Monday, December 31, 2012

Year End Review of Junqueology

Hello my friends,

Boy have I neglected this blog! I generally get busy in the early autumn, with harvesting the gardens, and canning the bounty it brings forth, and then....I get tired.  LOL.

Winter is a slow time at the micro-mini ranch, as it is for most people who garden in cold climates, but I thought I'd give you all a little update, mostly for myself to get me back into the "mood" of blogging again. Maybee this winter I'll be more motivated to write - espcially if the plans in my brain bear out!

1. I've been getting more and more into making home remedies for medicinal and for beauty, using  natural oils, essential oils, and general household items. I've been collecting tons of recipes, and working out some stuff on my own. If you want to see what I've been learning, I have several Pinteret pages.  Take a look at some of my stuff:

Alternative and Natural Beauty Ideas

Alternative and Natural Home Remedies: Internal

Alternative and Natural Home Remedies: External

Herbal uses and Essential Oils

I've also been researching more on gardening, especially Heirloom seeds (non-GMOs), and organic pest control.  Here are my gardening pages on Pinterest if you want to have a look:

Gardening: Fruits, Veggies, and Herbs

Gardening: Flowers and Landscaping Ideas

Gardening: Organic Pest Control Tips

If you follow me on Facebook, you know that I've devoted a significant time over the last year to learning and following the Paleo Lifestyle. Also known as the Anscestral Diet, or The Primal Blueprint, there are a tons of ways of saying that I've been trying to kick my addiction to processed foods, particularly those containing wheat and other grains.  I started another blog with a few friends, and you can read about our ups and downs as well as get food ideas and recipes that we developed by going over to:

Paleo Lifestyle in the Real World

and our companion Facebook support page: Paleo Lifestyle in the Real World on FB.

Anywhoo, I would like wish you all a Happy 2013. Here's hoping we all are happy and healthy through the coming year!



Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Junque Food: MATERS!

We are heavily in the midst of canning season here at the micro-mini ranch.

So many things to can, so little time!

If you have the canning bug, than this scenario is very familiar to you:

I had between 7-10 gallon sized freezer bags of tomatoes in the freezer. Since tomatoes don't ripen all at the same time, it's necessary for me to freeze them for awhile until I have enough to do a canning session.  The hubster and I had planned on doing up the tomatoes this past Sunday.

And then I went to the Saturday morning Farmer's Market.

And bought another bushel of tomatoes.


!!!


I couldn't help it!! They were extremely affordable, and we were gonna be canning anyway!!!

BTW, if anyone wants to know how much a bushel of tomatoes is, it's about the equivalent of a paper grocery bag filled to the top.

With a zillion tomatoes.

And it's heavy.

When it was all said an done, By the end of Sunday night, we had canned 17 quarts of tomatoes That's QUARTS. not pints. it's a lot. See here:

I googled this image, and it came off kitchn.com's website, but the URL is from apartmenttherapy.com. I hope I've given all credit where it's due here.
In addition, I also processed and canned 4 quarts of pickled banana peppers.

I was pretty chuffed by the end of Sunday.

And sore.

And tired

More pics later.  LOL

Friday, September 14, 2012

Junque Yard: Wanna see my Pumpkins?

Last year's pumpkins were a smaller variety, and I had great success with growing them and making pumpkin puree for pies. They also produced the best seeds for roasting and eating.

My only complaint about them was that the rind was sooooo tough, I needed a chain saw to cut through them.

Ok, that might have been a slight exageration.  However, I did have to call upon DaHubster to use his massive bulging biceps to help out his wife....

....ok, I'm back. Sorry, got lost in a fantasy for a minute there.  Heh.

This year I tried a different variety of pumpkin.  It was a variety I got from my "Seeds of the Month" club from Mike the Gardner Enterprises.

Don't judge me.

Anywhoo, I didn't realize that this variety of pumpkin grows to HUMONGOUS sizes.  I have a pumpkin that's too large for me to lift. It has to weigh over 40lbs.

Where's DaHubster? (drool)

This shot doesn't really show how massive it really is.  Those leaves could be worn as hats!
This dude is about 10lbs, and was hiding in a bunch of weeds.

this little dude is about 5 lbs.


this one is the smallest of the bunch, but it's a really pretty shape.


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Junque Food: Lacto-Fermented Pickles



Hey Folks!

I've been on a quest to make REALLY GOOD dill pickles.

I've done the canning thing, and I don't care what recipe you bring me, any pickle that is water-bath canned (meaning heated up to process) SUCKS.

Don't give me that "alum" and "grape leaves" bull-crappy...if they get heated, they get soggy.

I hate soggy pickles.

Do you remember those old fashioned deli style pickles?  The ones that were in a crock on the top of a deli counter? I do.  Big, fat pickles that crunched, and were sour and garlicky, and your mouth would water just by looking at them?

Dang, I need a napkin.

Well, folks, the secret is out. Those really good, and CRUNCHY deli-style sour pickles were "lacto-fermented."  This means they are made the same way sauerkraut is made - but putting them into a brine of salt water and spices, covered and left to ferment for about a week.

I've made one successful batch, and before that a not so successful batch.This was partly because the recipe I used had the salt to water ratio too high, so I adjusted it the second time to much better results.

The other reason is because I, um, sort of forgot about them, and they sat in the brine for 3 weeks before I tasted them. So they were infinitely salty, and basically inedible.

Live and learn!

I printed out the recipe I used, but I didn't save the URL, so I can't give the author credit. I'm sorry.  If you happen on this recipe, and it's yours, please tell me and I will give you all the credit you deserve.

Sour Pickles

These are a favorite of many and a lot of people miss them when going on a Paleo diet, but the naturally lacto-fermented kind is perfectly healthy, curncy and sour. This version is flavoried with garlic and dill. Your garlic will too lacto-ferment and can be enjoyed afterwards as it will be packed with flavor.

