Sunday, June 29, 2014

Garden Update: End of June

Happy Sunday!

Let's jump right in shall we?

Now, I just commented on one of my friends blogs, telling them I had no confessions to make. I lied. I do. My confession? I have a secret, guilty pleasure in watching the reality TV show, "Wife Swap". Love that show! This week's episode met all my requirements for good reality TV- Pseudo-celebrities (Speidi), childish behavior by adults, and girls with blowouts and stilettos beings forced to sit in the rain. The swap this week was between reality TV royalty, Heidi and Spencer Pratt, and Olympic swimmer, Amanda Beard. To lay down the basics, Heidi and Spencer live in Southern California with a huge house, no kids, 4 tiny dogs, no jobs, house and garden staff, and huge spending habits. Amanda Beard, in comparison, lives a very normal life in Seattle, Washington, complete with kids, a normal house, yard work, fishing in the rain, and real jobs. I was really impressed with how down-to-Earth Amanda Beard was. She's just a normal, hardworking woman trying to raise her kids with good values. Her husband seems like a great partner, and together they make a great team. Heidi and Spencer, on the other hand, disgusted me. Neither of them have jobs, yet Heidi spends all day shopping and Spencer spends all day polishing his crystal collection. That, and they are constantly going out. For every meal. Spencer takes Amanda Beard out to eat, and orders half the menu. WTH? Their spending reminded me of the Kardashians- obscene when there are so many people suffering in this country.

What really interested me was when the couples turned the tables (a classic Wife Swap moment). Amanda made Spencer stay in and cook a meal, and all he could do was complain about bored he was, how crappy the food was, and how staying home was "absolute hell". I was appalled. I can't imagine what these people would think of my life, which I consider "heavenly". I've come to love staying home to make dinner and getting my hands dirty outside. It's therapeutic. I've found almost any activity outside brings me closer to nature, closer to where people were meant to be. It brings me peace and tranquility in a way that shopping, drinking, partying, and the "One-Up Game" never did. 

I've said my piece. Moving on to pictures of my garden! The first picture is a picture of the day we planted the herb garden, while the second picture is of the crazy thing today. It's out of control!

The mint is the most crazy. Mom was sooooo right. 

The mint escaping its box. I'm going to have go cut those vines, it's intruding on the thyme.

Basil is coming out of my ears! A huge bowl full, plus more to harvest. In addition, that's a little pile of extra herbs I'm drying out to add to the compost.

Vacuumed-sealed 2 bags of pesto this week.

I harvested the cilantro till it died. Now, I've planted new seedlings that are popping up extremely well. Baby cilantro :)

Planted some lavender. I think I'm going to start making my own organic bug spray.

Tomato plants. I decided to combine them into one picture :) I mean, the post is already pretty pic-heavy. 

My Charlie Brown Christmas tree. I don't think this plant will be saved. But, I'm learning a lot about tomato plants!

If only these would ripen before the plant dies. I don't think it's going to happen. Boooo.

More tiny tomato plants. I don't think these are going to take either. Sigh. 

Enough sad looking tomato plants. My jalapeño plant is doing well. It has blossoms and even tiny fruit forming!

The cucumber has attached its self to the trellis. Exactly what it's supposed to do.

And, it's blossoming!

Green bell pepper, taking off.

Zucchini blossoms.

Lettuce and chard.

And what garden post would be complete without my friends who join me in the garden? Here's a couple of gold finches that came calling.

A lady cardinal munching away.

Incoming hummer! Love this shot :)

The woodpeckers are one of the few birds who don't care if I'm outside with them. They'll eat anyway.

I heart woodpeckers. Look at that little face!

I hope everyone is having an excellent weekend, I know I am. I got tons of fresh veggies at the farmer's market yesterday, had breakfast and coffee with my girlfriend afterwards, a Netflix afternoon with the hubby, and then date night last night! Pizza and beer at the local brewery, and then ice cream from the local Dari Creme. The hubby and I are coming up on 5 years of marriage next month, and yet sometimes we still feel like young kids that just met. While I'd never say marriage is easy, it has been the best thing that ever happened to me. Events have transpired this week (I'm not going to get into them) that have made me eternally grateful to have that man firmly planted at my side. True love is a beautiful thing :)

Have a great day everyone!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Oatmeal Raisin Quick Bread

It's Friday! 

