Saturday, March 30, 2013

Easter Weekend :Green Custard

 The little guy had a great Easter party at school yesterday.  Fallowed by a full day of egg dying at home today. He has been busy all morning with the eggs while I have been busy cooking for our dinner after church Sunday.  I boiled him 18 eggs.  Half store bought and half fresh from a neighbor (the brown ones).  We plan to hide them this afternoon for him to find and then he wants to help turn them into deviled eggs which is one of his favorite way to eat them. 

He is still in there going strong while I am waiting on water to boil once again.  He has a tiny little dropper so he can make the perfect lines just where he wants them in the exact color he wants.  He has even made a special egg just for me and of course he is going to hide it so I will have to find it all by myself. 

Since he was having such a fun time with all of the color, I could not help but to get into the spirit a little too.  I decided instead of just a plain old custard that I would spice it up with a little color.  (My dad may kill me for ruining his favorite pie, but hey its Easter he will get over it. Plus I can always say the kid did it and everything will be ok. He is never mad at the kid.)

I took the same recipe my great grandmother used:
4 eggs
1/2cup evaporated milk
1/2cup whole milk
1/3cup suger
1tblsp butter
1tsp vanilla
one very deep pie shell (made from scratch or store bought, your choice)

After adding the eggs and milk into my magic bullet, the kitchen one (not the fun one), I added four drops of blue food coloring.  Plugged it in and mixed it up.  It turned out to be a cute little green color.  So I placed it in the oven at 350 until the top turned a nice golden brown and the middle jiggling was down to a minimum.  Pulled it out and very carefully pulled off the top brown part to reveal the cute green custard underneath.  Hopefully everyone will like it.  If not me and my son will eat it!  It looks a little bubbly since I was in a hurry and did not bounce the pie shell to release all the bubbles.  I will not win any awards with it, but it made my son happy and that is all that counts for me. Oh and the taste is amazing with the fresh eggs too.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Turkey Burgers

I have started eating these instead of hamburgers.  My husband does not feel the same way.  He says there is not replacement for real meat.  He is not the brightest though.  I would rather have a well seasoned turkey burger any day instead of a beefy more fatty burger.  So here is how I do it.

1 lb of turkey meat
1 package or dry ranch dressing mix
a dash of salt
a few squirts of liquid smoke, Worcestershire, or your favorite similar brand

That is all.  Mix it up well. It will make around three burgers, grill them for a few minutes, then add your favorite toppings.  I love a little pepper jack cheese, light mayo, tomato and lettuce on a whole wheat bun.

If you have never cooked a turkey burger before, they will be lighter in color than beef.  They will also not shrink up like most beef burgers.  The pictures below are what my husband cooked for dinner tonight.  He diced up a few red potatoes, added a little bacon grease, chicken seasoning, salt and pepper.  He know this is my favorite food, so he must be wanting to purchase something with a high value.  He never cooks.  There is a reason behind this.  I will find out over the next few days.... for now it smells amazing!  Might as well enjoy, plus I just bought a new cough so I can not really complain.

Another Cloudy Day for Planting

A rainy morning turned into a cloudy day.  It is not as cold as it has been or as windy, but still a little chilly.  Last week I had planted a few white Alyssum seeds in a container and placed them in a warm spot indoors.  A few days ago I noticed the little sprouts coming up!  I have plans to move them to my potted rose bush when they grow a little more.  I think they will add a cute little ground cover to the base of the rose. 

Since the white seeds are doing so well, I decided to try a few pink ones.  We placed them around a few potted plants.  My little  monster added a light layer of cover on them, then of course had to add the water.  He said not just any water would do.  It had to be water from the pond since he wanted some of these little flowers around his lemon trees.  (According to him, lemon trees will grow more with pond water instead of tap water.)

We had a few super cold nights, so we stuck his trees back in a pot because they were already starting to bud out.  I was afraid the cold might hurt them.  Then, he saw my new little seedlings and said he had to have some to be friends with his trees.  They would all grow faster because they would never be lonely. 

