Cooking – Side Dish: Jalapeno Infused Cornbread w/Bacon & Cheese!

Jalapeno infused cornbread. The peppers are maturing in the late August heat. We used jalapeno for this side and one appetizer.

I don’t speak for Beth on this one, but this was my first attempt at homemade cornbread.

I’m guessing that this is not her first attempt at homemade cornbread, but we worked together on it…including the consumption. All of the peppers are enjoying a hotter than normal August sun. Every pepper plant is bursting with produce; sweet bells, Beaver Dam, pepperoncini, Tabasco and jalapeno.

We are dehydrating most of the hot peppers to crush into flakes and put into a shaker. The sweet peppers will be used for salads, soups and for stuffed pepper recipes.

We recently discovered two interesting recipes for jalapenos. One is the cornbread side dish pictured above. The other is poppers…of course. But poppers are for another post.

To be honest the cornbread recipe called for grilled (chipotle style) chili peppers not jalapenos. However, we didn’t grow an chili peppers so we substituted what we are growing…jalapeno peppers.

As per usual, we encourage you to alter the recipe to your taste.

Beth added butter to the top of her slice before eating. I added butter and honey, but it is great as is too!

Ingredients: (all grown or purchased organic)

3-4 jalapeno peppers

1 1/2 cups cornmeal

1/2 cup all purpose flour

2 tablespoons sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt (we used Kosher course ground)

2 eggs

1 1/2 cup milk (we used whole organic)

3/4 stick salted butter, melted

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1/2 pound chopped bacon, cooked crispy

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F

Lightly oil peppers and grill until both sides are blackened all around. Remove burnt skin and discard. Cut in half, discard seeds and stems. Dice the remaining pepper into small bits.

Mix dry ingredients of cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking soda and salt.

In separate bowl beat eggs, add milk and butter. Blend or whisk wet ingredients.

Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredient bowl and stir until mixed.

Add cheese, bacon and peppers, blend well.

Oil an 8″ or 9″ cast iron skillet with a combination of cooking oil and the bacon fat along bottom and sides.

Add batter to the skillet and bake for 25 minutes.

Check for completeness with a toothpick.

If the toothpick comes out wet, bake for 2 more minutes and check again. Repeat this until toothpick comes out dry.

When the toothpick comes out dry, let stand for 15 minutes and enjoy!

Gardening – Training An Old Vine a New Trick

We have successfully trained four cucumber vines to travel sideways instead of up. This photo shows two running laterally. After this morning there are now 4 of the 5 vines running laterally. As feared all of our cucumbers are growing at the top of the trellis. There certainly is more sunshine there. So…we do not blame them!

A few blogs ago we wondered if the cucumbers would outgrow the 9′ trellis we set up. The answer was yes.

We also wondered if they would continue to grow up on the roof. Well…we were not going to wait for that inevitability, action needed to take place.

One suggestion by a subordinate at work was to train the vines to traverse instead of climb. But how? Simple. Get out a ladder and gently feed the vines across the top of the trellis. We will continue to do so, thankfully there is still 6′ more of trellis to the east.

We’ve got this. Operation Green Thumb marches on.

Gardening – No Potato Before It’s Time

100 Day Old French Fingerlings. The second and last bucket was far superior to the first. Was it the extra 10 days of growing, or was it the bigger bucket?

Two weeks ago we posted a blog and YouTube video featuring the first harvest of our potato buckets. 100 days ago we began to grow potatoes in containers. Yukon Gold and French Fingerling.

We chose these varieties because they are different. We can buy organic russets frequently and occasionally organic reds, but Yukon Gold and Fingerlings of any kind are difficult to find in our neck of the woods, organic or not.

As we’ve stated frequently in this series; this is operation Green Thumb. A self imposed challenge to grow at least a little of our own organic food in 2021.

The potatoes will be harvested in 10 day windows beginning on day 90. The first container; a 4 gallon water jug was harvested on day 90, the earliest that the seed package said we could dump them.

