Thursday, June 29, 2017

Cheesy Ham and Potato Crock Pot Casserole!

Last weekend was beautiful in Northeast Kansas. Low humidity and temps in the upper 70's to the low 80's. Gorgeous!  I had Friday - Saturday off and many projects I had hoped to tackle. I decided to fix my work week's main meal on Saturday as I hadn't yet known what my plans would look like on Sunday. Yes, I cook once and eat it 3-5 times that week. Four is about my limit. If the dish/meal makes more than 4 servings, I send it home to my father. 

So, I made cheesy ham and potatoe casserole and peach cobbler, both in the crock pot. I'm sharing the casserole today and will share the cobbler soon. The casserole is from another blog. I'm not linking it here as twice I got a pop up saying I'd won this or that and had to shut down to get the window to disappear. I hate those! 

Cheesy Ham and Potato Casserole in a Crock Pot!

You're going to need;

1 lb cubed ham, left over works good or you can buy it already cubed at the store
32 oz cubed hash browns (I only could find 26 oz bags) 
1 can cream of chicken soup
8 oz sour cream 
1/2 c melted butter*
1 medium onion, diced**
1 tsp Cajun seasoning***
1/2 tsp garlic powder***
1/2 tsp black pepper***
2 cups shredded cheese (1 cup reserved)

This is the ham I used. 


*I opted to use less butter and used 2 small pieces I had left in the fridge. I think next time I wouldn't use any butter. 


**I skip chopping onion and used a bag of hash browns with onions and peppers. 


***I didn't have any Cajun seasoning and decided to just use all-purpose no sodium seasoning in place of all the listed seasonings.  I used a heaping 1/2 tsp of it. I think it would be fine if you didn't use any seasoning, but that might just be my preference. 


Mix all but the shredded cheese together in a large bowl.  Pour into a crockpot. I line mine with a crock pot bag, but you could lightly spray with oil instead. 


Top with 1 cup shredded cheese. 


Cook on low for 3-4 hours, potatoes should be creamy. My crock pot runs hot and it was done in 2 1/2 hours. The recipe called for you to top the finished dish with the remaining 1 cup of shredded cheese. Next time I would stir in 1 cup of cheese before transferring to the crock pot and top at the end with the remaining one cup. 


This was really good and I'll make it again! 

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Water Bill Savings

Even with all the rains Northeast Kansas has seen this spring, my plants are taking up the water and the pools need water added a couple times a week.  I haven’t noticed an increase in my water bill, but expect a jump this month and next.  I have barrels to make rain barrels out of, but need someone to assist in building them.  I think that’ll be a fall project.  Until then I’ve decided to help my water bill out a little by saving the water that runs when I start the shower or when I’m waiting for the tap water to heat to wash dishes in the sink.  I collect the water in a bucket, which I take outside and dump in my new trash can turned rain barrel I made with my father last weekend.  The top is an overturned lid with four holes drilled for draining the water into the can.  A spigot was added to allow water to flow out from the bottom.  Since the only water that collects in is the water I’ve added from the buckets and a little bit of rain water, no overflow hole was drilled.  I’ve added mosquito dunks to the can so that no mosquitos breed in the water. 


I can easily step out the back door, dump the bucket into the top of the can and return inside.  When it comes time to empty the water, I fill a different bucket using the spigot and dump it into a pool.  I might someday attach a hose. 
Speaking of mosquitos, I check the pools several times a week for swimming mosquito larvae.  I’ve found them twice in one of the tomato pools.  Both times the dunks were still there, but had gotten stuck up on a bag and not come down when as the water level lowered.  Both times I was able to find the mosquito dunk, move it back into the water and checked 12 hours later to find the larvae dead. 
A funny water bucket story.  I don’t always empty the bucket into the trash can right away and I had left it out on the bathroom floor ¾ full of water one night after showering.  I awoke at 3 something to the sound of Josey messing with the water.  She likes to dig in the buckets and splash water.  I noted that the bathroom floor would be wet when I got up, rolled over and went back to sleep.  I awoke again a few minutes later to the sound of water running.  It was rather loud and I flew out of bed.  Josey had managed to spill the bucket of water, which flowed out of the bathroom, across the hall and down the basement stairs!  Oh my what a mess!  I’ve learned my lesson!  Either dump the bucket right away or keep it in the tub so that water spills down the drain, not across the floor and into the basement!

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Spanish Rice Skillet Dinner

This recipe came from my friend Dede except that I couldn't find her instructions when I went to make it, so it might not be the same. It is so good and so easy. 


