Spring Gardening

Things are still soggy and cool here but the calendar tells me that it is time to get moving on gardening tasks (and fun!). Gardening is my most favorite thing. I have so much to learn and every season I learn a little more and tweak my methods and my schedule. This month we are planting a spring garden and are laying cover crops in the summer gardens. These are new tasks. Some things are the same– I am starting my seedlings, but now on a great gardening table thanks to hubby.

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Here are some highlights of our week so far…

I cleaned out the raised beds that house the strawberries right before Easter. This week they are producing blossoms. We are hoping for a LOT of strawberries this year. The birdies and bunnies like them also so they remain caged all season!

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It would be hard for me to say what my favorite thing to grow is, but I am pretty obsessed with tomatoes. I started 1/2 of them this week (48) and the other 48 will be started in about 10 – 14 days. Some seeds were repeats like the Grandero tomatoes from Johnny’s and some are new tries from Seeds of Italy. My mouth just waters thinking about July and August! I have not bought any tomatoes throughout the winter. We have used our preserved ones from last summer (which are yummy) but nothing will beat the taste of our first picked fresh tomato weeks down the road.

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I mixed my own seed starter mix this year. Excited about this new activity!

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I also transplanted some seedlings that will be going outside soon. And I planted seconds of some peppers and eggplant. Things are growing!

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Last but not least we got our potatoes out this week. Hubby is an immense help in this. “Potato Hill” as we affectionately call Garden 6 used to be a junk pile when we moved in. We are still finding shoes, glass and all kinds of odd things there, but hubby worked hard to till this nicely and dig trenches for our potatoes. We planted Kennebec, Purple Majesty and Sangre Red. Last year we totally messed up the potato thing and still got some simply by grace. We are hoping that planting them correctly this year will reap some tasty goods!

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Next on the schedule is planting Garden 1 which will have the cool weather crops. Some are started and some will simply be sown. This should be completed by Sunday. I have not done a spring garden yet and I am really excited.

Last night we ate some lettuce that had over wintered in a cold frame and used a couple of spring garlic. It was a perfect finish to a day playing in the dirt!

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What were you up to this week? Are you just beginning your gardening like me or already way past the starting gate?

Happy Unleashing in your garden!

FGU

 

 

 

 

 

Baked Eggs Southwestern Style

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We love southwestern food! Anytime we can add some jalapenos, black beans and tomatoes to a recipe we are happy campers!

This weekend for brunch we made baked eggs and they were fantastic.

Note: I love using dried beans rather than canned beans so I had cooked those in the crockpot the day before to have them ready. When I prep beans this way, I do not add any seasonings since they will be in a recipe. I simply do 1 C dried beans to 3 C water and let them go for several hours in the crockpot. You can also use 1 can of black beans, rinsed for this recipe.

Start with a diced onion and a couple jalapenos. Add some diced garlic (some is a relative term; I used 6, but others may just use a couple).  Add 1 tsp of paprika (I used 1/2 smoked and 1/2 sweet) and 1/2 tsp of cumin. Let all the veggies sweat and the seasonings get fragrant–about 15 minutes.

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peppers and onions

Oh did it smell good. Next add your black beans (16 oz) and tomatoes. For the tomatoes you need about 28 oz.

black beans and tomatoes

I used tomatoes that I had frozen. I grabbed a bag of  frozen crockpot sauce (recipe from Food Renegade)I made ALOT of this last summer and froze 2 cup portions into ziplocks.  I grab it all the time for recipes or to throw on pasta. Since it is seasoned up nicely these tomatoes worked great in this recipe.  I also quartered and froze roma tomatoes last summer and grabbed several of these. Frozen tomatoes are not good for salads, but they work great in recipes or for roasting. If you have tomatoes you preserved that are favorites, use those; otherwise grab 28 oz can and that will work nicely too.

Stir it up and add a little honey (about Tbl).

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I added a bit of tomato paste to thicken it up and then let it simmer for 20 minutes or so.

One at a time, break eggs into a cup and pour them into the sauce.

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Add a lid and check them after about 6 minutes. Mine cooked for 8 and the yolks were still runny.

Serve in a bowl with pitas or tortilla shells- you could use corn or flour, hard or soft– whatever you like best.

Add some chopped green onion and some feta (queso fresco would be great, but I did not have any). Chop some cilantro if you have it around and toss it on.

Indulge!

