right now

right now

Jul 24, 2010

A quick question...

I am planning & ordering my fall seeds and have a question for you all. Do you bother with indoor seed starting or do you sow in flats outside in the summertime? This is my 1st year starting my broccoli, etc from seed instead of plant starts. It sure is hot enough for germination out there, but I am sure I would have to bring them in during the heat of the day. Inquiring minds want to know!

Jul 23, 2010

kinderGARDENS Week 15 - Children are workin' the fields!

Inadvertent Farmer

Ha! That means it must be blueberry season! I am certainly not one to waste such great child labor - laws, schmaws...

The heat and humidity has been relentless for close to 2 months now, no relief in sight. Our own garden is suffering horribly, and the insects have all but taken over since we aren't out there doing battle until after 7 pm most days. I think I had 20 mosquito bites the other night while trying to tie up tomato plants!

We had planned to go blueberry picking this morning, and heat or not, I was determined to get those berries. It was already 92 degrees when we pulled into the berry farm at 8:45 am! The place was packed, most likely everyone with the same idea - it was scheduled to be triple digits by noon.

The crowd was only in their parking area, however. Once out in the field, there are acres to spread out in, everyone seemed to have their own row of paradise!

The lil' chilluns' are just the right height to get the best ones!

Loch gets one berry and then swears there are better ones... down there! The seasons could change again before he fills half a bucket!

Finn has a scowl in every picture today, he absolutely hates the heat and hates sweating! Loch is the one who yells out "all right!" when the weatherman says temps will be 109-110 this Sat & Sun... ugh!

It's actually a photo of me, I can't believe it. I asked Loch to take a pic showing how tall our Southern Highbush Blueberries really get! Don't worry, northerners... although the size is impressive, taste does not always follow suit - I absolutely love Northern lowbush and wild blueberries and would pick them over these. Not to say that these are bad, they're quite good - but it's a taste thing - Southern taste sweeter to me and the Northern have a more berry-like pucker to them, which I prefer.

More berries...

They are DONE, wanna go hooooome! No time outs in the berry patch today, I was too hot to discipline, I wanted to throw a good tantrum too...

Finn still scowling...

I let Loch pay for the berries, then we hopped across the dirt road to their produce stand. Finn got some math practice in by counting out a dozen ears and paying the farmer. Very lucky today, the farmer himself was cooling off in the shade and talked to the boys a bit about how this corn was sweeter and a different color than the stuff he was going to harvest in a couple of weeks. I'm happier with the education this old guy was giving my kids than the school system! Forget the SOL's... I'm taking my kids to farm! Finn got to count out 3 dollars, that was his first time handling money. On the ride home we all talked about how it's always better for the farmer, the food, and the family to buy our produce as close to the spot where it came out of the ground as possible. They get it, and that's a great feeling!

Home with the day's harvest (tomatoes are ours). We'll have to go back for more berries on another day when it's a little cooler. On the agenda for this afternoon, kids shucking corn, freezing blueberries, and headed to the community pool for a floatie-toy party in the evening! I am sure some of you are frustrated by the way pool toys are sold everywhere but they are never allowed in pools? Our YMCA lets kids bring pool toys every Friday night, yay!

I hope to post a link to my favorite recipe for blueberry muffins with a streusel topping later this weekend when I get a chance to make them!

Kim at The Inadvertent Farmer is host to the kinderGARDENS contest. Check her blog for links to other participants ways of getting the kids into the garden. This week's post on her blog is by a guest author who writes about designing a garden with kids in mind, check it out!

Jul 22, 2010

Make do with what you have... Make Ahead Meals!

Make Ahead Mini-Stuffed Bell Peppers

I am always on a quest to find dinners to make and freeze ahead of time since most days I am too tired to cook by the end of the day and we all know how hard it is to get something decent on the table while the kids are screaming "when's dinner?" or "I'm hungry!". You would think they never got fed sometimes the way they carry on. I have no illusions that they will actually eat the following recipe, although I have a little bit of hope because... the little peppers are "cute"! Who knows?

The harvest: the peppers have officially started coming in batches of this amount every 3 days or so... what to do? Stuffed peppers, of course!

This year I am growing an Heirloom "'Lil' Yellow Stuffer"... not sure why it's called a stuffer, maybe the thickness of the walls? It's just as good raw! These just scream to be made in bulk and frozen however, they are about the size of meatballs. I am thinking I will use them that way, too, depending on what I stuff them with.

It was too hot to go to the store, so I just used whatever I had on hand. To the day's harvest of peppers and tomatoes, I added yesterday's tomatoes, some basil, shallots, a package of ready-heat rice & bean pilaf, and a baggie of ricotta mixture I had in the freezer from our last lasagna filling. That's the beauty of bell peppers, they will take pretty much anything you can stuff them with!

First, I diced some shallots and a few small tomatoes, sauteed them in olive oil. I added this in to a bowl containing the heated rice & bean pilaf package and the ricotta mixture. Stuffing: done!

