Gift Giving Ideas and More Yummy Winter Thyme Recipes

There is a light dusting of snow on the ground and the air is chilled… next Friday will herald in the first day of Winter… my personal countdown to beloved Spring.  I have Spring in the hoop house despite what the calender says right now… but today I am not feeling very well and thought I would do something else I love that I have been neglecting… “For Dragonflies and Me”… an essentially all of you who read this.  The days have been growing shorter and the sunshine diminishing more and more each day.  Today is a sunny day and I will be happy for that. Here are some great gift giving ideas for those of you that want to do something extra special along with some ideas on drying and freezing your herbs and of course a few recipes to use them in. Enjoy friends.

 
We are in the heart of the Gift Giving season and us crafty people are always looking for that extra unique gift that we can hand make for those special people in our lives.  Gift Baskets are a fun and super easy way to create a one of a kind gift.  Although we need to look out of the box, or should I say ‘basket’ and look around for unique and original ‘containers’ to hold the gifts!  Here a few ideas that you can expand on… just remember, be creative and have fun, that special person will know that you spent extra time in this gift of love!  Please remember that there are many Winter Farmers Markets going on right now, including our farms in Downtown Farmington, The Old Winery and we’ve got over 30 vendors there every Saturday that can easily help you create many of these novel gifts…

*Gift for the Localvore~ Container: Go to the local Farmers Market that you know the 

I have a Bolga Basket and just love it!

recipiant attends and purchase a shopper bag from the market if they have one or purchase a large shopping type basket from the Basket Vendor there.  If the market has neither of these, then purchase one from Bolga Baskets- a wonderful basket that is hand made in countries by the poor- http://www.bolgabaskets.com  Contents: Again, patronize the local farmers market and purchase items from the vendors there to fill the container.  You can often get gift certificates from vendors and this will allow them to purchase what they like- especially from meat, egg, dairy and produce vendors- things that won’t keep in a ‘basket’but need to be included!  You can also include a gift certificate from a local restuarant that purchases and uses locally sourced items.  Get a copy of Edible WOW http://www.ediblewow.com Magazine if you live in Michigan, it is the best source anywhere to find those local goodies.  They too hold classes that would be a great gift!
Depending on where you are located, go to www,ediblecommunities.com to find an Edible Publication near you!

Garden Caddy would
make excellent
container!

*Gift for the gardener~ Container Ideas: large Terra Cotta or Clay pot, Garden Caddy Bag, Old Wooden tool box from Antique or thrift shop, Wicker basket. Contents:  Hand tools- trowel, shovel, scratcher, weed digger; gardening gloves, pad for kneeling, few cute garden name tags, garden step stone, several seed packs- include veggies, flower and herbs, gift certificate for a seed catalog with the catalog- my choice would be Baker Creek Seed http://www.rareseed.com, gardening book- my personal choice would be “Tomatoes Love Carrots” by, Louise Riott, gardening magazine- my first choice would be Organic Gardening published by Rodale, www.organicgardening.com

*Gift for the baker~  Container: big ceramic or stoneware bowl-, large cookie sheet, 9×13 baking dish, large enamel ware bowl.  Contents: Bag of flour, chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, other flavored chips, sprinkles, sugar, vanilla, almond and maple extracts, salt, baking powder and soda, walnuts, pecans, rolling pin, hot pads, glove and towel set, cookie cutters, cookbook, gift certificate for a class at a local shop.

*Gift for the cook~ Container: Enamelware Roaster, Stainless Steel Stock Pot, Cast Iron Skillet. Contents: Several types of salt and pepper- Pink Hymalain, White pepper corns and grinder, several rubs, spices, cooking utensils, hot pads and glove,  cookbook for using LOCAL ingredients, gift certificate for a local cooking class- check out http://www.ediblewow.com for local classes.

*Gift for the griller~ Container: Roaster. Contents: Grilling tools, rubs, several Bar-b-que sauces- pick up some at your local Farmers Market, hot pads and gloves, salts & peppers and grinder, cookbook for grilling and a gift certificate to a local grocery store.

 

*Gift for the sewer~ Container: sewing basket, wicker basket. Contents:  Scissors, sewing needles, variety of thread, pins, measuring tape, seam ripper, buttons, couple spools of decorative ribbon, rotary cutter and mat, thread organizer, sewing machine needles, gift certificate to a local store for a class.  If you want to go all out, get them a sewing machine too!

*Gift for the Scrapbooker/ Stamper: Container: Any type of Scrapbook Tote, Large wicker basket. Contents- oh my where do I begin- this is one of my personal fave’s!!!  Paper Card Stock Stack pads- 12×12, stickers, ribbons, stamps & pads, paper cutter, adhesives, markers, chalks, pencils, any other accesories you can find. Scrapbook magazine and even better a subscription, gift certificate to a local scrapbook/stamping store for a class! I think it would be easiest to stick with a theme for the contents.  If you really want to go all out for a gift, pick up a die cut machine and a cartridge.

*Gift for the shopper~ Container: Large pretty shopper bag, large Wicker basket meant for shopping. Contents: Gift certificates to a few local shops in town taking into consideration what the ‘shopper’ enjoys shopping for! Nice pair of walking shoes, directory of shops, thrift stores or whatever else she likes, GPS.

Gift for the reader- Container: Wicker Basket, cloth bag. Contents: several books by favorite author, Readers journal, gift certificate to local bookstore, a few handmade book marks, magazines that would interest the person, mug with coffee, tea and cocoa packs, lap blanket to cozy up with while reading. If the recipiant is a techie- get them an e-reader.

