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I’m so confused. I was all prepared to can this year so I could enjoy my tomato sauce and my salsa over the winter without having to take up freezer space. I figured I’d make it like normal, maybe add some lemon juice for acidity, then can them up as per normal. Now I’m reading that basically I should under no circumstances do that because the acidity won’t be known for sure unless I call in a scientist, and I might kill everyone who eats my salsa in January.

But to me, there is little point in canning if I am not canning my own recipe! If I do say so myself, I make an awesome salsa and tomato sauce, and I want to enjoy *that* over the winter. Not some other person’s recipe.

So…what do I do? Any ideas? Can I can my own stuff or what?

Just for kicks, since I just made a big batch of salsa and took pics with my FANCY new camera my hubby bought me for my bday last week, here’s a more step-by-step of the salsa recipe linked above. I make this every few weeks over the summer. This ingredient list might help you decide if I can can or not, too? The below made the equivalent of about 2 jars of salsa.

INGREDIENTS:
-15 medium ripe slicer and/or roma tomatoes
-large handful of cherry tomatoes (I am using sungold)
-7-10 peppers, depending on how hot you want things (I am using jalapeno, cayenne red and green, and habanero orange and green). If you don’t have enough peppers, substitute Sriracha hot sauce to make up the difference.
-about 3/4 cup of sugar
-about a tablespoon of salt
-black pepper to taste
-sprinkle of onion powder
-about a tablespoon of adobo, taco, or mexican seasoning
-this time, I also added a large handful of lemon balm because it needed to be cut back. Add cilantro if you like it (I dislike it a lot)
-possible extras: corn, black beans, chickpeas, pineapple, peach

tomatoes in the sink

peppers sungold

cayenne, habanero, jalapeno, sungold tomatoes

I highly recommend a cutting board with a nice reservoir for slicing tomatoes (this one was actually a wedding gift to my parents). Mine will be full of juice by the time I slice all these. I slice mine to the size pictured below before putting them in a large pot. The peppers I chop much more finely. (Hint: slice tomatoes with a serrated knife. It’s way easier.)
slicing tomatoes

After your tomatoes are all sliced, add the dry ingredients, then stir it all up and turn your burner on medium. Let sit covered until it starts to simmer a lot or just comes to a boil.
salsa ingredients

salsa-stirred

mixed


salsa-simmering

simmering

Once it’s been simmering for a while, turn the burner off, leave the cover on, and let it sit until it cools down a bit. It’s all ready to jar up now (taste first to make sure you don’t want to add either more hot sauce or sugar before letting it completely cool) – you just have to strain it out. I really need a large mesh colander for this and will eventually get one, but for now I just use a small mesh strainer and/or a slotted spoon, combined with holding the lid on with a tiiiiny gap and draining the whole pot. I really need to remember the colander next time I go to WalMart. If you want, save the juices! They still have all that spicy, tomato-y goodness. Use it as a marinade, or put it on low heat for a while, let it thicken, and use it as a sauce.

salsa

all ready to drain and eat

For now, since I don’t know if I can can it or not, I am just storing it in the fridge like normal. I did put some in a jar for a friend’s birthday, but it’s not “canned” so it will have to stay in the fridge. I also went ahead and froze another batch that had been in the fridge for a while. So much salsa!!

salsa-jar

jarred but not canned salsa


salsa-freeze

salsa to freeze

So….can I can my salsa and tomato sauce or can I not can them? Help.

ground cherry breadI needed *something* to do with the tons of ground cherries I had, and I finally decided on bread. We don’t use a lot of jam or jelly, so that would have sat around for a while. And I’m still not sure how I feel about them as a pie.

What are ground cherries? Related to the tomatillo, they are very small fruits inside a husk. Remove the husk after the fall to the ground and are ripe. The golden fruit inside is pineappley, citrusy, and a little creamy tasting.

This recipe is basically the bread recipe (search page for “bread” – so many recipes on there!) I found on this great GardenWeb thread. Lots of other great sounding recipes in there, too (I also made a modified version of one of the ground cherry sauces using GCs, sherry, and sugar). I was going to use my tried and true banana bread recipe from my mom’s early 1970’s Betty Crocker cookbook (and switch banana for ground cherries), but I figured I’d switch it up. This one is simpler just because there are less ingredients, and it’s also very buttery and yummy. Yet still acceptable as a breakfast food because it has FRUIT in it….right?

INGREDIENTS:
2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup milk (I used skim)
1 egg
1 stick of butter OR 1/2 cup margarine (I’ve used both)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup mashed ground cherries (and a little pineapple if you want)
whipped cream cheese (or regular) for serving

Mix together milk and sugar. Add in egg and other ingredients. The batter will be a little runny.

ground cherries

Ground cherries unhusked and husked. All of these went into the bread.

