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Quick Tip: Milk Jug Hot Caps

Milk jug hot capsI’ve used this method for almost two decades to protect tender young plants from frost in the garden.  It’s fast, easy, and FREE!  Start saving milk jugs early in the season in order to have enough when it’s garden planting time.   Rinse the empty jugs and discard the lids.  Cut off the bottom with a serrated knife or scissors (kitchen ones work well).   Place carefully over the newly-planted plants and pile up the dirt generously around the jugs to keep them from blowing away.  You may water through the hole in the top, or just sprinkle or soak (to the side) as usual.  The water will work its way under the jugs to reach the plants.

I leave them on until all danger of frost has passed, and leaves start to poke up out of the hole in the top (the jug will be “full” of the plant).  The tomato plants will be “jug-shaped” for a day, but quickly expand within a day or so.   This method has been very effective against frost.   These not only protect, but seem to encourage the growth and health of the plant.   I happen to prefer these to walls-of-water.  The plants seem to adjust better once the protection is removed.

Last year I didn’t throw them all away and we are using them again.  Use them on tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, squash, and any other plant that can’t deal with the cold.  They work like a charm!

My Green Thumb Girl!

My Green Thumb Girl!

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Zesty Quinoa Salad

Zesty Quinoa SaladThis healthful vegan recipe is slightly adapted from one by the same name on   I follow it almost entirely, but changed the seasonings a bit.  I was searching specifically for a black bean/quinoa combo and found this.   It is astoundingly delicious! Everyone who tries this LOVES it!  When I first make it, we eat it warm.   Then we eat the leftovers cold from the fridge.  It is fantastic both ways, but I prefer the warm just a tad more.

This colorful salad can stand on its own as a main dish!  High in protein and nutrients, it has a nice little kick from red pepper, fresh lime juice, and fresh cilantro.  It is fresh, savory, citrusy, exhilarating, light (but satisfying), fragrant, and fun!

  • Yield: 6 servings
  • Prep: 15 min
  • Cook: 15 min
  • Ready in: 30 min


  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 limes, juiced
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1 1/2 cups halved cherry tomatoes, or whole tomatoes chopped
  • 1 can (15 oz.) black beans, drained and rinsed in hot water (to warm them up)
  • 5 green onions, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • salt and ground black pepper to taste (I usually omit these)

Quinoa Salad ingredients



  1. Bring quinoa and water to a boil in a medium saucepan.  Reduce heat to medium low and simmer until water is absorbed (about 15 minutes).
  2. While the quinoa cooks, whisk olive oil, lime juice, cumin, salt, and red pepper flakes together in a small bowl.
  3. In a larger bowl, stir together quinoa, tomatoes, onions,black beans, and cilantro.  Pour dressing mix over the top and mix in evenly.  Add additional salt and pepper if desired.
  4. Serve immediately, while warm, or chill in refrigerator if you prefer it cold. Stores well in refrigerator.




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Chicken Pot Pie

Chicken pie3

On Monday nights I try to make a meal the WHOLE family loves.  That narrows down my choices to about three things, but still I perservere!  These days, more often than not, I make my family’s #1 favorite: chicken pot pie.

Back in the day, I dreaded making this meal.  It meant a great deal of peeling, chopping, and chicken-cooking… in addition to the bother of making a crust.  Let me tell you, it was a true testament to my love for my family.  To be clear, I still love my family, but I’ve found a MUCH faster, easier way to make this meal — with Thrive freeze dried foods!  Now I just scoop, boil, and wait for the magic to happen!

As with all Thrive recipes, this dish can be made with ordinary ingredients as well.  The substitution amounts are in the recipe in italics.  You can also mix and match.

One last tip: I like to use my Bosch mixer to make the pie crust.  Works like a charm!  I use the whisk to “cut” the shortening into the flour mixture.  Just pulse it a few times and it’s perfect.  Then I put the dough hook in before I add the water.  Perfect every time and SO easy.  Since pie crust ranks high on the list of things I detest making, this has been a happy discovery.

