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Do you have a favorite winter vegetable?


I have a few, but cauliflower is near the top of the list.



While I have had my struggles growing broccoli – its cousin, cauliflower grows very well in my garden.

Every January, you’ll find me in the garden looking at my cauliflower plants to see when they are ready to harvest.


I’m not sure why I like cauliflower so much – I certainly didn’t as a child and I still don’t like it cooked.

As a mom of 5, I recently came up with a neat trick to get kids to not only eat, but like cauliflower.  

It all came about when I got tired of spending a lot of money of bags of lettuce during the summer months after my lettuce crop had faded.  So, I decided to chop up carrots, celery, cucumbers and cauliflower into small chunks.


 I like to call it the “Four C’s Salad”.  


I mix all the cut vegetables together and lightly dress it with my grandmother’s “Top Secret Salad Dressing”.  

The kids love it and so does my husband, who doesn’t like salad.

You can also sprinkle small cauliflower bits over your traditional salads much like you would cheese.  Kids don’t really notice that they are eating cauliflower.  My kids like it now since it reminds them of small chunks of cheese in appearance.

I will be planting some new cauliflower transplants in my garden this month (cauliflower is hard to start from seed) so that I will have more cauliflower ready in early spring.

Do you like cauliflower?  How do you like to prepare it? 

*This is the third post this week about my winter vegetable harvest – so far, we’ve covered broccoli
‘White Icicle’ radishes/Swiss Chard and now cauliflower.  On Monday, I’ll show you some fresh vegetables from my mother’s winter vegetable garden.


This past week, I was blessed with harvesting produce from two different gardens.


One was from one of my vegetable gardens…


About a 1/4 of my side vegetable garden is planted with cauliflower.  

Over the weekend, I was able to harvest my first cauliflower of the season.  

Now, I am aware that some of you may not care for cauliflower.  Personally, I like it raw but NOT when it is cooked.

I’ll share with you a little secret that I have used to get my kids to eat cauliflower…


I cut the tops of the florets off, dice it and then sprinkle it on top of our dinner salads.  It looks like grated cheese.  I also slice carrots, celery and cucumbers to add to our salads, which not only add great flavor to salads – they are also a great way to get more vegetables into my kids 😉

The cauliflower was so delicious – it tasted like butter – seriously.

The next harvest was of another kind and from a different garden…


On the family farm, my mother has a large grapefruit tree.  

Now, as anyone who has ever had a grapefruit tree can tell you – these trees are overly generous in the amount of fruit that they produce.


Luckily, my mother has 4 kids who are more then happy to help share with her bounty.

With my husband standing ready holding grocery bags, we picked some delicious fruit from the tree.

*While all the grapefruit looked ripe, some were not quite ready to be picked.  If they did not come off fairly easily when lightly pulled/twisted, then we left them alone.

If I am going to be perfectly honest with you, I do not like to eat grapefruit – at all.

But, I have another purpose in mind for my newly picked grapefruit – I am going to make a natural cleaner from it using vinegar.

I promise to blog about it soon, so hold onto some of your excess grapefruit or maybe offer to take some off of your neighbor’s grapefruit tree 🙂

*This blog post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I may receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). Thanks for your support in this way.

When much of the nation is freezing their socks off, and their gardens are covered in a blanket of snow, I realize how much of a blessing it is to live in a climate where I can harvest vegetables from my garden in January.
My latest excursion out to the vegetable garden found Swiss chard, leaf lettuce, peas, spinach, broccoli, and carrots ready for picking.
 
Except for the broccoli (which I had other plans for), all of my freshly-picked veggies were going into our salad.
 
 
One crop that I have really enjoyed growing this year, is Swiss chard.  It grows so easily and I love its rainbow-colored stems.  
 
Believe it or not, Swiss chard tastes delicious in salads.
 
My lettuce had a tough start this fall with caterpillars eating much of it until I brought out the big guns – BT Bacillus thurgiensis, which is an organic control for the caterpillars.  It worked just great! I used Safer Brand 5163 Caterpillar Killer II Concentrate, 16 oz.
 
I won’t go into all the details of how it works, although it is quite interesting.  For those of you who would like to learn more about BT, click here.
 
 
Here is a close-up of my salad.  You can’t see the carrots too well, but they are there.
 
 
It was so refreshing and delicious, especially when dressed with my grandmother’s ‘Top Secret’ Salad Dressing.  
 
 
I have recently revealed my grandmother’s secret recipe to my daughters, who now can make easily.  
 
So, what is in store for my vegetable gardens this month?
 
I have planted another crop of radishes, carrots, leaf lettuce and spinach.  
 
Next month, will be a busy month in the garden with getting ready to plant warm-season veggies.  
 
I can hardly wait!

I bet you have all been waiting with ‘baited breath’ for me to reveal our “TOP SECRET” Family Recipe, ever since I referred to it in my last post about making peach vinegar.

