April 27, 2012

Crusty bread * * * Canning * * * and Rainbow Swiss Chard * * *

Wow! Right now, my head is just all over the place...and I am loving it!  There are SOOO many new things to try, and thankfully, I have actually been getting to some of them.

For instance...I finally made myself try this very easy.... very beautiful.... very delicious.... no-knead bread, that is baked in an insanely hot Dutch Oven. It turned out perfect and was no bother at all! I am now hooked and I am never looking back....ever! Here's the link to the recipe. Simply So Good--Crusty Bread.

Another thing I am so excited and ready to dabble in, is canning! I am planning to start out slow and easy...taking my time...learning all there is to learn, studying all there is to study, watching videos on YouTube, the whole nine!  I am bound and determined to experience canning this Spring! So far, I have purchased a water bath canner, funnel, jar tongs annnnnnnd....this wonderful book, by Ashley English, called Canning and Preserving. It just arrived in the mail today and I am ecstatic! I flipped through it at the book store 2 days prior and decided this was the one....THE BOOK...to get me started. It is very informative and Ashley really spells it out....every little detail...and that is definitely me....I am such a detail person! Especially when it comes to canning...you've got to know what you're doing! I haven't made the purchase of a pressure canner yet {for veggies/low acid foods}. Not sure if I am ready for that yet! One thing at a time....baby steps!

I've come across a wonderful website called Sweet Preservation. It's all about canning.... great information and great recipes! Check it out! I have to admit.... I am nervous and don't want to mess up or make anyone sick!! I will be following the recipes and every single step to the letter! I believe I am finally confident enough to do it. Oh...you will most definitely be reading about  my canning adventures here on this blog...so stayed tuned for that my friends!

Another thing I've been into lately...... trying foods that I have never tried before..... things like Swiss Chard, golden beets, dandelion greens, turnips, parsnips, rutabagas, collard greens, and plenty more....these things have been on the grocery produce shelf forever, and I keep passing them by. I have had beets before...but only the red ones...this is the first time I've ever seen golden.....they are a yellowish, orangey color. I cooked with rainbow Swiss Chard for the first time last night, and it was fun! It was great trying something new! Just look at the colors of this veggie! Just stunning and brilliant....so vibrant! I was reading how Chard is one of the most highly nutritious vegetables out there! That's pretty awesome, and that will definitely make it a contender for new foods winding up on our dinner plates!

I cooked it with chicken, shallots, and garlic in one big fry pan...all in a bit of olive oil and a bit of water. It turned out great! I got the recipe from the twister tie that was holding the stalks of Swiss Chard together in a bundle! How great is that!

By the way...I did not do the cheddar cheese part of the recipe...somehow, it just seemed to cheapen it. Cheddar cheese??? It just seemed wrong....here was all this healthy food I was cooking...and then to top it with cheddar cheese! I don't think so!

Well, let me close with that.....that being the last subject for now. There are many other things that I've been excited about and they will be turning up here...sooner or later!

For now, have a great weekend and enjoy your blessings!

April 24, 2012

my version of strawberry spinach salad

I love strawberry spinach salad!! There's just something about the combination of those flavors all mixing together that I love! Sooo.... the classic strawberry spinach salad is usually a combination of fresh spinach, strawberries, red onions, blue cheese, almonds and red wine vinaigrette or a poppy seed dressing.....oh so yummy!!!!

I think it is refreshing to have fruit in my salads...certain kinds of fruit that is...strawberries, blueberries and apple are all great! If I'm doing fruit though, there are certain veggies I won't put in my salad....like tomatoes or cucumber...I feel like the fruit needs to be the shining star...and not sure I would like the combo.

And by the way.....one cup of strawberries provides you with 160% of the daily recommended allowance of vitamin C!! That's awesome! They are also high in folate and potassium...not to mention the antioxidants!!

