Saturday, August 27, 2011

A pretty night sky

All of the Denver area is buzzing with the Stage 6 of the Pro Cycling Challenge coming to town.  Looking towards Golden, which is only two miles as the bird flies, the evening sky is ominous.
Tomorrow, late morning, the 6th Stage of the challenge will start at North Table Mountain in Golden.   The riders will do several loop d' loops for the majority of the race in Golden and finish in downtown Denver.  Expecting thousands of people to attend this very exciting event that has come to our town.  Looking forward to it all.

Roasted Banana Muffins

I love collecting cookbooks from restaurants and recently acquired the PlumpJack Cookbook.  Their story started in 1992 when they opened a wine shop in San Francisco.   Now they have seven restaurants, two hotels, two wine shops, a winery and a lounge, all in California.  Anyway, I was inspired by a recipe for Roasted Banana Muffins.  
I often roast vegetables before making soups, but had never thought of roasting fruit before adding it to the batter.  So I roasted two very ripe bananas until their skins were black, which was only about 10 minutes, and rather than doing it in the oven, did this outside on the grill while we were cooking dinner last night.
Roasting anything really brings out the sweetness in the fruit or vegetable.  WOW!!! These are great.  I also added toasted pecans, and used buttermilk for part of the milk requirement.  I didn't use those little paper cupcake liners they called for in the recipe, which made my muffins more crispy on the outside which my husband loved.  I'll do this again, and highly suggest that you try it with your favorite banana bread or muffin recipe.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Overnight roasted tomatoes

Going to roast a pan of Sun Golds and Husky Cherry Reds.
Found a recipe in one of Nigella Lawson's cookbooks for overnight roasting.  Actually, it's more like overnight marinating.  Cut them in half, then sprinkle with olive oil, thyme, salt and a little sugar and pop them in a preheated 450 degree oven.
You  then turn the oven off and let them sit overnight.  While they are good like this, next time I'll let them roast at least 15 minutes or so before I turn off the heat.  I'll  also add some chopped garlic and fresh cracked pepper to the mix.  
But I must tell you, they were absolutely the perfect addition to one of my quick and easy favorite lunches: albacore tuna, white beans, kalamata olives and fresh cilantro.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Quinoa Mandarin Almond Salad

I'm sure I've boasted of the benefits of Quinoa, and I especially like the toasted garlic quinoa that you sprinkle on your everyday salads.   I made the mandarin almond salad for dinner last night and we both loved it.  

It's out of the Quinoa Everyday Superfood 365 book that I've posted about in an earlier blog on April 10th.   It consists of lentils, quinoa, slivered almonds, dried cranberries, mandarin oranges and parsley.  Then a dressing of apple cider vinegar, lime juice, some of the mandarin orange juice, a little salt and canola oil.  Really great, and so good for you.  Bon Appetit.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Home Preserving

I know it's a little bit early, but I'm already planning for the end of the season and wanted to share with you the book I bought the other day. 
Just flipping through the pages inspired me to start collecting my canning jars from the garage shelves, along with the fact that my tomato plants are doing so well.
These are Husky Cherry Reds.  I plan on roasting a tray of these tonight.  When deciding which type of tomato you want to grow, besides taste, there is really only one other factor to consider.  Do you want them to grow all season (indeterminate) or to ripen all at once(determinate)?
These Romas are determinate, which means all the fruit will ripen about the same time, and the plants are usually more compact and manageable.  This is the tomato you would use for canning, saucing or drying.  Here's something to think about if you are planning on growing your tomatoes in a container, a determinate is a better choice.
Here we have Super Fantastic tomatoes, they are indeterminate, so they will continue to grow and produce during the entire seasonThey tend to have longer vines and will need more support in terms of staking or caging over the course of the season.
San Marzano tomatoes are great for sauces.  You may have noticed, that many of the recipes from Gourmet Chefs call for this tomato, because of it's deep rich flavor, they are determinate.
These little Sun Gold tomatoes are indeterminate, and will vine and grow somewhat out of control all through our short Colorado growing season.  They are so sweet.
The small yellow pears are just starting to ripen, and they will continue to produce into early fall.
The tomatillos are the last to fruit, and are just beginning to grow their little paper sheaths.  I'll post a photo of them when they are  closer to ripening.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Grape harvest

Walking back to the far corner of the yard, you notice the grape leaves growing off the arbor and trailing down.   It's a great place to relax and unwind.
You are unaware of the bounty concealed underneath the leaves.
Tender, sweet, juicy, seedless grapes.  Even the birds have not yet discovered these treats.
This might be the best year for us, as far as grape harvesting.  Usually the birds, get nearly two thirds of the fruit. I planted a 1 gallon sized Monrovia green seedless grape plant about nine years ago.  It's been producing,  noticeably, for the last six years .

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Long live the Foodsaver

I have been using a Food Saver for nearly ten years.  In case you don't know about this appliance, it vacuum seals food to maintain it's freshness for later use.  I think it's one of the greatest inventions since Pam, the non-stick cooking spray.  The good thing about needing to replace this is that they are constantly reinventing the wheel on this kind of item.

