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Thursday, August 25, 2016

Apple sauce in my new Cuisinart slow cooker

My new Cuisinart cooker arrived yesterday morning, and after unpacking and reading the little manual and looking at the really nice, small, recipe book that came with it, I decided to make the applesauce recipe for my trial run.

I have a really old, decrepit apple tree that was barely alive last year when we moved here. After removing one large, dead limb and some other pruning, and adding a sprinkler head that would allow it to get water in our hot dry summers, it seems to be finding new life. So I went out and collected a lot of the fallen apples, and after much trimming, wound up with more than I needed to for the recipe. Next year I will have to find an organic spray treatment to keep the bugs out of the apples, so I won't have to do some much trimming!

The Cuisinart worked very well, was easy to clean and the applesauce came out great. I just cooked it a bit longer than it called for, but I suspect I actually had more apples pieces in there than the recipe called for. The recipe was sugar free, so I added a bit of liquid stevia at the end and then there was the job of putting it through a sieve and getting it packaged and marked for the freezer.

I bought this unit because of it's high rating and it's browning and steaming features. I'm looking forward to trying more of the recipes. They actually look like decent recipes in the included (30 pages of recipes) cookbook. There are even recipes for stock, which would be a great use of this slow cooker.

The best part was the price - under $100 and free shipping with my Amazon Prime account. Now I just have to decide whether I want to make the short ribs with Guinness or the chicken thighs with lemon and rosemary, or the pot roast or all the others that look good!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Cool mornings time to plant beets

The mornings have been cooler the past three days, so I decided to plant some beets in a large planter since I've run out of planting space in my raised beds. I got fresh soil in a good sized planter and planted a combination of mixed beets varieties from one package, and Early Wonder tall tops from another.

My first planting of Roc d'Or yellow bush beans is slowing down, but I have three other later plantings that I'm hoping will start producing in a couple of weeks.

I'm still getting more cucumbers than I can use, so I'm sharing with neighbors. The big heirloom tomatoes (Brandywines) are starting to ripen, finally; but for some reason my two varieties of plum tomatoes aren't. In fact, there are very few plum tomatoes on the vines! My neighbor said the raccoons are eating her green tomatoes, and I think I may be having the same problem. I think something is also eating my cherry tomatoes. The vine is covered with them, but maybe I can get one or two ripe ones a day. So I think it's obvious that I am sharing with some critters. We have raccoons, rats, squirrels and of course birds, who I'm sure are helping themselves to the strawberries as well. I'm lucky if I can get two or three days from 30 plants. So I guess it's best to share.

The first carrot seedlings popped through this morning and the mixed lettuce is also coming up in a few places, so it looks like I'll have some good fall and early winter veggies. I even have a few volunteer broccoli or  collards (not sure), and I'll be pulling out a couple of the older broccoli soon and transplant these few volunteers.

Well, that's it for this morning's garden news.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Tacos and best ever margaritas after a busy day and Margarita recipe included

I slept in a bit this morning so didn't get to the garden till 8am to do my harvesting, some weeding and hand watering. My late planted summer spinach is sprouting as well as the peas, and I think I saw a hint of the mixed lettuce seeds starting to sprout. The squash has finally sent out fruit and it looks like the tomatoes have finally started to ripen after a few 100F degree days this week.

Yesterday I dug up the last of the potatoes. They were actually sprouting in the ground! I pulled some dead fava beans, but saw new pods on some of the plants, so I decided to leave them, give them a good watering and feeding and see if they'll keep on producing as the evenings get cooler. The raccoons, squirrels or rats, discovered them fairly early on; but I at least got a good harvest before they discovered them and started eating them all.

The couple of cucumber plants  are really producing and giving more than I can eat so it's time to start sharing with a neighbor or two, so it's going to be time to make either my Thai or sour cream and dill cucumber salad in the next day or two. After a meat taco dinner tonight, I think I'll do a no meat Monday tomorrow and make a ziti casserole with ricotta and mozzarella. I'll just have to get to the grocery store for the ricotta after morning garden work and breakfast.

Here's my margarita recipe which I've fine tuned over the years and if I do say so myself and my friends agree, it's the best ever!

This recipes will make one small, single margarita. I have generous glasses so I always double this single recipe for each drink, for those glasses. It's important to use the same ingredients I list - no short cuts allowed if you want a really good, crowd loving, frozen margarita recipe!

June's frozen, slushy, margarita. This make a single drink in a normal margarita glass.

1 1/2 oz (liquid measurement)Cuervo gold tequila (don't use cheaper or more expensive  Tequila. It's not necessary)
1 oz of Meyer lemon juice. If you can't get meyer lemons (they're usually seasonal), use half regular lemon juice and half orange juice.
3/4 oz of curacoa (no other orange liqueur)
2 - 3 heaping tsp of granulated sugar.

You want the mix to have a sweet taste, because when you blend the mixture in a vitamix, which is what I use, or another good blender, the ice will water down the mix and make it taste less sweet. Put the margarita mix in your blender and slowly add crushed ice and blend till it's a very creamy, slushy, yet thick consistency. You don't want any unmixed pieces of ice in there. After it's mixed very well, taste and see if you need more sugar.


Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Cucumbers producing, so here's a recipe for Thai hot and sweet cucumber salad.

Cucumbers like well drained soil, but they also like consistent watering and that's what mine have been getting during these 100F and high 90's days. I have them on a 15 minute daily drip, but I give them and other plants extra water in the morning and sometimes a bit more in the evening on the super hot days. I must be doing everything right because my one mound which three days ago gave me my first, and only cucumber, now are producing two to three more a day!

