Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Southern Pecan Banana Bread

This is an Old Southern recipe that is almost like cake but certainly bread. I always make extra to put up in the freezer for later. It's very simple and quick to prepare. Pecans are one of the main nut trees that grows so well in Texas. They are gorgeous tall stately trees that reward us with plenty of much needed shade in our hot summer weather.

Preheat your oven to 325

1/2 cup butter softened
1 cup of sugar
2 eggs, fresh farm raised if possible
1 cup bananas, ripe and mashed up
2 cups all-purpose flour (unbleached is preferred)
pinch of salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1/3 cup warm water
1/2 cup chopped pecans ( I get them fresh from the farmers market as halves, place them in a ziplock bag and run my rolling pin over them)

Blend butter, sugar, eggs and mashed bananas until smooth. In a separate bowl mix together with wire whisk your flour, salt and baking soda. Add your dry ingredients to your banana mixture alternating in with your warm water. Stir in the Pecans and divide into 2 lightly oiled loaf pans. Bake for at least one hour. Check the center with a toothpick. When it comes out clean the bread is done. This old fashioned bread will crack at the top. It is so beautiful and the aroma will fill your kitchen. Cool pans a bit before removing them from the pans. Let them finish cooling on a wire rack.

Oh the Lazy Hot Days of a Texas Summer!!
Happy Gardening!!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Rustic Cream Cheese Apple Tarts

This is a delicious pastry that can easily be made with your favorite in- season fruits

I just happened to have some fantastic organic granny smith apples from the market. 

I've been watching as many of our gardening friends from around the countryside are sharing such wonderful pictures of their baskets full of fresh harvested apples as of late. 

These were the first of the season apples that inspired my tart making with the pure sweet essence of a real apple scent. I couldn't resist the fragrance as well as the need to curb my sweet tooth.

The rustic tarts are fun and easy to make. Each one will have its own unique artisan personality, but all will share the same wonderful taste. 

The crust is what brings in the cream cheese goodness and makes the dough quite easy to work with. 

The filling is really a matter of your own personal preference to flavors and depend on what fruits you are using. Some of this recipe has no exact measurements, but for you at home bakers, I'm sure you understand.

If you happened to try my heirloom tomato quiche recipe, then you will already be familiar with my favorite pie crust recipe.

1 cup organic unbleached flour
1 stick cold unsalted butter, cubed
3 oz. cold organic cream cheese
Pinch of Kosher or Sea Salt

 Whisk the flour and salt together. Cut in the butter and cream cheese until coarse, fine and crumbly.

Squeeze and work it into a nice dough ball. Divide the dough into 4 pieces for rustic tart shells. Roll into a ball and pat out into a round disk. Roll out as thin as possible.

Where dough splits on outer circles, mold with your fingers making a fairly nice edge as you would do for a regular pie crust. Fill the centers with your fruit mixture.

Pull up a section of the crust over the filling, reaching almost to the center. Bring up another section with a bit of a fold.

Continue your way all the way around, leaving some filling to show in the center. It does not need to be perfectly shaped, that is part of the artisan fun.

But you want to be sure there are no holes in the bottom of the crust or at least 3/4 of the way up so that your filling does not leak out while baking.

Apple Filling

6 Granny Smith Apples
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
Handful of Raisins (I used Chilean)
Couple dashes of ground cinnamon
A dash of Allspice
A squirt of lemon juice
2 Tbsp. Organic Coconut Palm Sugar
Walnut halves

Slice and peel the apples. Coat the apples with the lemon juice and the spices and sugar..Place in medium size saucepan with butter and raisins.Slowly cook on medium heat.

Once the filling is beginning to warm and the butter has melted put on a lid and turn on low. Stir occasionally until it is nice and tender and still has juice. Keep it moist and juicy by not over cooking it.

Brush the tops with a little milk and sprinkle a little Coconut Palm Sugar on top before baking. Also I placed a walnut halve on the top of each tart.

Bake your tarts on 400 degrees for about 20 to 25 minutes depending on your oven. Keep an eye on them to not over bake. They will have a nice brown top. The pastry is nice and flaky. Enjoy!

Happy Gardening!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Canning Amish Hot Pepper Mustard

Amish Hot Pepper Mustard

Hot but Sweet!!! Our good garden friend Anna Gayle shared this recipe that had been given to her by her Amish friend. The best recipes are always the ones that are passed down!

I had never thought about canning mustard before until I read the recipe. I knew right away it was going to be one of those things well worth putting up. What a wonderful way to use those really hot peppers too! 

