DIY – Grow Light

When we purchased our house in the fall of 2009 I had high hopes for a garden when spring/summer came. Well…. nothing I planted ever grew which I attributed to my “black thumb.”

Turns out, I just didn’t know what I was doing. Lazy gardening is poor gardening.

Summer of 2012 rolls around and a very pregnant woman with a little boy and a little girl stop by my garage sale. Turns out, they live down the street and her daughter is the same age as my older daughter. Bonus: Her husband is an avid gardener. Not only did I make new friends that day, but I got a garden mentor!

So, last summer I started my first official garden. It didn’t work so well, the leaves in the tree near the garden grew too thick and I didn’t have a ladder tall enough to thin it enough. Needless to say, my garden suffered. We did get a handful of tomatoes and a bell pepper or two, but nothing remarkable.

Last year I also started my own seeds in the house to get a jump start on the growing season. I have a south facing bay window that I used to start them. It worked alright, but they certainly didn’t thrive in those less than ideal conditions!

So this year I asked for a grow light for Christmas.

And I did not get a grow light for Christmas. :(

So I did what any cheapskate would do, I took to Google and YouTube to find out how to make my own!

I found this amazing YouTube video and thought, I can do that!

However, I sure wished the directions were written out.

I can’t take credit for the video, but I wanted to share his good tutorial and show you how I did it.

What you  need:

  • Metal furnace duct work – $3.96
  • Threaded rod x 2 (mine are 1/4″ – the larger they are, the stronger, however the whole fixture is super light.) – $1.70 (99c each)
  • Nuts (I like wing nuts) – 77 cents for a pack
  • Dual  light fixture – $3.69
  • Extension cord – $1.17
  • 100-200W CFL Bulbs (mine are 100 wat replacement Full Spectrum lights, “Evolution” brand.) x 2 – $8.58 ($4.99/each)
  • Chain (to hang from rack) – $6.70 ($3.90/each)
  • Key rings (to attach chain to rods) – $1.98
  • TOTAL COST = $25.75
  • I purchased all of my materials from Menard’s during their 14% off bag sale so these are the discounted prices.

Step 2: Drill the hole and insert the light fixture.

Putting it together was pretty simple. You’ll need a drill and a safe surface to drill into, as well as wire cutters.

Step 1. Gently flatten out the duct work so it’s not a circle.

Step 2. Lay it on a flat surface and find the center (it doesn’t need to be perfect) and drill a hole. This is where you’ll insert the light fixture so it has to be large enough to fit through.

Step 3. Next you’re going to drill the holes for the rod. Try to make them roughly the same. I didn’t measure and just eyeballed it and it’s fine.

Step 4. Thread one of the rods through the first hole. I put wingnuts on each side of the duct work – so one on the outside, one one the inside. A total of 8 wingnuts for the whole fixture.

Step 5. Once the rods are in place it’s on to the electrical work. Take your extension cord and cut off the end of it (the part that you plug something into, obviously, you’ll need the outlet part to plug in your grow light!) Strip the casing off the wires and twist the wires together. Secure with a wire caps.

Thread the wires through the top of the fixture. You’ll also want a nut to hold this in place. I could not find one large enough so I added washers to keep it sturdy in place.

Step 6. Attach your chain to the rods and hang from your desired location. I hung mine from the curtain rod in my office closet. NOTE: The rods were far too long and stuck out a LOT so I had my husband take a saw to them and cut them down. If you do this, don’t cut it too far, in case you want to open the duct work more.

Step 7. Plug in and start growing your seedlings!

It may not be the prettiest grow light, but it gets the job done!


Step 3: Drill the holes for the rods.

Step 4: Insert rods, don’t forget to put both wingnuts in the middle of the rod before you put the rod through the second hole!

All that’s missing is the chain to hang the light up!

I am a Minivan Mom

I don’t really have much to post today, however it’s been over a week since my last post and darnit! I’m going to keep this New Years Resolution!!!

I suppose I can update everyone on how some of my resolutions have been going.

Here’s a brief overview.

