Thursday, September 30, 2010

Taste of Fall's not here yet, but fall is coming.  And I eagerly await its arrival.

A few mornings ago when I got up (early of course), I noticed mist coming up off the river.  It's the first time I've seen that this year and it can mean only one thing:  Summer is waning.  It was an absolutely beautiful, magical morning that I had to capture and share.

There are other signs that the worst of summer is over.  The nights and mornings are a bit cooler and the days are getting shorter.  Even the light is different.  For me, this is the best time of the year and I savor every moment of it.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Roasted Peppers

Yes, I know...another post about peppers; but my plants are still producing bunches of beautiful peppers and I'm on a constant hunt for things to do with them!  Just this week, over the course of two days, I picked 29 peppers!!  And look at these gorgeous colors. 

One of my favorite ways to eat peppers is to roast them first.  Roasted peppers are delicious, simple to make, versatile and they freeze beautifully. 

Preheat oven to 375F.

Cut the peppers in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds and trim off the ribs.  Place the cut halves in a large bowl, lightly drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, toss to coat, and place cut side down on a large cookie sheet that's been covered with heavy duty aluminum foil.

Roast peppers for about 30 minutes.  Since mine are not huge and thick walled, it doesn't take long.  You want them nicely charred on the outside...but not burnt.

Next, place peppers in a glass bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let peppers steam for about 10 minutes.  This loosens the skins and makes peeling the peppers a breeze.

Remove the plastic wrap, peel peppers (the peels should slip right off) and cut into small strips.

Place the peppers in 1/2 cup increments in small freezer bags or you can use a Food Saver for this step.  Vacuum out all the air and pop in the freezer.  That's it!

There are so many things to do with roasted peppers:  Add to soups, sauces, grain/barley/quinoa salads.  Dice and stir into scrambled eggs.  Add to leftover, sliced pot roast and gravy and serve over toast.  They go well with just about anything.  So don't let a bumper crop of peppers go to waste.  Roasting and freezing them ensures you'll be able to enjoy this delicious, nutritious vegetable well into the winter months.

And there's more pepper posts to come...this morning I picked 9 more peppers! :)

Friday, September 24, 2010

Fall Garden Update far, so good.  My fall garden is progressing nicely with a few exceptions.  None of the spinach seeds I direct sowed has germinated; same goes for the kale.  I think the soil may be a bit heavy.  So I replanted these seeds in little containers in seed starter mix, brought them in the house and placed them under my grow lamp.  I think I may have better luck this way as a few spinach seeds have already begun to germinate.    

But everything else is doing beautifully.  Take a look.

I don't mind thinning the arugula as the tiny leaves are delicious in my summer salads! :)


Beets (which, BTW, I've already thinned :)




Brussels sprouts

Green onions


As you can see, the vegetables are thriving and growing very well.  But as always, it's a constant battle with the bugs! :/  The cabbage loppers and mealy bugs have been particularly bad this year.  Every other day I pick a few cabbage loppers off the broccoli and Brussels sprouts...GRRRR.  I also spray the plants every couple of days with GreenLight BT worm killer.  It does a pretty good job of keeping the bugs at bay, but it requires constant vigilance on my part. 

I'm pretty pleased with the progress of my fall garden so far.  And my new fence has done a *wonderful* job of keeping the deer out.  We were gone for about a week at the end of August/early September and nothing got in my garden to wreak havoc and destroy all my hard work!  And that makes me happy :)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Goodbye Bandit

Friday was a very sad day for me.  We had to put our beautiful chocolate lab, Bandit, to sleep.  He was 10 years old and his hips had completely given out on him.  We've known for many months that his hips were bad but after seeing an x-ray of them a few weeks ago, we did not know just how bad.  Basically, they were completely worn out and he could barely walk.

Most labs are water dogs by nature, but Bandit was something else.  He lived for the water.  When we would go to our ranch house, we'd turn him loose in the river and he would just swim and swim and swim.  There was no need to entertain him by throwing sticks; he just loved to swim.  And he would make this little sing-song sound when he was swimming, like he was very happy where he was and wouldn't want to be doing anything else.

When we first got him he was a fat, wiggly little bundle of brown fur.  Of all the dogs, he was a little trouble maker when he was younger, always making mischief and getting into things he knew he wasn't supposed to (hence the name Bandit), but he simply wanted you to notice him and pay attention to him.  Which I gladly and lovingly did. 

