Our Little Homestead – Veggie Update

I’m sure you all remember the riveting account of my semi-crazy garden planning process. If not, you can review. Well buckle up kids you’re headed for a full-on garden update! Yep, we’ve got veggies, and heat. (You like that cliff-notes summary?)

As soon as the weather started warming up our veggies took off. In fact we’ve got wild strawberries growing in the yard next to the driveway! It’s been fun to watch the plants grow and start to produce fruit. We planted a variety of things just to see what would do well. Check out the garden in full bloom!

First out of the gate were the herbs: rosemary, dill, oregano, basil, mint, lemongrass and chives are still going strong. Some are doing better than others. (I may have to put a muzzle on the mint it’s getting a little rowdy!) We’ve also had a lot of luck with eggplant, squash and jalapenos. These three plants must be in their prime location because they are still producing obscene amounts of produce. We’ve resorted to freezing most of it for later use because we just can’t eat it all! Speaking of the jalapeños or as I like to call them little hell demons. They are UNBELIVEABLY hot. We casually cut the first up and threw a few rings on our tacos. BIG mistake, my mouth burned for hours. For some reason they are much hotter when you grow them yourself. Noted. You win this round jalapeño.

Our tomatoes, chili peppers, habaneros, swiss chard, onions and carrots are just now starting to peak. So we expect to get a lot more off them in the next few weeks. (We’re actually a little afraid to try the habanero because we’ve tasted how much hotter the Jalapenos are. We’ll see who draws the short straw.) Our more delicate plants like, lettuce, spinach, bell peppers, and fennel did well in the spring but quickly died out when the heat closed in. Which is different than when the night closes in…(in case you were wondering.)

Speaking of the heat. It’s hot…like really hot. The southeast is in the middle of one nasty heat wave. I know what you’re thinking:

I know its summer but I still wanna whine about how hot it is! GAH! Actually, it has been hotter than normal here in good ol’ NC. In case you’ve been living under a rock and hadn’t heard I’ll tell you that NC had about 5 days at 106 degrees. It was so hot a road melted. That may sound like a redneck statement but this one is actually true! This heatwave obviously meant that everyone and their mom had to post photos of their thermometers showing the heat…like we hadn’t heard it on the news all day.

ANYWAYS, rant aside. This smoldering heat has played a huge role on our yard. Our grass is brown and we may have lost a few plants (RIP: hanging fern), but we’re watering daily and we think most of the plants will make it.

We’ve been trying some new recipes that utalize our bounty and they have been delish. I’ll be adding the recipes soon so you can make them at home! So far we’ve made:

  • Lemon & dill fish
  • Tomato soup
  • Spaghetti sauce
  • Stuffed jalapenos
  • Eggplant and zucchini lasagna
  • And dried herbs

We’re only halfway through the summer which means we’ve got a lot more growing to do. I’ll keep you posted on new harvests and any new meals!

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Vegetable Coconut Red Curry Soup

If you’ve met us you know that we LOVE sushi. So it was imperative to find a restaurant near our new home. Well, folks we found one. They don’t stop at just sushi…they have Thai, Chinese, Japanese … pretty much anything you’d ever want. We stopped by one day and I was feeling a little under the weather and the waitress suggested this soup rather than my normal sushi. I followed her lead and my life hasn’t been the same since. It was TO.DIE.FOR. It’s creamy, spicy, sweet, comforting, warm, and totally satisfying. I had to recreate this masterpiece at home. I found this recipe and used it as a starting point. Today, I give you my recipe for red curry soup.

