Tuesday, December 3, 2013

What to do, what to do....With Leftovers


I bet you thought I was going to totally disappear again right?

You are not getting rid of me that easy.

Insert evil laugh here.

On to the food!

Everyone, throughout the holidays, makes too much food. We all end up with leftovers that usually end up getting thrown away because we don't know what to do with them. This bugs me in a big way. Don't get me wrong, I am the biggest culprit in this because I am so bacteria conscious that all I can think about when I see something in the fridge is how long has it been there and will it kill me if I eat it. This is why when I can stuff, I am UBER anal about "sterile field".

Now any of us that have any European roots knows about potato pancakes. The Polish have one, the Lithuanians have one, the Irish obviously have one and it goes on. Each is a little different but they all start with mashed potatoes.

My recipe is different. In this case I used Ham with it, but really you can use any meat left over from the large dinners. I have done beef from rib roast but made a gravy to go with it. I have done Turkey with this and added fresh asparagus and a turkey gravy. I have stuffed them with cheese for a vegetarian version, and I have made the loaded baked potato kind with bacon, cheese and sour cream.

Ham is more typically eaten in the Spring around the Equinox or Easter. I just happened to get ham on sale and had lots so I used it.

Fried Mashed Potato "OMG WTF am I going to do with these leftovers" Cakes

Start by adding your leftover mashed potatoes to a bowl. Chop up whatever is going into them. I wrote out some specific recipes on the bottom for ideas. Make this your own, and experiment. Isn't that what being a creative (okay, cheap is the truth) cook is all about?

In order to keep these things together you need a binder of sorts, and I ain't thinking about a Trapper Keeper. Yeah, that's right, the 80s are back.

To this I added 3 eggs and a half cup bread crumbs. If you go vegetarian with no eggs, just use bread crumbs but add a splash of heavy cream or whole milk to keep them from drying out. At this point it is totally up to you how you season it. I did garlic, and onion powder. If my kids hadn't been eating them I would have added green onions, sage and rosemary. But you know how kids are with green things in their food. Seriously, you can't find your backpack or shoes when they are right in front of you, but you can find that one microscopic piece of onion or herb.
Yes that is my thumb in a black nitrile glove, not some weird
thing on the side of the bowl. This shit had been in the fridge
and was COLD!
Then make palm sized balls.... (heehee balls!)




Flatten them out a little...





Then press into more bread crumbs, just to coat the outside. This is what creates the crust that holds them together. Be sure to roll the edges too.

In a pan, preferably with a lid and that is at least somewhat deeper than a standard frying pan, pour in enough olive oil to have an inch to an inch and a half deep. Yeah I said olive oil. It has a higher smoking point, so it gets hotter than a vegetable oil would. This is not all that fancy triple extra Mary of Nazareth virgin or anything. Plain.old.olive.oil. I know it says extra virgin here. It is actually incorrect, but I won't get into false labeling, and what the difference between olive oil, true cold press and extra virgin. Another time perhaps.

Yeah I know, I got this from Walmart. I know, they are the devil.
This gallon jug was 15 dollars. I couldn't say no. Call me weak,
but I just can't help it. My name is Red and I am a
Walmart addict.

Heat the oil until it just starts to smoke, and add no more than three in the large pan. You need the space for the heat to be distributed evenly.



Why am I making such a big freakin' deal about the frying? Well, this is not exactly a low fat item, and it only gets worse when it is not done correctly. Most restaurants do not have their oil to the proper temperature which the average consumer may not notice, but it significantly increases the number of calories in the food, lends a greasy texture and wrecks havoc on the digestive system. When frying oil isn't hot enough, the food just absorbs the oil. This is not a good thing.  You want it HOT. Just be careful please. I have scars to prove why you should be careful. I look like I have silvery white pox on my arms.

Here is what you are looking for; a nice brown crust.


Be sure to drain on paper towels, flipping to blot both sides. Then put on a pan in the oven at 200 degrees to keep warm.



