Friday, July 30, 2010

Garden Update: The Tomato Jungle

Last weekend, as I've mentioned, I wasn't very present at home. We were away most of the time, and the time spent at home, wasn't used for maintenance. And my garden shows it.

The tomato jungle, with some peppers thrown in for good measure.
This is AFTER I cleaned them up a bit. Hopefully some of them will ripen soon
The pond needs some TLC...badly.

The lily pads are taking over the world!
Kohlrabi is not a very good crop for square foot gardening.
And neither are turnips.
The peas are pretty much done. They're coming out this weekend.
We did get one last pea crop though!

Beans are growing nicely! I've only harvested once.
I've decided this variety is best as a dried bean.
Raspberries are popping up everywhere here.
I'm hoping I can transplant them all soon.
I. Hate. Crabgrass. These are strawberries, but you'd never know.
They will be transplanted soon also.

Stupid bugs. These are NOT onions, they are supposed to be rutabagas.
But the bugs have completely stripped the stems. They're coming out.
The cauliflower look a little better, but I'm not optimistic. I think I've found all the
bugs though,so it shouldn't get worse if I can keep up with them.
I've decided one of these, or maybe two, need to come out.
It would be a great place for my apple tree!

A volunteer butternut squash. It's making mowing a bit difficult.
There's also a tomato of some kind back there.
baby butternut

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Adventures in Sourdough: Pizza on the Grill

Since I have been so busy lately, my sourdough starter has moved to a smaller jar, a jar that lives in the fridge. So I'm not using it as often, but I also don't have to worry about feeding it as often. When I need it, I pull it out, stir it up and sit it out in the laundry room to warm up for about a day. Which I did Monday. Tuesday was BBQ chicken pizza day.

I mixed up the sourdough pizza crust recipe from gnowfglins and let it sit for about an hour while I tried to tame the tomato jungle on Tuesday. Then used about 1/2 the dough for the pizza and put the other half on the table to sour some more*. I rolled it out with some cornmeal on the pizza peel.

I also had a whole chicken in the fridge that needed to be pulled apart, which I did. I took about 1 1/2 cups of the already-cooked chicken and warmed it up in a skillet with a little bacon grease. Once that was warm, I added about a cup of tomato sauce and about 1/4 cup of some barbecue sauce. I stirred that up and spread it out on the pizza. Then I just shredded some cheese on top.

Usually, I would also saute some onions and peppers in with the chicken. But, I didn't have any peppers on hand and I really didn't feel like cutting an onion. Since I used pre-made sauce, I didn't think it would be missed too much. (And I confess, it was store bought sauce from Trader Joe's! Hubby loves the stuff, but I guess it's a step up from Sweet Baby Rays, right? LOL)

My grill was preheated and I just slid it right on the grate. I wasn't a believer in grilled pizza, but it does work, I promise! No gooey dough falling between the cracks. It helps to get the grill good and hot when you first start and then turn it down a little after you put it on. Moving it over to indirect heat can also help. You don't want too much of a flame because that can cause the bottom to burn before the top is done.

Despite my initial trepidation, it doesn't fall through!

Unfortunately, I forgot to take a finished picture, and we ate it all, so, I promise it was good! It should take about 15 minutes, but check it after 10. Depending on your grill temperature and the weather (hotter outside = hotter inside the grill!), it can take up to 30 minutes.

 I've had an issue before where I put too much cheese on and it melted over the side. Which, of course, caused it to flame up and smoke...which wasn't good. But no worries, I was able to save the pizza!

Almost ready, yum!!

*With the rest of the dough, we had cheesy garlic bread with dinner on Wednesday. Rolled it out on a stone bar pan, spread some of my whipped garlic butter on and topped with freshly grated parm. I baked it while the pasta was cooking on 400°F. It was DELICIOUS!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Menu Monday - Eating from the Pantry

I usually keep a very well-stocked pantry and buy my groceries according to what's on sale. Then, I use what I have to create meals, not necessarily what I've purchased. (Other than fresh veggies that is!) However, for the next two weeks, I will be attempting to do pantry-only cooking. This will be make a little easier by our garden, which is currently still providing us with Pac Choi and snow peas (though I believe the peas are going to come to an end this week. There haven't been many to pick the last couple days.) I also replanted some lettuces and spinach that should be ready to start eating soon. I also have an abundance of carrots and broccoli left from this weekend. My brother-in-law was married and I provided relish/veggie/cheese trays. I over-estimated on these two items, but better safe than sorry!

