Garden Glimpse 6/19/13

I was hoping to get these up sooner, but hey, I’m a REAL housewife so time was an issue…  Better late than never, right?  Even in just a week my garden does look a bit different from these, but this will do for now…

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We have two gates to our yard, this entrance is the one that gets used most often so this is where this garden glimpse will start.  I don’t have perfection in my yard, I have a work in progress.  In fact, it will pretty much always be a work in progress.  But welcome!!

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The whiskey barrels are really filling in.  I think next year I will change the location of them.  The way they are set up the tomato plants cast a heavy shadow on the smaller plants and I think that is going to affect their growth.  I’m pondering if I should move some of the eggplants to a sunnier spot.  When we finally get some sun again I will see how much they get in their current location, then decide.

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The newest raised bed garden is starting to take shape.  The tomatoes that I planted in containers in front of it are looking beautiful.  I’m really hoping for more tomatoes than I’ll know what to do with.  The zucchini that are planted in the bed are slowly growing, but the patty pan that I put in a container as an experiment is really taking off.

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My little random patch, as I like to call it, is looking a little sad but I’m not giving up on it just yet.  There are two problems plaguing this area, for one, there is some kind of underground animal wreaking havoc with its large tunnels.  These tunnels are freaking huge!!  I keep saying I’m going to put our part-time cat in one and see if she catches anything, and yes, they are that big!!  Second, this is where all the water from the slide drains.  So it gets quite the watering on every sunny day.  It’s trying to survive, but we shall see.

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Look how far my raspberries have come!!  The picture on the left was taken the day I finally cleaned them up.  I took all the dead stalks out, raked it and put fertilized and put new soil around the base.  My daughter LOVES the golden raspberries.  We had planted three different types of raspberries several years ago and this is what choked out the others.  The season is so short that we are out there every day, even in the rain, to get these golden treasures.

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I refer to this garden bed as the dead lands.  I cannot get anything to grow here.  NOTHING!!!  I’ve planted lettuce, peas, beans, a zillion different types of greens and nothing grows.  Not sure what the dealio is since I used the same soil, same fertilizer same everything.  HHhmmm, must think more about this one.

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This raised garden bed is in several states… This is where my gorgeous artichokes reside as well as my Chinese greens, carrots, beets, rutabagas, turnips, some lettuce, kale, celery, broccoli (didn’t do well at all this year), a few stray tomatoes, and a few other random vegetables.  In person, I think it looks a little more healthy, but maybe that’s me.

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Oh these are just lovely to me….no need to say more.

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More tomatoes…

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Some of the fruit growing around the yard. The fig tree is getting so tall and full of fruit.  I don’t even like figs, thankfully my neighbor does.  The blueberries seem to be liking their home in the whiskey barrel.  The grapes are going to be crazy this year.  I love these grapes!!!  And the cherries that the birds are so fond of, I’ll never get any of these.  Those little gems peeking through….those are the Asian apples.  My kids go crazy for them.  When they are ready to eat, my kids hover around the tree like hyenas waiting for a kill….

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The herbs… the thai basil is still looking like it’s having a rough start, but I’m hoping it finishes strong.  The Italian basil is doing great.  Not sure what I’ll do with the shiso leaves, but they just looked really interesting and I wanted to give them a whirl.  I think this might be the last year I have to haul the bay tree into the garage for the winter.  It has really taken off and getting a nice woody trunk.  Keeping my fingers crossed.  I really do use it and would hate to have to start over with another one.  The lemon verbena at the base of it will need to be transplanted to it’s own pot.  I’m hoping to winter if over again.

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I don’t just grow vegetables, I do like some color with flowers and shrubs.  I’ve never had hostas as big as these.  They started in little containers and just went buck wild.  The clematis started from a little root in one of those bags and now it’s huge.  I would have to do a better picture while it’s in full bloom to really show its size.  It’s so pretty.  And of course you have to have a few Lilies when your daughter’s name is Lily…

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In the outdoor kitchen I have three Meyer lemon trees.  They bloomed like crazy last month which left a bunch of little lemon starts.  Several of them dropped off, but from what I read, that is normal.  I also have some Angel’s Trumpets growing.  I hope this one gets big, they are very interesting plants.

