Monday, October 29, 2012

Done and Done

We've had freezing temperatures for several nights and that means the end of the growing season in our area.  I cut the last of the flowers and had bouquets all weekend.

My prayers go out for residents and visitors in our Eastern states.  We pray for your safety and the safety of workers. (Hosptials, EMTs, firemen, utilities, forestry, military, and all the others who will help with emergency services.)

Friday, October 26, 2012

Pumpkin Cheesecake

This could be the most awesome pumpkin cheesecake you've ever tasted! 

16 oz.   Graham crackers - crushed  (reserve 1/2 cup for garnish)
1/2 C    Butter
1/4 C    Sugar
1/2 C    Pecans - chopped fine
1/4 Tsp Cayenne Pepper (must do this)

(This makes LOTS of crust and if you have too much for this recipe, it keeps well in the frig. in a zip lock bag.)

24 oz.   Cream Cheese
1 1/4 C Pumpkin puree (15 ozs.)  Do not use pumpkin pie filling
5           Large Eggs
1 C       Sugar
1/2 C    Heavy Cream
2 tsp     Ground Cinnamon
1 tsp     Ground ginger
1/2 tsp  Ground cloves
1/2 tsp  Fresh ground nutmeg
1 tsp     Allspice
1/2 tsp  Salt

1/2 C    Dark brown sugar - packed
1/2 C    Sugar
1/4 C    Butter
1/3 C    Water
1/4 C    Heavy cream
1/2 tsp  Pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp  Salt

Preheat oven 350 degrees.

Combine all crust ingredients.  Press into bottom and up sides of 10 inch spring form pan.  Bake for 5-10 minutes until slightly tasty.  Cool.

Beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth and fluffy.  Add spices and beat until light in texture.  Add pumpkin puree and mix until just blended.  Stir in eggs one at a time, scraping sides of bowl after each addition.  Stir in cream until totally mixed.  Pour over cooled crust.

Bake in center of oven until cheesecake is firm to touch and not jiggly in the middle (50-60 minutes.)  Let cool on wire rack for 45 minutes.  Cover and refrigerate 4 hours.  The cake will fall slightly in the middle as it chills.

For caramel sauce:  Put sugars and water in a small heavy saucepan.  Bring to boil over med. heat.  Boil 4 minutes until nice caramel color.  Do not over cook or it will burn the sugars.  Remove from heat, add cream, salt and butter and stir until well blended.  Let cool 5 minutes and add vanilla.

Remove spring form sides and place cake on plate.  Cut in wedges and drizzle caramel sauce over.  Keep all cheesecake and caramel in the refrigerator if not eaten that day. 

This is so very rich I only make if I'm going to take to a dinner someplace else.  The caramel keeps well and only needs a little microwaving to pour again.  If you keep it at home, I guarantee the screeching sound you hear will not be Halloween spooks, it will be your arteries clogging up. 

The end!


Thursday, October 25, 2012


I promise this is the last batch of pumpkin pictures:

Baked stuffed bell peppers.
Creepy cute.
Googlie Eyes.
Ribbon wrapped.

Paint dots.
There are another two zillion examples of pumpkin carving/decorating ideas out there; copy or design your own.  Or, just do a Charlie Brown and be happy with an old fashioned Halloween.  And another "or": Or, forget the Jack-0-Lanterns and eat the candy!  I hear baby Snickers calling my name.  

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


I've become seriously obsessive about pumpkins - other people's pumpkins that is.  These are seriously cute and scary and crazy and obsessive!
Patterned after the mother of six.
Clearly a case for botox.
Kid friendly.

This has to be my favorite.


Monday, October 22, 2012

Sweet as Pumpkin Pie

As decor
A vase!
More an artist statement!
Party dip.
Did you grow your own pumpkins this year?  Bought some from the local orchard?  Want to have some Halloween fun?  Check out the pictures from Pinterest.  From the fun to scary to beautiful, something for everyone.


