Companion Planting

Filed under: Gardening — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:36 am on Thursday, April 16, 2015


Check out this chart on Companion Planting. Click the image for the full version.

Here’s when I started believing in companion planting: in 2005, I planted an oregano plant. It started to have problems right away, drooping and looking sad. I watered it and waited, but the plant got worse.

Then I read that chives are a good companion plant for oregano, so I put some in the same planter as the sad oregano plant. Within 24 hours, the oregano perked up and began to flourish. It even grew into the space that the chives took up, as if to hug it.

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I still have both plants now, 8 years later. They are remarkably healthy. The oregano has spread under my lemon bushes and the chives–which is very old for a chive plant–is amazingly sweet and tasty. I think their health has something to do with planting the two together when I first got them.

Companion planting makes sense when you think of how plants work in nature. In a forest, you see a mix of many types of plants, not a row of just one type. In a video on companion planting, a gardener explains:

Plants can’t get up and walk away. If they don’t like their environment, many plants do the next best thing and alter their environment chemically, physically, and biologically. When a plant does this, there are other species that benefit from the environmental alteration or are discouraged by it.

Watch the rest of the video here:

The bottom line is that it matters which plants you put together. Sometimes this has to do with chemical alterations in the soil. Sometimes it has to do with root depth of the different plants. And sometimes it has to do with a common pest.

For example, I made a huge mistake this year planting beets and spinach together. Turns out there’s a special leafminer that loves to eat these two vegetables, so putting them together insured I would be dealing with that pest all spring.

That’s how you learn, I guess.

For more on Companion Planting, here’s a post on The Three Sisters: Corn, Squash, and Beans.

Make Your Own Triple Sec

Filed under: Food/Drink — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:34 am on Wednesday, April 15, 2015

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One of the liqueurs I use the most is triple sec (also called cointreau), your basic orange liqueur. For example, I have used triple sec in the Grapefruit Margarita, the Mango Margarita, and the Chocolate-Dipped Strawberry Cocktail.

Since I have a lot of oranges on hand because of my garden and use so much triple sec, I decided to make my own.

After all, I’d had such great luck making my own limoncello and nocino.

I used Serious Eats’s recipe, which was done by Marcia from DIY Cocktails. The only odd ingredient was the Dried Bitter Orange, which you can buy in brew stores or herb specialists. You can also order it online. An entire bag costs $1.

I followed the instructions and was pleased with the result. It may not taste as good as Grand Marnier, but the liqueur has a fresh, nice orange taste without the harsh bitterness of your typical bottom shelf triple sec. I can’t wait to try it out in a margarita.


DIY Triple Sec

(Makes one 750 ml bottle)

Ingredients:

    1/4 cup zest from 3 small naval oranges
    1 Tablespoon dried bitter orange
    1 cup brandy (I used Korbel)
    1 cup vodka (any brand)
    4 whole cloves
    2 cups sugar
    1 1/2 cups water

Directions:

To zest the oranges, I used a microplane grater. This tool allows you to quickly and easily grate the orange part of the peel off the orange and leave the pith behind.

From the recipe:

Combine zest, dried orange peels, brandy, and vodka in a small container. Seal and shake. Let steep for 19 days at room temperature. On day 20, add the cloves, then seal and shake. Let steep for an additional day.

Bring sugar and water to a boil in a small saucepan over high heat stirring to dissolve. Let this simple syrup cool. Strain the contents of the jar through a fine mesh strainer and then through a coffee filter. Discard the solids. Combine the strained mixture with the simple syrup in a jar or bottle. Shake and let it rest for a minimum of one day before use. Store in a sealed container at room temperature for up to one year (it’s best within three months).

8 Clever Ways To Recycle The Things Your Kids Outgrow

Filed under: Recycling — Savvy Housekeeper at 8:30 am on Tuesday, April 14, 2015

When kids outgrow their crib or kiddie pool, don’t throw them away–reuse them! Here’s some inspiration:

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Turn the old kiddie pool into a raised garden bed.

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The sandbox also makes a great raised bed.

When they’re over the playhouse, turn it into a chicken coop.

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Swing sets also make good chicken coops.

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The old Pack ‘n Play can make a toddler bed (or fort).

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Got a couple of kiddie pools? How about a fountain?

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Turn the crib into a desk.

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Or into a spiffy new bench.

How to “Unshrink” Your Clothes

Filed under: Cleaning/Decorating — Savvy Housekeeper at 8:51 am on Monday, April 13, 2015

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I just bought a sweater that ended up in the dryer and shrunk. Swell. Maybe I’ll try this method: How to “Unshrink” Your Clothes.

Delicious And Light Spring Cocktails

Filed under: Food/Drink — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:08 am on Friday, April 10, 2015

Here’s a round-up of spring cocktails that I made with DIY Cocktails.