He was a great dog and I miss him terribly already.  But he was suffering so much and I wasn't going to let him suffer any longer.  Although making that final decision was so very difficult. 

So on Friday, with his head in my lap and my tears on his face, and with Harry and my sister by his side, Bandit quietly and peacefully went to sleep. 

Rest in peace beautiful bad boy Bandit...You will always live in my heart.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Tiny Hummingbird

Look at this y'all...I can't believe I actually got to hold this beautiful little bird!

Let me tell you what happened.

I was on the back patio watering my plants when this little guy hit the dining room window (which happens often) and fell to the ground.  I picked him, praying he didn't break his neck (which also happens often).  But he didn't.  He was just stunned.  Y'all know my camera is never too far from me when I'm outside, so I picked it up off the table and began shooting a few photographs (because no one would believe me without photographic proof!).  As I continued watering my plants, he just sat in my hand looking around, a little dazed, but showing no signs of moving on.  He sat in my hand for about 5 minutes then just buzzed up and flew away.  It was really neat.

After consulting my  Hummingbirds of North America book, I confirmed that this is an immature male, black Chinned hummingbird, probably the most common species in this part of Texas.  How neat that I actually got to hold this beautiful little creature! :)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Stuffed Peppers

See...I told ya that batch of beautiful peppers would end up stuffed!  But mind you, these are NOT your mother's stuffed peppers (at least they are not MY mother's stuffed peppers!  Mom, you know I love you, but your stuffed peppers...hmmm, that's another matter :)

Anyway, I'm not sure why I even wrote this post because I can never recreate this stuffed pepper recipe.  It's one of those that I married two different recipes, left this out, added that, threw in some stuff of my own, etc, get the picture.  But I'll tell you basically what I did:

Preheat oven to 350F
This recipe made enough to stuff 18 peppers
3 # of ground meat - 1# each of lamb, pork and beef (I'm proud to say all were locally raised)
1/2 cup cooked, cooled bulgar wheat
1/2 bag of frozen, whole leaf spinach:  Thaw, rinse, thoroughly squeeze out all liquid and finely chop
1 small onion, grated, all the liquid squeezed out; and sauteed in a little bit of olive oil
3 small eggplant, peeled and grated (you could use zucchini or summer squash instead)
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup beef stock
3/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh, flat leaf parsley
Lots of freshly ground black pepper
Generous pinch of salt (be careful with the salt; the cheese is pretty salty as it is)

Mix all the ingredients, except the meat, in a large bowl.  Add meat to bowl and using one or two forks, slowly but thoroughly incorporate all the seasonings in with the meat.  I don't like to overmix the meat as it becomes too compacted and tough.

Coat the bottom of one or two large baking dishes with good marinara sauce, homemade or store bought.  I used a mixture of four different types of homemade tomato sauces that I had in my freezer.  I pulled them all out, mix them together, heated briefly to meld all the flavors.  Boy was it good!  Anyway, I digress :)

Lightly stuff each pepper and place in baking dish.  Top each pepper with feta cheese.

Cover the baking dish tightly with heavy duty aluminum foil and bake for about an hour.  Remove foil and return peppers to oven for an additional 15-30 minutes, depending on how soft you like your peppers.  Remove from oven and serve.

These were delicious!  And they freeze beautifully.  My husband (and my sister) loved these peppers. 

I think it's good I somewhat documented this recipe because I have an abundance of peppers still on the plants in my garden (I picked about 16 yesterday) and I have a feeling I may get a request to "make those yummy stuffed peppers again!"

Buon appetito!

Sunday, September 12, 2010


Look at these gorgeous peppers I picked this morning!  And there are boatloads more just like these on the vines!  I see a batch of delicious stuffed peppers in my future, which happens to be one of my husband's all time favorite dishes :) 

I also picked the last of the baby eggplant, which will likely be chopped, sauteed and added to the stuffed pepper mix!

More to follow, I'm sure :)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Tropical Storm Hermine

Wow...did she pack a punch!  My husband and I were out of town last week and didn't get home until Monday. We were very busy with family over the weekend and didn't pay much attention to the weather.  It wasn't until we got home that we realized a tropical storm was quickly heading our way, barely giving us enough time to secure the patio and pool furniture.  And overnight Monday, Tropical Storm Hermine hit us hard. 