*Gift for a pet~ Container: Dog or Cat bed. Contents: new dishes for food & water, home made treats- go to your local farmers market and find a treat maker and support local, toys, sweater, new leash & collar, gift certificate for a grooming at a local pet salon.

The point I hope I have made here when gift giving is source out LOCAL items to give… forget the prepack stuff and slow down. This time of year doesn’t have to be a stress induced manic moment… take a breath, get a note pad and pen and start jotting down the people who are giving too… think about their likes and start making your list!  You will have as much fun putting them together as they will opening them!

Cabbage Strudel– makes 2 rolls
 
8 tbsp butter
1 c chopped onion
8 c thinly sliced cabbage
1 c shredded  carrots
1 tsp salt
1/4 c shredded cheese– Swiss or other
3/4 c bread crumbs
1 tbsp snipped fresh parsley or thyme
1/8 tsp black pepper
12 sheets frozen ph7yllo dough– thawed
 
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Grease a 15×10 inch baking pan– set aside.
2. 2.  in a large skillet melt 2 tbsp of the butter and add onion; cook about 5 minutes or till tender.  Add cabbage & carrots; sprinkle with salt.  Cook about 10 minutes or till tender.  Remove from heat; stir in chasse, 1/2 c of bread crumbs, pepper & herb
3. In a saucepan melt the remaining butter.  Unroll phyllo dough, cover with waxed paper & damp towel.  Brush with some butter; top with 1 teaspoon of crumbs.  Repeat layers with five more sheets phyllo., melted butter & crumbs.  Spread half the cabbage filling over phyllo layers, leaving a 2 inch border on one of the long sides & both short sides.  Fold both short sides over filling; roll up from l long side.  Place roll, seam side down, in prepared pan.  Repeat to make a second roll.
 
4. Bake about 35 minutes or until golden. Transfer to a wire rack; cool for 30 minutes. To serve cut with serrated knife into slices.


Swiss Chard, Spinach or Beet Greens. Combine all if you want to!


15-20 leaves
1/4 c Olive Oil
2 or 3 eggs



1/2 c shredded cheese– your choice
Salt to taste
1. Wash leaves, cut out white or colored midrib.
2. Tear leaves into bite size pieces
3. Stir fry leaves in hot oil till evenly coated and wilted– sprinkle w/ salt.
4. Place leaves in baking dish– pour beaten eggs to cover– sprinkle cheese over top.
5. Bake @ 350 until eggs are set and cheese melted- Appox. 20-30 mins.


Happy Day,
Jean

 

 

 
 
 
 

 

Mountain Pie Suppers, Homemade Napkin Rings, Cute ‘Cookie’ Packaging, Taylor’s Best Ever Chocolate Chip Cookies!

Spring is here and how I just love to be outside~ especially where entertaining is concerned.  Nothing is as enjoyable to me as having my friends over for a lovely evening of food & fellowship… listening to the gobs of children running and playing and laughing… Spring and summer come to an end much too quickly for me, so I try to take advantage of my outside time as much as possible.  Our family really enjoys Mountain Pie suppers- in Canada we call them Hobo Pies.  Our children think this is so fun because they get to ‘make’ their pie just as they want with what they want.  Some of you may be saying, “what in the world is a Mountain or Hobo Pie?” Well you can purchase the pie irons at most big box stores and at all the hunting outfitters out there.  The are simply called ‘pie irons’ on the package. 
*How to get started: First build a good camp fire and get a nice hot bed of coals with very little flames- you will need to keep it going though.
*Supplies you will need: Organic non-spray & bread. Have a table set up with all the toppings on where all guests can make their pies; make sure you have a board or something ‘melt’ proof to place the hot irons on when they are ready to come out. 
*Toppings can be anything savory or sweet.  Here are a few ideas
    ~Sweet- Nutella & Banana, PB&J, any kind of fruit pie filling
    ~Savory toppings can include: pepperoni, cheese, mushrooms, bacon, ground beef regular or seasoned, ham, sausage, tomatoes, sweet &/or hot peppers, pineapple, olives or onions. 
    ~Use pizza sauce, ranch dressing, mayo or any other dressing/sauce that goes with your combo!
*How to make: Be sure to spray both sides of the pie iron; place a slice of bread in each side; put your sauce on first and then layer on the toppings of your choice; carefully close iron and latch; put on the hot coals turning often, check the bread by opening the latch and carefully lifting to see how things are coming.  When toasted to perfection take iron out of the fire, place on prepared area and carefully open iron and remove the ‘pie’.
Enjoy one after another and watch your guests have one of the most enjoyable meals they’ll ever have!
Charming Homemade Napkin Rings…
When I entertain I love to add special touches. In many of my previous entries I have described table settings, special dinner ware and other little touches.  I often use linen napkins, they are just extra special. Here is a really cute idea to make an already special touch sweeter.  We all have extra buttons and now is the time to round them up and put them to use as charming clasps on napkin rings.  Use several different ones for an eclectic and wistful look. 
*You will need to use ‘shank’ type buttons- buttons with a loop on the back, not holes.
* Choose a theme for your set, such as flowers, mother of pearl types or seashells.
*Decide on how many you want to make- I would say at least eight.
* I would recommend your buttons be at least 1 1/2″ to 2 1/2″ in size.
*Next thread a 12″ length of cording through each shank, and tie its ends in a knot.  Secure knot to shank with a needle and tread so that it will stay hidden behind the button.  Wrap cording around a folded napkin, looping it back over the button to secure.
Giving gifts is so much fun, especially food gifts~ and cookies are always well appreciated!  Here is the cutest and simplest Cookie Packaging idea I have ever heard of, so I wanted to share it will all of you.
*First purchase a package of paper C.D. envelopes with a window- yes you are reading correctly!
* Next create a label- (a good size would be an Avery 5198 or a label about 3.5″ wide by 1.67″ high)- with what ever you want it to say- Happy Birthday, Happy New Year, It’s A Boy/ Girl or whatever the occasion is!  Add a cute graphic to the label and you’re all set. 
*All you need to do is put your cookie inside the envelope and seal- you get to see how yummy it looks through the window!
*Adhere the label so it’s center is on the top of the envelope so half is in front and the other half seals the back down.
These make great party favors as well!

