Monday, December 31, 2012

Supporting Local: How Can I Do This?, 3/50 Project and Yummy Tuscan Soup & Onion Recipes!

Local is an important thing to many people, not just to the businesses but also to the consumer.  I remember when I was a young girl growing up in Windsor, Ontario and going to 'town' with my grandma... the little downtown and the "five & dime" shops. I remember the 'big' store downtown where grandma use to do a lot of the domestic shopping... it had a little cafe in there that we would always get a bite to eat... my favorite- french fries and gravy, yeah that's a Canadian thing!  Well anyway, I use to love to go to the little hardware store that she would by her canning jars and lids at, the Chinese food restaurant that we would patronize on grandpa's pay day... memories of a small town... a lot of children in today's society won't know that as a regular experience.  It will more likely be a 'vacation' memory. So many of us want to know who grew those tomatoes, or who raised that sheep to produce the fiber that made those lovely mittens, or shake the hand with the farmer that milked that cow that you now can get fresh raw milk from.  It is a good feeling to 'know your farmer'... it is good feeling to talk to Mary when you purchase that jar of cherry preserves she made... it is rewarding to hand your hard earned money over to a person that worked hard to provide you with something essential.  It is a win-win situation for all involved.

Many small towns of today have the big bad 'W' store along with others that have killed the mom & pop shops. It's so sad really, but we can help keep things local by just doing a few small things: Shop in town, close to town and at least within your own state.  Local by most definitions allows a 100 mile radius from your home- that gives you a lot of options if you think about it!  Many of us are going to make New Years resolutions tomorrow... let at least one be to make a conscious effort to support your local community this year!

I thought it would be interesting to put some tips on how to buy local, support local and live local!
~Buy direct from the producer as often as possible. By doing this you can recompense them fairly for their work.  The best way to do this is to shop as locally as you can!  Find locally owned businesses in your area, go to the Farmers Market, check sites like Local Harvest, Local Dirt and Slow Food for producers around you! 
~Join a CSA.  Shares of seasonally grown vegetables, fruit, meat & eggs, dairy can be sent directly to your door or picked up at local Farmers Markets or area businesses.  Emphasis is always on local & fresh.
~Shop your local Farmers Markets. There are gobs of Summer and Winter farmers markets all around.  They not only provide you with a great selection of local products, you get to meet the producers first hand. 
~Shop small specialty shops.  These independent shops provide a more pleasurable shopping experience than the big box stores or super markets could ever offer.  They will even want to learn your first name!
~When you dine out, eat at a local restaurant that buys at least some of their menu ingredients from local producers/resources.  You'll be surprised at how many restaurants are doing this. 
There are ton's of great Local minded groups out there that are great resources for all of us- again both producer and consumer.  One that has a really good mission is the 3/50 Project
They encourage us to think of three businesses you'd hate to see disappear, pop in and say hello once a month; the goal is to spend $50 between those three businesses.  That really is not a lot when you look at where you spend your money in a month.

There Mission:
• To promote and strengthen independent brick and mortar businesses owned by people in the community

• To thank consumers for their patronage

• To expand local revenue streams by showing how a small dollar amount can translate into enormous financial stability

• To shine a light on the stark contrast between what an independent, locally owned brick and mortar business contributes to the local economy versus the significantly lower amount big boxes, franchises, chains, and internet purchases return

• To save the local economy...three businesses at a time
Be sure to check out their Facebook and website for lots more details I don't have time to put here.
Other great Local Resources:~Edible WOW Magazine: This is one of the best resources out there for Southwest Michigan
~Edible Communities: web site to direct you to an Edible publication in your area
~Local Harvest: list of producers in every state
~Google Farmers Markets to find local ones in your area
~Local Dirt: listing for producers
There are gobs more out there and thanks to the internet you can find just about anything you want LOCALLY!
What to do with onions? There are lots of great things other than just throwing them on top of a salad. Here are a couple yummy recipes to expand your horizons. I threw in a yummy Tuscan Soup recipe for all the fresh Kale you are enjoying right now...Enjoy friends!

Sweet Onion and Sausage Spaghetti

6 oz uncooked Spaghetti
3/4 pound Italian Sausage Links, casings removed
2 tsp Olive Oil
1 sweet onion, thinly sliced
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 c loosely packed fresh basil leaves, chopped
1/2 c half & half cream
Shaved Parmesan cheese, optional

Cook spaghetti according to package directions.
Meanwhile, in a large nonstick skillet over med. Heat, cook sausage in oil for 5 minutes.   Add onion; cook 8-10 min.s longer or until meat is no longer pink and onion is tender.
Stir in tomatoes & basil; heat through.  Add ream; bring to a boil.  Drain spaghetti; toss with sausage mix.  Garnish with cheese if desired.
Baked Onion Cheese Dip
2 c shredded cheddar cheese
1 c shredded pepper Jack cheese
1/4 c cream cheese, cubed
1/2 c mayonnaise
1/4 tsp fresh thyme
2 c chopped sweet onions, divided
Assorted crackers

1.  in a food processor, combine the cheeses, mayo, thyme & 1 c onions; cover 7 process until blended.  Stir in remaining onions.
Transfer to a greased 3 c baking dish.  Baked, uncovered at 375 degrees for 20 –25 minutes or until bubbly.  Serve with crackers.

Tuscan Soup
4 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 medium potatoes
1 ob. Spicy Italian Sausage
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
3 cups chopped kale

Brown Sausage; cool.
Combine the broth and cream in a sauce pan; slice the unpeeled potato into 1/4 inch slices; add the browned sausage; add the kale.
Add the spices and let soup simmer for about 2 hours. Stir occasionally.

Happy Day,




Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A "Green" Barbeque, Vermicomposting and some Yummy Grilling Recipe's!

