Saturday, July 31, 2010

Stuff it!

Growing up, stuffed peppers were a regular meal in our house.  Being of Slovak descent this isn't surprising.  However, stuffed peppers is dish which exists in different names and forms around the world - from the Middle East to Asia to North America.

This is my variation of the international favorite.
Stuffed Bell Peppers
  • 4 Bell peppers, any color
  • Salt
  • 5 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, peeled and chopped
  • Jalapeño, chopped
  • Tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 lb of lean ground beef
  • 1 1/2 cup of cooked rice
  • Ground Pepper
  • Salt
  1. Brown the onion, garlic and jalapeño in olive oil.  Cook, stirring often, until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. 
  2. Add ground beef and brown then add chopped tomatoes.  Cook until tomatoes start to wilt.
  3. Stir in cooked rice and season mixture to taste.
  4. Cut top off peppers 1 inch from the stem end, and remove seeds. 
  5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. 
  6.  Drizzle remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil inside the peppers. Arrange the cut side of the peppers up in a baking dish, then stuff peppers with filling and cover with the pepper "lid". 
  7. Cover with foil and bake for 50 minutes.  Remove foil and bake an additional 10 minutes

Serve with buttered egg noodles or mashed potatoes.  I top it with a basic roux mixed with paprika, and sour cream.


Friday, July 30, 2010

Only God can make a tree, but I'm in charge of seeds and weeds!

Whether you tend a garden or not, you are the gardener of your own being, the seed of your destiny.

When we planted our garden we wanted a variety of vegetables that we could enjoy either fresh from the garden or to preserve to have until the next planting season.

But what did we really plant?  Fruit or vegetables? 

To really figure out  if it is a fruit or vegetable, you need to know what makes a fruit a fruit, and a vegetable a vegetable. The big question to ask is, DOES IT CONTAIN SEEDS?
Believe it or not. the question of whether the tomato is a fruit or a vegetable found its way into the United States Supreme Court in 1893. The court ruled unanimously in Nix v. Hedden that a tomato is correctly identified as, and thus taxed as, a vegetable, for the purposes of the 1883 Tariff Act on imported produce. The court did acknowledge, however, that, botanically speaking, a tomato is a fruit.

So, what do we have in our garden . . . tomatoes, peppers, green beans, radishes, lettuce, cucumbers and zucchini.

By the botanical definition of fruit, the majority of our garden is fruit. Tomatoes, peppers, beans, cucumbers and zucchini all contain seeds so are technically fruits.

The only vegetables we have in our garden are the radishes and lettuce.  Vegetables are typically the leaf, stem, or root of a plant.

Why do some plants have seeds?  Fruits are the means by which many plants disseminate seeds. They exploit animals as a means for seed dispersal, and many animals (including humans to some extent) have become dependent on fruits as a source of food.  Yep, even the plant world is taking advantage of you. 

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Don't be crabby

Q: How can you tell if someone has no friends?

A: They're in the grocery store buying zucchini.


Q. Why don't you leave your windows rolled down in your car in the Summer?

A. Because you'll come back and your car will be filled with zucchini!


Personally, I don't need any friends . . . I have LOTS of zucchini.  And, many many more on they way. 

Hmmm . , , Hey!  Who wants to be my friend?  Just let me know where you park your car.  :-)~ 
In my ongoing quest to do creative things with the daily harvest of zucchini emerging from my garden, I found this interesting recipe.  Quick and easy.  Tastes like crab but there's no crab.  Old Bay seasoning and shredded zucchini do the magic

Zucchini 'Crab' Cakes

  • 2 1/2 cups grated zucchini
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup minced onion
  • 1 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil for frying
1. In a large bowl, combine zucchini, egg, and butter or margarine. Stir in seasoned crumbs, minced onion, and seasoning. Mix well.
2. Shape mixture into patties. Dredge in flour.
3. In a medium skillet, heat oil over medium high heat until hot. Fry patties in oil until golden brown on both sides.
Seriously . . . these things taste just like crab cakes and they have the right texture . . . amazing.  

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Disgusting Disgusted

The second joy in my day is going to the garden with a cup of coffee to water and take care of the plants.  (My first joy is waking up next to my husband and getting the first smooch of the day)  Today . . . the joyfulness got sucked right out of my morning.

