Garden Adventures 2018

I would say that our garden was mostly successful this year, despite the inches and inches of rain that fell on us.

We currently have five huge Gunma cabbages fermenting for sauerkraut. Fargo wasn’t sure what to think about that cabbage…or is it a ball…

Basil crop wasn’t happy this year, only one batch of pesto.

Our absolute biggest success this year was sweet potatoes. HOLY COW!!! This was the first plant we dug up. The color is amazing!

That is an actual laundry basket and two large bowls, full to bursting.

Tim made a valiant effort to battle the squash vine borer which found our Blue Hubbard squash. We knew they were susceptible to vine borers, and thought we had outsmarted them, but alas, we had not. No more Blue Hubbards in our future plantings. We still ended up with a few, but they are on the small side. Nice round of butternuts though.

We had some tomato issues, but we also opted for Heirlooms, which are not quite as immune to weather. These are from a variety packet of seeds. It’s kind of fun waiting to find out what you are growing.

We grew pickling cucumbers and dill and canned 26 pints of pickles.

 

Enough berries to enjoy in yogurt and ice cream and for some baked goods, but no jams this year.

Used the dehydrator to dry cilantro, dill and parsley (lots and lots of parsley).

Grasshoppers ate the baby beets. We only had a small crop, but they were delicious. Rattlesnake pole beans were great this year, til the bean beetles showed. Luckily they waited til closer to the end. We had enough banana peppers for 18 pints of pickled peppers and quite a few roasted cheesy peppers (YUM!). Overall, the hard work was worthwhile.

Almond Butter Cups

I follow a few food blogs on Instagram. I have to admit, I LOVE the little food videos they post and I have been motivated to try quite a few recipes after watching. One of the recent videos was for Almond Butter Cups, posted by Pinch of Yum. It looked fairly simple, and it definitely looked very yummy.

Yesterday was a gross, foggy, rainy, cold day….so, perfect to try this out. I made one adjustment in that I split the 1/2 cup cocoa between dark and regular.

 

Pinch of Yum suggests 2-4 Tablespoons of maple syrup, so I went with 3. The coconut oil thickened back up quickly once I added the other ingredients, so I put the mixture in the microwave for just a few seconds. It was much easier to work with in a thinner state.

 

There was enough for 14 cups. By the time I got to the last two, the coconut oil was thickening up again. The original 12 looked pretty darn great, but these two were definitely seconds.

 

Hubby and I ate these two bloopers without freezing them, and his comment was, “these are evil!” They were so darn amazingly good. I froze the rest as directed and was super proud of how pretty they turned out. I posted this pic on Instagram and got the most comments ever in my Instagram history.

Hubby and I split this one, right from the freezer, and I have a suggestion. If you make these, although the recommendation is to store them in the refrigerator or freezer, let them come closer to room temp before eating them. When frozen, hubby and I agreed that the overwhelming flavor is the coconut oil, the chocolate and almond flavors just couldn’t compete.

 

For a first go at making a candy type dessert, I label this a success. And given that there is only 3T of maple syrup, and no sugar, I think it’s an even bigger success. There is, however, PLENTY of coconut oil, so I’m not sure how it really ranks on the healthy scale.

 

Molly’s Mac N Cheese Adventures

We decided to have a cooking day on Sunday. I wrote about the Chocolate Coconut Almond Tart, in the previous post. This time I’m talking about our mac n cheese adventures as we followed the Molly on the Range flowchart. We followed the right side, doubled the recipe and ended up with one baked dish and a batch of deep fried cubes.

Making the sauce took longer than expected, though Molly doesn’t really indicate how long it should take. We ended up using less milk because it never seemed to want to thicken up. It finally did though.

This was Fargo, the whole time we were grating/adding cheese.He can sure concentrate when he wants to.

In order to go for the deep fried mac, you need to do all of the steps but the baking. We made the two batches of mac in the morning and stuck it in the fridge for a few hours. I didn’t get a finished picture of the baked version, but it looked like this, with bread crumbs on top. YUM!

 

When it was time to fry, we dug out the VERY rarely used deep fryer and set up the flour, egg and bread crumb bowls.

It was quite a messy process, cutting the mac up into cubes, then rolling each one in flour, egg and breadcrumbs.

We could only put four into the fryer at a time, so four batches of four. It took about $4 worth of oil to fill the fryer. So, it was a lot of work, and a little on the spendy side when all of the butter and cheese is added. They sure turned out pretty! They were really good, needed some salt/pepper, but good.

Both versions were excellent. Our conclusion was that we’ll stick with the baked, since it was as good as the fried, and a whole lot less work. Chalk up another round of kitchen adventures to the empty nesters.

Pictures (except for the flowchart) taken with the fancy camera!

Chocolate Coconut Almond Tart

Hey there, been a while. It’s been two weeks of not doing much that is note or blog worthy. The weather has been all over the place, I’ve walked a few times each week, but not as much as I should have. I bought and cut the wood to make more beer totes and I’m looking forward to getting those assembled. I think we’re going to try and make a kitchen island on wheels, which I’m super excited about.

