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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

LAST OF THE GARDEN ~~ PARTING SHOT

LAST OF THE GARDEN

This past week was a flurry of activity as Linda & I did our best to get the last of the garden produce put away for the winter. In the midst of doing that, I decided to dehydrate some peaches. Linda had gotten a few really big ones, so I figured they would be good ones to dehydrate. I blanched them to get the peelings off, sliced them and then put them in some lemon water. I laid the slices out on the dehydrator tray and 11 hours later we had peach chips! They were pretty good, although a bit chewy.


I still had 3 nice-sized zucchini left from the garden, so I decided to dehydrate a couple of them. I sliced them up, sprinkled with some salt & paprika, and set the dehydrator going. About 8 hours later they were done. I think these were the best zucchini chips I have made yet.


I still had a whole zucchini left, and I found another half of one in the fridge (they hide everywhere), so I decided to cook them with some butter and onions and put them in our almost-full freezer. We will certainly enjoy that in the middle of winter.

 


Since we had picked all of the peppers the previous week, I still had a lot of bell, Shishito, and banana peppers left. Linda really liked the Red Bell Pepper jelly I made her, so I made another batch, only this one was green. It came out really good, so I think she is set for jelly all winter.



We went to our local fruit stand and they had a few peaches left there, so we got a few of them. Idecided to make a peach cobbler. The only problem was that I didn’t have any milk, and the recipe called for a cup. I happened to have some Caramel Peacan flavored liquid creamer in the fridge, so I used that. The cobbler came out pretty good, although nowhere near as good as my Aunt Grace’s, the golden standard by which all cobblers are judged. However, because I used the creamer, it was a bit on the sweet side. I figure if we put vanilla ice cream on it, that it will make a nice winter treat for us some cold afternoon. Into the freezer it went.





 About the last thing we took up in the garden was the beets. Linda got out there and dug them up and we had a half bucket full. We cleaned them and boiled them, then I slid the peels off, sliced them up, and pickled them. I can attest that they were pretty doggone good!



PARTING SHOT

Summer Girl is on vacation this week, but she has agreed to let the little Hab stand in for her under the Parting Shot. The little rascal has finally TURNED RED!



Wednesday, October 11, 2017

ONE PERFECT ROSE ~ GARDEN UPDATE ~ RECIPE OF THE WEEK-COWBOY CANDY ~ PARTING SHOT

ONE PERFECT ROSE


When Linda and I moved out to Yakima in 2007, we brought with us some of the plants that we had at our house in Lumberton. Some of them lived and some of them didn't make it here, but the one I am most happy about is one of my mother's roses. We actually transplanted this rose from her house on 14th Street over to our house on 17th Street. It did pretty good there, so when we moved out here we brought a couple of small cuttings with us. I am happy to report that both of them lived and have been doing very well in the Yakima weather. They actually do better here than they ever did at our house in Lumberton. Below is a picture of one of the roses. I call this my "perfect" rose because whenever I look at the flowers on this plant, it reminds me of my mother.

The Mary Rose
Another plant we brought with us was a variegated Solomon's Seal. We had this plant and another native Solomon's Seal at our house, but we only brought a piece of the variegated variety. We planted it and the next spring we had one lone Solomon's Seal come up. Over the years it has multiplied, and below is a picture of the area where it finally settled in. The changing weather makes the leaves on these plants so stunning this time of year.
Change of Season Colors


GARDEN UPDATE


This week Linda and I finished taking down the garden. I did a lot of last-minute cooking of produce so I am just about done with that. I still need to dig up the zucchini and tomatillo plants, but that won't take long. We got about two buckets full of tomatoes and Linda was able to stew up another pot of those for this winter. I gave some to a friend of ours and the rest are on the card table in hopes that they will ripen up.

Fried green tomatoes, anyone?
I know everyone is wondering about the little Hab (yeah, right). Since we had a couple of nights that went down to freezing this week, I cut it off near the bottom of the main stem and put it in a glass of water in the window in our living room so it would get some light. Believe it or not, it is starting to turn red!

