Friday, April 29, 2011

Scones -- A little healthier

Whether you care anything about the royal wedding, or not, you must admit that this is at least a day to honor our British forefathers. In my case, that is my heritage. So -- in honor of the day, I made scones for my family. I did try a healthier version.

This recipe is from Veginomicon, a vegan cookbook I purchased recently because they contained things like this scone recipe.

Banana-Date Scones
Makes 8 large scones

1 cup chopped dates
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 cup mashed, very ripe banana (about 3-4 bananas)
2 tablespoons ground flax seeds
1/3 cup rice milk
1/3 cup canola oil
1/4 brown rice syrup
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 and lightly grease two medium-sized baking sheets. Finely chop the dates, place in a small bowl, and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon flour. Toss the dates to thoroughly coat with the flour, breaking apart any clumps, Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flax seeds and rice milk. Whisk in the mashed banana, canola oil and brown rice syrup. In a separate bowl, sift together the all-purpose flour, whole wheat pastry flour, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg. Stir into the banana mixture until the ingredients are just moistened; the dough will be thick yet sticky. Fold in the chopped dates and walnuts.

Lightly oil a 1/2 cup measuring cup and scoop generous half-cupfuls of dough onto a baking sheet, leaving about 3 inches of space between the scones. Gently pat down the tops of the scones and dab with a little rice milk, if desired. Bake for 32 to 34 minutes until browned and firm. Transfer from the baking sheets to a cooling rack to complete cooling.

I like the recipe. My husband was not very impressed but he did eat one. (I do gauge a recipe by his likes. I really have to.)

My favorite part of the recipe? Oiling the 1/2 cup and then dropping the scones onto the baking sheet. That was a great method that I will use for scones from now on, especially whole grain ones.

Have a happy day and drink plenty of tea. It is good for you. I suggest the green variety. Might not be quite at British, but it is good for you.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Organic Gardening class -- part 2

This is a continuation of yesterday's post. Continuing with the tips.

Most people know that a garden needs plenty of sun and needs to be open and not under trees, but the next thing you really need is a soil sample. It is better if you get a detailed test because it is really nice to know what trace minerals you need to add to your soil and how to amend your PH. Building up the soil will give you the best results and make stronger plants. Stronger plants will be more disease- and pest-resistant. Above Mike Cunningham is taking a soil sample.

Azomite is one of the amendments that is used at Country Gardens. I had never heard of it before but I was sold on it and purchased a bag to use in my garden before I left. I am getting a soil sample before the week is done and I know I will be using more lime in my garden because Georgia soil is acidic and the lime made from calcium will prevent end rot.

Above, a photo of beets.

After the soil is right, they prepare the ground by making a berm, adding compost and organic fertilizer.

The next step, irrigation.

They prefer a drip system laid out on each side of the plant if the row is wide.

Their system has regulators

This system is very expensive for folks like me. He suggested watering in the morning if you must water from overhead so that the leaves could dry out by nightfall. This helps to prevent plant diseases. If you can, hand water at the base of the plant.

They then cover it with at least 4 layers or newspaper (not shiny) or Kraft paper and then hay. In the center of the rows they put down cardboard and mulch. They use materials that will compost. They then dig down and plant the vegetables through the paper and cover with wheat straw. The wheat straw sometimes grows but is easy to pull up.

Other tips: Use BT for caterpillars. It is a great organic solution for things like cabbage, tomatoes, squash and cucumbers.

Floating row cover is great to use for pest control and protection from the elements.

Plant things like broccoli and Brussels sprouts in August rather than February in this climate. They will never make by warm weather and will just flower and won't produce. That was a good tip for me because I planted Brussels sprouts and broccoli. We will just have to be satisfied with adding the leaves to stir-frys.

Pull up dirt around root vegetables like potatoes and carrots and give them plenty of vertical room in soft soil to grow.

I thought this cucumber patch looked good. Look how high the vines can grow. I am thinking my cucumber fences need to be higher.

Plant things together to utilize space, like these peas and lettuce.

They have these greenhouse structures that you can throw plastic over to protect from freezing temps and during the summer, they are just regular garden space. That is something I would love but I can't afford it.

Squash were such a problem for us last year because of the squash vine borers and squash bugs. They suggested picking off eggs of both and spraying with BT because after the squash borer hatches, the worms crawl down the stalk and bore into the vine. It you can catch them with BT, it will help. Also, keep planting at intervals to keep them going all summer.

