Month: October 2017

Pennies From Heaven

Pennies From Heaven

  You’re going to think I’m a major nutcase, but you wouldn’t be the first one.  I haven’t even told most of my kids about my theories on the afterlife.  They don’t need more evidence of my insanity. My ex-husband passed away 10 years ago, […]

Always Celebrate Halloween

Always Celebrate Halloween

  Regarding Halloween, I am a LOVER.  I love Halloween, I love the idea of the Day of the Dead, ghosts and witches, and I think it’s just plain fun! Today is Halloween, one of my very favorite holidays, ever.  I think it has something […]

Homemade Pumpkin Puree for Baking

Homemade Pumpkin Puree for Baking


Mason's Spider T ShirtTomorrow is Halloween, and I’m having really mixed feelings about this.

I am a certified Halloween Freak, and have been since the beginning of time.  Well, MY time, at least.

This is the very first time I’ve not decorated.  We were so busy this Fall, with all the clean-up and harvesting and getting ready for the upcoming rains and cold and possibly, snow.  It’s a lot of work for Bill and I just didn’t have the heart to bug him about hauling down all those large bins (I think about 7?) from the attic space in the garage.

Plus, I’ve been having bad back issues and just didn’t feel up to it all.

So, yeah, that’s sort of a bummer.  But without anyone else in the house, it just seemed a little pointless.

Mason's Trick or Treat BagI don’t think I’ll do this again.  It’s too depressing and reeks of indifference.  Which is not how I want to live my life!

One of my proudest achievements in life has been raising kids who were enthusiastic about Halloween.  My oldest son spends months designing and sewing costumes for himself, his wife and my young granddaughter.  His creations are amazing and I just marvel at his artistic talent.  It was funny.  He’s doing a “Game of Thrones” theme this year (I’ve never seen it, personally).  I got a text from him and opened it to see his face, looking like he’d been in another scooter accident.  My heart just about dropped.  Then I noticed his text: “test makeup.”  I wanted to kill him, it was that realistic.

Halloween Witch on Apple BoxIn the past, I’ve always made stuff for the grandkids and for our house, too.  I love this witch I painted.  We managed to score a bunch of apple boxes last year, and it turns out they clean up pretty well.

So, I got out my acrylics and went to town.  And this witch is the result.  I also did two for Thanksgiving and one for Christmas.  I’ll be bugging Bill to get down the Thanksgiving bins any day, now.   Luckily, for him, there are only two for Thanksgiving.  Which will be nothing, compared to the 14 or so I’ve accumulated for Christmas.

Homemade Pumpkin Puree for PieEvery year, I grow several “Cinderella” pumpkins, which are great for making pies, breads and cakes.  Some people like to use pumpkin for soups and stews, too.

It takes very little effort and time to make your own puree.  If you decide to try it this year, I think you’ll find it’s well worth the work involved.  I get some rave reviews on my Thanksgiving pies.  But do keep in mind that this puree is wetter than the canned stuff, so you may want to cut back on the amount of liquid in the recipe when the time comes.

To make pumpkin puree, cut up your clean PIE pumpkin into chunks.  They can be as big as 4 or 5 inches.  A standard carving pumpkin won’t do it, as Full Moonthey’re not bred for their flesh.  If you don’t have Cinderellas, there are lot of other varieties out there cultivated for eating.  Ask the people at your pumpkin patch, or buy “pie pumpkins” at your local store.  Those are usually tiny, so you may want to buy several.

The chunks will be exuding a LOT of liquid while baking, so you need to use a baking pan with sides.  Personally, I go for a deep-sided roasting pan, rather than a sided half-sheet pan, just to be on the safe side.  The last thing you want is hot pumpkin juices splashing on you when it’s time to remove them from the oven.

Preheat your oven to 350°.  Lay out your chunks – it doesn’t matter if they’re a bit crowded.  Bake for 45 minutes or so.  After half an hour, take a knife or fork and pierce the pumpkin.  When the fork goes all the way to the rind easily, they’re done.  Remove the baking pan from oven and let cool.

Homemade Pumpkin Puree for PieTake a large soup spoon and start scooping out the cooked pumpkin.  Place in a food processor, and continue with the rest of the pumpkin.

Process until your puree is smooth, with no lumps.

This next step is really important in order to get a nice, thick puree.

Grab a large bowl and into that, place a large colander.  Line the colander with cheese cloth, so that the puree doesn’t seep through the colander’s holes.

Pumpkin Puree in ColanderEmpty the food processor into the lined colander and let drain.  In the evening, I empty the liquid from the bowl and put the bowl and colander in the fridge overnight.

The next day, scoop your puree into labelled mason jars, leaving about an inch of airspace at the top.  Freeze until you need it.  You’ll notice a difference in your baking, I think!

Have fun and have a Happy Halloween!


By the way, if you haven’t invested in a Cuisinart mixer, the Holidays are the time!  Here’s your link from Amazon.  If you do buy one, keep it on the counter!  These are heavy and I promise you, you’ll never use it if it’s not readily available.  You’ll love it!  Here’s your link:



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Churkey Noodle Vegetable Soup

Churkey Noodle Vegetable Soup

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Red Salsa Soup and Salsa Recipe

Red Salsa Soup and Salsa Recipe

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Split Pea Soup with Ham and Skillet Cornbread

Split Pea Soup with Ham and Skillet Cornbread


Fall has definitely gotten me into a soup frame of mind.  I love one pot meals that I can throw together early in the day, and then clean up and high-tail it out of the kitchen.  Some days, I enjoy spending hours and hours in there and others, I want to be back at my blog.  Or anywhere but there.

This split pea soup is super fast to throw together.  It has a lot of flavor and I like it with some texture, instead of whirred into a cream.  If you want to do that at the end, your call.

My husband is a cornbread freak, and this recipe is easy and fast and comes out well every time.  Whatever he doesn’t finish during the week goes to the “girls” out in the coop.  They love corn!

Did you want to hear something weird?  You’ll probably think this is gross, but it is what it is.

