Saturday, November 23, 2013

Yesterday I cooked 2 Rouge VIF D'Etampes (Cinderella) pumpkins for making pumpkin pies and pumpkin bread using recipes in my cookbook, Dad's Home Cooking; Traditional Recipes for Preparing Healthy Family Meals available on Amazon. The 2 pumpkins will make enough for 11 pies so I froze some of the puree for use later. I peel, chunk and cook the pumpkin in boiling water until fork tender. The pumpkin is then drained and run through a sieve to remove any pulp. Refrigerate the pumpkin puree for use within a day or two and freeze the remainder in 1 quart freezer bags. Each bag will provide the 3 5/8 cups of pumpkin needed for 2 pies. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

I cooked some rutabagas pulled from my garden yesterday. They are open-pollinated Marian variety. Rutabagas are a cross between turnip and cabbage. I planted them on August 8, 2013 for late fall harvest. They can be peeled and chunked then oven roasted, boiled or used in dishes, soups or stews. They are also delicious raw.  I boiled these in salted water and after draining, added butter before serving in lieu of potatoes. My cookbook, Dad's Home Cooking; Traditional Recipes for Preparing Healthy Family Meals has a rutabagas au gratin recipe!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Jelly making time. I made a batch of currant jelly and a batch of aronia (black chokeberry) jelly yesterday using juices that I had frozen when picked in summer. See my June 21, 2013 and July 26, 2013 posts about harvesting currant and aronia berries from my garden. The juices were made by mashing and then cooking the berries for about 30 minutes. The juice and fine pulp was extracted using a food reamer. (I like to leave the fine pulp in my jelly rather than using juice that has all the fine pulp removed.)

I opted to can this jelly using the boiling water bath method but if you want, you could also freeze the jelly rather than canning it. For more information on canning see Pickling and Fermenting page 179 in my cookbook Dad's Home Cooking; Traditional Recipes for Preparing Healthy Family Meals available on Amazon.

                            Currant or Aronia Jelly

        Makes 4 half pints. Prep time about 1 hour assuming juice has been thawed and jars washed.
4 cups currant or aronia juice
3 cups sugar
1 (1.75oz) box premium fruit pectin (I used Sure Jell)
1/2 teaspoon butter

         1. Wash 4 half pint canning jars in the dishwasher.
         2. Fill canner with enough water to cover an upright jelly jar plus 1 inch. Heat water on high. 
         3. While the canner water is coming to a boil, in a small bowl, mix 1/4 cup of the 3 cups of sugar with                the fruit pectin. Set aside.
        4. In a large stainless steel pot add juice, sugar/pectin mix and butter. Stir to dissolve. Bring to a boil                 over medium high heat stirring continuously until a hard rolling boil is achieved.
        5. Continue stirring and boiling for 1 minute and remove from heat.
        6. Pour jelly into canning jars to within 1/8 inch of the top.
        7. Wash canning lids and rings in soapy water, rinse and install on jars.
        8. When canner water is boiling, insert the jars into the boiling water using a jar lifter.
        9. When the canner water returns to boiling, start the processing time. In my case since I am near sea                 level, I processed for 10 minutes. Increase processing time 1 minute per 1000 ft in elevation over                  1000 feet.
     10. Remove jars from canning water at the end of the processing time using a jar lifter and set on a     
           kitchen towel to cool. Make sure the lids seal by "popping" to a concave indent in the lid. If  a jar     
          does not seal, refrigerate and use first.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Fall is here and it's time to dry peppers. I picked several varieties from my garden; some red and some green and prepared them for drying. These will make dried pepper flakes for use in soups and other dishes.

These are dried cayenne peppers that I dried last week.They are now ready to grind to make cayenne pepper.

Last month I pickled my
"Big Bomb" peppers. They are about the size of a golf ball, very meaty and ripen early. These are kept in a gallon jar in the refrigerator. They are moderately hot and delicious!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Today was pickling day. I canned 25 quarts of dill pickles and 14 quarts of bread and butter pickles. That should last!

These are the dills

These are the bread and butter. Both recipes are in my cookbook Dad's Home Cooking; Traditional Recipes for Preparing Healthy Family Meals available on Amazon.

Friday, July 26, 2013


Today I picked my Aronia (Black Chokeberry) berries and made juice and put it in the freezer for juice or jelly. Aronia is native to the Eastern US but the best varieties were bred in Europe where it is very popular. The fruit is very tart and it is used in juices, jellies and wine. It is high in flavonoid/anti-oxidant content, vitamins and minerals. I like that it is self fertile, very easy to grow, disease resistant and does not need spraying for insects. It grows 5 to 6 feet tall and has dark green leaves resembling cherries. In the fall the leaves turn red! Next year (It will be 3 years old.) I hope to get enough to make some wine.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

First Bell Pepper From My Garden!

