Saturday 31 August 2013

Bacon Jalapeno Cornbread Muffins (Happy Bacon Day 'Murica)

Perfect timing to post this recipe which I made for a friend's BBQ last weekend - it's American National Bacon Day (celebrated on the Saturday before Labour Day).  This recipe not only includes bacon, but uses the bacon fat as well ... 'nuff said.  I've made it quite a few times now always with great feedback!

I included this recipe in a "scrapbook cookbook" that I started a while back but have moved onto the blog thing, so it's clearly not going anywhere.  Besides, I wasn't very good at it:

 Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Cook chopped bacon - I cook it pretty crisp as I want the fat for the rest of the recipe and it will soften again when cooked in the muffins.  Remove bacon, set aside.

Melt butter in bacon fat. When slightly cool, pour into a large mixing bowl.

Add sugar to butter mixture, beat.  Add 3 eggs, one at a time, beat.  Stir in buttermilk.


Blend in creamed corn, reserved bacon, cheese and chopped chilies.

In separate bowl, mix dry ingredients.  Mix dry into wet, stirring just enough to moisten.

Fill a greased 12-muffin tin with batter and bake approximately 35-45 minutes.

Very moist and tasty ...

Friday 30 August 2013

Vertical Flower Gardens - Good Concept, Failed Execution

Clothes Frame Vertical Garden and Old Bed Frame/Shoe Rack Vertical Garden
I really suck at growing flowers. I'm OK with veggies, but flowers are not my strong point.  I think I had a reasonably good ideas for different variations on vertical gardening, but my vision did not come to fruition.

During the initial "installation" of the bed frame, I kept all 4 sides attached and simply buried one of the long sides in the ground and covered it with soil.  Once I had hung the old canvas shoe rack and filled each pocket with dirt, I realized it was a little on the heavy side and I wasn't sure the "hangers" that came with it were up to the challenge.  So I cut it back to every second pocket.  I had planted nasturtium seeds early in the spring, so popped them into the pockets when they were about 6 inches tall.  At this point, I was going to post a picture (below) because I was so excited about the idea. 

Then I thought that maybe I should wait until they are in full bloom and overflowing with beauty in the summer time.  Well ... that never really happened.  What the heck?  Are all those gorgeous pictures of nasturtiums hanging in massive clumps out of some people's baskets some special variety?  Are there actually 100 nasturtiums all packed together to get that awesome look?  The best mine ever looked was this picture below ... around early July (weird flash, it was the middle of the night).  And I don't know what to say about the impatiens ... I thought they were meant for hanging containers, but in hindsight, maybe it just said good for containers period, nothing about hanging ... they never grew past the edge of the container.

To make things worse, I had not buried the bed frame deep enough, and it fell over (under the weight of the flowers and soil) several times before I finally propped it up with what was left of the post from the For Sale sign when I bought the house!

As for the clothing rack, the issue was obviously just the choice of flowers.  But they were chosen because some website somewhere said they were good for hanging baskets!  I tried sweet alyssum, lobelia, I can't remember what else.  These were purchased from a local store but never grew beyond a few inches above the soil.  I finally broke down and just bought a hanging plant, mostly containing geraniums. 

I even tried planting sweet peas around the bottom of the rack hoping they would climb up the poles, but they never grew beyond 6 inches, then just got tangled in the weeds (so OK, I need to mow and/or weed better next year).

And I took a piece from a broken shelving unit from the greenhouse, propped it up against the side of the house and planted morning glory all around it.  So here it is months later, and nothing!


It's kind of running out of time to get all big and glorious for me ...

The bed frame is staying where it is and the clothes rack will be put away for the winter.  In the meantime, I need to do some serious research to make these a success next year. 

I certainly would appreciate input on flower types, the number of flowers to pile into each container, and I suppose I'll need to look at fertilizer and soil types as well if I want to make this work in the future. 

Thoughts and suggestions will be much appreciated!

Wednesday 28 August 2013


Is there such a thing as "traditional" bruschetta - there are so many variations!  I have always considered the traditional version to include tomatoes, basil and garlic and not much else ... as opposed to mushrooms, feta cheese or who knows what?

