Category Archives: Garden


DSC02956 (1600x1200)The in-laws gifted us these two fig tree cuttings and sent over a small bowl of figs from the tree they were cut from.  Tasty!  I hadn’t ever eaten a fresh fig before, my only exposure to figs of any sort was by way of those Newton cookies and the occasional holiday candied treat.  They didn’t provide too much info on them except to say they were Italian fig trees.  They say they will grow to six feet and bear fruit in the second year.  Any luck and we won’t kill them before that. DSC_1242 (1600x1060)This is my second try at baking slider buns and I think I’m on the right path.  Those black specks are bits of garlic that I flavored the melted butter with for the pre-bake brushing.  I didn’t worry about them when it went on but I should have known they were going to char in the oven.  It looks like one KA recipe will make 20 appropriately sized buns – 2-1/2 to 3 inches each.DSC_5429 (1600x1060)Bea was in the pot with the jalapenos when I looked out the window but by the time I had my camera in hand she was out of it and back into her usual spot.DSC_1245 (1600x1060)We had chicken enchiladas for dinner today, nothing special – tomatillo sauce, roasted poblanos, and Monterey jack.  I made the corn/black bean salad I’ve done before but new to the table is the hominy/sweet corn/red bean salad.  Both salads have onions and green peppers in a rice vinegar dressing.DSC_5424 (1600x1060)Bitsy is taking her turn in the catnip pot.  They are all just crazy for that stuff.

Random Wildlife

20151015_095424 (1600x1060)I spotted a Daddy Longlegs picking its way over the Vitex this morning, early.  I had no idea what they did for food, thinking it may be hunting one of the bees that was busy just up the way.20151015_095522 (1600x1060)

It answered my unvoiced question, lowering itself to a flower and sipping nectar.

Garden Cats

20150907_170704 (1600x1060)Queen Bea is keeping an eye on the peppers.  At least she hasn’t climbed into the pot.  Today, anyway.Toby, on the other hand, is really getting into the catnip.20150929_161315 (1600x1060)

Friday Recipe Exchange: Bring on the Veggies

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I thought as the farm stand season winds down it would be fun to focus on recipes that take advantage of super fresh produce before it all disappears.

I was going to make an Eggplant Parmesan for the featured recipe but never got around to it, so I went with the Chili Rellenos Casserole instead.

To get started, a fresh and tangy Asian Pear and Grape Cabbage Salad, recipe here.

These Marinated Mushrooms (recipe here) sounded good and could be used as an appetizer or sliced into a salad.

Pizza is great way to get have a fun and flavorful vegetarian dinner. JeffreyW always does pizzas right and his Margherita Pizza  (picture above) is no exception.  Click here for his recipe and lots of photos.

This week’s dinner menu sticks with the veggie theme: Pasta with Marinated Vegetables and Bruschetta. Menu, recipes and shopping list are here.

And finally, for the pet lovers, Bixby checked in this week, spoiler alert there was a bath and a stuffed monkey.

What’s cooking in your kitchen this weekend? Have any cool weather recipes to share?

Tonight’s featured recipe, quick, easy and oh, so good:

Chili Relleno4_Snapseed1

Chili Rellenos Casserole

  • 2-7 oz cans whole green chilies
  • ½ onion, diced
  • 16 oz shredded 4-blend Mexican cheese
  • 4 to 6 corn tortillas, torn into wide strips
  • 4 eggs
  • 4 oz salsa
  • ¼ cup milk
  • salt & pepper
  •  ½ tsp crushed garlic
  •  ½ tsp red pepper flakes
  • ¼ cup snipped fresh cilantro ( Italian parsley or fresh basil if you hate cilantro)

bowl, 8×8 glass baking dish, greased

Drain and seed peppers. Layer 1/3 of the peppers in the bottom of baking dish, top with 1/3 onions, 1/3 of the cheese and 1/3 tortilla strips. Repeat to make three layers. Beat together eggs, salsa, milk, spices and cilantro. Pour evenly over casserole. Bake uncovered at 350° for 35-40 minutes until fluffy and center is set.

