Last of the Peaches & Peach Pie 5/13/2018

Remember the peach tree bowing under the weight of all the fruit?

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Well it’s back to normal now. We have had two baskets of peaches at a time sitting on the counter for the past few weeks now. Every few days I’d process the peaches into a pie, or some fresh peach salsa, (it’s great on chicken tacos) and freeze what we weren’t going to immediately use. Then we’d pick two more baskets of peaches and they would sit on the counter again. In total we picked at least 10 gallons of peaches which is more than enough for two people.

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The freezer peaches are waiting to be used in smoothies, popsicles and pies later on. We have a new favorite peach pie this year that I’m excited to share.

Peaches and cream pie:

  • uncooked pie crust in a 9.5 inch deep pie dish
  • 4 cups of peaches
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1/3 cup of flour
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup of plain greek yoghurt or sour cream

 

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Method:

It’s super simple. (my favorite kind of recipe) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Make your favorite pie crust, put it in the pie dish. Place peaches on top. In another bowl mix the remaining ingredients and pour evenly into the pie dish.  Bake for 60 minutes or until golden. Ta da !! Delicious! you could do a cross hatch pie crust on top if you so desired. I took the easy rout. It’s yummy. Husband was very happy, which makes me very happy 🙂

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Pepper Jelly – Use some frozen peppers 11/12/2017

I didn’t grow any sweet peppers this year. I tried in Washington but they never were that impressive only getting to a small size. This recipe maybe the thing to make me want to give them a shot again.

I have a few pounds of hot peppers frozen right now. This traditional southern recipe seemed like a fun way to use a small amount of them up. After making the recipe I think I would double the amount of hot peppers next time. It’s got a very slight hint of spice on the backend but I like it to be a little more spicy than that.

This pinterest recipe (or maybe it was found via YouTube) by A Fork’s tale is a good one. I’ll probably experiment with a few that will use up more of the hot peppers that I have next since I grew absolutely 0 sweet peppers this year. The YouTube video is great it includes the measurements. The website blog portion does not. Here is the youtube link.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cup red bell pepper chopped (I used 2)
  • 1 cup yellow bell pepper
  • 1 1/4 cup green bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup Jalapeno with seeds (I’ll do 1/2 cup next time)
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 6 Tbsp powdered pectin
  • 5 cups sugar

So full disclosure, I have never made any jelly before ever.

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But It worked out just fine which was awesome!

IMG_9978It made about 42 ounces for me. Each gold lid jar is 4 ounces and the one in the front is 8 there was that and a little bit left over probably 2 -3 ounces which we just ate.

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We spooned some over cream cheese and ate it with crackers. It was great! I’m excited to find other ways to use it!

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Eggplant Recipes for Fall 10/26/2017

Well, Texas fall sure is unpredictable. Last night temps dropped to the 40’s. I had to cover my tomato plants with a planket (plant blanket) to protect the still ripening fruit. Tonight is in the 50’s. Later on this week the low is predicted to be 38. With those sorts of temperatures limping along the summer plants is likely not going to be possible. It’s unfortunate since my eggplants are looking like mini trees and would still be going strong. Plants are capable of surviving lower temperatures than their fruit are, so I picked all the eggplant two days ago in anticipation of a cold snap. If I get lucky, maybe it will be warm enough after to set a few more before winter comes. I won’t get my hopes up too high though.

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Roasted Eggplant

The easiest way I’ve been enjoying eggplant this fall is super simple. If you love sautéed mushrooms you will like this. And the best part is it requires no measurements, which is my favorite.

Ingredients:

Cut eggplant into rings and place on a tin-foil lined cookie sheet. sprinkle in olive oil. The eggplant act like a sponge and can hold a lot of it, I just like to drizzle a few lines on both sides of the vegetable slices. Dust with basil salt. Move the oven rack onto the top shelf, set the oven to Broil and wait about 15-20 minutes for the eggplant to soften. I just pile my little rings in a bowl and have that for dinner. One good sized eggplant will easily keep me satisfied for the evening.

