Monday, September 15, 2014

Raspberry Jam and Grape Jelly Take a Selfie!

This is my life at the moment!  When you grow fruit, it is sometimes hit or miss whether you get anything!  This year despite the very cold winter and the stink bugs, we have had a bumper crop of raspberries.  The jury is still out on the grapes.  They are still being cut and detangled from cat hair.  Yes, we have a feral cat that likes to climb especially the grape arbor and rests up there.  The Herbal Husband was cutting grape bunches the other day and out comes the cat.  Scared the you know what out of him!

So I will be posting sporadically.  The temperatures are starting to drop at night here in southwestern PA, so you should be doing something with your basils in particular.  Everything else should be OK.  I have my list of herbal jellies I will be making.  Just look at my chores list because I will try to change it to keep you thinking about herbs that need to be harvested.

We have been very cool already!  So I have had to scramble to make sure that the herb garden hasn't started to die back!  Lots to think about!  So hope you are having a great day wherever you may be!  Talk to you later!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

A Book Review of Blue Jelly by Debby Bull!

A Very Quick and Enjoyable Read!
I have such a big book collection that I don't always read each book as they are purchased!  It sometimes takes years for me to read them.  Dusting is an excellent way for me to pick out a book that I might not otherwise have read and get it read!  Such is the case with Blue Jelly--Love Lost and the Lessons of Canning by Debby Bull, a former editor at Rolling Stone magazine.  Blue Jelly is a memoir with canning recipes.  What more do you need! Now that I think about it I probably nipped my herbal jelly title from this book.  Ms. Bull talks about jelly making and canning as being a zen experience.  Some people enjoy a crowd when they are canning.  I prefer to go it alone hence the zen experience.

My kitchen is so small that to get more than just me working on process is almost too many!  This book is described on the cover as a deliciously quirky memoir.  She drops names because she can (pun intended) and because she had therapy, I can relate to her story in some small way.  If you enjoy canning whether it be savory or sweet recipes, you will love this book, like dilly beans, red current jelly and a recipe for raspberry jam when her therapy didn't work.  Just to name a very few.  I'll let you figure out which jelly was made blue!  Even the chapter descriptions in the beginning of the book will make you laugh out loud!  It is really a group of short life adventures with canning as a finishing touch.

Ironically the recipe I really wanted to do was one that she didn't give and I won't ruin the reason why.  You need to read the book.  So some day soon I will give you a recipe for rosemary apple jelly!  Thanks Debby Bull for making me laugh, think and love making jam and jelly so much!  In a similar vein, I have been very busy picking raspberries (because of rain) and making jam.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

It Was a Perfect Day!

A 'Queen Elizabeth' Rose Adorned the Dining Table!
A Fruit Salad with Lemon Verbena!
The Herbal Husband Shared His Favorite Waffles!
My gift, A Souvenir Spoon!
The Birthday Cards I Received!
Time in the Garden to Pick Raspberries and Bugs!
Picked Enough For Another Batch of Raspberry Jam!
K-P Duty for Lunch!
The Herbal Husband Prepared a Wonderful Causa!
Spiedino di Mare
Dessert Rosa for Me!
We Enjoyed Our Dinner and Especially Dessert!

Well, I hope you can see what a great birthday I had!  The Herbal Husband took care of making breakfast and lunch.  Well I did help with lunch boiling the potatoes and eggs!  Here is a link for the causa recipe.  I got to work in the garden.  We had a little drive to Ohio and had a lovely dinner.  Now back to reality and not eating so much and moving more tomorrow!  Thanks to everyone that wished me a Happy Birthday on Facebook and here.  It was a beautiful day here.  Back to summer heat tomorrow and over the weekend.  If you are in the U.S., have a great Labor Day weekend.  Talk to you later.  

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Herbal Harvesting and Preserving Again!

