Friday, June 29, 2012

Summer Campfire

Summer and campfires always seem to go together.  So whenever the summer heat is not too great, we try to have one. 
It was our day off so we planned to spend some family time together.  However, between garden chores and washing windows, we both ran out of steam by mid afternoon.  Our original plan was to take a short hike and then grill out supper at a park nearby, but we were both so tired; a home campfire seemed like just the ticket. The guys were happy about it too and Mark worked his magic in helping to get the fire started. 

Who doesn't like S'mores?  Well, our guys like them for sure so we made sure to get the necessary supplies for them to make this campfire legit.

I love to roast marshmallows.  I'm not a huge fan of eating them, but it's such a campfire art to be able to roast them without setting them on fire (unless setting them ablaze is your goal!)  A rich espresso crema brown is the perfect color for me which makes the best roasted marshmallow.

Mark recently purchased this travel guitar so he could be a mobile musician wherever he goes.  He had fun serenading us by the campfire with improvised songs with whatever topic we could think of.  Flip Wilson, a trailer and the Louvre (museum) were some of the things mentioned... :)

Luke: Fires are for contemplation...

It was a fun, low-key great way to end the day.  The weather was just cool enough to make a fire enjoyable.  Can't wait until our next one...blessings to you all!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Blueberry Cobbler Made Light!

What says summer more than blueberries...and especially blueberry cobbler?  Yep, that's what I'm talking about! Blueberries are absolutely amazing in a dessert (one of my favorite pies.) However, we rarely make desserts anymore because when we do, well, I eat them! But we do try to make room for those dessert items that hold a great memory or are seasonal.  Certain foods (think corn-on-the-cob, fried eggplant/zuchinni) I love to eat seasonally and berry desserts are one of them. The other day I picked up a lot of blueberries at the market and I usually put them in cereal or smoothies, but  today I couldn't resist the idea of making an old fashioned cobbler.
So, in order to make our dessert and eat it too, I found this great recipe for Blueberry Cobbler, a lighter version which was entirely delicious.  Find the recipe here.

Blueberries, sugar, cinnamon, and lemon peel.

After reading some of the reviews for this recipe, I decided to add about a teaspoon of cinnamon to the blueberries and 2 teaspoons of lemon extract to the batter.  I also used my own multi-grain flour.  It made it a little better for you and added a nice nutty flavor.
Well, it turned out fantabulous!  I will definitely be making this again...even if it turns out to be next summer; it's going in my cookbook! 

Let me know if you try the recipe and like it...Blessings!!

Linked to Miz Helen's Country Cottage - Full Plate Thursday , DIY Home Sweet HomeSugar Bee Crafts; Take-A-Look-TuesdayMy Girlish Whims; Your Whims Wednesday

Friday, June 22, 2012

Quick Pics: Garden in June

Calendula or Pot Marigold. I use the flowers for a skin balm.

Hey!  It's mid-June in my zone 5's a sneak preview of what's getting ready to be picked or is blooming now!

Early Girls!!  I only saw the one when I took this picture, look at the others...can't wait for BLT's!

This Sweet Basil is ready to harvest now!

This is a volunteer marigold that showed up in the right spot! I love flowers in the garden.

Sweet Banana Pepper

Hungarian Wax...these pepper are such twins to the sweet bananas.  I planted them in two different locations
so I could tell them apart from each other...

Lobelia. The truest blue flower in my garden.  Shoes make a great planter too!
Thanks for stopping by...Have a great weekend and blessings!!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Tea-licious with Lemon Balm

It's official, today is the first day of summer and what better way to celebrate than with a glass of iced herbal tea made with Melissa Officianalis, aka...Lemon Balm.
I've been making this tea for some years now and we all enjoy it during the summer.  This isn't just a delicious tea though, Lemon Balm has long been used as a general health tonic.  The list of ailments it has been used to treat over the centuries is amazing.  Everything from anxiety/depression, ADD, fever, colic, digestive issues, to bee stings; this herb is a must in everyone's herbal garden.
We just love to drink it.  I figure it is good for the body as well as the senses, so here's a look at how I make it into a tea known as my "Summer Tea."

Lemon Balm
I grow this herb on the sunny south side of our house.  It gets pretty hot there and the soil isn't too great.  That's probably a good thing, because this is one herb that loves to spread.  So, if you plant yours, give it full sun and room to grow.  You'll appreciate it's health benefits and well as its summery flavor.

I only use the very tops of each branch.  These have the best flavor.

I make a dry mix base for my Summer Tea.  I use Green Rooibos which is mineral and antioxidant rich.

I also add (from top left, down to right) rose hips for flavor, hibiscus and lemon grass.  These give it a fruity citrus taste and the hibiscus gives it a pretty ruby color.

I use equal parts of all the ingredients except for the green rooibos, I use 2 parts for that.  So, in other words, one cup of rose hips, one cup of hibiscus flowers, one cup of lemon grass and 2 cups of green rooibos.

Add a half of a cup to the dish you'll be steeping your lemon balm.

Let steep for at least 20 minutes to get the maximum health benefits from the balm. 

