Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Good fences make good neighbors

There was some kind of critter nibbling on the peppers at garden #2. Probably the possum that Terry had seen there before... So the Hubs put a fence up, 2' tall chicken wire.
The peppers are looking a little better. I've been watering them every evening, and the Hubs waters them some mornings, but they were still looking pretty droopy until today. It's been really hot though, in the 90s lately.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Garden Report & two new recipes!

I took these photos on Sunday, so the tomatoes are a little bigger now. 

 The banana peppers are starting to produce now too!
Now, on to the recipes! Tonight I tried two different ones that have been on the side of the fridge for several weeks now:
Pea and Bacon Risotto, from Food & Wine May 2011
Walnut-Stuffed Chicken Roulades from Martha Stewart Living March 2010

Pea and Bacon Risotto

6 oz lean bacon, diced
2 c frozen peas, thawed
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, minced
2 c arborio rice (I only had jasmine rice so that's what I used, which is a different texture.)
1/2 c dry white wine (I forgot to buy this, so I omitted it)
7 c simmering chicken stock (I used some frozen chicken stock that I made a couple months ago)
1 Tbsp butter
1/2 c parmesan
1 Tbsp lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

In a skillet, cook the bacon until crisp. Drain bacon on a paper towel. Reserve 1 Tbsp of bacon fat.

In a food processor, puree 1 c  peas and 1 c water.

In a large saucepan heat the olive oil. Add the onion and cook until tender.

Add the rice, until coated with oil. (Like you would do if you were making Rice A Roni out of a box.)

Add the wine and simmer until evaporated.

Add about 2 c chicken stock and simmer over medium heat, stirring, until absorbed. Continue adding stock and stirring until all stock has been incorporated, about 25 minutes.

Add the pea puree, remaining peas and bacon.

Remove from heat and add butter, bacon fat, cheese and lemon juice.

Note: I also added 5 oz. chopped mushrooms because I had them leftover from the following chicken recipe. I sauteed the mushrooms in olive oil before adding with the bacon.

Walnut-Stuffed Chicken Roulades

10 whole grain crackers, such as Kavli (I used 15 original Wheat Thins)
1 1/4 c chopped walnuts (I used pecans because I don't like walnuts)
2 Tbsp olive oil
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 shallots, minced
3 oz mushrooms, chopped
1 Tbsp fresh thyme
2 oz spinach (I used frozen)
1 Tbsp water
3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, butterflied and pounded evenly

Preheat oven to 375.

Pulse crackers and 3/4 c pecans in food processor until finely ground.

Heat oil in skillet. Add garlic and shallots and cook until soft. Add mushrooms and thyme and cook until mushrooms are golden. If using frozen spinach, add it and the water to the mushroom mixture.

If using fresh spinach, remove the mushroom mixture from the pan and put on a plate, and cook down the spinach with the water before adding the mushroom mix.

Add the remaining 1/2 of pecans.

Lay a half of a chicken breast on a plate and spoon some of the mixture onto it. Roll up the chicken and then roll through the pecan/cracker mix. Place on a greased cookie sheet.

Bake for 30 minutes, or until a meat thermometer registers 165.

Here's the mushroom/shallot/garlic mixture. I could of eaten it with a spoon!

Definitely glad I switched out the walnuts for pecans. Together with the Wheat Thins, they made the crust a little sweet!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Music Monday: Ray Lamontagne - Forever my Friend

Should I admit that I've been listening to this guy for two years and just last Friday learned he was white?

Ray Lamontagne is on tour this summer with Brandi Carlile... I think there's a show in Kansas City (I might have already missed it) otherwise their closest stop is Chicago...

Sunday, June 26, 2011

New car shopping!

Yesterday we started off bright and early to car shop. The Hub's goal was to have a new car by the end of the day; I was not as ambitious, I just wanted to test drive the different cars on my list:
Volkswagen Jetta
Toyota Corolla
Mazda 3 Hatchback
Honda Civic
and the Hubs added Nissan Altima to the list.