Because we live way out in the country, we only have garbage collection twice a month.  We have occasional bears, frequent raccoons, skunks, coyotes, and even a rare cougar around here.  I always trim my chicken, whether it be the skin, or the bones or the weird tendon thingie in chicken tenders.  I hate the crunch you get with those tendons!  Ugh.  So I just take my trusty kitchen scissors and cut off the widest part of the tendon, maybe an inch long.  I looked it up and Google said “Here is the trick: You take that tough little tendon out of the chicken tenderloin by laying the tenderloin on the counter, tendon side down. You then grab the end of the tendon with a towel and slide your knife under it at a 20 degree angle.”  Hmmm… I’ll have to try that.

Anyway, I’ve always been grossed out by having to work with raw chicken, so considering the fact that we eat it on about 20 of 21 nights a week, you’d think I’d be over that, by now.  No; no such luck.  Still grossed out.

Well, back in the day, when we lived in town, I wouldn’t freeze my “chicken guts,” as I like to call them.  They just went into the trash bags like everything else.  One day, the temperatures were in the high 80’s and, well, I don’t want to completely kill your appetite – let’s just say from that day on, I’ve been freezing chicken trimmings.  Now that we’re in the country, I also freeze anything remotely appealing to our local wildlife.  Bears love sweets, so any leftovers that are sweet get stuck in the freezer until garbage day.  I also freeze anything that has oil in it, for instance, the paper towels I use to wipe down my pans before washing with soapy water (or the in case of cast iron, just hot water).

Needless to say, this can create quite a bit of trash being stored in our precious (and overfilled) freezers.  So, I thought I’d try something and take my chicken trimmings, wrap them up in some paper towels and nuke them until cooked through.  Then I’d put that in the compost/cookie jar on the counter and give to the chickens, along with vegetable trimmings and what have you.

When I feed them, I always take mental notes on which things they prefer to eat.  And number one?  You guessed it – cooked chicken trimmings.  So weird.

Life in the country can be very peculiar.

Anyway, back to the soup.  You can easily double the recipe and throw in whatever amounts of the ingredients you like.  It freezes really well in a freezer bag laid flat on your lined cookie sheet and the next day, you can put it (with the date) in your “Freezer File.”  Some night when you’re fighting a cold or not feeling like cooking, it’ll be there, ready to thaw and warm up.  Yum.

Split Pea Soup with Ham and Vegetables

One yellow onion, chopped (I like sweet onions)

1 T minced garlic

Carrots, chopped

Celery, chopped

1 c dried, rinsed split peas

6 c chicken broth (you may need more, later)

salt and pepper AT THE END

Ham, chopped OR kielbasa, sliced.  You can always use bacon, instead (or in addition?) but personally, soggy bacon sounds pretty disgusting.  If using bacon, I would crisp it up and add at the very last minute before serving.

If you are using kielbasa, you may want to saute the slices beforehand, in order to give them a nice, crispy exterior.  If this is the case, saute the sliced kielbasa in the stock pot/dutch oven on medium high in a tiny amount of oil.  Then remove from the pot and move on to cooking the onions.

Put your peas in a sieve and run cold water over them.  Kind of stir around with your finger and check to make sure there aren’t any tiny stones in there.  Ouch!  Your dentist with the daughter heading to Stanford would be the only one approving of that!

Pour a generous amount of olive oil into the bottom of a dutch oven or large stock pot, set on low (4 on a scale of 1 to 10).  Throw the chopped onions into the pot.  Stir occasionally, making sure the onion doesn’t start to brown.  Add chopped carrots and celery and cook until onion is soft and translucent.

Add your garlic and stir about 30 seconds.  You don’t want it to become bitter, so only 30 seconds to a minute, please.

Now add your chicken broth and the split peas and turn up to high, just long enough for it to come to a boil. Immediately reduce to simmer.  You can add your chopped ham or regular kielbasa at this point. It should lend a nice smokiness to the soup.  I did discover this, though: If you are using full fat kielbasa, it will withstand hours on the stovetop.  It will also add LOTS of saltiness!  So I would suggest you don’t salt anything until it’s time to eat.  Now, when using turkey kielbasa: it does not stand up to hours on the stovetop, because it has much less fat than regular.  By the end of the afternoon, it will get tough and chewy.  I would add that, browned, only when it’s time to eat.

Put the lid on, leaving a bit of the pot uncovered.  Have the soup at a simmer.  Every so often, take a peek under the lid, just to make sure it’s not boiling away or is on too low a heat.  Give it a good stir occasionally, with a flat bottomed wooden utensil or good rubber spatula.  You want to make sure it isn’t sticking to the bottom.

If, at any time during the day, you feel too much water is evaporating, feel free to add more chicken broth. How thick you like your final soup is entirely up to you.  I do find that it tends to thicken a bit when it cools, so keep that in mind.  When ready to eat, taste and adjust salt and pepper.

That’s it!  In a few hours, you should be able to serve it in nice, nuked bowls.

Skillet Cornbread

Skillet CornbreadI’d credit the author of this recipe, but it is super old and I really haven’t a clue.  Sorry, author!  For this recipe, I use an 8 inch cast iron skillet, because I love cast iron.  If you don’t have one, no sweat.  Use a brownie pan, instead.  If you’re interested in getting an 8″ cast iron skillet, here’s an Amazon link:

½ c butter, plus 1 T for the pan

¾ c all purpose flour

¾ c yellow cornmeal

1 ½ tsp baking powder

½ tsp soda

½ tsp salt

1 c buttermilk (you can substitute 1 c milk (minus 1 T milk) and add 1 T lemon juice; just let stand til lumpy, maybe 5 minutes)

2 eggs

Preheat oven to 400°.

Into a small microwaveable bowl or 1 c measuring cup, plop in ½ c (1 cube) butter.  Cover the butter with the butter wrapper, so it doesn’t make a mess of your microwave.  Or cover your measuring cup with a paper towel, tucked underneath the dish.  Nuke long enough to melt, then allow to cool.  In my microwave, this is about 30 seconds.

If you don’t have buttermilk, measure out 1 cup milk and add 1 T lemon juice.  Stir, then let it sit for 5 minutes, until lumpy.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, sugar and salt and mix well.

In another medium bowl, mix together buttermilk and eggs.  Stir briskly with a fork, to break down the eggs and mix well.  Now add the cooled, melted butter to the buttermilk/egg mixture.

Pour the flour mixture INTO the liquid and gently mix until JUST COMBINED – don’t overmix!!

