2014 Growing Season Is Here

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And what we have here ladies and gentlemen is jalapeno, bell pepper, eggplant, parsley, and leek seedlings.  I started all these on January 23rd on the advice on the Farmer’s Almanac.  2014′s growing season is here and I couldn’t be happier!  I know I didn’t update with last year’s bucket garden results the way I intended.  But let me show you my plants about July at the beginning of harvesting.

July Bucket Garden

If you turn and face the other direction on my porch you would see my her garden area and the onion/leek spot and rainwater catchment container.  For a first time bucket garden we had a pretty good season.  I learned alot.  And will definitely use that knowledge to my advantage this year and share with you.  Here is one morning’s harvest in early July off four tomato plants.

Tomatoes

I use heirloom seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company.  The tomatoes above are the yellow pear, pearly pink, mini orange, and genovese.  I highly recommend Baker Creek’s selection of seeds.  Every variety I grew was the best tasting I had ever had.  You won’t be disappointed.  and don’t feel like you have waited too late to start.  Last year I started my seeds at the end of February and first of March and I still had more tomatoes and peppers than we could eat.  Plus the plants produced late into the year since it took a while to get cold.  I was still harvest at the end of October and first of November.  I saved seeds from last year’s harvest to plant this year and have $0 out of pocket expense to start my bucket garden this year.

One thing I am doing differently this year is I am using seed trays instead of egg shells for growing my seedlings.  And I’m also using continuous light to help them grow big and strong indoors before transfer.  I didn’t have alot of money for artificial grow lights and stands and all that so here is my cheap solution.

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Yes, that is my stove with the hood light on.  The seedlings are loving that light, warm place.  If I’m cooking I move them to the table out of the way.  Otherwise, this is their home this year.  So here’s to great gardens everyone!

Have you started seeds indoors this year?

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Homemade Ham Glaze & Honey Butter

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Every time I buy a ham at the store they have these glaze packets inside the packaging.  For years I used them thinking you just had to in order to have ham glaze.  How WRONG I was!  not only is homemade ham glaze easy to make, it tastes so much better than anything you can get at the store.  Plus, you control the ingredients.  I came up with a recipe for ham glaze by sheer coincidence at my step mom’s house a few years ago.  Now before I tell you how the recipe came about, let me remind you that even though we try to live as healthy as we can most of the time, sometimes we do indulge.  So before anyone goes casting stones I freely admit this is an unnecessary indulgence, but oh so good!

Every year at the holidays our family has bacon wrapped, brown sugar smokies.  In case you don’t know what that is, you take little smokies and wrap them in a 1/3 strip of bacon, sprinkle with brown sugar, and bake until brown and bubbly.  My step mom piped up and said, “You know how you try to reuse everything in the kitchen and not waste stuff?”  I said, “Yeah.”  She said, “Well wouldn’t it be a good idea to reuse this bacon/brown sugar syrup after we cook the smokies?  You could put it on a ham or something couldn’t you?”  And that is how it all started…

Ham Glaze Ingredients

  • 1 can of pineapple in 100% pineapple juice OR 1/2 fresh pineapple and 1 cup of pineapple juice
  • 1 tbsp spicy brown mustard
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp bacon grease

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and cook on medium low heat until all sugar is dissolved and mixture starts to thicken.  Set aside and let cool.  Pour cooled mixture over cleaned ham.

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And just in case some of you don’t know how easy it is to make flavored butter, here’s a little bonus recipe for you.  We love hot bread and homemade honey butter at our house.  I usually keep a pound of honey butter made up in the fridge at all times.  You can use honey, agave nectar, molasses, or any other thick liquid sweetener to make this recipe.  You can also use fresh or dried herbs to make herb butters for savory applications as well.  My favorite savory butter combo is parsley and chives.  It’s great melted on a steak!

Honey Butter Ingredients

  • 1 lb unsalted sweet cream butter
  • 1/2 cup honey (or other liquid sweetener you prefer-if you want to make herb butter, substitute 1/4 cup of herbs here)

I use my hand mixer to whip the butter and honey together until well combined.  Simple as that.

Do you have a glaze or butter recipe you’d like to share with us?


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World’s Best Potato Salad

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If you are a fan of traditional, southern potato salad, then you will love my recipe!  I’m not trying to be boastful or anything even though it sounds like.  Anyone I have ever made this potato salad for has told me over and over how they think it is the best they have ever had.  And of course, I’m kind of partial to it myself.

