1
Nov

Harvesting and Preserving Swiss Chard

by Tiffany in Gardening

Harvesting Preserving Swiss ChardIn my experience swiss chard is incredibly easy to grow. It tolerates the cold well so you can start growing it very early in the spring and have fresh greens even when the weather is still chilly. It handles itself well even in the hot temperatures and lasts well into the return of the cold.

When the temperatures start to dip and frost is coming more often than not I start harvesting the remainder of my swiss chard so I can preserve it for use in the winter. A cold frame, like I might use for my spinach, simply won’t work because chard gets quite tall. In the house and into the freezer it must go.

But what can you do with frozen swiss chard? Well, you can use the leaves much the way you would use spinach and the stems can be used the same way you use celery. Here are some ideas for using preserved swiss chard…

Leaves:

  • Add to lentil or bean soup
  • Scramble in eggs for breakfast burritos
  • Add to casserole dishes
  • Top homemade pizza
  • Adding to quiche, tarts, and frittatas
  • Add to green smoothies
  • Add to dips in place of spinach
  • Add to curry dishes

Stems:

  • Pickle them and eat throughout the winter
  • Add to chicken soup
  • Stir fry with other veggies in Asians dishes
  • Puree them for use in tahini or hummus

How to Preserve Swiss Chard

preserving-rainbow-swiss-chard

Gather your swiss chard from the garden and clean well. Cut the stems from the leaves. I blanch and freeze stems and leaves separately and I also reserve some longer stems for pickling and canning.

preserving-rainbow-swiss-chard-and-stems

Blanch anything you desire to freeze for three minutes in boiling water and then immediately transfer to an ice bath. After they have cooled a bit strain out the water. From here you can squeeze the water from the leaves and add handfuls to a cookie sheet or silicone muffins trays and freeze. This creates portions you can use in many different ways rather than a massive chunk of frozen greens.

Freeze or pickle the stems or do both. Enjoy!

pickled-chard-stems

29
Oct

Weekend Reading – Spooky Brit Lit and Pawpaw Trees

by Tiffany in Book Reviews

for-the-love-of-readingHere is a run down of what this book lover has been reading…

I recently finished two new audio books…

Lost Among the Living – This is a spooky British novel or at least that is the setting. It was only a couple bucks via Audible’s deal of the day and I took a chance. I ended up liking it quite a bit. Essentially it is about a woman widowed in world war two. To make ends meet she becomes a paid companion for her former husband’s wealthy aunt and after some European travel they settle into the family’s estate in the Sussex countryside. That is when she learns more about some mysterious deaths that occurred there only a few years previous and she begins to suspect foul play. She also learns she hadn’t known her beloved husband very well at all. It was pretty suspenseful and kept me listening right to the end!

Gut: The Inside Story of Our Body’s Most Underrated Organ – I read a hard copy of this book about a year ago and loved it. I loved the audio version even more. Yes, a book about your bowels can be completely fascinating and educational. If you ever wanted to hear the complete case for why your gut is the entire backbone of your immune system, this is it.

Paper books I recently read are as follows:

Pawpaw: In Search of America’s Forgotten Fruit – I heard an interview with this author on one of my favorite podcasts and immediately checked out the book at the library. I have always been curious about pawpaw trees and their fruit that supposedly tastes very tropical (banana crossed with mango). The curious part is that they grow in the upper midwest and eastern part of the US. My state even hosts an annual pawpaw festival. I loved the book and I special ordered two pawpaw trees!

Love the Home You Have: Simple Ways to…Embrace Your Style *Get Organized *Delight in Where You Are – This is a wonderful book written by an author and  home decor blogger who bought quite a few different homes (including a castle with a ballroom) always searching for that perfect home only to find it was a mindset thing.

Now I am on to read Spark Joy the follow up book to The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (which I loved).

What are you reading?

 

28
Oct

Frugal Friday – A Winter Utility Bills Challenge

by Tiffany in Frugal Green

frugal fridayI am looking for ways to save money this winter on heating costs. Last winter our peak bill was close to $600. That about knocked our socks off. It of course reminded us that we should have looked through a year’s worth of utility bills prior to buying this house. I don’t know for sure if we would have passed on making the purchase but we probably would have. But now we own it, and we do love it, so it is time to stem the bleeding.

I am going to make a challenge of reducing the bill and get the family involved. Every dollar we save compared to the previous year’s bill will be divided five ways (five family members). Hopefully the kids will be more serious about turning off lights and unplugging gadgets before they leave the home for school each day. For my part I have a couple ideas…

We already installed a new thermostat last year because our other one was ancient. We may actually go ahead and get a smart thermostat that will adjust when no one is home and that we can control from our phones. I am thinking about getting Honeywell’s smart thermostat. It has great reviews and it is much cheaper than the Nest.

We were ready to redo the insulation in our attic just a few weeks ago and go from batting insulation to spray foam. But then my husband realized that the batting was not going to budge without HUGE amounts of work so we are now thinking about having more insulation blown in instead. And if we have money leftover from not doing the spray foam we might add insulation to our garage doors.

We bought some oil filled radiators to heat specific areas such as upstairs bedrooms rather than turning up the furnace. I also saved money on them by using the Benefit app to buy gift certificates and get an automatic rebate and then using Giving Assistant to make the purchase which resulted in another rebate. Double dipping! Anyway, we are impressed so far with their ability to heat a room pretty quickly and then sustain that heat even after they are turned off. It was some obscure frugality newsletter from 20ish years ago that mentioned them and inspired to me to try.

