Tuesday, September 30, 2008

It's dark outside

Getting darker and darker everyday. It's almost 6am. I don't like to go out when it's that dark, as we get skunks and raccoons. The other night it was coyotes. So I'm a little chicken of checking my garden in the dark. While I wait for the sun to come out, I'm doing to think of what to make for dinner tonight. I've canned and frozen so much food! I know! I will grab some of the chili that I made with my canned V8 juice and chopped tomatoes and a lot of my chopped jalapenos. I froze about 3 large plastic containers of that chili. Now to think of what to make with it... macaroni? rice? or just eat up with tortilla chips? We'll see.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Just watching my peppers grow

My poblano peppers have so many peppers growing on them, with many more blossoms. It is now a race against time. The weather. The temperatures are going to drop to the 60's starting tomorrow. I would hate to lose my beautiful peppers if it got too cold. But all I can do is watch, water and wait...

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Peppers and more peppers

I picked 13 poblano peppers and 23 jalapenos yesterday. Now I need to find out what to do with them! I could make more dragonbites and stuffed peppers, but I already have quite a few bags of them in my freezer. I would like to do something different with them.

I have used a recipe that was listed on foodandwine.com:

Chiles with Beer and Cheese

  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 cup thinly sliced white onion
  • Salt
  • 1 pound poblano or Anaheim chiles (about 6 medium chiles)--charred, peeled,with stems, seeds and veins removed and flesh cut into narrow strips
  • 1 cup strong beer
  • 6 ounces medium-sharp Cheddar or domestic Muenster cheese, cut into thin slices

    1. Heat the oil in a deep, nonreactive, medium skillet or shallow flameproof casserole. Add the onion, season with salt and cook over moderate heat until translucent.
    2. Add the chile strips, cover the pan and cook until just tender but not soft, about 4 minutes. Add the beer, increase the heat to high and boil, uncovered, until it is absorbed by the chiles, about 7 minutes.
    3. Spread the slices of cheese over the chiles and heat until melted. Serve immediately
    I used a pumpkin beer. Adding some sausage on the side made it a meal. I actually used the brown sugar breakfast sausage which went really well. Maybe I'll make some sage sausage this time. Here's to experimenting!

    Friday, September 26, 2008

    German Queen tomatoes opinion

    When I first planted my two German Queen tomato plants, I had doubts about them. The tomatoes are supposed to be big -they aren't a uniform shape. But they have surprised me. They turned out to be my best producers. They are very big, but very meaty. While my other tomato plants have already died, the German Queens have made a comeback, I think nothing short of frost will take them out. They are flowering again, they look fairly healthy, and I have many BIG tomatoes hanging on the branches. Just when I gave up hope on any of my tomato plants this year, the German Queens came through. I would definitely plant them next year!

    Thursday, September 25, 2008

    Planting shallots for the spring

    Now is the time to plant shallots to come up in the springtime. Make sure you add 6-8 inches of mulch to help protect against the winter weather that will be coming. I have quite a few shallot bulbs this fall to plant and see if I do as well in my fall planting as I did with my spring planting. Shallots are so nice - they make just about anything you cook with them, taste gourmet.

    At this moment in time, I'm actually waiting to go outside to check on my garden. Gone are the days of summer when I could get up at 5am and it was light outside. It's almost 6am and I'm still waiting for a hint of light! We put Miracle grow around my peppers yesterday morning. Then we had a good-sized thunderstorm come through. Miracle Grow and a little water perks up those peppers so nicely!

    Wednesday, September 24, 2008

    Poblano blossom pictures

    My poblanos are going crazy! Peppers hanging and more blossoms than ever before. My jalapenos are doing well too, just not as much as my wonderful poblanos!

    Tuesday, September 23, 2008

    German Queen Tomatoes still hanging on

    Who would have thought that since all of my tomatoes were just about dead, that my German Queens are making a comeback? What is that all about? I pulled off a tomato hornworm last week from the German Queen. Half of each plant has died off, I believe from so much rain that they just about drowned, like my other tomatoes. But now I see healthy growth. I see more blossoms! I see tomatoes growing! I know it's bound to be a cruel trick. One day soon it will frost over, and then they'll be gone. Crazy weather we are having. And crazy tomatoes!

