The Motivating Power of a 2-Pound Beet or Call Me Chef Gadget

What do you do when your produce gets out of control? How do you wind up with a 2 pound beet?

Well, it’s pretty easy actually. You send your oldest child off to college, the only other beet-lover/eater in your family, disappear for a few weekends during harvest season, and let rain keep you inside when you should be out checking on your garden. Before you know it you could end up with some whopping big beets, too or maybe that should be 2.282 pounds that is.

Giant Beet

Now, I hate to see food go to waste, but I especially hate to see food I’ve grown myself go to waste. I planted seeds, watered, fertilized, weeded, and waited; I’ve got to do something with this monstrosity.  I like beets, I’ll eat them boiled, roasted, pickled, and pureed, but two pounds is a bit much even for me. Larger beets tend to be woody, I’m not sure traditional preparations would be the best choice. So I went to Pinterest for ideas.

Have you heard of beets’ cleansing properties? Well, apparently beet juice is some kind of miracle drug.  It will purify your blood, cleanse your liver, clear your skin, boost your libido, improve your mood, and tie your shoes if you’re lucky. OK, maybe not the last one, but you get the gist.

Raw beets are supposed to have the most health benefits, so I decided it was finally time to break out the juicer. That would be the juicer I bought at the beginning of the year when Baby Girl was on her raw food diet. It was one of those impulse buys when Sweet Miss and I were at Costco, and it’s never made it out of the box. But if it saves me from having to cook up and eat six pounds of beets (you see that big fella has friends), it may be worth it.

I really don’t know what my problem is. I have this aversion to gadgets, and a rather irrational fear that I’m going lose a finger, an eye, a hand, who knows? The directions were simple, a little cleaning, a little reading, a plunger to keep me away from moving parts, and all was good.

Juicer 004

I mixed up a little of the giant beet, an apple, a couple carrots and wound up with this vibrant concoction. Isn’t the color gorgeous?

beet juice

Baby Girl arrived home from practice in time to take a sip–only a sip. Apparently, the beet taste was too much for her; the color makes it impossible to disguise. I made her some tasty apple/carrot juice instead. If I’d known it was this easy, I’d have been making juice for months. To be honest, I was a little worried about beet juice myself, but I really liked it.

drunk juice

The rest of my giant beet made it into the fridge, cut into chunks, all ready for another round of drinks tomorrow.

The juicer wasn’t the only gadget I pulled out to tackle the beets. My handy-dandy slicer that I picked up off of freecycle made short work of thinly slicing a few more red gems.

slicer

Again, it took months for me to get over the fear of using this simple kitchen tool. I’m afraid of mechanical blades, or it could be that I’ve been known to get distracted and do something stupid.  I had Sweet Miss’ fellow try out the slicer for the first time when we were making jerky. I figured if a kid could use it safely, I could, too. Now I cut up ham for deli sandwiches, a weeks supply of cheese, meat for jerky, and let’s go ahead and add beet chips to the list.

beet chips

I used this easy recipe for Baked Rosemary Beet Chips from the Minimalist Baker. With a little rosemary, olive oil, and sea salt, I could eat a bowl of these tasty treats. But with the purported “cleansing” properties of beets, I’m going hold myself back.

Along with beets, I’ve been dealing with apples. Now, this is a problem I totally brought on myself. Baby Girl’s FFA chapter sells apples as a fundraiser, and I’ve been supporting them for the last few years. 40 pounds for $40 is a great deal, and these are sweet, juicy, locally-grown apples. So why did I think I needed 80 pounds? Oh, just for fun…

Baby Girl has been eating the box of honeycrisp apples for lunch, and I’ve been making applesauce out of the Jonamac. When I heard a lady at Bible study mention the food mill attachment she uses on her Kitchenaid mixer for making applesauce, I was intrigued. When I arrived home last week, I immediately looked it up on Amazon. Well, they had a ton of options, and I was confused. Next thing I know, after an email and a phone call, my friend let me test drive her gadget.

