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  • Raspberry Delights

    < Back Raspberry Delights Joy Johnson, Master Gardener Yes, it’s December and there probably isn’t anything growing in your garden right now, since you live in Minnesota. But not that long ago you may have had a bumper crop of berries that are now in your freezer. Here’s a fresh idea for strawberries, blackberries, gooseberries, and raspberries. I love raspberries. After all what’s not to like? (Don’t answer that. They do have thorns, but I can overlook one minor flaw). They are sweet and sour all at once, have a fresh fruity fragrance and come in a variety of colors and flavors. And most important, they have seeds that stick in your teeth, which gives you a really good excuse to chew on a toothpick – something my mother never let me do. She said I was going to trip and fall, and it would go through the roof of my mouth (which has never happened). I grow a variety of raspberries. Most of my plants bear red berries that all get ripe within a 3 to 4 week period in the middle of July. I also have a few black raspberries, which are so little and sweet, it’s an absolute delight to eat them fresh off the bush. My golden raspberries are deer magnets, so last spring I moved them all into the end of my fenced-in vegetable garden where the deer and rabbits can’t eat them. They ripen all season long. Note - they do not work well for the recipe below because their golden color turns to brown when heated. Last July, my brother and his family were visiting from Oregon. I was watching the kids for the day while mom and dad had a break. The raspberry bushes were loaded with raspberries ready for picking, so I marched the kids down to the patch to pick with the promise that we were going to make raspberry treats, IF we could pick enough berries. With this motivation, they grabbed buckets and followed me down. They were so excited to see all of the berries and eagerly started picking. Suddenly, “Auntie, what’s this?” and “Oh yuck”, then, “Auntie, there are bugs everywhere!” The bushes were covered with Japanese beetles. They were devouring the raspberry leaves and even some of the berries. I said, “This is war, show no mercy!” They looked askance at me. “Don’t let the invaders destroy my berry patch!” I commanded. “Can we just flick them off?” my niece asked. “No, that doesn’t do any good they will just come right back.” Then I told them to do what I usually do, “You have to pinch their heads until you hear a satisfying crack.” I nearly caused a stampede back to the house with those instructions. So, I quickly changed to a softer approach, “here’s a bucket with soapy water in it, brush them into them into it or shake the branch over the bucket.” That was something they could do. We divided our team into 2 bug brushers and 3 berry pickers. In no time at all we had a couple of buckets full of berries, plenty for Raspberry Tarts (see that recipe in the Master Gardener Cookbook, for sale on our website) and Raspberry Stars . We gently washed the berries and then mixed 2 cups of them with 2 Tablespoons sugar, and 2 tablespoons corn starch dissolved in ¼ cup of water . The rest of the berries were divided between some for freezing and some for eating fresh. Then we made the Raspberry Stars. They are best eaten when still warm out of the oven. They don’t keep, so we took one for the team and ate all 18 of them with tea! They also make a beautiful Christmas morning pastry because of their color and shape. A light dusting of powdered sugar gives a snowy touch. I am hoping you have some raspberries in your freezer that you can use for the Raspberry Stars, but if you don’t, store bought Raspberry Jam works too. Raspberry Stars 1 Puff Pastry Sheet (each sheet will yield 9 pastries) 4 Tablespoons Filling (see above for recipe) OR Raspberry Jam 1 Egg 1 Tablespoon water Powdered Sugar for dusting Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line cookie sheet with parchment paper. Lay frozen puff pastry on clean work surface and allow to thaw 10 minutes or more. Do not unfold until thawed. Unfold and cut it into 9 equal squares. Beat the egg in a small bowl with the water, set aside. With a sharp knife tip, score L-shaped cuts at the corners of each pastry square. You may need to use a kitchen shears to cut the L-shapes after using the knife. Place 1 teaspoon filling onto the center of each square. Take the outer corner of each puff pastry and fold over into the middle. Dip you finger in the egg water and use it to ‘glue’ each tip into the center. Do this with all four corners, shaping folds into a bow. Using a pastry brush, brush the edges of the pastries with the egg water. Bake for 13-14 minutes or until they puff up and the edges are golden. Remove from the oven and transfer to a cooling rack. Dust with Powdered sugar and serve. Photo Credit: Joy Johnson (1,2,3,4)

