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Friday, May 27, 2011

A Slew of Master Gardener Tips for ya...and Happy Birthday to me!

MASTER GARDENER TIPS # 4-8! Creative Reuse for the Garden!

I love working in the yard and garden! It gives me a chance to stretch my green thumb, and my Inner Miser enjoys the challenge of seeing how many would-be throwaway items I can find an alternative use for in the garden.
Before you throw something in the trash, think about whether it could have a second life somewhere in your backyard. Here are some creative repurposing ideas for the yard and garden:

COFFEE TEA OR BEER: Coffee grounds can be composted or worked into garden soil to boost nitrogen — and when sprinkled on top of the soil around plants, they help to deter garden pests. Spent tea bags can be used in the same way, or tie them together and keep them soaking in a watering can to give plants a quick nitrogen snack whenever you water them. Even stale beer has a new life in the garden: Bury a bowl or pie plate up to its lip in soil and put a little stale beer in it; slugs will crawl in for a drink … and it will be their last.

SOAP SLIVERS: Here's a daily-double repurposing tip: Save those leftover slivers of soap from the shower and put them in the foot of a worn-out pair of pantyhose; keep it tied around the outdoor water spigot for a quick cleanup after gardening. My wife calls it my "Cheapskate-Soap-on-a-Rope." Also, hang one of these soap-filled stockings on trees and shrubs to help repel hungry deer.

PANTY HOSE: Cut worn-out pantyhose into strips and use them as ties when staking up tomatoes and other tender plants — they have just the right amount of elasticity. If you have a pond or water garden, fill a length of pantyhose with gravel and soil, tie it off, and plant water lilies and other aquatic plants in it on the bottom of the pond (cut a small opening for the plants to grow through). You can also slip pantyhose over your prized veggies and fruits while they're still growing on the plant to keep insects, birds and other pests from attacking them.

PLASTIC NURSERY POTS: These make a handy spool to coil extension cords and light garden hoses around. Use screws to fasten a heavy gauge plastic nursery pot to an outside wall or inside the garage. Plastic nursery pots can also usually be recycled or sometimes returned to the nursery for a small credit.

NEWSPAPER: Of course newspapers can be recycled or shredded and put in the compost pile, but I like to put down a couple of layers of newspaper before I spread mulch around trees, shrubs and flower beds. It's a perfect biodegradable weed blocker. Cardboard works, too. Speaking of mulch, you can sometimes get free or cheap mulch at your local landfill or by asking highway road crews working in your area.

EGGSHELLS: Since eggshells are rich in calcium and other minerals, there are a number of eggs-cellent ways to repurpose them in the garden. They decompose relatively quickly and can be added to the compost pile or crumbled and stirred directly into the soil. I also like to start my tomato plants from seeds indoors in the spring, using eggshell halves filled with soil and kept upright in egg cartons instead of peat pots. Scatter crushed eggshells around your plants and flowers to help deter plant-eating slugs, snails, cutworms and even deer without using environmentally unfriendly pesticides.

FRUIT AND VEGGIE PEELS: Don't dump all of your peels in the compost pile. Some fruit and vegetable trimmings can play a starring role in repurposing your garden. Avocado shells make great biodegradable pots to start seedlings in (like eggshells, above). Nut shells can be crushed and spread around plants to keep crawling insects away. And potassium-rich banana peels can be dried, ground up and stirred into the soil around rose bushes and other plants to both fertilize them and deter aphids.

CHEAP GARDEN DECORATIONS: Remember, beauty is in the eye of the beholder (including cheapskates), and when it comes to garden art, anything goes. I've seen beautiful mosaic stepping stones made out of broken porcelain china, hummingbird feeders and pinwheels fashioned from plastic soda bottles, attractive planters made from old car tires, and a fascinating garden mobile made from recycled bicycle wheels. Miser adviser Wanda Adams from Trotwood, Ohio, noticed that old bowling balls often sell at yard sales for next to nothing; the border of her flower garden is now cleverly edged with her ever-growing collection of colorful balls.

