Friday, June 29, 2012

Fried Green Tomatoes With Peach Salsa and Goat Cheese


I had never had Fried Green Tomatoes until we moved to Virginia.  They don't taste like tomatoes.  There is a citrusy flavor to them.  And they are crisp, not soft like a tomato.  I made them shortly after trying them in a restaurant and one of the tomatoes was just on the verge of turning.  Part of it had a faint orange cast.  That tomato was mushy and not good.  So when they say green, it means REALLY green.

I have never seen a green tomato in any of the local grocery stores, so I guess you have to get them in a restaurant or grow your own.  We have a garden and this morning I picked a few green tomatoes.  They should be huge and green for the dish, but they were lumpy and different sizes.  That's OK.  They will still taste good and that is all that I had to choose from.

Peach Salsa

2 ripe peaches. peeled and diced
1/4 cup minced red onion
you may want to use jalapeno peppers.  I don't, too hot for me.  If you like them add one seeded and diced
I used 3 large leaves of basil, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar.  I had red wine vinegar and it worked fine

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and set aside.


Fried Green Tomatoes

8 thick slices green tomato
salt and pepper
1/2 cup flour, divided
1 cup corn meal
2 eggs beaten with 2 Tablespoons water
Vegetable Oil

Drain the tomato slices on a paper towel while you gather all the other ingredients.  Sprinkle them  with salt and pepper.


Mix 1/4 cup of flour with the cornmeal in a shallow bowl.  Add s & p and stir to mix.  Put the remaining flour in another shallow bowl.

Heat about 1/2 inch of oil in a large skillet.  I used cast iron.


Dip a slice of tomato in the flour and shake off the excess.  Then dip it in the egg mixture and into the cornmeal.  Make sure both sides are coated then gently place in the oil.  Do this to all the slices but do not crowd the pan.  You may need to do another batch.  Your fingers will get goopy, but keep going so that the tomaotes will all be in the pan close to the same time.


Fry until they turn brown and then turn over to brown the other side.  This takes about 4 minutes in total.  When done remove them to a plate with paper towels to absorb some of the oil.


Serve warm with peach salsa and goat cheese.  This was our entree, and we ate everything ourselves, but this would be a great appetizer for four people.

I really wanted to try Fried Green Tomatoes with goat cheese.  Goat cheese has a uniquely piquant flavor that I thought would pair well with the sweetness of the peach salsa.  Goat cheese comes in a small log.  Open one end of the packaging and holding it over the tomatoes, scrape at it with a fork.  This will crumble it nicely and then it will be right where you want it.  The warm tomatoes will start to melt the cheese and it will be all creamy and delicious.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Skillet Corn Griddle Cakes


I was sitting in the dentist's office waiting for Lee.  There was a Better Homes and Garden Magazine and I found a recipe I wanted to try.  I ALWAYS carry a small notebook and started taking notes.  Wait a mnute.  Isn't this an office?  "Excuse me, but could you make a copy for me?"  Of course they could and this was way more polite than tearing out the page, wasn't it?

Skillet Corn Griddle Cakes

1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups corn kernels cut fresh from the cob.  This took two ears for me.
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup cornmeal
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup milk, plus additional for thinning batter
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1 Tablespoon finely chopped onion  I used a red onion .  I liked the red and brown bits in the Griddle Cakes.


Use these or think up your own.  These worked great for us.
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup chopped tomato
1/4 cup chopped green onion
1/4 cup chopped avocado


Carefully cut the kernels from the cob holding the corn standing up and cutting downwards.  Heat the oil in a 12 inch skillet over medium heat.  I used a cast iron skillet.  Add the corn kernels in an even layer and generously sprinkle with salt.  RESIST the urge to stir for at least 3 or 4 minutes when you will hear the kernels sizzling.  Stir and then leave alone off and on for a total of about 16 minutes.  They will all be nicely browned.  Remove from heat and set aside.

While you are between corn stirrings put the flour, corn meal, salt and baking powder on one side of a medium bowl.  Crack the egg and place it to the side of the flour.  Add the oil and milk on top of the egg and stir about with a fork.  Then mix it in to the flour.   See how clever I am to save washing one whole, entire dish?

