July 20, 2011

Holy Moly Melons!

We have melons. Lots of them! I was expecting two, maybe three to form from this one little plant. As it has grown, I've observed many male flowers and an occasional female. I had my eye on one blossom that had a swollen fruit but it never grew. I was beginning to think I may never get a melon this year.

Last evening I went out to tie up the tomatoes and water the plants. This heat wave we're experiencing in the Midwest has kept me inside until late in the evening. I couldn't believe my eyes when I glanced over and there was a HUGE melon growing along the fencing. Upon further inspection, I counted ten melons, some already lemon sized, some still little. I need to figure out some sort of support for them. I've heard of using pantyhose as slings. Good thing pantyhose are cheap. I need a lot :)

July 3, 2011

Garden Surprises

Found lots of great things in the garden this last walkthrough. A volunteer cucumber plant, jalapeno pepper, and two roma tomatoes. Chopped up the pepper and had it in our eggs this morning. Moderately hot and yummy!

June 24, 2011

Growing Good

What weather we are having here in central Indiana. The springs are more unusual by the year. It is raining at least three times per week and the temperature fluctuates from 90s one day to high 60s the next. Most people I know are sick of the rain, and I was too until I was able to plant the garden. Now, I say bring it on!

The Cherokee Purple is out of control. In fact, I did some heavy handed pruning today. It is the only one with a tomato growing. No, the Early Girl has one, too, but it's still in its infancy. I am excited to see the Black Krim doing well. Two years ago I tried a Black Krim and something ate it down to the soil line and it never recovered. The Roma is bushy with flower buds and the Pink Brandywine has two large buds. The poor German Queen was growing sideways and when I tried to stand her up, I heard a crack in the stalk. Forunately, it had another, smaller, stem growing out of the soil so perhaps that will take off.

Cherokee Purple

Pink Brandywine

German Queen

The peppers all look great for the most part. It looks as though birds are trying to eat the leaves. There are long tear marks in some of them. There are flowers on most and a few fruits starting to grow on the green bell. The melon has several flowers, most of which appear to be male at the point. Rosemary, thyme, and parsley are holding their own. Cilantro bolted immediately and my son finished it off when he ripped it out of the soil. *sigh* Three year olds. At least he didn't pick my tomato.


June 17, 2011

Adventures in Strawberry Jam

I finally did it! My very first jam. I'm a little teary-eyed thinking about it.

The whole shebang couldn't have gone any better. I picked up fresh strawberries at Waterman's Farm. $14 for 4 quarts. Once home, I hulled, washed, and sliced them into a bowl. I mashed them with a potato masher to help them release their juice and reduce cooking time. I combined the mash with sugar and a little lemon zest. Once cooked, I added liquid pectin and followed the instructions from there. Easy Peasy! And tastes delicious, I might add.

June 12, 2011

Progress in the Garden

In years past, we had a tilled area for the garden(roughly 15'x15'). I made makeshift rows or planted in patches. Weeds inevitably took control of the garden and the crowded plants were a jungle. This led to a jaded temperament on my behalf and failure in the garden. This year, we changed it up. We sectioned the garden off into four quadrants and boxed them in as raised beds measuring 6'x6', leaving a 2' walkway in between. Compost will be added regularly in order to build up the soil level. Once the soil reaches the tops of the board, I envision adding another board to really make some raised beds (and save my back)! Eventually, I'll add mulch or hay to the walking paths and perhaps a little picket fence around the garden.

Everything was bought from the store this year. I had too many time constraints with the pregnancy and delivering to focus on starting them all from seed. I am finding the 6x6 to be a bit large, having a slightly difficult time maneuvering around. That is why you see big empty spaces in the middle, which I am not happy about. I did have a zucchini planted with the melon, but something ate it. I want to give the melon plenty if room, so maybe I'll save that space for planting garlic in the fall. Any suggestions are appreciated.

Below are pictures of what I have planted for this year. Like I've said before, we are focusing on a "salsa" garden. Although, the cilantro bolted the day after I planted it. I lost the ID card for the melon, but it promised a bumper crop.






May 24, 2011

Where For Art Thou Daily Bread?

Still searching for that perfect daily sandwich bread. Something great to grill up a cheese sandwich, slather PB&J all over, or butter up in the morning with breakfast. Apparently that's too much to ask.

