Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Ribbons!

As everyone knows, I love, love, love the State Fair.  This year, I decided to finally take the plunge and enter some things in the contests.  I didn't do so bad, if I do say so myself!  LOL


In order, I got participation for entering my Strawberry-Vanilla jam in the President's contest.  I got second place for my Gram's biscuits.  I call them 1-2-3-4 biscuits...it helps me remember the ingredients.  I won third place for my Cherry jam and fourth place for my Strawberry-jalapeno jam.  The honorable mention ribbon is for my Strawberry bread.  

I entered a bunch of things, just for fun and I enjoyed reading the comment cards from the judges.  From the comment cards, my Alabama Blueberry Bread wasn't quite done in the very center (I generally make mini loaves but for the fair they had to be large loaves so I wasn't as accurate on that one) but had it been it was a unique enough recipe that I'm sure it would have won.  It WILL be back next year.

Gram's biscuits are amazingly easy, here's the recipe:

Biscuits


2 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
3 tsp. baking powder
¼ cup cold butter
¾ cup milk.

COOKING INSTRUCTIONS

Heat oven to 425 degrees.
Sift together flour, salt and baking powder.
Cut in cold butter with a pastry blender or two knives until mix resembles cornmeal.
Using a fork, stir in milk just until mixture pulls from side of bowl.
Turn out on lightly floured board.
Knead gently and minimally, touch as little as possible, just until it comes together.
Cut with biscuit cutter and place on ungreased sheet pan.
Bake for 9-11 minutes or until golden brown.

Notice 1=salt, 2 =flour, 3=baking powder and 4= 1/4+3/4 is 4/4....it's just how I remember the recipe.  LOL

An even better part of the fair was sharing it with these littles:


They had to get a pic with my jams


One of my favorite pics from the fair, my son and grandkids.  

In my next post, I'll share the recipe for the blueberry bread!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Psstt...I'm still here!

Hello everyone!  It's been a minute since I've stopped to write.  I've been so busy, sometimes it's just not funny.  Of course, the short Dude has had multiple camps this summer to keep him busy and the teen is keeping my schedule full with college visits.  School here starts on July 31st so we're getting all that back to school stuff done too.  Tired yet?  I am!

My little jam business is really hot this summer.  We've had a booth at the Beech Grove Farmer's Market this summer and it's been fabulous!  I love meeting so many new people.  The customer's are great and the vendors are amazing.  

If you get a chance to go to a local Farmer's Market, you really should.  There is nothing better than farm fresh produce that was more than likely picked within the past 24 hours.  It's also a great chance to try something new.  You might like leeks or kale or even rhubarb.  There can also be some pre-made items there as well.  You may find breads of various types or cakes, cupcakes, etc.  You just never know what you may find at a market. 

Check out Market near you!


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Garden progression

Hello everone!  I hope you're all having a great day.  I'm working on more jams for the Farmer's Market that I'm involved with this year.  Today I'm de-seeding some raspberries and blackberries...I didn't shoot KitchenAid parts across the room this time either!  That's always a bonus!

I thought I'd share some of the progress of the new garden layout.  When it came time for the first weeding, it was relatively easy with the layout to do the bulk of it with the tiller.  These pictures are after just the tiller, I hadn't done anything else yet.


The corn.  Devon got a kick out of hearing that old farmer's adage of "knee high by the 4th of July" means a good corn crop.  Of course, I had to explain that they meant to an adult not a 10 year old!  LOL  They are planted with every 2 rows close together as my ex-Father-In-Law (a farmer) had shared with me that they need to pollinate with each other and have to be close enough together to touch.  

One extra hint on corn, if you have raccoons in the area, they'll know your corn is ready before you do and will snatch it.  You can interplant pumpkins with the corn, they don't like the feel of the leaves and they'll protect your corn.  Bonus, you get pumpkins.


I did lose one of these cantaloupe plants, I think we have critter visitors coming.  I'm trying to be positive and think it gives extra room for vines.


Cucumbers, my son's second favorite veggie in the garden.  In this area, I will probably go back through and hoe out those weeds between the plants.


Green beans.  I am not sure if I just had some that didn't come up or if it had something to do with the monsoon we had shortly after I planted them.  Regardless, I just went through at the two week mark and planted more beans in the bare spots as my succession plants.


The sweet potatoes.  I generally plant them in a circle so this row thing is new but they appear to be doing fine.


Peppers, the front are green (there are yellow and red over near the tomatoes) and the far ones are jalapenos.  I lost a couple in the center, I'll replace them soon.


Here is the cauliflower, it's a little small yet, but it will catch up.


And then there was broccoli!  Again, a little small but it will catch up.


Tomatoes!  We have Early Girl, Big Boy, Lemon Boy (yellow), Grape, and a beefsteak variety.  Devon also chose an heirloom variety that I can't for the life of me remember the name, but he wanted to grow it so we got it.

As you can see, the tilling between the plants isn't 100% (what weeding is?) but it's working so far.  


Here are the radishes that are ready to harvest, spinach is coming up behind them.  Once I harvest the radishes, I can plant more.  If you look closely, you can see that we have been regularly harvesting the lettuce.  It just seems to grow back!


