Mar152012

EarthTainer Update #2

earthtainer

We’re just about four weeks into our EarthTainer tomato project, and if you look at the pictures I took two weeks ago you can see how much they’ve grown since then. They’re going nuts!

They’re nearly a foot tall, and we’re going to have to get the cages up around them this weekend since they’re also spreading out quite a bit, and we don’t want to hurt the branches getting them set up. I also carefully trimmed off the lowest branches earlier this week since they were dropping down onto the container, and this weekend I’m going to tackle the suckers that are sprouting up, too.

The best part:

The Sweet 100s are starting to blossom!

Mar122012

Easy Pasta Salad

Easy Pasta Salad

Though it’s a very low number, there are a few meals that the girls and I love that Mike isn’t crazy about. These end up being the dinners that I make when he’s out of town for work so I don’t feel guilty about making him eat something he doesn’t like (not that I would, but sometimes it’s been so long since we’ve had one or another that they end up on the menu anyway!).

One of those meals is, to my amazement, pasta salad.

I mention this because he actually used to love it as much as we did. He’s explained that the combination of the oil and vinegar dressing, the cheese, and even the tomatoes just, well, got old. And while I understand tastes changing, this made me sad for one reason: I thought for sure I’d be making it a lot less!

However, he’s been in charge of a gigantic project at work for the last year or so which involves travel to their out-of-state locations. For those nights, I tell the girls to come up with the dinners that they miss, and that’s what we have.

So this past weekend was one of those occasions, and the votes were unanimous: I was making pasta salad!

I started making this about 12 years ago, when the twins were babies, because I could get it done early in the day and have nothing to do in the evening, when the crazies seemed to hit everyone. (Now that I think about it, my hmm… over-reliance? on this easy meal could be one of the reasons Mike got tired of it!)

Easy Pasta Salad

I always double the recipe when I make it because it makes the perfect lunch the next day, too. I finally ended up using my last two boxes of free pasta from last spring!

Easy Pasta Salad

I also just use packaged provolone. You can buy it at the service deli in a big block, but I actually like using the pre-packaged slices. It cubes up just fine, and truth be told, the dryness of the provolone can get a little boring in big chunks, so being able to break them up a little bit is nice.

Easy Pasta Salad

Good-bye, free pasta.

Easy Pasta Salad

Like I said, if you’re feeding more than three people, double the below recipe if you’d like leftovers. (I don’t double the cheese, however, and there’s still plenty of it.)

Heather’s Easy Pasta Salad

1 16 oz package of penne
1 c halved cherry or grape tomatoes
6 oz provolone cheese, cut into cubes

2/3 c vegetable oil
1/3 c apple cider vinegar
3 tsp dried basil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 Tb Dijon mustard
1-1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp onion powder

Cook pasta according to package directions; drain and rinse with cold water. Place in a large bowl and set aside.

In a blender, combine oil, vinegar, basil, garlic, mustard, salt, sugar, and onion powder until well blended.

Pour dressing over pasta and add the tomatoes and cheese, stirring gently until just combined. Refrigerate until serving (at least four hours).

Mar32012

EarthTainer Update

EarthTainer Tomatoes

So we’re two weeks in with our EarthTainer tomatoes, and they seem to be doing really well. Each plant has grown a couple of inches and they’re spreading out a bit more, and there are bunches of tiny new leaves.

The plant on the left is Sweet 100’s. We only got about a dozen or so the last time we planted and I hope we get a lot more this way. The site says they’ll keep producing right up until frost (which we don’t really get here), but even a few months’ worth would be amazing.

The plant on the right is Beefsteak. This is our first try with those and I’m really hoping they work.

As soon as they hit a foot tall or so we’ll have to get the cages up around them.

Not having to go out and water them every day is still taking a little getting used to. Right now they’re only needing about 1/2 a gallon of water every four days or so, but that will change once we heat up (that’s what the white pipe is for, by the way. You pour the water into that and it goes directly down to the water chamber).

I think within the next month we’ll be starting at least two more. We’ve talked about what else we want to plant, and most of them will need to go in within the next few weeks. I want to do some zucchini and sugar snap peas, and we both want jalapenos and bell peppers. Honestly, I’d love to try corn as well but I can’t get over how funny that would look on the patio.