Chicken Pot Pie

  • Yield 12 large servings
  • Prep: 40 min
  • Cook: 40 min
  • Ready in: 1 hour 20 min.


Note: This dish can be made with ordinary (non-Thrive) ingredients.  Ordinary ingredient amounts are italicized in parentheses.


  • 2 cups Thrive potato chunks (4 cups diced potatoes)
  • 1/2 cup Thrive carrot dices (1 cup carrot dices)
  • 1/2 cup Thrive FD chopped onion (3/4 cup onion, chopped)
  • 1 1/2 cups Thrive FD chopped chicken (2 cups cooked chicken, diced)
  • 1 cup Thrive FD green peas (1 cup peas)
  • 2 tsp. Thrive chicken boullion
  • 3 quarts water
  • 1 1/4 cups gravy mix (I like McCormick poultry gravy mix)
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup water to prepare gravy mix


  1. Combine vegetables, chicken, boullion, and water in a large stockpot.  Bring to a boil and simmer on medium low for 20- 25 minutes until carrots and potatoes are tender.
  2. In a small mixing bowl, combine gravy mix and hot water to make a paste.  Mix until smooth.
  3. Gradually pour into vegetable mixture, stirring constantly.  Bring to a boil.  Repeat the process with a little more gravy mix, if necessary, until filling is to desired thickness.
  4. Remove from heat and set aside while you prepare the crust.Filling
  5. Place bottom crust (recipe below) in a 4 quart casserole dish.  Pour filling into prepared crust.  Cover with top crust and flute edges to seal.  Cut slits in the top crust for steam to escape.
  6. Bake at 425 ° for 40-45 minutes, or until golden brown.  Let cool for a few minutes before serving (it will be very hot!).Flute edges

Preheat oven while preparing crust.


  • 5 1/3 cups flour
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 2 cups shortening
  • 1 1/4 cups cold water
  1. Mix salt into flour until well-combined (I like to use a Bosch mixer with the whisk attachment).
  2.  Cut in shortening with a pastry blender (or a few pulses of the mixer).
  3. Add water and mix until dough forms (if using the mixer, change to the dough hook before adding water).
  4. Divide dough into two portions and roll out each thinly on a generously floured surface for a top and bottom crust.

A few pie crust tips:

  • Don’t overmix the dough.  Mix only until dough is formed and well-combined.
  • Use COLD water to maximize flakiness
  • When rolling, periodically lift dough from each side and dust underneath with more flour to prevent sticking.  Dust lightly on top as well, as you roll
  • To place crust in the dish and over the filling, fold it over in half, and lift it that way, placing it on one half of the pan.  Then unfold over the other half.  This makes the dough easier to handle.


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firstrolloutOur son lived in South Africa for two years and learned to make this staple Indian flatbread.  Since his return to the States, we’ve enjoyed them as a treat from time to time.   They are actually more nutritious than tortillas because no shortening or lard is required.  Most of the recipes I’ve seen also call for whole wheat flour, which is a good thing!  I adapted the recipe from the website: All Things Kenyan.  I chose this one because it seems most like the one my son makes — with the same “jelly-rolling” techniques.  That added step makes them particularly fun to pull apart as you eat them.  During Christmas break, my son and his wife fixed them for us with chicken, vegetables and a “Red Hot Sweet Chili” sauce that we picked up at the local grocery store.  They were a hit!

Chapatis are delicious with curry, all kinds of vegetables, chutney, or anything!  They may also be served warm with butter and cinnamon sugar.  The bread itself doubles as the utensil.  Pull it apart in pieces and use it to pick up the other foods.  It is filling and fun!


