappa Cardinal. The little bird wandered around for about 45 minutes trying to get it right. Each time he flew a little higher. As night time approached, he was last seen wandering his way around this patch of snapdragons. I hope he made it off on to his birdie journey safe and sound.

No recipes of profound nature are being doled out around this house as of late. We have two upcoming doctor appointments this week, another step towards complete healthy recovery of my Mister. For now, hot dogs, grilled cheese with tomatoes, and smoothies are about as creative that I get as a cook.

Take care all,
plant something,
you will be glad you did.
No matter what,
if you grew it
It's yours.
Find something to grow
Patience, and kindness are nice things to harvest.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Holy Cow Shit

Asparagus grown in the home garden surely must represent an optimistic attitude of futuristic plans. With a three year wait period until the first harvest, patience and a willingness to deprive yourself of instant gratification comes into play.

I recently read a quote by Abraham Lincoln that went more or less like this...I walk slow, but I never walk back.

Mister and I have talked of planting asparagus in our garden for years. One of these days. This year was finally the year. We purchased one year old plants from a local nursery. Jersey Giant variety, which turns out are all male plants. This is a good thing. I would like to tell you that I knew exactly what I was doing and planned it that way. Fact is, Mister and I found a day to escape what has become our world of madness and found ourselves buying asparagus plants.
The nice guy working at the farm told me how to plant them. I had no idea asparagus plants comes in male and female plants. Male plants produce more yield because there is no energy spent on behalf of the male plant put into flowering. I guess we just lucked out and bought the right variety. I'm thinking 5 plants are probably not enough. In three years we will know for sure, time will tell.

We had an area freshly turned over and ready for a third planting of potatoes. It's about 3 feet wide and 9 feet long. What we did.

  • Dug our holes for each plant about 1.5 feet apart and about 8 inches deep. Deep enough to set the asparagus plant slightly below soil level.
  • Mixed in manure. I bought the Holy Cow variety. Somehow I find that name hilarious for bagged cow poop.
  • Cover the plant gently with poop/soil mixture
  • Water well
  • This step may not apply to your house. We have a male, collie/lab mix big boy named Tucker who pretty much lifts his leg on anything new in our yard, so we put a short little picket fence around our tender asparagus. Dog pee not friendly... cow poop friendly.
Now we wait.

Mister has a brain tumor. There I said it. I know, just know, he is going to get through this. We have had a wild string of slaps in the face to endure the past 5 months.With the news of my Mom's dementia and coming to live with us, then Mister having a huge issue with his left kidney that has required and needs additional surgery in the past 6 weeks, to getting a phone call on our anniversary from an endocrinologist telling us the results of an MRI. Yep, a brain tumor. Pardon me when I say "fuck" really loud.

Mixed in to this strange brew came some sorta well meaning siblings of my Mom's freaking out that I enlisted the help of a respite care facility while we address serious matters here at our home. Oh yes. Pulled out all of the stops and now Mom doesn't live here anymore. Holy Cow.

So I am going to walk slow, but I will not walk back.

Mister and I are gonna spread that cow shit on our asparagus every year and in 3 years from now we are going to sit back and smile. Because damn it we will have earned it!

I've read asparagus plants like a nice compost tea. Maybe I will brew up a little next year and see what happens.

Since we are on the subject of crap. When the bird crap on your car has that lovely shade of purple mixed in....the berries are ripe on the vine.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Growing Peas

Plant your peas in the early spring. The cooler weather is their friend and I have never had snow hurt my pea plants. Ohio has certainly given the local home gardener plenty of cooler weather this spring. My peas should be happy. I plant my peas 1" deep, about 3" apart in nice tidy little rows. Use a trellis to support the viney tendrils that grow. You will have a harvest in about 55 days.

After harvesting, I wash the peas and give them a quick blanch before zipping them up into a freezer bag. Label your bags with a date as you will most likely never harvest enough peas in one day to fill more than a bag or two. Unless you've planted a ton of plants. Each day as you harvest and freeze you'll want to document what day your vegies were frozen. Obviously the point is to use up the oldest bags first. Frozen peas don't retain the same amount of wonderful crunch as the fresh harvested pea.