This was quite the long garden glimpse and I still feel like I left a few pictures out….  Now that I have the hang of transferring my photos I’ll do another one much sooner.

Go get dirty my friends!!!

Grow Your Own Herbs

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This morning I was making some matzo ball soup (why when we are in summer the weather screams for matzo ball soup is an entirely different story) and I needed some herbs to put in my matzo balls.  It is so nice to be able to just go out in the backyard and get what I need.  For one, the convenience.  Not having to run to the store every time I have a need for herbs.  Secondly, I know how my herbs are grown.  You can definitely buy organic herbs, strangely, they are a little hard to find where I live and are only carried by a couple stores.  I do not use any pesticides on my herbs, or anything I eat in my garden.  And lastly, cost.  Those little containers of herbs are crazy expensive.  As much as I cook with herbs I would need to sell one of my kids or a kidney in order to use the amount I can get from my garden.

Growing herbs couldn’t be any more simple.  Some herbs I always do from seed, those are cilantro, chives, parsley (I only use flat leaf), salad burnet, a few varieties of basil, and dill.    Others I buy in little pots and plant directly in the herb garden.  I have a few varieties of sage, oregano,  a few varieties of thyme, tarragon, rosemary, and of course mint.

Growing herbs from seed is a game of patience.  Parsley can take a couple weeks before it starts to show signs of life.  Just when you give up on it, something will poke through.  I’ve had a lot of success transplanting parsley.  Cilantro on the other hand can be a bit tricky.  It’s very temperamental and requires a little more care and a gentle hand.  I’ve read many articles that say it doesn’t transplant well, and quite honestly, I agree.  But being the impatient gardener I just take a little extra care and have been pretty successful with it.  I start the seeds in 2″ pots that I’ve saved from previous herb plants.  You could also use the peat pots that are similar in size.  I’m just not a huge fan of those things since they break down so easily and the cilantro will be in them for several weeks.  I let the cilantro grow to a pretty good size in the pot before I transplant it to the herb garden.  When I transplant it I am careful not to disturb the roots much.  I always lose a few, but I also plan for that and plant extra.  The other herbs are a little more forgiving.  But with all transplants, I do take care not to mess with the roots too much.

Except for the cilantro, basil, and parsley, they all come back year after year here in the pacific northwest.  There have been one or two winters that were so bad a few herbs were really thrown for a loop, but for the most part came right back.  I honestly believe anyone can grow herbs.  They are the easiest things, as long as you remember to water them and start them out correctly.  Herbs love sun, so don’t plant them in the shadiest part of your yard.  They do great in containers and boxes which make them great additions to sunny porches, decks patios etc.  I had herb pots in every apartment I lived in.  I couldn’t have a full on garden so I got my fix with my herbs.

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This is the herb garden I put in shortly after I moved into my house.  It gets great sun and seems to be the perfect home for my herbs.  The mint is the one herb you want to be mindful of when you plant.  It goes all crazy and will take over everything.  The roots will spread and even grow out the holes on the bottom of the pots.  I have some lemon balm in almost every corner of my yard, none of which I actually planted.  That one will spread seeds and those little stinkers will grow no matter where they land.  Thankfully, I love the lemon scent.

Bottom line, herbs are great!!  For anyone that likes to cook they are a necessity.

Chicken Salad

Sunday we picked up a rotisserie chicken from Costco after my son about jumped out of the cart when he saw them.  He can be a picky eater so when he sees something that doesn’t have sugar as the first ingredient we jump on it.  The chicken was a hit, but even so, a two 2 year olds can only eat so much chicken which got me thinking about a post I had read on some site, that I honestly don’t recall, about using a store bought rotisserie chicken for several meals.  I decided this chicken was going to be put to the test.  Even though I didn’t get four meals for 4 out of mine (still not so sure about the quantity she gave as each portion) but I did get some yummalicious chicken salad sandwiches.  I have probably had less than ten chicken salad sandwiches in my life, but after having a not so tasty one a few weeks ago I was dead set on making one that I liked.  I succeeded, and I hope you like it too!!

