I am happy to report that after 2-1/2 days of kitchen duty, I now have 20 quarts of yellow beans tucked away in the freezer.  I may have to give some away.  I don’t know what I was thinking when I decided to buy a bushel of the yellow (wax) beans.  Next year I think I’ll get a peck of each type of bean they grow at Hilgert’s.  There are three varieties of green beans to be found at Hilgert’s (this year, at least):  Kentucky Wonders, Bluelake, and Italian.  A peck of each plus a peck of the yellow will give me 20 quarts of a variety of beans.

I did blanch and freeze some of the green beans (the Kentucky Wonders and the Italian).  I have 8 quarts of those.  All in all, that’s a lot of beans!  (Does all this counting of quarts of beans make me a bean counter??)

The food is so pretty this time of year.

Everything is so colorful and delicious.

All you need to do is add a few grains and you have the beginnings of a great meal.

In other food adventure news…

Today I  finally got back to my cookbook adventures.  I may have to rename that as I made something that a friend suggested.  I did not follow a recipe, just (some of) her suggestions.  I stir-fried some of the fresh yellow beans that I put aside just for that purpose, having picked out nice, slender, tender beans.  I added some other veggies I picked up at the Hartville Market yesterday (peppers, candy hybrid onions, carrots, green onions, and zucchini) and then flavored it all with black bean sauce and some chili garlic sauce for heat.

We had it over rice noodles.  Delicious, nutritious, and quite satisfying for our “big” Sunday afternoon meal.

Stuck in a rut

I’ve been stuck in a cooking rut lately.  You’d think that wouldn’t be possible given the plethora of food available now.  I try to buy local when possible and right now local is a bountiful harvest of choices.

To give you some idea of how stuck I am, I made the above vegetarian version of German potato salad twice in one week.  Twice!  Granted, I like it and don’t mind eating it practically every day.  But I’m not sure M feels the same way.  He likes variety in his diet.  (The photo, by the way, is a little on the yellowish side, making the dish look cheesy.  There is no cheese in it.  It’s the lighting in the kitchen that brings on the yellow.)

(Pasta with broccoli rabe.)

I also have a variety of choices when it comes to cookbooks, recipes collected, and tastes.  M and I are adventurous eaters to some degree.  The caveat has more to do with me than him.  I have this thing against all things slimy.  Snails in particular, but there are other slimy choices that didn’t and still don’t appeal to me (steamed okra, for instance).  That said, I will try things (even slimy things) because it doesn’t seem right to me to give up on whole food groups (in this case the slimy food group) just because I didn’t like that sea-abalone-and-Chinese-mushroom dish that we had twenty years ago.  Tastes and palates change if you’re open to that change.

(Fish taco, bean & barley salad, fresh asparagus, and an IPA.)

But back to the rut.  I have decided to do what most people do when stuck in a rut (no, not watch the Food Network — I don’t have cable, remember?).  I have a good collection of cookbooks so I’m going to open one every week and randomly pick a recipe from the chosen cookbook.  Not to worry.  I won’t be copying the Julie and Julia thing.  I’ll be using different cookbooks rather than following one.  There was a time, almost a decade ago, when M the Elder, M the Younger, and I took turns picking out one new recipe per week to try.  We were on an ethnic kick, wanting to try foods from different countries.  My favorite at the time turned out to be Ethiopian even though the spice mixtures were labor intensive because I had to work with a mortar and pestle, not owning a food processor or coffee grinder (which has since been remedied!).  I burnt out a borrowed blender trying to grind the spices and it seemed best to do them by hand after that.

The cookbook I’ve decided to pick from this week is the  Colorado Cache Cookbook: 30th Anniversary Edition.   M the Younger and Merdi gave it to me last Christmas.  (Cookbooks are always good gifts for me and I have several on my Amazon Wish List.  Truth be told, almost ANY book is a good gift for me but I do have a special place in my heart for cookbooks.  They are slices of history, moving through the various food fads and fashions.)  As for which recipe, you’ll have to wait and see as I haven’t decided for sure yet.  I have it narrowed down to three possibilities.  I’ll let you know which one I choose and how it turns out.

In other news…

The Queen Anne’s Lace is beginning to bloom in the wildflower meadow.  Here, I’ll show you:

It seems early.  I could be wrong.  I should go back and look at my blog posts from previous years to see if I mention it.  I know I’ve posted photos of it either here or over there, at Bountiful Healing.  Ah yes, I found it and have decided to revive the old post:  Sanctuary.   Head on over and have a look.  I’ll wait.  The original was posted on July 17, 2008 so I’m right and the Queen Anne’s Lace is a little early this year.

(A view of the pond from the ‘standing stone’ on the eastern edge of the property.)

I wrote about the standing stone way back when, too.  You can find it here.  Just scroll down past the whining about the job I am happy to say I no longer have.

