Thursday, April 28

craft stand

The end of the semester (and my college career!) is quickly approaching, and amidst all the chaos of term papers, group projects and final exams, there are a few things that keep me happy as a clam; one of these things is Jill, Annie and my craft stand that we will have at the East Side Green Market!
We have been brainstorming the craft stand since the middle of winter. While we had all been passing our time crafting and creating, we talked of a day when we could support ourselves doing just that! Though we are not intending to support ourselves completely, we are looking forward to sharing our handicrafts with our fellow Milwaukee-ans! How wonderful it will be to talk about what we are doing and learn from others through conversation, about wonderful things others are creating. Needless to say, I am very eager for the first day of the market, which will be Saturday, June 18th.
Just a little knitted neck warmer I made over the winter; many more little crafts to come! 

We will be creating under the name Witch Crafts! Here is our bio:

Established and run by three quick and nimble fingered Milwaukee residents, The Milwaukee Witch Craft Guild is a community of creative individuals who hand-make and sell local crafts.  Some of their creations that will be featured at this summer's East Side Green Market include recycled clothes and accessories, jewelry, knitted and crocheted wear, home decor and gadgets, children's toys, and a variety of other one-of-a-kind products.  

Hope to see you at the first day of the market!
p.s. this is the 100th post on Life in the Garden Unit... thanks for reading!

Monkey Bread!

In my family, every holiday begins with monkey bread. Now I am sure most of you are wondering what the heck is monkey bread? Not to worry, there are no monkeys involved, and it is surprisingly not some sort of banana bread. Instead, it is one of the finest of treats, and luckily for you, it is one of the easiest things to make!

Over Easter weekend, our family made two batches of monkey bread (which is plenty...), but needless to say, they were both nearly devoured in minutes of emerging from the oven. And with that, I will share the recipe with you!
Monkey Bread
1 small box of butterscotch instant pudding mix
1/2 cup of brown sugar
1/4 cup of white sugar
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/4 cup of margarine or butter
24 frozen dinner rolls

1. Mix the butterscotch pudding mix with the sugars and cinnamon and set aside.

2. Put the dinner rolls in a well greased bundt pan (we love bundt pans in the garden  unit!) and place small patties of butter in between. Then, sprinkle with 1/2 to 3/4 of the sugary mix.

3. Let rise overnight, and in the morning, bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes, until the rolls are golden brown.

4. Secure your place next to the oven, so that when the sticky mess comes out, you have first dibs on the best part! Enjoy

Action shots of my family devouring monkey bread number one on Easter morning:

Monkey Bread will do this to you...

Happy eating!

Tuesday, April 26

A few of my favorite things...

Popcorn and sprouting are two of my favorite food things... can you imagine my delight when I discovered you can sprout popcorn? 

SO exciting! Jill and I are embarking on a new sprouting adventure. While previously we have only sprouted seeds and grains in glass jars, we are moving to a new world of sprouting; sprouting in medium. A few weeks back, Jill and I were walking back from our dear friends' home and we stumbled upon a stray window. For who knows what reason, there was literally a window laying on the ground, near the sidewalk. Naturally, as most foragers/scavengers do, we took it home. We knew we were destined to find a purpose for it! On our way back, we decided that it would make the perfect mini garden bed, for the garden unit. Conveniently, we ran into our apartment manager, with our window in hand, and he remarked that one of the other buildings owned by our landlord was being renovated, and included were the windows! A few days later, he dropped off some more windows, to add to our recycled garden bed collection.

Last Tuesday, Jill and I lined our first window, to prevent any rotting of the wood. To do this, we simply cut a garbage bag in half, and tacked it to the edge of the wood with nails. To prevent the nails from ripping through the plastic liner, we placed strips of thicker plastic (which we sourced from our empty cottage cheese tub!) atop the bag as reinforcement. Then, we filled the window with soil.

