Decorating The Porch, Dreaming of Summer and My Favorite Popover Recipe and Yummy Herb Roasted Potatoes

One of my antique watering cans nestled on an arbor among Sweet Autumn Clematis vines.

 

Decorating The Porch, Dreaming of Summer and My Favorite Popover Recipe and Yummy Herb Roasted Potatoes
I love to decorate for the seasons… inside and outside in all the seasons. There is true beauty in all, yes even Winter (stay sitting, I really do think so!)  I’m not talking about all the Christmas lights and plastic yard ornaments, I’m talking about using nature to beautify along with some cool ‘junque’… creative decorating shall we say! Your porch is a reflection of your home and what you adorn it with says a lot about you… That’s why when the dog carries a dear leg from one of the boys prizes, I get a bit cranky! Some of ‘them’ just don’t seem to get it.  There’s no reason that you can’t keep it cute till we can once again adorn our porches with live, beautiful flowers. Each season holds some beauty, yes I do admit that with even winter…  Evergreen boughs strewn with red berries and there really is nothing like a hoar frost glistening in the bright early morning. Let your neighbors and those that pass by have a treat for their senses with the beauty of your front porch!

Winter Lake Shot in Michigan.

 A common saying right now is, “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas”, I just can’t say that. I’m dreaming of a green summer… I’m sure some people wonder why in the world I live in Michigan… move somewhere where there is no winter you might say. I would love to, but opportunity hasn’t oppened her door yet, so I try to make the best out of my circumstances right where I’m ‘planted’.
So I decided to share garden shots~ go to my blogspot at http://www.fordragonfliesandme.blogspot to share in the sunshine where we can make believe it’s summer!

Here are some super cute idea’s to decorate your front porch for the winter months… not just the Holidays!

~Lay several pieces of evergreen across the window ledge(s), window boxes or any other decorative item you may already have under your window; put pint size glass mason jars* filled about 1/2 way with pea gravel (so they don’t blow off), snuggle in between boughs; put battery operated candles in each.  Add some service berry, holly or any other branch with red berries.
*The candle/jar will not work if you don’t have a roof over the windows.

~Surround any windows on your front porch and the front door with live garland, intertwine with white lights! In Spring switch it out with grapevine… leave the lights- there not just for Christmas! I think lights in summer are even more spectacular, especially in the patio!

~Put an old chair beside the front door; get an old fashioned wooden sled with metal runners, lean up against the back of the chair; hang a small Boxwood wreath with a bright red or powder blue bow and drape a pair of red knitted mittens over the back to hang down on side of chair!

~Take small wreaths and hang centered in each of the house windows with a bow on it- and of course the front and any other doors you may have.  Put battery operated candles in each window.
     

~If you have large urns or other planters that you would typically put plants in during the warmer months, change it up for Winter!  Add evergreen boughs, pampas grass, any branches with red berries. Make it look like an arrangement you would set on your table… If you have solar lights, put one in each planter to light it up at night.

~If you have a table on your porch: put several evergreen boughs down the center from side to side, like a table runner, add any branches you can get with red berries, intertwine; put a big bowl in the center… preferably one long and shallow; place a 2 quart mason jar in center filled 1/2 way with pea gravel; place a battery operated candle in center, tie a big red or powder blue bow around shoulder of jar; surround with pine cones, pomagranites, oranges and nuts. 


…now for some summer…

“Spring Garden” photo by Jean Smith
My spring gardens abound with beautiful Peonies.  If only they lasted longer…
“White Climber”, photo by Jean Smith

 



 
The Potager, AKA The Kitchen Garden
Even with winter here I can still go and cut fresh oregano
and Thyme. Parsley is also very hardy along with the sage.
“Beautiful Morning” photo by Jean Smith
The Bistro Garden heralds in
beautiful hosto and other greenery

 
 
Here are some yummy good recipes to keep you and your family eating while the children are home for winter break!

I know I’ve shared this recipe before, but it is seriously one of my favorites.  I don’t always feel like making dinner rolls that I have to wait till they rise. This is such an easy and quick bread that can be made just before the meal!  Enjoy friends!
Popovers
You can use any combination of cheese & veggie you like– that’s what makes this recipe so much fun & oh so yummy!

Nonstick cooking spray
1 c all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 c milk
1 c shredded cheddar cheese
1 sm.-med onion diced

preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Coat 8 cups of a muffin tin with cooking spray. 
In a medium bowl whisk together egg & milk until well blended, add flour and salt.  Stir just until mixed.  Stir in cheese & onion.  Fill prepared cups about 3/4 way full– about 1/3 c batter
Bake for 15 minutes.  Reduce oven temp to 350; bake for 10-15 more minutes or until browned & puffed.  Do not open oven door until end of baking time or popovers will collapse!!!!
Remove popovers from oven and immediately remove from pan.  Pierce sides once with a knife to release steam.  Serve warm with butter.

