Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Summer For Sweet Potatoes

Now that the weather is turning here in Middle Tennessee, it's almost hard to remember the oppressive heat we experienced all summer.  I know most of you can relate because it was something nearly the whole country experienced.  It obliterated most of my summer crops for they just could not survive in the 98 degree heat with no relief from even an occasional rain shower.  Having lived and gardened in Florida for most of my life, I nearly always covered up the garden beds for summer knowing it was futile to fight the weeds and heat stroke for a few piddly cherry tomatoes, okra and lima beans.  I stayed inside in the air conditioning and waited for our growing season to begin in October.  I wasn't prepared for TN summers to be even worse.  Although everyone assures me this was a fluke, I am extremely doubtful regarding next summer's garden.  So while I was preparing my fall garden this month, noone was as shocked as I was to see some little red heads poking up from under my sweet potato vine.  Upon closer inspection, I found I had a veritable mine field of huge, hearty sweet potatoes!  I started digging around one plant and pulled out the biggest potato, this gardener had ever seen.  A 5 pounder!!  The diggings from just one plant came home with me that day and provided not only baked sweet potatoes but sweet potato pancakes,

sweet potato chili,

sweet potato gratin and will this weekend become sweet potato pie, with half the batch of potatoes still to be used.  Yesterday, I dug around a second plant and added the bounty to what was left of the first. 

And I still have 7 more plants to dig.  I should get at least a bushel and perhaps a half more.  If anyone wants to pass any sweet potato recipes my way, I welcome them.  In the mean time, here's the Sweet Potato Chili recipe I made.

Pinto Bean Sweet Potato Chili

1 T olive oil
1 Med onion chopped
2 cloves of garlic minced
1 T chili powder (adjust as necessary)
1 C vegetable broth
1 1-lb. sweet potato (yam), peeled, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
2 Med tomatoes cubed
1 Can Pinto beans drained

Heat olive oil in heavy sauce-pan over medium-high heat.  Add onion and garlic and saute until golden brown, about 5 minutes.  Add chili powder and stir 1 minute.  Add broth and potato.  Cover pan; reduce heat to medium and simmer until potato is almost tender, about 10 minutes.  Add tomatoes and pinto beans.  Simmer uncovered until chili thickens and potato is very tender, about 10 minutes.  Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve with a touch of mexican cheese shredded on top.

This was so easy and delicious.  A must try this winter!

I used to grow sweet potatoes in Florida many years ago and had completely forgotten how much they loved the heat.  I had one plant that grew year round there and provided me with potatoes all year.  In my California community garden, potatoes were on the banned list so I forgot all about them.  Something tells me I won't be forgetting about these sweet potatoes for a very long time.  It will take me at least two full day to process them for the freezer and we should be having sweet potato dishes until we are in our 80's.  Sweet potato cassarole anyone?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

You Had Me At 'BARN'

So I was finishing up a run to my local Tractor Supply Co. and as I was about to unload my minivan, I paused, took a long look and ran inside to get my camera.  Those of you who know me, will attest to the fact that this is the way think a minivan should be used.  Rick says my next vehicle will be a truck because that's what I've made the van into anyway. 

Ain't it perty?  Supplies for the garden and the critters, and plenty of room left for us country folk.

Speaking of the garden.  Although we are renting in subdivision-land right now, I am so blessed to have a community plot on 45 plus acres provided by my church.  My community plot back in Long Beach, which was next to the plots of my dear friends and which provided as much free manure and mulch as I could haul in a wheelbarrow, was smack next to the freeway which drowned out the sounds of nature.  So there are trade-offs.