I took the remaining tomatoes, blanched and peeled the skins off, added a bit of kosher salt and basil, and cooked down to make a sauce. Instead of slaving over straining the tomatoes, I just cooked the whole mess down in 30 minutes and stuck a stick blender in at the end. This only made a half pint, so easy was the goal here.

While the sauce was simmering, I cut the tops off and seeded all the peppers. This was by far the most time consuming part of it all, I would suggest a 2nd person to help, but I don't have that option! Then take a spoon and stuff all your peppers. I was lucky and had exactly enough stuffing for today's batch of peppers, not really sure how that worked since I don't measure!

Place your peppers on a cookie sheet in the freezer for a few hours. This pre-freezing is what gives you the "convenience" in convenience food. They don't stick together that way you only need to take out what you need for dinner.

After a few hours on the cookie sheet in the freezer, I put them in bags of 20, then placed those into a larger bag for extra protection. I don't use my Food Saver for things like this since I tend to be in and out of the bag frequently since these make a great side dish, too. Label, pop in the freezer and you're set!

Of course I had to try them last night...
I just took out what I needed, baked them at 350 straight from a frozen state until the peppers were soft, about 20-25 minutes, then topped with the sauce I made earlier in the afternoon. These particular ones had a southwest flavor since I used a rice & bean mixture, but of course would be awesome with most anything, meat, cheese, breadcrumb stuffing, etc. A new local gardening friend of mine brought a zucchini casserole to a BBQ last weekend that was delish, it had stuffing, shredded zucchini, shredded carrots among a few other ingredients and I am thinking peppers would be great stuffed with this too. We could all use a way to get rid of more zucchini, right? Full size peppers would make a great meal too, process is the same. I am thinking that these are so small I may even top pasta with them and use them just like meatballs.

All told, it took 1 person a little less than 2 hours from start to finish, which = the length of the kid's movie I stuck in to keep them out of my hair! Not bad, considering that I got at least 5 dinners from it into the freezer. Now what to do next with those peppers? It's not often that I am this motivated or that the kiddos actually sit still long enough for me to cook this much stuff!

I am thinking this is the perfect activity for a girl's night, with enough wine, hands, and peppers, this would take no time at all and everyone could leave with several dozen! (too bad I don't get to have girl's nights... just 5 & 7 year old boys nights LOL)!

What's your favorite make-ahead meal?

Jul 21, 2010

Daily Dose of Gross

You can thank me later!

Jul 20, 2010

It really is "must-see TV"!

Maybe some of you caught the broadcast Sunday evening of
Dateline: "America Now: Children of the Harvest".

If not, I highly recommend watching it. They follow the life of a migrant family over a year's time and focus on the migrant children workers in America's fields. Yes, it may be a bit of a downer at times, you will feel outrage, but also hope and and an interesting new view on some controversial topics. At one point during the show, you are watching the migrant family hand weeding a large field with hoes when one comments in broken English "no weeds for us here, no work, see? Roundup here" as he points to the unnatural looking beautiful weedless rows of sugar beets in a Minnesota field. At one point you see a crop duster flying overhead little children.

This is another must-see program, and in the same way that Food, Inc shook us, it's yet another perspective on the state of our agricultural industry.

You can link to Dateline NBC and watch the video here

(There was another Dateline: Children of the Harvest special that aired in 1998 that you can see here, there is a bit of a follow up in the above new show about what happened to those children now that they are adults. Haven't seen the first one yet but I intend to watch it this week!)

Jul 19, 2010

It must be genetic...

Here's my kids' plates after they ate dinner and left the table...

(they know nothing about my distaste of canteloupe)!
I had such high hopes...

I googled "why do i hate canteloupe"? this evening and this is what came up...

read this blog I found... funny stuff! I warn those who might be offended by some profanity in the author's post, but this is hilarious!

one of my favorite quotes:

"It’s like cantaloupe is the nerd of the fruits. It doesn’t look particularly good. It’s sort of got this 80s stucco look to it, and it comes in a few pastel colors. In fact, I think cantaloupes are stuck in the 80s. They need the What Not to Wear crew to get in on this sh*t and fix them up."


The Canteloupe has arrived!

Sure enough, this morning I smelled the blossom end just like some of you had suggested, and I could smell "melon"! I couldn't get it off the vine fast enough!

It weighed 4 lbs, 11 oz
(notes: It was direct sowed in a container on April 6th which makes exactly 104 days from sowing to harvest in an intensely humid and hot summer)

Not being a melon fan, I was hoping that the only reason I didn't like them was because I have only ever had store-bought. Not the case, unfortunately. This was cut still warm from the morning sun, juice running out and lovely scent... I still didn't like it! This may be because it is so sweet, I usually go for sour puckering type fruit, I actually like eating lemons and such! I put on my "yum face" and presented to eager children who have never tasted canteloupe:

They seemed to enjoy it, but they may have been being nice, since neither one finished their slice. Finn usually hoards fruit and won't let anyone else have "his" bowl of berries, so I cubed the rest and put it into separate "Loch" and "Finn" containers in the fridge. I'll keep checking to see who is actually eating it! I really wish hubby was here, I know he would eat it! Luckily, these will only come ripe sporadically so I won't be inundated with them, and they definitely won't go to waste considering that I can put them in a smoothie with other fruit and they will be consumed quickly that way!

