Category Archives: Cooking

Healthy Dog Treats

If you’re a dog owner and lover as we are, I know you’ve seen news reports such as these reporting on sickly and dying dogs from tainted dog treats. Mostly placing blame with Chinese manufacturers and imports of poorly made dog foods. And sure we can all sign petitions and shake our fists, but you can also take responsiblity for yourself and your pet.

With two working bird dogs in our family, we’ve not only invested our love and adoration for them, but have given uncountable hours to their training and development of their hunting skills. This makes it very easy and almost second nature to pay attention to anything that goes in our dogs mouths—as you would a child. So I’m not blind to the fact that many own dogs just to own dogs, nor am I blind to the fact that with our nation’s obesity ratings and health issues—if a person can’t even feed themselves nutritiously and responsibly, how can the give more care to an animal than themselves. So yes, we may be a small group but I refuse to turn the other cheek to how simple and much cheaper it is to forgo the pre-made junk treats in stores and think outside the box.

Regardless, dogs love food. Real food. Every dog I’ve owned has grown up eating natural wonderful dog treats. And no, not expensive fancy gourmet whatevers, but plain, healthy and all natural fruit and vegetables. I wonder if all the back years of vets trying to train owners not to feed dogs table scraps and “people food” has counter acted some people’s ability to think about what food is healthy.

Ideal fruit and vegetable treats we regularly feed our dogs:
• apple bits
• cored apple with peanut butter inside
• watermelon
• canteloupe
• carrot sticks (excellent for dental hygiene and cleaning plaque—much cheaper than dental bones)
• bananas (great hot weather nutrients if at the park or training in heat—just like for people after 5Ks and road races)
•cucumber slices

These are as simple and healthy as it gets and dogs love them for the same reasons we do—they are restorative and refreshing. And you know what’s going in their bodies. Here’s a great article that details some more fruit and vegetable ideas along with cautions to one’s you should not feed your pets.

If you like to take a more hands on approach and bake dog treats, I highly recommend  this awesome book of Country Wisdom and Know How.

It details wonderful, healthy, homemade dog treats you can bake at home with the simplest of ingredients. Another favorite it includes is a top 10 list of herbs that are safe and helpful to common digestive and breath issues with dogs.

Moultrie’s 3rd Birthday

We really can’t believe our Moultrie is turning three tomorrow. So just like last year, I’ll be making his Banana Birthday Cake for the boys as featured in last year’s post. Follow the link if you’d like the recipe.

This year should be a treat too for little Samson. This will be his first share of Banana Birthday Cake, but probably about his 47th banana—he’s really a monkey not a Boykin. Maybe this year I’ll be armed and ready with a camera for end result pics!

Meanwhile, here are some recent pictures  of Moultrie at his best.

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Jelly Palm Season

Just when it can’t get any hotter and the only vegetable still growing in gardens are peppers, my favorite short season fruit bursts onto the scene—Jelly Palm fruit.

The Butia type palm tree is what is mostly seen here in our part of South Carolina. I know there have been 2 massive ones at our beach house on Sullivan’s Island just about since my granddad built it in the early 60s. They line our streets and are in our yards and most people ignore the delicious little orange fruits that fall and litter the ground beneath. But next time, take note and try to beat the wasps because it’s the most intoxicatingly sweet little fleshy fruit around.

I like to compare it to a hybrid of a plum and a muscadine. The fruit itself is about the size of a ping pong ball. But it’s similar to a plum for the large, hard seed in the middle and for how thin the skin is, and muscadine for the fact that most people probably don’t prefer to eat the skin and would rather pop through to the fruit’s flesh beneath. However, because it’s so paper thin, sometimes you just eat it…

And in case you’re new to the sport, collecting these fruits and knowing when they’re at their ripest has a little trick too. You’re probably not going to pick super ripe fruit straight from the tree unless it’s the last bunch on the vine after most have fallen off. If you try to just pick it off the tree as soon as it turns yellow, it’ll still be too hard and slightly bitter. If you try to pick it off the tree once it truly has ripened—good luck fighting the yellow jackets and wasps for it. They’ll be so burrowed in the thick of the fruit cluster you’ll be playing with danger.

