Monday, May 16, 2011

Harvest Monday - Peaches, Okra, Tomatoes, Zucchini


This is just a sample of what we've been harvesting since last Monday.  We have loads of okra, so I'm putting some of it up in the freezer.  Cucumbers have also been super plentiful this season.  One thing that I'm not planting again is that lonesome red okra you see there.  In fact, I'm going to pull up all the red okra plants today and plant more regular green ones.  In our garden, red okra plants are slow in maturing, don't produce much, and there is nothing special about the flavor of their fruit. 


We have peaches!  In the last few days, they are coming in by the bucket, ready for cooking up into all sorts of yummy concoctions.  We've had peach ice cream, blueberry peach topping for our French toast on Saturday; and today I'll be fixing some cobbler...  Peaches freeze well raw, so some of them will end up in the freezer too.  Today's peach harvest was 7.8 lbs.!

Visit Daphne's Harvest Monday to see what other gardeners are harvesting today.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Harvest Monday - Surinam Cherries, Peaches, Cauliflower, Squash, Zucchini, Carrots, and Okra!


Back in December, I planted several new varieties in our garden, all of which did well.  I've posted about two of them - kohlrabi and artichokes - but this head of cauliflower came from a seed I planted as an afterthought.  I was sure nothing would come of it...  What a surprise.  For the longest time, I walked past this plant and thought - why did I plant that collard seed all by itself over there?  That's what it looked like...  I'd forgotten all about planting the cauliflower.  When Don came inside one day last week and asked me if I'd see the cauliflower growing in the garden, it all came back to me.  I went out there with him, and sure enough, it had grown this nice head!  It was the best cauliflower I've ever eaten.  I was a little concerned that we'd been late in picking it, as the head wasn't compact like the ones you see in the store, but it was delicious.


A few months ago I posted about our peach tree and how it was covered in blooms.  Here it stands in all its glory, and the peaches are juicy and sweet.  We have fresh peaches right off our tree every day for breakfast these days.  It is so worth it to plant fruit trees in your yard rather than more and more oaks and other ornamentals.


The Surinam cherry that the original owners of our home planted fifteen to twenty years ago has been giving us, and the birds, plenty of fruit.  It's a beautiful bush that grows into a nice hedge, bearing fruit twice a year in spring and fall.

In other news...  Last week was full of excitement and busy-ness at our home as my daughter got engaged the weekend before!  We are in a whirlwind of preparations for her early August wedding...  and I'm sure I'll be posting more about that during the next few months.  :)

I am linking with Daphne's Dandelions Harvest Monday, where you can see what and how other gardeners are growing - fresh fruits and vegetables in their own back yards!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Wildflowers

Last October, I planted a section by the back porch with a Florida wildflower mix.  I followed the simple instructions of clearing all the grass/weeds out of the area, dispersing the seeds, then passing the rake over them.  I sprinkled for three weeks, then just left the patch alone.  Well, lo and behold, a couple of weeks ago that area that looked like it might be invaded with weeds, suddenly burst into bloom.  It has been such a delight to arrive at home and see the profusion of flowers back there. 


I love wildflowers.  Planting our local varieties ensures that we have lots of flowers for weeks on end, as they are happy with our weather and soil conditions.  They don't require lots of fertilizer or watering.  In fact, I didn't fertilize that area at all, and the sprinkler system doesn't reach it either.  Our little patch is buzzing with the sound of bees collecting nectar.  We know from past experience that they need all they help they can get!

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I love the little white and pink phlox blossoms. This time of year, we can see them growing along the highways and country roads around Central Florida.



I love this video from the Florida Wildflower Foundation. I  bought our wildflower seed from the Florida Wildflower Growers Cooperative.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Harvest Monday - Squash, Carrots, Cucumbers, and Okra

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This is my harvest today, fresh out of our garden just this afternoon! Zucchini and yellow squash started producing last week. We've been eating lots of this almost every day. My carrot patch is about done, I still have a few in the ground. Our first cucumber was ready on Saturday, and today we have all of these, yumm! But what I'm most excited about is that okra is back. I'm planning on our first gumbo dinner of the season this coming weekend and just can't wait for that. This is our third year planting okra. I think I finally got it right by planting in March. I planted again in April and plan on doing so again in May where all the kale were just last month. Successive planting may keep us in okra all through the summer. I really look forward to freezing some in tomato sauce for gumbo year round!

