2016 Most Visited Pages

When I started this blog back in 2009, I had no idea where it was really headed, or if anyone would even read it for that matter. I figured I would blog about things that interested me, mainly gardening, food and cooking, and nature. Now I do make occasional forays into travel and crafts, and I also share pics and stories about our cats from time to time, including a birthday song for Ace on his first birthday. So with all that in mind, I am still somewhat surprised that my most visited page for both 2015 and 2016 has nothing to do with any of the above things!

Without further ado, the #1 visited post for 2016 is Coffee Infused Oil. When I first made this, I had visions of using it to make soap, lip balm, and lotions. We’ve made a hand soap with it, though I haven’t posted the recipe here yet. And I’ve used it in lotions, though I haven’t really settled on a recipe for that either. But my favorite thing to do with the coffee oil is make Coffee Lip Balm with it.

coffee infused olive oil

coffee infused olive oil

And speaking of lip balm, coming in at the #2 most visited page for 2016 is my recipe for Homemade Coffee Lip Balm. I make it all the time for me and my wife, and we occasionally give some to friends. When we went to Colorado back in the fall of 2015, we found a coffee shop that had killer espresso, and I brought back some of the coffee beans to use to make infused oil for lip balm.

coffee lip balm

coffee lip balm

The #3 most visited page this year is another thing that gets a lot of use around here, Homemade Paprika. I’ve been experimenting with different strains of peppers to use for paprika, and I’ve found several that suit my taste buds and also do well here in my garden. Dulce Rojo, Feher Ozon and Boldog make great mild paprika, and for hot paprika I had good luck with growing and using the heirloom Leutschauer Paprika Pepper here in 2016.

Homemade Paprika

Homemade Paprika

#4 is another popular item here, my Vitamix Freezer Tomato Sauce. The high speed blender has surely changed the way I preserve tomatoes. No more dipping the tomatoes in boiling water to loosen the skins, or running them through a food mill. These days I cut the core from the larger tomatoes, but other than that I just pop them in the blender and process them until they are well-blended and the skins have disappeared. After that I cook them down to the desired consistency, and they wind up in tomato sauce and Homemade Tomato Paste.

Vitamix Freezer Tomato Sauce

Vitamix Freezer Tomato Sauce

Coming in at #5 is my post about using frozen squash called From Freezer to Fork: Squash. I wish I could say I had dreamed up a bunch of wonderful recipes using frozen squash, but that’s really not the case. We use most of it in soups, and a bit of it in side dishes. Probably my most creative use is the Chocolate Zucchini Smoothie, which came in at #18 on the 2016 most visited pages.

cooked frozen yellow squash

cooked frozen yellow squash

Rounding out the top ten are my recipes for Sourdough Apple Cinnamon Coffee Cake and French Green Clay Soap, plus recipes for Easy Refrigerator Pickled Garlic and Whole Wheat Sourdough Pita Bread. Coming in at #10 we finally have a gardening post, my experiments with determining How Hardy Is Lettuce. The answer to that one is “pretty hardy”, and I’m guessing whenever the temperatures start dipping the folks are curious how their lettuce will hold up. My advice for them would be to cover the lettuce if possible, and by all means wait for it to thaw naturally before harvesting it! If you harvest while frozen it will thaw to a mushy mess, but if you let it thaw naturally before harvest it should be fine.

lettuce in snow covered cold frames

lettuce in snow covered cold frames

I hope you have enjoyed a look at what others have been visiting here on my blog in 2016. Let me also take this opportunity to wish everyone a Happy and Healthy New Year in 2017! I will be back soon with a recap of my favorite veggies and fruits from 2016.

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Posted in Food, Gardening, Preserving, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Harvest Monday December 26, 2016

Welcome to Harvest Monday, where we celebrate all things harvest related.  First up, a little change for Harvest Monday. To give me a little break, Michelle (From Seed To Table) has graciously agreed to take over hosting next month (January, 2017). So to linkup next week, please visit From Seed To Table instead of coming here to find Mr Linky. I really appreciate Michelle giving me a hand, especially at this time of year when my harvests are sparse! I’ll be back as host on February 6, 2017. And now on to my small but welcome harvests this week.

mixed lettuce from greenhouse

mixed lettuce from greenhouse

I cut a little bit of lettuce from the greenhouse last week. I have this growing in a salad box, and other than having a few aphids it has survived the cold weather in there quite well. It was frozen solid several times earlier in the week, but seems none the worse for wear. It wound up in a turkey taco salad, which means we are still enjoying our leftover Thanksgiving turkey here at Christmas time!