It was quite an adventure, and I wanted to make a few notes of things to remember for the next time we car shop (hopefully that will be awhile!).
Don't forget to take:
a notepad and pen, so you can write down what you did and didn't like about each car. Items we checked on every car: trunk space, engine compartment ease of access, passenger side legroom for the Hubs, backseat legroom with the front seat all the way back, cruise control, stereo.

Water and a snack. I forgot the snack, but had a bottle of water. It was pretty hot yesterday, in the upper 80s.

A list of cars to look at, including mile per gallon ratings for city and highway driving, and the max amount the bank will loan for each car.

Know the minimum amount you will take for trade in on your car

Download the application to your smartphone. This app lets you search for car by manufacturer, make, year, radius from current location, price, etc. It also has a payment calculator so you can put in a car's sticker price, your trade in value, interest rate, and term of loan and will calculate your monthly payments. 

I was amazed at the varying degrees of cleanliness of used cars. The Altima we test drove was spotless inside and out. But the Corolla and Civic were dirty inside. The dash hadn't been cleaned, the Corolla's backseat was stained (probably would have come out with a steam cleaner!).

On to the first "adventure" segment of the trip....At the second dealership we stopped at, there was a Mazda 3; it met all the criteria and was really the car I had my heart set on. Two downfalls we noticed: the previous owner had installed a different, loud (rice-burner-type) muffler, and the car had been lowered from factory height. Those two things were easily fixable. However, when I pulled out of the parking lot, the car started bucking. It was an automatic, but was almost like when you shift wrong in a standard and the car doesn't like it. The Hubs thought I was letting on and off the gas pedal, but I wasn't. It was the weirdest thing. I drove it around the block and when we got back the Hubs asked the salesman if he had ever been to a rodeo. The guy was a little confused and the Hubs told him what the car had done, and then suggested the salesman drive the car back to the mechanic shop to have them take a look at it. As soon as the guy took off the car started bucking. It was the funniest thing I've ever seen. The car was in really good shape otherwise, but it seemed like they didn't even test drive it before they put it on the lot to sell!

Second "adventure"... We were looking at a used Mazda 3 Hatchback on the southside of town, but it was way over our budget, and priced way above the value that my bank would loan me. Like $3,000 over the NADA value of the car. While I'm looking at the car and waiting for the salesman, the Hubs looks at the app on his cell phone and finds a car one year older, with 45,000 miles, with a sunroof, for $2,000 less than the bank will loan, but it's in Fayetteville, Arkansas. The Hubs calls and talks to the dealership and there's nothing wrong with the car, we'd be the second owner, etc. etc. The Hubs hangs up and the salesman finally comes over and the Hubs asks point blank if the guy will lower the price to our range, or if we need to drive to Fayetteville. The guy doesn't really make a move, and we were pretty tired of listening to sales pitches all day (or at least I was- I'm not a chit chatty person and there were several times I just wanted to get up and walk out!).

So we drove to Fayetteville to Adventure Subaru.

These guys were so nice to us. They weren't pushy. They knew we'd be getting there right at 5, but a salesman, the finance guy, and a shop mechanic all stayed for us. The car was clean inside and out. It had been washed that day, and still had a little bit of wax residue. We took a little less for our trade in, but the car we were buying was priced so low that it wasn't a big deal. Our payments are still under $200/month!

So here's the baby we brought home last night, "important" things shown first:

a 6-disc CD changer, plus auxiliary input to plug in an MP3 player


It's a standard! I've really only tooted around on the farm with a manual, with a few trips to town. So this morning I went and practiced hills at the park before driving it on the street!

Sorry for the glare!
This is the kind of crazy life we live, and the kind of loving husband I have. He knew which car I really wanted, found it, and did everything he could to get me that car, including driving 120 miles out of town to barely make it to the dealership by 5 on a Saturday. He is so selfless and sometimes I am so selfish. He teaches me to be patient and loving and selfless even when I don't know if I have it in me.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Pioneer Woman

I've been reading Debora Clark's book Sage and it gets me to thinking if I could survive as a pioneer woman. Or if I could provide enough to keep my family alive. Sage is set in the 1860s in rural Missouri.
When I look at the Missouri Extension's vegetable planting calendar, and the suggested quantities to plant per person per year, I'm not so sure.