 Warning about the inside however...it is like molten lava if you just try to eat it right away. Let it cool, your mouth will thank you because if you burn your mouth you won't be able to taste how amazeballs creativity with leftovers can taste. I always feel like an asshat when I do that, because I KNOW better. I apologize for these pictures. I used an older camera to try to save time, and it doesn't focus very well. Derp.


I threw on some mexican blend cheese. You can see the steam (sort of anyway) coming out of these.



Trust me, they were fantastic. Sorry about the pics, really wish you could have seen it. I have a friend that always takes pics of his food, and his always looks amazing. Maybe he should take my pics...christ on a cracker.

Here are some other options for your cakes. Same cooking process, and same binders are necessary.

Loaded Baked Potato

Leftover mashed taters
bacon, cooked and crumbled
sour cream
scallions, chopped
cheddar cheese

Add bacon, a "dollop" of sour cream, just don't over do that as it makes the mix too wet and it will fall apart in the frying pan. Add some of the shredded cheese and some of the scallions, then the bread crumb/egg binder mix. Be sure to coat in bread crumbs, and fry. Serve with Sour cream, top with cheese and more scallions on top

Beef Roast

Leftover mashed taters
Leftover beef roast, chopped
Leftover add ons from the meal (My family does mushrooms and onions sauteed in garlic butter, so those go in but anything that would compliment the beef could be added. The idea here is to use what is left.) Feel free to add any seasonings you wish. A little kitchen bouquet in the mix really makes this shine.
Beef Gravy
Slice of swiss or smoke provolone cheese
(These two things are optional but really add to it)

Add Taters, beef and add ons with the binders, coat in bread crumbs and fry. Serve with gravy and the cheese on top, if desired.

Turkey Dinner

Leftover mashed Taters
Leftover stuffing if you have it
Mix of dark and white meat turkey chopped or shredded
Scallions
Celery
Turkey Gravy

Add taters, turkey meat, celery, scallions and some stuffing if you have it and it isn't too wet. Stuffing is optional but again, this is about using up the leftovers. Add binders, coat with bread crumbs and fry. Serve with gravy, and some scallions on top. You could also top with a slice of american cheese, as the creaminess seems to compliment this well.

Vegetarian

In this, use your imagination. If you are Vegan, I really can't help you. If you don't eat eggs, just find another binder with some fat in it like heavy cream or whole milk, just be careful not to make the mix too wet. I know some veg people that eat a turkey substitute made of gluten. I do not advise using that in this recipe, it doesn't turn out right. However, very firm tofu, already chopped and browned and then put in this recipe is awesome. Add a mix of vegetables and make a butter and cream gravy with lots of garlic and onion. Cheese is good too. Seasoning could include anything you like but smoked paprika and a dash of turmeric really make this come alive.


Sausage Dinner 
(A lot of scandinavian descendants have sausage at holiday meals. My husband's family is Swedish and they do Korv. Polish/Eastern Europeans do Kielbasa, Scots do a sausage which I can't pronounce, and no it isn't Haggis, as that is served in the spring)

Follow the recipe for Beef roast, just use the sausage instead. You can serve with a white country gravy with mushrooms and carrots. Root vegetables are the pairing here. If there are things like squash and parsnips or carrots that was served with the regular meal, mash them up and add them in. They take on the same consistency as the potatoes so they work here.

Hope that gives you some use for all that leftover food. And you won't have a Mom freak out moment like I do when you can't remember how long something has been in the fridge (even if I put it there a couple days ago, because I am losing it) and end up throwing everything out for fear of some super bacteria taking over. Then you spend the afternoon scrubbing the fridge with bleach. I'm not the only one that does that right?

Word of advice, never take a microbiology course. You will never be able to relax around food ever again.

Cheers, and happy holidays!!


