Tuesday, October 18, 2011

what to do with ripe tomatoes

Why do so many recipes call for canned Tomatoes, when right now I have counters overflowing with fresh ripe beautiful tomatoes?
Why is it that it is just too hot to play in the kitchen, just when my garden is ready to explode?
August is feast or famine when it comes to tomatoes; the past few years I had blight and sadly watched my tomato crop turn soggy and brown; this year I planted 4 heirloom: Boxcar Willie; German Lunchbox; Raspberry Lyanna & Ponderosa Red. I babied those babies, and aside from losing a few off one plant to blossom end rot (I sprayed the leaves with an epsom salt mixture and no more problems so far) I am getting lots ripening and expect a ton to ripen any day now.
The other incredible Tomato menace, Hornworms, recently appeared on a few plants. I knocked them off into a bucket of soapy water, and now the hunt is on!
I also bought Early Girl and Golden Jubilee at the local garden center (a medium sized red and a medium sized yellow.) I planted those in pairs and allowed them to grow unchecked in large tomato cages until they started to list at which point I added a stake at on side and trimmed the edges a bit. In the past I overpruned, having read that too many fruits reduce the overall quality. Well this time I just don't want to stress the plant at all.
So the end result will be lots of tomatoes, and since I don't like to can, I will freeze them for later.
And, of course, since it turns out to be a good year, I have 3 good volunteer plants:  a Roma type, an ugly heirloom from last year, and an "I don't know what."
As far as experimenting, I started this story with a complaint about the lack of recipes calling for fresh tomatoes, so I am going to collect my favorites here:

Fresh Tomato Basil Shrimp Scampi
Tomato Pesto Focaccia
Tomato & Sweet Corn Salad
Balsamic Tomato w/ Sea Salt
Oven Roasted Tomatoes
Slow cooker Tomato sauce

Swiss Chard

Ok, I admit, I like chard better than spinach. grow about a dozen plants.
I can take a few leaves here and there throughout the season, but at the end of summer I harvest them all, and prepare and freeze quart bags to use during the winter.

So, try this:

1 paper grocery bag full of swiss chard leaves
rinse the leaves under running water and tear off any unwanted/damaged parts
holding the rib in one hand fold the leaves together and tear the entire leaf from the rib, put the leaves in cold water to soak, and set the ribs aside.
chop the ribs as you would chop a stick of celery, I usually end up with about 4 cups. More or less does not matter, just adjust garlic, salt and oil as necessary:
add a tablespoon of chopped garlic (I use jarred garlic, which has lots of juice as well, experiment with fresh as you like it)
sprinkle 1 tsp sea salt
pour on a few tablespoons olive oil
(you could add chopped onions to this mix at this point)

mix this up and pour it into a large hot skillet, stir and sautee for 5-10 minutes, until the ribs start to soften

while the ribs sautee, wash the leaves and cut or tear them to manageable size, keep soaking until ready to add to the sauteed ribs

add the wet leaves by handfuls until the pan lid can just cover it all, cover and let steam down for a few minutes, stir and cover again for another 5- 10 minutes, remove when the leaves have reduced about 1/2, mix well, serve immediately or cool and freeze for later.
Great added to soups, plain, added to omelettes, mixed into mashed potatoes...

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Swiss Chard

I first planted Swiss Chard because it was pretty.
Several years ago, when I started planning my garden ( in February, to escape from the reality of a blizzard outside) I couldn't resist a package of seeds titled "Bright Lights".
I had always liked spinach. I planted and babied it but it usually dried up, got choked by weeds or bolted, and picking and cleaning the leaves was a pain. More bother than worth.

ok, so try this:
Sautee choppped chard ribs, diced onion, diced garlic and salt in olive oil;
Add shredded (wet) chard leaves, cover and let the leaves steam down, remove from heat;
Mix a little feta and egg together, toss with the chard mixture, layer in phyllo, spray top with olive oil or brush with melted butter; Bake (350) till egg sets and top is browned...

and this: chard steamed and topped with salt and balsamic vinegar. (My friend say's it smells like stinky socks. Must be the vinegar.)