Add 1 T butter into your pan and place in the preheated oven.  Careful!  This takes only seconds, so keep an eye on it, so the butter doesn’t brown. Remove from oven as soon as the butter is melted.

Pour your cornbread mix into the warm skillet and bake 25-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Get out the butter and enjoy!

Cheers – Vicky




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Chicken with Whole Grain Mustard and Sage

Chicken with Whole Grain Mustard and Sage

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Chicken, Wild Rice and Vegetable Sunday Soup

Chicken, Wild Rice and Vegetable Sunday Soup

  The weather here in the Willamette Valley in Oregon has been absolutely, drop-dead gorgeous this Fall.  Some years, the rains will start in Early September and continue through June.  Gray, soggy skies get old, really fast.  Often, as soon as the leaves change color, […]

How to Make Won Tons and Pot Stickers

How to Make Won Tons and Pot Stickers


Have you ever wondered how to make those cute little Won Tons or Pot Stickers you get at your favorite Chinese restaurant or takeout?

My son-in-law is Chinese and when we went to visit them in Florida a while back, he made wonton soup for us. It was soooo good. He and my grandson, only 9, sat at the table and folded and pasted and voila! Dinner was on.

When I got back home, I decided to look into it and see if I could replicate his perfect little won tons. It took a little bit of practice, but once I got the hang of them, it was pretty easy. I won’t lie to you – this is not one of those “In Under 30 Minutes” dinners. But it is if you’ve made them up in advance, frozen them on a silicone sheet or parchment paper, and then bagged them up for a later date.

It’s important to line your cookie sheet before placing the won tons on it. Don’t let the won tons touch each other, and do only one layer deep. If you don’t line your paper, you might have a hard time getting them off your frozen cookie sheet. Stick them in the freezer overnight, until the won tons are good and frozen. The next day, get a good quality freezer bag (labelled with contents and date!), mark them on your “freezer” list, and throw them in. If they touch each other at this point, it will be fine. Just don’t let them thaw all jumbled up, because the won tons will go back to sticking together, and you want them all detached.

The actual “recipe” is easy and one I just sort of invented. You can alter it or change it in any way, depending on your taste. I used ground pork for this recipe (which is the yummiest version but the least healthy). I have also used ground chicken and ground pork tenderloin. For these, I use my handy-dandy Kitchenaid grinder attachment. I confess that I don’t use this all that often, but when a recipe calls for ground chicken, this saves me a boatload of bucks. A pound of ground chicken costs me $2.00 rather than pre-ground at $6.00.  Plus, it’s just kind of fun. And I do like my gadgets!  Here’s the link on Amazon, if you’re curious:

Ground Pork Won Ton and Pot Stickers FillingWon Tons and Pot Stickers
1 ½ pound ground pork
5-8 scallions, sliced finely
1 T soy sauce – I only use this little because my dipping sauce is very soy-y. You can always add more.
1 T toasted sesame oil
I heaping T minced garlic (from the jar or fresh)
1 heaping tsp ground ginger (or fresh)
Won ton wrappers
Gyoza (pot sticker) wrappers
Finely shredded Napa Cabbage or White cabbage, optional
Egg white wash, for the “glue” – just mix 1 egg white with 1 T water

In a large bowl, place all of your ingredients. Gently mix with your hands, until everything is nicely incorporated but don’t overwork it. (I once mixed my meatloaf in my kitchenaid with the paddle and then wondered why it tasted like my saddle shoes from Catholic School). No, no.  No.

Test Patty for Won Tons and Pot StickersIf you want to go the extra mile, (which I really do recommend) take the pan that you will using to pan fry the won tons in later. Put a tiny of amount of oil in the pan and heat it up. Make a tiny meat patty and cook through, then taste. This will allow you to adjust your seasonings before assembling the won tons. Get out a silicone sheet or parchment paper on your cookie sheet. Line all of the little squares up like so, so you have a little assembly line.

Won Tons on WrappersWith your pastry brush, paint all around the won ton squares. If you’re lazy, like me, you can just paint the entire square, which is a lot easier.

Now take a little tiny spoon. You can use a baby spoon; I like these cute little porcelain spoons I got on Amazon. I like these to put in salsas and other condiment bowls because they don’t react with the condiment the way silver can.  Here’s the link, if you think you’d like these:  The ones I bought were identical to these, but mine didn’t have the cute designs on the handles.  Bummer.

Folding Won TonsScoop out a little bit of the ground pork mixture onto the middle of the diagonal wrapper. Grab the uppermost corner and bring down toward you til it almost meets up with the bottom corners. Now you have an inverted triangle.

With your fingers, press down on all sides of the meat, so that there isn’t any air in your won ton (much like you do with ravioli). After you’ve pressed around the meat, move out toward the edges, sealing the won ton well.

Take your pastry brush, dipped in egg white wash, and dab all folded won tons on the left hand corners (see photo).

Now, the fun part. Take hold of the top two corners (leave the one pointing at your stomach alone).

Won Tons Before CookingBring the two corners around the back of the meaty center and join them by pressing the right corner on top of the left and pinch down, so it forms a good seam.

Gently remove from work surface to a lined cookie sheet.

Here’s a link for some very affordable silicone liners.  Considering the high cost of parchment, I’d say you’ll get your money’s worth in no time.  Here they are:

When you’ve done as many Won Tons as you have the patience or time for, stick the cookie sheet in the freezer.

When you’re ready to cook the Won Tons, preheat your oven to 200°, so the fried Won Tons can be kept warm.

Fill your skillet or dutch oven with about 2 inches of canola or peanut oil. The oil will expand quite a lot when the Won Tons go in, so make sure your pan is deep enough that you have plenty of room for the oil to expand.  The last thing you want is hot oil, bubbling over the pan.  Ask me how I know!  Frozen Won Tons will add an element of water to the hot oil and that can cause a reaction with the oil, so take care!

Testing Hot OilHeat on medium til the temperature hits 350° or 360°. Last night, my thermometer said the oil was only 300° but I didn’t trust it, because it was just taking way too long. If you don’t trust yours or don’t have a thermometer, try this: Take a wooden spoon and point it down into the oil, til it’s touching the bottom. When the oil has reached a good temperature, the bubbles will quickly come rising up the base of the wooden handle and you’re ready to fry.  If the oil goes crazy, bubbling too high, too fast, turn the heat down a notch, and test again in 5 minutes.

Test just one. Have a slotted spoon ready, to flip when one side is brown. Also, have a bunch of paper towels nearby in a pie plate or brownie pan, to drain the cooked won tons. It might be a good idea to cut this first one in half, just to make sure your pork has cooked through. Last night, I really blew it. My oil was way too hot and I had barely started to cook the won tons when they were turning way too dark. The too-hot oil meant the outsides were dark but the filling wasn’t cooked! Ugh. It wasn’t the end of the world, though (unless we get trichinosis, that is); I just put them back into the 200° oven til they were cooked through. But they were still overdone on the outside, although my hubby would beg to differ. He prefers his food this side of burnt. Shudder. It might be worth my while to buy a new oil thermometer!  Anyway, taking photos and frying at the same time is not the easiest feat!  I had to remake them this morning to get a photo of the properly browned and cooked won tons!

Frying Won TonsOnce you’ve gotten the idea of how long your won tons will take or whether you need to adjust your heat, you can proceed with the rest.


Gently (!) place about 5 won tons, one at a time, into the hot oil. Don’t overcrowd your pan; too many at once will lower the temperature of the oil and you’ll end up with soggy, oil-filled won tons. Yuck.

When you’ve peeked at the underside and like the color, carefully flip them. You don’t want your top or apron splattered with oil. One of the reasons why you want your meat filling to be small is so that the meat cooks all the way through, in a pretty short amount of time.

When the won tons are a nice, brown color, remove to the paper towels. Place these in the warm oven.

Repeat this process until all of your won tons are cooked.

Fried Won Tons with Sweet Chilli OilWhen you remove the Won Tons from the oven, just lift up the edge of the paper towels and gently empty the won tons into your warmed pan.

I like to serve my fried won tons with Mae Ploy, which is a sweet chilli sauce you can find just about anywhere. I get most of my Chinese condiments at an Asian market because they carry the real deal and their prices can’t be beat.

Won Ton Soup
4-6 cups chicken broth
Soy sauce, to taste (2-3 Tablespoons?)
Garlic, to taste
Ground ginger, to taste
Toasted Sesame Oil
Chopped Green Onions, for topping

Bring all ingredients except green onion to a boil in a dutch oven or large pot. Reduce to simmer and simmer about 15 minutes to blend the flavors.
Take your formed, frozen won tons and add as many as you’d like. Simmer 10 to 15 minutes. Keep the water at a low simmer, so you don’t annihilate those beautiful creations of yours. They will fall apart if cooked for too long. Pour into bowls and top with green onion.  Sorry, but I don’t have a photo right now.

If you have a freezer bag already filled with won tons, this soup is a wonderful rescue dinner for those nights you are too beat or too busy (or both) to cook.

Pot Stickers
Ground Pork Mixture on GyozaUse the same ground pork mixture.
This may sound confusing, but look at the photos and, with a little practice, you’ll be able to turn out these puppies in no time!

Line your work surface and line up 6 to 8 Gyoza wrappers (Gyoza is just the Japanese version of the Chinese Pot Sticker wrapper). Using your pastry brush, coat each with egg white wash.

Place about twice as much pork mixture as you use in the won ton. (I estimate these will take 2 scant teaspoons).  This will be dropped onto the middle of the wrapper in an oblong shape. Just make sure you leave enough room on either side to get a good seal.

Step 1 Forming Pot StickersTake the bottom of the wrapper and bring it up to meet the top edge but ONLY press on the very middle, not the entire edge. Now, take your pastry brush and paint just the front edge of the front part of the pot sticker.

Place the wrapper in your left palm. Put your first finger between the two halves of the wrapper and, with your thumb, make a little pleat on the right side of the wrapper. You will be pulling the front toward the center. Do this another two times. Then seal the right side edge.

Pleats on Pot StickersNow, work the left hand side of the wrapper. Keep the two edges apart so they don’t touch. Pleat the front wrapper toward the center and press to seal. Pleat twice more and seal the edges.

If you look at the photos, you’ll notice that the back side of the pot sticker has no pleats – they are only on the front!

Pleated and Shaped Pot StickersTake your pleated pot sticker and have it sit up, so that you are forming a flat bottom. Then take both ends and curve them around, so you get the classic pot sticker base.

If you want to skip the pleating process, it’s ok to use one of those little pot sticker forms. Just make sure that, when it comes out of the mold, you make it sit up, so that it has a flat bottom.

Curved and Pleated Pot StickerAt this point, you can place your pot stickers on a lined cookie sheet. When all of your pot stickers are formed, place the filled cookie sheet in the freezer for a minute.  Or overnight, or for however long you like.  You can always freeze these first, then stick them in a freezer bag (label and date!) and use them later.

Heat your oven to 200° and place an ovenproof dish (like a pie plate) in there to heat.  Heat a skillet (I like cast iron for this – it gives a nice, brown finish) with a thin, thin layer of canola or peanut oil, just til the oil shimmers. Have a measuring cup of water with a Tablespoon nearby. Also, have a good lid ready.

Pot Stickers with Crispy BottomGently place enough pot stickers on their bottoms in the heated oil, but don’t crowd the pan. Check on the color – you want a nice, crispy bottom.

When all of the pot stickers have achieved the right color, quickly and carefully add exactly 2 Tablespoons of water and IMMEDIATELY cover with the lid. Give it a couple of minutes to steam, then remove one and cut through to make sure the meat is cooked through. If so, remove all to a serving dish. Again, if you’re not ready to eat, you can put in a 200° oven, but only for a few minutes. The won tons can stay in there longer, but the pot stickers are better eaten asap.

Pot Stickers Ready to be Devoured!I like to serve my pot stickers with a Hot Dumpling Sauce that I get at our Asian Market. Sorry, but I can’t read Cantonese or Mandarin, so that’s about all I can tell you. But the words “Hot Dumpling Sauce” are in English under the Chinese Label. It’s really not that hot. You can always add toasted sesame oil, chopped green onions, hot chili oil, depending on your taste.

Cheers! Vicky



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Chili Verde Salsa and Chili Verde Soup

Chili Verde Salsa and Chili Verde Soup


Today I’d like to share with you an easy and wonderful recipe for Chili Verde Salsa.  This freezes really well and, come Fall, I have usually filled up about 25 jelly jars with salsa.  I can grab a couple and whip up soup in minutes.