I am linking with Daphne's Dandelions - Harvest Monday today.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Pavlova

I have been relearning how to bake and restocking my pantry recently.  Wheat is out, and so are most of the other glutenized foods in it.  I've kept rye for honey cake, as it is one of Don's favorites, but for the most part, I am adjusting to cooking gluten-free.  Becoming a good gluten-free baker/cook is very important to me.  I can't imagine how sad life would be without bread, pizza, most desserts, pasta...  plus I just like good food!

Last week I made this...
Both Australia and New Zealand claim to be the creators of the Pavlova - a light and airy, meringue base with fruit and whipped cream on top; apparently, in honor of a Russian ballerina of that name.  I used kiwis in mine.  I like it with strawberries too, another reason to plant them in the garden next fall.  I thought the kiwis were a good choice, a taste of New Zealand...

I've loved this dessert ever since I first tried it, on Gabi's high school graduation trip to Great Britain, three years ago.  We visited a church in London one Sunday.  After the service, the pastor and his wife invited us over for dinner at their home.  What a lovely treat that was.  We had Pavlova with strawberries for dessert, and it was scrumptious.  Visiting with a local family, one that is as involved in their communit as pastor's families usually are, was one of the highlights of our trip.  Pavlovas now have this wonderful memory attached to them in my mind.

Here is the recipe she shared:

Pavlova

3 egg whites
1 pinch salt
1 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 1/4 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1 pint fresh strawberries - I used sliced kiwis this time

Directions

1.Preheat oven to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C). Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Draw a 9 inch circle on the parchment. An easy way to do this is to draw around the outside of a 9 inch pan with a pencil.

2.In a large bowl, beat egg whites on high speed until soft peaks form. Add 3/4 cup of the sugar gradually, while continuing to whip. Make sure sugar is completely dissolved. Mix together the remaining 1/4 cup sugar with the cornstarch; lightly fold into meringue with vinegar.

3.Spread a layer of meringue to fit circle on parchment, approximately 1/2 inch thick. With remainder of mixture, pipe or spoon swirls around the edges to form a shallow bowl shape.

4.Bake at 300 degrees F (150 degrees C) for 1 hour. Turn off oven, but leave meringue in oven for an additional 30 minutes. When cool, the meringue should be hard on the outside, and slightly moist on the inside.

5.In a large bowl, combine the cream and half a cup of confectioners sugar, and whip until thickened. Decorate with fruit of your choice; strawberries are excellent.

Enjoy!

I am linking with the Hearth 'n Soul Blog Hop today.  Here is the part of the statement of their mission:
We hope to embrace not only the “expected” areas of real food, but also those who want to incorporate healthier choices without sacrificing their love of food…how it tastes, the memories it conjures up, the comfort it brings...

The warm comfort of the home hearth…stories, anecdotes, lessons, adventures, journeys, recipes, meals, beverages…we want to share the “why” of how food feeds more than just our bodies…

I like it!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Harvest Monday - kohlrabi, artichokes, and swiss chard

We got artichokes!
Both of my first time crops were ready for picking last week - Artichokes and Kohlrabi! 

I can't begin to tell just how delicious these artichokes were...  Steamed and then dipped in just butter and a little of sauteed garlic, heavenly.


So, growing artichoke plants is easy... getting all of them to produce a "choke", not so easy.  Only one of our plants actually flowered.  I don't understand why the others didn't, so this is an on-going project.  Now we have to decide what to do with them.  They are really beautiful plants, the perfect edible landscaping, I think.  Artichokes are perennials, so I'm tempted to relocate them to a sunny spot near the back porch. 


My other new crop - kohlrabi.  I try to plant something new every season.  The artichokes were definitely new, but kohlrabi was even more because none of us had ever even tasted it. 


If you ever plant kohlrabi, just know that the root is super tough... I had to go get a shovel to cut the thing off...  I thought it would be as easy as pulling out a carrot, but no.  It might have some use as a construction material.


So, I was really skeptical once I got these two out of the ground, thinking that that bulb was going to be as tough as rocks. 


This is it, after peeling and putting it through the food processor grinder.  I don't have a picture of the final product - Kohlarbi and Cream.  That's because I didn't have time to grab the camera, it disappeared that quickly!  Next year, I'm planting a whole bunch more of this SUPER easy and delicious vegetable.

Kohlrabi is in the cabbage family.  Food historians have found it mentioned in an old Imperial Roman cookbook dating back to the year 1 AD.  Later, in 800 AD, Charlemagne ordered it planted in his imperial gardens. 


The kohlrabi leaves are also edible, they resemble collards and are just as easy to grow.