Bake in greased loaf pan at 350°F for about 45 minutes, or in greased muffin pan for about 15 minutes. Cake tester or toothpick should come out clean.
ground cherry bread

The first time I made it, we had a few slices of leftover pineapple from making my dad’s birthday pineapple upsidedown cake. I’d heard so many times that ground cherries were pineappley that I blended some of those in as well. Tasted great! Serve when still warm with some whipped cream cheese on top and it’s amazing. It’s good room temperature, but I found after taking some for lunch that it’s also good cold, which is kind of interesting.

NOTE: I was going to include a better glamour shot of the loaf I just took out of the oven, but it stuck to the pan. Still delicious, but not photo-worthy. So make sure you grease the corners of the pan well! (Loaf pictured is the first loaf with GCs and pineapple. Today’s was just GCs.)

ground cherry bread

Let me know if you make it!

egg rollsPeople are often confused when I say I’m making egg rolls for dinner, but ever since I found these little egg roll wraps, I’m addicted. This egg roll recipe I made up is SO easy it’s insane. So if you find the wraps, give it a try! I’ve only been able to find the wraps at my local grocery store chain and not at WalMart, so I’m not sure how widely available are. I use the Nasoya egg roll wraps. They’re refrigerated, and my grocery store actually keeps them in the produce section near the tofu. Any ingredients below that look/sound funny are probably available in the Asian ethnic foods aisle of your grocery store.

INGREDIENTS:
-Asian 5-spice powder
-Asian sweet chili sauce
-soy sauce (I use light for less sodium)
-one bag of pre-cut/pre-mixed coleslaw mix (found with the bagged salads)
-egg roll wrappers
-large, deep skillet for pan frying
-oil for pan frying (I use vegetable oil with a touch of sesame oil)
-duck sauce, hot mustard, or whatever you want to serve them with.

START THE OIL
Put enough oil in the pan to go up about halfway on the eggroll (or you can deep fry if you want, but that’s a pain to me) and turn the oil on medium heat. If you have a frying splatter guard, you’ll want that out.

MIX THE FILLING
Using as much if the coleslaw mix as you want (depending on how many egg rolls you’re making!), dump it in a big bowl. Add a pinch of the 5-spice (not too much or it will overpower and taste like crap. A teaspoon would be almost too much if you’re using the whole bag of coleslaw, so use that as a guide). Add about a tablespoon of the sweet chili sauce (adjust for amount of coleslaw) and a small splash of soy sauce. You can let the mix sit for a few minutes if you want, but I usually don’t. You don’t want it to be watery, but you can of course drain or squeeze it out before putting in the wrappers if it’s too liquidy.
*You can also add pre-cooked shrimp, chicken, beef, pork, tofu, or whatever else to the coleslaw mix at this point. It needs to be pre-cooked, though, because the eggrolls will only fry for a minute or so!
eggroll filling

MAKE THE EGGROLLS
The eggroll wrappers are small, so don’t overstuff them if you don’t want to make a mess while frying. A decent pinch of the filling will do. My eggroll package has instructions, but wrap them up like so:
*Note: If you want them to be thicker or the insides to be chewy (I sometimes like that chewy second layer), then double up on wrappers.

1. Put a small amount of filling on a wrapper.


2. Roll one end up over the filling and tuck it under a little.


How to roll an eggroll

3. Fold in both sides so it looks like an envelope.


home-made eggrolls

4. Continue rolling towards remaining unfolded edge. Last edge will stay in place once fried crispy.

FRY THOSE BAD BOYS
Make sure the oil is ready by dropping a tiny piece of wrapper in and seeing if it fries. You want it to fry quickly, otherwise it will just soak up oil and be nasty. If the oil is ready, use a pair of tongs and place a couple egg rolls in the oil. IT DOESN’T TAKE LONG for them to fry. I’m talking like less than a minute. Once the one side is a nice golden brown, flip it over. Note that it takes less time the longer that oil is on there. Once both sides of the egg rolls are done, move them to a drying rack or some paper towels and put in the next batch.
eggrolls
eggrolls

That’s it! Seriously! Just writing this blog post made me want some like NOW. I usually serve them with some simple stir-fry (HINT: you can use ramen noodles as the noodles!). If your work has a toaster oven, it’s a great re-heat for the next day at work – I always make extras for that purpose. I usually try to hoard away a thing of Chick-fil-a Polynesian sauce to dip them in at work.

egg rolls

YUM.

If your store has wonton noodles, you can also make some quick crab rangoon: mix cream cheese, 5-spice, and imitation crab, fill wontons, fold however you like, quickly fry.

