Thursday, July 29, 2010

Jar Sorting

Wow time sure has flown here. I can't believe that July is gone already. The Fourth of July tomato has been giving us little red tomatoes every day and they are so sweet and delicious. Everything else is getting there. We look at the number of tomatoes on each plant and can't wait to get canning. The kids helped us count the jars, lids and rings this weekend so we knew what to buy more of. Those wide mouth pint jars were so great that those are on the list of 'can't have enough', there are tons of the quart jars just waiting for tomatoes. Life is good.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Garden Update

Wow it has been a little while since our last photo update huh? Can you believe how big everything has gotten? It is just crazy! Never in a million years did I think anything like this would have happened. So as a quick up date, all of our tomatoes are growing beautifully. We have finally ascertained that the cherry tomatoes are the ones that died right off the bat. These gorgeous red ones are the Fourth of July tomatoes. We are having them tomorrow on BLT's so I'll let you know how they taste. The banana peppers are doing very nicely also. We harvested the first one already and threw it in chili (we actually didn't know what to do with just one). The other peppers are starting to come in also. There are so many that we are beginning to ask our neighbors if they like peppers :) It would be great to have some to share. These are so cute too I can't wait till they begin to change colors it is going to be a rainbow out there. We had a wicked storm this past weekend with estimated 70 mile per hour winds. Our plants got knocked around quite a bit. Photo Dude had to stake some of them because they had almost come uprooted. Next year we are going to get bigger tomato cages and put the peppers in the smaller ones from this year. The cucumbers are very stubborn. They are not happy just climbing along the fencing they wanted to use the tomato plants to climb on too! Photo Dude ran twine to the back fence for them to run along too. He needs to go out every day to coax them on to it and off the tomatoes. They are very disobedient. This is just one of the yellow squash plants we have going. I never knew they grew like this, they almost look like lilies or something very pretty. I really hope that our neighbors like squash, I've only got so many recipes in my box. Last but not least are the green beans that I don't have a photo of. These are the only plants that we have had a problem with the rabbits getting to! We had cute purple flowers one night and then the next nothing but sad empty stems sticking out of the ground. We aren't pulling them out yet because they keep coming back and if nothing else maybe it is keeping those buggers away from everything else. I guess next year we'll know that rabbits love beans.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Fun Food Friday: Eggplant

My sincerest apologies! Last week I was without my camera and was unable to make my Friday post! So the lovely Erin posted in my place with her watermelon ice recipe. I hope you all voted!

This week I bring you eggplant. That wonderful dark purple veggie that is either large or small and sometimes looks like a purple and white zebra haha. But like most people, we are tempted to try this delicious looking oddity, but are unable to think of anything to do with it. Most recipes are long and difficult and make the eggplant come out tough and chewy and very unpleasant! I bring you today a very simple yet tasty eggplant parmesan.

I found this recipe in The Vegetarian Times, but I changed it up a bit to make it to my liking.

this recipe is for one to two servings

1/2c spaghetti sauce, divided
1/4c (or more) Panko Bread Crumbs
1tsp italian seasoning blend
3tsp parmasan cheese (not the kind in the green can...YUCK)
1 1/2tsp canola oil (I used Olive Oil and just coated the bottom of the pan, though I had to do this a lot as the oil dried up to keep the pan from burning)
1-2 Japanese (or any small) eggplant, cut into round slices
1 egg beaten
1/4 low fat mozerella cheese (I used an italian seasoned blend but any of cheese you use to top your lasagna with will work)
2tsp parm. cheese or more. (i like cheese and I am very very generous with it)
1/4 tsp dried basil (I didn't add this but I didn't see it listed and it still turned out just fine.)
op. I added mushrooms to this, but this is totally optional

1. preheat oven to 350F coat a small baking dish with nonstick cooking spray and spread with 2 tbs of the spaghetti sauce.

2. combine bread crumbs, parm cheese, and italian seasoning in a shallow bowl for dredging.

3. Heat oil in the pan.

4. dip the sliced eggplant into the egg then coat well on both sides with breadcrumb mix then immediately place into fry pan. only put a single layer in the pan and cook about 2-3 mins on each side or until they are brown and crispy.

5. Make a single layer on the bottom of the baking dish with the eggplant straight from the pan. top with the mozzeralla cheese (or cheese of your choice) and Parm. top with second layer of eggplant and cheese.

6. pour sauce over all and top with remaining cheese.

7. Bake 15 minutes or until golden brown, the cheese should be good and melted and a fork or knife should easily go through the eggplant.

(I added too much sauce to mine haha)

But it was still VERY tasty :) please enjoy!!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

It's Cheese!

I found this amazing blog called Bell'alimento and it is lovely, her photography is just stellar. She had posted about making Ricotta cheese and the recipe was so simple that I had to try it for myself. I was so shocked that the first time I tried this it turned out! Here is her recipe with step by step photos of us doing it. The flavor is amazing and much yummier than what we can get in the local grocery stores.