When you’re guaranteed to get it best? One-two days max after it’s fallen on the ground. Just let it fall and sit a day, then go gather it up and wash it off. Enjoy it straight off the vine, mash it into a yummy sauce or marinade, or even better? Make jelly:)

Pickled Okra

We got around to pickling some okra tonight and hope to add a few more jars to the collection here soon. And if this rain would keep up—we just may! Here I was excited at the measly .25″ that before I knew it turned to 1.10″ before it was all said and done. So thankful!

When I go to do things, like pickling okra, that maybe I didn’t learn directly from my family members who did, I go to those who know won’t lead me astray. And for this, I looked to John Martin Taylor of Hoppin’ John’s. For those that are—dare we say—new Charleston, he was inspiring, teaching, and running his downtown cookbook store 25 years ago. Awarded the first Lowcountry Culinary Legend Award at the Charleston Wine & Food Festival in 2007 for his contribution as an individual to lowcountry cooking, he was also recently named a Top 10 Local Legend by Charleston Magazine in July 2010. And the list truly goes on and on.

Here is his recipe for Pickled Okra, featured in his cookbook Hoppin’ John’s Charleston, Beaufort, and Savannah, that was posted on his website—along with many other delicious recipes if you’re in need of one:

These are the favorite lowcountry pickle, possibly because they are time-consuming to make: you must pack the okra pods tightly in the jars, alternating one up and one down so as to fill the jar and to prevent them from floating to the top. Use only freshly picked, bright green, blemish-free okra, no more than finger-long. Each pound of okra will yield two pints of pickles. You can multiply this recipe with no problem.
1 pound small young okra pods, all the same size
4 garlic cloves, peeled
2 hot peppers
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 cup water
1 heaping tablespoon salt
2 cups white vinegar
Wash the okra and trim the stems a little, but not down into the pod. Pack the okra tightly in 2 sterilized wide-mouthed pint jars, alternating stems up and stems down. Divide the garlic, peppers, and mustard between the jars. Bring the water, salt, and vinegar to a boil, then pour it over the okra to within 1/2 inch of the rims. Place a lid and ring on each jar, lower the jars in a water bath, and process at a full boil for 10 minutes. Remove the jars from the bath and allow to cool completely. If the lids have not sealed, refrigerate the pickles. Store the pickles for 2 months, then chill before serving. Makes 2 pints.

Next week, I will be pickling some family goodness—watermelon rinds!

Our 1st Beef Harvest

Things have been a little quiet on our homefront lately, but not because we haven’t had things to share. In fact, we’re hoping to share some really exciting news over the next month or so—and no it’s not a baby—but stay tuned and you’ll be the first to find out!

In the meantime, the garden is growing wonderfully and we were able to keep it completely organic—which does not happen magically. A solid 7 or 8 days, morning and evening, were spent hunting and smashing squash bugs and their eggs. Definitely gross but much less gross than spraying down my whole garden with random bug killer. But I won and the squash and zucchini are still growing strong, cucumbers, okra, cherry tomatoes, bell peppers, banana peppers, all our assortment of hot peppers, lima beans, pole beans, heirloom tomatoes that are just now coming through. Our summer brussel sprouts could not win the organic war against caterpillars and they’ve since been pulled out the ground and replaced by peanuts which will hopefully be ready just in time for early fall boiled peanuts and homemade peanut butter! I will be very sad for this summer garden to end and while a fall garden is definitely in the works, we also figured it was time to stock up on our other harvests for fall and winter—beef and fish.

