Pink Lemonade Cupcakes

May 31, 2012

YoungMartha (formerly TeenMartha) was in charge of dessert for the holiday weekend. I love it when she bakes, because she picks things I would never have thought of. She made Pink Lemonade Cupcakes, a Deen brothers recipe (the recipe is for layer cake, but she made cupcakes with it). I am prejudiced my friends. I just don’t make recipes that use cake mix, but this one does and it was good. Leave it to YoungMartha to know that! This recipe uses pink lemonade powder in the batter and frozen pink lemonade concentrate in the frosting. These cupcakes tasted just like pink lemonade and they were on the tart side, so my mother even liked them (she only likes tart desserts!).  Points for YoungMartha. This is really a fun recipe – so pretty and such a nice flavor for summertime!


Veggie Rice Burrito

May 30, 2012

I found this recipe in May 2012 Cooking Light.  It seemed like something quick and easy to make on a weeknight and it definitely was. Everyone enjoyed this. I’ve shortened the recipe a bit with my own shortcuts.

Cook 1/3 cup white rice with 1/2 tsp chopped garlic and 2/3 cup water until it boils. Cover and reduce the heat to low for about 15 minutes. Fluff with a fork and stir in 1 tablespoon chopped jalapeno (I used canned).

Get a large skillet and add about a tablespoon of olive oil. Add 1 cup chopped onion and cook about 2 minutes. Add 1/2 teaspoon chopped garlic and 1 cup sliced mushrooms and cook about 1 minute. Add 1/2 cup corn and 1 small zucchini that’s been halved and sliced. Cook 2 more minutes. Add salt and pepper and 1/2 cup halved grape tomatoes, cook 2 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon fresh chopped cilantro.

Heat 8 inch tortillas in a skillet. Fill with rice, veggies and some shredded cotija cheese. Top with sour cream and a spritz of lemon juice.

Martha Mondays: 6/4

May 29, 2012

Tiny Skillet has chosen a no-cook item for next Monday: Thai Chicken and Noodle Salad. Keeping the kitchen cool is always a plus!!

Martha Mondays: Cheese Straws

May 28, 2012

I’m late posting this, but at least it is still Monday! We spent the holiday weekend at the lake with my parents. I made the cheese straws chosen by Perfecting Pru to go with dinner one night. I thought they were really good and so did everyone else! They were not dry, which I was worried about and were flavorful! Very fun.

Gardening Problems

May 24, 2012


Lest you think all is hunky-dory in our yard, I have some massive gardening problems to deal with still.

#1 When the pool got put in about 8 years ago, this was all overgrown shrubs and weeds. We put the filter and heater at the edge of the grass. Now that the yard is fenced and this is a garden, I have this ugliness to contend with. We’re thinking we will build the garden out a bit and put a shrub in front of this. I don’t know what else to do to hide it. You can see it from the deck. Ugh.


#2 Another problem related to the pool. This area was shrub and weed and now that it is cleared out,  I have nothing there. You can’t see this from the deck or the house, but it’s a big open area I would like to do something with. I can’t plant a tree because the leaves will fall into the pool. Maybe a shrub? I just don’t know. It needs something though. I only see this area when I sit on the wooden swing in the


backyard. It’s not high priority by any means, but it just needs something.

#3 is an entire side of the backyard. This was filled with horrible old shrubs and weeds that came out when the fence was put in. We’ve just been mowing it, so it looks like grass but is actually just short weeds. It’s bumpy and has stumps in the ground. There are little spindly trees over there. We would eventually like to plant some shrubs to create some more privacy here, so it isn’t open to the neighbors’ yard.  It’s a big job though, and one we are not ready to tackle yet.

#4 is the biggest, ugliest mess of all. When we bought our house, our yard ended where the fence is now. Several years ago, our neighbors sold their home. Their lot was L shaped, with the short end of the L going behind our property. We were able to buy this piece of their property from them, so that our yard would continue straight back, essentially doubling the size of our backyard. There is a “paper street” next to their house, so technically the new owners could have partitioned the lot and built a house back there. We didn’t want that and were lucky enough to have neighbors who took the extra steps to partition it and sell us the piece behind us, so now we and the new neighbors have identical shaped rectangular lots, side by side. We’re thrilled to own it, but it is just wilderness. We have a path mowed that goes back there and my son likes to go back there and shoot BBs. We dump big branches and grass clippings and dog poop way back there. Someday, I would love to get this part of the yard under control. But it would be a huge, expensive effort and it’s not something we can do any time soon. So, for now this will stay as a mini-forest.

So, as you can see, even with all the work and progress (see previous posts this week showing our successes), there is still much to be done!


