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Wednesday, November 24, 2010


I was surprised to hear the forecast of a freeze this week. It is even earlier than last year's unusual snowfall in early December. I hope this isn't an indicator of the Winter yet to come.

We did take precautions to protect the citrus and avocado trees. It's a stretch the say that we put our Christmas lights up early, but it does add a festive air to the yard.
The view out the window this morning was filled with frost. The zinnias were edged with sparkly crystals. The thyme and sage also made an impressive showing. Even the little succulents had a light coating.

Today's goal: stay warm

2010 Mandarin Crop

This is our complete harvest for this year (minus 3 that we already ate). It is a decent improvement over the 13 we had last year. We were hoping to leave them on the trees to fully ripen, but we are having a freeze over the next couple of days, so I picked them all yesterday afternoon. This morning, here is what I saw when I woke up:

Apparently, even the green ones were tasty.

Monday, November 15, 2010

My First Sampler Quilt

First, I need to start out with a little history. My husband gave me a sewing machine for Christmas in 2006. I had never used one before, so I started out slowly with a simple patchwork rag quilt. Over the course of that first year I made a total of 5 quilts:

In 2008, I made another baby quilt and a few other small projects. We moved to Loomis this year, so sewing took a backseat to other activities.

In 2009, I did not make any quilts. Being the first full year in our new home, I spent a lot of time on other projects.

At some point over the course of this 3 year period, I came across this sampler quilt. It was for Debbie Mumm's 20th Anniversary. I had bought and cut all the fabric, but had only managed to assemble three of the blocks. This summer, I decided to pull it out and finish it. Here is the finished product:

Each block is 12.5 inches with the log cabin style strips bordering two sides of each block. Here are close-ups of a couple of blocks. I tried some freehand machine quilting as you can see on the left borders.

Overall, I am very pleased with this quilt. It is the most challenging I have completed thus far and I was able to learn some new techniques. I am already planning my next one!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

More trees

My dear husband has officially become a tree-aholic. Over the last month he has purchased the following trees (granted some were to replace ones that didn't make it through last winter):

5 Olive
2 Asian pear
2 Peach
2 Cherry
1 Fig
1 Pomegranate

These combined with the original orchard and Mandarin grove, brings our total tree count to nearly 50 since we moved here in August 2008. I am glad we like fruit.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Oven Baked Potatoes

Now that the weather is finally cooling off, my thoughts are turning to more Autumn and Winter-like foods. Baked potatoes are not something we commonly have, but the potatoes looked tasty when I was shopping last week, so I picked some up. I searched around for a recipe and found one that was simple enough. However, the final ingredient was salt which would require a substitute. I decided to use onion powder and granulated garlic.

medium baking potatoes
olive oil
onion powder
granulated garlic

  1. Wash the potatoes well with a vegetable brush and let dry (keep the skin on).
  2. Stab the potatoes 4-5 times with the tines of a fork to crate holes for the steam to escape.
  3. Drizzle a small amount of olive oil on the dry potato and use your hand to coat the entire outside.
  4. Sprinkle the onion powder and garlic around the outside of the potato and set aside
  5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 until all the potatoes are coated and seasoned.
  6. Bake in a 350 degree F oven for 1-1.5 hours or until the potatoes are soft.

We at the potatoes with Kefir Labne Cheese instead of sour cream. My husband, who isn't a fan of potatoes, said they were the best baked potatoes he had ever had. This recipe is definitely a keeper after that comment.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Very Berry Cake

I made this cake last weekend after my husband requested a cake with fruit. It is a simple yellow cake recipe with frozen berries added to the batter.

1 yellow cake mix for a large cake (used only 1 cup of sugar)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup butter, softened
3 eggs
1-2 cups frozen berries (I used a mixture of blueberries, raspberries, blackberries)

1. Mix all the ingredients except berries in a bowl. An electric mixer was useful for this step.
2. Once the batter is smooth, gently stir in the berries until evenly distributed.
3. Pour batter into a cake pan prepared with butter and flour.
4. Bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes for a bundt pan. Other shaped pans would likely take less time. The cake is done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
5. Turn cake onto a plate and let cool.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Mujadara with Cilantro

Earlier this year, I posted a recipe for an onion, lentil, and rice pilaf. I had stored some in the freezer and pulled it out a couple of weeks ago. Wow! It was still super tasty even after being frozen for several months. I decided to make a fresh batch.

The recipe is slightly altered from the last go around. Specifically, I cut out some of the hands on cooking time and added fresh cilantro to the end product.

