Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Smoking up the neighborhood today. I am smoking up two turkeys and a ham for my second-oldest daughter's wedding on New Year's Eve. I am very excited for her, but I don't remeber my wedding being this stressful. Cripes there certainly are pleny of thing to do (and buy) in order to pull one of these things off...
Saturday, December 26, 2009
I cannot recall the last time we have had such great weather over the holidays... I am sure it is not that rare, but after two years of record-breaking winters, this past few days of warm sunshine (realitively speaking) have been wonderful.
I took the dogs running for a couple of hours today at Black Bay Park. The sun and wildlife were stunning. A young deer has made its home there at the park for the present, but you'll have to look closely to find it. And literally hundreds and hundreds of mallards and geese speckle the Spokane River... when the massive flocks fly over head, you can hear their wings shattering the crisp air with a faint but disernable whistle ...
I found a sunny spot and sat for awhile. I cracked an ice cold beer and watched the sun sink very quickly into the afternoon while it stretched long shadows across the landscape... The pups and I were among those long shadows for awhile... It was quite a beautiful day.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
I remember growing up in a family that not only gardened and preserved food but also did quite a lot of baking....especially during the holidays. After my two brothers and I had grown up and moved out of the house my mother began a tradition of baking us a loaf or two of pumpkin bread every Christmas. It is a wonderful recipe and I believe she made it her own over the years by tweaking a few ingredients here and there.
Being young and of course broke, us kids welcomed the baked goods. In fact, I know that is why she did it. She always taught us that you should save money any way you could and she was always teaching us lessons through her own actions....always setting the example. Looking back I appreciate the long hours she worked in the kitchen to make us that bread. It was definitely made with love.
Last year mom passed away and the holidays have been an especially difficult time for my family. I spent the last couple of days feeling pretty down and yesterday I happened to be cleaning out some kitchen drawers and saw her pumpkin bread recipe. I realized in that moment that she would not want me to be sad for her. Instead she would want me to have a wonderful holiday with friends and family and she would expect that I carry out her pumpkin bread tradition. With that, I got busy and so far 8 loaves down and only 4 to go....only one change to the recipe and that is I used our pumpkin that was grown in the family garden.... The tradition carries on ....love you mom. (Actually posted by Sunny under Bent's account again... still tweaking the blog ;-)
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Since I'm not one to let obstacles stand in my way when I really want something....I decided to try growing a few plants indoors. There is no extra cost to heat and light is all you need...what I found though was that grow lights (like the metal halide variety) can be pretty expensive to operate not to mention the cost of the bulbs.... sounds like just another obstacle trying to keep me from my gardening passion....Well, I did my research and found that many people grow veggies indoors all year round with LED lights. They are way cheaper to run as they use 45 watts yet put out as much light as many of the metal halides.
The light that I purchased was about $135 but the bulb life is over 50,000 hours.... I would say that's pretty impressive. My light covers 5 square feet which isn't a lot but if it works then that's fine by me.... I will just buy another one for added coverage... but shhhhh...don't tell hubby.
So far, as you can see (on the sidebar to the right) my tomatoes are doing quite well. In fact, I will need to transplant them soon as they are about 3 inches high. As the plants mature I will keep them pruned by pinching off the new stems that pop up between the branches (called "suckers"). This will make sure they stay compact and put most of their energy into fruit production. The difficulty in growing indoors is to not overwater. If you get too much moisture in the soil you can get mold or something called damping off disease. To avoid this I provide a lot of water at one time rather than watering in small frequent quantities.
Also, I will provide a small amount of diluted organic fertilizer when I transplant to give the plants an extra boost. The tomato plants need approximately 14 to 18 hours of sunlight or they will never produce fruit. Lettuce is less picky....I have grown it in a sunny windowsill during the winter months and it has done fine.