My beloved zucchini plants went from lush, vibrant and happy to sad and pitiful in ONE day!  I repeat ONE day.   


From what?  Hairy booger bugs . . . AKA squash lady beetle larvae.  Yes, I’ve posted about them before.  Yes, I’ve been taking steps to discourage them.  Yes, I’ve been making every effort to remove the adult bugs, the larvae and the egg clusters from the plants whenever I find them.  Seriously, what the duck? 
I spent an hour this morning pulling these foul pests from the leaves and removing egg clusters.  I’m thoroughly disgusted and cootied-up.  Yuck!
 I am so not happy . . . I’m going to have to go medieval on these parasites!  Our options are limited because the community garden in which our plot resides is mandated all organic.  

It's time for action!  This time I’m going to try Neem oil.  It is a recommended pesticide for organic gardening.  It is a vegetable oil pressed from the fruits and seeds of neem (Azadirachta indica), an evergreen tree.  Neem oil is generally light to dark brown, bitter and has a rather strong odor that is said to combine the odors of peanut and garlic. It comprises mainly triglycerides and large amounts of triterpenoid compounds, which are responsible for the bitter taste.  The bugs don’t like it and that’s good because I don’t like them!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Coffee Grounds in the Garden

The Coffee Lover's Prayer

Caffeine is my shepherd; I shall not doze.
It maketh me to wake in green pastures:
It leadeth me beyond the sleeping masses.
It restoreth my buzz:
It leadeth me in the paths of consciousness for its name's sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of addiction,
I will fear no Equal(tm)
For thou art with me;
Thy cream and thy sugar, they comfort me.
Thou preparest a carafe before me in the presence of The Starbucks;
Thou anointest my day with pep; my mug runneth over.

Surely richness and taste shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the House of Mocha forever.

Hey you!  Gardeners with a coffee addiction!  You know who you are.  This one’s for you.

Coffee grounds are good for the garden.  Collect the grounds from your coffee filter into a container and sprinkle them on your garden; although, wrestling the goodly grounds from your Keurig® pods may be more effort than its worth.
Coffee grounds provide an unlimited source of nutrients for your garden . . .
Ø       They hold moisture
Ø       They are free
Ø       They smell good
Ø       They contain Nitrogen-Phosphate-Potassium (N-P-K) and other trace minerals
Ø       They help keep slugs away from plants
Ø       They repel ants
Ø       Earthworms LOVE them
Ø       They add acidity to the soil

Coffee grounds contain nutrients that can aid your soil. Besides having a carbon to nitrogen ratio of 20 parts to 1, the grounds contain an of 2 (nitrogen), 0.3 (phosphorus), and 2 (potassium). Other nutrients include calcium, magnesium, and sulfur. Nitrogen is essential to a plant for leaf development.

Reused grounds have a pH of 6.9, slightly less than a neutral 7. Plants that love acidic soils will thrive with coffee grounds worked into the soil.

Probably the most lauded of the reasons for reusing coffee grounds in gardening is that worms seem to love the grounds as a food source. Worm excrement enriches soil, and the soil is aerated by their movement through it.

Some gardeners say they have had success with the use of coffee grounds to repel ants.

Controversy exists over claims that slugs and snails are somewhat poisoned by the caffeine level in the grounds.

Cats find their toilet areas by smell, and in my garden I have successfully used coffee grounds to persuade them to go' elsewhere.

If that hasn't persuaded you, then how about free liquid fertilizer? Half a pound of coffee grounds, allowed to steep in 5 gallons of water at room temperature, makes a nitrogen-rich liquid feed that can be used anywhere the garden needs a quick boost or even on your houseplants.

Fresh coffee grounds may be applied in a thin layer around the base of plants that prefer more acidic soils and worked in with your fingers or with a fork. Do this before watering or before rain falls so that the nitrogen seeps into the surrounding soil in a time-released fashion.

Some coffee houses or Starbucks will gladly give away their used grounds for FREE!

 Reused coffee grounds are a great gardening tool!  So have another cup of coffee!

One morning, a grandmother was surprised to find that her 7-year-old grandson had made her coffee! Smiling, she choked down the worst cup of her life. When she finished, she found three little green Army men at the bottom. Puzzled, she asked, "Honey, what are these Army men doing in my coffee?" Her grandson answered, "Like it says on TV, Grandma. 'The best part of waking up is soldiers in your cup.'

