Thursday, July 26, 2012

Blood, Bandages, and Beet Greens...

I'm a pretty lax parent when it comes to crying kids.  When a kid comes wailing through the front door, my first question is, "Are you bleeding?"  If the answer is "No" my usual response involves the words, "You'll" and  "survive."  Blood gets antibiotic cream and bandages.  Splinters get ice cream.

I stocked up on bandages today.  We're having a party Saturday.  With kids.  At our last Summer party every single kid hit the dirt at least once as the evening wore on, including my youngest who bit it while heading full speed down our steep driveway.  There was blood.  I even had to dig half a tree stump out of the thumb of one of our best friends, who's driver's license claims he's a grown up though his personality reveals a different story.  I can't remember if we scrounged up any ice cream for him or not...

Since this is party week, I am generally preoccupied with planning and details, and invitations, and table cloths, and party games, planning, and seating, and planning, and wondering where in the heck all my time went so my whole decision making process is scattered to the wind right now.  Fortunately, tonight's dinner is staring me in the face every morning when I look out my bedroom window.  

As you can see, our garden is coming along nicely, though it looks pretty scraggly.  The slugs have been voracious this year and the birds have eaten every carrot seed I've planted (twice!) as well as all the slug bait!  Twice!  Then there was the deer who snuck in one afternoon and at an entire chard plant (the largest one, of course).  The result is two empty rows in the middle where the carrots should be, another two rows containing three sad slug bitten miner's lettuce, and a fantastic lopsided end of the garden full of beans, peas, tomatoes, and potatoes bursting forth and making me hopeful for a later season harvest.  But in the middle, between the blank rows, I've got a few chard plants, a couple of beets, a little purslane, and a massive amount of kale. 

I love growing greens in my garden because they (usually) perform the best of any plants in my limited sunlight and because you can eat them right away.  No need to wait for a seed or a fruit to form, just pick a leaf and you've got a snack.  The sight of these greens staring me down every morning makes me think of my very favorite way to eat them: Veggie Quesadillas.

Kale, beet greens, chard, spinach and purslane rinsed and ready to be spun.  You can use any greens in this you want, one of my favorite additions is finely shredded raw beet.  Carrot would be great in this, too.  The ratios in this can be edited based on what you have, this is just a general guideline.

Vegetable Quesadillas
Yield:  4

1 bunch kale
1/2 bunch chard
3-5 beet leaves
6-8 spinach leaves
1/2 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 package mushrooms, sliced
1 C shredded mozzarella cheese
4 tortillas
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil
Two large skillets

Wash, spin, and roughly chop greens.  Heat the olive oil in one skillet and sauté the onion until slightly browned.  Add garlic and cook till fragrant.  Add mushrooms and cook until browned.  Last, add greens and sauté until they have wilted slightly.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Load tortillas with greens and top with cheese, fold, and toast lightly in second pan just until slightly brown and cheese has melted.

My whole family loves this and you know that's sayin' something when my boys will eat it!  I recently served this as a side to some grilled chicken and the meat eaters were very pleased.

Sorry this is sort of a scattered, droopy post.  I've lost my mind, you see...

Saturday, July 21, 2012

As Promised...

The latest offerings from the Cracker Garden:

 Sugar Ann Snap Peas, a favorite from last year, one of two heirloom varieties in our garden this year.

 That darling little blip is the fruit of Frageria vesca the woodland strawberry.  A native here and brand new to our garden this year.  I photographed it here next to a medium sized farmer's market berry so you could see the size difference.  Quite a spread!  The flavor is intense and wonderful, but as my husband said after eating two at once, "That's about an eighth of a mouthful!"  He's right, they're not going to fill you up, that's for sure.  But he suggested, and I agree, that it would be a great little thing to put on a salad.  I'm already dreaming up ideas for next year's crop since we ate this year's entire crop just testing them out...