I’m not sure if this is considered high tech or low tech, but it is slick.

mixer

I lightly steamed six pounds of apples.

steamed apples

Sent them through the food mill/vegetable strainer attachment and wound up with simple apple goodness.

beets and apples 004

The worms enjoyed the peels, and I boiled the sauce for five minutes before putting it up in jars. I turned 13 pounds of apples into 10 pints of sauce before lunch–not a bad way to spend the morning.

applesauceI still have tons of apples, and I still have lots of beets. No need to worry; Pinterest has a million recipes. Just be careful when I offer you some brownies or chocolate cupcakes. They just might have a mystery ingredient, but hey, your skin is going to glow, and you’ll be regular.

Are you a beet lover? What’s your go-to gadget?

 

 

Adding Comfort

Overnight guests aren’t a problem around here. We have a guest room with its own bathroom. We’re set right?

Well, adding a few cozy pillows doesn’t necessarily make a bed comfortable.

Guest Bed Collage

When we moved here, we didn’t realize that the built-in bed in the master suite was a king-size bed; so for a few months, we did the hop, skip, and jump to get out of bed while we waited to buy a new mattress. It seemed perfect just to set up our old bed in the guest room.

The key word being old. You see it’s the mattress we’ve had ever since we got married–23 years could be pushing it on the lifetime of a mattress. The MR’s folks are annual summer guests, and they started talking about the wonders of egg-crate pillow toppers for mattresses. Maybe it was time to do something.

So when Baby Girl’s school volleyball team announced a mattress fundraiser, we thought they were crazy, but we jumped on board. A few weeks ago, the school gym was set up like a mattress store with beds everywhere. We went, we tried them out, and we bought one.

Our brand-new mattress arrived yesterday.

mattress & beet 003

Now the guest bed will be as comfy as it is cozy. Sweet Dreams friends.

If you’re curious, the mattress was a brand-name, made-to-order mattress that we bought at 30-60 percent off the retail price. We had it delivered all the way to the guest room for a fee. The team sold 35 mattresses and raised over $5,000 for the volleyball program.

The only down side is that we still have the old mattress to get rid of.

What’s the craziest fundraiser you’ve been a part of? 

 

 

 

End of Season Surprises

Earlier this week between rainstorms, I used a sunny afternoon to start putting the garden to bed.
It sounds like I shouldn’t cut back the asparagus until the “ferns” start dying. The tomatoes have already succumbed to late blight, so I pulled their vines and tossed them in the blackberry bushes.

If I’d been more diligent about staking them out, I’d have doubled my harvest. Next year, the chain link fence is going to come in handy with the tomatoes.

After pulling out the vines, I was amazed at how many onions were hidden beneath them. We’re set for quite awhile–Good thing Baby Girl has developed a taste for cooked onions.

Earlier this summer, when I was working really hard trying to keep cucumber plants alive, I was excited to see vines developing. A few weeks later, I decided these were the strangest looking cucumbers I’d ever seen.

Cantaloupe

Maybe they were supposed to be round like the eight-ball zucchini? As time went on, I realized my mistake. Those weren’t cucumbers; they were cantaloupe. But I didn’t plant any cantaloupe–these were volunteers from last year. Maybe worms don’t eat cantaloupe seeds?

Cantaloupe Multiply

So along with onions, I picked beans, carrots, cantaloupe, lettuce, a lone zucchini, and six pounds of giant beets.

End of season

Sadly, my fall broccoli never took off. If I’m lucky, it’ll overwinter and produce early in the spring. I haven’t dug up the potatoes; I hope all the rain hasn’t turned them into mush.

Remember that plum tree we planted to help with our pollination problems? Yeah, that little stick?

Weeping Santa Rosa Sprigs

Well, now it’s taken on the shape of an actual tree even if it’s still quite short.

Weeping Santa Rosa 2

Cross your fingers for a bunch of tasty plums next summer.

We’re not the only ones enjoying the harvest. Baby Girl’s FFA chapter was able to share some local produce with her elementary school a few weeks ago.

Taste of WA

Kale chips, colorful beans, and local cheese were all a hit with lunch kids.

What local fruits and vegetables are you enjoying?

 

Fall Favorites

Last week when we were shopping, Baby Girl told me, “I love fall; I can wear sweaters every day.”

