Happy Garden – Take It Up A Notch!

Ever look at a garden with envy because it just looked so… perfect? Well, not ALL of that is the skill of the gardener, but a few tricks of the trade that really improve the health and looks of your plants! Check out a few of our favorites below and try them out in your garden this spring!

 

  1. Cucumbers taste sweeter when planted near sunflowers – Both plants require similar soil conditions and the tall stalks of the sunflowers give cucumber plants something supportive to climb.

 

  1. Use crushed up eggs shells as fertilizer – packed with calcium carbonate, the shells work great to enrich the soil

 

  1. Water plants with chamomile tea – used to ward off bacterial and fungal infections to prevent young seedlings from damping off (make sure tea is cool before using)

 

  1. Plant in odd numbers – planting in odd numbers creates a more natural layout and makes plants look larger and healthier

 

  1. Garden by moonlight – experts say planting by moonlight minimizes water waste and causes gardens to grow faster and stronger

 

  1. Plant placement – place shorter plants to the south and taller plants to the north, this prevents plants from casting unwanted shadows over smaller crops

 

  1. Use cooking water for plants – water you use to cook pasta or boil veggies if full of left over vitamins and nutrients (make sure water is cool before using)

Spring Gardening

It’s that time of year again and we’re guessing you feel slightly over-whelmed with where to start with your garden. Let us help you out! Below is a list of reminders of things you should be looking for when you begin your gardening project.

 

  1. Survey the Yard – Take note of clean-up and repairs to be made. Make sure to remove any over-hanging tree limbs and use the mulch from your yard to help boost this year’s gardening soil.

 

  1. Order Tools & Plants – Make note of what tools you do and don’t have, order needed tools and order your plants/buy the seeds you plan to use in this year’s garden ahead of time.

 

  1. Get Ready To Mow – Service your leaf blower or lawn mower; make sure they are prepped and ready to go. Before mowing, pick up debris around the yard.

 

  1. Soil Test – Take several samples from different planting areas to test the pH. Implement dolomitic lime to raise the pH and elemental sulfur to lower it.

 

  1. Prepare New Beds – Remove sod or weeks and debris, spread a shallow to medium layer of compost and any amendments over soil and mix into bed about 10-12 inches with spading fork.

 

  1. Plant & Fertilize

Ice Cream Cakes for Summer!

With summer around the corner, cool summer treats tend to sneak into our minds. On a hot summer day, all we want is a popsicle, frozen yogurt, ice cream bars, and more! Who wouldn’t want to indulge in those treats we have been so fond of since childhood – that’s one of the best parts of summer! Check out Kelly’s recipe for ice cream cake below, then check out her page Cups + Spoonfuls fore more ice cream cake links.

Classic Ice Cream Cake + 5 Ice Cream Cake Links

 

cic0028I turned 36 last week and suddenly it feels like I am on a fast train to 40. One of my best friends called to wish me a happy birthday and said “I can’t believe we are 36.” I hear ya, Bethie. Didn’t we just turn 30? Part of me would love to be 30 again; mainly because I looked a hell of a lot less tired. At this point, my exhaustion feels like a chronic illness. My 36-year-old self has dark circles under the eyes which, luckily, a good Laura Mercier concealer hides. Each baby has left their mark on my body. C-spider veins. G-bulging belly button. N- thinning hair, and I’m anticipating breasts that point due south once I stop nursing. My stomach and butt are less taut than they were six years ago despite running religiously several times a week and eating quinoa. (Thanks for nothing super grain! Somehow, I thought eating gobs of quinoa and kale would make my ass tighter. No such luck!) Despite my physical changes over the last six years, I’m much happier in my skin today. I get know myself a little more every year. I have things to work on, things that will never change and I ok with it.