Other combinations;
Broccoli & cheese
Dried tomato & basil with parmesan cheese
Onion & chives with cheese
Ham & Swiss Cheese
The options are only limited by your imagination.

Oven Roasted Tomatoes

About 7 c of Roma or Cherry Type tomatoes, stemmed
2 tbsp olive oil from Olive Grove
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar from Olive Grove
2 cloves minced fresh garlic
2 tsp dried or 4 tsp fresh Oregano leaves
1/4 c snipped fresh basil
2 red onions wedged
1/2 tsp ground pepper
Crusty Bread

Preheat oven to 400 degree.  Line a 9×13 inch baking pan with foil.
In a small bowl whisk together oil, vinegar, garlic, herbs, salt & pepper.  Toss tomatoes  to coat thoroughly.
 Arrange tomatoes  & onions in  a single layer on baking pan. 
Roast uncovered for 14 to 18 minutes or just until the tomatoes are soft & skins begin to split, gently stirring once. 
Transfer the tomatoes to a shallow serving bowl.  Drizzle the vinegar mixture from the pan over the tomatoes.  Sprinkle with snipped basil.  Serve warm  with crusty bread.
  Have fun with this one, be creative!

Herb Roasted New Potatoes
2 quarts new red skin baby potatoes
1 cup sweet onion, halved then sliced
1/2 cup thyme infused olive oil OR 1/2 cup olive oil and 2 tbsp.s fresh thyme leaves
4 tbsp. butter
3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese plus all juice
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper

1. Put potatoes and onions in a deep dish 9″x13″ baker; pour oil over; toss to coat evenly. 
2. Sprinkle with salt & pepper; dollop with butter; sprinkle crumbled feta cheese evenly over top; pour the juice over top.
3. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 35-45 minutes; stir potatoes to mix cheese in and coat  all potatoes with oil; bake for 15 to 20 more minutes or until the potatoes are fork tender.

Happy Day,
Jean
     

Market Day At The Garden Gate Farm, Plant Tags, Plant Growing File & more yummy Market Fresh Recipe’s!

We have been busy… I thought today along with the normal fun stuff I like to share I would give a journal entry of “A Day In The Life…” at our farm on Friday while we get ready for market… so here it is… enjoy!

Here was our day last Friday…  it was 97 degrees with a heat index of 103 degrees…
“We take so much care in what we do because we do it for you!” Jean Smith

Friday is market morning… everyone gets out of bed starting around 6am through till about 9am~ those sleepy heads are typically the little guys!  We have a simple breakfast of cereal and fruit, clean up… I can’t stand dirty dishes on the counter~ especially when I know I will be working in there later!  Do a simple walk through the house, throw a load of laundry in and do everyone’s lists for the day… get the CSA list done…
~ Taylor is our runner on Fridays… off she goes to the butcher shop to pick up the animals that need to be processed for Saturday if they were not done on Thursday… later she will go and get all the produce and eggs that we purchase from our co-op of farmers… 
~ Our farmer friends the Bechtels have been in their field for some time already I am sure… one of their 20 acres of produce is dedicated to green beans… they are busily picking for us and their markets right now, as we are getting our day started…
~ Ryan is typically our ‘greens’ man… he does a really good job at diligently cutting the chard that he planted earlier this spring… with knife in one hand and crate in other he heads out in the already 85 degree day… as he brings me the crates of chard with sweat dripping off his young brow, I work at sorting baby leaves from large, purging any yucky ones and then rinsing & finish by bagging… about 2 hours later off to the cooler! 
~Kyle is our go to man and he is busy harvesting scallions (green onions), he very carefully looks at each stem so as not to pick them too young.  After he harvests about 200 or so… off to hose them done with cold water so they don’t wilt… as he rinses them he carefully gets all the dirt out of the roots that he will hand trim with a pair of scissors shortly… then take off the outer leaves so they look white and clean… bunching and bagging time… about 2 hours later he is off into the cooler to put his wares in a safe place. 
~Our Amish friends, the Millers are busy in their field picking those beautiful heads of cauliflower that will adorn your shares tomorrow along with our market tables… Broccoli is another story though… over 5000 heads and because of the very unusual heat that June has given, close to half the heads have bolted… what a lose! Yet they are diligently out there harvesting what they can and breaking off the bolts hoping for side shoots…
~Ethan is probably tilling in the dry, hot field with dust blowing up into his face as he walks behind the tiller where the tractor laid the plastic rows too close and now the tractor with pull behind tiller doesn’t fit… luckily there are only a half dozen or so… but it must be done.
~ In the mean time our hired girl Eva has arrived and she starts picking the beets that are on the list next… off goes Eva to pick, wash and sort… she needs about 300 or so to fill all the needs of our CSA and market friends… carefully going through and picking she carries each crate over to the wash & pack station and gives the beets to Kyle who will lay them all out and wash them with fresh, cold water to make sure they stay hard and beautiful for tomorrow… next he sorts them out by size and puts in the crates accordingly for Eva… who when done harvesting will take any yucky leaves off, bunch for the market tables and CSA… about 2 1/2 hours later then move on…

