Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Eggplant Burgers- My Substitute for the Beef

I gave up meat the first of this year and right along with it my beloved favorite meal: hamburgers on the charcoal grill made all the way, fries, and a drink. I have been trying like hell to find a substitute for my beloved meat burgers but could find none. None that could live up to my standards that is. Until this. Dey is a Gawd!

The main ingredient of course, is eggplant. I love eggplant anyway so this was right up my alley. And to boot the recipe isnt even that hard! So without further ado here it is.

3 medium eggplant
1 onion
1 green pepper
minced garlic
2-3 egg whites
salt, pepper, whatever other seasonings you like to taste
Liquid Smoke (optional)

First you want to grate the eggplant. Be prepared to put your back into it because that was some hard work. Peeling it makes it easier to do. Then  grate the onion and green pepper and add it to the eggplant along with the minced garlic. Make sure that once you mix all this up, you squeeze out as much liquid as you can. THIS IS IMPORTANT! Next add the egg whites and stir. Again, attempt to squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Add seasonings. Form them into patties. Hint: while you are forming them into patties, squeeze even more of the juice out. From this point you can either bake them or fry them up.

I put mine on the charcoal grill. I have one of those cage-like things that you use to grill veggies and all you have to do is flip the cage to cook them on the other side. This pic is the burgers after I pulled them off the grill. I was so hungry that I didnt take a pic of the finished burger and home made fries. I was ready to eat.

I have to admit that this was excellent. It even passed the taste test of my son who loves burgers more than I do and he was ready to hate it! I am so happy that I finally found a substitute that is equal to the flavor of a regular hamburger. Its on now!!!

How to make a tomato trellis dirt cheap

 I constructed this tomato trellis for a WHOPPING $3.11! Your  average pretty wooden garden trellis will cost you about $15 just to support one plant but this one that I built supports four! Even your wire cages cost a few bucks more than what I paid and that just for the support of one plant.

You want the break down? Sure you do!

I bought three 1x2x8 boards and had them cut the boards at five and a half feet long. Each board cost .75 cents. Then I bought an .86 cent ball of twine and that completed the shopping list. I just went home, nailed the boards together, dug a six inch hole in the ground, and stuck the boards in there and covered them up. I tied the twine around the boards and to a string of twine I tied to the bottom. Now I will train the tomato plants to climb the twine.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Raised Bed #1 Growth Comparison

I just wanted to compare the growth of one of my boxes. This is an 18 day difference.
April 5, 2012
April 23, 2012

Sunday, April 22, 2012

How To Catch Rainwater - for FREE!!

I know there are many things out there that are designed to collect rainwater, but for me I just dont want to pay for them. Especially when I can collect the water for free. Or near free. I have been looking for years at this spot from my front porch where the roof meets in a V formation and it causes the rain water to gush in torrents into a bush right in front of my porch. Lately I have wanted some rainwater for my garden to use when it doesnt rain because plants love rain water over the chlorinated crap that comes out of the spigot. So today as I watched it rain and I saw all that rain pouring down in front of my porch in torrents I remembered I had an empty container that I originally bought for worm composting that went bust ( thats another story) that would be perfect to catch that water. So I plopped it right down in the middle of the bush and let it fill up. 
This is the bush that the container was sitting in.
 I had to pull it down once it got somewhat full.
While that was filling up I looked at the gutter on the other side of the porch that was shooting down water and I decided to use a bowl to collect that too.

This whole production took about 30 minutes for my container to get full. The plan is to hold my gallon jugs into the water and fill those, then water my plants in the garden. It took a little bit of work, but I think it was worth it in the end. I plan to do this when I can whenever it rains.
I got more water than this. I just took a pic when it was at this point.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

How to build a raised bed - the SIMPLE way

I have 4 of these boxes that I am using for the square foot gardening method. Heres how I build them.

I normally use 1x8x8 untreated boards but for this box I got 2x8x8. Dont ask me why cuz I dont know. Anyway get 2 of these boards and get the people at Lowes or Home Depot to cut them in half so they will be 4 feet long. Then simply hammer in nails on each corner. I didnt take a pic of that sorry.

Then I laid down some weed paper so that the grass and weeds will not grow up thru your box. You can also use layers of newspaper or cardboard. If you use cardboard layers, wet them really well.

After this I filled the box with the soil. For this box I used (6) .75 cubic feet bags of Scotts top soil and (2) 1 cubic foot bags of mushroom compost and 1 bag of Scotts humus and manure soil amendment. This came in a brick and it looks like clay. Heres what it looked like after I broke it us with my shovel for a bit.