Let me know if you try it! I should have taken a pic of the inside of one, but I didn’t think about it. I’ve passed this recipe on to a couple people already who have been amazed at how easy and delicious it is. Impress your friends and make them think you slaved over the eggrolls. They’ll never know. I won’t tell. I promise.

I’m trying to keep track of what I grow this year, so that I can decide if I want to grow certain things again next year. These “veggie reviews” will be categorized as such on the blog. I’ve found them useful on other blogs, so hopefully someone finds these useful as well! One thing I’ve consistendly found useful in this regard is Hannah’s tomato tastings, so I’ll model somewhat after that.

lemon spacemaster

Lemon and Spacemaster cucumbers

LEMON CUCUMBER
Got seeds from: I can’t remember! Either @getinthegarden, @snarkyvegan, or @betweenthelimes. I forgot to mark it on my seed spreadsheet. Oops!
Planting info: I mislabeled a spacemaster as a lemon, so I only ended up with one plant (oops). I planted it in the old veggie garden, which is hard, rocky soil (amended with topsoil and compost). It doesn’t get a lot of water because I mostly rely on rain, but I have been hitting it with the sprinkler since we’re in a drought. It’s growing up an upside-down tomato trellis and is still pretty small (maybe 2-foot long vine).
Beauty points: Very pretty! The have little hairy spikes, but these rub off easily when washing it. They’re a very bright streaky yellow. I expected them to be pale.
Taste: Very mild and a bit citrusy. The skin is thin and, in my opinion, doesn’t need to be removed. Also good in vinegar, but of course you lose the intricacies of flavor. To really enjoy this one, it’s best served simply sliced.
Other considerations: Pick them when they’re about the size of a lemon (duh). If you let them get too big, they get more seedy.
Will I grow it again? It was a bit seedy, but that means I’ll have plenty of seeds to harvest…as long as I get another cucumber. I’ve only had one so far, and I was juuuust about to pick a second when either a bunny or squirrel ate it overnight. I think I will grow this one again, though. It’s good enough and unusual enough that I can enjoy it. The only way I wouldn’t grow it is if I can find the seeds of the delicious white cucumber by CSA grew last year. I’ll have to crawl through old emails and see if I can find the name.

lemon spacemaster

Lemon and Spacemaster cucumbers sliced

SPACEMASTER CUCUMBER
Got seeds from: Botanical Interests
Planting info: These are supposed to be good for small spaces. I planted two in the raised beds beside the luffa. They get watered from the soaker hose and are growing up two upside-down tomato trellises.
Beauty points: Not gorgeous. They have small spikes that can be rubbed off while washing them.
Taste: Tastes like a cucumber! Very thin and not at all bitter skin. Not too seedy, would make decent pickles, I think.
Other considerations: None, really. They’re been growing very well and don’t seem to have any issues.
Will I grow it again? Definitely! I may try another cucumber next year for picking as well, but this one is definitely staying on the list.

#wordlesswednesday

NOTE: Crabs not pictured.

…that problem being that the plant is HUGE and there are no luffas on it. (Yes, it’s the luffa/loofah like the sponge. It’s not a sea creature, it’s a GOURD! I know, amazing, right?)

I had 2 planted on this trellis, and I was kind of glad one ended up kicking the bucket, because this one is huge! It was planted at the same time as the 2 cucumbers next to it and there is no comparison. Well…except for the fact that the cucumber plants are actually making a lot of cucumbers.

cucumber

There are a lot of flowers on the luffa (which I only see in the AM (the flowers not the whole plant)) and there are always ants and other pollinators over there, but I have looked and looked and see no sign of actual fruit.

proof of pollintor

There are just little clusters of things that I assume are to-be-flowers (you can see them in the pic around the flower) at the ends of all the vines where the tendril out. Any ideas why there are no luffas? I was all excited about this plant! I planned to make some luffa sponges for gifts for xmas.

At least it makes pretty pictures...

Crappy pics because there is a TON of noise in my pics lately for some reason and I wanted to eat the dang tomato so I rushed.

First tomato – Early Girl bought from the Amish (so I didn’t start this particular one from seed) with a few flowers on it at the end of April. Served with peas and beans from my garden. Eaten on 6/15/10 (scheduling this post for later in the week).

Verdict – DELICIOUS. More, please!

On the vine.

On the plate.

on the plate

and about to me in my tummy.

And about to be in my belly.

Fun fact: Did you know serrated knives work best for slicing tomatoes? The serrated edges grip the skin and slice through instead of slipping around all crazy like. I learned that in an episode of Good Eats and it’s totally true. I use steak knives. (Incidentally, I use my big chef’s knife and my steak knives for like everything. My paring knives never see any action!)

