Yesterday I picked spinach for the first time this summer. We planted 3 small rows this time, although I’m sure it won’t produce enough for our family. Believe it or not, our sons’ favorite meal would be liver and onions, mashed potatoes, and spinach! It was really nice spinach too, although the bugs are starting to chew on the leaves….time to get out the natural bug spray Kevin!! I haven’t seen what’s doing the chewing yet, but we use a spray that has cayenne in it, and the critters don’t seem to like that too much. I use spinach in so many things, when the boys don’t eat it all. Spinach lasagna is one of my favorites, although I usually use it fresh and not from the freezer. Spinach salad with hot bacon dressing…yum! Fresh spinach on sandwiches in place of lettuce (although I could go out and pick that to use too).

Here’s a spinach recipe that I can’t wait to try. I found it on thekitchn.com


Spinach Lasagna Roll Ups

Makes four 2-roll servings


6 lasagna noodles
2 cups finely chopped baby spinach, about 3 ounces
1 cup low-fat cottage cheese
2/3 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (or your favorite)
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1/2 tsp. salt Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup spaghetti sauce

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Light grease a 9×9-inch baking dish. Cook the lasgana noodles in plenty of salted boiling water according to the package directions. Remove when they are al dente and lay out on a clean towel to dry and cool. Mix the spinach, cottage cheese, 1/3 cup shredded cheese, Parmesan cheese, garlic, salt, and generous amount of black pepper. Divide the spinach and cheese mixture evenly between the noodles, spreading the mixture over the entire length of each noodle. Roll up the noodles from the bottom to top and place in pan, side by side, touching. Pour the spaghetti sauce over the rolls and sprinkle the remaining 1/3 cup shredded cheese over the top. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until headed through and the sauce is bubbling.

Today I’m off to pick and work up the kale. First time we’ve grown it, so I’m curious to see how it turns out…will let you know 🙂

Update On The Gardens

I hope you all had a great Memorial Day weekend…we had beautiful weather here in Iowa! We had a nice, quiet weekend here at home with Cody, Travis, and Kelsey….was nice to have everyone here for a long weekend!

We’ve definitely been busy around here the past few weeks in the garden. Since Memorial weekend was so nice, we got a good bit planted. We put in cucumbers (both for fresh eating and pickling), more radishes. The green beans and the lima beans were planted. Kevin planted a few ground cherries and the celery. I got in more garlic, hot peppers (jalapeno, ancho, Anaheim, cayenne, and habanero) and some bell peppers, although the bells aren’t looking too good yet.

We’ve also been eating a ton of asparagus, and I made a huge rhubarb strawberry crumble for supper on Sunday night…yum!!

Thought I’d post a few pics of how the garden looks after the weekend…as Kevin says, as soon as we finish hoeing and weeding, we quick take some pics while it looks nice….it definitely doesn’t look this way all the time  lol 🙂

This one shows the potatoes, broccoli, and cauliflower. There’s a new rhubarb patch, horseradish, and chives to the left of the cauliflower (out of the picture).


This picture is of the “big garden”…I think it’s 75′ x 75′. On the far left (out of this picture) are two 75′ foot rows of asparagus, green and lima beans (newly planted), garlic and more radishes (newly planted), and hot/green bell peppers. This shows a small portion of the tomatoes we have in plus the cabbage and onions.




Closest garden has lettuce, garlic, kale, brussel sprouts, more onions, carrots, beets, spinach, and 4 tomatoes that we planted way back in April….and 2 of them have on blooms finally 🙂  The farther small garden patch has peas, kohlrabi, and newly planted radishes. In the black tubs on each end, I have my herb garden….really small this year, but if it turns into anything, maybe I’ll convince Kevin to till me up a big patch for next year 🙂



I also came across a canning inventory sheet on http://www.sbcanning.com/  (fabulous website), and I thought I’d share it with you. I’m going to try to remember to record everything I can and freeze this year just to see exactly how much we do. I did this one other year a long time ago, and I think I used something like 650+ canning lids and forgot to count how many freezer bags we went through. Anyway…here’s the link for the inventory sheet:

Canning Inventory Sheet

Rainy Days Are Baking Days

Today was a dreary, rainy day, so what better thing to do but do some baking! I’ve been working with sourdough for about a month now, and instead of using my bread machine today, which I almost always do because I never have the time to do otherwise, I decided to break out my baking stone for a round loaf of sourdough bread.