A glue gun & buttons.
And for those who tell the tale prior to the party!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Odd Thing

Juniper seeds
Are there odd things going on in your yard this autumn?  In the Midwest, we've had our share of odd weather.  A look at the historical facts shows they aren't all that rare, simply an odd year.  Let's map out a few of the oddities:

My juniper trees have a HUGE amount of seeds (the blue in the photo).  If I was into making gin I would be ecstatic.  I'm betting I'll be seeing baby juniper trees sprouting up in every flower bed next year.

My dwarf red apple tree is blooming.  Can't imagine that being a good sign for next year's production.

In spite of the drought conditions, the walnuts produced a bumper crop of fruit.  The internal survival gene for our family of squirrels has gone into warp mode.  They spend the day digging and burying.  Another bumper crop of young walnut trees will emerge next year. 

Several annuals are still going strong in spite of the cold frosty weather we've had at night.  Nasturtiums, potato vine (under a tree), cosmos, bachelor buttons and the ever tough marigolds.

The perennial flowers holding their own are pinks, sedium, phlox, asters and a couple of my hardy roses: "Julia Child" and a red "Knockout." 

I agree with others, the foliage did turn into one of the most beautiful fall shows of color I can remember.  Granted they are falling fast, but I'm still marveling at even the most mundane plant's bright colors. 

The leaves of my hosta are a blazing gold this year.  We haven't had a hard enough freeze to make them go to mush. 

Catalpa seed pods
The redbud and catalpa trees have the most seedpods of any year since I've had them.  Redbuds will self seed with abandon (yeah).  I've never seen catalpa self seed even though I'd be grateful.  We have an old damaged tree and another I planted some years ago.  Most modern properties don't use catalpa anymore.  They have the most amazing flowers in the spring; much like orchids.  Plus, for me they are a reminder of my childhood when I played in our farm's catalpa grove.

A walk along our road showed the many wildflowers, native grasses and weeds in beautiful colors. 

I'm hopeful the four inches of rain we received this week will be the beginning of replenishing the water supply in our area.  Agreed it's making harvesting corn and soybeans more difficult.  Saw several farmers picking in the rain.  I'm guessing that corn was headed for the local ethanol plant.   They can use wet corn since they process it on site.

What's been the oddities in your gardens this fall?  Are they beautiful, scary or a puzzlement? 



Friday, October 19, 2012

Seems Forever!

Seems forever since I posted a note about gardening.  With the two dozen family members here, I've been busy!  I tried to use a lot of garden produce at the cookout.  Since tomatoes were a big item in my garden, they were a recipe focal point.

It was cold, very windy and rained.  That was a call for a huge cooker of chili; the perfect recipient of tomatoes.  I included bell and banana peppers, onions, garlic, basil, pumpkin (to make it rich and thick), chicken stock, sage sausage, hamburger, chili pepper, La Chinata smoked paprika, salt and pepper.  Served with cheese and crackers.  Oh, yeah!

Add to that a dish of my tomato/veggie salsa and corn chips and a dish of fresh sliced tomatoes.  My kids brought carrot cake, potato soup and macaroni salad.  We had deviled eggs, a strawberry tort, pumpkin chocolate chip cookies with brown sugar icing, chips and dip, veggie tray and dip, fresh apple crisp (still warm from our neighbor's oven) and other things that I can't recall because I'm still full.  For the brave, we had a bonfire with hot dogs and marshmallows.

Soooooo, that's my excuse and I'm stickin' to it!  The photos today are from around the house.  Hope you enjoy fall on our hill.
A walk in our woods.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Mighty Mississippi

We followed my own advice last week and took a "scenic" drive along the Mississippi River.  We are blessed to have Mighty Miss close enough to watch the changing seasons and conditions.

The day started out beautiful and sunny.  We had breakfast (always part of the criteria on a scenic drive) at a favorite restaurant.  LOVE potato pancakes and applesauce.  I had my camera out and ready for shots of autumn foliage. 

We had decided we'd start at Burlington, Iowa and work our way north to home.  We both like to turn down those little back roads to unknown picture opportunities.  And, we always get a laugh when we end up in some one's driveway because it's a dead end. 