The results were good, but not great. 2 chitted seed potatoes resulted in a dozen smallish potatoes. They were delicious and only made one side dish for the 4 of us in our home.

Day 100 arrived and we eagerly chose to dump the 5 gallon bucket. Our final container of Fingerlings. The results, in our humble opinion were great. Three chitted seedlings produced 30 good sized fingerling potatoes. We pictured them above and on the YouTube video below.

The next blog post will feature a 4 gallon water jug of Yukon Gold potatoes on their 100th day of growth. The seed packet estimated a 110 to 120 day harvest time frame. We chose to dump this container of Yukon Gold because the tops were pretty much dead and we feared that the potatoes in the container would either become victims of root rot or eaten by bugs. There was a slightly less than good yield in our opinion. Stay tuned!

Gardening – Garden To Table…Or Mouth

Photo by Adonyi Gu00e1bor on Pexels.com

Operation Green Thumb continues. All be it a small harvest to date. It has been a tasty harvest. We have enjoyed lettuce and spinach greens, radishes, carrots, hot peppers, green and yellow beans, sweet pea pods, fingerling potatoes and cabbage.

Most recently we enjoyed a Sunday lunch of fried cabbage and bacon with a side of sauteed fingerling potatoes.

Fried cabbage with bacon and onion. The cabbage was cut from the stock one day earlier.
The head of cabbage in question from a week or two ago.

Fried cabbage is both easy and tasty. I like to think its pretty healthy too, but well, it is fried and there is the bacon so…

We started with 1/2 lb of chopped bacon bits and fried them until almost crispy, then chopped up 3/4 of white onion and sauteed in the bacon and its grease. Chopped cabbage was added, when the cabbage began to wilt we added 1 tsp Seasoned Salt, 1/4 tsp of Seasoned Pepper and 1/2 tsp of ground garlic. Cooked until the cabbage was al dente. Delicious.

Sauteed fingerling potatoes from our first 90 day bucket of French Fingerlings
Fingerlings fresh out of the bucket on day 90 of growing

Our side dish were these French Fingerling potatoes that we harvested earlier in the week. The recipe was similar to the fried cabbage and bacon dish. Why mess with a winning recipe?

We cleaned the potatoes and sliced them with a mandolin at the number 1 setting. (Shaved) Rinsed them with cold water. Heated a saute pan with avocado oil and 1/4 stick of organic salted butter. Added the shaved potatoes and the 1/4 onion left over from the cabbage dish. Season with 1/2 tsp seasoned salt, 1/8 tsp seasoned pepper and 1/8 tsp garlic powder. Saute for 5 minutes on medium hot heat, flip saute for an additional 5 minutes on medium heat. Equally delicious!

We have tomatoes that are beginning to ripen now. Mostly the Super Sweet 100 Cherry tomatoes, but we have harvested the first two of 70 San Marzano tomatoes that are on the plants.

Ripe Super Sweet 100 tomatoes. We keep eating them faster than we can store them. What to do?
Sweet Pea Pods. We were harvesting them a couple of dozen every 3rd day or so, but they’ve slowed down to a dozen every 5 days or so. We eat them fresh off of the vine while working in the garden.

We’ve discovered something very fun, tasty and healthy. It’s referred to as Garden Candy. The pea pods and the cherry tomatoes do not make it into the house or storage. We tend to eat them right off of the plants while we do other garden or yard chores. The peas do not stand a chance, while there is usually 12 to 24 cherry tomatoes in a basket in our garage fridge at any given moment.

The Super Sweet Cherry plants should generate roughly 100 tomatoes per plant. We have 3. I’m estimating that number will come to fruition. It is difficult to know for sure because we keep eating them.

The bonus to all of this is a general knowledge that to date we are doing well. The cucumbers are coming on. There is zucchini beginning to form, the cauliflower is forming too.

And the potatoes. Potatoes should come in droves, well in buckets anyway. We will harvest the larger 5 gallon bucket of fingerling this coming weekend after 100 days of growth. Then 10 days later begin to harvest the Yukon Gold potatoes that mature in the 110 to 120 day time frame.

