Thursday, July 30, 2009

Garden Update: 7-30-09

Well, it looks like my summer garden is almost done. The annuals are beginning to die off and its time to get a fall garden going. Before I talk about that, though, I'm going to share a little about some of our "experimental" gardening.

The garlic I planted because our garlic from the pantry had sprouted did not make it. I think it really needs to be planted in the fall. As soon as the heat really kicked in all of the plants fell over and dried up. When I pulled them up, there were no new garlic bulbs, only the one clove I had planted. They obviously needed more time. We'll try this experiment again in the fall.

My Black Krim tomatoes never made it past the baby plant stage. They are still hanging in there, but have not grown. I wonder if they might grow some once the temps cool. I guess we'll see :o)

The fig trees are still providing figs, though we seem to be losing a lot of them to the squirrels. We are only able to pick a few handfuls per day, but at least the squirrels are fat and happy, lol.

Also, we decided to try worm composting a few weeks ago. I still have not bought a container for it - the compost still resides in the planter that I brought it home in, but that's not stopping the worms. For a few weeks, the boys put everything they could into the planter and before I realized it, it was a little over-filled with food items. So we stopped filling it and let it do it's thing. I'm so happy to report that the worms have been working overtime and it looks like it is working. And I'm most surprised that it does not smell nor does it attract animals, especially with the large amount of food scraps it held. As soon as I can, I hope to get a permanent container for our worms :o)

Container gardening has been a fun experiment, but I'm not really satisfied with the small amount of food we were able to grow that way. Since we are planning to stay in our little rental house for a bit longer, I want a more large-scale solution without actually tearing up the yard. There is one landscaping bed that gets pretty good sunlight and is in a convenient place that I think I could put raised beds on top of to make a semi-permanent garden. My plan is to put black plastic down over the current bed, then put 3 2x4x1 foot deep wooden "planters" on top of the plastic that I will fill with "Mel's Mix" (compost, peat moss and vermiculite) and then toss in some of our worms from the compost container to help build up the soil. It is still much smaller than I'd like, but it is far better, I think, than a dozen or so containers. I'll get some pictures up as soon as the garden beds are made (in about a week and a half).

We are hoping to plant lettuce, spinach, onions, garlic, parsley, carrots, broccoli and potatoes. I am really eager to get my hands back into the dirt on a larger scale. Most of the fall garden plants will need to go into the ground mid to late August and much of it will grow in our climate for most of the fall and we'll be able to harvest all winter, then plant many of the same plants again at the end of winter for a spring harvest.

Head on over to How Does Your Garden Grow hosted by A High And Noble Calling for more garden updates and to enter her giveaway.

Call Your Congressmen TODAY

Click here to read a post about a bill that is expected to be voted on today. This bill would effectively put small farmers out of business and limit your food choices and food safety. Please read the post and please call your congressman and make your opinion known.

Here is the text of HR2749 Keep in mind that they changed it yesterday to include NAIS, a costly animal tracking system. The link contains an older version of the bill.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

WFMW: Shaving Legs

My friend Melanie over at My Little Patch of Sunshine is always sharing such great tips. I learn so much from her. If you don't already read her blog, you should head over there right after reading this post and subscribe. Anyway, a year or so ago, she shared this amazing, life changing tip for shaved legs. Her suggestion? Shave every day. I know, it sounds like more work, but actually, its a lot less. This doesn't mean you have to shave perfectly every day - that would take forever. What it does mean is that in the shower, spend 30 seconds or so per leg for a quick shave. A few swipes a day will keep your legs presentable because it even if you miss a spot one day, you will probably get it the next day, before it has a chance to really grow out. Okay, so I don't actually do this every single day, but I'd say 4-5 out of 7 days, I run the shaver over my legs, and it has saved so much time and embarrassment.

Check out Works For Me Wednesday at We Are THAT Family for lots of tips.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Kitchen Tip: Cooking-at-Home Made Easy - Pt. 1

We all know that cooking at home is healthier and more economical, but let's be honest, it is not always easy or convenient. For the next few weeks, I'm going to share the evolution of my kitchen routine that brought us from fast food and convenience foods almost daily (even as a stay at home parent) to where we are now (most meals at home or packed at home and brought with us, homemade bread, yogurt, snacks, etc).

