Thanksgiving Menu–adding a couple of new dishes to the menu

I’ve been making Thanksgiving dinner since I was 18 years old. For my husband I’ve been making the same Thanksgiving meal almost 23 years. Several years back I decided not to try new dishes for the first time during holiday meal making, because if they don’t turn out then my stress level goes through the roof. Nothing worse than a dish that flopped and there are a minimum of10 hungry people at the table. Every year though I say to myself– “self, I should try something new this year”, but I never do. Until this year when I began prepping our Thanksgiving meal a few weeks in advance with a trial run of mashed cauliflower and a new dessert- pumpkin bundt cake with cream cheese frosting.

The recipes I chose worked great and both the cauliflower and pumpkin bundt cake turned out terrific.

I followed a recipe from Eating Well for Creamy Mashed Cauliflower.

Now, I don’t like garlic. Well, I used to, but I haven’t been able to tolerate it or onions for about five years now. No clue why?

Once my cauliflower was cooked, mashed and creamy I added butter, buttermilk, and nutmeg. Try Nutmeg– I promise you this will become your go to seasoning. It works well on cauliflower that has been steamed or boiled (just sprinkle a little over the top once done) and works great with green beans and brussel sprouts. Just make sure to have a bit of butter worked into the veggies and then lightly sprinkle with nutmeg. In place of butter, if you like, you can use any oil you would normally drizzle on veggies. I would find a good priced quality extra virgin olive oil if you are opposed to adding butter.

My menu looks something like this—

Roasted 16# Turkey
Mashed Potatoes
Mashed Cauliflower
Roasted Brussel Sprouts
Baked Squash drizzled with Maple Syrup
Gluten Free Stuffing
Homemade Parker House Rolls
Pumpkin Bundt Cake
Pecan Pie  

(I love King Arthur Flour recipes– their pecan pie recipe is a big hit everytime I make it)

Until next time Happy Thanksgiving!!!

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Tomato Tortellini Soup

I’ve needed this soup lately. This fall has been a bit trying. We live in an area that up until six months ago was fairly quiet. Suddenly construction started around us everywhere. There has been construction on the interstate that starts up at midnight and goes on until we get up. While I realize this is the only time some of these repairs can get done– we get no sleep during these times.  Most of the construction has involved machinery that digs down deep into the cement, tears it up, chews it up, and then a truck backs up (beep, beep, beep) and collects it. Then during the day, there is construction from 6am until 6pm right across the street. On the weekends the property manager for us has been trying to have the driveway and parking lot fixed, so you guessed it over a month now of construction right outside our door. My husband sleeps right through it, me not so much. Six months of this and I’ve reached my limit. Here’s hoping for finished construction projects and long cool nights of sleep in my future.

Here’s the recipe for the Tomato Tortellini Soup 

There is nothing better after a long day of work on little sleep than a good hearty tomato soup. You will love the Tomato Tortellini, it’s easy to make and yummy.

This month has been busy already with processing squash to eat this winter, visiting nearby lavender farms, zoos, even a corn maze, and of course visiting local apple orchards and buying lots, and lots of apples for eating and applesauce.

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I hope your fall is going great!

Summer Meal Planning–7 day meal plan

Tired of having to pay subscription prices for a meal plan? or sign up for tips and tricks and end up inundated with spam emails? Here’s a 7-day meal plan without a catch–no hassles, no subs, and definitely no hidden costs. Summer time is a time where meal planning can get a little hectic. School’s out, and there’s vacation time to plan for and meals tend to be quick meals with little cleanup. Nowadays with all the meal plans available, some right to your front door, why choose to make meals yourself? In my case, for my family’s needs, it came down to saving money and eating local homegrown whole foods. Maybe you don’t have that option available to you, or you don’t have the time to make meals from prep to finish? If you cannot source local homegrown then use what you have–supermarket produce works fine. I’m a big fan of T & A produce and it’s sold in most grocery stores. We eat T & A’s romaine hearts, broccoli, and hydroponic butter lettuce.