The trees (mostly maples) were in brilliant glowing shades of red, orange and gold.  Some variation of roadside sunflowers was still blooming. 

We began to notice a gray haze on the horizon over the river.  I was still merrily snapping pictures and loving the whole experience.  Did I mention we had a bag of candy in the car???  It contributes to the "merrily" portion of the trip. 

As we were driving down a dirt lane between two corn fields, large drops of rain started to fall and by the time we ended up in a farmer's dead end lane, it was thundering.

At that point, we decided to visit thrift stores. 

Did I mention we had a bag of candy in the car???  I think I'm always concerned (probably from a childhood trauma) that we will be marooned for days without food.  Or I just have this thing about sweets.

All in all, it was a good day.  Especially enjoyed finding the Henderson County covered bridge and the old tree beside the Mississippi with roots grasping for shore. 

Bundle up this weekend and head out for some photo ops - and take a bag of candy!   

Monday, October 8, 2012

Freezing Herbs

This recipe has been circulating on the web and facebook for several months.  No one I know has tried it in spite of being shared, pinned and discussed.  With an abundance of herbs, I decided to give it a try.

Frozen Herbs in Oil

Preferred hard herbs such as firm fresh rosemary, fennel, sage, thyme and oregano are best.
I also tried:  basil, lemon mint and celery herb.  The tender herbs will probably loose much of their fragrance and taste.  I'll let you know. 

Mix sage, thyme and rosemary for a bouquet garni.

Wash herbs in water and let drain dry or pat dry.  Remove woody stems and damaged/brown leaves.  Chop the herbs into rather small pieces.  Each cube holds about a heaping tablespoon.   

Pack lightly into the wells of plastic ice cube trays; make sure they aren't sticking out the top like the ones on the right below.  They preserve better if completely covered.  My bad...

Pour extra-virgin olive oil or melted, unsalted butter over herbs.  .

Cover lightly with plastic wrap and sit on flat surface in the freezer.  Freeze overnight.

Label (date if you tend to lose things in the freezer) a zip lock freezer bag with the name of the herb and the oil used.  Use a separate bag for each herb.

Remove the frozen cubes from the trays  (plastic trays need to be twisted) and put herb cubes in zip lock freezer bags.  Do all this quickly because the olive oil immediately starts to melt.  If the kitchen is warm, have everything ready and cold.

Return filled bags to the freezer.

Your herbs are ready to use and it preserves all the summer herbs from the garden for delicious winter dishes.  The most expensive thing about this recipe is the quantity of oil needed.  Trays are from a dollar store, I grew the herbs and takes only a few bags.

Doing so many different kinds of herbs and the quantity for this project was a fragrance bonanza. Wonderful!         

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Between Boots & Flip Flops

Autumn is the season where are closets are confused.  Today we need just flip flops and tomorrow we may need snow boots.  It’s the same every year although we always seem surprised. 

Turn off the AC and turn on the furnace.  Turn off the furnace and turn on the AC.  Open the doors and windows during the day.  Cover with a blanket in the evening on the couch.

What is different this year is the drought induced conditions; the other gardening uncertainty.  Are the trees turning early or turning late because of the drought?  Did our little freeze the other night push them into turning or is it simply the shorter daylight hours? 

Experts disagree and since I’m not an expert, I won’t even begin to venture an opinion on “Why?” or what it means for the future of mankind.

I do know what it means for the future of some of my pine trees:  I’m losing several of them.  Take a drive through the area and others are facing the same loss.  It will be interesting (albeit sad) to see the loss ratio next spring.  A stressed tree doesn’t make a good candidate for winter survival.  If it is a mild winter, they stand a better chance.  A harsh, extreme cold and windy winter will surely take its toll.

After that depressing monolog, a walk through my yard proves there’s still a wide variety of beautiful fall foliage and flowers. 

Hybrid and native asters are blooming their little white, purple and pink heads off.  Ornamental and native grasses are setting seed heads and waving in every little breeze. 