Sassy mint

(Mentha suaveolens — Apple Mint)

One of the first things I did when we moved to our current home was plant mint in a spot where nothing else seemed to grow.  I started with Apple Mint.  Apple Mint loved it there, thriving and spreading.  Then I cleaned out some of Apple Mint and introduced it to Unknown Mint.  (When I bought Unknown Mint it was labeled as “spearmint” but the leaves don’t look like spearmint.  In looks it reminds me of oregano or marjoram but it does have a minty scent and flavor to it.)  Unknown Mint loved it there too and got along well with Apple Mint and they have been sharing their enclosed area quite well, splitting it almost in half and mingling somewhere in the middle.  Apple Mint can be a little aggressive, but she takes off for other areas rather than bullying out Unknown Mint.  Apple Mint has even popped up in the cracks of the front porch and across the sidewalk from where she is located.

(Unknown Mint)

Off in the corner, taking up very little space, is False Mint.  False didn’t mean to be false.  It was my fault that False came to be sitting in the corner, wondering what to do with itself.  You see, my favorite mint thus far in life is Pineapple Mint.  It has variegated leaves of yellow and green and tastes of pineapple.  I bought a little pineapple mint plant when we were living in Kent and planted her in the garden out back in a space where she had room to stretch out and enjoy herself.  It was early spring when we moved from Kent to our current location.  We gathered and/or dug up plants we wanted to take with us, planted them in a space near the barn as a temporary place to grow, and then hoped they would do okay until we finished the house renovations and could get back to them.

(This is not a mint and for this post I’ve named it False Mint but that is not its real name.)

I planted what I thought was the Pineapple Mint in the corner of the area where Apple and Unknown are now thriving.  I put her there because I knew that was where I wanted the Mints to hang out.  Well, it turned out it wasn’t Pineapple Mint at all but an imposter who looks a little like Pineapple Mint (a real gardener, I’m sure, would have known the difference).  False Mint is lacking the aroma and flavor of Pineapple Mint, does not have the square stem or leaf pattern of mints, and I’m not even sure it is edible as once I realized it was the wrong plant, I gave up on it.  I never bothered to look it up, thinking the Mints would eventually overtake it and force it out.

False has been there for about seven years or so, holding on to its little corner of the patch.  Apple joined it later that year and Unknown the following year.  I’ve been looking for another pineapple mint plant since that time but hadn’t found one until this spring.

(Mentha suaveolens variegata — Pineapple Mint)

I thought about pulling False out of the mint bed.  It was a fleeting thought that was carried away by the braveness of the little plant that has held its own against the Mints.  I have never had to weed the mint bed.  Apple and Unknown won’t let the weeds in.  There is a little fairy residing in the Mint Patch but she’s another story for another time.  Lemon Verbana lived in the mint bed for a year or two until she succumbed to a harsh winter and we were left with nothing except her skeletal outlines along the side of the house.

When I look at the differences between False and Pineapple now, I don’t see how I could have made such a big mistake.  False has bigger leaves, for one thing, and the edges are smoother than Pineapple’s.  I am fairly new to gardening, having always had a black thumb rather than a green thumb.  I killed houseplants just by looking at them.  Or so it seemed to me.

I am still not a master gardener.  I don’t see that as my path in life.  But I have finally learned how to grow a few things and keep them alive from year to year.  The Mints, of course, have never needed my help.  They are experts in their field (or bed, as the case happens to be).

I made up a batch of “sassy water” today.  I can’t remember where I first heard or read about sassy water.  It’s the kind of water I would expect to be served at a spa.  It is cool and refreshing and you can practically feel it doing healthy things to your body when you drink it.  I don’t have an exact recipe but I can tell you what I put in it.

  • Mint leaves — around 10-15 of them, depending on the kind of mint.  Apple Mint has huge leaves so I don’t need much.  Pineapple leaves are smaller so I use more.   Bruise the leaves a little to bring out the flavor.  If you want to make it look fancy, add sprigs instead of individual leaves.  Your choice.
  • 1-2 teaspoons of freshly grated ginger (if you don’t want the water to look quite so cloudy, peel and slice the ginger instead)
  • The juice of one lemon
  • 1/4 cucumber, peeled and sliced
  • 1 liter of water

Chill overnight, strain and enjoy throughout the next day.  I use a small strainer and strain as I pour.  When I finish the water, I eat the cucumber slices.  They are delicious, having absorbed the lemon, ginger, and mint flavors.  Crunchy, too.  Sometimes I throw them into salads.

It’s strawberry season!

I’m excited.  The lack of exclamation points might make it seem as if I’m not all that excited but I am.  The strawberries are ready for picking at Hilgert’s Farm.  Or you can go to the market and buy already picked berries if you’re not up to picking your own.  M and I stopped by the market yesterday to buy a quart to sample.  I’ll be joining a friend on Wednesday to do some picking.  I’d like to freeze a bunch of them this year.

