East of Weedin'

Just another AreaVoices site

   Nov 06

Ready for spring

Every fall I intend to till my garden, so that when those early warm spring days come around I can capitalize on them. However, I have never acted on my intention until this past week.

Last weekend, I spread compost over my garden and then I tilled. I also planted 100 tulip bulbs. I tell you what, I am excited for next spring.

Unfortunately, we have to live through winter first. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is predicting an El Nino so hopefully the winter weather will be more mild than the last few have been.

In the meanwhile, I have a large stack of books I plan to tackle while the weather sucks. On my list is Malcolm Gladwell’s Goliath, World War Z by Max Brooks and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling.

 

 


   Sep 17

School lunch part 2

Our daughter started kindergarten the day after Labor Day. We sent her with a packed lunch but also put money in her account so that she could try hot lunch if she wanted to or frankly for the days that we just don’t have time to pack one.

So far, she’s been good about helping pack her own lunch in the evenings. Based on the recommendation of 100 Days of Real Food, I have her pack two veggies or fruits, a grain and then something else.

Her lunches often consist of cut up veggies such as carrots, pepper slices or broccoli. She takes a piece of fruit too. Recently she’s been on a banana kick.

As for the grain part, she’s brought peanut butter sandwiches, popcorn, homemade muffins and whole wheat crackers. This past weekend, I purchased a Thermos that will fit in her lunch bag so she can take warm food such as soup or macaroni and cheese. Lastly, she’s been taking a cheese stick or yogurt most days.

School is a brand new endeavor for her and so the first couple weeks were overwhelming for her. The first few days she didn’t eat much, so her teacher put her at the slow eaters table. Apparently every year there are a group of kindergartners who need some encouragement to get their food down in the allotted 25 minutes.

Overall, I think she’s made the transition pretty well and she seems happy bringing lunches with her. For now I think we’ll stick to it.

If you need ideas for school lunches 100 Days of Real Food is a treasure trove. She has a ton of creative ideas and the site is worth your time.


   Sep 03

A return on investment

A few years ago, I planted raspberry bushes on the south side of my garden. When I bought the bushes I asked the sales guy if four would be enough. He snorted and said I would have more raspberries than I could handle.

I thought his reaction seemed a bit haughty and unnecessary. He was right,  though. Through July the bushes produced more than a pint a day. And recently, the bushes started bearing a second round of fruit equaling the first. It’s amazing.

If I were to buy that many raspberries I would have spent hundreds of dollars. I purchased the four bushes for $17 a piece which they have returned many times over in the last couple years.

When I purchased the bushes, I didn’t really have money on my mind. Raspberries bushes just seemed like a fun addition to my garden. With three little berry eating machines, though, the bushes have saved us a lot of money.

We mostly eat them raw but with this second batch I plan to make some freezer jam. We go through a lot of jelly in our house so it seems like the thing to do.

An All Recipes devotee, I plan to follow these Freezer Jam instructions. Eat well, friends!

 

 


   Aug 21

Lunch battles

My husband and I are having trouble deciding how to feed our daughter at school. He thinks we should make her eat school lunch and I think we should pack her lunch.

His argument is that having her eat school prepared meals will force her to try new foods. He thinks the peer pressure of other students will encourage her to eat whatever they are serving that day.

My arguments is she won’t eat all day, will waste food and come home ravenous. She’s stubborn and skipping a meal doesn’t faze her.

I wouldn’t describe my daughter as a picky eater. She eats a wide variety of foods and can usually be talked into trying new things. However, she doesn’t care for pizza or sandwiches, two of the lunch menu mainstays.

I also think we have the opportunity to teach her some responsibility here. She’s old enough to help pack her own lunch. I think we could make a nightly routine out of it and make her an active participant in feeding herself.

My husband  thinks I’ve lost my damned mind and we will end up having to do it.

Lastly, as I’ve stated in my previous post, starting school will be a big change for her, and I think food she’s familiar with will help provide some comfort during the day.

What do your kids eat at lunch? Let me know your thoughts.

 


   Aug 13

Starting fresh

I want to apologize for the hiatus from this site. Transitioning to being a family of five turned out to be more than I anticipated and a blog was one more thing on a long list. However, I do want to continue with it and will be more consistent from here on out.

This summer has gone by in the blink of an eye. We’ve done our best to make it a great summer. Our days have been filled with swimming, sun, t-ball, frogs, gardens and more. Not to sound corny but it’s really been a storybook summer for us.It seems like it just started, though, and now it’s nearly over.

