Posts By: dave

Wine Slushy

slushy

This is a nice twist on summer time frozen drinks.  A wine slushy! Doesn’t that sound delicious?  It is also really easy to make, most of it can be done ahead of time, and the ingredients are clean and healthy!  This will be a favorite drink while sitting out by the pool, or for a summer night BBQ.  I got this recipe from CoilyLocks.com, and here is the very simple instructions:

Ingredients:

  • 1 bottle of Riesling
  • 2 cups hulled strawberries
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar

Directions:

Set aside one cup of Riesling in the fridge to chill.  In a food processor, puree strawberries with the remaining wine, lime juice and sugar.  Pour the mixture into ice-cube trays and freeze until solid.  When you’re ready to serve (or drink), puree the ice cubes with the remaining wine in your blender.

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Make A Better Burger

This weekend is Labor Day, and there is no better way to end the summer than burgers and dogs on the grill!  The last couple of years I have been doing a lot of research on how to make a better burger.  There are a couple of tips that I employ that really seem to be a constant in my research for a better burger.  Next time you fire up the grill for burger time, try these tips, and you will not be disappointed!

  1. Choose the right ground beef!  You want ground beef that is around 20 – 25% fat.  Most of that will burn of during cooking, but your burgers will be moist and flavorful because of it.
  2. Season the meat.  A lot of people neglect to ad any seasoning at all.  Always use salt and pepper.  Ad it right to the raw meat and mix in.  If you want to use other spices, garlic or onions etc that you to ad to the raw meat, cook them lightly in a frying pan to bring out the flavor before adding to the meat.
  3. Don’t overwork the meat.  Try not to smash the ground beef up to much, or pat the burgers down too tight.  This will give you dense drier burgers.
  4. Indent the tops.  After you form your patties push your thumb onto the top of the patty to leave a good thumb sized indentation.  This keeps the patties from turning into balls while you cook them, which allows for a nice even cooking.
  5. Let them sit out.  Let your raw burgers get to room temperature before you put them on the grill.  After you make your patties, cover them with plastic wrap, and allow them to sit out until they are room temp.  This will allow the middle of the burger to cook evenly with the outside.
  6. Don’t squish.  When you are cooking your burgers, don’t squish them with your spatula.  All that does is dry them out, and makes more potential for a fire in your grill.
  7. Divide your grill.  If you are using charcoal, pile your hot coals on one side of the grill.  Put the raw burgers on the hot side of the grill, for 1 – 2 minutes on each side to char the outside.  Then, rotate the burger a half turn and place them on the cool side.  This will give you the crisscross pattern of grill marks.  Then cover the grill and cook for another 4-6 minutes per side to “bake” the inside of the burger without overcooking the outside.
  8. Let them sit. Let the patties rest covered with aluminum foil for about 5 minutes before serving.  This will lock the juices into the burger.
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Pebble From the Birth Place of Jesus

What an amazing opportunity for any Christian.  This is the kind of thing that only comes around once in a lifetime.  This is no ordinary cross; this is the ability to own a piece of the cave where the baby Jesus spent his first night with his mother Mary.  You can own a piece of the cave where the magi came to bestow gifts upon the newly born Lord.  Here was the cave in the rear of the house, and used for cattle. In a manger, as the most ready and fitting place, the babe was laid. The place where the shepherds came to pay their adorations, the place marked by the star of Bethlehem.

There are many different options, but this is my favorite: The Carpenter’s Cross is the embodiment of the simple life Christ lived. Straight, clean lines, the ultimate in modesty and a true symbol of the working life of Christ, who Himself was a carpenter by trade. With The Original Nativity Stone at the apex of the Cross, this is the perfect Christian gift for the man, woman or child who strives to live life on a daily basis according to the teachings of Jesus.

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Carpenter’s Cross

 

Emperor Justinian built the church that now stands over the cave of the nativity in 565 A.D. on the site of a previous church built by Constantine Cesar and his mother the Empress Helena, in 327 A.D.  It is one of the oldest churches in the world.