1. Well… I blogged twice last week! That’s more than once a week! Go me! And today I’m staying on track as well.

2. Meal planning: I planned every day last week, but didn’t follow through 100%. Things came up or I’d run out of cheese and couldn’t get to the store because I didn’t have a vehicle, so that meal would be postponed until the next day.

3. No yelling: We’ve been better about this. We are by no means perfect and some days it’s really, really hard. Especially when you have children who cry over spilled water (that’s right, not even milk – water!) But we’re working on it.

4. Early to Bed/Early to Rise: Well…. some nights have been better than others. The first few days I was good about being in bed by 12:30. Now it’s back to an average of about 1:30, but usually before 2 am. I need to keep working at it.!

In other news, our ear infection free household no longer has that status. The Little One was screaming in agony this past week. I thought she was just fighting sleep, she was tired and had a drippy nose. I kept asking her if each part of her body hurt and she kept telling me “No!”

Sick Baby

The Little One the day before I took her to the doctor and was diagnosed with a double ear infection. :(

By the third day, when suddenly her fever spiked and she was able to communicate what hurt, I said enough is enough. As stated above, I didn’t have my own vehicle. My car was totaled in November when the CV Joint broke while turning onto the highway. (Real fun spot to have your car die!)  (Not So Fun Fact! That was also the day I got into my first ever car accident! Hitting black ice and rear ending an SUV with The Husband’s car! Needless to say, I was afraid of driving for a good 4 days!)

Anyway, I have the best neighbors and my good friend/neighbor down the road said I could borrow her van. I had the fun task of pushing the stroller through a foot of snow to get to her house a few doors down, but we made it and I got to practice driving a minivan. Got The Little One to the doctor and sure enough, double ear infection. The right ear had ruptured and had puss inside, the left was just read. Ten days of antibiotics orally three times per day and ear drops in the right ear twice per day. By day 2 she was already feeling much better!

Not So Sick Baby

After about 4 days of meds she was feeling MUCH better! (She was actually feeling much better when she woke up on day 2 after only 2 doses of meds!)

So, the conclusion of the above, I suppose, is that I need my own vehicle. The Husband and I agreed to start looking about a month ago, looking for a good deal, and a good deal I found! Got a great blue Dodge Grand Caravan SXT for under 3K from a very nice man. We found it using CarSoup.com, though he was also listed on CraigsList.

Blue Steel

Blue Steel

Here she is! “Blue Steel” is what I’m naming her. Or “Buh-KAWWW!” (like the sound a chicken makes! – Because The Husband and I like to name our cars based on the letters on the license plate. I previously owned Jibble and Pixed. The Husband currently owns Vixy.)

So… I’m actually super excited to own this minivan. I know that it was super well taken care of for the first 5 years of it’s life – thanks CarFax! – and the guy who sold i to me (second owner) seems like  a very honest guy and seems to have taken pretty good care of it.

My only issue with minivans is the lack of ability to check the blind spot! I’m a shoulder checker! I can’t do that in this van! I’m considering getting a blind spot mirror to attach to my drivers side mirror. Hopefully very, very soon!

So there you have it. An update on me and mine. It’s not food, but it will do. Hopefully next week I’ll food blog again!

Black Bean Tortilla Bake

Black Bean Tortilla Bake

Black Bean Tortilla Bake

I’m not big on Mexican food but a while back I was looking for recipes that were somewhat healthy and contained protein that was not meat. The perfect answer? Beans! Apparently beans are super good to eat. Check this out.

I found this recipe on Food.com and was pleasantly surprised by how good it was!

Bonus? It’s super easy to make! Essentially you’re making your own salsa, then adding beans to it. To assemble you’re basically making a lasagna, except you’re layering tortillas, cheese, bean salsa, more cheese, repeat.

DOUBLE BONUS: You can make a couple of these at a time and freeze one for later. The photos in this post were taken while I was making a bunch for my meal swap group.

