Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Aye-aye, Pop-Eye

I'm sure I have turned up my nose at spinach many times in my younger years, but find I really enjoy it now. In eggs, in pasta, in meatballs, in salads, in spinach and artichoke dip, anywhere really. But this is how I like it best:

Spinach Salad with Bacon Dressing

1 lb. fresh spinach
1/2 cup sliced green onion
dash of pepper
5 slices bacon
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 hard-boiled egg (I use two because I like eggs)
Shredded cheese (optional)

Toss spinach with onion and pepper. Chill.

Slowly fry bacon until crisp. Remove from pan.

Break into pieces and add to spinach, with hard-boiled egg and shredded cheese if desired.

Add vinegar, lemon juice, sugar, and salt to fat in pan and stir until dissolved. Use as dressing.

I like to mix the dressing ingredients
 before adding them to the bacon fat

With an abundance of spinach in the garden, we've made this a couple times recently. Keith and I can eat the whole salad for dinner. Add some good bread and you're set. Really, is there anything that bacon doesn't make better?

Monday, June 27, 2011

Mocha R & D

As you probably know by now, we have a very curious cat named Mocha. She gets into everything. And I do mean everything. It's as if she feels she needs to test out anything new that comes into the house, like it is her own research and development lab.

You saw her test our carpet swatches...

and then the carpet once it was installed.

She's also made sure our basket for the farmers' market is in tip-top shape.

She tested out the car seat...

the crib...

and the stroller, though she didn't like being pushed around in it.

She tried on a baby hat.

Ok, that one wasn't her idea and she didn't seem too happy about it either. But maybe that's just her runway pout.

She also likes to read the paper, my guess is to keep up on the latest product reviews and recalls.

Or maybe she's after the crossword puzzles and horoscopes. (She's a Gemini.)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

All Things Green and Growing

It seems we are about due for a little update on the garden and other things growing around here, so welcome to your picture tour!

The herb tub has really taken off

Purple basil – we need to make some purple pesto!

Lilies in bloom

Chinese lantern plant? Japanese ballon plant?
I forget what it was called but it's pretty!

Green beans

Green beans the bunny won't let alone

Blueberries on the way!

Peas coming on, slowly but surely

A teeny tiny pepper, slightly bigger than my thumbnail!

Carrots, spinach, lettuce, onions

The garden, recently weeded for your viewing pleasure

Volunteer pumpkins
As you saw above, the neighborhood rabbits have been after some of our green beans. This is where I admit that our homemade rabbit repellent was less than successful. We did go back to Liquid Fence, the product we had used last year with good results, but apparently the bunnies just don't care what things taste like because they keep eating the beans farthest away from the house. So, at this rate, I think we might just mooch some beans off my mom or pick up a basket at the farmers' market to freeze for the winter.

Our strawberries are done for the season, and the spinach and lettuce are rapidly winding down as well. We froze quite a bit of spinach (using this method) and it is beginning to go to seed and the lettuce is starting to get bitter, so we'll pull all of it out and plant our cucumbers. With a small garden area, we have to plant things in succession. We might plant spinach again in the fall to enjoy fresh greens before winter sets in, but we have frozen all we can use.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Ready and Waiting

With my due date less than two weeks away, we are feeling pretty ready for Bert to arrive. (I can hear you all laughing, because who is really ready for their first baby?) Maybe I should rephrase: the nursery is ready and our bag for the hospital is packed and in the car, along with the car seat.

We had a few projects to wrap up. Keith's was refinishing a glider, which came out beautiful.

It was a little touch-and-go for a bit as he tried to remember how it went together,

but he figured it out and we're both really pleased with it. We added a couple of cushions and a pillow from Target, and another from Sears, and we're ready to rock and roll rock.

My duties consisted of some little sewing projects. I wanted to make a cover for the changing pad and decided I wanted a ruffle on it. Over the phone, my mom explained how to make one. My attempt was unsuccessful, so next time I saw her, my mom made the ruffle while I watched and then I put the rest of the cover together.

