Better Choices, Better Results

Archive for July, 2011

Potatis, Kартошка, Patata, Pomme de terre – Potatoes!!!!!

I harvested about 40 pounds of potatoes from the garden last week.  I was so excited about the whole process.  I got to go buy a potato fork at Tractor Supply (love that place).  I bought wooden baskets to store them in and I bought new gloves the help prevent getting more blisters on my hands.

Digging potatoes is like waiting for Christmas.  You see the plants grow and bloom and you just know there’s something great within that package, but you have to wait until harvest-time to find out how much you got.  

I decided to dig a row of white potatoes and a row of red potatoes.  I dug the fork in the ground and pushed the handle down to lift the dirt under the plant to reveal the presents beneath the soil.

JACKPOT!

Every single plant had at least 3 – 4 potatoes.  Some were as big as my fist and some were as small as marbles.  After gathering all the potatoes, I checked everything else in the garden to see what was ready to come home with me.  I picked 3 more cabbages and several peppers.  We still don’t have any tomatoes ready! 

My 1st Potato Harvest!

After that, I watered everything and headed over to Mickey’s house to share the harvest.  I love being able to share food with people.  I’ll readily admit that I’m a food hoarder.  I can’t think of anything I’d rather do than gather and prepare food for later use.  But – I’m also a feeder.  I thrill at sharing what I’ve done with others; especially when they are people I love. 

The next day I decided to can some of my potatoes to see what would happen.  I’ve never canned white potatoes before, but I knew it could be done because there are instructions in the canning bible; The Ball Blue Book.

THE Authority for all things related to canning and preserving!

I started out by sorting the potatoes.  I wanted to can whole potatoes, so I picked out small potatoes – anything less than 2-inches in diameter.  Then I washed them and peeled them.  I had briefly considered canning them with the peels, but the instructions said that peels would fall off during the pressure cooking phase, so I really saw no point in leaving them. 

New Potatoes!

 Peeling those little critters was such a pain!  I started out using a new green scrubbing pad (you know – the kind used for scrubbing pots & pans), but that became tedious very quickly, so I switched to a standard potato peeler and did a little better. 

Peeled and ready to can.

It wasn’t too long, though, before I started getting a burning sensation between my shoulder blades from bending over the sink.  I had to come up with a better plan.  I piled the potatoes in a big bowl and sat down to peel them and that worked much better.

After about an hour, I had all the potatoes peeled for canning.  I stuffed them in jars and canned according to directions.

 They turned out great!  I can’t wait to try them.  I’m sure they will work perfectly for any number of potato dishes.  Next up – I want to can potato soup and diced potatoes..

The finished product....next up, potato soup.

Have you ever canned anything interesting?

The Bane of My Existence

Augh!  Tracking my food and water intake is so hard for me! 

Tracking is one of those things that I know I should be doing consistently, but I’ll be honest…I haven’t been tracking.

Guess what?  The scale has stopped moving downward, too.  Coincidence?  I think not.

It’s not difficult.  What’s hard about writing down everything that I eat and drink?  Nothing!  It doesn’t require anything technical or fancy equipment.  It simply requires me to carry pen and paper with me.  It should be so SIMPLE.

And yet I resist, thinking that I can rely on my memory to be accurate, when it obviously is not, considering that I’m not losing like I was when I tracked accurately.

So I’ve pulled out my pen and paper and I’m once again tracking everything that goes into my mouth. 

Something just tells me that I’ll start losing weight again…

 

Seriously! Just write it down! It's not Rocket Science!

 

Hundred-Degree Weather and Harvesting

Remember when I said that I don’t like to sweat?  Well, this journey that I’m on to lose weight and eat better is changing me.  I’m starting to appreciate the sweat produced from honest work that provides for people I love.

I’m speaking about the garden; this “labor of love” that has caused me many blisters and much sunburned skin.  The place I go to put on my hat, sunglasses and pink work boots and then sweat through my entire outfit. 

 

I love this garden!

This past week’s weather was certainly challenging.  We had heat indices at over 100 degrees and yet, the gardening had to continue.  That’s the rub with gardens – they don’t require attention according to the comfort level and convenience of the people working them.

We are now beginning to harvest pretty regularly from the garden.  Typically, I get peppers, squash and zucchini each time I go out.  The cabbages are starting to come in, too.  We’ve gotten 5 heads so far. 

The tomatoes are pretty puny this year.  I don’t know if it’s the soil, or if planting it next to the corn caused problems, or if there’s a tomato blight, or what…but they just don’t look good.  The vines, which should be over-running us by now, are still kind of small and pitiful.  I’ve been watering, and we do have a few small green tomatoes…  Oh well, I will supplement our harvest at the Farmer’s Markets and it’ll be fine.

We planted corn twice.  The first corn didn’t really grow much.  It’s short and yellowed and not producing, so I think I might just pull it out of the ground the next time I go out there.  Since it’s next to the tomatoes, maybe the extra sunlight will help them.  The new corn looks much better and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we’ll get enough to harvest!