Ingredients
  • 1 gallon (16 cups) picking cucumbers, unwaxed ( I didn't have a gallon of pickles, I just used what I had, which was probably 5-6 cups)
  • 2 bunches of fresh dill (I didn't have any fresh, so I used dried, and way more, about 5-6 heads)
  • 16 cloves garlic (I used about 8)
  • 3T pickling spices (peppercorns, mustard seeds, bay leaves, cloves) (I used all but the cloves)
  • 5 or 6 T of sea salt (I used 5)
  •  12 cups of water (distilled if possible, but it's not necessary. I have city water, and they came out just fine)

Preparation

  1. Soak the cucumbers in cold water for a few hours, then scrub them thoroughly to prevent any mold from forming during the fermentation process. (I also cut the tips off the cukes so that they wouldn't be bitter)
  2. Place the cucumbers,  dill, garlic and spices in your fermentation jar and sprinkle a bit of sea salt as you go a long (I did not add any extra salt, only what was in the brine).
  3. Prepare the brine of 5T of sea salt to 8 cups (I raised that to 12) of water, making sure to stir well to dissolve the salt and fill the fermentation jar with the brine so it covers the cucumbers.
  4. cover the jar and place it in a warm spot in your kitchen and allow the cukes to ferment for 5 to 10 days.
  5. A good way to know when it's ready is to taste it during the fermentation process. It's ready when you are satisfied with the taste.

Ok, so let's talk about a few things:
  1. it's best to use a glass container or an old fashioned crock. Metal will interfere with the fermentation process. I did see (and will reference below) a YouTube video where the author used plastic containers, and he said his results were just fine. I'm not gonna get all up in your business about it. The important thing about the container you use is that you have to have a lid that covers well and makes the pickles stay under the water. In the olden days, hypothetical Grandma would put her pickles in a crock and cover it with a plate held down with a stone. I put mine in an old crock-pot crock and inverted the dome lid it came with to hold everything under the water. Worked like a charm.
  2. Once the pickles taste the way you want them to taste ( and mine did after 3 days, so please test early and often), you can move them from your fermenting container to a smaller one with just enough brine to cover, and then refrigerate them.  This will slow the fermenting process, and keep your pickles from getting moooooooshy.
  3. You cannot can these pickles. Well, I mean, you can, but that means heating them up, and they will get moooooooshy.  Just eat them.  And then make more.  Seriously. They are easy, healthy, and best of all TASTY! I took some into work with me last week, and got some pretty darn good reviews.
  4. In my picture above, I also added some banana peppers to see if they tasted good lacto-fermented. they got bitter, so I'm not recommending them
 Here are a couple of YouTube Vids that I watched when I was coming to grips with purposefully fermenting food items that I was going to eat:




Sunday, September 9, 2012

Musings from the Junque Pile: Where the heck have you been?

It sure has been awhile, huh?  What the heck have I been doing with myself?

Well, I had a bad bout of bronchitis. Those of you who read my face book status, I didn't really have the bubonic plague, or SARS. Swine flu was iffy, and the doctors really did think I might have had whooping cough, but thankfully no.  Just bronchitis. But, finally I feel human again.


If I had a dime for every time I heard, "Hey. I thought with this new diet you're on, you are supposed to be healthier," I would be so rich right now.

So I got that going for me!

*sigh*

Anywhoo, I've also been enjoying the last of the summer weather. We've finally cooled down a little bit, and this last week has seen our area *FINALLY* get some decent rain.

I've been picking green beans like a mad fiend. We've been blanching them, then vacuum-sealing them for the freezer. It's nice, because I put a little pat of butter and my usual spices in there, and ZIP! off to the freezer they go! Ready to be boiled or steamed and ready for the dinner table.

I like that.

This week, I'll be posting pics of the garden, and a couple of recipes and things I've been working on the kitchen.

I'm ready for fall, and to getting back into writing again.

Go me!


Monday, August 13, 2012

Junque Yard: What's happening at the Micro-Mini Ranch

It was such a pretty morning the other day that I had to snap a shot. 

My tomatoes are finally starting to ripen. My beans, pumpkins, melons, and zucchinis finally have blossoms.

Harvest is going to be late this summer, but I will have something to show for our efforts.

I think the excessive heat this year caused the cycle to slow down. I have lots of green leaves everywhere, and I made a point to water more than I normally do, which was good because we've had a drier than normal summer.  But everything is growing, and for that, I'm thankful.

Now, I'm trying to figure out what fall crops I want. Definitely spinach, carrots, and I'm thinking broccoli, maybe cauliflower. 

I hope those things take well to growing in containers, because the pumpkins, zukes, and melons are taking up all the space in what we refer to as the "back 40." 

That's inches folks, I don't call it the micro-mini ranch for nuthin'.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Junque Food: Attempting Sweet Potato Chips

photo from www.examiner.com
This was originally posted in my other blog: Paleo Lifestyle in the Real World

 I'm always up for trying a Paleo version of junk food.  When I saw this recipe for homemade salsa with sweet potato chips, I knew I'd have to try the chips. I've made my own salsa before, and it's fine, but until my own tomatoes are ready for "salsifying," I can wait patiently.

But I couldn't wait to try to make chips. Crispy, crunchy, salty chips. Mmmm....

Sorry, I got lost for a second there.

I apologize, but I didn't take pictures of the process, but if you click the link above, the Amazing!Paleo chick does a great job of showing the process.


Thankfully, we'd recently purchased a mandolin to make even slicing of the sweet potatoes easy. I am not a precision slicer.

I followed Amazing!Paleo's directions to the letter, and was mostly happy with the results, except my chips did not all get crunchy. I waited for them to cool down, like the directions said, but several stayed limp, especially on the middle of the bigger chips.

So tip #1: I learned is that the skinnier the potato, the better off you are going to be for the crispiness factor. The wider the potato, the longer it's going to be to make them crunchy. Or you're just going to have to deal with limp chips. No Bueno.

Tip #2: The recipe on the blog says 10 minutes, give or take, on 375F.  The next time I try these, I'll do it longer at 325F. Lower and slower would DEFINITELY the way to go. I was in danger of incinerating my chips if I left them in longer than 12 minutes.

But I have to say, that despite the edges of a lot of the chips being burned, and the middles not being crunchy, the sweet potato chips tasted AWESOME. Seriously.

I will be making more of these. They will be a welcome addition of a treat to our Paleo Lifestyle.

Enjoy.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Junque Food - Almond Milk & Flour, part 2


It doesn't look pretty, does it?

