Let’s Make Green Tomato Chutney

There’s nothing better than ripe, juicy tomatoes from the garden. Store bought tomatoes just don’t compare. So I plant tomatoes in my garden each spring. In 2012, I thought I had covered the tomatoes with netting to prevent the birds, squirrels and possums from eating them. But something still got to the tomatoes and I watched in disbelief as one by one the tomatoes disappeared. It was too much to think that all my tomatoes would vanish, so I picked everything — red ones and green ones.

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What could I do with all these tomatoes, I pondered? And I remembered my mother’s relish that she canned very summer. I located the recipe, which turned out to be from my grandmother Heisey. Sure enough, the chutney was made from green tomatoes.

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Mustard Greens: Will It Grow in Louisiana?

Yes, mustard greens grow in Louisiana:  they are a cool weather plant and grow well in the fall here. I’ve been growing them for 3  years now.

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The first year I got a late start and didn’t get the transplants going until the middle of October. Even so, they were quite large by Thanksgiving. Last year I planted mustard seeds – several varieties – in September and had more mustard greens than I knew what to do with. This year I planted 8 plants and harvested 2 pounds today. I cut the plants off close to the ground, and I’m sure they will come back. We still haven’t had a frost – it is in the 80’s – more like summer.

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In true southern fashion, I cooked mustard greens and cornbread. The mustard greens were braised in a small amount of cooking liquid, thus keeping in the nutrients. I made the cornbread from scratch, using plain yogurt. Both were very tasty.

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Braised Mustard Greens

  • Servings: yields six 1/2 cup servings
  • Time: 1 hour
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients:

1 pound fresh mustard greens
1 Tbsp canola-corn oil blend (any cooking oil will do)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
1/2 cup water
1 Tbsp cider vinegar

Method and Steps:

  1. Wash the mustard greens well, remove thick stems, chop and set aside.
  2. Heat the oil in large, heavy pot, add the onion and garlic and stir. Turn heat down to medium-low and continue to stir and cook until the onion is translucent, about 10 minutes.
  3. Add the red pepper flakes and stir.
  4. Add the water, then add the mustard greens to the pot in several batches, stirring to coat. Turn up the heat until the water boils, then cover and return the heat down to medium. Cook 5 minutes.
  5. Remove lid, add the cider vinegar and cook until most of the liquid evaporates.

 

Home-style Cornbread

Home-Style Cornbread

  • Time: 1 hours
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients:

1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1-1/2 cup plain yogurt
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup margarine, melted

Method and Steps:

  1. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Oil a square 8″ baking pan.
  2. In a large bowl, mix the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  3. In another bowl, mix together the yogurt, eggs and margarine.
  4. Fold the yogurt mixture into the flour, blending only enough to coat the flour. The batter will be lumpy. Do not over-stir.
  5. Pour into prepared baking pan. Bake for 20 minutes, or until cornbread is golden on top, pulls away from edges, and a toothpick comes out mostly clean. (My oven is hot, you may need 25 minutes baking time.)

 

Growing Notes:

  • Mustard greens — being a dark green leafy vegetable — are high in nutrients, Vitamin A and Vitamin C come to mind.
  • Be prepared to cook or preserve the mustard greens as soon as they get large. If you leave them go too long, the caterpillars and other garden residents discover them and begin to eat them.

Stirring Up Gluten-Free Crunchy Halloween Bites

Who says gluten-free goodies don’t taste good? I modified the recipe for Crunchy Butterscotch Treats and came up with a winner. At least my family liked them;: when I returned from work all the bites were devoured.

treat - 1 - IMG_0362_2_1I want to point out that I do not represent any food companies; when brand names are used it is because these are the ones that I know are gluten-free according to the packaging ingredient list and labeling. To make this recipe gluten-free I substituted General Mills Rice Chex for chow mein noodles. The other ingredients: chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, peanuts and candy corn for garnish are gluten-free.

