Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Cucumber Salad

This ranks up there as one of my favorite summer side dishes!  It takes me back...waaaaay back.  My mom would make this every summer while I was growing up.  I ask her for the recipe every single year, but I was never able to recreate it quite like hers.  Until this year.  This year it came out almost as good as hers ;)

This salad is so simple, too.  Very few ingredients and, if the thought of just mayo and vinegar as a dressing makes you turn your head, I'm asking you to just give it a chance.  I'm not the biggest fan of mayo, but it's amazing how just a little bit of vinegar added to it totally transforms it into something different.

Of course this could be made anytime of the year, but it truly tastes the best with fresh picked cucumbers.  If you have fresh onions and tomatoes (I don't add tomatoes in mine, but some do) - even better!  We have cucumbers coming out of our ears this year, so you better believe I'll be making this salad often :)

Cucumber Salad


Ingredients:

3-4 freshly picked cucumbers, sliced (4-5 cups)
1 small onion, sliced thin
2 roma tomatoes, sliced (optional)
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2  1/2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp kosher salt

Directions:

1.  In a large bowl, whisk together the mayo with two tbsp vinegar, salt, and pepper.  Add the cucumbers, onions, and tomatoes and stir to coat.  Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour.  Serve and Enjoy!

~ Sara :)

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Patriotic Taco Dip

We are lucky enough to have great friends that throw an awesome Fourth of July party every year.  This year, I decided to get extra festive with one of the dishes I brought.  Introducing the Patriotic Taco Dip.  I was so proud of my creation!  I made sure evvvverybody knew that I was responsible for this masterpiece.  :)


This is an incredibly easy, festive dip that you can make/layer however you'd like!  Below are the ingredients I used, but there is no set recipe - add/subtract anything you like!

Patriotic Taco Dip

 

Ingredients:

1 can (15 oz) refried beans
8 oz sour cream mixed with 1 tbsp. taco seasoning
16 oz guacamole
16 oz salsa, drained
1 bunch (6-8) green onions, sliced thin
1/4-1/2 cup chopped cilantro
8 oz shredded cheese
1 large handful blue tortilla chips, crushed 
Mozzarella, Provolone, or Monterey Jack cheese cut into 50 small pieces
3 large tomatoes, seeded and diced
4-8 oz sour cream

Directions:

1.  In an 8x11 rectangular dish, layer the first eight ingredients.
2.  Using the remaining ingredients, create a 'flag' on the top of the dip.  I recommend either using squeezable sour cream or using a pastry bag.  Serve with tortilla chips.  Enjoy!


~ Sara :)

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Cherry Cobbler

I am lucky enough to have parents that love gardening as much as we do and always has fruit and veggies to spare.  One thing they have a ton of is cherry trees.  The kids and I went over there late last week and came home with probably 20 quarts of sour cherries!  I had told her that I wanted enough to can 2 quarts...well, I ended up canning 4 quarts plus 10 pints!  I also have plenty of cherries leftover to dehydrate and juice leftover to make homemade grenadine.

Another thing that I decided to make?  Cherry Cobbler.  Cobbler is such an easy dessert and this was tart, sweet, and delicious!

Cherry Cobbler

    

Ingredients:

1 Tbsp soft unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar 
1 cup flour 
2 tsp baking powder 
1/2  cup milk
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 pint (2 cups) sour cherries 
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp almond extract
Boiling Water

Directions:

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees, grease and 8x8 pan, and drain cherries reserving any liquid.

2.  In a medium bowl, mix together the butter, 1/2 cup sugar, flour, baking powder, milk, and salt until a smooth batter is formed.  Spread batter in prepared pan.

3.  In the same bowl (no reason to dirty another!), combine the sugar, drained cherries and almond extract.  Add enough boiling water to the reserved cherry juice to measure 1 1/2 cups.  Add to the cherries and mix well.  Top the batter with the cherry mixture.

4.  Bake for 35-40 minutes, until the batter rises and begins to turn golden brown.  Remove and allow to cool.  Serve and enjoy!

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Moving the Chickens - Part Two

After being moved to the run in their own space for about a week, it was time to integrate our newest flock members in with our remaining two original chickens - Libby Mae and Bork.  I had some 'supervised visitation' with all of them for about 30 minutes one day and, well, it didn't go great, but it wasn't terrible.


We knew we had to do something because it was just a matter of time before the little chicks figured out a way to fly up and over our 8 foot tall fence into the garden or the yard.  Once we walked in and found them on top of their makeshift coop and roosting on the door, we knew it was time.


We were cautiously optimistic and decided to move the little chicks into the coop with Libby Mae and Bork at night while they were roosting.  Once we got them in and shut the door, there was a little squabbling, but nothing to be concerned about.  The next morning, all was fine....as long as the chicks kept their distance from Bork.  Ha!  She's a feisty little b.... if you know what I mean.  


