Monday, May 30, 2011

Veggies and Flowers on A $50 Budget


I am not a gardener by any stretch of the imagination. I do like to plant flowers and vegetables, but I don't start seeds indoors, don't have the slightest idea what a cold-frame is and have to look most plant names up online. (I find it hard to commit our zone number to memory.)

One thing I do know is that every summer I feel like I spend loads and loads of money mostly on annuals just for them to die in a few months. So this summer, I decided to put myself on a vegetation budget of $50 and plant all of my flowers and herbs from seed. So far, so good...

Prepping the Veggie Garden


Each year, Memorial Day weekend signals it's time to plant the veggies. Why Memorial Day? Because my mom once told me that's the time to do it and I don't argue with her! This year, I had a lot of weed pulling to accomplish before I could do any sort of planting.


After a little hard work, I cleared the garden and tilled the soil and got it ready for planting. It didn't take too long at all.


I laid out my plants to see where everything would fit.



This year, we're planting:
  • Purple heirloom tomatoes ( I am SO excited about these!)
  • Red heirloom tomatoes
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Tomatillos (This is a new one, but husband loves salsa verde, so I thought I'd give it a shot!)
  • Red peppers
  • Green peppers
  • Yellow peppers
  • Cayenne peppers
  • Zucchini
  • Cucumbers


Right when I literally got the last plant in, it started pouring and didn't stop all day long. So I'm looking at it like I didn't have to water at all -- nature did it for me!

Here are some of the veggies up close:




Watching the Flower Seeds Grow


Last year I planted Zinnias from seed and had huge success. They were the most beautiful flowers I planted and what I spent the least on. So this summer, I decided to try planting all my annuals from seed. Above, is a container with Cosmos seedlings. I also planted some wildflower seeds around the downspout drains and electric meter (in the hopes of hiding it.)


I again planted more Zinnias in an attempt to replay my success from last year.


And here are more Zinnias in containers to see just how they would grow.



I planted some Five O-Clock flowers in a few containers too. I've never seen these flowers in person, so I am excited to see just what these end up looking like.


And then of course, one perennial from many -- my pink cone flowers that I just adore!



PSST! You might notice the new copyright (athomewithginac.blogspot.com) on my pictures. Well, I am excited to announce we are moving addresses and will soon be leaving A Day in the Life and miketandginac.blogspot behind for good and making a new home at athomewithginac.blogspot.com. We'll let you when the move is final!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Frosted Chocolate Chip Snack Cakes


Well, our first year of preschool has concluded. Sniff, sniff. What a great experience it was for all of us -- such a lovely school, with great teachers and staff. Most of all, our three-year-old (almost four-year-old egads!) had an awesome time learning new things and experiencing people and places she wouldn't have otherwise. Now on to pre-k...

The commencement was filled with songs from the kids and sweet treats to boot. And I wanted to make something as sweet as my girl. This recipe is based off a pound cake recipe in the Martha Stewart Baking Handbook.

Frosted Chocolate Chip Snack Cakes

Makes 36 Mini Snack Cakes

Ingredients:

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3 eggs
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
Vanilla frosting (I used prepackaged)
Sprinkles

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a mini muffin pan with papers. Set aside.


In a small bowl, mix together flour and salt. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, cream the butter, sugar and vanilla until smooth and fluffy with a handheld mixer. Add the eggs, one at a time. Fold in the flour mixture and mix until just combined.


Fold in the mini chocolate chips.


Using a small cookie scoop, fill muffins to the near-top.


Bake in the oven for 13 - 18 minutes or until tops are golden brown and the edges just start to pull away from the sides of the pan. Cool on wire rack.

While snack cakes cool, prepare frosting. I use a candy decorating squeeze bottle to frost these, but I cut off a little bit of the top to make a wider hole.


I just scoop the frosting inside the bottle and then lightly squeeze to frost and then shake a spoonful of sprinkles over the tops.


I store these in an airtight container in the refrigerator. I take them out a good half-hour before serving.


These are extra special treats for kids (and husbands) and pair well with a big glass of milk!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Grilled Bacon-Wrapped Pork Tenderloin Medallions


For quite some time, I've been dying to wrap something in bacon and cook it. I've been seeing people on the Food Network wrap steaks and chicken -- basically anything that can be wrapped -- with bacon and cook it for years. And for some reason I really wanted to do it with pork tenderloin. So yesterday I finally decided to take the plunge and wrap some pork with bacon.

