Monday, November 23, 2015

Cara's Famous Fabulous Clean-Out-the-Fridge Dip

Thanksgiving is upon us, and with it, perhaps a few house guests? A few gatherings? That’s the drill at my house. Lots of extra people, lots of extra food, lots of wine, lots of cooking, and hopefully, lots of other people in the kitchen besides me to load the dishwasher!

My family has a tradition of everyone helping with the big meal. This means that cousins and friends will arrive with bags and coolers of food. Space in the fridge will be at a premium. 

So, this week one of our most important tasks will be freeing up some room in the fridge. Here’s one of my favorite solutions (beyond just several nights of everybody-eat-anything-you-want-in-the-fridge) - The Clean Out the Fridge Dip and/or Cheese Spread.

Let me explain.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Garden Hacks

At the beginning of the summer when I realized I had NO TIME for my garden, I thought, I’ll figure out some garden hacks and then I’ll blog about them. Sadly, not all my hacks worked, but there is still potential and the information is worth sharing, so here we go….

Let’s start with the biggest flop with the potential to be the biggest success. I do think this one is a keeper, but it needs some modifications and a lot more attention.

Gutter Step Garden
Nick built this lovely idea for me last year to house the strawberries. We had to relocate them so we could tear out the garden that was their home of the past twelve years and replace it with an expanded driveway. They were happy in the gutters and looked beautiful all summer and fall.

The garden is basically four gutters with caps on both ends mounted on a set of stair stringers and then given a frame to add stability. We didn’t poke holes for drainage because the caps were not a good seal and they leaked beautifully. Also, the gutter step garden is on a slight slant, so the water naturally drained off one end.

Lucky for me, I didn’t put all my strawberries in the gutter garden. I sagely planted half of them in an inground garden. Why am I lucky you ask? Remember last winter? The seven-month-long bitter, miserable slog through below freezing temperatures, daily record breaks, and endless snow? Why yes, that winter. By spring my strawberries in the gutter garden were dead beyond dead.

Friday, August 7, 2015

My Life is In The Weeds.....

Hello Kid Friendly Organic Life readers! Did you think I’d abandoned you? Never! However, I have been more than a bit distracted of late. Here’s why -

My novel was published just this week by The Story Plant. I’m super excited. Between promoting I’m Not Her and writing (and re-writing) my next novel for Story Plant, I’ve had very little time for me (and you). Here’s what my gardens look like –

See if you can find cucumbers, beans, potatoes, tomatoes, one pepper plant, sweet potatoes, and popcorn hidden in this garden.....
And here we have a zucchini not minding the weeds one bit, and behind that are tomatoes completely swallowed by weeds and blight, sunflowers towering above the wreckage with a watermelon somewhere in that mess...

Friday, July 10, 2015

Full Confession: I am no longer an organic gardener

After this past week I can no longer call myself an organic farmer. Sigh.

The Japanese beetles got me. I’ve put up with squash bugs and voles and those nasty invisible beetles that eat up my beans. And while we’ve had Japanese beetles before, I’ve never reached for the chemical weapons with any of them. I moved plants around, incentified the cats, and picked thousands of beetles off plants to drop them to their certain death in my bucket of dish soap.

But then last year happened. I wrote about it. It was devastating. They killed my peach and my nectarine trees, both of which were loaded with their first real crop. I was heartbroken. We ardently applied the milky spore – spent hundreds on it to be sure we treated all the ground around the gardens and fruit trees. We ordered new fruit trees and chalked the whole experience up to the difficult but noble pursuit of organic gardening.

And then I came home from my camping trip in June to find the Japanese beetles were back by the millions. They were devouring my grapes which had barely survived the onslaught last year. They had lived, but been reduced to the size they were the second year of their lives (they are eight this year). The beetles swarmed my gorgeous plum tree which was loaded with beautiful tiny purple plums for the first time ever. The raspberries and asparagus, even the rhubarb were swarmed by beetles.

What the heck? How did this happen? What about all that milky spore? Seems last year’s beetles must have sent out a message and it went viral and now all their friends and relatives had converged on our little hillside for a mass feast.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Every Woman's Fantasy...

Quick! What’s every woman’s fantasy?

No, that’s not it. It’s a Roomba! A robotic vacuum cleaner.

Guess what?

I got one. Which means, technically, all my dreams have come true. This is pretty much accurate.

Shout out to my FIL and my little brother who pitched in Amazon loot for my birthday which enabled me to bring Ed home finally.

Here’s Ed.

How do I know his name is Ed?

When I told Nick his name was Ed, he asked how I knew that. I said, “It says it there, right on his top.” He said, “You mean P3?” 

(Men, they can ruin everything.)

I chose Ed after carefully considering the options within my budget and reading some of the 400 reviews on Amazon. (Seriously, there are more than 400 reviews of robotic vacuum cleaners on Amazon. Who are these people?) The part that really sold me was that when reviewers were talking about Ed, they always referred to the vacuum as “he”. As in, “He does really well on hardwood floors, but doesn’t like carpet quite as much.” And “My only complaint about him is that he can get stuck moving from hardwood to carpet and he only holds a charge about 35 minutes.” I wanted this vacuum who had so clearly carved a place in the hearts of these reviewers.

Ed was super easy to assemble, just needing me to attach his happy little brush that sweeps objects out of edges and into his path and also the dust cloth. Then the hard part came…I had to wait 16 hours for him to charge up his rechargeable batteries! (It only took that long the first time, subsequently, he was much quicker to get back in the game.)

When he was all charged up, I prepped the kitchen. I removed the mats near the door and picked up larger items like shoes, baseball hats, dogs, and dice (I have a kid with a serious D&D habit, so there are dice in every nook and cranny of my house). Then I put the chairs up on the table and counter. 

(My children did such a great job removing all their crap from the table, just like I asked. Ahem.)

Thursday, April 30, 2015

My Ten Rules for Healthy Eating and Cooking

Last night I finished teaching a six week class on Healthy Cooking for the Community Education program of our school district. It was great fun and forced me to truly examine my own beliefs about healthy cooking.

Let’s first toss aside a few incorrect assumptions.

Healthy cooking is not about losing weight, although if you truly cook in a healthy way your weight will naturally find its way to a healthy number that works for your body.

Healthy cooking is not about using “light” ingredients. It’s about using real ingredients –the kind that heal and grow your body. Many times these ingredients are anything but light.

Healthy cooking does not mean bland, boring food. On the contrary, it means exploring all kinds of taste sensations. It means cooking fabulous food that you LOVE to eat.

At last night’s class I shared my ten rules for Healthy Cooking. I’ll share them with you now. (and if you want to learn more about these rules, be sure to sign up for my class in the fall!)

Ten Rules of Healthy Cooking and Eating: