roasted beets

Roasted beets

These sublime beauties are a cinch to prepare.

Really.

In years past I’ve grown and harvested many, many beets;

veggies

though last years erratic weather prevented an abundant crop, sadly, I had only a few…

beet in ground

so, off to the farmers market I go!

unwashed beets

Wash, scrub (if necessary) and remove green tops. (Steam or saute greens with a bit of olive oil, don’t just throw those beauties away…)

beets in sink

tops and bottoms removed

I usually cut off the tops and tails of each beet. These beets I felt I needed to cut off a bit more than usual…if they are freshly harvested, I cut a much smaller area…

close-up before packing

Dampen each beet slightly with a bit of water and then wrap in foil.

wrapping each

I prefer wrapping each beet individually, though you could also prepare a foil packet and roast a few together. The key to either preparation is to be sure the foil is sealed. You want to be sure to keep all those lovely juices in!

Length of time depends on the size and freshness of the beet. Smaller beets take less time, larger beets, more. Also, the fresher the beet, the less time is takes to roast…smaller beets can take up to 25 minutes, while larger ones, up to an hour.

peeled and cubed

A beet is roasted once it can be easily pierced with a fork or tip of a small knife.

Now, you ask, “At what temperature do you roast?” Well, this can also fluctuate…beets are flexible with temperature…so, feel free to roast your beets while the rest of dinner is baking away, or on their own…beets are happiest between between 325 degrees F. and 425 degrees F.

If it’s only beets your roasting, then place those lovelies in a 425 degree F pre-heated oven.

I usually roast them in my cast iron skillet, but any oven safe pan will do. The foil keeps all the steam in, thus, all the resulting juices too…making clean-up a snap!

Do be careful while opening each packet as juice may spill out…beautiful deep purple juice. Staining juice…

Once cooled enough to touch, peeling is so easy that the skins simply slip off. If you don’t mind having your hands stained a crimson red for awhile, then by all means, slide those skins off with your bare hands. If not,  you may prefer using gloved hands or you can also use a paring knife. Granted, using a paring knife will not prevent staining, it’s just another method…

sliced with salt

Regretfully, I do not have any photos depicting the ease of slipping off the skins…by the time each beet had cooled enough to hold, the sun had set. My natural light  had disappeared…

But, the following day, the sun shone bright and I enjoyed these lovelies sliced and sprinkled with a smidgen of kosher salt as well as in a salad of fresh spinach, goat cheese and walnuts.

beet and spinach salad

Simple. Easy. Delicious.

Why not roast a few today?

Enjoy!

out with the ‘old’, in with the ‘new’…

I thought I’d end this year by talking about my favorite place – the freebie barn!

The freebie barn, swap shop, transfer station, call it what you will, it’s a fabulous resource!

Granted, not all transfer stations allow ‘shopping’, and that’s a shame. Mine does and I call it the ‘freebie barn’, though the sign on the outside calls it, the ‘swap shop’…

Why not set aside a space for residents to drop off unwantedbut good stuff – for others to use…instead of trucking it away, to be dumped into a large hole in the ground (planet earth), to only eventually leach out into everything…? Why not invest in a ‘swap shop’ area?

Wouldn’t a space such as this help a town save on expenditures for removal of said stuff? All the while allowing residents to utilize perfectly good stuff someone else simply tired of – thus, maximizing the re-use of already consumed goods, which in turn minimizes consumerism? Which, ultimately, lessens our impact on the world around us?

I realize a resource such as this improves things ever so slightly, yet, it’s a step in the right direction…how can anyone disagree with that?

Every piece of ‘junk’ removed by another resident (recycled) vs. an outsourced company, is so much better for everyone…why not have an area designated for this?

Finn and I visit our transfer station once a week (at minimum). It’s the place we take our trash and recyclables as well our time to visit the ‘Swap Trailer.’ I love this place.

I’ve picked up such cool stuff here.

And not only is everything being recycled, it’s also free. Free and recycled. What a fun combination!

I also realize not everyone shares my sentiment about re-using, and that’s ok. Everyone’s different. If you don’t want to ‘pick’, don’t.  But do drop off your good stuff, versus just chucking it in the trash. Don’t have a local transfer station, why not consider donating?