Mango Margarita

Orange Creamsicle Cocktail

Skinny Piña Colada

What’s Up Doc? Cocktail

Skinny Blueberry Tarragon Cocktail

Pink Collins Cocktail

Shrinking Violet Cocktail

Make Your Own Mulch With A Wood Chipper

Filed under: Gardening — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:02 am on Thursday, April 9, 2015

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I recently discovered that there’s a variety of affordable wood chippers for the home garden. I was excited because I’ve wanted a wood chipper for ages. The idea of being able to chop up your own debris for free mulch was very appealing to me.

So we splurged, and now I own the Eco-Shredder. It can shred brush, leaves, chips, and limbs up to 1.375 inches thick.

Recently, we chopped down a tree that had become invasive in our yard. For months I’ve been looking at a pile of branches that needed attended to, so I decided to try my wood chipper out.

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So far, I’m pleased. The chipper works great and has been making a nice mulch that I am planning to use in the walkway behind the garage.

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The drawback is that it takes a long time to feed a tree branch-by-branch through what is essentially a high-powered shredder.

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This is about one-third of the tree, and an hour of work. In the end, mulching all the branches should take about three hours.

In the future, I’ll be able to use the wood chipper every spring when I clean up my yard.

Double-Chocolate Mousse Cups

Filed under: Food/Drink — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:40 am on Wednesday, April 8, 2015

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Man, these Double-Chocolate Mousse Cups were great. So decadent and elegant. I used the mousse from the Triple-Chocolate Mousse Cake from America Test Kitchen. Here’s my adapted recipe.

Double-Chocolate Mousse Cups

Ingredients:

    Bottom Layer:

    5 Tablespoons hot water
    2 Tablespoons cocoa powder
    7 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped fine
    1 1/2 cups heavy cream
    1/8 teaspoon salt

    Top Layer:

    3/4 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
    1 Tablespoon water
    1 cup white chocolate chips
    1 1/2 cups heavy cream

Directions:

To make the bottom layer: Combine the hot water and cocoa in small bowl and put aside. Make a double boiler by filling a pot with an inch or two of water and then putting a bowl on top of the water. Put the semisweet chocolate in the bowl and stir over medium-high heat until completely smooth. Remove from heat. Whisk the cocoa mixture into the melted chocolate until smooth.

In a mixer, whip the cream and salt until soft peaks form, 1 to 3 minutes.

Using a hand whisk, gently fold one-third of whipped cream into the chocolate mixture to lighten it. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the remaining whipped cream until no white streaks remain in the chocolate. Be gentle so the mousse remains fluffy.

Spoon the mousse into the bottom layer of the cups. Smooth with a spatula and gently tap the cup on the counter to release air bubbles. Wipe the edges with a cloth to remove any drips. Refrigerate while you make the white-chocolate layer.

To make the top layer:
Put the water in a small bowl and sprinkle gelatin on top. Bring 1/2 cup cream to simmer in a saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat, add the gelatin mixture, and stir until fully dissolved.

Put the white chocolate chips in a bowl and pour the cream mixture over the top. Let sit, covered, for 5 minutes, then stir until smooth.

Whip remaining cup of cream until soft peaks form, 1 to 3 minutes. Again, fold one-third of whipped cream into white chocolate mixture to lighten. Using rubber spatula, fold in remaining whipped cream until no white streaks remain.

Spoon the white chocolate mousse over the chocolate mousse and smooth with a spatula. Refrigerate until set, at least 8 hours. Enjoy!

Vegetarian Recipes Round-Up

Filed under: Food/Drink — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:58 am on Tuesday, April 7, 2015

One thing about being an avid gardener is that you end up eating a lot of vegetarian or vegetable-heavy dishes. Here’s a round-up of past vegetarian posts:

What To Do With Chard

10 Summer Squash Recipes

Vegetable-Heavy Entrees I’ve Made Recently

10 Tasty Vegetarian Sandwiches

What To Do With Frozen Green Beans

5 Brussels Sprouts Recipes

What To Do With Frozen Zucchini

6 Bell Pepper Recipes

5 Tofu Dinner Recipes Your Family Will Eat

Savvy Jr’s Easter Basket

Filed under: Kids — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:47 am on Monday, April 6, 2015

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Personal Creation’s sent Savvy Jr an Easter basket this year. We tried out the All-In-One Boys Easter Basket, which comes with:

Stuffed bunny
A chocolate bunny in box
Jelly beans
Small chocolate eggs
Mini chocolate bunnies
4 pack of Peeps
Sugared bunnies
And a personalized basket.

While these are all things you can buy yourself in the store, it was convenient to have it all sent to me and ready to go.

I was also pleased with the amount of candy the basket came with. There was so much, I didn’t put it all in the basket, but held some back to put in plastic eggs for his Easter egg hunt.

It was the major thing Savvy Jr–whose real name is Gideon–got this year, and he loved it.

How To Make Galaxy Easter Eggs

Filed under: Food/Drink — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:02 am on Sunday, April 5, 2015

Happy Easter!

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Here’s a neat tutorial on how to paint your own Galaxy Easter Eggs.

Too pretty to eat.

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