Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Maple Cranberry Sauce

It's simply the best side of cranberries ever.

Delicious lumped on turkey and even better in a sandwich the day after!

You can make it up to two days ahead of time and cross it off your list :).

Maple Cranberry Sauce

1 package of whole, fresh cranberries
1 1/4 cups maple syrup
2 TBS. frozen orange juice concentrate
1 tsp orange zest
1 tablespoon apple cider

Mix all ingredients in a pot on medium heat, stirring often.
Bring to a low boil, then simmer for 15 minutes until desired consistency.
It should be fairly thick.


Have a great day preparing lots of goodies!


Thursday, May 31, 2018

Growing Peonies

I think this is my favorite time of the flower growing season.
They may only have the floor for a short period of time, but peonies are my true love. Their form and shape so tender and beautiful, the way their hues fade like as they mature like a watercolor, and their fragrance. That smell is heavenly!

Three years ago I planted 35 different heirloom variety peonies. After researching flowers that would grow in our windy, arid area that has deep winter temps, I found that peonies prosper in those conditions. Not only are they gorgeous, but they are super hardy. 

  {Phillipe Riviore}

I planted 11 different varieties:

F.D Roosevelt {red}

Hermoine {pink}

Tourangelle  {light pink}

Minuet {pink}

Grace Baston {pink}

Krinkled White {white/pink}

Sarah Bernhardt {pink}

Whopper {pink}

Walter Faxon {pink}

First Out {red}

Phillipe Rivore {red}

I added 5 Francis Willard {white/pink accents} a year later.

{You can store peonies in your home refrigerator for about 2-3 weeks if you harvest at the right stage! Pick at marshmallow stage and remove all of the foliage. Bunch the stems together and place in a plastic bag and lay flat in the refrigerator. Don't worry if they seem a little wilted when you take them out!  Just cut the ends and put them in a bucket of warm water. Allow 24 hours for them to bloom for your event! Wonering what marshmallow stage looks like? In the picture above, the bud in the center that looks soft and pillowy is in the perfect stage. The buds around it are too tight and would not open if stored.}

{Grace Baston}

 {Sarah Barnhardt}


By far one of my favorite and most fragrant bouquet recipe with peonies is to add a little lemon balm to the mix! Oh....I wish I could bottle that scent up. On my table, the whole kitchen is filled with a fragrance that is both sweet and bright.


raspberry foilage
lemon balm

Before planting, I researched and read books and articles on how to properly grow peonies, and came up with a system that has worked really well. Peonies do best if planted in the Fall.

We decided to use weed fabric when planting. It has helped tremendously to keep them fairly weed free. Here they are early this spring in the black weed cover just after I removed all of the straw.

 Peonies don't like to be planted deep, just about 2 inches under some healthy soil with about 1/4 of a 5-10-10 fertilizer. I made sure each tuber had at least 3-5 eyes on it! We covered them up, watered them, and then put a thin layer of straw over the entire bed, making sure not to smother them too deep. The next year, strong, healthy plants started to come up. I removed all of the straw to let them breathe :).

The first year, I pinched all buds, except for one on the plants. This ensures that the plant can focus on root growth. By saving one bud, you can be sure to see if that tuber is what you think it is. After the plant died back, I carefully cut them back to about 2 inches from the ground and removed all leaves. This is really important to prevent any bacterial growth and disease. Again, in the fall, I sprinkled 1/4 cup of fertilizer, watered, and tucked them all into a bed of straw.

This system has worked wonderfully! After 3 years, my plants are healthy and producing at least 12 -20 flowers.

I water them just enough that the soil is moist every three days. We live in a desert area, so it's dry! The best thing about peonies is that they really don't like to have super wet roots and they need full sun. They also do not like to be disturbed, so once you plant your peony, plan on it being there a long time. 50+ years is not uncommon for a peony plant to produce beautiful flowers! 

Peonies are prone to a few diseases and pests: Verticillium wilt, ringspot virus, tip blight, stem rot, Botrytis, leaf blotch, Japanese beetle, and nematodes. I really haven't had any problems so far, and prefer an organic approach in raising blooms. You may notice ants crawling all over your plant. These little guys are the peonies' greatest friend, exchanging nectar for eating bud pests. They are helping the peony to bloom.

By far, my favorite place to order peony tuber is from  Swedish Touch Peonies .

They really have quality tubers and such a wide variety of plants.

Hoping you are enjoying this late fall and start into summer!
Happy planting!


Sunday, March 25, 2018

Tin Can Scarecrow

I have had a few readers ask about Gertrude, our tin can scarecrow, and thought I would revisit this post published a few years ago.
She has weathered a bit and sports a nice tan now, but I just love her garden presence!!