I have a ton of recipes for different types of bread but not too many for sourdough, so I did an Internet search and found a terrific recipe at anoregoncottage.com.


easy sourdough artisan bread

Here’s the recipe:

Easy Sourdough Artisan Bread


3 cups flour (white whole wheat, whole wheat, unbleached, or a combo)

1 1/4 cup water (may need less if your starter is “wetter”- mine is a 100% hydration starter, fed an equal ratio of flour to water)

3/4 cup active sourdough starter

1 tablespoon honey

1 1/2 teaspoon salt

Mix all ingredients together in the bowl of a stand mixer just until combined and then let sit for 15 minutes.

Using a dough hook, knead for 5 minutes.

Transfer to a medium-sized bowl, lightly coated with oil. Cover with plastic and let rise for 3 hours, turning and folding the dough once or twice.

Remove dough, turn and fold again, and place it back in the bowl, seam-side up. Let rise for another 2 hours.

After the second rise, place a square of parchment on a cookie sheet and gently shape the dough into a ball or oval (using lots of flour, as the dough is moist) and set on the parchment. Make sure there’s a good coating of flour on the top, as this will make slicing the top later easier.

Set an enameled, cast iron dutch oven into a cold oven and turn heat to 450 degrees Fahrenheit (alternately, use a baking stone), and set the timer for 40 minutes.

When the timer goes off, slash the top of the loaf with a serrated knife (in 2 to 3 places), and transfer it to the hot pot by holding the edges of the parchment (or stone).

Replace the hot lid and bake for 12 to 13 minutes. Remove the lid and continue baking for another 13 to 14 minutes, until golden brown (if using a stone, Gina at Homejoys uses an old roaster lid to cover her loaves to get a similar result!).

Remove to a wire rack to cool at least 30 minutes before cutting.

Makes 1 loaf

After I got the bread going, I was looking for something else to bake, so I decided to pull out my trusty, go-to New York-Style Cheesecake recipe. I first made this cheesecake recipe when Kevin and I first were married over 20 years ago. I had borrowed a bunch of cookbooks from the local library, and I came across this recipe. While I’ve since made hundreds of cheesecakes in lots of different flavors, this one is still one of my most favorites.
ricotta cheesecake
Ricotta Cheesecake

2 (8-ounce) packages of cream cheese, softened

1 (16-ounce) container ricotta cheese

1 1/2 cups white sugar

4 eggs, room temperature

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon good vanilla extract

3 tablespoons cornstarch

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/2 cup butter (not margarine), melted and cooled

1 pint sour cream


Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly grease a 9- or 10-inch springform pan.

Mix the cream cheese and ricotta cheese together in a mixing bowl until well combined. Stir in the sugar, eggs, lemon juice, vanilla, cornstarch, and butter. Add the sour cream last and stir. Pour the mixture into the prepared springform pan.

Place springform pan in larger cake pan (I use my extra-large lasagna pan). Fill pan with boiling water so that it reaches halfway up the sides of the springform pan.

Bake in the preheated for 1 hour. Turn the oven off, and leave in the over for 1 hour more. (This helps prevent the top from cracking.) Allow cheesecake to cool completely in the refrigerator before serving. Top with your choice of fruit toppings, or enjoy as is!

Serves 8.

Spring Gardening

Spring gardening is well underway at the Wood household. We started earlier this spring starting seeds…some of which we’d never started from seed before. I spent the winter looking at seed catalogs and finding companies who only sold heirloom, non-GMO seeds. I firmly believe our health is at stake, and the first step in becoming healthier is to start in our garden. Plus, it was just plain fun again to be picking out seeds 🙂

Kevin and I have been gardening for over 20 years now, ever since we were married. Both our families had gardened and canned every summer, but I was never overly interested when I was growing up. But as we started our family, I became obsessed with making sure I knew where our family’s food was coming from.

This year we are back to our huge gardens again, after taking a couple years off when we really had no time due to us having a quilt shop…and boy do our cupboards show it! So, my goal this year is to fill up all the shelves (and maybe a few more!) with home canned goodies to cut back on our food bill.

So far we have established some grape vines…I actually wanted the grapes for the leaves, as I use them when I make dill pickles, but this year they’re finally setting on some grapes! We have Concord and Niagara varieties, so we will hopefully have some grapes to munch on this year, and maybe even some jelly if I’m lucky!

Our strawberry patch bit the dust a few years ago thanks to the resident deer population, although I did see a few straggler strawberry blooms in the patch this year. We’re not planning on replanting them (have tried 3 different times) as the deer always seem to get to them before we do. I have found a nearby pick-your-own strawberry patch, though, so we will not be going without them!

