Mexican Desserts to Satisfy Any Sweet Tooth

Mexican Dessert Menu

 

If you hear “Mexican food,” your thoughts may instantly turn to enchiladas, burritos, guacamole, Pico de Gallo and fajitas. But what comes after those savory, spicy delights?

Something sweet, of course!

The best way to wrap up a delicious Mexican meal is with a classic Mexican dessert. Sweet and decadent, the three tasty desserts listed below never go out of style. What’s even better is they are all easy to make once you know how!

Let’s take a look at these desserts and get busy planning your next adventure in Mexican cooking.

Flan

Flan

Flan

This ancient recipe can be traced all the way back to Rome where chickens were first known to be used just for their eggs. This custard dish was originally a savory meal, but was so versatile that it soon became flavored with other natural ingredients, like honey.

We can see an evolution of flan through the centuries and across borders. Because flan is such a simple dish to make, it became popular with many cultures, each adding their own local special touches. We can see the Spanish influence in the Mexican recipes which are traditionally sweetened with a glaze of caramelized sugar.

When Columbus journeyed to the Americas, he brought with him his love of flan and his recipes. Flan became a classic dessert in Mexican homes. Chickens – and their eggs – were plentiful, making this dessert affordable for all people of any economic status.

This wonderfully elegant, yet simple dessert remains virtually unchanged in Mexican cooking where it is basic custard, molded, then turned over onto a plate. It may have a caramel coating or caramelized sugar coating, and is served either room temperature or cold.

Tres Leches Cake

Tres Leches

Tres Leches

Cake is good, but cake soaked in something delicious is better. Like flan, you can trace this type of cake way back to ancient times. There are soaked cakes on every continent with so many variations that it boggles the mind.

For instance, rum or sherry soaked cakes are very British, while fruit juice soaked cakes are a familiar dessert in tropical regions. Cakes soaked in wine are common in Italy and France. It seems that each version has reasons why the ingredients are what they are. The Mexican version features a sweet spongy cake soaked in three kinds of milk.

This dessert, the Tres Leches Cake, translates to “3 milks” cake. The origin of that term and the recipe itself is still questionable. Some believe the recipe originated with the introduction of condensed and evaporated milk. The three milks included in most recipes for Tres Leches Cake are sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, and heavy cream.

No matter what the origin of the recipe is, the combination of these three rich milks makes one delightful dessert.

You can serve your Tres Leches Cake with a layer of whipped cream sprinkled with cinnamon, topped with fruit, or plain. It’s a nice treat any way you choose.

Empanadas

When you think of an empanada, you could be thinking of many types of foods. As a matter of fact, the word simply means a pastry. That leaves a lot to the imagination, but the basic design is the same for any recipe.

The pastry itself is simple, much like a pie pastry. You form a circle or a square, spoon in the filling, fold, seal and bake or fry. The filling is what makes the dish. In this case, we are making a Mexican dessert so we are going to stick to a sweet filling.

In Mexico, a dessert empanada could contain many fruits and other fillings, but what comes to mind, of course, is bananas along with another Mexican favorite, chocolate. Nuts would add a lot of flavor and texture to this dessert. As with many authentic Mexican recipes, keeping the empanada pastry plain and simple is traditional. If you want to get a little more creative, try using puff pastry instead.

If you are not a fan of making homemade pastry, go ahead and use pre-made pie crusts, frozen empanada discs or other pastry dough. As long as it’s flaky, hot, and sweet, your Mexican empanada dessert will be perfect.

Try your hand at these three desserts the next time you want to treat your family to something deliciously sweet after dinner. These classic Mexican desserts will become family favorites in no time!

 

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Baja Citrus Chicken Bowl

Baja Citrus Chicken Bowl

Here’s a great recipe that will prepare in under 30 minutes. Though you will need to marinate your chicken first for 30 minutes to one hour depending on your intensity for citrus flavors. But once the meat is marinated, as I mention the rest takes under 30 minutes to prepare.