I love growing tomatillos.  I am constantly amazed that 3 tiny little seeds, started in the Spring, will yield hundreds of tomatillos.  If you ever want to try growing them, I do have one word of warning: make sure you have savory tomatillos and NOT groundcherries.  They are closely related but their flavors are completely different.  Groundcherries are very small and very, very sweet.  They may be great for some things, but Chili Verde Salsa is not one of them.

I recommend Seed Savers “Green Husk” seeds.  I’ve always had amazing luck with them.  Unlike tomatoes, they have no real diseases that I’ve heard of (at least not in my garden) and don’t attract any pests, either.  Can’t beat that.  3 tomatillo plants will give you all the salsa you need to last you til next Summer, depending on how much you use.

If you do buy heirloom seeds (such as Green Husk), you can save the seeds easily and dry them to use the following year.  Or give some away to friends.  I just cut into a ripe, raw tomatillo or two, hold them over a bowl, and spread the seeds out in a single layer.  From there they go into my dehydrator, but if you don’t have one, they’ll dry on the kitchen counter.  It will just take them longer.  Be sure if you dry them they are really, really dry before putting them in a sandwich bag for the Winter.  Otherwise, you’ll end up with damp, moldy and useless seeds next Spring.  How to tell if they’re ripe?  When they’ve almost filled up their cute little papery husk.

CilantroIn addition to soup, you can throw a jar into a chili verde enchilada recipe.  And, of course, you can use it to top tacos, enchiladas, and eggs, as well as for a great dip for tortilla chips.

The original recipe comes from Tyler Florence at Food Network.  I tweaked it ever so slightly by adding some mild green chilies, either canned or fresh  poblanos from the garden.  He named it “Tomatillo Salsa Verde.” This is my version:

For removing the skins and stems from the tomatillos, I fill up the sink and let them all soak in cold water.  This loosens the papery husks these babies come wrapped in and also removes their inherent stickiness.  Then I yank the husk off and try to remove the stem.  If it won’t budge, or you have arthritis, like me, just grab some needle nosed pliers (every kitchen should have them!) and remove the stems that way.  (Needle nosed pliers are also good for opening those zipped packages lots of things come in, like shredded cheese.

Roasted Tomatillos


1 pound tomatillos, husked and rinsed

1 small Spanish onion, quartered

1 jalapeno, stemmed (or canned (not pickled!) chopped jalapenos – to taste)

1 4 oz. can chopped Mild Green Chilies, drained

3 garlic cloves

1 tsp kosher salt

½ bunch fresh cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped (I use even more)

1 lime, juiced (optional – I omit, altogether)

Tortilla strips, fryingBring a pot of water to boil and add the tomatillos and onions.  If you are using fresh jalapenos, chilies and/or garlic, add those to the boiling water, too.  If using garlic from a jar, or jalapenos and green chilies from a can, hold off on those for now.

Reduce the heat and simmer gently for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the tomatillos are soft but not split.  When soft, save about ¼ cup of the hot water, drain and add the veggie mixture (not the water yet) to a blender or food processor.

If using canned or jarred jalapenos, chilies and garlic, add now to the tomatillos.  Whir away.

Let it cool a couple of minutes, so the mixture won’t cook the cilantro.  After it’s cooled a bit, add the cilantro, and 1 tsp salt.  Now get out a small spoon (or better yet, a tortilla chip) and taste.  Does it need the lime juice?  Add a bit in (remember, you can always add more but you can’t subtract!)

Cooked Tortilla StripsWhat about salt?  More garlic or cilantro?  Up to you.  It really does take several tastings with the chips to get it perfect.  I find it’s a perfectly good excuse to eat chips in the middle of the day.

Finally, is the salsa too thick?  Add in a bit of the reserved water, and taste as you go, until you hit the consistency you prefer.

Chili Verde Salsa

That’s it.  Easy as pie.  When the salsa has cooled, go ahead and pour into jelly jars, leaving ½ inch of space at the top, screw on the metal lid and band (label with a sharpie first!)  It can resemble pesto in the freezer and, if you’re anything like me, you’ll find yourself in March scratching your head, trying to figure out just which it is.  Also, mark the year while you’re at it.  Or just eat it all from the fridge.  It does last a week or two.

If you want to roast whatever fresh ingredients you use, rather than simmering them, just get out a big baking sheet with a rim.  The tomatillos do exude a lot of liquid, so don’t do this with a rimless cookie sheet!  Heat the oven to about 450° and roast all of the veggies til softened and slightly blackened.  How black you want the Roasted Peppers for Salsaskins is entirely up to you, of course.  I do like the smokiness this version gives you, but if you’re in a rush, go for the water method.

Tip du Jour:  If you roast the veggies and you’re left with a blackened mess on your baking sheet, try this.  Put the cookie sheet in your sink, if it fits, and cover with hot water.  Grab a box of dishwasher detergent and sprinkle over the water.  My sink is double, so my cookie sheet doesn’t fit completely in it.  I just put the pan on the counter, carefully fill with enough hot water to cover the clean brownie panbottom, then add the detergent.  Let it sit for an hour or so, and you’ll find that blackened mess comes off lickety-split.  It doesn’t seem to matter how inexpensive the detergent is, either.  It always works like a charm for me.

Whenever I have any baking pan that is a huge, baked on mess (think lasagna), I use this hot water/dishwasher detergent mixture and let it sit overnight.  The next morning, you can literally wipe the thing completely clean with a sponge.  Yep, it’s like witnessing a little miracle, right there in my kitchen.

This is the recipe for a tasty soup that will last months in your freezer.  Make double and freeze half and you’ll thank yourself some tired night in December!  As with most of my recipes, it’s all to personal taste, so feel free to alter the amounts.


2 Jelly Jars of Salsa Chili Verde

1 4 oz. can chopped mild green chilies

4 to 6 c. chicken broth

1 yellow onion, chopped

1/4 to 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/2 c. raw long grain rice (brown works, too)

salt and pepper

Juice of one lime

You could also add canned or frozen corn and canned black beans, drained and rinsed.  If you do, you may need to up your amount of chicken broth so the soup doesn’t turn into a stew.