We’ve been wanting to purchase local, grass-fed beef from Cordrays Beef Farms in Ravenel for probably the past two years—before we had 1 house or even lived in the same zip code. All things that made it very hard to commit to buying 55 pounds of beef at one time. But all those obstacles have been overcome and then some and we’re buying a beef share! If you’re not familiar with the program—it’s very similar to your local farmer CSA programs with the difference being you’re not receiving a portion every week. Cordrays is particularly a preference of ours for being a local, family owned company that’s been providing for the Lowcountry as a wild game processor and taxidermist for years. And having privately raised beef cattle for over 100 years, they’ve just recently begun bringing them to the market for the public. We have no other affiliation with them just to clarify.

As pulled from their website, “Since we provide beef only from animals we hand raise ourselves, our quantities are limited. We process only a few cattle a year. It takes about 2 years for a steer to mature. We are slowly increasing our herd, planning now for the 2013 season! As you’ll see when you come to visit, our cows graze at will on grass and hay. We grind our own feed from locally grown corn, soybean meal and molasses to help “finish” them during the last few months. They never receive injections, antibiotics, artificial growth hormones or anything that cattle didn’t get 100 years ago when Cordrays first started raising all natural beef.” How awesome does that sound!

You can opt to by a share of beef—which we have—which is equivalent to an 1/8 of a cow. Each share is full combination of cuts from steaks, to roasts, to hamburger. You can also purchase a side—which as it sounds—is 1/2 a cow. If you have several families interested, you can all go in together to each purchase a a share or a side and mix and match what you want after receiving the whole shebang. That takes care of stocking our freezer with beef and hopefully this weekend, we’ll be able to add a little more to the dwindling fish supply! We’ll keep you posted.

The Yoga of Cooking and Eating…in the South

If I had to pick one thing that defines and affects the southern day, it would be food.

Food in the traditional origin of sowing and reaping the harvest and the daily tasks that come with it, the ebb and flow of tides throughout the day that affect when you fish, the sunrise and sunset that affects when the ducks fly and the deer run. So it’s no surprise that these origins are reflected in the southerner’s love and affinity for good food, fresh food, and preparing food for the love and entertainment of others. Why do you think we’ve always heard the old saying, “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.” As trite as it may be conceived in today’s standards, it truly means well in its reflection for the love shown by mothers and fathers in preparing time-tested meals for their families.

And what I love about this article, is the merging of my love and understanding of the yoga heart with my southern love and understanding of the kitchen. How awesome when two distant worlds merge.

My Own Little Farm to Table

I set out tonight with three separate and delicious self grown dishes and hope I have many more nights like this ahead of me.

Out of all the seedlings I started—and the handful or plants I bough, including this romaine lettuce—it has honestly surprised me the most. While I love a good summer salad, especially one loaded with fresh fruit, I was so indifferent to my lettuce plants until I started eating from them. And now, I cheer them on after I pick leaves for our salads anxiously anticipating when we’ll have our next salad. Note to self—definitely plant more heads of lettuce this fall and next spring.

Tonight’s salad is made from our romaine lettuce, along with homegrown basil, oregano, and cucumbers and store bought carrots and green onions—until ours get a little bigger.

And pictured here with our final salad is the main course—squash medley casserole + chicken! Made with our Memorial Day harvest that was previously featured, we have green squash, yellow squash, and zucchini.

And then for the third homemade course tonight—more so to be enjoyed later than tonight—is my first batch of homemade pickles! Now I am very aware that making pickles is about the easiest thing there is, but I’ve never made pickles. And that’s most likely because if we were store buying cucumbers growing up, we were just gonna store buy pickles. And there’s that whole part about how I never really fell in love with pickles/relish/etc until my twenties. But now, I have my very own little cucumber patch with full growns and pickling size ready to batch. These pickles are made from the Memorial Day pictures cucumbers and two pickling size cukes that made the cut today (pun intended). And yes, these are bread and butter. I still don’t really enjoy dills but I’m sure I’ll end up making some anyway later this season.

Here’s to crunching on fresh pickles and waiting to see what our next ingredients will be!