Friday, August 29, 2008

Chips & Dip

Snacks are really scarce around my house. Celery and peanut butter, carrots and celery sticks (sometime with dip,) my lame porridge bread with honey, cherry tomatoes, a few grapes. That's about it.

So I was delighted when Cousin Kathy sent me this gluten free chip recipe from her low carb collection. No corn for me, so I'd been looking for a replacement chip for salsa and hearty dips. This is a great chip!

Zucchini Chips

1 large zucchini (I used a yellow one)
2 eggs
2 cups shredded cheese (I used Monterey jack)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Grease 2 cookie sheets.

Cut the ends from zucchini. Shred. Mix with egg and cheese. Make 6-8" circles on greased cookie sheets. I used a rubber spatula to get spread them thin. Bake at 450 degrees for 12 minutes. Loosen and flip the circles. Bake for another 5 minutes.

With a pizza cutter, cut rounds into triangles.

Let cool on a rack for 6 - 8 hrs in the cooling oven. Store in a plastic bag or container in the refrigerator. Best used within a week of preparation.

After the chips have dried, you can toss with popcorn seasoning or any dry seasoning mix. I used a little salt and pepper.

Cousin Kathy is an actress, and now a professor in a university drama department in Florida. Her appearance has always been part of her job. That's tough, all day, every day, no matter what. She's always looked beautiful, wispy and stunning to me. I have trouble just being appropriately dressed and having my hair combed when I leave the house. We shared lots of recipes before I went gluten free. I'm glad we still can. Break a leg in your new teaching position, Cuz!

And here's that dip recipe I've been dying to make with my sun dried tomatoes:

4 dried New Mexico chiles
3T minced fresh hot pepper (I used hot banana pepper)
3/4 C sun dried cherry tomatoes (or cut larger ones into pieces)
1/2 small onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 T minced chives
1 T minced garlic chives
1/4 C olive oil
3 T cider or red wine vinegar
1/8 t salt

5 ounces fresh goat cheese.

Cut the dried chiles in half. Remove the seeds and discard. With a really sharp knife, cut the chiles into small pieces. Put the pieces in a bowl and cover with hot water. Let soak 30 minutes.

Put the sun dried tomatoes in a separate bowl and cover them with hot water. Let soak about 15 minutes. Get your goat cheese (I've substituted cream cheese in the past) out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature.

While they are soaking, cut up all your fresh ingredients.

Mix all you ingredients (except goat cheese) in a bowl. Leave the blow in the refrigerator for at least an hour, so the flavors can blend. Spread the goat cheese on a serving plate. Cover with wrap and put that in the fridge. They can stay in the fridge for a day or two before you assemble the finished dish. When ready to serve, just spread the tomato chile topping over the goat cheese and serve with chips.

Sorry I don't have a photo of the finished dip. I put it together quickly and ran out the door to a party. There was not one morsel left to photograph.

In garden news, my squash mystery is solved. It's the cucuzzi squash that have taken over the flower garden by the pond. Since I started watering daily, the squash are maturing rapidly. I am already overstocked!

And here's another zinnia with tiny bonus flowers in the center. I love my zinnias!

Happy Labor Day! I hope you get a long weekend!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Popping Sorghum

I was beginning to wonder about my sorghum crop. The stalks had grown over seven feet tall, but there was no sign of the grains I coveted. I waited. I waited some more. Just last week the first tassels appeared!

Within a couple of days, many of my stalks were sprouting tassels. They are heavy with grain. The plants are now eight feet tall. The grains need to ripen before harvest. I'm not sure how long. I'll do a little research. I think I have figured out a plan to remove the grains. I plan to put several tassels inside a clean pillow case and beat them against a rock. Sounds logical to me, but this is my first sorghum crop. Let me know if you have better idea.

My pole bean tower looks miniature in the background.

This is a baby squash. It's either a cucuzzi or a tromboncino. They are nearly the same squash, but tromboncino has a bulbous end, like a trombone. Cucuzzi does not. I planted both varieties. One has survived. I guess I'll know which one when that first one ripens. Two vining squash plants have taken over the pond garden. I'm trying to keep the vines from heading onto the grass at the bottom of the hill. I'd like to keep them safely out of mowing range. Above the pond, they are crossing the sidewalk and may be heading into the house soon. Eeek!

For months this plant has produced only vines, HUGE leaves and blooms. I'm happy it's finally setting fruit.

I'm still picking tomatoes every day. These little Roma tomatoes are called "Juliet." I peeled and quartered them and put them in a jar of cider vinegar to soak for a few days. The vinegar draws out the tomato "plasma" and tomato flavor. It makes a tasty vinaigrette!

I got a deal on some red raspberries at my little fruit market - six pints for $5! After paying $3 for one pint of blackberries at the chic farmers market, I couldn't pass up this bargain. A few of the berries were past their prime, but most were still perfect. They are jelly now.

