Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Years recipe: Apricot and Cranberry Jelly

I am REALLY excited to try this new recipe...And my new water-bath canner!!!

Apricot and Cranberry Jelly
Time to prepare: 25 mins

2 cups water
2 cups sugar
4 cups cranberries
1 cup chopped dried apricots
1 orange, zested


Boil the water and sugar together for 5 minutes. Add the cranberries and apricots. Simmer until the cranberry skins burst, about 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in the orange zest and cool.

To can: sterilize and prepare appropriate jars.  Add jelly to warm jars, making sure to remove air bubbles and wipe rim of jars, and seal.  Process in boiling water canner for 10 minutes.
Happy New Year!!!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Why are Bees so Important?

I know bees are important, but Why?  As I continue to research and learn about Bees and the garden I am beginning to understand the "why."

According to Ready Magazine:
"Bees are important to the production of fruits and vegetables. The honey produced by bees have important medicinal uses and is a good replacement for sugar as a sweetener. A healthy bee hive is also an indication of a healthy environment. The beekeepers that I speak to talk about a spiritual connection with the bees and the enjoyment that get for caring for them. That is why bees are important."

That's a pretty simple and straight forward answer.  However, this raises yet another questions. If bee hives are an indication of a healthy environment, what does Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) mean to our own environment?

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

New Years recipe: Espresso Bark

I don't plan on making wild and crazy (or unreasonable) New Years resolutions.  I will continue to eat healthy and exercise.  I will try to stress less about things that I cannot control.  
I will NOT be giving up coffee or chocolate!!!

Espresso Bark
Ready in: 25 mins.
Servings: 12

2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 teaspoon margarine
3/4 cup whole coffee beans
1/4 cup chopped white chocolate

1. Cover a cookie sheet with waxed paper.
2. Combine the chocolate chips and margarine in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat in the microwave at 30 second intervals, stirring between each, until melted and smooth. Mix in the coffee beans until evenly distributed.
3. Pour the chocolate out onto the waxed paper and spread into an even layer. Sprinkle the pieces of white chocolate evenly over the top and press in lightly to make sure they stick. Place in the freezer until set, about 5 minutes. Break into pieces and store in an airtight container.

Friday, December 23, 2011

On My Mind...

Good Morning!
Family in San Diego
 I miss you all very much!  Merry Christmas!!!!!

This is a Friday photo feature that anyone with a blog can join. To take part, post a photo on your own blog, write a short caption explaining it, and link it back to here from your blog by saying you're part of "On my mind". Please write a new post, don't link to an older one. When you've done that, come back here and add a comment below, with a link to your blog.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

More New Seeds!!!

I haven't even added these babies to the website yet.  I just found a supplier for Job's Tears seeds.  This plant has healing properties such as natural anti-inflammatory as well as detoxifying agents.  I am so excited to offer this new plant!
I'm really looking forward to planting Job's Tears.  Another new seed variety available for 2012 is the Long Island Brussels Spouts.  This is an amazing veggie! This is an open-pollinated, heirloom variety whose origin can be trace to the 1890s.  The Long Island is a heavy producer and grows about 20"-24" in height.
I'm getting ready for the coming garden season!
Happy Planting!

Monday, December 19, 2011

DIY kids gifts...I did it!

I had a major/minor project to finish this weekend and I did it.  I made aprons for my oldest niece and nephew and a shirt for my baby niece. 
Okay, so I didn't make them but I decorated them.

Here is the apron before I started:
Here they are after the iron-ons:

I added a few finishing touches with 'puffy paint'

And last but certainly not least, I decorated a shirt for the baby:

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Garden update. Tomatoes are here!

I love tomatoes!  I've waited for months for the Cherokee Purple plants to blossom and give me tomatoes.
Here's a beautiful baby:
This is what the four tomato plants look like from the back: (a mess)

Here's a look inside the grey bin: Beets and Silverbeet Swiss Chard:
This morning I transplanted a few German Giant Radishes into a prepared bed:
Happy Planting!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Vanishing Bees

Wow!  I watched a movie today that just blew my mind.  Check out the website for Vanishing of the Bees. 

Here's a quick clip:

Bees are essential to food production.  Bees are important in maintaining a balance ecosystem.  As I continue to research bees I'll be posting about the benefits of bees.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Radishes are alreading sprouting!

Wow!  I only planted the German Giant Radish seeds on Saturday and when I went out to check on everything this morning they're out!  I only planted a few seeds of each veggie variety this weekend (more for next weekend).
If you can't tell in the top picture, 5 out of 6 have already sprouted.  Not bad for 2 days!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

New Seeds!!!

