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Today’s Harvest Basket 7/7/14

Today’s Harvest Basket July/7/2014

Big vegetables

Zucchini, onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, scapes

Zucchini, onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, scapes.

Love those foot long Chinese cucumbers. The organic Chinese cucumbers, “Suyo Long” picked early are already crisp and crunchy. I’ve eaten these while standing in the garden. Just snipped off the vine and cleaned with a swipe across my jeans.


There’s enough zucchini to make a chocolate zucchini cake.  And a side dish of zucchini with garlic and onions for dinner. And a cold rice salad with zucchini. After all that, this squash is still so good. Picked fresh then made into a dozen different recipes we love.

The seeds we planted were three years old. Everyone came up.

The seeds we planted were three years old. Every seed came up.

Zucchini is a “use it or lose it” vegetable. Canning or freezing summer squash is usually a disappointment.

Find some of our favorite zucchini on Pinterest Courgette (zucchini) Everything

Don’t miss this recipe: Easy Pickled Zucchini from Zuni Cafe

This Hub Pages recipe uses a ton of zucchini: Enchilada salsa with zucchini  Add to enchilada filling or tortilla soup.

Yellow onions

Candy – Globe shaped yellow onion is mild and sweet.  Good soil and plenty of water means big, long keepers. It’s too early to pull all the onions in the garden.

This spring, I ran out of room and planted a few onion starts in the containers marked for tomatoes. With the regular watering and extra boost of fertilizer these onions grew up big and fast. I pulled these yellow onions from the pots where tall staked tomato plants are crowding out any other plants.

These big Candy onions are 3"in diameter.

These big Candy onions are 3″in diameter.

With the regular watering and extra boost of fertilizer, these onions grew up big and fast. This is an onion in need of a hamburger. Don’t you think so? Imagine a thick, whole slice of mild and sweet onion on top of a burger just off the grill.

These onions are weighing in between 13 and 15 ounces.  They are easy to pick because they look like they are just sitting on top of the ground. We will let the top completely dry before cutting off the top leaves and bottom roots.

Wilted Lettuce

Get out your biggest bowl.

Spring greens mixed with onions and radishes.

Spring greens mixed with onions and radishes.

Wilted Lettuce. When Grandma asked me what I wanted for supper, I said wilted lettuce.
“You and Rex,” she said. “I think he could eat a dish pan of wilted lettuce.”
Grandpa Rex and I loved wilted lettuce.

Not a spring lettuce garden goes by without several servings of wilted lettuce on the menu.

In restaurants the closest you will get to this dish is “Spinach salad with hot bacon dressing.”

To make Wilted Lettuce and the get the recipe go to:

How to make wilted lettuce

Have you tried Flashy Trout Back lettuce?

Mature lettuce has burgundy colored speckles.

Mature lettuce has burgundy colored speckles.

It is very popular now. If it is too late to plant lettuce, order seed for a fall crop.

‘Flashy Trout Back’ is a romaine lettuce, fully mature at 55 days. It is crisp, crunchy and spattered with dark wine colored splashes.

Young Flashy Trout Back leaves are lighter colored and especially  popular with thelocal baby rabbits.

Young Flashy Trout Back is especially popular with the local baby rabbits.

You can harvest baby greens, which are much lighter colors.




cranberry relish

Thanksgiving day table was loaded with all the traditional fare. At each place setting was a mini vase filled tiny red roses. I never normally have roses for the table this late in the Fall. But this summer I brought home some miniature roses and tiny vases at each place setting.

cranberry relish

1 medium orange
12 oz. package fresh or frozen cranberries
1 cup good quality honey
½ cup water
2 apples, cored, not peeled and finely chopped

Zest the whole orange, then juice and remove the seeds. Bring all ingredients to a boil in a large covered sauce pan. Reduce heat and continue boiling for about 10 minutes. Cranberries will pop open. Remove from heat. Refrigerate. Mixture will thicken as it continues to cool. Serve cold.

