Monday, June 29, 2009


Our string of wonderful house guests have gone and all is back to normal. The house is quiet and we are a bit more unlikely to pick up our messes so fast. The lawn needs mowing and the weeds are peeking through (again!), all of the towels and sheets are blowing in the wind. 

Having guests when the temperature keeps rising can heat the house up very quickly, so we are doing much of our cooking outside, barbecued on Matt's new cast iron monster. Our tasty dinners were: chicken grilled with fresh garden peppers and onions; hot dogs and hamburgers with homemade mustard and pickles; fajitas; delicious steak with Gorgonzola butter, fresh asparagus, new potatoes, and tomato basil mozzarella salad (thanks to my parents for the photo!). We only cooked inside once.... pasta.

Although we always eat fresh, we don't always have great new company to share it with. It's fun to add another setting to the table, pour another glass of wine, and toast to friendships far and wide. I am ready for more guests, so if you're in town, stop by!

Here is a great all-around recipe for grilled veggies:
1 med. Red or Sweet Onion cut into 4 pieces then separated.
1 med. Yellow Squash sliced 1/2" thick lengthwise.
1 med. Zucchini Squash sliced 1/2" thick lengthwise.
1 med. Green Pepper cut into 1' strips.
1 med. Red Pepper cut into 1" strips.
12-14 med. fresh Mushrooms, stems removed.

Olive Oil mixture:
2 tablespoons Olive Oil.
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground Black Pepper.
1/4 teaspoon Sea Salt.
1 Garlic clove, crushed.

Toss vegetables with Olive Oil mixture and place in oil sprayed grill basket.

Grill with lid closed over med. coals or lava rocks, stir occasionally until vegetables are tender (approx. 10-12 minutes)

Friday, June 5, 2009

Playing God....

I thought my garden was looking pretty good until I got up close and personal with my tomatillo. Taking up residence and about to build a cool condo complex were about a million aphids! 

I was at a loss as to what to do, so I pulled out my laptop and got to work. Natural pest control was my only option as I find no need to grow my own only to add chemicals to my food. Ladybugs are said to be a veggie gardener's best friend and I figured I could find them somewhere....

I found lots of websites that sold ladybugs by mail so I ordered an army of  3,000 for around 20 bucks. What a bargain! I laid the little bag under the plant and watched the ladybugs pour out the top. Boy, were they hungry! They found the aphids quickly and gobbled them right up. It was fascinating to watch them grab and hoard their food, even stealing each other's right out from under their chins! In the space of about 10 minutes the tomatillo was totally aphid free. I was so impressed, I moved the little bag to the tomato. The theory is this: the ladybugs get so full they find a comfy leaf to relax on and pop out a few eggs that will then hatch hungry and keep the cycle going. 

The only flaw in my plan was not checking the weather. Torrential rain and 2000 lightning strikes in 1 hour ruined my plan for complete aphid annihilation! Only about 50 bugs stuck it out, but the plants are all clean and dust-free and I don't have to water for a couple of days....

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The pretzels are to die for....

My best guy friend and his beautiful and undoubtedly better half are coming for a visit in 2 weeks!! Michael and I have been friends for 20 years and roommates on and off throughout that time.  When Matt and I married, Michael moved to the east coast where he met Lisa, and they're in Pennsylvania until we convince them to give up their well paying jobs and move to Chico. I go see them once a year in the spring, and they come see us in the summer. 

The last time I was there we went to the Amish country and I could not get enough pretzels! Soft and chewy, salty and warm. There's nothing better! When I got to the airport to go home there were vendors selling them right outside the gate, so I got Matt a six-pack and boarded the plane..... I ate them all. I decided I had to make them for Matt to make up for my gluttony. I searched and searched for the perfect recipe, making about 6 batches before finding the perfect pretzels. This is so quick and easy, and I guarantee there will be none left over. Enjoy! 

Amish Pretzels




  1. 1
    Dissolve yeast into warm water.

  2. 2
    Add sugar, then flour& mix well- do not 'knead' as this toughens the dough.

  3. 3
    (Mix just until combined well) Let rise until doubled, at least 20 minutes.

  4. 4
    Cut into long 'ropes'.

  5. 5
    Shape into pretzel shapes, then dip into prepared dipping solution.

  6. 6
    Place on non-stick cookie sheet and sprinkle with course sea salt.

  7. 7
    Bake at 500-550°F for 4-6 minutes until golden brown.

  8. 8
    Dip face of pretzel into melted butter.

  9. 9
    Variation: add 1 t vanilla to the dough.

  10. 10
    Flavor variations.

  11. 11
    Cinnamon/sugar- omit salt& dip into cinnamon sugar after face has been coated with butter.

  12. 12
    Sour cream& onion- after dipping face of pretzel in butter, sprinkle with sour cream& onion powder Garlic- same as sour cream& onion, but use garlic powder.

  13. 13
    Sesame or poppy seed--BEFORE baking, AFTER dipping into dipping solution, dip pretzel face-down into the seeds, then bake.

  14. 14
    Salt is optional with this one.
  15. Makes 16 pretzels

Monday, June 1, 2009

Thanks, Dad.......

I worked hard in the garden today. The weeds around my raised beds were out of control and a renegade band of evil biting ants made tending the crops a chore. I decided to outsmart both obstacles by laying down weed cloth and covering it with dirt. Aha! It may just work!

Since I am meticulous about the garden, it took hours. First, I had a pad of paper, a pen, and a few ideas. This blossomed into an hour on the computer and then a trip to the Kmart garden center.  I found lots of options (mulch, top soil or bark) at every price point. I filled my trusty vehicle with mulch and weed cloth and got to work. Being an algebraic infant made things a bit tense, but I finally figured out exactly how much cloth to put where and how to evenly distribute the mulch as to not require another trip to the store. 

I had lots of time to reflect while hand spreading the mulch and I kept thinking of my dad and his gardens; how he could tell me everything there is to know about this particular plant or that, how much and when to water, and what to plant where. He always had a diagram! I was surprised by the research he did when he was truly interested in something; many more hours were spent finding out all the details of a project than the amount of time it took to actually do it. It used to drive me nuts how he'd map out a plan when anyone else would just jump in and do it. 

As I checked my diagram, it began to dawn on me that I might be a little like him. This realization didn't affect me like when I think "Oh, God, I've become my mother!". Instead, I took my ice water to a garden chair, sat down, and surveyed my hard work. I smiled as I thought how much I enjoyed all of my research, and how having a plan can make things a lot easier. Sometimes, Dad, you are right.  Thanks.