Garden Update

In between the rain showers and storms this weekend, I managed to get a little gardening done.

I came home from work Friday night and was extremely stressed out. During dinner, I was looking out at the vegetable garden and noticed the spinach and arugula were growing like weeds. They desperately needed harvested. So, after dinner, we bundled up The Munchkin (it was pretty cool outside) and headed outside. The Man planted some flowers we bought for one of our flower beds, and I went to pick greens from the vegetable garden. I did a little weeding as I went and also managed to plant the roma tomatoes, bell peppers, and jalapenos I bought last weekend (my seeds didn't start). The Munchkin toodled back and forth in the yard between the two of us, picking blades of grass and gathering rocks for mommy and daddy. I brought The Munchkin back in the house before she got too cold, and I felt like the weight of the world had been lifted off my shoulders. It seems gardening comes with a wonderful result: I manage to forget all the stress, and all the AD/HD "noise" goes away. It's an amazing feeling!

Saturday, I wandered back to the vegetable garden again to inspect the progress, and today I got some more seeds in the ground. Here's the update:

  • The herbs (cilantro, basil, parsley) are all doing really well. The leaves are starting to become distinguishable, and I'm excited to have fresh herbs on hand!
  • The spinach and arugula are going nuts, and I'm picking several handfuls every few days. Both plants loved the cooler weather and rain last week, and Friday, I picked enough of the two to fill a gallon storage bag. I'm anticipating similar growth this week. I also started another short row of spinach.
  • The peas have shot up to about 6" tall, and I'm trying to decide how I want to go about stringing them so they can climb. I started another short row of snow peas and one more long row of snap peas.
  • The second round of carrots has popped through, and I planted another round today. That makes 3 square feet of carrots so far.
  • The parsnips have popped up, as well! I'll plant more this week.
  • Both the green onions and the yellow onions have sprouted, too. I'll plant more of each this week.

I'm getting more excited each day, simply because I can look out the window and see more and more progress. And I'm learning a lot along the way.

I've realized that the long rows of peas are probably going to be a pain once they get taller. The reason for this is that I'm planting rows about 8" apart, so it might be a little difficult to get to the plants in the middle of the row. Oh well, live and learn, right?

I'll also probably track my progress a little differently next year. SmartGardener is great for the layout and to do list, but it doesn't help me track the positions of seeds I've succession planted. Because of this, I'm pretty much waiting for seeds to sprout before I plant another bunch. I'm afraid this will leave me with gaps in the harvest, but I guess time will tell.

I've also learned a bit about garden critters. Saturday, when I went out to check the progress, I noticed the leaves were gone from a few tomato plants, and two of my jalapeno plants were gone. One had simply been plucked out, roots and all, and the other was completely gone. So I'm looking into organic critter deterrents...can you offer any ideas?

How is your garden progressing? I hope you're enjoying the progress as much as I am! Happy growing season!

Menu: Week of 4/29

This past week has been a hectic one, hence the late post. My mom has been put in a cast to help heal a severe case of plantar fasciitis, and, since she is The Munchkin's daycare through the week, we've had to make some adjustments in order to lighten her load (she can't walk or chase a 13-month old). So, The Munchkin is now spending two days a week with my mom, one day a week with The Man's mom, one day a week at home with mommy (which I am thoroughly enjoying!), and one day a week with my aunt. The Man and I have amazing family members, and their willingness to help out has been a life saver! The first week of managing The Munchkin's schedule (and getting all her stuff packed up for a different place each day) has been slightly exhausting, but at least I know she's getting the best care and an (over)abundance of love! :) Week Two will go much more smoothly! *fingers crossed* LOL

Work has also been crazy busy, with several looming deadlines and multiple distractions, resulting in a few remote hours each evening last week and a few more this weekend. At least I've had the work to make up for the time I've taken off to spend with The Munchkin!

As a result of the aforementioned circumstances (and a case of AD/HD), I've fallen a little behind on things like this blog (and getting rid of the clothes I cleaned out of my closet...they're sitting in baskets in the living room *sad face*)...