Here’s what you need to make this the way I make it:

INGREDIENTS

  •  1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped tomato (or 1 8 oz can)
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onion
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp cumin powder
  • 8 oz tomato sauce
  • 16 oz can black beans (rinsed & drained)
  • 1 TBSP chopped cilantro
  • salt & pepper
  • soft corn tortillas (number will vary based on size of baking pan, I used maybe 8 per pan, you can use more or less)
  • 8 oz Mexican blend cheese

DIRECTIONS

1. Preheat oven to 350* F
2. Spray large skillet with cooking spray
3. Add onion, garlic, tomato, green onion, cumin & chili powder
4. Cook on medium heat until onion is tender.
5. Add tomato sauce and cook for 5 minutes more.
6. Stir in beans, cilantro, salt & pepper (to taste)

As you can see, I’m a little OCD about the tortillas covering every visible square inch of the pan. I ripped/cut the tortillas but that’s optional.

7. Spray a 9 inch square baking dish with cooking spray.
8. Layer bottom with tortillas, cheese, bean salsa, more cheese
9. Repeat.
10. End with cheese on top of salsa mixture.
11. Bake for 20 minutes, covered, then 10 minutes uncovered or until cheese is bubbly.

 

The above directions are for a smaller tray than my photos. To make a larger pan like I did in the photos, simply double the recipe. Honestly, I just eyeball it.

Enjoy!

New Years Resolutions

Resolutions

© gubgib at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In the past I’ve made New Years Resolutions but I’ve never stuck with them. For one reason or another they became good intentions that never came to pass.

Last year I resolved to start working out. It was awesome, I was going to the gym about 3 times per week… and then our insurance changed with my husbands new job and the gym membership was no longer something they reimbursed me for. Without the extra $20 laying around, the gym became a thing of the past. I still miss my Body Pump class.

Technically I could work out at home. My resolution for 2012 was to use my Wii Fit every day. That occurred for maybe a week? I just don’t feel motivated to work out at home.

So this year, out with the old resolutions and in with the new. New resolutions for a new and improved me. They’re more like goals.

1. Go to Bed Earlier at Night / Get Up Earlier in the Morning.
I’m a night owl and don’t feel fully awake until noon. I also work from home which means during the school year I have a two year old around the house and in the summer a six year old as well. Starting soon I will probably be taking on part-time babysitting a friends four month old during the week. Finding time to work between taking care of the kids can be tricky so I rely on the evenings/late night to get my work done.

2. Set Work Goals.
This goes along with what I sad above. I only have limited time to get my work done so I need to be better about staying away from Facebook and Pinterest and the rest of the Internet Demons and prioritizing my work and rewarding myself with quick Facebook breaks.

In addition to my horrible time management skills, much of my work doesn’t have a definite time table. There’s a general time frame that it needs to be done, but I need to take the time to just do it without waiting until the last minute. My work is also varied. For those who don’t know, I manage multiple websites which involves listing books, new book covers, authors, etc. I need to get that info up as soon as I receive it so I’m not scrambling at the last minute. I also design book covers, I need to get those done ASAP as well, preferably working a couple months ahead of where I should be. As part of my job I also format books for Kindle. I’ve already made a change with that and now I make sure Kindle files (as well as epubs) are ready for release the same day as the print book and the PDF file on our website. The problem is that I still have a big backlog of books to get done in addition to the new ones.

3. Finish the First Draft of my Novel.
I’m not sure if I mentioned it on this blog or not (I know I mentioned on my book review blog) but I participated in National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo) in 2013 and won! This means that I wrote 50,000 words in 30 days. Pretty amazing since I’ve never written past 14,000 words on one story.  However, despite having written 50,000 words to one story, it still doesn’t have an ending. Before the year is through I will have an ending to my story and be starting the process of the second draft.  This is another goal that ties into #2 – set goals. I’ve got to set aside time to sit down and write.

4. Consistently Make Weekly Meal Plans.
I think weekly meal planning is awesome and more people should do it. Myself included. I do well one week, then utterly fail the next week. It’s the sitting down and forcing myself to figure out what to make that kills me. Then sticking to it throughout the week. I’m going to try to plan a couple weeks out so that I have some leeway. Then, after work on the weekends I’ll buy what I need for the week and if I realize I don’t have an ingredient, I’ll have The Husband bring it home after work. (I bet I haven’t mentioned the fact that my car died so we are now a one vehicle family! We’re trying to hold out until tax time to purchase a mini-van. I’ve got my eye on the Honda Odyssey! But we’ll see.)

