Monday, October 11, 2010

If At First Your Don't Suceed...

So somewhere back around May 25th I posted this very frank post about losing weight.  Well needless to say the summer weight loss plan didn't really go "as planned."  I wrote last week about joining Weight Watchers and so far I'm pretty pleased.  My list of things to try to do in the last thread posted above was pretty straightforward but I just couldn't figure out how to do it.  Lack of motivation, too many summer plans, I'm really not sure.  Whatever the reason for the failure in the last few months I seem to have had a really nice turn around.  Again I can't really say why, I don't think it's $40 a month I'm paying to WW, maybe it is the change in the weather, or maybe just one of those really need to "come to my senses" things.

All of the things I struggled with in the last few months I seem to be able to handle now, the less drinking, more moving, eating less, eating more healthy and even getting in breakfast every day all seem to be hitting their strides.  I have to admit to being very frustrated the first few days on the program, mostly because I was struggling with what to cook for dinner.  Now it seems the foodie in me has taken over the challenge and hunting down healthy recipes has given me the motivation for label reading, calorie counting and trying some swaps in recipes.

I'm almost 2 weeks in, which granted isn't a very long time but I feel confident about my future progress.  I also just flat out FEEL BETTER.  I'm amazed at the difference in the treadmill already.  I wouldn't think a couple weeks of more moving would really help that much but it seems to have helped a lot.  Just a few things I have noticed so far...
 1. No drinking seems to be working better than cutting back.
2. Progresso soups are my friend (especially at lunch!)
3. An apple around 5pm helps me get through til dinner time.
4. 100 calorie popcorn bags are a great "fill up" snack.
So that's it in a nutshell so far-more updates to come!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Long Time, No Blog...

Wow it's been a long time since I blogged!!  The garden is really done, well more like I'm done with it ha ha!  Okra is too tall to even pick anymore plus we really are sick of it.  I picked what I assume will be the last of the green beans last week and froze about 3 sacks of them.  I pulled up the peppers and tomatoes a few weeks ago and all that remains are some fresh herbs that should continue to grow until the first frost.

In other news my beginning of the summer diet has gone completely South and I decided to go ahead and join Weight Watchers.  I think it is the motivation I need and should keep me a lot more accountable in my eating and drinking habits.  With the cooler weather approaching I find it a lot easier to exercise as well.

So in a nutshell probably less foodie posts from me unless they are healthy.  I will be working on finding substitutions for a lot of the less healthy foods I cook.  It's all a bit discouraging since I enjoy cooking, eating etc. so much.  But I think all of that is what has gotten me in this mess in the first place.  I'm sort of obsessed with food, I like reading about it, clipping recipes, cooking it and of course eating it!  Hopefully future blogs will report my progress!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Just Too Darn Hot to Garden...

I hate to say it, but, I'm kind of over it.  Over the heat, over the weeds, over the sweat pouring down into my eyes when I pick green beans.  Ok maybe all that is a bit strongly worded.  But still, how many days over 90 will it take before everything just shrivels up and dies?  Some days I just want to throw in the towel and let it all wither.  Oddly I'm still getting a decent amount of produce...this is from the last week:
As you can see I'm not having any trouble with the okra and I finally picked my only carrots.  Slightly disappointing harvest but I did use them when I cooked for round three of Iron Chef Battle Squash (which will probably be the final battle as my new squash plants look like this...)
I guess day after day of 90+ degree heat combined with the lack of rain just sort of stopped them in their tracks.  (I'll be posting round three of the squash tasting later this week-when I remember to bring in the recipe.)
We still have tomatoes...
Although the plants attacked by the hornworms look more like this...
Stripped bare of leaves, sad and devoid of tomatoes. 

Hmm I think there is okra that needs to be picked...might as well fire up the sprinkler while I am out there...maybe I'm not over it after all?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Invasion of the Giant Man-Eating Worms!

