Monday, December 27, 2010

Winter Gardening

First, I just wanted to wish all our Out in Them Sticks readers, friends and family, Happy Holidays and a prosperous, healthy New Year!  I apologize for the lack of posts lately.  The hustle and bustle of the holidays combined with the exhaustion of the third trimester has meant that I haven't really gotten much other than the absolute must-do's complete and unfortunately, the blog just hasn't been on the must-do list. 

I'm very happy to report that we had a very enjoyable, peaceful Christmas this year.  Since having children, I have to say that the last few Christmases have been the best we have ever had.  In fact, the past few years have been the best years of our lives.  Sure, not every moment is peaches and sunshine, but the kids are at a great age and life is just plain good right now!  I just wish I could press the pause button.

The kids were really into Christmas this year.  Santa came into town and spoiled the kids rotten. Nick and I have been able to benefit from quite a bit of quiet time of late with all the new toys keeping the kiddos occupied!  Nick is using the extra time to help us finally set up the nursery for #3.  I guess you could say it's about time being just 5 or so weeks left now.

My ladybug turned 4 today which is just crazy to me. We don't celebrate her birthday until her half birthday though because it is just so close to Christmas. I've been hoping to get everyone on board with that but we've had mixed success.  In the future, she will decide when she wants to celebrate but for now, I think it's good we set up this tradition so it doesn't get overshadowed.  With just a day between Christmas and her birthday I just know that we can't give her a proper celebration!

Ladybug and Olive playing in this winter's first snow.

Thus far, it has been a cold winter for us.  We've been lucky though and have only had two light snows.  Most of it has melted now.  I finally managed enough nerve to go out and pick some of the salad greens we've been growing in the garden this afternoon.  The wind was something else though and I could barely feel my fingers by the time I was done cutting.  I suppose I will have to wear gloves and a coat next time I attempt to pick salad greens!

The plants under row covers are doing fine though they certainly aren't growing fast.  They resemble more micro-greens than the mature versions we saw this spring.  The mesclun lettuce mix that sewed itself after the previous spring planting and isn't covered has mostly died back except for the Mache and Red Deer Tongue.  They are alive and well despite the light snow and hard frosts.  Let me tell you the colder weather has done wonderful things for the flavor of the mache.  It is extra spicy and delicious.  I MUST not slack next year come fall.  They are such a treat.

Red Deer Tongue

I didn't know a lot about the red deer tongue so I did a little research on the web and apparently you can plant red deer tongue during the summer for a spring harvest the following year.  I guess if that is the case, I shouldn't be picking them right now but they are so delicious and plentiful that I figure we can manage to do both.  It is AWESOME to be at the end of December and still enjoying fresh greens.  The fact that the red deer tongue will also overwinter and can be enjoyed come early spring is just all the more thrilling! 

Today's Pickins!

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Old Jars

Every year I give away some sort of homemade gift to the neighbors and those who provide services for our family.  I do this mostly because I want to show appreciation for them but also because I love getting my hands elbow deep in some project or another.  It gets me in the spirit of the season.

This year, I saved up some of my pasta sauce jars and in lieu of throwing them in the recycle bin I decided I would figure a way to use them as gifts.  The Classico Brand Pasta Sauce Jars are particularly pretty to me but they are only 24 oz. (3 cups) and most gift-in-a-jar recipes are for 1 quart jars (32 oz. or 4 cups).  I was in a bit of a quandary until I found this great recipe for seasoned bean soup here.

I'm hoping the soup mix will be a refreshing change from all the usual sweet gifts given out this time of year.  Sweet indulgences are great, but a savory gift is nice every once and a while too.  I made a few modifications to the recipe in regards to preparation to make it easier for others to prepare.  The written recipe seemed way too laborious for most to attempt so I did a little research and some testing to make it crock pot easy.  It takes a lot longer but allows you to actually step away from the stove.  The crock pot does the work, not the cook.

I made the little graphic (see below) with my instructions in Photoshop and then printed it out on card stock, punched it, and wrapped it in ribbon.  I thought they turned out to be real cute.

Note: I couldn't find all the beans in the recipe but I found others that would work just fine.  Below is the end result.

Seasoned Six Bean Soup Mix!

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