Saturday, December 30, 2006

Dreaming of Spring

Winter is taking it's time coming to Minnesota this year. It continues to be warm - above freezing most of the time. We had Andy's birthday party at the local nature center 2 weeks ago today and we did not have to worry about kids freezing! The local paper says that 2006 will go down as the third warmest year since 1891. I believe it.

But I am still looking through the seed catalogs and dreaming of spring and what I will plant. After all, March will be here before we know it. I do a lot of planning in my head - and don't really write it down.

I have decided to move the black raspberries in the spring. They are summer berries and the yellows and reds are fall berries and they really need different care - and the new long shoots from the blacks get all tangled up in the yellows and reds. I should never have planted them together.

But I cannot decide where I want to transplant them to. Maybe behind the fence where the sunflowers were this year - but I think Andy will want to do a sunflower fort again - so maybe not. Maybe along the same side of the house where they currently are - just move them down where I always put the tomatoes - that is what I will probably do - but then, where do I put the tomatoes? I wish I had more garden space - but I do squeeze a lot in on my small suburban lot.

I don't have to come up with any answers right now - it is just fun to dream and plan for next year. Soon I will need to start making a list of what seeds to order and get the grow lights out - but for now I will just idly page through the seed catalouges.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

So what do I do with the 128 jars of jelly I made?

Here's some pictures of what I do - I give most of it away as holiday gifts.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Procrastination in the Garden

I never get the garden completely put to bed before winter comes and I don't think this year will be any exception. I have pulled up most of my plants and I cut the canes off on the fall raspberries and I dug up the potato patch again to search for missed potatoes (and found some), but not all is put to sleep yet.

I still have Brussells Sprouts and a lone lettuce plant growing in the garden. The frost hasn't killed them yet so I let them be - it would be nice to be able to harvest another meal from each. Realistically based on the past, I know that isn't probably going to happen - but I really hate to see the growing season totally end, so each year I procranstinate and end up with something left in the ground under the snow.

I could blame my procrastination on the fact that it isn't as much fun getting out in the fall as it is in the spring - the weather is getting colder instead of warmer and the days are shorter - but I enjoy the fall weather and love watching my child jump in the leaves that we piled at the end of his fort.
I could blame my procrastination on the fact that I am too busy preserving the bounty of my harvest, making jams and jellies and processing pumpkins and tomatoes - but I do that pretty much all season long - not really an excuse.
I could blame my procrastination on the fact that I am just too damn busy. With working full-time and now that school is started, there is homework to supervise every night and two months out I have already started planning Andy's birthday party - but the fact is I make time for the garden when I want to.
I suppose I could even blame my procrastination on the fact that the season was long and I am just tired of gardening - or don't like that part of gardening.

But none of that is true - it is just that part of me hopes that the weather will stay nice a little longer and I can garden a little longer. I think part of me hopes that by not fully putting the garden to sleep for the winter I can stall winter's coming - maybe even delay it indefintely.

Part of me is still a child that believes in magic - after all I experience it every spring when the world comes back to life.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Roasted Hot Pepper Soup

I spent the weekend taking care of my hot peppers that I picked a week ago before they spoiled. I roasted some and froze them. I roast peppers in the oven - preheat to 450 degrees and then lay them out on a roasting pan and turn frequently until they blister. I cut little slits in the peppers first to let steam escape. When they are all nicely blistered, I remove them from the oven and place them in a zip lock baggie and close them up and let them cool. Once they are cool, pull the tops off and get the seeds out (the seed have most of the heat) and you should be able to peel them easily. Remember to use rubber gloves when handling peppers (and don't touch your eyes!).

I made this soup from some of my roasted peppers. It packs a kick - so watch out, but it was creamy and every so tasty!