Monday, July 26, 2010

Cherry Bombs

The cherry pepper poppers you find in the grocery store or deli are very expensive . . . $10 or more for a pint jar.  A rare treat in our house.  

With the cherry peppers we've grown in our garden,  I've found that making them myself is very economical and they taste o-so-much better.  

You will need extra virgin olive oil, 12 fresh cherry peppers per pint, cubed sharp provolone or parmesan cheese, thinly sliced prosciutto, kosher salt.  That's all.  And they're so easy to make.  

Slice the tops off of the cherry peppers and carefully remove the seeds, keeping peppers whole. Wrap a cube of cheese with prosciutto, and stuff into a pepper. If there is still room inside the pepper, stuff in more prosciutto.  Repeat with remaining peppers.  Place the stuffed peppers into sterilized pint-sized canning jars and sprinkle salt over them. Pour in enough olive oil to cover the peppers. Seal  the jars and let stand for 24 hour before eating. 

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Birds and the Bees

I’m new to gardening . . . we always had a vegetable garden growing up but this year is the first time I’ve ever had a garden of my very own.  My husband has gardened before but even so it’s been a learning experience for us both.

I’ve learned interesting things about squash plant pollination.

There are boy flowers and girl flowers.  When the boy and girl flowers meet they fall in love and . . . no, that’s another story.
Zucchini blossoms DO come in pollen-bearing male form, and the ovary-bearing female form, with both forms being present on the plant.
Zucchini blossoms are most commonly pollinated by European honey bees.  There is a hive located on the community garden property and I’ve seen the bees happily buzzing from flower to flower in my own garden. 
Take care when watering . . . especially in the morning make sure you don't water overhead so that the male flowers can have a chance to pollinate the female flowers.  The male flowers will open up before dawn and will close completely by mid-morning. The male flowers possess both pollen and nectar, the female flowers only nectar. If the plants are watered from overhead early in the day, that may prevent all further pollination for that day. The pollen gets washed off the short-lived male flowers and replacement flowers do not open then until the following morning.
Zucchini blossoms will fall off the plant if the pollination between the male and female blossoms is poor. Basically, the plant will abort the female blossoms if they are not pollinated well enough.

DON’T BE ALARMED if the flowers zucchini blossoms are falling off the plant.  It is perfectly natural and is usually not an indicator of any problems with the plant itself.  Once male zucchini blossoms have opened to release their pollen, they simply fall off the plant. Many times, a zucchini plant will produce only male blossoms when first in bloom to ensure that pollen will be available when the female blossoms open. The male blossoms will all fall off, making it seem as though the zucchini plant is losing all of its flowers. Don’t worry, female blossoms will open soon and you will get zucchini squash.
I should know . . . I have lots and lots of blossoms and we’ve harvested a bunch of zucchini already.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

I’m in such a pickle!

A staple in our home is pickles.  Not the run of the mill cukes in a jar that you get from the grocery store.  But fresh, crispy bites of explosive flavor that I make right in my humble kitchen. 

Making pickles is ridiculously simple, cost effective and they are so much better than anything you can buy at the store.  Admittedly, my pickles top the charts in intensity of flavor but that’s the way we like ‘em. 

This recipe is for refrigerator pickles, which means no processing.  Just have room in your fridge and you’re good to go.

7-8 Cucumbers
16 Jalapeños
1 Head of Garlic
Hot Horseradish
Tabasco or hot pepper sauce
White Vinegar
Mrs. Wages Kosher Dill Refrigerator Pickle Mix.

Typically, the cucumbers you buy in the grocery store are waxed which makes them less than optimal for pickling.  However, since I don’t pickle them whole this is not an issue.
Cut the cucumber in quarters.  Cut the jalapenos in half, leaving the seeds in. Separate the garlic cloves from the skin.

The easiest method for separating the skin from the garlic is is to place them on your cutting board, put something flat on top and give it a whack.  After the skins are split from being smashed, they usually peel off easily.

