4/18/14

Growing Garlic Part 2: The Spring Growing Season

This is part 2 in a continuing series on growing your own garlic. To read the first post click here. At this point you should find yourself in springtime. The garlic has survived the winter. In early fall when you planted it, it developed a root system and sent some green leaves up through the soil.

Here's what you need to know to keep your garlic growing as healthy and big as possible.

Watering:
Every few days-once a week:


Garlic likes moist soil but not too moist. Too much moisturer encourages mold and plant disease. To check if it is too moist, push your finger through the mulch and into the soil near the root base of a few of your garlic. If the soil is muddy and super wet, then remove some of the mulch to help it dry out the soil. If your fingers come out dry it's time to water.

How much water? It depends on how hot and dry your spring is. Usually about an inch or so of water per week is enough to keep the garlic happy, but do not let them dry out too much.


Growing:
Every plant expends only a certain amount of it's energy on growing as a plant. The following tips will help you direct that energy into growing the garlic bulb as large as possible.

The leaves that started growing in fall will continue to grow. Keep them trimmed to about 8-10 inches. Any longer than that will inhibit the growth of the bulb.

In late spring you should start to see green curly scapes growing from the center of the leaves. Clip these off near the base. Do NOT throw the scapes in the compost pile. They are not only edible (think the green part of a green onion/scallion) but are delish in your cooking! Just steam or stir fry them and add them as you would the green parts of a green onion!
Photo Credit http://extension.umd.edu/learn/vegetable-profiles-garlic:

Weeding: 
Keep the garden bed weeded as much as possible. Garlic likes to have room to grow and doesn't like being too crowded, so keep those weeds down to keep your bulbs growing large.

4/15/14

Dehydrating Green Onions

Dehydrating Green Onions is an easy way to preserve them if you find yourself with a garden overflowing. I do freeze them as well, but love to dehydrate them along with other herbs and turn them into a savory herb blend or even just plain green onion powder to cook with.

 
I do find that larger pieces of green onions do not really rehydrate well.  They turn rather stringy and tough, so I find it's best to freeze the onions I want to mix into recipes for soups, salads, etc. and  turn the dried onions into herb blends and powders to season with.
 

To dehydrate cut green onions into small pieces. (You can cut them smaller than I did!)
Dry on lowest setting (if you can adjust your temperature) for 4-5 hours till completely dried and the onions are easily crumbled.

From here you can puliverize into powder in a food processor or crush into small pieces to mix into a Savory Herb blend with dried herbs such as rosemary, thyme, oregano, sage

Store in cool, airtight container.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


4/13/14

Handwritten Recipes Gift Ideas

If your parents are anything like my parents, they don't NEED anything, and never give you any gift ideas either. Mothers Day, Fathers Day and Birthday's become such a challenge!

For the month of April  I decided to post one no cost or low cost, yet meaningful or fun Mothers Day  gift idea for your mother, or even your daughter every Monday. Last week I wrote about making your own "Where I'm From" gift.

In today's digital world, our children are growing up learning to cook by reading recipes off their tablets or smart phones. This is great, but there is something missing in that. Something personal. There is just something about pulling out an old recipe card, with your mothers or grandmothers handwriting on it, faded some with age, and tattered a little from use that just makes the food taste better! It's the love, the heritage!
A few months back,  I ran across an old birthday card written to me years ago by my grandmother. Oh, how I had forgotten what her handwriting looked like. I recognized it instantly without having to read the signature on the card. It made me feel like I had a piece of her again.


It may seem like a simple gift now. And even maybe underappreciated when you give a set of handwritten recipes to your daughter, grand daughter, or nieces. But life is that way. When we are young we don't always cherish what we should, but as we get older and lose our precious loved ones through the years, those simple gifts of time and thought become priceless and treasured.

This year, think about hand writing out a few of your best loved or well known recipes onto simple index cards or paper. No need for fancy recipe cards, they never look as good copied over the years (and believe me, someone in your family is going to want a copy later on from your daughter of your famous salad, cake, etc.)

