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Archive for June, 2012

It’s 105 degrees in the shade today, and newscasters are warning that “it’s dangerous out there.”

So what’s a girl to do when the temperatures are soaring, the sun is blazing, and it’s a high ozone alert day?
Stay inside, of course!

Disclaimer: I did get up early and go for a walk. Would have gone stir-crazy otherwise!

After breakfast, the kitchen became canning central. I canned six pints of corn relish, four pints of dilly beans and four quarts of cucumber pickles.

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Now, any fool will tell you it’s not a good idea to heat up your kitchen cooking on a day like today. So even though I still have a batch of zucchini relish to can, and I had wanted to make a Thai-inspired tofu dish, I’m done cooking for the day.

Next came lunch: a cool, delicious salad:

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Now I have the whole afternoon ahead of me. I could catch up on some of my TV shows…

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… or read some books about the beach…

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… or maybe I’ll just follow Nanaline’s lead and take a nap!

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How are you spending your Saturday?

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As my garden has grown over the years, I’ve slowly ventured into preserving the produce. It took several years of walking by the pressure canners in Wal-Mart and Target before I actually bought one. Then the canner sat in my attic for another year until I finally got up the nerve to use it.

I still don’t use the pressure option — something about fear of explosions is stopping me… But I’ve been pretty successful with pickling my vegetables using the hot-water bath canning method.

I’ve pickled squash, carrots, collards, mustard greens, and green beans. I’ve preserved chutney and salsa. And when I don’t have the time or desire to pull out the canner, I make refrigerator pickles.

I’ve used this method to pickle garlic chives, kohlrabi, beans, tomatillos and carrots. I also have made the most delicious cucumber pickles. (Unfortunately I can’t link to the recipe as my print-out doesn’t have the web address on it.)

While I love the ease of refrigerator pickles, I find I can’t eat them fast enough. And they are beginning to take up too much space in my fridge! So the recent glut of pickling cucumbers has made me research other preservation options.

I spent this past Friday evening perusing my cookbooks and the web. There’s numerous recipes out there for pickling cucumbers. But brining the cucumbers seemed too time consuming, not to mention complicated. I needed something simple and quick that I could do on Saturday.

So I pulled out my trusty copy of “The Joy of Pickling,” by Linda Ziedrich, and I was in luck! A recipe for quick dill pickles.

Saturday morning, I began my pickling project. I heated quart jars, and filled them with quartered cucumbers, dill, garlic, dried cayenne pepper, and black peppercorns. Then I added the hot vinegar mixture and processed according to instructions. The jars came out perfectly sealed.

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Quick and easy! So quick, in fact, that I had the time to process some dilly beans as well!

The cucumber pickles are supposed to sit a few weeks before opening, so it will be awhile before I know how they taste.

One small dilemma: I still have more pickling cucumbers coming in. My neighbor B. likes bread and butter pickles, and “The Joy of Pickling” does have a recipe for those. But I didn’t care for the bread and butter pickles my Aunt E. made, so I’m hesitant to make those. I fear that I am, at heart, a dill pickle girl.

So what about you? What are your favorite kind of cucumber pickles? And do you have an easy recipe for pickling cucumbers that you would like to share?

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Every spring, as the daylight lasts longer and the temperatures rise, I tell myself that summer’s coming soon, and I love summer!  After all, summer means swimming, juicy home-grown tomatoes, and, often, a vacation.  I envision how I will be so productive, what with all that extra daylight.  I’ll have more time for longer walks, my house and garden will be spotless, and I’ll spend time at one or another of the area music festivals.

And then summer arrives — and with it, the high humidity.  My general productivity slows down.  I can’t — or don’t want to —  walk as fast.  Humidity clings to me like a too-tight polyester dress, and I am uncomfortable in my skin.  I sweat, or as my friend B says, “glisten.”   And boy, do I glisten!  A really hot evening has me staying at home versus going out looking like a wet dishrag.    Times like that,  I wonder what was so bad about winter, and those cold dark nights?

We’ve actually had a mild summer so far, at least by my recollection.   There have been several weeks of low humidity, and I have reveled in the opportunity to be outside, either working comfortably  in my garden or walking in the woods.   This past week, however, the temperatures rose into the 90s and the humidity came on strong.  So I turned on the AC (my dog is old, after all, so I should have mercy on her), and I’ve moved my main walking times to early morning before the temperatures rise.   I’ll be up and out in the garden by 7 a.m. tomorrow, with the hope to finish some chores before the day heats up.

Then I’ll go  inside, and spend the afternoon doing some or all of the following:  cleaning house (not really fun, but someone’s gotta do it),  canning some more pickles (yum), reading a library book (yay!),  watching my Netflix DVD (a Spanish film to help me as I learn the language), or perhaps taking a nap.

