container gardening the way to go

After perusing through Instagram using the hashtag #containergardening and the like, I’ve decided that’s definitely the way to go. It means getting past the way my dad gardened. It means giving up on an actual “in-the-ground” concept and abandoning digging in the ground every spring for good. It also means giving up weeding and opting for a more sensible approach without putting strain on my back, a back that’s getting older by the minute.

I’m stoked to get started.

Inspired by the Home Depot commercial and the sexy voice of Josh Lucas where he encourages everyone to, “Let’s Do This,” I went shopping. I purchased bags and bags of soil, along with cute little seedlings and starter plants, anything that might produce pretty, aromatic yield. I treated myself to a new pair of gardening gloves, a few new containers, although using the concept of a neighbor, I already have a lot of “junk” containers to toss into the mix and some gorgeous ones I got on sale last month to celebrate spring.

Home Depot SeedsI’ll document my progress on Instagram: @ vickie.mckeehan.author

But first I have to spend the weekend putting it all in pots. Woohoo! I can already see several upsides. I’m thinking of getting a dog soon and won’t have to worry about the little thing digging up anything I plant. Smaller space means using less water. Or so I hope. My back is already celebrating an easier time of it.

foodie Friday — Irish stew

Irish Stew

Image credit: Pinterest

 

What you’ll need.

Meat
  • 6 oz Bacon
  • 2 1/2 lb Beef chuck
Veggies
  • 2 Bay leaves
  • 3 Carrots (peeled and cut into 1/2″ thick pieces)
  • 2 large celery stalks (cut into 1/2″ slices)
  • 3 Garlic cloves
  • 2 Onions, white or yellow
  • 3 sprigs Thyme
Out of the can
  • 3 cups Chicken stock/broth
  • 4 tbsp Tomato paste
Baking & Spices
  • 1 Black pepper
  • 3 tbsp plain flour
  • 3/4 tsp Salt
Oils & Vinegars
  • 2 tbsp Olive oil
Liquid
  • 1 can Guinness beer
  1. Cut the beef into 2″ chunks. Pat dry then sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  2. Heat oil in a heavy based pot over high heat. Add beef in batches and brown well all over. Remove onto plate. Repeat with remaining beef.
  3. Remove pot from heat to cool slightly and lower heat to medium. If the pot looks dry, add oil.
  4. Return pot to heat, add garlic and onion. Cook for 3 minutes until softening, then add bacon.
  5. Cook until bacon is browned then add flour. Stir flour into the mixture.
  6. Add Guinness. Mix well (to ensure flour dissolves completely) then add remaining ingredients and return beef into the pot (including any juices).
  7. Add enough water so the beef & veggies are almost fully covered.
  8. Cover. Bring to a simmer then lower heat so that it bubbles gently. Cook for 2 hours or until meat is tender. Remove lid then simmer for another 30 – 45 minutes or until the beef falls apart at a touch and the sauce has reduced and thickened slightly.
  9. Skim off fat on surface. Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Remove bay leaves and thyme.
  10. Serve over creamy mashed potatoes!!

TIP: I like to make ahead the night before so that I can let it simmer longer than 3 hours. I want the beef tender enough to cut with a fork.

flu shots, Halloween, & teal pumpkins

Every fall I try to do the right thing and get a flu shot. Bad move! Twenty -four hours later, I broke out in hives—a reaction I’ve never had before—and for several days I was splotchy red, itching, and feverish. Not only that, the site of the shot still hurts like blazes. And it isn’t just me. My hubby, who never has a reaction to anything, also broke out in hives and experienced terrible arm pain. Which tells me something is really seriously jacked with this year’s vaccine.

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Image Credit: Amazon

Anyhoo, after alternating between slathering aloe vera and cortisone cream on my arms and legs for several days, I’m now getting ready for Halloween, dragging out the witches and building my traditional hay bale stack with pumpkins for the front porch.

Which brings me to a question. Anyone out there know about teal pumpkins? I had never heard of them until last week. Yes, I know, I must’ve had my head buried in the sand. However, I prefer to think of it as having my head down, hard at work on my next story. But I digress.

