Sunday, September 15, 2013

How Does Your Garden Grow?

From a very young age, I remember working beside my mom and grandma in the garden. I remember planting seeds, weeding, harvesting, and canning. I developed an appreciation for food that can be grown in your own back yard.

Fast forward 20+ years when I finally had a house with a yard. The first house we rented in the woods had great sunshine, but lots of bugs. The few times we planted a little vegetable garden, it fell victim to disease, or bugs, or rabbits. That, however, didn't stop me from getting excited around January each year in anticipation of a spring vegetable garden.

We moved into town almost 2 years ago and were blessed with a large, fenced, back yard. We are grateful for the many, mature trees that provide shade, even though they do leave us with just a small spot for the vegetable garden. This year, I was determined to grow some vegetables.

We started with a small plot that had a significant amount of sunlight. We bought some fencing from Lowes, rented a tiller (after little success with our own little tiller), and spent a morning at a local nursery picking out our plants. Here  is what the initial product looked like.
I was (and still am) so proud of that little garden. On the left is a row of tomato plants. The middle 2 rows are a variety of green peppers, chili peppers, and Anaheim peppers. The row on the right is zucchini. There's also some mint and dill on the front side. It didn't look like much to begin with, but I went out to look at it every single day. Unfortunately, we were hit by some heavy rain and flooding early this summer, and my simple, little garden took a hit. I thought we would lose all the zucchini and peppers, and the tomatoes seemed to be stunted. I considered pulling out the plants that seemed just a little too yellow to yield any produce, but we stuck with it and let  nature do her thing.
By July, our garden made a comeback, and it appeared that the only loss wee suffered were 2 pepper plants. Every thing else came back. We figured out that we weren't watering it enough and set up our sprinkler so it would be an easy daily task during the heat of the summer. Here is how our garden progressed.
When we started seeing vegetables, we were even more motivated to tend to our garden. We couldn't wait to eat some home grown veggies.
And finally, the vegetables came, and then kept coming, and coming, and coming.

Now, it mid September, our plants are heavy with mature vegetables ready to be picked. The picture above shows just one day's worth of vegetables (and we purposefully left some tomatoes on the vine, because we were worried that we couldn't eat them all). We were able to give some away and still had plenty to enjoy ourselves. We can't wait until next year, when we plan to expand our garden and hopefully double the number of plants. Our small little garden this year produced enough to keep us eating fresh veggies throughout the summer. My goal next year is to can some of those vegetables so we have them through the fall! 
While we're on the topic of things that grow, I thought this would be a good post to share some pictures of our flower garden as well.

I love the colors of summer and the feeling of my fingers in the dirt. Gardening has the ability to stimulate all of our sense which makes it such a fulfilling hobby. I'm sad to have to move my garden indoors when cooler weather hits. Unfortunately, I am really bad with indoor plants. I guess I'll just have to start planning for next year! 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Jalapeno Popper Dip

Football season has arrived. There's something about the first games of the season that makes me want to scour cookbooks for crockpot recipes, slow simmering soups, and yummy appetizers to munch on all Saturday and Sunday during the games.

This dip is inspired by a recipe I found on Pinterest, here.  For our family, who is trying to be gluten and dairy free most of the time, this recipe breaks all the rules.

Here goes...

Jalapeno Popper Dip

As all good dips start, dice and cook a 1 pound package of bacon until crisp. Remove from skillet and drain.

For the dip base, combine 2 packages of cream cheese with 1 cup of mayo.

Dice and seed 6 jalapeno peppers. When I make this again, I will leave in more seeds for some heat. If you take out all the seeds, there's no heat at all in this dip.

To the base, add the diced jalapenos, bacon, 1/4 cup diced green onions, 1 cup of shredded cheddar, and 1/2 cup of shredded mozzarella. Mix well and transfer to a baking dish. I used a 9 X 9 square dish.

If you want a cold dip, you can stop right here. It tasted like a regular cheeseball with a little kick. It would taste great as a dip with nothing else.

If you want a hot dip, you can bake it at this point, or add a topping of one cup crushed Ritz crackers and 1/2 cup melted butter. I did it with the topping, but think it would be just as good without it.

Finally, bake at 350 degrees F for 20-25 minutes. Eat with crackers. It makes plenty so it would be perfect for a tailgate or football party. Enjoy!!