Garden in a Jar

Hi y’all!  I hope everyone had a great Easter weekend and had time to make our Homemade Peanut Butter Egg and Deviled Egg recipes.  We would love to hear any feedback if you did and don’t forget to follow our blog!  Matt and I had a pretty relaxed Easter – just went to church, had some Mimosas, played with Airlie dog, and did some more planning for our upcoming trip to Ireland in May!  We don’t dress up often so we figured we’d take a picture:


One thing I’ve been wanting to do is to start a herb garden.  Usually I buy herb plants from the NC Farmer’s Market here in Raleigh, but this year I thought I’d try to grow my own from the start… we’ll see how it goes!  Hopefully the three generations of green-thumbers in our family can send their powers my way.  Matt and I took a little trip to a local Garden Supply store in Raleigh called Logan’s Trading Company.  We love going there and perusing the aisles of cool plants, envisioning what our yard is going to look like once we finally find the perfect home to buy (that’s been an adventure in itself!).  They had avocado trees, fig trees, and pomegranate trees… I totally intend on buying one of each once we have a yard of our own!

Before we got started with the herb garden Matt re-potted some of our houseplants.  The one you see below is a Madagascar Palm – it’s very hard to kill because it requires very little water.  Beware of the sharp thorns! Basically to re-pot it, Matt just removed it from the old pot, broke up the root ball a bit, then used fresh sandy soil and put it in the new pot.  We also got worm castings and sprinkled them on top as a natural fertilizer (I’ll talk about that later!).


Now on to the mason jar herb garden…


I used 3 mason jars that I already had.


I bought 3 packets of seeds.  I LOVE fresh cilantro in salsa (need a great salsa recipe?).  I also love to top pasta dishes with thyme and goat cheese, and finally fresh basil makes me happy and is easy to grow.  Pick whatever herbs you think you’ll use the most!



Since we didn’t drill holes in the bottom of the jars for drainage, I put wine corks in one (about 1/3 from the bottom of the jar) and river rocks in the other two jars.  This will create a place for water to go so the soil doesn’t get too wet and rot the roots.


Then I filled the rest of the jar with soil, up to just about 1″ from the top of the rim. See how the rocks/ corks allow room for air in the bottom?


After reading the seed packets for directions, they said to plant the seeds 1/2″ below the soil.  I just sprinkled about 1/2 of the seeds on top of the soil.  I figured some of the seeds wouldn’t actually sprout and I wanted to improve my chances of growing some herbs, which is why I sprinkled more than I technically should have.  I’m storing the rest of the seeds in case these don’t grow well!


Then I covered the seeds with a thin layer of soil and then some worm castings to help them grow! We bought a bag of worm castings from Logan’s for about $20.  It’s a great organic fertilizer to use.  Hopefully later this Spring I’ll make some time to start my own little vermiculture setup (a.k.a. worm farming).  Sound gross?? Yes!  But my friend has a little set up and it’s not that bad.  I’d rather do that than continue to pay $20 for a bag of the worm castings!


Finally, I simply wrote the name on the mason jar lid and put it under the jar to make sure I don’t get my little herb plants mixed up.


My herbs require full sun and it just so happens that mason jars fit perfectly in a window sill.  I’ll keep y’all updated to see how my herbs are growing… they should take 10-15 days to sprout, so check back in!  Matt and I also planted some arugula in outdoor planters.  Check back for that post soon as well.  If you need other mason jar ideas, they’re great for drinkin’ beer.  Airlie agrees too!



It’s Fall Y’all!

It’s finally starting to feel like Fall with cooler days, changing leaves, and pumpkin spice everything!  Fall is by far my most favorite time of the year and I was so happy to see my favorite season is in full force at the NC State Farmer’s Market.  This time last year I had just moved to Raleigh from Northern Virginia and found myself in a pickle because all of my Fall decorations were in our storage unit.  I didn’t want to invest in Fall decorations I’d have to store somewhere and got an idea… why not use natural materials to decorate?  My grandmother DaGa, mom, and aunts always used natural materials to decorate for the holidays, whether it was using magnolia leaves for wreaths or winter berries in a vase.

