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For many, many years I have grown artichokes in my garden. In fact, when I first started growing artichokes, I started them from seeds! Over the years the original plants have had “babies” and I have supplemented them with new, purchased plants.

Generally the winters here in Seattle are fairly mild compared to other parts of the country. If it does get below freezing, which isn’t very often or for very long, I cover my artichokes with old sample quilts from my longarm classes. (To view a past post about using sample quilts as garden covers Click Here )

But sometimes, the winter is cold and nasty and a few of my artichokes do not survive. I now have two fairly large artichoke plants growing in my garden.

This spring, my artichokes have gone wild! Each of my artichoke plants has at least three artichokes on them.

Did I mention that I LOVE artichokes!

Here are some photos of my artichoke plants – click on any photo for a larger view.

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Artichoke plant #1 with four artichokes on it. Do you see the baby artichoke near the bottom of the photo?

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Artichoke plant #2 with three artichokes on it.

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A side view showing both plants and the artichokes growing on both of them. And there is one big artichoke on each plant ready to be cut and cooked!

Over the years I have cooked artichokes many different ways. I have boiled, steamed, baked,  roasted and microwaved my home grown artichokes. But this year, I’m using my crock pot!

I cut my artichokes, trimmed them, and put them in my big crock pot. I put some garlic through the garlic press and put that on top of the artichokes, along with lemon slices and lemon pepper. I put some water in the bottom of the crock pot, covered it up and set it on high for about 4 hours.

Here are my artichokes in my crock pot ready to be cooked!

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While the artichokes were cooking, I was back out in the garden trimming my wisteria!

This is what my wisteria looked like before I attacked it with the pruning shears! It definitely needs a haircut!

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After a bit of work……

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Oh my gosh, it looks SO much better! And there is a hosta at the bottom left! You can hardly see it in the before photo!

After working on my wisteria and other garden stuff, I’m back to my artichokes.

My house smells divine and my artichokes are tender and look great! Here is the one I ate for dinner

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It was SOOOOOO good! I dipped the leaves in some honey mustard sauce, yum, yum, yum!

All that is left is a pile of eaten leaves and the “spikes” from the inside of the choke!

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The other artichoke I cooked is in the fridge and I’m going to warm it up and have it for dinner tomorrow!

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My cock pot pizza has been cooking for the last 2-1/2 hours and it smells WONDERFUL!!! I was outside checking the garden and I could smell it outside!

Here is what the pizza looked like when I took the cover and the towel off.

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The cheese got a little brown and crispy around the edges, but I like it that way!

I took the pot out of the base and let it sit on the counter for about 15 minutes with the lid and towel off.

Taking the pizza out of the crock pot was a little bit of a problem, but I cut it in half then lifted each half out onto a cutting board.

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The pizza looks a little nasty, but is smells wonderful and it tastes great!!! It is a little doughy, so next time (yes, there WILL be a next time) I might make a little less of the Bisquick dough or try making a yeast dough.

This is definitely something I will make again. Now I have to get ready and go to my kick-a** water aerobics class to burn off some (pizza) calories!

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The last few days it has been hot, hot, hot in the Seattle area! Today is day #5 of temperatures over 90 degrees and we are on track to break a few – or many – heat records. Of course, when it is hot, hot, hot outside, I have all the ingredients to make pizza. Not just any pizza, but Alfredo Chicken Spinach Pizza!!

Did I also mention that I DO NOT have air conditioning! As I am writing this post it is 84 degrees in the house, 90 degrees on my back (covered) deck. I am working on my laptop,  sitting under under the ceiling fan in the dining room, with a (column) room fan blowing on me!

The last thing I want to do is turn on the oven to make pizza, but I don’t want the ingredients to go bad. So I did a little bit of an internet search and I am getting creative and cooking the pizza in the crock pot! I couldn’t find “super exact” instructions on how to make the pizza in the crock pot, but I was able to get a general feel for the process. I am using a combination of recipes along with “winging it” and I’ll see how it works out!

Here is what I did.