For mine, I used some Jalapenos, Serrano's and some heirloom Italians called Friariello Di Napoli. The Italians are a sweet pepper, but I was a little nervous about getting it so hot I wouldn't be able to eat it. Especially since the Serrano's had already turned red and are dangerously hot. 

After the final taste test, I saw that I had made a wise decision by adding the Italians.It turned out so delicious! You could probably accomplish the same thing by substituting a sweet bell pepper or sweet banana peppers. Keep in mind that I didn't remove any of the seeds from the hot peppers and if you had a mind to do that it would turn the heat down a bit. 

Anny Gayle warned me to try and reduce the flour from the original recipe because she thought it made it to thick. Great advice and well taken by me. Her recipe also calls for using a 32 oz. jar of mustard for the base, but I could only find it in a 28 oz. jar at my market, I scaled the recipe to fit the 28 oz. jar size as well as lowering the flour content. 

Jalapenos, Serrano's and Heirloom Italians

The recipe yielded me 4 pint jars to put in the pantry and enough extra to fill the original mustard jar about 3 quarters of the way full to stick up in the fridge for immediate use. That really turned out perfect, because I don't think between Mr. Garden and myself we would eat more than that in a years time. But, I do want to make more while the peppers are coming on and can into half pint jars for gifts this Christmas.

This is really the perfect mustard to serve with a snack tray of hard salami and cheese with crackers. It also comes well recommended with meats like ham and pork. I think it will be great used to baste a fish on the grill too.  I can't wait to try some in a pasta salad dish or even adding a pinch to my deviled eggs. 

Since I had scaled the recipe down for using a 28 oz. jar of mustard, I put what I used in RED for you. I also made a special note under the directions for those of you that might want to use a food processor.


3 Dozen Pepper for 32 oz. jar mustard (30 Hot and 6 Very Hot) (26 peppers for 28 oz.)
Leave seeds in very Hot Peppers (I left all the seeds in)
32oz. Vinegar (I used 28 oz.)
32oz. Mustard (I used 28 oz.)
5 Cups Sugar ( I used 3 3/4 cup)
1 T. Salt (just a pinch less)
2 Cups Tap Water (I used 1 1/2 cups)
1 Cup Flour (I used 1 cup and it made it too thick so next time I am using less flour)
(I used 1/2 cup flour) 


Chop Peppers finely. Add Vinegar, Salt, Mustard, Sugar. Stir well~! Bring to a boil for about 5 minutes. Mix water and flour in a bowl or measuring cup. Turn off heat~! Add flour mixture. Put into jars. Process for 20 minutes

I used my food processor to prepare the peppers.

 I first poured out the mustard into the pot I would be cooking in. 

I then filled the mustard jar with my vinegar, placed the lid on it and shook it up to capture all the mustard left in the jar. 

I then cut the stems from the peppers and quickly cut them into chunks. I placed all the chunks into the food processor and added the vinegar from the mustard jar a little at a time until it was all well blended. It left the peppers in very tiny pieces, almost as specs which is what I was looking for. 

Next I poured it all in the pot with the mustard, sugar and salt and began bringing it to a boil as recommended. 

While the mustard was cooking, I mixed my water and flour together to have it ready.

A special Thanks to a wonderful garden friend Anna Gayle!

Happy Gardening and Happy Canning!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

What Is Sheet Mulching?

These are not actual bed sheets, although if you had some old ones they could be recycled into the garden as well. But they would probably be better utilized for other projects.

In the photo are paper sheets. They were headed for the trash by a family that had recently moved into their new home. Along with all the paper used to pack their belongings was all of the boxes.

Fortunately for us it was all rescued and put to good use. It was a Huge Score!!

Sheet Mulching is used to help smoother out weeds instead of the use of  herbicide chemicals. It prevents soil erosion and helps retain moisture.

Sheet mulching also keeps all those beneficial microbes and nutrients undisturbed deep into the soil.

Tilling would cause the release of carbons into the atmosphere, which are the main cause of greenhouse gases.

Carbons are organic matter. Organic matter is what your garden thrives on. Organic matter is what makes a healthy loose and living soil.

When your soil is healthy your plants will be as well. Healthy soil in organic gardening is what keeps your plants free from pests and diseases.

There are many different ways to apply sheet mulching. Many gardeners will apply composts and manures before laying down the paper and boxes.

Once the sheets are applied the next step is to water them in. This helps to keep them from blowing in the wind and gives you time to get to the next step.

The next step involves adding a layer of mulched organic matter. This includes things like hay, tree shavings, bark wood chips, dried leaves and other aged shredded organic material.

