Monday, June 30, 2008

Bambi Strikes

Yes, now it's Bambi. It looks like two deer attacked my strawberry plants -- eating leaves and stems on my new plants. Thankfully they weren't completely destroyed. With a little nurturing (and no more torture from Bambi and his friend) they will be fine. Close call. It's funny because I was going to write telling of my strawberry plants' success. They are now creating "daughter plants" for next year -- the little shoots they send out to create a new plant. This year I am to remove any blossoms to boost the plant's energy, nurture the daughter plants for next year when I will actually be able to pick strawberries!

Now, about Bambi ...

Well, I was just about to leave the house with Ripley when I went out to harvest some lettuce and snap peas for a salad at "Grandmama and Gramp's" and discovered THE DAMAGE. I knew it was deer that devoured my strawberries because I actually saw numerous hoof prints in the mud and straw!! Panicking, I went to the freezer and pulled out cayenne peppers to make a pepper spray -- simmering in water for 15 -30 minutes. Then I decided we would make a human urine barrier -- diluted with water -- around my garden. When I went to collect ... the urine ... somehow I managed to spill the container all over my bathroom floor!! Good grief. Just where is the Candid Camera guy? Undaunted, I used what remained and created a barrier around my garden. Meanwhile, I went to the stove to get the brewing pepper spray. When pouring the liquid through a funnel into a spray bottle I managed to slosh the boiling hot pepper spray spilling all over the floor and splashing onto my face, neck and chest! I ran to the refrigerator and pulled out sour cream and began smearing it all over my face, neck and chest. What a vision. Ripley was dumb-founded. Just WHAT is Mommy up to?! First she asks me to pee into a container which she then spills all over the floor. Then, she splashes boiling hot water all over the kitchen and herself ... then smears herself with sour cream! What is UP!? Stay tuned to see if my organic, low budget way of detering deer is effective.

On a lighter note, I did sneak a few stalks of Rhubarb from my new plants (you are supposed to wait for a year). I made my mother's Rhubarb Dessert -- but used strawberries left over from strawberry picking instead of raspberries. Really, the "dessert" is a crisp. Yumola! Here is a picture.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Monday Evening Harvest - Portuguese Recipe

Siberian Kale Mix, May Queen Lettuce, Arugula, Turnip Greens. Wow! I made a big salad with the lettuce and arugula. The kale went in a Portuguese Caldo Verde (green soup).
The turnip greens went into a Portuguese dish that is made with mashed potatoes and garlic. Sounds weird, but it's yummy. Here's what I did:
Boil 4-5 potatoes (I just plunked mine in the soup that was cooking already and just fished them out when they were done.) Coat bottom of pan with olive oil. Cook 4-5 minced garlic cloves in the olive oil on medium low. Add a teaspoon of salt. I added a few shakes of red pepper flakes -- but that's not authentic. Chop turnip tops or broccoli rabe (a bitter green) into thin strips - vein stem and all. Braise greens in the olive oil until they are no longer crunchy (I don't mind a little firmness - but generally it's well done). Take the potatoes out of the boiling water (save a ladle or two of the starchy liquid) and smash until smooth with a fork on a plate or wide mouthed bowl. Once the braised greens are tender add the smashed potatoes and stir all together mixing the greens and potatoes together. Put a little of the reserved liquid into the mix so that it's not too dry.

You know you've embraced growing your own vegetables when ...

You know you've embraced growing your own vegetables when you have a nightmare involving a borer pest killing your zucchini and yellow squash plants. This actually happened last night. I've lost it. It's official.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Sunblock STAINS!

