Homemade Cowboy Candy (Candied Jalapenos): From Garden to Jar

My jalapeno plants are continuously pumping out ripe jalapenos. I don’t want to waste them so I went to an old standby recipe that I haven’t made in a few years: Cowboy Candy.

Check out this YouTube video where I demonstrate how to make this incredibly easy homemade recipe using spicy jalapenos straight from the garden and canning them in a jar with a sweet cowboy candy sauce. The sweet and spicy flavors blend so well together and make an incredible appetizer over cream cheese, as a marinade for meats, or as a complement to any of your entrees. This homemade cowboy candy (candied jalapenos) will impress your family and friends either eating it or as a gift to let somebody know how much you mean to them.

Preparation

Preparation does involve a bit of work to slice up the jalapeno peppers and getting all the other ingredients together.

All ingredients gathered and ready to go.
Slicing jalapenos
Sliced Jalapenos

Cooking it up

You basically throw all the ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil. This includes the apple cider vinegar, sugar, turmeric, cayenne pepper, celery seeds and garlic.

Adding apple cider vinegar
Adding garlic
Bring the candying solution up to a boil

The next step is to add in the jalapenos and cook for 4 to 5 minutes.

Sliced jalapeno peppers in the candying solution

Canning

Everything is cooked up so now we just need to transfer the peppers using a slotted spoon to the jars. You come back and fill up to the 1/2″ head space with the candying solution.

Filling the jars

Please remember to wipe the rims off with a wet paper towel to ensure the lids will seal better.

Wiping rims
Taking jars out of canner

Recipe

Cowboy Candy (Candied Jalapenos)

This incredibly easy homemade recipe uses spicy jalapenos paired with a sweet cowboy candy sauce. The sweet and spicy flavors blend so well together and make an incredible appetizer over cream cheese, as a marinade for meats, or as a complement to any of your entrees. This homemade cowboy candy (candied jalapenos) will impress your family and friends either eating it or as a gift to let somebody know how much you mean to them.
Prep Time 1 hr
Cook Time 20 mins
Total Time 50 mins
Course Appetizer
Cuisine American
Servings 30

Equipment

  • Pressure Canner or Boiling Water Canner
  • Gloves, Latex or other
  • Saucepan

Ingredients
  

  • 3 lbs Peppers, Jalapeno (fresh)
  • 2 cups Vinegar, Apple Cider
  • 6 cups Sugar, Granulated White
  • 1/2 tsp Turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp Celery Seed
  • 2 Clove Garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp Pepper, Cayenne

Instructions
 

  • Pick 3 pounds of fresh ripe jalapeno peppers from your garden. If not available, pick some up from the grocery store.
  • Wearing gloves, remove the very top and the stem from the jalapeno peppers.
  • Slice the peppers in 1/4" rounds. Set aside.
  • In a large pot, bring apple cider vinegar, white sugar, turmeric, celery seed, minced garlic and cayenne pepper to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer for 5 minutes.
  • Raise the heat back to a boil and add the jalapeno pepper rounds and return to a hard boil. Reduce heat again and simmer for 4-5 minutes.
  • Transfer the jalapeno pepper slices to your clean jars leaving a head space of no less than 1/2".
  • Using a ladle, transfer the syrup to fill the jars ensuring you leave a head space of no less than 1/2".
  • Wipe the rims with a clean and damp paper towel. Put on lids and screw on top finger tip tight.
  • Place jars in a canner ensuring the top of jar is covered with 2" of water. Bring the water to a full rolling boil. When it reaches a full rolling boil, boil jars for 15 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and let cool. When safe, remove jars from water using canning tongs and transfer to a cooling rack. Leave them to cool for 24 hours.
  • Allow jars to sit for 2 – 3 weeks before eating as the flavors will mature in that time.
Keyword Candied, Candy, Canning, Cowboy, Jalapeno, pepper, spicy, Sweet

How to Get Ready for Fall Raised-bed Garden in Zone 9A


The Fall garden season in Zone 9A is right around the corner. Although it will still be hot for a while, there is a lot that needs done to prepare. Let’s talk about some of the things needed done to get ready for the Fall garden season.

USDA Plant Hardiness Zones

First, just a word on the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone map. The hardiness zones are based on the average annual minimum winter temperature, divided into 10-degree F zones. In Southeast Louisiana, we are in Zone 9A. Zones are provided by the USDA to help gardeners understand which plants can survive their region’s climate, especially winter frost/freeze conditions. This help the gardener determine what plants, especially perennials, will thrive in the weather conditions of their zone. This, combined with the first Fall and last Spring frost dates, are also critical. For late Summer, you will need to select and start vegetables (annuals) that you can harvest by the first Fall frost date unless they can withstand a frost.

