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!

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Apple Peanut Butter Dog Treats

Our house has lots of critters. 3 of them to be exact. They drive me crazy. Most of the time I question our sanity and why we even thought having 3 of them would be a good idea. Until they all cuddle up on the couch together to take an afternoon nap and they are adorable. Then I remember why we got them and decide to spoil them with homemade doggy treats. ๐Ÿ™‚ This recipe is a bit different than the last dog treat recipe I posted; there is no egg, more apple sauce and much fluffier. Yes, that is Mo sleeping on the arm of the chair with her head on the side table…cuz ya know…manners right?

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Ingredients:

1 cup of flour

1/4 cup oats

1/2 tablepoon of baking powder

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter

1/2 cup apple sauce (I used my Homemade)

1 tablespoon of olive oil.

Preheat oven to 350

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1. Mix all ingredients in a bowl. If it seems too dry add a tablespoons of water until it is a cookie-dough like consistency. I started using a spoon and switched to mixing with my hand to really make sure everything was incorporated.

2. Sprinkle flour on a surface and roll out to about 1/2 of an inch thick. You can use a cookie cutter, knife or what ever you want to make the desired shape/size of your treats. I used a mini bell cookie cutter.

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3. Place baking paper or a baking mat on a cookie sheet. Place the treats on the sheet leaving a bit of room between them. They won’t expand too much.

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4. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown.

5. Remove from the oven and allow to cool before tossing them to the dogs!

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They are completely edible and safe for human consumption….they look pretty close to a recipe for a healthy snack you might see on pinterest actually…. I doubled the recipe knowing that we will be giving them out for Christmas to some of our fury friend lovers. The doubled recipe made about 40. This is dependent on what cookie cutter you use and how thick you roll out the dough. ๐Ÿ™‚

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They waited so nicely as I mixed the dough, placed them on the cookie sheets, baked them, and let them cool, of course they each got one…or three for waiting!

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We put some in pretzel baggies to give away for Christmas! They are the perfect size with the perfect amount! ๐Ÿ™‚

Brown Sugar Cinnamon Muffins

I thoroughly enjoy cinnamon. I’ve been on a fall spice kick for quite some time now. Nothing beats cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves all mixed up into something. They are warm and spicey and homey and wonderful. This recipe doesn’t have all of those but it’s still pretty tastey! My house likes muffins. They are quick, easy and filling to eat and just as quick and easy to whip up. I was inspired to make these yummy guys for a quick gran and go breakfast!

Ingredients:

1 3/4 cup all purpose flour

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon vanilla

1 egg

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup milk

1/3 cup of brown sugar

Topping:

3 tablespoons brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees.

1. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, egg, vanilla, brown sugar, cinnamon, oil and milk all together in a bowl. I used a hand whisk to mix it all together until it was smooth.

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2. In a seprate bowl mix the 3 tablespoons of brown sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon. This will be sprinkled on top.

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2. Line muffin tray with liners. Use a 1/4 to fill each liner.

3. Sprinkle each muffin with the brown sugar/cinnamon

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4. Bake for 15 minutes or until a knife poked into the center comes out clean. I love how they puffed up!

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They are definitely best if eaten warm! Store in an air tight container (if they happen to last that long)!

Makes 1 dozen. This is a very easily double-able recipe and is highly suggested!

Nanner Muffins

I call banana’s nanners. Tomatoes are maters and potatoes are taters. I figure my vocabulary is so vast most of the time, the world can handle a few goofball words.

I personally am not a fan on bananas. Eric and Jake like bananas. Eric buys banana’s, they eat a few and leave the rest on purpose so that I bake with them. In typical fashion, I found a few muffin recipes, blend them together and came out with these gems.

2-3 rip bananas (peals are all brown and gross looking)

2 eggs

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

2 tablespoons of…….MAPLE SYRUP! My extra special ingredient that makes them OH SO YUMMY

Dash of cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup dried oats

1-1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

Pre-heat oven to 350

1. With a fork mash up the nanners.

2. Incorporate the eggs, vanilla, cinnamon, sugar, syrup and oats. It will be pretty runny.

3. Slowly add in 1 cup of flour and baking powder. Depending on the size of the bananas and eggs you may need to add another 1/2 cup or so to reach the consistency of a typical batter.

4. Fill muffin tins about 2/3 of the way full

5. Bake 10-12 minutes or until a knife comes out clean

Quick, easy and super delicious! Sugar can be omitted completely if chosen because of the syrup. You can also use flavored syrup. I bet blueberry syrup would be delightful! I like adding the oats for a little extra umph to fill your belly, but they too can be omitted!

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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! ๐Ÿ˜€

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What our pumpkin looked like on June 15th.ย 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. ๐Ÿ™‚

Pocket Chicken and Potatoes With Green Beans

When it is in the 90s the last thing you want to do is turn the oven on in the house. Even with the AC on full blast the oven is a bad idea. But the taste of the grill isn’t always wanted every day of the week. Here is my way around both problems.

