Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Garden Update

The peas are taking over, it seems. Well worth it, I think :o)

Cukes growing on the "trellis".

Gone Fishin'

My parents came to visit over the weekend and they bought the boys fishing gear and took them fishing. It was a lot of fun even though the fish weren't biting.

Nature Study - Cicada

Just beginning to emerge from its shell.

Drying its wings - its standing on top of the shell it just crawled out.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Independence Days Challenge

Last week I stumbled upon the website SharonAstyk.com and found that she is hosting Independence Days Challenge this summer. So, although its started in April, I decided to jump in and at least try it starting now. You are supposed to try to work in 8 areas at least once each week. Here are the areas and what we did last week:

1. Plant something: Its really too hot here to plant, but I decided to try anyway. We planted something five days last week including 2 squares of sweet peas, 2 squares of purple peppers and an indoor greens garden.

2. Harvest something: We harvested at least one thing every day last week. We harvested one pound of roma tomatoes, 14 purple hull pea pods, 1 carrot, 6 cucumbers and a bunch of basil.

3. Preserve something: Made one pint of fig preserves

4. Prep something (emergency preps): bought and stored 2 pounds of white beans.

5. Cook something/ learn to cook something new: Made yogurt.

6. Manage reserves (basically rotate your stockpile): Opened one jar of peanut butter and replaced it.

7. Work on local food system: Put out the word on Freecycle that we were looking for figs. Connected with two people there. Also mentioned to a friend that we wanted figs and she arranged for us to get figs in exchange for teaching the tree owner and my friend how to make yogurt. Made connections with farmers at the market.

8. Compost something: composted grass clippings, leaves, carrot top, cuke peel, tomato cores, potato peelings, coffee grounds and egg shells from hard boiled eggs.

I was really surprised how easy it was to do a little something in each category. Some categories were worked on daily and others only once a week. Its been fun and I'm excited about working on more this week and the weeks to come.

Pumpkin Bread Recipe

3 eggs
3 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup butter, melted
2 cups cooked pumpkin (or 1 16 oz can)
5 cups flour (I use 3 cups white flour, 1 cup whole wheat and 1 cup of mixture of oat flour, wheat germ and flax meal)
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt (celtic sea salt)
1 1/2 Tblsp Cinnamon
1 tsp allspice
2 tsp cloves
1 cup applesauce
Optional: Nuts and raisins or dates

Cream eggs and sugar. Add butter and pumpkin. Combine dry ingredients then add to the moist ingredients. Mix in the applesauce, and optional ingredients if using them.

Grease and flour 2 loaf pans. Divide batter between two pans. Bake at 350 deg for approximately 1 hour.

Roasted Tomato and Red Pepper Soup

Approx 1 lb tomatoes (Roma work really well in this recipe)
1 Red Pepper
1 Med Onion
1 head garlic
olive oil
fresh basil (to taste)
approximately 2 cups (or one can) chicken (or veggie) broth or stock

Cut tomatoes in half and lay face up on a baking sheet (choose a pan with a rim, otherwise the juices drip all over the floor of your oven). Quarter and seed the red pepper and put on baking sheet with tomato. Slice onion thick and put on baking sheet. Peel garlic and put whole cloves on baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper and toss to coat. Put this in a 400 deg oven, turning everything after about 20 minutes. Continue to roast until you start to get some color on the tomatoes and peppers and your kitchen smells heavenly.

Once the veggies are done, remove to a blender. Pour the pan juices into the blender, too. Add stock and basil and cover with a folded towel (be very sure you do not run the blender with hot items in it and the lid sealed - that will cause the items in your blender to build up a lot of pressure and possibly explode - not kidding! Place a large folded towel over the blender opening instead) and blend until smooth. Taste and add any additional seasoning. Place in bowls and garnish with sour cream and a sprig of basil.

Tuna Burger Recipe

1/2 small onion
1-2 cloves garlic diced
1 tablespoon butter
2 cups white beans (or one can)
6 oz Tuna (or one can)
1 cup bread crumbs divided
1/4 cup mayo
1 egg
Salt and Pepper to taste

Sweat the onion (like saute but the onion doesn't brown - low heat) in the butter for about 10 minutes, until translucent. Add the garlic for the last minute or so - watch closely as this burns easily.

In a separate bowl, smash the white beans. Add the sauted veggies to the beans, then stir in the tuna, 1/2 cup bread crumbs, the mayo, egg, salt and pepper. Mix well.

