Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Summer Garden and Vacation Time

Are retired folks supposed to have vacation?  I have the notion that some people believe that retired people are always on vacation or that they don't have much to do but, at most, putter around.  We here at the Back Forty Garden and Park are taking a summer break from our toils in the garden because we are having a very special guest.  Our granddaughter is visiting and it is important that we devote our time to her for a few weeks.

The first morning, she went out to the garden with us and we cut down three Black Beauties, eggplants.  We picked some green peppers as well and looked around in the cucumber vine and found one hefty cucumber.  For lunch, I dunked slices of eggplant in an egg/milk solution and then in a flour and Parmesan cheese concoction.  I fried them in Canola oil until golden brown.  It was not a success with the little guest.  The cucumber sandwiches were fine.

The corn has come up, tall and green, and the silks are forming.  My husband is putting Mineral Oil into the silks to prevent worms and other bugs from crawling into the corn.  By the way, if you buy corn from the grocery store you have the tendency to pull down some of the greenery to see if any bugs have crawled in.  If there is any sign of bugs or discoloration, you return the corn to its bin.  I do.  I've been told that most often, the rest of the ear of corn is all right.

I have prepared the space in the garden for planting black eyed peas as a cover crop.  I found they were easy to shell and pretty good eating.  There is no time for solarization since our garden is producing year around and I don't have six weeks to give up to plastic covering.

While the granddaughter is here, she is taking swimming lessons and her first day was yesterday.  Everything went swimmingly.  As we were leaving, the real swim instructor showed up and took over the pool.

We hope that you all will have a nice summer.

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Thursday, June 19, 2014

Yellow Squash Cheese Biscuits

We had our first two yellow squash in the middle of May and since then we've had a bumper crop of this fabulous summer vegetable, a bumper crop for us would be more than two.  We have had problems with the squash rotting before it has had a chance to mature.

The following spoon dropped yellow squash and Cheddar cheese mix was good for 27 biscuits. It will depend on the size spoon you will use and how generous you are with the dough.

Also, some bakers recommend that you drain/squeeze the liquid from the squash by combining 1 tsp of salt with the squash in a colander.  I prefer to have the the squash with the natural liquid intact.

Here are the ingredients:
2 cups grated yellow squash
2 cups white all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tbs baking powder and 2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper and 1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup canola oil
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
2 med eggs (beaten)
1 and 1/2 cups buttermilk (if not available, use milk and add 2 tbs vinegar)

Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl.  In another large bowl, combine the wet ingredients, including the squash and the cheese lastly.  Add the flour mix and stir well with a wooden spoon until combined.

Drop the batter by the spoonful onto a slightly greased baking sheet.  Bake in 400 degree F oven for 12 - 14 minutes or until golden brown.

Have a wonder Mid Summer!
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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Pickled Fresh Sliced Cucumbers

I visited Swedesburg, Iowa, many years ago and picked up a book containing Early Immigrant and Pioneer Recipes that Swedish settles had brought with them and are recorded in an informal cookbook collected by the Swedish Heritage Society.  One such recipe is the Pickled Fresh Sliced Cucumber that I have modified.

Again, I peeled the cucumber and removed the seeds.  Some folks recommend that you sprinkle about two (2) tbs salt over the thinly sliced cucumbers as well as the onions for this recipe and let it stand for an hour and then drain off the "water."  So far, I have skipped this step in my pickling adventure.

The recipe calls for the following ingredients:

7 cups thinly sliced cucumbers
1 cup each sliced onions and chopped green or red pepper (less if preferable)
1 generous tbs celery seed and 1 bunch of dried dill weed (dill seeds will do fine)
1 cup white vinegar
2 cups sugar

Combine the cucumbers, onions, pepper, and spice in a 2 quart container.  Mix vinegar and sugar well and pour over the cucumber mix.

Put a lid on it and store in the refrigerator for 24 hours before serving with your Swedish meatballs.

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Monday, June 16, 2014

Cucumber Pickles--Fast

I have never heard of "refrigerator pickles" before but it is cucumbers being pickled in the refrigerator.  It may be because I have had no cucumbers in my garden to neither eat nor pickle until now.  The preparation for pickling is fast and no cooking or canning is required.