A few months ago my new seeds arrived and so I updated the website.  This weekend I planted a few seeds to get ready for next year.  I'm a few weeks ahead of schedule but what the heck, I'm going to plant a few seeds every weekend.

On Saturday I planted German Giant Radishes.  I tried this variety earlier this year but it was too hot.  I also planted Red Burgundy Onions and more Little Gem Lettuce.  Unfortunately, due to unforeseen issues a few of my previous lettuce plants were destroyed.

On Sunday I planted Bulgarian Giant Leeks, Purple Top Whiteglobe Turnips and Table Queen Bush Squash.  I don't dare post a picture of the current state of my covered patio.  When I see little sprouts I'll share but not yet.

If you don't live on sunny South Florida (or even if you do) and would like to know what to plant for your area and when to plant it send me an email or post a comment.  I'm happy to point you in the right direction.

Happy Planting!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Dinner: Slow-Cooker Chicken and Spanish Rice

Dinner for tonight has been cooking for a few hours already.  I have made chicken this way so many times but I have never used a specific recipe so here goes:

Slow-Cooker Chicken
Servings: 6-8
Time: 4 hours

8 chicken breasts
6-8 cups water (enough to cover all ingredients)
1/2 red onion, chopped
2 jalapenos, chopped
1 can stewed tomatoes or tomato sauce (even pasta sauce in a pinch)
1 bunch cilantro, whole pieces or chopped

Place chicken in the slow cooker and cover with onion, jalapeno, tomatoes and cilantro.  Add enough water to cover all ingredients.  Turn slow cooker on high for the first 3 hours, turn to low for the remaining hour.

This recipe is great for taco filling, sandwiches or with rice and/ or  beans.

Spanish Rice:
Servings: 8

1 (15 ounce) can stewed tomatoes
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 1/4 cups rice
1 tablespoon butter or 1 tablespoon margarine
2 teaspoons chili powder
3/4 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1 teaspoon cumin
In medium saucepan, combine all ingredients (I usually mash tomatoes with potato masher or give them a quick spin in food processor).
Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low.
Cover and simmer 25 minutes or until rice is done. (Unless you like sticky, gooey rice, don't take off the lid and stir at all until it is done).
Garnish with green onions and/or cheddar cheese.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Compost! Take 2...

I am re-posting from July because my tomatoes are growing bigger than I could have possibly imagined thanks to a bit of aged compost.  The best part...It was FREE!!!  Since Christmas is right around the corner and I'll be cooking like a madwomen, I'll also be adding most of my kitchen "waste" to my brewing compost bin.

What is Compost?
Compost is a natural soil amendment and garden fertilizer. It can be made FREE using kitchen scraps. Apple cores, banana peels, celery or carrots parts, rinds and peels from fruits and veggies...throw it all in there! But don't stop there- also use grass clipping, dead leaves and other yard waste.

Not only does composting save money on expensive fertilizers and soil amendments, it keeps all of this "trash" out of your garbage bin and out of landfills.

Using compost improves soil structure, texture, and aeration and increases the soil’s water-holding capacity.

Warning: Everything I read about compost says not to use meat, diary or pet waste in your compost.

Do I need to buy a fancy (expensive) composter? No way!

In my own yard I have a big (dark) plastic tub which I drilled holes into the bottom. I've added my kitchen and yard "waste" and then a layer of soil...repeat! Every 4 or 5 days I go out into the yard and turn it over. No, I don't dump it out, "turn it" is garden-speak for stir or mix. The more I "turn" the mix the faster it seems to decompose.

What's in My Compost Bin?

Cherry stems, apple cores, lime rinds, coffee grounds, tea bags, celery leaves, potato peels, carrot ends, cucumber and onion bits, egg shells (washed and dried), grass clippings, dead leaves, dead flowers, mango skins. I might have forgotten a few things but you get the picture.

Stay away from using lawn clippings or additives with chemical fertilizers or pesticides!

Nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus are produced naturally by the feeding of microorganisms and decomposing waste. These three ingredients are essential for a thriving veggie garden.

Happy Planting!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Eggless Birthday Cookies

I found a recipe last night more out of desperation than curiosity.  I've been a bit distracted lately and even with a trip to the supermarket I was out of eggs.  It seems I just forgot.

It's my hubby's birthday so he got to choose what I made for dinner last night.  He chose the easiest dinner (in my opinion) that I have prepared so I have made it a bunch of times.  For dinner we had Chicken Tacos with cilantro, mixed greens, onions, jalapenos, sour cream, salsa and cheese.  But dessert was a secret (and eggless).