Currently, I have two types of tomatoes, two types of lettuce and one type of cucumber growing in the container. I will also start some herbs in the next couple of days....many herbs will do fine in a sunny windowsill so I won't need to keep them under the light full time. Regardless of how this experiment goes, I will keep posting pictures as the weeks go by..... and hopefully we will be eating homegrown closet tomatoes by February. If not, well then I will call it a nice distraction from the winter months.....happy growing!
This is actually posted by Sunny (I was on Bent's account for maintence purposes).
Friday, December 4, 2009
I came across this video on Keyhole gardening....I had never heard of it before so I went and checked it out. I have some regular raised beds but I am definitely going to try this next spring.
Click here for another cool gardening idea that I found online: the potato box. The idea is to save space in the garden by planting the potatoes in boxes and you keep covering the foilage with dirt as they grow and this gives the roots more depth which will allow for more potato production. I am having my son help me make two of these for the family garden. This last summer our potatoes did quite well just planted in the ground but doing it that way takes up space. And the more space we save ...the more veggies we can grow......We won several ribbons at the fair for our potatoes including the Super One award so we have the basics of potato growing down...but there is always room for improvement!
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
I have done a lot of research on what grows best indoors and how to pollinate plants as there are no bees around to complete that task. I decided to start with some basic plants to see if this will be worth my time in the first place....so I planted tomatoes and lettuce. So far, both have germinated and appear to be doing well.
Lighting is one of the most important aspects of growing indoors....without proper light your tomatoes will be weak and lanky and probably never flower...My LED light is supposed to cover 5 square feet and I'm probably not utilizing all that space but this is just an experiment. The light should be a few inches above the seedlings to make them grow strong and compact. If the light is too far away the plants will literally reach toward the light and become very lanky. The nice thing about this type of light is that it does not produce heat so you don't need to worry about "frying" the seedlings. I will transplant the tomato plants into larger containers once they get their first set of true leaves. The lettuce will need to be thinned and I will probably move it to another container as well.
To start the seedlings I used a plastic storage bin and poked holes in the bottom for drainage. I purchased a regular bag of potting soil for a few dollars...you don't want to use garden soil for growing indoors as it is usually to dense and will compact which won't allow for proper drainage. Also, you risk the chance of bringing microscopic bugs indoors which could compromise the health of your plants.
The temperature indoors should be around 70 degrees or more for the ideal germination environment. Later, as the plants mature, you may need to adjust the temperature depending on what you are growing. Some plants like it hot.... and some like it cold. I will keep updating the blog as I venture further into the world of indoor vegetable growing...it should be interesting... if I am successful I may need to devote an entire room to plants.. :) My family loves me...good thing... as I tend to have gardening paraphernalia all over the house all year long....
Speaking of all the garden paraphernalia, I am always looking for ways to keep my gardening supplies in some kind of order...and I happened upon this web site called http://wintersown.org/that had these templates for making your own seed packets. You simply print them out and cut and tape or glue them closed. Then you can label them and store your favorite seeds. I am thinking about using them for Christmas labels. That way I can personalize them and share my favorite seed with friends and family.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
This pressure canner is extremely heavy when you get it all loaded and you can't use it on a regular stove top...lucky for us we have a gas range with metal grates... and it takes up two burners!
This was a practice run season for gardening and canning as next year we are ramping it up with the addition of another 24 by 80 feet of garden space and 2 additional raised beds. We got a good idea of when our various crops will need to be harvested and also how to plant in succession so we also get fall crops. I wanted to see how much I could produce so that next season I can sell at the farmer's market. I would also like to grow various crops for people who enjoy fresh veggies but hate to garden...(Hard to imagine that people hate to garden :) I already have a few takers on this idea so I am very excited....I am also considering taking orders for vegetable baskets in which the customer would get a basket of vegetables and or flowers on a predetermined schedule and delivered straight to their front door. I am also interested in growing some vegetables to provide to the local food bank. This year we had an abundance of tomatos and cucumbers (I grew over 100 plants each) so I gave quite a lot to the Post Falls food bank...It feels good to give especially when it is fresh garden veggies that you grew yourself....