Why the grocery boycott? Well, to put it simply, money. Hubby and I are finally, I believe, on the same page with money and are really trying to buckle down to pay down the mountain of debt we face. I will try to post monthly totals so we can be accountable to someone other than ourselves. Totals are better than they were earlier, but we haven't made much progress due to a lot of things.

This past week has seen us pay out $800 to fix Hubby's truck, which was barely drivable due to brakes that didn't work and I will be receiving a medical bill shortly for $350. I love it when you get the explanation of  benefits denying a claim a full month before you get the bill. The suspense is killing me!

Anyway, on to the menu!

  • Monday - Chili in the crockpot. This time I used more beans and only 1 pound of meat. I usually double the recipe and mix 1 lb ground beef with 1 lb cut up stew meat. I didn't this time, and I don't think he noticed! Need to make pulled pork for lunches from the leftover pork roast and soak and dry oats for granola bars.
  • Tuesday - BBQ chicken pizza on the grill. It's gonna be about 92 tonight, not factoring in the humidity. I'm trying to avoid using the oven or the stove if I can. Pizza on the grill is delicious, in case you didn't know! Need to make granola bars and assemble some freezer burritos for hubby. If it's too hot to make meat...I'll put it off until the weekend. I also need to blanch and freeze a bunch of broccoli (and maybe carrots?) left from this weekend. I'm also hoping to get out and tie up the tomatoes. We had a LOT of stormy weather this past weekend, and being away at the wedding the whole time, I haven't had a chance to get them upright!
  • Wednesday - Crockpot chicken and dumplings. I'm also hoping to make some icecream if I have time.
  • Thursday - Tortellini with meat sauce and yellow squash. This will be my LAST jar of tomato sauce from last summer. Thankfully, my mom has given me some of hers, so I have a few left, but she uses cinnamon in her sauce, and Hubby doesn't really like it all that well. I usually use it in things, like the chili, rather than as a stand-alone red sauce. I would like to get some zucchini bread and hamburger buns made. I've also got some more chard to harvest as well as basil, stevia, oregano and probably some other herbs.
  • Friday - Not sure yet, I'm thinking hamburgers and sweet corn with the neighbors.
  • Saturday - chicken stirfry with pac choi and snow peas. I need to make some more dog treats, probably a triple batch this time! I also hope to make some peanut butter. In the garden, the peas will get pulled and replanted for the fall and the fence will, I'm praying, get it's second coat.
  • Sunday - I'm thinking I'll make a lasagna to have for lunches next week to. If the painting gets done Saturday, Sunday will be the day to get to work on the berry patches. One side will be raspberries and blueberries and the other will be strawberries. I'd also like to work on some chicken pot pie/calzone type things for Hubby's lunches next week.

Looks like a busy week. Hopefully I can get it done!

For more menus, visit The Organizing Junkie!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Strike That, Reverse It!

So, what's the only thing worse than planning leftovers that don't get left over? Anyone, anyone? How about planning those leftovers on a pot roast in the freezer that turns out to be soup bones! Ugh. And there's no way I can promise my Hubby and his friend pot roast and potatoes as he walks out the door for to have him come home to...nothing in the crockpot! What's a girl to do?

Pic courtesy of Flickr Photo Commons, from the Library of Virginia

Well, I am very thankful that there is a Kroger in town. At 6:30am I threw on some yoga pants and put my hair in a ponytail and went grocery shopping. I found a beef brisket on Manager's special for 6.66. That'll do. Dinner was saved. Not my most proud moment though. They at it up, and even saved me some. I asked how it was and they said it was a little dry. I'm not sure how something with that much fat cooked in red wine and chicken stock all day in a slow cooker can be dry, but whatever. I didn't think it was dry!

