Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Fresh from the garden!

We got a few things from the garden today; a hand full of green beans, an onion, two zucchini, two cucumbers, some kale and chard leaves and a hand full of Sweet 100 tomatoes. The green beans and greens have been washed, cut and put in bags in the fridge and most of the tomatoes have been eaten. Here's a picture of the rest of it:

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Things are finally starting to ripen, get large enough, and just generally be ready to be picked. We have so many tomatoes and cucumbers coming and there's even another yellow squash growing and so far it isn't mushy. I just love fresh produce from my own garden!

Monday, May 28, 2007

Blueberry and Chocolate dessert bowls

I spent some time Sunday making dessert bowls for a Memorial Day barbecue and jam session Rod and I were invited to attend. We took barbecued chicken, mashed potatoes, baked beans, and three dessert bowls - two dark chocolate and one blueberry. Wow, the response was amazing! Almost everyone at the session was male but they all wanted to know just how I made the bowls and where they could get the pan to make them and if I'd share the recipes. I told them I'd blog about it so here it is, partially for their benefit and for anyone else who might catch this.

For the blueberry bowl, I just used Martha White Blueberry Muffin Mix (yes, I cheated!) and followed the directions on the package, filling the pan to the fill line and baking 12 minutes. After baking, I let it cool in the pan about 10 minutes, then turned the pan upside down over my butcher block and the bowl easily came out of the pan. It split in two places but I wasn't too worried about that.

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Here's the blueberry bowl, made in the 5" pan, after baking.

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And here's the finished bowl, after being filled with vanilla pudding and topped with whipped cream. I had a little pudding and whipped cream left and set those aside, figuring I could use them for something. Unfortunately, I didn't get a picture of the bowl after the first slice was cut so I can't show you the inside of it. By the time I thought of it, the entire thing had been eaten! But trust me, it was as pretty as it was tasty and my other half described it as "incredibly good".

The chocolate bowls took a little more time. Rather than use a cake mix, which to me just doesn't do the Better Baker justice, I decided to make Hershey's Especially Dark Chocolate Cake on the back of Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa. Oh my, if you like dark chocolate, this is the recipe for you!

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I assembled the ingredients and sprayed the Cook's Choice Better Bowl Maker with Pam with flour. I've discovered that the Pam spray with flour is the best choice of vegetable oil spray when using the Bowl Maker.

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I filled the Bowl Maker to the fill line with the cake batter and baked it according to the Hershey's recipe. I had a little of the batter left and set it aside, figuring that just like the leftover ingredients from the blueberry bowl, I'd think of something to do with it. When I removed the pan from the oven, the cake had risen above the pan so I used a knife to slice off the excess so that the top of the cake was even with the pan. I let the pan cool a few minutes, turned it over the butcher block, tapped the bottom with a knife a couple of times and the cakes slid out.

As I stood looking at the excess cake sliced off the chocolate bowls, I had a thought about filling those bowls. I crumbled the excess cake and dropped half of it into each of the two chocolate bowls. I then mixed the leftover vanilla pudding and whipped cream from the blueberry bowl and the leftover cake batter from the chocolate batter and poured that over the crumbled cake in the chocolate bowls.

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Once the men at the get together yesterday tasted the chocolate bowls they were scarfed up in about 15 minutes! Err, the edible bowls, not the men!

I would definitely consider these bowls a real hit at any kind of gathering. They're so versatile and easy to use and it's nice to show up at a function with something different!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Garden today - oh, so close!

We're so close to having vegetables just flooding us! Unfortunately, it looks as though just as some plants are about to really come in well, others aren't going to make it. The squash plants that have been producing the bad squash don't appear to be improving at all and the plant that produced the almost ripe Sweet 100s I blogged about a few days ago doesn't look like it's going to survive, either. In fact, most of the container vegetables on that side of the yard look bad but the container vegetables on the other side look fine. Hmmmmm

Anyway, here are a few pictures of what I see today in our planting tables...

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Tiny zucchini on the vine

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Sweet 100 tomatoes and corn in a planting table

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Onions and peas, looking so good!