Our Backyard Community

May 23, 2012

The rental property

We added a small garden outside the kitchen window in the fall, planting bulbs which all came up. We also put in the birdhouse my son made at school. For Christmas, I asked for a birdfeeder. I got it, and Mr. MarthaAndMe hung it from the big tree. We have had hours and hours of enjoyment from this little community we’ve built. A pair of little birds have moved into the birdhouse and for about a week, we watched them bringing nest materials into it. It was amusing to see Daddy Bird (or so we assumed) trying to stuff in a stick that was way too big. Mommy Bird would come out and yell at him and he would try again.

The diner

The birdfeeder is an endless source of amusement. It hangs on a long wire from the tree, pretty far down from the nearest branch. This did not stop Mr. Squirrel Wallenda from attempting to get to it. First he would stand on the branch above it, looking down. Then he would go up the trunk and lean out with his front paws to try to reach it. One Sunday morning he started jumping from the branch above. It took about 10 tries but he finally landed on the feeder and stuffed himself. Then he stopped for a while and a week or so ago was back at it. One time he was clinging to the feeder with a front and back leg on the top rung and a front and back leg on the bottom rung. Other times he has dangled by two feet. He lands on his feet on the ground every time.

We’ve had lots of cardinals and blue jays at the feeder. There is a family of chipmunks we clean up the spilled seed from the ground underneath, and believe me, there is plenty. The birds come and simply shower seeds down on the ground, apparently rejecting about 50% of the seeds in the feeder. We also have 2 big black crows who come through and eat off the ground, scaring everyone away.

In the mornings when we are eating breakfast, I feel like I’m watching a little neighborhood, with our rental house (birdhouse), diner (birdfeeder), and picnic area (seeds on the ground). There is always something to see and it’s given me such great pleasure to observe it all.

Martha Mondays: 5/28

May 22, 2012

Perfecting Pru has chosen cheese straws for next week’s project. Pru is in the UK, but these will be a great thing to make for Memorial Day weekend here.

Gardening Week

May 22, 2012

#1 Front of house

Welcome to gardening week at MarthaAndMe. We just had a ton of work done on our gardens and I thought I would share it with you in pieces. First, I have to say, yes, we had help. After years and years of struggling with weeds, messes, sore knees, and absolute frustration, we have given in and hired someone to clean up our gardens each spring. And it has made such a world of difference. He comes in with no mercy and weeds, trims, chops, mulches and edges my gardens within an inch of their lives and it gets done in a matter of hours instead of Mr. MarthaAndMe shouting at each other in the backyard for


three weekends in a row.  So, Martha, I completely understand your gardening “staff,” even if mine comes for only a few hours once a year!

Next, I have to share that when we bought our house 12 years ago, it had NO landscaping. There was one garden by the road with some evergreens and a couple of shrubs. There were ancient 40 year old shrubs around the house that were all stem and no green. And that’s IT.  The circumference of the yard  was also giant old evergreen shrubs that were all stem and were out of control. Most of those came out when we fenced our yard.


Every year we’ve been trying to work on a bit more to get it looking decent. We are at the point now where I am no longer embarrassed by my yard, which is a huge improvement!

#1 Front of house. A few years ago my brother-in-law brought his pick up truck over and used it to pull out the ancient shrubs that were planted around the house. My dad went with us to the garden center and helped us pick some new things. It’s in really good shape now since it has had years to grow. The hydrangea is in front of the window. To


the far right you can see the edge of the wisteria which has been blooming for a couple of years now, but wants to grow up the house like a vine.

#2 This was one of our biggest disasters. There are old lilacs along the property line here and each year we started cutting them back a bit. Eventually there was enough open space for a bed. We tried to make one ourselves, and it filled with weeds. Finally, our lawn guy put a weed guard down and now it is finally weed free and I am trying to grow some ferns, peonies and some other things in here. I hope to add a few things to it each year.

#3 is a continuation of #2 towards the backyard. This was more overgrown


lilacs. Amazing Garden Guy cut them all back, ripped out the tons of weeds that were under them and mulched. Suddenly we have all this space where we can plant things. It’s a gorgeous new area I need to figure out what to do with.

#4 is on the other side of the fence from #3, in the backyard. The sticks in the corner are actually from a hibiscus plant that has quite a story. When my great grandmother Rose passed away, seeds for this were


found in her Bible. No one knew where they came from. My great Uncle Bill planted them in his yard. They grew into a beautiful hibiscus with pink flowers. He dug some up and gave it to my dad, who in turn a few years ago, dug some up for me. Last year we had to move this when we built an herb garden, and I am relieved to see some green shoots coming up from it. This plant means a lot to me and somehow connects me to a woman I never knew. Also in the photo is a rhododendron which I am hoping will grow. We tried two of them in the front of the house and couldn’t get them to grow there.