It's the paste left over from blending soaked almonds with water, this is what is strained out of the almond milk.

I had heard that this paste could be dried and made into almond flour, or as a protein powder for smoothies, etc.

Of course, when I went looking for a recipe to do that, all I could find was people using slivered almonds, or taking the skins off the soaked almonds in order to make it more "flour" looking.

I didn't do either. I should be hanged as a bad example.

I took the leftover almond paste and spread it thin-ish onto a cookie sheet lined with wax paper, and let it dry. This took about 3 days. Then I pulsed it in the food processor until fine. And it looks like this:

So it's not all white and pretty like everyone else. I bet it can still be used just like other almond flour.  And I will use it, and let you all know if the skin makes it bitter or whatever.

I wonder what I should make?

I could use it to coat fish, or make cookies (eventually, I don't think I have enough to make a batch yet. this is about a cup and half that you see in this picture.

Or muffins. The list is pretty endless.

And I need to make more almond milk.  That's right I didn't tell you about the Almond milk itself.

It's fabulous.  I didn't sweeten it, because I wanted to try using it in scrambled eggs. The store bought almond milk is all sweetened with "cane juice," which is code for sugar. Sugar comes from canes, people. Don't let those labels fool you!

But I digress.

Store bought almond milk is too sweet to make scrambled eggs. So I figured I'd test it out with homemade unsweetened almond milk, and it worked just peachy! I can have creamy eggs again! Woo Hoo!

Now, the Paleo blogs I've been reading have made good use of  blending dates into a paste and using that to sweeten things. I even saw a recipe for making coffee creamer using either almond milk or coconut milk, and sweetening it with date paste.

I am going to try this as another way to get off the commercial creamer that I am addicted to. If I can, that will be the last bit of corn syrup that is OUT of my diet.

And then I will do the chubby girl dance, for sticking it to the man for their totally yummy, but ultimately horrendous for me commercial foods.

*nods*

I know this blog is not very coherent, but I'm not quite awake yet this morning.



Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Junque Food: Salmon Filets with Broccoli Slaw

(this was originally posted on my other blog. You can see it at: http://realworldpaleo.blogspot.com/ )

Tonight I was home late because I'd gone grocery shopping after work. My lunch and p.m. snack were but a faint memory. I was tired, foot sore, and cranky.

And hungry.


But I did not want to make dinner.


People tell me that part of the problem with sticking to a Paleo-esque diet is all the prepping and cooking, and planning, and shopping...


Honey, I did South Beach when it first came out, and followed the memu in the first edition of the book for the first month before I felt confident enough to mix it up on my own. And I was cooking for 2 other people in the house who were also doing the diet - so I know from prep time. And cooking, and shopping, etc. ad Nauseum.


But it seriously, doesn't have to be a big-assed deal. Take tonight, for instance, I didn't want to cook, so I made the quickest thing I could thing of.

I made Salmon Filets and Broccoli Slaw.

Isn't this a beautiful dinner?


It really does taste as good as it looks, too. I know, because DaHubster is behind me making yummy sounds as I type this.

The salmon filets were cooked my favorite way - half pan seared, half poached. That sounds complicated, but all you do is get a skillet really hot, with a tiny bit of oil. Then put the filets in the pan flesh side down, cooking for two minutes. Flip the filets over, pour in chicken stock halfway up the side of the filet, cover, turn the heat as low as it will go, and let it finish cooking about 4-5 minutes. I threw some green onions in there before covering, too.


Easy, right? And it took all of 10 minutes.

The slaw took maybe 10 minutes as well, and here it is:
  • Buy per-shredded Broccoli slaw from the store, and if you are so inclined (as I was), an additional bag of shredded carrots. I only used a handful of the carrots, btw.
  • Slice up 1 or 2 green onions
  • Mix in a bowl.
Dressing for slaw:
  • 2 parts Red Wine Vinegar (or lemon juice if you don't use vinegars)
  • 1.5 parts good olive oil
  • about 1 teaspoon brown mustard (for emulsification)
  • about 1/4 teaspoon honey (to cut the acidity)
  • Spices to your liking. I used salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and oregano
Put into a jar with a lid and shake. Then lightly coat your slaw.

Viola!

Now, as far as vinegar not being Paleo, well...that's your determination to make. I use it, and I don't think there's too much a problem with it. It's technically not "of the time frame" but I haven't heard any overtly negative reactions bodily too it, so I'm not really worried about it.But if you do not want to use vinegar, lemon juice is a very good substitute.


So really, it was 15 to 20 minutes of prepping and cook time. And I have to tell you, I am not feeling so cranky anymore, now that I've eaten that.


Enjoy.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Junque Food - Almond Milk & Almond Flour

I should be waiting until I actually *do* the project, but I can't wait! I'll keep it short, though.

I love Almond Milk, and I've been buying the Almond Breeze for my yummy drinking needs (it's a little sweet for cooking with).  However, if you look at the label, you'll see that it's got all kinds of preservatives and cane sugar. So not in tune with my burgeoning Paleo Lifestyle.

Now I read a lot of blogs, particularly of the Paleo and Gluten free lifestyle, and I know that people make almond milk all the time.  But my question to all you lucky people who do is:


How the heck do you afford it?  Almonds are freaking expensive!

And my local grocery stores only have raw almonds sporadically. But at nearly $8.00 a lb, it's not feasible enough to get some for munching on (I'm not a huge breakfast person, so I rely on a handful of almonds to get my protein intake started each day), some for almond butter that DaMan likes to use occasionally in Smoothie recipes.

So I bit the bullet and bought what I thought was a pretty good deal on bulk almonds online. 10lbs for $30.00, with shipping at $11.35.  We'll see what they are like when I get them.

This means I will be able to do what I've wanted to do for a long time. Make my own Almond Milk!!!

But not only that! I'll also get to make almond flour from drying and grinding the left over almond pulp from making the milk.

Do you know what that means???

I can have the occasionally CRUNCHY food again!  Almond flour can be used to coat veggies for baking or roasting, you can also use it in place of all-purpose flour for baking, too.  Heck, a whole new world will open up!

