Archive | July, 2010

Peaches and Cream Ice Cream

26 Jul

Peaches and Cream Ice Cream

A couple of days ago, I realized I had three small doughnut peaches left over from my last CSA box.  Miraculously they were not super mushy or moldy.  I knew that they didn’t have many days left of being viable, so I thought I’d do something creative with them.

My favorite ice creams are made with cream, milk, sugar, and flavoring – no eggs involved.  I thought I’d try to add these peaches to a basic sweet cream base.  Almonds go nicely with peaches, too, so I thought perhaps I’d add a little almond extract.

The result was a subtle, lightly flavored ice cream that tastes like a bowl of peaches and whipped cream.  It’s far less peach-y than normal peach-flavored ice cream, and doesn’t have a bright orange color, but it’s refreshing and cool and quite tasty!  The only thing I’d consider changing next time would be to cook the peaches slightly before adding them to the ice cream base – I think it would help bring out the ripe peach flavor.  If you didn’t cook them, though, you’d still have a beautiful ice cream to enjoy!

Elisa’s Peaches and Cream Ice Cream

  • 2 cups cream
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup + 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 1/3-2/3 cup peaches, cut into very small pieces, with juice (raw or slightly cooked)

Mix together all ingredients in the canister of an ice cream maker.  Churn according to the manufacturer’s instructions (mine takes about 35-40 minutes) before moving to an airtight container in the freezer.  This ice cream will stay softer than, say, the avocado one I made a few months ago, so it’s perfect for scooping.

A Big Gardening Week

24 Jul

Wow…  What an awesome week for my garden!

First, the food…

Saturday we had dinner with my parents, sister, and grandmother.  I brought over a ton of produce – artichokes, squash, squash flowers, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, and sweet peppers, as well as rosemary we used in cooking chicken – and we had a feast.  We boiled the artichokes with garlic, onion, and herbs, grilled the squash alongside chicken and polenta squares (my sister’s express request for her pre-birthday dinner), had a big salad, and made the year’s first batch of fried squash flowers.  A few years ago, the last time I actually had a garden, we made a batch or two of them, but since we haven’t had readily-available blossoms since ’07, these were a really exciting and fun treat.  Obviously not something you’d make daily (because, um, they’re fried) but totally worth the messy stove.

Thursday night we had ratatouille, with our first creamy eggplant (everything but the onion and garlic were garden-harvested).

Yesterday I made tomato sauce with five big Black Krum tomatoes, and dinner last night was carnitas burritos with veggies, with a filling made from our first tomatillo harvest and some of our peppers.  I also made another set of pickles, since I’ve taken a dozen cucumbers out of the garden in the last week! 

Now on to the garden itself…

The Black Krum and Isis tomatoes have produced their first ripe fruits.  There are ripening fruits on the Kellogg’s Breakfast and Camp Joy plants too, and Sungold has produced about 7 pounds of beautifully ripe cherry-sized tomatoes over the last month and a half!

The bean vines are going nuts – I’ve harvested about three pounds of big beautiful green beans!  Likewise, most of the pepper plants are full of fruit.  And the cucumber plants together have produced something like 15 pounds of cucumbers.  Likewise, the artichoke plant is producing consistently – we’ve gotten a dozen chokes from the two plants that have flowered, and, with tons of little ones sprouting on the sides now, plan to eat these for a while.  Interestingly we seem to have a far smaller problem with pincher bugs this year in our chokes – I wonder whether it has anything to do with the physical barrier (the weed cloth) we put down.

The first butternut squash didn’t actually set – but over the last two weeks we’ve seen more female flowers on that plant than I’ve ever seen before.  Luckily, since it wasn’t producing any male flowers to pollenate them, I was able to use the summer squash plants in the backyard to pollenate.  I wasn’t sure it would work, but it did – and we’ve got nine baby butternuts on the plant right now!  You can see that both pumpkin plants in the bed next to the butternut squash seem to be doing well – there’s actually a baby fruit on the smallest (middle) plant.  The tall plant across from the squash appears to be a bush variety (it’s called Magic Lantern but I don’t recall seeing anything about it being a bush rather than a vine) of pumpkin.

Baby butternut!

You can see my "bush" pumpkin here... This photo is actually a couple of days old, though, because the butternut squash has encroached on the pumpkins' space already!

