Monday, October 31, 2011

Scarecrows



A Scarecrow "Gourd-o-lantern" by Angie Ouellette-Tower

Scarecrow

I know that many Christians are offended by "Halloween" - and since today is Halloween I decided to talk about Scarecrows instead.

Over the years Scarecrows have become a Halloween decoration but they started as a practical pest repellant used by farmers.  It's obvious by their name that the purpose of a Scarecrow was to keep birds away from farmer's crops.  I always used to think that Scarecrows originated in North America but in my research I found out that they date back a couple thousand years.  Japan, Egypt and Europe had their own versions of the modern day "Scarecrow." 

My image of a scarecrow is of course from the "Wizard of Oz" - the brainless scarecrow might even have been a model for my "gourd-o-lantern" scarecrow. 

Enjoy the pictures and enjoy your day.







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Sunday, October 30, 2011

Lilies of the Field

"Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?  And why do you worry about clothes?  See how the lilies of the field grow.  They do not labor or spin.  Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these."  Matthew 6:27, 28 & 29

This is the second of a 4 part "Worry Wart" series.

I like the part in this verse where Jesus is talking about lilies growing - "they do not labor or spin."  That got me thinking - what would a worrying lily look like?  It's quite comical really - I imagine a worry lily would pop in and out of the ground and then before opening it's flower I imagine that it would have to first look at the plants beside itself.  The worry lily might open it's flower but then close it again feeling inadequate.  Yes - this is all very silly but isn't that what we must look like from the heavens when we worry?  Worry makes us do ridiculous things.

Jesus compares the appearance of King Solomon and a Lily of the field - even going as far as to say that a Lily is dressed more spectacularly than a king.  God provides clothing for the lesser creation, and He provides all the more for us.

When you find yourself worrying this week - pay attention to what strange actions worry makes you do.....and then try to correct and trust in God the next time you are about to worry.


Part 1:  Stored Away In Barns
Part 3:  Fields of Grass
Part 4:  Seek His Righteousness

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Garden Preserved Chili



Garden Preserved Chili

The reason this dish is called "garden preserved" is because I have used 3 preserved items from my garden this year:




The recipe:                                                                                            Printable Recipe

1 lb to 1 1/2 lb ground beef
1 large onion (chopped)
1 cup Lima-like Beans from Green Beans (cooked) (1 can of dark Kidney beans may be substituted)
1 can light Kidney beans (drained)
1 jar Canned Tomato Sauce (OR 1 store bought plain tomato sauce may be substituted)
1 cup Frozen Shredded Zucchini (it is OK to omit this ingredient if you do not have any)
1 package chili spices (if I don't have a prepackaged chili spice mix then I use cumin, ground chili pepper, ground black pepper, garlic powder and salt - all to taste)
1 can sliced mushrooms (drained) (OR fresh sauteed mushrooms may be substituted)

Prepare all of the ingredients as described above.  In a large pan - brown the ground beef and drain off all of the fat.  In a different small pan - saute the chopped onion for a few minutes and then add this onion to the browned ground beef.  Now add all of the remaining ingredients and stir.  Cover and simmer on low heat for at least 1/2 an hour (stirring occasionally).

NOTE:  This is a doubled recipe in the pan above

Top with shredded cheese or sour cream and Enjoy!!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Basics - "Deveining" Spinach & other Greens


The Basics - "Deveining" Spinach & Other Greens

I call it "Deveining" - there might be another name for it but I'm talking about removing that tough and stringy spine of each spinach leaf.  This technique can also be used on Kale, Collards  and similar greens.  Today I am "deveining" Kale. 



1.  Fold the leaf in half so that the "spine" part of the leaf is on the right (see picture above)


2.  Hold the leaf with your left hand,  Starting at the top or the thickest part - with your right hand - slowly pull the "spine" away from the leaf (see picture above). 



And in this picture, on the right you will see the "spine" and on the is the left is the leaf ready for cooking.



Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Harvesting Sweet Potatoes

Freshly dug sweet potatoes from 2 plants.

Harvesting Sweet Potatoes

The Sweet Potato is my favorite and most exciting crop to harvest.  This is the time of year when I become a vegetable archeologist digging for burried veggie-artifacts.  Granted, I have never excavated a site of a prehistoric society but I do believe that you have to be just as gentle exhuming these valuable vegetables.  In my opinion, sweet potatoes are worth as much as gold.  (OK - I've carried this way too far - I'll get to the point......... I like sweet potatoes).



It is time to harvest sweet potatoes in the fall when the sweet potato vines are yellowish brown (or almost brown as seen in the picture above).  The first thing to do is find the base of the vine - sometimes you will be able to see the top of a sweet potato peeking through the ground.  Simply follow the vine to the base of the plant (as seen above). 



Once you have found the base of the plant you can remove the vine (you should be able to just pull it off easily or the vine will just snap off).  Now take a pitchfork (preferably a potato pitchfork - which is less pointed and more sturdy) and place the pitchfork into the ground about 6 to 12 inches away from the base of the sweet potato plant.  The reason for the distance is that you are trying not to spear a sweet potato - every year I always end up spearing a few but I just eat them that night for dinner.



Once you have inserted the pitchfork into the ground - just lift the pitchfork up slightly and gently (as if you were digging with a shovel) and you will see the sweet potatoes start to emerge.  The next step is to get down on your hands and knees and dig for the remaining sweet potatoes from that one plant.

You will never know exactly how many sweet potatoes each plant will produce or how big they will be - it is a surprise every year.

Continue digging until all of your sweet potatoes have been harvested.  If you live in a more moderate climate you should be able to mulch your sweet potato plants over the winter and just harvest them when you want - but we cannot do that here in Michigan.

If you recall in June - I planted 50 sweet potato plants:  Planting Sweet Potatoes.  The first picture in this post shows how many sweet potatoes we were able to harvest from just 2 plants.  It has been a great sweet potato year - Thank you Lord for the bountiful harvest.



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Sunday, October 23, 2011

Stored Away in Barns

"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.  Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not much more valuable than they?"  Matthew 6: 25 & 26

This is the first of a 4 part "Worry Wart" series.

Sowing, reaping and storing away - we all do this in some way or another - maybe with money, with food or even with friends.  In these verses Jesus is showing us that our life and our body is more important than food and clothing.  I think we can even go as far as to say that men and women are more important than their jobs/their occupation.  Jesus refers to us as "valuable" - we are much more valuable than the birds of the air.  God will provide and does provide.

Worry is a trust issue (a lack of trust).  Worry is definitely one of my weaknesses and I always feel ashamed after continuously worrying about something.  God is in control - not me - everything happens for a reason and He knows what that reason is.  In the long run, whatever happened or didn't happen is for our own good, whether we realize it at the time or not.  We can peacefully live knowing that God has it figured out.

Lord please help us this week as we try to trust instead of worry.

Part 2:  Lilies of the Field
Part 3:  Fields of Grass
Part 4:  Seek His Righteousness

Friday, October 21, 2011

Raspberry Lemon Tea Cakes

This "Tea Cake" pan was an early anniversary gift from my husband - he gave this to me early to help with my upset over our Flying Greenhouse.  His kindness did help and I thought I'd pass the kindness on by sharing this recipe with you:  Raspberry Lemon Tea Cakes.

Mini Bundt cake (or Tea Cake) pan sprayed and dusted with flour

Raspberry Lemon Tea Cakes
1 3/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup raspberry jam (or if you don't like the seeds then use jelly instead)
2 cups flour
1 cup butter (softened)
5 eggs (at room temperature)
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and spray your mini Tea cake pan (or regular Bundt pan) with non-stick spray and then dust with flour (NOTE: you can buy spray with flour already in the spray).
With an electric mixer - mix all of the ingredients listed above on medium speed for 10 minutes.
Pour or spoon the cake dough into each little cake mold - about 3/4 full.

