Thursday, November 20, 2014

White Chicken Chili

Warm up this season with a new twist on chili. This recipe is a white chili, meaning no tomatoes. Crazy, I know! And it also substitutes ground beef for chicken but the result is a hearty delicious chili perfect for a snowy day.


White Chicken Chili
1 medium onion, diced
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 4-ounce can chopped green chiles, undrained
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
15 ounce can great Northern beans, drained and rinsed
15 ounce can light kidney beans, drained and rinsed
3 1/2 cups chicken broth
2 cups cooked chicken, chopped
1 cup (4 ounces) Pepper Jack Cheese coarsely grated and divided
1 cup (4 ounces) Colby, coarsely grated and divided

Cook onion in hot oil in pan over medium-high heat, stirring until tender.
Add green chiles, garlic and cumin; cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add beans and chicken broth, stirring well. Bring to boil; reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes.

Add chicken, 1/2 cup Pepper Jack and 1/2 cup Colby Cheese; simmer over low heat 10 minutes more.

Ladle chili into bowls. Top each serving with remaining cheeses and desired toppings

Additional topping suggestions:
crushed corn chips
crushed saltine crackers
oyster crackers
sour cream
shredded cheese
chopped green onions
chopped tomatoes
bacon

Recipe adapted from: Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

How To Split Hostas

Did you know that there's a wealth of free plants right outside your own door? Many established plants can be divided and relocated to new locations within the yard; all at no cost or time spent driving to the garden center. And who wouldn't love that?

Dividing hostas is a great introduction to splitting plants for a variety of landscape designs. Spread your plants around to meet your needs, share a portion of the plant with a friend, or if you get several plants in your next purchased pot, you can divide the plants with this simple tutorial.


You can divide your hostas in either spring and fall. I personally like to do this task in the fall. Then the plant does not have a cut in half appearance for the next growth season as it might in the spring.

Here is how to split or divide hostas:

Dig up the plant you are planting to divide.
Shake any excess dirt from the roots.


Place the hosta on a firm surface or lay the plant down on the ground.
Using a straight spaded shovel, make your cut straight down the roots.


Now you are ready to plant your newly divided hostas. Make sure you place the plant at the same depth that they were prior to dividing. If you would like to add any compost to the soil, this is the time to do so. After you have planted your hosta, don't forget to water the new plant well. Watering also helps to remove air pockets and provides a much needed drink for your new plant.

Be aware that if you divide your hostas way back, you can set back the growth rate by a few years as you are disrupting the root system. So dividing should only be done every few years to keep your hostas healthy.

Happy Planting!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Dill Relish

Nothing quite encompasses Americana like a hot dog on a sunny summer day. Dress up your next backyard BBQ with this homemade dill relish which uses homegrown cucumbers, freshly picked from the garden.


Dill Relish
10 cups cucumber, shredded
1 summer squash, shredded
1 carrot, shredded
1 small onion, shredded
1/2 cup pickling / canning salt

Brine:
4 cups of water
4 cups of vinegar
2 teaspoons dry mustard
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon celery seed
2 tablespoon dill weed
1/2 teaspoon turmeric

Hot water canner
Large sauce pan or soup pot
Ladle
Funnel
Jar Lifter
Jars, lids, rims

Shred cucumbers, squash, onion and carrot. Sprinkle shredded vegetables with pickling salt. Stir well. Cover and let sit for at least 4 hour or even overnight if you wish. You can simply leave the vegetables unrefrigerated.


Rinse vegetables with cold water and drain well.

Get your jars ready. Jars should be clean. You can run them through the dishwasher or wash in hot soapy water.

In a medium saucepan; bring water, vinegar and seasonings to a boil. This is the brine or the liquid for pickling. Add vegetable mixture to the brine and boil for 30 minutes.
Fill jars with hot vegetables, leaving 1/4 inch head space.

If you are new to Boiling-Water Bath Canning, I recommend reading my tutorial on this type of canning.

Wipe rims of jars clean with warm wash cloth. Place hot lids on jars and tighten with rims.

Process in a boiling-water canner for 10 minutes. Remove jars with jar remover carefully. Place hot jars on level surface. I cover my counter top with a double layered kitchen towel and place jars on top. Using a hot pad or glove, check that the rims are tightened.

