Harvesting Sweets for Thanksgiving!

Oh, what a fabulous day when the sweet potatoes are ready! Now mind you, we could have harvested these babies a few weeks back, but it’s oh-so-much more fun to harvest them in time for the holidays. Sweet potatoes are a staple on our Thanksgiving table. Actually, in our house these potatoes make a year round appearance because not only are they delicious, they’re healthy.

Wonderful! We do love healthy. But now is the time when sweet potatoes are actually “in season” in Central Florida. So, with this in mind, we scooped away the dirt and voilá ~ potatoes!

Kids LOVE this part. Harvesting potatoes is commonly referred to as “swimming” for potatoes and once you let that cat out of the bag, the kids come running. Really puts a nick in my child’s playover when their friends want to garden (ugh-moan) instead of kick the soccer ball around. But gardening is that much fun.

Now, when digging for these guys, one must be careful. An aggressive scrape from your shovel WILL leave a mark on that potato you don’t see until you hit it. Gashes detract from your potato’s storage ability so do be aware.

swimming for sweet potatoes

Best tactic is to don the gloves and get to fingering your way through the dirt.  Most potatoes will be collected under the main root system, however, don’t be surprised if you find potatoes on extended vines several feet away. In our case, we actually found some beneath my lovely black-papered walkways!

our school harvest sweet treats

It’s an adventure. Anyhoo, once you’ve gathered a basket full, gently rinse the dirt from their bodies and set in a cool, dry place to store. Anxious to cook them? Thought you would be. Why not try this Deep Dish Casserole? It has an orange twist to it and is absolutely divine on the tastebuds.  Sweet Potato French Fries are also delightful and of course, Sweet Potato Pie proves a huge hit with everyone. No matter how you slice these golden girls you’ll be pleased with the outcome. And remember, sweet potatoes are healthy. Loaded with vitamins A and C, these are superfoods when it comes to anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatory power. Enjoy!

Lettuce for Lunch, Anyone?

It’s my staple foodstuff for the midday meal. I eat a salad every day, varying the additions to my bowl of lettuce. Some days it’s avocado, chickpeas and feta or goat cheese. Other days I’ll add a can of wild caught salmon and strawberries. Most days it includes spinach, and always olive oil and balsamic–glaze or vinegar. Add a little pepper and you have a feast!

fresh lettuce

Really, if you add the right ingredients, you can get FULL on your salad. And for those of you in the warmer climates, NOW is the time to eat lettuce fresh from the garden. Here in Central Florida it’s simply too hot for this tender-leafed veggie to grow. You can grow it on your patio, but I tend to have a problem with plants that rely on ME for their water. A timed sprinkler system? No problem. Me and my memory and schedule? No way. I’d starve if I had to live off a patio garden.

 arugula bed

Unless of course, I went with hydroponics. Now that’s a self-watering, self-nourishing kind of system if I’ve ever seen one. And it might be exactly what my northern friends need to continue consuming their fresh greens. You can grow your greens in towers like these or in bins. Your choice. But either way, it’s worth taking a look-see.

 salad-wall

But I digress. For Southern gardeners, now is the time to grow your lettuce and I, for one, am celebrating. Once again, no worries when it comes to growing too much. I have the PERFECT way to keep it stored and tasting fresh for days. Check this earlier post for how you can, too. Enjoy!

Comfort Food From the Garden

With the recent cold dips in temperature, I’m reminded of what comfort food is all about. Easy, especially when you have a husband who constantly reminds you. “I don’t eat fish when it’s cold outside. Fish is a summer food.”

Hmph. Has the man never tasted a wonderfully warm and succulent bourbon-glazed salmon? I mean, seriously. That’s what I call some comforting food. But I’m not the only one sitting at the dinner table so one must take others into consideration. In light of this fact, I’ve managed to whip up some wonderfully comforting foods that will please even those from the north (who expect their bellies to react to changing temperatures).

French Onion soup

First on the list is Savory French Onion Soup. This is one of my all time favorites and with the recent addition of sweet onions to my garden, a must-eat on the fall grocery list. It’s easy to make though it tends to take a bit of time. And what good soup doesn’t? My daughter is a HUGE fan of this soup and she’s pretty fussy. (Gets it from her momma.) Worth a try for your family.

