Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The garden so far

This summer has been a very challenging gardening experience. The weather here was cold and rainy until well into July. That's left the garden at least a month behind in it's growth cycle. Some things just didn't grow at all this year like the golden apples on my apple tree. And some things are very behind, like the rest of the garden.

So far I've been able to harvest a couple handfuls of red strawberries and a couple handfuls of white Alpine strawberries. The white ones are still producing a few berries every week and the red Ever bearing varieties will probably come back and produce some more later in the summer. I've harvested some lettuce, but it's now bolted. My first round of spinach started in the greenhouse bolted very early before I could harvest it and since the temperatures at the time were in the 50's I have no idea why it did. But my second planting, which went directly into the garden has done pretty well. We ate some of it the other day.

I planted some peas this year as I do every year and then threw away the seed packet. When the peas started producing decent sized pods I picked them and put them into a salad to eat. The pods were so stringy and tough we just couldn't eat them. In past years I've had no problem with my snap peas being tough. Hubby asked me what variety I planted and I had no idea. I'm not very good at keeping track of that kind of thing when it comes to my garden. But that got us thinking that maybe I'd planted shelling peas. To test the theory I let them grow and mature more before I picked more of them. Yesterday I brought in a decent sized bowl full of pea pods, shelled them and had a small bowl full of peas! They tasted great, so I guess I planted shelling peas. I'll have to read the packet more carefully next time. :)

There are a few other veggies in the garden that are growing but not quickly. I've got broccoli that I could probably cut next week and I've got little bitty pickles and yellow squash on their vines. The Pumpkin patch, which was planted in straight compost, seems to be producing something but the little female flowers look they are attached to zucchini or some strange long skinny pumpkin rather than a round one. I guess I'll see what comes of it.
The carrots, beats, soybeans, corn, rutabaga, parsnips, potatoes, and pole beans are growing as well, but there's nothing to harvest there yet. I planted artichoke and okra as a test this year to see if I could do it, but the weather has made this year a bad year to test things. They are growing but aren't very tall yet. Not sure if they'll produce anything. And last but not least the 4 tomato plants I bought and planted have flowers! Maybe I'll have some tomatoes this year. I planted them in pots and have them sitting next to the greenhouse in as full a sun as I have. We'll see what happens.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Make your own Kettle Corn

My daughter LOVES Kettle corn and wants to buy the huge $7 bags every time we go to the farmer's market. I don't buy it very often, but she would eat the whole bag by herself if I did. So I got to thinking that maybe I could make Kettle corn on my own using the popcorn that was already in my pantry. I've made 2 batches so far and they've been a hit both times. Even my son ate some and he's not a popcorn fan normally. I have no idea how much homemade kettle corn costs, but it can't be much more than 50 cents per batch. I found a recipe online and used that the first time, but last night I couldn't find it so I just "winged" it, and Hubby liked this batch better than the rest.

Homemade Kettle Corn

1/4 cup popping corn
2 Tbs oil (I used vegetable oil)
2 Tbs sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon (optional, but my family loves it this way)

Mix sugar, salt and cinnamon in a small bowl or mixing cup. Put oil and corn in a fairly deep skillet (mine is almost wok-like) and heat on medium heat until oil starts to bubble. At this point put the lid on the skillet. When you hear the first few pops shake the skillet with the lid on to move the corn around in the pan (like you've seen people do when they make popcorn). When most of the corn has popped sprinkle the sugar mixture over the corn, replace the lid and shake some more. Heat for a few seconds more until all corn has popped then remove from heat and enjoy!

Monday, July 26, 2010

My new favorite bread and pizza dough recipe

I've been reading about artisan bread and loved how easy it sounded to make and use over a couple of weeks. According to a couple of books I read you don't knead artisan bread or proof your yeast, and you can refrigerate it for up to 2 weeks while using a portion when you want to use it. I made a batch of 50/50 whole wheat and AP flour dough the other day and made 2 six inch round loaves and a 12 inch pizza crust from it. I put the rest, which is probably one 6 to 8 inch loaf's worth, into the fridge to age. Apparently the longer it stays in the fridge the more flavor it acquires. Here's the recipe I used.

