Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Calm Before the Superstorm

Sunday evening I sat outside for a while on the deck and watched the sun set.

 This was a briefer sunset than that of the other evening.

 It was still pretty, though.

 Later that night I looked out the window and saw a halo around the full moon.

The halo is caused by ice crystals in the upper atmosphere.  They are often seen when storms, such as Hurricane Sandy, are nearby.
Meteorologists fielded many calls from people in the West and Midwest who saw this phenomenon on the evening of October 28.

Whatever the cause, a lunar halo is a striking sight.

The Foodie Family is thinking about all of our friends and readers on the East coast who are affected by Sandy.
Take care.

Monday, October 29, 2012

A Lovely Sunset

This sunset was from late last week, but I thought that some of my readers might need a reminder that lovely things still exist in nature and weather.

 I love the reflection of the sunset in the window of the great room.

To all my readers and friends in the east, please stay safe.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

How to Deal with the End-of-the-the-Season-Tomatoes

Our tomatoes from our garden have already been touched by frost, so they are not looking so good.  They are still edible, but at this point in the season, they are perhaps better eaten cooked, rather than raw.

The really gnarly ones, I sliced up and placed on a baking sheet to dry out under very low heat.

I used the better tomatoes to make a kickin' tomato sauce.

 I found a recipe for fresh tomato sauce online
and then ran with it.*

*Me speak for I pretty much ignored the ingredients and the directions and made the recipe my own.  So what else is new?**

**Please pretend that the basil in the picture is oregano.
After some long and hard dialog back and forth between me, myself and I, 
I won out and decided that I couldn't stand the thought of blackened, chopped fresh basil interspersed in this lovely sauce.  So, I opted to go with fresh oregano instead, which is actually, in my mind, at least, more authentic.

First, boil some water and then immerse about 10 tomatoes*** in the water for a few seconds so that the peels can soften.  Then, after a quick dunk in cold water, it is an easy thing to rid the tomatoes of their skins.

Finally, chop them up and place them in a bowl. (***You want to end up with about 2 cups of chopped tomatoes)  Set aside for later.

And now for the rest of the ingredients:

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, minced
1 large carrot, grated
1 large celery rib, minced
2 large garlic cloves, grated
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, minced
1/2 teaspoon Herbes de Provence
3/4 cup dry red wine
1 bay leaf
1 - 6 ounce can tomato paste
Kosher salt to taste
Brown sugar to taste - about 1/4 cup
1 Serrano pepper

 First, saute the onion, celery, carrot, and garlic for five minutes over medium-high heat with the olive oil until the veggies are beginning to sweat.  Add a pinch of kosher salt to the mix.

 Add the tomatoes, the Herbes de Provence, the bay leaf, and the wine.  Add another pinch of kosher salt to the mix.  Add about 1/2 cup water at this point.  Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer.  
Cover and simmer for two hours.
Use a potato masher to break down the tomatoes during the cooking process.  
No need to break out a blender or food processor today.

Add the tomato paste, the brown sugar and the Serrano pepper.  
Towards the end of the cooking time, taste the sauce and adjust for seasoning.

Remove the bay leaf and portion the sauce between packages before freezing or serving.

This made enough for two 3 cup servings of tomato sauce.

This sauce is fresh, tangy, and delightfully and unabashedly fresh,

I can't wait to use it on my favorite pasta dish.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Leonard's Springs in the Fall - After the Drought

One fine fall day a few weeks ago I ventured back to Leonard Spring's Nature Preserve to see how it had fared after this year's "exceptional drought." 

At one point this summer we were determined as being under the worst level of drought possible.  We are finally getting rain and the U. S. Drought Monitor Map now shows that we are now only "abnormally dry."

However, only time will tell how much damage was done to the trees and other important vegetation.

 Blue asters in bloom.
Asters are native flowers.

 One of the caverns in the nature preserve.

 The lower cave.

 Happily, the graffiti has been removed.
Now I am happy again.
Stupid gangs.

 The drought has really depleted the springs' water reserves.

 At first I was wondering where the falls were, but then I realized that I was standing where the falls usually ran.

 They are still very pretty.

 I love this shot.

 This is the underside of a massive uprooted tree.

On the way back to the car, I saw this fallen, decaying log that was giving life to new plants.

And I suppose that is the true lesson here.
Life is a perpetual cycle of birth, death and rebirth.

Less than ideal weather conditions may occur, but nature and life go on.

Monday, October 8, 2012

The October Garden

Little is flowering in my garden after this hot and very dry summer.
We are still trying to recover from the drought, and though we are finally receiving some much needed rain, we are still considered to be in drought conditions.

As such, many flowers that usually would still be blooming this time of year have long since set seed and are shutting down for the year.

The surprise for me this year has been my roses.
They have loved this drought.  I have not watered any of them, and even my English roses, which normally only bloom reliably once a year, are now blooming for the fourth time.

The Victoria Blue Salvia wintered over from last year.
I love this flower.  The blue is so vibrant and the flower lasts long into the cool autumn months.

My miniature rose, Rainbow's End, is in its fourth bloom.
This is a lovely rose.
The flowers start out yellow, then progress to orange, red, and then pink before fading.  
It has no fragrance, but it is a must-have rose for the garden and is good for a small spot.

Rainbow's End bloom beginning to turn from orange to red.

Dogwood with berries.

The birds will soon pick the berries off the trees.

Burning bush or winged euonymus.

English Perfume, an English rose.
As the name implies, a heavily scented rose.

My all time favorite English rose, which is named after a great gardener, Gertude Jekyll.

This is one of the most highly-scented roses you will ever find in the garden.

My hydrangea has many mauve blooms on it.
I suspect that is a result of recent cold nights.

Milkweed bugs congregating on the butterfly bushes.

Unusual colors for a fall bouquet.
I had to search the garden to find yellow for the arrangement.

Hydrangeas for another fall arrangement.

And it was finally time to bring my houseplants back inside for the year.
After the watering ban was lifted a few weeks ago, I happily chucked the plants back outside, only to have to bring them back inside this past weekend.

In late March I took this bay tree out to the back deck.  Please note the height.

On Friday I had to bring it back inside.
It was very happy outside this summer.
The plants at the bottom are petunias.

Please note the red line in the picture.
That shows just how much the tree has grown this season.
I'm seeing a pruning come next spring.