First order on Wish

I don’t know if anyone uses this site but I just put in my first order on Wish.com.  It is basically a sales sight that sells lots of miscellaneous items such as makeup, tools, clothing, kitchen gadgets and more.  It’s similar to a dollar store and I am guessing the quality is pretty similar.  Anyway, I just put in my first order for some simple things like lip gloss, paint brushes, a small travel bag and a couple other odds and ends.  The shipping is extremely slow so it will be quite some time before I’m able to update on my tiny “haul” but I’m excited to try something new.

Also, I finally decided on a greenhouse and got it ordered.  It is a simple 15x7x7 model with steel hoop frame and a poly cover.  It was very inexpensive and I figured a good option for my first year of greenhouse growing.  Should be here within a couple days.

Ohhhh – and, the hubby and I placed an Arbor Day Foundation plant order.  Lots of lovely fruit trees!  I’m so excited!!!

 

Anyway, if anyone has any experience with either Wish.com or Arbor Day products, I’d love to hear from you.  Good, bad or indifferent experiences are welcome.  Have a wonderful weekend!!

 

 

Drying the Chive Harvest

Today I finished up drying and getting the chives into jars. Everything in the house smells oniony and delicious. I have read that some people do not like to dry their chives because they feel it loses a lot of the flavor but I have to say that has not been my experience. I think it retains the flavor just fine. Anyway – here’s what I did….

Picked a nice bunch of the chives.  Yes… they’ve already bloomed so I also saved the seeds for my Etsy shop.  The plants will just keep on going and send up new growth.  Gave them a nice, stern buzzcut so to speak.

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.Then I rinsed them and laid them out in the dehydrator.  These don’t take very long in my machine…. maybe 6 hours in total.  You know they’re done when they’re crispy-sounding, like straw.

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I purchased a coffee grinder from a 2nd hand store specifically for herbs this year.  I had a mini food processor but it didn’t get the herbs as fine as I liked.  chives3

Here they are all ground up and in a glass jar.  They will keep in my cupboard for a very, very long time.  Some pieces are like fine powder and some are a little bigger.  A little variety is a good thing.  🙂  

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A little extra chives here that I mixed with natural sea-salt.  I supposed I should have just put the salt and the chive bits into the jar and shook it up but I put it all into the coffee grinder and it turned everything (even the salt) into a very fine powder.  Lesson learned…. didn’t exactly want powdered salt but it’ll still work.

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Drying Oregano

I have a huge batch of oregano this year.  Must be because of all of the rain…. the plants are just amazing!  I usually wait until later in the year to dry it because I love the blooms but it’s threatening to take over my herb bed.  It needed a trim.

Yesterday I cut the plants down to about 8″ tall and ended up with a really large bowl-full.

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I pulled off all of the leaves, taking care to discard any that had buggies, holes or dark spots and put them in a strainer for washing.  This is only 1/4 of the batch.

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After washing and shaking dry, I loaded up the dehydrator.  I probably over-loaded it but I know that herbs dry quick and easy for me.   It took about 12 hours to dry these but drying time will depend on your own person equipment.

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After they were all dry and very crunchy to the touch, I stuffed glass jars full of the herbs. ( I reuse glass jars with screw-top lids.  They work great! )  I ended up with two glass jars full.

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When I’m ready to use it in my recipes, all I do is put a little in my hand and crush it.  I will probably do another batch when the plants get bigger again.   But this time I’ll be making my own Italian seasoning by mixing it with my dried basil, thyme and chives.

