Garlic Scapes

This year I decided to harvest the garlic scapes from the hard garlic growing in the garden.   Some folks do this and others don’t – last year I didn’t and all the garlic harvested seemed quite large to me.   This year by cutting the scapes (the curly stalks that hard garlic grow) I am giving the bulb in the ground an even better chance of growing larger – the growing energy is directed towards the bulb and not the stalk or scape.   So now I have all these Garlic Scapes

and browsing through the blogs participating in the GROW project I spotted this perfectly timed post by Colleen at In the Garden online  and spent the day yesterday making Garlic Scape Pesto and canning up 6 pints of pickled scapes.   The pickled scapes will make a great addition to my Father’s Day gift since my Dad loves garlic and the garlic bulbs are not ready yet to harvest.

I cut the scapes to fit the pint size jars (I made 6 pints) and added the hot brine along with some red pepper flakes and dried oregano.   To make the liquid brine you heat up 3 cups of vinegar, 5 cups of water and 1/4 cup of kosher salt.   Then you use the hot water canning method and cook 45 minutes.   They need to set for 2 weeks before eating to allow the flavors to blend.

I also made the Garlic Scape Pesto and it is totally addicting – I am thinking even better than a Basil Pesto ……. really good!   I modified the recipe a bit.   I cut up 1 cup of scapes and added them along with 1/3 cup of walnuts to the blender.   Blended a while and added 1/2 cup olive oil and lastly about 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese.

 So very delicious!!!   Thank you Colleen for your timely post – I am enjoying my Garlic Scapes to the max!

I recently returned once again from the trip down south and my mailbox was full of wonderful treasures …. 2 new magazines I have subscribed to;  Runner’s World and PaperCrafts.   I have decided I now have to purchase the Provocraft Gypsy to go along with my Cricut simply because of all this back and forth traveling.   The Gypsy will allow me to travel and create without lugging the Cricut machine each trip….how exciting is that!

Renee’s Garden once again floored me with their promptness and generosity.   I received the media kit with my Nasturtium seeds and decided to send for the 18 free packages of seeds they offered.   I received them all within a few days and am overjoyed with all these wonderful new possibilities to add to the gardens down south.

Happy Gardening!!!

Garden Soup and Chili Powder

There is nothing better on a cold winter day than a nice hot bowl of yummy soup … Garden Soup – fresh from the garden!  Only glitch is … we are covered with snow and the temperature is just plain COLD!  The garden regretfully is not producing ingredients for the Garden Soup I dream of.

With a little imagination and the desire to jump in and see what I could come up with I managed to create “one of the best soups I ever made”!  I had some tomatoes in the freezer.  Here is how I made tomato base for the soup and will continue to use it in future recipes.  After canning all the tomatoes, my plants were still producing so I simply cut the whole tomatoes  into quarters and froze them as is in a plastic bag.  Tossing a couple in soups and stews was my intent.  What I actually did was took a whole baggie of frozen quartered tomatoes and simmered them down, removed the seeds & skins as best I could and Voila I had my tomato soup base!  My thoughts were a minestrone soup so I added chickpeas (which I plan on growing this season). I didn’t stop there … I kept adding -

 Garlic

 Peas

Both grown in the garden!!  Then diced celery, carrots, onions, cabbage and spinach.  No exact measurements, just diced and added.  The spinach I blanched before freezing and I have also frozen the spinach just as is.  The only drawback with the spinach frozen as is it takes up a considerable amount of space. I love spinach and last year it actually grew back after the cruel winter weather – quite a surprise!

 Fresh Spinach 

I think the ingredient that really made a difference in this soup was the Delicata squash. Earlier in the week I had baked up several and planned to eat them throughout the week.   Instead I peeled the skin and chopped them adding to the soup.  They acted as a thickener and the taste was Good! 

 Delicata squash 

Several types of beans, corn, broccoli … whatever you have on hand can be used.  Herbs would add great flavor – I just sprinkled parmesan cheese on and enjoyed my Garden Soup!!!

Now for the Chili Powder!  I didn’t add it to the soup, but I could have!  We had made up a batch of chili and were not happy with the chili powder – it seemed flavorless, so we decided to try making our own.  Simple procedure really.  First we purchased the dried peppers and deseeded them. 

