Thursday, May 28, 2009

Freezer Recipes

Since a good friend of Q's is laid up due to surgery, we've been making a lot of freezer food to share with his family, which has gotten me into bulk cooking mode. Our freezer stash has been depleted and quick, cheap meals are wonderful to have around. There's always pesto in the freezer and marinara in the pantry but pasta can only serve in a pinch so many times in a month. Bulk cooking also means that I get to use my favorite red pan (at the bottom of the link).

I talked about our triple batch of Three Bean Casserole the other day, so I decided to post the recipe here. It's been a favorite of mine ever since I was a kid. Especially using dry beans, it works out to a very economical $3/meal. If I finally get around to making baked beans from scratch, starting with dry beans, the cost may go down even a little more and the waste will go down to almost nothing. (Even though they're recyclable, tin cans make me a little guilty, who knows why.)

Note for cooking with dry beans, the standard is 1 lb dry = 2 c. dry = 5 cups cooked (It seems like a little less cooked to me). To cook dry beans, they can either soak overnight or get raised to a boil, removed from the heat and allowed to stand for an hour. I usually use the second, quick soak method because I'm never that far-thinking. After that, drain them, put in fresh water, and simmer until done, usually about 60-90 minutes (depends on the bean). For Three Bean, I just cook the kidney and lima beans all together, for a triple batch I do just over 2 cups dry of each, which ends up with about 9 cups of beans.

Tonight I made a triple batch of sloppies, so I included that recipe below too. The two recipes include many of the same ingredients, so I often make them at the same time. Freezing chopped green pepper when they're in season makes cooking even easier later.

Clearly, it's time for summer because my pantry is getting low. I looked in there today and most of the shelves are now filled with empty jars. I won't have to make jam or apple butter this year, but we've used almost all the peaches, tomatoes, and grape juice. The freezer is devoid of all berries. Thankfully, due to our warm weather, strawberry season is likely to start next weekend. Just in time for the peaches to run out for my morning smoothies. Side note: There has been a delightful run on red band bananas lately at the grocery so I've got about 40 bananas peeled and frozen right now for smoothies. Very exciting.

Three Bean Casserole

6 slices bacon

1 lb ground beef

1 c chopped onion

1 can baked beans

1 can (1 1/2 c) lima beans

1 can (1 1/2 c) kidney beans

3/4 c brown sugar

1-2 T vinegar

1/2 c catsup

1 t dry mustard

Brown beef and onion in a large skillet until cooked through; drain. Cook bacon until crispy, cut into pieces. Mix all ingredients together. (Divide here for freezing.) Bake at 350 degrees until brown or most of the moisture is gone; about 30 minutes. From frozen, it usually takes about 45-50 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Sloppy Joes

1 lb. ground beef

1 T oil

1 large onion, chopped

1 green pepper, chopped

2 T sugar

2 T yellow mustard

1 T vinegar

1 t salt

3/4 c catsup

1 t minced garlic

Brown meat in oil until crumbly but not hard. Drain grease . Add onion and green pepper, cook until almost tender. Add other ingredients, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes. Freeze in meal size portions. Serve over buns or bread.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Yarn Deal!

Baby Bamboo by Sirdar from Ben Franklin Craft and Frame - marked down 76% from original price. I love this stuff - absolutely silky soft. Can you believe that this yarn would have originally cost $135 for this many skeins?! Woohoo!

Weekend of Work

Got the seedlings actually in
Baby Corn - 20 out of 32 sprouted so far
Baby Edamame- 13 have sprouted, probably will have to thin or transplant

Mystery Plant that's trying to invade the back, assuming it's a weed, but what a pretty one. (The flowers are actually pink.)
First Clothesline Drying of the Season

The warm weather has finally really come and it's lovely. We got so much done this weekend. The house got cleaned, a huge batch of Three Bean Casserole was made and frozen (4 meals for $12, can't beat that), laundry was washed, and other sundry tasks were completed.

Friday, May 22, 2009

First Sprouts

The first sprouts are up. We have 4 little shoots of corn, light spatterings of green that I believe are radishes and either beets or turnips, and three big sets of edamame leaves that haven't quite uncurled. I love that moment when big seeds like that just start pushing the earth above them out of the way.
Q laughs at me because sprouts always make me giddy. I check on my tiny little charges twice a day, when we leave for work and when we come home. It always is just so amazing to me when the things I plant actually come up. Seeds = plants - still remarkable, every time.
The bed planted earlier has peas that are about 6" high and little lettuce and spinach plants that are starting to look like miniatures of full size. The strawberries are coming into full bloom and I need to get them covered with netting because tiny green berries are just around the corner. I'm also going to get the starts we bought a couple of weeks ago out into the actual garden this weekend. I'm finally trusting that I won't have to whisk them under cover again for a too chilly night. It will be fun to post pictures of the garden with some green in it. I'll have to see if I can get those tiny shoots of corn to be photogenic too. :)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Constructing a Hearse Knitting Chart