  • Making Delicious Meals with Hardy Vegetables

    < Back Making Delicious Meals with Hardy Vegetables Joy Johnson, Master Gardener Master Gardener Joy Johnson is an accomplished vegetable grower but even she struggled this year with the effects of the hot weather and drought on her crops. Still, she offers 4 tried, true and delicious recipes for using the vegetables that were garden champions this year. You will want to read this article for inspiration in the kitchen! It’s the first of August and I’m hoping your garden is flourishing this month. I must tell you, with the drought and the rain and the storms, some of my veggies are doing great and some are struggling along. Gardening is always a gamble, we do our part to plant, weed, fertilize, mulch and water, but sometimes even with all that TLC our veggies might not produce like the seed catalogs promised they would. I consider it a challenge. My garden has thrown down the gauntlet, asking me if I can make something nutritious and delicious with its sometimes-meager offerings. I accept that challenge! Since I like to eat lighter in the summer, I have been focusing on soups and salads. Here are a couple of soup recipes and a colorful salad. The Italian Garden Vegetable Soup is vegetarian and is quick and easy to make. The Zuppa Toscana is my hack of Olive Garden’s soup of the same name. This is a heavier cream-based soup, and makes great use of tons of kale, which you may have in abundance right now! And the Broccoli Slaw is a triumph over critters and heat. This month I also included a Martini drink recipe. My brother and I grow lots of basil and this cocktail that he came up with is a cool, refreshing use of basil. Grapefruit is one my favorite fruits. You can use canned grapefruit juice, but fresh squeezed elevates this cocktail to a gourmet level. Italian Garden Vegetable Soup (makes 6-8 servings) 2 medium zucchinis, sliced 2 medium yellow summer squash, sliced 1 small or medium eggplant, peeled and diced 6 medium tomatoes, diced (whatever variety you grew are fine) 2-4 ears of corn, kernels cut off the cob (steam first, then it’s easier to cut them off) 2 parsnips, peeled and thinly sliced 1 clove garlic, minced 2 cups veggie broth (store bought or homemade) 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley (dried is fine too. You’ll see I used dried in the photo. My parsley didn’t do well this year, but I have plenty of dried from last year) 1/4-1/2 tsp onion salt Salt and pepper Place all ingredients in a large pot. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to steam vegetable in broth for 10 minutes. Add more salt and pepper if you’d like. Zuppa Toscana (make 8-10 servings) 1 large white onion diced 1 ½ pounds ground Italian sausage. I have a home blend of venison and spicey Italian port sausage that is quite spicey. You can use a mild Italian sausage or a spicier variety depending on how much heat you want. 7 small red potatoes, peeled, quartered, and thinly sliced 2 cups chicken broth 4 cups water 1-2 tsp red chili flakes (don’t use this if you use a spicier sausage) 1 pint whipping cream 1 large bunch of kale, tough stems removed, and leaves chopped Chicken bouillon powder. In a large pot, brown the onion and sausage; drain fat. Add potatoes, broth, water, and chili flakes. Cover pot and bring to a boil for about 20 minutes, until potatoes are tender. Stir in the cream. Soup will thicken the longer you keep it warm and stirred. Mix kale into hot soup for about the last 5 minutes of cooking. Taste and adjust seasoning with small addition of bouillon, if desired. Cashew Broccoli Slaw (makes 6 servings) I grew tiny cabbages, a couple of red ones and a couple of green ones (lots of insect damage). But you don’t need a lot to make this tasty salad. My broccoli also didn’t produce much. I consider it a triumph that I can use what I grow to make something good regardless of its quantity or quality. Dressing: 1 cup plain yogurt 1/3 cup sugar 1 T apple cider vinegar In a medium bowl, whisk together yogurt, sugar, and vinegar until smooth. Salad: 1 medium sized head of broccoli, washed, peel the stems and chop 1 small head of red cabbage, washed and thinly sliced and chopped 1 small head of green cabbage, washed and thinly sliced and chopped 1 carrot, grated or julienned ¼ cup garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed ¼ cup chopped green onions 1 cup raisins or craisins 1 cup cashew pieces, salted Add broccoli, cabbage, green onions and raisins/craisins to the bowl. Fold slaw mixture into dressing until evenly coated. Chill until ready to serve. Toss cashews into the salad right before serving. Dale’s Grapefruit-Basil Martini 3 parts fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice 1 part grapefruit vodka (Dale uses Citron – the one with no added sugar) ½ part Elderflower liqueur (Dale uses St. Germain) ½ part fresh lime juice ½ part simple syrup to taste (1 part sugar, 2 parts water) 1-2 springs fresh basil 2-3 drops grapefruit bitters Muddle basil in the grapefruit juice and refrigerate for 24 hours in a Mason jar. Stir or shake periodically. After 24 hours, strain out the basil (a few remaining green flecks are okay). Mix all ingredients in a shaker with ice, shake and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with basil (which really provides more of a basil punch!) Photo credits: Joy Johnson (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)

