Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Late Frost but Early Snow! More Beautiful Fall Pictures First

Tuesday it snowed and it's still on the ground in some places. Wow. Seems awfully early for this. My new leaf blower-vac-shredder has been great for chopping up leaves for leaf mold and compost and overwinter mulch. The tree in the front yard across the street at my mom's has mostly fell but the two in the backyard haven't even started.

Speaking of beautiful fall foliage, I took these pictures along the Woodland trail behind our church on Sunday. I had never even realized there was this little trail back there but the woods were calling me so I wandered out into the woods and found this path.

Peoria is just full of beautiful bluffs and ravines like this.

This one makes me think of the saying, no more perfect view than the one above your head!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Late Frost This Year October 25 vs October 12 or 19

First day I've seen any frost on the plants so I had to snap some pictures. The burgundy glow is always a favorite of mine with frost. The first frost here average date is up for debate. I have seen tables saying anywhere from 12th to 19th for Peoria. The tables that haven't updated to the new hardiness zoning typically say 12 or 14th for Peoria, whereas the sites that changed our hardiness zone from 6a to 5b also changed our average first frost date to 19th. Now one year does not a study make, so this year's 25th date certainly doesn't prove anything by itself but as I have been gardening is it 4 or 5 years now the trend has been 19th or later.

 So many of the perennials are beautiful when they are dusted with frost.

Sunday, September 29, 2013


I never could have processed such a huge crop of tomatoes before. 8 quart jars plus used equivalent of another in tonight's spaghetti and meatballs. Tonights sauce used 1/4 paste tomatoes, 1/4 the other clustering tomato that are medium size and 1/2 the Arkansas Traveler's.
 Yesterday I realized the Arkansas traveler pink tomato vines were out of control.  So I tore them down.  I couldn't reach most of the beautiful huge ripe tomatoes. Because the tomato towers had all fell over on top of each other under the weight.
The toppled mess!

At least 4 piles of vines

This was filled with pink when done. Removed green and filled another bucket of just green.

So I wrapped the green in newspaper tonight as well and put in box with an apple. 

But again my new friend!!!!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean, My Bonnie Lies Over the Sea... Won't Someone Bring Back My Bonnie to Me!

My dad used to sing that all the time. When does this get easier?

But I actually started that song thinking about Bonnie's question to me about sugar substitutes. Dr. Jill Carnahan, a former Peoria physician and now residing in Flatiron, Colorado published in her blog about the bad news of artificial sweeteners. Stevia was on good list but Truvia on bad list. Agave nectar which is called for all the time in many of my functional cooking books, hmph, bad list.

This is one of those times I think to myself, geez my brain needs some glucose and sometimes that's going to mean "F#@% it!" But Bonnie is diabetic so WTF is she supposed to do. Well, first of all we consume way to much sugar and fructose, I agree, so cutting back I think is good idea and well I think Bonnie is better off with stevia then aspartame. But that got me wondering about how to extract one's own sugar from the Stevia plant since it's so often better to do it yourself.

In my plans to move my herbs to the front garden I'm not exactly sure which of my plants if any is the stevia plant. BUT it's easy enough to figure out with a taste test. I found this blog about making a sweetener from stevia. The next step of course is how to incorporate into recipes.

And speaking of herb garden progress....

Can't find my edger!!! Picked up all the bricks last week and planned to use this tool and starting putting in the bricks and can't find it anywhere!

I have no idea how I made this picture do all this changing how cool though!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Update on food mills, food strainers, etc...

While that manual food mill made my sauces much smoother it was a ton of work still. So when I saw this Weston Tomato Strainer I thought AH-HA and it was on sale. It was also mentioned on several tomato canning blog posts so I thought this is the one.
I got done so fast with a sink full of tomatoes that were small, fingerling type it blew my socks off. I was able to go from start to sauce in the crockpot in less than an hour. I used the marinara recipe that came with it and was very pleased. Except I didn't cook on stovetop very long. I did start it in my big wok. But then I transferred batches after boiling to the crockpot so I could leave it cooking all day. Then that night I added soy crumbles and some more seasoning to taste, cooked the noodles and Pat said it was the best sauce yet!

