Thursday, March 31, 2011

~Spring Cleaning~ March Project

Martha Stewart
Spring Cleaning Like a Pro
Picture from marthastewart.com

Rather than acquiring anything new, I'm focusing my attention on hanging on to what I already have.  Spring has always been the season for cleaning out our closets and for freshening up our homes. As a farmgirl, I am now beginning to understand why people chose spring as their annual cleaning time.  From here on out, I have zero extra time.  I spend nearly all day outdoors, tending our small, organic  farm.  Spring is my last chance (for many months) to sort through what I've already accumulated.  This is also my eleventh-hour for kicking out those nasty dust balls that have been cohabitating with us.  Okay, so I don't have dust balls, but you know what I mean.

From the time I was a little girl, something about spring cleaning has made my heart flutter.  For some unknown reason, a scene from Winnie the Pooh has stuck with me all these years.  One of the characters (I think it was Piglet) got really excited about doing his spring cleaning.  I guess Piglet's excitement rubbed off  on me and now I share the same love of wiping away the cobwebs every spring.  

When cleaning your home this year, opt for using natural cleaners(if you haven't already done so). You'd be surprised at how beautifully your home can sparkle and shine with simple cleaning ingredients like vinegar and baking soda!  I even like to make my own special, all-purpose cleaner using baking soda, borax, essential oil and lemon zest.


My cleaning team..a few players are missing but this is the main crew. *smiles*  Simple and very affordable cleaning products like these are light on the earth and are very inexpensive. 




A few links are also listed below.  They will provide you with a solid starting point so that you can get started on your spring cleaning.  Those links are worth investigating because they will save you a lot of time!   Don't forget to also check out http://www.marthastewart.com for additional spring cleaning how-tos.


http://www.marthastewart.com/photogallery/spring-cleaning-solutions

http://www.marthastewart.com/photogallery/spring-cleaning-time-saving-tips

http://www.marthastewart.com/photogallery/essential-homekeeping-tools




Morgan's Minute



Several Important Points That I've Remembered This Month

(I should say finally decided to remember)

~Hang on to what you already have by taking care of it~

~A clean environment reflects the condition of the soul~

~Disorder comes from a disorganized environment (I often feel this way and quickly pick up the sippy cups, food and loads of toys thrown everywhere.  Instantly I feel better)

Happy Cleaning!

Live Well,

         Morgan

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

~Greek Stuffed Peppers~

picture from marthastewart.com



Ingredients

  • 4 large bell peppers
  • 1 can (15 ounces) cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup crumbled feta (4 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup couscous
  • 4 scallions, white and green parts separated, thinly sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • Lemon wedges, for serving

Directions

  1. Slice a very thin layer from the base of each bell pepper so they sit flat. Slice off tops just below stem. Discard stems; chop tops, and place in a medium bowl. Remove ribs and seeds from peppers.
  2. To bowl, add beans, feta, couscous, scallion whites, garlic, and oregano. Season with salt and pepper, and toss to combine. Stuff peppers with bean mixture; place upright in slow cooker. Cover; cook on high, 4 hours.
  3. Sprinkle peppers with scallion greens; serve with lemon wedges.

Cook's Note

To make in the oven: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In step 2, use a 5-quart Dutch oven or ovenproof pot with a tight-fitting lid; add 1 cup water. Cover; bake until peppers are tender, about 1 hour. Proceed with step 3.


I didn't like the taste of the Greek stuffed peppers at all.  The presentation was beautiful- I mean, who wouldn't love seeing a vibrant yellow pepper stuffed with couscous?  The flavor was lacking though and I think it could could have used more spice. 

Nobody ate my dinner!  Well, I was the only one to eat a few bites of the pepper, but that was it.  Everyone just looked at me like, "you're kidding?"  I looked back at them like, "Nope, I'm totally serious kids".  If you make these, I suggest adding a lot of pepper and don't be afraid to add some of your favorite spices to the mix.  This recipe is meant to be modified...trust me.  You will enjoy the stuffed peppers as long as you make it your own.  But that's with anything, isn't it?