Let's face it, cooking at home is time consuming and difficult. It requires skill, thought and organization. It really is no wonder we embrace the convenience of take out and pre-packaged food. When my kids were very young, I did not have the organizational skills I needed to take care of them, the house and the kitchen, so we relied a lot on convenience food and sadly, fast food. Learning and becoming organized in the kitchen has been a journey that has taken years and that is still happening. Each new skill learned, either organizing or cooking skills, allows us to eat better quality foods and allows cooking to take LESS of my time. We bake our own bread, make our own yogurt and kefir, cook whole chickens (instead of buying them already roasted - most of the time anyway), make our own soup stock, preserve summer produce by canning or dehydrating, grow some of our own food, scratch cook breakfast foods like pancakes, oatmeal, waffles and french toast, and bake most of our own baked goods and snacks.

If you'd like to go from slice and bake (or packaged) cookies to home baked cookies, step one is:

Clean Your Kitchen - Right here, I'm not talking about organizing or decluttering, though that will be an important step later on. What I mean here is do your dishes. It can be overwhelming to even think of cooking dinner if you first have to wash the pot to cook in and your measuring utensils and cooking spoons. Most of the time, that alone is enough to send you to the phone to order a pizza. Think about it, you are already tired and don't know what to cook. You walk into the kitchen, a little overwhelmed already and are confronted with a mess that you will need to clean before you can start planning, cooking and then cleaning again. No wonder we call for take out so often. In order to get into the routine of cleaning up after myself in the kitchen, I used Flylady's method and tried to keep my sink shined and clean (just another way of saying, do the dishes, don't let them sit in the sink). Here is what my day looks like, from a kitchen cleaning point of view.

In the morning, my kids sleep an hour or so longer than I do most mornings, so I use that time to blog and catch up on email. If they wake up earlier, I just skip the blogging or try to do it later in the day when they are busy with something else. As soon as I'm done with the computer, I unload the dishwasher, which ran over night with the dinner dishes. I also clean anything that might have had to soak overnight (though this does not happen often). This takes about 5-7 minutes. Now I have a clean kitchen and an empty dishwasher :) As we make and eat breakfast, all dishes used can now go into the dishwasher. Basically, breakfast clean up takes less than 30 seconds this way. We also often bake in the morning as the house is cooler and sometimes I can do it while the kids are still sleeping. These dishes can go into the dishwasher here as well. If we have a mid-morning snack, the dishes go straight into the dishwasher - kitchen is still clean. We do the same again after lunch and after our mid afternoon snack. Basically, the clean up takes very little time - just rinse and put into the dishwasher - 30 seconds to one minute per meal. I run the dishwasher after the mid afternoon snack and then put the dishes away when it is done, which usually coincides with the start of supper preparations. Now I can load the dishwasher as I go along and dinner clean up is easy-peasy. Run the dishwasher right before bed (even if it is not completely full - if you wait for one or two more dirty dishes before you run the dishwasher, you will end up with a sink full of dishes before you know it) and you are ready to start again in the morning. If you don't have a dishwasher, you can do the same thing with your hand washed dishes. Just wash as you go - it only takes a few minutes per meal.

The hard part of all of this is to develop the habit. If you'd like to cook at home more, but a messy kitchen is keeping you from that, why don't you try this method or something like it that fits your families routines for one week and see how it goes. (BTW, if you do this, I'd love to hear about how it goes for you). In the next week or two, I'll share some thoughts on organizing your kitchen to help make cooking at home more convenient.

And just in case my post accidentally implied that my kitchen is always spotless, here is a picture of what our kitchen looked like right before I went to bed last night.

Its messy but it won't take long in the morning to clean it - it is only 6 items. I will clean it before I attempt to make breakfast in the morning.