USDA Plant Hardiness Map of Louisiana

See link to USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Maps (National, South Central US, ).

LSU AgCenter – Planting Guide

The LSU AgCenter publishes a vegetable planting guide providing valuable information to help Louisiana gardeners understand the optimum time to plant different types of vegetables, spacing, depth, days to maturity, etc., along with recommended varieties. This information, combined with the hardiness zone and frost date information, provides critical information needed to plan which types of vegetables you want to plant in you Fall and Spring garden and when. All states have something similar so I’m sure you can just Google it.

Plant from Seed

In my garden, I plant everything from seed, because I like to plant more of a variety than what I can get at the local nursery. I already have seeds that I’ve saved or were purchased from last Fall. I typically buy my seeds from either Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds or Seed Savers Exchange as I love their huge variety. However, any online seed vendor or your local nursery will work.

For my Fall gardening, I usually start vegetables like cabbage, brussel sprouts, broccoli and cauliflower off in small 4″ plastic seedling pots outside. They are placed where they will receive some sun but not too much. I do this so I can grow them without pressure from the intense heat then I’ll transplant them directly into the garden as they get a bit bigger (and hopefully, it cools off a bit).

Fall Garden seedlings for Zone 9A
Fall Garden Seedlings
Fall Garden seedlings for Zone 9A
Fall Garden Seedlings

Amending the Soil

We need to make sure the soil is prepared to support another season of plants. The soil must be loose and friable, drain well, and provide both the macro- and micro-nutrients that the plants need. Remember that I had plants here during the Spring/Summer so they “used up” nutrients so we’ll need to put some back. Because of this, I’ll work in some of my own compost from my compost tumbler, along with composted cow and chicken manure, mushroom compost, some perlite, and some sphagnum peat moss to increase quality and volume of soil. I usually mix in a little Azomite Rock dust because I want a micro-nutrient boost.

Note: The magical mix for great soil is 1/3 sphagnum moss, 1/3 vermiculite or perlite and 1/3 compost (3 – 5 different sources of compost). My raised beds that started with this mix still outperforms those where I used garden mix from the local nursery. I have been amending the soil in those beds so they are catching up but the original beds with this mix still have the best performance.

Amending the Soil
Amending the Soil
Amending the Soil
Amending the Soil

Direct Sow or Transplant

Some seeds do better if they are planted directly into the garden soil as opposed to being planted in a pot, then transplanted. The root structure of some plants will not withstand the impact of removing it from the pot then re-planting into the garden soil. For example, most root plants like beets, radishes, etc., will do better if sowed directly in the garden soil and not in a pot.

Direct sow seeds in garden
Direct Seeded in the Garden Soil

Darrell’s Lineup for the Fall Garden

I will plant a variety of vegetables over the next number of weeks. For some, I will plant again a few weeks later (succession planting), so I can keep harvesting throughout the winter, especially plants like lettuce, peas, etc. This includes:

TypeWhen to PlantDays to Maturity
Beets8/15 – 10/155 – 60
Broccoli8/15 – 10/1570 – 90
Brussel Sprouts8/15 – 10/1590
Cabbage8/15 – 10/1565 – 75
Carrots9/1 – 11/170 – 75
Celery10/1 – 11/1210
Cauliflower7/1 – 10/1555 – 65
Chinese Cabbage7/15 – 10/160 – 80
Garlic10/1 – 11/30210
Greens, Collard3/15 – 10/175
Greens, Mustard8/1 – 3/1535 – 50
Kale9/2 – 3/1560
Kohlrabi8/15 – 10/3055 – 75
Lettuce8/15 – 9/3045 – 80
Peas9/1 – 9/1560 – 70
Radish9/1 – 11/122 – 28
Spinach10/1 – 2/2835 – 45
Swish Chard8/15 – 10/3045 – 55
Turnips8/1 – 2/2840 – 50

Success in Fall Gardening

We can grow year-round with the mild weather we have here in Zone 9A. As a gardener, be aware of what plant hardiness zone you are located in and become knowledgeable of what that means, along with the first and last frost dates. In addition, find out what local planting guides are available that will give specific direction for your location. Therefore, if we know what and when we can grow, we’ve amended our soil, started seeds when needed, and take care when transplanting plants, then we will have a successful Fall garden.