Here's the recipe I use for the Thai Cucumber salad. It's really delicious. I suggest going light on the serranos even if you like heat as much as I do. You can always add more later. Our commercial serranos are quiet large, compared to the type I grew on my own years ago.

 Thai Cucumber salad:

3 large cucumbers, peeled and very thinly sliced.
1 T kosher salt
1/2 C rice vinegar
1/2 C or more of white sugar
1-2 Serrano chilies seeded and very finely minced
1/8 - 1/4 C finely chopped cilantro leaves (I probably just add the smaller amount so the cilantro isn't too dominant a flavor.
1/2 of a small red onion thinly sliced, then chopped into small pieces (about 1/2" long)
Add enough water to reduce the sharpness of the vinegar to your taste.

Put the cucumber in a colander in the sink and sprinkle with the T of salt. Toss to get the salt distributed and let the cucumber sit in the colander for a half an hour. Meantime you can mix the other ingredients for the dressing except the cilantro, whisking long enough to dissolve the sugar and blend all the ingredients well.After a half hour, drain the cucumbers well and press to drain the excess water. Add the cucumbers to the dressing,and adjust seasonings. I usually add a touch of salt and maybe a bit more of the minced serranos if it's not as hot as I like. Lastly, sprinkle on the cilantro and toss lightly.

OPTIONAL: you can add some finely minced peanuts right before you serve the cucumbers. If I don't have any on hand I skip it. They're perfectly fine without them.

These are a delicious side dish with BBQ, baked or broiled chicken and pork dishes or as a side with a sandwich, Thai or other S.E. Asian dishes. They're sweet, slightly hot, and so cooling.

If you're ambitious you can make pickles, or just peel them cut in half horizontally and the cut each half piece in half vertically, and then cut each vertical half into thirds and use them to dip into your favorite dip, or even Marie's ranch dressing which works well as a dip for these, baby carrots, raw cauliflower, cherry tomatoes, snow pea pods, etc. etc.

And then there's the old stand by of Cucumber with sour cream and dill leaves. In fact, you can use a classic cucumber dill sour cream recipe, but instead of using vinegar, use lemon juice and instead of slicing the peeled cucumber, dice them, and serve it as a topping for baked or grilled salmon. It is wonderful accompaniment for the salmon.

It's been a very busy garden morning prepping a couple of small areas and planting the lettuce seeds that I had sitting on wet hand towel paper and in a zip lock sandwich bag for two days. Then I fed most of the other veggies, other than the tomatoes, brussel sprouts, and three of the four various squash mounds. I'll get those tonight after dinner. After a bit of weeding and then hand watering all those beds and parts of my flower garden and deck planters, it was time to think about breakfast, which actually turned out to be an early lunch instead!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

August planting and new method for freezing bush beans

The pre sprouted peas I planted several days ago are now up. I didn't even have to sprout them intentionally. When looking for something in the small drawer of my fridge, I came upon a small zip loc bag of fresh peas which were deeply hidden in the back of the drawer; and they were sprouted! What a surprise! I didn't know that fresh, refrigerated peas would sprout, so I planted them and will have a fall crop a bit earlier than I would have expected.

I planted some carrots nearby and am watering that area twice a day. It may be too late, but I think I will plant some lettuce seeds where I pulled out some old broccoli this morning. Using heavy duty remay in past years, kept me in lettuce through December, so I will put some seeds on slightly wet hand towel paper after breakfast and get that in a zip loc bag and plant them when they sprout.

We are in a hot spell with over 100F expected tomorrow and 106F expected in R, Thursday so I think it's best to sprout them in the house.

My Roc d'Or yellow bush beans are producing like mad and they are the best tasting beans. Since I was only planting for one, my first planting was only about 8 or 9 seeds, and I'm getting enough daily now for one generous serving, so I'm now starting to freeze some.

Yesterday I read where a couple of people tried freezing bush beans without blanching and they said it worked fine. So I did that yesterday with a couple of packages. They said the bean taste and texture was better using that method, so it's definitely worth trying.

Since my tomatoes were planted so late, the only ripe ones I'm getting are the sweet millions, and some garden critters are helping themselves to a lot of them. My neighbor said raccoons are eating her green tomatoes!  My late planted cucumbers are now producing and I see that I have my first butternut squash. All my squash was planted late because of my having to recuperate from the surgery on my leg after a bad car accident in April that required 3 months of healing, and no weight on my right leg for the first six weeks of that period. So this late garden planting of so many things is going to be an interesting experiment.

This week I also cleaned up the dead and dying sweet peas and edible peas. Some of the sweet peas were in two window boxes on a bench in my flower garden, so I got them out and loosened the soil, added organic fertilizer and planted 3 different varieties spinach in both those boxes a few days ago. They should be coming up in another couple of days.

We have a lot of rats in the neighborhood and I think I'm finally getting on top of that problem. I think they may have been helping themselves to some of my garden produce as well. Newly sprouted bean plants that were three or four inches high just disappeared overnight, and I know I'm sharing strawberries with some critters. My early fava beans did well until some critter discovered the patch and then I found them half eaten on a daily basis. Since those beans grow pretty high on the stem, I'm figuring it may have been either a raccoon or those darned rats again!

Since I have to go out to the veggie garden after dinner to do a bit of hand watering, I think I'll plant more spinach where I just removed some of the old broccoli plants. There's some summer kale going to seed and looking pretty sad, so I'll probably pull those as well and give me even more room for extra spinach.

It sure feels great to be able to feel healed enough to be spending this time in my garden again!