Plum Torte

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These are golden with a tinge of green; perfect for tortes but too tart to dry.

I dream not in sugar plums but in Italian prune and this year my dreams are all coming true; the neighbor’s tree is bursting with succulent blue fruit.  I harvest the plums in succession for each recipe tastes best with a different level of tartness.

First up are the wonderful New York Times Plum Tortes. Over the years I have modified the recipe a bit and here is my version:

Plum Torte


  • 3/4 cup regular or brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup unbleached white or wheat flour, (if wheat is used it will raise less, you can also do a blend of flours)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • If unsalted butter is used add in a pinch of salt
  • 2 eggs
  • Enough halved and pitted plums to cover top of torte
  • Sugar and cinnamon to sprinkle on top
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I use my food processor to make the batter.

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Cream sugar and butter in a bowl. Add flour, baking powder, salt and eggs, and beat well.

3. Put the batter in a pan.  (I like to give these as gifts or make them ahead for potlucks so often used disposable aluminum pans.)  Place the plum halves skin side up on top of the batter. Sprinkle lightly with sugar and cinnamon to taste.

4. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes. Remove and cool; refrigerate or freeze.

These tortes freeze beautifully but need to be cooled then well wrapped in foil.

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Ready for baking.

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All set!


A Late Summer Dinner

Last night I went out into the garden and was amazed at how much was ready to pick.  I know people here in Seattle have not been thrilled with this year’s hot summer but it has done wonders for tomatoes, squash and other warm season crops.

With a basket full of squash, beans, herbs and tomatoes it was time to get to work!

First on the menu was homemade noodles.

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Noodles with EVO, fresh tomatoes and tangy parmesan cheese.

Next I roasted crook necked squash with olive oil, sea salt and curry powder.  Just slice, toss with ingredients and cook in a 400 degree oven for about 15 minutes, (depends on size of slices).

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Curried squash with an oregano garnish.

I lightly steamed the beans then sliced them up with the remaining tomatoes and tossed them with a spicy vinaigrette.

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A zingy fresh salad.

Dessert was a fresh fruit tart made with a super quick and easy recipe.

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Ok, the kiwi is not from my garden.

Amish Country

My daughter chose College of Wooster for the great academics and international opportunities.  I was thrilled with her decision because it’s in the heart of Amish country!  On a recent visit I had a chance to do a short tour through the surrounding area.

Sadly at the same time news was breaking of the abduction of two young Amish girls from their farmstand in upstate New York.  The girls were found and are more or less safe but it has brought national attention to the intersection of Amish with non-Amish cultures.  Here is one of the articles from the New York Times.

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Farm buildings are usually white or red.

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Lunch time

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Corn and soybeans are the most common crops I saw growing.

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Wayne County is the heart of Amish Country

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Milk cows

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Buggies are very common.

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Many Amish make their own clothes according to the rules of their group.

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Making jam at the Yoder House.

Mishler Weaving Mill

Where is one of the the last mills still weaving cheese cloth, dish towels and rag rugs in a traditional manner?  On a trip to Wooster, Ohio to bring my daughter to school I found out; it’s the Mishler Mill in Smithville.

In 1882 the Mishler family emigrated to Ohio from Switzerland and established a small business to weave rugs for local residents.  It soon expanded to encompass other useful items and at one time was the main source of cheesecloth for making Swiss cheese.

Now the mill is run by the historical society and a dedicated group of volunteers.  There is a small gift shop where products can be purchased at great prices.

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Here’s the start of a beautiful rag rug. I can feel a new craft coming on….

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Here’s a more traditional looking dish cloth pattern.

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This is too pretty to be used to wipe dishes!

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Making a table runner.



Peach Jam with Pomona Pectin

Friends have been telling me about the virtues of Pomona Pectin for quite a while. I recently got some from PCC, and now I’m hooked. Because it doesn’t require sugar to jell, you can easily vary the amount of sugar you use or you can use a different sweetener all together; the result is a fruitier, fresher jam which is quite nice.

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Pomona Pectin

You can get sweet peaches now from the farmers’ market. If you are going to can with farmers’ market produce, always ask to see if they have any produce they have set aside as too blemished to sell. You can often get really good deals this way, and as long as the produce is not spoiled it cans up beautifully for a fraction of the usual price.

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Millions of peaches!

First wash the peaches. Then to make them easy to peel, put them in boiling water for a couple of minutes then in cold water until the fruit is cool to the touch. The peels should slide right off.

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Transforming into jam.

Next mash them or pulse them in a food processor. For jam you want pieces of fruit so don’t puree them. Put the peaches in a pot with lemon juice and calcium water. Once the mixture comes to a boil, add in the pectin and sugar and bring back to a boil and cook for one to two minutes.

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A little extra zip.

I like to add in some flavoring or spices but you need to be careful not to overpower the fruit. Spices can also intensify over time so it’s better to use less to begin with until you get an idea how much tastes good to you.

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Clean jars

Carefully pour the hot jam into sterile jars, do a boiling water bath for 10 minutes, and you’re good to go.

Dried Apples

The apples on my front parking strip are starting to fall and people are asking if I am going to pick them or can they have them.  It’s time to do something with those apples!  Over the years I have made apple sauce, apple butter, apple pie filling and several other types of apple based products.  The thing that my family likes the most are dried apples.  These can be added to morning oatmeal, put in cookies and muffins or just grabbed as a quick snack.  What I like about going the dried apple route is that they are quick and easy to make.

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First pick your apples. It’s ok if they have blemishes or worm holes. You can cut these out.

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I like to use this apple peeler and slicer. It really cuts down on time and is great fun to use.

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Here is what the apple looks like fresh from the machine.

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Lay the slices out on your dehydrator racks and fire them up.

