Tuesday, August 5, 2008


I've always been a girl that is willing to do the stuff that women aren't supposed to be good at. I'm perfectly willing to change my own tires and I love to put together anything I can find. I love the challenge of trying to get something right. However I was a little concerned about this project. I had to put up one fence panel and then make the second fence panel into a gate. I also had to put in a new post. When we had bought our house the roof had to be redone and the people broke the post and panel when they came into the yard to fix the roof. For a year it's been hanging on but has been a mess. In July we ordered the materials to fix the fence. A few weeks ago I had a friend help me install the post. We had to dig a 3 foot hole, line it up and then fill it with concrete. A few days ago another friend helped me install one fence panel. I thought my husband might want to try and help with the gate but he's been working alot and hasn't had time to help me so today my friend Nichole came to help me put up the gate. I had orginally wanted both sides to swing but after we started we realized it would only work if we cut about 2 inches off one side of the fence panel. The only saw I have is a jig saw so I decided it would be too difficult to try and cut a straight line with the jig saw. So I decided to make one side a solid panel and make the other side into a swinging gate. I still had to cut the panel down the middle but I only had to cut through the cross beams in between the fence boards so it was a little easier to keep straight. I was so excited when it all came together. I'm not a master carpenter but I am pretty proud of this.....

I'll have to thank my Dad for the power tools he bought me for Christmas. He looked at me kind of strange when I asked for power tools. But they made this project much easier. See girls can use power tools!!!!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Sunberry the Wonderberry

I love fruits but the hard thing about growing fruits is you usually have to wait several years after planting before you get edible fruits from the bush or tree. However earlier this year I came across one that can be grown from seed in one season. It's called a sunberry. I planted three plants and they have grown like crazy. So far they have had no pest or disease problems and seem to require average water. I also have some scarlet runner beans that are growing through them and it doesn't seem to bother them one bit. They are also planted pretty close together.

My son accidentally dragged the water hose over the plants yesterday and I realized that some of the berries were ripe. The berries closest to the ground ripen before the outer ones and they hide under the leaves. They are smaller than a blueberry and deep purple in color when ripe. They do take awhile to pick as they are so small. I picked about 1/2 lb in 20 minutes. When eaten fresh they have a slight citrus flavor. Ok, but not outstanding. I checked online to see what could be done with them and found they could be cooked just like blueberries. So I made these beautiful muffins from a recipe I found on Yahoo.

They were amazing. The flavor was just like perfect sweet blueberries. I don't know if anyone could tell the difference if I had a taste test with a blueberry muffin. These are just amazing plants and it's definitely something I will grow again next year.

Monday, June 30, 2008

rain rain and more rain

It has rained for three days and the garden has exploded the last few days.

This is not the best pictures as it is still raining. But I wanted to show how big everything is getting. We are still eaiting alot of kale and lettuce. But we had a few green beans the other day and there are tomatoes on my tomato plants. The zucchini and yellow squash are huge and I think the corn grew a foot this week alone. There is green everywhere.

Bridal Shower

She was the first newborn baby I ever remember holding in my arms. I was 12 and there are pictures of me holding her tiny body. I played with her and babysat her until I grew older and moved away to live my own life. Officially she is my second cousin, the granddaughter of my father's sister. I have a ton of cousins, including second, third and fourth cousins. Yesterday was her bridal shower. She seems so young as she has always been a tiny girl and in my mind I still see the child that I used to swing around in circles. It is strange to see someone grow up.

I sat in a group of women all related to me. Cousins and aunts that had spent countless years together. We talked about our lives growing up and our lives now. Many of my cousins have children of their own and there was a range of daughters from 19 to 6. The youngest ones were dressed in their pretty little summer dresses and they helped carry gifts that were as big as they were. My godmother was there. I hadn't seen her in years, but her daughter is one of the bridesmaids and it was amazing to see her all grown up, willowy and beautiful. It was a time for women and girls and a time for memories and laughter.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

planting planting and more planting

I love to plant. I fill my beds with everything I can find. Today I added more lettuces, some asian greens, a few pepper plants, a range of basil and some borage. One of these days I will run out of room in the yard and I'll have to start planting at other people's homes just to satisfy my urge to plant stuff. I just love to watch the plants come up and I get so excited when I get to taste some new interesting foods.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Wine Monday on Wednesday

