Sunday, February 28, 2016

My first lessons from the garden...

It's super early in the season, but I've already learned a few things from my first foray into the gardening world.

First... I'm impatient. Like, really, really impatient. Case in point. My tomatoes. In the beginning there were seeds. Sweet little seeds started indoors and carefully nurtured. Omg, this takes too long. So I added little tomato plants I picked up at the nursery because no way was I waiting that long for tomatoes. Then there was freaky-freezageddon... Oy. I pulled out my poor dead tomato plants and replaced them with bigger ones. They're doing well, but darn it, I want tomatoes! So I picked up this beauty yesterday. Look! It's already got fruit! Lol. Yep.  Impatient.

And shocker... Those frostbit plants? Not dead.  Hahaha! They're beside the raised bed just a'growin away. Lol. And the cherry tomatoes finally sprouted. Finally. Though that's about all they've done. A whole inch tall. Pfft.

Next lesson... Parsley does not like as much water as its friends. My bad. I don't think he's gonna make it, so I potted a new batch all by itself. Yes, bigger and better. Still impatient.

Third... Mushrooms. Weird. Yesterday I'm doing my normal routine of checking over the beds and I discovered this weird little mushroom growing with my spinach seedlings. A closer look revealed about a hundred little guys in there!! Now, I of course hit the net where my panic was relieved.  Shrooms are good for the soil. Solid. But wait! Not good for pets! Little Hunter can't quite climb in there, still too small (thank goodness) but what if he manages it? They're toxic to pets aren't they? Unsure, I quickly threw them all in a Baggie and headed to my local nursery. I dumped them on the counter and begged the clerk to identify them. He did. Nothing to worry about. Oh wait, did you say you have pets? Arghhhh.   So he sold me a shroom killer and away I went. Well, I did buy that big beautiful tomato plant. And a pot. And two Armenian cucumber plants. Anyway...

I get home, finish my gardening chores and prepare to kill some mushrooms. Oh and I stopped at Home Depot and got a dwarf lemon and dwarf lime tree. Whatever. So I read the directions and things start jumping out at me... Wear mask, hood, long sleeves, no wind, no rain... Toxic to humans and animals.  Are you freaking kidding me???? Needless to say, I didn't use it. And I still have shrooms. But they're only in one of the beds so it must have been just one bag of soul that had the spores. I'll let them run their course and make sure to keep Hunter out. Though, he's quite curious. Shoot. I'm gonna go pull some more out.

So, moving on... Next lesson. Not everyone is as excited about my plants as I am. Poor hubby. Everyday when he gets home, I drag him out to see all the new growth.  See those itty bitty leaves on my blackberry sticks? See the edamame peeking through the soul? See how tall the asparagus is getting? And it's beginning to fern on this one!  Seriously, he's so great. He smiles and congratulates me then goes to get a beer. Lol.

There you have it. I am impatient and obsessive. Huh. Don't think that's news to anyone who knows me, lol. Oh well. At least I haven't bought any more seeds or plants, right? ;-)

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Tuesday Thoughts and Tastes...

Tuesday - sounds so tame, doesn't it? Around here, though, Tuesday means a mad dash to catch up on everything I missed on Monday. Lol. I don't know about you, but my typical Monday has a to-do list about 2 miles long. For some reason, I always think I'm some kind of super-woman and can accomplish in one day (Monday) what should (and does) take all week to complete. Not sure why I do that, but each week, come Tuesday I'm revising lists, making more lists, and wondering where I'll find the time to get done what I was "supposed" to do yesterday. Hey, I never said I was normal. ;-)

On the dock today is yet another group of assignments for my newest endeavor. Have ya'll seen the Clean Eating Academy? It's pretty cool! One of the skills I've wanted to develop for years has been my knife work in the kitchen. I've planned to take some local classes, but then my schedule always goes wonky. When I saw an online course, I thought - Hey! I can do online! It's not like Sur la Table is going to offer me a class at 10pm simply because that's when I have time to do it, lol.  So, I signed up. And I'm loving it!

