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Archive for the ‘Gardening’ Category

I won a blue ribbon at the county fair for my Butternut Squash.  The coolest thing is that it grew by accident. I had given my chickens some butternut squash seeds last winter.  They must have left a few behind cause I had a few plants growing. I got about 12 squash.  This one won a blue ribbon!

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Unless you have been accused of a crime I think most people enjoy seeing themselves in the paper. I have been in the paper quite a few times in my life.  My birth announcement was probably the first time, then as a small child I appeared in the paper trying to choose between two Easter dresses.  In high school I was in the paper several times for band, soccer and musicals.  I even was in the paper after I received a Rotary Club award.  Two summers ago I was filmed for the HGTV show That’s Clever.  The show still hasn’t aired but I was still interviewed by the local paper and had a nice article written.  My highlight of celebrity in the news was the year my picture appeared in TIME magazine! YUP!  That was REALLY cool.  But this summer my picture made the paper twice! I thought I would share these.

Here I am at the Farmers Market in Searcy.  During the summer I helped out at the CAFM booth every Wednesday.  Now that school is back in session I cant anymore and I miss it terribly! (I’m the one in the pink Certified Farmgirl t-shirt!)

This picture appeared in the Statewide paper on Thursday.

I am the one in the Blue Dress.  The Chesapeake Energy Company along with the Thea Foundation donated $1500 worth of art supplies to 19 high schools in our area.  This is the second year my school has received a donation from Chesapeake.  Working in a small rural school district makes adequate art supplies hard to come buy.  The annual art budget is very small and I often end up spending much of my own money to purchase things for my students because many of them cant afford to buy it themselves.  This donation will help minimize that need this year so I am extremely thankful.

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Well for today’s activities I am trying something new!  In my garden this year I planted some banana peppers.  Mine are mostly small and my crop hasn’t been very good, but a friend was OVERLOADED with them and passed a big plastic bag full of them to me.  So I decided I would can some pickled peppers!  I love gettingbanana peppers on sandwiches at deli’s but they just aren’t something I would think of to buy for at home. I figured, I have jars, I have vinegar, I have peppers, why not?!

Last night, in preparation, I surfed the internet for a pickled banana pepper recipe.  Let me tell you there are HUNDREDS of them out there!  A lot of them called for sugar but I wasn’t really looking for a sweet pickle.  A lot of recipes were similar to one you would use for bread and butter pickles.  A lot were similar to recipes that you would use for dill pickles.  I just wanted something plain old pickle-y.

Finally I came across the site Canning Pantry where there was a recipe for Grandma’s Pickled Banana Peppers.  It was just the recipe I was looking for!

Grandma’s Pickled Banana Peppers by Jerry Ziehm

Sliced Banana Peppers
1 tsp. salt per jar
2 tbsp. olive oil per jar
1 quart white vinegar
3 quarts water

In a large sauce pot add water and vinegar.  Bring to a boil.  Slice peppers and add peppers, salt and oil to each jar.  Pack tightly.  Add hot liquid to jars.  Process jars 5 minutes in a boiling water bath.

*I added a glove of garlic to each jar for a little extra flavor.

So – only time will tell if this is a good recipe or not.  I canned 6 pints.

Also – I just picked up the lasted issue of Mother Earth News.  I love this magazine.  It is one of my favorites.  I really need to subscribe.  I was flipping through the pages and saw a tip for making homemade grape juice.  My husband loves grapes and I had an extra quart of Mars Table Grapes on hand from my friend Joy at the farmers market.  I decided to give it a try. The tip is on page 38 and is sent in by Suzanne Mullins of Charlottesville, Virgina.  She says that you can put 2 cups of grapes into a quart jar, add a cup of sugar, fill with boiling water and process 10 minutes in a water-bath canner.  After six weeks you strain out the liquid and mix with an additional quart of liquid for 2 quarts of juice!  WHO KNEW! So I gave this a try too! I will report back in about 6 weeks to let you know.

Here is a picture of todays bounty!