  • Parsnips a Favorite Winter Vegetable

    < Back Parsnips a Favorite Winter Vegetable Katie Possis, Master Gardener The parsnip is the creamy white cousin to carrots that add a nutty but sweet flavor to your winter vegetable table. Parsnips are a taproot vegetable that will enrich a broth or soup by adding another dimension of flavor. Whether parsnips are pureed, baked, sauteed, steamed, mashed or roasted they will not disappoint. Let’s dig in and discover the best way to sow, grow, harvest, store and enjoy this winter vegetable. Pastinaca sativa commonly known as the parsnip is the creamy white cousin to carrots that add a nutty but sweet flavor to your winter vegetable table. Parsnips are a taproot vegetable that will enrich a broth or soup by adding another dimension of flavor. Whether parsnips are pureed, baked, sauteed, steamed, mashed or roasted they will not disappoint. Let’s dig in and discover the best way to sow, grow, harvest, store and enjoy this winter vegetable. Late spring to late summer when the soil temperature is not colder than 46 degrees Fahrenheit is the best time to plant parsnip seeds in full sun or partial sun. Planting companion plants between the rows such as radishes, chives or violas will help fully utilize space in the garden bed. Delicate is the best way to describe the parsnip roots therefore, for best results seeds need to be planted directly into the ground. Plant in loamy soil, which is light, fine soil without compacted clay and well-draining. Well worked soil is preferred to sow seeds ½ inch deep and 6 inches apart. The PH balance needs to be between 6-8, if working with clay-type soil it is best to work in compost to prevent the plant from struggling with root development. After 3 weeks, the parsnip seed will germinate and at 6 weeks it is important to thin out the seedlings. Gloves need to be worn and long sleeves as the leaves and sap of the parsnip plant can be irritating to the skin. During the growing season, it is important to keep the moisture levels consistent as the plants prefer to be watered deeply and will not tolerate drought. If the parsnips are watered irregularly, the parsnip will become tough, which is not the desired result. Using a soaker hose or drip irrigation during the first month and a half may be helpful. Mulch around the plants will also aid in obtaining the correct moisture level. Due to the longer growing season, 100-120 days it is necessary to keep up with weed management to ensure proper air flow around the plants. Although parsnips are relatively pest and disease free a few pests to anticipate and manage exist such as caterpillars, carrot fly maggots, and aphides. Caterpillars tend to munch on the leaves. The best course of action is to hand pick the caterpillars off when they appear. To manage the carrot fly maggots plant chives along-side the parsnips which is a natural repellent for the maggots. Aphids also eat parsnips so washing them away with water is the best course of action. Disease such as parsnip canker can be managed by clearing away the previous years plant material that may reside in the soil as it can harbor parsnip canker spores. Harvest the parsnips after a frost or two as the roots become sweeter by turning the starch to sugar. The greens will begin to die back which is the signal for the time to harvest. Gloves are an excellent idea when harvesting. Take great care to loosen the soil around the plants before extracting them from the ground. Extraction is a downward push followed by an upward pull. Remove dirt gently with a brush, remove the green tops and discard, then wash in cold water and pat dry. Leaving the skin on will enhance the flavor of the parsnip. The parsnip is now ready to eat or store. There are several ways to store parsnips: freezing, dehydration or in a container of sand in the basement. To freeze parsnips, start with cleaning, next peel, trim and cut into pieces, blanch in water then transfer into a freezer bag, they will store up to 2-3 months in the freezer. Dehydration drying can take place in a conventional oven at 140 degrees this process can take 20-24 hours the result will store for 4 months to a year. Store in a container of sand in the basement by covering the parsnips entirely with sand and keeping them in a cool, dark place they will store for up to 4 months. Enjoy this winter vegetable in a delicious soup Roasted Vegetable Soup Recipe | Ina Garten | Food Network it’s a shining example of the depth of flavor a parsnip will add to a winter soup. Parsnips are a wonderful accompaniment to fish, beef or poultry. Search | Bon Appetit for a purist parsnip puree recipe. Roasted parsnips bring out the nutty sweetness and taste delicious. Enjoy the roasted goodness sprinkled with a little olive oil and fresh oregano and thyme. Give the parsnip a try, it will not disappoint in winter dishes nor in the garden. Photo Credit: University of Minnesota Extension (1) & Creative Commons (2)

  • Fermenting Your Own Hot Sauce

    < Back Fermenting Your Own Hot Sauce Joy Johnson, Master Gardener Sometimes just experimenting with your vegetables makes you a winner. Read about how to grow the peppers and make the hot sauce that won over Joy Johnson’s “hot sauce crazy” family members. The men in my family love hot sauce. They put hot sauce on burgers and brats, eggs and ham, enchiladas and tacos, potatoes and pasta, the list goes on and on. They even give each other hot sauce for Christmas. Whenever one of them travels, they bring back sample bottles of hot sauce made in the city they visited. Since they often don’t care for all of the vegetables that I grow in my garden, I thought I would outsmart them this year. I planted a package of “Mixed Hot Pepper” seeds that I got from a Burpees catalog. I figured I’d finally found vegetables they would eat from my garden. The peppers got off to a slow start in my basement under a grow light in February. A few of them grew to 3-5 inches in height. Most of them stopped growing at 2 inches and were very thin. I was not very hopeful as I gingerly transplanted them outside into the garden at the end of May. But I watered them and fertilized them. Then I completely ignored them for a month while I prepared the rest of the yard for our son’s wedding. One day, weeks after the wedding was past, I walked down to the pepper patch and there were tall, healthy plants covered with peppers! I was delighted. I recognized the Jalapenos, because I’d grown those before. I wasn’t familiar with any of the others. After doing some research, I learned that I had Anaheim, Hungarian Wax, Cayenne and Ancho peppers. The colors ranged from red to orange to yellow to green. They were beautiful and I was so excited. I decided to ferment my own hot sauce. I picked all the peppers and filled two 17-quart bowls. One tip my daughter had shared with me - don’t mix the red ones with the green ones. Your hot sauce will turn out a very ugly green-brown; most unappetizing. So, I separated the greens into one pile and the reds, yellows and oranges into another pile. The hot sauce turned out great! I gave bottles of it as Christmas gifts. Here is the recipe. Oh, one more tip – wear gloves when picking, washing and slicing the peppers (and don’t rub your eyes, no matter what!) Homemade Fermented Hot Sauce 1 ½ pounds peppers of your choosing (a mix of sweet peppers and hot peppers), tops and stems removed, halved 6 cloves garlic peeled 4 cups filtered water 4 teaspoons sea salt 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar 1 tablespoon honey or maple syrup, optional Instructions: Place the peppers and garlic in a clean wide mouthed quart canning jar. Set aside. To make the brine, heat the filtered water and sea salt in a medium saucepan until the salt has dissolved completely. Let cool to room temperature. Place the peppers and garlic in a clean glass jar. Pour the brine over the peppers and garlic, completely submerging them. If you run out of brine, you can make more by mixing 1 cup of warm filtered water with 1 teaspoon of sea salt. Cover the jar with folded cheese cloth and secure with a rubber band. Place in a warm, dark spot for 5-7 days or until the brine looks cloudy and small bubbles begin to appear when you tap the side of the jar. When the fermentation time is up, strain the brine, reserving it. Place the fermented peppers and garlic in a blender and add in 1 cup of the brine, plus the apple cider vinegar, and honey or maple syrup, if using. Blend until completely smooth adding in additional brine to reach the desired thickness. Transfer to a bottle and store in the fridge for 3-6 months. Bottles with stoppers are available at Hobby Lobby. The hot sauce turned out great! The men in my family love it. My son in law even said it is the best hot sauce ever. I ended up with a green sauce made mostly from jalapenos and underripe other varieties. And a red sauce made from all of the red, yellow and orange peppers. They taste quite different, but both are hot and delicious. Photo Credit: Joy Johnson (1,2,3,4)