But, I digress, and I don't want to leave you hanging. (Although, I question whether or not anyone actually cares what meals I'll be preparing on a weekly basis.) Regardless, here is this week's menu (and hopefully, I'll have some time coming up to post some more recipes):

Sunday: Waffles, Sausage, Fresh Fruit - I'm kinda diggin' Sunday evening breakfast. We used to do a big breakfast on Sunday mornings, but now that we've got The Munchkin, we alternate mornings getting up with her (so the other can sleep in), and sitting down to breakfast together isn't always an option.

Monday: Fettucini Alfredo, Steamed Broccoli, Homemade Bread - What could be better than pasta coated in cream, butter, and parmesan?!

Tuesday: Chicken Fajitas, Black Beans, Mexican Rice - We've got about 1/2 a bell pepper and 1/2 an onion in the fridge that can't go to waste, and some chicken in the freezer (from a bargain stock-up a while back), so fajitas seemed logical. And Mexican Rice is always a must (and easy to make). I'll do this in a cast iron skillet on the grill if Mother Nature allows (it's pouring down rain here right now, and the power just flickered...welcome to Springtime in rural central Illinois!)

Wednesday: BBQ Sandwiches, Macaroni and Cheese, Peas - We've still got pulled pork in the freezer, so we'll use some of it for our "Between Bread" Wednesday night meal. And I've been craving some mac 'n' cheese. :)

Thursday: Chicken Stir Fry, Brown Rice - This will make a quick mid-week meal...just about the time I'll lose my momentum. LOL

Friday: Grilled Pizza, Garden Salad - Weather- and energy-permitting...otherwise, I'll bring home Little Caesar's (The Man LOVES crazy bread!). Either way, I'll probably need to pick some spinach and arugula from the garden, so we'll have a small salad with dinner.

Saturday: Chicken Sausages, Grilled Potatoes, Corn - This is another good grill meal, but can easily be done inside if the weather isn't cooperating.

Mangia Bene!


Garden Update

It's been a while since I've posted a garden update, and for that, I apologize. I haven't neglected the garden, I've just neglected you. :(

So here's an update of what I've done:

  • Broccoli - I planted a few seeds a few weeks ago, and now I've got little sprouts. Ultimately, I'll only have one plant, but I'm letting the seedlings grow a bit before I pick the plant I plan to keep.
  • Roma Tomato - I started seeds in the house several weeks before the last frost, but they didn't grow. A few weeks ago, I planted seeds outside, but they also are not growing. So I think I'm going to give in tomorrow and buy a few plants. I'm slightly disheartened by this, but I'll survive. :)
  • Green Beans - I'm succession planting a total of 3 square feet of bean, so I've only got a few plants started, but they're a few inches tall. I'll plant a few more tomorrow. By doing it this way, I'll have a more steady supply of beans instead of drowning in them all at once. Now I just need to get my hands on a pressure canner so I can get them canned when they're ready to be picked. (I'm looking for a used one, so if you know someone who is getting rid of one, I'd love to buy it!
  • Cilantro, Basil, Italian Parsley - I attempted to start these indoors as well, but nothing happened, so a few weeks ago, I planted some seeds in a large pot, and they're beginning to sprout.
  • Peppers - Yet another failed indoor start. I had hoped to have bell, jalapeno, cayenne, and serrano peppers sprouting by now, after planting seeds directly in the garden, but it has just been too chilly for them to sprout. So, these are on the purchase list for tomorrow.
  • Arugula and Spinach - I've been succession planting these every couple weeks, and I'm picking greens every couple days. A 2-foot row of each has kept me pretty well-supplied for about 2 weeks now. I'm adding these greens to mixed greens I'm getting from Oak Tree Organics, and together it all makes a wonderful salad!
  • Peas - I've got a 4-foot row of sugar snap peas that are a few inches tall, and a 2-foot row of snow peas about the same height. Since I'm succession planting these, tomorrow I will need to plant another row of each.
  • Carrots - I've succession planted 2 square feet of carrots so far, each square foot a few weeks apart. The first bunch I planted has sprouted about 1/2" tall.
  • Parsnips - I have planted these at the same time as the carrots, but I haven't seen any sprouts yet. We shall see.
  • Beets - The 2 seeds I planted a while back have tops on them a few inches tall. I planted a few more seeds last weekend, so next weekend I'll plant some more.
  • Green Onions - The two 1-foot rows I planted haven't done anything. I'm trying to be patient...
  • Yellow Onions - I planted 1 square foot (9 plants) last weekend. Again, patience...
There you have it! I've got a little bit of everything planted, and I've harvested some greens. I'm (not so) patiently awaiting the remainder of the harvest!