Nutrition isn't a foreign subject to me, as you know, but kitchen skills? Hmmm.  I'm self-taught, and my food is pretty darn good, if I do say so myself. But if I can get through one (just ONE) cooking session without dropping a knife on my toes or trimming my nails (oops!) then I'm doing stellar. So... knife skills. Yeah, let's work on those. [Insert sheepish grin here, haha]

Here are a few pics from my assignments recently...


Different styles of cutting - and it's been a lot of fun learning how to hold the knife. My speed has suffered greatly, lol, but I haven't lost any fingernails lately. ;-) Each assignment is photographed and uploaded so the instructors can grade them. So far I'm doing great! Woot!

Also in those pics you'll see a couple recipes - the first is my very own homemade vegetable stock! Yay!!! I've always wanted to make my own, but have been intimidated by the process. What the heck was I worried about?? It's so easy! And the result was amazing! It was so good! I used it in my very first batch of homemade Minestrone (another assignment)! Which was... well, the broth & veggies were fantastic! The beans were a challenge, lol.

The second recipe you see in my "cutting" pics is a ratatouile style vegetable stew. And may I just say - OMG!!! I was eating it right out of the pan! I haven't gotten my grade yet on that one, but I kinda don't care, lol. So.Darn.Good!!
I wish I could share that recipe with ya'll because it's abso-freakin-amazing, but I'm pretty sure it's exclusive to the course. Sorry.

After that was done, I settled in to make dinner - I'd prepped it so it was ready to go when I finished my assignment. And these recipes I can share - fabulous!!!
I was intrigued by the use of grated pear in the marinade, but let me tell you - Wow!! That pork had some KICK! Not too much, as the hubby has gringo-mouth (haha) and he really enjoyed it. I served it with some snazzed up rice and steamed asparagus. So tasty!!! The pork recipe is from Bon Appetit and you can use whatever protein you like. I had a pork tenderloin handy, so that decision was easy. I also subbed in Bragg's Liquid Aminos instead of the soy sauce. The rice - I used this recipe from Epicurious but cooked it in vegetable stock. Yummy!!! Then the steamed asparagus was a simple ziploc steamer bag with some Mrs. Dash Garlic & Herb. I gotta tell you - it was tough to not go back for more!

Apart from my adventures in the kitchen, I have finished up 12 more continuing ed credits for my various certifications. I've also played a lot with this little guy...
His eyes are still blue, and at this point looks like they may stay that way. What a doll! Bethy is doing a great job of learning to become a puppy mommy, and I am definitely enjoying being this little fur baby's gramma. ;-) I'm a bit nervous about when he's big enough to jump into my garden beds - he's already super curious and hops up to peek over the top, lol. Little bugger better stay out of my garden!

Speaking of my garden - Wooohooo!!!! It's doing great! Knock on wood. My asparagus plants are sprouting - too bad I can't harvest them this year, lol - they need another year to establish. I was really worried about them since as I mentioned before, I, ahem, planted them all upside down. My bad. But... they're growing!! And I put in some stock (flowers) in the beds to attract the bees. That worked out a little better than I anticipated. There are definitely bees in the garden now. That's good, right? Sort of. See, me and bees don't get along. I know the garden needs them, but they scare the bejeebers out of me. Yes, I'm the goof doing the shaky-shaky-boogie when they fly near me.

And... I have the best husband ever. Look what he got me!!!
I've been commenting (ok, bitching) about my cookware for years, but there was no way I was going to invest in good stuff until the kids were no longer swiping it for camping trips or carelessly tossing it in the dishwasher (if it made it that far). Now that we're nearly empty nesters, lol, I don't have to worry about how hard the kids are on my stuff. He got me a whole set of cookware, a bunch of prep bowls, new potholders, and other various kitchen tools. We don't celebrate Valentines Day around here, but he sure knocked it out of the park! Wooohooo!!!! I still get that tug on my heart when I start to work in the kitchen, missing my Sadie, but having new toys to play with (I mean tools to work with), helps distract me.

