Sunday, March 28, 2010


I have always been one to try new things and I love composting, it's just that I HATE turning over the pile!  An additional problem was that I seldom have anything but kitchen scraps (and few at that--we don't throw much out) for my pile, since I used all my leaves (this was in high school at my garden for me now with my apartment. ) and grass clippings as mulch and they decomposed in place.

BUT WORMS!  Now that's an idea.

I've seen a lot of good ideas for worms, including pricey worm composters for more than $100. Another great idea I saw was by the Modern Homestead where he used the walkway in his hoop house as worm bins that would turn over TONS of horse manure into great garden compost and protein additives for his chickens.  (Read about it here.  A wonderful resource for getting away from the commercially packaged feeds and letting chickens eat like chickens!)

However, the bought bins are too expensive and the hoop house is far too large scale for our chapter of life. TNFarmgirl has a great post on making your own worm bin--for about $10...and another $15 if you have to buy your own Red Wiggler worms.  Frugal = Win!

Check it out on here on her blog!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Chicken Tortilla Soup

I saw this recipe quite a while ago on Concetta's Cafe blog, but only just now got around to trying it.  It was AMAZING!

I have some pictures, but they're less than amazing... My kitchen was in shambles as I let Dan bring his tool-box project upstairs so he could work on it on his rainy day off.   The soup is wonderful--and a great way to use up the last little crumbles of chips in the bottom of the bag.

I knew I would be cooking this later in the week, so I just tossed my chicken breasts on the grill with our Italian Sausages for the evening meal.  Also, I just used 1/2 lb of black beans, soaked overnight, and a can of regular corn, just to make things easier!  Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Box

Dan and I have been in the process of cleaning and organizing in preparation for our move to Kentucky.  His tools hadn't been particularly well organized, so we were looking at some tool boxes--most places wanted in excess of $100 for a tool box that wasn't particularly sturdy and not very big either.

He decided to build his own.  For a little over $100 in materials, we have the following.  We got a self-priming exterior mis-tint to paint it--for only $10.

And, since it was raining and he had the day off, I decided to be nice and let him move his project upstairs into my kitchen since there was no dry, outdoors area to work.  Thankfully it only took him a day to finish it!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

I Signed the Petition

Ok guys, I could go on and on about how TERRIBLE this healthcare bill is.  Just to let you know, I'm about to graduate from PA school in about 8 weeks, and now I'm wondering if I can even be a part of the "system."   However, I will refrain from getting on my soapbox--at least for now.

Make your voice heard.

The Tea Party Patriots has a petition to repeal the bill. (Go HERE.) When I signed, I was signature 46,700.  That was at 1:30 this afternoon.  In 5 minutes, there were 150 more signatures.

Let's remind Capitol Hill whom they represent--US!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Creamy Tuna Casserole

Sometimes, when staring into my pantry wondering what to make, I occasionally have a stroke of creativity.  I remembered having something like a tuna fish casserole thingy that my grandma used to make.  Filing through her old recipes and making some of my own modifications, we have the following.

Creamy Tuna Casserole

1 pkg egg noodles, cooked and drained

2 cans cream of mushroom soup
1 can milk
3 cans of tuna fish, drained
1 lb. frozen peas
1 can French's Onions
Salt (opt.)

1. Boil the egg noodles until tender, but still well al dente. Drain.

2. In a separate bowl, mix together the cream of mushroom soup, tuna fish, pepper, and milk.
3. Pour the egg noddles and cream mix into a 9 x 13 baking dish (or a bit bigger if you have the next size up) and add the frozen peas.  Mix well.
4. Cover with tin foil and bake at 350 for 30 minutes.  Remove tin foil, top with onions and bake another 5 minutes.  Serve.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Lemon Chicken

I cooked up these wonderful chicken legs the other day--they were delicious!  The lemon was definitely a welcome change to the standard barbecue!  Light and summery!

Here's the recipe from Simply Recipes.

Also, those are my cheat-version of Green Beans with Almonds and Thyme, based off of Simply Recipes' instructions.