Meet Gertrude...

She's sweet and quite stylish...and helps me EVERYDAY in the garden.

She keeps those birds away...
and tells them where to go {our hens pay her no mind}.
Tim thinks Gertie might like to boogie and that this is her John Travolta move:).

She just means business.

We made her from recycled cans, a garbage pail, chicken wire, and metal roofing.
The idea came from Mary Jane Butter's book, MaryJane's Ideabook.
After collecting all of the materials, it is a really fun Fall afternoon project and the possibilities are endless.
I was inspired after my friend Kimberlee made her tin can scarecrow girl...and HAD to borrow her metal roofing idea:).

I used 1x2 pieces for her body and arms and screwed on each tin can.
I left enough 1x2 to secure Gertie into the ground. Mary Jane used a pitch fork so that the scarecrow could be moved from place to place.

Her hair is another coffee can with the top removed. 
I cut strips and then curled her hair.
Much better than sticking straight up:).

Gertie's skirt is a garbage can with metal roofing extending it to the floor.
She's modest...
in spite of the Travolta moves.

We added a little frou~frou apron of sorts with chicken wire.
It gives Gertie that fashion edge along with a little lace to compliment her garden gloves.

Her belt is another strip of metal roofing.

 Gertie has been a fun addition to our garden!
She is a hard worker and always happy to see me:).
As she ages, she will get a great tan...making her even more adorable.
If you are looking for a fun family project, all this takes is a little ingenuity and creativity.

 Happy Fall!

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Apple Spice Cake

Every Fall I make this cake.
 And every Fall it just kicks the season off! 
 Moist and crunchy on the outside, it is the perfect cake to celebrate the first day of Autumn, bring to a friend, or stick in a lunch box or two.

Apple Spice Cake

1 1/3 c. vegetable oil
3 c. all purpose flour
1 TBS. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 c. sugar
3 large eggs
3-4 Granny Smith apples cut into ½ inch pieces
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. maple extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 12 cup bundt pan with cooking spray. Set aside.
Sift together all dry ingredients, set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer with paddle attachment, combine vegetable oil, sugar, and eggs. Mix until lemon yellow. Add vanilla and maple.
Gradually add dry ingredients until just incorporated. Add apples, mixing until incorporated.
Spoon batter into pan…it’s thick!
Bake for 75-90 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean.
Let sit for about 20 minutes, then remove from pan.
Dust with powdered sugar.


Sunday, September 24, 2017

My Very Favorite Fall Soups

Reposting because Fall is here, and who doesn't LOVE a hot bowl of soup!

Maybe it is the harvest from the garden, a sort of finishing round of applause for the vegetables.
Maybe it is just the cooler nights
The sweater weather around the corner.
Soups beckon to be made this time of the year, providing a simplistic meal, a quick meal to put together, and even a perfect meal for guests.
Paired with a crusty bread and salad...maybe a pie for have one fantastic meal.

Here are some of my favorites...

And bread....who can live without it?
Here are some great recipes...

And dessert....every bite screaming Fall.


The Best Minestrone Soup Ever

It has been a very trying and busy few weeks for our family, so I made this soup.
Soup makes everything better and this recipe was comfort food at its best.
Delicious with crusty bread and a salad, I think the balsamic vinegar added a rich flavor to the base.
You will LOVE it.
It is one of those recipes you will make over and over through the years:).

The Best Minestrone Soup
{Original recipe from HERE...but of course I tweaked it.}
Serves 4 generously.
I doubled it for our family of 6.
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, or 2 TBS minced garlic
  • 5 cups (40 oz) chicken stock
  • 1 lb diced tomatoes with their juice
  • 2 large carrots (or a handful of baby carrots) sliced about ¼” thick
  • 4-5 large handfuls of spinach leaves (I use the bagged/pre-washed)
  • 1 14.5 oz can white beans (cannellini or great northern) rinsed
  • 1 T basil
  • 1 T oregano
  • 1/2 T sugar
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 c. macaroni or shells { I substituted 4 large diced potatoes}
  • 2T balsamic
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 T coarsely chopped fresh or dried parsley
  • Grated parmesan

    Saute onion and garlic in olive oil until translucent and then add the chicken stock, tomatoes, carrots, potatoes {if you choose},basil, oregano, sugar, and bay leaves.
    Cover partially and simmer for 20 minutes until carrots are tender. Add the pasta {if you choose} and cook uncovered for 8-10 minutes. Add the spinach, beans, balsamic vinegar and simmer until cooked. 
    Add salt and pepper to taste and garnish with parsley and fresh parmesan.

    Oh yum!


PS: Thank you ever so much for your kind words and condolences.
It meant so much:).