Gluten-Free Crunchy Halloween Bites

4 oz Hershey’s Special Dark Mildly Sweet Chocolate Chips (2/3 cup)
4 oz Nestle’s Butterscotch Morsels (2/3 cup)
3 oz Dry roasted peanuts (1/2 cup)
2 oz General Mills Rice Chex (2 cups)
Candy corn for garnish

  • Place both chocolate chips and butterscotch morsels in top pot of double boiler. Heat and stir frequently until the chips and morsels are melted and smooth.
  • Stir in the peanuts,
  • Then gently stir in the Rice Chex until coated with the melted chocolate/butterscotch. Some of the chex will becomed mashed, this is okay.
  • Place spoonfuls of the mix onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  • Garnish with candy corn while the bites are still warm. Then let bites set until cool and hardened.

Makes 16 small bites.

On Nutrition’s Cutting Edge: Good News for Gluten-Free Diets

New regulations finalized by the Food and Drug Administration on August 2, 2013 regarding labeling of food products and packaging will make it easier for individuals to follow a gluten-free diet. The regulations specify the amount of gluten allowed in a food product – 20 ppm or essentially none — if the food manufacturer wishes to place “gluten-free” or similar terminology on the food label. It specifies the foods included in the regulation: wheat, Tritacle, barley and rye. This regulation will allow the FDA to enforce adherence to the new rules. The new rules and implications were discussed in a seminar at the Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo in Houston, TX on Oct 22, 2013. I found the seminar to be very informative, and here were a few of points it cleared up for me.

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Autumn Persimmon Cake

Yes, those persimmons just keep coming. Here’s an easy way to use them. This cake is moist, tasty and attractive. The persimmons give a little zing.

I used a Duncan Hines Spice cake mix, added persimmons and pecans, and topped the cake with a simple glaze.

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1 box Duncan Hines Spice Cake Mix (18.5 oz)
2 eggs
3/4 cup ripe mashed persimmon pulp from peeled persimmons (about 2 persimmons)
1/4 cup oil
1 cup water
1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Oil a 8 inch Bunt cake pan (same thing as 8 cup Bundt cake pan).

In bowl of mixer, add cake mix, eggs, persimmon, oil and water. Mix on low to blend, then medium speed for 2 minutes. Stir in chopped pecans. Pour into cake pan.

Bake 35 – 40 minutes. Cake should pull away from sides of pan and spring back on the top. A toothpick inserted into the cake should come out clean. (Check cake after 35 minutes).

Cool the cake 10 minutes in the pan and then invert on to cake platter. Cool completely and top with glaze.

Glaze:

1 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsp milk (or more)

Whisk confectioner’s sugar, vanilla and milk together until blended, smooth and silky. Add additional milk, a small spoon at a time, if glaze is too thick to drizzle. Drizzle over cake. (You might have some glaze left for another use.) Be careful not to add too much milk. When a cook’s spoon is lifted up, the glaze should stay on the spoon and come off in a slow stream. The glaze hardens quickly – do don’t delay in spreading it on the cake.

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Essie’s Garlic Okra

I decided to plant okra this summer and discovered that okra grows really well in Louisiana gardens. It thrives in the hot, hot summer. I planted eight tiny plants at the end of June and they started producing okra pods in August. Then wow! The okra pods grow rapidly and overnight.  We have to pick the okra every day — or they become too large with tough inedible fiber.  Now the okra plants are taller than I am.

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One of my favorite ways to cook okra is “Essie’s Garlic Okra.”  Very simple and delicious if you like garlic.

Essie’s Garlic Okra

12 oz small tender okra (about 2 cups), dash salt, 4 small garlic cloves, minced, 1 Tbsp olive oil

Wash and clean the okra. Leave whole with stems on. Place in a saucepan with a small amount of water and a dash of salt. Bring to boil, reduce heat to medium and boil gently only 3 minutes. Do not stir or puncture the okra. Remove, drain and transfer to serving plate. Mix the garlic and olive oil and drizzle over the okra. Serve’s 4.

