Let's Get Dirty

A gardening blog for adults who still love to play in the dirt.

Send stories and pictures of your horticultural adventures to letsgetdirty@gjsentinel.com.

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Fall decorations bring back great memories

By {screen_name}
Thursday, November 3, 2011

Halloween was always a blast as a child. With four children, our mother had to help us make all our costumes from something we already had. There was no Mad Margaret's or internet to buy beautiful professional costumes and as a farming family there was no money even if you could buy a costume. People could never guess what we were supposed to be, we just looked like farm kids with bad clothes but it was always fun. My grandmother lived just down the street and her house was filled with homemade cookies, rice crispy treats and popcorn balls. She was always the first stop after dark and our bags were filled to the top when we left.

Fast forward through the wayward years - my son was born on Halloween twenty-one years ago. 

It was a fun date to have a baby (if you can have fun during childbirth). Nurses were dressed up, and everybody was excited about a new child who would always have an entertaining birthday. They put a small indian feather cap on his head and took him to the nursery.


Who knew that a Halloween birthday could be so exhausting for a young mother? All those school parties you were expected to bring treats to coupled with family parties and friend birthday parties all in the same week. It's enough to drive an otherwise sober mother to drink.
As a child Christmas was magical, as an adult - another exhausting holiday. Thus, Thanksgiving is my new favorite. I keep out all the fall decorations minus a few ghosts and witches. I leave out the colored leaves & pumpkins and there is no gift shopping required. Only the making of tasty treats to share with the ones you love.

So, here's to the season of apple crisps, sweet potato casserole, hot spiced cider and a little rest before the Christmas shopping season arrives. Enjoy!

"When I was a little girl, I always wanted to be in the kitchen, because it was warm, and that's where my mother was."
-Dolly Parton


Got (more) green tomatoes?

By Penny Stine
Wednesday, November 2, 2011

I blogged about green tomato chutney a week ago, when my buddy, Jan, and I made more than 35 jars of it. I still have bags of green tomatoes. They'll ripen in the bag, but they don't taste like a summertime tomato. They're still better than grocery store tomatoes, but when the weather starts to get cold, my taste buds don't crave sliced tomatoes and corn on the cob anymore. 




So what to do with all those tomatoes in bags? They usually ripen in stages, which allows you to slice them when they get ripe and stick 'em in the dehydrator. I've dried tomatoes in the dehydrator for years, but this year, I added a new twist, thanks to my mom. She sprinkled hers with salt and pepper. I added garlic powder. 









I've been slicing tomatoes and stacking the dehydrator about every two or three days. If I had kids still at home, (or an exciting life) this would be a pain, but since I don't, it's not a big deal.  

I turn it on at night, let them dry all night and have tasty little tomatoes by the morning. They're usually a little crispier than the ones in the store, but that's OK, it makes them more snacky, like a cracker. I've been putting them in plastic bags and storing them in the freezer. Although I think they're sufficiently dried to preserve them, I don't want to give mold a chance. Since I can always find a bit more room in the freezer, that's where they live. 

Seasoned dried tomatoes are great to eat like a snack; they're good in scrambled eggs, on a quesadilla, in soup, on salad, in anything where you want a little tomato zing. 



By Penny Stine
Friday, October 28, 2011

No, I'm not talking ancestry. I'm talking 'taters and carrots!

I dug these up last weekend, before the frost. Root vegetables are just fun to grow, like growing your own buried treasure. Gardeners who don't want to waste the space on potatoes and carrots because potatoes and carrots are cheap in the store can always grow exotic or expensive varieties, just to justify devoting valuable garden ground to the lowly potato. I grew Yukon gold potatoes (which are pretty pricey, in my opinion), a couple red varieties (and got a grand total of three potatoes!) and these cute little fingerling potatoes called ratte. I got the ratte seed potatoes from Amy Hamilton. (Thanks, Amy!)

The carrots grew from a seed mixture that was supposed to produce four different colors of carrots. I got more yellow and white than purple and orange. In fact, I don't think a single orange carrot actually survived. I haven't decided if  I like the flavor yet or not. It's kinda' like carrots to the max. 

