Harvest Time!

I absolutely love late summer and early fall – the air is cooler, apples, blackberries and garden veggies are ripe, and the local wildlife is out and about. This morning, a doe, two fawns and a spike mozzied through my yard and snacked on the moss on a branch that fell out of a tree. Then the neighborhood peacock hen came through–not sure where that one came from, but she’s pretty.

Growing a vegetable garden is a healthy hobby, but I never thought of it as entertaining until now. This year’s garden grew like crazy so I have little watermelons hanging out of the bush beans, butternut squash growing throughout the entire space including the strawberries, and both the butternut and acorn squash climbing the fences.

Can you believe this crazy squash? I didn’t expect it to make it to maturity without falling off the vine, but I picked and cooked it last night.

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There’s squash, tomatoes, zucchini, melon and peppers taking over my kitchen counters. I’m not complaining – I’ve been eating fresh vegetables every day.

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I’m hooked on baked tomatoes right now.  Of course I like them fresh too, and I also started baking them sprinkled with Parmesan cheese. These are stuffed tomatoes, green peppers and mushrooms that I made for dinner.

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I am wondering what else I can make with zucchini besides grilled zucchini, bread, stuffed zucchini and spaghetti sauce, but it’s still been fun.  I wonder if you can carve giant zucchinis for Halloween???

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Apple cider and salmon chowder – It’s falltime!

I just put a pumpkin pie in the oven – the pumpkin was a little sugar pumpkin from our garden. It’s still fairly warm and very dry for an Oregon October, but I’ll take it, especially since the garden is still in full swing. I have watermelon, tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, butternut squash, corn and peppers still getting ripe. Even with the warm weather, I’ve been enjoying some of my favorite fall recipes, like smoked salmon chowder. I caught the 35 pound salmon and smoked it myself.

Here’s my recipe. I love making soups and chowders

Salmon Chowder

 Brown bacon and crumble (or cut with scissors and fry)
Remove bacon and set aside; drain most of the grease.
Cut about 6 medium potatoes into small squares and brown in grease.
Let the potatoes brown a little bit and add chopped up onion. (I small onion)
Once potatoes are brown and starting to get soft (you can easily poke a fork into them), add the bacon back in.
Continue to brown potatoes and onions, add a little garlic, salt and pepper. (fresh ground pepper is best)
When everything is soft, add 1 cup flour and stir to coat everything.
Pour in milk until it’s about soup size. (Sorry, I haven’t measured how much milk. I just add it till I have about half a pot.)
Add smoked salmon to taste, or use leftover cooked salmon. (Or about 1 to 2 cups cooked and flaked salmon.)
Add about a cup shredder cheese and gently stir a little.
Add about 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese, the real kind not the “snow cheese” you put on spaghetti.
Stir so it doesn’t burn and cook until everything is well blended. Soup thickens as it warms up.
*My clam chowder recipe actually says to use a pint of 1/2 & 1/2 or whipping cream, so you can use that instead of milk.
Despite the warm weather, my kids caught their first cold of the school year. We pulled out the apple cider to help.

We also picked apples to make applesauce and apple butter. I like chunky applesauce that you can make in a crook pot or big pot on the stove. It’s pretty easy, fun, and makes the house smell delicious while it’s cooking.

Chunky Applesauce

Peel a big bag of apples and cut them up into a big pot or crock pot- you can use really any apple that you like, and it’s tasty to mix varieties. It also doesn’t’ matter how many you use because you can adjust the spices.

Cook the apples, stirring every 10 or so minutes. If they’re dry, you can add a little water so they don’t burn. Usually the juice works fine by itself.

As the apple soften, smash them with a potato smasher. I stir and smash every ten minutes. After an hour or so, depending on how many apples you started with, you’ll have a pot of soft sauce with chunks of apple in it. I add a cup of brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ground clover to taste. This is the fun part. The kind of apple or mix will change the amount and kind of spices you use. You can continue to cook it down to the softness you want, and continue smashing for a smoother applesauce. It actually turns out a bit like apple pie filling, and it’s very good to eat while it’s hot. I make a big pot and then eat a bowl with the kids, put some in the fridge, and can a couple small jars of it.

I started canning this year and loved it. I learned how from a wonderful, informative site called www.pickyourown.org. It’s full of recipes, directions and pictures for canning about anything.

Happy Fall Time!

 

Back To School Thoughts

I’m starting to wonder if I jinxed summer! I blogged about the season and then, when my kids went back to school, it suddenly got cool here. We’ve had three days of cooler, cloudy weather. Now I’m hoping my garden will mature before the weather really turns to autumn.

School started with a bang. We’re into the full swing of things and even two days into football practice – tackle football even, so I’m a bit nervous. Sometimes I wish they had a “stay little” button so I could catch up and be ready for all this!

My year seems to structure itself around the school year – I set goals starting in fall. Last school year I wrote and published several books, and this summer I focused on freelance writing and spending time with the kids. We had a lot of fun, and of course the summer went by all too quickly. In August, I got to watch one of my novels, A Cowboy For Christmas, spike up the rankings in Kindle and continue to climb. It’s been a fun and amazing to experience. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens in September. A Cowboy For Christmas will be featured on The Book Junkie Library and I’m also joining a book giveaway with Bees Knees’s Reviews where we’ll give away a few print and Kindle copies of my books.

Enjoy your summer/fall weather!

Update – The Giveaway is up (see next blog post) and my guest blog on Bee’s Knees Reviews, “What The Publishing Revolution Means to Readers”  is up at http://beeskneesreviews.blogspot.com/2011/09/what-publishing-revolution-means-to.html.