Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Texas Hearty Blue Cheese Salad Dressing

Fresh Herbs are such an inspiration to me for trying so many new recipes. Above is a picture of one of my Cinnamon Basil plants.

This is my favorite Basil in the garden. I use it in my herb breads, tomato sauces, meatballs, omelets and salad dressings. It brings such a subtle, sweet flavor to so many dishes.

For those of you who appreciate a really good Blue Cheese or Feta added to your salads or even as a topping to a grilled steak, you will love homemade dressing and never go back to buying bottled store bought dressing again. 

 I've played around a bit with this recipe and really can't think of a thing that could make it any tastier or easier to prepare.

Texas Hearty Blue Cheese Dressing

3 oz. Blue Cheese (crumbled)
3/4 cup sour cream
1 1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp. garlic powder (finely minced fresh garlic is awesome)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
2 tsp. grated Parmesan cheese
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil (or your favorite salad oil)
3 tbsp. white wine vinegar (good quality)
3 to 5 Sprigs of fresh Thyme leaves
3 to 5 Sprigs of fresh Oregano leaves (chopped)
1 med. sized Cinnamon Basil flower (pull off the stem) note: the flowers of most herbs are the best part of most herbs for eating, especially Basil.

In a large bowl, whisk together the sour cream, mayonnaise and Worcestershire sauce. Add all the seasonings. Stir in Blue Cheese. Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours before serving.

Note: You may substitute Feta Cheese for the Blue Cheese.

Above is a picture of one of the many Thyme plants that I grow. 

My favorites for the southeast Texas area are German Thyme and Lemon Thyme. They stay green all winter in the garden and bring pretty little purple flowers in the summer time. They also spread, creating a ground cover and living mulch. 

Growing Herbs is such a joy. They can be grown very easily in pots for your patio or porch with little maintenance. 

I love some in pots to bring indoors during the winter months and place in my kitchen window. The aroma is truly a kitchen therapy.

Happy Gardening!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Summer Harvesting

It's such a very busy time in the garden and in the kitchen in June. It's time to start the corn harvest. I'm just finishing the potato harvest and nearing the end of the tomato harvest. My cucumbers will start to be ready by next week so it will be pickle time. This happens to also be time for planning the fall garden. As much as I love going through my seed catalogs for new things to grow for fall, I find it a much easier task in the winter months. I get a twinkle of excitement thinking about falls cooler temperatures and drier air. The temperatures are rising into the mid and high nineties in Southeast Texas in June. By July we will be in the triple digits with equal amounts of humidity. My outdoor gardening activities have become limited to the morning and evening hours. In the middle of the hot afternoon I'm so thankful for the a/c in my kitchen and tall cool glass of ice tea.
I've discovered a few new friends this morning in the garden. There are several swallowtail caterpillars visiting my Italian Parsley which will be ready to harvest for seeds soon. The black swallowtail butterflies are quite a site with the dark turquoise spots against their dark wings. A beautiful garden spider is looming over my newly potted plants and already has a grasshopper wrapped up for dinner. There is also a small bird making a nest in the potting shed. I haven't been able to see her clearly or get her picture yet because she flies out so fast. As she passes me all I hear are the buzzing of wings going past my head. There are no eggs in her nest yet, so I'm assuming she is still busy preparing it for them.Today my thoughts are on my tomato plants. Tomato's are a very important staple in my kitchen and I want to be sure I can put up as many as possible to go through winter. This year I am determined not to have to buy them at the grocery. Our family has eliminated almost all canned products bought in the store. My tomato plants are becoming exhausted from the excessive heat. The blooms on most have slowed down and the tomato's themselves are becoming tougher skinned. It will be time to start pulling the plants out of their raised beds soon and time to start planting new seeds for fall.As I am getting my tomato seeds organized I am labeling cups with each varieties name written on them. I will soak the seeds in a little warm water overnight to help with germination. This is also how I test the seed for quality. By morning I will know that the seeds that sunk to the bottom of the cup are the good seeds and the ones that stayed floating on the top are not good. I've already prepared several flats in the potting shed ready to be seeded and labeled. I'll be planting several different varieties of heirlooms for fall with the exception of two types. It will be very important to keep the seedlings moist as the soil will dry out quickly in the small pots during the summer months. I water them in the morning and again in the evening. I've also made a little heavier soil mix than what I would use for spring. It is basically made from our compost pile, so it is nice and rich and will retain a lot of moisture. It will also aid as fertilizer to the new growing seedlings.

Happy Gardening!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Matt's Super Sonic Cookies

This cookie recipe is actually for my favorite peanut butter cookies. But when your assistant is my 3 year old grandson and as he is watching me put the criss-crosses on with my fork .....well don't ask me why he gets excited and yells "Sonics" with great delight!! Grandma's can't always figure out what's going on in their precious little heads, but we can figure out real quick what makes them happy. So from then on they've become Matt's Super Sonic Cookies. I love the smell of peanut butter cookies baking in the oven. I love eating them warm. But most of all I love eating warm peanut butter (Sonic) cookies with my Grandson Matt!! I hope you will enjoy them too!


