Sep 30, 2013

Plethora of Produce, Part One

It's that time of year when all your produce comes in at once... Even if you don't have a garden, your local farmer's market should be swamped with goodies right now.  What should you do with it?  Well, I've got a few ideas.  =)

When I had a bunch of tomatoes this weekend, I made tomato sauce.  (Easier than you think!)

I started with these babies:

Aren't those some gorgeous love apples?  I happen to think so. (That middle one is a zebra variety.)

After a quick wash, I cut them in half, like so:

Then I squeezed out the seeds and pulp and roughly chopped them, leaving out the smallest section of core possible. Aside: Do you have one of these rimmed cutting boards?  I have a small one for produce, and it catches all the juice.  I have a larger one for meat, and it also catches all the juice. =)  They are fantastic.

See the tiny amount of core I leave?  You don't want to waste any tomato goodness, do you?  Then I put all of these tomatoes in a pot with their skins on.  (I'm all about easy cooking.)

Add a giant tablespoon of salt to get the water out of these love apples. Then, start to cook them down to a mush.  =)

 You can see the water that comes out very quickly.

It soon turns to tomato heaven.  :)  Once it cooks down, you can add flavors of your choice.  Simple is best for me, so I added a little basil, garlic, and red pepper infused olive oil at the end.  A quick pulse of the immersion blender for smoothness and...

Voila! Yummy goodness.

You can also freeze tomatoes whole or in slices, and then give them a quick zip under warm water to remove the skins later.  You could make salsa and freeze some.  You can also make this sauce and freeze it.  However, I intend to eat it this week. =)  Part two, with more produce saving ideas, will follow soon!

Sep 23, 2013

The Curious Case of the Benadryl Itch Stick

First, I have to say: Mosquitos love me.  I mean they really love me.  If there is one in a mile radius of me, it finds me.

And then it bites me.

And then I swell up and itch.

And then I reach for the Benadryl Itch Stick.  (And that thing works, man, with none of the drowsiness of Benadryl.)

Here's the latest problem I had, though, just as a cautionary tale to you folks.  I was outside on the deck with a friend late one night, and I got about 5 bites, even though I was covered in mosquito repellent, and even though it was close to midnight.  The next day I was outside, in broad daylight, and managed to get 11 bites.  (I hate mosquitos) So, I was very itchy.  I grabbed the itch stick and applied it liberally to all bites.  Itches be gone, I have no time for regular Benadryl and the mandatory nap that ensues!

Then suddenly, I felt so sleepy... *insert snoring here.  After a 2 hour nap, where I slept like the dead, I realized I may have had too many bites for the benadryl itch stick to handle without making me drowsy.  Whoops.

Now you  might be wondering why I am telling you this story.  Or you might have found it mildly humorous like I did.

Aside: (Luckily I didn't have to be anywhere.  It was Labor Day weekend, and I had told a friend I would be sitting by the pool, after said friend had said his weekend consisted of working.  I do believe I got what was coming to me.)

The point is, folks, for the next two days, I could not set foot outside.  One more bite would have pushed me over the edge.  But, luckily, I another project to take on indoors.  I had failed to water some soybeans in the garden, so I had some seeds to save!
Don't they look so sad?  I failed them miserably.  One of the great things about some failures, though is that they turn into small successes: I'll have seeds for next year! =)  So, I took the trouble of opening up all the dried seed pods.

Like so!  Soybeans for everyone!!!  (If I can just remember to water.) =)  Happy Monday, everyone!

Sep 2, 2013

Garrett Juice and Carmel Sauce

My favorite organic fertilizer is Garrett Juice.  It looks like this:

(I know you might be wondering, "What does this have to do with carmel sauce?" That remains tbd.) It can be found here, and maybe even at your local garden supply store.  It is completely organic, and is safe to use at any stage in planting from seed to harvest.  (With other non-organic fertilizers, you have to wait until plants are a certain age.  This one is so safe, you can use it at any time!!)  Take a look at these ingredients:

All completely pronounceable and definable.  In fact, if you are so inclined you can google this and make your own.  It takes a tiny bit mixed with water to give all of your plants a little extra nutrition.  In the weird world I live in, (aka my brain) mixing this up reminded me of making carmel sauce.  Here's what it looks like when you mix it with water...

For some strange reason, although it smells nothing like carmel sauce, it reminded me of the carmel I made not that long ago for salted carmel pretzel brownies.  Something about the bubbling and the carmel color, I don't know.  I've never claimed to make a lot of sense.

Anyone else see the resemblance?  Anyone? Bueller???  I know, readers, it's ridiculous how everything in my life relates back to food.  =) Please note, you should try the fertilizer, and you should also make those brownies.  They are delicious.  And maybe, just MAYBE, your plants will think Garrett Juice is just as delicious.  =)

(Here's the easy carmel sauce recipe I use too, should you be so inclined to make your own.)