I found a great marinade recipe at She Knows Food & Recipes: Baja Citrus Marinade. The recipe calls for a Mexican beer, but I left that out. The following includes the beer if you wish to prepare the marinade with it.

Baja Citrus Marinade

Place all of the ingredients into a blender and process the mixture until combined. Pour the marinade over the meat of your choice, cover and place in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours prior to cooking ( I marinated the meat  for 1 hour).

You could also opt to replace the orange juice and zest with lime or lemon. I also replaced the canola oil (which is a seed oil and is the cause of inflammation in the body) with avocado oil.
Smoked Turkey, Black Bean, Bell Pepper and Corn Salad Smoked Turkey, Black Bean, Bell Pepper and Corn Salad

Also this is one of my recipes I call –Salads as a Main Meal– as it contains meat.

The recipe I use is one I have -Smoked Turkey Black Bean Bell Pepper and Corn Salad-. I had some chicken breast I used in place of the turkey and I didn’t use the Mint dressing that goes with the smoked turkey salad, as I thought it would clash with the citrus marinaded flavored meat.

I just mix a little balsamic vinegar and avocado oil, with Himalaya salt (contains all trace minerals found in the salt mines) and black pepper.

The following is what you will need to prepare -Baja Citrus Chicken Bowl-. By the way I say Bowl, because I prepared this recipe for the family dinner, but as I went off  to work, I put mine in a bowl.

Baja Citrus Chicken Bowl

2 pounds (about 3) chicken breast, chopped 1-inch squares

1 can (15.5 ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained

1 1/2 cups fresh corn kernels

1 cup cherry orange tomatoes, halved

1 cup diced bell peppers (any colors)

1/2 cup finely chopped red onion

3 cups arugula greens

 

Marinate chopped chicken for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Then cook in heated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes or until chicken is 165 degrees internal meat temperature.

In the bottom  of a large salad bowl add add desired amounts of olive or avocado oil, balsamic vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste. Next add chicken, beans, corn, tomatoes, bell peppers, onion, and mix well with wet ingredients.

Place one to two hand fulls of arugula greens on a large salad plate and top with the meat mixture. Sever and enjoy!!

 

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Traditional Mexican Sopes

Traditional Mexican sope header

The traditional sope is a recipe from Mexico. Through out Mexico (depending on the reign) sopes are prepared, using local ingredients and adding salsas and toppings, resulting in great regional variety.

The distinctive characteristic of the sope is the pinched sides. Though there are also flat sopes resembling a thick tortilla or a tostada. The most common variation of the sope involves simply adding meat, the most common being chicken and is known as the  “sope de pollo”. In the northern regions of Mexico, sopes are often prepared without vegetables, and substituting meat for black beans.

Here is our version of the Traditional Mexican Sope and what you will need:

For the base you will need

1 cup all-purpose unbleached flour

2 cup masa (corn) flour (you can find this in the Latin section of your market or a local Latin Market)

1 cup warm water

kneading flour, corn masa and water together

Place flour and masa in large bowl, and mix together. Make a well in center of flour mix and gradually add water, kneading until smooth.

Form dough into small balls

Form dough into 16 small balls.

mexican tortilla press

With a Mexican tortilla press, place one ball of dough at a time between two pieces of waxed paper and press into 3-inch round patty. If you don’t have a press, use a pie pin roller, placing one ball of dough at a time between two pieces of waxed paper, rolling pie pin over ball into a 3-inch round patty.

cooking sopes in avocado oil

Next, add oil to a large skillet over medium-high and heat for 1 to 2 minutes. Cook patties for 3 minutes on each side or until golden brown, adding additional oil as needed to prevent sticking.

pinching sides of sopes

Allow sopes to cool for 2 to 3 minutes. Next place fingers of both hands on patty, with fingers on the patty and the thumbs on the edge. With a circular motion, pinch the edges of the patty up ¼ inch.

