My first container garden

So what’s a girl to do if she decides to homestead, but can’t move just yet.  Baby steps…

If I want to be a homesteader, I better learn how to grow my own food.  Since at the moment I’m without a yard, a container garden was the next best option.  My condo is a ground floor unit so I can spread my plants out beyond just the patio where the real sunlight can reach them.

To get started I went by my local nursery and picked up some basics. Included here are a tomato plant, basil, cilantro, dill, rosemary, and bell pepper.

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Then I checked out a nearby plant sale hosted by a local park, Green Springs Garden. So many options! I can’t wait to have a full yard to landscape.

Brought home a couple more additions to the garden: arugula, zucchini, cucumber, rhubarb, tomato, and some grocery store basil.

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Got them planted and happy in their new soil.

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And here’s what it looks like two months in:

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Two causalities so far, both the cilantro and bell pepper plants drowned in some May thunderstorms.

I’m hoping to start harvesting jalapenos and tomatoes very soon!!

I have a habit of letting my plants get to dry, so learning to gauge how much water they need has been a challenge.  I’m starting to see some yellow leaves and will let you know how my experiment with organic fertilizers goes. Fingers crossed!

Who else is working on a garden for summer??

Sarah

 

 

 

Homesteading 101 – Give me a farm, don’t call me a farmer

Over the course of the long winter months, boyfriend and I decided we want to be homesteaders. That is, we want a little bit of land, some animals (chickens, goats, maybe a pig) and to grow some of our own food.  We’re not looking to have a dairy farm with thousands of cows, just our own little space surrounded by animals.

One problem, we live in the Metro Washington D.C. region with ridiculous property values.

Got a million dollars, you can buy a  four bedroom house!!!

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So even though we realized this shared dream, we’ll have to start small, educate ourselves, and plan for a move to a homestead friendly/affordable area down the road.

So here are some of the fun free resources I’ve found so far in my attempt to learn about homesteading.

Gourmet Farmer, Australian TV

One of the most entertaining shows we’ve found is a couple of years old, but new to us!!

Urban Conversion, PBS

I can catch this show sporadically on the WETA PBS channel, sadly can’t find it on the PBS roku/amazon fire channels.

We Bought the Farm, HGTV

I know, I know, another HGTV show.  They only did 8 episodes, but you can find them all on their roku/amazon fire app.

Homesteady – Podcast & Videos

Great content focused on the business decisions that need to go into a homestead.

Just the start of my education, but a girls got to dream!!!

Have you tried the farm life? Ready to escape your current l0cal?

Sarah

 

 

 

A little taste of Mexico

I can’t believe it took me 35 years to step foot into Mexico for the first time! Somehow I missed out on the Cancun spring breaks in college and focused my travels elsewhere.

I recently took a week long vacation in Puerto Vallarta, on the Pacific Coast.

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I’m always hesitant to pull the trigger on a vacation, there’s a nagging feeling that I’m not getting the best deal.  As a result, the boyfriend and I only booked the trip in February through a family timeshare exchange.  We ended up paying $350 to book a room for the week at Villa del Palmar and an additional $400 each per round trip flight.

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An older resort, not the biggest or fanciest, but it had what we were looking for.  We could opt out of the all inclusive meal plan, walk to nearby restaurants and grocery stores, and direct access to the beach.

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One of the couples we chatted with booked their stay through a Facebook ad for the resort, they paid $800 for the week including the all inclusive meal plan and drinks.

I packed up all my summer Posh supplies, with the addition of super bug spray (zika virus!) and took the 6 hour flight to Mexico.

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The weather was great, during mid March you can find weather in the mid-80’s and low humidity.  It was the tail end of their busy season, so all the tourist businesses were open but with smaller crowds.

Each morning would start with some clouds and by the afternoon you had clear skies.

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Tried out two different excursion trips while we were there.  The first one was a boat trip with snorkeling and beach front dining. The boat took us to Los Arcos where we dived into the water to view the fish.

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I’d never been snorkeling with a crowd, so I found myself keeping an eye out for kicking feet as much as aquatic life. I’m sure they disinfect the snorkeling equipment after each outing……..

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After snorkeling you could pick from a couple options, we chose to enjoy a lunch beachfront at Las Animas beach. Even the bathrooms had oceanfront views!!

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The best part of the trip was just seeing the area from the deck and taking in the amazing mountains.  If I make a second trip I want to see more of the countryside.

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The other excursion trip was a tour of the city by bus. We stopped at the local cathedral, tequila factory, and a restaurant tucked into a local neighborhood.

