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Bunny Proofing

Former Bunny Entrance

Former Bunny Entrance

OK, so clearly the marigolds are a laughable solution to our scourge of bunnies.  So we’re on to plan B (and C, and D).  I purchased a boat-load of Liquid Fence and I hope to give an honest consumer review after I use it.  However, I’ve been told that bunnies are persistent little buggers, so in addition to the liquid fence, we’ve put up a literal fence.  A cage fence.  My handy husband bought some small-opening caging from the hardware store and used it to block the holes in the fence that the bunnies were using as a back-door entry straight into our garden.  He also caged the bottom third or so of our metal fence gates.  All in all, our back yard is pretty much physically blocked off to tiny woodland creatures that would make a meal of my vegetable plants.

Ordinary Gate?

Ordinary Gate?

I really like how subtle the caging is.  I thought it would be much more obvious, but its not noticeable until you get pretty close.

Bunny-Proof Gate

Bunny-Proof Gate

I hope the bunnies don’t go running head-long into the cages!

Oh THERE it is!

Oh THERE it is!

As you can see, we used the ever-useful zip-ties to affix the cage to the fence.  Shockingly, this solution was my idea.  I go for simple crafts, not-involving power tools.

But we still plan to employ the liquid fence as well as blood meal just in case they do find a way in, which I have full faith that they will.  For those of you wondering about the blood meal, the handy husband found, during his research the morning of the bunny uprising, that blood meal is an effective bunny repellent (in its dry form).  It is also a good source of nitrogen when it breaks down in the soil.  So even if it doesn’t work to repel the bunnies, and seriously, I hope the liquid and cage fences do their job, it will act as a fertilizer anyway.

No Bunnies Admitted

No Bunnies Admitted

In other gardening news, the seedlings have been moved to the deck to become accustomed to being outside.  Its odd but I think they’re getting sunburned.  All of the leaves that had developed solely under the plant lights in the garage have turned brown, yet the new leaves developing outside are healthy and green.  We’re thinking it has something to do with the UV exposure outside that was lacking in the garage.  Anyone have experience/thoughts on this?  Clearly I have some more research to do!

Tomatoes

Tomatoes

Cucumbers

Cucumbers

It seems to be primarily the “seed-leaves” that are affected, and I know they’ll fall off anyway.  I’m hoping its not a big deal.

Despite how difficult and time-consuming all of this is this year, it has been very rewarding.  And I love thinking of how much easier it will be next year!

Summer Squash Spaghetti

Summer Squash Spaghetti

Summer Squash Spaghetti

I know its not quite summer yet, but I feel like I need to start getting warmed up for the months of non-stop zucchini production by getting reacquainted with making my old summer standby- Summer Squash Spaghetti.  I made this up while I was living in Tucson out of laziness and the desire to add more vegetables to my diet.

When I moved back to be in Kansas with my husband, I didn’t figure that he’d go for a dish like this.  One time for dinner, I was at a total loss for what to make and he told me to just make something I would have made for myself in Tucson.  So I made us up a pan of the squash spaghetti and guess what…he actually liked it…a lot!  I know, I know, I was just as shocked as you are.  I thought I’d have to trick him into eating this many vegetables in one sitting by covering them in melted cheese and sprinkles, but to my utter delight, this has become a meal he frequently requests!

Just tonight as I was making dinner, he came by and said that he had been looking forward to this specific meal since we haven’t had it in a long time.  See?  It warmed my heart to hear such praise for a vegetarian dish, heavy on the vegetables.

This recipe is super simple, its all about the ingredients.

The Veggies

The Veggies

The Pasta

The Pasta

Add in some olive oil, salt, pepper, and grated Parmesan cheese, and that’s literally all there is, folks.

Cooking Veggies

Cooking Veggies

Saute the vegetables in a good helping of olive oil – its the only “sauce” there is, so you can’t skimp too much – and add a generous pinch of salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper.  I like to saute them over fairly high heat so the squash and onions get slightly browned and carmelized.  The garlic is grated in a little later so it won’t burn.  You can finely mince the garlic, but I find the micro-plane the perfect tool for grating it down.

Adding the Garlic

Adding the Garlic

Cooked Veggies

Cooked Veggies

Once the veggies are done, simply pile them atop some cooked spaghetti and top with grated Parmesan.  You can of course use whatever pasta your little heart desires.  I’ve tried it with whole wheat Penne and thought it was good, but the Mister isn’t so hot on the whole wheat pasta.

Veggie Pasta for Two

Veggie Pasta for Two

Prep Ranking: #1 – Make on the Fly (it takes about 15 minutes start to finish)
Tastiness Grade: 8/10

Simple recipe after the jump.

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Pulled Pork

Pulled Pork

I pulled out the slow cooker once again.  I think its the best way to make a meal with a big ‘wow-factor’ with the least effort.  I’ve fallen hard for my slow cooker.  Since I’ve discovered the wonders of slow cooking, my new favorite food is probably any meat that has cooked for 8 hours and has the ability to melt on your tongue.   It is truly amazing how a cheap cut of meat can turn into the most mouth watering treat when you let it cook for 8 hours at low heat with a bit of seasoning.