Our goal for this grand potato bucket experiment is to harvest buckets throughout the maturity range. 90 to 100 days for the fingerlings. 110 to 120 days for the Yukon Gold. If we are unhappy with the size of the spuds, we will harvest a bucket every week to see how much time is optimal.

Two of the four Yukon Gold Potato buckets. They mature in 110 to 120 days. In mid August…let the bounty of potatoes begin!

It should be fun. Is it geeky to think of the garden as fun? We are certainly showing our age. Good for us!

Gardening: This Spud’s For You

Two dozen or so Fingerling Potatoes grown in a 4 gallon water jug. Harvested on day 90.

On April 26, 2021 we published a blog post called “What’s In Your Bucket” that chronicled our attempt to grow Yukon Gold potatoes and Fingerling Potatoes in buckets. The planting was actually on April 24, but it took me two days to get around to writing the blog post.

Four each 5 gallon buckets and two each 4 gallon water jugs were used to plant Yukon Gold potatoes. The fingerlings were planted in one 4 gallon water jug and one 5 gallon bucket.

Potato buckets and water jugs. Our first outdoor plants next to empty raised garden Beds A & B.

Today, 90 days later we harvested the first 4 gallon water jug containing French Fingerlings. Harvest time is estimated between 90 and 100 days. We chose to harvest the small container on the 90th day and will harvest the 5 gallon bucket on the 100th day.

We started with 3 chitted fingerling seeds that became a little more than two dozen harvested potatoes. Good odds.

90 day old French Fingerling potatoes in a 4 gallon water jug. There is a garbage bag wrapped around the jug to keep sunlight away from the fruit. Exposing them to sunlight risks them turning green and becoming poisonous.
The dump. The first potato we see is quite large for a fingerling. Watch the YouTube video and you will hear Beth gasp with delight as the potato is exposed after dumping. It’s quite cute.
R Dub picking through the soil looking for hidden treasures of potato!

Gardening – Succession Planting: Mid Summer

Raised Garden Beds A & B in mid morning shade. The cucumbers made it to the eaves first. Next question: Can I train them to grow sideways or back down the trellis?

It is mid July, mid summer…sigh… R Dub loves hot weather and summer. I will hate to see this one pass us by. But…

Now is the time to begin replacing harvested crops with mid summer loving plants. While looking at the raised garden beds this morning after watering I wondered internally how many plants need to be succeeded.

Here are some great veggies to plant in Mid Summer for Fall harvesting:

CropDays to maturityCold hardiness
Basil30-60Killed by frost
Beets50-60Survives high 20s
Bush Beans45-65Killed by frost
Broccoli50-70Survives light frost
Brussels sprouts90-100The hardiest – down to 20°
Cabbage50-90The hardiest – down to 20°
Cauliflower60-80Survives light frost
Cilantro60-70Survives light frost
Collard greens40-65The hardiest – down to 20°
GarlicHarvest the following JulyWinters over in ground
Green onion60-70Survives high 20s
Kale40-65The hardiest – down to 20°
Kohlrabi50-60Survives light frost
Leaf lettuce40-60Survives light frost
Mustard greens30-40Survives light frost
Peas70-80 (longer than if planted in spring)Survives high 20s
Radishes30-60Dig until soil freezes
Spinach35-45Survives light frost; may overwinter
Swiss chard40-60Survives light frost
Turnips50-60Survives light frost
Courtesy of the UMN Extension Office

We have already sown the following succession plants: Basil, Beets, Cilantro, and Swiss Chard. We are planning to add the following succession plants: Bush Beans, Brussels Sprouts, Garlic, Peas, and Spinach.

Radishes and carrots was easy. They’ve been plucked from the ground and have left a nice empty spot to fill. However vining plants like beans and peas are a more difficult decision.