Well he has pretty good reasoning and seems to be learning loads from our gardening adventure.  Next step : Okra....when the weather decides to warm a little.  For now we are sticking with a few flowers.  I can not wait to hear what he has to say about his first bite of food that he has planted and taken care of all by himself.  It should be amusing since he is so animated. 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Potato Soup

It is still a little chilly out, so tonight we are trying a new potato soup recipe.  My husband refuses to eat anything without meat in it.  So I am cheating a little and putting some fresh cooked bacon on top with the cheese.  He really liked the soup last time I cooked it, but said it would be amazing if I put a little meat in there.  He is on his way home for dinner after a long day of driving a monster of a train, so I started peeling a few red potatoes.  He eats out so much that he really loves a home cooked meal and I love the feeling he gives me for a job well done.  It is a little something I can do to show him I care and want him to be happy and stress free when he is home in between trips.  I know I am a little  mushy tonight, but enjoy it.  It does not happen often!

 Well I started with a whole five pound bag of red potatoes to be exact. I am hoping that there will be plenty of left overs for tomorrow night since we have a very busy day with parent/teacher conferences, tax filing, doctors visit, baseball practice and a mandatory baseball meeting.  On top of that school is out.  Good thing Grandma does not have plans and my husband will be around to help me out. 

 I think the least I can do for them is make them something good to eat to repay them for helping me out on a busy day. I also like to help my mom and newly widowed grandmother out with dinner.  My mom is always on the go taking care of others (Her mom which is confined to bed, her aging dad, and her two brothers that are having a lot of health issues as well.)  She can never say no to anyone no matter how tired she is.  She is the most caring person I know and I do not know what I would do without her. I know I do not say it much since I am not too in touch with my emotions,except anger, but I really do love you Mother and would like to say thank you for all of your help and support for the past 31 years. I really love the late night phone calls while my husband is out of town.  I see it and I appreciate everything even when I am mean sometimes. Thanks for being my best friend and supporter over the years.

Ok, back to dinner. Before I started peeling my favorite red potatoes. I started a large pan of water to boil with two chicken bouillon cubes. Yes, I know I am obsessed with these square cubes of flavor.  I get all the flavor infused with the water (just enough to cover all of the chopped potatoes) then began to add my peeled potatoes.  Cook these for a while until the start to get a little tender.

Next, start adding the other flavors.  I usually start with a couple cans of cream of chicken, a small carton of heavy cream, some cubed up Velveeta. (I am trying my new favorite tonight, the white block of cheese)  I usually use almost a half of the big block of cheese, but you can add more or less if you like or hate cheese.

I love loads of onion added, especially since they are starting to pop up in the garden.  I add just a touch of garlic and black pepper.  Then pour on the salt since the potatoes seem to soak it up.  Keep stirring after adding any ingredient to keep from burning the bottom and to cream everything together.  Last I add a block of cream cheese.  Put the lid on and turn the heat down low. 

Once the cream cheese has mixed well, turn it off and plate it up with your favorite cheese on top.  I love a mix of Colby and Sharp Cheddar shredded followed by some crumbled up bacon and a few chives if you like them. I love this recipe because nothing has to be exact.  If you love cheese, use more. If not tone it down a little.  It will taste great either way.  If you love potatoes as much as I do.

  Here is your shopping list:

5 lbs back of your favorite potatoes
2 chicken cubes 
2 cans of cream of chicken
an average sized block of cream cheese
1 small carton of heavy whipping cream
1/2 of a large block of Velveeta (your choice of white, regular or spicy for a little kick)
salt to your taste
a dash of black pepper
onion to your taste
a dash of garlic (can also be left out)


6 slices of bacon
package of your favorite shredded  cheese
sour cream is great on top too

Our Backyard Pond

It is warming up and the ducks are starting the nest.  The fish are beginning to move around a little more.  Bugs are getting snapped up by the little fish hiding below.  Everything is coming to life in the back yard.  Except flowers.  The pond was stocked just a little over a year ago.  It has had it's ups and downs with water rising and falling after a very long drought this past summer.  It is holding its own now and beginning to fill again as the natural spring below it has started flowing. 

