Wednesday, August 31, 2011

French Pear Pie

If you recall, a few weeks ago I was worried that I wouldn't have enough pears to even make a pear pie because the squirrels were destroying all of the pears on my tree (Pears and Squirrels).  Well, thankfully I had just enough to make this pie - the "netting" worked!! 

I have 2 favorite pies - "Fresh Peach Pie" and "French Pear Pie" - please give this a try - it is delicious.

French Pear Pie

6 cups sliced fresh pears (washed, peeled and cored)
2/3 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
juice from 1 lemon
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons quick (instant) tapioca
1 or 2 tablespoons butter

1.  Make the crust first (make the double crust recipe at the bottom of "The Basics of Baking - Pie Crust" ) - and roll out the dough
2.  Prepare the pears as described above.
3.  In a large bowl, mix together all of the ingredients (except the butter)

All ingredients (except the butter) mixed together
4.  Pour the pear filling into the bottom pie crust and "dot" with the blobs of butter.  (Remember - the 3 main ingredients of French cooking/baking is Butter, Butter and Butter - I think that was said by Julia Child or some famous french cook :-)).

Place a few blobs of butter on the top of the pear filling before adding the top crust

5.  Place the (already rolled out) top crust on the pear filling and flute the edges.  Always make sure to cut a few holes in the middle of the top crust so that the air can escape, otherwise the filling will overflow from the fluted seam (and make a huge mess on the bottom of your oven).  I like to be a little creative and I cut out a pear shape but any little cut line or hole will work.
6.  Brush some cream (half and half or whipping cream) on the top crust and then sprinkle that with a little granulated sugar (about 1 to 2 tablespoons of sugar)

7.  Bake in a preheated 425 degree oven for 35 or 45 minutes (or until desired golden brown color is achieved).

Enjoy warm or cold!!

by Angie Ouellette-Tower for photo Day_zpsb50f87c9.jpg

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Speckled Squash

Speckled Squash

This variety of winter squash looks like the Cinderella pumpkin carriage.  I just love the colors: peachy-pumpkin orange, hunter green and smoky grey-green. 

The taste is very sweet and the flesh is meaty and dry.  I prefer the dry varieties of winter squash and in my opinion the watery varieties have a slimy texture and somewhat of a bitter taste (this type is not bitter).

Please pay no attention to the weeds!  The squash part of the garden got away from me this year.

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Deformed Produce Hall of Fame - 2011

"Deformed Produce" HALL OF FAME - 2011

Harvest always brings beautiful, abundant and sometimes deformed produce.  Everyone sees something different in misshapen veggies and fruit.  Seing images in unusual garden produce is just like looking at a spectacular cloud filled sky and creating what you see in each cloud.

Please feel free to leave comments or cute captions about any of these "deformations."  If you would like to add a picture of one of your own unique garden growths then please contact me.


The "OUCH" Pear

Tom Tomato

Curly-Q top

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Branches Wither Away

"If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.  If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you."  John 15: 6 & 7

(This is the fourth of an eight part series on John 15)

In the township where I live, there are a few months in the fall and spring when we are allowed to burn our yard waste.  Many of the branches that I trim off during late spring sit in a pile at the back of my urban farm until burning season.  I have noticed that many of these branches that I have thrown away struggle to live and hang on to their leaves for many weeks - but they never make it.  These cast out branches always end up withering away.  And so it is with us - we can try living without our Lord and Savior and struggle along but without Jesus we will eventually wither away.

When we "remain" in God we are given certain privileges and can "ask whatever we wish."  Be careful - we are Christians and must ask according to the Father's will.  A branch on a grape vine will draw from the sap of the vine and grow abundant grapes - that branch and those grapes glorify the vine.   We must glorify Him. 

Those who abide desire God's will.