Grocery store peas fuhgetaboutit. The sugars turns to starch so quickly after being harvested that there really is no comparison to strolling to the outback and harvesting your own. Trust me when the snow is flying, busting out a bag of your garden fresh peas from the freezer will make you smile. Freezing them immediately after harvesting does help with retaining a better tasting pea.

To harvest the pea, go gently. The peas do not have a sturdy root structure and yanking or aggressively picking them will disturb the plant. Just hold the plant in one hand and use your other hand to gently pluck the vegetable from the vine.

 This year my peas were late getting into the ground. The daily average temperatures should not be above 75 degrees or so during the day for the best crop. I have yet to see flowers on my peas so I am probably going to have a less sweet crop this year. We'll see. Maybe they will be just fine.

Growing peas in the home garden is almost like having a flower garden. The foliage in itself has such a dainty lacey look. Then the flowers are equally pretty. I love legumes. I really need to branch out and plant a few exotic varities next year. I might shoot for an autumn/winter harvest and plant something new this fall.

A new recipe has caught my eye. Dilled Chicken Salad with Peas and Asparagus sounds refreshing. Piled high on some Bibb lettuce...this sounds like a plate of heaven right now.
Look the chives (looking scrawny) have a new home once again. I have moved this batch at least 3 times to different homes, and around from garden to garden at each house. These are well traveled.

On a completely different note. Anna got ink. She's a Harry Potter fan. Her unique one of a kind tattoo reflects so many different aspects of who she is as a person. The Womping Willow. The Castles. Dreamer and Realist rolled into one. My second born daughter has become my right hand woman.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Pinto Beans

Look what's popped up!

Pinto Beans have bolted from their seed coat. The thin outer layer shreds off the bean as it sprouts. I can see the coats laying on top of the soil in our pinto bean bed.

We've had some hard pounding rains the last few days. The rains have washed out some of the beans. There they lay all swollen and looking as if a sprout might form. I'm going to leave those beans laying on the surface of the soil to see what happens. I'd like to know if the root structure will be visible when/if the bean should decide to sprout above ground. Don't worry I planted three short rows of beans and the harvest will be plentiful even if a few of the beans are sacrificed due to my evil gardener experiments muwahaha...

Most of the beans, once harvested will be dried and left in the pantry for winter use. In a few short months I should have around 5 lb's of pintos drying and in storage.

My favorite way to prepare pinto beans is a good old fashioned bean soup with ham hocks and carrots (carrots growing in the garden too). A pot of bean soup would never be complete without a cast iron skillet full of cornbread. Yes, that's my favorite way to consume these lovely legumes.

Our second favorite use of pintos is just plain ole' simple refried beans. It's not too late. Pick up a handful of pinto beans and get them growing. The seed for this crop is a second generation from our last batch of beans grown in 2011. You can read about that harvest here. I cannot believe that 3 years have passed since our last planting of these delicious morsels. It's about time I got back out in the dirt.

Planting The Beans
I always soak my beans in water for a few days before planting them. Loosen your soil, make a small impression with your finger about an inch deep and drop the bean down. Cover loosely with soil and wait patiently for about 8 or 9 days and then you'll return to find something of beauty.
This humble little crop will keep me entertained for months.

Grow some beans, it will be great for your soul.
Musical Fruit...

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Schlepping with Love

I wonder what super women do when the shit hits the fan at their house? When I think of a super woman...

the vision of the professional woman (not a schlepper like myself)*
with the perfect nails, hair
clean car (schlepper just stuffs it under the seat)
clean house
perfect children
fabulous wife on a schedule...
prepares meals in a flash with entire healthy ingredients
okay, you get my point

*schlepper=self employed earning a decent income but not required to dress nice or comb my hair

Well let me tell you what a schlepper does when the shit hits the fan at her house.

