Friday, July 30, 2010

Food Day Friday: my favorite Greek Yogurt

I've been a big fan of Cabot's cheddar cheese for over a year when I first tried it. Amazing, great taste. I thought all they made was cheddar until I found this at Publix. (sigh) the best Greek yogurt I've ever eaten. (well, before this I've only had about 4 brands, but this is the best)

It makes my tzatziki even better.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

ode to the musk melon

Husband and I have loved watching our Livingston Muskmelons grow and grow. The vines have taken over the "berry area" of the yard and are now climbing along the fence in some places. It's fun to go out and discover little new ones and watch their progress as they grow.

We have about a dozen or so growing. The vines that get the most sun are producing the most, sadly, more are shaded than sunny. But we're not going to cut down 3 trees just for the prospect of more muskmelons!

One growing on the fence

another on the fence

Friday night, Husband noticed that one of our two oldest ones split. Not just a split in the rind, but split all the way down to the core. Ants all in there enjoying the sweet juice. We realized we had to pick it or the ants would get it all! I hated to because it wasn't quite ready. But it turns out it was close enough!

Husband cutting off the rind and removing the seeds.

close up


It was the slightest bit tough, but we think that's because it wasn't quite perfectly ripe yet. It was however so fragrant. wow, did that thing smell good. and so juicy.

I should have gotten a picture of one of the kids chomping down on their pieces. Husband ended up taking it to work, ate it all and is now suggesting we pick the over big one.

It's a hit. I hope they all grow and ripen so we have enough to share. They are fabulous.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

goodbye to the squash?


These are the squash plants today. Still growing and producing lots of squash and, quite frankly, covered in squash bug eggs.
After I took this picture, I spent almost an hour looking at every.single. leave on all four squash plants and on both butter nut squash vines. I killed 6 squash bugs and maybe over a hundred eggs. And I'll have to do it all again this evening. and tomorrow. and the day after that.

That's an hour that I was outside sweating. An hour that my kids were sitting in front of the television (watching Sesame Street). An hour of my day that I could have spent doing a dozen other things I need to be doing.

I know last time I mentioned my squash bug problem, I said that I was going to conquer them, blah blah blah. Squash bugs weren't going to kill my plants, yada yada yada.

But, I'm tired. And possibly getting a little burned out on eating squash. And to top it off, Husband told me this weekend that he only really likes squash fried. that's it. So the half a dozen other ways I've been preparing it now seem like a waste of time.

I'm not big on cooking things if I'm the only one eating/enjoying it. I'd rather do something else.

So, now I'm thinking about pulling up the squash plants and concentrating on the butternut squash and the rest of the garden. The only thing stopping me is the fact that I hate quitting. And that's how I see this. I'll be quitting.

eh, I need a new mindset. I'm tired of wasting my time on the squash that is no longer bringing me joy. Why should I bother if it's only misery? now, I just need to keep thinking on this for a little bit.

one of the butternut squash

another. more joy.

These are all the squash that I've picked but haven't done anything with yet. A friend posted a squash and pasta recipe on facebook a few days ago and I've decided to try that tomorrow. (but it'll only take 3 or 4 squash. fry the rest for Husband, I suppose!)
you can also see the banana peppers and some of the tomatoes I'm about to can. YES. can. exciting stuff.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Food Day Friday: drying basil

I make a batch of pesto about every 5 to 6 days. that's a lot. especially considering we don't even eat pesto every week. So, I needed a new way to store it for later use. Coincidentally, our store bought dried basil reserves are low (we used dried basil for soups and salad dressings) so I decided to skip the pesto batch and dry the basil instead.

First, and this is completely unrelated to drying basil, if you ever see flowers on your basil plants, pick them off. The plant will start transferring all its energy to the flower and will stop producing leaves. thus no more basil.

Ok, on to my actual process.

these are my basil plants before I harvested. I used a kitchen knife and cut them low right above a set of leaves. (to be a little clearer: look at the picture above. See where the flowers are sprouting closest to my finger? I would cut that stem right above where the flower would be. well, I wouldn't leave the flowers ... this is just an example to show you where to cut)
This is also how big the plants get right before I harvest for pesto, but when I do that I just pull the leaves off, not whole stems.

And this is after. cut low.
btw, 9 days after this cut, I harvested the regular amount for a batch of pesto. it grows back really fast as long as you cut in the right place.

I decided to use the same method of drying that I used to dry roses - Hang them upside down in a cool dry place. With roses I put them in my closet. With basil, I decided the laundry room would be a smarter choice.
Notice, the laundry room is also where I hang diapers to dry on days that they don't go outside.

