Cherry Clafouti

Every summer, usually around August, my husband and I head for Door County WI. This year was no exception and we arrived during cherry picking season. Between the Cherry Cobblers and Cherry Crunch, I thought for sure I wouldn’t need another cherry dessert. That was until a friend of ours suggested Cherry Clafouti. Here is the recipe I used this past week- Cherry Clafoutis

I used our stand blender and found this recipe to be quite easy and the results–fabulous! Enjoy!

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Homemade Pasta Sauce

One freezer bag of sauce, which will be good for two meals of pasta, took 13 medium sized regular tomatoes (not Roma). Time needed to put up seven freezer bags, which equals 14 meals for us, took me just under 2 hours of time. The great thing about making your own pasta sauce is that you can put into it whatever pleases you. I cannot eat store bought pasta sauce because they contain onions and garlic. Everything in this world seems to be seasoned with onions and garlic and both upset my G.I. system. No idea why? So having gotten frustrated with not being able to eat pasta and sauce, I decided to start regularly making my own. I bought 62 tomatoes for $12.00 and I washed and cored them, and then I placed them in boiled water and slipped the skins off of them. I then cut them up and tried to remove as many of the seeds as possible. Then I put them all in a big pot and added homegrown oregano, rosemary, and thyme-that was dried and crushed, salt and pepper, three tablespoons of good olive oil and cooked for 1 hour and ten minutes. I cooled the pot down once cooking was done in a large bowl of ice, then I put 16 oz of sauce in seven freezer bags, sealed, dated, and placed flat in our freezer.




Dane County Farmers’ Market & Eating Local

This past weekend we drove down to Madison WI for our first trip this year to the Dane County Farmers’ Market. It’s been awhile. We have had several local farmers’ markets we’ve been doing business with for a couple of years now. This year much to our disappointment one of them is selling produce that looks pretty bad and their corn made me really sick. There’s an older lady that runs the stand who is very friendly and we’ve known her for years and get a kick out of her mainly because she really speaks her mind. I asked her if anyone else had complained about getting sick from the corn and she said “Well you know they use A LOT of chemicals in their fields, more now than they’ve ever used to keep up.” We know we cannot always get organic produce, and unless it is noted at the stand, we know most of what we buy has had some chemicals used. Sadly more and more I am getting sick from chemicals, additives and all the crap that’s in our food supply. So, we stopped patronizing this stand and one other that just stopped selling with no fair warning. The Dane County Farmers’ Market is the largest producers-only market in the United States. We started out for Madison at 6:00 am and got there, after a couple of stops, by 7:30 am. Even at that hour the parking ramps were packed, the streets were lined, and the throng of market goers was strong. What you do once you get there is join the moving queue. The market farmers’ are laid out in a circle that surrounds the state capitol building. So when you join you walk in a circle and when you spot something on a farmers’ table you hop out of the moving line to buy it. Once purchased back into the line you go. This can wear you out. I promise. We used to get here around 11 am–it’s really packed then. But you know, 7:30 am isn’t much better. It’s a popular market filled with lots and lots of locally grown food. We love our farmers’ and I’m such a big believer in locally grown and knowing your farmer well. It looks like we’ll have to go there a few more times so that I have plenty of produce to process for winter. It’s hard to see by the photos, but we purchased almost two weeks of produce. We were able to get 1 # of green beans, 1 head of cauliflower, broccoli, 1 squash, 4 ears of corn, 4 zucchini, 2 bunches of carrots, 1 leek, 2 cucumbers, a bunch of kale, fingerling potatoes, 4 heirloom tomatoes and a beautiful bouquet of local flowers (of course) for $15.75. You absolutely cannot beat that. Once home I set about to clean, trim and repackage the produce. I shredded the zucchini right away for zucchini bread. Our dinner menu reflects 11 days of eating this produce so that we enjoy it when it is at its freshest. Next trip will be to buy some tomatoes in bulk to make sauce with. http://janrd.com/blog/5454/divine-tomatoes

How was your weekend?