The cave of the nativity is 38 feet long by 11 wide, and a silver star in a marble slab at the eastern end marks the precise spot where the Lord was born. There is an inscription on the star that reads: Hie de virgine Maria Jesus Christus natus est. that means: Here Jesus Christ was born to the Virgin Mary.  Silver lamps are always burning around, and an altar stands near, which is used in turn by the monks of the convents. The manger in which the Lord was laid was taken to Rome by Pope Sixtus V. and placed in the church of St. Maria Maggiore, but a marble one supplies its place. A few feet opposite, an altar marks the spot where the Magi stood. The walls are covered with silken hangings.

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The actual birth place of Jesus

 

The stones that are contained in the crosses were removed during construction in the cave.  You can read the story about it here by clicking on the cross, and then on the second page clicking on “The Story.”

This is the only time that stones from this most holy of places will legally be removed.  Once these stones sell out, they will never be available again.  Take this opportunity to give a gift that will become an heirloom for generations of your family.  Give the gift that truly keeps Christ in Christmas. If you want to buy one now, you can get 15% off with code HOLIDAY15  Purchase yours here Nativity Stone Crosses

If you want a gold cross, this one is really beautiful: The Classic Nativity Stones Cross is perhaps the most spiritually connected Christian gift symbolizing our love for Jesus Christ.  The unique design of this cross is the work of world-renowned jewelry designer Paul Dimitriu.

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The Classic Nativity Stones Cross

 

Beer Candied Bacon

Now this is a dish made for dad!  Boy would I be excited if this was on the Father’s Day brunch table.  The only problem, is that it would be real hard for my family to make enough!  I can imagine that these go pretty quickly.  What a combination, beer, candy, and bacon.  You can’t go wrong!  This recipe comes from TideAndThyme.com, and it looks like a fairly easy recipe to accomplish.

Beer-Candied Bacon

1 lb thick-cut, high quality bacon
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp beer (I used Dogfish Head’s Chicory Stout)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine brown sugar and beer in a small bowl, whisking well to form a thin syrup. Set aside.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place a wire cooling rack on top. Place the pieces of bacon on top of the rack, overlapping if necessary. Place in oven and cook for 10 minutes.

Remove from oven and brush one side of the bacon with the beer syrup. Flip, and coat the other side with the syrup as well. Return to oven and cook for 10 minutes. Remove from oven, and repeat process another time or two more, until bacon is crispy and browned, and you’ve used all the glaze.

Cool on wire rack for at least 1 hour before serving.

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Mexican Grilled Corn

I’ll be honest, I consider myself to be pretty good on a grill, but I have had very mixed results when it comes to grilling corn.  Grilled corn is a flavor I truly love, so I attempt it all of the time.  However, that being said, I have only tried to develop my own technique.  I think this summer I am going to start with a tried and true technique, and then adapt from there.  This is a recipe that is adapted from Authentic Mexican by Rick Bayless, which is an amazing Mexican cookbook everyone should own.

I found this adaptation on ScarpettaDolcetto, and here is how they do it:

  • 6 ears of sweet corn, in husks
  • 3 Tbsp melted butter
  • 1/2 C sour cream with enough milk or cream to loosen
  • 1/3 C crumbled Mexican cheese (queso fresco, anejo or cotijia)
  • 1 Tbsp hot chile powder
  • minced cilantro
  • 1/2 lime

Soak the corn for an hour in a deep bowl of water or a clean sink, weighted down with a plate. Grill in the husks over medium-high heat, about 15-20 minutes, until blackened. When cool enough to handle, remove the silk and husks. (Or remove the silks and use the husks as a handle.)

10 minutes before serving, brush the corn with butter and grill until browned. Remove from heat. Serve with the fixings or prep for your guests: brush the corn with sour cream; sprinkle with chile powder, salt, cheese and cilantro. Squirt a bit of lime juice over all. Serve warm with the remaining fixings.

