Friday, August 26, 2011

Natural Bridge Recreation Area


1st Tomato Dinner of the Season

The tomatoes are finally ready for eating...well some of them anyway....enough to eat and that is all I care about!  We had our first taste of them last weekend with a red sauce (seasoned with herbs from our garden) over pasta, freshly baked no-knead bread, and (fresh-from-the-garden) corn on the cob.  Simple and heavenly. 

I love, love, LOVE tomato-based everything so this attempt to eat tomatoes more seasonally (i.e. relying on our own produce and not just running off to the store to buy more at a whim regardless of the season) was a real challenge for me.  Now that the tomatoes are coming in though I can see that it was really worth it.  Those tomatoes utterly rock my world.  Need proof?  I have it! 






Matt could tell how darn ecstatic I was about the whole thing and snapped these photos of my first couple bites.  I think my pleasure is quite evident...especially in photo number two....that is the oh-my-goodness-it-it-too-good-to-be-true face.

Oh baby!  Red tomatoes once again!

Garden Update

 This batch of photos was take August 23rd.
Cayenne peppers are getting red and spicy looking!
 
The Kung Pao peppers aren't redding yet, but there are loads of them on this plant.  It is our first year growing this type of pepper.  I love spicy peppers!
Yellow Indian Beans are blossoming.
Hungarian Wax Peppers.
The first sprouts from our planting of autumn greens.
 
 
 
I learned that Matt apparently calls the spider that lives at the top of the compost bin "The Enforcer."  This has something to do with taking out all the fruit flies that were trying to get at the countless pounds of cherry pits and scraps.  Matt destroys the web every couple of days when mixing the pile, but the spider keeps rebuilding.
 
 

Making Pickles

Matt's mother taught us the "secret family recipe" for dill pickles, you know the one that came from her mother and is written on the inside cover of her canning book. 
Matt and his brother Adam rave about their mother's pickles.  Adam would keep jars stashed in his room when he shared a house with a group of boys because they were so valued he couldn't risk the roomates eating them all.  Matt doesn't really eat pickles except for his mother's.  Confession:  I'm not sure I've ever eaten a homecanned pickle.  I guess I will soon enough find out what all the fuss is about.
I must say that off all the canning I've been a part of this was far and away the most simple.  We used our own garlic in the process which was pretty satisfying.  The dill and the cukes came from a Hutterite colony at the farmer's market, though I cannot recall which one now.  They were tiny and absolutely perfect for pickling. This homemade pickle amateur is told by those in the know that little thumb sized cucumbers make the absolute best pickles. 
Then as the pickle making lesson was winding down and we were just waiting on boiling jars Sharon made us all a blended ice drink involving lemonade concentrate and frozen cherry juice from the same trees we were hitting up.  (Sharon was the one who originally clued us into the cherry trees.)  The cherry lemonade icee was unbelievably refreshing.  I also thought it was a quite beautiful pink in addition to its incredible tastiness.
We ended up with 10 quarts of pickles.  We are going to let them set for a while, to steep in their vinegary, garlicky goodness.  I can barely wait to see how they taste.  If all goes well, and I see no reason it shouldn't, we are growing our own cucumbers next year.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Roasted Veg Samosas

My new favorite food:  Roasted Veg Samosas. 
Roasted vegetables are a common dinnertime item around our house.  I basically love anything when roasted.  I even finally managed to enjoy broccoli when I finally tried roasting it.  Roasting is amazing.  So is pastry.  Combine the two and you've got Beth's Roasted Veg Samosa.   Soft, seasoned vegetables wrapped up in a crispy, thin pastry.

Beth's Roasted Veg Samosa
dough:
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk

Filling:
2 potatoes
1 sweet potato
1 small head of cauliflower
1 large portobello cap
2 carrots
1 small onion
2-3 tablespoon olive oil
2 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
   salt, to taste
4 tablespoons lemon juice

To make the dough, place flour and salt in  bowl and mix. Add milk.  Mix until dough starts to form a ball.   Knead for a minute.  Add additional flour if needed.  Refrigerate dough.  Cover it if you plan on chilling it for any great length of time.  I don't because I usually roll it out within a half hour of making it.

To make the filling get out a big baking dish and fill with vegetables chopped up into bite sized pieces.  Drizzle olive oil and lemon juice over veggies.  Mix.  Sprinkle seasonings over top.  Mix again.  Bake at 400 degrees F. for 20-30 minutes until potatoes are tender.  Remove from oven and set oven temperature to 425 degrees F.