  • Tomato Problems

    < Back Tomato Problems Homegrown tomatoes are the highlight of a summer garden. In this article you will learn some very helpful tips to achieve the best possible harvest. Janice Gestner, Master Gardener Tomatoes (Solanium lycopersicum) are among the most commonly grown vegetables by gardeners. The joy of using vitamin-rich, low-calorie tomatoes in fresh summer salads, in sauces, and many more ways make it one of the most versatile vegetables grown. The easiest way to avoid tomato problems is by giving them the site, space, and conditions they want as a plant that originated in South America. Tomatoes along with its Nightshade family members, including eggplants and peppers, love the sun-filled days with temperatures between 65°F and 95°F. They love well-drained, fertile soil, pH numbers between 5.5-7, mulches to regulate soil temperatures and moisture, and plenty of space. Cages, stakes and careful pruning help keep plants clean and less prone to disease. Consistent watering until tomatoes are ripening is also important to overall plant health. Gardeners who carefully follow all of the growing tips for tomato plants will avoid many of the disease and insect issues that can be problems for tender tomato plants. However, sometimes climate conditions, gardening errors, insects and other problems happen. The University of Minnesota Extension site titled “Tomato Disorders” at provides information about possible disorders. A summary of the information found on this site includes the following: Disorders may be caused by varietal choices. If gardeners have provided good management, trying different tomatoes varieties might be the best answer for the location. Seed catalogs can give information on disease resistant varieties. Blossom-end rot is an issue where fruit has a tan/black flattened spot on the end of the fruit. This is usually caused by inconsistent watering or possibly too heavy rains. The plant has a calcium deficiency that is not usually caused by soil deficiency but the inability for the plant to take up calcium through the roots. Gardeners should remove all tomatoes with the disorder because they will never develop correctly. New fruit coming on the tomato plant may be okay if watering is carefully controlled. Blossom end rot Sunscald can be seen on tomatoes that have a pale yellow or white side surface. It is caused by too much sun, the result of leaf loss due to over-pruning, insect damage or disease damage. The spots can be an entry point for decay, and tomatoes should be picked immediately since they will not develop properly. Continue to harvest developing tomatoes. Sun scald Early blight is caused by either of two pathogens called Alternaria tomatophila and Alternaria solani . They attack the plant either by being blown in on the wind, splash up from contaminated soil, humidity, wet weather, or even from human contact. They usually start at brown spots on the lower part of the plant. Safe practices to avoid the contamination include watering low to the ground and adding mulch around the plants to avoid soil splash up. Prune away any leaves on the low part of the plant that you see with brown spots. It is okay to remove up to a third of the bottom leaves if necessary. Be sure to wash your hands and clippers to avoid passing the fungus on to other plants. Early blight Growth cracks circling the stems on tomatoes may happen because of fast growth. Heavy rains and high temperatures can also cause these cracks. Regulating watering is the best way to try to avoid the condition. Tomatoes can be used if you cut off the cracking area and use the rest of the tomato. Growth cracks Healthy tomato plants depend upon us to provide the best growing conditions we can provide as described above. Remember to rotate tomato crops to other sunny sections of the garden to avoid leftover pathogen and tomato problems from past years. Last, sometimes gardeners do everything correctly, but weather conditions may still control the harvest outcome. There is always a new year to try again. Photo Credit: University of Minnesota Extension (1,2,3,4,5)