Add the chopped onion and browned corn. 


Wipe out the skillet.  Add a bit more oil and drop the mixture by one to two Tablespoons into the hot pan.  Cook until the edges start to brown and it appears to have set.  Turn over and brown the other side. 


When I started the second batch the batter had thickened and I added a wee bit more milk, probably about 1 Tablespoon.

Top each Griddle Cake with the sour cream first and then the other toppings. 

We ate ours as the main dish.  They would be great as an appetizer or a side dish.  We couldn't eat all of them so we will save the rest for breakfast and have them with butter and maple syrup.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Berry Picking Techniques

There is a technique to picking wild blackberries.  Fisrt you have to dress in long sleeves and long pants.  My sister-in-law recommends chaps and I think this would be appropriate.  I currently look like I am a heroin addict.  Puncture wounds all over me.  I use a floppy Coolibar hat to help with the sun issue on face and neck. 


Then you have to use sunscreen on all exposed areas.  Then spray all openings with OFF!  I did that yesterday and forgot today.  After two hours of picking I found 4 ticks on my person.  I KNEW I should have gone back and sprayed myself as soon as I remembered, but I didn't.  You have to accept the consequences of your actions.  I just hope the consequences don't include Lyme disease!


The blackberries ripen at different times, so there will be small green buds and orange and red berries all the way to the very dark black berries.  Don't pick any but the black ones as they will be very sour.  Some look like raspberries and so pretty.  Do not be tempted.

Gently grasp the berry and sort of roll it with your fingers.  If it comes off easily, it is ripe.  Don't force it.  It is exciting (small town, small pleasures) to find a whole CLUMP of ripe ones.  If that happens I place my light weight plastic picking bowl under the cane and roll all the berries right into it.  This also gets you fewer pokes in the backs of your arms as you reach in to pick and back out to drop the berry in the bowl.  If at all possible push the bowl under the berry. 


I use my left hand and leg to push the thorns away from my which is why it has the most of honor!  I also stomp quite a bit as I want to let any snakes in there know that I am coming so they can move off.  Don't like snakes.

Virginia has rattlesnakes and cottonmouths and other poisonous snakes.  I grew up in the mountains and deserts of California and have had pet snakes.  I have killed and skinned rattlesnakes.  But I don't like them and would prefer to avoid them.  We have only seen black snakes.  We like black snakes because they eat other snakes.  They can leave a nasty bite, though.  Hence the stomping.

Then it is just a matter of perservering.  It hasn't really gotten hot, yet.  That all ends tomorrow, so I am glad I have two batches of jam under my belt.  I mean, in my pantry.

When you pick, you tend to wander along the berry patches.  I ended up about 10 acres from where Lee was using the tractor.  I hadn't seen the dog in quite some time.  Then I heard a sound behind me.  It sounded sort of like a combination of a snort and a cough.  My horse makes that sound when she is startled and unhappy about it.  We have quite a few deer living on our farm.  I was fairly close to the last place I had seen a doe and her spotted fawn.  I thought maybe she was warning me off.

Then I wondered if I could be intruding on a bear feeding on the berries.  I thought that I had read somewhere about bears making that sort of sound.

I thought I would drive to another part of the farm to pick berries.  Lots of berries.  No point in crowding somebody!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Ripe Blackberries Already?

Usually the blackberries on our farm become ripe around mid July to early August.  We have been tasting them the last few weeks and a bunch are getting ripe now.  When they become ripe there is a limited window of opportunity to pick them before they get too soft or the birds and other beasties eat them.

We have acres and acres of land that we have not cleared.  The trees are too thick to easily trim, the slope is too steep to be easy to work on or there is a ravine running through the pastures and there is a big drop off.  These are the places we have a lot of blackberries.

Wild blackberries are very different from the cultivated kind.  The biggest difference is the thorns.  Lots and lots of thorns.  Wild blackberries also have a largish seed.  Not huge, maybe about the size of 4 strawberry seeds.  Because of this I don't like our blackberries for pies, but they make great jam and I got up with the intention to get started on jam making.  We will be spending part of July traveling, so I really want to get cracking on my jam making.