But, alas, there is not enough left for bbq beef for 6 people. So, I still have to rethink that. And I'm pretty sure my idea of chicken stirfry tonight will not be looked positively by the rest of my household (that's just Hubby...the animals don't really care what I make for dinner. Though I'm pretty sure Tex just hopes I drop some of whatever it is!).

We've got lots of ground beef in the fridge, I'll probably do something with that. Or maybe the cauliflower soup and ham that's been in the freezer for a few months now. Soup doesn't usually sound good when it's 90+ outside and so humid it may or may not be drizzling. But, right now I'm drinking tea, so you never know!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Brugo Travel Mug giveaway!

I recently became detached from my beloved travel mug. It's been rough. My Nalgene bottle doesn't fit in my cup holder and isn't insulated. And, this bothers me almost as much, I can't find EITHER of our Sigg bottles! I haven't lost my mug, I know where it is. I left it in my Dad's car on the Fourth of July. I just haven't had a chance to get it from them. It made me realize how much I really do love the thing and how everyone should have one!

So I was excited to find the giveaway for a very cool Brugo Travel Mug at The Frugal Novice. Go check it out and enter to win one!

Menu Monday (again, on a Tuesday!)

I really was going to post a menu yesterday, but I figured I had already posted enough and I should stretch it out! Visit The Organizing Junkie for more Menu Plans!

This week, as usual this summer, I have volleyball on Monday and Wednesday nights. These are very busy nights. I get home about 5:45-6pm and games start at 6:30pm. I finally got the tires on my bike pumped up, so being able to ride my bike helps. It takes me about 3 minutes to ride there versus almost 10 to walk. But it's definitely not enough time to make dinner, or even eat! I usually just grab a small snack to tide me over. That means I'm make dinner at about 9pm at night. Ugh.

Monday: Chicken and Quinoa "stirfry" with summer squash and peas (recipe to come soon)
Tuesday: Pork chops with patty-pan squash and salads
Wednesday: Beef roast with potatoes (crockpot!) and green beans (canned, just need to warm up!)
Thursday: Chicken stirfry with pak choi, carrots and peas
Friday: BBQ beef with rutabaga and corn (from the freezer)
Saturday: homemade pizzas on the grill
Sunday: leftovers or chili

Looks like a great plan, huh? But last night, I ran into a few hitches. First, I thought dinner last night was delicious. It was awesome, and I will definitely be sharing the recipe I concocted, but it wasn't really picture worthy. However, Hubby wasn't impressed. He ate the chicken and left the veggies, and he didn't eat much at that. He said he was tired of chicken stirfry. The thing is, this wasn't even really a stirfy. I would almost classify it as a goulash! Also in the mix, was that he stopped at Kroger on the way home and picked up a Managers Special deli chicken and a box of White Castle Burgers (ewwww!!). So he may not have even been hungry really. So should I still plan to stirfy on Thursday?

Secondly, Hubby's friend is coming over tomorrow to change the oil in his cars. I invited him for dinner. If he eats dinner, will there be enough roast left for bbq beef on Friday for 6 people? Hmm...I don't know. I may have to get another roast. I'll see of there's one on sale.

So many factors! Oh well. It'll all work out.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Adventures in Veggie Growing

I had a very productive weekend. I got very, very dirty...and sweaty. Saturday, Hubby and I went to breakfast and finished the crossword. Woohoo! Then I got home and got to work. 

I cleaned up the garden beds, harvested and replanted. I harvested and pulled up the rest of the lettuces, pulled up the spinach and harvested the rest of the pak choi. I was going to pull it up, but it hasn't bolted yet and it looks like it's still growing some, so I left it in. I replanted pac choi, lettuce and spinach for a second harvest.

The amaranth, long beans and spaghetti squash I got from Baker Creek this winter was FINALLY found. (Where? Oh yeah, in with the rest of the seeds...) I planted the amaranth and squash, hoping it will still have time to grow. They're both about 90 days, so I hope to just squeak by. If I don't get grain from the amaranth, I can at least eat the leaves for a very colorful salad!

