Friday, July 31, 2009

Fertilizer Friday ~ Flaunt your Flowers!

It's Fertilizer Friday, folks - time to fertilizer our plants indoors and out, and post pictures of what's growing in our little corner of the world today. This meme is hosted by Tootsie Time - make sure you stop by to link in, or to find links to other participants.

I still have a lot going on in my garden - too much, actually, in the case of weeds! Most of what I'm going to share today has already been "featured" on past Fertilizer Fridays, but, hey, if it's all still growing and blooming. So without further ado, a selection of snapdragons:

I just love this colour combo - I haven't seen a snapdragon with it before.


A shot of my herb bed - it is really flourishing. I hope the trellis will continue to fill in with scarlet runner beans, but they are already blooming, as you can see in the next photo.

A sort of panorama shot of my veggie beds

Kentucky wonder pole beans working their way up the trellis. Not too many blooms or baby beans yet.

And, my first zucchini of pickable size.

I'm off to Tootsie's to check out the other gardens. Thanks for visiting today!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Harvest on the Table ~ Cream Potatoes

Summertime brings sunshine, fresh vegetables and a lot of calories to Ukrainian Canadians. (I should know!) Certain ingredients that are plentiful in the summer (fresh sweet cream, fresh dill, fresh beet leaves, new potatoes) find their way into really yummy dishes, like pyrizhky. Pyrizhky are basically a baked version of perogies - a filling stuffed inside white bread dough buns before baking. My mom topped her potato and beet leaf pyrizhky with a mixture of cream, onions, and fresh dill. She used the same topping to spice up new potatoes also.

Traditionally, cream potatoes are baked in the oven, but my mom always made hers on the stovetop, and I've been making them the same way.

This is a guess by golly recipe. For two servings, you will need:

Enough new potatoes to feed two people (however many that may be for you!)
About 1/2 of a small/medium yellow onion, peeled and thinly sliced
Fresh dill, enough to make about 2 tablespoons when chopped
1/4 c of whole cream (you can add a little more if you like)

Clean the potatoes, quarter if necessary and boil until tender. While the potatoes are cooking, fry the onions in a little butter or margarine over medium-high heat.

When the onions are transparent, add the chopped dill. Turn the burner down to medium-low and add the 1/4 c of cream. Stir well until it thickens considerably and stops bubbling.

Toss the potatoes with the cream mixture. Season to taste with salt and pepper to taste. And enjoy!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Fertilizer Friday ~ Flaunt your Flowers

It's Friday! Time to grab our fertilizer and give our plants inside and out a good feeding. Once you're done, post pictures of what's growing at your place. Don't forget to visit Tootsie Time to link up with her fun Fertilizer Friday meme!

My saskatoon berries are coming along. Lots to eat straight off the bushes, and my beagle Gabe heads straight for the bushes every time I let him outside, so that he can forage below the bushes to pick up the berries the birds drop.

These next flowers, I'm hoping someone can identify for me. My mom planted them. She chose them because they are very heat resistant and they grow bountifully against the garage, which gets full south and west sun. I suspect some people would classify these as weeds as they are mildly invasive.

I need help identifying these purple flowers too, please; also planted by my mom. They grow in the north-facing perennial bed and can tolerate a lot of shade. The petals are a deeper purple than the pictures show.

Barrel of geraniums, impatiens, and spikes by my backdoor.

And a closeup of a geranium ....

Friends of mine bought me this rosebush as a memorial to my mom. I'm not sure which variety it is.

A couple photos of my tomato plants, which are growing like gangbusters. Obviously the weekly fertilizing is doing the trick.

They are packed so tightly in the bed, you can't really tell one plant from the other. I had the same number of tomato plants in that bed last year, and they were nowhere near as bountiful.

And, that's what's going on at the School of Yard Knocks this Fertilizer Friday. Don't forget to check out Tootise Time, where you can link yourself up in this meme, or find links to other gardens that are participating.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

First peas and other baby veg

There's nothing yummier than snap peas straight from the vine, still warm from the sun.

One of many baby cukes (National Pickling).

Super Fantastic tomatoes off to a super fantastic start.

To me, the smell of summer is dill. I love running my hands through the dill to make the smell rise. I've been eating baby potatoes with whole cream, fried onions and dill for the past week. I haven't had that since my mom passed away - I've been scared to try my hand at it. But it turned out okay. Yum! Thanks Mom!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Look out! I'm flaunting my flowers! ~Fertilizer Friday~

It's Friday, and you know what that means! Tootsie Time is hosting her Fabulous Fertilizer Friday meme, so mosey on over to her blog to link up or to check out everyone's blooms.