{Winter} Sunday Supper: Beef Barley Soup and Crusty French Bread

*Each Sunday join our family for Sunday Supper! 
A time to slow and enjoy those around you. A time to nourish souls and share food that fills up a tummy quite comfortably! Each week I will feature a seasonal meal that is not only healthy, but food fare you can most definitely make in a timely manner. So come, come to the table, and make a memory that your family will cherish...

These recipes come from my friend, Kimberlee....and they are so delicious on a cozy Winter's day.
This is one of our favorite meals.
I think what I love most about this Sunday supper is that you can make it ahead and have a really restful day.

"Bubbling Soup Pots"
From: The Pioneer Lady's Hearty Winter Cookbook
By: Jane Watson Hopping

Great-Grandma Meekins daily kept a nourishing soup pot simmering on the back of a big black woodstove. She thought such soup with a slice of bread kept workingmen and children strong and healthy. Her soups tended to be made with bits of leftover meat and vegetables. Grandpa preferred corn chowder seasoned with ham. The boys in the family likes vegetable chowders heavily laced with bits of leftover roast pork butts. The girls~ Mabel, Gladys, and Hattie~ liked chicken soups with noodles or rice in them. In late winter, Great-Grandma fancied bean and green or yellow split pea soups with toasted breads.

Beef Barley Soup
{Serves many...I usually cut in half for our family of 6}

2 lbs. hamburger, browned
2 cups celery, chopped
3 cups carrots, sliced
1/2 head cabbage, shredded
2/3 cup barley
16 cups beef broth
2`14oz. cans Italian stewed tomatoes
6 cloves garlic
4 TBS. pesto
2 TBS. brown sugar
2 TBS. dark balsamic vinegar
2 TBS. Worcestershire sauce

Put all ingredients into a pot except brown sugar and vinegar.
Bring to a boil and then let simmer for 45 min.
Add last 2 ingredients.

*Crockpot method: Just combine all ingredients and simmer on low for 6-10 hours.

Crusty French Bread
{Makes 2 large loaves.}

3 cups warm water with 3 TBS. sugar and 1 pkg. yeast
1 tbs. salt
7-8 cups flour

Dissolve yeast with sugar in water and let bubble.
Add rest of the ingredients. 
Knead only until a soft dough forms.
Don't over-knead!
Cover and put into an oiled bowl.
Let rise.
Punch down and then form into two loaves.
Place on oiled baking sheet with oiled, rolled tea towel in between.
This keeps the bread from rising and sticking together.
Dust with flour and slash the top with a sharp knife.

Let rise until to desired size.

Remove tea towel carefully.

Bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes.
Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for 15-20 more minutes.

 Serve hot with fresh butter or make grilled cheese sandwiches.

"Sometimes people can hunger for more than bread. It is possible that our children, our husband, our wife, do not hunger for bread, do not need clothes, do not lack a house. But...are we equally sure that none of them feels alone, abandoned, neglected, needing some affection? That, too, is poverty."

~Mother Teresa

{Winter} Sunday Supper: Ham and Pea Soup, Crusty Olive Bread, Baked Apples with Cinnamon Honey Butter

Pea soup is such a filling and healthy soup to serve to your family.
I just crave it sometimes and have to cave in to my hankering for this delicious meal.
Served with olive bread and baked apples for dessert, you truly have a wonderful menu for a Sunday evening.

I have to share this sweet story with you.
When my dear sister in law first married my brother, she found out split pea soup was his favorite.
She had never attempted to make the soup before, so she got out her cook book, gathered the ingredients, and began.
It called for split peas.
So ever so carefully, she took a bag of frozen peas and started splitting them in half with her paring knife.
It took a while, but my brother was worth it...
So she happily set forth a beautiful bowl of hot split pea soup for dinner.
He raved about it, but said it did have a little different flavor than my Mom's.
It was very fresh.
The next day, she called my Mom and proudly told her all about making the soup....and how it was so detailed...cutting all those peas.
My poor Mom, she just giggled and told her how wonderful her soup must have been....and then told her about the dried stuff in the grocery aisle.
Every time I make pea soup I think about my sister in law's love and devotion to my brother.
Her pea soup is delicious, too :).
I am so lucky to have two of the absolutely best sister in laws!

Ham and Pea Soup
{serves 8}

You can choose from the following for the ham:
1 ham bone or
 2 lbs. ham shanks or
  2 lbs. hocks or
2 lbs. pressed ham
2 1/4 c. split peas {1 lb.}
8 c. water
1 large onion, chopped or 3 TBS. minced onion
1 TBS minced garlic
1 bay leaf
1 c. chopped celery

1 c. chopped carrots
1 tsp. pepper
2 tsp. salt

Put everything into soup pot or crock pot. For stove top version....boil for 15 minutes, then simmer for at least 3 hours. You want the soup to thicken.

