In the garden. Week 5.

It has been several years since I had a vegetable garden.  I enjoyed it when I had one previously, but life got really busy while I went back to school for my RN degree and then we moved out of the big house on 3 acres.  I completed nursing school several years ago, and we moved one more time, this last time to regular suburban home and lot.  I guess you could say I just sorta moved out of gardening.  In the past 1.5 years I found myself changing careers again.  I left nursing to pursuit hardscape and landscape design for construction business.  Designing landscapes brought me back to gardening.  I spent all of last year changing my own yard (still a work in progress) from what was mostly grass and few hedges to something looking a little more inviting and planned.  So, naturally I started thinking about vegetable gardening again.  I will admit that it was first my husband’s idea, that we put in a vegetable garden.   He knows how much I loved it and he loved the fresh veggies that came out of it.   In addition, I have moved us away from eating non-organic, GMO, and processed foods.  So, 5 weeks ago we broke ground for a raised vegetable bed.

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Our lumber is delivered.

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Layering compost and soil with newspaper as bottom layer.

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I particularly like that these were not only free it is the “Greensheet”.

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Raised bed ready for planting.

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Initial planting.  I thought this was all I would plant in the bed.  Oh boy, was I wrong!

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I have added several more plants to my initial planting.  Merlot grape vine, 3 artichoke plants (which I will move to a bed all their own soon since they take up a lot of space), and lots of scrap vegetables such as lettuce, onions, leeks, and celery.

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I love scrap gardening.  Several plants, will re-root.  I planted the carrots, and only one survived.  But I have a lot of green onions growing  from scraps, in a pot on my porch.   I don’t know if the carrot top will actually grow another carrot.  I’ve read that it will and I’ve read that it won’t.  I’ll keep you posted on that.

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My container garden is doing well.  I keep adding plants here too.  I have recently battled aphids and white moth larva on my kale.  But other than that, no issues really.  Nothing that a little organic insecticidal soap won’t handle.    I am really looking forward to harvesting vegetables.  It looks like a race between a few cherry tomato plants and my yellow squash as to which one will be ready to pick first.

Now that I have the garden in and going well, I want to get a couple hens.  I miss having hens and the fresh eggs they provided.  I know that I am not supposed to have poultry per our HOA rules.  But I seriously don’t see the issue with a couple hens in a well maintained chicken coop.  Hubby wants to agree with me but he’s really concerned that it will upset neighbors.  I think all he remembers from our past with chickens was the occasional pullet that turned out to be a rooster not a hen, and the subsequent 5am cock-a-doodle-do that occurred.    Yah, that would likely upset a few neighbors.  So, until I break and just come home one day with a couple pullets and a chicken coop, I found an answer to my longing for a couple hens.

Meet Olive

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and Lola.  So far these girls haven’t disturbed any neighbors and it makes me long for a couple hens even more each time I see them.  I’ve got a serious case of chicken fever which leads to something called, chicken math.  Which is like that saying about potato chips “You can’t have just one.”

 

Asian Lettuce Wraps

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These are quick and easy lettuce wraps.  I came up with this recipe after seeing a similar ready to make meal on a local organic food delivery company, where I occasionally order farm fresh veggies from.  I needed something to make that would be quick since we had a meeting in the evening to get our youngest son registered for high school next year.  And in keeping with trying to incorporate more fresh vegetables into our diets, I also needed something that would accomplish that goal.

I will apologize in advance for this recipe.  I tend to be a “little of this and a little of that, and oh a little more of that” person when I cook, especially when I am creating something without a recipe.  I think these amounts are really close to what I actually used.  You can adjust as needed to suit your taste.

