Thursday, March 31, 2011

Taking it Easy

I have been fighting a sinus infection for the last 4 to 5 weeks which is the reason you have not hear from me for the last two weeks. I finely decided to go to the doctor a week ago from Monday. I received the needed antibiotics but it took over a week for them to kick in which is very usually, normally it take two or three days. I went straight back to work after seeing the doctor and they are in the process of fixing our laboratory air venting system. The construction workers started welding in our office area to stall new vents on our end of the building that Monday. The welding fumes just burned the back of my throat and sinus. I spent the next two day home hoping they finished welding and I get better. When I went back to work of Thursday they were still welding and by Friday evening I was in worst shape. Another weekend was shot because I have been sick so long none of my projects are done. The only thing I did get done was plant the peppers and flowers.

I spent most of my time last four weekends just watching movies or reading which may sound like a treat but I really needed to finish those other project. I was hoping to feel well enough on the past two Saturdays to visit a Restore in Prairie du Sac that is only open on Saturday 8 to 1 and on the back I was going to stop at Cedar Grove Cheese in Plain WI. Cedar Grove Cheese is the only company where I can find low fat cheddar cheese in blocks. I dislike pre-shredded cheese which is the only another way I find it in the store. The pre-shredded cheese tastes awful with all the additives to keep the cheese fresh and from sticking together into a big ball. I hope to go this weekend.

I will be planting my tomatoes this week and the basil I did not get the previous week. I give you the list of tomatoes I will plant next week. The Amaryllis is now in bloom and it looks great!

I still have a small area on the north still covered with snow but with the rain and the temperatures in the 40’s and 50’s the next few days. It will not last much longer.

Hopefully I will be able to start working on many of my unfinished projects this weekend.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Week 9: Seed Starting & Spring Report

All the seeds I started in Week 10 sprouted except Long Island Brussels Sprouts, their germination time is from 10-21 days. The coleus and ivy germanium's are big enough to transplant into 3 packs. My petunias now have 2 to 4 true leaves to develop but they still to small to transplant them this weekend.

This is a big week to plant seeds. Here is the list:

Herbs: Italian Large Leaf Basil, Napolitano Basil, Italian Dark Green Flat Parsley, catnip, oregano, Broad Leaf Sage and Green Culinary Sage

Annual: Radiance Cosmos, Tinny Peach Snapdragons, Ribbon Hybrid Snapdragons and Perfume Hybrid Nicotiana.
Perennial: Giant Pacific Mixed Delphinium and Mixed colored Mullein

Sweet: King Arthur (red and formerly called Fat ‘N Sassy), Orange Bell, King of the North (red), Chocolate Beauty, Purple Beauty and I will need to pick up a yellow sweet pepper
Hot: Early Jalapeno and Ancho Gigantea

Aunt Molly’s Ground Cherry, Sugar Sweetie Cherry Tomatoes (red), Big Rainbow Tomatoes (huge yellow) and Jade Cross E Brussels Sprouts.

It should take about 7 seed starter trays to plant all of the above.

My Amaryllis now has two buds and one is tall enough to start opening so the 3 individual buds per stalk will so appear.

On Tuesday I notice that I have a tulip leaves coming up on the south side of the house.

The weather been mild but still is a lot of snow surrounding my house but any area which is not shaded is clear of it. It is going to be in the low 60's today so hopefully more will melt.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

German Hot Potato Salad

This recipe came from a long time friend’s mother who I meet my first year in a high school biology class. I first had this dish for dinner when I went with her family up to German Camp in Genoa City, WI. We made trips up there to play Fussball (Volleyball) tournaments with another German Club north of Milwaukee. Certain dishes help brings back good memories from other time when you were younger and life was just beginning. My friend Linda and I are still in touch with one another but she still lives in the Chicago area and I now Wisconsin.

I forgot all about this recipe until last January when we have a tailgate party at work to celebrate the playoff between the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears. A Wisconsin tailgate party must always have brats and potato salad. I was going to make an American Potato Salad for the party but some people also suggested that a German Salad would be good. So I made both and when it came to leftovers there was very little of this Hot German Potato Salad left. It was a hit and brought back a flood of memories. I hope it may do the same for you.

I salad calls for bacon; I used a center cut to reduce the fat and calories. The original just used plain white vinegar but I like it better with white wine vinegar. I kept the original proportions in the recipe used to make the sauce but I choose to double it since the potatoes absorbs most of it when not doubled. If using center cut bacon I found that not enough fat renders off and I needed to add about 1 tablespoon olive oil before sautéing the onions. The potatoes I used are from my sister’s garden and they are a fingering heirloom variety called Idaho Silver. I do not have the room in my garden to grow potatoes and my sister’s must grow at least 10 varieties or more so I buy them from her at the Viroqua Farmer’s Market.