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Garden Penny Ball

My wife was cleaning out an old purse last night, and kept pulling out handfuls of pennies.  I always save all of my change in a jar, as a vacation savings plan.  I’ve been saving for close to 4 years now, and plan on cashing in next summer.  I don’t, however, save the pennies in my vacation savings jar.  So I have a bunch of pennies laying around as well.  So I decided to take a look to see what I could do with all of the pennies besides cash them.  I found this awesome looking penny ball that you can make for uh… pennies.  All you need is some good UV resistant and waterproof glue, a bunch of pennies and an old bowling ball.  I find bowling balls at thrift shops and garage sales all the time, and for a dollar or two.

One of the really cool things about this penny ball is that it not only looks really cool, in my opinion, but also repels slugs from you garden, and if placed near your hydrangeas, will turn their flowers blue!

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BLT Bites

Ahh the BLT, one of humankind’s greatest inventions!  This is a (almost) guilt free way to take the BLT to the appetizer plate.  I would love to have these anytime, but would be particularly pleased if these were served at father’s day this year!  I found the photo below that sparked my interest in making something like this from Greatist.com. They also have a nice list of other guilt free snacks for dudes.

These could be very simple to make, and you could do these in a lot of different ways.  Here is the way I would make them.

  1. Cut off the tops and bottoms of the cherry tomatoes so they can stand up, and so you can fill them
  2. Using a pairing knife, hollow out one side of the inside of the tomato from the top.
  3. Ad a small amount of mayonnaise mixed with salt and pepper
  4. Put in a piece of very crispy bacon, and a leaf or two of arugula
  5. Place on a thinly sliced mini baguette, and hold it in place with a toothpick.
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Photo by Perry Santanachote

 

 

Mini Water Garden Fountain

There is nothing quite as relaxing as the sound of a gurgling stream, or a bubbling brook.  I have a pool at my house, and I love the water, but when I am out by the pool on a hot summer day, I think having that sound of water would just take the whole scene up a notch.  One of the things I really like about this, is that it is not only a fountain, but a mini water garden as well!  We grow a lot of of vegetables and fruits in pots on our deck in the summer, and having a water feature nestled in there with some cool water plants would look great.  This little project looks like a cheap, and easy way to achieve that without taking up too much real estate on my deck!  I found this DIY on CanadianGardening.net, and they not only give the the DIY for the fountain, but a list of plants that would do well in a small fountain such as this.  Here is what they say to do:

Pump primer
To make these potted ponds, I used a 95 GPH pump (GPH stands for gallons per hour). Although 95 GPH may sound like a lot, it’s one of the smallest sizes on the market and is only appropriate for containers. Here is one I found on Amazon for $13.

Here’s the formula for calculating the volume of your pond or container using imperial measurements: length x width x depth (all in feet) will give you the cubic feet of a rectangular container. Multiply this by 7.5 to obtain the number of U.S. gallons. The galvanized-steel tub used in the picture below measures one foot deep by 11⁄2 feet square: 1 x 1.5 x 1.5 x 7.5 = 16.88 U.S. gallons. To calculate the size of the pump needed, divide the total number of gallons by two, which means you would only need an 8 GPH pump for a container this size.  Here is a container I found on Amazon for $27.

But that’s just the beginning. The size of the container can also influence the strength of pump required. The longer the tubing from the pump to the water output, the more GPH is needed to keep the water moving. A waterfall entails its own set of calculations, as distance from water pump to water output can be significant. For the best advice and information on selecting a water pump, visit a retailer that specializes in water gardens.

Installing water plants
To install water plants, remove them from the plastic containers they’re sold in, wrap the soil and roots in burlap, then place in small mesh baskets (specifically made for water plants and available at most garden centres).

Cover the top with pea gravel (this will keep the soil down). Remember to check the pump’s filter periodically, as this is where residual soil will collect.

The smaller the pump, the smaller the filter and the more frequently it needs to be cleaned out.

