Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Fresh Basil and Pesto

I searched the Net for some pesto recipes and combined ideas and ingredients from a couple of recipes.

Pick or buy some fresh basil.

Pull the leaves and stems off, wash, and then spin out as much water as possible.

Really pack about two cups of basil.

Chop the basil in the food processor along with 3 cloves of garlic, a small handful of raw pine nuts and/or walnuts, drizzle up to 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil, add a little salt and pepper if desired.

Add the basil mixture to about 3/4 cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese in a separate bowl.  Cover the container and refrigerate up to one week.  I mixed some Romano in with the Parmesan.  For a variation, mix fresh parsley or spinach in with the basil, not to exceed approximately the initial two cups. 

Pesto can be frozen in ice trays, but cover with a cling wrap to keep the basil from turning too much.  After it is frozen, remove and place in a zip lock freezer bag.  I'm doing the same to fresh basil by running the leaves through the food processor, putting it in ice trays with a little water added, covered with a cling wrap; after frozen, will remove from the ice trays to store in a freezer bag.

You are probably asking yourself why the tomato photo since it has absolutely nothing to do with pesto.  Well, the tomatoes looked so good that I just had to include the picture.  I'm planning to make salsa within the next day or so -- got to make a trip to the market to pick up some green peppers and some jalapenos in order to do the salsa. 

Until next time, God bless.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Stroll Through the Garden

African marigold which is planted in and around tomato bushes.

Tomatoes, tomatoes everywhere.  I'm having success with tomatoes this year whereas others are not.  Could it be due to the African marigolds?  I have a total of seven tomato plants -- two Roma, two cherry, one grape, and two Big Boys.  The Big Boys are just beginning to ripen, but the others have been ripening like crazy. 

Hmmm, will this squash flower turn into a zucchini?  I sure hope so; but squash bugs have already killed 4 plants.  This plant and one other are hanging on.  Hope to get a few more zucchinis before tearing up the plants.  I've been shredding and freezing the zucchini for zucchini bread later in the year.

Blooms on the yarrow.  Medicinal uses for yarrow includes using on cuts, scrapes and to stop bleeding.  I've been told that a poultice of yarrow aids in the healing of a brown recluse spider bite.  By no means would I not immediately go to a doctor should I be bitten by a brown recluse but would use a poultice in conjunction with anything prescribed by a doctor.  Thankfully, I've never had to see if a poultice works on a bite. 

A honey bee hard at work on the crepe myrtle.  I'm thinking of doing some beekeeping.  I read it is best to start a new hive in February or March.  I like to explore all types of endeavors.  I've also been thinking about getting some chickens, but,  don't know if I really want to do so.  Beekeeping sounds like less work as opposed to keeping chickens.  Since I'm in Texas, I've read that beekeepers in this part of the country need to get a new queen every year since the africanize bees have made it up from South America to Texas.  I don't see that as a problem.  When I'm in the garden, bees fly all around me and as long as I don't make fast moves, I've never been stung.  Of course, if africanized bees make it into the colony, it becomes a BIG problem.  I've read that the queen is the key to keeping the colony tranquil.

Stevia in bloom. An extract can be done by combining the leaves with a pure USP grain alcohol for 24 hours, straining, adding some water, then cooking on a very low heat to burn off the alcohol.  The leaves can probably be pulverized in the food processor and used in place of sugar too.  Thought I'd give it a try.

I like to use alternatives medicine or natural food substitutes whenever it does not entail hours upon hours of preparation.  I'm not into standing for hours with a mortar and pestle; so if it is fairly easy, I'll give it a try.  Next up will be fresh pesto from the tens of basil plants that seeded last year.  :D

Until next time, God bless.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Straight Out Of The Camera Sunday

Murietta 365 has two rules for Straight Out of the Camera Sunday:  1) photo must be taken by you, and 2) no tweaking.

I'm so happy, but my mom does not like the way I smell after a dip in the cattle water tank.  But, the water feels so good in this hot weather.   Oh, well, I'll do the ears down and sad-eye look while scolding; she'll melt.

For more SOOC, go here.

Until next time, God bless.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Harvesting and Preservation

I've been busy tending and harvesting the garden along with the lone peach tree. In all the years we've had the peach tree, I think this is the best year ever for peaches.