Water is looking great, fish feeding great, so now it is time to do a little landscaping.  There are already birdhouses and duck boxes all around the water.  I think that it needs a little color from a few flowers.  I have planted a few wisteria to be added down there in a few years.  My son transplanted his two little lemon trees down there. I think the first thing on my plant list will be a few lilies.

The ducks are out of food so a trip to see what is available in the local garden department is in order. Who knows what I will come up with.  Maybe while planting I will find my first duck egg.  I have been told they are the best for baking.  Can not wait to try that out.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Spring Tulips

The sun finally came out today and the wind has calmed down.  It is still a little chilly in the lower 50s, but I could not help going for a walk this afternoon and getting a little fresh air with sunshine.  I was so excited to see a few tulips blooming!  The cute little red ones are just beginning to bloom  in one of the surrounding flower beds. 

There are some that were planted in a pot that are doing really well.  They should start blooming in the next week or so.  It is always uplifting to see the first colors of spring.  Soon there will be flowers every where.  Flowers over flowing from hanging baskets, climbing arches along a path and creating colorful ground cover. 

There are a very pretty light red with a little orange accent around the edge.  I am ready to go flower shopping now that things are starting to grow with ease.  Everything is so pretty so the hard part will be not to buy the entire store.I like to stick with colors that compliment each other. I like a good variety as well.  This will ensure that something is in bloom all summer.

Off to buy a few new things in the morning.  I am thinking for starting with a cute hanging basket that will eventually overflow and cascade down throughout the summer.  Anyone have any thoughts or suggestions to help narrow my search?  I have a few in mind, but have never made a hanging basket before.  I want to put it together my self instead of buying one already planted.  Planting is the fun part of showcasing your flowers and garden!  Any input would be very welcome!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Black Ambrosia

This is my favorite daylily.  It has huge blooms and will bloom from the end of April all the way through August.  The color changes as the flower opens.  The first day the flower is open it is a very dark purple with yellow center.  Each day the flower is open, the color becomes a brighter purple and at times looks like a deep red.  The yellow center basically stays the same.  Each flower is slightly different some have more yellow than others, and some have a little white in with the yellow.

The size is amazing.  The flowers are usually bigger than most orientals.   It has thick strong petals and takes minimum care to thrive.  They multiply over the years so they may need to be thinned if the area over run with roots.  I have not had many problems with pest attacking the blooms. 

I can not wait to see these guys again.  The pictures taken here are of a flower from last spring that had been open for a few days, so the color had brightened.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Veggie Soup with a Twist

I came up with this recipe one night by combining a soup my grandmother made and a soup my mom made.  I did not know if it would work, but was determined to give a try.  I started it, then had to switch pans because he made so much.  That was a good thing since I needed to feed four families due to illness.  Plus it freezes well for nights you do not have time or feel like cooking.  All of the families loved it. So here is the recipe I use:

1 cup or can of lima beans
1cup or can of pinto beans
1 cup or can off green beans
1 cup or can of whole kernel corn
3lbs of potatoes
2 to three cups of tomato sauce
2 to 3 chicken bouillon cubes
1 gallon of water
1 whole diced onion to taste
1 tablespoon of salt
1 teaspoon of garlic
1 tablespoon of black pepper
1 regular sized package of elbow macaroni
2lbs of ground beef

I start out by browning my ground beef (have used ground turkey and ground venison as well).  While the meat is browning, I add water to a large (as in industrial size pot you would see a cafeteria worker from school using), then toss in the chicken cubes. Since fresh red potatoes take the longest to get tender, I begin peeling and adding them first.  This is assuming all of the beans are pre-cooked.  If not cook them well before putting the soup together.  While they are cooking I finish the meat and drain the fat off.  Place it aside to add later.

Once the potatoes are beginning to soften I start added the rest. I add the tomato sauce, beans, seasonings and brown meat.  This will look supper juicy, but the juice will be soaked up by the noodles later.  Add the lid and let boil for around 45 minutes to an hour to get all the flavors out.  Finally remove the lid and add the box of noodles.  This is the hardest part.  You will need to stir constantly for 5 to ten minutes so that the noodles will not sit on the bottom and burn.  Once they start to puff to nearly done, turn the burner off, replace the lid and let sit for 30 minutes to cool and finish the noodles. 