On my 36th birthday we went to the beach; me, Bubba and the kids. We played in the water and we looked for treasures. I left them at the shore and took a swim in the ocean and it felt so good, 62 degrees good.  I swam to the sand bar that had formed and stood up. I took a big, deep breath of the salty, warm air and stared out at the horizon for a minute. I always think at moments like this, alone, staring out at the ocean, I’ll have sort of epiphany about life, but I never do. I turned back to see my sweet family waving from the shoreline, calling me back. I swam back feeling exhilarated from the freezing, take your breath away, cold water. We left the beach tired and happy. Bubba made fish tacos for dinner and they were awesome! He offered to make me a cake, but I insisted it wasn’t necessary. Cake not necessary? I know, it sounds crazy. I said that, because I wanted to make an ice cream cake to share with you. I can’t handle to much cake in the house. I just don’t have that kind of will power.

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Just like a Carvel ice cream cake, the center is a thick layer of crunchies.  My “crunchies” are a combination of dark chocolate and chocolate wafer cookie crumbs. This my favorite part of the entire cake. In fact, I could eat just this layer and be happy. The cream frosting tastes just like the frosting you find on store-bought ice cream cakes, except fresher.

This cake is so easy to make and the flavor combinations are endless! I used a combination of vanilla and strawberry ice cream. The only down side to this cake, as with many cakes, you need to plan ahead of time. So plan ahead, be creative and enjoy!

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Classic Ice Cream Cake

barely adapted from Kinfolk Magazine

Serves 10-12, makes a nine-inch cake

Ingredients:

1 quart vanilla ice cream

1 recipe Chocolate Crunches (see recipe below)

9 ounces  chocolate wafer cookies, crushed

1 quart  of a different flavor ice cream, whatever you like ( I used strawberry.)

1 recipe Cream Frosting (see recipe below)

*This cake takes time to freeze so plan ahead before serving!*

Directions:

Place a 9-inch cake ring on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper in the freezer for at least 2 hours. Remove the vanilla ice cream from the freezer and allow to sit at room temperature for about 5 minutes or until a bit soft. Remove the vanilla ice cream from the container and using a spatula spread it evenly across the bottom of the chilled ring.  Freeze ice cream in its ring until completely hard, about 2 hours.

Place 9 ounces of chocolate wafer cookies in a Ziploc bag and seal the bag. Using a rolling-pin crush the cookies. Place the wafer crumbs in a medium bowl and stir into the chocolate topping until the crumbs are completely damp.

Remove the cake ring from the freezer and spread the chocolate crunchies over the vanilla ice cream. *Remember to work quickly!* Freeze for another hour.

Remove second ice cream flavor from the freezer and allow to soften a bit. Remove the ice cream from the container and spread quickly over the chocolate crunches. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to freeze overnight or for a few days.

When ready to serve, remove the metal ring from the spring form pan.(If it is really hard to get off you could use a blow dryer for a few seconds to loosen the ring.) Freeze the cake for another 30 minutes. Decorate your cake with the cream frosting. You can place it back in the freezer until ready to use or serve it immediately. Run your knife under warm water and then cut into the cake. Enjoy!!

Recipe for Dark Chocolate Crunchies

chocolate sauce recipe adapted from This Homemade Life

Ingredients:

2/3 cup good quality dark chocolate chips

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1, 9 ounce box of chocolate wafer cookies, crushed

Directions:

Place chocolate chips and butter in a microwave safe bowl. Heat the chocolate chips and butter in the microwave in 10 second intervals. Stir after every ten seconds until melted and smooth. Set aside and allow to cool to room temperature. When ready to use, stir in chocolate wafer crumbs. Spread evenly over vanilla ice cream layer. (**Do not place sauce in the refrigerator because it will harden!** Can be stored in an air tight container at room temperature for several days.)

Recipe for Cream Frosting

recipe from Kinfolk Magazine

makes about 3 cups

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

2 tbsp. sugar

1 tsp. powdered gelatin

2 tbsp. milk

food coloring – optional

chocolate jimmies or sprinkles optional

Directions:

Chill your mixing bowl. Once the bowl is chilled beat the cream, sugar and vanilla in the chilled bowl until firm peaks form.