Summer Sun and Container Gardening

Sun, just the right amount of sun, is essential to a successful container garden. We live in an apartment that does not get southern exposure, and the western exposure we get is HOT, quite hot, from about 1pm each day through 6pm. Watering plants in the early am hours here does not work. Also keeping houseplants thriving without southern exposure can be quite a challenge. I have fifteen African violets that I move around in our bedroom to catch the sun from the west, and then as it creeps around the side of the building I have a shelf in my office loaded with succulents and cactus plants, not to mention my husband’s ever growing bonsai collection, trying to catch the last rays of sun before it disappears for another day. Lots to keep up with. I’ve killed way more than I’ve saved but this year I’ve actually had some much appreciated success.


Figs

First how can you tell if your fig is ripe, overripe, or just right when you see figs for sale in the market?

Pick the fig up and smell it near the stem to see if it smells sweet–honey like. If it does it is ripe. Unlike avocado’s figs do not ripen once you get them home. If there is stickiness near the stem the fig is overripe. For the last 6 or 7 years I have purchased a dozen or so figs and found that I really like them. I wouldn’t say I could eat them all the time, but once or twice a year -yes.

This year I am going to use my figs three ways:

Figs with goat cheese and pine nuts  (gluten free)

Figs and berries–just mix sliced and cut up figs with whatever berries are in season.

Figs and mascarpone and warm spiced honey

Figs are generally sold around here until early fall (Sept.)

These are all really easy recipes (10 min prep times).

Health-wise figs are loaded with fiber, magnesium and calcium. All things all people need especially women like me in their 50’s.

Until next time–be well!

Hello August!

Can it be that summer is almost over? As of this month I’ve been at my container garden now for almost 8 months. From my failed starter plants I worked on in January and February, to the young plants I nurtured inside March until late April that became my super producers all summer long. My two 8″ tomato plants grew to almost 3 ft and are still producing tomatoes. So far I’ve harvested 12 med., med large tomatoes with about 10 more ready to turn any day. My spindly tomato plant that survived a couple of frosts ended up giving me over 30 cherry tomatoes. Best tomatoes ever! My rosemary has quadrupled in size, as have my shrubs (doubled) and this years New Guinea Impatiens are gorgeous.  Herbs have been dried and preserved and several of my plant containers have been emptied, and cleaned up for next year. In just a few weeks fall will be upon on and I definitely feel like this year’s container garden was my best yet. A lot of work, but a lot of rewards and I’m already looking ahead to next year. P.S. Although my pumpkin plants bit the dust last week thanks to leaf rot and gnats, my sunflowers and zinnias are ready to bloom any day now. Pictures soon! Until next time–be well!





Blueberry Buckle Recipe–and processing produce tips!

This week- a few things I did today as I enjoyed my day off!

It’s blueberry season here in Wisconsin and I just happened to have got my hands on 3 pints of fresh berries. I froze some for smoothies, so now we have fresh strawberries and fresh blueberries for smoothies this winter.

My husband purchased a bunch of beets at the Farmer’s Market this past Friday so I processed them today. Total time was one hour- I put them in a pan of water –medium setting 1-1/4 of an hour and then turned them off. I then let the water come down from a boil to warm and ran cold water in the pan and slipped the skins right off. They were put into freezer bags and we will be eating July beets 5-6 different times this coming winter. I would pickle them (my favorite) but hubby doesn’t like pickled beets very much.