Fresh tomatoes can be added, a little hot pepper for a kick, or some celery.  This is very easy to make and to customize to your own families taste. You can also use chicken broth as a base for the soup with great results.  My mother is a vegetarian, so usually I will pull some of the soup out for her before the beef and noodles are added.  If you like a thicker soup, then use a little less water. 

Once it has cooled enough, enjoy your soup!  It will keep in the refrigerator for a while if you like left overs.  I use quart size freezer bags to store mine in the freezer for a quick dinner on busy nights.  It is a great size to thaw out once it has been frozen.  It thaws faster at this size, plus you can grab as many bags as you need depending on how many are over for dinner. I plan on making some this week for dinner. I will update with a picture then.

Wisteria Seeds

 Wisteria after a trimming

 Seeds harvested from wisteria

Seeds planted

Last year I decided I wanted to save some of the wisteria seeds for future planting down by our creek and pond.  My mom harvested a lot of the seeds from her mature wisteria.  We dried the seeds out through the winter.  She had grown her huge wisteria from a cutting she had years ago.  She also gave a cutting to my grandmother a few years after she had planted her wisteria.  Both plants are now very large and have huge trunks.

Since I had seen the plant grow with ease from a cutting, I thought I would see what I could do with the seeds.  I started by soaking the seeds in warm water for around 24 hours to speed up the germination process.  I found a smaller pot to start them in, planning to transfer each on into it's own pot as they grow a few inches.  

After soaking them, I added some potting mix to the small pot.  I placed five seeds in one pot.  I have read about giving each seed it's own pot, (they are large seeds) but I do not think it is necessary until growth begins.  I added a thin layer over the seeds.  Just enough to lightly cover them.  

Last I placed a layer of plastic wrap over the top to keep the humidity higher for the seeds.  Now it is just a waiting game to see if they sprout.  I check daily to see if anything has made it's way through the soil since the plastic will need to be removed as soon as this happens.  

I can not wait for them to start growing.  They can be trained as trees or make amazing arches and are great climbing the side of your house.  I will update later on the time it takes them to sprout out.  It may take longer than usual since he have had a cold past few days, but I have kept them inside where it is warmer.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Snowfire Rose

Usually the first thing I plant when the weather starts warming up is a new rose.  We have just moved into a new place, so I could not wait to get my hands on a rose to plant.  I shopped around a few stores for a week or so then finally found one that I have not grown before and loved it.  It looked great with new foliage sprouting out in a few places.  I decided on putting it into a pot since the weather is predicted to fall back down in the 30's this week. 

I found a nice medium size ombre red pot, grabbed some soil and the plant I wanted.  I headed to the check out line which is the worst part of any shopping experience.  The total for my purchase was not bad considering I have ordered specific plants in the past for ten times as much.  The top soil I came home with was $4.48, the rose was $4.98, and the pot was $12.98.  I do not normally use pots for my roses, but knew I would be bringing this one in for a few more weeks to see it off to the best start it could get. 

I threw in a shallow layer of river rocks into the bottom, added a little soil, then went to grab the rose.  It was packaged with a long root system surrounded by small mulch to keep it moist.  I slowly and carefully took all the mulch off that surrounded the root system.  I placed this aside for later use.  I centered the rose in the pot being sure to cover the entire root.  I filled the rest of the pot with soil, loosely packing to hold the plant where I wanted it to stay. Finally I topped it off with the mulch that had been found in the rose packaging.

The new foliage has grown two inches while it has been waiting for warmer weather from inside the house.  I plan on adding a few moss seeds to the pot cover the soil and hopefully cascade over the edges of the pot.  Soon I will have fresh flowers on the dining room table during dinner!  I will post a few more pictures this weekend to show the new growth.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Easy Chicken Enchilada

I put together an amazing recipe last night according to the rest of my family.  I love chicken enchiladas but usually can not make them taste just right.  I have no idea where this came from, but while buying groceries I found a few things I wanted to try.

