“… Just for one’s health… it is very necessary to work in the garden and to see the flowers growing.” Vincent Gogh
If you’re like me, you want pumpkins from September through Thanksgiving! But how do we keep them from rotting prematurely & preventing little critters (AKA squirrels & others) from chewing them to pieces you ask? Well there are a few ways to stop them.
I’m going to discuss both a natural & chemical way to preserve your pumpkins. You choose the path you feel most comfortable with.
The natural way to deter critters from gnawing away at your beautiful pumpkins is by using cayenne pepper!
Please note, if you accidently purchase a pumpkin with any cuts, scratches, deep wounds, or if the stem is broken off this alternative will not work. The cayenne pepper will simply deter insects & critters from attempting to eat them, it will not prevent rotting.
Using Cayenne pepper is a natural alternative to chemical means. It is very easy & inexpensive, however you will need to reapply the pepper after each rain.
Rabbits, squirrels, and chipmunks will take one taste & quickly scurry away!
The not so natural way.
An alternative way to keep those critters at bay is to simply coat each of your pumpkins, gourds & even your Indian corn with clear acrylic spray. This is also an inexpensive way to protect them, however you do not want to toss these pumpkins into your garden as compost. I happen to live on seven acres with five of those being woods. We generally toss our corn stalks, pumpkins, Christmas trees & any other live garlands into our woods. They naturally compost, act as habitat for the wild life, and of course food for the animals as well.
Depending on how many pumpkins & gourds you have purchase 2 to 3 cans of clear acrylic spray.
Taking a damp rag or paper towel wipe down any debris and moisture on your pumpkin or gourd.
Watch my video on how to appropriately spray your pumpkin with clear acrylic spray!
How to pick the perfect pumpkins!
I wanted to share a few tips & tricks on choosing the perfect pumpkin.
First, be sure the pumpkin or gourd has a securely connected stem. If it is loose at all, or even worse broken off DON’T buy it… no matter how cute it is, no matter how perfect it is, walk away. It will rot and attract insects & critters that will be happy to chew away at it.
Secondly, be sure there are no cuts or wounds on your pumpkins. Unfortunately even with our best attempts to be cautious, we can miss them. A perfect example is the pumpkin I used in my video. In this case the price tag was covering the large wound & I had no idea until I took it home and removed the sticker. I was so thankful I did as this allowed me to take care of it.
With this wound using cayenne pepper unfortunately would not work.
Lastly, support your local farmers & farmers markets with the purchase of your pumpkins and other holiday decorations. As we continue to spend our dollars locally, it naturally benefits our community.
“To get the best results you must talk to your vegetables.” Charles, Prince of Wales
The late summer garden calls out with her exuberant abundance in a teasing way. Almost saying… “Whatcha gonna do with all this smarty-pants?” Well this weeks bounty made more salsa & this wonderfully easy marinara sauce.
To see more recipes like this one (and my spaghetti sauce recipe) click this link https://bit.ly/3PzAkXG to purchase my original cookbook, Lovingly Seasoned Eats and Treats. The cookbook has almost 1000 recipes on almost 500 pages! Check out the testimonial page while you’re here as well!
Our Favorite Recipes
Aaron & I went out to the garden this afternoon to check on the harvest… and wow did we score! After he saw the load of tomatoes he said, “Let’s make spaghetti sauce!”
This recipe is for a single batch, but can easily be adjusted for canning by simply multiplying the quantities. It’s super easy and so delicious. You can add other ingredients to spruce it up, however it’s great just the way it is.
If you want to make this a meat sauce, just add 1 pound of lean organic ground beef or pork. Delish!
Pro-tip: Be sure to use only the ripest tomatoes as these will give you the most flavorful sauce.
4 cups of pureed tomatoes- about 8-10 tomatoes- Heirlooms are the most flavorful
1- 8 ounce can of tomato paste
¼ cup minced onion- about 1 medium onion. NOT white onions
4 fresh garlic cloves minced or 4 tsp of jarred
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 TBSP sugar
4 tsp basil- dried
1 TBSP pink Himalayan salt
Keep posted for Dave’s delicious eggplant parmesan recipe coming soon!
What you’ll need to have to make the marinara sauce: Large stock pot Food processor 4 cup measuring cup Measuring cups & spoons
Prep before you start: Chop onions in food processer before sautéing and wash the tomatoes. Be sure to have all your ingredients ready.
1. While the onions & garlic are sautéing, chop washed tomatoes into quarters removing any bad spots and the stem; place in a large bowl. After all the tomatoes are quartered begin pureeing them in your food processor until you have 4 cups.