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I didn’t get pictures of all the food places we ate, but rest assured plenty of taco stands were sampled.  We probably spent $30-$40 USD a day on food and beverages. The boyfriend’s top pick was Pepe’s tacos in the downtown area.

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He would have eaten there every day, fresh tacos for $2-3 a piece.

My favorite stop was when we found a local candy store full of fresh candied nuts and treats.

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So that was my introduction to Mexico, got a great taste of the local foods and hope to visit again soon.

If you have been thinking about a trip, don’t wait. just go!!

Sarah

 

Potluck MVP! Stuffed Artichoke Casserole

My first visit to New Orleans was in the fall of 1998.  I studied for my undergrad degree at Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama. Go Badgers!!

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My freshman year roommate brought me to her hometown of Metairie, Louisiana. There I tried my first ever stuffed artichoke, we spent at least an hour peeling off its leaves and scraping the artichoke meat and breading off. Amazing!

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I’ve tried to bake my own stuffed artichokes over the years but it takes so much time and effort.  This week I tried a recipe that gives all the flavor without all the cleanup!  It makes a great addition to a holiday meal, it may even replace green bean casserole at my family dinner. The recipe can be found on the local Nola site, re-posting here:

Stuffed Artichoke Casserole

Makes 8-12 servings

3 (16.8 ounce) cans French-cut green beans, drained

2 (14 ounce) cans artichoke hearts, drained

2 cups Italian seasoned bread crumbs

8 ounces grated Parmesan cheese

8 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese

3-4 pods garlic, minced

1 medium onion, chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 cup olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Drain the artichoke hearts and chop into pieces.

Pour the green beans, artichoke hearts, bread crumbs, cheeses, chopped onion and garlic, Parmesan cheese and mozzarella cheese into a 9- by-13-inch baking dish that has been coated with nonstick spray. Season with salt and pepper. Stir to blend everything thoroughly. Drizzle olive oil over the top and cover the dish with aluminum foil.

Bake for 30 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for another 15 minutes.

Note: I’d squeeze some fresh lemon juice on the casserole just before serving.

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Sarah

 

Win that Cookie Swap! Ginger Cookie Recipe

This past weekend was a whirlwind of to-do lists and fun events.  I started off Friday by posting my first ever youtube video!

Then it was off to Virginia Beach to celebrate a friends birthday.  It was 78 degrees at the beach on Saturday.

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The only hint that it was December was the Santa surfer.

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Finished off with a sold out show in downtown Norfolk.  If you haven’t heard this song, it is so much fun to sing at the top of your lungs!

By Sunday it was time to drive back home and bake up a storm for my cousin’s 13th annual cookie swap.  If you have never attended a cookie swap, everyone brings 6-7 dozen of their favorite homemade holiday cookie. Then you swap your cookies with everyone there so you get a huge variety of cookies without all the headache.

For the swap we had 21 different types of cookies!

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It was a tableful of calories, and a full time job to keep the kids in attendance from pigging out.

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Once the swap begins, everyone works their way around the table grabbing 6 of each type of cookie.  After the first round you can go back and get 4 cookies. Everyone keeps going around until the cookies are done!

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At this cookie swap we also vote on best Rookie cookie, most festive, most difficult to make, and best overall cookie.  And guess who won best overall cookie? This girl!! Shared with my favorite cookie tester.

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So here is the award winning recipe:

Ginger Cookie Sandwiches with Caramel Buttercream
Soft and chewy molasses ginger cookies are sandwiched together with caramel buttercream frosting!

Recipe type: Cookies
Serves: 18 sandwich cookies
Ingredients

For Ginger Cookies:
1 c. sugar
¾ c. shortening (Crisco)
1 egg
¼ c. molasses
2 c. flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ginger
1 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. cloves
1/4 c. chopped crystallized ginger
⅓ c. sugar, for rolling

For Caramel Buttercream:
½ c. butter, softened
½ c. prepared caramel sauce
1½ tsp. caramel extract (I find this easily at Walmart with the other
extracts)
3 ­ 4 c. powdered sugar

Directions
For cookies:
1. In a large mixing bowl, cream together sugar and shortening.
2. Add in egg and molasses. Mix until well­ combined.
3. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, ginger, and spices until well blended.
4. Add flour mixture to mixing bowl, beating until well­ combined.
5. Roll dough into 1­inch balls and roll the balls in granulated sugar.
6. Place them 2 inches apart onto ungreased baking sheets.
7. Bake at 350 degrees for 8-­10 minutes. Cool on wire racks.