The fruit trees are all in bloom, and even our newest trees (Stanley plums and Northstar cherry) have blooms this year….I see pies in my future! We also have several apple varieties, pears, peaches, and apricots in the backyard that all produce yummy fruit. Our black raspberries also have sent up new canes, so I’m looking forward to them this year.

New additions to our “orchard” this year include dewberries (Kevin’s favorite), huckleberries, blueberries, gooseberries, and elderberries. Of course, after the gooseberries arrives, Kevin tells me that we have tons of wild gooseberries growing on our place….a fact I never knew! One day he took me around to show me all the gooseberries, and he’s right….if they all produce a small amount, I will be overflowing with gooseberries!! Anyone have any favorite recipes they would like to share??? I have a feeling I’m going to need a few.

For the veggies, we have quite a bit in the ground so far, with the later crops yet to be planted when it’s a bit warmer. Peas, radishes, kohlrabi, spinach, beets, kale, carrots, onions, potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, lettuce, and tomatoes are in and doing pretty well (even after the hail storm this afternoon). We’ve been enjoying our asparagus and rhubarb too. Yet to be planted are cucumbers, butternut squash, zucchini, spaghetti squash, pumpkins, bell peppers, hot peppers, ground cherries, pole green beans, lima beans, and bush green beans. We have grown popcorn in the past but don’t need to this year, and we don’t plant sweet corn because of all the deer and raccoons around. We do buy massive quantities, though, from a farmer friend who has the most absolutely sweetest corn there is so we can freeze a bunch of it. I’m sure I’ve forgotten something and will have to squeeze it in the garden somewhere!

I’ve also planted a big (for us anyway!) herb garden. I use a lot of herbs when I cook and when I can spaghetti sauce and salsa, so why not grow my own to use fresh? I put out lots of garlic, rosemary, basil, oregano, thyme, chives, parsley, and cilantro. I tried growing from seed some medicinal herbs too, but those didn’t turn out as well as I’d hoped. Maybe I’ll try again next year, as I really want to establish a medicinal herb garden. I do still have calendula and echinacea seeds to put out when it’s warmer, so hopefully they will turn into something yet.

Blueberries on a Winter’s Day

This weekend I’m faced with a project I’d been looking forward to, and also dreading, for 20 years….my oldest son is bringing his girlfriend home to “meet the family.” My oldest is a level-headed kind of man….he was old and wise beyond his years when he was 4, and I’m so proud of him now. If he’s found someone he wants us to meet, she must be very special.

I knew something was up a couple weekends ago when he said he wouldn’t be home that weekend because he was going with his girlfriend to meet her parents….suddenly I’m frozen in time wondering where my “little 9 lb. 4 oz.” baby went. I’m sure you mothers out there can relate to this feeling. You’re so proud of the son you raised, but you’re not quite ready for the next phase in his adulthood….him starting his own family. You want to hang on to that little man just a little bit longer, but you know you can’t. You move from his mother, who was the source of comfort and information in the beginning, to the person who must stand by on the sidelines and watch as your child begins that walk of life that you’ve prepared him for. I’m actually looking forward to meeting her. Anyone who has captivated my son’s attention like this must be someone special, so I’m looking forward to accepting her into our family.

So….for this momentous occasion, I’m planning to (hopefully!) knock it out of the park with my supper and Sunday brunch menus, because if she’s going to hang with my son, she better know how to keep his stomach happy!! (And I will supply her the recipes to do just that  lol)  For supper, I’m planning a traditional lasagna only made with turkey burger (as requested) and lots of spinach. That’s how I got my boys to eat some veggies when they were little….just stuff those veggies into every dish you make, and most of the time they won’t even know the veggies are there! For breakfast/brunch on Sunday morning, I’m going to use a recipe that I got from my oldest stepdaughter. We had visited her and her family one weekend, and she made this most amazing breakfast French toast. My boys refused to leave until I had the recipe so that I could make it for them at home!! I’ve seen various similar recipes for this out on the web, and I have no idea where she got this particular recipe. All I know is that it is a homerun for a breakfast casserole…..and I hope you enjoy it as much as we have!