  • Garden to Kitchen

    < Back Garden to Kitchen Joy Johnson, Master Gardener All your hard work has paid off, the thrill of the harvest is upon you! But you can’t see your kitchen table because of all the vegetables you’ve brought in from the garden. First, way to go! You are on your way to creating healthy food. Second, here are a couple of recipes that will help you make good use of your produce. They can be frozen for use in the bleak mid-winter and are real crowd pleasers. Bushels of Tomatoes and Cabbages. All your hard work has paid off, the thrill of the harvest is upon you! But you can’t see your kitchen table because of all the vegetables you’ve brought in from the garden. First, way to go! You are on your way to creating healthy food. Second, here are a couple of recipes that will help you make good use of your produce. They can be frozen for use in the bleak mid-winter and are real crowd pleasers. Hungarian cabbage rolls are a favorite at my house. I make them now when I have oodles of tomatoes and huge cabbages. Then, in the middle of winter, I pull them out of the freezer and cook them on low in a crock pot over night and serve them with mashed potatoes to soak up all the juice. I make my own tomato juice to cook them in by cooking cut up fresh tomatoes until they are soft, then putting them through a food mill to remove the skins and seeds, add a little salt and then freeze or can the juice for later use. This recipe can easily be doubled if you have an especially large cabbage. You can use either turkey kielbasa sausage or beef. Cabbage Rolls 1 ½ lbs. hamburger or pork sausage (if you use spicey pork sausage, you don’t need to add all the following spices) 1 tsp. Salt ¼ tsp. pepper ¼ cup chopped onions 1Tbsp. chopped garlic ¾ cups rice, uncooked 1 whole cabbage, wash, trim off outer leaves if they aren’t good quality. 1 link of Polska Kielbasa sausage (either turkey or beef). Cut into 2-inch chunks. 1 large can of tomato juice or 1-2 quarts of homemade juice. Combine hamburger and rice with one whole egg and mix thoroughly. Set aside. Immerse the cabbage into a large pot of boiling water. Boil until the tops layers of leaves look slightly cooked. Remove cabbage from pot to a large cutting board. Trim off outer layers of leaves that are soft, lay aside to cool. Re-immerse cabbage in boiling water and cook the next few layers of leaves, remove and cut off cooked leaves. Keep doing this until the cabbage is too small to use for rolls. (Refrigerate and use in a different recipe). For each cooked leaf, trim down the hard spine so that the leaf can be rolled up. Discard spine (or give it to your kids to eat, they are delish). Lay a loose handful of the hamburger or sausage mixture in the lower end of the leaf, roll once, tuck in both sides, finish rolling and tuck in the end. You can use a toothpick or skewer to hold roll closed. Put sausage pieces in b ottom of large kettle. Stack cabbage rolls gently on top. Pour over enough tomato juice to cover the cabbages. Bring to a boil, turn heat way down and barely simmer for an hour or two until the rice is cooked. You can also do these in a crock pot for 4-6 hours. Serve over mashed potatoes. Clara’s Salsa Here’s an excellent salsa recipe that my daughter came up with. You can hot water bath can it in jars or freeze it in baggies or plastic containers: 16 cups blanched, peeled, cored, chopped tomatoes 4 cups chopped green onions ¾ cups chopped jalapenos 2 cups chopped peppers, use a variety of sweet peppers 4 cloves garlic ¾ cup vinegar 1 Tbsp sugar 2 Tbsp salt 1 tsp cumin ½ bunch cilantro Mix, simmer until thick (2 hours). Hot water bath can for 15 minutes. Zucchini Bread (Good, easy, healthy, freezable – what’s not to love!) Makes 2 loaves 3 eggs 1 cup oil 1 cup brown sugar 1 cup white sugar 3 tsp maple flavoring 2 cups raw, grated zucchini 2 ½ cups flour (I use half whole wheat) ½ cup wheat germ 2 tsp soda 2 tsp salt 1 tsp baking powder 1 cup chopped walnuts Sesame seeds Mix in order given. Pour in greased, floured bread pans. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake 1 hour at 350 degrees. Photo Credit: Joy Johnson (1,2,3,4,5)