Herb Vinegars

Make extra for gifts

Buy this at the store and it could cost you $20. Make it at home for pennies. Plus, your custom blend always tastes better.

Finally! It’s time to fill you salad bowl with home-grown greens. I love those little bitty butter lettuces, so tender and perfect. Place the whole head of butter lettuce in each salad bowl. Get a jump on spring with this selection of lettuces.

tarragon Begin adding layers of flavor in your herb vinegar by adding more herbs as they each become plentiful. Start with a good vinegar. If it doesn’t taste good now, it won’t get any better with the addition of herbs. Stock up on your own blends of herb vinegar.

Tarragon vinegar is a popular herb vinegar and so easy to make. Start with a white wine vinegar. Only two items are required: tarragon and vinegar. More instructions are here: Make Tarragon Vinegar

Tarragon is a low growing, disorderly bright green herb. It likes full sun, well-drained soil. Adding compost in the summer and leaf mulch in the winter is all the care, this little herb needs.

Once it is well established, you have a bonus in the garden traders plant exchange. You must have a starter plant, it does not grow from seed. Rarely does it bloom, but the seeds are sterile.

Fines herbes

Fines Herbes – parsley, tarragon, chervil, chives. A beautiful herb combination for a container garden near the kitchen door. photo by Patsy Bell Hobson.

Tarragon, (Artemisia dracunculus

You must have tarragon or you can’t make Béarnaise sauce, channel Julia Child, or cook like a French chef. Buy a starter plant. It’s lovely and fragrant. Say hi to Julia for me.

It’s Peach (Bellini) Season!

Choose sweet, ripe peaches and crisp, dry champagne

Bellini is this summer's patio drink at the historic Hobson Estate.

Bellini is this summer’s patio drink at the historic Hobson Estate. Photo by Patsy Bell Hobson

In Italy, the Bellini is made with Prosecco, the Italian sparkling wine. Elsewhere, Bellini is a champagne cocktail.

A Bellini requires only two ingredients: champagne (or prosecco) and peaches. Created in the 1930s or 1940s by bartender Giuseppe Cipriani at Harry’s Bar in Venice, Italy. He named the drink for his favorite painter, Giovanni Bellini.

Bellinis are 1 part peach puree and 3 parts prosecco.

Directions – Peel, chop, fruit and discard the pit. Puree the freshest, ripest chopped peaches. Start with two small or one large peach. Puree then sweeten to taste with stevia or sugar. I use a homemade peach butter. (made like apple butter or applesauce only with peaches.)

Pour enough peach puree into glass to fill ¼ of the champagne flute. Slowly add champagne. Stir gently. Garnish with a peach slice or mint leaves. Makes two cocktails. Enjoy!

Champagne Cocktails

Sweet peaches and dry champagne. The Bellini is a celebration of summer's best. Photo by PBH.

Sweet peaches and dry champagne. The Bellini is a celebration of summer’s best. Photo by PBH.

When we stopped at Les Bourgeois Vineyards on a sunny, summer afternoon, a glass of bubbly seemed in order.  We had Brut, a cheese plate, and enjoyed the bluff top view of the Missouri River.  We ended up buying several bottles, and bringing home the key bellini ingredient, Les Bourgeois Brut.

I’ll use the Brut from Les Bourgeois Vineyards for Bellinis. At last, I found an affordable version of Missouri-made champagne.

Here is what Les Bourgeois has to say about Brut: “Using primarily Vidal grapes gives the methode traditionale sparkling wine a refreshing aroma with a crisp effervescence and dry finish.” All I know is that it is the best made-in-Missouri version of champagne I’ve ever tasted.

