Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Canning Tutorial - Boiling-Water Method


If you have never canned before, this is the tutorial for you! This is the simplest form of canning.

Boiling-Water Bath Method for canning is transferring the heat from the boiling-water to the contents of the jar and there by killing microorganisms and sealing the jar.

This method is only for high-acid foods. High-acid foods have a pH of 4.6 or less. High-acid foods are:
  • Tomatoes
  • Pickled foods (i.e. pickles, sauerkraut)
  • Fruits (fruit sauces, chutneys, whole fruits)
  • Jams and Jellies
You can increase acidity of food by adding bottled lemon juice, citric acid, or vinegar to your recipes. This should be stated in the recipe if needed.

What you need for Boiling-Water Bath Canning:
  • Fresh or other ingredients for your recipe
  • Water bath canner with lid and jar rack
  • Jars
  • Lids and Bands
  • Sauce pan
  • Ladle or large spoon
  • Jar lifter
  • Dish towels
  • Magnetic lid lifter *
  • Head space and bubble remover stick *
  • Jar tightener *
    • Funnel *
    Items with * are optional but sure are nice to have!



    Steps to Boiling-Water Bath Canning:
     
    1. Pick a recipe to can.  Get all the ingredients you need for it.
    2. Wash jars in hot soapy water. Rinse.

    3. Place jar rack in water bath canner. Fill water bath canner half full of with water. Place empty jars in canner, make sure they are covered and filled with water. Heat water to boiling on the largest burner on the stove top. Continue boiling the empty jars for 10 minutes or more. This process sterilizes the jars (kills any bacteria on them).

    4. Prepare recipe exactly as the recipe states. If you deviate from the recipe ingredients (except for seasonings), the pH may be effected and can make the food unsafe.

    5. Place towel on counter top. Remove jars from water bath with jar lifter. You grab the jar just below the rim with the jar lifter. Drain all the water out of the jars into the canner. Place jar on towel. If you place a hot jar on a cool counter top, this can result in broken glass.

    6. Place funnel in the opening of the jar. Using the ladle, fill jar almost to the top. The recipe should state how much room to leave at the top of the jar. This is called headspace. The headspace is minimal air that is purposely left in the jar to allow the food to expand during the boiling water bath process and then the food decreases in size during the cooling process. This is how the seal is created. Jams and jellies have 1/4 inch headspace. Tomatoes and fruits have 1/2 inch headspace.

    7. Wipe jars and rims of the jar with wet cloth. This removes any food that stop the lid from making a proper seal.

    8. Place lid and band on the top of the jar. Tighten the band to finger tip tight. You don't want the band as tight as possible. You can use the Ball's Sure Tight Band tool for this.

    9. Using the jar lifter, pick up the jar. Do not tilt the jar as may result in spilling. Place jar back into water bath canner. Make sure the wire rack is in the canner. The wire rack allows the hot water to circulate around the jar and heat it evenly. If you don't use the wire rack you can have broken jars. Repeat the jar filling process until the canner is full or you run out of the recipe.

    10. Once all the jars are in the water bath canner, you will need to fill up the water so that the jars are covered by at least 1 to 2 inches of water. Return water to boiling.

    11. When the water is boiling in the canner, you will set a timer for the processing time. Cover the canner with the lid. The processing time is the length of time the jar needs to be in the water bath canner to kill any microorganisms and makes food safe to store. If the water is boiling to fast the jars will begin to shake. You will need to turn down the temperature slightly.

    12. When the timer goes off, turn off the heat and uncover the canner. Let jars sit in the hot water for another 5 minutes. This is part of the cooling process. If you have additional food left over to can, turn burner back on high. Then go back to step 2.

    13. Use jar lifter to grab the jar just under the rim. Place hot jars on towel on counter. This is the location that the jar needs to rest for 12-24 hours. Make sure there is not a cold draft at this location as can break jars. Space jars 1-2 inches apart to cool.

    14. Do nothing for 12-24 hours while the jars cool. You will start to here a "pinging" sound as the lid is inverted and sealing. Love that sound!

    15. Remove bands from the jar. Check that the lid is secure on the jar and sealed. If the jar is not sealed, you can place in the refrigerator for use at this time. You can freeze the jar, if your jars are freezer safe. Or you can re-process the food with in 24 hours.