It's just about January now and I am already thinking about what I am going to get to start in the green house here in just a few weeks... oh it sends a chill of excitement up my spine! It really isn't too early for all the home gardeners to start thinking about a few things as well, that's why you are getting all those beautiful seed catalogs in the mail (see graphic). I thought today would be a great day to discuss Vermicomposting- you'll want to order your worms here in a jiffy- yes I said 'worms'!  A.K.A free fertilizer- not the worms- ugg! You should be thinking about seed orders now... lots of companies offer discounts for orders placed before the first of the year... check it out... every penny counts... plus those extra pennies might add up to a few extra packs of seeds!  Before you know it, you'll be seeing all the big box stores starting to put up the shelves of seed packs, seed starting kits and all that other good stuff! Now is also the time that you might be thinking of drawing up your garden plan... I love doing that! You will also see gobs of fertilizers in both the catalogs and store shelves.  That's where Vermicomposting is coming into play in today's post.  You will definitly want to start now, so you will have this rich, wonderful fertilizer ready for your seedlings and garden plants... read on!

Be sure to go to my blog at to see all the great photos that go with this post! Enjoy friends!

What's "Vermicomposting" you ask... well in layman's terms, it is simply 'worm poop' or more politely speaking 'castings'... good stuff either way, I'll testify to that! Many home gardeners spend tons of money on fertilizer, when you can be making it yourself using everyday house hold waste, especially if traditional 'composting' isn't for you.  This sounds grosser than composting, and in reality is still composting, but it is by far much less laborious, doesn't stink (really- forget that it's poop) and doesn't take near the amount of space. Many people don't know what to do with their common household organic waste material- feed it to the worms- for real, they'll eat it!  This is an excellent way to be environmentally responsible while recycling your own organic waste to a colony of worms in a worm composter.  These wonderful little gobblers devour the waste (each worm eats up to half its body weight every day) in a dark bin and produces two natural byproducts; a top quality compost that home gardeners sometimes refer to as "Black Gold," which you  use to condition the soil in your garden and in containers that you will plant in. Or a liquid often refered to as "Black Tea," that you can dilute to make a superb tonic for your plants!
It is very simple to make your very own Worm Composter, using stackable plastic storage totes, wire mesh, a drain cock, and synthetic carpet for a lid, but the simplest way to get started is to purchase a ready made kit, complete with a supply of the same kind of worms that normally live in well rotted manure or compost heaps.  But for you do-it-yourselfers, here is a detailed how to!

The first thing to consider before you start your project is do you want it indoors or outdoors?
Worm composter's are often described as 'odor free,' but many people find that when they lift the lid off to add more scraps, a strong earthy smell wafts out.  So, it may be a better idea to keep your worm composter in a utility room, basement, garage or outside the back door. 

How to Make your own:  This info was taken in part from:

Material: Rubber is cheap, easy to use and durable. Galvanized tubs are somewhat costly but will last forever and plastic cracks easily, but either will do in a pinch. Five gallon plastic buckets now for sale by most hardware stores can be used - especially if you live in an apartment. Clean the 5-gallon buckets thoroughly with soap and let them sit for a day or so filled with clean water before using as a worm bin.

Ventilation: Your bin should be well-ventilated, with several 1/8 inch (3mm) holes 4 inches (100mm) from the bottom (otherwise the worms will stay at the bottom of the bin and you may drown your worms). For example, you can build a worm bin out of a large plastic tub with several dozen small holes drilled out on the bottom and sides.

Size: The larger you make the container, the more worms it can sustain. Estimate 1 pound (0.45kg) of worms for every square foot of surface area. The maximum productive depth for your bin is 24 inches (61cm) deep because composting worms will not go further down than that.

Cover: The bin should have a cover to prevent light from getting in and to prevent the compost from drying out. Choose or make a lid that can be removed if your compost is too wet. Use a canvas tarp, doubled over and bungee-corded on, or kept in place with wood. Burlap sacks also work well, and can be watered directly.

Siphon: Purchase a drain cock from any hardward store and follow instructions for instalation. This is how you will siphon off the Black Tea concentrate.
Prepare the bedding for your worms.
The bedding is the natural habitat of the worm that you're trying to replicate in your compost bin. Fill your bin with thin strips of unbleached corrugated cardboard or shredded newspaper, straw, dry grass, or some similar material. This provides a source of fiber to the worms and keeps the bin well-ventilated. Sprinkle a handful of dirt on top, and thoroughly moisten. Allow the water to soak in for at least a day before adding worms. Over time, the bedding will be turned into nutrient-rich compost material by the worms. When you harvest the composted soil, you'll have to introduce new bedding into the worm bin again.

Canadian peat moss, sawdust, (rinsed) horse manure, and coconut pith fiber are also great for composting.

Avoid putting pine, redwood, bay or eucalyptus leaves into your bedding. Most brown leaves are acceptable in vermicompost, but eucalyptus leaves in particular act as an insecticide and will kill off your worms.