Here's a sampling of the suggestions:

Tomatoes: 3-5 plants/person for fresh, 5-10 plants/person for processing
Spinach: 5-10 feet/person for fresh, 10 to 15 feet/person for processing
Peppers: 2-3 plants/person for fresh
Peas: 10-15 feet/person for fresh, 25-30 feet/person for processing

I've seen this picture several times while looking for information on Victory Gardens. It's of a WWII garden. It's a different era than Debora's book, but still gives a sense of scale of how big a garden needed to be. (I've never seen the original caption for this photo, so as far as I know it may be a community garden.)
I think back to the garden on the farm, which is easily 1/4 of an acre. (I've never measured it, but it seems that big!)We planted a pretty big garden when I was little, but we still supplemented with fruit and veggies from the store. I only remember canning tomatoes, green beans and jellies.
Granted, if I lived back in the 1800s, or even during WWII, I wouldn't be an architect. I'd be a stay at home mom-gardener-farmer-maid-wife-jack of all trades, and I'd have time to tend such a massive garden. Maybe. If I wasn't chasing goats or small children or scrubbing laundry or fixing fence.
I have a lot more respect for the generations that had to provide for their families or risk starving, especially now that I'm trying to grow and can enough tomatoes so I don't have to buy storebought in the middle of winter... Estimating the number of plants I need, and the number of pints I need to store, and then finding the place to store them is a chore. I can't imagine having to do that with every vegetable.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Why I'm glad we don't have a community garden

...Or maybe why we should have a community garden. (If I see an empty garden bed, I want to fill it!)

My mother in law's raised beds were going to sit empty this summer. Until last weekend when the Hubs suggested we plant extra peppers down there so we have extra to freeze and eat this winter.

He didn't have to suggest that twice.

Here's what Terry had in place: 3 raised beds approximately 4'x8' each. The one closest to the front had nothing in it. The one in the middle had four strawberry plants down the middle. The far bed had one tomato plant. They all had lots of bermuda grass sneaking in under the edges; I spent almost half an hour just pulling weeds.
I always get bermuda grass and crab grass confused. I always think crab grass should be the one that sends out runners or "crabs", but it's actually bermuda grass that does that.

I went to Schaffitzel's and spent a little over $12 on 13 plants. For perspective... I went to the farmer's market this weekend and spent $9 on three eggplant.
 I was pleased to see Schaffitzel's has a lot more heirloom varieties this year than in previous years. I will definitely go there next year for eggplant. I also picked up a bay tree.

 Here's what we have now:
4 Banana Bill
 3 Ancho (Poblano)
 3 Golden California Wonder
 In the middle bed:
3 Valencia
I planted these between the strawberries so the strawberries can still send out runners.
 And in the last bed I planted a 6 pack of Health Kick. They're a paste tomato like a Roma.
 This Lemon Boy is what Terry had in the bed originally and I left it. It will be delicious too!
 I entered all of these plants into my Harvest Tracking spreadsheet and will be tracking these separately from the ones I grew from seed.
 And now, Mom, I need some help identifying bugs. These huge ants have taken over the backs of the leaves of my sunflowers. Which wouldn't be a big deal except they're also all over my artichokes and beans.
I can't tell if the ants are eating these other little bugs, or is that what ant larva look like? Any ideas?

Monday, June 20, 2011

Music Monday: Rolling Stones "Angie"

Oh dear! I almost forgot it was Monday! I was sitting at my desk working away at about 3 this afternoon and realized I forgot to post a song this morning. whoops!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Garden Report & Horse Show

A couple of the Black Cherry plants have blooms

The onions are looking better than ANY onions I've ever grown!

Banana pepper blooms!
Our friend Chris was in a horse show today. The only horse shows I've ever been to are rodeo-style with barrel racing. This was not like at that all

This is the kind of show with jumps.