I’ve shared photos of things that I’ve found over the years, though I’ve never shown the space in which I find my treasures…it’s quite the place…Here’s one of the signs viewed upon entering.

swap trailer

enter at own risk

And here, is another…

The swap shop is a trailer. A tractor trailer, an 18 wheeler kind of trailer, but on the ground.

One end is open, with double doors. Each door proclaiming a sign…that’s the entrance.

Various shelving is found along the two long walls…

shelf of stuff

books on shelf

And things are piled in, around, and on these shelves…clothing, shoes, utensils, ice skates, skis, furniture, toys, books, candle stick holders, glassware, dishes, books, small appliances, instruments, picture frames, baskets, cameras, rugs, framed prints, tools, lamps, curtains, baking pans, gardening tools, boots, antiques, mirrors – are a few of the things one might find on any given day…the list is endless – seriously.

I have found SO many great things here!

Granted, some things really should be trashed, like the badly chipped vase viewed in the photo above…though, that’s my opinion…I guess someone could argue it’s still usable – I wouldn’t use it, but that’s my opinion… who’s to say what’s trash and what isn’t?

One man’s trash is another’s treasure!

You just never know what you might find…

tic tac toast

mask

Below are a few more recent acquisitions…love ’em, especially the metal ice cube trays…and the vintage pyrex mixing bowls!

metal ice cube trays pyrex bowls + metal mixers

turquoise pyrex

muffin tins + baking sheet

I wish I could have taken this (imagine it, cleaned, painted and with new hardware) from the outdoor covered area – too bad I had no where to store it! What a sideboard it could have made!!

side board

Do you like to recycle and go ‘junking’? If so, I’d love to hear from you!

All the best to everyone in 2014, may it be a prosperous and peaceful year for all!

Happy New Year!

Enjoy!

more muffins!

Muffins. Who doesn’t like a muffin? OK, I’m sure someone, somewhere doesn’t like muffins or perhaps has never even heard of a muffin, but for me, I love muffins. Not all the time mind you, but when a situation calls for muffins, muffins I will bake.

muffins under glass

It was our familys’ turn to provide snack for Finns’ classroom (once a month, each family is responsible for providing snack for 25 students), and since cranberry season is upon us, cranberry orange muffins only made sense.

Prefer blueberries? Check this recipe out!

Nuts (of any kind) are not allowed at Finns school (nut allergies), so I couldn’t use them, but if I could have, walnuts would have been my choice. The combination of cranberries and orange zest scream for walnuts…at least in my opinion…so if I could have, I would have added walnuts!

The tart sweetness of the cranberry, the pop of orange zest, combined with the velvety crunch of the walnuts (or not), make this recipe irresistible this time of year…

Assemble your ingredients, blend, mix and bake. Muffins in about an hour. Why not?

muffin on paper

If the thought of cranberries and orange zest makes you swoon, why not try this fancier version for holiday get togethers – Orange cranberry cake!

finished cranberry-orange cake

Enjoy.

Cranberry Orange Muffins

Print this recipe!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Ingredients;

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. baking soda

1 beaten egg

1 2/3 cups milk

1/4 cooking oil (I used olive oil)

2 tsp. finely shredded orange peel (or any orange – like citrus fruit – I used clementine rind)

1 cup coarsely chopped cranberries

3/4 cup chopped almonds, pecans or walnuts (optional)

Here’s what to do;

In large mixing bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda.

Blend in finely shredded orange peel.

Create a well in center of dry mixture.

In medium mixing bowl combine the egg, milk and oil.

Add egg mixture to the ‘well’ in the dry mixture.

Stir just until moistened – this is the key for fluffy muffins – do not over mix.

Bake for about 40 minutes, or until fork comes out clean. Rest in muffin tins until able to touch, then remove and allow to cool on rack.

Enjoy immediately or freeze for another day.

muffin on plate

 Enjoy!

potato leek soup

I’d never grown leeks before, but thought I’d try…and I’m so glad I did. Mass produced leeks lack, what all mass produced veggies lack, and that’s taste.

my leeks 1

Backyard leeks are incredibly powerful,

Less is more with these beauties…

my leeks 2

Not a gardener? Well then stop by your local farmers market and pick up a few…or your local health food store…or the organic produce aisle of your local supermarket.

The difference is incredible and well worth the expense…see for yourself.