Having Been Getting A Great Raspberry Crop Despite the Stink Bugs!
Well, when we get to late August, you are still not too late to be taking care of herbal chores in the garden!  We always seem to wait until the last minute to harvest, move plants inside, etc.  Don't worry you aren't too late!  Hope you weren't thinking that!  Erase those thoughts from your head.  I decided not to reinvent the wheel and give you some links to past posts I have done.

Vinegars are a very quick and delicious way to preserve your herbal harvest.  This first link is my favorite recipe for nasturtium peppercorn vinegar from Kathleen Gips' book called The Complete Vinegar Book.  If you have a lot of nasturtium flowers, this recipe is a good way to use them up!  Any of the small leaf basils, such as 'Minette', 'Boxwood' or 'Spicy Globe' can be put in vinegar as well.  I just had a beautiful salad burnet plant this year and I think I will be making a vinegar recipe from Alma Otto in Phyllis Shaudys' book, Herbal Treasures using salad burnet, chives and garlic.
The Cucumber Flavor of the Salad Burnet Minus the Extra Protein is Great in Vinegar!
I really don't have extra time to do a lot of fancy preserving techniques.  Well, you are going to say and I can hear it now but you can and make jelly and jam, Lemon Verbena Lady!  Yes, I know but everything else I do has to be very easy.  Here is a post I did in the early days of this blog called Herbal Crunch Time!

So I hope these links gives you some information you may have forgotten or may be new to you.  At the very least I hope you are enjoying your herb gardens.  We have had a wonderful season here in the 'Burgh!  A beautiful day is forecast for my birthday tomorrow.  Will post my favorite lunch The Herbal Husband makes me every birthday and we are going to Carrabba's Italian Grill in Ohio tomorrow night.  Hope you are having a great day and evening in your herb garden.  Talk to you later.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Another Surprise from Benevolent Botanical Greetings!

My Birthday Potpourri and Speak the Language of Flowers Card!
A Potpourri and Card for Giving Comfort and Sympathy in the Language of Flowers!
The surprises just keep coming in the mail.  Yesterday my Facebook friend, Elizabeth Bergstrom Case who operates the website Benevolent Botanical Greetings sent me a birthday card and potpourri surprise with lavender and rosemary among other herbs and blossoms and a sympathy card and potpourri as a sample.  Our buddy, Kathleen Gips brought us together!

You see in January of 2013 I lost my cousin, Dottie.  I asked Elizabeth at that time if she had a sympathy card that might work.  Her husband may have not been comforted by it, but I thought it was a good idea for others grieving.  Fast forward to yesterday when I received my package in the mail.  Elizabeth hoped that I would not have to use it right away.  Unfortunately I have the perfect couple to receive it, because they have both lost their mothers this summer!  Take a look on the website and see what you think.  Everything is artfully and beautifully designed and packaged.  Custom orders are always available.  I have added the website to my favorites on the right hand side of this blog.  Elizabeth and I teamed up to do a Valentine's Day post of Mother Earth Living called Crafts for Valentine's Day and the Language of Flowers.  Remember to think in the Language of Flowers for an unexpected and lovely take on holidays and in times of need.

We are having the ickies and stickies here again!  Last gasp of summer!  Can't believe Labor Day weekend is coming!  Got to work on more raspberry jam and basil jellies.  Life is never boring in the herb garden.  Hope you are busy harvesting and preserving.  Talk to you later.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Thanks for the Wonderful Surprise, Mar!

A Clue to My Surprise with Her Heartfelt William Morris Note!
Next a Sampler of Possibilities from Barbara Brackman and William Morris!
My best friend, Marilyn (I call her Mar) and I went out for a birthday/anniversary lunch last week.  Mar and I have been through many ups and downs over our 40 years of friendship!  She reminded me of one of those moments in her birthday note for me.

You see we share a birthday and anniversary.  Thirty-two years ago I was dumped by my boyfriend and I was not the ideal wedding guest for Tom and Mar's wedding on my 30th birthday!  And somehow she was glad that that episode occurred!  Over the past year she has weathered a couple of storms in her health.  She is lucky and happy to still be alive.  I love her kids like they are my own.  She is a terrific seamstress and she surprised me with some swatches of William Morris patterned cloth from Barbara Brackman for a quilt just for me.  William Morris was a British force in design in the 19th century.  Not going to be a large quilt just enough to cover me when I'm rocking in the nursing home!