Here is the process for sprouting popcorn:

1. Soak popcorn seeds overnight and then drain in the morning. Rinse and drain, twice daily until a tiny little root pops (ha!) out.

2. Next, lay the seeds on top of moistened soil. Spread the seeds to that they are comfortably next to each other; too close and you may have a helping of mold on your sprouted popcorn... yuck! If you have mold or fungi problems, reduce the density of seeds. Maintain moisture and cover the tray. Make sure there is still air circulation! Keep in low light with room temperature.
3. Water once or twice daily, using a spray bottle, so as not to over water. In three or four days, your sprouts are going to raise the roof! Your cover should lift. At this time, you should put your popcorn shoots in a well-lit area, and make sure they are moist. The shoots are ready to harvest after they are 2 to 4 inches, with green leaves.
Once you harvest your shoots, you can do many things with them. You can eat them raw, otherwise many people suggest blanching them. Blanching simply means boiling them for a short while and then submerging them in ice cold water immediately after boiling, which stops the cooking process. We snacked a little on them, though we were surprised by their sweetness!
After leaving the garden unit for the weekend (we all went to be with our families for Easter weekend, which was delightful), our sprouts went a little bit crazy... They outgrew their tasty stage. So our popcorn sprouts have found a new home; the community garden! Along with some chives that my dear grandpa gifted me for my birthday, we also planted some hostas and hollyhocks from Jill's grandparents. We were assisted by nearly 15 helpers from the neighborhood, and our garden bed is looking quite nice, if I may say so myself. Spring is here (thank goodness!)

Happy growing!

Friday, April 22

Happy Earth Day

Every year come Earth Day, there are several stories that come to mind which bring a genuine smile to my face, without fail!

My favorite, is the story of my mom, on the very first Earth Day on April 22nd, 1970. My mom grew up about an hour west of our home, on a farm with my grandparents and her four brothers. Her and her brothers attended school a couple miles from their home. On Earth Day in 1970, my mom, being a young, enthusiastic activist, decided to walk home from school in honor of our dear Mother Earth.

Recall, however, that there were no cellphones in 1970, and though my mom had the best of intentions of helping to protect the Earth, such intentions were not quite communicated so well with her mom. When my mom was not home at her expected time and the sun was setting, my grandma hopped in her car and drove up and down the streets looking for my mom. Not quite what my mom had in mind, when walking rather than driving home from school... None-the-less, I would say that the actions were honorable.
 Beth and I after a trail cleanup (not this Earth Day, but remember, Earth Day is everyday!)
There are so many different ways you can celebrate the Earth, and Earth Day is such a good reminder for us all. However, let us not forget, that Earth Day is everyday!

Happy Earth Day

Friday, April 15

Sunday, April 10

Spring day, the first of the year!

My body has been yearning for some warmth and sun. There have been days that tease the system, but nothing that makes you smile just because.

Today was that day! The sun was so gosh-darn bright, I was squinting. And the air was so warm that I had to pull back my hair, so the breeze could cool my neck. Sun kissed! Perfect.

Jill and I started our day (like yesterday) at our community garden beds. We were so pleasantly joined by our favorite helpers: the neighborhood kids! We were not even there for more than 30 seconds, when we were enthusiastically joined by about 6 kids, all excited to help us plant our garden beds. Life is so rejuvenating.

The morning went something like this:

Just wonderful. And we were just in time, the storm is on its way. The sky will soon be opening up and gardening too!

Here is some food for thought, from the new song Helplessness Blues by the Fleet Foxes:
"I was raised up believin'
I was somehow unique
like a snowflake, distinct among snowflakes
unique in each way you can see

And now after some thinkin'
I'd say I'd rather be
a functioning cog in some great machinery
serving something beyond me."

Friday, April 8

Happy Birthday Jill!

Today, a happy day, is Jill's birthday! Tonight we are going camping at my grandpa's farm, which will be delightful (despite the rain, we will be "camping" in the barn). But in the mean time, what is a birthday without a cake?