First, before I reveal our family recipe (and risk the wrath of my family for revealing this secret recipe 😉, I thought that I should give you a little background first….

At this point, you are probably asking what the picture of this lady has to do with the recipe.
Well, this was her homemade salad dressing recipe.  To be honest, I don’t know where she got the recipe or if she created it herself.
So, who is this woman?
Her name was Ruth A. Smith and she was my grandmother. My dad was her only child.  At one point, their family lived in Phoenix in the 1940’s during the war and she worked in a factory that made airplane parts.  I call this photo ‘Rosie the Riveter’.
 
She was a wonderful grandmother and loved spending time with us…
 
 
Yes, that is me on the far right with my ‘boy’ haircut.  My sister, Jennifer is sitting next to me and my grandmother is holding my brother, Scott (my youngest sister, Grace, hadn’t been born yet).
 
When we were young, we spent a couple of summers in Germany with them, where my grandfather worked. Later, they moved back to the States and settled in California where we lived. Now, my grandmother wasn’t a great cook – however, she wasn’t bad either. When we would visit them – we would have the same menu each time, which included:
– Roast Beef (it was always a bit dry) with potatoes and salad
– Ground Beef Patties with a vegetable that we hated (squash) and salad
After dinner, we always had a VanDeKamps’ Angel Food cake with whipped chocolate frosting and vanilla ice milk.
 
The fact that my grandmother wasn’t a great cook makes it all the more interesting that she made fabulous homemade salad dressing. Years later, my siblings and I would reminisce about her yummy salad dressing. The only problem was that we never asked her how to make it. 
 
A few years ago, I asked my mother if she could remember what my grand mother put in her salad dressing. Thankfully, my mother was able to remember all the ingredients – just not the proportions.  So, I set to work to figure out the recipe and I was thrilled to finally get it! Since then, it is all we use on our salads with a few different ingredients from time to time to change it up. 
So, I am breaking all the family rules by sharing this with you (just kidding) – but seriously it is too good a recipe to keep to ourselves.
 
So here it is:
 
Ruth Smith’s Vinaigrette
Ingredients:
2 Tablespoons Canola Oil (or other non-flavored vegetable oil – don’t use olive oil)
2 1/2 Tablespoons Sugar
 1 pinch Salt
3 – 4 Tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar or other fruit-flavored vinegar (My Homemade Peach Vinegar is pictured above) 
 I’ve also used Pomegranate White Balsamic vinegar too.
Directions:
In a small jar add the salt, sugar and apple cider vinegar.  Then add the oil and place the lid on the jar and shake until all ingredients are combined.
 
 
Pour over your salad and enjoy!
 
 
You can copy and paste the recipe below if you like:
Grandma Smith’s Vinaigrette
Ingredients:
2 Tablespoons Canola Oil (or other non-flavored vegetable oil – don’t use olive oil)
2 1/2 Tablespoons Sugar*
 1 pinch Salt
3 – 4 Tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar or other fruit-flavored vinegar
 
Directions:
 
In a small jar add the salt, sugar and apple cider vinegar.  Then add the oil and place the lid on the jar and shake until all ingredients are combined.

Serve over your favorite salad!
*You can use Splenda instead of sugar if desired.

I hope you enjoy our ‘Top Secret’ salad dressing!  Grandma Smith would be thrilled to know that I’m sharing it with all of you 🙂

Last week, I spent some time checking the vegetables my cool-season vegetable garden.  

I was looking to see how they were growing and if any were ready to harvest.  I’ve also learned (the hard way) that it’s important to check for any insect damage so you can treat it early – I got hit bad by spider mites last summer because I wasn’t paying attention.

I have been checking up on my cauliflower plants lately.  Seven days ago, the largest one looked like this…

Today, it looked like this…
Okay, this photo doesn’t really show how big it is, so I put my hand next to it to show the scale…
 
Now, compare this photo with the first one and you can see how big it grew in just one week!
My son, Kai and I harvested this large cauliflower by simply pulling the entire plant out of the ground.   
It was quite heavy.
Of course, you can simply cut the cauliflower, but you have to pull the plant out sooner or later.  We chose sooner.
It was at least twice as large as the cauliflower in my local supermarket.  The photo really doesn’t show that though, but this bowl is very wide salad bowl.
I’ve really never noticed how pretty the cauliflower florets are before, have you?
We used some of the cauliflower in our dinner salad, which also included Romaine lettuce and carrots from our garden as well.
Our cauliflower is so huge, I will have to figure out other ways to serve it.
My son’s favorite is smothering it with ranch salad dressing.
I have three other cauliflower plants in the garden.  I may have to give some to my mother, since I don’t know how we will be able to eat it all.
***************************
Cauliflower is a cool-season vegetable, which does best when planted from transplants and not seed.  I have had no problems with growing mine at all – no insect problems, etc.
What is important for growing cauliflower is fertile soil and regular irrigation.
How about you?  Do you grow cauliflower?
Do you have any cauliflower recipes to share? 

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving.  We had a great time with my in-laws, my brother and sister-in-law and my two new nephews.  All in all, we had 18 people at our house.  

I may have mentioned before that I am a planner.  Whenever possible love to prepare ahead of time, so I had all the tables set the day before Thanksgiving. 

I only use my grandmother’s china once a year at Thanksgiving.  Every time I use them, I get caught up in my memories of her.  The kids created place cards using turkeys they made out of their handprints.
I like to collect things, (just like my mother).  For example, I have a collection of refrigerator magnets from destinations around the world.  I also have a dish collection…..my grandmother’s china, my Irish pottery, my Polish pottery and a newer set from Holland.  My dish collection actually quite useful at Thanksgiving because I have three tables to set.
 Our dining room table is laid out with my Nicholas Mosse Irish Pottery.  I collected the pieces of this beautiful pottery during two separate visits to Ireland when I was fortunate enough to visit the factory.  I have also bought some pieces online as well. 

The silverware on this table was given to me by my mother-in-law, which makes it extra special to me.  I plan to give it to my future daughter-in-law someday, which is a long ways a way since Kai is only 8 years old.

Okay, no one likes to be seated at the kid’s table, right?  But, I decided to use a little psychology (it has been a very long time since I took it in college).  Last year, we received a gift of a small set of dishes from Holland from some friends who live there.  The plates are ringed with little pictures of Dutch houses.
Well, I thought they would work out great for the kid’s table and I told Gracie and Kai that only the people who sit at the kid’s table get to use the special dishes.  I also put out two candlesticks with two led candle lights and told the kids that there table was the only one with candles.  Well, they were just so excited about it and had to show everyone their special table.


My oldest daughter, Brittney, asked if she could co-host Thanksgiving with me.  Well, of course I loved the idea because she is a great cook and I can always use more help in the kitchen.


Besides cooking, our morning was filled with watching the Thanksgiving Parade then football.  Perusing the Black Friday ads and holding babies also filled our time 🙂
It is amazing at how quickly my brother has become a pro at handling babies.  We all love any opportunity to hold the babies.
My son-in-law and daughter started planning their early morning shopping for the next day while the turkey was cooking.


Our turkey cooked more quickly then expected so we played a little catch-up while my father-in-law sliced up the turkey.   My husband quickly made his delicious mashed potatoes.


My sister-in-law, Marisue, made sure the potatoes tasted just right.
Doesn’t she look fantastic just after giving birth to twins 9 weeks ago?  I still haven’t lost all the weight from being pregnant 19 years ago  😉
Our Thanksgiving dinner was wonderful, especially because so many family members brought their special side dishes.  I really like this newer tradition of ours so I can focus on making the turkey and mashed potatoes and stay relatively sane throughout the day.
Well, after a day full of delicious, high caloric food, I usually try to make myself feel better by preparing lighter fare over the next couple of days.  And so salad was definitely on our dinner menu for the next day.
Do your kids like salad?  It is not a favorite of my children.  Sure they like it better then cooked squash and some other vegetables, but if they had a choice, they probably would not eat it.  So whenever they ask what we are having for dinner, they try to mask their disappointment when I say “salad”.  Now I don’t just serve lettuce….I add chicken, tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, croutons and shredded cheese to the salad as well.
Each time I am preparing salad, the kids almost always ask if they can drown it in ranch dressing.  I usually say no and make my homemade vinagrette the same way that my grandmother used to make it with a combination of apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, vegetable oil, sugar and salt.
Well, my kids have recently become very excited about eating salad.  What caused this turnaround you may ask?  Well, ever since we planted lettuce seeds this past September, the kids have eagerly waited to see the lettuce leaves grow larger and larger.  To be honest, it was funny to have my kids wait impatiently for our lettuce to grow large enough to make a salad with.
Well, the day finally came and I ventured out into the garden to cut some lettuce…..
Now Tobey is not allowed in the vegetable garden which is why we have fence around it.  He seems to think that when I open the fence that it is an invitation to come inside.  I chased him right out 🙂


There is just something so rewarding about cutting your own lettuce and spinach green from your own garden instead of buying it in a bag at the grocery store, which is what I usually do.


The salad was delicious and the kids asked for seconds.  Can you believe that?  I was happy that the lettuce was not bitter, which can happen if you do not irrigate properly.  So, our first experience with growing lettuce has been a success so far.

****I do hope you are enjoying this long holiday weekend with your family and friends****

As for me, today I will be busy decorating our house for Christmas.  Did I mention that I also have a collection of Christmas tree decorations from places I have visited over the years?  I know, I know – I am addicted to collecting, but I only have 4 different types of collections….so far 😉