Thursday, May 31, 2012

A Seedy Experiment

I learned how to do a "seedy experiment" at the Bean2Blog last week, so I thought I'd pass it along to those of you who aspire to be gardeners. Two of our speakers that day were students from the University of Arkansas. Kimberly is a Ph.D student in the Plant Pathology department and Faye is earning her Master's degree in Crop, Soil and Environmental Science. It was quickly evident that these two know beans about soybeans and other plants.

Faye is shown here on the left and Kimberly is on the right.

One topic that they talked about was seed germination, and how knowledge of this not only helps farmers, but it can also help the home gardener. I enjoy growing lots of flowers, and I even grow some vegetables, fruits, and herbs on a small scale. For the experiment each one of the bloggers attending the Bean2Blog was given a ziplock bag, a heavy piece of paper that was moistened and folded into fourths, and 10 soybean seeds. We put the seeds inside the moistened paper, then placed them inside the ziplock bag with one corner left open. We were asked to bring them home, to put them in a warm place, and to check them after several days to see how many had sprouted. That was on Tuesday, and by Friday this is how mine looked.


If you look closely at my seeds, you can see that all 10 have sprouted for a 100% germination rate! This is exciting to me because from this I learned that you can check the quality of your seeds before you plant them.


I think this is a great way to find out if the seeds you plan to use are "good" seeds or "dud" seeds. Early in the spring this year I planted seeds from packets similar to these in two large patio containers. One container was for lettuce and the other was for spinach. The lettuce came up everywhere the seeds fell, but the spinach was very spaced, skippy and sparse. If I had tested my seeds for germination rate in advance of planting I would have known that I needed to use more spinach seeds than the directions indicated, and I could have avoided such a disappointing crop.

This germination rate test would be a fun way to get your school-age children involved in gardening too. Let them set up the tests and calculate the germination rate for you (even very young children can count sprouted beans), then let them help you plant the seeds. 

Kimberly and Faye had several other useful ideas for us, and one was how to make your own skin softening balm. I'll be sharing their recipe for that in a post soon.







Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Baked Potato Salad

This Potato Salad was another of my menu items for Memorial Day. This is a no-fuss Potato Salad, so easy to make. If you make up the dressing and cook the bacon ahead of time, all you have to do is cook the potatoes and throw it together before serving. My husband loved it, and we finished off the leftovers the next day.


Recipe adapted from: Evil Shenanigans




Baked Potato Salad
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons dried chopped chives, divided
8 strips bacon, cooked crisp and chopped, divided
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
4 large russet potatoes

Combine mayonnaise and sour cream together in a medium bowl; stir until blended. Mix in 1 tablespoon chives, the cheddar cheese, and about 3/4 of the bacon, reserving the rest of the bacon and chives for garnish. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Peel potatoes and cube into 1/2-inch pieces. Cook the potatoes in salted water until fork tender; drain and cool slightly. Place potatoes in a large dish and combine with the dressing mixture. Add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Garnish with the remaining 1 tablespoon chives and remaining bacon. Serve warm or chilled.



Combine the mayonnaise, sour cream, chives, cheese, and bacon to make the dressing.



Cook the potatoes until tender, then combine with the dressing mixture. Garnish with remaining chives and bacon.


Even though this dish is called "Baked Potato Salad" the potatoes are boiled; the name comes from all the toppings in the salad that belong on baked potatoes. The recipe says that it can be served warm or chilled, but we did not try it chilled. We had ours warm with baby back ribs and it was great!




Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Red White and Blue Sweet Summer Salad

I made this colorful salad on Monday as part of our Memorial Day meal. It was a pretty addition to the ribs, potato salad, and roasted broccoli. This salad would also be great to serve for Independence Day, or just any day. This recipe comes from Green Lite Bites.



Red White and Blue Sweet Summer Salad
3 - 4 cups of fresh romaine lettuce, washed and torn
1/2 cup fresh blueberries
1/2 cup fresh strawberries, cut in small chunks
1 ounce crumbled Feta
1 tablespoon sweet poppyseed dressing

Wash, dry and prepare lettuce and fruit. Place the lettuce in a large bowl. Top with the blueberries, strawberries, and Feta. Drizzle the dressing over all. Refrigerate until ready to serve.



Fresh fruit is such a tasty and healthy way to add color to a summer salad. 


The recipe calls for 1 ounce of Feta. I wasn't sure how much 1 ounce would be out of my 12 ounce container, so I weighed it.




Drizzle a tablespoon of your favorite poppyseed dressing over the salad. 


I love this salad! It's so easy to put together and so delicious!