Jam making is an involved process.  The hardest part, though is the berry picking.  As I said, the berries are in thickets.  The canes are covered in thorns and there is usually a lot of old growth berries that are dead and thorn covered.  The brush has been know to be a home for snakes and spiders.  At least the June bugs are not out yet!  June bugs tend to hide on the back of a luscious blackberry.  When you grab it to pick it, the bug vibrates and sounds like a wasp.  This causes me to jerk my arm back and impale it on thorns.  It is not a sport for the faint hearted!

Lee bought me a special "glove" to wear when berry picking.  It is actually a rose pruning glove, but I use it for the berries.  I keep the hand with the rose pruning glove bare and I have a glove on the other hand to push the canes away so that I can pick the best berries.  The best ones are usually the ones you can't get to easily.  There is a pain to large berry clusters ratio that I use when picking.  If there is a large cluster of ripe berries, I will work my way into a thicket of thorns.  It is not worth it for a few berries.  I currently have a bunch of punctures on my legs and arms and some of them still have the thorn tips in them.  Gotta work on that.  Need some tweezers.  I found two ticks, but I had sprayed myself with OFF! they did not attach.  Or I just found them early.  The thickets are also homes for our small population of deer.  Love the deer, hate the ticks.

In a few hours I had enough berries to get started.  I actually had a bit more than I needed for one batch, but not enough for two.  I saved the leftover berries in the refrigerator and I will pick more tomorrow when it is cool.

Jam making requires a bit of specialized equipment.  First thing I did is get a large pan that I use to boil the jars in.  This helps to sterilize them and it takes a lot of water, so I started with that on the stove and heating up.

Here is the recipe for blackberry jam

Blackberry Jam

Blackberries    and lots of them  You will need 5 cups of berries after mashing and using the food mill.
Sure Jell    This is pectin and makes it jam and not juice!
Sugar           Lots and lots - 7 cups in fact

The first time I made jam I thought the amount of sugar required was ridiculous.  I used half the amount and it never set.  It became topping for ice cream.  So do what I tell you and use all the sugar.  You will be giving a lot of this away so it is not like you will eat all 7 cups all by yourself!  A tablespoon in the morning on toast or a biscuit is not too much sugar.  Skip your soft drink instead!

Before you start, wash all the jars in warm, soapy water and then rinse them.  Put the lids in a saucepan and pour boiling water on them.  Leave them there until you put them on the jars.

Dump a small amount of berries in a colander.  Rinse well and pick out any leaves that don't go through the holes then dump them in the food mill.  I have a 4 cup glass measuring cup and place the food mill on top.  When the food mill is about 1/2 full,  I spin the handle and the berry parts I want go through the holes to the measuring cup and the seeds stay in the food mill.  In years past I have used the food mill for about 1/2 the batch and used crushed fruit for the rest of the batch.  There were always too many seeds for me, so today I used the food mill for the whole batch.  This takes more berries and there will not be pieces of whole fruit in the jam.  I am OK with that.  Don't like the seeds.


The measuring cup only holds 4 cups so I dumped out the berry juice into a large heavy sauce pan after 3 cups and then processed 2 more cups for a total of 5 cups.  Mix the Sure Jell into the berries and heat to a full rolling boil.  This is where it still boils when you are stirring it. 


While it heats up, measure all 7 cups of sugar nto a large bowl.  Keep a piece of scratch paper nearby to write down each cup that you put in the bowl.  You will lose count and have to start all over again!  A new bag of sugar has about 10 cups in it, so make sure you have enough before you start!

When the berries start to boil, stir constantly.  When you have the full rolling boil going, stir in the sugar quickly.  You will have to keep stirring to get it to dissolve.  Let it come back up to a rolling boil and boil for exactly one minute.  Then remove the pan from the heat.


Using a wide mouth funnel, quickly ladle the mixture into the prepared jars.  You want it to stay hot to keep any bacteria from growing in your food.  Don't go take a rest now, you are almost done!

Wipe the jar rims and threads.  They will not be messy if you used the funnel properly!  Screw the lids on tightly and place in the water that you have been bringing to a boil.  If it gets too hot before you are ready, turn it down and keep it simmering.  Place the jars in the water and return it to a low boil.  Make sure the water covers the lids of the jam by at least an inch or two.  Boil for 10 minutes.


Use tongs to carefully remove the jars.  Place them upright on a towel. 


As the jars cool you will hear the centers of the jars pop.  You can see the little bump on top is now a depression.  If this does not happen on a jar or two then they need to be refrigerated.  It is still good for jam, but not safe to keep in your cupboard.  The rest will keep for a year in a cool dark place.  Like my pantry! 

Save the box the jars came in.  It is great to store the jam in and makes it one trip instead of many trips to the pantry.


Sunday, June 24, 2012

Last Times

There are two different kinds of last times.  There is the last time that you know about and those that you discover afterwards.  I don't know which is harder, but with the ones you know about you can plan for and embrace the last few times.

When I was a teenager I had pet monkeys.  As an aside I do not recommend this.  They are like toddlers forever and need constant care and attention.  (Go to and see what I mean.)  Finding pet sitters is a BIG issue.  (Thank you , Dany.  I know you still have issues because of your abuse at the hands...well, not HANDS, exactly...of Spock)  My father gave them away. After feeding them twice a day for YEARS, I used to wake up dreaming that they were starving and trapped in cages because I had forgotten to feed them.  Horrible, scary nightmares.

I have had the horses for sale for some time.  There have been callers, but no visitors, so I am sending them to a training stable to get them sold.  If they aren't sold by winter, I will have to bring them back and start over in spring.  Now, every time I go to the barn I think about whether this is one of the last times.

There are some really great things about having to get up early in the morning and get outside.  When I had to go to work early, it meant getting up before 6:00.  Many times it was dark when I got to the barn.  While I worked the sun would come up over the Blue Ridge Mountains behind the house.  Now it is bright when I get to the barn and the mornings are crisp and beautiful.  The birds are out and the dew is on the fields.  The horses are happy to see me and it is a wonderful way to start he day.


If I wake up early, I go to the barn by myself.  When I get up later Lee will come and help me.  We have worked out a routine that we follow. 


I take the horses out to the pastures and he goes in the stalls and gets the water and feed buckets to clean.


 I scoop the stalls and the turnouts and Lee refills the water buckets and puts fresh hay in the stalls.  RJ helps with everything.  


We don't put out grain until just before we return the horses to the stalls.  No point in issuing engraved invitations to the wee mices!  If Lee finishes first, he helps me scoop.


We drive the muck buckets to the compost pile, dump them out  and we are done.

Dumping the compost also means bringing the compost bin from the house.  I have started to save the coffee grounds and any peelings and cuttings from dinner the night before. 


We now have a veggie of some kind growing there.  It is probably a zucchini or a yellow squash.  I won't know until the blooms turn into a recognizable vegetable.  I won't let Lee dump anything on my rapidly growing plant and Lee firmly states his resolve that he WILL NOT eat whatever it is.  My compost volunteers are doing better than my actual garden.  Perhaps I can sneak them into the house...


So Lee and I get up every morning and usually spent a companionable 15 or 20 minutes together before going to get our breakfast.  It can be great.  It can be a dreaded chore.  I will be glad to see the last time I have to do it.  I will miss it a lot.  I hope I don't get nightmares.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Help! I Forgot The Limes!

One of the advantages of having mint growing outside is that I can decide to have a Mojito whenever I want.  I had purchased some rum and club soda for just this possibility, but I forgot the limes.  Some time ago I had wanted some lime juice and bought one of those plastic lime bottles with lime juice inside.  I never used it and eventually threw it out.  I found a product called True Lime and bought it for just this contingency.

I'm also avoiding sugar when I can, so I didn't make a simple syrup.  This is when you mix equal parts of sugar and water and heat it sufficiently to melt the sugar.  This is the simple syrup they use in a lot of drink recipes. 

This is my OK,  but not as good as the original,  Skinny mojito.  Make it for yourself on a hot day, but use simple sugar and REAL limes for company!


Skinny Mojito, with out real limes:-( 

Splenda (because we wouldn't want to use simple syrup, I forget why)
crushed ice
limes (or True Lime for those of us that live in the country and can't keep them from going bad before we use them!  Hey!  I just found a reason to miss California.)
Club soda

Go out to your garden and pick some mint. See the lady bug?  Don't pick those leaves.   I have 60 acres so I can plant mint in my garden.  Unless you want a whole yard full of mint, you should plant it in a pot.  I don't mind if the hay gets minty.  Fresher breath for the cows and horses.


Rinse the mint carefully.  I found a bug on mine.  Gross, man.

Tear off some of the smaller leaves and place in the bottom of a tall glass.  Add the sweetener of your choice and a 1/2 cup or so of crushed ice.  I have a muddler.  It is a long wooden stick with a knob on the end.  Use a wooden spoon if you don't have one and tamp down on the ice, Splenda and mint to release the flavor of the mint to the sweetener and the ice.


Add a shot (or 2!!!) of rum and fill the rest of the glass with the club soda.

The thing I like about a mojito is how refreshing it is.  The mint and the lime go great with the club soda.  You can adjust the sweetener to suit and you can even leave the rum out if you are so inclined.  I'm NOT so inclined.  So there.

Peach Pineapple Mango Muffins

On hot days I like to fix muffins and fresh fruit for dinner.  When the kids were little we ate this a lot.  I like a meal that kids and adults can agree on.    Bryant Orchards have a retail shop in Daleville during the summer.  They mostly sell peaches and I bought a whole box.  We can't eat them all fast enough, so I used them for the muffins and the fruit salad.  I used a few different blueberry muffin recipes and added the fruit I had instead of the blueberries.


Peach Pineapple Mango Muffins

2 cups cut up fruit of your choice
1 stick of butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups flour
1/2 cup milk

2 Tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Pre-heat oven to 375.  Spray a muffin pan, including the top so the tops of the muffins don't stick.


Peel, seed, and cut up the summer fruit of your choice.  I used 3 peaches (about 1 cup) and some left over pineapple from another meal.  Canned tidbits or drained crushed pineapple is fine.  I added a mango to bring the amount of fruit to 2 cups.


 After eating the muffins, I thought that another 1/2 cup of fruit wouldn't hurt.  Set the fruit aside.


I forgot to put the butter out to soften, so I put it on our screen porch while I cut up the fruit.  In this heat, it got soft in no time! 


You can put yours in the microwave for 5 seconds or so.  DON'T melt it.  Using the Kitchen Aid mixer with the paddle attachment, I mixed up the butter.  Next add the sugar.  When that is blended well, add the eggs, vanilla, baking powder and salt.  Mix the whole thing on medium until it is a creamy yellow.


Add one cup of the flour and then 1/4 cup of milk and mix.  Finish with the rest of the flour and then the last of the milk.

Gently fold in the fruit.  To do this, set the fruit on top of the batter.  Using a spatula, scoop under the batter and bring it up to the top of the fruit.  Do this all around the bowl so that the fruit is incorporated without smushing the fruit.

If you have one (and if you don't, get one, they're cheap!) use on of those old fashioned ice cream scoops that has a bar of metal that sweeps around the scoop to dump out the contents.  It is the perfect size to fill the muffin depressions.  If there is a bit left over, just dump it on the smallest lump of batter.


Prepare the topping in a small bowl. Using a spoon, sprinkle the sugar mixture over the muffins.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes.  Test for doneness with a toothpick.  Let it sit for about 25 minutes before removing from the pan.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Too Hot For Pictures

Like it says.  Too hot.  Do you know how it is when you get off the plane in Hawaii?  You have been in a climate controlled airplane and now you get hit with a wall of heat and humidity?  THAT is what it is like here.  Except for the tropical breezes and the flowers and the ocean.  Oh, yeah.  And the palm trees.  Other than that it is almost exactly like Hawaii.