The dough has a pretty pink color - perfect for a little girl's birthday party (although the color gets even lighter when baked).

Bake in a preheated 325 degree oven for 1/2 hour (or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean)  NOTE: If you are using a regular sized Bundt pan then you will need to bake for 1 hour (or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean)
Once the cakes are baked, remove the pan from the oven and allow the pan to cool for 2 minutes.  Then, gently invert the pan and each little tea cake should slide out easily. (Again, if you are using a real Bundt pan then you will need to let it cool for 10 minutes before inverting).
Cool on a wire rack.
With this small Tea Cake pan I was able to fill it up twice with a little extra dough left over for 1 
muffin.  I had to allow the cake pan to totally cool before adding the second half of the
dough.



Lemon Glaze

1/3 cup butter (melted and cooled to lukewarm)
1 1/2 to 2 cups powdered sugar
Juice from 1 lemon

With an electric mixer slowly blend the powdered sugar into the melted butter - only adding 1/2 cup of sugar at a time.  (NOTE: The reason why you only add 1/2 cup of sugar at a time is because you don't want the glaze to become too stiff - then it will be frosting - you want to be able to drizzle this on top of the cakes).  Mix in the lemon juice before you add the last 1/2 cup of sugar (actually - you might not need that last 1/2 cup of sugar).


Wait until the cakes have cooled before drizzling the lemon glaze.
Drizzle the glaze on top as seen in the picture above (you will notice that I have the cakes on a wire rack with a plate underneath to catch all of the extra glaze).  Save the glaze on the plate to use for the remaining cakes.  Continue drizzling until all of the cakes have been glazed.


These "Tiny Temptations" (as my husband likes to call them) have a gentle raspberry flavor with a tangy lemon twist - and they are so cute!  ENJOY!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Apple Pie with Walnut Crumb Topping


Crumb topping added and now the pie is ready for the preheated 375 degree oven

Apple Pie with Walnut Crumb Topping                                                  Printable Recipe


5 to 5 1/2 cups of chopped apples (washed, peeled and cored) (I prefer macintosh apples)
Juice and zest from 1 lemon
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon flour


Macintosh apples (and 1 lemon)

1.  Make the crust first (make the single crust recipe at the top of "The Basics of Baking - Pie Crust" ) - and roll out the dough (place in the pie plate and flute the edges).
2.  Prepare the apples as described above and then mix all ingredients together (the apples, lemon juice, lemon zest, sugar, cinnamon and flour)
3.  Pour apple mixture into the already rolled out pie crust from step 1.


Apple pie filling

Walnut Crumb Topping

1/3 cup butter (softened)
1/2 cup flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (you may substitute pecans or slivered almonds)
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Mix the butter, flour, cinnamon and sugar with a pie cutter or fork until crumbly.  Stir in the walnuts.  Sprinkle this walnut crumb mixture on top of the apples in the pie crust (see first picture at the top of this post).

Bake in a 375 degree oven for 40 to 45 minutes or until desired golden brown color is achieved.


Allow the pie to cool and ENJOY



Monday, October 17, 2011

"Harbor Freight" Greenhouse WARNING


"Harbor Freight" Greenhouse WARNING

It was a blustery October morning and the beauty of the autumn leaves could be seen in any direction.  I had just finished assembling our dream greenhouse from "Harbor Freight"  - it had only been standing for 4 days.  My husband was in the greenhouse excitedly planning and planting for our winter greenhouse crop (Kale, winter lettuce).  I was inside in the kitchen preparing our lunch and I just couldn't shake an ominous feeling in the pit of my stomach.  I looked outside from my lunch preparations only to see the greenhouse flip over taking my husband with it!  I sprinted outside and found my husband unconscience and pinned down by the greenhouse. (see pictures below).






Honestly though - my husband was NOT injured.  The greenhouse did flip over but thank the good Lord nobody was inside at the time.  In these pictures my husband was posing - he was actually unscrewing the greenhouse taking apart the pieces.