I feel like I've been running around all week, but what I accomplished, who knows? I appreciate the fertilizing theme of this meme because my plants are all doing very well thanks to the weekly dose of MiracleGro; but even more so, I like taking pictures once a week. It's a nice way to track the progress of my garden and to see things that I might otherwise overlook in my rush to get things done.

So, without further ado, from the School of Yard Knocks:

I've never planted Royal Burgundy bush beans before and I am enchanted by their delicate purple and lavender blossoms.

A row of mini sunflowers and marigolds. The morning glories and sweet peas seem to be very slow this year as they should be going up the trellis. I know once they get started, they go like crazy, but when are they going to get started?

A mini sunflower unfurling.

This was labelled as Greek oregano when I bought it, but given the pink flowers, it is more likely wild marjoram. I should be trimming this back more vigorously so that it doesn't flower at all, but ... how much oregano does one girl need? ;-)

Begonias by my front gate.

Begonias in the back yard.

Pretty pink yarrow.

In other news, I posted a book review on my Gabe n Arch blog. The book's author found the review and posted an excerpt on his own site. The author is Patrick McDonnell, the well-known creator of the Mutts comic strip and animal rights activist. I admire his advocacy for homeless pets and enjoy his comics and books, so I was honoured that he posted my review on his site :-)

And that's what's going on at the School of Yard Knocks. How about at your place?

Sunday, July 12, 2009

My "No More Greenhouses" resolution hits the dust ...

So, a few weeks ago I posted a facebook status saying I was not allowed to visit any more greenhouses/nurseries/plant places. My niece left a comment, laughing at me, and saying "yah, good luck with THAT, Auntie!" Seems she knows me all too well. I've been able to resist (most) annuals at this point (with the exception of that one begonia last week, oops). But, I remembered that last year, Zellers had a blow out sale on their perennials in mid-July (that's where I got the columbine), so I decided to take a gander over there yesterday. *ahem*

I dragged home 24 plants, mostly perennials, for $2 each. This was a better price than at Early's Farm and Garden, where 4" perennials were still 3 for $12 yesterday. I know 'cause I went there too. *ahem*

I got:
4 purple coneflowers
3 painted daisies
3 hens and chicks
2 creeping charlies
6 columbine
3 St. John's wort
3 lavender
I was excited about the hens and chicks because I killed off my mom's this spring. I had to keep that part of the rock garden blocked off from the dogs, and the hens and chicks were the casualties of my blocking efforts. The creeping charlie will also go in the rock garden. I realize I have never posted about the rock garden yet, mostly because it looks so sad right now.

I've overwintered lavender before - kept it alive here in the Zone 2 boonies - through two successive winters, so I will pot these ones and hope for the best again.
And I'm NOT visiting anymore greenhouses this summer. At all.


Thursday, July 9, 2009

Flaunt those Flowers this Fertilizer Friday!

Join in the fun of Tootsie Time's Fertilizer Friday meme ~ fertilize your flowers inside and out; post pictures of what's blooming for you this week; and link up over at Tootsie's blog.

We've had a lot of rain this week (yippee!) - it was much needed. If we can just get some hot weather now, things will really get hopping. In the meantime, here's what's going on at the School of Yard Knocks:

Potted pansies, petunia, ivy geranium

New lily from my sister


And a new begonia I picked up this week - still not transplanted
What's new in your garden this week?

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Cooking Guess by Golly: Hungarian Gomboc

I have been thinking about gomboc for a long time. Years.

My mom's family is Ukrainian. Her dad (my gido) came from the old country with his family in 1904, when he was 3 years old. Her mom (my baba) was born in Canada to recent Ukrainian immigrants. Most aspects of ethnic cooking are passed from mother to daughter and it was no exception in my family.
Most of my mom's ethnic cooking and the recipes she passed down to me and my sister are Ukrainian.

My dad's family is Hungarian. His dad (my grandpa) came to Canada at the age of 3, also in 1904. My grandma, Dad's mom, was born in Canada to recent Hungarian immigrants, just like my baba. It's interesting how similar the stories are.