5. Blog Once a Week.
I am the first to admit that I’m a terrible blogger. Believe me, I take photos of every meal I make with the intention of blogging them later. Alas… later rarely comes. I get caught up in other things and later continues to be later. So, in 2014 I vow to blog once per week. Either on this blog or my book review blog.

6. Be More Consistent with the Kids.
Everyone says consistency is the key with kids but for me it’s hard. I am going to try to make a daily schedule that says at this time we do this, at this time we do that. Hopefully, with a little bit of time, the routine will be second nature for all parties involved. Right now the only thing I’m pretty consistent with is that as soon as The Big One gets home from school she has to do her homework.

7. Keep a Log of The Big One’s Puking.
OK, this is a weird one, I know, but hear me out. My daughter will be 7 this spring and for most of her life she’s been a puker. Long car ride? Puke. Upset that Mommy is going to the doctor? Puke. Excited to sleepover at a friends house? You guessed it. Puke.

My goal with this is to keep a detailed log of all of these incidents including how the weather was, what she had eaten, how she was feeling before she puked, etc. Try to find a way to get a handle on this. Already we’ve had two incidents – New Years Eve and today. I think today is probably a real case of the flu, but my guess was that New Years Eve was emotionally triggered, she was going to spend the night at Grandma’s house.

8. Yell Less, Talk it Out More.
I hate to admit it, but The Husband and I are both yellers. When we get to that point, it’s just easier for us to let it all out and yell at the kids. I’m hoping that #1 will help me with this, getting more sleep and all, but it breaks my heart to know what this is doing to my children and being unable to stop myself.

I told The Big One that if Mommy or Daddy yell at her, she needs to tell us, “Please don’t yell” to remind us that this is not the right way. I also had her make a resolution to cry less and instead to take a deep breath and tell us why she’s upset instead of going right to tears. Her crying at the drop of a hat is probably our number one yell trigger, it usually begins with, “STOP CRYING OVER EVERY LITTLE THING!” But it’s a two way street. We’ve all got to make the effort to get this in check and I think we’ll all be happier for it.

So there you have it. My New Years Resolutions/Goals.

Have you made any resolutions for 2014? Have you stuck to your resolutions in the past? If so, what have you found to help you keep your resolutions?

Missing Images

So….. apparently my bandwidth with Photobucket has been exceeded.
You can still click on the image and it will bring you to Photobucket though!

First I thought “awww I feel loved!”

Then I thought “Crap! That sucks!”

So I guess in the next few days I’ll try to get my images moved over to my design company website hosting and link them here. Or maybe I’ll just give in and buy a domain name for this blog and host it where my company website is.

(If you’re wondering, my design website is www.candrus-designs.com)

Freezer Meal: Chicken Broccoli Alfredo

Chicken Broccoli Alfredo Freezer Meal

For my meal swap meal this month I opted to make Chicken Broccoli Alfredo.

Easy and delicious!

Here’s what you need per freezer meal:

SHOPPING LIST

- 8 oz broccoli
- 15-16 oz Alfredo Sauce x 2
- 1-2 lbs chicken (I tried for about 1 lb 5 oz)
- 1 med-large onion
- Noodles

Since I was shopping to make 8 meals I ended up buying a 5 lb bag of broccoli from Costco (~$6), a 20 lb bag of chicken from Costco (~$22), 16 jars of alfredo sauce from Aldi ($1.69 each = $27.04), 8 boxes of bow tie noodles (77 cents each = $6.16), 10 lb bag of onions from Costco (~$6)

So, in all I spent roughly $69 (not including sales tax) and got just shy of 8 meals (I didn’t have quite enough chicken for that last bag, which was fine, because that’s the bag for my own freezer and I can add more later.)