Ground Turkey with Coconut Rice Asian Lettuce Wraps

Ingredients for the wraps (minus the stir fry sauce ingredients – they are listed below)

  • 1.5  lbs ground turkey
  • 1/2 cup chopped cashews
  • Head of butter or bib lettuce
  • 1 14 oz Can of sliced water chestnuts (opt)
  • 1/3 cup thinly shredded carrots
  • 1/3 cup chopped green onion tops
  • 1.5 cups uncooked Jasmine rice
  • 1 can coconut milk (1 can is just less than 2 cups)

Stir Fry Sauce:

  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/3 cup sesame oil
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons crushed garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon  cayenne powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger powder

Mix together the ingredients for the stir fry sauce in a bowl.   Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in fridge to marinate for a least an hour.  This can be made the night before.  Once sauce has marinated at least an hour, brown the turkey on medium high heat.  While the turkey is browning, put uncooked rice in a pot, pour in the coconut milk and the water, bring the rice, coconut milk, and water to a boil and then reduce heat and cover rice to cook until done.  Once the turkey is cooked add in cashews, the water chestnuts and the stir fry sauce.  Cook together on medium high, stirring frequently, until sauce is completely absorbed. Remove from heat.

Clean and separate the lettuce leaves while the rice and the turkey are cooking and lightly pat dry.  Once the stir fry sauce has completely absorbed and the rice is complete, scoop the turkey meat mixture and the rice onto the lettuce leaves.  Top with the sliced carrots and green onions.  Wrap up or hold like a taco to eat.

If you make these or adjust the recipe, please let me know what you changed and how you liked these!

Goodbye winter, it was fun, but I’m seeing another season now.

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I always welcome winter.  I guess having grown up in South Florida, where it is always summer weather, I am ready for boots, sweaters, gloves, fuzzy hats, and a break from gardening and yard work.   And winter means making and eating lots of yummy soups, stews, and hearty meals.  But at a certain point, enough is enough.   Time to move on winter.

Our weather started warming up, forcing many of my plants to start budding out.  I am a bit of a nerd when it comes to plants.  I could spend, and have, all day working in my yard.  So, as you could guess, spring is, for me, a bit of a gift.  With this change in weather, I have come down with a cold that has also resulted in laryngitis.  My husband loves my new raspy Demi Moore(ish) voice.  I just want to be able to talk at a normal pitch and without pain.    In the last year, I started buying more organic vegetables.  And recently, I added more organic products to my pantry.  This work well with my love of gardening and nature.  And we  get the benefit of eating foods that are not filled with antibiotics, growth hormones, or treated with pesticides.  Last week while shopping at Trader Joe’s, I picked up some raw organic honey.   So, last night when my throat felt so raw that even breathing through my nose, was painful.  This would also induce coughing which caused even more pain.  I remembered the jar of raw honey in the pantry, and all the health benefits of it.  Most important one last night was it’s anti-viral effect, it’s ability to promote healing, soothe sore throats, and quiet a cough.  So, I heated up water in my tea kettle, waited for the hiss of the kettle, and then made a cup of hot tea.  I added 2 teaspoons of the raw honey to it and proceeded to sip it.  It felt wonderful on my throat!  And it worked,  it did reduce the pain and my cough went away.  The only downside was the caffeine at 10pm.  Upside to the caffeine was that I got all the laundry done and I re-watched a Discovery Channel documentary on possible real life mermaids.  Raw honey has loads of health benefits, and it tastes yummy.  But please do not give it to young children, especially babies, as just as pasteurized honey, it may contain botulism toxin.

So, cheers to spring!  Bring on the flowers, the bees who pollinate the flowers, and the beautiful raw honey that bees give us.

Chicken n’ Dumplings

There isn’t much better than a hot bowl of soup after a cold winter day.   This January we’ve seen some of the coldest days ever in this area of Texas.  So, it seemed fitting to add this to our meal plan for the week.   I’ve never followed a recipe when making chicken n’ dumplings but I need to write down what I did last night because the soup was the best I’ve ever made.  All that was left per my husband was the metal shaving from scraping the pot for every last drop possible.  I hope you enjoy this as much as my family did.  Sorry, there is no picture of the soup.

Chicken n’ Dumplings

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts

2 cups baby carrots

4 celery stalks

1 medium yellow onion

2 tablespoon olive oil

1  26oz chicken stock (I use Swanson)

1 tablespoon paprika

2 tablespoons salt

½ cup (1 stick) butter

8 tablespoons flour

1 tablespoon corn starch

2 ½ cups Bisquick

2/3 cup milk

1 cup half n’ half

Place chicken breasts in a large pot and cover with water, bring to a boil and reduce heat to medium, cook chicken for about 20 minutes or until chicken is cooked all the way through.  Remove from heat and let the water and chicken cool (keeping the chicken in the water helps keep it moist later).

