Trying to Satisfy My Itch

So, for Christmas (I am going to assume as kind of a gag gift?) my FIL got me this silly little Chia herb garden in a box. Well, to try and satisfy my itch for planting anything I tossed the "dirt sponge" and herb seeds into a few pots I keep in the kitchen. We will see if they grow, or if they were like, 5 year old seeds that had been sitting around for only gawd knows how long.... I planted basil, chives, and cilantro. I also had some old cat grass seeds that I tossed into a pot for the kitties.

Speaking of kitties, I found some old catnip laying around, and tossed a little on the floor for Punkin and Charlotte.... They are acting like they are on crack. Cat crack. It. Is. AWESOME. The pictures don't really tell the whole story.... Punk doesn't really eat it and go nuts as much as she goes nuts about rolling around in it. It really is the cutest and funniest thing ever!


Oven Lovin Saturday

This week is super simple, super tasty, and super nutritious. Kale chips. Ok, don't go all barf-faced on me, just hear me out. When these come out of the oven, you sprinkle them with a healthy dose of salt, and EAT them... I promise, you will be happy. Just try it!
Kale Chips
1 bunch kale
couple glugs of olive oil
garlic powder (or really really really finely minced garlic - I didn't do that... I was feeling lazy)

Just toss it all together, and bake at 350 for 12 minutes. Pull the leaves out, sprinkle with a little more salt, and let them cool slightly to gain crunch. EAT!


I Miss The Sun

Ok, yes, this is going to be a whiny post. I miss the sun. Not like the weather has been terrible, I mean, I have been getting my vitamin D. But I miss the summer sun. Hubby and I try to get up early (like between 6 and 630) and its is just so dang hard to get up when there is no light outside. It just feels unnatural! I mean, it is just SO much easier to wake up early when the sun is awake early! Why can't it be "daylight saving's time" all year round?! Excuse me, I must get some coffee now...


They're Here!!!

I can't think of anything funny or witty to say to start this one out, so let's just get to it. My seeds are here!!! My beautiful package Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds arrived in the mail yesterday, and I couldn't wait to tear into them. I opened up my package and discovered a FREE gift of Parisienne Carrots. These are a short little stubby variety, perfect for my raised beds. I can't wait to get those babies into the ground. I am really going to have to practice some discipline and NOT plant anything as my onion seeds don't even need to be planted until March...

Speaking of planting, I found the coolest planting schedule. Skippy's Vegetable Garden created this awesome Spring Planting Calendar and all you have to do is put in your last frost date. I am really going to try to stick with a calendar this year and not let my excitement get the better of me. Thankfully I have lots and lots of homework to keep my mind busy.

Oh, and as a side note... I ordered ANOTHER camera battery charger, so soon there will be no more crappy cell phone pictures... 


Oven Lovin Saturday

This week I made English Muffins. The recipe is from The Bread Bakers Apprentice. They turned out a little too, well, puffy or something, but very tasty never the less. There are a few changes I am going to make next time, I will write them down as the recipe does along.
I made six, but ate one before I took the picture
10 ounces bread flour (I always just weigh this out. Even though, I always need more, I do it anyways)
3/4 + 1/4 cup milk (warm, but not hot)
1 T softened butter
1 1/2 t salt
1 package active dry yeast
1 t sugar

Place all ingredients in a stand mixer with the dough hook attachment and mix and knead until the dough becomes nice and elastic and smooth. You WILL need to add more flour as you go along. How much? It just depends. The dough should not stick to the sides or bottom of the bowl. If you don't have a stand mixer, put some muscle into it!

Place the dough into a very lightly oiled bowl and allow to rise until doubled in size. Pour the dough out onto the counter (don't flour the surface) and cut into 6 equal pieces. Form the pieces into a ball and allow to rise on a parchment lined sheet tray until again doubled in size. OK. Here is where I would change ALL that. I would cut the dough into 8 pieces, and flatten out with a rolling pin. They will rise, so don't worry about that. These really just turned out too tall and big. Tasty, but too big for me. 