I have tried to get away from presents between the two of us and have even given best friend coupons as a gift for her.  I thought spending time together would be the greatest gift.  It hasn't worked very well yet.  I still have hope!  So I was very shocked to find a gift bag in the front seat of the car when she picked me up.

Thank you so much Mar for your support, love and friendship.  Sisters couldn't be closer than we are.  I look forward to the reveal of my surprise birthday quilt!

Lovely hot weather in the final week of August.  Trying to pick raspberries before they are ruined by the stink bugs!  Looking forward to my birthday later this week.  I'll post my traditional lunch that The Herbal Husband makes for me and we are taking a road trip to Ohio for dinner.  I'll share that in a later post!

Friday, August 22, 2014

The Flavors of Summer from the Garden!

Chicken Salad in Avocado
A White Pizza
Lunch Today!
The tomatoes are coming in like crazy.  Not quite like in the early days when I canned them into tomato sauce.  Unfortunately I can't eat sauce any more in great quantities.  So we just have to find ways to eat them every day and almost every meal.  I had an English muffin this morning with some peanut butter and a Zebra tomato which is green if you don't know.  It is one of my favorite tomatoes.  The top photo is from a lunch a few weeks ago where I made chicken salad with a bit of mayo and herbs and a bit of mixed veggies thrown and placed in a half of an avocado.  

The middle photo is dinner one night several days ago.  Since I can't have tomato or pizza sauce because of my GERD and The Herbal Husband doesn't like red sauce, we do a white pizza.  Lots of toppings, tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, ham, cheese on a Boboli crust.  You get the idea.

The bottom photo is our lunch today.  We had a big salad with avocado and feta cheese, croutons and lots of different herbs and fresh tomatoes!  Hope you are enjoying the flavors of summer before it is gone!

The ickies and stickies are still with us.  Hope you are having a great day!  Talk to you later. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

On A Very Sunny Day in the Garden!

Have to Pick the Second Crop of Raspberries Before the Stink Bugs Get Them!
'Silver King' Artemisia Almost Ready to Cut!
The 'Mt. Fuji' Phlox is Beautiful, Fragrant and No Mildew!
The 'Fairy' Rose Keeps On Blooming!
The 'Fireworks' (Goldenrod) Have Started!
In The Front Garden, the Hostas Have Been Beautiful!
We have been lucky and lush in the gardens this year.  We just got 2.7 inches of rain in the gauge overnight!  The sun is out at the moment, but we are supposed to get more rain later!  Hope the forecast is wrong.  Just wanted to show you some of the standouts in our garden this year.  Hope you are having a great day wherever you may be.  What is doing wonderfully (besides the weeds) in your garden?  Talk to you soon.

Monday, August 18, 2014

A Pot Luck Picnic for Gardeners and Friends at Schenley Plaza!

Lemon Verbena Cookies On the Way to the Picnic!

Gardeners Know How to Cook!
Me and One of My Gardening Mentors, Jessica Walliser!
Jessica and Doug with Fans of Their Radio Show and GE Events!
The title of this post may be a mystery for you.  A couple of weeks ago I got invitation from Jessica on Facebook for a pot luck picnic for gardeners and friends organized by Doug Oster, her Organic Gardeners radio partner.  He and Jessica are a very talented pair.  Jessica taught me everything I know about horticulture and probably much more that I have forgotten and should have remembered.  We were giggling yesterday that she would stand in front of us holding her notes so tightly and would start to read.  Two and one-half hours later she would be done and the class would have been writing the whole time!  It was an amazing time.  I learned so much that has made me the gardener I am today!  Thanks Jessica!  Thanks Doug for organizing the event.  BTW, Doug is a columnist and blogger for the Pittsburgh Post Gazette and a garden author as well. 

