Thursday, September 5, 2019

From Garden to Kitchen ~ Cowboy Candy

Any home gardener in Texas, at this time of year, 
usually only has one thing growing in the garden 
(and has it growing out of their ears!
and that is PEPPERS.

So what do you do with all those peppers?  
You make Cowboy Candy!
If you're familiar with pickling and preserving foods, 
then this is an easy and delicious recipe for your excessive pepper harvest.  And if you've never pickled a pepper in your life, trust me, you can do THIS!


2 cups of sugar
2/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tsp granulated garlic
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
1/4 tsp celery seed
1 lb jalapenos sliced into rings (about 4-5 cups)

This is a small batch recipe and can be adjusted for the amount of peppers you have.  This recipe makes four half pint jars.

To a heavy pot, add all the ingredients except the peppers.  Bring mixture to a boil then reduce to a simmer and allow to cook for five minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add sliced jalapenos, stirring well to coat the peppers.  Bring mixture to a boil again and then reduce heat.  Let peppers cook for five minutes, stirring occasionally.

Have your clean jars ready and using a slotted spoon, fill jars with the peppers making sure to shake off any excess juice into the pot.  Once all the peppers are removed, turn up the heart and allow remaining sauce to hard boil for five additional minutes. Pour syrup evenly over your jars to fill to 1/4 inch from the top.

Wipe down rims of jars with a damp cloth and place lids and rings onto the jars.  Process in a water bath for 10 minutes.
You'll need to wait two weeks to enjoy these.  It takes that long for the peppers to absorb the syrup.

It's ok, it will be worth the wait!

These spicy and sweet peppers are perfect on burgers, sandwiches, salads, or pizza. Our favorite way to enjoy them is to pour a jar of peppers over a block of cream cheese and eat with a variety of crackers.

One bite and you'll be hooked!
They should have called them Cowboy Crack instead of Candy.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Saving Seeds and Sowing Seeds

The summer garden is done, with the exceptions of peppers, and it's time to start thinking about fall and winter gardening.  That's kinda hard to do with the temperatures still in the 90's!

As the old beds get cleared out, it is prime time to save seeds.

I intentionally leave some of the vegetables growing during summer to harvest as seeds later.  It's so simple to do, just ignore them!  Mother Nature allows the vegetables and fruits to ripen, mature the seeds stored inside, then dry up or decompose.  You gather as many seeds as you like!  Above are my beloved Emerald Okra.  With just TWO PODS, I got more seeds than a whole pack from the store and they were FREE!

My most beautiful zinnas for seed.

I read an article once that said if you can repeatedly save seed from your plants and sow them for three years, you'll be virtually pest and disease free.  Plants have the capability to learn.  They can fight predators and some diseases, and by sowing seeds year after year,  you can continue to breed those good traits for your area.  I'm currently seeing if that theory is true by saving as much seed as possible for future gardens.

And what I can't save, I buy!
I get absolutely giddy flipping through seed catalogs and planning for future gardens.  These are just some of the fantastic seeds from Baker Creek seed company that will be in our fall/winter gardens.

There is just something about September!
A new school year, changing colors, falling leaves, a crispness in the air, and the anticipation of the holidays.
I'm ready to settle down and NEST.
But first, I'm saving and storing away what's left of summer.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Tea Time!

I really love a cup of hot tea with honey and lemon!
This summer I set about making my own tea blend with herbs already growing in my garden.  You can make a tea from almost any herb you can grow, and I think I've found a winning combination.

Lemon balm, bee balm, lemon basil, holy basil, and blue hyssop leaves were dried in the dehydrator.  Then I added dried lemon, orange, and ginger to the mix.

Bagged them up in cotton tea bags, 
and they're all set to enjoy this winter!

That is, if winter ever comes!
Today's heat index in south Texas was 109...
I guess I could always enjoy this tea over ice!
LOTS of ice!

Friday, August 2, 2019

Happy Birthday, Kyle!

Our sweet Kyle turned 22 this past week.  He had spent the day in Houston with friends and came home pretty late.  I had made his favorite peach cobbler for his "birthday cake."  So we waited up for him, sang him Happy Birthday, and before we even finished the first verse, the following series of events happened...

It was a SMASHING good time!

That boy loves peach cobbler so much that he stayed up and made another one.  And you better believe we stayed up until 11:30 to eat it right out of the oven!

Saturday, July 27, 2019

A Garden Experiment

By mid July here in south Texas, the garden tomatoes are spent.  The plants have given up all the fruit they are going to and start to die back.  Usually I just cut them back to about a foot from the ground and they will come back with a (very mediocre) fall harvest.  But this year I think I'll try something different.

