Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Jake's First Projects

Here are Jake’s first two woodworking projects.

The first is an ornament he made for me his first time working with Sir.

The second is a Harry Potter wand that he made on Saturday. He has several wands at home from Alivan's, but this one is unique and special.

Jake and Sir have another woodworking day planned in two weeks. Jake has many projects in mind, so I’m not sure what he has planned next. I know that I am not allowed in the shop while they are working, though. I wonder if something is for me.

I like that Jakob has been bitten by the creativity bug. He has come home with great ideas after each of his woodworking adventures, ranging from other woodworking projects to home and vehicle designs. I will continue to stoke Jake's interest in woodworking. Maybe he'll build me my "someday" house someday.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Tasty Collard Greens

One of my sisters asked me for my collard greens recipe, so I figured I'd go ahead and post it here in case anyone was interested.

Collard Greens

2 bunches collard greens
1/2 C chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 T olive oil
1 scant teaspoon sweet, smoked paprika
1/4 t salt

Remove and discard the stems from the collards. Wash leaves thoroughly to remove any dirt or grit.

On medium heat, saute onion until caramelized. Add garlic, saute until softened about 3-4 minutes.

Add smoked paprika and saute for one more minute.

Add collard greens and stir to coat with oil and cover.

Cook for 30-40 minutes, stirring periodically. If the greens begin to stick to the bottom, add a bit of water.

Remove from heat. Add salt and stir to combine. More salt (and lemon juice if desired) may be added to taste.

[Adapted from My Spiced Life]

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Yummy Sweet Potato Fries

We had these tasty fries again tonight and they were wonderful. I made them two weeks ago and ate all of them by myself, so I went ahead and doubled the recipe tonight. The kids love them. They aren't overly sweet, but have very nice flavor. If you like your fries crispy, be sure to cut them thin, and if you like them a little squishy, make them chunky. Enjoy!

Oven Baked Sweet Potato Fries
serves 4-6

1 - 1 1/2 lb sweet potatoes
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil (preferably the easy release kind).

Peal the sweet potatoes. Cut into strips that are about 1/2 inch wide on each side.

Place the sweet potatoes into a sealable plastic bag. Add oil, salt, paprika and cinnamon. Seal the bag and shake well to thoroughly coat the fries. Spread the potatoes out onto the baking sheet in a single layer.

Cook for 30 minutes, turning every 10 minutes. Transfer immediately to a paper towel lined plate and serve warm.

Vegetable Exposure

I was never really exposed to a variety of vegetables as a child. We usually ate the traditional canned green beans, peas and carrots, and mixed vegetables. We’d have corn on the cob when it was in season, potatoes and carrots with a roast, and a bagged salad from time to time. I just don’t really remember having a wide offering of vegetables on the dinner table.

As an example, I don't remember ever really having sweet potatoes. I believe my first encounter with sweet potatoes was Thanksgiving 1988 when a close family friend made sweet potato casserole (you know, the one with the marshmallows on top) for our first Thanksgiving getaway to a cabin in North Carolina. They were orange and scary looking. I’m not sure if I even tried a bite.

It wasn’t until adulthood when one of my sisters mentioned having a sweet potato at a restaurant as a substitution for a regular baked potato did the thought of sweet potatoes intrigue me. I didn’t realize that substitution was a possibility, nor how it would taste, so I decided that I should go ahead and give them a try. Well golly gee, they were pretty darn tasty. Why hadn’t I ever experienced that yummy-ness before? It was settled, sweet potatoes would be a semi-regular part of my diet.

To be honest, sweet potatoes still had to be dressed up pretty heavily in order to be “tasty” in my book for a long time. Sweet potatoes and marshmallows were supposed to be paired like peas and carrots, weren’t they? Now that I am older and wiser I can tell you…no.