  • I obsess on the carpet needing to be clean. No joke, the spot bot was busted out today and I found myself crawling around on the floor looking for any odors and or troublesome traffic areas.
  • Lunches are not packed, I search frantically for cash (who has cash on hand these days) to cover the cost of a bought lunch at school. Our school charges $3.00 for lunch. Aimee dreads using change like it's the plague. Graham crackers, watermelon, and a Little Debbie cake is probably not a well balanced meal to pack in my child's lunch box.
  • Grocery shopping...really why the hell doesn't anyone just deliver groceries? I need milk, eggs, bread, both wheat and white please. One pound of butter, potatoes, fresh fruit, and yogurt. Please grocery fairy hear my needs. I can't drag myself out to fetch the basic for an omelet these days.
  •  stuffing bowls of suspicious looking items deeper into the refrigerator to avoid actually having to lift the foil and determine what's lerking underneath.
I did manage to do a few loads of laundry today, work, clean the high road of the kitchen, dust, and mop the downstairs. The upstairs is another thing.

Mind you I am not normally a slob. I have lovely piles of cookbooks and small piles of this and that on a regular basis but, in general when the world isn't lopsided I'm fairly tidy.

Yes, my husband is sick. Mister is more important than anything the super woman might have on her list of things to do. She can have her stepford wife world of perfection and I will schleppe along with the best part of my everyday. My Mister.

I wonder if a super women still arrives with a perfectly pressed blouse and maintains a certain amount of dignity in these situations or does the shit hit the fan at her house too?

Sunday, May 4, 2014

So are the days of our lives...

You`re looking at one happy dog. It's useless to plant anything in this corner of my new ( still forming) bed. He has claimed this corner under the lilac bush. Squatters rights ya know.

In other news, after reading what seemed like a nice lemon loaf cake recipe, I baked last night. Epic fail. Was it me or the recipe? Who knows for certain. I have been a bit impaired these days due to, well life. No whining because...I have a happy dog who has a shady lilac bush to lay under.

ISO a fantastic lemon loaf cake recipe.

 The bookshelves are a better source for reliable baking success. A mutiny will form at my house if I don't find something good among the pages of my many cookbooks. Redemption is in order. My family smelled the lemon cake baking and woke up to a lovely iced loaf on the cake plate and were met with a custard like UN-enjoyable mess.

My mom gave me a recipe for a breakfast bundt cake that is just simply divine. It calls for a boxed cake mix (eww shudder in horror) and a box of instant pudding ( I can hear the nay saying from here) Listen here you food purists.. sometimes real people have to make use of convenience items. Anyhow, the failed lemon loaf cake recipe reminded me of my Mom's cinnamon and nut cake. The ingredients were similar. I think it was that damned cheap box of cake mix I used.

Let me shock you with this bit of news.  I never rarely bake cupcakes from scratch. Cupcakes are a pain in my behind to start with. It's a fair estimate that I have baked and frosted 5,000 cupcakes in the course of raising 4 kids. I would rather buy them any day then stand there and scoop batter into little paper cups. So, the last thing I want to do is measure ingredients. I buy a cake mix and then shoot for a good homemade frosting. I detest canned frosting. So, there is no pretentious confusion. A good store bought cake mix is of no shame. Unless, it's carrot cake. Come on, use real carrots and make a good one.

Our carrots are planted in one of the raised vegetable beds. Economically speaking this isn't a crop to plant in the home garden purely to save money on your grocery bill. The taste however of home grown carrots is far superior to store bought. Few crops give me as much pleasure as digging up the root vegetables.

Tucker (the dog) has claimed his corner of my flower bed, which I can accept. My carrot bed is another thing. If I find paw prints in my carrot bed he is gonna have some splainin' to do. Right after he stops liking the lemon loaf cake off his chops.

I hope your world held a little sunshine this weekend.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Just in case!

When my kids were little and we left the house for the day we would pack a day bag. We always used the expression "Let's pack this because of our old buddy Justin... Justin Case" We would pack a few things just in case we needed them.

Today, I needed to be reminded of the proverb of walking away if you don't like what people are saying. So in honor of my old buddy Justin Case, I'm posting this reminder to myself.
I have had weeks and weeks of dealing with people whom it has been hard for me to determine if they are friend or foe. In personal relationships and professional.

I have met a few good doctors and have come across a few who have just incited panic into my world. Mister has been sick. My Mom is aging. This brings a lot of opinions.
Tomorrow I will listen with my feet!