I’ve been eating most of my beautiful eggplants this way selfishly.  Unfortunately, my husband hates mushrooms. He tried a bite of roasted eggplant and immediately rejected it since it not only has the flavor of mushrooms, but also the texture, which is the part he truly does not like.

There was only one plant of eggplants left to pick before the cold snap. In an effort for him to enjoy some of what I grow, I decided to make some with my possibly last batch of eggplants for the season.

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I found a recipe on pinterest that looked promising and gave it a shot. I had no idea it would take me 3.5 hours to complete when I started this project. The roasting of the eggplant whole took a very large chunk of that time. It probably would have been shorter if I hadn’t been in such a baking mood lately.  There were leftover pumpkin seeds to toast from the pumpkin pie I made the night before. Pumpkin seeds require a lower temperature than the eggplant. I decided to bake them both at the same time and in the end didn’t really speed up the eggplant cooking. I’d be willing to bet you could roast and peel the eggplant and freeze the pulp in quantities for the recipe then thaw it out and complete the rest of the recipe later which I will try doing if I ever get a bumper crop.

Baba Ganoush

A hummus type dip made with eggplant instead of chickpeas. My husband loves it. Never have I ever made it before. But it didn’t look too daunting. I settled on this recipe from Little spice jar:

Ingredients:
  • 2 medium eggplants
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons tahini paste
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic (or more to taste)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 1 pinch cayenne (or more if you want it spicy)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons yogurt
  • 3 tablespoons chopped parsley
Roast the eggplant at 375 for an hour and a half. This took me a little longer since the lower temperature only made the outside brown and shriveled but not soft. basically you’re looking for them to become squishy, not firm when poked. This part by far took the longest.

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While the eggplant was baking I made my own tahini paste which is essentially crushed sesame seeds mixed with a little olive oil. I already had roasted sesame seeds on hand so I measured out three tablespoons into a mortar and pedestal and crushed away adding olive oil to make it more of a thick peanut butter consistency.

When that was done I put the paste and two cloves of garlic in the food processor along with some lemon juice and pulverized the garlic into little bits. I let this mixture sit until the eggplants were finished roasting in the oven.

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Peel the eggplant. I kept all my seeds in because the eggplants I picked were slightly under-ripe and their seeds weren’t hard yet. That, and I wasn’t sure if I would have had the equivalent of two medium store bought eggplants. If you buy them in the store the seeds might be better removed. Apparently they can make your end product bitter so just take a the chunk of the core with the seeds out.  The roasted eggplant and the rest of the ingredients (except yoghurt and parsley) were added to the food processor and blend until it looks like a consistency you would joy. I actually omitted the olive oil also. I figured I had used it while making the tahini paste.

I trotted out to the garden in my head lamp and picked some parsley to wash, stirred it in along with a little thick taziki that I had on hand in the fridge. ( I ran out of plain yoghurt and this was the best alternative I could find).

This is the result:

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Let it sit overnight in the fridge or at least 8 hours. This recipe would be so easy if you already had roasted eggplant on hand. It would literally be tossing stuff in a food processor and whirring it together. Now a husband taste test is all that’s required.— YAY!! He LOVES it!

This is the first time I have ever grown eggplants successfully. In Washington they never set fruit and the plant stayed small. I all but forgot about this lovely plant until this year in Texas when we finished a raised bed in August and I was trying to figure out what plant wouldn’t die in the high heat of summer besides hot peppers and ocra. I will certainly be planting eggplant again next year. I’ll also be looking for more recipes that both my husband and I can enjoy.

Do you have any eggplant recipes you like? I need all the ideas I can get.

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How to preserve hot peppers 10/16/2017

Springtime my pepper plants were all getting established, got a few but nothing spectacular. I think part of the reason was they were in my new raised bed where the PH and nutrients were all messed up. Summer was hot, they produced a little but mostly just limped along. Now that things have started to cool down a little bit all the flowers are setting and they are really ramping up production.