Fall is a wonderful time of year, and here are a few of my favorite fall things.

I love misty mornings when the fog hovers over the valley.

october 124

I love the sunshine glistening on spiderwebs.

october 115

 

I love the fancy hairstyles and pretty party dresses for the big homecoming dance.

october 123

And I love a good old-fashioned trip to the pumpkin patch. It’s been a few years since we’ve gone, but here’s a flashback to when the girls were younger.

IMG_0186 IMG_0188 IMG_0193

I also love to snuggle up with a cup of tea, a cozy blanket, and a good book especially on those stormy Northwest evenings when the rain is pounding and the wind is blowing.

What do you love about fall?

 

September–Taking It All In

October is swiftly passing by, and I haven’t even taken a look at September. I could say it’s just been so busy, and Baby Girl’s volleyball takes up so much time, and I just haven’t gotten back into the rhythm of the school year. But to be honest I’ve been pouting.

Redoing your floors is a major pain. Having everything out of place drives me crazy.

october 075

I want my computer back on the desk not shoved into the corner of the kitchen. Let’s just say it’s tight quarters, and I’m not always a good sport.

september oct 004

Add to that volleyball, homecoming, two weekends away, three birthdays, Sweet Miss moving back to school, 50 pounds of tomatoes and 80 pounds of apples, a head on collision, dealing with insurance and the auto body shop, a couple back-to-back major remodels, a golf-ball size lump appearing on the dog’s face, friends and family going through hard times, and I’ve just put the blog on hold for a bit.

I’d love to say I’ll be back three times a week, like usual, but for now I’m taking it day by day. Thanks for understanding.

So on that note, let’s take a look at September.

The first weekend of the month, me and the MR along with my dad, my little brother and my fabulous sister-in-law all flew back to Kansas to surprise my older brother on his 50th birthday. He thought he was just going out to dinner with his family when he stumbled across the five of us. His daughter is having a baby soon, so we also got to celebrate this new life at a shower for her, had the chance to meet my oldest nephews girl friend, and hung out with my brother’s passel of boys. It’s always good to catch up with family.

Kansas Collage

I did get one bit of clutter picked up in September. The print I ordered arrived and sat for ages in the entry. Sometimes when things don’t go we’ll, I freeze and do nothing. We have all this empty wall space in the bedroom, and I thought a large print would help obscure the fact that we have a giant TV hanging on the wall.

september oct 006

You just have to imagine the home entertainment cabinet isn’t parked in the corner of the bedroom to make room for the floor remodel. However you look at it, a 4×4-foot print might have been a bit much. Instead of one big thing on the wall, I’d just multiplied it by two.

A Little Color over the bath tub was just the thing.

Flower Print over Tub

By the by, the MR was talking to the Fed Ex guy who has delivered out here for more than 20 years, and he was glad we put up blinds in the master suite. With the previous owners, he never knew what he’d see when he rounded the corner. I guess you could watch for people coming while soaking in the tub. I’m just not that free and easy.

Upstairs, we did a little Problem Solving and revamped the layout of the room by using one floor covering throughout. My plan was to show lovely afters with all the furniture and artwork back in place looking amazing. Well, as you’ve noticed, I’ve been falling behind. So here’s the finished floors with the room reloaded–just not perfect.

october 065

We have no break between carpet and tile; the whole floor is seamless. And yes, I do think a laundry basket can be used as a table decoration.

october 069

The dogs seem to approve. Since I spent so much time upstairs with them during the floor work downstairs, Bogart has started wandering off on his own, so he can sleep on the furniture. You gotta watch these dogs.

october 074

Do you remember those three tomato plants out in the garden? Well, two of them were paste tomatoes and they produced over 50 pounds. Crazy, huh? In Harvest Time I’d just begun putting up tomatoes and apples. I canned pasta sauce, tomato sauce, crushed tomatoes, tomato jam–what I like to call grown up ketchup, and applesauce from our very own tree. Next year, I plan on growing the tomato plants next to the chain link around the tennis court, so I don’t have to worry about a strong enough cage or trellis. I can’t imagine that they will be like the beans and climb 10 feet high, but we’ll wait and see.

september oct 002

I’ve been using recipes from my old and new canning books, but the tomato jam recipe I found at Putting Up with Erin. If you have gobs of tomatoes, it is definitely worth a try.

