Saturday, August 17, 2013

Carne Asada Marinade

What to do on a weekend with fantastic weather? It's time to grill. Especially time to grill using some of our own garden produce! Since it was a slow, lazy Saturday morning, I was in a quandary as to what to grill today. No plans whatsoever as to what to grill, except picking some of our homegrown poblanos. Stuffing  and then grilling them. I mentioned this on Twitter, and one of my Twitter friends mentioned Mexican. Oh yeah, what better goes with stuffed, grilled poblanos? Carne Asada. Pretty much it means, "grilled meat". You marinate that meat (usually skirt steak) in a wonderful, aromatic marinade for a couple of hours. Then flash grill (quickly sear) that piece of meat, and you're ready to enjoy some terrific Mexican food. Here's my marinade recipe.

Carne Asada Marinade

2 jalapeno peppers seeded and minced (I used 2 from my garden)
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, minced
2 limes, juiced
1 large shallot, minced
1 teaspoon raw sugar
2 teaspoons sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon fresh Mexican oregano, chopped (or 1/2 tsp dried)
2 tablespoons red wine (I use cabernet)
1 tablespoon tequila (optional)
1/2 cup olive oil

As you can see below, I put everything in a small container and shake it up, then pour on the meat. Refrigerate the marinating meat until it's time to grill.

Carne Asada with stuffed poblano (from my garden), refried beans, and tortillas - hot off the grill!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Brat Bites

My husband got a new grill for his birthday, and he decided that he would christen it on the 4th of July with a new recipe, Brat Bites.

Brat Bites
  • Bratwurst - 1 package - each brat cut into 8 pieces
  • Onions - 1 large - sliced thin with a mandolin slicer
  • Jalapenos - 3-4 large - sliced thin with a mandolin slicer
  • Bacon - 1 package - slice the strips of bacon into thirds
  • Toothpicks - soaked in water for at least an hour

Take one piece of bacon, and place some thinly sliced onions on top.

Add a brat slice on top of the onion,
then add a slice of jalapeno on top of the brat.

Bring the bacon up over the top of the jalapeno
and secure with the water-soaked toothpick.

Hubby uses a wire rack, but the brat bites can be placed right on the grill.
It's easier for him to place and take off of the grill all at once.

Grill at 375 degrees for about 45 minutes with indirect heat.

Looking great!

Perfect! Ready to eat!


Sunday, June 23, 2013

Rose Petal Jelly

Growing so many roses gives me a chance to make one of my most favorite jellies, Rose Petal JellyFirst and foremost you must not use insecticides or anything on your rosebushes. Second, you must choose blossoms that are healthy. Cut enough petals to fill about 2 cups worth. 

Rinse those petals off!

Pour 4 cups of the distilled water into a 4 - 6 qt pot.
Place the washed petals in the pot with the water and slow boil them
until water level is about half. It doesn't take too long, so stir and watch.

Strain out 2 cups of the rose petal water.
Add 1/4 cup lemon juice.
Discard used rose petals, and clean your pot
or use another one. I cleaned the same pot :-)

Add 4 cups of sugar to the pot.
Add the rose petal water / lemon juice mixture.
Stir the mixture and turn on to medium heat.
Stir to dissolve the sugar. You need to watch this carefully.
Stir until it starts to boil.
Have your liquid Certo all ready opened and ready to pour.
Once the mixture starts to boil, add the liquid Certo.
Stir until it boils for a good minute.
Then you are ready to can your Rose Petal Jelly.

Steps in processing jams & jellies

For more info on canning jellies and jams, go to:

There's nothing like rose petal jelly on homemade herbed bread.
I made rosemary bread which we enjoyed with the rose petal jelly
while we watched the Blackhawks game last night. Go Blackhawks!

Rose Petal Jelly
2 cups, fresh cut, rinsed rose petals
4 cups distilled water
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 packet liquid Certo
4-5 half pint canning jars (sterilized) with lids

Make the rose petal juice:
Add the rose petals and the 4 cups of distilled water to a 4-6 quart pot. 
Boil down to about half the water - 2 cups.
Strain out the rose petals and collect 2 cups of the rose water.
Add 1/4 cup of lemon juice to the rose petal water.

Make the jelly:
Add the rose water / lemon juice mixture into a clean 4-6 quart pot.
Add 4 cups of sugar, and stir.
Turn on medium heat, stirring and watching until the mixture comes to a boil.
Have the packet of liquid Certo ready to pour. Cut the top off of packet and have it sitting open propped up in a cup or glass.
When the mixture boils, pour in the liquid Certo.
Stir constantly until the mixture boils for a good minute.
Turn off the heat. 
You are ready to can your Rose Petal Jelly.


Monday, June 17, 2013

Pepper update

As I still bemoan the fact that I started seeds late this spring, with my seedlings being planted when they were only 7 weeks old, I'm hoping that my plants will start to grow taller soon. In the past, I've grown my seeds indoors for at least 12 weeks. So at this time, while my pepper plants look great, they are on the very short end to what I'm used to seeing. They've been planted in the ground for 30 days now, and many starting to blossom. While, I'm sure that the slowness of growth is because of the strange cold weather we have had this spring, I'm hoping the heat we've had lately will start to make our peppers shoot up in height. I'm used to seeing 3-4' jalapeno bushes!

Cubanelle peppers. According to analytics, people come to this blog by searching mostly for information on cubanelle peppers. We're growing 16 plants this year in two different garden spots. Ten of them in our usual pepper patch against the back of our house. And six others out in the tomato garden which has much more sunlight exposure. I'm conducting my own experiment to see which grow better. Always fun to experiment!

Habanero peppers. Something new for our garden. We're growing two of these this year because my husband wanted to try them out. Not my type of pepper. I like heat, but not that much. The husband and our son like the hot stuff, so we're trying it. So far, very short, but as you can see, there are some blossom buds starting to come in. 

Giant jalapeno. We grew these from seed last year for the first time. Fantastic jalapenos! These are the ones you see at the grocery store that are 3-5" long. They are thick-walled and perfect for stuffing and grilling. Our giant jalapenos are growing pretty well so far. They are taller than the cubanelle peppers and have many buds ready to blossom.

Giant jalapeno.

Poblano peppers. We love our smoky tasting poblano peppers. Last year, we were disappointed for the first time at the plant yield. Maybe it's because we had five of them? But we only got maybe four poblano peppers altogether. This year we are back down to only two plants with more room to grow. Hopefully we will see more results this year!

Cilantro. OK, it's not a pepper plant, but it sure is growing crazy!
Time to cut some of that to be used with dinner tonight.

Happy Growing!!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Alliums, Roses and Robins

Checking in to show the progress of our flower garden "island". Our daffodils are gone, but the alliums are in full bloom. At least one type of allium.

There are various sort of alliums and long ago, we planted 4 different types. The round purple ones you see above. The clustered ones shown below, Nectaroscordum  (which are technically not alliums, but a very close relative) which will bloom soon. Drumstick alliums, which I think are coming up yet. There was a fourth type we had, but it did finally die off two years ago.


Bigger garden picture.

We've got roses galore in our garden. And as you can see all the rosebuds, we will be having plenty of blooms soon!

The last few years we've had robins hatching in one of the two weeping cherry trees that we have in our flower garden. Last year we had 3 baby robins in the other tree. This year, four. We don't even know how they all fit in there!

The chrysanthemums are still coming up.

Happy gardening!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

The peppers and tomatoes are in the ground!!

It's always exciting to get plants into the ground. My husband and I planted the peppers and tomatoes this Sunday morning. The herbs were already planted. We grew giant jalapeno, poblano, cubanelle and habanero plants from seeds. And couldn't wait to get them into the ground. 

Another view of our just planted pepper and herb patch.

Here's a closer picture of our herbs. The chives in the left hand corner have been there for 3 years now. We decided to cut down some tomato cages and place them around the chives (also the parsley and cilantro), so that the herbs don't lay on the ground. Keep them neat and tidy as well. We have thyme and rosemary behind the chives, then come parsley and cilantro in their cages. To the right from back to front, we have marjoram, tarragon, dill and basil. We've already harvested chives.And it's looking like harvest time again real soon!

The picture below show our giant jalapeno seedlings. We have a total of 14 planted. There is a very small seedling up front in the middle row. We shall see how that one grows.

The picture below shows 2 poblano plants in the back row. The next 2 rows we planted 10 cubanelle peppers. The two peppers up front are the habaneros we decided to try this year.

Against the fence of our backyard, we have a long, thin garden which we always just planted tomatoes in. We've always grown tomatoes from seed. But not this year. We ordered 3 Super Sauce Tomato plants from Burpee, which are brand new this year, and they were just delivered to us this week. Hopefully we'll have good results.

In each third of the "tomato" garden, we decided to try something new again. The Super Sauce tomatoes are supposed to grow 5 feet tall and 5 feet wide. So we only planted one tomato plant in the middle. We planted 2 cubanelle peppers towards the sides of each box. So 3 tomato plants and 6 cubanelles in the back garden. We want to see how the cubanelles grow out in full sun as well as the semi-shaded ones against the back of our house. Always experimenting, we are! We have a total of 16 cubanelle plants growing from both gardens.

Now the true growing season for us begins. Updates to follow. 
Happy gardening!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Herbs Herbs Herbs!

Over the weekend we visited Meijers. They have the certain cat food our big old cat loves for the cheapest around. But when we got to the store, they had no cat food left. Gone!! Feeling sorry for the cat and for ourselves, we checked out the gardening section at Meijers. The husband got himself a new rake, and I hit the mother lode on herbs. Who doesn't love to cook with fresh herbs? 

We bought rosemary, parsley, thyme, sweet basil, tarragon, dill, cilantro, mint and marjoram. There was no oregano out yet, and we already had sage (or so I thought). We went home happy enough... poor cat.

Herbs from Meijers

Herbs in our garden.

When we arrived home and decided to check out the garden, we found that the sage we had in the garden for years, had died. Probably when I asked the husband to clear out half of them since we had too much of it, last week. Ah well, maybe this year I'll plant some in a planter on the deck. Though I still have a lot of sage that I dried last year. 

You can see how well the chives (lower left corner) have grown this spring, in the picture above. This is the first year that we have planted rosemary, thyme, tarragon and marjoram in the ground. Growing them in planters has always been successful for us. The hubby and I love to experiment. Time will tell if we did the right thing for those herbs. 

We saved one rosemary plant for the deck planter, as well as the mint. Mint spreads like wild fire, so that definitely stays on the deck, contained in a planter. Can't wait to get oregano and perhaps the sage into a deck planter as well.

One thing is for sure, in the above picture, that row of herbs on the right is in the row we have always planted our first row of jalapenos. Hopefully, the jalapenos won't take offense like the sage did.
Happy gardening!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Joy of Chrysanthemums

Over 20 years ago, my husband and I designed a little garden island in the front yard for our flowers. Throughout the years, we've had roses, irises, tulips, alliums, carnations and chrysanthemums. Roses and chrysanthemums, "mums", have remained a constant, where others have perished, or have been banished from our garden. 

The tulips and carnations never took off there. But we had real tall irises and two yucca plants that just took over the whole island. They have since been banished. One of my sisters took the irises last fall, but no one wanted the yuccas. Now, the irises were very pretty, but they were so tall that they always fell over. Same with the yuccas, though not so pretty. 

Since I'm basically lazy when it comes to flowers, that's why I stick with mums. They fill in a garden in the fall with such gorgeous color. And you don't have to do really much of anything to them. Mums can be annuals or perennials, and I always buy perennial since they come back every year. Only once did I mistakenly get some that were annuals. Never again! They, of course, died. If I took the time to dig a hole to put a flower plant in the ground, it better grow and come back every year! Did I say I was lazy??

I usually plant one new mum every year. This year, it's the Matchstick Chrysanthemum. It's a little different than the usual daisy head-ish looking mum. I like the unusual. Just wait until my unusual alliums come up! Unusual is cool.

Our little flower garden island.

Matchstick Chrysanthemums
Take a peak at what they will look like on the link from Burpee below.

Mums coming up this spring in our island.

Our flower garden needs some cleanup! And that's just what the husband and I intend to do this weekend, while waiting for the perfect time to work on our vegetable gardens. We have a lot of space from getting rid of the yuccas and irises on our little island. So planning something easy for those areas. We have tried to keep the flower garden as maintenance free as possible. Our flower garden gets taken care of maybe once a month, since we are usually busy all the time with our vegetable gardens in our back yard. Looking forward to that soon! Time for flowers now.

Happy gardening!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Growing Pepper Seedlings Update

Who's getting anxious to start planting seedlings into the ground? Me!! It's been fairly cold out but I'm still looking at the Mother's Day time frame for planting. But only if I see the temperature at night is consistently above 50 degrees. So my seedlings may or may not be in the ground on this Mother's Day. 

Since I started growing my seeds late, they are not anywhere near the height they've been at in previous growing years. They seem to be growing really slow this year. It's probably just my imagination. And I really shouldn't worry too much. 