Here is my spin on strawberry spinach salad.

fresh baby spinach
sliced fresh strawberries
chopped walnuts
chopped celery
rough chopped shallots
dried cranberries
crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
Dress with white peach balsamic vinegar
any light, fruity vinaigrette

This is a great salad to make right now, as strawberries are overflowing in the grocery stores...and for a great price! Personally, I cannot wait until I can buy locally grown strawberries in June....that's when strawberries are in season here in SW Pennsylvania. June just seems so far away though...so, I have been buying the grocery store strawberries from Florida. Well...I am no stranger to Florida strawberries, as I lived there for 5 years and ate many a strawberry from local farms! When are strawberries locally in season for you where you live?? Just curious!

Happy eating! 

April 23, 2012

My Sunday

Slept in 'til 10 am.
While I was sleeping,  hubby took pictures of a Blue Heron frolicking in creek behind our house.
Rushed through breakfast and rushed to get ready for church!
New skirt and shirt for church...will talk about the skirt thing in a later post..if I forget..remind me.
Church service 10:45 til 12 noon...good sermon!
Took my new, awesome Bible to church today...so excited to use it...I just love it!
Washed dishes like a good girl...cause I always let them set until I have a mountain!!
Hubby and youngest child left to go to a scavenger hunt for Cub Scouts at a local park.
Oldest son worked on adding something to his computer....I don't know what it is.
For lunch, I ate 2 slices of heavenly leftover pizza...spinach, garlic and chicken.
Watched some of {hockey} Pittsburgh Penguins VS. Philadelphia Flyers...umm, we lost..not phased!
Little bit of computer time for me...Facebook, blogging, Pinterest...whatever.
Wondering if we will get any of the 4 inches of snow predicted for tomorrow.
For dinner I quartered and roasted red potatoes and also some sugar snap peas..seasoned with olive oil, salt and pepper...the red potatoes were also seasoned with sage from my garden...the peas were also seasoned with thyme from my garden.
Made fruit salad with mangoes, kiwi and apples...so delicious and fresh.
2 pieces leftover talapia fish.
After dinner, evening church service at 6:35 pm...just me, rest of family stayed home...good service!
Oh! I forgot! after church I made peanut butter chocolate swirl bars...TOTALLY DELICIOUS!
10:00 pm nightly news...weather report...snow won't start til 5 am...2 to 4 inches tomorrow...we'll see!
Midnight blogging right now...working on this post...time for beddy-bye...need to get some sleep.
My usual late night snack of peanut butter on whole wheat bread with butter and a sprinkling of powdered sugar..and a cup of milk...comfort food!
So thankful for today.
Thank you God, you are always so good to me!
Blessed beyond measure!
Good night!
Can't wait for tomorrow!
No special reason....but who knows what tomorrow will bring!

April 21, 2012

Saturday morning

Lately, I've been seeing egg cups turning up here and there on blogs and in magazines. I've made them before and we loved them....decided to make some this morning. These are so delicious and easy to make. I have posted about them before....but if you haven't seen that post, here's the deal: Brush muffin cups with olive oil, line cups with slices of ham, crack one egg into each cup,
Bake in 350 degree oven for approx. 20 minutes or so depending on your preference to how well done you like your eggs. Sprinkle with chives, salt and pepper!
Well...it is raining today and I am soooooo very thankful! We need the rain so bad...our earth is just so cracked and dry here in SW Pennsylvania. My herb garden will be so happy today...boy did it need some water and I keep forgetting to water it!  

I hope you all have a really great weekend...no matter WHAT you do! Whether you are spending time relaxing, cleaning, cooking, time with family, time to yourself or caring for loved ones....I pray you find joy and blessings this weekend!

April 10, 2012

growing alfalfa sprouts

You cannot imagine how GOOD,  freshly grown alfalfa sprouts taste! They are so crisp and sweet and fresh! And . . . they take hardly ANY effort at all to grow.
Like, no effort people!

It's so easy! 

Well, they do take a teeny bit of effort, but I promise you, it's no big deal!