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I have been volunteering at the new farmers market in Searcy.  I’ve had such a fun time and really enjoyed getting to meet people and getting some great seasonal products.  The Searcy Farmers Market is a Certified Arkansas Farmers Market.  That means that everything at the market is grown or raised in the state of Arkansas!  Vendors are not allowed to ship in produce and sell it under the presumption that it is local when its not, which is sadly what happens at many farm markets across the country.  Because each farmer undergoes an onsite inspection at least once a season I can be certain that what I am buying is local produce.

I got so many great things at the market Wednesday.  I came home with a bushel basket that was filled with new potatoes, squash, zucchini, cucumbers, eggplant, turnips, beets, spring mix salad greens, fresh pasta, butter, cheese, milk, eggs, peaches, red onions, bacon, summer sausage, shiitaki mushrooms, blueberries, green beans, pinto beans, and sunflowers!

I have been cooking up a storm with all my market finds.  Here are some of the recipes I made with what I have found!

Shiitaki Mushrooms and Brown Rice

10 Fresh Shiitaki Mushrooms
1 tbs. light olive oil
2 Tbs. White Wine (optional and only if you have on hand)
1 cup brown rice
1 Cup chicken broth
1 Cup Water
Salt to Taste
2 Tbs. Fresh Butter

Heat a medium saucepan over high heat.  Add olive oil.  Chop the shiitaki mushrooms into small pieces and add to the pot.  Cook mushrooms for about 5 minutes or so until they have become soft and darker in color.  Add white wine to “deglaze” the pan and cook 2-3 minutes until the liquid is evaporated.  Pour in one cup of brown rice.  I used a mixture of long and short grain.  Stir until rice is coated with remaining oil.  Add chicken stock and water and bring to a boil.  Cover with a lid and reduce heat to low.  Allow rice to simmer about 35-45 minutes or until done to your liking.  Remove lid and stir in two tablespoons of fresh butter and add salt to taste.  Enjoy!

Unfortunately I forgot to take a picture of that one before we ate it all.  The mushrooms and butter were from yesterdays market.  The brown rice was leftover from some I picked up at the market last fall.

 

Buckaroo Beans

1 lb. (about 2 1/2 c.) FRESH pinto beans
6 c. water
1/2 lb. smoked bacon
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 lg. onion, thickly sliced or chopped
1 lg. cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 sm. bay leaf
2 tbsp. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. dry mustard
5 leaves of fresh oregano, chopped 
3 fresh roma tomatoes, chopped

Put beans into a crockpot and add six cups of water.  Turn crockpot to high heat setting.  Cut bacon into chunks and add to the beans.  Add remaining  ingredients. Cover and cook slowly for 6-8 hours, until liquid resembles a medium-thick gravy. Stir once or twice during cooking. Long, slow cooking helps make a nice, rich flavor.

This recipe used pinto beans, onion and bacon from the farmers market.  The oregano and tomatoes came from my garden.  The bay leaf came from my mom’s friend.

 

Peach Blueberry Cobbler

1/4 cup fresh butter
1 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup milk
2 cups fresh sliced and peeled peaches (I used 4 peaches)
2 cups fresh blueberries
1/2 cup sugar
Heat oven to 350° Melt butter in a rectangular baking dish. Set aside. In medium bowl, combine flour, 3/4 cup sugar and baking powder; add milk; and stir until blended(will be thick). Spoon batter over butter in baking dish; do not stir. Combine peaches, blueberries and 1/2 cup sugar; spoon over batter. Do not stir. Bake at 350 degrees F for 45 to 55 minutes until dough is lightly brown. Serve warm with vanilla gelato, if desired(recipe below).
 
 
 The butter, milk, peaches and blueberries all came from the farmers market.

 

Vanilla Gelato

6 Large Egg Yolks
3/4 Cup Of Granulated Sugar
2 1/2 Cups Whole Milk
1 Cup Heavy Cream
1 Tbs. Real Vanilla
1 tsp. dried lavender
Pinch of Salt

In a large bowl, beat together the egg yolks and sugar until light and thick. Add the lavender to a mesh tea ball and place in a medium saucepan. Add the milk, cream, vanilla, and salt and heat over medium heat until bubbles begin to form around the edges. Remove the tea ball.  Remove from the heat. Take 1/2 cup of the hot milk mixture, and slowly whisk it into the beaten eggs. Next whisk the egg mixture into the saucepan. Cook over low heat stirring continuously until the mixture thickens, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve into a metal bowl and refrigerate until cold. Once the custard mixture is cold, transfer it into an ice cream maker and churn following the manufacturers instructions. Serve immediately, or freeze in an airtight container until you are ready to use.