I like the new vertical design.  It's almost a hands free unit, put the bar down and press a button, no more holding the lid until it engages.  The options for sealing- dry, moist, delicate..I wasn't so sad that my old one died.  It's also great for storing dehydrated foods for camping.  And when you have 15 lbs of chicken that you found at the grocery store, you have a way to keep it fresh.

Monday, August 8, 2011

These blooming flowers

It seems like I wait all spring and the beginning of summer, wishing to get to this time, when all my plants are in bloom.  Then I want the clock to slow down, even start going backwards, so I can savor these weeks.
Shasta Daisies...the quintessential summer flower.
Echinacea, commonly called the Cone Flower, is a native plant from the Aster family, and can grow up to 3 1/2 feet tall.
One of my husbands favorites is the Black Eyed Susan, which can also get nearly 3 feet tall.
I'm quite pleased with the production of the Serrano Peppers.  They are surpassing all my other peppers.
And this Orchid is amazing me, it's just as beautiful and full of color as when I  posted it on June 8th, and the fifth one had not yet opened .  But the first one was at least 5 weeks old at that time.  They are still stunning.  You've got to remember, Colorado is a desert.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

I have Kale growing everywhere.  All those ruffles around the edges are so pretty.  We add some to our nightly salad.  Kale is a member of the cabbage family, which in itself makes a lot of people not even want to try it.  But when it's chopped or minced, according to Wikipedia,  it's believed to have potent anti-cancer properties, due to sulforaphane.
Among other things, it's high in beta carotene, vitamins C, K, lutein, and a notable amount of calcium.
Another really cool thing about Kale is, at the end of the first growing season I cut it off at ground level and it comes up the following year. It's actually bigger and better the second year, then you need to pull the entire plant out of the ground at the end of the season.
I'm really dying to make Kale chips.  It seems to be in the 'good for you' buzz.  I know I am growing enough of it, just need not to have so many over 90 degree days...don't want to super heat the house just because I'm baking something.  But I will be making them soon and I'll share with you how they turned out.

Friday, August 5, 2011

More backyard views

I was walking back to the veggie garden for some tomatoes, and something in the grass caught my eye.
The teal blue was stunning.  I took a few photos and then decided to nudge him on his way.  I didn't want him to accidently get stomped on by clumsy dog feet, but he didn't really want to move.
He climbed on the piece of wood I presented and I quickly moved him to a safer place.  He's got to be the prettiest dragonfly I've ever seen. 
My first ripe peach of the season looks juicy enough to eat. 
Isn't this precious?  My girlfriend is lucky enough to have had a Blue Jay nest in her tree.  Something you never see here in Colorado.  These two little guys are just darling.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

New lime tree

Today I found and brought home my new Dwarf Citrus Tree, the Bearss Seedless Lime, from a local nursery.  It  has  many names :  C. latifolia, Tahitian lime, Bearss lime, and Persian lime.  Supposedly, it's a vigorous grower, does well in pots and has consistently heavy yields.  Hope so.
Tomorrow I'll replant him into a bigger pot.  He's  got nearly two months to acclimate and enjoy outdoor living, then he'll come inside for the winter with the rest of our little citrus grove.
Just before dinner I pulled off a dozen or so of both Sun Gold tomatoes and Blue Lake green beans... and can't forget the Super Fantastic tomato. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Triple Decker Bee Hive Condo

My neighbor put the third story on the bee hive condo.  These guys are really busy.  I've been reading more about bee keeping, and it appears there are many urban renegade beekeepers. YEAH!!   There are two hive bodies, which is common in cold winter areas.  Each body is a large wooden box, that holds ten frames of comb. Each of these ten frames hold sheets of beeswax foundation that is imprinted with the shapes of hexagonal cells.  The bees use the foundation to build combs.
He makes a can of smoke to aid in moving the bees when he needs to work on the hive.  They either crawl inside or temporarily fly away.
Now it's time to take the top off.  Remember there are 12,000 bees involved...yikes...
An excluder is put on, which keeps the Queen Bee out of the top floor,  but she still has the two hive bodies (supers) to move about. The two lower supers are for the bees to rear brood and store honey for their own use. The the third story is a shallow super with frames of comb where the bees will store surplus honey.  This is the honey that will be harvested.
 Here is one of the ten frames of comb.  According to an article by Nathalie Jordi, one pound of honey represents an estimated 50,000 miles of flight, and some figures claim that it takes an individual worker bee an entire lifetime to make only 1/12 teaspoon of honey.  Now I understand where the term 'worker bee' came from.  Supposedly, last year, the  beehive on the White House lawn produced 140 pounds of honey.  How sweet!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Bulbs and more

I really under estimated the amount of hyacinth bulbs I dug up.  Yesterday I planted 565 from the bucket, and that was only 2/3 of them.  UGH!!  The local temperature has dropped from the 90's, so I suppose I could get a few more in the ground today.
The wild blackberries are very sweet.
Sunflowers are starting to open.

The fern like stalks on this Bronze Fennel are between four and six feet tall.  Their stalks support clusters of tiny yellow flowers that attract butterflies and bees. 
But if you are not careful and it drops the ripened seeds before you can get to them, you will find hundreds of plants in your garden the following year.   I'm just about to cut the flowers off of this one, before I have a meadow of fennel.