Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween 2010

We're not particularly skilled at carving or painting pumpkins, but in the spirit of Halloween, we do have a creepy idea or two. My husband's creation - perhaps developed throughout the month of "Shocktober". Watching horror movies every night must take its toll in some way (as it probably did on his pumpkin last year)...

My older daughter was working on a few different ideas and in a big oops, cut the whole front out of her pumpkin. What's left is a diorama inspired by the movie The Skeleton Key which we watched last night (great movie by the way). Oh my god. I just watched this trailer and got goosebumps galore. Anyway, this pumpkin is really freaking me and my daughter out.

My 5 year old's "funny vampire" pumpkin - which is what I call (when her back is turned) "the evil clown jack-o-lantern". I think this is the scariest of them all. It's also completely painted black on the inside (so you can't see its sharp vampire teeth).

And to get our weird and creepy pumpkins out of your head, I'll leave you with my own creation - a representation of how I feel much of the time.

Have a safe and fun Halloween!!!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Garden to Table Challenge - paella

I love a traditional paella. I love the outdoor-cooked, family- style presentation, the fresh mussels, clams and squid on a bed of yellow Spanish rice. There's something so special...warm...authentic...comforting about the dish. However, I think it's the idea of paella that I enjoy more than all the ingredients that make up the dish. Even the paella we had in Spain was not quite to my taste. In my search for recipes, I found this highly rated recipe for easy paella. It ended up being what my husband is calling "poor man's paella". I'm not Spanish, so I can't tell you if this is the "poor man's" or if it's more the "white man's" or if it's simply a variation on the traditional dish, but I can tell you it was absolutely delicious - incredibly rich in flavor and just enough spice to liven things up.

Best of all, I got to use my own saffron (as well as my own: parsley, red pepper flakes, garlic, and oregano). As a side note, I have come to absolutely love the little woven plate above. I have used it this year for drying saffron, drying shell beans, and also for drying saved seeds. I'm not sure what its intended purpose is (maybe for steaming food?), but you can visit an Asian supermarket for one of your very own if you like!

What's going on in your kitchen and garden this week?


An update on the GTTC contest: I originally promised prizes to three participants chosen at random. This will be the last week to join us to be considered for the contest. I'm personally going to keep attempting to post a GTTC blog each week (and I hope you join me!), but next Thursday night (my time), I will close the contest part of it (opening another contest perhaps in the spring). I've been giving one entry to each participant each week. Next Friday, I will choose 3 winners at random for a prize to be announced!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Garden to Table Challenge - green tomatoes

This week's Garden to Table Challenge began with a bowl of green tomatoes that I, as my husband says, "left out to rot". I did have good intentions though and even pulled a recipe for green tomato hot dog relish from my Ball canning book. My husband, in a moment of inspiration, grabbed the recipe and saved the green tomatoes from the compost bin. He didn't like certain ingredients (like cinnamon), couldn't find certain ingredients (like mustard seed), added certain ingredients (like some of the red ripened tomatoes), and quadrupled certain ingredients (like onions). The final product was not quite the green tomato relish of the recipe book. I commented that it seemed like he was making salsa rather than relish.

As we pondered just what in the hell he was making, he paused the chopping and looked excitedly at me, "I don't know, but I bet if we put it in a jar it would look really nice!" Boy do these moments make me proud.
Anyone out there still using his/her own vegetables? Surely people are roasting winter squashes by now?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Garden to Table Challenge - apple pie

For this week's Garden to Table Challenge, there was apple picking...

...followed by juggling...

...and then peeling...

...and canning...

Then finally, there was apple pie! See the jars above? There's an apple pie in each one - one needs only to supply the crust. What are YOU harvesting, cooking, eating this week?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

GBBD October 2010

In my garden right now...

I've been collecting saffron from these crocuses. Maybe in about 8 years, I'll have collected enough to use for cooking. Intrigued? See this post on saffron crocuses...

You wouldn't believe how far away and tiny these are from the window where I spotted them. These are my totally neglected cyclamen.

At Homestead Farms where we went apple picking. Here's last year's post with photos of some of the happy animals there.

Didn't get enough? Visit May Dreams Gardens for more! Now, what's blooming in your garden?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The rise of the butterfly

* DISCLAIMER: I have done no research on this topic. Today I'm simply sharing my observations with you. I'm even making up my own terminology. I'm stating this because factual-sounding topics on this blog are typically researched.

This is the final post in the series. If you haven't already, make sure you get a chance to see The Fall of the Hornworm and The Life of the Argiope aurantia posted last week. It's been fascinating stuff in the Greenish Thumb garden! Above and below, a monarch caterpillar we found on the asclepias outside. I knew I kept this old butterfly house for a reason!