Okay, first off, let me tell you about a sandwich I made the other day. Hang tight, we're still talkin' sprouts here! This sandwich was the sandwich to end all sandwiches. It was the bomb! I'm telling you, I was not even expecting it to taste this good. I cannot wait to make another, and another and another!

Here's the ingredient list for the sandy-sandwich:
whole wheat bread
ham lunch meat
turkey breast lunch meat
slice of provolone/mozzarella cheese
very large handful of alfalfa sprouts
sweet pickles
Hellman's mayonnaise

That's it.
And it was to die for!
Trust me on this one!

I swear the sprouts were the star of the show! The slight crunch you get from the freshness of the sprouts is like . . . I don't know . . .it's just good! The flavor of the sprouts is a little . . . earthy . . . and sweet. I cannot describe it any other way. You are just going to have to taste for yourself!

Here's what ya do and how ya go about doin' it!

Grab a 1 quart jar.
Measure 2 Tbsp. alfalfa seeds and pour into jar.
Cover seeds in jar with about 1 inch of water.
Swirl water around to make sure all seeds are coated.
Cover mouth of jar with a piece of cheesecloth or a coffee filter with pin prick holes to allow for air circulation.
Fasten rubber band over cheesecloth or coffee filter to hold in place.
Place jar in dark place such as a kitchen cupboard.
Let seeds sit overnight.
In the morning, drain water from seeds through the cheesecloth or coffee filter.
Then, remove cheesecloth, fill jar with a couple inches of water and swirl around to rinse and then drain the water again through the cheesecloth.
Next, leave the drained seeds in jar covered with cheesecloth or coffee filter for about 12 hours, in a dark spot.
After 12 hours, rinse seeds in jar with a couple inches of water and drain through the cheesecloth.
Leave drained seeds to sit in dark spot.
Repeat the "rinse, drain, and let-sit-in-dark-spot" process, every 12 hours.
Within 4 days your sprouts will be approximately 2 to 3 inches long and ready to eat.
Store the grown sprouts in the refrigerator, covered with tight lid, or a piece of plastic wrap.
Sprouts will stay fresh for about a week.


P.S. It's quite the gratifying experience to grow sprouts as it is almost full proof, and you will see the results with a day or so.

A WORD OF WARNING: make sure you buy organic alfalfa seeds that are specifically for food consumption. Do not use commercial seeds for farming that may be sprayed with insecticide. Also, follow directions precisely for sprouting...there will be directions on the package.  Follow sanitation and rinsing guidelines posted on package. A great brand to use is by Now Health Foods. http://www.nowfoods.com/

April 6, 2012

Harvesting Oregano and Bow and Arrows

Hello all!
I am so happy . . . it is just beautiful outside these days!!
The skies are so blue, the sun is so warm, the Earth is waking up, and my herb garden is flourishing already! Here is my first harvest of the year for Oregano!
Can you believe it!

This is from 2 plants that actually never even died back during the winter because of how mild it was. While the plants did stay dormant, the leaves never shriveled and died. With the warm Spring weather and rain, my Oregano just took off and grew about 3 to 4 inches in a matter of a few weeks!

My son and I clipped all of it yesterday . . .washed it . . .drained it . . . and now it is drying. I can't believe I have this much Oregano as of April 6th! I am so happy that I will have plenty to share with friends, family and neighbors this year! I can't wait to make up cute little packages to give away. How fun! Half the fun of growing your own herbs is sharing!

So . . I actually made my son work along side me yesterday. He's 13 and was more interested in . . who knows . . probably wanting to get on his computer or go visit his cousin . . but, Mamma {that's me} wasn't having it. I told him, "You are spending today with me."  He said "errrrrrr" . . whatever that means . . that is his response sometimes "errrrrrr" . . I call it his caveman response. 

