Monday, January 31, 2011

Pasta, and what... 300!

I love a bargain. It's not a secret. The last time we were at Costco, I saw that they had Gorgonzola cheese for $1.69 / a pound. Which is a really great price.  It's usually ridiculously overpriced in supermarkets near me.   So I picked up 2 pounds of it.  I like to use it in pasta.  In particular, I make a ziti with sausage, broccoli, and gorgonzola.  It's really easy to make.  Boil the ziti pasta.  In the meanwhile, I cut up 4 links of Italian Sweet Sausage and browned it in a very large skillet.  Then toss in 2 cups of broccoli florets or a frozen box of broccoli.  Save 1 cup of pasta water and drain the pot of cooked pasta.  Add the ziti pasta to the sausage and broccoli.  Drizzle with olive oil and add a cup of crumbled gorgonzola and the reserved cup of pasta water.  Mix well until cheese is melted.  Season with salt and pepper and serve.  Serve and Enjoy!
Oh and somehow my 300th post crept up on me!  Today's post is a benchmark, I hit 300!   How quickly that came, it feels like just yesterday I was at 200. I realized that I really enjoy blogging about the garden, cooking, the house and eveything in between. Just like I did, when I hit 100 and 200 posts, I would like to do a giveaway!  I have a few ideas on what I want to giveaway but not ready with it yet.  I'll share the details later this week.  Stay tuned!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

I'm Pretty Impressed

I must say, sometimes the postal service is really impressive!  On the day we received 19 inches of snow,  we got mail!  They really take their creed seriously, "And neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night, nor the winds of change, nor a nation challenged, will stay us from the swift completion of our appointed rounds. Ever." That day, amongst mounds of snow, my doorbell rang, and the postman gave me a package.  The Amaryllis bulbs that I ordered from White Flower Farm had arrived.  They are impressive bulbs!  I can't wait to plant them.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Tastes a Little Like Thanksgiving

In our house, my husband rarely cooks. On the few occasions that he does, once he forgot to turn off the burner and left a frying pan of scrambled egg remnants cooking until it was charred. Thank goodness I smelled the burning eggs!  He doesn't even grill, whenever he does everything turns out blackened even if it wasn't meant to be. The one thing that he is really good at however, is baking the perfect whole chicken! Every time he roasts a bird, it always comes out perfectly cooked and juicy. What's his secret? Beer, Butter, and Maple Syrup.  He puts a few pats of butter between the skin and meat.  Then he drizzles and brushes on maple syrup all over the bird.   Just enough to give the bird a bit of sweetness and color as it bakes.  Season with salt and pepper and bake at 375 degrees.   A 1/2  hour into baking, he takes it out of the oven and pours 3/4 of a can of beer into the baking pan to cook for another hour.  He bastes the chicken at the next 1/2 hour mark.  How long your chicken bakes depends on how large your bird is.  If you run a knife through it and the juices run clear it's good to go.  To accompany the roasted chicken, I wanted to use up some of the potatoes we got from the farm.  We still have a good bushel of potatoes in storage down in the basement.  So I made mashed potatoes and a side of sausage vegetable stuffing.  When the chicken was ready, I tool some of the chicken juices to make homemade gravy.  Doesn't this look like a mini Thanksgiving?
My husband doesn't cook very often, but when he does, it's a real treat!  

