Thursday, October 19, 2017

Ginger Snap Cookies


It is truly fall around the house when I bake the first batch of Ginger Snap Cookies. The fragrance of Cinnamon and Ginger always does the trick.

I've been making this recipe for about 23 years now since my mother sent me a cookbook that women from her church had made. The ladies name who shared this cookie recipe was named Laura Covey. I don't know her, but I thank her because it turned out to be my son's favorite cookie.

I also use these Ginger Snaps to make my pie crust for pumpkin and squash cheesecakes. I always have to hide some cookies so I have enough to make the pie crusts.

I never changed a thing in this recipe until recently. I decided to change up on using the Shortening. I found an awesome way of switching it that has worked out perfectly and much healthier.

When baking the cookies it is important not to let them get over done. They should still want to be almost to soft to lift off the cookie pan with your spatula. That way when they cool they won't be to hard and still have a soft middle.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Ingredients

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup Grandmas Molasses
1 egg
2 cups organic unbleached flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ginger

Directions

Cream sugar and butter and coconut oil, add molasses and the egg. Sift salt, spices and flour, add to the creamed mixture. Stir and blend well.

Place cookie dough in the fridge until cold. One or two hours is good.

Roll dough into round balls about the size of a walnut. Roll them in some sugar and place on the cookie sheet about 2 inches apart.

Bake at 375 for 10 to 12 minutes. Check them while baking to not let them turn to dark.

Happy Gardening and Happy Baking As Well!!!
Pammy

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Butternut Swirl Cheesecake


This cheesecake is a huge hit with my entire family and several special friends.

I usually reserve making it until Thanksgiving but I have a huge basket of heirloom butternut squash just screaming to be used. Aside from the fact that it was my son's request for his Birthday Cake.

The recipe originally comes from Kraft Foods Philadelphia Cream Cheese, but with a few modifications I've turned it into my own personal garden kitchen work of art.

 Instead of the pumpkin that Kraft uses, I've substituted with some winter squash.

The crust is what really pulls this cheesecake together. I've been making my own gingersnap cookies for many years mainly just for this cake. You can find the link for the cookie recipe in a previous post by clicking here.

It's quite simple to crush the cookies with some pecans or even walnuts and add some butter to them to press into your cheesecake pan. I also love to sprinkle some fresh organic pumpkin seeds on the top for an extra special treat. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

Ingredients

2 cups crushed homemade gingersnap cookies
1/2 cup crushed pecans (walnuts can be used)
6 tbsp. organic unsalted butter
3 pkg. Organic cream cheese
1 cup sugar, divided
3 eggs
1 cup steamed fresh butternut squash pureed
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
dash of cloves
1 or 2 tbsp. pumpkin seeds for top (optional)
Greek God Yogurt, Pinch of Pure Vanilla Extract and a dash of Cinnamon for topping (optional)
Directions

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Use a 9" spring form cheesecake pan.

Mix crushed gingersnap cookies with the crushed pecans. Add melted butter and mix in with a fork. Press into your pan to at least 1/2 to 2 inches up the sides. 

Beat softened cream cheese, 3/4 cup of the sugar, and vanilla until well blended. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing on low. Reserve 1 1/2 cups of the plain batter in a small bowl and set aside. Add the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar, pureed butternut squash and spices to the remaining batter.

Pour the squash batter into your pan on your crust. Take your reserved plain batter and by the spoonful dollop on the top of your squash mixture. Cut through the batters with a knife several times to swirl it and get the desired effect.

 Sprinkle on the pumpkin seeds.
Bake for 55 minutes or until the center is almost set. Let cool before opening the rim to your spring form pan. You might want to run a sharp knife around the edges to loosen it before you open it. Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve. 

If you like to add a dollop of cream on top I recommend Plain Greek God Or Honey Greek God Yogurt. Stir in a pinch of pure vanilla extract and cinnamon and it makes a lovely tasty creamy topping.

Happy Gardening and Happy Baking As Well!!
Pammy

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Heirloom Honey Tomato Ketchup

This is a healthier version of homemade ketchup using some of the delicious chemical free and local honey my dear garden friend Ruth traded me for one of my watermelon jams. Great Trade I think!! 

No sugar when canning your own and none of the other nasty processed stuff they put in the ketchup sold at the market. 

For those of you who are sold on the tremendous flavors that heirloom tomatoes give us, you will also appreciate those flavors in this recipe. 

It's like what real ketchup use to taste like many years ago.

I must be a tomato rebel, because I simply have never found any reason to remove the skins or the seeds in my tomatoes. It's all good and I don't want to waste an ounce of any of them. 