Last year I started my cubanelle pepper seeds later than the other seeds. And when I put those tiny seedlings in the ground, they looked like they may not make it. But, all of a sudden they took off and caught up to the others. Here's what my seedlings look like right now.

giant jalapeno about 3-4"

giant jalapeno

poblano 1-2"


habanero 1-2"

cubanelle 1-2"

I received an email from Burpee that my Super Sauce tomatoes should be arriving today. I can't wait to see how those giant roma tomatoes grow. I believe I'm going to be getting in my matchstick mum plants as well. The tomatoes won't go in the ground yet. But I will be planting  the chrysanthemums!

So far on my seedling count:

16 giant jalapeno seeds... 14 up
16 cubanelle seeds... 15 up
2 poblano seeds... 2 up
2 habanero seeds... 2 up

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Surprise Vegan Dalek Wedding Cupcakes

My daughter decided she was going to have a wedding that wasn't traditional. She and her husband to be decided they wanted a Maui destination wedding. It was just the bride and groom along with the parents. The bride and groom had a gorgeous beach wedding with the sunset photos that will live forever in our memories. 

A little background on the bride and groom. They are both professional people. The groom being a high school English teacher. The bride has a bachelor's degree in business and she works at a software compliance company. They are gamers who could play video games for a good part of the day if they were able to. They are also into Doctor Who big time. 

When my husband and I were in Maui for the wedding, we of course had to go shopping. We saw a t-shirt that had a stick figure bride and groom that had GAME OVER on it. A perfect shirt for gamers who are getting married! Well, we didn't get the shirts, but did mention it to the "kids". They thought it was hilarious!. After the minister pronounced them man and wife, my husband had to say GAME OVER. Everyone had a good laugh about it. Memorable for sure!

Back on the mainland, our daughter's 2 grandmas were planning a Luau wedding reception. The new groom's parents were going to throw a family reunion together in their home state as their reception. Did I say our families are very non-traditional? Anyway, my mom (one of the grandmas) was in charge of the wedding cake. She decided to make cupcakes. Now, the bride is a vegan, so I was enlisted to make some fun, personalized vegan wedding cupcakes for the bride and groom, while mom made the "normal" cupcakes. I took up the challenge!

The bride and groom love chocolate. The groom even more so than the bride! I knew I was going to make chocolate cupcakes. Then had to decide what to do to make it different. My daughter is always putting Doctor Who pictures up on my timeline on Facebook. Awhile ago I had remembered seeing dalek cupcakes posted. I figured I could make a pair of bride and groom daleks and put the gamer twist on it with the daleks holding a sign that said GAME OVER. 

OK, now to make the cupcakes vegan. I bought a devil's food cake mix from Whole Foods. The instructions on the box said to make the mix vegan, use applesauce instead of egg, and a vegan "butter", which I chose Earth Balance original, plus water. Easy enough!

I know Pocky isn't vegan, at least the chocolate part on the stick isn't. But, I know that the daughter would still eat that tiny bit, or give that part to her husband. I wanted to have light chocolate dots for the boy dalek and white dots (wedding dress) for the girl. It didn't quite work out that way. Of course I waited till the last minute and ran around to about 6 different stores and couldn't locate the right color dots. So I settled on the pink and blue dots that were handpicked out of the multi-color mix I picked up. 

I put two cupcakes together (stacked) and shaped it into the famously recognizable dalek shape. I "frosted" the daleks with melted semi-sweet vegan chocolate chips. Added the dots on the body portion and Pocky as the appendages. The crowning glory were the GAME OVER signs.

We brought the bride and groom daleks out at dessert time at the reception. The bride and groom were so surprised and they laughed! All their friends (Doctor Who fans and gamers as well) took pics and the couple shared the daleks with them. They were a tremendous hit!

Enjoyable people, enjoyable food, enjoyable time. GAME OVER!

So far on my seedling count:

16 giant jalapeno seeds... 14 up
16 cubanelle seeds... 10 up
2 poblano seeds... 2 up
2 habanero seeds... 2 up

Friday, April 12, 2013

Cubanelle peppers are on their way up!

Since my cubanelle peppers weren't coming up like the jalapenos were, I swapped the two trays yesterday. And lo and behold, my cubanelles are starting to come up. And so are the 2 habaneros. Nice! Thank goodness I have my peppers marked, since the seedlings all look alike! 

Cubanelle peppers

Jalapeno peppers

So far on my seedling count:

16 giant jalapeno seeds... 13 up
16 cubanelle seeds... 5 up
2 poblano seeds... 2 up
2 habanero seeds... 2 up