Friday, January 28, 2011

How to Make Seed Envelopes Out of Seed Catalogs

I really hate getting duplicate catalogs. Somehow, both my name and my husband's name got on this seed catalog database and now we get two catalogs. I'll have to call them and have them remove my name.  My first thought was to chuck one of the catalogs into the recycling bin, but then I remembered something.  I saw on the blog A Way to Garden, that the Hudson Valley Seed Library sold their seeds in these pretty seed envelopes designed by local artists.  I liked their envelope template.  Then I remembered how one of my favorite seed companies, Urban Farmer recycled magazines to make their seed envelopes.  I thought, I can do that too!!
In Illustrator, I created a template based on what Hudson Valley Seed Library uses.  You can download a PDF of the template here.  I printed the template and traced it over a page of the seed catalog.
Trace the template on the backside of page that will be the inside, because you don't want to see the pen markings on the exterior side.  After tracing it, cut it out.  I chose this page, because I will put radish seeds in it.  ;)
Fold back the curved ends.
Glue the 3 sides.  Be careful with how much glue you use.  A little goes a long way.
Put the seeds in and close the top flap.  I printed out the seed information on a Avery 5160 mailing label.  This one is for French Breakfast seeds that I am sending to Greens and Jeans for exchange for some of her seeds.
I decided to make two envelopes.  One small one that I will put into a larger envelope.  Just to keep it more organized.  If you want to do this, just increase the size of the template PDF above.
I really like how these envelopes came out.  Aren't they cute?  And the fact that it was recycled out of seed catalogs makes me even happier!

If I Had a Kid

If I had a kid, I hope they will be as cool as this one. Last week, when I was waiting for the MTA bus, I saw this kid with the coolest backpack. I'm guessing this kid was in grammar school, and all the kids I know that age have Super Heros or Disney characters on their backpack.  So to see a kid sporting a Recycling Sign on their backpack IS the ultimate COOL kid in my opinion.  It's possible his mom or dad picked out this bag for him and made him use it.  However, I'm hoping that he picked it out, afterall kids can be very picky when it comes to style.  Especially NYC kids.  I love seeing the next generation care about the environment, it gives me hope.  It gives me hope that there will be another generation out there championing for the Earth!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

It Feels a Little Like Siberia

I've never been to Siberia, but whenever I see it in the movies, there is always snow, snow and more snow.  I'm starting to feel like we could live there.  We had 2 snow storms yesterday.  Yes, people, 2 separate systems pummeled our area giving us a whopping 19 inches!  They said on the news that this is the snowiest January ever recorded in NYC.  Seriously, a snow blower is on my 2011 Christmas wish list!  When we awoke this morning, it was like deja-vu.  Everything we shoveled yesterday, came right back today.  Our driveway was completely shoveled, not anymore!
A view of our street.  This was about 11:00am and many of the neighbors were out in full force trying to dig out.  At least the snow plows came through and cleared the streets, unlike the last blizzard we had a few weeks ago on December 26th.
Remember that mound of snow I posted yesterday?  Well, now we have two mounds of snow in our front yard!  All of this snow is from our driveway.  Since our driveway is so narrow, the only place for the snow to go is on the lawn.
To give you an idea of how tall these mounds are, here I am standing next to it.  I'm 5 foot 3 and the mound is as tall as I am!  That chain link fence is 4 feet tall. 
Thank  goodness we bought another shovel!!
I just have to laugh at how there is a snow bank in front of my house!
At least we have a driveway.  This is my neighbor's car in front of our house.  It's entirely covered except for the black side mirror.  Happy winter everyone, hope where you are is sunny and warm!!