That’s it for this week. Have a fun and safe weekend. – TaMara




A Nice Couscous Side Dish

DSC_0997 (1600x1060)I had the pork chops cooking before I had settled on a side dish.  Mashed potatoes or rice would have usually been my choice but I spied some couscous in the back of the cabinet.  The basic package directions would have worked just fine but I did a search just to see what was out there and saw this one that called for cherry tomatoes, basil, and Parmesan.  I still have one cherry tomato bush in the back garden that is pretty well grown up with grass and weeds but it yielded enough for the recipe.  I’ve let my basil go to seed but there are still plenty of young, tender leaves on it.  It worked just fine as a side, although it was a shame to waste all that good gravy!IMG_20150916_122343052 (1600x1200)Bonus critter shot!  Katie and Homer taking time for a little shut eye.  Homer stays out in the garage all night because he doesn’t get along with Toby.  Mrs J lets Toby out in the morning and Homer comes in.  He must spend all night awake because he sleeps pretty much all day long.  Tired kitteh.

Random Wildlife – Praying Mantis

DSC_5418 (1600x1060)This is the largest one I’ve seen this year. It’s four inches from head to folded wing tip.  It has a good reach with those long arms.DSC_5414 (1600x1060)He was harder to spot than this photo makes it seem, the brown blended in well.


via20150821_133622 (1600x1060)My brother-in-law and his wife pulled their new RV/camper rig down to Mrs J’s old home town and spotted it in a campground right next to the river.  It’s a pretty fancy rig, nicely appointed.  It’s not Trump level gold plated fancy but it is comfortable.  I took a picture through one of the camper’s windows of a tow heading downriver.  That’s the Mighty Mississippi, from the Illinois side, that’s Missouri over there.  When the river gets high, like it was this spring, this spot is underwater.  Plays hell on the landscaping.DSC_5411 (1600x1060)We see wasps of various types, along with the occasional honeybee at the hummingbird feeders, but this is the first time I’ve seen one of these bald faced hornets.  I leave it be in the hope that it will reciprocate.DSC_0797 (1600x1060)Mmm… burritos!  These are beef and bean, with cheddar and pico de gallo, rolled up and grilled in a little oil.  Zap them in the microwave for a minute before you brown them – saves time and assures that the cheese melts.DSC_0685 (1600x1060)Buffalo wings!  I usually make more but I had some vacuum sealed and frozen and there weren’t as many as came in the fresh package – I divided that in two and froze them separately to cut down on leftovers.  Most of the time I bread the wings before frying them but these went straight into the hot oil after drying them with paper towels.DSC02784 (1600x1200)Kittehs!  The black cat is Frank, he came in feral and was a wild thing at first but he’s been slowly coming around.  He’s been at St Francis for about three years and gets along well with other cats.  Mrs J says he won’t let her pet him but the lady they call The Cat Whisperer is able to.  The dilute calico is Daisy, a five month old kitteh that is chipped and vaccinated and is ready for adoption.DSC_5406 (1600x1060)Bea expresses an interest in the catnip Mrs J has growing in a pot.  I was fully expecting her to climb right in but she held off.DSC_0817 (1600x1060)My basil is still doing well, I’ve been clipping the blooms off as they appear, that seems to keep it vigorous.  I guess I need to think about what to do with all those delicious leaves.  I suppose I could dry a lot of them and process them to use in recipes.  I’m not a big fan of pesto but I may make up a batch or two and freeze it in an ice cube tray like all the other folks on Google advise.

Homemade Hot Giardiniera

DSC_0818 (1600x1060)My serrano pepper plant was producing a fair crop of peppers,  they were ripening and some were past ripe and starting to dry out.  I picked all the ripe ones with a vague idea that I would dry them, or something.  Inspiration struck as I was spooning hot Chicago style giardiniera over yesterday’s Italian beef.DSC_0834 (1600x1060)Look at all those little pepper chunks!  Those are serranos, still green, as you will almost always see them.  Our giardiniera selection is limited at this end of the state, there may be one variety of it on the shelves if we’re lucky.  My local Kroger doesn’t carry any, unlike Chicago area stores.