As the jars cool, you will hear a "ping" when the lid seals.  (My favorite part!) Make sure all of your jars have sealed. They are sealed if the button in the middle of the lid in depressed. If you have any jars that have not sealed, you can reprocess them or store the jar in the refrigerator for use.

Makes 9 pints.

Please check with your local extension office for any changes due to altitude for times or temperatures.

Above instructions are for elevation 1000 feet or below.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Pickled Beets

Pickled beets... it is one of those foods that you love or hate. I thought I was a hater but to be honest I can't recall when I last ate a beet. I was very surprised to find that I really like them. Thanks to my friend, Jessie, we received a few beets in her CSA that she let us have when she was out of town. And the rest is history.

So, I gave the following recipe a go. I love the spice and zip of the vinegar. Plus they are a super food! They are packed full of vitamins and minerals. They contain vitamins A, B, and C. And also contain potassium, magnesium, folic acid, and iron. Delicious and healthy!


Pickled Beets
3 pounds beets
1/4 teaspoon cloves
2 cups sugar
1 stick of cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp salt
3 1/2 cups vinegar
1 1/2 cups water

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Chicken Pot Pie

Try this delicious classic comfort food recipe, perfect for weather that is turning cooler. Chicken pot pie is a complete meal that includes chicken, vegetables, rich white sauce and a flaky pie crust.


Chicken Pot Pie

Crust:
2 pie crusts, softened

Filling:
1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup onion, chopped 
1/3 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon seasoning salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 3/4 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup milk
2 1/2 cups chicken; cooked and shredded
2 cups frozen mixed vegetables, thawed

Preheat oven to 425° F.

Make pie crusts as directed on box for Two-Crust Pie using 9-inch glass pie pan.

In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion and cook until tender. Stir in flour, salt and pepper until well blended. Gradually stir in broth and milk, cooking and stirring until bubbly and thickened.

Stir in chicken and mixed vegetables. Remove from heat. Spoon chicken mixture into crust-lined pan.


Top with second crust and seal edge. Cut several slits in the top of the crust.

Bake 20 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Remove the pie from the oven and place strips of foil around the edges to prevent excessive browning. Bake for another 15 - 20 minutes.

Let stand 5 minutes before serving.
 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Blender Salsa

Salsa and chips might just be my favorite snack... ever! There is nothing that compares to freshly made salsa. You can make restaurant quality salsa in just a few minutes at home.


Blender Salsa
10 cups tomato, chopped
2 jalapeños, seeds removed and chopped
1/4 cup green pepper
1 onion, chopped
2 teaspoons dried cilantro
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon seasoning salt

Add ingredients to food processor and blend. Yes that is it!
You can enjoy your salsa now, but the flavor is improved with allowing the salsa to chill for 1 hour.

We had to combine the blended ingredients in a bowl as our food processor is not huge.
  • This recipe makes a HOT salsa!!!
  • For MEDIUM use only one jalapeño. 
  • For MILD use 2 cans green chiles instead of jalapeños.
 Keep chilled and eat within one week.


Monday, September 1, 2014

Creamy Cucumber Salad

Our garden has exploded with cucumbers. I probably should have picked them a few days ago but camping was calling our family's name. I love smell of fresh cucumbers. Combining these cool cucumber with this salad's creamy sauce, will help you cool off after a warm summer day.


Creamy Cucumber Salad
4 cups cucumber (about 3 large cucumbers)
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons dill
1 teaspoon vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
white pepper, to taste

Select cucumbers that are firm from your garden or grocery store. This will ensure that your cucumbers will be crisp.

Peel the cucumber, optional.

Slice into 1/4 inch pieces and place into a bowl.

Add salt and toss. Let cucumbers sit refrigerated for 15 minutes.

Drain liquid from cucumbers.

Mix together sour cream, onion powder, garlic powder, dill, vinegar, and sugar.

Toss dressing with cucumbers. Stir well to coat.

Chill for one hour prior to serving. Stir prior to serving. Sprinkle with white pepper, if desired.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Strawberry Freezer Jam

Need an easy canning project to try? All you need is freezer-safe containers or canning jars and 3 ingredients, no extra special processing equipment needed! Strawberry freezer jam is a simple and quick recipe to try for you first canning endeavor. I love how this recipe locks in the freshly picked flavor for ripe strawberries.