microgreen mix

microgreen mix

I also made another cutting of microgreens from the greenhouse. These are growing in a little window box, and I have made quite a few cuttings from this sowing I made back in October. I have other mixes I want to try, but I will likely wait another month or so to get them going. These went into a frittata yesterday.

popcorn shoots growing under lights

popcorn shoots growing under lights

In the future harvests department, I have some popcorn shoots growing under lights in the basement and about ready for harvesting. I’ve gotten a taste of them already, and they are surprisingly sweet. For this first batch I sprouted some organic rainbow popcorn seeds I got from the bulk bins at a local health food store. I also started another batch of sunflower shoots, which should be ready in about a week or less.

blooms on Aji Golden pepper plant

blooms on Aji Golden pepper plant

And also under the lights is an Aji Golden pepper plant that has decided to start blooming here in December! The plant spent the summer in the greenhouse, and I harvested all the peppers and trimmed the plant back before bringing indoors earlier this month. The plant responded by blooming, which is amazing to me since the overwintering peppers don’t usually bloom for me indoors.

Speaking of the Aji Golden pepper, I also want to mention I still have seeds left for my Holiday Seed Giveaway, though I am starting to run low on the Mexico Midget tomato seeds. I hope to begin mailing out seeds this week, once I get everyone’s address information.

Harvest Monday is a day to show off your harvests, how you are saving your harvest, or how you are using your harvest. If you have a harvest you want to share, add your name and blog link to Mr Linky below. And be sure and check out what everyone is harvesting!

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Holiday Seed Giveaway

“Though I do not believe that a plant will spring up where no seed has been, I have great faith in a seed. Convince me that you have a seed there, and I am prepared to expect wonders.”
–Henry David Thoreau

tomato seeds

tomato seeds

I’ve been meaning to give away a few of the tomato and pepper seeds I have saved this year, and now is a good time to do it while folks are still in the planning stages of their 2017 gardens. Due to custom requirements and postage costs, I will limit this giveaway to folks in the U.S. or Canada. I don’t have huge amounts of these seeds available, but I am happy to share them with my readers while the supply lasts.

First up is the Champagne Cherry tomato. These little pale yellow gems are sweet, almost like tomato candy, and the size is inbetween a currant tomato and a regular cherry tomato. The strong indeterminate vines have regular shaped leaves, and my prolific plants produced right up until frost zapped them. I got my original seeds from Secret Seed Cartel, which is one of the few places I found that currently list this seed for sale. Tatiana’s TOMATOBase says it was first offered in the 2010 Seed Savers Yearbook.

Champagne Cherry tomatoes

Champagne Cherry tomatoes

Another of my favorite small fruited open-pollinated tomatoes is Mexico Midget. It’s a red cherry type that’ s a bit bigger than Champagne but still smaller (½-¾ inch) than the typical cherry tomato. The rambling indeterminate vines are loaded with the small, sweet, dark red tomatoes that grow on trusses. I got my original seeds from the Seed Savers Exchange, where it won their 2014 Tomato Tasting event. It’s always a winner here at Happy Acres too!

Mexico Midget tomatoes on the vine

Mexico Midget tomatoes on the vine

For peppers, I have seeds for three of my favorite C. baccatum varieties. Aji Angelo pepper is probably the most useful and most-used pepper that I grow. It’s mildly hot, red when ripe, and produced in profusion on plants that can reach three feet tall in my garden. It’s also easily grown in containers, which is a good way for those gardeners in colder climates to get a jump on the season and produce ripe peppers before the first frosts come. In addition to using it fresh, I use this pepper to make hot sauce, and dry it for powder. The peppers are also tasty after they are smoked and dried. I got my seeds from Michelle (From Seed to Table) in a seed swap several years ago, and I can’t remember where she got her seeds originally. These are seeds I saved in 2014, and should be viable for a couple more years to come.

ripe Aji Angelo pepper

ripe Aji Angelo pepper

Aji Angelo peppers

Aji Angelo peppers

Aji Golden is another baccatum pepper that gets a lot of use around here. Like Aji Angelo, it also has mildly hot peppers, but as the name implies they are a golden yellow in color when ripe. It too is great for fresh use as well as turning into hot sauce and powder. I’ve also used it to make a pepper jam, and it makes a nice companion to Aji Angelo as you can see in the second photo below. I got my original seeds from Dust Bowl Seeds.