INSTRUCTIONS:

To prep for freezer:
Throw broccoli, chicken, chopped up onion in bag. You can add the Alfredo sauce if you want, but it’s just more to thaw later. I leave mine in the jars and labeled the jar “Ck Alf” so I know it’s for the Chicken Alfredo meal and don’t use it for something else.

Don’t forget to label your freezer bag with what’s inside and cooking directions!

To cook:
Throw broccoli, onion, chicken and both jars Alfredo sauce in crock pot. Cook for 4-6 hours on LOW.
Towards the end of the crock pot cook time cook the noodles according to directions on box. Drain water and add noodles to crock pot. Eat and enjoy!

TIP: If you have leftovers you could easily turn this into a chicken alfredo pizza! Find my EASY pizza dough recipe here!

Chicken Broccoli Alfredo Freezer Meal

Check it out! When my eyes began to bleed from chopping up the onions (possibly an over-exaggeration) The Husband came to help me finish up! (And no, he was NOT happy about me taking his photo, which is why he is not looking at the camera! HA!)

Chicken Broccoli Alfredo Freezer Meal

Seven Freezer Meals ready to go! (The eight I didn’t have enough chicken for the bag, so it’s not included.) I also forgot to put the noodles on the table for the photo op. Oops?

Chicken Broccoli Alfredo Freezer Meal

Close up of freezer bag. Bottom layer = chopped onion. Middle layer = frozen broccoli. Top layer = Chicken breasts.

Gardening: New Veggie Garden for 2014

When deciding where to put my first ever garden, I took my neighbors advice and put it in the spot where the previous owners had had their garden. I’m told they had bountiful harvests of tomatoes and carrots and everything else. There was already a raspberry bush in the area! Well, it’s been at least 6 years since the previous owners did anything with that garden area and the trees have grown up since then, causing a lot of shade to hit it. My veggies are growing, but I don’t think they are growing as well as they should. Therefor, for 2014 I have decided to move my garden to the sunniest location in the yard. My only concern with this location is that, as you can see from the photo, the brush pile is just to the left and we have bunnies who like to live in there. I don’t want to put up a fence next year, assuming The Little One will stay out of the garden!, but I may have to just to keep out the bunnies.

Big sunny spot near the fence line by the neighbors garage.

This new garden spot is right next to the other neighbors garage. I’ll need to cut back the brush next to the fence and then I also plan to attempt to grow beans and peas and sweet pea flowers using the fence as a trellis. Eventually I’d like to grow my own grapes, but I don’t think 2014 will be the year for that. Getting started was probably the hardest part of this whole ordeal. Breaking through the tough grass roots. The first shovel I had wasn’t quite sharp/pointed enough, so I had to switch to the other one and once I switched it was MUCH easier.

Getting started!

Half hour of digging! One row done! LOTS more to go!

I spent about half an hour digging today in the hot, hot sun. We managed to dig one row of the grass out (and by we I do mean me, with the kids only slightly getting in my way!) We had to take a break at that point because it was about 1,000 degrees outside. OK, the weather app on my computer says it hit 81, but in the noon sun it sure felt a lot hotter!

Sitting in front of the fan with our ice water! Whew it was hot!!!

Once we’d cooled off enough I opted to go back out and dig some more. The Big One decided to stay inside where it’s cooler. I ended up getting POURED on while I was out digging. It started as a gentle sprinkling of refreshing rain water and soon turned into a downpour. It felt wonderful, but the downpour plus the thunder…. I went in at that point! Two rows of digging completed! And I’ve got to say, the wet soil sure makes it easier to dig up the grass!!! Oh, and because I won’t be planting anything until next spring (the exception being some Wild Lupine seeds I will be collecting on vacation and planting in the fall) I’m simply digging up the grass and flipping it over. The grass will compost nicely and feed the soil. I also plan to do some trench composting over the summer in this area to help feed the soil as well.

Next spring (or maybe in the fall?) I hope to get some pavers or cinderblocks and build a little border around the edges. I will also dump some compost in the spring and plant directly in piles of that.

Until next time!

Pizza Bread

I’m a terrible blogger. I know, I know…..