OK, for awhile, I thought I was the only one experiencing this phenomenon but I finally looked it up online to see if there are other people who get orange blotchy stains on their clothing as a result of using sunblock. Particularly white and light colored cotton clothing. The orange stains show up in areas where you spray the sunblock, and also smears on your clothing like deodorant can when you put on a shirt -- or foundation. I haven't found anything that takes these stains out to the point where you can wear the clothing. How frustrating!! I have ruined two brand new white shirts! AND NO ONE IS REALLY TALKING ABOUT THIS! I have tried some new elemental sunblocks that I purchased for health reasons (no chemicals) that I think will be ok -- but I don't know for absolute sure yet. Has anyone else experienced this ... and is there anything that takes the stains out?! Over the weekend I discovered: Coppertone STAINS and Neutrogena STAINS. Irritating! (Thanks for listening).
Just what is this stuff doing to my SKIN?

Chicken Enchiladas

I made these enchiladas this weekend for a Mexican potluck dinner. An old friend who'd lived in Texas gave me this recipe, I've made a few additions -- and it's yumola! I'm a bit embarrassed because they aren't what I'd call "authentic", but my Mexican American friend loved them -- so they can't be all bad, right?
These are extremely easy. I made the insides and the outsides the night before, then assembled them before putting them into the oven the next day. The recipe calls for 12 tortillas, but I've never found that this recipe makes enough to fill 12 tortillas -- but I buy the 10" flour tortillas, maybe the recipe is meant for the smaller tortillas? Just an FYI.
16 oz can tomatoes
2 - 2 oz can green chili peppers
1/3 C tomato paste
1 t ground cilantro
1/8 t salt
1/2 t cayenne pepper
1 T olive oil
2 medium yellow onions - chopped
1/4 t salt
1 t ground cilantro
1 T flour
1 C sour cream
3 C cooked chopped chicken
12 flour tortillas
2 C Monterrey jack cheese, or Mexican blend shredded cheese
1 C fresh cilantro chopped
1 fresh jalapeno - sliced
Sauce: Blend tomatoes, chili peppers, tomato paste, ground cilantro seed, salt, cayenne pepper in a blender until smooth. Set aside.
Filling: Cook onions in oil. Add ground cilantro, salt and chicken. Stir flour into sour cream, then mix into onions and chicken.
Roll your enchiladas, lining them up into a oiled long casserole. Pour sauce over the top. Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove foil and sprinkle with cheese, sliced jalapenos and fresh cilantro. Bake for 5 more minutes - or until cheese is melted.
I serve with sour cream mixed with Mexican chili powder.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Chip and Dale

As in the cartoon show!
I was headed outside again to assess the rabbit situation, and what did I see?! A chipmunk nibbling on my bean sprouts. When he saw me coming down the stairs to the garden he moved on to a rock about 6 feet away and consumed the bean top. Arrgggghh! I confirmed the assault when I looked at my poor bean, it's top munched off, a simple stalk poking out of the ground. Honestly. This is like the cartoon show ... and I'm the poor soul getting laughed at.

Wha sup Dooooccccc?!

I've had two raised beds here for 4 years. I have never seen one rabbit. I went out this morning to see the garden while carrying my coffee and what did I see??! Two of the biggest, fattest, fluffiest rabbits you've ever seen. They look so plump and fluffy they look like they are prepped for Easter pictures with the kids. Back in the 1500's if I'd run into these guys I could feed my family for weeks and weeks. My husband's aunt and uncle in Portugal would be salivating (they raise their own rabbits for food). Good grief. Now I've gotta deal with these guys. Bite the bullet and put up a fence, or marigold the place to death? Can anyone say "Pain in the neck!" ??

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Minor League 2008 Champs!!

L to R: Peter, Nate, Josh, Bryce, Benjamin, Garret, Noah, Tommy, Jason, Bubba, Colin, Dylan

Way to go Twins!! What a great team Benjamin was privileged to be apart of. Thanks to Coach Rick and Coach Rip for doing such a great job! They had high expectations for the kids, helped them to take the game and themselves seriously and encouraged them enthusiastically for their accomplishments and efforts big and small. They won with great sportsmanship, honor and hard work -- and lots of fun. There was nothing better than seeing those boys glow when they accomplished something great. And, hats off to Tommy for the winning out at second base. When he looked around and saw no one was on base, he ran there -- ball in hand and beat the Giants player there for the out. What a game! Final score 13 to 12 - TWINS!


