Thursday, October 30, 2014

It Works! Row Covers for Worm Free Broccoli

I've written about the use of row covers before but I continue to get questions about it.

Most often...Does it really work?

The answer? Yes!

This year my row was too long to cover it all with row cover. Part of the row was not covered. It was a good test.

And the results of the test?

Savoy cabbage under row cover.

Cabbage without row cover.

Cauliflower under row cover.

Cauliflower without row cover.

After over ten years of using row covers, I'm convinced. As long as I cover the cabbage/broccoli/cauliflower plants as soon as I plant them. The little white butterflies cannot get to the plants to lay their eggs. The result is NO green worms!

Now that the weather is colder and no butterflies are around, I can remove the row cover. One piece is now covering my cold frame to hopefully give us some late lettuce and spinach.

Learn more about types of row covers.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Zuppa Toscana Soup

Ed loves potato soup. And since we just finished harvesting the last of our potatoes, this soup was on the menu.

This is Olive Garden copy-cat recipe combines the humble potato with bacon, sausage, and kale. It doesn't last long here.

By the way, my kale is flourishing. Do you have any good ideas on how to use it besides adding to soup?

Zuppa Toscana Soup

6 slices bacon
1 lb sausage
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
6 large potatoes, diced
4 cups chicken broth
6 cups water
1 cup milk or cream
2 cups chopped kale

Fry bacon until crisp. Chop bacon and set aside. Saute sausage, garlic, and onion in large pot. Add potatoes, broth, and water. Bring to boil. Simmer until potatoes are soft. Add milk, bacon, and kale. Heat through and serve.


Monday, October 27, 2014

Prepare - A Christmas Countdown - Week Three

So how are your lists? I'll be honest and admit that I didn't spend much time with this last week. So, for me, this will be week two and three!

Week Three - Supplies Week -October 27 to November 1

With my lists in hand, I will begin to inventory my supplies and make a list of items needed. Next, I plan to purchase the non-perishable supplies I need for crafts, baking, wrapping, decorating, and so forth.

One benefit will be spreading out the costs so that the budget isn't groaning.

But more important, to me, is avoiding the frustration of finding that a necessary item is missing when I'm in the middle of a project. Nothing destroys my enthusiasm faster than finding that I don't have all the items I need. I can't just pile the children in the van and go pick up what I need right then so I have to put away the project until later. And with the momentum gone, it is hard to pick it up again.

I'm going to make a special note of some projects that my children ask to do but I say "No, we can't because we don't have..." I'll confess, sometimes I'm inwardly thrilled that I can't do the messy projects that they suggest because I don't have the supplies. Yes, I'm that selfish! My children love things like making houses out of graham crackers and decorating cookies with sprinkles until the floor grits under our feet. I need to let go of my qualms and delight in their joy.

Looking at Preparation in Scripture - 

Probably the first verse I think of in Scripture on preparation is Proverbs 30:25.

"The ants are a people not strong, yet they prepare their meat in the summer;" (Proverbs 30:25)

Proverbs 6 tells us more details about the ant's preparation.

"Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise:
Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler,
 Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest. (Proverbs 6:6-8)

Last Friday I canned applesauce, the last of my food preserving for the year. Though the day was long (first kettle on before 6 a.m. and the last off at midnight) and I was exhausted by nightfall, the rows of gleaming jars make the effort worthwhile. I love looking at the pantry shelves and the feeling of being prepared for winter.

I enjoy sharing my garden and food preserving hereon the blog but sometimes I worry that you may look at me as a busy ant and feel like a sluggard - and that is never my goal. We are all in different seasons of life, with different goals, background, and interests. For me, gardening and canning is part of the way I was raised and, usually, I enjoy it. But I don't want to be setting a standard for you that produces guilt.

I don't believe there is anything super spiritual about preserving food - or preparing for Christmas. If it fits into your life and is the way you bless your family - then great! But if you buy your food every week at the grocery store and don't think of Christmas until after Thanksgiving, then don't let me make you feel dissatisfied.

