Painted Bug Rocks

How is your summer vacation going? Ours is going OK. Some days are better than others. Some days we have a lot of fun, but some days I am at my wits end because they are fighting and making messes all of the time. Some days I can't believe how productive I have been around here, but most days the house seems completely trashed. Some days we do fun things and some days they binge watch Netflix or play on electronics.

Social media would have you believe that everyone is having these fabulous summer vacations filled with educational trips and activities, siblings playing nicely together, and never any screen time. I call bologna on that. I have worked in the schools enough to know that most kids are just as bratty as mine. When I was a kid, hanging out at my grandparents' pool and watching excessive television was enough. My IQ didn't suffer. Kids need time to unwind, too. It feels like there is so much pressure on parents these days to make everything Pinterest-perfect. (If you are able to do that, rock on, but if your summer vacation looks a little different that what you see on Instagram, that is OK, too!) Yes, there are a select few who will judge you, but admitting the imperfections can be absolutely freeing on both sides.We are only showing our highlight reels. I posted fabulous vacation pictures last week, but no one got to see all of the work that went into packing/unpacking, the fighting in the car when we got lost, the sunburns, the plans that didn't work out, the car problems, etc. I am sure that everyone has some behind-the-scenes stuff, so I just want to keep it real.

On good days, the girls and I do a lot of craft projects. This one was really simple, but the girls enjoyed it! We grabbed a bag of rocks from the Dollar Tree (I didn't feel like searching for smooth rocks in nature) and painted them to look like ladybugs and bumblebees. The girls and I each painted a few of them. They aren't perfect (some of the ladybugs are sideways!) but they are a genuine kids craft. :)

Dollar store rocks are perfect for kids to paint!

Let kids paint simple bee rocks for a fairy garden.

Easy kids craft- ladybug rocks!

Ladybug and bumblebee painted rocks for an outdoor tic tac toe game

We made both ladybugs and bumblebees so that they could play tic tac toe on the stepping stones outside of the playhouse. When they aren't being used to play, then can hide in the flowerbeds.

Let kids paint cute, little bug rocks to decorate the flower garden!

Ladybugs and bumblebees painted on rocks- great summer kids craft!

Painted rocks to brighten up the flowerbeds!

In all fairness, these rocks took a few days to make and I had my teenage stop and buy more yellow paint on the way to an auto parts store. Not everything went smoothly, but they are still cute.

If you want to pin it for later...

Summer Kids Craft- paint rocks to make ladybugs and bumblebees, then use them to play tic tac toe!

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Freezer Jalapeno Poppers

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OK. So, I took these pictures last summer. I mean, I DO plan on making jalapeno poppers but not just yet. I am supposed to be taking it easy (which is killing me!) Instead I am just gonna' sit here holding this super cute baby and blog about it.
The ingredients...

24 jalapeno peppers
12 oz. softened cream cheese
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1/4-1/2 cup crumbled, cooked bacon or bacon bits
2 cups milk
1 cup flour
2 cups bread crumbs

The directions...
Wash your jalapenos. 

Put on some gloves if you know what is good for you.  Cut off the tops.

Slice 'em down the middle.

Scoop out the seeds.

Look how pretty!

Mix up softened cream cheese, cheddar cheese, and crumbled bacon or bacon bits.

Fill each pepper half with the cheesy mixture.

Lay them all out on a cookie sheet covered with paper towels.

Now, here is the secret to these... a triple dipping process! It gives them a lovely coating. So... dip in milk...

...then flour.

Here they are all spread out on the cookie sheet to dry a bit.

Dip in milk again...

...then bread crumbs.

This is how they look after one bread crumb coating.

Not good enough. When they are dry, do it again.  Milk, then bread crumbs.

Much better.

Then, just pack them in freezer bags. All done!

Yes, the triple dipping is tedious, but worth it.  When you want to cook them, just throw 'em in the deep fryer until they are golden brown and crispy.  We have tried grilling and baking them, which is OK, but frying works best.

It is so nice to have something quick and easy to make in my freezer (which is not often the case since most of our food is home-grown) and these are much, much, much cheaper than the store bought ones!

One of these days, when I fry some up, I will take a post-cooking picture and update this post.  Right now, I am too busy holding this sweet little baby!

