Monday, March 28, 2011

Strawberry - Rhubarb Delicious-ness!

Ahhh, Strawberry - Rhubarb pie. Strawberry - Rhubarb crisp. Delicious? Yes! I feel bad that it gets a bad rap sometimes. I prefer the crisps in anything, well because, they are...crispy, but my brother in law is a pie guy, so for his birthday for the last few years, we've made him a pie, with Strawberry - Rhubarb being his favorite. And it's simple. Just mix the wonderful cream (sugar, eggs, just a bit of flour and vanilla all mixed together), strawberries and rhubarb in a pie shell. (I cheated and used a store bought shell. Marie Callender's makes a nice pie crust in a sturdy pan). I got my recipe from . Simply Delicious...and so pretty.

I really like the crumb crust, and they are much easier than the rolled crusts. This is one that the kiddos can have fun with! I don't 'cheat' on the top crust. It has to look perfect, (or like a science experiment!) since that's the part the people see and decide whether or not to try it in the first place. Crumb crusts always turn out nice. This one combines flour, sugar and old fashioned oats, and cubed butter. Yummy.
For some reason, my pies always take on an alien planet landscape appearance. I think it's kind of funny! The crust is always the best part of the pie. The cream bubbles up through the crust, the sugar infuses with the rhubarb to make the most amazing and tasty goodness imaginable. It's actually kind of hard to describe, but in my mind, it's SO clear. Think of a nice sweet chewy candy that's savored instead of devoured, and that's the taste. Mmm....chewy, but not mushy, yummy, good. The rhubarb makes this pie.

And it makes the crisp too! See how the strawberries keep their shape, color, and sweetness. The hubby walked in the door and straight to the crisp sitting on the stove. Somehow he knew it was made for him. He immediately grabbed a spoon and started to dig in, then asked, "Umm...Can I try some of this?" It was much better than giving a birthday pie minus one slice because of a hungry hubby!

Oh, and Happy Birthday to Jeff. Hope you enjoyed your pie!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A Gardener's Delight

Just like any other true gardener, I started to plan out this years garden as soon as last years was done. In December, I started dreaming of seed catalogs, and in January thumbed through them over and over until I got my 'final list' I had to make myself not order too early, as to not have to baby tomatoes and peppers along in February, so I waited. My seed order came last Friday, minus my onion sets from Burpee Seed. Co. I think those are being shipped seperately, at least I hope so, since I ordered 3 different kinds of sweet onions. Something about sweet onions can make an onion lover out of most anyone. I also got these White Wonder cukes, they were free! Yay, free!! I've never grown them before, so they'll be sort of a novelty. Either way, cucumbers are good. The marigolds, I love marigolds, are a small variety, so I'll put them at the edges of the gardens, maybe they'll border my pumpkin patch, and I'll mix a few with my carrots and herbs.

Beans ~ I've grown to love the pole beans. My Mom always liked the bush beans because they were so tender, but she did grow these Romano beans one year, they are so delicious! Flat like a ruler, tender and sweet. I don't know why she prefered the bush beans over the pole beans, maybe because it's a pain to build the tepees for them to climb on, or if you don't pick them early enough, some of the older varieties can be 'stringy', again more work when it comes time to freeze them, and a farmers work is never done, but I prefer the pole beans. Even the Kentucky Wonder beans, one of the oldest heirlooms around, are nice and tender if they are picked young enough. My girls hang out inside the tepees, and I also plant them to climb up on old cow stantions, believe it or not, from the old barn that has since fallen, but the floor and a few walls and beams remain, along with the stantions and old feed troughs for the cows. The troughs have become the 'raised beds' for my beans. They look absolutely beautiful climbing on those old stantions, the same ones that held our Jersey milk cows for milking when I was a kid, (my Daisy Mae, the sweetest cow ever). They transform a fallen old barn into a living, thriving place once again. It feels good.

