It’s been another week of high winds and daily watering. One lonely green bean is growing, so I’m going to try soaking the seeds before putting them in the ground. I’ll let you know how that works out.
Not a single carrot sprout yet, so I’m going to replant using a different seed pack. Perhaps I bought a bad bag of seed? Other than that, not much happening, watching and waiting.
I love scalloped potatoes, but get inpatient waiting for them to bake. I came up with an easy way to make scalloped potatoes in my electric skillet with about half the usual cooking time.
2 lbs. potatoes (about 6)
3 tablespoons butter or margarine
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
Salt and pepper for seasoning
2 ½ cups milk
½ cup finely chopped onion, optional
1 cup cooked ham, cubed or
1 ea. 5 oz. can smoked ham
½ cup shredded cheddar cheese
Peel potatoes and slice thinly. [I put the peelings in the composter.] Add a little oil to the electric skillet. Set on lowest setting, about 150°.
Add potatoes and onions to skillet. Turn occasionally as you’re preparing the white sauce. This speeds up the cooking process as the potatoes are about half done by the time the sauce is ready.
Melt butter in 2 qt. saucepan over low heat. Blend in flour using a whisk.
Continue cooking over low heat, stirring until mixture is smooth and bubbly. Add milk. Increase heat to medium high. Stir constantly until mixture begins to boil. Boil and stir 1 minute. Remove from heat.
Add ham to skillet. [If you’re using canned ham, use two forks to shred and pull it apart in a small bowl before adding to skillet.] Pour sauce over potatoes, onions and ham. Mix well. Put lid on skillet and check every 10 minutes to stir and turn the potatoes. Cooks in 30 – 40 minutes.
When potatoes reach the desired doneness, turn off the electric skillet. Add cheddar cheese and put the lid back on (to speed up melting of cheese.)
The cheddar melts in 3 – 5 minutes.
*A note about electric skillets.
Recently, I replaced my old faithful skillet with one of those where the cooking pan lifts off from the heating base. It was a little more expensive than the other models, but I thought the removable base was worth the added expense. Wrong. It lasted exactly one use of frying chicken at 350°, then warped.
So buyer beware. You do get what you pay for. The more expensive skillets with removable bases may not warp, but my relatively inexpensive (50.00-60.00) did.
This is my latest experiment. I’ve seen articles about re-growing various vegetables, so I thought I’d give celery a try. I’ll update this as the weeks pass. It’ll be interesting to see if it actually works or not. I began with cutting about 1″ from the bottom of a celery bunch. I ran water over it and placed in a bowl with about ½” of water. I change the water daily, and rinse from the top down to get water between the stalk bases. The bowl rests on the windowsill of an East window.
Online I’ve been noticing a way of baking your eggs in a muffin tin. I haven’t tried that method yet. I seldom need that many hard boiled eggs at once, so I think I’ll stick to the old fashioned way of boiling on the stove top.
Place 4 to 6 eggs in a 2-quart saucepan. Fill pan with cool water to about a ½” from the top of the pan. There should be 1″ to 2″ of water on top of the eggs. Bring water to a boil over medium high heat. Once the pan is boiling, remove from heat and cover.
Let eggs sit for 25 minutes.
Drain water and fill pan with cold water. Gently break the eggshells and peel under running cold water. Store eggs tightly covered in refrigerator.
That’s it folks, bring to a boil and let them sit. Can’t get any easier than that.
Slicing and dicing eggs is a breeze with a slicer. Follow the pictures below:
Another week of waiting has passed. The above photo of lettuce shows the most successful plants thus far. When the lettuce is a little bit taller, I’ll need to thin it out. Radishes, spinach, onions and one lonely green bean have poked through. Still nothing has sprouted in the carrot patch so far. We’ve had some strong winds with advisories this week. Not surprisingly, the winds beat it up the tomato plant, so it’s hanging on.
The photos were taken around noon before watering. Yes, it is extremely dry here.
Although hard to see through the cages, but the spinach and radishes are doing well. They broke through the soil last Tuesday.
I’m thinking I’ll give the carrots, zuchinni, yellow squash and green beans another week to see if anything will sprout. There’s always the possibility that I planted too deep. All new seed this year, so I’ll have to blame it on my planting depth.