  • Sweet Potatoes and a Sweet Winter Treat

    < Back Sweet Potatoes and a Sweet Winter Treat Joy Johnson, Master Gardener Sweet potatoes are a lovely garden plant. They are a low calorie but highly nutritious food and have a beautiful color. Sweet potatoes can be harvested very late in the fall and are pretty easy to store over the winter. Best of all, they taste great. You will love this sweet potato recipe from Master Gardener Joy Johnson along with a bonus sweet treat. I want to encourage you to grow sweet potatoes. They are a lovely garden plant, although their vines do take up a lot of room in the garden. The sweet potatoes can be harvested very late in the fall just before the first hard frost. It’s pretty easy to store an abundant crop of sweet potatoes in your home over the winter. That process can be found easily online. The sweet potatoes that I used in this recipe were ones that were grown last fall and stored over the winter. They are a low calorie highly nutritious food and of course have a beautiful color. This recipe makes use of your crockpot but it could also be baked in the oven. Balsamic Seasoned Chicken and Sweet Potatoes Ingredients 2 lbs chicken thighs (You can use boneless skinless if you prefer) 14 oz fat free chicken broth One cup dry white wine, or Moscato if you prefer a sweeter broth One tablespoon balsamic vinegar One teaspoon dried thyme One teaspoon olive oil ½ teaspoon black pepper ½ teaspoon caraway seeds (you can also use fennel seeds) 4 sweet potatoes ½ of a large onion sliced Coat a large skillet with cooking spray and heat over high heat, add the chicken and cook until browned on all sides. Let cool slightly. Combine the broth, wine, vinegar, and thyme in the crock pot. Add the chicken. Rub the exposed area of the chicken with the oil, sprinkle with the pepper and caraway seeds. Arrange the potatoes and onions around the chicken. Cover and cook on low until the chicken is tender the juices run clear and a meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part registers 170 degrees F and the potatoes are tender: 8 to 10 hours on low or six to 8 hours on high. OR put the chicken in a large, deep casserole dish, pour the broth mixture over, add the spices, put the potatoes in, layering them with the chicken. Cover and bake in a 350-degree oven for two hours or until chicken registers 170 degrees and potatoes are done. Serve this with rice or mashed potatoes or toast because you have a lot of delicious broth. Chinese Almond Cookies April 9th is national Chinese almond cookie day. Even though there are no ingredients that come from your garden, I thought you would enjoy this Chinese American treat that aren't authentically Chinese. Their round shape symbolizes coins and good luck. They are traditionally served for Chinese New Year. Here are a couple tips to make your cookies a success. · Make sure the butter is cold · Use almond flour not almond meal · Do not skip refrigerating the dough for two hours Ingredients 1 1/3 cups almond flour lightly packed 1 cup unsalted butter, chilled and cut into cubes A pinch of salt 2 large eggs, divided 1 teaspoon almond extract 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour 1 cup +2 tablespoons sugar 1/2 teaspoon baking soda thinly sliced almonds, for decoration Place the almond flour, salt, and butter into an electric mixer with a paddle attachment and beat on medium speed for three minutes. The mixture will become coarse and chunky looking. Add one of the eggs and the almond extract. Mix them in on low speed just until incorporated. Sift the flour, sugar, and baking soda together, and add to the mixture. Mix on low speed until just combined. Take the dough and flatten it into a disc and wrap in plastic wrap. Place it in the refrigerator for two hours to chill. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a small bowl, beat the remaining egg. Take pieces of dough and roll them into balls about 3/4 inch wide. Place them on the sheet about an inch apart and then press them down slightly with your palm to make a coin shape. Press 1 slivered almond into the center of each cookie. Then using a pastry brush or your finger, paint each cookie with the beaten egg. Bake for 13 to 15 minutes, until the edges just begin to tan. Cool on the sheet on a wire rack. Photo credits: Joy Johnson (1, 2, 3)

  • Chicken Curry

    < Back Chicken Curry Joy Johnson, Master Gardener Cooking in the winter is a time to fill your kitchen with tempting, warming fragrances that are new and exciting. This Chicken Curry recipe does just that. It also makes use of the carrots, parsnips, tomatoes, peppers and cilantro that you may have in your freezer from last season’s garden. Cooking in the winter is a time to fill your kitchen with tempting, warming fragrances that are new and exciting. This Chicken Curry recipe does just that. It also makes use of the carrots, parsnips, tomatoes, peppers and cilantro that I have in my freezer from last season’s garden. Chicken Curry – serves 4, over rice [ Ingredients: Spice blend: 1 ½ tsp ground coriander 1 tsp ground cumin ½ tsp turmeric ½ tsp ground cinnamon ½ tsp ground black pepper ¼ tsp ground mustard ¼ tsp ground cloves Curry: 1 T olive oil 1 c chopped onion 4 minced garlic cloves 1 T peeled and minced fresh ginger 1 cup chicken broth ¾ cup diced tomatoes ¾ cup sliced carrots ½ cup sliced parsnips ½ cup chopped green peppers Salt Cayenne pepper to taste 1 ½ lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1 ¼ inch cubes 1 tsp cornstarch mixed with 2 tsp water 1/3 cup milk or almond milk 2 T chopped cilantro Directions In a small mixing bowl whisk together all of the spices in the spice blend, set aside. Heat olive oil in a 12-inch non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add in onion and sauté until slightly golden brown, about 4 - 6 minutes. Add in garlic and ginger, sauté 30 seconds more then add in spice blend and sauté 30 seconds. Pour in chicken broth and tomatoes and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer 5 minutes. Pour mixture into a blender then cover with lid and remove lid insert, cover opening with a clean folded kitchen rag. Blend mixture until well pureed. In the now empty skillet, add carrots, parsnips and peppers, cook 5 minutes until tender. You may need to add a little water or oil. Return the blender mixture to skillet, stir, and heat over medium-high heat. Season sauce with salt and cayenne pepper (start with about 1/2 tsp salt and a few dashes cayenne then add more to taste). Add in chicken. Bring to a simmer then reduce heat to medium-low, cover skillet with lid and simmer until chicken has cooked through, stirring occasionally, about 8 - 12 minutes. During the last minute of cooking stir in the cornstarch and water slurry if desired, to thicken sauce slightly (or if needed thin with a little chicken broth). Stir in cream/almond milk, then serve warm with cilantro over basmati rice. My husband, who does not like curry, loved this recipe. I think that’s because it doesn’t contain any curry! The spice blend is a fresh, light mixture instead of the pre-made spice purchased at the grocery store. Enjoy! Photo credits: University of Minnesota Extension (all)