The little Hab, hanging in there

After we were done with taking down the garden, I discovered why my plants produce so well. I have a green thumb, plus four fingers!

Getting my hands dirty

RECIPE OF THE WEEK - COWBOY CANDY


After I pulled up all the pepper plants, I had about a half bucket of hot peppers (jalapeno and Anaheim peppers), plus another half bucket of the mild peppers (bell, banana, and Shishito peppers). The mild peppers are going to be made into another batch of jelly for Linda. I decided to make some pickled hot peppers and also one of my favorite things, Cowboy Candy. I used this recipe here from the website Old World Garden Farms. I have used different recipes over the years for this, but this was a new one so I gave it a try. I was quite pleased with the results as they were pretty hot. Now they need to sit in the fridge and cure for a couple of weeks. Here is what the finished product looks like.

Mighty tasty!

PARTING SHOT


As we move further into fall, the weather gets increasingly colder. So, it only stands to reason that during this time, Summer Girl gets increasingly inside. At least she can sit in the window, watch the birdies, and pretend like she is still outside.



That's all for this week!

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

REFRIGERATOR MAGNETS ~ PEPPER SAUCE UPDATE ~ BELL PEPPER JELLY ~ ZUCCHINI BACON ~ WINTER SQUASH ~ MULTI-TASKING ~ PARTING SHOT

REFRIGERATOR MAGNETS


Our next-door neighbors went on a fishing trip to Alaska last month and brought us back a magnet as a souvenir, as well as a beautiful piece of salmon. We always ask anybody who is traveling to bring us a magnet so we can put it on our refrigerator door. We collected quite a few ourselves during our truck trip out west in 2007 before we moved. We have so many now that Linda has to rotate them ever so often. Here is a picture of our refrigerator door as it is right now. The new Alaska one is the second from the top left.

Some of our magnets

Here's a picture of two magnets from opposite ends of the US.

Alaska (top) and Key West (bottom)
Out of all the refrigerator magnets that we have, I think this one below is my absolute favorite, for obvious reasons. Linda's sister gave it to us.

Sure, why not!

PEPPER SAUCE UPDATE


On my last blog I was in the process of making some of my jalapeno hot pepper sauce. I just wanted to give you an update and let you know that it came out great, and I actually got to make another batch, too. Here is a picture of the finished product.

Yes, it's hot!

BELL PEPPER JELLY


I usually make a recipe of jalapeno jelly every summer, but this year I still had some from last year leftover in the freezer, so I'm not going to make it again. However, I decided to make some Red Pepper Jelly for Linda, since she doesn't like the hot stuff. I had to use a large red bell pepper that I had bought at the local fruit stand because none of my bell peppers turned red this year. I also used several yellow banana peppers and a few red shishito peppers. None of these are hot peppers. I followed this recipe from the Inspired by Charm website. I picked this recipe because it used a little less sugar than other recipes I found. It turned out great and Linda loves it! Jelly is always an iffy thing to make because sometimes it doesn't set right. I made some jalapeno jelly one time a few years ago that turned out to be as hard as a brick. I had to microwave the jars to even get it out of them. I don't know what went wrong that time, but I haven't had a failure like that since then. I am always secretly ecstatic when it comes out right. Here is a picture of the Red Pepper Jelly I made for Linda.

Looks like we have a red theme going on here


ZUCCHINI BACON


My zucchini plant has been an true champion this year. I went out and picked four large zucchini yesterday, and already had two on the back porch. It has produced so many zucchini that one of my major quests this summer has been to find recipes to use it all up. My favorite recipe so far has to be Zucchini Bacon. This is made by thin slicing the zucchini on a mandoline, soaking it in a marinade, and then dehydrating it. I used this recipe from the website Cooking the Deals. I mainly went with this recipe because it was posted by a lady from the Facebook dehydrating group that I belong to. It takes about 28 hours to dehydrate, but when it is done it is absolutely delicious! I have done four batches so far. I store it by wrapping several pieces at a time in a sandwich bag and then put the sandwich bags in a freezer bag, which goes into the freezer. It only takes a couple of minutes to thaw out and you have nice, tasty "bacon." Of course, this stuff doesn't taste exactly like real bacon, but it is a nice substitute. And it is crispy enough, like real bacon. Here is the process in pictures, with the final result as I used it several times this week.

