29 April 2012

Sweet & Savory Chicken Salad

So our Mango Roasted Chicken last night was delicious!  There was not enough left over for another full meal, so I took the rest and decided to make chicken salad and chicken stock.  I'm not sure what it is with me lately, but I've been concocting and trying out new recipes.  Maybe it's because I can't wait for the growing season here on the farm to start. 

We've had such a mild winter and that 80 degree weather on and off between March and April...who knew?  Then the other night there were hard freeze warnings!  My poor hydrangeas are very confused.  I know Mother Nature is going to make us pay for our very mild winter!  Hopefully it will not be by the way of hail after the crops are planted and sprouting.  Last year's rain after the hurricane was bad enough.  We lost our crop of cauliflower and a field of beans and cucumbers too!  It's very scary at times living on the farm, but it's our way of life.  Tough at times for this Long Island gal who married a farm boy!

So for the chicken salad today, you will need, obviously, chicken :-).  Once again, I used my Mango Roasted Chicken left overs, but any roasted chicken will do. Mine was a larger bird, so I think I had about a pound of chicken left over.  You will also need the following: 

1/4 Cup Vanilla Greek Yogurt
1/2 Cup Low-fat Mayonnaise
1 to 2 TBSP Ranch Dressing (to taste)
1/4 Cup chopped Red Onion
1 tsp Garlic Powder
1/2 tsp Black Pepper
1/4 Cup Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
1/4 Cup Raisins

I have to admit that as I went along, I kept adjusting to taste, so the measurements are approximate.  But I have faith in you...you'll figure it out!

Shred the cooked chicken or chop into bite-sized chunks.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the yogurt and mayonnaise.  Add the Ranch dressing 1 spoonful at a time and whisk into the yogurt mixture until you are satisfied with the taste.  Add the dressing mixture to the chicken and stir together until thoroughly coated.  Add in the remaining ingredients and stir again until everything is incorporated.  That's it...you're done!  Enjoy in a sandwich or on crackers.  Refrigerate any left overs.

Need some entertainment?  Check out the videos on our site...up and coming new country artist Jennifer Grace.  That's our daughter!  If you like her music, please comment on her youtube page and feel free to share with others. 

28 April 2012

Mango Roasted Chicken

1 Fresh Roasting Chicken
3 Cloves Garlic, minced
2 TBSP Butter
1 TBSP Olive Oil
2 - 3 TBSP Mango Butter
1 Lemon, sliced, seeds removed
Red Pepper Flakes, to taste, or about 1-2 tsp
Dried or Fresh Rosemary, to taste, or about 1-1/2 to 2 tsp

Wash chicken and pat dry with paper towel.  Set in roasting pan with a little olive oil.  Spread butter all over chicken, then do the same with the mango butter.  You can spread some of the butter and mango butter under the skin of the chicken as well.  Scatter a few slices of lemon on top of the chicken and sprinkle the chicken with the minced garlic, rosemary and red pepper flakes.  I also like to put some of the herbs and butters into the cavity along with one or two slices of lemon.

Bake covered at 350 degrees F until done, calculating at 20 minutes per pound, basting about half-way through.  Serve with your favorite selection of roasted or steamed vegetables and either cooked rice, potato or noodles.

Tip:  When using dried rosemary, I like to crush the herb before using, since the dried rosemary tends to remain a bit hard even after cooking.

27 April 2012

Home Improvement and Your Landscaping

Good landscaping can increase the value of your home by upwards of 8%-15%.  A well maintained outdoor space gives the impression that the home is well cared for and maintained not only on the outside, but on the inside as well.  Realtors all over the country are suggesting that their clients improve the look of their landscaping. Even if your home is perfect on the inside, a bad view from the outside can literally turn people away. An amazing "82% of surveyed agents have had potential buyers decline to look at the interior of a house due to its exterior appearance," according to the survey Real Estate Agent Community Trends (REACT).  http://www.myhomechannel.org/article_landscaping_home_value.php

Even if you are not planning on moving in the near future, you should invest in landscaping as plants and trees take time to mature.  Plan with the end result in mind; design your landscaping as a whole so it looks coherent when completed, even if you can only do a little at a time.  Consider first the larger additions, such as walkways and trees.  Using cement or pavers for the main walkways of the house provides a sure footing.  They are easy to care for and provide a neat, well kept appearance.  Further away from the house, you may choose to consider a more natural pathway made of mulch or stone.  Larger trees around the home provide shade and can be aesthetically pleasing to the eye. 
If you are planning to sell your home within the next year, there are some things you can do right away to boost the appearance of your landscape and home.  Perennials are nice additions, but choosing annuals instead provides season-long color and brightens the yard.  Since perennials take time to establish themselves, you may want to choose larger ones so they look like they’ve been there a while.  You can also cut fresh edges around your planting beds.  This provides a professional look.  Add about 2” of fresh mulch.  Ideally, this should be done each year anyway after removal of the old mulch; it will add to the professional appearance.  Adding mulch also helps to keep the soil cool and moist.   You should also fertilize your lawn regularly so it remains lush and full, rather than sparse and patchy.  Prune overgrown shrubs, keeping them in a natural shape rather than square or ball shapes.