I can't wait for those almonds to get here....and I'll keep you posted on how things go...  :)

*bounce*bounce*bounce*


Friday, August 3, 2012

Musings from the Junque Pile - Hawks!

I was doing my normal early morning outside with the laptop thing, when something out of the corner of my eye caught my attention.  I looked over at my back fence, and saw a small-ish hawk sitting there.

Now, every now and then, I hear a hawk's cry, but usually they are tucked up in the trees, and you very rarely get to see them, unless they are flying high in the sky, floating on the air currents.

Never have I seen one perched on my fence, especially so close to me.

But then, another one landed on my backyard neighbor's garage roof. And then a third landed, and they proceeded to bounce around the surrounding neighbor's fences,

I think they were scoping out an oblivious squirrel, but they hung around long enough for me to grab my phone and take a few pictures. Though, I couldn't get close enough to get *really* good pics.

However, I'm pretty chuffed at what I did get:



Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Musings from the Junque Pile - Lost Post from Last weekend

Note: I wrote this last weekend, and forgot to post it. So here's some late goodness....

My buttockals are whipped.  Yesterday, I did a major weeding of the garden beds, then DaHubster and I drove out to Mukwanago (?), for their once a month flea market dealie during the summer. It's a picturesque 40 minute drive from us.

Then we drove to a state park that's another 30 mins away, but there were no places free to park and get out and take a look around.

We stopped for dinner at an awesome restaurant out that way called "A Fork in the Road," which has really great food. I've been there before, and it never fails, great food, great service, and I love the decor.

Then we drove down to a touristy lake area down by the Wisconsin/Illinois border, which DaMan had never been too, and it's been several years since I'd been there. It was super over-crowded with self-entitled maroons, so I promised him we'd drive back there in the autumn, when they've all gone home and the trees have turned. 

I slept like the dead last night, and woke up at 4:30am sneezing with a head full of snot. No way was I getting back to sleep.

So I'm now outside, enjoying the last of the nice weather before the next heat wave kicks in this afternoon.

*sniffle*

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Junque Food - Yummy Mom's Mo' Relish

Isn't this gorgeous?

This relish is bounty of nature's goodness. We used to call it Moe's Relish, after a family friend who made it for my mom several years ago. Since we haven't had it in awhile, and my Mom made this yesterday, I decided to switch it up and call it Mom's Mo' Relish.

It is totally worth the extra apostrophes, I promise.

The beauty of this relish is that it's very versatile. This particular relish was make with zucchini, yellow squash, red and yellow bell peppers, celery, carrots, onion, and a few tomatoes. All finely chopped. A wee bit of olive oil, and your choice of vinegar.  This one has apple cider vinegar, but I believe it was originally made with Balsamic vinegar.  Spices are simple: basil, salt, pepper, maybe a little garlic. If you need to cut the bite of the vinegar, a tiny bit of honey or stevia will help it out.

See what I mean? You can totally use whatever you have on hand to make Mom's Mo' Relish. You can mix it up if you want, adding cucumbers, or get a little wild, and dice up a hot pepper or two. Change the spices to ones that you enjoy. It is literally a universe of veggie goodness in a bowl for your culinary pleasure.


What what do you do with it when you've made up a bowl of this garden goodness?

I am so glad you asked that question... (heh)

Mo's original relish was a condiment used for sandwich wraps. A tortilla, your choice of lunch meat, and a little cheese, then slather the relish on, wrap it up, and YUM!


But what if I'm attempting to do the Paleo Diet thing, Mrs. Junque? I can't have the tortilla, the lunch meat has nitrates in it, and the cheese is right out!!!

Well, yes, that's true. And we did pause for a bit, thinking about all the things we could put this relish on. We finally decided there wasn't much you couldn't put Mom's Mo Relish on.  I mean, really. Think about it!

Last night we had it on top of baked fish. Totally. Nummy.

This morning we are going to put it in an omelet.  For realz!

Grilled chicken?  You betcha!

So, if you can't find anything to put Mom's Mo Relish on, then you aren't thinking very hard.

This stuff is the cat's meow, y'all.....give it a try!

Junque Food - We've become smoothie monsters!

Why is it I never take a picture of the marvelous smoothies DaHubster has been serving lately?  Probably because I've been sucking them down too fast!

He drinks them for breakfast, and I usually have them as a morning or afternoon snack.

They are pretty easy to make. There are multiple recipes out there, but I find that they are basically the same. Most of the Paleo recipes have a green tea base. So I brew up a pitcher of green tea, and stick in the fridge, it lasts most of a week.

We also use an egg protein powder, mainly because it's cheaper than using eggs. It also helps my squick-y factor knowing there's no raw eggs in my smoothie. We use this version of the egg white protein powder:
Eggwhite Protein - 100% Pure Unflavored 1 lbs, though I see there are many varieties that are also flavored. I might have to to talk DaHubster into trying a vanilla or chocolate the next time we order it!

After that, the fun begins. We almost always use bananas and strawberries. We buy 2-3 bunches of bananas at a time, and slice them and freeze them for easy use. Same with strawberries. It's just passed strawberry season for us now, but I stocked up, and we froze and dehydrated a bunch for awhile. I wish we'd gotten more!

If you want a smoother smoothie (heh), go for some coconut milk. 1/3 to 1/2 a can is all that is needed for a blender full of smoothie goodness.

Just a note for those of you who are trying  out the Paleo lifestyle: make sure you read the label on cans of coconut milk.  Thai Kitchen brand is the only in-store brand that I've seen that is 100% coconut, with no preservatives. Usually, the preservative is Guar Gum, which in the scope of things, isn't so bad, but if you looking for pure, Thai Kitchen is probably your most affordable bet. Unless you go organic, which is too rich for my blood right now. Or make Coconut milk yourself, which I haven't yet tried to do.  But here's a recipe for those of you that want to try! :)  Gluten Free Coconut Milk from Elana's Pantry

Unsweetened cocoa powder is another thing we've tried. Just remember a little goes a looooooong way.  It gets bitter if you use too much. Try a half teaspoon first, and add more if you like.

If you want more nutritional goodness, try some crushed or powdered flax seed.