Potato Leek Soup

Print this recipe

potatoes, leeks, onion

1.5 lbs. potatoes

3/4 to 1 lb. leeks – chopped

1/2 onion – chopped

4-5 cups vegetable or chicken stock…whichever you prefer…

juice from 1-2 lemons

olive oil

a couple tablespoons of butter

salt and pepper to taste

That’s it.

Here’s what to do;

First, wash and peel the potatoes, then chop.

Second, clean each leek, chop white parts only.

cleaned leeks

trimmed leeks

Peel and chop onion.

choped onion

Splash enough olive oil to coat bottom of a heavy bottomed cook pot.

Heat over medium heat.

Add chopped onion and a bit of butter…

caramelized onion

Saute until browned.

Add chopped leeks…

chopped leek

Toss in a bit more butter…don’t be afraid…

Saute for a few more minutes.

Add chopped potatoes.

potatoes and onions

Toss and coat with buttery, browned onions/leeks…

Add a bit more butter…

Mix well.

9.adding stock

Pour in stock.

Stir.

Add a good pinch of coarse salt and freshly ground pepper. Stir.

Finish with freshly squeezed lemon juice…

Cover and simmer for about an hour.

slighly pureed in pot

From here it’s up to you;

Do you prefer a pureed version of potato leek soup? If so, then mix potato and leeks in a blender, with a bit of stock…keep blending in small batches until desired consistency is met…add more salt and pepper to taste…

Or, if that’s not your style, why not enjoy it, as is…?

Final option.

Utilize a hand mixer and puree only some…thus creating a smashed up soup, that’s what I did.

Whichever you choose…

Finish with ringlets of freshly chopped leeks (greenish part) and possibly even a splash of cream…

potato leek soup served

Serve with freshly baked bread.

freshly baked bread

Enjoy.

ooey, gooey, slime

Halloween is tomorrow, here in the states, and we’ve been busy!

Visiting ‘haunted’ places, thinking about costume design (below, Finn working on the beginnings of the creepy, hairy, scary, slimy, monster costume – red marks on his cheeks, ‘scars’….),

costume design

chattering teeth, witches and warlocks and of course ghosts and all things ‘creepy’…below, consignment find ($3) – Mr. Bones…I prefer the homemade costume myself…

consignment skeleton

On another note, while we were out and about one day Finn asked if we could get a few skeletons, skulls and rats – ‘creepy stuff mamma’, he asked…

My reply,

‘We have creepy stuff. Up in the attic’…(I had a few boxes of Halloween decorations that I had made and bought for a party we had years ago…)

So, at Finns urging, we turned our sunroom into the ‘creepy’ room! He is so into Halloween this year. Being almost four, he ‘gets’ it now. We’re already planning next years party…

halloween fun

Who knew spiders, skulls, glow in the dark skeletons and big black toy rats could be so much fun! I decided to cover the furniture with black fabric and now our room is fit for a vampire or two…

skull, spiders and cauldron of bones

crows

We also decided we should make some slime…green, gooey, slime, it seemed like the perfect ending to an afternoon of creepiness…plus, I was wanting to experiment with ideas for the ‘slime’ part of the creepy, hairy, scary, slimy monster costume…and what almost four year old doesn’t like to get his/her hands into a bit of green ‘slime’….

hands in slime

Have fun making it yourself!

Here’s what you’ll need and how to do it;

SLIME
1/2 cup of glue (non toxic)
1/2 cup of water
several drops of food coloring
1 cup water
1 teaspoon Borax

1. Mix the glue and water together

2. Add a couple of drops of food coloring

3. In a separate bowl mix 1 cup water and 1 teaspoon of Borax

4. Add the glue mix to the borax mix

5. Stir the mixture until it thickens …

Voila’ – SLIME!

Hope you have a creepy, scary, fun and safe halloween….

ooey gooey slime

Enjoy!

re-using flowers

My gardens have taken a back seat in my life lately, but just last week I said to myself, that’s it. It’s time to organize and clean-up the front flower beds.

It’s time to trim away the browning greenery, cut down the lilies gone by, pull out the ever encroaching weeds… in general – tidy up the flowers that are still growing and keep my front entrance looking bright and cheery. But what to do about the gaps left behind from annuals gone past…?