These 2 large zucchini filled up my dehydrator
Zucchini bacon and tomato sandwich, on white bread with mayo - heaven!

WINTER SQUASH


Right beside my zucchini plant is my Delicata squash plant, a type of winter squash. These plants do not start producing until fall comes. However, this plant has been the exact opposite of the zucchini as far as production. In its defense, it got a late start because something ate the first plants that came up from the seed I planted. So, I had to plant more seed and wait for those to germinate, which seemed to take forever. I planted the seed in a pot so the plants wouldn't get eaten again, and after the two plants got to be a nice size, I transplanted them into the ground. They never really grew very much from that point on, and a couple of days ago we noticed that one of the plants was dead. It had a small squash on it, so I picked it and brought it in. The other plant has only one squash on it, and it is about twice the size of the one I picked. That isn't saying much, though. Here is a picture of the squash I picked, with a toothpick beside it for size comparison.

Pitiful!
I don't know if I'll be able to eat all that in one sitting...


MULTI-TASKING


It's a good thing I got a lot of training and experience in multi-tasking during my working days because I sure use it now. For instance, today before noon I made a double batch of Zucchini Bacon marinade, sliced a huge zucchini and let it marinate for an hour, placed it on the dehydrator trays and set it up in the garage. Also during that time I got my smoker going and loaded it up with five Johnsonville Hatch Chili sausages and five Beer Brat sausages. Plus, I mixed up the ingredients for a loaf of Chocolate Zucchini Bread and got that in the oven. And, I mixed up a jar of Jalapeno Vinaigrette salad dressing. I also started working on my blog while I was waiting for the zucchini bread to finish baking. All the while I was washing up dishes to make space for the next thing I was going to do. By the time lunchtime rolled around, I was pooped. While I was doing all this in the kitchen, Linda was out in the garden picking Red Cherry tomatoes and pulling up those plants. That was a big help as we need to get all the plants up before the end of next week. As her reward for being so good to me, she's going to get a nice slice of chocolate zucchini bread this afternoon. The garden is starting to look pretty sad, but despite the late start and all the hazy, smoky days that hampered production, I can be thankful for one thing. We did not have a problem with squash bugs or stink bugs this year. That was such a relief not to have to battle them every day. Here is a picture of the garden now. It looks funny with that huge bare area where the onions, potatoes, and the red cherry tomato plants were.

A sad sight

I know most of you are just wondering what happened with the little Hab (no?). Well, it is still hanging in there. It actually has four peppers on it, but sadly none of them have turned red. The biggest one still may be able to ripen but I'm not sure. At least it is in a pot so I can move it onto the back porch if we have a freeze in the next couple of weeks. Keep your fingers crossed that it will finally be able to turn red (so I will quit talking about it). Here is a picture of the biggest pepper on the little Hab. It's about the size of a ping-pong ball.

My precious little Hab


PARTING SHOT


Now for the part of the blog I know you've all been waiting for...the Summer Girl! She is still outside most of the day doing her thing, and we all know her thing is sleeping. Here is a picture that Linda took of her yesterday, after waking her up from a nice nap. I wonder what she's thinking?

"Seriously? You woke me up for a picture?"

That's all for this week, please check back next week for more happenings around this part of the Northwest!




Wednesday, September 27, 2017

NO POST THIS WEEK

I'm sorry but there will not be a blog post this week. We are both too busy trying to get the garden plants picked and the produce processed, and we have even begun taking some plants up. I promise next week's post will be extra-special, so please stay tuned for that.  Thanks!

Here's a relaxing picture of Summer Girl to tide you over...


