recipes, simple life, Uncategorized

Bacon, Pea, Alfredo Lasagna

Now that it’s really cold outside, I want to eat pasta all of the time. And, you know, I’m seven months pregnant so nothing sounds better than carbs and cheese.

 

This week we made lasagna – but we mixed it up a bit. We traded in your typical red sauce for alfredo and swapped out the filling for a creamy pea and bacon mixture. This recipe originally came from a cookbook we have called Poor Girl Gourmet, but after making it a few times, I’ve tweaked it to fit our tastes.

This dish is perfect for cold evenings when you want your food to warm you after a long day of work. This dish is also light enough that it’s ideal for summer evenings, especially when made with garden fresh peas. I also want to note, that neither my husband nor I are a big fan of straight up cooked peas, but we absolutely love this lasagna.

 

Bacon, Pea, Alfredo Lasagna

What you need:

  • 1 cup cooked peas
  • 1 tsp Thyme
  • ¼ cup of water, as needed
  • 1 cup ricotta
  • 2 tbsp parmesan
  • 4-6 strips cooked bacon, crumbled
  • 8 lasagna noodles, cooked

Alfredo sauce

  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 oz cream cheese
  • ¾ cup heavy whipping cream
  • ¼ cup parmesan

 

Begin by cooking your peas. Once tender, add your peas and the water they were cooked in with the Thyme into a food processor. Blend well. If the mixture is too dry for your peas to break down, add a bit of water (no more than a quarter cup). If you don’t have a food processor, you can always use a potato masher. Your peas should be mashed well and not runny. They will sort of resemble baby food, but that’s the preferred consistency.

Mix your pea puree with the ricotta cheese and 2 tablespoons for grated parmesan cheese. Cover your filling and place it in the fridge until you’re ready to assembly your lasagna.

Begin boiling salted water to cook your lasagna noodles. If you feel like going the extra mile, check out how to make homemade noodles in this post. While preparing your noodles, you will also need to fry your bacon. Don’t forget to throw an extra piece in your skillet – the cook always deserves a special treat and it might as well be bacon!

Once your ingredients are prepped and ready to go, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Pull out your 9×13 pan and grease well with olive oil.

Layering the lasagna is simple. Noodles. Pea/ricotta mixture. Sprinkle on crumbled bacon. Repeat. You should have enough to make three full layers and top off the lasagna with the last two noodles.

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I like to put a pat of butter on top of the lasagna before placing in the oven. Place your lasagna in your preheated oven for 20-25 minutes.

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With the lasagna in the oven, now is the time to make your sauce. I keep my alfredo sauce pretty simple: butter, cream cheese, heavy whipping cream, and parmesan.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter and cream cheese over medium heat. The butter will practically melt itself once the heat is turned on, but the cream cheese takes a bit of tender love and care. I use a spatula to help smoosh down – smoosh is a word, right? – and stir the cream cheese.

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Once mostly melted, add the heavy whipping cream and grated parmesan. Allow the sauce to cook on low heat, while stirring occasionally. This helps the sauce to thicken into the creamy alfredo sauce we all know and love.

When your lasagna is finished, remove from the oven and smother with the alfredo sauce. Allow the dish to sit 2-3 minutes before slicing and serving.

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Now, my friends, you have a delicious dinner waiting for you. I’ll leave you to your creamy, cheesy, bacony dinner and wish I was eating it too.

 

And as always, may your hearts be full!

 

recipes, Uncategorized

Homemade Pasta

I love digging into a plate of pasta. Part of that stems from my love of carbs (and really, who doesn’t love carbs?). And the other part of that stems from the fact that my father is Italian.

Well, he thinks he is, at least.

Growing up we ate pasta at least once, if not twice a week. But now, my parents have limited their carb intake and my sister was diagnosed with celiacs (aka gluten intolerance). Thankfully, I’m married with my own family and I can make pasta as often as I please — which is a lot, especially now that I’m pregnant with baby #2 (six months down, three to go!).

 

Ahh, pasta – you have a special place in my heart. Right next to coffee, chocolate, and breakfast.

 

So it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that I wanted to learn how to make my own pasta. I’ve learned that homemade pasta is easy to make and much more delicious than store bought boxed pasta. Plus, it’s a fun way to get the whole family involved in making dinner.