    16. Wipe jars to remove any residue or water stains.

    17. Label and date. Spaghetti sauce looks like taco sauce. I only want one on my pasta.

    18. Store jars in cool dry place out of direct sunlight. 

    You did it!!!
    **Warning: This is highly addictive! You might already be thinking about what else you can can!

    Here are a few other tips:
    • Do not use jars with chips or cracks as will break or not seal.
    • If you have food to preserve that does not fill up the jar you selected, you can save the in the refrigerator to be eaten now. You can freeze the food in a freezer-safe jar. Or select a smaller jar to process the food in. You would use the same headspace and the same processing time for the smaller jar.
    • Metal lids are single use only. Repeat use is not recommended.  The Tattler brand has re-usable lids.
    • Always take the lid off the boiling-water bath canner by opening it away from you. The steam can burn. 
    • Check your altitude. If you live over 1000 feet above sea level, the processing time will change. Increase the processing time by five minutes for altitudes of 1000 to 3000 feet, ten minutes for 3001 to 6000 feet, fifteen minutes for altitudes of 6001 to 8000 feet.

    Monday, April 29, 2013

    Broccoli Cheese Soup

    This soup is so easy and you can make for those nights you forgot to plan for dinner.


    Broccoli Cheese Soup

    16 ounces chopped broccoli (frozen is just fine and no need to defrost)
    1/2 cup chopped onion
    1/2 teaspoon minced garlic or 1 garlic clove minced
    4 cups chicken broth
    1 carrot diced
    2 tablespoon butter
    2 1/2 cups half & half or milk
    2 cups shredded cheese
    1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
    2-4 tablespoons flour
    salt
    pepper

    Combine chicken broth, butter, broccoli, garlic and onions in a stock pot; cook over medium heat until onion is tender. Add 2 cups half & half, shredded cheese, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper; cook over low heat until cheese melts. Use a submersion blender to blend the soup smooth if you would like.
    In separate bowl, mix flour and 1/2 cup of half & half together. Add to soup and stir. Heat until desired thickness.

    Garnish with croutons and shredded cheese.

    Sunday, April 28, 2013

    Dirty Dishes


    Dishes Dishes Dishes. If you are being health conscience and are making your own food then you know what comes with it.... Dishes. We personally have a problem keeping on top of the dishes at our house. If you find an empty sink in our home that only means we knew you were coming over in advance!


    Instead of being down on myself about my short comings, I often think of the this poem when it is time to tackle the pile in the sink.


    Thank God for dirty dishes;
    They have a tale to tell.
    While others may go hungry,
    We're eating very well
    With home, health, and happiness,
    I shouldn't want to fuss;
    By the stack of evidence,
    God's been very good to us.

    - Author Unknown


    Often times our challenges or problems in our lives are really blessings.  Problems at work? But you have a job.  Electric bill to pay? But you have electricity.  Laundry to do? But you have clothes to wear.
    The Lord your God turned the curse into a blessing to you, because the Lord your God loves you.  - Deuteronomy 23:5

    Friday, April 26, 2013

    Homemade Dishwasher Detergent & Rinse Aid

    Not only can you simply make your own natural dishwasher detergent but it has only three ingredients in it! How easy is that? And it works great.

     Homemade Dishwasher Detergent Recipe
    1 cup baking soda
    1 cup borax
    1/2 cup salt

    Mix ingredients together well. Store is air tight container.
    Use 1 Tablespoon of the above mixture to the pre-wash and wash compartment. 
     Makes 20 loads. Costs less than 4 cents per load!
    Optional add-ins: a few drops of lemon essential oil.

    Homemade Dishwasher Rinse Aid Recipe
     Vinegar
    Add 2 Tablespoons of vinegar to your rinse compartment. 

    Thursday, April 25, 2013

    Baked Macaroni and Cheese


    My youngest daughter loves Mac & Cheese. She loves it so much that for her birthday she said she wanted to eat it at every meal. But I don't like to make the boxed mixes as the "cheese" powder is a strange neon orange. Here my recipe for easy homemade Mac & Cheese.


