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Listen to the Leaves

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Everyday I check my garden. I do a few things:

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1) water unless it rained

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2) look for new growth and check for what there is to harvest – this time of year I eat a few sugar snap peas and usually a strawberry. freshly picked spinach is the best too if the leaf is dirt free and

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3) check the leaves

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I have learned that the leaves in my garden are usually trying to tell me something. It’s always a different story, but I took a few pictures the other day to best explain it to you. I look for anything different or strange. If there are holes in a leaf, something is eating it. If it is curled and burned or stressed, it might be over fertilizing. If it is yellow it probably needs fertilizer.

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I am not an expert in horticulture, but I have learned to listen to the leaves and hear what they are saying. I am learning along the way and by trial and error, I hope to be a good garden listener and better at tending to my garden.

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This article and photos are by Melanie Ellsworth of Raised Bed Gardens.com. If you would like to see more from Melanie follow the link below:

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Garden Fresh Vegetarian Lasagna

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Vegetarian lasagna might not have been on your short list of recipes. But nothing beats this great recipe, especially when you can use fresh home grown vegetables. 

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Making this lasagna is really easy. There are basically three things to prepare, lay in a pan, and then bake together.  

Prepare your veggetables and noodles first:

  • 1 red onion sliced into 1/4 inch slices
  • 2 zuccini sliced into 1/4 inch slices
  • 3 bell peppers, halved and seeded
  • 3 medium tomato sliced into 1/4 inch slices
  • 1 large bunch fresh basil
  • 1 bunch fresh kale ripped off of stock
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Lay the onion, zucchini, and bell peppers on parchment paper on a cookie sheet and brush with olive oil. Then bake them at 350 for 15 to 20 minutes. When you place the vegetables in the oven, you can boil 1 package of lasagna noodles following the al dente instructions. That just means you will cook them until they are firm, not hard.

The butter and flower should look like this

The butter and flower should look like this

While baking the veggies and boiling the noodles, you can prepare your fresh veggies and set aside. 

Now it is time to make the Bechamel sauce.

  • 7 tablespoons of butter
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flower
  • 4 cups of milk
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 tsp salt  

Start by melting the butter in a medium saucepan. When it is melted, add the flower and stir for ten minutes until the butter has browned to a golden color (about 6 minutes).

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In another pot, bring the milk to a boil and slowly add the milk to the butter and flower. Whisk this so that it is smooth. Bring to a boil, add bay leaves and salt. Stir continuously for 10 minutes on low heat.

Now you can put everything together into a lasagna. Take a lasagna pan and spray it with a non-stick spray.

Drizzle the bottom with the sauce (and then drizzle a little between each layer). Then add a layer of noodles. Then a layer of kale, then add the onions and bell peppers into a layer. Then alternate layers of noodles and vegetables until you finish with a layer of vegetables on top. Drizzle the rest of the Bechamel sauce on top of the last layer. Finally, add cheese to cover.

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Bake at 375 for 45 minutes.

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Top with a little basil and cheese to serve.  

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Easy Chicken Taco Bowl

Getting ready for those cool fall days?  Try this one when the kids go back to school and come home extra hungry.

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This recipe is so simple and wonderful that you’ll remake it with whatever you have in the cupboard.  There are lots of variations on this theme, and they are all good.  A friend makes a wonderful chicken chili that adds philly cream cheese and forgoes the rice, serving breadsticks instead.  You can have fun with this recipe, so be creative.

Here is the ingredient list:

1½ lbs. chicken breasts

1 (16 oz.) jar salsa

1 (15 oz.) can black beans, drained

½ lb. (8 oz.) frozen corn

1 Tbsp chili powder

½ Tbsp cumin

½ Tbsp minced garlic

½ tsp dried oregano

¼ tsp cayenne pepper

¼ tsp salt to taste

cracked pepper

2 cups dry rice

8 oz. shredded cheddar

½ bunch cilantro (optional)

 Place all ingredients up to the rice in the crockpot on high for 4 hours.  When you’re ready to eat, cook up the rice, place in a bowl and spoon over the Chicken Taco mixture.  Top with cheese and cilantro and enjoy.

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Thank you to Beth over at budgetbytes.com for the recipe and enjoy this homemade goodness yourself.