Please let us know how you like this post or have suggestions on future posts. If you have any questions on any of the plants discussed, feel free to drop a comment.

Enjoy! Remember, if you can dream it, you can do it!

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Chinese Smoked Pork Belly and Cabbage Dumplings

Plated Smoked Pork Belly Dumplings

We had family coming over the weekend so needed to cook up a meal. We were walking through the meat section at Costco looking for inspiration and came across a nice slab of pork belly. I’ve never done anything with a pork belly other than season it and throw it on the grill. I decided to buy it and utilize in a set of dishes using a Chinese food theme. The menu included:

This post provides details on how to cook the chinese smoked pork belly and cabbage dumplings. It really an easy process and I know you can do it! Try it and really impress yourself, along with, your family and/or friends.

Plated Chinese Smoked Pork Belly and Cabbage Dumplings

Note: Pork belly is an inexpensive, fatty cut of meat from the underside of the pig near the loin. Pork belly is normally salted, cured and smoked to make bacon.

Raw slab of Pork Belly

Get your grill heating up. In the meantime, cut yourself a 1 pound piece of pork belly. Season it with salt and pepper on all sides. Put directly over the fire and sear all sides. Move to indirect heat. Add any type of wood or wood pellets, depending on your type of grill, to get the smoke started. I used a little hickory and some apple chips. Mine took about an hour and 1/2 but it really depends on how large the pork belly is, how hot the fire is, and how long you leave it over the direct heat. Use a digital cooking thermometer to measure the temperature in the middle of the thickest part of the pork belly. It is done when it reaches 145 F. Remove from grill and let rest until it’s cool enough to work with.

Either slice and dice the grilled pork belly so that’s it’s chopped up well or just put it in a food processor. My choice was to put it in my Ninja Blender and it did the job very well. Transfer the meat to a bowl.

Now we are ready to start adding all the ingredients together to make the dumpling. Add the cabbage, green onions, carrots, cilantro, soy sauce, sesame oil, rice wine, ginger, and pepper to the meat in the mixing bowl. Mix all ingredients together.

Adding the cabbage to the dumpling stuffing

Dumpling stuffing all mixed up

Place a piece of parchment paper down or you can use flour on a smooth surface. Lay out a few of the wonton or dumpling wrappers on the parchment paper. Prepare a bowl of water to dip your finger in as you assemble the dumplings. Place a dollop of the stuffing into the middle of the wrapper but not enough so that it squeezes out to the edge. Next, using your finger, dampen the edges of the wrapper with water from the bowl. Fold two opposite corners together and seal the edges with your fingertips. Fold in the other two opposite corners and the final corner wetting the edges as you go.

Note: There are more sophisticated methods to folding your dumplings but I haven’t learned them. That’s why we will stick with what works.

Assembling a dumpling

Place dumplings either in the refrigerator or the freezer if not ready to cook. They do hold up well in the freezer as long as they are in an airtight freezer or vacuum sealed bag.

The way I like to prepare them is to put a few tablespoons of oil in a sauce pan. Get it to medium-high temperature. Add the dumplings, frozen or not, and brown all sides. Add a little sesame oil and green onions, and enough water to cover the bottom of the pan. Cut the heat back to medium and cover the sauce pan. This allows the dumplings to now steam. Cook it this way for 5 to 10 minutes making sure the dumplings aren’t sticking to the bottom. When ready to serve, take the top off the sauce pan and allow evaporation to reduce any remaining liquid.

Pan frying the dumplings
Adding a little water to the pan
Plated Smoked Pork Belly Dumplings

Chinese Smoked Pork Belly and Cabbage Dumplings

Grilled and smoked Pork Belly paired with cabbage creates a deep flavor profile that is to die for!
Prep Time 1 hr
Cook Time 20 mins
Smoking Pork Belly 2 hrs 30 mins
Total Time 3 hrs 10 mins
Course Appetizer
Cuisine Chinese
Servings 24 Dumplings

Ingredients
  

  • 1 lb. Pork Belly, Grilled and Smoked
  • 1 1/2 Cups Cabbage, Purple
  • 1 Cup Green Onion, chopped
  • 1/4 Cup Carrots, Shredded
  • 1 tbsp Soy Sauce Tamari sauce can be substituted
  • 1 tbsp Sesame Oil
  • 1 tsp Rice wine or Sherry
  • 1/2 tsp Ginger, fresh
  • 2 tbsp Cilantro, fresh
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 24 Dumpling Wrappers
  • 2 tbsp Vegetable Oil
  • 2 cups water For steaming in sauce pan
  • Soy, Tamari or Dumpling dipping sauce
  • Sriracha for dipping