6 medium onions, caramelized
1/2 medium onion, fresh
2 cups lentils
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
7 cups water
2 cups brown rice
2 teaspoons ground cumin
Olive oil
1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped

1. Caramelize the onions using the slow cooker. This can be done in advance and the onions can be stored in the refrigerator until ready to use.

2. Slice the fresh onion half into half-moon shapes.

3. Sauté the onion in some olive oil until it softens and turns brown.

4. Add the lentils, pepper, and water to the pot and bring it to a boil.

5. Once it reaches a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

6. Add the rice and cumin. Simmer for an additional 45 minutes (brown rice takes longer to cook. White rice would be done in 20 minutes).

7. After the rice is cooked, stir in the caramelized onions and chopped cilantro.

The cilantro adds a freshness to the dish and really complements the cumin flavor.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Slow Cooker Caramelized Onions

I have come across several recipes that call for caramelized onions. After thinking to myself that there must be a easier way than standing over a saute pan for an hour, I did a quick search. I was pleasantly surprised to find that there are many websites that highlight caramelizing onions using a slow cooker. I instantly knew I had to try it out.

The process I used is simple:

1. Drizzle olive oil on the bottom of the slow cooker.
2. Add onions (can be sliced, quartered, halved, or whole).
3. Drizzle with olive oil on top.
4. Cook on low for 12-15 hours (overnight works well).
You may want to stir once or twice to make sure the onions don't stick.

The result is a pot full of beautiful onions ready to be used in your favorite dish.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Low Sodium Chex Mix

This is a nice alternative to the original snack mix for folks trying to watch their salt intake.

3 cups Corn Chex (330 cal, 840 mg)
3 cups Wheat Chex (640 cal, 1360 mg)
3 cups Rice Chex (300 cal, 720 mg)
1 cup Mixed Nuts (340 cal, 200 mg)
1/4 stick unsalted butter (200 cal, 0 mg)
1/4 cup olive oil (480 cal, 0 mg)
2 Tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce (0 cal, 360 mg)
6 dashes (to 12 Dashes) Tabasco Sauce (0 cal, 0 mg)
1 teaspoon No-Salt Seasoning Mix (0 cal, 0 mg)
¼ teaspoons Onion Powder (0 cal, 0 mg)
4 cloves mashed garlic (0 cal, 0 mg)

1. Add butter, Worcestershire, Tabasco, seasoning mix, onion powder, and garlic to a bowl and microwave until the butter is melted.

2. Mix in olive oil.

3. Add remaining ingredients to a bowl and mix.

4. Pour the butter mixture over the dry ingredients and stir to mix.

5. Evenly spread the mix on a baking sheet and drizzle with a little more olive oil.

6. Bake at 250 degrees F for 1 hour 15 minutes. Stir every 15 minutes.

7. Cool and store in an airtight container.

Nutrition Info
Servings: 24
Serving size: 1/2 cup
Calories per serving: 100
Sodium per serving: 145

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Ginger Spiced Pancakes

Even though I have been pretty lazy lately, I did find the energy to try out a new pancake recipe. I found inspiration a few places around the web to come up with this recipe.

1 cup baking mix
1 cup non-fat milk
1 egg
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla

1. Mix all the ingredients in a bowl or pitcher.
2. Pour into a lightly greased skillet and cook until bubbles appear
3. Flip and cook for another minute or two. I usually peek and see if it has turned brown.
4. Serve hot. Makes 4-6 pancakes.

I served these pancakes with a little Smart Balance and some maple syrup. They were a little different from you typical pancake, but had a nice spice flavor that wasn't too overpowering.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Lazy Summer Days

Ok, I admit it. I have been a little lazy with posting lately. It has been too hot to do much cooking or much of anything else for that matter. Even the chickens are being lazy. I have been working on an indoor project that I hope to post about shortly. In the meantime, try to stay cool.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - July 2010

Welcome to July 2010! Similar to last year, our vegetable garden is where most the bloom action is taking place.
The Sugar Pie Pumpkins are just starting to flower. I planted them six weeks later this year so I don't harvest another bumper crop in August.

The Burpless Cucumber has been blooming continuously for the last couple of weeks. I even harvested two cucumbers the other day.

These Autumn Beauty sunflowers are the crowning glory of the garden. The first ones just opened up last week and there are several more almost open.

Lastly, we have these lovely Chrysanthemums blooming out back. They are nestled in a patch of mint and seem to be doing well.