We have growing boys in our house and after school snacks are a must have around here.  One of the favorites around here is Taylor’s chocolate chip cookies.  Some people say to use semi sweet or dark- but forget that, nothing makes a cookie like Milk Chocolate!  Enjoy one of families favorites, 
Taylor’s Best Ever Milk Chocolate Chip Cookies!

1/3 cup shortening
1/3 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup raw organic sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup walnuts (optional)
3/4 cup mini Milk Chocolate Chips

1.  Preheat over to 375 degrees.
2. Mix shortening, butter, sugars, egg and vanilla will.  Measure flour by dipping method or by sifting.  For a softer, rounder cookie, add 1/4 cup more flour.)
3. Stir dry ingredients together and blend in; mix in chips and nuts if adding.
5. Drop rounded teaspoons of  dough 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.
6. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until delicately browned.
Cookies should still be soft.  Cool slightly before removing from pan!

Happy Day,                                                   
Jean

 

Idea Note Books, Remembrance Shadow Boxes, Edible Centerpiece & A Yummy Romaine & Bacon Salad!

I love photographing my gardens, both veggie and flower. I take photos of them at each stage so I know what I need to fill in, get rid of, thin out or re-do.  As I page through my garden journals, it is so interesting to see how the beds have matured, changed and been redone over time.  To be able to go back and see each season and where I need to add, thin out or add an element to hard scapeing an area helps in future planning & budgeting.  I always think that I need more in the spring, for some reason I have never been able to be satisfied with my spring garden’s. Shall I say they are always a work in progress~ slow, steady progress!  I use an Idea Notebook as one way to keep track of all the wonderful idea’s I see as I drive past a lovely yard or see something ‘neatsy’ at a greenhouse/nursery.  I keep this in my purse so I can simply take it out and jot down the idea.  I also like to keep my camera along with me so I can photograph anything of interest. This is how my mailbox came to be.  I had driven past this super cute mailbox that had bird houses hand painted on it. I took some photographs, bought a new mail box, a really big one, and replicated the images onto my own. Now I too have a super cute mailbox! I am too forgetful to remember everything I like and would like to eventually do.  I love my gardening magazines and often find all sorts of neat ideas that I would like to do.  I don’t like ripping pages out of them so I will either photocopy them and then tape them in my idea notebook or journal. Be sure to include magazine name,  page number and date in which the idea/article was in!
Remembrance Shadow Boxes
are a beautiful heirloom for oneself or to give as a gift.  My dear mother in the Lord made one of these in memory of each of her parents after they passed away. She purchased the shadow boxes at a big box hobby store and then created what I believe are heirloom treasures.  They are done very scrapbook’ish with pretty paper on the back, almost looking like wall paper.  Then she incorporated several meaningful items in each that represented each parent.  The memorabilia are tacked onto the ‘wall’ with adhesive tape or small pins. Each contains their reading glasses, a photograph and several other items that.  So easy and yet simply stunning!

No table is quite done without a centerpiece. It creates a finished and homey atmosphere to the room. Whether it is a vase filled with in season flowers, a rooster statue, a candelabra or a bowl filled with fruit, it sets the stage to an inviting feeling. Edible plants are one way to create something very special.  To create a lovely Edible Centerpiece you first will need a container that you can set in the center~ indoor or out.  This can be a large, shallow Terra cotta or clay pot, an old fashioned wooden toolbox, an old drawer lined with plastic or a wicker basket lined with plastic so the dirt won’t flow out- the key is that there is proper drainage and that you have it resting in a container to catch water- especially if inside.  Personally I think these are most special on a patio or picnic table for outdoor enjoyment.
Here are a few choice plant combo’s:
*For a yummy Salad Bowl plant one of each in the corners if square container or an ‘x’ if round:  nasturtium~trailing preferably, a variegated lemon  thyme, Genovese basil and Italian Large leaf parsley; in center plant a romaine lettuce and spinach plant.  Please take into consideration the growth size of each plant and determine the size of your planter if it will accommodate this planting.   A 24″ in diameter pot would be recommended. 
*Herb Lovers~ try Genovese Basil, Lemon Basil, Italian Large Leaf parsley, tarragon and a thyme.  Whenever you are ready to grill you can snip off some to add into a butter for brushing on corn or shish-ka-bob.  Fresh snipped basil & parsley for yummy Brushetta, thyme for grilled squash or chicken and tarragon for fish!
The combo’s are really up to your taste buds, so be creative and let your taste buds soar!