Even though I've been gone from the workforce for quite a while (3 1/2 years people!), for some reason, Fridays still hold all the magical allure that they once did. Fridays were always my favorite days during my younger school days, my college days, and later, my work week. When I was in school, Fridays always felt like there was an undercurrent of excitement going through me and all my classmates. Anticipation of a weekend that held endless possibilities for me and my girlfriends. Whose house would we sleep at? What games would we play? What boys would we talk about? Fridays change a bit in college, the anticipation is more like, "What bar are we going to this weekend??". Still loved Fridays. And the work week? Fridays were the days we were allowed to wear jeans to work and the boss would buy us coffee and bagels for breakfast. Weekend plans would excitedly be made over caffeine and carbs. 

And you know what? Not much has changed. I may not be implored to go to class or to open an account for someone, but I still love Fridays. What's that about? Maybe I just enjoy the happy and excitable atmosphere the day brings about in everyone else. Either way, Friday is just a perfect day to wrap up the week. Maybe I'm just in a jolly mood because- dun, dun, DUN- the hubby has the day off tomorrow! He's worked 10 straight 12-14 hour days, and he's running ragged. I told him if he doesn't sleep in tomorrow, I'll club him over the head and he'll sleep anyhow.

No. No,  I would never do that :)

Now, about this recipe. I made this bread specifically for the hubby and his healthy eating. It's made with whole wheat flour, almond milk, and lots of healthy oats and raisins. I really piled on the spices in this cake, because that's what the hubby luuurves. The result was a deliciously toasty, moist, and seriously addictive quick bread. It's definitely got an oatmeal cookie quality to it. Yummmmm. 

I used quick cooking oats for mine, just because that's what I had on hand. I normally use regular oats, but I could find nary a regular oat on my shelves. I wasn't sure if the quick cooking would cause any changes in the bread, but I sure didn't notice any. That being said, I think you could substitute regular oats for the quick cooking variety. As for the raisins? Don't skimp. They are one of the best things about this bread. It's like a party for your mouth when you get one of those tasty morsels in your bite. I love how baking raisins makes them softer, and it's almost like they burst with flavor in your mouth. 

I pulled my loaf from the oven a little early, which resulted in the bread falling a bit in the middle. Since I used whole wheat flour, I was worried about over baking. Although the bread was done, it probably could have gone a few more minutes. I'm not too worried about the appearance however, taste is king. I'd rather have a slightly sunken bread that's moist and delectable vs. a perfect looking but dry confection. If you are worried if the bread is done or not, one of my favorite ways to decipher doneness is with a thermometer. Yes, I said thermometer. Quick breads should reach 190º, so you can use a handy kitchen thermometer to make your decision for you. Looks like I could have used it in this case! :)

Does anyone have any exciting plans for the weekend? Other than the farmer's market tomorrow morning, I don't. The only thing I do know is that there will be lots of hubby-time. Who knows what we will get in to? Maybe a movie. Or head to West Virginia. Or stay home and have a Netflix binge session. The world is our oyster. 

All right, all right. Jessica out. There are bird feeders to be filled, the garden to be watered, and compost to be tumbled! Duty calls :)

Have a great weekend everyone!


1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup quick cooking oats
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups almond milk
2 large eggs
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 tsp vanilla
1 heaping cup raisins


1. Preheat oven to 350º. Lightly coat a loaf pan with cooking spray. Set aside. 
2. In a large bowl, combine flours through salt. Whisk to combine. Set aside.
3. In a separate bowl, combine almond milk through vanilla. Beat well. Fold dry ingredients in with a spatula. Take care to not over mix, fold just until the mixture is moist. Fold in raisins. 
4. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan. Bake in oven 50-110 minutes, or until a fork comes out clean. Check bread at 30 minutes. If the bread is browning too much, cover with aluminum foil and keep baking. When done, remove from oven. Allow to cool in pan for 45 minutes. Turn bread out and slice. Serve immediately. Cool completely before storing.