As we methodically clipped each sweet piece of Oregano . . him at one plant, me at the other . . each armed with a pair of scissors and a stainless steel mixing bowl for collecting . . I tried to prompt him into conversation . . it was like pulling teeth . . but I didn't give up!

attempt #1

Me:   So, what are you doing in school these days?
Everest:   nothing
Me:   Well, there's gotta be SOMETHING going on.
Everest:   no . . . not really
Me:  Sooo . . . you're not learning anything?
Everest:   No
Me:   Ok.

attempt #2

Me:  So, that book you're reading for school, Skeleton Key, is it?
Everest:   Ya
Me:   Is it good?
Everest:   Ya
Me:   What's it about?
Everest:   A boy who is a spy on an island
Me:   Oh ya, that's cool . . . so what's it all about?
Everest:   I just told you.
Me:   Nuh Uh, all you said was "it's about a boy who's a spy"
Everest:   Ya

attempt #3

Me:   So, who's your good friends at school these days?
Everest:   I don't know, I have a lot of friends.
Me:   Oh you do? That's great! Who are they, what are their names?
Everest:   I don't know, there's a lot of them.
Me:   Ok, so give me a name.
Everest: I don't know.
Me:   Ok, do you have a friend named David?
Everest:   No
Me:   Do you have a friend name Mike?
Everest: Yes
Me:   Aha! What class is he in? Is he nice? Is he funny?
Everest:   Science class, ya, he is.
Me:   Ok

attempt #4

Everest:   This is boring.
Me:   Well, everything doesn't have to be exciting, Everest. Not everything we do has to be as fun as a day at Kennywood. {awesome amusement park with rollercoasters in Pittsburgh}
Everest:   errrrrrr
Me:   Look, I'm really blowing you away . . look how much Oregano I have cut compared to you . . are you really gonna let your 41 year old mom beat you at cutting Oregano??
Everest:   You can beat me at cutting Oregano, I don't mind.
Me:   This may not be exciting but it is the process . . it is the fact that we actually grew our own herbs and we can make our own sauce and make it tasty by adding oregano . . an herb that is common in pizza sauce and pasta sauce . . if you are ever in a situation where you are asked about Oregano, you will know how to harvest it and what it is used for . . probably a lot of kids won't even know that, but YOU will.
Everest:   errrrrrrr

attempt #5

Me:   So, I was thinking . . .do you have any arrows right now?
Everest:   Ya.
Me:   Well, I was thinking that once you and I get all of the Oregano cut, we should go out to the field and you can show me how to shoot a bow and arrow. I have never shot one before and I want to learn how.
Everest:   OK!
Me:   Ok, let's get this done and then go get something to drink, and then go shoot some bow and arrows.
Everest:   Yessssssss!

attempt #6

Me:   So, now tell me about that book again . . . it's about a boy who is a spy? What does he do?
Everest:   Ok, well he lives on an island and he has to pretend to be the son of a man and a woman who are also spies and  . . . . . . . . . {he gives me a long, detailed explanation of the book . . . . yes! I have broken through!!!!}
Me:   That sounds like a very interesting and action filled book. Ok, we are done with the Oregano . . . I'll get this inside and you run and gather your bow and arrows.

Man, sometimes . . . . sometimes it's like pulling teeth! Everest did show me how to shoot arrows. To my surprise, it was more difficult than I imagined! It looks sooooo easy . . . but there is definitely some skill there! My left arm is bruised...which, Everest told me it would be. I told him I am going to make an arm guard . . . he said, no Mom, you just gotta get used to it and also bend your elbow out slightly so it doesn't get hit . . . I say, ya, well, I'm making an arm guard and you can't stop me. LOL!

And . . . that's my Oregano harvesting, bow and arrow shooting story!
It was an awesome day.
The sun was shining.
The sky was blue.

P.S. Funny side note:
We only had 2 arrows to use.
I told him that we could go to the sporting goods store later that evening to purchase more arrows.
He asked if we could also get some Mt. Dew. {soda pop}
I said, sure.
We laughed . . . well, we need arrows and Mt. Dew . . . sounds like we are up to no good.
Later when my husband came home from work he asked if we could also pick up some gas for the tractor while we were out.
Great . . . our shopping list now . . . arrows, Mt. Dew and gasoline . . . that REALLY sounds like we are up to no good!