There’s a story behind the peppers. About 7 weeks ago our neighbor, who travels a lot, asked me to take over her pepper plant due to her not being around enough to water it. We were at our max limit for weight on the deck so we kept it downstairs by the front door. It should be noted this plant had been planted in big box potting soil with Miracle Grow added and sold from a big box store. When I took it over it was about 1-1/2 feet tall, scrawny and dry. Thinking it would die I never did get a before picture but 7/ 7-1/2 weeks later it’s loaded with peppers of all sizes. I have grown peppers on our deck in containers–even now that I think of it I’ve successfully grown cucumbers. But it was hard between bugs and wind and limited full sun areas, neither of them do well on our deck. But hey maybe I’ll start a garden by our front door? I just cut up and take out the seeds from the peppers and freeze the cut up slices for future pizza’s and stir fry’s right away. Our first harvest yielded 7 peppers, I took 3 and I gave my neighbor 4 and plan to split the bounty with her each week to her delight.

Update- after the initial 7 small to medium sized peppers all the rest (5) which were quite small developed bottom rot. I used my soil tester to determine what was lacking in the soil and discovered the soil was severely lacking calcium. It should be noted this isn’t the first time that plants I bought from a big box store, planted in the wrong type of soil mixed with Miracle grow, developed rot on their fruit. The soil is dry even after watering because the soil mixture does not retain any moisture beneficial to the plant. So the plant is constantly in a state of over- watered or under-watered and each time you do water all the nutrients (and there probably isn’t much to start with) wash out the bottom. Hence this pepper plant was really deprived of the calcium it needed to produce healthy peppers.

Here’s the promised recipe for the blueberry buckle

My Container Garden at 10 Weeks!


Things are thinning out in my container garden–my lettuce, cherry tomatoes, first growth of rosemary, lemon thyme, and potatoes have now been harvested. Containers that have become waterlogged due to the excessive rain we’ve had in these parts have been drained, emptied and stored away until next year.

I have replaced some with a couple of pots of oregano, some impatiens and sylvia’s (my first try at an annual on my deck). My pumpkins are growing slow, as are my zinnia’s and sunflowers. Fungus gnats have taken over their soil.

I cooked up several of my cherry tomatoes with local bought zucchini-




The new potatoes were out of this world. Even though we’ve been eating organic red potatoes for years, nothing has ever tasted as good as the ones I’ve grown this summer. The skins melted in our mouths, and the flavor was out of this world. I used organic red seed potatoes and grew them in organic soil from Purple Cow Organics.  I harvested my potatoes when the plants were dead looking and dried up. There were three plants total in the pot and we harvested 28 potatoes of various sizes. I harvested too early as there were still tubers growing. Next time I will wait longer.


Until next time–be well.

Hello July!

311025-Hello-July

Typical summer meal–homegrown and/or local– total cost per meal- $1.22, two good-sized adult meals, or food for three! We eat three or four vegetables with every meal. This meal also included baked chicken and fish. I’ve started making homemade tartar sauce by cutting up a dill pickle in tiny pieces and adding it to our vegan mayo with a pinch of salt and a pinch of sugar-Yum!

Have a happy and safe Fourth of July!

June in review–in pictures

Tomatoes– one slicing tomato from what was just 8 weeks ago just an 8-10″ better boy tomato plant, and two Mighty Sweet cherry tomatoes. The plant these were growing on went through 3 mild freezes and was just barely a twig when planted this spring. It now holds almost twenty little tomatoes! My better boy plant is almost 2 feet tall and my spindly little cherry tomato plant has reached almost 4 feet tall. I won’t lie growing vegetables on a balcony/deck isn’t easy. I have found tomato worms, and I’ve picked three potato beetles off of my potato plants. We have a lot of the wind on the north face and I am constantly out there adjusting tomato cages and trying to keep my plants from breaking off in the wind. Storms are the worst because, although we don’t get much of the rain, the trays the planters sit in fill with water. So that involves picking up heavy pots, draining the trays and then it all starts over again with the next rain. This summer our area has had a lot of rain, storms, and wind. In the end though the fresh homegrown produce, even though the yield isn’t much, means everything to me. I feel secure in knowing I can grow some of our food, and I know once we have our own place again I can and will do well with a fairly good-sized garden. I cannot wait. Until next time–be well!