 

 This recipe used eggs and milk from the farmers market and lavender from my own garden.

Pasta Primavera

1 Pound Fresh Pasta
Variety of seasonal veggies (I used zucchini and yellow squash, eggplant, cherry tomatoes and shiitaki mushrooms)
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup fresh Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and Pepper
Fresh Herbs (I used thyme, basil, sage and oregano)

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Add about 1/4 cup or so of salt to the boiling water.  In a large skillet, add the olive oil and saute the chopped fresh vegetables until cooked to your desired level of doneness.  Remove the veggies to a separate bowl.  Add the pasta to the boiling water. (Fresh pasta cooks very quickly.  If using dried pasta you will likely want to add this earlier.)  In the pan in which you cooked the veggies, ladle about one cup of pasta cooking liquid. Stir in order to incorporate the bits of fond on the bottom of the saute pan.  Add ricotta cheese and continue to stir.  Add Parmesan cheese.  Add salt and pepper to taste. Return the cooked veggies to the sauce you have created.  Add the cooked, drained pasta and stir until the sauce has coated the noodles.  You can add additional cooking liquid if the sauce is too thick.  Top pasta with freshly chopped herbs and additional Parmesan as desired.  Enjoy!

This recipe used veggies and pasta from the market and herbs from my own garden.

 

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The garden is in full swing!  If only the 1 million tomatoes out there would turn red!  I did get some dill pickles and pickled beets put up!  I am also drying basil, dill and lavender.  I am drying a few sunflowers so I can give the seeds to my chickens.

In real life the pickles are more green and the beets are more purple.  I wish so much my camera had captured the true colors!

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We have four baby birds nesting on the fan blade on the ceiling fan of our carport.  They have been flapping their wings all day.  I think they will be moving out soon.  They are overflowing the nest!

I am finally starting to harvest good stuff from my garden.  I have been using herbs for a few weeks now but in the last few days have also found a few early cherry tomatoes.  There were six.  They were nice and red on the vines.  They were sweet and juicy in my mouth.  They made my belly happy!  Today I found my first two cucumbers.  Now if I can just get some more ripe tomatoes I could eat a nice juicy tomato and cucumber salad!

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Strawberry freezer jam is so easy to make, really economical and AMAZINGLY delicious.  It is easier than traditional jams because you don’t actually cook the fruit.  However, since it isn’t “preserved” in the traditional sense it is important that you have enough freezer room to store the jam you make.  On Monday I made 36 jars of the stuff!  12 jars went into our freezer and 24 are being store in our chest freezer.  They can be stored in the freezer for up to a year. When you are ready to eat it you can keep it in the fridge for about three weeks.

Here is what you will need to make 6 – 1/2 pint jars

1 Quart ripe strawberries
4 Cups of Sugar
1 Package Sure-jell fruit pectin
3/4 Cup of water

Remove the green caps from the berries and place the berries into a large bowl.  Using a potato masher, crush the berries.  Add the sugar and stir.  Allow this mixture to sit about 20 minutes.  In the meantime you can wash and dry 6 – 1/2 pint canning jars and lids.  In a small sauce pan combine Sure-Jell pectin and 3/4 cup of water.  Stirring constantly bring to a boil and allow to boil for 1 additional minute. Add the pectin mixture to the fruit mixture and stir well.  Pour fruit into jars, cap and let sit on the counter to set about 24 hours.  You jam is now ready to freeze.  I place 12 jars back into the box they came in and freeze them in the box.  This way I don’t have jars rolling out onto my toes and I have a place to store the empty jars when I am done so I can reuse them next year!

I had to purchase jars, berries, pectin and sugar to make my jam.  In the end each jar of jam came out to a cost of about $1.55.  Next year if I reuse the jars the cost will be even less.

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