2. Leave the pureed tomato in the processor; add oil, onion & garlic mixture, spices and sugar, blend until completely pureed. Move the mixture back to the stock pot.
4. Bring tomato sauce to a low boil on medium heat covered, stirring often; cook on medium heat covered for 2 hours or until mixture has cooked down one third.
5. Add the tomato paste and whisk in; cook for an additional hour stirring often so the bottom doesn’t scorch.
If you would like to add meat, cook thoroughly and add to sauce for the final half hour of cooking.
Serve over pasta noodles, or make a delicious eggplant or chicken parmesan!
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“Notice that autumn is more the season of the soul than of nature.” Friedrich Nietzsche
The subjects of your design should speak of your soul.
1. When choosing seasonal décor, be sure to consider the color of your walls & furniture! When shopping for seasonal décor such as throw pillows, rugs, wall art & prints, or even holiday dishes these factors are important. My living room walls are a slate blue & my furniture is gray, so I tend to purchase things that accentuate those colors and the primary hues.
Pro Tip: For example, I often put white or light colored objects up against or on my living room walls. This draws the eye as soon as you enter the room.
5. This photo is of my foyer. When you come into my home through the front door, this is the first thing you see. I decorate this area for each season (I have the cutest snowman tree for the holidays!!).
As you can see, I’ve taken elements from my living room and tied them into this area. My goal is to make each person who enters our home feel welcome!
Pro tip: My foyer is a light gray so I’ve used décor to match this space as opposed to my living room with it’s dark slate blue walls.
Decorating has always been a passion of mine, whether it’s indoors or outdoors. My gardens are an expression of the things I love, as is each room in my home. Today I wanted to share with you some of my autumn décor throughout my home. I can’t wait to share my Thanksgiving & Holiday designs with you… I love this time of year!
Here are a few tips I follow when decorating each room in my home.
2. To change or not to change, that is the question! Most of us have art work on our walls, tables, & on the floor. Adding decorative items like seasonal signs or other wall art, table trays, vases, sculptures, etc. add so much to the display. Beauty is in the details!
Pro Tip: Balance is the key, so use decorative items that compliment what you already have.
4. Switch it up from year to year! These two pictures of my fireplace show some variation however only slightly, I do like to switch things up. I’ve had different artwork and mantel décor each year. The photo of the live pumpkins with Thanks on them is what I previously did before my glass & ceramic pumpkins.
Pro tip: I shop at the end of the season and take advantage of the huge clearance sales. Then I pull out all my goodies the next year & it’s just like Christmas!
Bonus Pro tip:I keep all my holiday decorations in clear plastic toteswith an 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper saying what is in it along with the year it was used or is planned for!
“Your home should tell the story of who you are, and be a collection of what you Love.” Lebo Grand
“To make a great garden, one must have a great idea or a great opportunity” Sir George Sitwell
Aaron & I were in Myrtle Beach last summer and visited a local restaurant where we ordered pizza & bruschetta. To my surprise it was served with feta cheese & a delicious balsamic glaze. The best part about it though was that Aaron loved it!! I could hardly get him to eat my ‘basic’ bruschetta, but he devoured this. So of course I decided to put my own spin on this for my sweet little guy to enjoy at home!
Our Favorite Recipes
I loaf Italian bread unsliced
6-8 large roma tomatoes diced, Heirlooms are the most flavorful!
2 fresh garlic clove minced or 2 tsp jarred
½ cup extra virgin olive oil + ¼ cup+
½ cup fresh basil, snipped- Watch my video on how-to snip basil or any fresh herb in the video to the right OR 2 TBSP dried
¼ cup fresh parsley, snipped OR 1 TBSP dried
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
1 tsp pink Himalayan salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1- 8 ounce container feta cheese crumbles
1- 8.45 ounce bottle of Balsamic Vinegar of Modena glaze (I love the Kroger Private Selection brand).
With the garden bursting at the seams with ripe tomatoes, now is the perfect time to experiment with new recipes. Let me know if you have any tips for your bruschetta in the comments below! Watch this video on how-to snip basil & other fresh herbs!
1. Combine in a medium sized bowl all ingredients EXCEPT feta cheese and balsamic glaze; mix well. Set in the fridge for 30 minutes.
2. While the tomato mixture is in the fridge, cut 6- 1” slices of Italian bread; use the ¼+ cup of olive oil and brush oil on both sides of each slice; place on a cookie sheet and toast bread on both sides under a broiler until golden brown. Remove and set aside.
3. Once bread is toasted, spoon tomato mixture evenly over bread; sprinkle 1 TBSP feta cheese on top of tomatoes; drizzle glaze over top.
Serve immediately with any pasta dish, chicken or fish dinner!
