Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Fresh Cherry And Chocolate Nut Muffins

I am quite certain that these muffins were delicious indeed because they were gone pretty fast. I won't fess up to how many I ate personally. I scoured the Internet for recipes and kind of came up with my own version. I find myself doing a little more baking than I usually do in the summer months, mostly due to the fact that we can't find fruit this year that has any flavor and baking seems to help sweeten it up. I suppose it may be due to the fact that everyone has had very odd weather this year of either flooding rain or serious drought. It's either that or all the flavor has been breed out of every variety. Cherries are one of those things that we simply can't grow in Texas. Of course we really can't grow much of anything these days with temperatures continuing in the triple digits with over fifty days of no rain. Since I can't garden right now I shall bake. It is however my second passion in life and I shall not complain to much.


2 cups organic unbleached  flour
1/3 cup organic whole wheat flour
1/2 cup organic whole cane sugar
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 lrg. egg at room temperature
1/2 cup organic whole milk
1/3 cup plain greek god yogurt
4 tbsp. unsalted butter softened
1/2 tsp. pure almond extract
8 to 10 ounces fresh cherries, pitted and chopped
1/2 cup ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate squares, broken up
1/2 cup chopped walnuts


Mix all of the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl and whisk together. Add all the rest of the ingredients and stir together until well blended. I add the cherries and nuts last. 

Fill paper muffins liners about 3/4 full.

Bake at 400 degrees for about 18 to 20 minutes.

Recipe made 1 dozen muffins.

Happy Gardening wherever you may be so blessed!!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Homemade Pasta Straight From The Garden

Homemade Amaranth and Spinach Fettuccine Drying

I can't believe I never thought about making pasta! You've never really tasted pasta until you've tried homemade.

I've found it to be a whole lot easier than I had imagined. It's also a whole lot of fun when you can make it with stuff you've grown in the garden.

In this batch of fettuccine I used Hopi Red Dye Amaranth that I ground into flour. I also used fresh organic summer spinach that I had growing in the garden.

The combination of the sweet spinach and nutty flavor of the Amaranth turned out to be a perfect duo for the pasta. 

Making A Soft Pasta Dough

My basic recipe for making pasta dough is 3 1/3 cups of organic unbleached flour, a pinch of sea salt and 4 large eggs and a drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

For this recipe I used 2 1/2 cups of organic unbleached flour, 1/2 cup of organic whole wheat flour and `/3 cup of Amaranth flour. I steamed about 1 cup of chopped spinach.

 While it cooled I added the sea salt to the flour mixture and whisked it together. Make a well in the middle of the flour and put 4 eggs in the middle of it.

Drizzle your Olive Oil in the middle as well. Squeeze out the liquid from the spinach and put it in the well with your eggs. With your fingers or a fork start lifting the flour from the outer edges towards the middle where your liquid is.

I begin the whole process in a large bowl before I dump in out onto a lightly floured surface.Keep kneading it with your hands until it all becomes mixed well and turns into a nice soft pliable dough ball.

If it seems way to stiff, just drizzle a bit more Olive Oil or you can even add a few drops of warm water to it.

Now cover it with a cotton towel and let it rest for about 20 minutes or so. This will relax the dough and make it easier to roll out.

Dough Is Ready To Roll Through Machine

After the dough has relaxed, I cut it into 4 pieces to make it easier to work with. Leaving 3 of the pieces covered with my towel, I pat the first one until it becomes somewhat flat.

Starting on the thickest setting, which is 7 on my pasta maker, I begin to roll it through. Gradually move the setting down a notch each time you run it through. I work mine until I get to 3 on the machine.

You can take to number 2, but for fettuccine I prefer the setting at 3.

A Nice Thin Strip Of Firm Pasta

At this point if the piece is hard to handle because it might be to long, just cut it in half to get ready to run it through the dough cutter. Your piece does not need to be perfect in shape.

This is homemade pasta and it should look like it as well. So don't fret if every piece is not the same length. It's all going to be wonderful.

Making A Pass Through The Dough Cutter

The pasta machine that I am using is manual. I simply move the handle from the roller and place it in the hole for the cutter I want to use. It's as simple as that.

Hanging The Pasta To Dry

I found an old quilting rack that I had out in the barn. I cleaned it up and it seems to work just perfect.

If you don't have a pasta drying rack you might try hanging it on the back of some kitchen cabinet doors. Just be sure to clean the tops off first. Be creative and find something that will work well for you.

The Pasta maker I am using came from Bed Bath and Beyond and was very reasonably priced. I choose manual when ever possible for many of my gadgets. That way if the electricity is out I can still play.

 After the pasta dries out I place it carefully in ziploc bags for the pantry. It cooks up very nicely in half the time of store bought pasta.

 Drizzle a bit of pesto or tomato sauce and you have a meal. I like to use fresh herbs and garlic from the garden to make an Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar dressing to drizzle on top as well. Have fun and eat well!!

Happy Gardening!!

Monday, August 8, 2011

OurTop 5 Garden Heirloom Picks For 2011

#1 Pick Roman Stripped Tomato

Choosing Heirlooms to grow in your garden can be a bit overwhelming with all of the unique varieties available. Our top 5 picks for 2011 were based on performance, quality and flavor. The Roman Stripped Tomato was perfect in every way. It beat all other Roma type tomatoes grown at Thyme Square Gardens. This is my choice tomato for canning and freezing.

.#2 Pick Butternut - Waltham

This butternut squash just kept going and will provide a whole lot of food for the table this year. They are packed full of sweet dark orange flesh. It is a wonderful winter squash that will keep well and had no garden pests. 

#3 Pick Lemon Cucumbers

 The Lemon Cucumber took off very early in the season to beat the cycle of the cucumber beetles. They were heavy producers for putting up plenty of pickles. Once the heat began to reach into the triple digits and we became overwhelmed with drought the cucumbers were exhausted. I believe if we had a normal growing season with normal temperatures they would have gone on well into the season.

#4 Purple Calabash Tomato

Still remaining in my top 5 choices is the Purple Calabash Tomato. This southern heirloom still remains our favorite for sweet and juicy flavor. Even now in August in the worse drought in Texas history, this tomato is still trying to survive. I'm hoping for more when the weather cools down.

#5 Native Cornfield Beans

The Native Cornfield Beans will put a whole lot of food on the table this year. This dry bean was a very heavy producer and was the first to be harvested out of 3 other varieties we grew. They are a delicious bean cooked and beautiful as well with colors ranging from white to purple to golden yellow and black.

Heirlooms are our heritage and we should protect them. They are the seeds that have been passed down through generations of families and farms. They are the seeds for future generations. Visit some Heirloom Seed Companies when planning your next garden.

Happy Gardening!