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Recipe:

breast meat from one rotisserie chicken, chopped into small pieces (or you can use whatever chicken breast meat you have)

1/4 c. dried cranberries

1/2 c. celery, diced

1/2 c. onion, diced

1/4 c. fresh parsley

1/2 c. pecans

1 tbsp. Dijon mustard

1/2 – 3/4 c. mayonnaise (depends on how creamy you like it)

1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar

2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. pepper

1 tsp. curry powder

Mix it all together and voila!!!  I didn’t put any pickles in my chicken salad, rather, I wanted to have it on the side, but you could definitely add that.  If you do it that way you might want to delete the apple cider vinegar.

Fruit Roll-Ups

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My kids adore fruit roll-ups.  And if truth be told, so do I.  What I don’t like are some of the ingredients that are in those things.  I bought a food dehydrator earlier this year and have made several batches.  At first I used different recipes, but now I just wing it.  I don’t add sugar and I honestly don’t measure anything.  I simply use the fruit I have on hand.   Blend the heck out of it.  Add a little lemon juice (I don’t even measure this, but I would guess it’s about 1 tbsp. for every blender full of fruit)  Then I simmer it on the stove for about 10 minutes.  After that, in it goes to the dehydrator and a few hours later I have fruit roll-ups.  When my kids see the dehydrator out they get all excited.  They are not as sweet as the boxed type or most of the other homemade ones, but my kids really don’t miss that.  If you use some fruits that will add some natural sugar you will be fine.  Mangos, apples, bananas, pineapples are a few that I add in with strawberries and raspberries to make them a little sweeter.

And, if by chance, you happen to forget you have the fruit in the dehydrator and it gets a little past the fruit roll-up stage don’t worry…. real moms like me just call them fruit crunchies and they are just as loved!!  Kind of like the time I was making homemade potato chips but cut them too thick.  They were too thick to be chips too thin to be fries so they became frips.  The kids loved them.

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I bought this food dehydrator earlier year and I love it.

Best Banana Bread Ever

Without a doubt, I am not a baker. I hate having to read directions and be all exact, which does not bode well when you are trying to make cakes, cookies, candy, etc… That being said, I still like to do it every once in a while. In fact, I do take some joy in it when the results are positive and not a “what in the hell is that” kind of product. This banana bread is definitely not one of those. It’s a pat yourself on the back and yell hooray kind of banana bread.

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You can either grease two loaf pans or you can line them with parchment paper. I prefer the latter. This recipe makes two loaves.

Preheat oven to 350F

1 3/4 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
2 1/4 c. flour
1 1/3 tsp. baking soda
3/4 c. canola oil
3 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/4 c. buttermilk
4-5 really ripe bananas
1 c. pecans or walnuts (optional)

Mix all the dry ingredients into a bowl. In a mixer, use the paddle to whip up the bananas. You can also do this part by hand or with a potato masher. Add all the liquid ingredients to the bananas. Slowly mix in the dry ingredients. By hand, mix in the nuts. Pour equal amounts into the prepared loaf pans. Bake for 55-60 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Enjoy!!

The Joke That Went Deliciously Right!!!

My husband has a horrible aversion to casseroles or anything close to a casserole. He won’t eat them, he scoffs at them and pretty much has nothing positive to say about them. Bottom line, we don’t have them. If for some reason I get a craving for something of a casserole nature I make it during the day. My twins do not have above mentioned aversion, yet.

The other day I saw a post from one of the pages I follow, now don’t judge… it’s Honey Boo Boo’s page. Mama June makes something called a multimeal, which is pretty much her taking a few nights of leftovers into one meal.  The hubs saw the episode (if he confessed, he’s seen many episodes) where she showed this culinary delight. He once again got that pained “I am repulsed” look he gets, which inspired me to make a multimeal. Seeing the post on Facebook just brought it to the front and center of my “to do” list and my multimeal was born.

