Thursday, March 15, 2012

My 'GreenHouse'

Once you have decided what to plant, how many, and when....then it's time to get to starting your starts.  In the event you are not wealthy with a large yard can't afford a green house or don't have the space for it, a south facing window is as good a place as any to start your seeds.

I prefer a method which can be duplicated without expensive equipment, tons of space or electricity.

I made a make-shift green house out of clear sterlite under-the-bed boxes which I got at the local Wal-Mart.
I used paper egg cartons for the tray.  The seeds that make it will grow into the egg carton, but we can just tear or cut the egg cups apart later when we re-plant the seedlings.  We will re-plant the whole cup section into larger pots.

I drilled a hole in the edge of two boxes to make the top and bottom. Threaded a small bolt through the whole in the bottom box, secured it with a nut and can now set the top box on the bolts sticking out of the bottom box to complete my 'greenhouse'. 

(Sorry about the blur, couldn't get the camera to focus on the shiny bolt.)

This allows me to have a deep bottom which will hold the water for the seeds and a tall top which allows plenty of room for any seedlings without fear of the top sliding off and smashing the delicate little plants.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Canned Bacon II

I opened up a jar of our canned bacon
The bacon was soft and very fragile.  It didn't look as if it was cooked, it still looked almost raw. 

The process was fairly messy to open the jar.  The grease was EVERYWHERE.

I fried it up anyways.  It was so fragile that many pieces were broken in half.  Thats ok.  The better to fit my sandwich, my pretty bacon.

The bacon tasted amazing.  All the rest doesn't even matter when the finished product is this fantastic.

It may not be the prettiest thing, but the smell and flavor was heavenly.  I'm going to be eating fresh BLT's in my food storage.  What will you be eating?

Friday, February 24, 2012

Canned Bacon

Canned Bacon.  Yum!
My food storage plan involves having bacon for breakfast.  What's in your food storage?

Step by step, here is how it is done.

You need approx. 1 pound of bacon per quart size, wide mouth jar.

I started by weighing the bacon, then after I got a feel for how much was a pound, I just kept it in the slice range so I could move faster.  For the thick slice bacon I was using, a pound was 10-11 slices.

Lay the bacon nicely across one edge of the parchment paper.  (Do not use wax.  You don't want the wax being melted into your bacon!)

Fold the parchment paper, and use an extra piece if necessary so that the bottom half of the bacon is covered.

This was one of the first ones I did.  I found that I only needed about a fourth of a piece to make up the difference.  The first ones I used a full half sheet and then a third. 

Fold the top half of the bacon over so that it lays on top of the parchment covered bottom half.  Then roll the whole thing as tightly as you can.  It needs to be skinny enough to slide into the jar.

Slide the whole thing into the jar.  I find the folded side down goes in easier than the other way.

Clean the rim, add a boiled lid and ring.  Process at 10 pounds for 90 minutes.

The one in front is cooler than the ones behind.  You can see the bacon broth on the bottom and the fats on top.  Once they cool, they turn a white color but before that it looks like water on top. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Whole Wheat Double Chocolate Cookies

I love whole wheat and I love cookies.  I was having a hard time loving whole wheat cookies though, until this recipe.  If this is what every 'gateway recipe' tasted like, there would be no excuse to not change your lifestyle to something healthier and use your food storage at the same time!

1/2 c. Butter Powder
1/2 c. White Sugar
1/2 c. Brown Sugar
1 Tbs Egg Powder
1 tsp Vanilla Powder
1 1/2 c. WHOLE WHEAT Flour
1/4 c. Cocoa
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Salt
3/4 c. Water
1/2 c. Milk Chocolate Chips
1/2 c. Semi Sweet Chocolate Chips

Mix all the dry together.  Add the water and stir until well moistened.  Stir in chocolate chips and scoop onto greased cookie sheet.  Bake at 350ยบ for 10-12 minutes.

This would make a lovely 'jar gift' or treat in a bag to give at christmas time.  Just play with the layers a little and see what looks pretty.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Planting Schedule

Hopefully by now you know what you are growing this year and which items you will start from seed yourself.

If you want somebody else to do the scheduling for you, visit the sproutrobot.

If you want to create it yourself, here are step by step instructions.

First you need a calendar and to know what your frost free date is.

You can either use a wall calendar, create your own from an email program or word or excel, or get one off the internet.  I would recommend either the one or two month per 8.5x11 page.  Print all the months from Jan till June.

Mark on your calendar any significant events that you need to plan your planting around, times you will be traveling or so busy you are not taking the 30 minutes to throw some seeds in little cups.  Maybe the week of your child's High School graduation would not be a good time to plant those last starts or to bring in a load of mulch.  Next mark your frost free date.  You can find it here.

