1 Dish Chicken and Veggies

Tonight my family is all over the place. My brother came home from work, turned around, and left for job number 2. My parents came home, loaded 2 of the four dogs into the car for a quick trip to the vet for a manicure. I was left home. As my mom ran out the door, she said “Why don’t you throw some hot dogs on the grill?” Now I like hot dogs as much as the next person. There was a solid 2 years of my small life where I ate nothing but hot dogs and chicken nuggets (my mother still talks about it). But having just had kielbasa the night before, I wasn’t feelin it. So, what could I make relatively quickly that would be done by the time my parents got home and wouldn’t make a giant mess? 1 dish chicken and veggies.

What you’ll need:

2 cups chicken stock or water with 2 bullion cubes

Salt

Pepper

Onion (we had yellow so that’s what I used)

Chicken Breasts

Potatoes

Green Beans (we have fresh, frozen ones from our garden)

Carrots

Thyme

Parsley

  1. Thaw your chicken breast. We buy chicken in bulk, and my mom usually cuts thick breasts in half so they’re not as thick and cook a bit quicker.
  2. Dirty peel and cut your potatoes and carrots. If you can’t stand the skins, feel free to peel them completely. If you are worried about them cooking all of the way in the oven (like me) you can pre-boil them for a bit to kick start the cooking process.
  3. Cut a slice of onion about 1/2 inch thick. Simply cut into quarters so you have pretty decent sized pieces.
  4. Prepare your chicken broth and preheat your oven to 400 degrees. The chicken broth helps cook the potatoes, carrots, and green beans while also keeping the chicken nice and juicy!
  5. Lightly grease the bottom of a 13×9 baking dish. dump in your veggies and mix a bit. Lay your chicken breast on top. Pour your chicken broth over it all, it won’t cover all of the veggies but it will come about 1/2 up.
  6. Sprinkle salt, pepper and a bit of thyme and parsley.

13177273_10209214354421043_6736157662262300396_n.jpg7. Cover with foil and put into your oven. Cook until chicken and veggies are cooked through.

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If you’re feeling adventurous, you could remove the chicken and veggies to a platter and make a thicker sauce with the juices and chicken broth by adding cornstarch. I did not do that this evening.

You could easily make this in a crock pot, or use additional vegetables like asparagus. If you were to do this in a crock pot, I would add an extra cup of broth/water just to be on the safe side, especially if you plan on leaving it unattended.

It’s Only Been A Week

It’s been just over a week since we planted our garden. We have had lots of growth and some death thus far.

IMG_5609Our strawberries are the only ones to have seen death. Out of all of the plants I put in, 2 have died. We specifically put so many in for this exact reason. It is still early, there may still be some loss, but as of now, the rest of them look like they are doing well. 

 

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IMG_5614Two of our 12 potatoes have busted through! There is evidence that at least 3 more will pop through in the coming days. This is the first year we are growing potatoes in this garden. I am excited to see how well they do.

IMG_5613Our mixed greens and leafy lettuce are flourishing. Fresh lettuce grows like weeds, and lasts FOREVER. We were giving it away last year because it lasts 3-4 weeks when stored properly. 

IMG_5612Our radish patch is doing quite well. We only planted in half of the area because we are going to rotate them out. So next week we will plant another 2 rows of radish, just in time for our first ones to be done in a few days time. They have a quick germination/maturity time. 
IMG_5611This is our singular bush cucumber plant. We planted 5 in the little plot. We’re hoping that by the end of the week we’ll have a few more. Mom wants to make pickles…even though she’s the only one that eats them.

IMG_5616I like to call this the “Mater Forest.” I feel like we have so much more than last year, and I know that once they really start growing up, it’s going to look like one as well. They haven’t had much vertical growth, but it’s still early. They’re more busy rooting that growing.

IMG_5610We planted about 8 sunflowers and 6 of them have already started popping! I took a shot of the two biggest ones. I will harvest the seeds in the fall and bake them! 

IMG_5608We are most excited for the green beans…ok….it might just be me. I LOVE green beans. I like them raw, I like them blanched, I like them sautéed in butter with garlic and onion, I like them fried. I haven’t met a green bean I didn’t like…except casserole. They are bursting forth in their little rows and I could not be more excited.

IMG_5618This little guy is not in our back garden, but I like it anyway. We planted 4 lavender plants in our front/side gardens this year. Lavender is not only pretty once it blooms, but it also smells good and is a natural bug repellent. It is also a perennial so we will not have to worry about having to replace it every year.

We are still waiting for the onion, peppers and carrots to pop. They should be showing up to the party in the very near future. The cosmos and zinnias that we planted around the vegetable garden are barely showing above the mulch. Our marigolds are thriving. Those 3 were planted as bee attractors and bug repellents.

From here out, I will post garden updates once the plants start producing or something super super exciting happens!

Happy planting!

Spring Gardening

In March, in the midst of a snow storm I spent the day planning our garden. This weekend, the snow has been gone for a few weeks, the sun has been shining and we were finally able to get stuff in the ground!