Using a small saucepan, soak the gelatin in the milk. Once all the milk is absorbed, heat the gelatin over low heat until it melts. Gently but quickly fold the gelatin into the whipped cream. Use immediately or tint it with a food coloring. Spread over entire cake. If desired, sprinkle with chocolate jimmies. Enjoy!

Mold – Don’t Let It Invade Your Home

Mold

Definition: A furry growth of minute fungal hyphae occurring typically in moist warm conditions, especially on food or other organic matter.

Synonyms: Mildew, fungus, dry rot, must

Sound like something you want in your home, around your loved ones? Didn’t think so.

So what causes mold? Mold requires a special brew of moisture, warmth and food. Because of these necessities to survive, mold is commonly found in bathrooms, kitchens, basements or any area where flooding or leakage has occurred. Roofs, walls, pipes are also very common areas for this fungus to hide in.

What risks does mold bring? The most common reactions to mold are allergy-like symptoms such as:

  • Wheezing
  • Rash
  • Watery eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Itchy eyes
  • Coughing
  • Redness of the eyes

How can you prevent mold in your home? According to Mother Nature Network you can prevent mold with these simple tasks:

  • Identify problem areas in your home and correct them
  • Dry wet areas immediately
  • Prevent moisture with proper ventilation
  • Equip your home with mold-resistant products
  • Monitor humidity indoors
  • Direct water away from your home
  • Clean or repair roof gutters
  • Improve air flow in your home
  • Keep mold off household plants

Brownies? Yes, please!

The blog below was created to give you an idea of what to make for Valentine’s day but what’s the harm in making brownies any other day? As you read the instructions toward the end just remember – if you have a convection oven at home, the amount of time the brownie dessert is in the oven will decrease. Convection ovens tend to cook faster and more evenly so it’s a good idea to keep that in mind and make the proper adjustments if you do have one of these. Now, enjoy the rest of this blog post! :)

Brownie Pie with Raspberry Sauce + 5 Perfect Brownie Recipes for Heart Day!

 

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I’m prepping dinner.  Taco night again, the one meal the kids and Bubba will eat without complaining.  I could make tacos with eyes closed.  Number of tacos shells for each person, the perfect portion of chopped red pepper, avocado slices and shredded cheese.  Some like black beans only, others a spoonful of ground turkey.  A dollop of Greek yogurt, but never, ever any salsa.  “Too spicy, mama.”  I mindlessly hurry through this task.

My mind wanders to my to do list: valentines, allergists appointment, email C’s teacher, make safe cupcakes for G’s class, well-check for the baby coming up Friday, continuing training and fundraising for the marathon.  How many miles this week?

I’m tired today.  Next time I’m awake at 3am for no reason at all, I’m getting up and working on this list.  Why can’t I sleep?

I look up for a moment and the notice the sky glowing pink, the large naked trees behind our house illuminated in the winter’s setting sun.  To the right, the yellow of the sun shines so brightly, I squint my eyes, wondering if the day is just beginning.  How odd to feel both the beginning and end of a day at once.

I grab my phone and snap a quick picture.  “Mama and her pictures,” chimes C.

“Pink sky goose.” Me.

“I know.” C, unimpressed.

I snap another picture and then one more, attempting to hold on to the colors, carry them around with me, and look at them when I need to.  She doesn’t understand this need, not yet.

“Mama, time to eat!”

I sit down with them at our narrow, wooden kitchen table and look out the window.  A rich, dark blue replaces the pink and yellow, the trees still discernible, but quickly fading into the night sky.

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Brownie Pie  with Raspberry Sauce

Rich, intense chocolate brownie pie paired with a bright raspberry sauce is sure to make your Valentine swoon.  This is easy to make pie will take no time at all so make the day of and serve slightly warm. Enjoy!