Recipe adapted from Bake or Break.
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Thursday, June 26, 2014

Grilled Chicken Chow Mein

It appears I'm having one of those days. Scratch that, I'm having one of those weeks. The ones where absolutely everything goes wrong. This month has already felt weird, mainly because the hubby worked almost the entire month. He only had 2 days off in June! Crazy. 

It all started on Monday. I think I already shared that it was HOT. And that the mower died and I couldn't get it going again? Well, I got it going again on Tuesday. For some reason, I had a crazy allergy attack after finishing the lawn on Tuesday and walked around the remainder of the day with itchy, red, tearing eyes. Not fun. Luckily, my eyes seemed fine when I woke up yesterday. Plus my aunt, who works for an optometrist, brought me special allergy eye drops :) Little did I know what the rest of the day awaited when I woke up with clear eyes though...

I knew it was going to be one of those days as soon as I opened the windows in the morning. 2 of my bird feeders had been knocked down. It seems we have some opossums or raccoons getting into the feeders at night. I zip-tied one of them to the tree, and as for the other, I think I'm going to have to zip tie that one too. It was knocked down again this morning. Anyhoo, as I was walking back to the house yesterday morning, I walked by the compost tumbler. It smelled like sewage. One of the worst smells in the world. One of those smells that is so bad, it seems to burn your nose hairs and you walk around smelling it all day. I opened it up, and sure enough, super wet. Which means it went anaerobic, and I'd have to spend some time shredding newspaper to put in there. One more thing to do, I thought as I looked to my garden. 

To my dismay, 2 of my tomato plants looked like they were dying. Turns out this first time gardener might not have a natural green thumb. So I did some research, and took the only steps that I could see fit. Bigger pots and better potting soil were purchased. I transplanted the tomatoes into the new bigger pots, cut off the stems that looked like they were dying, and sprayed the plants down with a homemade anti-fungal spray made out of baking soda, vegetable oil, water, and castile soap. This is my last ditch effort to save these maters', so I hope it takes. It could be my imagination, but I think they looked better this morning. Time will tell. 

I'd been planning on making cookies yesterday afternoon, but after running around all day looking for pots, transplanting plants, and working on the compost, the day was lost. I'm really going to try to bake cookies today, but it might not be in the cards. I've got a mid-day doctors appointment in Ashland, plus I need to pick up a couple of things while I'm in town. Cookies might have to wait till tomorrow.

Now that I've lamented my yard problems, lets talk about this pasta dish! Holy moly, was it good! I'm a big fan of Asian food, chow mein/lo mein being at the top of my list. I make it a lot. I rarely make it the same twice, too. That might have to change. One of my girlfriends and I had picked up some beautiful bounties while at the farmer's market last weekend. A whole head of cabbage, a bundle of carrots, and a bundle of green onions, all from the farmer's market, went into the chow mein. Vegetables, it did not lack. And it was all soooooo good. I normally would sear my chicken on the stove before chopping it up for a stir fry but hey, it's summer. Why not grill it? I love the flavor the grill gives meat. Plus, the chicken rested the entire time I cooked. I chopped it up, and threw it in at the last second, ensuring it didn't cook one more second. Easy peasy. I love summer grilling :)

Chow mein does not last long in my house. Not only did both the hubby and I eat fairly large portions, but I ate a pretty serious helping the next day for lunch. Annnnnd- it was gone. Just like that. And I was sad. Seriously, I could eat this everyday. Every. Day.

Oh, by the way, as I was picking up my bird feeder again this morning, I walked by the compost again. 4 buckets of newspaper shred must have done the trick, because the smell was reduced by at least 90%. Much, much better.

Here's to a better day! :)

Happy Thursday everyone!

