Things We’ve Been Enjoying Lately

I wasn’t ecstatic when the boys picked out this movie at the library, but it turned out to be great!  Enjoyed by all! - Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’hoole.

Tasty homemade spaetzle and lettuce from the garden (what’s left of it after the local bunny population devoured most of it).

Monster Mini Golf - one of these just opened in our town.  Man - where were places like this when I was a kid???  CheezWaster I’m sure will want to have a future birthday party there (and the party room is killer - seriously - it looks like a haunted mansion - how cool!)

1001 Bugs to Spot - My mom spotted this in a store while they were on vacation and had to bring it home to The Destroyer.  He just LOVES looking at bugs (and unfortunately for them crushing them when he is done….hey…we don’t call him The Destroyer for nothing!)  Not only is this a great look and find book, it also lists all of the names of the bugs on the pages making it a great learning book as well.  If your kids aren’t into bugs, these books come in all different genres - 1001 Pirate Things to Spot, 1001 Animals to Spot, 1001 Things to Spot in the Sea, 1001 Things to Spot in Fairyland, etc.  There is something for everyone!  These would also be great for plane trips or long car rides!

Jem and the Holograms - THANK YOU The Hub!  My favorite childhood show makes it’s triumphant return! After telling the basic gist of this as a bedtime story, my boys think it is Totally Outrageous!  ;)

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Earth Day - Garden Planning

Happy Earth Day everyone!  Since planting season is just around the corner, I’ve been thinking about what I’d like to plant in my garden this year.   At the end of the season, I always leave my plants to die and to allow the local critters some additional food supply.  Less work in winter means an early work start to the gardening season.  Right now, I keep looking at my garden dreading the pre-planting season clean-up, but already dreaming of the summer’s bounty.  Next week, I plan to start ripping out all of the old plants and the weed paper and also begin weeding the nasty purple flower weed that is starting to take over my whimsical garden.  My mom informed me that if it gets into the grass, it will NEVER leave.  This year, we’ll plant the old standbys: tomatoes and cucumbers, and the new favorites: corn, italian frying peppers and leek.  I’m tossing around the idea of pole beans and I’m going to attempt to grow lettuce again this year in planter pots on shepherd’s hooks so the bunnies can’t eat them down to the root.  I also like to peruse the nursery to find something interesting each year (last year it was leek).  My whimsical garden is another story.  The winter wind and snow demolished my cute little animal spinners and The Destroyer has managed to break 2 out of 4 of my turtle stepping stones.  I’ve thought about planting lavender in its place.  The flower is beautiful and purple (my favorite color) and can withstand the full sun that patch receives, but given my already horrible allergies this season, I’m leery.  I’ve also been looking at a plant called dragon’s blood (it just sounds cool, right?!).  I’m not sure this will be available at my nursery, so I might have to catalog order it.  All in all, I’m planning and gearing up for the season.  A little bit of elbow grease and sweat will give us a plethora of tasty (and organic!) vegetables this summer, all while contributing to the environment.

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Preparing for Spring

Melissa & Doug Rake

Despite the falling snow here in NJ,  I’m gearing up for Spring!  (it has to be coming soon, right?)  I’ve been perusing my seed and plant catalogs and have begun thinking about what I’d like to plant in my garden this year.   Our garden not only provides us with vegetables all summer long, it is a haven for fun, peace & relaxation.  The kids love to help in the garden and I’m always eager to find kids’ gardening tools that aren’t plastic (our recycle bin is tired of broken plastic shovels).  Yesterday, I popped over to Toys R Us and found the most adorable AND functional metal gardening tools for kids.  They are made by Melissa and Doug and are sturdy and safe.  There are no jagged corners and no sharp ends.  The set offers a rake, a hoe, a shovel, a trowel, a cultivator, watering cans, as well as some other odds and ends like sprinklers, lawn games, gardening gloves, sunglasses, a gardening tote, umbrellas, and a bug magnifying glass.  I know a few items that are going to make their way into my kids’ Easter baskets.  Check out the entire Sunny Patch line here and THINK SPRING!