Instructions
 

  • Season with salt and pepper and grill the pork belly until done. Add any type of wood to the coals. I used some apple and hickory for the pork belly.
  • After cooling, put pork belly in blender and shred.
  • Finely shred the cabbage and green onions.
  • Add the cabbage and green onions in a bowl with the shredded pork belly. Add the soy sauce, sesame oil, rice wine or sherry, ginger and the cilantro to the bowl. Mix thoroughly with a spoon. Hands work even better.
  • Lay off a few of the wonton or dumpling wrappers. Prepare a bowl of water to dip your fingers into. Working a few at a time, put a spoonful of the filling on one half of the wrapper so there there is a gap around the edges. Using your finger, dampen the edge of the wrapper with water from the bowl. Fold the wrapper over and seal the edges with water and your fingertips. If the wrappers are in a square shape, take the corners and fold over.
  • Place some vegetable oil in a sauce pan. Bring up to Medium-High. Add dumplings and brown on all sides. Add 1/4 tsp of sesame oil and additional chopped green onions. Add water to the pan to cover the bottom 1/3 of dumplings. Cover the pan and let dumpling steam. Every few minutes you should move them around in order to keep them from sticking. After 5 minutes or so, the water will begin to evaporate. Remove the top and let remaining liquid evaporate.
  • Serve with fresh green onions and Tamari and/or Sriracha Sauce to dip in.

Notes

These dumplings will still be good if you were to substitute pork belly with ground pork and would save a lot of time.
Keyword Cabbage, Chinese, Dumplings, Pork Belly

Now, enjoy the simple life by sitting with your family or friends, and eating some good chinese smoked pork belly and cabbage dumplings.  Please let us know how you like this post or have suggestions on future posts.

Enjoy! Remember, if you can dream it, you can do it!

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Chicken Fricassee over Puff Pastry Shell, Garlic Green Beans with Pancetta, and Stewed Okra

We love to cook and get family together to celebrate any time we can. We had good reason to celebrate as it’s our 34th (Erin and myself) and my Mom and Dad’s 61th wedding anniversary. Wow, how time flies when you are having fun! Right, baby? My mom and dad, along with my in-laws, came to the house to celebrate. We decided to go old school and cook a chicken fricassee served over a puff pastry shell, garlic green beans with pancetta, and stewed okra. Amanda also pitched in with some incredible divinity pie and Louisiana pecan balls. Not exactly Keto/low carb, but heck, we deserved to be treated with the anniversary and all!

Chicken fricassee is a pretty simple recipe and even one that I can’t hardly mess up. It’s basically a chicken stew without all the carrots and potatoes that are in a traditional chicken stew and but starts from a roux. Let’s take a look at the ingredients:

Note: I didn’t put out the white onions, green onions, garlic and bell peppers. I prefer fresh from the garden but I didn’t have any green beans and a limited supply of my Orange Jing Okra. I also didn’t put out the can of roasted diced tomatoes for the stewed okra.

The first thing you need to do is cut up your seasonings (GG’s terminology) so you are prepared to add it as you get your fricassee on! This includes 2 white onions, 1 bunch green onions, 1 sweet bell pepper, 1 stalk of celery and 3 or 4 cloves of garlic.

Cutting up seasonings (chinese pink celery from the garden)

I use a whole chicken hen for this recipe. Go ahead and cut it up. I did pretty well as I didn’t cut myself this time!

Season your chicken before browning it. I used some fresh ground pepper and some “Slap Your Mama” Cajun seasoning.

To get things going, pour four tablespoons of vegetable or canola oil into your cast iron pot and bring to medium-high temperature. Once hot, go ahead and put your chicken in. Brown it on all sides and remove.

Next step is to add 4 tablespoons of all purpose flour to the oil in the cast iron pot, 1 tablespoon at a time. Mix in the flour so no lumps are left and keep moving around the flour so it doesn’t burn. You will have some tidbits from the chicken in the roux. Don’t worry about that, just keep moving the flour around until it gets dark brown.

Once you’ve got your roux to the right darkness, its time to add 4 cups of chicken broth. Add the 4 cups of broth and bring to a boil. Add all the seasonings and cook until soft.

Cut back to med low and and add chicken back to pot. Cover and cook for 2 hours or until meat is coming off the bone. About 15 minutes before serving, add some chopped green onion and some chopped parsley (fresh from the garden).