Kathi’s Roasted Hot Pepper Soup
4 mild roasted hot peppers (use less if they are hot – or substitute a couple of bell peppers)
2 medium onions – diced or sliced
8 diced potatoes
4 cups milk (or milk substitute – I used Dari Free)
4 cups chicken broth
4 tablespoons margarine (or butter), divided
Seasonings to taste
Parmesan cheese or cheese substitute (I used a sub)

Sauté onions in 2 tablespoons of margarine until translucent.
Add milk, chicken broth, and the rest of the margarine and heat over medium heat until close to boiling.
Add potatoes and peppers and cook until potatoes are tender.
Using a hand held blender (or carefully transfer liquid small portion at a time to a blender – but be careful with hot stuff in a blender), blend until everything is creamy.
Add salt and pepper to taste and adjust thickness by adding more stock or milk if needed.
Add the parmesan cheese.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Hot Pepper Jam

The picture does not do justice to this jam. It is really a very pretty red and green color. It is hot - it is great as an appetizer with cream cheese. Just spread a little cream cheese on a cracker and them put a little of this on top of the cream cheese - looks very pretty and tastes great!

To make this, I diced up 4 cups of hot peppers. I used 2 cups of red and 2 cups of green. You can make all green or all red if you prefer. You can use any peppers you want to control the heat - you can also make part of them bell peppers. I used the Garden Salsa variety of peppers that I grew in my garden - they are a medium heat. Put in large pot and add 1/2 cup of distilled vinegar and 1/2 cup of water. Measure out 3 cups of sugar in a separate bowl. Take 1/4 cup of that sugar and mix with one packet of Lower Sugar/No Sugar required Sure-Jell pectin and then mix in pot with peppers. Bring to a full rolling boil (one that cannot be stirred down - keeps boiling even when you are stirring) and then add the remaining sugar. Bring mixture back to a full rolling boil and boil and stir 1 minute. Put into jars and process in a hot water bath for 5 minutes. Makes 5 cups.

Yummy - enjoy! Posted by Picasa

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Pumpkin Bars

I made these from pumpkins that I grew. Due to dietary restrictions in our family, all of my recipes are gluten and dairy (casein) free - but you can make these using regular flour and butter.

GFCF Pumpkin Bars

2 cups GFCF Flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill GFCF mix)
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
4 beaten eggs
2 cups pureed pumpkin (I used fresh – you can substitute 1-16 oz can)
1 ½ cups sugar
1 cup cooking oil (I used canola)

Heat oven to 350 degrees.
Stir flour, baking powder, cinnamon and baking soda. Set aside.
Combine eggs, pumpkin, sugar and oil; beat until well combined.
Add dry ingredients and beat until well combined.
Pour batter into ungreased pan 9” x 13” or if you want thinner bars use a 10” by 15” pan.
Bake in oven for 45 to 50 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out. clean. If you use a bigger pan – cook for less time.
Cool and frost.

½ stick GFCF margarine
2 cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoons vanilla flavored Silk brand soymilk.
Beat all ingredients until fluffy – if too stiff, add more milk. If too runny, add more sugar.

To prepare fresh pumpkin - all I do is cut the pumpkin in half and scoop out the seeds (which I roast) Put pumpkin cut side down in an oven proof pan with a little water in the bottom. Cook in a 350 degree oven for about 1 1/2 hours or until tender. Scoop out the flesh and puree in a blender or food mill. Extra pumpkin can be frozen.

Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Apple Spice Cake

Here is a picture of an apple spice cake that I made for a birthday at work. Made with fresh apples. Yum Yum.

Apple Spice Cake
4 ½ cups peeled, chopped apples
2 to 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (or Fruit Fresh)
3/4 cup vegetable oil (I used canola)
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 ½ cups flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill GF all purpose flour)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon allspice
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon cloves
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 13 x 9 inch pan. Sprinkle apples with lemon juice or fruit fresh – it is just to keep the apples from darkening. Cover and set aside. Beat oil with the sugar and eggs until creamy. Sift flour with salt, baking soda, baking powder and spices. Gradually beat into oil mixture. Beat in vanilla extract (batter will be very stiff). Fold in apples – the batter will get easier to mix as you get the apples mixed in. Pour (spread – it is thick) into pan. Bake 50-55 minutes or until cake tests done with a toothpick in the center.

I cut the apples into little pieces, but I think shredding them like you do carrots for a carrot cake would work also. I think this would also be good with pecans.