For frosting:
1. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and caramel sauce til blended.
2. Add caramel extract.
3. Add enough powdered sugar that the frosting is thick and fluffy, but spreadable. Beat until fluffy.
4. Form cookie sandwiches by spreading the bottom of one ginger cookie with buttercream, and topping it with another cookie.

Enjoy

Notes
You must measure the molasses accurately. Too much, and the cookies will get sticky and goopy.

 

Apple Cinnamon Macaron Recipe

It’s been a couple months since I baked some french macarons, so it was time to experiment with some fall flavors.

This is my spin on apple cinnamon macarons with brown sugar cinnamon frosting. The macarons turned out as one of my most flavorful recipes and my taste testers finished them off within a day.

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Some notes on my baking process, I use both Trader Joe’s almond flour and freeze dried apples.

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The apple slices give a great authentic apple flavor to the cookies.

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I also use a baking mat specifically designed for macarons, you can find many options on Amazon.

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Apple Cinnamon Macarons (adapted form Sur La Table macaron recipe)

Yield: 35 sandwich cookies

7 ounces powdered sugar, divided

4 ounces almond flour or meal

1/3 cup of crushed dried apples

4 large (4 ounces) egg whites, room temperature

Pinch of cream of tartar

3 1/2 ounces granulated sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp  ground cinnamon

Directions: Preheat oven to 325 degrees (for my specific oven I prefer 315-320). Line the baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicon baking mat.

Pulse 1/3 of the confectioners’ sugar, crushed apples and all the almond flour in a food processor to form a fine powder. Using a fine sieve, sift the mixture 2 times, then sift the remaining powdered sugar 2 times. Combine almond flour mixture with remaining powdered sugar. Set aside.

To make the meringue: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a wire whip attachment, whisk egg whites and cream of tartar on medium speed until foamy. Gradually add granulated sugar. Once all sugar is incorporated, scrape down sides of bowl, add extract and cinnamon, and increase speed to high, whisking until stiff, firm, glossy peaks form.

To complete the macaronnage step: Sift the almond flour mixture one-third at a time over the egg white mixture and fold using a large spatula until mixture is smooth and shiny. Once all the almond flour mixture is incorporated, check for the correct consistency, as the batter should be nicely firm and drip slowly from the spatula.

Transfer batter to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2 inch plain round tip (#12) and pipe 1 1/3 inch rounds on parchment-line baking sheets. Gently tap the bottom of each sheet on work surface to release trapped air. Let stand at room temperature for 30-45 minutes. (The more humid the air, the longer they should sit) Check for a slight crust to form. The macarons should not stick to finger when lightly touched.

Bake one sheet at a time, rotating halfway through, until macarons are crisp and firm, about 10-15 minutes. If the macarons are still soft inside, lower oven to 300 degrees F, cover with aluminum foil and bake for a few more minutes.

Let macarons cool on sheets for 2 to 3 minutes and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before filling with buttercream (recipe below). Store in air tight container in fridge or freezer.

Cinnamon Sugar Buttercream

  • 1 stick softened unsalted butter
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cimmanon
  • 2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar

Directions: To prepare buttercream, beat softened butter and powdered sugar until creamy and smooth. Add cinnamon and brown sugar to the frosting, beating until combined. Place buttercream into a medium pastry bag with a large round tip attached and pipe a dollop of frosting on the center of a macaron and top with a second macaron. Serve room temperature. Store any remaining macarons in the refrigerator.

Enjoy these flavorfull treats!!

Sarah

Pinterest Potluck – Creamy Cheesy Crab Dip

How do you do a DIY Holiday Party? Have some friends over and everyone brings a favorite recipe from Pinterest 🙂

For the get together, I made a crab dip recipe that I make each year for my family’s seafood themed Christmas Eve Party.

Creamy Cheesy Crab Dip

3 packages low fat cream cheese
1 pint low fat sour cream
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp dry mustard (optional)
1 tbsp old bay seasoning (to taste)
4-6 cloves minced garlic
one bag sharp cheddar cheese shredded
one pound container of backfin crabmeat

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, except for cheese.  Pour contents into dish and cover with tinfoil; Heat at 350 degrees for one hour;  With five minutes remaining, stir in grated cheddar

This can also be combined with chopped spinach…..

Those of you from Baltimore (Charm City!) may feel the need to triple or quadruple the amount of Old Bay called for, but I find its better to sprinkle on the final dip to add more flavor.

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I used Jumbo Crab meat this time, just make sure you mix it well to break up the crab pieces.

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I whip mine into an almost fluffy consistency to make sure the cream cheese is well blended.

The final product may not look exciting, but its super yummy and feeds 10-12 people easily.

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Enjoy!

Sarah