And for those of you that want a sweeter smoothie, add some honey. I did that in the beginning, when my tongue was still craving sweets. Lessen the amount of honey over time, and watch your taste buds come to life with the natural flavors of the fruits you put into your very own homemade smoothie!



Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Junque Yard - My Daily "Salads"

I call them salads. I don't know what else to call them. They don't have lettuce or spinach or any leafy greens, though, so I don't know if they count as salads.

I'm gonna officially call them my Junque Salads, because the ingredients change with whatever I have floating around in my fridge, along with whatever I harvest from my garden.

Cucumbers are a must. I will be picking my first from the garden this week. I have my eye on two very sweet looking cukes that are just starting to plump up.

Banana peppers are a usual staple. I've been harvesting them for a week or so now. I hate hot and mild ones, and both are yummy.

My purple bell pepper plant is going gang busters! I can't believe I've got colored peppers already this summer.

I bought a bag of scapes from the farmer's market two weeks ago, and I'm still using them. OMG the best of both onions and garlic, in a little green tube. NOMMINESS!

Carrots are a must, and I always try to have some in the house. The carrots I planted a couple of weekends ago haven't started making an appearance yet, but when they do, their thinnings will make for yummy greens in my salads.

Green beans, broccoli, onions, kohlrabi....whatever else is hanging around gets chopped and thrown into the mix.

Dressing is simple, a little apple cider vinegar, a little olive oil, and a lot of spices. I'm partial to a little bit of salt, pepper, oregano, and Mrs. Dash.

You might ask, "Why no leafy veggies?" To which I answer, because this is what I take to work, silly person.  And I don't want to eat wilted veggies for lunch!

And you might say, "So why don't you leave off the dressing and mix it when you go to eat it at lunch time?"

And I'll reply, "Don't bore me with petty details, you whippersnapper!

The honest answer is that I get bored of leafy veggie salads quickly. This way, I can make it a day or two ahead of time, and have a few meals out of it. The dressing acts as a marinade, and all the veggie's and spices' have blended flavors.  I just throw a couple of slices of turkey or chicken breast on the top, and I'm ready to go to work with little to no effort in the morning.

It's all good.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Junque Yard: Things. They are a'Blooming!

'Maters! They are a'comin'

Tiger Lillies and the season's first Black-eyed Susans.

Day Lillies

Tiger Lily - close up

First Cukes of the season. Thanks to my neighbor, who gave me the starts

Banana Peppers...my favorite

Purple Bell Peppers, ready for picking.


One more tiger lily, because I love them...

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Junque Food - staving off the boredom of salads

I always say that I love me a salad that I don't have to make. That rule gets relaxed in the spring when I pick my first greens from the garden. But it's short lived. I really do get bored eating salads quickly.

And I'm not talking potato salads, cole slaw, or pasta salads. Those are temporarily off the menu while I try this Paleo Diet thing. And if you haven't read me gushing about my personal experience with Paleo diet, click here: Do you eat what you grow?

Ok, back? Good.

So back to salads. I needed to wrap my brain around the fact that salad doesn't necessarily have to mean leafy greens. Particularly for lunches at work, where the leafy greens tend to not stay fresh and crisp by lunchtime.

Since my body craves "crunchy" I've been making salads that have whatever fresh veggies that I have around. Here are some of the things I've been using, in various combos:

sliced or julienne carrots
celery
banana peppers
brocolli florets
slived green onions
crushed garlic
cucumbers

And I usually toss it with a red-wine vinaigrette and a splash of garlic-red chili sauce. Occasionally I'll sprinkle some Parmesan cheese on top for a little extra Oomph. Even though that's not Paleo, but it sure is tasty!!

I also made a pretty good better-for-you cole slaw this week. I had a bag of pre-shredded cabbage that I mixed with onion, garlic and a little more carrot than the teeny amount that comes in the bag. I dressed it again with the red wine vinaigrette in stead of sour cream and mayo. It was pretty darn good!

And the red wine vinaigrette turned the cole slaw a pretty shade of pink, too.

heh.

Share with some of your favorite non-traditional salads, please!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Junque Yard - veggies and fruits galore!

I need to brag just a little. I just bought nearly a metric ton (slight exaggeration) of fruits and veggies. Some from the farmer's market, some from a local discount grocery store, and some from a local restaurant supply chain store that had some good sales. You tell me if I did a good job

From GFS (the restaurant/party supply store:

  • Two 5lbs bags of natural frozen chicken wings.
  • Two 4lb crates of fresh strawberries
  • Various 1lb containers of spices.
 Total spent = $45.00




From Sav-A-Lot (discount grocery)
  • 2 huge bunches of bananas
  • 2 cantaloupes
  • one bag of sweet onions
  • 2 bags of carrots
  • 4 kiwis
  • one bag of grapes
  • 2 whole chickens
  • 2 packages of 1/2 ground beef & 1/2 ground pork
  • 1 large package of diced fresh beef for chopsuey
  • one cabbage
  • coffee
  • 12 avocados
  • one pineapple
  • and probably some more things I'm forgetting
total spent = $65.00

From the Farmer's Market 
(I should preface this by saying it's still early in the growing season here in the Midwest, and therefore there isn't a lot of harvesting veggies available)
  • bag of green beans
  • bag of scapes
  • 2 seedless cucumbers
  • several bunches of small onions
  • several heads of garlic
  • one large head of kohlrabi
  • one small container of early tomatoes
total spent = $15.00

That's a grand total of $125.00.  I feel like I did great, and got a lot of bang for my buck. What do you think?

Friday, June 29, 2012

Junque Food - Faux Rice and other things Cauliflower can do for you.

I love Cauliflower in it's natural form. It's always on a veggie tray at family dinner's. I dig it steamed with Mrs. Dash and garlic, and way back in the day when I tried the South Beach Diet, I fell in love with the "Mock Mashed Potato" recipe that was in there. It has become a must-have for holiday dinners.

Now that DaHubster and I are endevouring to lose weight and live healthier, we are trying The Paleo Solution (I hate calling it a diet). I've talked about it some in other blog posts, but essentially, it means giving up all processed foods, grains, and dairy. As a diabetic, I try to stay away from processed foods in general (except when I'm weak and cave), and I've been on and off lactose intolerant for years. That means the hardest thing for me to give up is grains. No bread? *cries*  I love my homemade bread.

