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Archive for April, 2011

I really don’t know where to start.   It has been a great day!   It started out by Martha’s class performance with “How Does Your Garden Groove”  and Martha’s violin performance of  “Old McDonald had a farm”.     We practiced before her play on her violin.   We did her A, G , and D scales and then we ran thru her song.   She did really well and I asked her if she wanted to play it again.  And she said, “Nope, I am ready Mom!”   So I said okay!    She did wonderfully.   I wish Mr. Sanders could have been there!   She really tried to make sure her form was correct, and when she realized she made a mistake she played through!   I am so proud of her.   It has to be scary to be in front of 50+ people and play with no music!  I could brag on her for ever!    We will have a HD video uploaded later tonight!

Martha got to show GiGi and Papa around the school!  She was like a strutting peacock!  God love her!   And then Gigi and Papa took us out for lunch!  Papa and Gigi had to leave.  😦  but we went home and had some down time.    Then off to Gymnastics.   Martha did really well there.  We found her gym book!  Yippee!  While Martha was in class, Becca gave Ms. Lori the BESTEST hair do ever!!!!  Of course, Becca had to go with Brandon to the store.   She loves her big brother!

Then we came home and my PEPPERS came in the mail!  I am SO freaking excited.   You don’t understand.   I only wanted this one type of pepper.   They are called Giant Marconi’s.   They are like the best pepper ever!   They are sweet peppers.  They are red or green.    They produce so much that I had to stake my peppers.   Last year I couldn’t find them.   I got really crappy peppers last year.   So I wasn’t  going to not get these.   I ordered these peppers back in February!     I also got Sweet Costa Rican Red Peppers!   This is the first year I have grown them.   We shall see.  They are normally grown in very volcanic rich soil.   I hope they do well!

I also got a True Citrus Gift box!   And it contained all kinds of goodies from True Citrus which I love!   I cook with it!  I use it in my drinks!   Alot of things!  It is just plum awesome!

I also worked in my garden today.  I got the entire garden weeded.   My marigolds are mostly in.   The tomato trellis is up.   I also harvested a lot of broccoli and strawberries are starting to come in!  Yippee!  I am just super excited!

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I adapted the recipe from here:

http://www.thekitchn.com/thekitchn/breakfast/cluster-granola-from-melissa-of-the-travelers-lunchbox-breakfast-with-a-blogger-141777

However,  I made some changes:

1 lb old fashioned oats

3 cups coarsely chopped raw nuts and/or seeds (I used walnuts, pecans, pistachios, sunflower seeds)

2 teaspo0ons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 pinch of ground cloves

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/4 cup honey

1/2 cup unsalted butter

1/3 cup water

(I omitted the salt because my pistachios were salted.)

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 cups dried fruit (I used dates, raisins, and cranberries)

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.   In a food processor, grind half the oats to a fine powder.  (You are making oat flour needed for the recipe).   In a large bowl, combine the whole oats, ground oats, nuts, and spices.   In a saucepan, combine the sugar, honey, butter, and water.    Heat until the butter has melted and the mixture is bubbly.   Stir the mixture together until smooth, then stir in the salt and vanilla.  (again I left out the 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt).  Pour this mixture over the oat mixture.   Stirring well to cat.  It should be uniformly moist – stir in another tablespoon or two of water if it isn’t.  Let stand for about ten minutes.

Spread the mixture out on a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper, separating it into irregular clumps with your fingers, and allowing space between the clumps for the hot air to circulate.  Slide into themiddle of the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the  top is golden brown.  Remove from the oven and stir, gently breaking the mixture up into  small-to-medium sized clumps.   Return to the oven and bake another 15 minutes or so before stirring again.  Repeat the bake and stir  until the mixture is a uniform golden brown and completely dry; this usually takes 1-1.5 hours  Cool completely, then stir in any dried fruit you want to use.

Store in a covered container at room temperature.  Serve with milk or plain yogurt and fresh fruit as desired.

