First Blog Post of 2014

ImageI’ve been a bit  amiss in my blog, and am now getting excited about the new year.  However, my poor garden is in it’s winter state, and normally does so much better, but we had the kind of artic blast.  After checking out the triage situation, I am left with some cabbage collards, Brussels sprouts, rosemary and lavender and am grateful for that.  For NC, it has been a tough winter, and it is still January.  However the light is getting ready to change, and it will be time to plant soon.

I did find an amazing surprise today.  There are five individual spinach plants coming up from the seeds I tossed in there in November to overwinter.  That made me smile.  They should be ready, along with the Brussels sprouts to eat next week.

This blog is not just a cooking blog, but it is a “freshness” blog about gardening, fresh foods, cooking and getting away from not knowing what is in season in the grocery stores.  If you see tomatoes in the store in January, they are not fresh.  However, seeing those same tomatoes in the store in July, and seeing people buy them and not know the difference amazes and saddens me.

We wandered out into the wilderness known as the garden today to pull up sticks, markers, pull out dead plants. We found the spinach plants, and the just about ready to eat Brussels sprouts.  It is time to amend the soil, add friend’s ashes from burn barrels and fireplaces, manure, leaves, and wait for a day to till.

Our wedding is March 15th, and we want the entire spring garden in and thriving before we head off for a well deserved honeymoon in Savannah.  Thus, we have work to do!

We used a live Christmas tree this year, with the intention of planting it–as we spent Christmas in Indiana.  We put it in today, and watered it generously.  We are excited about seeing this tree thrive, and hope that happens.  It was wonderful to be playing in the dirt again.  Here is a picture of our Christmas tree that is now in the yard. 

Happy New Year to all of you in Blogosphere.  I can’t wait to see what veggie takes the 2014 title of most prolific.  Last year, it was the year of the tomato.

Turkey Soup

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This is a basic turkey soup. I got a package of large turkey wings, and simmered them for a few hours.  I took the wings out, got all the meat off the bones, strained the stock, cleaned the pot and reduced the stock by about half. 

That can all be put aside.  I did it on a separate night.  

The rest of the recipe consists of: (all veggies are chopped & all herbs are fresh)

  • 2 large carrots
  • 1 medium Vidalia onion
  • 4 stalks of celery
  • 3 cups of Swiss chard (or spinach)
  • 1 tsp. thyme
  • 1 tsp. marjarom
  • 2 tsp. parsley
  • 2 ts[ salt
  • 1/2 tsp. white pepper
  • 1 cup barley
  • 2 tsp. garlic

Saute carrots, garlic, onions, celery in a small bit of olive oil. Add turkey stock, herbs and stir for a few minutes. Add barley and simmer until barley is done.  Add turkey and Swiss chard.  Adjust herbs to taste.

Sweet Potato Chile

I heard of this recipe, and decided to make this my own.  I have a bumper crop of sweet potatoes, and some of them are HUGE.  I am thinking the big ones will become soups, pies and such.  This is coupled in time when a friend of mine has given me some venison burger. I also had some leftover peppers from the garden that had to be eaten or would go bad.  Therefore, here is a recipe that I have created that uses all these things.

  • 3 lbs sweet potatoes (in this case, it was one football sized tater)
  • 1 huge vidalia onion cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 4 ancho peppers (or 2 sweet peppers, if you prefer) (again 1/2 inch cubes)
  • 1 large can of diced tomatoes (fresh if you have them.  I don’t)
  • 2 cans of black beans
  • 1 pound of venison or hamburger (optional)
    •  heaping tablespoon of garlic
    • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
    • 2 TB chili powder
    • 2 TB cumin
    • 2 tsp. salt
    • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
    • Spices are all “to taste”.  I made mine hotter than this.
    • 1/8 tumeric

    Cut up potato(es) into 1/2 inch cubes. Saute cube in 2 tablespoons olive oil until potatoes start to sweat. Add garlic and onion and saute.  Add peppers, beans, tomatoes and spices. Saute meat on the side, and add if you wish, or put it in some of it–save some for your vegetarian friends:). Simmer about 1/2 hour.  Enjoy.

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Tarragon Chicken Tenderloins

  • Six chicken tenderloins
  • Six small sliced green onions
  • 2 tablespoons fresh tarragon
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup half & half
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • white pepper and salt to taste

Saute garlic and green onions in oil. Add tenderloins and cook until just underdone. Add 1/3 cup wine, tarragon and cover for 5-10 minutes on simmer.  Check to see if chicken is done, and transfer to plate to finish sauce.

Add half & half, and stir sauce until it begins to thicken.  Add salt and fresh white pepper to taste. Add back in the tenderloins and warm through.  Serve.

I didn’t get a picture of this, and it got eaten too fast!  It is easy and delicious.

 

 

 

Israeli Salad

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This is a fresh, colorful and flavorful salad.  It involves a lot of chopping, and some of the ingredients can be substituted for in season veggies.  This is tonight’s salad.  It normally calls for chopped carrots, but the ones at the store looked old and mealy, and my garden ones aren’t ready to eat yet. All vegetables are chopped.

