Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Starting the Garden

Happy belated Earth day everyone (Aren't I just about a day late for everything lately?). I thought a great thing to talk about this time of year would be starting a garden (and May is National Salad Month in the US, so I'm actually getting a little jump start on something!). I'm not an expert gardener by any means, in fact, I grow my entire garden in containers on my front patio or on my windowsills. As such, I am pretty limited in the scale of my garden, and what things I can successfully grow. No matter how large or small of a space you have, anyone can grow a small garden of their very own!

Above you will see a photo of my radish starts. I'm not huge on radishes, but the husband likes them. They are also a great crop to try if you don't have much gardening experience (or if you don't want to spend lots of long term attention on things). Radishes have a pretty short grow time (about a month) and you will get almost instant gratification because they sprout after only a couple of days. It's a great thing to plant if you have kiddos around because they will get to see something happening very quickly and could measure the progress daily.

I am also being rather brave and trying to grow some watermelons this year. I have one large pot with a vine growing right now and the plant is supposed to have personal sized watermelons, not the big guys. So I am hopeful that despite my small area maybe I will get a watermelon or two this year, and if not it's a nice experiment.

I also have visions of a "someday" garden dancing in my head, as someday the hus and I will have a house and yard. If you'd like to check out some of our ideas and lots of helpful info, you can check out my new Gardening board on Pinterest and follow along!

I also have some herbs, flowers, etc that I'm growing this year. Are any of you extra excited about your garden this year? If you need some cute ideas for labeling your garden try these Dinosaur Garden Markers or Glass Garden Markers.

Friday, April 12, 2013

The Ridiculous Grilled Cheese

Many of you may be aware, but for those of you who are not, April is Grilled Cheese month. In fact, today is actually National Grilled Cheese day, so take the hint and have an ooey gooey grilled cheese today! Maybe even this one. I have to say, I'm a huge fan of celebrating yummy foods that existed mainly in my childhood. This sandwich is not, however, that American cheese between white bread sandwich that many of us think of when we hear the term "grilled cheese". It happened a few weeks ago, whilst putting together a bit of this and that from the fridge that it came to be, and the husband and I dubbed it "The Ridiculous Grilled Cheese".

To make your own ridiculous sandwich you will need:

brie (if you've never had this cheese, really, go get some brie. It's worth it.)
fig butter (I get mine at Trader Joe's)
a baguette or some french bread, sliced as thick or thin as you like
mayo (you can use butter, but if you've never made a grilled cheese with mayo you don't know how crispy and golden brown that bread can really be!)

Start by slicing your bread, try to get each slice about the same thickness so it cooks evenly, but I can tell you, it's gonna be RIDICULOUS either way. Next, get some slices of brie, or if it's soft enough, just spread some onto your bread. Be pretty generous, this cheese is awesome and gooey.

Place brie onto one slice of your bread and spread some fig butter onto the other side. Slap some arugula between them and then spread your mayo or butter onto the outsides of both slices.

Place into a skillet that is already warm (I usually go medium to medium high heat on my stove top). Let side one cook for about 1-2 minutes (until that side is golden brown) then flip and cook the other side. Remove from skillet and serve warm. I like to slice mine into two pieces, it tricks me into thinking I have more sandwiches than I really do. I always want more sandwiches.

If you have trouble finding fig butter, apple butter would be a good substitute. Or you could add some apple or pear slices. Fruit and cheese are super yummy together. Go ahead, take a bite. Ridiculous.

Do you have a favorite fancy grilled cheese?

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Chocolate Avocado Pudding

I'm sure that when most of you see an avocado at the store, the first thing to pop into your head isn't chocolate pudding. However, I can assure you that this pudding is super rich, chocolatey, and not as bad for you as many other desserts (I'm not going to go so far as to say it's "healthy", it's dessert, go with it).

To make this pudding for yourself you will need:

2 ripe avocados
3-4 Tablespoons cocoa powder (depending on taste)
1/3 cup dark chocolate, chopped up and melted*
1/3 cup honey (you could substitute real maple syrup or agave nectar)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pinch salt
a food processor or blender

*Chocolate may be melted in a double boiler, or in the microwave at short intervals-stir well after each 20 second interval. I melt my chocolate first and set it aside.

Once you have melted your chocolate and have it sitting aside waiting for you, cut your avocados in half and remove the pits. Then scoop out the avocados and blend them up a little bit in your food processor or blender before adding the rest of the ingredients.

Add your remaining ingredients and blend until smooth, scraping down the sides until everything is incorporated. Store in refrigerator in an air tight container for up to one week. Makes approx. 4 servings, 1/2 cup each. This is VERY rich, and I was surprised how creamy it was. I will definitely try it again :)

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Mod Chevron Baby Quilt

Quilts are something that I don't usually attempt. They definitely take more time and effort than my average craft project, but the results generally garner many more "ooohs" "aaahs" and "wows" than something you can stitch together in an hour or two. As one of my super Besties from college announced she and her husband were expecting, I decided to go for the gusto and try this super cute quilt from Generation Q Magazine. Naturally I found the pattern on Pinterest, but modified it slightly to include fewer total fabrics. I ended up using 4 total fabrics:

1.5 yards of the grey/red elephant fabric for the backing
1.25 yards solid grey
3/4 yard off white with pandas
3/4 yard red with monkeys

If you are making one of these yourself you will also need a coordinating thread (or 2), batting, lots of pins, ruler and scissors or a rotary cutter and cutting mat. If you plan on trying out quilting, I highly recommend investing in a cutting mat and rotary cutter as well as several sizes of rulers, otherwise you up your chances of failure considerably.

I chose the colors based on Brook's registry (she chose lots of grey sheets, elephants and other zoo animals). So I wanted to find some zoo animal themed fabrics that tied in with the grey things she had picked out. This also shaped my decision to use fewer fabrics. I don't know if you've ever tried, but it is hard to find many coordinating fabrics for baby that use grey as the main colorway (also, I super loved the grey elephants with red ears and once you set your heart on that, the choices get even fewer).

This is the kind of project that I usually start and then half way through I get into something else and it never gets finished, but having the added motivation of making something really special for a great friend helped me to finish the whole thing in about 2 weeks! Unheard of for me considering I didn't take any vacation days from work to finish this up :)

This is only the 3rd quilt I have ever done start to finish, and I would highly recommend it for beginners. First, it is a baby quilt so the smaller scale keeps you from getting too overwhelmed. Mostly though, I think its a great, on trend pattern that isn't too complicated for pretty much anyone to follow.

Do any of you have a favorite quilt pattern you've seen or used lately? I'm thinking about tackling some quilts for my nieces/nephew for Christmas this year and I'd love to see some more ideas!