Friday, January 8, 2010

Reader's Questions: Home & Garden

Use the talents you possess - for the woods would be a very silent place if no birds sang except for the best. ~Henry Van Dyke

I hope you all have recovered from the holiday hustle and bustle. I have some questions and answers today. It's hard to think of gardening when it's 22 degrees (F.) and snowing outside, but I snuggled up to the laptop and managed:)

I planted a couple of bearded iris in individual pots. One of them started to sprout so I placed it under a UV light like the others, but two days later the new green started to turn brown. I've removed it from the light, but if you could get back to me on what I did wrong. ~April

April, my understanding is that Iris need the cold in the winter. If you have it indoors during the time it's suppose to be dormant and kept cold, it's not going to grow as it should. I don't know where you live, but I would keep the pots in a very cool or cold location (garage etc.) until spring. The bulb may have started to sprout because it was inside, but it still wasn't ready to grow and bloom. I could not find information on forcing Iris to bloom early, so I'd store the pots in the cold until spring as I mentioned.

Could you suggest plants and shrubs that the deer won't eat? Even if I can't plant yet I still want to plan! ~Elaine

First thing to remember, nothing is ever 100% deer proof if they are hungry enough. But, many plants are not appealing to them if they have other things to nibble on. You'll notice a lot of herbs in the resistant category: santolina, spearmint, thyme, rosemary, most sage plants, Mexican oregano, tansy, yarrow, and lavender are among them. Some perennials that are also unappetizing to deer are foxglove, joe-pye weed, anemones, astilbe, butterfly weed, bellflower and periwinkle. This should give you a good start on planning!

I live in Roseville, CA, just above Sacrament. I planted bulbs for the first time in November (according to the packages) for Spring. A lot of them have come up and flowered already. Does this mean I won't have a full flower garden in the spring? Is there something I should or shouldn't have done? I was looking so forward to them all be up at once. ~Marta

I'm in Michigan, so our bulbs are still dormant. I looked up a little on California, and found that some bulbs like crocus and tulips aren't really suited to your climate, though there may be some exceptions. Bulbs usually don't come up all at the same time. They are usually classified as late winter, early spring, mid-spring and late spring, plus there are summer bulb varieties too. Each one is triggered by different time lengths and temperatures. Many times when you buy an assortment they will have different bloom times so they are staggered. People often prefer this so the bulbs flower for a longer length of time. What I would do is make a little diary of what bulbs bloomed already and the dates that the other ones end of blooming. Next fall instead of buying an assortment, fill in the bed with bulbs in the various bloom times, so you have a nice selection from late winter to summer.

I have a friend that lives in another country where corn syrup is not available What could be used in a pecan pie instead of corn syrup?. Would you have a different recipe without it? ~Janet

Your friend can make a syrup that will work in the recipe. Use 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar and 1/3 cup water. Mix them in a sauce pan and boil until it becomes thick like syrup. You can also add a little molasses to this too.


Friday Recipes: Winter Squash

Winter squash is great this time of year, and there is so much that you can do with it. Whether it's from your garden or the produce section, don't miss out.

Always look for firm squash that are not damaged. When a recipe calls for cooked squash, simply cut it in half, scoop out the seeds and strings, and place it upside down in a pan with about a 1/2 inch of water. Cook the squash at 350 degrees for 40-60 minutes, depending on the size. It's done when you can easily pierce through the skin with a fork. Cook enough to handle and scrape out the squash you need for the recipe.

Try these recipes this year:

Stuffed Winter Squash

3 small acorn or butternut squash
3 green onions
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup finely diced celery
1 bunch fresh spinach, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup whole wheat bread crumbs
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 cup almonds or pecans, finely ground
1 tablespoon butter

Cut in half and clean the squash. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes or until tender. Sauté the onions in oil until soft. Add diced celery. Cover and simmer on medium heat until just tender. Add spinach; stir to wilt. Combine the crumbs with salt and ground nuts. Stuff the squashes with spinach and sprinkle the crumb mixture on top. Dot with butter. Return to oven for 10-15 minutes. Serves 6.

Serve the following dish with a mixed green salad and rolls for a nice autumn dinner. Serves enough for company!