  • 4 pickling cukes
  • 10 large radishes (optional)
  • 4 large carrots
  • 2 avacados
  • 1 sweet onion
  • 3 tomatoes
  • 2 large peppers
  • one bunch of chopped fresh parsley
  • dried cranberries
  • juice of 3 large lemons
  • 1/2 cup olive oil

Mix together and enjoy.  Israelis have this for breakfast.  My daughter, Briana, spent 6 months in Israel and brought this concept home with her.  I am going to have it for dinner tonight as a side, and will also have it for breakfast and try it, Israeli style.

L’chaim

 

 

Harvest Feasts

I am of Irish descent, and I grew up in Salem. This gives me a very cooperative feeling with the old feasts and how they fit into the agricultural year and being a Christian. Many of the festivals we celebrate today come from the Celtic and involve some type of planting, harvesting and putting up food for the winter. The most recent one is called many things: All Hallow’s Eve, Halloween, Dia de Muertos (Day of the Dead), All Soul’s Day, All Saints Day, and Samhain. However, the meaning of this is pretty clear; as people we all acknowledge the shorter days and in many way remember death. We remember those who came before us, celebrate their lives, as we watch the leaves fall, and the first frost takes away the tender crops. The moon is the closest to the earth at this time, which is great as the people of old had to do their harvest, and could use the light at night. We also dress up in costumes and play–this probably was started by the agrarian people as a way to be lighthearted as they watched their crops die back, and had to work very long hours. They could not go down to the local grocery store, so this represented a busy time of work, putting stuff up, worrying that what they had would be enough, etc.
As a gardener, this season is really revealed to me as a harvest festival. However, as a modern day gardener, I know that I can always go down to the store if I run out. I feel very connected to all the people that came before me as I dry out my herbs, pickle my root vegetables, dig up my sweet potatoes, etc. It also makes me feel very connected to the earth itself.
I have a counter full of fresh herbs drying, many pickled veggies in the fridge, 3 huge sacks of sweet potatoes. a lot of dead vines and plants and a sense of reflection. I hope to post more on this blog. It sounds like I will be exploring the sweet potato.
Happy Harvest Festival.

“Frankenstein” Tomatoes

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This is a past midsummer task in the garden.  I LOVE tomatoes, and am not ready to see them go away at the end of July. No one carries tomato plants here in this area as no one seems to have utilized the really long growing season (Zone 7B according to the latest maps).  However, I always push the season, so this will work for you where ever you are. 

First off, tomatoes! They are VINES. However, we treat them as plants.  Vines will naturally root, but since we normally have them in cages or some sort of support, then they act like “tomato plants”. 

There are two types of branches on each tomato vine.  Growing branches, and flowering branches–and sometime mid summer, the growing branches will begin to die.  They are not needed.  The base of the plant is spent and looks old, and brittle.  There is always some hardy green parts way up at the top of the tomato cage, really trying to produce more tomatoes.  This is your “Frankenstein”.

The first thing to do is evalute each plant.  Look at each as an individual.  Trim all dead “wood” off the vine.  I will keep referring to it as a vine, as it helps to understand. Again, some branches will already be brown, and look dead. This leads to many Southerners to abandon ship.  Take heart.  If you do this next step, you can have tomatoes until November.

Trim each vine.  Take off all dead branches.  Now evaluate your vine.  The bottom is brittle and old, but the top is lively, and probably still producing blossoms.  Slide each part of the vine into your cage or containment structure.  Trim, and leave all active blossoming parts of the plant at the top.  GENTLY (I can not stress this enough), slide the live part of the vine down.  Figure out where it can land on the ground.  If your tomato vine is almost dead, then take off the containment structure and actually have it about 18″ away, and bury it, as you would a new tomato plant.

However, DO NOT prune it off the parent plant, as if it does not root, it will die.  Some of my tomato plants are still producing heavily, so I take only parts of them, and bury them–leaving the other parts to continue to put out fruit. 

Each plant has to be individually evaluated, and look for it’s Frankenstein potential.  I am enclosing a picture of a full fledged Frankenstein.  However, of the 8 plants that I did this morning, I foudn one that had nothing more to give, three full fledged Frankenstein vines that I could plant as adjuncts to the parent (and still be attached–very important), and 4 that I did a hybrid of running parts of the vines into the ground, burying them, and leaving the still producing plant.

This may be complicated, but it WORKS! You can have tomatoes until frost or after.  I have had fresh tomatoes in December, and that made it so worth a little pruning and burying.  OK..write for questions, but I am enclosing a picture of a full fledged Frankenstein.  The old brittle wine is still attached, and the new one is re-caged.  It will take about 2 weeks for the new plant to completely be on it’s own, and then you can pull up the vine from the old one. 

Have fun…this makes you feel like a scientist! Plus late season tomatoes! Adjust this for your zone, but it really works.