Monday, May 28, 2012

A Wish Fulfilled

Stephanie McCratic didn't know it, but last week at the Bean2Blog she helped fulfill a long-time wish of mine. Stephanie asked her employer to gift all the Bean2Blog ladies with boots from Country Outfitter.com. She brought me these brown leather Ariat Fatbabies. I wore them all day and felt so stylish!


I have wanted a pair of boots like this since I was six-years-old. I remember going shoe shopping with my mother and older brother one long-ago fall day. My heart was set on some real boots like these, but my mother had other ideas as to what a little girl needed. Her ultimatum was that I could have the white majorette boots with the tassel or nothing at all. I went home with nothing. And oddly enough, until last week, I never did get those boots I wanted until Stephanie showed up with these Ariat Fatbabies. It was a long wait, but so worth it!

These boots are super comfortable, I wore them all day at the Bean2Blog, and we did a lot of walking on our tours of the flower garden, the vegetable garden, the rose garden, and our other adventures around the farm. No rubs, no pain, no blisters; they were perfect!


I think these boots are a quality product and will function well for work or play. Thanks to Country Outfitters for bringing me these Ariat Fatbabies to wear at the farm for our Bean2Blog day! All opinions stated in this post are my own.


I haven't shown my boots to Mother yet, but you know, I'm thinking she may just approve this time.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Cinnamon Rolls

These are the same Cinnamon Rolls that were served to us with coffee when I took the Artisan Bread Class at the Viking Store in Franklin, Tennessee. We did not make them during the class, but the recipe was included in our take-home packet of materials, and I am so glad that it was. These Cinnamon Rolls are the best ever. The filling is a combination of butter, cinnamon, sugar, and vanilla powder. I think the vanilla powder is the ingredient that puts them over the top.





Cinnamon Rolls

Rolls
2 cups milk
2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
2 (1/4 ounce) packages active dry yeast (or 4 1/2 teaspoons)
5 to 5 1/2 cups all purpose flour, divided
1 tablespoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Vegetable oil to grease bowl

Filling
8 tablespoons salted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons vanilla powder (optional)
1/2 cup toasted chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)
1/2 cup dried cherries; currants; cranberries; or raisins (optional)

Glaze 
2 cups confectioners' sugar
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

To make the rolls - Combine the milk and sugar in a small saucepan; whisk together. Cook over medium heat, whisking occasionally until the sugar is dissolved and the milk has reached 110 degrees. (Use an instant-read thermometer to test the temperature.) Pour the warm milk mixture into a small bowl; add the yeast and whisk to combine. Set aside until foamy and creamy, about 5 to 10 minutes.

Place 5 cups of flour and the salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed for 30 seconds to combine. Add the yeast mixture and melted butter, increase speed to medium-high and continue mixing until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 4 to 5 minutes. After the first 2 minutes of mixing, if the dough seems too sticky, add the remaining flour, 1 tablespoon at a time until the dough cleans the sides of the bowl. The dough may continue to stick slightly to the bottom of the bowl. (The dough should register approximately 80 degrees on an instant-read thermometer.) Using a dough scraper or a silicone spatula, scrape the dough out onto a lightly floured silicone rolling mat; knead until satiny smooth, about 1 minute.

Place dough in a lightly oiled mixing bowl; turn the dough over to oil all sides. Cover with oiled plastic wrap and allow to rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Punch down (deflate) the dough, then turn out onto a lightly floured silicone mat. Roll the dough into a rectangle 15 inches in length and about 1/4 inch thick.

To make the filling - Spread the softened butter over the surface of the dough. Combine the sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla powder; whisk together, then sprinkle evenly over the butter. Cover the entire surface, but leave 1/2 inch border on both long sides. Sprinkle evenly with nuts and dried fruit, if desired.

Starting at the long side nearest you, tightly roll the dough into a log as you would for a jelly-roll, then pinch the seams to seal. Place on a parchment paper lined sheet pan, seam side down; cover loosely with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for about an hour (or place in the freezer for about 15 minutes).

Cut the chilled log into 12 evenly sized pieces, each about 1 1/4 inches thick. (For best results use a sharp serrated or electric knife.) Place on an oiled baking sheet, cover loosely with oiled plastic wrap, and allow to rise until almost doubled in size, about 30 minutes. 

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Bake in the center of the oven until light golden brown, about 15 minutes. Rotate the pan halfway through the baking time.

To make the glaze - In a medium bowl, combine the confectioners' sugar, milk, and vanilla extract; whisk together until smooth. Allow the cinnamon rolls to cool for 2 to 3 minutes after baking, then pour the glaze over the top of the rolls; serve immediately.