I prefer to top layer with at least 2 to 3 inches of organic material. Although I've been known to go thicker with it, depending on the application and what the particular project is I'm working on.

For instance, this area of thornless blackberries was top layered rather thick. The blackberries will appreciate the extra moisture when late spring rolls around. Especially if we haven't received adequate rainfall.

Once this part of my project is completed, it is time for planting and sowing seeds.

I'll show you how I do it in my next post. For now we have much work to do.

Happy Gardening!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Putting Up The Sweets Canning Watermelon Jam

Watermelon Jam

My goodness this is so Good!! I'd been searching for ways to save and preserve for quite awhile as I've watched our watermelon patch go crazy this year. Watermelons are everywhere out there and my mind was racing with thoughts of making this a valuable food source during those winter months

Of course many of you have already heard about my Popsicle craze. Let me tell you tho...my Granddaughter absolutely loves them! I got even more creative and blended dewberries in them that I had put up in the freezer from some earlier spring pickings. Then I blended some Plain Whole Greek God Yogurt in them with a little squirt of Agave Nectar. 

Now I need to buy more molds! I know I could make my own, but the Grands love the sippy straws and frankly so do I because of the melt drips. What a easy fun way to preserve summers delights. 

Sweet Jubilee 

So I decided to go a step further with canning up the watermelon jam. I found a whole bunch of recipes for making it several places, but the most trustworthy one I found at Food In Jars. After reading how they made it and all of the comments that fans had posted I felt sure I could do this.

I did not find the need to alter it in anyway what so ever. Although I kind of chuckled when I read comments from people who wasn't looking for the Watermelon Jolly Rancher Candy flavor. All I could think was if I could actually achieve that candy flavor in a jar my family would be extremely happy. Who doesn't love Watermelon Jolly Rancher Candy in the South? 

I'm going to go ahead and give you the run down on the basic recipe, but I did do a couple of things to try to guarantee a decent good set for this jam. 

First, make sure you have a candy thermometer or even a meat thermometer will work as long as the temperature goes up to 220 degrees. That is the peek of perfection for the jam.

I still put two saucers in the freezer. The reason for this is to test the jam before you remove it from the heat. 

Once the jam reaches the 220 degree mark, grab a saucer out of the freezer and put a spoonful in the middle of the dish. Watch what it does, if it is really runny let the jam boil a little longer. Then test it again with your second saucer. If it begins to jell up it is done.

 This was also my opportunity to taste it while I stuck my finger in it on the saucer. YUM!!

Have some fun with varieties of heirloom colored flesh too!

The Basic Recipe
Makes 5 to 6 Half pint jars

6 cups pureed watermelon (remove any seeds prior to pureeing)
5 cups white sugar
6 tablespoons bottled lemon juice
1 packet powdered pectin

Be sure to use the powdered pectin. After all the research I did, I had seen many caners having problems trying to use liquid pectin.

You really don't want to cut back on the sugar here. That is what helps it thicken and preserve it. I made mine in 1/2 pint jars because this jam is going to be considered a treat for special occasions. I can see it making an awesome dipping sauce combined with some other ingredients to use for dipping homemade egg rolls. 


Prepare your canning jars and lids. Canning jars should be boiled and bands and lids in hot water, just to before it reaches boil.

Crack open that watermelon and start in the middle section where there are less seeds. Cut out chunks and put them in a large bowl to get ready to blend it up in either a food processor or blender. 

Make sure you take out all of the seeds as you get nearer the rind where they are usually plentiful. After it is all blended measure out the 6 cups needed into your non reactive pot.

Note: Do not double this recipe and actually the wider your stainless steel pot is the better it will cook. 

In a large bowl whisk together the sugar and the pectin. Add this to your pot along with the lemon juice. 

Bring to a good rolling boil. It took mine almost 30 minutes to reach 220 degrees. It seemed as though it wanted to stay at around 117 degrees for quite awhile, but you can see the difference in the reaction of the boil when it reached the mark.Next time I probably won't need to use the thermometer after seeing what it does.

Do your frozen saucer test before you remove it from the heat. Do two saucer tests if need be. Once it has jelled on the saucer it is done. Fill your jars. Make sure you wipe the rims clean with a paper towel and then put on the lids and screw bands. 

Place the jars in a hot water bath for 10 minutes.

Give this a chance to fully set. Sometimes it can take up to one or two weeks before it is fully set. So patients are needed while waiting.