Okay, now I need to go unload the dishwasher . . . but first, I'm off the visit Tammy's Recipes for Kitchen Tip Tuesday.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Menu Plan Monday - 7-27-09

It is so hard to believe that July is almost over already. This summer sure is flying by. I never got around to posting a menu last week. We were not home much last week, so it was almost pointless to try to plan. We did end up eating out a lot, since we were not home much. Its been good to get back to normal and cook at home.

This week, we are going to be having visitors starting tomorrow through the weekend. We are looking forward to the visit. This week's menu plan will try to utilize little tricks (like roasted chickens and crockpot) to make meal prep easier so that we spend our time with our guests and not in the kitchen. As usual, if it is highlighted, that means it is locally grown or produced.

Breakfast (with repeats):

Oatmeal with brown sugar, butter, flax meal, walnuts and dried cherries
Whole grain pancakes with butter and maple syrup
French Toast made with locally raised eggs
Yogurt (homemade) with maple syrup

Lunch (served with a fruit and/ or a veggie):

Peanut Butter and Honey or Jam (local plum)
Turkey Sandwich (tomato, cheese, pickled banana peppers)
Grilled Cheese

Snacks (my kids like snacks!):

Raspberries (on sale at Kroger - amazing deal!)
Strawberry Smoothies (made with kefir - thanks Paula!!)
Banana Nut Bread
Chips and Salsa
Mixed nuts
Granola Bars
Brownies (we are trying a recipe from the book Brownies to Die For)
Hummus and pita
Raw Milk Sharp Cheddar Cheese (our most recent cheese obsession)


*Beef teriyaki with mixed veggies(locally grown grass-fed beef from a roast we had over the weekend) over rice
*Muffaletto sandwiches on yummy homemade herb bread with oven roasted mixed veggies (squash and peppers are local)
*Crockpot Roasted Chicken with cornbread and peas
*Chicken salad sandwiches on croissants with tomatoes, baby swiss and lettuce and sauted squash
*Crockpot Chicken Noodle Soup (spinach, squash, broccoli, carrots and any leftover veggies from the fridge)
* Homemade pizza (we are making 3 - caramelize onion, plain cheese and ham and bacon) with a side salad.

Visit I'm an Organizing Junkie for hundreds of menus.

Bzzzz Agent: Product Review and Giveaway: Off! Clip on and Off! Power Pad - WINNERS!!

We have WINNERS!! The random number generator chose #6 and #11, so, congratulations to ardenpostma (Deb) for winning the Off! Clip-on and to Stephanie Garinger for winning the Off! Power-Pad. Please email me your mailing address as soon as possible ( motheringwithgrace at yahoo dot com ). I need to try to get these out in the mail on Wednesday.


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Busy Weeks - A Little Time Off

So much has been going on here - nothing exciting, unfortunately, just lots of little things - that I've been really bad about blogging. Today is going to be another crazy busy day, but hopefully I'll have some time to write tomorrow, that is if I can tear myself away from my most recent book obsession, Outlander (thanks for the recommendation, Erin :o) . If you haven't yet, click here to enter my Off! Clip On and Off! Lamp giveaway. It ends soon!!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Garden Update: 7-16-09

I'm giving away two OFF! mosquito products. Check it out while you are here!

After 4 weeks with NO rain, finally it has rained. In fact we received lots of rain on Monday and small showers every day since. My plants are thrilled. Last Thursday, our figs started ripening, so we've been harvesting a bowl full each day since then. We are snacking on them, dehydrating some and making preserves out of the rest. I've had my first run-in with squirrels this week. There are tons of squirrels around here and they obviously enjoy figs. I find the little furry thieves in the trees often and also find lots of half-eaten figs all over the ground throughout the yard. So far, they are not biting into all of the figs, so I'm not ready to declare war or anything - I'm happy to share, as long as they leave us our share :) .

