Monday, July 25, 2011

A little gardening adventure

So a few years ago, a couple of neighbors decided to build a community garden.  They asked the builder that owned the lots if he cared and the answer was no - build a garden and if the lot sells -well then no more garden.  The neighbors applied for a city grant - which allowed them to hire a master gardener to help with the layout of the garden.  We soon got involved.  Each year we add a bit more to the garden.  And it is a lot of fun for the kids to run down and pick food out of the garden and eat it.  But I still wanted my own for some reason.  And so last year I made a straw bale garden. Haven't heard of that before?  Well basically you just use straw bales instead of garden beds.  You literally just plant the seeds in the straw and out they pop.  Some use a lot of dirt on top of the straw to add nutrients.  And some say you don't have to.  But you do need to do is water the crud out of it as straw obviously doesn't hold a lot of water.  So I had 2 straw bales.  I planted a couple of peppers, a tomato plant, squash, and cantaloupe.  And the results - 2 kabocha squashes.  And that wasn't even the "plant" I put it!  It was supposed to be butternut.  So this year, the husband built me 2 boxes.  We put the straw from last year's garden in it, some dirt, and some organic mulch (aka -cow manure) in it.  Put a few plants in there.  And this is the result.

The dang things are growing like there is no tomorrow.  The plant on the left - that is one single tomato plant.  It has a couple hundred tomatoes on it.  And the giant thing taking over the yard.  One squash plant. I keep having to unwind it from the tomato plants.  It has about 10 squash on it so far.  And the pots on the far right.  One is an eggplant - but I am not sure if it will grow.  It was next to the giant tomato plant and I had to move it to give it a chance.  And the other pot?  Well it is a little basil plant.  We bought basil from the store - one of those "living herbs" where it still has the roots attached.  I ate the basil and thought I would see if it would grow if planted.  And it did.  Pretty neat way to recycle!  And hidden in all of this is a pepper plant, a bunch of beets, and a cantaloupe.

One giant tomato plant - no match for the little cage.

The squash plant that is taking over the yard.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Once a month cooking

Have you ever heard of "once a month cooking"?   I hadn't until recently when my friend Tami blogged about it.  The idea is that you do a massive cooking day (or two) and make things in bulk.  In the end you will have cooked enough meals for a month, and they will all be in your freezer needing minimal prep to be able to eat.

Well I thought I would give it a go.  Now I didn't do the full blown craziness and have meals for a month.  We don't need breakfast or lunches, but having quick dinners is a key.  The main website Tami used and which I have referenced is Once a Month Mom.  She gives you a full ingredient list, step by step directions on how to prepare everything, and then how to finish everything off.  But any recipe you like, you could double or triple, and then divide and freeze.  I usually make 3-4 items at one time.  So about 12 meals.

The nice part is, say you need a 1/4 onion for this recipe.  Well in our household, I would usually forget about the rest of the onion before it went bad.  That won't happen when you cook once a month.  The hardest part is finding vegetarian recipes.  But Once a Month Mom just started posting vegetarian meals.  And I have found a few others around the web.  But we have been doing this all summer, and I think I have found some great meals!  The best part - I usually try to cook every other Sunday because we then have someone that cleans our house every other Monday.  And so when I make a total greasy mess of the kitchen, I don't worry about it.  And when we go to eat during the week, there is usually just one pot to clean!  Love, love, love that!

So here are some pictures and links to what we have tried.
In general, we have learned not to freeze the pasta in dishes - soaks up all the liquid and loses flavor.