I am really not ready for August to end. My oldest will enter kindergarten the day after Labor Day and the thought brings a lump to my throat.

We’ve been fortunate in that we didn’t have to put our children in daycare. We’ve had her home and gotten to witness every milestone, discovery and learning moment.

Frankly, it’s hard to let that go. While of course we will still be there, it won’t be quite the same. She’ll be part of a world, that we are not. The day she walks through those doors, we will say goodbye to the first five years of her life and hello to a whole different world.

That’s the reality of being a parent and I’m excited for all the opportunities that are about to open up to her, but; it’s still difficult.

To get us ready, her mentally and me emotionally, we checked out a few books about going to kindergarten from the library. Most of them are kind of silly but reading about kindergarten has stoked her excitement which calms my fears.

The two books we have most enjoyed are Look Out Kindergarten Here I Come by Nancy Carlson and The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn.

 

 


   Sep 27

Eating during a time of chaos

Since our baby was born in June, our diets have not been all that great. Managing three kids is different than two, especially when one of them is pretty demanding. Nearly four months out though, I’ve decided as a family we needed to get back on track. So yesterday our dinner came entirely from the farmer’s market.

There is some junk at the market but most of the products are healthy. I bought apples, carrots, brussel sprouts, red bell peppers and a couple of grass-fed sirloin steaks. As suppers go it was an easy one. I threw some olive oil and salt and pepper on the brussel sprouts and roasted them. My husband grilled the steaks and I  put out sliced peppers as a pre-dinner snack. Everyone ate without complaint. It was awesome.

With all the chaos of having a new baby, we had started eating more packaged food, thinking that it was the easier route. But last night’s meal was just as simple and a whole lot more healthful. Going forward I need to remind myself that healthy eating doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact my kids seem prefer the simple.

Speaking of simple, I have a ton of tomatoes and I was looking for a new way to use them. I ran across a recipe for a tomato and mozzarella quesadillas. I simply threw some mozzerella on a tortilla with some sliced tomatoes and a little basil and grilled it. It was pretty tasty.

 


   Sep 12

A snake, a frog and a hysterical dog

I came home to quite the scene on Monday afternoon. My dog, Molly, was barking and  jutting back and forth at something in the grass. Despite the fact that my hands were full, I decided to see what she was harassing. I wasn’t prepared for what I came upon. Just around the corner of our house was a snake, with the bottom half of a frog sticking out of its mouth.

I hate snakes so seeing it immediately gave me the creeps. Molly kept lunging at the snake. Amazingly the snake would lunge back freaking out the dog and myself. I started shrieking. I’m not sure why but it was a lot to take in.

My husband, who didn’t realize I had arrived home, came charging out of the house thinking I was being killed or something. It took him a moment to take in what was going on. Seeing their opportunity to escape the house, my four-year-old and three-year old ran out of the  house to join the chaotic scene.

We all stood in the yard for a moment watching the poor snake try to defend itself. Then we offered suggestions on what to do. My son wanted to pick up the snake and take it in the house. His suggestion was quickly vetoed. My daughter wanted to hit it with a stick. I thought that a more reasonable suggestion but not necessary.

In the end we decided it would be better to put the dog inside and leave it alone. A little calmer, I saw a teaching moment in the whole thing so we watched as the snake enveloped the rest of the frog. It was interesting to see the frog’s body disappeared into the snakes mouth. And then to watch the frog shaped lump move down the snake’s body.

Both my kids have told the story of the frog/snake fiasco to everyone we’ve come in contact with over the last few days. While it still gives me shivers thinking about it, I’m sort of glad it happened.

With all that being said, I owe my readers an apology. With the new baby, this summer got away from me. My garden consisted of onions, lettuce and tomatoes. At least it was something. A few weeks ago I tried tabbouleh and fell in love. Traditionally the dish is made with wheat bulgur but I’ve been making it with quinoa. Enjoy.

Tabbouleh

1 cup cooked quinoa

3 tomatoes, seeded and chopped

2 cucumbers

3 Green onions, chopped

Three garlic cloves minced

1 cup fresh parsley

1/3 cup fresh mint leaves

½ cup lemon juice

4 tablespoons olive oil

Mix all the ingredients together and then refrigerate for at least two hours. Toss again before serving.  Serve with pita bread.

 


   Jun 06

Slow but getting there

A cold wet spring and being nine months pregnant have taken their toll on my gardening progress. However, slowly and with some help things are starting to take shape.