Last week I got curious about the watermelons in the front yard and brought out my antique kitchen scale.  I tried to be as careful as possible, and gravity was working against me (the watermelon kept trying to roll downhill!) but I weighed the largest melon at about 13 pounds.  I haven’t seen any signs of it being ripe yet – I’m hoping I don’t miss them!

My biggest watermelon! ~13 pounds!

The Jack Be Little pumpkin is already getting really big.  I caged it this week (right after I took this photo) in hopes that when it sends out tendrils it’ll climb up the cage rather than out all over my patio.  Considering that it only ever sprouted over 4th of July weekend, I’m impressed with the size of this little guy.  Can’t wait for my mini pumpkins!

Jack Be Little pumpkins! Took me three tries to get this to grow from seed but now they're happy as clams!

The potted Sugar Baby watermelon (grown from a seed, just like my Jack Be Little) has set its first fruit.  I made a little “sling” out of a piece of panty hose to keep it supported (hush now, it’s not meant to look pretty!).  Hopefully this will help it to stay on the plant long enough to ripen!

My homemade watermelon sling!

My sunflowers are getting tall – currently they’re about waist-high on me.  They’re supposed to be an heirloom variety with several different blooms of various sizes and shades.  Can’t wait to see what colors the blossoms are!  I’m hoping I can figure out how to properly harvest the seeds from these guys without bugs laying their eggs inside.  Last time I grew sunflowers (big giant yellow ones, taller than the house), I let the heads dry on the stem, and when we tried to harvest the seeds they were overrun by larvae.  Ick!

Sunflowers are waist-high!

Two weeks ago the heat was so crazy that my lettuce all bolted.  This week I pulled it up and planted some new things – asparagus peas (which I’ve never tried, but the teeny red flowers were so pretty I had to get them), more beets (I harvested my last two earlier this week) and two mystery plants that were on a table of mixed vegetables at the nursery with no tags and no like plants.  I think one is celeriac and the other is kale.  Of course since they just went in the ground it’ll be a little bit before I can truly see.  (sorry, no photos yet of my mystery plants or asparagus peas!)

My harvest for yesterday was so colorful and gorgeous!

Harvest! Several Black Krum tomatoes, plus some Isis tomatoes and more Sungolds, an artichoke, two small creamy eggplants, some cucumbers and peppers, our first tomatillos, and an okra!

I’ve also harvested squash and beans this week, along with another eggplant and several more tomatoes.  We’re really getting into the summer season here and my garden is thriving!

Swiss Chard Summer Squash Tart

23 Jul

Last week was incredibly hot.  So hot it was unbearable.  On the hottest day of the year to date, we still hadn’t set up our portable air conditioner.  So by around 5 pm it was cooler outside than in and we retreated to the backyard (hooray for having such a beautiful place to go!).   But even so, it was so hot I couldn’t even consider making dinner until the sun was low in the sky.  Luckily, being in the garden meant that we had plenty of time to consider our options, and look around for ingredients.

I’ve written this recipe as I will make it next time – because I was just sort of tossing in whatever leftover bits and pieces we had, to round out the flavors – so yours will look a little different than the photo (I made it with more ground turkey than I’ve written).  But I have to tell you – everything goes so incredibly well together that it won’t matter if you don’t measure.  Just make it.

Swiss Chard Summer Squash Tart

  • 1 tart shell (I made a quick whole wheat one with relatively little fat in it and it was okay, but I don’t have a ton of luck making pastry, so I don’t have a great recipe for you…  if I ever find pastry nirvana I’ll share)
  • 1/2 to 1 small onion, diced
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2-3 sprigs fresh thyme (obviously you could use dry thyme, but since it’s quite strong you’ll want to use just a pinch)
  • 1/3 lb ground turkey (optional, but we wanted to include some protein in the meal and it actually tastes good together)
  • 4-8 large leaves swiss chard, stems separated from leaves, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 oz cream cheese or other soft cheese
  • 1/2 large summer squash (we grow big white patty pan squash that weigh about a pound each, but you can use zucchini or crookneck or whatever you like), cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1/3-1/2 cup sharp cheese (we used parmesan, but you could use a sharp gouda or gruyere; the more flavor in the cheese, the less you’ll probably need to use)
  • black pepper, to taste

Bake unfilled tart shell for 10 minutes at 350 degrees and remove from oven.  In a large sautee pan, cook onion over medium heat in a little olive oil until softened.  Add garlic and thyme and cook for another 1-2 minutes or until garlic is soft.  Add ground turkey and cook for 2-3 minutes before adding swiss chard stems to the pan.  Cook turkey through and remove pan from heat.  Add squash, swiss chard leaves, cream cheese, sharp cheese, and pepper and mix well.  Spread filling in the tart shell and bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.  The top will be lightly browned.  Remove from the oven and let cool for 10-15 minutes to set before cutting and serving.