All you need is flour, eggs, and a pasta machine. We have this inexpensive pasta machine and it makes making pasta a bajillion times easier – and yes, I just used the word bajillion.

 

Homemade Pasta

  • 1 ¾ cup all purpose or strong bread flour
  • ½ cup whole wheat flour  (you can always just use all white flour (2-2 ¼ cups total), but we like to add in some whole wheat flour for a heartier taste)
  • 3-4 eggs, depending on size
  • Water, as needed

Start by mixing your two flour types in a large bowl. Other recipes call for piling your flour onto a clean workspace, i.e. a cutting board. I found mixing in a large bowl contains all of the flour, and prevents me from making an enormous mess.

Use your fingers to create a well in the middle of the flour.

Crack open your eggs into the well in the flour. Then dig your hands in to combine. Continue to work the dough until all of the egg is mixed into the flour and you end up with a large ball of dough. Feel free to add a bit of water, as needed, to assist in the mixing process.

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Next, you’ll want to break apart your mega ball of pasta dough into more manageable pieces. We normally divide down into four to six smaller pieces.

Now it’s time to get rolling! If you are sans pasta machine, you’ll need to heavily flour your work surface and rolling pin to roll out the dough. Pasta is a tough dough to work with, so be prepared to get a full workout if rolling out the pasta by hand. I’m not that in shape, at least, not currently – hence, the pasta machine.

Once your pasta dough is thin enough, you can cut and shape any pasta your heart desires. Most pasta machines come with spaghetti and linguine attachments. You can also cut out squares to make your own ravioli, or leave the pasta as long lasagna sheets.

Cook your pasta as you normally would, by tossing it into a pot of boiling, salted water. The best part of fresh, homemade pasta is that your pasta is already hydrated, unlike the dried pasta from boxes, so it takes 5 minutes or less to cook. You’ll know your pasta is finished cooking when it floats to the top of the water and the color has lightened.

All that’s left is to whip up your favorite sauce, pour yourself a glass of wine (or in my current state, sparkling grape juice), and dig in to enjoy!

 

How long does it take to make homemade pasta?

A few minutes to mix the dough, a few minutes to roll it out, and a few more to cook. Honestly, it takes as much time, or less, to make and cook homemade pasta as it does to cook store bought noodles.

Homemade pasta is delicious and easy to make. It’s also an enjoyable way to spend the evening because the whole family is involved in making the food we’re about to share together. Normally, I’ll mix the dough. Then my husband will roll out the noodles while I start to boil water and make a sauce. And we may, or may not, have flour fights while making the dough. What’s better than laughing and making a mess while enjoying each other’s company and enjoying a meal together? Even better yet, as our children grow up they can join in the fun by mixing and rolling out the dough too.

 

By making homemade pasta, we’re practicing another skill to become self-sufficient by using ingredients around the house to make dinner instead of running out to the grocery store. And there’s something satisfying about making your entire dinner from scratch.

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So roll up your sleeves and get pasta rolling!

 

May your hearts, and your flour bins, be full.

recipes, Uncategorized

Rainy Sundays and Hearty Stews

Today was one of those perfect rainy Sundays. The kind where you wake up to rain pouring down the windows and onto the back patio. The kind that makes you want to pull on your coziest over-sized sweater, savor a cup of rich, black coffee, and spend the day curled up with your family at home. And for us, it was almost that kind of day.

This weekend, Phill and I were fortunate enough to travel across the state to celebrate a wedding. It was the first time that we were both away from our little guy overnight, but it gave us the chance to stay out past his bedtime (7 pm) and gave us the opportunity to spend some much needed quality time, both with each other and with friends from college.

In total, Phill and I spent almost ten hours together in the car. Ten hours where we didn’t have to worry about entertaining a baby or folding all of the laundry. Ten hours of just us, together, talking and enjoying one another’s presence.

 

It is so easy to get sucked into a routine that is lacking. We both get caught up in the stress of working full time, coming home to care for our little guy, and attempting to keep up with household chores that by Simon’s bedtime, we are exhausted. And then, we fall into the routine of watching Netflix until one of us starts falling asleep (it’s me – I always fall asleep first – I blame being pregnant) and then we head upstairs to go to bed. The two uninterrupted five-hour drives we had this weekend were so fulfilling that neither of us minded driving through the rain to get home.