The farmer’s market had so many different types of pumpkins and gourds!  I found myself amazed at how the colors and textures varied. So now for the hard part… which to choose for my decorations…

Pumpkins don’t just come in orange anymore!

Gourds, gourds everywhere (and only 2 for $1)!

Can it be? Gourds that look like watermelon?

Even gourds that look like a goose?

Bumpy pickle gourds…

Apple gourds?!?!

White “Lumina Pumpkins”…

Gray pumpkins?

Pumpkins with warts…

Pastel pumpkins…

And finally giant pumpkins!

It took a while, but I finally picked out what I wanted, partially because I had so much fun taking pictures (sorry if I went overboard!).  Here are some ways I used natural materials to decorate for Fall.  The best part is that they will last through Thanksgiving and you don’t have to worry about storing them anywhere!

Stacked pumpkins: I got these pumpkins that are flatter at the farmer’s market and stacked them in a pot by our front door.  Just cut off the stems and stack them on top of each other.

Airlie is proud of her pumpkin topiary!

Decorating with gourds: I also got some funky looking gourds and put them in a woven basket on my coffee table… very easy and festive as well! I didn’t have to spend a dime on a container I already had.

Using apples: I bought some Fuji apples from the farmer’s market as well and piled them in a trifle bowl.  Now I have easy access to the apples and it looks cute on my table!

If you’re looking to spruce up your yard, now is the time to plant…


And mums!  These plants can stand up to very cool weather and add a pop of color!  Gardener’s tip from my mom – snap off the “dead heads” (dead flowers) at the top of the stem to help your mums continue to bloom.

Happy Fall Decorating!

Flower Arranging 101

Something that always brightens my day is a beautiful vase of flowers.  I feel like sometimes I get tired of the decor in my kitchen or dining room, but once I get a vase full of flowers it already feels warmer and prettier.  We usually had flowers growing up somewhere in our house and my mom was very creative with arranging them.  She took a floral design class while a student at Virginia Tech and taught me the basics of creating an arrangement.

I was able to test my floral design skills around age 12 when I entered some arrangements in the Culpeper Farm Show  (yes, there is such a thing as a “Farm Show” and believe it or not I entered lots of things in it!).  I think I entered about 4 arrangements my first year and won best of show for one of them.  Growing up we got our flowers from our back yard, DaGa’s yard, or along the side of the road.  Some of my favorite flowers to use were Queen Anne’s Lace and Butterfly Weed which would require us to grab a bucket of water and clippers, pile into our Jeep, and drive up and down the country roads with our heads out the windows trying to spot a patch of these flowers in the ditch without getting hit by a car.

When I got to college I took the same floral design class as my mom (and I’m pretty sure I had the same professor my mom had… he looked ancient) mainly because I wanted a fun class and we got to take the flowers home.  I ended up not really liking the class because I felt we made more funeral-looking arrangements that were too structured and not very natural looking.   I think I learned much more from my mom than that professor!

Anyways, this past Saturday I was making my weekly stop at the NC State Farmer’s Market and decided to pick up some flowers.  There are always several cut flower stands to choose from and they generally have similar flowers and prices.  The bouquet above is one I got on my first trip to the farmer’s market when I moved to Raleigh, NC back in October 2011.  It contained sunflowers, fresh basil, and some small purple flowers similar to clover.  The best part is that it was only $5!  The flowers that I got Saturday were $10 and consisted of Zinnias, Oriental Lilies, Sedum (I think?), and some other flowers I have not yet identified. Zinnias are my favorite because they are easy to grow from seed, come in beautiful colors, and look super cute in an old mason jar.

What you need for a good flower arrangement are the following:

  • A tall, dramatic flower
  • Medium-sized flowers of similar or contrasting colors
  • Smaller flowers for a “filler”
  • Greenery (or leaves)
  • Clippers
  • A vase or container (I got my vase as a wedding gift from Crate and Barrel… it’s the perfect size!)