Ok So I am a few days late on this. I would have posted it on Monday but the Gallo brands were still on sale and I had two bottles to finish. I finally bought a bottle of German white wine yesterday. I like German wines. They tend to be cheap, light and refreshing. I tried a 2006 Schmitt Sohne Liebfraumilch. It's a good thing I don't have to pronouce the wines, I just have to drink them. At only $5.99 a bottle, I was impressed. It must have been really good because I drank almost the entire bottle and barely had enough left to refresh my taste buds as I write this. I like wines that I can just sip after dinner. This was like a crisp pear, slightly tangy but very good. This would also be a good picnic wine as it has a screw cap instead of a cork.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Sometimes they die

A little over three years ago my husband and I got our first place together. When we made the decision to move in together he insisted on a place where we could have a garden. I was a bit skeptical because I claimed to have a black thumb that could kill just about anything. But I learned that first year that plants often grow even when I am taking care of them. Since then I have learned more about how to take care of plants so that they produce even more and I am excited to get more and more out of my garden. But I have also learned that no matter what I do, sometimes my plants end up looking like this.....

I don't know what happened to it. It was my biggest and most beautiful cabbage plant. It had the same amount of water as the other cabbage plants. It doesn't appear that the slugs ate it. It just drooped and died within a few days. Things like this has taught me the importance of planting many different varieties of vegetables. Some days, for no apparent reason, seeds don't sprout or plants just die. It's just how life in a garden goes.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A child's recipe

I bought my son his first cookbook this weekend. It's called Cooking with Herb, the Vegetarian Dragon. It's a funny little book with some decent recipes. Kaydn wanted to make something from it last night and I just couldn't find anything that we had all the ingredients for since I had depleted most of the general ingredients before we left for the weekend. It had allot of recipes that would be good this summer when we have fresh tomatoes, peppers and eggplant. So instead Kaydn decided to make up his own recipe. He wanted to make potato soup, but we only had 1 potato and we had already had potato soup this weekend, then he wanted to make eggplant soup but we really didn't have anything to go with it. Then he decided on mashed potatoes but I had to tell him we only had one potato and it wouldn't make enough. At this point he burst into tears and cried that I wouldn't make any of his recipes. I normally don't give into fits, but this was more broken hearted than fit throwing so I said we'd see what we could do.

"How about adding some carrots to the mashed potatoes?" I gently suggested.

" Ok." he brightened up and quit crying. "I'll write down the recipe." He wrote "The Most Amazing Smash Potatoes"

1 potatoe

3 carits

"How about we add some cabbage?" I suggested.


He added 2 q cabbage to the list.

" I think we should add some radishes" He said. I wasn't so sure about the radishes but what the heck it wouldn't hurt it. So 5 radishes were added to the list of ingredients. We sliced the potato and added it to a pot of water and brought it to a boil. Then we sliced the carrots and added them to the pot. We let them cook together until they had started to soften and then added 1/4 of a small cabbage and the diced radishes. We let them cook for another 15 minutes until everything was tender. We drained the water off and put all of the vegetables into the food processor. We added 2 tablespoons of butter, 1/2 cup of cheddar cheese and about 1/4 cup of milk. We added 1 tablespoon of roasted garlic and salt and pepper to taste and then pulsed it in the food processor until it was creamy but still a little chunky.

Here's what it looked like.


It was delicious. Creamy from the potato, sweet with the carrots and cabbage. And it's my son's first recipe. I can't wait to see what his next one is.

Back from holiday

Ok so it wasn't too bad. My MIL put in a garden this year, so at least we had a salad. It was all Buttercrisp lettuce, but it was a fresh picked salad. It was a relaxing and beautiful mini vacation. I laid in the hammock under trees and watched the river and read a book. We canoed down the Little Kanawa and saw the most amazing sight I have ever seen.

They were everywhere. There had to be hundreds of them. It was just amazing to sit in the canoe just a few feet away while hundreds of butterflies filled the air around us.
So it was well worth the trip. We came back happy and relaxed and ready to go back to work on the garden.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Food Snob

We are going away for the Memorial Day Holiday. A nice rustic cabin in the woods in the middle of nowhere, West Virginia and my in-laws are in the cabin next door. Now don't get me wrong. I love my in-laws. They are wonderful people that have accepted me and my son into their family with love and compassion. However, they are not gourmet food people. I am so spoiled by my beautiful salads like this one:

Goodness even the picture makes me want to lick the screen. I realize I have become a food snob. I'll take a few food items with me, but I feel like it is rude to take to much. My Mother in-law really tries to stock some foods for Jared and I. Jared was a vegetarian in his teens so she is used to his idiosyncrasies. But mostly it's junk food, pop, and canned vegetables with some fresh sliced vegetables, pimento spread and plain cheese all bought at the local Wal-Mart. I will miss my salads with dried cranberries, pecans and goat cheese. I will crave fresh radishes with butter and sea salt and the flavors of kale and beans will dance through my dreams. Three whole days, can I live through it?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Creative Vegetable Gardening

My husband brought me home the most fantastic garden porn book that I have ever seen. It's called Creative Vegetable Gardening by Joy Larkcom.