Crock Pot Baked Beans

On the 4th of July we had a barbecue and I made some vegetarian baked beans. I wanted to avoid the oven since it was 100+ degrees that day. I found this recipe, which I used an inspiration for these beans.


1 head garlic, roughly chopped
1 red onion, diced
1 pound white beans, pre-soaked
1 wax pepper, diced
2 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
5 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1-2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1-2 tablespoons honey
3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon ground mustard
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin


  1. Using a larger size crock pot (~ 5 quarts), add all the above ingredients and mix well.
  2. Add enough water to cover the beans plus about 1 inch
  3. Set the crock pot on LOW and cook for 6-8 hours or until tender.
  4. Check to make sure there is enough water, if they look dry, add some more.

These beans were a nice side dish for our 4th of July meal and made a tasty lunch for me the rest of the week.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Clothespin Apron

We don't use a dryer for our clothes. We hang them on an umbrella clothesline (2 in fact!). One of the challenges I have faced when hanging the laundry is trying to line up the clothes with the pins that are already on the line. Of course, I am trying to maximize the clothesline utilization so this is a critical activity. After nearly 2 years of this method, I decided to make a clothespin apron.

Using the leg from an old pair of jeans and some leftover curtain fabric, I created this apron. It is similar to the half-apron design I made a couple of years ago. My apron is based on the one featured here. I have been using it for about 2 weeks and so far it has worked out well. It should also make the clothespins last longer since they are not exposed to the elements 100% of the time.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Homemade Automatic Chicken Waterer

We have improved on our original design to create an automated chicken waterer. It could also be used for dogs and cats too! We were able to purchase all the necessary parts at our local hardware store (Home Depot in this case).

Parts needed
  1. Toilet fill valve
  2. Universal toilet connector kit (has several size adaptors including 1/2")
  3. 1/2" FIP (female pipe) to 3/4" FH (female hose) swivel hose adaptor
  4. 1/2" brass pipe nipple
  5. Plastic pot or bucket at desired height for drinking
  6. Teflon plumbing tape


  1. Drill a hole in the bottom of the plastic pot using a 1" Speedbor drill bit.
  2. Insert the toilet fill valve through the hole. Attach the plastic nut that comes with the valve on the outside of the pot.
  3. Attach the Universal connector kit to the valve using the 1/2" adaptor. (see Figure 1)
  4. Apply Teflon tape to both ends of the brass nipple (male to male).
  5. At the other end of the connector kit, insert the taped nipple (to prevent leaking)
  6. Lastly, attach the 1/2" to 3/4" female pipe to hose thread adaptor. (see Figure 2)

Figure 1

Figure 2

Since the hose is coming out the bottom of the pot, we dug a small hole in the ground to allow space for the hose to lay flat. We also used some bricks to help level the pot. Screw your garden hose onto the end of the waterer and turn it on. It should fill to the height set on the valve. As the water level lowers, the valve will automatically engage and refill the pot.

Our First Squash

This little beauty has been ready to pick for several days. I finally remembered to grab a knife from the kitchen on my way out to the garden. It is recommended that squash be cut at the stems instead of just pulling it off the vine. This is my first time growing this type of scalloped squash called "Peter Pan." I am not sure what I am going to do with it, so for now it will be sitting on our counter looking cute.

Cinnamon French Toast

On Saturday, I made French Toast for breakfast. I has been ages since I have made it, but it turned out just as easy and tasty as I remembered.

sliced bread (whole wheat store bought)

1. Beat the eggs with a splash of milk in a bowl. I used 3 eggs and about 1/2 cup milk.
2. Add a generous amount of cinnamon. I put so much in that I had to stir a lot to mix it in.
3. Place a slice of bread in the egg/milk/cinnamon mixture until it is moistened. Flip over and repeat on the other side.
4. Set the coated slice of bread in a heated frying pan. I used a mist of olive oil spray on mine to keep it from sticking.
5. After cooking one side for a minute or two, flip the bread and cook the other.
6. Repeat the process until the egg/milk/cinnamon mixture is used up.

This recipe yielded 6 slices of French Toast using these quantities of eggs and milk. I spread some Smart Balance, sprinkled with powdered sugar, drizzled with maple syrup, and served. Yum!!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Green Eggs and White Eggs

Today, both of the California White chickens laid their first eggs at only 18 weeks and 4 days old. Compared to the larger greenish eggs that Brown Chicken lays, they are the cutest little white eggs. We are hoping that they will get bigger once the chickens start laying regularly. They also still need some training on where to lay, but overall we are quite pleased.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

"No Salt" Seasoning Mix

This past weekend I made a recipe that called for Lawry's Seasoned Salt. Since anything with salt in the name is pretty much taboo around here, I took a stab at creating my own. There are several variations of the original, but all were high in sodium. This is a low (no) sodium version of the original.