  • Preserving Your Harvest

    < Back Preserving Your Harvest Tori Clark, Master Gardener Many of the vegetables you have been growing all summer are ready to harvest in September. Unfortunately, most things can only be stored fresh for a short period of time even in perfect conditions. If you have the time and the inclination you can harvest more of your garden and preserve it to enjoy long after the growing season has passed. Late summer means harvest time in Minnesota gardens! You can harvest vegetables and more at peak ripeness, but most things can only be stored fresh for a short period of time even in perfect conditions. You have eaten your fill, but the garden keeps on giving so if you have the time and the inclination you can harvest more of your garden and preserve it to enjoy long after the growing season has passed. Options for preserving fruits, vegetables, and herbs include freezing, drying, canning, pickling, and more. Each option has its benefits and drawbacks and some options are better for preserving different types of food. The University of Minnesota Extension has a series of short, informative food preservation videos to get you the information you need to safely preserve your vegetables, sauces, jams, and salsas to enjoy later. Photo Credit: University of Minnesota Extension (1)

  • Planning to Promote Success in Your 2022 Vegetable Garden

    < Back Planning to Promote Success in Your 2022 Vegetable Garden March is a great time to start to plan for your summer vegetable garden. Whether you’re planning your first vegetable garden or you’re an experienced vegetable gardener, there are things you can be doing to enhance the probability of a successful growing season. Linda Stein, Master Gardener Experienced gardeners review last year’s successes and failures. Some problems that you encountered may be indicative of issues that you may wish to address as you prepare for the upcoming growing season. If your vegetable plants had lush leaf growth but limited vegetables, it may be because your soil has excess nitrogen and/or inadequate phosphorus. When we experience a thaw and you can dig in your garden, you may wish to have a soil test to determine how to amend the soil to promote effective growth. Go to the University of Minnesota’s website ( ) for details on how to submit a sample for testing. If you have been planting the same vegetables in the same locations you may have seen poorer harvests. As you prepare for the coming year consider rotating the location of specific plants to reduce damage from insect pests, limit the development of vegetable-specific diseases and manage soil fertility. Vegetables should be considered in the following groups: root vegetables, fruit-bearing vegetables, legumes, and leafy vegetables as you rotate the location of plants. So, for example, don’t plant fruit-bearing plants such as bell peppers where tomatoes were planted last year. Instead, plant legumes, root vegetables like carrots, or leafy vegetables such as lettuce. Many vegetables can be started from seeds, planted indoors and transplanted outdoors when the weather warms. March is the appropriate time to plant broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, and cauliflower seeds indoors so they are ready for the Minnesota growing season. If you are planning your first vegetable garden, consider the following: Review your yard to find a location that receives at least 6 hours of sun. Decide which vegetables you would like to grow. Some of the easiest ones to grow include lettuce, cucumbers, green beans, summer squash, root vegetables (such as radishes and carrots), bell peppers, tomatoes, and peas. Review online listings or plant catalogs to determine the specific variety of the vegetables to plant. Make sure the plant will survive in Minnesota’s climate. Also consider the production habit of the plant. Some varieties continue producing over a prolonged period of time while others produce all their fruit over a short period of time. Develop a layout for planting. Consider traditional straight rows or square foot layouts. Consider how many plants of each vegetable to plant. Some vegetables like to be planted close together while others prefer space to allow good air flow around the plant. Plant tall plants along the northern end of our garden so they don’t shade shorter plants. Send a soil sample to the University of Minnesota to determine how you should amend the soil to promote plant health and vegetable production. (See link to the soil testing site above.) Consider March the start of your vegetable growing season and prepare for success in your 2022 garden. Photo Credit: Linda Stein (1), University of Minnesota Extension (2), Southern Foodways Alliance (3)