The garden has not been on my mind as much this last week or so, since we started preserving our farmer's market purchases with more determined effort. In fact, between that, cooking our regular meals, homeschooling (yes, we school even during the summer, though in a much more relaxed manner), an entire day of errands in a nearby city and staying up way too late a few nights this week watching netflix movies, I am exhausted. In fact, I think I'm taking the day off today, outside of cooking dinner, and maybe some cookies. :) Yay! Vacation ;) (Tangent over - back to the garden update)

After it became obvious that our watermelon plant was not going to recover from the heat, we planted seeds (open pollinating variety) and they came up during the week. The plants are so cute and now I need to figure out where to plant them. I don't know if there is still enough "summer' left for them, but since we don't usually get our first frost until November, I figured it couldn't hurt to try.

Our blueberry plant has definitely come back from the brink. New leaves are sprouting every day.

Lemons are looking good and I'm hoping they will start to ripen soon as I'm not sure the poor tree can handle much more weight, lol.

Still harvesting cherry tomatoes, basil, and parsley. I'm hoping to make a basil/ parsley pesto today to use in our dinner (pizza with pesto for the sauce and sliced tomatoes (such beautiful farmer's market tomatoes) and mozzarella).

Its time to figure out what to do for a fall container garden. I'm going to work on that this week and post my thoughts (hopefully) next week.

Visit How Does Your Garden Grow hosted by A High And Noble Calling to read more garden updates, and if you have a garden and a blog, you can participate, too!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Bzzzz Agent: Product Review and Giveaway: Off! Clip on and Off! Power Pad

Bzzzz Agent sent me an Off! Power Pad Lamp and Off! Clip On to try so that I could review them. The Off! Power Pad Lamp works by placing the attractive "lamp" on a table or any other flat surface. The heat activated repellent pad is said to protect a 15X15 foot area and offer the same protection as 15 citronella candles. These lamps are convenient for summer activities like a cookout, back yard swimming or other water activities and also for camping as well as many other activities. The Off! Clip On is in my opinion an unique product. You wear the little battery operated fan with refillable pad clipped to your belt (or you can set it on a table near you) and it protects you from mosquitoes for up to 12 hours. I like the idea of not needing to spray bug spray on my kids to keep mosquitoes at bay.

I will be giving away one Off! Power Pad Lamp to one blog reader and one Off! Clip On to another blog readers. There are several ways you can be entered into the random drawing. 1. Leave a comment on this post. 2. Subscribe to this blog then leave a second comment telling me that you are a subscriber. If you already subscribe be sure to comment, too. 3. Spread the word about this giveaway by blogging, twitter or telling your friends, then leave a third comment letting me know you've spread the word.

I will choose two random numbers and award the corresponding commentors with either the Power Pad Lamp or Clip On. Since these items are somewhat large and will require significant postage, I am going to limit participation to United States residents. I will close the comments to this post and choose the winners on Friday, July 24 at 6:00 pm central time. Good luck!! :)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Why Bother with Food Storeage and Preserving?

My husbands reaction to seeing so many jars of salsa (a small laugh and a confused expression) made me realize that even someone who lives with me and hears my thoughts and rants might not understand what I'm doing, so I'm betting if you surf on in to this blog and see all the food storage posts, it might not make sense to you either. Why do I bother making and canning so much when I can just go to the grocery store and buy it later if I need it? Here are a few of the reasons:

1. Locally grown produce tastes better and makes better tasting salsa, preserves, pickles, etc. It has gotten so that we won't eat produce out of season and much of it we won't even get from the grocery store because the taste is so different (inferior). If we can preserve some of it at its peak of flavor, then we can have it at its best even when the season is over.

2. I can make it for less. I can make fig preserves for the cost of the jar lid, sugar and energy to cook and waterbath can it (around twenty five cents per pint). I can make the salsa for about $1.00 per pint and that includes the cost of buying the vine-ripened, delicious tomatoes, onions, peppers, etc.

3. I can help to support the local community by buying lots of produce from local farmers. What I buy now will help my local farmers to pay their bills and feed their family in the winter when they are not selling anything. This small act might be the difference between the farmer being able to continue farming or having to sell the farm to find other work. Every dollar I spend with a farmer, instead of at the grocery store, is a full dollar that goes to the farmer, as opposed to the mere pennies on the dollar that go to the farmer through more conventional grocery store purchases.