  Choose which worms you want.
There are several varieties of worms that that are bred and sold commercially for vermicomposting; just digging up earthworms from your backyard is not recommended. The Internet or local gardening club is your best bet for finding a worm vendor near you. A pound of worms is all that is recommended.
  • The worms most often used, Eisenia foetida (Red Wigglers), are about 4 inches long, mainly red along the body with a yellow tail. These worms have a healthy appetite and reproduce quickly. They are capable of eating more than half their own weight in food every day.
  • Another variety to consider are Eisenia hortensis, known as "European night crawlers." They do not reproduce quite as fast as the red wigglers, but grow to be larger, eat coarser paper and cardboard better, and seem to be heartier. They are also better fishing worms when they do reach full size.
  • However, as with any non-native species, it is important not to allow European night crawlers to reach the wild. Their voracious appetites and reproductive rates (especially among the red wigglers) have been known to upset the delicate balance of the hardwood forests by consuming the leaf litter too quickly. This event leaves too little leaf litter to slowly incubate the hard shelled nuts and leads to excessive erosion as well as negatively affecting the pH of the soil. So, do your best to keep them confined!
Maintaining and Harvesting Your Compost
1. Feed your worms digestible amounts regularly. The bedding of your compost bin is a great start, but the worms need a steady diet of food scraps in order to stay healthy and produce compost. Feed your worms at least once a week in the beginning, but only a small small amount. As the worms reproduce and grow in numbers, try to feed them at least a quart of food scraps per square foot of surface area each week.
2. Worms eat fruit and vegetable scraps; bread and other grains; tea leaves and bags; coffee grounds; and egg shells. Worms eat basically what humans eat, except they are much less picky!
3. If you can process your scraps before you introduce them into the compost bin, you'll find that your worms will eat them quicker. Worms go through smaller-sized food more quickly than they can larger-sized or whole food. In this respect, they are also like humans.
4. Mix the scraps into the bedding when you feed the worms. This will cut down on fruit flies and will give the worms more opportunities to eat. Don't just leave the scraps on top of the compost heap.
Maintain your bin. Keeping your bin elevated off the ground, using bricks, cinder blocks, or whatever is convenient will help speed composting and keep your worms happy. Worms are capable of escaping almost anything, but if you keep your worms fed and properly damp, they should not try to escape. A light in the same area will ensure your worms stay put. Sprinkle the surface with water every other day. You want your bedding to have the dampness of a wrung-out sponge.

Add more cardboard, shredded newspaper, hay, or other fibrous material once a month, or as needed. Your worms will reduce everything in your bin quickly. You will start with a full bin of compost or paper/cardboard, and soon it will be half full. This is the time to add fibrous material.

Pay attention to some composting "don'ts".
Composting bins are not difficult to maintain, but they do need to be looked after. Here are some things that you shouldn't do if you want a healthy, hearty ecosystem. Don't feed your worms too much. If your compost bin starts to smell, it could be because you are feeding your worms more than they can process. When this happens, the bedding can also heat up, killing off the worms.
*Don't feed your worms any combination of the following. These foods are difficult for the worms to digest:
*Excessive citrus — no more than 1/5 of the total worm food
*Meats or fish
*Fats or excessively oily scraps
*Dairy products (eggshells are fine)
*Cat or dog feces
*Twigs and branches
Harvest the compost once it's ready. *After 3-6 months, you should have a fair amount of worm compost stored up in your bin. Now it's time to harvest. Keep in mind that you might not be able to save every worm when harvesting the compost. That's okay; by and large, your worms have multiplied, and there should be plenty to continue composting.
*Put on rubber gloves, and move any large un-composted vegetable matter to one side. Then, with your gloved hands, gently scoop a section of worms and compost mixture onto a brightly lit piece of newspaper or plastic wrap. Scrape off the compost in layers. Wait a while giving the worms time to burrow into the center of the mound. Eventually you will end up with a pile of compost next to a pile of worms. After harvesting, you should replace the bedding and then return the worms to the bin, do whatever you want with the compost, and repeat.
*If you prefer a hands-off technique, simply push the contents of the bin all to one side and add fresh food, water, dirt, and bedding to the empty space. The worms will slowly migrate over on their own. This requires much more patience, of course. It could take up to a few months for the worms to fully migrate to the scraps-side of the compost bin.


Siphoning off the Black Tea- Liquid Gold!
~Use rubber gloves and store the concentreated plant food in a jar with a tight lid until you need it use it.  LABLE THE JAR, so no one accidently thinks this looks like something tasty to drink.
~Dilute it 1:10 with water and watch your plants perk up within days.

Get more great info at:
Well now that you are super excited to get started go to it! Enjoy your homemade, free fertilizer!
...and now on to something a bit more 'digestable'...
The other day I asked Evan what he was hungry for... my little five year old sweetie looks up at me and says, "Steaks on the gill mom!"  "Ahhh," I said, "Now you're talkin' my language!"  Grilling is another thing we just refuse to think of as seasonal at our farm stead... you gotta eat year round right? So why shut this door of goodies off to the family just because of that white stuff!  We love to grill here at our home no matter what time of year it is. Neil and the boys are all quite handy with the tuner & tongs... forget that it's winter and have some fun!  Here is a fun activity to do over the next few days when the children are home from school- and be sure to give her a try!

Here is the how-to for making your own Green Barbeque!
You may be asking why bother when I can just go buy a regular one... well, I guess you can, but I personally think this is super cool and asthetically much more appealing than a metal one... to each there own though.  If you don't want it, make one for a gift to a 'green minded' friend or relative... either way, have fun!
~First you'll need a clay pot about 13 inches (33cm) in diameter to feed about 2-3 people, a larger one for more people
~Stand the pot on a couple bricks to allow air to circulate underneath the fire. Fill the pot half full with pebbles or broken clay pots, slightly more if it is tall.
~Line the top part with 4 layers of heavy tinfoil and heap the charcoal in the center. Light the coals.
~When the coals are glowing red and have started to turn gray at the edges, spread them out evenly being careful not to rip the foil; balance an oven shelf or grill pan shelf over the rim of the pot.
~Cook skewers of peppers, zucchini, and mushrooms,, or pieces of fish or meat, and throw a handful of rosemary, thyme, or lavender on the fire for a hint of herby flavor as the skewers are cooking. 
~Let coals cool, remove rack, carefully lift off the foil, put ashes in your garden by blueberry bushes or around peonies. Recycle the tin foil!
You'll have to go to my blog spot at to see step by step photo of this... Enjoy friends!
Yummy Grilled Pizza!    Oh this is soooooo good!
Last summer we fell in love with grilling pizza! The children enjoyed it both in the way of having fun because they created their own masterpieces and it was absolutely delicious.  Here is my pizza crust recipe and some of our favorite toppings! 