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Here is my garden.   As you can see, I still have work to be done in it.   I just bought some marigolds to help keep the aphids away.  And the white stuff on my broccoli and cauliflower is flour and sour milk.   My husband kids that one of these days we are going to have biscuits growing out of our broccoli.   But it keeps the cabbage loopers at bay.   I don’t know why it works.  Just know it does.   Both beds are exactly the same size:  24 ft x 4 ft.   I choose to go with 4 ft so that you can reach the middle of the bed without really having to step into it and compacting the soil.   We are going to be putting another one in this fall in front of these too!   Then the very difficult task of transplanting all my strawberries will begin!  But we shall get to that in the fall!

Let me introduce bed #1:

Strawberries, tomatoes, Corn, Sunflowers

It contains over 32 sq ft of strawberries.  (This started out as 5 very small strawberry plants!  ha!)  Strawberries will be coming in shortly!   And I cannot wait!  I love strawberries.  A little note:  You might be allergic to the strawberry leaves.   I break out in hives every time I play in my strawberry patch.   Not harmful or anything, just annoy!  Wear Gloves!  Next I have my tomatoes.   there are 9 Tomato plants.   This year I have planted a purple Heirloom tomato plant.   Don’t know why, thought it might be a bit different.    There is also a cherry tomato plant for my daughter who loves to pluck them right off the plant and pop them into her mouth!   And why not, I say!  Nothing like a freshly picked tomato to eat!   After the tomatoes is my 4 rows of sweet corn.   I have had mixed luck with sweet corn.   I am still working  on it.   Spacing is very important.     So we shall see how that goes.    After that is always a mixture of Sunflowers.   Now the sunflowers serve 2 purposes.   Originally it is how I got my girls in the garden and playing in the dirt.   But more importantly, they bring bees!   And Bees are a wonderful and necessary part to your garden!

Now Bed #2

Asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, carrots, green beans, cucumbers, zucchini, green peppers and sunflowers

It contains 4 sprigs of Asparagus.  I have never gown that before, so we shall see how it goes.   But I like to eat it!  And it is expensive.   However, I am told that it is easy to grow and it produces alot of fruit.   So we shall together how that goes.   Next is my 16 broccoli plants (I think) and 4 plants of cauliflower.   Now, I planted these guys back in the beginning of March!   I have already had to cut one of my broccoli plants!  the main head was going to flower (once it flowers it is no good to eat).   But it will continue to make florets for quite some time!   The other heads are all coming up now as well!   But we still have a few weeks before they will get cut!    Cauliflower is going to take some sweet time.    It is growing but it is SLOW!      After that I have a row of lettuce.   Then 2 rows of carrots.  Then 2 rows of bush beans.   (I am not a fan of pole beans.  So I stick with bush beans.)   Then I have my new setup for cucumbers and zucchini.    The cucumbers will be growing up a fence this time.   I still have to stabilize the fencing but in due time.    They are still baby plants!    And the zucchini we are going to try to keep inside a tomato cage!  I am excited!      All the way in the back is another row of sunflowers.      So you say:  There is alot of empty space in the 2nd garden.  Well that space is reserved for some very special peppers.   I came across a pepper called a Giant Marconi.   They are the best sweet pepper I have ever eaten!  LOVE them!  The freeze well, they roast well.  They are great in salads and they get so heavy with fruit that you have to stake the pepper plants.   I picked my peppers until Thanksgiving the year I had them.    Well….  I special ordered them this year.    I also ordered some Costa Rican Red sweet peppers.   When I have visited Costa Rica, there chile dulce (sweet pepper) is always red and is just so yummy!  So I found them and am going to try to grow them!

In bed 2, we are trying a different technique.  No clue if it is going to work, but it cannot hurt a thing.   I have laid newspaper on top  of the soil.  I then covered the newspaper with mulch.   I am hoping that the newspaper is going to keep the weeds down to a minimum!  And the mulch is going to keep the ground moist.