Pizza Bread

This is a recipe I recently made for my meal swap group. The above photo features meatballs, but for my meal swap group we did pepperoni.

SUPER easy and tasty!
You basically take my grandmother-in-laws pizza dough recipe, double it, slice the dough into 6 pieces, roll the dough out, pour on some sauce, put the pepperoni, add the cheese and roll it up (carefully!!!)
For the bread:

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 Package active dry years
  • 3/4 cup very warm water
  • 2 TBSP Olive oil (or vegetable oil)
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 cups flour

DIRECTIONS:

1. Add the package of yeast to the water. let sit for 5 minutes as the yeast does its thing. The water should be hot, but not TOO hot – you don’t want to kill the yeast!

2. Add the sugar, salt and oil to the water.

3. Mix in flour. You can either use a mixer (I use my Kitchenaid Stand Mixer) or you can knead by hand, for about 5 minutes.

OPTIONAL: The dough is ESPECIALLY good if you add in some pizza herbs and seasoning! I like to add garlic powder, onion powder, Italian Seasoning, Basil, Oregano, etc. SO yum!
For the sauce I use the recipe here.

Cut the dough

Cut the dough

Putting together the pizza bread!

Putting together the pizza bread!

ASSEMBLING THE BREAD:

1. Divide the dough. Shape it into a nice round (or square) lump and cut in half, then cut each half into thirds. These are just guidelines, you can really make as many or as few as you want. What I like about making them small is that each person can have their own roll, plus when the bread is smaller it cooks quicker!

I have an actual dough cutter (I believe it’s Food Network brand? From Kohl’s?) and I LOVE it! It cuts through the dough SO well and scraps any dough left on the counter right off! You can also use a knife if you don’t have a dough cutter/scraper.

2. Spread out one of the little rolls of dough you cut in the previous step. Spread as THIN as you can without tearing any holes. If you do get a hole you can kind of fold the dough back over and try again. You want it thin though because it’s going to rise a LOT when you bake it!

3. Spread the sauce across the dough. Careful you don’t get too close to the edges or you’ll have a HUGE mess when you go to roll it up!!! If you’re like me and LOVE sauce, you’re going to have to hold yourself back. You can NOT put a lot of sauce in these! You can certainly DIP the bread in some sauce once it’s baked though!

4. Add your toppings. In this case, pepperoni. You can add whatever you want though. Meatballs, onion, peppers, olives, etc.

5. Add the cheese! You can probably even put more than I put on in the photo!

6. Now the messy part! ROLLING the bread! Start at one end and instead of actually ROLLING the bread over, it’s best to sort of FOLD it. I find what’s easiest is to fold it, pinch the edges, fold, pinch, etc. Then at the end you need to seal the edges. Pinch them shut and kind of smooth them over with your finger.

7. Finally you’re ready to bake and eat your creations!

Preheat the oven to 425* and bake for 10-15 minutes. The bake time is going to depend on the size you end up making your bread and your oven. My oven is ancient and terrible so I ALWAYS check the food at the halfway point. Since these times are based on MY oven, keep a close eye on your food!

8. Enjoy! Allow the bread to cool down a bit. When we make it for the kids we always cut it open first to let the inside cool off so they don’t burn their little mouths. I like to heat up some sauce as well to dip mine in because, as I said above, I’m a sauce lover!

FREEZING: I froze these for the meal swap group. I put 3 each in the gallon sized ziplocks. Each person got 6 bread rolls. Thaw completely prior to baking.

Roll the dough! This is a bad example... I had a bit too much sauce, did not pinch the edges as I rolled AND forgot the cheese!!! #FAIL

Roll the dough! This is a bad example… I had a bit too much sauce, did not pinch the edges as I rolled AND forgot the cheese!!! #FAIL

Seal and smooth those edges!

Seal and smooth those edges!