This year, the cucumbers are ready for harvesting much faster than I am.  They are hiding near the ground in the foliage and it is such a surprise to find them.  They are big, fat, and prickly.  The color is more yellow than green; however, they are good eating, but how many cucumber sandwiches can you eat?

If you like to make cucumber pickles, shop for them at your local Farmer's Market and ask if the farmer's cukes have been sprayed or dunked in wax to keep longer on the shelf or in the bin as in super markets.

If you have cucumbers in your garden, you my notice that they are not at all glossy and that is what you want.  If you leave the skin on your cukes when pickling, they will soak up the brine so much better.

Because of the less attractive skin, I peeled my cucumbers and I also removed the seeds with a spoon after cutting them in half.  I used a huge fat cucumber which I estimated to come out to be one pound; then I sliced the halves.

Here it goes:  I combined about 6 - 7 tablespoons (tbs) each of white vinegar and apple cider vinegar with 3/4 cup of water (almost 1 cup) and 2/3 cup of somewhat tightly packed (light) brown sugar.  I was surprised how easy the sugar melted.  I used a handful of pickling spice.

I also added sliced onions and diced green pepper.  You decide how much you would like.  After combining the liquids, the sugar, and spices, I poured it over the sliced cucumber, sealed the container, shook it well, and put it in the refrigerator to let it stand for 24 hours before serving.  Keep it refrigerated and don't keep it too long.  Enjoy.

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Sunday, June 15, 2014

Father's Day

It is Father's Day

I read the following in today's paper and I so totally agree.

"Research shows that children with highly involved fathers develop more fully, are better at solving problems and handling frustrations, are more socially skilled and empathetic, have a better sense of humor and attention span and are more eager and learn".

I hope every father realizes how important you are to your children.  Thank you for what you do.

Enjoy the day!

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Saturday, June 14, 2014

Flag Day

It is the 65th Anniversary of the Flag Day.

The red, white, and blue colors had no specific meaning when the flag was first created.  In 1782, the colors were given the following meaning:  red for valor; white for liberty and purity; and blue for justice and loyalty.

Read more about the American flag on "Flag Day Facts" on the Internet.

Fly your flag proudly.

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Thursday, June 12, 2014

Trimmers, Yard Tools

It seems that you can't have one without the other; I refer to a Cobolt's Hedge Trimmer and a Dual-Line Trimmer/Edger from the home improvement center.  Both of them come with quick charge inter changeable 40 v Max Lithium batteries and chargers.  They both come with 5-year hassle free tool guarantee.

Jimmy Johnson, the NASCAR super driver and spokes person for Cobolt and this home improvement center says that he "likes it fast."  Do you think that 60 minutes to charge a battery is fast?

The hedge trimmer weighs 7.3 lbs and I can handle it without problem when cutting a hedge that is not much taller than I am.  I do not like to put the trimmer above my head:  I might loose my balance. The trimmer does however cut off when you release the switch by the handle. The dual action blade is 24 inch long.

I soon learned to hold the trimmer a certain way to get the best cut and I was surprised that it was rather slow moving, but I suppose that was to my advantage.  I did like that it was battery driven so that I would not get tangled up in electrical cords.

The Dual-Line Trimmer/Edger may be flipped over for easy edging at your drive way for example.  I have yet to try this, but I seriously doubt it would cut the St. Augustine grass (few things do).  The Trimmer/Edger is fast and my husband was able to trim the borders around the Labyrinth in no time. He was also able to trim under the citrus trees.  These are two reasons to have a somewhat fast and reliable tool for trimming.

The trimmer/edger comes with a 0.065 inch Dual line String Spool.  The duality is that it cuts coming and going, if you know what I mean.

The Trimmer/Edger comes with an adjustable handle that you position to suit yourself.  Unfortunately, there is no place that the shaft or rod bends to make it easier for accommodating your height.

For the price, I think these are good tools a home owner needs and with fast chargeable 40 v inter changeable batteries, I am looking forward to using them myself.  Of course, when using these powerful tools, exercise caution.

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Monday, June 9, 2014

Zucchini Drop Biscuits

One more time with feelings:  Zucchini!  You will like this easy recipe with zucchini and shredded cheese. This recipe requires few ingredients with little muss and fuss and few bowls.  They are called drop biscuits because a spoon is used to scoop up the dough from the bowl and drop it onto a greased cookie sheet.