 

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

PEPPER SAUCE ~ POTATOES ~ CHOCOLATE ZUCCHINI BREAD ~ TEN YEARS AGO ~ PARTING SHOT

PEPPER SAUCE


The garden is almost done for this year so I am busy cooking up a storm to try and preserve as much of our produce as possible. One of my favorite things to make is a homemade pepper hot sauce. I use the recipe for "Sweep the Kitchen Hot Sauce" on the website Date Night Doins BBQ For Two (click here to go to the website and here for the recipe). I found this recipe several years ago and it has always turned out good. You can tweak it to your own taste because it is just a basic recipe for hot sauce. I changed it up a bit this year by adding a couple of carrots to the mix. It is simmering right now and is making the whole house smell delicious! I can't wait for it to get done so I can taste it.

Sweep the Kitchen Hot Sauce

POTATOES!


This past week Linda and I got out into the garden and started digging up our potatoes. I planted 20 potato plants this year, so we figured it was going to be quite a job to dig them all up. By now they have almost all turned brown so we know they are ready to dig up. We got through about half of the plants and were pleasantly surprised to find that we got about 5-6 large potatoes from each plant. Half of our plants were Yukon Gold potatoes and the other half were Red Potatoes. We found that the Red Potato plants had about 6 large potatoes under them and sometimes we would get a few small (new) potatoes. When we were halfway through the plants we decided to stop because our backs were starting to hurt. It is hard work, digging up potatoes! You have to make the hole wider than the plant so you can be sure not to cut through any potatoes under the ground. And we found that we had to dig down about a foot to find the potatoes underneath the plants. But our potato count for getting halfway through was 55 potatoes! We put them on newspaper in the tub in our guest bathroom so they could cure. The first thing I did was make some potato salad with the few that had cut marks. Or, as we say back South, "tater salad." It was delicious, made more so by the fact that it was our homegrown potatoes.

The first bucket full we dug up
The complete haul from our first digging


CHOCOLATE ZUCCHINI BREAD


The other day I had seven large zucchini staring me in the face and I knew I needed to do something with some of them. As soon as I get rid of a couple of them I discover I have three more to pick in the garden! But things have slowed down a bit so I am slowly catching up. There is one way to use up zucchini that I have always wanted to try and that is by making zucchini bread. So I gathered all the ingredients for Chocolate Zucchini Bread (click here for the recipe) from the website Inspired Taste.

Looks good enough to eat already!

You can't imagine how good this recipe is. It's called "bread" but let's face it, folks...it's cake. Does that look like bread to you? Decide for yourself.

Chocolate Zucchini Cake


TEN YEARS AGO 


Linda and I are continuing to celebrate our ten-year anniversary of being in Yakima. Every weekend during our drinkie-poo time (aka "cocktail hour"), I read an excerpt from my journal that I kept during that time. Here is a picture of my journal entry from September 15, 2007.

Journal Entry 09/15/07
We have also been looking at some of our video discs from back then as well. It is so nice to have the journal entry I read coincide with a video we just watched. It reminds us of how excited we were to be on a new adventure, moving to an area very different from where we both used to live. Yakima is worlds away from California and North Carolina in so many ways, and we have only begun to explore the many possibilities that this area of the country offers for recreation and entertainment. Now that we are retired, we are trying to regain some of that enthusiasm from ten years ago. We now have the time to revisit some of the places we went and also to go to places we haven't had a chance to visit yet. Here's to the continuing adventure!


PARTING SHOT


The little Summer Girl gave us a scare last week. I put her outside Wednesday night as usual around 9:00. The next morning when we got up she was not waiting at the back door to be let inside, like she usually is. We waited all morning and she didn't show up. We went outside and walked around the whole yard, looking under bushes and shrubs to see if she was hiding, calling out her name. Our worst fear was that she was somewhere hurt. Linda even walked around the neighborhood looking for her, but no Summer Girl was to be found. We waited all day and that evening and we didn't see her anywhere. We were both beside ourselves because we had no idea what else to do. Needless to say, we didn't sleep well that night. But the next morning when Linda went to the back door to check and see, there she was. I was still in bed asleep, but I woke up to hear Linda coming down the hall saying, "She's back! She's back!" What a relief! We were both so scared we had lost our sweet little kitty and we were definitely not ready to go through that again. For the remainder of that day, Summer Girl spent her time sleeping on the bed or the chair, two places she isn't usually allowed. It was very clear to us that wherever she was, she had been through an ordeal. But we were so glad to have her back she could have gotten away with anything!

