Monday, January 30, 2012

Asparagus Appi's

With the Super Bowl right around the corner, foodies like me start thinking about what kind of fun food we're going to prepare. While on my way to Boston last spring for a conference, I leafed through a taste of home magazine given to my by a friend. Because it was spring, there were several recipes using asparagus. I am not typically a lover of asparagus. .but I am finding ways of fixing it that I really enjoy. I tried out this recipe for my in laws at Easter. .scoring great reviews from everyone!
At Christmas time, I fixed it for my family to share at our Christmas "appetizer meal." I must note here, that my mom took the pictures for me. .like a blogging pro!!
There are only 3 ingredients. .but probably none of which you have in your stock. You will have to make a conscious decision to go to the store to purchase these ingredients. .but you will love 'em!! Promise!
You  need. .one bunch of asparagus. (I actually didn't know that this was sold in stores other than in the spring. My MIL has a huge patch. .so I don't even look for it then!)
1 small package of goat cheese (you'll find it with the specialty cheeses, or alongside the cream cheese section) Soft goat cheese, also called chevre cheese, is a lot like cream cheese. It isn't quite as creamy, and maybe a little saltier. It is lower in calories and fat. .and higher in protein than cream cheese. We did use cream cheese once in these. .and I really did prefer the chevre. .your choice.
1 package prosciutto. This is an Italian dry cured ham. VERY thinly sliced, packaged on little plastic dividers so you can even get it out. I find it in the specialty meats and cheese section too. 2 packages of prosciutto is probably necessary if you want to make appi's out of ALL of your asparagus that comes in the bunch.
Cut the prosciutto in half. .I use a really sharp knife and cut through the meat and plastic dividers too. Using a butter knife, spread. .or press on. .a little bit of goat cheese. Don't worry about getting the cheese in a nice little even layer. .it won't happen. You'll figure out quickly. .that if you can get some cheese onto the meat slice in any fashion. .that's good enough for this little project.
Place a spear of asparagus onto the meat and roll it up. I tend to pull and roll at the same time, to stretch the meat as far along the spear as I can.
Throw those little puppies onto the grill, turning regularly until the prosciutto is crisp and the asparagus is tender. The other night I tried the George Foreman grill. .they tasted good, but weren't as eye appealing as they are coming off the outdoor grill. Not to mention. .my cheese got a little hot in there, and spilled out. .with the gas grill, the cheese stays put. .inside the roll-up. .where it belongs. Oh well! 
Tristan finished up the goat cheese and asparagus by using some thinly sliced deli ham when we ran out of the prosciutto. It tasted pretty good too. A little ham-y-er (that's a word, right??). 

I wanted to share this recipe early in the week, in case anyone needs something different to take to the Superbowl parties!! In a few days, I'll have some photos that I took with the kids last weekend in Salina!! We had a wonderful time. .and I can't wait to share!
Happy Monday!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Onion Project for Kids. .Young AND Old!

This winter has been amazingly mild! And I'm not complaining after the biting cold from last winter. It makes me hopeful that our summer will not turn out to be so hot!! I have found several gardening projects to keep me out of trouble, and my gardening passion fueled through the dormant months. I have repotted many houseplants, tried some winter sowing projects, and tended to my beloved greenhouse. But. .we tried a couple of other horticultural experiments. .if you will. .that I want to share with you! They are both easy. .and anyone can do them. .even if you don't have a greenhouse. They've also been interesting to my kids. .a fun learning project for everyone. .come on!
I'm gonna show you that it is possible to grow green onions in your own window! Start with a bunch of green onions. This one came from an appetizer that I was making for New Year's Eve.
Chop off the root end. I left about 1 1/2 inches. Leaving them shorter works too, just takes less water in your container.
I had a little pimiento cheese jar sitting there left from the cheeseball I made. .it worked great. .cause I could get enough roots in there to easily hold the green onions upright as they grow.
Add a little water to them. .and you'll want to replace the water every day or few. This photo was taken after about a week. You can see a little bit of fresh growth on the leaves.
After about a week, because the project was clearly working, I bought another bunch of green onions and added them to the jar.
After 2 weeks, the green onion has already grown out of the top of the jar. There are also new leaves forming in the center of the onion.
After about 3 weeks. .they are looking good!!
The onions grow pretty rapidly, and by using small jars like this, you can keep several in the window. You just snip off the amount you  need from the top, and put it back in the window. We snipped some of the onion into our omelets the other night. .EASY!