For the sides, I used some green okra from the store mixed with some of my Orange Jing okra from the garden. I put a can of diced roasted tomatoes, 1/2 a small onion, and okra in a pot, with a little beef broth and let that cook down. It needs a good bit of time to stew so don’t wait to the last minute to start this. For the green beans, I fried up some pancetta in a sauce pan. I added some beef broth to deglaze the pan. Add the green beans and an entire clove of elephant garlic (minced) and put the top on the pan and let that steam until ready.

One of the unique ingredients is the use of the puff pastry shells. Erin’s grandmother, GG, served her chicken fricassee in the puff pastry shell and it both looks and tastes great. Throw those in the oven for about 20 minutes to get ready to plate.

Now, we are ready to plate. Let’s add some chicken fricassee into the puff pastry shell.

We can now add some garlic green beans with pancetta and our smothered okra.

Voila! It looked and tasted out of this world.

Show the final plating

And finally, after eating all this great food, Amanda served her divinity pie and Louisiana pecan rolls for desert.

We love to get together as a family and make memories. The wedding anniversaries were a great excuse to cook, eat, and celebrate together. The food was delicious and the company was even better. Even with COVID-19 around, take the time to make memories now, when you can. You can do it in a smart and social distancing manner, but go ahead and make memories with family and friends.

****************************************************************************************

Chicken Fricassee Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 4 tbsp All purpose Flour
  • 4 tbsp Vegetable Oil
  • 1 large chicken (cut up)
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 2 – 3 white onions (diced)
  • 1 bunch green onions (diced)
  • 1 bell pepper (diced)
  • 1 stalk celery (diced)
  • 3 – 4 cloves of garlic (minced)
  • 4 or 5 sprigs parsley (diced)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Cajun Seasoning to taste
  • Puff Pastry Shells (frozen)
  1. Chop up your vegetables and put them in a bowl, cover and place them in the refrigerator. Hopefully, these are fresh vegetables from the garden!
  2. Put oil in cast iron pot and bring heat up to medium-high.
  3. Prepare whole chicken by cutting it up into individual pieces. Season your chicken using salt and pepper, along with “Slap Your Mama” or other favorite cajun seasoning.
  4. Place chicken into hot cast iron pot and brown your chicken on all sides. Once browned, remove chicken and set aside.
  5. Next, we need to make a roux. Add 4 tbsp of all-purpose flour to the oil 1 tbsp at a time. Keep stirring the roux using a wooden flat edge spoon (preferably) or whisk so you keep moving the particle of flour around and so that it doesn’t stay in the same place and possibly burn. Note that there may be some skin and some meat from the chicken in the oil and that’s okay. That’s flavor. Keep cooking your roux until it turns a medium dark brown color.
  6. Combine 4 cups of chicken broth with the roux. Bring it back up to a boil.
  7. Add in the cut up seasonings (vegetables). Cook until seasonings get soft.
  8. Add the browned chicken back to the pot, along with the juices. Cut heat back to medium -low and cook until meat is falling off the bone which usually takes at least 1 hour.
  9. With about 15 minutes to go, add the parsley and some additional chopped green onions.
  10. Serve over puff pastry shell or white rice.

Now, enjoy the simple life by sitting with your family and friends. Celebrate whatever the occasion and make memories.  Please let us know how you like this post or have suggestions on future posts.

Enjoy! Remember, if you can dream it, you can do it!

Please LIKE this post. If you have any COMMENTS or QUESTIONS, please post below. Please SUBSCRIBE to our BLOG for additional great content.

Garden Update (08-21-2020)

Our backyard organic raised-bed and container garden is doing pretty well considering it’s getting to end of the summer. I’ve already pulled most of my Spring/Summer plants as they just won’t continue to produce and thrive in this heat (95 F with heat index over 100 F). We had tons of tomatoes, tomatillos and cucumbers already this spring/summer. We also got to enjoy some squash, eggplants, cantaloupes, (new) potatoes, ground cherries, beets, carrots and some fresh green beans. Erin will have some good fall decorations from the ornamental corn we grew, although the sweet corn didn’t do too well this year. The squash plants produced well early but the squash vine borer grubs killed those plants and some succession planting of squash as well. They also killed some gourd plants. All in all, we had a good spring/summer garden harvest with peppers and okra really enjoying the heat now!

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Partial view of the raised bed garden

We need to start preparing for the Fall garden. One of the things that I always do in the Spring and in the Fall is put pine straw down in the walkways to keep the weeds down. I’ve used red pine bark in the past but that tends to float away from where it was placed due to the heavy downpours we often have.