I had always frozen chard (prepared step 1 & 2 as above) but today I'm trying the blanch/chill/freeze  method recommended by someone... except I will not re-use the blanch water, iiick.
Chard is a beet, so maybe the roots are good? no, I guess I'll stick to regular beets, since they are perfect as they are... (well, perfect sliced,olive oiled, and oven roasted, but that's another story...)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


I love how my dog always pays attention to me.
My kids & my husband listen to about 1/2 of what I say but my dog is always listening, watching.
The minute I  shift he is ready to go along: wherever, whatever. Yes, please (...one of the most precious things about a dog.)
Originally, as far as I was concerned we were not really looking for another dog, but my husband and daughter were obviously not of the same opinion. The previous owners had to move to an apartment and there was no room for a big yellow lab; and when my daughter went to meet him she just took him home with her, having conveniently forgotten that I was supposed to be consulted.
It took very little time for that dog  to weasel his way into my heart.
Now I come home to find him waiting for me, he knows when he  has been bad: the other day he trashed several bags of flour that i had left on the counter.
Picture the mess!
He hid when I came home... I was mad mad mad, but I did not beat him; I ignored him...  Caesar would be proud!
Of course he is now forgiven. I come home late at night and see that he has also forgiven me for ignoring him.

Sunday, July 17, 2011


My new horse is not really mine.
Actually, you know,  no animal is ever ours, we just like to think they are.
I brought Red to the farm to be a companion to our 35 year old Arabian peaches, who seemed lonely since the death of his old pasture pal, Beau. Peaches still had a few goats to push around, and I had decided not to put him together with the Morgans since I was afraid that they would gang up on him and undermine his sense of entitlement... or kick the **** out of him...
At first I was not going to get another horse, since a girl only needs 1 and I had 3 at the time... but the situation was right; my friend had a horse who needed a home and I figured if I brought him here she was more likely to visit.
yeah...I can always justify a new horse...
There is no guarantee that a new horse will fit into the herd, and after a few days getting acquainted over the (electric) fenceI turned Red out with Peaches. They had a few spats but for the most part Red sent the right signals, and Peaches accepted him.
About that time Red decided I was no longer his only friend, and  he showed his indifference by turning tail when I entered the paddock. There was no threat, just testing to see how I would react.
He had been parelli trained so I read up on parelli principles; I read up on John Lyons, and other natural horsemanship theories.
When it comes to working with a horse I like to start with a clear sense of process.
I needed to be consistent and I needed a plan.
I decided the way to work with him was to act like a boss mare, and send him away from me until he gave me a submissive signal; so I went to the paddock and shook his halter at him, facing him squarely and telling him to go away; he moved off and I kept up the pressure until he dropped his head, twitched an ear, and started to lick and chew, a classic submissive gesture.
As soon as I saw those first signs of submission I relaxed, turned away, and told him he was a good boy.
A few sessions like that and he realized that if I enter the paddock it is safer and more comfortable to come toward me, and if he turns tail and is rude I'll push back again.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Cherry tree

I planted the dwarf cherry tree about 10 years ago, right next to my front porch.
I had a fantasy of reaching up from the patio table and picking cherries for breakfast, as we had at my aunt's when I was little. I am aware that I try to recreate the impressive elements of my childhood, here on the farm... I think we all do, in some form or another. While  I am often disappointed, I intend to find happiness in the little things that do work out!
And so the cherry tree eventually fruited,  we had varying harvests, never more than a few dozen. Last year the main trunk split, and we belted it together to see if we could get one more year of harvest. So of course this year it flowered and fruited like crazy, the branches heavy with beautiful glossy leaves.
We watched the fruits get bigger and start to color. Finally a bumper crop... I started to dream up recipes and planned to buy a cherry pitter, only to find that the fruits had developed brownish splotches. I googled cherry diseases and sadly watched most of the cherries wither up into shriveled mummies.
I am transferring my hopes to the sekel pear that has finally set several dozen small precious pretty red pears. Ok, so maybe this will be the year for pears.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


We did not have a TV when I was a kid, and  I had never seen the show "Green Acres"  and so (as often happens to me)...I didn't get the joke when my husband suggested we name our farm Green Acres.
I assumed he referred to the landscape.
One of the plants that came up that first year was Rhubarb; in the wrong place, of course, as far as I was concerned. I dug it up and put it closer to the house. It flourished and expanded.
I researched nutrition and health effects:  good for you... cancer fighting...  fiber and vitamins... cooking it makes it even better. Of course they warned about eating the leaves; so I used the leaves as mulch in my garden.
After several busy years where I only used a little before it went to seed I finally had the brilliant idea to harvest it all, chop it, and freeze several  gallon bags for the following year. I'll experiment with cooking the frozen supply later, in small amounts.
The best thing about chopping and freezing right away was that I actually got a huge amount stored away with little heat/mess/effort.
I experimented and created several recipes using rhubarb...
plenty of failures and successes.

 FAVORITE: Rhubarb smoothie

1 Banana
few spoonfuls (~ 4 oz) plain low fat yogurt (I prefer Dannon, no suger/ flavor added)
handful chopped raw rhubarb
a little water

Blend well. Fibers/Chunks may still be present.
Add Protein Powder if desired.
I use the Magic Bullet Blender.

Substitute: Fresh or Frozen Cranberries