2 cups warm water
1 Tbsp. yeast
1 tsp. raw organic sugar
1 tsp. sea salt
1 Tbsp. olive oil
3-4 cups flour, plus some for dusting

shredded cheese
fresh Portobello mushrooms
sweet peppers
bacon, ham, sausage, ground beef or chicken
pizza sauce, ranch dressing
... these are just some ideas, use your favorite toppings

1. In a large, mixing bowl add yeast to water and stir gently; add sugar, salt and olive oil, stir in gently until dissolved.
2. Add 2 cups of flour, mix in until well blended; add 1 more cup flour, mix in well; and the rest of flour in 1/4 cups at a time until the dough is soft and doesn't stick to hands.  Add a bit more flour in until the dough feels right;  Knead dough for about 2-3 minutes until all flour is mixed in well.  Form into a ball and place in bowl, cover with kitchen towel and leave on the top of stove to rise until doubled, about 45 minutes.
3. While dough is rising get your toppings prepared.  Sauteing the veggies is best and making sure any raw meats are cooked.
4.When dough has risen, punch it down using your hands and knead a bit more into a ball again.  On a floured surface, cut the dough into 4 even sized pieces and roll out to about and 1/2 inch thick. The dough should be thicker so it doesn't fall apart on the grill.
5. Brush the dough with Olive Oil and put on heated grill; grill on one side for about 2-3 minutes, checking to be sure it doesn't burn; when the one side is done, remove from grill onto a cookie sheet, cooked side up; put your toppings on the cooked side; sauce, cheese, meat & veggies and add a bit more cheese; return to the grill to finish grilling- about 2-3 more minutes; put lid on for about the last minute to help melt the cheese.
Remove from grill and have your feast!

Beautiful French Taragon
 included these awhile back but I thought it would be appropriate to include with this post! Enjoy friends!
Here are some BBQ Brush On Butter Recipes along with a few more canning ones from my cookbook! Enjoy friends!

To 1 stick of salted softened butter add one of the following and mix thouroughly.  Let set in fridge for at least 3 hours so flavors blend through! NOTE: The herbs are all dried. 

Cajun Style Poultry Brush On!
1/2 tsp. oregano, crushed
1/8 tsp. thyme, crushed
1/4 tsp. cumin, ground
dash of red pepper
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/8 tsp. pepper

Lemon Basil Fish or Veggie Brush On!

1/2 tsp. lemon peel, finely shredded
1/2 tsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. lime juice
1/4 tsp. basil, crushed
1/4 tsp. sea salt

Parmesan Butter Brush On!
~ great to brush on veggies or even use in pasta or spread onto bread to make garlic toast!
1 Tbsp. fresh parmesan cheese, grated
1 small clove garlic, minced
2 tsp. parsley, crushed
1/4 tsp. sea salt

Garlic Butter Brush On
~ great to brush on veggies or to make garlic toast
1 small garlic clove, minced
1/4 tsp. sea salt

Chive~Tarragon Brush On
~ great on red meat and veggies!
2 Tbsp. chives, finely chopped
1/2 tsp. dried tarragon, crushed
2 Tbsp. parsley, snipped

Thyme Grilled Vegetable go back to my 12/18 blog post for this one

Happy Day,

Corection on recipe

Hello all,
So sorry, but for anyone who may have written down the Brown Sugar Shortbread Bars recipe, please note that I made a correction in the recipe. 
I had forgotten to add the Brown Sugar...
all fixed now,
Enjoy Friends,
Happy Day,

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Host A Cookie Exchange Luncheon, Making The Invitation and Some Yummy Cookie Recipes!

Its cold, its blowing, there's snow on the ground, ice on the windshields and us summer lovers need to keep looking for things to keep us occupied until we can dig in the dirt.  Now that all the holiday hustle and bustle is over, we are getting ready for our New Years Eve parties, lets think food... cookies particularly today! Forget the resolutions and enjoy life... like a wise one once wrote, "Life is short, eat desert first!" The gyms and the weight loss programs are gonna be there next week... so just have some good, homemade fun with friends you enjoy being around!

What could be more fun than gathering together with a group of our close friends and family when you include cookies and lunch?  Well of course the getting ready for it... making the invitations, decorating the tables, preparing the food and baking those pretty cookies. Not to mention buying just the right containers for your guests to package up all your love in!

How many cookies do I tell my friends to make? This is usually the hardest part to decide.  You don't want to overwhelm your friends and family, yet you want a decent amount of cookies to keep.  Here are two simple ways to decide how many.

1. If you are having a small group of say 6-10 friends, then simply tell them to make a dozen per person. So if you invite 6 people,plus yourself tell everyone to make 7 dozen cookies. This will give everyone there a dozen of each variety.

2.  If you are having a larger group of a dozen or more then choose a comfortable number to bake; when you know how many guests are planning on attending you will take the number of dozens and divide by the number of guests. That will give you the number of how many cookies each person will get.  So, if you choose to have every one make 12 dozen cookies and you are planning on 20 guests you will take 12 dozen multiplied by 12 cookies= 144 cookies divided by 20 guests = 7.2 cookies of each variety for each guest.  With the odd number you can figure there will be a few extras... take those and make a plate for a friend that maybe wasn't able to attend, or give to an elderly neighbor. 

*My personal recommendation is stick to 8-10 guests. This keeps it quaint and personal, especially in the cold months where we are going to be inside.  If you are going to plan this for the warmer months and do it outside, then go big!