First Important Tip  – cut all stems to length at a 45 degree angle.  This increases the surface area so the flower can absorb more water and ultimately last longer! Even if the stems have already been cut at this angle, cut them again!

Second Important Tip –  Remove the lower foliage from the stems that might be covered in water when you put the stem in the vase.  If you don’t, it will start to rot and most likely decrease your arrangement life by a few days.  You don’t want to remove all of the foliage, just what might be sitting in water.

Third Important Tip – I think this is the most important tip, so listen closely.  Think in terms of ODD numbers.  For instance for your taller flower, use one or three , or five of them to get your shape.  If you use even numbers it just doesn’t look right… I’m not quite sure but it doesn’t!

So here I have my 3 flowers of visual interest – the sedum, lilly, and dahlia.

I put them in my vase and then add in the zinnias, using 5-7 throughout the arrangement.  Since this arrangement is for the middle of my dinner table and will be seen from all sides.  I want it to look good from ALL sides, not just the front.

Then I add in my other smaller flowers to fill in the arrangement.  You might be thinking at this point, “Wow this really looks terrible, maybe I should have just gone to the florist and spent the 50$ for an arrangement!” but DON’T!  It will look better I promise you, you’re not done yet!

Then add in the filler flowers.  Use as many as you like or have.  I still recommend using odd numbers.  You want to fill in the holes in the visual space of the arrangement and give it some type of shape.  Do not cut all the flower stems the same length.  What makes an arrangement interesting are when there are different textures and depths to the flowers.

Finally, add in your greenery, but not too much.  You want to add just enough to give the arrangement some depth and shape.

Once that’s finished, take a final look from all sides and trim stems that might be sticking out too far.  Add water to the vase if you haven’t already, usually lukewarm is preferred because it stimulates the flowers to open up more.  For best results change your water daily and the arrangement will last much longer.

Enjoy your beautiful arrangement!  Your family and friends will be super impressed and your bank account will thank you for saving money on this DIY project!

Corn Puddin’

Last weekend my friend Amanda and I drove up north to Philadelphia, PA, to visit our friend Mallory.  Both Mallory and Amanda are two of my bridesmaids and good friends from graduate school.  It was my first time in Philly and I loved it!  Our trip was filled with American history, delicious food, and fun!  Our last stop before leaving the city on Sunday was Mallory’s local farmer’s market.  I was excited to see what Philly had to offer (I can never pass up the opportunity to check out a farmer’s market).  It certainly did impress with gorgeous displays of fresh fruits and vegetables. I ended up going a little overboard with my purchases…but as you can see below…..everything looked so delicious!

I bought tomatoes, cucumbers, peaches, lettuce, onions, and corn, which got me excited about making corn pudding.  Corn pudding is a dish that both my maternal (Daga) and paternal (GG) grandmothers would make.  It is a necessary side-dish at Thanksgiving, cookouts and  family get-together’s.

Although both of my grandmothers made corn pudding, a recipe from my paternal grandmother Frances Floyd (aka GG) steals the cake.   After growing up on her delicious meals, I was shocked to find out  during a recent visit with GG’s nephew (Aldwin Hight), that during my grandparents engagement, GG was often worried she would not learn to be a good enough cook for her young groom (my grandfather).   I’d say my grandfather Pop got lucky….cooking should have been the least of her worries!

For Corn Pudding you’ll need:

Print Corn Puddin’ Recipe

4 ears fresh sweet corn

3 heaping tablespoons of sugar

1 tablespoon flour

2 eggs (well beaten)

1 1/2 cups milk (skim)

4 tablespoons melted butter

First, start by shucking all of your corn and rinsing.  Fill a large pot (large enough to fit 4 ears of corn) with water and bring to a boil.  Once the water starts to boil, add your corn.  I cooked mine for about 8 minutes.

Once your corn is cooked, remove immediately from the pot and place it on a plate to cool.  Once corn is cool enough, begin slicing off the cob.  You will need about 2 cups of kernels.  Set corn aside and pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a glass or ceramic casserole dish.