Granpa has been working on another bed that’s about 36″ wide by 10′ long. It’s leveled and ready to start mixing compost, dirt, sand, peat moss and vermiculite. He used cinder blocks for the raised bed and is laying out other beds that will be watered by the landscape watering system. We’ll probably leave the beds unplanted until the fall planting season.
Spring is a great time to repot indoor houseplants, too. I’ve repotted a fern and bamboo plant so far.
I know the “they sayers” say you’re not supposed to store potatoes in the refrigerator. Well, I can guarantee you, they don’t live in Arizona. If I don’t store my potatoes in the refrigerator, they sprout quickly. Therefore, my microwave times are based on chilled potatoes. We all know microwaving time depends on the wattage of your microwave. Blah, blah, blah. Back to the potato…once things heat up here, I don’t like to use my oven in the evenings. It seems so wrong to listen to that air conditioner hum while the kitchen is heating up from the oven, but I love baked potatoes. Here’s how I speed up the cooking process.
Start with a couple nice, medium to large-sized, russet potatoes. Scrub well with cool water to remove surface dirt and clean the skin. [I use a washcloth to scrub mine.] Microwave two potatoes on high for 3 minutes. Turn and poke with a fork. Microwave another 3 minutes. Check doneness with a fork. Your fork should go in without much resistance. If not, microwave another minute or two until fork pierces potato easily.
While the potatoes are nuking, tear off a square of aluminum foil for each potato. Splash olive or vegetable oil on foil. [You want enough oil to coat the entire potato skin with it.] Roll the hot potato in the oil. Use your hands to finish coating the potato skin with oil. Sprinkle liberally with Kosher or Sea Salt. Roll potato tightly in foil.
Place on the rack in your barbeque grill while you’re grilling the meat or in 350°-400° oven for 20 to 30 minutes along with whatever else you’ve got in the oven.
In the summer, I fire up the grill. While it’s heating up, I make the potatoes, put them on a rack in the grill, then start the meat once the grill’s good and hot. Whether in the oven or the grill, don’t forget to turn the potatoes occasionally or they’ll be petrified on the bottom.
When you’re ready to eat, start slicing the center about a half inch from the end and leave about a half inch at the end of your cut. Gently push the ends towards the center to open the potato. Add butter, sour cream, chives, cheese, bacon bits – whatever you like. It’s all good.
So, now you know, finishing the potato in a grill or conventional oven is the secret to the perfect baked potato.
It’s been a week of daily watering. The only thing green in the garden is the tomato plant. I haven’t had good luck with tomatoes in the past. I’m trying something different by putting a couple of water bottles in the ground to get the water down to the roots. I’ll see how that works. Weather has been warm in the upper 70’s, so it shouldn’t be too long before I see something sprout.
I had some peat moss and various soil additives, bone meal, gypsum, etc. left over. Instead of buying bags of “garden soil,” I thought I’d buy the stuff they sell as “top soil.” As soon as I opened the bag, I knew exactly what they were calling “top soil.” It’s nothing more than well-aged cow manure with a little wood mixed in. Looks exactly like those big, black mountains surround the feed lots throughout Texas and Oklahoma. Once the water hit it, there was no doubt. On the bright side, it should grow beautiful plants.
Gorgeous weather here. It’s the perfect temperature, day and night. I don’t need to run the furnace or the air conditioner. Makes for great sleeping weather. I love having the house opened up with the breeze blowing through. We’re lucky if Spring lasts more than a few weeks. All too early, the air conditioner becomes a necessity.
The mulberry trees are in full bloom. I’ll have to wait and see how the garden does this next week.
Okay, I admit it. I’m frugal. Well, actually cheap. I’ve discovered several ways to save on Maggie’s grooming and food. Maggie is a Maltipoo, a small indoor dog. The photo above is shaggy Maggie. She definitely needs a bath and trim.
When Maggie was a pup, she wasn’t much larger than a bunny. Since we often have red-tailed hawks flying around our place, she doesn’t go outside unless someone goes with her. She’s just like having a kid around. Right behind you every step of the way, always wanting to see what you’re doing.
Do the grooming yourself. There’s no way I’m going to spend more on her grooming than I do on mine. I dilute the pet shampoo 3 parts water to 1 part shampoo. This makes the shampoo last longer and it doesn’t irritate her sensitive skin and make her itchy. I put it in a recycled spray bottle and after getting her wet, spritz it on, then work into a lather.