For tomatoes, prune off the suckers to keep one vine growing for larger fruit.

Plant them deep. I am going to add calcium limestone, azomite and organic fertilizer and probably Black Kow to mine this year.

I would highly recommend taking a course like this, because I learned even more than I thought I would from this class.

This was not everything I learned and I appreciated the comment that every individual gardener learns tips and tricks that works for him. Make sure the basics are taken care of and then you will learn and grow in gardening know-how as your garden grows.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A hands-on gardening class

This past saturday morning my sister and I took a gardening class at Country Gardens Farms and Nursery in Sharpsburg and it was really an incredible experience for us.

Country Gardens and Farms, well-known as a nursery and greenhouse seller and supplier is moving to a thriving CSA (community-supported agriculture) business which means they sell shares before the season begins and the share-holders pick up a weekly supply of organic vegetables. They basically receive whatever is in season. They also raise grass-fed beef, chicken and pork, and sell free-range eggs and milk. People can buy from their store and they also take their vegetables to several area markets. They still are in the nursery business, but are moving to the growing CSA movement. I am providing a link so you can learn more here.

The class was called Organic Farming 101 and it was a great learning experience for us. Today I will show a few photos of their gardens and I will continue tomorrow with some things I learned from the class.

My sis and I only thought we had learned a good deal while gardening this past couple of years. Most of what we have done has been trial and error. We have been a bit frustrated at times by trying to follow organic practices, but I am hoping that taking this class will help us take it up a notch, because we had so many of our questions answered. It was so nice to see that someone is having great success without using traditional chemicals. We have worked hard to do this but have at times been terribly frustrated.

Here is what we can strive for in our garden. The photo at the top is of their old vegetable garden space. Now they are growing cabbage, bok choy, greens and onions.

The bok choy is beautiful.

Their broccoli is at their peak. We were surprised because our broccoli is not doing well. The answer is that broccoli and Brussel sprouts must be planted in August. Bummer. Our broccoli won't make this year but we will try again at the end of the summer.

They have rows of tomatoes, and are planting more. Their best seller this year was Sungold.

Can carrot tops look prettier than this?

I love their sugar peas that are being harvested very soon. Our peas are chest-high. Theirs vines are taller than us. I loved how they utilitzed the space around the peas by planting lettuce. Looks like flowers.

Their squash is a little ahead of ours and it looks great.

They do have a beautiful farm and tomorrow I will reveal more.

Monday, April 25, 2011

My sister's potato salad

On Sunday we had a wonderful ham dinner for Easter but the star of the show wasn't our fresh garden lettuce, spinach and green pea salad, pictured on the right, above. And it wasn't our grilled ham, though it was good, but the best dish was the potato salad my sister brought to dinner. She makes the best potato salad ever. Her potato salad is always consistently yummy.

With summer picnics just around the corner, I thought it would be a great time to share her recipe. I asked her if it was OK and she agreed. Here is her potato salad recipe. Make it. I know everyone will appreciate you for it.

Smith Reunion Potato Salad

5 pounds potatoes
1 large onion, peeled and diced
2 stalks celery, washed and diced
6 eggs
1 cup mayonnaise (she prefers Dukes)
1 cup sour cream
French's yellow mustard (1/2 cup, or to taste)
Salt and pepper to taste
Garlic powder to taste
Paprika, to garnish

Wash, peel and dice potatoes and cover with water in a large boiler. Wash eggs and cook with potatoes. Add 1 teaspoon of salt and cook until tender. While potatoes are cooking, dice onion and celery into a large bowl. Drain cooked potatoes thoroughly and place in large bowl with celery and onion. Peel boiled eggs. Add diced boiled eggs, mayonnaise, sour cream and approximately 1/2 cup yellow mustard, pepper and garlic powder to taste. Mix all ingredients until creamy. Garnish with paprika. Makes 20 to 25 servings.

Wilma A. Smith

Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday gift

Yesterday I made this Good Friday gift for my friend Angela. Good Friday is historically the day for planting a spring garden so this is a great gift, in my opinion. These are all plants I have grown from seed in Jiffypots and are a combination of Malabar spinach, and several tomato varieties including Celebrity, Big Rainbow, Purple Calabash and Black Cherry. These you won't find at the local seed store.

I placed them in a Styrofoam egg carton and watered them down so they will be ready for her to plant in the ground or in pots. I hope they do well for her. I do love growing plants from seeds. I am getting a little better at it and I hope to improve every year.