 

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Our favorite  hot pepper we have found so far is the garden salsa pepper (pictured above). These guys are great for making salsa, poppers and basically anywhere you’d use a jalapeno. They are tough little plants and have made it all the way through the winter without protection during our mild winter years. Then below, the birds have bestowed upon me the gift of seed spreading a chile Pequin pepper plant. Which I was determined to actually find a use for this year. The plant is HUGE. It’s getting about a 1/2 day of full sun morning through mid day, then full shade from our house and fence. I don’t water it. It’s 5 feet tall and covered in little peppers that the birds love to eat. There are plenty for them and me so I don’t mind.IMG_9446

Now what to do with all the peppers. This is supposed to be a cold winter and I doubt the garden salsa pepper plants will actually make it all the way through the winter. The chile pequin will probably die down to the ground and come back in the spring once temperatures warm up a bit. My strategy for collecting peppers has been to go out every two weeks or so and pick all of the full sized peppers leaving a few just smaller than full size on the plant and all the immature ones there still so we will have plenty for cooking if we want them fresh.

Freezing

I’ve been throwing a few hot peppers in the freezer to accumulate enough to make a hot pepper jelly later on. All the recipe’s I’ve found appear to be just fine with using frozen ones. I have never made jelly before so that is going to become an interesting experiment.

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Dehydrating

Another easy way to preserve them is probably dehydrating. I have an entire jar of dehydrated peppers that is more than enough to throw into soups and stews over the winter time or to make more Fire cider with if I run out. Dried jalapenos are also perfect for making jalapeno salt. Just grind them up with salt in the food processor or coffee grinder. We have one grinder only dedicated to spices so we don’t get an unexpected surprise in our coffee.

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Hot pepper Vinegar

So this is a recipe I stumbled across on pinterest that couldn’t be easier. It’s a southern traditional way to use chile pequins. I have to admit that I was skeptical that we would use it or like it. And honestly I was afraid of trying the chili pequin peppers themselves. They have a crazy high heat level 30,000-60,000 SHU on the scoville heat unit scale. Where a Jalapeno is ranked between 3,500 and 10,000 to give some perspective. These little suckers pack a punch. But I lOVE them. This is the perfect recipe to tone down their heat a little (still have not had the guts to try one raw). This recipe can be used for any type of hot pepper. The recipe I found said to pack the jar full but 1) I didn’t want to spend 3 hours picking enough of these tiny peppers to fill the jar 2) was a little weary of the heat level since I hadn’t tried it before and figured 1/4 – 1/3rd ish of the jar was probably going to be enough for these little guys. Recipe:

  • Glass jar with a non-corrosive lid (ideally it would be one better for pouring smaller amounts than what I had available)
  • Hot peppers – most recipes pack the jar full
  • Vinegar
  • 1 tsp of salt

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The recipe couldn’t be simpler. Wash the peppers, stuff them in your glass jar. Pour in 1-2 tsp of salt into the jar. Boil vinegar, put the boiling vinegar solution in the jar and seal with lid. Let the vinegar sit for a few weeks. some people keep the peppers in the vinegar as it is used. Because I was afraid of how hot this batch was going to be I decided to strain out the peppers after a few weeks once I started noticing the vinegar taking on a greenish hue but this step is not necessary. Store in the pantry. No need to refrigerate. I saved the strained peppers and have been using them on tacos. they are so good I’m going to pickle some in small jars later just for the peppers. The vinegar is great to spice up any type of beans. It is reminiscent of tabasco. We’ve been enjoying it.

Pickled Jalapenos

Those Mexican spicy carrots are a favorite in our house, but since we had more peppers than carrots available this small batch recipe was a great find and a great way to store some spice for cold winter days. This is the recipe I found which was great for a quick small batch. Store in the fridge. Small batch pickled jalapenos .

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Then of course there is salsa. We tend to make fresh salsa batches from tomatoes and don’t generally can it. But that is another option.

How do you preserve hot peppers for later? I love seeing new ideas.

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Echinacea

Pineapple Guava liqueur 10/14/2017

I am in love with the pineapple guava plant. An evergreen  low-maintenance fruit tree? Yes please! It’s one of my favorite spring time flowers.

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The petals taste like some weird tropical fruit all on their own. Then come summer, watching the fruit ripen and not having to worry about pests or diseases. I did notice a few birds pecked off a few but nothing of significance.

