Talenti to the rescue

We’ve got a little ritual going on weekly now – make a large pot of sauce and a couple loaves of zucchini bread. These are certainly unique in that the sauce incorporates a mix of cherry tomato varieties and a mix of plum tomato varieties; the bread uses a mix of two zucchini types – I’m growing 4 types but the recipe only requires 2 small zucchini’s so the blend du jour is based on what I happen to pick. It won’t be long before our problem turns to inadequate freezer space. The need for packaging the sauce in a storable fashion dictates how much ice cream and exactly what brand we use. Turns out that Talenti packages their ice cream in one pint, clear plastic cylindrical containers with a screw on lid. One pint of sauce goes perfectly with 1/2 lb of pasta or one 12-14” pizza. They stack nicely in the freezer and are infinitely re-useable. To top it off, about once a month, PUBLIX offers them BOGO. Nancy scoops up so much on those occasions that I’m embarrassed to stick with her in the store or when checking out. In addition to the tomato sauce, she freezes soups, stews, and the like for Joey – one Talenti cup equals one meal. The current cup count in the freezer is 16 and we really haven’t entered the full on tomato harvesting. Sounds like a lot but remember, we use it for trading purposes!!

We decided to make a pizza, a one Talenti cup of sauce. The crust we had was a bit smaller than we usually do, 12” vs 14”, so I knew there would be excess sauce – a few spoonfuls – and decided to try something new (to us). Chris had told us about using a spiralizer to prepare zucchini – turning it into a mound of spaghetti like “noodles”. Having an extra zucchini and a few extra drabs of sauce it seemed like a great opportunity to try it. I had expected the spirals to be wide and spring/ribbon like but instead they put out spirals that emulated spaghetti. I was planning on cooking the noodles a few minutes before saucing them or just dropping them raw into the simmering pizza sauce and then fishing them out for a side dish but when I saw how thin and delicate they were, I decided to just pour a little sauce over the raw squash. Delicious. And so was the pizza, amped up with a little Tuscan Kale and a handful of cherry tomatoes cut in half.

The kale is winding down quickly now due to the persistent heat and will basically be done by the first of the month. I started with 4 different varieties but that has winnowed down to 2 due to the heat. The red and white Russian Kale crashed first, then the curly and only the Tuscan is hanging on. The collard greens still look great and the New Zealand spinach is producing so I’m adequately supplied with greens for smoothies.
I mentioned using aloe in smoothies and how nutritious it is. To follow up on that, I’ve started an aloe garden in two locations including a spot in the main garden. So between that and the pineapple plants, the garden is taking on a distinctly different look.


Finally some rain. We got a 2+” soaker last evening with more projected every day this week so it looks like we’re finally entering the rainy season.

I have an interesting tomato issue. When I was ordering seeds I spotted a potentially great new paste tomato with excellent disease and nematode resistance. The tomatoes were 4-5 oz plum shaped fruit. The seeds were quite expensive but we use loads of paste tomatoes so I decided to pull the trigger based mostly on past positive experience with expensive seeds – expensive in this case means $0.75 per seed compared to $0.03 for common varieties. The seeds germinated just fine and the seedlings were nice and strong – no transplant losses at all. They grew well and starting blossoming earlier than I had expected. The bushes are almost 6’ tall, the stalks and foliage beautiful but I noticed that as the blossoms turned into little green tomatoes, they were not plum shaped as I had expected but rather seemed more like cherry tomatoes. The tomatoes grew larger but then started turning red when only 1-2” in diameter. Beautiful and plentiful – more than you can imagine- but small. I picked a pint or so and Nancy made a pot of sauce which was very tasty and thick – as compared to a thinner sauce when using cherry tomatoes. I called the seed company to talk to a horticulturist and find out what was going on. I’m certainly happy with the product but it’s not what I expected and I want to find out if the problem is with me or whether other growers were experiencing the same thing. I wonder if it’s possibly a pollination problem since I do have cherry tomatoes growing around the garden. The fact that it’s a 100% situation makes me doubt any kind of cross pollination is in play. Another possibility that I hate to admit is that I actually picked up the wrong seed pack when I planted them. I thought I took great care not to mix up the varieties so I would know which did the best here.
In any event, they, along with the fresh basel and oregano, make great tomato sauce.

The portable lamp did the job for Nancy at the Palm Coast Bridge Club. She had a 15 minute break and used that time to charge the battery. She’ll take it to Crescent City tomorrow but that shouldn’t be a problem at all since they take a 45 minute lunch break – more than adequate to fully recharge.

Nancy’s friend Esther comes over once a week for a quilting session. This time she brought a couple of dish towels to drape over her side mirrors to thwart the feared and dreaded Cardinal attack. Not enough. They figured out how to pull the towels off and then go about the business of dive bombing the mirrors. So far the covers Nancy made for our cars are working just fine so I’m thinking she needs to create a “guest” set.