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Pot Roast that isn't slimy

First, I want to apologize for being a slacker. As many of you know, I am a full time student (who is in danger of becoming a permanent one). As a non-traditional student I get to jump through hoops and over obstacles just like any other student, but I have to do it with a mortgage, two kids and husband strapped to my back. My degree has become something of moving target as of late, but I am working diligently to get this done. Honestly, it is the hardest thing I have ever had to do. Listen kiddies, if you have the chance to go to college as a young person, for fucks sake, DO IT! You really don't want to be like me, and no one needs this level of aggravation.

So I'm sorry I haven't been writing. I do love it, and I missed you all terribly!

Moving on to the good shit now.

I am addicted to my crock pots. Call them what you want to, but I spend more time with them than most people do with their spouse. I have found ways to make stuff in them that has been awesome, and there have also been epic failures. This is one of the winners, totally by accident too.

We don't have cable TV. I can't stand the cable company. They are right up there with corrupt insurance companies and drug companies. Bastards I tell ya. So I have a digital antenna, that I use to get local stations and PBS. I found I really like PBS (and why in God's name did no one tell me there were multiple stations of it!?!)

On PBS is a show that is basically a cooking show/test kitchen thingy. All I know is that it is hosted by the most adorable man in a bow tie. I love that guy. I totally want to keep him as a pet. (disclaimer: I do not nor have I ever endorsed slavery of any kind. This is a euphemism that I use when I want to keep someone around that I like. Totally pisses me off that I even have to write this shit but welcome to America, land of the free, home of the lawsuit)

Click here  for their website.

Anyway, they did a thing where they made a brisket in the crockpot without boiling it in its own juices. They figured a way to create dry heat in a crockpot. I was riveted.

 HOLYSHITHOLYSHITHOLYSHIT!

Anywho...

I thought it was a idea worth trying out. I had been looking for a way to use that damn chuck roast in the fridge before it went bad, without having to go through the rigamarole of using a dutch oven and cooking it low and slow in the freakin' oven. I got shit to do, yo.

So here it is, how to make a Pot Roast in the crockpot that isn't slimy.

Start with your meat. (he he I said 'meat')

A chuck roast that is about a third smaller than your biggest crockpot You'll see why. Try to get one that is wider than it is thick.

Then you want to score it. Run your knife along the top of the meat, just pressing lightly to create a shallow cut that can hold some spices.

Then you want to season your roast. I personally made my own mix but use whatever you want to in order to season it. I don't use a lot because we live in the Northeast and horseradish is where it's at and we use it at the table. I used garlic powder, onion powder and smoked paprika with worcestershire sauce and a dash of liquid smoke. I sprinkled and then splashed, but I think it would have been easier to mix it into a paste and then smear. Now set this roast aside, preferably out of reach of certain animals that like to counter surf.

In a fry pan, chop up one medium onion, and add maybe 5 cloves of fresh garlic and saute with a little olive oil. Cook these together until the onions are translucent. It should stink up the whole joint, and that rocks.


Once these are done, scoop them into the bottom of your crockpot in a little pile in the center.



Now comes the fun part. You know those foil bread sized tins you can get at the store? Yeah throw one of those bad boys face down over the onion/garlic hot mess in the crockpot.



Now place your meat on top of the foil pan so it is off the bottom the crockpot. You may have to get several sizes of pans to get a good fit based on how big your roast is, and the size/depth of your crockpot.

Get about a half cup to three-quarters of a cup of water in the bottom. You are looking to create a seal around the foil pan. Later I thought this would be amazeballs if you used something like apple cider or something other than water.


Now put on the lid, and turn it on low. And I mean that, LOW! You want this to take all day or it gets tough and nasty.

Keep a blind eye on it, and when it reads 185-200 degrees inside it is done. If you find it is still kinda tough, leave it in there longer, it will get more tender as the connective tissue breaks down. It is really hard to overcook this. I mean, you totally could if you put it in and went away for like, four days but who the hell does that? (I shouldn't have said that. This is not a challenge.)