Artisan bread basic recipe
2 tsp yeast (I used active dry yeast)
3 tsp salt
3 C warm water (about 100 degrees. too hot will kill the yeast)
3 C AP flour
3.5 C Whole Wheat flour

Dissolve yeast and salt in warm water. Mix flours in a container with a lid (not air tight) then add water mixture to flour. Mix until all flour is incorporated, about 50 strokes. Let the dough sit at room temperature covered for at least 2 hours. You can let it sit for up to 5 hours if need be. At this point you can refrigerate to use the dough at a later time or can use it right away. When you are ready to use dough sprinkle the dough in the container and your hands with a dusting of flour so you can handle the soft wet dough. Quickly shape into whatever shape you want by stretching the dough into a ball or oval with the ends on the bottom. If you're making pizza crust stretch dough into a flat disk using a rolling pin if needed. Sprinkle a flexible cutting mat with corn meal then put shaped dough on mat to rest for about 40 minutes. 20 minutes into resting turn on your oven to 400 degrees and place a pizza stone in the oven. On another rack place a pan of water. After 20 minutes take a serrated knife and cut an X or a few slits into the dough then slide your dough onto the hot pizza stone from your mat. Bake for about 30 minutes until the crust is nicely browned.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Chocolate Pudding

I bought a food dehydrator a few weeks ago. Ever since then I've been looking for neat things to make with it. I've dried strawberries, bananas, cherries, oranges, made my own fruit leather and made some cookies. (Dehydrator post coming soon) While searching for these recipes and ideas I've stumbled across a few Raw Food diet books that have some interesting recipes. Yesterday while the kids and I were sitting outside on the deck reading I found a recipe for raw vegan chocolate pudding. There was no cooking or waiting involved so it seemed like a good treat to make right away. Although anything vegan might not sound too yummy to you, it actually turned out really good. And with the healthy ingredients I'll definitely make it again. The kids gobbled it up!

Healthy Chocolate Pudding


1/2 C raw almonds (I used mixed nuts)

2 peeled bananas

3 Tbs Cocoa or Carob powder

1/2 C dried plums or dates soaked in 1/2 C water for 15 minutes


Combine all ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Granola Bars - Take 4

My search for the perfect granola bar has been interesting and mostly yummy. Granola bar #1 was too cakey for a granola bar but good for muffins, #2 was like a peanut butter cookie, #3 tasted too healthy :). So, after much testing and tasting attempt #4 is the winner. This granola bar is adaptable to whatever mix-ins you prefer from chocolate chips, raisins, shredded coconut, nuts, marshmallows, etc. The recipe below is the one that my kids (hubby and I, too) liked best.

Chocolate chip granola bars
1/3 C brown sugar
2/3 C natural Peanut butter
1/2 C Honey
1/2 C applesauce
2 tsp vanilla
1.5 C Oats
1.5 C Brown rice cereal
1 C chocolate chips
1/2 C shredded unsweetened coconut
1/3 C flax seed meal
1/3 C wheat bran
1/3 C wheat germ

Mix all ingredients and press into a greased cookie sheet. Bake for about 30-40 minutes at 350 then cut into granola bar shapes.

Homemade Cheese-it/Goldfish crackers

I went looking for a cheesy cracker recipe to replace the goldfish crackers my kids love and found one that I've modified a bit to make it more healthy. I don't have a fish cracker mold, but my kids seem ok with square cheese-it shaped ones. :)

Cheesy Crackers
2 C whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 C grated Parmesan cheese (use the real stuff if you can)
4 Tbs butter
2 Tbs sweet potato puree (to give it more orange color and add more healthy stuff)
1/4 C cream or half and half

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and grease cookie sheet. Mix butter, sweet potato puree, cream, butter, salt and cheese in a bowl. When combined, slowly add flour until a dough forms. Roll out dough on a floured surface. Roll as thin as you can - no more than 1/4 inch thick; the thinner the better. Place rolled out dough onto cookie sheet and cut into squares with a pizza cutter. The farther apart on the tray the crackers are cooked the crisper they will be. Bake for 15 minutes then check for doneness on the edge crackers. The crackers on the edge may be cooked before the ones in the middle are crisp. Remove those crisp ones and keep cooking the middle crackers until they reach the desired crispness.


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