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I decided to pick off all the remaining fruit one morning before I went to work. I had a basket half full of the stuff. I’ve already frozen about two cups of pulp to make something with later on in the year. I needed something that will use up the rest all at once.

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Thankfully Pinterest has a plethora of ideas. And the one that I thought sounded like fun to give a shot was Pineapple guava liqueur. Converting recipe measurements is not a fun task. for all the recipes I found everything was for larger containers than what was available. So, to simplify here is a small-batch recipe:

  • 1 quart container with lid
  • 3/4 cups of sugar
  • Fill 2/3 of the way with fruit
  • Fill remaining with Vodka
  • Shake once a day until the sugar is dissolved
  • Store for 3 months before using

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There are recipes that only use the skins of the fruit, recipes that call for peeled and recipes that call for chopped. I decided to try an experiment with peeled and unpeeled. In three months I’ll get to see what (if any) difference in taste there is. I have the suspcion that the fruit with skin may end up with a more pine-like taste.  I was fortunate enough to have a lovely friend help me peel these little guys. Now all that’s left is waiting until it’s warm enough to feel like spring and having a little sample party to discover if it tastes good, which one is better, and the best cocktail recipe to use it in. Sounds like a lot of hard work, and I think I may know some people who will be willing to pitch in.

*** Update 1/13/2018. My dear, brave friend came down to visit me in Texas for a long girls weekend. I thought it would be fun to try the liquor since it was ready. Yeah… we ended up ranking them:

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The ones with the skins were the worst by far and away. It had a very unpleasant and piney taste with a very prominent note of used gym sock. The darker the liquid the worse it was. I have no clue if this is because the fruit were under-ripe, or if it’s because the fruit were not good to begin with? I figure I’ll give it another shot next year. I did notice when I was peeling the fruit (which will now be mandatory by the way) that the middles of the fruit were not gelatinous like they should have been. We tried them all. It took courage and our friendship survived. That’s all there is left to say.
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Ways to use herbs 9/9/2017

What good is growing an edible landscape if you don’t use it? It’s fun to find new ways to use the stuff out in the yard. The cool and fun thing about it is making things that you wouldn’t be able to find at the store. Growing odd stuff means you get to be a little creative with how it’s used. Here are a few of my favorite ways to use some herbs that are in the general landscape at my place.

 

Sun-Tea

Sun Tea was something newly discovered a few years ago here. It’s super easy and a great way to use fresh herbs from Spring through Fall here in Austin. In its simplest form you can just put a tea bag in a cup of water and leave it outside in the sun. The version I make now varies depending on what is available in the yard. There are herbs strewn throughout the fruit trees along the border of our lawn so all that is required is taking a stroll to see what is available.  The lemon/lime/mint flavors seem to work well. It can be made as simple or complex as desired, but here’s the base recipe:

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Sun Tea (for approximately one gallon):

  • 1/2 -1 cup honey – depends on desired sweetness level (or you could completely leave it out and use stevia.)
  • 1 cup of leaves in any combination (common varieties I use are mint, spearmint, lemon balm, lemon grass, lemon verbena, stevia, and pineapple sage)
  • Juice of a whole lemon or lime – (the skins of the fruit impart an unpleasant bitter pith taste).
  • 5 tea bags. Usually Mint and/or Tazo’s Zen Tea (made of mint and lemongrass)
  • glass pitcher & water

Pour honey into the bottom of the pitcher, throw in your washed herbs and if using lemon & lime juice plunk that in too, and then muddle. The goal of muddling is to bruise the leaves not to tear them. If you muddle for around 2-3 minutes you’re good for sure and you can probably do it in less just fine. Top off your pitcher to the desired level with water, toss in your tea bags (drape the tea tags over the side of the pitcher). Use saran wrap over the top of the pitcher secured with a rubber band so bugs can’t get in. Then plop it in a sunny part of the yard for a few hours. My pitcher will normally be outside anywhere from 4-8 hours. Strain out the teabags and leaves from your tea, press out the remaining liquid from them and refrigerate. (We toss the used up leaves and tea bags back out into the garden.) Serve over ice and drink while it’s cold for the best flavor. It’s amazingly refreshing on a hot summer day. It will last a week in the fridge but mine rarely makes it that long. You can also freeze it into ice cubes and use in a cocktail. Now that sounds like it would be good in some hard lemonade.