~The tomatoes were harvested on Thursday by the Yoder family and packed and ready for pick up… absolutely perfect in size and shape… all to please our CSA members and market friends…
~ next the herbs are cut and bagged… kale and any other greens… they must be first because the heat cannot get into the leaves…
~Kyle moves onto the potatoes… he needs to dig at least 3 bushels full to fill all the CSA shares and have enough to sell… down the hot rows he goes with potato fork in hand… digging away.  After he is done, about hour or so, off to the wash station… potatoes are fairly simple to clean… hose off in the crates and let air dry in the shade… package and off for lunch and then produce pick up…
~The heat is on and the cucumbers and squash must be picked before the heat gets into them… off go the Kempf’s, soft gloves on to be sure no scratches happen to the delicate squash… going into the prickly leaves, arms being scratched they pick bushels upon bushels in their fields…. cucumbers are beautiful…
~Lunch time… sandwiches and cold refreshing fruit and lots of cold, cold water, lemonade or garden tea…


~ Back at it… We need to get any other produce picked, washed and packed before Taylor & Kyle get back with the rest of the produce…
~ After they arrive we sort through all the beautiful produce our dear farmer friends have been spending the morning doing as we were. Eva works on all the produce that we will sell at market while I work at all the CSA stuff…
Kyle is cleaning out and loading everything we need for market and carrying all the heavy crates and boxes down to the cooler…Several hours later it is finally supper time and if everything is done we can go take cold showers and go to bed… oh but wait… I still need to do the inventory lists for the two CSA groups and email them… check the email… OK… 10:30 or so I can hit the sack
2am… Neil is up with the boys and loading all the meat into the freezer… there they go into the basement cooler and are going to haul up all the produce up and load into the trailer…
3am… Jean & Taylor’s alarms go off… up we go… check the email just in case before we are out… get my coffee…
4am… crank the engine and off we go to market on the wings of prayer!
… see you there!

Plant Tags... A market friend of mine taught me this nifty trick some years ago and I loved the idea as soon as I heard it.  We all have those old plastic vertical blind’s that have been bent and just jammed into the closet.  Well drag em’ out and put them to work!  Simply cut them to the length you need according to the height of the pot you wish to mark; next use a permanent marker and write the plant name on it!  Now there’s recycling at it’s best.

Plant Growing File’s
are nifty and quite handy.  To create an indispensable reference guide to your garden, staple seed packets to index cards and organize them in a recipe box. Staple only one edge of a packet, so you can flip it over to see instructions for growing. On the lined side, note when the seeds were sown, when they sprouted, and any other dates you might need for future seasons.  After the harvest be sure to add if you like the variety, any tips for a better harvest next year or any other pertinent info that you will want to remember for next year!

BBQ Station… A lattice panel is more than just a pretty backdrop. When hung near your grill on a section of your fencing or railing, it provides square upon square from which to hang your basic BBQ supplies: brushes, pot holders, and more. Use metal ‘S’ hooks to hang anything with a built-in loop, as well as bins, racks, and grill baskets. Corral small tools, such as basting brushes and meat thermometers, in stainless steel perforated bins and wire racks, which resist rust and won’t collect rainwater… go to the web site to see photo!

Some More Yummy Market Fresh Recipes…

Creamy Cucumber Crunch Salad

Yummy dressing and the crunch of garden fresh cucumbers, this salad will be hit with both family & friends!

8 cucumbers
1 tsp. salt
6 scallions, thinly sliced
6 radishes, thinly sliced
1 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup fresh dill,chopped and loosely packed
2 Tbsp. lime juice
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 clove garlic, minced

1. Peel cucumbers; cut lengthwise & scoop seeds out with the small end of a melon baller; slice into 1/4 inch slices.
2. Toss cucumbers with salt in a large bowl, then cover with cold water; set aside in fridge for half hour; drain all but about 2 tbsp. of the water.
3. Combine remaining ingredients in a large bowl, mix well; add to the drained cucumbers.
4. Cover with plastic wrap and chill fro at least one hour and up to overnight before serving.