    Swiss Chard Tart (forgive the awful lighting - my kitchen light went out and we haven't replaced it with a powerful enough bulb yet)

Holy Links, Batman!

23 Jul

I’ve been linked!  I can’t help it…  I’m so excited!!!!

I’m Such a Nerd…

14 Jul

I just had to share that my blog has been getting a ton of extra hits over the last week.  Apparently people are finding my Refrigerator Dill Pickle recipe, and I’m totally excited.  I mean, aside from the fact that they’re really easy, they’re very crispy and oh so good.  I shared them at the baby shower I attended this past weekend (at my friends’ request!) and they got rave reviews.  I also brought them up to my friend’s birthday celebration later that day and three self-professed pickle lovers were in heaven (people who don’t really like pickles all that much – like me – actually have really enjoyed these too – I think it’s because they’re not nearly as salty or vinegary or soft as commercial varieties).

Anyway, I just had to share how excited I was!

Squash and Cucumbers and Tomatoes, Oh My!

13 Jul

I got back last night from two days away with friends.  Today I was feeling hung over (the sleep kind of hangover, not the drunk kind of hangover – we only slept about 2 1/2 hours the night before last, as we were making custom tee-shirts for our friend’s Disneyland birthday) and it was 80+ degrees at my house (no air conditioning, and yes I’m aware that on the East Coast it’s been far warmer for the last week, but here it’s been in the low 60s…  so it was a huge temperature jump and my body really didn’t like it).  So I didn’t really get off the couch until a half hour or so ago.

I knew my poor plants desperately needed to be watered (although my husband was home, the garden really is my baby… I think if I gave him specific instructions he’d have remembered, but watering was not something he’d have done on his own), but I was completely gobsmacked when I walked out the back door.

First, the not-so-good news.  The Black Seeded Simpson lettuce has pretty much all gone to seed.  I cut two stalks off that had fallen over onto my Swiss Chard and we’re having salad for dinner; I’m thinking I have another three or four days at most before I really have to yank them out. 

Lettuce is all about ready to be pulled out

Sadly, mildew has attacked my tomatoes with a vengeance – I thought I’d been successful in cutting off all the diseased leaves, but I think last week’s bout of cold damp weather really hit them hard.  I sprayed them with a baking soda solution this evening and I’m hoping that they’ll continue to do okay.  And some little critter apparently has made my garden his home, digging a small hole through the weed cover and into the ground.  When I’m done with my watering, hubby plans to put the hose down there and see what comes out – I’m a little scared to do so, though, since it’s definitely a smaller hole than a gopher would make (so I’m thinking it may be reptilian).

I don't want to see what comes out when my hubby puts the hose down this hole...

Now for the good news.

This is tonight’s harvest:

HARVEST!

Yes, that’s all from tonight – and I made sure before I left on Sunday that anything that was ripe was pulled.  So this has all ripened over the last two days.  Two large white scallop squash, two large green cucumbers, five small lemon cucumbers, a bunch of large green beans, at least a pound of very ripe Sungold tomatoes, the third ripe Tequila Sunrise pepper, and two very exciting additions: our first two ripe Cubanelle peppers and our first Black Krum (I realize it’s probably not 100% ripe, but I was too excited to wait to pull it – there’s another one that’s nearly ripe on the plant, and I’ll wait for a couple of days to pick it).

HUGE harvest.  So very exciting!

We also have our very first eggplant growing:

Eggplant!

And our first butternut squash!

Baby butternut squash!

The watermelons are looking good, too – they’re getting gigantic…  I keep looking for signs that one of them has ripened, but so far no dice.

Watermelon vines!