Spoon about 1/4 cup of mixture into your hand and flatten into a patty. Coat both sides in the remaining bread crumbs (I put the bread crumbs in a plate to coat the patties) then pan fry in a little olive oil until brown on both sides and cooked through. This recipe usually makes 6-8 patties depending upon how big I make them.

Menu Plan Monday - July 14, 2008

We found these amazing tomatoes at the farmer's market this weekend. They are heirloom (so of course the boys and I saved the seeds). Unfortunately, I didn't take a picture of them before we ate them all (did I mention they were amazing?) so I found a picture that looked like them online and I'm borrowing it until we can get more that I can photograph. Here's what they look like:
I sure hope he has more this week! He also had 3 other varieties of heirloom tomatoes including one that looked like a Roma, but was bright yellow. I'm hoping to try that one this week as well.

Our menu for this week (remember, the bold items are locally grown/ raised):

Breakfast :
Blueberry muffins and yogurt
Ham and cheese biscuit and blackberries
Scrambled Eggs and grits
Baked Oatmeal with peaches
Whole grain pancakes with blueberry syrup

The usual:
PB & honey
BLT (with lettuce sprouts)
Grilled Cheese

Watermelon slices
Cucumbers and carrots dipped in ranch dressing
Berry Smoothie (with homemade yogurt)
Pumpkin bread
Blueberry Scones
Yummy Eggs (my 5 year old calls deviled eggs yummy eggs)
Biscuits with honey butter
Blueberry popsicles

Tuna Burgers on dressed rolls (tomatoes, red and purple peppers, onion), new potato "salad" (dressed with olive oil and red wine vinegar, salt and pepper) and asparagus (from freezer)

Hamburger Steak (its a burger browned then braised in beef stock) over garlic mashed new potatoes with zuke/ squash medley and we're going to have some sort of fruit desert, maybe fig cobbler (if we have any fig preserves left by then)

Baked Chicken, tomato and cucumber salad, black beans and brown rice.

Make-your-own Pizza (dh has a meeting one night this week so the kids and I will have pizza that night) with veggie tray and watermelon

Roasted Tomato and Red Pepper Soup (also features local garlic and onion), Chicken quesadillas with sour cream and guacamole and cantaloupe

Pan Fried Tilapia with pesto, homemade bread, spaghetti squash (the farmer suggested we cut it in half, sprinkle with salt and olive oil then roast in the oven until fork tender - we've never had spaghetti squash before, so this will hopefully be a fun experiment, even if it turns out to be inedible),

Leftover buffet

Check out I'm An Organizing Junkie for more Menu Plan Monday

Friday, July 11, 2008

Indoor Greens Experiment

Well, they are already starting to get spindly as they make a desperate reach for the sunlight. I'm going to try a different window, but I'm starting to understand why people get an Aerogarden. I may invest in a grow light this weekend, while my Dad is here to help.

Garden Math

Based on average harvests per plant for tomato and strawberries, just to keep our family self sufficient in both we would need at least 35 tomato plants (we have 9) and 300 strawberry plants (what can I say, my kids love strawberries and we eat lots of strawberry preserves). Thats 22 4X4 square foot garden boxes just for those two plants. Yikes! Thankfully, we don't need to be totally self sufficient yet, but as we move towards that end we may have to look into a greenhouse, lol.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Beef Stock

At the farmer's market earlier this week, the grass-fed beef farmer had soup bones for sale in addition to the regular cuts of meat and ground beef. We pick up some and they are in the crockpot right now being turned into stock. Tonight we're having local french onion soup (well, the beef stock is local and so are the onions) to go with our local panini. I'm so pleased to have a source for healthy beef stock - yay!

Independence Days

If you surf long enough, you will find a community of people with the same interests as yourself, no matter how unusual you might think those interests are, right :o) I'm discovering that there is an entire local foods movement with local eating challenges all over the web. A few days ago, I discovered a website http://sharonastyk.com , a website that is hosting an Independence Days Challenge - that is a challenge to move towards food independence for your family, community building and emergency preparedness. Since they started this back in April, I'm getting in on it late, but I think I will try to participate as much as I can and will update my blog weekly.

Indoor Salad Greens Experiment

A few days ago, I asked for advice on container gardening to grow salad greens indoors. Our summers here are just too hot and lettuce bolts in May if grown outside, but I've never tried growing it indoors. Maybe its the homeschooler in me, but I couldn't just sit around and wait for a reply, I had to do something. So, I decided to experiment. All I have is one "window box" so for now that all I planted, but as soon as I find one at a garage sale or clearanced, I plan on having two - one south facing and one north facing, to see which grows better.

