Sharing the fun and creativity in my world and encouraging the same in yours.

Archive for the ‘Gardening’ Category

My Mom’s Apple Pie And Cooking With Food Allergies

MOM’S APPLE PIE

My mom cooked almost everything from scratch. The first house we lived in had a good-sized garden and the second house had a barn and acres of farmland. This meant LOTS of fresh produce to eat, freeze, can, and cook with daily. Of course, on the occasion when she was pressed for time, she’d use a box of say, cake mix but always added an extra something to it to make it special. Other than that, she always preferred cooking and baking from scratch when possible.

One of our favorite baked goods was apple pie using Red Delicious and Winesap apples (half and half) from our own trees. Since Winesap apples are not available here in the south (something I am very upset about), I cannot seem to duplicate the flavor and texture of my mom’s apple pie.

Sometimes, though, a pre-made crust can come in handy. ;)

Homemade Apple Pie With Pre-made Crust

I find Granny Smith apples hold up well, though, and my son loves the slight tang of their flavor. The Red Delicious apples are usually too mealy and simply turn to mush by the time the Granny Smith apples are cooked so I simply removed them from the pie altogether. I remember making our own crusts half the time and the other half of the time, we used pre-made crust. Depending upon my mood, I use both as well.

Leftover Single Crust? Chop up apples, add a little sugar and cinnamon, and voila! Homemade Apple Turnovers.

Leftover Single Crust? Chop up apples, add a little sugar and cinnamon, fold over, and voila! Homemade Apple Turnovers.

COOKING FROM SCRATCH

As far as cooking from scratch goes, I cook from scratch now and have for about 25 years with rare exceptions. During my college years, I came to appreciate homemade food and have found my body is better for it.

Besides the many health benefits of cooking and baking from scratch (and incorporating as many organic items as money allows), I love the flavors of fresh produce. Dehydrated onions vs. freshly chopped onions sauteed in olive oil? No comparison. Fresh for me!

One other very important reason why I cook from scratch is food allergies. Both my husband and my son have food allergies.

Our son’s are more extensive than my husband’s so as a result, I am a detailed-reader of food labels, triple-checking before I buy anything. I even have to be careful about buying a turkey for Thanksgiving! Did you know some turkeys have milk/dairy in the “flavorful injections”? Who knew?

WHAT ALLERGIES SPECIFICALLY?

My husband is allergic to raw green peppers but can eat them when they are cooked. My son is allergic to raw celery but can eat it once cooked. Cooking apparently breaks down certain proteins and changes them in such a way that their bodies can handle the green pepper and celery just fine! Amazing, huh?

They both are allergic to most, if not all nuts; our son is allergic to all things dairy and eggs along with some fruits. My husband is allergic to most fruits but can eat apple pie since it’s cooked, but he can’t eat cherries at all. Bananas? No problem.

BEING CREATIVE IN COOKING

These are just some of the restrictions I’ve had to learn to cook around for more than 25 years and when I read this post to my husband just now, his reaction was, “Oh my God! That’s overwhelming!” I think he finally got a glimpse at the conversation that occurs in my mind when I’m grocery shopping and adapting recipes! 😀

But, thanks to my parents’ appreciation of fresh produce and homemade meals and my mother’s lifetime love of cooking, baking, and experimenting, it’s been an easier challenge for me than most.

Thank you, Mom!

And because of my mom, I already knew the basics of preparing, cooking and baking from scratch; I simply had to discover substitutions and create my own variations. The most difficult part for me? Remembering to write down the amounts of certain items for the next time I make the dish, something my mom did very well. She wrote her reviews and adaptations into the cookbooks themselves. 🙂

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Since it’s May and the month to celebrate your mother, did your mother have a favorite dish you’ve tried to replicate? Any success or adaptations?

Do you cook from scratch too? Did your parents?

Does your family have any food restrictions which have helped you become a more creative cook?

Please feel free to share your story in the comments below, or if you’d like, start to comment and link to a blog post to finish your cooking story. I’d love to read them! 🙂

Copyright 2011, 2012, 2013 – All rights reserved.