4. We are learning and practicing skills that will help my family become more self-sufficient. We hope to own land soon so that we can take more responsibility for producing much of our own food. When that happens we will be doing a lot of food preservation and it will help that my kids and I are practiced at it since so many other things we will be doing will be new to us.

5. I know what is in it. I don't have to wonder if that ingredient I cannot pronounce is something that I want my children eating, and I don't have to keep constant watch over HFCS or Trans-Fats on ingredient lists because I know what is in it, since I made it.

6. Food security. With products being recalled on a regular basis for containing things like e coli, salmonella, listeria and lead, I feel better knowing the people who grow our food and knowing how it was grown. The tomatoes I preserve will not be recalled.

It is a lot of work, but in my opinion, it is work worth doing.

Monday, July 13, 2009

More Food Storeage Pictures

Here is the salsa (8 pints) from this weekend's farmer's market tomatoes. Also pictured are 3 pints of fig preserves we made from the fig trees on the property. This makes 5 pints plus the one's we've eaten fresh off the tree and the one's we dehydrated. The trees are still going strong, so I'm sure we'll have many more jars of figs before its all said and done.

Here are the Roma tomatoes and some figs still in the oven drying. Please ignore the oven-in-need-of-cleaning. If the kids like the figs this way, we'll make more. I'd also like to make a few more trays of "sun dried" tomatoes.

Menu Plan Monday - 7-13-09

I've decided to try an experiment with our grocery shopping. Instead of a weekly grocery run I'm trying shopping for two weeks of groceries at a time with dh stopping on his way home from work for milk as we need it and the boys and I hitting the farmer's market twice a week for fresh produce. We used to shop this way and not only was it less stress because of fewer shopping trips, but we also spent less. So yesterday was the day of the big shopping trip. It went well and we spent just slightly more than we usually spend for one week. I'm interested to see how this pans out.

This morning, I am dehydrating tomatoes and figs. We like "sun dried" tomatoes in quick bread (tomato basil bread) and on pizza, so I thought it would be fun to make our own (in the oven) with locally grown tomatoes. And I've heard that dried figs are delicious, so we're giving that a try, too. It would be nice to have another way to preserve and snack on figs. I think I'll also try fig fruit leather. As a kid, one of my friends used to always have this every summer (her grandmother made it) and we enjoyed it. Maybe my kids will, too. We'll try it out and see. They surely enjoyed the blueberry leather we made last week - it barely lasted a day. We've also been preserving some of our farmer's market finds as pickles and also salsa. Ideally, we'd like to preserve a year's worth. It will be interesting to see if we can do it.

Our menu for this week (locally grown in bold):

Breakfast (with repeats):
French Toast (eggs)
Yogurt with plum jam
Oatmeal with butter, cinnamon and a little brown sugar or honey

Lunch (one fruit and one veggie):
Turkey Sandwiches
Broccoli Cheese Soup
Chicken Noodle Soup

Chips and Salsa
Hummus and Pita
Figs (my youngest and I both love them right off the tree)
Homemade bread (gonna try soaked bread) and honey butter
Yogurt with plum jam or with maple syrup
Popcorn (popped on the stove top in coconut oil with celtic sea salt and pastured butter - the smell of this cooking can always bring the kids into the kitchen, no matter what they are doing - so yummy!)
Carrots and cukes
Cookies (not sure what kind)
Quick bread (probably banana nut - again)
Strawberry/ blueberry smoothie

Dinner (we will be dining out a few times this week)
Roasted Chicken, green salad, cantaloupe

Tuna Burgers, tomato and cuke salad, sauted squash

Chicken Noodle Soup (onions, squash), green salad

Pizza (caramelized onion, bacon and ham, or cheese and black olive), side salad

Grass-fed Beef burgers (caramelized onions, lettuce, tomato), broccoli


Head over to I'm an Organizing Junkie for Menu Plan Monday.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Saturday Farmer's Market and Canning Question

Tomatoes, plums, peppers, okra, cucumber, pickles, cherry jam, cookies, and cantaloupe (including cantaloupe slices, one of which we ate at the market). The banana peppers and okra were pickled on Saturday. The large tomatoes and jalapeno became salsa on Sunday (picture coming soon). The Roma tomatoes will be dehydrated on Monday along with some of the figs from the trees out back.