Go to: Les Bourgeois Vineyards – 14020 W. Highway BB – Rocheport, MO 65279 – 1.800.690.1830

More cocktails

Create your own signature cocktails by combining any of summers best berries or stone fruit. Just use the same proportion of fruit to  prosecco. Try strawberries, blueberries, nectarines or plums. Some fruits are sweeter than others, so sweeten fruit purees to taste.

More about peaches

and the recipe for home made  Peach champagne jam

A beautiful cheese plate adds to the celebratory nature of champagne.

A beautiful cheese plate adds to the celebratory nature of champagne at Les Bourgeois Vineyards. Photo by PBH.

It’s Peach Season!

A fresh, juicy taste of summer

Peach season is short and sweet - possibly stretching to six weeks. Photo: Patsy Bell Hobson

Peach season is short and sweet – possibly stretching to six weeks. Photo: Patsy Bell Hobson

This is my favorite Peach Jam Recipe. It turned out great last year, so I’m making it again this year. I made little jars of jam and shared it with neighbor Patti. She loved it and returned the two empty jars within a couple of weeks.

Peach champagne jam

4 cups peaches, peeled, pitted, and chopped
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 T. Ball flex batch powdered pectin
2 T. bottled lemon juice
1 cup champagne*

This year, I'm making two batches. Photo: Patsy Bell Hobson

This year, I’m making two batches. Photo: Patsy Bell Hobson

Prepare four half pint jars by sterilizing.
Add sliced peaches to stainless steel or enamel cast iron pot. Cook on low stirring occasionally for about 20 minutes. Using an immersion blender or potato masher crush the peaches till the recipe is smooth. Add the sugar and lemon juice. Bring the temperature to medium, stirring constantly to bring the mixture slowly to a boil. Note: The jam with splatter like a volcano erupting so where an apron.

Once at a boil add champagne and stir for about one minute then add the pectin. Bring mixture back to a boil which will happen quickly and keep at a boil for one minute continuing to stir. Remove from heat.

Immediately ladle peach jam into jars leaving 1/4″ headspace. Wipe rims and add hot lids/rings and process in water bath for 10 minutes at a full rolling boil.

Try this champagne cocktail recipe: Bellinis using sweet, fresh and local peaches.

BTW, I’ve tried several canning recipes from this site. Each one turned out perfectly and was loved by all. Canning Homemade! Sustainable Living and Preserving the Future!

* I used Brut from Les Bourgeois Vineyards  – 14020 W. Highway BB – Rocheport, MO 65279 – 1.800.690.1830 It’s the best Missouri version of champagne that I have tasted.

Peeling Tomatoes

Dunking tomatoes in boiling water is the easiest way to peel them. photo PBH.

  • First, set a big pot of water on the stove to rolling boil. Half fill a sink with ice an water.
  • Next, choose the ripest tomatoes. Cut an ‘X’ into the blossom end of the tomato. Core the tomatoes now or later after they have cooled. If you do it now, the skin is just that much easier to remove.
  • Then, carefully drop a few tomatoes into the boiling water. I drop 4 to 6tomatoes in at one time. Allow the water to return to a boil. (usually about 1 minute.) Remove tomatoes with a slotted spoon and dunk into the ice water immediately.
  • Allow the big pot of hot water to return to a boil and drop in more tomatoes. In the mean time, peel the tomatoes after they cool in the ice water. Cut out the core or the green stem end, if you haven’t already. (This is when I do it. It seems like I get more of that tough, tasteless core out.)
  • If you want to remove the seeds, cut to tomato in half and squeeze it. Use your finger or a spoon to scoop out any remaining seed pockets.

Now your tomatoes are ready for processing, making salsa, spaghetti sauce or simply canning.

Making salsa

Scented or Flavored Sugars Recipe

How to make Lavender or Vanilla Flavored Sugars

L-R small jar of pure sugar; middle, 4 cups of vanilla sugar, and right, lavender sugar

The last of the lavender is blooming. Bees are abuzz. They have hovered aroud the lavender all summer. Noticing the last of the blooms nudged me on make a quart  (4 cups) of lavender flavored sugar.