I have been fairly lucky up until this point to keep my garden pretty bug free.  I mean sure some Japanese Beatles have snacked on the green beans a bit but other than that I have only had to even spray for bugs one time at the beginning of the growing season.  So imagine my surprise, dismay, complete revolution when I found these guys on my tomato plants.  The Hornworm.
I was just taking a quick glance at things before heading out of town and I noticed the tops of two of my plants were missing.  I have been having trouble with them leaning a bit and growing above the cage so I figured the plant had just broken off.  But I was perplexed when I couldn't find the top of the plant on the ground laying there.  After a bit more careful searching I found some of these guys perfectly blending in with the giant stems they were devouring.  They had eaten about half of the ENTIRE PLANT!  Leaves, stem, tomatoes-everything!  After removing these four mid-day, and two more later in the afternoon I applied a quick spray of Sevin bug spray and hoped it would keep them away.  No such luck.  While I have been out of town Leslie has removed about 6-8 more of the suckers.  I guess they don't mind Sevin products, maybe they found it to be a tasty condiment to the large quantities of tomatoes they have devoured.  Maybe something like a balsalmic?
In other garden news I have decided that next year all green beans will be planted in one long row instead of two rows as my two current rows are almost meeting in the middle.
Picking them has become an exercise in total claustrophobia.  Bean vines sticking to my body, grabbing at the widest parts of me from all angles.  Production has been fair, I'll be interested to see how they are after I have been gone a week.  A neighbor came by to pick some once but I'm not sure how deeply he picked into the maddening cluster of vine-y terror.
The okra has grown quite tall and soon will block the sprinkler pole.
It is always so strange in April or May to look out at this huge expanse of dirt in the backyard and think to yourself-wow I have plenty of room this year, no garden crowding, no stepping on plants to pick other plants.  The July comes and everything is growing on top of each other.  I have to admit that pulling the dead squash and planting new sort of gave the garden this "re-awakening" in a way-it's fun to see something sprouting again mid-season. 
I'm going to close for now but hope to post this week about last weekend's canning, pickling and preserving marathon (approx. 18 hours of kitchen work over two days.)  It was quite the experience.

Watch out for Hornworms this week-vicious, greedy, hungry bastards.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Would You Like Okra or Green Beans With That?

It is becoming a common refrain around here-every night at dinner, no matter what is being served you have a choice of side dishes-okra or green beans. I suppose it is much healthier than chips or fries-although fried okra can't be at the top of the diet foods list either. There is nothing like adding something you grew to the table every night. So on that note here is a garden update:
 I'm picking about this much stuff every 2-3 days.  I thought the green beans had totally fizzled out on me but then yesterday I ended up with this-
I think the extremely hot June weather caused a case of "blossom drop" which really halted green bean production.  After some cooler temps, a good fertilizing and some water they are picking right back up.

The okra is growing like gangbusters.  I am picking it almost everyday and the plants are about waist high, boob high.  At first I believed I had left way too much room between the green beans rows as well as between the green beans and okra but alas they are too close together now and when I move between the rows to pick I'm bumping up alongside all of the plants. 
My squash all seem to have contracted Squash Vine Borer and so I have ripped most of them out and re-planted fresh seed.  I was pleased to already see it sprouting and the squash casserole Iron Chef competition will probably be delayed about 50 days until we have squash again.  (I do not think Leslie is disappointed by this.)
The jalapeno peppers are producing well, but not as well as last year.  I haven't had any to can yet.  Last year I did about 12 pints. 

The red and green bell peppers are coming in and the red ones are finally turning red.  They always seem to take SOOO long to change colors.
The eggplant are coming along, I'm not sure when they need to be picked having never grown them before but the tag on the plant said 8-10" so I think I will wait a bit longer.
Finally the tomatoes which really are doing well considering the problems I have had with the fungus.  The bottoms of the plants are really devastated but they are producing fruit and we have had some BLTs and I have made 2 rounds of fresh salsa.
This time of the year most of the gardening work is the "harvesting" which is rewarding.  I tend to start to let the weeds go and the plants end up taking over most of the square footage of the garden.  I caught myself already contemplating changes in layout for next year this week-I guess I'm getting a little ahead of myself-but there is always that "hmm what if I run the green beans against the fence and then I will have more room for fill in the blank vegetable".