It was crazy.  We've lived in this house for more than five years and we've never been through a storm like this one.  The wind was unbelievable.  All the windows on the back side of the house (and I have a lot of very tall windows) were shaking like I've never seen.  I swear there were wind gusts of up to 40-50 MPH and that went on for a number of hours.  And the rain was relentless.  When I checked the rain gauge yesterday morning, we had received more than 5 1/2 inches since Monday night...and more rain was expected. 

When what appeared to be the main punch of the storm had passed (and in between downpours), I quickly went outside to see how my garden weathered the storm and I was pleasantly surprised.  The pepper plants were seriously blown around as were the young broccoli, cabbage and Brussels sprout transplants; but all in all, everything  came through OK.  Take a look.


Wednesday morning I took a long, slow walk around the property (in between serious rain showers) to see if there were any downed trees, broken tree limbs, etc, but found no damage other than a bunch of ball moss scattered around and lots of small broken tree branches.  The wind also blew the wire cage away from my fig tree.  Not fatal, but it could have been more destructive than what it was.

Needless to say, I was pleased with what I found.  No major damage.  But it was pretty scary.  Thank God my sister was here at the house with me.  I'm not usually afraid of storms, but this one was actually pretty terrifying.   My wonderful husband was out of town (actually, he was sitting in an airplane on a runway waiting to fly to Houston).  It was not a pleasant experience for him either. 

When it was all over, Tropical Storm Hermine dumped almost seven inches of rain on us here in the hills of Boerne.  But the sun broke through Wednesday evening and the skies began to clear, blessing us with some incredible cloud formations.

Considering the damage this storm brought to many parts of South Texas, we consider ourselves quite lucky to have come through it relatively unscathed.  There is sunshine predicted for the balance of the week and I'm sure all the new transplants and tiny seedlings in my garden will be thankful for the storm, the rain that it brought and the sunshine yet to come.  Thank you, dear Universe.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Summer Sunrise

It's been a long time since I've posted a sunrise photo.  But I was up and out so early working on my beds and planting that I actually watched the sun rise every one of those days.  It was simply beautiful.  To my dear friend Linda (fellow early morning person)...this one's for you :)

Friday, September 3, 2010

Fall Planting Guide

Looking back on my previous posts, I realize I did a lousy job of communicating when to plant what fall vegetables.  So I picked up a chart from my local nursery clearly outlining the planting dates for fall vegetables in the San Antonio area:

BEANS, Green Bush (Aug 1 - Sept 5)
BEANS, LIMA (Jul 5 - Aug 20)
BEETS, (Aug 15 - Oct 15)
BROCCOLI, Transplants (Aug 1 - Oct 15)
BRUSSELS SPROUTS, Transplants (Aug 1 - Oct 15)
CABBAGE, (July 25 - Oct 15)
CANTALOUPE, (Jul 1 - Aug 15)
CELERY, Transplants (July 9 - Oct 15)
CHINESE CABBAGE, (Aug 15 - Oct 15)
CARROTS, (Aug 1 - Nov 10)
CAULIFLOWER, (Transplants (Aug 1 - Oct 15)
CHARD, Swiss (Aug 15 - Nov 1)
COLLARDS (Aug 15 - Nov 1)
CORN, Sweet (Jun 1 - Aug 20)
CUCUMBERS, (Aug 1 - Sept 10)
EGGPLANT, Transplants (Jul 15 - Sept 1)
GARLIC, (Aug 1 - Nov 1)
KALE, (Aug 15 - Nov 1)
LETTUCE, Head (Sept 1 - 15)
LETTUCE, Leaf (Aug 10 - Oct 10)
MUSTARD, (Aug 20 - Oct 10)
OKRA, (July 1 - Aug 15)
ONION, Seed (Oct 1 - Nov 10)
PARSLEY (Aug 20 - Nov 1)
PEAS, Southern (July 10 - Sept 1)
PEPPERS, Sweet & Hot transplants (July 15 - Sept 1)
RADISH, (Aug 15 - Nov 20)
RUTABAGA, (July 15 - Dec 1)
SPINACH, (Sept 1 - Nov 15)
SQUASH, Summer (Aug 10 - Sept 10)
SQUASH, Winter (July 10 - Aug 10)
TOMATO, Transplants (July 15 - Sept 1)
TURNIP, (Aug 15 - Nov 1
WATERMELON, (July 1-15)

Hope this helps!  Get out there and play in the really is one of life's simplest and greatest my humble opinion of course :)