Part 1:  The True Vine
Part 3:  A Fruitful Branch
Part 5:  As the Father Has Loved Me
Part 6:  Complete Joy
Part 7:  A Friend's Love 
Part 8:  Chosen Fruit

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Bread and Butter Pickles

Bread and Butter Pickles

6 lbs of pickling cucumbers (washed and sliced into 1/4 inch rounds - I always cut off the ends and compost them)
4 cups vinegar (I use white distilled but apple vinegar would work also)
4 cups sugar
1 cup water
1/2 cup pickling (or Kosher) salt
1 teaspoon pickling spice (per jar)
2 large onions (peeled and sliced into rings)

Prepare the cucumbers, and onions as described above. 

Gather your canning jars, lids and rings (you will need 5 or 6 quarts).    Canning Basics - Jar Sizes.  Also, gather all other canning supplies: Other Canning Supplies . 

Start the water boiling for Jar sterilization:  Sterilizing Jars & Lids

In a large stock pot combine the vinegar, sugar, water and (pickling) salt and bring to a boil over medium heat. 

By now your water for jar sterilization should be boiling - sterilize your jars 2 at a time.  Take them out and begin "raw packing" (Raw Pack vs. Hot Pack) the vegetables.  Start with a few onion rings at the bottom of the jar and then start filling with the cucumber rounds.  When the jar is half way full, pick up the jar (with oven mitts) and gently shake the cukes down (I gently shake the jar against the palm of my other hand - also covered with an oven mitt - the jars are very hot!!)  This shaking helps the cucumbers settle in the jar and it makes more room for more cucumbers- you want to get the jar as packed as possible.  Less brine will be used if your jars are packed quite tight.  Leave enough room at the top of each jar for a few more onion rings (leave 1 inch of headspace).  Then finally add 1 teaspoon of pickling spice (per jar). (Continue sterilizing jars and Raw Packing them until all of the cucumbers have been used up)

Cucumbers, onions and pickling spices have been "Raw Packed" in each jar

Place the "Raw Packed" jars in a preheated 350 degree oven for 8 minutes (This is before you pour the boiling brine on top).  After the 8 minutes remove the jars from the oven and slowly pour boiling brine in each jar - (you want to do this slowly so that the bubbles can work their way to the top before sealing each jar).  Fill the brine up to the bottom ring thread of each jar (about 1 inch headspace)  Now you are ready to place a sterilized lid and ring on each jar - make sure the ring is screwed on tightly.  Now place the jars on the counter or table for 12 hours and you should hear that wonderful popping sound of the jars sealing.  The next day, check and make sure that all jars are sealed - (if you press down on each lid and it moves up and down that means that it did not seal - you can put any unsealed jar in the fridge and eat them as refridgerator pickles)

Place all the sealed jars in the pantry for 3 months (or more) and enjoy!

NOTE:  This recipe makes about 5 quarts but it all depends on how tightly you pack your jars - sometimes you might run out of brine because the jars have more space to fill.  If that happens and you need a little more brine then just cut the brine recipe in half) 

Friday, August 26, 2011

Sunflowers - Royal Flush

photo by Angie Ouellette-Tower

Sunflowers - Royal Flush

I have been growing sunflowers for decades and every year I am amazed by their diverse array of colors.  This particular variety - "Royal Flush" has pale yellow petal tips and a rosy flush ring around the middle of the flower.  I grew 3 different types of sunflowers this year and the "Royal Flush" bloomed the earliest (in late July and beginning of August).

I will let this sunflower speak for itself - enjoy some of my sunflower photos from this year:

photo by Angie Ouellette-Tower

photo by Angie Ouellette-Tower

Click to view:

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Basics - Peeling Tomatoes

Place tomatoes in boiling water for 30 seconds

Peeling Tomatoes

It is so incredibly easy to peel tomatoes and because it's so effortless it's fun.  It is as easy as 1....2....3.....

Step 1:  Place 3 to 5 tomatoes in boiling water for 30 seconds

Step 2:  Remove from boiling water and place these tomatoes in cold water

Step 3:  Peel off the skin - many times the skin will just slide off in one piece.
When canning tomatoes whole you must peel the skin off the tomatoes first.

Remove from hot water and place in cold water.  Then begin peeling.