Anyway – back to last week.  I went out there three times to do necessary watering/weed-pulling and harvesting.  I weeded our onions, which we’d already thinned out and “stomped” to encourage growth to the bulbs instead of the green blades.  They are doing pretty well in bulb-formation.  I know this because my enthusiastic weeding actually pulled up some of them.  I put them back in the ground and lovingly put dirt back on top of them.  I hope I didn’t kill them.

Our squash beds are a mess.  This is one area that I will definitely redesign next year.  Weeds, weeds, everywhere!  I’ve been weeding some, but it’s overwhelming.  Luckily, the squash plants don’t seems to mind sharing their space with weeds. 

It’s all a learning process.

I harvested our first two rows of potatoes on Friday.  I dug out about 40 pounds of them and am quite pleased with those results considering how close we came to losing our entire crop to potato bugs

 

I didn’t mind the terrible heat too badly, all considered.  I suppose that when you look at the entire situation, you simply have to decide what you want the most and move ahead appropriately. 

  • I want this garden to be successful; therefore I go out there when needed.
  • I get a charge of excitement whenever I harvest something new, so I go to check the plants regularly.
  • I LOVE seeing what sunflowers have bloomed and don’t mind fighting the bees for them.  (I win and haven’t gotten stung…yet.)
  • I get so excited when I look at what we pull from the garden and know that my family will eat well over the next year because of my work.

I’m already making plans for next year’s garden.  I’m starting to love gardening!  I never would have thought I’d feel this way.

In fact, I’m looking forward to going back out there tonight…

 

Peppers

Mickey put a bunch of pepper plants in the garden.  Banana peppers, jalapeno peppers, green peppers, etc.

I think Mickey likes peppers.

Anyway, I picked some jalapenos the other day with the intent on using them in a recipe that I found called “Heaven & Hell” preserves, made with hot peppers and onions.

After some research, I decided not to make the preserves because they are not shelf-stable and need to be refrigerated all the time.  But now I had all these peppers to deal with, and no real plan.

I decided to just do a basic vinegar, water and salt brine for them.  This would be similar to the pickled pepper rings that you’d find in the grocery.  They can be used in any number of dishes, sandwiches, salads, pizzas, etc.

I ended up with 7 half-pint jars.  I’m quite sure that will last us a whole year, if not more!

Pickles

Last week, my co-worker, Tina, and her husband gave me some cucumbers.  They can grow cucumbers like crazy!  Me – not so much.  My plants always die.  I just can’t figure out what I’m doing wrong.  Anyway, they gave me two shopping bags of cucumbers that I needed to process.

Pickles!

I’ve tried making pickles a few times, but I’ve always been disappointed with the results.  They are usually too mushy for me to be able to enjoy.  This time, I found a recipe on one of my favorite blogs, Chickens in the Road, for a Claussen-like pickle.  Crunchy pickles that I make myself?  Oh yes!  I had to try them.

This is a refrigerator pickle and does not get heat processed, so the pickles have to stay in the refrigerator.  They are not shelf-stable.  Therefore, I only made 3 jars because I simply don’t have enough fridge space.

I gathered the ingredients.  I had almost everything I needed right there in the house.  I only needed to buy dill weed and dill seed.

All of my ingredients.

I washed, trimmed and stuffed the cucumbers into the jars. 

Next I piled in the ingredients and topped off with a brine made of water, vinegar and salt.

All I had to do was dump the spices in the jar along with the cucumber spears.

I waited 24 hours and tried them.

Oh.

My.

Goodness.

They are soooooo good!  Even better, I think, than the store-bought pickles!  These are so easy that everyone should try making them!  Click here to go to the recipe page for these pickles.

Ready to go in the refrigerator.

Enjoy – I know I am!

The Mojo is Back!

Last week I told you about how my walking had all but stopped due to sore legs and hot weather and any other reason I could muster.  I was a little down on myself, actually.  I knew that my walking was good for me.  I knew that there really was no reason to quit.  I knew that I was making excuses and justifying my actions.  I knew ALL of this, and yet, for about 2 weeks, I didn’t walk regularly.

Last Friday, I started walking again.  It wasn’t easy to drag myself out of bed, but I knew it was what I had to do.

Yesterday, during my walk, my MP3 player died.  This was truly a tragedy, because I can’t keep up the swift pace without my music.  When I got back to the house, I plugged the MP3 player in to charge, and it wouldn’t do anything.  No lights came on.  There was no indication that my little MP3 was still alive!

All day, I worried about having to buy a new player.   Money is tight, so I was not looking forward to spending extra dollars on a new player.  Still, I worried about it until I got home.

I decided that trying to “fix” the player couldn’t hurt it if it was truly a goner, so when I got home, I took it off the charger and banged it on the desk a few times.  (I don’t recommend trying this with your MP3 or IPod.)

Then I pressed the power button.

It worked!  I “fixed” my little player, and all was well in my world again.

And the walking continues…

Beauty Amidst the Vegetables

 Don’t get me wrong – I think vegetables are beautiful, too.  However, they don’t shout, “Look at me!  I’m too pretty for words!” like these sunflowers do.

These are sitting on my desk right now!

 

Aren't they stunning?

 

These are blooming in my garden right now, and I think they are so striking that all I want to do is stare at them.