Definitely off limits!
On her momma's chair, also off limits

That's all for this week, check back again next week to see what the three of us have been up to!





Wednesday, September 13, 2017

A SOUTHERN DELICACY ~ HAPPY PEPPER ~ GARDEN NINJA ~ PARTING SHOT

A SOUTHERN DELICACY


There are some recipes that are so "Southern" that they just aren't understood anywhere else in the country. People in other parts of the country just do not get the appeal of these recipes. Occasionally you will run across an enlightened person who understands, but this is rare. Today I have for you a recipe that is considered a southern delicacy which is only available in the summer. There are only three main ingredients in this recipe, and here they are below.

Three simple ingredients to experience Nirvana
Yes, my friends, it is the Classic Tomato Sandwich. I have been enjoying this delicacy for the past couple of weeks, ever since my Cherokee Carbon tomato plant produced some ripe tomatoes. As you can see in the picture, you start off with a good slicing tomato (use an heirloom variety if you can get it). An absolute must as the second ingredient is really, really fresh white bread. The way you can tell if it is really, really fresh is that it will stick to the roof of your mouth when you take a bite. I got the freshest white bread I could find, made by Franz Bakery. I get points for getting my bread from a somewhat local bakery, as Franz is based in the Northwest. Also, I get extra points for it not having High Fructose Corn Syrup. As the third ingredient, the traditional choice is Duke's Mayonnaise. Since I have not been able to find Duke's Mayonnaise anywhere around here, my backup choice is Kraft Reduced-Fat Olive Oil Mayonnaise. It is a decent substitute. Below is a step-by-step pictorial for making this fabulous recipe.

The main ingredient, a ripe tomato
Slather each slice of bread liberally with mayo

Add tomato slices and sprinkle with copious amounts of salt & pepper
Cut sandwich in half from corner to corner

There you have it. Ah, there is nothing quite like it! It is sad, though, that this can only be eaten in the summer because, as we all know, that is the only time you can get a good-tasting tomato.

HAPPY PEPPER


Every year I seem to get a chuckle when I go out to pick my peppers and I come across one like this:


I'm thinking this pepper was really happy to see me! Of course, it all depends on your perspective, because it may have just been doing a Jimmy Durante impression:


Either way, I got a laugh out of it!


GARDEN NINJA


I came across this Praying Mantis in one of our bushes the other day. I believe he is a Chinese Praying Mantis because he's so big. He must have been a good four inches long, and he was a brownish color instead of the usual green.

Ninja bug

He was keeping an eye on me as I was trying to get a good picture. I didn't want to get too close because he was so scary! If he had jumped on me, I would have done that "Oh my God, there's a bug on me" dance trying to get him off. Admit it, you know you've done that dance some time in your life. Especially if you live anywhere there are Palmetto Bugs, also known as Water Bugs or American Cockroaches. Ew, I don't even want to think about them. Thankfully, they are NOT here!


PARTING SHOT


Summer Girl has started coming into the house more lately. You would think she would have come in during the really hot time of the summer, when we were having triple digit temperatures. But no, she wanted to stay outside most of the time then. Now that the temperatures are cooling off a bit, she has started coming back in. Maybe she has decided that she needs to bless us with her presence more often, since she will really want to come in once it gets cold and that white stuff starts falling from the sky.

The little Princess


That's all for this week, be sure to check back next week!



Wednesday, September 6, 2017

FINALLY! ~ JALAPENO-INFUSED VODKA UPDATE ~ MORE DEHYDRATING ~ MYSTERIOUS HOLES IN THE YARD ~ PARTING SHOT

FINALLY!


The moment I have been patiently waiting for has finally arrived. My peppers are starting to turn red! I know it always takes a long time for them to do this, but this year it seems like it has taken a lot longer than usual. We have had some freaky weather what with the cooler spring, and now we have had higher than normal temperatures lately. So I am just glad that they are finally turning color. Tonight I plan to sauté several Shishito peppers in my cast iron fry pan on the grill, to go along with our lamb burgers.