This makes a very large cake; it filled my pan up totally – if your pan is a little small, you might want to make a half dozen cupcakes so the pan doesn’t overflow.
Posted by Picasa

Peppers and Pumpkins

With snow predicted for tomorrow (Wednesday) in Minnesota, I thought I'd better get some more of my garden picked. Here is last night's harvest of peppers and pumpkins. I guess tonight I'd better pick all the green tomatoes or they'll be gone. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, October 08, 2006

What a crazy year for gardening!

This certainly has been a strange year for gardening. I do think that every year is strange in some way - but this one seems especially weird.

We had 4th of July weather for Memorial Day weekend and it was too hot way too soon.

Then it cooled way down with below average temps and everything got off to a slow start.

The garden finally started growing after having to replant several things many times and then it got hot again and we suffered a drought.

Once it cooled down, plants that I had given up for dead started producing again - and I picked pole beans yesterday - in October! I am reluctant to tear the bean plants down while they are still producing.

And the fall weather has been all over the board. It got cold so quick that I actually sent my son to school in a winter coat a few days - and then it got hot again - last weekend in the 80s and yesterday I didn't check the temp, but I think it must have been close to 80 as well.

My bell pepper plants are covered with new flowers and small peppers - when did this revival happen? I thought I was going to pull the plants up yesterday but just couldn't bring myself to do it.

I picked a zuchinni yesterday as well - but I think I will still pull up the zuchinni plants today.

And the pansies that I thought were way long dead are blooming!

Every day I seem to walk out in my garden and find something incredible. Winter is going to catch my garden with plants still growing and I will have more spring clean up - but I just hate to pull up a producing plant.

What a weird and wonderful year!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

A great day for a visit to an Apple Orchard

It was a beautiful fall day in Minnesota. It was 84 degrees out! I just got back from a week in Atlanta and I don't think it was that warm there. Since my apple tree only produced a hand full of apples this year, we decided to visit an Apple Orchard. Evidently so did most of Minnesota! It was a pleasant drive down Hwy 61 - the trees are so pretty right now. We knew we were in trouble when we saw the overflow parking was almost full. We stood in a long line to taste samples and get bags for picking. We stood in another long line to pay admission and get in. The hayride was too full so we decided to walk out to the trees (we did catch a hayride coming back). We picked a bag each of Haroldson, Sweet 16, Honey Gold and Cortland. We stopped and played on the playground and fed the animals in the petting zoo. Then we stood in another long line (the longest so far) to pay for our apples (45 minutes - many people were abandoning their bags and leaving). In spite of the long lines, it was a beautiful way to spend the day. Now I have apples for jelly, drying and eating. I made baked apples for dinner and they were so good.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Carrot Cake

Carrot Cake always tastes better when the carrots are fresh from the garden. This cake is for a co-workers birthday tomorrow. I made a dozen cupcakes as well and my son has pretty much inhaled them! Posted by Picasa

Canned Tomatoes

I canned 6 quarts of tomatoes today. These will taste so yummy when I make my wonderful Chicken Chili. Canning tomatoes is so easy. You just plunge the tomatoes into boiling water to losen the skins and then peel them. Cut into the size pieces you want (or keep whole). Heat to boiling and fill jars. Adjust lids and process. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Miscellaneous Garden Thoughts

This has been a good gardening year - and it isn't over yet. I love the crisp fall days - and Football (well the Green Bay Packers).

I dug the last of the potatoes out of the garden this weekend as well as the parsnips. I boiled them up with some carrots, onions and garlic and then I mashed them with margarine and fake sour cream (we don't eat dairy in our household - my child is on a restricted diet) and my were they yummy!

The raspberries are doing well - especially the yellows. I just throw them all in the freezer for now and then when I have time I will pull them out and make jam. I opened the last jar of yellow from last year a couple of days ago and I think I know why you don't see yellow raspberry jam sold commercially. No matter how wonderful it looks when it is fresh, within a couple of months it starts to discolor on the top - the jam still tastes wonderful, but it doesn't look so hot. I don't know how to prevent that. If it were up to me I would just make jam with all of the colors of raspberries mixed together but Dan really likes the yellow so I separate out the different colors and make black, yellow and red raspberry jam.