Take out the meat and put it in a bowl or something. It will fall apart, and be a total pain in the posterior to move.

Now, check out the bottom of the crockpot. There should be like no liquid in the bottom. But here is the magic. It is all sucked up under the foil pan! Here's a little video of the magic at work. I couldn't resist showing it to you in action. I would have flapped like one of my kids does but my hands were holding the pan.







There will be a little suction to get the foil pan out, but the juices have all sucked up under the pan, and will come whooshing out. Be careful, that shit is like molten glass.



Now make gravy with the drippings. You can strain out the solids or just hit it with the stick blender. I prefer the stick method but do what you want. Here I forgot I even had a stick blender so I used a whisk.




AND NOW....to eat. The thing was so tender and just fell apart. Check out that color on the inside too. It is fully cooked but it looks cool.


And that my friends concludes todays lesson. What have we learned?

*Red is really bad about making posts on her blog.
*How to create dry heat in a crockpot to make stuff
* Guys in bowties are adorable and Red does not condone slavery

I will be doing a series on holiday meals. I'm just doing the basics. You'll see all my "holiday stressed the fuck out" cooking. Yay!

Cheers all!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Attack of the Killer Tomato

So to begin with, I apparently can't grow tomatoes to save my life; with any consistency anyway. I gave up and only grow one or two plants on my deck for fresh eating. I buy my tomatoes for canning at the public market in order to do what needs doing for sauce, salsa, etc.

This year as apparently been a wonderful year for everyone else in the tomato growing farm group. So, never to be accused of being moderate I bought enough tomatoes this year to fell a Clydesdale. And my long suffering assistant has been given an inadvertent manicure, albeit reddish stained. (Catherine is the bomb!)



In fairness, if we all think of the amount of money we spend on products with tomato in them, we would probably be surprised. I was raised in a house where tomatoes were canned up fresh every year and my Mom was the Queen of the crockpot meal, the majority of which had tomatoes in them. Between the sauce, paste, salsa, ketchup, steak sauces, canned soups, you will probably astonished at the amount of tomato in the foods we eat.

Now I don't want to start an argument over GMO (genetically modified organisms) here, but the reality is that the majority of tomato things in our pantries use tomato as a thickener, or other reason than taste. Which is a good thing considering the commercial tomato has damn near no flavor anyway. Ever buy a tomato in January and it is sickly pink instead of red and has no flavor? Yeah, that's it. They are going for size not flavor.

So if you can grow a few plants for fresh eating, for God's sake do it! You can grow them inside all year. (Just ask my mother and the tomato plants that take over her living room in February. I'll have to get a picture one day and show you all. Holy 'maters Batman!)

I should have been better about taking more detailed pictures but I just wanted the invasion to end. To be honest, I know this is only the first wave, there will be more canning of tomatoes coming, only because I made sauce and that takes a HUGE amount of tomatoes to do. Really. 2.5 flats of tomatoes for 6 jars of sauce. REALLY.


 This picture is only 6 jars of sauce when all is said and done.

We begin by cutting the tomato to reveal the snot pockets that contain the seeds. (I said this would be informative, not appetizing)

 If you slip your finger in, you can, for the most part, flick the snot packet out, eliminating the majority of the seeds. I know this takes a while to do, which is why I have help if I can get it, but the seeds and the snot contain the highest quantity of acids in the tomato, which can lead to indigestion and heartburn. Our bodies are not meant to break down the seeds and that can cause problems. I'm all for eating fiber folks, but we are not cows.