Ok, ok, quit crying.

Without lifting a large portion of the book (and putting you all to sleep in the process), the gist of it is that grains are not well digested by the body, and people have varying degrees of bad things happening in their guts when they do attempt to digest grain.  The one that's pertinent to me is inflammation. Do your joints hurt you constantly? Mine do. And I felt a lot of relief in them just by giving up grains. Only after a couple of days, I was moving around better, quicker, and with more energy than I have in a long time.  If giving up bread, pasta, rice and the like is the cause of me feeling better, than I'm going to continue. Because I've felt like crap for eons, and it's nice to not feel that way anymore.

Ok, quit preaching and get on with the recipes.

So...cauliflower.  Natures faux rice.  The interwebz and the books we've been picking up use a lot of riced cauliflower in dishes that call for rice.  We've tried some of them, and have been pleasantly surprised.  No, it doesn't taste like rice, But it does bulk up our dishes like rice does, giving us that satiated feeling, without the hunger in a couple of hours, like you do when you eat take out Chinese.

I'd resisted ricing a cauliflower, because I thought it would be a pain in the ass.  Not so.  Cut up a head of the 'flower into smaller florets. Then pulse them in a food processor until they look like grains of rice. I have to do it small batches because I have the smallest (and loudest) food processor in the known universe.  Put the cauliflower in a container and throw it in the fridge, and it will last about a week.

One head, depending on the size will give you 3-4 cups of "rice."  Here are some of the things I've used it for:


Califlower Pizza Crust.  OH YEAH, BABY....God's most perfect food, made low-carb and totally yummy.  Not entirely Paleo, as it does have cheese in it, but Mammit, I'm not perfect.  And this crust us yummy. So says even my mother, who hates cooked veggies.  This recipe is every where on the Webz now, but I originally saw it on www.eat-drink-smile.com and did I mention that it's yummy?  My only change to that recipe is that I would pre-bake the crust longer at a lower temp than she calls for. My crust was a bit soggy in the middle. But utterly edible.


Paleo Dirty Rice. The Hubster made this as a side dish because I'm constantly complaining about the amount of salads we eat.  I mean come on. What to make as a side when you don't want to eat grain? Make this. "Totes to the Yum" as I said when I did it this. You can probably add in some lean meat and make it a whole meal. Was great stuff.

Faux Fried Rice. I didn't really use a recipe, but I hunted around, and this one looks unusual, but really good.  If you like to experiment, I say go for it. I like the addition of bacon and fish sauce, and will definitely have to give this one a try.

My Faux Fried Rice was more basic: onions, peppers, tiny cut chop suey beef, and eggs. And it was PHENOM. Definitely something that will become a go-to at our house.

So yeah, there you have it. We love it, and it's an easy way to incorporate a few lower carb meals into your life.  And if you do try, see how it makes you feel afterwards. You might come to the same conclusion that I did.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Musings from the Junque Pile - 80 uses for coconut oil

I saw the link for "80 uses for coconut oil" on Face Book from a site that I have befriended called "Homestead Survival". They post links to websites that they think might be interesting or helpful to people who Preppers, or just want to live economically or sustainably.

Their website is: http://homesteadsurvival.blogspot.com/

"80 uses for coconut oil" comes from healthimpactnews.com, and this was my first time visiting this website. Some of the claims for coconut oil seem to be a little far fetched, but I still thought I'd post it here so that people can see some of the more mild health benefits of this wonderful stuff.

I use coconut oil in cooking and beauty care.  I frequently use it for a deep conditioner for my hair. On the weekend, I will wash and then slather on the coconut oil and leave it in for a day or longer. By the time I have to go back to work on Monday, I rinse or wash again, and that's all the conditioning in need for the week.  I also rub it on my legs, feet, arms, and face after a shower deeper moisturizer than I get from commercial lotions.

What I like about it for cooking is that it's solid until temps reach 75, then goes liquid. that makes it great for mixing. And it makes some awesome fried eggs! The only thing we found we didn't care for using it with is making popcorn. We need the oil to get hotter before smoking for popping, so this doesn't fit the bill.

It also has a long shelf life without going rancid, unlike a lot of other oils. So stock up! It's pretty cheap, too.

So go read the wonders of coconut oil. As I said, your mileage may vary with some of the claims on that website.  But then again, it's not going to hurt you to try, right?


Thursday, June 21, 2012

Musings from the Junque Pile

Just a general update, no big whoop.  :)

It finally rained here at the micro mini-ranch. I sat outside Saturday afternoon, and gave myself a pedicure while the rain beat down on the dehydrated lawn. We had lightening and thunder, and a great breeze, and was a wonderful way to spend an hour, scraping my feet of the ravages of winter, while the rain cooled everything off.

DaHubster and I have been cutting down our intake of grains, starches, and dairy, to wonderful results. My joints and back feel better than ever. He and I have both lost around 10lbs each over the last month or so. The more I practice the Hunter/Gatherer lifestyle, the more I find the benefit in it. I'm not perfect at it, and I still crave breads and sweets, but I'm getting better. And feeling better. It's wonderful.

I had planted some annual flowers in my front garden to offset all the perennials, but some hungry bunny came and ate all the blooms off the alyssia, verbena, and lobelia. Hope that  made a nice meal for you guys!

I need to plant more flowers, it's looking a little utilitarian in the back yard with only veggies, fruits, and herbs. I pin a ton of ideas in my gardening folder on Pinterest, but never actually do anything with it. I really should rectify that.

For those that were following our No-Poo experiment, I'm still not shampooing. Baking soda is all I need to keep my hair clean, and healthier looking. I've also switched from commercial dyes (I'm not a real redhead, heh), to henna. That's been an interesting ride.  Henna is pretty powerful stuff, but there's not chemicals. I'm a darker redhead, than I used to be, but I like it.