1 tablespoon black pepper
1/2 tablespoon garlic powder
1/2 tablespoon Italian seasoning
1/2 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon curry powder
1/4 teaspoon turmeric

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and store in an empty spice container. These quantities make about 3 tablespoons or 1 ounce of seasoning mix.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Spring Greens Frittata

Even though we are officially into Summer now, I wanted to make sure I captured this dish I made late last month. I purchased a box of organic mixed veggies and wasn't quite sure what to make. We happened to have a decent stockpile of fresh eggs, so I decided I would combine the two.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large green onion
2 cloves minced garlic
2 cups spring greens (this was a combination of kale, chard, broccoli, turnip greens, and some other stuff)
1 diced wax pepper (I used a frozen one from last summer's garden)
ground pepper
5 eggs
fresh thyme or other herbs

1. Slice the onion (including the whites) and saute it with the garlic in the olive oil. I used a 10 inch frying pan.
2. Roughly chop the spring greens and add to the onion and garlic. Saute until soft
3. Beat the 5 eggs in a separate bowl then pour over the vegetables. I added pepper at this point for some spice.
4. Flatten the greens and make sure the eggs are covering them.
5. Sprinkle the fresh thyme and some more pepper on top.
6. Bake at 375 degrees F for 10 minutes or until set.

This was a quick and easy dinner on a weeknight. It could also be served for breakfast or a brunch as a great vegetarian side.

Monday, June 21, 2010


That was a sound heard repeatedly this morning as we enjoyed our first harvest of blueberries. We planted the bushes last year and the few berries we yielded were snatched by my husband before they were ripe. What a great way to start the week, freshly picked blueberries. Yum!!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Our New and Improved Coop

Wednesday was another moving day for our flock. We have been building this new coop in our limited spare time for the last couple of months. It is not completely finished, but is secure enough to house the chickens. We proceeded to snatch the chickens at dusk and place them in the coop. Here is how we found them yesterday morning:

Later in the day, I checked and saw that they were making use of the roosts I installed.
They are still "cooped up" today. We are trying to have them learn where home is so they come back to sleep here in the future.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

They're coming...

During a garden inspection earlier this week, I happily noticed that there are little tomatoes out there. They are the Sun Gold cherry type. I am excited for them to ripen, but am a little torn. The typical hot weather that allows the tomatoes to thrive has not yet arrived and I am not sure I am missing it.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Sweet and Tangy Coleslaw

I was looking for a dairy-free coleslaw and found an assortment of recipes out on the web. Ultimately, I pulled from several recipes to create this version.

Slaw Ingredients
1 head green cabbage, sliced into narrow strips
1 yellow onion, diced
1 Granny Smith apple, finely diced

Dressing Ingredients
1 cup olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons celery seed
1 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
4 tablespoons sugar
6 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon dry mustard
1 tablespoon garlic powder

1. Mix the cabbage, onion, and apple to form the slaw.
2. Whisk together the dressing ingredients and pour over the slaw mixture.
4. Let marinate overnight and serve.

This coleslaw was great as a side dish or served on top of a tri-tip slider. It stored in the refrigerator for a week and was still tasty.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Lemon Yogurt Cake

For Mother's Day last year, I made a tasty lemon cake. I didn't want to make the exact same recipe again this year, so I found an alternate that was just as tasty. This recipe was adapted from this adaptation.

1 cup whole milk plain unsweetened yogurt
1/3 cup olive oil
1 cup sugar
zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cup lemon juice (I used a Meyer lemon from our tree)
2 eggs
1 2/3 cup flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder (the no sodium kind)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour your pan. I used Baker's Joy sprayed into my new Bundt Pan.
2. Mix all the wet ingredients in a bowl.
3. Sift the dry ingredients into the wet ones.
4. Stir until just combined.
5. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick poked in the center comes out clean.

After letting it cool and turning it out onto a cake stand, I sprinkled it with some powdered sugar to dress it up a bit. The cake was wonderfully moist and light, even on the second day. Next time, I may add some Grand Marnier for an extra citrus kick.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Free Ranging

The newest batch of chicks explored the backyard for the first time on Friday. We were out in the yard and I decided to let them out so we could monitor the introduction between the two generations. White Chicken had been chasing the chicks through the fence for a while, so given the opportunity to actually make progress, she caused some commotion. She was able to get a few pecks in before the new chicks realized they could outrun/outfly her.