Everyone loves our bacon, for what I believe to be very good reasons~ no nitrates or nitrites, no G.M.O. feed given to our hogs, naturally raised with open fresh air & sunshine.  Here is yet another way to serve up some of our bacon with our yummy heirloom Romaine lettuces!
Romaine & Bacon Salad

2 medium heads romaine lettuce from Garden Gate, chopped
1 red onion from Garden Gate, sliced thinly
1/2 pound bacon from Garden Gate
1 cup raw organic sugar
1 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup salted sunflower seeds
homemade croutons (see previous blog for recipe)

1. Arrange lettuce in a bowl and top with onions.
2.  Fry bacon in skillet over medium- high heat, cook bacon until crisp; drain.
3. Combine vinegar & sugar; pour over bacon in skillet; bring to a simmer over medium heat; cook and stir until sugar dissolves, about 3 minutes. 
4.  Pour mixture over lettuce and onion. Toss together to mix evenly; top with cranberries, seeds & croutons.
5. Serve immediately.
Enjoy! 

Happy Day,
Jean

‘Guinea Pig’ Meals, Seed Packet Magnets, Sheets for Tablecloths & Springtime Salad, Salad Dressings and Homemade Croutons!

“Flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful; They are sunshine, food, and medicine to the soul.”
Luther Burbank
Meals are important at our house~ they are a time where we all sit together and talk about the days events, big news, mishaps or anything else that happens to pop up.  Meal times can get a bit on the noisy side, but they are special together times that everyone gets to give their two cents worth.  Last night at the supper table, Taylor said she wanted to do ‘Guinea Pig’ Suppers every night next week~ Neil said, ‘no way’; Kyle said, ‘yeah, cool’; Ethan said, ‘uh-uh’; I said, ‘OK, but I have to say yes first before anything is approved’; Neil said, ‘That sounds better’; and then my sweet little 10 year old Ryan said, ‘Where are we going to get the guinea pig meat?’, quite seriously.  So you may be saying, what is a guinea pig meal?  Well they are fun & easy. All you do is try a new recipe that you think looks good that you have never tried, really not that scary.  Anyway, I thought that this was cute!

*The other day I was at a friends house and they gave me a tour of their new ‘little’ greenhouse. It was cute- her daughter had saved several of her seed packets to keep for a handy reference.  I saw them as something much different- cute Fridge Magnets for home & gifts of course! I am sure most of us gardeners are guilty of buying that ‘extra’ pack of seed just because of the package, the photo of the flower, herb or veggie- “Oh,” we say, “I have to have that …..” .  We all love a pretty picture- as they say, ‘a picture says a thousands words’…  So often I purchase a seed packet just because of the package.  Seed companies would be smart if they all put more energy into the packaging!  I have already used them as name cards at a tea party, pasted on the front of a homemade card and to make Fridge Magnets.  It is so easy and they are the cutest gift to quick throw into a card you are going to send someone! Here’s how~ You will need a laminator or self laminating sheets, a roll of self sticking magnet and of course your empty seed packets.  Simply laminate the pack and then stick on the magnet! So cute, so simple and so fast!

*Some people collect shoes, purses, books, I collect table clothes.  No matter what thrift shop I go to, the first place I hit is the linens department; I stand back and look down the rack so I can pick out the fabrics that catch my eyes~ plaids and floral’s are always first on my list.  After I find a few things it’s off to the sheets~ yes the sheets!  Sheets make wonderful outdoor entertaining table clothes; they cover picnic tables beautifully!  I also have used quilts for a unique touch on a special occasion! Be creative, it’s your table!

Everyone loves the first yummy things out of the garden in spring, lettuces, greens, spinach, radishes, scallions and the list can go on & on.  Here is a variation to the everyday salad using some of Garden Gates awesome Bacon, lettuces, greens and radishes!

Garden Gate Farms Special Springtime Salad

1 bag mixed Greens from Garden Gate Farm, about a pound
1 bag baby lettuces from Garden Gate Farm, about a pound
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup dried Cranberries or cherries or mix of both
1 bunch Radishes from Garden Gate, washed, trimmed and thinly sliced
1/2 pound Garden Gate Bacon, crisply cooked & crumbled
1/ pound blue cheese or feta cheese (without juice), crumbled
Poppy Seed Salad Dressing- see recipe below
Homemade Croutons- see recipe below

1. Wash & snip greens & lettuces into bite size pieces; arrange in a large salad bowl or on a large serving platter.
2. Layer each of the remaining ingredients, except dressing, on top of  lettuce/greens.
3. Serve with dressing on side.
This is a large batch and will feed 12 to 15 hungry folks! 

Yummy Poppy Seed Dressing

1/2 cup raw organic sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. mustard
1/3 cup real lemon juice
1 tsp. grated red onion
3.4 cup Olive Oil
1 Tbsp. poppy seed
1/8 tsp. pepper

Combine all ingredients and mix well.  Refrigerate and serve chilled.

Homemade Croutons

1/4 cup butter
1 Tbsp. minced fresh garlic
1/4 tsp. each salt & pepper
1/3 cup grated Fresh Parmesan cheese
6 slices french or sour dough bread, day old is fine,  crusts trimmed* (don’t throw away)

1. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Cook until butter foams;  Add garlic and cook about 1 minute; add bread cubes and toss to coat with butter. 
2. Season with salt & pepper.  Transfer to a baking sheet and bake at 375 degrees fro about 15 minutes, tossing once in between, until lightly golden.
3.  Remove from oven and sprinkle with cheese and toss until cheese melts. 
Makes about 4-6 cups.
*Don’t throw away those crusts- put them in a freezer zip lock bag or freezer plastic container and freeze for up to 3 months.  Use them for your next batch of homemade dressing!