We also had lots of swiss chard last week.  An oldie from our garden that I love.  Aren't those stem colors fun?


I made a nice risotto with it.  Well, it could have been better if I'd had arborio rice, but it was still great. 

I've been working on my risotto recipe lately, as it is one of my favorite ways of eating rice.  I think the best risotto I've ever had was one I had about a year ago, served at Zorah's, a charming small family owned Mediterranean restaurant in Lakeland.  I'm so sad, because I heard that it closed two months ago.  Here is what chef Jose from Zohra's said last year about how to make his yummy risotto:
My Risotto is soaked overnight in a chicken stock, the next day I add cream and parm. cheese reduce down to proper thickness.  The key is staying with Risotto when cooking can't leave the area, I use the basic italian herbs for flavor.  No salt as the stock has plenty.  You just keep playing with it until you find your proper levels.  No real recipe more so tasting until you make it happen. 
The one thing I've learned about experiments in my vegetable garden is to not be shy; I planted five artichoke seeds and eight kohlrabi - they all came up and produced the most yummy veggies!

I'm linking with Daphne's Dandelion's Harvest Monday post, check it out and learn what vegetables others are growing in their gardens!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Out of Denial

I am still alive! I thought I should mention that since I haven’t been posting at all the last few weeks.

If the truth be told, I haven’t been feeling well for a long time, but lately I just haven’t even had the energy to blog any more. I haven’t been functioning. Last week, Don came to me and said I should really go back to my gluten-free diet. I was on it last fall, some of you may remember a few of my baking posts, and I was feeling a lot better then, even well! The thing is that I wasn’t totally convinced that gluten was the problem. However, a few months later – I’ve been barely able to put one foot in front of the other by mid-afternoon. By evening, when I did most of my blogging, I was collapsed in bed and in pain too… joint pain, which began in just my ankles and was progressing to almost every joint in my body last week, coinciding with the great bread sales at Publix…

So, I’ve finally dealt with my denial. Really, if you’d asked me two weeks ago, I would have told you I was fine – ask Barbie. I am either gluten intolerant or have Celiac Disease. There, I said it. I am not too interested in getting the official diagnosis, as it may involve being put under, something I save for life or death situations only… I lost my best friend in my early 20s to anesthesia, so… anyway, I don’t need the doctor’s diagnosis, I have all the symptoms and they clear up when I stop eating gluten; so I quit gluten again just three days ago, and I’m already feeling better. At least the joint pain isn’t killing me at night, and I’m writing this at 3:00 – I’d be in bed taking a nap to recover before dinner at this point in the day just last week; and this after spending the day at Epcot yesterday – walking non-stop all day. We got year long passes in the beginning of March, but I think our weekly trips to Disney did me in too. So, I guess Don started to be concerned when he saw firsthand how exhausted I was and the pain I was in.

Since Michelle (9) has been on a gluten-free diet for over a year now, I am very familiar with what I need to do. It is a huge project for me though, because buying gluten-free products is expensive. Buying for one, it’s doable, for more than one… I’ll have to be cooking from scratch a lot more. Baking breads, muffins, cakes, pies, using gluten-free flours can also be expensive if you buy those small (1 lb.) gluten-free flours at the health food store or even the grocery store – they seem to be carrying many more gluten-free products these days. What I attempted to do last fall, when I was on the diet, was to grind and mix my own flours myself. There is a world of grains, nuts, and other foods that one can bake without wheat flour, and I know one of these days I’ll be able to bake a loaf of gluten-free bread that I’ll truly like.
In my twenties, I spent a few years living in Europe and enjoying amazing food. It was a great learning experience. I used to live down the street from a wonderful bakery in Geneva, where I would go and buy warm baguettes every morning, croissants several times a week, pain au chocolat, cherry and apple tarts, almond croissants… It was where I first ventured to speak my first words in French, the boulanger would correct me… I loved it. Once a week, there was a fresh market right on our street – I was spoiled in the food department for sure! The fish monger, another one of my French teachers, and the fromager would park their carts just feet from our building.  After a few years, I came back home and began learning to cook some of the foods I missed. Along with my cooking experiences, I also started gardening. I love the fresh veggies and herbs that come out of my garden, both because of how much healthier they are being organically grown and fresh, but also because I love to cook them – they add so much variety to my table.  But mostly, I think it was having that fresh market at my doorstep that spoiled me to death!  I must have fresh vegetables a short walk from my kitchen now.  I guess now I will have to become a full-time baker too.  I'm looking forward to the challenge and am thankful for all the bloggers out there who post about their own journeys and share recipes and experiences too.