Our lives have been V-E-R-Y slow the last week. .which isn't always bad. My motivation was low this past weekend. .which is hard to believe to many people who know me well enough. I couldn't think of a thing that sounded like something I wanted to do. .which was depressing to me. .so I did nothing!!
And quite enjoyed it!
After cleaning out a closet a few weeks ago, and finding several books that grandma had given me that I had never read. .I decided to read them. .A-L-L weekend long!! I mean. .sat in bed with Cami while she napped and read. .T-W-O days in a row. .moved from the bed to the recliner and read while the kids watched movies. .Read after supper until I finished the first book at 11:30 Saturday evening. .and thankfully the book yesterday was shorter. .and I finished, sitting on the toilet lid, while Dev and Cami took a bath last night.
At one point on Saturday afternoon, Cami says. .not taking her eyes from the TV "too much TV is bad for your brain."  I said. .not looking up from my book "Yeah, but it doesn't hurt us for one day, besides. .who told you that." (I've never quite said it in those words!) Her. .still not looking from the TV "Becky." Me, still absentmindedly reading "Yeah, she's right."

While Jeremy didn't say much about my laziness. .I'm pretty sure he was glad to come home last night from his Bible study group to find children quietly in their rooms. .the dishes clean. .and the house picked up!!
Here's to wishing for a little more motivation in the week ahead!!
This coming weekend, 5 other adults and myself are taking 25 kids. .aged 7th grade to seniors in high school. .on a 3 hour adventure to Salina to take part in a Christian based purity retreat promoting abstinance. .a concept that is quickly and unfortunately becoming antiquated!! So keep us in your prayers please!!

Wishing you all a quiet, mid-winter week!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Great Eagle Escapade

. .that nearly wasn't!!
This golden eagle is missing her right wing secondary to an accident earlier in her life. This necessitates that she be in captivity for the rest of her life.
I can happily say that I can check Eagle watching off of my bucket list!!
Last weekend, Devin, Cami, and I headed to mom and dad's. The plan was for them to play with the cousins. .and Mom and I would go to Milford Lake, north of Junction City, to attend a birdwatching extravaganza, featuring eagles.

Justice is a bald eagle who was found by a ranger walking down the road after being shot in her right wing. The ranger was killed a short time after while working a poaching case. They named the eagle in his honor!

I had been planning this trip for weeks. .after missing opportunities to go for the last couple years. And after realizing early last week that weather and the calendar were two things that WEREN'T going to interfere in the trip, I seemed to forget that there were still interferences that could and WOULD occur.

Tristan was out from school Wednesday with a diarrheal stomach bug. I don't know how everyone else mentally deals with that. .but I automatically counted down silently in my head, realizing that the excursion could easily be cancelled because of illness.  But, with the dawn of Friday. .and no further casualties. .we took off after lunch. We shopped. .Cami got her ears pierced. .we had ice cream. .and all was well. I woke up at 1:00 am with that "feeling" that something was amiss. About 30 seconds later, it came to my attention that the 4 year old in bed next to me was going to be sick.

I often wonder what mom's look like as they scoop small children up and haul them to the bathroom trying to get them somewhere safe to evacuate all those stomach contents. .all without their feet touching the ground!