 

Now for the toppings:

1 (16-ounce) can black beans, warmed

1/8 cup avocado oil

8 oz. mild salsa

2 cups shredded green lettuce or dark greens

2 medium tomatoes, diced

1 medium avocado, peeled and sliced

1 cup sour cream

1 cup crumbled Mexican Cotija cheese

smashing black beans

Place black beans in a heated medium skillet. Heat beans thoroughly. Place heated beans into a large bowl and while hot smash beans with a potato smasher or equivalent.

traditional topping for Mexican Sopes

Prepare the other toppings according to ingredient, amount and preparation above. The image shows a bowl of radishes. I just love to eat radishes with my Mexican meals. when I lived in Mexico, I always bought hand tacos at local taco stands. While you were waiting you could munch on prepared vegetables they had sitting out, and radishes was one of them.

Top each sope  first with black beans

Now, top each sope with black beans.

Traditional Mexican Sopes

Add the other toppings in this order: lettuce, sour cream, tomatoes, salsa, Cotija, avocado slice, and more salsa if desired.  ! Buen Provecho! That’s Spanish for Enjoy!

 

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Watermelon Goat Cheese Salad

Watermelon Goat Cheese Salad

 

We went shopping for some fruits and vegetables and I found a good watermelon. The batch of melons we were examining were from Mexico. The watermelons were all little girl enjoying a sweet watermelonthe same weight and the same shape. If your asking how is that possible, it is because we bought it at Cost Co. All of the fruits and vegetables they stock have to be to their standards, that is shape, size, and weight. Especially if the produce is sold in singles, like watermelons. As they have no scales to weigh the produce, they need to be the same weight.

With that said, you may think that every watermelon in the bunch is equally as ripe and sweet. But not so. How is one able to choose the right melon?

I found this image on-line that is self explanatory. It shows how you can select the right melon, so when you cut it up and take your first bit, you won’t be dissatisfied with a non-sweet, pithy watermelon.

choosing a rip watermelon

Once you have your rip, sweet watermelon, you need to try this wonderful salad: Watermelon Goat Cheese Salad.

Here is what you will need:

chopped watermelon

Wow, doesn’t that melon look rip and juicy. You need  1 ripe and sweet watermelon, cubed at desired size, 5-7 pieces per salad plate. You will use between 1/4 and 1/2 of the melon. It all depends on how many plates you will be serving.

ingredients both for the Watermelon Goat Cheese Salad and the vinaigrette

In addition you will need:

1 shaved fennel bulb set in ice water to crisp

1/8 cup toasted hazelnuts, broken into small pieces

1 oz. goat cheese, crumbled into small pieces

1 cup Tender Greens lettuce mix (variety of lettuce and greens)

1/2 shallot, minced

The shallot will be used in the Balsamic Honey Vinaigrette.

ingredients for Balsamic Honey Vinaigrette

Along with the shallots you will need the following to make the Balsamic Honey Vinaigrette to mix with the leafy greens:

5 chive stems, finely chopped

3 basil leaves, finely sliced (I forgot to mark that on the image. That is what is in the jar in the back ground)

1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon honey

¼ cup balsamic vinegar

¾ cup olive oil

 Balsamic Honey Vinaigrette

 

Whisk together shallots, chives, basil, honey and balsamic; slowly add olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

preparing hazel nuts, and anise for the Watermelon Goat Cheese Salad

 

Next remove the green top from the fennel and shave the bulb allowing the shaved parts to fall into a pie plate full of  ice water to crisp the shavings. What ever method you want to use, chop the hazel nuts. I have a Progress-o Chopper in among my kitchen arsenal.

 

mixing salad, adding vinaigrette

 

In a large bowl gently toss tender greens, crisp fennel, toasted hazelnut, add some salt and pepper to taste. Next add 2 tbsp. of the vinaigrette together with the leafy greens and incorporate well.

Watermelon Goat Cheese Salad

 

Plate the leafy greens mixture. Place cubed watermelon on salad mix, about 5 to 7 cubed pieces. Crumble goat cheese on top. Finish with drizzled vinaigrette around salad.