Finally Orange is the New Green showcased our glowing orange floors. It’s hard to believe anything can be worse than the emerald fading to teal floors we’ve been living with.

Carpet East

Oh, but we found it.

Orange floor at sunset

Baby Girl said the whole house glowed when she came home from school. You can see the ceiling is reflecting orange everywhere. The project manager thought I had all the lights in the house on… If you want more light in your house, the answer is simple. Paint the floors orange. I do believe you’ll go insane in short order, but you’ll do it in a well lit space.

Thankfully, I was out our women’s retreat that weekend and only had to live with it for a few days. The first layer of scratch coat was a vast improvement.

001

We lived with dust, noise and crazy for a week. Unfortunately the Semco flooring over the Schluter-Ditra is quite wavy while the flooring over the former tile walkways is smooth. We are not happy, and Kenji will be back at the end of the month to make things right. Until then, we’re still in flux.

floors 001

You can see how at the edge of the photo, the floor is flat, while in the middle it’s wavy. Here’s a closer look.

floors 004

That brings us up-to-date. If you’re worried about the car crash, it was on the blind corner of our driveway at very low speed. My car and the workers SUV did get stuck together; maybe that’s why there was so much damage. I’m hoping to get my car back at the end of the week. Thankfully, no one was hurt.

Bogart looked pretty awful for a while, but two pills twice a day for three weeks has him back to normal. I was totally impressed when the new vet took the time to make friends with him.

We were also able to celebrate my dad’s 75th birthday with old friends and family. The biggest laugh of the night was when my dad told the story of the time his buddy couldn’t disengage the emergency brake, so he drove his family to church backwards. The MR didn’t believe it, but I’ve known that guy my whole life. This was gospel truth; they only lived a mile from church.

Dealing with tomatoes and keeping dogs away from workers has kept me from putting the garden to bed and harvesting the last of the vegetables. That’s on the agenda for this week. We also have two volleyball matches, a corn maze with FFA, a trip to the dentist, Bible study, student store, maybe some golf, and I hope a little time for the Big White House on the Hill.

Thank you to those who have messaged and emailed to say they were missing the blog. And thanks also to those who’ve gone out of their way to say how much they’ve enjoyed our journey and the stories I share. You keep me going.

How has fall been treating you?

Orange Is the New Green

If last week’s chaos wasn’t enough, we decided to bring it downstairs.

All the furniture has been shoved into random corners, so we can have the sea of green carpet removed.

Carpet East

 

It’s crazy how even the subflooring looks better than that carpet.

Carpet Gone 2

After removal came the tricky part–the electrical portion. We turned off the heat and opened all the windows overnight to cool off the floors. The next morning, we turned on the heat and a fellow with a very expensive thermal camera came and took pictures mapping out the tubing that runs through our floors and heats our home. He left behind markings to show where we could add some electrical outlets for the computer and possible floor lamps.

Marked Areas

I came home from a walk, to find the MR and our project manager talking about how slick the camera was. They were a little surprised that the tubing was set four inches apart in one area of the room and eight inches in another. It was a little odd, but who knows why people do these things? We do now. Part of our system may be clogged, or that camera wasn’t quite as good as we’d hoped. On the final outlet, after chipping carefully away all day, the electrician spouted off a few choice words. You know it’s gotta be trouble.

The nick 2

He’d nicked the tubing with his screwdriver. A nick is better than a cut. I was certain this was gloom and doom–destruction of floors and heating. I can get a little fatalistic.

Apparently, it’s a simple fix.They talked about using plumbers tape to fix it, but since soon it will be covered by an under-layer and flooring material, that didn’t seem prudent. The project manager went on to explain about shark teeth clamps. Let’s just say we called in a professional and have documentation to explain the repair.

The Fix 2

And now a few rainy days later, we even have heat again. You may be wondering what’s with the orange. Don’t worry; I’m getting to that.

