I haven’t posted an update about the garden in a while since we got really busy and I ignored it for a bit…I am definitely paying for it now with weeding and chopping back, I mean pruning, the massive growth on our many ornamental bushes. […]
Month: May 2017
My husband has wanted a fire pit ever since I can remember and once we moved into our house we knew we would get one. Last year we never got around to it but a few days ago we decided to take the plunge. We ordered it from Amazon when they were having a lightening deal on it so it was a decent price. It called a Solo Stove and is supposed to cut way down on the amount of smoke it releases. The fire pit can also be used on a deck without damaging it which is nice since our deck takes up most of the flat area in our yard. Just to be safe we put our heat shield from the grill underneath it and aside from the gigantic spider that went running there was no damage to our deck.
The little kids loved playing with it while they were waiting for dinner. They kept stacking the wood and moving it all about which was hilarious. Our son loves anything mechanical so he spent a lot of time trying to figure out the wood holder and how the fire pit was put together. Our three year old “pealed” the wood for us and rearranged it so that it was just so. It was great fun and luckily they understood (mostly) when we lit it on fire that it was hot and they were not to go near it. We still had a grown up watching them at all times once it was lit since you can’t ever be careful enough with little kids and fire.
The wood we used was from extra large branches that fell during the first major wind storm we had in our new house about a month after we moved in. We cut the larger branches up and stacked them and they worked pretty well for our fire pit. Most of my neighbors sent their branches to the yard waste bin but I was in the back yard super excited about all the free wood we got. My husband probably thought I was slightly nuts being out there pregnant and insisting he cut the branches into manageable pieces instead of throwing it into the bin but my mind was on how we could use it later. The branches were a good size and burned for just the right amount of time we needed so it worked well plus we didn’t have to spend a bunch of money buying fire wood. If you have a place to burn it is a good idea to keep some wood around for emergencies. We lost power for a couple of days our first winter and it would have been really nice to have some seasoned wood to burn in our fireplace to keep the house semi-warm. Luckily my mother-in-law had power so we were able to hang out there once the house got too cold.
My husband lit it with some fat wood and we were ready to go. We shut the slider to keep the kids off the deck, ate dinner and then the fire was perfect for S’mores. Our kids love S’mores (and we do too). There is something magical about them. My childhood is filled with memories of being promised S’mores after a long day of working in the woods but somehow they rarely materialized. My husband and I are all about creating family memories and having a great time with the kids and I could never imagine promising something like that and then never following through.
I found these jumbo marshmallows at Target and some dark chocolate that is dairy-free for our daughter. Our son was given a chocolate free S’more so that he would definitely sleep tonight. Ha ha, I wonder how long that will work before he realizes he is the only one without chocolate. The jumbo marshmallows worked ok but they really were too big for our fire since it burned pretty hot while we were making them.
Somewhere in our house are some long skewers we bought many, many years ago to roast hot dogs in our fireplace at the townhouse during a power outage but they got lost in the move. Hopefully we can find them when we get some more cleaning in the garage done. We still have quite a few boxes that we are slowly sorting and unpacking. I would highly recommend not moving in a crazy disjointed manner while one of you is pregnant since it becomes impossible to pack properly for a three week close on the house you are selling with items being stored at 4 different locations while you live at your mother-in-law’s house during the closing of the house you are purchasing. Whew. It was enough stress to make me never want to move again.
There is some debate about the proper way to cook a S’more marshmallow but I fall firmly in the light it on fire camp. I love a little char on my marshmallows with a gooey center. Delicious!
The fire died down in about 2 hours from when we lit it. We did not add any wood to it and it ended up being the perfect amount of time for us. We got a chance to hang out on the deck as a family for a bit while the kids ate their S’mores and by the time they were ready for bath it had mostly died out.
We had a great time tonight and we are looking forward to a full summer of S’mores and chilling around the fire pit. Now off to buy hot dogs for tomorrow night!
My oldest daughter and I love these sweet potato fries. I make them every couple of weeks and they are usually gone by the end of the night. The younger two kids either really love sweet potatoes or they can’t stand them so I usually make them as an extra dish. They are so easy to make it doesn’t make it seem like I am doing extra work for dinner. Some nights I start them when the younger kids are eating and then eat them as an after dinner snack instead of dessert. It was yummy and way healthier than ice cream or cookies.