The raspberry bushes I planted last year look great. My daughter asks every day when we’ll have berries and I have to tell her to be patient. Patience isn’t something she’s embracing though. We’ve also gotten cabbage, onions, tomatoes, lettuce, carrots and peas in the ground.  If there is a dry day this weekend, I plan to plant zuchinni, summer squash, pumpkins and peppers as well.

When we’ve had the chance to get into the garden, it’s been a lot of fun. The kids are a lot more aware this year and have enjoyed helping. My kids are 3 and 4.  I have to remind my 3-year-old not to step on the plants but even he seems to understand that the little sprouts will produce food for us.

I guess I have PBS to thank for that. Several of the shows my kids watch have gardening episodes that have aired recently. Both kids have been more willing to try different vegetables because of a song Daniel Tiger sings. I’m not sure how long the trend will last but for right now I’m grateful and taking advantage.

The kids have also really enjoyed digging up worms and checking out various insects and beetles.  The bathwater is muddy at the end of some of our days but hopefully they’ve learned a thing or two from our adventures. I’m thankful that my kids and I can share this.

Baby #3 is due today. I’m really hoping he comes soon. In anticipation of his arrival and because I have copious amounts of mint, I decided to share a Mojito recipe from the Food Network website. As soon as I can I plan to enjoy one, I hope you will too!

Mojito recipe

Ice
6 ounces light rum
12 mint sprigs, or spearmint, 8 roughly broken apart
6 tablespoons fresh lime juice
4 tablespoons sugar
Club soda
4 slices lime
Directions
Place ice in beverage shaker then add in the rum, 8 broken up mint sprigs, lime juice and sugar. Shake well and serve over ice in a high ball glass. Top off each glass with a splash of club soda.

Garnish each with a slice of lime and a sprig of mint.


   May 17

Eating well…

A few weeks back I mentioned I will try to show examples of backyard to table dishes that I make.  Since college I’ve found it prudent to grow some of my own food. I enjoy gardening but it’s also a matter of trying to ensure my own health.

I meet a lot of people who tell me they don’t have time to garden and generally I don’t buy it. If you watch television for more than an hour a day, you can find time to throw a few plants in some pots and water them. In college I grew tomatoes and basil in buckets at my apartment. I got the buckets for free  from a friend who worked at Cub Foods and bought cheap plants at Wal-mart. The set up wasn’t pretty but those four or five plants provided me with countless meals.

I mean it. Tomatoes and herbs can be used on sandwiches, pizza; in pasta sauce, soups, salads, bruschetta, pesto, salsa and more. Two simple ingredients can lend themselves to a wide array of delicious healthful dishes. While many of those dishes need a few more ingredients, it cost a lot less when you already have the base. For those apartment years, I and my roommates ate quite well.

Tomatoes aren’t the only plants that grow well in containers. Leafy greens, herbs, beans, brussel sprouts and more can all be grown in containers. And while something pretty is always nice, a cat litter bucket will do the job.

Being a 30 something woman with ears, it’s sometimes frustrating for me to hear people talk about how expensive it is to eat healthfully.

Eating well isn’t nearly as hard as people make it. A little effort can take you along way and it’s fun. It’s not nearly as time consuming as people think and it is really gratifying to watch something grow from a tiny seed to an ingredient to feed your family.  I really hope to show that this summer through this blog.

 

 

 


   May 08

A pain

I had goals going into the month of May and I have not met them. My goals were to get my husband to till up my garden and to get cool weather crops planted..

The weather and my belly have stood in the way. Up until last Saturday, we still had snow on the ground, making it hard to get anything accomplished in the garden. The weather seems to have taken a turn for the better this week. On Sunday the sun came out, so I thought for sure I could do some stuff after work Monday.

Reality hit on Monday. I went to plant some seeds and found it really difficult to bend over. I am nine months pregnant.  I tried several other postitions but I was really uncomfortable. After getting a couple rows of lettuce in the ground, I gave up. I had hoped to get some peas and kale planted too but it’s just going to have to wait.

I know I sound whiny but I am disappointed. Usually my attitude is just do it but I’m uncomfortable most of the day anyway, adding to it just seems stupid. There’s still time to get things done and the baby will be here soon. My sister is coming to stay with us for a while so hopefully I’ll be able to enlist her help to get everything put in. One way or another I will get a garden planted this summer it just may be on a later time table than usual. Thank God I have a farmer’s market close by.

On a side not, I’m hoping to put a fence around my garden this summer to keep the rabbits out. I don’t want anything too fancy. Some posts and chicken wire I think would work. Does anyone out there have good advice to offer on putting up a fence? Please share your experiences.