Ok, here is my canning question. Why is the vinegar cloudy in the banana peppers (pictured below)? Its the same vinegar that was used in the okra which did not get cloudy. The cloudiness is gone now, but I'd like to know what caused it and if its still safe to use.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Yesterday, No. Today, Yes!!

Yesterday, I checked the fig tree and there were no figs ready, although they were starting to look like they might be full sized. Today, I happened to glance at them when walking past and saw that lots were ripe! Yay!

When I went inside to change from my jeans into my shorts and get a bowl, the boys got to work and by the time I was outside again, they were done collecting the ripe ones. Instead of cooking dinner, I cooked up the figs.
Four cups of figs made one pint and a little more. I canned the one pint and the "little more" will got into the fridge to be used up this week.

I just went out to inspect the trees again and found another 2 cups or so of ripe figs. I brought them in and will probably wait until tomorrow or day after tomorrow to see if we can get to 6 cups of figs before canning again. That way, I would probably get 2 full pints to can.

We use the preserved figs on toast, with biscuits, in yogurt (dh discovered this a few weeks ago and its so yummy), in fig cobbler and we are going to try fig pinwheels and fig sweet dough hand pies. What do you do with your fig preserves?

Salsa and Pickled Banana Peppers

Keeping it real: notice the messy counter and toaster oven behind the canning jars.

It smells like a Mexican restaurant in here, today. I tried out this recipe for salsa and this one for pickled banana peppers. Since we have some very particular people who live in this house (Hubby and oldest son), I decided to try the salsa recipe out in a small batch, only make half a recipe. Well, it passed the taste test for #1 son and knowing dh's tastes like I do, I am sure it will pass there as well. I made the recipe as written (a new thing for me - I usually alter everything, lol) except that I ran everything through the food processor for a less chunky salsa (as requested by #1 son).

I cannot believe how easy it was to make. I've avoided making salsa for years thinking it would be difficult and not come out tasting very good. Boy was I ever wrong. Next market, I plan to get enough produce to make a full batch and can it. If I can do this 6 times this summer, that would give us enough salsa (one pint per week) to last us through next summer, when the tomatoes show up at the market again. We use at least that much salsa, since chips and salsa are our salty snack of choice and we use salsa in cooking sometimes, too. Will I make that much salsa? I doubt it - but I'm sure going to try. Now to learn how to make the chips, lol.

The pickled banana peppers will be a lot easier to make a year's worth, since dh is the only one who eats them. I think one pint per month will be plenty, and since I already have two, the rest could be done in one canning session. Let's just hope the farmer's have enough peppers.

One thing I did not try yet, is the link Paula recommended for lacto-fermented salsa. I have a question for you, Paula. Is the whey called for in the recipe just regular whey, like what I strain out of our yogurt or is it something else? I want to try this, too and hope to do that as soon as possible.

Okay, so what else are you all preserving that I should try?

Hamburger Buns Recipe

Last night, we had burgers made with grass fed beef, locally grown onions (caramelized) and tomatoes, potatoes grown by my Dad and broccoli. We made the hamburger buns pictured above to go with the burgers. I did not get a picture of the finished burgers. We ate them too quickly. The buns were delicious and we are definitely going to make them again next time we have anything requiring a bun. I adapted our recipe from this link. Here's how we made them:

~ Hamburger Buns ~
Recipe adapted from the blog Rosa's Yummy Yums.


1 Cup Water, lukewarm
2 Tbs Unsalted butter, melted
1 Egg
2 Cups unbleached white bread flour
1 1/4 Cup whole wheat flour

1/4 Cup sugar
1 Tsp Salt
1 Tbs yeast

1. Add ingredients to bread maker in the order recommended by the manufacturer.
2. Use dough setting.
3. When the dough cycle is complete, remove from machine and divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll into a ball them flatten slightly. Place on greased baking sheet and let rise until doubled.
4. Preheat Oven to 375 degrees. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes.
5. Cool on a wire rack.