Fortunately, there are tons of recipes on line.  There are plenty of variations – this version has ripe and green serranos, green bell peppers, carrots, celery, onions, olive oil, white vinegar, dried oregano, black pepper, garlic, celery seed, and a 5 oz. jar of chopped green salad olives with pimentos.DSC_0835 (1600x1060)To prepare it, stir a half cup of salt into the raw veggies, add water to cover, and refrigerate overnight.  The next day rinse thoroughly to get rid of the salt, then add equal measures of vinegar and olive oil, stir in the garlic, the drained olives, and other seasonings.  I hesitate to list quantities, for this batch I used 1 cup each of vinegar and oil, a couple tablespoons of minced garlic, and just eyeballed the rest.  This will store in the fridge so I won’t try to process it further for stable shelf storage.  I bet these will be pretty hot – I’ll let you know after they spend a few days coming together.


DSC_0679 (1600x1060)We’ve tapped the jar of refrigerator pickles that we put up a few weeks ago.  They are pretty good but Mrs J thinks they are a tad too spicy.  She has a very low threshold.DSC_0576 (1600x1060)Those red pepper flakes are from last year’s crop of cayennes and are definitely hotter than the generic pepper flakes sold at the local food mart.  I think Mrs J’s first sample included a flake that spent a second too long on her tongue.DSC02662 (1600x1200)This is Henrietta, she was brought in as a feral kitty a few weeks ago but has settled into the shelter routine and is friendly enough.  She’s been fixed and vaccinated and is ready for adoption.DSC_0665 (1600x1060)This looks like chicken fried steak but it’s with pork tenderloin instead of cubed beefsteak.  The potatoes were brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with kosher salt and then roasted.  I zap the potatoes in the microwave for a few minutes to speed things up.DSC02684 (1600x1200)Moar kitteh!  This is Elizabeth, she was one of a litter of five that had been born feral and then captured and brought in to be fixed.  Shelter staff really fell for her and persuaded the Good Samaritan to leave her with them rather than be returned to barn.DSC_0663 (1600x1060)Mmm… meatloaf!  No particular recipe for this one but I did use several fresh herbs from the patio garden – oregano and sage and parsley.  I will comment on the sauce, it’s equal parts ketchup and bbq sauce with a dollop of my pepper jelly mixed in.  Very good on this!  The potato got the same treatment as described above:  Zapped in the microwave, then oiled, salted, and roasted cut side down until browned.  We are getting enough tomatoes and cucumbers to keep a container of the summer-y salad going.  It gets a vinaigrette of vinegar and canola oil with oregano and thyme and is always better after being in the fridge overnight.DSC02646 (1600x1200)One last kitteh!  This is Ida, she’s been at the shelter a while.  Staff estimate her age to be a year and a half.  They comment that she was a little withdrawn when she came to the shelter three or four months ago but that she has warmed up to everyone now.  Such a pretty kitty!  Mrs J fed her a bit of chicken from her lunch the other day and says Ida now greets her with head bumps and purrs.


DSC_0638 (1600x1060)Mmm… thick slab of ham with a fancy redeye gravy.  The home fries were cooked in duck fat and were fantastic.  The gravy was developed for a chicken fried steak dish but I went with it on the ham despite it being maybe over the top because it has diced ham and bacon in it.  It would be fine for biscuits or mashed potatoes.DSC02601 (1600x1200)

Kittehs!  This momma cat and her 10 kittens were abandoned in a parking lot in 95 degree weather.  A good Samaritan brought them in to the shelter before the heat got to them but the mother cat was in some distress.  She’s fine now, or as fine as a busy momma can be with 10 youngsters to feed.20150718_151002[1] (1600x1060)Buns, fresh from the oven and brushed with melted butter.  I’m getting better at shaping these things but it’ll be a while before I can claim real expertise.DSC_0646 (1600x1060)Mojo chicken with a mojo dipping sauce.  It’s a half cup each of sour orange juice and olive oil, with plenty of minced garlic, a couple tablespoons of white vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste.  In the background is a variation on the classic Cuban black beans and rice – I added tomato bits and fresh corn to the beans.IMG_3025 (1600x1200)Mrs J left a cat bed and a few pet cage pads out.  Most of her output goes to St Francis but she offers them around to other local shelters and they are usually happy to have them.DSC_0642 (1600x1060)I keep a jar of refrigerator pickling brine on hand to use up some of the peppers the patio container garden is producing.  Whenever I cut up an onion I toss the excess in with the peppers and it works great as a topping for the occasional hamburger.DSC_5298 (1600x1060)


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