Late summer fruit

 

 

 

 

 

Sunset with clouds
Sunset over Waneka Lake, Lafayette, CO

Someone gave me 5+ pounds of surplus grapes, which yielded 7 cups of juice. The juice itself was good enough to drink unsweetened but I used it to make jelly and gummies inspired by Ana Rocha. Her recipe uses apple and pear juice with agar powder. Because I thought apple juice would have more natural pectin, I added pectin in addition to agar, but it was not necessary. Agar is a very good substitute for gelatin. It was surprisingly hard to find at my Natural Grocers and other stores in the area though. Employees didn’t even know what it was.

fingers squeezing grape
Concord grape without its purple skin

 

There was a little grape juice left, which I combined with blueberry green tea steeped in pomegranate juice and made blocks of similar gummies to consume during endurance sports. We all ran a 5K open race before a cross-country meet, and this being only my son’s second run at that distance, I thought he might need replenishment. I do sometimes. I’m still tweaking this recipe, but if you want to try it, here’s what I did that day:

  1. Boiled 1 1/2 cups juice briefly, then turned off and steeped 4 blueberry green tea bags in it for about 5 minutes (adds a little caffeine)
  2. Stirred in a tablespoon of powdered electrolytes until it dissolved; the brand was Ultima Replenisher because that’s what we had
  3. Removed the tea bags and boiled the juice with 1 tablespoon agar and 1 teaspoon pectin (you could probably not use pectin and it wouldn’t matter) and about 1/4 cup of agave syrup until it thickened
  4. Poured into a silicone candy mold of 24 blocks, 1 square inch each

I assume this means 6 blocks have the caffeine of one cup of green tea, and my 9 year old had only one block. I ate a single block myself on a morning run when I was feeling weak, and it really picked me up. If it’s a placebo effect that’s OK. My 5K time that day was 3 minutes faster than my goal, but I don’t think that little block of sugar, salt and caffeine knocked 3 minutes off itself. If so, gummies will be banned substances.

That was the best use I’ve ever had for surplus fruit. Let this be a lesson not to throw away any fruit just because it’s more than you can consume fresh. If you don’t want to process it, find a neighbor who will and they’ll probably give you a cut. Next episode, I’ll tell you what we did with 40-some pounds of Gala apples and Bartlett pears from the trees in my front yard. I planted them 10-12 years ago but this is the first time the apple tree produced a lot of fruit.

And here’s another picture of my friend Mantis, because he’s so cool. I hope he’s still out there, alive.

 

 

This is not a food blog

How did I make pasta for decades without knowing I could stop the water from bubbling over by simply placing a chopstick over the pot? I learned this recently from one of our favorite shows, Chef & My Fridge

A wooden spoon works too. A stick would work. The bubbles pop when they hit whatever item you rest on the rim of the pot and it doesn’t boil over onto the stove. My dad lived his whole life without knowing that, and he made a lot of pasta. Is there anything else simple and obvious I should know? About cooking, gardening, parenting, putting my pants on, anything?

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Here’s another stupid thing I did. Somehow I mislabeled seeds either when I collected them or planted them, and came out with plants I didn’t expect. A lot of them are cherry tomatoes, which is fine. They taste very, very good and make an excellent sauce. They just don’t impress your friends with their size and aren’t some wacky color, and it’s easier to harvest a few large tomatoes than 100 small ones.

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I also have a variety I can’t even identify as one I previously planted or bought seeds for. It’s pinkish and medium-sized; looks a lot like a bald peach.

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I wonder if I hybridized something, although I don’t know how. It’s shaped like a German Orange Strawberry but not golden in color and frankly not as tasty. And I haven’t grown those in several years because they were susceptible to disease and not very productive. I won’t give them a bad review, I just might not have the right climate for them.

Lucid Gems are as expected, and a couple Brandywines I didn’t have much hope for are producing. Almost no large tomatoes are ripe yet, and most are still getting larger. We had a party last weekend and I was unable to impress the other parents with a tomato salad, but there are some decent Marketmore cucumbers. These and a zucchini make pretty good, inoffensive low-carb noodles. I recommend eating them raw. They have a nice, crisp texture and that’s about it. They taste only as interesting as the sauce, oil or whatever you put on them.