Baked Eggs

Do you like spicy food?  What are some of your favorites?

Happy Unleashing those taste buds!

FGU

 

 

 

 

Pizza Sauce- Canning Recipe!

IMG_20141015_094829444If you are still picking tomatoes like me, you may be running out of ideas for canning them. We have lots of tomatoes canned so I started thinking about other things I could do with them.

Since hubby makes a GREAT pizza crust, I thought Pizza Sauce! I knew that I would so appreciate having “ready made” sauce on a busy night with a fresh crust.

First you need about 13 to 15 C of tomato puree. It took me about 16 lbs of tomatoes to yield this.

For  the puree I used two methods in this sauce. I ran 1/2 the tomatoes through a food mill. I don’t have a picture because I was not coordinated enough to take a picture while turning a food mill. I quartered the tomatoes and ran them through.You do not need to skin or seed them as the mill takes care of this. If you don’t have a food mill, you can find an inexpensive one at Meier’s or another store like that. Mine was $20 which was cheaper than any I found on Amazon.

While I was making puree with the food mill, the other half was roasting. To do this, simply cut the tomatoes in half, put them on a cookie sheet and roast at 375 for about 25 minutes. We have a convection oven, so you may need to adjust a bit. They are done with the skins are toasty.

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This is such an easy thing and a bit of a cheat, but you don’t even need to remove the skins. Run them through a blender and you have great puree.

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I poured this puree into the other puree from the food mill and let it simmer for a long time. I mean all day. I went upstairs to my home office to work and it just simmered and simmered. No lid; you want it to thicken. The thickness is up to you. All day simmering gave me the thicker, pizza sauce consistency I wanted.

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After I reached the thickness I wanted, I added 2 tsp of dried Italian Seasoning, 1 tsp of black pepper, 1 tsp of salt, 1 tsp of garlic powder. You can add other types of seasonings if you would like, but make sure they are dried seasonings. In the bottom of each pint jar I added 1/4 tsp. of citric acid. This yielded me 5 pints.

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I processed these in my pressure canner according to directions. Please refer to your canning instructions to insure proper processing. Mine called for 11 lbs of pressure, 25 minutes for pints, and then 10 minutes to rest after the pressure released before removing. You could also water bath these using the instructions that Ball gives for tomato sauce.

The sauce thickened even more after processing and cooling. You can tell by the space remaining in the jars.

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I cannot wait to spread this on a fresh pizza crust on a cold wintery day and taste a little summer.

Happy Unleashing!

FGU

 

First Fall Dinner!

I have been creating dishes with tomatoes, squash, zucchini, cucumbers, peppers, beans and basil for several weeks now. As much as I love all that, I must admit that the taste buds have been craving some fall flavors. I teased them with a sweet potato last week, but that is about all I have ventured into so far thjs fall.

Yesterday however was a very cool, cloudy day. I had jeans on, a long sleeve shirt and even had to shut the windows to get the chill out.  Football was also on the schedule to watch last night. And then it all came together. Thanks to daughter Rachael and a late text message she sent me for a over the top Acorn Squash Recipe from Guy Fieri, I was on my way to releasing fall in my kitchen!

You halve and hollow out the acorn squash ,add a bit of olive oil, S&P and they are ready for roasting. One of the first things I loved about this recipe is that you use the seeds also. While the squash is roasting, you roast the seeds to sprinkle on top at the end. These roasted up beautifully.

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In the meantime, you prep your filling. It is a delectable mix of cabbage, peppers, onions, garlic, mushrooms and seasonings. (don’t forget to get the full recipe here) I did make a couple of tweaks– I added 1 tsp of fennel, because I really love fennel with cabbage. I also sauteed the cabbage a bit longer. I wanted it to caramelize a bit— it was totally worth the extra time!

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This cabbage mixture is so good! Hubby said we need to have it as a side with many things. This would go great with sausage or pork chops; or with veggies like sweet potatoes and green beans. It was delish! I am really happy that we had some of the filling left over–it may be lunch today!

You fill the squash up, add some goat cheese and the roasted seeds and pop it under the broiler for a few.

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Hit it with a bit of parsley on the way to the table and it is FANTASTIC!

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Today I am back to green beans, basil and tomatoes. BUT NO complaints here! I love these things and will love them in the coming months when I am tiring of fall cuisine and need to open up my summer taste buds.

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Happy Unleashing your taste buds today. What’s for dinner?

