Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Make Your Own Spicy Stone Ground Mustard

Mustard. An American staple. As a matter-of-fact, mustard is used in the cuisine of India, the Mediterranean, northern and southeastern Europe, Asia, the Americas, and Africa, making it one of the most popular and widely used spices and condiments in the world.1

Made from the simplest ingredients, mustard actually is good for you. Some of the many vitamins and nutrients found in mustard seeds are selenium and omega 3 fatty acid2  Mustard has also been used medicinally for generations as well. This is one condiment that is good for you.  However, today's mustards have so many added ingredients that making your own can control what you put into it.  And unlike its ketchup counterpart, mustard can be made very easily, with no cooking and not much fuss.

I found this recipe while watching PBS many years ago.  It was with Mary Ann Esposito and I have loved this mustard ever since.  What can be better than making a condiment that not only tastes amazing but has health benefits as well? This recipe is hands-down the easiest gourmet mustard I've ever made and we think one of the tastiest too!

"Prepared mustard dates back thousands of years to the early Romans, who used to grind mustard seeds and mix them with wine into a paste not much different from the prepared mustards we know today."

This recipe uses two types of mustard...yellow and brown seeds.  You can use all of one or the other, but I really like the color combination of the two varieties.  The brown tends to be a little hotter but they are basically the same. 

For this recipe you'll need one cup of yellow (white) seeds and one cup of brown seeds.  Put them both in a non-corrosive container such as a handy mason jar.  

Add to the jar 2 cups of red wine vinegar. (I also use Bragg's Apple Cider Vinegar to bump up the health benefits of mine.)  

 Now the easiest part.  Cover the jar with plastic if you're using a metal lid.  Otherwise you can top with a plastic lid and let the seeds soak for two days.  You'll be amazed at how much of the vinegar they soak up during this time.  

After two days, put your seed vinegar mix into a food processor and add 1/2 cup of raw honey, 2 tsp of fine sea salt, and 1 tsp of allspice.  Pulse until they form a coarse grainy paste.

Fill approximately six sterilized 1/2 pint jars with the mustard. Cut out wax paper circles larger than the jar opening and place over the tops of each jar before capping them.  

Unopened, the mustard will keep indefinitely, but once opened you'll want to make sure and refrigerate it. 

Need I mention that this mustard makes a great gift as well?  I gave a small bottle to friends one year and they raved about it so much that I ended up making them a quart of it!  

Hope you like this mustard and if you are looking for seeds to buy online, you can try here and
here. You may be able to find yellow mustard seeds any place selling bulk herbs and spices as well. 

Have you made mustard before?  What's your favorite additions?  Blessings!!

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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Pinterest Garden Inspired Christmas Decor!

When it comes to decorating, the garden is my favorite inspiration.  I love the diversity of colors...from earth tones to vibrant that the garden offers.  The garden also offers a huge variety of textures and shapes as well.  

Scanning Christmas Garden Decoration Ideas on Pinterest yielded some really fun ideas for your garden this year.  And...if you don't actually make them, the creativity they display is worth the look.

What's perfect for the kitchen this season?  How about putting together a small edible wreath made up of herbs from the garden?  Make it up a few days before gift giving and it's ready to use.  Or you can give it to them at any time and allow it to dry.  This wreath has bay leaves, sage, thyme and blooming oregano.  This is sure to please the savviest of cooks!

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I love this beautiful Moss wreath for Christmas.  The colors, the textures and the square shape make it a show stopper.  What reindeer wouldn't want to visit this house?  Click on the caption under the photo for directions on how to make your own.

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Simple is always nice.  This rustic garland made with dried orange slices and twine would look great on any mantel or Christmas tree.  Make your own or buy them at a craft store for an instant garden look inside!

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Even the most craft-challenged person can put holly berry sprigs under a wine glass with some tea lights on top.  This is a beautiful table top decoration for a special Christmas meal or use a flame-less tea light to use all season long.  A great way to use those crystal wine glasses tucked away in the cabinet. 

Have pinecones?  Gild them with a quick spray of white paint and hang them from a rustic chandelier for a super outdoorsy, nature inspired holiday decoration!  This one is simplicity at its best!

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No need to put away those garden shepherd hooks this year!  Decorate them up with your own version of Christmas cheer!  Check out the link below the photo for step by step instructions from the Love Gone Wild blog.