Most of the meals in my 7-day meal plan can be prepped the night before. So when you have a little bit of free time, prep the next meal. Also when you cook up ground beef make extra and freeze the extra portion for another meal. I double most recipes and freeze the rest. We have at least 3 meals frozen on hand at any given time that we can grab if time is tight.

Monday-Grilled Hamburgers with Napa cabbage slaw and slowly roasted potato wedges. Prep time-20 minutes. Total cooking time 35-45 minutes depending on how done you want your burgers.

Tuesday– Sausage, red cabbage and roasted sweet potato. Prep time 25 minutes–total time is 1 hour (includes bake time).

Wednesday-Everything but the kitchen sink salad-lettuce, cucumbers, green onions, sliced beets (I use Nellie’s sliced pickled beets vs. fresh beets), avocado, leftover red cabbage slaw and sliced boiled egg with homemade salad dressing. Prep time is 10-15 minutes- chop everything up, boil egg (5 minutes) wash and rinse lettuce & green onions.  You can add cooked chicken, steak or even tuna from tuna packs to make this a heartier salad.

Thursday-Roasted veggie taco with creamy cilantro dressing–recipe here. Total time- 45 minutes.

Friday– Pork Roast in the slow cooker, carrots, and new red potatoes. Prep 10-15 minutes. Total cooking time depends on the size of roast (minimum 4 hours on a low setting) add new red potatoes which are smaller than reg. potatoes during the last 2 hours of slow cooking so that they won’t get mushy before the roast is done.

Saturday-Pulled pork over baked sweet potatoes.  Prep time 5-10 minutes, total cooking time 1 -1/2 hours at 350 degrees for medium-large sweet potatoes.

SundayTeriyaki Chicken and vegetable foil pack for the grill- prep time- 30 minutes..cook time is 1 hour or until chicken is done. **I love this site and you will find several more easy foil pack meals to make plus so many more delicious things to try.**

Recipes-

Homemade Salad Dressing– your best salad dressing ( I use Vegan dressing by Hellman’s), mix 1/4 cup dressing( per 2 people )with a 1/4 teaspoon of salt (or less or not at all) & a tablespoon of granulated sugar and a half cup of milk. Add more milk if you want your dressing thin instead of creamy.  The healthier the salad dressing is that you buy, the healthier your homemade dressing will be. Total time- 5 minutes

Napa Cabbage Slaw– buy a Napa cabbage in the produce department or farmer’s market or local grower that is light green in color. You will also need 2 carrots and ingredients for the homemade salad dressing. I grate the carrots, chop the slaw and mix together with my homemade salad dressing. Use a bit less milk with the dressing because you want the slaw to be able to top your burger! You can add salt and pepper to taste and for extra flavor toss in chopped scallions. Total time- 15 minutes.

Red Cabbage- I use a great recipe from Taste of Home found here.

~~Grocery List~~

Produce department/Farmer’s market/local grower

Napa Cabbage

Red Cabbage

Romaine Hearts Lettuce

Scallions

Green onions

Avocado

Cilantro

Sweet Potatoes

Baking Potatoes

New Red Potatoes

Carrots

Cucumbers

Red Onion

Tomatoes

Yellow & Red Peppers

Zucchini

Lemon

Lime

Meat Department

Pork Roast

Hamburger

Chicken Breast

Sausage

**how much meat you buy will depend on family size**

Dairy

1/2 gallon of milk or 1/2 and 1/2 for salad dressing

Eggs- at least 6 eggs

Butter

Sour Cream

Middle Aisles

Good salad dressing- I’ve used both Just Mayo and Hellman’s Vegan dressing

Hamburger buns

Brown Sugar, soy sauce, cooking rice, sesame oil, chili garlic sauce, 32 oz. chicken broth, ground ginger, olive oil, 15 oz black beans, and Nellie’s sliced pickled beets.