    Baked Macaroni and Cheese
    4 Tablespoons butter
    4 Tablespoons flour
    4 cups milk
    3 cups shredded cheese (used finely shredded sharp cheddar / jack cheese)
    1/4 teaspoon white pepper
    1/2 teaspoon garlic powder or 1 teaspoon minced garlic
    1 pound elbow macaroni or noodle of your choice
    topping options: more shredded cheese 1/2 cup, Parmesan cheese, and / or bread crumbs

    Preheat oven to 400 ° F.

    Prepare noodles according to package directions. Cook until al dente (the lower time suggestion). Pour noodles in 9 x 13 pan and set aside.

    In large saucepan, melt butter. Once melted, add flour and whisk with butter. Will be clumpy. Add milk in small increments to butter/flour mix and WHISK! Stir in shredded cheese, white pepper and garlic. Cook on medium-high heat for 10 minutes. Stir often. Sauce will thicken.

    If sauce is too thin, whisk in more flour by slowly sprinkling in to prevent clumps.
    If sauce is too thick, whisk in more milk.

    Pour sauce over noodles and stir to combine. Sprinkle your choice of toppings over Macaroni and Cheese.

    Bake for 20 minutes.

    Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

    Wednesday, April 24, 2013

    Amish Friendship Pancakes

    Looking for even more uses for your Amish Friendship Starter?
    The pancake recipe makes quite possibly the fattest pancakes ever. You can even freeze them for a handy quick breakfast option.


    Amish Friendship Pancakes
    1 c flour
    1/2 tsp salt
    1 tsp baking powder
    1 tsp baking soda
    Combine in a smaller bowl:
    2 cups Amish friendship starter batter
    2 Tbsp oil
    1/2 c milk
    1 egg

    In a large bowl combine flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. In a smaller bowl combine Amish friendship starter batter, oil, milk and egg. Add ingredients of smaller bowl to larger bowl. Mix together with whisk or beat together on medium speed with your mixer.
    Spoon batter onto greased warmed griddle. Cook at medium to low heat, flip after 2-3 minutes.

    Optional add-ins: ground flax seed, ground cinnamon, finely chopped apples, pears, or berries.

    Freezing: Allow waffles to cool. Place waffles in large plastic bag in a single layer, then place plastic wrap or wax paper and make another layer of waffles. Repeat until bag is full or out of waffles.
    Reheat frozen waffle in toaster or toaster oven.

    Tuesday, April 23, 2013

    Amish Friendship Waffles

    Besides making the traditional Amish Friendship Bread, you can use the Amish Friendship Starter for waffles too. Not only are they delicious but you can fill your freezer with them for a busy morning breakfast option. You will never have to buy frozen waffles again.


    Amish Friendship Waffles
    1 c flour
    1/2 tsp salt
    1 tsp baking powder
    1 tsp baking soda
    Combine in a smaller bowl:
    2 cups Amish friendship starter batter
    2 Tbsp oil
    1/2 c milk
    1 egg

    In a large bowl combine flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. In a smaller bowl combine Amish friendship starter batter, oil, milk and egg. Add ingredients of smaller bowl to larger bowl. 
    Preheat waffle iron to medium-low heat.
    Spoon batter onto greased warmed waffle iron. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes.

    Optional add-ins: ground flax seed, ground cinnamon, finely chopped apples, pears, or berries.

    Freezing: Allow waffles to cool. Place waffles in large plastic bag in a single layer, then place plastic wrap or wax paper and make another layer of waffles. Repeat until bag is full or out of waffles.
    Reheat frozen waffle in toaster or toaster oven.

    Wednesday, April 17, 2013

    Taco Sauce


    We love tacos in our house. But with little ones they don't like spicy like the adults do. I also was in search of a recipe that did not include corn syrup, as we are trying to eliminate it from our diets. 


    Taco Sauce

    13 1/2 cups pureed tomatoes or 111 oz can diced tomatoes
    1/4 cup minced onion
    1 3/4 cups vinegar
    1/4 cup garlic powder or 1/8 cup minced garlic
    2 Tablespoons salt
    2 Tablespoons paprika
    2 Tablespoons sugar
    1 Tablespoon crushed red pepper
    6 chopped jalapenos or 12 oz jar jalapeno slices
    Tomato paste, optional for thickness (we use 2 - 6 ounce cans)

    Hot water canner
    Large sauce pan or soup pot
    Ladle
    Funnel
    Jar Lifter
    Jars, lids, rims
    Blender or Immersion Blender
    Mix all ingredients together in the large sauce pan. Simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Blend sauce with immersion blender or place hot sauce in blender.