Strawberry Freezer Jam 
(makes 2 half-pints)
Ingredients:
Wash and dry the freezer-safe containers you are using for jam, set aside.
Wash strawberries. Hull (cut off the tops) and quarter strawberries.
Crush strawberries to desired consistency, then measure out 1 2/3 cups of the strawberry sauce. (My youngest daughter loves to crush the strawberries with a potato masher).
Add sugar and pectin to strawberries. Stir for 3 minutes.
Ladle into clean jars or containers.
Wipe outside and rim of jar. Place lid and rings on jar and loosely tighten to seal.
Let jam sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Store in refrigerator for up to three weeks or in the freezer for up to a year.


I tripled this recipe to make 6 half-pints or 3 pints.


Recipe prepared per Ball Instant Fruit Pectin packaging.

    Saturday, July 12, 2014

    Seasoning Salt

    Making your own seasoning salt can be a fun way to put your personal touch on any dish. We love sprinkling this seasoning on popcorn.


    Seasoning Salt
    (makes about 1 pint)

    2 cup sea salt
    2 tablespoons paprika
    1 tablespoon dry mustard
    1 tablespoon garlic powder
    1 tablespoon onion powder
    1 teaspoon turmeric

    In bowl, combine all ingredients until mixed well. Store in airtight container in dark place. Use to season anything you would normally put salt on.


    Makes a frugal and easy gift too! Just place mix into a mason jar and label.

    Thursday, June 26, 2014

    DIY Weed Killer Spray

    Weeding is back-breaking work and too often I spend hours weeding only to have the weeds sneak back in no time at all. Pre-made weed sprays can work wonders, but are expensive and who wants to spray chemicals all over the yard? Not me. I found a better solution that not only works faster and better, but is much cheaper.


    DIY Weed Killer Spray
    Ingredients:
    • 1 gallon vinegar
    • 1/2 cup table salt
    • 1 teaspoon Dawn liquid dish soap (used the basic blue type)
    Mix all ingredients together. I just shaked to combine.
    Pour solution in a spray bottle or into a pressurized sprayer. Now attack those weeds.

    For best results: Apply when rain is not forecasted for a day or two. Keep in mind this solution will kill anything that is put on. So if you spray plants you want to keep, it will kill them. But on the bright side the spray will also kill off grass if you planning to make a new planting bed.

    This a very Eco-friendly way to beat those weeds. We love that we can use this solution and not worry about the kids or the dog being by where we sprayed. We also live on the river and don't want to have dangerous run off adding to the pollution of the river. 

    This solution created very quick surprising results. We have many thistles that we are fighting against in a bed we are trying to regain control of. I used this spray in only 4 hours the leaves were already brown and the weeds were on their way to wasting away. Victory! 

    Before & 4 hours after application.

    Monday, June 16, 2014

    Fruit Infused Sun Tea

    Sunshine, check! Hot weather, check!

    You can brew up a special treat by using God's own sunshine and warmth. We love to make this recipe and let it steep while we are working in the yard for a rewarding refreshing drink.


    Fruit Infused Sun Tea
    (makes 1/2 gallon)

    Large Mason Jar, with metal cover (used 1/2 gallon size)
    5 tea bags (fruit, black or green... you pick)
    3/4 cup fruit (berries, oranges, lemon, limes)
    Water
    Sunshine

    Tea just starting to steep.
    For the quickest and best results use a large glass jar with a metal lid. The metal lid attracts heat.

    Place tea bags into the jar. We used Celestial Seasonings Country Peach Passion flavor. Yum!

    Place chopped fruit into jar. We used a mixture of strawberries and garden fresh raspberries.

    Fill the jar up with water, to about 1 inch head space (canner talk for 1 inch from the top rim). There are no special directions for temperature of the water, as the sun will heat the water all on its own.

    Place cap on securely. Then place jar in direct, full sun for 4-6 hours.

    Enjoy your sun tea over ice or place jar in refrigerator to cool.

    Drink as soon as possible, after all this was made with fresh fruit. Refrigerate and drink within 2 days.