FGU

 

 

 

 

For the LOVE of Tomatoes and Bacon!

Those of you that know me, know that I don’t eat meat often. As a matter of fact I rarely buy it and save my indulgences on eating it to when I am out and it is being served. It is not that I don’t like it, we just don’t get along very well. So, I keep it to special occasions. Last night was one of those!

Is there anything better than a bacon and tomato sandwich when the tomatoes have just been picked and there are five types?

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And how about if you have some field greens and fresh basil to top it off with?

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And how about if the bacon comes from a local farmer that you just bought hours earlier?

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And how about if the bread is freshly baked by your hubby?

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And how about if you eat pickles with it that you just made a few days earlier from cucumbers in your garden?

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And how about if you have a pot of Cream of Tomato soup (also from the garden tomatoes) simmering on the stove to accompany it?

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Can you smell it? Can you taste it? It was perfection… plain and simple.

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A bacon and tomato sandwich is simply a rite of passage from summer to fall for me. As I transition into 100% fall status this will be repeated with those last tomatoes that are begging to be used in a splendid way!

What’s your favorite indulge from your late summer harvest?

Happy Unleashing!

FGU

 

Roasted Tomato Sauce- Canning Recipe

San MarzanoI love, love, love tomatoes in the summertime and like I have said lately, I am still in summer. I have so many tomatoes to eat and preserve, I am in heaven. The apples and pumpkins are just going to have to wait on me to catch up!

I have canned a lot of tomatoes as of late and this week I decided to can tomato sauce instead. I have not canned sauce before so I was excited to give this a whirl.

I love roasted tomatoes and thought instead of blanching and peeling the tomatoes to prep them I would roast them.  I had read you can do this and I went about taking this for a run. I had a full Homer bucket of San Marzanos and thought they would make the perfect sauce. I washed them, halved them and popped them on large cookie sheets with the skin side up. No oil or seasonings; just red tomatoes.

I had 3 full size trays and 2 half trays in the oven. Let the roasting begin!

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In Oven

They roasted so beautifully.  I decided not to peel them but to simply remove them from the tray and get them in the Vitamix. The tomatoes right off the sheets were good enough to eat. I had to restrain myself!

Off the sheet

Roasted

Blend

After the Vitamix I had this…

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The skins were taken care of by the Vitamix, but I had seeds.  I wanted to remove them for this sauce. That is optional, but I put this sauce through a sieve to remove the seeds and then brought it to a boil.

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I used my Ball book for processing instructions and started canning the sauce and ended up with the most lovely product ever. I am looking forward to opening these during the cold days of winter!

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I am also going to make some more! Six jars will not last I can guarantee!

Are you still harvesting and preserving summer?

Happy Unleashing,

FGU

 

Indulging (and preserving) the Harvest Part 2

The harvest continues to come in. I am by no means an expert at canning. This is only my 3rd year doing this, but I do love it. Last weekend we canned 60 pounds of San Marzanos and Granderos (both Roma tomatoes). We also had some tomatillos that I used for salsa.

My kitchen corner was a busy place. It is a little crowded in that space for this task, but I made it work. I am excited about our kitchen remodel which will gain me about 80 inches of counter space! I will be in heaven.

Busy Kitchen

Tools of the trade:

Canning Tools

I was super excited to use the Weck Jars that Rachael gifted me at Christmas. They were the first to go in the water bath!

Four Jars

Making the salsa was delightful and colorful. Look at that.

Salsa

I have not grown tomatillas before but we love them. I am really excited to be canning some Salsa Verde for future use!

Tomatillo Salsa

All in all for my first day canning of the season the takeaway was pretty and much larger than last year. Tomatoes, tomato jam, two kinds of salsa and dried tomatoes all await a winter day for opening and eating.

Jars of Tomatoes

The big news is that although this is the most I have ever canned before there is so much more waiting. I have been with my mom since 9/10 as she had surgery (she is recouping nicely) and hubby has been sending me pictures. Our green beans are so full and heavy that they totally took out the trellis from weight! He rebuilt it for the little guys. Our cucumbers I understand are waiting to be pickled and we have “1000’s of tomatoes” waiting for a canning jar. He told me that he went and bought several flats of ball jars that are waiting in the kitchen for me!

Can you say Christmas presents???

How’s your harvest and preserving coming along? Done or in the middle like me?

Happy Unleashing!