Ok, here is the weird part. Heat up a griddle or skillet on medium heat and heat the oven to 350. What you do is kind of cook them like a pancake. Cook the muffins on each side until golden brown, about 5-8 minutes on each side. Then place the muffins back onto your parchment lined sheet tray and finish in the oven, about 8-10 minutes longer. Allow to cool for 30 minutes before splitting with a fork and slathering with butter and jam. Delish!



When we woke up this morning, it was a grand high temp of 9. NINE! Holy cow that's cold! The back yard is starting to get more and more sun as we move towards Spring. Slowly... Anywho, my chicken light timer seems to be on the fritz, as we have it set to go on and off a few times a day to keep the Girls warm. But uh, it's not going on... or off... So I have to get my lazy butt outside in the cold and turn it on. Grrrrr.... Or should I say Brrrr???

I seem to have come up with a better way to hold down the run cover/tarp. I put the picnic table up against it, and then my empty rain barrels up against that so hopefully if we get another Twister-type windstorm, The girls won't freak out too badly.

Oh, and Carolyn? The Gardener of Eden planted her first flat... *twitch twitch*


Seed Order Continued

Allison over at The Life of a Novice asked me to post what I had ordered from Baker Creek, so here goes. I simply did a copy and paste, so list is super fun looking... I have only done onions once and they were from a bag from Home Depot. Hopefully I will be able to grow some good ones for storage from seed.

Also, I am going to try stevia. I have read that it is hard to germinate, but once it does, it is easy to grow. I would also like to dry it and see how I like it as a natural sweetener. I have a sugar problem, especially in my coffee. Hubby makes fun of me all the time about it. I can't help it!!

Hopefully we will be able to keep the chickens and The Bastard Groundhog away from my lettuces and brassicas this year. I swear I am going to find a way to kill that little Bastard Groundhog... All of the pumpkins and squash will go in down at the farm. I am super excited about that!

Chinese Green Noodle Bean

Red-Seeded Asparagus Bean

Early Purple Sprouting Broccoli

Nero Di Toscana Cabbage

Fin De Meaux Cucumber

Horace Boyette Burpless Cucumber

Listada De Gandia Eggplant

Dwarf Siberian Kale

Big Boston Lettuce

Little Gem Lettuce

May Queen Lettuce

Tom Thumb Lettuce

Ailsa Craig Onion

Noordhollandse Bloedrode Onion

Yellow of Parma Onion

Hungarian Hot Wax

Jalapeno- Craig's Grande Pepepr

Orange Bell Pepper

Gigante d' Inverno Spinach

Bloomsdale Long Standing Spinach

Butternut Rogosa Violina Gioia Squash

New England Sugar Pie Pumpkin

Table Queen Acorn Squash

Dr. Wyche's Yellow Tomato

Black Cherry Tomato

Amish Paste Tomato

Chadwick Cherry Tomato

Basil - Siam Queen Thai

Cilantro, Slo-Bolt

Dill Bouquet

Bee Balm Lemon


Parsley Demi Long Root

Parsley Giant Of Italy



Seed Order

OMG OMG OMG!!! The time has come for seed ordering! I ordered mine this year from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. I still have several varieties of things still around from last year from Johnny's and Seed Savers Exchange. I ordered $75 worth of goodies. I swear this time of year almost beats Christmas. ALMOST.

Hubby and I got the seed starting shelf up and running. I bought a new shelf this year, as my old one is currently occupied in the kitty closet holding my canning goods as well as canned goods and kitty food and litter and all sorts of other stuff. That is what happens when you only have ONE closet in your entire house. Anyways, this shelf is bigger than the one last year (4 whole feet wide!) and will properly accommodate my lights. It is wide enough to hold them, and we can move the lights up and down as far as we want! It is awesome!

I did promise Hubby I wouldn't go all, well, stupid and start my seeds too early. Last year they got too leggy and most of them died. I ended up buying plants at the farmers market. NOT good for my budget. What that means is that when I am in my office doing lots and lots of homework, I will be staring at my empty seed shelf, I will have a yearning to plant... But I will resist for 4 more weeks.... 4 WHOLE WEEKS. Ok, maybe 6... UGH!!!