When canning tomatoes whole - you must always peel off the skin first.  Also, many people simply do not like the tough skin that some tomatoes have - this is an easy way to peel the tomato skins if you are making something "tomatoey" for picky people.  (Yes - I have been known to make up my own words from time to time).

3 Roma Tomatoes - the skins are on the left and the peeled tomatoes on the right

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Zucchini Lasagna

Zucchini Lasagna

1 package Lasagna noodles
1 lb ground beef (browned and the fat drained off)
2 (26 oz) jars tomato/spagetti sauce
1 large container cottage cheese
2 eggs (slightly beaten)
1 container grated parmesan cheese
4 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 large onion (peeled & chopped)
1+ cloves of garlic (to taste - I use 1 clove but you may use more)(peeled & minced)
1 medium yellow zucchini (washed & chopped)
1 medium green zucchini (washed & chopped)
1 large green pepper (washed & chopped)
fresh basil leaves (washed & chopped - about 3 tablespoons worth)(parsley may be substituted)
1 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1 teaspoon (or more - to taste) hot red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 pyrex baking dishes (I use one large rectangular and one small rectangular dish)

1.  Prepare the lasagna noodles as described on the back of the package (usually boil about 8 minutes - then drain and rinse with cool water).

2.  Brown the ground beef as described above (making sure to drain the fat)

3.  Prepare the vegetables as described above and saute them in olive oil along with the spices (basil, black pepper, garlic & red pepper) for about 10 minutes (or until "al dente" or not quite totally cooked)

4.  You will need 2 large bowls:
In the first bowl mix 2 eggs, 1 of the jars of tomato sauce (scraping the inside of the jar making sure that you use all the sauce), and the browned ground beef.
In the second bowl mix the sauteed vegetables & spices, the second jar of sauce and the cottage cheese.
In the second bowl combine the sauteed vegetables, spices, cottage cheese & 1 jar of the tomato sauce

To Assemble:

Spread oil or spray "Pam" (or other nonstick product) on the pyrex dishes.  Place a layer of noodles on the bottom of each baking dish (see top picture - don't worry about the placement of the noodles being perfect - you can't go wrong with making lasagna - the cheese will help keep it together).  Now spread the beef mixture (from the first bowl) on top of the noodles in both baking dishes (just estimate and split the amount to fit in each pyrex dish - again it doesn't have to be exactly the same amount in each dish) - sprinkle this layer with 2 cups of the mozzarella cheese & half of the parmesan cheese (again - both baking dishes).   Now place another layer of noodles on top of the beef/tomato sauce mixture (in both baking dishes).  Spread the vegetable mixture from the second bowl on top of that layer of noodles - and sprinkle the remaining parmesan cheese & another 2 cups of mozzarella on top of this vegetable layer. (NOTE - I sometimes have a few left over noodles and will  just place them on top of the second layer).  Take the last 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese and sparsely sprinkle on top of both lasagna dishes.  Bake for 30 minutes in a preheated 350 degree (F) oven.  NOTE - if you notice the cheese getting too dark then cover with foil.  Cool for 10 minutes.  ENJOY!!

Zucchini Lasagna

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Italian Romano Beans

Italian Romano Beans

Many years ago friends of ours gave us some bean seeds and they were called "Jugoslavian Beans."  These were the best green beans that I had ever eaten.  Every year I would collect, dry and save enough seeds for next year's crop.  Then, I had a bad crop one season and I was not able to save any seeds (ironically- this happened only a few years after the country of Jugoslavia broke down). 

I endured a few years with regular bush green beans and yellow wax beans until I came across these scrumptious Italian beans.  I know what you are thinking - by looking at these pictures you are thinking that these beans are too large and will be stringy and tough.  That's the magic of these beans - they melt like butter in your mouth even when they are harvested as large as they are in the pictures attached.  These are the most tender and flavorful beans of any available (in my opinion of course). 

Also, these beans are pole beans making it easier to grow and harvest (Pole Beans vs Bush Beans).

