We had a very heavy frost, possibly an actual freeze, a couple of days ago.  We lost both our sweet and sour cherry crops as well as most of our peaches, which is pretty sad for our family.  Fortunately, we had not yet planted much in our garden that would result in total crop failure.

Our potatoes sustained some frostbite, so I spent some time this morning cutting back the dead, damaged leaves so that the healthy parts of the plant can keep on growing.  We had mulched them pretty heavily the day before the forecasted frost, but we hadn’t completely covered everything.  Our broccoli plants and sugar snap pea seedlings still look a little rough, but I think they’ll rebound okay, too.

One of the things I respect about gardening is the reality that I am really not in control.  There are often certain things I can do to protect my various endeavors, but there is always an element that is completely beyond my grasp.  In my opinion, this is a healthy, humbling realization.  No matter what resources I have at my disposal and what energies I invest in all that I hope to accomplish, my ability to control every aspect is an illusion.  In order to have peace of mind, I’ve got to be okay with that.  I have to know when to keep working and when to let go.

Relationships have the same limitations.  We can only do what we can do.  Love.  Forgive.  Pray.  Repent.  Not every relationship is going to work perfectly.  Not every season is going to be an easy one.  At some point, we’ve got to be okay with that if we want to maintain peace of mind.  We can only do what we can do, and then we can ask God’s grace to cover over our mistakes.  That’s where the peace comes in.  We do what God calls us to do.  We work on the dead, damaged places in our own hearts, giving room for God to grow the healthy places into something living and productive.  We also have to allow for others to work on their own lives…or not.  We must relinquish the illusion of control.

I confess that this is a difficult concept for me–one that I struggle to learn time after time.  I can only do what I can do.  Love. Forgive. Pray. Repent.  Fortunately, if I shift my focus to these things, there is always more than enough to keep me well-occupied.




Planting Potatoes

I am a month later than I would like to be, but our potatoes have officially been planted for the year.  It feels good to have another garden chore checked off the list.

Potatoes are one of my favorite things to plant because they’re so easy.  We don’t even actually put them in the ground.  We lay them on top of the ground and cover them with mulch or straw or composted manure.  To keep the rain from washing the mulch away and the dogs from digging the spuds up, we plant as many potatoes as we can inside old tires.  This method has been a relatively simple solution to the problem of clay-like soil that prevents us from easily planting potatoes the old-fashioned way.  (Yes, I know we’ll probably die from the chemicals leaching out of the tires into the potatoes.  It will taste better than dying from Big Macs and Funyons.)

I must confess that I had a lot of help with the planting.  My three kids were there with shovels and wheelbarrow on standby.  Two preschoolers we know and love were ready to help with trowels and fistfuls of dandelions.  A neighbor rode up on his lawnmower and put all of the tires on his property at our disposal.  Oh, and the puppies.  Our two 10-week-old puppies provided lots of moral support and comedy relief.  And exercise.

If the seed potato people are right, I can expect approximately 150 pounds of tasty potatoes from the six pounds of seed potatoes I planted.  Wouldn’t that beautiful?!  There’s not a single potato dish I couldn’t try with that kind of harvest!  It’ll probably be three months before the plants die back enough for a complete harvest, but I confess that I occasionally begin sneaking out new potatoes as soon as I see flowers forming.  There’s just something magical about gently feeling around in the mulch for enough small taters to roast for our supper before carefully tucking and patting everything back in as I prepare to head up to the house with potatoes in my apron pockets.

That’s garden glory right there.

I’ll be busy enough over the next few weeks with all of the other tilling, planting, weeding and watering that time will fly by.  Soon enough, there should be potatoes on the menu.



Skeleton Recipes

Skeleton recipes are “bare bones” low-cost foods that are combined with other ingredients you already have on-hand to make fast food at home–without the guilt of low-quality, high-cost eating.

Here’s a cooking segment I did on WISH-TV to share the whole idea of skeleton recipes.

I also share some skeleton recipes in my book, Eat Cheap!, which is available at a special price on this website under “Books”.

Oven-Roasted Root Veggies, etc.

This is a wonderful way to use up odds and ends in your crisper drawer.roastedbirthdayveggies

Any combination of the following, washed and peeled (if necessary), then cut into similar-sized chunks:

sweet potatoes
winter squash (acorn, butternut, Hubbard, buttercup, etc.)

Toss vegetables with olive oil and seasoning of choice (herbal, lemon pepper, Cajun, whatever), then spread out onto a baking sheet in a single layer.  Bake at 400 for 20-30 minutes, or until tender.

BBQ Pork & Potatoes

For the barbecue sauce lovers among you, this is a winner.  Plus, it requires little effort for a hot meal.  You can even put the pork in completely frozen; just add a couple of hours to your cooking time.


6 med. potatoes, peeled & cubed

2 lb. pork loin, trimmed and cubed

1 tsp. dry mustard

2 c. your favorite barbecue sauce, thinned with about a cup of water


Combine potatoes, pork, mustard, and one cup of BBQ sauce.

Cook on low 8 hours; stir in remaining cup of BBQ sauce.

Oven-Roasted Potatoes

This is one of my favorite ways to enjoy potatoes.  Potatoes are a low-cost food, so we try to work them into our menu two or three times a week.  Sometimes, we even make them the centerpiece of our meal and add various vegetable side dishes for a healthy, low-cost supper.  From our summer’s harvest, we almost always have green beans, winter squash, beets and other veggies around.

The seasonings can be easily altered, so just use what you like.  This is also a way to use up any of those seasoning blends you bought for a specific purpose and haven’t used.  Even steak or poultry seasonings would be good.

1/8 c. olive or vegetable oil
2 cloves minced garlic (or 1 t. garlic powder)
2 T. dried herbs, such as dill, thyme, oregano or rosemary (or any combination thereof)
1/4 t. red pepper, if desired
1/2 t. salt
4-5 large potatoes, cubed

Combine the oil and garlic with all of the seasonings, then stir in potatoes until well-coated.

Place in a single layer on a jellyroll pan (cookie sheet with edges).

Bake at 475 for 20-30 minutes or until golden-brown.

Feel free to turn during baking time in order to brown all sides of the potatoes.

Cheesy Sausage-Potato Casserole

This is a good example of how I re-work a recipe to make it more cost-effective.  At the risk of confusing you, I am going to put the original recipe in parentheses after the changes we have made. Notice that I’m increasing the low-cost ingredients (potatoes) and cutting the high-cost ingredients (sausage) into smaller pieces to give the illusion of “lots” of sausage on my family’s plates. (Otherwise, the kids are inclined to fight over the sausage chunks.) I am also keeping the amount of cheese the same, because there is plenty to go around even with the addition of four more potatoes.

8 potatoes, sliced (4 potatoes)
16oz. smoked sausage, diced (sliced into 2” chunks)
1 onion, chopped
1/2 stick butter, sliced (1 stick butter)
1 c. shredded yellow cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Layer potatoes, sausage and onion in a 13”x9” baking pan sprayed with non-stick vegetable cooking spray. Dot with butter; sprinkle with

Bake for 1 hour and 15 min. (or until potatoes are tender).

Serves about six.