I had to take all the grapes in today. I was mowing the lawn this morning and wondered "hey, where's my grapes?"... BIRDS! It's always a narrow window to be able to harvest them before mockingbirds and wasps eat them, and apparently I missed the window while I was busy being a mom all weekend, because half of them were already gone. I picked what was left and brought them in, good thing I like sour tastes, since they are not all quite ready yet! This is a big improvement, however... the past 2 years I didn't get any harvested before the birds got them.

Monday's Harvest: Tomatoes, Blackberries, Canteloupe, Cucumbers, and a total of 2.2 lbs of Grapes

I'm still holding out high hopes for the watermelon, I am told they aren't as sweet as the canteloupe so I am eager to try it... it's still not ready!

Jul 18, 2010

4-H Camp Weekend! (Lots of pics & video for daddy!)

We are finally back from camp and exhausted from the drive (me) and camp (them)! I was hoping to veg out on the couch with a new magazine issue that arrived, but not before I get the photos and video up - I know Daddy is waiting! I just feel so guilty if I don't do it right away!

I arrived at camp a little early and was able to "spy" on them from across the lake, it was fun hearing the singing going on over there!

Just wandered around for a bit taking pictures...

Not sure what plant this is, but I liked it!

This whole area is part of the Great Dismal Swamp and there are tons of beautiful Bald Cypress and wildlife to watch.

Dinnertime Bell

Kids receiving their certificates, they look exhausted - also need to mention that temps are still triple digits around here and humid!

Group photo, 4-H campers & counselors (in green)
The boys' counselor's name was Bubba, and yes, that's his real name! I think it really does the boys some good getting to hang with college guys for the weekend, they are old enough that the kids listen to them, but young and "cool" enough that they make great role models and they still have limitless energy for the kids!

kids showing off their council ring where they have the nightly bonfires

I have the same pic from last year too, I hope to be able to make a collage someday showing how much they have grown!

Loch & Finn

Sometimes blogs just write themselves, see the backpacks below? Read on...

Finn was happy to inherit the orange "big boy" backpack from his brother, and Loch got a new backpack this year. We are standing around waiting to check out of camp and I casually ask the kids "how did the new backpacks work out?", and Loch says "we like them but kids made fun of us". So naturally I ask "why?"... they tell me that every other kid in their cabin (that would be 6 other kids) has a rolling suitcase! I almost spit the water I was drinking out through my nose. I told them, "you are exaggerating, there's no way all those kids brought rolling suitcases to a weekend camp". Fast forward to 20 minutes later, we are walking the gravel/dirt trail that will lead back to the parking lot to the car, we are walking just enjoying nature and see a cloud of dust in front of us... we catch up and sure enough.... a whole line of kids ROLLING SUITCASES through the dirt, LOL! Bouncing, tipping sideways, being dragged, mud, just every ridiculous thing you can imagine! And don't forget these monstrosities are being dragged by little kids! It's hours later, and I still can't get over this. Now I can see that some of these kids are bussed in from the city and really have no clue, and "good job" to their parents on finding a way to get their kids into nature, but making fun of my kids because they came in with a backpack and a sleeping bag? It's camp! I kind of wanted to look around and find the Saturday Night Live guys doing a skit or something! Funny stuff... and no, you guys aren't getting suitcases with wheels next year...

After we left we stopped at a local diner for lunch, that's getting to be tradition now - Guy Fieri from the Food Network's "Diners, Drive In's and Dives" did a show on the VA Diner in this little town and the kids think the picture of him on the wall is cool, LOL

What's cool to me is a kid's meal for under 3 bucks that serves real fried chicken, fruit, and real baked mac & cheese! (It is the south, nobody said it would be healthy!) Finn had a choice of vegetable and he asked the waitress what collards and okra were, that made me smile... she talked him into apple slices instead!

Besides being the Peanut Capital of the World, this area is well known for their ham. This picture is mostly to drive hubby crazy, he loves these - plain ol' plate of country ham & biscuits, no garnish or side dishes needed... only 5 bucks, love it!

After lunch, we hit the road for the remaining 75 miles... Finn didn't even last 10!

random video taken today...

You all are going to love this... Loch told me one of the sheep is named "Clarice".... does someone have a sense of humor?!! Now all I can think of is quotes from Silence of the Lambs! "It rubs the lotion on its skin, or else it gets the hose again"...
I would love to meet whoever named her LOL

Lucky for me, it has started to rain, so I have an excuse not to mow the lawn and relax with my magazine now!