Photo Gallery

 The yellow bell peppers...sweet!
Here is the pepper.  It's cleaned and ready to become a stuffed pepper.  The bottoms of the peppers are very carefully sliced to prevent them from wobbling.
Leave it to me to take it too far...I cut a gaping hole in the bottom of the pepper . I decided to "patch the peppers" with a small handful of lettuce on the bottom.  FYI it worked.
Here is the "patch".
The diced pepper tops.
Green onions...I just love them.
I'm "epicurious" about everything...including this.  Will my green onions continue to grow if I replant the roots?  Hmmm...let's find out.  I will post my the results here in the comments section once I find out.    
The stuffing ingredients.  Simply mix and scoop.
Scooping. 
The Greek stuffed peppers are now in the slow cooker.  Next, just flip the switch and come back in four hours.  Wow, I need to start using my slow cooker more often.  Not only does this make the house smell really, really good but it's easy too.
The Greek stuffed pepper...
Nobody ate the dinner, but that didn't mean that the wine wasn't good!  Until next time...LIVE well!

~Dinner Was Served~


Monday, March 28, 2011

Tomato and Olive Penne

picture from marthastewart.com


Ingredients

  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 pound penne or other short pasta
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic thinly sliced
  • 2/3 pound (2 cups) cherry tomatoes halved or quartered
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)
  • 1/4 cup Kalamata olives pitted and sliced
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese plus more for serving

Directions

  1. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook penne according to package instructions until al dente, about 13 minutes. Drain.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic, and cook, stirring, until just golden, about 1 minute. Add cherry tomatoes, oregano, crushed red pepper, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Reduce heat to low, and cook, stirring, until tomato juices run, about 3 minutes.
  3. Add penne, olives, parsley, and 1/4 cup Parmesan to the skillet and toss to combine. Serve with more cheese if desired.           

Prepped and ready to eat in under an hour, the tomato and olive penne is yet another great dinner, thanks to Martha!  This pasta dish pairs nicely with a fresh salad, garlic bread and a glass of good wine.  I think the flavor is mild enough for children to tolerate and yet it has enough sophistication for the adults to savor.   


Before cooking dinner, I planted more seeds for my vegetable/herb garden.  I made sure to plant plenty of parsley because it is a hot commodity around here.  As I’m writing this blog, it occured to me that I really don’t know anything about this herb.  Let’s find out more about parsley.

Parsley

Parsley has been used since the Roman times for garnishing and flavoring food.  In medieval times, people believed that you could kill your enemy by speaking their name while plucking a parsley sprig.  Wow, if it were only that easy?  No, I’m only kidding… that would be too mean. 

Three types of parsley exist: curly, flat leaf (Italian) and parsnip rooted (Hamburg) and each variety has its own niche.  For instance, curly parsley is more often used as a garnish, whereas; Italian parsley is used for cooking.

Parsley serves a dual purpose (as most herbs do).  Not only does it taste good in our food, but it offers up some medicinal properties.  I am very interested in herbal medicine, as the passion runs deep within me.  I have always felt such a strong connection to the earth beneath my feet.  Since childhood I have known that our medicine chest is sprouting from the ground and not elsewhere- ideally anyway.  After attending the herb convention at the Ohlone Center for Herbal Medicine in Berkeley, I've been even more fascinated by the medicinal properties that plants posess. 

It turns out that as far back as Hippocrates parsley has been used as a cure-all.  Parsley has been used to treat kidney stones, bladder stones, has anti-rheumatic properties, treats urinary problems, bronchitis, lowers blood pressure, alleviates menstrual discomfort, and improves allergies and asthma.  Wow! Is that it?  I think I named everything that I came across, but I'm sure there is more.  So, the next time that you grab a bundle of parsley think about throwing a few springs into your morning smoothie or tossing some parsley into your salad.  With all of these health benefits, who would want to miss out?  Certainly not me!

Photo Gallery


Organic pasta...avoid GMOs (genetically modified organisms) as much as possible.  The ONLY way to do is to purchase organic products. 