Monday, August 22, 2011

Tomato Dry Rot

Tomato Dry Rot

Have you ever cut into a tomato and found a black blob in the middle of your tomato? - That is most likely "Tomato Dry Rot" (see picture below).  Before cutting into a tomato look at the bottom and if you see an unusual dark mark (as seen in the picture above) then that tomato will most likely have "dry rot."  If the dark mark is severe enough I will just throw (compost) that tomato away but if it is a small dark spot then I will just cut around it - the rest of the tomato tastes fine.

Tomato Dry Rot is caused mainly by an extended dry period sometimes followed by an unusual wet period and it has to do with calcium absorption.  Also, if there has been some root disturbance then dry rot might occur.  I usually find that the first few tomatoes of every season will have some dry rot but then tomato quality for the rest of the season is fine.  So, in other words - If you pick a tomato with dry rot don't pull up the plant - the plant is fine, just give it a little time and you will be harvesting perfect tomatoes. (Note: - I'm sure there is an exception to my rule but I have never had a tomato plant produce only dry rot tomatoes).

Sunday, August 21, 2011

A Fruitful Branch

"I am the vine; you are the branches.  If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing."  John 15: 5

(This is the third of an eight part series on John 15)

We as Christians are the branches and Jesus is the vine.  This verse talks about the utter dependence that we must have on Jesus.  In order to "bear much fruit" - (not just a mediocre amount of fruit but "much fruit" - a large amount) we must be completely and totally reliant on Him.  If you are trimming a grape vine or fruit tree and throw the "bad" branches that you cut off onto a pile;  you will notice that these branches will do nothing.  No fruit will ever grow from a severed branch.

It's the same with us - without Jesus we can do NOTHING.  Another interesting choice of words "Nothing" - I looked up the meaning:

NOTHING - no thing, not anything.  No part, no portion.  One of no consequence, no significance.  Something that has no existence, no quantitative value, zero.

Again that is absolute - no beginning and therefore no ending - NOTHING.  Another way of looking at this is the opposite of "nothing"  - With Jesus all things are possible and when we trust God we can do anything and everything that He wants us to do.

Let us strive to become a "fruitful branch".

Part 1:  The True Vine

Part 4:  Branches Wither Away
Part 5:  As the Father Has Loved Me
Part 6:  Complete Joy
Part 7:  A Friend's Love 
Part 8:  Chosen Fruit

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Peach Jam

Peach Jam

4 cups crushed peaches (washed, pitted, cut and then crushed) (some people don't like the skin but in jam it is cooked down and you can't even tell that it is in there - the skin gives such a wonderful flavor to the jam)
Juice from 1 lemon
1 package of fruit pectin
6 to 7 cups of sugar (I always use less sugar because in my opinion most jams & jellies are too sweet.  Using less sugar might make your jam a little more runny or syrup-like but most times I haven't been able to tell a difference)

1.  Gather your canning jars, lids and rings (you will need 6 or 7 half pints). 
     Canning Basics - Jar Sizes.  Also, gather all other canning supplies: Other Canning Supplies
2.  In a large stainless steel pot mix the fruit (crushed peaches - washed and pitted), lemon juice
     and fruit pectin - stir until pectin is dissolved.
3.  Start the water boiling for Jar sterilization:  Sterilizing Jars & Lids
4.  Bring the fruit mixture to a full boil over meduim-high heat - gently stirring all the time.
5.  Add the entire amount of sugar (again - I use the lesser amount - 6 cups) - stirring until
6.  Bring this mixture to a full boil again - continuously stirring.  Boil hard for a full minute (you will
     notice some foamy stuff on top - that is supposed to happen.  If it boils too close to the top of
     the pot then you will need to turn the heat down slightly).  Constant stirring is a must!
 7.  Remove the pot from heat and skim foam off the top and discard the foam.
8.  By now your jars should be sterilized and ready to be filled.  Take the jars out of the boiling
     water (I use my jar remover and make sure that the water is drained out of each jar).  Fill
     each jar up to the threads of the jar (about 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch of headspace)

9.  Wipe the rim of each jar with a damp cloth making sure that any jam residue is gone (any
      residue left on the rim can stop the jar from sealing).
10. Place a sterilized lid on each jar and then tighten a ring on each jar.
11. Place all jars in a "Water Bath Canner" and process (boil) the jars for 10 minutes (make
      sure that the water level in the Canner is 1 inch above the tallest jar)
12. Remove the jars and place them on the counter or table to cool (I always place them on a
      cloth because there have been a few times when a jar cracked and then the jam oozed out
      making a mess - the cloth will help if that happens).  You will hear the wonderful popping
      sound of your jars sealing.
13. Allow the jar to cool for 24 hours and then store in your pantry or in your fruit cellar until the
      winter and then enjoy a little bit of summer.