If you desire to add meat to this salad, cook up 12 to 16 oz. of pork bacon; but not crispy. Cut each strip into 5 or 6 slices. Top the bacon after adding watermelon and then top with goat cheese.

Take this salad to your next Pot Luck or Summer Picnic in the Park and nobody will stop talking about the person who brought that tasty and delectable salad.

This recipe adopted from: Tender Greens 

 

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Spiced Apple Cream Cheese Coffee Cake

Spiced Apple Cream Cheese Coffee Cake

An apple a day keeps the doctor away. We all know that statement. But do we understand why it was coined or when it was coined?  History.com says it was first coined at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair by Missouri fruit specialist J.T. Stinson. But there is also the earliest known written use of the phrase, in a magazine edition called  Notes and Queries, printed and distributed in Whales around 1866. As to this fraise it is written, “A Pembroke shire proverb. Eat an apple on going to bed, And you’ll keep the doctor from earning his bread.”

In 1866 or 1904 they may have not known the reason why apples where healthy for you, they just knew they where. But in the 21st century we do.

Apples have flavonoids quercetin, epicatechin, procyanidin (B-2), and additionally, they are also good in tartaric acid. Together, these compounds help the body protect itself from the debilitating effects of free radicals.

The apple is also a good source of B-complex vitamins such as riboflavin, thiamin, and pyridoxine (vitamin B-6). Together these vitamins help as co-factors for enzymes in metabolism as well as in various synthetic functions inside the body.

The fruit also contains a small amount of minerals like potassium, phosphorus, and calcium. Potassium is important to cell and body fluids, as it  helps control heart rate and blood pressure, and in turn counter acts the negative influence of sodium.

Now for our featured dessert. Here is what you will need:

lineing with parchment paper a 8 inch sprin form pan

First preheat your oven to 350°F and line the bottom of a 8-inch round spring form pan with parchment paper. Then lightly grease the rounded sides with your choice of butter, avocado oil, or coconut oil. Coconut oil is neutral in flavor and will never add additional flavor to your cooked or baked goods. Be sure to cut off any excess parchment paper.

Topping for Spiced Apple Cream Cheese Coffee Cake

For the topping:
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
3 whole cloves
1 ¼ lbs. tart apples, such as Granny Smith, cored, peeled and chopped into 1/3-inch cubes
2 tbsp. sugar
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg

First  peel, core and chop apples into 1/3-inch cubes. Mix together apples, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg in a medium bowl. Make sure apples are well coated with the sugar mix. Heat butter in a large non-stick frying pan (even better if you have a ceramic coated pan) over medium heat until the foam subsides. Add whole cloves so they infuse the butter and then add the apple mixture.

butter infused with clove. Cooking coated apples in infused butter.

Toss apples about until they just begin to soften, but not mushy, about 3-5 minutes. Transfer apples back to the bowl, discard cloves and set aside to cool completely while you prepare the rest of the cake.

Cheese cake batter for Spiced Apple Cream Cheese Coffee Cake

For the cheesecake:
1 8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
¼ cup granulated sugar
½ tsp. pure vanilla extract
¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. each freshly grated nutmeg and ground clove
1 large egg yolk
1 tsp. flour

In a medium bowl and a hand mixer, beat cream cheese until smooth and creamy. Add sugar and vanilla extract and beat on medium speed until smooth and the sugar is mostly dissolved, about 40 seconds. Beat in the cinnamon, nutmeg and clove until combined. Add egg yolk and flour and beat just until incorporated and batter is smooth. Set this aside while you make the cake batter.

Here is what you will need:

For the cake:
1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. ground cardamom
¼ tsp. salt
6 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 large egg
½ cup evaporated milk

In a small bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cardamom and salt. In another medium bowl, beat butter with both sugars until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in vanilla until combined. Add egg and beat until well incorporated and batter is fluffy, about 30 seconds. Add one-third of the flour mixture and beat on low speed until mostly combined. Beat in half of the evaporated milk until blended. Repeat this step by adding half the remaining flour mixture followed by the last of the milk, beating no more than 15 seconds between additions. After the last bit of milk has been added, beat on medium speed for 3-5 seconds to just make sure the batter is smooth. Fold in the last of the flour mixture by hand using a rubber spatula until evenly combined.