I couldn't resist this photo because it's just so clever!  Made up of driftwood, this gardener has Christmas cheer all year long with this rustic branch tree.  It adds texture and character to the garden and I bet the birds like it too!

What's your favorite garden inspired Christmas decoration?


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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Gardener's Gift Guide for Christmas - 2013

Christmas is once again upon us and with it the time for gift giving.  When shopping for your gardening friends, it can be a bit challenging to decide what to give them...hopefully this gift guide will spark some ideas for you and your fellow gardeners!

Burt's Bees Res-Q Ointment

First up, a great stocking stuffer and a product from Burt that I especially love...his RES-Q Ointment.  Yes, I can make my own and have many times, but this little tin has lasted me a long time and is well worth the money.  I use it as a lip ointment and it does the job without leaving the waxy residue other products can.  

" Bruises, burns, stings, and scrapes -- soothe and comfort your minor wounds with the green magic of Mother Nature. Burt's Bees Res-Q Ointment contains lavender oil, vitamin E, olive oil, and more."

Mirrored Window Birdfeeder

I love this product!  I actually have used clear plastic bird-feeders for windows many times and they are by far my favorite kind.  They are squirrel resistant and great up close fun!  This one has a one way mirror in the back so the birds won't notice you creeping up to the window to watch them feed.  Great for adults and kids alike!

 What gardener does not love to garden even in the winter?  A terrarium can help fulfill the plant nurturing instincts even when the temperatures in most places are far from idea.  This kit comes with everything and makes for a beautiful display no matter the weather outside.

Oggi Stainless Steel EZ Open Compost Pail

OXO Good Grips White Kitchen Scraps Compost Pail

 Don't let the great kitchen veggie scraps go to waste!  Collect them all in one of these modern and helpful compost pails.  Stainless steel or sleek white plastic; they will hold your compostable gold in style!  I love my compost pail and use it religiously all year long.  It's a great item to use to fill your outdoor compost bin!

Deluxe Organic Fruit Box

How about giving the gift of good organic eats?  I really enjoy getting a fruit basket and this one is perfect with all of its organic fruit!  Yes, you can make your own for someone local, but this makes for a great gift for a friend or family member far from home.  Try this one from Cherry Moon Farms for a great edible gift.

That's my gardening gift guide for Christmas 2013.  Hope you'll find some of these goodies under your tree this year!  Blessings!

What was your favorite gardening gift?

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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Easiest No-Can, No Fuss Storage Vegetable!

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 I have been canning, freezing and drying for at least 20 years and if I can find a way to cut corners, I will.  One of the ways I do this is by growing a vegetable that not only tastes great and is super nutritious but is also self-storing...that makes this veggie is a keeper!

And grow it I did, lots of them!  At the end of November, I still have a large supply and they are keeping quite nicely so far, thank you very much.

What is this vegetable wonder?  Winter squash of course!  Yes, I know you are able to can and freeze them, but why should I when most of them will be perfectly fine on their own?  And right now with the holidays upon us, there is an abundance of winter squash available for sale and it's the perfect vegetable to keep for the months to come!

Spaghetti Squash and Delicata Squash

If you're not eating squash now or only at Thanksgiving, now is the time to reconsider.  Winter squash is a great source of the anti-oxidants, alpha-carotene and beta-carotene.  It also is loaded with Vitamin C (one-third of our daily allowance) and a very good amount of the antioxidant mineral manganese as well.

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"While winter squash should not be treated as a high-fat food, it does contain fats, including the anti-inflammatory omega-3s. One cup of baked winter squash will provide you with approximately 340 milligrams of omega-3 fats in the form of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)."

Butternut Bush Variety

Nutrients in
Winter Squash
1.00 cup baked (205.00 grams)
Nutrient%Daily Value

 vitamin A - 214.1%
 vitamin C - 32.8%  fiber - 22.9%
manganese - 19% vitamin B6 - 16.5% potassium - 14.1%
 vitamin K - 11.2% folate - 10.2%
tryptophan - 9.3% copper - 8.5% vitamin B - 28.2%
omega-3 fats - 7.9% magnesium - 6.6%

Spaghetti Squash - Small Wonder Variety

Winter squash is pretty great for you and worth keeping through the winter.  How long does it last in storage?  Here are a few tips when buying squash for storage:

1. Make sure the fruit is bruise (no soft spots) and blemish-free.  
2. The winter squash with the hardest skins will generally last the longest.