Strawberry Cheesecake Jewels

I found the coolest recipe recently.  Basically, strawberries stuffed with a cream cheese filling and a bit of white chocolate on the bottom outside of the fruit.  I was going to make it for dessert tonight but decided I was far to lazy to do it the way the recipe said I should.  I decided to take a shortcut and make the recipe my own.  Super easy and so good that my dearest daughter said that it was the BEST DAY EVER because of the dessert.  Well, that makes it a hit in my book.  😉

StrawberryCheesecakeJewels2

STRAWBERRY CHEESECAKE JEWELS

Filling:

2 TB sour cream

5 TB whipped cream cheese

½ tsp. lemon juice

2 tsp. sugar

Chocolate Drizzle:

⅓ C. chocolate chips

2 TB sour cream

½ tsp milk

1 C. fresh strawberries

¼ C. crushed graham cracker crumbs

1.  Wash strawberries and remove tops.  Cut in half and set on a platter.

2.  Combine all filling ingredients.  Put into a plastic baggie, squeeze out air and snip off a very small section of the corner to create a small hole (like a piping bag)

3. Gently melt and mix the ingredients for the chocolate drizzle in a small saucepan on low heat.

4.  Pipe a small amount of the filling onto each strawberry halve.

5.  Drizzle a little chocolate onto each strawberry ‘jewel’.

6.  Sprinkle the tops with a pinch or two of the graham cracker crumbs.

Refrigerate to set… about an hour.  Serve.

StrawberryCheesecakeJewels

Easiest Homemade Fudge

EASIEST HOMEMADE FUDGE

3 cups (18 oz.) semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 (14 oz.) can Sweetened Condensed Milk

Dash salt

LINE 8- or 9-inch pan with wax paper.

MELT chocolate chips with sweetened condensed milk and salt in heavy saucepan. Remove from heat. Spread evenly in prepared pan.

CHILL 2 hours or until firm. Remove from pan by lifting edges of wax paper; peel off paper. Cut into squares.

Easiest White Bean Dip (Poor Girl’s Hummus)

Similar to hummus but without the tahini.  What is tahini?  Well… I had to look that one up.    It’s a paste of ground seseme seeds.  OK, interesting.

Anyway, today I tried out a recipe for White Bean Dip. I’m gonna call it ‘Poor Girl’s Hummus”  simply because it’s a dip for the budget-minded..  In fact, it is made with basic ingredients that most of us already have in our fridge and pantry.  Only thing I picked up at the store for this is the white beans and they only cost .40 discout priced.  I usually keep chili and kidney beans in the pantry so this will be another staple that I will be sure to have on hand.   There are several variations out there but I found this to be the easiest one.  Straight-forward and very tasty.  In fact, I made it for lunch and the four of us (Hubby, FIL, Cousin and Moi) ate it all.

POOR GIRL’S HUMMUS or EASIEST WHITE BEAN DIP

1 can white beans (drained and rinsed)

2 cloves garlic (rough chopped)

2 TB lemon juice

½ tsp dried oregano

½ tsp salt

½ tsp black pepper

½ C. olive oil

Throw it all into a blender or food processor and puree until smooth.  Great with pita or any kind of chips / crackers.

I’d include a picture but unfortunately, it didn’t last long enough to photograph.  Next time I might try to change it up a bit with some bacon, black olives or chives.  Always options…..

Wintersowing and Me

Here’s how I do it….

First you need to do a little research to find out what type of seeds you can wintersow.  If you take a look around www.wintersown.org, Trudi has made lists of seeds for specific zones to use as guidelines.  My method is, “if it’s a perennial, biennial or hardy self-seeding annual in MY zone… I’m going to wintersow it”.  Simple as that.  But everyone’s a little different so  do your research to see what will work for you.

 

First…got my area prepped.  Box of seeds for WS’ing ready.  Permanant markers to mark my containers. Check.  Basin of water. Check.  Basin to hold my mess in with newspaper underneath.  Check (although I know I’m going to make a mess anyway!) Bucket of soil.  Yup.

Get your containers ready.  I use just about any plastic container I can find and cut up but I prefer to use milk jugs, plastic water bottles and pop bottles.  Wash them good. (if using water, milk or pop jugs…throw out the caps.  You don’t need them)  Next, cut them in half with a serated kitchen knife or scissors…whatever works best for you.  Now cut slits in the bottoms of them for drainage.   If using containers like sour cream containers or butter, toss the lids.  You’ll need to cover those with plastic wrap or lg baggies.

Label your containers (unless you like surprises)  I usually label mine in a couple different places…like the side and the bottom just in case some of the lettering fades.  In this case, I’m going to seed a couple of containers of Rudbeckia (black-eyed-susans) “Irish Eyes”.  I also dated these…can’t remember why tho.