Burning Bush and dogwoods are turning brilliant reds.  My Sumac is a glowing orange. Walnuts are turning gold and dropping their precious produce. 

And then the color bonanza of the Midwest, the maple trees, are beginning to turn.  We had all debated if they would turn this year or simply drop their leaves.  Eager to prove themselves, the colors are as pretty as any I’ve seen.  Can the oaks be far behind? 

A word of caution from the “the glass half empty” folks:  The colorful leaves may not stay very long on the trees and bushes.  If you’re planning a trip down fall foliage lane, don’t procrastinate. 

Best of all, take your camera with you on every drive and walk.  It’s a photographer’s dream time.  Try taking a close-up of leaves, flowers and insects.  Focus on the different parts of fruit and vegetables. 

The orange, purple, red, and gold of this time of the year will shine through every photo.  Include pieces of fence, barns, and animals.  Get those grandkids acting like – well – kids; rolling in the leaves, climbing, and generally laughing and playing. 

Take the time to look closely at plant life.  As I was watering my mums, this HUGE brown spider perched on a flower looking for the world like I had invaded HIS domain.  Garden spiders are busy making webs and stuffing themselves. 

Enjoy your October 2012, this will be the year we all talk about – the winter that wasn’t, the summer with no rain, and now the fall of “you fill in the blank.”  To our farmer neighbors:  Have a safe and rich harvest. 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Say What?

I've decided the difference between "elderly" and "youthful" is the different immediate thought entering your head when presented with something new.

The past few weeks my blog system and facebook have changed to include all new NEW NEW and wonderful benefits.  Every kid using these applications were thrilled and learned them in minus 3.5 seconds.  Most every person over sixty immediately thought "I don't want to change!" 

It's not that we (older folks) can't learn and no longer have the ability to change.  It takes our precious time away from things we enjoy more.  OK, I may be rationalizing.

And speaking of new things, as I was cleaning and throwing away stuff I shouldn't have kept in the first place I came across all those little plastic identification plant labels from this season's purchases. 

Here are some "annual" successes for this odd summer:

Chinese Cabbage "Michihli" oriental greens.  Mine wasn't bothered by any insects (a huge plus) or the drought conditions.  It looks like a mustard green plant, the leaves are about hand sized and the color is a light bright green.  The flavor is somewhat bitter (perhaps due to the drought) and not a strong cabbage flavor.  It holds up well in salads as well as in cooked dishes.  I'll try this again.

Sweet potato vine "Bronze"
Sweet potato vine "Bronze" has all the qualities of hybrid decorative sweet potato vines - plus.  The color is beautiful bronze on the top with maroon veins and back.  Although it vines, it stays rather compact which looks great in hanging baskets.  Another for the repeat performance list.

Coleus "Henna"
Coleus "Henna" has been a wonderful surprise.  Where my other coleus have been fragile and leggy, Henna just keeps on being bushy and beautiful.  It's a combination of chartreuse tops, glowing maroon veins, edges and underside.  Beautiful all summer and fall.

A herb, Cutting Celery, has been a nice surprise.  It looks like large leaf parsley but has a very sweet bold celery taste.  I've used it raw in salads and cooked in most anything where I want the celery taste but no crunch.  .

Some old favorites:

Torenia Dantopur "Purple Moon"
Ornamental Millets Mijo Perla "Jade Princess" and "Jester"  looks good all summer and the seed heads make great additions to dried arrangements.

Torenia Dantopur "Purple Moon" has looked lovely all summer in my partially shaded window box.  This year I combined with an asparagus fern.

This hybrid Misty Lilac Wave is an improved version of a very old variety of petunia.  It vines with abandon and cleans itself.  The soft lilac/pink/white colors are of old although it doesn't have the fragrance of the old.  I hope it will self seed.

Another new version of an old favorite:  the Discovery series orange African marigold.  Although they still need to be deadheaded to keep blooming, they are very hardy compact plants. 

What's been your summer's annual plant successes?  I'm just sure I can adapt to a new annual any day of the week because my first thought when entering a greenhouse every spring is "YES, I want that!"  At least my gardening age is still young.