Ingredients

  • 2 tbs. canola oil
  • 2 tsp. minced garlic
  • ¼  cup red curry paste
  • 1 tbs. brown sugar
  • 2 cans light coconut milk
  • 2 ½  cups organic vegetable broth
  • ¼  cup fresh lime or lemon juice
  • ¼  cup thinly sliced peeled fresh ginger (or 1 tbs. powdered ginger)
  • 2 tbs. soy sauce
  • ½ can of cream of mushroom
  • 2 bell peppers
  • 1 entire onion
  • 1 small package of mushrooms
  • Thai basil (If you’ve never had it go to the store and get some immediately)
  • NOTE: if you want to spice it up add 2 tbs. of red pepper flakes
  • NOTE: You can also add protein to this party by adding chicken, tofu, or seafood. Just make sure you cook the meat appropriately.

Directions

  1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat
  2. Add garlic to pan and sauté for 30 seconds or until lightly browned
  3. Add curry paste and sauté for 1 minute, stirring constantly
  4. Add brown sugar and cook 1 minute
  5. Stir in coconut milk, broth, juice, ginger, basil, cream of mushroom, red pepper flakes (optional) and soy sauce. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 1 hour (NOTE: you only really have to simmer for 30 min. but the longer you simmer the more robust the taste will become.)
  6. Add onions and green peppers and cook for 6 minutes
  7. Add mushrooms to pan and cook 4 minutes

Photo Credit

Slow Cooker Chicken Chili

Who doesn’t like a nice warm bowl of chili in the winter? Better yet, slow cooker chili. To me that means little effort and big flavor. I may be one of the few who isn’t fond of beef chili swimming in red sauce. I was looking for a “Different” Chili to make and this recipe caught my attention because it has sweet potato in it. Wha?  I began to read the rest of the ingredients and it’s a pretty solid chili. It has all the standard chili mandatory adjectives including: spicy, meaty, beanie and cheesy. Can I get an Amen!? The best part, in my opinion, was the addition of sweet potato and chicken thighs. The sweet potato holds its shape in the chili. However, becomes butter when you bite into it….drool. Finally, the chicken thighs add A LOT of flavor, way more than breasts. I’ve gotta find a chili cook-off because this baby could bring home the gold.

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds chicken thighs
  • 3 tbs. chili powder, plus 2 tsp.
  • 1 (15 oz) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (15 oz) can white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 (28 oz) cans diced fire roasted tomatoes
  • 1 medium sweet potato (about 10 oz), peeled and shredded
  • 1 (15 oz) can low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 2 chipotle chilies in adobo sauce with seeds, chopped
  • 2 tbs. soy sauce
  • 1 tbs. kosher salt
  • 1 tbs. onion powder
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • ¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • Pinch ground cloves
  • ½ to ¾ cup lager-style beer, optional
  • Toppings: shredded cheddar, chopped scallions, and chopped jalapenos

Directions

  1. Put the chicken into the slow cooker.
  2. Add 3 tablespoons of the chili powder and all the rest of the ingredients, except the beer.
  3. Stir everything together, cover, and cook on LOW for 6 to 8 hours.
  4. Just before serving, stir in the remaining 2 teaspoons of chili powder, the beer.
  5. Divide the chili among warm bowls. Serve with the topping of your choice.

(NOTE: This makes A LOT of chili…we have a large slow cooker and it was filled to the brim. Feel free to half this recipe if it seems it wont fit in your slow cooker.)

Mango Chicken Curry

We have successfully created and completely consumed our second Indian dish! Yes, we may have eaten it all…in one sitting. Whoops! Well, that means you know this recipe is gunna be good right?! We love our Chicken Tikka Masala recipe. However, we wanted to create an Indian dish that’ sweeter and little less spicy. We found this recipe and absolutely love it. We tweaked it a bit for our tastes but we know you’ll love it too. Like most Indian food, it’s a warm comforting dish. Though the sauce is warm to the touch, it’s actually quite a cool taste. The Mango-Coconut sauce is such a contrast to the spices on the chicken it just makes you want to smile. Then add the cool crunch of a cucumber on top …it’s just got so many great things going on.