#5 is a continuation from #4. Here you can see that we’ve planted an apple tree (fingers crossed! We also planted another elsewhere in the yard for cross-pollination). I am hoping it will provide some shade for the lilies of the valley and tiger lilies that are growing there. These used to grow in the weeds in this area and we managed to keep them when everything else got ripped out. They need some shade though, so I am hoping this tree will do it. We also planted a butterfly bush I am hoping will survive!


#6 is along the back of our deck (we have an awning with screens that attach to it – that’s what you’re seeing on the deck – it gives us an extra room in the summer). We had the deck built the first summer we lived here (there was a tiny concrete pad only before that). This garden suffered a disaster from Garden Guy though. He had his kids helping him and one of them uprooted my big beautiful clematis vine, which grew up the side of the deck and along the posts. There are still some shoots in the ground and we are hoping it will come back. It took me YEARS to get this to grow. It started next to the garage and never really took off there. We moved it to the back and it was happy and grew. I’m really, really disappointed that this happened, but he has promised to replace it if it does not grow back. Sigh.


#7 We tried for years to get things to grow next to the toolshed. The problem was that this area would flood every spring. Finally, we had drainage tile put in and it solved the problem. Now I finally have a cute garden started here. The two shrubs are new. I put in hostas last fall that I split from some big ones I had growing elsewhere.

#8 This is my favorite garden. It’s right outside the windows at the kitchen table area (they are to the left of the little window you can see which is the bathroom), so every morning when I eat breakfast, I look out onto this garden. Last fall we planted bulbs here and


they all came up. It made me so happy to be able to see those early flowers every morning. We’ve added a shrub and some flowering plants here. The vine came from my dad and it makes orange flowers. It has really filled in nicely over the years and we essentially built this garden around it. The birdhouse was made by my son.

#9 This is in the front of the house, next to the driveway. This area used to be a mess for years and years. It was always slightly lower than the driveway and the neighbor’s yard, and would be a giant mud puddle all spring and then a dust bowl all summer. The basketball net stand used to be stuck in here and my son used to have toys all over this area. Finally we built it up into a bed using bricks to enclose it and hold the dirt in. It was a miracle! My dad let us dig up some of the green ground cover plants and those have spread nicely. I also transplanted some lilies of the valley from the backyard here. Towards the road there are black eyed Susans, also from my dad, that bloom in late July or early August. This is one of the fullest and lushest gardens of all and it makes me happy every time I pull in the driveway.

#10 This is the newcomer on the block, my herb garden! We used to scratch around in the dirt next to this side of the deck but then last fall had some dirt put on it to make a real bed. I planted parsley, thyme, chives, oregano, basil, rosemary, mint, sage, and cilantro. I wanted dill, but could not find any plants, so I bought some seeds I may try to start. This is right next to the steps from the deck, so I can pop out from the kitchen and get what I need while cooking. I’m so excited about it! I’ve grown herbs in pots for years up on the deck and am happy to finally have a designated area for them.

What I want to stress is that what you are seeing in these pictures is the result of 12 years of hard work. most of which we did together (imperiling our marriage every time!). It took forever to get to this point and it looks fantastic (finally) in these photos, but for years I despaired about the ugliness of my yard. If you are struggling with an ugly yard, keep working at it, one piece at a time and you will finally, finally get there if you are persistent. And I highly recommend hiring an amazing garden guy for a few hours once a year to come in and bring tough love to your garden. I never would have put down weed guard (didn’t even know it existed) and I would never have been so drastic with the lilacs, but it had amazing results!

That’s the end of today’s tour. I have some more posts coming later in the week with some more gardening things, so stop back in!

Martha Mondays: Pinwheels

May 21, 2012

When my kids were little I always put pinwheels in their Easter baskets. They loved blowing on them and watching them spin. I’ve never tried to make one though! Thanks to Sassy Suppers though, I now know how and it was pretty easy. Martha’s instructions are here.  We printed out patterned paper using the colored printer since I didn’t have anything cute. It’s a pretty simple matter of just cutting and gluing the corners in. I didn’t have a clothespin, so we just stuck it at the end of a stick. Very cute! And very easy. You could definitely do this project with little kids.

Asian Salmon Burgers

May 18, 2012

June Cooking Light has some great ideas for different types of burgers. I decided to play with the salmon burger recipe and change it up a bit, mostly because I didn’t have all the ingredients! Here’s what I ended up making:

12 oz salmon

1 1/2 scallions

1/2 tsp dried ginger

1 tbsp lemon juice

2 tbsp tamari

1 tbsp hoisin

pepper to taste

3/4 cup panko

1 egg white

Put everything in the food processor and process until completely combined. Form into 4 patties and grill until cooked through. Serve on buns with thinly sliced cucumbers and additional hoisin.

This was really tasty and a nice change from a regular burger. It stayed moist and was also really quick to throw together.

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