This is milk and cream that we bought at a local wine shop. The dairy is less than two hours from our house and the milk is pasteurized but it is nothing like what you find at the store, this is the kind of stuff you do actually need to shake to mix it all back up. Do you remember needing to do that? This still comes in glass bottles too! Of course there is a dollar deposit on those but doesn't everything taste better out of a glass bottle? In the background is a sieve lined with cheese cloth, our cheese cloth seemed to have rather large holes so I cut two pieces and laid them crossways. Okay that isn't a real word but it's what I did.

In go 8 C. of whole milk. That is one half gallon just so you know before you head to the store.

1 C. heavy whipping cream. Can you see how thick this is?! Honest to goodness real cream.
1/2 tsp. salt needs to be added also.

You will bring this mixture up to a good rolling boil, stir it constently so it doesn't burn. If you haven't smelled burned milk believe me you don't want to.

Next is 3 TBSP. fresh squeeshed lime juice (you can substitute lemon juice if you have to).

Once you are at a good rolling boil throw the lime juice in, reduce heat and stir until mixture curdles. It doesn't take long but stirring is important.

The curdles are very small, much smaller than small curd cottage cheese. It looks very similar to when milk goes bad in a hot car in a sippy cup because you forgot to check to make sure everything was out. It doesn't smell icky though it has a very cheese-like aroma rather pleasant unlike an icky sippy cup.

We didn't have a sieve that was able to be suspended over the bowl so this was our make shift deal. It is a cooling rack over the bowl with the sieve on top.

Leave the cheese to cool and drain for 1 hour. Then place sieve with a clean bowl under it to chill for a minimum of two hours. Once chilled place in an air tight container until ready to use. The author of the blog suggests throwing away the whey produced but with some searching I found that it is good for many things so you may want to check before tossing it.

As a side note: Ricotta actually means "recooked". A traditional Ricotta is made by using the whey of another cheese. This is a whole milk Ricotta that has a much higher yield and is easy to make quickly. This info was found on Wikipedia and for other neat tidbits about Ricotta cheese check it out here.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Imperfect Ice Cream

Photo Dude and I decided to try our hand at making 'real' ice cream the other night. Gorgeous Traverse City cherries are in season and if you've never had them well let me just say you are really missing out. They are a deep amazing red so dark it is almost black. They are sweet as candy and the juice is delectable. Saving cherries for the ice cream was actually a real trick because you always need "just one more!" to satisfy that craving. I haven't made ice cream since I was very small and I think my whole involvement in the process was being allowed to crank the handle once or twice before getting bored of the whole thing. We used our favorite tool on hand and started looking up recipes on the Internet for cherry ice cream. I was shocked and aghast that every recipe I came across had cherry flavored gelatin or cherry drink mix, why on earth would I want to add those things to ice cream?! If I wanted fake stuff I would have just bought ice cream at the store! We decided to improvise (and cross our fingers) that we could figure out what to do by mashing a few recipes together. The side of the ice cream maker had a recipe for strawberry ice cream, we decided that strawberries weren't sooo different from cherries really. So here is our very first stab at ice cream enjoy!

Place your ice cream canister into the freezer over night. We didn't do this but we did have ours in the deep freeze for about 3 hours it seemed to be okay.
Our first hurdle was realizing that we didn't have 2 cups of half and half. Back to the Internet.... We mixed 1 and 1/2 C. milk to 1/2 C. heavy cream to fake it. Very nice no extra run to the store.

4 C. cherry puree. I will let you know that is about 2 quarts of cherries. We were sad to see the whole stash go.

Scald 4 C. milk. Photo Dude offered to do this. I was dubious about his culinary abilities but was pleasantly wrong. Scalding is bringing something to just below a boil, just so ya' know.

Remove from heat and stir in 1 3/4 C. sugar and 1/2 tsp. salt. Stir until dissolved. Then stir in half and half, 1 Tbs. vanilla extract, and 4 C. whipping cream. Cover and refrigerate 30 minutes.

Add your pureed cherries to the chilled mixture. Pour mixture (hopefully not spilling all of it) into the ice cream canister then follow the manufacturer's instructions. Ours said about 30-40 minutes I think.

We then decided to follow part of the mint chocolate chip ice cream recipe because ya' know chocolate and cherries are amazing together. After about 25-30 minutes Molly put in 2 C. dark chocolate chips, we had thrown these in the fridge earlier in the day because it was really warm outside. Then we let the machine finish it's cycle.

This is the soft gooey stuff that came out. It was beautiful with absolutely no food coloring. I hate food coloring..... a lot. You then must remove this yummy mixture into air tight containers and let it set up for real. Ours took several hours to do.

Molly really enjoyed the flavor and so did we. Now if you noticed the title of this post is Imperfect Ice Cream I will now explain to you why.