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Close up of a green bean

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A longer shot of the beds

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Fat Mean Beans!!

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Very tiny cucumbers - look close and you can see them!

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A nice cucumber, soon to be headed to our dinner table

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Very tiny butternut squash

As a side note, tonight's dinner wasn't too exciting. We had fried chicken from the local grocery deli. I hate to admit it, but they have the best fried chicken in this one horse town.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Garden pickins are comin' in! And what's for dinner

I had my first ripe Sweet 100 cherry of the season this morning. It was so warm and sweet and delicious! More are ripening so soon we'll have plenty of tomatoes for our salads.

My other half picked a small cucumber and a small zucchini for me this morning and I'll have them tomorrow for lunch. Every day now we get a few green beans. Today we got enough to put a meal's worth in the freezer. We don't bother to blanch them because they won't be in there long at all!

Yep, it's all starting to come in. Before long I might be too busy canning and freezing to post here. ;) Naw, that won't happen!

Tonight's dinner was a beef roast with carrots and mashed potatoes. It was a very good roast because I used the Cook's Choice Brisket Seasoning on it. Yummy and there's just enough left for my lunch tomorrow.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Sittin' Chicken and roasted vegetables

is one of my favorite dishes, chicken roasted on the Sittin' Chicken. I still have the older version of the Sittin' Chicken, the one without the holes. I've heard that the new one is much better and I'll get one but until I do, my old one is sufficient.

I have to tell you that cooking a chicken this way produces the juiciest, most tender and flavorful chicken I've ever eaten, bar none. And vegetables cooked with the chicken are incredible! Even veggie haters often like them when cooked this way. I did something a little different tonight, though. Instead of putting the vegetables in at the beginning of the cooking as I usually do, I steamed the carrots and green beans for a few minutes and added them about 20 minutes before the chicken was done. The result was better than usual! The vegetables weren't at all dry and there was zero shriveling. They still looked garden fresh and had the great flavor of the seasoning I used on the chicken.

Here are a few pictures of the process to make a Sittin' Chicken:

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I rinse and pat dry the chicken

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Then I season it. The seasoning used varies but today I used Cook's Choice Brisket Seasoning. We love the stuff on poultry!

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I spray the Sittin' Chicken well with vegetable spray. That makes the chicken oh so easy to remove and makes the Sittin' Chicken oh so easy to clean. Into the Sittin' Chicken I put about a cup and a half of water, some Knorr brand chicken bouillon, garlic powder, crushed red pepper and black pepper. After making sure it's well mixed, I plopped the bird onto the Sittin' Chicken and stuffed the end with a small onion fresh from the garden. I put it in 13 x9 baking pan, put some potatoes (canned since the bag of Yukon Golds we bought at the grocery store Friday apparently didn't make it home with us), carrots, and green beans in with it, seasoned those lightly with the Brisket Rub and put it all in a 350 degree oven.

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And here's the finished product - what a bird!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Things are poppin'!

Oh boy, things are lookin' great! Here's most of our garden as of yesterday afternoon and this morning. How is your garden growing?

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Almost ripe Sweet 100 tomatoes - just a couple but more are right behind!

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Upside down Sweet 100 plant - this one has no ripe ones yet

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A sweet little zucchini!

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Three bell peppers growing here

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Romas growing on the vine. Sweet!

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Here are some beets and beans in one of the planting tables

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And here we have corn, beets, and more in another planting table

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A mess of beans and peas!

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Onions and peas in a planting table

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Tomatoes and corn, growing beautifully

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And for something a little different, some Black Magic Elephant Ears

Friday, May 18, 2007

Something's wrong with my squash plants

Two of them, anyway. The squash fruit are mushy and almost moldy looking on the end. Here's a picture of a 2 inch long squash I picked just a few minutes ago.

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Although I found Squash Bugs on another plant across the yard, I see no evidence of them on the plant that produced this thing. The leaves aren't the best looking, though. They're kind of brownish. Maybe it's Squash Vine Borer. Whatever it is, I need it to go away and fast.

I posted a message about it at gardenweb.com and included a photo. Maybe someone there can help me identify the issue and I can figure out what to do about it.