By the way, people keep seeing me sketching hearses at meetings and I'm making them give me funny looks. :) The landau bars (swoopy thing on the side) is really what makes a hearse look like a hearse, but I'm still finding it difficult to get it exactly right in the magical world of pixels. The current design would be situated on the sock so it looks like it's driving off the top of the wearer's foot and be about 7" long and 2 1/2" wide. I originally designed it at about half that size, but there weren't enough stitches to give the proper curve at that point. Suggestions?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Morbidly Adorable Socks

Here's a mock-up of a pattern for some knee socks someone is requesting. It's just a chart but gives some idea. I tried just coffins but it was difficult to be sure what they were. The pattern would repeat around the entire sock and down the leg and top of the foot. The toe and heel would also be purple. The coffins + RIP would be about 1 1/4" wide and 2 1/2" tall.
A hearse pair is also requested, but I'm still pondering what the essence of "hearsiness" is to make that idea work.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Pac-Man Hat

The Pac-man hat is finally complete. Quite the mix of techniques really. I did find it helpful to "embroider" in the ghost eyes and power pills afterwards. I think Hello Kitty's eyes and nose will be done that way on all future hats. This one was made large for Q's ample sized head. I'm excited to try it as a medium. I did have to redo the top once (decreases were too quick) but I'm really happy with how the second one worked out. I hope it will do well in the shop this fall.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Yard Makeover Part 4

...Wherein Beds are Planted and a Tree disappears

I guess it would be more accurate at this point to say that the tree is now scattered all over the grass, but you get the idea.

The bark has now all been spread, all that's left is dirt. We planted a lot of seeds today using this permaculture scattery, creation of guilds (plants that work well together). We still are keeping the seedlings under shelter at night for another week, hoping it will let it be just warm enough that they'll be happy. I'll post what we planted and where when I have more time.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Yard Makeover Part 3

...Wherein the beds are completed and Liz discovers seed catalogs.

Saturday afternoon - 5 new beds; one older, smaller one that was moved.
To the far right of this picture you can see the two "holes" where the old raised beds are going to get moved once their harvesting is done for the season. One just has lettuce, spinach and peas, so that will be easy to dig out and move in late June-ish after the harvest is done. The strawberry bed will probably have to be moved in August, well after harvest and when I'll be needing to replace mothers with daughters anyway. I'm going to have to remove the crowns, move the dirt, move the bed, and then replant. Yuck.

There's still a lot of dirt. At the very least we'll just move it over and store it in the places reserved for the other beds (still need more cardboard for those spots) until we decide where it is needed. Stupid choice between 5 yards (not enough) and a unit (too much). Worse things to have around than too much rich, yummy soil.
The bark still needs to be placed around the blueberries and then the remainder will be spread over the paths. I only did 2" or so to start to make sure we had enough.
It was (and is) looking quite rainy - the first time all weekend - so we tarped everything down. First drops gave us a good excuse to call it day before sunset drove us in. :)

The First Plants
The first actual inhabitants of the new garden. We got two of the blueberries in before the weather went dodgy. After all of them are in we'll put weed barrier over the whole bed (X's cut for the plants) and bark it. Should look really nice and just blend right into the raised bed area. They're supposed to get about 4' high and they're spaced so they should form a nice little hedge in a few years.

We bought starts of broccoli, Roma tomatoes, slicing tomatoes, green pepper, cauliflower, and acorn squash today from a nice local fellow. (His last name is Zwink so he gets extra bonus points too - Z,W and a K!) For our break (I needed new gardening gloves) we also went to Down To Earth. I knew we needed some seeds and that I want open-pollinated/heirloom varieties, so I started looking. In finding this info I was drawn into actually looking in the catalog. The catalog full of intriguing pictures, beguiling descriptions and costs only $.25 Oh dear, I'm in so much trouble - 140 square feet of empty garden beds and currently owning only 15 or so starts. (By the way, my basil starts look so cute in Q's office window. I hope they make it this year.)

Territorial Seed Company is based out of Cottage Grove (20 miles away), so they're local, which is nice. The garden specialists at Down To Earth suggested holding off on most of the direct ground stuff (corn, cukes, beans) for about 2 more weeks in our area, so I put the seeds I'd chosen back and just took the catalog home instead. Little more planning time/fun before I commit!

Q took the pics so there was the requisite artsy macro nature picture waiting for me on the camera with the boring utililitarian shots. The chives really are beautiful right now and Q is quite good as a photographer (as well as being a phenomenal raised bed builder).

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Yard Makeover Part 2

...Wherein bark and soil are purchased and placed.