The tomatoes are also doing well. I made tomato soup yesterday and I canned 5 pints of tomato sauce today. I might make some fresh salsa tonight - we'll see if I feel like it. I should can some more tomatoes but I don't know when I will have time.

Next weekend is the Cranberry Festival in my hometown of Warrens, Wisconsin. It is the only time any more that I see my brothers and sister. It is always a good time. For more information: If you live in the area, you really should check it out.

Then I have to go to Atlanta for a conference for work on Tuesday the 26th and I won't be back until Saturday. Not much time for gardening - good thing the garden can pretty much take care of itself this time of the year - heaven knows Dan wouldn't know how to take care of it.

I hope everyone else out there is having a great fall as well.

Brussells Sprouts

The Sprouts are looking good. They are laying down and crushing the basil (which you can see in the background), but they always seem to lay down. I tried staking them one year and they just pulled the stakes down. I just try and plant them near something that will either support them or be done before they start falling over. We ate some last night for dinner and they were very tasty! Posted by Picasa

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Hot Chili Peppers

The chili peppers are turning red. Posted by Picasa


Kind of a fuzzy picture - but the pumpkins are turning orange - we will have pumpkins for bread and pie! Posted by Picasa

The Sunflower Fort

The Sunflower Fort has gotten really tall now and the flowers are finally blooming - I hope the seeds have a chance to mature. The ones in the right are leaning way down - a storm a few weeks ago bent them down - but that is actually cool because they are at Andy's level and he has been watching the flower first bloom, then insects walking across it and now he is getting to see the seeds develop up close. Posted by Picasa


Today's picking of carrots. I grow many varieties - from baby to big and both yellow and orange. The one yellow one there if you can't read the tape measure is 13 inches long. There were a lot of interesting shapes in this batch - again not sure how well they show up. Interesting thing about the yellow carrots is that I think they taste the same as the orange, but my little carrot man (who could live on carrots and fruit if I let him) won't eat the yellow because he thinks they taste icky - I think it is all about the color for him! Posted by Picasa

Green Beans

Hard to believe that the green beans are producing heavy now when the weather is so cool. I thought I had lost them during the extra hot summer. If you can't read the scale it shows almost 2 lbs - that is what I am picking daily - in September no less! Posted by Picasa

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Making Zuchinni Dill Pickles

Cut up 2 pounds of small zuchinni and two medium onions Posted by Picasa

Preparing the Zuchinni and Onions

Layer the zuchnni and onions in a small crock or a bowl made of glass or ceramic. Sprinkle each layer with pickling salt - do not use regular table salt. Cover with water and weight down the top with a small plate or bowl. Let sit for two hours. Posted by Picasa

Prepare the brine

Use two cups of vinegar and two cups of water. Add fresh dill from the garden, or dill seed and pickling spices. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Posted by Picasa


After the brine has simmered for the 5 minutes, add Zuchinni and Onions and bring back to a boil. Turn off, cover and let sit for two hours, stirring occasionally. Posted by Picasa

Preparing the Jars

Use clean jars. Check the rims to make sure there are no cracks or nicks that will interfer with the seal. Then put fresh dill and garlic in jar before filling with the zuchinni and onions. Posted by Picasa

Getting the air bubbles out

It is really important to run a knife along the edge all around the inside to get the air bubbles out. Trapped air bubbles can cause a bad seal. After putting the seals on , process in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes. Posted by Picasa

Finshed Pickles

The pickles should set for at least a week before opening - longer is better if you can keep your children away from them. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The start of spaghetti sauce.

My helper is helping pushing the tomatoes through the press as I turn the handle. Posted by Picasa

Tomato Press

Making the sauce - you can see my helper sitting on the table in the background. Posted by Picasa

Tomato Juice to cook down

My 20 quart stock pot is 3/4 full - now I will cook it all down to the right thickness Posted by Picasa

Seasoning the sauce

The sauce has cooked down and I have moved it to a smaller pot and added fresh basil and garlic from the garden - I will cook it down more and add more ingredients later - but I like to have the basil and garlic flavor really cook in. I will remove the basil leaves when I add the next ingredients. Posted by Picasa

Adding the next ingredients

I saute up onions and bell peppers from the garden before adding them. Posted by Picasa