For the next several hours I lay, listening to her breathing. .wondering when the next episode would hit. I was surprised to wake up around 6. .without a second episode. Cami awakened shortly after. .hoping aloud that her cousin Taryn was feeling better too (she had gone home with a tummy ache the day before). By 7:30 I was calling my sister in law, who was graciously watching the kids for the day. .to cancel out, not wanting to send over a sick kid. She reasoned with me that after 7 hours of not vomiting. .the likelihood of vomiting again was fairly low. So by 8:00. .I was changing my mind again. .and was so glad I did. 
About the time we reached Milford nature center, Tina had texted me a photo of the kids and assured me that Cami was doing fine. .which made my stomach feel better too!
The people at Milford Nature Center had quite a day set up. We went to a live eagle program first. We enjoyed all the information given about eagles. .and got to view both a golden eagle and a bald eagle that they keep in captivity secondary to wing injuries. Magnificent creatures for sure!
They had lots of things lined up for kids too. .and there were a lot of kids there. This was a replica of an eagle nest.
Each year, nesting eagles return to the same location and add on to the nest they used previously. In one instance in Florida, the nesting eagles had a nest that was 20 feet deep and weighed more than 2 tons (3200 pounds). It eventually collapsed the tree that it was sitting in. .a typical nest is around 6 feet wide and 2 feet deep.
Then we got on a school bus. .and chased eagles around the lake. We saw 13 eagles on the morning tour that we took. .but only one eagle on the tour we caught after lunch.  The guides report that usually they have 200-300 eagles around between November and February. .but with the unusually warm winter. .the  numbers are down. They fly south as the lakes north freeze over to nest and raise a brood of eaglets before returning north later in the winter. Since the lakes aren't frozen up north yet, the migrating numbers are down.
Here's a juvenile bald eagle resting from it's morning hunt. They don't get their characteristic white head until they are 4-5 years old.
The bald eagles weren't hard to spot in the trees with their bright patch of white. .but they were far enough away, that it was nice to have the binoculars to view them a little more close up. We saw them gracefully flying, and learned how to differentiate their flying from other large bird species. My next eagle expedition will be just going somewhere where they reside in the winter and watching them on my own. We didn't actually see them hunting. .their diet consists primarily of fish. .and I would love to watch them do that. When I started paying attention. .it was evident that there are programs all over the state of Kansas at different bodies of water during different weekends that promote eagle viewing.
Milford Nature Center has a large variety of caged birds.  This little American kestrel stole my heart. As I talked to him, he got closer and closer to me. .just daring me to take his photo! The Center has great learning activities available for the old and the young, a cool "bird wall" with woodpecker holes cut into it so you can look through the fence to see an amazing variety of wild birds eating at their feeders!! They also had the best playground there and some nature trails. I am thinking springtime cousin trip to appreciate God's handiwork!!
Cami was healthy all day. .the kids had a fabulous time playing together. .my mom and I had a fun trip (though she says she will not be going on any more eagle trips. .once was enough for her apparently). .and though Devin cried before he went to bed that night because of his stomach hurting. .he didn't get sick and woke feeling fine! We made it home after some more shopping. .and no one barfed in my car!
God is certainly good!! Better than I deserve, without a doubt!

So that is the end of the post on my first official birdwatching field trip. .there will definitely be more field trips, God willing. .Thanks for stopping by. .have a GREAT week!!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Winter Sowing. .A New Concept to this Gardener!

After doing some research lately on winter sowing, a gardening technique I have heard multiple gardeners discuss. .I decided that it sounded intriguing enough to try out.  While my big boys were helping our friend Lane with the destruction and re-struction of a house. .and Miss Thing was asleep. .This nine year old needed something to do. .so we went to the greenhouse to get creative.
Winter sowing is the process of planting mini-greenhouses with seeds. .and setting them outside for the remainder of the winter. The point is to get seedlings by mimicking mother nature. .in a sheltered kind of fashion.  There are LOTS of ways it can be done. .here's what we did.
Because I had smashed all of our other milk cartons to recycle, I only found 2 that were ready to use.(now I have 2 more ready, waiting to be planted.) We sliced the jugs all the way around, leaving a small intact piece where the handle is. Cut some drainage holes in the bottom. .added about 4 inches of soil (we used Miracle grow potting mix. .but some people just dig dirt out of their gardens). Wet it down. Sprinkled with seeds, covered with a bit more soil, and sprinkled with water again.  Then we folded the top back down, taped it shut with duct tape. .and set it in a sunny spot. Be sure to leave the milk cap off for ventilation. .or you will bake your seeds. We also used some plastic planters and then covered them with a layer of 4 mil plastic construction sheeting (like a dropcloth, but a little thicker) picked up at the local lumber yard. I also cut some ventilation slits in the plastic sheeting.