Container Gardening

Don’t have room for a garden in your back yard? Don’t have a sunny spot in a good location?

Try container gardening. I started experimenting with this as a method of gardening this  year and am still learning what works and doesn‘t work.

I was skeptical that anything would grow in containers. However, this past summer we picked more tomatoes than we could eat, container gardening was a success.

Here’s how I made the container garden:

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Let’s Plant Cilantro

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With the cool front passing through the South, it’s a great time to get out into the yard; plant some herbs and vegetables that tolerate cooler weather.

Cilantro is one such herb that grows well in Louisiana throughout the fall, winter and early spring, especially with the milder winters we have been experiencing recently. Cilantro continues to grow into the late spring when the plants flower, becoming 2 to 3 feet tall. Then the plants become very leggy as the flowers turn to seeds.  Cilantro does not make it through the hot summer here in southern Louisiana.  Hence, cilantro are annuals, meaning new plants must be planted each year.

Cilantro likes a sunny location; otherwise very little care or watering is needed.  I usually place several small plants in different locations throughout the garden.  This year I tried planning the herb in a 5-gallon bucket using Miracle-Gro potting soil. Two weeks later the tiny plant  now reaches over the edges of the bucket. As the leaves are pinched off to use in cooking, more grow back. One or two plants is all a person really needs.

Cilantro adds an interesting flavor to dishes of all kinds from Mexican to oriental. An unlikely pairing that my inventive son came up with is “Cilantro Watermelon Ice”.

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Persimmon Upside Down Cake

We’d often walk home from school as  youngsters down a rural two-lane road in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. A persimmon tree grew along the fence. 

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The fruit would ripen in the fall. I guess we were curious, as all young folk are, and the ripening fruit seemed tempting. I remember one particular day we decided to pick and eat several of the fruit.  I still can remember the pungent, astringent taste as we ran the rest of the way home to get the taste out of our mouths.  That was the last time I ate persimmons for many years.

So I was fascinated to discover that persimmons grew in Louisiana. My Cajun/Italian next door neighbor, Essie, would drive to the country on the weekends to her camp in French Settlement and return with an assortment of fresh produce. She’d love to call me up and say “come to the fence between our houses, I have something to give you.” Of course, I could never say “no.” So occasionally in the fall I’d receive a basket of persimmons.bowl of okra - Cannon - 10-13-13 - IMG_0037_1

And what could I do with the persimmons?I discovered that the persimmons cultivated in Louisiana are Oriental Persimmons. They are larger and much milder that native persimmons . As they ripen, the fruit becomes even more sweet and soft. They are tasty when eaten raw,such as added to fruit salads; or cooked in desserts and puddings.

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I even planted a persimmon tree. It has flourished over the years in my backyard and often results in a bountiful crop; enough for both the birds and our family.  It has given many opportunities to figure out ways to cook and use the fruit. 

Persimmon Upside Down Cake is one such recipe. For this cake, I adapted a old recipe for Pineapple Upside Down Cake. The cake is easy to make, kind of a “dump it cake mix.” After baking and inverted, the persimmons and glaze on the bottom serve as the topping..

NOTES ON PERSIMMONS

  • Persimmons are available in grocery stores in the fall, so keep a look out for them; you don’t have to have a neighbor who goes to the country to pick them. Supermarket persimmons are probably still firm. Let the persimmons ripen at room temperature on your kitchen counter until soft and deep orange. I place a banana or apple in the container along with the persimmons. The ethylene released by these fruits helps the ripening process.

NUTRITIONAL VALUE

  • Persimmons are a good source of the precursors for Vitamin A  They also contain Vitamin C, magnesium. In this cake recipe, they take the place of an egg and some of the oil, reducing the fat content in the cake.