This is the basil 10 days later, right before I took it down. The only thing you really have to worry about during the drying process is moisture. If it's too humid, you run the risk of mold on your basil. and then it's ruined. But, in an air conditioned house away from a humidifier, this shouldn't be an issue.
Also, if a clothes closet is your only option for a place to dry your basil, it won't be a big deal. The drying basil wasn't fragrant at all.

After I got it all down, I put it on a cookie sheet and just pulled all the leaves off the stems, crumpling the leaves as I went. I thought about storing the basil in a glass jar, but ended up going with a ziploc bag labeled with the date. (notice the date? I've got a backlogged of scheduled Food Day Friday posts!)
I have the bag stored in the cabinet where we keep all the spices and such.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

the week of the squash bug

I've been waging war. with the squash bug.

I first noticed the eggs a week ago today. since then I've been pulling eggs off of leaves with duct tape and collecting and smashing the adults. (they stink when smashed. it's gross)

The plants have been fairing relatively well. They are producing less, but still look very healthy.

Yesterday was the first day in a week that I didn't find any eggs and only found one squash bug. I'm definitely not declaring them eradicated from the garden, but I feel like I'm on top of the situation.

The butternut squash have survived the squash bugs, but google told me they would so I wasn't too worried about them.

My eggplants seem to be stressed out. They are turning yellow. I think it's just too hot for them. I hate that they aren't doing great ... especially after the flea beetle invasion. The leaves are big and healthy but the vegetable isn't the deep purple it should be.

I've also been spending time making sure the potatoes stay completely underground (when exposed to sunlight they turn green and become slightly toxic) They've been peaking out.

The onions have also been poking through the soil a bit too. next year they'll need to be put in deeper.

the musk melons are doing well. We find a new small one about once a week. I think we're up to 6 or 7.

The juliets have been doing fabulous. seriously, we probably pick between 6-12 a day (as much as 20 on a good day!). The stupice are doing well also. The plants are healthy and so is the fruit. but they just don't produce as many. We might get one every other day. They are about the size of a small peach or large plum. I've already decided to plant juliets again next year and replace the stupice with (maybe) Jersey Giants. I'm not sure yet. I've got it narrowed down to about 6 choices. Because I've had so much luck with high yields and making sauce (there's a food day friday post coming up about this) I'm excited to try another high yield, low seed fruit.

The banana peppers have been well too. We've picked about a dozen so far from the 3 plants. The other peppers have starting to bloom. But they are slightly handicapped because they aren't getting full sun.

I'm going to plant a fall batch of broccoli. And probably spinach and arugula because they did so well in May.

I'm anxious to see what's going on with the garlic underground. patience.

The mint and basil are both well on their ways to being out of control. Constant pruning. And the basil is also flowing constantly. So I have to keep an eye on that.

eh, I think that's all for now. I'm pretty sure I mentioned everything except the berries. not much to say about those.

sorry there are no pictures ... but it is HOT outside.

Friday, July 16, 2010

food day friday: baked squash chips

Everything you need:
italian seasoning (or whatever else you want to use)
cooking spray
cookie sheet
a mandolin if you have one. (or if you broke your cheap one like I did, you can use the slice side of a box grater ... remember the thinner you slice the squash the better)
preheat the oven to 200
slice your squash and place on cookie sheet
season to taste
bake about an hour (or until desired crispness is achieved -- the thicker the longer it'll take)
sorry, I got overly excited and Husband, Daughter and I ate all the chips before I remembered to take a picture.

I have never tasted squash that tasted like this before. very very nutty. really good and crisp.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Thursday in the garden

Anytime I go to the garden and come back with something more than squash and/or tomatoes, I feel like a celebration is in order!

Yesterday I celebrated 3 sweet banana peppers and 5 of the ugliest smallest but juiciest and tastiest strawberries I have EVER put in my mouth!!

1. I'm trying to pick the squash when they are smaller because I think they taste better that way. And every thing I've read about when to harvest squash says to do it as soon as the blooms fall off the end. Well, this is how big my squash are when the blooms fall off the end.

2. The banana peppers are from two different plants. The larger one is from the plant I started as a seed and the two smaller ones are from the plant that I got at Wal-mart the same time I got the strawberry plants and the first two basil plants. It's exciting to see my seed plant is doing just as well as the store bought plant.

3. Notice how all the tomatoes aren't bright red? That's because Daughter still isn't an expert picker. She's learning. I'm hoping to have enough tomatoes in a few days to make another batch of sauce ... only time and the sun will tell on that one though.

