Craft/DIY Ideas, Uncategorized

Growing Potatoes in a Barrel

If you would happen to drive by my house, this big blue barrel at one corner may catch your eye.

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What in the world is growing in there?

Potatoes, of course.

I had found this article on Pinterest this spring and was pretty intrigued by the idea.

So, we followed the instructions from there and a couple of other sources, using this big blue barrel as our container. (Apparently you can use a lot of different container options to grow potatoes in. Who knew?)

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I believe they’re almost ready to dig up.

Actually, scratch that. When you think they’re ready, you can simply dump out the contents of your barrel/container and the potatoes can just be picked up.

Pretty cool, huh?

We did plant a good bit of potatoes the “regular” way, over at our garden plot, which is on my in-laws’ farm. My big boys and I, along with the help of my father-in-law, dug up a bunch of red-skinned potatoes about two weeks ago.

Some other things we’ve been picking lately:

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Beets. Lots of them. I love beets, which is a good thing since we’ve had so many!

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Beans. These are some really cool purple ones that we tried out this year. When you cook them at all, they turn green!

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More beans. This is a haul we picked one morning last week. Here we have plain old green ones, yellow, purple, and flat Italian green beans.

Oh yes, there’s nothing like picking beans in almost 100 degree, humid weather. When we were done, my son Andrew offered me a long drink from the water hose. Um, that’s okay dude, I have a water bottle! I did tell him he could spray me down with it though. He got excited and was like, “Really?!?” Believe me, I could have used a good hosing down after that picking session!

We snapped our beans down in the basement later that day, and I ended up being able to freeze quite a few quart bags.

We also have some squash, zucchini, cucumbers, and tomatoes are just starting to turn. Sweet corn is getting ready too, so I’m sure we will have a huge corn-freezing day coming up soon. In August we usually also can peaches and lots of tomato products.

Last year our homemade spaghetti sauce was the BOMB, so maybe I’ll do a tutorial on that sometime soon.


Greek Salad

It seems like I’ve had such a busy summer so far. I’m hoping for at least a little reprieve before the back-to school busyness sets in. Anyway, since I’ve been a busy bee, I really have not had time (or energy, to be honest with you) to tackle any new projects. Sooooo, I’m going to put on a “re-run” for you today of a recipe I posted last summer. It’s a good one!


Since I made this for a brunch with some of my favorite ladies the other day, I thought I would share the recipe. Also, since some of these ingredients are still in season where I live, now’s the perfect time to enjoy this colorful and delicious Greek salad. The best part about it? If you don’t like certain ingredients, they can easily be subbed by something else and it still turns out good. For example, I didn’t have any feta cheese or kalamata olives the other day, so I substituted small chunks of mozzarella and black olives (see? I’m really not that with the program). In my humble opinion, it was still yummy. I originally got the recipe from a Penzey’s Spice catalog and make it every summer, sometimes for picnics or events, other times just for us to feast on for dinner.

Recipe for Greek Salad
10 large ripe tomatoes
1 large cucumber
1 cup kalamata olives, pitted
1 large onion
15 small pickled peppers
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
2 TB fresh parsley
2 TB Greek Seasoning
1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
2 tsp sugar

Craft/DIY Ideas, Recipes

How to Freeze Peas

I’m getting myself in the mode to do lots of freezing and canning this summer. I’ve already done up some jellies, but was pretty excited to see peas come into season around here. We had run out of them over the winter and our family was definitely ready to have some good old green peas around again. I froze a few bags yesterday and am waiting to do more within the next week. Here’s the method I follow to freeze peas and other veggies:

After shelling them all, wash really well. Start to heat up water in a pot. I have one specifically for blanching veggies that is pretty handy. You want your water to come to a nice rolling boil.

What is blanching, just in case you don’t know?

Blanching is the process of scalding veggies in boiling water or steam for a very short time. Then you stop the cooking by cooling them quickly before freezing them. I just read in one of my preserving cookbooks that  blanching serves several purposes. It cleans the surface, helps brighten the color, and helps with loss of vitamins. The scientific explanation is that it slows or stops enzyme action that causes loss of flavor, texture, and color. So basically blanching is necessary if you want your veggies to actually stay nice while being frozen. Oh, and it also softens them up a little bit as well.

So there. Not that you may have ever wanted or needed to know that info, but I’m a big nerd at heart and thought I’d fill you in on what I learned.

As your water is coming to a boil, get prepared by laying out labeled freezer bags and fill a big bowl with ice cold water. I also use a big slotted spoon to transfer my peas into the freezer bags, so have something like that ready too. Also make sure you have lots of ice available as you will need to refill that ice water bowl frequently.

Once the water is at a boil, drop a batch of peas into the blanching pot and let them go for about 2 minutes. You really don’t need them in there longer than that. They will start to look something like this.

Transfer peas from pot to the bowl with ice water.

Let them in the ice water for about 2 minutes, then use slotted spoon to place them in freezer bags. You want them well drained and no extra air to be in the bags before sealing them.

Pop into your freezer and they will taste delicious this winter.

This same process is used for freezing many other veggies, but the blanching times vary a little depending on the vegetable.