German Hot Potato Salad

1½ lbs. boiled potatoes, cooked and cubed with skins on.
1 medium onion sliced thin
6 strips of bacon chopped fine
⅓ cup white wine vinegar
2 teaspoon flour
3 teaspoon sugar
1½ teaspoons kosher salt
¼ teaspoon white pepper
½ cup chopped parsley, optional
2 green onion stalks as garnish

Sauté chopped bacon until crisp, and drain off as much bacon fat as desired. Add chopped onions and sauté for about 2 minutes. Mix vinegar, flour, sugar, salt and pepper together well, add to sauté onions and cook until just slightly thick. Lastly add sliced potatoes and blend well. Remove from heat stir in parsley and green onion and serve warm.


Friday, March 11, 2011


The law passed the Assembly Thursday night and the Governor did sign it this morning. The Republicans got together Wednesday evening and pulled all finance relating items from the "Repair Bill". They called a joint committee meeting with unless than 2 hours’ notice, did not allow the bill to be read with the changes and the Republicans ignored Peter Barca (D) objections that they were not following the "Open Records Law". The Republicans started voting for approval of the changes and then walked away while Peter Barca was still objecting. The Republican Senators then walked to the Senate Chamber and passed the bill. They finally proved by their actions that collective bargaining rights were not a financial issue but a political goal. Lawyers for Dane County and City of Madison are now determining if Republicans are in violation of the "Open Records Law". The "Open Records Law" requires a 24 hour notice of a meeting or if there is an emergency a 2 hour notice is enough. The meeting was held before the required 2 hour's notice to the public. There may be other procedures or laws broken during this meeting but now it is up to the lawyers to file their briefs in court and the public to wait for the decision.

A call did go out on Wednesday evening that this meeting was taking place and the public converged on the Capital. Some people got into the Capital before the police locked the doors stating that the Capital was closed for the evening. The public stood before the locked doors demanding to be let in. Some of the protesters in the building opened windows allowing people into the building. The police then decide to open the door and retreated to the 3rd floor of the Capital. Approximately 7000 people swarm in the Capital and many climbed to the 2nd and 3rd floors causing fears that the bridges would collapse from the weight. The Press first reported that windows were broken that is not true there were no broken windows or other damage that night. This was about the people wanting to be heard by their government but they were just ignored instead. One of my coworkers was there and he told me there was a question asked to the group that night: HOW MANY OF YOU ARE UNION WORKERS? Very few raised their hands and when asked who were not a majority raised their hands stating they were not. Most people are in shock that the Republicans majority would ram this through and ignored THE PEOPLE OF WISCONSIN.

Now that the legal status is in the hands of the courts, people are turning their energies toward the recall petitions for the 8 Republican Senators. Majority leader Senator Scott Fitzgerald stated that they will be changing the recall rules so it will be harder to remove elective officials from office.

"Yeah, I mean, I've always been a believer that recall probably would be more appropriate if a legislator was involved in some type of, you know, either criminal activity, or something that could be deemed, you know, unethical," said Fitzgerald. "Not related to simply taking a stance on a tough vote. And you know, I think there's other legislators that feel that way as well."

I guess he feels that ramming bills down people throats and ignoring the "Open Records Law" has nothing to do with ethics.

If the public wants a change they need to be aware that there is an election for Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Position on April 5, 2011. We need to replace David T. Prosser, Jr. with JoAnne F. Kloppenburg. If you want a government run by the people and not special interests, we need a person who will follow our laws and precedents.

Note: Around 4 PM a judge ruled that she would not bar the law from being published. After it has been published the law takes affects in 10 days. She set a hearing next Wednesday to determine if this bill is lawful.

Thursday, March 10, 2011


Wednesday morning I woke up to 3-4 inches of snow. The weatherman claimed we get sleet and 1-2 inches of snow. I think we lucked out of the sleet and got the snow instead. I spend an hour digging out my driveway and front walk. My normal 50 minute commuted turned into a 1 hour and 45 minutes. It sure did not seem spring was going to come soon this morning but on the drive home I saw a pair of Sandhill cranes flying over the marsh just southwest of Madison heading north. It will not be long before we will hear and see them dancing in the marshes.

Next week my ivy germaniums and coleus should be big enough to transplant into 3 packs. The petunias planted 3 weeks ago have their first true leave. I will not transplant them until they have four to six leaves. All the impatiens were planted on Sunday and I did find time to plant several cold weather vegetable. The varieties are: Ruby Perfection Cabbage (Red), Packman Broccoli, Cheddar Cauliflower (yellow head), and Falstaff and Long Island Improved Brussels Sprouts. I ordered a variety of Brussels Sprouts call Jade Cross. I planted Jade Cross two years ago and had a much larger yield than the varieties I planted last year. A Wisconsin seed catalog has several stores in Madison, I still waiting for them to put out a variety of cauliflower with a purple head. I really want to try mixing the white, yellow and purple cauliflower heads together; it should make a pretty dish.