The only way to really know what is traditional about a recipe is to hope to find an old recipe reference, or to check out old cookbooks (which I have plenty of, but they all seem to be about French cuisine). My go-to cookbook for Italian food is The Silver Spoon cookbook which is considered the Italian version of The Joy of Cooking.

Silver Spoon's recipe for Bruschetta al Pomodoro is nothing but toasted slices of bread (under the broiler) rubbed with garlic and topped with diced tomatoes and a drizzle of olive oil.  So really simple!  My version is not quite as simple but not too far off ...

I also really like it "juicy" so just a warning that I use a lot of olive oil and the amount can be cut back to your preference.

Mix together:

1 pound assorted tomatoes, diced
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 Tbsp minced shallot
1/3 to 1/2 cup loosely packed, chopped basil leaves
3-5 Tbsp olive oil (more or less!)
Salt to taste

1-2 baguettes, sliced
Olive Oil

Mix all bruschetta ingredients then allow to sit an hour or so for the flavours to develop.
When ready to eat, drizzle olive oil onto sliced baguettes (cut them on a diagonal for wider pieces) then toast under broiler or on grill.  Top with bruschetta mixture.

There are so many options for leftovers.  Use it in place of pizza sauce for a delicious pizza, and another of my favourites ... on a burger with some feta cheese (veggie burger in this case but works with any, of course!).

Tuesday 27 August 2013

Beet and Carrot Juice (and a request for borscht recipes)

For nutritional reasons, it is always better to just eat the vegetable or fruit itself rather than the juice, as otherwise, you miss out on all of the fiber.  But if the only other option is to not eat it at all, then go for the juice!  In my case, I had a week where I was a bit overwhelmed with beets and carrots, and although they both store well, I still had (and still have) plenty more coming.  Hence, the juice.

I used a combination of carrot, beet and apple juice.  The great thing about these three is that the juices all test great on their own.  Both carrot and beet juices are very sweet compared to most vegetables.  So it really does not matter how much of each is used in this mix, it will still taste good.


Because I was harvesting some carrots (Purple Haze) that were growing in containers and therefore small, and Cylindra beets which are not the kind normally found in grocery stores, I used weight as the measure rather than the number of each.

 Juice the following ingredients:

6 oz carrots
7 oz beets
A small handful of beet greens
8 oz apples

As for the other topic ... I used to have my friend's grandfather's recipe for Borscht, and it was amazing.  But I have misplaced it.  If anyone has an awesome Borscht recipe to share, please do!!

Sunday 25 August 2013

Storing Borlotti Beans (Part 2)

Following my previous posting on this subject (Storing Berlotti Beans (Part 1)) and a tip from reader HelenB, I waited a while longer to harvest the remaining berlotti beans to ensure they were ready.  Well ... I still didn't get it quite right, but at least I now know what to look for next year.  Some were definitely ready, but some were still green ...

But the fully ripened beans have the most amazing colours and patterns!

The pods need to be almost dried out ... perhaps some were too dry, but the beans inside still seemed fine.

I harvested all of them even though I realized they were not all quite done.


I pulled all the plants, ready or not, because I wanted to clear the space for something else (I forgot about this red sunflower I had planted, looking forward to it blooming!). 

My plan was to put the new broccoli plants in that space as I had recently started another batch.  Unfortunately, I have some worm issues so I'll deal with those first before moving them into the raised garden.

Saturday 24 August 2013

Simple Tomato Salad

Tasting a juicy tomato fresh from the garden is a very rewarding experience.  Luckily, I was able to save a few plants from the disastrous Verticillium Wilt.  

Slices of tomato (these are Black Krim) and goat cheese (or the more traditional  mozzarella if you can get the good stuff) along with some fresh basil leaves make a great combination.  Mine was all so fresh I did not bother to dress it, but you can drizzle on some olive oil and/or balsamic vinegar if needed, along with a bit of salt and pepper.