I always keep these flavored sugars in the kitchen cabinet. Each summer I bake a ohghbpound cake to go with the season’s berries. Substitute lavender sugar for regular sugar in your favorite recipe. Or try Paula Deens Pound Cake recipe.

Pollinators frequent the lavender from the first bloom to the last.

Vanilla Sugar
Vanilla sugar is also easy to make. Substitute vanilla scented sugar in any cake or cookie recipe. It is also good in ice cream recipes.

Vanilla Sugar Recipe
Break whole vanilla bean pod in three or four pieces and distribute throughout a quart canning jar filled with white sugar. Wait 3 or 4 weeks for the vanilla to infuse the sugar. I buy spices from Penzey’s.

I’m making lavender sugar and vanilla sugar. Scented sugar or flavored sugars add another level of flavor to your recipes. It’s my secret ingredient and a sweet and suttle accent to baked goods.

Lavender Sugar
I’m collecting half a dozen lavender flowers to make lavender sugar. A little goes a long way. Lavender can quickly overpower the food it is meant to flavor. Lavender scented sugar adds just a hint of floral flavor.

Lavender Sugar Recipe

Three stems of fresh lavender flowers will infuse the 4 cups of sugar.

To make your own lavender sugar, add three or four whole flower heads in layers as you fill a pint jar with white sugar. Seal and wait two weeks to use the sugar. Test the flavor after the first week. Use a teaspoon of dried culinary flowers if fresh lavender is not available.

Using lavender sugar instead of lavender flowers in baking will add the light touch that will accent a recipe, not overpower it. Sift out the lavender flowers before adding the sugar to the recipe.

Use scented sugar in pound cake and/or the glaze. Substitute lavender sugar for regular white sugar in any baking recipe. Try lavender sugar cookies or blueberry muffins made with scented sugar.

Make scented sugars your secret ingredient. Adding vanilla extract to your baking is optional if you are using scented sugars. Also, try cinnamon stick or fresh mint leaves. If you have pesticide-free roses, make rose flavored sugar.

Make More

If your cake recipe calls for 2 Cups of sugar measure out what you need and sift out nd flower bits. Refill the quart jar with more regular. Tighten the lid and gently shake or roll the jar to mix the new and remaining flavored sugars.

Let your taste or smell be the judge about when to replace the herbs or spices. I bake very rarely, so I refresh the herbs or spices in a quart jar once each year. Wait two weeks to infuse  the additional sugar.


Homemade Buttermilk Dressing (ranch dressing)

I am a herb gardener. Herbs are thriving in this summer heat. Since fresh tastes best.

This is my version of Ranch Dressing.

Homemade Buttermilk Dressing (ranch dressing) with fresh herbs

Use fresh herbs when you have them. Substitute Penzeys Fox Point seasoning for onions and garlic.

1 cup mayonnaise or Greek yogurt (low or fat-free may be used)

1 cup buttermilk (low-fat is ok)

juice of ½ lemon

1 small clove garlic, minced

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh dill

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley

salt & freshly ground black pepperto taste

Combine yogurt and lemon in a pint Mason jar. Add garlic,chives, parsley and, dill. Pour in half the butter milk. Whisk or shake all ingredients are well blended. (Or I use an emersion blender.)

Continue adding up to ½ cup of buttermilk until dressing is the desired consistency. (I use 1 whole cup of buttermilk.)

Makes 1 pint. Keeps for a week in the fridge. Always shake before using.. if you need appliances fro the same, you can check this website here! 

Note the expiration date on the buttermilk and let that date be your expiration for this Ranch Dressing. Always shake before using.

If you use fat free yogurt instead of mayo, the dressing is still creamy and now low fat salad dressing. Try it. I prefer it with yogurt because you can not tell the difference.

Mix ingredients in a bowl or jar.

