Friday, July 31, 2009

Pumpkin Carving Time

Oh no, it isn't pumpkin carving as in designing jack-o-lantern faces. This carving is very important at this time of the year though. We have four grandsons, ages 4-9, who always pick out their Halloween pumpkin while it is growing on the vine. This weekend Grandpa took them out to the pumpkin patch so they could designate their pumpkin. In order to remember whose is whose, G'pa came up with the idea of carving their names on the pumpkins they choose. He uses a Dremel power tool and bit to write each boy's name. You could also use a sharp knife to etch a name or initials on the pumpkin. It is fun to watch the pumpkin grow larger, and the names stretch right along with it. This year the boys picked out a pumpkin for the new baby girl in the family too.

My husband is always trying something fun for the kids. One year, the boys built wooden boxes and laid a cucumber inside each box. As the cucumber grew, the box formed around it making it a square cucumber. It worked pretty well, but they discovered the strength of the growing cukes when they grew big enough to pop the box apart. It was an odd looking cucumber and provided a lot of laughs and conversations.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Cauliflower Salad Recipe Re-discovered

Alright, I admit that I really need to go through my recipe box and re-organize. I happily discovered this Cauliflower Salad recipe when rummaging for a different salad recipe in one of the index card file boxes which house my recipes. Yes, filed in S for salad, not C for cauliflower. (My daughters laugh at my filing method....)
This is a special recipe because it is written out in my mother's distinct Zaner-Bloser handwriting which she taught as a second grade teacher. Beautiful writing on a yellowed blue lined sheet of paper. She passed away in 1993, so finding this brought back great memories of sharing recipes.

I made up the salad, and, after the first bite, my husband said, "This is good." I haven't made it for awhile as you can tell from this story. It was a refreshing way to use up the cauliflower and lettuce we are in the final stages of harvesting. The dressing would be good for any veggie salad I think, easily prepared and kept in the refrigerator if you can't use all of it at one time. Enjoy...

Cauliflower Salad

1 head lettuce
1 lb. bacon, fried and crumbled
1 medium onion, chopped
1 head of cauliflower, broken up
1/2 c. parmesan cheese (I used colby shredded cause that's what I had)

Layer above ingredients in order.
1 c. sour cream (light would be okay to use if you like the flavor)
1 c. mayo (I used light Miracle Whip dressing)
1/2 c. sugar

Pour over salad. Toss before serving. It would be fun to experiment adding other veggies and ingredients such as raisins, nuts, sunflower seeds.....

Thanks, Mom.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Green Bean Harvest Time

Here they come!! The beans are on the bushes and picking has begun. Hooray! Green beans are the second most popular plant for gardeners after tomatoes. We picked our first crop this week and cooked them up in a big pot of boiling water along with potatoes, onions, and bacon. Add seasoning, and let it simmer for 45-60 minutes or till tender. The first batch of beans are always the best, and this pot was deeeee-licious.

My husband staggers the plantings so that they all don't mature at the same time. In this way we will just be finished picking the first planting when the next planting will be ready...ideally that is the way it should go...He usually plants another batch every three weeks. Just be aware of how many days till you can harvest the variet of bean you chose. Check the information on the back of the seed packet. Don't plant them too late in the gardening season or they won't be ready before the first frost. Bean plants do not like frost.

The first pickings should be worth your while, getting lots of crisp, tender beans from healthy bushes. Picking the beans encourages the plant to grow more beans. I don't like them when the pods have mature beans in them because the beans are tough. Everybody has a different take on their favorite flavor and texture, so if this is your first attempt at growing green beans ( also known as snap beans or string beans in different parts of the country), you can experiment with the maturity of the beans.

As the bean plants get bigger and thicker, you may have a problem with mold/fungus if there is too much moisture. Moist soil keeps the beans growing, but avoid over watering. I know Mother Nature may interfere with this plan by dumping rain on the garden, so work with her as your partner in gardening. Keep your eye on weather forecasts to judge how you care for your garden.

In the next few weeks I am going to experiment with a few green bean dishes and give you a report on the recipe. If you have a great bean dish you like to prepare for your family, please send it so I can try it too. Thank you.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Pesky Tomato Problems

Tomato season is fast approaching and I know some parts of the country are in the thick of it. A member of the yahoo group I joined, The Veggie Patch, suggested a resource for identifying what the problem is for the plant by having very clear pictures. Click on the photo, then read the symptoms. The page includes suggestions for controlling the disorder.