Summertime on the "Wanna Be" Farm

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So, I haven't been blogging very much lately, but that is because there is a lot of summer stuff going on around here. 
I taught the girls to make clover chains last week. I was thinking about it and I wonder if that will become a "lost art" one day...
When/if the kids get their small list of chores done, they get a chance to jump into the new pool. Lately, they had better hurry up because we have been getting thunderstorms every day.
The rain is good for the garden, though.  The peas did GREAT this year- best ever!- and I have been busy freezing them. (We have 23 quarts of shell peas and 20 quarts of snap peas so far!)  I might start a blog series this summer on how I freeze and can our harvest from the garden.
The lettuce is abundant, too. It doesn't freeze, so we are giving it away to anyone who will take some!
The green beans will soon be ready, too.  I am going to learn to pressure can them this year because we used up so much freezer space already on the peas and beef.
My 2yo "helped" to plant something in the garden, too! Any guesses as to what this is?
I will give you a hint...
The girls love picking wild raspberries, too. Unfortunately, one of them got chigger bites all over her cheek and neck from picking them. We are breaking out the bug spray or tea tree oil or something next time.
Oh, and people always ask what these tall plants are...
They are what we like to call "asparagus trees" and it is just what asparagus grows into when you stop harvesting them.  It is good for the root structure and for encouraging them to spread. Now you know. :)
We have had some additions to our animals around here. I sent my husband to my in-laws' farm to pick up my son and get milk and eggs. Instead, my son comes home with 10 of these!  They are really making me mad because they are free ranging everywhere.  Our Ameraucana chickens have not been laying well, but the rooster keeps his hens in line and they stay away from our house, pool, flowers, garages, etc.

Also, two more kittens showed up last week. (A big ol' sarcastic "yippee" for that. I can barely open my door!) They did not look very healthy, but our mother cat adopted them and has been taking very good care of them.

We recently celebrated Grace's 2nd birthday, too! I made really pathetic-looking kitten cupcakes and a crock pot chocolate lava cake that was a big hit!

The week before her party I went on an ice cream making frenzy, though. I have a Kitchenaid ice cream maker (love it!) so I did a batch or two every day. I made vanilla, coffee, chocolate, mint chocolate chip, raspberry, cheesecake, and strawberry cheesecake. (If I got the recipe online there is a link there.)

I did a little bit of sewing this past weekend- I love hiding in my room with the AC whenever I can get away with it, so I will post about that stuff later.
So, what have I NOT been doing? Well, I am not weeding my flowers! Gravity is not my friend.  I did waddle out there to take a few pictures...

I hope you are enjoying your summer so far! What have you been up to?

Eggplant Parmesan (Freezer Cooking)

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One of the best ways to save money (and have better food) is to preserve fresh vegetables when they are in season.  I love to have eggplant already breaded and frozen for a fast, easy meal in the winter.  If you don't have a garden giving you lots of lovely, purple eggplants you can pick some up for cheap while they are in season at a local farmer's market.  Out of two very large eggplants, I got enough for four meals! 

Start out with a fresh eggplant, peel it, and chop the very ends off (that is the most bitter part).
Then slice it about 3/8" thick- yes, I know that seems awfully precise, but 1/2" is too thick and 1/4" is too thin.

Sprinkle both sides with a little salt- the seeds will turn brown very quickly- this is normal and you do not have a rotten or mutant eggplant.

Pour a little oil in a frying pan- just enough to evenly coat the bottom of the pan- and turn it on med-low heat.
Get everything else ready while the oil is heating.  You will need a bowl for eggs- I beat two of them thoroughly- and a bowl for bread crumbs.

Coat the slices evenly by dipping first in the eggs (that picture was blurry and I figure that you are smart enough to figure that out) and then in bread crumbs.

 Fry in oil until golden brown, flipping them to cook each side, of course.  The oil will get all yucky and bubbly after a few batches, so you might need to add/change oil partway through cooking.

Place the cooked slices on a paper towel covered plate to absorb the grease.

When they cool off, you can lay the fried eggplant slices flat in a freezer bag and save them for later.  When I cook them, I place the frozen eggplant in a baking dish that has a little tomato sauce spread on the bottom and spread a little more on top of the eggplant.  I bake it at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes or until it is thoroughly cooked and soft (if you don't cook it long enough it will be bitter).  I sprinkle mozzarella on top for about the last 10 minutes and serve it with spaghetti.