    If you are new to Boiling-Water Bath Canning, I recommend reading my tutorial on this type of canning.

    Get your jars ready. Jars should be clean, can run through the dishwasher or wash in hot soapy water. Place funnel on top of jar and fill leaving 1/4 inch head space. Wipe rims of jars clean with warm wash cloth. Place lids on jars and tighten with rims.

    Process in a boiling-water canner for 30 minutes. Remove jars with jar remover carefully. Place hot jars on level surface. I cover my counter top with a double layered kitchen towel and place jars on top.Using a hot pad or glove, check that the rims are tightened.

    As the jars cool, you will hear a "ping" when the lid seals. Make sure all of your jars have sealed. They are sealed if the button in the middle of the lid in depressed. If you have any jars that have not sealed, you can reprocess them or store the jar in the refrigerator for use.

    Makes 10 pints or 5 quarts.

    You can buy a large can of tomatoes at any warehouse store or check your grocery aisle for bulk foods.

    Please check with your local extension office for any changes due to altitude for times or temperatures. Above instructions are for elevation 1000 feet or below.

    Tuesday, April 16, 2013

    Amish Friendship Bread


    One of the classic sweet bread recipes is Amish Friendship Bread. Our family loves this bread for breakfast or with a little butter spread on it. On day 10 you are ready to use the starter and then every 5 days after that if you keep any for yourself.


    Amish Friendship Bread

    1 cup Amish Friendship starter
    2 cups flour
    6 oz package of vanilla pudding
    1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
    1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    1 cup sugar
    2/3 cup oil *
    1/4 cup milk
    3 large eggs
    1 teaspoon vanilla
    your choice to grease pans (olive oil, Crisco, or non-stick spray)

    Preheat oven to 350 F.
    Whisk together in a medium bowl the flour, sugar, pudding mix, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, and baking soda; set aside.
    In a large mixing bowl combine starter, oil, milk, eggs and vanilla; mix together well.
    Stir in the flour mixture, mixing only just until combined; do not over mix.
    Pour into 2 greased 9x5x3 inch loaf pans.
    Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.


    Allow to cool in pan for 10 minutes. Remove from pan and transfer to cooling rack.
    This recipe is can easily be frozen once cooled. Simply wrap in foil. Label. Freeze. 

    (*) Variations:
      Can use half fruit sauce (apple or pear) and half oil to equal 2/3 cup oil.

    Directions to be included if giving away Amish Friendship Starter:


    Amish Friendship Bread Directions
    Day 1 Do nothing
    Day 2 squeeze the bag several times
    Day 3 Repeat day 2
    Day 4 Repeat day 2
    Day 5 Add 1 c flour, sugar, and milk. Squeeze bag several times to mix.
    Day 6 Repeat day 2
    Day 7 Repeat day 2
    Day 8 Repeat day 2
    Day 9 Repeat day 2
    Day 10 Add 1 cup flour, sugar, and milk. Squeeze bag several times to mix. Pour 1 cup of starter in a bag to pass on.

    Amish Friendship Bread Recipe

    1 cup Amish Friendship starter
    2 cups flour
    6 oz package of vanilla pudding
    1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
    1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    1 cup sugar
    2/3 cup oil
    1/4 cup milk
    3 large eggs
    1 teaspoon vanilla

    Preheat oven to 350 F.
    Whisk together in a medium bowl the flour, sugar, pudding mix, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, and baking soda; set aside.
    In a large mixing bowl combine starter, oil, milk, eggs and vanilla; mix together well.
    Stir in the flour mixture, mixing only just until combined; do not over mix.
    Pour into 2 greased 9x5x3 inch loaf pans.
    Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
    Allow to cool in pan for 10 minutes. Remove from pan and transfer to cooling rack.
    This recipe is can easily be frozen once cooled. Simply wrap in foil. Label. Freeze. 

    Friday, April 12, 2013

    Homemade Laundry Detergent

    Being a frugal girl, I don't like paying for anything that literally gets washed down the drain. Laundry detergent can not only be expense but can also have extra ingredients that can be irritating to your loved ones skin.