I know some of the stuff in the back is a bit difficult to see.  So here are some close up pictures of the garden.  The lettuce is on the right hand side of the exposed dirt.  The carrots hadn’t come up yet, so I couldn’t cover the dirt until I knew where I had planted them.    The newspaper thing was sorta an after thought.   Carrots are in the middle of the exposed dirt and the green beans start on the left hand side of the exposed dirt and goes 2 rows.   The birds ate lot of my green bean seeds.   So I am going to replant this weekend where there are bald spots.  It won’t hurt anything. =)

Lettuce, carrots, green beans

Here you can see the trellis I have started to put up for my cucumbers.   The zucchini each have a tomato cage around them.   The hope there is the leaves grow up the tomato cage and the fruit stays accessible at the bottom.    Anything is worth a try right?     Then the green peppers are going to be planted in between where there is just alot of mulch right now.   They should be shipped today!   I hope!    In the background you can 4 rows of corn in the other bed as well as some tomatoes.   So that is my garden this year!   I am hoping it produces lots of vegetables and fruit!

Cucumbers and Zucchini and will be green peppers

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There is something refreshing knowing that I grow most of our veggies we eat.   I get SO excited when I see the seeds start to peak up under the soil!   I love watching them grow.    Pictures will be coming of the new garden!   It isn’t all finished yet, I actually ran OUT of newspapers!   I didn’t think that was quite possible.    Really?   Well, I guess so!   I am trying to use newspaper as a biodegradable weed block!   well maybe it will keep the weeds down until the plants have time to establish themselves!    We shall see how it goes.

So what does one do with all these yummy veggies.   Well I put them up as they come in.   Tomatoes get turned into Tomato Sauce.   I found trying to make speghetti sauce and tomato sauce and all that jazz, just is too time consuming for me.    I just roast me some veggies.   Yes VEGGIES!  I hid veggies in my tomato sauce.    Not alot, but some.  Onions, green peppers, shhhh.. zucchini!, garlic, carrots.   If you use carrots, it should eliminate the need to add sugar to your sauce as carrots are sweet to start with!    Throw all that through my Victorian strainer which I don’t know how any house lives with out.   VOILA!  You have tomato sauce.   If you don’t like it that thin, cook it on the stove top on a low heat and let it reduce!    You will find your happy medium.

Strawberries:

They get turned into jam and jelly.   As I am thinking about starting up a business making jelly and jams I don’t want to give away my secret to making these!    But trust me, you won’t get a bad jam if you follow the directions on SURE-JEL label.

Green Peppers:  OMG!  What not to do with these.   You can chop them up and freeze them for use later in the year.    You can roast them and put them in the speghetti sauce.  You freeze them with the making of stuffed peppers!  You can roast them and freeze them.   You can just eat them!   I also use them in my bread and butter pickle recipe!

Broccoli:  I would blanch any fresh broccoli you get.    Unless you use alot of bug spray, you are probably going to find cabbage loopers in your broccoli.  Lets face it folks, veggies grow outside and as I don’t use alot of pesticides, you are going to have bugs.   Blanching the broccoli doesn’t hurt it, but kills the cabbage loopers and they float to the top.   Problem solved.   then you can steam the broccoli or freeze it or use it in a salad.  What ever you liking is.    (Have you got the idea I FREEZE alot of my veggies.)

Cabbage:  I blanch my cabbage just like I do my broccoli.   then I either leave the leaves whole for cabbage rolls, or I shredded it for fried cabbage later in the year.   Which then gets turned into Colcannon.   If you haven’t had fried cabbage, you are missing out.   It isn’t like anything you have ever had!   I have never been a cooked cabbage fan until I had it fried!   so once I shred it, it goes in the freezer.   You can also use it fresh for slaw in the summer time.  just once it freezes, you won’t want to use it for a cold salad.