Don't you think these make a nice Good Friday gift for a gardener? My daughter said it was kind of like a box of chocolates, but without the calories and a good use of an old egg carton.

Happy Easter! I hope you have a blessed weekend and the weather is perfect for planting.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Two eager Easter bunnies

These two cousins got together last night at my house to decorate Easter eggs -- a tradition at our house. I thought that turning hard-boiled eggs into works of art might be dying out but when I went to the craft store, there were so many different kinds of egg kits that I decided it was still the "in" thing to do.

I think I really prefer using food coloring and vinegar rather than these kits but I thought it would be much easier with two eager Easter bunny apprentices, to just use the fizzy colors that came with the kit. I did like the egg-shaped cups, which I quickly placed on a cookie sheet. Glad I did because we had overflow.

Our finished products were encouraging. The kids loved the coloring and the glitter eggs (easy to do) and the shiny eggs (hard to do), but their favorite thing was the little wax crayon that came with the original coloring kit. They loved drawing a small figure or letter on the egg and then placing it in the dye to reveal their art. I will use this in the future because it was really great.

I thought about blowing out some eggs but with a 5- and 6-year-old, the shells would be too delicate for them. That would be better for when they are 8 or 9.

I think the best thing I found out -- mini muffin cups hold the finished eggs perfectly -- and they are pretty. Egg cartons would work, too, but I love the muffin cups.

We had so much fun and I am sure they will be dye-ing to do it again next year.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

We have green beans!

We are so happy to have green beans! They came up so quickly and we are hoping we have great success this year with our Kentucky Wonders. We also have a few cucumbers, yellow and zucchini squash and corn. Those plants are not quite large enough to show in a photo. I think when I see these vegetables coming up and thriving, I can say it is officially spring.

This view of the cabbage, lettuce and onions is one from last week. Since then we have been slowly adding mulch. Mulching is very important but it is really hard work. I am hoping this area will be totally mulched the next time I take a photo.

Our early peas are growing like crazy and are covered with blooms. I was hoping we would be having peas for Easter dinner. I am not sure if that will be the case but they are maturing in a hurry.

Here's another view. I just love these peas. I know they will play out before too long, but I think they are beautiful.

I do think we will have spinach for Easter dinner. The green row on the left is our spinach. It is really happy. The carrots in the center are doing well but we will need to work in some manure and pull some dirt up around the carrots before we mulch. I have high hopes for them.

We also planted many types of squash yesterday. Spaghetti, hard winter squashes or all varieties. We planted them in our lower garden but it only look like a dirt bed right now. They should be up very soon with the weather warming up.

That's all for today. We are trying to really rev it up and get in full spring garden mode.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Planting to attract butterflies

I love to receive newsletters from Walter Reeves because his website, always has something that is useful and interesting to me. The most recent topic was planting to attract butterflies to your garden. I just want to know who wouldn't love more butterflies in their garden? Everyone loves butterflies. If you plan to plant anything new this spring, now is the time and these suggestions could be really useful.

His newsletters always include links to downloadable PDFs that can be a big help to achieve your gardening objective. The last one was no exception. He has his own list of plants for attracting butterflies and also includes lists from the University of Georgia, Clemson, University of Kentucky and LSU. There are tons of resources on his website.

My only challenge is that I have more shade than sun in my yard and I don't think some of the suggested plants will be an option in most areas of my lawn but I would love to give some of these suggestions a try. I also need to find his list for what to plant in the shade. I am thinking ferns but I don't think I will count on them attracting too many butterflies.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Cheesecake Squares

It would be so nice if all of the things I baked were good for you but there are times when a recipe that isn't good for you might be necessary -- like when asked to take a cookie or sweet treat to a church event, I need something plenty of people will like and I don't think the majority of people would appreciate a low-fat, healthy cookie bar. When I have tried it in the past, I brought most of the treats home. I like this recipe because they are easy to throw together, make plenty of bars and people really like them. With cookies, I have to bake

I am going to try a recipe redo on this one, but here is the original recipe. When I perfect the redo, which means having a recipe that most people like, I will post the healthy version. Meanwhile, here is the full-fat, bad for you version of Cheesecake Squares I made this weekend for a church event. How did people like them? They were demolished. I didn't even have crumbs to bring home. I loved it because I didn't have to be tempted.

