Thursday, June 28, 2012

Beat the heat

Today the temperatures were scorching. With the heat index it was 110°F. And it is only the beginning of summer. Holy heatwaves Batman.

So besides camping out in the house with AC going full blast the only other option to beat the heat is to go swimming. Except we don't have a pool. It is on the wish list. But who has that kind of money. And you need a fence. Again... $$ cha-ching  cha-ching bodda bing no money and your butt's in a sling $$

So  Tuesday I started reading the town regulations "and if the pool is portable...blah, blah, technical stuff, boring, snooze, snooze, no fence is required." Um what? Back the boat up Burt...No fence is required!! So a quick call to the village to define "portable" and  we were laying tracks to Walmart to find a pool.

Only to find they didn't have any...booo. So off to Big Lots...SCORE!!! 
Not my house or kids but this what we bought. The Intex 16 ft x 48 in pool. Yay!
Intex® 16' x 48" Metal Frame Pool

We scouted the yard and quickly decided behind the garage would be the best spot


According to the directions it was only supposed to take 45 minutes to set up.  They lied. It took us 2 hours. We began filling  with water at 8pm (last night).

10 pm and maybe an inch of water

4:30 am and 2/3 full. I finally turned the water off at 6am so the hubbs would have water pressure for his shower.

The hubbs finished filling the pool and assembling the ladder when he came home from work. By 8pm we had SOMEONE taking full advantage of the pool, haha. 
Our kid (R) and my "adopted" kid (L),The Mandy's
While this isn't the "dream pool" it will do for now. We hope to get 2 years out of it. Besides we need to live in the here and now. Not someday. I don't want to look back on my life filled with if only's, what-if's and someday's.  We are going to put up some type of temporary privacy screen so stay posted for that project.

See the shed in the background? The hubbs said he was gonna turn it into the pool house. Umm that is my potting shed! I think I may have to drown him....

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Summer Squash-a-Palooza

My 2 little  (ok not so little) yellow squash plants are quite prolific!
1 days harvest allowed me to put up 6 lbs of squash in the freezer. I am sure come winter I will appreciate the summer flavor as a side dish or in a casserole.

Blanching your vegetables is really easy,  no special tools or equipment needed. and you can work in small batches.

You will need a boiling pot, some ice and large bowl (or you sink will do as long as it is really really clean), a slotted spoon, a colander, some freezer bags, and a cookie sheet.

Here was my set -up

1. Bring  salted water to boil
2. Clean your vegetables well. Remove bad spots.
3. Cut your vegetables into 1/2  slices (don't leave the squash exposed for more than 30 minutes or it will begin to brown.)
4. To a large bowl add ice and some water for the quench.
5. Add you vegetables to boiling water. Cook no more than 3 minutes.
6. Remove with a slotted spoon into ice bath. (Leave in the ice bath for at least 2 minutes)
7. Remove from ice bath into a colander to drain.
8. Pat dry with paper towels.
9. Place the blanched veggies on a cookie sheet. 
10. Place in freezer until firm.
11. Transfer to freezer bags, label and date.
12. Repeat as necessary

Make sure to keep plenty of ice in the quench bath. This can be used in casseroles, mashed for breads or a last minute add in to a quick saute. Obviously the texture will not be as firm as fresh so it can't be grilled. You will appreciate the effort to have a little taste of summer in your winter menu's. 

Monday, June 25, 2012

In a Pickle (part 2)

As I talked bout earlier in my In a Pickle Part 1, I attended a pickling canning class. And after much whining on my part discussion , Sonya aka The Jam and Jelly Lady included a fruit pickle for the class.Wahooo!  And I wasn't so slackerish and managed to get some pictures  for this one...sheesh.

Pickled Pears

I know what y'all are thinking...Pickled Fruit...eeew. I gotta tell you I used to think the same thing. They aren't pickled like a dill pickle-unless that's your thing. Pickled fruits are simply fruit that have been simmered in a spicy, sour, and/or sweet syrup. The acid (usually a form of vinegar) helps in preservation but also imparts a tangy kick. Combined with a variety of spices the end result is a complex flavor that makes your taste buds sing Hallelujah! The combinations of fruits, spices and flavors are endless. You are only limited by your imagination.
Peeled, cored and skinny dippin' in very dilute lemon juice to avoid browning.
The lemons were sliced so thin they were almost translucent
Cooking the pears
Making the syrup
Free pear aromatherapy steam facial!
A perfect union
Can I eat it now?
What about now?
Look at the spices, pepper and lemon slice.  
I wish there was smell-o-blog because let me tell you the aroma was DI-VINE! And btw--we totally sampled what was leftover in the batch pot...Errrrmeeehhhhgaaawwwddd! I could have died on the spot. It was that good. 