I didn't take many pictures.  All you do is fry up a pound of hamburger. I don't season my meat, though you could. Once browned, add in 2 cups water, one can diced tomatoes with chilies (14.5 oz) with liquid (don't drain) and a box of Spanish rice. Bring to a boil, cover and cook 15-20 minutes until water is absorbed and rice is tender. 


If you and your family like spicy, you might add some taco or chili seasoning when you add the water, rice and tomatoes. I think another great addition would be a can of drained black beans. 


This was really good! Dede, thanks for sharing the recipe! 

Friday, June 23, 2017

First Harvest!

I’ve got tomatoes!  I harvested my first tomato on Saturday June 17 and two more Monday June 19.  Both are from the Fourth of July tomato plant.  


I have a lot of little small green tomato fruits and a lot of blooms.  I’m afraid they’ll all ripen at the same time! I’ve also, sadly picked 6 tomatoes that have blossom end root. 


Keith on the gardening Facebook page said that this often happens with first fruits and the plants fix themselves.  He further explained there are a lot of home remedies that could be applied that people believe are successful.  They might be or it might just be that nature fixed itself and people think it's their remedy.  He said to worry and start treating if it continues to be an issue.  So, I’m being patient and not freaking out as Henny Penny would.  I have more fruit set on that don’t have it than do, so I’m hoping it’ll all work out. 

I have baby cucumbers!  These are on the cucumber plant that hadn’t looked so hot.  The other two plants have a lot of blooms, but no fruit yet.

I have Anaheim peppers! 

I have a bloom or two on the other peppers, but no fruit yet.  My pepper plants have always looked droopy.  They’re green and they’ve grown, so maybe they’re just waiting on some good summer heat to get going.

This is a chiltepin pepper plant and I don’t know that it will ever produce.  I purchased it, the Anaheim pepper and two milkweed plants at a garage sale in May.


I can’t remember if I shared that I’ve got baby pumpkins forming;

The watermelon is spreading, but no blooms yet. This is one of them, I've got two planted. 

The large pumpkin plant was pulled this week and I planted seed instead.  It didn’t look so good when I bought it, I thought maybe it was improving, but it turned for the bad over the hot weekend and I decided to pull it.  There should still be time for pumpkins to grow from seed, fingers crossed. 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Henny Penny

There is a Facebook page for those who are gardening the way I’m gardening.  I enjoy seeing everyone’s gardens and harvests.  People are and have been successfully growing everything in these bags and kiddie pools, to include corn, blueberries, eggplant…

Keith is a biologist and great for plant questions.  He and Bud are like the best county extension officers.  Someone will post a picture of their cucumber (or other plant) and ask whats wrong with it.  They’ll get a lot of answers, but I always wait and watch for Keith or Bud to answer.  They know they’re stuff. 

There is another individual on this page.  I’ll call him Henny Penny.  Gardening is gardening.  Its changed some, but still is basically the same gardening that was done one hundred years ago.  Things happen.  Grasshoppers, hail, strong winds, droughts, monsoons, worms, aphids, brome grass happen!   I love my garden and I wish it well.  I love to see things grow, I really enjoy working in it and I’m looking forward to the harvest, but if any one of those things I just listened were to happen, oh well. It isn’t the end of the world.  Dillons and Walmart are still within 5 miles of my house.  The farmers market is still held every Saturday.  I have other options. 

Henny Penny loves to post doom day posts.  His posts always include “must”.  You must spray once a week with X and several days later with Y.  One of those sprays is Neem oil.  I have Neem extract from Walmart.  I spray maybe once every week to ten days to treat aphids.  I still have aphids, but not as many and therefore I say its working.  Henny Penny says I’m wrong.  It can’t possibly work as I got my Neem at Walmart and the only Neem that works is cold pressed Neem for sale only on the internet.  Well then, I guess my garden will be eaten up by aphids.  He also replied in response to my caterpillar/worm post that I had to spray with something specific, dust with something else and put either tinfoil or disposable pie plates around the base of my plants.  He loves to write long, detailed posts with several words in all CAPS. 

Last night I mixed up the caterpillar/worm spray I had gotten at TSC.  I inspected all the plants and I found three worms/caterpillars.  I had found 4 last week.  I definitely have them on some of my plants;

Fortunately they’re not the tomato hook worm.  Those can be deadly to the plant. 

I decided last night to inspect, remove, destroy and only spray the plants that are affected.  Henny would die!  He’d insist that the worms will spread to all of the tomatoes and my garden will fail. 

Chemicals are chemicals and while I’m not on board that all are bad (I’m totally for eating GMOs), I’m not convinced that all are safe either.  Our government once said Agent Orange was safe.  We now know that to not be true. 

