Friday, July 24, 2009

Around Our House: Daddy Loves His Girls

How I know daddy loves his girls...

This is the spread Scott had laid out for the wiener kids when we got back from swimming lessons. Even I was surprised.

Around Our House: Garden Booty

Big crop of the week.

In spite of the wilt plaguing our tomatoes, we are starting to get a good crop. I think I might try to can a few this weekend.

Our peppers are super happy. I think it may have been the extra fertilizer we tossed in when we planted them. I actually had enough to freeze about a pint. I usually just get a bag started and add to it until it is full. Seems to work well.

Our zucchini and squash are slowly coming, which is good, we are not yet overwhelmed. I baked a delicious zucchini cake last night and we had sauteed squash and zucchini for supper.

We get about two cucumbers a day which seems perfect for daily consumption, however, I will have to buy cucs to do any pickled this year. We used up the rest of our lime pickles, which are a necessity for chicken or tuna salad. I think I'll make the bread and butter pickles out of zucchini again this year, we tried it last year and worked great!

We also picked a giant bucket full of turnips. Hmmm. I have decided to try to make some Middle Eastern Turnip pickles (those funky bright pink pickles they serve at good falafel places). The recipe is fermented so I'll let you know how that goes!

Here are a few pics of our bounty.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Recipes: Chicken Ratatouille

Chicken Ratatouille

This is my recipe for a delicious and relatively simple summer meal.

1 whole 5-6 pound chicken cut into parts and skinned (reserve the chicken back and gizzards for stock).
2 cloves garlic crushed or grated
1 medium sized onion diced
2 medium sized zucchini diced
2 medium sized yellow squash diced
2 peppers (any color, chopped)
6 T olive oil
4 T butter
3-4 medium to large tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
2 T chopped fresh oregano

Heat half of the oil and butter in a heavy covered pot over medium high heat. Add the chicken and garlic. Brown chicken on both sides and turn down the heat and cover. Stir every 5 minutes and cook about 25-30 minutes.

While the chicken is cooking, heat the remaining oil in a large skillet over a medium heat. Add the onions and brown (about 3-5 minutes). Add the zucchini, squash, and peppers cook until tender (another 5 minutes). Add the tomatoes and oregano and set the heat to low. When the chicken thigh is cooked through, add the vegetables to the chicken. Allow to simmer about 5 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve with chicken quinoa. Serves 4.

Chicken Quinoa

3 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 cups quinoa
1T chopped parsley

Bring stock to a boil (if you have reserved the chicken back and gizzard add 1 chopped onion, or use your vegetable trimmings from the ratatouille, boil for 30 minutes with 6 cups water). Add quinoa. Stir occasionally for 20-25 minutes or until the quinoa is soft and starts to unfurl its white seed curl. Add 1 T chopped parsley. Salt to taste.

NOTE: I like to buy the chicken from a local chicken farmer who raises his chickens free range. Check your local farmers market for home grown chicken. This meal can also use eggplant, if you have it available, or may be stretched with extra veggies. If you are stretching the meal, you may consider picking the chicken from the bone and mixing it in casserole style.

Around Our House: How Our Garden Grows

Let the feast begin!

I just picked the first of our summer veggies. I've gotten a few random tomatoes, peppers, and squash over the last few weeks, but today was the first time I picked enough for a meal!

We've got wilt on the cucumbers and tomatoes again, and we are afraid we will have to deal with it for the next few years. We're monitoring which varieties do the best against it and plan to plant those next year. We have all but completely lost the Poona Kheera cucumbers, but the delikatesse are doing great (so far). I saw a few baby melons and squash today. I just hope they get enough summer to grow fruits.

It's been so cool, we are still picking lettuce, which is good since I forgot to plant chard or collards for summer salads...

Here is the garden a few weeks ago. The pole beans are JUST starting to flower.

The cucumber machine before the Poona Kheeras died.

The greens. And reds. We planted several types of lettuce, red orach, chard, and basil.

The big crop... Guess I don't need to wash the canning jars QUITE yet.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Great photos of my work in a BEAUTIFUL home. Look for the giant personalized fleece ball in the basket and the two sweater balls on the bed.

Design Sponge Blog -

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Around Our House: Freezing Blueberries

Freeze those BLUEBERRIES!

I just put 9 quarts of blueberries in the deep freeze. They were $1.49 a pint at our local Fareway. Whenever you see blueberries at $1.49 or less per pint BUY THEM (especially if you are prone to buying frozen berries for smoothies etc.)! They freeze beautifully! Just put them in a ziplock bag and freeze. Last winter I put up about 8 quarts and wished we had another 8 (for a family of four). We would use them in baking, for smoothies, or as a fruit side for our little ones.

Other berries such as raspberries and gooseberries freeze well too.

Another food I freeze when cheap is peppers. Just chop them and put them in a freezer bag, and you are ready to dump some in chili, or sprinkle a few on a quesadilla.

Later this summer, I will be freezing tomatoes, corn, green beans, squash, and zucchini. I'll let you know when that exciting time comes...