Thursday 22 August 2013

Old School Potato Salad

This is based on the potato salad I grew up eating.  I adapted the recipe to my own tastes after I began making it on my own.  When I asked my mom recently for the amounts of the sauce ingredients, I realized it was originally much more mayonnaise-y than I had remembered.  Over the years, I increased the amounts of mustard and vinegar significantly to get this version. I've seen references to "Texas Potato Salad" that have similar ingredients and sauce.

Potato Salad
1 1/2 pounds potatoes, boiled, cut into bite-sized chunks*
5 eggs, hard-boiled, chopped
1/3 cup grated carrot
4-5 radishes, quartered and sliced
2 large spring onions, sliced
Sauce (see below)

* I often mix in blue potatoes, sweet potatoes or yams along with regular potatoes for variety of taste and texture.

Prepare the eggs and chop into a bowl along with the grated carrot, sliced radishes and green onions.  Combine all sauce ingredients in another bowl and whisk together. While the potatoes are still hot, toss with the salad ingredients then quickly pour over the sauce and gently stir together.

Serve warm or cold.

2/3 cup mayonnaise
3 Tbsp mustard
3 1/2 Tbsp vinegar
1 1/2 tsp white sugar
S&P to taste (I like a lot of pepper)

Wednesday 21 August 2013

Fruit Tree Update

I planted three plum trees in the spring, but was not expecting any plums.  Especially after seeing the damage caused by aphids nibbling on the leaves.  But one single Satsuma plum has managed to grow!
There was a very young apple tree already here when I took over the property but it did not bloom in the spring and definitely no fruit.

I am really looking forward to trying some crab apple butter - I've tried it before but let it go too far during cooking and ended up with something more like fruit leather; still tasty but not what I was looking for.  The red crab apple tree is doing well with lots of small fruit on the way.

But the fruit on this "other" crab apple tree are tiny ... I was referring to it as the green crab apple tree because up until a few days ago, all of these tiny crab apples were green but now seem to be turning red.  I wonder if they are just a later harvest or maybe the tree needs some serious pruning next year?  I suppose I'll find out in another month or two if they get any bigger ...

And I just noticed this tree near the house that has berries all over it.  But I know better than to nibble on anything unless I know for sure what it is!  Hopefully it's edible ... I'll see if I can figure out what it is.

Monday 19 August 2013

Watermelons, Pumpkins and Cantaloupe

This watermelon was so ripe it almost split itself open once I started cutting into it.  I was hesitant to pick it; until now, I had only bought watermelons at the store.  I had read somewhere that the vine attached to the stem would brown and shrivel a bit when ready, but that did not happen.  I simply decided it sounded and felt ready.  And it was very heavy (8 lbs) for its size (these are Jade Star Hybrid Watermelon).


I have several of these left, but also planted some other watermelon seeds that I purchased at the local store to ensure a bigger crop when many of my first batch did not germinate - watermelons seem really hard to germinate, or am I the only one that experiences this?


I accidentally knocked a watermelon off the plant a few weeks back so cut it open to see if it might be ripe.  It was white inside!  I had no idea they grew like that.

The small Sugar Pumpkins appear to be ready as well.  And they really are small (1.75 lbs)!  I only managed to get a few for now, but there is still hope for more.  These are supposed to be great for making pies, so I suspect that will be my first use for it.

And finally, one of the white (lumina) pumpkins growing from seeds that I saved from the previous year has started to grow (most of my pumpkins died early from the area flooding during heavy rains).

I had purchased one seedling of a muskmelon from the local farmer's market this year and I put it in a container. It grew well enough to grow a single fruit.  I thought the plant and the fruit were dying but then all of a sudden the fruit was ripe (but much smaller than I expected - which is probably why it has a bit of brown at the top; I probably left it too long on the vine).  I don't normally like cantaloupe so was hoping that eating a melon fresh from the garden might improve the taste for me.  Not so ... I still don't like it.

In addition to the single muskmelon plant, I also planted cantaloupe.  I will give the taste another try when those are ripe, but most likely will be giving those away to friends.