Nancy’s new toy

One of Nancy’s problems is poor lighting at her bridge clubs so she carries small portable LED lamps. These all operate on small, dry cell batteries that have a limited life and, of course, die in the middle of a game. I researched and found one that was powered by rechargeable batteries and although there was no spec that said how long it would run on a single charge, folks who had commented gave it mixed reviews – some said it would last 12 hours while others said you were lucky to get 2. Nancy’s bridge sessions are nominally 4 hours so I figured that even at the low end if she turned it off between hands, it might make it. For $20 it was worth the try. It came with a small charge but I put it on the charger for a couple of hours before doing a life test. There were no instructions to give you a hint about charging. By the end of 2 hours it was noticeably dimmer as were my hopes although I remember that any time we buy something with chargeable batteries, they request an overnight charge before using. I charged it overnight, about 12 hours, then started the life test. Alas, it made only 3 hours with the highest light intensity so even shutting it off between hands, it will be marginal She’ll have to supplement this lamp with one of the dry cell units – an improvement, but not a solution. (For the record, it took 2.5 hrs to fully recharge so you might get another hour with a 15 minute recharge during a break.) What we need is one with lithium ion batteries instead of Ni Cad’s. Maybe there’s something hidden away in the tool section of Home Depot or Lowes. I’ve seen lithium battery flashlights and shop lights but they are not really right for sitting on the card table.

Trying something different in the summer garden. I’ve tried growing sweet potatoes a few times with marginal success – and that’s being generous with the word “success”. What I’ve always done is pick up a couple of sweets from PUBLIX (the spell check is ok if it’s all in caps) and started sprouts from them with no knowledge at all of the origin. We have a produce market that advertises that all veggies are locally grown so I concluded that the local farmers would pick varieties that are suited for Florida so I bought a couple tubers there to grow the starts this summer. We’ll see. In the past I’ve gotten great vines but marginal tubers. It’s an ok crop to experiment with because most everything else in the garden is dead from the heat by mid July and my starter shoots should be ready to plant by then.

You know we have blueberries and you know we have zucchini so what else – we whipped up a couple loaves of blueberry-zucchini bread. I also threw in half a cup of dried cranberries to top it off. Thought about walnuts (and chocolate chips) but decided to save that addition for the next batch and to avoid a sensory overload. Incredible. It was more moist than other zucchini bread concoctions we’ve made and really tasty.

At the remodel – the drywall is complete including taping all the seams. The exterior painting is 90% complete. Pretty sure it will all be done by the end of the summer. Garett works for the school system and switches to a 4 day work week during the summer so that adds a day to the remodel job. I spent most of yesterday taping the seams, a job I had done before when we remodeled the Bountiful house. But the technology has changed and paper tape is replaced with a mesh plastic tape, sticky on one side. So much easier to use that two of us were able to do the whole house in one day – and that includes the ceilings.

Watch out for the bees

Nancy graduated from her iron infusions after her hemoglobin number moved into the “normal” range. That means free Fridays. Her red blood count is still below norm so they put her on sub lingual B12 and told her to come back in a few months for blood tests.

It’s August hot in May – too hot for baby plants so my transplanting operation is being impacted. The good news is that usually when it’s this hot nematode problems become obvious and I’m seeing none. When the nematodes are doing there thing, by mid afternoon, plants are drooping big time. They disable the plants from taking in moisture which eventually causes them to die. Tomatoes and squash are the first to show signs and I’m seeing none at all. Maybe for some reason there are none this year (the first time ever) or maybe all the precautions and variety selections I made are actually working. I’ll know for sure by the end of this month.
Another thing about working in the garden now is that the real workers are out in force and I back off by about 10:30 – that would be the bees.

I mentioned the bees/wasps working the palmettos but they’re also working the garden blossoms. They don’t like it cool so if I can get my work done before it heats up, no problem. When I get too close they make it known quickly by buzzing me. If they were yellow jackets the buzzing is replaced with a quick, hard attack but the honey bees seem to prefer making a peaceful request for me to vacate their area. And I respect that.

Picked the renegade watermelon. It was about 20 pounds – enough for George and us. The melons that grew wild last year were marginal in the taste department so I didn’t have much hope for this one and let it grow to maturity only because I had plenty of room. Big surprise, it turned out great. I’ve planted a few watermelon seeds from a new, prize winning variety and hope they turn out as good as this one. Other than that, the garden is nominally full. We’re harvesting zucchini, green beans, cucumbers and cherry tomatoes. By the end of the month we could be picking the first of the sauce tomatoes.

New Smoothie Ingredient

I mentioned that the kitchen is now bright, bright, super bright. The 7 overheads are each 1100 lumen “daylight” LED lights but we hadn’t done anything about the 3 lamps over the eating bar, regular 65 watt incandescents. They had a yellow caste and didn’t look exactly right when the overheads were on. One of those bulbs burned out so I replaced all 3 of them with 800 lumen LED’s that I had picked up on sale several months back. Holy Cow! We can really see what’s going on in the kitchen now. Nancy says she can actually see what she’s eating.

