Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Garden or Bought Goodness

I'm not doing much actual gardening:

  • In Illinois
  • In February
  • Inside

That doesn't keep me from making garden-goodness recipes.

Sometimes recipes are developed because we just happen to have ingredients on hand and have no desire to go to the grocery in the snow, freezing rain or cold.  I could have made cookies, candy or cakes, but, I really do occasionally try to make something healthy and this recipe is that in a bowlful.

This is not traditional hummus nor traditional guacamole.  I had to call it something so there ya go.

Avocado Hummus


1 - Avocado - medium ripe (still firm), peeled and seeded
15 oz. - can of Garbanzo beans - drained
4 oz. - Low fat sour cream
2 - Garlic buds - peeled
1/2 - Lemon - washed - zested and juiced
1 tsp. - Kosher salt (to taste)
1/8 C - Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/8 tsp. - Paprika

I used my Ninja smoothy maker but it would work in a food processor or blender.  I suppose you could even do it in a mixer or by hand but it would be difficult to get the smooth fluffy consistency.

Put everything but the paprika in the blender.  Pulse until blended, scraping the sides down until it's all the same consistency.  Then whip on high until light and fluffy - this doesn't take long.

Put in bowl, top with paprika, seal very thoroughly (it's very garlicky) and refrigerate until cold.  Will keep in the refrigerator about a week.

Side conversations: 

This isn't as dense as traditional hummus or guacamole and is better served in a bowl as a dip.   It will get runny and sloppy if used on top of other foods, especially if they're warm.

If you want a more pronounced lemon flavor, add more zest but not more juice.  More juice makes it too runny.

If you want less garlic, then don't make the recipe - I mean really folks, garlic breath for two days just shows you eat well!!!!!

This recipe is healthy, rich tasting, has layered flavors and is easy.

You can add other ingredients.  (a)  I tried one-half a red onion but it ended up the only flavor I could taste - good but not what I was wanting.  (b) I added black olives on top and it caused the recipe to get watery.  It looked bad although the flavor was still good.  (c) I tried smoked paprika but again it dominated the other flavors.  

This recipe is fluffy and light.

Carrots, bell peppers, zucchini and celery sticks are yummy dippers.  They need to be dried with a paper towel or the dip slips off.

This makes an excellent snack while looking at all the garden catalogs, dreaming of all things possible next spring in the garden or between naps.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Prayer for 2018

I pray for the people who lack a sense of humor.

I pray for the people who must suck the joy out of every occasion.

I pray for the people who hang on to their grievances as if they were gold.

I pray for the people who read something negative into every thing.

I pray for the people who are still rehashing the election.

I pray for the people who haven't learned the difference between fiction and facts.

I pray for the people who would rather loose a friend than tolerate differences.

I pray for the people who have filed lawsuits simply because they're mad.

I pray for the people who enjoy and encourage violence.

I pray for the people who hurt children and animals.

I pray for the people who don't respect their elders.

I pray for the people who haven't the fortitude or desire to give up an addiction.

I pray for the people who have been hurt but can't forgive.

I pray for the people who haven't donated and helped those in need.

I pray for the people who don't think gossip always hurts someone.  

I pray for the people who have deliberately undermined family bonds.

I pray for the people who become teachers but don't like children.

I pray for the people who spend time and money making things that steal from others.

I pray for the people who open a business but don't respect their clients or customers.

I pray for the people who don't want to work for their pay/benefits/livelihood.

I pray for the children in communities where there are no honorable father figures.

I pray for the children whose mothers don't know how or don't want to be a mother.

I pray for rulers of countries who choose to let their citizens suffer hunger, disease, torture and death only to enhance their own personal life.

I pray for the people who disrespect the very people who protect them (police & armed forces.)

I pray for the people who use their positional & physical power to take advantage of others.

I pray for the people who enter the medical professions but don't like people.

I pray for the parents who don't love their children enough to teach them right from wrong.

I pray for the people who don't know how to love.

I pray for the people who don't know how or don't want to pray.

I pray that if I've been or am or will be any of the above people, I will change and rectify any harm I've done. 

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Leftover Ham - Oh Yum!

Most of us are tuckered out after all the fun and family of the Christmas holidays.  We grab whatever's in the refrigerator and make due for the next few meals.  If you had ham, here's one easy and great soup that is filling and flavorful.

Cheesy Ham and Potato Soup

Spray a large crockpot with PAM to keep the soup from sticking.  Turn to high cook.

Boil until tender:
5 pounds washed/unpeeled golden Yukon potatoes
Drain/let sit in cold water until cooled - with your fingers/peel off skin.  Add skin to your composter. 

Add to crockpot:
2 Cups Ham (Dice or pull into small bite sized pieces)
32 ozs. Chicken stock/broth

Salt and Pepper to taste
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire
1/2 teaspoon of Cayenne pepper (to taste)

Melt in fry pan:
1 heaping Tablespoon Bacon Grease
1 heaping Tablespoon Butter
And add:
1 Cup Finely Diced Carrots
1 Cup Finely Diced Celery
1 Cup Finely Diced Onions
Simmer until onions are translucent but not browned.