Happy Day, 
Jean 

Cookbook Journals, The Gift of Bread, More Garden Tips, Potting Shed Organization & Taylor’s Yummy Beef & Veggie Soup

As I have mentioned so many times, I love to journal!  Taylor was looking through the cookbook journal I had made her several years back and I thought that would be something interesting to talk about.  After all I always add some recipes so why not.  Journaling through my blogs has been such a delight for me and a way to share my thoughts and ideas with all of you.  So often I get asked questions about a lot of the things that I have been blogging about and now I can direct the folks to this blog.  Thanks for staying turned and if anyone has any question please don’t hesitate to ask through our Facebook page and I will try to address each question as best I can!

*Several years ago I was going through one of my Scrapbook magazines and they had a whole section on Cookbook Scrapbook Journal’s.  Well that’s all it took for me and I was right into it.  I called my mom, Neil’s mom & sisters and got all the families ‘favorites’.  One stipulation was that each had to send the recipes in their own handwriting- not typed.  I had several of my Grandmas, her sisters, my aunts & my moms as well as some of my own from when I was a teenager.  I also included some of Neils own concoctions along with his brothers. But I needed more than just the recipes- I needed photographs.  I wanted photographs preferably of each person in the kitchen or doing something in the line of cooking- even camping & grilling.  I got more than I dreamed of, this was going to be fun.  One more key ingredient to the book was to be the story telling aspect of it- journaling!  This comes easy for me, so with each recipe and photo is a short story about the cook and why the recipe is special.  Being the avid scrap booker I am I of course had the perfect 10×10 inch Creative Memories scrapbook and all the supplies any one could dream of, so it was just getting it organized and decide on the format I wanted.  Once I had all the recipes I made copies of all on Scrapbook paper so they would not deteriorate over time. I put the appropriate photos with the right recipes; I decided on my title pages and the order they would go in; knowing that this couldn’t be an encyclopedia I had to decide on what recipes to use and which to scrap- (get rid of) -no pun intended- this was the hard job.  In the end Taylor now has a beautiful Scrap-Cookbook that she truly enjoys and uses quite often. 

*Everybody loves bread, and if they don’t they should! Bread makes a lovely gift~ weather it be a yeast, sweet or flat bread, they are all yummy.  To make your gifts of bread even more special, pick up inexpensive yet cute Tea Towels at discount stores and tie your loaf up into one, tie with raffia, jute or cute ribbon and add a special tag.  The recipient will be so tickled. 
*More Garden Tips….
*
If you have a fireplace that needs cleaned out, right about now, don’t just throw those ashes away- they have great garden value!  If you have blueberry bushes or an asparagus patch put those ashes around the base of them.  They will give the plants much needed potash for the growing season.  Also, if you plan on planting peas in your garden this spring and know where the patch will go, sprinkle the ashes over that area and the day before you want to plant, till them into the ground! Beware- my pea vines got over 8 feet tall!
*Keep a five gallon bucket filled 3/4 way with oily sand to put your shovels, pitch & potato forks & spades in. It will keep them from getting rusty.
*If you are like me you will find yourself standing around the garden asking yourself, “Now where did I lay those clippers?” I don’t quite understand why some of these garden companies don’t think to make the handles on the tools bright colors so they are more easily found. Or maybe that is why they don’t, because they get lost so easily and then we have to buy more~ now there’s an “A-ha” moment. Anyway, until they do design them with them, pick up some bright color spray paint and spray the handles- no more ‘lost’ tools!
*This spring be sure to plan certain flowers into your garden plan- Marigolds, basil, nasturtiums should all be planted along with your tomatoes to keep bad bugs away and attract the beneficial’s.  They are not only pretty, but practical.

Potting Shed or Garage Organization is a key for a content & happy gardener.  I am very blessed to have a very lovely Potting Shed and as I mentioned in a previous blog, it is a mess each spring that I need to clean out.  This mess is never my doing, I will not take the blame for it.  I have several wonderful helpers that just have not acquired my love of organization~ YET!  Kyle is the closest yet with Evan not far behind.  Everyone else is ‘a work in process, or should I say progress?’  Anyway, I have a spot for everything in my shed and I am much happier when I can find what I want when I want it.  As I always say in & out of doors, “Everything has it’s place so put everything back in its place…. please!”  On that note, here are a few tips on organizing your potting shed, garage or where ever you store your tools.
*I put 2 sections of peg board in my shed, on which I use hooks to hang all my shovels, rakes, loppers and several other tools.  I also hang small buckets and even a wire utensil basket in which I keep my hand tools in along with other small things.  I used one of those plastic shoe organizers that hang on the back of doors to store nuts, screws, garden gloves, markers, hooks, ground staples and any other small things that I want to be able to see at a quick glance.  I have several shelves where I keep planters, bird feeders,watering cans, etc.  I also have an old kitchen counter with cupboards below where I store plastic containers, dirt, bird seed and any other extra stuff. I also keep five gallon buckets to use for putting my weeding garbage in. In the rafters I keep fold up chairs, my push seeders, shutters and other large items I don’t have room for on the walls or floors.  The outside of my shed is decorated to my liking- an old window with three old buckets for planters, an antique scale and of course an old fashioned bike leans on it.  On the back I have an old french door surrounded by antique tools and a shelf above which showcases empty pots and bird houses. On the other side is the window with a planter under it which I plant with pansies each year. The front has two wash tubs, one on either side of the door that I plant with petunias, a “The Potting Shed” sigh I hand painted and of course a Welcome sign.  You can use any of these ideas in your garage as well, simply pick a corner and deck it out with whatever you have.  Watch at garage sales & flea markets for old counters or even an old table. Shelves are easy to come by; peg board can be got at any hardware store.  The ideas are only limited by your space and creativity- so have fun and make it say it belongs to you! 