For topping:

Mexican shredded cheese (or queso fresca)

Lime wedges

Chopped cilantro

Sour Cream

Avocado slices or chunks

Tortilla chips

Chop onion and throw in a large stock pot or dutch oven with a healthy sprinkling of kosher salt.  Cover bottom of pot with oil and slowly cook, stirring, until the onions and soft.

In a separate, smaller pot, blanch 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (or tenders) til tender (don’t overcook or the chicken will taste like an army boot).  If the chicken is still slightly underdone, that’s even better – it will continue to cook in a minute.  Drain the chicken and rinse off, then shred or cut into cubes.  You could also use a rotisserie chicken, skinned and shredded.

To the onions in the larger dutch oven, add the salsa, chilies, chicken broth, cayenne, cumin, black pepper, rice and lime juice.  Bring to the boil and immediately reduce to a simmer.  Simmer for about 20 minutes, to let the flavors mingle and cook the rice. Taste and adjust seasonings.  Add your favorite toppings and enjoy!

Another tip du jour for you!  I have the niftiest trick for quickly shredding your poached chicken.  Grab your handy Kitchenaid mixer and throw the chicken into the bowl.  Add the panel and, on low, let it work its magic.  Keep it on low and watch carefully.  You don’t want the chicken shredded to Kingdom Come.  Let the shredded chunks be generous enough that you aren’t eating a bunch of garden twine!  You’ll have another bowl to throw into the dishwasher, but it’ll save you several minutes.  This is a link for a kitchenaid mixer.  They don’t come cheap, but not a day goes by that I don’t use mine.  It is always on my counter because it’s just too darned heavy to store and take out.  I’ve found that most heavy appliances I put in the cupboard never see the light of day.  Try it, you’ll like it!

If you have enough to freeze, try this: Pour into a good quality freezer bag.  Place flat on a cookie sheet THAT IS LINED WITH PARCHMENT OR A SILICONE MAT.  I used to put it straight onto the cookie sheet and then stick it in the freezer.  Well, God help me if I could pry it loose, once it was frozen.  Problem solved.  The next day, when the bag is as stiff as a flat brick, you could store it however you like in the freezer, either upright in a plastic square container, or lying flat, stacked on other frozen bags.  That reminds me, I need to really get in there and organize my freezer for the winter.  Another handy idea is to keep a running inventory of what’s in there, so if you’re looking for a quick dinner to reheat, you can consult your list.  Just keep it handy and update when you take or add an item.

I hope your family likes this soup!  Cheers, Vicky



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WordPress Anonymous

WordPress Anonymous

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Olympic Shedder

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Technologically Stupid

Technologically Stupid


At this point in time, I estimate that this blog will be ready in about a year and a half.

I’m not kidding.  Guess what?  Turns out that being able to shop on Amazon in my sleep does NOT make me a computer expert.

votives on tableMy learning curve looks something like Mt. Everest, and I can honestly admit that I have never felt so old, so stupid and so utterly incompetent in my entire life.  Well, there was that time when I was four and couldn’t get the word “the” down in my reading, but that doesn’t really count.  My four year old self didn’t really give a damn.

I tell my 63 year old self I don’t give a damn, either, but I’ve discovered that feeling like a dinosaur is not particularly comforting.  My kids are all pretty nice about the fact that I’m so incredibly computer illiterate, in a laughing, roll-their-eyes sort of way.  You know the look, if you have grown kids.  Sigh, they sigh.  Good ‘ol Mom.  Then they smile sheepishly and shake their heads, sort of sadly.

Now, I can take a ribbing better than most – God knows with 7 kids, kids-in-law and girlfriends in the picture, I’d better.  Actually, the girlfriends are the only ones that don’t have the guts yet to tease me.  But I figure that’ll all change, once they’ve walked down the aisle.

I suppose every older generation must go through this stage.  Or did they?  My mother had access to the same news reports and papers as her grown kids.  As long as she read, she was up there with the rest of us and, most of the time, way ahead.

So, I take it back.  Perhaps this is the first generation to feel so darn unable to catch up.  Now, I realize that many people in their 60’s are every bit as computer savvy as the kids in their 20’s and 30’s.  These are the women who got their MBA’s out of college and continue in the work force lo these many years later.  Or maybe they just took the time and effort to keep up through classes and books and self-teaching.   Apparently, I wasn’t one of them.  And I can’t be the only one (can I?)

Mason's Frankenstein HatAnd to think that 6 months ago, I was proud of the fact that my Pinterest Page (now Gray Hairs Happen) was gorgeous and full and could boast an entire 3,000+ followers.  Woo Hoo!  Or that my Etsy shop (Lofty Perch), if half-empty, was at least up and running, to an extent.  To be honest, it’s been limping along, at best.  When you neglect to visit your shop for 6 months at a time, let alone create something new, activity in the shop does tend to atrophy.  But, still….  It was something that made me feel like I was at least partly with it, computer-wise.

Then I got the bright idea to start a blog.  Initially, I thought I’d learn how so that I could help my husband start his own.  He has a horrific commute (Portland’s traffic problems are legendary) and he would love to work locally and from home.  Well, he tried once and just didn’t have the patience to learn WordPress.

I understood.  I mean, he’s impatient in the best of times and when he’s so burnt out from an insane work schedule and commute, well, there’s no way.  I understood.

So, I was going to jump on in there and be the patient one.  Let me learn this stuff, and then I could help him.  It’s just a matter of patience and diligence and some hard work.

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.  Yeah, that was some brilliant idea, alright.

So, now I’ve dug in my heels.  I just spent 6 hours propped up in bed today, working on my laptop and trying like crazy to figure out this WordPress nonsense.  The Facebook group I belong to all have their questions, but even a lot of the questions are Greek to me.  Seriously, they are referencing things that I have NO CLUE about what they’re discussing.  This revelation is rather discouraging, to say the least.  I am used to being at the head of the class, at least back in the day.

Fortunately, having survived lived through 12 years of the nuns, I can brag (to myself) that I don’t need those fancy plug-ins that check your grammar.  The nuns, in my opinion, were good for 3 things.  One was singing, and they weren’t shy about telling the off-key kids to mouth their words.  (I’m happy to report I was never asked to shut up).  The second was handwriting, but mine has gone to that proverbial handbasket, so forget that one.  The third thing they instilled in our little Catholic brains was writing and grammar.