Once you do that, you now have some options. The first is just to jar the tomato as is. Layer them in the jar, add water to cover, and 1/2 tsp of salt and 1/2 tsp of Lemon Juice or citric acid powder, and process for 25 minutes in a water bath canner. Easy Peasy. You can go one step further:






I use this weird thing called a vidalia wizard to cut the tomato into tiny cubes whilst making a HUGE mess in the process. I then can that for use in recipes. Why? because they incorporate into the dishes very quickly, and that is good especially for picky eaters. I throw in a quart jar of these when I make tacos (Click here for recipe) and the kids have NO IDEA the tomatoes are in there. You will find you will use these a lot for pan sauces with sausages or with fresh herbs to put on fish or chicken. I do impromptu pan sauces all the time.

My salsa is simple too. In a pan I saute onions and garlic until they are soft. DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP WITH THE ONIONS!!! If you don't cook them and then try to can them fresh, they off gas in the jar, and the jars will go BOOM. Ok, the top pops off them and the contents spill out over everything, if you're lucky. If you are less lucky, the seal will be compromised, and if you don't notice it, you will open a jar and pass out from the funky rot smell coming from the jar where you swear you put salsa, again if you are lucky. Botulism is an anaerobe, (fancy word for grows in the absence of oxygen) and it has no smell or taste. Totes dangerous. Cook the damn onions.

Add any peppers you like in yours. I do a poblano, and some bell and then the little sweet peppers. I then add the diced tomatoes and cook until hot all the way through. I add some apple cider vinegar, a little bit of sugar, and a dash of pre made fajita spices. Add salt and pepper but be sparing with the salt since you add more in the canning process. You then jar that up, still adding the salt and lemon juice like with the plain tomatoes.



Sick of this shit yet? No? Well, this next recipe is missing some of the great procedural photographs. For that I apologize. But if you do attempt this one, be ready for a multi day process. However it doesn't need to be done right this very second, so it is a little more flexible than the others I suppose since the texture is not important here. But once you start something, you gotta finish it.

Put your tomatoes in freezer bags and freeze them solid.


Once they are frozen and you are sure you have a couple days to watch them, take them out and add to the crockpot on low. You will end up using probably 5 or 6 gallon freezer bags full for 6 quarts of sauce. Start with one, until the water from the tomatoes separates and rises to the top. Skim off as much as you can and dump it. Then add another frozen bag and repeat the process. The more water you skim off the less time you need to watch it cook to thicken it. I make my sauce to almost paste consistency because I can always add water later when I use it, so it takes up less space. If you skip the freezing step, you will be at this for a month. Freezing causes the water in the cells to expand, making them explode, releasing the water in the tomato as it thaws. Same thing for other fruits and such. (Technically the tomato is a fruit according to horticultural rules) The freezing makes this go a million times faster. 

This will take a couple days to accomplish. I don't advise it being done on the stove. No one has that amount of attention to do, but if you must try it, don't blame me when you burn the damn house down. 



Once you have gotten as much water as you can out of the tomatoes and they are FINALLY all in the crockpot, hit this hot mess with a stick blender. If you don't have one, scoop out the tomato smutz and use a regular blender.  Then add anything you like to make sauce. You can just finish here and add when you plan to serve, or do it now so it is pre made. Totally up to you.

Again, if you plan to use onions, either cook them first, or be sure they cook down in the sauce until translucent or you will have explosions and spoilage. I saute onions, garlic, mushrooms and peppers in a couple tablespoons olive oil until soft and then add them. I grew fresh basil and oregano this year so that went in too. This doesn't have to be perfect. You can always doctor it later when you serve it. Also remember that processing the jars and letting them sit intensifies and melds the flavors. It will taste slightly different when you eat it later than when you jarred it up. Add salt and pepper to taste but be sparing with the salt since you add before you process the jars. (1/2 tsp each of salt and lemon juice or citric acid per quart jar, 1/4 tsp each for Pints) You want to process for 45-50 minutes given the density of this. Remember to start the timer when the water is boiling not before.


Then you end up with this. And really soft hands. And red finger nails. And although you are not sure you want to eat any tomatoes right now as you will probably want to hurl at the thought, you have to admit the sense of pride seeing it all done. Not to mention the whole "IN YOUR FACE Rachel Ray!!" when you crack this open in January while she shows people how to cook with aluminum cans of commercial tomatoes with no effing flavor. To me, it's worth it.