Flour tortillas

I think I’ve remembered to add everything you will need to create these 7 easy meals to the grocery list above. Some meals will work for Paleo diets or even a vegetarian diet. Some can even be made if you are camping. Most take less than 30 minutes prep and there is even a meal that can be made from yesterday’s leftovers.  We eat a lot of meals that are heavy in produce because this is the time of year produce costs the least.  I generally don’t make meals like this in the winter due to not being able to source real fresh produce.  So enjoy these meals now, enjoy the savings, and reap the benefits of these great whole food meals for the next seven days.

Container Gardening Week– #7













Week 7 has been a busy week- suckers to pluck off of tomato plants growing fast and the first of the potato bugs.  Even in a small garden, there is work and diligence needed. I was shocked to see a potato bug–we’re two stories up?  So at this time, I have removed two of them and the leaves they were sitting on in case that is where they laid their eggs.  I have a total of 40 tomatoes on three tomato plants at this time. I purchased my potting soil, tomato gro and fertilizer from Purple Cow Organics and I never ever want to plant another garden if I can’t plant it using these products. Wow, what a difference organic soil and organic fertilizer make!

Right now I am mounding dirt around my potato plants because tubers will only grow in dirt that is around 65 degrees. So it is a must to keep the soil and pot and plant cool. The opposite is needed for tomatoes to turn red. They need hot 75 to 85-degree heat both on the plants and in the soil. Last year I stopped watering my plants for two to three days at a time and all my tomatoes ripened. Tomatoes will keep ripening even when the plant looks half dead.

Our week started out with a trip to the Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah, Iowa. This was a trip we had planned for a couple of years and we really enjoyed seeing the Seed Savers Exchange gardens, fields and visitors center. We stopped at a few other favorite places in Decorah and then made our way back to Wisconsin. Of course, we had to stop at Bauer’s Marketplace in La Crescent, MN because they were having their buy one pot get one pot of flowers or herbs free. We purchased 6 large guinea impatiens and 4 geraniums and paid just over $20.00 for all. Fabulous deal and they had fresh asparagus to boot.

Everything in our container garden has grown double in size in less than two weeks. Plants we thought were going to die haven’t and plants we re-potted from Walmart potting soil, which had fungus gnats in it, are doing way better than we thought. Our garden looks great this year! I’ve harvested two small bouquets of lavender, more to come, and of course we had over a dozen salads from the lettuce. I also crushed the chocolate mint after I dried it and made tea from it. Best tea ever. I will share the recipe next time.  A little over a week ago I planted pumpkins and zinnias which are both up and doing well. My next project is to make some homemade salve or lotion using my lemon thyme. I am hoping for good results and I will share pictures here if successful. That’s all for this week–until next time be well.

Container garden at five weeks!!

I’ve got a whopping eight tomatoes on my plants already. It was kind of hard to show in pictures, but they are there. Tiny 6″ tomatoes plants are now giants. Two plants are planted in a large pot and each one of them is about 14″ tall and fill the entire planter they are kept in. I had two other tomato plants in separate containers that both received frost– one was thrown and the other I kept and have tried to take extra special care of. All of his frost burned foliage fell off and new has replaced it, but he is awful spindly. He stands approx. 2 ft high in the planter he is in. Because of my mistake planting potatoes in too shallow of a pot, I joined five good plants and then used the extra dirt to mount them in one pot. If the plants were growing straight up they would be a foot tall. My shrubs that I bought for downstairs by my front door are growing instead together in a pot on our deck. Currently, they are almost filling the diameter of the pot they are in. Everything looks great and I still attribute that to the soil I planted all of them in–Purple Cow Organics. Plus this week I gave them all a tsp of Purple Cow Bio-Active all-purpose fertilizer. The package says- Purple Cow BioActive All-Purpose Fertilizer is an organic 4-6-4 granular fertilizer which has been inoculated with Mycorrhizal Fungi. These fungi may improve nutrient and water uptake by plants. Safe for pets and kids too!
If I make container gardening sound easy it is anything but–it requires trial and error, patience and constant tending. Instead of relying upon mother nature some of the time for water, I must water my garden almost daily. For me that means carrying pitchers of water through the house to the deck 6-7 times a week. I also use condensation from our air conditioner that drips into a pail on our deck to water the flowers. This year we had to adjust the weight of items on the deck to not place too much weight on it. Two of our small trees were taken downstairs by our front door to assure the weight of our container garden was safe. We are on the north face of the building so we get hit with a lot of wind and sporadic sun.
Most years everything survives, but often most don’t thrive. I keep at it because it is good therapy and I want us to learn how to grow our own food. I’ll be back tomorrow with grilling tips!