So, I’ve been a closet Celiac for the last few months, I guess. I wouldn’t even admit it to myself. Denial is amazing, if you don’t admit to something, you don’t believe you are it – but you still are.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Spring Flowers and Clouds

I am finally getting back to my long-neglected blog!  The last few weeks have been busy, busy... way too busy.  I'm not sure the pace is about to change yet, but I wanted to post, so everyone can see we've not fallen off the face of the earth.  Barbie actually wrote me an email to see if I was ok, thanks again, Barbie. :)


I took these pictures three weeks ago, and this is what the wisteria looked like then.  Just sticks, not a leaf or bud to be seen anywhere.  I knew it was about to go through its yearly transformation.  I look forward to it every year!


Unbeknownst to me, I was surprised to find Cookie resting up top.  This has been her favorite afternoon napping spot.  I think I'd do the same if I could...


She soon decided I wasn't up to anything interesting... back to sleep.


This is what the wisteria looks like today.  Much more privacy for Cookie this way, though perhaps not as good of a lookout spot?  I'll be checking in the afternoons to see if she still naps there.


I had to include a picture of the sky.  Emily (6) has been studying weather in school, and we've been observing the clouds lately.  It's been lots of fun.  I thought the cirrus clouds were especially pretty today. 

Our family is about to become much more weather oriented soon, as Michael is getting a surprise for his birthday on Sunday...  I'll be back to tell all about it!

I am linking with Tuesday Garden Party at An Oregon Cottage today.


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Views of Spring


Front Porch

Wild (Chickasaw) Plum in Bloom as seen from the dinnign room window...

I'm linking with Wordless Wednesday and Our Homeschool Reviews today.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Harvest Monday - Lettuce & Peas

I didn't have a chance to check on the garden or do any blogging last week, because we had the flu in the house. I'm hoping it's done with now as our youngest is without a fever this morning.


Just picked this big head of romaine lettuce.  It's my favorite - Jericho, here's what they say about it:
Bred for the hot desert of Israel, this robust, bolt-resistant variety stays sweet and crisp in hot weather. Holds up the best in summer heat of all varieties trialed in New Mexico research farm. Very large, medium green, dense 14-16" heads
We have several big ones in the garden looking like they are about to bolt... I think I'll be giving some away.  I found a recipe for braised romaine lettuce I'm going to use tonight.  It looks really good and has some five-star reviews.  If we like it, we'll use up a lot of it this way.

Don finished getting the beds ready on Saturday, and I mustered the energy to plant two and a half with okra and squash seeds. 


The peas are loving our warmer weather.  It's been in the 70's for a week and forecasted to stay that way for the next.  We're out of the woods!

I'm linking with Daphne's Harvest Monday again today. :)


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Shawl

Lover of shawls volunteered to hold it (and wear it..) out in the yard this morning...
Again...
I love the contrasting stripes and lace
100% baby alpaca - super soft and warm!
A fun project to knit - details here.

I am linking with Raising Homemakers today!


Sunday, February 13, 2011

Harvest Monday - Something New


For the first time, last Fall, I planted leek seeds.  We had our first harvest last week, and they were scrumptious.  I made a creamy leek and potato soup, my favorite way to eat them.  I love their subtle, refined flavor.  I learned a little history about them today.  Leeks are an old vegetable, dating back thousands of years.  They are mentioned in the Old Testament:
We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. (Numbers 11:5)
So, apparently the children of Israel really liked them and ate them during their captivity in Egypt.

I mentioned peas last week, we've been harvesting about as much as is in the picture every other day. They've gone into salads, stir-fried vegetables, and fried rice.
We now also have celery and carrots ripening in the garden, plus plenty of kale.  So, lots of variety this week.

One thing I love about our fresh carrots is that their skins are so thin, I don't even have to peel them.  I just give them a good scrub, cut them up, and cook them or chop them up for dip.  I made a simple dip for them this weekend, and it and all the carrots vanished in seconds...

Smoked Paprika Dip

1/2 cup mayo
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp smoked paprika

Mix well and enjoy!


I always fail to mention oranges in my harvest posts.  They are such a staple here in Florida and at our home, that I guess they get taken for granted.  We have been squeezing gallons of orange juice the last few weeks.  There is nothing like fresh squeezed OJ with a hot breakfast.  We have four orange trees, and they loved the cold winter we had this year.  We've been thoroughly enjoying their sweet and refreshing goodness.

I am linking with Harvest Monday at Daphne's Dandelions today!
 
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