Pour your 2 cups of kernels into a bowl.  Mix together the sugar, corn, and flour until the kernels are evenly coated (this prevents the corn from floating on top once the liquid is added).

Set the dry mixture aside.  Beat 2 eggs in a separate bowl.  Add the melted butter to the eggs, beating well.

Gradually add milk to the mixture, continuing to mix well.

Add the egg mixture to the corn.  Mix together evenly, then pour mixture  into greased casserole dish.

Place in the oven  and bake for 45 minutes on 350 degrees until golden brown.  Let the dish cool slightly before serving (allow time for dish to “set”).  Enjoy!

Print Corn Puddin’ Recipe

Chilled Gazpacho

So I might have gone a little overboard again at the farmer’s market, but everything just looked so darn good!  I do have to say that I really do enjoy supporting the local farmers and they are all so nice, so I end up buying one type of vegetable from each… it’s hard to pick just one stand!  I am proud of myself because I got all of this for only 32$.  Most of it is pesticide free and organic… you can’t beat that at Whole Foods or Harris Teeter!

So one of my absolute FAVORITE summer dishes is gazpacho!  I love how cool and fresh it is. It’s also very healthy and perfect for a chill summer lunch.  This is just another delicious tomato recipe that I love to make!  I remember I had my first bowl of gazpacho in Madrid, Spain while visiting with my family.  Since then it has been a favorite of ours to make to cool off during the heat of the summer.  I don’t really think this Spanish dish was well-known in the US when my great-grandmother and grandmothers were alive, but boy if it was they would have loved it!!  Here’s the recipe for this cool concoction:

Chilled Gazpacho

Print Chilled Gazpacho Recipe

For this recipe you will need:

  • 5 Roma tomatoes
  • 3 cups tomato juice (I used organic w/ no salt added from Whole Foods)
  • 1 medium red onion
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 2 medium cucumbers
  • 2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • a food processor, blender, or hand-held immersion blender

To start, make sure all of your vegetables have been washed.  Start coarsely chopping the tomatoes.

Then add them to your food processor or blender.

Peel the cucumbers…

and coarsely chop 1 1/2 of them. Dice the other 1/2 cucumber and set aside (this will be used as a topping).

Then peel and coarsely chop the red onion…

and add it into the food processor along with peeled and coarsely chopped garlic cloves

Then measure 1 1/2 cups of the tomato juice… I went a little bit over, ooops!

Add the tomato juice to the food processor.

Pulse the food processor until the vegetables are chopped. Don’t forget to put the cover on and DO NOT OVERPROCESS!!!

You want it to be a little chunky, not completely pureed like vegetable juice.

Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and add the remaining 1 1/2 cups of tomato juice.  Stir to incorporate. Add 3 Tablespoons of red wine vinegar.  If you only have white wine vinegar or cider vinegar, by all means throw that in instead!

Add a little salt to taste…

and some black pepper and mix.

You can eat the gazpacho right away (like I did, I just couldn’t help myself) or you can let it chill for an hour.  Serve chilled in a bowl topped with the remaining cucumber diced and a little leftover red onion.  I also added fresh cilantro which made it even more amazing.  You can also do as the Spaniards do by topping with fresh croutons, finely chopped black olives, or carrots.  Whatever your heart (or stomach) desires!  Store in the refrigerator or put in ziplock bags and freeze.  Remember, the longer you let it sit, the more time the delicious flavors have to incorporate.

Print Chilled Gazpacho Recipe

Happy 4th of July from Home Grown Hand-Me-Down!

Happy 4th of July!

Me and my yellow lab Airlie

The 4th of July brings back so many memories of my childhood.  I think about spending all day at the pool, cooking out with family and friends and then watching fireworks that were pretty good for our small town.  I think this holiday truly helps me appreciate growing up in a small town – we definitely went all out!  There’s nothing more American, in my opinion, than homemade peach ice cream.  I remember making it with my grandmother DaGa and Aunt Susan in an old-fashioned ice cream maker.  Luckily we had an abundance of peaches growing up because there was a peach orchard near Aunt Susan’s house.

This past weekend I went down to visit my parents in Wilmington, North Carolina and my mom and I decided we had an itch for some peach ice cream.  She had just picked up a huge basket of juicy white peaches from the NC State Farmer’s Market and I love any excuse to use my ice cream maker attachment for my Kitchen Aid mixer!  While I do love true old-fashioned ice cream, I attempted to make it slightly healthier (especially since it’s bathing suit season!).

To make Perfect Peach Ice Cream you’ll need:

Print Perfect Peach Ice Cream Recipe

  • about 2 pounds fresh peaches (I recommend very ripe peaches for more flavor)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup fat-free half and half
  • 1 cup skim milk
  • 1/2 cup agave nectar
  • 3 tsp vanilla
  • an ice cream maker

First, peel your peaches and cut them into chunks,taking the pit out (obviously).  Once you have about 2 cups of peaches…

Use use an immersion blender, regular blender, or food processor to chop up the peaches a bit more.  I like a bit of chunk so I did not puree it.

Next, add the 1/2 cup heavy cream, 1 cup half and half, and 1 cup milk to the peaches and mix.

Then for some sweetness add in the 1/2 cup agave nectar.  If you do not have agave nectar you can do 1 cup sugar or even 1/2 cup Truvia if you’re trying to be healthy.

Add in the 3 teaspoons of vanilla and stir the mixture.  Then let ice cream mixture sit in the refrigerator for about 1 hour to chill.

Finally, add the mixture to your ice cream maker.  The amount of time you let it run will depend on the ice cream maker you have.  I did about 20 minutes.  It will still be somewhat creamy, so put it into a plastic container and chill for about 1 more hour in the freezer.  Serve and enjoy!

Print Perfect Peach Ice Cream Recipe

Salsa Time!

One of my favorite vegetables (or fruit some would argue) is the tomato. Now if you had asked me how I liked tomatoes about 20 years ago, I would’ve said they were the grossest thing on earth.  From the time I was a little girl my great-grandmother “Ginnie” and grandmother “DaGa”, as well as my mom took on a mission to make me and my sister like tomatoes.  To them it was almost unAmerican and very unSouthern-like to despise tomatoes as much as we did.  They tried sprinkling a little sugar on them (um gross!!!), hiding them in dishes, and practically bribing us to eat them. My mom always says “you have to try something 13 times before you can say you really don’t like it.”  I’m not sure if that’s what eventually worked for me, but now I love them.  Unfortunately my husband hates them just as much as the 8 year-old me, which makes me sad sometimes about how much he is missing out on my yummy tomato dishes.

The other day at the farmer’s market I saw rows and rows of plump tomatoes and it gave me the urge to make some fresh salsa.  As I strolled through the farmers booths, I remembered helping my grandmothers plant their tomatoes in their backyard gardens.  Sometimes we had so many tomatoes we would run out of widow sills in the kitchen to line them with!!  One of our family’s favorite uses for these garden-fresh tomatoes was homemade salsa.  Here’s a slight adaptation from that salsa recipe that my mom taught me back in the day…

For the Fresh Summer Salsa (try saying that 3 times fast!) recipe you will need the following:

Print Fresh Summer Salsa Recipe

  • 3 medium sized tomatoes
  • fresh cilantro (I got a big bunch at the farmer’s market for only 1$!!)
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 1/2 cups of sweet frozen corn (or you can use fresh)
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 large red onion
  • 2 tsp. lime juice
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 to 1 jalapeno pepper

What I love about this recipe is that I pretty much change it up based on what’s available and what I’m in the mood for.  If I’m not really in a “spicy kind of mood”  I will leave out the jalapeno pepper, or if I don’t have fresh cilantro I just use dried.