While the veggies are roasting, take the dough ball and cut in in half, and half again, and so on until you get 10-16 little dough balls.  Flour hands and rolling pin. Get a small bowl of water and a fork.  On a floured surface, one at a time, roll the dough balls out into about a 6" circle.  After taking the veggies out of the oven put a scoop of two of filling in center of each circle.  Use your finger to apply water around the edges of the dough to make it sticky.  Pull dough together to make crescent shape and crimp edges firmly with fork to seal in all that goodness.   Gently place the samosa on a baking sheet and bake 15 - 20 minutes, until bottoms are golden brown.

The variations are endless.  Seriously.  Add some peas.  Add some beans.  Add some fresh grated ginger.  Add eggplant.  (I've added all of those things and those samosas were incredible, too!)

I also really enjoy their easy portability.

On My Mind....Potato Fruit

On my mind today was solving the mystery of the potato fruit.
Matt and I were checking for potato beetles at our plot at the community garden recently and came across these weird little fruits growing on a few of our plants.  They looked sort of like green tomatoes.  It was odd, something neither Matt nor I had ever seen before.  Obviously I had some plant sleuthing to do. 

Fortunately, the mystery really wasn't too hard to crack either I must say.  I found a little article from Horticulture and Home Pest News that quickly helped me figure out what was going on.  From what I've read there and a few other sites most potato blossoms dry up and fall off without forming these inedible fruits.  However, sometimes the blossoms don't just shrivel and instead set fruit.  According to the article Yukon Golds set fruit more readily than other varieties and that was exactly the variety of potato involved at the community garden.  Mystery solved.  Apparently we can just cut them off. 

I love my outdoor classroom!  I learn something new in the garden nearly every day.  Now to just wait until Matt gets home to tell him what I learned today!

The On My Mind concept come from  Rhonda on her Down to Earth blog.  Won't you join in on the fun?!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Jalapeno Corn Fritters

Two things are coming ripe in the garden, jalapenos at the home garden and corn at the community garden.  So we've had jalapeno corn fritters a few times with dinner this week.   Yum.
I first made corn fritters for a school project where I had to make a recipe at home.  My mom and I fried fritters in her electric skillet.  I think it had something to do with exploring the foods of other cultures, but I really cannot recall the details of the assignment.  All that stands out in my mind is how much I liked them.  (But, what isn't delicious when fried I ask you!?)  Matt had never had fritters until I made them for him years back.  These little gems are crispy on the outside and soft, doughy goodness on the inside.  They can be made without the jalapenos, but are a touch sweeter without the savory, spiciness of the pepper.   Either way I think they are fabulous.
Jalapeno Corn Fritters
2 cups corn
2 T milk
1 t baking powder
1T applesauce
1/4-1/2 t salt
1/2 t pepper
1-1 1/4 C flour
 egg replacer for 3 eggs 
1-2 jalapenos, diced and with seeds
oil for frying

Pulse corn in food processor until it is half crushed, half whole corn.  Combine along with all other ingredients in a bowl and mix until well combined.  

Drop large globs into heated oil and fry over medium heat until nice and golden.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Cherries: Jelly, Dried, Frozen, and Cake

I realized I never finished posting about our cherry harvest and jelly making!  We ended up making 23 1/2 pints of beautiful cherry jelly.  We've already given several jars away though so I am not sure quite how many we ended up with ourselves.  It is really no matter though as it is a heck of a lot more than we made last year which was...none.  This was our first venture into jelly making.
Lisa, Eli, and I picked and pitted several more baskets full of cherries while they were visiting several weeks back. 

Oh, I cannot tell you how nice it was to have those extra hands to help pit all those darn cherries!  It was all the more enjoyable because I was able to chat with my sister the whole time while we worked...hardly seemed like work, more like hanging out (somewhere really sticky anyway!).  I wish we could do things like that more often.  She took a few jars home with her for her pitting labors.
Matt made the actual jelly while Lisa and I were busy doing all the sticky-pitting prep work.  We also kept the dehydrator full and running all day long resulting in about 3 pints of dried cherries as well as a good amount put away whole in the freezer.
 
 
Lisa took some of the fresh cherry juice and made us a fantastic swirl cake--gluten, egg, and dairy free.  It was not only tasty, but quite beautiful as the crimson juice swirled with the white vanilla cake.  It also had whole cherries on the bottom.  She just sort of made it up as she went I think, though based quite loosely on a recipe.  I was impressed.  I cook like that, but I never bake like that.




For our inaugural jelly making I am quite pleased with the whole thing.  It was a lot of work to pick and pit  the fruit, but the pay off is awesome and made me feel a great deal of satisfaction.   But, of course, the best part is that it is simply delicious!
 
I've been trying to work up the gumption to go fill one more basket full before the birds finish off the cherries, but I am not sure I am up for it. If I put it off any longer I may have the choice made for me as the cherries are on the way out for the season.  Either way it was a good season already.