Growing Basil Indoors

It may seem strange to talk about growing indoors when the heat index is over 100 outside, but I’ve fallen in love with the simplicity of growing indoors.

There’s no weeds. No bugs. No going outside in the heat to tend to wilted plants. Just constant observation of my little plants in the cool indoors.

A few months ago I cleaned out my office, which had been used for a storage room. I was going to make it my official office to hid from kids over the summer, but it ended up being a mini-greenhouse instead.

Over the last few weeks I’ve attempted growing a few different things with new and old seeds I’ve obtained. I’ve tried potting soil and fancy equipment. I even tried starting my seeds in the Jiffy Plant Starter Kit, which was a complete failure long term. Sure they sprouted nicely, but they all died before the plants were of any use.

What I’ve learned is you don’t need anything complicated, nor do you need to use expensive items from the local Earl May. All you need is the following:
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Deli Tortilla Wraps with Ranch for Dinner

Over the last week, we’ve been making a lot of cold sandwiches for supper. It’s just too hot and we’re too busy to heat up the oven. What started as “just a new recipe we’re trying” has become one of our family faves.

These wraps were the first I’ve ever made. Ever. After a bad experience in high school, I’ve stayed clear of them for nearly 15 years. But I pushed the pesky memory aside, and decided to give it another shot. Wow, what have I been missing all these years?

Our wraps were worth bragging about, mostly because we used fresh lettuce bought from our local farmer’s market. You just can’t beat the flavor of home grown veggies. I wished our tomatoes would have been, but ours aren’t ripe yet. Although once we added good deli meat and sliced cheese (fresh from your local deli is best, but we used store brand) with a touch of ranch dressing, we had a really fantastic deli wrap.

Since we all wanted them a second and third night in a row, we decided to play around with the meat a little each day. Turkey, ham, and roast beef in different varieties were used, such as hickory smoked, honey baked, and so on. Each different combination of meat gave it a slightly different flavor, all of which were wonderful.

The variety in meat has inspired me to play with cheeses and spreads next, in hopes we come across a new wrap combination worth singing about. Stay tuned as we play more on the cold sandwich front to see what we come up with!

Family Favorite Wii Games

Summer days are long and hot, with only so many times the kids can visit the pool. Believe it or not, in between family outings and playing in the water, we all still play the Wii over 2 years after making the leap to buy it.

For the older boy, the xBox has snagged full attention. But for the rest of us who don’t much care for regular video games, we turn to the Wii for indoor entertainment. Here are the games we all still play the most, especially with friends and family…

1. Just Dance
My daughter’s favorite game, which she loves to play with her friends. The movements involved are a bit too simple for me and it’s focus is competition, but it’s perfect for a pair of 8 year olds. I almost wish we had a few extra Wii remotes so more than two could play, although they do just fine most the time with only two remotes. They also get some serious exercise without leaving the livingroom, which I love.

2. We Cheer and We Cheer 2
Both of these games happen to be my favorite, even though they were originally for my daughter. Once in awhile if I have the time, I’ll pop one into the Wii and get dancing. I prefer playing alone, so I can challenge myself to get better scores on my profile. My daughter only plays this one if others are playing with her, but since we got Just Dance she hasn’t played much. I personally prefer it over Just Dance because the moves are more complicated and I feel I get a better workout while having fun.

3. My Fitness Coach
I’ll admit I haven’t done very good using this one to the fullest. When I first got it, I exercised almost every day and followed the program the best I could. I just flat out don’t have the time for it now, although we still use it for Yoga once in awhile. That alone has made this one worth it. Although I SERIOUSLY need to get my hands on Wii Fit , since it has a whole lot more in the relm of Yoga and fitness. Plus my 13-yr-old cousin highly recommends it (and trust me, she is very picky!)

4. Wii Sports
Surprisingly, we still occassionally play the original game that came with our Wii. Mostly for the bowling as a family or with adult friends, although sometimes my daughter will play tennis with herself or others. There’s a little something for everyone on this disk, making the Wii totally worth it alone.

That’s all the main games we play on a regular basis…what games do you still play on your Wii?

Wish I Could Cook This…

Last week on a grocery trip, I was all kinds of tickled when I saw the free sample people hanging out around the store. It’s always fun finding new foods. Plus I was seriously starving.

Our local food store chain has been putting a huge emphasis on cooking classes and giving away recipes, most likely in attempts to save people from the McDonalds and Burger Kings. I’m loving this new “marketing tactic”, since it’s giving me new ideas for supper. One of the tables had samples of this recipe, which I totally had to try at home…

Beef, Pasta, and Artichoke Toss with Balsamic Vinaigrette

1 1/2 lbs sirloin steak, cut 1-inch thick
4 cups uncooked tri-colored rotini (spiral-shaped) pasta
1 can quartered artichoke hearts, drained
1 large red bell pepper, cut into Julienne strips
1 cup small pitted ripe olives, optional
1 tbsp thinly sliced fresh basil

Balsamic Vinaigrette:
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 1/2 tsp dried basil leaves

Directions:
1. Grill steak over medium-high heat until desired doneness is reached. Let stand for 10 minutes.
2. Trim fat from steak. Cut steak lengthwise in half and then crosswise into thin slices.
3. Cook pasta.
4. In large bowl, combine beef, pasta, artichoke hearts, bell pepper, olives, and fresh basil. Mix lightly.
5. In a small bowl, whisk together vinaigrette ingredients. Pour over beef and pasta, tossing lightly to coat. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight if desired before serving.

Unfortunately, my family is picky. Peppers and artichokes are a big no-no if I’m making supper for everyone. I could have just added them to my bowl, but that would have required a special trip to the store since all I had was the pasta, steak, and balsamic vinegar. Sadly it just wasn’t the same as the delicious pasta I had the other day. 😦

I do encourage others to try it out, but ONLY if you can get away with the very visible veggies. I’ll have to waite until a family gathering to make this dish again.