The Invitation: The Invitation will set the whole tone for your Cookie needs to be cute, fun and inviting! Here are a few idea's to make it super special!
~Be sure to invite your guests at least two to three weeks in advance. This will give them time to find the perfect containers. Have your guests include a copy of the recipe on a recipe card for each guest with their name and date on it.  Be sure to stress that they would be so extra special if they are hand written.  A friends hand writing is so special...
~Mini cookie cutters make invitations a keepsake too! Tie unto the front of the invitation with a length of raffia or ribbon. 
~Be sure to include that you are each to bring the cookies in containers ready for each guest... give some suggestions (see below).  Tell them how many cookies to put for each guest.
~If you are a Stamper or Scrapbooker, then you probably have oodles of supplies and ideas.  If you are having a theme, New Years, Holiday, Winter, Think Summer in January (my personal choice), Tropical/ Hawaiian, Vintage Kitchen (my second choice) or whatever you choose- make your invitation to reflect that theme.  Be sure that you let your guests know this theme in the invitation.
~Use vintage postcards; put all the info on the back of card.
~Use die cuts that are the shape of cookies that would fit your theme; get a rubber stamp that has Invitation info on it; or print off your computer with a cute font.
~Photo Greeting Cards make beautiful invites as well. Take a photo of your cookie, a bowl full of vintage cookie cutters or whatever your theme might be. Have enough 4x6 prints made for the amount of invitations you need. Crop about an inch off the photo and then adhere to a piece of card stock. Too cute!
~Be sure to include how many dozen they are to make and remind them that they are to be all the SAME KIND of cookie or bar.
A couple great sites for Card Making ideas are:

Setting The Table: The cookies are the stars of the table but you can certainly add some festive cheer by adding those special decorative touches! Here are a few ideas for the table:
~Take large, clear cookie or Apothecary jars and fill with brightly colored glass ornaments.
~Scatter vintage style postcards over the table.
~Set one bowl upside down and then place another really cool old stoneware bowl on top of it carefully, then fill with cookie cutters.
~Use blue mason jars with tea lights in them to add charming light.
~As a center piece, use a large old crock and put baking utensils in it... rolling pin, whisker, wooden spoons, etc.  If you have one of those old metal sifters, graters, etc. add those too!
~Display a row of old mixing bowls lined with checked linen napkins or doilies and fill with assorted cookies for munching.
~Use cake stands, stacked or singly, to display pretty tarts and bars along with old fashioned ribbon candy.
~If you happen to have a chandelier or even a ceiling fan above the table, decorate it with greenery and colorful berries and hang vintage cookie cutter from it.
~Be sure to have little tent cards for each guest to write their name and the variety of cookie or bar on; place in front of their stash!
~Guest Book: If you keep a guest book, be sure to write the date and the event name & theme. Have each guest sign their name and the kind of cookie or bar they brought.
The Luncheon: Here is a simple yet elegant and fun menu!  Think finger foods.
~Have luncheon size plates ready for guests, along with pretty napkins to match your theme.  Have tea in pots with pretty tea cups; display several varieties of tea in a basket lined with a pretty linen napkin; put sugar, honey and cream in pretty bowl & pitchers; have several tea cups and saucers available.  Put coffee in pretty carafes;
~Coffee and Tea of course.  Make a punch as well. I have a beautiful clear glass 5 gallon jug that I use at my parties.  Use what you have.  Use food coloring to make your punch the right color to fit your theme.
~Little Sandwiches~ Take white, whole wheat and rye breads; cut off crusts; cut several with cookie cutters and leave some whole; use tuna salad, chicken salad and yummy cucumber cream cheese mixture for the fillings; use two different breads to make sandwiches so they are colorful; for the whole slices, cut them in an 'X' to make triangle shaped sandwiches; stack on cake plates.  Be sure to cover just before serving so bread doesn't get crunchy!
~Roll Ups- take soft flour tortilla's, spread cream cheese in a thin layer; lay single slice of ham to cover tortilla; roll up and then slice into 1" pieces. Place on pretty platters.
~Cheese Ball and crackers
~Fruit bowl- mixed fruit always adds charm to the table.
~Relish tray with raw veggies, olives and pickles with a veggie dip.

Take The Cookie Home Tips: It's fun to make your cookies 'ready to go'... here are some really cute idea's for containers you can give your friends!
~Metal Cookie Tins- these can be found by the hundreds at most Thrift stores. You can find every shape and size imaginable. The fun part will be finding a tin for each family or friend that just fits their personalities.  It will then be a nice keepsake for them to remember the special day by.
~Wicker Baskets- again think Thrift shops! You can find gobs & gobs of them.  Look for pretty linen napkins while your there to line the baskets. Again a useful keepsake that they can re-use.
~Cookie Jars- I'll say it again, Thrift shops!  There are endless lines of the cutest cookie jars that you will be able to choose one that is just right for each guest... and again useful and re-usable!
~Crocks, Platters or Mixing Bowls- Yes, thrift shops! So cheap yet so awesome. Your guests will think you went all out for them.
~ White or Craft Paper Bags;If you don't want to go to that extreme, simply use white or craft paper bags; stamp a cute picture, use die cuts or stickers to decorate. Fold the bag down twice, punch two holes in the top and string raffia or twine through to secure the bag.
~Vellum bags would work the same as well.  Top with a vintage post card for the gift card.
~If you have several extra Christmas ornament boxes, those would work great to stack the cookies in each divided section and then with the clear plastic lid, they will be able to see the lovely cookies.
~Take colored Cellophane paper; roll stacks of cookies in and tie the ends with ribbon, twine or raffia; tie a gift card on.
Here are a few Cookie recipes that our family enjoys!
Whoopie Pies
Makes 14 Whoopie Pies
Here's an all time favorite at our house!

3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup butter, softened
2 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Combine milk and flour in a small saucepan. cook and stir until thickened and bubbly; cook and stir for 2 minutes more.
Let cool; beat together butter and sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed until fluffy; add vanilla.  Gradually beat in milk mixture;beat on high for one minute, or until smooth and fluffy.

1/2 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
'1 tsp.baking soda
1/8 tsp. salt
1 1/4 cup buttermilk
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cup all purpose flour
2/3 cup baking cocoa

1. Beat together shortening, sugar, baking soda and salt with an electric mixer on medium speed; beat in buttermilk, egg and vanilla; set aside.
2. Stir together flower and cocoa; stir into shortening mixture. 
3. Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart onto ungreased baking sheets.
4. Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes, until edges are firm; cool on wire racks.  Cool on wire racks. 
5. Spread 2 tbsp filling on flat side of cookies; top with another cookie, flat side on icing.
6.Store, covered, in a cool place or the refrigerator.

