Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Our New Tradition

We made some kick-butt pizza Saturday night.  In fact, we made some kick-butt pizza 2 Saturdays ago as well.  My two stepkids don't eat much besides processed foods...I don't have much control over what they eat.  However, Saturday nights, they are with me, so I decided to start a new tradition.  Instead of letting them eat frozen pizza that their dad buys for them, we are now going to make our own homemade pizzas each Saturday they come.  My stepdaughter is really excited about learning how to cook, so I let her roll out the pizzas while I did the dishes.

The dough recipe we use makes 2 pizzas, which is perfect.  We can make one regular pizza, and one with more adventurous toppings.  The 'safe' pizza is pepperoni and cheese.  That's it.

Here, I'm working on the 2nd pizza.  Barbecue chicken was the theme for that one. We couldn't help stealing some bits of BBQ chicken before the pizza went into the oven.

The pizzas looked fantastic cooking int he oven.  All the kids kept asking when they would be ready. 

Here are the pizzas straight out of the oven.  The pepperoni and cheese pizza sprung a leak while it was baking, but that's okay with us. We like using the pizza trays with the little holes in them cause we get a little crisper of a crust.

My son is chowing down on his pizza.  He usually likes to complain about food, even if it is something he likes, but there was no complaining tonight.

The kids ate their pizza and we finished watching Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution, before we started our movie.  We have learned a lot watching that show.  I think it has really opened the older kids' eyes to what most processed food is made up of.  Having a cooking from scratch tradition not only is healthier for us, it allows us to bond as a family.  Kids that cook and eat regularly with their parents are less likely to be involved with drugs and violence.  The time spent together in the kitchen helps create positive memories and trust that will carry over into other areas of their lives.  Also, being able to cook for yourself from scratch is a skill that will help you continue a healthy lifestyle throughout your life.  I hope that this tradition will be one that we can continue for a very long time.

What do you cook together as a family?  Do you have any special memories of cooking things from scratch?

Monday, April 12, 2010

Acquisition, an Accident, and Abundance: A Tale of Asparagus

It started out so simply...I wanted asparagus... (cue dreamy fog and fadeout)....

I wanted asparagus...so I did what any reasonable gardener would do: I snuck into somebody else's yard and stole it! No...I went to the store and bought two plants.  I was busy doing other things, so the packages sat in the corner of my kitchen for a week or two.

Total Asparagus = 2

Meanwhile, I was really behind on getting things ready in my yard.  I worked frantically to get things ready to plant lettuce and spinach.  The little 'fenced' raised bed had something dead in it, and that looked like an excellent spot to put my lettuce.  So, I tore it out and went back to cultivating, and eventually, planted my lettuce.  I was waiting on getting my compost bin, so I threw the yard waste into a pile beside the garage. 

Fast forward 2 weeks.  My dear friend Jeri came to help me in the yard. The night before she came, I happened to see a picture of what asparagus looked like in the early spring, before the shoots come up.  I thought, gee, that looks really familiar. 

I thought, I wonder, was that stuff I pulled out with the really thick roots, ASPARAGUS.  I looked back at the pictures I took.

HELLO DUFUS, I thought...those are seeds!  You wanted asparagus and you pulled out tons of it! I was really irritated with myself.  Then again, I was kind of dumbfounded that the people who lived here before would not think to tell me they had asparagus in the yard.  I distinctly asked, "Are there any plants or anything, perennials, etc...growing in the yard, so I don't dig them up by accident?"  They said, no...just some daylilies and some hostas.  WRONG.  So far I have found strawberries, asparagus, daylilies, phlox, yarrow, dianthus, hostas, and more. Maybe I'm crazy, but I would think that was important and worth telling somebody about.  Okay, so my suspicions were confirmed when I went out to the garden the next day with Jeri and there are some little aspargus pokies sticking up that I missed.  Holy guano, batman, you were right!

Out of curiosity, I went over to the refuse pile and starting digging for those plants I pulled up.  Lo and behold, there are the asparagus plants, still alive and trying to grow by my garage.  Sometimes I wonder how anybody can ever kill a plant, as hard as some of them try to live. I proceeded to dig out all the plants and rescue from the pile.  I found 6. 

Total Asparagus = 8

I was thrilled, I just got 6 free asparagus plants.  Yay for me!  A couple of days later, I set about digging a trench for my asparagus bed.  One trench turned into two, so that they would be spaced the correct distance apart.