I'm going to need a project soon. Not just the gardens, which are a project themselves. I have an old desk that I've posted about, that I keep wanting to fix up, because it's an ugly eyesore. Maybe I'll get the gumption soon to drag it out, sand it down, and get a new top put on it. I've been eyeballing mosaic designs online. I need to find cheap or recycled materials to use to get that done. If I can come up with a color scheme for the top, I'll know what color to paint the legs.  decisions, decisions....LOL.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Carpenter Bees in the Junque Yard

I'm mainly referencing this article, because the behaviors of the bees are spot on.

http://www.news-reporter.com/news/2006-04-13/News/081.html

I have had a growing problem with carpenter bees chewing up my back patio overhang.  As the article suggests, it's a relatively untreated wood, and probably the only untreated wood I have on my property.

And carpenter bees think it's yummy.

The first time I saw it happen, I had NO idea what was going on.  The big fuzzy bee was making crunching noises right in front of my eyes.  Then there was a pile of wood dust on the ground below it.  Overnight, there was a hole in my wood.  I was fascinated, and yet knew it was probably very disruptive. So I started reading about it, and yup...the momma bees release a pheromone that the babies remember, and come back to in the fall.  We plugged up that hole, and kept watch over the summer. Nothing happened, and no other holes were made.

The next couple of years my porch didn't see much action, and I was relieved.  Maybe that one bee released a pheromone that said, "NOT WELCOME HERE."

But this year, the bees are coming in droves. We've got 2 new holes, and we've been doing what we can to get the bees out of them.

I am so against killing bees with the bee shortage out there. We need them to pollinate our food plants so badly that in California, there are bee keepers who keep their hives on trucks, and just driving around to various orchards so that the trees can be pollinated.

IT'S THAT BAD.

Bees are dying left and right, due to something called "Colony Collapse Disorder." Which is fancy phrase that means scientists don't know why colonies of bees are just dying. It's been having for many years now, and the closest thing that can be attributed to it is insecticides and human progression eating up the land and giving the bees no where to go.  Lately, I've seen something about mites on the bees that are also part of the problem. But I bet the mites have been around forever, and it's a smoke blowing technique to take the blame off of insecticides.

But that's me...I'm a conspiracy theory nut.

Heh.

I've toyed with the idea of keeping a hive. In the city, I don't have much to fear from animals (like bears) ransacking beehives. Heck, I've never even seen a deer around the neighborhood. Not that deer are a threat to bees. But you get what I'm saying.  But I can't afford the liability of my neighbors getting stung. And really, I don't want to get stung (I do have a few girly traits that pop up here and there)

So I compromise, and try to go lots of things with pretty flowers that encourage bees to stay in the area. All my neighbors have gardens in one fashion or another. From container gardens to raised beds, to flower and rose gardens, we run the gamut here. And we all share produce and plants, which I think is pretty cool.

But I cannot have bees chewing my patio overhang until it falls down around my ears.

Sigh...it's a struggle. But a worthy one.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Junque Yard - year of the fruit

I am hereby declaring 2012 the year of the fruit.  While my tomatoes and peppers are doing all right, they are not growing as quickly as I'd like.

BUT

the fruits in my garden are doing gang-busters.

Strawberries - now that they can breathe from having been weeded, have so many unripe berries that the plants can barely stand up.

Raspberries - my canes are flowering and fruiting, and we will have the BEST harvest of them yet.

And even my poor old, decrepit peach tree, struggling to keep up appearances so I don't chop it down, has set an enormous load of peaches.

Now if the leaves would just stay on the poor old guy....


 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Junque Food & Junque Yard - Do you eat what you grow?

DaMan recently read The Paleo Solution: The Original Human Diet by Robb Wolf, and is very into trying it.  I've been teasing him that his caveman side is showing, but I'm game to try it with him. Basically it tells the science behind why it's good for your body to eat what the hunter/gathers did. They were healthier than we modern humans are, they were taller, lived longer, and had very few incidents of major diseases like cancer and infertility. Why? When did it all change? The author believes, and has quite a bit of science to back it up, that when humans shifted from a hunter/gather lifestyle to an agrarian one, cultivating grains, is when we started getting sicker.

Well, I happen to know a lot of people with gluten intolerance. You can't swing a dead cat in the blogosphere of the interwebz without hitting some helicopter Mom who's rabidly promoting the health benefits of doing without processed grains. Junior is happier, healthier, and able to function by not eating bread or twinkies.


I might have been a little over-sarcastic there, but the point remains: eating lean meats, pure unprocessed fats, and a ton of leafy veggies is better for you than 85% of what you'll find in your local grocery store.

I'm a fat 40-something with diabetes and arthritis. I know that when I eat a few really good meals that are lower in processed carbs, I feel great. I also no that if I follow it up with a meal or two from the drive thru or the middle isles of the grocery store, I can barely move from the pain in my joints, and want to sleep ALL THE TIME.



So, if you haven't started a garden yet, why not? is space an issue? Container garden, or learn how to garden vertically. You think you have a brown thumb? I think cavemen all had brown thumbs (antibacterial soaps were around back then).

Just get yourself some butter crunch lettuce seeds and some baby spinach seeds and put them in a pot.

Water it every couple of days.

In about 30 days, you will have a salad that you can be proud of.

Go ahead and eat it.  You'll love it.

if you are interested in reading more about why a lot of us are sick, overweight, infertile, and more click on the link and get  The Paleo Solution: The Original Human Diet in: 0px !important;" width="1" /> by Robb Wolf. He's a decent writer, has the science background to back up what he says, and is pretty funny to boot.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Junque Yard, things are plodding along....

I keep buying plants and  not planting them. It's a sickness, I know.

I've got a sugar snap pea seedling that I bought 3 weeks ago, that I haven't potted yet. Most people are already harvesting their sugar snap peas, and my poor lil guy is just sitting in this blister pack, looking at me forlornly.

I also bought a chocolate mint plant and a pineapple sage plant, mostly for their smell (they do give me quite a boost) and I haven't potted either, either.

yesterday, I bought a few annuals to put in the flower garden. Mostly verbenas.  I just watered the gardens in preperation for the hot day ahead, and weeding at the sun allows. I figure once the majoirty of the water has soaked in, I'll go plant those flowers.

yeah, right.

I've been meaning to plant pumpkins and some summer melon seeds I have, and I haven't done that yet either.