This is the first of probably four baskets loads. In searching the web, I found peaches can be dunked into a pot of boiling water for 30-45 seconds, given an ice water bath, and the skins will slip off. Well, yes and no; some did  but most had to be peeled. Need a little work in that process.  Our peaches in this area are small but ever so full of flavor. Once a "Fredericksburg" peach is tasted, no other peach can measure up to the flavor. It may be our alkaline soil.

After slipping or peeling the skin off, cutting, I dunked the peaches in a bowl with concentrated orange juice. The concentrated orange juice is substituted for sugar and the peaches do not go brown and retain the color.  I then put 2 cups of peaches in a Food Saver bag, stood the bags up in my fridge freezer for a couple of hours before doing the final vacuumed seal.  Freezing a little before vacuum sealing keeps the juice from overflowing into the vacuum sealer.

I planted several different varieties of tomatoes -- cherry, Roma, and the big round types.  The Romas and cherry tomatoes are ripening much quicker than the larger ones.  In addition to adding fresh tomatoes to salads and other dishes, I've been drying in the dehydrator.   

I've harvested quite a few zucchini.  Some have been eaten; others given away; some shredded and frozen for soups, stew, breads; and some have been sliced and dried in the dehydrator.  Dried zucchini chips are a pretty good snack and also can be rehydrated and put in soups and stews. 

Zucchini production is down since the squash bugs found the plants.  I tried dumping some lemon balm into the plants to hopefully repel the squash bugs and there may be an improvement in the plants -- at least they are not dying as quickly as they were. I may just get a few more zucchini before all die.  Squash bugs literally suck the life out of the plants.

Next year I may start picking the squash bugs off with tweezers -- eck, I don't touch bugs -- and squash the squash bugs.  Besides, where do these bugs come from?  I had a couple of zucchini plants last year; but, really, it was a bummer to see all these little bugs lined up on the plant.  I had to do a web search to find out just what they were; although, my first thought was "squash bugs,"  not that I had ever seen one. 

Never having used a dehydrator until recently, I was totally surprised how much heat the thing gives off.  I moved it out to the enclosed porch because the one thing we don't need is to heat the house in our Texas summer.

Some people recommend removing the skins along with the seeds. And some people suggest not removing the skins or seeds.  I chose to only remove the seeds.  The dried tomatoes are placed in a vacuum sealed bag and frozen.  Oh, I made some humus with the first batch of dried tomatoes.  It added a little zip to the humus.

The dried squash is stored in a glass container.

Even though I had a small garden last year, this is my first try at drying various veggies.  Last year I found on the Net that zucchini does well in soups or stews if shredded and frozen.  What on earth did people do for information before we had the Net?  I know.  We went to the library or bought magazines and books.  lol

Until next time, God bless.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Wildflower Center

Following up on Saturday's visit to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, here are some more shots.

Texas sculpture. We call these pests cedar trees, but, in fact, it is from a juniper tree. Junipers (cedar) are fast growers, prolific, shallow roots, killers of natural grasses, and sucks up the water in a water challenged part of the country. :D Someone or a bunch of someones brought the junipers to Texas about a hundred plus years ago. Oops, big mistake because the trees have just about covered the area and we spend a lot of time trying to get rid of them.

Should the tree or fallen branches catch fire, they burn fast and pop out sparks quite a distance. We've made sure no cedar grows within 100 or 200 feet of the house. We took most of them out from the front of our house to the county road with a bulldozer, dug a huge hole, pushed them into the hole, burned, and then covered the hole. We left 5 or 6 older cedars and run over the young ones with a tractor mower. Needless to say, we also left every identifiable oak tree and any tree that was NOT a cedar.

Several years ago and on a misty day in winter we decided to burn some fallen/cut cedar pile. After a pop or two, we were running around stamping out the dried grass like crazy. Of course, we were prepared because we had gallons of water loaded on the pickup in case the little fires got out of hand. Black patches of burned grass extended about 50 feet from the original burn pile. lol As we found out, misty days are not really wet enough to burn; you need to burn after several days of hard rain. Cutting cedar is a dreadful task because you get scratched and stuck by the branches which begin about and inch or so above the ground. Also, when you are out in a pasture, it is not like you have ready access to running water. Burn ban signs are up all around the county right now because we've entered a dry period.