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Here are the dried slices. It takes about 5 hours for thin slices, more for thick ones. You want them dry but not hard and brittle. Once they are dried put them in Tupperware or mason jars.




Wild Blueberries are Ripe

I went on a hike today in the South Cascade Range Alpine Lakes Wilderness area and everywhere I looked were more blueberries than I have ever seen before.  Yippee!!!  Wild blueberries and huckleberries are a bit more tart than their domesticated cousins but they are packed with flavor and have been dubbed “nature’s anti-oxidant super fruit“.

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Wild blueberries

From the Washington Trails Association here are some great places to find these berries.  The Wild Harvest blog has a great summary on rules on wild foraging; some areas require a permit and others do not.  As always be absolutely sure that you are picking and eating something edible.  If you are not familiar with the plants in the area then the best thing is to go with someone who really know what they are doing.  There are also a lot of great books on the subject but the safest way is harvesting with an expert.

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Here’s my yogurt with fresh berries.

You can use wild berries in all of your favorite blueberry recipes but just in case you want something that really calls for these treats, here’s a recipe for wild blueberry pie.

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Berries and great views that can’t be beat!

Blueberry Pie

First find a glorious hike and head for the hills.  Next gather your ingredients:

  • 5 cups fresh wild blueberries
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • Pie crust
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons butter


Wash berries,  and stir with flour and sugar. Sprinkle with lemon juice and set aside.  Preheat oven to 400° and prepare your uncooked pie dough.  (You can use a store bought crust or use your favorite recipe to make your own fresh dough.) Put berry mixture in crust and dot with butter.  Cover with a layer of pastry dough and prick to let steam escape.  Bake until crust is brown, about 45 – 50 minutes.

Making Pickled Beets

It’s wonderful to pull out a jar of home-grown, home-canned pickled beets for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner.  They are very easy to make, so get your canning supplies ready…

First you pick the beets.

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Medium sized beets work best. 

Then you either cut the tops off to stir fry or, if you have goats or chickens, they love them too!

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Once you’ve removed the tops and trimmed off the long tap root, simmer the beets until they are tender, which you can test by piercing them with a fork.  Peel them, then cut them into 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick slices.  I have a tool that gives them a pretty wavy edge.

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I got this tool at Fred Myers. 

Pack the slices into sterile jars and add in about a teaspoon of pickling spice.  Make up a pickling solution of 3 1/2 cups vinegar to 1 1/2 cups water and 1 1/2 teaspoons of pickling salt.  Be sure to use 5%, store bought vinegar as acidity levels can vary in homemade vinegar.  It’s the acid in the solution that will keep your food safe.

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Toasting the spices first can bring out the flavors.

Fill to within about a half inch of the top.  Then seal up and boil in a water bath for 30 minutes.  This will help to ensure that the beets are truly safe to eat.

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Let sit for at least two weeks for flavors to blend.


Sun Tea with Fresh Herbs

Sunday it’s supposed to hit 90 degrees!!!  Pure heaven for this Arizona desert rat and high time to make sun tea.  My favorite way to make this popular summer drink is to take a couple of bags of high quality black tea and throw in a generous handful of fresh herbs.  You can use traditional mint or go wild with oregano or a fennel blend is nice too.  Let steep until a honey color then put in the fridge and serve over ice.

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Fresh mint, lemon balm and Lady Jane Grey tea

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Steeping tea

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Ready to refresh!

Zuchinni for Days!

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Here a zuke, there a zuke….

Today is National Zuchinni Day and our lovely hot summer is resulting in huge amounts of squash and zuchinnis pouring out of the garden.  What to do?  Get creative with these delicious recipes shared by P-Patchers.

From Karyn Brownson here’s a recipe adapted from allrecipes.com by members of the Eat, Drink, and Be Merry Cooking Club in Syracuse, NY.

Chocolate Zucchini Cupcakes

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line 24 muffin cups with paper bake cups or lightly coat with nonstick cooking spray.

1. Stir together in large bowl:

  • 2 c. shredded zucchini
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 c. sugar
  • 3/4 c. cooking oil
  • 2 tsp. vanilla

2. Mix together in small bowl and add to mixture. Stir until combined.

  • 2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 2/3 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 3/4 c. chocolate chips, milk or semi-sweet – optional

3. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups until about half full.

4. Bake about 25 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. Cool on wire racks for 5 minutes then remove from pan and cool completely

Here’s one Diane Brooks learned several years ago from reading My Calabria: Rustic Family Cooking from Italy’s Undiscovered South by Rosetta Costantino. Here’s what she does:

Dried Zucchini Slices

  • Wash and dry a very large zucchini (zeppelin size is OK as long as the seeds are immature)
  • Slice it into 1/4″ rounds
  • Dry in a dehydrator on low heat setting (90 -100 F).
  • Store in mason jar.

To use: drop the dried slices into a pot of soup and simmer till rehydrated. Most folks think they are mushrooms. They add a nice texture – a bit chewy.

Marc DeMartini made up this delicious recipe and ate it for lunch.

Lunch Zucchini


  • One small shallot
  • Olive oil
  • Large clove garlic
  • Thinly sliced strands of zuchinni, (Trombocino variety is his preferred one to use)
  • 1 T Pesto
  • Chopped roasted chiles to taste
  • 2 T Ricotta cheese
  • Parmagiano to taste

Saute the shallot then add the garlic and zuchinni.  When it’s soft add the pesto, chiles and ricotta.  Cook a bit longer adding water if needed.  Serve over pasta with some parmigiano for a finish.

He has the Trombocino climbing a trellis at the back of the patch and is hoping to have it share the trellis with his late crop of string beans.

What are your favorite recipes?