5×5 Gardening Challenge

Round 5x5 logo
I have a black thumb. Everything I’ve tried to grow has died. (Exception: I have 4 marigolds clinging to life in my window! I’m not sure how they have survived, but I pray they continue to thrive until the ground outside is ready for them!!!!)
So my neighbor is an avid gardener, he has an awesome garden full of tomatoes and squash and lots of good veggies. If I need a tomato in the summer, I just send Allison down the road and she comes home with a few (usually more than we ask for! No complaints!) He’s offered to help me get started and help to make sure my plants don’t die.
The 5×5 Garden Challenge is for both n00bs like me and seasoned gardeners as well. Every week they post a new blog to help get us going with our 5 foot by 5 foot garden.
If you don’t have space for a garden, no prob! They say you can do the challenge using planters! The goal is to get more people gardening.
I for one would love  to eat veggies from my own garden. Not having to throw away that hard earned cash at the grocery store when I can grow it myself!
The first steps in the challenge is to choose a location. This is a tough one for me. I’ve got a lot of yard, but not sure what to do with it. We have an awesome wooden “box” in the ground in the backyard and I wonder if it was once a garden… but we acquired a free swing-set shortly after we closed on the house and put it in that box, so that’s out.
They recommend putting it somewhere that you walk by frequently, so that you can pull some weeds as you walk by. Somewhere you won’t forget to water them. (Or in my case, somewhere that I’m not too lazy to walk to!)
The ideal location for me would be the back yard. It’s on the south side of the house so it gets plenty of sun. But….. our sliding door to the backyard gets jammed frequently and our steps down to the patio are not exactly safe. So, I try to avoid going out that door if possible. I could go through the garage, but that involves pulling things away from blocking the door and pushing on the door while turning the lock just so so that it actually unlocks… and I’m just too lazy to do that daily!So, the front yard it is. We have a huge dead tree in the yard. It’s been steadily dying since we moved in. We’ve gone from leaves on the top half of the tree (year one) to a few scattered branches with leaves (year two) to, no leaves at all last summer. We’re going to tear that sucker out and replace it with something healthy! And I’m going to start a garden nearby. Right in the front yard for all the world to see. Oh boy. Wish me luck! (If it ever stops snowing! Come on Minnesota! It’s friggen April!!! Bring on the RAIN showers, not SNOW showers!)

If you have always wanted to try gardening, join the 5×5 Challenge with me!

Chebureki… mmmm…..

I hate ground meat. The texture is just…. blech! I can’t eat it!

The husband LOVES ground meat. And we have a bunch in the freezer that I got as a part of  a meat package from Fare For All.

So, I needed to figure out what to do with this stuff. Pinterest to the rescue! I found this awesome recipe called “Lena’s Chebureki Recipe” over at Natasha’s Kitchen. I’m still exploring her blog, but there are a lot of interesting recipes there. Ukrainian and Russian recipes. Recipes I’ve never heard of. Awesome recipes.

The Chebureki recipe sounded super easy and tasty.

Look how good this looks!

Yuummmm! (Don’t look at the bottom one! It ended up a little over-done!)

OK, so this is what you “need” to make Chebureki. (And I use the word “need” lightly because you can modify this recipe to add/subtract anything you want!)

Ingredients:

1. Uncooked Tortillas
2. Ground Meat (Natasha uses half pork, half beef – I prefer turkey myself.)
3. Three (3) TBSP milk
4. One (1) tsp salt
5. 1/4 tsp pepper
6. Green onions (chopped)
7. Fresh Parsley
8. Fresh Cilantro

So, basically, you take your ground meat and mix everything together and the hard part is done!
Lena’s recipe calls for 1 lb of each type of meat (total of 2lbs), but this time I just used 1 lb total. I wasn’t thinking, so I didn’t half any of the other ingredients. (Whoops?) and it still turned out fine. The first time I cooked this, I forgot to add the milk, salt and pepper. Still good! You really can’t mess up this step.

Mix everything together! You really don’t need much of the Parsley and Cilantro. A little bit goes a LONG way. If you buy one bunch of each from the grocery store you’ll still have a TON left over. Now I’m thinking of what I can use it for in other recipes this week!

Once your meat is all mixed together nicely (I used my hands, the spoon does next to nothing!) you’re ready for your tortillas.