I started with the usual, corn tortilla shells, red mild enchilada sauce, and chicken breast.The store I was at did not have the white cheese that I normally use, so I found some white Velveeta. Finished my shopping, then headed home.

That night I started by dicing up the chicken.  I placed it in a pan with pollo seasoning, a little onion and cilantro.  Slowly cooked the chicken until nice and tender.  Then I decided to add the can of enchilada sauce.  It smelled amazing before, but I sorta do not like plain enchilada sauce.  To weaken that taste a little I added 1/4 of the large stick of white Velveeta,  a little more onion and pollo seasoning.  Stirred it around a little until the cheese melted, then grabbed my shells to start wrapping.

Turned the oven on to 350 degrees, wrapped up the juicy chicken with the tortillas, added a few more slices of white Velveeta and placed it in the oven for 30 minutes.  It made my house smell so good.  They did not survive the night in our house.  No left overs, but the amazing smell is still around. 

These were super easy to make and the best homemade enchiladas I have ever had.  If you are in a hurry with hungry kids waiting, you can shorten the prep time by layering the chicken, sauce and tortillas.  It makes a great basic casserole you can add you favorites to and build your own unique taste!  This is also a great way to use your home grown peppers this season to add a little more kick to the seasoning.

Lemon Tree From Seeds

Last summer my little boy decided he wanted to plant the seeds he found in his store bought lemon.  He placed a few into a pot with fertile top soil and left them outside for the the rest of the summer and winter.  The twigs sticking out of the ground in the photo above is what he had this year.  He did not think they were alive until the pot was going to be used for something else.  That is when he saw that they had huge roots and tiny green leaves beginning to come out.  He did nothing special to the little seeds other than let them dry for a few days, then plant them.

Hopefully this afternoon the sun will make an appearance so I can take a few photos of the little green that is showing on them. They are about a foot tall, so I told him to go find a place that he would like to plant them.  He took the two biggest and went straight to the bank of the pond.  He dug the hole himself, covered them up, then added some water to them.

 The picture above is not the best since it has been cloudy the past few days.  You can barely see the little trees sticking up.  He checks on them every day to see if they need more water or dirt "because he has plans for those lemons".  He is taking great care of them for a little guy with a small attention span. He planted them and forgot them during the winter, but once he saw they were still alive, his interest came back in full force.  I am very proud of him for wanting to do things like this.  He understands that some things take time, some things need a little attention, and some things reward you for what you give them.  He told me that today we are planting okra and tomatoes since those are his favorite.  A seven year old that loves pickled okra? I may have created a slightly odd child, but he loves his veggies! He will turn down pizza for a tomato with salt on it any day. How many moms can say that?

Are there any other kids with strange cravings?  This is the first I have known of pickled okra in a child.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Serrano Pepper Planting

We are kicking off spring with some hot pepper seeds.  We planted fifteen Serrano pepper seeds this afternoon.  They should produce more than enough for our family to use throughout the year since these little guys are so hot.  I love them for seasoning everything from chili to bread.  They are amazing when finely diced and added to a simple bread recipe.  We will keep them inside for at least another week since the temp is going to be a little low this week.  Hopefully, they will like their new window box for now. 

In the morning, I have plans to transfer a few lemon trees. My son had planted them last summer from a lemon he ate.  They have grown very well and are in need of a bigger home.  The first signs of foliage are on their way out to see the spring!

My favorite is yeast bread with pepper and cheese:

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 envelope rapid rise yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons butter 
3 to 4 Serrano peppers
3/4 cup of Sharp cheddar cheese 
Warm milk and water to 120 to 130 degrees. Mix all dry ingredient together before adding the milk and water.  Last, add the cheese and peppers.  Keep adding flour until a nice firm dough is made.  Knead lightly, cover, and let rise for 10 minutes.  After ten minutes, divide into the size of roll you would like.  Place on the pan of your choosing, cover and let rise until they have doubled in size. (around 30 minutes).  Coat the top of the rolls with some melted butter, then pop them in the oven until golden brown.