Scrape batter into prepared pan and spread it out evenly. Spread cream cheese mixture over the cake batter. Gently spoon cooled apples over the batter in an even layer.

prepared Apple Spice Cake to cook

Bake cake until the cake wobbles ever so slightly in the middle, 45-50 minutes. Transfer pan to wire rack and let cool completely. Plate and serve.

Spiced Apple Cream Cheese Coffee Cake

Spiced Apple Cream Cheese Coffee Cake

For the cake:
1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. ground cardamom
¼ tsp. salt
6 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 large egg
½ cup evaporated milk

For the cheesecake:
1 8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
¼ cup granulated sugar
½ tsp. pure vanilla extract
¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. each freshly grated nutmeg and ground clove
1 large egg yolk
1 tsp. flour

For the topping:
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
3 whole cloves
1 ¼ lbs. tart apples, such as Granny Smith, cored, peeled and chopped into 1/3-inch cubes
2 tbsp. sugar
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 325°F.

Lightly grease an 8-inch round spring form pan with butter and line the bottom with a round of parchment paper.

To make the topping, fold together apples, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg in a medium bowl. Heat butter in a large non-stick frying pan over medium heat until the foam subsides. Add whole cloves so they infuse the butter and then add the apple mixture. Toss until they just begin to soften, but not until they’re mushy, about 3-5 minutes. Transfer apples back to the bowl, discard cloves and set aside to cool completely while you prepare the rest of the cake.

To make the cheesecake batter, beat cream cheese in a medium bowl until smooth and creamy. Add sugar and vanilla extract and beat on medium speed until smooth and the sugar is mostly dissolved, about 40 seconds. Beat in the cinnamon, nutmeg and clove until combined. Add egg yolk and flour and beat just until incorporated and batter is smooth. Set this aside while you make the cake batter.

In a small bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cardamom and salt. In another medium bowl, beat butter with both sugars until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in vanilla until combined. Add egg and beat until well incorporated and batter is fluffy, about 30 seconds. Add one-third of the flour mixture and beat on low speed until mostly combined. Beat in half of the evaporated milk until blended. Repeat this step by adding half the remaining flour mixture followed by the last of the milk, beating no more than 15 seconds between additions. After the last bit of milk has been added, beat on medium speed for 3-5 seconds to just make sure the batter is smooth. Fold in the last of the flour mixture by hand using a rubber spatula until evenly combined.

Scrape batter into prepared pan and spread it out evenly. Spread cream cheese mixture over the cake batter. Gently spoon cooled apples over the batter in an even layer. Put cake into oven and bake until the cake wobbles ever so slightly in the middle, 45-50 minutes. Transfer pan to wire rack and let cool completely.

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What is Kitchen Gardening?

This is the seventh post on Vegetable Gardening with guest speaker Judith Sorg. If you missed the first six posts please link here to read.

Now for – What is Kitchen Gardening? – with Judith Sorg.

Have you ever wondered exactly what a “kitchen garden” is or how it differs from a regular vegetable garden?

For starters, a kitchen garden or potager (pronounced puh-ta-zhay), is a special kind of edible garden with a rich history tracing back to old English and French culinary gardens.

Much like a traditional vegetable garden, a kitchen garden is a chef’s delight filled with delicious fruits, vegetables, herbs and edible flowers. In short, a kitchen garden is a celebration of fresh ingredients and delicious home cooked meals.

Both kitchen and traditional gardens offer a sense of satisfaction coupled with tangible rewards for a job well done. Beyond these similarities, there are some distinct differences between the two, however.

Picking tomatoes from a Kitchen Garden

Picking tomatoes from a Kitchen Garden

1. Convenience. One of the main characteristics of a kitchen garden is accessibility. It should be easy to grab the items you need to your prepare your daily meals. Therefore, a potager should be located as close to your food preparation area as possible.