It's grapefruit season everyone!  I have two trees out back and I had to stop for a quick pick me up.  Yum!
While waiting for water to boil, I enjoyed my grapefruit.  
Still waiting for the water to boil...gosh it takes a long time to boil...especially when you are not being patient.  Hmmmm...am I supposed to learn something? *smiles*
Not tomato season yet, so going for the canned substitute. 
The fire roasted tomatoes...so good!
The Italian parsley.
Yay, the pasta is finished.
Cooking the tomatoes with the spices.
Tossing the pasta and sauce.
Next, in goes the cheese, olives and parsley.
Mix it up...
And you get happy, well-fed kids.

~Dinner Was Served~

Thursday, March 24, 2011

~Glove Animals~

picture from marthastewart.com


To make the dog, click on the link below:

http://images.marthastewart.com/images/content/web/pdfs/2008Q1/tvs_dogglove.pdf



Well, I'm so happy that we are almost out of knitting season!  I am looking forward to getting back into sewing again (April-June) as I'm wiping the sweat from my brow.  Recently, I've found out that knitting is not for me-at least not right now with the toddlers.  I can knit the simple scarf, headband, and gloves- but that's a  REAL challenge for me.  Anything beyond that and I'm going to have to volunteer at the elderly home just so someone can show me how the heck to do this craft!  I love watching experts whip stitches onto their knitting needles like nobody's business, but I'm in need of some serious help in this department.


Anyway, this is my last knitting project for the year (and if you've noticed I think I've maybe done 3?  *clearing my throat*).  On Martha's website you can find this project under the craft section.  Just click on crafts then on crafts by technique and finally click on knitting to find this project and many others.  You might notice that you are not knitting anything for this project!  What a relief, huh?  I found some pretty gloves that had been knitted (thankfully by someone else) and used them to make a dog for Sarah that was fun and easy to make.

Photo Gallery

The knitted gloves... if they only knew that they were about to become a lil' girls dog...hahaha.  I think it's so cool to turn one item into something new and different.
Cutting away...
Filling with cotton balls...
The body is finished...
Working on the face...
Folding the ears over to make it more "dog like"...
I found an old ribbon...hey it looks like a scarf!  And so it became....
Here is the doggie...Sarah's newest toy.  Every girl loves a new "doll."
Precious.



Crustless Broccoli-Cheddar Quiches


picture from marthastewart.com

Ingredients

  • Butter, for ramekins
  • Coarse salt
  • 1 package (10 ounces) frozen broccoli florets
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half
  • Ground pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese (3 ounces)
  • Crusty bread and mixed salad (optional)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter four 8-ounce ramekins (or a 9-inch pie dish); set aside. Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Add broccoli; cook 1 minute. Drain well; transfer to a cutting board, and blot dry with paper towels. Chop coarsely.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, half-and-half, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and nutmeg. Stir in broccoli and cheese.
  3. Place ramekins on a rimmed baking sheet. Ladle broccoli mixture into ramekins, dividing evenly. Bake until golden brown, 35 to 40 minutes. Serve with crusty bread and a mixed-green salad, if desired.

This was a no-go with the kids, however I loved it and I think that you will too.  The quiches are similar to a savory-souffle in the way they rise up and over the ramekins.  Tasty, fast and simple this is my kind of everyday-dinner.  The presentation is astounding for such an easy recipe- well, my kids were impressed.   Enjoy! 

Photo Gallery

Cooking while sipping something "adult like" feels great...wouldn't you agree?  I mean, we could sip on some grape or apple juice but this is just a nice reminder that I'm a "big kid".
I used frozen broccoli...I do have some growing in trays on my deck...can't wait until they are ready for harvest!
Eggs, spices and broccoli get mixed together.
The cheese. 
Ladle the mixture into the ramekins.
In the oven and ready to bake...
Voila!  The crustless broccoli-cheddar quiches are finished.  Serve immediately because they do sink! 
Trying to keep me happy, Jordan cracks a smile.
Sarah gives me the thumbs up!
And so does Gabriel.  But I think he's ready for dessert.

~Dinner Was Served~

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