Tuesday, April 27, 2010

New Recipe Review- Ham with Garlic and Rosemary

Every spring, our grocery store has a promotion- spend a certain amount of money in a couple months, and you receive a free ham (or small turkey, or frozen lasagna, but we chose the ham). Anyway, we finally got our ham, and it's not exactly small! I had to find a recipe to use on this giant - to us! - 8.5lb ham.

So, for my new recipe last week, I chose Ham with Garlic and Rosemary, from epicurious.com. This recipe intrigued me because I have never heard of seasoning a ham with garlic and rosemary before. The brown sugar and mustard, of course- they're ham staples, but garlic and rosemary? Hm... I have to try it!

I have to say I'm glad I did, the ham had a great and unique flavor. I did make a few changes- the cook time seemed a little low (I guess since it was for a cooked ham), so I ended up using the time on the ham package, which I suppose is the best bet- 20 minutes per pound at 325. I also kept it covered for the majority of the cook time and added the mustard/brown sugar mixture as a glaze in the last 30 minutes, and left it uncovered after that. I served it with homemade macaroni and cheese and a garden salad. It was really, really, good and I'm definitely glad I tried this one!

And the menu for this week now includes 101 ways to use leftover ham- ham/potato casserole, chicken cordon bleu, ham/pineapple pizza... what else can I think of??

Monday, April 26, 2010

Earth Day Challenge Results

I am a terrible blogger! I said I would update on the results of my personal Earth Day challenge on Friday, but I never did. And it's now Monday- yikes! But here we go...

Did I succeed? Ahh, well ... not exactly.

But while I wasn't completely successful in not throwing anything out (one of the things I forgot to plan for was the paper towels in the restroom at work), I do feel like the project made me a lot more aware of the waste I create. During more than one task throughout the day, I stopped to think about how I could do things differently to create the least amount of, or no trash at all, as possible. That was never really my main concern before, I was focused on "fast" and "easy" and did things more by habit. And while I had tried to avoid extraneous waste in the past, I didn't bother to stop and think about how I could adjust the way I did things to use even less.

This is definitely something that I am going to make an effort to continue.

PS- I am also completely embarrassed that my Earth Day post showed up dated April 20th! I thought of the idea a couple days earlier, and jotted it down in a draft. I wrote the real post on the 22nd, but I had no idea it would keep the 20th as the actual day. Oops!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Happy Earth Day!

In honor of Earth Day, my goal is to not put a single thing in the garbage can today- in other words, not use anything that creates waste. No packaging, no cleaning products, no disposable containers, nothing. Recycling is perfectly OK, but no garbage! (And no, that doesn't mean that I'm going to let any trash sit out on the kitchen counter until tomorrow :P) I'll check back tonight or tomorrow morning to let you know how it all went!

I am also going to take a bit of time to share some of the progress we have made in our goal of transitioning to greener cleaning products and household items. So far we have:

- Switched from chemical cleaners and Clorox wipes to Nature's Source 99% natural Windex and Seventh Generation All-Natural Wipes (both purchased at the grocery store). When our supply of those runs out, I will begin to make my own cleaners from water, vinegar, lemon juice, and baking soda to use with organic cotton washcloths that can be washed and reused.

(images -clockwise from top- from samsclub.com, greenlightoffice.com, acmemarkets.com, walgreens.com, samsclub.com)

- Switched from standard laundry detergent to Ecos 100% All Natural Laundry Detergent (purchased at Sam's Club). When our supply of dryer sheets runs out, I will also purchase these wool dryer balls from seller farmfreshfiber on etsy to use instead.

(images -clockwise from top- from samsclub.com, samsclub.com, farmfreshfiber on etsy.com, samsclub.com)

- After our Swiffer (which I used with the wet pads) snapped in half, I purchased a steam mop that cleans with nothing but water. I still have the sweeper end of the Swiffer and may buy a cover for it -such as one of these- to help with the dusting.

- Stopped using plastic bags at the grocery store and started using large canvas bags for groceries, and reusable mesh bags for produce.

That's all for today! I'm looking forward to my little experiment, and will let you know how it went tomorrow!

Monday, April 19, 2010

A (Hopefully) Rabbit-Proof Garden

We did some more work on the backyard this weekend, and it's coming along slowly but surely. Here is the current state of progress.

While H broke apart the many mounds of dirt we have, to fill in the many gaping holes that we also have, I worked on an enclosure for our vegetable garden.We have a large number of very hungry rabbits in our area, so the enclosure is more for function than to look pretty. We took down a fence that had been dividing the backyard, so I decided to use the remaining pieces of that as the outer part of the enclosure, and wire mesh that we had picked up at the garden store for the inner part. Here we go!

(Materials: staple gun, wire mesh, wire cutters, and old fencing and posts)

I laid each piece of fencing board side up, to have maximum stapling surface. I unrolled the mesh on top, and stapled as close as possible to the bottom and stretched it as far as I could up to the top. It actually reached nicely to the upper cross board (I obviously don't know the proper fencing terms!) so it didn't even look half bad. I also left a little extra mesh at each end- it can be twisted together with the next piece if need be, or tucked in if it's not.

We decided to put the garden in the front corner of our backyard, so we actually only needed to build two sides to the enclosure. After measuring it out, we started with a small piece right against the fence. H nailed it in, and next came the hinged post for the gate.

We dug the hole for that piece nice and deep, filled it in to keep it in place, and connected the gate to the hinges. This one was a little tricky to get the hinges at exactly the right height for the gate to be able to swing open, but not allow too much space underneath for the rabbits to sneak in.