Buckeyes Enjoy these rich, peanut buttery balls dipped in milk chocolate!
Yields about 5-6 dozen

1 pound creamy peanut butter
1 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 pounds powdered sugar
12 oz. package milk chocolate chips
1/3 bar paraffin

1. Blend together peanut butter, butter and powdered sugar, mixing with hands.
2. Shape into one inch balls;chill. 
#. Melt together chips and paraffin over hot water in a double boiler. Use a toothpick to dip each ball in chocolate, leaving a small spot uncovered.  With the tip of a small knife, smooth over hole left by toothpick.
5. Arrange on wax paper lined baking sheet. Place in cool area or freezer to set.

Holiday Snack Mix
10 1/2 oz. package bite size crispy honey nut corn and rice cereal squares, like Chex cereals
8 oz package candy coated chocolates, like M&M's
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup raisins, golden or red
12 oz jar dry roasted peanuts- salted

Mix all ingredients together; store in an airtight container.

Brown Sugar Shortbread Bars

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup shortening
1 1/2 cup brown sugar,packed
2 egg yolks
4 cups white flour
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. vanilla extract

1. Cream sugar in butter and shortening; blend in egg yolks, salt and vanilla.  Mix flour in thoroughly with hands, chill for 1 hour.
2.  In a 10"x15" ungreased bar pan, roll out dough evenly to fill pan. Sprinkle with sugar over entire top. Bake at 350 degrees for 12-17 minutes. Do not over bake.
3. Take out of oven and place on cooling rack; let cool 5 minutes; using a sharp knife, cut into pieces; let cool 20 more minutes. Take out of pan carefully; place on cooling rack for another 10 minutes. Place in air tight containers. Keeps in freezer for up to 3 months.
Tea Party Sugar Cookie Sunbonnets
This is a 'decorating' recipe!

Your favorite Sugar Cookie recipe
Your favorite decorators Icing
Food colorings
Decorating tools

You need to decide how many bonnets you want and adjust your cookie and icing recipes to suit.
Cut out an even amount of 4 inch circles and 2 inch circles. Bake as directed in your recipe. Decide how many colors you want for your flowers,leaves, and ribbons on the sunbonnets.
Divide your icing into bowls accordingly. Leave enough for 12 heaping tsp.per 2 cookies (1 small and 1 large) of plain white. This is your 'paste'. Put 1 heaping teaspoon of white icing on flat side of small cookie; gently press down on a large cookie until attached and sticks. do this to all of your cookies, until your have your desired amount of bonnets.
Mix/make your colored icing now. Pipe a 'ribbon' around the seam line of small and large cookie. You can make bows, streams, etc.  Pipe on your flowers next; ten leaves. Let stand until firm.
These are a lot of fun to make and very special.
TIP: Remember, if you want several color ribbons and flowers, you will need to either have several tools, or plan out which ones will be what color, so you don't have to keep changing your icing.  Lots of work but well worth it!

Happy Day,




Sunday, December 23, 2012

Decorating The Porch, Dreaming of Summer and My Favorite Popover Recipe and Yummy Herb Roasted Potatoes

One of my antique watering cans nestled on an arbor among Sweet Autumn Clematis vines.

Decorating The Porch, Dreaming of Summer and My Favorite Popover Recipe and Yummy Herb Roasted Potatoes
I love to decorate for the seasons... inside and outside in all the seasons. There is true beauty in all, yes even Winter (stay sitting, I really do think so!)  I'm not talking about all the Christmas lights and plastic yard ornaments, I'm talking about using nature to beautify along with some cool 'junque'... creative decorating shall we say! Your porch is a reflection of your home and what you adorn it with says a lot about you... That's why when the dog carries a dear leg from one of the boys prizes, I get a bit cranky! Some of 'them' just don't seem to get it.  There's no reason that you can't keep it cute till we can once again adorn our porches with live, beautiful flowers. Each season holds some beauty, yes I do admit that with even winter...  Evergreen boughs strewn with red berries and there really is nothing like a hoar frost glistening in the bright early morning. Let your neighbors and those that pass by have a treat for their senses with the beauty of your front porch!

Winter Lake Shot in Michigan.
 A common saying right now is, "I'm dreaming of a white Christmas", I just can't say that. I'm dreaming of a green summer... I'm sure some people wonder why in the world I live in Michigan... move somewhere where there is no winter you might say. I would love to, but opportunity hasn't oppened her door yet, so I try to make the best out of my circumstances right where I'm 'planted'.
So I decided to share garden shots~ go to my blogspot at www.fordragonfliesandme.blogspot to share in the sunshine where we can make believe it's summer!

Here are some super cute idea's to decorate your front porch for the winter months... not just the Holidays!

~Lay several pieces of evergreen across the window ledge(s), window boxes or any other decorative item you may already have under your window; put pint size glass mason jars* filled about 1/2 way with pea gravel (so they don't blow off), snuggle in between boughs; put battery operated candles in each.  Add some service berry, holly or any other branch with red berries.
*The candle/jar will not work if you don't have a roof over the windows.

~Surround any windows on your front porch and the front door with live garland, intertwine with white lights! In Spring switch it out with grapevine... leave the lights- there not just for Christmas! I think lights in summer are even more spectacular, especially in the patio!

~Put an old chair beside the front door; get an old fashioned wooden sled with metal runners, lean up against the back of the chair; hang a small Boxwood wreath with a bright red or powder blue bow and drape a pair of red knitted mittens over the back to hang down on side of chair!

~Take small wreaths and hang centered in each of the house windows with a bow on it- and of course the front and any other doors you may have.  Put battery operated candles in each window.

~If you have large urns or other planters that you would typically put plants in during the warmer months, change it up for Winter!  Add evergreen boughs, pampas grass, any branches with red berries. Make it look like an arrangement you would set on your table... If you have solar lights, put one in each planter to light it up at night.