On my days off from work, I usually sit in the recliner with a homemade vanilla latte and watch garden vloggers on YouTube.  Yeah, I know I'm a nerd in need of some serious help, but I REALLY look forward to those mornings!  Anyway, one of the home gardeners was saying that he clips off some of the new growth, puts them into water to root, and then plants them once the roots are a couple of inches long. 
So that's going to be my garden experiment for this year, to see if I can get a better fall harvest this way.  I'll keep you updated!
These clones are from my favorite two tomatoes of the season:  Dr.Wyche and Hungarian Heart

And if you're looking for some awesome information about home gardening, check out some of my favorite YouTube gardening channels:

I think that's enough to get you inspired to grow something of your own!  And if you already grow things, it's a wealth of information and a wonderful "community" to become part of!

Tuesday, July 23, 2019


When I had my surgery, my low carb way of eating went out the window.  I ate what I wanted. And because of that, I ended up feeling like crap and gaining weight.  Since returning to work, I finally feel like I want to take control of my life back.  That means drastically cleaning up my diet again.  It's so much more than just cutting carbs and sugar, it's about eating more nutrient dense foods for health.  One of the most nutritious foods you can eat is bone broth.

Here's how I make it.

Place 12-15 organic chicken legs in a crock pot and any combination of onions, peppers, celery, or carrots over them.  Add chopped garlic and seasonings like black pepper, poultry seasoning blend, rosemary, or thyme.  Cover with water and cook on low for 8-12 hours.

Strain the liquid into a large bowl and de-bone the chicken.  Place all the bones, skin, and cartilage back into the crock pot.  Cover bones with water and add 1/4 cup organic apple cider vinegar.  Cook on low 12-24 hours.  The longer you cook, the more the vinegar has time to leach the nutrients from the bones. 

Combine the broth from both batches, salt well with pink or grey salt, and store in quart or gallon sized jars.  This recipe gives us just shy of one gallon of broth. If that's too much for you, the broth can be frozen or used in your favorite recipes. 
 Sip a cup or two daily for a boost of collagen, micro-nutrients, and pure comfort!

Some of the many benefits of bone broth:

Helps to fight inflammation.
Aids the body in wound healing.
Strengthens bones and teeth.
Heals the lining of the gut.
Supports healthy skin, hair, and nails.
It contains over 19 easy to absorb essential amino acids.
It is the BEST source of collagen and benefits every part of your body from your brain to your gut, muscles and ligaments.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

The Lazy Days of Summer...

Color Street nails with my sweet girl.

Grillin' and chillin'

Sunsets on the back porch.

Binge watching Netflix.

And the bounties of the garden!

What are some of the things making you happy this time of year?

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Garden to Kitchen ~ Bread and Butter Pickles

I used to be a pickle snob.  I'd only eat dill pickles...Kosher dill pickles.  Anything else was trash in my opinion.  Until one day when I had some bread and butter pickles on a hamburger and my life was changed! Ever since then, I've made these sweet little gems with my home grown summer cucumbers.

Bread and Butter Pickles

4-5 cups of thinly sliced PICKLING cucumbers
1/2 of a yellow onion thinly sliced
1 cup of white vinegar
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup of sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons of mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon celery seeds
1/8 teaspoon turmeric
1 clove of smashed garlic
1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes (optional if you like them spicy)

Add cucumbers and onion to a quart sized canning jar.  In a saucepan over medium heat, add the rest of the ingredients and stir until sugar is dissolved and mixture is almost to a boil.  
Pour mixture over cucumbers, seal, and place in the refrigerator for 24 hours.  You'll want to eat these on everything!

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Garden to Kitchen ~ Marinated Cherry Tomatoes

The garden is in full swing now and daily I'm harvesting a few thousand, er I mean dozens, of beautiful little cherry tomatoes.  And if you have an over abundance like me, here is a quick and easy recipe to use them up.  These are so delicious in salads, tossed with pasta, or as a topping for grilled chicken.

Marinated Cherry Tomatoes

4-5 cups cherry tomatoes, halved 
1/2 cup olive oil 
1/4 cup red or white wine vinegar 
2-3 cloves garlic, minced 
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning 
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley 
Salt and pepper, to taste 

Black Cherry and Reisentraube tomatoes

In a large bowl, whisk together olive oil, vinegar, garlic, Italian seasoning and parsley. Gently stir in cherry tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Transfer to a covered container and marinate for at least 2 hours. Refrigerate if marinating longer than two hours. Bring to room temperature before serving (as olive oil solidifies when refrigerated).

And when you've eaten your fill of these, share a jar with your neighbors or coworkers, they'll love you for it!

