Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Rosy Peach Ice Cream

With 17 homegrown peaches ready to use from my dwarf peach tree and relief needed from Oklahoma summer heat, peach ice cream was in order. The tree is a Belle of Georgia purchased at Home Depot last year.

Here it is in a side-by-side shot to show the size difference of the tree: after I planted it last year is on the right and this year is on the left. It was difficult to get an accurate comparison photo, with cucumber vines all over the trunk, but the growth of that little tree is amazing.

When the peaches reached that gorgeous rosy peach color but still weren't soft, I picked them (fear of birds!) and put them into a paper sack to finish ripening. I left them in the sack a day or two too long, because when I peeled them they were very soft, and the insides were almost red, with crimson juice rolling down my wrists and onto the counter as I peeled them. This juice made for a beautifully tinted ice cream.

With Greek yogurt in addition to milk and cream, the flavor reminded me of my favorite frozen yogurt from Berri Licious, a local organic live culture frozen yogurt parlor.

Rosy Peach Ice Cream

1-1/2 lbs ripe peaches, peeled, pitted and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup water
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1/2 cup half and half
1/2 cup milk
tiny pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine peaches and water  in medium saucepan. Cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until peaches are soft and cooked through, about 10 minutes. Remove pan from heat; mix in sugar and set aside to cool to room temperature.

Add peach mixture to food processor with remaining ingredients and process briefly. Chill in refrigerator, then transfer to ice cream maker and freeze.
Ice cream was "posed" in a depression era amethyst Newport Hairpin cream soup bowl by Hazel Atlas, circa 1930s.

I linked up to Roz's Fresh Food Friday.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Fresh Peach Summer Salad With Sauteed Vegetables

There is a deep sense of satisfaction that comes from eating produce from one's own garden that fulfills like nothing else. In spite of the excessive heat and convection oven-like environment, which discourages bees, my organic garden is still yielding herbs and cucumbers, a few peppers, peaches (I picked 17 from my 2-year old tree!), and one squash; and several cantaloupes and a couple of golf ball-sized watermelons are lurking under masses of vines. I also pulled about 25 onions last month. I long for tomatoes, but at this point I will have to wait for cooler temperatures for the blossoms to set. Each treasure I find is welcomed with a feeling of wonder and thankfulness!

Here is a salad that I composed recently using ingredients freshly picked from my garden. The lettuce, tomatoes, olives, cheese, and dressing were store-bought. What took this salad over the top in flavor was the addition of a fresh peach and sauteed vegetables. The combination of ingredients still has me salivating just thinking about it - the sweet and juicy bites of peach, the tang of the green olives and Italian dressing, the light crunch of yellow squash, the delicious heat of the peppers, and the cool and mellow tang of Manchego - it was the best salad ever!

Fresh Peach Summer Salad With Sauteed Vegetables
Serves 1 generously

Organic herb and spring lettuce mix - 2 generous handfuls
1/2 cup chopped fresh cucumber
1 chopped fresh peach
4 green olives
6 red cherry tomatoes
1 small onion
1 straight-neck yellow squash
2 small hot red peppers
1/4 cup cubed Manchego cheese
Ken's Light Northern Italian dressing to taste

Place first 5 ingredients in large bowl. Saute onion, squash, and peppers in about 2 teaspoons of olive oil; cool the mixture about 5 minutes, then add it to salad. Top with cheese and dressing, and toss to combine.

The salad honestly does not need much dressing - the vegetables speak magnificently for themselves! To make this memorable meal even more special, I served this to myself in an old glass bowl in which my Mom used to serve her famous Jello salads.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Yard Crashers Update

Here are a few photos for an updated look at our back yard, now that our pool is a whopping two summers old.

We could not be more pleased with our blue gem, especially during this brutal summer of 100-plus temperatures and little or no rain. We added a pebble border on one side, because grass kept getting into the pool when my husband weed-eated, and we changed the original "Creepy-Crawly" pool cleaner for The Pool Cleaner.

The pergola has provided much-needed shade and is becoming a popular bird sanctuary. The wisteria I planted last year still hasn't bloomed, but it is growing bushy and beautiful.

The firepit has not been used a lot, but when our grandkids are here, they love to roast marshmallows for s'mores.

Buddy inspects our crape myrtles, most of which survived the winter; we hope their red and white blooms will eventually fill this mulched area.

Although grass between the flagstones is a great natural look, it is a pain for my husband to weed-eat, and it looks puny during the summer heat, so he is contemplating digging it all up and grouting between the pieces.

We have a great view from our deck and feel lucky to have a bit of privacy, as we are separated from the back neighbors by a right-of-way.

Our patio garden is thriving in spite of the heat.

A flagstone path leads to my vegetable/flower garden on the south side of the house.

Here is the "before" version of my garden.

And here it is today.

I widened and lengthened the garden and have been granted permission by the Surveyor of the Kingdom (hubby) to use all the space I want on this side of the house.

Sadly, even though my garden looks beautiful, it produces lots of vines and little or no vegetables in this oven-like atmosphere.

However, my two year-old peach tree has a dozen or so peaches, so my eternal gardener's optimism remains intact.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Toffee Bar Search Is Over!

The search is over for the elusive toffee bars of my husband's youth. After trying several excellent recipes and having him say, "These are good but not THE ones", I finally came across his Mom's recipe in a cookbook published by our high school band in the 1960s.

His remembrance of the recipe was that it was topped with chocolate, which is not included in the original recipe. When I asked him if the chocolate topping was a variation, he said it was his contribution to the recipe - lol!

His Mom's recipe is titled "Pecan Crisps" and no chocolate is necessary for these softly crunchy, praline-ish bars. The toffee-like consistency is achieved by adding no leavening and spreading the batter into a large pan. And even though there is a teaspoon of cinnamon, the bars do not taste spicy.

I am so excited to find this recipe and spent the morning thumbing through this and other old cookbooks from my hometown. With all my love of new cookbooks and bookmarking scores of recipes on the internet, my favorites are still from my old, shabby, full-of-memories community cookbooks and those hand-written recipes lovingly shared on recipe cards, notebook paper, or any scrap of paper the writer found convenient.

Pecan Crisps
From my Mother-in-Law

1 cup soft butter
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg, separated
2 cups sifted flour
½ teaspoon salt (I left this out because I used salted butter)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup finely chopped pecans

Cream butter and sugar until light. Beat in vanilla and egg yolk. Add sifted dry ingredients and 1/2 cup of the pecans. Mix well. Press into greased 15 X 10 X 1 pan and brush top with slightly beaten egg white. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup pecans. Bake in moderate oven (350) about 25 minutes. While warm, cut into 50 bars and remove at once to rack to cool. (I cut mine into larger bars.)