Oh I almost forgot-I used my new canner last week (happy early birthday from Mom and Dad) to make homemade pickles-I've done about 10 quarts so far and they are quite tasty.
In fact yesterday someone told me they were the best homemade ones they had ever had.  Nice.  Rewarding.  Worth it!
Would you like Okra or Green Beans with that sandwich?

Friday, July 2, 2010

Seafood Wrapped in Pig Meat...

What could be better right?  Seafood, in this case shrimp, wrapped up in a pocket of tasty bacon!  This recipe is a fairly quick and easy one based loosely on a tasty dish from Pappasito's Mexican Cantina called Shrimp Brochette.  I made this one up myself and have tinkered with it a bit until I came up with the easiest way possible to make this dish.  You only need 4 basic ingredients:

Shrimp, (the bigger the better, peeled, deveined and I even removed the tails.)  Actually I bought them peeled and deveined and only removed the tails myself ;)  Some cream cheese, either the tub kind or regular block kind softened slightly.  Some jalapeno pepper (fresh, seeded, sliced into strips) and bacon, I prefer regular as opposed to thick cut. (You cut each strip in half.)

So this is easy peasy-Cut into shrimp in the same area where they are deveined a little deeper but not all the way through.  Add some cream cheese and a slice of pepper...

Wrap shrimp in bacon.  Now from this point there are a couple of ways you can continue.  The first time I tried this I skewered them and cooked them on the grill but honestly they were a little hard to skewer without the insides squirting out and they flamed up a good bit on the grill.  Next try was on a broiler pan with a toothpick stuck in each one.  But this time I just wrapped them up and laid them on the broiler pan like so...

Fire up the broiler on your oven, pop these puppies in for 5 mins, pull them out, flip them each over with some tongs and pop them in for 5 more minutes.  You end up with something that looks a bit like this...

Ok granted they aren't beautiful for company.  But they taste GREAT!

Friday, June 25, 2010


A couple of quick updates my garden following friends, as well as Chapter Two of the Great Squash Casserole Showdown!  Here is the bounty from the week so far (all picked since last Saturday 06-19-2010.)

Crazy amounts of cucumbers, yellow squash and zucchini.  Good amount of green beans too (and they keep coming.)  I have enjoyed the squash for my Great Squash Casserole Showdown but I am afraid they are quickly going to come to an end as it appears my yellow squash have something called Squash Vine Borer.  All of a sudden my plants are dying, vines are drying up and it appears at the base of each plant there is an area of infection/holes in the plant.  Once it gets to this stage there is no way to stop it.  If they stop producing right away I may purchase some more, or we may be sick of it already-ha ha!
 Finally today I leave you with Squash Casserole recipe #2-courtesy of Three Dollar Cafe.  The full recipe can be found here.  Slight adjustments include using paste form chicken base instead of liquid, and I split the recipe into two pans so I could share the casserole (after we ate casserole #1 for 3 days.)
I chopped the veggies-
Added the chopped onion to the melted butter in one pan...
  And the water and squashes to another pan...
Mix beaten egg, chicken base and other ingredients in a large bowl...
I allowed my onion/butter mixture to cool slightly before adding it to the mix as to not end up with scrambled eggs.  Add squashes to bowl and mix well, dump into pan or pans (note by this time I knew I had quite a few dishes and being the non-"green" person I am, I used throw-away pans.)  Top pans with slices of American cheese...
After baking your casserole will look something like this-ok I lied, this is only a small corner of the casserole since I forgot to photograph it before we ate almost our entire portion.  I did end up popping on the broiler for a couple minutes near the end of cooking time to brown the cheese slightly.
We rate this one an EASY 4 out of 4 squash blossoms and I wish I hadn't given the other half away!  Happy Squash Eating!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Too Hot for Creativity-Garden Update