Friday Afternoon

Saturday 3pm

The "Final Plan"
from the permaculturist
we'll see how much stays exactly like it's laid out but there are lots of great things

I'll try to get more pics up of the rest of today's progress later. We bought 8 blueberry plants last night (4 Bluegold and 4 Northland) but since they're going to be planted next to the driveway, I'm trying to wait to do that until most of the dirt and soil is moved so I don't have to work around them.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Digging in the Dirt

We apparently have 1 unit (7.5 cubic yards) of soil and 5 cubic yards of bark dumped in our driveway. The back seat of our car is full of cardboard. We're getting supplies for raised beds tonight and, hopefully, by the end of the weekend we will have new blueberries, 5 raised beds, and a long strip for the Three Sisters guild where a large part of our front lawn used to be. Gotta get ready to get very dirty and hot and sweaty tomorrow! It's not raining here for the first time in a week and won't rain all weekend. How exhilarating.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Useful Saturday, Quiet Sunday

Yesterday, after our rainy shift at the May Faire, I managed to get a lot of laundry and cleaning done and finish my new sundress. I made a flowered one last year from the same vintage pattern, scavenged from Mom, with an 1 1/2" added to the sides to make it the correct size. (Sorry about the blurry fabric photos - I forgot to hit the macro setting.)

Last year's flowered fabric was bought to purpose and directions were slavishly followed. This year's fabric was a spontaneous 9:30p JoAnn's purchase when I was there for something else and the lady before me had had them cut the wrong size. I swooped it up since the fabric was half off anyway and I got an additional 1/2 off the partial yard. I came home with a yard and a half. Which was enough, as long as I cut two inches off the length, cut the armhole facings from a matching solid that I already had, and made the pockets a bit smaller. :) I didn't want the dress to be shorter, so I bought some matching double fold bias tape and just sewed it over the raw edge at the bottom. Turned out very cute actually and it matches the facings. Not bad for a $5 dress. Since it is just my summer "playclothes" I wasn't very careful with stripe matching (although I paid it some mind) and the bias tape seam didn't end up exactly aligned with the back seam but I'm sure no one will ever think the less of me for it.
I love the way the stripes are horizontal on the bodice and vertical on the dress body. I also love the solid bias tape bottom so much that I'm considering doing all future creations from this pattern that way.

Other cool stuff...

My best finds from this year's Friends of the Library book sale, which I finally got around to starting to read today.

Digit's favorite snuggle place, tucked up under my arm as I type.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Yard Makeover Part I

...Wherein the bushes get removed.

A couple of weeks ago I posted free shrubs on Craigslist. In a week's time we managed to find new homes for all of them without having to so much as lift a shovel - 15 arbor vitae, 9 azaleas, 2 nandina, 2 pieris prelude, and 9 viburnum. To think that they will all be replaced with things that make food, woohoo!
Before and after of the east side of the yard. Raspberries are going to go to the left of the driveway with the little 2'x8' bed at the very front toward the street. I'll probably grow my basil in it in the summer. Half-high blueberries to the right with a row of kiwi next to the blueberry hedge where there is still currently grass. The rhododendron is going to have to be cut down (too big to dig) and we're going to build a deck in that space with a bike shed built in on the end. The roof of the bike shed is going to have an herb garden living roof built into it. Between the front of the deck and the sidewalk we're going to have some mint. It should stay contained there. I don't think even mint can grow through concrete! (Although I wouldn't put it past it to try.)

Before and after of the west side of the yard. The arborvitae are being replaced by a row of grapes to provide a little privacy from the neighbors and there will be an asparagus bed under the picture window. The two raised beds, plus another 6, are going to be moved into where grass currently is to the right of the new kiwis. The ugly tree (pardon, mountain ash tree) is getting cut down to provide full sun for all of our gardening. Compost bins and a new, narrow tool shed are going to be built along the fence where the raised beds currently are.
The bulb/herb/perennial flower bed is going to stay at the front of the yard and some small barrier (maybe a short picket fence) is going to separate it from a row where we're going to plant the Three Sisters guild in the summers (corn or sunflowers serving as support for beans with squash surrounding them).

That's the plan so far. Hopefully, we'll know even more details and some more "whens" after our next meeting with our permaculturist on Monday afternoon.

2009 First Harvest

The rhubarb's been calling for my attention for a few days now and this morning I made the first harvest from our own yard of this season - 1 lb. 9 oz. after it was all ready for cooking. I'm making fool with it and the last of the rhubarb from the freezer, which should work as breakfasts and desserts for the weekend. :)

2008 Totals from our yard: 10 1/2 lb. strawberries, 5 1/4 lb. rhubarb, 2 lb. cherries, about 30 tomatoes

It's May Faire at school today and I hope the sprinkles currently coming from the sky decide to stop. The first case of suspected swine flu happened in Lane County yesterday and I keep wondering if May Faire may be the last big community gathering for our school for awhile. Hopefully, the case at Harris Elem. (just a couple of miles from school) is a false alarm. Very difficult time of year for any school to be forced to close for two weeks.