Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Zucchini Lasagna, Pickles, and Bug Spray

Welcome to my Kitchen Domain, summer version.  I practically live in this room during this time of the year when my kitchen garden's got it going on.  Like most other gardeners right now, I'm up to here with zucchini.  And I'm loving it.

I save an incredible amount of money on groceries during the summer because we're eating mostly fresh from the garden.  Very little meat or poultry.

Today I made my own version of Zucchini Lasagna using my own tomatoes and store-bought crushed tomatoes, ricotta cheese, mozzarella, and all fresh herbs.  When the mother load of tomatoes arrive, I won't be needing the canned crushed.  I'll be crushing them myself.

Zucchini Lasagna

Enough zucchini, sliced as thinly as possible lengthwise, to make two layers in a 13-inch pan
As many fresh red, very ripe, tomatoes as you have, sliced thinly
One large can of crushed tomatoes from the grocer
One thinly sliced onion 
One bell pepper sliced thinly
One small-sized carton of ricotta cheese
One egg
About 2 cups of Mozzarella cheese
About a tablespoon of fresh basil, thyme, and Rosemary (about 1/2 teaspoon for dried herbs)

Beat the ricotta and the egg together until smooth.  Spoon a small amount of crushed tomatoes across the bottom of your pan.  Layer half your zucchini slices over that.  Top with half your sliced tomatoes, onions, and peppers.  Ladle half the remaining crushed tomatoes over the vegetables.  Sprinkle over that half the herbs.  Spread half the ricotta and egg mixture over the herbs.  Ladle and sprinkle half the mozzarella over that.  

For the second layer, place the rest of the zucchini slices over first layer, top with remaining sliced tomatoes, ricotta, herbs, and half of remaining mozzarella.  Top with remaining crushed tomatoes, and sprinkle rest of mozzarella over all.  Bake at 350 degrees for about an hour, testing that the zucchinis are fork tender.  


Son Jeff loves pickles, so I'm letting some salted zucchini slices stand in the frig, which will become "Sweet and Spicy Zucchini Pickles" later tonight or tomorrow morning.  Found this recipe on Pinterest, pinned by My Pantry Shelf.  I'm looking forward to having these on my pantry shelf.


Also working on my own natural insect repellent using my fresh herbs.  Decided today, after being almost eaten alive by the mosquitoes in a Nashville park over the weekend, to make this and see how it works.  Those heavy chemical sprays make me sick and give me migraines.  Plus I don't think our lungs should be inhaling those fumes.  

Basically I boiled a cup of water on the stove and then added about a tablespoon each of spearmint, lavender, Rosemary, and thyme.  This mixture is sitting, covered, on the counter.  When it's cooled completely, I'll remove the herbs, add about a cup of alcohol (Witch Hazel is probably better, but I don't have any).  Then the mixture goes into a spray bottle.  I read where it's best to keep it in the frig and taken out when needed.  

I'll let you know how it works.  I'm serious bug bait for some reason, my blood type probably.  

Back to my kitchen domain.  Almost supper time.  Oh, we're having homemade vanilla ice cream with fresh peach slices.  Happy eating, ya'll.

Friday, May 24, 2013


 Yes, I'm working on the book.

It doesn't look like it, but I do need some new dishcloths.  And other yarn projects too.  These pretty cloths come from Life After Laundry, Brenna, a frugal mom's site.

While I crochet these cute household products, I'm thinking.  Thinking about the book formatting, and the last chapter which I'm not happy with.  And the cover art and...

Well, I need to knit and crochet while I sort these things out in my head.  I do that best when I have yarn in my hands.  If my fingers aren't on the keyboard, they need to be holding needles or hooks.

This is my messy nightstand.  Sometimes I work on my bed.  When I need quiet and a private place to think.  Sometimes I write in a notebook...several notebooks, instead of the laptop.  

I work on long-term and short-term projects.  If I need to process small stuff in my head, I like to whip up a quick crochet cloth.  If I need to stew for a longer time to figure something out, I grab the Tiramisu blanket I'm crocheting.  I have another one I'm knitting.

I'm especially pleased with the Tiramisu blanket, pattern from Ravelry by Alicia Paulson.  So beautiful and simple, and an awesome process aid.  I've solved several difficult writing problems with the Tiramisu blanket.  Other life problems too.

When you need to process stuff, give yourself the gift of a few pretty and practical dishcloths and maybe for the hard stuff of life, try a Tiramisu blanket.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Schmidts Farm in April

Apple Blossom Time...  the tree that produced the hundreds of
small, delicious apples last year is now loaded with white flowers.  Love looking out the dining room glass doors when we're eating, planning what I'll do with all the apples this year.

Of course I had to snip some branches for the table.   They don't last long inside, but they're beautiful while they do. 

In the herb garden, Oregano weathers over winter, something I hadn't known. At least here in middle Tennessee it does.  In my garden it does.  

And the Parsley weathered over too.