My grandma was renowned for her Hungarian cooking and food plays a big part in my memories of her. My hands-down favourite were her gomboc. While my grandma was alive (1907-1982), my mom never made gomboc - and I suppose they would have never tasted quite like Grandma's; just like my perogies don't taste quite as good as my mom's. After Grandma passed away, my mom made them only a few times. I don't remember seeing either Mom or Grandma actually make these; and I don't remember helping. I've never made them myself. My dad sometimes made a "lazy" version of gomboc - adding the cream of wheat topping to regular cooked pasta. He called this "noodlies." Noodlies were good, but not as good as gomboc with prunes.

While looking online for info about gomboc, I was surprised to learn that in Hungary, they are made with fresh plums (called Szilvas Gomboc). For most of my grandma's life, fresh plums would have been difficult, if not impossible, to find. She spent most of her life in rural Saskatchewan, on a small family farm. I've heard stories of my grandpa walking from their farm in the Prud'homme area to Rosthern, and walking back home with two 100-lb bags of flour on his back. Today, it is 40 miles (64K) one way by highway; it's possible Grandpa took more of a as-the-crow-flies route, but nevertheless, it was quite a trek for groceries. Plums were probably deemed unnecessary even if and when they were obtainable. Prunes would have to do.

Since my mom passed away, I've looked through her handwritten recipe book many times. I always pause at the gomboc recipe, but it is daunting! It is one of those "guess by golly" pioneer recipes - start with mashed potatoes, add flour until the dough isn't sticky; meanwhile cook prunes. No measurements. No quantities. And, I have no idea how to cook prunes. I finally decided to look online to see if I could find something more definitive. That's when I found out about the plums. Also, it seems like Grandma deviated with her topping. The online recipes I viewed used breadcrumbs (breadcrumbs!) in the topping instead of cream of wheat. So, I kind of melded everything together and ended up with an end product that I rate as pretty good for a first timer.


4-5 potatoes
1/4 cup oil
1 egg
apprx. 4-5 c flour
apprx. 30 prunes
1-1/2 c cream of wheat (aka farina)
1 c sugar plus extra to coat prunes
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 c hot water water

Cook the prunes by covering with water and bringing to a low boil; simmer for 10 minutes and then drain. Peel and quarter potatoes; boil in lightly salted water until soft; then drain. Cook the cream of wheat slowly over medium-low heat until it's a rich golden brown, like brown sugar. Stir frequently. Do not check facebook while you are doing this. The cream of wheat scorches quickly. Trust me.

When the cream of wheat is browned, add 1/2 tsp salt and 2/3 c hot water. Stir well - I stirred with a whisk to avoid lumps. Cover the cream of wheat until and leave it to cool.
Mash potatoes while they are still warm. Mix in 1 egg and 1/4 c oil. Add apprx. 4-5 cups flour. This is where the "guess by golly" part kicks in. My mom's recipe says that the dough should be soft and easy to work, but not sticky. Depending on the size of your potatoes, you may need more or less flour.

Coat the prunes with sugar. Finish mixing the gomboc topping by adding 1 c sugar to the cooled cream of wheat and mix well.

Pinch off pieces of dough. My mom and grandma would have done this guess by golly. I used a kitchen scale and pinched off pieces that were about 40g each. Flatten the dough in the palm of your hand and stick a sugared prune in the middle.

Pinch the dough closed well. If it's not pinched well enough, your gomboc may open while cooking, dislodging the prune.

You can see that my dough is a little sticky. Once I had the gomboc pinched closed, I dusted some flour on my hands and rolled the gomboc around to make a nice ball shape.

Cook the gomboc by dropping them into a pot of boiling water. You don't want to cram them in or they'll stick together. My pot took about 10-12 gomboc at once. Stir once in awhile so that they don't stick to the bottom. My mom - the Ukrainian - notes that gomboc should be cooked like perogies - e.g. left in the boiling water until they float to the top. This will take about 10 mintes.

Remove the gomboc from the pot and drain. When they are cool enough to handle (but still warm), coat thoroughly with the cream of wheat topping. If the gomboc cool too much, the topping won't stick very well.

Done! Time to enjoy. The photos I've seen online of szilvas gomboc always show them on a plate, cut open with the juices oozing out. Prune gomboc won't make the same juices. I don't ever remember using a fork to eat these. These are Hungarian finger food. Keep the prune pits though! You'll want to see who scarfed the most.

This recipe makes about 30 gomboc, and will feed 2-3 people for a meal; or perhaps 6-7 people for dessert.