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Pizza Dough

I've bought different doughs and tried a few recipes ... I think this is the best. It only rises once, so you can start it by 3 and you'll be done by 6 -- but you can also freeze them. Originally an individual pizza dough recipe (makes 4) from Martha Stewart, I've added a cup of whole wheat flour (in place of one white) and make two medium sized pies, or one medium sized pie, two spinach pies -- or a rolled tube like spinach "pie".
1 pkg yeast
1 1/4 C lukewarm water 105 to 110 degrees
1 C whole wheat flour
2 C white flour -- hold one cup back and add slowly as you knead
1 1/2 t salt
1 T olive oil
Add yeast to lukewarm water - let proof for 10-15 minutes (I add a dash of sugar for good proofing measure)
Meanwhile, measure out flour (holding back one cup white flour) and salt.
Dump yeast mixture and olive oil into the center of the flour and stir all together. Once a ball is formed add enough of the extra cup of white flour to handle easily. Then knead for 5 minutes. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes. Continue kneading for 10 minutes adding the extra white flour as you go. You don't have to use all of the white flour.
Let rise for 1 1/2 hours or until well risen.
Turn out onto floured surface and use as desired.
Roll out with rolling pin. (if you're good you can throw, but at your own risk)
If you are feeling fancy and energetic brush crust with olive oil and sprinkle w/ freshly grated parm cheese.
Medium Pizzas Cook 450 degrees for 12 minutes on a pizza stone
Martha's recipe says to cook individual pizzas for 15 minutes -- that seems a bit long.
Spinach Pies cook 450 degrees for 12-15 minutes
Spinach roll (what do you call that, a cal zone?) cook 450 degrees for about 30 minutes.
If you want to freeze, just wrap the rolled out crusts well and put in the freezer. I've typically done this with the smaller individual sizes -- for larger sizes you might need to support the dough on a piece of cardboard or something.
Yum. Yum.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Goodbye Cable

We are taking the plunge. Or, more accurately, we are removing ourselves from the vat of overpriced sludge. (ok, sludge doesn't exactly rhyme with plunge, but it's close) That is we are discontinuing our cable service. Yes, you heard us right, goodbye cable. We really don't watch that much television as it is. We enjoy the occasional Patriots or Red Sox game, but after that, it's pretty much all down hill. Between all of the violence (I'm sorry, Victor and I just can't handle watching C.S.I. or even Law and Order -- horrible things happening to people, why watch??), the low budget brain-numbing reality t.v., and the sensationalized news channels, we are done. We will keep our television for dvd's and the programming that comes to us for free - especially PBS. And that's it.
My brother, Scott has many fun toys and creature comforts, but one thing he has never caved on is cable television. At first it was largely in protest to their monopoly - charging outrageous prices without competition. When I asked him about it last night at our Father's Day Family Night he said that now he also doesn't like having the temptation to burn up his time at home and "check out" (ie: turn into a tube-zombie). Growing up, we were never allowed much television. I can still hear my father shouting "Turn that thing off!" Today, when we go to our pediatrician, we are asked how much television our children watch. Our doctor is always pleasantly surprised when I answer that, if they watch any at all, they watch a 1/2 hour a day.
When I start to consider how commercialism, consumption and big business have gotten so out of hand in our society -- turning off my television is my way of saying "I'm not filling my head with your lies!"

Friday, June 13, 2008

More on Plastics ....

This article was in the Providence Journal from the Los Angeles Times.
At some point we need to realize there is some truth to the harm that plastics can cause.

That 'new shower curtain smell' gives off toxic chemicals, study finds
An environmental organization finds high concentrations of dangerous chemicals in shower curtains sold at major stores.
By Tami Abdollah, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer June 13, 2008
Vinyl shower curtains sold at major retailers across the country emit toxic chemicals that have been linked to serious health problems, according to a report released Thursday by a national environmental organization.The curtains contained high concentrations of chemicals that are linked to liver damage as well as damage to the central nervous, respiratory and reproductive systems, said researchers for the Virginia-based
Center for Health, Environment & Justice.

