Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Beginning a New Year of Lettuce

My German Grandfather - my OPA - had a wonderful garden, complete with a Spring bed of lettuce, planted from seed and nurtured through the Spring and Summer seasons beneath a simple cold frame he used from year-to-year. The garden produced - what seemed like - a never-ending supply of lettuce that was crisp, sweet and delicious.

Although I always wished I could produce such a fine garden with the same quality of lettuce and other produce, I've never been able to duplicate his 'green thumb'; but, I did learn a valuable tip from my friend, Mary that has given me the tools and inspiration to get my lettuce growing in my own little garden:

  1. Buy lettuce when it's new to the farm stand, and on sale during the early part of the season. 
  2. Plant them 6-12" apart in the garden where space is available, or in wide shallow (6-10") potting containers with enriched plant soil from the store or the garden. 
  3. Water and watch daily as they grow.
  4. Once the lettuce plants have established themselves and start getting more leaves, you can start harvesting their leaves. Choose those leaves on the outside of the plants, pull them off the plant gentl,  and create a small salad. Add your own tomatoes, green onion and celery, as appropriate.

Enjoy your harvest!


Monday, April 8, 2013

Storing Homemade Soups

This weekend we made a wonderful lentil soup!

We knew this pot of soup would be more than we could eat in one meal, and we didn't want to be eating soup for the next 7 days, so the challenge was to identify the best method to use for storing soup for longer periods of time.

  • Canning was not an option: the amount of time and glass containers required were a little more than we had available. 
  • Freezing in freezer bags was also an option, but we didn't have enough on hand. 
So, I went online and found a great .com site that had pictures of each step in the soup storage preparation and freezing process, and it captured all the 'tip' information I was looking for. Just click on this: Soup Storage Site.

This site answered all the questions I had and gave a great picture representation of each step, and the pros, cons, and workarounds for freezing issues (such as freezer burn, leaking, etc.)

So, now our soup is neatly stored in the freezer with dates and soup type. Of course I saved a bowl for me to eat for lunch today! Yum...

Good luck storing your soups:-)


Friday, April 5, 2013

Storing Root Veggies

I went to Sturbridge Village in Sturbridge, MA many years ago, and took the extended tour through the farm buildings. This was about the same time that I was beginning my venture into starting my own vegetable garden.

One area that fascinated me was the root cellar - a specific area of the farm buildings reserved for storing root veggies throughout the year. I learned the importance of having a cool dry and dark area, and the value of having a consistent cool temperature and insulation - e.g, sawdust, or sand.

I decided to try this out in my garage using a plastic storage container, and clean sand (bought at a local home supply store - usually used for a child's sand box). I took my root veggies (potatoes and onions) which were clean and dry and unwashed, and layered them loosely in the sand.

We've been using the onions, potatoes, carrots and other root veggies stored in this container on a regular basis. It has saved space in our refrigerator, and do not spoil as they did when stored in the refrigerator or on a shelf in the garage.

Great easy, inexpensive way to keep root veggies!


Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Followup to my Canning Adventure in 2012...

So, I met the Canning challenge at the end of last summer, and we've been enjoying the canned tomato sauce throughout the cold winter months, using them as a spaghetti sauce, as a complimentary red sauce for chicken and chili dinners, and as a complimentary sauce to add to store-bought sauces and adjust flavors, as needed. It was a successful trial, and we're looking forward to doing it again this year!

I also had intentions of expanding my Canning trial to canned jellies, pears and beans, but ran out of steam last year. I'm hoping to to re-ignite my energy to accomplish these new challenges this Spring and Summer.

A couple of things I did learn from this experience was that Canning is not intended to be finished in a day; so, it's important to pace your Canning commitments and be gentle on yourself. Ask for help when you need a helping hand, and use your completed 'canned' work as a gift to other friends and neighbors who may welcome and enjoy the fruits of your labour. In the end, the dollars you save may not roll out into hundred-dollar-bills, but the quality and flavor of what you've created does put a smile on your face, and it does stretch the dollars you need to feed your family.

Enjoy this upcoming growing season! Stay tuned for more news about stretching your dollars, and enjoying 'home-made' treats.