In a one gallon (or several smaller) heat proof container “layer” the pickles, jalepenos and garlic (I like to have enough jalapeños so that I get a piece of pepper with every pickle).  Once the container is full to the top add a couple tablespoons of horseradish, several dashes of hot sauce and a heaping spoonful for pickle mix.
In a large sauce pan bring vinegar and water to a boil (3 parts water to 1 part vinegar – enough to fill a medium saucepan)

Pour the boiling vinegar/water mixture over the pickles, let them cool, put the lid on the container and stick them in the fridge.  They will be ready to eat in about a week but taste best if you let them sit and pickle for at least two. 
The pickles will keep for several months in the refrigerator.  If you don't eat them all right away :)

According to pickle lore Thomas Jefferson was a pickle-eater, may have composed the Declaration of Independence while sucking on a dill, and Julius Caesar fed spiced cucumbers to his legionaries.
Me?  I just send my husband off to work with a spicy pickle every day to remind him of me . . . hot and sassy!

Friday, July 23, 2010

True Love Never Runs Smooth ...

I've recently discovered how refreshing and yummy fruit smoothies are.  However, paying almost $4 at Starbucks was not something I wanted to do on a regular basis.  I began do to dig around for something I could make at home that was easy and delicious.  This is it . . . this smoothie is frothy, flavorful and filling.  Simple and  wonderful  AND guilt free!

Strawberry Banana Smoothie

Add the following ingredients into a blender in the following order:

  •  2 Cups Soy Milk ( I used light vanilla flavored)
  • 1 full scoop of vanilla protein powder
  • 1 Banana
  • 6 Strawberries (preferably frozen)
  • 2 Cups Crushed Ice or 4 to 6 ice cubes

Blend until smooth and frothy.

Makes two 16 ounce glasses.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

So, what to do with all those zucchini?

We have a small 4 x 40 plot at a community garden.  Due to limited space we were restricted as to how much we could plant . . . among other things we decided to plant only two zucchini plants. Based on the amount of baby zucchinis I’ve seen we’re going to have a healthy crop! 

So, what to do with all those zucchini? 

Of course there’s always the classics . . . zucchini bread, stuffed zucchini, fried zucchini, etc . . . but I found a great way to preserve them and enjoy them as a healthy snack, as well.  Dehydrate them . . . zucchini crisps

v     Slice the zucchini very thin
v     Put the slices on dehydrator trays
v     Sprinkle VERY lightly with salt, garlic powder, or whatever spices you like.  (Be careful not to use too much salt because it will concentrate as the zucchini dry.)
The thin slices dry very quickly . . . in couple of hours.  Voila! You have zucchini crisps.  A yummy HEALTHY snack, imagine that!    Because they are dehydrated they will store well in an airtight container.  

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

You say tomato, I say tomahto

Why did Mrs. Tomato turn red ? She saw Mr. Green Pea !

Well, we don’t have any peas because the garden beasties keep eating them up so, consequently,  we don’t have any red tomatoes.  We do, however, have scads of green ones.  I can’t wait!  What to do with the green tomatoes?

Garden 018   
Fried Green Tomatoes . . . what else?

Garden 021

Fried green tomatoes  are thought to be a tradition of the American South.  If it comes out of Hollywood, it must be true.  Right?  Uhm . . . no.    It turns out that Fried Green Tomatoes many not be so very Southern.  A quick Google search turned up recipes for Fried Green Tomatoes in newspapers dating back to the late 1800's and early 1900's.  Guess what?  Many of these references are in publications that are not Southern in origin and most references are in Northern or Midwestern cities.  Go figure.  Furthermore, a recipe for Fried Green Tomatoes appears in the International Jewish Cookbook (1919) ( ), Aunt Babette's Cookbook (1889) ( ) says that they are "an excellent breakfast dish."  Apparently, Fried Green Tomatoes are Kosher.  

Garden 036_sig1

So here is the recipe for . . . you guessed it . . .

Fried Green Tomatoes

1 cups plain white corn meal 
1 cup plain white flour
1 1/2 tablespoon salt
Pinch of black pepper
1/2 cup cooking oil

Combine flour and corn meal. Wash the tomatoes and pat dry. Cut tomatoes in 1/4-inch slices. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Dip each slice in corn meal-flour mixture and lay aside on waxed paper. Heat oil. Fry tomato slices until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Serve hot.

This recipe is very adaptable. Some prefer using all flour or all corn meal.  Some people prefer *green* tomatoes, others prefer slightly pink tomatoes. Try serving with ranch dressing or sprinkling with garlic powder before cooking.