Wait. What?

There was a split second during my entire thought process on Tuesday afternoon when I paused and thought, "Hmmm, is that gross?" Pork wrapped in pork? (I always hate around Thanksgiving when you see recipes for Turducken. I think that is so nasty and it really truly grosses me out.) But I brushed it aside, explaining away my concerns with something along the lines, "Oh bacon isn't really pork. And pork tenderloin tastes just like chicken." (I am seriously glad I used bogus excuses to convince myself to make this because it was unbelievably good.)

Grilled Bacon-Wrapped Pork Tenderloin Medallions






Ingredients:

1 pork tenderloin (If there are two in the package, I just used one.)
5 slices of bacon
Olive oil
Garlic powder
Dried parsley
Salt

Directions:

Parcook the bacon in the microwave for two minutes. (I line a plate with a few paper towels, place the bacon on top and then place a few more paper towels on top of the bacon. I really hemmed and hawed about this wondering if the bacon would crisp up on its own in the grill or if it needed a little help from the microwave. Even though I hate cooking bacon in the microwave because it seems to make the house smell like bacon for a week, I did it in the essence of time and efficiency and it worked a-w-e-s-o-m-e.)

Preheat the grill by firing up only one half of the burners to medium-high until the internal temp reaches 350 - 400 degrees. Spray the grates with cooking spray.

Meanwhile prep the pork tenderloin by slicing off the silver skin and removing any large pockets of fat. Wrap the bacon around the whole pork tenderloin and secure with a toothpick.


Cut into medallions using the bacon as a guide for your width -- basically cut between each slice of bacon.


Place the medallions on a plate and season one side with oil and sprinkle each piece with garlic powder, parsley flakes and salt.


Place the pork tenderloin on the grill, seasoned side down and season the other side. Sear each side for 2 minutes.


Then flip every 4 minutes for 12 - 16 minutes until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees F.


These little guys are the perfect portions for bbqs or parties because they cook quickly and you could probably knock a bunch out.


But just don't forget to take the toothpicks out or someone won't be happy!


Monday, May 23, 2011

Very Berry Americana Cheesecake Bites


Memorial day is approaching fast here in the United States and that means one thing for most people -- sweet treats and bbqs! (For me, though, it really signals it's time to plant the veggie garden.) I love baking sweet treats for patriotic holidays using red, white and blue-themed ingredients, so I decided to try my hand at a gluten-free and sugar-free cheesecake bite that is loaded with fresh strawberries, blueberries and cream cheese. (If you're not into sugar-free desserts, it's super easy to make this unsugar-free -- just replace the sweetener with sugar and the all fruit preserves with sugar-added preserves.)

The crust on these tasty bars use the same method I used for my Fakeout Peanut Butter Cups, but instead of walnuts, I used pecans and omitted the cocoa powder. It makes for an absolutely delicious crust -- seriously, graham cracker crusts don't even compare!

Very Berry Americana Cheesecake Bites



Ingredients:

For the crust:

1 3/4 cups pecans
1 1/2 cups dates
1 tablespoon xylitol or sweetener of your choice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon virgin coconut oil, solid (you can also use butter if you prefer)
1 teaspoon vanilla

For the filling:

8 ounce package of cream cheese, softened
1 egg
3 tablespoons xylitol or sweetener of your choice
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla
10 ounce jar all fruit no sugar added strawberry preserves (you can use regular preserves if you prefer)
1/2 cup strawberries, sliced thinly
1/2 cup blueberries

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9x9 baking dish with parchment paper leaving a little overhand to act as handles. Set aside.

In the bowl of a food processor, chop pecans. Add the dates and process again. Add the rest of the crust ingredients and process until incorporated.


Press crust into the bottom of the prepared pan. Place in the refrigerator while you prepare the filling and slice the strawberries.


Spread the all fruit strawberry preserves over the crust. Layer the strawberries and blueberries over the preserves.


In a medium-sized bowl, mix cream cheese with a hand held mixer until creamy. Add the egg and mix thoroughly. Add the sweetener, lemon juice and vanilla and mix until combined. Pour over the fruit and spread evenly with an offset spatula.


Bake in the oven for 25 - 30 minutes or until the cream cheese layer puffs up slightly and is pretty firm. Allow to cool and then chill in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours.



Slice and enjoy!






P.S. This post has been linked to the following blog hops:

 
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...