Yeah!!!!! I'm all for that when it's easier too. So when wer're back in Peoria I need to make homemade V-8 since i have tons of carrots and celery in the garden this year. 

 I will correct the recipe if I am wrong but as I remember this is what I did.

Slow Cooker Marinara Sauce

Since I gather this I prefer these measurements:
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 large red onion left in fridge minced
4 carrots, 2 were small the purple and white and 2        orange carrots 1.5-2 inches in diameter and 8          inches long, chopped then minced
7 stalks of celery just cut off leaves then minced
1 tsp heaping or 1 T level of brown sugar (the brown sugar I added to the veggies in oil before tomatoes)
Small sink worth of tomatoes, rinsed, threw out any blemished, rotten, about to rot...ran through Tomato            Strainer and filled largest pyrex glass bowl twice at least
Seasoned to your taste 

So that you have the more standard measurements called for in recipe I'll use those now here.

In the wok, 1/2 cup of olive oil, one cup each of finely chopped/minced red onion, carrots (one purple, one white and 2 orange for fun) and celery (about 7 stalks) cooked for 15 min on medium to low heat in oil to keep from browning. Added a heaping teaspoon that was probably almost a tablespoon of brown sugar. Then put tomatoes through strainer. At first cutting in half but they're so small and oblong started just throwing in whole and worked fine. Filled at least 2 bowls of tomatoes just kept going until it would fill the crock pot. Then added dry basil, thyme and rosemary, and pepper and salt.  Cooked on the 4 hour setting until I was ready to go to work so probably about half an hour then switched to 10 hour and left.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

My first badge from!

I finished the course months ago but I suppose it takes them awhile to review and decide if your worthy? Who knows but anyway I got a badge today for the first course I did. And more importantly a discount code for next course!

Which I plan to resume once the outdoors is less hospitable again. It's a great way to chase away the winter blues!

Designing with John Brookes

Monday, September 2, 2013

Shady Side Yard Collage ver. 2.0 or is it 3.0 now?

OK I was tired but still managed to add in the beautiful red Oriental pagodas and Buddha that they have Sheridan Nursery. And I added a weeping Norway Spruce.

Made first batch of Salsa this year

We ate about 1/2 a jar and I put the other half in refrigerator. Canned another pint. Also made avocado and tomatillo dip. It was good marinade for shrimp that went into quesadilla. I'll add recipes tomorrow. Too tired now.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

First Batch of Truly Finished Compost

In the past I never let the compost just age and completely finish. I would often take the "almost" finished compost and mix into the beds in the fall and by spring it was finished there but then I wouldn't get to appreciate it. Well I noticed the squash bugs had attacked a pumpkin vine that was growing out of this compost bin I haven't touched all summer. I went to pull the vine out and wow the soil was perfect and crumbly. OMG it's done just a little dry grass on the top of it. So I sifted it all into a new bin to save for potting or seed starting or adding to some plants that could use a boost. But first I had to take pictures of course.
Sifting out the unfinished peices and big sticks.
The bin as I removed the compost. 
Eventually about filled this bin.

Rylie holding a handful of black gold pre-sifting.

Very exciting. I estimate this batch took about a year and a half. I probably had compost in here for more than that but kept adding to it and taking some almost finished away. But then this pile overwintered and I only added straw and grass early in spring when I layered it and put in various objects to improve airflow then threw a couple pumpkin vines on it and left it and whallah!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

SwingNCocoa: Covered Greenhouse Garden

SwingNCocoa: Covered Greenhouse Garden: While we're waiting for our fence to suntan before we stain it, I took on another outdoor project this weekend. Yep, it's ...

This is a link to a blog with a cool project.

Monday, August 12, 2013

New food mill for making smoother paste and sauces

I know I have a different kind of food mill here somewhere that my mother-in-law gave me. She made according to my husband like 50 quarts of tomato juice a year so I'm sure it works very well. I remember it being similar to the picture below.