While we’re on the topic of onions, how about Onions Au Gratin? This one is a spinoff of the French Onion Soup and worth every ounce of effort.

 onion gratin

Last post I mentioned Baked Sweet Onions but have you ever thought to combine them with cabbage? Sautéed Cabbage and Onions is a real treat, one my husband particularly enjoys.

comfort in cabbage and onions

For a tropical flair on comfort, how about Chicken and Yellow Rice with Black Beans?

chicken and yellow rice

It’s not at all difficult to prepare and the taste is out of this world. Talk about filling with comfort, this is one meal I will stuff myself to the seams and enjoy every minute. But then again, I’m from Miami and LOVE all things Spanish. Ever heard of Ottmar Liebert? Great flamenco guitarist.

And to top it off with a sweet, comforting dessert, try these Butterscotch Cookies. Found this recipe while perusing some of my cooking magazines and had to share.

butterscotch-cookies

The butterscotch flavor screams fall and comfort and the soft melt-in-your mouth goodness backs it up. But watch yourself–not only do these taste divine but your belly will fall madly in love and you might find yourself overstuffing!

Now what are you waiting for? Make those promises of comfort to YOUR family and get to the supermarket! You’ll be drifting on a cloud of accolades come bedtime.

 

Time to Plant Those Sw-eeeeet Onions!

Sweet onions are delicious when purchased from the store, but they are butter creamy delightful when pulled from your garden. You can eat them raw without the “bitter” taste, or sauté with to a sugary caramel glaze. How about baked onions? This recipe is easy and really brings out the flavor.

Baked Sweet Onions

Hmmm good! Best of all? They’re easy to grow. EASY. But they take time. Six months’ worth. But take it from me, these gems are worth the wait.

However, now is the time to plant. Contact your local seed store and see if they have the seed “sets” in stock. If not, maybe they can order some for you. The kids and I planted this row over the weekend. One hundred and twenty-four sweet baby onions! YUM! More

Pitchin’ Pumpkins

Wish I could say my pumpkin patch did great this year. Wish I was carving pumpkins for Halloween, smack dab in the garden. But I can’t and I won’t be. The bugs in my neighborhood are celebrating, instead. I swear I’m gonna start using screen in my garden. Living against a beautiful backdrop of nature does not ensure a flourishing garden—quite the opposite. It provides cover for the bugs that are stalking and munching your plants.

pumpkin bloom

If only pumpkins weren’t so tasty, with beautiful blooms and wide, flat, yummy leaves. But they are. Now, if you’ve got pumpkins in your garden, I know exactly what to do with them. Make pumpkin pie!

Me? I’ll be using the store-bought pumpkins from you’re my porch step. Don’t bother tossing them into the compost pile. Instead, cook them! Roast the seeds, bake the flesh and okay, I guess you can compost the skin. More

Tired of Weeding?

My kids are, most definitely. Me, too. With a garden 40 ft. X 100 ft. the weeds can get a bit crazy. I’ve instituted the use of heavy black paper to cover by beds between plantings, which cuts down on the time spent pulling those rascally weeds, but what about the beds where I’m actively growing?

They still need weeding. The solution? Corn gluten. It’s all-natural and the perfect organic solution to weed prevention–prevention being the key word.

Corn gluten meal contains naturally occurring substances which inhibit the growth of the seed’s tiny feeder roots. This causes the weed seedlings to die before their roots ever have a chance to become established. Also, many products sold on the market contain nitrogen, which makes them a good fertilizer, too. Best of all, corn gluten is safe for children and pets.

corn gluten

The only downside is the solution doesn’t come cheap. A 25 lb. bag will run you around $35 and you must apply liberally to gain the full effect, as shown above. You could even stand to apply heavier than I’ve done, but you get the idea. Liberally means a lot. However, this stuff works.

So if you have established plants in your garden, weed the area well and then sprinkle corn gluten around them as a weed preventer. If they’re only seedlings, I’d wait a bit, continuing to pull weeds by hand until the plants are of decent size. I once had a batch of okra and although I didn’t apply the corn gluten very close to the babies, it still worked to prevent their growth. :(

Look forward to hearing about YOUR experience!