Since my pectin experiments all resulted in itchy skin, I've gone back to my pioneer jelly recipe - 1 cup of fruit or juice, 3/4/ to 1 cup sugar, a squeeze of lime juice. Bring to a boil then simmer until the mixture coats the spoon and only three drops fall. Then I skim the foam, put it in jars and process for 10 minutes.

Here's a creamy yellow zinnia with bonus flowers inside.

I'm still picking beans nearly every day. We've had some cool nights, so the tomatoes are setting on their late fruit. I'm overstocked on cute lavender eggplant. I can't give them away! Once again, I wish you lived on my street so I could leave some on your doorstep. I have a million baby squash on my miles of vines. If even half of them mature, I'll be seriously overloaded!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

I'm Back!

No, I didn't go anywhere. I went to my back yard every day. I picked lots of vegetables. I stayed up late every night - freezing, pickling and canning. I've enjoyed watching the Olympics while I'm slicing and dicing.

I've finished my first "science fair project" using ground okra in place of xanthan gum or guar gum. I learned a lot and I'm ready for my next okra experiment.

Okra, the whole plant, is sticky, gummy. I have to wash my hands after picking it in the garden. The water that I cook okra in is gummy. So I thought the whole plant might be useful. I decided to start with whole okra, dried in the dehydrator. I was too impatient to let it air-dry.

So the first lesson I learned is: Let the okra air-dry. Ha! The dehydrator shrunk it to miniature size. The air-dried pods remain their full size. Since it would have been impossible to get the seeds out of the tiny dried pods, I ground up the whole pod with my mortar and pestle.

This is when I learned lesson second lesson: Only grind the seeds. The pods are too tough and stringy to turn to powder.

For my first okra baking challenge, I used water I had boiled fresh okra in and 1 teaspoon of dried ground okra in my usual lame porridge bread recipe. The texture was slightly improved over my normal loaf. Here is the test loaf:

For my second experiment I will try 2 teaspoons ground okra seeds, and forget about the okra boiling water. I'll let you know how it turns out.

And just because I can't resist, here's a guest entry in the Lily of the Day column.

It's a zinnia with a party going on in the center. Looks festive!

While the zinnia had a party, this day lily decided to do a little sunbathing.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Dog Days?

Thanks for all the zucchini bread recipes! If you, too, are overstocked on zucchini, check the comments in my previous post. I've tested the first recipe, and it was wonderful! I was a little skeptical at first. The batter looked different than my former glutenized zucchini bread batter. But it baked up just fine. I still fear raisins, so I added some diced fresh apple instead.

The weather is unbelieveably comfortable in Indiana just now. Now is August. We don't do comfort in August. We do sweltering days of 90+ degrees, nights that never cool us off, and serious storms. Yesterday's high was 78 degrees. My thermometer read 58 degrees when I woke up this morning. Ahhhhhh.

I took advantage of the comfortable temps to do some yard work. I was at it for 12 hours. I still had an hour of daylight, but was too tuckered to continue. I cut brush. I pulled weeds. I used my push mower like a weed whacker and cleared out some big overgrown areas. I carefully pulled up miles of poison ivy vines. I wore shoe and socks all day long. That's a departure for me.

I'm a little stiff this morning. I expect the kinks will work themselves out when I begin "Operation Mulch" after CBS Sunday Morning is over.

To take a break from the heavy work, I picked some vegetables.

Jack: I have your beanstalk. You are welcome to climb it any time.

I have steamed beans. I have sauteed beans. I have pickled beans. I have canned beans. I have frozen beans. I have made bean salad. I like beans a lot. Good thing!

These are the tomatoes I've picked in the last two days. I hope this photo helps my cousin, Kathy, remember her Indiana roots. She and her mom introduced me to tomato pie. The two of us can polish off a whole pie by ourselves. Kathy lives in Florida now. Indiana tomatoes are much better than Florida tomatoes. And the tomatoes in my back yard are better than any other tomatoes in Indiana. No, I'm not biased!

My cherry tomatoes make the tastiest sundried tomatoes. When dried, Sungold tomatoes (the orange ones) are sweet like a dried apricot. But I like red and yellow ones, too. I think they are all pretty together. I put them on pizza and use them for a GREAT layered dip with goat cheese. When these tomatoes are done, I'll make some and post the recipe.

Here is my technique for drying tomatoes: I wash my tomatoes and get out my dehydrator when the 11:00 news starts. You don't need fancy equipment. I bought this dehydrator for $20, over 20 years ago.

I leave an empty tray as the bottom layer of the stack. I slice my cherry tomatoes in half and place them cut-side-up on the tray. I hold the filled tray over the sink and generously sprinkle the tomatoes with sea salt. When my trays are full, I put the lid on top and go to bed.