I have already began the garden plans for next year and I am also investigating hydroponic gardening so I could grow some veggies year round. We are going to build a few potato boxes and a composter for next year... I saw some pictures of potato boxes online and they seem pretty cool. You can expect 50 to 150 pounds of potatos from each box so we will give it a try.....When it comes to gardening we are always thinking of ways to improve next year's yield.
For now though...it's back to the kitchen as we still have 4 rows of carrots to clean and can. :)
Monday, October 12, 2009
Thursday, October 8, 2009
We spent the last few weekends slowly taking down the garden and harvesting everything. It is sad to see summer go but then again it allows us time to start planning for the next gardening season. And we will definitely need more planning time since we are expanding the garden next year!!!! I couldn't believe my ears when my dad said "so how much bigger do you want the garden?" A bigger garden means taking up more of his beautiful lush green pasture that he keeps so perfectly groomed. He said it would just mean less for him to mow!!! I didn't argue.
The expansion is going to be about a 24 wide by 100 or so feet long. It will extend to the right of the above photo and it will leave room in the back for another raised bed or two. We will have to put up another electric fence around the expansion in order to keep the pesky deer out. The deer could easily jump this fence but so far the electricity has kept them from coming too close.
My lovely sister-in-law grew these petunias and the super sized marigolds (all from seed) in the raised beds behind her. These were no ordinary flowers let me tell ya...The petunias were supposed to be just your typical petunia but they literally took over the entire raised bed and were flowing over the sides. Dad had to tie them up so he could mow around them. Petunias were one of my moms favorite flowers so she may have had a hand in this :)
We hated having to tear them out. As you can see they were still in full bloom...but they shared the raised bed with the strawberries.... and the strawberries created so many new shoots that we figured we should get busy transplanting them. Slowly we have removed most everything from the garden except the perennial herbs , strawberries and the giant pumpkins.
The pumpkins were just an experiment this year but they really turned out great... In fact, my dad started a family contest to see who could guess the weight and the winner receives $20. We got some frost this week so I'm guessing we will pluck them from the vine this weekend and do the weigh in. Next year we are going to try and beat the new world record and grow some Atlantic Giants... :) Just kiddin dad. We are also going to add some pie pumpkins to the mix next year as Jeff recently learned to make pumpkin pie from scratch and it turned out quite delicious.
Friday, October 2, 2009
Grandpa started a contest for all the
grandkids...they have to guess the weight of the largest pumpkin and whoever guesses correctly wins $20....I anticipate the weigh-in to be in mid October and keep in mind these were gaining 2 or more pounds per day in August.
Next year we are going to try growing Atlantic Giants and see how big we can get them. Apparently, they can grow over a thousand pounds...wow... me might have to expand the garden even more!! We also want to grow a few pie pumpkins ( the smaller variety are supposedly better tasting for pie purposes). I think I will also look into other pumpkin recipes so if anyone has ideas please let me know.
Sunday, September 20, 2009
Anyway, I have been studying tomato soup recipes to get feel for what I want to make and I incorporated bits and pieces from several recipes. This recipe is my first-ever crack at tomato soup, and it turned out pretty darn good. I encourage you to try it, but add a twist or two to make it your own ... It's much more fun that way ;-)
When I am studying recipes I am looking to steal tricks, ingredients and techniques to make my own recipes. I'm an eyeball cooker -- I usually wing it -- but that doesn't mean I'm lazy. To the contrary, I become immersed in cooking. Actually, when I started writing tonight, I realized there is sort of a method to my madness. All I had to do was stop and think about it. This blogging stuff ha sits benefits. Any how, here is how my mind works when I jump into a cooking challenge
To the 'net for recipes and flavor and then to the books for safe cooking and preservation.
First, I'm look for commonalities among all the recipes I read. I am looking for a base. For instance, pretty much every recipe I found for tomato soup had, of course, tomatoes, but also carrots, onions, celery and chicken stock.