Chemicals in shower curtains
The organization commissioned the study about two years ago to determine what caused that "new shower curtain smell" familiar to many consumers."This smell can make you feel sick, give you a headache, make you feel nauseous or [cause] other health effects," said Michael Schade, a coauthor of the report.Researchers tested the chemical composition of five unopened polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, plastic shower curtains bought from Bed Bath & Beyond, Kmart, Sears, Target and Wal-Mart. One of the curtains was then tested to determine the chemicals it released into the air.The study found that PVC shower curtains contained high concentrations of phthalates, which have been linked to reproductive effects, and varying concentrations of organotins, which are compounds based on tin and hydrocarbons. One of the curtains tested released measurable quantities of as many as 108 volatile organic compounds into the air, some of which persisted for nearly a month.Seven of these chemicals -- toluene, ethylbenzene, phenol, methyl isobutyl ketone, xylene, acetophenone and cumene -- have been identified by the Environmental Protection Agency as hazardous air pollutants, said Stephen Lester, the center's science director and a coauthor of the report.Potential health effects include developmental damage and harm to the liver and the central nervous, respiratory and reproductive systems, according to the report. Phthalates and organotins, which are not chemically bonded to the shower curtain, are often added to soften or otherwise enhance the curtain. These additives evaporate or cling to household dust more easily than the chemicals in the curtains themselves, Lester said. Volatile organic compounds also evaporate more easily than the less harmful chemicals, he said. Vinyl chloride, which is a major building block of PVC, is a known human carcinogen that causes liver cancer, Lester said."PVC is just bad from cradle to cradle," said Martha Dina Argüello, executive director of the Los Angeles chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility. "It's a mess when you create, it's a mess when you get rid of it, and it's off-gassing when you're using it."Representatives of Target and Sears Holding Co., the parent company of Kmart, said their companies were phasing out curtains that contain PVC. Target said about 90% of the store's "owned brand" shower curtains offered this spring were made of materials other than PVC. Officials from the other companies were not immediately available for comment Thursday. The report said that Bed Bath & Beyond had increased the number of PVC-free shower curtains it offered by selling those made of ethylene vinyl acetate and fabrics, but that Wal-Mart did not respond to the organization's faxes or letters requesting the retailer's PVC policy.The American Chemistry Council issued a statement Thursday saying there was "no reliable evidence" that phthalates were harmful or linked to serious health problems, or that they were tied to the new shower curtain smell.Argüello said studies were still being done on the effects of phthalates and other chemicals on people.Little information on toxicity is available for 86 of the 108 chemicals detected in the curtains, Lester said. The EPA has tested vinyl shower curtains and in 2002 said it had found that many of the same chemicals listed in the center's report.Lester said the test drew attention to the lack of government regulations or health-based guidelines governing indoor air pollutants. "The EPA does not regulate indoor air, period," said Barbara Spark, the indoor air program coordinator for the EPA's Pacific Southwest region. "We have not been given that authority by the Congress."The Center for Health, Environment & Justice sent a letter to 19 major retailers Thursday informing them of the new report and encouraging them to stop selling PVC products. "Most companies aren't aware of some of the risks these products entail," Lester said. "Once they're informed of this, they're in many cases ready to make changes and purchase alternative products."

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Make a note of it ...

Make a note of it ... birds eat PEARS when they are not even one inch long -- right off the tree. Note to self: cover trees after petal fall with netting. All of the pears off my two baby trees -- which granted were a grand total of about 25 pears -- were consumed over one weeks time. I always thought that wildlife ate fruit off the trees once they were ready to eat. Not so. Nope. They don't care. Yesterday I covered my blueberries because I saw a bird getting a little too chummy with them for my taste. It's a good thing. My guess is I'll have to cover my apples too? Good grief. Lament.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Not Bad . . .

Not Bad. Here is my first big harvest of Bloomsdale Spinach and May Queen Lettuce. Wow. Yumola.