Why I Love Gardening and Fresh Produce.

Growing up, we always had a vegetable garden. In fact, my father at age 80, still plants one every year although on a smaller scale. When he started, we had an average family-sized garden. Then, when I was 10 years old, we moved to a house with two acres of land and the use of an adjacent barn and many more acres to garden…errr, farm.

To give you an idea of the size, I remember planting 350 tomato plants one year. In fact, we ended up using one huge tract of land with two smaller tracts and we had enough produce to have a roadside vegetable stand every summer with plenty leftover for canning and freezing. The money we earned from the stand helped pay for family vacations (camping with our pop-up trailer).

We had four apple trees in our front yard: one Rome, two Red Delicious and my favorite, a Winesap tree. There really is nothing like a Winesap/Red Delicious apple pie! We also had a huge Golden Delicious apple tree in the back that looked like a giant snowball when in bloom!

We had a raspberry patch, a small rhubarb patch, a pear tree, and a plum tree on our property. We tried planting new cherry trees but the birds always ate the darn things before we could pick them. In fact, someone once told us that’s how you tell they’re ripe – when the birds eat them! :D

These beautiful red Cherry Tomatoes came from a truly scrawny plant.

These beautiful red Cherry Tomatoes came from a truly scrawny plant.

Over the years, we planted rows upon rows of corn (Silver Queen was a favorite), tomatoes (red, yellow, cherry, and big ol’ juicy Jersey tomatoes) as well as green beans, green peppers, yellow banana peppers, onions, radishes, carrots, lettuce, asparagus (not too much success with these), strawberries, celery (rabbits loved the young growth, so I don’t think we ever got a chance to grow those fully), cucumbers, pumpkins, zucchini, squash…and more!

We hoed, planted, watered, weeded, and harvested the produce. My mother froze and mostly canned the food, making our own ketchup, chili sauce, raspberry jam, pickles, and such to have during the off-season. There really is nothing better than homemade, seedless raspberry jam but I have to tell you, it is time-consuming to make.

It has always been a dream of mine to have a vegetable garden, not necessarily the size from my childhood but enough to provide for my family and maybe some friends and/or neighbors. I have come to the conclusion that, with Florida’s sandy soil and our root-filled yard, it will have to be a raised vegetable garden. I’d also love a herb and flower garden. I’ve planned it for a while now and as soon as we can afford everything we need (squirrel and cat-proofing included), it will be a welcome and fruitful project!

So far, I have had to satisfy my gardening urges with experimenting with flowers in various locations in our yard and in window boxes, transplanting established shrubs, flowers around the yard, and taking down a lot of trees to make room for some sun. Little by little, I’m learning what works best in this soil, climate, and yard…and what doesn’t.

Have you had any success with raised beds? I’d love to hear about them!

Copyright 2012, 2013 – All rights reserved.

Lying In Wait For Birds

I was washing dishes one afternoon last week and saw this in our backyard:

Extreme focus…on bird or squirrel?

We would prefer the cats out of our yard because my son and husband are allergic (our son even more so–hives from fur, dander, saliva), plus the darn things like to use any bare area/spot in the lawn as their own kitty litter box, especially the areas right next to our house. Ugh. Curse this sandy soil in Florida!!

What was amusing, however, was where this cat decided to lie down in our yard. See that pole in front of him? This is what it belongs to:

Lying in wait for birds.

Yup, that’s right. He was lying in wait for birds under our “new” homemade bird feeder stand. By the time we got the camera, he shifted his focus onto us. By the way, my husband made that steel baffle because the squirrels were climbing up the metal pole (it’s one used for plants) and jumping onto the bird feeders!

This cat isn’t interested in the bird seed. He wants to jump up and catch any one of the many bluejays, doves, wrens, and cardinals that visit our bird feeders. Little stinker!

Do you have any unexpected visitors to your backyard?

Copyright 2012 – All rights reserved.

Who’s Been Sleeping…Errr…Digging Up My Flower Beds?