However, my husband put it somewhere in the attic and I've twice looked for it and can't find it. So technically actually that's a strainer but it does some of the same thing. Maybe even better.  So I really needed one so I bought a different kind so that I wouldn't have two of the same thing and could see which I like better for what. I got the oxogrips food mill from Bed, Bath & Beyond. It had fairly good ratings.
So far I've put up about 5 small jars of paste, 2 large jars and 1 small jar of tomato sauce. BUT wow long way to go since I had a bumper crop of tomatoes. My seedlings died so I bought 4 different kinds of plants, 4 of each of the first 3 then 2 of the last. 
Sweet cluster
Oval or fingerling type also cluster
Arkansas Traveler (Pink heirloom)
Patio Tomato
And wow I've got tomatoes coming out of my ears.
I've had a half an island covered with tomatoes at least 4 times.

No I'm not using canned tomatoes, I'm dumping some waste in the can.
Roasting loads of the fingerling/grape type tomato for paste.

After pulverizing in food processor

Grinding through mill to remove skins, pulp and missed seeds.

Unfortunately all that winding is hard work.

Simmering juice mixed with puree tomatoes to make paste.

Shucks I should have taken some pictures of it on a spoon or something to show how thick it is at the end. I only am adding some brown sugar at the simmering stage. But when I roasted them they were sprinkled with olive oil and Italian seasonings mix.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

No Can Do Time to make pickles and tomato paste!

This year I'm going to try fermentation instead of canning for the pickles.  And I'm going to use the roasting method of making tomato sauce so I won't have to can that either!!!! hahahaha no can do!

sour pickles recipe

  • 1 Gallon Organic, Unwaxed Pickling Cucumbers
  • 2 Big Bunches Organic Dill (Preferably Flowering Heads)
  • 2 Large Bulbs of Organic Garlic
  • 3-4 Tbsps Pickling Spice (Allspice, Mustard Seeds, Cloves, Bay Leaf, Black Pepper etc.)
  • 5-6 Tbsp Unrefined Sea Salt
  • Horseradish Leaf (Stem Removed)
  1. The first step in making sour pickles is to thoroughly soak the pickling cucumbers in chilly water. This is a very necessary step unless you picked your cucumbers that day as it helps to perk them up a bit before the fermeting begans.
  1. Next, you’ll want to makes sure all stems and flowery ends have been removed as either may contribute an off-flavor to the sour pickles. Make sure your pickling cucumbers are throughly scrubbed and clean.
  1. Peel each bulb of garlic and use only the best and freshest cloves of garlic to season the sour pickles.
  1. Add the pickling cucumbers and garlic, dill and pickling spice to the jar or vegetable fermenter in layers, I like to sprinkle a little salt between layers.
  1. Add the horseradish leafe to the jar as well. I find that you needn’t tear it to ensure that the horseradish leaf is evenly distributed throughout the jar; indeed, it can be left more or lose whole. The leaf not only yields a subtle additional flavor to sour pickles, but it also helps them to remain crisp, not mushy, when the lactic acid fermentation is complete.
  1. Prepare a brine of 2 ½ – 3 tablespoons of unrefined sea salt to 1 quart filtered, chlorine-free water and shake it to ensure the salt is fully disolved. Pour the brine over the pickling cucumbers, spices, garlic, dill and horseradish until all of the ingredients are submerged in salt water. It usually takes about 2 quarts of salt water to sufficiently cover the vegetables and spices.
  1. Make sure that the vegetables are completely submerged beneath the salt water which is easy if you’re using a vegetable fermenter. If you’re using mason jars, simply place a smaller, plastic lid or other clean wait in the jar ontop of the vegetables until it weights them down sufficiently.
  1. Allow your ingredients to ferment for at least a five days and more likely seven days and quite possibly ten days. (Fermentation is an inexact art.) Taste them to see if they’ve soured to your liking. Once they’re done, simply place them in the fridge and use wisely and judiciously.
By Jenny Published: July 29, 2009
Sour pickles are a mainstay at our summer dinner table.   Naturally fermented, sour pickles are rich in beneficial bacteria and …

Read more:

Actually I ended up using a different recipe.This one came from All Foods and was even simpler. Mainly it left out the pickling spice which Pat doesn't like. He requested this year just dill. So okie dokie. Many more cukes I can always make some bread and butter pickles for myself next batch. 