I ket breaking up the humus and manure and mixing it in well with the other soil. Now its time to make the grids. Most people use wood beams to make thier grid lines but Im cheap so I use twine. I take a ruler and measure 1 foot and make a mark where the nails will go all around the box. There will be 3 nails on each side. I only drive the nails in half way and then wrap the twine around the nail and tie a knot like this.

Once this is done all you have to do to secure it is finish hammering the nail all the way in so it will secure the knot in the twine.
Repeat this with the nail on the opposite nail on the opposite board until you have made a grid of 16 squares in the raised bed. It should look like this once you finish. The twine is purple so it may be hard to see but over time it will lighten up.

It took about an hour or so to build this. Its easy! You can do it!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Stuffed Apple Pie

I saw this on FB and I KNEW I had to make it!!! I was feening for it so bad that I even went back and revisited the page a few times just to imagine how good it would taste. Well they tasted BETTER than I imagined!!!

Ok so I bought 7 apples and cored them all with a knife and a spoon taking care not to poke a hole in the apple skin.

After I cored all the apples I cut the apples up into small pieces and put them in a pan. I added over a half a stick of butter, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg, and over a half a bag of light brown sugar. I only wanted to melt the butter and mix all the spices together, not cook the apples. I added the ingredients to my sweet tooths taste. Afterward I just filled all the apples with the apple dices and spices.

I make all my crusts from scratch. I used 1 1/2 Cups unbleached flour, 3/4 cups of butter soft, so I can mash it into the flour, 3 packed tablespoons of light brown sugar, and 1/2 cup of ice cold water. This is what it looked like after I mixed all that and rolled them it out and started slicing the strips and top coat for the apple tops.

This was the complicated part. Making those lattices. That was tedious. But once I finished it was purdy! The apple itself was similar to an actual pie crust because it was kind of crunchy and the crust...OMG the crust was so SWEET! All the juices from the spices, mixed with the crisp apple "crust" and the crust I prepared myself all made for a very tasty treat.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

How to Harvest Onion Seeds

If you saw my post on seeds you saw me post a pic of onion seeds and how teeny tiny they are. I thought it would be a BEAST trying to get those things from the seed pod but once I figured it out, its really quite simple.
The seeds will come from this flower looking thing that I will call a seed pod because I wont pretend to know the right term. It will just shoot out from among the greens of your onions. I have some now and they will look like this. They arent all the way in bloom yet in this pic.

These are what the seed pods look like when they are bloomed and dried a bit. I got these seed pods from a local black farmer in my area ( YAY we have at least ONE!!!) and I asked him if I could have them and he cut them off the tops of some onions he was selling and he bagged them up for me. I could see the seeds in the little flower thingies and I tried to take some out by hand but it was cumbersome and time consuming. So, I just left them out to dry to see what happened. Well this pic right here is what happened. The flower petal dried up and reveled the seed inside. All I have to do now is just shake it and the seeds just fall right out.

I just gave the seeds a little shake and out they fell. I had to go inside to do it because the wind was blowing the seeds right out of my hand. Lo and behold today I noticed what looked like an onion growing right beside my back door right against the house!! I looked closer and sho nuff, the little bulb was right on top of the ground. Can you see it?

My Pothos is Out of Control!

Pothos is a common household plant that is as pretty as it is hardy. It will even grow for people with brown thumbs. You have to basically put this plant in a closet for 6 months and never give it water to even broach killing this one. I bought 2 Pothos hanging baskets from Publix a year and a half ago or so because they were so pretty and I couldnt resist. I hung them in the corners of my kitchen and let em go. They grew and grew and grew. They grew so much they touched the floor 3 times after I cut them back. They grew so much that I was able to fill this pot with the vines that grew from it. As it is a few of them are touching the floor and Im going to have to cut these back too. I really hate to throw any vines away after I cut them, but I have no one to give them to.

The Pothos in my kitchen touched the floor again and when my aunt came over one day she suggested I run them across the wall since I was running out of space for the cuttings. I was like, sure. Why not. So I grabbed some clear thumb tacks and used them to prop the vines up on the wall. Now it looks like Im about to run out of wall space for the Pothos vines. I couldnt even get all of the vines in the picture. These things are growing out of control!  Its a good problem to have though. 