When you blend the tomatoes for this ketchup there are no seeds to be seen or found. It's rich and creamy and thick!! 

I also love the flavor of my heirloom sweet Italian peppers after they've turned nice and red. But you could use a red sweet bell pepper or any other of your favorite sweet peppers. 

Actually you can make it spicy and use mildly hot peppers here as well as really hot ones. It's all up to your personal tastes, so be creative and make it suit you and your family! 

Ingredients
Makes 4 Pints
15 cups heirloom tomatoes, chopped (The best are Roma and Paste)
1 large sweet onion, chopped
1 or 2 large garlic cloves, minced
10 to 12 red sweet Italian Peppers (1 red bell, or sweet peppers of your choice)
1 1/2  cup 5% white vinegar (apple cider vinegar may be used)
2 tsp. fresh celery seeds
2 tsp. whole mustard seeds
2 to 3 fresh cinnamon sticks
1/2  to 3/4 cup honey 
1 tbsp. Sea Salt


Directions
Add tomatoes, onions, garlic, peppers and vinegar to a large non reactive pot. Bring to a boil and then simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

Next, remove your pot from the heat and place your mixture in the food processor or blender a little at a time until well pureed. Add it all back into your pot and add the honey and salt.

You will need to make a spice bag out of cheese cloth to hold all your spices. Just tie a knot at both ends of the clothe and place it in your sauce. 

Bring back to a gentle boil. Again, reduce heat and simmer for another 30 minutes. This time stir it often until it reaches the desired consistency.

Pour your ketchup into hot sterilized jars. Wipe rims with clean cloth and place on lids and bands. Boil in water bath caner for 30 minutes.

Remove and put on counter out of any draft. Let set until cooled and store in pantry. 

Happy Gardening and Happy Canning!
Pammy

Friday, May 26, 2017

Pickled Three Bean Salad for Canning

Pickled Three Bean Salad

It seems the heat is turned up in Texas already and the bush and wax beans are already slowing down. It will be time to turn them under to grow something else. At least we will get another chance to grow them for the fall garden and put up some more for winter. Spring is just whizzing right on by way to fast for me!

I do love adding Three Bean Salad to my winter green salads! They make a great side dish treat as well. I use our green bush beans, yellow wax beans and dry beans (either kidney or red). I much rather cook up a pot of dry beans for a recipe than simply buying a can of something or other from the supermarket. That just seems plain wrong to me for some reason. It's easy after cooking up a pot of kidney beans to put the rest not used up in the freezer in an air tight container for another recipe.

This recipe is basically an old Ball Canning recipe that I've changed just a little. In Texas we must add peppers. Makes 6 pints.

Ingredients

About 1 1/2 lbs. Green Bush Beans
About 1 1/2 lbs. Yellow Wax Beans
About 2 to 3 cups cooked, drained Red Kidney Beans
1 large white or red garden onion, thinly sliced
6 peppers (one per jar) Banana, Pepperoncini or your favorite
Boiling water
2-1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 Tbsp mustard seeds
1 Tbsp. celery seeds
4 tsp pickling or canning salt
3 cups 5% white vinegar
1-1/4 cups distilled water


Directions

1.) PREPARE boiling water canner. Heat jars and lids in simmering water until ready for use. Do not boil. Set bands aside.
2.) COMBINE green and yellow beans, kidney beans, onions and peppers in a large stainless steel saucepan. Add boiling water to cover and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and boil gently for 5 minutes, until vegetables are heated through.
3.) COMBINE sugar, mustard seeds, celery seeds, salt, vinegar and water in a separate stainless steel saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Reduce heat and boil gently for 5 minutes, until spices have infused the liquid.
4.) DRAIN hot vegetables and pack into hot jars leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Ladle hot pickling liquid into jar to cover vegetables leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace, if necessary, by adding hot pickling liquid. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Apply band until fit is fingertip tight.
5.) PROCESS jars in a boiling water canner for 15 minutes

Happy Gardening!
Pammy

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Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Canning Crispy Deli Style Claussen Pickles


These are MY Favorite Pickles!!!

Please remind me to not skip growing pickling cucumbers ever again!! The reason they make such great pickles is because the seeds are very tiny and the skins are a little tougher than a lot of other types. This keeps them much crunchier and the flavor is perfect!

This is an older post from me that I thought needed a little updating. I actually use a pinch of Stevia to replace the tiny bit of sugar that went in the original recipe. You might find me doing this a lot with many of my recipes. :)

My new Heritage Green Vintage Mason Jars

With the fact that I still actually have fresh dill growing in our hot Texas garden and I even have some of our garlic left that we grew last fall makes this recipe all the yummier.