Roasted Beef and Squash

2 tablespoons olive oil
4 pounds chuck roast
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste
3/4 cup beef broth
2 tablespoons fresh sage, chopped
3-4 pounds butternut squash
Optional: 2 tablespoons herb vinegar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a Dutch oven (or a pan that can go from stovetop to oven) heat the oil until warmed. When the oil is hot, add the roast and brown slowly for about 10 minutes on each size. Meanwhile, slice the onions and mince garlic. Remove the roast to a platter and season with the salt and pepper-set aside. Lower the heat and sauté the onion and garlic until light golden-be very careful not to brown completely or scorch. Add the broth/wine and the sage. Cook for one minute. Return roast to the pot, and cover. Bake for 1-1 1/2 hours (add more broth or water is it becomes dry). Meanwhile, peel the squash, remove seeds and cut into one inch cubes. After the roast has cooked for the 1 1/2 hours, add the squash and bake 30 more minutes. Do not over bake or the squash will become mushy. Makes 8-10 servings.

Squash Cornbread

1 cup cooked winter squash
1 egg
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup yellow corn meal

Place squash in a blender or food processor. (You can also mash it as long as it's cooked well-this is great for leftovers) Beat the egg lightly and add to the squash in a large bowl. Add the other ingredients and mix lightly. Place the batter into a cast iron skillet or 9 inch square pan that has been coated with butter or margarine. Dot the batter with butter if you wish and bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.

Savory Butternut Squash

1 butternut squash-about 3 pounds
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. cumin
salt and pepper to taste

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Half the squash and scoop out the seeds and strings. Place it cut side up in a baking pan, adding 1/4 inch of water to the pan. Bake for 35-45 minutes until tender. Cool, then peel and cut into 2 inch chunks. In a large skillet melt the butter and saute the garlic over low heat for 1 minute. Do not brown, or scorch. Add the squash, toss and cook for 2 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients, and toss to coat. Cook for 2-3 more minutes and serve.

Winter Squash Pie

1 9 inch unbaked pie shell
2 cups cooked winter squash
2 cups whole or lowfat milk
3 eggs
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup honey

Place 1 cup milk in a blender and add the squash, a little at a time, blending til smooth. Add the eggs and spices and blend. Pour the mixture in a large bowl, and add the remaining 1 cup milk, brown sugar and honey. Stir until well blended. Pour into the unbaked pie crust and bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes. Lower the heat to 325 degrees and bake for 30 more minutes. Cool. Serve with whipped cream!

More you might like:
Butternut Squash Season
Delicata Squash Tips and Recipes
Harvesting and Using Summer Squash
Discovering Spaghetti Squash

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

25 Uses for Coffee Filters

I received this list via email, so I'm not sure who compiled it, but I definitely learned a few new tricks! You can pick up large packages of coffee filters from the dollar store, I believe there are 1,000 per package!

1. Cover bowls or dishes when cooking in the microwave. Coffee filters make excellent covers.

2. Clean windows, mirrors, and chrome. Coffee filters are lint-free so they'll leave windows sparkling.

3. Protect China by separating your good dishes with a coffee filter between each dish.

4. Filter broken cork from wine. If you break the cork when opening a wine bottle, filter the wine through a coffee filter.

5. Protect a cast-iron skillet. Place a coffee filter in the skillet to absorb moisture and prevent rust.

6. Apply shoe polish. Ball up a lint-free coffee filter.

7. Recycle frying oil. After frying, strain oil through a sieve lined with a coffee filter.

8. Weigh chopped foods. Place chopped ingredients in a coffee filter on a kitchen scale.

9. Hold tacos. Coffee filters make convenient wrappers for messy foods.

10. Stop the soil from leaking out of a plant pot. Line a plant pot with a coffee filter to prevent the soil from going through the drainage holes.

11. Prevent a Popsicle from dripping. Poke one or two holes as needed in a coffee filter.

12. Do you think we used expensive strips to wax eyebrows? Use strips of coffee filters..

13. Put a few in a plate and put your fried bacon, French fries, chicken fingers, etc on them. It soaks out all the grease..

14. Keep in the bathroom. They make great "razor nick fixers."

15. As a sewing backing. Use a filter as an easy-to-tear backing for embroidering or appliquéing soft fabrics.

16. Put baking soda into a coffee filter and insert into shoes or a closet to absorb or prevent odors.

17. Use them to strain soup stock and to tie fresh herbs in to put in soups and stews.

18. Use a coffee filter to prevent spilling when you add fluids to your car.

19. Use them as a spoon rest while cooking and clean up small counter spills.

20. Can use to hold dry ingredients when baking or when cutting a piece of fruit or veggies. Saves on having extra bowls to wash.

21. Use them to wrap Christmas ornaments for storage.

22. Use them to remove fingernail polish when out of cotton balls.

23. Use them to sprout seeds. Simply dampen the coffee filter, place seeds inside, fold it and place it into a plastic baggie until they sprout.

24. Use coffee filters as blotting paper for pressed flowers. Place the flowers between two coffee filters and put the coffee filters in phone book.

25. Use as a disposable "snack bowl" for popcorn, chips, etc.