It is a fantastic book and I drool over the pages. It makes me dream about what my garden can be. Jared also showed me this website.


It is a website for a family in California that are Urban Homesteaders. They have a microfarm inside the city of Pasadena in a lot not much bigger than ours. It just amazes me how much can be done in such small space. Here check out their video, it's fascinating.


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Reworking leftovers

I don't usually care much for leftovers. I get bored with the same flavors all the time. However, I am frugal so I try to use up my leftovers whenever possible by making them into something else. Here is a great recipe for using up leftover spaghetti. I know it doesn't look fantastic. But trust me, it is delicious. The spaghetti gets a crispy bottom and gives greast taste and texture to the eggs.

  1. Add butter to a nonstick pan, then add leftover spaghetti.
  2. Crack eggs on top of spaghetti.
  3. Cover and cook to desired doneness.

Wow that is just way to easy. I used a vegetarian spaghetti that I made last night. It has onions, peppers, zuchinni and kale. Everything I cook has kale in it right now as greens and lettuce are about all the garden is producing right now.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Cheap wine of the week

I love wine. I really really love wine. But I can't always afford to buy the really great expensive wines that I love. So instead I search for really great really cheap wines. My criteria is simple. It has to be under $10 and it has to have great flavor. Here are a few of my favorites. I'm hoping others will add their favorites as well. I plan to give a weekly review of my favorite cheap wines.

Anything Gallo Brand, but especially the Moscato and the Cafe Zinfandel. Gallo brand is the top of my list for flavor and price. They are also usually easy to find almost anywhere. I even found them at a local gas station near my parents house in the middle of nowhere. I found big bottles on sale at Giant Eagle the other day for $5.99 and the regular size bottles were $3.33. HELLO Happy drinking.

If you love sweet wines the Moscato is perfect. It is sweet without being cloying like muscata tend to be. It has lovely peach and apricot flavors and is a wonderful sipping wine. It's the wine I buy most often when I just want a wine to drink.

The Cafe Zinfandel is a light fruity red. It has a bright raspberry flavor with a touch of sweetness. I was really amazed by the flavors of this wine. I'm not sure I can describe how really great it is. We paired it with a chocolate pudding with strawberries and it brought out the sweetness of the strawberries perfectly. I can't wait until raspberries are in season. Fresh organic rasberries and this wine may very well send my tastebuds into orbit.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Columbus parks

I love our Columbus parks. We are lucky enough to have large parks all around Columbus and smaller parks in most neighborhoods. We were coming home today after picking Kaydn up at school and decided to stop at the Whetstone park of roses. The roses aren't blooming yet, but there are wonderful paths through trees, along the olentangy river and through a meadow. There is a bike path that I believe is several miles long and reaches the campus area. It was a beautiful day and I was happy to enjoy the sunshine. Kaydn ran and yelled and played with baby frogs in a small vernal pond. It was just amazing to breathe the fresh air and listen to the birds chirp in the trees.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Child's favorite food-TOFU!

My son adores tofu. I always find it amusing that so many people say eww when tofu is mentioned. But tofu can be wonderful because it absorbs so many flavors. Today I made one of the boy's favorite dishes- Thai style tofu noodles. All of these ingredients are available in the Asian food section of most large grocery stores. As a cheap mama I try to provide good healthy cheap food. The initial cost of some of these ingredients is a little high but they last a long time. I have a bottle of fish sauce that I have been cooking with for several months and it's only 1/4 gone. My thai curry paste is also over a year old and I have made many many dishes out of it. The actual cost of this dish is only about $5 and will feed 3 people as a main dish or 4-5 as part of a dinner with other sides. Here's the recipe.

1 16 oz package of tofu
2 clusters of bean thread noodles( these usually come in a bag with 3-4 clusters in a bag)
6 shitake mushrooms
1/2 medium onion
1 clove garlic
1/4 can bamboo shoots
3-4 tablespoons fish sauce
1 teaspoon thai red curry paste
1 14 oz can coconut milk
vegetable oil for frying

Heat oil in large pan on medium heat. Add water to pot and bring to a boil.