I've had a break for baking for awhile now. My second son, born early April, and the elder have demanded much of my time and attention these past weeks. Taking an hour to mix and knead bread wasn't happening, until today. My husband, who we will call Mr. AntiAgricorporatarian, has recently expressed an explicit desire to purchase as much food locally (meaning, within our county) as possible. We have been using Green B.e.a.n. delivery through the winter and spring months, thinking we would be eating more locally grown organic produce. It's not as local as I had anticipated, but it is organic and they try to keep it regional if not from the state (although I'm pretty sure those tomatoes they gave us four weeks ago weren't from this region). I decided I needed to start baking our daily bread if we wanted to achieve this goal.

A co-worker had given me this recipe prior to my maternity leave. The original recipe only calls for bread flour, however my co-worker along with many of the reviews state they substitute whole wheat regularly. I never had much luck with whole wheat. It's difficult to knead and has little rise to it. It also tends to be rather dense, at least when I make it.

It mixed together easily, but I did add 1 c. extra flour for proper consistency. The first rise took a little over an hour. The second rise wasn't impressive and there was little oven spring. I'm undecided. It's delicious without a doubt but its density is what I'm up in the air about. It's a moist dough and certainly the closest to good sandwich loaf bread to come out of my oven. It just feels heavy and underdone. To be fair, I subbed 2 c. whole wheat flour and 1/2 c. flax seed meal, and reduced water by 1/2 cup. My first judgement came early, as I sliced into it without a cool down.

The texture improved somewhat with time, but it still remains heavy. Slathering butter on a toasted piece helps, though.

Speaking of butter, can we discuss butter crocks for a moment? I recently purchased one because I was sick and tired of 1) using margarine, and 2) impossibly spreading cold butter. Crocks have been used for centuries and are on the vast majority of French counter tops. So why do Americans insist instead on ingesting an inferior product? I blame the post-war, mid-mod revolution: convenience.

It's a simple thing to use. Pack a stick of softened butter in the bell, fill the crock with a little water and leave it on your counter. The water creates a seal thus preventing rancid butter. Now, anytime you need it, soft spreadable butter! Do something great for yourself and your family. Buy the crock!

December 16, 2010

I've done it again...

Where am I? What is happening with the garden? Why am I not posting?

Well, kids..

It all happened one fateful day in August when I found out this mother of one will become a mother of two. My rapidly expanding uterus combined with gross-out hormones raging through my body forced me inside rather than out, preventing any productivity in the garden. My husband took over some of the harvesting but it was too little, too late. The plants suffered greatly, the garden was overrun by weeds. In October, I even tried to go out and pull up the remains with limited success. There are now withered tomato plants buried under inches of snow. I hate to think of all the volunteer tomato plants I'll be pulling up next year.

Speaking of next year..

The newcomer is sure to arrive by the first of April. Planting a full-scale garden and taking care of a newborn does not seem to go hand-in-hand. My husband I both decided to plant what we are calling a Salsa Garden. A few tomato plants, pepper plants, onions, and basil. If we're feeling adventurous, maybe a block of corn, a pumpkin or melon. But seriously, that's it. No more cramming 14 tomatoes in two rows and planting bush beans when you only get to harvest enough for maybe one canned jar.

2011 will be a practical year.

July 11, 2010


The garden has seen exponential growth during the month of June. Good rains and warm sunshine boosted the warm-loving plants and bolted the rest. The paths are overrun with weeds: the mulch has mysteriously disappeared and my neglect for various reasons have not helped. The eggplant and potatoes are being devestated by flea beetles and I'm starting to notice aphids on the tomato plants. Ladybugs, where are you??

I've had a few nice harvests along the way. The only one I didn't capture on film are the Matt's Wild Cherry tomatoes: the first, second, and third ripe ones were eaten in the garden.

May 5: Cilantro

May 15: Purple Plum Radishes

June 3: Five Color Silverbeet Swiss Chard

June 7: Strawberries from Waterman's Market (hand-picked)

July 3: Royal Purple and Contender Bush Beans

July 10: Costata Romanesca Zucchini, Delikatesse Cucumbers, Bush Beans, Odessa Market Peppers

June 3, 2010


Five Color Silverbeet in the garden

and ready to eat for dinner!