Keith is still wondering why the changing pad needed a ruffle when we are having a boy, but what can I say? It's just the way I wanted it.

I also made some tie-backs for the curtains, mostly because I was in love with those big blue buttons.

I made the valance you can see at the top of the photo awhile back too.

And the changing table is stocked with our newborn-size disposable diapers and our cloth wipes and diapers.

So I guess we're ready. Right?

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Take a Little Trip

On Friday morning, with a wide-open weekend ahead of us, I asked Keith to come up with something to do so we weren't just puttering around the house waiting for this baby to arrive. (He's due two weeks from today!) He came home with a newspaper clipping about a big yard sale to benefit the Burnside Plantation. We'd never been to the plantation, and we're always up for a yard sale, so we figured that would be a good way to spend part of our day.

The Burnside Plantation was a working farm that supported the Moravian Church community from the mid-1700s into the mid-1800s. Originally about 500 acres, 6.5 acres have been preserved and contain the farmhouse, summer kitchen, barn, and several outbuildings. It's open to visitors and sometimes there are demonstrations on farming and cooking techniques. Also, it is home to the Bethlehem Police Department's horses. Check it out here if you are interested in visiting.

We didn't find anything very exciting at the yard sale, but enjoyed looking around the garden and buildings on the farm. It was a gorgeous day and amazingly enough, I remembered to take my camera. So enjoy!

The terraced garden, with the log garden shed at the bottom

The summer kitchen; there was a baking demonstration going on

A charming garden gate

Another garden gate at the top of the garden

Detail of the log garden shed

Beautiful cabbage

The bank barn (where the horses live)

Prim and proper garden beds

Farm house with summer kitchen to the left, viewed from the garden

The orchard
There were several people in colonial garb tending to the garden and working in the summer kitchen. I assume they were volunteers which brought to mind the question, just how old does your property have to be for you to enlist volunteers to care for it? Is 88 years enough? Anybody want to bake in my kitchen or weed my garden? You don't have to dress like it's 1923 or anything.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Jammin' Mon

From our little berry patch, we have a bumper crop of strawberries. This is the first full year for our strawberry plants and we've read that the they can come on strong for the first year but not to expect the same yields in subsequent years.

We've been enjoying them fresh, on strawberry shortcake, cereal and granola and yogurt. We decided to make a batch of freezer jam, which was super easy. We just followed the recipe from the box of fruit pectin.

Freezer Jam

2 cups crushed strawberries
2 tablespoons lemon juice
4 cups sugar
1 package fruit pectin

1. Hull and crush strawberries one layer at a time with potato masher.

2. Combine berries with lemon juice in a large bowl. Add sugar, mixing thoroughly. Let stand 10 minutes.

3. Combine 3/4 cup of water and fruit pectin in a small saucepan. Bring to a full boil that cannot be stirred down, stirring constantly. Boil hard for 1 minute, continuing to stir.

4. Add cooked pectin mixture to fruit mixture. Stir for 3 minutes.

5. Ladle freezer jam into clean containers, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Apply caps and let jam stand in refrigerator until set, but no longer than 24 hours. Serve immediately, refrigerate for up to 3 weeks, or freeze up to 1 year.

The recipe says it yields 5 half-pint jars; we got six. Yum.

We also made two batches of strawberry ice cream. (And managed not to take a single photo of it either time...) We used the vanilla ice cream below and added 4 cups of crushed strawberries mixed with about 1 cup of sugar. When making fruit ice cream, add 1 cup of fruit for each quart of ice cream.

Country Style Vanilla Ice Cream

4 eggs
Approximately 5 cups milk
2 tablespoons vanilla
2 1/2 cups sugar
4 cups whipping cream
1/4 teaspoon salt

1. Beat eggs until foamy.
2. Gradually add sugar, beat until thickened.
3. Add cream, vanilla, and salt and mix thoroughly. Add fruit here if desired.
4. Pour into can.
5. Add milk to fill line on can and stir well.

Makes about 4 quarts.

We also froze about 10 pint boxes of sliced strawberries. We still have some berries coming on. Maybe another batch of jam is called for!
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