As long as I threw out lots of treats, the chickens could semi-cohabitate together.  Again, as long as all the little ones (and, who am I kidding - Libby Mae too!) gave Bork plenty of space.

    

We were hopeful that the little chickens would follow the two bigger ones into the coop at night.  This was a pretty silly thought on our part considering they were scared to death of them!  Needless to say, that didn't happen.  When we would go out to check on them at night, they would all be up on top of the kennel/coop (we had it closed so they wouldn't roost inside of it) all huddled together.  So, just like we did with our first flock, we had to put these chicks on lock down inside the coop.


So, in the coop they went and in the coop they stayed for four days.  This trains them that this is their home, their safe place, and where they need to return to every night.  Now, we did not want Bork and Libby Mae to be locked in with them so we locked them out of the coop and turned the small chicken coop/kennel into their coop for a few days.


It's been a little over a week since the coop training and I'm happy to report that all of the chicks are going to the coop at night.  Yay!!  They still aren't BFFs with Bork or Libby Mae, but they are definitely cohabitating better.  Well, as long as they stay away from Bork's food!


~ Sara :)

Friday, June 22, 2018

Strawberry Picking

I don't know about where you live, but here in Michigan, it's strawberry season!!  Our strawberry patch is pretty small on our little homestead and I desperately needed to make lots and lots of strawberry jam this year.  So, the kids, my mom, and I went strawberry picking!

      

I found a U-Pick Farm about 20 minutes from our house and it was so much fun!  The kids had an awesome time walking through the rows of strawberries.

      

The highlight for the kids might have been when the farm dog came over to say hello...then proceeded to follow the kids everywhere they went for the next five minutes.  What can I say?  We're dog lovers!

     

Other than Redmond taking one little break towards the end, the kids were troopers for the whole hour and a half we were picking.  They were quite proud of their hardwork, too!


      

So, we headed home with 16 quarts of strawberries!  My mom kept four and I brought home the other 12.


I spent the rest of the day hulling strawberries, making three batches of strawberry jam and hulling more strawberries.  I use this little tool to hull my strawberries.  It works great and gives you little waste.

    

Other than the jam, I also canned 5 pints of strawberries in syrup.  Hoping that these will bring a taste of summer to the cold winter months!


I also made Strawberry Shortcake for mine and Jason's wedding anniversary.  It was so delicious!


Happy Strawberry Eating!

~ Sara :)

Monday, June 11, 2018

Chive Blossom Infused Vinegars

Did you know that you can use those fluffy purple chive blossoms and create a tangy, slightly oniony infused vinegar?  It's super easy!  All you need are chive blossoms, any type of white vinegar, a jar and some patience!


First step is to gather your chive blossoms.  You can either use scissors/clippers, or just pop them off with your fingers.  Once you've gathered your blossoms, you'll want to soak/rinse them really well in water to make sure you don't have any creepy crawlies hiding in them.  A salad spinner works great for this.

I

Once the blossoms are cleaned, place them in a mason jar - I used approximately 1 cup of blossoms in each pint jar.  Cover the blossoms with your choice of vinegar.  You'll want to use a light colored vinegar because the blossoms will transform the vinegar into a beautiful shade of pink.  I did one jar with Champagne Vinegar and one with White Balsamic.  I had a cup of the Champagne and just over a cup of the Balsamic.


Seal the jars and tuck them away for 7-10 days.  You'll see that after letting the blossoms infuse, the vinegar color has been transformed and the it will have a slight onion scent to it.

    

Strain the vinegar(s) through cheesecloth or a coffee filter into a jar or bottle.  Be sure to squeeze the blossoms to ensure you get all of the chive flavor.


Use in dressings, marinades, or anywhere you'd use vinegar.  Enjoy!


~ Sara :)

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Early June Garden View

We have been busy busy with our garden this year.  Most things are looking great!  We have had a lot of rain this spring and that has definitely taken a toll on some of our crops.  Our beets never sprouted, out of 24 Yukon potatoes, only 7 sprouted, one batch of pole beans did not sprout well and our corn suffered as well.  But, everything else is thriving!  I wanted to take a few photos of the garden now - beginning of June - to compare to photos at the end of June and into July and August.  So, here's a peek into our happy place :)

This is the when you walk into the main entrance of the garden - the northwest corner:


Here is a view from the northeast corner of the garden:

  

This view is from the back (south) side of our garden.  When I took these photos, neither the carrots or fingerling potatoes had been weeded because they were still sprouting:


Still facing north in the garden, this gives you a vision of everything behind the cucumbers:


And, a view of everything in front of the cucumbers:


A view from the southeast corner:


It's our first year growing Jerusalem Artichokes and they are doing amazing!  This is the southwest corner of the garden (the bees are behind the Jerusalem Artichokes):


There is a small peek into our garden!  Looking forward to comparing these photos to new ones in a few short weeks!