The plants

  • Corkscrew rush (Juncus effusus ‘Spiralis’): A marginal water plant, meaning it can be grown either at the edge of or in a pond but still in soil, this unusually shaped rush reaches 60 centimetres tall and does best in sun or part shade. Make sure you’re not buying J. balticus ‘Spiralis’, which is less upright and has a tendency to spread. Zone 4
  • Dwarf or miniature cattail (Typha minima): Another marginal plant, it reaches up to 45 centimetres tall and grows best in sun or part shade. Zone 3
  • Chameleon plant (Houttuynia cordata ‘Chameleon’): A marginal plant that produces white flowers in early summer, it must be planted in a perennial bed and mulched to successfully overwinter. It reaches 15 centimetres tall, does well in sun or part shade and tends to spread. Zone 5
  • Needle rush hair grass or spike rush (Eleocharis acicularis): A marginal as well as an oxygenating plant (essential for the survival of fish), this North American native grows to about 30 centimetres tall and does best in sun or part shade. Zone 3
  • Fairy moss (Azolla caroliniana and A. filiculoides): This tiny moss (one to three centimetres across) floats on the surface of the water. The green fronds turn red in fall; the plant spreads rapidly. Overwinter indoors; native to North America.

Tub time (shown below)
A large, galvanized-steel tub (30 centi-metres deep, 46 centimetres square) serves as the base for this water feature.

The pump was installed on the bottom, then covered with a plastic pot. A trick I learned from Canadian Gardening’s previous editor, Beckie Fox, is to use a piece of gridded plastic (the type that’s installed over fluorescent lighting) as a foundation for the top layer of stones. I added a variety of larger sizes (not pebbles) and finished it off with a flat slab of slate, which forms the ledge over which the stream of water runs.

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DIY Pallet Planter for Strawberries

I have been growing strawberries in pots the last couple of years, and they just don’t flourish the way I feel they should.  I started looking for ways to grow strawberries that would suit my home.  I looked at hangind planters, which I really liked, but just wasn’t a good fit for my house, I looked at different types of boxes and hanging planter.  But then I found a site called LovelyGreens.com that shows how to make a planter box out of a pallet, and I knew that was right up my alley!  They also give a great tip on how to make sure the pallet you are using is safe.  Pallets that cross international borders must be treated.  Some use heat treating, and some use chemical treating.  Check out the picture at the bottom of this post from LovelyGreens.com that shows how to tell the difference.

So, here are the instructions on making the planter, but if you want to see more pics, then follow this link to LovelyGreens.com for more.