Okay, writing all that reminds me of why I do love summer — long days with time for gardening and reading, as well as some general laziness.  And if it weren’t for the humidity, I’d end up working all weekend and not taking time to stop and enjoy life.   So hello, humidity!  Welcome back and glad to note your presence again.  Though if you want to go away for the Fourth of July, that would be okay, too.  There’s an outdoor festival I’d like to attend.  Just sayin’…

 

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Last weekend, I finally finished digging my last garden bed! This late addition to the summer garden now houses the extra tomatillo and basil seedlings that didn’t fit elsewhere.

Now that I’m finally finished constructing beds, it’s time to lock my shovel in the shed lest I be tempted to keep digging. It’s also past time to weed some flower beds, dead-head the roses, and basically switch to maintenance mode.

Phew!!!

I have already been enjoying some of the fruits of my labor: mostly squash, zucchini and green beans. And I’m excited to say that in the war against squash bugs, it’s currently MaryNell 1; evil bugs 0. Who knows how long that will last, but I have managed to can 14 pints of hot pickled squash as well as 4 pints of zucchini relish. Oh, and that doesn’t include all the squash I’ve eaten and shared. It’s been a good year!

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Still to come in the garden are corn (pictured above), potatoes and tomatoes:

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I’m looking forward to making some salsa with tomatillos…

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… and jalepenos:

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I can’t wait to try some fresh lima beans …

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… and to figure out how to season purple hull peas without oil or fatback:

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I’ve been harvesting the bush beans for awhile, but just noticed that my yard-long noodles are starting to appear …

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… as are the cucumbers!

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To be honest, I’ve been harvesting pickling cucumbers for the past week. On tomorrow’s agenda: refrigerator pickles!

So while I wait for the rest of the summer goodies to appear, I might as well steam up the last of the chard and snow peas. Writing about all this food has made me hungry!

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Hi, my name is MaryNell and I’m a food addict.

I’m also a vegetarian who, about 60 percent of the time, eats a healthy diet.  But get me started on certain foods, and major overeating occurs, followed by one or all of the following:  tummy ache, lethargy, self-hating.   So, in order to avoid the latter, I have decided I must steer clear of the following foods:

1. jelly beans – do these have any redeeming quality?  I think not.

2. potato chips – it’s true: I can’t eat just one. Or two. Or a handful.

3. dried mangos –  Yum with a capital “Y.”

4. peanuts

5. Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups

6. chocolate covered almonds

7. ice cream – I take a bit different approach to ice cream: I don’t eat the whole container all at once.  Rather, I eat it with every meal (except breakfast) until it’s gone.  I could be full from my meal, but if there’s ice cream in the house, I still reach for the scoop.

8. brownies – these are terribly addictive, hence I don’t make them at home.  Delicious, chocolate gooey-ness!!!  Be still my heart!!!     I can actually stop at one, especially if that’s all I buy from the bakery, but I always want more, more, more.

That being said, I’m going to tempt fate by making some black bean brownies this weekend.  I have some friends queued up to try them, so it’s not like I can eat the whole pan without greatly embarrassing myself.  Though if I find these addictive, I won’t be able to make them again.  It’s not worth the risk.

On a more positive note, there are some foods that I tend to overeat, but don’t feel so worried about since there’s  a limited time during which I can overindulge:

1. local strawberries – only around about a month

2. local ripe, sweet watermelon  – very refreshing on a hot summer day

3. the first flush of home-grown tomatoes — heaven on earth!!!

Do you have any food addictions?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I finally got to test out my new backpack this past weekend while hiking near Blowing Rock, NC.  I arrived early enough on Friday to get in a short hike.  So the first place I visited was a sweet little trail in the middle of town called the Glen Burney Trail:

This trail featured a nice descent, walking past three waterfalls.   The one below is the Glen Burney falls:

It rained on the way back up, so I had the opportunity to use my nice new pack cover.  Worth every penny, it kept everything nice and dry!

The next day, I headed out to the Tanawha Trail and hiked from Rough Ridge parking area to the Linn Cove Viaduct visitor center and back.

The mountain laurels were starting to bloom:

As were the rhododendron:

It felt magical walking through the bushes, totally surrounded by foliage:

 

I stopped every few feet to take pictures of the views:

And because I love rocks, I have lots of photos that include rocks, like this one:

and this one:

 

I got to marvel at this tree’s will to live:

Finally, after four hours of walking on stony paths like this:

I headed out to easier pathways: the carriage trails at the Moses Cone Craft Center:

 

I love big, old houses, so as I walked, I spent a little time imagining what it would have been like to live in a house like this, with views like these:

Saturday’s total mileage was about 9 miles, which was shorter than I thought I would do, but the Tanawha Trail was a bit challenging due to the recent rain and my discovery that I really needed some new hiking boots.  Plus I have this annoying habit of stopping and taking photos constantly.  And stopping to bask in the sun on a nice large rock.

Anyway, I got in another six miles on the carriage trails on Sunday before heading home.  All in all a good weekend for using the pack and the poles.

And my pack has a name!  Don’t know that I’m ready to share it quite yet, but it’s a Native American name for a mountain that’s fairly close to my house.

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