The link to this helpful information is

Thanks Dev in OK..

Friday, July 17, 2009

Add the Herb, Basil, to Your Fresh Veggies Stir Fry

Fresh veggies from the Garden in an easy stir fry.

All of these vegetables, peas, brocolli, Swiss chard (the pinkish color), onion, zucchini, green pepper were grown in our garden. The yellow squash was given to us by our neighbor. Growing the veggies and harvesting them may be the hardest part of the preparation for a stir fry, but chopping them up is very time consuming. My DH chopped all of these for me.
After that, stir fries are so easy once you get the extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) into the pan. No, I don't use a wok. just a large skillet. Experiment a bit on the length of time to cook them. Some individuals like the vegetables warm, but crispy. We like ours cooked more than that, so I add a little tiny bit of water to the pan to steam them after the frying. So I guess I should call the dish a stir-fry-steam. I added fresh basil to this concoction giving it lots of flavor. When using fresh herbs, add them at the end of the cooking time to get the most flavor and you can mix in quite a bit more than when using dried herbs. I also cheat if I want to make it Asian flavored by just shaking on the soy sauce and stirring it into the veggies. It is a lot easier than making up a special sauce using cornstarch, etc. Thanks to Pat for that tip.
We like the stir fry with walnuts or sunflower kernels sprinkled on top. I also love it with brown rice or mixed in with pasta.
Our peas are really producing now. We have been lucky this year with this crop. Do you have any suggestions on how to prepare them? Our grandkids love going in the garden and just biting into the peas right off the vine. They are so sweet and snappy.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


My hubby was planting tiny little lettuce seeds into the sectioned flats this morning at coffee time. Yes, instead of talking to me, he was planting, and I was talking...LOL. He had to concentrate on picking up the seed with a tweezer and carefully placing it in the soil. In a couple of weeks, the plants will be ready to put in the garden for mid-September lettuce salads. He plans to put the broccoli plants in soon.

I usually just take for granted that the crops are ready to eat at the proper time during the season. Writing this blog makes me more aware of the timing that is necessary to hit the optimum growing times for the plants to get the best production. It is like preparing a meal. The meat, gravy, potatoes, biscuits, vegetables, and salad all have to be ready at the same time so they will be tasty. (It's also easier to put it all on the table at one time rather than hopping up to get an item when it is cooked, then the next, then the next, etc. I learned this in high school in Home Ec 101 !!!)

Gardening in the Southern states requires the same optimal timing so you don't bake your plants in the summer or frost them in the winter.

Perhaps I should have titled this post, Timing is Everything.....

Monday, July 13, 2009

Camping with Cabbage

The photo on the left shows the cabbage heads forming. (Everytime I look at cabbages I think of Peter Rabbit in Mr McGregor's garden in the children's story. It must have been an image I saw when I was a kid.) The photo on the right is a freighter passing through the Muskegon Channel that connects Lake Michigan to Muskegon Lake.

We cut our first cabbage to take with us on our camping trip last week. Mmm...roasted hot dogs over the campfire and fresh cole slaw. I shredded the cabbage at home, not in the camper. We had a fantastic time at Muskegon State Park parked in the channel cammpground. Fun to watch sailboats, yachts, the Lake Express ferry, and a huge freighter go in and out of the channel connecting big Lake Michigan to Muskegon Lake. Weather was fantastic!

We have found the easiest way to shred cabbage to make slaw is to use the blender. Chop the cabbage into wedges, add water so the swirl will help to distribute the wedges for chopping. Drain in a colander. Try different settings on your blender till you find the right "shredding" you like. Throw in some carrots too to chop in for color. I like to cut up green pepper to make the slaw even more colorful.

For dressing, I toss some sugar on top of the chopped cabbage in the bowl. Let it sit a minute, then just spoon on Light, yes light, Miracle Whip and mix it in. Add celery seed for a flavor boost.

My friend fries cabbage and onions in butter. Then she adds cooked wide noodles. It is so delicious when she makes it. What are your favorite recipes that call for cabbage? We are going to have a lot of cabbage to consume in the next weeks to come. My DH plants them so that they all don't come on at the same time, but are spaced out over the harvest time.