I got ready to open the packaging on the plants I bought from the store.  Wow, I thought, these are great plants.  Look how thick the roots are...wait, what is this rubber band? I removed the rubber band, and the pile fell apart into many little asparagus octopus.  I grabbed the packaging and reread the label. 

Ohhhhhhh.....not ONE asparagus plant....but EIGHT asparagus plants!  Can we say pay attention to details? I had two packages, even. 

Total Asparagus = 8 + 8 + 8 = 24

OMG! 24 asparagus plants! What am I going to do with all that asparagus?  I am going to be swimming in it next year.  I am going to have a veritible asparagus forest this summer!

Well guess what, if you know me, guess what you are getting for your birthday?  ASPARAGUS.  Unless it is in December, and maybe even then.  I had to dig 4 trenches to accommodate all these plants. I filled them halfway with compost and watered them well.  When the plants grow up above the dirt, I will add more in til I get even with the ground.

Luckily, the plants I bought were males, so I won't have so many seeds laying around, but I'm sure there will be plenty.  There are male and female plants, but you can do just fine with either kind.  Some people say the male plants produce more, because they don't waste so much energy on seed production.  Who knows.  Also luckily, my friend Jeri said she will take a few plants.  That last row was a little crowded, so sending a few to her house will open things up a little. 

So that is my crazy asparagus story.  I went from no, to 2, to 8, to 24, and now maybe to 20 asparagus plants.  Maybe the moral of the story is:  Be careful what you wish for....or maybe it's:  Don't look gift asparagus in the mouth...Anyways, now I have asparagus, and I'll shut up.  I wonder how many times I wrote the word asparagus in this post?

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Seed Grow Project: Spitfire Nasturtium from Renee's Garden

I am participating in a nationwide project with some fellow garden bloggers.  It is called the GROW project, sponsored by Renee's Garden.  All the bloggers involved received the same pack of seeds.  This time, it is Climbing Nasturtium, Spitfire.  Every month we will post an update on how we are doing with these seeds.  I think it is going to be so neat to see what so many people are doing with the same plants.  All of the blogs that are participating will be listed at the Grow Project website... http://grow.gardenbloggers.com/  Make sure to check it out!

In Iowa where I live, zone 4b and 5a (I'm right on the line) I can't put out my nasturtiums yet.  I also moved about a month ago, so I am getting my flower beds set up, so some of my pics will look kind of transitional for a while.  I wandered around my yard today, thinking about where I will put them when the frost is past.  I have grown nasturtiums before.  They are actually the first edible flower I ever grew (knowingly).  I love how the flowers are so bright and cheery, and it keeps on blooming all through the season.  Since this one is a climber, I have been considering some places it can go UP.  I will definitely put some on this cool garden gate, next to my cucumbers and green beans. 


Another spot I was considering is this cute white fence.  I have been waiting to see what comes up (perennial-wise) before I commit to these spots.  I already have two clematis planted along this fence, along with a helleborus and some sea lavender...but there is still a lot of room for the nasturtium to go up the fence. 


Now that I own my own home, I am going to attack a bunch of projects I have never been able to, or had the time to.  I have always wanted to make one of those tippy-pot things.  You know, where you have like 5 big clay pots tipped sideways on top of each other on a big pole or piece of rebar.  I think the spitfire would look fantastic spilling out of one of those pots. This is probably where I will put it, once I put it together.


I am also creating my herb garden bed.  This is it, so far.  I know it doesn't look like much so far, but eventually it will be filled with 10-20 different kinds of herbs.  Several clumps of nasturtium would make a colorful addition to this bed...or I could put some in my vegetable garden.  


I do love building tepees.  I built one today, just for the nasturtium to go one.  Right now, yarrow is trying to take hold in the bottom.  I removed a big clump in the center before I built the tepee.  I would eventually like to have parsley and cilantro, or lettuces growing in the bottom of this, with the nasturtium growing  up the sticks. 

I will be starting my nasturtium seeds this month.  They sprout quickly, so I will have many plants to set out in May, when the frost is safely gone by in Iowa.  I hope that you will be amazed by the changes in my garden, not only the growing of the spitfire, but how all the plants contribute to each other. I also look forward to eating the nasturtium....as they are not only beautiful but delicious.  

“I’m growing Nasturtium “Spitfire” for the GROW project, thanks to ReneesGarden.com for the seeds”.
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