The room is a little messy right now, but it's so awesome, I had to share!


Ok, WTF is With This Weather?!

Ok... Today we hit a high of 55. That is WARM. It is JANUARY! This weather is really freakin me out! It is currently down to 46 and stupid windy. That is how windy it is... Truly, it is stupid. The chicken run cover, aka my tarp, blew off and is being held down by flower pots. The Golden Girls are running around the run like, well, chickens with their heads cut off. I don't think this weather is very healthy for my garlic either. The bed with softneck garlic has sprouted. I covered it with yet MORE straw to keep it from freezing when it gets cold again.

Tonight, it is supposed to rain storm/snow storm and get ridiculously cold and then continue being flippin cold (like, in the 20's for a high) for several days. Now, I revert back to my title, WTF is with this weather?!?!?

Although, as the saying goes in Cleveland, "If you don't like the weather, wait 5 minutes..."

And by the way, Farmer's Almanac totally predicted this FYI. I love that thing.


Eating More Locally Than I thought!

It is always an awesome feeling when you find out that a place you love to shop gives you even more reasons to love them. Besides beef, which comes from Row Family Farmers down in my hometown (about 90 miles away), we also are chicken and pork consumers. We purchase these products at The West Side Market, just a mere 10 minute bike ride away, at a stand called D.W. Whitakers. I love these people. Not only does the meat come from Ohio farms, it is raised humanely without chemicals and the animals are real farm animals. No CAFO's here! They are always friendly, always nicely priced, and eager to answer any questions one might have. I go here almost every week religiously.

The market recently started a series of videos about "meeting the vendors." D.W. Whitakers was first on the list!


Oven Lovin Saturday

This week I am bringing you an adapted recipe for Orange Cranberry Muffins. Yum! Originally, this recipe is from Ina Garten, the Muffin Master, but I have made it before and made some more flavorful tweeks... This recipe makes exactly 12 muffins. I hope you enjoy!

1 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup fresh orange juice (I had a few tangerines on hand and they provided some good tang)
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened, plus more for preparing the muffin tin
2 teaspoons grated orange zest (I double Ina's original amount)
2/3 cup granulated sugar, plus up to 1 tablespoon for topping the muffins, if desired
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup milk (whole milk will make these more moist)
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Put the cranberries and orange juice in a small saucepan, and bring just to a simmer over medium heat. Remove berries from the heat, and set aside to cool and plump. Drain off any excess liquid and set aside.
Lightly brush a 12-muffin tin with butter. (I used my mini bunt cake pan. They turned out so cute!) Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl and set aside. (I do actually do this when I bake. Or take the easy route and put the ingredients in a bowl and whisk for a second or two.)
In a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or with an electric hand-held mixer in a large bowl, cream the butter, orange zest, and 2/3 cup sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Remove the bowl from the mixer.
Fold the flour in 3 parts into the butter mixture, alternating with the milk in 2 parts, until just combined. Fold in the cranberries. Do not over mix. (I just did this in the mixer. But really, don't over mix. No one likes a tough muffin.) Divide the batter evenly into the muffin tin and sprinkle the tops with sugar. Bake until golden brown, about 25 minutes.


Winter is Finally Here

Yes my friends, it has finally shown up. After some unseasonable temps in the 40's and near 50's, today it is 15 and snowy as heck!

I went out this morning bundled in my coveralls to shovel out the chicken run of its snow (since I failed to cover it back up before I left for work 3 days ago) and get the girls all tucked in with fresh food and water and turned on the heat lamp. A good side effect of this whole light/heat thing? More eggs! Dorothy is back to laying one per day, and Rose is up to 2 or 3 a week. Blanche? Well, she is just my hopeless hen. But I sure do love her! She is oh so sweet, and every time I hold her in my arms, she falls asleep. She may be pathetic, but I think we will keep her around.

I hope everyone is staying nice and toasty inside! Don't forget Oven Lovin Saturday tomorrow. Get your posts ready!

As a side note, I am ordering a new battery charger for my camera (again) since I STILL can't find my old one... Ugh...