~If you have a table on your porch: put several evergreen boughs down the center from side to side, like a table runner, add any branches you can get with red berries, intertwine; put a big bowl in the center... preferably one long and shallow; place a 2 quart mason jar in center filled 1/2 way with pea gravel; place a battery operated candle in center, tie a big red or powder blue bow around shoulder of jar; surround with pine cones, pomagranites, oranges and nuts. for some summer...
"Spring Garden" photo by Jean Smith
My spring gardens abound with beautiful Peonies.  If only they lasted longer...
"White Climber", photo by Jean Smith


The Potager, AKA The Kitchen Garden
Even with winter here I can still go and cut fresh oregano
and Thyme. Parsley is also very hardy along with the sage.

"Beautiful Morning" photo by Jean Smith
The Bistro Garden heralds in
beautiful hosto and other greenery

Here are some yummy good recipes to keep you and your family eating while the children are home for winter break!

I know I've shared this recipe before, but it is seriously one of my favorites.  I don't always feel like making dinner rolls that I have to wait till they rise. This is such an easy and quick bread that can be made just before the meal!  Enjoy friends!
You can use any combination of cheese & veggie you like– that’s what makes this recipe so much fun & oh so yummy!

Nonstick cooking spray
1 c all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 c milk
1 c shredded cheddar cheese
1 sm.-med onion diced

preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Coat 8 cups of a muffin tin with cooking spray. 
In a medium bowl whisk together egg & milk until well blended, add flour and salt.  Stir just until mixed.  Stir in cheese & onion.  Fill prepared cups about 3/4 way full– about 1/3 c batter
Bake for 15 minutes.  Reduce oven temp to 350; bake for 10-15 more minutes or until browned & puffed.  Do not open oven door until end of baking time or popovers will collapse!!!!
Remove popovers from oven and immediately remove from pan.  Pierce sides once with a knife to release steam.  Serve warm with butter.

Other combinations;
Broccoli & cheese
Dried tomato & basil with parmesan cheese
Onion & chives with cheese
Ham & Swiss Cheese
The options are only limited by your imagination.

Oven Roasted Tomatoes

About 7 c of Roma or Cherry Type tomatoes, stemmed
2 tbsp olive oil from Olive Grove
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar from Olive Grove
2 cloves minced fresh garlic
2 tsp dried or 4 tsp fresh Oregano leaves
1/4 c snipped fresh basil
2 red onions wedged
1/2 tsp ground pepper
Crusty Bread

Preheat oven to 400 degree.  Line a 9x13 inch baking pan with foil.
In a small bowl whisk together oil, vinegar, garlic, herbs, salt & pepper.  Toss tomatoes  to coat thoroughly.
 Arrange tomatoes  & onions in  a single layer on baking pan. 
Roast uncovered for 14 to 18 minutes or just until the tomatoes are soft & skins begin to split, gently stirring once. 
Transfer the tomatoes to a shallow serving bowl.  Drizzle the vinegar mixture from the pan over the tomatoes.  Sprinkle with snipped basil.  Serve warm  with crusty bread.
  Have fun with this one, be creative!

Herb Roasted New Potatoes
2 quarts new red skin baby potatoes
1 cup sweet onion, halved then sliced
1/2 cup thyme infused olive oil OR 1/2 cup olive oil and 2 tbsp.s fresh thyme leaves
4 tbsp. butter
3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese plus all juice
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper

1. Put potatoes and onions in a deep dish 9"x13" baker; pour oil over; toss to coat evenly. 
2. Sprinkle with salt & pepper; dollop with butter; sprinkle crumbled feta cheese evenly over top; pour the juice over top.
3. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 35-45 minutes; stir potatoes to mix cheese in and coat  all potatoes with oil; bake for 15 to 20 more minutes or until the potatoes are fork tender.

Happy Day,

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Art of Meaningful Gift Giving, How to Preserve a Child and some Yummy Market Fresh Recipes

We're at the time of year when everyone is in a hustle and bustle of the Holidays.  For us the Farmers Market is filled with beautiful gift items and our market friends are all too happy to stop by and pick up that beautiful, one of a kind, hand crafted item to give their loved ones.  There's an art to gift giving.  Some folks like the idea of gift cards- quick & simple and they don't have to worry about the 'did they like it or not?'  Others love the thrill of searching and finding just the right thing for that special person.  Then there are those that take the time to actually create something unique for each individual... and all three are fine! I don't think there is any wrong way to give a gift, especially when it's given with love.  We are all different and we need to do what fits our personalities... and those that love us will know that whatever the gift is, it was given with heart. I hope this post will help all of the above and you will find something that helps you in this typically crazy time of year.
Homemade gift tags add a special touch. Use
old greeting cards or seed packets.
Here are some easy to create as well as purchased gift ideas that are special and will last a life time... and won't get broke and tossed the day after Christmas...

In my previous blog (12/15) I wrote about creating one of a kind beautiful gift 'baskets', today I will touch on gifts that can be purchased, but more on the side of Hand Made with Love.  Hope you can all find something useful here to help you through the next few days of trying to find that perfect gift!

*Go to the Farmers Market! Of course I have a very biased opinion here- I'm selling at the Farmers Market and I run one where I have lots of vendors who have great items that would make incredible gifts.  If you want to find one of a kind, hand crafted baskets, bowls, water color paintings, quilts, jewelry, pen & pencil sets, photography, centerpieces, metal work, bird houses, rolling pins and ice cream scoops, we've even got gifts for your pets and coffee beans for the stockings... The Old Winery Farmers Market is the place to be.  Check us out at and like us on facebook! You won't be dissappointed!

*Give a Gift Certificate to a local Nursery in the gift recipiants area. Tell them the certificate is to be used for a tree in honor of the family, the birth of a child, a house warming gift or any other reason you can think of.  Arrange a day when you can all be together in the Spring to plant the tree and have a family bar-b-que.

