Category Archives: Garden
viaMy 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.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.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.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.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.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.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.
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.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.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.
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.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.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.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.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.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.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.
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.
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.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.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.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.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.
We had a nice caprese salad with a burger today for lunch – pearl mozzarella with grape tomatoes and shredded basil with olive oil and a balsamic glaze.Our habaneros are starting to ripen. I have a good crop of jalapenos coming along but none have started to turn red, yet.This is one of Mrs J’s favorites. She’s a Maine Coon mix, named Clara Bell, and staff estimate her age to be 2-1/2 years. Those eyes!The King Arthur better buns recipe works great for hoagie rolls!This roll isn’t from that batch but it is the same recipe. Sloppy joes are a family fave.Moar kitteh! This is Donald, a 3 month old male, one of a litter of 5. Mrs J tells me that this is “kitten season” at the shelter. St Francis’ new building has a room set aside just for kittens. They spend all day playing outside of their cages:
Mrs J had a mint plant that got away from her several years ago and it started spreading and taking over before she declared war on it – aggressively spraying with Roundup wherever sprouts appeared. I used it to garnish gyros, and a little of it went into my tzatziki sauces. Her eradication effort succeeded last year, I looked and looked and couldn’t find any, so I bought a seedling this spring just for garnishes. She told me to keep it well away from her garden!
Random wildlife – Ginger checks out a backyard visitor. This was captured by the backyard camera in a happy accident. There is a setting on the camera that allows you to space the time between shots and we have it set for 5 minutes, iirc. That cuts down on the number of pictures it will take if, say, the deer here stays and mills around for a while but it may miss whatever shows up during that hiatus.I mentioned the other day that I bought the ingredients for mojo marinade thinking about doing a pork butt for a more authentic Cubano sandwich. I marinated this one overnight then roasted it low and slow. It was covered for most of the cooking time but I did take the lid off for the last 30 minutes.Here’s the sandwich I had in mind the whole time. It’s basically a layered assembly of Swiss cheese, pickles, ham, and the mojo pork. The bun halves are smeared with mustard, the other components assembled, and cooked in a grill press. These are great tasting sammiches even without the mojo, any roast pork will work fine.Mrs J planted some cucumbers in with some clematis where it climbs up a wired in enclosure down on the south side of the house and the vines are starting to produce. (You can just barely see them in the picture with Ginger and the deer, above.) We had a couple rounds of the classic cucumber, tomato, and onions with vinegar and oil so we used the last half dozen to put together a refrigerator pickle recipe. Can’t wait to try them, we’ll give them a week to come together but I’ll bet they get better after that. Kitteh! This is one of several in a litter at the shelter, I have no more info than that, alas.Mrs J saw a much earlier photo of roast pork and gravy on egg noodles and she remembered that she really liked it and we haven’t had that in a long time and we do have some roast pork and egg noodles, don’t we? She who must be obeyed! The fact that these were slices from the mojo pork butt made no difference. I simmered the slices in chicken stock with onions, colored it with Kitchen Bouquet, added a bit of beef soup flavoring and thickened it with corn starch. Not the ideal gravy but it worked well enough!More random wildlife – a few wild turkeys browsing for insects, I assume. This camera is on the opposite side of the house and is looking North. It doesn’t get nearly as much action as the one overlooking the spot where Mrs J scatters corn and sunflower seeds but we see a fair selection of critters. I understand that they have cameras with wi-fi transmitters built in that can broadcast their captures to a centrally located receiver. Sounds interesting, we gather the memory cards and view the take via a screen in the house. From what I’ve seen the wi-fi range isn’t far enough to be all that useful for us.
It’s the time of year again when things begin to ripen faster than you can eat them, but there are still not enough to think about canning or cooking down and freezing. So what to do?
I had a bunch of cilantro and two tomatoes which were rushing to ruin and decided I needed to do something so I didn’t end up composting them. You can do this with any leafy herb, such as the basil, parsley, cilantro and veggies such as tomatoes, peppers, and zucchini.
I added the tomatoes and cilantro into my blender, covered with water and blended together well. I froze them in 8 oz portions, as that is the amount I would use in soup or sauce. Ice cube trays are an option, too, but that size is better for when you’re freezing intense herbs, like basil, by itself, where you would only use a tablespoon or so in a recipe.
I also zest all my oranges, lemons and limes and freeze them in a thin and flat layer in ziplock bags. Then I break off whatever amount called for in a recipe.
Herbs can also be packed in oil (click here) as JeffreyW did with his basil pictured above and tomatoes can be flash frozen whole, as JeffreyW did with the batch pictured at the top and detailed here, green and red peppers can be seeded and cut up into large pieces and frozen in the same manner.
There are many more ways to preserve fresh from the garden produce and I’ll try and remember to document as I go along this summer. Until then….
I bought a bottle of sour orange juice so I could more closely replicate the mojo marinade needed for a proper roast pork Cubano sandwich. I haven’t done that yet, but a recipe for mojo marinated roast chicken caught my eye. A mojo sauce is mostly olive oil with garlic, citrus, and oregano. I used fresh oregano instead of dried in mine. The lemon and lime juices in the recipe are intended to get to the sour/bitter taste profile of the sour orange juice when sour orange isn’t available and regular orange juice is substituted. Lacking a rotisserie on my grill I used the beer can roaster gadget with good result.A recipe for Cuban style black beans and rice worked well and fit the general theme of the plate. I have no Idea if broccoli plays much part in the Cuban diet but I like it so I steamed some florets and gave them a squeeze of lemon. I picked the green pepper and a couple of sweet banana peppers from my container garden to make the bean dish. The addition of a splash of red wine vinegar to the beans right before serving them really made the dish. I never would have thought to do that but it works!
Just a quick lunch – beef and bean burritos with cheese on a plate with pico, guacamole, and black beans. Just as an aside, the tomato in the pico de gallo is our first ripe tomato from the patio container garden. It was deep inside the foliage and nearly hidden. Hoping for many more. Plenty of grape tomatoes are ripening but this is the first of the larger variety. It came from a bush Goliath, there is another called Mountain Fresh that is very close to producing – fingers crossed!