I have been making mine in the microwave without any extra dishes/mess.  Just zap your frozen green beans, pour off the extra water, then melt in the butter.  When they're nice and hot, add in the mustard and seasonings, stir well, and serve.  Top with almonds before serving!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Sunday Thoughts

"Better to be patient than powerful; better to have self-control than to conquer a city.
Proverbs 16:32

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Paige's Highlights

1. Heating with Wood By Mother Earth News.  You know my obsession with wood heating and how much I love the idea.  My last "Hightlight's" was entirely devoted to coppicing and pollarding for faster firewood production.  This is an EXTENSIVE article by Mother Earth News--in fact, likely the largest one I've ever seen of theirs--on most everything you'd like to know about heating with wood.  It's a thoughtful article that takes common concerns into consideration and doesn't just blindly say "Oh yes!  If you're not using fossil fuels, it's automatically better."  Instead, it takes other concerns and difficulties into consideration and weighs the pros and cons.  It's a good read if you're looking to heat with wood.

2. Solar Heat.  Again, by Mother Earth News.  I've also been particularly interested in solar hot water productions (see my other entries here and here), but heating has been something I'm not necessarily ready to do--particularly with the large sides of your house you have to give up for these sorts of plans, but for a work-shop (like we have planned for Dan), it would actually be ideal.  He doesn't need a ton of windows but instead need storage areas on his walls.  I'm sure we could easily install this on his south-facing shop wall without any problem!

That's it for this week!  Enjoy your reading! :)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

My Cooking Revelation

I had heard about the new cookbook--Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day.  But I most assuredly thought it was one of those, too-good-to-be-true scenarios.  I was wonderfully proven wrong.

Using their Master Recipe, Dan and I whipped up bread that was of equal quality as any I had slaved, punched, kneaded, pounded, shaped, let rise, punched, kneaded again, and baby-sat all day long.  But this one, really did only take me 5 minutes of my active attention--and no more than 5 pieces (container, measuring cups, spoon, and baking dish) of dishes of clean-up.   After some initial trepidation about buying the book or not, as we smelled that first loaf baking in the oven, we hovered over the "place order" button.  That first bite it was clinched it for us.

Here are links to other great recipes on their website!  I hope you enjoy exploring as much as I do!!! (One of the things that I love about them, is that they very commonly use honey as a sweetener, if the recipe even calls for it, as opposed to sugar or other non-farm-produceable items!)

Apple Pear Coffee Cake
Apple, Ham, and Blue Cheese Tart
Brioche, Whole Wheat
Brotchen, German-Style Rolls
Challah Bread
Chocolate Bread
Grilled Flatbread
Pumpernickle, Whole Grain
Soft Pretzels
Sweet Provecal Flatbread with Anise Seeds 

And when I'm more adventurous... (btw, they mentioned that you can substitute Brioche for puff pastry in recipes...definitely something I'd like to do in my own cooking rather than paying for the store-bought stuff!)

Julia Child's Beef Wellington with Brioche Crust 

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Sunday Thoughts

For that is what God is like.
He is our God forever and ever,
and he will guide us until we die.
Psalm 48:14 (NLT)

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Paige's Highlights

For my highlights this week, I'm going to be focusing on a big topic as opposed to giving a ton of little tid-bit links.  I recently was reading about Coppicing and Pollarding in regards to firewood production and was intrigued.

Apparently, coppicing and pollarding are techniques that came from Europe when life was completely based around wood--you used it to build, make tools, build homes, and heat/cook.  Obviously, Europe has a large population in relation to its wood reserves, so these two techiniques were employed to grow wood faster.

Coppicing is a technique where you plant decidious trees (most commonly), then cut them off at the ground when they are a size that you want.  This forces the tree to maintain a juvenile state of growth, and the leftover crowns (stools, as they're called) will regenerate and send up multiple additional shoots/trunks in later years.  This serves two purposes.  The first is that the fastest growth occurs in the few several years of a tree's life, so you are able to there by increase the productivity of the tree and keep it in a "forever young" and productive growth stage.  The second is tree longevity.  Managed like this, trees can live MUCH longer than standard trees.  There are some stools that are estimated to be thousands of years old.  The roots are constantly regenerated and as the tree never grows huge, there is no sad day of watching the tree get knocked over by a wind storm or such.

