Saturday, May 30, 2009

Last game of the season

Saturday was our last game of the season. It's kind of bittersweet actually. We had a wonderful group of kids, and they'll be missed, but I won't be missing all those practices and late night games!

Friday, May 29, 2009

I'm not above a little sucking up!

Jenny at The Nourished Kitchen is giving away a fancy shmancy kimchi maker and I WANT IT! This post is for you, Jenny! Look at all this wonderful produce that has come straight out of our garden. And what's that I see behind all of it? Cucumbers fermenting in plain old mason sad. Wouldn't you love to see that wall of cukes being fermented in one of your jars? I know I would! So please pick me to win your wonderful giveaway!
And if not for me, for this precious little person:

Would you deprive this gorgeous kid the health of fermented foods?
(Yeah, I'm not above using my kids to get what I want!)
Pick me, pick me!

Entertaining kids on the cheap

Six dozen cake mix cookies = $1.64

Two gallons of lemonade = $1.50

Spending the day at the pool with your baseball buddies
(all ten of them!)



Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Pickles, pickles, and more pickles

Our good old fashioned pickles are finally done fermenting and I packed them up today. We got six pints from that first batch! I quickly washed out my gallon container and put on a second batch to ferment. With all the rain we've had lately, the cucumber vines are producing loads of fruit and I'm going to have to start pawning them off on the neighbors!

I found a great recipe for bread-n-butter pickles today from
Stephanie at Keeper of the Home.
They were super simple to make and contain Bragg's Apple Cider vinegar and raw honey (stuff Doug drinks everyday!) They'll ferment on the counter for two days then off to the fridge.

I plan on serving these with lunches and snacks. They'll be a wonderful probiotic boost and immune system inhancer. I can't get JP and Danny to eat them yet, but they are willing to drink a bit of the pickle juice. Even just a teaspoon of the juice contains enough enzymes to help coat their gut with probiotics....a little bit goes a long way!
So if you come for a visit this summer, expect to take home a pint (or three) of pickles. And if you don't take them home'll probably be seeing them at Christmas time!

Just ewwwww!

Kyle shot a snake that was hanging out around my compost bin.
I knew that boy was good for something!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

All hail the Grill Master...

...and the Grill Master in training:
Doug and Kyle whipped up a Memorial Day feast
(and me thinks they should do the cooking more often!)

Monday, May 25, 2009

Drying food

I spent the weekend drying vegetables from the garden. They are my first addition to the pantry stock for winter use. Thanks to Doug's mom and the dehydrator she gave us, I was able to dry four pints of zucchini and squash, and one pint of peppers.
Don't they look so pretty in the jars? That's THREE zucchini in there!
There are lots of different ways to dry your vegetables and fruits. Some suggest blanching, adding citric acid, drying in the sun as opposed to dehydrators or ovens, etc... Some of the best information I have found has come from my new bible,
The Encyclopedia of Country Living.
It contains lots of good practical advice and information as well as recipes and anecdotal stories (not to mention that it's a steal on for 20 bucks!)
The vegetable chips turned out really well and I can see us eating them as snacks, but their intended use will be for soups and stews during winter time.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Reuseable sandwich wrappers

A few weeks ago, I saw this product online and figured I could make a pretty good knock-off I did!
I found some patriotic fabric in honor of this Memorial Day weekend and made up six wrappers for under three bucks.
I cut 12"X12" squares of fabric, placed right sides together and sewed. Make sure you leave a small gap to turn your project right side out! Press seams and run a stitch all the way around for stability (and to close up that hole you just turned the fabric through!)
I used fusible hook and loop tape for my closures.
They turned out really cute and now I won't have to worry about having enough plastic sandwich bags on hand or the expense!
I also like that it makes a clean eating surface for the kids.
I bought some extra fabric for a drawstring bag
(you can check out that tutorial HERE).
Toss in our sandwiches, a little fruit, and some juice boxes and we're off to the beach or pool....

...or an impromptu lunch on the back porch:
John Paul says they make pretty good napkins, too.