Beets have succeeded the carrots in Bed B. One row plants in late June and now a second row sown in mid July. There will be a 3 week stagger between harvest for these rows. Good in our book.
Last of the harvested baby carrots leaving room for one more row of beets. We chose short carrots because they are easier to grow. Hindsight, as they say is 20:20, next time full sized carrots. More juice from the squeeze will be our mantra going forward.
Swiss Chard has just germinated in Bed C where the radishes once were. We will be able to Cut and Come Again this beautiful plants for the remainder of the growing season. Extra credit for noticing that the San Marzano tomatoes are turning color.

We have one cabbage plant that is slightly larger than a softball at the moment. The decision will need to be made when it is roughly twice as big as it is now. Do we cut the head and let a smaller golf ball sized head follow it up or pull out the entire plant a sow another plant in it’s place for a late fall cabbage head. We will have a committee meeting this weekend to decide. In the mean time it’s time to start some cabbage and cauliflower seedlings inside just in case.

This cabbage has been growing fast with its companion parsley. Do we cut the head and regrow a small head behind it, or pull it and start another plant the will grow to full size late in the growing season?

As seen in the first photo of this post one of our cucumber plants has reached the bottom of the eaves. We will need to train the plant to either go sideways or back down the trellis netting. So far, all of the cucumbers are growing near the top of the trellis. R Dub will be harvesting from a ladder soon. Pray for me.

Two of the young cucumbers growing near the eaves at the top of the trellis. Glad we have dill ready to pluck for the canning that awaits us.

Herbs were sown in Bed A, B and C plus in a window sill planter a few weeks ago when the temps started to rise. (Rise by Wisconsin standards anyway.) The basil, dill will be used for canning. The cilantro will be used to make salsa. Rosemary and parsley for cooking.

Basil in Bed A. Probably needs to be thinned. Definitely needs to be pruned. We will need every leaf we can get for canning the San Marzano tomatoes.
Window Box Basil from an earlier video. The pruning worked, it is growing wider, which is good.
Cilantro in Bed A, it will be yummy in salsa!
Parsley has been happy and finding enough sun with its companion cabbage and cauliflower.

It is clear that the peas and beans are done climbing and have slowed down producing. Our next decision: Pull them and sow new seeds ore continue to harvest until completely bare?

Tomatoes at long last are ripening. I’m estimating roughly 200 cherry tomatoes and 70 San Marzano tomatoes. The beef stake will continue to grow fruit until the first hard frost, I’m not hazarding a harvest guess for those. (A couple dozen…maybe.)

Super Sweet 100 Cherry tomatoes.
The first of the zucchinis.

Gardening: Cut and Come Again and Cut…

Lettuce cut and come again round two. Just 17 days after the first cut. With luck we should get at least 2 more cuts.
It took barely over 2 weeks to get this sweet lettuce up to cutting height.

The beauty of planting leafy produce is enjoying several regeneration harvests. Our basil produces tasty herb all year long. Almost as dependable for multiple harvests from one planting is lettuce.

In previous blog posts we talked about several early crops that were being harvested first. Radishes were first in and first out and first resown and now are ready to come out again. Once the second round of radishes are out, the succession crop will by Swiss Chard.

Spinach was next. Unfortunately it matured while we were on a 10 day vacation and had began to bolt by the time we returned home. We harvested the leaves, then pulled the plants. Beets are the succession plants where the spinach once grew.

Our peas, beans, and spicy peppers have all produced fruit as well, but there is much more to come from the peppers. The beans will produce much more too. Peas gave us a great first round and are now growing more flowers. Those peas are a sweet treat.

Ah, but lettuce. Lettuce is the succession plant for the lettuce. The term used for multiple harvesting of lettuce is Cut and Come Again. Cut the lettuce 1″ to 2″ above the ground and it will continue to grow. In a mere 17 days after the first cutting it came again and we cut it for the second time today.

For maximum crispness and sweetness it is recommended that lettuce be cut in the morning before the sun and heat wilts them a little.