 

Eventually, we made it back home to the chaos of baby toys, bottles, and diaper changes. And then,  we were able to enjoy this rainy Sunday as it was meant to be enjoyed – with cozy clothes, curling up together, and a hearty beef stew for dinner.

Because what better way to embrace this misty fall day, than with a stew?

 

Confession – I’ve never made a beef stew before. My go-to for soups are chicken or potato based, but a few days ago, we harvested the carrots and potatoes from our garden, so a beef stew sounded like the perfect way to enjoy what our garden gave us.

I read through half a dozen recipes and decided making a stew couldn’t be too difficult, so I gave it a try.

Turns out, beef stew is not only delicious, but incredibly easy to make. I’m excited to share this recipe with you – not only because I’m proud of myself for making a delicious dinner, but so you can have another staple to add to your list of winter meals.

 

Hearty Beef Stew

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What you need:

  • 1 ¼ lbs. of stew meat – beef cut into one inch chunks
  • ⅓ cup flour
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 4 cups of beef stock
  • 3 cups potatoes, cubed
  • 1 cup carrots, cut into one inch pieces
  • 8-10 asparagus spears, broken into one inch pieces
  • 1 teaspoon parsley
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • 2 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 ½ ladles of broth
  • An additional ⅓ cup of flour

 

  1. Place your stew meat into a bowl. Add ⅓ cup of flour, salt, and pepper. Toss meat to coat in flour and spices. Heat your dutch oven or stockpot with olive oil and sear your stew meat on all sides. Remove the meat from the stockpot and set aside.
  2. Sautee the onion and garlic (add more olive oil to your stockpot if needed) until onion is translucent and garlic is golden. Add the meat back into the stockpot, cover with beef stock, and cook on medium heat while you prepare the vegetables.
  3. Prepare your vegetables. Peel and cube your potatoes. Chop your carrots and asparagus into one inch pieces. This should take just long enough for your child to completely empty the recycle bin all over the kitchen floor and for him to go for a swim in the dog’s water bowl.
  4. Stir your vegetables into the stockpot, along with the parsley, paprika and tomato paste. Cook on low heat for an hour (at least). I let my stew simmer throughout Simon’s dinner, bath, and bedtime – so it was closer to 1 ½-2 hours.
  5. Take out about 1 ½ ladles of the broth from your stew and pour into a saucepan. Add ⅓ cup of flour and whisk together to make a thick roux. The broth should be hot enough that it will mix with the flour without needing to heat the saucepan.
  6. Pour the roux into your stew and mix well.
  7. Ladle out a generous portion of stew into bowls and serve with fresh bread. Yum!

 

This stew recipe may look intimidating based on the number of ingredients, but I promise you it is worth every savory sip!

 

And with that, we’ve come to the end of another weekend. Time to make a cup of tea, cozy up with a good book, and listen to the rain beat against the roof and fall down the chimney. I’m going savor every last moment of this rainy Sunday before the chaotic work week begins again.

 

May your heart and your soup bowls be full.

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Peach Butter and Preserving

It is finally fall. Finally time for apple picking, pumpkin patches, golden red leaves, and warm homemade soups. Finally time to grab your jackets out of storage and time to put those flip-flops away.

I’m ready for you, fall. … Even if it is still in the 80s – stubborn Missouri.

With the fall comes time to harvest. And with the harvest, comes my favorite activity: canning.

Yes, I would list canning as one of my favorite activities or hobbies. There’s something magical in taking thirteen pounds of ripe peaches, slicing them or cooking them down into peach butter, and sealing them in glass jars to save for a cold winter’s day. Nothing is better than a taste of summer when the temperature is below zero.

My idea of a perfect Saturday is spent in the kitchen. The window is open to let in a crisp fall breeze. Deano and Frank are playing in the background. Our little rugrat is playing on the floor, and my canner is working magic on the stove.

 

And here, my friends, is how to use a water-bath canner.