Cheesecake Squares

Bottom layer
1 box yellow cake mix
1 stick of butter, melted
1 egg

12 ounces (1-1/2 packages) cream cheese, softened
1 box confectioner's sugar
1 extra-large or jumbo egg (if eggs are very small, add 2)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix the bottom layer by melting the butter in the microwave for 30 seconds, add the cake mix and egg until well-mixed. It will have a dough-like texture. Line a jelly roll pan or cookie pan with sides with parchment paper and mash the dough into the bottom of the pan. If not using parchment paper, spray the bottom and sides of the pan with cooking spray. Don't spread the dough up the sides. This will be a thin layer.

In a mixing bowl, best the cream cheese and add the Confectioner's sugar and egg with the mixer until smooth and creamy. Pour mixture on top of the bottom layer. Make sure the the filling covers the bottom layer but it doesn't have to go all the way to the sides of the pan, it does need to completely cover the dough mixture.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes or until the filling is firm and lightly browned. Cracking on the top is normal. Allow to completely cool. Lift the entire pan of bars onto a cutting board and cut into squares. I like using a pizza cutter. Makes approximately 30 large or up to 45 smaller bars.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Tips for shopping at yard sales

Yard sales are fast becoming a year-round endeavor but we are in the season where they hit their peak. For everyone who does a little spring cleaning and decluttering, April and May are a great months to get rid of those items that are still good are never used.

I love to go to yard sales. I don't like to spend all day at it and I certainly don't like to waste gas so I set some parameters for myself and try doing a little homework and so far, it has been a great thing for me.

Here are my hints and tips for yard sale-ing (Some are mine and some tips from friends and family who have it down to a science.):

* Look online at the listings in your local paper, or better yet, buy the paper. They always have listings. Our local paper is I think the best yard sales advertise because they usually do  more planning.

* Check to see if you have a local websites that lets people list yard free yard sales. Ours is

* Using google maps or a GPS, map out your route the night before. I try to stay within a five mile radius of my house. Gas IS almost $4 a gallon, you know! When you get in the car, use a GPS to help you find the shortest route to the yard sale.

* If possible, go with a friend to share gas expenses.

* If a person is having a sale on Friday and Saturday, Friday is usually the best day. If they only are selling on Saturday, go early.

* Look for signs along your route. Sometimes people just put up a sign. I have heard that the more amateurish the sign, the better the yard sale because they probably will be cheaper. I don't know, but it makes sense.

* Moving sales usually are good because people will often sell cheap so they won't have to load items on a truck. I would feel the same way!

* Go as early as possible. The good stuff goes early, especially furniture.

* Set a time limit. I usually only go for an hour or two unless there are sales on every corner.

* Sometimes you can just look from the road and drive by, especially if you are looking for a particular item.

* Don't pay higher prices for things unless you absolutely want the item. Ask if people will take less and don't get upset if they don't. Remember, you are a guest in their yard. There will almost always be an identical item at another yard sale if you go to enough sales. If you only shop an occasional sale, you might want to pay a little more. Don't be afraid to make an offer. If the seller gets offended, it is not your fault, just smile, say thanks and move on. You will not be the only one making offers or expecting deals.

* Make a list of things you really want and always look for that item. You will eventually find it, amazingly enough.

* It is best to take some small bills with you because people don't always have change early.

* I think if someone doesn't have their stuff out when their yard sale starts, they probably don't have anything worthwhile. I never go back unless they tell me they have something really great I am looking for.

* Don't turn your nose up at clothes. I have found things with price tags still on them that I have enjoyed. I find plenty of gardening clothes.

* I will pay a little more for children's clothes if they are in really good shape.

* I usually don't buy shoes unless they are new or I feel I can disinfect them without causing damage to the shoe.

* Never, ever buy mattresses or bedding you can't wash at yard sales. Two words bed bugs. That should be reason enough. I am not sure I would even buy sofas or decorative pillows either. I don't buy anything that can't be washed.

* Always ask yourself if you have room for the item, if you really need it, or if it is really necessary.

* If it is lovely and expensive, I just pass it up. If someone tells me what they paid for it as an excuse to price it high, I just smile and move on. If I want to pay a big price, I will just buy it new. Those items should be sold on ebay or Craigslist, for Pete's sake!

* Things I love to buy at yard sales. Napkins, sheets in good condition that can be bleached, serving dishes, tea cups, pitchers, glass serving dishes, silver -- if I love it and think it is worth cleaning, stoneware for cooking, sometimes wood furniture -- though I always have to keep in mind I will need to refinish it, books, some clothes if they are in great shape, lamps, photo frames and wall hangings.