(-adapted from an article by Jeff Yeager -

“And in the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years.”
~Abraham Lincoln

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Recipe Wednesday! Two ways to do FANCY but EASY Eggs Benedict...

Hot buttered English muffins, Canadian-style bacon, and poached eggs are topped by a heavenly drizzle of hollandaise sauce. Wonderful for Mother's or Father's Day, or anytime you want to treat yourself to the best brunch in the world! Serve with roasted or fried potatoes for mopping up the extra egg yolk and hollandaise. If you prefer, you can substitute ham for the Canadian bacon in these recipes.



4 egg yolks
3 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 pinch ground white pepper
1/8 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon water
1 cup butter, melted
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 eggs
1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
8 strips Canadian-style bacon
4 English muffins, split
2 tablespoons butter, softened
chopped chives for garnish


To Make Hollandaise: Fill the bottom of a double boiler part-way with water. Make sure that water does not touch the top pan. Bring water to a gentle simmer. In the top of the double boiler, whisk together egg yolks, lemon juice, white pepper, Worcestershire sauce, and 1 tablespoon water.
Add the melted butter to egg yolk mixture 1 or 2 tablespoons at a time while whisking yolks constantly. If hollandaise begins to get too thick, add a teaspoon or two of hot water. Continue whisking until all butter is incorporated. Whisk in salt, then remove from heat. Place a lid on pan to keep sauce warm.
Preheat oven on broiler setting. To Poach Eggs: Fill a large saucepan with 3 inches of water. Bring water to a gentle simmer, then add vinegar. Carefully break eggs into simmering water, and allow to cook for 2 1/2 to 3 minutes. Yolks should still be soft in center. Remove eggs from water with a slotted spoon and set on a warm plate
While eggs are poaching, brown the bacon in a medium skillet over medium-high heat and toast the English muffins on a baking sheet under the broiler.
Spread toasted muffins with softened butter, and top each one with a slice of bacon, followed by one poached egg. Place 2 muffins on each plate and drizzle with hollandaise sauce. Sprinkle with chopped chives and serve immediately.

Here's an even easier recipe for hollandaise: Add the egg yolks, pepper (cayenne) and lemon juice in the blender. Heat the butter in the microwave until bubbly, then add slowly to the yolk mix. Very easy. you can also use wine to stabilize your egg whites.



2 tablespoons butter
2 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups milk
1/4 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon white vinegar
8 cold eggs
4 English muffins, split and toasted
8 slices Canadian bacon, warmed
8 bacon strips, cooked and crumbled


For cheese sauce, in a saucepan, melt butter. Stir in flour until smooth; gradually add the milk. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add the cheese, mustard, salt and pepper, stirring until cheese is melted. Cover and keep warm.
In a skillet with high sides, bring 2-3 in. of water and vinegar to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer gently. For each egg, break the cold eggs into a custard cup or saucer, the hold the dish close to the water surface, slip the egg into the water. Cook 4 eggs at a time, uncovered, for 3-5 minutes or until the whites are completely set and the yolks begin to thicken. With a slotted spoon, remove each egg. Repeat with remaining eggs.
To assemble, top each muffin half with one slice Canadian bacon, one egg, cheese sauce and bacon.

“He that but looketh on a plate of ham and eggs to lust after it hath already committed breakfast with it in his heart.”
~C.S. Lewis

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Patriotic Eggs for Memorial Day! -from "Happier Than A Pig In Mud"

Red, White and Blue Deviled Eggs!

Hey everyone! Planning for Memorial Day? Let's show our colors and WOW everyone at the Bar-B-Que with fancy deviled eggs! My all time most viewed post is Dyed Deviled Eggs and I want to make sure everyone knows that dyes aren't just for Easter.

Standard Egg Dye: 1 tsp vinegar, 5-20 drops food coloring, 1 cup hot tap water (***see notes below).
Hard boil eggs, peel 'em and dip them till you get the color you want. The easiest is white... oh yea, I do crack myself up:@)
Cut in half and make your favorite Deviled Egg recipe.