I plan to buy some nice down comforters and duvet covers for each family member. It is a side goal to make my bed as luxurious and comfortable as that of a posh hotel. Why not ooh and ahh when you get in bed every night instead of doing so only when you go on a nice vacation??

I will be adding more thermal curtains to some bare windows. We have four windows that are still bare or have minimal (ie too thin) curtains. I am not sure if this will help because the house has all new windows and doors and they are super nice and high quality so there are no drafts. The fact that the previous homeowner had recently spent many thousands of dollars on new windows and doors is a clue we should have picked up on, LOL. If the new curtains don’t help with warmth at least they will look nice.

Other frugal wins for the week:

  • We are doing a small kitchen remodel with a budget of $1500. More than half that went to buying new kitchen counters. We opted to buy our counters from Menards while they were offering an 11% rebate so we will be getting almost $90 of that money right back. You have to use the rebate money at Menards but that means I will be be able to get all new drawer pulls and cabinet knobs for FREE! There might be some left over for paint brushes too.

How did you do?

16
Oct

Organic Meal Delivery with Ion Nutrition

by Tiffany in Healthy Eating

ionutrition

The meals I struggle with the most are actually breakfast and lunch because I eat them away from home. I am great at planning and prepping healthy, organic meals for dinner and all meals on the weekend. The motivation and inspiration kind of runs dry when it comes to packing lunches though. Most of the time I grab a ramekin and some instant organic oatmeal for breakfast and a side of leftovers for lunch. When there are no leftovers I often eat Chinese takeout. This can be pricey and though I often go for stir fry loaded with veggies it is not organic I am sure.

Recently I gave a meal delivery service a try, Ion Nutrition. A box of prepared, fresh meals arrive at your door and you eat them at your leisure. These are not gross TV dinners either. These are delicious, organic, gourmet meals prepared by culinary experts. There are NO preservatives, additives, dairy, gluten, GMOs, hormones, added sugar or soy. They are nutrient dense for optimal nutrition and best of all they allow you to eat well, feel good, save time.

  • FREE delivery anywhere in the U.S.
  • Healthy, cost-saving meals for the home, the office, or the outdoors
  • Indulge in your health with an ultra-portable, refrigerated meal management bag. Enjoy tasty, healthy meals anytime, anywhere

There is a regular plan, a protein+ plan, and a paleo plan so you can select the ones that goes best with your eating style. They were super, super tasty too. I had a chicken thigh that was melt in your mouth delectable and a beef patty that had me wanting to inquire about a recipe. The meals had generous serving of veggies too. They were really perfect for taking to work and eating healthy on the go. I would not hesitate to order again though they are on the pricey side I admit. That is the only stumbling block.

Have you tried a meal delivery service before?

12
Oct

What Kind of Bird Feeder is the Right Choice for Your Garden?

by Tiffany in Enjoying Nature

what-kind-of-bird-feeder-is-rightIf you’re hoping to encourage more birds into your garden, it can be hard to know where to start, can’t it? It’s not as simple as just throwing some stale bread on the lawn and watching them flock in (and in fact, bread isn’t good for the birds and should be avoided).

Well, don’t worry. There’s lots of advice available on how to encourage birds into your garden, but you’d perhaps be wise to start by focusing on one thing in particular: add a bird feeder to your garden and fill it with food.

Bird feeders can be decorative and beautiful, working in harmony with your garden design. Others can be sturdy and capable of coping with winter weather, whereas some feeders are specifically designed to keep away pests or contain a specific type of bird seed. Read on to find out more about each type of bird feeder so you can decide which one suits you best.

Decorative Bird Feeders

Decorative bird feeders are, as their name suggests, the most ‘aesthetically pleasing’ bird feeders available. Of course, a decorative bird feeder can be functional as well as beautiful, but these feeders tend to come in particular designs that are suitable for maintaining your garden décor. For instance, you could choose a lantern design if you have a Zen garden, a copper feeder if you like the industrial look, or something that’s more seasonal, such as snowman-shaped bird feeder for winter!

Nyjer Seed Feeders

Alternatively, a nyjer seed feeder is useful if you want to encourage species of birds such as goldfinches and siskins into your garden. These birds really enjoy the small, oil-rich nyjer seeds, but you’ll need a specific kind of feeder if you want to provide this food source. Nyjer seeds are very small and, therefore, need a small port to ensure that the right amount of food is administered when a bird visits.

Squirrel Proof Bird Feeders

Squirrel proof bird feeders are a great choice if you have a problem with bushy-tailed fiends stealing food from your garden. There are lots of varieties available, including types that are caged to prevent squirrels from getting their claws and teeth into them. Some are even weight-activated and close off feeding ports when accessed by a squirrel.

Another option is to buy a feeder that ‘baffles’ a squirrel, utilizing a design that makes it hard for squirrels to cross. If you think this is the right choice for your garden, there are plenty of squirrel proofing options.

Window Bird Feeders

If the reason you’re installing a bird feeder is to get a closer look at different species of birds, why not install a window bird feeder? They’re generally made of clear, shatterproof plastic so you can see inside, and using suction, the feeder attaches to your window which allows you to observe birds from the comfort of your own home.

Bear in mind that a bird feeder can be both nice to look at and practical, so don’t feel limited to only picking from one of these categories. Just decide what’s the most important factor to you when installing a bird feeder, and then get one that matches those needs!