Fresh from the garden lettuce & RMO Essential Oils and Pest Control blend

For most of the last three weeks, all we’ve had in Wisconsin is rain, rain, and more rain. Every day is cloudy. Somehow in my fond dreams of yesteryear, I remember spring having some sunny, warm and simply satisfying days before the hot and sticky days of summer arrive. This year I made a solemn promise to take spring slow and enjoy every moment of it. Now all I want is heat and sun–go away rain, the rivers are flooding.  Less than two weeks after planting the last six lettuce plants we’ve had two big salads from those six plants, a lettuce leaf on five sandwiches this week, and lettuce on our hamburgers tonight. Believe it or not, there is still at least one salad left and more to come. This has been my most successful year of growing bibb lettuce.  While harvesting the lettuce I was bitten a total of three times by pesky mosquitos, which reminded me I need to order some Bug off! from Rocky Mountain Oils.

Last year I used a blend made from RMO’s cedarwood, lavender, peppermint, and lemongrass essential oils in purified water in a 4 oz spray bottle. I put in 30 drops of cedarwood, 25 drops of lavender, 15 drops of peppermint and 15 drops of lemongrass. I shake the spray bottle gently before each use.  I use either, it just depends if you want to make up your own batch or buy a blend that has all of the essential oils and more already in it. Either way, you cannot go wrong using Rocky Mountains Oils as your go-to pests go away and stay away from me spray.

 

Container Gardening 2017

I planted lettuce plants 10 days apart, all of which were bought at the same time, same place, but I ran out of big box potting soil for the rest of my veggies and six of my lettuce plants.  Every year I use regular potting soil from a big box and I add nutrients/minerals to the soil. Last year I bought really expensive organic fertilizer, that did absolutely nothing for any of the vegetables I was growing. This year via Facebook I noticed the coop I shop at was stocking Purple Cow Organics products**.  We found someone local who carried them and proceeded that very night to plant the rest of the lettuce and veggies.

I re-potted a tomato plant that had been severely frost burn in Purple Cow Organics Tomato Gro. Currently, that tomato plant is thriving, the one I did not replant died in big box potting soil.

Side by side you can see big box vs. Purple Cow Organics– the big box potting soil lettuce plants were given a 10-day headstart and still we’re not even close to a lettuce salad.

The lettuce planted 10 days ago in Purple Cow Organics is ready and waiting to be harvested. This picture was taken 3 days ago for a photo op, today I am planning on harvesting what I can and having a salad. The beauty of all of it is the lettuce will grow back and we will have several salads from these six plants.

Ten days ago this was a container filled with Purple Cow Organic Potting Mix and three seed potatoes–today a potato plant appears! So get out there and get you some and enjoy that first home grown salad grown all by yourself (with a little help from Purple Cow Organics, of course)! 🙂 Enjoy.

**not compensated in any way by Purple Cow Organics for my awesome experience using their products and then blogging about it.**

Seed Catalogs and Spring Planting

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I apologize in advance for how bright the photos are. We haven’t had sunshine for about two weeks now. Today–the sun is shining. It’s bitterly cold out, but the sun sure feels good when you’re out in it. I love my seed catalogs, from my two favorite seed catalog companies. I have yet to place an order with them hence the Burpee seeds, also a favorite.

I buy all my tomato seeds from Baker Creek. You can request your free catalog here. I receive a Seed Savers catalog every year but have never ordered from them. They come highly recommended, so this year I will be placing an order for cucumbers, pumpkins, and assorted flowers. I usually buy planters and pots of flowers, but this year I am going to try growing my own. You can request your free catalog here. 

So that’s my spring plan thus far. I have all my pots washed out, soil purchased and grow light ordered.