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My favorite variations of this recipe so far are:

  • Lemon-Lime = uses lemon balm, lemon verbena, lemon grass, stevia Zen tea bags and the juice of a whole lime or two. Good for summer when mint goes dormant.
  • Lemon-mint = uses fresh mint and spearmint, lemon balm, juice of a lemon and 3 mint teabags and 2 zen teabags. Great for spring new leaf growth.
  • Pineapple sage = pineapple sage, stevia, juice of a lemon and zen teabags. Good when running low on minty or lemony herbs.

Experiment and see what you like. It’s super easy to throw together in the morning then you have something to look forward to after work.

Cheers!

Want to kick your drink up a notch and do something a little more boozy? try some Herb simple syrup .

Rosemary-Sage Salt

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This has become a cooking staple in our household. It is something I usually only need to make only once a year. A small mason jar of the stuff will last us the whole year.  It’s super easy to scale the recipe because it just dependent on how many herbs you have on hand to use. Basic recipe:

  • 1 part rosemary
  • 1 part sage
  • 2 parts salt

Wash and dry the equal parts of rosemary and sage collected. Go for similar total volume once the rosemary is de-stemmed. now the part that makes the whole house smell amazing: Chop up the rosemary and sage into the smallest pieces that you can. The goal is to get them to be salt-like sized so you can use it through a shaker (although we never do). When the herbs are chopped it’s time to get your glass container out. Make a thin bottom layer of salt. Aim for 1/8-1/16th inch evenly covering the bottom of the jar. Sprinkle your minced herb mixture in approximately 1/8 inch or less thick evenly over the salt layer. Pour over the top of that an even layer of salt again covering up the herbs completely. when finished, there will be little distinct layers of salt and herbs beautifully ringing the container.

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The herbs are fresh and still have moisture in them, the salt helps draw out the water content of the herbs and I’ve found that if the container is turned upside down on top of a paper towel it has a way to escape. So I leave mine on the counter for a week or two until it looks like everything has evaporated and then seal it up and put it in the cupboard.

 

You can use other herbs too. Thyme, oregano, and lavender would all work well. We love the original so much we haven’t strayed from it yet though. It will last for a year and then the potency of the herbs starts to decline although it is still perfectly edible. My husband will use this to season almost any meat he’s cooking, he’ll put it in ground beef, on lamb, on top of steaks, chicken, to seasoning oven roasted new potatoes… It’s pretty delicious in almost any savory dish you can think of.

Herbed Salad

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It seems like a no-brainer that you can use herbs in a salad. When I think of salad, I still think of pre-washed bagged stuff from the store. But making it out of the yard isn’t hard and is a great way to use some herbs. I will say through trial and error there are some that I would leave out of a salad in the future. The more woody herbs that are perfect for the salt recipe above (rosemary, sage, thyme, oregano, lavender) do not lend themselves well to an herbed salad in my opinion. That was an experience getting a mouthful of thyme leaves and an intensely bitter/pine taste and spitting them out again. Those herbs are best left for cooking and infusing drinks.

Things that go well in an herbed salad (in my opinion). Also you can add in some edible flowers for fun. If you have them why not use them?

  • Spring onions / chives & purple chive flowers – oniony taste
  • Society garlic stems & purple flowers/ Garlic chives & flowers – garlicky taste
  • Nasturtium leaves and flowers – peppery taste
  • Parsley
  • Cilantro
  • Red veined sorrel/lemon balm/lemon verbena leaves  – lemony & sour taste
  • Chard – nutty taste
  • Basil
  • Mint

Making a base of chard or some less intense flavored leave works the best. but I add in a ton of just random things that are available at the moment and it’s amazing how well it all seems to work together. Just take a little bit of this and a little bit of that.

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