Thursday, July 21, 2011

Summer Food on the Fire

I love food cooked over an open fire, especially when we are camping. My copy of the Home Comfort Cookbook, published in 1948, gives tips for "Cooking Picnics". I'm guessing this would be our version of campfire food. If you have a firepit in your backyard like we do, you can do this on a nice summer afternoon when it's not too hot, and not too windy. We've always had rules for the kids whenever they were near any type of fire, and I can happily say no one was ever burnt or injured so they seemed to have worked.

1. No running when the fire is lit. Stand still or walk slowly.

2. No touching-- not with a stick, a hotdog fork or your finger.

3. No throwing things in the fire. Nothing. Not water, not stones, not your brother.

4. Never put anything in the fire unless mom or dad tells you to (such as trash at the end etc.)

5. No jumping. Not over the fire, near the fire, or in the fire. Jumping is bad.


As the kids got older we allowed them to help us build the fire, and cook. This may seem overly cautious, but burns are nasty and I always believe it's better to be safe than sorry. My two oldest are now teens and have wood fires in our firepit for their friends without our help. (Yes, I do still peek out to see if they are doing okay.)

The following is from the Home Comfort Cookbook. ( I suggest using long, wooden handled hotdog forks. They are inexpensive and can be cleaned afterwards in hot, soapy water, then rinsed. )

A small hot fire of twigs will cook some food like the Cheese Bobs below, but for corn or potatoes you will need good hot coals. Always be sure your fire is cold before leaving it. (Cold water can be slowly poured on the fire if you need to leave before it's cool.) Below is a picture of one of our fires. The "coals" are where the wood is whitened and red-- but not falling apart into ash yet:

Cheese Bobs: Cut cheese in one inch cubes. Wrap each cube in a strip of bacon and fasten it with a toothpick. Cook them until the bacon has cooked and the cheese has just started to melt. Have rolls or bread ready for the Cheese Bobs will be very hot.

Roasted Potatoes: Cover medium-sized potatoes with a coating of firm mud. Place them on a bed of hot coals. Turn them carefully at least once while they are cooking. They will need to be cooked for one hour.

(Notes: my husband remembers this from Boy Scouts, and he told me that the mud hard hardens and breaks off fairly easily. Remove carefully from the fire with tongs and allow to cool slightly.)

Roasted Corn: Dampen ears of corn (do not remove the husks) with salted water. Lay the corn on the hot coals (there should be no flames). Turn them often with a fork or stick (tongs) so that the husks do not burn. Young, tender corn will cook in about ten minutes. Serve with salt and plenty of butter.

On OFL we have a neat article from Mary Emma on Fried Chicken traditions:


Monday, July 18, 2011

Buying Bargain Blooms & Deadheading

This time of the summer you're going to find many markdown prices and clearances on plants. It's a great time to take advantage of inexpensive annuals that will perk up your landscape from now until late fall. Don't buy annuals that aren't hardy to your area that won't keep blooming. If you aren't sure, then ask someone at the nursery or store. Here are a few things to watch out for when choosing bargain plants:

1. Buy only for your location-- don't buy shade plants for a flower bed in the full sun. This time of year the sun is hot, and they'll do terribly.

2. A little bit of brown that can be cut off the plant is okay, but don't buy a plant that is too wilted or has more than a few brown leaves.

3. Don't buy plants that have any sign of disease like black on the leaves/stems or a white powdery substance on the plant.

3. Bring home your plant and cut off the brown leaves, deadhead the blooms and plant immediately, but as gently as possible, using plenty of water in the hole. Fill in the dirt without packing it too tightly, and water well.

Last week I bought petunias and snapdragons on sale. I brought them home, deadheaded, trimmed off the brown and planted them the same day I bought them. I took pictures of the seedpods, and buds to show you the difference.

This picture is a petunia that needs to be snipped off the part of the plant that has already bloomed and it's forming seeds. See that area in the middle of the four leaf sections? That's where the seed forms, so it needs to be pinched or cut off. The top of the picture shows a bud that is almost ready to open and next to it a small green bud that still has a ways to go. Notice the green at the base of those are closed, not open like the one where the seed is forming.

This next picture is a snapdragon seed pod. These are very easy to distinguish from the buds forming because they have that odd "antenna" on the top of each one. These need to be pinched off of the plant. If they aren't, then once the buds that have formed have bloomed, the plant will stop making flowers and only make seeds. Even if the entire plant is full of the "antenna" pods, once you pinch them all off it will start forming buds again, right up until a hard frost in the fall.

There is a lot of time left for annuals to bloom, and it's a shame not to take advantage of the great prices out there. Spend a little time inspecting the plants before you buy them, and a little more time deadheading and cleaning them up at home. You'll have a lot of added color for very little money.

If anyone has questions on deadheading certain plants please leave a comment or email me.