Hoping to break the cycle, my kids have had a considerable amount of exposure to vegetables of all shapes and colors. I do have to admit that we renamed carrot soufflĂ© "orange soufflĂ©" so that the kids would try it, but now that they are hooked, they have all been let in on my little secret. They each have their favorite vegetables and squirm a bit when they see certain vegetables on their plates, but each is a good sport and tries my new vegetable concoctions (wish I could say the same for Justin). They all know that if they give me constructive criticism (not, “yuck, Mom! That sucks!”), then I can adjust recipes (or chuck them if they really do suck) accordingly to meet most everyone’s needs (again, Justin can be hard to please sometimes…can you say “MEAT AND POTATOES!”).

I have started to take the kids with me to the farmer’s market each week to look at and purchase vegetables from local farmers. Two weeks ago we bought some collard greens to try as a family. To be honest, I had never had collards before (forgive me, my parents grew up in the mid-west), and was interested in trying them. I searched online for a recipe and tried it out. It was a success in my book. Everyone tried them and Justin actually loved them. The kids weren’t big fans, but as their exposure increases and they try a little each time I make collards, I’m sure that they will start to grow on them as well. I’m excited to see what the farmers will have in stock on Saturday for us to try.

I think getting up close and personal with our food is important. That is one reason why I asked the kids what they wanted to grow in our garden this year. I figure if they have a say in what we are growing, then hopefully they will be more inclined to help with the cultivation and ultimately in the consumption of the “fruits” of their labor. Just today, after making creamy potato soup with broccoli, I was asked if I was sure I had ordered broccoli and potatoes for our garden. When I answered in the affirmative, there were cheers all around the table.

My suggestions for exposing children to new vegetables is to do just that, expose the kids to new vegetables. Don’t overwhelm them, mind you, but a spoon full of squash in conjunction with another vegetable that they do like is a great way to give the new vegetable some face time. I always have our trusty standby, lettuce, on hand just in case. If my new vegetable concoction doesn’t go over well, I quickly fill in with a lettuce salad. I have one that loves salad by itself, one that likes to have a small amount of dressing on the side so that they can dip their salad, and one that doesn’t really care for salad, but when presented with a scary vegetable concoction, will douse a salad in ranch dressing and call it a day. A child who never encounters zucchini, will more than likely turn their nose up at it without trying it when they are older, but if they are exposed to it when they are young, there is a possibility that if they don’t immediately fall in love with it, that it might grow on them over time. At least with repeated exposure, the child, and ultimately the adult, will be able to say how they like (or don’t like) a certain vegetable prepared (raw, steamed, baked, grilled, etc.).

The My Pyramid website has a lot of great information about the “newer” designed food pyramid. It looks dramatically different than it did when I was a kid. If you haven’t seen it lately, you may want to pop over and give it a look-see. The site has some helpful tips as well as a My Pyramid Plan to personalize the pyramid for yourself and/or your kids to see exactly what types and how many servings of each food group should be consumed.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Seed Orders are In

I finally got around to ordering the seeds for my garden. I’m probably a little late considering we live in Florida and the weather seems to be making the shift toward spring. I am also delinquent in planning my garden design, building fencing, and getting my tilling done. If the weather holds, I will be getting my hands dirty this weekend for sure. I did find a garden planning website that looks promising. Plangarden.com has a 45-day free trial, so I think I might give them a try and see if it works for me.

I ordered seeds and live plants from two different companies. I’ve never ordered seeds online before. In the past, I have just grabbed some seeds when we were at a home improvement store and threw them in the ground. I have had fairly good luck with my generic seeds, but since we are making adjustments in other areas of our lives in order to be more health and eco-conscious, I decided it was time to spring for something a little different.

As I learn more about homesteading, becoming self-sustaining, improving our nutrition, and eco-friendly practices, I am realizing the importance of growing food to sustain my family nutritionally and financially, as well as ensuring that my gardening is having a positive impact on the environment.

Buying organic is important to me not only for the nutritional value of the organic food, but also the way in which the food is grown. There is some great information on sustainable agriculture and organic farming on the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service website. We buy organic products to reduce the amount of pesticides being used, support non-GMO crops, and encourage the growth of the local farming community.

