Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Lasagna Recipe

This is my #1 recipe for having people over. It makes a HUGE amount of food, it can be made ahead of time and held in the fridge until time to cook, it is very adaptable for hiding veggies--I have a list below of what I usually add. When I make this for my family, we usually have enough for dinner and lunch to follow. I then portion off any extras into quart sized freezer bags and freeze for later. The frozen and reheated portions look terrible (they freeze best when squished flat) but taste great and can be easily tossed into a lunch box.


1 box lasagna noodles (the kind you have to boil, I don’t like the texture of the no boil ones)

Cheese layer:
1 tub cottage cheese (this is cheaper than the ricotta cheese)
bread crumbs
1 egg
Italian seasoning
Cheese (I used Colby Jack, cut into 1 inch cubes)

Meat Layer:
1/2 jar spaghetti sauce
Ground meat (I used ~1/4 lb of ground deer meat, but I’m cheap)
Random veggies (grated zucchini, spinach, grated carrot, mushrooms)
Italian seasoning
Garlic salt

Follow the directions on the side of the lasagna noodle box for cooking and assembly directions.

Other notes:

The veggies are cooked up with the meat and hidden in the spaghetti sauce.

I usually end up with a lasagna that is 1 cheese layer and 1 meat layer. So the pan layers look like this

Cover the pan with foil and bake until the sauce at the sides start to bubble. When it bubbles, remove the foil and add extra cheese on top and allow to melt.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Change of Motto

We've struggled to put what we do into words for a while now. We borrowed the motto "Horton Living like no one else" from Dave Ramsey because on the financial side he's a role model for us. But it's not really an all-encompassing description of what it is we strive to accomplish. We've described it to several people as "we're just odd or different". We do a lot of things that could be considered 'green' but we are not 'Greenies' (members of an activist political party focusing on environmental and social issues). We don't believe in man made global warming, but we do hate waste or wastefulness.

We believe in being self reliant (as much as possible), and helping other become self reliant. We belive that taking care of the soil organically is the best way to help the soil grow healthy food that we can eat. We belive that small changes to the way things are done around the house can make a big difference to the efficiency of the house (and it will show up in your wallet). We have been open to anything new that could change the way we live for the better.

We are very goal oriented: we regularly write down our ambitions and strive daily towards those goals. While we are not necessarily good at maintenance, we have acknowledged our shortcomings and work towards setting up 'systems' that help automatically maintain what we have. We are both self professed nerds; we love to learn new things, 'crunch' data, or test a hypothesis.

Conscientiousness defined as a personality trait: acting according to the dictates of one's conscience, self-disciplined, achievement-striving, deliberate (the tendency to think carefully before acting). Of course, we are not always conscientious, but we have set a goal to have "a conscientious approach to life". In short, I think we've found our all-encompassing motto for our lives and for this blog.

"Horton Living a conscientious approach to life"

Friday, July 17, 2009

Fall Garden Planning

With our good watering system in place, we want to try a fall garden this year. All of my previous garden experience was to give up with the heat in July, so this is a very new and exciting idea for me. I'm doing lots of research on what it takes for a fall garden and my notes are below.

Good TAMU (yeah Aggies) article

My notes:

--Rip out tomatoes, even with green fruit on the vine. Earliest produced tomatoes are the best, quality goes down as the plant matures.

--Daily adequate moisture needed directly to plant to allow good root system development

--Surefire, Heatwave, Bingo, Merced and Whirlaway (these also require more care, water, fertilizer) Carnival and Celebrity (more forgiving)

--Surefire and Heatwave are the only tomato varieties which will set flowers and fruit during the heat of September and are thus the earliest maturing tomatoes of a fall planting

--categorize as long term or short term fall crop (based on frost sensitivity)and plant together

--Frost- tolerant vegetables include beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, chard, collards, garlic, kale, lettuce, mustard, onions, parsley, spinach and turnips.

--Plant short-term, frost-susceptible vegetables together so that they can be removed after being killed by frost. Frost protection and the planting of a cereal rye cover crop are facilitated if such a grouping system is used. Frost-susceptible vegetables include beans, cantaloupes, corn, cucumbers, eggplants, okra, peas, peppers, Irish potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, tomatoes and watermelons.