Ingredients:

  • 2  medium mangoes, peeled and sliced (NOTE: you can also use pineapple or papaya)
  • 1 (10 oz) can coconut milk
  • 4 tsp. vegetable oil
  • 4 tsp. spicy curry paste (NOTE: You can add more kick if you’d like)
  • 3 boneless chicken breast halves – cut into cubes
  • 1 medium sweet onion
  • ½ green pepper
  • 1 large cucumber, seeded and sliced

Directions:

  1. Place half of the mango slices into the bowl of a blender with the coconut milk. Blend until smooth and set aside until later.
  2. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat.
  3. Stir in the curry paste, and cook until fragrant. (NOTE: about 1 minute)
  4. Add the chicken, onion and green peppers; cook until the chicken is done and the onions have softened. (NOTE: about 5 minutes)
  5. Pour in the mango puree and cook until heated through.
  6. Stir in the remaining mango slices and cucumber
  7. Serve over rice with Naan on the side.

Light my Fire…place

Finally, a home project that we can share. We’ve actually been doing a few home updates but they are all in various stages of progress.  But, today I am so happy to tell you that we’ve finished painting our fireplace. As soon as we toured the house I knew that a simple coat of paint would really freshen up the room. Since the fireplace is in the center of a long wall your eye is naturally drawn towards it.  This could be a good thing if the fireplace was a custom piece; however, our standard brick-red fireplace is rather plain. Don’t get me wrong I love our fireplace…I just want it to become less of a statement in the room. So, I thought a coat of white paint would make the fireplace feel fresh, modern, and let other pieces shine.

Before I started I read “How to paint a brick fireplace” on the Younghouselove blog. These two are notorious for painting their fireplaces so I knew I was in good hands. The whole process is pretty straight forward but you know the Mr. and I had some fun along the way.

  • Step 1: Clean your fireplace with light soap and water. Yes, clean. I thought cleaning a fireplace was ridiculous too… but it was FILTHY!
  • Step 2: Gather/buy supplies: painters tape, plastic sheeting, 2 hand brushes, roller, paint tray, oil primer, paint-thinner and semi-gloss paint. (NOTE: if your fireplace doesn’t have soot on it you can skip the oil primer and use regular primer.)
  • Step 3: Tape around the fire place and mantle. The good news for us is that everything on our mantle is white so we really couldn’t mess up too badly.
  • Step 4: Apply 1-2 coats of oil based primer onto the fireplace and allow to dry. (NOTE: painting in the winter with the windows open is quite a thrill.)
  • Step 5: Apply 1-2 coats of semi-gloss paint.

Seems simple enough right?! In all honesty it really was easy. We only had 2 hang-ups. First, we forgot to buy paint-thinner for the first coat of oil paint, Doh! Yeah, that ruins your brushes for sure. Oh you think water’s gunna help? Silly noob, that just makes it worse. So, we bought brushes (again) and paint-thinner for the second coat. Lastly, it took us forever to paint the fireplace and our living room looked like a Dexter episode for a few weeks. Why? Well we had to move furniture out of the old townhouse (because it sold ,YAY!) during one weekend and the rest of the time we we were just too darn lazy.

But would you look at the end result! Isn’t it nice!? The end result is worth the plastic sheeting and painted hands. Speaking of that:

  • TIP: Use nail polish remover to get oil paint off your skin. It’s way better for your skin than paint remover.

We couldn’t be happier with our newly painted fireplace. I think it actually makes the room look bigger. And maybe it’s just me but don’t the floors look darker? Bonus! We can’t wait to see how the rest of this room comes together!

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

These are my epic pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. I discovered these at a work party of all places. A friend made them and my taste-buds have craved nothing else since. These cookies are fluffy, cake-like, lightly pumkiny, spiced mounds of chocolaty heaven. I’ve brought these guys to a lot of events and they are always a hit. They’ve even been requested a few times! As a formality, I do feel the need to apologize for your diet…because these little guys are super addictive. All, fatty goodness aside, I hope you enjoy these glorious nuggets.

