Sunday, October 31, 2010

My fall garden

For those of you who don't know me, I live in the desert. It can be really hard to grow things here because of the extreme heat, lack of water and high alkaline levels.
About three Earth days ago (we try to do something every year)we started trying our hand at gardening.
Needless to say it's been hit and miss! But we are learning quite a bit with each thing we plant!
The first year was full of misses. We planted a bunch of starters indoors, went through the process of "hardening them off", fertilized them and cared for them, only to have them die off a few weeks later.
Over the past few years we've managed to get lucky with a few things, but this year has been our most successful so far.

I think the raised beds help!

Here's what we've started:

The tomato plant on the left is a larger tomato variety. The one on the right is a cherry tomato plant left over from the spring/summer garden. I was told to trim it way back and keep it watered so it will come back and it did! It is enormous!
Here are a couple new tomatoes growing on the larger variety plant!

Here we have jalapenos

and cayenne

As you can see, they are taking over the whole garden!

I think I need to thin them out soon!

Also in this large bed I planted some cauliflower.

If you think they look a little rough then you should have seen them a week ago! They were attacked by lovely little fuzzy caterpillars! I had my first experience using "pesticide". I found an organic one that doesn't kill the pests but repels them instead. Now the plants are looking much better!

This gardens "honorable mention" is this sole surviving pea plant. There were six, but I think the sun was too much for them. This one made it though, and she's quite a hardy little thing!

I raised all but one of the side garden beds to make them deeper. I had my first success in these but I think things would have done better had they been deeper. Underneath all the good stuff is a rock solid ground! This is not easy for the plants to take root, however, the weeds seem to do it!

Here we have sweet potatoes.

Here is some butternut squash

I really hope these survive!

If they do, it will be my first surviving squash!

Here are some white potatoes.

And some cabbage.

In the shallow bed we have some herbs.
They don't do too hot in the winter so we only have a few.


and Parsley

I have a few buckets & pots with stuff too.

I'm trying out some raspberries.

And some grape vines.

Neither will be ready for another year or two though!

Oh, and some Oregano! I just trans-planted it in a larger pot and it's already time to transplant again!

Since we lack bees I planted some flowers. I thought they were dead and past their season but more are growing!

I didn't get pictures of the asparagus. They are still in the fern-looking stage as they need another year or two to mature.
And I forgot to take pictures of the few strawberry plants and some other potted flowers.

I sure hope I have lots to post when it comes time to harvest!

If you have a garden, what do you have growing right now?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Marinated Chicken and Beautiful Apple Pie

This marinated chicken recipe is something I learned about ten years ago from my dear friend Adriana.
It is quick, easy, and great for using up all the citrus on the counter that is about to spoil!

All you need is:

(4-6 Boneless/skinless chicken breasts, 2 oranges, 2 lemons, 2 limes, 1-2 onions (sliced into rings), garlic salt, season salt & pepper to taste.

Trim the chicken of excess fat. Sprinkle with the salts & pepper. Layer with sliced onions. Squeeze the juices of all the citrus over the top of the onions and chicken. Allow to marinate for 3-5 hours. (If you're me, you'll run some errands and be back just in time to cook it up!)

You can cook it in a couple tablespoons of vegetable oil, olive oil, or if you are naughty like me, throw in a couple tablespoons of butter.
Throw it all into a skillet and cook on medium-high until onions are tender and juices run clear on the chicken.

Let the chicken rest for a couple of minutes so they keep the juices inside. Then slice up and return to the pan where you can toss with the onions.

I like to make some pico de gallo:

(cilantro, onions, limes, tomatoes, jalapenos)

These fiery little things came from our garden. They were so hot I ended up adding another tomato and blending the pico into a smooth salsa.

I like to eat them in a toasted corn tortilla with sour cream & pico de gallo (I forgot to get a picture of the fully dressed taco!)

This marinating method is also good with thinly sliced beef (carne asada) and then grilled on the BBQ. Sometimes we even throw in a can of beer when we are marinating the beef. Both ways are delicious!

Now for the Beautiful Apple pie. No recipe here, I'm just sharing a picture of a pie my friend Annie made for me the other day.

This was her first time making pie crust! How talented is she! She seems to be good at the things I am not. Like pie crusts and bread! She has a natural talent for bread that I am extremely jealous of and it now looks like she can do pastry too!
It was so pretty I didn't want to cut into it! But I did, and was glad I did because it was delicious too!

One day I will devote some of my time to getting good at both pastries and breads. I've too many things on my proverbial plate right now!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Finished dresser and some food.

The dresser is FINALLY DONE!
Well, it's been done for a week now but I've been too crazy busy to get a decent picture to post!