We used a plastic carry out soup container, filled it with water, put the lid on, and cut some holes out of the top. The butterfly weed cuttings stayed fresh in this little vase throughout the project.

After a few days of hearty eating, we read that there should be a stick or something for the butterfly to hang in it's chrysalis form on. When it begins to circle the top (which it did for about half a day), be ready for the big switcheroo!

The caterpillar didn't bother using the stick to hang from. Instead, it made a webbing right across the vinyl top of the butterfly house. Notice the little dot of concentrated webbing by the mouth (towards the right). There's probably a scientific name for this, but I'm learning experientially this time - and not from a book. I'm calling it "glue".

Notice that now, the caterpillar has switched sides. The back end is now on the "glue". At this point, I've been setting my timer to remind me to check on progress every 20 minutes.

Above: starting to unstick its little leg suction cups. Below: he let go all at once and swung for a few moments.

At this point, I'm getting really excited. The timer's still going off every 20 minutes. BUT...this J-shaped hanging stage lasts for about 16 hours!

Unfortunately, the process which took the caterpillar from the photo above to the photo below, was faster than the time it took me to cut up some onions for dinner. I missed the part I was looking most forward to!!!

20 minutes elapsed between the photo above and below.

For most of the next several days, the chrysalis looked as it does below.

It was about 10pm many days later when I noticed some indication of the final stage.

The next morning, probably about...11am or so, the butterfly emerged. No one was home to witness the process, but I can tell you it was just as exciting to find the chrysalis like it looks below and then to spot the huge butterfly pumping its wings.

On our first attempt to release the butterfly, the butterfly fell to the bottom of the cage, ended up on its side, and stopped moving completely. Its legs were folding in like a dead spider's. It was almost a very sad day with lessons I did not want to be teaching the kids about the (extremely fleeting!) cycle of life. We mournfully brought it back inside. After about 10 minutes of worry, just staring at it, it came back to life! There was a major storm headed our way so we kept it inside for the next day and a half. We cut off a butterfly bush bloom, some other flowers, a little dish of sugar water, and a little piece of fruit. We had no idea what to provide for it so we thought we'd cover all our bases! I would have researched this, but I tell ya, between the weather reports and the stress of the back-from-the-dead act, time was of the essence. I did NOT want the butterfly to starve to death after this whole ordeal! It was a nerve wracking couple of days.

On the next clear day, the butterfly was ready to leave for Mexico!

This map below from the USGS National Atlas, shows where our butterfly and others will overwinter.

And to leave you with something light:

Q: Why did the boy throw a stick of butter off the mountain?

A: He wanted to see the butterfly!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Garden to Table Challenge - October

The tomatoes have been pulled out, basil's flowering, shell beans are done, asparagus ferns have flopped, but the pepper bed is hot hot hot!

I dried this week's cayenne peppers in the oven on the lowest setting for a few hours. When I cut them, I noticed all the seeds were falling out. Serendipity - I decided on a milder chili paste this year. I snipped the rest and did a little shake to remove about half the hot seeds.

I love this simple and beautiful chili paste - it's just oil, garlic, dried cayenne pepper flakes, salt. I particularly like the garlic fried first (careful not to burn - it's a very quick process).

Jalapenos will always have a spot in my garden because they're so incredibly versatile. Below are chopped jalapenos and pepperoncini in garlic-infused vinegar and water. I'm hoping the pickling will cut some of the heat and that these peppers will be delicious on Italian subs.

Next, is a delicious sauce my mother made as a condiment to fried whole fish. The fish were caught in my father's pond just before dinner time!

What you see below is an incredible sauce to spoon over the fish. It was originally made by my Hong Kong aunt's housekeeper who is from Indonesia. It's basically lime, lime juice, soy sauce, sweet soy sauce, hot peppers, sugar, and the fried Egyption onion scapes that you see in the photo below. You would not believe how perfect the blend of sweet, hot, sour, and salty flavors work together.

And now, to cool off from a spicy week - my sole black diamond watermelon (first time grower speaking). Perhaps a week or two underripe, but sweet and delicious nonetheless. Black diamond is a winner for great watermelon texture and classic flavor.

Below, apples (fuji and suncrisp) we picked the day before, and some of the watermelon we cut off the vine just the day before juicing.

What about you? What are you harvesting or buying fresh from the farmer's market? What are your great ideas to share? Link your post here...OR...if you don't blog about food or don't blog at all, share by commenting below!

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