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Banana Bell Pepper Jelly Recipe

This is the Banana Bell Pepper Jelly Recipe I used (see previous post on jelly).  The jelly came out GREAT.  We tried it on crackers and it was fabulous - sweet with a little zing.  I think it would taste even more amazing with a nice cream cheese or over a block of cheese.  I did make a few small changes which I have noted.  Given the number of peppers I have, I could probably make another 25 batches of this jelly.  If you know me personally, guess what you are getting for Xmas??? <wink wink>


6 large sweet banana peppers* [I used all banana bell and sweet paprika peppers - about 2 cups chopped]

2 large hot banana peppers* [I did not use any hot peppers!]

* (Be sure to get 1-2 red or orange peppers in the batch, this will give the
jelly a beautiful blush shade.)  [We used a mix of yellow, red and blush peppers and the shade is a beautiful orange red]

1 ½ cups apple cider vinegar

5 cups sugar [I used only 4 cups and this is plenty sweet]

1 package Certo (1/2 box)

[I also added a 1/2 of a tablespoon of crushed red pepper per the recipe in the certo box to give it some zing since I did not use any hot peppers]

  1.. Sterilize 6 pint jars. [there is no way this recipe can give off 6 pint jars.  I got  2 3/4 jars.  If you use 1/2 pint jars - the standard jelly jar size, you should get 6 jars.]
  2.. Cut the peppers in half and remove the seeds and the veins. Chop into
large chunks.
  3.. Put all of the peppers and ¾ cup vinegar in the blender and blend
until it is finely chopped (still with some small chunks in it, not pureed).
  4.. Pour the pepper-vinegar mixture into a pot and bring to a boil. Cook
for 2-3 minutes until it starts to look smooth.
  5.. Add the remaining ¾ cup vinegar and all of the sugar. Stir and bring
it to a rolling boil for 1 minute. [add in the crushed red pepper at this point]
  6.. Add 1 package certo, bring back to a rolling boil for 1 minute.
  7.. Remove from heat, skim off any foam and allow the mixture to sit for 5
  8.. Fill and seal canning jars according to manufacturer’s directions.

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Banana Pepper Jelly

Just call me Susie Homemaker!  With all of the peppers that we having coming off of our 6 banana bell and 2 paprika plants, I hit the internet looking for something to do with them.  First, I thought about pickling them, but honestly, I’m not really sure what you do with pickled peppers.  I stumbled across some recipes for pepper jelly, but most of them included hot peppers.  I took a stab at a recipe today, using all paprika and bell peppers, rather than including a hot variety.  I followed the recipe to a T and unfortunately, I think the size of the jars were labelled incorrectly in the recipe considering it said you should get 6 and I only got 2 3/4.  So, I will showcase the steps here and in a few days, if the jelly actually tastes good, I’ll post the recipe with the noted change in jar size.
Ingredients for Banana Pepper Jelly

Ingredients for Banana Pepper Jelly

This is all you need to make Pepper Jelly - easy & simple - just the way I like my recipes.

Sterilizing the Jars

Sterilizing the Jars

First, you need to sterilize the jars before you make your jam/jelly.

Chopped Peppers (fresh from the Garden)

Next, I chopped the peppers.  I used a mix of yellow and blush banana bell peppers and red and almost red paprika peppers.

Blending the Vinegar and the Peppers

Blending the Vinegar and the Peppers

I blended the vinegar and chopped peppers until there were only small bits of peppers left.

Boiling the Mixture

Next,  I boiled this mixture with the rest of the vinegar and added the sugar and certo.

Pepper Jelly in the Jar

Pepper Jelly in the Jar

Finally, I ladled the mixture into the jars and processed it in a hot water bath to seal the lids.  The 3/4 jar will be used as our tester jar to see how this recipe tastes.  It looks beautiful in the jars and I have high hopes for it.  However, last year we made a mustard recipe from the internet that had over 200 4 and 5 star ratings and it was complete crap and we wound up throwing it all out.  So…..I’m keeping my fingers crossed for this one.  If this works out, I can probably make this recipe another 25 times and still have peppers left over.  Seriously.

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