I’ve decided to back off on the Neem sprays too.  I’ll inspect the garden well a couple times a week and try and catch anything bad before it becomes an infestation, but I’m not going to spray as Henny would prescribe as a preventative.  Nature has a way of addressing some issues and I’m going to let nature play out.  My hope is to post on the kiddie pool garden Facebook page this October that my first time garden succeeded without 2-3 times a week spraying, powders and tinfoil!  Wish me luck! 

I dispose the worms by dropping them into sudsy water, but my father suggested I freeze them and feed them to the brown thrashers or flicker woodpeckers that frequent my yard. I might try that. 


Tuesday, June 20, 2017


I've been keeping track of firsts for the year on the side of this blog.  My most recent addition is that I turned the air conditioning on for the first time on June 10.  Lyncoln was very glad!  I've noted when I first mowed, planted the garden, saw the first hummingbird.  I'll note when I first harvest something from the garden and first turn on the heat (I'm already ready for that and it isn't even summer yet!). Besides those listed on the sidebar, any more firsts you think I should be documenting?

Sunday, June 18, 2017


I've been cleaning, organizing the craft room. It's never ending.

This is the walk in closet off of my craft room.


It also doubles as a storage area. 

Lyncoln likes to rest atop the storage containers. 


One wall is almost entirely shelves and storage containers. 







The previous owners used this as their master closet. It has 2 plug ins and plenty of room. 

I recently went through a box of kits and other projects and pulled several I really liked. I got the idea to hang cross stitch kits and WIPs (works-in-progress) from hangers from another stitcher. I purchased hangers at Walmart and then a week or two later I found a whole bunch of them five for $0.50 at a garage sale. Can't beat that price, so I brought them home. I probably could hang a WIP, UFO (unfinished object) or kit from every single one of those hangers if I really started going through things, but this is a good start. 


My goal is to stitch one of these projects till completed. I can be stitching something else at the same time, but I need, plan to devote a chunk of my stitching time to knocking out some of these hanging projects. Some of those kits, projects are years old. Some just need a button, but I can't recall what button and need to find the pattern. Another needs to be started all over on new fabric as I bled on the current fabric. It was almost done. So sad. Another project is one that isn't my taste, but yet I like it. I start it, but then think this isn't me, so I stop. I can't part with the pattern though. So, I'm stitching it, till complete and getting it out of my pile of projects.  I almost have one of these projects completed! I'll be sharing its picture soon! 

Thursday, June 15, 2017

It's too hot to cook!

Anyone else feel like that? It's a good thing I don't have to feed a husband and children!

To avoid lighting the oven, I am going to try using the slow cooker more this summer. The first dish I made is one I've had saved for sometime. I found the recipe on Pinterest, the original source is Six Sister's.  It couldn't have been easier to fix. 

Crock Pot Orange Chicken. 

1 cup orange marmalade
1 cup BBQ sauce (I used 3 different kinds as I had 3 bottles opened in the fridge, how does that happen?)
3 Tbsp soy sauce

Mix together.

Lay 4-5 fresh, boneless, skinless (not frozen) chicken breasts in the bottom of a 6 qt crock pot.  I used three huge breasts and used a liner for easy clean up.  Pour orange marmalade mixture over chicken and cook 4-5 hours on high or 6-8 on low.  I didn't get this started until mid afternoon, so cooked it on high.  My crock pot runs hot and the dish was done in 3 1/2 hours. 

Turn crock pot off and eat the wonderful nacho platter from Tortilla Jacks delivered by your parents. 

Shred chicken and return to sauce.  I decided to keep the chicken separate and add a little sauce to it so that it wasn't so juicy. 

I made bagged rice to serve it with. 


Its not Chinese take out Orange Chicken, but its very good and very easy.  I'd make it again. 

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

One month garden update!

First a picture from May 22. Everything shown in this picture was planted on May 12 and 13.


And here's how things look last Sunday June 11; 


I've added a lemon cucumber that  I felt sorry for at the grocery store. It's in the pool with the zucchini. 

The regular size pumpkin isn't looking good (bottom right), but I'm babying it and am hopeful it'll rebound.


The other pumpkin already has a pumpkin growing! 


The zucchini is doing well. This weekends strong winds didn't help it and some branches broke, but I've got several zucchini started.



I've got a lot of tomato blooms and several fruit. 



And I've got aphids. 


I'm spraying once a week with organic Neem extract mixed with dawn soap and water. I might order some lady bugs to help control the aphids too. 

Zucchini and lemon cucumber. 


Cucumber flowers!


Cantaloupe is looking better. 


As of posting, I've got at least 24 tomatoes, 3 zucchini growing and many more flowers!