The finding of these seeds can be attributed to my need for organization. Kroger had plastic shoe boxes 10 for $10, and I needed more clothespins (more on that later), so I hopped on my bike and went a got a few to organize my overflowing seeds. During the organization, I found these awesome seeds that I had been searching for the last couple months. Awesome!!

The tomatoes and peppers are actually doing well this year. I already have some fruit! Despite my best efforts, the seedlings got all mixed up though, so I have no idea what varieties are what yet.

baby peppers!

baby tomatoes! I'm guessing these are the amish paste.

I also have some seedlings from the random squash plantings that happened last weekend.

squash seedlings!

The first green beans have now been harvested as well. I got about a pound and they're just in the fridge, waiting to be eaten. I'm finding that I like a lot more vegetables when they come out of my own garden!

green beans!

The peas have been producing like crazy. Every morning while I let Tex out I pick a good handful. They're keeping AMAZINGLY well in the fridge. I keep all my produce in Debbie Meyer Green Bags. (You can usually find them for a few dollars. I get them at Big Lots or Menards for about $1.99. They're reusable and awesome. I also love her bread bags.) I've been picking peas for about a month now and we just ate our first ones last week. They were delicious. I was thinking about freezing some of them though. We have a few pounds and with all the other stuff, I don't think we'll get to them. And how awesome will the be in January!?

snow peas. These are the ones 
I'm letting go to save for next years' seed.

Swiss chard was also up on the chopping block. I pick some HUGE leaves. Literally bigger than my head! This I decided to just blanch for 2 minutes and freeze in smaller quantities for soup. I'm sure I'll have an opportunity to each some fresh. There's plenty more out there. I'm still just a little scared!

swiss chard, pre-harvest

Our farmer's market in our little home town finally had some veggies this week! They've been having it every morning since the beginning of June. And from the beginning there's been the same 4-5 vendors (it's a tiny town, we're still trying folks!). There's a local meat market with pork rinds and landjaggers, baked goods from the kitchen at the senior housing place in town, a jewelry lady and a few other crafters intermittently. Veggies are exciting! I got a zucchini, and yellow summer squash and a couple patty-pans.

This weekends beautiful weather paired with my own eco-guilt and my mothers prompted me to try and figure out how to line dry clothes. I managed to rig a couple of short lines on our upstairs landing outside. That, paired with the drying rack outside and our already-existing inside lines let me dry 4 loads of laundry outside. I did dry Hubbies thermals for work in the dryer. Mostly because I know they'd take a while and my husband is under the impression that anything dried outside is dirty and germ-laden. But he didn't seem to notice with the bath towels or his boxers! Yes, I'm sneaky. But it's only because he doesn't notice.

new clothes line. I later added a second line behind this one.

The adding of more lines meant I needed more clothespins. I was very excited to find, at our local grocery, bamboo clothespins in plastic-free packaging. The poor box was dusty, so I'm sure they've haven't been moving much, but I did buy one of two boxes. It made me smile!

Ooh, and on another shopping note, the meat guy from the farmer's market keeps promising us that they're opening a fresh market in town! The old Super-Value that has been vacant since, from what I can gather, a few years before we moved to town, will now house a fresh market. They will be selling they're meat, custom cuts from their own cattle and swine. He also says they're grass-fred. But around here, that usually still means grain-finished. We'll see. They're also going to have fresh, local produce when available. And not-so-local during the winter months. The opening date keeps getting pushed out, but for the last few weeks he's saying August 1. I'm very excited and will report back soon. :)

Since this is already WAY too long, I'll update on Sunday a little later. Oh, and I have a yummy recipe! For more garden pics, become my friend on facebook!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Oh what a night! [Pork Chops with Broccoli, Penne and Cheese Sauce]

Last night was a busy night for me. A volleyball night, three matches. I got home about 6, had to be to the park for a 6:30 game. I changed my clothes, grabbed a cheese stick and a bunch of ice water, hopped on my bike and got there with plenty of time. We had 6:30, 7:15 and 8:00 matches, three games each. And it was HOT! Like upper 90's with 100% humidity, no clouds and no breeze. The sand was almost too hot to stand on, all the way down and really dusty, we haven't had rain in about two weeks. I had fun though and we did okay. No heat exhaustion. And luckily the last games had a little shade from trees. But boy, was I glad I rode my bike. It created a breeze on the way home that felt awesome...though I forgot I live uphill from the park!