A quick side note – you don’t actually need a canner, just a big ‘ol pot – that’s what we used for years. This summer, we finally bought a canner. I love it because we can fit more jars in than a regular pot (check it out here).

 

What you need:

  • Something delicious to process and preserve (like peach butter)
  • A large canner, or stockpot
  • Glass mason jars with rings and new lids
  • Jar lifter or tongs
  • Canning funnel

 

To make Peach Butter, you really only need two ingredients: ripe peaches, and a sprinkle of sweetener (if you desire).

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Start by slicing your peaches into quarters, removing the pits.

Place your peaches into a blender or food processor to process until smooth – our goal is a peach puree, not peach juice!

Pour your pureed peach goodness into a large cooking pot or dutch oven.

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Cook on medium-low heat, stirring frequently to prevent burning. Your peaches should simmer for thirty five minutes or so, until they reach the desired consistency and become thick, smooth butter.

As you taste test your peaches during the cooking process, feel free to sprinkle in some sweetener (we’ve used white cane sugar or brown sugar).

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While your peaches are cooking down, you’ll need to prep your canner and materials.

Fill your canner with water and add your glass mason jars. The jars need to sit in the water long enough that the water is simmering or lightly boiling. This allows your jars to be sterilized, and it safely heats up the jars so that when you pour in your deliciously hot peach butter, the jars don’t crack.

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When your jars are warm and your peaches have melted into butter, you can start preserving!

One at a time, use your jar lifter or tongs to empty the jars of water and place on the counter top. Place your jar funnel in the jar and fill with peach butter, leaving  ¼ inch of headspace. Take a clean butter knife and run along the inside of the glass to remove any air bubbles lurking at the bottom. Use a clean, damp towel to wipe off the rim of your jar. You want to remove any stray peach butter left behind on the rim or in the threads of the jar.

Place a new lid on your jar. Screw your ring on securely and repeat this process until all jars are full.

Using a jar lifter or tongs, place your jars filled with summer goodness into the canner (which is still full of hot water). When your canner is full, cover with the lid and turn up the heat.

You’ll need to boil the jars – a hard boil, not a simmer – for 10-13 minutes. Don’t start your timer until the water in the canner is already boiling to make sure the peach butter has enough time to process – this allows the lid to seal completely and any pesky bacteria to be killed off.

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When your processing timer goes off, turn off the heat and remove the canner lid. Allow the jars to sit in the water for a few minutes to settle. Then using tongs or a jar lifter, place your jars on a towel on your kitchen counter. Let them sit, undisturbed, for the next 24 hours. Soon your should hear the magical *pop* of the lids sealing!

 

And there you have it! A taste of summer sweetly preserved in glass jars. You are a canning, food preserving master!

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Now that we’ve reached apple season, the canning opportunities are endless. Apple butter, apple sauce, apple pie filling, cinnamon apples. I think I’ll just sit here awhile, fresh espresso in hand, and brainstorm apple recipes to can.

— And with that thought, my baby woke up from his nap. I guess I’ll have to postpone my apple daydreams for a little while.

 

As always, may your heart and your pantry, be full.

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Strawberry Jam

In our house there is a great debate.

In this debate, there are no compromises. We both believe that we are correct and the other is sadly mistaken.

This great debate all centers around peanut butter – more specifically, what type of fruity, sweet substance you use to complete the “J” portion of your PB&J.

One of us, who is clearly mistaken and foolish in their ways, thinks you can only use grape jelly.

The other, who knows a thing or two about making delicious food and who has the correct answer in this debate, knows that the only way to top off your delicious peanut butter sandwich is with strawberry jam – particularly when it’s homemade.

 

Pssst… I’m the one who’s right.

 

And because I’m right, I’m here to share how to make your own strawberry jam! Beware, it’s sweet, sticky, and delicious. Perfect for your morning toast, biscuits, and, of course, making PB&Js.

 

Homemade Strawberry Jam

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What you need:

  • 2 ½ cups strawberries, mashed
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 3 ½ cups sugar
  • ½ package of fruit pectin (7 ½ tsp)
  • A smidge (official term) of butter
  • 1 stalk of rhubarb, cut into small pieces  (I had a stalk of rhubarb left over from pie making the week prior, so I added it to my jam to give it a bit of a tangy taste. It’s not essential, but it’s delicious!)