Seedling flats in the yard.  Tomatoes, peppers, more broccoli, Brussels sprouts.

Spinach coming along nicely.  Almost ready for that first tender salad.

Peas and Lettuce in rows, while the mint begins its trail around the sides of the bed.  Mint will take over a garden completely if allowed.  And it fights you when you go to pull it up.  Last year, Gary took some I pulled and planted it down by the spring in the woods.  And it all started a few years ago with one tiny mint plant.  It's Spearmint (Mentha spicata)

Close view of the lettuce and English peas.  Kind of got these out late, but I think they'll do okay.  I know the lettuce will.  We will trellis the peas soon.  Getting ready for salad time on the farm.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

I Want to Wear White Socks

I want a clean kitchen floor.  I want it really bad.  I want it to stay clean always...in middle of the night, when I get up in the morning, when I go to cook dinner, when I come in from outside.

I have rugs and mats on the floor.  I guess they help a little.  But my kitchen floor still gets dirty.

I tried swiffering every day, even twice a day.  It stays clean for a few hours.

The true test of a clean floor:  Try Wearing White Socks!

I want my white socks to stay clean on the bottoms.

I walk across my kitchen floor, and my white socks are already dirty.  I take them off and drop them in the laundry basket.  Worn for about five minutes, and they're laundry fodder.

I don't like to wear shoes in the house.  I like socks.  I like white socks.  White socks that stay clean on the bottoms make me feel good and happy.  Clean white socks in the house.  My dream.

Isn't there a Dr. Seuss verse for white socks in the house?

Monday, February 4, 2013

February's Garden

 Gardening in Middle Tennessee means starting seeds indoors, or in a greenhouse or cold frame, for planting in spring, after last frost.

Last week we started broccoli and several varieties of tomatoes:  Early Girl, Bradley, Brandywine, and Celebrity.

This week we pick up grow-lights and buy more seed.

We're expanding the operation this year.  We did okay last spring, but always feel we could do better.  Always hoping for a bigger harvest to last over the winter.

Last week I used my last frozen Marconi Sweet Peppers for cooking.  Still have tomato sauce in the freezer and some peaches and squash. Oh, and a giant freezer bag of Last Spring's Strawberries, pretty and red.   Our homemade fruit jam got wiped out as Christmas presents, even the Winter Orange Marmalade I made in November.  Do I use those strawberries and make a batch of preserves, or save for a cold, dark day and make a glorious "fresh" strawberry dessert?

I have two cold bins of apples from our trees still in the back refrigerator that I need to do something with, while they're still good.  If making gluten-free pie crusts weren't so much work (for me anyway), every one of those apples would turn into apple pies in the freezer.  There's absolutely nothing like pulling a good, homemade apple pie out of the freezer to thaw and heat up in the oven on a busy day.

Last spring's broccoli was so plentiful and good, as were the Brussels sprouts, we're convinced these two veggies are worth increasing this year.  I'd love to have them in the freezer throughout the winter, using the last bags when the new ones are coming in.

First Broccoli Seeds Sown

Bradley Tomatoes in the Soil and Sun

Still got lots of seed to go, but I'm grateful we've at least got started...which is always the hardest part.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Pinterest Meal Management

Writing takes a lot of my time.  Add to that trying to keep the house together, clean and organized, doctor and dentist appointments, and I needed a streamlined plan for grocery shopping and cooking.

There's an app for that.

I'm a meal planner from way back, when I had four kids and and a job outside the home.  I got this from my then mother-in-law who planned her week's meals every Sunday.  She was also a penny-pincher, and that suited me because there was very little cash for groceries in my house.

 She would plan a roast for Sunday, beef stew for Monday, and so on and so on.  The "rubber chicken" type of planning.  If you're not familiar with it, it goes...A roasted whole chicken on Sunday, maybe a chicken and rice type thing the next day, chicken enchiladas might be next, all the way to chicken soup usually being the last thing.  Boiling the chicken in your crockpot is another way, separating the bones and skins from the meat and dividing it up for separate meals.

I still basically use this method, but I'm a lot more high-tech, having discovered how to streamline my process even better, and Pinterest is part of that, as well as some other great apps.

End of December, I put together a menu for the 31 days of January.  I've got a lot of writing I need to be doing, plus some doctors' appointments, yearly exams and the like, for myself as well as husband and son.  A lot going on.

I've been adding recipes to Pinterest ever since its inception.  That was the first amazing thing I jumped onto. I immediately saw this tool as my online filing cabinet.  A place for every recipe I gleaned from the web.

Rounding Up Your Recipes for Menus

As I have pinned any recipe I want to keep, I just go to Pinterest and find them.  Seeing a full-color picture of the dishes gives you ideas, and the process goes pretty fast.  I rounded up 31 menus in an hour or so.  I allow for leftovers on some days.  I pick my menus with my calendar beside me, noting the days we will be eating out or at church, or elsewhere.  Basketball season, we eat out most game nights.  If I see I'll be gone most of a certain day, I can plan a crockpot meal or soup and sandwiches.  I also have freezer meals for those occasions.