This is Northstar, an early hybrid. The seed was started on March 28 and set out in the garden on June 1 so from seed start to maturity was 106 days and from set out to maturity was 42 days. I used this pepper in a shrimp salad along with red leaf lettuce and Walla Walla sweet onion from the garden. Yummie!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Blueberry Picking Time!

My blueberries ripened early this year! I will be picking weekly for the next 2 months. Most are frozen for use during the winter months.

Friday, June 21, 2013

I picked currants today from my Red Lake currant bushes. Time to make currant jelly!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Time for a garden update. I picked the first crop of broccoli to freeze today. The kohlrabi also have been ready to pick. I enjoy kohlrabi raw as a snack. These were started from seed on March 2, 2013. (See my March 2, 2013 post.) and transplanted out in the garden on March 27, 2013. (See my March 28, 2013 post.) The kohlrabi hybrid variety is Kolibri and the broccoli hybrid variety is Packman.

I am also harvesting spinach which has grown well in the cool weather we have been having. This hybrid variety is Olympia.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Time to transplant my 48 pepper plants to larger pots. This seed was started on March 28, 2013. (See my March 28, 2013 post.) Today I transplanted them into 5 inch peat pots. These will be kept outside during the warmer days until ready to set out in the garden. I like using the peat pots since they can be directly set in the garden with no transplant shock.

The shelling peas are up and doing well. These were planted on April 2, 2013. The pea weavil damage has been minimal so far!

One of the herbs I grow is rosemary. The little blue flowers add interest this time of year.

Monday, April 15, 2013

I made a blueberry pie for Sunday dinner guests. The blueberries are from my garden and were harvested and frozen last summer. My blueberry bushes are now blooming, so hopefully I will have a good crop this summer!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Yesterday I planted my onion plants for storage onions (Walla Walla, Ailsa Craig, Redwing and Copra), shelling peas (Maestro), snow peas (Oregon Giant), radishes (French Breakfast) and spinach (Olympia). Today I picked my first asparagus for cream of asparagus soup tonight. I can't wait!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Yesterday my Easter dinner guests were served roasted turkey with dressing, potatoes and gravy, sweet potatoes, asparagus, molded vegetable salad, deviled eggs and strawberry shortcake for dessert. These recipes are in my cookbook, Dad's Home Cooking; Traditional Recipes for Preparing Healthy Family Meals available on Amazon.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Time to start pepper plants from seed. This year I am planting bell peppers, Italian sweet peppers, corno di toro red peppers, jalapeno, northstar, biggie, serrano, pepperoncino, anaheim, Thai hot, ancho magnifico, fire ball and cayenne. I use self watering starting containers and place them in the kitchen oven and leave the oven light on. This provides the 80 to 90 degree F temperatures needed to sprout the seed. Once they sprout, I move them under grow lights for 16 hours a day and I keep them watered. When they have 2 true leaves they are transplanted  in individual peat pots and kept under grow lights until they are ready to set out in the garden the end of May.

Yesterday I set out some broccoli, cauliflower, green cabbage, red cabbage and kohlrabi.plants that were started from seed on March 2, 2013 (See my post dated March 3, 2013). These will all do well in the cooler spring weather. I should have kohlrabi to eat by May 1st!!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Last night's dinner guests celebrated St Patrick's Day and of course corned beef and cabbage were served along with boiled potatoes, boiled carrots and Irish soda bread. Dessert was chocolate cream pie!
All these recipes are in my cookbook, Dad's Home Cooking; Traditional Recipes for Preparing Healthy Family Meals available on Amazon.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Steaks on the barbie last evening for dinner guests! these were served with baked potato, corn on the cob and tossed green salad.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

The first of March is the time to start some cole crop plants from seed. I started some broccoli, cauliflower, red cabbage and green cabbage. The seeds were planted in some recycled sterilized pots using purchased potting soil. I mark them with wooden labels than I have made so I can keep track of what has been planted. I will keep these inside until they sprout and then put them under a grow light. If I have a nice day I will move them out in the sun and bring them back inside at night. These should be ready to set out in the garden in about 1 month.

Friday, February 22, 2013

                            What’s Happening in My Winter Garden?
Winter vegetable gardening provides many tasty veggies for you use throughout most of the winter here in the Puget Sound area.  I plant my winter crops mostly in early August so that I have carrots, Brussels sprouts, kale, collards, mustard, rutabagas, turnips, red beets and cabbage in the winter. 
In January I order and receive seeds for the next year as well as ordering onion plants for growing storage onions and seed potatoes which are shipped to me in the spring when it is time to plant. When weather permits, I remove the winter weeds that grow in the planting beds in the winter. I also fertilize the asparagus bed in February after removing any small weeds that are growing.