 Using the coffee grinder we whirled until we had powder!

 Before

 After

Homemade Chili Powder – the peppers we used are Arbol and if this chili powder stands up in the cooking (not too hot) we will be growing these peppers this year!

               …..   A day spent creating warmth during the deep chill of winter!

Healthy Eating

I dried some cantaloupe the other day and was planning on making a trail mix with the cubed dried fruit but I have changed my mind.  Since I have been paying attention to what I put in my mouth and tracking my nutrition and fitness activity daily I have been sidestepping the chips and cookies (since I realized they are useless calories) and instead have been taking a  handful of the dried cantaloupe and munching on that and I am lovin’ it!!!  The dried apple is really good too – it’s like a new discovery here.  I have been drying fruit for a while now and usually leave it for the kids to munch on, but now I look forward to snacking on it!

 Dried apple & cantaloupe

I also picked up this Sharp Cheddar seasoning to add to popcorn for another healthy snack and it is actually very good.  Just 1/2 teaspoon is only 5 calories and that pretty much covered a whole pan.  I am sure you can more if  you want, but I was fine with 1/2 teaspoon!

Now for lunch the past 2 days I enjoyed this Asian Chicken Salad. The recipe I found on Spark People and it is healthy and low calorie … way to go!   A little preparation ahead of time and I am very happy with what I am eating.

For dinner we made Pork Stir fry ….. healthy, healthy and enjoyable once again!

 Pork stir fry

Marinate 1 lb. of pork loin, cut in 1/2″ cubes with 3-4 cloves of minced garlic, 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger root and 1/3 cup teriyaki sauce overnight in the refrigerator.  We found using a plastic bag made it easy to swoosh the food and marinade around for good coverage – do this every couple of hours or so.  Next day prepare your vegetables – we used bean sprouts, snap peas, cabbage, red bell pepper, zucchini and onion.  Keep the vegetables separate and add them each to a skillet to cook – longest to cook, cook first.  Meat —>onion, pepper —>peas, cabbage —>zucchini, bean sprouts.    Add 2 cups of water with 2 chicken bouillon cubes and 2-3 tablespoons of cornstarch.  Let cook for 2-3 minutes and serve over brown rice.

Puppy Billie seems to rule the roost here … that didn’t take long!

Composting for a healthy garden

Even in the winter months you can still add to your compost pile or bin.  It may just freeze depending on where you live, but once the weather warms the process of decomposing will begin.  Compost occurs naturally and continually with or without our help.  A natural process where leaves, grass clippings, vegetable scraps, etc. break down and go back into the earth’s soil to nurture it.  The nutrients provided from the compost feed new growth and beautiful healthy plants emerge!

Composting eliminates a lot of waste that is thrown into your trash can and hauled away.  Starting a compost bin or just a pile is relatively easy.  Find a spot in your yard – preferably near your garden so you don’t have to haul it that far.  Gather leaves in the fall, weeds, grass clippings, most kitchen scraps and add them to the pile.  You can let it sit or turn your pile for faster decomposing.  When we moved into our home there was a compost bin already standing.  Every year I added leaves and just let it sit.  Now everything goes into the bin (with a few exceptions).  Just recently I started adding chicken manure from the 3 chickens we acquired this past year.

I use the screen to sift through the compost and return the uncomposted material back to the bin.

 End Results!

I also have a huge pile out in the forest area that I try to turn a couple times a month during the warmer months.  We actually used an old trampoline that was left on the property and turned it into a huge bin.  We enclosed the circular frame with chicken wire to contain what we added to it, left the top open and use the trampoline canvas as a cover over the compost.

I also started a worm bin several years ago inside the house.  The worm castings are excellent natural fertilizer for the gardens.  Vermicomposting (the name for composting with worms) takes a little more practice to master.  Patience is the key ingredient.  You start by adding damp newspaper, kitchen scraps, some gritty material like crushed eggshells (just a small amount) and a bit of soil….plus the worms.  Then let it sit.  The worm bin or factory I purchased has 3 bins with a lower section that catches the liquid runoff.  This I can use to make compost tea and add to the water when watering the plants.

 Adding newspaper

 End result – worm castings!