How disappointing! I love squash and was looking forward to a nice big harvest of it.

Okay, I just read up on this and it looks as though the squash might not have been pollinated well. I'm going to see what else I can learn about that.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

My pantry doth progress-show me your pantry!

Well over a year ago, my other half enclosed a corner of our large porch to make a pantry for me. We stock a lot of food and really needed the storage space. But rather than build shelves for me as we'd planned he started putting "stuff" in the pantry and it quickly became "the pantry that wasn't". I mentioned it a few times but really don't want to nag so I didn't squeal too much over it. Finally it all came to a head a few days ago and the next day he spent most of the day in there putting up shelves and organizing. He's going to put more shelves in and I'll more than likely rearrange parts when he does but I was and still am thrilled! I actually have a pantry now and it's going to be wonderful, I'm sure.

This was the pantry a few months ago, looking bad but not as bad as it did a few days ago - trust me, it was a real cluttered mess.

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And here are some shots of how it looks now.

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This shelf has my other half's satellite tv installation equipment on it.

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Here are a few of our canned goods, seasonings, and condiments along with other dry goods.

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Here's another shot of some canned items.

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Here are some of our appliances that were taking up a lot of kitchen space.

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And here are miscellaneous appliances and pans.

I think I'm really going to enjoy having so much stuff in the pantry and out of the kitchen. Right now I'm painting the cupboards with Kilz getting them ready for paint soon so some of the cupboard doors are off and we took this opportunity to move almost all the food into the pantry. I'm giving serious thought to keeping most of it in there and using the kitchen cupboards for very often used appliances and the most often used food items. I've also considered leaving the cupboard doors off but if I do that, everything must be so tidy inside the cupboards so that probably isn't the best idea for me.

Anyway, having the pantry cleaned out makes working on the kitchen so much easier! Now if I can just figure out what to do with the kitchen...

Do you have a pantry? If so, do you have pictures of it? Show me, if you do. :)

Rod's Biscuits make for a great morning

Today's been a slow day. I haven't done a lot of cooking or cleaning or anything else, for that matter.

The garden is going well. We have Sweet 100 tomatoes just starting to ripen and those should be ready to eat in a few days. I picked a small yellow squash and gave it to my mother. It's just enough for her to cook with some onion and it will be a tasty treat for her dinner tonight.

Speaking of my mother, she had to take my stepfather to work and she had an hour to kill before being at her job so she came by here for breakfast. My other half made homemade biscuits and gravy and they were incredible just as they always are! Mom is a tiny person who eats like a bird and she managed to eat a whole biscuit but just barely. I had one and after the rest of the household had theirs, there were two left. Those two went to Wee Black Doggie along with some of the gravy. He was a happy boy, indeed!

Here's his biscuit recipe:

Rod's Biscuits

2 to 2 1/2 c flour
3 heaping tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 to 1/2 c oil
1 1/2 c milk (we use powdered milk)

Sift the flour, salt and the baking powder into a large bowl. If you don’t have a sifter, go buy one. They’re cheap and the biscuits will be much fluffier after sifting. Add the oil and milk until you have a fairly stiff mixture. If the mixture is too runny, you can add some more flour to thicken it.
In another bowl, pour some flour into the bottom (roughly 1/2 cup). With a large spoon, scoop out enough of the biscuit mix to make a 2" ball. Drop this into the small bowl and roll the ball of mix around, covering the outside with flour.
Pat this into a 1/2 inch thick patty and place into a baking pan. Repeat this until you have used up all the biscuit mix. Place this into a preheated oven at 325 to 350 and bake for 15-30 minutes or until biscuits begin to brown on top.

Rod tells people he learned to make biscuits after trying for years to find a woman who could make them. He finally gave up and learned how to do it himself. I have to admit they beat the patootie out of my old Easy Baking Powder Drop Biscuits I made for years so I'm thrilled when he makes them.

So, what recipe do you use for biscuits? Come on, surely you don't use the wop kind! You know, the kind you wop on the countertop?