Buy a pair of good clippers. It’s not that difficult to trim your dog. Start with one of the longer guards because you can always go shorter if you mess up. Make sure their hair is clean, dry and combed through – no matts or knots. Cut in the direction of the hair. For trimming around the face, grab their chin hair to hold their head still, then cut the hair with the scissors. Use the shortest guard to trim the hair between the pads on the paws and to do the sanitary trimming. There’s several dog grooming videos on You Tube. Watch one applicable to your breed and after a couple times, you’ll have it down.
Buy a pair of toenail clippers with the guard. I recommend the clippers with the guard so you don’t accidentally cut too close. Never cut into the pink part of the nail. When in doubt, it’s better to leave them a little long. I haven’t tried any of those rotary nail trimmers. They may work fine. I just haven’t tried them yet.
Don’t buy expensive treats. Buy the smallest bag of large breed dog food you can find. Give out one or two pieces at a time for a treat. A small bag will last a long, long time. I found a small bag that fit perfectly in a gallon pickle jar. By keeping it in a jar, the semi-soft pieces stay moist.
Don’t buy expensive stuffed chew toys. For most stuffed animals, the expensive ones don’t last any longer than the cheap ones. Maggie disembowels her stuffed toys regularly. She has a knack for finding that weak seam and chews in that one spot until she can get the fiberfill out. I’ve got a few to re-sew right now. I use heavy duty thread and beeswax to repair them by hand stitching the seam or hole. Using beeswax keeps the thread from tangling.
I woke up early yesterday; impatiently waiting for the sun to come up so I could get out in the garden. A few high clouds made for a beautiful sunrise. As I was waiting, I made cookies that I’ll post later this week.
I love playing in the dirt. I guess that’s the farm girl in me coming out. Fresh produce is so good. It seems wrong to pay over $2.50 for an 8 oz. bag of salad spinach. Salads are a summertime staple at my house. Who want’s to heat up the kitchen when it’s 100° in the shade?
Gardening in Arizona is somewhat a challenge. As I remember, Iowa gardening was so much easier. Till the ground; plant the seeds; pull weeds now and then; water if it doesn’t rain; then sit back and watch it grow. The soil was rich with nutrients. As my dad, a life long farmer, said about Arizona when he came to visit, “This ground ain’t good for nothing. Too rocky to grow anything.”
Over the years, I’ve tried various methods with limited success, gardening in bags (soil got too hot and cooked the roots), gardening in tubs (had great tomato plants, but the fruit didn’t set), and rows (planted & replanted several times. Darn chipmunks and kangaroo mice kept digging up and stealing the seeds. If something did sprout, the rabbits got it.) Our backyard is enclosed by 3′ chain link, with chicken wire around it and overlapping the gates. The rabbits hop over the fence like it’s not even there. We put up blocks in one corner to help with the critters and the hot summer winds.
Well, a garden is possible – if you cage your area and enrich the soil by adding peat moss, compost, perlite, etc. into the ground. I have a small garden area and plant in a modified square foot format. Each year, we continue to add garden soil and compost. Eventually, I’ll get the soil where I want it.
Onion sets, radishes, carrots, green beans, spinach and romaine lettuce hit the dirt yesterday. Today, we’ll be expanding the garden a few more square feet on the left side of the wall for full sun. Zucchini and yellow squash have to been in full sun to avoid aphids and they don’t mind the high winds. Tomato plants, zucchini, yellow squash and cantaloupe are on today’s agenda.
I’ll provide weekly updates on my garden, perhaps more often after it starts to grow.
You may have already heard this and wondered whether or not it works. Well, a wooden spoon placed across the top of the pan does prevent starchy foods, such as potatoes and noodles, from boiling over, for a time anyway. You know how the smell of something boiling over takes over the kitchen? It totally wipes out the smells of all the other good foods, so I avoid it as much as possible. When I’m in the kitchen, I’m usually distracted with preparing something else while the potatoes or noodles cook.
Using a spoon across the top of the pan does buy enough time for me to reduce the heat without a mess. This is one of those tips that’s now became a habit. I still have to keep an eye on the pan, just not as close as before.
Now, I never boil anything without a spoon. It works!