Blackberries are here!

Blackberry season is once again upon us. So right out of the gate hubby and I went out and picked, and picked and picked. Last year I made the mistake of only making about 14 jars of jam. I figured that’d be plenty! But when you share the love and give some away you end up with a lot less than you thought you would. That being said my first batch was 28 jars! I a couple of days I will pick a smaller batch for a Blackberry Ginger Jam with Orange Zest.

Picking blackberries means donning ‘the gear’. For me this is jeans, long sleeve t-shirt, thick apron, gloves, clippers, a hook made out of a coat hanger to pull those out of reach clusters to me, a big hat (which has almost made me lose an eye on several occasions. You can’t see what’s coming above you as you’re walking along and BAM a branch whacks you on the head, or a rampant berry vine slithers up under the brim of you hat and sticks you in the eye. Hats can be very dangerous), boots and an assortment of profanity. Because no matter how careful one is, you will be ‘bit’ by the thorns numerous times. Even with long sleeves my arms look like I have the pox. You will sweat profusely, be investigated by lots of bugs and for me a curious doe wanted to know what I was doing, that is until momma ‘huffed’ and he took off. The more you pick, the sweeter you smell as sugars are released and this time of year the wasps just love you. I have learned not to swat at them just let them hover around. We don’t want a repeat of the 2012 incident. You may wonder if it’s all really worth it? You bet it is! There is nothing more tasty than opening a jar of ‘summer’ when it’s cold and snowing outside.

Blackberry Jam

Blackberry Jam

Now it’s game on! This year will hopefully bring a new level to my blackberries. I’ve done martini’s, jams, BBQ sauces, pies and cobblers. It’s now time for something new. I shall attempt Blackberry Wine! And this is where patience in both harvesting and fermentation will test my limits. I need almost 30 pounds of blackberries for 5 bottles of wine. And since there is no way to pick 30 pounds on my property in one day, I shall be picking every few days and freezing them till I get what I need. Thank goodness we’ve really gone thru that side of beef we bought over a year ago or I’d be in the market for a second freezer! Summer brings so many wonderful things. If you don’t have room for a garden do check out local Farmer’s Market’s. You will be treated to some of the best produce you’ve ever eaten!

Grilled Meat Leftover’s – Make Pizza!

I am a huge of fan of reinventing leftovers. Having made a good dinner I will not let leftovers go to waste. Sometimes it’s a repeat of dinner the night before. Other times it takes on the guise of a frittata or a new tasty pasta dish.

But tonight…ah tonight we had the optimum conditions. See we have had windy days and nights for the last 8 days. Last night I was able to smoke a turkey which was a succulent dish all on it’s own. I prepared the breast meat in small packages for lunch meat at a later date. The leg meat however…oh my but they became a pizza worthy of my dear friend Jean Denham – A Chef’s Journey

Pause – While many of you don’t know Jean, I do and must say I have her Pizza, Pizza, Pizza book and love it! She has inspired me to experiment and branch out.

Tonight’s morsel -

Grilled Smoked Turkey Pizza

Grilled Smoked Turkey Pizza

One round of pizza dough (recipe to follow)
1/2 red onion sliced very thin
Your favorite BBQ Sauce – Big fan of Mr. Stubbs
1/2 lb of smoked turkey meat
1/2 cup of shredded cheese – I did Manchego such a wonderful flavor that went very well with the smokiness of the turkey and BBQ sauce
1 avocado sliced

Pizza Dough -

Note – We like our pizza’s very thin and with a slight crunch. We want authentic Italian dough, and this recipe I got from a great pizza maker in Rome Italy. I think we ate our weight in pizza while there. His name was Marco and he’s been cooking pizza’s for 30 years in his brick oven. The dough recipe below will give you enough for 4 pizza’s. While we only ate one pizza, I freeze the other 3 for use later. Just take them out of the freezer the night before and let them thaw. 2-3 hours before cooking take them out of the freezer and let them come to room temp and rise. Also I do recommend using bottled water, or filtered water IF you live in an area where you water has a lot chlorine.

1 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups Semolina flour, plus extra as needed
1/2 tsp kosher salt (if using table salt use 1/4 tsp)
2 TBS extra virgin olive oil

To make the dough, in a small bowl stir the yeast with about 2 Tbs lukewarm water and let it stand about 5 minutes. It will get creamy and a bit foamy.

