Fall is in the Air

If you know me you know that I love fall. I love everything about it – beautiful leaves, cooler weather and the first fire in the fireplace. In New Mexico the coming of fall also means hot air balloons, geese returning for the winter and roasting green chilies. We grow our own green chili for a couple of reasons that include the smell of roasting them on the back porch. If you don’t know this smell. You NEED to visit New Mexico in the fall. I brought some of the last unroasted chili to Arizona. Amber was excited to have that fresh roasting chili smell and we get to eat them as well.
 
Green Chili Stew
1 pound stew meat*, cut into bite size pieces
1 yellow onion, diced
2T vegetable oil( we use avocado oil)
2 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper to taste.
4 cups chicken stock( homemade is best)
Chopped green chili- the amount will depend on how spicy you like your food. If you are unsure try 3-4 mild ones for starters. You can used canned or frozen.
2 carrots diced
3 Yukon gold potatoes, cut into bite sized pieces
1 yellow squash, cut into bite sized pieces-optional **
Sauté the onions about 5 minutes in the oil. Add the meat and continue until browned. Add garlic and cook another minute. Season with salt and pepper. Add stock and chili. Let this simmer an hour or so. You might need to add water if it looks dry. When the meat is tender add the vegetables and cook until the are done, about 20-25minutes. Serve with warm tortillas..
*Pork is traditional but beef works well. We use elk when we can.
** We added this because we had it in the garden. Add it during the last 15 minutes.
 
As I was setting up the diffuser recently I had planned on mostly orange oil with just a few drops of clove, nutmeg and cinnamon bark. I was going for a fresh fall scent. Well……. what really happened is the generous amount of orange oil I thought I was adding was really clove. I just went for it. IT WAS GREAT! The house smelled amazing. What a happy accident! The moral of the story is that there are countless combinations to try in the diffuser. Give it a try and let us know your favorites.
Cathy

 

Baby Garden

Happy Friday!! We have started a baby garden.  Like my mom, I really like to eat veggies out of my own garden.  There is something amazing about seeing where your food comes from.  My dad built me these garden boxes about a year ago and they have been waiting to be used all that time!!  We decided, now that the weather is cooling off, to go ahead and get everything set up.  Our yard is slightly sloped away from the lawn so we had to dig one side of the box down a little bit to level it out.

     

Then we added organic raised bed soil and amended it with mushroom compost to feed the plants.

   

After the beds were ready  we just had to decide what to plant.  The obvious choice is things we actually like to eat.  Then it is important to consider what time of year it is and what will do well in this season.  Phoenix in fall is still pretty warm so our growing season is off from everything you normally see on the internet.  With that in mind I am taking a chance with a few more traditionally summer plants; tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini and eggplant.  Then I also planted more fall plants; peas, carrots, beets, lettuce, spinach and kale.

    

We also have an herb bed that we can hopefully keep year round as we have such great weather here!! The separate pot is for the mint as it will take over the entire box if not contained.  We also have rosemary, parsley, cilantro, sage, thyme, oregano and lemon balm.  Herbs are awesome because not only can they be used in food, a lot of herbs can be used for medicinal purposes as well!!

 

Lastly, we have a nest in the bird house.  I have been seeing a little bird family go in and out of there for a while now, super exciting!!

Happy Gardening!!

XOXO -Amber

Winter is Coming

I might be one of the very last people to watch Game of Thrones. The idea that Winter is Coming is throughout the first season and a few of the characters are paying attention but most are not. Of course that has nothing to do with the garden but seems more interesting than the old ant and grasshopper story.

In the garden we are aware that winter is coming so today was all about harvesting and “putting up” for winter. There is nothing that I like better than to be able to make chili, soup or spaghetti sauce on a cold winter day with tomatoes I’ve saved from the garden. We are so used to having plenty of tomatoes all winter that we forget how yummy they are until someone is here for a meal and reminds us that those tomatoes we saved from the garden make an ordinary meal something special.

I just wash the tomatoes and cut them in half. I cook them on low heat until they start releasing juice and I turn them up to medium-low. I mash them every ten minutes or so and cook until everything is soft. I put the cooked tomatoes and juice through a food mill to got rid of most of the skins. I put about 3 cups of cooked tomatoes into a plastic container and freeze. A day or so later I remove them from the containers and put them I a bag that can be vacuum sealed. This saves that fresh garden flavor.
We also harvested Anasazi beans. They are yummy and we like them better than pinto beans. After they are shelled we spread them out on a cookie sheet to dry. It only takes a few days and then they go into a jar in the pantry.