    Enjoy your cup of summer!
    From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the Lord is to be praised. - Psalm 113:3

    Monday, June 2, 2014

    Garden Update: Week of 5/25/14

    Wow, what a busy week it has been at our house...
    Memorial Day charity walk, dance rehearsals and recitals, last day of school, awards ceremony, gymnastics practice, a theater play, pine car derby and oh, yeah gardening.

    Despite our busy schedules we were able to get some more of the garden planted...
    Jalapeños, sweet corn, popcorn, decorative corn, sugar snap peas, green beans, spinach, broccoli, garlic, horseradish, onions, cucumbers, pickles, watermelons, carrots and quinoa.

    And we planted the saddest tomato plants I have ever seen. We found 3 huge, but neglected tomato plants at Aldi's, for 50 cents total. The nurse in me is hoping to bring them back to health. Our tomato plant total is now at 32 (we may need some reinforcements when these are all ready to be harvested and preserved).

    Our evenings are falling back into our summer routine, which brings Ron outside after dinner to water the garden. We are hoping to use mostly drip irrigation on the garden but there is a back corner that is getting the sprinkler treatment for the moment. Drip irrigation helps to create wider and deeper roots and makes your plants healthier. 

    Here is a peak at the wildlife gracing our yard this past week:




    Here is a recap of what else you might have missed from the week:

    http://www.sustainableblessings.com/2014/06/foraging-and-preserving-ramps.html

    Sunday, June 1, 2014

    Foraging and Preserving Ramps

    There is such a wonderful feeling that comes with finding your own food out in the "wild". It is like you are so lucky to find this tasty treat out in the wilderness just waiting for you. I was not brought up foraging but I have quickly learned to love it. It brings together many things I love: frugality, nature and spending time with my family. Just recently our family had a great time foraging for ramps and here are a few tips to help guide your efforts.


    Ramps (Allium tricoccum) go by the name ramsons, wild garlic, wild leeks or spring leeks and have become widely popular in the last few years. They have a wonderful flavor combination of garlic and onion. These plants offer a wide variety of uses from the bulbs to leaves.


    Ramps have 1 to 2 broad, smooth, light green leaves that progress into deep purple or burgundy coloring down the stems into the white bulbs. The bulbs are similar to scallions or green onions. The bulbs are rooted in the dirt, just below the surface of the earth. If you are still not sure if you found a ramp, just rip into the leave and take a whiff. You should notice a strong onion scent.

    Be warned that the lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis) can have a similar appearance and are poisonous. But the leaf of the lily of the valley does not smell of onions. Lily of the valley also has small white bell shaped flowers.

    With the popularity of ramps, they are getting harder and harder to find. Here are a few ways you can get your harvest on and still keep the ramps growing for years to come too. You should only harvest a portion of any items you find foraging and only take what you will use. This will keep this plant growing in your favorite location year after year. You can also leave the roots behind by cutting the roots off of the bulb.

    Ramps are very versatile. The bulbs and leaves can be used just like you would onions, green onions, chives and garlic. But the effects are much more flavorful.

    After you have harvested the ramps, you should wash them in cold water, rinsing well. Lay them out to dry. Cut off the roots from the end of the bulb. (Tip: Save the rooty ends and plant them in a shady location within your yard for your own sustainable crop.)

    Next, separate the white part from the green leaves. Slice up the white portion into sections for use in whatever recipe you choose. The green leaves can be chopped and added to a salad or even puréed into pesto. 

    For long term storage:
    The white portion of the ramp can be stored in a freezer, in a plastic storage bag for months. This portion can also be pickled. Or the entire harvest can be kept in the refrigerator for a week or so. The green portion does not freeze well, so use when freshly harvested.

    Sunday, May 25, 2014

    Garden Update: Week of 5/18/2014

    Here is what is happening around our yard this past week.

    Our trunk load (no joking... a dump truck load) of mulch is placed and spread in all the planting beds and around the garden fence.

    Cleaned up a deprived and ignored bed that bordered our beloved neighbors.

    Moved a large burning bush that was blocking our mulberry tree. Unearthed some tulip bulbs in the shady spot that we placed the bush. So the tulips had to be relocated to a sunnier spot in the yard. I love how gardening projects just lead into one another!


    Cut the grass for the first time this season. We lowered the length down to 2.5 inches as we wanted the sunlight to reach the grass seed we placed last week. Usually we cut the grass at 3 inches.