Ok, I've gotta get back to work. Need to gather supplies for the next set of assignments :-) Fun!!!
Oh, and I have to spend some quality time at the dealership while my car gets it's "mandatory" service. Ugh. At least this time I won't have to do my cardio while I'm there. Lol!

Happy Tuesday!!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Tuesday's Meanderings

How was everyone's weekend? Ours was pretty fun - Superbowl Sunday. I made my DIY Nacho Bar again and it was a hit. I planned to take some pics but once I set everything up I think a bat-signal went out and the horde descended. Thankfully, they all said it tasted as good as it looked. I think I only managed two bites of the corn-green chili queso. Darn it. Everything went pretty quick, lol.

Side note - I make the homemade nacho cheese sauce in my big cast iron skillet. I love my cast iron. I'd use nothing but cast iron if I could get away with it. But, evidently someone (Bethany) had recently cooked bacon in my large skillet. Granted, she cleaned it, but there was a distinct bacon flavor in my nacho cheese sauce. Good thing everyone loved it! Time to strip that one down and re-season, I guess.

Sunday night I was on puppy duty. Bethy was out late (pre-arranged) so I was taking care of little Hunter. Little Hunter who had to be managed every hour on the hour. I gotta tell you, he's got it down to a science. Wake, drink, eat, (and eat, drink until it's gone), out to the yard to pee once, poop three times (yes, 3), play rabidly for 5 minutes, then sleep until it's time to start over. Seriously. Gramma was very happy to see Mommy at 7am. Lol.

And yes - for those of you who caught it... I'm back in the kitchen. It took me almost 2 weeks to be able to cook or prep anything in there after I lost Sadie. Knowing she wasn't sprawled at my feet, waiting for me to "drop" something, or just snoozing while I worked... I literally choked up just walking into the room. Superbowl Sunday was my big re-entry to cooking. I'm glad to be back at work in my beloved kitchen, but it definitely isn't the same.

Other recipes I've done recently include a very tasty lemon-broccoli pasta dish. The original was a vegetarian version, so I added some diced rotisserie chicken to it. It was fabulous!!! The hubby says he could have done without the spinach in it, and I could have done with more broccoli, but overall it got a full round of thumbs up. You can find the recipe HERE.

Longhorn Steakhouse Blue Ridge Salad
Another was more of a quick throw down... tried a lime-garlic skillet chicken (meh), and a wedge salad. Wedge Salad? Yeah, see, the hubby and I went out to dinner a couple weeks ago and I, having read the description on the menu, ordered the wedge salad. It was a romaine wedge salad. I knew this (again- having read the menu). The hubby, hears me order it and says, Oh! I love wedge salads, I'll have one, too.

The waiter serves our salads and hubby looks at his plate and says to me, what the heck is this?  I say, it's a wedge salad. He says, no- no, it's not. It should be a big chunk of iceburg. I say, well it was very clear on the menu that this was a romaine wedge. He says, well, I didn't read the menu. I say, well, there you go. And I happily bite into my very yummy romaine salad (though it did have too much dressing which I had to scrape off, but don't tell him).

Now, he has held this against me for two weeks, periodically reminding me that a "wedge salad" involves a generous chunk of iceburg. Finally, to silence him, I whipped up a lovely plate for him. Unfortunately, I forgot to take pics, but it was (to his delight) a quarter chunk of iceburg sprinkled with crispy fresh bacon, chopped grape tomatoes, crumbled blue cheese, and a drizzle of blue cheese dressing. It was a thing of beauty. And it shut him the hell up. Lol.

I do have some recipes up and coming for you... including a Margarita Chicken Taco and a new Protein Yogurt Parfait. Still working out the kinks, but I'll have those for you soon.

In garden news... the Recipe For Fitness garden is doing well.  My potato plants have sprouted, the green onions, cucumbers, spinach, lettuce and beets have all popped up, and the replacements for the lamented tomatoes are in and thriving. I continue to blanket the beds each night - though the weather has gone back to normal, it's more to keep out whatever varmint is jumping around in my garden at night. Might be cats, but they haven't left any evidence.