Pollarding is a similar idea as coppicing, but rather than cutting the tree back at ground level, the tree is cut back at a height of about 5-6 feet off the ground.  This technique was orginally implemented and accomplishes all the same goals of increased production and tree longevity as coppicing; however, this technique has the added benefit of being able to graze livestock below the trees.  The trunks on which new growth accumulates will be above the "browsing height" of livestock.  New shoots of coppiced trees are susceptible to the grazing/browsing of livestock.  The drawback: TIME!  Although both methods can be time consuming, pollarding takes MUCH more time and is much more labor intensive.  Coppiced stands of trees can almost be "mown" down to harvest, while pollarded trees require maintenence akin to pruning.

Dan and I know that although we'd LOVE to had a stand of woods, being able to create that in a feasible length of time to provide our own firewood during our lifetime is going to be difficult.  Therefore, we'll likely convert a field to "standard woods" for our kids and grandkids and use coppicing during our lifetime--or a mix of the two, knows as coppicing with standards.

We've decided on coppicing over pollarding for several reasons.
  1. Labor--Coppicing is less labor intensive.
  2. Machinery--Coppicing simply requires a chain saw.  Pollarding requires ladders and I'm not sure I want Dan on a ladder/lift with a chain saw.
  3. Speed--Coppicing is faster production of firewood, as you don't have to spend time getting the trunk all ready, as with pollarding.
  4. Habitat--Coppicing creates a nice brush and leaves it undisturbed for between 8-15 years (or more depending on the species grown.)  This encourages wildlife and has a different eco-system as compared to standard forests.
Below is a list of trees commonly used in coppicing and pollarding material.  I've compiled the information from several sites, and I have them listed  below.  (Please note, that I've primarily focused on coppicing trees and lengths of time for firewood use. Also, there is a lot of variability involved depending on site quality, sunshine, and variety of tree chosen.)
  • Tree                # yrs. rotation
  • Ash                   15-25 yrs.
  • Elm                    15-30yrs
  • Field Maple          ~15 yrs
  • Chestnut             15-20 yrs.
  • Hazel                 12-15 yrs.
  • Hornbeam          15-30yrs.
  • Oak                     50 yrs.
  • Mixes spp.          20 yrs.
The Ancient Art of Coppicing
BTCV--Firewood (I HIGHLY recommend this site.  A wonderful resource)
BTCV--Coppicing (Navigate the links on the left side of the page.  TONS of great information available.
How to Choose Firewood Trees by Cornell Univ.  (good general info, not specific to a coup)
The Overstory--Coppice with Standards

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Veggie Variety

Although I love to experiment with the main dishes and desserts, the variety in the vegetables is something that often eludes me.  I end up serving the same, old green beans, steamed broccoli, peas, or corn--all plain.

I made a bit of a search today for better ideas on the veggies and my efforts sent me to Simply Recipes.  Here's a link to their page on all their veggies WITH pictures (always a must for me).  Thankfully, they use a lot of veggies that are common in the garden--asparagus, green beans, broccoli, spinach, winter squashes, zucchini, and tomatoes--so there's a lot less hunting around and buying things out of season.  Just find another recipe! Also, I like how they don't automatically throw butter, cream, and other less-healthy things at the vegetables to give them some variety (think, green bean casserole--a personal favorite, but in moderation, please!).  Now, don't get me wrong, I love my cream and butter, but I've likely already "splurged" in that area on the main dish and I need something healthy as a side to balance it all out. 

On the menu tonight?  Meatloaf, Oven-roasted Potatoes with Thyme (see recipe at side bar), and Green Beans with Almonds and Thyme. (I'm a thyme fan...rosemary makes me feel like I'm eating evergreens.)

(Photo from Simply Recipes--Check out their website!)

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Abuse of Power by the Wall Street Journal

You'd think that the "liberal media" would always follow the left like rats following the Pied Piper.  Apparently, money and drama win out--because it sells!  Often, I'm annoyed by it, but on those occasional days where it works in the benefit of those of us with a more libertarian bent....I'm refreshed to hear someone speaking some truth, even if it's not from a source I normally go to for that sort of thing. 

Here's the most recent shenanigans by the Democrats on Capitol Hill--Abuse of Power by the Wall Street Journal.

It's not over yet people!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Valentine's Dinner

With me arriving just in time FOR dinner on Valentine's day, there was no way I'd be able to MAKE anything special.  After some procrastination, we enjoyed the following culinary masterpiece.

  •  And, so, so good, but so, so sugary!  Definitely a once-in-a-while treat.  (We used another sparkling pink lemonade that was HFCS free, still delicious!) For dessert...Sparkling sorbet floats from