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Placing pine straw on walkways to help keep weeds from growing
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Croix likes the pine straw

We’ve also need to start thinking about planting some seeds for our Fall garden. I’ve gotten started with some Cauliflower and will plant some Broccoli and Cabbage seeds this weekend. I will be planting some garlic like the last few years but will wait until around Oct 1st. Other plants for the Fall garden include beets, turnips, lima beans, brussel sprouts, chinese cabbage, carrots, kohlrabi, lettuce, sweet peas and spinach. What else do you like to grow? Hint: Check your state’s recommendations on when to plant crops. For example, LSU’s AgCenter has a planting guide for Louisiana.

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Cauliflower plants from seed (almost 2 weeks old)

Finally, to get ready for Fall planting, I’ll work in some of my own compost from my compost tumbler, along with composted cow and chicken manure, mushroom compost, some perlite, and some sphagnum peat moss or coco coir to increase quality and volume of soil. I usually mix in a little Azomite Rock dust for a micro-nutrient boost.

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Fall garden compost and pine straw

As for the existing plants, the jalapeño peppers are doing quite well. I’ve got a couple of varieties including Craig’s Grande, Orange Spice, Pumpkin Spice and Brown Jalapeño peppers. I’ll make cowboy caviar (a sweet and spicy mix) and can them along with stuffing some with cream cheese and sausage and maybe wrap some bacon around them for appetizers.

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Craig’s Grande Jalapeño Pepper
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Pepper, Orange Spice Jalapeño

I have some Ozark Giant and Purple Beauty Bell Peppers growing as well.

Pepper, Purple Beauty

I planted a couple of varieties of mustard greens and they are coming up fast. There’s also a some collard greens mixed in. I’ll wait another few weeks and plant some more (succession planting)

Japanese Giant Red and Green Wave Mustard Greens, along with a few Georgia Southern Collard Greens

I have some cucumbers on a “cattle panel” trellis that have been very productive but are slowing up now due to the heat. Earlier in the summer they were so productive we couldn’t eat and give enough of them away.

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Tokiwa “Tokyo Green” Cucumber

I planted two varieties of watermelon, Sugar Baby and Stars and Moon (Cherokee). I have this Sugar Baby but can’t wait for the Stars and Moon watermelon to get to size.

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Watermelon, Sugar Baby

The okra is doing well as it loves this time of the year.

Okra, Jing Orange

The squash vine borer has already taken out all but one squash plant and it is has been invaded as well (see picture). I cut 6 of these grubs out from this squash plant. Do any of you have this problem? How do we stop them? This bug is so frustrating!

I have a number of items planted in containers including a Tamarillo tree, Improved Meyer Lemon tree, Goji berry bush, Calamondin Orange, Sam Sweet Cherry tree, figs and blueberry bushes.

Tamarillo fruit on the tree
Goji Berry (looking kind of rough but has been fruiting all summer)

I always have around some herbs as well and use them often in our cooking.

Basil, Thai and Purple
Sage

I always ensure to intersperse various flower varieties to attract pollinators. Without them, most vegetable plants would not fruit. Some flower species, like Marigolds, actually deter certain pests from getting on your good plants so that’s a good flower to plant in the middle of beds.

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Salvia, Victoria
Zinnia
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Strawberry Fields Gomphrena
Tornado Red Cockscomb

I will provide a garden update post every month or so. Please let us know how you like this post or have suggestions on future posts. If you have any questions on any of the plants shown, feel free to drop a comment.

Enjoy! Remember, if you can dream it, you can do it!

Please LIKE this post. If you have any COMMENTS or QUESTIONS, please post below. Please SUBSCRIBE to our BLOG for additional great content.

“Real” Cajun Spaghetti Cook and Plate

Real Cajun Spaghetti Meat Sauce

Everybody knows to make traditional spaghetti you’ve got to use a lot of tomatoes in your sauce, and maybe even some italian sausage. Nope, I’m here to tell you there’s another way and its incredibly good and authentically Cajun. What’s the difference you say? The Cajun way is to first make a roux using flour and oil, and that forms the base for your sauce. Erin’s Grandmother, Nita Rivoire Davis (GG), from Breaux Bridge, LA, came up with the recipe a number of years back. GG is not with us anymore but her cooking and recipes sure live on.