Sustainable Landscaping for Dummies

The title of this book is perfect for me.  Not that I am a dummy, but because I have a hard time visualizing the final product of what I plant and grow and how to landscape my yard.   Case in point, the cosmos plants that I planted in my front yard, when I started them from seed, I had no idea they would grow so bushy and large with very small flowers. They were quite the eyesore!  So when Owen Dell, Landscape Architect and the author of the book, Sustainable Landscaping For Dummies sent me a copy to read, I was more than eager to do so.  In his book, he breaks down landscaping into layman's terms for people like me.  I am a gardening novice, who gets easily lost when it comes to planning out our garden.  In his book he covers the importance of taking the time to notice your yard.  He encourages you to put a chair in your yard and observe the area that you're working with.  It's such a great tip that didn't even occur to me.  He also advises you to think about your focal points, what he says "attention-grabbing elements".  We have a couple of focal points that we created this past summer in our yard.  Among them are the 4 grapevines on our posts, and our wall of roses that we are creating along the fence line.  Dell also says that every focal point should have a "vantage point, a place from which it is viewed."  What's nice about where we put our roses, is that we can see them inside from the dining room, and outside from the concrete patio area where we barbeque and have our lawn furniture.
Another topic that Dell covers is deciding what you want from your property.  My husband and I decided early on that we wanted to grow as much edibles in our yard as possible.  Therefore as part of our landscape design, we want to take full advantage of using edible plants, shrubs, trees for dual purposes, we want the plants to not only feed us, but to also look aesthetically pleasing.  This is a big reason we decided to plant grapevines, not only do grapevines look amazing when they are full and lush, the grapes they produce will be something we look forward to eating.  With all these plants and trees we planted, one task I discovered that I didn't particularly like during the "heat wave" of 2010 was watering our plants twice a day.  We had installed two rain barrels, and I really started to hate the way we transported water from the barrel to the vegetable garden that was 100 feet away.  It was such a chore.  So the chapter in the book that talks about "water harvesting, irrigation and drainage" is really interesting to me.  I've been thinking about installing a drip irrigation system because I also really don't like dragging the water hose all the way to the back vegetable garden to water the plants.  I can't wait to implement some of the tips on creating a drip system.  I like how there are diagrams in the book to help explain the system.  Since it's hard for me to visualize things on my own, the diagrams makes it really easy to understand.
I also like how the book covers hardscaping as well.  In those chapters, the book explains that in planning a garden, you also need to consider the hard elements such as lawn furniture, lighting, storage facilities, water features, livestock coops, pavers, and decks.  We've been talking about creating a stone wall in our yard in the future, so I'll be referring to this chapter a lot when we are ready to start this project.  What I like most about this book is that it is a great how-to guide for newbie gardeners.  In particular, I really like his diagrams and explanations of pruning plants, shrubs, and trees.  As well, instead of using harsh chemicals he discusses sustainable ways to control weeds, pests and diseases.  I'm definitely adding this book to my growing gardening library.  A book that makes sustainable landscaping sound easy is definitely a good one for me.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

It's hard to think about Spring, when you have this in your front yard.

It's snowing AGAIN, we just got about 6 inches.  It's been snowing here once a week since Christmas, and it's really getting tiring.  Who can think of spring and tulips coming up when you have this in your front yard!  My husband and I shoveled the driveway and since our driveway is narrow, the only place we can put the snow is in our front yard.  This pile is over 4 feet tall,  check out the 4 foot fence in the foreground.  This pile has been growing since our blizzard on Dec. 26th.  During the blizzard we got about 3 feet of snow, and some of it melted, then we had 3 more snow storms to date.  This is the outerboroughs of New York, we don't get this much snow usually!
Thank goodness that we bought a new shovel yesterday. 
Shoveling the backyard driveway.  I think we need a snowblower!  LOL.
The garage does look good in the snow.  So pretty.  We are so lucky that we renovated the garage this summer, because all the heavy snow we've been getting would have definitely destroyed the old roof.
 Here is the driveway, all shoveled.  Glad to be done.
I'm really hating all this snow.   At least the trees look pretty.
 The Eastern Wahoo Seed bush looks happy also.
The grapevines in the snow.  I hope they will be okay come spring.  I hope this is the last snowstorm for awhile.  One can only dream!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

How My Farmers Market Plants are Doing...

If you read my blog, you've noticed that I've written very little about plants and gardening. It's because it's January, and there is about 1 foot of snow in my yard still and hardly anything is "growing" except for my indoor plants. Today however, I wanted to write an update about my indoor plants. Back in December, I bought some edible plants from the farmers market.  The Rosemary plant is doing really well.  In fact, I decided to re-pot it into a slightly larger pot.
The Pineapple Sage plant is doing even better.  It's grown much taller, and so, I had to replant it in a 6 inch pot.  It quickly outgrow the 4 inch pot it was in.
The plant that did horribly was my poor Dill plant.  I give up.  Seriously, look at this plant!?!  I have no idea why this one didn't do well at all.  It sat on the kitchen counter right next to the Rosemary and Sage plant, and yet, it still died.  (sigh)  I have had absolutely NO luck with growing Dill.  Even in the summer.  I'll have to try it again when it gets warmer.  For those of you with lots of luck with Dill, tips on how to successfully grow it is welcomed!