But this isn't about volleyball, this is about food! I got home about 9:15 and by 10:10 I had made dinner, eaten dinner and showered, it was awesome. I'm not going to give a real recipe for this, because it's just too easy. This one will just be a narrative. And I was too tired to remember a picture. But believe me, it was very good, and pretty!

Pork Chops with Broccoli, Penne and Cheese Sauce

  • 2 pork chops
  • 1 1/2 cups cream
  • 1/2 t black pepper
  • 1/2 t ground mustard
  • 2 c shredded cheese
  • 2 servings frozen broccoli
  • 2 servings penne

I put a pot of water on with the lid to boil quickly. Then I got out to pork chops that had thawed in the fridge. I heated my cast iron skillet with a little bacon grease. Then I just sprinkled salt and pepper on the pork chops, both sides, and put them in the skillet. I have a meat press and used that on the pork chops. By this time the water was boiling. I put in some Dreamfields Low-Carb Penne* and frozen broccoli and put the lid back on. (Then I went upstairs and got a change of clothes).

After a few minutes, I flipped the pork chops and the water was back to a boil. I set the timer for 4 minutes and instructed my husband to turn the pork chops off when the timer went off and to turn the noodles/broccoli off 4 minutes after that. Then I took a quick shower!

When I got out of the shower, I drained the noodles and broccoli, drained the liquid off of the pork chops that had accumulated and poured it in the saucepan and turned that back on to heat through again. Into the pot I put the cream, pepper and mustard. I mixed it up well and heated it. You don't want to let it get to a rolling boil, just barely a simmer. Once that heated, I added the cheese and stirred it until it was melted. Then I just added the noodles and broccoli back in and mix to combine. I didn't really measure when I was making this, so you may have to play around with the quantities for what you want. Add cream, or more cheese or even more spices. Err on the side of not enough, you can always add more if you need it, but it's hard to take it out if you've put too much in.

That's it! I loved it. I don't think my Hubby was too impressed with the cheese sauce. I used a couple of awesome cheeses I got from Whole Foods, though I can't remember off the top of my head what they were. He's not a fan of "stinky" cheese, so that may have had something to do with it. But one that I used just smelled like macaroni and cheese, I had to use it!

It was good, very good. I will definitely make it again, but probably just for myself. I think it will warm up great for lunch.

*I know this isn't really a real food, but I am really trying to be low-carb still, I have about 20 lbs. to lose, at least! Eating just real food isn't doing it for me. Thanks to this pasta, this meal is very low-carb. (And, this is an associate link, just so you know!) I have been able to occasionally find this in the store, and it's becoming more common to find it, but Amazon is usually the best deal.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

2010 June/July Garden Update

fresh strawberries

asparagus, garlic and potatoes. 
Unfortunately, I must have missed a bunch 
of potatoes last year. They're sprouting and have 
choked out most of the garlic.

Back gardens. Added carrots and beans.

Side garden 1. Tomatoes, peppers and Swiss Chard

Side garden 2. Tomatoes, peppers, cauliflower, rutabagas, basil and cilantro


more herbs and just a small portion of the strawberries. 
The others aren't worth seeing, taken over by crab grass!!

Food I've Made Photo Purge

Hopefully there will be recipes to follow-up with these!

Dehydrating veggie stock

Dehydrating spinach puree, to add to the veggie stock

Dog treats

rutabaga fries

browning beef for chili...beef I ground myself

hazelnut spread and butternut soup

homemade taco seasoning with pulled pork in cast iron skillet

sourdough starter, I started it myself!!

sourdough biscuits, just as flaky as storebought but without all the crap!

sourdough buns

sourdough crackers...should've pricked with a fork first

sourdough waffles with homemade jam and real whipped cream