PRO TIP: When snipping your fresh basil, bunch about 8 to 10 leaves, hold firming with your fingers and snip with kitchen shears. Also, be sure to only use the ripest tomatoes, and of course Heirlooms are best!
Added bonus tip: This recipe has been altered from the original in my cookbook. You can go to my blog at www.fordragonfliesandme.com to purchase my original cookbook, Lovingly Seasoned Eats and Treats. The cookbook has almost 1000 recipes on almost 500 pages! Check out the Cookbook Testimonials while you’re there!
“Advice from the porch: Enjoy every season, hear the birds sing, take in the view, listen to the rainy days.”
I love to decorate my front porch in every season. Spring welcomes beautiful hanging baskets, porch pots lining my stairs & surrounding my front door. The autumn porch hosts a slew of Heirloom pumpkins & mums… and just wait until I show you my winter porch décor!! I’m so excited I could burst!
I wanted to share some tips on how to showcase your porch so it’s the nicest on the block!
What color is your house? The first thing to consider when choosing your baskets & planters is the color of your home. Whether it’s brick, stone, or vinyl siding you don’t want your beautiful blooms to get lost. My house is a light gray vinyl siding, so I choose bright oranges & burgundy’s to accentuate my home. The bright colors ‘pop’ because the backdrop (the house) is light colored.
Pro Tip: Always look to have a contrast when decorating. If you have a dark red or brown brick home, you’ll want to go with white or yellows in order to get the most effect!
Variety is the spice of life!
2. Variety is the spice of life! I love to add a variety of plants with my mums. Try ornamental cabbage & kale, annual grasses, pansies, sweet potato vine, straw flower, asters, marigolds, & beautiful ornamental peppers!
Pro Tip: Use plants that will give you height, vining, & depth to get the besteffect. Place your potted mums & other plants in cool old galvanized buckets or pails, or in old wooden crates!
3. Layering adds dimension! Adding different heights adds dimension to your porch design. When placing pots on steps, be sure they are not all the same height. As you create your design, you want to elevate items in the back to make it look tiered.
Pro Tip: Use empty plant pots, cool wooden crates, or anything else you have to elevate a pot if it is too short.
4. Accentuate your blossoms! Adding decorative items like seasonal signs, scarecrows, bales of straw & other items adds so much to the display. Beauty is in the details!
Pro Tip: Balance is the key, so use decorative items sparingly with taste.
5. Heirloom pumpkins & gourds oh my!!! Choosing different shapes, sizes, & especially colors of Heirloom pumpkins & gourds adds so much interest to your decorative porch design. Stacking & even placing in planters will add interest.
Pro Tip: Stack pumpkins to make towers next to your door or flower arrangements!
Autumn is such a beautiful time of year with the trees shifting into their majestic colors, the crisp air & those woodland scents. Apple orchards & pumpkin patches are in the horizon… & I can’t wait.
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“In order to live off a garden, you practically have to live in it”. Frank McKinney Hubbard
The garden is bursting with beautiful Heirloom tomatoes… I see my homemade salsa on the horizon!
I love this time of year! The garden is abounding with tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, onions, & potatoes… oh my! I can’t say how blessed I feel each time I walk out and see the fruits of our labor producing so beautifully! Working in the kitchen with Dave & the boys makes the experience that much more rewarding.
I get so many compliments on my salsa I thought I’d share my Mexican Style recipe downsized for individual servings.
4-6 large tomatoes- Heirlooms are best, even if you buy them in the grocery store
¾ cup diced onion- mix and match red, yellow, & shallots. NOT white onions
½ cup diced jalapenos- about 3 to 4
2 fresh garlic cloves minced or 1 TBSP canned
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
¼ cup lemon juice
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
½ tsp pink Himalayan salt
½ tsp fresh ground black pepper
1 tsp sugar
Do you want to make this recipe to can? You can find it in my cookbook, Lovingly Seasoned Eats and Treats. See link below.
Fresh and canned salsa are both delicious. Give each a try!
CANNING TIP: When you are ready to can your salsa be sure to have the following in advance!
1. Canning jars- I recommend pint size. Sterilize beforehand. 2. Canning lids & rings ready to go. 3. Teaspoon measure & salt. 4. Salsa needs to be pressure cooked because all the tomatoes & peppers are fresh.
1. Chop tomatoes into small pieces- dime sized and put into a large bowl
2. Dice onions and jalapenos; add to tomatoes
3. Mince garlic clove and cilantro; add to mixture.
Add: lemon juice, oil, sugar, salt, and pepper; stir mixture until evenly blended
If you prefer your salsa not so chunky, you can add 1 cup at a time into a mini food chopper and pulse until desired consistency.