I had come up with beautiful plans and a beautiful layout, created with tons of research, love and care. screen-shot-2015-03-05-at-5-18-30-pmThen we got out there and my dad decided things needed more space. The really pretty garden layout that looked like the above, ended up looking like the below in reality. Which, is ok. It doesn’t look near as pretty in a chart like this, but it works. Sunflowers and cucumbers were added to the garden. The “walking path,” kinda disappeared for the most part, but there is plenty of space between plants so we’ll be just fine.

Screen Shot 2015-05-04 at 9.26.29 AMWe also have an adorable little strawberry patch, I have claimed it as my own.10689423_10206003822511341_2734209453159910876_nAround the garden we planted marigolds, cosmos, and zinnias. Marigolds are natural (bad) bug-repellants, cosmos and zinnias are natural bee attractors. When you have a garden this big, with this much stuff in it, you want as many bees as you can get! 11206100_10206003822071330_2141622102369986064_n

11204480_10206003822311336_9176184884080786480_nWe have 24 tomato plants of 3 varieties, Roma, Celebrity and Brandywine. We planted red potatoes because we think they are better to cook/bake with. Mom wants to make pickles this fall so the cucumbers are small bush cucumbers. There are 15 strawberry plants in the box. I’m not sure that they’ll all make it, and if I do…well…if anybody would like some strawberry plants, hit me up. The rest of the garden is seeds, so I guess we will see in a few weeks how many of each we have!

Stay tuned for update posts and recipes throughout the summer!

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Snow Day Garden Planning

It is a winter wonderland right now. Seriously. We have over a foot of snow in our yard, a combination of the approximately 8 inches we got today plus what was already laying on the ground. My dad used our snow blower to created a doggy path in our back yard since our critters are a bit vertically challenged.

10437617_10206255174127735_8793836284818350200_nI am desperately looking forward to the days when our yard looks more like this-

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Last year was the first garden my parents did. This little plot is 8×10. This year, we are more than doubling that to a whopping 32×10. Yes, 32×10. That is 320 square feet of prime food growin ground. When you decide to grow a garden that big, you can not haphazardly throw plant in the ground. There is an art to this, a serious science. I have spent at least 3 hours researching, drawing, erasing and going back to the garden boards to plan out our vegetable garden this year. An excel spread sheet, and 2 tables later, I think I’ve got it!

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This is an excel spread sheet of all different fruits and vegetables we will be growing, whether in the main 32×10 garden, in a separate box, like our strawberries, or in our side garden, like the cucumbers. It features how deep to plant the seeds, how far apart to plant them, how many can be planted in a square foot, when to plant, companion planting info, soil info and sun preferences. Instead of having to search 18 different websites, I can simply pull this up and all of the info I need is right there in one spot!

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This is our 32×10 garden lay out. Below is the color key, black is walking space. It is a pain in the butt to harvest, weed and take care of a garden when you have no room to actually walk! What a travesty to have great plants and accidentally step and crush them! This helps aid this problem. Having it laid out also means no guessing when it comes to planting time. Each square will have 1-16 plants depending on what is being planted there. We LOVE canning homemade tomato sauce, and being able to harvest and freeze fresh green beans, carrots and peppers to use throughout the winter and spring. Nothing beats having fresh carrots and green beans in a good hearty pot of stew in the middle of December. We are also planting marigolds around the perimeter of the whole garden. There are numerous benefits of this, one of them being that they attract bees, which helps pollination, which in turn means lots of produce!

Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 5.18.33 PMRight now, the wind is blowing and the snow is still kinda falling. By the end of the week it is supposed to bounce back up to the 40s and Spring will quickly be approaching. I still have our front flower gardens to plan and a few weeks before we’ll be able to till the ground and get our (organic/natural) soil additives in preparation for planting time mid-April. Though it seems so far away, like the snow may never stop and the ice will never melt, I know that in just a few short weeks I will have my toes in the dirt and seeds in the ground!

Homemade Chicken Pot Pie (Actual Pie)

It was just within the last few years that I had learned that there are two versions of “chicken pot pie.” One is the literal pie version, with flakey crust stuffed with chicken and vegetable goodness. The other is the “Pennsylvania Dutch” version that is a thick and creamy chicken soup with big egg noodles. Some of you may be scratching your heads, I live about 30 minutes from Lancaster, home of relatively large Amish and Mennonite communities. Being so close, some of the recipes and cultural norms have wiggled themselves in…anyway. This recipe is a classic, actual pie version. In true Anna fashion, my mother asked me if I had  recipe, I said yes. “Yes” actually means “I’ve got a plan but I’m totally making this up.” 9 times out of 10 it works for me.

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Pennsylvania Dutch CPP

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“Classic” CPP

 

Ingredients for filling:

2-3 thawed boneless/skinless chicken breasts

1/4 cup carrots

1/4 cup green beans

1/4 cup corn

Any other vegetables you’d like- peas, lima beans etc.

3 potatoes

2-3 chicken bullion cubes

1/2 stick of butter

1/2 cup flour

1 cup milk

Salt/Pepper

Pie Crust:

You can use 2 store bought crusts (top and bottom) or you can use this tried and true, my personal favorite, recipe HERE!