A random garden thought: last year at this time, my garden and rose bush were ravaged by Japanese beetles. There aren't any out there at all right now. What changed?

Friday, June 17, 2011

Guess what I received today?

An autographed book from my friend Debora who published her first book last year! I went to West Plains today to deliver plans to her office and she surprised me with it! Here's her website, with some info about the book series:

I'm "going to bed" early tonight so I can start reading!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


It's turning out to be another long week at work. So far this week, I've put in 7.5 hours of overtime. Almost half of that was today.

I have a project that was supposed to go to the printer this morning, but due to the engineers being overwhelmed those drawings aren't expected until in the morning. Which actually worked out well for me, because I was able to have a different architect in the office peer review all the architectural sheets and look for mistakes. He found very few! This is especially exciting for me as I only have one exam left. A couple months ago I would have told you I didn't feel like I was prepared to be an architect with a license to practice architecture on my own, but I'm feeling a lot more confident nowadays.

Tonight after work I had a USGBC coordination meeting for the series of webinars our local branch is hosting for six weeks this summer. The first one is tomorrow at lunch. I'm in charge. Which means I have to make up at least an hour of work each week for the next 6 weeks. (Doesn't look like that will be too difficult right now though, as we are slammed!)

I came home after the meeting, which included chit-chatting with my BFF over a huge mountain of bacon cheese fries and three beers, and decided I needed to finish the architectural sheets so the engineers aren't waiting on ME in the morning! I was in desperate need of caffeine, so I made an iced coffee with leftover Mudhouse coffee from this morning, with vanilla soymilk:
It helped out for the extra two hours I worked tonight. And along with Pandora playing fun music like Keane, Moby, and the Cardigans it really only felt like half an hour. Now I'm off to shower and bed, because in addition to sending this job to the printer tomorrow, and hosting a webinar, there's a big possibility I'm driving to West Plains...

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Something cool & possible bad news

Infographic: Home gardening in the U.S. | MNN - Mother Nature Network

I came across this article. It seems I fit into the typical statistics for a U.S. gardener: female, college degree, and growing most of the "most popular vegetables" except for corn (and adding a few that aren't popular). My garden, not including the greenhouse is about 185 square feet, so my garden is twice the average. I can't imagine having a smaller garden! I think my garden is tiny! I am doing a really good job of tracking my harvest so far, so I should have some idea of investment vs. return at the end of the season.

On other note, yesterday the guys at work noticed my car making a funny noise. I noticed when I started it, it sounded like the starter kept spinning even after the car had started. So the Hubs took it to the mechanic today and his preliminary thought is it's the timing belt. But he won't have time to tear into it for a couple days. So the Hubs is riding the motorcycle and I'm driving the truck. Here's to hoping it doesn't rain! I can probably hitch a ride with a coworker, who I gave rides to for awhile...

In the garden:
Today I harvested another artichoke and an ounce of peas. That brings the artichoke harvest to 2 and the pea total to 5 oz. Have I mentioned that's without the shells? The artichokes have paid for themselves. The package of artichoke seeds was $2.50, artichokes at the store are $3 a piece and I've harvested 2, which translates to $6! I "saved" $3.50 by growing my own artichokes, and that's just from one plant!

Some of the Golden Marconi pepper plants have blooms on them. The spinach is looking really pale, and some of it has started bolting. The lettuce is still looking ok. The onions look better than any onions I've ever grown. There must be something to this whole trench of fertilizer between rows planting method! Mental note for next time I grow leeks: don't put so much straw on top of them because it will choke out 50% of them!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Chicken chili tamale pie

Last night, we tried the Chicken-chili Tamale Pie. It's definitely a keeper recipe. 
To start out with, I forgot to buy tomato paste at the store. I've been meaning to buy one of those toothpaste-like tubes of tomato paste because several recipes lately have called for only 1 Tbsp of paste. I didn't feel like running back to the store, so I made my own. My very last pint of tomatoes was transformed in about 20 minutes into paste. Mental note: a pint of stewed tomatoes only makes about 1/4 c of tomato paste! 
This was another recipe from Food & Wine. I get this magazine monthly, and have gotten it for the last 2 years but I rarely ever make anything out of it. This is definitely a year of change. I tore out all the recipes I want to try and recycled the rest of the magazines. This condensed about a 2' stack of various magazines (including Martha Stewart Living, which I used to get) to 1-1/2" binder, which also has other recipes in it, like ones I've printed off from blogs. I'm trying to make two new recipes a week (last week was an exception). If the recipe is good, I'm keeping the hard copy. If it sucks, the hard copy gets chucked. Either way, the recipe gets documented and printed on my blog.

