Friday, April 30, 2010


Halloween, pumpkins, sunsets, autumn, bonfires.... Orange is good

Can’t think of anything better for orange than this sweet orange kitten!

Cold, rainy day at the pumpkin farm

I do envy some of the beautiful tropical plants that friends in warmer climates can grow. Took this on my visit to Los Angeles last year.

I would absolutely love to have a koi pond. The maintenance doesn’t look like that much fun though, and we’d struggle daily to keep our golden retriever out of it.

Beautiful fall day

Summer bonfire at my brother in law’s house

Thursday, April 29, 2010


I got the idea for a Rainbow photo project from my friend Susan at her blog I am always looking for "assignments" to foster creativity, I love color (no beige walls and beige carpet here!) and the idea of doing a photo series for each color of the rainbow sounded like fun.
Today's color is RED.


This rooster is "Platinum". He was hatched here at our farm last summer. He is actually very friendly, and will probably be shown at the county fair this year. His father "Silver" attacks me every time I go into the barn. I am the one who feeds him most of the time, so I can only discern that Silver isn't too bright.


These 3 day old piggies are keeping warm under the red light.


I can never get enough of the beautiful fall foliage here in Ohio.


Red dahlias in my garden last summer. Dahlias are a flower that I love, but I don't grow more of them because they have to be lifted in the winter here in northeast Ohio. The bulbs are generally fairly expensive to buy, and although I start with the best of intentions, I never get around to digging them up in the fall.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Avocado Coconut Pound Cake

More fun with avocado! When I open up an avocado, one of the first things that comes to mind is the buttery texture. I love to bake, and I was curious to see how well avocado would substitute for butter in a cake recipe. Pound cake seemed to be the perfect buttery cake to experiment with. It worked wonderfully. The result was a very moist cake with a beautiful color and great flavor. I paired it with coconut and lime flavors, which were very complimentary.
I used a fancy bundt pan, because I have one, but any bundt pan will do. Mine is non stick, but I still sprayed it liberally with baking spray. If you don't have cake flour, you can substitute 3/4 cup all purpose flour and 1/4 cup cornstarch for each cup of cake flour.

Avocado Coconut Pound Cake

2 avocados, peeled and mashed
3 cups white sugar
5 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp lime juice
1/2 cup sour cream
3 cups cakes flour
1 tsp baking powder
zest 1 lime (reserve a tsp for glaze)
1 cup sweetened flake coconut (plus a little extra for garnish)

Glaze :
1 cup confectioners sugar
3 tbsp lime juice
reserved lime zest

Preheat oven to 350 degrees . Thoroughly spray standard size bundt pan with baking spray. Sift together the flour and baking powder. Set aside.
In a large bowl, cream together the avocado and sugar until thoroughly mixed. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla, lime juice, sour cream, lime zest and coconut. Beat in the flour mixture, mixing just until incorporated. Pour batter into prepared pan.
Bake for 1 hour or until pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes, then invert onto another plate.
Combine garnish ingredients and drizzle on warm cake. Sprinkle with coconut.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Happy Earth Day!

The environment is one of my passions. My approach is "every little bit helps". No one person can change the world, but if everyone did just afew little things, it could make a big difference. It's not an all or nothing propsition, either living in a tent and eating grass clippings or driving a Hummer (which thankfully aren't made anymore, yea!) to the end of the driveway to pick up the mail. Lots of space in between to make good things happen.
Here are just afew of the little things that we do around our home. There are others, and every day I look for new things to add to make the world a better place.
1. No chemical pesticides, herbicides or fertilizers. With horses and chickens, composted fertilizer is never tough to come by. Weeds get pulled by hand, and we like the way that the dandelions look in the grass. Besides, they really only last in full force for a month or so anyway. We rarely have disease/pest issues with our plants. On the rare occasion we do, I look to a source like Gardens Alive for a natural solution.
2. Limit cleaning chemicals. I clean almost everything with water, vinegar, and a little mild dish soap. I usually scour with baking soda, though I do keep a can of comet and some bleach around in case of really tough rust water stains. But both of those things last a looong time, and are used as sparingly as possible. Makes cleaning supplies a lot cheaper too!
3. Reusable cloth grocery bags. It was such a relief to be free from the tangle of plastic bags that was always breeding in the cabinet under the sink.
4. Combine trips. As a compulsive list maker, this one was easy for me. I try to avoid running out for just one or 2 things. If I have to go somewhere, I try find other errands I can tackle along the way in the same trip to save on gas and emissions.
5. Laundry - Afew years ago we got a high efficiency front load washer/dryer set, and it made a huge difference in our electric bill (electric dryer). They use a lot less water too (though we have a well, so it's hard to track exact water use). Most loads are washed in cold water. Maybe this summer I will tackle a clothesline.
6. CFL bulbs. We replaced almost all of the bulbs in our house as they burned out with CFLs. All of our high use bulbs are now compact flourescents. We started using them about 8 years ago, and we JUST had our first one burn out. With regular bulbs, there were some fixtures that seemed to always have a burned out bulb.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Balsamic Chicken Avocado Manicotti

I grew up being lukewarm towards avocados, mainly because having been raised in Ohio, I'd only ever experienced them in mediocre, chain restaurant guacamole. Then I moved to southern California and got to experience what can be done with avocados, and how delicious they are! I've been a convert ever since. I'd mainly used them in Mexican dishes, so I thought I'd change things up and see how they work with Italian. I was very pleased with the results.
I find that the best way to stuff filling into manicotti noodles is with a baby spoon.