Squash and okra went into the freezer today too. We are happier with the texture of these two vegetables if we don’t blanch them first. The general rule of thumb is to use them within 6 months. We use a vacuum sealer so we don’t have any problems. I cut the okra first since this is how I will be using it. I put it on a parchment lined pan in the freezer for about an hour and a half. This helps it not get crushed in the vacuum sealer. The squash just goes in the bag freshly cut and then vacuum sealed.

Paul even made pickled peppers. He says they are very tasty but hot. I don’t do hot so I’ll let him enjoy those.



Paul’s Pickled Peppers
Makes 2 pint jars.

1 3/4 cup white distilled vinegar
3/4 cup water
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeño, sliced vertically In half
1 T sugar
1 tsp sea salt

Heat ingredients until sugar and salt dissolve. Liquid should be very hot but doesn’t need to boil.

While this heats, put 5-6 jalapeños in each clean pint jar. They should fit as tightly as possible. Pour hot liquid and garlic into jars. Each jar gets one of the cut pepper pieces. Don’t be surprised if the peppers start to float. Put on the lids. Let the jars cool a bit and store in the refrigerator. These are not processed in a water bath so be sure to keep them in the fridge.
Loving my garden,
Cathy

What’s New in the Garden  

One of my joys in our garden is growing our veggies from seed.  We get to choose what plants and specifically what varieties we want to grow.  Fortunately our garden has lots of space so we try a few new plants each year to see how they will do.  Sometimes we have a winner and sometimes not.
This year we tried three new varieties of tomato but don’t love any of them. They won’t get planted again.  Our favorites again this year are Carmelo, Ramapo, Fourth of July and Steak Sandwich.  They have proven to be winners and each will be planted again next year.
We are having good luck with the bush green beans too.  We usually grow pole beans but the bush beans don’t take as much room and they fit into the space we had available.  Another winner!  So far they are more tender, stringless and are producing well.
         
The purple hull peas are a first year surprise.  I loved eating these peas growing up in Arkansas and was reminded of them when I visited my aunt and uncle in Nashville.  I saw them in the shell when Aunt Shirley got them at a road side stand.  I decided to give them a try. I had to order the seeds since none of the local or chain stores carry them here in Albuquerque.  I’m so glad that I did.  They got off to a slow start but when it got hot they took off.  It is such a surprise to see how they grow too.  There are only about three pods ready but I can hardly wait to cook the first “mess.”
  
Another love of my childhood is okra.  I’ve grown all different kinds over the years.  This year I’m growing Arkansas okra.  That’s not the variety but the home of these seeds.  My friend Kay, who lives in Arkansas, saved me some seeds from the okra I admired in her garden.  Okra loves the heat and is doing great.  The first okra will be picked this week.
Ok, kids.  Eat your veggies.  They are DELICIOUS!
Happy Gardening,
Cathy

Ripe Tomatoes

Gardening is work. It needs daily attention which means watering in New Mexico. Sometimes the pests and disease are taking their share.  Weeds are a constant fight in an organic garden.  When I was watering this morning I found a huge hornworm on a pepper plant and two ripe tomatoes that the bugs had eaten. I had to just put them in the compost. Ugh!
Sometimes I wonder why we do all this – 20+ raised beds is a serious commitment. But then I pick a few perfectly ripe tomatoes.  I know they have been grown in good, rich soil with no pesticides or herbicides and good organic fertilizers. I know what I’m eating because I grew it- from a seed. Have you eaten a freshly picked tomato while you are standing in the garden with the juice dripping down your chin?  I hope so!!  Nothing to me says perfection like a ripe tomato with just a touch of salt. Sliced tomatoes from the garden will be eaten every day for weeks. THAT’S WHY I DO IT!!!
If you don’t have a garden of your own, I would encourage you to find a friend with a few extra tomatoes or at least try a farmer’s market.  Think about how you can grow a  tomato next year.  All you need is a spot of ground that gets 6 or more hours of sun or a good sized pot.  Plant, water and be patient. You will be rewarded.
Happy Eating,
Cathy