The ice cream was awesome BUT we used milk with way too much fat in it. The milk was from a local dairy and we bought whole milk thinking that the extra fat would make it taste better, it did sort of. It was delicious but you could tell that it wasn't exactly right. The next thing was the chocolate chips; the pieces themselves were too big next time we do this we are going to chop them up finer and add about half as much. We will probably also use semi-sweet instead of dark because Photo Dude doesn't like dark chocolate and I had forgotten that. And the last thing we will be changing is the texture of the cherries. Instead of pureeing them we are going to mash them so you have chunks of cherries throughout. Like biting into little bits of amazing. That is the recipe we used and what we will be doing to fix it. I'm not sure we'll make more this year but if we don't you'll see it all revised next year for sure :)

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Summer Ice

This is the best summer dessert I remember from growing up! We didn't actually have a name for it except watermelon stuff but that isn't very catchy is it? This was a recipe that my grandmother found in a magazine from 1955 and then when it was handed to my mother she changed it (it originally had raw egg whites in it! eeewww!) and when I received this I changed it further. I think the only things the same are that it has watermelon and lemonade in it. I have entered this into the contest on if you would be so kind please go and vote for my recipe, you do have to be a member but the site has loads of great recipes that you'll be glad you signed up anyway :) Oh and try the recipe too! It is super yummy, cheap to make and unbelievably easy.

Thanks Photo Dude for the lovely shot and putting up with me being picky.

Wordless Wednesday

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Sunny Cookies

A few weeks ago the kids and I made these simple cookies to celebrate the Solstice. It seems hard to believe that the longest day is already behind us and our days will be getting shorter. I hope you enjoy making these cookies and loving the long days while we have them.

Sunny Lemon Cookies

1/2 C. Butter (softened)
1/2 C. Sugar
1 egg
Cream the sugar and butter together. Add the egg in and blend well.

1 tsp. Lemon Zest
2 Tbsp. Lemon Juice
(this really makes them special instead of lemon extract)

1 1/2 C. Flour
1/2 tsp. Baking powder
1/8 tsp. Salt
Mix all ingredients together. This dough is very soft. Refrigerate for two hours or until firm.
When dough is firm preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Roll out the dough on a floured surface. I rolled mine out in three batches because this gets very warm quickly and once warm it is impossible to do anything with. Don't re-roll out your dough too much because it gets tough and it picks up too much flour and that throws off the taste of the cookies.
Place cut cookies on an ungreased cookie sheet. I did line mine with parchment paper but my cookie sheets are old and creepy looking so I always line them. You can sprinkle the tops of the cookies with granulated sugar before you bake them for decoration but they are yummy without the extra sugar.

Bake 8-10 minutes until edges start to brown. Let cool on tray for 1 minute then finish cooling on a wire rack.

This recipe is great because you only get 12 to 18 cookies from it just enough for everyone to enjoy with out having so many that you don't know what to do with them all. These cookies would be lovely with tea. My little monsters very much enjoyed them with milk :)

Monday, July 5, 2010

Molly Monday

This is my teddy bear.His name is ted.He is 6 years old.I really love.I am 7 years old.I got Ted when I was 1.He is really old. Well he looks old. Actually he is old. Well he is to me. I really love him.

A guest blog post from our daughter.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Garden Update

Our garden has really taken off! It looks like a tomato jungle in there. We are very excited about harvesting and what we are going to do with the veggies. Sadly not all the plants have made it. All our pea plants kicked the bucket. We have a theory that the overhang from the tree in the neighbor's yard may have kept the vines from getting the proper amount of water. We aren't really sure though. The green beans do have some gorgeous buds starting, and every single other plant has flowers too. I think out of all the plants we started loosing only four in our first year is pretty awesome! Our Fourth of July tomato plant has over a dozen little green tomatoes with loads of other flowers on it just waiting. The tomato plant is gigantic! It is the one on the far right in this photo. Molly is 4' 2" tall and it is almost as tall as she is and the plant is far wider (although almost anything is). I'm a little bummed out that we don't have any red tomatoes on that plant because I thought that was the whole deal but there are at least fruits on it to keep us in good spirits about the rest of the garden. One last fun photo to share with you. Here are some brand new baby tomatoes! Aren't they just too stinkin' cute?

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Fun Food Friday: 4th of July

Sorry! I am a little late getting to this week's Fun Food Friday. It has been a hectic week that went by waaay to fast!! And now a holiday weekend is upon us! So for this wonderful week I decided to make my flag cake. I make one every year! This years' turned out a bit different, but then again I never seem to do the same thing twice, even when I try to!

This cake is super simple and I usually make it one of two ways.

Sarah Lee's ready made frozen pound cake, or from a box. I have yet to learn how to make pound cake from scratch, but if you know how, go for it! Pound cake is one of my fave cakes, It is so dense and rich and...wel....yummy! And always goes great with tea. To make this cake you will need pound cake, whip cream(fresh or frozen...not from a can) strawberries, blueberries, and any other red and blue berries. I have just strawberries and blueberries.

When I make this cake using ready made pound cake, I get two of them and cut them into slices, like bread. Lay out one layer on the bottom of a cake pan, put a layer of whipped cream, mix of berries, and then another layer of cake , frost with whipped cream and use your red and blue berries to make a flag. Usually I halve the strawberries but my sue-chef (dunno how it's spelled) cut them this way. It still works hehe. This one I made from a box mix so it doesn't have the berries in the middle, which is how I prefer it. This is the lazy man's way. haha. So to compensate, I made a syrup with mashed strawberries and stevia, over heat with water to pour over the cake later.

Hope everyone enjoy's their fourth of July! I for one shall!