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How to Make a Better Strawberry Planter out of a Wooden Pallet
You will need the following materials:
- A suitable pallet as described above
- A hand-saw or jigsaw
- Electric drill or hammer
- Two sizes of screws and nails – approx. lengths 4 cm (1-1/2″) and 8cm (3″)
Optional:
- Heavy duty chisel/wedge and iron mallet
- Non-toxic paint and paintbrush
Step 1: Cut the pallet into three equal pieces
The easiest way to do this is to cut lay the pallet so that the long planks are in parallel with your own position. If your pallet has nine planks, like mine did, then count over three planks and then saw the wood between the third and fourth planks. Saw right in the middle, to keep things easy and to ensure that all of your proportions remain correct. Continue another three planks and cut again. Remember that you’ll have to saw in the exact places on both the front and back of the pallet.
Step 2: Trim and remove excess wood pieces
You’ll have three pieces of pallet now, all of the same height and width. Two of the pallets will be formed from the top and bottom and will have chunky blocks securely fixed to them between one of three planks on the front side and the single one left on on the other. You’ll want to trim off the excess wood jutting up from each one of these wooden blocks. Please refer to images for step one and two. Though I chose not to do it in this project, you could also remove that single plank on the back side. If you do this then you could have a deeper planter – it’s up to you.
The piece that made up the centre part of the pallet also has thick wooden blocks sandwiched between its front side and stubby planks on the other. Pull these blocks and stubby planks off but keep them in reserve – you’ll need them to complete the project. If there are nails sticking up after removing these pieces then either hammer them flat or remove them completely.
Step 3: Fix the two end pieces to the middle part of the pallet. Screw in from the other side of the middle (bottom) piece. 
The two end pieces will be the sides of your planter and the middle piece is the bottom. Though the image shows the structure right way up, it’s actually easier to flip it over in order to fix the bottom piece to the sides. You’ll want to screw or nail the bottom piece into the wooden blocks still attached to the side pieces.
Step 4: You should have three to four of these pieces that were removed from the centre piece of the pallet. Separate them into individual blocks and planks.
This is easier said than done if you don’t have the right tools. Since pallet wood that has been heat treated can be brittle if you try to pull the plank off with the tongs of a hammer. If you have a heavy duty chisel then I recommend that you use it to separate the block and the plank and sever the nails in two. If you’re planning on doing any more pallet projects you could really save yourself a lot of tears and invest in one along with an iron mallet down at your local hardware store. If any of your pieces have bits of nails sticking out then try to hammer them flat.
Step 5: Use planks to create the sides and the blocks for feet
If you’ve followed the directions in step 1 and sawed in the middle between the long planks, then the little planks leftover from step four should all be approximately the same length. They will also be the same width you need to create the shorter sides of your planter. If your original pallet was the same size as mine then you’ll have four of these planks to make up two pieces for each side. The bottom planks for each of the shorter sides can be created by re-using the bits of wood you cut off the side pieces in step two. For a more pleasing and symmetrical effect, line the small side planks up with the planks along the front and back pieces.
Attaching the wooden blocks as feet can be a bit tricky and in the end I drove very long screws in sideways to attach them to the bottom of the planter. Putting feet on the piece will help with drainage and slow down the process of the bottom rotting. I think they also make the planter look nicer.
I can foresee some people finding pallets of slightly different sizes to mine and being left with less small planks and blocks in this step. In fact it’s more likely that you’ll end up with three of each rather than four, especially if you’re using a smaller pallet. In this case you’ll be cobbling together more scraps to make and additional side piece and having to find a fourth block to use as the last foot. In this case I’d look at removing one of the inner blocks from the side pieces to use.
Step 6: Project Completed!
Well almost :) Turn your planter right way up and have a look at it. Does it feel sturdy? Are the feet wobbly? Are there extra bits of wood sticking up that you could trim back? Once you feel the planter is complete then either plant it up as is or use a non-toxic outdoor wood paint to paint the exterior. Being wood, this piece will eventually rot down but some tlc now can help extend its life.
Step 7: Plant it up
Soil and compost will erode through any unprotected opening in the sides or bottom of the planter. Putting down your choice of barrier materials will help keep that soil where it’s supposed to be. I chose to line the bottom of my planter with scraps of wire then a layer of gardening fabric that will let water out but keep matter in. Since I placed my planter against a hedge I also chose to roll the black material up the back since I won’t be planting any strawberries on that side. On top of the fabric and running up the sides I used straw as an organic erosion barrier.
The easiest way to plant your strawberries is to work your way up from the bottom. A layer of compost, mixed with well rotted horse manure and slow-release organic fertiliser went in first. Then I placed the plants in the bottom slots along with straw. Another layer of my compost mixture and then I repeated the process for the next set of slots. You’ll also notice that I’ve spaced my plants out far more than you’ll see in most other pallet planter tutorials. If you want strawberries to produce well, it’s recommended that you place the plants at least 35cm (14″) apart. I’ve also made sure that each plant will be able to grow and spread out without smothering any plants underneath.
Choosing your pallet
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Watermelon “Cake”

I think this may be the single most exciting recipe I have ever seen!  I am so excited to make this that I can hardly contain myself.  It is so hot right now, and the thought of slicing into an ice cold watermelon like this just makes my mouth water!  Watermelon and whipped cream happens to also be one of my wife’s favorite treats!  Ad some blueberries on there, and she will be in absolute heaven!Thank you so ISaveA2z.com for sharing such a brilliant idea!

All you have to do is cut off the ends of the watermelon, and then:

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Slather on the whipped cream, top with whatever fruit or berries and nuts you like, and viola!

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