I've noticed that at the end of the month, I always have leftover menus--and the groceries to go with them--because you end up, for whatever reason, not using every single day's menu.  This is a good thing.  You've already saved having to buy as many groceries the next month.  

Printing Pinterest Boards:  I recently discovered the old fashioned "Control P" for print on Pinterest.  Open your board and simply pres Ctrl and P at the same time.  A menu opens up for you to print however you want.  I print to PDF, and then decide whether I want to physically print for my binder.  While the recipe itself isn't available, the web link below the picture appears.  This is a good backup, and a nice physical cookbook to have.

Organizing the Menus:

A lot of menu planners exist on the web, and I've used many, both paper and digital.  I still like to keep a calendar of menus in my notebook planner.  I'm one of those people who say, "What if the grid goes down?"  I need my lists.  One really cool thing about the monthly lists of menus is that you can use them all over again.  Talk about handy!

In my opinion, one of the best websites I've ever come across is Donna Young's Homeschool site.  Back when I homeschooled, about 10 years ago, I used this site over and over.  You can print out nearly any form you need for scheduling not only your students' studies and reports, but household  schedules as well.  Now she has even better, updated household forms you can download, including some great menu planners and even a members' submitted cookbook.  This helped me enormously when filling in my 31 menus.

Anyway, techie lover that I am, I like digital at my fingertips, on my phone and/or pc desktop.  I'm a Google Syncer.  My main calendar is in Google, which syncs to my phone. The home page on my phone contains a short list of my calendar, so I can see immediately what is happening for the net few days.  It's pretty easy to type in each day's menu on my calendar as a "Google task," and specify that I want Google to list my tasks in the calendar.

The Grocery List

Now that I know what I'm cooking every day, I can be at total peace about "What's for dinner?"   This is peace!    I never scramble around, moaning, "What do I do about today's dinner?"  I've been planning my meals this way for so long, I can't remember being stressed out about this facet of life.  I've got plenty of other things to stress about.

Having the ingredients for my menus is another de-stresser.  Sure, I might still have to pick up some items after my big shopping trip, but basically I have what I need.

This part is simple.  You just list all the ingredients from each menu.  On a piece of paper, or using one of those downloadable, printable lists where you put a checkmark in the little box beside any item you need, or you can type it in on your computer and print it out.

My favorite way is to have the list on my phone.  However, I do have a paper backup just in case.  You never know about that grid might be going down.

Recently I found what seems to be invented just for someone like me.  A Google app, ShopGlider.com.  It can be used on your computer desktop and/or digitally on your phone or tablet.  It has starter recipes you can use, and you add your own using categories. . Say you're having a party, you can have the menu items in just that category, and know when you go shopping what grocery items you need.  Check it out.  It might be for you.

I've been using Evernote about as long as it's been out.  It's an old friend.  It does everything.  I can't think of anything I can't make it do.  Before Pinterest, I saved all those pages from the web and gave them "tags."  Don't you just love tags?  I can put my grocery list in Evernote.  And, yes, Evernote syncs with my phone.  I use Evernote for a lot of my writing research.  It's the best thing I've discovered for any kind of research.  And, wow, EVERNOTE FOOD  has just come on the scene.

You have to see Evernote Food yourself to really understand how sophisticated this program is.  Hats off to some of the best programmers in the world, the Facebook techs.

Lastly, another very popular app is Cozi online, which provides your family with a...well, cozy calendar.  I've used it a lot and like it.  It just has limitations for me, but it is simple and easy to use and very well put together.  Cozi now has an iPad / iPhone app you can get to on Cozi.com's main site.

If you've made one of your New Year's goals to get a handle on the kitchen part of your life, you might like some of these ideas.

Part of my journey has been to cook wonderful food and have a great plan to help me.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Where the Journey Takes You

My journey has been to find many, many things:  answers, solutions, an abiding faith, peace, security, my strengths, self worth, and my great big family.  In finding family and stories, everything else I'm looking for falls into place.  Funny how that works.

Over on Rhine Girl, I've been lazy about posting the book's stories and, more importantly, the new finds that have turned up recently and unexpectedly...and where those discoveries lead now.

The holidays kind of kill me.  I get centered on the festivities and tune out  the rest of the world.  The older I get, the more it wears me out too.

But while I was living in the present, my Journey was unfolding behind the scenes.

My energy is revived.

Know that your journey goes on even while you're not actively pursuing it.

Once you set the wheels in motion

With Family History and Memoir writing, you invest a lot of time at the start.  You immerse yourself in research.  You stumble down paths only to hit brick walls.  You lose ancestors you thought were yours.  You give up sometimes.  You pick back up a lot.

You've started the journey in motion.  There's no turning back.

What is your journey?  What are you looking for?    

 You can read more on Rhine Girl about my new discoveries.

Women's Memoirs

Women's Memoirs
Women's Memoirs