Recipe slightly adapted from Ina Garten

Serves 8

Ingredient for Brownie Pie:

6 tablespoons of unsalted butter, melted

3 1/4 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided

3 extra-large eggs

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon orange zest

1 tablespoon instant espresso

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

2 or 3 tablespoons heavy cream

Directions:

Pre-heat your oven to 350F and then grease and flour a 9 inch pie pan or tart pan with removable sides.  ( I used a pie pan.)

Using a medium size bowl, melt the butter over a pan with simmering water.  Once the butter is melted add 2 cups of chocolate chips and stir until the chocolate is almost completely melted.   Be careful not to burn the chocolate.  Remove from heat and stir until the chocolate is completely melted and smooth.  Set aside and cool.

Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the eggs, sugar, espresso, vanilla and orange zest on medium/high-speed until pale and fluffy, a few minutes.  Stir in the cooled chocolate. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, salt and 1 cup of chocolate chips.  Gently fold the dry mixture into the wet batter until just combined.  Pour into prepared pan and bake for about 35 minutes or up to 40 minutes.  The center will puff up and crack.  The inside should be soft.  Allow to cool to room temperature.

Melt the remaining chocolate chips with the heavy cream and drizzle all over the pie.

Slice and serve with raspberry sauce.  The pie tastes best the day it is made, but tastes pretty good the next day too.  Maybe add ice cream on day two if it seems too dry.  Enjoy!   Happy Heart Day!

Raspberry Sauce

barely adapted from Emeril Lagasse

makes 1 cup

Ingredients:

1- 12 ounce bag of frozen raspberries or 1 pint of fresh raspberries

1/8 cup of sugar

scant tablespoon of lemon juice

Directions:

Combine raspberries, sugar and lemon juice in a pan and cook for about 10 minutes.  Remove from heat and strain with a fine mesh sieve to remove seeds.  Serve at room temperature or refrigerate in air-tight container for a few days.  Enjoy!

 

If you enjoy this post, please visit Cups + Spoonfuls for more from Kelly Fitzpatrick!

Winter Salads You Must Try

Roasted Citrus Salad + 5 Bright Winter Salad Links!

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We are in the thick of it.  Winter, that is.  The days are cold, dense gray clouds hide the sun most of the time.  The plants and trees sleep peacefully, unresponsive to the winter light.  I search for color.  I find it in my daughter’s hazel green eyes, my new nephew’s perfect pink lips, the seldom blue sky; the occasional holly bush I spot on my morning run.  I would welcome a foot of snow, now.  Anything to brighten up this fallow landscape.

Fake it til’ you make it.  Do what you need to.  So I hop in my car, crank the heat and drive to the grocery store.  I linger in the produce and flower sections.  The colors and fragrance sooth my winter weary spirit.  I grab as much citrus as I feel necessary.  Blood oranges, lemons and a few apples.  Every so often, I grab a bouquet of out of season tulips or daffodils.  Spring will come, it has to.

rsc0006DI eat one blood orange, hoping the vitamin c will help my immune system fight the latest stomach bug that plagues our house.  I slice another blood orange, remove the seeds and marvel at the color.  I grab a lemon and slice it.  The bright smell wakes me up.  I toss the citrus with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper and roast them at 425F for about 15 minutes.  Roast? Yes.  According to Bon Appetit, the high heat will caramelize the natural sugar and add depth to the fruit.  They seem to know what they are talking about.  While the citrus cools I prep the rest of the salad.

I rip apart the kale and massage it with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Within a few minutes the kale softens and becomes edible.  I toss the kale into a large bowl with the prepared onion and roasted citrus.  Add a quarter cup of silvered almonds for crunch and a bunch avocado slices for creaminess.  I drizzle the entire salad with a tablespoon of agave nectar and season it with a bit more sea salt and pepper.  After I gently toss the salad, I take a big bite.  Healthy and fresh, this citrus salad is just what I need to get through these winter days.