    Monday, September 22, 2008

    Holy Mole - What a Pepper

    I've got 5 Holy Mole peppers growing on my one single plant. They are about 7 inches long so far! They are still a nice green. I'm waiting for them to turn a chocolate brown before I pick them. They look so perfect! There are many buds on this plant too. This one is really going gangbusters! It really is exciting to see peppers grow!

    Sunday, September 21, 2008

    Harvested Herbs

    Sage, rosemary, thyme, chives, marjoram, and tarragon. I love the smell of fresh growing herbs. Just touching them gives off such a nice strong scent! The only herb I didn't cut is my cilantro, which is taking it's dear sweet time growing. I love to cook with the fresh herbs -everything tastes so lovely. I think you can tell that the smell of fresh cut herbs puts me in a happy mood.

    I make a pumpkin-sage pasta sauce that is to die for. I also add plain sausage that I've browned with minced jalapenos and shallots. Pour that over bowtie pasta for a wonderful spicy fall dinner. I've even made pumpkin-sage home-made pasta too. I've made it as fettuccine, but this year, I might make it as a stuffed ravioli. Just thinking about it is making me hungry!

    I put rosemary and thyme in just about everything. What a great picker-upper! My son's favorite is chicken noodle soup. He really likes the extra zing of the strong herbs!

    Marjoram and tarragon, I'm at a little loss at what more to use them with. This is the first year I grew and used them.They are fantastic with chicken. So far, I've only used them as a rub on the chicken before we grill. I know that I'll have to explore more!

    Today, as I wait for more of my peppers to grow, I find I need to pull all of my shallots out of the ground. The tall green tops are all gone, so I think it's time, even though I think it's a little early for them.

    Have a wonderful day!

    Saturday, September 20, 2008

    Margaritas and Dragon Bites

    Well I didn't get to take a picture of my holy mole peppers yesterday like I said I would. My husband and I celebrated our 27th wedding anniversary. We had gone out to lunch, came back and finished up some work - then we made some margaritas and grilled up some dragon bites - made with my home grown jalapenos! They were grilled to perfection and tasted so wonderful! The margaritas were perfect too. And yes, so was the husband! Have a happy day!

    Friday, September 19, 2008

    Miracle Grow is a Miracle Especially for Peppers

    After the heartache of my tomatoes dying off from being under water, my peppers were doing ok, but really doing nothing. We applied some Miracle Grow to the soil, and the next day - they look so lovely! They perked up, and I swear overnight there tons of budding flowers on them again. My poblanos, jalapenos, cubanelles and my holy mole peppers are doing so well! I'll get some better pictures of my holy mole sometime today.

    Tuesday, September 16, 2008

    Another Tomato Hornworm

    I was looking at my dying tomato plants last night and found another one of those huge tomato hornworms again. Man, they are just icky looking. Check my archives for pictures of the worm and also the eggs. I clipped off the branch with ol' Mr worm on it, and had my son put him out in the field behind my house. I thought the time for those things was passed - boy was I mistaken!

    Monday, September 15, 2008

    So much Basil - Make Basil Garlic Sauce

    I had so much basil I grew this year in my garden! You can see it here to the left of my jalapeno plants. What to do with all that basil, besides pesto: Basil-Garlic Tomato Sauce. I love canning, and so I took out my Ball Blue Book and found this recipe.

    • 20 pounds tomatoes
    • 1 cup chopped onion
    • 8 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • 1/4 cup finely minced fresh basil
    • Bottled lemon juice
    Prepare Ball® or Kerr® jars and closures according to instructions found in Canning Basics in the book.

    Wash tomatoes; drain. Remove core and quarter tomatoes; set aside.

    Saute onion and garlic in olive oil until transparent.

    Add tomatoes. Simmer 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

    Put tomato mixture through a food mill or strainer to remove seeds and peel. Combine tomato puree and basil in a large saucepot. Cook over medium-high heat until reduced by one-half, stirring to prevent sticking.

    Add 1 tablespoon bottled lemon juice to each pint jar. Carefully ladle hot sauce into hot jars, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Wipe rim and threads of jar with a clean damp cloth. Place lid on jar with sealing compound next to glass. Screw band down evenly and firmly just until a point of resistance is met-fingertip tight.

    Process 35 minutes in a boiling-water canner.
    Yield: about 7 pints.

    This sauce is just fabulous!

    Sunday, September 14, 2008

    Tomatoes and rain

    All this rain is so good for our lawns and trees. But we've had the most rainfall here in the Chicago area, ever. One thing that this rain does do, and that it really kind of makes the tomatoes explode. Well, at least crack a lot. I had to pull off many tomatoes before they were as ripe as I like, because they had all split! It's just like blowing up a balloon with too much air - pop!