Ingredients-

4-5 boneless, skinless chicken breast

Salt

Pepper

Olive Oil

Crushed Red Pepper Flakes

Parsley

1/2 cup onion

2 garlic cloves

Butter

Pakricka

1. Thaw chicken breasts.

2. Pull out 2 large pieces of foil and make the shape of a plus sign.ย Spray with non-stick spray and drizzle some olive oil to keep the meat from sticking.

3. Finely chop your onion and garlic, kind of mix them up in the same bowl

4. Place about a quarter of the onion and garlic on the top piece of foil

5. Season each chicken breast on underside and place on top of onion and garlic.

6. Season the top side of the chicken and spread the rest of the onion and garlic on top.

7. Drizzle with a bit more olive oil and add small pads of butter on top of each breast.

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8. Wrap the chicken up nice and tight!

DO NOT POKE HOLES! The whole point of this is to partially steam the chicken. It stays nice and moist this way.

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9. Turn the grill on High and place the pockets on the grill. Our grill at that point cooks at about 400.

10. Cook for 10 minutes, go out and turn the pocket. Cook for another 10 minutes.

11. Turn the grill down to Medium for 15-20 minutes.

12. You can pull them out just to add a few grill marks or remove them from the pocket and place on a plate to serve.

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Serve with fresh veggies!

I was super excited to make the potatoes! It finally gave me a chance to use the ones we dug out a few days ago!

Ingredients:

Potatoes

Olive Oil

Butter

Garlic

Rosemary

Onion

Parsely

1. If needed, cut potatoes. I used a lot of our smaller ones that only needed cut in half or not at all!

2. Lay out 2 piece of foil just like the chicken. Spray with non-stick spray

3. Add potatoes to the center

4. Drizzle with olive oil, seasonings and herbs

5. Top with a few pads of butter

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6. Wrap up nice and tight. DO NOT POKE HOLES!

Cook along side the chicken- see directions above and below

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7. Turn the grill on High and place the pockets on the grill. Our grill at that point cooks at about 400.

8. Cook for 10 minutes, go out and turn the chicken pocket, FLIP the potato pocket. Cook for another 10 minutes.

9. Turn the grill down to Medium for 15-20 minutes.

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And last, but not least, actually my favorite part- THE GREEN BEANS!

Tonight was our first night of having our green beans FRESH out of the garden! Absolutely, hands down, favorite and best thing about having the garden!!! Traipsing through the green bean forest is quite fun as well!

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Green Beans

Garlic Clove

1 Tablespoon Butter

Olive Oil

Minced Onion

1. Blanch/cook your green beans to desired level of crunch! We like ours a bit on the crispy side still!

2. While the beans are cooking, finely mince garlic and mince onion (or use the dried stuff)

3.. Drain water and put beans back into pot.

4. Add butter, a squirt of olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon garlic, and 1/2 tablespoon of onion.

5. On medium-high heat melt the butter and keep everything moving as to not burn it.

6. Once the beans start to show signs of frying and the garlic and onion are thoroughly infused, remove from heat.

That is one yummy, fresh, flavorful summer dinner!

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Throw the Dog a Bone

We love ALL of our critters and spoil them absolutely rotten. Most people don’t really pay attention to what is in dog treats at their local pet store, because if the pet store is selling it, it can’t really be bad for them right? Kinda like, if the grocery store is selling it, it can’t be bad for us humans, RIGHT!? Home made dog treats are so easy and most people have all of the ingredients to make their fluffy friends a swell treat and they don’t even realize it. Again, most dog treat recipes can be altered and personalized to what you have and your dogs taste buds. Carrots, beef or chicken stock, and apples are just a few doggy favorites that can easily be added into most recipes. This is what we used.

2 tablespoons plain applesauce (3 tablespoons if you want softer treats) I used 3

1/2 cup peanut butter

1 egg

1 cup whole wheat/all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 cup rolled oats

Dash of Cinnamon

1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl. The mix is more on the dry side. I added a teaspoon of water to make sure mine was moist enough. A bit more applesauce could have been used as well.

2. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough about 1/4 inch thick. Using a cookie cutter, glass or knife, cut out what ever shapes you’d like your treats to be in.

*I just pulled out some dough, rolled it in my hand and pressed it a bit flat. No need to get the counter all messy!*

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5. Place on a parchment covered cookie sheet at 325 for 15-20 minutes.

Let cool and toss a few to your loving pooch. I have a feeling ours won’t last very long….

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They were obviously super excited to try them!

PS- These treats are just as good for humans as pets. Just a thought. Because really, if you won’t eat it, how can you expect your dog too as well? ๐Ÿ˜‰ And now adorable pictures of them all because, THEY’RE JUST TOO CUTE!

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