Wash sweet potatoes thoroughly with a vegetable scrubber.
I used three lovely sweet potatoes today. We buy a gigantic bag from Costco every month or two and store them in a cool dry place.
Cut the ends off and then cut the sweet potatoes in half. Stand each half upright on the wider end and cut it in half again. Then slice each quarter into roughly the same thickness.
Spread your sweet potatoes on a standard cookie sheet. I used a Silpat under mine but you can also use parchment paper. The sweet potatoes don’t have to be evenly spread and they can be touching since they will shrink as they cook.
Lightly coat your sweet potatoes with olive oil. Ha ha! There is no actual olive oil on my brush because I didn’t want it to glop on there unevenly while I took a picture but you get the idea. I love our silicone brush because I can just toss it in the dishwasher afterwards. Don’t ask me where we got it. My husband bought it many years ago and I have no idea where but they have similar ones on Amazon.
Sprinkle your salt and pepper. I don’t use a lot of salt in my cooking and if I add a bunch of pepper to these it is guaranteed that the little kids won’t eat them so I do a very light coat. They do taste wonderful though if you add lots of pepper and a decent amount of salt so sometimes if I am feeling extra inspired I will make another tray for the grownups with more seasoning. Turn your sweet potatoes over and repeat the olive oil, salt and pepper. I may forget to repeat the second side if my kids are extra distracting so you can skip this step but they taste way better with coating on both sides. Put them in the oven for about 20 min, flip them with a fork to check tenderness and put them back into the oven for another 15-20 min. Check them a second time. There should be a little carmelization on them but if you are feeding them to little ones it is better to leave them soft.
I made these for kids to eat tomorrow so I pulled them a little early to keep them soft You can see some carmelization on the smaller pieces.
Yummy sweet potato juice coating the cooked fries. Let the fries cool for a few minutes and enjoy! You could also add a pre-mixed seasoning salt to the fries or just do salt and have them be more like french fries.
I hope your family enjoys these as much as we do! Happy cooking!
Easy Baked Sweet Potato Fries
Baked sweet potatoes make a great snack or side to any dinner.
- 3-4 Sweet Potatoes
- 1-2 Tbsp Olive Oil
- Salt and Pepper to Taste
- Step 1 Pre-heat your oven to 425 degrees and wash your sweet potatoes thoroughly.
- Step 2 Cut off the ends of the sweet potatoes and slice them in half twice. Cut them into roughly the same width (usually 1/4″ or so) to make them fry size. The actual width doesn’t matter, just remember the thicker they are the longer they will need to cook and the softer the fries will be. I usually cut each 1/4 of a sweet potato into 4-5 slices depending on how big it is.
- Step 3 Spread your fries evenly over a standard cookie sheet. I use a Silpat under them so they do not stick.
- Step 4 Lightly coat fries with olive oil, sprinkle them with salt and pepper.
- Step 5 Flip your fries and repeat olive oil, salt and pepper on the other side.
- Step 6 Bake sweet potatoes for 20 minutes.
- Step 7 Flip the fries with a fork and put them back into the oven for another 20-30 minutes depending on how done they are. If they are already soft put them in for 15 minutes and check them again. If some of them are still a little firm it will probably be closer to 25 or 30 minutes but check every few minutes to make sure.
- Step 8 Fries should be soft on the inside and have a little bit of carmelization on the outside. When I make them for the baby I leave them softer on the outside so he can chew them. Enjoy!
This past weekend we started our work on completely overhauling our front bed. It was originally planted with all ornamental plants and last year we removed a couple of large bushes and installed a planter box we were gifted from our neighbor. After a winter of neglect it was pretty much due for some major work. My eventual goal is to remove all of the plants up until the boxwood which are planted along the property line blocking the sewer drain from sight. I do not particularly care for them but they do their job well and require very little maintenance besides trimming them twice a year. I am at a loss as to what to do with the tree. I have no idea what it is and it isn’t particularly pretty nor does it shade the area so it isn’t really in the way. I would hate to cut it down but I have nowhere else to put it. I am still debating what to do with it so it may stay there until next year.