  • Yield: 4 chapatis
  • Prep: 30 min (including “rest” time for dough)
  • Cook: 10 min
  • Ready in: 40 minutes


  • 2 cups flour – white or whole wheat, or parts of each
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • oil
  • water


  1. Mix dry ingredients well.
  2. Add 1 Tbsp of oil to the flour mixture and mix in with your hands until flour feels a little bit like sand.
  3. Add enough water to form an elastic dough (it took less than a cup).  Knead the dough a little until smooth.
  4. Divide the dough into four parts.  Roll each ball into a circle and spread 1/2 tsp. (or less) of oil over it.Oil on chapatis
  5. Roll each circle up, like a jelly roll, then roll up the resulting strip.  They will resemble snail shells.firstrollchapatichapatissecondroll
  6. Let the rolls sit 20 minutes or more.  Roll out each ball until thin.firstrollout
  7. Cook on a hot skillet or cast iron pan until brown and flip to cook other side.  They will bubble up, but are more dense than tortillas.
  8. Serve with desired accompaniments or toppings (shown here with chicken, cabbage, peppers, onions and seasonings, and sweet chili sauce).chapati final


NOTE:  I talked to my son and discovered that he skips the extra “roll-out” step in the above recipe.  He simply rolls out all of the dough at once, spreads on the oil, cuts it into strips, and rolls up each strip (that’s him in the photo below).  Then he rolls out each “roll”.   We tried both ways, and decided we like his the best.  It pulls apart better when you’re eating them.

Daniel chapatis


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Country Carrots

Country Carrots cookedI’ll admit, I don’t expect this post to be a blockbuster — people just don’t generally go searching for new carrot recipes.   I  probably wouldn’t give it a second glance myself, but that’s unfortunate, because this recipe is  astounding.    Even carrot haters need to try it just once.  It is simple, natural, and delicious!

Years ago, after one of my babies was born, neighbors came calling with casseroles and dinners for my family.  I happen to subscribe to the the idea that if I don’t have to cook it, it’s automatically scrumptious.  However, that theory was tested when my sweet neighbor, Mildred, showed up with a casserole, salad, and…. a pan of baked carrots.   I managed to fake some enthusiasm, but as the door closed behind her, I wondered dubiously if any member of my family would even sample them.  I wasn’t going to volunteer for the job.  However, since I like to be honest when thanking people for gifts,  I thought I’d better take at least a bite so I could tell her how “fresh” they tasted, or some other vague compliment.

Lo and behold, I was shocked to discover they were delicious!  I coaxed my husband into trying some, and a few of the kids as well!  We finished them off, and I’ve fixed them ever since.  When I later confessed the whole incident to Mildred, she just chuckled and said, “You’re not the only person to be afraid of them at first.  I get that alot.”

Here are a couple of things I’ve learned since then:

  • This won’t work with “baby” carrots (blecch!  I can’t stand those things anyway!)
  • The natural sugars in the carrot are REALLY enhanced in this dish
  • It’s best to make the carrot sticks nice and thin and long
  • The carrots taste best when they are allowed to “carmelize”.  We like to let them get brown and a little crispy in places.
  • You must add the butter and salt (for optimum results).  If that bothers you, look elsewhere for your next carrot recipe. :)
  • Give yourself plenty of time.  These are best when roasted for at least 90 minutes.
  • You can really play with the temperature and cooking time on these.  Turn down the temp. to increase the time, and vice versa.

Don’t be put off by the cooking time, by the way.  At least with these, you fix ’em and forget ’em.  Once they’re in the oven, your work is done!  They are just not what you would expect!  They are not mushy or bland in any way.  I wouldn’t eat them if they were.  I feel a little funny calling this a recipe though.  It’s really more of a list of instructions.  DO give these a try!  Just once.

Country Carrots

Simple to fix and naturally delicious!  Slow roasting makes the carrots sweet and savory, all at once.   A surprise taste sensation!

  • Yield: 6-8 servings
  • Prep: 15 minutes
  • Cook: 90 minutes
  • Ready In: 1 hour 45 minutes


  •  8-10 medium carrots, cut into sticks (don’t use “baby” carrots)
  • 1-2 Tbsp. butter
  • salt


  1. Place carrots in a thin layer in a 9X13 baking pan
  2. Sprinkle with salt to taste
  3. Dot with butter piecesCountry Carrots uncooked
  4. Cover and bake in a 375 ° oven for 90 minutes, until brown in places.Country Carrots cooked




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