  • Ceramic crock or food-grade plastic bucket
  • Plate that fits inside crock or bucket
  • 1-gallon/4-liter jug filled with water, or other weight
  • Cloth cover
  • 3 to 4 pounds/1.5 to 2 kilograms unwaxed
  • cucumbers (small to medium size)
  • 3⁄8 cup (6 tablespoons)/90 milliliters sea salt
  • 3 to 4 heads fresh flowering dill, or 3 to 4
  • tablespoons/45 to 60 milliliters of any form of
  • dill (fresh or dried leaf or seeds)
  • 2 to 3 heads garlic, peeled
  • 1 handful fresh grape, cherry, oak, and/or
  • horseradish leaves (if available)
  • 1 pinch black peppercorns
  1. Rinse cucumbers, taking care to not bruise them, and making sure their blossoms are removed. Scrape off any remains at the blossom end. If you’re using cucumbers that aren’t fresh off the vine that day, soak them for a couple of hours in very cold water to freshen them.
  2. Dissolve sea salt in ½gallon (2 liters) of water to create brine solution. Stir until salt is thoroughly dissolved.
  3.  Clean the crock, then place at the bottom of it dill, garlic, fresh grape leaves, and a pinch of black peppercorns.
  4. Place cucumbers in the crock.
  5. Pour brine over the cucumbers, place the (clean) plate over them, then weigh it down with a jug filled with water or a boiled rock. If the brine doesn’t cover the weighed-down plate, add more brine mixed at the same ratio of just under 1 tablespoon of salt to each cup of water.
  6. Cover the crock with a cloth to keep out dust and flies and store it in a cool place.
  7. Check the crock every day. Skim any mold from the surface, but don’t worry if you can’t get it all. If there’s mold, be sure to rinse the plate and weight. Taste the pickles after a few days.
  8. Enjoy the pickles as they continue to ferment. Continue to check the crock every day.
  9. Eventually, after one to four weeks (depending on the temperature), the pickles will be fully sour. Continue to enjoy them, moving them to the fridge to slow down fermentation.

I can't wait to see how these look every day. Once recipe said they could get moldy on top and just scrape it off! WOW! That's gross and this is safe?

And from the lazy girl guide to roasting know this recipe was meant for me to find as she did this on my birthday in 2009. I posted before I think or maybe just the link but this time I am going to follow it to the letter.

How to make frozen roasted tomato preserves

1. Wash and dry your tomatoes.
2. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees if using a convection oven and 400 degrees if not.
3. Set up a work area with the following:
  • Your washed and cleaned tomatoes
  • Pans lined with aluminum foil that have been greased on the top side with olive oil
  • A fine-mesh colander set atop a large bowl
  • A cutting board
  • A knife

4. Remove any blemishes or bruises from the tomatoes and then cut each one in half.
Denise's picture
5. Gently squeeze the tomato halves into the colander so the seeds fall inside.
6. Set the tomato halves on the lined baking sheets, cut side up.
7. Sprinkle extra virgin olive oil, kosher or sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, and freshly minced or dried oregano or basil onto your tomatoes.
8. Bake for 50 minutes if using a convection oven or 1 hour if not (or until the tomatoes are cooked through, being careful not to burn them).
9. When the tomatoes have only ten minutes to go, place the juice from the bowl into a pot and slowly boil with some salt and pepper for about five minutes.
10. Remove the pans from the oven and scrape the tomatoes into a small pile using a wooden spatula and then spoon them into a large bowl.
11. Add in the cooked tomato juices and stir.

finished tomato sauce
Denise's picture
12. Let cool until room temperature and then ladle into quart-sized freezer bags that have been labeled with the date and contents.

tomatoes bagged and ready for the freezer
Denise's finished project