Zucchini:  Roast it!  Yum.   In spaghetti sauce.  Yum!   But for the most part, I grate it and freeze it.  Then when I want to make zucchini muffins or bread, i have it already measured out and I just dump the thawed bag into my muffin mixture.   There is a recipe on my blog for the muffins I make!   Working on another tweak to remove ALL the oil all together from it!

Cucumbers:   Fresh!  with onions and a bit of vinegar!   Could eat that for ever!   I know I am a bit of an odd nut.   I also grate it and freeze some for Tzatiki Sauce which is a greek cucmber / yogurt sauce that is great on lamb, beef, pork, chicken.   Hmmm.. to bath in… just kidding.  I love the stuff.   So when greek yogurt goes on sale, my frozen grated cucumber come out and voila, tzatiki sauce is born.    I also pickle.   I haven’t found a great dill cucumber recipe.   But the bread and butter recipe I have is awesome.   I don’t remember if I put that one on the blog yet.   If not, it will be there shortly!     I have TONS of cucumbers that come in daily.    Like 20+ a day.  However, I need around 40 to do a batch of pickles.   And the saying goes:  24 hours from vine to brine.   Which doesn’t leave me alot of time!

Corn:   Eat it, freeze it!   I freeze on the ear as well as off the ear!   Not much to do, either cut it off the ear after it has been blanched or leave it on the ear, leave some of the husk on and try to remove as much of the tassles as you can.    Then throw them in a freezer bag and Voila!

Carrots:  Eat / Freeze.  Again if you are going to freeze, blanch first.

Lettuce:  Unfortunately all you can do is eat it!

Cauliflower:  Eat / Freeze.  Again if you are going to freeze it, Blanch first.

Pumpkin:   Roast and then turn into pulp.   Pre-measure for muffin recipe!    Or cake recipes, or cookie recipes.   Pumpkin is used ALOT in my house.   Adding it to pancakes is OMGoodness too!

Green Beans:  Normally I snap them, blanch them, freeze them.   However this year, I am going to leave them whole.   My kids like them whole.  I guess they are funner to eat than snap beans.   Just omit the snap part and add cutting off the tips.  Yes, I cut both ends as I don’t care for those bits.

Well, tomorrow I will be back in my garden working and finishing up the first bed!

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There is just something nice about things that are simple and plain.   Comfort foods are something that just wrap there love and warmth around me and say everything will be okay.   Lets face it, I am a simple person.   For the most part, I don’t care for fancy things.  (I do LOVE my Kitchen Aide mixer!   It has been my best friend in the kitchen for almost as long as I have been married.)     As those who know me, I like to can or preserve.   This year, I want to try to make sun dried tomatoes.   Doesn’t that sound good with some pasta a bit of cheese and sausage.    I can almost taste it.   Well, my one goal in life is to open a Jelly and Jam store.    That is it.  Just to sell jelly and jams.   I am always being told that they are really good.    A friend of mine refuses to share with her family!     I don’t make very fancy jelly and jams.   I just like simple jelly.    Strawberry jam on a piece of sourdough bread is one of my all favorite things.

 

I also like making my own bread.    There is nothing better than having dough in your hands, kneading it, pouring love into the bread that will come out as that lovely smell that brings a smile to anyone’s face and melts away even the worst of days.      And knowing that something I have made is going to make someone smile or is going to be there go to comfort is so gratifying.

So this has been on my brain alot lately.   It is something I cannot shake.    So I am researching again.    And soon (possibly this week, if I get some more sugar) I am going to be making some more strawberry jam!   Mom says plums are going to be plentiful this year!   I am hoping to find some cherries this year.      I would also like to find some raspberries and blueberries for reasonable price.    I have yet to make raspberry or blueberry jelly!      You see I don’t like seeds when I eat.   It just puts me off.     But I totally can see the sun coming though the very gorgeous red and blue jelly!

 

So we shall see what happens this year.   I don’t know if this is a business that would be financially viable.    But for now, research is necessary!

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