When done steeping, strain your tea into a one gallon sun tea jar container.  If the tea water is still hot, I add cold cold water to my sun tea jar (about half way filled) so the jar won't crack with the hot water.  Top up the sun tea jar with fresh cold water and wha-la!  You have a gallon of Lemon Balm Summer Tea!  Add ice and sweeten (I use Stevia, another great herb with health benefits) and drink delicious and so refreshing AND it's great for you!

It's tee-rific!  Okay, no more tea puns, but seriously, you'll love it!  Blessings!

Check out Frugally Sustainable for more great ideas!  Their link is here.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Picnic at the Marina...

What do you do on a beautiful day, that doesn't cost much money and is interesting to everyone in the family?  A picnic of course!  We usually go to one of the beautiful wooded parks that we have around here. However, there is an allurement to the water that we found hard to resist that day...maybe because it was so hot, and maybe because half of us really wanted to fish.  Whatever the reasons were, we decided to head out to the marina and spend our day there and also in the adjoining state park.

Perfect view for lunch!

We made our sandwiches and wraps right on the spot. Turkey Cheddar
wraps with homemade hummus.

After a satisfying lunch, we all headed off to our respective spots.  Some to fish (caught and released, one Rock Bass!) and others to walk along the beach shore and then the walking path that borders the lake.
We also took a long hike in the woods later in the afternoon.  It began to drizzle, so the woods became an inviting place to hang out.
Found a few fun things along the way... was trying to rain.
Yellow Tiger Swallowtail "puddling" in the sand.
My brother, who's a naturalist, says he thinks this is crown 
vetch.  It's so pretty and looked great along this fence

Being by the water is so refreshing.  It was such a nice day and a great mix of land and water.  The boats were fun to watch come in and we ended up being outdoors for many hours; getting recharged and ready for the week.  It was a pretty great week and I hope yours was great too...blessings to you all!

Monday, June 11, 2012

An Ode to Drying Oregano...

It's the season for harvesting...yes, that's right, but we're talking herbs here.  My Oregano is getting ready to flower and I should have harvested earlier, but life gets busy. So I'm doing it now.   I try to harvest BEFORE it flowers, or I get so many new Oregano plants that they have become rather invasive.  Plus, it tastes better before the plant flowers.  So, trimming them back  is the way to produce more Oregano.  
You can purchase one of these plants at your local garden center or even Walmart has them in season.  Plant them and water well.  Give them lots of sun and let them go!  You'll love this plant and if you let it flower, the flowers are very nice too.  It's a great plant for the landscape.  Just make sure you don't plant it next to anything you may use toxic sprays on...or try not to use toxic sprays...??!!

I use Oregano for two different styles of cooking...these being Italian and Mexican.  I use it in my Italian Seasoning Mix and in my Taco Mix.  I find it adds a lot of great flavor to tacos and what-not.  Going back to the Italian side of the map, I love it on pizza and it figures greatly as the herb on them.

Harvest is simple.  Pick the uppermost tops of the plant and place them in your dehydrator trays to dry.  If you don't have one of these nifty appliances (this is my 3rd one and my favorite!) then tie the stalks by the bottoms, place them bottom side down in a paper bag and then hang the bag up until they dry.  You can also microwave dry them, see link here

The dried stalks...
Strip the leaves gently by pulling the leaves from bottom to top.
I stripped all the Oregano leaves while reading a book on Kindle...:)

Once you are done, put your dried herb in its own container and put it in a dark cabinet to store as light can destroy its essential oils (aka: flavor.)  
I prefer Oregano dried as it's such a strong herb, but I DO use it fresh because it's handy to do so.  I also like to cook it along with dried beans to give them much more flavor.  All in all, I love this herb and I hope you do too!  Blessings!

Linked to blog parties, Off the Grid at -30,  Frugally Sustainable

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Quick Pix: Flowers Gone Wild...

Digitalis Purpurea, otherwise known as "Foxglove" is one flower I am always surprised at seeing this time of year.  It is a true biennial, needing two years to complete its growth and flowering cycle.  The first year it's only  small leafy plant, the second year it sends up tall stalks of these beautiful flowers.  This variety reseeds itself, so I never really know if and where the plants will show up.  This year, the flowers went "wild" by growing outside the flower bed, but close enough to the edge that the mower didn't catch them.

I love this flower, so happy in a cottage garden...who would have ever thought it came from northern Africa?  Well, it did, besides parts of Europe where they tamed it and put it in their Victorian gardens.  
With all its beauty, it has a deadly is extremely poisonous, that is, all parts of the plant.    So, if you have small children, you wouldn't want them playing in your yard and chewing on any part of this plant. But there is light to even this dark side; carefully refined extracts of this plant are used in medicine; natural and general to help out the heart muscle.  It helps to control the heart rate and to increase the ability of the heart to contract.  Not a bad thing for such a "wild" flower?

So, go ahead and plant this wild beauty as it only blooms a short time in late Spring and it is so worth the planting (I've grown mine while raising our two boys and they are still alive and kicking!)  But remember it's wild African roots and only look, chewing!!