And it looks like we’ll have to call an Artichoke Party at my parents’ house this weekend (every year when there are a ton of artichokes and I don’t know what to do with them we have a sort of impromptu party with my parents and my sister and my grandmother, who all love them as much as we do – we make some sort of protein and maybe grill up some polenta and boil a ton of artichokes and eat them until we can’t eat any more).  Two big ones are on the plants, with a ton of smaller ones.  YUM.

Artichokes!

We also have three purple bell peppers on the plant, and they’re getting bigger by the day.  Can’t wait to stuff them!

Bell pepper

And the Jack Be Little pumpkin sent up its first true leaves!

Pumpkin leaves

The sunflowers are getting tall too!

Sunflowers!

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to make my dinner…  Salad straight from the garden!

4th of July

9 Jul

I know it’s a little late, but our 4th of July celebration was a blast!  Lots of great food, two of our favorite people, and a perfect place to see fireworks.

Unfortunately I have to admit that I sort of forgot to take photos.

It’s weird taking pictures of things when there are just four of you there…  Maybe if I was with other friends who liked to blog about their yummy eats (um, Jennie, I’m looking at you!), it wouldn’t have been awkward…  But as it was, it was.  So I’ll just describe instead.

When Mike and Jess got here, we had fruit and cheese plates (otherwise known as the reason to always keep a box of nice crackers in the cupboard…  around 1 pm I realized I’d overlooked any food for munching with sangria and hastily threw them together from what we had in our fridge and cupboard, but you’d have never known, because between 4 kinds of yummy cheese, frozen grapes, and strawberries, peaches, oranges, and passion fruit, they looked beautiful!) and a strawberry sangria that they’d brought over (so yummy, and I have the recipe now!).

For dinner, we had hamburgers (I have the best burger recipe in the world and will share it with you next time I make them…  seriously, so juicy and tasty – and even Jess’ turkey burger tasted awesome using the same recipe) with carmelized onions, corn on the cob cooked on the grill, a big green salad, my pickles (they turned out so good that I’m getting requests to bring them places!), and chips.  That last one is another lesson – always have a backup plan – because I’d actually intended on having sweet potato fries.  Unfortunately hubby insisted on using his mandoline slicer, which is fantastic, but on the thickest setting the thing cut the fries so very very tiny that the outsides burned before the insides cooked.  We ended up with a bunch of raw hockey pucks.  Plan B!

After a vigorous game of Balderdash (Mike and Jess are our board game buddies – we’ve been having dinner and game nights every month or so since they moved down from LA), we left for a top secret fireworks viewing spot.  Hey, I know how it can get when people crowd in!  We found parking relatively easy there and I’d like to do so again next year!  We brought out picnic blankets and sipped on travel cups of coffee and ate cupcakes while we waited for the shows to start – we ended up seeing seven or eight different shows at various times, so it was a great place to watch!

The cupcakes were pretty good, especially considering that it wasn’t my intention to make vanilla cupcakes with strawberry cheesecake frosting.  In fact, I set out to do red, white, and blue ones again.  This time, I decided I’d make them with blueberries instead of blue-dyed cocoa.  We went to the Farmer’s Market and picked up some ripe strawberries and blueberries and I pureed them to add to the cake batter.

Now, here’s where it gets sketchy.  I don’t know whether it was the fact that I was using twice as many berries as last year or whether it had more to do with the cake recipe I was using (which was not the same one as last year’s).  But instead of being heavy, dense, and impossible to eat, this batch was light, gummy, and impossible to eat.  So much so that I didn’t even take a photograph before I dumped the whole thing in the trash (which was a shame, because they did have a nice bright color to them).

Luckily I’d made an error earlier on in the baking process.  I was planning to half a recipe I had, that makes 24 cupcakes, to make this year’s batch of three-colored cakes.  I halved the butter and the sugar and the flour and the salt… But when it came to the eggs, I just cracked them in – two whole eggs and two egg whites – and realized as they were mixing into the batter that a half recipe was just one whole egg and one egg white.  Oops.

So I hastily softened some more butter and measured out the rest of the ingredients.  Luckily, I did – because I ended up with 12 extra vanilla cupcakes when all was said and done.  And the strawberry cheesecake frosting was totally worth it (yes, I’ll put up a recipe, but it might not be till later in the month when I use the now-frozen leftover frosting for something).

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