Balsamic Chicken Avocado Manicotti

1 8 oz box manicotti shells, cooked per package directions
1 lb Chicken breasts, cut into 1” pieces
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp minced garlic
2 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp olive oil, 2 tbsp garlic, 1 small onion (finely diced), 1/2 cup fresh basil (finely chopped), 28 oz can crushed tomatoes, 1 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp black pepper, 1/3 cup red wine, 1 tsp brown sugar.

15 container ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 avocado, peeled and mashed with fork

Preheat oven to 350. Place chicken cubes in large baking dish. Cover with balsamic vinegar, stir with minced garlic. Cover with plastic and marinate in refrigerator while preparing sauce and filling (this step can also be done earlier in the day).
Sauce - In a large stockpot, heat 2 tbsp olive oil. Add garlic and onion. Saute 3 minutes over medium. Add basil, sautee 2 more minutes. Add remaining ingredients. Simmer on low, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes.
Prepare filling. Combine all filling ingredients in order in a large bowl. Mix just until combined.
Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in large skillet. Remove chicken from marinade and place in pan. Cook until chicken pieces are about 3/4 of the way cooked through (about 2 1/2 minutes on each side). Remove from pan.
Fill manicotti noodles with filling. Place in large baking dish. Top with chicken, then sauce. Cover with foil and heat in oven for 20 minutes, until heated through and chicken is fully cooked.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Apple Walnut Skillet Muffin

Normally I make muffins from scratch, but I had some muffin mix in the pantry that I wanted to use up, and I thought I'd do something different with it. Different flavors of muffin mix would work too, and you can use a pan that is a little smaller (it just might have to bake longer). As always, real maple syrup, no fake stuff!

2 7 oz packets Apple Cinnamon Muffin Mix
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 cups granny smith apples, peeled and sliced
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Spray an 11" cast iron pan with baking spray. Preheat oven to 425. In a medium bowl, combine muffin mix, milk and 1/2 cup syrup. Mix until just combined, pour into prepared pan.
In a large bowl, combine remaining ingredients. Spread on top of batter.
Bake approx 25 minutes or until golden brown.
1 tsp cinnamon

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Growing Seeds

We have a large garden every year, bu other than sunflowers and pumpkins we don't generally do a lot from seed. In the past when I've tried seeds, I tend to lose interest and forget about them, so normally I buy plants from local nurseries right before planting.
Several weeks ago we had a beautiful warm Sunday and I was itching to plant something. Garden planting season here isn't until after Mother's Day, so I decided to go to Lowes and pick up afew packets of seeds. While I was there, I ended up buying 2 cherry trees and 2 bare root roses, so a trip to buy $10 worth of seeds quickly turned a lot more expensive!
I put the planted seeds in our sunroom and was somewhat surprised to see that most of them are actually growing. It probably would have been better had I bothered to label which seeds I planted where, but I guess I'll figure it out.
The larger pot is an "Italian Herb Garden" mix with fennel, oregano and basil. I also planted summer squash, broccoli, brussel sprouts, artichokes, and I think some lettuce.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution

I am enjoying the new show "Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution", although parts of it make me feel very frustrated. The premise of the show is that celebrity chef Jamie Oliver goes to a town in Wes t Virginia (chosen because it is the "unhealthiest city in America"), and tries to educate the people there about eating real food.
One family had a week's worth of the food that they ate laid out in front of them. Not a green thing on that table. All brown fried, or beige. Their entire freezer was full of cheap frozen pizzas. After a trip to the Dr where the whole family learned that they were very unhealthy, they vowed to change their habits. When Jamie went back afew weeks later, they claimed that there were eating healthy, but there were an awful lot of fast food cups laying around the house.
The main focus is on healthier school lunches, which Jamie has done a lot of work with in the UK. It's sad how resistant some people are to the idea, and how some people seem to truly have no idea. The schools don't have the funding to server fresh food, because the government subsidizes processed junk. The cafeteria workers in the show don't want to do the extra work involved with fresh food. Much easier just to slice open the plastic bag of chicken nuggets and dump them on the tray to bake.
I only allow our kids to buy lunch at school once a week, because it's all processed and canned junk. They don't offer as many sugary desserts as they did when I was a child, but a typical fruit serving is canned peaches in heavy syrup. French fries are considered a vegetable, according to USDA guidelines.
Hopefully this show will stir up more interest in healthier school lunch fare, and educate people that fresh food is better for you than things that come out of a box from the freezer, with a mile long ingredient list containing items that one would need a chemistry degree to decipher.