Taylor’s Yummy Beef & Veggie Soup
I know most of us think of soup in the cooler months, and with the way the weather has been the last couple weeks I wouldn’t feel like soup either. The next week though is supposed to be on the cooler side so pick up a Garden Gate Chuck Roast tomorrow to make this super yummy soup next week! Enjoy…

3# or so, Beef Chuck Roast from Garden Gate farm (of course 🙂 )
enough water to cover roast and over about 4 inches
1 small red onion from Garden Gate, chopped fine
1 bunch Swiss Chard from Garden Gate, ribs & stemmed removed and then leaves washed and cut into bite size pieces
1 cup of Carrots, cut into 1/2 inch coins
4 ribs of Celery , cut into 1/2 inch chunks
2 cups Cocktail Vegetable juice, like V-8
1 tsp fresh Rosemary from Garden Gate
1 tsp. each salt & pepper

1.  In a large crock pot add water, meat, onion, salt & pepper and rosemary.  Cover and cook on low for about 8 hours. 
2.  Stir in carrots, chard, celery and cook until almost tender, about 1/2 hour.  Transfer meat & veggies to a large stock pot; add juice.  If not enough juice, add enough water to cover.
3. Cook on low for about another hour or until veggies are tender.
So good.

Happy Day,
Jean

More Garden Theme’s~ Shakespeare Garden’s & more, Herbed Mushroom Omelets

“To own a bit of ground, to scratch it with a hoe, to plant seeds, and watch the renewal of life… this is the commonest delight of the race, the most satisfactory thing a man can do.”  Charles Dudley Warner

Gardens are such a joy and can be an inspiration to others.  When one walks through a garden they should be welcomed by a warm, fuzzy feeling that grabs hold of them to the point of not wanting to leave.  Quiet, rest and peacefulness ought to be the theme of every garden, and it can be accomplished simply by making it a small reflection of who you are.   When your friends are there it should be a time of not just visiting, but sharing secrets of both joy and sadness; a place where memories are in the making.  A garden says so much about it’s creator~ favorite plants, colors, garden style~ mine is all cottage!  My hope is that these writings will stimulate that new, hopeful gardener to dive into a new project or inspire the one that has it ‘all’ to do something new.  Gardening is meant to be a joy, so be joyful & garden!
 
As I mentioned in the previous entry I am going to discuss for a few days some different Garden Themes. 
Many people are moved by Shakespeare’s writings and find his work quite fascinating. Some may have even heard of a Shakespeare Garden Theme.  This garden represents plants that have been mentioned in many of his writings.  As you will notice, many of the plants listed are herbs, and therefore an Herb Garden would be a great way to incorporate this into your yard!  Remember, as with all gardens consider your area, drainage, available sunlight or lack of, and the plants growing habits.  As always, I suggest drawing it out and planning before you start~ this always saves a lot of disappointment.

*Mustard          *Strawberry
*Parsley          *Calendula
*Bay                *Carnation
*Burnet            *Columbine
*Savory           *Flax 
*Thyme            *Pink Rose
*Marjoram       *Hyssop
*Lavender        *Johnny Jump Ups
*Lemon Balm   *Myrtle
*Chamomile      *Flax
*Rosemary      *Mint

A few other Garden Themes are….
*Friendship Garden~  This is one of my favorites, and it is so easy to get started!  First make a list of some of your best friends and think about their garden’s and what they have to offer in the line of perennials.  After you decide on your garden location, size and have it prepared for planting, you can begin asking your friends for starts of the plants you want to ‘remember’ them by.  They will be so tickled that they mean that much to you, they will gladly give you a ‘baby’.  But be careful, you may get a whole group ready to start ‘Plant Swapping’ and garden making~ now wouldn’t that be terrible 😉 !
*Sittin’ Garden~  This garden is for quiet times.  At our other home I had a special spot where I could look over the garden and watch the birds, bee’s and just relax.  I took two tree stumps and a wooden slab board; I then laid the board across the two stumps for a very rustic bench. You can use whatever suits your fancy & taste for your quiet spot.  Take a cup of tea, coffee or cocoa and just enjoy the moment. 

Herbed Mushroom Omelets
Try this yummy treat with of course Garden Gates awesome eggs!

6 eggs beaten  from Garden Gate
1 Tbsp. fresh Parsley from Garden Gate
1/4 tsp. of each dried Oregano & Thyme

2 Tbsp. butter, divided
1 1/2 cup Portabello Mushrooms

1. Whisk together eggs & seasonings and set aside.
2. Melt 1/2 the butter in skillet over medium heat and add sliced mushrooms; saute until tender~ about 5-10 minutes. Remove from skillet, set aside.
3. Melt rest of butter in skillet over low heat; pour in half the egg mixture. Stir the eggs slightly, without scrambling. When almost cooked, spoon the mushrooms in and fold over. 
Happy Day,
Jean

Birthday Parties Garden Style with Pretty Posy Favors & Pepper Steak Made Great!