The above is my garlic patch. The 6 small plants in the foreground are  multiplying onions. Behind the onions and in front of the garlic are 6 shallots that are just barely emerging from the soil. In the back are 56 each Roja garlic.. All of these bulbs were planted on October 26, 2012.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Mid February is Blueberry bush pruning time. Blueberry bushes that have not been pruned on an annual basis (after 3 years of growth) may become overgrown and less fruitful . Proper pruning of blueberries is essential to maintain plant size, shape, and productivity . In the first three years only prune out dead, diseased and broken wood and any crossing or contorted branches. Every year after 3 years, prune  to maintain  an open center to allow sunlight to pass through and allow air movement.Pruning steps are:
  1. Disinfect pruners in 1 tablespoon bleach to 1 quart water.
  2. Visually observe the blueberry bush.
  3. Imagine what the plant should look like when pruning is completed.
  4. All diseased and broken canes should be removed first.
  5. Canes that are seven years old or older should be considered for removal.
  6. No more than two to three mature canes should be removed each year to avoid pruning out too many fruit buds.
  7. Selective pruning will help to stimulate new cane growth each year.
  8. Remove branches that are touching and any dead twigs.
  9. The bush should be narrow at base, open in the center and  free of vegetative clutter.

After pruning fertilize with a 10-5-4 acid loving rhody/azalea fertilizer at the rate of one hand full (2/3 cup) spread over the soil in a ring at the drip line under each plant. Lightly rake into the soil without disturbing roots. No other fertilization for the rest of the year. Keep PH between 4.5 and 5.1.Note that buds are forming on my branches...spring is coming!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

My dinner guests enjoyed Chicken Chow Mein last night. This recipe is in my cookbook Dad's Home Cooking: Traditional Recipes for Preparing Healthy Family Meals available at Amazon. I did vary the recipe somewhat because 2 ingredients were not available in the 2 grocery stores I checked, so I had to substitute a different type of noodle and I left the bean sprouts out. Bean sprouts may be a thing of the past in grocery stores because of the contamination and food born illness and death concerns. I guess I will need to start sprouting my own mung beans!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

My cookbook is finally published! You can find it on Search “all” then select “books” and enter:
Dad's Home Cooking: Traditional Recipes for Preparing Healthy Family Meals 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Today I picked some Brussels Sprouts from my winter garden for lunch. They survived the 25 degree F temperatures we had this month without any protection. The plant starts were set out in the garden on August 9, 2012. The sprouts will be steamed and served with butter, salt and pepper.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Last evening was Mexican food for dinner guests. I made three dishes: Enchiladas Rojas, Refried Beans and Spanish Rice. They were served buffet style with shredded lettuce. I had lots of leftovers that can be frozen and used at a later date.

These recipes are from my soon to be published cookbook Dad's Home Cooking, Traditional Recipes for Preparing Healthy Family Meals.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Its time to order seeds for this year's garden! I typically plant about 60 different garden vegetables that includes generally 12 varieties of sweet and hot peppers and 7 varieties of tomatoes. The first step is to inventory all the seeds that I have on hand from previous seasons and determine which ones are in sufficient quantities for this year's planting. I toss the few that are past the "use by" date. I try to buy in quantities that can be used by the "use by" date. Some seeds are good for only 1 year but most are good for 2 to 4 years. I then list all of the seed and mark any that I need to buy. I buy primarily from 2 different catalog seed houses, plus potato seed and onion plants from 2 more suppliers. Most of the seed I buy has been field tested to suit my marine climate. This is very important to plant varieties that will grow in your area. As an example I only grow "Maestro" shelling peas as they are resistant to enation and powdery mildew. Planting any other variety in my area will result in total crop failure. Since my area has moderate summer temperatures, I limit plantings to varieties that will mature in the shortest time possible. The seed catalogs provide the maturity dates so if I see a variety that has a 100 day maturity I don't buy it, but instead try to find something under 80 days or less. I always check the seed catalogs for new varieties that I may be interested in trying.

This year I needed to buy only 12 seed packets and I  have ordered 2 varieties of seed potatoes and 4 varieties of storage onions. Since the potatoes and onions are both "live", I gave both suppliers a "ship date" so the ordered items arrive at or near the time of planting. When to ship is important especially with onions as your planting latitude and time of planting is very important to growing successful crops.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Need something tasty on a cool winter day? One of my favorites is Caldillo (Mexican Stew) served with pinto beans and warm buttered flour tortillas. The stew and beans take awhile to cook so start 3 to 4 hours before serving.  Leftovers can be frozen for use later when a quick meal is needed. Both of these recipes are in my soon to be published cookbook Dad's Home Cooking, Traditional Recipes for Preparing Healthy Family Meals.