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Roasted Citrus, Kale + Avocado Salad

A healthy kale salad with roasted citrus, avocado and silvered almonds.  A few slices of red onion add a nice bite and a drizzle of agave nectar balances the subtly tart lemons.  Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 blood orange, sliced 1/8″ thick, seeds removed

1 lemon, sliced 1/8″ thick, seeds removed (try to get a Meyer lemon, as they are a bit sweeter than a regular lemon)

4 tablespoons olive oil

kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/4 of a small red onion, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice

1 bunch of kale, washed, dried, ribs removed and coarsely chopped

1/2 cup mint leaves

1 avocado, sliced into wedges

1/4 cup silvered almonds

sea salt

1 tablespoon agave nectar

Directions:

Pre-heat your oven to 425F.  Toss orange and lemon slices with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, a bit of kosher salt and pepper and place on a rimmed baking sheet.   Roast the citrus for 10-15 minutes, tossing every 5 minutes, until citrus starts to caramelize and is a bit charred.  Allow to cool.

Using a large bowl, mix onion with lemon juice, season with salt and pepper and let stand for about 5 minutes.  (This process helps the onion soften a bit.)  Set aside.

Place prepared kale in a separate large bowl.  Drizzle with olive oil and season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.  Massage the kale with your hands for 3-5 minutes.  The kale will soften a bit and that is a good thing!

Add kale, roasted citrus, mint and silvered almonds to the bowl with the onion.  Drizzle with scant 3 tablespoons of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of agave nectar.  If necessary season with sea salt and pepper.  Just before you are ready to serve the salad, add the avocado and gently toss.  Enjoy!

Follow Kelly at Cups + Spoonfuls and discover 5 Winter Salad Links You Must Check Out!

 

Who is Kelly and why are we following her? She is a mother to two children who loves food, photography and running. She lives just outside of Boston and by the looks of her blogs, knows what she’s doing in the kitchen! We will be sharing her blogs here on the Appliance Factory Blog but please make sure to check out her page (link above) to get the full scoop. ;)

Installing Your Gas Dryer

There are two types of laundry sets – electric & gas. When you decide it’s time to upgrade, it’s important to know which set, electric or gas, you need to be looking for. If your home uses gas to power your laundry, there a few actions you need to take during the install process if you are doing it on your own.

It is important as a home owner that you understand how these gas-powered dryers work within your household. Most importantly, while you are replacing your old dryer, you need to check for gas leaks. Gas is naturally odorless but gas companies have added a rotten egg sort of smell to it so it is more detectable. If small amounts of gas are leaking in a large living space, chances are you will not know – this is why it is important to check your gas line and when you check it before install, it becomes a lot more convenient.

We have attached a link below of a full step-by-step process that we found helpful. These directions should make it easy to do at home on your own.

Install A Gas Dryer

http://www.wikihow.com/Install-a-Gas-Dryer

Microwave Hacks For Every Day Tasks

Microwaves are found in most every home and their most commonly used for reheating leftovers, defrost, or for their timer… there are other, more clever ways to make good use of your microwave that could simplify several tasks. Here are just a few…

 

  1. No-Tears Onions: To avoid crying during the process of cutting onions, trim off the ends of the onions and heat them on full power for about 30 seconds. This will alleviate any stinking feeling in your eyes.
  2. Easy Cleaning (probably the best hack): Heat a glass bowl of water with a small amount of vinegar in the microwave for 5 minutes. This will soften the inside debris so you can easily wipe down the microwave with little to no resistance.
  3. Rejuvenate Your Honey: If your honey turns up crystallized the next time you need it, it can be restored! Remove the lid and heat on 50% power for about 2 minutes. (Make sure if you choose to do this, your honey is in a glass jar or another microwavable container)
  4. Juice Your Lemons: Get more juice out of lemons and limes by placing them in the microwave as a whole. Run the microwave on high for 10-20 seconds; this will make them super juicy and easy to squeeze.
  5. Easy Peel: Planning on peeling peaches or tomatoes? Throw a whole peach/tomato into the microwave for 30 seconds on high, allow them to stand for 2 minutes after and the peel will slip off easily.
  6. Make More Space: Need to microwave 2 things at once? Place two bowls into the microwave by balancing one on an upturned mug.
  7. No More Chewy Pizza Crust: Place a glass with a small amount of water into the microwave with your pizza and your crust comes out a lot less chewy.