*Pre-heat your oven to 350*

1. In a medium-large pot boil chicken bullion cubes in about 6 cups of water.

2. Chop your chicken breasts into small bite sized pieces/cubes. Throw them into the water to cook. This flavors both the chicken and the stock. You will use this for the gravy filling later.

2. While the chicken is going, make your pie crust. Roll out and place your bottom crust into the pie dish. I made the bottom pretty thick because we like crust! Poke holes into the bottom to keep it from puffing up. Place in the oven at 350 until it is just turning golden brown. Mine happened to time perfectly for when I was ready to fill, about 30 minutes since it was thick.

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3. Peal and chop the potatoes into small bite sized chunks. Throw them in the pot with the chicken to boil until tender. I also threw in the carrots since they can take a bit longer.

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4. In a medium sauce pan, melt half a stick of butter over medium heat. Once the butter has melted and started boiling it will start to kinda bubble. Whisk in your flour continuously. It will bubble, thicken and start to turn brown. When it is a toasted almond color and smells nutty, remove from heat, slowly add in the milk to temper. Continue whisking. It will continue to thicken. This is a rue!

5. Using a ladle, ladle in as much of the stock from the pot with the chicken and potatoes as possible and put back on medium heat. Continue to whisk together. Add in salt and pepper to taste. This will be the “gravy” in your pie.

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6. Dump the rue/stock mixture back in the pot with the chicken and potatoes. Dump in the green beans, corn and other veggies in at this time. I used fresh-frozen veggies so they’d already been pre-cooked, they just needed “heated up.”

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7. Pull your bottom crust out of the oven if you have not already. Fill with your filling! You will probably have some left over filling.

8. Roll out your top crust, place on top, poke holes in the top to release steam. Put the pie glass/tin on a baking sheet to catch potential drips and replace back into the oven until the top crust is golden brown. This will take about a half hour. I used the broiler to then add a bit more color to the top crust.

Serve HOT! If you have any extra pie crust or filling, roll out the extra dough, cut circles, place in muffin tins and fill with the extra filling for mini-pies that you can freeze and eat later! YUM!

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My dad chalked this up to “another success.” Not too bad for not quite having a recipe! This recipe took a little over an hour start to finish, but for a CPP with HOMEMADE crust and gravy, I think that’s pretty good. This was perfect for the blustery cold winter we’ve been having up here in the North East!

It’s all in the Dirt

It’s been a busy week for the dirt in the gardens! At Eric’s house I plucked our first onions. They’re a bit on the wee little side but they are packing a punch and delicious!

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The watermelon plants are budding! Last year we did sugar babies and weren’t very happy with the results. This year we chose a different kind and it is flourishing! There are buds EVERYWHERE! In the world of vine plants- BUDS=YUM! This goes for the pumpkins as well. As you can see in the first picture, the pumpkin is creeping in.

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Speaking of….he’s taking over our garden! Because our one watermelon plant is doing so well we are probably going to pull the smaller of the two that is struggling just a bit. And the rest of our onions will be out shortly. We have to get those guys out so our massive octopus of a pumpkin can roam more on the free side. The next step will be hefting the vines over the fence to let it free range in the yard! On the plus side, there are a number of beautiful blossoms! I’m hoping to ACTUALLY get a pumpkin this year! 😀

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What our pumpkin looked like on June 15th. I honestly can’t even get a picture with a wide enough view to show you how big the pumpkin plant is. Trust me, it’s become a monster. I’m hoping I get MONSTER pumpkins out of it too! The second picture is from June 26th. It’s much bigger than that even. Trust me.

I spent my afternoon walking through the sea of green beans. They are HUGE! And I still have one more row left to do! I set myself up a nice little system on the living room floor so I could watch TV and not be stuck standing in the kitchen. It’s amazing how quickly that colander fills up!

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First round- Row 1

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By the second round I got smart with a bowl for the tips, a bowl for the snapped and my colander in the middle. Rows 2 and 3

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I got to repeat the process with round 3, row 4. Yeah, there’s still another row left to do.

At my parent’s, my mom and I were investigating our carrots! They’re starting to show through the dirt but they’re just not ready yet! Hopefully by the end of the month they’ll be there.

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Each set of gardeners does different things to help their garden dirt. At my parents, my mom saves our coffee grounds, saves and crushes egg shells and sprinkles it all in the garden. They have been battling first year soil. In the fall they’ll be adding lime and peat moss. At Eric’s, he does lime in the fall and again about March a few weeks before we plant so that the lime doesn’t burn the baby plants. He also adds peat moss and sand. Now that we have the chickens and the gardens are so huge he has finally agreed/decided too…. COMPOST! YAY! We have the perfect spot for it behind our sheds at the back of the property. Egg shells, grass clippings, leaves, weeds, our garden clippings, coffee grounds, chicken poop, banana peals- it’s all going in! I’m sure I’ll be posting about THAT adventure by the end of the summer. 🙂