In the morning the bottom layer is done, or nearly done. I check all the trays, and put the done ones in a bowl. I move the least done tray to the bottom layer and put the lid back on. During the day, I check the trays several times. I take out the done ones, and leave the rest. When they are all done, I put them in a zip lock bag and store them in the freezer. They keep for years in the freezer!

Don't agonize over perfectly matching dried tomatoes. After I put them all together in a bag, they seem to even out in texture.

This is a Baby Bubba okra. It's a new variety, for me. It's more bush-like than stalk-like. And so far, it's a good producer. Good flavor, too! I pick okra every day because they ripen fast. I've used my okra in gumbo, and I've pickled some. It's also nice, steamed and cooled, on a veggie tray with some dip.

I'm going to dry some of these. They thicken soup. And the water I cook them in is positively gummy. I'm going to grind some dried okra and add a little to my bread dough. I can't use xanthan gum, and I hope this will be a good substitute. I'll let you know if it works. The weather is too good to come indoors for baking just now.

I've got chiles! Salsa soon!

Here's a visitor to my garden. The cool temps let the bumble bees relax. They slowed down enough for photo ops.

And here's the Lily of the Day: Surprise! They're Suprise Lilies!

Monday, August 4, 2008

In search of

Gluten free zucchini bread recipes. I'm desperate! Please leave me links or recipes in the comments. (Note: Sadly, no bananas or pineapple for me.)

In past years, I always had a freezer full of (glutenized) zucchini breads. I need to make the switch.

In Indiana, if you walk up to a friend's house carrying a basket of zucchini they will lock their doors and pretend they're not home. Zucchini bread, however, is always welcome.

You know this recipe by heart!

It's my first BLT of the season. I finally picked a ripe tomato! I've had enough cherry tomatoes for my salads for a while, but I needed a "slicer." Winning the "race to red" contest was a delightful flat, smallish tomato called Red Star. I discovered this variety last year and decided they were a good addition to the tomato patch. They are thin-skinned and tangy. And they ripen early.

I used lettuce leaf (or mammoth) basil in place of lettuce, and I had two layers of bacon and tomato slices. I whipped up a batch of homemade mayonnaise using the Hellmans clone recipe from Kopykat. And it was all piled on Carrie's soft sandwich bread. You can find her recipe by clicking on Ginger Lemon Girl on the right, then going to her recipe index. I can't say enough about this bread! These slices had been in the freezer for a couple of weeks. I warmed them in the toaster and they were perfect!

And I made chicken fingers! They are unbelieveably easy.

I eat a slice and a half of toast with my eggs for breakfast. I wrap the extra (buttered) half and put it in the fridge. Some days I spread peanut butter on the extra for a late afternoon snack. But I'd been missing my snack time lately so I had a few half slices hanging around. I threw them in the food processor and turned them to crumbs. I sliced up a couple of chicken breasts and dipped the slices in water. I seasoned the strips with salt and pepper and rolled them in the crumbs. Then I baked them on a greased cookie sheet for about ten minutes. Voila! Chicken fingers! I think the butter on my leftover toast made them extra tasty.

And, yes, I eat green and yellow beans every day, with nearly every meal. My bush beans are really cranking out the produce right now. And my pole beans are trying to shoot vines to the moon. Life is good in Kay's Garden!

Although my gardens need tending (thistles are trying to take over the potato patch,) I spent Saturday and Sunday afternoons floating in my pool and reading. Some of the reading was research, and some was just for fun. We had perfect weather - low 80s and low humidity. I'd planned to catch up on my weeding Sunday night. But, no! I had to go to a party instead! I had a great time.

Bonus! At the party I was invited to the last Indians home game of the season. That's the Indianapolis Indians, our minor league sluggers. I'm glad I gave myself the weekend off!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Stuffed eggplant

Surprise! I finally have a recipe to post! I took a break from my eating-the-same-things-every-week schedule to try something new. My lavender eggplants are so pretty and tempting, I just had to dress them up a bit.

Stuffed Eggplant

2 smallish eggplants
1 T olive oil
1 T butter
half a sweet onion, minced
1 clove garlic
2 medium tomatoes, peeled and diced
1 chopped green chile
1 t salt
1 C gf bread crumbs
Chives and garlic chives, snipped small

Wash the eggplants and cut them in half, the long way. Scoop out pulp to about 1/2 inch of the skin. Dice pulp. In a skillet, melt butter with olive oil over medium heat. Chop the garlic. Brown it in the oil and butter. Add onion and saute for 2 minutes. Add eggplant pulp, chile, tomatoes, bread crumbs, both chives and salt. Mix well. Heap the filling in the eggplant shells. Bake at 375 degrees until browned, about 30 minutes.

Now you've got a great vegetarian dinner. For you meat eaters, I think some spicy sausage or bacon crumbles would be nice additions. You can add some shredded cheese on top when the baking is nearly done.