Aji Golden peppers

Aji Golden peppers

Aji Angelo and Aji Golden peppers

Aji Angelo and Aji Golden peppers

The third baccatum pepper is called Malawi Piquante. It’s a small cherry type baccatum pepper with mild heat that can get up to one inch in diameter. It is similar to the peppers used to make the pricey peppadew peppers, and I use mine mostly for pickling where they wind up on salads, sandwiches and pizza. The plants can get quite large in my garden, as you can see in the photo of me in the pepper patch back in August. This pepper is also a good candidate for growing in containers. I got my original seed from Refining Fire Chiles.

closeup of peppers

Malawi Piquante peppers

I also have extra seeds for a couple of squash that I didn’t save myself. Seeds from Italy usually gives giant packs of seed, and I almost never use all of them before they lose their viability. Striata d’Italia is a striped o/p cocozelle type zucchini I’ve been growing for many years now.

SStriata d'Italia zucchini

Striata d’Italia zucchini

And Tromba d’Albenga is a tromboncino type C. moschata squash with a long curved neck that is usually used at the immature stage. They can get up to three feet in length, though they are probably better in the one to two foot size range. The long neck is all flesh, and the fruits have less moisture than a zucchini which makes them useful in a lot of different dishes in the kitchen. The vines do ramble, and I usually let mine grow up my garden fencing.

Tromboncino and Shikou eggplant

Tromboncino with eggplant

Here’s a recap of the seeds I have to share:

  • Champagne Cherry tomato
  • Mexico Midget cherry tomato
  • Aji Angelo pepper
  • Aji Golden pepper
  • Malawi Piquante pepper
  • Striata d’Italia squash
  • Tromba d’Albenga squash

If you are interested in any of these seeds, just leave a comment here indicating your interest. I will get back to you via email, so please use an email address you check regularly. Or you can email me directly if you prefer. Either way, I will be happy to send them out to you, while supplies last. And while I’m here let me take this opportunity to wish everyone a happy holiday season!

UPDATE: The seed giveaway is now closed. I will try and start sending seeds out soon.

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Posted in Giveaways | Tagged , , , | 16 Comments

Harvest Monday December 19, 2016

Welcome to Harvest Monday, where we celebrate all things harvest related. The harvests here are starting to get a bit sparse. I made a cutting of Prizm kale from the cold frame beds. This dwarf, curly kale is a 2016 AAS winner, and has proven to be hardy as well as tasty. Some of it wound up in the pot of Minestra Maritata (aka Italian Wedding Soup) I made last week, and some joined up with cauliflower from the grocery for a cauliflower/kale mash I made for a side dish. It had a few aphids hiding under the leaves, but other than that it was clean and quite lovely for a mid-December harvest.

Prizm kale

Prizm kale

Another fresh harvest came from the greenhouse, where I cut more of the Mei Qing and Vivid Choi pac chois. They went in a stir fry side dish I made. I usually do a simple treatment on these, cooking a few mushrooms first then adding some grated ginger and the chopped greens to the wok and cooking just until wilted. I gave them a splash of umeboshi vinegar, a dash of toasted sesame oil and they were done. I also sometimes add a bit of garlic, but I skipped it this time.

Mei Qing and Vivid Choi pac chois

Mei Qing and Vivid Choi pac chois

We are doing some taste-testing on the sweet potato varieties I trialed here this year. That’s Barberman on the left and the red-skinned Garnet on the right. Both have moist, orange flesh. I baked them whole, and my wife and I tasted them straight up with no seasoning to obscure the flavor. Both were good, but we rated Barberman as being a bit sweeter and more flavorful. Neither were terribly productive for me so it is doubtful I will grow either of them them again. I still have a few more new ones to taste before I do a full-blown review of them.

Barberman(L) and Garnet(R) sweet potatoes

Barberman(L) and Garnet(R) sweet potatoes

My other fresh harvest also came from the greenhouse, this time from one of the salad boxes. It’s a mix of different lettuce varieties, and this batch was headed for some bean tacos I made for dinner. I snagged some cilantro micro greens for that meal too. I have to add it has been handy having cilantro growing inside under the lights. For my next experiment with micro greens I am sprouting some popcorn seeds, so I can grow corn shoots. I’ve never eaten those, but if they are as tasty as the pea and sunflower shoots they will be a welcome addition to our meals.

lettuce from salad box

lettuce from salad box

Harvest Monday is a day to show off your harvests, how you are saving your harvest, or how you are using your harvest. If you have a harvest you want to share, add your name and blog link to Mr Linky below. And be sure and check out what everyone is harvesting!

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