Here is how I prepared it fresh, though!  I took a tomato from our garden and put thick slices on top of the eggplant, topped with a little oregano (I just used sauce on half of them for those of us who are a little bit picky).

I baked it for a half hour and then added mozzarella.

  Here was the final result...

Doesn't it look pretty?

I know a lot of people that say they have never eaten eggplant- to be honest I was intimidated by it at first, too.  If you are brave enough to give this a try, let me know how it turns out!

Homemade Pizza Sauce

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Well, since I have been so very busy lately, this post is a little late in its usefulness, but if you don't have any late tomatoes hanging on yet, you can bookmark it for next year!

I have a great homemade pizza recipe and I like to can my own sauce for it. This is how I do a small batch- if I am doing a lot of tomatoes, I use different equipment and such.

I start out with some tomatoes from our garden and wash them off- Mom's scrubbies work so great for scrubbing those dried on leaves and dirt off of them without roughing them up! If I have Roma's, I just take off the tops and, if they are big, I cut them in half. Then I cook them until they are soft, adding only enough water that they don't stick to the bottom.
When they are ready, I use a big, strainy spoon to scoop them into my food mill which is placed over a pot.
Then, I crank that handle around and reverse and turn some more until just the skin and seeds are left. Kids also come in handy in this step!

This is what comes out the bottom!I cook that down for a loooooooong time until it is about halfway.Then I add, for every one cup of sauce I estimate is in the pot...

1 tsp .oregano
½ tsp. marjoram
½ tsp. basil
½ tsp. garlic salt

I use my canning funnel to ladle it over into clean jars, leaving about 1/2" head space.

Now, I skip a lot of official steps, but this one is a MUST- wipe the edges of the jars off! Otherwise you won't get a good seal.
Then attach the lids and bands.
And place in a water bath canner for about 30 minutes.See? Only 3 jars- this is a very small batch!

Take them out and let them cool on a towel on the counter. After about 24 hours, remove the bands and wipe them down.
Now, I skip some things like I said before. I don't keep my jars hot until I fill them, and I don't keep my lids in warm water until I am ready to put them on. But I do try to make sure that the filled jars and the water in the canner are close to the same temperature when I put them in. I have blown out the bottoms on many jars to learn this well. So, don't put cool sauce into boiling hot water or vice versa.

See? It is not that hard! Hard is this:

17 jars of salsa by myself in one day!

Ahhh... I did the last of my tomatoes up earlier this week. Some hot jelly today and then, when the Fuji apples are ready, applesauce and apple butter. Almost done!!!
We were blessed with a bountiful harvest from our garden this year. Did you grow anything?What foods do you like to preserve?

Zucchini Alfredo

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I have had some requests for this recipe, so I made it AGAIN and took a picture this time. Then, we ripped out the zucchini plants. Most of them were going to feed the pigs anyway, and they were not that good anymore, either- kinda tough. I did have some more recipes to try out, but they will have to wait for next year. So.... last one!

Zucchini Alfredo4 cups young, tender zucchini- cut into thin slices or - if you are ambitious- noodles
Salt water
¼ cup butter
8 oz. package cream cheese
¾ cup milk
½ cup shredded parmesan
Garlic salt
Slice zucchini and soak in salt water for one hour. Drain. Saute in butter until zucchini is limp, but not too long so that it turns to mush (I have done this a few times). Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, heat cream cheese and milk, stirring until smooth. Add garlic salt to taste and stir in parmesan- it will be really creamy! Drain zucchini and coat with sauce.
Now, I need to look for eggplant recipes! We have 27 eggplant plants because my husband discovered his great love of eggplant last year and got a little carried away planting!

Zucchini Mock Crab Cakes

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Seriously. The zucchini thing is getting a bit out of hand. So, here is another creative recipe -this one I got from Meemaw!

Zucchini Mock Crab Cakes

  • 2 cups zucchini, grated or shredded
  • 1 medium onion, grated (I skip this part cause I don't care for onions so much)
  • 1 tsp. Bay seafood seasoning
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 Tbsp. mayonnaise
  • 1 sleeve Ritz crackers, crushed

Mix well; shape into cakes. Fry in oil until golden brown.