Next, I look at proportions. Most recipes are written for a meal, but with 40 pounds of cherry tomatoes on the kitchen table I need an industrial size recipe, so I start eyeballing recipes for proportions. In this case, I noticed that a lot of the recipes called for carrots at a ratio of 2:1... meaning that for every two cups of tomatoes, most recipes call for one cup of chopped carrots, and so on... so that is how I developed my soup recipes, which I'll post below in proportional terms.
Then I look for unique ingredients. I found a few really cool recipes. One had bacon in it, another used potatoes in the base, and a couple of them started with oven-roasted tomatoes. I didn't use potatoes this time, but I might next time. I did, however, incorporate bacon and I decided to fire-roast and smoke my tomatoes. (note: if you make this recipe and decide to can it, you will have to pressure can it because of the bacon. Or you could leave the bacon out and hot bath your jars).
So here is how I did it. I started out with 45 cups of cherry tomatoes and laid them out on cookie sheets. I liberally salted them and peppered them with fresh ground black pepper. I put mine on the BBQ with hickory chips and smoked them for about 30 minutes. You could also put them in a 400 degree oven for about the same amount of time. What this does is increase the bioavailability, or the body's ability to absorb the lycopene in the tomatoes. (I know, I even impressed myself with that one). Why is that important? Lycopene is an antioxidant and is widely believe to help prevent certain cancers, particularly prostate cancer. The roasting also makes your tomatoes taste much more rich and intense...
I decided to go 1:4 with my carrots. I used about 11 cups for this recipe. So for every four cups of raw tomatoes, you would use 1 cup of raw chopped carrots. Then I went 1:8 for the celery and onions. for every eight cups of tomatoes, I used one cup of chopped celery and one cup of chopped onions. In this recipe I used roughly six cups of each. BTW, don't bother chopping too small because your going to blend it all in the end
In a large sauce pan saute the onions until they are opaque. Then toss in the carrots and celery. Add enough chicken stock to barely cover the vegetables in the pot. I used a full 49.5-ounce can of stock for this recipe. Bring this to a boil and simmer until the vegetables are tender.
I added a quarter cup of fresh chopped basil into two separate stock pots (I think they are 3-gallon pots), and I split up all of the ingredients equally into each pot. I did this to make things more manageable, plus I wanted to do two types of soup ... one spicy, and one mild for Sunny's dad. Anyway, now you have your soup base.
I decided to flavor this soup with bacon and a variety of peppers. Since I had the grill fired up, I went ahead and smoked them too. I probably smoked a dozen Serrano peppers and a half dozen jalapenos ... I also smoked yellow and green bells for the mild soup.
I left the seeds in, except for the bell peppers. I decided to add the peppers to taste, which is touchy because you won't get the full heat effect until this soup hits the blender... so go easy. We used everything except four of the Serranos, and the spicy soup is pretty spicy. I would use about four to six bell peppers in the mild batch depending on taste. The bacon was split evenly between the two pots (I grilled the bacon with all of the peppers on top of them, which added a very mild tingle to the tongue).
Once you have all the ingredients in, cover and bring the pots to a boil. Make sure to stir frequently to prevent scorching. Remove lid, reduce heat and simmer with lid off to reduce mixture to about 2/3 of its original volume. That will take about 45 minutes, but don't start timing until you reach a full boil. Frequent stirring is essential here to prevent scorching. I also used a potato masher periodically at this stage to help break down the soup.
When the watery liquid on top of the soup is pretty much gone, you are ready to blend. (The picture to the left is just about ready). I puree the mixture in batches and pour into a large bowl. Then I pressed the puree back into the stock pots through a small- to medium-sized sieve that caught most of the seeds and skin fragments.
Slowly bring that mixture back up to an easy boil --stirring constantly -- and add 1/2 cup of brown sugar until dissolved. Salt, pepper and season to taste at this stage. Keep in mind that if you plan to can this, you will have to acidify the soup with with one tablespoon of lemon juice per pint (or some other form of citric acid or even vinegar), which will be added at the jarring stage. Make sure the sweetness is high enough to off set the lemon juice. I was out of Worcestershire sauce, and I would have used it here as well. (But I'll have to add some when I'm ready to serve).