So are our floors in? Not even close. We had the concrete flooring installed over our tile floors. Now that we’ve removed the carpet and pad, they weren’t even. So we couldn’t simply have the Semco flooring put in over the that; we needed to add half an inch. Hardyboard needs to be nailed down. With the tubing in the floors, that’s not going to happen.

The next idea was a half inch layer of gypcrete. Of course, that needs to cure for 30 days. Sorry, I’m not living like this for a month.

How we're living

So Schluter-Ditra to the rescue. I know. Who makes up these names? You can find out all about it here, or just picture the great room floor covered in bright orange honeycomb. I do believe the ceilings glowed at one point last night; it was like living in an orange.

Orange floor at sunset

It will keep our floor from cracking, raises it to the proper level (cross you fingers), and will work with the Semco coating.

It doesn’t look quite as bad by the light of morning.

Orange floor at sunrise

Who am I kidding? It’s awful. In another week or so, life will get back to normal. I can deal with anything for a week.

Until then, we’ve traded faded green in for bright orange–awesome!

Ever been in the midst of a project and think wow this was a bad idea? Any remodeling at your house? Share your fiascoes please. It’s been one of those weeks, and this is only the half of it.

 

Harvest Time

What happens when you leave town in the middle of harvest season? Things go a little crazy.

My dad visits my aunt and uncle in Missouri annually and always comes home with lots of stories.  He likes to say how come July or August, you don’t dare leave your car unlocked when you park it in the square cause when you come back it’ll be filled with bags of tomatoes and squash.

We’ve always just smiled and nodded–we try to humor the guy. But this year, we had a real summer in Washington with warm weather and sunshine; it’s been crazy. That giant mound of tomato plants I’ve been watching for months has started producing. Maybe that story about the square isn’t too far-fetched.

Now that we have all these silly tomatoes, I can’t just do a happy dance and beam at my gardening prowess. Perhaps I should actually make something with my unexpected bounty.

So I made roasted vege pasta sauce and stuck it in the freezer, then I canned tomato basil pasta sauce, and then I canned some more. Maybe it was time to try something that wouldn’t use just a piddly four or five pounds. I saw a simple recipe that said to drizzle baking sheets with olive oil, add halved tomatoes cut-side down, sprinkle on some salt and pepper and a few herbs, stick them in the oven for 10 hours at 200-degrees, and call it good. That’s my kind of recipe.

Roasted Tomato Collage

After they’d cooled a bit, I pulled off the skins, stuck the tomatoes in bags, and popped them in the freezer. This winter I can add them to pizza, pasta, sandwiches, soups, and casseroles for a bit of intense tomato flavor.

As you can see in the photos above, I grew two different types of paste tomato–different in size, shape, color, and density. I randomly picked up two generic “paste” tomatoes at the super market. You never know what you’ll wind up with. I’m really liking the larger, meatier variety.

Since then I’ve turned 12 pounds into tomato sauce. I’ve learned that removing skins is one thing but removing skins and seeds is a whole other ball game. Let’s just say, my family is going to learn to deal with seeds.

When I came home a few weeks ago, I was surprised to find a giant zucchini hidden behind the tomatoes wedged in next to the fence. This fellow had grown way out of control. While he was too big for a stir-fry, he’d be great for some zucchini bread.

Zucchini Collage

 

Normally I wouldn’t have peeled zucchini before grating, but this one was just too tough. So I sliced off the edges, and still had plenty left for baking.

Meanwhile the apples are ripe, and all this produce is attracting fruit flies. Seems like a bit of applesauce was in order. I didn’t bother to core or peel the apples, and just ran them through the food mill before processing.

Applesauce Collage

I was pleasantly surprised by the lovely golden color of the sauce. Our last apple tree was a Granny Smith variety, and my homemade sauce was always tinged a sickly green. Baby Girl is selling apples through FFA, so I see more applesauce and apple chips in our future. I think apple pie might also be in order. I really like pie.

Our pantry growing is growing bit by bit.
Jars

 
My jars have been around for years, and a few chips have stopped a good seal. I think I’ll pick up a few more pint jars, so the tomatoes and the fruit flies don’t get the best of me.

How’s harvest time at your house? Any favorite tomato recipes to share?