Put approx 3″ worth of soil into the containers.  Any less than this will not promote good root growth.  Set your jugs into your ‘mess tray’ and soak the soil really well.   Setting them into the ‘mess tray’ helps them drain also.

Sow your seeds.  I’ve basically thrown these  right on top of the soil and I will press these down into the dirt just a little bit.  Do your research for your particular type of seeds you’re going to sow.  Some seeds need light to germinate and some need to be in the dirt a little further.  The amount of seeds you throw in also depends on the type of seeds you’re sowing and how much YOU want to thin the clumps in the spring.  I’m usually pretty generous with my sowing. 

Snuggle the lid on.  Sometimes I have a bit of trouble getting that lid back on… so I’ll cut a 1-2″ slit in the side to get it to slip back on. (or back IN to the bottom part of the container)  Now we’re just about ready to throw these outside.  (don’t really throw them!)

Got this tray ready to go outside.  Added a couple more containers of BES seeds…think those were “Indian Summer” or something like that. 

Pick a nice place for them to sit during the rest of the winter.   Can you see them?  When I took this picture we had about 6″ of snow so they’re really snuggled in there.  Now…  I actually can’t see them at all because we’ve gotten another 12″ of snow since then.  Which is OK.  The snow on top and dripping into the containers is good!  They need the moisture during the winter.  If it starts to get a little dry where they’re sitting, I’ll usually find some more snow and just throw it on top of them.

  I chose the north side of the house at the edge of the woods.  If you put your little ‘greenhouses’ on the south or east side of your home, they can become too warm in early spring and then sprout too early…so choose someplace on the north side or someplace with just a little shade.  When Spring arrives, your little seeds will sprout at just the right time and you’ll have oodles and oodles of new plants for your garden.   When it gets consistantly warm, take their tops off and treat them as you would any transplant.  Easy as pie!

OK… I’ve covered the wintersowing and now for ME.  😉  I landed a job at a large nursery nearby!  Starting in March, I will be working at Prairie Nursery in Westfield, WI.  Very exciting!  Check out their website if you get a minute.

http://prairienursery.com

And Winter Sowing Begins

Yesterday I started winter sowing my seeds.  It’s been a couple of years since I’ve sown seeds this way and I really can tell that I missed how easy it is to do.  

Anyway, because the hustle and bustle of Christmas is over, it’s the perfect time for me to get some seeds started.  Yesterday I planted 19 containers of seeds.  All perennials but there are a couple that are “iffy” for zone 4….but we’ll see how they go.  This is a great way to save A LOT of money on plants that you would otherwise have to buy at the garden center, plus it’s an excellent way to recycle plastic containers.  The only money I have invested so far is the soil I bought at the hardware store.  (and on that note….. why is it that so many retail stores “hide” their potting soil over the winter.  Do they think that just because it’s cold, no one needs soil?  What about people with houseplants?)

Here’s the varieties so far:

(numbers are for my record keeping)

Gaillardia (2)

Sweet William (3)

Fountain Grass – Pennisetum (2)

Giant Purple Hyssop (1)

Blue Balloon Flower (2)

Coneflowers – purple (2)

Bee Balm – red (2)

Achillea Ptarmica – “The Pearl” (2)

Aclepias Tuberosa (3)

We started saving plastic soda and water bottles and unfortunately….. I used them all up already.  I found some old plastic planting pots by my shed and I’m going to devise a cover for them using some plastic.  My only real concern is the critters in the woods getting into the containers but it’s a chance I’ll have to take.  I’ve got my 19 little containers sitting in back, nestled in the snow and waiting for Spring.

I’ve also jumped back into the Garden Web scene.  Right now I’m doing a little trading and finding some great seeds for my yard.  After they’ve grown and produced…then I’ll have more to share with others too.

If you’re interested in learning more about winter sowing, visit this website:  http://wintersown.org

Zucchini Chili and Pincushions

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Recently started making these cute little pincushions.  They’re fairly easy to make and pretty fun too.  These are made with 100% cotton fabric, polyfill,  rice (for weight) and vintage buttons.  Just listed some of them in my Etsy Shop so if you’re interested in seeing more about them, take a look there.

