Category Archives: Home/Garden

I love to cook and I love to garden. I love to cook things I’ve grown in the garden. Yum…

So That’s What Was Hiding Under The Snow Drifts

Every year this strikes me as something of a miracle.

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A scientifically explained miracle, true, but that robs it of none of the thrill.

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This year has been such a hard winter, and my borders have been crushed under so much snow, that I wasn’t sure I was going to see Green for quite some time.

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But here we are, March 20, and the plants know what they have to do.

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If it had been up to me,
I’d have given up hope and thought “maybe I’ll have color next year…”

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I’m so glad I’m not in charge.

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Build Your Own Leaf Bin

[This is from the archives, but it’s the perfect time to pull out this post again]

I hate waste, so autumn drives me kind of crazy. All my neighbours sweep their leaves to the front kerb, where a big borough lorry comes along and sucks them up. Then, in the spring, everyone has a truck load of mulch delivered.

I say: stop the insanity! Use your own leaves to make your own mulch! Build a leaf bin!

leafbinsupplies It doesn’t take much. Just a roll of hardware cloth, a piece of scrap wood and a way to fasten them together (I used a cable staple gun that we had lying around.

I bought a 10′ roll of 3′ tall, 1/4″ mesh landscape fabric from the local big hardware store.

Step 1: Unroll the hardware cloth and lay it flat on the ground. Stomp on it a bit to get it to unroll if you need to. No need to get it totally flat, though, as you’ll want it to roll up again in a minute. Building A Leaf Bin
Building A Leaf Bin Step 2: fold one end of the mesh around the piece of wood (which should be just a bit taller than 3′, so you can bash the end of it into the ground to help support your leaf bin). Staple the mesh to the wood, all along the length.
Step 3: Fold the mesh over so the free end is touching the wood. Building A Leaf Bin
Building A Leaf Bin Step 4: Staple the end to the wood, as neatly as you can while wrangling 10′ of metal mesh.
Step 5: Stand it up. The mesh is strong enough to support itself, but the wood helps. You can then pound the wood into the ground to hold your new leaf bin in place. You can also use metal or wood stakes to define its shape a bit better and give it extra stability. Building A Leaf Bin
Building A Leaf Bin Building A Leaf Bin

Shred your leaves with a lawnmower or a leaf muncher; pile them up and let the microbes save you a pile of money. Know what’s in the mulch you’re putting on your soil (nothing but natural ingredients).

Feed Four in the Family — Overlapping Meals

With me trying to eat healthily and watch my portions, Kev eating low-carb and the boys being 6 and 4, feeding the whole family can get a bit complex. Especially when everyone wants to eat exactly when they’re hungry, not a moment before or after.

I know I shouldn’t do it, but last night I made a multi-part meal — the kind my sister will be very familiar with (she has a carnivorous husband, a vegetarian teenage daughter, a son who doesn’t eat anything that isn’t bland, a chocoholic and a fourth child who is, I think a bit more catholic in her tastes than anyone else). I know I shouldn’t start dividing up our meals, but this one didn’t seem like too much hassle.

I started a batch of potatoes boiling, threw some meatballs in the microwave for the boys, and thawed the frozen sea scallops.

Meanwhile I grated some Parmesan and made a batch of Guy Kawasaki’s Teriyaki Sauce (see? This is why it’s useful to buy real food. If you don’t have a particular bottled sauce, you can just whip it up from five ingredients that you do have).

I threw some frozen peas and corn into a pot for me (the sole vegetable eater), then set to work searing the scallops.

2nd: Course Raisin-Caper Scallops

This isn't my picture. We ate ours too fast. And they weren't this pretty.

picture credit

Don’t tell Kev, but there was some sugar in that Teriyaki recipe. A small price to pay, I feel for the lovely, crunchy seared coating on the scallops.

So, to recap, dinner was:

  • The boys: garlic mashed potatoes, meatballs, Parmesan
  • Kev: Scallops (a lot).
  • Me: Scallops (a couple), garlic mashed potatoes (a little too much if I’m honest), peas and sweetcorn.

Overlapping ingredients. This is probably the key to my future family cooking schedule.

Oh yeah, and I’m glad Angus liked the potatoes and meatballs because I think he’ll be taking them to school for lunch tomorrow, in a food flask!

Brie, Ham, Tomato, Basil – Super Supper

OK, so I’m watching my portions but I worked hard today and hadn’t eaten much so i decided to have a little supper.

Two small slices of bread, some thinly-sliced Brie, two slices of shaved ham, and a couple of cherry tomatoes, topped with some basil harvested from the garden in the summer and frozen.

Hey, if I’m going to have a sandwich, it might as well be tasty. Small and tasty.

Oh, and the small glass of Châteauneuf-duPape isn’t hurting.

Building A Leaf Bin

I hate waste, so autumn drives me kind of crazy. All my neighbours sweep their leaves to the front kerb, where a big borough lorry comes along and sucks them up. Then, in the spring, everyone has a truck load of mulch delivered.