The next part is doable on a work surface, or in a kitchen aid mixer. If doing in a mixer sift flours into the bowl and then put all ingredients into mixer and slowly add 1/4 cup lukewarm water. With a dough hook keep mixer on low and add another 1 cup of water, slowly. You may not need to add the whole cup depending on the humidity where you are. Once it’s all incorporated mix on a medium speed for about 10 minutes. Dough will be smooth and springy. You’ll know it’s ready when you cut off a small piece with kitchen scissors and it’s riddled with small air holes. If doing this on a work surface sift the flours on the work surface, add salt, make a well and add yeast mixture, oil and 1/4 cup of lukewarm water, incorporate with your hands while adding the additional cup. Again slowly as you may not need all the water. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes and test for air holes.

Allow the dough to rest for 5 minutes, cover with slightly damp towel. Then divide dough into 4 equal pieces. I use a kitchen scale to make sure they all the same size. Form into small balls, cover and allow to rise for about 2 hours or double in size. This may take longer if your house is cool. After one hour of rising preheat your oven to 500 degrees and put your pizza stone on the very bottom rack.

Time to make pizza’s!

Sprinkle work surface with some semolina flour and roll out one of the dough balls. You may need to add semolina to the top of the dough to keep it from sticking to the rolling pin. Roll it out thin, your pizza will be about 14″ in diameter. Take a couple of forks and stab little holes all over the dough. Take about 1/4 of the BBQ sauce and smear it all over the dough. Now slide the dough onto the hot pizza stone. Wait don’t panic I didn’t forget the toppings. Let the dough cook for about 5 minutes. This really lets the dough get crispy. If you add everything at once the dough, especially towards the middle, steams and stays soft. Once you remove the dough add your cheese, meat and onions. If you do other pizza’s and add fresh basil you want to put the cheese on top to keep the basil from burning. Now slide the pizza back into the oven for 5 more minutes top with fresh avocado slices. Let it cool about 1 minute before slicing. Time to enjoy!

 

The Harvest

My green beans are producing, and pretty good too. I was able to harvest almost a full pound them.

Fresh Picked Green Beans

Fresh Picked Green Beans

So dinner tonight simply had to feature the harvest. Along with a couple of other things I grew like the tomatoes and fresh herbs.

Green Beans, Quinoa and Chicken

Green Beans, Quinoa and Chicken

Ingredients -

1 lb green beans, trimmed
2 Tbl olive oil
1/2 med red onion, thinly sliced
6 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
2 skinless chicken breasts, diced (I used the ones from a rotisserie chicken from Costco. If you want to cook your own you can roast them, boil them or however is your favorite method)
2 large fresh tomatoes, diced (if none available one can of organic diced tomatoes, drained)
1 cup quinoa
2 cups chicken stock
Fresh Herbs – I used 1 Tbl oregano, 2 tsp thyme leaves, 2 Tbl basil
Red Pepper Flakes – Optional and to Taste (I did about 1/8 of a tsp)

Directions -

Cook the green beans till tender, drain and rinse with cold water. Set aside.

In 2 quart pan, bring chicken stock to boil, add add quinoa, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit, fluff with fork when ready to use.

While quinoa is cooking, in a large pan, add oil, sliced onions and garlic some S&P and sauté till just getting tender, do not brown. Add tomatoes, oregano, thyme, red pepper flakes (if using) and cook till tomatoes are cooked down and tender. If using canned tomatoes cook until residual liquid is just starting to evaporate. (Even when drained they still have some liquid). Add cooked diced chicken and heat thru. Fluff the quinoa with fork and add to chicken mixture, add green beans and toss well. Add basil and toss again and serve. S&P to taste.

Tri Tip Debacle

So…just so you all learn from my mistake. When one buys a 15 pound whole, and I quote WHOLE, bottom sirloin tri -tip, do not assume it’s one hunk of meat. Had I known when I bought it, that it was 4 individual tri-tips, I would have removed them and packaged them separately and cooked them one at a time over the summer. Why they said “whole” I will never know. I like to buy primal cuts and fabricate them myself. Now that I have thawed this “whole 15 lb. bottom sirloin tri-tip” I have to cooked up 4 tri-tips tomorrow. One is in a liquid marinade and will be done directly on the grill and the other 3 will each have different rubs and grilled. And that is how you make the most out of a beef mistake. At least when we go camping I’ll have some great beef already ready to go.

Well the reviews are in and the recipes below. Derek and I had different opinions.

Tri-Trips ready for the grill!

Tri-Tips ready for the grill!

Beef Tri-tips look FaBu!

Beef Tri-tips look FaBu!

Here is what I did. Three were covered with a dry rub and one was marinated. All four were done on the grill, seared and then cooked at 300 degrees for about 40 minutes, rested for 10 minutes to medium/medium rare in the thicker areas.