A Warm Gift

My father-in-law gave the hubs and I, a funny thoughtful gift.  His and hers Snuggies.  You see, when he was here helping us with rebuilding our garage, he said our house was a bit chilly.  Gulp.  We're terrible, we're frugal with our heat, we keep the thermostat at 63F.  The hubs and I figure we can put on layers of clothing to keep warm instead of pumping the heat.  It's expensive to heat our old 1901 house since it's so poorly insulated.  Since there's only 2 of us that live here, we are fine with having the thermostat at a lower temperature.  Evenmore so now that we have our very own Snuggie!  Hopefully this will keep us warm.
Our cat Yaffa really likes the Snuggie too.  She's been sleeping on it everyday.

Monday, January 24, 2011

A Gift of Local Goodies

One of my favorite holiday gifts that we received was this gift basket from the hub's brother and his girlfriend. The basket contained some delicious goodies made locally in the Upstate New York.  How wonderful that they support local food businesses! In the basket was artisanal goat cheese from Coach Farm of Hudson Valley, Orange Blossom Honey from Raindrop Farms in Cazenovia, NY, Hot Wasabi Cheese from Yancey Fancy of Corfu, NY, Coffee from JB Peel in Red Hook, NY, Tea from Harney & Sons in Millerton, NY, and Three Philosphers Beer crafted by Ommegang Brewery in Cooperstown, NY.  Everything was just delicious.  I especially loved the Hot Wasabi cheese, because I love spicy horseradish.  It is amazingly good stuff. 

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Can this be any cuter?

Even if you don't like gnomes, when you see this trailer you might hate them less.  This is too cute. I wonder if I can talk my husband into seeing this with me.  At last, a fun "gardening" movie.

Seed Catalogs up the Wazoo!

Every other day, my mailbox has been cluttered with seed catalogs. I'm totally excited about most of the catalogs, like Botanical Interests, White Flower Farm, Burpee, McClure & Zimmerman, David Austin Roses but there are some which came unsolicited which really bothers me because I don't know if I should trust these catalogs.  I don't think I'll order from them since I don't know those companies, so it's such a waste of paper for them to send it to me.  I know they probably got my name from an order I placed with one of these reputable seed companies or from a book or magazine order I placed.  It's just plain annoying if you ask me.  Someone on the garden blogosphere referred to these seed catalogs as Garden Porn.  OMG, it so is!!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

These Pears are Like Candy

When we were upstate earlier this month to visit Grammie, she gave us two pears to bring home with us to enjoy.  She told us that the pears were a gift that came in a gift basket from Harry and David.  (Squeallllll)  Right away, I was extremely excited because I've received pears from Harry and David before, and oh wow, they are like Candy!!  I've always wondered what makes these pears out of this world good.  Are they growing them on magic trees or what?  LOL! They are perfectly sweet, and just the right ripe texture, not mushy or grainy, just perfect juicy goodness.  My parents have a bartlett pear tree in their backyard and they have never tasted like these before.  Harry and David is having a sale right now on their Royal Riveria pears.  Even on sale, it does seem kinda pricey, but take it from me, you won't be sorry!  They ARE delicious!

Cannot Pass Up a Good Deal

Earlier this month, I wrote about the gorgeous Amaryllis plant at Grammie's house.  I was so mesmorized by it because it was so gorgeous and had such perfect blooms.  Grammie told me it was a gift from her niece and was sent by White Flower Farm.  I have always loved Amaryllis so when I got an email from White Flower Farm that their Amaryllis bulbs were on sale at 50% off, well, I jumped at the chance to buy them.  Click here to see the Deal!  I love the quality of this nursery, but must admit that it's a bit pricey, so half price bulbs is very enticing.  I bought this bulb, I love the double petals it has and that it is white.  So pretty! 

