Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Keeping Both Plants and Baby Satisfied

Today has been a kind of lazy day. Besides screwing up a muffin recipe, I played with the baby and checked up on the garden. I love summer vacation. It is four p.m. and I'm still in my pajamas. I suppose I can give you an update on both plants and baby.

Plant update:

The mystery plant my friend Trina gave me still lives. I still don't know what it is, but at least I'm not responsible for its demise. I suppose the watering helped. I actually went out and watered my little garden these last few days. Unfortunately, I seem to have less strawberries than I did before I cleaned out all of the weeds. Perhaps the weeds had a protective feature that helped keep the birds and bunnies away. But at least I didn't kill anything. . . yet. I seem to do better with plants that want to be left alone. Point in case:
These beautiful red flowers (lilies, maybe?) do very well when I don't touch them. They are beautiful and whenever I have company, I get compliments on these flowers. However, I have never done anything with them. No watering, no weeding, no fertilizing, nothing. The most I have helped these flowers along is by ensuring that they don't get stuck in the screen door behind them. Oh, and I'm also pretty awesome at growing giant stickerweeds. I do want to do something with the bed of flowers around the hose. There is a giant prairie weed with pretty yellow flowers that took over (see below) as well as a green random wildflower (see above) that grows all around my property. I tried looking the names up online, but no luck. I guess googling "wildflower that spreads and won't die" isn't my best strategy for figuring out the name.

Crabby, Crabby Boy

Nick is my 7 month old son, and he has been really crabby lately. Usually he is an extremely cheerful baby, but the last two days he's been whiny and hard to calm down. It is either teething or the slight case of diaper rash. Nick is also frustrated because he can't crawl quite yet. He knows how to do the push up part, but he just flaps his legs and gets mad when he doesn't move anywhere. So I guess that might be the cause of his general crabby mood. Lest you think I am a horrible mother, know that I snapped these pictures en route to the refrigerator, where I immediately grabbed his bottle.

In this first picture, you can see the lower lip starting to quiver. Nick is not a happy camper, and my guess was that he wanted his bottle A.S.A.P. As soon as I saw this look, I took off towards the fridge.

As I approached with the bottle, Nick was absolutely furious with me. How dare I not have his bottle ready immediately upon the slightest twinge of hunger!

But, as with most men, Nicholas was easily satisfied as soon as he grabbed the bottle. All he wanted was a cuddle and a drink.

All's well that ends well, I suppose. At least if you're a baby.

Monday, June 29, 2009

A Delicious Summer Stew

Yesterday I made this wonderful stew that I first found out about from our teaching assistant at school. She brought it in one day and I absolutely had to make it. I've cooked it up a few times, now, and I think I finally have tweaked it the way I like it. I think it's originally from "Cooking Light" Magazine, but it has been altered quite a bit. Thanks to Lucy for the original recipe. It is healthy and yummy, and there are a ton of leftovers. It totally filled my biggest pot.

Chicken Garbanzo Bean Stew with Zucchini, Spinach, and Rosemary

About 12 servings, 1 cup each plus about 1T of parmesan cheese

-2T Extra Virgin Olive Oil
-1 large Vidalia Onion
-2 t. fresh rosemary, minced
-3 garlic cloves, minced
-4 cups zucchini, cut into small chunks
-1 t. black pepper
-1/2 t. sea salt
-1 lb. of ground chicken
-5 cups of low sodium chicken broth
-1/3 c. dry white wine
-5 T. tomato paste
-1 cup (or more) of spinach leaves, ripped into tiny pieces (no stems)
-1/2 t. red pepper (You can vary this depending on your need for heat.)
-3 cans of garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed thoroughly
-1 can of diced tomatoes, rinsed and drained
-1 can of diced tomatoes, not rinsed or drained
-parmesan cheese to taste

Use your biggest pot for this one. Saute the onion, rosemary, and garlic in heated olive oil for about 3 minutes. Add in the zucchini, pepper, salt, and the chicken. You'll need to break the chicken down into small pieces (I just used a spoon) and stir it around in the mixture. Cook until the chicken is browned. Then add everything except the parmesan cheese and bring the whole mixture to a boil. Simmer for at least 30 minutes. Taste it after about 20 minutes. Depending on what it needs, you can add more wine (everything is better with more wine!), water (if it's too spicy for you), or chicken broth (depending on if you want more of a stew or a soup). I guess that's my best cooking advice. Taste everything frequently! Serve very hot and dump some parmesan cheese on top. I tried really hard to write down just what I put into the stew, but it won't be perfect because I'm not an exact measurer. I just keep dumping stuff in until it tastes right.