    Time to get planting...
    Mojoto mint, lemon balm, lemon mint, rosemary, pineapple sage, lots of lettuce, kale, nasturtium, 4 peppers and 29 tomato plants (I may have gone a little over board), all but 3 tomato plants were from seed. Hoping to finish up the rest of the garden this week which should go pretty quick as just about everything left is seeds. 

    Planted our front door flower pots. Tried the "thriller, spiller and filler method" with the artistic suggestions from my youngest daughter. In this method, there's one tall, eye-catcher, a creeping/vine variety and a species that fills in nicely - all in the same pot! We are hoping get bigger, as long as the deer stay off them.


    We attempted to find morels on 2 hikes in the area, but were disappointed. We can't even seem to find any remnants of where they were picked. But lucky we spotted ramps. Everyone in the family helped harvest 2 shopping bags full. The final weight was 2 and a half pounds after removing the leaves and roots. Look for our next post on spotting and using ramps.


    Here is what else you might have missed for the week:

    http://www.sustainableblessings.com/2014/05/blanching-tutorial.htmlhttp://www.sustainableblessings.com/2014/05/morel-asparagus-quiche.html

    Saturday, May 24, 2014

    Blanching Tutorial

    What's blanching? And why all the fuss?

    Blanching is the process of placing fresh vegetables in boiling water or steam for a very short time amount of time to "seal in freshness".

    This process is a must if you desire to freeze your produce. By not blanching your vegetables you are loosing texture, color and flavor. Blanching not only cleans the vegetable but helps it to not to loose deliciously healthy vitamins and minerals.

    The best way to prepare your vegetables for freezing is to use the boiling water method. You can use a blancher or large saucepan with a wire basket to fit in the pot or large slotted spoon. Personally, I use a large pot and a wok spoon.

    Boiling Water Blanching: 
    1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. 
    2. Prepare your vegetables by chopping or slicing. 
    3. Place approximately 1 pound of the same vegetables into the blanching basket. 
    4. Place vegetables into the boiling water for the recommended branching time.
    5. Return the water to a boil as quick as possible. 
    6. Start your blanching time as soon as the water returns to a boil. 
    7. Remove the vegetables from the boiling water when the blanching time is completed with a wire stainer. 
    8. Place the blanched vegetables into a large bowl of ice cold water, 60ºF or below. This stops the cooking process. 
    9. Once the vegetables have cooled, you can drain the ice cold water. 
    10. Label your freezer-grade plastic zipper bags with name of the vegetables and the date. 
    11. Place blanched vegetables in plastic bag. Try to squeeze out as much air as possible. 
    12. Freeze your bag laying flat, to maximize your freezer space. 


    Per Nation Center for Home Preservation, blanching the vegetables for the recommended times below is important to preserve your harvest. If you don't blanch long enough, this can stimulate the enzymes in the vegetable to accelerate ripening. If you blanch too long, the vegetables can loose color, flavor, vitamins and minerals.

    Blanching Time:

    VegetableMinutes
    Artichoke (heart)7
    Asparagus2 to 4
    Beans- Snap, Green, or Wax 3
    Beans- Lima, Butter, or Pinto2 to 4
    Broccoli5
    Brussel Sprouts (head)3 to 5
    Carrots2 to 5
    Cauliflower (flowerets)3
    Celery3
    Corn (on-the-cob)7 to 11
    Corn (kernel) 4
    Eggplant4
    Mushrooms 3 to 5
    Okra 3 to 4
    Peas (edible pod) 1.5 to 3
    Peas (blackeye) 2
    Peas- Green1.5
    Peppers-Sweet2 to 3
    Potatoes (new) 3 to 5
    Rutabagas 33
    Soybeans- Green 5
    Spinach15 seconds
    Squash- Summer3
    Turnips or Parsnips2
    Zucchini3

    Note: Microwave streaming is not an effective method for blanching because the vegetables can cook unevenly and some enzymes may still be active and cause additional ripening.

    Wednesday, May 21, 2014

    Morel & Asparagus Quiche

    Spring is in full swing and glimpses of summer are sneaking through around here. This recipe captures the harvests of this time of year and combines them into a very special recipe you will love.