The problem is I have to wait at least 7 to 10 days before they are good and ready to eat! But that's okay, these are so easy to make because they go straight to the refrigerator. 

I hope you've saved some nice big pickle jars to make some of your own. If not just use some good old fashion wide mouth quart canning jars.

I'm excited, because I just got the Heritage Green Vintage Mason Jars. I thought they might make my pickles a little prettier. The important thing is to make sure you have the space in your fridge for the jars. I had to clean mine out, HA!! That's right...and not a huge surprise that it needed it too!

If for some crazy reason you have never eaten a deli style pickle...just know this...they make the most excellent pickle to go with a homemade sandwich. And since I love making my own bread, especially my French Sesame Buns, a healthy hearty sandwich makes a delicious meal with an excellent pickle..

 Ingredients

For The Brine
(I've broken this down for you, so if you need more brine just increase the amount you are making) Remember the brine will stay good in the refrigerator for a long time to be used later as well. So if you end up making to much its really not a problem. You may also chose to use Canning Salt, but I say why? when your making kosher pickles!
3 Parts Distilled Water, 1 Part 5% white distilled vinegar and 2 Tbsp. of Kosher Salt

For The Spices and The Goodies. 
This list is for quart size measurements that would be placed in a single quart size jar. If you are using larger jars for your pickles, just adjust it accordingly.

1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 tsp. fresh peppercorns
1/4 tsp. fresh mustard seed
1/4 tsp. whole allspice, or 1/8 tsp. ground allspice
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 dill seed head, include some weed and some stems (dill seed alone can be substituted) 
A pinch of turmeric
1/4 tsp. sugar
Pickling Cucumbers, small whole or larger halved or quartered

Directions

Combine the ingredients for the brine and bring to a boil. Be sure to use a non reactive type of pot for this. Something like a stainless steel or enameled pot works great.

Put all the spices and goodies in your jar or jars. Fill them tight with your pickling cucumbers. Make sure to leave at least 1/2 inch head space from the top of the jar. Pour your hot brine into the jars. Wipe the rims and put on the lids. Let cool to room temperature before placing in the refrigerator. The pickles will keep for up to 8 to 11 weeks in the fridge. Ours never last that long and I bet they will keep much longer than this!



Happy Gardening!
Pammy

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

How To Grow Traditional 3 Sisters Garden


We have lived upon this land from days beyond history’s record, far past any living memory, deep into the time of legend. The story of my people and the story of this place are one single story. We are always joined together ~ Pueblo Elder

The legends of corn can easily be told by the Native American Indians. They knew how to grow it and how to achieve sustainability from it through hundreds of generations.
Actually all corn is Indian Corn and not just the pretty colored corns you see around the holidays.  It is native to America and Mexico and there were once around 250 different varieties of native corn.
Most have since become lost and extinct. It is said to have originated from the Mexican areas more than 7,000 years ago and thought to have been cultivated from wild grasses.
The Native American people were the original agriculturist in our country. They understood what worked best naturally.
They gave the utmost respect to the soil and water and knew that one must always give back to the earth what one takes from it.
It’s quite apparent that a great deal of the settlers that came to this country never acquired the same respect for the land and its inhabitants. It certainly still shows itself today in the way that big farms have reduced themselves to farming with poisonous chemicals and genetic engineering that is causing a staggering loss of diversity and natural life to the critical point of extinction.
Even today, if one would listen to the wisdom given by the Native American Indians, they would learn so much about gardening and farming.
There is a Native American by the name of Buffalo Bird Woman of the Hidatsa Indian Tribe who has given a detailed account of how her family sustained themselves with their garden. (ca. 1839 – 1932) I love going to her writings for reference as well as the inspiration she seems to give me.


What has stuck with me the most I think is that the closer we get to the original heirloom native varieties of seed the more success there is for the harvest. This is one of the reasons it is so important to protect heirloom seeds.

I sought after a Native Texas Dent Corn variety that happens to be  near extinction. It was important to find the perfect variety that would serve the same needs for my own family that the Indians had for theirs.
The Native Americans grew their corn to dry it during harvest so it would last them throughout the winter months. They would grind it into cornmeal to eat as well as crack it for feeding their livestock during harsh winter weather.


The beans the Indians grew was for the purpose of having dry beans. Dry beans were easy to harvest and put away for winter storage.
The beans we chose was a Native American Cornfield Bean that grew well over the top of the corn. The pods dried on the vines and we picked and shelled them for our pantry as well.