We started with 8 types of seed. The theory is that they will germinate on time because it is nice and warm in the little greenhouse climate. They are also getting cold at night too. .so they are hardier at planting time than other plants. This will save tons of room in my greenhouse if it works. Seeds like morning glory and other hard coated seeds don't need to be soaked or nicked before planting like this. .the freeze and thaw action softens them just like mother nature would. I plan to start most of my flowers this way. .and have been able to include some varieties that I would never have tried in the greenhouse due to space.  I'm also going to try a couple varieties that I haven't had good luck starting myself to see if it works. 
We put the flats on the south side of the greenhouse. .which is both out of the way, and sunny/warm. .so it should work well there, without being an eyesore. I can hardly wait until spring to see how well it will work out!!
In other gardening news, this girl is now sneaking out to the greenhouse to "water" and eat chives!! I caught her last weekend while she was telling me that she had "watered" the greenhouse. .all by herself. The scent of chives on her breath was a pretty good giveaway to her REAL motives!! We also enjoyed some Swiss chard in our lettuce salad last weekend. It's such a beautiful leafy green packed full of goodness!
I have decided that these are one of the cherry tomato varieties, because of the way that they are coming on in a cluster of fruit.
GonSS. .did the sweet baby tomatoes get this big?? They appear to be bigger than grocery store cherry tomatoes. .but there are a ton of them on this plant (which you can see for yourself) I had planted a black tomato. .determinate variety. .but it really never got this much fruit on it at once. This plant will yet surprise us as to which variety it is!
I sowed some cabbage. .just cause. . a few weeks ago. .and the seedlings are off and running. I was curious as to whether they would be a good specimen for a greenhouse. The first 2 years I grew some lettuce, tomatoes and peppers for consumption during the winter season. This year I find myself ready to try some new things. This is an evolving process. .and easy to see why there are so many books on the subject of greenhouse gardening.  The little pot to the left is some leftover flat leafed parsley. I noted a couple of seeds sprouting the first of the week. I sowed these seeds in addition to some others back in September. .but due to an extra hot day. .and the fact that my ventilating things weren't working right. .the temperatures got so hot, I think they baked the seeds. .since NOTHING germinated at that time.
Grant and I sowed some lettuce mixes from Johnny's seeds a little over a week ago. .in 3 days some of the sprouts were up. Next weekend we should start another few flats. The lettuce we produce certainly is a far cry from feeding our family. .but it DOES make for some nice variety of our salad when we mix the baby greens with a head of iceberg lettuce from the store, and is cheaper than buying bags of baby mixed greens. .which I love in my salads. 

I got seeds ordered from a few different catalogs last weekend. .as they arrive. .I plan to do some more winter sowing jugs. As I understand, this can be an ongoing process through the months of January and February. I hope I can report back with some success in March!! The best thing about this project is that you don't need anything special to do a little seed starting of your own!! I'd love to know if anyone else has ever tried this out. .and how it worked for you! I'd also love to know if anyone else will sign up to experiment with me the remaining months of winter!

It's almost Friday!!
Be blessed!

Monday, January 9, 2012

What Will I Ever Do??