Here are a few of my favorite ways to share those recipes!
  •  Write them on cards, stack them up and tie a pretty ribbon around them. Write a note or better yet share a story of you learning to cook or when you burned something etc. They'll realize that no one starts out great. We all have beginners mishaps (ok even not so beginners mishaps too!)  Encourage them, remind them of how food brings families together.


  • Turn those recipes into kitchen towels! I have an old post from a few years ago that will show you how! Recipe Dish Towels  I have had children make them for their mothers or grandmothers writing "their" version of those favorite cookie recipes and I have made them for my Step mom for a mothers day gift from old family recipes also.
     


  • Copy those handwritten recipes at a copy store and have them bound into small cookbooks. Share photo's  and stories.  I recently made a scrapbook style cookbook for my daughter with preserved recipes, photo's and stories from both my side of the family and my husbands and was able to go back at least 4 generations. It took planning and asking relatives for recipes, photo's and stories. I took a year to do it, and gave it to her at Christmas. It's a one and only copy. I did manage to scan in every page to a photo website so I can print out a cookbook for my son's wives at some point. Yours doesn't have to be this ambitious, but printing a cookbook is a great way to share them with multiple people at once.




What do you do to share your families treasured recipes?

4/8/14

Alfredo Shells & Ham

Alfredo Shells & Ham is a quick, easy dinner that uses left over ham but is so good, no one will believe they are eating "leftovers"! It's a perfect use for that leftover holiday ham!

Leftover Ham recipes


The first time my husband tried this dinner, he asked for it to be on regular rotation on the menu planner. We both loved the taste, but I also loved the 15 minute dinner idea!



This recipe comes courtesy of my daughter in law. She shared this family recipe with me and we quickly fell in love with it.



4/6/14

The Best Free Mothers (or Fathers) Day Gift

If your parents are anything like my parents, they don't NEED anything, and never give you any gift ideas either. Mothers Day, Fathers Day and Birthday's become such a challenge!

For the month of April  I decided to post one no cost or low cost, yet meaningful or fun Mothers Day  gift idea for your mother, or even your daughter every Monday. This is my first Monday for Mom's idea:

What if I told you that this one free gift, will have them in tears and cherishing your gift as one of the best (if not THE best) they have ever received? 


 
Curious?

Let me take you back just a moment and tell you how I came across this little idea. 

One day while cleaning off the computer desk, I noticed my teenage daughter had left some school papers out.  I started to pick them up to organize them and then I noticed that one of them was a poem. It was in her handwriting so I knew she'd written it. I read it and started to cry. How did THAT amazing thing come from that girl? It blew me away.
 

Then I saw her template from the teacher on how to construct the poem, and my journey began. Originally written by Georgia Ellen Lyon  the Where I'm From Poem came from her writing down in a descriptive way where she came from.  She then made it into an easy to use writing template that ANYONE can use to make a beautiful poem about where they came from.

Writing? Me? I know your thinking, I can't write! I am telling you, if you follow this template, think about your own life, add in some memories, of smells, colors, cooking, people, activities, etc. you will bring your parent to tears.

Ok, On with my story.  I decided to write my own Where I'm From Poem, and give it to my dad for father's day.  I wrote it, and before I could change it, I mailed it to him.  On Fathers Day I called him and he told me he started reading it and my step mom came into the room , and asked him why he was crying. Know what got him? One line: "I am from homemade fiberglass sleds". Yep, didn't reduce you to tears did it?  But that is EXACTLY  the magic of the Where I'm From Poem. It isn't meant to be special to the world, only to you and the family/people who came before you!

I have since taught this as a class both to  girls youth group  and as a class for the women's organization at church. Every time,  someone tells me a story of how the poem they wrote touched their parents (and themselves) in a profound way.

After my dad received my poem, my stepmom wrote one, not based on her life, but on the life of her beloved aunt who was dying. All the women of her family got together with Aunt Virginia to share stories one last time, and my step mom shared Virginias Where I'm From poem. after she passed away shortly there after, when my step mom went to the funeral, the family had loved the poem so much they had used it in the program for the service.