That talent doesn’t really compute in today’s world.  No one cares about grammar, or being able to form a coherent sentence.  And spelling?  Don’t get me started.  News flash, millennials: Spell Check doesn’t cut it!!!!  So learn the difference between THEIR and THERE.  But no one is listening and they certainly don’t care.  Swear to God, this drives me up the damned wall.  It’s just no fun, being obsolete.

Well, I sweated through my 6 hours today and learned exactly 2 things.  Two important things, at least, but only two lousy things, nonetheless.  At the rate I’m going, it may take a few years before this blog hits the streets.

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure this calls for a glass of wine.  Cheers until tomorrow!  Vicky


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Bread Making for the Beginner

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Pesto Straight from the Garden

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Solar Eclipse

Solar Eclipse


Our home is directly in the path of this summer’s solar eclipse.  We had 100% totality.

Months ago, my oldest son called and asked if he and his wife could ask some friends to come and camp out the day before the eclipse.  I said, sure, that would be fun.  He and my daughter-in-law have some really great friends.

Two days before the eclipse, my daughter-in-law brought our 5 year old granddaughter out and then left to go wine tasting for the day with her 2 girlfriends.  We don’t get to see our darling girl all that often.  She is an absolute fireball of energy – happy, smart, loving and funny, with a side of attitude.

Bill had invited his friend and client to come for dinner.  She had booked a room in our town for the eclipse, so I thought we could have some of my world famous grilled pizzas for dinner.  Jami and her girlfriends ended up coming back from wine tasting and joined us.

We had a blast.  I made several types – no sauce, with chicken and peppers and spinach, some with pesto and chicken and peppers and spinach, some with chicken, feta, Kalamata olives and tomatoes, and one with hamburger, onion, and Italian sausage.  All of them were grilled, with a super thin crust and covered in shredded Italian cheese.

The funny thing, I only made one of the hamburger/Italian sausage pizzas, because I figured no one other than Bill would want to eat them.  I mean, everyone’s pretty health conscious in this area of the world, right?  Portland is one of the foody capitals of the country, after all.

The ladies before the Solar EclipsePoor Bill never got a slice of his meat lover’s pizza!  All the young gals dove into that thing like there was no tomorrow.  (Penny had a plain cheese one because, in her words, she’s a “vegetarian – but not a very good one.”)  This means she won’t eat any meat except bacon.  Crazy.

We ate outside on the picnic table in our backyard, and then I brought out some leftover birthday cake for dessert.  Plenty of good Oregon wine flowed, too.  It was a great evening, warm and beautiful.

The next day was Sunday, the day before the eclipse.  The kids and their friends started arriving mid-afternoon and they all brought their kids and even their dogs.  All of the dogs got along well, although I think Bo and Molly, our two labs, felt a bit invaded.  This is their turf, after all, and they’re not used to sharing it!

There were 20 of us, in all, and they spread their tents out over two of our lawns, in a kids’ section and a kid-free section.  Everyone went out of their way not to impose on Bill and me in any way.  Except for occasionally coming in to use the bathroom, they were 100% self-sufficient.  It was a great evening.  And again, the beer and wine flowed, once the kidlets were asleep in their tents.  After a day of running wild on our property, I’m not surprised they crashed and burned without much fuss.  My son took a lawn chair outside of their tents and sang a few songs on his guitar and it worked like magic.

The eclipse was set to begin around 9:00 Monday morning.  In our neighborhood, we have a common meadow, which is actually mowed for its hay.  We all grabbed our eclipse glasses and camp chairs and headed out to the meadow.  Basically, we had that section all to ourselves, and the little kids had a ball racing around and just being kids.

I hadn’t really thought the eclipse was going to be anything all that special.  I expected it to go dark for a minute, and that would be that.  But no way!  It was actually one of the most amazing experiences of our lives.

Solar Eclipse

That morning was bright and sunny and fairly warm (mid 80’s by 9:00?)  As we were sitting there, a number of odd things started happening.  First of all, all of the birds went absolutely silent, except for one flock of swallows, which were flying around like crazy, very close to the ground.  The light started to get pinkish, but not the same as you get when you get a sunset kind of pink.  One gal said it was like you were on another planet, and that’s exactly how it felt.  As the partial eclipse started, the temperature started dropping – dramatically and rapidly.  Within minutes I wished I had brought a hoodie.  We figured later that the temperatures had dropped 15 to 20 degrees, just like that.

Molly, our yellow lab, started whining and acting very nervous.  After a while, everyone sort of calmed down and sat back and watched the sun with our eclipse glasses.  I was a little worried that some of the little kids, as young as 3 ½, would try and look at the sun without them, but they were all well-behaved.

Molly at Solar Eclipse

In the minutes before the total eclipse, the sky turned dark enough that we could see some planets through our glasses.  It wasn’t dark enough to see stars, but the light, once again, was very eerie.

Watching the sun disappear was spell-binding.  When it went completely black, this bright, massive corona was distinctly visible.  For a minute or two it was safe to remove our glasses and watch the halo around the moon.  Everyone in the neighborhood let out a shout and clapped.  It was pretty awesome, thinking that in this very moment, thousands of people who had come to our region for this occasion were doing exactly the same thing at the same time.

Pink SunsetSadly, the total eclipse didn’t last more than a minute or so, and then the sun started to reappear, and we had to put our glasses back on.  One young man in our group pulled out a box and presented his girlfriend with an engagement ring and again, everyone cheered.  What a fantastic experience!  I really will never forget it.

I will be doing a separate post on making Grilled Pizza.  It’s so worth your time and effort!  Vicky

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Leo’s Nine Lives

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Beware Botox

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The Mixed Bag Garden

The Mixed Bag Garden


The garden this year was a mixed bag.  I had a variety of 9 tomato plants, all started from seed back in March.  I’ve got a nice, warm craft area upstairs in a loft with shop lights.  When my plants outgrow their 4 inch pots, I put them in one gallon pots and move them out to the greenhouse.

Anyway, my poor tomato plants just flat-out withered and curled up.  In the 10 years of gardening here, I have never, ever had a problem with tomatoes.  Ever.  But I was telling Bill to water down there every day for 30 minutes.  He’s got a great drip system set up, but no way did those plants need 30 minutes a day.  It was the Percocet talking (I had just had a knee replacement; it wasn’t my fault…).  It wasn’t his fault, either; he was just taking orders from a drugged up wife.  I guess that’ll teach him.