Here are the varieties and their storage times:

Pumpkins at 50% to 70% humidity and 50 to 55 degrees - 2-3 months
Acorn at 50% to 75% humidity and  50 to 55 degrees - 5-8 weeks
Butternut at 50% to 70% humidity and 50 to 55 degrees - 2-3 months
Hubbards at 50% to 75% humidity and 50 degrees - 5-6 months
Spaghetti Squash at 50% to 70% humidity and 50 to 55 degrees - 2-3 months

However, I have kept all these squash with the exception of pumpkins WAY past these dates...especially spaghetti squash which I was able to keep all the way through spring with no loss of eating quality.

AND...I keep them in my 65+ degree utility room and not outside.  I do lose some but if I rotate them once in while and keep them fairly separate, they seem to do well.  I just watch for fruits that are beginning to get bad spots, refrigerate and use them up right away.   

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I also choose small varieties (like the small Blue Hubbard pictured above) so I can cook one up fast and have about 4-6 servings depending on the variety.  If I were to buy the monster sized ones, I hate to process them because it takes so long, but the small ones I can peel or cook quickly and eat them every week.  

I am loving our winter squash and have been cutting them up, sauteing them and including them in soups, stews, chilis and even our spaghetti sauce.  We love them and here's hoping you'll be able to store some of your own this winter...Blessings!!

What's your favorite winter squash? 


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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

How Did They Grow? Reviewing Five New Garden Varieties in 2013

Every year I like to pick out new garden varieties to try out for the following season.  It keeps gardening interesting and allows me to experience different vegetables and compare them to what I am already growing.  For 2012, I chose 5 different plants that I picked based on productivity, uniqueness and compactness.  You can read my original post here where I picked them - "One Way to Beat Garden Boredom."

So here were my picks with the garden packet photo on the left and my produce on the right...

 I chose this zucchini because it was a compact plant and because it was described as having a pleasant nutty flavor.  What was the result?  I would give this squash an A+ for productivity, compactness, disease resistance and delicious flavor!
It tasted great no matter what size it grew to and we gobbled this zucchini up all summer.  I had one plant that withstood all the fungus our wet and cool summer provided and it was faithful to give us lots of zucchini!

My small amount of beans are located in the right photo, bottom middle.

This yellow wax bean caught my eye because of its unique markings and that fact that it was an heirloom made it a fun try in the garden.  What was the result for 2013?  I would give this bean a B - as it was a good tasting bean but it germinated very poorly even after two plantings.  Of course, some of this could be the season or it could have been the seed lot, but it was very spotty in germination and I had a lot of blank spaces in the garden.  The plants that did grow were semi productive.  This was a fun plant to try but I don't think it'll make it to the garden in 2014.

This little pepper plant looked adorable in the seed catalog and its little fruits were too hard to resist!  How did it grow in my garden?  Well I planted some in the garden and some in containers.  I would say they both grew equally well.  How did they fare?  I would give them a B.  They weren't as productive as the catalog photo but they did put on a decent amount for fresh eating.  I didn't get enough to can even though I grew at least 8 plants.  The taste was okay, not too sweet, the skins a little tough but not bad.  I will grow these again because I like having snack peppers to eat while working outside.  I would classify these as a novelty plant and not a heavy producer.

My Tumbling Toms got hit by late blight.
4. Tumbling Tom Yellow Tomatoes:
I grew these because I love how they are made to tumble and what fun to grow them in containers too.  The yellow variety was a nice change from the usual red tomatoes.  How did these little gems do?  These tomatoes get a C as a grade.  Unfortunately, they were difficult to germinate as well and the plants that did make it succumbed to blight and leaf spot. They managed to give me quite a few tomatoes, not as many as in the seed catalog photo, but enough to enjoy them.  Our wet cool summer wasn't a help for these tomatoes, but I am willing to try them next year hoping our summer temps next year will produce better results.  I really want to grow these as I loved growing vegetables in a vertical space.  Stay tuned to see how they work!