Another native plant, Claytonia perfoliata aka miner's lettuce.  Likes part sun, moist conditions, and sandy soil.  Pretty much the exact conditions of my garden... Especially the shady wet part...  =) This is another new one for my garden.  It's quite a delicious little thing (each leaf being no bigger than a quarter) and it tastes a lot like spinach.  Having a time keeping the slugs off of it currently, so I'll have to consider that next year, but the few leaves we've gotten made nice additions to salads and sandwiches and I like to have a little sample every time I go into my garden!

Next up: Chives, Thyme, and Red Huckleberries!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Slimiest Post I've Ever Written...

     Coming from the South, I have eaten my fair share of okra.  I don't have a problem with the slime in okra.  Except frozen okra which should be banned for all eternity 'cuz ew.   Ditto frozen peas and carrots.  Blugh.  And spinach.  No frozen spinach.  I'm starting a revolution...  But first!  Back to the okra!  Like I said before I got stuck in the frozen foods aisle, okra slime is no big deal to me.  However I know a few people, OK a lot of people, who wouldn't eat okra if you paid them.  One sure-fire way to kill the slime is to douse them in breading and deep fry them.  But then, you know, that's not super healthy is it?  Boiled okra will have the exact opposite effect.  The slime produced by boiled okra will even make our pet slug, Agamemnon, sit up and take notice.

See the mighty Agamemnon receive his finger massage.  He loves massages...

     My husband is one of those people who isn't super crazy about the viscosity of okra, so he regarded them rather skeptically when I brought a big ol' bag home a few years ago.  I found a recipe online which is about as far away from Southern cooking as you can get and it has been the only way I've cooked okra for years now.  It came from the International Vegetarian Union website, and is simply called "Okra Recipe."  Originally posted by Sarah Gallagher, but it apparently came from a cookbook called World-of-the-East Vegetarian Cooking by Madhur Jaffrey.  In my bookmarks it's called, "Okra that hubby loves."

Indian Okra My Hubby Loves
1.5 lbs fresh okra
2 large onions
6 Tbs oil
6 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp tumeric
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4-1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
freshly ground black pepper

Sauté the onions and garlic in oil for about 5 minutes.  Add the okra and sauté for another 5 minutes or until the okra has turned bright green.  Add the spices and mix to coat the okra with them.  Add 1/4 C water, cover, and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until okra is tender.  Uncover and cook down until any water is gone.  Serve over rice.

I realized last night, after I cooked the okra, that I usually leave it whole.  It helps cut down on the slime factor even more, though these cut pieces cooked faster.

My Substitutions/Additions:
I like to add ghee in place of some of the oil... You can use much less than 6 Tbs of either, btw.  I usually use less salt as well.  I omit cayenne when the boys are sharing with us and add about 1/2 tsp to 1 tsp of curry powder.  It changes the flavor to the point of making it a completely different dish, but adds the tiny touch of heat hubby and I agree this recipe needs while still being palatable by the littles.

I was surprised by how much my husband loved this recipe.  It is a good one, very simple and easy to prepare, which is a plus in this it's-too-hot-in-the-kitchen time of year.  The boys like it, too!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Summertime and the Livin' is Easy...

 Harvest has officially begun at our house!  A small sample:

 Beet greens, spinach, chard, purslane, mint, and kale.

I knew the chard was ready to start picking when a deer sauntered into the garden and ate one!

Coming soon: peas, miner's lettuce, and native strawberries!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Happy 5th of July...

Because at the end of the day, it's not about the perfect picture or the perfect setting, it's about 

Perfect Love.... 

New friends.... 

Good food....

Down-to-Earth People...


Law Enforcement...


Chocolate cake, grass, ketchup, dirt, and sweat...

Oh, and Superhero Rocket Pops.

Oh Beautiful for spacious skies,
 For amber waves of grain,
 For purple mountain majesties
 Above the fruited plain!

America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown they good
With brotherhood 
From sea to shining sea...

Hope you had a terrific 4th, everybody!
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