In the garden however, I have been riddled with bugs. I've tried all kinds of Neem spray and an Oil Spray -- however when I realized (thanks to friend Vivian) that I was infested with Potato Beetles, I had to use Seven -- suffice it to say, it's not organic. It's pretty mild stuff, but it was either that or kiss my potatoes, tomatoes and peppers goodbye. (this was even after trying to chase these little whipper snappers around my potato plants -- hats off to those of you who have the time, patience and talent for that. 9 times out of 10 you pull a leaf or two off with a beetle. I looked it up on the natural gardening book I've had out from the library for months it seems and that's what they had suggested. Apparently, Potato Beetles are especially prevalent in the small home garden. Terrific. Anyway folks, I gave up. If anyone has any other ideas -- please let me know. Between my fruit trees and veggie garden I've become a bit consumed by pests. I'm seeing bugs I've never noticed before. As a matter of fact, when walking our little miniature Schnauzer "Church" (weird name, I know) this morning I noticed that our birch trees were being CONSUMED by caterpillars. They blended in so nicely you could hardly notice them -- since I had the Seven all mixed up, I gave them a good blast. Fixed their little red wagon.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Dr. Bronner's All Purpose Soap

Consider using Dr. Bronner's Sal Suds. It's $10.99 for a 32 ounce bottle. It is condensed ... in the true sense of the word. You only use a teaspoon in a gallon of water. I've been using mine for months and I've hardly made a dent in it. I even made my own spray bottle mixture out of it - 1 to 1/2 teaspoon of the stuff and water. A boat-load cheaper than the $4.00 they want to charge you for something similar at Target. (Makes you realize why the companies started marketing them to us in the first place!) Dr. Bronner's is earth friendly, and cruelty-free. Plus, it won't make you feel like passing out from the fumes when you go to clean your shower! Some of that chemical stuff is nasty.

Little House in the Prairie

We are having a revival of Little House in the Prairie. Awhile back I bought the first season DVD set of Little House for Benjamin. Benjamin went on a field trip last week to the one room school house here in Rehoboth -- The Hornbine School. So, I pulled out the Little House DVDs and the boys are loving them. And I'm loving them too. What a great series. Good clean fun. Good life lessons. And, also a great look into the past for the boys. They love it.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Mom's Raspberry Rhubarb Dessert -- you can call her Joanie

Raspberry Rhubarb Dessert
1 lb (3c) rhubarb
1 10 oz pkg froz raspberries
1/2 c sugar
3 T cornstarch
1 1/2 c flour
1 c brown sugar
1 c quick oatmeal
1 t cinnamon
1/2 c melted butter
Thaw and drain fruit and add water to make 1 C. Combine sugar and cornstarch blend in liquid and cook and stir until thick and clear. Cover, add fruit and remove from heat. Cool. Mix rest of ingredients and put 2/3 on bottom of 9x9 pan, cover with fruit mixture & sprinkle with remaining crumbs. 325 for 1 hour
I have a memory of my mother usually doubling this into a larger 9x14 sized pan.

"Mom's" Lemon Squares ... you can call her Joanie

Here is the recipe for my mother's Lemon Squares. They are the best. They are. Quick. Easy. They have a lighter texture and a very lemony flavor. Often times a lemon square is tough and gummy -- like a gelatin. Not these. Enjoy!
Mom's Lemon Squares
Mix - stir the following with fork or cut with two knives until it looks crumbly
1 C flour
1/2 C butter
1/4 C confectioners sugar
pinch salt
Press into an ungreased 9 x 9 pan
Bake crust at 350 degrees for 15 minutes
Mix - I did it with a whisk to make sure all of the flour was no longer lumpy
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 C sugar
5 T lemon juice (originally 3T)
3 T flour (originally 2T)
Pour this mixture over crust when it comes out of the oven.
Then bake for 20 minutes more.
Dust with confectioners sugar after it comes out of the oven.
After they cool, cut into small squares. Eat.