With temperatures for the last 8-10 days above 90 degrees and no end in site I struggled for a creative title for today's garden update.  Just stepping out to take a few photos just now I find myself drowning in the sweat that is a hot, humid, June Atlanta day.  I suppose I should remind myself of these days when we have under 32 for 10 days in a row like we did last winter.
And now back to your regularly scheduled garden update:
As you can see the green beans have completely taken over the growing poles and lines I built for them.  In fact I am slightly concerned that within another week or so they will pull down the whole structure.  I am hoping not and glad I used thick electrical type wire for the horizontals.  In hindsight (which is often the case with anything garden related) I should have thinned out the green beans a little more.  When it says "thin to one plant per 6" for future reference I will.  In the areas where the plants are super thick I am actually getting less bean production due to the plants choking each other out for space.   This photo also shows the okra which is about knee tall for the most part and I found my first okra flower this morning:
Okra frying will commence in just a short time (this is not on the diet plan, but there really is no better way to fix okra in the first place right?)  Oh back to the first photo you will notice that this morning my sprinkler set-up failed and fell down.  Luckily I think it only smashed one plant, didn't break the actual sprinkler, and I managed to catch it within a few minutes of when it fell.  I will have to bang it into the ground a little harder next time.
From this angle you have another view of the green beans, okra and the zucchini plants (which are getting quite big.)  Once again when things like squash, cucumbers and zucchini plants say on the seed packet to "thin to 3 per hill", I think probably in the future I should actually do this.  Again thinking about how hard it is to pull living plants out of the ground but they are already all over each other and it is only mid-June.  Next up the peppers:
Also mostly looking good and healthy.  A couple of them are fairly small but 80% of them look good and have peppers on the plant.  Another tip for next year (again one of those darn hindsight things) I need to mark which peppers I am planting where.  I don't leave the little plastic markers in the ground (they tend to get lost) and didn't write down where I stuck which plants.  Now I have 16 peppers in 8 varieties and I'm not sure which is which.  The ones like jalapenos are easy to identify (like the above plant.)  But I have 3 colors of bell peppers (all of which start as green.)  Since I don't know which is which I don't know which ones to pick as "green" and which ones to leave for "yellow and red" which take a good bit of time to change to their proper color.
Finally my tomatoes-sigh.  These yellow cherry tomatoes are looking decent, but the plants of all the tomatoes are thin and stalky and still seem to be suffering from a multitude of problems.  The plants still are infected with a fungus of some kind that is causing leaf damage and also I am starting to suspect that the cypress mulch possibly stunted the growth of the plants.  After adding some additional fertilizer a couple weeks ago they have grown taller and a bit healthier and more able to ward off the fungus.  I am very pleased in general with the mulch/newspaper for weed control as well as moisture retention as a whole but next year I think I need to fertilize sooner in the growing season to compensate for possible nitrogen robbing by the mulch.  My larger plants have a decent number of small tomatoes but they are a bit smaller than I would like.
One last note, it seems the japanese beetles are enjoying munching on my green beans plants.
Not so much that I am overly concerned, but something to keep an eye on.  Oh and I'm taking pictures each time I pick from the garden so at the end of the growing season I can check out my total yield.  I thought too late about weighing the items (as some items have been consumed already!)
Happy Gardening!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Iron Chef Georgia-Battle Squash

I still remember the first time I ever watched the show Iron Chef...sitting on Beth and Steve's couch in Montclair, NJ-amazed.  It was almost the craziest show I had seen at the time.  (I'm not talking about the American version either, but the full fledged Japanese import version.)  If you are unfamiliar with the show two chefs battle to create 5 or 6 dishes in an hour with a specially picked out ingredient.  In the Japan version the "secret" ingredients vary from things like eel, star fruit, you know, the kind of stuff you would buy at the Buford Highway Farmer's Market.  It's a real hoot to watch and I sort of miss the old over the top version of the show (which has been replaced on foodtv by Iron Chef America.)