    How about spending less than $2.50 for laundry detergent that makes 96 loads? Sounds good to me. That comes in at 2 cents per load!



    There are several laundry detergent recipes out there but simplicity and with only 3 ingredients makes this one easy to make. We have been using this recipe for over a month and have no complaints!
    Homemade Laundry Detergent

    3 cups Borax
    3 cups Washing Soda
    3 cups Bar Soap, grated finely

    Combine equal parts of the above ingredients in a large container that has an airtight lid. 
    Use 1 tablespoon per large load.

    The bar soap can be any type your prefer. You can certainly by "laundry soap" in the laundry detergent aisle at any big box store. Do not use a moisturizing bar of soap as can contain oils. You can grate the soap or place cut up pieces in a food processor or any large capacity blender.

    Pictured above, I have left a restaurant plastic spoon in the container. Use 2 spoonfuls to equal 1 Tablespoon.

    From start to finish the process can take less than 10 minutes and last for months.

    Wednesday, April 10, 2013

    Chicken Parmigiana Recipe


    This recipe is so juicy and easy to make for busy nights. The secret to success is turning the chicken half way through baking.


    Chicken Parmigiana
    2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut in half
    2 eggs beaten
    1 1/2 to 2 cups bread crumbs
    2 teaspoons dried oregano
    2 teaspoons dried basil
    1 teaspoon garlic powder
    1 teaspoon rosemary, ground
    olive oil
    1 quart jar of Sweet Spaghetti Sauce or tomato based sauce of your choice
    Parmesan cheese or Italian blend shredded cheese
    Noodles of your choice, 16 ounces

    Preheat oven to 350 ° F.

    Brush olive oil on the bottom of 9 x 13 inch pan. Combine in a bowl bread crumbs, oregano, basil, garlic powder and rosemary. Beat eggs in separate bowl. Dip chicken breast in egg, allow excess to dip off. Then roll chicken in bread crumb mixture, place in 9 x 13 inch pan.

    Bake for 20 minutes. Flip chicken over and then bake for an additional 15 minutes.

    While chicken is baking, make noodle per package directions. And heat spaghetti sauce.
    Place chicken on a bed of noodles. Top with spaghetti sauce and sprinkle with cheese.

    Serve with garlic bread, salad, or vegetable of your choice.

    Monday, April 8, 2013

    No Mess Cupcakes

    Every parent has found themselves tackling the task of cupcake chef and decorator. This job can be made much easier with a few tricks.


    Stress Free Tips:
    1. Use store-bought cake mix instead of making your own from scratch. Easy.
    2. Use paper liners in the cupcake pans. Can often find these on sale after the holiday or at craft stores. No Mess.
    3. Once you have mixed the cake, pour batter into a plastic bag and seal. Then cut the corner off for a no mess batter dispenser. Easy and No Mess!
    4. Make decorating easy. 
      • Let your special person select sprinkles and a frosting color.
      • Use store bought icing instead of making your own, add food coloring drops to get the right color.
      • Spread icing with a knife or use a pastry bag if you have one. Just start at the center of the cupcake and work your way out.
      • Apply sprinkles. Pour some sprinkles in a bowl. Hold cupcake over bowl and use a spoon to shake sprinkles on. Tip Cupcake slightly to allow extra sprinkles to fall back in the bowl.
     I usually like to make things from scratch but baking is not my "strong area" in the kitchen.

    Know you capabilities and allow yourself a few cheats in life!

    Friday, April 5, 2013

    Spring Has Sprung

    The weather and my schedule finally worked out that I was able to spend a few productive hours outside in the yard.

    To my great delight I found these beauties peeking out...

    Snowdrops
    Just seeing the plants starting to push up through the newly thawed ground gets me so excited for the growing season to come!

    We have a long way to go but we are making progress!

    Oregano
    There is also new growth on my Breaded Irises and Tulips barely breaking the surface.

    What is growing in your yard?

    Thursday, April 4, 2013

    Microwave Cleaning Tips

    Anything that can make cleaning easier I am all for! I love the satisfaction of cleaning I just don't like actually doing the cleaning.