Ingredients:

  • 2 sticks softened unsalted butter (What, I didn’t say they were good for you!)
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin puree
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
  • 12oz bag of semi-sweet or milk chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Heat the oven to 350
  2. Lightly spray your cookie sheets with nonstick spray
  3. Using a mixer beat the butter until it becomes smooth
  4. SUGARS: Mix in the white and brown sugars a little at a time until the mixture is light and fluffy
  5. WET WORKS: Beat in the eggs 1 at a time, then mix in the vanilla and pumpkin puree.
  6. DRY GOODS: In a large bowl, whisk together the dry goods: flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves
  7. Slowly incorporate the flour mixture
  8. Stir in the chips
  9. Scoop the cookie dough onto the prepared cookie sheets (Small, large…doesn’t matter what size)
  10. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until the cookies are browned around the edges
  11. Remove the cookie sheets from the oven and let them rest for 2 minutes then let them cool on paper towels

Sweet Potato & Black Bean Burger

I’ve noticed that overtime my taste buds have matured and I’m more daring in my eatable escapades. Those PB&J and chicken nugget days are gone. I remember I used to hate sweet potatoes. But now, I think they are simply delish and I’m constantly trying to add them into our meals. I came across this recipe for a sweet potato/ black bean burger, whaa?! Like the spinach burger, I had some concerns about these non-meat burgers. “Would the texture be weird? Would they be filling? Black beans AND sweet potatoes…what kind of a combo is that? Well, I can say that I don’t crave beef burgers anymore… I crave these.

Ingredients:

  • 1 can (15oz.) black beans, drained + rinsed
  • 3 cups cubed sweet potato, cooked + skin on ( about 1.5lbs)
  • ½ cup corn
  • 2/3 cup finely chopped onion – (½ medium onion)
  • 2 large garlic cloves, finely minced
  • ½ cup cooked quinoa
  • 6 tbs. whole wheat flour
  • 2 tbs. sunflower seeds
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. oregano
  • ¼ tsp. coriander
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • ¼ tsp. cayenne
  • 1 tbs. olive oil
  • black pepper to taste

Topping Options:

    • Roasted red pepper
    • Tomato
    • Avocado
    • Spicy Mustard
    • Ketchup

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 375* (NOTE: Wait till you finish cooking the quinoa + potato)
  2. Mash half of the beans in a bowl until they form a paste
  3. Lightly combine with the rest of the beans (NOTE: This adds texture)
  4. In a large bowl, mash the sweet potatoes. Each cube should be mashed, but you don’t want it creamy.
  5. Stir in the salt, pepper, oregano, coriander, chili powder, cayenne and olive oil
  6. Mix in the onion, garlic, corn, black beans, quinoa, sunflower seeds, and ground oats, until combined
  7. Form into balls, between your hands and flatten into 1/2”-3/4” thick patties. (NOTE: This should make 8 medium/large patties)
  8. Place on a lightly greased pan] and bake on each side for 15min, flipping once, half-way through.
  9. Remove from oven + serve!
  10. *To Freeze: Let them cool completely then place into a sealed container/bag. To reheat just heat them in a pan for 3-5 minutes per side.

How To Make Quinoa (I didn’t know either!):

  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed + drained
  • 2 cups water
  1. Heat a pot over medium
  2. Add quinoa and toast for 1-3 min, stirring a few times.
  3. Add water, turn heat to med-high and bring to a boil.
  4. Stir once, reduce heat to simmer + cover the pot with a lid.
  5. Set your timer to 15min and do not stir or open the lid!!
  6. Turn off the heat and move the pot to another burner for 5 min.
  7. Uncover, and fluff with a fork.

