Anitra's life

Garden!

07/23/2015 11:08 AM

Square foot gardening is going quite well this year... all except for the tomato plants I tried to start inside (got eaten - but other plants I started inside - lettuce - transplanted quite well!), and my poor basil plant. By the time it really put down roots outside, it is shaded on all four sides by taller plants.



garden.jpg

This year's garden:


  • 3 squares of lettuce, split about 50/50 between "red romaine" bought as plants, and a curly green type that I started from seed - 3 squares seems to be a tiny bit too much to keep up with, but 2 isn't quite enough.

  • 2 squares of carrots (always get a half-long variety, always start from seed.)

  • 1 "yellow grape" tomato plant

  • 1 "black cherry" tomato plant

  • 1 square of marigolds

  • 1 broccoli plant (grew large, but had very little of a head before it all burst into flower. Good news, the flowers are edible too)

  • Chives - they over-wintered themselves from last year! I didn't have to do anything!

  • Basil that's barely growing :(

  • Dill - which is growing like a weed (it is technically a weed, I guess)

  • Watermelon... currently shaded by the broccoli and growing very slowly. Not sure how this wil turn out.

  • Assorted randomly planted tomato plants that are popping up in other places... these must have come from last year's plant(s) dropped fruit.

  • Radishes (in the spring), planted next to the chives and harvested a few weeks later. Meant to plant more but never got around to it.

  • Mint- because no matter how hard I try to pull it all up, it keeps coming back! I am trying to transplant some to a pot so I can have some without it overtaking the garden.

We used some of the dill to make refrigerator pickles, which turned out great!

Things to do differently next year:

  1. Plant cucumbers AND dill so we can make our own pickles all summer long.

  2. Get a real trellis (whether on this garden or on a different plot) to dedicate to cucumbers and tomatoes.

  3. Keep doing 2-3 squares of carrots! They take months to grow, but it's so worth it.

  4. Don't do broccoli again. It takes up too much space and takes too long to mature, and then it's a low yield (because by the time it matures, the weather is no longer cool and so a good head doesn't form)

  5. Decide if I really want a fence, or not. I didn't have enough flexible netting this year to go all the way around. The plants really only need extra protection for the first month or so; maybe covering with a chicken wire cage would be better?

Each year is getting better with gardening. Andrew keeps mentioning the idea of doing a second box somewhere else, and I think I might actually take him up on the idea. The kids love helping, too... and eating the fruits of our labor, of course!

Buttermilk (sour milk) brownies

07/02/2015 10:23 AM

Best use of sour milk EVER. This makes a cake-like brownie. In fact, I have put whipped cream frosting on it and served it as chocolate cake for my children's birthdays.

Wet ingredients:


  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick)

  • 1 cup water

  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder

  • 1/2 cup oil (coconut oil or another neutral oil is best)

Dry/Dough ingredients:

  • 2 cups sugar

  • 2 cups flour

  • 1/2 tsp. salt

  • 1 tsp. baking soda

  • 1 T. vanilla

  • 1 cup sour milk

  • 2 eggs

Preheat oven to 400° F

  1. Mix wet ingredients in a small saucepan on the stove & bring to a boil. (Watch it carefully!) Remove from heat when fully mixed and no clumps of cocoa powder remain.

  2. Mix together the dough ingredients (I use a mixer for this)

  3. Pour the (hot!) wet ingredients over the dough. Beat until thoroughly combined.

  4. Pour the resulting batter (very thin consistency) into a 13x9 pan.

  5. Bake at 400° for 15-20 minutes, until a toothpick insterted in the center comes out clean.

  6. Allow to cool before cutting.

Mrs. Cooley's coffee cake

07/02/2015 10:15 AM

For posterity. No idea where she got the recipe.


  • 1 cup flour

  • 2 tsp. baking powder

  • 1 tsp. cinnamon

  • 4 T. melted butter (or coconut oil)

  • 1/2 cup sugar

  • 1 tsp. vanilla

  • 1/2 cup sour milk

  • 1 egg

Mix together dry ingredients. Stir together wet ingredients and add to dry. Mix well. Pour into a greased pie pan or round cake pan. Sprinkle with additional sugar & cinnamon. Bake at 350° for 25 minutes.