    Microwave Cleaning Tips

    Just because you can close the door on it, doesn't mean that it wants to be ignored!
    Before
    After!
    What you need:
    1 cup water
    1/2 cup vinegar
    1/8 cup lemon juice
    Microwaveable bowl
    Cleaning towel

    What you do:
    Combine the liquid ingredients in the microwaveable bowl. Place in microwave.



     Set the microwave to 6 minutes.


    When timer goes off. Remove the bowl with potholders as is HOT. Set aside. Quickly wipe down microwave surfaces and the rotation plate.
    If any spots remain, dip the cleaning towel in the warmed solution. Then re-wipe any surfaces.


    Now enjoy your clean microwave!

    What to do with the leftover solution? Toilet Bowl Cleaner!

    Just pour in the toilet. Let sit for 10 minutes. Then use the toilet brush as you normally do. And now you have cleaned two things!!

    Amish Friendship Starter

    You may have been given one of those plastic bags with pale light brown goo in it in the past. You probably followed the directions and in 10 days you could make a loaf of Amish Friendship Bread.

    You don't have to wait for the starter to find you again. You can make your own Amish Friendship Starter.

    Amish Friendship Starter (for breads, muffins, waffles, and pancakes).

    Ingredients for the Day 1:
    1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast or 2 1/4 teaspoons of bulk yeast
    1/4 cup warm water (110 degrees Fahrenheit / 45 degrees Celsius)
    1 cup flour
    1 cup white sugar
    1 cup milk

    Ingredients on Day 5 and repeated on Day 10:
    1 cup flour
    1 cup white sugar
    1 cup milk

    In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in warmed water. Let stand 10 minutes.


    In a 2 quart container glass, plastic or ceramic container, combine 1 cup flour and 1 cup sugar.

    Mix thoroughly.


    Slowly stir in 1 cup milk and dissolved yeast mixture. Cover loosely and let stand until bubbly.
    Consider this day 1 of the 10 day cycle. Leave loosely covered at room temperature. You can keep mixture in container or place in plastic bag with air in it.

    On days 2 thru 4; stir starter with a wooden spoon or mash in a plastic bag. Day 5; stir in 1 cup flour, 1 cup sugar and 1 cup milk. Days 6 thru 9; stir or mash only.

    Day 10; stir in 1 cup flour, 1 cup sugar and 1 cup milk. Remove 1 cup to make your first Amish Friendship Bread.

    You can keep 1 cup for yourself and start the process all over again or give 1 cup to a friend. If you are giving the starter away, be sure to include directions and your favorite Amish Friendship recipe.

    Amish Friendship Bread recipe and variations coming soon!

    Wednesday, April 3, 2013

    Indoor Seed Starting

     You got your seeds all gathered together and now you are ready to get them growing!
     Starting your seeds correctly will take you far this growing season.

    Gather these things:
    • Seed packets. Purchased at the store or mail-order. Check the backs of the packets to make sure they can be started indoors and not outdoors (direct sowing). The back of the packet will also tell you when you should start the seeds prior to your local areas last frost. The Farmer's Almanac can help you determine the best dates.
    • Plant markers or wooden popscile sticks.
    • Containers. Purchased, saved containers from last years plants or reuse kitchen food containers. The options are endless.
    • Seed starting soil mix. Purchased and sterile. Don't dig up your yard as that soil contains bacteria. Don't give your seedlings a disease to fight off the bat.
    Growing your own food and flowers from seed is very gratifying and economical (cheap). You can also prolong your growing season if you are faced with harsh winters like we are in Wisconsin. You can grow more varieties than your local nursery carries. Maybe you want to try growing yellow tomatoes or purple watermelon.

    Where are you going to put these planters? Be conscience of the space you have to for these plants to grow in. Do you have limited space? Prioritize your seeds by space. For us we like to grow tomatoes, herbs, lettuce, peppers, and broccoli. Think about the sunlight they will need when they sprout or you can purchase a grow light at your local nursery.

    Place containers in a larger one that is waterproof, to collect any run off water from the plant containers. We use an under the bed plastic storage bin and then place the saved planting containers from last year in it. Arrange the containers to maximize space.
    You can purchase an all in one system and they are less than 5 dollars for one flat and you can reuse this year after year.

    Then fill the containers with seed starting mix almost to the top. We purchase Jiffy Seed Starting Mix from Wal-mart. You can also use vermiculite or shredded moss.