FGU

Indulging in the Harvest

After I shared my harvest with you last week, it was time to start indulging in it. Yes, I mean EATING it! One of the things I love about gardening is the harvest and the taste of freshly picked veggies. When you grow your own you can grow your favorites so everything you pick is your favorite! With 52 pounds of tomatoes, 20+ pounds of summer squash, green beans and more, we have been feasting.

The first thing I had to do was do something with all those lovely tomatoes. We were heading over to my mom’s in Ohio and I had promised dinner. It seemed a “no brainer” to do tomato something with pasta. I made a slow cooker sauce based on this recipe from Food Renegade.

Sauce in Crockpot

I took liberty and made a few tweaks of my own. I added a tsp. of fennel, deleted the tarragon and used a bunch of thyme tied up with string (that I discarded). The sauce was so lovely that I did not blend it with my immersion blender and instead left it in its final state. We tossed over pasta added fresh, ribbon cut basil from the garden and it was heaven! It was so great that when I came home and made some more.  I froze 4 pints in ziploc bags for future feasting in cooler days.

Next came the squash. I have lots of squash and I am thrilled about that. I love it and will keep on loving it.  This recipe is for yellow summer squash but you really could make it with whatever is your favorite.

Squash Quiche

For the crust, I asked hubby to make me a crust since he is the baker. He added fresh thyme to the crust since thyme is used in the filling.  You could also use a store bought crust (that is a crime in our house according to my hubby so I won’t) or make your own favorite crust to use. We pre-baked the crust about 15 minutes and let it cool.

The recipe is easy!

  • Melt 1 Tbl of butter and 1 Tbl of olive oil in a pan to medium heat
  • Add 1.5 lbs of squash cut into 1/4 in. rounds. Add fresh thyme (I added a lot; you can add to taste) and let everything saute until squash softens.
  • In the meantime, whisk 6 eggs, 1 C of 1/2 and 1/2 (or cream), 3/4 tsp. salt, 1/4 tsp. pepper and 1/4 tsp hot pepper sauce (of your choosing).
  • By now the squash should be done.  Remove from heat and cool a bit.  You don’t want it to cook the eggs on contact.
  • Arrange squash over the bottom of crust. Add sliced fresh mozzarella (about 6 oz) or grated mozzarella if you prefer.  I prefer sliced fresh, but that is a personal choice. Pour the egg mixture over (you may have a bit left). Put the quiche dish on a cookie sheeet (in case of run over) and bake until golden- about 35 minutes at 350. Let it cool for 15 minutes.

OK this is so good, that I am making it again this week.

Another over the top meal was our Heirloom Tomato Pie from Food Network and a side of Green Beans. We used slicers and freshly picked green beans (these were the first of the season and there are tons more to follow).

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slicers

 

When hubby made the crust for the quiche, it made two, so I did not follow the crust on this recipe, but used his instead. I also substituted the manchego cheese for asiago (only because that is what I had).  I also added fresh basil– one because we have ALOT of it and two because I love it.

It was fun to prepare and the bottom layer filling makes it stand out over any other tomato tart I have made.

Tomato Tart Prep

We simply steamed the green beans and oh it was great!

Tart and Beans

Tomato Tart

 

Now you probably have guessed that this did not use all of our first harvest, but it was a start and nightly we are cooking it. We stuffed the greens into a swordfish steak along with some tomatoes and feta and that was supreme. (I forgot to take a picture in my excitement).

Next up was a day of canning and drying.  That is another blog for another day.

Happy unleashing your harvest!

FGU

 

 

My Green Babies are BURSTING with Color!

It is so good to be “back.” I have been away from my personal computer and away from my garden 🙁 for a couple of weeks.  Travels to see the grandbaby were SO fun, but my garden was ignored during that time. When we returned our life was full of hustle and bustle since we are in the midst of a remodel. By 7 a.m. the crew is at the house, banging away and looking for direction from us so that keeps me up at the house rather than back in the gardens. AND rain has stopped me in my tracks when I have been able to carve a bit of time out.

Confession— I had not done anything in my gardens since 8/17.  Confession— I was in a panic over that! I KNEW that everything would be eaten (remember those army worms I discovered on my last outing?). If not eaten then strangled from the crab grass! If not eaten or strangled then slumped over from too much rain or not enough. My mind was a terrible place to visit. I was sad about my neglect, worried about what I would find and pretty much paralyzed to hop in Ms. Tupelo and have a discovery run up there.