Wondering how to serve the pickled pears?

How about an Endive Salad with pickled pears?
Or a ham, brie and pickled pear flatbread?
Or you can be all fancy pants hoity-toity and serve it with Foie Gras or over pastry with Stilton cheese.

But I think the best way is over vanilla ice cream...
The flavor is warm, spicy, sweet and a hint of tart....YUM!!


BJ@Joy2Journey Sunday Stop#16

Sunday, June 24, 2012

In a Pickle (part 1)

I paid another visit to The Jam and Jelly Lady Cannery for my canning class on Friday and you guessed it--we made pickles...Yummmm!

Let me tell you I LOVE me some pickles. I mean if there were an Ambassador Pickle I would lobby to get that job. I like 'em dilly, sweet, spicy, whole, gherkins and chips. Shoot I even  like pickled vegetables and pickled fruits. Just no pickled eggs, bologna or pigs feet. EEEW!
Um and no pickle flavored toothpaste. Soooo MAYBE I am not worlds biggest pickle aficionado after all. But I do like pickle potato chips. Oooo and fried pickles. Dang now I'm hungry.

But we didn't make just ANY kind of pickle. Nuh Uh ...We made Pickled Dilly Beans, Zucchini Pickles and Pickled Pears. I swear my mouth just watered...mmmmm

Dilly Beans

Um I am a total slacker and didn't take ANY pictures of us canning these until they were done. WHY, you may ask? Because I was to busy flapping my gums socializing  and nomming on the most delicious pickled grapes and pickled vegetable mix. The boy wonder behind the recipes is Chad (check out his delicious blogful of recipes) here!  However you can google Dilly Beans and get A LOT of recipes.  So here is my gratuitous picture of the finished  product. 

Zucchini Pickles

Already brined
Add some flavor
The aroma is wonderful
Starting to develop some color
If it had just been me I swear I would have taken a bite!
Packing the jar
We didn't process these in the water-bath and  decided to go fridge style pickle.  I seriously don't think I can wait 3 days!
Ok- I admit it. I didn't wait the 3 days before I opened the jar of zucchini pickles. I was just testing them for quality, um yeah, that's it!

Now that you have some fine preserved foods, what do you do with them?

How about Dilly Bean Potato Salad?
Serve the Zucchini pickles with your favorite sandwich or burger. If you're me  then just eat 'em out of the jar!
As always practice safety and cleanliness when you are canning. Check your local  extension for canning classes (or contact The Jam and Jelly Lady). The National Center for Home Preservation is a good resource. You don't need a big garden to can and preserve foods. You can find good deals at the Farm markets, Costco, Sam and other big box warehouses. Maybe you have a neighbor/ friend or family that has a bumper crop, don't pass it up.  Enjoy!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

This means war!

I was walking my garden today to see if there was anything I could harvest and also to check on my 
Cucurbitaceae plants (cucumbers, melons and squash are all of this plant family but all are a different genus) because I have been battling cucumber beetles and squash bugs which I had talked about here.  

Armed with Neem Oil, some companion plants, and DE (Diatomaceous Earth) I set about destroying the marauders.  I only have 1 cantaloupe  2 watermelon and half my original planting  of cucumbers are gone! Because of course you realize this means war!

Whilst picking through the plants  (and pulling the never ending supply of weeds) I spied a cucumber (yay the first of the season!) as I was reaching into grab it,  something moved, I screeched and jumped back falling on my ass. Thank goodness no innocent plants were injured during my girly freak out. And I really hope none of my  neighbors seen that. Y'all would tell me if you found some incriminating video on YouTube, right?  I have a good explanation as to why I was a little jumpy. My neighbor found an 8 ft. black snake skin (shudders) in his shed. I really, REALLY did not NOT want to meet Mr. Snake in my garden. And trust me when a snake is that big--I will call him MR. because I respect him (her) enough to back away....Anyhoo THIS was the culprit...Darn toad!  Haha, I am glad he is in the garden. I hope he invites his friends and they enjoy the bug buffet!

The good news is I have more seedlings stared for the cantaloupe and I have plenty more cucumber plants. The cantaloupe that survived is a momma and there are 4 beautiful little baby melons! Now I will begin selectively pinching the vines so the energy goes into the fruit production. This also allows me to stagger my melon harvest. Obviously this technique is best suited for the little backyard gardener. 