    Seeds only need water, air and warmth to germinate.

    Water the almost filled containers with warm water until the soil is moist. Watering before you place your seeds will ensure that the seeds don't get washed into the corners of the containers.

    Place your seeds on top of the soil. I always plant several seeds in each container as some seeds just don't germinate. You can always thin out the plants at a later time. Then top off the container with a small amount of soil.

    Now stop and label your plants with your preferred plant markers. You can label the whole row or the individual plants. We used craft popsicle sticks and a permanent marker.

    You can cover the planting container with the clear greenhouse cover if you have one. Don't put plants in a closed plastic bag as can cause mold to grow. You can place the planting trays in the sunny location or you can place them in a warm location to germinate. A warm location might be on top of the water heater, top of the refrigerator or by a heating vent. Or you can buy a heated germination mat. Most seeds germinate between 75 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Personally we don't have one of these mats. We place the trays in a sunny window and let the sun heat the soil.

    Keep the soil moist but not wet. Check the soil every few days to see if re-watering is needed.

    Then just wait to see the first signs of green poking through the soil in about 1 to 2 weeks.

    Tuesday, April 2, 2013

    Grow What? Here.

    If you are new to gardening and growing your own food, don't despair!

    First things first, you need to know what can grow where you live.

    Zones:

    Your planting zone will be your guide to assure that the plants you select will flourish year after year. The planting zone is particularly helpful if you select plants that are perennials, bushes, or trees.  Perennials are plants that will grow for more than two years and typically dies back in hard frosts.

    Check out the USDA plant hardiness map to find your "zone".

    We are zone 5b. Which means the weather can get to below -15 degrees Fahrenheit and our growing season come to halt with the arrival of winter.

    You need to know what zone you are in to know if the plants and seeds you select to grow will do well where you live. For example oranges can't grown in Wisconsin because our growing season is too short, so I shouldn't order an orange tree on-line.

    Zones on Seed Packets:

    Zones are also noted on the back of your seed packets. But are not the same as the Hardiness Zones.

    Confusing? Yes.

    The zones on the back of seed packets guide you to know when to bring your delicate seedling outside that you have cared for over the last weeks. You want the seedling to grow outside as it will do better than inside your home.

    According the back of the pictured packet of tomatoes we are living in the zone 4. In zone 4 it is May to June for this seed packet.

    With this knowledge you can get the most out of the plants where you live.

    Seed Inventory



    As winter wears on, I am starting to get impatient for warmer weather.
    As we live in Wisconsin (Zone 5b), we have to wait to get our hands dirty in the yard for another 30 plus plus days.

    Enter starting seeds... inside.

    Perhaps you have some seeds already. Be sure take them out and take an inventory.


    If you are seedless, don’t worry you have options. You can still get seeds set to you from catalogs. I personally like Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds, and Pinetree Garden Seeds.
    You can shop the stores. This week I saw that Aldi has seeds for $0.49 per pack!

    We are trying to grow more heirloom seeds in an attempt to get things back to how they used to be done. But I also have a good amount of seeds that are hybrids that can grow food producing plants too.

    Here is what we have: Basil Genovese, Broccoli Waltham, Gourds Small Fancy, Hot Peppers, Oregano, Parsley Dark Moss Curled, Peppers California Wonder, Peppers Red Mercury, Lettuce Prizehead, Pumpkin Jack-Be-Little, Pumpkin Jack O’Lantern, Tomato Beefsteak, Tomato Better Boy Hybrid, Tomato Roma, Tomato Rutgers-Select, Tomato Super Beefsteak, Watermelon Sugar Baby

    For later on we have these for direct sowing (straight in the ground): Cantaloupe Hale’s Best, Corn Iochief, Cucumber Armenian, Cucumber Homemade Pickles, Indian Corn, Popcorn

    If you don't know what to grow?  Pick some "easier" plants that tend to germinate (grow) well.
    Vegetables - broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, leeks, lettuce, onions, peppers, and tomatoes.
    Herbs - basil and chives.
    Annuals - alyssum, cosmos, marigolds, and zinnias.
    Perennials - shasta daisies, columbines, and hollyhocks.

    Good Luck! Get Growing!