I started the pork last night, letting it sit coated in the dry spice rub overnight.  I know its not exactly in the tradition of K.C. bbq (which is more sauce-based), but I really like the flavor of meats cooked with dry rub.  I found a recipe for a spice rub mix, originally published in Cook’s Illustrated.  I of course made my own alterations to it.  Here’s what I ended up with.

BBQ Dry Rub Mix, enough for a 3-4lb pork shoulder

1 Tbsp Chili Powder (medium hot)
2 Tbsp Sweet Paprika
1/2 Tbsp ground Corriander
1/2 Tbsp ground Cumin
1/2 Tbsp ground White Pepper
1/2 Tbsp dried Oregano
1 tsp ground Black Pepper
1 tsp Cayenne Pepper
1 tsp Allspice
2 tsp Granulated Garlic
1 Tbsp Salt
2 Tbsp Brown Sugar
1 Tbsp White Sugar

Combine everything in a gallon sized ziploc.  Once the spices are mixed, add the pork roast to the bag and either using your hands or smooshing it around in the bag, thoroughly coat the pork with the rub.  Let it sit in your fridge overnight.  Yes, you must plan ahead for this one.  But oh, is it worth it!

Spice Rub

Spice Rub

There's a roast in there, I swear

There's a roast in there, I swear

The next morning, transfer the roast to a 5-6qt slow cooker.  I cut mine into a couple of big hunks, but this probably wasn’t necessary.  Add 1/4 cup water to get the juices going and cook on low for about 8 hours.  When time’s close to being up, give it a poke with a fork.  If it disintegrates under slight pressure from a fork – its done!  The pork should be absolutely falling apart.

Cooked Pork

Cooked Pork

Transfer it to a bowl or a plate and commense shredding.  Remove any big hunks of fat (duh).  I added back about 1/2 cup of the juice from the crock pot.  It added moisture and a lot of flavor to the meat.

Shredded Pork

Shredded Pork

The shredded pork is wonderful eaten on its own or simply on hamburger buns, which is how we enjoyed it tonight.  I also made potato salad for the side (straight from Betty Crocker, tried and true).

Potato Salad

Potato Salad

And for full disclosure, I also made a chocolate cake tonight.  The decadence of it all.  It was a very belated birthday cake for my husband.  He requested chocolate cake with chocolate frosting.  With all of the other food I was preparing today, I asked him if it’d be OK for me to use a box mix.  He said – of course.  I then asked if I could use store bought frosting.  Once again – fine.  So I went to the store to buy the box mix and frosting.  However, when I picked up the frosting and checked out the (scary) nutrition label, I noticed that it actually still had trans-fats. A lot of trans-fat.  Can you believe that?  I just couldn’t bring myself to make a cake for my husband that was chalk-full of trans-fats.  So I bought the box mix and made chocolate buttercream frosting from scratch.  Delicious.

For the Pulled Pork:
Prep Ranking: #3 – Slow Cook, Minimal Effort
Tastiness Grade: 10/10 – I could eat this all day long

I was feeling pretty darned good about myself yesterday.  The garden beds are nearly ready for planting, and our beautiful bunny repellent border was planted.  Marigolds…everyone told me marigolds work wonders against bunnies.

So you may imagine my suprise and horror when I peered out my bedroom window first thing this morning to find not one, not two, but THREE bunnies hanging out at the marigold border as if it was the hot new night club in town.  And I believe that one was munching on the marigold leaves.

Paparazzi Shot of the Offending Bunny

Paparazzi Shot of the Offending Bunny

Here is the ensuing conversation I had with my barely awake husband:

me: “What the, WHAT????????”

sleepy husband: “What’s going on?”

me: “There are three bunnies hanging out at my marigold border, and one is eating the flowers!!!”

(I quickly dress and throw on some shoes)

sleepy husband (yelling at me as I descend the stairs): “I bet there are some bunny repellents we can buy”

me (in my crazy voice): “I bet there are some GUNS I can buy!”

sleepy husband (yelling as I grab the camera and leave the house): “This is why there are waiting periods!”

I was incredulous.  These bunnies were essentially giving my marigold border the middle finger.

The Defiant One

The Defiant One

As I write this, my slightly less sleepy husband is researching products which we can purchase (ammo not included) that will repel the bunnies.  So far he has found a number of products both natural and chemical in nature, as well as blood meal and chicken wire.  As you can see from the above picture, there is a wonderful bunny-sized entrance straight into our garden.  We will be patching that either with a large rock or some chicken wire.  The blood meal is supposed to repel animals (maybe its bunny blood meal) and the natural product sprays employ substances such as rotten egg and garlic extract.

I will certainly keep everyone updated on what works and what doesn’t, because if we can’t learn from eachothers’ mistakes, what are we left to do? Yup, purchase pellet guns.