Because our garden is in the start-up phases this year due to our move, we have decided to participate in our local Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program offered by one of the local farmers. His produce will help to supplement the veggies and fruits we will have in our garden this year. We are also currently purchasing eggs from this local farmer and will have chicken this spring and turkey in the fall. Supporting the local famers is important to our family, so we will be making a trip to the Farmer’s Market on Saturday to see what is available.

It should be no surprise that the seeds I ordered are organic, open-pollinated, and in many cases heirloom. I am excited about their arrival and know that I need to get a move on so that I’m ready to plant not long after they arrive.

Here is the list of seeds (by company) that I ordered. I’m looking forward to trying out some new varieties (Hopi Blue Flour Corn, for instance) and getting back in touch with some old favorites (Blue Lake Bush Green Beans).

Wish us luck!

Seeds of Change

Heirloom Acres Seeds
Black Turtle Bean
Small Reds Bean
Black Eyed Pea
Sunflower, Mammoth Gray Striped
Blue Lake Bush Green Bean
Green Sprouting Broccoli
RedCore Chanteney Carrot
Paris White Cos Romaine Lettuce
Buttercrunch Head Lettuce
Evergreen White Bunching Oregon
Sugar Pod Snow Pea
California Wonder Pepper
Jalapeno Pepper
Long Red Cayenne Pepper
Bloomsdale Long Standing Spinach
Sugar Baby Watermelon
Tall Utah Celery

Live Plants-
Inchelium Red (garlic)
Yukon Gold Potato
Bay, SweetDill Plant
Basil, Genovese
Chives, Onion
Parsley, Flat
Rosemary, Arp
Sage, Broadleaf
Oregano, Greek
Tarragon, French
Thyme, English

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Do You Freecycle?

What is Freecycle you ask?

Freecycle is a network of people who give things to others (for free) that they might otherwise toss into the landfill when no longer needed, though those things might still have some usefulness left in it. Items that you have outgrown or no longer love, but have not worn out or worn through, are all acceptable offers on Freecycle. No, those holey shoes your son wore through wouldn’t be a good thing to give through Freecycle. But that cool mist vaporizer you have sitting in the garage would.

The mission of Freecycle is “to build a worldwide gifting movement that reduces waste, saves precious resources & eases the burden on our landfills while enabling our members to benefit from the strength of a larger community.”

To get involved with the Freecycle network, check out their website. It is a great feeling to know that the Freecycle network is available throughout the country and across the world.

We recently Freecycled a VCR, two fake-leather folding chairs, and a vacuum that needed a new plug. I was in need of a carpet shampooer and asked if anyone had one they were looking to get rid of. A few hours later a woman posted that she did and would leave it on her porch for me.

Freecycle is a great way to keep useful things out of the landfill, save some money, and help out others in the community that might be in need of something you are ready to get rid of. I have another pile of things in the garage just waiting for me to post to my local Freecycle list. I hope that they will be useful to someone else and continue to be utilized.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Helping With the Filing

A large breed puppy’s idea of helping with the filing.

True Mentorship Becomes a Reality

Jake had his first opportunity to do some woodworking with Sir. He spent several hours learning about the tools, different types of joints, and how to use several different machines. Sir picked a project that could be completed in one sitting so that Jake would have a product to take home with him. Jake made a beautiful ornament that hangs from a stand (I’ll post a photo tomorrow). I’m hoping that Sir won’t mind Jake coming over every other week to learn more. Jake had such a great time. Sir gave him a book to look through so that he can choose his next project.

At the beginning of the “school” year, Jake mentioned that he wanted to learn about woodworking. I am so thankful that Sir offered to teach him a skill that neither Justin nor I have. I look forward to watching Jakob and Sir’s relationship grow. This mentoring relationship is just what Jake needs to help mold him as he is quickly growing into a young man.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Proof is in the Photos

Congratulations, Jolie!