Chicken Tikka Masala

Recently, the cold, misty rain has made North Carolina feel more like Washington.  This weather had me craving something warm and cozy for dinner. The Mr. and I decided that it would be a perfect time to eat Indian food! So, we gathered restaurant recommendations from friends and set out to devour some Naan! We arrived at our restaurant of choice only to find that it’s closed on Mondays. GAH, their delicious menu distracted us from their hours. That night, while eating sub-par food, we did some recipe searching and found a delicious recipe. Neither of us had tried making Indian food because thought it would be too difficult. What kind of excuse is that?! So, that weekend we gathered our ingredients and created a chicken tikka masala that’s to die for.

Ingredients:

Marinade –

  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 tbs. lemon juice
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp. cayenne pepper (if you like it hot!)
  • 2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tbs. minced fresh ginger (or powdered ginger)
  • 3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces

Sauce

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • (Note: if you have a TraderJoe’s nearby they have a pre-made sauce that actually has ALL these ingredients in it, and it’s only $3.99. That’s what we used to save some time and money…which we spent on Naan)

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl, combine yogurt, lemon juice, 2 teaspoons cumin, cinnamon, cayenne, black pepper, ginger, and 4 teaspoons salt. Stir in chicken, cover, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. (NOTE: the longer it marinades the better the chicken will taste.)
  2. In a medium, lightly-oiled, skillets cook the chicken over medium-high heat until till it’s almost done. Then remove from heat and set aside.
  3. In a large skillet, add all sauce ingredients and simmer on low heat until sauce thickens, about 20 minutes. (NOTE: Or you can heat up the canned sauce mentioned above.)
  4.  Add the chicken and the rest of the marinade into sauce and simmer for 10 minutes.
  5. Serve over saffron rice and a side of Naan.

Garden Greek Appetizer

Image: The Lovely Cupboard

With all of the holiday gatherings nearly over, Christine and I had to find one final dish to bring for Christmas eve with my family. We pulled out a dusty Pampered Chef recipe book and came across this delightful, cheesy Greek dip. It’s simple to make and rich with fresh flavors, and turned out to be a big hit at our family Christmas dinner; jaw-droppingly tasty! Yummy Greek Dip – this certainly is not the last time our taste-buds will be hearing from you!

Ingredients:
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 8 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1/4 cup plain yogurt (we used Greek yogurt, for obvious reasons)
  • 1 or 2 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 medium cucumber, seeded and chopped
  • 3 green onions, finely chopped
  • 3+ pitted ripe olives, finely chopped (we used Kalamata olives)

Combine the cream cheese, feta cheese, yogurt, garlic and pepper in a large mixer bowl. Beat at high speed until smooth. Spread the cream cheese mixture in a round 10-inch dish. Chill, covered, until firm. Top with the tomatoes, cucumber, green onions and ripe olives. Serve with assorted party breads and crackers.

Healthy Homeade Dog Treats

http://acozykitchen.com/homemade-dog-treats/
Image Credit: A Cozy Kitchen

Many of you already know about my totally healthy obsession with our dog Reese. If not, I’m sure if you read this blog long enough you will soon see what I mean. But, I feel like she deserves nothing but the best. So, she gets handmade doggie treats. Partly because I love her so much and partly because there is so much garbage in commercial dog treats. In hopes of extending her life and therefore mine. I make her these healthly, tasty dog treats. The best part is that they are also really affordable. All the ingredients cost maybe $10 bucks and you can easily make 6 batches yeilding over 100 tiny dog treats each. What a deal!

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ cups whole wheat flour
  • ½ cup of dried skim milk
  • ¼  cup of corn meal
  • 1 tbls of beef bouillon
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbls Parsley
  • 1tbs garlic powder
  • ¼ cup of water or chicken stock

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl
  3. Thoroughly stir until the dough becomes stiff
  4. Roll dough on a lightly floured surface, to 1/4″ thickness
  5. Cut the dough into ½’’ pieces. NOTE: If you have a large dog you can make larger pieces with a cookie cutter (I like bone shapes).
  6. Place onto the cookie sheets
  7. Bake 30-40 minutes. NOTE: The longer you cook them the crunchier they will become.