In addition to the vegetable gardens, the lilies around the mailbox are several inches tall and will bloom around June. And The Man and I completely a 6' diameter raised garden bed in the front yard today (The Munchkin helped us check everything for level LOL). 

We will be shopping for flowers tomorrow. The list includes knock-out roses, and whatever else looks fun. :) We also need to find some plants for the butterfly and hummingbird garden on the south side of the garage. The Man will enjoy this garden the most, and I think The Munchkin will enjoy it just as much!

How is your garden progressing? I hope your indoor starts were more successful than mine!

Corn Bread

I modified this recipe from my Better Homes & Gardens cookbook (a standby in my house).


(serves 10-12)
1 c flour
3/4 c cornmeal
2 T sugar
2 1/2 t baking powder
3/4 t Kosher salt
1 T butter, softened
2 eggs, beaten
1 c milk
1/2 c creamed corn
1/2 c bell pepper, finely chopped
1/4 c butter, melted

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease a muffin tin with butter and set aside.

In a medium bowl stir together dry ingredients and set aside.

In a small bowl, combine wet ingredients, then add to the dry ingredients, stirring gently until the mixture is just moistened.

Fill muffin cups 2/3 full. Bake for 15 minutes, or until lightly browned and a wooden toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean.

Menu: Week of 4/22

Another week has come and gone, and I don't know about you, but I'm looking forward to some great food. In these parts, we're still a month away from Farmers' Market season, and I am so anxious, I can almost taste the produce! In the meantime, I've been tending my own garden. So far, it's produce quite a bit of spinach and arugula, but I can see little lettuce sprouts popping up, and the peas and green beans are getting bigger everyday! But I'll save gardening for another post. This post is about a week of food to come, so let's get to it!

Sunday: Sausage Gravy and Biscuits, Hashbrowns, Fresh Fruit - We've got some sausage gravy in the freezer, so we'll use it, and I'll use some of the stock of potatoes we've got for hashbrowns, with some onion and green pepper mixed in. Can you smell them cooking on the cast iron griddle? I can. :)

Monday: Spaghetti and Meatballs, Corn, Homemade Focaccia - A while back, I made and froze almost 6-dozen meatballs...this week, they'll make another appearance. Add in homemade marinara and homemade bread, and we'll be in heaven!

Tuesday: Taco Pasta - A few weeks ago, we tried a recipe for Taco Pasta, but we felt like it needed a few modifications, so we'll be testing those out this week. If all goes well, I'll post my version of the recipe so you can try it too.

Wednesday: Chicken Sausages, Fried Potatoes w/ Peppers and Onions, Green Beans - The Man is a fan of Johnsonville's Chicken Apple Sausages, so I grill one up for him, and I'll have a salad made from the greens in my garden and greens and hard-boiled eggs from Oak Tree Organics. Yum!

Thursday: Jambalaya - A recent favorite of ours, and a great weeknight meal!

Friday: Grilled Pizza - Of course! :)

Saturday: Grilled Chicken Drummies, Twice-Baked Potatoes, Peas - Another salad for me, but some grilled drummies for The Man. Mangia Bene!


Local Find: Blood Shot Bloody Mary Mix

It's been a while since I've done a "Local Find" post, and I've been dying to write one about this Bloody Mary mix! But I wanted to give it a good test before I wrote. Easter Sunday provided me with that opportunity (and I may have started a new Easter tradition!).