Crust – the last few times I have made pizza I made the (yeast) pizza dough in my bread machine. I had no clue I could do this, but, an internet search shows that it can be done, and it works! But today, I didn’t really have the time to make a yeast dough so I turned to the Bisquick Pizza Dough Recipe and made the dough with Bisquick. This should give me a more biscuit like, almost deep dish type of crust.  After making the Bisquick Crust, I patted into the bottom of the crock pot which I liberally sprayed with cooking spray (PAM) and drizzled with a little bit of olive oil.

Sauce – A few days ago I made the “worlds easiest and best” (my words) Alfredo Sauce For the recipe Click Here. (Note: If you make this sauce you will look at what you are cooking and swear you have ruined it because it looks curdled and yucky. Don’t worry! Keep on going and when the cheese gets in it, everything comes together. This recipe is Alfredo Sauce heaven!!!)

I spread a liberal amount of the Alfredo Sauce on top of the crust. See the photo below.

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I had some thin sliced onions so I put them on top of the sauce. I had a roasted chicken from Costco and cut up some breast meat and put that on top of the onions. I had some fresh packaged spinach and layered that on the chicken. My basil is going crazy in the garden so I picked some larger leaves, chopped them up and put them on top of the spinach. Then the shredded Mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses.

Here is what my crock pot is looking like

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Before I covered it up, I took a clean dish towel and placed it on top of the crock pot. Then I put the lid on. The towel will absorb the moisture from the cooking and reduces the chance of soggy-ness.  See photo below. I also bring the “ends” of the towel up on to the top of the lid.

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I turned the crock pot on to High for about 2-1/2 to 3 hours – which was about an hour ago. The house is starting to smell like basil and it is not getting hotter in the house! Which is a great thing!

I am going to have to wait another 1-1/2 hour before I check the pizza, but I’m thinking this is going to be a success!

By the way – I have made this pizza the same way except that I bake it on a sheet pan in the oven, 425 – 450 degrees for 15 – 20 minutes or until done,  with wonderful results!

I’ll keep you posted with more photos when the pizza is done.

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This Cup Cozy is a super quick, last minute gift for anyone on your list. It is super simple and you can whip out a bunch in a hurry!

Click on any photo for a larger view.

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Here is a PDF of the pattern and instructions on how to make this cute Cozy   Cup-Cozy-Pattern

When I have a quilt on the machine, if there is enough extra backing fabric, I’ll put another piece of  batting and fabric onto the  (extra) backing fabric and quilt it up, usually in a free hand design. Then, when I want to make some Cozies, all I have to do is cut them out!

In the photo below, my quilted fabric is 14 inches wide and about 9 inches long. I am able to get two Cozies from this piece of quilted fabric. The pattern is pinned in place and ready for cutting.

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Here are the two Cozies I was able to cut from this piece of quilted fabric.  They are read for the outer stitching, the trimming, and having the Velcro and embellishments applied.

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I made a total of four Cozies in about 20 minutes! I gave them to my Daughter-in-Law who is putting them on plastic Starbucks cups and is giving them as gifts to her friends. Below are three of the Cozies, on the cups, on her (very nicely) decorated mantle.

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I had these big buttons in my stash, but you could put anything on them as embellishments. How about a silk ribbon embroidery flower? Maybe a Yo-Yo? Use your imagination!

After all that hard work, I think we need to reward ourselves with a hot Peppermint Mocha, made at home, and for a lot less than in the coffee shop.

Easy Peppermint Mocha

Place a packet of instant hot cocoa in a mug. Add instant coffee of choice to equal one cup of coffee. Add hot water or milk to fill mug mostly full. Add desired amount of Peppermint Mocha flavored coffee creamer  Put a dollop of Cool Whip or whipped cream on top and enjoy!

Wishing you and your family and wonderful and blessed Christmas!

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Today is Labor Day and it sure is beautiful here in the Northwest! Many times, this holiday has been cool and rainy, but not this year! We have had 80+ degrees and sunshine all three days of the holiday weekend!