Make sure you’ve got all the ingredients ready as once you start the roux you will be steady busy for a little while. The good thing is the ingredient list is not too long:

Again, the element that makes this authentic Cajun is the introduction of the roux. To make a roux, you will mix equal parts vegetable or canola oil with all-purpose flour. So, one cup of oil and one cup of flour. Add the oil to your cast iron pot and heat it up to medium or a little higher (6 or 7). Let it come up to temperature. Sprinkle just a bit of flour and see if it starts cooking/bubbling in the oil. If so, your oil is hot enough. Go ahead and pour in about a 1/4 cup at a time. Use your flat-side wooden utensil or a whisk and mix it up so that there are no lumps. Then add another 1/4 cup, until you mix it all in and there are no lumps. To avoid burning, continue stirring the roux so that it doesn’t stay in one spot for long.

Early in the roux cooking process

When making the roux, since it may take 30 minutes to an hour, depending on how dark you want it, consider the following:

  • Use a wooden flat sided utensil to ensure you are moving all the flour around
  • Use a figure-8 movement while also scraping from one side to the other and repeat, over and over. Pay special attention to the corners where the flour can build up.
  • Don’t get in a hurry as you don’t want to burn the roux. Adjust the temperature as necessary. You will get a feel for how hot the oil is by the temperature, the sound, the way it sticks to the bottom of the pot and the smell. Use all your senses!
  • Don’t leave the pot and keep stirring until it’s at the color (see below) and consistency you are looking for.
  • Traditionalist would smack me around, but if you are in a hurry, you can substitute the homemade roux with pre-made from the grocery store like Savoie’s Light or Dark Roux. GG, please forgive me!
  • Hint: Get a snack and your favorite beverage before getting started.
Nice medium roux – needs to be just a bit darker

The next major steps involved the addition of the tomato sauce, the vegetables (or seasonings per GG Nita), then the ground meat. I used 85/15 ground meat but any type of ground meat will do.

Add the 2 small cans of tomato sauce to the roux and cook for 5 minutes

Add seasonings, mix, and cook until soft
Add ground meat and cook, spooning out grease as necessary
Cajun Sphagetti meat sauce

To finish the meat sauce, I add a little kosher salt and fresh black pepper to taste. I like to plate the Cajun meat sauce over spaghetti pasta with fresh or frozen sweet peas and some garlic and/or cheese Texas Toast. I personally add a bit of “Slap Your Mama” Cajun Seasoning from Ville Platte, LA, and a little Sriracha if I’m in the mood for a little heat. You season it how you like it. Of course, don’t forget to add a bit of parmesan cheese to your Cajun Spaghetti!

There are a few alternatives you can try that will adjust the flavor and/or make it a bit more healthy.

  • Try some fried bacon or pancetta. I’ve even added some browned tasso. This adds to the depth of the flavor.
  • Italian sausage can be added in either links or bulk.
  • Meatballs can be added made from either ground beef, pork, or italian sausage.
  • Mushrooms can be added as well.
  • You can cook the ground meat first and drain the grease before adding to the sauce to make it a bit more healthy.
  • Serving it over spiral cut zucchini and do away with the Texas Toast will dramatically drop the carbs.

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Real Cajun Spaghetti Meat Sauce

“Real” Cajun Spaghetti Meat Sauce

An authentic cajun meat sauce created by my wive's Great Grandmother from Breaux Bridge, LA. The Cajun way is to first make a roux using flour and oil, and that forms the base for your sauce.
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 2 hrs 30 mins
Total Time 3 hrs
Course Main Course
Cuisine Cajun, Italian
Servings 8

Equipment

  • Cast Iron Pot

Ingredients
  

  • 1 cup All-purpose Flour
  • 1 cup Vegetable Oil
  • 2 small cans Tomato Sauce
  • 2 – 3 Onions, White
  • 4 cloves Garlic
  • 2 Peppers, Bell
  • 3 lbs Ground Meat
  • Parsley for garnishment
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Cajun Seasoning to taste

Instructions
 

  • Chop up your vegetables and put them in a bowl, cover and place them in the refrigerator. Hopefully you are using fresh vegetables from the garden.
  • Next, we need to make a roux. Put a cup of vegetable oil in your cast iron pot and bring up to medium-high temperature. Keep stirring the roux using a wooden flat edge spoon (preferably)so you keep moving the particle of flour around and so that it doesn't stay in the same place and possibly burn. This can take 30 minutes to an hour.
  • Add in the 2 small cans of tomato sauce. Mix it all together and cook for about 5 minutes.
  • Add in the cut up seasonings (vegetables). Cook until seasonings get soft.
  • Add in 3 lbs. of ground meat. Allow all the meat to brown spooning off the grease as you go (if needed).
  • Let cook for 30 minutes.
  • Add water to reach the desired thickness of the sauce.
  • Cook for 1 or more hours to really get the flavors all dancing in harmony with each other.
  • Boil spaghetti pasta.
  • You can serve the meat sauce over the spaghetti or mix the pasta with the sauce and serve together with some fresh or frozen sweet green peas and some garlic Texas toast.
Keyword Cajun, Meat Sauce, Roux, Spaghetti Sauce

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Now, enjoy the simple life by sitting with your family or friends, and eating some good Cajun Spaghetti.  Please let us know how you like this post or have suggestions on future posts.