Well, overwatering led to downy mildew on the pumpkins, too, but I think I managed to save them, so we’ll have at least a dozen for the porch.  I still decorate the porch and house for Halloween, even though it’s just the two of us and our house is very far off the main road in our rural neighborhood.  It’s a matter of principle.

Cinderella Pumpkins

Fall is my very favorite time of year.  By the end of a long, dry, hot summer, I am more than ready for flannel shirts and nightly fires in our big stone fireplace.  So, I’m happy we’ll have some pumpkins and gourds  from the garden to decorate with.  The Cinderellas make good pies at Thanksgiving, too.

The tomatillos went crazy.  I hadn’t had a decent tomatillo crop for 3 years.  My seed company had sent me ground cherries instead.  The description in the catalog described them as “savory” but they were the sweetest things imaginable.  Sweet and very, very tiny.  My chili verde salsa had vanished from the big freezer over time, but I’ve made two new big batches so far this Fall.  That makes me a very happy tortilla making gal.  One of my daughter’s friends Tomatillosused to get this little twinkle in her eye when she came over and I’d give her a jar of my green salsa.  And she was Mexican, so I’ll take that as a compliment.

Haven’t harvested the potatoes, so not sure what that will bring.

The basil is in 57 pots in the greenhouse.  It’s been a challenge, keeping them from dying out there, with temperatures in the mid to high 90’s so often this summer.  My poor old knee and back just can’t take bending down yet, so I’ve decided to keep them at chest level near the house.  So far, I’ve only reaped one tiny jar of pesto for the freezer, but I’m hoping for a lot more.  I may even have to put a heater out there for a few weeks, when the weather turns.   My husband won’t be happy, but I need a freezer full of pesto to last me a year.  This may end up being very expensive pesto.  Meh!  That’s life.

Our corn sucked, too.  Lousy pollination.  The grand total of my Walla Walla onions was one!!  One lousy onionLuckily, we have a nearby farm that offers great corn and lovely tomatoes.  I decided not to stress about having a bad harvest this year and give myself a break.  So, we can buy our tomatoes and just pretend they came from the garden, right?  Why the heck not?

When I was in high school, I had an uncle who had an ongoing war going with another family member about who was going to pick the first ripe tomato of the season.  He actually went to the store and bought a tomato, came home and tied it onto his tomato plant.  We gardeners can be quite competitive.

The cucumbers are doing wonderfully, too, and they’re heirloom, so I’ll be able to save the seeds for next year.  I learned that if you scrape out the Garden Harvestseeds and let them soak for 3 days, you can separate the seeds from the gelatinous covering and flesh.  That gel surrounding the seeds is actually an inhibitor, much like the gel that surrounds tomato seeds.  The inhibitor is meant to protect seeds overwinter, and then to allow the seeds to germinate only when conditions are right in the Spring or Summer.  I had already known this about tomatoes, since I took the Master Gardener course 10 years ago, but didn’t know this applied to cukes.  It worked like a charm, too.  After draining the sludge, I easily separated the seeds and then laid them out on the dehydrator sheets that are meant for things like fruit roll ups.

I’ve started seeds for Fall, too.  Kale, chard, radishes, carrots and lettuce.  My two favorite heirloom lettuces are “Winter Density” (which, as the name implies, is very winter hardy) and “Grandpa Admire’s).  I get my heirloom seeds from Seed Saver’s, but since I save all of my seeds, I don’t need to replenish my stash very often.  That makes the cost of the original seed packet easy to swallow. (I do not get paid for endorsing Seed Savers.  My darling son bought me a membership for my birthday and I’ve been a fan since).

The marionberries and raspberries had a tough summer, too, and we can’t figure out why.  They just sort of shriveled on the vine.  The drip system waters them well, so we’re just not sure.  Probably we should go get a few more plants before the end of the season.

StrawberriesThe strawberries had just started in their new beds, so I didn’t expect much, in terms of a crop.  And I got what I expected.  But the few we did get were amazing tasting.  After 4 years of huge harvests, it breaks my heart that the strawberries have to be sprayed and killed, so we can start with new ones in new beds.  But otherwise, the risk of disease is too high and not worth taking.

The leeks will overwinter.  I had started them about a year ago (!) from seed.  Not exactly fast growing, those babies.  But they’re almost impossible to kill.  Which earns them kudos from me!

What else?  Got a couple heads of garlic, just to have something more to plant as Fall arrives.  Although I’m something of a “from scratch” cook, I am also a bit lazy when it comes to fresh garlic.  I usually cheat and use the chopped garlic that comes in a jar.  But I’ll get about 20 heads from this, and that’ll be fine.

I’m also going to try and grow a lot of thyme this year for my herb garden next Spring.  My beautiful herb garden got completely taken over by chives this year.  It’s not a small garden, as herb gardens go; it’s about 12 x 12 feet.  But I made the mistake of putting in chives around the borders that I dug up from chives that were growing in other beds.  BIG MISTAKE.  Those pretty little purple flowers that I love so much turned into seed heads that each sprouted a zillion baby chives.  I wasn’t able to keep up with the weeding, and they have drowned out almost every other herb, except maybe Oregano.  But even that has been diminished.

So I went out and dribbled a bit of Roundup on them and I’m hoping most of the chives will die.  Trouble is, they’ve already gone to seed, so all those baby chives will likely show up in the Spring.  With any luck, I’ll be able to keep up with those and hopefully eradicate the buggers.  (Sure, like I’m going to go out there and weed when it’s raining buckets in the 38 degree weather.  That’ll be the day.) Then, I’ll have to go back and completely replant all those spots where the chives were, with something like Sage, Rosemary, thyme, Oregano and Marjoram.

Happy Gardening!

Tip du Jour:  For harvesting, or holding potting soil or weeds, you’ve got to have one or two nice, big solid rubber trugs.  I’m thinking of getting a third because they have so many uses.  You can also put your harvest in there and rinse with water, then remove your nice, clean veggies.  Here’s the Amazon link:

I think you’ll wonder how you ever gardened without one!



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My Worn Out Wardrobe

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Empty Nester

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