‘Aha’, I thought to myself.

I have some beautiful French Marigolds in the back garden – why not simply transplant a few up front?

So that’s what Finn and I did.

And while I don’t have any photos of the actual transplanting – it’s a delicate balance working with a three year old, a shovel and the roots of a plant  – I did manage to take a few photos of the front garden now…

front garden

marigolds filled in

This lovely stopped by while we were working…

monarch

And these buzzing beauties are still around…and loving all the marigolds…

busy bees

And while we did leave a few marigolds in the back garden, (we still have swiss chard, gourds and leeks to harvest), the color the transplants added to the front was just what they were needing! The back and front gardens benefit from these fall beauties.

And I didn’t have to buy a thing.

If your in need of a change in your flower beds, or want to start a new bed, think about utilizing plants/bulbs elsewhere in your yard.

Who doesn’t like free flowers?

Enjoy the weekend!

recycling at its best

Recycling.

A lot of people do it.

And, unfortunately, a lot of people, don’t. Why one wouldn’t is beyond me…

Anyway, I am someone who does. I love recycling, repurposing and general re-use of good quality items. Why not right?

My town has a brilliant concept – it’s called a swap trailer. It’s a place where townspeople can drop off unwanted but good items, for another townsperson to take home and use. Brilliant.

The photos you see above are some the recent finds I’ve scored over the past few months…to see more treasures, go here.

The swap trailer is conveniently located at our local transfer station…so people can drop off their recycling (cardboard, cans, bottles, etc.) their trash as well as their unwanted stuff.

I love our swap trailer (aka freebie barn). I have found some great things over the years, so much so that the NYTimes took notice…it’s still surreal that my house was in the NYTimes…

Regardless of who takes notice or not, it’s a resource which is beneficial for people of all income brackets as well as the planet. Simple. Brilliant. Fun.

Try starting a swap shop of sorts in your town…you just never know what you may find!

Enjoy

everyone should have fresh cut flowers

I was going to write about Finn’s first day of school (pre-school, that is), which was two days ago…or about the fact that I am now (and have been since early May) working, at night (to supplement our income) as a server (aka, waitress) at a super fun restaurant, with great people – but it’s still waitressing…in addition to keeping up with the house, the laundry, our business, the dishes…phew.

Days are long and the nights are late…mornings now begin only a few hours (or so it feels) after I’ve (finally) fallen asleep…oh the conundrum of working (or not working) as a mom.

Who knew?

But instead of sharing more about my busy life (I’m sure you can relate!), I decided to talk about the little luxuries growing throughout my garden and surrounding my home – my flowers. Flowers I started from seed months ago or planted as bulbs, years ago…

flowers in the garden

They are simply spectacular right now. And all that beauty cost me next to nothing to start – granted there is a time investment, but it’s oh so worth it!

sunroom

It makes me so happy when I look out my windows or pull into my driveway and see a variety of colorful petals and leaves looking back at me…especially when the hummingbirds are humming about…do you see them, there are two!

two hummingbirds

Morning glories, sunflowers, nasturtiums, lilies, beach roses, delphiniums, dahlias, poppies – all started for a few dollars…

nastursiums

zinnia

galdiolas 2

the time invested starting these little beauties is nothing compared to what I’ve gained – and will continue to gain…

a bunch of flowers

I’m already thinking about next years plantings…

sed starting packets

So when I spotted some discounted seed starting pots I had to pick them up – they were only .60 each, how could I not?

That’s 150 seedling beginnings for only $1.80!

Granted, I’ve used used egg cartons in the past, but my ‘egg guy’ has asked us to start returning them to help keep his costs down…so I do. With that in mind, I couldn’t pass this bargain up!

So while our household income has increased (slightly), so have our expenses (Finns education)…every purchase has a purpose (if not a dual one)… Whether it be for necessity or fun, everything is accounted for. But that doesn’t equate nothingness…

Living within your means or more appropriately, on a budget, doesn’t have to mean living without life’s little luxuries….grow your own flowers and enjoy freshly cut flowers all summer through!

It’s the simple things that make life, lovely…the first day of school, watching your child play on the playground with his new school mates and flowers in the garden…

finn at school

flowers in the garden

enjoy.

summertime potato salad

Potato salad is synonymous with summer in New England (well, at least in my world it is)…

Potato salad and Maine lobster.