 

 

There are several more hacks out there but these were some of our favorites.

 

Our Sources: AwesomeInventions.com & ViralNova.com

How To Load Your Dishwasher Properly

Wait, what? There’s a right and wrong way to load the dishwasher? YES! There are several common mistakes made loading the dishwasher which leads to chipped, broken, and/or dirty dishes. Below are a few steps to insure clean dishes every time – make sure you check out the video tutorial, too!

  1. Set the dishes aside that are not dishwasher safe. Anything wooden, non-dishwasher safe plastics, large knives, and/or fragile glassware should all be removed and washed by hand. Large knives are usually good to wash separately so they do not get dulled in the dishwasher – everything else is kind of self-explanatory.
  2. Scrape the big food particles off of your plates and/or bowls into the trash as sometimes dishwashers have a tough time taking care of these “big jobs”.
  3. After you trash the big food particles, it’s a good idea to rinse most of the larger dishes off. If there are still big messes, a scrub brush or almost any cutlery will help get those taken care of.
  4. When loading the dishes, there are certain ways and places the dishes should be stacked for the highest efficiency. (See the video below)
    1. Bottom level
      1. Large and small plates, staggered every other facing toward the middle.
      2. Large pots and pans face down.
    2. Top level
      1. Cups should be placed faced down so they don’t hold water. Make sure they are place BETWEEN the pegs and not on top of them.
      2. Large utensils should be placed faced down if they do not fit in the cutlery area; they should be face-down so they do not hold water as well.
  • Dishwasher-safe plastics should be stacked on top so they are far enough away from the heating coil so they do not warp.

 

I know most people just want to throw their dishes in the dishwasher to be done with them, but those Jinga ways of stacking don’t normally result in all clean dishes. So there really is a way to do it that will guarantee perfectly clean dishes almost every time!

How to load your dishwasher properly – a tutorial.

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Self-Cleaning Before The Holiday Can Lead To Disaster!

As the holiday season approaches, everyone is making plans for friends and family to visit; this means large gatherings, meals, parties, etc. Basically, who ever is hosting that year is putting their house on display more during these holidays than any other time of the year. This much traffic in the house only means one thing to several home owners: TIME TO CLEAN!

Of course the rest of the house will be eyed top-to-bottom to be cleaned, fixed, adjusted, etc. But one single appliance, in one single room tends to get a lot of this attention during the holidays as it is the star of all these shenanigans – the all mighty oven. Unfortunately, it typically gets thought of to be cleaned last minute. As the month of November flies by and you get caught up in ensuring the cleanliness of the entire house; typically a day or two before the feast is when it finally comes to thought that maybe the oven should get cleaned. “Oh, well I have a self-cleaning oven,” you might think. DON’T DO IT!

As convenient as the self-cleaning feature sounds in the moment of panic, it is a bad idea to use this feature the day right before the festivities. If you are going to use this feature, make sure  you use it a couple WEEKS before, and this is why…

Self cleaning ovens typically reach more than nearly triple the temperature during the cleaning process – this is very hard on your oven. Using the self-cleaning feature usually leads to some kind of oven complication, whether it be blowing a fuse, breaking the handle, or any other sort of damage. It is very common for something to break or go wrong, which means you will have to have time for repairs. People don’t normally think about allowing time for repairs “because their ovens are too reliable and haven’t had anything go wrong before”, but if you break the oven before the day of the feast, you’ve got a huge problem on your hands.

My point is, if you’re going to use the self-clean option, please make sure to do it several weeks before the event. Don’t worry, if you forget, you can always look up homemade recipes that will be safe to use in your oven that will take care of the mess without creating a new problem. You  might have to use a little elbow grease, but that’s a lot cheaper and way more convenient than purchasing a new oven or a service call.