BUT as I loaded up Ms. Tupelo yesterday morning I felt my spirit lifting.  AND yes the grass was out of control and super long. But as we made it up our hill to the gardens, a wonderful sight was before me. The gardens were BURSTING!

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There were beets, green beans, squash, tomatoes, peppers, pumpkins, cucumbers, peas, chard and basil. I could not believe it! WOW! They did just fine without me (lesson learned).

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The beans had broken the trellis from their weight. The squash had grown over my rope so I had to reset it.

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There were so many tomatoes, that even after I filled a homer bucket with 30 pounds of them it appeared that I had not picked anything!

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After I picked the goodness, I sat in the back of Ms. Tupelo and wrote my thoughts for a bit. One thought is that no matter how long it has been since I have been outside gardening, the joy of being out there and seeing the goodness that is happening, far outweighs the stuff that is negative. And yes, along with all the goodness, I discovered that my cucumbers have mosaic virus. I filled a homer bucket with that also!

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The grass may be long, but that is a sign of good things–we are still getting rain, the ground is fertile and I found myself thinking of all the nitrogen my plants must be getting with all that green between rows. I want to add an under cover crop in my gardens next spring, but nature has just done it for me this year. The beets, soybeans and green beans do not seem to mind at all to share their turf.

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So, what did I harvest yesterday you may ask? (Even if you are not asking, I am DYING to show you!)

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Isn’t that the best ever?????? All this I grew from seed.  Sorry to be busting with pride but this is my first time starting stuff from seed and not buying starter plants.  I am such the proud mama here! Look at the smile and blue skies…

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And my little flower bed gave me some love yesterday also.

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IMG_20140903_113502280When I came in, I made me a great big tomato and basil sandwich! Oh my goodness, can you just taste this? It was so good, I even skipped the cheese!

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Today, I am heading over to visit my mom and dad.  I will be sharing the goodness with them in the form of bags of produce and a crock pot of fresh tomato sauce that cooked overnight in the crock pot.

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 So my garden is bursting and so am I! I hope you simply burst with delight over something today too!

Happy Unleashing (and bursting!)

FGU

Saturday Musings: Heading Home

Two weeks in Atlanta with the new grandbaby and my daughters.  It has been wonderful and not to be traded!  A little life came into the world perfectly and my daughter has transformed into a beautiful (obsessed) mommy; her first step towards a lifetime of “momminess.”  I have loved being here, loved holding that little bundle and will long for that when I go home.

arlo and me

But home is where I am heading this weekend and I am equally excited about that!  Now it is not a neat little package I am walking into!  A remodel is underway and the crew and my hubby have done a lot of work while I have been gone.

I can’t wait to see my new door.  A window was here previously but this gives us great access to the deck (which we live on practically!) and look at all the sunshine into the room! Jasmine still looks a bit confused by this new addition, but I am already in love with it.

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From the outside I think it looks great and I can start to visualize the end result. We are coming along in our journey to get the house where we want it.  AND all the vinyl siding is off (yipee!) and the house is wrapped and ready for the new Hardiplank that is painted and waiting in the pole barn for action.

exterior deck

 

So, it is a bit chaotic and terribly dusty and things are torn up but it is HOME.  I look forward to all of the craziness that will welcome me home.

I also have day lillies that I have not seen yet…

lillies

And tomato plants (and weeds) that I haven’t seen in over two weeks…

tomato and weeds

 

I am plenty excited to head back to my country home. I love seeing my family and I have LOVED that little bundle of joy, but am ready for a sunrise on the deck.  I am ready to play in the dirt again and hop on my tractor instead of an interstate.

But for my last day as a “city girl” we are getting our nails done–soon to be replaced with a farmgirl manicure; I will eat a fantastic dinner and drink some great wine tonight–soon to be replace with veggies from the garden and CSA; I will chow down at Waffle House–soon to be replaced with green smoothies and I will probably run some errands that really aren’t needed–soon to be replaced with not leaving my home for days on end.

I will also hug my girls and kiss those precious cheeks on Arlo–soon to be replaced with longing for that as those things really can’t be replaced.

I am heading home to my country home that is in chaos.  As I click my red shoes (red Teva sandles actually) I repeat “there’s no place like home.” 🙂

Happy Unleashing today in your home sweet home!

FGU