Friday, October 26, 2007

Falling Behind

On blogging that is. But at least I've been a little better about getting out for fresh air and exercise for a change. The first day that I took a walk this fall, I walked for about 20 minutes and got shin splints! I am totally ashamed.

This is prime planting time in my neck of the woods and all those poor plants I dragged along with me all need a safe patch of ground to ride the winter out in. I am overwhelmed.

It doesn't help when I take pity on a poor, abused frog. One of my spastic ducks -- one I need to share a mug shot of -- caught a frog by the leg and proceeded to parade it around the yard, as the frog dangled and bounced around. It took a little finagling to force the frog out of the duck's bill. Once I did the poor little amphibian looked pretty beat up. Both his back legs were motionless and he had something hanging out of his mouth, which I was afraid might be internal organs. Not sure what to do, I just held him to keep him warm and alert. Eventually he swallowed whatever-it-was back down. Gradually he got some use back in one of his legs. The other leg, though, did not look promising.

So in the interest of giving him a safe place to heal, I put him in a jar and offered him a small caterpillar. He seemed to eat that, but turned his nose up at the cutworm I found -- I don't blame him, I wouldn't eat one either. So he spent the night in our house.

The next morning he looked somewhat improved, having regained complete use of his better leg and also use of the upper portion of his second leg. Not knowing that I would be capable of feeding him, I decided to let him free and check up on him later. He crawled under the canopy of my brocolli plants. When I went back to check on him, he was gone without a trace.

Friday, October 05, 2007

And then Fall Blew In

Last Dance with Cherry, Plum . . .

How's This for Eye Candy?

. . . Pear, and all the rest. The tomatoes have been harvested. I never look forward to this process. This year it was a particularly sudden and upsetting affair, as a windstorm dismantled my temporary greenhouse. Rather than fight the elements for a few more days, in unpromising weather, I decided to take a hint and pull in the produce.

I’ve gotten pretty good at sorting out the promising tomato specimens for storage. When I first began storing green tomatoes, I gave them each a fighting chance. After a few years of checking their progress and watching a slightly perceptible speckled skin develop into a sickly freckled tomato, I’ve developed a keener eye and a harder heart.

One Mean Green Tomato

Or so I thought, until I got to my un-ripened Brandywines. One in particular had grown quite plump and promising. To toss it would be a shame. However my Brandywines had a propensity for cracking at the top (this is apparently due to our wetter than normal summer) and developing early blight around the stem, which would eventually spoil the fruit – here is a cool diagnostic website for tomato diseases. I decided to experiment and finally sample some Fried Green Tomatoes.

My recipe did not specify if I had to deep fry them or if I could just pan fry them. While I was investigating frying method – yeah, we don’t fry very often – I found out that oven frying is the healthiest option. Without the directions for oven-frying on hand, I ad-libbed and still managed to cook up some rather tasty appetizers.

I was so impressed I had to wonder why I hadn’t gotten up the nerve to try it before. If you have any green tomatoes on hand that you are sure could never ripen in storage, and you like to make use of what you have on hand, I advise you to give this recipe a try. Now I’ll have something to look forward to every year after cleaning, sorting, and storing my green tomatoes.

Oven Fried Green Tomatoes

2-3 green tomatoes
salt & pepper
1/3-1/2 cup milk
½ cup flour
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 cup crouton crumbs (use food processor to make croutons into crumbs)

Note: Be aware that the measurements are rough. I found I did not have enough crumbs to coat all of my tomato slices (Brandywines are fairly large) so I did not cook all of my 2 tomatoes. We still had plenty to eat.

Slice tomatoes into ½” thick slices. Sprinkle both sides with salt and fresh ground pepper (obviously you can only coat one side of the end slices). Dip slices in milk, then flour, then egg, then bread crumbs.

Lightly coat the inside of a cookie sheet with oil. Place tomatoes on sheet and then drizzle (or spritz) oil lightly on top and, if drizzling, then pat with a pastry brush.

I next broiled them on low until each side browned and then baked them in a 350° oven until the tomatoes had softened. Technically, to oven fry, you should put them in a 450° + oven for about 8-10 min per side.

Serving suggestion: In the future, I would serve them with a side of ranch dressing. They were great alone, but something creamy would make a nice addition.

In other news:

Adolescents Already

The young ducks are nearly as big as their parents now, although they are smack-dab in the middle of their “teenage” gawky period. They never stand around long enough for a decent photo. Their adult plumage is starting to come in, which is a relief because it will keep them weather-proofed in all the cold, wet, windy weather we seem fated to enjoy this year. Nice weather for ducks anyway!

Seasonally Appropriate Squash

I harvested my pumpkins from my brother’s garden. I really have to properly thank him for the use of his garden this year, because it tided me over. In fall, in particular, I am enormously grateful to see the harvest come in. It is very fulfilling.

And speaking of filling, I baked a new apple pie recipe. It was piled to the brim with fresh organic granny smith apples -- $10 worth. The recipe intrigued me because it calls for the skins to be left on the apple slices, for the slices to be roasted, and for an oat and flour crust. It seemed temptingly rustic. And it is as good as you can imagine. The recipe is in this month’s Better Homes and Gardens magazine. I only bake pies every two or three years and I always struggle to get the crust right. This crust worked like a charm for me, to my amazement, and my husband proclaimed it a blue ribbon pie. LOL

More Eye Candy

Proof of the Blue Ribbon Pie