Credit http://tarynsgate.deviantart.com/art/Killer-Tomato-128711634




Monday, August 5, 2013

Yeah I know, I'm lazy...but I went shopping and I MADE JAM!

First of all I know I have neglected all of you. Miss me? I missed you....

Anyway, back at the ranch...

I have been busy as hell given the time of the year with catching up with friends, family, and generally getting things done. My husband and I had a very productive Sunday yesterday so I decided to keep the momentum rolling, and actually write a blog post. 0.0

Before I go into the Jam I made, I had a wonderful shopping experience today that I wanted to tell you all about.

I like consignment stores. Like, I LOVE THEM!!! However I am also running at only 50% capacity of the brain most days as the other 50% has decided to go on a perseveration vacation, so I am mentally obsessing over crap I can't control. So I forget to go to them for shopping until my kids come to me, usually after a major bill is paid, to tell me their shoes/pants/underwear doesn't fit.

Did I tell you about the time my son came to be complaining his stomach hurt really bad? Here I am freaking out because I think he has some sort of stomach bug or is developing IBS or something. Nope, he'd grown out of his underwear...and I mean he needed a Large and was squeezing into a Small, and it was pinching his middle. I never thought to check his undies, as most kids would have come to tell their parents they needed new underwear. But I digress....

Well, then I remembered that I can get good clothing cheap if I consignment shop. I always feel so proud of myself for remembering. (It's the little things, ya know?) So I go through the kids closets, and weed out stuff that is too small and such, and take it to my local consignment shop drop off. There are tons of them out there depending on where you are in the world. In my town there are at least 5 different kinds, each with several locations. The one I go to, is Savers in Henrietta. You can check their website here. I donated a bag of clothing, and got a coupon for 20% off my entire purchase. I didn't end up using it though because I happened to go on a Monday where everything is 25% off just because it is Monday. That makes the Mama happy, let me tell you!

Now get this...I got pants, jammie pants, a robe, and some other cool clothes for my son, a bunch of cute skirts (with shorts underneath as in my house if a skirt is above the knee, you need shorts under it.) and a couple of sweaters, 2 sets of sheets and a comforter for my son's new bed and two pairs of jeans for me. Total retail cost new? Over $700.00. What did I pay? $98.50.  That is DAMN good. So I skipped out of there very happy.

The thing is that these clothes are usually of good quality and are name brands. They are only put on the shelf if they are in good shape and not torn, damaged or stained. (This might not be the case all the time, at every place but the majority of major consignment shops have a certain standard they keep) The way kids grow out of things, it makes no sense to buy new if you can help it.

In stores like this, there are usually limited quantities of young girls and boys clothing that are in good shape. You can look and you might get lucky, but the bigger the store, the bigger the selection usually. If you are looking for any of the following, you could get very lucky, as I did. Small womens and Small mens sizes are usually in abundance. Baby clothes are a HUGE one and you can get the majority of the stuff still brand new with tags on it. There are usually tons of dishes so if you need a set of something, you might want to check it out. Depending on the place you go, linens are great, and if you buy a comforter you can always get a duvet cover for it much cheaper than buying new.

And as a bottom line it is a good thing to do for your community, the environment and yourself. :)

ON TO THE JAM!!

We went blueberry picking on Sunday, and I made some jam from the fresh berries. I realized that morning that I was completely out of jam. I mean, NO JAM was in my house. Very sad. So I had to make more.

First thing, get your berries together. I used fresh but frozen works too, just don't add any liquid. When the berries thaw, they will have enough. If using fresh I add, per quart of blueberries, 1/4 cup of lemon juice, and 3 cups of sugar. Put that in the pot and mash over low heat. They don't have to be obliterated or anything, you are just trying to extract juice. 