    Morel & Asparagus Quiche
    Ingredients:
    • 1 pie tin

    • 1 pre-made pie crust
    • 
3/4 cup shredded cheese
 (used mozzarella)
    • 6 eggs

    • 1 cup of milk

    • 1/2 tablespoon thyme 

    • 1/2 tablespoon basil

    • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
    • 1 teaspoon Parmesan cheese
    • 1 1/2 cup of uncooked morel mushrooms, chopped 

    • 6-8 spears of asparagus, cut into 1 inch pieces
    • 1/2 cup fresh spinach, chopped

    Directions:
    • If you are using fresh morels, check out our prior post on how to prepare morels.
    • Preheat the oven to 350° F.
    • Sauté morels over medium heat for 10 minutes. Always cook morels! 
    • Place shredded cheese into the bottom of the pie crust.
    • In a large bowl whisk together eggs, milk, thyme, basil, onion powder and Parmesan cheese.
    • Add morels, asparagus and spinach to egg mixture. Stir to combine.
    • Pour into pie crust.
    • Bake in the oven for 30-45 minutes until the top is golden brown and the eggs are solid in the middle. (You could check this with a toothpick or a fork).

    Click for more homemade recipes from Sustainable Blessings.

    Sunday, May 18, 2014

    Garden Update: Week of 5/11/2014

    Last year brought much change around our house and with these changes brought less time to tend to the garden. This year we have been working hard to allow me (Michelle) more time to be with my girls and garden! With this new focus, I have decided to dedicate more time for the yard. So we are starting to keep track of all the work we are doing around here.

    Check out our past week:

    We have had a wild weather week. It rained and then rained some more. There were a few days of severe thunderstorms and flash flooding. And... a frost warning too just to keep thing interesting. Our weather radio got a workout this past week, but all is well at our house.  Gotta love Wisconsin weather!

    We picked up a new bird bath. This was my Mother's Day gift, plus breakfast in bed with roses!


    Right on que the tulips decided to bloom on Mother's Day. That was a gift in itself.


    We started to see Hummingbirds! So it was time to fill up the hummingbird feeder with homemade hummingbird nectar.  Our feeder is right outside our kitchen bay window, so we get to see the hummingbirds quite often. Here is our Homemade Hummingbird Nectar recipe.

    http://www.sustainableblessings.com/2013/07/homemade-hummingbird-nectar.html

    The yard got some much needed attention. Ron has been busy with sweeping, aerating and seeding the lawn. A much need task as a drought several years ago left a few bare areas that we have pretty much ignored.

    We tried to rototill the garden but the rototiller had other plans... The handlebar snapped off after just a few passes in the garden. So my jack-of-all-trades husband welded and grinded the pieces back together and strengthened the other handle too. Then the garden did get rototilled!

    There were a few surprises discovered in the garden.  We had a some wintered over vegetables and herbs. There are onions (guess we forget to harvest a few), lettuce (because I let it go to seed last fall) and parsley back again.

    Our first harvest took place this week. We harvested 10 ounces of asparagus. This may not seem like much but asparagus takes 2 years of growing before you even get to harvest it and this is our very first harvest ever! I can't wait for this patch to take off in the years to come.


    Check out our recipe for Cream of Asparagus Soup to use up some of your harvest.

    http://www.sustainableblessings.com/2013/07/cream-of-asparagus-soup.html

    Happy gardening this coming week!

    Saturday, May 17, 2014

    Garden Journaling

    What did I plant here last year? When did I start planting my seeds inside? When will the raspberries be ready to be harvested?

    These are all thoughts that can go through a gardener's head throughout the year. But now you can easily take the guess work out of gardening by keeping a gardening journal.


    This can be as elaborate as you wish. For me, my garden journal is a simple spiral bound notebook I use year after year. A more elaborate design may include seed packets, plant markers from purchased plants, drawings or photographs.

    What to write in your journal?
    • The name of plants you grew from seed and when you planted them.
    • The name of every plant you place in your garden and yard; perennial or annual. Note where the plants are placed in which planting bed or the direction of the yard.
    • Any yard maintenance you did: placing mulch, making a new planting bed or trimming trees.
    • Any problems with the weather or animal issues in the yard. 
    • Draw out your vegetable garden design for the year. This helps you to rotate the types of plants placed every year which is beneficial for the soil and your harvest.
    • A list of what is harvested when and how much or the weight of what was harvested. (this is my favorite part!) 
    • An additional thing we keep track of is what and how much we freeze, dehydrate or can from the garden and when. 
    Take your que from history, no one in America is better known for his garden journaling then Thomas Jefferson. He spent countless hours chronologizing the garden happenings at his beloved Monticello.