Fresh or canned salsa is one of summers delicious goodies we can treat ourselves to on a regular basis! Is there anything you add in your salsa that I didn’t? Tell me in the comments below!
If you’d like to make this recipe in large scale to can, click this link to purchase my cookbook, Lovingly Seasoned Eats and Treats. https://bit.ly/3PRKJyc
If you enjoyed this recipe, please LIKE, SHARE, & Follow me for more great home & garden tips along with super yummy recipes like this one!
“Show me your garden and I shall tell you what you are.” Alfred Austin
Did you know that September is the best time to plant your garlic for the following season? Garlic is a staple in our home, and goes into most dishes.
There are two types of garlic, hardneck & softneck. Generally hardnecks tend to be more flavorful, where softneck varieties have a more mild flavor. These flavors are determined by the location & temperatures in which they were grown. Hardneck garlic grows best in Northern climates and can withstand cold winters down to zone 0. Softneck garlic prefers hot summers and mild winters from zone 8 to 12.
Here are my top picks for each variety.
Hardneck: Music is a delightful and pungent flavored white bulb. German Red, a beautiful variegated bulb of white and red hues sporting a wonderful garlic spice to the pallet.
Softneck:Corsican Red originated in the Mediterranean island of Corsica and has a mild, complex & fruity aroma. Inchelium Red has a medium spiciness with a mild pungent taste.
Step 1: Choosing the perfect garlic bulb is essential. Make sure there are no defects, rotten spots, and find the largest bulbs. Whatever qualities the bulb you choose has will be developed in it’s next generation.
2. Once you’ve selected the best bulbs, divide them into separate cloves. Leave the skins on.
3. Make a hole in loosened soil about 4 inches deep. Placing the flat root side down put one clove into the hole; cover with dirt and tamp lightly; I cover with mulch, which happens to be grass clippings here.
Step 4. Repeat this process, planting your cloves about 4 to 6 inches apart. I recommend you place a stake in the ground marking it as garlic and the date you planted it. Despite our best intentions, we will forget! I even go as far as to take a photo & put it in my garden journal/ planner for the following growing season. If you plant in raised beds it will definitely be easier to remember, but still jot it down! If you don’t keep that kind of information, I highly recommend you start!
Garlic is not for the faint of heart, it takes patience but the reward is worth the wait! …now walk away and dream of spring, because this is where the patience starts.
Click this link for my recipe for Garlic- Thyme Infused Oil. It’s wonderful to toss in pasta or baste on fish or any meat. https://bit.ly/3R4b8dm
If you enjoyed this post please like, share, and let me know your tips & tricks for planting garlic. What’s your favorite variety? Please follow me on Facebook for fun & informative posts!
Who say’s rhubarb is only for the spring? If you harvest your rhubarb properly, you can get a second harvest!
This is a super easy recipe anyone can make! I recruited my son Aaron (12) to put together this recipe! He chopped, and measured all by himself… & then got to enjoy the fruits of his labor with some Hudsonville Vanilla Bean ice cream… oh yum!
Here’s what you’ll need for this supper yummy dessert! 4 cups chopped rhubarb 1- 3 ounce box of strawberry Jello 1 cup granulated sugar, organic preferably 1 box moist yellow cake mix- I like Betty Crocker 1 cup cold water ¾ cup unsalted butter melted 9″ x 13″ casserole dish Vanilla ice-cream!
Did you know that rhubarb is a perennial vegetable? Rhubarb is generally harvested in the spring & used to make pies, jams & jellies, compotes, and super yummy cobblers, like this one! After harvest, rhubarb will send up a white flower stalk from the center… buttttt you can still harvest new growth late!
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray a 9″x 13″ baking dish with cooking spray butter flavor is great!
Arrange the rhubarb in an even layer in the bottom of the baking dish.
2. Next, sprinkle the sugar over rhubarb evenly, then repeat with the strawberry Jello.
3. Sprinkle the yellow cake mix powder evenly over the sugar & Jello. Pour the melted butter and the cold water evenly over the mixture.
4. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour, until crumb topping is golden brown. Pro-tip: You can test the doneness of the cake by inserting a butter knife into the center to see if it comes out wet or not. If it is wet, check again every 5 minutes until it comes out dry.
Serve this delicious dessert with vanilla ice cream warm, or chill and serve with a tall glass of milk. Either way this dessert is sure to please!
What’s your favorite rhubarb recipe? Let us know in the comments below! If you found this post interesting, please LIKE, SHARE, & Follow me for more informative gardening tips & how-to’s, yummy recipes, & organizational help!