Add to crockpot:
Onion mixture and potatoes.  Lightly mash with hand masher/leaving bite sized potato hunks.  Cook until mixture begins to bubble at the sides.  Scrape down.

1 Cup Milk (Add more if it becomes too thick)
1 Pound Vevetta cheese - cut into squares
Stir and when cheese has melted, turn crock pot temperature to Low.

If this begins to bubble, turn it down to warm.  Cooking too hot will cause the cheese to stick to the sides and flavor won't be as good.  Everything in this soup has been cooked prior to the crockpot so it's just a matter of letting flavors blend and holding warn until you're read to eat.  

This makes a large crockpot full.  It can be made in a soup pan but you must stir more often to keep it from burning/sticking.  And when it's all warm and ready, it needs to be served rather than held.

This also freezes well.  Simply stir to blend ingredients while reheating.  Also, microwaveable but be sure to cover because it splatters.   

As they used to say on the farm, this soup will "stick to your ribs" these cold winter days.  It's good with a simple salad or fruit.  It's almost too rich and thick for crackers or bread.  

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Christmas Jam

I just finished two batches of Cranberry JalapeƱo Jam - they look good - they taste good - they set up:  All is well in Santa's workshop.

I had bought a little jar of commercially produced CJJ and loved it on toast, eggs, crackers, cheese - many things.  The cranberries give it zing and color - the peppers a little bit of heat.  Then, I couldn't find it anywhere and decided I'd make my own.  The following recipe is easy and worked exactly right (love it when that happens.)

Cranberry Jalapeno Jam

2 cups     Whole fresh cranberries - washed/drained
3               Jalapeno peppers **
2 Tbs.      Water
1 cup        White vinegar
5 cups      White granulated sugar
3 oz.         Liquid pectin

** You can use any type of hot pepper or more than three BUT you don't want to make it so hot that it loses it's subtle flavors and is just another hot sauce.

Wash & sterilize 5 half-pint jars, lids and rings.  It will make five jars but you will have about 1/2 cup left over to use/store in refrigerator.  

Wearing latex gloves, wash peppers, cut off stem ends, slice in half lengthwise and remove all seeds and inner membranes.  Chop finely in the food processor.  

Add cranberries and water to peppers.  Pulse until finely chopped.

Spoon pulp into a 4-quart stainless steel pan.  Add vinegar.  Cook over low heat 10 minutes to blend flavors.  Stir to keep from burning/sticking.

Add sugar all at once and raise heat.  Stir constantly until sugar dissolves and mixture comes to a rolling boil.  When mixture bubbles and the top foams significantly - add pectin.  Boil hard one minute.  Remove from heat.  Stir.  If there's extra foam, skim off and discard.  

Ladle jam into jars, leaving 1/2 inch at top.  Clean rim, add caps and rings; gently tighten.  

Process jam in water bath canner 10 minutes.  Remove to towel covered surface.  When the jars have sealed and cooled, tighten rings.  The jars need to be completely cooled for the jam to set.  Wipe clean with damp rag and polish with dry towel.  Date and store at room temperature.

Refrigerate after opening or anything not processed in canner.   

Since I'm giving some as Christmas presents, I added a label and twine bow.  This recipe isn't terribly time consuming and the end result is a beautiful jewel-toned jam.  

Monday, December 11, 2017

Tropical Beauties

Sunset off our patio
We were fortunate to spend some time in Maui last month.  The awesomeness (yes awesomeness) of the ocean is one of the great features.  The other was the vegetation.  Vegetation seems so generic for Maui plants and flowers.  They are anything but generic.

The background:  I won the ten days in a beautiful condo on the beach through an on-line auction held by the National Hemerocallis Association.  The condo time was donated by one of the NHA officers - the owners.  What a gift!

Not only did we have wonderful accommodations but a view of the Pacific from our patio.  Although it was a bit early for whale watching, one of those big girls showed herself to us not far off the coast of our beach.  This ramped up the awesomeness to a bucket list level.  

We visited the privately owned Kula Botanical Garden.  It poured down the entire time we walked the garden which gave it an ethereal feel.  And so, under our umbrellas, we saw these beauties.

As always, you can click on the first picture and then page thru them in a larger format.  Vacations are great and this one especially beautiful - but - there's no place like home.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Who Knows What

When asked why or what about certain garden things, experienced gardeners can reply with some scientific answers, experience based answers, botanical answers and when all else fails:  Who Knows What!
 "Carnival in Mexico" with one flower having a gold eye 
and the bottom flower with a green eye.   

There are times when all experienced gardeners (professional or amateur) don't have a good answer.  Sometimes we can give a "maybe it's whatever" but that's still means Who Knows What.  

Newbies tend to think there's a firm answer for everything in nature but there's not.  
 "Designer Gown" will throw off lavender and purple flower 
and other times a peach and rose flower.

Here's an example:  A daylily will be pictured as having a green eye by the hybridizer. In your garden, it may have a gold eye.  No, it's not a mistake, you weren't hoodwinked and it wasn't mislabeled.  It's probably because of the difference in soils, or perhaps the camera, or the time of day, or if it's cloudy or sunny, or where it is in the bloom cycle OR Who Knows What
 My "Japanese Red Franksred" maple tree has always turned a glowing orange in the fall.  This year a few leaves turned and the rest have kinda just stayed green until they fall.  Who Knows What.