On Monday, I put 8 lettuce seeds from Mesclun mix and 8 spinach seeds into the filled box. This morning, I awoke to 4 sprouts :o) This box will now sit in the south facing window to observe what happens. I sure hope we're eating baby greens in a few weeks :o)

Here is our baby "Sprout". Sorry for the blurry picture, but this is lettuce,
so we're talking a really tiny plant. :o)

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

First Cucumber!

Tackle it Tuesday - Cleaning out the Refrigerator

5 Minutes for Mom is hosting Tackle It Tuesday and helping Moms everywhere to get their housework under control one tackle at a time. Check out what others are tackling!

If i had to choose one most hated housework chore, it would , for me, be cleaning out the refrigerator. I'd actually prefer scrubbing toilets to decluttering and wiping down shelves in the fridge. So obviously, it gets put off until I cannot fit another thing in there. See . . .

Since I know that I might get started only to get frustrated and give up, I'm posting this so that I have some accountability. I am also giving myself permission to do it a little time. The plan is to remove something that needs throwing each time I reach in to the fridge for something else until all old stuff is removed. Then I'll wipe down the shelves and organize. So it will probably take more than today to finish my tackle. I'll post pics later in the week of my finished project. Wish me luck :o)

P.S. For those regular readers of my blog (if there are any, lol) we don't drink colas, but most of our family does, so we keep one in the fridge for when we have guests. :o)

Monday, July 7, 2008

Growing Salad Greens Indoors? Advice Needed

I am interested in growing salad greens indoors. After growing them this spring, I miss having fresh greens and would like to try growing them indoors. We live in the deep south so our greens bolted about 6 weeks ago. If I could figure out the indoor thing, we could have greens in the summer and winter from indoors and spring and fall from outdoors. I'd like to plant mesclun and spinach to use as baby greens.

I have a south facing window with a nice big ledge, so I was thinking of using a window box style planter and setting it in that window. My only concern is that it might get too warm there for them to grow properly. I also have a north facing window with a nice ledge. Which one would be best? Anyone with experience, I'd love your advice. Thanks in advance :o)

Menu Plan Monday - July 7, 2008

If you are a gardener, I am looking for advice on growing greens indoors. :o)

This week, our Menu theme will be "simple" as I am so exhausted from our travels this weekend. Why is it called vacation when its so much work? Oh well, here's the menu plan (remember, bold type signifies locally grown food):


Eggs and biscuits (with homemade jam)
Baked Oatmeal (in freezer)
Oat and nut Pancakes (in the freezer)
Yogurt with fruit
(these will be repeated as needed)

Lunch (all accompanied by a fruit and vegetable):

Peanut Butter and honey (or jam) sandwiches
Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
Broccoli Cheese Soup
any available leftovers from supper

Homemade bread with honey butter
Homemade biscuits with butter and jam or honey
pecans or walnuts (my kiddos love to munch on a handful of pecans or walnuts)
chips and homemade salsa
Hummus and pita
Carrots and cucumbers with dip

Chicken teriyaki stir fry (veggies) over rice (this is my "I'm too tired to cook and want to get take out" meal - so easy and only one pot to clean!)
Chicken and salsa quesadillas with sour cream, refried beans and rice and fruit for desert
BBQ chicken Pizza (with onions) for the grown ups and plain cheese for the kiddos
Burgers on a dressed(onions, tomatoes, etc) bun with roasted new potatoes and pan roasted squash (yum! This will be for later on in the week when I'm not quite so tired)
Grilled Veggie Panini with black beans and brown rice and fresh fruit

I am hoping that by the end of the week, I will feel "caught up" and can try to get my hands on some locally grown figs to make fig preserves. We love figs here and they are so readily grown in our area that they are usually very easy to come by. Most of our preserves will be used to make fig cobbler which is very similar to fig newtons, except that fig cobbler is more of a "bar" cookie and it tastes sooooooo much better.

Check out Menu Plan Monday at Organizing Junkie for more menu ideas :o)

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Canning Local Fruit and Berries

Here's what I did this afternoon. The blueberries were picked just this morning when the boys and I went to a U-Pick blueberry farm. The peaches were grown by a local farmer :o) All in all a really fun day :o)