I’m surprised I haven’t shattered our windows and given myself a bloody hand when I bang on them to scare these rascals away from my plants and flower boxes. Tapping no longer works. Unfortunately, they just keep coming back but man, can they jump!

I’ve been trying to capture a photo of the dirt-digging, dirt-flinging perpetrators for a while now. Finally, I got one!!! I actually ended up with a series of photographs.

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To dissuade these guys, I’ve tried chili powder in a soap spray, and a peppermint soap spray, all to no avail. Cute as they are, these darn squirrels keep coming back and digging up my flowers anywhere I plant: in window boxes, in containers on my porch, even the flowers I plant in the ground are dug up!

I know that sometimes they are burying the acorns from the oak tree in our front yard but most of the time, they’re not carrying anything in their tiny scrawny hands. I swear they can’t remember where the hell they’ve planted their stash, and they don’t care what they dig up to find it.

There are so many sandy holes in my yard, you could play miniature golf for hours.

For this reason, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to have any kind of garden without some sort of cage around it to keep the squirrels out. Back to the drawing board…or sketch pad!

Copyright 2012 – All rights reserved.

Mystery Animals Came Out After The Rain!

It’s still pouring outside from Tropical Storm Debby but yesterday when we had a brief break from the rain, I went to get the mail and discovered tiny creatures hopping all over the street!

When I first saw movement out of the corner of my eyes, I thought the fluttering was tiny bits of leaves knocked down from the downpours but my mind dismissed that almost immediately. My eyes zoomed into one dark spot an arm’s length away only to have it move before I got a good look. I followed and saw this:

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As my eyes adjusted to their forms, I scanned the road for more. There were dozens of these tiny frogs all over the road. I yelled for my husband and quickly asked him to have our son bring out my camera.

I still haven’t figured out if they are actually frogs or toads yet and specifically, what kind. However, I am assuming since they came out after a rain, they’d be frogs…right? Or did the heavy rains disrupt a nest of toads and they had to flee for drier ground?

I’m still searching so if anyone can tell me which type of frogs or toads these are (here in Florida), I would love to have you comment. Thanks! 🙂

Copyright 2012 – All rights reserved.

Continuing Signs of Spring

One of the most pleasurable experiences about walking is finding some beautiful plants and flowers to photograph! I can walk throughout my neighborhood or simply drive to a new one and come home with fresh ideas, a sense of appreciation and wonder, and some great photos like the ones below.

This full and trailing honeysuckle is not only gorgeous to look at but fragrant as well. I love catching a hint of the scent as I walk by.

The above is, I think, some sedum, a ground cover with star-like flowers. If anyone knows differently, please comment below. It’s a wondrous mass of yellow color.

This bright red/orange amaryllis stood proud and tall next to several others that were not yet fully bloomed. How *does* it stay so straight with that much weight on top? Amazing.

Here’s a close-up of the fully bloomed amaryllis.

Here’s another amaryllis that was just showing off its magnificent bloom. The size of this flower is impressive!

Where do you take some of your best nature or flower photographs? In your neighborhood, in a park, or in your window? I’d love to know! 🙂

Copyright 2012 – All rights reserved.

Eerie Light Lit Up Our Yard Tonight!

Me: “Holy cow! The camera!”

I jumped up from my chair startling my husband who was watching the basketball game.

Him: “What?”

Me: “Look outside!!”

The sunset was radiating our grass and our trees with an eerie neon greenish-yellow, usually seen before a storm. This time, however, the storm had already passed.

I grabbed my camera realizing that a day or two before I had a low battery reading and forgotten to change the battery. I hoped it would still capture the eerie glowing light outside.

You can see a bit of the yellowish-greenness of the grass here.

Not sure what happened here. Sun may have gone down that quickly or the flash didn't work properly due to the low battery, but it has that nice eerie effect I saw.

This is my favorite shot. That pink/orange color was brilliant!

The last photo was shot several minutes later from inside through my office window. Click on any one of these photos for the full effect, especially this last one.

Not too bad, huh? What do you think?

Copyright 2012 – All rights reserved.