Bob finished building our new raised beds today. Because we decided to try Mel Bartholomew's Square Foot Gardening we built four 4x4 beds per his recommendations. Bob used cedar and the process was a lot more involved than I had realized it would be. The boards all had to be cut to fit together nicely like a jigsaw puzzle so they would be sturdier. He had to level the ground and put some sort of ground cloth in the boxes to discourage weeds and critters.
The last photo is a shot of a few of the seedlings we've started. We have 14 tomato plants and I'm betting a couple don't survive transplanting but even if that happens we will have more than we can possibly eat! I plan on canning and making sauce out of a couple of the varieties. We also have pepper plants and several herbs started. The rest of the seeds will be direct sown in a couple weeks in the garden beds.
We tried a new recipe last night and it was excellent and very quick. Even better it is inexpensive and hearty. This is a Martha Stewart recipe from her Everyday Food Magazine, Issue 50.
*I buy frozen shrimp in the bags when they are on sale. If you watch your sale ads you can usually find a pound for $4-6.
Asian Shrimp Stew with Steamed Rice
-1 C. long-grain rice
-2 Tbs. cornstarch
-1/2 C. coconut milk
-1 Tbs. sugar
-1 Tbs. vegetable oil
-2 Yellow peppers cut into one inch pieces (I used green, they were cheaper)
-1 onion cut into one inch pieces
-4 garlic cloves, sliced
-2 Tbs. minced, peeled fresh ginger (I used the Pampered Chef chopper press and it worked great)
-1/4 tsp. red-pepper flakes (I omitted this since Ella and I were eating it)
-4 scallions, white and green parts separated and thinly sliced
-1 pound peeled and deveined shrimp (thaw if frozen)
-1-2 Tbs. rice vinegar
1. Cook rice according to pkg. instructions. Place cornstarch in a bowl and gradually whisk in coconut milk, sugar and 1 cup of water.
2. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium. Add peppers, onion, garlic, ginger, red-pepper flakes and scallion whites; season with salt. Cook, tossing frequently, until veggies are crisp-tender, 6-8 minutes.
3. Add coconut-milk mixture to skillet; raise heat to medium-high. Boil stirring until thickened, 1-2 minutes. Add shrimp, and cook until opaque, 3-4 minutes. If necessary adjust consistency with water, season with vinegar and salt to taste.
4. Serve shrimp stew over the rice. Add the green scallions to the top for a garnish.
Total time: 30 minutes
(Sorry no photo, I had two fussy children and no patience when I made this and completely forgot to snap a pic!)
These are but a few varieties of one of my favorite perennials. What you can't see (except in the third photograph) are the slender stalks covered with delicate flowers. Why? Because in order for me to show you the interesting colors and shapes of the leaves, it required close-up pictures. These are easy to grow and they only cost money the first year. Every year after that, they are free! Another nice thing is that there are dozens of varieties in a multitude of colors. If you are looking for a great plant that is hardy and will add an interesting mix to your garden, try heucheras.
We buy locally produced eggs and they are the real deal. All the eggs are different sizes and slightly different colors. The yolks are so golden and rich. The farm that supplies the eggs to our local grocery store, Stanberry Community Farms, puts a xeroxed note into each egg carton. These change weekly and reflect the season. This week's read: Oh! Happy springtime - Baby lambs and baby calves are appearing on the farm. Here and there the grass shows a tint of green and some early flowers are in bloom. A sure sign of the approaching season...
Ella and I made a sweet little mobile for her bedroom from some simple cardstock flower cutouts (thank you, Amanda), some yarn and a wooden ring. She is so excited to hang it in her room.
I got the idea to make homemade cinnamon rolls from another blogger. I found a recipe that looked to die for good and Ella and I got to work on them this morning. Now, for those of you who have never made them homemade before, this is a more involved process than I had realized. You are pretty much making a sweet bread so you have to let it rise twice, once after you make the dough and once after you have the rolls cut.
We went through all the steps and they looked SO good. I smeared on the top the leftover butter/brown sugar/cinnamon concoction that I had left over from creating the rolls and I popped them in the oven. Yes, those of you who are smarter than me and not distracted by two young children probably just grimaced reading the second sentence of this paragraph. Why it didn't occur to me that the butter was going to melt everywhere is a mystery to me.
Ten minutes after putting them in I hear Ella yelling, "Mom, something bad!". Being in the next room nursing Gabriel (she was at the kitchen table coloring) I raced in expecting the table to be smeared with marker. Oh no, it was much worse. Thick black smoke was billowing out of the oven. I put Gabriel down in the pack n' play and told Ella to stand over near the door to the deck. Not sure what I was going to find inside I cracked open the door but the smoke was so thick I slammed it shut, turned off the oven, grabbed the phone to call Bob and herded the kids outside. I had no idea if the house was going to burn down.
I got Gabriel strapped into his bouncy seat on the deck table and went back in for a blanket. Ella was still chanting, "something bad, something bad" (this got very irritating after 30 or so minutes, let me tell you but thank god she yelled it that first time and got my attention) and I knew I needed to open the oven and get the buns out. I grabbed the pan, slammed the oven door shut and went back out to check on the kids. Realizing that the oven wasn't on fire I got the kids back in the house, began opening windows and called my husband. I left the mess in the oven for him to sort out.
It turns out that the melting butter and sugar dripped all over the inside and began to furiously burn, hence the thick smoke. My oven is now on self-clean and the cinnamon buns were ruined. I am so glad that things didn't end up worse but I am so disappointed that all that work was for naught.
Lesson learned, for sure! And another unexpected thing came out of this disaster: none of the smoke alarms in my house went off so clearly they need new batteries and a check. They are one of those things that I always intend to check but don't get around to. So, if you haven't checked your smoke alarms in six months, do it!
"The discovery of a new dish does more for the happiness of the human race than the discovery of a star." - Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin
This is a Weight Watchers recipe, of all things. It is my new find for a quick and easy dinner and I L.O.V.E. it.
Balsamic Chicken and Mushrooms
2 tsp vegetable oil
3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 large garlic clove(s), crushed
1 pound uncooked boneless, skinless chicken breast, four 4-oz pieces
2 cup mushroom(s), small, halved
1/3 cup canned chicken broth
1/4 tsp dried thyme, crumbled
In a nonstick skillet, heat 1 teaspoon of oil.
In a medium bowl, mix 2 tablespoons of vinegar, the mustard and garlic. Add chicken and turn to coat.
Transfer chicken and marinade to skillet. Sauté chicken until cooked through, about 3 minutes on each side. Transfer chicken to a platter and keep warm.
Heat remaining teaspoon of oil in skillet. Sauté mushrooms for 1 minute. Add broth, thyme and remaining tablespoon of vinegar. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms are deep brown, about 2 minutes longer.
Serve chicken topped with mushrooms.
My seeds have sprouted! I have seven varieties of tomatoes, several herbs, some green peppers and a few flowers started.
Bob built four 4x4 beds for our plants this year. We are going with raised beds because our house is new construction and the soil is completely compacted from the building process. Plus we can create a nice mix of soil from the start and not have to worry about trying to get our yard soil into garden condition. We are going to employ the Square Foot Gardening method for the first time. We shall see how it goes.