The worms do a remarkable job, but like I said it takes patience and several months to see results.  I found that adding newspaper or shredded papers keeps the contents stable.  Do not add too many scraps at first.  Take your time and observe – you will get the hang of it after a while and your garden will love you for it!!  The soil in the garden is the foundation for healthy happy plants and one of the most important parts of successful gardening.

Cooking up Winter Squash

Winter squash is a wonderful reminder of growing veggies this past summer in your garden.  Cooking up your harvest in the dead of winter can really brighten the day and work as reassurance that planting season is not that far off!

My all time favorite winter squash has to be the Delicata - it is light and has a fresh taste all its own.  I grew the Delicata up on a trellis this year and had a nice yield.  I simply cut the squash in half  lengthwise, scoop out the seeds and place in a glass dish with an inch of water.  The squash is face down in the water – skin side up and the dish is covered with foil to keep the steam in.  Cook for 45 minutes in a 350 degree oven and then scoop the delicious Delicata right out of the skin.  Eat as is or you can add butter and/or brown sugar.

 Cooked Delicata

This evening for dinner I tried something very simple and was surprised how good it came out.  I peeled and cubed up a butternut squash and added it to our slow cooker with 32 oz. of chicken stock.  I let it cook for about 2 hours and then mashed it with a potato masher to make a super soup!

 After 2 hours Butternut Squash Soup

Served up with croutons …. Easy!  You can also add any type of spice to your liking…I added a sprinkle of nutmeg – just a sprinkle; don’t add too much! 

Try growing a winter squash in your garden next season if you have the space.  They do grow on vines and  you can trellis them as I did.  The winter squash skin is much harder than the summer squash so take care when cutting them up.  They are highly nutritious and really easy to cook up!

Chicken Chicken

I will buy chicken breast on sale and make several dishes.  First I bake the chicken and then bone it leaving me with tons of white chicken meat to cook with.  Chicken Salad and Chicken Chili were the 2 recipes I created this past week.  Healthy and filling and delicious to boot!

Chicken Salad - can be served in wheat pitas or on wheat crackers.  I used 2 cups of the cooked chicken and diced it up.  Then I added 1/4 cup of nonfat plain yogurt, 1/4 cup light mayonnaise, 1/2 small diced onion, 1 clove minced garlic, 1 tablespoon tarragon vinegar, 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce and 2 tablespoons of fresh parsley.  (The parsley was picked fresh and frozen in a plastic baggie and it worked just fine in this recipe).

Chicken Chili - combine 2 cans of crushed tomato (28 oz. each), 3 cups water, 1 cup pearl barley, 1 medium onion, 2-3 cloves of garlic, 1 tablespoon cumin and 2-3 tablespoons of chili powder.  Simmer for 45 minutes.  Due to the barley swelling you may have to add additional water.  Add 3 cups cut up cooked chicken breast and 1 can (11 oz) vacuum packed yellow corn.  The vacuum packed corn remains crisp in this dish.  Cook an additional 30 minutes.

Grocery shopping takes on new meaning

I was actually excited to head out to the grocery store yesterday even though we were hit with a foot of snow over the weekend.  I have been taking in all I can from the Spark People website and really planning out my meals.  For the first time ever…..really planning out my meals and it’s Fun!  So the grocery store was the place to be to find all different ingredients to whip up some new food.  I picked up 3 cantaloupes which were on sale at $1.19 each to cube up and dehydrate.  I will use this dried fruit to add to some type of granola snack I plan on making (still have to search the recipes to find the perfect recipe … there are tons!) 

 This time I decided to dice the cantaloupe instead of slice it.  I am thinking it will be easier to eat and better suited for a granola type snack.  I am hoping it doesn’t take that much longer to dry since it is thicker.  No parts of the cantaloupe are wasted at this household….the skins go the compost bin (some smaller skins to the worms in the worm bin) and the seeds and insides go to the chickens!!

 They love the seeds!

I will post the granola fruit snack I find or create once that happens.  I do have to run now since the new puppy is crying for attention (again!) … I forgot how much time they require.

 See her there at the end of the couch … passed out but not for long!  AND my spinach seeds have sprouted……. very cool!

My Spark book has arrived today ……. so I will grab it and head on into the other room to sit with puppy!  Happy Day!!

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