Friday, April 6, 2012

Seeds like you never imagined...

carrot seeds
I have never ever even considered vegetable seeds before now. I barely even noticed them when I ate veggies where the seeds are in them like peppers and cucumbers but now that I have started this years garden off with seeds it really made me more aware of the seeds that later develop in to plants that bear fruit. A lot of the seeds are so TINY!!! I mean like, just trying to get a pinch will get you 10 seeds on your fingertips. Take these carrot seeds for instance. You can barely even see them. Imagine trying to plant one of these in a hole. Now I understand why the instructions say to surface sow and barely cover. LOL!!  These lettuce seeds are tiny but they still need to be sort of surface sewn too and they are easier to work with. I have a few more examples of seeds to show you. Notice that the onion seed looks like bits of tar or something. I never would have thought that and the Marigold flower seed is by far the most bizarre I have ever seen. I dont know what that looks like. Maybe mini brooms or something???

lettuce seeds
onion seeds

marigold seeds
cabbage seeds
broccoli seeds

Perennials and Bulbs - More Bang for the Buck

I never buy any type of flower that will not come back for me in the spring. I barely any want to take peoples flowers that I know wont come back because once it takes its winters nap, I want it to wake up again, not lay down in perpetual sleep. Thats why you should always buy perennial flowers, not annuals. Annuals only live one season and die, never to return. However perennials and bulbs just keep coming back every year even bigger and better. Take my elephant ears in this pot. I dug up a few bulbs out of my grandmothers back yard last summer and put them in 4 different places in my yard. When fall hit, they died but look at them now. They have made a come back and they will keep coming back and multiplying so you can spread some  love by giving some to someone else or put more bulbs in different locations. Those hydrangea bushes turn to sticks in fall and winter, but its early April and all the leaves are already back. These bushes look good on their own but good LAWD they are GORGEOUS when the flowers bloom!! I have no idea what those orange flowers are. I just bought them a few years back because they were perennials and there were no more at Lowes that caught my eye that day and like I said, I just CANNOT buy annuals.

These pretty purple plants around my mailbox are called Wandering Dew. You have to actually try to kill these for them to die, and even still they may stick around. They just keep growing and growing. These plants seemed to be non-existent a couple weeks ago and now look. They already look good to only have been back a couple weeks. Im sure in another week or two they will flower. They have the cutest little purple flowers on them and to replant these all you have to do is just pull and replant and they will multiply for even more that will keep coming back year after year.

Big Chop? Oh yeah. This one was Gargantuan!!

I had been growing my hair out for a long while now. I went from nappy, to texlaxed, to full laxed, from teeny weeny afro to hair down to my waist. You know there was a lot of twists and turns on that road. The latest stop is quite shocking for most people I know. Here is my hair after I had been slowly secretly cutting it back some before I cut it all off.
I really grew my hair out that long to see if it could actually GET that long, you know? Once I knew that I could actually grow it that long, I no longer wanted it anymore. I know that may sound crazy, but its true. I cut it for a few reasons besides that. I have 3 daughters and doing their 3 heads plus trying to manage all that on my head was just too overwhelming for me. SOMEBODY hair was getting cut and I cant cut theirs so.....Then I just wanted something different. My favorite style of mine that I think looks the best on me is a short short cut so the more I thought about it I figured I would just do it.

First I didnt get a relaxer for 6 months and I went into my bathroom and cut all my hair off down to the new growth. Then I went to the barber shop and wore it like this for 6 months or so.

I wore it either a little shorter or sometimes a little longer than this. I just wet it and put mousse on it and rolled out. Of course I got bored with this too so I decided to let it grow out a little bit and be natural with about 5 inches of hair. about midway in I changed my mind and relaxed it and went with this haircut. 

People often ask me if I miss my hair or will I ever grow it back and the answer is no I do not miss all that hair. I am rather enjoying my stress free unwrap in the morning and go hairstyle. I think it suits me better than longer hair. Long hair seems to swallow me up and I need to be set free. Shorter hair makes me look younger too, in my opinion and it suits my personality. Will I ever grow it back? Ahhh, I dont know. I cant ever say what I will or wont do to my hair. My hair is just one big experiment and I cant commit to any concrete style or texture. I do what I feel and right now Im feeling this cut!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Creativity Abounds

Here are a couple things my children did on MS Paint.
My 7 year old daughter did this one.
Heres one that my son did.

How to have never ending menus

Has menu planning been your nemesis? It certainly has been mine. I could never for the life of me decide what we were going to have for dinner because I didn't like cooking and that was due in part because the whole ordeal seemed to be a chore ESPECIALLY when I didn't know what I was going to be making for dinner that night.

If you were like me, you visited the net for blogs, searched for pre planned menus, or maybe you even called up your girlfriend and asked her what shes having for dinner that night. Yes, I have done all those things and I still ended up clueless and frustrated.

One day I had an epiphany. I use Google Calendar to plan all the things in life that need to be mapped out so I figured why not plan out what we will be eating from day to day?

