Midsummer Magic

It’s the middle of summer, food is at its freshest, and the livin’ is easy, or at least it should be.

There’s nothing we love more at this time of year than the intense flavors and colors of fresh fruits, and there’s no easier way to enjoy them than to just throw them in whatever you’re making. Need some ideas? That’s why we’re here.

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Last week I put some fresh raspberries and cherries in my mojito – smashing them up just a bit in the bottom of the glass before adding the rest of the ingredients.

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Serve cubed watermelon with mint for a refreshing treat on a hot day. If you like that combo, you’ll love our watermelon mojitos!

And if your garden’s still overflowing with mint, make some aqua frescas.

Add fresh figs and blueberries to your mocktails (or cocktails!).

Throw watermelon and blueberries in your smoothies with a tea-based twist.

What about watermelon in your gazpacho?!

Any ripe berry would go well in these yogurt-based popsicles. These lemon pops are another refreshing option.

Yesterday Alex asked to bake a cake (nothing makes my heart melt faster than his request to do something in the kitchen!). He wanted a cake with “a blue middle and red paint on the frosting”. I let him add some food coloring to our batter, but then transformed his idea for red paint into a splattering of berries and their juices across the top. This is a basic yellow cake with our favorite coconut milk buttercream (scroll down).

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Summer, and particularly July, is such a special time of year for us, and nothing tastes more like summer than perfectly ripe fruit; it’s pure midsummer magic. If you can get your hands on some, especially if you have the chance to get out there and pick berries, do two things : 1. eat as much as you can while picking, and 2. do something creative and special with the leftovers. You won’t regret it! xo

 

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Five Best Earth Friendly Products For An Outdoor Shower

This was originally posted on 8/26/15, but with a weekend at the beach coming, I thought we should all give it a look again. Be earth concious, but more importantly, enjoy that outdoor shower!

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Taking an outdoor shower is hands down my favorite way to bathe.  A couple years ago, our father installed one at the beach and since then the whole crew has paraded in and out trying to wash the sand from our tootsies.  Because I would rather take all my showers outside under the moonlight, I thought it would be helpful to share our five favorite earth friendly products for the outdoor shower.  These products are all biodegradable and earth friendly, but what does that mean really?

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Dutch Oven Chili

We’re half way through JULY! I think Kate will agree, this is our favorite time of year. We’re both July babies so this month has always been special for us. Growing up, we would have joint pool parties together even though there’s a nine year gap between us! This year we haven’t managed to get together, but both of our Julys have been packed with outdoor adventure and ample family time.

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Last week, I took a family of Brazilians out into the mountains for the first camping trip of their lives. We had a wonderful time hiking, learning new skills, and hanging out at camp. I plan on sharing more aspects of that adventure in future posts, but for now I wanted to share a Dutch Oven Chili recipe that is perfect for a camping crowd. The way I make chili is incredibly simple.. So simple that it’s almost one of those recipes that’s not really a recipe, WTF do I mean? You’ll see..

Even though this post is entitled Dutch Oven Chili, you can also make it on the stovetop by following this recipe. If you’re making it in a dutch oven, you’ll want to get a great layer of hot coals going. Another option, and perhaps a more reliable one, is to light a couple dozen charcoal briquettes. For the first half of the recipe have the dutch oven sitting directly on a bed of hot coals or charcoal briquettes. The lid should be kept off while you brown the meat and cook the fresh veggies that way you can monitor the heat, ensuring you don’t burn your dinner. Once you add all the canned items there will be a good amount of liquid in the pot so you shouldn’t have any trouble with burning or sticking. Place the lid on the dutch oven, cover it with coals or briquettes and wait twenty minutes or so (this really depends on the condition of your coals and briquettes) until the contents of the pot comes to a bubble.

Dutch Oven Chili

Ingredients

  • Onion
  • Bell Pepper
  • Jalapeño (or a small can of Jalapeños)
  • 3-5 cloves Garlic
  • 1 lb Ground Beef
  • 1 15oz can Kidney Beans
  • 1 28oz Diced Tomatoes
  • 1 jar of Salsa
  • Ann Schu's homemade Chili Sauce*
  • Chili Seasoning Packet

Instructions

  1. Start by cooking the ground beef over medium heat. Break up the beef into smaller pieces with a fork while it's still raw.
  2. Once the beef is cooking, begin chopping your onion, bell pepper, jalapeño and cloves of garlic.
  3. Add the vegetables to the meat as you chop.
  4. By the time the beef is completely cooked, the onions should be clear and the peppers a little soft.
  5. Drain off the grease if necessary - this is totally your call. When I make it in the kitchen, I drain the grease, when I make it in the Dutch oven I keep it because more liquid and flavor is better than less (usually it's a small amount anyway).
  6. Now it's time to work those arms - open all the cans: beans (drain off the liquid), tomatoes, jalapeño, salsa, and add them to the cooked beef and fresh veggies. Splash a bit of water in each can too, swirl it around, and add it to the chili mixture.
  7. Add your chili seasoning (or your own special spice mix) and mix well.
  8. If it's looking dry, you could add a splash of water or tomato paste and water to add a little liquid.
  9. Turn the heat down to a simmer, cover with a lid and allow the mixture to bubble before enjoying.
  10. If the mixture looks extra juicy, allow it to bubble a bit with the lid off, this should take care of some of the extra liquid.
  11. Serve over couscous or rice and top with shredded sharp cheddar cheese.
  12. *Ann Schu's homemade chili sauce is obviously optional and most times I don't have it, but when I do, I receive five times the compliments!
http://liveseasoned.com/dutch-oven-chili/

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There you have it. Super simple. How do you make chili? Do you serve it over rice or couscous? Are we the only ones?!


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Garden & Pond Update

I’m documenting the growth, successes, and failures in our backyard space. It’s been about a month since I introduced you to the pond, and two months since I introduced the garden.

We have reached the height of summer here in the mountains. This is our hottest month, and while it seems dry out there, August is usually even drier. As you’ll see in the photos, there have been some real successes here in the garden, but what you don’t see is that there have also been a few failures/areas for improvement.

Fist, a surprising success : look at this clematis!

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That vine grows in a small bed, that’s more like a container built into a little nook in our deck. It doesn’t have any irrigation, so the soil is extremely dry if not watered regularly. Last summer I was so busy with baby Luc, that I completely ignored this area. I barely watered it, and I didn’t care that the vine never grew (seriously, it grew maybe 10 inches and then died). Fortunately, with ample water, it came back in full force this summer and is covered in beautiful blooms!

I think that it also serves as a great reminder of the resilience of plants, and about how lush a garden can be with just a bit of care.

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In the photo above, I’m showing off the echinacea that I planted this summer. I planted four of these around the yard (two in this bed and two near the pond). As you can see, these are successfully blooming, and I’m hoping to let their seed ponds fall into the bed for some self-seeding action. Unfortunately, one near the pond died – it suffered from a lack of watering and also an attack by our garden mice!…

The mice seem to be living in the beds along the deck, and I’m looking for ways to get rid of them or at least minimize their foraging. They’ve been eating some of the black-eyed susan flowers that I planted as well as the veggies in our veggie patch (so we haven’t been eating the vegetables, just to be safe). Any mice advice?

Behind the echinacea is an extremely large pot – I have two of these, and both are planted with a purple grass and those flowers. I’m totally blanking on the name of those flowers. It’s a nice combination that’s done well for me two years in a row.

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The photo above shows one of my potting surprises. I planted these violas and pansies in early spring when I wanted something to fill the pot but knew that only something cold-hardy would do. I expected to fill the pots with something more heat tolerant once summer arrived, but these beauties keep flowering! They do look a bit leggy, but really not that bad, so I’m going to keep them here for a bit longer and then I’m hoping to transplant them to a shade spot under one of our Aspen trees, and see how well they do there (the violas should come back as a perennial).

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As I surmised in my introductory post, we have raspberries that fruit on old growth (known as floricane-fruiting). Since I cut down all of the canes when we moved in (spring of 2015), new canes grew last summer and now they are all producing fruit! We have so many berries out there right now, only a small handful of really ripe ones so far, but more and more and ready every day.

I’m not sure what method I’m going to use for maintaining the raspberries. Part of me wants to cut down all of the canes again after this growing season (new and old growth), but that would meant that then we won’t have any fruit next summer. Or, I could go in and selectively thin the canes – cutting down the old growth and keeping the new growth. If I’m feeling ambitious and have the time, I may try this method… either way, I’ll keep you posted, and in the meantime, we’re enjoying this year’s bumper crop! 
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In the pond, our waterlilies are doing fantastic!… so is the algae! It’s a daily battle to go in and remove the string algae, but if I stay on top of it, the pond looks beautiful. We have these two lilies blooming right now, and I can see that the plants are multiplying – sending out new roots and plants within the containers. They seem to be such vigorous growers that I’m thinking about putting them in even bigger containers next year to encourage new plants.

The smaller plants floating around the lillies are the fairy moss. It’s growing well, but I think that next year I’ll order even more, because it’s not covering the pond as quickly as I’d like (I want it to cover the pond to help shade-out the algae).

A few of our other pond plants are doing well, but are still relatively small, so I’ll share updates on those in a future post.

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I’d still like to add a couple of fish to the pond, but without more plant cover, I think they’d be immediate prey for the birds and other wildlife around our house…

I’m definitely highlighting the successes, because that’s what makes the gardening fun, and these are the areas my eyes turn to every time I walk out the door. Maybe I’ll share more of my “eh” areas in the next post. There are a few spaces where I was hoping to see big changes this year, but I’m starting to realize that I may have to settle for a slower evolution of the space.

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Two Bits

We want to break down these internet barriers and invite you into our lives and we’re hoping you’ll do the same.  You are welcome to share a bit of your week or day in the comments, or if they’re better represented by a photo, tag us on instagram @liveseasoned.

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Sarah Here :

Happy Friday! Today I’m prepping for a week-long camping trip with close friends, a family of goofy Brazilians. I spent all week making lists, buying supplies and packing bags. My guests have never slept in tents before which means this whole experience will be completely foreign for them.  When was the last time you tried something new? Were you nervous? Excited? Prepared? Worried? I’m trying my best to anticipate my guests’ feelings so I can make everyone comfortable to ensure a great time.

Here’s a rundown of how I began planning this vacation:

  • Find a great location – think of climate, beauty and accessibility to activities.
  • Reserve a campsite – I choose a rustic site, but you could search for a cabin, yurt, or decked out campsite if that’s more your speed.
  • Make a list of activities and natural attractions. If you’re headed to an area with limited cell reception, jot down important details like directions.
  • Make a list of meal ideas and ingredients.
  • Plan a schedule that incorporates the activities and meals taking into account the time and energy that will be spent on both. I tried to pair high-energy activities with nurishing, but easy meals and vice-versa.
  • Think through each activity and meal and write a list of supplies needed.
  • Borrow, rent or buy whatever you may need for your trip.
  • Pack your bags, while again thinking over each acitivity, and you should have all you need!
  • Remember, if you have a first aid kit, a reliable shelter, and a few basics, you will be fine. You can always pick up whatever else you may be missing on day one.

I’m off to pack a bit more. Have a great weekend and if you’re stateside, stay safe this July 4th!

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