Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Chicken Fall Salad with Ricotta Basil Vinaigrette

I love when my fridge is full of garden produce!  Dinner last night was soooo gooood and it's a must-make during garden harvest time!  You've got to try the salad dressing- a creamy ricotta-basil vinaigrette.  I'm salivating just typing about it.  I blogged about it at My Low-Fat Food Diary blog.  Check it out there, or just keep reading...

Monday, September 29, 2014

Chicken Fall Salad with Ricotta Basil Vinaigrette

Chicken Fall Salad is what summer harvest time is all about!  I loved when my dad would make this salad for us.  He first tasted a version of it at a restaurant, and a week later he made it for us.  That was years ago, and it still remains one of my favorite salads of all time!

I've adapted the original recipe just a touch so that I could use the ingredients that I already had on hand.  This salad features a bed of green leaf lettuce, and is topped with sliced tomatoes, sliced bell pepper, sliced onion, sauteed zucchini, sliced steamed potatoes, shredded basil chicken, and drizzled with a homemade ricotta-basil vinaigrette.  I love this salad!  The warm chicken, potatoes, and zucchini against the crispy cool lettuce, onion, and bell pepper is like a party in your mouth, and the salad dressing makes everything taste delicious- it's sweet, creamy, herbaceous goodness! 

My kids like their salad deconstructed, and they are so proud of their colorful creations that they get to eat!

Make this!  So addictive!
Ricotta-Basil Vinaigrette
  • 1/4-1/3 c. ricotta cheese- part skim
  • 3 Tbsp. - 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp. - 1/4 c. red wine vinegar
  • 1-2 tsp. dried basil
  • a few dashes of salt, pepper, onion powder
Whisk it all together, add a splash of water to thin it if you desire, and drizzle all over your entire dinner!

Sharing at: Tuesday Garden Party

Monday, September 29, 2014

Fence Out the Foes

We fought hard for our garden this year.  Back in July, we put up a 4-foot tall fence around the garden.  It's not much, but it was what we could afford (fencing is expensive!).  I knew that a deer could easily jump over that, or a rabbit or prairie dog can easily burrow under, but I thought that just maybe it would be enough of a deterrent to keep the animals out.  With plans to be gone most of the summer, it was basically our only hope of saving the garden from decimation (Remember Garden Fail 2012?).  So, in July, before our family took off for 3 weeks on vacation, the fence went up. 

Nine-year-old Tame Dame #2 wrote the following blog post about it, and I must say, I really enjoy seeing our gardening adventures through the eyes of the children:

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Our fence

Sorry no before pics. Oh boy am I tired right now. It took only two days to put it up. All these photos are from the second day. Okay. Here they are!

We're setting up the wire and poles.

Daddy is putting up the wire fence.

Mommy is tying the wire to the pole while daddy is holding it tight.

These are the things we are tying them with.  They're called zipper thingies.
Tame Dame #3 is holding the roll of fence.

I am cutting out the fence with wire snippers.
Now mommy is cutting it.


Doesn't our garden look cool through the fence?
This is the outside of the fence and the grey thing on the outside of it is what helped us get the big tall poles into the ground.  You hold the handles and put it onto the white part of the pole, and then you grab hold of the handles and pound it down while it's on the pole.  It's like a hammer.

One last look at the garden through the new fence.

P.S. And guess what?  The fence has been working!

Sharing at: Tuesday Garden Party

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Dad's Stewed Zucchini

I'm in a harvest-preservation mindset...

And do you know what I think of when I have an abundance of zucchini?  My dad's stewed zucchini.

It's one of my comfort foods. My dad would lovingly would make this side dish as the zucchini from his garden would start producing.  He would often add a quart of his homemade stewed tomatoes from the garden. I remember my eyes were just tall enough to watch it bubble and stew in his wok on the stove. You see, he cooked this in a wok because it was his biggest pan, and he was cooking for a family of 7. Such warm memories I have of this dish!  

A few months ago, I served it with quinoa on the side. They were good together, so good that I actually ended up mixing the two of them together on my plate.  Now, I'm thinking of making a huge batch, maybe in my wok, and freezing it in quart sized zip-top baggies for a quick side dish to last my family through the hard winter.

I don't follow a written recipe for stewed zucchini because my dad never did. However, in case my memory fades I would like to document the method of making this tasty dish. It's really simple.

2 medium zucchini, sliced. 
1 yellow onion, sliced.  
1 to 2 cloves of garlic, finely minced. 
A bit of olive oil. 
1 quart stewed tomatoes or 1 to 2 cans of diced tomatoes.  
Salt and pepper.