Rub # 1

1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon fresh ground black pepper
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons kosher salt

Rub # 2

1 tablespoon cracked black pepper
2 teaspoons garlic salt
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

Rub # 3

1 Tbsp Kosher salt
1 Tbsp finely ground black pepper
1 Tbsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp onion powder
1 teaspoon cayenne
1 Tbsp dried oregano
1 teaspoon dry rosemary (or fresh, finely minced)
1/2 teaspoon dry sage

The marinaded tri tip was -

1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 1/2 cups apple juice
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 ½ tablespoons lime juice
3 tablespoons dark corn syrup
3 tablespoons seasoned salt
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon cayenne (red) pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

Prior to cooking, removed from marinade and 2 bullion cubes were crushed and rubbed all over the outside.

Reviews – In order of what we liked best. Rub #3 won hands down as the favorite over the other 3 flavor profiles. It was well balanced and the char had such great flavor. You couldn’t pick out one distinct flavor over the others which is exactly as I like a rub to be.

Now for # 2 Derek like the marinated one next. I preferred rub # 2. Derek like the flavor of that the soy and lime  juice imparted. I loved the simplicity of flavors of rub #2. I think I might add a skosh more of the mustard.

For our 3rd favorite Derek liked Rub #2 and I liked the marinaded one. I find soy can be over powering in some dishes, but was very happy with the balance of flavors. I think next time I would add maybe 1-2 TBS of brown sugar to help with the caramelization of the apple juice.

For out 4th favorite both of us picked rub # 1. While it has potential it just was lacking in flavor.

And there you have what to do when you have far too many tri tips to grill :D

 

Bald Eagle – Wow!

I am continually amazed by the beauty of nature and all forms of animal life.

Today I was so fortunate to finally get some shots of the elusive Bald Eagle. I’ve seen him/her fly overhead a few times, but the time I grabbed my camera it was too late. Well today I decided to sit on my front porch and enjoy my coffee. I took my camera with me because I had seen some lovely butterflies. But then I heard the screech and got totally distracted from the butterflies. I wish my camera settings were a bit better, but I did not dare take the time to change them because I didn’t want to take my eyes off the eagle.

Truly my lucky day!

Grandma’s Apron

When we say we need to get back to basics, growing our own food, canning and preserving, using items and retooling them into things we can use, let’s remember the apron and what it represented. 

A Grandma and her Apron

A Grandma and her Apron

Grandma’s Apron

I don’t think our kids know what an apron is.

The principal use of Grandma’s apron was to protect the dress underneath, because she only had a few, it was easier to wash aprons than dresses and they used less material, but along with that, it served as a potholder for removing hot pans from the oven.

It was wonderful for drying children’s tears, and on occasion was even used for cleaning out dirty ears…

From the chicken coop, the apron was used for carrying eggs, fussy chicks, and sometimes half-hatched eggs to be finished in the warming oven.

When company came, those aprons were ideal hiding places for shy kids.

And when the weather was cold grandma wrapped it around her arms.

Those big old aprons wiped many a perspiring brow, bent over the hot wood stove.

Chips and kindling wood were brought into the kitchen in that apron.

From the garden, it carried all sorts of vegetables.

After the peas had been shelled, it carried out the hulls.

In the fall, the apron was used to bring in apples that had fallen from the trees.

When unexpected company drove up the road, it was surprising how much furniture that old apron could dust in a matter of seconds.

When dinner was ready, Grandma walked out onto the porch, waved her apron, and the men-folk knew it was time to come in from the fields to dinner.

It will be a long time before someone invents something that will replace that ‘old-time apron’ that served so many purposes.

REMEMBER:

Grandma used to set her hot baked apple pies on the window sill to cool.

Her granddaughters set theirs on the window sill to thaw.

They would go crazy now trying to figure out how many germs were on that apron.

I never caught anything from an apron…But Love.

(Author Unknown)

 

Playing Leap Frog

I have really enjoyed growing my garden this year. It’s not perfect, I still struggle with issues like weather and seasons, neither of which I had much in S. Calif.

Right now I have 9 beautiful heads of lettuce. I decided to make a fresh summer salad for dinner so went out with my pairing knife and selected one of the heads and picked a few green onions. Back inside I filled the sink with cold water to rinse the veggies and BOING! BOING! BOING! Not one but 3 small frogs are now leaping their way over my kitchen counter. One is on the window ledge, another is plastered to the side of my espresso machine. (Now for those wondering, no I do not have a fear of frogs, I do have a problem with them hopping all over my kitchen)

Here’s the scene – after my initial shock of having these (btw they are tree frogs) leaping up out of my sink in a silly game of leap frog I realized I had to capture them quickly.