Enjoy! Remember, if you can dream it, you can do it!

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Roasted Salsa Verde – From Garden to the Jar

Salsa Verde is a sauce or salsa made from tomatillos that you might recognize as that delicious greenish salsa you dip your tortilla chips in at your favorite Mexican restaurant.  Other common uses include as an enchilada sauce, salsa for tacos, and a cooking sauce for chicken, pork or fish.  There is nothing more satisfying than growing your own produce, using it to cook up something delicious and canning it to last throughout the year.  This post will show you how to do just that.  Please see our YouTube video for more information on how to make Roasted Salsa Verde.

Tortilla chips with Salsa Verde
Eggs and Bacon – with, of course, Salsa Verde

Each year I grow tomatillos in the garden to use for my Salsa Verde.  I start the tomatillos from seed about 6-8 weeks before the last freeze in my area of Louisiana, which is Zone 9A.  I grow Amarylla (yellow), Verde (green), and Purple Coban (purple) types of tomatillos.  They are very prolific and produce lots of golf ball sized or smaller fruit and will keep producing until fall.  You know when they are ready to be harvested when you see the outer papery husk splitting showing the ripened fruit.  They can be found at most grocery stores and some farmer’s markets if you can’t harvest them from your home garden.  You will need about 2 lbs of tomatillo’s. Other items from the garden include 3 to 4 jalapenos (seeds removed), 2 medium sized onions, 2 bell peppers and 4 to 5 cloves of garlic or fewer if you use elephant garlic.

Ripe Amarylla Tomatillo from the garden
Unripe Tomatillos growing in the organic backyard raised bed garden

The first step in the cooking process include roasting your tomatillos and other vegetables.  Tomatillos can be roasted whole or quartered, depending on the size.  I put the tomatillos and other vegetables on a sheet pan lined with aluminum foil, sprayed with olive or avocado oil.  I put them in the oven and roast them about 10 to 15 minutes on 550° F roast setting.  I keep an eye on them to make sure they are getting a bit of char on them while not burning.  Char, not burn, equals flavor.

Roasted Tomatillo’s
Roasted onions, bell peppers, jalapeño’s and elephant garlic

Next step, I put all the vegetables and their juice in my Ninja blender and blend to a slightly chunky consistency.  You can blend it to whatever consistency you desire.  Transfer over to a non-reactive pot on the stove.  Add in a 1 cup of distilled vinegar, juice from a fresh lime, and finely chopped cilantro.  Add about a teaspoon of  ground cumin, a teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper to taste.  Mix it up and bring the Salsa Verde up to a boil and let simmer for 20 minutes or until desired consistency is achieved.

Note: This version of Salsa Verde is not a green as typical as I used red and yellow bell peppers and jalepeno’s. Don’t get hung up on the color, rather focus on the taste!

Salsa Verde cooking on the stove
Salsa Verde cooking on the stove, with fresh cilantro about to be stirred in

Meanwhile, prepare your jars by placing in boiling water or in your dishwasher.  I use a pressure canner myself but have used the boiling water canning process as well.  Pour the hot Salsa Verde into your hot jars using a canning funnel leaving 1/2 inch minimum of head space (from top of jar to the level of the Salsa Verde).  Always use a clean and new lid.  Finger tighten a ring onto the jar. Carefully lower the jars into the hot water bath with at least 1 inch of water covering the jars.  Process the jars for 20 minutes.  Remove from the hot water and allow to cool completely.  You should here a “tink” as the jars start cooling.  If one of them does not, you will want to refrigerate that jar and use within a week or so.  Also, please make sure you label your jars so you know what it is and when it was canned. Otherwise, the Salsa Verde will be good for up to a year.

The canned Salsa Verde along with some others from the garden.

Now, with your favorite beverage, pop open a bag of chips, and indulge in something made with your own two hands.  Please let us know how you like this post or have suggestions on future posts. Please visit our YouTube channel for video content of this post.

Enjoy! Remember, if you can dream it, you can do it!

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