Sweat out the onions in olive oil with the garlic over medium heat. 
Add the sliced zucchini and sprinkle with salt and pepper and saute a little longer. 
Add the stewed tomatoes and stir it all together. 
Simmer together for 20 to 30 minutes.

Note: You can always add more zucchini or onion or tomato or you can even use bacon drippings instead of olive oil, like my dad has done on occasion, if you like.

How do you like to make your zucchini?

Sharing at Tuesday Garden Party

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Our Wild West Firepit

My Morning Rainbow
I adore this time of year- late summer/early fall- when the big poofy clouds tumble through the blue sky, shading the earth from the sun's scorch, and bringing our Wild West desert some much needed moisture. 
The sky is falling
The birds sweetly sing, the landscape deepens it color pallet, and you can just feel heaven smiling down on you.  Makes you want to close your eyes and take in a deep breath of fresh air, doesn't it?

When the clouds come out, or the day after a rain, is the perfect time to pull weeds.  It's hard work, but the dampened ground is softer, and the clouds provide a periodic buffer from the hot sun.  This weekend, God gave us our opportunity.

What Was Weeds...

They thought I was kidding, like before.  And like the time before that.  But this time I was serious.  Those weeds were going to get it.
Ahem! Hear ye, hear ye, gladiator weeds!
This summer has germinated all your seeds!
Your armies outnumber mine by many,
My abode is surrounded with your thorns a-plenty!
But on this day I will battle fierce,
The clouds have called, and my shovel will pierce!
My courage is strong like these weapons that slay,
The sky declares God is on my side today!
The weeds took no heed of my threats, and the battle began.  I slashed with my flat-edged shovel, and Tame Dame #2 sliced with the loppers.  Sadly, in ten minutes time the two of us had cleared a path only wide enough for a sickly cat to pass through.  Phew!  And we were sweating!  My arms began to complain that they were the ones doing all the work.  Then, using what I presume to be some form of sign language, my back bent into the shape of a question mark as if to ask, "What the heck are we doing?"

We were feeling the beginnings of defeat.  That cat trail started to look "good enough" and just as I turned to around to throw in the shovel, Tame Dame #3 came skipping to our aid with the hedge clippers (I love that we have this tool even though we have never had a single hedge or bush to trim on our property).  Her enthusiasm was refreshing to see.  Then, Steve the Brave, my daring husband and fiercest weed warrior of them all, handed me our camera, took the shovel from my hands and leveled the area I was trying to clear in the time it took me to snap these 2 pictures of the lazy prairie dog watching us from atop the hill:

With the weeds cleared from a small section of our land, we were ready for a project that has been on the back burner for several months (years even).  It was time to turn that hefty, hideous dryer drum that has been rolling around our property for the last long while into a fire pit, and repurpose the free landscaping materials I picked up from the roadside 3 years ago.

So, we set to work.  And I'm so glad Tame Dames #2 and #3 remembered to document the progress with their cameras.

First, we dug a hole for the dryer drum, filled it with 3-4 inches of gravel, then inserted the dryer drum into the hole, filled in around the drum with dirt, and raked the rest of the dirt flat.

 Then, we laid down weed barrier and began to haul over rocks by the wheelbarrow-full.  I say "haul" because our wheelbarrow had a flat tire, but we insisted on doing this project anyway, so we literally had Steve pulling while I was pushing the wheelbarrow and we would haul it onto the weed barrier and dump and spread.  It took forever.  But we persisted.
That was the worst of it.  We sat in the shade to catch our breaths and take it all in.  I suggested we could stop for the day, but Steve the Brave wanted to finish what we started, and I wanted to do whatever he wanted to do, so we got back up and finished what we started.

We laid pavers around the edges, and built benches out of cinderblocks and lumber.  The girls put pavers around the base of the new fire pit, and by 4:00pm, all was done.  Look what we made!
 If you want to pretend that huge pile of weeds beyond the benches is actual purposeful vegetation, you may.  I know I do sometimes.
 I think my little Tame Dames have found a new reading spot, too!
 And here comes the storm clouds...
 Just in time to christen our new family gathering spot.
 Look at those clouds rolling in!

It even has the prairie dogs in awe!
I bet you're wondering what it's like to hear a prairie dog tell you that he likes your new firepit.  Well, Steve the Brave shot this exclusive video just for you.  Enjoy.