5. Small Wonder Hybrid Squash:
Last but not least was this smaller variety of spaghetti squash.  I grew it for its relatively compact vines but especially its smaller fruits.  It was listed to be very productive.  The result?  This one gets an A+!!  I have so many of these squash ranging in size from a softball to a small pumpkin.  They taste great and they did very well in the garden.  They held up well despite the fungal disease going on because of the wet weather and I have more than enough for winter.  I loved these and am going to include them again for 2013!  It was a rough year for many garden crops because of the weather and whatever made it through is definitely a keeper!

And that was the results of my 2013 Garden Trials.  Overall, I was very happy with my newest additions and most of them will be making a comeback in 2014.  It's great to keep a record of your garden plant varieties so you can make the best choices when it comes to planting time.  It's hard to believe, but you don't always remember what plants grew the best in your garden.

What was your favorite garden plant for 2013?


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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Natural Headache Remedy

Headaches. We all get them and some of us more than others.  I fall into the second category as being a chronic headache sufferer.  Tension headaches and the worst of all...migraines.  

I have been searching for years for a natural remedy or relief from headaches in general. Looking at everything including my diet, exercise, sleep, caffeine usage, herbal remedies including feverfew and homeopathic remedies, etc...I have been pursuing a way to naturally relieve them and prevent their onset.  

To be honest; I had just about given up trying until I recently attended a women's conference and the speaker chose to talk about health one evening.  She quickly mentioned about how she would take "a couple of Omega 3's" at the onset of a headache and it would take care of them immediately.  I jotted down what she said and forgot about it later.

However, the very next day I was feeling the onset of a headache that was destined to become a migraine.  I remembered what the speaker had said and quickly took two fish oil pills (Omega 3's) and didn't think much about it until later when I realized that I ended up not getting a headache OR a migraine.

Wow...this is pretty amazing stuff!  I was a bit surprised because I was used to trying everything to avoid one and nothing seemed to work.  So, all week I took two fish oils in the morning and two at night before bed because those were the times that I would tend to get them.  I would feel a bit muscle "achy" but I never got a for two weeks.  When I did get a mild one, I would take two fish oils or Omega's and they would keep the headache at bay.  

The Omega 3's seem to have eliminated my constant headaches to the point I am able to work out with weights again. However, I have had two days of migraines since then but I woke up with them in the morning and wasn't able to take anything to prevent them.  I did use fish oil with other remedies including pain reliever and valerian to help relieve the pain.  The fish oil seemed to help but I did need the extra boost of pain relievers to get through the headache.

So they seemed to be the most effective when taken before a headache comes on and it's important to be able to "read your body" on when you think this is happening.

How does fish oil or Omega 3 supplements work?  

This is a great question and to be honest, the medical community is not completely sure how it works exactly but they do know that this type of oil does have benefits that may contribute to migraine relief.

You can use fish oil to help and or other supplements that include, evening primrose oil, flaxseed oil, chia seed oil, borage seed oil, extra virgin olive oil.  Food that are rich in Omega's include, walnuts, winter squash, kidney and black beans, and wild rice. 

"According to the American Heart Association the ingredients of fish oil help reduce inflammation, reduces blood clotting, lowers blood pressure and steadies the heart rhythm. These actions, particularly the reduction of inflammation or swelling, may be helpful in reducing the head pain and other migraine symptoms of migraine attacks because it may reduce migraine head inflammation." 1

"Some research suggests that since Fish Oil prevents constriction of blood vessel, it can prevent the actions in the brain that lead to migraine attacks." 2

"A 2002 study of 27 adolescents who took fish oil found that they had fewer migraines, shorter headaches and less severe migraine headaches." 3

"Omega-3 fatty acids do decrease inflammation and relax blood vessels. These may also reduce the tendency of platelets -- blood cell fragments that play an important role in clotting -- to clump together or aggregate. Some studies link platelet clumping to the migraine process, and many standard migraine drugs serve to decrease the tendency of platelets to aggregate." 4

So far, they are taking care of most of my migraines.  I am also learning how to regulate my hormones so I can eliminate the migraines associated with them as well.  

You can use fish oil to help and or other supplements that include, evening primrose oil, flaxseed oil, chia seed oil, borage seed oil, extra virgin olive oil.  Food that are rich in Omega's include, walnuts, winter squash, kidney and black beans, and wild rice.