 That means you can not only write one about yourself, but with a little thought and digging for information you could write one on behalf of someone else. One youth, (the one that complained the most during the class I taught) wrote one for her dad about HIS life. Yep.. He cried.  You could write one for your mother about her mother, get the idea?

I am telling you, it won't take you long (ok I agonized, pondered and took time with mine).  With my daughters permission I am sharing a portion of  hers with you. as well as portion of mine. to give you a feel for them.
Here's the beginning:
I am From
by J. T.
 
I am from the passed down china set,
From the big family that loves and picks on me and the constant love.
I am from the cozy, safe household.
 I am from the heart of the artichoke, the part that holds a family together.
I am from the autumn days of apple picking
and the curly hair from Aunt Mimi, and my mom.
(and skipping to the last line)
I am from a scrapbook filled with memories.
 
and here is mine:
 
I am from oranges in my Christmas stocking, from "wheat gum"
and homemade fiberglass sleds.
 
I am from backyard ice skating rinks and back flips on the trampoline.
 
I am from the delicate columbine wildflower and the giant bright sunflowers.
 
I am from traipsing up a mountain side to cut down our Christmas tree, and from tunnel campground. I am from parents who "chose" me and a mom who "stepped" into my life, just when I needed her.
(and skipping to the last line)
I am from a cedar chest filled with black & white photographs of a blessed life.
 
Ok, lets' get you started!
 
 
 When I teach this as a class, I encourage the attendees to start their memories and creativity flowing by  writing a few lists then start the template. Here are the writing prompts to begin.
 

 
Printable Copy:
Writing Prompts:
 
First: Make a list of where you are from:
Where you were born,
parents were born
grandparents where born.
 
Second: Go beyond places:
Describe the colors of these places, the people, the objects, the smells, the surrounding nature
 
Third: Remember the sayings from others
What did your father say all the time?
Your mother, your grandparents?
 
Fourth: Brainstorm:
Items from your childhood home
Items from the yard or neighborhood
Names of relatives: Aunts, Uncles, Cousins.
Family traditions, holidays, vacations
 
Fifth: Food brings people together:
Write down the foods and dishes that remind you of family gatherings, or traditions (like Saturday or Sunday mornings)
 
Sixth: Last but not least;
Name the places where you or your mom stores or kept your childhood memories.
 
READY TO WRITE YOUR POEM?
JAN'S TIPS:
The key is to make sure to use descriptive words, adjectives, maybe say,  I come from the sounds of a mountain stream echoing in my ears...(I grew up in Colorado just doesn't have the same ring to it, huh?)
OR:
I woke up to the smells of fresh baked cinnamon rolls waiting  in a sun filled kitchen every Sunday morning. (Much better than: I grew up with cinnamon rolls every weekend.) Remember you are touching hearts here!  Remember that in your writing.
 
 

HERE IS THE TEMPLATE:
I am from ___________________ (specific ordinary item), from ____________________(product name) and _________________________(something from the holidays).
 


 I am from the _________________, ( description of home, add an adjective and or a sensory detail.) _________________, (adjective about home) and ______________________ (adjective or description about home).

 

 
I am from the _______________ (plant, flower, natural item),  and the ________________ (plant, flower, natural detail)
 
I am from ________________ (family tradition) and _______________ (family trait or tradition), from __________________ (name of family member who is special to you, why?) and _____________ (a family member who has passed away and a characteristic of theirs.)
 

From _______________________ (something you were told as a child) and ____________________________ (another thing you were told as a child).
 
I am from ____________________(representation of religion, or lack of it). Further description.
(Optional – you do not have to include a religious line if you do not want to.)
 
I'm from _____________________ (place of birth and family ancestry), _____________, and ______________ (two food items representing your family).
 
I am from ________________________ (location of family pictures, mementos, archives)
 
Did you write one? How was your experience?
 
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