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Image Credit: Google 

Displaying teal pumpkins on the porch means you’re offering non-food items in lieu of sugary candy or chocolate. Now even though this breaks this chocoholic’s little heart somewhat, when the doorbell rings Tuesday night, I’ll be offering trick-or-treaters, not one but two bowls. One with the tried and true assorted chocolate candy bars I love, AND another with trinkets I picked up at Target near the Halloween section. Corny stuff like plastic fangs, glow sticks, little plastic bracelets, costume necklaces, spider rings, pencils, pens, crayons, markers, Halloween erasers, mini notepads, and stickers. Cool huh? It’s not a bad plan trading orange for teal. If this chocolate lover can switch out Butterfingers and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups for a few  nontraditional giveaways that cut down on sugar, I’m all for it. And it  might actually be cheaper. Amazon offers a 100-piece toy assortment for only $18 bucks. Not a bad deal instead of buying bags and bags of sugar-laden candy.

Image Credit: AllergyandAsthmaCare.com

Whatever you decide, is okay by me. Here’s hoping you have a happy and safe Halloween!!! And if you must get a flu shot, ask them ahead of time if your arm might fall off before they stick that needle in you. I wish I had.

 

No Churn Peach Lavender Ice Cream

“There are some things, after all, that Sally Owens knows for certain: Always throw spilled salt over your left shoulder. Keep rosemary by your garden gate. Add pepper to your mashed potatoes. Plant roses and lavender, for luck. Fall in love whenever you can.” 
Alice HoffmanPractical Magic


Thanks to Cooking with a Wallflower

You know my passion for lavender. Since Lavender Beach came out I’ve had several requests for my recipe for lavender ice cream. The problem is I don’t have one. But Andrea over at her website, Cooking with a Wallflower does. Her recipe is a No Churn Peach Lavender Ice Cream to die for!! It’s lavender infused ice cream with little bits of fresh yellow peaches. This no churn peach lavender ice cream is the ultimate summer dessert. Check out Andrea’s recipe. I intend to make this first chance I get. Thank you Andrea for letting me repost this from your blog!!

San Diego abounds with fun and food

“People who love to eat are always the best people.

– Julia Child”

On our weekend trip to San Diego we may have missed out on its infamous Comic-Con by days but we made up for it by eating and drinking our way around town while there. Our destination’s purpose was a beachside wedding. The event turned out to be uber romantic and a lot of fun with dancing, plenty to eat and drink, and hooking up with old friends we hadn’t seen in ages.

Sunday morning we met same friends for brunch at a little cafe they favored called Hash House a Go Go. Apparently it’s claim to fame was when it had been featured on Food Network once upon a time. The place is located off the 163 on 5th Ave. They have other locations in places like Nevada, Connecticut and Illinois.

When we were there it was crowded, lots of people waiting and I began to wonder if it was even worth hanging around. The food turned out to be quite good. They serve buttermilk biscuits which were a hit with the hubby. The breakfast bacon sandwich is so huge you couldn’t possibly open the mouth wide enough to stuff a single bite  inside. In fact, it’s  big enough to be split between two people. Anyway, the trip made for a fun weekend before getting back down to the nitty gritty of plot lines.

Hash House

Photo credit Hash House a Go Go Website

Bacon Waffle @ Hash House a Go GO

Hash House a Go Go

Be sure to have a great week at whatever you do!

My Fiesta Ware fetish

Colors, like features, follow the changes of the emotions.

~ Pablo Picasso

Who doesn’t  love the bold colors of Fiesta Ware? Okay, maybe I’m in the minority. But when sitting down to a meal I want the place settings to pop as much as I do the food. That’s part of the fun of eating, right? Because my moods tend to change from breakfast to dinner, I started collecting Fiesta Ware decades ago. I have at least one sample of almost every color Homer Laughlin ever offered on their website for sale. You name it, I probably have it. Of course, I still save my good China for those special occasions that call for formal. But in my house, those are few and far between. Although, a side note. I do have an unusual Noritake pattern with cute little daisies that is absolutely beautiful. If you’re into that sort of thing here’s a little sneak peek. But that’s another post.