The squash and gourds shall be stars once again this year. The Ball Mix zucchini I grew last year, were long keepers after they were harvested. The ones picked in September lasted until December, and were still sweet and delicious, a definate winner. The Camoflauge Hybrid is a striped squash, similar to the Tiger's Eye I grew last year. I thought this would be fun to try; another sweetie. The Lakota squash, I'm particularly excited about. It's an old heirloom traced back to the Lakota Souix tribe. I feel drawn to it for some reason. My plan is to use it with my Three Sisters Gardens (corn, beans, squash grown together, as the Indians did for centuries They were the 'original' companion and organic gardeners). It looks like a Turk's Turbon gourd, minus the turbon, of bright orange and deep green. Can't wait for this one! My Mom also planted Luffa gourds one year. They were fun. After we would pick them, we would peel and then hang them to dry. The inside is very fiberous, and dries to the look and consistency of a bath sponge. They look just like the luffa type sponges in the stores everywhere now, but these are the real thing ~ they can be used in the bath or kitchen, or for cleaning the grill, but can still be composted once their worn out. When I was a kid, I thought they were cool, very cool. I hope my girls feel the same way!

I'll be planting lots of lettuce. I have many varieties, but this one is another old heirloom which is more like a mini romaine type of lettuce. It's dark red and green speckled, so it should add some great color to the garden. I'm all for a pretty garden, and I love lettuce. It's one of those veggies anyone can plant, along with basil, that could save a good bit on the grocery bill over the summer, and tastes so good! Think of how much 'salad greens' cost in the store ~ kaching! As far as I'm concerned, I'd rather spend that money at the Mingo Twist (an incredible summer ice cream place around here, it borders a horse farm, what could be better?). Now, the New Zealand spinach is another find of my Mom's. It's so delicious, but much more tolerant of regular spinach, so I figure, why wouldn't I plant it? It can be pinched back all summer long, and the plants will keep producing ~ one spinach patch is all that's needed!

The Petunias ~ love petunias. They have such a simple heir about them, they feel comfortable, and make the holder of this flower feel pretty. I know I've sort of developed a theme for this post; that being plants my Mom grew years ago, but she was a smart gardener, I learned so much from her. One of her favorites was petunias, we had them growing everywhere, and she particularly liked the Razzle Dazzle petunia. It's simple by today's standards, bright purples, pinks, and blue tones with white stripes. That's it, a single pretty flower. I'm adding the Magic Carpet petunias to add to my pots and bales of hay/straw that I plan on using this year for the garden. I envision them trailing down the sides while gaurding my cantaloupe and watermelon that grow inside. Bugs for some reason hate the scent they give off (same is true for marigolds), so I'll get double duty out of them~ beauty plus bug chaser. I think they'll earn their keep.

The peppers will be, excuse the pun, the 'belle' of the garden. My hubby loves hot peppers and salsa, so I've planted Ristra Cayenne, Serrano Chili, Jalepeno Gigante for him, and Tangerine Dream, Red Delicious, and Pinot Nior for the rest of us! Well, he likes the sweet ones too! The Ristra Cayenne, I'm excited about because they are a green to red hot pepper that dries well and fast (I'm all for that), pack some heat, but not enough to have to drink a gallon of milk afterwards, and curl up at the ends to give them a 'cartoon' look. I think we'll like them. The Tangerine Dream pepper is for me. Again, I have this thing with connecting with a name, I don't know why, but this one stuck with me while I thumbed through my catalog. They are cute, small and bright orange. I also love the color orange for some reason, it's a happy color, I could probably make a post on why I like the color orange. Sorry, strange thought. The Red Delicious are for my girls. I'm hoping to keep trying peppers until I find one they actually like ~ without me having to sell it too hard. They are supposed to have a sweet, apple taste, once they turn red. I tried this with tomatoes, planting all kinds of cherry types, hoping to instill the love of veggies without having to force them to eat them. They didn't go for the cherry types, amazingly, it was last year that they found a tomato they could enjoy eating, even straight from the garden. It's a huge 2 lb. tomato, Homer Fike's Yellow Oxheart ~ the most amazing tomato I've grown ( Orange, like a canteloupe, mild and sweet. It barely has any seeds and is very meaty, a great sandwich tomato, or anything tomato. My favorite, and it carries the orange theme too! And it's an heirloom too, which equates to seed saving which equates to saving more money!! Yay!!

Until next time, you know what I'll be doing, playing in the dirt every time I get a chance!! (Smiles!!)