Shishito pepper on left, Jalapeno pepper on right
Shishitos destined for the fry pan


While we are on the subject of the garden, I just have to mention that the one little pepper on the Little Hab is getting bigger! And, as if that wasn't good enough news, there is another one coming on! I talk to it every time I go out to the garden (yeah, I'm weird like that), and I tell it to please, please, please give me just ONE ripe less-heat Zavory Habanero pepper before the season ends. So far, the little plant is complying with my request.


I just might get a ripe one yet!

Something else of note out in the garden is that we finally have a bloom on our only big sunflower plant out there. I planted quite a few sunflower plants around the back planting area in early summer, but only one has produced a flower. However, this is one of those really big-headed sunflowers. I didn't get any of the Autumn Beauty (red) sunflowers to come up, so I guess I will have to settle for this one. It's about seven feet tall and the flower is probably ten inches across the petals.


Mammoth Sunflower in back yard

We have a sunflower in the front yard that is even taller than this one. It is almost as tall as the peak in the roof of our garage. We have such a mass of sunflowers in front that we can hardly get back and forth through them to get from the front door to the driveway!


Our tallest sunflower, so far


JALAPENO-INFUSED VODKA UPDATE


If you read my blog last week you will remember that I made some vodka infused with a couple of jalapeno peppers. Well, Friday night I decided to make myself a Bloody Mary using that vodka. I don't think I had ever had a Bloody Mary before, but I came across a recipe that called for a frozen ripe tomato off the vine, as well as tomato juice, so I went with that. I cut up one of my Cherokee Carbon tomatoes and put it in the freezer on Friday morning. When cocktail hour rolled around, I put the frozen tomato and the tomato juice, plus a few other ingredients into my blender and let it rip. The resulting cocktail was extremely thick. I do have to say that I wasn't expecting the drink to be as hot as it was. I had only let the jalapeno pepper infuse into the vodka for two and a half days. The recipe said to infuse it for at least three days, but warned against leaving it in any longer than a week. I'm here to say that I don't see how anybody could possibly drink it if it infused for a full week! Although the flavor was good, it was very, very hot. I could only stand to drink one of them. But, not to be outdone by a measly couple of jalapeno peppers, I decided to make a Vodka Tonic with the infused liquor on Saturday night. It must have been the fact that the tomato juice helped cut the heat, because this drink was even hotter than the Bloody Mary! I only made it past a few sips before I relented and made myself a proper Gin & Tonic drink. I froze the rest of the Vodka Tonic in an ice cube tray. If I ever get bold enough, I may try using one in a drink. I'm not sure I will ever be that bold. All I can say is, "Don't try this at home."

Bloody Mary...hotter than H-E Double Toothpicks!

MORE DEHYDRATING


I'm still on the dehydrating kick as it is a good way to preserve all of those Armenian Cucumbers that are coming off the garden right now. This week, though, I tried something a little bit different, dehydrating apple slices. Since we live in the heart of Washington Apple Country, we can get really good apples fairly cheap when in season. They are just starting to get some in at the local fruit shops, so Linda got a few extra this week for us to try dehydrating. I put them on last night around 7:00 and let the dehydrator run all night. When we got up this morning I checked on them and they were not crispy yet, but still tasted good. So we left two trays in the dehydrator for another hour and took out two trays to cool. They are really tasty, almost like candy. We will definitely be doing more of them.

Apple chips on left, Armenian Cucumber chips on right

MYSTERIOUS HOLES IN THE YARD


When we first moved here we would sometimes see little holes in the yard where there was no grass. We couldn't figure out what the heck was making these holes. They were more like round indentations in the ground. (I thought maybe it was aliens, but Linda didn't think so). It wasn't too long before we found out the source of these strange holes. Take a look at this video to see what we discovered.



PARTING SHOT


Summer Girl is out in the garden almost all day long. I can't seem to get a shot of her anywhere else, doing anything other than lazing around! Here she is fussing at me for waking her up.

"Meow!"