This thing was really well built but sporting a finish straight out of the 70's. Now, I love vintage, I really do. But this thing was the oddest shade of...uh, I'm not sure what to call it? Green? Tan? Tanish-green?
Despite the scrapes and nicks here and there, whomever did the honor of refinishing forty some-odd years ago did one heck of a job! It took days of chemical stripping and sanding before I could even think about primer. Then after primer, several coats of paint, glazing and finally a clear coat!


I wanted to do something different. I'm tired of being too matchy-matchy! So I decided on red to add a nice pop of color and tied in the rest of the colors by painting the knobs a blue that I already had in the room.

I also think the darker color will help in hiding all the dirty finger prints the kids will be putting on it! It is, after all, for their art supplies and homework!

Now for the food portion of the post-

We had quite a few red peppers in our co-op basket a couple weeks ago. If I didn't do something with them fast they were going to end up in the compost bin. So I went to PW and found this recipe for pasta.

It's a grown up flavor. The kids were ok with it but it wasn't their fave. The Mr. & I, on the other hand, really enjoyed it. It has a nice smokey flavor and the shaved Parmesan gives it a great kick.

On a kid-food friendly note, I made eyeball soup (tomato soup w/Parmesan balls & olives) to go with some grilled cheese cut in the shape of pumpkins.

I didn't tell them I was doing it, I just called them to dinner and heard them squeal with delight! The Halloween time of year is one of my favorites for sure!

Another kid favorite this week was this pizza casserole we threw together with the left-overs from my youngest daughters' birthday party.

We just tossed some baked ziti with a bottle of my homemade pasta sauce. Then topped it with the pizza toppings. The kids ate it up fast!

I have a confession to make. I, the person most in love with Halloween, has never attempted (until now) to make pumpkin cookies.
That's not the full confession...
I hate them. Well, I did, until now!

I have tried my fair share of pumpkin cookies in the past and have been sorely disappointed. Pumpkin w/cinnamon, pumpkin with chocolate chips, pumpkin with raisins, the list goes on.
Then I came across this recipe on one of my favorite sites Make it Do. They looked and sounded good. So I gave them a try.

Oh, my, goodness!
I made a double batch because we had family over on Saturday and I just packed the last four into the lunch boxes for tomorrow. Yes, they were that good!
You should try em!

That's all I have for now, but stick around for Halloween costumes. My living room has been temporarily transformed into a sewing sweat shop. Don't worry, only half crazy, incredibly chatty grown women will be working of their own free will. Well, sort of. There is the four year old that keeps telling us to get back to work until her costume is done! (Gotta love my bossy little niece! She's a hoot!)

Monday, October 4, 2010

Chile Rellenos

Here is an old post I never published.
I will post a new one tomorrow!

Two weeks ago we bought a "Mexican Pack" as an add on to our co-op basket.
We received several onions, jalapenos, cilantro, tomatillos, garlic, serranos, avocados and what I knew as pasilla chiles.

(roasted chiles)

When I pulled them out and exclaimed that we got "pasillas" and I was going to try my hand at making Chile Rellenos, I was politely corrected by my Mr. that they were, in fact, poblanos and not pasillas.
I replied by telling him, politely, that they are the same chiles my dear Mexican friend Adriana makes her Chile Rellenos with and they are indeed called poblanos.
This "polite" banter about chiles went on for some time until I finally just said whatever and was going to make Chile Rellenos out of them anyways.


After searching and searching for the right "Authentic" Chile Relleno recipe, I had it narrowed down to three. I then took what tips, tricks and ingredients I liked from each and tried it my own way.

(Chile Relleno -sort of)

They were incredibly difficult to make! Messy and tricky and I almost cried several times because my seams kept tearing!
But- They were pretty good. Not at all like the wonderful handmade Chile Rellenos Adriana makes, but we still enjoyed them for Saturday lunch.
I really should have her come over so I can photo-document her making them!

(ooey gooey yummy)

Oh, and by the way...pasilla chiles are also known as poblano chiles, and chilaca chiles. Go figure!
It's my youngest child's birthday soon. So I've been working on the birthday preparations.

She decided on a sort of cooking/baking theme. Yes, she takes after her mother!
Here are a few of the invitations I made. Please tell me they look like what they are SUPPOSED to be!

They are supposed to be aprons! At first glance, she thought they were purses.
I was horrified.
Then the eldest child walked into the room and said, "Oh, cute aprons"! Followed by the middle child and the husband agreeing they were definitely aprons.
So I think I'm good.

I'll post pictures of the of the rest of the birthday prep after the party.

This week I made some more Pioneer Woman recipes. I know, you're surprised. Seriously though, she hasn't done me wrong yet!

Here are PW Meatloaf, PW roasted garlic mashed potatoes & PW escalloped cabbage.

And here we have Beer Braised Beef with onions.
(check out my new dutch oven!)

Everything, as usual, was extremely yummy!

I've also been working on some furniture projects.
I will share with you a before:

But I'm a meanie as you will have to wait a few more days till next post for the afters pictures!