Other Jam Recipes on this blog:

Friday, August 19, 2011

Morning Glories

Morning Glory

The name says it all - a truly glorious flower.  This is the flower for all of those "morning" people out there.  It is amazing how these flowers open in the morning and then disappear in the afternoon only to start over the next morning with new buds - it's almost like they have an internal clock.  The colors and the shading are heavenly, almost dream-like.  Look at the very middle of each flower - doesn't it look like there is a light bulb shining it's warmth through the flower?

Morning Glories are very easy to grow from seed and they will grow into a delicate vine.  I plant Morning Glories in between my gourds (Growing Gourds) to give my gourd plants some color.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Basics of Canning - The Difference Between Jam and Jelly

The Difference Between Jam and Jelly

In the above picture the Jelly (Blackberry jelly) is on the left and the Jam (Strawberry Mango Jam) is on the right.

Jam - jam is made from crushed fruit and always has pieces of the fruit.  You can see parts of the mango and seeds from the strawberries in the picture above (the chunks of fruit have been cooked and are therefore spreadable).

Jelly - jelly on the other hand is made from juice or syrup that is made from crushed fruit.  So really, jelly has an extra step and takes a little longer to make than does jam.

Many times people prefer jelly if they have alot of dental work or have issues with diverticulitis where seeds can cause problems.  Personally I prefer jam because it has a little more substance to it but both taste delicious - especially when homemade.
You can see the seeds and pieces of fruit in the jam on the right and the jelly on the left is clear with no bits of fruit.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Cajun Kale Potatoes

Cajun Kale Potatoes

3 large potatoes (washed & chopped - I leave the skin on but you may remove if you prefer)
1 large onion (peeled & chopped)
Cajun or Creole spice mixture - to taste (about 1/4 teaspoon to 1/2 teaspoon) (I like "Tony Chachere's" spice mixtures available in most larger grocery stores)
3 to 4 cups of Kale (washed and cut - see picture above)
2 tablespoons to 4 tablespoons of olive oil (depending on starchiness of potatoes)

Prepare the food as described above.  In a large frying pan saute the potatoes, onion and spice mixture (drizzle the olive oil on top and stir slightly).  Place on medium high heat and saute for about 10 minutes - stirring occasionally.  Add in the Kale and cover for another 5 to 7 minutes (or until the potatoes are cooked) - again - stir occasionally.

Cajun Kale Potatoes

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Pattypan Squash

Fresh Pattypan Squash from the garden

Pattypan Squash

This is definitely the beauty pageant winner of the summer squash family with it's scallopped edges and it's whimsical color.  It is not only delicate in looks but in flavor also - even more mild than traditional zucchini. 

It grows like any other summer squash plant as seen below.

Pattypan plant

When harvesting: 

Pick green - when using raw in salads (see bottom picture - the pattypan on the right)

Pick white - when using to saute like zucchini (Breaded Zucchini) or for shredding and freezing (Freezing Shredded Zucchini) to use in the winter for soups and chilis.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Weed Hacker

"The Weed Hacker"

The Weed Hacker

This is one of my favorite and most effective garden tools.  "The Weed Hacker" is much more sturdy and much easier to use than the "Weed Bandit".  These two tools are similar in that they cut or tear the weeds at the root level.  However, "The Weed Hacker" is superior because it is made from much stronger metal and it is also a back saver since you don't have to bend down to use.  This durability makes "The Weed Hacker" efficient in all soil types including the most difficult clay soil. 

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