A running tradition in the garden unit, is baking bundt cakes, which we pretty much bake for every occasion... sometimes we make up occasions, just to bake a bundt!

In case you are wondering what the heck a bundt is:
Recall one of our first recipes on this blog, Jill's Bodacious Bundt. We have also seen the likes of an egg nog bundt for the winter months, a marble-"tolerance" bundt in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and for Groundhog Day (also known as underGroundhog Day in the garden unit), we had a sweet little groundhog peeking out of a chocolate bundt:
Notice our groundhog: made of chocolate, raisins, walnuts and coconut. 
Based on the recent weather, I am guessing he did not see his shadow...
Anyways, for Jill's birthday this year, she requested a carrot-cake bundt, and a carrot-cake bundt she will receive! The recipe is Jill's grandma's recipe, and it is quite delicious.
Gweny's Carrot Cake
4 eggs
2 cups of sugar
1 1/4 cup of oil
2 cups of flour
2 teaspoons of cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of salt
2 teaspoons of baking soda
3 cups of grated carrots

1. Beat the eggs, and gradually add the sugar. Then, add oil. Add in the dry ingredients. Next, fold in the carrots.

2. Bake at 350 degrees for about 50 minutes to 1 hour.

And what is a carrot cake without cream cheese frosting?

Cream cheese frosting
8 ounces of cream cheese
1/2 cup of butter
Powdered sugar

1. Mix. The vanilla and powdered sugar is all to taste. Put it on top of your bundt!
Jill and her birthday bundt!
Once you make your first bundt, I am guessing you will be just as hooked as we are. Not to mention, your friends will invite you to every event (anticipating your next bundt)...!

Happy eating, and HAPPY BIRTHDAY JILL!


As a kid, I couldn't stand coleslaw. One plop on my plate, next to my dinner, made me squirm in my seat. Luckily for me, as I have grown older, I have come to appreciate and thoroughly enjoy a heaping helping of slaw on the side! Not to mention, I am loving the many recipes I have discovered lately, that use cabbage.

I used to help out with this fresh fruit and vegetable program, where individuals ordered a basket of produce weekly, from our local, urban farm, Growing Power. Then, on Friday's Growing Power would deliver the baskets to me and I would distribute the baskets to the individuals. I could talk about Growing Power for hours; they are doing many wonderful things here in Milwaukee. But that is not why I am sharing this story. Helping out with the program has lead me to meet many new people and talk about food with many a stranger. In particular, one of the most frequently discussed foods talked about, was cabbage. No one knew what to do with cabbage! And luckily for them, there was cabbage in just about every basket from August to December. I was the recipient of many heads of cabbage, myself, over the years, as I helped out with the program. Not until recently, have I become creative with cabbage; and it has been quite rewarding!

First, I tried my hand at sauerkraut. Though my first batch was less than delicious, I will be trying my hand at a second batch soon. However, I have been as busy as a bee and will have to wait till I have a bit more time to dedicate to this endeavor. I am not too worried, though the next time I attempt sauerkraut, I plan to make a bit larger of a batch. According to my cousin Stacey, the larger the batch, the better the flavor! We shall see...!

My next, and more successful endeavor, was minestrone. A basic minestrone recipe, with half a head of chopped cabbage, added something special and unique! I will surely not be making any more minestrone without a heaping helping of cabbage.

Yesterday, I made one big batch of coleslaw. Though I once despised the side, like I said, I have come to really enjoy coleslaw. And it is as easy as could be to make it! Not to mention, there are so many varieties.
For my coleslaw, I used what I had on hand. Here is what I made:
1 half of a head of cabbage, shredded
1 cup of carrots, shredded
1 onion, chopped
1/2 cup of chopped celery
1 cup of mayonnaise
1 Tablespoon of honey
2 Tablespoons of vinegar (I used the liquid from my homemade dilly beans!)
2 teaspoons of salt
1 teaspoon of pepper
1/2 teaspoon of paprika

1. Combine everything and stick it in your fridge, for at least 2 hours (to help the flavors get even tastier!)

Note: you can add many other vegetables and I urge you to experiment with seasonings. One of the best slaws I ever had, was made with celery root! I haven't made any with celery root yet, but I will surely be doing that soon.