I thought my strawberries were doing gangbusters...tons of berries and foliage, so much so, I couldn't see the soil underneath the plants, until earlier this week, when it was pointed out to me that the majority of the leaves were weeds, and they were choking out the strawberries in a big bad way.

I suck.

But you know what?

I'm still having a blast.

Even though I still have to take it easy (my back is still pretty fragile), I'm at least doing it. Doing what I can. And I can still get my zen on, earbuds in place- listening to podcasts - while I weed and tend things around here.

Now if I could just hire a maid to clean inside while I'm outside, life would be golden.

heh.

Happy Summer, y'all....


Sunday, May 27, 2012

Junque Yard - oh happy day!

Yesterday I got to go to my favorite local garden center, Milaeger's. I almost wish it was a national chain so that you all could experience the goodness that comes from them, but at the same time, I haz a happy that it's mine. ALL. MINE! Muahahahaha...

It's a small family owned nursery with 2 locations both close to me. In the spring and early summer when they put out their plants, I get all giddy and stuff.

I went yesterday afternoon, because I couldn't make it to the local farmer's market in the morning. It was pouring, and my back was hurting too badly to make that trip. At least at Milaeger's I can lean on a cart.

Anyway, my budget was $20-30, and I was looking for some of the less common food plants that I like to grow, that I don't have seed for. For $29, this is what I picked up:

a Stevia plant. If you've ever chewed a leaf, you'd be surprised how sweet it is.  Stevia is the herb from which Truvia comes from. It's an herb found in South America that has been used to sweeten things with no extra calories. I bought 2 last year, but due to having hand surgery last fall, I wasn't able to pick and dehydrate the leaves like I wanted to.  I fully intend on doing that this year.

a chocolate mint plant. Why by mint when it's it's so invasive you ask? Well, chocolate mint smells wonderful. And I grow it in containers so that it doesn't invade the rest of my gardens. I honestly don't do much with it, except sniff it. It makes me happy.

a Pineapple Sage plant. It really does smell like pineapples.  I bought one last year, and put it in a pot, but it didn't last very long. I'm determined to keep one this year. It said it's a perennial, but hardy only in zones 8-10, so I can't keep it out in the herb garden, but I'm hoping to keep it alive and bring it into the house come fall.

A yellow bell pepper and a purple bell pepper plant.  My bell seedlings are taking forever to show some growth. And most of them didn't even sprout this year. I think seeds are too old. Besides, most of my bell peppers are green to red...and I luuurve the purple (or chocolate) bells. They have a unique taste. They yellows just taste great, and since red, orange and yellow peppers are so blinking expensive in the stores, I'm hoping to get a good crop of them so that I can freeze and dehydrate some.

Another patchouli plant. I bought one for my mom last year, and amazingly, it's still alive (we really abuse our indoor plants by forgetting to water them regularly). But it's sparse, and I wanted to add another one and help it bush out. I think it will benefit from a summer outside.  If you like the smell of patchouli, get one of these plants, they actually smell great, and are not overpowering like patchouli oil is.

One banana pepper plant, because the 'nana seeds I started didn't propegate well. I'll have to pick up some more so that I can do my usual pickling of banana peppers. They are so good, we put them on almost everything. Especially pizza. I've even got my mother liking them. HA!  :)

And lastly, I got a sugar snap pea, because I didn't start any earlier. I'm hoping it's not too warm, and I get a few snap peas. I love them long time.

We also got a 5lb bag of Yukon Gold seed potatoes. I can't wait to get those in the ground to start them a-growing. Yum!  We did red potatoes last year, and still have some left over. They've sprouted, so we will probably plant some of those too.

I just don't know where we are gonna put all this stuff!  Such a problem to have, right?

Sunday, May 20, 2012

More Junque Yard...garden stuffs

I was playing with instagram today, and here's some photos I took:

this is Muffett, sunning herself.













Rainbow Swiss Chard and baby Spinach. Yum!













Strawberries are coming!!













this is a rogue iris. I didn't plant it, but it popped up this year.  My mom thinks a squirrel planted it for me.  Surprise!











My Columbine is blooming like mad. However, all the flowers point down, and look like death flowers.  Does anyone know if this is normal for them? it's the 2nd year the flowers are doing this.  But when you lift them up, they are actually very pretty with little yellow centers.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Junque Yard - BUNNIES!

  What a weird week here at the mini-micro-ranch.  We have finally had more sun, and less rain, and so we have started removing the straw mulch and weeding the raised bed gardens. DaHubster has done the lion's share of that as he's home in the afternoons.  One day last week, he and our dog were outside weeding, when the dog started sniffing very interestedly at a patch of garden that hadn't had the mulch removed yet.  He noticed that she would sniff at the pile of straw, and then noticed the straw would bounce and move. Not sure what he'd find, he gently removed some of the straw on the top to find a rabbit nest, or warren, with baby bunnies inside all peering up at him.

He put our dog in the house, and recovered the warren. She would chase them if they ran, and think they were would great chew toys.  He showed me when I got home from work. They were so cute! We couldn't figure out how many there were in there, and we toyed with the idea of chasing them out of the gard (the mom had picked the smack dab-in-the-middle of our long bed for her babies).  

The next day, he was out there weeding again, and noticed a bad smell, he was worried that they had been caught and eaten, so he looked inside the nest. there was movement, but at least one of them had definitely passed away.  We wondered if he should remove the dead one, but we ultimately decided to leave them alone, and hope that the mother would come and remove the live ones or the dead one herself.

The day after, we checked the next again, and it was completely empty, so we figured they had found other accommodations.

Then we started seeing the babies around the yard. They would pop up here and there.  They apparently were of the age to leave the nest, but they were so small! I managed to take a couple of pics of them when we found them hiding in the grass or something. I think at one point we counted 3 of them.

One night I was out late, and I heard something large out in the yard, and I had a feeling that it was something that was hungry for baby bunny. The next morning, we found what was left.

That day we have fun with the remaining  bunnies.  We didn't hassle them, but they were friendly enough to come close to use. I will admit that I petted one on it's widdle head.

Slowly over the week, though we have seen them less and less. I fear one got shut into a neighbors garage. We haven't seen them for a few days now. I'm hoping they are hiding in the tall grass, growing bigger. They were so cute.