Some years a perennial flower, bush or tree may produce seeds and other years nothing.  Some are predictable while others are Who Knows What.  

We all know weather plays an important part in plant production, looks and survival.  But weather isn't a finite explanation.  Without sounding too basic, there are so many factors in nature when combined in different ways at different times, it would take a lot of horticultural knowledge and testing to determine the why of many of our garden questions.  And simply put, there's not much money to pay for that kind of individual testing especially since it may a once in a lifetime thing.  And so...we simply guess when all known answers have been exhausted.  
This "Cherokee Chief" dogwood did poorly from the beginning.  I moved it three times, pruned it, sprayed it, swore at it and finally decided to do nothing and let it die in it's own shame.  And then - yes then - it became all it was suppose to be.  Who Knows What.

It can frustrate or it can be another example of the wonder of our gardens and of nature as a whole.  The act of gardening shouldn't be frustrating and I suggest you learn to move swiftly into Who Knows What as a way to remain happy and sane in your gardens.  It's a definite answer in an indefinite garden world.     

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Have Zucchini - Will travel

One of the beautiful things about this time of the year is the Midwest's abundance of zucchini.  Aside from the many cartoons and jokes, even non-gardeners will find an occasional zucchini on their doorstep, workplace desk or vehicle.

I've raised zucchini from time to time and finally realized I needed to figure out what to do with the "extras".  I've made zucchini bread but seriously how many loaves of bread should one person eat!  I like it raw dunked in a flavorful dip but after eating one two-foot raw zucchini, I'm about done with that recipe.  My last and best measure for the extra was:

Wash the zucchini and wipe dry.  Cut off the ends and grate the rest.  You can grate with a hand grater or with your food processor.  I don't bother to peel and it doesn't hurt if you have to cut the zucchini into smaller chunks before it goes into the processor.  If it's a huge zucchini, you may want to cut out any tough seeds.  Once it's grated, take a couple of handfuls or measure out two cups, insert into a zip lock bag, roll to get out all the air and close.  Freeze.  I don't bother to cook prior to freezing because it makes it too watery for most recipes.    
Come winter, it makes a healthy addition to stews, soups, breads, casseroles, meat loaf or meatballs - let your imagination be your guide.  Because one of my kids was a finicky eater, I learned to grate many nutritious vegetables as a way to fool him into eating healthy.  Since zucchini doesn't have much taste, it's an excellent "fooler". 

Since one-cup of zucchini is 20 calories, it contains no fat and is rich in Vitamin C, it has no down side.  The Nutrition Facts are from the USDA.  

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size: 1 cup of chopped
Amount Per Serving
Calories from Fat 2
Calories 20
% Daily Values*
Total Fat 0.22g0%
Saturated Fat 0.046g0%
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.094g
Monounsaturated Fat 0.017g
Cholesterol 0mg0%
Sodium 12mg0%
Potassium 325mg
Total Carbohydrate 4.15g1%
Dietary Fiber 1.4g6%
Sugars 2.15g
Protein 1.5g
Vitamin A 5%Vitamin C 35%
Calcium 2%Iron 2%

The following recipe was copied from The Kosher Gourmet in an article by Joe Yonan.  Although it makes 4 servings, it could be decreased/increased for your needs.  The zucchini and pappardelle (you can substitute pieces of lasagna noodles for the pappardelle - broke into one inch pieces) are simply a backdrop to the lovely flavors of onions, garlic, basil and lemon.  You can also sub out the olive oil with sesame seed or walnut oils but stay away from corn oils as they are too heavy and increase the saturated fat.  


SERVINGS: 4; Healthy
Adapted from "15 Minute Vegan: Fast, Modern Cooking" by Katy Beskow (Quadrille, 2017)

 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more as needed
 8 ounces dried pappardelle
 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 
 1 medium onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
 1 clove garlic, chopped
 2 medium zucchini (12 ounces total), trimmed and coarsely grated
 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or more as needed
 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted (see NOTE)
 Handful fresh basil leaves

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the pappardelle and cook according to the package directions, until al dente, then drain. 

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Stir in the onion and garlic; cook until the onion starts to soften, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the zucchini and increase the heat to medium; cook, stirring frequently, until the zucchini is tender but not mushy, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon juice, the 1/2 teaspoon of salt and the pepper.
Toss the cooked pappardelle into the pan with the zucchini to coat evenly. Taste, and add more salt and pepper, as needed.
Transfer to a serving platter, drizzle with the remaining 2 tablespoons oil, and scatter the pine nuts and basil on top. 

NOTE: Toast the pine nuts in a small, dry skillet over a medium heat until fragrant, 3 to 5 minutes, shaking the pan a few times to avoid scorching. Let cool completely before serving or storing.

Nutrition | Per serving: 380 calories, 10 g protein, 46 g carbohydrates, 19 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 75 mg cholesterol, 290 mg sodium, 4 g dietary fiber, 5 g sugar