Thank goodness it can all be thrown in the wash and be fresh for next time!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Morning ritual

Every morning, without fail, Danny and I trek outside in our pajamas to see what the garden will give us for the day.
He knows right where to go and just where to look for hidden treasures under those big leaves. Not to mention that he's just the right size to hunker down and really check the plants (and save his mama's back!)
He's very gentle and knows just the right way to snap a vegetable off the vine.
He shows me every one and usually has a comment about the shape or size.
This one still has his "hat" on...
And this one makes a "good ring."
"Mama, why did he grow like that?"
The garden feeds more than our bodies.
It feeds our minds and our souls.
Morning time in the garden is our time together.
While I'm preparing breakfast for the rest of the crew,
Danny washes up our harvest.
I often wonder about what kind of memories of their childhood my children will have.
Memories of mornings in the garden with mama is one that I hope Danny will treasure as much as I do.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Medicinal herbs

Doug built me two nice garden boxes for my medicinal herbs. I used one for herbs and the second one is a lettuce bed. Last winter I really loved being able to walk out to the garden and pick a fresh salad. How can you have fresh summer tomatoes and cucumbers with store bought lettuce...blasphemy!!! I hope that the lettuce tolerates our hot Texas summers (otherwise known as 'the surface of the sun') The garden box is in the shadiest and coolest spot of the yard.

The medicinal herbs transplanted very well and seem to like their new home. I direct sewed some scullcap and burdock, I'm interested to see if they sprout. JP was playing with some rocks and I thought they would be great (cheap) garden markers for our plants. We just used a Sharpie to print the plant names and I think they turned out really cute!

Speaking of medicinal herbs, the elderberry tincture was done just in time! JP has either come down with allergies or a summer cold. I mixed up two teaspoons of tincture into some grape flavored kombucha...then Mount Vesuvius proceeded to erupt:

But JP really liked it!

I bottled up the rest of the tincture in some glass bottles I had been saving. I love the maple syrup bottle, it actually looks like an old time medicine bottle!
These will store in a cool dark place for a year or more.
When anyone starts to feel a cold coming on, they'll get 3 tsp. of tincture 3 times a day until the cold subsides. It really doesn't taste bad. It's thick and syrupy and tastes like berries. I didn't add any sweetener to this batch and you can definitely taste the alcohol! When mixed with any other liquid (tea, juice, kombucha) the strong flavor of the berries comes through nicely.
I'll be making at least two more batches so if anyone nearby wants some,
make sure you leave a comment or email me!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Old fashioned pickles

I gathered a heap of cukes from the garden the last two days and decided to pickle them the good old fashioned way...lactofermentation!
These aren't the super vinegary dills that you're used to tasting,
these are the old time sour, salty, crunchy dills you get in wooden barrels from the country store!
I remember as a child when my daddy and I would go to Garrison, Texas (it's a little town in east Texas where he grew up.) We'd stroll into one of the country stores for a coke (in a real glass bottle) and a pickle. He'd remove that wooden barrel lid and I'd reach deep down into that salty brine for a cool, fat, juicy pickle....Ohhh, they were so good!
That is the taste I'm trying to recreate for my kiddos!
Here's the recipe I followed for making one gallon of pickle slices...
...yes, I said a gallon.

4 pounds of unwaxed cucumbers either sliced or cut into spears.
6 tablespoons of sea salt
3 tablespoons dried dill~you can also use fresh, but increase to 5-6 tbs.
6 garlic cloves, smashed
half a palm full of peppercorns
1/2 gallon of distilled water, room temp.

Optional: one handful fresh grape, cherry, oak, and/or horseradish leaves. They say it preserves the crispness of the pickle...but I don't think it's necessary.

Then I got a little crazy and added some sliced banana peppers and onions from the garden. You can really add anything that suits your taste.

Pour water into a gallon glass jar or food grade plastic bucket. You can get some wonderful buckets for lactofermentation for FREE, just ask your local bakery for their used icing buckets. Dissolve the salt in the water. This is the brine that is so important for lactofermentation to take place! Add the dill, garlic and peppercorns and give it a stir. Clean and chop your vegetables and add them to the brine. Give everything a good mix then weight down the cukes with a plate or jar so that they are submerged under the brine.

Cover the container with a towel and store in a cool, dry place. Check the container every day. Skim any mold or foam from the surface (don't worry, it doesn't mean the pickles have gone bad!) Taste the pickles after a week and continue tasting for up to four weeks. It all depends on the temperature at which they are stored as to how fast the lactofermentation occurs. When the pickles are to your liking, pack into cooled sterilized jars and store in the fridge for up to a year.