If you don't grow your own, how else can you expect to get weird shapes and sizes??? Note the enormous Yukon gold that I'll be able to use the next time Hagrid comes to dinner and wants a baked potato. Or the three potatoes that are joined at the weird little potato-ey hip. 


Turkey tortilla soup

By Penny Stine
Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The problem with a garden is that so many homegrown veggies are delicious in soup and no one wants to make soup in the summer. The solution? Freeze, can and dehydrate, which I’m sure many garden enthusiasts do.

I made a garden turkey soup yesterday in the crockpot, which seemed appropriate, since it was the day that beautiful fall weather turned and became a harbinger of winter rather than a pleasant reminder of summer. I used the tomatillo/tomato sauce my friend and I canned, along with frozen Olathe sweet corn, frozen roasted green chiles and a few dehydrated tomatoes. Of course, I didn’t measure anything, so everything is approximate. Let your taste buds guide you.

Not your mother’s turkey soup
(unless you happen to be my son)
1 turkey breast carcass, with some meat left on the bone
1 or 2 cups turkey broth (left over from roasting the turkey breast) can also substitute chicken broth
water – a cup or two, maybe more for cooking beans
1 quart home canned tomatoes and tomatillos – or 1 can of stewed tomatoes
dried pinto beans – maybe ½ or ¾ cup dried
1 can black beans
½ to 1 whole sweet red pepper, chopped
half to a whole small onion
roasted green chiles, diced – equivalent of one small can
1 C or more of frozen sweet corn
handful of dehydrated tomatoes for extra tomato zing
salt and pepper to taste

I wanted to do this in the crockpot, so the night before I wanted to make it, I put the turkey carcass in the pot, with the water and the dried pinto beans. I think I turned it on high for about 3 hours. The beans weren’t totally soft the next day, but I pulled the meat off the bones (putting meat back in pot and the bones in the trash), drained about half the beany water down the sink and threw everything else in the pot and let it cook on low all day.
Note: my homecanned tomato/tomatillos are loaded with habaneros and garlic, so you might want to add a little more heat and some garlic to your pot of soup.
Serve with shredded cheese, tortilla chips, cilantro or tortillas.


Sorry, I meant to take a picture last night, but this is what the leftovers looked like in the plastic container today. The turkey turned the color of ham, thanks to the beans. It was really tasty, and perfect for a cold night. 


Green tomatoes galore

By Penny Stine
Monday, October 24, 2011

We’re supposed to get a hard freeze this week, so I went out and picked all my green tomatoes. Although they’ll ripen if you stick them in a paper sack, I already have plenty of tomatoes in paper sacks, and I don't want to devote my entire life to tomato ripening management over the next month or so. 
So I began asking around for a good recipe/idea for green tomatoes.

Lynn Lickers said her sister made chutney, so I asked for the recipe. Meanwhile, I also let my fingers do the walking and googled green tomato chutney recipes. I found this one http://www.food.com/recipe/green-tomato-chutney-for-canning-385951 that sounded intriguing due to the curry, mustard and cayenne. I also found quite a few that were variations on the cinnamon and clove version of chutney – which my mom used to make, except she called it green tomato mincement. Lynn’s sister’s recipe turned out to be a variation of the cinnamon one, so I decided to try the curry version.

A friend got in on the chutney canning action and she brought over quite a few green tomatoes from her garden. We substituted some other kind of apples for Granny Smith because my mom gave me two bags of unknown tartish apples last week. We easily doubled the recipe and used extra cayenne. 

We had three pots of chutney cooking on the stovetop.


We made 34 or 35 pints of chutney.








We still have green tomatoes.

The chutney recipe says to wait 2 weeks before trying it, but of course, we tasted it before we canned it. The vinegar seemed a tad too strong, but we hope that will mellow.



I tasted it yesterday on cold turkey and it was pretty good. I’ll be bringing some to the Daily Sentinel Halloween potluck, because I have 17 jars of it (plus more in the fridge that didn’t get processed).

Check back in a week for chutney reviews.

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