This is the wishing pond. Why did I included it? Love the way the shades of blue in the water appear in the photo.

The sun was so bright that the bee almost disappears into the center of the waterlily.

A pond inhabitant sunning itself.

Companion sculpture to the one featured in the June 19, 2010 Straight Out of the Camera Sunday.

Until next time, God bless.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Straight Out of the Camera Sunday

I've been blogged out these past few weeks but was at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center yesterday and took over a hundred photos. :D So here are my Straight Out of the Camera Sunday offerings.

I adore funky garden sculpture. Isn't this one the cutest?

Go here for more SOOC photos.

Until next time, God bless.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Brenda's Photo Challenge

Weathered & Worn is the theme for the Brenda's Photo Challenge. All the items pictured here were brought from my mother and father's place. My dad could not resist picking up old farm equipment.

Horse drawn harrow

Horse collar

Round-bale hay hauler

For more Weathered and Worn photos, go here.

Until next time, God bless.

Friday, June 4, 2010

What Not To Do

When you have a vegetable garden with zucchini plants, don't go 4 or 5 days without checking for squash. I've been busy setting up a drip irrigation system in the big garden and did not tend to what was already growing in the little garden. There were so many strange looking parts in the irrigation kit that I spent several days studying how to connect the various parts together and planning a design set up.

Take a look at these: 1) the top one is about 17 inches long and 13 inches around, 2) the bottom one is about 16 inches long and 14 inches around. Remember when we had waist sizes in the 19-22 inch range? Unfortunately, when zucchini gets this big it is filled with seeds and bitter. I'm going to cut the big ones up and put out for the critters to eat.

This is the harvest from yesterday. I came across a recipe for zucchini bread and a recipe for zucchini and basil muffins, both of which should freeze well. Squash does not freeze very well unless grated, frozen and then used in soups, breads, casseroles, etc.

The first harvest of snow peas and green beans which were washed, trimmed, blanched, vacuumed packed, and frozen. I had no idea how easy and quick it is to freeze fresh veggies.

I did not pick the green tomatoes but they fell off as I was removing extra branches on the tomato plants. I read that if tomato plants have an abundance of foliage, the energy goes into maintaining the leaves rather than producing bigger tomatoes. So, I cut off a lot of greenery from each tomato plant and I think the tomatoes have grown considerably bigger in just 24 hours. Of course, that could be my imagination. Anyway, the green ones above dropped off in the pruning operation.

According to the Farmer's Almanac moon planting guide, tomorrow and Sunday are the best days for putting the seeds for vine plants (melons) in the ground and root plants -- I've some sweet potato slips to put in the dirt. I'll also scatter a variety of flower seeds in between the veggie seeds. Certain flowers attract or repel insects that normally go after the veggies or melons. Four rows of corn were planted about 12 days ago. Melons are a good companion to the corn. After the corn in the first four rows reach 18 inches, four more rows of corn will be planted along with either watermelon or cantaloupe or another companion plant.

The veggies are fertilized with the organic Lady Bug brand, a product of The Natural Gardener in Austin, Texas. After the first tilling of the big garden area, we bought 6 yards of Revitalizer compost from the Natural Gardener and tilled the area again with the compost. Before we could row up, three inches of rain came which flatten the soil. The rains brought out the weeds. So, I dug the 20' x 40' area up again with a spading fork while removing the weeds and then made nine rows. As mentioned earlier, 4 rows of corn was planted about 12 days ago.

I've never liked gardening but after the first harvest yesterday of the snow peas and green beans, I'm kind of excited about it. The motivation to start gardening came after the veggie recalls and then the increase in food costs. I got truly irked when I had to pay $1 for a green pepper and an outrageous price for one zucchini (I've forgotten the amount.). In addition, I'm on the South Beach diet and gardening takes my mind off the hunger. lol Actually, I don't eat all the food allowed and have only lost 2 pounds in three weeks! Gardening keeps me busy enough to not dwell on the fact that it is the dickens to lose weight. Utilizing veggies I've grown gives me a lift when thinking about how long it will take to lose 25 more pounds.

Well, I'm off to take a nap while the temperature is 96 degrees so I can work in the big garden this evening ridding it of weeds in preparation of planting tomorrow.

Until next time, God bless.