Monday, July 06, 2009

Quick and Easy Blueberry Nectarine Fluff

This is one of my favorite summer recipes. This is my creation based on my undying love of waldorf salad. Increase the fruit for a less fluffy salad.

one pint fresh blueberries (don't even try to use frozen)
6-8 ripe nectarines sliced
one 8 oz package reduced fat cream cheese - softened
one 8 oz tub cool whip
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)

Slice the nectarines and rinse the blueberries and set aside. Using a hand mixer (or whisk) whip together the cream cheese, cool whip, and cinnamon. Combine the fluff with the fruit (and nuts). Serve or chill. Will hold overnight if desired.

For a sweeter salad, whip 1/2 cup honey with the cool whip and cream cheese. Or go grandma crazy and throw in some mini marshmallows!

Serves 6-8

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Choosing a Pincushion

With the assortment of beautiful and unique pincushions available out there, how do you go about selecting one to fit your needs?

Start by determining where and how you will use your pincushion. Do you sew mostly on a machine? Or do you do mostly hand sewing?

Machine sewing typically requires a pincushion that can hold a lot of pins and that is weighted or somehow fixed to your workstation (so it won't slide as you slam your pins down into it). A broad stabbing surface makes it easier to hit the target.

I often have two pincushions in my machine sewing work areas, one where I pin my patterns and the other by the machine. As the pincushion near my cutting and pinning station empties, I swap it for the one that has filled up by the machine. I would beware of any pincushion made inside teacups or other breakable containers for next to the machine (how many times have I knocked my pincushion off as the fabric pulls through the machine). Some people find a small dish with a magnet attached to the bottom next to the machine is the most useful (again, how many of THESE have I knocked over...)

For hand sewing I prefer a smaller pincushion. I typically sew with just a few needles (between 3-5) and keep about five pins on hand in case I need them. The hand sewing station is where the cute little bottlecap pincushions, pincushions inside teacups, and other smaller pincushions are handy. I use one of my own wrapped wool pincushions because they sit nice and flat, are easy to stab, and the wool seems to keep my needles nice. While weighting may still be useful, I have found that I am not nearly as aggressive whilst stabbing as I am hand sewing. If you are a person who embroiders and prefers to keep several needles threaded at the same time, you may still opt for a larger flatter style pincushion.

Another consideration is if you store your pincushion or leave it out. If you need to pack your pincushion up inside your sewing basket, be sure to select one that is a suitable size, and has a firm grip on the pins and needles. Needle books are a great option for inside the sewing basket, as you may leave your needles threaded without getting the thread tangled inside the basket (simply hitch the thread around the needle after you have stuck it into the book).

Pincushions are the perfect gift for the crafty type. A great place to start looking is

Here are a few of mine.

Wrapped Wool Pincushion by Handmade Pretties - This is a larger wrapped wool pincushion perfect for handsewing or embroidery. Eye catching and unique this beauty can double as art. Made from recycled wool.

Wrapped Wool Pincushion by Handmade Pretties - This is a smaller wrapped wool pincushion perfect for handsewing. Each one it unique.

Cutest Ever Kitty Pincushion by Handmade Pretties - Pick from several color options, or get one to match your own kitty. Can sit on its butt or belly, perfect for machine sewing station.

Patchwork Needlebook by Handmade Pretties - hold needles or pins on several pages a must for any sewing basket. Made from vintage quilt tops.

Wooly Block Pincushion with Vintage Buttons by Handmade Pretties - Gigantic. Perfect next to the machine, but cute on display. Features vintage buttons and recycled wool.

Here are a few of my favorite pincushion shops on

Loose String

Small, Medium, and Large. All beautifully embroidered in a rainbow of colors. Loose String's pincushions would be a welcome addition to my sewing basket anyday.


Super darn cute. Too small for next to my machine, but cute enough to hang out with me in the living room to accept needles while I sew. Comes in several colors, and some of the birds have friends. Be sure to also check out the awesome measuring tapes Feltmates has to offer!


If you seriously *heart* sewing, here's your pincushion... One of several off the wall pincushions.

The Daily Pincushion

A great selection of darling hand embroidered pincushions big and small. Great gifts for the crafty person in your life.

For more wonderfully unique pincushions, check out

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Ahhhhh Jello.

What could be more delicious than a jiggling fruity glob of jello? Why jello packed with tuna and mayonnaise of course.

Jellied Tuna with Mayonnaise

1 package lemon Jell-O
1 cup boiling water
1 cup cold water
2 tablespoons vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup tuna fish, flaked
1 cup peas (fresh-cooked or canned)
2 tablespoons pimento, finely chopped
1/2 cup mayonnaise

Dissolve jell-o in boiling water. Add cold water, vinegar, and salt. Chill. When slightly thickened, fold in remaining ingredients. Blend. Turn into individual molds. Chill until firm. Unmold on crisp lettuce. Garnish with additional mayonnaise. Serves 6-8.

Taken from The Complete Jell-o Recipe Book copyright 1929.