I knew I couldn’t do it exactly as Mama June did it. I have to admit, her “recipe” was a tad gross. The big globs of tub butter that she is so fond of (Bing “butter sketti”) just isn’t on my list. So after thinking of how to still make a Mama June multimeal, I decided to make a shepherd’s pie of sorts. I really like shepherds pie, I have never made one at home, but knew it was a fairly basic concept. Meat, vegetables, potatoes, got it!

I searched for recipes on Bing and man oh man there are some interesting ones out there. I perused a few from my favorite sites and decided to wing it with their guidance. What turned out was quite honestly super yummalicious. And it wasn’t just me that thought this, my casserole hating husband had three servings!!

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This is what the pan looked like after dinner andI had some for breakfast.

After seeing all the recipes and variations of shepherd’s pie, I think it’s safe to say that you can customize it a bit to make it suit your family’s taste.  Below is the recipe I used.  I’m quite happy with it and would make it again.

Shepherd’s Pie:

 

For the potato topping:

2 lbs. potatoes

6 tbsp. butter

1/4 c. cream

2 egg yolks

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. pepper

 

For the filling:

1 1/2 tbsp. olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

3 large carrots, peeled and chopped

1/4 c. parsley, chopped

2 lbs. ground lamb

1 tbsp. salt

2 tsp. pepper

1 tbsp. fresh rosemary, chopped fine

2 tsp. thyme

2 tbsp. tomato paste

2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

2 tbsp. flour

1 1/4 c. beef broth

3/4 c. corn

3/4 c. peas

 

Boil the potatoes in salted water for about 15 minutes or until you can insert a knife in them.  Drain, leaving 1/4 c. of the boiling water in the pot.  Mash the potatoes.  Add the salt, pepper, butter, cream and mix in.  In a separate bowl, break up the yolks a bit, then add to the potatoes.  The potatoes should not be as moist as traditional mashed potatoes.  They will absorb some of the liquid from the filling so if they are too moist they will just be a big goopy mess on top.

 

While the potatoes are cooking you can make the filling.  In a sauté pan add the oil and let heat up for a few seconds.  Add the onions and carrots, cook until the onions start to get translucent.  Add the parsley, cook for another minute or so.  Add the ground lamb and cook for about 5 minutes until it is cooked.  Add the salt, pepper, rosemary, thyme and tomato paste, mixing it in well.  Cook for about two minutes so the tomato paste changes color a bit (it should deepen in color).  Add the Worcestershire sauce, mix in.  Sprinkle the flour over the top of the ingredients, then mix well.  If you just pour it in and not sprinkle it can goop up on you.  Once the flour has been mixed in, add the beef broth.  Once the liquid in the pan starts to bubble, maybe two minutes, add the corn and peas.  Cook another three or so minutes and the filling is done.

Preheat oven to 400 F

Put the filling in a baking pan and cover with the potatoes.  Since the potatoes are a little stiff I found piping it with a pastry bag then spreading it was the easiest way for me.  Cook for 25-30 minutes, then let it rest for about 10 minutes before serving.

Enjoy!!

 

 

Happy Father’s Day

There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think of my dad.  I have several pictures of him around the house that I pass and one that sits right next to my desk.  He’s been gone a long time now and I treasure memories, but what I find strange is that I really don’t remember many Father’s Days.  The one I do remember is the last one.  I had purchased two cards, one was a lighthearted “you’re a great dad” kind of card and the other was a mushy “thank you for being the best dad and always being there for my” type.  We were never the type of family that oozed our emotions, telling each other we loved them every day.  But we knew.  So I opted for the lighthearted card, thinking to myself, I’ll give him the mushy one next year.  Little did I know there wouldn’t be a next year.  This isn’t something I obsess about or hold huge regret in my heart, but it does pop into my head once a year…

I was truly the lottery winner when it came to dads.  He was the best dad a person could have ever asked for.  I could go on and on about all the qualities he had that made him wonderful, but just stating he was the best dad is enough.  Go hug your dads, papas, babas, babbos, tas, or whatever he is referred to in your home.  Screw the tie and give him a tight hug and a big wet smooch!!!

Happy Father’s Day Dad!!!  I’ll give you that card when I see you again someday…