I brought this coleslaw to a potluck a couple of days ago and as we were about to arrive I became a bit worried, as flashbacks to my childhood of despising coleslaw flashed back into my head... Potlucks are a funny thing, because they are so wonderful in the sense that they bring together so many people over good food; but there can sometimes arise a slight bit of fear that people won't like your food! When sharing with friends, it is not quite as big of a deal, but when sharing with many strangers, it can be a bit more nerve-racking. I realized that with bringing coleslaw to the potluck, that I may have been setting myself up for disaster... though quite the opposite was true! In fact, the first individual to enjoy my slaw, as a young boy, of about 10 years old, who had filled his plate with a heaping helping, to which he ate every last bit. Thank goodness!

Even if you currently despise coleslaw (or cabbage), I urge you to try it again. If I can learn to like it, and ten-year-olds can enjoy it, then surely you can too!

Happy eating!

Sunday, April 3

Pied piper

A few weeks ago (how time flies!), Jill and I, and our dear friends Annie, Conor and Jack, ventured south on a spring road trip. On our adventure, we visited many wonderful places and met a handful of delightful people, doing really, really good things. In Kentucky, we stayed at Miguel's Pizza and Rock Climbing. A place I have visited many times before while rock climbing in the Red River Gorge, we were happy to pitch our tent behind the pizza shop and enjoyed the company of many other rock climbers and hikers that also had stopped at Miguel's.
On our perch, in the Red River Gorge; reading, writing and knitting
After the Red River Gorge, we made our way southeast, to the Great Smokey Mountains National Park. Here, we hiked and camped and enjoyed the picturesque views along the Appalachian Trail. And let me just say, I am constantly thankful of my friend's abilities to prepare delicious meals; even when we are camping in the great outdoors! We ate like kings and queens, to say the least.
The Appalachian Trail
Snack time on the trail
For the last few days of our trip, we spent our time exploring Nashville, Tennessee. And what a delight! There were so many good things happening here. We visited the Nashville Farmers Market, for its opening night of the season. There were many smiling faces of farmers and visitors alike. There were even bountiful supplies of fresh produce, which was quite surprising to see in the middle of March, for a Wisconsinite.
The motley crew in Nashville, Tennessee
But perhaps on the top of our Nashville finds, was the Pied Piper Creamery. We stumbled upon this little gem as we were out and about on St. Patrick's Day, and we scheduled our following day around the hours of the shop. Pied Piper Creamery is a little ice cream shop located in East Nashville. It is on the first floor of a lovely house, in a lovely neighborhood; all-in-all, as welcoming as could be! 
Nashville's treat! Jill and her ice cream
What makes the ice cream from Pied Piper even sweeter of a treat, is the history behind the store it self. Through a brief conversation with the owner and ice cream aficionado, Jenny, we discovered that the she started the store as an ice cream lover but knowing nothing about making it at all. The store was opened several years ago, as she had moved to East Nashville and was disappointed that there wasn't an ice cream shop around. Rather than whining about the issue, she was proactive and started her own shop! As well as a variety of creative flavors (with clever names like Love is a Butterfield butter pecan, and Vanilla Ice, Ice Baby vanilla ice cream), Jenny makes her own waffle cones.
We also loved Nashville's 75 degree weather...
The ice cream was delicious till the final lick, but we particularly loved Jenny's approach to business; creating a solution to a problem quite creatively. And I must say, it was a problem worth solving, and thank goodness she did.

All is well, as we have landed back home at the Garden Unit.
Happy eating!