    Image Credit: Thomas Jefferson Foundation
    No occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the Earth, and no culture comparable to that of the garden. - Thomas Jefferson
     

    Thursday, May 15, 2014

    Pie Crust

    No need to buy pre-made pie crusts anymore! Homemade flaky pie crusts are a snap to make and much more delicious.


    Pie Crust
    (makes 2 pie crusts)
    Ingredients:
    • 2 1/2 cups flour, plus extra for rolling 
    • 1 cup unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons and frozen
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 1 teaspoon sugar
    • 8 tablespoons ice water
    • Food processor
    • 9-inch pie pan 
    Instructions:
    • Place flour, salt and sugar into a food processor and pulse to mix. 
    • Add butter and pulse, about 10 times. The consistency should be coarse with pea-sized bits of butter remaining.
    • Add ice cold water, 1 tablespoon at a time and pulse the mixture until dough begins to stick together.
    • Remove dough and place on clean surface. Knead dough a few times to flatten the remaining butter bits into the dough better. This step makes the crust flaky. 
    • Divide the dough into 2 pieces. Sprinkle with flour lightly and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate dough for at least 2 hours to make the dough stiffer and easier to manipulate. Dough should be used within 2 days of mixing. 
    • When you are ready to bake your pie, remove the crust from the refrigerator. Let dough sit for about 15 minutes to start to soften and make it easier to roll out. 
    • On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough with a rolling pin. Shape dough while rolling in to a 12 inch circle. Make sure the dough is not sticking to the surface when you are rolling it out. If need be, you can sprinkle the surface with more flour. 
    • Place rolled out dough into a 9 inch pie pan. Press dough down into the pan and along the sides. Trim any overhanging edges of the dough with a kitchen scissors.
    • Add your choice of filling to the pie.
    • Repeat the rolling out process for the remaining dough. 
    • Gently place the top piece of the pie crust over the filling. 
    • Pinch the top and bottom pieces to together. Trim any excess pie crust.
    • Flute edges of the crust but pinching together with forefinger and thumb or pressing crust with a fork tines.
    • Score the top of the pie with several cuts, so steam can escape.


    For a pre-baked crust:
    • Place flour, salt and sugar into a food processor and pulse to mix. 
    • Add butter and pulse, about 10 times. The consistency should be coarse with pea-sized bits of butter remaining.
    • Add ice cold water, 1 tablespoon at a time and pulse the mixture until dough begins to stick together.
    • Remove dough and place on clean surface. Knead dough a few times to flatten the remaining butter bits into the dough better. This step makes the crust flaky. 
    • Divide the dough into 2 pieces. Sprinkle with flour lightly and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate dough for at least 2 hours to make the dough stiffer and easier to manipulate. Dough should be used within 2 days of mixing. 
    • When you are ready to bake your pie, remove the crust from the refrigerator. Let dough sit for about 15 minutes to start to soften and make it easier to roll out. 
    • On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough with a rolling pin. Shape dough while rolling in to a 12 inch circle. Make sure the dough is not sticking to the surface when you are rolling it out. If need be, you can sprinkle the surface with more flour. 
    • Place rolled out dough into a 9 inch pie pan. Press dough down into the pan and along the sides. Trim any overhanging edges of the dough with a kitchen scissors.
    • Freeze crust for at least 30 minutes, so the crust will not slip down sides of the pan during baking. 
    • Preheat oven to 350° F. 
    • Line crust with wax paper or aluminum foil. Fill crust with about 2 cups of dry rice or dry beans. You can use pie weights also for this step. (I just use beans.)
    • Bake crust with weights, rice or beans in place for 20 minutes.
    • Remove from oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes prior to removing the weights and liner. 
    • Poke holes into the bottom of the crust with a fork and bake for another 10 minutes. You may want to add foil to cover the edges if they are getting brown.
    • Allow to cool completely before adding any filling.   