The event was held at Schenley Plaza.  There is a big tent in one corner that is used in all kinds of weather for eating and socializing.   I thought I may have known a few more people, but I didn't know a soul besides Jessica and Doug.  As it turned out, a lovely couple asked me to join them.  Thank you Veronica and Dennis for asking me to join you.  Always interesting to hear about the same problems or different ones in the garden.  Universal problem is the deer population.  Veronica cooks what Dennis grows.  I would say it's a great partnership.  I had lunch before I went and so I didn't try everyone's dish.  I did love an individual quiche that turned out to be Veronica's contribution.  She gladly shared the recipe with me.  It is simple and delicious!  I'm going to share it with you plus the recipe for lemon verbena sugar cookies I have shared before.

ZUCCHINI CHEESECAKE (OK, so it's more like a quiche.)
Serves 6
Contributed by Mary Ann Fennimore

1 cup Bisquick
1/4 cup onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 cup grated Romano cheese
1 T. parsley, chopped
1/2 t. oregano
1/2 t. salt and pepper
1/2 cup olive oil
4 eggs
2 medium squash, shredded and drained (3 cups)  

Mix the oil with the eggs first (This step seems to help the batter come out smooth.) and then add all other ingredients except for the squash.  Squeeze out the excess moisture from the squash and fold into the batter.  Bake in a greased 8 x 8 inch casserole dish about 30 minutes at 350˚.  (Veronica said she used a muffin top pan for the individual quiches and topped them with a slice of tomato (Hers was a Roma variety.) before baking.

(Makes about 4 dozen cookies)
Source Unknown

2-1/2 cups flour                                          1 cup butter, softened
2 T. fresh lemon verbena, chopped            1-1/2 cups sugar
2 t. baking powder                                       2 eggs
1/4 t. salt                                                      1 t. vanilla
1-1/2 t. lemon zest                                      extra sugar for rolling

NOTE:  If you don't have any lemon verbena or other herbs, I think you can just omit it and just let the lemon zest be the surprise.  Preheat oven to 350˚.  Combine dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt) in a bowl and set aside.  I put all other ingredients (butter, lemon verbena, lemon zest, sugar, eggs and vanilla) except for the extra sugar in the food processor and combine or beat in a bowl with a mixer.  The food processor finely chops the lemon verbena and lemon zest so they aren’t big pieces.  If you don’t have a food processor just make sure to finely chop the lemon verbena and lemon zest (or other herbs) (fresh rosemary or lemon balm would work as well) and add them to the dry mixture.  Add one half of the flour mixture to the food processor or bowl to combine.  Then stir in the remaining flour mixture with a wooden spoon.  This is a very sticky dough.  I have tried to refrigerate it, but it is still sticky.  So make rounded teaspoons and roll them in the extra sugar.  Place them on an ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake them for 8 to 10 minutes until golden on the edges.  When you take them out of the oven, let them sit for a minute or so and then take them off the cookie sheet to cool.

I think I won the grand prize (an automatic grass seeder) briefly.  I passed it on to the next ticket holder.  I don't have enough grass to warrant a grass seeder!  The person who finally won it was thrilled!  They gave away a lot of prizes yesterday.  My prize was getting to talk to Jessica.  Was very glad to be with her again.

The other point in Jessica's and Doug's story is that they had a partnership with the local Market District Giant Eagle stores to come and do a cooking demo and answer people's questions and give organic gardening tips on a monthly basis.  They had quite a following.  Giant Eagle pulled the plug on these events and this picnic was a thank you to their followers because Giant Eagle didn't give them a chance to say goodbye.  I know these two will come up with a solution.  So stay tuned!

Back to the ickies and stickies in the garden.  I actually have a Youtube page started, but it is about The Herbal Husband's flight on the Memphis Belle over the weekend!  How do these things happen?  Hope to get some gardening videos on there shortly.  Hope you are having a great day.  Talk to you later.