*Homemade Potpourri:  here are several recipes
What you will need: cellophane bag, ribbon, twisty tie, homemade tag.
"With Love..."  Ingredients: Rosebuds for love, Chamomile for patience, lavender for devotion, marjoram for joy and rosemary for remembrance.  Place 4 cups of mixture in bag, twist and secure with twisty tie, then put pretty ribbon around and attach gift tag, be sure to lable the ingredients on the tag as listed above.
"Herbal Garden" Ingredients: 1 cup EACH: dried parsley, sage, thyme, mint- your choice of scent, cranberries, 2 cup dried rosemary, 10 medium size pine cones.
"For the Love of Lavender" Ingredients: 4 cups dried lavender blossoms, 1 cup EACH: dried ivory globe, blue salvia bloosoms, rose petals, 3 Tbsp. orris root, amaranth blossoms, 4-6 drops lavender essential oil. Mix ingredients and store in a sealed container for 6 weeks before using or giving.
"My Rose Garden" Ingredients: 3 cups dried rose petals- mixed colors, 1 cup rose hips, 7-8 drops of rose essential oil, 12 ivory strawflower heads, 1 cup star anise. Mix all ingredients and store in an air tight container for 4 weeks before using or giving


Sunflower Wreaths:  If you saved your sunflower heads like Ryan and I did this Fall (see photo) you can make this easy and beautiful wreath to give your bird feeding loved ones & friends.  This works best with Mammoth or Giant Grey Stripe heads.  Heres how:  Take the sunflower head and cut a hole our of the center- where the stem would have been- about 4" in diameter; Take some evergreen boughs and make a small bouquet; glue gun or wire it on the sunflower wreath; put a piece of raffia or twine so it can be hung.   

Bird Suet Feeders: Another gift for your bird loving friends.  You can make super cute suet cakes, here's how:
Ingredients: 1 part Peanut Butter, 2 parts bird seed, 5 parts cornmeal, 2 parts melted lard.
How to:  Melt lard on low heat; add peanut butter, stir till melted in; remove from heat and immediately add remaining ingredients, stir with wooden spoon till evenly mixed.  Line cupcake cups with paper liners; press mixture into cups and place in refrigerator until firm.  Using a thin pencil, press through center to make a hole right through where a wire can be put through so it can be hung.Transfer to plastic bags and keep in freezer. 
When you're ready to give as gifts, place in cellophane baggies and tie with ribbons. These make cute stocking stuffers.
Gift of Food:  Most of us make jams, jellies, relishes or salsa's each year. Why not give a few as a gift.  If you don't do this, again you can find these types of goodies at The Farmers Market as well! Hope to see you there! 
If you are interested in making something now, that you can still get ingredients for here a few easy and yummy recipes.
These recipes were taken from Taproot Magazine, Issue 3:: Retreat
Lavender Infused Honey 5-6 cups fresh or dried lavender flowers, chopped
48 oz. Honey
1 drop lavender essential oil (optional)

Place the flowers in a soup pot. Put the honey over them, packing with a long handled wooden spoon to ensure that all the flowers are covered.
Allow this mixture to sit overnight, or even up to 3 nights, covered with a lid.
Place the pot on very low heat.  When the honey turns to a liquid (just a few minutes), immediately strain into jars.
Press the herbs to release every bit of the honey, and compost eh herbs.
Add the essential oil, if using, and stir.
Cap the jars and sore them in a cabinet

Peppermint Ginger Pancake Syrup 1/2 cup fresh peppermint leaves, chopped
1/2 cup fresh ginger, chopped skin is fine
3 cups water
1/2 cup honey

In a large saucepan, combine the peppermint, ginger, and water. Bring to boil, then lower the heat and simmer until the volume has decreased to approximately 1 cup.  this creates a strong, fragrant eat. 
Strain the liquid and return it to the pot.
Add the sweetener, and heat gently until completely blended.
Store the syrup in a 1 pint jar in the refrigerator.

I thought this was cute and wanted to share it here...
"How To Preserve Children"
Take one large grassy field
1/2 dozen or so children, all sizes
3 small dogs, and a few big ones- a cat is fine too!
one narrow strip of brook, pebbly if possible
several large trees for shade... and of course a tire swing on one
a large picnic basket filled with goodies

Mix the children with the dogs and cat, empty them into the field, stirring continually;  sprinkle with field flowers, pour brook gently over pebbles, cover all with a deep blue sky and bake in a hot sunshine.
After done, place under tree, take turns swinging and have a yummy snack.
Enjoy them while they're little, for they won't be little long.

Pick up these ingredients at the Farmers Market all year long... we've got em' at The Old Winery!
Thyme Grilled Vegetable

16 baby potato– about 1 quart
1/2 c chicken broth
1/4 c Olive Oil
2 tbsp fresh Thyme, minced
1/2 tsp salt
3 large peppers, sliced– use different colors to make it pretty!
2 c sliced onions

In an un-greased 9x13 inch baking casserole, combine the potatoes, broth, oil, thyme & salt.  Grill, covered over medium heat for about 25 minutes.
Stir in peppers & onions.  Grill 25-30 minutes longer or until vegetables are tender.

Soft Boiled Eggs in a 'Green' Nest
1 Bunch of Chard, Kale or Spinach from Garden Gate, stems & ribs discarded
1 1/2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
1/4 tsp Red Pepper
1/2 tsp Sea Salt
1/2 tsp garlic salt
1 Tbsp. fresh snipped Parsley
4 Eggs from Garden Gate

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Chop your greens into bite size pieces and toss in the oil and seasoning to coat evenly. Spread evenly in the bottom of a 10"x10" glass baking dish and bake for about 30-40 minutes, till crisp.  Remove from oven and divide into 2 bowls and create a 'nest' with a hole in the center.
2. While greens are baking, bring a 2 quart pot of water to a rolling boil and gently lower eggs into water, turn off heat and cover.  Let eggs sit in water for 6 1/2 minutes for soft boiled eggs.
3. Transfer eggs to a bowl of ice water and let sit for about 1/2 minute.  Working carefully and quickly, peel eggs, and place in center of nests.  Season with a bit of sea salt and serve immediately.

Happy Day,