Once you go a good "mash" going, you can add your pectin, if you use it. I don't for this recipe. Blueberries have a naturally high pectin content and I don't find it necessary to add any. This is personal preference. If you do use it, follow the recipes that come with it, in order to be sure you use it properly. I use commercial pectins in my rose petal jelly and green tea jelly. They need it for obvious reasons. If you want t go totally hippie mom natural, boil a cup of apple peelings in 1 1/2 cups water, until the skins are soft and mushy and then remove the peelings and throw them out (compost of course), strain the juice and you now have a dilute liquid pectin. Voila!


Bring you blueberry mash to  a rolling boil that cannot be stirred down. That means when you stir it, it doesn't deflate the boiling. Turn off the heat at that point. Be sure you are stirring and standing over this because you can go from jam to burn horse shit really quickly if you are not careful. 

Prepare your jars according to the proper procedure. In this case, we can water bath process this. Wash jars and lids, and then boil them as you cook the jam. Remove them from the boiling water, fill with jam, wipe the rims and apply lids and bands. Place in water bath canner, and process for 20 minutes for 1/2 pints, 30 minutes for pints. Start timing after the water in the canning pot is boiling. 


 Remove jars and let cool on a towel on the counter. You should start hearing the "POP" as they seal as they cool. If after 12 hours, there are still some with the buttons on the lids still up, that means they didn't seal. This doesn't mean they are bad, by any means. They are just not shelf stable. Put them in the fridge and keep them there for up to 6 months. Once you open one, however, use it within a week or so. If you see mold or they smell off in anyway, dump it. No need taking chances.



Gorgeous, right?


So nice to be back, y'all. I look forward to many more posts soon. 

Monday, May 20, 2013

Prize for most neglected blog

Yeah, okay.....I know I have been not posting. I have been busy as hell the last couple weeks and I know I always say this but it is really true. It seemed every time I went to do something I was double booked with something else.

So what have I been doing? Aside from working a temp position I do twice a year, I have been cleaning up a whole season's worth of weeds and crap. Like I said in an earlier post I suffered from a major funk last summer and I really was not up to spending time in 100 degree heat to do a damn thing since nothing I planted grew anyway. Last year was the official "fuck it" year.

However, I have expanded on the post I did on my planters. Here is what my garden is up to.


I hate weeding. Really. I would rather let weeds do their best after plants are established than spend a day out there in the sun pulling out volunteer "damndelions". So I think I may have come up with a solution. Strawberries spread like crazy and I had these two in pots on the deck. This a a pic of one of my rose beds and I can't seem to keep it weed free so I thought this might be a good solution. Only time will tell.


 These two pics have nothing whatsoever to do with what I have been doing lately. With constant admiration, I will tell you I love this rose. The flowers are itty-bitty 5 petal pink and last all of a week. The plant itself is just so neat. It is an arctic shrub rose. The leaves and canes are purple!

I am very limited in space. I have .11 acres on a corner in a suburban neighborhood. I can't have any animals beyond my dogs and cats, and being on a corner I have restrictions on what I can put where. So I have to get creative with space. I am trying to put in things that are edible as well as pretty, but I won't delude myself to think that we could live on what I grow. Far from it. I try to grow things we can enjoy as a treat through the growing season and anything I preserve is from the farmers market. I do plan to do a canning party this summer...I WILL do this, dammit....so I will have to write a post on that.

I always grow cucumbers. But this seems to be the year of the vine, and I have in the past grown them vertically on a trellis. Some years this is good, others have not been good. Well, I had my kids old sand box and thought it would do well to use it. I put in the cukes and had husband make me a cone trellis out of some wire fencing we had.






Here is the giant planter hubs built me. Like I said, it was a total pain in the ass to fill it, but we finally got it done. I also go a grape vine for Mother's Day and I planted it next to my fence as that one spot gets sun all damn day. This is of course after we took the time to re-paint that section of fence. 