Use these dried herbs in winter or to make a gift mixes.

Dry Ranch Mix

1/2 cup instant minced onion
1/4 cup onion salt
1/4 cup garlic salt
1/4 cup onion powder
1/4 cup garlic powder

2 cups dry parsley flakes
2 tablespoons dry dill weed

Measure first five ingredients, minced onion, onion salt, garlic salt, onion powder and garlic powder, into a blender or food processor and blend until combined. Stir in parsley and dill. Store and keep mix dry. A Mason jar or freezer bag work well. Label and include instructions for dressing or dip. Label it. You think you will remember, but you won’t.

Include these instructions on the gift tag:

Buttermilk Dressing

1 cup plain yogurt (or mayonnaise)

1 cup of buttermilk

juice of ½ lemon

2 Tablespoons Dry Ranch Mix

Combine 2 Tablespoons dry mix, one cup plain Greek yogurt, lemon and one cup buttermilk. Allow flavors to blend for at least an hour in the fridge before using.

The original recipe called for mayo instead of yogurt but I pinky swear you will not be able to tell the difference.

If you make ranch chicken, ranch dip, ranch potatoes, ranch flavored oyster crackers or, ranch burgers, substitute this recipe for the packaged recipe with too much salt, msg, and other unpronounceable ingredients.

Sliced tomato with buttermilk dressing.

This is how to share with the Ranch Dressing store bought bottled users:

At “pass the ranch.”  give him your homemade version.

There is no need to  discuss that half the calories are missing, most of the salt and fat are gone. AFTER he says he likes it Then you can tell him.

Bluecheese crumbles and chopped basil.  photo PBH.


Homemade Buttermilk Dressing with blue cheese and basil.

Start with 1/4 cup blue cheese and 1 tablespoon of basil. Taste, adjust cheese and herbs.

Spiced peach cobbler

It’s peach season! I ate half of my entire peach crop in one setting. The squirrel ate the other one. So, these peaches are from the local orchard.  Just across the Mississippi River is Cobden Illinois, famous for their peaches.

The region if known for the wine trails. Cobden also grows some of the best apples and peaches. photo by PBH

Though it is an easy drive, we like to make our trip to the peach orchard a get away weekend.  We love staying at Makanda Inn B&B, 855 Old Lower Cobden Road, Makanda, Illinois 62958. Southern Illinois newest bed and breakfast located in the heart of the Shawnee Wine Trail.

Robin Sue of Big Red Kitchen says “This is my go-to Peach Cobbler recipe. It has never let me down. This dish is very moist, super fast to make, and wonderful served warm with vanilla ice cream, perfect for summer cook-outs.”

Miss Jean’s Peach Cobbler  Cooks and recipe collectors on Pinterest wil love her Big Red Kitchen boards.

So rich and buttery, just a bit of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream will do. photo by PBH

I made this recipe, except I added a touch of spice: ½ teaspoon each cinnamon and nutmeg and the tiniest pinch of ground cloves.

This is my version of Miss Jean’s Peach Cobbler. It sounds like one of those great 70’s recipes we loved before we were told butter is bad. You know those kind of dump cakes that amazed us when they really worked?

Spiced Peach Cobbler

4 cups fresh peaches sliced and sweetened if necessary
1 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 pinch ground cloves
1 1/2 cups milk
1 cup sugar
1 stick butter, melted

Set oven to 350. Put stick of butter in a 9×13 inch pan. Set pan in oven for a minute or until butter is melted. Remove from oven.
Sift together flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.
Mix combined dry ingredients with milk and sugar until smooth.
Pour batter over melted butter.
Put peaches and any juices on top.
Bake in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes.
Let set at least 10 minutes before serving.

Serve with whipped cream or ice cream.

My recipe is adapted from Miss Jean’s Peach Cobbler

To read more about Makanda Inn go to Striped Pot: The Makanda Inn B&B Learn more about the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail.

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