I served this soup with some butter and wheat bread that I made in my new breadmaker. I am loving having fresh bread every two or three days. It works great with this stew. I do believe I'm going to have it again for dinner, since Greg is working late.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Fighting the Weeds and Looking for my Shovel

Why have I decided to start a blog? "Well," I figured to myself, "Why not?" I talk to myself quite a bit, usually in an admonishing kind of tone. As in "Melissa, put down that brownie!" or "You do not need another pair of shoes!" It's kind of my superego, I guess. Sometimes it works, sometimes I just tell myself to shut up as I eat the brownie and buy the shoes in spite of my inner voice with the wagging finger.

I certainly spend enough time reading other people's blogs. I love to write, and I actually type much faster than I can write on paper. I have various unfinished journals scattered around my home. My problem is, I lose journals because they are tangible. I really envy my husband, Greg, who has religiously written is his journal every night for three years. I bet he never lost his journal, either. I also lose recipes, which is why I've decided to keep everything on the computer. Then, all I have to keep track of is the computer, which I think I can manage.

Last year I started an educational blog for one of my graduate school classes. I liked the experience, but I wanted to start a personal blog, too. At the time, however, I was six months pregnant and had no energy for anything that wasn't for a grade. Well, it is summer now, and I have the time. So here I am.

I spent my morning tackling the weeds in my raised bed garden. An accomplished gardener I am not, mostly because I am not very consistent. View Exhibit A below:

You can see my cat, Molly, who is trying to decide if the dead plant is worthy of her attention. She usually likes chewing on plants, but I have killed this one. I did not water it. I did not clip off the dead leaves. In fact, I forgot that I had an African Violet, and thus, it died. It's a darned good thing my cats and my kid yell when they're hungry, or I'd be in big trouble.

My raised bed garden was a project I started two summers ago, when I read a book called "Square Foot Gardens" and bought the kit to make my own 16-square vegetable garden. That year I had pretty good success with the thing, considering I kept forgetting to weed it. I even got two huge zucchinis out of the deal. The bunnies kept eating the produce, but it grew pretty well. Last summer, though, I was pregnant, and I'd read somewhere that digging in the dirt could be dangerous to the baby. So I sat on my butt all summer and didn't touch it. In fact, this weekend was the first time I have laid a hand on this patch of dirt. I noticed last month that the only things living in the garden (except for grass and sticker weeds) were a ton of strawberry and catnip plants. I actually think that the strawberries survived the birds/bunnies because of the catnip. You see, our neighbors have a black cat that they let roam around, and he spends quite a bit of time hanging around the catnip patch, looking for a fix. The birds and bunnies are wary and stay away, at least thus far. Shadow (for that is his name) is welcome to all the catnip he can eat, if he'll keep the birds away.

I've actually been able to pick strawberries a couple of times a week for the last couple of weeks, and they're really delicious. Miniature, but tasty. According to the little plastic tag I found under the weeds, I apparently planted everbearing strawberries. The multiplied despite (or perhaps because of) my lack of attention. I've been using the berries to make baby food for Nicholas, my 7 month old son. He loves them with oatmeal. I guess they're organic because I certainly have put nothing on them. Here is one of the lovely tiny berries I "grew" with my lack of attention.

So I guess I'll include a picture of the finished, weeded garden. I wish I had taken a "before" picture so you can see how nasty this patch of garden looked. It was filled with huge weeds and tons of grass that had blown in. The blisters on my hands and the sunburn on my shoulders testify as to how hard I worked. At one point this morning, Shadow stopped by the garden and looked at me as if to say "What are you doing here, this is my patch of kitty drugs?" Then he helped himself to a few leaves and stalked off in exasperation.

The garden is still strawberries and catnip, but I added in this cool looking plant that my friend Trina brought me when she visited from Iowa. I can't remember what it's called. She said I can eat the flowers though. Maybe I will, if I can get it to flower before I kill it.