In addition, we are still working on the house. We moved some furniture out and did some rearranging in the dining room, which I like. The dining room and the garage are still housing more stuff that we are in the process of selling/sorting. Hubby did some work in the garage, and now, if needed, we could actually fit a car in there. We are doing a lot of research on a new range to be prepared since ours is twenty years old. We bought a new sink, pics of that later when the replacement process begins.

We also bought a new toaster oven, which is very exciting.

Because the old one (at least 15 years old) was creeping towards full failure (note the burned edges).

This past weekend, we finally spent some time in the kitchen testing out new recipes. I’ll post about the mac n cheese next, but first, the Chocolate Coconut Almond Tart. I don’t have a tart pan, so I opted for a beautiful pie dish our friends brought us from Poland.

The crust is three ingredients, which includes almonds (in both meal and chopped), coconut oil and maple syrup. It took longer to bake than noted, however everything takes longer in our oven. It didn’t get as brown, but I think it was a pretty thick layer. I tried to press it down, but I didn’t get much up the sides like it shows in Sally’s picture.

I mostly used Trader Joe’s dark chocolate, which I chopped, with a few semi sweet chocolate chunks thrown in. Yum! Besides the chocolate, there was coconut milk and maple syrup…that’s it.

It all turned out so pretty in the dish. Especially with the toasted chocolate and coconut on top.

I’d definitely make this one again, especially for any gluten free guests. It had a neat texture, and was delicious. Can anyone tell that I used the fancy camera for all of the tart pictures (not the toaster oven pictures). I’m still struggling with learning the non auto settings, but I do think that camera takes some beautiful pictures.

Here are two bonus sunset pictures from Sunday night. The first one was taken outside, the second (probably obvious from the window frame) was taken inside. I think the fancy camera did an amazing job, but it was still more amazing in person.

 

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake

I bought myself a little present a few weeks ago. Of course I researched, because I do that even for a small purchase. Prior to this year, I used a bundt cake pan once. The pan we have was handed down to us. It gets the job done, as you’ve seen if you follow along, but the ring is wide and the cook space is narrow. It doesn’t result in super pretty cakes.

Ta da!! New bundt cake pan (oiled for impending cake mix in this picture). It’s a much heavier duty piece of kitchen equipment.

While the youngest was still home on break, we did some baking together, WHICH I LOVED!! We decided to take the bundt pan for a spin with a modified Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake from Sally’s Baking Addiction. We subbed applesauce in for half the oil, reduced the granulated sugar by 1/2 cup and added some honey, and split the flour 1 cup wheat and the rest, white.

Looked pretty in the pan when we took it out of the oven.

The youngest wanted to sub in cream cheese icing. We again based it on a recipe from Sally and modified. We used half the butter, then taste tested after each half cup of confectioners sugar. After 1 1/2 cups of sugar, it was perfect!

I’m sure I should have evened up the bottom before turning the cake out, or somehow smooth the batter better. I had no idea how to spread the icing on the cake so it would be pretty. We all ended up spreading more icing on our pieces, so I also should have just put more on to begin with, but it really did turn out fine.

Very, very yummy!!

Here’s a bonus pic of Fargo and the youngest, which you may have seen on Instagram, and is one of my all time favorites.I’m learning about color adjustments, as you can probably tell.

Can you tell which of the pictures in this post were taken with the fancy camera? I’m having a lot of fun with it. I love the bigger lens that came with the deal. I’ve taken tons of bird, Fargo and landscape pictures.

 

Pickles

Cucumbers are a garden staple for us. We have been growing the Middle Eastern Zagross variety from Fedco Seeds for years. Last year, friends gave us a few pickling cucumber plants, and they produced well enough that we decided we ought to try pickling.

Do you have any idea how many pickling processes and recipes are out there? Even if you narrow it down to dill only? A FREAKING TON!!! We decided to try both refrigerator pickles and canned pickles.

Refrigerator pickles are certainly easier, given that there’s no boiling water/canning bath involved. They were tasty, but not our favorite.

A few weeks later, we went for the big process of canning pickles. We went with the Rodale recipe.

I have to say, that one of the more difficult parts was fitting cucumber slices of all shapes and sizes into the hot jars in a rapid manor.

We had enough dill from our garden to use in all of the jars. I love dill and I think it’s beautiful.

Unfortunately, we had a first batch mishap. Not sure if it was a jar defect, or if we didn’t work fast enough and the jar was too cold going in, or if it was something else, but ooops…

Luckily, it was only one jar, and that was our only loss.

We will be adding these to the annual canning list, for sure. I think they’re just a tad on the salty side, but everyone else who has tried them, gave us thumbs up.

Keeping Busy

I’ve been keeping busy the past few weeks. Still cleaning out the house, trying some new hobbies, continuing with some old ones, prepping for the kids to come home (they’re here…YAYAYAYAYAY!!!!!!!). I’m going to savor the days with the family and then I’ll be ready to kick 2017 out the door.

I’ve been busy in the kitchen…

I’ve been busy with a secret new hobby project (I used a mitre saw and a drill!)…

Fargo helped me make beds for the kids….