Farmer's Market Finds

This was our Farmer's Market haul from the mid week market. I think we managed to buys a little something from each of the farmers there, which made the boys really happy (that watermelon is making ds#1 really happy, too). I found almost everything I needed to make salsa including three kinds of peppers. We are have to add onions from the grocery store, but they are locally grown, so I feel good about it. I'm making a really small "test batch" today. If we like it, we'll buy enough from the weekend market to make a full batch and can some. I'm also going to try pickling those banana peppers today. They were 10 for $1.00 and they are really big. I think we'll get at least one pint, maybe more out of it. Bryan likes banana peppers on his sandwiches, so if they turn out the way we like them, we'll buy more this weekend and preserve them, too.

What did you get at your market? Are you making anything special with it?

Garden Update 7-9-09

We finally got rain over the weekend. For two days in a row, we had cloudy days, with mild temperatures and rain at night. I even collected a little of the rain in some buckets to water the garden later in the week. My plants really love the rain water so much better than water from the tap.

We still have not found a usable "worm compost" container, so they are still in the large garden container my Dad sent the compost home in. We have added kitchen waste to the compost along with a few leaves and some cardboard. I am amazed that it does not smell and that no animals have messed with it. We are still on the lookout for a permanent home for the worm composter, though.

Lemons and figs are getting close to full size. I'm hoping to see them start to ripen soon. Tomatoes are still ripening daily. These little guys are so flavorful that regardless of how we are gardening next summer, I hope to grow many plants of each variety. The herbs are growing well. We're going to have pesto tonight and I'm hoping to make tabbouleh this weekend. Basil and parsley are some other things I need to grow more of next year. In fact, parsley grows well here year round, so we're going to add a few plants when we get the fall garden going.

Here is a picture of that poor little blueberry plant that looked dead for a few weeks. You can see the new leaves starting to grow.

The peas I planted in the landscaping are surrounded by weeds, but they are finally starting to grow, thanks to the rain. No matter how much I watered them, they were surviving, but not thriving. Just a few days of rain did the trick. Trey look healthy and green and have started growing quickly.

The Black Krim tomato seeds I planted 6 or so weeks ago are still small seedlings (2.5 or 3 inches tall). I really think I just planted them too late and the heat is keeping them from growing. The milder temperatures seem to be helping a little as they are starting to put out new leaves. I wonder if taking them plants inside during the hottest part of the day might help. I think its time for an experiment :o)

How are things in your garden? Visit How Does Your Garden Grow, hosted by A High and Noble Calling to read more garden updates.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Kitchen TIp: Yummy Homemade Sandwich Bread

I found this great homemade sandwich bread recipe on New Life on a Homestead. I made it this morning and it was so unbelievably delicious, there is almost none left. I am hoping to transition away from store bought sandwich bread and I think this recipe will fit the bill. The original recipe was for a bread machine, which I do have, but I only use it for making the dough. I do not like the way the crust comes out in a bread maker, so I remove the dough and put it in a bread pan, let it rise again and then bake it in the oven. Here it is right after I took it out of the bread maker.

Here is the recipe along with my improvised baking instructions.

Homemade Bread Machine Wheat Bread

  • 1 1/3 cups warm water
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 1/2 cups bread flour
  • 2 Tbsp. + 2 tsp. white sugar
  • 3 tsp. yeast (or one packet)

In the bread machine combine water, oil, and salt. Add the flour on top of the liquids. Pour sugar into one corner of the machine. Make a finger dent in the center of the flour and pour the yeast into it.

Set the machine on the dough setting. When the dough cycle is finished, remove the dough and place into an oiled bread pan. Allow to rise again in a warm place while the oven heats up to 350 deg. Bake at 350 deg for approximately 40 minutes. Allow to cool for about a half an hour on a cooling rack before slicing.