~ Sara :)

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Moving the Baby Chicks into the Chicken Run - Part One

The time has finally come - we're getting our garage back!  The chicks are now five and six weeks old and, most importantly, fully feathered.  They've been without their heat lamp for a couple weeks now so they're ready to get the boot.....out to the chicken run.

Our chicken run is quite extensive with different areas that can be gated off as needed.  Jason put a lot of work into our run a couple years ago.  We decided that we would put the babies into the first area of the run.  They would have a lot more space and be able to see/hear our two big girls, Libby Mae and Bork, but they couldn't get to them (well, until they fly over the fence....)  So, just a few things needed to be done before we could get them completely situated.  First was to line the fence with chicken wire so they couldn't fit through it.

    

Jason knocked that out fairly quickly - he first lined up the top, stapling as he went, then went back to secure it in the middle and bottom.

    


All done!

    

Jason and I lugged the dog kennel with the chicks outside to the run and got them situated. They didn't know what to think; they stayed huddled in their kennel for awhile.


Jason headed out with some tools and plywood to secure the dog kennel and to make it a makeshift coop.  The noise scared some of them enough to come out.  Half in.....half out.


It didn't take terribly long for them to finally get brave and leave their safe place.  

    

In order to secure the kennel and make it predator proof, Jason secured plywood to the top and both sides.  Then, at night, after we lock the kennel door, we use bungee cords to keep the cover from an old playhouse taut and in place.  We also put a large stump in front as an extra precaution.

    


Would we use this as a permanent coop?  No, definitely not.  But, we are hoping to transition the chicks in with the two big girls this weekend. #fingerscrossed  Then, they'll be in the large coop at night.  I had a 'supervised visitation' today and let the two big girls into the run with the smaller ones.  Everything is fine until Bork feels that one of the smaller ones is going to take her food.  Then she pecks and scares the crap out of them.  I mean, I feel the same way sometimes....


Our plan is to sneak the chicks into the coop tomorrow (Friday) night while they're all sleepy and roosting.  That generally is the best way to introoduce new chickens.  Hopefully the transition is somewhat smooth.  They are getting more adventurous, but are still quite flighty and aren't too sure of us yet.  Oh, and I have I mentioned that one of our "pullets" is a rooster!?  He will most likely be going to a new home soon.  Of course it's one of the Easter Eggers that I wanted so badly....and also has the most beautiful coloring.  That's him on top of the kennel (where he should not be!)


Stay tuned to see how the full integration goes - I'll be back with an update soon!

~ Sara :)

Monday, May 21, 2018

Transferring Our First Bee Swarm

It was just a few short weeks ago we earned the titles of "Beekeepers" when we brought home our first nuc of bees.  Well, yesterday - on National Bee Day coincidentally - we ventured even farther into our new title. 


Jason's uncle called us up late last week and told us that he was pretty certain there was a swarm of honeybees in his compost and, if we wanted them, they were ours.  Jason jumped at the chance to gather his first swarm so he loaded up the car and made the hour-plus drive to his uncle's farm.  And, much to our excitement, there was in fact quite the swarm of honeybees!  Unfortunately, I wasn't able to tag along so there aren't any photos of him extracting the bees, but he did snap one photo before diving into the swarm.


Once he got home it was raining (of course!) so we had to wait a little longer to put them in their new home.  We got our Warre Hive all set up and tried to figure out the best way to transport them.  Now, with a Warre hive, there aren't premade frames like a Langstroth hive.  So, a Warre hive is ideal for new swarms - you can just dump them into the hive.  But, Jason had recovered a few pieces of honeycomb and we wanted that to be in the hive with them.  Ultimately, we decided to use our transfer box that we purchased to use with our Warre Hive.  Jason left three empty Langstroth frames in the transfer box and tucked the honeycomb in between the frames.

    

Thankfully, the rain didn't last long so we got geared up and got to work!

    

First, Jason blew a little smoke into the box to try and disorient and calm the bees a bit.  


Then, it was time to open the box.  There were so many bees!  SO MANY!!!  He started by removing the honeycomb and tucking that into the transfer box.



    

Then, it was time to carefully dump and sweep the rest of them into the hive.

    






The amount of bees swarming around us was unreal!  Once Jason had gotten the majority of the bees out of the box, he closed up the top and started carefully sweeping them towards the entrance of the hive.

    



One of the coolest features of the Warre Hive is that there's a window!  We opened it up just to take a peek and they were already in there working.


Raising bees has been such a fun, interesting venture so far.  We still have a lot to learn, but we're doing that as we go!  Bees are such a remarkable creature.


Until next time,

~ Sara :)