Imagine you are in the middle of preparing dinner when you suddenly realize “this marinade could use a little more rosemary.” Rather than trek out to your main vegetable garden while you have pots simmering on the stove, wouldn’t you rather be able to reach right outside your door to snip a couple sprigs?

With a kitchen garden, the easier it is to grab what you need while you are cooking, the better.

2. Size. Kitchen gardens are usually smaller than traditional gardens because they are situated so close to the house. This isn’t always the case, of course, but having a culinary garden close enough to offer easy access while you are cooking may limit the amount of space available.

If you only have limited space available to plant a kitchen garden, here is a good rule of thumb to consider: A regular vegetable garden is about planning for the future, while a kitchen garden is about enjoying today. Therefore, the fruits and vegetables you plan to preserve for future use – or crops, such as corn, that take up a lot of space – are good choices for a traditional vegetable garden where space is at less of a premium.

Instead, kitchen gardens are normally filled with the items you prepare and eat while fresh. Therefore, containers of fresh herbs, compact cherry tomato plants, or an assortment of leaf lettuce varieties all make great additions to a potager.  If you lack the space for a traditional garden, a small kitchen garden can keep you in fresh, delicious produce all season long.

3. Beauty. While a standard vegetable garden is all about utility and production, part of the charm of a kitchen garden comes from its ornamental aspect. Due to its proximity to the house, a kitchen garden is harder to tuck out of sight than a traditional garden. Therefore, they are often designed to add a sense of beauty to your home, as well.

Some herbs, such as lemon thyme, can be used to create a beautiful and fragrant border around plants and containers. Edible flowers, such as violas and daylilies, can be incorporated to add a splash of color. Compact blueberry shrubs are also highly ornamental and make a wonderful, yet functional border.

potted herbsAs you can see, a kitchen garden offers both convenience and beauty in a compact space. The best part is it doesn’t take much to get started. All you need is a couple large pots, some fresh herbs, your favorite compact tomato plant and lettuce varieties and you’ll be on your way!

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Caring for Your Flower Garden

Tiny white flowers against the trunk of a cherry tree

Knowing how to care for your flower garden can make a big difference in the look and over-all health of your plants. Here are some simple hints to make your garden bloom with health.

1. The essentials must always be given major consideration

Your flower garden must have an adequate supply of water, sunlight, and fertile soil. Any lack of these basic necessities will greatly affect the health of plants. Water the flower garden more frequently during dry spells.

Blooming Tulips When planting bulbs, make sure they go at the correct depth. When planting shrubs and perennials, make sure that you don’t heap soil or mulch up around the base of the plant, 2 to 3 inches is sufficient.

Water well, but avoid standing water as this could damage the shrub or perennial. Standing water around the base of trees and shrubs will rot the trunk.

2. Mix and match perennials with annuals

Perennial flower bulbs need not to be replanted since they grow and bloom for several years while annuals grow and bloom for only one season. Mixing a few perennials with annuals ensures that you will always have blooming flowers in your garden.

3. Deadhead to encourage more blossoms

Deadheading is simply snipping off the flower head after it wilts. This will help the plant produce more flowers. Leaving the wilted flowers on the plant will cause the plant to produce seeds over more flowers.

Don’t discard dead debris on the garden floor during growing season or mildew and other plant disease will attack your plants.

4. Know the good from the bad bugs

A butterfly pollinating a Butterfly BushMost garden insects do more good than harm. Butterflies, beetles and bees are known pollinators. They fertilize plants through unintentional transfer of pollen from one plant to another. 80% of flowering plants rely on insects for survival.

Sow bugs and dung beetles together with fungi, bacteria and other microorganisms are necessary to help in the decomposition of dead plant material, thus enriching the soil and making more nutrients available to growing plants.

Other insects like lacewings and dragonflies are natural predators of those insects that do the real damage, like aphis.