    Saturday, September 13, 2008


    It poured last night! Look at the field behind my backyard - full of water - and ducks and geese! This area rarely fills, and the water almost made it to the street - wow! Also took a picture of my rain drenched garden - still looking good!

    Friday, September 12, 2008

    Last of my German Queen Tomatoes

    Soon all of my tomatoes will be gone. My monster tomato is finally turning color. This picture doesn't really show it, but that tomato is actually twice the size of all the other tomatoes. It's like you can hold it in two hands - it really is huge!

    Wednesday, September 10, 2008

    I love peppers just not the real hot kind

    Poblanos - my favorite. Just a hint of smoky flavor, not hot. I put these peppers in everything - from guacamole to soups, stews, stuffings - umm - yeah.

    Jalapenos - my second favorite. They can be a bit spicy, especially if you use the seeds and membranes inside. My favorite snack is the dragon bites. I make these ahead of time and freeze. I believe that I'll be making some of these while we watch the presidential debates that are coming up.

    Cubanelles - supposed to be a sweet pepper, but does have a hint of heat to it. I've thrown these in spaghetti sauce - they are wonderful!

    For the first time - I grew Holy Moles. They are still growing - longer and longer. They look really neat - long and thin. I'm supposed to pick them when they look kind of chocolate colored - not the green they are now. Can't wait to try them.

    Those are the only peppers I'm growing this year. Next year, I'm thinking of just making a huge pepper patch, and putting my tomatoes elsewhere. I was just so disappointed in my tomatoes this year. I like to grow things, not have to fight off worms and bugs!

    Nothing new to report in my garden - just waiting for my peppers and tomatoes to grow and ripen a bit more!

    Tuesday, September 9, 2008

    Poblano picture and stuffed acorn squash recipe

    Woke up this morning with all the windows in my house open. The guys in the family like that cold air. Too much coolness for me - I had to get a sweater on!

    Went out to check my plants - major brisk outside! I know my tomatoes will be ready soon. But I have many, many peppers that are still small and need to grow! Hope the weather stays a little bit warm.

    I think tonight I'm going to stuff the acorn squash my mom gave me awhile back. Maybe stuff it with a little chopped up maple sausage, onions, rosemary, thyme and breadcrumbs. I'll hollow out the squash, add my ingredients to fill up the cavity, pour a little olive oil in there, and place the lid back on the squash. I'll rub olive oil on the outside of the squash, then wrap it in aluminum foil. I'll bake that in a 375 degree oven for at least an hour. It's done when I can pierce the outside shell with a fork easily. Wonderful!

    Monday, September 8, 2008

    Health Kick Tomatoes Last of the Season

    This is it - the last of the tomatoes of the season. I have some thoughts on the Health Kick tomatoes I thought I would share. They are a pretty hard tomato - I mean very, very firm. Even with a lot of watering, these tomatoes didn't have much juice either. Would I plant Health Kick tomatoes again? Probably not. The extra lycopene you get, you can cook other tomatoes on low for a longer period of time and get more concentration of lycopene out of them. Add a little olive oil and the body absorbs the lycopene better too. Anyway, that's my story, and I'm sticking to it!

    Sunday, September 7, 2008

    Putting food by...

    Looked at the garden this morning - and the tomatoes that I have on the plants are going to be the last of the season. Very disappointing yield! But my peppers - wow! I stuffed 14 poblano peppers with a cream cheese, cilantro, green onion, shallot and cojack cheese mixture. Then I wrapped some honey maple bacon around it and put them in the freezer. I have another 12 poblanos to go, for now. I have 4 cubanelles which I'll have to think about what to do with - something different. I have way too many jalapenos to count. I am going to make dragon bites out of them - but just the thought of having to halve and seed them has put me off a little. It's going to be a huge undertaking!