After you peel your eggs make sure you run them under cold water and get everything from the shell off. If anything is left on it will get darker then rub off leaving a white spot on your egg.
Peel, cut and pop the yolk out of all the white eggs you plan to use and keep them separate, they will pick up die from your fingers or touching the other eggs while they're wet. Keep red and blue separate too. I washed my hands between each color.
***I didn't want these pastel, so I used 25 drops of red and 20 drops of blue with 1/2 tsp vinegar and only 1/2 cup of water. The blue was ready in about 4 minutes the red took about 8 minutes. I'm sure you can add more red to speed this up. (I made sure the cup I used would cover the egg by adding it before I peeled it and poured in 1/2 cup of water).
Roll on a paper towel, then let them sit for a bit so the dye dries. I'd keep all like colors together until it was time for the party,then mix them up. The white ones will pick up a little color where they touch the other eggs, I don't think it can be avoided.
I think some of the white ones would look great with a flag toothpick!


"Cheers for the sailors that fought on the wave for it,
Cheers for the soldiers that always were brave for it,
Tears for the men that went down to the grave for it,
Here comes the flag!
~Arthur Macy, The Flag

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Recipe Wednesday! TEA and Chicken?! Sweet-Tea Brined Chicken - that's my kinda yum!

Hello Folks!
Tempt your tastebuds with this new way to prepare chicken, from "Southern Living" magazine!



2 family-size tea bags
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup kosher salt
1 small sweet onion, thinly sliced
1 lemon, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, halved
2 (6-inch) fresh rosemary sprigs
1 tablespoon freshly cracked pepper
2 cups ice cubes
1 (3 1/2- to 4-lb.) cut-up whole chicken


1. Bring 4 cups water to a boil in a 3-qt. heavy saucepan; add tea bags. Remove from heat; cover and steep 10 minutes.
2. Discard tea bags. Stir in sugar and next 6 ingredients, stirring until sugar dissolves. Cool completely (about 45 minutes); stir in ice. (Mixture should be cold before adding chicken.)
3. Place tea mixture and chicken in a large zip-top plastic freezer bag; seal. Place bag in a shallow baking dish and chill 24 hours. Remove chicken from marinade, discarding marinade; pat chicken dry with paper towels.
4. Light one side of grill, heating to 300° to 350° (medium) heat; leave other side unlit. Place chicken, skin side down, over unlit side, and grill, covered with grill lid, 20 minutes. Turn chicken, and grill, covered with grill lid, 40 to 50 minutes or until done. Transfer chicken, skin side down, to lit side of grill, and grill 2 to 3 minutes or until skin is crispy. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Note: Total time does not include 1 day marinating time.

Southern Living
MAY 2011



2 tablespoons unsweetened instant iced tea mix
1 (14-oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 teaspoon orange zest
1/2 teaspoon lime zest
1/3 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
Gingersnap Crust*
1 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons sugar
Garnishes: lemon slices, fresh mint sprigs


1. Preheat oven to 350°. Stir together iced tea mix and 2 Tbsp. water in a large bowl. Whisk in sweetened condensed milk and next 5 ingredients until blended. Place Gingersnap Crust on a baking sheet; pour in milk mixture.
2. Bake at 350° for 20 to 25 minutes or just until filling is set. Cool completely on a wire rack (about 1 hour). Cover and chill 4 to 24 hours. Remove tart from pan, and place on a serving dish.
3. Beat cream and sugar at medium speed with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Pipe or dollop on top of tart; garnish, if desired.
*2 (4-oz.) packages ready-made mini graham cracker piecrusts may be substituted.
Note: You may also bake this tart in a 14- x 4-inch tart pan with removable bottom; increase bake time to 25 to 28 minutes or until filling is set.

Southern Living
MAY 2011

"If man has no tea in him, he is incapable of understanding truth and beauty." ~Japanese Proverb

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Re-Posting RECIPE WEDNESDAY...Lost in Freaky Blogger-land...Simple Baked Custard

Hey everyone!
Seems Blogger has been playing fast and loose with the posts, so I'm re-posting this week's Recipe Wednesday!