I also wanted a red color bloom, so I bought this one too!  In total, I spent $27.35 for both bulbs which includes the shipping, which is about $13.67 for each bulb.  What a fantastic deal.  I really hate paying for shipping but you can't beat the quality!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Mmmm Bacon!

Let me start out by saying I Love Bacon.  It's not a secret.  That salty, smoked flavor.  Dear I say, I also dream about it.  I've always been one of those people that like salty things.  However, I didn't know what I was missing until I tasted the bacon from our pig.  Oh my, is it good.  You see, the supermarket bacon that I always bought really does not compare to the taste and flavor of this farm raised bacon.  I always found supermarket bacon to be sub-par, fatty, and when cooked, disappeared into almost nothing because all the fat was cooked off.
The bacon from the farm was thickly sliced, and when I cooked the bacon, the bacon pieces did not dwindle to nothingness.  Nope, the pieces cooked up perfectly with lots of substance to it.
What did I make with our first batch of bacon?  A BL without the T.  I had no tomatoes and the hubs doesn't care for fresh tomatoes so I made a bacon, lettuce, and mayo on toasted wheat bread.  Oooh, sooooo good!

Knowing Where Your Food Comes From

Vegetarians... Look away, this post is about a lot of pork meat! On the family farm, they raise pigs for family consumption. The main reason they raise pigs is because they were concerned with where their food comes from. When they raise their own pork, they can ensure the animals are raised ethically and organically. The pigs have a good life, they have an indoor and outdoor pen where they can roam as they please, and they eat organic feed and organic farm raised vegetables such as pumpkin, squash, corn, fruit and greens.  This makes a large difference in the taste of the meat.  The meat has lots of nutrients because of what the pigs eat, and it has less fat content.    The fat that the pig does have, the lard, is also used to cook with since it's full of nutrients.  My husband and I recently saw the movie Food Inc. and it really was an eye opener.  We've been thinking a lot about where our food comes from, how it's raised, and how safe it is to eat.  It's the main reason why we've started our vegetable garden and is the reason we bought a pig to be raised on the family farm.  My husband teasingly named him "Yummy" and it was!  Yummy was brought to the butcher in December, and we split the pork meat with the farm.  My mother-in-law cooked a smoked ham for our first dinner.  It was cooked in the woodstove.  Oh, my, the taste was YUMMY.
As we were eating dinner, my husband exclaimed, "everything on this plate was grown or raised on the farm!"  On the plate next to the smoked ham were sides of dilly beans, pickled beets, and roasted root vegetables of potatoes, sweet potatoes, and turnips.  The hubs and I thought this was so fantastic, to have everything on our plate come from the farm.  My in-laws were amused by our excitement because this is an everyday occurrence for them.  Most of their meals come from the farm!
We brought back two large boxes of pork meat.  The farmer (hub's dad) said Yummy was about 275 pounds when he was brought to the butcher.  "A good size" he said, although "250 pounds" is preferred, because that is the perfect meat to fat ratio for a pig.  Can you believe these two boxes only contain half of the pig?  So much meat, totally amazing!  One box contained smoke ham, ham hocks, ribs and pork chops.
The other box was filled with smoked bacon and italian and hot sausage.  Totally drooling!
We bought this freezer chest on sale at Lowe's to store all the meat.  This was a good investment for us, since we plan to store veggies and fruit that we grow in the garden in here too!
The freezer chest has these nice hanging baskets in it so it's easy to organize.  The two sausages and bacon got their own basket!
I'm already dreaming about what dishes I can make with these beauties!
Lots of thick cut smoked bacon!  Just heaven!
Bottom of the freezer is holding all the smoked hams, pork chops and ribs!  I'm not sure how long this meat will last us, but I am so looking forward to cooking with it!  We figured out the cost for the pork meat was about $3.00 per pound.  The price was factored by the cost of the pig, the cost of the feed and veggies, and the cost of the butchering.  $3.00 / per pound for us is a good price, because we've seen organic pork in our supermarket for $5.98 a pound!  To be honest though, knowing how this pork was raised makes it priceless!
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