Keep in mind the relative maturity rate, average height (in feet) and frost sensitivity of the crop of various garden vegetables with FS meaning frost-susceptible crops which will be killed or injured by temperatures below 32 degrees F. and FT meaning frost-tolerant crops which can withstand temperatures below 32 degrees F.

The quick (30-60 days) maturing vegetables are: beets (1 1/2 feet) FT; bush beans (1 1/2 feet) FS; leaf lettuce (1 foot) FT; mustard (1 1/2 feet) FT; radishes (1 1/2 feet) FT; spinach (1 foot) FT; summer squash (3 feet) FS; turnips (1 1/2 feet) FT; and turnip greens (1 1/2 feet) FT.

The moderate (60-80 days) maturing vegetables are: broccoli (3 feet) FT; Chinese cabbage (1 1/2 feet) FT; carrots (1 foot) FT; cucumbers (1 foot) FS; corn (6 feet) FS; green onions (1 1/2 feet) FT; kohlrabi (1 1/2 feet) FT; lima bush beans (1 1/2 feet) FS; okra (6 feet) FS; parsley (1 1/2 feet) FT; peppers (3 feet) FS; and cherry tomatoes (4 feet) FS.

The slow (80 days or more) maturing vegetables are: Brussels sprouts (2 feet) FT; bulb onions (1 1/2 feet) FT; cabbage (1 1/2 feet) FT; cantaloupes (1 foot) FS; cauliflower (3 feet) FT; eggplant (3 feet) FS; garlic (1 foot) FT; Irish potatoes (2 feet) FS; pumpkins (2 feet) FS; sweet potatoes (2 feet) FS; tomatoes (4 feet) FS; watermelon (1 foot) FS; and winter squash (1 foot) FS.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Miserable Texas Heat

My kitchen faces directly west. It is a real pain to cook dinner when the kitchen is already an oven! We are still working on solutions to keep that part of the house cooler. Here is what we have done so far.

1) Outside shade. We have a large tree growing in our yard, we normally keep the low branches clipped back, but this year we let them grow in a direction that shades the back side of the house better. This has made some difference in the early afternoon, but does not help once the sun drops below 30 degrees on the horizon.
2) Solar film. I just bought a roll of solar film from Lowes. One roll plus the application kit (needed) cost less than $50. I only did one window and the difference is HUGE. I can now stand at my kitchen sink at 6:30 and not be baked alive. The room is a bit darker overall, and there is a mirror like reflection from the window at night, but I am very pleased with this film overall.
3) Curtains. I have decorative curtains across the other windows in my kitchen (don’t close all the way on their own, mostly just for ‘pretty’). In the summer, I use clothes pins to hold them shut tight and this provides a bit of shading and helps to cool the kitchen too.
4) Fans. If it is just unbearable in the kitchen and I have to cook, I pull out a box fan and direct cooler air from the rest of the house into the kitchen.
5) Solar blocking fabric. This is not in my kitchen, but we just bought a few rolls of solar blocking fabric (70% block) from Home Depot for about $75 for a 50 foot roll. We used this to build a shade barrier for some of my tender plants outside. It seems it would be very easy to make an exterior shade cover for windows.
6) Alternative cooking… I almost never use the kitchen oven during the summer because it heats up the kitchen further, I also try to limit the number of burners I use (we have a gas stove). My previous baking solution was to use a toaster oven in the garage to bake small side dishes for meals, but my sweet husband actually installed a full sized oven for me in the garage so I can bake to my hearts content and not heat up the house.

Some other solutions we have considered, but have not been willing to shell out the time or $$ for yet are:
1) wider eaves
2) covered porch area built behind kitchen
3) exterior roll down shutters
4) pretty arbor with vines to provide shade at the west side of the house
5) custom solar window screens (I have seen these at friend’s houses, but never asked how well they work)
6) Moving to a cooler state (HA!)

As you can see, we have put some real effort into beating the miserable Texas heat.