 

This recipe yields four 8oz jam jars, plus a bit extra to enjoy on toast right away! I cut the original jam recipe in half to get the ingredient amounts above (hence the ½ package of pectin). We didn’t have five cups of strawberries lying around – they tend to go pretty fast in this house. However, if you have a bumper crop of strawberries, or you really love jam (or love gifting it away), feel free to double the above amounts to make eight or nine 8 oz jam jars.

 

Let’s get started!

Hull your strawberries and toss your fruit (including the rhubarb) into a large bowl. Using a potato masher, mash ‘em up real good. Measure out 2 ½ cups of the mashed strawberry goodness and add to a large pot or dutch oven.

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Add in the lemon juice and whisk in your fruit pectin. Add a smidge of butter to the top – this helps reduce the amount of foam that will form on top of your jam as it is cooking.

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a “smidge” of butter

Turn the heat on and stir as you gently bring your jam to a boil. Once it’s boiling, add all of the sugar at once; stir until the sugar is completely mixed in.  

 

Crank up the heat until you get a strong, hard boil. A hard boil is when you can’t decrease the boiling by stirring. Let your jam boil for a good two minutes and then shut off the heat.

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Foam will start to form on the top of your jam. Take a regular table spoon and skim off as much of the foam as you can, without taking any of the jammy goodness.

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Lastly, scoop out some jam to enjoy right away and then can the rest.
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Look at you! You’re a jam-making machine! Not only do you have the perfect accompaniment for your peanut butter sandwiches, but you’ve also got a few extra jars to share with family or friends.

 

May your peanut butter sandwiches and your heart be full – and sweet!

 

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Homemade Laundry Detergent

One way Phill and I like to spend our time is trying out new “DIY” projects. We have fun looking up new projects, trying them out, and then evaluating whether it is worth the time (and money).

Our latest project: homemade laundry detergent.

There are recipes for homemade laundry soap all over the internet. Every recipe we looked through had their own quirks, but all of them essentially have the same ingredients. After reviewing a dozen or so, we picked one out and gave it a go.

 

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What you’ll need for this batch:

  • five gallon bucket with lid
  • ½ cup borax
  • ½ cup washing soda
  • 1 bar of laundry soap (found in the laundry aisle at your local supermarket), shredded with a cheese grater
  • A tall stirring utensil
  • Water
  • Essential Oils (an added bonus for a fresh scent)

Step One: Heat 2 cups of water on the stove and add your shredded bar of laundry soap. Stir and stir until the soap is good and dissolved.

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Step Two: Add in the borax and washing soda. Stir, stir, stir.

Step Three: Pour the mixture into your five gallon bucket. Fill with water until the bucket is about three quarters of the way full (We found this was most easily done in the bathtub). If you’re adding in essential oils, now’s the time to add them (we used 10 drops of lemongrass and 10 drops of eucalyptus). Stir for a good ten minutes to make sure everything is well blended.

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Step Four: Snap on a lid and let your laundry detergent sit overnight, at least 24 hours. You should have a gloppy texture. When we made this batch, a good portion of the washing soap had formed a layer at the top of our detergent. Just a quick stir and it was good to go!

Step Five: Enjoy washing your clothes, towels, and diapers knowing that you are a self-sufficient woman (or man)!

 

In the end, making our own laundry detergent was enjoyable, super easy, and saved us lots of money.

Our cost analysis:

  • Bucket and lid: $4.65 – found at our local Home Depot
  • Borax: $3.97 for a box – $0.18 for ½ cup
  • Washing Soap: $3.97 for a box –  $0.35 for ½ cup
  • Fels Naptha laundry soap: $0.97 for a bar

Our grand total for four gallons of laundry detergent was $6.15 because we had the initial start up cost of the bucket and lid. Our next batch of laundry detergent will only cost $1.50. Typical laundry detergent runs around $10 and you walk home with less than a gallon. Y’all, we’re making 4 gallons for a buck fifty. Score!

 

I can’t believe it took us so long to get around to actually testing this out. Needless to say, this DIY project was a success! The whole process took less than half an hour and helped us save big on laundry detergent. I can also rest assured knowing exactly what is in our laundry detergent and knowing that by using homemade laundry detergent I am limiting the amount of chemicals we encounter on a daily basis.