An occasional application of liquid fertilizer when plants are flowering will keep them blooming for longer. Organic fertilizers are the best to use, and better for the environment.

5. Some Pruning Tips

potted hanging FuchsiasAlways prune any dead or damaged branches. Fuchsias are particularly prone to snapping when you brush against them. The broken branch can be potted to give you a new plant, so it won’t be wasted.

Blooming Forsythia Blooming Lilac Prune Lilacs and Forsythias after the flowers bloom and fade. Flowers bloom from new growth, and pruning in early Spring will only remove the growth that is prepared to produce buds for flowering.

All the images in this article are just a few from the authors garden from over the past flowering seasons from 2008 till 2013. If you have any questions about flower gardening, leave it in the comment section and I will respond as soon as be possible.

 

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3 Must Know Vegetable Gardening Tips

Meet Guest Blogger: Judith Sorg on Vegetable Gardening

young woman harvesting tomatoesI enjoy gardening so much and I am glad to have been invited to talk on this subject. There are few things in life compare to the simple pleasure of biting into a freshly picked tomato while it is still warm from the summer sun. When you grow your own vegetable garden, you can experience this little piece of heaven all season long.

However, as I have found from my own experience growing an abundant supply of fresh vegetables year after year takes some practice. For most people, becoming a consistently successful vegetable gardener comes after years of hands-on experience. You can however lessen your own learning curve by adopting some tried-and-true vegetable gardening tips that I use.

Here are 3 Vegetable Gardening Tips I have that I want to pass onto you:

Tip #1: Amend Your Soil: Few gardeners are blessed with an abundant supply of beautiful, rich topsoil. Depending on where you live, you may find yourself struggling with heavy clay, rocky, sandy or other less-than-ideal soil conditions.

amending the soilEach of these soil types presents different challenges ranging from retaining too much water (or not enough) to being devoid of the essential nutrients plants need to survive and thrive. For example, if you have heavy clay soil and you just dig a hole in the ground and drop a plant into it, chances are good that plant won’t make it. The heavy clay around your plant will act like a bathtub whenever it rains, which means your plant will be forced to sit in a pool of water with nowhere to drain.

So your first step will be to identify the type of soil you have so you can take the appropriate steps to amend it. Once you know what you are dealing with, you’ll be able to determine which specific amendments are needed to amend your type of soil.

I recommend you take a cup full of soil to your local nursery, so they can let you know what type of soil you have and what to do to amend it.

Tip #2: Grow UP: Whenever possible, make sure you take advantage of vertical space in your garden by utilizing fences, trellises, and other structures to keep your plants off the ground.

There are many advantages to growing your vegetables vertically. For starters, you can grow more food in a smaller area, which is great for urban gardens or those with limited growing space. Plus, growing vegetables on structural supports makes harvesting and weeding around your plants a lot easier. This is especially true for older individuals such as myself and for those with other physical restrictions because less bending and stretching is required to perform these tasks.

Growing vertically benefits your vegetable plants, too.  Raising the plants off the ground leads to better air circulation around them, which is associated with fewer fungal infections and pest infestations.

Tip #3: Give Your Plants Some Friends: Companion planting is a smart way to increase the yield of your vegetable garden.  Learning which plants work well together is an important step towards maximizing the efficiency of your vegetable garden.

Some plants are particularly beneficial to one another, so it makes sense to group these plants together in your garden. These beneficial plant combinations may add needed nutrients to the soil, deter unwanted pests or attract beneficial insects into your garden.

You may have heard how Native Americans planted “the three sisters” – maize (corn), beans and squash – together because each plant benefited the others in some way.  For example, the corn stalks provided structure for the beans to grow upon, while the squash provided an effective weed barrier as it spread out along the ground.

Vegetable gardening is an acquired skill that evolves over time. However, applying these 3 must know vegetable gardening tips will lessen your learning curve significantly. 