Because the truly important preparation isn't stocking up food for winter.

"Prepare to meet thy God, O Israel.
 For, lo, He that formeth the mountains, and createth the wind...The LORD, The God of hosts, is His name." (Amos 4:12-13)

And maybe some days, having a prepared heart before God means letting go of my own plans, and delighting the hearts of my children.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Ham and Bean Soup


Ed loves any kind of bean soup, especially ham and bean soup. I have tried several recipes, but usually have to choke it down. I didn't know if I just disliked ham and bean soup, or I just didn't have a good recipe.

Recently my mom shared this recipe which she got from Shirley. Like me, my mom made ham and bean soup only because her husband (my dad) loved it. But this was a ham and bean soup that my mom enjoyed along with him.

I had to try it. And I agree with my mom, this recipe is a keeper. With canned beans and some precooked ham, it is a super quick meal too.

 Ham and Bean Soup

2 carrots, diced
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 T butter
3 cans (6 cups cooked) great northern beans, rinsed and drained
4 cups chicken broth
2 cups chopped ham
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp minced garlic
1/4 tsp pepper
1 bay leaf

Saute carrots and onion in butter. Stir in remaining ingredients. Bring to boil. Simmer 15 minutes. Discard bay leaf. Serve to bean soup lovers - and haters.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Prepare - A Christmas Countdown - Week Two

Week Two - List Week - Oct 20-25

After considering your goals and priorities for your Christmas season, this is the week to do some practical planning.

1. On your calendar or planner, mark down every scheduled event from Thanksgiving to the New Year. This could include trips, family gatherings, work parties, and church events.

2. List the activities that are not on a specific date. For example, on my list is cookie baking with my children and singing at the nursing home. Either write these activities in the margin of your calendar so they are not forgotten or go ahead and pencil them in on a date. They could be changed at a later date.

3. Now start lists. Write lists of anything and everything you can think of.
Some list ideas:
Goodies to bake
Card mailing list
Gift recipients
Menus for Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years...

The back of your planner or a notebook is a good place for your lists. The back of an envelope is not. You want this paper to hold your brain for the next weeks.

Once I have lists - I can more easily see what I need to be doing next and what purchases need made.

Now take your lists and compare them to the thinking you did with last week's questions. How well do you lists reflect your priorities. Is there things you need to scratch out or add?

For example, I am going to ask my children which is their favorite Christmas cookie. These recipes will go to the top of the list. Then without guilt, I'm going to omit a few recipes on the bottom. I love to bake Christmas cookies, but my list can get a little out of hand. If we each pick our very favorite, that will give us enough variety.

Also look for ways to make your lists easier. Last year I finally entered all of our mailing addresses in the computer. Ed has been telling me to do this for years but every year I don't have time (I think) to type out addresses so I continued to hand-address our Christmas cards. Finally I made it priority - and it was SO simple to print off address labels. I don't know why I didn't do it ten years ago.

But don't feel bad if Christmas cards are one item you have eliminated from your to-do list. I know that with social media, mailing out Christmas greetings is becoming obsolete. But I still love receiving family pictures to hang in our kitchen all year - and I actually enjoy writing an end-of-the-year letter to friends - so this is one tradition I'm hanging on to.

Now to look at preparation in Scripture.

 "11 Thine, O LORD, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O LORD, and thou art exalted as head above all.
 12 Both riches and honour come of thee, and thou reignest over all; and in thine hand is power and might; and in thine hand it is to make great, and to give strength unto all.
16 O LORD our God, all this store that we have prepared to build thee an house for thine holy name cometh of thine hand, and is all thine own.
 17 I know also, my God, that thou triest the heart, and hast pleasure in uprightness. As for me, in the uprightness of mine heart I have willingly offered all these things: and now have I seen with joy thy people, which are present here, to offer willingly unto thee."
(1 Chronicles 29:11-12, 16-17)

In 1 Chronicles 29, David tells of his preparations to build a temple for the Lord. He stockpiled huge quantities of gold and other valuable items. But David remembered that all He possessed came from God. All of it.