White Chili

07/02/2015 07:47 AM

This is a kid-friendly recipe adapted from the November 2011 Parents magazine. Recently discovered I could start it with uncooked chicken if I cook it in the crockpot long enough! Serve it with cheese and rice, or chips and sour cream, chives, avacado, whatever you like.


  • 1 lb. boneless chicken (can use as little as 1/2 lb. without changing much)

  • 1 onion, chopped

  • 1 T. minced fresh garlic (about 6 cloves if you're using truly fresh, but I use the kind in a squeeze bottle)

  • 1 T. chili powder (more if you're not giving this to kids)

  • 1 tsp. ground cumin

  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano

  • 1/4 - 1/2 tsp. black pepper

  • 2 carrots, shredded

  • 3 15oz. cans of light colored beans - pinto, cannelini, small white all work well here. I usually use 2 different kinds for some additional color/texture

For the crockpot:
Put the chicken and onion in the bottom of the crock, then cover in spices and carrot. Lastly, drain & rinse the beans (you don't have to do this particularly well, but it helps reduce any off taste from the bean liquid) and add them on top.

Cook on low at least 6 hours, or on high at least 3, before testing the chicken to see if it's done. Remove the chicken to a bowl and shred it with two forks, then return it to the crockpot and stir.

For the stovetop:
Use pre-cooked chicken, whatever you have leftover from another meal. Dump everything in the pot together, and don't worry about rinsing the beans at all (you'll need a little more liquid since the chicken is already cooked). Stir well and cook on medium for 15-20 minutes, adding a little water or chicken broth if it gets too dry.

Note:
This recipe is incredibly versatile. I've left out the carrots, added frozen corn or finely diced squash, sometimes a few tablespoons of leftover pumpkin puree. It's always good, and the leftovers are fantastic too.

This black bean soup is awesome

04/18/2015 04:23 AM

Even the picky 4-year-old liked it (well, he said he liked it. Which counts for a lot, even if he only ate a little.)

Super frugal, it uses dried black beans, which necessitates a long cooking time - but it's in the crockpot. So as long as I can get it started before noon, we're golden.

http://www.budgetbytes.com/2014/07/slow-cooker-black-bean-soup/

We served it with sour cream, cheese, green onions, and tortilla chips.

Slow cooker Orange Chicken

03/13/2015 11:19 AM

Heavily adapted from http://crockpot365.blogspot.com/2009/09/slow-cooker-orange-chicken-recipe.html

Ingredients:
1 1/2 pounds boneless chicken, cut in 2-inch chunks (I used two very large boneless breasts, may have been closer to 2 pounds)
1/2 cup flour (only 1/3 cup for tracking purposes; the rest is thrown away.)
1/2 an onion, sliced thinly
olive oil, for browning the chicken (1 1/2 tablespoons-ish)
1 scant teaspoon salt
8 oz orange juice (or you could use 6oz OJ concentrate)
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon ketchup
orange zest (optional)
ground ginger (optional)

Use a 4 quart slow cooker for best results.

If using fresh OJ, pour into a pot with the sugar. On medium-high heat, reduce it until syrupy.

Dredge the chicken pieces with the flour, and shake off the excess. Go ahead and throw away any remaining flour, we won't need it. Heat olive oil in a large skillet on the stove and brown the chicken on all sides. There is no need to fully cook it, just sear it enough for the flour to stick and get a nice coating.


Put the chicken pieces and onion into the slow cooker.
Combine the orange juice concentrate, sugar, balsamic vinegar, salt, and ketchup. Add orange zest and a hefty sprinkle of ginger, if desired. (Remember to taste test!) Pour sauce mixture evenly over the chicken, and toss gingerly to coat.


Cover and cook on low for 6 hours, or on high for 3 to 4. Serve with rice and a vegetable.