What to do when you feel like a headache is coming on?  Take a couple of fish oils or Omega 3's and see if you notice a difference.  Our 17 year old son took a couple when he had a mild headache and it went away for him.  If it works then you've just found a great simple, low cost remedy!  If it doesn't, keep trying as it may not work with hormonal headaches the same way it does for tension ones.  

All in's certainly worth trying.  I am so thankful!

Have you found a natural cure that works for you to eliminate headaches?

Be blessed (and headache-free!)

*Here's a link to another great post from an M.D. about eliminating migraines.  He has some more suggestions on symptoms and treatments that are valuable to know.  You can read it here.


2. Ibid.
3. Ibid.

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Thursday, October 17, 2013

Celebrating the Harvest 2013

As a gardener, the most important outcome of the garden season is the harvest.  That is what all the digging, weeding, planting, sowing and weeding is about; the harvest.  I'm always amazed when I begin to fill bowl after bowl of vegetables from a picking - it's really gardening "nirvana."

So I decided to put together a post featuring some Instagram snapshots that captured this years harvest.  It's a quick look at why we do what we do in the garden.

This past 2013 season was certainly no disappointment either.  Besides the fact that we had so much rain and cool temps, we still managed to bring in haul after haul of garden produce.

Sure our peppers languished for the early part of the season, but September proved to be a great month with nice mild temperatures; more sun and less rain.  All of a sudden our peppers really began putting on lots of fruit. 

We have scores of them and mostly hot peppers at that.  I'm not sure when I'm going to learn how to not plant SO many hot varieties.  Yes, we love them hot, but we do have our limits.  

By the way...if you ever want to learn how to eat hot peppers - start growing them and you'll soon find ways to use them.  I never ate a hot pepper 20 years ago, now we have a slight addiction to them.

Sadly, our tomatoes didn't fare as well.  They always suffer from Septoria Leaf Spot (a fungal disease which affects the plant) in our garden at home, but I usually still get a decent crop.

We did manage to get enough tomatoes to can this year, but many were under-ripe and very small.  All the rain and cool temperatures wreaked havoc on those temperamental Mediterranean plants.  It may not make the best sauce this year but at least it's our tomatoes with no added pesticides; thank you very much!  

Despite a bleak outlook in the beginning, most everything did well and we had more than enough to eat, preserve and share.  Which, I think, is really what it's all about.  I really love the harvest, it makes me feel so wealthy and successful.  I guess that's what it's supposed to do. :)

How was your harvest this year?  Blessings! 

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Thursday, October 3, 2013

Eating Well in the City: West Side Market

One thing is for sure; the city offers some amazing spaces, great architecture and interesting places.  We live only 40 miles away from Cleveland and manage to go downtown every once in a while.  When we do, discovering the food it has to offer has to be top on our list. 

The food doesn't have to just come from a restaurant either.  As a matter of fact, visiting its city market is one of my favorite places to go.  With roots going back to the 1840's - this market boasts of not only great food, but is full of history as well.  I end up feasting with my eyes as well as my appetite.

It is home to over a hundred vendors and believe me, they sell everything.  It's an eater's paradise.  The variety is endless and begs of repeat visits to at least get a glimpse of all that is for sell.

This leads me to my next thought...Eating well in the city is actually easier than I would have thought.  Sure, you have to walk past all the racks and displays of cookies, pastries, cakes, and candy (it's really ok to nibble along the way) to find some vendors that offer artisan breads, cheeses, and produce.   

A city market does so much for the local economy.  It provides small businesses great opportunities to thrive and grow.  It provides an outlet for small farmers and gardeners who need to sell produce.  It encourages artisanal foods and recaptures old world methods of growing, baking, cooking and eating. 

 It also is a vast artistic display that encourages creativity not only in food but in the way we think about food.  There's no way I'm thinking about french fries and pizza here...too many other great foods to discover and explore.

It really is a center and a gathering place for young and old alike to celebrate ethnic heritages, great food and learn new traditions.

With this constant traffic flow of produce and food from the burbs and countryside, it ensures the quality of food for many urban dwellers.  I am almost thinking that it's a bit easier for them to eat well at least when it comes to having more healthful choices.  

I know we ate really well that day and came home with some prizes too.  With new vendors selling Black Tuscan Kale and other organic produce, I felt as if I was walking through a garden. Looks like city pavement owners have their own bit of livin' in the green as well.

What's your favorite town or city market space?  Blessings!

For more info on the West Side Market, click here.

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