Ulcer-Healing Cabbage Juice

So I’ve been reading up on stomach acid and the accompanying problems associated with the same. Seems all these antacids we’re taking might not be the best route. As a woman who prefers natural healing over pharmaceutical, I thought I’d delve into the issue a bit more and search for a food remedy. If you’re a follower of my blog, you know there are ties between what we eat and health issues we encounter so for me it’s a no-brainer do the research. I discovered some startling facts. While it’s easy to understand the effects of fast food on a body, how about tomatoes?

tomatoes ready for drying

They look good, taste delicious, but did you know they can aggravate the condition commonly referred to as of GERD? Onions, too. Who knew?

Not me. Chocolate isn’t recommended for those suffering from the condition either. What a bummer. HUGE bummer. Alcohol exacerbates the condition, too. Bye-bye wine!

Anyoo, I began my research because I’ve been having stomach acid issues of late. While I’m not sure exactly what’s going on, I think I’ve narrowed it down to the onset–a three-week period of time when I took a daily NSAID for back pain. Doctor told me to take an antacid with it, but I didn’t listen. Remember, I don’t like to take meds, so unless I NEED it, I don’t take it. Apparently I NEEDED it to combat the effects of the NSAID on my stomach lining. Moral of the story: Ask more thorough questions. (My doctor’s gonna love that!) More

Food for Heart

As I age, I find I’m riddled with aches and pains. And I’m stumped. What the heck happened? I look like I’m in shape. I eat healthy. I exercise. What’s going on?

Blueberry & yogurt stock photo

My first impulse is to scream and whine and jump up and down, screeching “This isn’t fair! I’m too young for this!” While I might feel better afterward, my family would be peer at me quizzically whispering, “She’s done it. She’s finally gone over the edge.”

Hmph. So much for sympathy from the ones who love me.  On a positive note, it would behoove me to remember that aches and pains and old age beat the alternative. I’m alive. I’m having a good time. So what if I have to bend over and stretch every now again (careful–the lower back discs can’t take too much of it) or slowly ease my way out of bed in the morning (so I don’t pull something on the way out). Once I get warmed up, I’m good to go, ready to hit the ground running!

But with age, I feel I’m growing in wisdom. Granted this is a highly debatable subject among my inner circle but I’m going to ignore debate and share a little secret. Eating healthy is a mindset. It’s an attitude, one that seeps into your behavior and becomes your lifestyle. I never feel deprived, I never go without–eating the occasional danish helps, the surprise donut from hubby–but sometimes I find myself asking, “Can I do more?” More

Beds of Burlap

As my pumpkins grow, I want them to be comfortable. Cozy. I want them to stretch out without encumbrance. The easy solution is to keep adjacent rows clear and “open” with my handy-dandy black paper. This prevents the vines from running into other plants. Easy enough, but I’m afraid it might overheat my sweet baby pumpkins. As an alternative, I’ve planted my pumpkins in the end rows next to the grass borders, giving them plenty of room to spread. Grass is nice and comfy, right?

burlap over grass

But my grass is filled with weeds, weeds that grow tall and fast. From experience, I’ve learned the two (pumpkin vines and weeds) are incompatible because as your vines grow and the grass grows, your pumpkin leaves get overwhelmed by the mess growing up from below. You can’t mow under them. You can’t clip the weeds free. Last year at the school garden, the kids and I placed lattice beneath them which seemed to help, but I don’t have enough of the stuff for my home garden. Remember, we’re talking 100 ft. X 4o ft. That’s a lot of lattice! More

Football Means Peanuts!

Football season has kicked off and that means boiled peanuts! South of the Mason-Dixon line, anyway. Down here you can’t go to a football game or tailgate party without your Styrofoam cup of steaming peanuts. Just isn’t done.

Now as nature would have it, your peanuts are ready to be pulled from the ground right about now. A few eager beavers might have already done so, but for the bulk of us—now’s the time. Your blooms have gone, your pegs have dropped and your leaves have yellowed.

peanuts pulled from the ground

To harvest, you’ll want to lightly dig down around one of your plants to check their progress. Using a fork, gently lift the pegs from the dirt.  A ripe peanut will feel firm, its outer shell somewhat dry and “papery.”   More