Oven Lovin Saturday

This week, I thought something completely practical and easy. Granola Bars. I LOVE making my own granola bars. They are so good, and you can put whatever you want in them. Here is the basic recipe

Granola Bars
4 1/2 C rolled oats
1 C AP flour
1 t baking soda
1 t vanilla
2/3 C butter, softened
1/2 C honey
1/3 C brown sugar
2 cups of "stuff"

Basically mix all your wet ingredients and sugars, then add in the oats, flour, and baking soda. Then add the "stuff." Stuff can be whatever you want: chocolate chips, cranberries, blueberries, nuts, seeds, anything you want! Here is where I change it up... I use 1 stick of softened butter, then add in a heaping spoonful of peanut butter. My stuff includes chocolate chips, whatever nuts I have laying around, and possibly some coconut.

Press the mixture into a greased baking dish. Any size will work as long as you can cut "bars" out of it. Bake at 325 for 18-22 minutes or until light golden brown. You will be able to smell them, I promise! Make sure that you let these cool before slicing them, and after slicing, let them cool COMPLETELY before taking them out of your pan. Trust me on that on, or you will have granola bar crumbles. That is another day!


My OCD-Ness

Ok, I love my chickens, even Blanche who NEVER lays an edible egg. But. Why do they have to be so messy!? I am deep into spring cleaning mode since I have no garden to tend to, and today with the warm weather, I cleaned out the run and gave the girls dry straw and shavings. I miss the days where my garden paths were green and clean, and now they are covered in mud and straw. How do you fellow urbanites keep your yardens (yard/garden) neat and tidy??? It's driving me nuts!


Another Warm Spell

Which I am totally OK with! The snow and ice on the driveway was melted, and the roads are clear for running.

So, with this being a gardening blog and all, I usually am out of stuff to talk about between January and March except the weather and cooking. I don't have a winter garden area yet, so I am looking forward to the days where I am lovingly tending to seedlings inside, chasing the cats away from them, and planning where everything will go. I plan on ordering my seeds in the next couple of weeks and classes start again soon, so hopefully this only lasts a couple of weeks...

What do you have going on in winter? Anyone else starting to feel the blues and boredom?


My Trip To The Big Fancy Organic Store

Recently, we had a new organic grocery store open in our area, Earth Fare. It almost exactly like Whole Foods. It was neat. I don't go into these type of stores very often simply because there isn't one very close to me. But now, there is. I went in on my home from work in search of barley malt powder which I need for a bread recipe, but they didn't have it. I also went in with my grocery list in mind.

The only thing I actually purchased were rolled oats from the bulk bin section and soy sauce. The rolled oats were pretty cheap (89 cents per pound) and the soy sauce was on sale. Everything else, I know I can get cheaper at the regular grocery store. It was fun to see something new, and find a place I can get cheap oats, especially now that I am making our own granola bars (oh no! I gave away Oven Lovin Saturday!) and Hubs eats quite a bit of oatmeal now that it is cold outside.

Do you all have a fancy organic store? What do you think?


Chicken Shelter

Now, most people would create a shelter for their hens BEFORE it snows... Not in this house! I got out this morning before the snow REALLY starting falling, and covered most of the chicken run with a tarp so that the Golden Girls would be able to spread their legs a little and not be so, uh, cooped up. Man, it must really suck to be a chicken in the winter. We also got the heat lamp installed (on a timer too! thanks goodness it was the time of year when everyone was putting up Christmas lights) so that the Girls would be nice and toasty, at least in retrospect of the coldness outside. Its all a little ghetto, but whatever. It works.

I must say, my new coveralls are F&%$ING AMAZING! I only had a tshirt, sweat pants, and hoodie on underneath while doing my chores, and when I got done, I was sweating my butt off! By far, the most practical and most used gift so far (except possibly the gift of everlasting beef). Love them!


Happy New Year!

Yes, this post is coming in on almost the 2nd day of the year, but I am getting it in anyhow. Thanks everyone who has started following my little blog, and good luck to everyone next year on your blogs, your gardens, and all of your endeavors. Welcome 2012!!!

P.S. Next week (or this coming weekend rather...) I will be back in full force for Oven Lovin Saturday, so have your posts ready!