Happy Yard Sale-ing. Hope you find some great deals!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Food allergy? Here's a bakery for you

My friend Bonnie is always in the know. She finds so much great information, and lucky for me, she shoots me emails when she discovers new things. Here is one of those great finds that I haven't tried yet, but I know I will. It's a local Sharpsburg, Ga. bakery that will make gluten- and allergy-free treats. They serve decorated cakes and bakery items, made to order, so you can celebrate in style, and not have stomach cramps later.

The website for the baker is and I love some of the descriptions like, A Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake, kinda like Cookie Express, but better and Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Soy free, Egg Free and Nut Free! It sounds awfully tempting.

Evidently, the proprietress, Marianne Pizzitola, is a New York native who moved to Georgia and then discovered that her friend, also Italian, had Celiac disease. She began a quest to bring "bread back into her life." I think this is a great story and she seems dedicated to helping people with allergy problems.

I love it and I know I will eventually try her bakery. I have worked very hard to make my own sweet treats but there are times when using a bakery would be a huge advantage, since we all lead busy lives. Also, sometimes my recipes work great and sometimes they need some work and I don't always have time to bake them over and over until I perfect a recipe.

So if you try it before me, let me know what you think.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


This past weekend we havested some radishes. They weren't very large -- just the perfect size to enjoy in a salad or if you have a taste for them, as a snack. I know they come in all sizes and colors but we always plant a few of the red ones and enjoy them for their "crunch factor" in salads. The ones above are a bit washed out by the bright sunlight, but they are bright red.

They can be rather spicy, if not harvested when small, and they can be downright hot. I have eaten radishes that are sweet, if they are very fresh and very small. I have read they can be healthy for you and could possibly even lower cholesterol and benefit someone with high blood pressure. I just don't see how someone could eat enough radishes to get many health benefits. To me, they are a vegetable that says, "Spring is here," and should therefore be appreciated for the red and bright white coloring and crunchiness. The flavor -- well, it's not my favorite.

I always think of Scarlett O'Hara when I am pulling up radishes. In Gone With the Wind it was a radish she ate -- and obviously didn't appreciate in the scene from the movie where she lifts the lowly radish up to the sky and vows,  "As God is my witness, I'll never be hungry again"

Since that is one of my favorite scenes, I always plant Scarlett Globe radishes. Thankfully, I never worry about going hungry. I just think of the delicious salad I will make.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Big Garden Weekend

It doesn't look like much does it? This is the result of much of our work this weekend. Most of the work we did were crops that we planted in rows. Across the back -- corn and the variety is Silver Queen. We also planted some crookneck and zucchini squash. We decided to try corn in our upper garden this year and even though we want most of our squash in our new and improved (I hope) lower garden, it was too wet to plant there on Saturday. Bummer!

Kentucky wonder pole beans will grow on the right of a row of lettuce we planted. We grew them in a row because they needed to be staked. We left space for tomatoes on the right. In the center -- white potatoes. We already have a row of reds we planted in February. Hopefully we can keep the potatoes coming until later in the summer.

The little patch of green are the half row of shallots and the beets we recently planted. They are hard to see but to the left we will grow cucumbers. We planted some now and will save some for later.

This is the view of the garden I have been showing you for a while, now. We did pick several of the big heads of lettuce for weekend salads.

The cabbage looks good.

More lettuce is heading and will be ready when we are.

The English peas, sugar peas and Alaskan sugar snaps are looking good. I am thinking peas for Easter. To the right we have carrots. We need to thin and baby the carrots but I think it is appropriate to plant the peas and carrots together.

The peas has a lovely bloom.

The shallots are looking great and I hope this will be the start of something. We love to cook with shallots and they are very expensive. I think they will multiply and we can keep growing them until we have enough to use in our cooking.

Our best looking spinach ever.

The leeks are in front of the garlic. They sure need manure and mulch.

We have some lettuce we were trying to grow in a wide row. Instead we have a zigzag row of mixed greens. I hope we have lettuce for a while.

We also have arugula in with the lettuce. I guess you can see we really need to much everything well. We would have already done it but we didn't need to hold the water in as much because it is a wetter season. Weeds are only beginning so  now will be the time to concentrate on mulching.

That's the tour. I will admit we worked hard and are a bit tired today but I think it will be worth it. We have quite a few things to plant. The plan is to replace the cool season plants with warm season plants after they are harvested. A great beginning.