When the flavors are right, most recipes called for cooling the soup. I put it the the refrigerator overnight. To can it, I added one tablespoon of lemon juice per pint and filled my jars leaving at least one half inch of head space. Secure lids fingertip tight and pressure cook for 90 minutes at 15 pounds pressure above 2000 feet. I go 90 minutes for quarts, and 75 minutes for pints to make sure the bacon is preserved, plus with this kind of soup I think longer processing is better for the flavor. (BTW, you need to adjust times or weights accordingly at other altitudes).
If you leave the bacon out, you can hot bath process the soup for 30 minutes (I just like to be safe with tomatoes). You could also pressure can for 20 minutes at 15 pounds.
To serve warm up the soup in a sauce pan and add Worcestershire sauce and other seasonings to taste. Dollup with sour cream and guacamole or straight avacado, sprinkle with parmesan cheese and garnish with basil .
Serve with grilled ham and cheese sandwhiches...it helps if you smoke your own ham!
Let me know if you try this and I would be happy to help you adjust the recipe to your tastes. Heck, I'll be adjusting it myself. Just leave a comment and I'll respond...
Sunday, September 6, 2009
Man, I just trekked back to the beginning of this blog and it dawned on me just how useful this will be in timing out our garden next year. As we head into full harvest mode, and the corn stalks come down, we can always drift back in time on this blog. I am glad I started it...
So, I guess I'll have to start blogging about our canning now. We have already put up some pickles and zucchini. I have also been experimenting with canned meats! I usually cut my own steaks, so I have a bunch of scraps that I save up and I usually just grind a bunch of hamburger with it. But I decided to try canning some, and it turned out great. The meat ends up fork tender.
I dumped a pint in a sauce pan, a couple of days ago, along with the canning liquid and thickened it with a little corn starch. I put it over toast and it was awesome. I just did a little chicken and beef last night, so I'll be trying that out soon, as well. It is a little tricky canning the fattier meats. You have to keep the right head space in the jars to prevent the fat from affecting the seal.
Once I get it down, I am going to buy some inexpensive meat and start canning the crap out of it. It would be great to come home from work and heat up some canned meat for stroganoff or a quick soup... Oh, the possibilities are endless.
Now, I better find a couple of canning recipes for all those tomatoes you see in the picture above. I'll likely do spaghetti sauce, pizza sauce, and salsa...
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
We took a few ribbons at the fair this year. I posted them separately, but I wasn't thinking. I posted the third place at the top of the blog, so you'll have to scroll down to see the blues...
BTW, if you go to the fair looking for these, our family entered everything except my beer under my father-in-law's name, Jim Baillie.
The white corn was wasn't quite filled out yet, but in talking with other gardeners this year, many said their yellow corn hasn't even come in yet, so I entered it because I didn't think there would be much competition. I was right. We had the only white corn, and the third place reflects the youngness I believe.
When our sister-in-law said she was planting Marigolds I thought she meant the regular ones. When these babies came up I thought she got a pack of nuclear seeds. Turns out this is a popular flower...even though I don't recall ever seeing one before! BTW, those flowers are almost the size of a softball.
If you add in the Super One Foods Ribbon we won with this entery, we took in a total of 10 ribbons this year. Pretty good showing for 25 enteries from the garden. This was our first year competing, and we learned a lot too. Watch out; next year we are going to rock that fair!
Oh, and BTW, my beer didn't do so hot. There were a lot of categories where no ribbons were awarded. I don't know why, but oh well... I'll try again at the Spokane fair, if I get the time to do it...
Sunday, August 16, 2009
We harvested a ton of corn, peppers and cucumbers yesterday. The garden is really maturing and the cool weather seems to have given it some additional strength. I think we'll wind up with a quite a haul this year. Does anyone need any cucumbers?