Another upgrade/change to help us with our aging eyes – a phone with a larger screen and bigger keys. I saw it in Walmart and thought it would help Nancy. Unfortunately it didn’t really do anything for Nancy but it sure helps me. The other thing about it that is great for Nancy is that when you lift the receiver from the base station (corded), it’s “on”. With the old one you lifted it from the cradle and then punched a button – or tried to push a button. That’s where Nancy had some trouble with numerous cutoffs.

Nancy was invited to make a quilt presentation to the Crescent City Women’s Club. It was during her lunch break at the Crescent City bridge game. I normally drop her off at about 9AM and then pick her up at 2:30 so I gave some thought to going up at noon to watch her presentation but decided that might put too much pressure on her. We packed up half a dozen quilts, each using a different quilting technique. She’s planning to do what she called a “trunk show” so it wasn’t a lecture but more “show and tell”. And it’s a friendly crowd of mostly people she knows.

Tried a new (to me) ingredient in my smoothie, aloe. Somebody told me you could buy the leaves in some health stores (bet that’s expensive) and add to the mix to improve it nutritionally and for improved digestion. I certainly have aloe growing wild in several locations so I looked it up online and sure enough it’s touted strongly as a healthy additive so I decided to try it out. I picked a leaf, peeled it, and put it in along with a large collard leaf, a couple of blueberries, a couple of strawberries, a couple chunks of pineapple, yogurt etc. My normal mix except for the aloe. To tell the truth, I couldn’t detect any change at all. The trick part is peeling the leaf.

Have to be extra careful trimming the palmettos this time of year. They’re in full bloom and attract bees like crazy. They’re busy collecting pollen so I can walk close by and just bring forth some buzzing but if I happen to grab the wrong frond, big trouble. I wear heavier clothing for some protection but best to just leave well enough alone.

Blueberry Adventure

We ended up spending good bit of the day procuring blueberries. Our local purveyor had a bad season so we headed over towards Ocala where the farmers were claiming bumper crops. The first one was Auntie Zelma’s up towards Gainesville. No trouble We bought a flat, about 5 pounds. These berries were much larger than the ones we got last year in Crescent City. It just so happens that Auntie’s Farm is close to our favorite barbecue place ever and it just so happens it was near noon so……… The special was a corned beef Rueben sandwich, a big surprise. We split that along with a side of ribs – you can buy any number of ribs you want. Excellent as usual. This is one of those places that no one but a native would frequent. Simon put us onto it when he was living in Gainesville and we ended up having his graduation dinner party there.

After lunch we headed for Abshier Farms in Bellview, about 30 miles away. We knew exactly how to find Auntie Zelma’s so didn’t bother programming it into the GPS but did load Abshier Farms’ address since that was more difficult to find. We headed off to Bellview and turned on the GPS unit and then noticed that it turned itself off in about 10 seconds. First thought, GPS died; second thought – how do we find the blueberry farm. That problem was solved by calling Tom, giving him our current location and the target location. Within a minute he gave us directions and we found the place. Great blueberries, even bigger and juicier than the first place so we bought another 5 pounds. We asked the proprietress for directions back toward the beach which sounded fairly easy. No such luck and we wandered around in circles until we accidentally stumbled on a familiar highway and managed to get back on track. Of course we didn’t have a map in the car, at least not a Florida map. In messing around trying to get our GPS working I thought perhaps the GPS unit was ok but maybe the battery charger had cratered – the light that’s normally on was off. Then I tried plugging in the phone charger and it didn’t light up as it should have. Uh oh, the cigarette lighter socket was bad – maybe not so trivial a part to find and change. By the time we got home I got to thinking that maybe it was a fuse; but why would a fuse blow? I decided to pursue that path, found the fuse box and located the one assigned to the cigarette lighter. Sure enough it was blown. But why? First step is to buy a new fuse. Did that, installed it and Oila! problem solved. I also found why it had blown in the first place. A few years ago someone, I think my sister, had given me a fishing fly that a friend had hand tied and I put it in the ashtray. When I was messing around with the lighter I noticed this strange looking thing jammed way up inside the tray. I got a pair of needle nose pliers and grabbed onto what I thought was trash and pulled out the hook.

I took a walk on the wild side and bought a new house phone with a large screen display. I was fairly certain it would help Nancy. You walk a narrow line by trying something only to find it didn’t work – sort of throws gas on the fire. Sure enough it didn’t work for Nancy but it actually turned out better since I was personally having problems reading the small display on our then current phone sets.

Another walk on the wild side – a new biscuit recipe. I’m a biscuit Nazi and Nancy is determined to make biscuits I’m lovin’. So should I say they’re good when they’re not since she’s put a lot of work into them or be honest. Up to date I’ve taken the honest route and we’ve gone through several recipes. This latest recipe was a bit more involved and as we put them in the oven, I was thinking about giving them a thumbs up no matter. But then she’ll make them again and I’ll be stuck. As it turns out, they were great, the best so far. If you are looking for a good recipe, they are called Tricia Yearwood Angel biscuits and easy to find online.