. .when the crazy and insane madness comes to end at this house in a few more years?? We had a pretty low key weekend. .not a lot of pre-planned activities. .but in retrospect. .a world with four kids is just CRAZY!! There is noise and commotion and movement everywhere you turn!! Maybe that's why I like my blogging so much. .it's just me. .and it's quiet. .and I can reflect a little. .and put together grown up thoughts--not related to sickness, health, or contraception!! It's refreshing. .slow deep breath in. .slow deep breath out. .
So, wanna hear about our low key weekend?? Not surprisingly, my camera was close at hand and I captured lots of commotion in . .well. .motion!!
The weather remains fairly nice. Temps in the 50s-60's with slight breezes. I wandered around the flower beds several times. .and Devin and I did a little indoor gardening too. We started some winter-sowing projects. .a gardening technique I have learned about via blogs and Pinterest. .another post coming soon on that, though. This picture shows Devin and I doing an experiment with celery stalks. .if it works. .I'll tell ya all about it!!
Cami and I did some girly things. .like put on makeup, fix Barbie's hair, and re-outfit some of the 25 year old Barbie dolls, in addition to doing some tricks on the trampoline. .I'm a little mortified that our county cops have seen my tricks as they stopped to talk to Jeremy about their vehicle issues! 
We also baked. .
But I really haven't heard ANYONE complaining :-)
The unfrosted ones were adapted from a recipe my paternal grandma used to make. The filling is brown sugar, a smidge of white sugar, cream, and coconut. .they later got frosted with a cooked icing made from cream, brown and powdered sugar. .tasting kinda caramel-y. MMMM! Pioneer Woman has the best and easiest dough recipe to makes lots of rolls at once. .check it out. .it's SOOO simple. .and not time consuming at all--I MIGHT have had 30 minutes involved in these TWO batches of her recipe!
Nature watching. .to Gaia Gardener, who inspired me to be still and see what was in my trees. .I saw juncos, goldfinches, and sparrows. .oh, and two mourning doves. Watching the cat watch the fish was more entertaining to me this weekend. The water was a little low, and she was able to get out onto one of the rocks jutting out of the south end of our pond. I got so tickled to watch her checking out the numerous fish in there. .
. .And watching them taunt her!!
Dev and Cami did some building, in between their arguing about who got which dominos. .and who was accidentally. .or on purpose-ly. .knocking down whose structures. .lots and LOTS of bickering here. .even on a good day. .
Speaking of bickering. .I do NOT recall my brothers engaging in this kind of unruly behavior. .but then, I was older, so maybe I was gone by the time they started it. .or maybe not everybody's family behaves this way. .
Wrestling, baby. .wrestling!!
It always starts as good clean fun. .and generally there seems to be a match every Sunday after lunch. .
This particular match was pretty serious. .more like the wrestling you see on TV. .what, you've never seen wrestling on TV??? Where they are laying still, pushing, feeling out the strength of the opponent, calculating their moves. .and whatever else they do on that mat. .before they pin someone and make them cry. .or maybe that last part just happens here.
Even Cami has learned how to wrestle. .I call that "well-rounded." She can cheer, and sing, and dance, and wrestle?!? And she can do all of it. .in her fancy church dress!! She'll make some boy so happy some day!
Look at this. .she can even make a grown man cower. She won't need her older brothers to protect her. .Her wicked "arm bar" maneuver will scare the pants off any misbehavin' young man!
She's no angel. .
she's the devil. .in disguise!
And, by the way. .
Have I EVER mentioned that Kansas sunsets
Hope everyone had a restful weekend. .
and that you are refreshed for the week ahead!
Blessings to all. .and thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Winter Gardening