Chicken-Chili Tamale Pie

Preheat the oven to 350.

In a large skillet, heat 1/3 c vegetable oil (I used olive oil) and add:
1 large onion, chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 c fresh or frozen corn
Cook about 6 minutes.

Stir in:
2 Tbsp chile powder
1 Tbsp cumin
salt to taste
and cook for about 1 minute.

Stir in 3 Tbsp tomato paste, then add:
5 c shredded skinned chicken
3 c chicken broth
Cook over medium heat until thickened, about 5 minutes.
Stir in 2 Tbsp chopped cilantro.

Pour chili into 9x13 baking dish.

For the topping:
In a bowl, mix together:
1 1/2 c cornmeal
1 c plus 2 Tbsp flour
3 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
4 oz cheddar cheese.

In a separate bowl, mix together:
3 large eggs
1 c plus 2 Tbsp milk
1/4 c plus 2 Tbsp vegetable oil

Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.
Then pour over the chili mixture.
Sprinkle 2 oz cheddar cheese on top
Bake for 45 minutes.

Makes 8 servings.

We ate it with a dollup of sour cream and avocado slices.

A couple notes:
For this recipe I needed shredded chicken and chicken broth. Instead of purchasing packaged chicken broth as suggested, I put the 3 boneless skinless chicken breasts in a crockpot on high heat for about 6 hours with a couple cloves of garlic, salt and pepper. (If I'd had onion, carrots and celery I would have put that in the crockpot too, but I didn't have any extra) After 6 hours, the chicken pretty much falls apart when smashed with a fork. Then you also have fresh chicken broth.

I don't have fresh cilantro from the garden yet, so I bought a bunch. I added about 1/2 c chopped cilantro to the cornbread topping.

Next time, we might add pinto beans to the chili. I'm thinking corn kernels in the cornbread would be good, too.

I had extra adobo chiles in the fridge and wanted to use them, but forgot.

Next time I make this, I'll take more process photos. The Hubs was home and hungry so I was a little rushed!

Music Monday: "When You Say Nothing At All" by two different artists

 Here's two versions of this song. The first one is Keith Whitley's, and the link below is Alison Krauss. For the longest time, the only version I knew was Alison Krauss and I loved it. But then I heard the original by Keith Whitley and I think I like that version better.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Finished front porch!

This is what we did yesterday:

We discussed going to the lake, but then there was rain in the forecast. So we worked on the porch and it ended up not raining. (Go figure!)

A couple months ago I discussed with my Dad how much we thought the porch was going to cost. I thought $500. He thought $1000. Three days of Lowe's receipts totaled $603.

On the menu for the week:
Chicken-Chili Tamale Pie from Food & Wine (I tore it out of the magazine and the page doesn't have the month/year on it!)
Pea and Bacon Risotto from Food & Wine May 2011

On the schedule for the week:
finishing up construction documents for a doctor's office
going to the gym and/or riding my bike a couple days
studying for my CSI CCS exam

Next house project: figuring out what to do with the siding. Do we replace it all with vinyl (ugh, vinyl!) , or do we only replace the pieces that are in bad shape? The Hubs is going to talk to the realtor we bought the house from to get her opinion.

Oatmeal Muffins

Oatmeal Muffins. See the recipe here, on 101 Cookbooks.

There weren't any seasonings listed for the muffins, so I added 1 tsp vanilla and sprinkle of cinnamon to the batter.  And I didn't see the note in the recipe heading about the crumble being a double recipe, until after the muffins were in the oven with the entirety of the crumble topping...