Here, we’ve had smoke from the California wildfires and several downpours they could use in California. To get an idea of how bad it must be there, this is Boulder, CO on a clear day, which normally means the sky is a saturated blue and mountains are visible:

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I am starting to see something like Septoria Leaf Spot on a few leaves but that doesn’t freak me out. I excise the affected leaves knowing it won’t eradicate it completely, but I have seen it this time of year frequently and healthy plants usually overcome it for the rest of the season.

 

Peppers are doing unusually well. I don’t know what the ones that look like Ancho chilis are – they might be Ancho chilis. The seeds are from a plant a coworker gave me last year, and he didn’t know what it was either. The long curly ones are Jimmie Nardellos , grown from seeds I removed from ripe peppers I bought at the farmers’ market. They are sweet and not spicy at all.

 

I used about 4 cups grated zucchini to make 2 bundt cakes, which were very good.

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Metal Pig made Kolaches (traditional Bohemian pastry) with cherries from my friends’ tree. But I didn’t get a pic of the cherry ones before they were gone. This has poppy seed filling:

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Hanukkah in August

I didn’t get any suggestions for different ways to enjoy fresh beans, so I’m posting one. Disclaimer: this is not a food blog.

I batter-fried some beans in a pool of oils – avocado, coconut and sesame. The pool was only about 1/2 inch (2-3 cm) deep in a non-stick pan. My pans are non-teflon, non-stick and I used a smallish one to make the pool deeper and use less oil. I dredged the beans (also sliced peppers, but they are not the subject of this, because I didn’t grow them) in:

-1 cup mixture of Ener-G egg replacer (potato and tapioca starch) and AP flour

-tsp salt

-tsp baking powder

-1/2 cup-ish ice water

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Then I fried em in the oil (you saw that coming, right?)

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I served them with a dipping sauce of:

-tsp miso paste

-1 or 3 tbs soy sauce

-2 or 3 tbs Thai chili sauce (sweet chili sauce)

They were crisp, sweet and a huge hit, even without the sauce. Part of a complete dinner with baked tofu, Chana chaat (lovely Indian chick pea salad) and naan:

Recommended beverage, smoothie made with seasonal Colorado peaches:

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What would Saint Francis do?

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For the first time in 10 years, I see bunnies in my yard. They couldn’t get through or under the fence since we built it, and I assumed wouldn’t want to anyway because of our dogs. But last week I saw a big bunny and a baby bunny and EG found a depression in the gravel under the fence they must use as a portal. EG’s dog Dean chased one out through it. They hide under the shed, where I think they might be living.

That’s St Francis on the left, and one of his little friends perched on a plank on the right:

 

 

Here’s another interesting creature I found in my entryway. I didn’t think he wanted to be there, so I put my hand in front of him and he climbed on. I was like, “buddy, I have just the place for you” and placed him in the bean jungle. I wished him well and hope he finds a mate who won’t bite his head off.

I drank this Vinho Verde at sunset while picking beans and wondered about the Mantis’ love lives.

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How do they find each other? It must be so hard get together with someone of your own species that you’d take the risk she might eat your head. I hope they don’t have an appetite for ladybugs. There are little grasshoppers in there, and I don’t even kill them, but someone will eat a few – probably the Mantises. I have so far avoided using any kind of bug repellent or killer and everything seems to work itself out. It’s tough in the spring when I think sowbugs (pill bugs, roly-polies) eat newly planted beans, but the beans that tough it out catch up with a vengeance in June.

As usual, I don’t have large, ripe tomatoes yet, and probably won’t for another 2-3 weeks. I just get a late harvest, maybe because I don’t feed the plants enough early, or the soil is tough to get established in? They look good though. We are having a party next week, and I may resort to picking some large green ones and ripening them in a paper bag so I can make a salsa. Ditto the peppers, which I never see ripe before September.

 

Request for inspiration

How many ways can you prepare and serve these lovely, fresh snap beans that are in season now? I use them raw as a vehicle for dips and treats for the dogs. I also saute them with just oil, salt and pepper or something more complicated, like Old Bay seasoning. And cook them in the canned tomatoes from last year (not really getting ripe ones yet this year). Another fun thing to do is fill the holes in penne pasta with them, when I want a time-consuming manual task.

I’d love to read your favorite ways to enjoy them, whether traditional or weird. I’m not in a rut, I just usually have so many in July and August I can afford to experiment with them.

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The purple ones, Purple Podded Pole beans, are very young now. In a week or two there will be some as long as 10 inches. They are green when fully cooked. I love the purple color because not only is it pretty, it makes them easier to find and pick. For the same reason I don’t grow green tomatoes or anything else that matches its foliage when ripe. As far as I know, no peppers are green when ripe, though you can eat them green. If that’s your thing.