I don’t think it is any big surprise when I say that being in the garden is very special for me.  All my life we had a garden and it just is part of who I am.  The wonders of nature in the garden are by far too many to number.  I often say how special it is for me to be in the garden with my children, the experiences that I am able to share with them is priceless.  When they see their first woolly bear caterpillar, or pill bug or even better the first Praying Mantis, now that is a wonder for sure!  The garden is a special place for so many things, so what about hosting a birthday party~ not just for an adult but also a child.  Here are some ‘Child’ Friendly Garden Birthday Party idea’s & tips…
*Help your child make home made garden themed Invitations.  How about a standard 4 x 5 1/2 piece of card stock.  Pick up those wonderful 10 for $1 seed packs and put the seed pack on the front for the ‘picture’. 
*The Menu!  Let your child have fun! Depending on the age of the child let them help create the menu!  A very cute ‘Sandwich’ idea is to start with sub buns for your sandwich.  Cut each section about 4″ and make as you want.  Set the sandwiches up down the center of the table in a wiggly way to look like a caterpillar. Even cuter, put chocholate cookie crumbs under it to make it appear as though it is crawling through the dirt~ too cute! You can use any color licorice to lay on the table slightly under the sections to represent the ‘many’ legs; using toothpicks, put round gummies or black olives for two eyes. Two stick pretzels can be the antenna’s; use any other soft candies on toothpicks to poke along the tops of the sandwiches to represent ‘polka-dot’ backs.  The ideas are endless, use your imagination.
*Watermelons aren’t just yummy, they can be beautiful centerpieces as well.  Most of us have seen how melons can be cut to represent a handled basket, hollowed out and then filled with a beautiful & delicious fruit salad.   The long oval shaped melons work best.
*Punch is the funnest drink for a party! Try making ‘real’ lemonade!  It is very simple- use 3 parts water to 1 part lemon juice, add 1 cup of sugar for every 4 cups of liquid! Cut lemon’s & limes in slices and let them swirl around to make it extra special.  If you have a ‘color’ theme to your party, add a few drops of food coloring to make your lemonade your color!  You can use any large container to hold your punch!  Use jelly jars for your glasses with umbrella straws!
*Of course the Cake, or how about Cupcakes!  How much more fun, then these can actually turn into a Game!  Have a cupcake decorating activity!  Let each guest decorate their own cupcakes- so much more special!
*Party Games~ how about ‘Pin the Bumblebee on the Daisy’, play a game of bingo with flower pictures~ use small rubber stamps or stickers that would fit on a 1″ square and use for your Bingo instead of letters!  How about a Scavenger hunt looking for all Garden stuff! 
*Posy Pots!  here is a great favor!  Here is what you will need!
Organic Potting mix, 1 Quart Zip Lock baggies, Sunflower or Marigold seeds, pretty card stock , tulle, raffia, and a small clay pot.  Fill the baggie with enough potting mix to fill the pot then place filled bag inside the pot. Take the card stock and make a small packet to put 2-3 seeds in, seal. Place seed packet on top of dirt bag in pot.  Gather tulle around the outside of the pot, and tie with raffia.  Cut out a 4″ x 4″ piece of card stock for a gift tag and using a rubber stamp or sticker of the type of flower seed you chose, place it on the square, punch a hole in the corner, write planting instructions on back and attach to raffia bow. Such fun for everyone!

Many people often wonder what they can do with Round Stead other than stew meat, here is a great way to make a typically tough piece of meat great!

Pepper Steak

2 lbs. beef round steak sliced into 1/2 inch strips from Garden Gate
2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
2 garlic gloves, pressed and divided
2 green pepper, cut into thin strips
1 large Portabello mushroom
2 medium onions coarsely chopped from Garden Gate
2 tsp  Seasoning Salt
1 cup beef broth
1/4 tsp to 1/2 tsp curry powder

Chicken broth as needed

1.  In a skillet over medium heat, brown steak strips with oil and half the garlic.
2. Add peppers and onions; cook until tender.  Stir in mushrooms, Matt’s Mix and remaining garlic.  Stir in beef broth.  Reduce heat to low an simmer for 30 minutes.
3. Sprinkle with curry powder and continue simmering one hour.
4. Add chicken broth as needed to prevent sticking and over browning.

Happy Day,
Jean

Remembrance Trees, Wedding Shower & Gift Idea’s and yummy Three Cheese Herb Pasta Bake

When we purchased our farm the home had been abandoned for over a year and to say the least it was a ‘fixer’ upper.  Although as we walked through it I could imagine what I could make it to be, and so the long road of fixing is still in progress.  That’s o.k. though because I enjoy making things look like ‘me’. We moved in the first of March almost five years ago and I had the garden’s to be on paper before you could bat an eye.  The veggie garden and flower beds would be first priority and then planning some hard scaping. Each year we have added new elements and I can always envision more beds and dreams. 

Remembrance Trees or plants are a beautiful and potentially long lasting treasured gift.  Neil’s mom had purchased for each of the six children a ‘remembrance’ tree in memory of their father after he passed away.  Unfortunately our beautiful Emerald Luster Maple tree was left at our previous home.  She had wanted something for our new home and got us several much needed shrubs.  This is such a wonderful idea that can be remembered for generations.  

Wedding Showers can be so fun and especially with the right theme.  If you are planning on hosting one, even in the dreary months of winter, make it a Garden Theme.  Here are a few cute ideas to get you started!
*Invitations– You can create the cutest invitations with all the graphics, rubber stamps and stickers out there today.  Especially if you have one of those nifty die cutting machines! 
*Have everyone bring their favorite Recipe on a card that you send them with the invitation (then they are all the same size & coordinate).  Put them in a cute Terra cotta pot as each guest arrives; have the bride-to-be pull 2 or 3 of the cards and whoever’s name is on them, they win a door prize- give them a potted plant.  The recipes then can be put in a book or box for the bride-to-be and will be a long lasting treasured memory. 
*Place Setting Name Tags– use 10 for $1.00 seed packets- simply use address labels with a cute font and garden graphic to print each guests name on and then put on the front of seed packet to cover the company name, but not flower.  Have just one of a certain seed and use that for another door prize winner.
*Door Prizes– pairs of garden gloves, hand tools- trowels, shovels, scratcher’s; garden stationary, seed packets, potted flowers or any other garden themed gift you can come up with.  
*Menu– You can change names of recipe’s to feature the theme.  For example, ‘Berry Blossom Salad’- use edible flowers (if available) like pansies & nasturtiums. Rhubarb Punch or Garden Spiral Pasta Salad are a few more.  Use your imagination!
 