Today, was the third day of letting them out of the PVC run. The California Whites are quite adventurous and are always the first two out the fence. A couple of the Golden Laced Wyandottes and one of the Buffs seem to always hang back in the pen. They appear to be more timid than the others.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Hot food on a stormy day...

That sounds like a title one would expect to read in January. But check the calendar, we are nearing the end of May and still having weather that is impersonating Winter. The high here today was 65 degrees F. It has been raining most the day (for the 3rd day in a row!). On the other side of the coin, the hot food. I had all the ingredients on hand to make Mujadara and now there is a steaming pot full of it on the stove. Garnished with a spoonful of plain yogurt, I am thoroughly enjoying my bowl.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Banana Muffins with add-ins

During March, I was on a muffin kick. I was making muffins several times a week. It started with a request for healthy cranberry orange muffins and evolved to many combinations. Many of the combinations are banana based. This was intentional because by using ripe bananas I could eliminate the added sugar. If the bananas were especially ripe, their natural sweetness was just right. Here are few of the banana based muffin combinations I have made.

Basic recipe:
2 ripe bananas (about 1 cup mashed)
1 egg
1/3 cup milk
2 tablespoons oil

Mix all the ingredients together until moistened. There will be some lumps, this is okay. Bake at 400 degrees F for 15-18 minutes. Now for the fun part.

Banana Pecan - add 1/2 to 1 cup chopped pecans (or other nut of your choice)

Banana Pecan Oatmeal - same as Banana Pecan, but with 1/2 cup old fashioned oats and some extra milk to moisten.

Banana Chocolate Chip - add 1/4 cups chocolate chips (or more if you want)

Almond Banana - add 1 cup sliced almonds. I was accused of being stingy with the nuts in my recipe, so this was to make sure my dear husband had enough nuts in his muffin. (1/2 cup would probably work too).

Friday, May 21, 2010

Double Chocolate Cocoa Brownies

Way back in March, I wanted to make some brownies. I didn't want to make a special trip to the store so I looked for a recipe that called for ingredients that I had on hand. I came across this recipe at Smitten Kitchen and it looked like just what I had in mind.

I made the brownies and they ended up more like fudge; sort of soft and not very brownie like. None of the fudge/brownies went to waste as they were still good enough to eat. Bonus was that my hubby didn't like them so I got them all.

For Mother's Day I decided to try again. The key change I made from the first round was to extend the baking time and add the chocolate chips.

10 tablespoons butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup + 2 Tablespoons Cocoa
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. Add butter, sugar, and cocoa to a microwave safe bowl.
2. Heat mixture at 30 second intervals and stir. Continue until butter is melted and combined with sugar and cocoa. It looks sort of grainy.
3. Add the vanilla and stir.
4. Add eggs one at a time, mixing in the first before adding the second.
5. Fold in the chocolate chips and pour into an 8x8 inch parchment lined pan. The parchment makes it really easy to remove and clean up.
6. Bake at 325 degrees F for 45 minutes.
7. Let cool before cutting into squares. Per the original recipe, it really helps to chill the brownies in the refrigerator before cutting.


Thursday, May 20, 2010

Giant Chickens Invade Loomis!

Not exactly, but the the chicks are getting huge. I had to add a second roost in their house because they didn't all fit. They have changed so much over the 12 weeks since we brought them home. Soon we will have a surprise for them, even if it means having to bunk with White Chicken.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Vegetable Garden 2010

This Spring has been really busy for me. I spent several nights last week pulling weeds to clear the rows from the garden plot. The seed starting efforts this year were also impacted by my lack of time. I was able to grow one flat of seedlings. The second one didn't make it. I decided to supplement my homegrown seedlings with store bought ones in order to fill out the garden. I took a trip to Eisley's Nursery on Saturday morning and planted on Sunday.

Compared to last year's garden, there are some notable differences. The first is the quantity of pepper plants. I told my husband that this was going to be the "Year of the Pepper" and I wasn't kidding. There are about 70 pepper plants in plan. Some are the same varieties as last summer, some are new. I am excited for both.

We also have tomatoes (of course!) and I am trying out the Three Sisters Garden approach with corn, beans, and pumpkins. So far, I am optimistic because it has rained 2 of the last 3 days and the seedlings are off to a good start. I'll keep you posted on the progress.
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