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Whole grain pancakes

but tonight is YOYO (You're On Your Own) night at our place. It's been a long and busy day and I really don't want to cook. I have a round steak thawed but rather than cook that I'll make turkey bacon, eggs and toast later and if others want some, they're welcome to it. If not, they can have a frozen mexican dinner, cereal, or whatever else they might want. Oh wait, pancakes sound good, too! Maybe I'll do eggs,turkey bacon and pancakes. Yeah, that's it... yum!

Here's my favorite pancake recipe and it doesn't spike my blood sugar as long as I eat only 2 pancakes. These taste a lot like IHOP's Harvest Grain and Nut Pancakes.

3/4 cup Quaker oats
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons finely chopped blanched almonds
3 tablespoons finely chopped walnuts

Lightly oil a skillet or griddle and preheat it to medium heat.
Grind the oats in a blender or food processor until fine, like flour.
Combine oat flour, whole wheat flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. In another bowl combine buttermilk, oil, egg and granulated sugar with an electric mixer until smooth. Combine dry ingredients with wet ingredients, add nuts and mix well with mixer.

Ladle 1/3 cup of the batter onto the hot skillet and cook the pancakes for 2 to 4 minutes per side or until brown.

Makes 8 pancakes.

What kind of pancakes do you favor and why? I'd love to see your recipes.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Chocolate and Zucchini

I occasionally read Chocolate and Zucchini and today I found a great sounding recipe there. It's for Carrot and Peanut Muffins. It sounds great and the picture really makes it look so tasty! I think I'm going to try to make a blood sugar friendly version of this muffin this week and will see how it turns out from the Better Baker Bowl Maker. I think it will do fine but we'll see. I might also use some almonds in it, also, or maybe walnuts since those are so good for those of us with blood sugar issues.

At any rate, if you like carrots and peanuts, you might go to Chocolate and Zucchini and see what you think of that recipe.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

I ate the two beets from the garden

last night and they were the best I've ever eaten. I say that every time I eat a new beet from my garden and every time I say it, I mean it. There's something so fresh, so savory, so... healing about eating something you've grown yourself. It's a remarkable experience each and every time.

I had boiled the beets earlier in the day and put them in a bowl on top of the stove. Last night I stood on the porch with a salt shaker and ate them like one would eat a fresh tomato. I didn't peel them (I never do) and I didn't use a fork. I simply took a bite, added a little salt, took another bite, added a dash of salt until both beets were gone.

This morning I watered the garden and marveled at the increase in size of the green beans, bell peppers and corn in just two days. Unfortunately, the fire ants have discovered the plants, also, so it's time to put out diatomaceous earth and that should tend to the little plant killers. Tonight I'll cut some of the stems from the onions and put that in our beet green, kale, and chard salad. Soon we'll have tomatoes to add to it. Yum!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Counting recipes is almost as good as counting sheep..

When I can't sleep, I count recipes. Or rather I add more of them to my collection, counting as I go. I use Cookware to keep track of recipes and I have 1,381 recipes in it right now, most of which I've tried. I've another several hundred on my drive that need to be transferred and I do that a little at a time. On nights like tonight when sleep is elusive I hit my favorite recipe spots and wander around, peeking here and there to see what I can find that sounds good to me. I copy and paste the information into Cookware knowing that at some point I'll get around to trying it. I find perusing the recipes to be calming and soothing and after awhile downright exhausting. If I do it long enough I get past the relaxment (Is that a word? Naaw, but I like it and will start using it!) stage and head right into the sleepy stage. I'm heading there now, as a matter of fact. But my stomach is growling and I'm wondering what I can have for a quick snack. Oh, I know what sounds good. A little cream cheese, warmed in a bowl in the microwave, with a tad of Splenda and a splash of vanilla added. It's not Creme Brulee but it's quick, it's low in carbs, and it's tasty. Give it a try sometime and let me know what you think.