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Artist in Residence

It's no secret in our household that our John Paul is a talented artist, so it's really nice when other folks recognize his talent, too!
This weekend John Paul competed in the El Campo Art Association art show and I'd say he did pretty well!

Second place ~ Best In Show for his watercolor painting, "Corgi."

First place in his division for, "Papillion."

                  Second place in his division for, "Good Boy."

And the award for Most Blessed Parents in the World 
goes to Doug and I!  
Because art is not just a hobby for John's how he lives. 

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Why Does The Universe Hate Me?

Murphy's Law should be renamed JoAnn's Law because if something can go wrong in my life, it will go wrong.  
Why should my recent surgery be any different?
Since I started walking on my own two months ago, I have been walking on the outside of my foot.  Even with physical therapy, I have great difficulty taking a step with my right foot flat on the ground.  My PT and I just thought it was a matter of re-training my muscles and my brain to walk normally.  

I have recently found out that that is not the case.

A few days ago I went to my surgeon to get clearance to go back to work.  I told him that I just couldn't walk flat footed and that my foot always rolled to the outside.  I walk on the outside of my foot so much that my first two toes don't even touch the ground!  
It was after I got a CT scan that I learned that my surgeon over corrected my arch.

You read that right...he OVER corrected my foot.  

Surgery is the only possible cure.  
And when you have no medical leave left and haven't gotten a pay check in four months, you kinda have to go back to work.

I am sickened and devastated.
I feel like the last four months of pain and suffering 
were a waste of time.
I am in more pain than before my surgery.
And I won't be able to do anything about it until after the new year.

For now my job is letting me be on light duty, but that won't last forever.  I may have to find a new job...a desk job, because walking is more painful to me than eating glass!  
I really am lost, anxious, and scared to death that I will never be able to walk again normally and without pain.  Also that I will not be able to support my family.  I try to put on a happy face and tell everyone that "I'm fine."  It's just easier than explaining this all over and over again.

So if you see out and about, please don't ask how I'm doing.
I'm tired of lying.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Garden to Kitchen

We've had tons of rain here in south Texas and the garden is exploding!  And while we don't have full on harvests yet, we are still able to gather small baskets from the garden on the daily right now.  Always just before the cukes ripen, there is a huge dill harvest.  I dry most of it to use all year long but I really love using fresh dill in recipes and I thought I'd share my favorite dill dip with you.

A basket FULL of dill and cilantro for the dehydrator.  We'll use these herbs all year long!

Fresh Dill Dip

1 Cup of sour cream 
1 Cup of mayonnaise 
1 Teaspoon onion powder 
1 Tablespoon garlic powder 
 4 Tablespoons (or more!)of fresh dill
1 Tablespoon of fresh parsley 
Salt to taste

Just put all the ingredients into a food processor and pulse a few times until combined.  Refrigerate at least one hour before serving.

I also use that fresh dill in a marinated cucumber salad that I eat during this growing season.  Just make your brine once and keep adding garden vegetables all summer long.

Marinated Cucumber Salad

1 Cup of white vinegar
1 Cup of water
1 Tablespoon of minced garlic
2 Tablespoons of sea salt
1 Tablespoons of chopped fresh dill
1 Tablespoon of mustard seed
1 Teaspoon of celery seed
1 Tablespoon fresh dill

This is a basic brine, feel free to adjust to your taste!

Mix brine into a large glass jar and then add whatever you have from the garden.  I love the combination of cucumber (use the pickling kind or otherwise they'll get soggy), bell peppers, and red onion.  When my tomatoes are ripe, sometimes I'll add them (once seeded and extra juices squeezed out), or even thinly sliced zucchini or squash.

This little salad is great on sandwiches, salads, burgers, or eating straight out of the jar...which I may or may not have done!

Monday, May 6, 2019

The Home Stretch - 12 Weeks and Beyond

I made it!
I made it to my 3 month post op visit and got the OK to start walking without any aides as well as being able to drive when I am comfortable.  Even though I was cleared to walk on my own, I'm not there quite yet!  Still using my cane/crutch to get around because my ankle still feels a bit unstable 
and any uneven ground is hard to navigate. 

 But we are working hard on those issues in Physical Therapy.

So I'm starting to sell off all my mobility aides.  
I sold my knee scooter this weekend. 
 I had mixed feelings about that because 
I depended on it for so long.  
But in the end, it was good to let it go.

Let it go and move on, that's my new motto!

My plan is to return to work June 1st, less than a month away!

I'm scared, ya'll!

But I'm in the home stretch.
They say that the home stretch is the toughest part of the race.  
I must finish well for everyone who has shared this journey with me... as well as for myself.

Thank you for your prayers and kind thoughts through this journey.  We're almost there!