Aug 26, 2013

Sum-ah, Sum-ah, Sum-ah Time (aka the longest-not-related-to-gardening-post-ever)

Well, here it is, the end of August, and I have not posted in almost 2 months.  Why are you still reading my blog?  I'm guessing it's because you'd like to see/hear about my crazy summer and have a chance to accept my crazy explanation for not posting... I decided to recap my summer for you in pictures where at all possible.  (I had a great goal to take a daily picture, but that didn't happen, because I never have my camera. Heh.)

It started like this...
Which, honestly, if there is a better way to start your summer, I don't know of one.

Then I went fishing for the first time:
And actually caught a catfish!  (Not to mention, had pizza and beer and many laughs with two good friends. If this isn't what fishing is, then I don't wanna know.)

I worked a little the next week, and got ready because I was headed to CANADA! Here are a few (read: the smallest amount I could make myself put up) pics from that wonderful trip:
Banff. I die.

 Lake Louise. I die again.

I'm a giant cheeseball.
 Is this place even real?

 *Sigh. Beautiful, gorgeous.
 Wish you were here.
Heck, wish I was here.

 Glacier-fed water.  SO BLUE.
 A little hiking. A lot of cheese.

Seriously, I need to change my name to cheese.
 I want to go back right now.

 This dog killed me. I don't really know why, but it looked like he was driving.
 Oh, did I mention I stayed with amazing friends?  I enjoyed seeing their children play.
And get a little dirty. :)
 I almost took out a parent and child while taking this cutie down the slide when a burlap bag was thrown into the mix the next time down.  It was awful, but makes me laugh. (And no children were harmed in the making of that laugh.)
Did I mention the nakey baby snuggles?  This cutie kept giving me an adorable shy head tilt. I have this effect on babies.  

That gets us to the third week of June, when unfortunately, I had to work.  Not to worry, though.  The next week I was here.  All blissfully alone for a few days:
 The view to the water from the deck.  (Photo credit: Jess H.)
(Photo credit: Jess H)  Did I mention my friend Jess H came out for the last few days there?  It was heaven. Pure heaven, except for the sunburn.  Long talks, good friend, good food: we made memories that will last a lifetime.  Or until we do it again next summer. =)

On the way back from the beach house, I picked up my niece and nephew for the second annual Camp Auntie.  Oh boy folks, hold on to your hats.
Every good camp has rules.  These are my life rules. =)  
 Space crafts. (Punny, no?)
 Catching their first fireflies!
 Ha! The t-rex moves!

 The king and queen of my world.
 We had absolutely no fun.
 Not even a little.
 They made their own pizzas. =) 

Still not having fun.  Here, they were getting ready to enter a neighborhood parade.

That weekend, my house was full of people. My single friend from Nebraska brought herself and her daughter; my married friend brought herself and her husband, as well as their two kids; my sister, her husband, of course my niece and nephew; my DH and myself packed this house to its gills. It was the best birthday weekend in at least a year. =)  Unfortunately, even though 2 of these adults are photographers and three have nice, fancy cameras... No pictures were taken.  

The next week, sadly, more work.  Again, don't feel too badly for me, because then came Florida.  =) A week plus spent in Longboat Key and Orlando rounded out my summer nicely.  Here are a few pics from that trip:
 There were a lot of these on our beach.
 The water was about a 1 minute walk away from the cottage.
Paradise. I swear.
 We visited the Ringling circus museum.  This was John Ringling's house. I was partial to the colored glass.
 I was clearly meant to join the circus.

Seriously, if you had watched me nail the tightrope challenge just before I struck this pose, you would know I missed out on my circus calling. =)  

We also went to Universal Studios to see Harry Potter World for my MIL, and I got one magical day at Disney World. I love that place.  

Finally, I had 2 days off, where I actually worked 10 hours each day.  Then, I went back to work officially.  Ever since then I have been working like mad.  WHEW.  It was an amazing summer, so I hope you'll forgive my lack of blogging.  I'll be posting more soon that might actually have to do with gardening! =)  

May 20, 2013

Mum's the Word

 Almost everything you do in gardening is an experiment.  As a gardeNERD, I know that's part of why I like it so much.  (The other part is the smell of earth on your hands.  I swear, my measure of a successful weekend is directly correlated with that smell.)  =)  Within the experiment of gardening, you never know from year to year, season to season, heck even day to day what's going to work.

This year I left the mums I purchased last fall out in my front pots through the winter.  I didn't water them, but they got what the rest of my outdoor plants got from mother nature.  This spring, I cut them back almost to the ground.  In this pot, you can see the branches sticking out of the middle.
I'm pretty sure this one is DEAD.  Why do I think that?  Oh yeah, because of this one.

You can see the bright green coming up in the middle of my bunch of pansies.  (Heh. Bunch of pansies.) I did absolutely nothing different with these two pots.  I have no clue what might have happened.  Let me tell you, I am just a wealth of knowledge.  I guess that's one less mum that I'll have to buy this fall... Assuming I manage to keep it alive through the summer. (Experiment! Score!!)