And I’ve been playing with the fancy camera some more (post of pictures forthcoming)…

Now that it seems both kids will be staying on the West Coast for a while, I’ve been doing some deeper empty nest reflecting. I may try to share some of those thoughts, though I haven’t decided yet. This has mostly been a more lighthearted blog and I need to decide where to go with this in the new year.

Thank you to those who have continued to follow along with me on this journey!

 

In Between the All Consuming Clean Out

The all consuming cleaning out continues. I’m trying to attack every inch of the house and remove everything that has not been used in the last 10+ years or has no sentimental/material value. This has resulted in many piles. Fargo may be concerned about the status of the house.

The air hockey table is gone to make room for a craft table. It went to a good home where youngsters will hopefully have lots of fun playing. The craft table is downstairs, but since I have everything pulled out of the closet below the basement steps, the furniture has not yet been re-arranged.

We did manage to move my in-laws’ jelly cupboard into the dining room and it is absolutely perfect. I think they would be proud of what we are filling it with.

I added a new recipe to to my baking toolbox, and it’s so yummy that I made a 4th batch this morning. Favorite Pumpkin Muffins by Pinch of Yum are easy to make in the morning. Warm muffins for breakfast pretty much ROCK!!

All of the ingredients go in the food processor or blender (which is on the max end of what my ancient work horse of a unit can tolerate).

I didn’t put chocolate chips in the batter because I thought that might put the machine over the edge, so just added them to the top at the end.

Unfortunately, the first time, I forgot to spray the tin. It wasn’t a complete disaster, and I did get to eat about a half a muffin’s worth of bottoms that were attached to the tin. You can see the raggedy bottoms.

I remembered to spray the next three times. These are definitely worth trying if you like pumpkin muffins.

When I do sit down to cross stitch, or attempt my (as yet to be identified) crochet project. Fargo has been extra good about keeping me company. He is an exceptional hip warmer.

Look at that lower lip!! I just love that lip!

 

 

 

It’s That Pumpkin Time of Year!

Fall happens to be my favorite time of year. Amongst all of the stress and emotions, I have tried really hard to stop and breathe and look at the colors, even though they were fairly muted this year. These are cell phone pics. I did get the new camera about 2 weeks ago, and I’ve been reading the manual, but haven’t gotten the guts up to use it yet.

We even got some pumpkins and mums and attempted to decorate.

I hadn’t really had a chance to do too much pumpkin baking, but made time last week to try something new. Sally’s Baking Addiction Pumpkin Cream Cheese Bundt Cake was the winner.

Unfortunately, we didn’t grow any type of pumpkins or pumpkin-like baking squash this year, so had to settle for canned. It is what it is. Here are just a few pics.

I have a pretty narrow bundt pan with a wide circumference, so I knew it wouldn’t turn out quite the same as Sally’s.

I should have thought to cut some of the pointier peaks off because once I turned it upside down and cut individual pieces, they toppled over. Next time.

So so soooooooo good!!!!

It really has continued to be unusual times in our household. We have been trying so hard to catch up. I have been trying hard to get back to moving the body, though it’s in the form of walking, and only a mile or two at a time. In the few moments when I do stop and relax, I sometimes have company.

Sauerkraut

It was about a year ago that a friend and I got to talking about sauerkraut, of all things. She had made some and then was nice enough to bring a jar in for me. It was awesome! Being the wild and crazy empty nester that I am, I decided right then that I wanted to add cabbage to our garden this year, specifically to make sauerkraut. Hubby was totally on board.

I opted for Gunma from Fedco Seeds after reading all of the descriptions. The resulting cabbages were HUGE!!! We had four of these suckers!

My friend loaned us her Ball Canning book when it was time to shred. Sounded pretty simple, but it was a LOT of shredding.

As I shredded each batch, hubby salted it. I guess I didn’t realize that sauerkraut is simply cabbage and salt left on its own to do its thing.

There are quite a few ways to ferment the cabbage into sauerkraut, we opted for jars. Thanks to my friend, Beth, who gave me many jars of grain to grind, there were a few large ones in the house. Hubby smashed the cabbage down into the jars while I still continued to shred.

Once we filled four jars, we used cheesecloth to cover the cabbage and sewing weights in sandwich bags to hold the cheesecloth down.

 

Time to stink up the house! Every few days we removed the scum that formed, but otherwise, it was low maintenance. Fast forward to five weeks later. We used the smaller three jars this morning for the first batch of canning. We need to get some more small jars in order to do the rest.

We tried the “raw” sauerkraut, but it definitely has a different taste, neither of us was super excited about it. We again followed the directions from the Ball Canning book and cooked the cabbage until simmering.

Ta-da! And I can tell you, as we dropped sauerkraut everywhere and ate the dropped blops trying to get it into the smaller jars, that it is crazy delicious.

As soon as we have time, we’ll do the rest. It will be interesting to see if a few days more of fermentation makes any difference in the taste. It’s definitely going to be an every year thing!

Special note: As an early anniversary/holiday gift, we picked out a fancy camera for beginners. Hopefully it will improve the pictures on the blog…once I actually learn to use it.