Weather has been getting pretty cool at night here and we had a couple of very “fall-like” days too.  So, figured it was time to make some Chili.  I normally just wing it when making chili and this is a new recipe that I just threw together.  Usually I don’t write it down but thought this one was so good…I decided I might as well.  🙂  It’s also a great way to use up some of that zucchini that we had an excess of. 

Zucchini Chili

1 lb. hamburger
1/2 C. brewed coffee (use some left over from the morning)
2 TB. olive oil
2 small zucchini (both about 6” –  8” long) diced
2 TB. finely chopped garlic
1/4 C. chopped onion
1 C. diced tomato
1 small can tomato sauce
1 can red kidney beans
1 can chick peas
2 tsp. sugar
1 TB Kosher salt
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. onion salt
1 pkt. taco seasoning
2 tsp. hot pepper juice*  OR 1 small hot pepper (diced)

Brown the hamburger in large pot with the coffee.  Add a little olive oil if your ground beef is really lean.
In another, smaller pot, over medium heat add olive oil, garlic, onion, zucchini and tomato.  Season with the Kosher salt and cook on medium until everything is softened and translucent.  Add the tomato sauce and just mix it all together.

After the hamburger is browned, mix in the veggies/tomato sauce.   Then add sugar, chili powder, black pepper, onion salt and hot pepper juice*.  Drain some of the liquid off of the top of the cans of beans and add those also.  

**Pepper Juice is something that we found in a local grocery store and something that I’d never seen before bottled like this.  Honestly, all it appears to be is the “brine” from pickled hot peppers…..so if you’ve got a jar of pickled hot (or even mild) peppers in your fridge, just use that instead.  It’s really tasty in chili.  Or, just use some finely diced hot peppers  and throw them in when you’re sauteing the rest of the veggies.**

 

I don’t shop at Wal-mart anymore….

I don’t shop at Wal-mart anymore.  OK…once a month we do go there so my DH can get a prescription filled and we might pick up a thing or two but since we moved, the nearest Wal-mart is now about 40 minutes away.    And that’s ok with me.

Actually, it is one of the best things that could have happened to us.  Wal-mart may be cheap and convenient but it also a place that “invites” you to spend way too much money.  Since it is so convenient, having just about everything you need under one roof, I believe that it also entices you to spend foolishly on things you probably don’t need but end up buying just cuz it’s “a great deal”.  Think about it.  How many times have to “run to Wal-mart” to pick up TP and end up leaving with 6 bags full of STUFF, while scratching your head wondering what happened.

Considering food at Wal-mart  (and this is probably the BIGGEST thing that we’ve learned since moving)…..the quality sucks!  Really, it does.  I would never have believed it either because it looks good but, it does.  Since we moved we found a small-town grocery store.  They don’t have all the conveniences of the bigger chain stores and the prices are a little higher  but what they do have is QUALITY food.  The fruits and veggies are great and more local items are available.  Fresh sweet corn from a farm right down the road is pretty hard to beat.  Produce at the local store or even a farmer’s market….more of it is organic and you’re also supporting your community.  Produce at Wal-mart…well, who knows WHERE that stuff comes from?!   The biggest difference that we’ve noticed, though, is the meat.  The quality of the meat is so, SO much better than the stuff you buy at Wal-mart.  Less greasy, better taste and it’s actually from the U.S.   I don’t care what the % of  fat is on the Wal-mart packages…..it can say the same % as the stuff on the local grocery store but the proof is in the cooking.    I can cook up 1 # of ground beef from the local store and 1# of ground beef from WallyWorld (same percentage of fat, keep in mind) and that one frying pan will hold 2x the amount of grease when the cooking is done.  Go figure.   My family and I have noticed a huge difference in the way we physically feel simply because we don’t buy food from Wal-mart anymore.   We’re all healthier, feel better with more energy and have actually lost weight.  (I’m fitting into shorts that I haven’t worn in over a year LOL)