When the water and chicken are cool enough to handle.  Remove the chicken form the pot and cut into pieces.  Do not discard the water the chicken boiled in.  Set chicken aside.  Chop the celery and baby carrots and dice the onion.  Put the olive oil in a large frying pan.  When the olive oil is hot, put the chicken in and brown the chicken a little, then add the veggies, and 1 ½ cups of the water you boiled the chicken, reduce heat cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the veggies are soft.  Add more broth if needed if it evaporates out before veggies are cooked. Once veggies are cooked, put the pot of chicken broth back on stove and add the chicken stock (reserving ½ cup of the stock for another step) and the chicken, salt (you can use less or more salt to suit your taste) and veggies to the broth; bring to a boil and then reduce to medium-low heat.

When the broth has boiled; in another frying pan melt butter and quickly stir in the flour and paprika (stir out all the lumps), making a roux.  Place the reserved ½ cup of chicken in the roux and add in the corn starch, stir until thickened and then add your roux mixture to the pot of chicken and veggies.  Stir well.

Mix the Bisquick and milk together.  Roll dough into walnut sized balls.  If the dough is too stick to roll, add a little more Bisquick.  Roll all the dough into balls and add the balls in to the pot all at once.  Cover the pot and cook on medium-low for 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes, remove from heat, and stir in the half n’ half.

Serve in bowls and enjoy!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

I realize it’s been a few months again since I have posted anything here.  It’s been a very busy year for us since I decided to change careers and start doing 3D design for our business.  Things have slowed down a bit since the weather cooled off but it’s also as busy time of the year with things going on with the boys in school activities, and then once Halloween hits, it seems like the year goes into warp speed.  I’ve been cooking and baking quite a bit and I have pictures of some of the things I’ve cooked and baked.  I plan to share at least one of the items with you soon.    One of my New Years’s Resolutions was to start blogging again.  So, hopefully I will keep that resolution.

Merry Christmas to you and your family!

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Forgive me for my 7 month departure

So, the last time I posted anything on here was in February.  Our normally busy Spring started a little early and has continued.  I simply didn’t have the time to even log in, let alone blog anything.  However, I recently made some scrumptious pumpkin cupcakes and posted pictures on Facebook.  Several people asked for the recipe, so I thought I’d blog about the cupcakes.  Let me start by saying that I am NOT a cake baker by any means.  Anyone that follows me knows that I prefer to make cheesecakes.  I do intend to make a cheesecake version of these cupcakes sometime this fall.   This recipe comes from http://www.tasteofhome.com/Recipes/Pumpkin-Spice-Cupcakes-with-Cream-Cheese-Frosting.  I tweaked it a just a little bit, by reducing the amount of sugar in the cupcake batter.  This recipe made 36 cupcakes.  Next time I will fill the cupcake liners more, so they are bigger cupcakes.  I think I’d get about 24 if I did that.  I think adding raisins, or chocolate chips would be a yummy addition to these already delicious cupcakes.  I hope you enjoy these cupcakes as much as we have!

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Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 can (15 ounces) solid-pack pumpkin
  • 2-1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • FROSTING:
  • 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 4 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

M.I.A.

I’ve been missing in action for a few weeks.  I apologize to those of you following me.  I’ve been really busy with the family, work and then Doug and I had a weekend trip to the coast and the following weekend the flu found us.  So, I haven’t been cooking as much as I would like.  I have made a few things that were really good and I wish I had been blogging about them.  I am including the pictures for you to enjoy.  If there is something you see that you would like, let me know and I’ll try to get the recipe/instructions posted for you.

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Bread n’ Butter Pickles

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Thai Peanut Pasta

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Chocolate cake with raspberry butter cream frosting and chocolate ganache

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Breakfast Pizza

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Pulled pork with slaw and homemade sweet potato strings

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Easy spicy Rita with nachos

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Ribeye with eggs over easy with side of avocado and pico. Served with Bloody Maria.