Ingredients (serves 4):

1 chicken breast
olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder
8 oz whole wheat spaghetti
1 tbsp peanut oil
1 small head cabbage, thinly sliced
2-3 medium sized carrots, shredded or julienned
1 bunch green onions (thinly slice the green parts, and then slice the rest of the onion into 1-inch long sections)
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1 tbsp ground ginger
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp garlic, minced
1/4- 1/2 tsp chile oil
3 tsp cornstarch
garnish: sesame seeds (optional)


1. Preheat gas grill to high.
2. Prepare chicken: Brush a little olive oil all over the chicken. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.
3. Turn upper and lower burners to low, turn middle burner to medium. Put chicken breast on the grill, and cook for 4 minutes. Turn the chicken, then grill for another 4 minutes. Flip the chicken, grill for 2 minutes, and then flip the chicken one last time. Cook for 2 minutes, and then remove from heat. Allow to rest while preparing the rest of the recipe.
4. Prepare spaghetti according to package directions. Set aside. 
5. Heat peanut oil in a large skillet over high heat. When hot, add cabbage, carrot, and thicker parts of green onion (reserve the thinly sliced green parts). Saute 5-7 minutes or until all vegetables have softened. 
6. In a small bowl, thoroughly whisk the soy sauce through the cornstarch. When combined, add sauce and noodles to the skillet. Toss to combine.
7. Roughly chop the chicken breast, and add chicken to the skillet. Add the thinly sliced onion tops. Toss to combine, and remove from heat. Divide chow mein among plates, and top with sesame seeds. Serve immediately. 

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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Watermelon Kiwi Ice Pops

Tangy. Sweet. Delicious. Fun! 

All words to describe these popsicles! Homemade popsicles are seriously the easiest. Most of the time, popsicle recipes have very few steps-

1. Puree your mix of choice in a food processor.
2. Pour newly pureed mix into popsicle molds.
3. Freeze! Then remove from mold, and enjoy.

Most of my popsicle recipes take me 5 minutes. It takes longer to photograph them then it does to make them. They are so easy, sometimes I almost feel guilty passing them off as a recipe. Almost :)

Popsicles are an amazing way to use up summer fruit bounties that may be lying around the house. They keep you cool when the temperature is assaulting your senses. And bonus- they are totally kid-friendly. Not to mention, they're just pretty. 

Popsicles remind me of my childhood. If there was one thing that was always in our freezer during the summer, it was popsicles. Whenever summer came around, my mom would keep the freezer stocked with big bags of generic popsicles, the ones with the double popsicles of cherry, orange, lime. I'm pretty sure my brother and I both hated the lime ones, they'd always be the loners at the end of the bag that no one wanted to eat. Later in my childhood, Mom started buying bags with grape in them. I would hoard those grape popsicles, hiding them all over the freezer so my brother couldn't get them. And the times Mom would bring home a box of "gourmet" popsicles that included raspberry popsicles? Forget about it. Those could be gone within a matter of hours. The little brother never even had an inkling they existed, that's how fast I was. Even still as an adult, raspberry popsicles are still my hands-down favorite. Parading one in front of me is enough to induce salivating. Mmmm, raspberry.

I must say, I'm completely distracted by the thought of raspberries now :)

I'm also distracted by thoughts of what kind of popsicle I should make next. Any suggestions?? I'm leaning towards an idea I found on Pinterest, which is making some sort of pudding pop. Or a fruit and cream pop, like Blackberry and Cream Popsicles. We'll see. I can't wait till more fruit starts popping up at my local farmer's market so I can start putting it to good use!

Sooooo... it's been really hot around these parts. I attempted to mow the lawn yesterday when it was 90º and what felt like 100% humidity. I got most of the lawn done in about 2 hours, before I got lightheaded. It was quite the workout. I eventually had to admit defeat and retreat to the air-conditioned safety of the house. Which leaves me with about 30 minutes of mowing today. We're due for summer storms this afternoon, so I'll be out there early this morning. Which is what I should have done yesterday. What can I say? I'm a stubborn one. The good news is that today is supposed to be much cooler than yesterday. I'm crossing my fingers.

Maybe I'll reward myself with a popsicle afterwards?

Yes. That's a definite yes :)

Have a great day everyone!

Ingredients (makes 8 popsicles):

1/2 personal-size watermelon (about 3 cups chopped watermelon)
1 tsp lime juice
1 tsp honey
2-3 kiwis, sliced


1. Add watermelon, lime juice, and honey to food processor. Pulse until completely smooth.
2. Divide mixture among popsicle mold. Don't fill molds more than 3/4 full. 
3. Place a kiwi slice in each mold. Place a stick in each mold. 
4. Freeze until set, about 8 hours. Run molds under a little warm water to loosen popsicles from molds. Store in freezer.

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