4 c. milk
6 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. vanilla extract
(Nutmeg for sprinkling)

Preheat oven to 325 deg. F.
Scald milk in a pan, cool slightly. In a bowl, stir together the rest of the ingredients (except nutmeg) just until blended. Pour the custard into a 1 1/2 quart baking dish, and sprinkle with nutmeg. Set the baking dish inside a shallow pan in the oven. Pour hot water into the shallow pan up to 1 inch. Bake 1 hour, or until a knife in the center comes out clean. Remove immediately from the water bath and place on a wire rack to cool. Chill, makes 8 servings.


Increase sugar to 1 cup. In a small, heavy skillet, over medium heat, melt sugar, stirring constantly, to an amber-colored syrup. Gradually stir melted sugar into scalded milk until dissolved. Proceed as above.

Add 1/2 cup shredded coconut, and omit
the nutmeg.

Add 2 squares (2 oz.) unsweetened chocolate to the milk before it is scalded.

(My kids call it "Spoon Food"!)

“You eat, in dreams, the custard of the day.”
-Alexander Pope (English Poet, 1688-1744)

"Chopsticks are one of the reasons the Chinese never invented custard.”
-Spike Milligan

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Recipe Wednesday! Cold Weather Cure = Hot-n-Hearty Breakfast!

All of this cold, wet, dreary weather makes me HUNGRY for a hot-n-hearty breakfast, how about you? Serve up these FAB recipes with a STEAMING cup of strong coffee or tea. Whattah way to wake up!



8 eggs
2 heaping Tbsp sour cream
1 Tbsp water
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp butter
1/2 to 3/4 cup grated Cheddar cheese


In a medium size bowl, beat eggs, sour cream, water, and salt and pepper until fluffy. Using a nonstick frying pan, melt butter and cook eggs over low heat, stirring occasionally. Stir in the cheese. Cook until you reach desired consistency.

Serve hot with country ham and biscuits, or sausage gravy & biscuits.

...Ooh ...Did someone say GRAVY & BISCUITS? I think they did!


Sausage Gravy:

1 lb. breakfast sausage
3/4 cup flour
3/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
4 1/2 cups milk

Brown and crumble sausage (don't drain it). Add flour, salt and pepper and stir. If the sausage is dry, you may need to add a bit of shortening when adding flour. Add milk while stirring. Heat until it starts to boil and reduce heat and continue to stir until thickened. Makes about 5 cups of gravy.

Homemade Biscuits:

4 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
8 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cream of tartar
4 tsp. sugar
1 cup shortening
1 1/3 cup milk

Sift dry ingredients together. Cut in shortening until mixture resembles course crumbs. Add milk all at once and stir until dough follows fork around bowl. Roll 1/2 thick.* Use a large glass or a canning jar to cut biscuits. Place on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake at 450 degrees for 10-12 minutes. Makes about 30 biscuits.

*Note: The key to light and fluffy biscuits is not to work the dough too much.

-recipe from Carmen, of OLD HOUSE KITCHEN

"All happiness depends on a leisurely breakfast."
-John Gunther

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Coop progress + Master Gardener TIP # 3...


My husband assures me that our big coop would have been completed LONG ago, if not for the uncooperative weather! We're waiting for a spot of sunshine to complete it - I hope there'll be SOME sun and warmth soon, so I can paint it too! Any guesses on our coop theme? Should I start giving out hints?


As you can see, the roof trusses are going up, it won't be long now!
So, here is your new MASTER GARDENER TIP # 3...

When transplanting new seedlings or store-bought plants, water them in thoroughly, but DON'T fertilize them yet! Many people make this mistake. Never fertilize a plant when it has had recent "stress", such as transplanting, pruning, drought, etc. Just give them water to shore them up. You can fertilize new transplants after about two weeks (the roots have taken hold by then), I check to see if the leaves are starting to turn a lighter green, which means the plant needs more fertilizer. Remember, it's better to UNDER fertilize, than to burn the plant with too much fertilizer! Good luck gardening!

"My green thumb came only as a result of the mistakes I made while learning to see things from the plant's point of view.”
- H. Fred Ale