    Helpful Tip:
    You can freeze the dough for later use right after mixing.

    Happy baking! Click for more homemade recipes from Sustainable Blessings.

    Saturday, May 10, 2014

    Preserving Morel Mushrooms

    You found them! The elusive prized mushroom known as the... Morel Mushroom. Here is how to keep these prized beauties to enjoy them all year long.


    There are a few maintenance things to be done before you enjoy your lucky finds.
    • First things first...If there is any question about the type of mushroom you just picked, do not eat it! Check out my tutorial on how to find Morel Mushrooms.
    • Secondly, be aware that morels contain small amounts of hydrazine toxin that is removed through cooking. Do not eat morel mushrooms raw, ever.
    • And of course be aware the you just picked food from the ground, out in nature. That means not only is there dirt on the morel but there could also be other living things on it as well, like bugs or small slugs. To remove these items from the mushroom simply sprinkle them with salt and then cover with cold water. Place the mushrooms into the refrigerator for about 8 hours or overnight to remove anything unwanted.


    On to how to prepare these gems. One of the best and simplest ways to enjoy morels is by gently sauteing them in butter with a little fresh ground pepper and a sprinkling of salt.


    Or you could soak the mushrooms in an egg batter and bread them with flour, then fry them up. If you slice the mushroom length wise and then bread and flour, the outline resembles a fish. Another common name for morel mushrooms are dryland fish.

    If you are not planning on eating your morels right away you can explore the following preserving ideas:
    • Freezing:
      • The morels can frozen through a method called flash freezing. You can do this by running the mushrooms under cold water or soaking them in a bowl of ice water for a few minutes. Then place them on a cookie sheet or pizza pan and place into a freezer. After the mushrooms are frozen, place them in a labeled container or freezer-safe plastic bag.
    • Drying / Dehydrating: (the method I use most)
      • Drying is the most popular method of long-term storage and are sold this in this fashion commercially. When I dry morels, I like to chop them prior to drying as then they will be recipe ready. 
      • Place mushrooms in a single layer on the dehydrator pans. Set your dehydrator to 130° F for 10-12 hours.
      • Dried morels can be reconstituted by soaking in warm water or milk.
    • Canning:
      • Canning is not recommended because the canning pressure and temperature destroys much of the flavor.
    In a post coming soon is a delicious recipe for using your morels.

    Wednesday, May 7, 2014

    Gardener Hand Scrub

    Your hands can take beating when gardening. This homemade hand scrub can help rejuvenate your hands after a long day of digging in the dirt. This recipe has coconut oil which can amazingly heal your skin. You could also use this recipe on your dry hands in winter or on your feet for a little extra pampering.


    Gardener Hand Scrub

    Ingredients:

    Directions:
    • In a medium bowl, combine sugar and salt. Mix to combine.
    • Add essential oils to sugar mixture. Add olive oil.
    • Melt coconut oil in a microwave dish for 30 - 60 seconds.
    • Pour coconut oil over sugar mixture and stir to combine.
    • Pour sugar scrub mixture into the mason jar.

    Need a last minute gift idea?
    Tie a ribbon or raffia around the jar. And add the below label to piece of paper. Cut the label to the size of a mason jar lid. Place the label on top of the lid and screw the band in place.

    Citrus Garden
    Hand Scrub

    Use a small amount
    in place of soap.

    Monday, May 5, 2014

    Hummus

    I honestly can not get enough of hummus. If I could love a dip, I would be in love with this one. I just don't love paying so much for a ready-made version from the store when you can enjoy the unique flavors and cost-savings of one made at home. This recipe provides both!


    Hummus

    Ingredients:
    • 1 - 15 ounce can chick peas / garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
    • 1/3 cup tahini sauce
    • 3 tablespoons olive oil
    • 3 tablespoons lemon juice (or the juice of one lemon)
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced
    Directions:
    • Combine chick peas, tahini sauce, olive oil, lemon juice and garlic into a food processor or blender. 
    • Blend until smooth, about 1 minute.

    The above recipe creates a consistency similar to store bought hummus.
    To make the hummus smoother, add water, by the tablespoon and re-blend. Repeat until you have the desired consistency.

    Yummy in my tummy! Click for more homemade recipes from Sustainable Blessings.