I decided to have my own sort of "Iron Chef" this summer with some of the garden produce (which I am realizing fairly quickly that I will have plenty of.)

I have gathered about 4 squash casserole recipes and hope to try them in the next couple of months (until we get tired of them-which may come sooner than later.)  First up was Uncle Bubba's Cheesy Squash Casserole-courtesy of Paula Dean's brother.  Not really on my current diet plan, but paired with grilled chicken and a salad not a bad meal.  The recipe is located here and the only adaptations I made were to add around a cup of sliced mushrooms (that I needed to use up) and to add about 1/4 cup of mayo based on some reviews in the comment section on the website (because cheesy, buttery wasn't enough-adding mayo just makes it better!)
I started with the veggie ingredients:
I sauteed them according to the recipe and measured out the rest of the items:
Now in my haste to cook, measure and remember to take pictures for the blog I forgot to drain the veggies before adding them to the cheese/sour cream mixture.  Now, the first time we ate it I would say it did have a bit more liquid than I normally would have liked for a casserole, but upon re-heating (it makes a LOT for two people) it really firmed up.  So my advice would be maybe-partially drain?  Here is the finished product:
I will rate it three out of four squash blossoms (which will be the judging system for future squash dishes.)  It was tasty but lacked that extra "pow" it needed to give it 4 blossoms.  By the third time we ate it, it lost something.  Possibly once you have had squash casserole 3 times in 3 days it always loses something? 

Week one of garden harvesting yielded 16 ea. yellow crookneck squash.  I can see 6 out there that need to be picked now.  I think I'll wait a week before trying casserole #2.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Fresh Produce in T-minus How Many Days?

I am continually amazed in the garden.  What on May 7th, not even a full month ago looked like this...
Now looks like this...
Wow!  Really coming along.  I think I will be able to harvest some veggies in a week or so.  I have some baby yellow squash...
and some baby small cucumbers (these are going to be used for pickles-once I learn how to make them!)
Of course not everything is doing amazingly well.   I'm having some tomato problems this year.  A couple weeks back they started developing these black spots and the lower leaves started turning yellow.
It appears to be some kind of fungus/blight.  I talked to the extension service as well as another gardening website guru and they mentioned that due to all of the flooding last fall here in the metro area that quite a few people are having this problem.  They recommended I remove all of the infected leaves and put them in a garbage bag in the trash (not throw them into the woods) and then spray the rest of the plant with Daconil (a fungicide.)  Sorry to all you organic folks but I did what they recommended rather than re-plant 10 tomatoes.  It seems to have helped some, but in all honesty I think that my tomato crop may be small and short this year.  The plants are very stalky, not full like normal. 
Ironically the poor dying tomatoes offer my first glimpse of fresh veggies...
These are yellow cherry tomatoes and I think I shall put them on my salad tonight!  (As an aside-I actually HATE tomatoes.  Really.  They just freak me out.  BUT-I'm trying very hard to learn to like them.  I planted quite a few varieties in the hopes that I would find one I prefer.)
Finally to close this week's gardening update I thought I would share my new watering method.  I have tried many different sprinklers and have tried putting it on a ladder (which is a real pain) when the green beans/okra get too tall.  Yesterday we installed these poles into the ground, two of them since I have such horrible water pressure.  I added a "stake" type sprinkler to the top and now all I need to do to water is turn it on and then relocate the sprinkler part one time to get full coverage.
The posts are 4' and 6' (mostly because I had to buy a 10' section of pipe.)  This should save me from getting so muddy on work mornings.

By next week I might have pictures of my first "harvest"!  I leave you with the following completely unrelated photo of last weekend's sushi night-it was just too pretty not to post!