I also had to do some finagling in the garden. I originally had my blackberries and raspberries in the raised beds at the front of the garden, but they were getting sun-scorch from all the direct sun.  So I went to Big Lots and bought some big plastic planters, did a layer of weed block cloth on the bottom, added a layer of pea gravel and then some good soil. I put the plants in the pots and moved them behind the grapevine. Not to close because I don't want the berry brambles and grapevine getting entwined!  They will get morning sun and dappled afternoon light.  This will have to do until I can figure the placement in my yard and garden. I wasn't expecting any fruits this year anyway. 

So now that I have two raised beds free and the soil neutralized (berries like acidic soil) what shall I plant?....hmmm

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Off to a good harvest

 It has been so hot as in HOOOOT and it is only the beginning of summer. So the hubbs has been assigned the enviable task as my water mule and drags the hose the 250 feet behind the house to water the veggie garden.  (That's true love, haha) Despite the heat and my epic battle with the cucumber beetles we are off to a good harvest with the garden.

Tonight's haul was: 2-Zucchini, 2-green peppers, 6 good size yellow squash, 2 large green tomatoes, a dozen good size carrots, and a handful of bunching onions.

 I figured there has to be a couple of meals in this so the first thing I made was fried green tomatoes which is one my hubbs favorites!

Fried Green Tomatoes

2 large firm, green tomatoes (I had 1 big, 1 small, whatever)
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup  flour
1/4 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup Panko bread crumbs
1/4 tsp balking powder
1/8 tsp. ground red pepper
1/8 tsp onion powder
1/8  tsp garlic powder
vegetable oil

The trick to a crunchy crust is to draw the water out. Salt both sides of the tomato, place on a paper towel or use a cooling rack. Let the tomatoes stand for 30 minutes. Then gently pat dry to remove excess moisture and salt.
 Buttermilk will give the crust a sweet tang.  The crust will have a nice crunchy texture because of the cornmeal and Panko bread crumbs.
Dredge your tomato in the buttermilk. I let it sit a good  minute on either side. Did you know the acids in buttermilk act as a natural tenderizer? Then dredge in crust coating.
Place dredged and coated slices into a pan preheated (medium heat) with enough oil to cover half the height of the tomato. Cook until golden  brown.
About 2 minutes on both sides.
 Place on a cooling rack or paper towel to drain oil. I served it with an onion relish and some bunching onions on the side. A creamy horseradish sauce would also be a great complimentary dipping sauce. Serve immediately.

Garden=Happy.   Life is good!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Buggin' Out and Natural Pest Preventative Measures

I was walking out of my back door and came face to fang with this spider! I didn't kill him/her because I definitely appreciate it take care of the bugs around my house. I just didn't want it to be so up close and personal.

A hungry garden-worm caterpillar larvae on a tomato plant. Which was moved OFF of my plants! Sorry little muncher but I like my tomato plants a lot more than you.

A fuzzy buzzy busy bee gathering pollen from the clover in my yard. If only you would go do your stuff in my garden

My watermelons and cucumbers are under attack from these nasty little bugs. They must perish!
So armed with some knowledge and a few things from around my house and garden --HOPEFULLY it  is enough to stop them!  Here are some natural cucumber beetle controls
  1. Organic Neem oil-spray until run off. Requires a lot of repeated applications  (14 days). Spray very early morning or late evening to avoid sun scald. 
  2. Tilling brings the eggs to the surface where they die from exposure.
  3. Companion planting of radishes
  4. Companion planting of beans
  5. Flattened squares of aluminum foil under the base of the plants
  6. Mulching with straw
  7. Use a spray of hot peppers, water and garlic.
  8. Marigolds is always a great companion because of the natural pesticide. Use the French variety as the Mexican variety will act as an herbicide with beans 
  9. Apply Bt ( Bacillus thuringiensis)
  10. Wood ash in water with soap sprayed on the plants and soil
  11. Apply DE (diatomaceous earth) in the evening at the base of the plant
  12. Bring on the Mantids --they have a voracious appetite and will devour the beetles
  13. Apply beneficial nematodes ( Hexamermis spp.)
  14.  Bait traps

So for now I am employing steps 1-8. Wish me luck as I have already lost 2 watermelon and 4 cucumber plants. I have replaced them but I am worried.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Relish the moment

I went back to The Jam and Jelly Lady Cannery  on Friday for a class on how to make/ can relishes.

Onion Relish

boy oh boy where my eyes burning from the chopped onions! 
Process your red peppers separately because they are softer (and would stain the onions pink)
So aromatic
Cooking away
Almost there
Everything smelled sooooo yummy.
Fill 'er up
Pretty little jars

Zucchini Relish

You can never have to many recipes for Zucchini

A little sweet
A little crunch
Some spices
Look at that color...guess which spice causes that beautiful color.
It looks even better in the jar
I love the texture and color
A quick appetizer