As you can see by perusing the photos below, my breakfast table is a bright tiled, sunflower lovers delight. (Since I’m also a sucker for flowers, the sunflower table in the photos was too much of a temptation to pass up.) But because the table itself is VERY colorful, it takes a special bowl, plate or teapot to compete with that kind of motif. 🙂

People who come to my house for a meal always ask  the same thing when they sit down at the table and look around at the different colored place settings. Because everyone usually gets their own shade of…something. They invariably ask me, what is your favorite Fiesta Ware color? When it comes to setting the table, I don’t really have a favorite. It’s fairly obvious that I LOVE them all! I mix and match turquoise plates with sunflower yellow, then add in scarlet red bowls or paprika serving dishes or maybe a tangerine pitcher. The only colors I’ve shied away from in the past are plum and cobalt. I have very few pieces of those colors. That’s not to say I don’t have accent pieces, namely platters, or salad plates. Because I do. Nor would I ever turn down a plate or bowl in peacock blue if I found it on sale. 😛

The thing is, I find the plum and cobalt are a tad too contrasting, as is the desert rose. I’m not much of a fan of pink or flamingo. And with my green and yellow table (where we do most of our eating) those colors don’t work as well. That isn’t to say, if I know you’re a pink person, you will most likely get that color place setting with your turkey dinner. I do prefer the lemongrass color green to the darker shamrock though. On that same part of the color wheel, the darker juniper is always a good choice at Christmastime when I pair it with red.

Whether it’s platters or bread plates, in the McKeehan household, we’re prepared for any holiday meal—whether it’s Easter pastel or St. Paddy’s Day green—come to our house for a meal and you’ll likely get plenty of festive colors at the table. Even if it’s as simple as a grilled hot dog on the BBQ! Life is about color and exercising that flair when the mood hits.

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Chocolate snowballs

Simple, easy 

Chocolate Snowballs

1 Chocolate Snowballs

Award-winning Pastry Chef Johnny Iuzzini celebrated his visit to snow-laden Chicago recently by  mixing up a batch of Chocolate Snowballs from his second cookbook, Sugar Rush. Here’s the link to the video at NBC Chicago. For some reason the vid wouldn’t embed into my post.

Anyway, if you’re looking for something to offer up for Valentine’s Day that’s chocolate and fairly quick with no baking involved, try throwing these together. You will need to allow 2 hours to let the dough set. What got my attention is that this recipe is a little different than the norm in that it doesn’t call for nuts or marshmallows but rather butter cookies, an odd choice I thought at the time. The butter cookies give it a different texture altogether. If you want to pass on using those, the recipe is a bit versatile because you could certainly use graham crackers instead of the butter cookies and substitute nuts for the coconut.

Sugar Rush

Chocolate Snowballs

Makes about 1½ dozen cookies
Ingredients:

• 7 tablespoons unsalted butter
• ½ cup sugar
• ¼ cup dark cocoa powder
• ¼ cup whole milk
• 1 teaspoon ground espresso powder
• ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
• ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
• 6 ounces plain butter cookies, finely ground (about 1¼ cups crumbs)
• ½ cup unsweetened fine, dried coconut flakes

Instructions:

1. Put the butter, sugar, cocoa powder, and milk into a small saucepan and heat over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is smooth.
2. Remove from the heat and stir in the espresso powder, vanilla, and salt.
3. Put the crumbs into a medium bowl and pour the warm liquid mixture over them; mix well until crumbs are evenly moistened.
4. Line a small sheet pan with parchment paper and spread the mixture out on it in an even, thin layer. Refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours.
5. Scoop level tablespoon-sized portions and roll them into balls.
6. Toss them in the coconut, rolling firmly with your hands to adhere the coconut.
7. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving and up to 1 week.

Source: http://www.nbcchicago.com/news/local/In-Celebration-of-Chocolate-Chocolate-Snowballs-290819471.html#ixzz3QoP7Fiiu