The onions are coming along nicely.  I was honestly worried about them in a tub but so far, so good.  The carrots are looking great, it's time to thin them (and to weed it again).



Some of the herbs are coming along great, but some are puny.  I think they'll be ok in the long run.  I have gotten a new mint plant as it didn't survive the winter we had.  I plant mint in pots because if you don't, it can (and will) take over your yard.  

I've not included pictures of my strawberry bed or my blackberry bed, both of them need weeded.  I'm not looking forward to doing the blackberries because if any of you have ever picked wild blackberries, you know those thorns are horrible!  

Always watch the clearance areas of anywhere that sells plants.  When my husband was at Lowe's, I wandered the garden center.  They had a clearance area and there was a bigger blueberry bush that needed a little TLC and a lot of water!  It was priced wrong (not marked down) and when I asked the manager about it, he just marked it to $5 since it was the last one they had.  I wasn't mad!  And now I have the start of my blueberry bed.  One step at a time!

How is your garden?  Even if it is only a few things, grow something!  

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Getting the garden in!

As I share this year's garden with you all, I remind you that this garden is different than in year's past.  Sometimes, I feel like I am harping on this but I really, truly want to show people that you can garden no matter what.  You just have to find the way that works for you.

In deciding how to do this, without having to spend a lot of money in building raised (off the ground) beds or giving up being able to grow enough to put some veggies up for Winter, I found that I have gone back to the beginning.

Sure, my family gardened but it was not at our house, more of a community garden for the family at my Uncle's place.  There were so many adults that we were usually relegated to playing with our cousins and such.  Oh, and shucking corn.  That was ALWAYS a job that was left to the kids.  A job that my kids now do.  

When I first tried my hand at gardening as an adult, it was an abysmal failure.  I had no idea about soil consistency and that it's extremely hard to grow things in clay.  Even the weeds wouldn't grow in the clay.  I was crushed.

When we moved to a different home, I had the luck of not only not dealing with clay soil but that there was already a garden spot at the home.  I thought if there was a very, well used garden spot that a garden must have been successful there.  

I still remember as I was working on that first garden, I had my first garden book out, carefully writing down what I planted in each row.  A neighbor stopped by and was so amused that I was writing things down in a book.  He'd never seen anyone make a book.  At the time, I had no idea what the plants looked like so I was going to improvise.  I looked things up in books and copied them and pasted them next to my notes in my book.  Hey, I didn't want to pull up the plants thinking I was weeding...LOL.  

I also planted the plants and the rows far enough apart that I could take my little roto-tiller to weed not just between the rows but also around the plants (I hadn't learned to work a hoe yet and had a habit of chopping down plants...LOL).  I would weave between the plants up one way and the opposite back down the other.  No weeding necessary.

Anyway, I decided that this year, I would go back to those basics.  I did so because if I can't get out there to weed, I can at least take the outside tines off the roto-tiller I have now and weed in the way I did in the beginning.

Also keep in mind that you don't have to plant the entire garden in one day.  As you saw in my previous blog about container gardening, I did a little at a time.  I started with the containers and even those I planted over two days.  

Here's how the big garden went in.

Day One


Tomatoes:  Big Boy, Early Girl, Super Fantastic (my son's choice), Yellow Jubilee (Hubby's choice), Grape (also son's choice) and a Beef Steak variety

Day Two



Cabbage, Cauliflower, Broccoli, Sweet peppers, Jalapenos and Sweet Potatoes

Day Three


Although you can't really tell it, this is a row of cucumbers, a row of cantaloupe and the rest of this bed is green beans and corn.  This took all day for me to get it in.  Getting this many seeds in the ground is hard on the back.

Day Four



The rains came.  With hail.  Lots and lots of rain.  And hail.

I was convinced that I was going to have to replant the entire thing.  I was sure the seeds would be washed away and the newly planted plants ruined.  I was sure.

One week later


Corn, it's about 1 1/2 - 2 inches tall


Green beans, about 1 1/2" tall


On the left are onions and on the right are carrots (they need thinned...LOL)


One the left are radishes and spinach (hopefully) and on the right are the lettuces.  

So, everything survived the monsoon and hail we had.  I've left enough room between everything so that if (when) I get weeds, I can just run the tiller over them.

I'm looking forward to dinner tonight, I am going to cut some of that lettuce, pick a radish or two, I have carrots in the fridge and I grabbed some fresh tomatoes and cheese at the farmer's market this morning.  I'll grill a steak and dinner will be grilled flank steak salad.

So, how is your garden doing?  It's not too late to plant some things.


Monday, May 26, 2014

Happy Memorial Day!

Happy Memorial Day!  On this day that is generally thought of as the first day of Summer, I'd remind everyone to remember why we have this holiday.  Let us remember those who gave their lives for the freedoms we enjoy daily.  

I hope you are all enjoying this beautiful day!

Friday, May 23, 2014

After the Reception!