Bunny Repellent Border

Sunny Marigolds

Sunny Marigolds

One piece of advice for my vegetable garden that I seem to get over and over is to plant marigolds to keep the bunnies away.  And boy do we need bunny repellent.  I see several a day and I’m sure they’re just counting down the hours until I put those tender and inviting seedlings into the ground.  And oh my, how heart broken I will be if the months of love and devotion I have given my seedlings go down in the mouth of a bunny.

New Garden

Today, my husband and I spent hours installing a border of edging stones, followed by a border of marigolds in our soon-to-be vegetable garden.  Hard work.  I worked a landscaping job the summer when I was 16.  I do NOT remember my back and knees hurting this much.  I suppose there is a difference between a 28 year old back and a 16 year old back.  Ugh.

But the backache seems worth it when you step back and look at what you’ve accomplished.

Beautiful Border

Next weekend? Installation of actual vegetable plants!  Provided that no cold weather is in the forecast.  I can’t wait!

And you can see more of the landscaping we did at our Becky&Greg blog.

more marigolds

Italian Panini

Italian Panini

More Griddlin’ going on in the kitchen of Dr. Domestic.  I was sitting in a scientific seminar today, at 4:30pm on a Friday, and my mind drifted off to what I was going to make for dinner.  Don’t judge me, is your mind really on the ball that close to quittin’ time on Friday afternoon?  My brain (guided by my growling tummy) kept coming back to paninis.  So easy and so good, and the husband is always up for it.  I settled on Italian Paninis.  The options for fillings are endless, so I just picked my favorites, and some of Greg’s favorites too.

The most time consuming part of these (by far) was preparing the balsamic carmelized onions.  When the hubby and I go to one of our favorite local restaraunts, Ingredient, we always get pizza with balsamic carmelized onions.  And every time we taste them, Greg says, “Oh these are so good, you should make them at home.”

So I finally tried it tonight.  Carmelized onions are not hard, they just take a bit of time.  Mostly unsupervised time, thankfully.  My onions turned from this:

uncooked onions

uncooked onions

To this, in about 45 minutes.

carmelized onions

carmelized onions

Here’s how: Thinly slice 2 medium sized onions and put them in a non-stick skillet with about 2 tsp olive oil.  Add about 1/4 tsp of salt and 1 tsp sugar and allow them to cook over medium low heat, stirring every few minutes, for about 45 minutes.  About 10 minutes before they are done, add about 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar.  Once they are done, taste for salt/sugar and adjust to your liking.

mmmm, balsamic-y goodness

mmmm, balsamic-y goodness

And after the onions were done cooking, it was easy sandwich assembly.

First layers: Provolone cheese and pepperoni

Layers #1 and 2

Layers #1 and 2

Next up, hard Salami and peppers.  I chose the hot pickeled banana peppers (on the left), Greg opted for the sweet roasted red peppers (on the right).

Layers #3 and 4

Layers #3 and 4

And finally, fresh basil and the carmelized onions on the flip side.

Layers #5 and 6

Layers #5 and 6

Now just lightly butter the outsides and toss them on a panini press, heated to medium.  They cook in about 8 minutes.  Alternatively, you can cook them in a big skillet, weighted down with a foil covered brick or cast iron pan.

I don’t need to give you a recipe for these right?  Just put what you want to on them!

Instead, I’ll leave you with a couple lessons learned from my experience tonight.  Cut up the basil before putting it in the sandwich.  The large leaves kept coming out of the sandwiches whole as we’d bite into them.  Also, use hearty, crusty bread.  The sourdough bread I used was a bit flimsy and wasn’t quite up for the task of handling the load of ingredients I saddled it with.

Otherwise, the dinner I made tonight turned out to be very tasty.  On the side we had some kettle-fried salt and black pepper potato chips.  Have you guys tried those?  They’re dangerously good!

dinner

Prep Ranking: #2 – Weeknight Fare
Tastiness Grade: 8.5/10
– better bread would bump it up slightly!

Ready for the World

Ready for the World

When I went to check on my growing seedlings this morning, I noticed that their plant light was burnt out.  My poor babies!  In the dark all day and and NOT PHOTOSYNTHESIZING!!!!  The horror.  How am I supposed to get lots of fresh vegetables without photosynthesis?  So after I got home from work, and before we walked to the hardware store to buy new plant lights, I brought the babies out to be nourished by the natural sun…outside…out of the garage.  They grow up so fast (sniff, sniff).

So here are some photos of their first big day in the big bad world.  I put them on tables so at least the big, bad bunnies couldn’t get to them.  And we have a lot of bunnies around here!

plants 1

Peppers, Zucchini and Canteloupe

plants 2

Tomatoes, Okra and Cucumbers

tomatoes

tomatoes

peppers

peppers

zucchini

zucchini

cucumber

cucumber

Aren’t they beauties??  I’m so proud of how well they’ve grown!  Yes, yes, its completely true.  I’m misplacing un-fulfilled maternal instincts on cucumber plants.  Hell, you should see how many thousands of cat pictures I take.  I have lots of love to give, and if it must be put in the direction of okra and tomatoes? So be it, they will be very well cared for little plants!