After that, it was smooth sailing- another deep hole for the post with the latch, a long piece of fencing nailed to that, a shallower hole for the corner post, and the last piece of fencing nailed to that. The last piece of the enclosure wasn't reaching completely to the existing fence, so I nailed it to a 4-foot wood stake instead.

I'm quite proud of the little project! Now let's hope it keeps those rabbits out ...

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

New Recipe Review- Garden Risotto

Risotto is a treat I enjoy in restaurants, but never thought I would be able to make myself. You know, one of those things that just sounded too complicated to even bother. But when I received my May issue of Cooking Light and there was a whole section on risotto, and I was inspired to say the least. I ended up not making any of the recipes in that magazine, but I found one on FoodNetwork.com that sounded perfect for beginners ... OK, fine, it used stuff up that was in our fridge! Here is the recipe I used for my first attempt at risotto.

I followed the recipe to a tee, I was too hesitant to make any changes to something I've never made before. The only changes I made were to go completely overboard on the veggies (nothing wrong with that, IMO!)
Look at all those fresh ingredients!!

Sautéing some onions

Adding the rice.

Homemade chicken broth simmering away in the skillet

Don't stop stirring! I'll call this an action shot.

Um, I may have gone overboard on the veggies. Is there such thing?

And topped with fresh grated Parmesean Reggiano cheese. Yum!

The risotto part of it turned out awesome, I was so proud of myself! I felt that the rest of the recipe actually ended up being a little bland though. All the vegetables kind of had the same flavor, I felt like it needed more acid- tomatoes or lemon or something.

I served it with a salad of spring greens, grapes, goat cheese, and vinaigrette; and Fetzer Riesling- which was very good and only $8. Kind of tasted like sparkling cider, which is a good thing IMO!

(image from BevMo.com)

Saturday, April 10, 2010

New Recipe Review- Fish Tacos

For my new recipe this week, I was inspired by this recipe. However, I didn't exactly follow it. I had a multitude of reasons- the fish sounded too spicy, I couldn't find jicama, I thought it really needed some guacamole, etc. etc...

So here's what I did instead:
For the salsa: Mix together 2 cups of corn, 2 cups of black beans, 1 red bell pepper- diced small, and 1/2 purple onion- sliced thin, in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, combine 2 T. of lime juice, a sprinkle of cayenne pepper, and 2 teaspoons of white sugar (or honey) and mix well. Chop up 2 big handfuls of cilantro in the food processor, and mix in. Pour spices on veggies, and stir to coat.

For the fish: Take 4 tilapia filets, and season with lime juice and cajun seasoning. Wrap them up in aluminum foil and let them marinate for about 2o minutes. Place aluminum packet on the grill and let cook for about 15 minutes over medium heat, flipping once. Remove from packet, place directly on the grill grate to blacken slightly.

For the guacamole: Peel and pit 2 avocados, chop and place in food processor. Add 2 T. minced garlic, 1 handful cilantro, 1 T. lime juice, and small handful of cherry tomatoes to food processor and mix to desired consistency.

I served them on flour tortillas with a dollop of sour cream. These were awesome, I will definitely be making them again. Te recipe serves 4, and they were even better the second time, the flavors really sank in. BTW, this really called for a margarita!!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Our New Backyard

Once upon a time, this was our backyard.

There were 25 trees, on just the back 1/3 of our 0.33 acre property. The previous owners didn't do any kind of maintenance back there, so it truly became a forest- brush and branches everywhere, layers upon layers of decomposing leaves, the whole nine yards. And this spring, we are in the process of changing that.

We did a bit of raking. Hi H!

Someone from craigslist is coming to pick up the swing set.

That pile of sticks and branches was from before we even cut any trees down. They were all JUST on the ground everywhere, buried amongst leaves.

As much as it pains me, we needed to cut down some trees. Please note the two terribly awkwardly placed islands at the bottom of the picture. Seriously!

After the tree guys did their thing. Wow, what a difference! The yard looks SO much bigger. And those bags of leaves weren't even one third of what we cleared out.

We disassembled the two islands in the middle of the yard, and are reassembling them on the sides. The first one is done.

The second one is in progress.

I am thrilled that our new backyard is coming along so well. I am excited to put down grass seed and have space to enjoy it this summer. Our future dog is going to love it too :)

New Recipe Review- Spaghetti with Sausage and Tomato Sauce

For my new recipe this week, I tried "Spaghetti with Sausage and Simple Tomato Sauce" from cookinglight.com. It was delicious, and oh so easy!

Here is the original recipe:


  • 8 ounces hot Italian turkey sausage links
  • 8 ounces uncooked spaghetti
  • 1 (28-ounce) can no-salt-added whole tomatoes, undrained
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup torn fresh basil
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese


1. Preheat broiler.
2. Arrange sausage on a small baking sheet. Broil sausage 5 minutes on each side or until done. Remove pan from oven (do not turn broiler off). Cut sausage into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Arrange slices in a single layer on baking sheet. Broil sausage slices 2 minutes or until browned.
3. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain.
4. Place tomatoes in a food processor; process until almost smooth. Heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add crushed red pepper and minced garlic; sauté 1 minute. Stir in tomatoes, sugar, and salt; cook 4 minutes or until slightly thick. Add sausage and cooked pasta to pan; toss well. Top with fresh basil and Parmigiano-Reggiano.

I did make a few changes. We actually don't have a broiler pan, so I browned the sausages in the wok (I LOVE using that thing!) and added the garlic olive oil, and tomatoes to that when the sausages were ready. Easy! I also used a can organic fire roasted tomatoes (not low salt), which gave it a great flavor. This was really yummy, and I'll definitely be making it again!
Original recipe found here.