Next you need to determine how many weeks BEFORE the frost free date to put the seeds in the planters so that they reach the appropriate size about the same time the outdoors reaches the appropriate temperature.  You can read the back of the seed envelope, which is the best option because sometimes it will give information specific to that variety, like 'sow shallow' and it will tell the days to germination which helps you know when to re-plant any that didn't grow.  If there is no or only limited info on the back of the seed packet, search it on the internet or check out this document.  It has some great information and page 4 has a graph which tells how many weeks to transplant which is typically the same as how many weeks before the frost free date to plant your seeds.  You can also get similar information off the Almanac page.

For Example, if:

My Frost Free Date is May 22nd. 

Broccoli is transplanted at 5-7 weeks from the soil being worked.  The soil can be worked usually a few weeks before the frost free date.  I count back 8 weeks (middle of 5-7 + 2) and pick a day I am available.  I will start my seeds on March 27th.

Tomatoes need to be transplanted 5-7 weeks from the frost free date.  This will not be adjusted for 'workable soil' since tomatoes need warmth and will still likely get the walls of water or something similar.  These seeds will be started on April 9th, six weeks (mid point of 5-7) from my frost free date.

Once you get these figured out, keep all your papers and notes.  This will help you to make adjustments for when to start your seedling and an easier crop rotation the next year.

One of my calendar months looks like this:

Another thing you need to consider is if you grow with grow lamps/lights, your plants will likely get bigger faster and if you grow with natural light in a window, they will take longer.  Plan for the type of situation you have.  Nobody can tell you exactly for fail proof and sure what will work perfectly for you.  You need to just jump in and try something.

I cannot say it enough:
When starting seeds, takes lots of notes.  This way you can make appropriate adjustments the next year.
If your plants reach transplant size 2 months early....start later.
If your plants do not reach transplant size....start earlier.
If your plants reach transplant size, but you want them bigger....start earlier.
There are a lot of "if" and a lot of adjustments you can make to correct them, but you have to remember what was what in order to do that and next year is a long time away.

Good luck and happy planting!!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Chili Chicken Hobo Stew

This soup is a concoction from Don.  Don is a fantastic cook with lots of crazy old time ways of putting things together.  In his soup, he used some diced jalapeno's in the saute stage, but was way too hot for my weak tastebuds.  So I left those out, and it's still delicious!


3 c. Bell Pepper, chopped
1 c. Onion, chopped
4 cans Diced Green Chili's (4 oz ea.)
1 pint Chicken Chunks (1 lb) with broth, shredded
4 c. Cooked Pinto Beans
1/4 c. Brown Rice, uncooked
6-8 c. Chicken Broth
2 tsp Chicken Bouillon
2 Tbs Garlic

Saute the Bell Pepper, Onion, and if desired some jalapenos in a large pot (6 qt).  Add all the rest of the ingredients and simmer until rice is done and the stew is warmed through. 

This is a great stew to keep warm on the stove for those hectic evenings when the whole family is not around at the same time, just add more water as needed.  Leftovers are as delicious as the original meal and the flavor is hearty and comforting.  This is a definite repeat for our family.

I am sure you can use a slow cooker and dry beans, just add more water to compensate. 
I will be re-making this meal with dry ingredients in the future and will post the amounts. 

Monday, January 16, 2012

Planning My Garden

So, two post ago I said to sketch your garden out.  Here is my garden to show you what I mean.

This year I am working two garden areas.  One is my vegetable garden, which I replant every year, the other is a new permanent garden.  (O.K.  The dirt patch has been there for like 10 yrs, but I finally got the retaining wall put in and my difficult shade plants figured out so I can plant this year.)

In my permanent garden bed, I drew it and then just wrote in what plants go where.  Some I will have to buy/order, some are already there and some will be planted/transplanted this spring.

I have places for elderberry bushes, lilac, various roses, wintergreen, dwarf dogwood, meadowsweet and I still have some open space that I havn't decided yet.  I am debating between herb robert, joe pye and figwort.

This has some pretty deep shade, and some moderate shade but nothing that qualifies as 'sun/lightshade' except the front corner which already has elderberry in it.  So many choices, so little ground. 

In my ever changing vegetable garden, I have one bed which has perennial plants, and the rest are blank.  I sectioned it off into square feet (since that's the type of bed I have, if yours is different you can try rows) so that I can determine how many of what plants I will put in.  I photo copy my blank garden so that I don't have to re-draw it every year.  If you are not using garden beds, don't forget walking space between rows!

I have 6- 4x8 and 3- 2x8 beds.  This is not the exact layout, but this is the quantity and sizes of beds I have.