Tuesday, morning while walking out the front door I found my garden supply package and here is what I ordered. The back disc is the self watering device which is put in the bottom of a hanging basket. I sure hope it works I spend about an hour everyday during the summer watering basket and planters.

No gardening duties this coming weekend but the following week will be a busy one. The last of the annual flowers will be sown; it is also the week that peppers will be started. I brought 5-6 color bell pepper and 2 types of hot peppers.

PS: I was talking to one of my fellow gardeners at work about all the seeds I been starting. He mentioned that I had a big smile on face just thinking about getting my hands covered with dirt.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Caramel Apple Pie

This is my favorite Apple Pie; I found this in a holiday magazine issue approximately 10-15 years ago and of course never noted which magazine it was. I prefer to use a baking apple that keeps its shape during baking. My favorite is the Wolf River Apple variety from northeast Wisconsin. It is a big apple and does keeps it shape when baked, if you use it in a tart it will be a show stopper. There was only one Wolf River Apple left in my refrigerator when I made this pie so I used Granny Smith apples which came from my sister’s orchard. I am planning to baking that single Wolf River apple stuffed with a little yogurt butter, brown sugar and cinnamon then topping it with whip cream. Eating that is a really treat and it is better than candy.

Sometime in the last 10 years I stopped peeling my apples for tarts and pies. I like the extra color it adds to the pie and it does increase the fiber content. I know pies are full of sugar and fat but I try to make it a little better by adding more fiber whenever I can.

I also try to cut down on the saturated fat by using a pastry crust which is made up with half butter and oil. I used olive oil when I make the dough. I am not going to give you the pie crust recipe since I found it in 1,000 Lowfat Recipes by Terry Blonder Golson, page 521. When I make pastry dough I prefer mix with my hands. By using my hands, I can feel when the dough has enough water added to it. The “Double Pie Crust” recipe does not want the dough refrigerated but I found it rolls out better when the dough is cool. I dough is too short and falls apart if not refrigerated. The dough does bake up to a nice flakey crust. I usually make two pies and freeze an unbaked pie for another day or you can make a jelly roll from the remaining pie crust.

Caramel Apple Pie

1 cup sugar
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 cups unpeeled sliced apples
½ cup caramel apple dip
2 tablespoon milk
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup packed brown sugar
½ cup butter

1. Prepare piecrust. Place dough roll on top of lightly floured waxed paper, press down roll into a circle. Flip dough over and press down again. Place another sheet of waxed paper on top of dough and roll dough from center to edges into a 12-inch circle. Remove top waxed paper and turned that side into a 9-inch pie plate. Ease pastry into pie plate and remove the remaining wax paper. Trim to ½ inch beyond edge of plate. Fold under pastry; crimp. Don’t prick pastry.
2. For filling: In large bowl, mix sugar, ¼ cup flour and cinnamon. Add the apples and toss to coat. Transfer to pastry-lined pie plate. Combine 2 tablespoon of the caramel-apple dip and 2 tablespoons milk; drizzle over apples.
3. In mixing bowl, combine the 1 cup flour and brown sugar. Cut in ½ cup butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle over filling. Cover edge of pie with foil to prevent overbrowning. Place on baking sheet.
4. Bake in 350 degrees oven 30 minutes. Remove foil. Bake 25 to 30 minutes more or until golden. Cool 10 minutes. Drizzle remaining caramel dip over top. Cool pie on wire rack.
Makes 8 to 10 serving.


Friday, March 4, 2011

Wisconsin Politics

It has been another interesting week in Wisconsin. The first two weeks at work you could cut a knife through the tension and stress from what was happening at the Capital. The tension is less this week because you just cannot keep living on the edge. Anyone who can retire before the extended contract ends, March 13, is just leaving. Since January 1, 29-31 people out of about 300 will retire from my section. Some of these people were planning on retiring this year but not this early. They wanted to leave with someone trained to take over their duties and not leave things unfinished but now they must leave to protect themselves. Possibly losing some of their retirement benefits by staying is just not worth it. Others believe the Governor will wait until July 1 and are willing to take the chance if I was in their shoes I leave now.

The Governor was limiting access to the Capital and until Thursday night when a judge ruled the protesters must leave the Capital at night but access was not to be restricted during the day. During the period of limited access some of the protester sent word out that the Republicans were letting in supporters through several underground tunnels. This limited access also included pass and current legislators. The government started jamming access to a web site the university teaching assistants were using to organize the protests. The government claimed that they needed to be sure that they were not using illegal or inappropriate web sites. Someone did comment that if they tried to log on to a porn site at the Capital that they would have no problem getting into it.