  1. While water is heating, chop tofu and add to oil. Cook approximately 3-5 minutes until tofu starts to turn light brown.
  2. Chop shitake mushrooms and onion and add to pan. Cook for 3-5 minutes until tofu is slightly darker.
  3. Add garlic to pan and cook for 2 more minutes then add bamboo shoots.
  4. Add fish sauce and stir. Add the thai curry paste and stir until it melts into the dish. If you like spicy food you can add another teaspoon of curry paste.
  5. Add coconut milk and stir. Bring mixture to a soft boil and then lower heat to let it simmer.
  6. Add noodles to boiling water and cook according to package directions. When done drain and rinse then add to tofu mixture and combine.

Helping others garden

We all know that times are changing. Gas is getting so expensive that we can barely afford to leave our homes. I have been encouraging others to put in gardens this year. It's one of the best ways to get delicious affordable food. So I helped my mom put in a garden and yesterday I helped one of my very best friends put in her FIRST EVER GARDEN! We had a few difficulties to overcome however. First she lives in a sub division so the garden had to be pretty to look at. Second the sub division has nicely put the houses on slabs and her back yard is nothing but 2 inches of sod and a bunch of rocks. And third, like most of us, she didn't have alot of money to spend. So here was the solution we came up with.

We went to Lowes and bought 4 2x6x10 ft boards and had them cut 1 4x6x16 ft board into four peices. We used my wonderful power tools that my father gave my for christmas to make two 4x10 ft beds. Total cost for the boards was $25. We then laid down 3-4 layers of newspaper over the grass and filled one of the beds (I ran out of room in my car) with 8 bags of top soil and 2 bags of manure. The cost of the soil for 1 bed was $32. We then planted 4 tomato plants, a parsley plant and seeds of kale, lettuce, swiss chard, cilantro and bok choy. In the second bed we will plant sweet peppers, eggplant, cucumber, bush beans and whatever else we can manage to fit in it.

For under $100 and a few hours work she will have fresh vegetables beginning in about 4-6 weeks and the beds are right outside her back door so she will be able to easily take care of them. If she wants to, she will be able to throw some plastic sheeting over the bed and grow winter hardy greens and lettuces all winter as well. For most of the summer she will be able to produce enough food to meet about 50% of the food needs for her and her daughter.

It is my hope that more people will realize how easy this can be. I'll share more pictures of her garden as well once it starts producing.

Our Garden

First off let me tell you a bit about our garden. We bought our first home a little over a year ago. Our yard is about 30 ft by 70 ft and was all grass when we bought the house. Last year we started on the back 20 ft. This year we are slowly turning the back 20 into a forest garden and adding another 100 square feet of garden space. Here's a view of what we have done.

This is my lettuce garden. However for some reason the lettuces didn't come up. I have lots and lots of radishes but just one tiny lettuce in this bed.

This is our back garden that we started last year. This section will eventually be a forest garden. Right now it has my lettuces, some fruit trees, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, peas and bush beans. My husband spent a few days getting drunk so we could set beer traps for the slugs. It was such a difficult task for him. I really felt bad for him.

What do you do with an old bed frame? Well we are using it as a trellis for peas. There is also bok choy planted in front of the peas. On the side of this bed is kohlrabi and salsify which can't be seen in the picture.

These are the new beds that I am working on. I dug this whole section up by hand, well with a shovel. It would have been really hard to do by hand. These beds will hold all our summer vegetables.

This is one of our blueberry bushes. I am excited for fresh blueberries in a few years.

This is a goumi bush. I'm keeping my fingers crossed on this one. It sounds good but I have never tried it. In the background is a trash can which has potatoes planted in it. There is also a wonderful view of our compost material. My husband is a compost nazi and goes around the neighborhood to collect the bags of compost material.

This is a Korean Bush Cherry. I have no idea what it will taste like. But I promise to let you know in a couple of years.

This is a honey sweet pear. It is supposed to be very yummy. I can't wait for it to start producing.

The lovely stick is our persimmon tree. Beside it is my cooking greens bed and some weeds.

This a pawpaw tree. We actually have two planted in our yard. Pawpaw's are native to Ohio but very few people have ever tasted them. Supposedly they taste like a banana custard.

This is a gooseberry bush. This makes a yummy jam.

This is my herb garden. This picture has salad burnet, lemon balm and marigold mint. These are all good to throw in salads. The salad burnet and lemon balm both over wintered here in Ohio. I was amazed.

This is sage, lemon thyme and parsley.


Welcome to Cheap Mama Gourmet. I love gourmet food, but as a mom in middle class america I can't always afford the gourmet food that I love. So I grow what I can and serve friends and family the best foods I can create. This blog is about family, food, gardening and whatever else strikes my fancy.