    Yesterday, I had gotten some of those big cans of crushed tomatoes from Sam's Club. Three cans to be exact - so a total of about 18-19lbs of crushed tomatoes. Each can only cost $2.30 for just over 6lbs. So cheap! Then I food processed a large bag of carrots, a bag of celery and three large onions. I added a tablespoon each of horseradish and worcestershire, and salt. Then I added 1 teaspoon of black pepper and 2 2 tablespoons of hot sauce. I put everything together in a 16 quart stock pot, and let that cook on low for a few hours to make sure that the vegetable were nice and soft. After that, I put everything through a food mill. I kept the leftover pulp for use in some recipes for my vegan daughter. The juice, I heated again until it was simmering. I added three tablespoons of lemon juice to the bottom of each quart jar and filled up to 3/4" headspace. I processed in a hot water bath for 50 minutes. It made a total of 9 quarts. There was a lot of pulp left over so I froze that in 6 individual containers for later use. I was able to use and save eveything!

    Friday, September 5, 2008

    Looking good

    After all that rain, everything is looking good! I'll be cutting peppers today and making more tomato sauce. Maybe make more dragon bites - yum! That's all for today folks!

    Thursday, September 4, 2008

    Cherry Tomato Spaghetti Sauce

    As I look outside at the rain that's coming down, with the cardinal who comes every morning with his noisy announcements, I have time to reflect on a few thoughts. I smell the cherry tomatoes cooking in my crockpot, which I started last night on low. My mom said all the victory garden tomatoes are almost all gone already. My tomatoes didn't take off this year. Maybe I'll put them in a different place next year, in the back of my yard, against the fence. Maybe I'll have just my pepper plants that seem to do so well in my garden right behind my house.

    My mom had given me a big bag full of cherry tomatoes on Labor Day. I had made spaghetti sauce with them recently in the first batch my mom gave me (not as many as this time). I threw them in with the regular tomatoes to make sauce, which was a mistake, as the seeds are so tiny that they go through my food mill. My daughter's boyfriend can't have seeds (which doesn't bother us - but they really hurt him). Since mom gave me a huge amount this time, I can make a spaghetti sauce that is only from the cherry tomatoes. Cooking the tomatoes longer and on low, is supposed to make the lycopene more concentrated. Lycopene is a good cancer-fighting thing. So I'm trying this new sauce in my crockpot and we'll see how it goes. But at the moment, it's raining and I don't know when I'll be able to go outside and cut a bunch of basil and oregano to drop in there. I know I'll have to bite the bullet and get out there soon!

    Wednesday, September 3, 2008

    Peppers on Steroids

    My poblano plants have grown and grown! The branches are so long that they would be over five feet if they were straight up. But as they are long and heavy, they are going vertical. I didn't want any branches to break, so I had my husband devise something that the longest branch could lay on. Afterwords, we looked at the plant, and there are at least two more places towards the back that could use the same support. My husband exclaimed that these peppers must be on steroids! They're tall and strong and going like gang-busters!

    My Cubanelle plant is doing very well. I only have one plant, but it now has quite a few peppers on it. My Holy Mole pepper plant, sitting right next to my Cubanelle, has grown pretty darned tall - though not as tall as the poblanos. They have many peppers on it too. We love our peppers!

    I'm ready to go out and look at my plants this morning. It keeps getting later and later for the sun to come up. Fall is coming!

    Tuesday, September 2, 2008

    Tomato Hornworms Again -picture of eggs

    Yesterday, I said I saw a pretty moth, white with black speckles. It was only 1-1/2 to 2 inches long. The moth had been attached to the underside of a tomato leaf. Well - it looks like it was the same moth that makes the hornworm. The picture on the left is what that moth had been laying when I caught it this morning. I guess the moth isn't quite so pretty now!

    Monday, September 1, 2008

    Worms on my tomatoes again

    After spending all this time getting my tomato plants back to looking good, I find the tell-tale signs of infestation again. Yesterday afternoon, I saw the white worms / bugs all over the German Queen tomato plant leaves. I sprayed with Safer again. This morning when I checked on them, I even saw one little green worm standing up doing a dance. I hope it was in it's death throws from the Safer. If not, I think I've had it with the tomatoes this year. It's just like the Japanese beetles we kept fighting for a month on our roses - they just keep coming back! It's strange, so far they are only affecting my two German Queens and not my Health Kicks (where they attacked first last time). I also saw a very pretty white moth under a leaf one of my Health Kick tomatoes. It was only and inch and a half to two inches long. White with blacks dots interspersed - pretty, but didn't belong there.

    On another note, we saw a Hairy Woodpecker on my thistle feeder - the one that's all mesh. They are native to our area, but I rarely get them in my yard. Don't ask me why they call the Hairy Woodpecker "hairy", because they aren't - hairy. But I only get a woodpecker once or twice a year - always fun to watch!