Tree Frog

Tree Frog

It’s probably a lot like having 3 small kids, the minute you focus on one the other two are going to get into something. In this case my dinner preparations. So I grab the one on the window sill, he hops out of my hand and onto the side of cupboard. These guys can move! Finally I wrangle him, being careful not to squish him. But I can’t just toss him outside, two reasons.
1 – I have a very large cement patio and that would just be cruel and painful to do to the little guy. They’re beneficial critters.
2 – I cannot leave the other 2 alone or I’ll never find them.

Solution – grab a coffee mug and place Sherm inside to wait for his buddies. Huh..they were right here…

Nothing is more fun than a great game of hide and seek in the kitchen with your opponents being about an inch long, able to climb walls and hang upside down.  Now while I don’t have a fear of frogs, I do have a horrible fear of the garbage disposal. I cannot put my hand in there, I can’t! And I have this horrible thought that one of them is in here. BOING! While contemplating my impending doom one of the other frogs has decided to make a leap on me as if to say TAG you’re it! That’s it Ricky you’re going in time out with Sherm. Now where is Octavia. Yes it’s a female, she’s more of a brownish color whereas Sherm and Ricky are a brilliant and bright green.

Oh thank goodness!! She’s not in the garbage disposal. She’s just hanging out on the cutting board. She, and her two cohorts are now heading back out to the garden. And I shall go disinfect my kitchen.

So remember folks, not only do you want to wash your fruits and veggies before you eat them, you also need to check for critters before you bring them in the house.

My Friend, My Champion, My Dad

My Dad,

For all my life he worked for the SB Sheriff Dept. So he knew what the boogie man was. I was hovered over, watched like a hawk, not trusted as some of my friends were trusted by their parents, because lets face it kids screw up or get ‘involved’ with things.

But I look at differently. I was loved and protected. I was taught, with great pride today, what honor and integrity is. And when I did screw up, I learned from it. He helped make me a better person.

My dad didn’t always get the best shifts and more often than not would be called out on duty at some inopportune times. See, he had to deal with the dredges of society and their victims. Not a pretty job. I can tell you, that as a child, he never let it affect his home life. He grilled on Saturdays, swam in the pool with us and made the best whirl pools EVER! He loved my mom and they were/are a united front. I learned early on ‘parent shopping’ was not going to work.

I loved hanging out with my dad and would often follow him out to the garage to see what he was working on and if I could help. I’m sure he went to the garage to get away from the 3 females dominating the house with clothes, dolls, soap operas and phone chatter. If dad was going to the dump so would I. It’s funny, I still enjoy going and no clue why. Maybe because it brings back a memory of good times.

My dad taught me to fish. To this day I have only caught 2 fish in my life. But the times at Jinx lake were fun.

He amazed me at how he knew how to do things! Seriously there was no Google or DIY home improvement stores when I was a kid. But there he was building a deck for the pool, or converting the screen patio to a full on family room. He has never been a slacker. If there was work to be done, he did it and still does!

My dad was always looking out for my best interest, even though I didn’t need it. I knew everything! Right? Of course I didn’t know one of the guys I was dating in high school had been arrested for possession of cocaine. Ok ok, so dump that guy right quick! My dad never did anything out of anger it was always out of love for his daughters. Thank you Dad. He got me my first job, taught me how to right a resume, how to punch, and gave me my first beer at the age of 16 (all 4 oz of it – one of those little bitty Coors cans haha…ah good times…err time)

He is my hero, my champion, my friend, my supporter and the BEST Dad ever! I do not know why I was so lucky to get this man for my father but I thank my lucky stars I did. Happy Father’s Day Dad!

Such Beauty

As you know I am part of the OSU Extension Master Gardeners Program of Douglas County. And we have one of the most beautiful gardens. It’s called the Discovery Garden. And soon we will have Geocaching. But for now I wanted to share with you some of the splendor that is the Discovery Garden, located at River Forks in Roseburg Oregon.

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To be a Mother

What it means to be a mother.

It means always putting someone else before yourself because it’s a joy to do it.

It means your heart will always be filled with such a powerful emotion you can never explain.

It means making the hard decisions even though you may hear the words “I hate you”, but you love them more.

It means bottling up the terror when they don’t come home on time, and being flooded with relief when they do.

It means being at a loss for words when your pride over their accomplishments leaves you speechless.

It means being brave when you must step in to protect them.

It means even though you are not trained in education, you will be the best teacher they ever had.

It means long nights sitting up, to comfort and dispatch the bad dreams and fend off the boogie man.

It means giving so much, but understanding not all will be taken.

It means being prepared to say goodbye when they must go out on their own.

It means…It’s the best job in the world. And I am so lucky to have a wonderful mom that instilled these qualities in me.

Happy Mothers Day Mom! I love you so!