With the close of the holiday season and all it brings. .coupled with the REALLY nice weather we are enjoying here in southwest Kansas. .I have gotten a bit of spring fever!! I've enjoyed going through the seemingly endless pile of catalogs to decide which new variety or plant I N-E-E-D to try this year. And have also been able to enjoy some nice outside time as well!!
Let it be said. .that January 3rd 2012. .this Blue Wooly Speedwell has about 15-20 blooms on each plant. Crazy?? I think so!! It sits about 5 feet from the sidewalk on the east side of my house. .I wouldn't say that it stays a lot warmer there than anywhere else! But it has been making me smile every time I walk by!
The greenhouse has only gotten minimal attention thus far since early fall. Enough attention to keep things alive.
The most exciting thing would be the numerous small tomatoes present there. You may or may not recall, that Miss Thing pulled out all of the labeled seedlings in August playing "she loves me, she loves me not." Grant was the first one to notice, and he lovingly tucked each little wilting seedling back into a cell. Bottom line is. .we have absolutely NO idea which plant will yield which fruit. Time will tell!! I am hoping that these are either the chocolate cherry or the sweet baby tomatoes. There seem to be a lot of them between the two blooming plants. Additionally. .before we got the outdoor wood furnace going, the greenhouse got a little chilly a night or two. Several of the plants sustained some frost damage, and some died. I have noticed in one of the pots whose plant died, that there are two volunteer tomato plants growing. Needless to say, we'll be on the edge of our seats waiting to see what will be!
Here's a planter that had a few Swiss Chard seeds that germinated. They are the most beautiful plants!!
Look at the striking foliage. .There are red, yellow, and neon orange plants in my pot. We'll harvest the smaller leaves to eat in our salads.
This dracenia plant was mutilated by the grasshoppers this summer. They decimated EVERY leaf on the plant. I nearly threw it out, but decided to put it in the greenhouse instead. The plant is making a comeback, and has two little puffs of foliage on the top. In the background, are some twiggy trees that I got from the Arbor Day Foundation. Unfortunately, I misplaced the guide that told WHICH trees they were. .each stem is color coded, and I read once what they were, but by the time I got them planted, the guide was missing!! Hoping I will be able to ID them once they put on some leaves. I think I will plant them all into the garden in the spring in their little pots and nurse them along until they are big enough to avoid being mowed down by a teenager oblivious to details! At that point, I will find some final homes for them. It may not be hard, as I think there are several trees that aren't going to return in the spring because of the drought!!
This plant is kind of an exciting rescue project. It is a tropical umbrella plant from the pond. I didn't get it moved before the first frost-s- as I had planned. So I left it in the pond, where it endured numerous frosts. I finally (why, I have no idea) decided to move it one day to the greenhouse to see if it would live. Alas!! Success. .I was ready to pitch it last week, but didn't get around to it (notice any common themes going on here?) Last week, I noted 2 new areas of growth. Sometime this winter, I will try to trim it up again and get rid of some of the dead. It was pretty to look at, with its interesting foliage! Speaking of the pond. .it sure has been fun to watch the fish again. We had a green algae problem all summer, and so they were difficult to watch from indoors. We are hoping to rectify that with an ionic light next summer. But they have been busy all winter thus far, moving throughout their habitat and giving us. .and the cats. .a lot of enjoyment.
Not too many cuttings went in the greenhouse. .starts off both the black and the lime green sweet potato vines are doing well. Another succulent in the back that had damage is slowly reviving itself. Yesterday, Grant planted a couple of small planters with two varieties of lettuce mixes. .as well as a couple pots of purple basil, just for fun. And earlier in the weekend, I seeded some cabbage and flat leaf parsley. My bell peppers aren't growing fast at all. .the other night I saw some red and orange pepper varieties in Johnny's seed catalog that will be more suited to winter greenhouse growth. I think I will order some of those for next fall. I also noticed that they have some cucumber varieties well suited to our low light, cool temps of winter.
Our temperature is slated to be near 70 again tomorrow. I know that the majority of winter is still ahead. .but for now. .the nice spring temperatures are a welcome change!
I am hoping to kidnap my mom in a few weeks to go to Milford Lake on an eagle watch for the day!! I learned about it too late a couple years ago and couldn't go. .and then planned to go to Arkansas City last year to attend one of the watches that they host, but had to cancel because of other events. So, I am excited that, weather permitting. .I am headed for my first viewing of an eagle!
In the meantime, we're enjoying the climate. . and the radiant sunsets!!
Have a great week!!
Glad you stopped by!