I have been incredibly busy the last few weeks so I have taken the weekend “off” and have been working on my own projects and some future online class projects. I have spent a lot of time either at the computer or at the sewing machine piecing quilt tops. Most of which has been done at my dining room table sitting under the ceiling fan staying comfortably cool.

With the warm weather this summer (there have been more days with 80+ degrees than ever) my plants have gone absolutely crazy! I have even gotten some red tomatoes from my plants! For those who live in the Midwest or elsewhere, red tomatoes are no big deal. But here in Seattle, red tomatoes ARE a big deal! I just had a salad with some tomatoes from my garden. They were wonderful!!

My sunflowers are HUGE!!! Some of them are at least 10 – 12 feet tall!

Click on any photo for a larger view.

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The black “bars” near the bottom of the photo (above) is the TOP of an arbor. This “top” is 7 feet above the ground! The sunflowers are at least 3 – 4 feet ABOVE the arbor and the heads of the sunflowers are GIANT!

I call the sunflower in the photo below “Big Daddy!” The head is huge and it is at least 12 foot tall! It has been the tallest stalk while growing and the first to blossom. I can’t get too close to the flower because there are a ton of bees and yellow jackets. I’m not allergic to them, but I don’t like getting stung. And of course, this sunflower is in the middle of all the others!

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I planted a few other varieties of sunflowers. The sunflowers below are smaller and one is a beautiful, rich, burgundy color! There are also at least 6 – 8 flower buds on each stalk! (If you click on the photo to enlarge it you can see the other flower buds.) If the weather holds, there should be more flowers blooming. I’ll try and remember to take more photos, especially if all the buds blossom at the same time!

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These sunflowers are the smallest that I planted and I planted them next to my house. These flower stalks have about 10 or more flower buds. You can see the many flowers that are blooming – there are only about 4 or 5 plants there! And again, LOTS of yellow jackets and bees and I’m standing back a bit!

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AND, my Basil is going ballistic! I am up to my eyes in Pesto – which I love, love, love! Home made Pesto is one of life’s simple pleasures. If you have never made Pesto before, here is my super simple Pesto recipe.

Super Simple Pesto 

Fresh Basil, about 2 – 2 1/2 cups lightly packed
1 cup olive oil – more or less to taste
3 – 4 cloves garlic peeled
1 cup shredded Parmesan  cheese – more or less to taste and preference

Rinse and spin dry the basil leaves (I use a small salad spinner to do this) and place in a food processor. Pulse a few times so that the basil is mostly chopped. Add about 1/2 cup olive oil and the peeled garlic cloves and pulse a few more times so that the mixture is mostly smooth but still has a little bit of texture. Add most of the cheese and the remaining olive oil and pulse a few more times. I like to pour this mixture into a bowl and, if there is more basil leaves, I will make a few more batches of pesto. Each batch goes into the bowl and gets mixed together to blend the batches. If you like your Pesto a little “jucier” add a  little more olive oil. Add the remaining shredded Parmesan cheese to the pesto and mix. Add salt and fresh ground pepper to taste if desired. Your pesto is now ready to use.

Note: some people like to add Pine Nuts or Walnuts to their Pesto. I don’t usually have these ingredients in my cabinet so I don’t put them in my Pesto. If you want to add them to your Pesto,  do so when you put in the garlic.

Now you have this (hopefully) big bowl of Pesto. What next? I take my Pesto and put it into a muffin pan and then put it in the freezer. When it is frozen solid, usually overnight, I wrap the individual “cubes” in plastic and store in the freezer in a big zippy freezer bag.

In the middle of winter, when it is cold, rainy and dreary, I defrost a Pesto cube or two, put it on top of some hot pasta with some cooked chicken, and I am back in the middle of summer sitting in the sun! Fresh Pesto in the middle of winter smells SO GOOD!

Of course, after making the big batch of Pesto I have some left over so I can have the fresh Pesto over pasta for a quick summer dinner! And guess what I am going to do after I post this! The pasta is cooking, the Pesto is made and I’m hungry!

If you have a recipe that uses Pesto in any way, post it in the “Leave a Comment” area. I am always open to new recipes and can’t wait to see what others do with their Pesto.

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