Check out my Facebook page for daily inspirations for your home & garden! Happy day, Jean!
Did you know August is ideal for planting lettuces, spinach & other greens along with beets, broccoli, kale, and peas?
These crops are cold-weather hardy and even love a light frost- it makes them sweeter!
Most of you know I am a die-hard for heirloom varieties. The flavors, textures, and overall hardiness is incomparable.
I thought I’d share some of my favorite seed companies along with varieties to get you excited to plant your fall garden!
As the scent of autumn begins to fill the air, most gardeners are dreading the season’s end to their garden. But don’t despair! If you’re a newbie gardener or a die-hard, I’m sure there’s a few tips I can share here to help you get your fall garden going!
My favorite seed catalog is Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company. They have seeds from all over the world, and varieties that will tickle any gardener’s fancy! To see their catalog click this link https://www.rareseeds.com/
Kale Variety- Russian Red- 1885 Russian red is very tender & mild with a wonderful nutty flavor. This variety is delicious at all stages, but makes a great addition to a salad as a baby green. 60 Days.
This is an extraordinary early and sweet pea with edible pods. The compact plants require very little garden space and don’t need to be staked. 3” pods are tender and crisp! 50 days.
This beautiful & unique French Heirloom is good for both eating fresh or canning. 50 Days
Pro tip: If you decide to can these, be warned as they don’t stay striped!
An old Austrian heirloom; the name means “speckled like a trout.” This is a remarkably beautiful romaine type lettuce with speckles in deep red on large leaves! My personal favorite! 60 Days.
A cold hardy, winter warrior with huge semi-savoyed leaves. Giant Winter is a flavor packed cool climate favorite. Unfazed by nasty weather, this hardy heirloom is perfect for overwintering. 50 days.
This Italian Heirloom will produce a nice center head & several off shoots. You will need to start these seeds indoors & transplant. 48-60 days from transplant.
This beautiful arugula is tender with a lovely spice flavor & will be a delicious addition to fall salads. Direct sow into your garden. 50 days.
Thanks for taking the time to read my blog. Please LIKE, comment, and Follow so you don’t miss out on future blogs! P.S. It’s almost time to plant your garlic. Keep posted for that upcoming blog!
Several years ago my good friend Kate Lawson, former food writer for The Detroit News shared her Italian Wedding soup recipe with my daughter. It quickly became one my families favorites. I have of course altered it to be my own & to suit our taste buds over the years. Hers was of course dynamite, but I love to be creative in the kitchen.
Pro Tip: I always use fresh veggies from the garden or the farmers market if in season & if not I purchase them. Fresh veggies always give a much fresher flavor to this delicious soup!
1 pound lean ground beef 1 small red onion minced- about ½ cup 1 egg (farm fresh are best) ¼ cup shredded parmesan cheese 1 fresh clove of garlic, minced 1 TBSP Italian Seasoning- see my recipe here: https://bit.ly/3dRCzIW ½ tsp Himalayan sea salt ½ tsp fresh ground pepper
In a large bowl mix all ingredients until evenly blended.
Form into walnut size or 1” balls.
Place on a cookie sheet and place in the fridge for 30 minutes until firm. Makes approximately 24-28 meatballs.
While the meatballs are setting, start soup.
1 TBSP butter 2 TBSP extra virgin olive oil 1 cup sliced baby carrots- cut into ¼ inch coins ½ cup minced red onion, packed 1 fresh clove of garlic, minced 1- 48oz container of beef broth 4-6 tomatoes pureed to make 2 cups OR 1- 16 ounce can of diced tomatoes or sauce (I like to use either a variety of Heirloom tomatoes or Roma’s) ½ cup grated parmesan cheese ½ tsp Himalayan sea salt ½ tsp fresh ground pepper 1- 16 ounce bag of 5 cheese tortellini 1 cup baby spinach, packed
In a large pot put oil, butter, onions, carrots, and minced garlic in. Cook on medium heat for approximately 7-10 minutes or until veggies are fork tender.
Add meatballs into veggie mixture, mix thoroughly, and sauté meatballs until golden brown on outside- approximately 10 minutes.
Add broth, tomato puree, parmesan cheese, salt & pepper; stir until thoroughly blended, cover and cook for 30 minutes on medium heat stirring occasionally bringing to a low boil.
Add tortellini and spinach, stir in and cook for 7 minutes.
This is a hearty soup and is delicious served with fresh Italian bread. Sprinkle a bit of freshly grated parmesan cheese on top & enjoy!
What’s your favorite soup? Tell me in the comments!
If you enjoyed this blog, please LIKE it & Follow me for weekly posts! Happy day friends, Jean