I had planned on making Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies but without eggs I had to find another recipe.  The eggless recipe was perfect because oatmeal raisin cookies are his second favorite cookie.

Eggless Oatmeal Coconut Cookies 

1 cup All Purpose Flour
1/2 teaspoon Baking Soda
1/8 teaspoon Salt
1 cup Shredded Coconut (I used sweetened)
1 cup Quick Cooking Oats (I used large flake)
1/2 cup Butter
3/4 cup Granulated Sugar
2 tablespoons Honey

1. Preheat the oven to 350F for 15 minutes. Butter two cookie sheets. Usually cookies baked on such dark coated sheets turn brown very quickly, so I lined it with parchment paper and then greased it with cooking spray.
2. In a large bowl sift together the flour, baking soda and salt. Stir in the coconut and oats.
3. Melt the butter with the sugar and honey in a small saucepan over medium heat. Remove it from the stove and let it cool for 2 minutes.
4. Pour the melted butter mixture to the dry ingredients and mix well with a spatula.
5. Add in chocolate chips.
6. Roll into balls the size of walnuts and place 1 inch apart on the baking sheet and flatten it slightly with a fork.
7. Bake for 15 minutes, or until golden brown. If using 2 cookie sheets, shift racks halfway through the baking to ensure even browning.
8. Let the cookies cool on the sheets until they firm slightly. Then using a spatula carefully lift the cookies and transfer it to a cooling rack to cool completely.

***My tweaks to the recipe***
Omit Honey
Replace butter with unsweetened apple sauce (do not heat on the stove)
Add 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips


Monday, December 5, 2011

Garden Update. Harvesting!

I took a few pictures Sunday after I harvested Lettuce and Huckleberries.

Below are pictures I took bright and early this morning.
The seeds I planted a few weeks ago are now thriving seedlings. 
On Saturday I transplanted most of the seedlings. 
Hungarian Heart Tomatoes
My very first Cherokee Purple Tomato
Black Beauty Eggplant
Tam Jalapeno
The Side Yard Project: (from the back-side)
Happy Planting!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Cookies Make Great Gifts


Peanut Butter Chocolate Cookies
1 cup Ghirardelli Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup unsifted flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
3/4 cup dry-roasted, unsalted peanuts, chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter, peanut butter, brown sugar, and sugar until well blended. Beat in the egg, milk, and vanilla. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture. Stir in the chocolate chips and peanuts. Chill the dough in the refrigerator for 15 minutes. Drop heaping tablespoons of dough onto an ungreased cookie sheet.
Bake 12 to 14 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown. Cool 1 minute on cookie sheet, then transfer to wire cooling racks. Store tightly covered.

Friday, December 2, 2011

On My Mind...

Grandma Demme
December 15, 1942-November 10, 2010.

She loved the outdoors.  Grandma Demme was a creative and adventurous, free-spirit. 

This is a Friday photo feature that anyone with a blog can join. To take part, post a photo on your own blog, write a short caption explaining it, and link it back to here from your blog by saying you're part of "On my mind". Please write a new post, don't link to an older one. When you've done that, come back here and add a comment below, with a link to your blog.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

DIY Soap Recipe

Soap-Making can be an involved process requiring special tools and ingredients.  I like to keep it simple.  

I have used several methods for making soap.  The first time I made soap I purchased melt and pour soap as a base. 
1. Chop up M&P soap
2. Melt in a double boiler (or microwave)
3. Add essential oils
4. Pour into prepared mold
5. Refrigerate
After a few hours in the fridge, or overnight on a counter, the soap is ready to be released and packaged.

Another option for making soap is using ready-made soap such as Ivory or Dr. Bronner's bar soaps.
1/4 cup Water
Dried and pulverized Herbs
Essential Oil
Approx 2 cups shredded bar soap
Double boiler or Large glass bowl
**It is not necessary to use both herbs and essential oils.

1. Pour boiling water over herbs.
2. Add 5 or 6 drops of essential oil.
3. Bring to a boil, stirring regularly.
4. Remove from heat and add shredded soap.
5. Mix well and let stand for 15 minutes.
6. Divide the mixture into several small balls or pour into prepared molds.
7. After a few hours in the fridge, or overnight on a counter, the soap is ready to be released and packaged.

There are recipes all over the internet for both Melt and Pour or Made from Scratch soaps.  Happy Soaping!