#wordlesswednesday
peas1

peas2

peas3

Last year the only veggie seeds I saved were for Peachy Mama peppers. We got these lots of times from the CSA I was a member of, and while I normally don’t like peppers except in salsa, I actually liked the sweet, fruity taste of these. Knowing I probably wouldn’t join the CSA this season, I saved a ton of Peachy Mama Pepper seeds. They’re an heirloom variety and really the only mention of them on the web I can find hooks them up to my former CSA. I’d save the tops with their seeds when I used them and leave them on the window sill to dry out.

This year, come seed-starting time, I dug out the little package I had made of seeds marked “peachy mama” and lovingly started them (also a few that were still in the dried pepper tops). They did very well! I even donated some to the Sotterley Plant Exchange. I planted mine in my garden. The bigger, it got, the more tomato-like the plant started looking. “Huh, weird,” I thought. “This must be an odd pepper plant!”

peachy mama

Buddha puts his hands up in confusion.

Except now my odd pepper plant is…making tomatoes?!?!

I have several problems with this:

  1. I DID NOT SAVE ANY TOMATO SEEDS AT ALL! Didn’t even try!
  2. These appear to be pear tomatoes. I did not grow or eat pear tomatoes at any time last year.
  3. I swear, those were Peachy Mama Pepper seeds I planted!!!

So I give up. I moved the pepper plants that surrounded it (and would have been appropriately spaced, had these 3 also been pepper plants and not mutant pepper tomato plants) to the bed where the broccoli and brussels sprouts were pulled up from. We’ll see what kind of tomatoes I get. But I am still UTTERLY CONFUSED, considering points 1 and 2 from above. wtf?!?

And now some other veggie garden pics, just because.

tomato bed

tomato bed - with 2 pepper plants, marigolds, and baby zinnias

veggie beds - back

A back view of the veggie beds, with proof you CAN see them (very well) from the road.

This past Saturday my mom and I went to one plant sale/exchange and another plant sale. Both at local historical plantation/mansions (one right down the street from me!). I had been planning to participate this year, so I started extra veggies ans divided some perennials. Some of the perennials I gave to a friend who just bought a new house and is working on “curb appeal,” but some I kept for the exchange.

For the friend:

  • 3 daylilies
  • bee balm
  • hosta
  • black-eyed susan
  • mini hollyhock
  • also some tomatoes and a pepper from the exchange (I got 6-packs)

What I took to the exchange:

  • oregano
  • maxibel bush bean
  • lemon cucumber
  • sungold tomato (I took the SMALL ones for some reason. I had bigger ones I should have taken)
  • lemon and lime basil
  • broccoli
  • white hot habanero

A lot of this stuff is smaller than I’d hoped it would be. And I have more (I have some really nice looking sungold tomatoes that I felt the need to keep even though I have nowhere to put them…?) that I still need to share.

What I got (traded unless otherwise indicated – some given away before photo…and I only spent $11.50 for purchases!):

  • chocolate mint (purchased)
  • 6 marconi peppers
  • 1 fish pepper (purchased – 50¢)
  • 4 chili peppers
  • 6 eva purple ball tomatoes
  • mystery threadleaf coreopsis
  • 2 mouse ear hostas
  • 3 emerald hostas
  • marjoram IN TERRA COTTA POT!! (with a slight crack)
  • cuban oregano (purchased)
  • creeping jenny (purchased)
  • bright green sedum (purchased)

It’s funny because at the exchange, they always say “people aren’t taking enough!”. I hope all my stuff that I brought found a home. I know several things had been taken when we left. I could have taken more, and next year I will keep that in mind. Though I glanced at things last year and was invited to take stuff even though I didn’t bring any trades, I didn’t look too hard. They have things divided up pretty well (veggies and herbs, perennials, annuals, trees). I had to ask about the marjoram in the pot because I couldn’t believe I could take both, but they said it was a donation.

When we were getting to the end of the line, a woman pulled up with a wheelbarrow of hostas and my mom’s eyes lit up! 🙂 She had been wanting some, so she took several. I took a mouse ear hosta and I had to give it back for a second because the lady didn’t want to donate the pot it was in. My mom didn’t know that they brought it to me a second later, so she grabbed me another one and now we both have one! Mine is living happily in a pot on top of the rain barrel. I got some black tomatoes (Eva Purple Ball) to replace some of the black ones that I lost during the Great Plant Fry. They had a ton of tomatoes. Some just germinated, some large like the ones I got. And all for free! Such a great deal. I’ll definitely be participating again next year and leaving some more garden space for tomatoes (lots of cool kinds too, not just all Better Boy!).

I’m actually future-posting all this week, because I’m not at home, I’m on Hatteras Island! My garden is in the capable hands of my aunt for part of the week and my parents for the end of the week. Hopefully some goodies will be ready for me when I get back! (hint: see this week’s Wordless Wednesday)

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