I went to Costco yesterday and bought a Foodsaver vacuum packing machine. It rocks. We blanched and froze a bunch of the corn we picked. I also have 41.5-quart pressure canner coming in the mail on Wednesday. I can't wait for that! It will can 19 quart jars at one time, and I think it will hold 32 pint jars! That is going to be a big time saver... just in time for the tomato harvest which should be in full swing within a couple of weeks.
Here is a picture of yesterday's haul...
Thursday, August 13, 2009
It's still early, but What The Huck is coming around. I hope I used enough berries. The taste is nice, but it doesn't scream huckleberry yet. I may have over hopped it and drowned out the huckleberry edge. But, there are still some sugars to deal with too. Once the sweetness fades, it may still come through. Definitely a drinkable beer nonetheless... I just hope it defines itself a little more by Sunday.
Stickman is going to love this batch of Faux Stella as well. It is probably the best batch I have made. It is a Really, Realy nice Lager. I am definitely going to enter this beer in the fair. If anyone wants to try these meet me in Stickman's driveway Sunday a 6 p.m. Hey marmite, I tried to send some from a US Postal Service station but they said I could send beer through the mail. I'll investigate further. There has to be some way to ship beer over seas...
Saturday, August 8, 2009
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Not this year, though. I have two plants. That pumpkin in the picture already weighs 30 pounds! The beauty is, we have another two and a half months to grow this baby...
BTW, we ate that ear in the picture. It was awesome. The cobs are really tender, and just like pretty much everything else, you just can't buy this quality in a grocery store!
Sunday, August 2, 2009
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Thanks to Taryn and Phil, we'll be tipping back an awesome huckleberry hefeweizen by late August! I'll be needing some help naming this one. I usually have my beers named before I even start brewing, but not this time. I'm stumped. This is going to be a great beer, so it needs a great name... Any ideas?
Sunday, July 26, 2009
Saturday, July 25, 2009
Friday, July 17, 2009
On July 17th, Sunny and I visited our beautiful, family garden in Coeur d' Alene today. We both had a blast as we gardened in the scorching, 95 degree heat on our day off. Mom and I stepped into the garden and and were shocked to see everything as enormous as it was. And, if you know me, you should know that the thing I check first are the carrots. I have been waiting to pull any yet, but I had a feeling that today was a good day to do so. So, I tugged and tugged on one 'til it popped right out of the soil. I was so thrilled that I scrambled to the water faucet to rinse it off. And, right as I was about to chomp it down, my brain stopped me and screamed, "Wait!! Take a picture!" So, I snatched my camera from the tabletop and shot a photo of this beauty!!!
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
My guess? She's rockin' her own blog in couple of months;-) Nice job... sweetness!
BTW, Daisy Girl has been responsible for much of the "striking" photography on this blog from its inception... but you could probably deduce that. Apparently, she will be providing some very decent prose, as well. (((proud parent hug)))
This winding clematis creepily crawls up the fence post, as if it were determined to reach a certain destination. Clematis are simply dazzling. These lovely beauties actually remind me of my mother, Sunny, for a few reasons. One reason, they are absolutely beautiful, as is mother. Two, just as my momma does, they lovingly surround the family to create a positive, enthusiastic atmosphere. Personally, I believe clematis are one of the greatest flowers to ever sprout!!
The photo below shows the wonderfully FULL herb garden in my backyard in Post Falls, Idaho. If you know Bent and Sunny, my parents, as well as I do then you should know that they go absolutely insane when planting seeds. Like, for example, if we make a quick stop at the store, and the store sells flowers/seeds, my mom is sorta like, "We need a little bit of this...Oh! And a LOT a bit of that....Oh yeah, and maybe we should try this!!" ...And even though we didn't even go to the store for flowers/seeds, our cart is overflowing with them....ALWAYS. Now, I am not saying that her obsession is a bad thing or anything... just thought that information was essential....