Speaking of the critters, my husband stepped on some rabbit pellets the other day and said, "I've been steppin in animal poop for our entire 18 years of marriage.  I guess the only solution is to buy you a house with a barn."  At that moment the heavens opened and the angels sang a chorus of "Hallelujah".  He said "BARN"!  My dear husband doesn't even know that as a child growing up in the country, I longed for a barn but my father didn't share my views even though we lived on enough land to build 20 barns.  It was enough to get him to allow me to put in a fence for my horse and I had to dig half the holes.  So when my husband said he would get me a barn when we buy a house, he was speaking my love language.  I don't require much.  Just some manure and hay and a place to keep it.  It only took  him 18 years to figure it out.  I think that's pretty good!
By the way, these are some of my new favorite magazines!  So much fun with lots of information about gardens, critters and BARNS!  Check 'em out! 

Saturday, September 11, 2010

CHRISTMAS IN JULY (and August and September and...)

What would you do if you heard a cry for help?  Ok, what would you do if you were a crafter and you heard a cry for crafting help?  I hope we would all "do unto others as we would  have others do unto us", right?

I was in JoAnn Fabrics one day and overheard a woman on her cell phone lamenting the fact that her daughter had to have a lion head made by Monday and here it was Thursday and she didn't sew and didn't know what to do.  The little angel on my right shoulder stuck my nose in her business as soon as she had gotten off the phone and within a few days, I had made her a lion head from yarn and an old ski mask pattern I had lying around.  She failed to tell me, though, that her daughter had an emormous head and it was all she could do to get it over the aforementioned noggin.  But it served it's purpose, she was extremely grateful, I made a friend and ended up getting the lion head back for my daughter for halloween.  This is a photo of the lion head along with the lion costume that I made for it when she returned the head to me.

I bring up this story to illustrate that I seem to always be sticking my nose in to other people's business because I can't resist a cry for crafting help.  It was to just such a cry that prompted me to embark on my most recent knitting adventure.
I was browsing around Ravelry, minding my own business when I noticed a post asking if anyone could knit a Christmas stocking for her soon to be born daughter.  Aww, what could be sweeter than to knit for a new little baby to be.  I'm thinking pink.  I'm thinking small, quick and easy.  I thought wrong!

I made arrangements to meet the woman at my local yarn shop, Bliss Yarns and after a quick introduction over her very pregnant belly, she showed me the pattern she wanted knit.  It was published in 1948, it was intarsia and she wanted one knit to match hers, which had been originally knit by her grandmother and her husband's, whom she had someone knit for her in another city.  Not one to back down from a knitting challenge, I went home with her chosen yarn and a pattern that had seen better days. 

Over the next few days, I watched all the internet videos I could on intarsia, gathered my supplies and my courage and cast on.  I'm sorry now that I didn't get pictures of my progress along the way because it was quite a scene: trips to the pool with red, white and green balls of yarn dangling from every possible point on my needles, and sticky notes strategically placed and replaced as I worked my way down the Christmas tree and Santa Claus which were knit into the middle of this enormous sock.
After most of June, all of July and the better part of August were over, I had completed the Christmas stocking.  Did I mention I'm a loose knitter?  Did I mention that although the yarn called for size 8 needles, I used size 3?  Did I mention that my stocking came out large enough for my husband to sleep in?

Now of course when I was knitting this thing, I knew it was turning out large but when I blocked it, it just seemed to stretch to even more gigantic proportions!  Only having 25% wool in the yarn, there was no hope of felting it (although I tried, Oh did I ever try).  I finally had to face the fact that I had failed and that I had to break it to this woman that I had failed and that I had to knit this agonizing project that had taken most of my summer, over again.  The latter being the hardest to face.  But all those things I did and this time, picking up size 1 needles, started knitting again.  This is what resulted.

Still too long

and still too wide.

So I have offerd to hunt for differnt yarn and to somehow make this work to match her other stockings.  It looks like I will be knitting right up until Christmas.  I didn't have any Christmas knitting to do right?

So take my advice, keep your crafting feelers on and make sure they are long enough to butt into other people's business because you never know when it will result in a costume for your daughter or a sleeping bag for your husband.