My kind of chili

Chili is one of my favorite foods but I don't like the thick, dark, gravy type chili often served in Texas. I prefer my chili soupier and not very spicy. I know..it's heresy! But that's how I like it and that's how I make it. Tonight's dinner was, of all things, chili. I thought I'd made enough but I just went into the kitchen to get mine and whooops, there's none left! I guess it was pretty good. I don't use a particular recipe for chili and although it varies a little each time it's usually something close to the Chili Con Carne recipe from my mother's 1950s era BH&G cookbook. That was the chili she raised us on and that's how I learned to make it. As the years have passed, I've forgotten that exact recipe so I just throw something together that is similar and here's how I made tonight's nect...err..chili.

Brown 1/2 lb ground beef or turkey with about 1/4 of an onion, chopped, and drain any fat left after browning. Add 1 or 2 cans of stewed tomatoes (home canned or store bought, even mexican style like I used tonight), some chili powder, some garlic, and any other spices you like. I like to put a whole clove in and sometimes add a little celery seed. I also prefer it with bell pepper but my other half gets indigestion from the pepper so I usually leave it out. Most of the time I add beans, often Ranch Style Beans, but some nights, like tonight, I don't put beans in. Let it all cook together for awhile and voila, easy but tasty chili. It's good with saltines, bread and butter, or hot water cornbread.

So, since there wasn't any chili I just had a slice of whole wheat bread and a little peanut butter. That won't hold me for long and I'll probably make an omelet later.

Tomatoes and squash and peppers, oh my!

We ran errands this morning and I just got around to checking the garden a few minutes ago. The Roma tomatoes are really coming on as are the Sweet 100s. The Mr Stripey plants looked the best of all the varieties for awhile but now they don't look so hot and there's not a tomato one on either of the plants. But time will tell on that one. Anyway, here are a few glances at what's growing in my garden this day...

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Roma tomatoes

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Sweet 100 tomatoes

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More Sweet 100 tomatoes

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Yellow squash

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And more yellow squash

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And finally, our first green pepper of the year

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

The first beets from the garden!

I just went outside a bit ago to check the garden and my other half pulled two beets for me. They aren't huge but they aren't tiny, either. I brought them inside, washed them, cut off the leaves and put them in my 'salad bag' in the fridge and trimmed the ends of the roots. I'll have them tomorrow for lunch, just boiled with butter, salt, and a dash of pepper.

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The picture isn't the best but I imagine the beets will be very tasty.

Plain Ol' Food and Me

I love food. I especially love plain ol' food. Not the fancy schmancy gourmet food, though that's okay at times. But plain ol' good cookin'. Chicken Fried Steak, mashed potatoes with a little gravy, green beans or field peas, and a little cornbread. Or Swiss Steak with a baked potato and a salad.

Yep, food and I get along well - too well. I love to eat and have as long as I can remember. Many of my childhood memories center around food and food-related events or are somehow associated with food. You know, holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas when gluttony was the order of the day. Birthdays with cake and ice cream and other screaming sugared up kids. Parents trying to make hurt feelings or a scratched knee better with a cookie. "Ohh, you hurt your knee. Let me wash it off and we'll go have a cookie!" (Bless you, Mom, I love you and your cookies!)

So yeah, I really do love food. I love the sight of it, the scent of it. I love the way it feels in my mouth and in my stomach. Yep, I do love food! But food and I have a love/hate thing going, too. I'm a Type II Diabetic, diagnosed in 2000. The day of diagnosis changed my relationship with food forever. Oh, I still enjoy eating but what I eat has changed. Umm, for the most part. I still indulge in a little cake or a cookie or some corn on the cob now and then but those things aren't a part of my regular diet these days. Nope, now it's salad, spinach, green beans, cauliflower, cream and cottage cheeses, lean meats, wild rice, sweet potatoes, etc. But those things are worthy of my attention so they get it. Yep, I do love food!

I not only love to eat but I love to cook. Cooking is one of my passions. Time in the kitchen is special and I thoroughly enjoy it. Making bread is an almost spiritual experience. Okay, so that isn't quite accurate but I really get a kick out of it! I like the kneading process, the rolling and pushing and pulling and tugging, the placing it in the greased pan, the smell of a baking loaf... it's a great joy for me and it's something I feel blessed to do and I'm going to use this blog to share some of my cooking and baking experiences with whoever reads it.

I hope you enjoy it!