12 slices day-old bread, cut into 1-inch
2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, cut
into 1 inch cubes
1 cup fresh blueberries
12 eggs, beaten
2 cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup water
1 cup fresh blueberries
1 tablespoon butter
1. Lightly grease a 9×13 inch baking dish. Arrange half the bread cubes in the dish and top with cream cheese cubes. Sprinkle 1 cup blueberries over the cream cheese and top with remaining bread cubes.
2. In a large bowl, mix the eggs, milk, vanilla extract, and syrup. Pour over the bread cubes. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
3. Remove the bread cube mixture from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before baking. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
4. Cover and bake 30 minutes. Uncover and continue baking 25 to 30 minutes until center is firm and surface is lightly browned.
5. In a medium saucepan, mix the sugar, cornstarch, and water. Bring to a boil. Stirring constantly, cook 3 to 4 minutes. Mix in the remaining 1 cup blueberries. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes, until the blueberries burst. Stir in the butter, and pour over the baked French toast

I Need Chocolate!

You know those days….you have a craving for something sweet, but not for just any old thing. You crave CHOCOLATE!! I had that kind of a day today. Work was tough and long. It was cold outside (although definitely warmer today than it’s been in a while). I needed comfort food, and when I say comfort food, I’m usually talking about dessert! 🙂

So I drag out my recipe box and thumb through it until I find my favorite go-to, stand-by, gotta-to-make-it-now brownie recipe. I’ve made these brownies for so long (since high school, and that’s been a while!) that I’ve forgotten where I even got the recipe. I’m sure it came from someone in my hometown of Lenox, IA…..so many wonderful cooks in that town! Heck, when I was in high school, we actually wanted the recipes that the high school cooks used…seriously! They actually cooked real food, not like the stuff the poor kids in school have to tolerate today. Oh to have that homemade pizza recipe….their chocolate chip cookies…and their chili and vegetable soups (both completely homemade) were used for many a fundraising event.

But…I digress. Today was about chocolate. Ooey, gooey chocolate brownies. So if you’re salivating like I was earlier today when thinking about these, here you go:

Super-Easy One-Bowl Brownies

2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
4 eggs
2 cups flour
1 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Mix all together until completely combined. Pour into an 8 x 10-inch greased pan. Bake at 350 degrees F. for 30 minutes, or until they test done. Frost with your favorite frosting/icing when cooled.

Don’t let the oil amount fool you…it’s correct. Really a delicious brownie…and if you can’t wait for them to cool long enough to frost, they’re just as delicious unfrosted, right out of the pan while still warm! Pass me the milk please 🙂

Apple Cheddar Squash Soup

The winter here in Iowa has been absolutely brutal the last few weeks, and when the weather turns as nasty as it has been, I immediately think of soup for dinner. It’s easy to do…you can double/triple as you need, and the leftovers (if any) are mighty tasty.

We had a bumper crop of apples last fall…so much so that the local deer population got fat on the ones that spoiled! Now to just keep them out of the garden come spring planting time! A favorite soup recipe here is this Apple Cheddar Squash Soup. We always seem to have apples (spring frosts permitting), and we always grow butternut squash (our favorite kind of winter squash). I found this recipe in Food Network Magazine, and it really was perfect for our family.

                         Apple-Cheddar-Squash Soup

Serving Size: 4     Preparation Time:  0:28 minutes     



 5 Tbs.               unsalted butter
   1                       medium onion, thinly sliced
   2                       medium apples, thinly sliced
   1                       large white potato, diced
   1-1/2  cups       chopped peeled butternut squash, fresh or frozen
                            Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  1/2  tsp.             dried sage
  2 Tbs                 all-purpose flour
  1/3  cup             apple cider
   4 cups              low-sodium chicken broth
   1 cup                milk
   2  ounces          thinly sliced prosciutto, torn into bite-size pieces
   2  cups             grated sharp cheddar cheese, plus more for garnish
                           Chopped chives, for garnish (optional)
                           Crusty bread, for serving (optional)


Melt 4 tablespoons butter in a large pot over medium-low heat and add the onion, apples, potato and squash. Season with salt and pepper and cook until the onion is soft, about 8 minutes. Stir in the sage and flour. Add the cider and cook over high heat, stirring, until thickened. Add the broth and milk, cover and bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer and cook, stirring, until the potato is soft, 8 to 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the prosciutto and cook until crisp, turning occasionally, about 2 minutes. Drain on paper towels.

Add the cheese to the soup and stir over medium-low heat until melted. Puree in a blender in batches until smooth; season with salt and pepper. Garnish with the prosciutto, more cheese and chives, if using. Serve with bread, if desired.