To prep chard, fold in half and cut the leaf away from the stalk. I like to chop the stalks up like celery and throw them in the pan to soften before the greens. LOTS of good vitamins: A, C, E, and K as well as B complexes including folate. Chard is usually cooked like other dark leafy "greens", sauteed with onions and garlic. I've also used it in place of lettuce on sandwiches; it's just a touch chewier. If you aren't growing it, it should be available in the markets from June to August.

May 21, 2010

Barefoot Bloggers - Spring Green Risotto

The Barefoot Bloggers have some kind of nerve. Last month, just as my husband and I vowed abstinence from carbs, two cookie recipes were posted! Normally, I would have made them (and devoured them), but I made a promise to my husband and myself - NO MORE CARBS!!!

Then, just like that, May recipes are posted...Risotto. Damn.

Instead of making it the main dish, it became a side dish for our boneless, skinless, boring chicken breast. The arborio rice was also out. I searched the grocery store for a short grain brown rice to no avail. I settled for the brown version of sushi rice, a medium grain. Besides, it's a two-fer. Now experimentation with brown rice sushi can begin!

The problem with brown rice is that darn bran, the healthy part. White rice is stripped of the bran, therefore more readily gives up all those delicious starches. And starch makes for a creamy risotto. So I stirred and stirred. For an hour I stirred that rice into submission. I even have the blister to prove it.

A few minor substitutions were necessary, besides the rice. I replaced the wine with chicken broth. Cream cheese was substituted for mascarpone. White asparagus was the only variety available at the store. And I cheated - cooking the asparagus and peas WITH the rice instead of blanching separately.

The first picture shows the risotto process first starting. The rice has not absorbed the chicken stock nor released any starch. The second, the rice is plump and there is a thicker consistency to the stock.

I want to love risotto. This version was better than my previous attempt by a mile. The problem is that I always except far more creaminess than actually exists, and when there is still a bite to the rice, I'm put off. It's a texture thang. Plus, the peas weren't fully cooked and soft (cheats never work), so that added another texture issue. My tot loved it. I liked it. My husband would be fine never eating it again. The recipe is a good one, regardless of aforementioned indiscretions.

May 18, 2010

C'mon Big Red!

I'm so proud I was able to accomplish everything on my list over the weekend. Well, truth be told I didn't go fishing. None of us did for fear of the brutal thunderstorms looming on the radar. The only fishing I did that night was fertilize the tomatoes with fish emulsion. As expected with Indiana weather, the rest of the night turned out to be beautiful with nary a raindrop fall.

I only transplanted six of the tomatoes: Matt's Wild Cherry, Green Doctors, Depp's Pink Firefly, Indian Stripe, Kellogg's Breakfast, and Big Beef. They survived a week's worth of hardening off, along with all six of the Odessa Market bell peppers. The problem lies with the others. Not only their leaves but the stems were damaged during hardening off. I left them outside overnight and perhaps watered too infrequently while I was away from home. One is an Indiana Red that I've been anxiously waiting to grow out and taste. Here are a few pictures of the damage.

There are a few developing suckers (one which you can see well in the last photo) that I will grow out to help it develop foliage and better roots. Maybe it's salvageable?

The tomatoes weren't the only plants affected. While the bell peppers have tolerated my negligence with grace, the hot peppers have been a bit nasty. The white habaneros dropped all but four of their leaves and the black pearl has been turning, well, almost purplish-black. They are now back under the lights following a good dose of fish emulsion. Not a one has died and all are sprouting new leaves.

May 15, 2010

Before The Rain


Top Row: 3 year-old Weigela, Newly planted Dahlia, Newly transplanted Matt's Wild Cherry tomato
Middle: Pea, Boxed in garden, Purple Plum radish harvest
Bottom: Newly transplanted Odessa Market bell pepper, New birdhouse, Rocky Top lettuce mix.

Very successful day in the garden! I accomplished all the tasks mentioned in the post below with the help of my husband. All before a big nasty rainstorm approached central Indiana.

The time is right to plant, in my opinion. It will be cloudy and overcast the next 3-4 days, nighttime temperatures will remain in the mid-50s, and rainshowers are expected! I didn't want them to burn up under the hot sun. Only time will tell if I did the right thing. I still have half of the tomatoes left under my lights - they aren't fairing too well. I may pot up those and give them another week or so, along with the hot peppers and eggplant.