This is what it looked like after we baked it. We ate slices of it with honey butter for breakfast. It is definitely soft enough for a sandwich bread. Now to figure out how to get uniform slices. Anyone have a tip?

Visit Tammy's Recipes for Kitchen Tip Tuesday.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Menu Plan Monday 7/6/09/

This week should be a restful week for us; an unusual thing this summer. With the exception of our regular weekly obligations, I don't think we have anything planned - yay! This week's menu is a little more involved than usual - trying some new things - plus I'd like to make more room in the freezer, so we will use lots of the frozen proteins stored there. Plus, we are going to try some cooking experiments such as making fruit leather in our oven (we have no dehydrator). Local items are highlighted.

Breakfasts (with some repeats):
Eggs and Bacon
French toast (eggs)
Waffles (eggs) with yogurt and cherries
Fruit smoothie (blueberries)

Lunch (always includes at least one fruit and veggie):
Turkey sandwiches (trying this homemade sandwich bread recipe)
Caesar salads
Chicken Salad Sandwiches

Fruit leather
Blueberry muffins
granola bars (from the freezer)
cucumbers and carrots dipped in ranch dip
herb cheese spread on crackers
homemade bread with honey butter
banana nut bread

*Baked Salmon, green salad (tomatoes, cucumbers), homemade bread
*Creamy Crockpot Italian Chicken with homemade Pesto over pasta, green salad (tomatoes, cucumbers), broccoli
*Teriyaki chicken with mixed veggies (squash) over noodles
*Steak and Chicken Fajitas, chips and salsa (going to try my hand at making this from ingredients found at the farmer's market)
*Grassfed beef burgers, broccoli, rosemary potatoes (I grew the rosemary, my Dad grew the potatoes)
*Roasted Chicken, peas (Dad grew these, too), green salad (tomatoes, cucumbers)
*Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup (squash), homemade bread

Check out more menus at I'm An Organizing Junkie.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Garden Update 7-5-09

I took a few days off from the computer so the garden update is happening today instead of last Thursday. A few weeks ago, I blogged about how the lack of rain and the extreme heat were killing my poor plants. Moving them into the shade of a large tree on the property has helped tremendously. I was so discouraged when everything was dying, but now things are starting to grow again.

One of the new blueberry plants we bought at the farmer's market 3 weeks ago lost all of its leaves, but I transplanted it into a larger container and continued to water it anyway (thanks in large part to the encouragement of my online gardening friends). When I watered it today, I noticed new leaves beginning to grow! Yay!

The cherry and yellow pear tomatoes continue to produce yummy little tomatoes that we enjoy at least a few times a week. The Black Krim tomatoes I planted from seed several weeks ago are still small seedlings, not really doing much. I think it is probably just too hot for the plants to grow. I'm going to continue watering and dressing with compost and hope for the best.

The watermelon my oldest planted finally just died. Poor plant. It just didn't stand a chance between the heat and the poor soil in the landscaping bed we put it in at first. We put new seeds in the pot with some additional compost, and we'll see what happens. I'm not expecting anything, just experimenting.

One of the sunflower seeds finally germinated and is growing. Hopefully a few more will germinate. Sunflowers are so beautiful.

Over the weekend, we visited back home and my Dad sent me home with a large flower pot full of compost. After using about half on the plants, we discovered that he also shared some worms with us. We were THRILLED since we have wanted for a while now to start our own "worm farm" type compost bin. Our landlord does not want us to compost in open bins as there are woods behind the house and lots of raccoons and other animals that like to go through trash and such. We knew that if we composted in a closed container, we would need some worms, and now we have lots of them! Yay! So, one of our first projects for this week will be to obtain a tightly closing container for composting and lots of "material" to get it started. We have been reading about composting and learned that we can compost yard waste, kitchen veggie and fruit peelings and other waste, cardboard and even some paper. The boys were excited to learn that and are eager to find out if we can reduce the number of bags of garbage we throw out each week. I'm curious, too. I'm sure we'll post pictures at some point.