Getting the Garden Ready

If you are like me, you are so glad that winter is finally over and spring is here!  For us here in South Carolina, spring “arrived” around Valentines Day when we first began getting our warm weather!  We’ve had a few cold nights and days since then, but for the most part, spring arrived early here in the South.

I start getting excited about doing some gardening along about now.  For the last several years, we’ve had a pretty good sized garden, but end up getting discouraged when the weather doesn’t cooperate and we have to water everything! South Carolina has a thing about droughts.  It seems to like them!

This year I decided to shrink our garden to a more manageable size and move it back to the side of the house where it was very successful about 7 years ago.  That particular summer gave us tomato plants about 6 feet tall with gorgeous fruit!  Let’s hope this year does the same!  🙂

Last week I cleared out a lot of the weeds and used a shovel to turn the soil.

My plot is about 12 feet by 4 feet.  I can’t wait to finish preparing the soil and get my plants in the ground!

Crochet Contest

I’m trying something new here today. . .another experiment, you could say!  I’m going to have a give-away at my crochet site, If you are interested in being entered into the random drawing to win this charming tam for your favorite baby girl, please go to my site and let me know which product you like the most. You can also give an idea for a spring or summer product, or you can ‘like’ my page on Facebook.  It’s that simple! One winner will be randomly chosen on March 31, 2011 at 5:00 Eastern time.

Diving Into A New Experiment

Barbi here! Apparently I have not been as active here as I should be.. at least, that’s what she says. To make up for my deliquency, I have helped create Jan’s newest venture. Go me! 🙂

Crochet has been one of her hobbies for as long as I can remember, but only recently has she been allowing other people the pleasure of seeing her talent. What started as baby shower gifts will hopefully turn into a little recognition for a craft that has been forgotten by many.

Mom’s designs are completely unique. Not a single blanket is ever the exact same. We decided (yes, we, not just me) to base the name – Left2Crochet – on her unique ability to crochet left-handed. Since all crochet patterns are written for right-handed people, this is quite an accomplishment.

Please take a few seconds to check out the shop and leave her some encouraging feedback! As usual, this is just an experiment. We are not dreaming big here, but it never hurts to test the waters, right? So, in we go!

Substitutes Save Money!

As many home makers are doing these days, I try to stretch those grocery dollars as far as they can possibly go.  Coupon shopping has become the norm for me.  I met a fellow coupon shopper this morning in the store as we were both contemplating the sour cream on sale.  She confessed to being new to the coupon scene and ask a number of questions.  When we parted 15 minutes later, we both felt like we’ve been friends for years!

One money saving idea is to use ground beef instead of cubed steak.  I tried this in a recipe the other day, and it worked beautifully.  Using the left-over gravy in place of the marinara sauce tasted great too!  The entire family raved about it.

Here is the recipe with my adaptations included.  Taken from ‘Great American Recipes.’

Steak Parmesan

1 lg. egg, lightly beaten

2 tbsp. milk

3/4 c. Italian-style seasoned bread crumbs

1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese

4 beef cube steaks*

1/2 tsp. salt

2 tbsp all-purpose flour

2 tbsp. olive oil

1/3 c. marinara sauce*

1 c. shredded mozzarella cheese

Combine the egg and milk in large shallow bowl. Combine bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese in another shallow bowl.   Sprinkle the steaks with salt and flour.  Coat them in the egg, then in the bread crumb mixture.

Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat.  Add the steaks.  Cook until golden brown on both sides and juices run clear.  Spoon marinara sauce over the steaks.  Sprinkle with mozzarella. Cover the skillet and cook until cheese is melted.

Serve with angel hair, bow tie, or your favorite pasta.

*I made (8) 1/4 pound burgers and used them instead of the cubed steak.   I also used my left over  beef gravy instead of marinara sauce.

Making use of the garden goodness

As I mentioned in my last post, the summer went by all too quickly.  I did manage, however, to finally get my kitchen/dining room painted!  After 11 years with the same white walls, this is a definite improvement!  The color is Hazelnut Creme!

While some of our fruit trees and bushes did well this growing season, our garden left a lot to be desired.  Whether it was too wet and then too dry, or too hot for too long, the point is that the results of our labor in the garden were slim!  The hot peppers produced the most.  We had a few tomatoes, but I longed for more for canning and home-made salsa.  Tim had to make an unexpected trip to PA last week and brought me some very nice tomatoes and zucchini grown by Mennonite farmers nearby his parents’ home.  Here are two recipes for making the best use of these two garden veggies.

Zesty Zucchini Skillet

4 c. chopped zucchini

1 c. chopped onion

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 tbsp. vegetable oil (I used olive oil)

1/2 tsp. ground cumin

1/4 tsp. dried oregano (I used Italian seasoning)

1/4 tsp. salt

1/3 c. picante sauce (I used salsa)

1 med. tomato, peeled and chopped

1/2 c. shredded Monterey Jack cheese (I used cheddar)

In a large skillet, saute the zucchini, onion, and garlic in oil for 2 minutes. Add cumin, oregano, and salt.  Stir in picante sauce; cook and stir for 5-7 minutes or until vegetables are crisp-tender. Add tomato; cook for 1-2 more minutes or until heated through.  Remove from heat; sprinkle with cheese.

This recipe brought rave reviews from both Russ and Ben, who normally don’t like zucchini!

Fresh Salsa

10 medium tomatoes

1 lg. bunch cilantro (I use half)

1 bunch green onions

1 medium/large red onion

1 clove garlic

1 green bell pepper

8-10 hot chili peppers (or whatever variety of hot pepper you enjoy)

1 lemon

pickling salt to taste–about 2 tbsp.

Process all vegetables coarsely in food processor. Mix together in large mixing bowl.  Squeeze the juice of the lemon over mixture and add the salt.  Stir together.   Makes about 2 quarts.   I have also added yellow, red, or orange bell peppers.

Although my kids prefer the cooked salsa I make, this fresh salsa is Tim’s favorite!  Enjoy!