It hasn't rained in a few days and I have newish plants that need to be watered.  And fed.  So I did that. Lots of sweating.  Noticed some bird poo on the table and chairs in Roz's garden.  The hose is a bit too short to reach so I sprayed it the best I could and then scrubbed it off with my fingers.  Is this gross?  Is it bad that it doesn't bother me?  I have certainly touched a lot of animal (and human) feces over the years.  I can't be bothered to be bothered.

I weeded around her Pinky Winky Hydrangea.  I told her to pay attention to how I am working to keep her garden nice.  Send me a sign.  No answer.  I asked her , "Now, do you believe in God?  No answer for that, either.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A Throw To Knit

Watching TV when my hands are not occupied feels like I am wasting time.  OK.  I know.  I AM wasting time.  But Lee watches car auctions and car finding, fixing and selling shows ad nauseam.  So I either read or knit...or fall asleep.  Took a day and went to Yarn Explosion in Roanoke.

OOOOH.  Side note.  I discovered they have a day and time for problem people.  That's ME   I'm a problem people!  I can go in and for $5.00 I have 2 hours to complain, I mean ask for help.  Cool!  Now I can try those patterns that appear too difficult. 


I bought an easy pattern for this project.  I found some gorgeous, soft yarn and I will make this throw and see how it is.  I must be nuts to start a knitting project on one of the hottest and most humid days of the year, but I never claimed to be smart.  OK.  I claimed to be smart, but sometimes I don't listen to my inner voice.  Or those of my family.  I mostly listen to police officers, however ;-)


It has been rainy or too hot for a few days, so I let the horses have a couple of days off.  We had a sort of B&B guest last night.  She was a friend of our daughter's from work.  After she left I went to the barn, but it was already too hot.  I worked with each horse for about 5 minutes and then hosed them off and let them go.  I didn't put them in their pasture.  I just left them out.  This way they can get in the barn.  It was about 10 degrees cooler in there and had a nice breeze blowing through.

Then I had to go take a bath and clean up.  Didn't want to knit with sunscreen, horse and excess amounts of ME on the throw.

Later we will go get the blueprints for the basement finishing.  Maybe we can get the permits this week!!!  B&B here we come.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Animal Print Cards

I don't have a quilt or knitting project to work on and I feel kind of restless.  I am planning to do a quilt towards the end of the year when there will be a class offered for a quilt I like so I don't want to start one now.  I haven't found a pattern I want to knit.  The yarn shop is closed today, so I will go tomorrow and look around.  I will make another afghan with the same pattern I just finished, with a different yarn, if I can't find something I want to do. 

In the meantime, I made some cards.


I had some animal print paper that I bought...on sale.  That is my favorite type of purchase.  On the other hand, the paper has been on sale EVERY time I have gone to the craft store, so I am not sure it is such a good deal.

I have some animal rubber stamps, so I tried to combine them with the new paper.  My friend Cheri is REALLY good at this, but she lives in California and I live far, far away, so I will have to tough it out.  Sadly, my skill set is better for following directions than for thinking up projects.


I stamped and embossed some elephant, giraffe, koalas and horses on different colored card stock.  I cut them out and stared at them for awhile. 


Then I went through the animal print paper and pulled out a few I thought would work. 


This involved shuffling through the different animals and trying to see what went better where.


I like attaching some things with foam dots to make them more 3-dimensional.  It does make putting them in envelopes problematical and I worry how they will appear when mailed. 


I liked the elephant with a big leaf, but I have no idea what the leaf is ( a giant fern, maybe?) and I doubt there is a leaf big enough for an elephant to hide behind.  Take it with a bit of artistic license.
I cut up some moss to add dimension.


I cut some paper flowers to look like grass and put the giraffe in the foreground.


The koala looked good on the safari print even though I doubt they have safaris in Australia.


The horses worked on the snake print paper.  I have seen a lot of snakes while riding in the mountains and deserts of California.  Once again it was not a safari, but it seems to fit.

Thee are some embossed animals left over for a future card making endeavor.  I like to make extras when I am embossing because it is time consuming and I might as well do a bunch at a time.  You never know when you might need something specific and find it languishing in the drawer.


I left these cards blank until I can come up with an occasion to use them.  Somebody better need a card quick.  My finished card box is filling up. 

I have to cook something pretty soon.   I am bored with cards.