There isn't a lot of information out there in the interwebs about Blood Shot, but they do have a Facebook page. Like them!

But it's not important whether or not you can find information about the company. What *is* important is that you go buy a bottle of this stuff, add a little vodka, and drink it!

Blood Shot is made in Springfield, Illinois by an entertaining couple (Steve and Trish Squires), whom I met at the Illinois Products Expo this February. They are extremely enthusiastic about their product, and rightfully so. I'm *VERY* picky about my Bloody Mary! (Yeah, I'm an 80-year-old woman...so what?!) Blood Shot isn't too sweet, it's not too spicy, and it's great with vodka! Do you really need anything more? :)

Ok, so now the good stuff: where to buy. According to the paper I got from Mr. Blood Shot at the Expo, you can buy Blood Shot in the following stores in the Springfield area:
  • Schnuck's (Sangamon Rd., Chatham Rd.)
  • County Market (S. Sixth St., W. Monroe St., Chatham store, Quincy store)
  • Famous Liquors (Wabash Ave.)
  • Friar Tuck (Springfield store, Bloomington store, Savoy store, Peoria store)
  • QIK n EZ (Stevenson Dr., W. Monroe St., Peoria Rd., Toronto Rd., North Grand Ave., Wabash Ave.)
  • Northender (9th St.)
  • Pease's (all Springfield stores)
  • Humphrey's Market (15th St.)
  • Wolfie's Pkg. Liquor (Chatham store)
  • Market on the Square (Carlinville store)
  • Super Liquors (Peoria Heights store)
  • Hy-Vee (Peoria store)
  • Party Store (Riverton store)
  • IGA (Riverton store, Petersburg store, Clinton store)
  • True Value (Rochester store)

You can also order directly from Blood Shot. Their contact info is:
1604 Whittier Ave.
Springfield, IL 62704

Their business card says they'll sell you a case (12 32-ounce bottles) for $38. Not bad! I haven't checked prices at the stores listed above, but I would imagine it's pretty reasonable.

So...Now, you really have no excuse to go get a bottle of this. In fact, I strongly encourage it! :)


Menu: Week of 4/15

I must apologize...again...for the lapse last week. Easter kicked me in the butt with two days of meals with family, and I was left with just enough time to tackle housework. As a result, the blog suffered. But I'm back again this week with a week's worth of meals for you to enjoy!

Sunday: Pancakes, Sausage, Fruit Salad - Yum! Check out the pancake recipe and enjoy a Sunday evening breakfast of your own.

Monday: Stuffed Shells in Alfredo Sauce, Steamed Broccoli, Focaccia - For this meal, I'll mix ricotta cheese, shredded parmesan, and frozen spinach as a filling for cooked pasta shells (the big ones), then I'll top it off with homemade alfredo and bake it until it's warmed through. The Man will be thrilled when he hears I'm making alfredo!

Tuesday: Chicken/Black Beans Enchiladas, Mexican Rice - A little shredded chicken, a can of black beans, some shredded cheddar, and a can of enchilada sauce makes a quick and easy weeknight meal at our house.

Wednesday: BBQ Chicken/Caprese Panini, Potato Chips - For The Man, I'll add some BBQ sauce to some pre-cooked, shredded chicken, top it with a slice of cheese, and grill it up on the cast iron grill pan. I'll make myself a sandwich with fresh mozzarella, sliced tomato, and sundried tomato basil. Yum!

Thursday: Chicken Stir Fry, Brown Rice - This is another quick weeknight meal. I buy a bag of frozen stir fry veggies and add chicken for The Man. Serve it over rice with a little soy sauce, and dinner is done!

Friday: Grilled Pizza - Leftover alfredo sauce, red onion, marinated artichokes, and fresh mozzarella...does dinner get any better than this?! (The Man will have pepperoni on his, I'm sure!)

Saturday: Chicken Pot Pie - I'd like to find a way to do this on the grill, weather permitting. The filling will be cooked before the pie gets baked, so all I'm really aiming for is a golden, flaky top crust. We shall see...

Mangia Bene!