After the dough is mixed, turn it out on a lightly floured mat and knead for about one minute.



Turn the dough over in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise for about 1 hour.


The dough will double in size.


Deflate the dough, then roll it out into a rectangle with 15-inch sides.


Brush the softened butter over the dough.


Whisk the cinnamon, sugar, and vanilla powder together. I couldn't find any vanilla powder locally. I ordered mine online.


Sprinkle the filling evenly over the butter. I opted not to use the nuts or fruit.



Tightly roll the dough into a log and pinch the seams to seal.


This recipe indicates it will make 12 cinnamon rolls - oops! I ended up with 15 rolls!


Wait 2 or 3 minutes after removing the rolls from the oven before pouring the glaze over the top.



I baked my rolls in a 9 x 13-inch pan, and they completely filled the pan after rising. I think next time I will bake them on a larger sheet pan and try to separate them a little more. These rolls are just amazing. Thank you for the recipe Chef Sandra, you're pretty amazing too.




Saturday, May 26, 2012

Mission Organization: Week 21 - My Own Toolbox

I've had a few tools of my own before, but I have not been able to keep up with them in the house. Although I have never received a ransom note, I've wondered if there might be a tool kidnapper lurking around, grabbing little screwdrivers and hammers. My husband, on the other hand, has lots of tools. He keeps most of them away from the house at his shop building, but there are a few stashed here and there in the garage at home.

Occasionally we have one of those household breakdowns that require the use of tools, and one of those incidents came this week. My garbage disposal stopped working, so my husband, being the handyman that he is, set out to install a new one. Of course we have our own way of doing these things. He gets under the sink and calls for the tools one at a time as he needs them, and I'm the tool-fetcher. For example, if he needs a Phillips screwdriver, I run to find one, but the last place I put it may not be where it is now. In fact it may not be in the next three places I look. When I finally locate the screwdriver, I dash back to my husband, still waiting under the sink. By that time he will need a hammer or some pliers and the search will begin all over again.

The frustration of searching for all those tools to fix the garbage disposal gave me my mission this week. I wanted to put together my own toolbox to keep in the house, but I wanted it to be "mine" so that the tools would not somehow disappear as they had done in the past. I knew I would have to do something different this time.


I started by gathering the kind of tools that I was often asked to find. I found some old tools that I knew I could use, but I bought a new hammer and a package screwdrivers of different sizes with both flat and Phillips heads.


Then I got a package of "girly" stickers and some clear nail polish.


My idea was to apply the stickers to the tools to personalize them, so that they could easily be identified as "mine".



I put stickers on every tool, then I sealed them on with the clear nail polish.


I bought an inexpensive tool bag for the house tools.


The tool bag is filled with the tools.


The extra stickers are stashed in an inside pocket so I can use them for any new tools that I might acquire.

I now have a bag of tools that fall into the "often requested" category at my house. Hopefully the flower stickers will discourage any tool nappers from picking up the tools and carting them away. At least now I will recognize them as part of my set if they are found somewhere they don't belong.

Does anyone need a screwdriver?





Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Bean2Blog 2012

Yesterday was an an exciting and educational day for me. I was one of 20 exceptionally lucky bloggers to be invited to the Inaugural Bean2Blog. This event was held at the Garden Home and Moss Mountain Farm of P. Allen Smith near Little Rock. The Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board and P. Allen Smith teamed up to show us the wonders of "The Miracle Bean."


The day started early with coffee, fruit, muffins, and lots of introductions. Bloggers do love to make new friends. The lovely breakfast was spread on a table under a massive 300 year-old oak tree in the front yard of the Garden Home.



Our gracious host welcomed us to his home, and I'm still pinching myself to be sure I was really there.


We were given a tour of the entire home, not by a tour guide, but by P. Allen Smith himself, and he lovingly talked about building the house four years ago and the history involved in the choices he made in the construction. As anyone would imagine, the home is tastefully furnished and decorated with an eclectic mix of antiques and newer comfort pieces. We were also given complete tours of the flower garden, vegetable garden, and the newest addition, the rose garden. I'd love to share some of those photos in later posts; I took over 200 photos, I just couldn't stop my snapper finger.




We also heard from several speakers throughout the day, such as Todd Allen, Chairman of the Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board. Todd told us how the potential uses for soybeans have continued to grow from candles to insulation to biofuel. Last year in Arkansas our farmers produced 122 million bushels of soybeans valued at $1 billion. 