As I wrote about a couple of posts ago, the Hubby's reception was wonderful.  Even with the best laid plans for the food, there were leftovers.  Lots of them.  I tend to be a "have it and not need it" instead of a "need it and not have it" kind of person.  So, as far as food went, we didn't run out of anything but I did have leftovers.  I threw away as little as possible.

The sandwiches were easy enough, they were pre-made and in trays so when we got home, I just took the trays and covered tightly with foil and popped them in the freezer.  It will be easy on a weekend to pop a tray in the oven and have a quick, ready made lunch.

I took the left over veggie tray items and put them up for future uses.

The broccoli and cauliflower that were left, I steam blanched and then shocked them in ice water to stop the cooking and put them in good Ziplocs.  Pop them in the freezer for dinners later.

The sweet peppers, I just tossed into a Ziploc and popped them in the freezer to use for things like fried potatoes with peppers and onions or even just as additional seasoning in soups or stews.

I took the baby carrots, for some unknown reason, I bought FIVE pounds of these.  I have no idea what I was thinking...  Anyway, I cut them in half and ran them through a quick steam blanch and ice water shock.  Afterwards, I did let these air dry on clean towels so that I could put them in a large Ziploc and not have them end up as one large, cinder block-sized hunk of carrots.  They won't stick together if they're dry and I can pull out what I need.

I thought the grape tomatoes would be the hardest to deal with.  Of course, I bought a ton of those as well.  It seems you either buy a small one pound container or a big three pound box.  Evidently, people don't care for grape tomatoes as much as my son and I do.  I found this amazing recipe for pizza sauce.  It was a recipe for pasta but once it was done, it just tasted like it belonged on pizza.  It makes about 4 cups.  It's a recipe from Emeril LeGasse, here it is.  I made it and I did boil some pasta for a lunch but it was so good, I put the bulk of it up and we will have it on pizzas.


I pulled the fruit off the kebab sticks to just put in a bowl in the fridge as fruit salad but my husband and son picked out all the strawberries and made strawberry shortcakes for a snack...LOL.

I even took the extra Buffalo Chicken dip and the Spinach-Artichoke dip that I had made (This was the extra that was never heated up) I put in Ziplocs and put in the freezer for snacks later while watching a movie or a race or what have you.  By putting this extra dip in the smaller freezer bags, you don't have to heat up a whole lot of it at a time.  I also froze the left over salsa that I had made in Ziplocs.  

So, instead of just tossing so many extras with a little time and effort I have a few lunches, pizza fixings, side dishes and snacks for a later time.  Bonus!  

It is nice as well that since we camp, I have the left over plates, flatware, cups and napkins to put in the RV.  I won't have to do dishes when we camp.  Double Bonus!



Sunday, May 18, 2014

Fix it don't replace it!

It's no secret, I'm a tight ass....ummmm, I mean frugal, very frugal!  I love bargain hunting.  A while back, I found this great Wilson's Leathers laptop bag, it is actually called an "Icon Motorsports" Tote Purse and Laptop bag.  I love this bag!  I found it at a Goodwill half-price day sale and bought it for about $4.00.  Here is a picture of it I found on the Internet of how it looked when new.  


It's big enough to carry my normal "purse junk" and I can tuck a notebook and text book in or my tablet to take to class with me.  I won't lie, I carry a lot of "purse junk", my friend Peggy has said more than once she just wants to turn my bag upside down and empty it just to see what is actually in it...LOL.

Anyway, carrying all that junk put some major wear and tear on the handles.  Not only do they not make this bag anymore but the company is listed as being 'defunct' now so matching the straps to have it professionally repaired more than likely was NOT happening!  A couple of weeks ago, while in Lowe's with my husband, I got a brilliant idea.  My husband has learned to kinda hear me out on these ideas and will actually help me with the less hair-brained ones...LOL.  I was going to fix this rather than to try to find another bag I loved.  We found some screws that matched the rivets on the bag pretty closely.  


Forgive the dust, I didn't think to take a picture until after we'd drilled the first hole.  But this is what happens with it being loaded heavy and tossed around by the handles.

After actually emptying it, that took a while as I figured I'd clean it out while I did so...LOL.  Then my little Dremel tool was small enough and powerful enough to do the job in the confined interior of my bag.  We drilled a new hole in the leather, through the handle and the bag itself.  Sorry, there is no picture of the drilling as it took both of us to hold the bag open, the strap straight and actually drill the hole.

After drilling the hole, my hubby put the screw through and put a cheap nut on it.  



He did this so that he could use the Dremel cut off wheel to cut the extra length off the screw.  He said that doing it with a cheap nut on it would allow him to smooth down any little burr on the screw as he took the cheap nut off making it easier to put the permanent one on.


Yup, sparks flying out of my purse!  LOL.  After he cut the excess length off the screw, he took the cheap nut off and put the finish nut on.


I chose this nut because since it is rounded, I won't scratch myself or snag anything as I reach in and out of it.


I have added a little more life to my favorite bag!  To replace a leather laptop bag could be up to $300, I fixed my old one for under $7.00.  Is it perfect?  No but I am more than happy with it.  And I'm confident that it will last me at least until I finish college in a year!