I say: stop the insanity! Build a leaf bin!

leafbinsupplies It doesn’t take much. Just a roll of hardware cloth, a piece of scrap wood and a way to fasten them together (I used a cable staple gun that we had lying around.

I bought a 10′ roll of 3′ tall, 1/4″ mesh landscape fabric from the local big hardware store.

Step 1: Unroll the hardware cloth and lay it flat on the ground. Stomp on it a bit to get it to unroll if you need to. No need to get it totally flat, though, as you’ll want it to roll up again in a minute. Building A Leaf Bin
Building A Leaf Bin Step 2: fold one end of the mesh around the piece of wood (which should be just a bit taller than 3′, so you can bash the end of it into the ground to help support your leaf bin). Staple the mesh to the wood, all along the length.
Step 3: Fold the mesh over so the free end is touching the wood. Building A Leaf Bin
Building A Leaf Bin Step 4: Staple the end to the wood, as neatly as you can while wrangling 10′ of metal mesh.
Step 5: Stand it up. The mesh is strong enough to support itself, but the wood helps. You can then pound the wood into the ground to hold your new leaf bin in place. You can also use metal or wood stakes to define its shape a bit better and give it extra stability. Building A Leaf Bin
Building A Leaf Bin Building A Leaf Bin

Shred your leaves with a lawnmower or a leaf muncher; pile them up and let the microbes save you a pile of money. Know what’s in the mulch you’re putting on your soil (nothing but natural ingredients).

Better Breakfasts – Perfect Oatmeal

My Better Breakfast quest continues – with Oatmeal! Mr Kellog may have had a point (we do need more fiber in our diets) but his refined cereals just don’t cut it as a morning meal for me. The carbs burn off and leave me hungry. The sugar makes me sluggish. I need protein! I need ‘no hunger’ breakfast recipes. I also need to lose weight. So here’s my latest Better Breakfast Recipe:

Perfect Steamy OatmealOatmeal is good for your heart, good for your intestines, good for your brain (eh, I made that up), but almost never cooked in a way that makes it something you might actually want to eat. It’s the national breakfast of Scotland, but I never ate oatmeal (or ‘porridge’) until I discovered this method.

It might seem like more effort than cold cereal or toast, but once you have it down, it’s actually really simple. Start it before you make coffee or while you’re making a packed lunch or whatever else you do first thing. It takes a little over five minutes. Honest.

The secrets?
1. Use old-fashioned oats (not instant or microwave or ‘easy’. This is important) [1]
2. Don’t use the microwave [2]

INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
1 cup of water OR 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup milk (try it with just water first, and see what you think)
1 pinch of salt (this makes the oats creamy even if cooked only in water)
slivered almonds

Optional Toppings

fruit jam/jelly
dried fruits
fresh blueberries
brown sugar

METHOD

1. Boil the water and/or milk.
2. While that’s happening (or better yet, the night before), place almonds on a greased baking sheet and toast under the broiler. Hang around in the kitchen until you smell the first hint of delicious toasty almonds, then RUN to the oven and grab them before they burn. (If you do a whole bag of almonds today, you can put the rest in a ziplock back in the freezer for use on other days.
3. When the liquids are boiling, add the salt and stir.
4. Add the oats, stir once.
5. Reduce heat to a simmer. Cover.
6. Set a (loud) timer for 5 minutes. (This is where you can make coffee or go and yell at your kids to get up/dressed/showered).
7. When the timer sounds, turn off the heat and leave for 2 minutes, to absorb remaining liquid. (You can leave it for longer. It just gets thicker and thicker the longer you leave it. Honestly, you could go and have your shower and it’ll still be fine when you come back. You just might need to add some milk to thin it out a bit).
8. Crush the almonds a bit (with a spoon or your fingers if cool) and mix into oatmeal.
9. Add other toppings sparingly. Add a dash of milk, or half and half if you feel the need (This tastes really good with just a teaspoonful of a good fruit jelly or with fresh berries or dried fruit)
10. Fill the pot with water, to soak, while you enjoy your breakfast. There should be no sticky bits, but just in case…

Notes

[1] Insant or ‘easy’ or ‘microwave’ oats are the devil’s own breakfast. They cook up with no texture at all and will put your kids off oatmeal (AKA ‘lump-sludge’) for life. Using them also removes you from the register of People Who Can Claim Any Type of Celtic Heritage Whatsoever [*]
[*] This is not actually true. My mother uses microwave oats. In Scotland! I tell you, the woman is one breakfast guest away from an angry, pitch-fork-bearing mob…
[2] This is also not true. I use the microwave sometimes. It creates oatmeal with less texture (which you may/not prefer) and makes clean-up even easier, as you can make it right in your (large) cereal bowl. Just add the oats, liquids and salt, cook uncovered for 5 minutes on 50% power, and add toppings. It’s not quite as good but it’s not bad. Also it might be thicker. Or thinner. Depending on the day.