Then I just have to decide how many of which plants to put in.
So this year, my garden will look like this

With this layout, I will have the following plants and quantities:
Potato - 16
Zucchini - 2
Yellow Crookneck - 2
Spaghetti Squash - 2
Hubbard - 2
Purple Cherokee Tomato - 4
Roma Tomato - 8
Carrot - 288 (approx)
Beet - 144 (approx)
Cabbage - 6
Brussel Sprout - 3 (experimental)
Pablano Pepper - 2
Bell Pepper - 4
Anaheim - 4
Jalapeno - 4
Habanero - 2

I will also companion plant to help with pest problems:
Nasturtiums - Inter-planted in the Squash
Icicle Radishes - Inter-planted in the Squash
Hyssop - Inter-planted in the Cabbage
Thyme - Inter-planted in the Cabbage

My Perennial herb bed has:
Coriander/Cilantro (Yes. They are the same plant.)
Anise Hyssop

Monday, January 9, 2012

Beef Stroganoff

A fantastic comfort food, and although similar to Beef Monterrey, it does have a different flavor and so I feel it is worth including as a separate meal.
I love that it is a one pan meal, makes clean up and prep much easier.  This would make a great meal in a bag.

Beef Stroganoff
Serves 4-5

1/2 c. Gravy Mix
3 T. Sour Cream Powder
1 tsp Beef Bouillon
1 1/2 tsp Dried Minced Onions
1/4 tsp Basil
1/4 tsp Thyme
1 1/2 tsp Parsley
3/4 tsp Garlic
1 can Mushrooms (7 oz can)
1/2 pt Beef
1 1/4 c. Macaroni
3 c. Water

Pick a 3 qt pan, any shape with a lid.  Whisk the gravy mix, sour cream powder and spices into half the water.  Add the mushrooms, with liquid (about 1/4 c. per can) the beef with any broth, the macaroni and the last 1 1/2 c. water.  Put the lid on and simmer until the pasta is cooked, about 15-20 minutes.

I added about 2 tsp of Worcestershire Sauce since this is something we keep in our food storage.  I will serve the meal with the bottle (Makes me sound like a lush, eh?) on the table for those who are bigger fans of it than I.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

It's Garden Time

It's January and even though here in Utah we havn't even had REAL snow yet, believe it or not, it is time to start planning the next garden!

The last few months are a necessary break from the garden for me.  Some people even garden through those months using cold frames but I prefer the break for now.  Maybe next year I will be ambitious and try some sort of season extender.

For now, lets go over the basics of planning our gardens:

Step 1:  Sketch your garden to scale on a piece of paper.  I prefer graph paper since it helps keep things squared up.  This is especially important if it's your first garden or if you recently made changes.  The only thing worse than not planning enough plants, is planning too many and they go to waste.

Step 2:  Determine which plants you will have this year.  Some people prefer to have basically the same garden every year (like my veggie garden) and some people shake it up.  It is frustrating to think you are going to have carrots and broccoli and squash and watermelon and pumpkin only to realize come spring that you only have room for a few of those things and not all.

Step 3. Pencil in the locations of each item you will grow.  This helps to know how many plants to start or seedling to buy later and it helps keep it in perspective so you don't buy a 6 pack and realize you only have room for 2.

Step 4. Get your starting kits, soil and seeds ready.  Inventory left overs from last year and make a list of new ones to buy.  Place your internet orders for plants and seeds so that they will arrive at the appropriate time and your favorites are not sold out.  Even if you go the grocery store seed route, you need to do this now since seeds will be hitting the shelves very soon.

Step 5. Don't forget you can double up on some areas, by planting an early crop and a late crop.  This is best done with plants that tend to bolt or die off during the heat of the summer and short season items like carrots and beets.

This year I plan to grow extras of my plants and sell some to the neighbors.  This means I need to be very organized so that I know exactly how many plants I am growing for sale.  I always like to have an extra in case of bad luck like stems snapping when the wind catches the almost empty tray I am transplanting from and turns it over or other silly things, but you don't want to buy or grow so many that there is substantial waste.

I will post again soon with suggestions for early/late crops and planting guides for starting your own seedlings.

Happy Garden Planning!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Ranch Dressing

Wonderful Ranch substitute.  Very tasty!


1/2 c. Buttermilk Powder
1 Tbs Parsley
1 tsp Dill Weed
1 1/2 tsp Onion Powder
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Garlic Powder
1/4 tsp Pepper

Mix 1-2 Tbs Ranch Seasoning into 1/2 c. Mayo and 1/2 c. Sour Cream.  For a slightly sweet version, use plain yogurt instead of sour cream or mayo.