It took some searching but I finally found the uncooked tortillas at Costco, in the refrigerated section by the cheese! I’ve heard they also have them at Walmart. They do NOT have them at Target (at least not where I live!) and also not at either of my local grocery stores.Warning: These rip easily – they’re not cooked!
If you can’t find the raw tortillas and still want to try this, you can use soft pre-cooked tortillas but you need to press VERY firmly to get them stuck together. And when you cook them, chances are you’re going to have the meat spill out into the oil and a hot mess to deal with. I’ve been there. They were still delish though!

Lay out your tortilla and GLOB that meat mixture onto half of it, leaving enough space to allow you to seal the ends shut.

Like this! I used the spoon to scoop and gently hold the tortilla down. The spatula worked quite well for spreading the mixture.

Now it’s time to close the shell.
I filled a cup with a little bit of water and dipped my (clean) finger in the water and ran it along the edges of the shell. This helps it stay closed. You can also use egg whites. I was too lazy to do that, though that’s what I use on Won-Tons when I make them.

Careful! Those tortillas will rip! *Evidence*

Fold the tortilla in half and press along the edges with your finger. Then take a fork and press the edge together. As I said above, you don’t want this sucker opening in the oil! Ouch!

Once your Chebureki is sealed you’re ready to cook! You’re going to want a pan filled with enough oil to coat one side of the Chebureki. Place your tortilla in and cook on medium heat about 3 minutes. Then flip and cook the other side for another 3 minutes. I’m not sure if it’s my stove or what, but as I was cooking these the stove seemed to continue to heat up and therefor cooked faster. Keep an eye on it and when its golden brown it should be done. If you’re unsure if the meat is done, you can always stab a meat thermometer through the edge (where it’s sealed) that’s what I did and even when I only cooked 2 minutes on each side the thermometer was still coming up at about 165*.

I used my large pan so that I could cook two at a time and get done quicker! The first time I cooked them I used the small pan that only fit one. It took FOREVER!Note: When you remove each from the hot oil, place on paper towel to absorb the excess oil. I stacked mine like this and it worked like a charm. 

As you can see in the photo above, one Chebureki was put in before the other. I stuck one in, set the timer for the 3 minutes, then prepared the other. When the 3 minutes were up, I flipped the first one and placed the second one in. Set the timer for another 3 minutes. This saved time, prepping the next ones as the last one cooks. The first time I made them I put them all together ahead of time. I’ll be doing it this way again in the future!

My favorite thing about these Chebureki is that they taste SO much like the meat filled Won-Tons of my youth. I LOVE making Won-Tons but they’re so small and it’s a lot of work. With the Chebureki you get the same great taste but with less work!
The Verdict?

Everyone loves these!
Allison and Miranda both ate them up.
I have a way to use up the ground meat now (woohoo!)
And The Husband enjoyed them as well! His only complaint? There’s no “stuff” in the meat, besides the herbs. He’s requested that I add something to separate the meat. We’ve agreed next time to try adding some bean sprouts (yuummmm) or maybe some shredded carrot.

The first time I made these I also added tomato to mine and that was delish.

Oh, and these are great dipped in Sweet and Sour Sauce if you’re like me…. or hot sauce if you’re like The Husband!

Allison chowing down!

Miranda is my little carnivore. She ended up pulling the meat right out of the shell and eating just that! *smh*

DIRECTIONS:
1. Combine ingredients in bowl, stir (or use hands to mush together.)
2. Place along half of tortilla, allowing rough space to close it.
3. Rub water along edges of tortilla and close shut. Use fork to press sides together.
4. Pre-heat oil on stove – medium heat – then add tortillas, flipping after about 3 minutes. It should be golden brown.
5. Cook second side for about 3 minutes until golden brown.
6. Place on paper towel to blot off excess oil. Cook next Chebureki.
7. Enjoy! (Careful! They’re hot!)

Note: I’m not sure how well these freeze yet. I saved 2 1/2 tonight and froze them. I’ll try baking them in the oven to re-heat them soon and see how they turn out!

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