These are pumpkins I started from seed. They are a french variety, and I can't wait to see how they do. I roasted pumpkins and froze them for the first time last year and the flavor was so amazing I have to do it again, except with actual eating pumpkins and not carving pumpkins I got from the grocery store. 



The other things if you look closely are lettuce. I don't think they are going to make it but if they don't I will replant. They were started indoors and really should have gone into the ground before I left for a week of work. That didn't happen and it looks like a gnome pissed on them.


Directly to the left of the planter is the GIANT wisteria that has climbed my deck pergola. I have to hack away at it every year or the house would be totally covered in the space of 2 years. The damn thing has never bloomed and I have tried all the "remedies" out there to no avail. But it provides shade so I guess it can stay.



Now to the greenhouse  This year we covered most of it with screening material in black. It has great heat reflectivity but it allows for airflow. We had a horrible time of it last year because it was all plastic. Due to the unseasonably warm temps and lack of rain and all that, the peas didn't even sprout despite multiple tries. The rest of the stuff withered and died or rotted because there was little air flow. 

This bed is an example of what they all looked like at the beginning of this year. When I say I did nothing last summer I meant it. This is the bed I actually won't touch this year, as it is my horseradish. I had to put it somewhere contained and it is already trying to sneak under the sides of the bed. 



To the left, is the celery. I did manage some late last year and it was hot enough for it to begin but then the warm fall and greenhouse gave me fresh celery until late november. I really was impressed with the taste of home grown over the grocery store. 



To the right of horseradish hell bed, it the back bed. It has brussel sprouts, and broccoli, volunteer shallots and peas (not in this picture because I am a nimrod and forgot to take a second picture)


Right across from horseradish bed is garlic, one zucchini and one yellow squash as they have a bush like habit, and would fit in this weird space next to my garlic. I don't plan my garden beyond my stomach so sometimes I get dip shit choices like this because the garlic is  just chillin in the middle. 

Now on to the deck. Pot gardening (and not the fun stuff) is something I have been forced into because I have, as I said , limited space.  So the three pots on the bottom are my potatoes, as I can't very well grow them in the garden. I have a mole problem. And there is nothing like waiting all season to harvest your potatoes and when you do, each one is hollowed out. Seriously, and I scolded the cat for this one. She likes birds and I told her to catch something useful for christ's sake. I already have stopped with a bird feeder because it is like baiting them for her.


I didn't anticipate this picture but it is a good one of the greenhouse  There are plastic panels on one side to provide heat. In the pots I have rosemary, sage, and the long pot has spinach that I will reseed several times throughout the season. It is perfect for this type of application. You pick it as you use it until it gets leggy and bolts, rip it out and reseed. in about 3 weeks you have spinach.


I know I showed you these planters but my hops have come up. I am very excited about these! Mostly because I love beer, but HEY, the plant is pretty too!


 Then I have tomatoes. They really love the deck as it gets so hot in the blazing sun.


On the railing above the tomatoes are marigolds as they are preventative bug repellent to things that eat tomatoes. Honestly, I couldn't remember what they were but I have always done this, so screw it. They are planted with tansy. I can't wait to try this out once it grows in a medicine or something. Really into that hippie crap. 



Here I have my 2 Lemon verbenas. I had these last year and over wintered them inside. They are coming back nicely, and I am going to repot later.


More marigolds and something I use a shit ton of...thyme. I use it in everything, so I have to grow it as it gets expensive to try to buy it all the time.

So all this in the space of a short time interspersed with things like work and being away a week. I have busted my generous ass, and so has hubby I can't forget to say, to get things in order.

Now I have to find a place to put a watermelon, and some catmint and catnip....this could prove challenging, but I will win out over my garden. This is only the beginning, as I have a whole other side of the property to deal with...and the grass is currently up to my knees and there is dog poop everywhere. *sigh*

Cheers!