In the crock pot, just cook on high for at least 6 hours.
Shred or chop ham before serving in the soup. Mine is usually falling apart and I just use a fork to shred.

Crusty Olive Bread
{serves 8-10}

1 loaf of french bread {recipe here}
olive oil
Parmesan cheese
1 tsp. garlic powder
8 oz. Mozzerlla cheese
4 oz. can sliced olives {you can add all kind of olives} minced

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Slice french bread in half length-wise and drizzle both pieces with a fair amount of olive oil.
Cover with a generous amount {to taste} of Parmesan cheese and sprinkle 1/2 tsp. garlic powder on each slice.
Top each with 1/2 of the Mozzerella.
Sprinkle olives on top of both pieces and shake a little more Parmesan on top.
Bake on a cookie sheet for 5-7 minutes, or until cheese is bubbly and slightly golden.
Broil for 4 minutes until slightly browned.
Slice and serve!
~You can also serve with warm marinara sauce for dipping.~

Baked Apples with Cinnamon Honey
{serves 4}

4 large baking apples, such as Rome Beauty, Golden Delicious, Gala, or Braeburn
1/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup currants or chopped raisins {optional}
2 Tbsp butter
1 cup boiling water

Preheat oven to 375°F. 
Wash apples and remove cores to 1/2 inch of the bottom of the apples. 
You can use a paring knife to cut out first the stem area, and then the core...or use an apple corer.
I just cut the top off :). 
 Make sure to remove all of the seeds. 
Make the holes about 3/4-inch to an inch wide.
 In a small bowl, combine the honey, cinnamon, currants/raisins. 
Place apples in a 8-inch-by-8-inch square baking pan. 
Stuff each apple with the mix. Top with 1/2 TBS. of butter.

Add boiling water to the baking pan and bake about 30-40 minutes. 
You want the apples to be tender if you prick them with a fork, but not too mushy.
Serve could even top it with a little vanilla ice cream.

Hope your Sunday has been glorious!


{Spring} Sunday Supper: Gluten Free~ Fresh Broccoli and Cheddar Cheese Soup, Chopped Cobb Salad, and Gluten Free Coffee Cake

I just felt like a good bowl of soup this week.
Creamy and fresh with a lovely head of spring broccoli.
I think you and your family will love this recipe!
Pair it with a crisp Cobb salad and a gluten free dessert, and your meal is complete.

Hope you are having a lovely Spring so far!

 Broccoli and Cheddar Cheese Soup
{serves 6}

4 TBS. melted butter
2T. olive oil 
1 med. chopped onion
2 stalks celery, chopped
1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
2 cups half and half cream
4 cups chicken stock
1 head fresh broccoli, cut fine
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
16 oz. sharp cheddar cheese {can substitute 1/2 cheddar and another favorite cheese, like Gouda.}
salt and pepper to taste

In a pan, saute onion and celery in butter and oil until translucent. Add flour and whisk over medium heat until a rue is formed. Add the 1/2 and 1/2 and chicken stock. Stir well, then add broccoli and cook on low for 25 minutes. 
Add salt, pepper, and nutmeg.
Don't skip the makes the soup!
Add the cheese and heat until melted and creamy.

Chopped Cobb Salad
{serves 6}

½ head iceberg lettuce, shredded
½ head romaine lettuce, chopped fine
handful of fresh spinach
2 oz. blue cheese or feta, crumbled
6 strips cooked bacon, roughly chopped
3 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and cut into ½" cubes
2 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and cut into ½" cubes
1 boneless skinless chicken breast, cooked and cut into ½" cubes
1 avocado, peeled, pitted, and cut into ½" cubes
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tbsp. minced chives

Combine all ingredients and toss in a large bowl.
Serve with your favorite dressing.

Gluten Free Coffee Cake
{serves many}
*original recipe from New Every Morning...with my own adjustments :). 

1/4 cup ground flax
1 1/2 cups almond flour
2 tsp. baking powder
3 eggs
1/4 cup melted butter
1/4 cup sour cream
1 tsp. maple extract
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. almond extract
1/2 cup stevia blend

1/4 cup melted butter
1/4 cup melted coconut oil
1 TBS. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
4 TBS. stevia blend
1 tsp. molasses

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a bowl, combine first 3 ingredients. Set aside.
In another bowl, whisk together eggs, butter, extracts, and stevia.
Blend and then add to the dry ingredients.
Mix well.
Pour into a 9x13 greased dish.

Mix topping ingredients together and then pour on top and swirl with a knife.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes.


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