The reason strawberry season excites me so much is because it is the beginning of the fresh, locally grown, produce season.  The peas and sugar snap peas will be coming in next.  Some of the other farmer’s markets have lettuces, green onions, radishes, and fresh herbs that are locally grown.  From now until sometime in November we’ll be eating plenty of fresh fruit and veggies.


We also went to the Hartville Marketplace to see what was available there.  As usual, we loaded up on lots of goodies such as red leaf lettuce, radishes, green onions, and new potatoes.  We came home and made a lunch that was a feast of mostly locally grown vegetables and fruit (with a few not-local nuts thrown in for good measure).

The rains continue, almost unabated.  I’m beginning to feel as though we live in a rain forest during the monsoon season.  Everything is lush and green and beautiful.  And wet.  The pond is filling up nicely.  We decided to raise the water level this year to see if that helps with the weed and algae control.

The rain has also brought something that the birds are attracted to and that something is on our deck.  I don’t know what it is.  There were dozens of birds pecking around on the deck and under the porch, seemingly enjoying whatever it was they were feasting on.  Bugs of some kind, perhaps.  Or seeds from the trees.  I’m not sure.  Whatever it is/was, it gave me the opportunity to practice with the zoom on the new camera.  Most of the photos were pretty bad.  I got lucky with one or two fairly decent shots.

The flamingos are an easy shot since all they do is stand there.  They don’t seem to mind the rain although they might be swimming or floating soon if the pond gets much higher.

A puzzling update

As you can see, we are slowly but surely putting the puzzle together.   I’ve discovered it’s best to take the puzzle in small amounts, not spending too much time with it in any one sitting.   It’s funny how a piece I’ll be looking for one day will suddenly pop out at me the next day, but hide from me if I stay too long looking for it.

There’s not much new here in the Bogs.  I’ve been exercising, eating healthy food, and losing weight.  I had an epiphany or turning point when I hit the anniversary of the day I quit smoking.  It’s as if I’m finally working on the next part of the lifestyle change puzzle.  I’m motivated and that motivation has turned into some small successes.  I took a self-portrait but… eh… I’m not ready to show my face just yet.

Prepping and getting into shape for the surf lessons are part of my big motivation.  I’m working hard at the core (ab) exercises and push-ups.  I’m up to six real push-ups, doing the rest at either an incline or decline (which makes them easier).  I have a feeling it’s going to take a while for me to work up to the required number.  I’m also getting in plenty of cardio to go with all the weight training.  I follow up my exercise sessions with yoga practice.  Sometimes I think I’m getting more benefits from the yoga than from anything else I’m doing.

The weather continues to be wintery.  Cold, but not as bitterly cold as last week.  We had some snow flurries today.  I heard that Lake Erie is frozen so that turns off the lake effect machine for now.  This has not been a good winter for sledding, cross-country skiing or snowshoeing.  Without the snow, the gray days are a little more difficult since we can’t get out and play like we do when we have a good covering of the white stuff.

That’s about it from the Bogs for now.  Hope all is well with you.



(186:  Penne with broccoli rabe and black olives.)

Wildflowers and sunlight

(123:  Flowers in the early morning sunlight.  RMNP, Co.  Photo © 2009 by Robin)

Be content to stand in the light, and let the shadow fall where it will.

~ Mary W. Stewart

This photo originally went with a post I had written last Sunday.  I was sitting at my mother’s kitchen table, writing about how strange it felt to be sitting there without her.  Although unrealistic, I kept expecting her to come walking in any moment, having been out on a squad call or running errands.  There is a surreal quality surrounding death.  I don’t know how to describe it just yet.

Yesterday I read over the post and decided it was too personal and too raw to make it public.  I sat here for a while, trying to decide what to do it.  I finally saved it and started over.  However, what came out was a long and sarcastic piece that is also unsuitable for publication.  It was good to work out some of the snarkiness (anger) that was building up alongside the sadness.

Today I am taking another step towards the state of normal, whatever that may be.  M and I made a trip to Hilgerts and picked up lots and lots of fresh produce.  I have a peck of tomatoes and a peck of peppers.  There are a half dozen (plus one) ears of corn, a beautiful butternut squash, a watermelon, a cantaloupe, various cucumbers, red onions, and hot Hungarian peppers.  Everything looked so fresh and beautiful.  It was hard to decide so we added to that some eggplant, cabbage, zucchini, yellow squash, and yellow tomatoes.

This afternoon I’m going to make gazpacho with the tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, and peppers.  Gazpacho is one of my favorite summertime soups and I usually try to make a couple batches of it once the tomatoes and peppers come in.  Tomorrow I’ll make a big batch of (hot) vegetable soup using the majority of the vegetables we bought.  The eggplant will end up as baba ghanoush, first cooked on the grill so it will have a nice smokey flavor to it (although, having looked at a few eggplant recipes, this sounds pretty good too).

Now that I look at the list, it sounds pretty ambitious.  That’s ok.  I’ve got all day.