I actually found this on Martha White's sack of white all-purpose flour when I was making the zucchini bread last week.  I had the zucchini so I had to try the biscuits, too.  Caution:  I used another brand of flour and the two cups ended up being too much.

Here are the ingredients:
2 cups of white all-purpose flour
1 tbs baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
ground red pepper to taste
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
2/3 cup of milk
1/4 cup melted butter
3/4 cup shredded zucchini

Heat the oven to 450 degrees F and lightly grease a cookie sheet.

Combine the dry ingredients including the cheese and the wet ingredients in separate bowls.  Stir in the wet ingredients into the dry mixture until evenly moistened.  Again, be careful about adding too much flour.  Drop by heaping tablespoons on prepared baking (cookie) sheet.

Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown.  Makes about 12 biscuits.  Enjoy best served warm.

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Thursday, June 5, 2014

Zucchini Bread

I still got zucchini in the garden and I am not sure what to do with it, so today on one of the hotter days, I decided to bake zucchini bread.  As I was mixing the ingredients, I realized that this bread is loaded with calories!  It is hefty, to say the least.  However, it can be frozen and saved for Christmas in July or December.  I put dried cranberries and pecans into the bread which is so suited for a fruit cake.

I sifted together the dry ingredients:
3 cups white all-purpose flour
1 tsp each salt, baking powder, and baking soda
3 tsp cinnamon

Mix together with the flour to be well coated:
1 cup chopped pecans and 1 cup dried cranberries (or pomegranate).

Mix together the wet ingredients:
3 eggs, beaten
2 heaping cups of sugar (groan!)
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 scant cup of canola oil (2x groan!)
2 generous cups of grated zucchini

I had to use some muscle to mix all the ingredients together and to mix them well.  I used a wooden spoon.  I was surprised that it all fit into the two baking pans.

Grease and flour two (2) 8 x 4 inch baking pans (I used Corning Glass pans).

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (or 165 degrees C).  Bake 40 to 60 minutes, so "they" said.  Give this time a try; but after checking the bread after 40 minutes, I added 20 minutes, then 30 minutes, then 10 minutes.

 The dough is dense so it will take some time to bake.  Be sure to give it the stick test:  when a small wooden stick is inserted into the bread in the oven, removed, and comes out clean, the bread is ready).


When the bread had cooled down and was removed from the pans, I halved the loaves and wrapped them in foil, affixed a label, and put them in the freezer for much later.  Yes, I tasted it too and it was much like a fruit cake and very sweet.

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Monday, June 2, 2014

Zucchini Patti Cakes

The dark and lush zucchini foliage was dense and hid two large zucchinis but I found them and harvested them. I immediately decided to make zucchini patties and have them for supper.

2 cups grated zucchini
2 eggs, slightly beaten
2 tbs finely chopped onions
1/2 cup flour, more may be needed
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp each baking powder and salt
1 pinch of dried oregano, crumbled
1/4 cup canola oil for frying

Of course, I kept the skin on the zucchini and grated a little more than half of the zucchini to make a generous two cups.  Some chefs recommend that you blot the grated zucchini but then you toss out a lot of nutrients.  I did blot mine slightly but increased the amount of white all-purpose flour to keep the dough from being too runny.

I finely chopped an onion to make a generous 2 tablespoon.  It seems hardly worth it but the onion gives the patties an interesting taste.  I also crumbled up a large pinch of dried oregano.

I sifted together 1/2 cup of flour, 1/2 tsp each baking powder and salt and mixed in 1/4 cup parmesan cheese.  I used already grated parmesan cheese, the kind used on spaghetti sauce.

The two eggs were slightly beaten and added to the zucchini and onion mix and I added this wet mix to the flour concoction.  I found that I needed more than 1/2 cup of flour.  I added to get mice patties, not too runny.

I heated the canola oil in a large frying pan and made patties, dropping them into the hot oil one at a time and fried until golden brown, 2 -3 minutes.  Watch that oil!  I had it a bit too hot and some of my patties were more black than golden but they were wicked good served with syrup.

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