We were also privileged to hear from Jim Carroll, a 4th generation farmer from Brinkley and a member of the Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board and the United Soybean Board. His life story was inspirational because of his dedication to farming and to the history of his family. Jim is growing soybeans on the same land that his great grandfather farmed before him. He reminded us that likely all of us had farming in our family history, either in the recent or distant past. I grew up on a farm, and I have a great respect for farmers like Jim.


Allen and Jim spoke to the group about planting and growing soybeans. The small plants in the container are soybean seedlings. We learned that you don't have to be a farmer with an acreage to get a taste of soybeans.


With a few seeds, you could grow edamame in your own garden.



In fact, the Bean2Bloggers planted a row of soybeans in the vegetable garden at Moss Mountain Farm.


One interesting fact I learned was from Jim Carroll's wife, Rhonda. She demonstrated how anyone can make their own soy milk right at home at the touch of a button with an electric hot soy milk maker, and it was amazing how few beans it took to make a whole quart of milk.

The Bean2Bloggers got a taste of what the speakers had been talking to us about when we were served this colorful and tasty lunch.


Soy was used in several ways to prepare lunch, from the edamame in the succotash to the pork braised in soybean oil to the tofu and sour cream topping on the baked potato, yum.


This was an afternoon treat prepared for us by P. Allen Smith - Garlic Parmesan Edamame. I always love Edamame as an appetizer in a restaurant, but I had never had it prepared in this delicious way. Now I know I can make it at home too.

This is just a condensed version of a few highlights of the day, but there is so much more to tell. I'll be posting recipes and more photos from the Bean2Blog 2012 soon.

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Tomato Phantom

My backyard garden has two beautiful tomato plants this year, and I already have tomatoes that are getting ripe. Spring-like weather came so early this year that I was able to set the plants out much sooner than I typically do. They took off and grew, started blooming, and now the fruit is beginning to ripen. I have eagerly watched for the first ripe tomato, and knew it would be ready early this week.

On Sunday I went out to gather some Basil leaves for a salad, and glanced at my tomatoes nearby. I was truly horrified at what I saw.


Something had beat me to my first tomato, and there was a huge bite gone out of it. I was so disappointed.

But what had done this terrible thing? Could it be the little squirrels or rabbits that play in my yard? Or maybe one of the pretty birds that nest in the backyard trees? I hadn't seen a thing, so I don't know who the guilty party could be, but I didn't want this to happen again.


If a bird was the tomato muncher, maybe a rubber snake will scare him away.


And maybe two rubber snakes will even be better.


If the tomato-eater happens to be a squirrel and or a rabbit, I have geared up for them by sprinkling red peppers around the area to keep them out. I've been told that this needs to be reapplied every few days to be effective.

I'm not sure if either of these methods will work since I don't really know what enemy I am fighting, but I'll try these and see what happens. If any of you gardeners have other ideas, send them my way, please, I can't let the phantom devour my tomatoes.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

A Girl's Best Friend

I've always been told that diamonds are a girl's best friend, and I certainly do love all things that glitter, sparkle, and shine.


I love this ring that my DIL Tiffany is wearing, and I made this one after seeing how easy it is to do at a craft blog called Glitter 'N Glue. There are no diamonds found in this ring, just a lot of sparkle. These are so much fun to make you'll probably want to make a dozen.

To make a ring like this one, the first thing you need is a button. I have a ready supply of all kinds and sizes of buttons from sewing for many years and from saving all those "extra buttons" that come with every shirt or dress purchased. Of course, if you don't have your own supply of buttons, you can always go down to the fabric store and buy a few.


The buttons used in this project don't have eyelets; they need to have a shank on the back.


You'll also need some of these rings with flat tops from a craft store that stocks jewelry supplies. The rings come in different colors of metal and the tops come in smaller and larger sizes.

You'll also need a tube of E-6000 crafters glue, a pair of clippers like these and a sandpaper pad.

Use the clippers to clip the shank off the back of the button. If any rough spots remain, sand them down smooth with the sandpaper, as you want the button to lie flat against the top of the ring. Follow the directions on the glue to attach the button to the ring top, allowing drying time. 


I'll wear these when I'm shopping for new shoes.


This one looks like going out to eat.


How about lunch with the ladies?



Just a day at the office.


Dressed up for church.


This ring is the only one that is different - it is not made from a button. This one is made from a pretty coin that was given to me by my brother-in-law.


When you can't make up your mind, just wear them all.



The possibilities are endless. Here are some other buttons I have that could be made into rings. This is just a project to have fun with. Diamonds may be a girl's best friend, but buttons are mighty good pals.