The timing was perfect as our beans were ready for harvest at the same time as the corn. The beans had benefited from the corn by using its stalks to climb on. They in turn benefited the corn by adding nitrogen back into the soil that helps feed the corn.


The squashes they grew were varieties that would store well throughout the winter months.
It also was grown on the outside of the mounds the corn and beans were growing in. The squash would in turn provide a natural living mulch and ground cover for the corn and beans as it stretches across the ground.

The squash in turn enjoyed the protection from the harsh hot summer sun growing beneath the corn and beans.
It’s a remarkable combination of companions that fit each other so very perfectly.

We switched from growing pumpkins with the corn crop and turned to a heirloom variety of Butternut Squash. With the Butternut we had no problems with the troublesome squash borers that injure and kill the pumpkins so easily in our area.
The Butternut Squash was ready for harvest near the same time as the corn and beans. The flesh is sweet and rich orange and wonderful in many dishes.
I’ve seen many gardeners have lack of success at trying to grow the Three Sisters Way. I’ve had previous failures as well.
The lesson’s that I learned is you must grow it just like the Native Americans did. That doesn’t mean growing it in rows. You have a more abundant harvest and stronger stalks when it is grown on mounds or circles. It’s a natural support system for the trio.
There is also less problems with timing and harvest when you grow for drying purposes. Sweet Corn or Pole Beans that must be eaten fresh interrupts the entire process and is difficult to harvest. If you want to imagine trying to pick sweet corn or green beans while pushing your way through a tangled web of vines and trying to tip toe over squash vines then you’ll understand.
It’s odd how we have so much more success when we notice the little details  that end up making all the difference in the world. It’s easy to see why protecting our heirloom varieties from cross contamination and extinction is so critical.  What a beautiful and perfect tradition that must live on. This is to the hope of our future generations.

Happy Gardening!

Pammy



Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Poor Man Rich Man Canna Lilies Of The South


Sometimes you just never know the hidden treasures that can be found in what is considered a lowly poor man's plant to be found in many southern landscapes.

This is one plant that a person can dig up and toss out and it won't die. I know, because before I discovered its value I did a whole lot of tossing.

When you really get your eyes opened to the simpler aspects of what is considered valuable for growing a healthy organic garden ecosystem, you begin to notice the obvious more often. For some of us it takes a little longer to see it. A perfect example of this is me.

The most important thing every garden needs first and foremost is healthy thriving soil. Every time I dug up the Cannas Rhizomes I noticed what a beautiful texture the soil was where they were growing.

In the Houston and surrounding areas we are prone to have a whole lot of hard clay soil and more time than not you hit clay very quickly once you dig your shovel in the ground. This is very true on our existing property. It can be very hard to work and takes an enormous amount of organic matter to make a simple garden bed. 

Luckily there are many plants and trees that will tolerate a certain amount of clay soil. The problems are that with clay soil you ultimately have very poor drainage and root systems. They get bound up with no place to go because the ground it to hard..Basically one is trying to grow in muck when it's wet and stone when it is dry.

What the rhizomes of Cannas contain is very high levels of starch enzymes. What these enzymes do for the soil is create soil aeration that reduces soil compaction. In other words the soil becomes a soft loose loam that is perfect for growing most garden vegetables, herbs and flowers.


What you will find throughout our garden is clumps of Cannas growing here and there. You will see flowers blooming brightly of either yellow or orange. Other common colors for Cannas are red or white as well. 

In each clump beneath the soil are starch filled enzymes amending the soil structure naturally and healthy micro-organisms teaming in the soft loam.

The Canna areas are also harboring my Anole Lizards, Toads, Garden snakes and spiders that create the perfect habitat for them. These beneficial preditors will protect my garden from harmful pests.


 This simply is not the end of the story for the rich man's Cannas. By harvesting their leaves and adding them to your compost pile, the plants extracts are working to help break down your compost heap faster that most other plants will do. 

This is a perfect scenario for the winter compost pile. Because the extracts are causing natural aeration it is aiding in heating the compost up. By keeping your compost nice and hot in the winter months you will be multiplying the healthy micro-organisms that keep the compost alive.

So to sum this story up, not only do I never ever toss them out, I cherish them and nurture them and promote their growth everywhere I possibly can!

It is a good time to move them around this month as they are just beginning to sprout.

Place them in new areas where future plans are to be made for new garden beds. Your soil will get a head start to health and in the end you will not need to purchase or add quite as much organic matter.

Happy Gardening!
Pammy