First thing you do is chop the vegetables.  This might intimidate some people who don’t have good chopping skills, but practice makes perfect.  Just make sure you have a nice sharp knife, otherwise you’re going to make your tomatoes squishy…and nobody likes squishy tomatoes.

I usually start with the onion largely because if you start with the tomatoes your cutting board is going to be all juicy and watery…

Just dice it on up!  You don’t want the onion pieces to be too big.

Then I usually go to the garlic.  If you don’t have a fancy garlic press just 1) smash it with the flat side of your knife, 2) peel the papery skin off, and…

Chop it up finely!

Now it’s time to tackle the jalapeno…  I’m not going to lie, I HATE touching jalapenos after I accidentally touched my eye after chopping them… smart move, but someone always has to learn the hard way.

Add in the amount of jalapeno according to your own preference.  Now if I was making this salsa only for my husband or dad who think eating a jalapeno is a walk in the park I would probably put the whole thing in, chopped up, including seeds.  For those of us who like a little kick but don’t want to be sucking down 5 gallons of water after a bite, I added in 1/2 of the jalapeno minus the seeds.  Or if you’re one of those sensitive people who don’t like spice in your life leave it out completely!

Now on to the beautiful farmer’s market tomatoes! I used three medium, but you can also use 2 large.  Dice them however you like, I usually score mine like the above picture and cut horizontally.

After they are all diced up they should look like this.

Put all of the chopped ingredients so far into a bowl…

Drain and rinse the can of black beans.

Measure out 1 1/2 cups of the sweet corn (defrost if using frozen).

Add to the bowl with the other ingredients and stir!

Next, add in the 2 teaspoons of lime juice.

Then salt and pepper to taste…

Chop up some fresh cilantro, approximately 1/2 cup.

Then stir it in with the rest of the salsa.

Print Fresh Summer Salsa Recipe

Ta da! You’ve made some amazingly simple and Fresh Summer Salsa!  I like to enjoy mine with organic blue corn tortilla chips and a corona light!

Summertime Petite Blueberry Cream Pies

When I think of Summer I think of fresh fruit, ice cream, swimming to cool off, and yummy pie.  Today I was at the North Carolina State Farmer’s Market in Raleigh and low and behold it’s already getting into blueberry season!  Blueberries are one of my favorite fruits and it made me miss my blueberry bushes my husband and I planted at our house in Virginia before we moved.

Blueberries aren’t just tasty, but they are good for you too!!  One of my favorite ways to eat them is in my grandmother’s (aka “DaGa”) fruit cream pie.  Although her original recipe is for Raspberry Cream Pie, I adapted it for blueberries and made it into a healthier, bite-size version that can satisfy your sweet tooth!  You can let your cooking imagination run wild – it can be made with chopped bananas, peaches, strawberries, or your other favorite fruits.  Here’s the recipe for this tasty delight!

For the Petite Blueberry Cream Pies you will need:

Print the Petite Blueberry Cream Pies Recipe

  • 1 can (1 1/3 cups) Eagle Brand fat-free sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 cups washed fresh blueberries
  • 4 packages of phyllo cups (found in the frozen food section)
  • 1 tub of whipped cream (I used fat-free Cool Whip)
Here’s how you make it:

First, combine the fat-free sweetened condensed milk and lemon juice.

Stir until thickened, might be 10 strokes or so…

Fold the blueberries into the condensed milk and lemon juice mixture…

Then take your phyllo cups out of the box.  I found that it was easiest to leave them in the tray.  Don’t worry about baking!

Spoon the yummy concoction into the phyllo cups. I was only able to get about 3-4 blueberries in because they were HUGE! Don’t fill them up too much because you’ve gotta leave room for the….

Whipped cream!! Just a dollop will do, or you can use the spray kind, whatever your heart desires!

Leave the cute little pies in the tray and freeze for about 2-3 hours.  You can freeze them overnight or for days.

At Last! Transfer the pies to your favorite platter 10-15 minutes before serving.  Then enjoy your friends’ compliments on how much of an amazing cook you are!

Print the Petite Blueberry Cream Pies Recipe