Herb Roasted New Potatoes

… we had this for supper tonight… so yummy!

2 quarts new red skin baby potatoes
1 cup sweet onion, halved then sliced
1/2 cup thyme infused olive oil OR 1/2 cup olive oil and 2 tbsp.s fresh thyme leaves
4 tbsp. butter
3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese plus all juice
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper

1. Put potatoes and onions in a deep dish 9″x13″ baker; pour oil over; toss to coat evenly. 
2. Sprinkle with salt & pepper; dollop with butter; sprinkle crumbled feta cheese evenly over top
; pour the juice over top.
3. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 35-45 minutes; stir potatoes to mix cheese in and coat  all potatoes with oil; bake for 15 to 20 more minutes or until the potatoes are fork tender.

Happy Day,
Jean

Robins & Geese, Kitchen Gardens & Yummy Potatoes, oh my…

Several weeks ago our friends Kevin & wife Hilda spotted twenty-one Robins in their front yard! Kevin is the music teacher at our childrens school and he told the children how he and his wife gazed out their living room window in awe counting.  Back in the beginning of February when Neil & I were in Saugatuck we watched about seven fairly large flocks of Canadian Geese heading North.  Well, many an old timer would say, ‘The birds know…”  I believe it.  
This weather sure puts me in the mood for gardening even more!  I have several herbs planted in the green house right now; Basil, Rosemary, Parsley, Oregano, Sweet Marjoram and several others.  A few years back my daughter Taylor was reading through one of my Country Garden mag’s and came across an article on Kitchen Gardens.  That was all it took for her and then, ‘Mom, could we make a kitchen garden?’  Well I never say no to creating another garden, so we went right for it and now we have a lovely garden right off the side of our garage that is easily accessible from the back door and adds beauty to our yard.  We incorporated a Tea bed and several perennials along with the veggies we plant each spring.  My favorite spot in it is the Herb Garden.  I used several old drawers and other containers to put the herb’s ‘in’.  There are all the perennial herbs that come back year after year and then we try a few new ones each year as well. We always incorporate the annual have to’s – primarily Basil! Oh how we love our fresh Heirloom tomato Brushetta with fresh picked basil and garlic.

Here are are a few tips for making your own Kitchen Garden:
*First, make sure your new garden is near an entry door to the house where you can easily go out and gather the bounty for your meals.
*Make sure there is a water source nearby that a sprinkler can be used.
*Do a ‘map’ of the area and what you would like to incorporate before you start.  Get the proper info on each plant and know how much space you will need for it’s growth habits.  I have made the mistake of not giving enough room too often in the past and end up climbing over and through a mass of plants.
*Use container’s of all sorts to add an eclectic look. This will also help keep things where you want a bit easier.
*Use flowers to add beauty & charm- you can choose edible ones as well!
I like to take before & after pictures so I can see the progress and see growth over the years.  Have fun in the garden, it is a happy place to be.
Cute Herb Tag Idea:  Take small pieces of broken old slate, painting the name of the herb on it, and spraying it with an acrylic sealer.  Place the marker at the base of each herb.  Then the next year when cleaning up the garden spot there won’t be any problem with identification. 
Here is a yummy Winter Thyme Potato Casserole
Of course you can get your potatoes, bacon and thyme all from The Garden Gate Farms booth at the market…

20 Redskin Potatoes                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       1 cup Cheddar Cheese, shredded & divided
1 tsp  Seasoning Salt                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       1 tsp. dried Thyme
1/2 lb. Garden Gate Bacon, crisply cooked, crumbled & divided                                                                                                                                                 1/2 cup Butter, melted

1. Cook potatoes in boiling water until tender; drain.  cool and slice about 1/4 inch thick.
2.  Arrange half the potatoes in a greased 9″x13″ baking dish.  Season with Matt’s Mix & Thyme.
3.  Top with half the bacon and half the cheese.  Layer on remaining potatoes; repeat with other half of bacon & cheese.  Drizzle butter over top.
4.  Bake, uncovered at 325 degrees until cheese melts and casserole is heated through, about 30 minutes.
Serve with yummy Fostoria Sour Dough Bread with Bellwether Farms butter and Enjoy!
Happy Day,
Jean

This is part of the Herb Container Garden in our Kitchen Garden