  • Using the Last Frozen Vegetables to make Tasty Tacos and Springtime Cake

    < Back Using the Last Frozen Vegetables to make Tasty Tacos and Springtime Cake Joy Johnson, Master Gardener It’s May, you may have a few things peeking up in your garden, or maybe you’re like me and nothing is up yet, and nothing is ready for picking. I’m still living off of veggies that I canned, froze or dried last fall. Here is a crowd-pleasing recipe that makes use of my canned tomatoes, frozen corn and ground venison. You can use ground beef or ground turkey too. It also has corn chips on it, and those are a favorite! It’s very easy to freeze fresh tomatoes. Just pull off any stem, wash and put into freezer baggies and put in the freezer. When you’re ready to use them, take them out of the bag and run them under hot water, the skins will peel right off by rubbing them with your thumbs. Cut out the stem spot and chop for your recipe. You’ll have that wonderful garden fresh tomato taste. Corn Bread Taco Casserole Ingredients 2 pounds ground venison, beef or turkey 2 envelopes taco seasoning 2 cups diced canned tomatoes, drained 1 cup water 1 cup cooked rice 1 can (4 ounces) chopped green chiles 2 packages (8-1/2 ounces each) cornbread/muffin mix 1 cup whole kernel corn 1 cup sour cream 2 cups corn chips 2 cups shredded Mexican cheese blend or cheddar cheese, divided 1 can (2-1/4 ounces) sliced ripe olives, drained Topping: Shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes and chopped red onion Directions Preheat oven to 400°. In a frying pan oven, cook venison over medium heat until no longer pink, 8-10 minutes, breaking it into crumbles; drain. Stir in taco seasoning. Add tomatoes, water, rice and green chiles; heat through, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, prepare cornbread mix according to package directions; stir in corn. Pour half the batter into a greased 13x9-in. baking dish. Layer with half the meat mixture, all the sour cream, half the corn chips and 1 cup cheese. Top with remaining batter, remaining meat mixture and olives. Bake, uncovered, until cornbread is cooked through, 55-60 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining 1 cup corn chips and 1 cup cheese; bake until cheese is melted, 3-5 minutes longer. If desired, serve with lettuce, tomatoes and red onion. Char’s Springtime Cake Some of you may have rhubarb peeking up, but due to our very cold early spring, I doubt it’s ready to pick. I had one package of rhubarb left from last fall in my freezer. I pick the last of my rhubarb in the fall just before it frosts and I wash, cut it into small pieces, put it in a freezer container and freeze it until early spring, like now, when I’m dying for a fresh spring taste of something from the garden. This recipe was adapted from one handed down to me from my wonderful step-mom who passed away last August, from COVID. Hers calls for all rhubarb, but since I didn’t have that much in the freezer, I substituted frozen strawberries and blueberries for part of the rhubarb. This was taste tested by family and friends and determined to be a wonderful taste of spring and summer! Directions Blend: 1 c. flour ½ c. butter 5T. powdered sugar Mix and press into a 13x9 pan. Bake for 15 minutes, until golden at 350 degrees. Mix: 3 eggs 2 ½ c. flour ¼ tsp salt ¾ tsp baking powder Add: 1 ½ cups rhubarb cut into small chunks 1 ½ cups sliced strawberries 1 ½ cups blueberries Pour over crust and sprinkle with cinnamon. Bake 40 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle with powdered sugar while still warm. Photo Credit: Joy Johnson (1,2,3,4)

  • Putting Your Garden to Bed

    < Back Putting Your Garden to Bed If it’s yellow or brown, cut it down. If it’s green, leave it alone. This long-standing rule-of-thumb means you can’t just wake up one day and decide to put your garden to bed for the winter. It’s a gradual process because plants die back at different rates depending on when they transition energy to the roots. Cutting off green leaves can weaken a plant and affect its vigor and bloom next year. Besides, there are lots of reasons to avoid cutting shrubs, stems and perennials – for winter interest and for wildlife. Here are some ways to ready your gardens for cold and snow ahead. Connie Kotke, Master Gardener Ready for a Long Winter’s Nap? October is the time to put your garden to bed. This means cutting things back, cleaning up what's left, packing away tools and pots, and getting everything ready to go for next spring. Then you can settle in for winter knowing that your garden will look healthy and happily tucked in! Cut Back Keep your garden tidy and save labor later by cutting back many perennials after frost causes them to turn brown and die. On the other hand, some perennials (like Catmint) look good until the snow flies and can be left until spring. And some perennials offer seed heads for foraging birds…or shelter for beneficial insects. These plants support Mother Nature while providing some interest in what might otherwise be a bleak winter landscape. In the winter months when food is scarce, gardens full of withered fruit and dried seed heads can provide birds with a reliable food source. Seed-eating songbirds such as finches, sparrows, chickadees, and jays will make use of many common garden plants. When cleaning up the garden, prioritize removing and discarding diseased top growth, but leave healthy seed heads standing. Old stalks and leaves can be cut back in the spring before new growth begins. Examples of perennials to leave standing in the garden include sedum, purple coneflowers, black-eyed Susan, coreopsis, sunflower, switchgrass and little blue stem. Remember, don't prune woody plants, trees and shrubs until late winter when they are dormant. Clean Up Healthy plant debris can be composted at home or at a municipal compost site. Debris from plants with powdery mildew or other diseases should be composted at a municipal site, where temperatures get high enough to kill the disease. Pull dead or declining annuals. It's hard to do, but they won’t come back next spring. Clean up overgrown areas to prevent animals and pests from moving in – like brush piles or hidden spots around the yard where weedy trees and shrubs have taken root. Harvest everything above ground in the vegetable garden and under fruit trees. Don't leave fruits and vegetables out all winter to rot, attract animals, and set seed. Other Tasks Empty, clean and disinfect your containers by spraying them with a bleach cleaner. Pottery should be moved into a shed or garage to avoid freezing and breaking. Clean and store stakes, tomato cages, garden ornaments and other hardware. They’ll last longer and look better next spring. Clean soil from your tools, then sharpen edges with a file. Finish with a light coating of oil to prevent rusting. Move any plants that spend their winters inside. Quarantine before introducing them to your other houseplants to prevent pests from spreading. Dig up your tender bulbs and tubers well before the threat of frost. Store them in a warm, dry place out of direct light. For more information, check out these University of Minnesota resources: October Gardening Tips from the University of Minnesota Arboretum – October Gardening Tips ( Protecting trees and shrubs in winter | UMN Extension Photo credits: Connie Kotke (1, 2), University of Minnesota Extension (3, 4)

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