Next post is March. 13, 2014 the theme will be:  Deciding When to Plant Vegetables in Your Area

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Baked Sweet and Spicy Pork Ribs

Plated Baked Sweet and Spicy Pork Ribs

1/8 tsp. smoked paprika

1/8 tsp. smoked chipotle

½ tsp. black pepper, ground

¼ tsp. onion powder

¼ tsp. garlic powder

3 tbsp. brown sugar, heaping spoons

½ cup tomato sauce

3 lbs. pork ribs

Pre-heat oven 350 degrees

In a small bowl mix the first 5 ingredients well. Add brown sugar, mix in till well incorporated. Next, add tomato sauce, stir till well mixed.

Remove pork ribs from package and lay on to a baking sheet. Brush sweet and spicy mix onto meat until well coated.

Baked Sweet and Spicy Pork RibsPlace in heated oven and cook for 30 to 40 minutes or until meat is no longer pink (meat should reach 165 degrees internal temperature). Remove place meat onto a serving platter and serve.

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Slow Cooking, is it Safe?

crock-pot and recipe book

In early times past, food stuff such as roots, vegetables and meats were wrapped in leaves and placed on warm or hot rocks that made a ring around a fire. The wrapped food was left there for a long period of time. Early cooks discovered that cooking this way tenderized tough plants and meats, and released more flavor into the food. This concept or type of cooking was carried over into  pot-based cooking over fires and eventually to stoves.

This tradition of slow cooking was first commercialized by the Naxon Corporation with its electric slow cooker intended only for beans. Rival Corporation bought Naxon in 1971. Rival redesigned the slow cooker and branded the bean cooker as the crockpot. The original crockpot’s stoneware liner wasn’t removable. Than In 1974 the product was redesigned with a removable liner, for easy cleaning. Aside from cosmetic changes and the addition of larger sizes, crockpots remained virtually unchanged until the introduction of a programmable crockpot in 2001.

Some disadvantages to crockpot cooking are: vitamins and nutrients are lost because of enzyme action during cooking. Raw beans must be boiled before cooking to remove an enzyme that can cause food poisoning. Canned beans do not require boiling, as they are boiled in the canning process.

A slow cooker is certainly convenient, but if not used correctly there is the potential for food-safety hazards. Temperatures between 40° and 140°F fall into the so-called “Danger Zone,” since bacteria thrive in these temperatures. When using a slow cooker be sure to take precautions that keep food from being in the Danger Zone for too long. To avoid the Danger Zone, never add frozen ingredients to your cooker, refrigerate any ingredients you’ve prepped ahead in separate storage containers and bring liquids to a simmer if you’re cooking on Low before adding them to your cooker to give the heating process a jump-start. Never attempt to cook a whole chicken or roast in your slow cooker: large hunks of meat won’t cook thoroughly enough in the slow cooker. So when cooking with meat, make sure it’s cut into smaller pieces that will cook throughout.

The US Food and Drug Administration state that bacteria grow the fastest between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Depending on the meat, it needs to be cooked to a minimum of 145 degrees Fahrenheit to kill most bacteria (poultry should be cooked to 165 degrees Fahrenheit and ground meat to 160 degrees Fahrenheit). Even if your food is eventually cooked to the proper temperature, if it stays too long in the 40-140 range, it will house much more bacteria than if cooked properly.

When possible, preheat the Crock-Pot before you add the food. This process will ensure the food is not kept at a temperature that allows bacteria to grow rapidly. In addition to preheating, setting the temperature to a high setting for the first hour before switching to the low setting will help to ensure the food reaches the correct, safe eating temperature.

It is recommended to never use a crockpot to reheat already cooked foods, but have been stored in the refrigerator. Also it is worthy to note, that crockpots bought with in the last 5 to 6 years do cook faster than the older models. Therefore, not leaving the raw foods to long in the temperature danger zone (40 and 140 degrees).

 

 

This was received in an e-mail from my former place of employment:

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Sources of information: 7 Tricks for Better Slow-Cooking in Your Crock Pot    Safety Tips Regarding Crock-Pots    Crockpot History

 

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