1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar (dark brown is best)
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup Crisco shortening (not the butter flavor)
1/2 cup peanut butter (creamy)
1 egg
1 1/4 cup flour
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt

Mix sugars, butter, shortening, peanut butter and egg until creamy. In a separate bowl mix together the remaining ingredients with a whisk. Stir the dry ingredients in with the creamy mixture. Wrap it up in wax paper or plastic wrap and refrigerate around 3 hours.

Preheat the oven at 375. Roll the dough into 1 inch balls. Criss-Cross with a fork. Sometimes it's easier if you dip your fork in water while doing this.

Bake about 9 to 10 minutes. Be careful not to over bake. They should still be a bit soft when you take them off the pan and will firm up as they cool.

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Monday, June 7, 2010

Sustainable Gardening

I had a very sweet friend of mine ask me if our garden was for our personal pleasure. I'm so glad she asked that question! What a can of worms she has opened. The first reaction to her question would be absolutely. Gardening is my passion! But of course there is a lot more to my story. I can look back at my personal gardening history and see how much it has changed over the years. When I first began to garden it was small of course and lots of fun. I knew about organic gardening, but I didn't know how to organic garden. My husband and I have 2 acres in Southeast Texas. It has always been very difficult to grow on. When the bugs broke out I didn't really think to much about using something like Seven Dust on my veggies. I didn't think any thing about using Miracle Grow to fertilize. It seemed to be the most popular thing at the garden center and I thought it was the normal thing to use. I now know it's very normal, but normal don't make it right.I always wondered why our land was so difficult to farm. The soil was so poor and had very little top soil. It was sand at the top, but rock hard. Then there is clay in some places only a foot down. Our whole place could have been a giant fire ant farm. I decided to try and do some research to try and find a little more history about our small piece of farmland. What I found was that our land was originally part of a huge farm that grew Watermelons for many years. Watermelons are one of those crops that will deplete all the nutrients in the soil. Without the use of sustainable organic practices, basically the soil becomes raped of all its substance. This farmland was not able to grow a thing without the use of artificial means which are chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and hybrids.

First on the agenda would be improving the soil. We do this by making our own compost, double digging and collecting all the organic material we can. This is the most economic and productive way to garden without harming our environment. Each new year we expand the garden a little further.

The next goal has been to create a natural environment. I love this part the most. I have studied and put into practice the use of diverse and companion planting. It's almost like thinking of a forest floor and how things grow together. You start ending up with your own little eco-system. Everything begins to work together. The birds, the insects, the herbs and flowers are all to be seen on the surface, only because of what is going on beneath the surface.

My favorite story is a perfect example of how things work together. It is called "The Legend of the Three Sisters." This is a Legend of the Native American Indians.

In late spring, we plant the corn and beans and squash. They're not just plants- we call them the three sisters. We plant them together, three kinds of seeds in one hole. They want to be together with each other, just as we Indians want to be together with each other. So long as the three sisters are with us we know we will never starve. The Creator sends them to us each year. We celebrate them now. We thank Him for the gift He gives us today and every day.
- Chief Louis Farmer (Onondaga)

The story goes: The oldest sister is the Spirit of the Corn. She wears silken tassels that rustle as she moves. The sister called the Spirit of the Bean wears clinging green leaves. She clings to and leans on her older sister for support. The youngest sister is the Spirit of the Squash and Pumpkin. She wears a golden crown and sits at the feet of her older sister.
For the whole story visit the link below:

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Heirloom Tomato's

I talk a lot about Heirlooms to everyone I know. I simply love them. Especially Heirloom Tomato's. They all have such a unique history behind them. Each one has a story to tell. We started our venture with Heirlooms for several different reasons. One being that all Heirloom's are open pollinated. Basically that means we can save seed from them. The plants (if you really research Heirlooms for your area) will actually become very acclimated to your very garden. Another reason we began growing Heirlooms is because the flavor is totally unmatched. Heirlooms are non-hybrids. Have you ever wondered why the fruit and vegetables you buy at market have no flavor? It's because scientists have altered the plants chemistries trying to improve growing conditions mainly for commercial growers for more resistance to disease and insects. We all do know that most all commercial growers use pesticides and chemical fertilizers. What has happened is that all the flavor has been bred out of the products.

I think my favorite variety of all time is the Purple Calabash Tomato. It is the juiciest and sweetest tomato in my garden. It's so fun to watch them grow into their interesting shapes and the color is beautiful. I love purple!! I first started Purple Calabash because of its unique history. It happens to be a seed that was brought to the south by the slaves from Africa. It was the tomato they grew on the plantation. It is so special to me to be growing the very same seed that they were growing in the 1800's. When I get in my own little garden world, I like to reflect on the peoples of that time and think of them in their gardens growing and cooking with this beautiful tomato. What a strong people for all the hardships they endured. What wonderful dishes the African's of that time introduced to the American food culture. I hope to share some recipes with you and talk more about other vegetables the African people brought to America. For something so precious why would you ever want to harm it with pesticides?
And at the end of the day this is what you get after all your hard work is done!!