Other things you can do to spruce up your outside living space; sweep porches, power wash the house and/or deck and concrete surfaces as well.   Tidy the yard, storing toys and other equipment and pull the weeds from in between your pavers or concrete slabs. 
Investing in your landscaping pays off big, not only when you sell your home, but also as you are living there.  It’s been proven that overall positive feelings increased and feelings of fear and anger are reduced when plants are well placed and the yard is pleasant to look at.  Trees not only provide aesthetic appeal and shade, but can also provide barriers to sound and weather when well placed.    So take the time to garden and make your home as appealing on the outside as it may be on the inside.  You’ll be glad you did!

15 April 2012

Chocolate Banana Coffee Muffins

I spent part of today baking as I had bananas that were becoming over-ripe.  I made muffins and they turned out so yummy that I had to share the recipe with you!

1/3 Cup melted butter
3 ripe bananas, mashed
1 egg, beaten
3/4 Cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1-1/2 TBSP Brewed,French Vanilla coffee or any strong coffee
1 tsp baking soda
1-1/2 Cups all-purpose flour
1/4 Cup powdered baking cocoa
Pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease 12 muffin cups or prepare with paper liners. 

Using a wooden spoon, stir in melted butter into the mashed bananas in a large mixing bowl.  Add in the sugar, coffee, vanilla and egg and mix well.  Add in the baking soda and the pinch of salt and mix together into the banana mixture.  Add the flour and baking cocoa and mix until just incorporated.  Scoop into prepared muffin tins and bake for 20 - 30 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into muffins comes out clean.  Cool on rack. 

Recipe makes 12 regular sized muffins or 9 larger muffins.  Delicious!

12 April 2012

Garden Soil Preparation

Spring is here and it’s about time to prepare the soil bed for your gardens.   Remember, you don’t have to have a garden so big that you cannot take care of it all.  You can actually be more productive in a smaller, more manageable sized garden. 

Begin first by planning out your space.  Select a spot in the garden that gets a minimum of 6 hours of direct sunlight if you are planning a vegetable garden.  If you are planning for flowers, know the amounts of sunlight your gardens will be receiving, as well as soil type and drainage and choose the types of plants accordingly.   Next, mark out your perimeter and then begin turning the soil over.  Dig down at least 12 inches.  Using a roto-tiller is best as it will break up the soil more thoroughly and deeply.  If you don’t own one, you can usually rent one at a local hardware store.   If one is not available, you can use a shovel and rake. 

As you are preparing the beds, work in dried compost and organic matter to enrich your beds.  It is usually best to allow organic matter to decay for a period of time.  If using manure, allow it to decay until it turns dark brown in color and has no odor.  Nutrients found in manure are generally readily available, but if overused, can provide excessive amounts of some nutrients.  A good example of this would be ammonia.  Excessive amounts of ammonia can burn your plants and while fresh manure is great for heavy feeding crops such as corn, it may not be best suited for use on crops such as greens.  Also with fresh manure is the possibility of crop contamination.  If you are planting greens or root crops, then you’ll want to compost the manure for about three months prior to spreading to avoid the possibility of contamination. 

It’s always a good idea to have your soil tested too.  A soil test will tell you what fertilizers your soil will need as well as the texture of the soil.  Testing is usually available through your local cooperative extension office.  It will also tell you the pH of the soil, which ideally should be 6.0 – 8.4, depending on the plants you will be growing.  The extension service can provide you with the necessary information to amend and improve your soil bed.

As for fertilizer, there are three main elements that you will see concentrations for on the fertilizer bag. Those are N-P-K, or Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium, respectively and the numbers (i.e. 15-15-15) tell what percentages those macronutrients are in.  Nitrogen is mainly responsible for vegetative plant growth and strong roots, phosphorous for root expansion and flowering, and potassium for metabolism, leaf expansion and the quality and size of the fruit or vegetative parts of the plants that are harvested. Potassium is also responsible for the intensity and development of pigments and color in flowers.

Paying attention to soil preparation is the key in having a great garden.  Tending to your garden regularly by providing fertilizer and pulling weeds as necessary will ensure you have a healthy, productive garden all season long!