Laurie

This article and photos are from Laurie Ashbach of In*spired Life.com. If you would like to see more from Laurie follow the link:

 

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Sweet Southern Strawberry Iced Tea

Hey it's Friday. That means it must be a beverage blog. Today, we are making a sweet southern iced tea with a strawberry frappe.  

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This is a wonderful summer treat for anyone who just put in a hard day of work in the garden.  If you like, you can adjust the sweetness or tartness by changing the quantities of lemon juice, sugar or strawberries.

What you will need: 

  • 2 1/2 cups strawberries.
  • 5 tea bags of your favorite tea.
  • 1 cup sugar.
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice. 
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Start by making the tea. Bring four cups of water to a boil and then let the tea steep while you prepare the other ingredients.    

In a food processor (you can use a blender if you don't have a processor),  frappe'  the cleaned strawberries.

You will need about 2 lemons to get 1/3 cup of lemon juice.

After the tea has steeped for 5 minutes or remove the tea bags. 

Add the sugar to the tea and stir. 

Fill a Pitcher 1/2 to 3/4 full of ice cubes. 

Strain the Strawberry frappe' and pour into the pitcher with the lemon juice. 

Pour the tea in the pitcher and stir. 

Refrigerate until served.

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Have a great weekend everyone. 

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DIY : How to make a Skateboard Swing

This is a relatively easy project that should only take a couple of hours to do once you have assembled the materials. 

OK I know someone will ask why Johnnie has a lifejacket on. He came from the pool to try the new swing. 

OK I know someone will ask why Johnnie has a lifejacket on. He came from the pool to try the new swing. 

Materials: 

Old Skateboard - You can find these at garage sales, flea markets, used sporting goods stores or maybe in your own garage. Garage sales are the cheapest maybe $5 or less. Used sporting goods store prices start at $20. 

Good outdoor rope - This is available at your local hardware store or the big box stores. We found 100 feet of rope packaged for $9.95. Be sure to get enough rope. Even if you plan on adding this swing to an existing swingset you will need 50 feet or more. 

Dowel rods - You need two pieces about a foot long each. These should be a minimum of an inch and a half in diameter. You need this  size to drill holes for the rope and if you are building a swing for bigger kids this will make it strong enough.

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Tools: 

Drill - make sure you have a drill bit slightly larger than the diameter of the rope. 

Wrench  

Screwdriver

Saw - For cutting your dowel rod

Directions: 

If you found or bought an old skateboard you will need to take the wheels and undercarriage off. This is where you will use the wrench and screwdriver.  

Using the holes where the wheels were attached to the board as a guide, mark where you will drill the holes for the rope to pass through the board.  I used a straightedge to help mark the rope holes. You want the ropes about an inch and a half from the edge of the board for stability.  

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Tip: once you mark where the holes will be drilled use a punch or even a screwdriver to dent the board so your drill bit will start cleanly. You will be using a fairly large drill bit and the boards are pretty hard, so this prevents the bit from wandering. 

Cut your dowel rods to the desired length. These are your hand grips and need to be slightly longer than the width of your board. 

Drill a hole in each end of your two dowel rods about an inch and a half from the end. 

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Cut your rope in half.  

You will assemble each side of the swing separately. Take one piece of rope and slide one end of it through each of the holes on one end of the board from the bottom of the swing.  

Even out the two ends of the rope after you have pulled it through the board. 

Put the board on the ground and have your kids stand on the board. You will need to measure for the bottom knot of the handles. The handles should be somewhere between the child's waist and shoulder for them to be able to use them to swing. Remember they grow fast so too high is better than too low. 

Tie a knot in both sides of the rope at the height you measured. 

Slide the dowel (handle) down the rope so it rests on your knots. 

Tie a knot on the top of the dowel for security. 

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Repeat these rope assembly steps for the other side of the swing. 

Your swing is done. You are on your own to hang in a tree or on a swingset. 

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We hung the swing in a rather large tree and spaced the handles for older kids. Johnnie age 3 had little trouble get the hang of the skateboard swing.

We hung the swing in a rather large tree and spaced the handles for older kids. Johnnie age 3 had little trouble get the hang of the skateboard swing.

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