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About 5 days ago I fed all plants except beans with alfalfa meal and Tiger Bloom 2-8-4 fertilizer (Tiger Bloom isn’t made with animal products except earthworm castings). Then we had several stormy days and they are all really happy.

It’s not just foliage, there’s fruit too, including a few ripe cherry tomatoes. I should have tested my soil but I’m lazy so I just looked at the plants and figure they have a pretty good balance of minerals.

So…recipes, suggestions, inspiration anyone? I’m especially looking at you, chefs and cooks (you know who you are) 🙂

 

It’s not a food blog but I made these oatmeal cookies…

My family loved them and thought they should be shared.  It’s probably like most of the oatmeal cookie recipes out there, though vegan and gluten-free. Came out of the oven lovely, thick and moist, and cooled to be thick and chewy.

Note that my experience is at a mile high altitude, and if you live much lower you may want to adjust your recipe with slightly less flour and slightly more sugar, but frankly I don’t know how much. I just pulled this recipe out of my @ss today and it worked.

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Gluten-free vegan oatmeal cookies:

Wet ingredients:

5 tablespoons Earth Balance (or any solid fat, probably)

5 tablespoons peanut butter

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup coconut sugar

2 tablespoons chia seeds soaked in 1/3 cup water

1-2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Dry ingredients:

I cup oat flour

1/2 cup almond flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

Ingredients added last:

2 1/2 cups rolled oats

1 cup raisins or chocolate chips, or whatever you like to add to oatmeal cookies

Step 1.

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Step 2.

Cream fat and sugar for about 2 minutes.

Step 3.

Add other wet ingredients to creamed fat and sugar.

Step 4.

Whisk together dry ingredients.

Step 5.

Add dry to wet ingredients and beat until combined.

Step 6.

Mix in the oats and other additive(s). Raisins, dried cranberries or cherries, chocolate chips and any of those things people like in cookies are welcome!

Step 7.

Use an ice cream scoop or spoon to drop batter onto baking sheet. I put parchment on a baking sheet for cookies, but you could just use a little lubricant or whatever on a bare sheet. Bake for 10 minutes.

Step 8.

Share cookies. This is an important step! They will taste much better if you share them.

I like sharing. Sharing’s my favorite.

 

To be consistent with the theme of my garden, I’ll post a pic of some guacamole made with avocado I wish I could grow, cilantro and a green Jimmie Nardello pepper which I did grow, lime juice, salt and pepper.

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Chef friends who follow me: first, thanks for following! Second, I know I’m not a chef so I post my simple, kid-friendly recipes most humbly. Your comments and criticism are welcome.

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Holes

Metal Pig is helping me finish the fence. I tried to do everything myself while he worked on projects that actually needed to be done, like remodeling. I got to a point where I just wasn’t man enough to dig the last post hole and I can’t plumb fence posts alone. I was hoping for some child labor but the kids were useless, playing soccer, video games or whatever. Metal Pig, who is twice the man I am by weight and volume, brought his big muscles to the project and it’s finally almost done.

I’m reminded of a book and movie in which boys were forced to dig holes in the desert. This is Colorado dirt and these are the tools I used to dig 2-foot post holes, and the mixture of sunflower oil and white vinegar used to treat the bottoms of the posts to prevent rotting:

 

 

There’s no setting the posts in cement because I don’t want the toxins from it in my garden. They have to be set in packed, hard dirt, which we do have a steady supply of. The O.G. posts were set that way 4 years ago, and are still solid, plumb and level.

This hardly ever happens, in the kitchen, my professional life, my pursuit of being ripped and muscular, but my vision had become real.

 

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I do need to be small to tend the plants and harvest in the fenced area, so my size is an advantage in that way.

I’ve heard of zucchini races, where kids add wheels to zucchini and race them downhill. It’s a cute and fun idea, but I can’t stand to see food wasted. I love sauteed zucchini. It also makes an amazing cake, like carrot cake, which at my last party was more popular than chocolate cake. There’s also the low-carb noodle impersonators you can turn them into, which aren’t like actual noodles no matter what you read, but I love them. You can use a spiralizer but I don’t usually spend money on unitaskers so I use a knife and vegetable peeler.

A spiralizer would make them look more like linguine. I need a real camera, don’t I.