The Plan

1. Box in the garden.
2. Plant half the tomatoes & bell peppers.
3. Sow beans, cucumbers, zucchini, and basil.
4. Harvest radishes.
5. Sow more carrots.
6. Plant flowers in the planters & bed in the front.
7. Go fishing!

May 9, 2010

Mother's Day

What a wonderful day it has been. I was woken by my husband and son after a peaceful night's sleep. They came bearing gifts that, while unnecessary, were thoughtful and generous. The three of us have since spent the day together eating a delightful breakfast, shopping, and playing in the park under partly cloudy skies. I do believe I'm just about the luckiest woman alive.

If the weather was warmer, I would spend the afternoon in the garden enjoying its tranquility. Temperatures just above freezing tonight keep me from putting the tomatoes in the ground. My only task right now is weeding, but that too can be oddly therapeutic.

Happy Mother's Day to every mother out there. Keep up the good work of teaching our children many things, but most importantly honesty, respect, and patience.

April 18, 2010

Hairy Legs & Fireflies

Close-up of the Indiana Red. She's a hairy one! The others have fuzz, but not like this. Wonder if it means anything?

One tomato plant is not like the others. The Depp's Pink Firefly has a very different leaf formation. I'm guessing it's a potato-leaf variety.

April 17, 2010


Last weekend, I spent an hour transplanting the rest of my seedlings. I had already repotted my bell peppers, parsley, cilantro, rosemary, and thyme. They have been doing great! In fact, they spend several hours outside, taking advantage of these warm and sunny days. The tomatoes and hot peppers had started to look affected by their compact quarters. I think they've appreciated the upgrade.

I went the cheap route and used plastic 16oz party cups. I filled with an unmeasured mixture of potting soil and peat. And, I even remembered to poke holes in the bottom! After separating the roots, I used Craig's method of pushing them down into the soil. It was quick and easy. Then I watered and left them in filtered sunlight for the rest of the afternoon. They are all now looking healthy, have good growth with more leaves. I have lost one tomato, Costoluto Genovese. I have two cups that apparently skipped the marking process...so we'll see what becomes of those!

Speaking of the bell peppers, there are six Odessa Markets that are looking healthy and happy! I noticed three of them have started a flower bud. Thinking I should pinch it off, giving more energy to root growth and foliage. They aren't going in the ground for at least another two weeks, so it would be a waste of an unpollinated flower.

April 13, 2010

What's Happening

Things have been moving right along here in the victory garden. The onions have been moved into their permanent home, alongside sowings of Swiss chard, radish, and spinach. All tomatoes have been upgraded to roomier accommodations under the lights along with the hot peppers. I even threw down some grass seed and soil, hoping to reduce the blinding bareness of the backyard.

As a side note, I've been reviewing the self-made videos of Craig LeHoullier. The man lives and breathes tomatoes. He was responsible for bringing Cherokee Purple to Seed Savers Exchange, a tomato which is now extremely popular at Farmer's Markets around the country. He demonstrates a dense seed sowing method and how to transplant young seedlings. Although I will never (at least not now!) require as many tomatoes as Craig is planting, I did enjoy using his thumb method for my transplants this weekend. Please support his blog @ nctomatoman.

April 7, 2010

Homemade Yogurt

Making yogurt at home is incredibly easy and requires minimal supplies. Today, I tasted my first batch and it was delicious. Helping me along was Dr. Fankhauser. I varied the procedure a bit.

8 Half-Pint Jars
2 Stockpots
Measuring Cup
Kitchen Thermometer

1/2-gallon Milk
Plain Yogurt

Seriously, this is easy. I cut the original recipe in half and used smaller jars.

First, sterilize your canning jars. I do not have a dishwasher, so I use the old-fashioned method of boiling the crap out of them. I do this in a very LARGE (worried it will break the ceramic stovetop one day) pressure canner.

Next, pour milk into stockpot and slowly bring it to 190 degrees. Immediately place it into a sink of cold water. Cool to 130 degrees.

Place a half cup of the cooled milk in a measuring cup. Add enough yogurt to make one cup. Stir to completely blend.

Add this mixture slowly to the cooled milk and stir to blend well.