Happy Gardening and Happy Preserving!!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Sweet and Spicy Pickled Baby Okra

This is the quick version of pickled okra. These go straight up into the refrigerator. In just about one week they should have marinated just right to start munching. 

The recipe is really just a matter of taste. I like mine spicy, but I always love just a bit of sweet to balance out those hot peppers. 

(For two or three pint jars)

Brine: 3 cups 5% distilled white vinegar to 1 cup distilled water. 2 Tablespoons of Kocher Salt.  Bring this to a boil on the stove in a stainless or non reactive pot, just until the salt has dissolved. 

In the meantime you can gather and prepare the other ingredients. Have your mason jars and lids sterilized and ready to go.

Per jar I used:
2 thinly sliced garlic cloves, 
1 very small dried hot petite red pepper crushed, 
Good Pinch of Celery Seed
1/2 tsp. Black Peppercorns
1/2 tsp. Black Mustard Seed
Good Pinch Organic Raw Pure Cane Sugar
Some Sprigs of Fresh Dill Weed (You can use seed too)
Baby Okra

Go ahead and put all of the above in each mason jar. Then you can begin arranging your baby okra. Make sure you have washed it and trimmed your stem a little. 

I know I don't always have exact measurements for everything I do. But like I mentioned before, it is really a matter of taste.

It always looks pretty when you can alternate the okra in the jar. Although it is not always easy when using the baby okra. 

Pour the brine over the ingredients and leave a little head space. You just want to be sure all of the okra is covered, but the brine isn't to close to the rim. 

Put your lids on and let it cool down before you place the jars into the refrigerator. 

I always enjoy putting a couple of these up in the fridge and some for the pantry too. For the pantry they will require a hot water bath and plenty of baby okra to make it worth your time. 

The refrigerated version will last up to 6 months in the fridge. But they should be long ate before all that. It's a southern thing!!

My Okra Patch

Happy Gardening!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Carrot Harvest Bread

We simply cannot harvest a huge bounty of organically grown sweet carrots without making a scrumptious bread  loaded with big juicy mixed raisins and walnuts.

Carrots are said to contain way more vitamins that your body can absorb when they are cooked. So in this recipe I steamed them and reserved the liquid for that extra carrot nutrition.

When carrots are grown in your garden naturally and without the use of any chemicals, the taste is unmatched by any you would find in the supermarket.

I managed to cut sugar out of this bread as well. There are a couple of plant based sweeteners that will work well in this recipe. I used Xylitol, which has become my favorite. 

Xylitol is a naturally occurring alcohol found in most plant material, including many fruits and vegetables. It is extracted from birch wood to make medicine. It is widely used as a sugar substitute and in "sugar-free" chewing gums, mints, and other candies.

 As a medicine, xylitol is used to prevent middle ear infections in young children, and as a sugar substitute for people with diabetes.

Xylitol is added to some chewing gums and other oral care products to prevent tooth decay and dry mouth.

Xylitol is sometimes included in tube feeding formulas as a source of energy.

Dog owners should know that Xylitol can be toxic to dogs, even when the relatively small amounts from candies that are eaten. If your dog eats a product that contains Xylitol, it is important to take the dog to a veterinarian immediately.

Stevia or honey could also be substituted instead of granulated refined sugars. I love using honey once in awhile for a special treat.

NOTE: I love making mini loaves of the carrot harvest bread to put up in the freezer for later. The loaves make such cute gifts too. 

The baking time will be 25 minutes for the mini loaves.

Carrot Harvest Bread
½ cup organic unsalted butter (softened)
1/2 cup Xylitol (Brand-Ideal)
2 large eggs
1 cup mashed steamed carrots
2 cups organic unbleached bread flour
Pinch of sea salt
1 tsp. Baking soda
1/3 cup warm water (use liquid reserved from steaming carrots)
1 tsp. Freshly ground cinnamon
½ cup organic golden raisins
½ cup Walnuts or Pecans (crushed)
  1. Makes one loaf
  2. Preheat oven to 325 degrees
  3. Steam carrots and let cool down a bit. Mash them with your mixer until fairly smooth. Set aside.
  4. Combine ½ cup softened butter, sugar and eggs and mix until well blended. Add the mashed carrots and beat them into the batter.
  5. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, flax seed, baking soda and cinnamon. Add this mixture to your batter along with the 1/3 cup of warm reserved liquid. Beat on medium until well combined.
  6. Stir in walnuts and raisins.
  7. Lightly butter your loaf pan. I use a metal pan. Spoon in the batter and smooth out the top.
  8. Bake on 325 for about one hour. Test by inserting a toothpick. It is finished when it comes out clean.