The Republican Senators passed Wednesday that any Senator who is not attending the session for more than 2 days will be fined $100 a day starting today. Other rules they passed are making Democratic Senators to appear on the floor to pick up their paycheck. One senator got around that rule by signing over power of attorney over to an aide so he/she could pick up the check. The leader of the senate now is required to sign all the Democratic Senators' Aides timesheets. Rumor is they are also denying the aides’ access to the Capital too. All the Democratic Senators offices coping machine rights have been pulled.

Monday, I attended a town meeting in my home town with our Senator, he made a statement and several other people against the budget repair were allowed to make statements. Then the public was given a chance to say their piece. The major were against the bill. There was one person who said she was for it but talked about how the protesters barred the legislators from the bathrooms and how the Republicans were respectful to the people who testified. Funny the local reporters did not report it that way nor did I hear that from the people who were at the Capital. I would have thought she would have stated why this bill would be good for Wisconsin instead of complaining about bathrooms.

Our dear Governor Walker delivered his 2011-2013 budget address on Tuesday. He is stripping education and destroying Wisconsin children future. I guess if you destroy the educational system it will make it easier to control the population with your propaganda. OH did I really mean this, YES! Reducing the educational funding means Wisconsin children will have a hard time finding jobs that will pay a living wage.

The best thing that is happening is 8 Republican Senators are being recalled. Five Democratic Senators are also being recalled. I am counting the days until January when we can file recall papers against Governor Walker but he still can do a lot damage to the state before this.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Week 11

All but two petunias germinated by Sunday and all the rest sprouted by Wednesday. I moved the tray with the ivy germaniums and coleus off the heat mat and move it to the shelf above. The lights were lower to a level just above the plants to keep them from becoming leggy. The clear plastic cover was removed to bring the humid down and hopefully I will not have problems with damp off on my seedlings.

This Saturday I will be planting several Impatiens varieties: Tango Xtreme, Sapphire Xtreme, Athena Red Flash (red and white bicolor flowers) and Athena Flash (mix of solid and bicolor flowers). I am thinking about starting some cold weather vegetables this week too. If I have time I may start red cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts. I figured six weeks out it would be mid-April and warm enough for them to be planted outside. I usually start putting carrots, beets, lettuce and peas into the ground around that time.

I do have some house plants flowering right now to remind me of summer. They are a germanium plant, African violets, hibiscus and an Amaryllis is sending up a bud.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Whole-Grain Bread

This is the first time I made this bread. I like bread that has is dense with grain and not soft to the point of being all air. This bread is great as a side dish for soups and stews. It makes good toast and if you like sandwiches it will hold together. I used golden ground flaxseed and the next time I made this I will try replacing the 1 teaspoon of ground flaxseed with whole golden flaxseed. I would love to give credit to the person, magazine or book I found this recipe in but it was copied years ago and that information is long lost.

Whole-Grain Bread: Makes one 9-inch loaf

1 cup whole-wheat flour, preferably stone-ground
2 tablespoons wheat bran
¾ cup warm whole milk (about 110F)
¼ cup packed dark-brown sugar
2 envelopes active dry yeast (1 tablespoon plus 1½ teaspoons)
3 tablespoons coarse whole-grain cornmeal
3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons old-fashioned oats
3 tablespoons ground flaxseed, plus 1 teaspoon whole for sprinkling
2 teaspoons salt
2½ to 3 cups bread flour
Olive oil cooking spray

1. Stir whole-wheat flour, bran, and 1 cup water in a bowl. Let stand 30 minutes.
2. Stir milk and 1 tablespoon sugar in a bowl until sugar dissolves. Stir in yeast. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.
3. Put whole-wheat flour mixture, milk mixture, remaining 3 tablespoons sugar, the cornmeal, 3 tablespoons oats, the ground flaxseed, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook; mix on medium-low speed until combined. Add 2½ cups bread flour; mix until dough is tacky, but not sticky; about 2 minutes (if dough is too sticky, add more flour). Contin¬ue kneading until dough is soft and elas¬tic, about 5 minutes more.
4. Coat a large bowl with cooking spray. Add dough to bowl; turn to coat. Cover loosely with a clean towel. Let dough rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour (I turned on the oven to 200F place the bowl on the top of the stove).
5. Turn out dough onto a work surface; shape into a loaf about 9 inches long. Using a spray bottle, mist with water; sprinkle top with remaining 2 teaspoons oats and the whole flaxseed. Coat a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan, transfer loaf to the pan, and cover with a clean towel. Let stand until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes.
6. Preheat oven to 400F. Mist oven with water; place loaf in oven. Bake 5 minutes; mist oven again. Continue to bake, rotat¬ing pan once, until well browned, 25 to 30 minutes. Unmold bread onto a wire rack; return to oven, and bake directly on oven rack 5 minutes more. Remove from oven; let cool completely on rack.