Ingredients:

  • 6-8 Idaho potatoes
  • 4 boiled eggs
  • 1 bunch of green onions
  • 1/4 cup chopped bread & butter pickles, and chopped dill pickles combined-plus 2 tbsp of the bread & butter pickle juice
  • 1/2 mayonnaise
  • 1 tbsp spicy brown mustard
  • 1/2 sour cream
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • Crispy, chopped bacon
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Paprika for decoration

I wash the potatoes then boil them whole.  I have really bad wrists and cannot peel and chop all of the potatoes.  When I boil them whole, it makes skinning them a piece of cake.  PLUS, I keep the skins to make homemade potato skins for a snack for my son afterwards.  After the potatoes have cooked through, I dip them out of the water and put my eggs into the boiling water.  I boil the eggs for four minutes then turn off the water and let it sit for about 5 minutes.  Then I place the pan in the sink and run cold water over the eggs until I can comfortably put my hands down inside the pot.  I peel the eggs right then.  If I let them sit too long, the eggs fall apart when I peel them.  But if I peel them while the eggs are still soft and I’ve just submerged them in cool water, the shells slip right off and my eggs stay pristine.

While the potatoes and eggs are boiling I chop the pickles and onions.  After the potatoes are skinned and the eggs are shelled, I chop them and add them to a big mixing bowl with the pickles and onions.  In a separate smaller bowl I combine all the wet ingredients including the milk, sour cream, mustard, mayonnaise, and the pickle juice.  I whisk together all of the wet ingredients and when well combined I pour over the chopped veggies in the other bowl.  Stir gently.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Sprinkle with paprika.  Then top with the bacon crumbles.

BONUS:  Every time I make potato salad, we have homemade potato skins as a snack.  I keep the peelings, season with herbs and spices, bake on stoneware so they are crispy, then enjoy!

What’s your favorite potato salad recipe secret?


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Homemade Breakfast Sausage

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I have been wanting to start making my own  sausage for a while now but have been forgetting to look for ground pork at the grocery store.  It just so happens when I went in this week to take advantage of a ground beef sale, my local grocery had family packs of ground pork at a cheap price as well.  So I brought home a 5lb container of it with the express purpose of making breakfast sausage for the first time.  I did a little Google searching for ingredients typically used in making sausage.  From the research I came up with a list of ingredients we are partial to and set about trying something new.  Here is the list of ingredients and the measurements I ended with when all was said and done.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp ground red pepper
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 4 tsp sage
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tsp nutmeg

Tip:  When you are creating your own recipe like this for the first time, mix everything up and pinch off a little of the mixture and cook it up in a skillet.  I did this and tasted what I had to see if I needed to adjust the seasonings any.  I kept doing this until I got to the taste I wanted.

Hands down it’s the best breakfast sausage I’ve ever had.  And I am a FREAK about Jones All Natural Maple Sausage Patties.  But after making it at home I don’t think I’ll be buying it at the store anymore again unless I’m out and really need some quickly.  It was as easy to mix up as a meatloaf.

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I divided the 5lbs up into 1 lb balls then placed in freezer storage bags.  I burped the air from the bags then pushed all the sausage to the bottom of the bag.  Then I rolled up the sausage like I was using a roller to make biscuits until a sausage roll formed.  I am going to freeze these rolls then when I need a slice I will just pop one out and use my serrated bread knife to slice while frozen to I don’t have a gooey sausage mess everywhere either!

Have you tried to make homemade sausage of any kind at home before?


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Healthy Living Check Up

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You all know I have been on a mission to continue losing weight and become healthier.  One thing I started two months ago was preparing my breakfasts and lunches in advance in portioned containers.  Not only does this control everything I eat, but it saves me TONS of time every single day.

The pic above is a typical breakfast for me:  steal cut oats, cottage cheese, a boiled egg, two slices of bacon, and I also have 8 oz of grapefruit juice mixed with 2 tsp of apple cider vinegar.  On top of all the other things I normally do this has been my only significant dietary/lifestyle change lately.  As a result, I have lost 10 pounds in the last month alone!  I’m not saying exactly which part is working or if combined with what I already had implemented is just snowballing but something is definitely clicking for me.

How are you doing with your health goals?


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