Seriously, y’all – go buy some borax and get to laundry detergent making!

 

Until next time, may your laundry baskets be empty and your heart be full.

 

 

laundrydetergent

simple life, Uncategorized

Growing a Garden: From One Novice to Another

Sometimes you just can’t sleep, no matter how much you’d like to.

So today I think I’ll sit here, make myself an espresso and enjoy our silent house this afternoon as my baby, puppy, and husband all nap away.

 

This is our first planting season living in a house of our own with land of our own to till and to sow. We had simple plans for our first year. It was so so so tempting to jump right in and convert half of our backyard into a garden, but the husband (who tends to think more practically than I do) convinced me to settle on a 2’ by 10’ plot for our first year. The first day we dug our hands into the soil to plant our vegetable garden we thought we had an acre of land. Those seeds were so tiny compared to the vast (major exaggeration) amount of land before us.

The plan was simple – plant vegetables that we know we’d definitely eat: cucumbers, green beans, bell peppers, carrots, turnips, zucchini, tomatoes, and potatoes. We also planted basil, mint, dill, and cilantro in pots along the porch. Not bad for the first time around, right?

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Our turnips, carrots, and zucchini are growing great! Most of our turnips are nearing two inches in diameter, carrot greens are growing tall and the zucchini plants have begun to flower.

We’ve planted our potatoes in a box so they grow vertically. The vines are tall and we’ve planted nine seed potatoes, making us hopeful for a large crop.

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The cucumbers… well, they sprouted and, actually, that’s about all they did.

Of our green beans, six of the ten plants have grown and begun to weave around our rope trellis.

The bell peppers mimicked the cucumbers.

And now, finally, on our fourth attempt from seed, we have a tomato plant! It’s growing stronger each day and hopefully going to flower in the next couple weeks, yielding a late crop.

 

Now that we’re halfway through summer, Phill and I have been reflecting on our garden and it’s growth, or lack thereof in some plants’ cases (here’s looking at you, cucumber).

  1. Next summer we need to start our non-root vegetables indoors and much, much earlier than we did this year. Thankfully, both of our parents are growing peppers and cucumbers, so we have two additional sources for these vegetables this summer.
  2. We can use our “dead space” where there aren’t cucumbers or peppers and plant a late batch of basil (in one plot) and lettuce (in the other). Lettuce tends to grow better in cooler temperatures but hopefully, if we plant it in the back of our garden where it’s mostly shaded it will grow – even in the heat of summer. And more basil, because pesto. Do I really need to say more?
  3. We need to do more prep work with the soil next year. Our green beans are growing, but some of them are yellowing – a sign of nitrogen deficiency in the soil. We’ve been packing used coffee grounds around the roots weekly to try and compensate for the soil we’re using. Once we harvest this year’s crop, the plan is to add a thick layer of compost to our garden and mulch it heavily over winter. IMG_0506
  4. Speaking of winter, Phill and I are hoping to add in a fall crop of broccoli, garlic, and spinach. All of those are delicious and grow best in cool temps. Broccoli takes 60-80 days to mature, so if we plant our broccoli the in early August, it should be ready for us at the end of October, right around the time of our first frost. Spinach, which takes 35-45 days to mature, we can also plant in early August and get two full crops out before Jack Frost visits. Lastly, the garlic we can plant whenever; it will grow all winter long and be ready to harvest in July of next summer.

 

Ahh, next summer – I’m already dreaming of a garden three times the size of this year, full of our current crops plus sweet potatoes, butternut squash, asparagus, snap peas, cantaloupe, rhubarb, and pie pumpkins… and let’s be real, probably some more  – after all, I do have a few months to keep adding to my list.

 

This is the life, y’all.

The life the gives purpose to the summer heat and teaches you to lovingly embrace a good rainfall. The life that will encourage my children to eat fresh foods, get their hands dirty, and explore the outdoors. The life that inspires us to dream big, baby!

And in the midst of those dreams there is lettuce and basil to plant, sweet potato puree to clean off my baby’s face, and dinner to thaw.

 

Until next time, may your home and heart be full.

 

 

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