If the remainder of the summer is mild, and if we do not get an early killer frost, we might get several cuts. That’s a lot of ‘ifs’. Typically one can plan for 4 cuts. We however, are eternal garden optimists.

Stay tuned!

Mates For Life – What is the Awareness?

This pigeon had a difficult time leaving the side of their dead partner last night. It did depart after the sun set, but the image haunted me most of the evening.

So I’m talking to Beth yesterday on the phone (yes we still use our communication devices to talk to each other) when the subject of weather came up. We are Mid westerners after all, so the subject had to come up at some point in the conversation.

She mentioned that there was heavy rain up north, and is it raining here? So I stepped outside of Door 4 at work to see if it is raining here…but instead I see the sight pictured above.

The bird laying down met an unknown to me untimely demise and its mate was standing guard over it. I watched for a while to observe what the live bird was planning to do.

On occasion the live bird would nudge the dead bird with its beak then back off sightly to watch.

I sent this photo to Beth who looked at it and informed me that they are pigeons and pigeons mate for life. We both felt sad for the living bird.

I checked in on the pair from time to time as the evening wore on. Eventually the live bird moved on.

When I returned to work today the carcass was still there, but has since been removed before beginning this post.

According to Wild Bird Watching; pigeons do indeed mate for life. However, there is a caveat. They mate for life as long as both birds are alive. If a pigeon loses a mate, especially a younger pigeon, they will usually find another mate.

According to Wild Bird Watching; “…the surviving bird will nearly always attempt to find a new mate. Some will find new mates in the same nesting season.

Others will forage for food through the breeding season, joining flocks in the fall. Still, others will help feed and raise the young of other pairs, but all will attempt to find a new mate at some time.”

There is solace in knowing that some creatures, like humans, will mourn their lost loves, yet have the instinct to continue on at some point. Some quicker than others.

Here’s the point where I digress a little. It’s my thing…

One thing that has been cemented in my mind the last 1 to 2 years; there is a human need to congregate and it is a deeply seeded need for most. The instinct can’t be held back for too long before we venture out to seek the company of others.

It appears that birds are designed the same way.

Gardening – Basil Pruning: Never Buy Basil Again

These 3 pots of basil started as one basil plant purchased just before Easter. All of these plants were cuttings from the first plant. After several prunings, the plants provide us with plenty of basil for Caprese salads. One of our favorite snacks. The rest of our green basil were started from seed.

We love fresh basil. For years we would buy a potted basil plant, put it outside in the sun, water it and pluck off larger leaves for food. Every year the plant would begin to falter, then die…not this year. Here’s how to never need to buy another basil plant again…

Basil is perhaps our favorite herb for cooking. We use oregano and cilantro too, but not nearly as often as we use fresh basil. In past years we have purchased basil plants at the local grocer and used the leaves until the plant dies. We never intended for the plants to die, but alas, they always did.

Herbs were one of the many plants that we committed to learn to grow during this 2021 year of operation green thumb. Up until this year, we’d killed almost every plant that we were responsible for.

So far this year, we’ve killed little. What has made the difference? YouTube. There is little you can’t learn from this social media. We’ve learned to fix lawn tractors, cook, and many other things by simply watching and taking notes from YouTube videos. Why should gardening be any different?

Why indeed! Thanks to watching and listening to several online gardening experts we jot down consistencies. One consistency in gardening is pruning plants to optimize output and the overall health of the plant. For basil, it seems, pruning is most important to sustain the plant.

Each stock stem will form three more smaller stems that resemble a Y with one more stem growing between them. Pruning the middle stem off will encourage the two remaining Y shaped stems to grow 3 more stems propagating the plants growth and survival. The result is a plant that continues to expand out instead of up.

Basil stem that needs to be pruned.
Sheering off the middle stem.
The ‘pruned’ basil stem ready to grow two more sets of three stems which will be pruned again to make our basil plant strong and wide and fruitful.
All of our fresh window box planter basil seedlings from the YouTube video pruned and ready to spread wider instead of taller.
Basil seedlings in our raised garden Bed A. They are not ready for pruning yet…but it will not be long.