4. I was just about ready to give up on my strawberries. The first ones that grew were eaten by snails before I ever really saw them and where the plants are they aren't getting as much sun as I'd like. My dreams of canning jars and jars of strawberry perserves that I had while I was digging the strawberry square where fading into nothingness. These few ugly little boogers definitely give me hope. Hope for next year. but hope nonetheless. They definitely aren't grocery store quality, but wow, they tasted great. Husband and I both closed our eyes and "mmmmm-ed"

I think the next new thing to harvest will either be the Japanese eggplant or the butternut squash. we shall see.

Food Day Friday: artichoke pesto pizza

The basil is at it again. well, pesto actually. but pesto made from the garden basil.

I've been making this pizza for awhile using jarred pesto. We really like it. I'd also been using JIFFY mix to make the crust. I'm not going to lie ... I loved this box mix. it's easy and produces a great crust. Suddenly our Wal-mart stopped selling it (yes, they still sell the JIFFY muffin mix, sigh.)

This is the Alton Brown pizza crust recipe that Husband uses (that I now use) It's really just as simple and also produces a great crust (and the dough is actually easier to work with than the JIFFY mix) (we don't actually refrigerate the dough for 18-24 hours. we just mix it well by hand and use. sometimes we do let the dough rise (for more crust)

preheat the oven to 550 degrees
I prepare the crust (I guess it's still a dough at this point bc it's not cooked)
use pesto as the sauce
then top with shredded mozzarella
1 can of quartered artichokes (rinsed)
as much (or as little) white onion as you like
I also rub olive oil on the crust part of the pizza so it gets golden brown


Cooked (for about 12 minutes)
If you don't want your onions that brown around the edges, you can put them on the bottom under the cheese. Daughter loves this pizza!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Sunday: Thunder on the Mountain

This year we decided to go watch Thunder on the Mountain. I've probably been a dozen times, but Husband (Daughter and Son) has (have) never been. It starts at 9 but viewing areas (any place in the Birmingham area where you have a view of Vulcan) gets crowded hours before.

We got to Homewood Park at 6 and decided to stay as long as the kids were having fun and then we'd decide from there.

Daughter watching Husband push Son in the swing.

the climber.

the other climber.

I was really cramping his style. It's hard to run around when your mom keeps trying to take your picture.

They both enjoyed the spring car.

Daughter left for more climbing and Husband joined Son.

At about 7:30 we left the park and started walking towards downtown Homewood. Husband and I were hoping our favorite ice cream place, So-ho Sweets, would be open. Luckily, it was.

Son and I grabbed an outside table while Husband and Daughter went in to order some treats.

Daughter picked out "purple ice cream" She yelled at Husband when he tried to correct her on the color. She loved it.
He also got a little cup of Nutella ice cream that we shared. It was yummy.
Son and his crazy lactose intolerant stomach enjoyed a peanut butter cookie.

Next, we walked around downtown Homewood and enjoyed their July 4th block party celebration. Daughter never misses an opportunity to dance in public.

At about 8:30 we started heading back toward the park to watch the fireworks, but on the way we found an amazing spot to stop at instead.

We were right in front of Fretted Instruments and Daughter enjoyed hearing the pickers and violin players (she could not be convinced that they were fiddles) while we waited on the fireworks to start.
I had the forethought to bring a glow stick necklace that I bought 1/2 off the day after Halloween. It provided a little entertainment. I also remembered flash lights, which turned out to be a blessing.


Daughter watched the first 3 minutes and the last minute. The rest of the time she spun around and around chanting "fire work b-u-ful"

Son, my patient rock, enjoying the fireworks. He just sat and stared and bugged his eyes at all the appropriate times.


It ended up being a raging success all the way around. We all had so much fun. No tantrums, just fun. On the stroller ride back to the car Daughter kept telling us she wanted to show our cat the fireworks. Poor Gracie, she always misses out on the fireworks.

Sunday: Daughter, the chalk version.

We started our July Fourth with bubbles and then moved on to sidewalk chalk. This is the progression of our first creation: Daughter. (Son definitely would not be still long enough for us to make a Chalk Son)

Patiently waiting for me to finish tracing her.

"Come on. Let's color you!"
"oh-tay, Mommy"

blond hair? check
pink lips? check
blue eyes? Daughter put herself in charge of that.

Son decided to add a little orange to Daughter's hair while we worked on the shirt.

apparently, Daughter also thinks she has blue arms.

Son's just not sure about my artistic direction. He needs to think about it before he commits to any more marking.


Son is ready to help again.

The hair still isn't right.

Daughter's chalky feet.
Next, we went in the house, had lunch and naps and started getting ready for Thunder on the Mountain.