Potato salad and hotdogs.

Potato salad and burgers.

Potato salad and veggie burgers.

Potato salad and kabobs.

Potato salad and grilled fish.

Potato salad and just about any sandwich you can think of…

Potato salad.

Need I say more?

Yum.

While I have yet to grow potatoes (on next years list); green beans I’ve mastered…

green beans I've mastered

green beans are what give this potato salad its’ crisp loveliness as well as its’ freshness…

Green beans and lemon juice to be precise.

squeezed lemon

Lemons are another favorite of mine. I love using lemon juice instead of vinegar…plus, lemon juice is so good for us – it’s alkaline (not acidic ) and high in vitamin C – both of which are immune builders…

Back to potatoes and green beans.

Combine the two with a bit of mayo, lemon juice, salt and pepper and you have the makings for a delicious (and nutritious) potato salad.

Enjoy on its’ own or serve as a side to a number of mains…

Potato salad with green beans and onion (preferably, red onion)

print this recipe!

*adapted from the cook book, The Frugal Gourmet

Ingredients;

2 pounds potatoes (russet, gold, yukon), skin on

potatoes in white bowl

3/4 fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into 1″ pieces (this is one recipe I do not recommend using the frozen counterpart)

cut green beans

2 tablespoons olive oil (for blanching)

1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion (white or yellow onion could suffice (as I did here), though, I do recommend red onion – visually and flavor wise, red onion is what this recipe aught to have!)

2 hard boiled eggs

For the dressing;

dressing ingrediants

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (olive oil will suffice too)

1/4 mayonnaise

Juice of 2 lemons

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

salt and pepper

What to do;

Place the potatoes in a pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil uncovered.

Then simmer 30-40 minutes (depending upon type of potato used) or until very tender when pierced with a knife.

Carefully drain and allow to cool.

Once cool, peel and cut the potatoes into 1/2″ cubes.

potatoes cubed

While potatoes are simmering away, blanch the cut beans for about 3-4 minutes in a pot of boiling water (I just use a heavy bottomed skillet, filled 3/4 with water, add the beans and then toss quickly with tongs…) with a pinch of salt and 2 tablespoons olive oil.

blanching green beans

Quickly drain and rinse the beans under cold running water, to stop the cooking…you want them cooked, yet crisp.

Add to the cut potatoes, shredded egg, and onions.

ingrediants added

Prepare the dressing, pour over veggies and egg,

pour dressing

combine dressing with ingrediants

toss gently and finish with freshly chopped parsley, a pinch or two more of salt and freshly ground pepper.

finish with parsely

Enjoy.

plump pancakes

Plump with fruit that is.

Raspberries and bananas to be exact.

And you won’t find any baking powder or baking soda in this recipe – we like pancakes, dense and moist…

No fluff here.

Cakes – thin, yet plump with fresh or frozen fruit.

Stack high and top with a bit of butter and then drizzle warmed maple syrup over top ’till it drips down the sides…

stacked high

enjoy with homemade homefries and breakfast is served.

homefries

Pancakes with raspberries and bananas

Print this recipe!

Ingredients;

2 cups flour

2 cups buttermilk (can substitute regular milk)

1 Tbs. melted butter (or olive oil)

2 eggs (beaten)

1 tsp. vanilla extract

mini pinch of salt

1-2 cups fresh or frozen fruit

What to do;

Add buttermilk, tiny pinch of salt, melted butter and eggs to flour. Mix until smooth.

Add vanilla, stir

pancake batter

Blend in fruit

How to cook;

Heat skillet over medium to high heat and coat with butter.

Before butter starts browning or bubbling, pour one ladleful of batter onto heated skillet. Continue as space allows.

Let each cake sit (and cook) until little bubbles begin to appear on the top side of cake. Once a few bubbles have ‘popped’, flip gently to the other side…and cook opposite side.

Pancakes on griddle

Keep warm in oven until all batter has been used…cover slightly to prevent drying out, though not entirely, to prevent ‘sogginess’ from trapped moisture.

If you make too many (is that possible?), just freeze and enjoy on another day…what fun!

stacked high

Fun fact; pretty flower plate picked up at my local freebie barn (actually an entire set). What?

Have a great weekend!