Gardening – Summer Is Here: Now What?

Cabbage is progressing nicely, but the Cauliflower is lagging. R Dub will be disappointed if we do not get at least one nice cauliflower this season.

Operation Green Thumb has made it to official summer. We are roughly half way through the Zone 5 growing season. So how are the gardening newbies doing?

We’ve harvested radishes and planted a second round. One more new gardening term to add to our list. Succession Planting. We’ve harvested spinach and replaced them with beets. We’ve harvested lettuce in the Cut and Come Again method…and they are COMING AGAIN!

Lettuce ‘…Coming Again!”
Beets seeds were sown last week. 48 seeds 1″ apart have now been thinned out to 18 seedlings 3″ apart. 50 days to harvest.
THe second go around of radishes will soon be ready to pull. We are thinking Swiss Chard to replace the radishes.

Soon to be ready are carrots which should be ready to pull on July 7th. The package says 68 days and that is starting to look spot on.

3 rows of carrots have taken over the front of Beds A& B. The harvested spinach had no problem sharing sun with the carrots and neither will the beets that will be in long after we pull the carrots next week. However, the double row of carrots in Bed A overshadowed the bunch onions who really need more room to mature.

Also newly planted in Bed A is one of our herb gardens. Planted from left to right are Parsley, Dill, Oregano, Basil, Cilantro and Rosemary.

Herbs from top to bottom, left to right. Parsley, Dill, Oregano, Basil, Cilantro, and Rosemary.

Started from seed and soon to be transplanted to four gallon containers is sweet corn. Harvest for the sweet corn should be in late September beating the first frost by 2 or 3 weeks…we hope…

Sweet corn seedlings that will be transferred to containers. Looks like at least 5 seedlings each of Super Sweet Corn and Candy Corn. The containers will be clustered together to encourage better pollination. Stay tuned!

What else can be harvested? Peas and beans have some produce ready. We picked about two dozen peas last Sunday for a small family get together that went over very well. Beans we can pick a few this weekend for our Independence Day feast!

Sweet pea pods ready to eaten.
Green beans ready to be picked.

We have two rosemary plants that survived the first round of indoor seeds. This herb is known for poor germination. One plant is in a pot, pictured below. One in Bed A which may have been a tactical error. Rosemary does not transfer well from a bed to a container…according to the experts…whoever they are…

Snap sweet peas, green beans and yetwax beans.
Potted rosemary plant. It is just 6″ tall and with TLC should get to be 2 feet tall and one foot wide. Wish us luck. Herbs are difficult in zone 5.
A 1″ rosemary plant in Bed A, perhaps it will take off after the carrots are pulled. “Experts” say it will not survive a container transplant in fall and it will definitely not survive a Wisconsin winter. We will see. We are not giving up.

Peppers are a large portion of our container garden. We have one container each or Sweet Pepper, Yellow Pepper, Jalapeno, and Pepperoncini. Plus two containers each of Beaver Dam Pepper and Tabasco Pepper.

How are they doing? There are plenty of fruit on the Pepperoncini, Jalapeno and Beaver Dam plants. To date nothing on the Tabasco or the sweet bell type peppers.

Pepperoncini Peppers
Jalapeno Peppers

All of the tomato plants whether in Bed C or in a container are bearing fruit. None have turned red yet, but it shouldn’t be too long.

Three Big Boy tomatoes in the foreground with one purple basil companion plant in the background. Basil in bloom will attract pollinators.

Disappointments…so far…

Strawberry. not one strawberry plant emerged.

Cucumber, the vine is half way up the net trellis and should reach the roof top, but there are only flowers and no fruit so far.

The cucumber plants are racing to the top of the trellis and should reach the roof soon…but alas no fruit yet…just flowers.

Zucchini, lots of male blooms, but female blooms have been elusive…so far. It is possible that one female bloom is on one plant. Stay tuned…