My seedlings inside continue to grow.
I'll be moving the green beans and corn out to the garden tomorrow. Yay!
The peas should move in about a week or so.
The zucchini, too. Woot!

Hopefully they'll survive the transfer. Cross your fingers. ;-)

Friday, February 5, 2016

Well, DRAT!

So I had a bit of a miscommunication with the weather. Evidently Mother Nature wasn't quite willing to part with her frosty nights just yet. What a beyotch. And, evidently, I need to pay attention when I see my neighbors putting sheets and such over their plants. Hmm. Guess that means it's gonna get cold.

First there was the Great Wind on Sunday - practically blew us off our patio, and did blow away my pool umbrella (and all it's attached hanging lanterns) and my patio shade (actually got bopped in the head with that), lost a garden sign, and my gnomes ended up looking like the survivors of a frat party. But my plants did fine. A couple bent leaves on one of the artichokes, but otherwise all good. We cleaned up the mess, and carried on.

Then came Wednesday night. It got cold. I mean bring-the-heated-blankets-out-cold. As a novice gardener, I didn't even think about my plants. Thursday morning I began my daily routine of checking for moisture, growth, etc. And this is what I saw. Drat!!
You can hardly tell there are/were plants in there! Whaaaaaa!!!!!
Four tomato plants and one basil - gone. The basil actually had ice crystals on the sad, brown leaves. Serious bummer. But... I can fix this! I can run to home depot and replace each one - no one will ever have to know! So, I went about my day getting the necessary tasks completed, then headed to the big HD.  They've gotten to know me quite well over there. I'm sure that wasn't a smirk though, on the cashier's face, when I checked out with my new (bigger) plants.

I plot all the way home how I'm going to hide the evidence, and swap in these lovely new plants. I giggle and smile. And then brake to a screeching halt when I see my husband pulling into the driveway just ahead of me. Home early???? DAGNABBIT!!!! Busted!! Being the sweetie that he is, he begins unloading the car - and sees my plants.

"Don't you already have these in the garden?"
"Um. No. Well, yes, but..."
"You killed them, didn't you? How did you kill them already??? You're like a serial killer for plants!"
"Shut up. Not one more word out of you, mister. Not one."
"Laughing isn't words."

As I put away the other items I'd purchased (grocery store run), I wondered where my husband had disappeared to. I finally spied him in the backyard. I walked out there to catch him IN THE ACT of taking a photo and sending it to our kids. He spent the next two hours snickering over his phone.

Sigh.  I still maintain that Mother Nature killed those plants, not me. But, well, I guess we all know the truth.

On the flip side of that, the other plants I put in are doing great, and my turnips are sprouting like crazy, my onions have poked through the soil, and... I have 3 little asparagus spears growing! This is especially exciting because, it turns out, I planted my 32 asparagus crowns upside down. Face-palm. Yep. I did. Oy.

In other news, Bethy got a dog. She's wanted her own pup for years, and we finally gave in. On Sunday she and I drove out to pick him up - he's a sweetheart! 7 weeks old, boxer/lab mix. She's named him Hunter, and though she handles his care, I get to puppysit for an hour or so each day :-)  I'm definitely not ready for another furbaby of my own, but playing with little Hunter is a joy. Just look at that face!

Foodwise... getting ready for Super Bowl Sunday. Personally, I watch for the commercials, not the game. But the food.... yep, that's my thing. Doing a nacho bar again this year... tortilla chips and halved mini-peppers will be the carrier vehicles for all things yummy. I'll have a crockpot of my Bison Chili and another of Chicken Verde (seriously easy - just chicken and a jar of salsa verde). I'm making Queso and Nacho Cheese Sauce (the queso is a new to me recipe, but the Nacho sauce I've made a few times - it's incredible!!!). Then of course, the gobs of toppings: cabbage, lettuce, tomato, onion, jalapeno, olives, cilantro, guacamole, salsas, greek yogurt & sour cream, etc. It's an easy set up with minimal food prep, so it's very party-host friendly ;-)

Well, friends - there ya have it. That's the updated life of Chelle, lol.
Happy Friday!