A bible verse that I need to learn from:  "When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom"  Proverbs 11: 2


The truth is that I had to assemble the majority of this greenhouse myself - my husband injured his knee 1/4 of the way through assembling this greenhouse.  It was difficult but I was so proud of myself.  I had just been bragging to all my friends and family "I put this greenhouse up by myself" and then it was gone in literally one second.  (I'm not saying that this wouldn't have happened if I hadn't been bragging - I'm just trying to turn this devastating situation into a learning moment).


My WARNING:  Don't waste your money buying this greenhouse.  The metal is so cheap - this greenhouse should have at least been able to withstand a gust of wind.  Also, the design is not the greatest - there were 4 windows/vents on the roof and I think the wind caught the window and opened it making an air tunnel inside.  I can't imagine what a Michigan winter would have done to this greenhouse (if it had lasted that long).


This (the picture above) is what the frame of the greenhouse looked like before the wind - I had not had time to take a picture of the greenhouse totally finished with the panels installed




The metal base frame in the picture above was a 90 degree angle prior to the wind - now it is flat.


This support beam in the picture above is NOT supposed to be a 90 degree angle



Metal holes that were factory drilled just ripped like paper






It was NOT a tornado - only a gust of wind.  The cheap metal is twisted beyond belief.

My recommendation is to buy a different greenhouse.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Autumn Rain

"Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord's coming.  See how the farmer waits for the land to yield it's valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains.  You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord's coming is near."  James 5: 7 & 8

Just think about how patient farmers need to be...... "will the seeds germinate?"  or "when is the best time to harvest?" - everything depends on the weather.  Planting and harvesting relies on rain.  Modern irrigation does help but nothing can compare to rain.  I can water my garden all day and the plants can still look wilted and the plants will need water again the next day.  But after a day of rain my plants can go without watering for days.

It is patience and trust that this farmer must have.  This verse compares that farmer to us as Christians.  We must be "patient and stand firm" even when we don't see the valuable crop that our work is helping to grow.  "Stand Firm" - steadfast, persistent, dedicated, unfaltering and firm in doing God's work/being Christ-like.

Lord Jesus help us to "stand firm" with patience until You return. 

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Drying Basil



There are a couple different ways to dry herbs but today we will be talking about using a food dehydrator, which in my opinion is the easiest and most successful way.

The manufacturer recommends taking the herb directly from the garden, shaking or brushing any dirt off & then dehydrating immediately.  However, I find that with my sandy soil there always seems to be some grit left after dehydrating.  Therefore, I always rinse the herb off (in this case Basil) and then pat it  dry on a papertowel before using the dehydrator.  There is nothing worse than biting down on a grain of sand.

STEP 1:  Harvest Basil by cutting off as many large bunches as desired (cut the stalk close to the ground.  Basil is an annual so it won't come back on it's own next year)
STEP 2:  Snip the choice leaves off the stalk with your fingers (or kitchen scissors) and then wash the Basil leaves (see picture below).




NOTE:  I always discard/compost any Basil leaf that has holes or corners missing - these blemishes are from animals or bugs.  Also, NEVER use a Basil leaf that has bird poop residue.
Basil leaves that need to be discarded or composted.




STEP 3:  Arrange the leaves on the dehydrator tray and then turn the dehydrator on - at the manufacturer's specified temperature and time.  (It took my dehydrator 36 hours to dry 4 racks of basil).

 

STEP 4:  Once the leaves are completely dry, then crumble the basil by hand .  Place the basil flakes in an airtight container.  ENJOY!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Basics - Proofing Yeast for Bread Making


The Basics - Proofing Yeast for Bread Making

This basic step is vital to successfully baking bread.  The first step in any bread recipe (or some other yeast dough recipe) calls for proofing or activating the yeast.  This is the step where you mix sugar, dry yeast and either hot water or hot milk (about 110 degrees).  The reason for this step is not only to activate the yeast but also, (if it is old yeast) this step will save you from possibly wasting your time and ingredients.   Old yeast will not activate, therefore your bread will not rise. 