Fire roasted vegetable pasta - very good.
Buffalo "chicken" bagels - never made it to the freezer - very good and so quick.
Sushi salad - surprisingly good.  Make with carrots, cucumber, avocado.  No "crab".
Mexican verde casserole - ok.
Mexican cornbread casserole - one of our favorites and I was so hesitant to make it because I thought I
wouldn't like it.
Black Beans & Quinoa with Chipotle Raspberry Sauce - had high hopes for it. I think I would freeze the sauce separate from the dish as it all soaked in and lost the flavor.
Polenta Gratin with Spinach & Wild Mushrooms - awesome! I love polenta.
Vegetarian Beef Stroganoff Recipe - love this! Freeze without the noodles.
Breakfast cookies - it's basically a muffin top. So, so good. And I had to make mine with chocolate, cause you know, I am obsessed with chocolate.

Wel I am sure I have made others, but you get the idea. I also have been making my own "beef crumbles". Way better than the store bought stuff, and way cheaper. And when it says to make an 8x8 pan, I have been dividing into 2 bread load pans as that is the perfect size for us. Then I put the other bread pan in the freezer, once frozen I remove and place in a zip lock. Everything else is frozen in a zip lock bag lying flat. Once frozen, I stand them up right in a crate. I have two crates - the top one has one of everything in it. The bottom one has everything else. As I pull one from the top, I move one from the bottom up to the top. Seems to be working!

Chipotle raspberry quinoa
Mexican Verde Casserole

Fire roasted vegetables

Going into freezer
The cooking mess
Breakfast cookies

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Some really cute pictures

So blogging is hard.  I simply can't do it everyday like when I started.  But maybe a couple of times a week.  So I will try again.

But for now, some really cute pics I took this weekend.

She is going to break some hearts.

He's going to melt some hearts.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

How much does that diaper insert hold?

So have you ever wondered how much a diaper insert can hold?  Well maybe you haven't, but I have.  And because we own a kitchen scale, and I cloth diaper, and I am a science geek - I thought what the heck.  Let's try these out.  So I placed a bowl of water on the scale and then dunked each insert into the water.  I let it drip back into the bowl until the insert was soaking but no longer dripping.  I figured this would be a rough estimate of how much the different inserts could hold.  And I was a bit surprised by what I found.

So here are my super precise (hah -but at least done equally for each insert) measurements.

GoGreen microfiber insert: 240 grams (8 oz)
Size 1 Thirsties duo insert-just the MF half: 125 gm (~4 oz)
BumGenius MF insert: 310 gm (10.5 oz)

And here is a caveat about the microfiber- it soaks a ton but as soon as you touch it/put pressure on it, the water leaks out.  So it is not really as absorbent as I measure.  The BG held 10.5 oz, but once I compressed it just a bit to the point where it wouldn't compress super easy - it was holding 215 gm (7.5 oz).

And now for the hemp and bamboo.
Size 1 Thirsties duo insert-hemp half: 100 gm (3.5 oz)
Thirsties large hemp insert: 170 gm (~6 oz)
Joey Bunz size medium: 385 gm (13 oz)
Bamboo Terry Motherease Sandy's insert size large: 170 gm (~6 oz)
Hugga Buns Bamboo flat: 300 gm (10 oz)
Hemp Babies doubler (hemp/cotton mix): 110 gm (3.5 oz)

And the hemp and bamboo didn't really compress.  So what I measured is close to what you get for absorbency.

And for fun.  I bought some microfiber cleaning cloths from Lowes.  I read that some people just use these cleaning cloths for inserts.  So I thought I would see how they measure up.
Quickie Clean tan dusting/polishing: 260 gm (8.5 oz)
Quickie Clean yellow polishing: 220 gm (7.5 oz)
Quick Clean green kitchen/bath: 230 gm (7.5 oz)

And the interesting thing - the cleaning rags didn't compress nearly as easily as the MF diaper inserts.  If you tri-folded them, the dusting or polishing rags would actually still be thinner than a normal MF insert. And they cost $2.80 each. So now I may start using them!  I did notice that they bleed a bit, so I will wash them a ton just so they don't transfer color to the white inserts.

So now for bedtime, we use a joey bunz or a hugger buns with a GoGreen MF insert and no more leaks.  Or combine a few of the others to get about 20 oz of holding power.

And that's my experiment.