Pour evenly amongst sterilized half-pint jars. Add lid and ring. I left very little headspace in mine. Place jars back back into the pot you sterilized your jars in. I wrapped a towel around them to help insulate. Place the whole pot in the oven with the light on. The light provides enough warmth for the GOOD bacteria to grow, we cooked the milk to kill the BAD bacteria.

Allow this to sit for about 12 hours and you will have delicious yogurt!

March 31, 2010

2 Day Spring Break

Adult spring breaks come in short little bursts of beautiful weather. These are our only chances to get out of the office and back under the warm sun. The past two days have been just that. Gorgeous clear, sunny skies that make all the tree buds pop open and flowers awaken, forcing even the most antisocial-ites outside to enjoy the weather.

Projects are in the works for landscaping the backyard. Most are small projects. I want to create two flower boxes and one raised area to plant blueberries. Then we'll dig up two woody bushes in the front yard and replace the area with hostas and indigenous wildflowers. I told my husband to leave the backyard to me...it's my domain. There's also completely reseeding the dog area. The ex-dog (we had to divorce her, it was a bad relationship) destroyed it with all her pacing. It'll be a project, that's for sure.

Speaking of the hubs...I would have had pictures of everything to share with you, but he took off on a scooter ride and took the camera. I'm sure it'll be worth it. His videos and pictures are always great!

March 20, 2010

In The Garden

Oh how wonderful it felt to be out in the garden, even if it was only to complete a few tasks. The weather was warm, still the wind was a sharp reminder of March. I'm convinced that spring is here, in her infancy.

When I set out to the garden, my goals were to turn the soil and plant peas, radish, and spinach. I also took the onions out to acclimate them to their new environment. Once I stepped foot into the garden, I realized the soil conditions had changed. It went from a nice loamy texture to hard, wet clay. It rained for a few days prior and the dog had been running around, leaving mud-molded paw prints behind.

With a little effort, I was able to turn a row. By the fence, I noticed that the soil remained that loamy soil from before the rain. The sun always hits this side first, helping it to dry out faster. Easily, I turned this soil and prepared it for the peas. I spaced them about 4" apart in a long row. I decided not to sow the other seeds, dut to unfavorable soil conditions. We're expecting another rain now, so the next dry spell I'll go out and start again.

The onions did well outside for two days. It will be a few more before they return; I have to work. I bought potting soil and perlite at the store, ready to pot-up the peppers and herbs as they are setting their third set of leaves. I have lots of pepper plants. I hate to cull them. If I have room, I will pot-up and either give them away or sell them. But that's for another day, during nap-time.

I've also been busy changing the look of the website, adding new products to My Happy Kitchen and also adding a My Happy Kitchen facebook fan page. So many things to do and simply no time with a little tot running around. Then again, I wouldn't trade that for the world.

March 13, 2010

March 11, 2010

Barefoot Bloggers - Individual Meat Loaves

It feels good to be back with the Barefoot Bloggers. It allows me a(nother) good reason to make really great dishes from one of my faves: Ina Garten. Like I've said before, she writes recipes that are simple yet exquisite, often infusing French cuisine a la Julia Child. Today was anything but French. No wine, no butter, no herbes de Provence. Only good All-American food. Here's my tale of the mini meatloaf.

Recipe: Individual Meat Loaves

The first thing I thought about changing with this recipe was the meat. Friends at work have been raving about a turkey meatloaf which I've been meaning to try. However, after two straight nights of chicken, I was ready for something heartier. Ground sirloin certainly made it a leaner meatloaf, much better than the chuck I've used in the past. I cut back to two pounds for a total of four mini loaves.

Ina explicitly instructs the cook to soften the onions without any browning. I disagree. A bit of carmelization I feel is necessary to bring out the natural sugars and add a touch of sweetness to the meat, which the ketchup on top mimics. I also didn't have any fresh thyme to add, it's still in the seedling stage under grow lights. Instead, I utilized the pesto I made in the fall with ALL that basil. The rest went together as written and cooked in 40 minutes flat.

I made a side of redskin buttermilk mashed potatoes and brussels sprouts with shallot and balsamic vinegar. The meatloaf had a nice texture and held together well. There was little fat, yet remained moist even around the edges. My husband has expressed his pleasure with the meal, repeatedly. It's definitely one of the better meat loaves I've made.

There were these light green roses at the entrance to the grocery store today. I couldn't resist. They lift my mood everytime I walk by. Spring is in the air around here.