Allow the yeast mixture (sugar, yeast & water/milk) to "proof" for 5 to 10 minutes.  You will notice that the yeast granules disappear and the mixture will become frothy, bubbly and foamy (see pictures).  If this foamy/frothiness does not happen then your yeast is old and you must throw the yeast mixture away and start the "proofing" process over with new yeast.

NOTE:  I have a candy thermometer that I use and I tested my hot tap water - it is exactly 110 degrees at it's warmest temperature.  So, if you do not have a thermometer, then most likely your hot tap water will be warm enough to "proof" the yeast.  (Careful - if the liquid is too warm then that will also stop the yeast from activating)

 


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Harvesting Squash


Harvesting Squash

Squash is one of the easiest vegetables to harvest.  Simply wait until the stem and vine are dried up and are light brown or smoky in color.  Then pick the squash and either the stem will fall off or sometimes the stem stays attached to the squash and the stem separates from the vine (both ways are fine for harvesting).

Store in a cool dry place and enjoy when you desire (I once had a "Hubbard" squash last an entire year).  The squash shown in these pictures are speckled squash and "sweet mamma" squash - when stored correctly these 2 squash vareties should last into late January or February (depending on what kind of winter you have).

The stem and vine have dried and the squash is ready to be picked



Monday, October 10, 2011

Canadian Thanksgiving


HAPPY THANKSGIVING to all Canadians
out there!!

God bless and Enjoy your day!!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Harvest Field

"Then he said to his disciples, 'The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.  Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.'"   Matthew 9: 37 & 38

We are in the thick of harvest right now and it is so true about the "workers being few."  I am so thankful for the bountiful harvest but there just isn't enough time in each day to finish all of the work that needs to be done.  Even though I feel as if there isn't enough time, I still find this work so satisfying and fulfilling. 

The bible commentary states that the word "harvest" was used to symbolize evangelism and preaching rather than teaching.  It is interesting in these verses that we are to "ask the Lord of the harvest" - this is something that we should be praying about.  We should not just be praying about what our job should be in this heavenly harvest but also we should be praying and asking God to send out more workers.

Lord please show us what you want our harvest job to be and please send out new workers to the harvest field.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Impatiens



Impatiens

You don't have to be patient to grow impatiens. 

I planted these (from greenhouse plants NOT from seed) in early May and it is almost the middle of October and they are still growing strong - and this is lower Michigan that I'm talking about.  They have been in constant bloom for the entire time that they have been planted in the ground, which is basically 6 months.  The beautiful dark green foliage really makes the color of each flower just pop - they are stunning. 


Impatiens also attract Humming Birds


Each plant starts out small and sparse but by July they fill in and make a wonderful border for a walkway (as seen in the picture above).

No matter what your gardening expertise level - Impatiens are a fantastic addition to any garden.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Tabouleh Salad



Tabouleh Salad

If you like parsley then you'll love this salad - delicious and nutritious.

3 or 4 medium tomatoes (washed and diced - with the stem base cut out first)
1 large cucumber (preferably an English cucumber) (peeled and diced)
1 medium vidalia onion (peeled and chopped)
1 large green bell pepper (optional) (washed, deseeded and chopped)
2 cups of parsley (or more to taste) (washed and chopped) (measure the parsley before chopping)
juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons of olive oil (or more to taste)
1 cup quick bulgar wheat (usually available in the natural section of your grocery store)
sea salt or garlic salt (to taste) (regular table salt may be substituted)
ground black pepper (to taste)



1.  Firstly, soak the bulgar wheat in 1 cup of water for an hour.
2.  Prepare the vegetables as described above (do this step while the bulgar is soaking).
3.  Stir the vegetables, bulgar, lemon juice and olive oil together and then season to taste with salt and pepper



ENJOY!!


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