I moved one of the butterfly bushes down our hill to shade a large south facing window. I am re-homing it there temporarily until I figure out what to do with it. There were two gigantic butterfly bushes in the front garden bed originally that took up way too much space. The other one is going to be planted at my mom’s house. I cut these back at least two feet last year and they are still taller than me. We have had a cold spring so far so I don’t anticipate a huge growth season this year.
The roots on all of the bushes I took out are mysteriously shallow and I am having very little trouble pulling out large bushes. I think we have very shallow top soil that the previous owners must have covered with some high quality soil since everything grew so much last year. It makes me a little bit nervous about planting any more trees since we get quite a bit of wind for most of the year.
Here is where we added the planter box last week. My kids have been using it as a sand box so it is well weeded and the soil has been turned over quite a bit. I am going to have an issue keeping them out of it when I plant my seeds.
I bought some Marigolds as a pest deterrent. I planted one in each corner of our first box and I will add a couple to the second box once we get some good quality soil in there. The rest I am going to put into pots around the plants I am putting directly into the soil. I am concerned they will be covered up by the sprawling vines.
A sunflower! Hopefully it won’t get eaten!
I had a few plastic containers I am using for mini-greenhouses since the weather has decided to be cold and yucky again. I only found a few so I put them on only a couple of plants. I did not get around to removing the stickers on them but my seedlings are already almost to big for them so they won’t be on there long.
Our son helping out in the garden. He was fascinated with Daddy changing the oil in his car. We also started to put up a pest control fence but were only able to get some of the stakes all the way in. Our kids got hungry so we ran out of time and we will hopefully get to it next weekend. It makes me a little nervous that we didn’t get the fence up since last year some sort of rodent at all of our non-nightshade seedlings within a few days of planting them. Luckily they left the tomatoes, beans, ground cherries and spicy peppers but our daughter was very disappointed they ate our very healthy watermelon plants.
I planted about half of the pumpkin seedlings and covered two of them with my makeshift greenhouses.
I did not get around to thinning my seedlings which I know is a big no no but they were too intertwined to separate at this point so I kept them together. We are still taking baby steps towards figuring out how to grow our own food so a lot of what we are doing is mostly trial and error. I think next year our children will be older and we will have more time to prep the soil over the winter so we will have a more organized year for sure. This year we are still trying to figure out what works.
Healthy pumpkin seedling.
Here is a view from the bottom of the bed towards the street. It still looks a little messy and hopefully we can get some mulch down soon but I am really happy with what we got done this week.
Another view from the top. The red plant and some of the smaller ones will go in the planting strip near where the fence will go in and the larger bushes still need homes. I have no idea where I am going to put the biggest one but I have more people coming this week to dig up extra plants along the side yard so I might put the extras there.
A view of the beds and the seed starts. I am probably going to add a row of squash along the rock wall to the left of the pumpkins.
Last minute I added three rows of carrot seedlings in the larger garden bed next to the Marigolds. I am probably going to plant a couple of pea plants in here and I wanted something low that wouldn’t block the light.
After the kids went to bed I checked on our seedlings in the laundry room. We have two cucumbers popping up in the tray I planted last week.
There is also one and part of another watermelon seedling coming up. My ground cherries still are not germinating so I am definitely buying some starts this weekend at the local plant sales. Our lettuce seeds are starting to germinate as well in the strawberry planter but they were way too small to take a picture of! We are planning on buying more Marigolds and I was talked into some Hula strawberries by the three year old so I will be planting those some time this week as well but I have no idea where since I already planted strawberries. Have you seen the Hula-berries? They are white strawberries that taste like pineapple. I am not sure about the taste but our daughter will love them and we love to have our kids excited about healthy food! Gardening is the best way to get your kids involved in what they eat and it is a ton of fun!
My plans for the next couple of weeks are to get the beans and peas in, finish our fence, empty out the rest of the ornamental plants from the vegetable beds and plant the rest of the seedlings from the laundry room. May and June are super insane for us normally but this year we have the added craziness of our oldest graduating from high school so hopefully we can fit in all of our gardening plans.
Happy gardening everyone!