My downfall in planning can be that I get smug in my plans. I need to remember Who it is that gives me life, health, and days. I need to open my calendar up before the Lord and like David, offer my days back to the God Who gave them to me in the first place.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Homemade Chocolate Syrup

Chocolate syrup is so easy to make that there is no reason to ever buy syrup in a bottle. I like to keep this in the fridge for an impromptu ice cream sundae, frappe, or chocolate milk.

I've tried several recipes but I like this for its simplicity (only three ingredients) and because it stays liquid even in the fridge.

For years I used this cocoa mix recipe for hot cocoa in the winter, but it took so much whisking to blend into the milk. Recently I found that this chocolate syrup works much better to make cocoa.

I'm sure you could replace the sugar with a healthier sweetener alternative. Personally I figure that the small amount I use - I'm just going to enjoy the sugar.

Chocolate Syrup
Makes 3 cups

1 1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cup water
1 cup cocoa
1/2 tsp salt

Mix together. Heat to boiling. Cool. Store in refrigerator.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Homemade Mocha Frappe

I don't like coffee. I like the frangrance. I think it smells good enough to eat, but after several tries I decided I just don't enjoy coffee.

Unless it is masked with lots of sugar, milk, and chocolate

But I never wanted to get in the habit of indulging in the treat of sugar-laden coffee. Far better to not be enticed by the expensive coffee-shop drinks. And I don't need any extra temptations to ingest sugar - I get more than enough already.

But this summer I kept reading about cold-pressed coffee. According to what I read, cold-pressed coffee was not as bitter or acidic as regular brewed coffee. I figured if it was less bitter, I would need less sugar. We already owned a french press which was perfect for cold-pressed coffee, though a jar would have also worked fine.

All I had to do was give the suggestion to Ed. He cold-pressed coffee, poured it into ice cube trays, and the next morning was mixing up a Chocolate Chip Frappe. Mmmm...

And so began our summer indulgence.

I know summer is only a memory, and we are all thinking of hot drinks now, but I'll share the directions so that next summer I can have this memory jogger.

To Cold-pressed Coffee: 
In a french press or quart jar, pour 1/2 to 3/4 cup of ground coffee. Some like it stronger than this and add more coffee. Personally, I liked it a little milder. But remember, I don't like coffee!

Fill jar or press with cold water. Stir coffee and water. Cover. Allow to steep for 8-24 hours.

If using a french press, push down strainer and pour off coffee. If using a jar, pour coffee into a fine strainer or cheese cloth.

Freeze half the coffee in an ice cube tray. Refrigerate remaining coffee.

You could also use regular brewed coffee and cool it. I just like the mild flavor of cold-pressed coffee.

To make Mocha Frappe:
6 ice coffee cubes
1 cup milk
1 cup cold coffee
chocolate syrup
optional garnish: whipped cream, chocolate shavings, chocolate syrup, caramel syrup, etc

Combine coffee cubes, milk, coffee, and syrup in blender. Blend well. Pour into glass. Garnish as desired. May also add chocolate chips to blender if you like chocolate shavings in your frappe.

Makes two servings.


Usually we skip the garnishes, but one morning I came out to the kitchen to find that Ed made this lovely concoction. Wow. That is a great way to start a morning!

I do not add any extra sugar- the sugar in the chocolate syrup is enough for me. But if you like your coffee stronger, or your drink sweeter, adjust to your taste.

I don't measure the syrup, just drizzle some in. I'll share my easy chocolate syrup recipe tomorrow.

I use whole raw milk. I love how it makes a foamy layer of cream on top. I'm not sure other milk would have the same affect. You may need to add some cream to get the same creamy affect.


After almost forty years of saying that I don't drink coffee, it is rather shocking to be describing a coffee drink that I love.

How do you like your coffee?


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