I felt like I should have been nominated for a Nobel Prize just for the mere IDEA of it all. Not that making a week long menu hasn't been attempted by me and millions of people before, but not to this level that I'm about to get into.

In Google Calendar, you can set up events to reoccur every day, week, every 2 weeks, every 3 weeks, every month, year, ect ect ect. What I decided was to do 31 days of menus, and have them all to reoccur once every month. That way, I will have a menu for everyday of the week henceforth and forever more. Not only that, you can set up each meal and send invitations to the event to whomever you choose ie your always hungry family members. Now your husband and children will never have to ask you that dreaded question: "Whats for dinner???" and you will no longer have to look like this: :-I They will receive an email with that days menu listed.

Here's where the hard work comes in. Now you have got to come up with all these menus. Don't panic though! Take your time. It took me 2 weeks to do it. I went to the library and checked out a grand total of 2 cookbooks. I made sure before I took them home that they were full of recipes that I would want to make that had few ingredients. Added to my arsenal was previous meals I had made that me and my family loved and my crock pot. If I had to have instructions for making a particular meal, I typed in the ingredients as well as the instructions in the note portion of the event on the calendar.

If you don't have a Google account I seriously urge you to get one so that you can use the Calendar. Its a life saver and now it makes cooking somewhat enjoyable because the stress of being ignorant of what we are having is gone. An added bonus to it all is that I can now shop according to whats on the menu for the week and that cuts down on the grocery bill.

Since Google allows you to embed your calendar Im actually going to let you benifit from that mind numbing brain twisting work that I went thru for those two weeks and let you see my menu

Gardening in 2012 ~ Doing it BIG!!

This is not my very first attempt at gardening, but I am trying a few new things this year. For one, everything that I have grown was started from seed. I never really thought of growing my veggies from seed because I have always just bought seedlings from Lowes and plopped them in the ground. The reason I decided that I wont be going that route anymore is because I do not wish to have any GMOs or Genetically Modified Foods in my garden and onto my plate. The seeds that they use for those seedlings are GMOs so thats a no-no for me.

The second new thing for me this season is Square Foot Gardening which entails the use of raised beds and plotting the beds in one square inch blocks that you will plant a certain amount of plants in, depending on the plant that you put in the square. For example 16 onions will go into one square foot block and 9 spinach will go into a square and 4 lettuce heads go in another square and one tomato per square.
To jump start my growing season, which did pay off by the way, I did another first which is making mini hoop houses, which are in essence small green houses. I was able to start my seeds off then transplant them early and now I already have lots of lettuce and some cucumbers growing. I will also be able to extend the growing season and even have some things growing year round.

In past years since I only planted veggies that were available from Lowes, Home Depot or a nursery, I was limited in what I could plant which was typically for me eggplant, onion, pepper, tomato, squash/zucchini,  and cucumber.  Starting from seeds gives you a wider range of options for your garden.  This year in addition to what I mentioned above I am growing broccoli, cabbage, 2 varieties of romaine lettuce, spinach, swiss chard, carrots, watermelon, cantaloupe, okra, garlic, and celery. I have never grown any of these things so this also will be a big experiment, lots of trail and error and a big learning experience.

As of today this is whats going on in one of my 4 boxes, the biggest one which is a 4 x 10. It has a whopping 40 squares in it so I should be able to get a lot out of just that one box. Here in this pic to the right from top left to right is broccoli, carrots, celery, in the corner is pepper, and in the very front is onions. I have already taken a few of the carrots and they were TASTY!

Here are some onions that didnt grow AT ALL last summer that I left in the box for dead. I just....left them there haphazardly in different spots and they grew some greens. I moved them to one square and to make them grow from tiny scallions I just moved the soil from around the bulbs so they would get bigger. They are about 4x bigger than they were when I first got them. Right beside them on the right is more carrot and in the foreground to the left is eggplant. I dont know if it can really be seen but theres a tiny speck right by the twine in the front. Thats one of the garlic bulbs that have started to shoot up.
And finally here is one of the cucumbers that I mentioned before thats already started to come in.

Terry McMillan's Getting to Happy ~Review

I really really REALLY dont like to give negative reviews but OMG this book right here? Terribuh. Just TERRIBUH!!! To make it brief the characters were so predictable, the 2 decent men in the previous book Waiting To Exhale were crucified in this installment, the story line was boring, and I just could not sympathize with any of the characters or identify with them. I was so disappointed. I really was. I wanted it to be good. I was already told it was a bad read, but I gave it a chance and they were more than correct, unfortunately. Terries facial expression on the back of the book sums up how I looked while reading this tale.

Croched African Violet Square Dishcloths

I made these months ago and they are just collecting dust. I may as well put them to good use somehow. :-)