A wonderful Wedding Gift for the happy couple to be is a Picnic Basket.  Be sure to fill it with two of everything- linen napkins, place mats, plates, cups, flatware and pretty glasses.  Don’t forget to include a table cloth, candles & candle sticks and some of the couples favorite treats.  
Another special gift is a small Planter of Cooking Herbs such as Basil, Parsley, Sage, Thyme, Oregano and Rosemary.  Make it even more special by including a book on Herb Gardening and an Herb Cookbook. 

Try this yummy meal using Garden Gates Italian Sausage and let your tastes soar….
Three Cheese Herb Pasta Bake

3 Tbsp. butter                                                                            1 tsp each- basil, dill & oregano from A Pinch of Spice & More
2 cloves garlic, minced                                                             2 Tbsp. fresh parsley from Garden Gate    
1/4 cup Whole Wheat flour, from Garden Gate                         1/2 tsp. Pink Himalayan Salt from James Creek Sutlery
1 tsp. mustard from Sansonetti’s                                              1/2 tsp. Black Pepper from James Creek Sutlery
3 cup milk                                                                                 16oz. package of Tracina’s Gourmet Specialties Rigatoni, cooked
1 cup shredded Cheddar Cheese from Grassfields                   1 pound Italian Sausage from Garden Gate
1 cup shredded Monterrey Jack from Grassfields
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1.  Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat.  Add garlic; saute one minute.  Whisk in flour & mustard.  Pour in milk; continue to whisk until smooth.  Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  Reduce heat and simmer one minute. 
2.  Combine cheeses;  reserve 3/4 cup and set aside.  Add remaining cheese to sauce, a little at a time, stirring until cheese melts.  Add herbs and seasonings. 
3.  Toss pasta with sauce; sprinkle with reserved cheese.  Spoon into a lightly greased 13″x9″ baking pan.  Bake uncovered, at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes.  Uncover and broil for 1 to 2 minutes, until golden and bubbly.

Happy Day,
Jean

Seed Gift’s, Secret Pal’s and a Yummy Quiche

Seed Gift’s, Secret Pal’s and a Yummy QuicheI love to give gifts, especially gifts for or from the garden!  There is something special in a wild flower bouquet just because…. or a small start from a perennial plant for a special friend.  I have several perennials in my gardens that are from friends and each time I venture through I think of them, and I do believe this is the point. Each Spring most local stores have the 10 for $1.00 seed packs, I like to stock up on them and include in gift baskets, birthday cards or any other little garden type gift.  Store them in an air tight container and keep in the freezer, it will add to their longevity.

Have you ever had or been a Secret Pal?  I have been on both the receiving and giving end, it is so much fun!  Here are a few tips on how to be one!
*First pick someone who you think could really use some cheering up or someone you think it would just be really fun to surprise.
*Decide how long you want to do it- 3months, 6 months, the longest should be a year.
*Decide on a theme- this makes it easier when deciding on gifts. Once you decide on the person, that should make the theme easier because you will more than likely know what they like. Make a list with the twelve gifts you want to give fitting each one to the month.
*Premake your monthly cards- I used the pictures out of one of those mini calenders you can get for a buck or two, cut the pictures down to fit on a piece of card stock- 4″x6″ works really well- also they are already themed to the months!  I glue the picture down for the front of the card and then write or stamp what I want in each one, put it with the envelope and you’re ready to roll every month.
*Watch at thrift stores for gifts- you would be shocked what you can find.  Typically most of the bigger thrift shops have a section that is jam packed with Brand New items, still in the wrappers with price tags!
*You can even preplan you gift ‘container’. Choose if you want to go with simple yet cute gift bags- which can also be picked up at thrift stores- or cute baskets or even nesting boxes.  The options are endless.
…. so choose that special person and gift away, after all, ‘it is better to give then to receive’…
Here is a really yummy Quiche for a special brunch you may be planning or just a really special breakfast…
“Michigan Winter Farmer’s Market Quiche”

1 deep dish pie shell                                            2 cups Grassfields Organic Monterrey Cheese (or similar), shredded
1 pound Garden Gate Hot Italian Sausage          1/4 cup chopped bell pepper from Willow Ridge Farm
3 Garden Gate eggs, slightly beaten                   1/2 tsp each Pink Himalayan Salt and Black Pepper from James Creek Sutlery
1 3/4 cup Milk                                                     1 container of Jar Head Salsa
     
1/2 cup sour cream
                                             Lettuce from Springbrook Garden’s, shredded          

1.  Prebake unpricked pie crust on a preheated cookie sheet in a 450 degree oven for about 5-6 minutes.  Reduce temperature to 325 degrees.
2.  Remove casing from sausage, brown in skillet, breaking up the meat until crumbly and cook thoroughly.  Drain well.
3. In a bowl combine eggs, milk, cooked sausage, cheese and peppers.  Turn into partially baked pastry shell. Bake at 325 degrees on the preheated cookie sheet for 45-50 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean from center.  Let stand about 10 minutes to set before serving.
Serve topped with sour cream, salsa and shredded lettuce for a super yummy treat!  Enjoy
Happy Day,
Jean