I used both muffin pans again. This time, I put the "good" pan in first, and let it bake for about 5 minutes before putting in the aluminum one that likes to burn everything. I also used less muffin batter in aluminum one, so they wouldn't overflow the pan. Instead of having 18 muffins as the recipe calls for, I had 20. Halfway through the cooking time, I rotated the pans and switched shelves.

The Hubs likes these! I keep hearing him sneak back into the kitchen to grab another one!

The Hubs suggested that next time I add pecans.

Off the regular schedule...

I've been super busy this week. I ended up putting in 10 hours of overtime this week to try getting caught up on a project I'm working on. Actually, several projects. I brought home work to do today, and we'll see if I get to it.
Yesterday, we finished the front porch. Photos to come later this afternoon when I'm not parked in the yard. We put on railings, lattice and the Hubs made a custom condensate pan for our air conditioner so our new decking doesn't rot out! It is so beautiful, and it's nice to sit in my Adirondack chair without fear that I'll fall through the decking!
Between all this work and the house projects, I'm also studying for my CSI Certified Construction Specifier exam, and need to start working on my last (again, because it's a retake) architecture exam, Schematic Design. I can take Schematic Design in early September (There's a six month waiting period between when you first take it, and when you are allowed to retake it.) The CSI exam has an exam window of September 26 to October 8. I laid out a 12 week plan for studying, but figured if I started early that would build in a couple weeks like this week where I'm mentally incapable of studying.
Right now I have Oatmeal Muffins in the oven. Photos of those to come too.

Garden report:
I noticed on Thursday that the tarragon sprouted in the greenhouse. Yesterday, several of the artichoke seeds sprouted.
Yesterday morning I harvested an ounce of peas, and Friday evening another 3 oz of mixed greens. That brings the mixed greens total to 22.5 oz for the season, with more to harvest this week.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Throw-together meal

This week I had full intentions of making a couple new recipes. But I've been slammed at work. Monday I worked 11.5 hours and by the time I got home I had no mental capacity to create anything so I stopped at Papa Murphy's and bought a take-home pizza.
Last night I was in a little better shape. Over the weekend I bought a package of boneless skinless chicken tenderloins and I had two leeks in the bottom of the fridge that needed to be used. Here's last night's dinner (which the Hubs took a bite of last night and decided to take a container of it for lunch today, so, WIN!):

Cut the chicken tenderloins into about 1" long pieces. Put in a large nonstick skillet with about a tablespoon of olive oil and cook until almost cooked through.
In the meantime, slice the leeks up (make sure to wash them REALLY well, because dirt likes to hide in the layers).
Season the chicken with salt, pepper, cumin, basil (or whatever your heart desires. I originally thought I'd go more Tex-Mex with this but halfway through decided basil sounded good too. Surprisingly it turned out ok.)
Add the leeks, a can of black beans (rinsed) and a pint of home-canned tomatoes. You want it to cook down a little, so also add 1-2 cups of water depending on the consistency desired.

Cook for several minutes, until the leeks are tender and some of the liquid has evaporated. This made about 4 servings.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

You scream for ice cream, I scream for Sweet peas!

I ended up moving all the herbs out from the greenhouse. It is way too hot in the greenhouse during the day and I was ending up drenching the pots with water every evening to try to keep up with the leaves sagging.
The tomato plants are looking really good. I was a little scared when I put them in the ground that I might have to look for some at a nursery but they really turned around. There is something munching on the leaves, so I put Garden Dust on them. If that doesn't work, it may be a larger critter and I have a critter repellent to try.

The diatomaceous earth wasn't working at all on the big ants on the artichoke plant, so I put Garden Dust on it, too, as well as the cucurbit seedlings that have pushed through.

And the object of this post: Peas! These are shelling peas, so that's why I haven't picked any yet. The pods aren't filled out. I've been trying to remember to water them every couple days since it's been so hot and dry. I came across a Bacon & Pea Risotto recipe that I'd like to try when I harvest them. Yum. :)

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