6833 Whitneyville Ave SE, Alto MI 49302 * (616) 868-6676 * CountryHarvestGreenhouse.com

Friday, October 18, 2013

Favorite Things: Roasted Winter Squash Soup

This soup is amazing - creamy, rich, and so very good for the soul. 

First: Roast the Squash

2 -3 medium-sized squash: butternut, acorn, delicata, etc
     (you will need 2 - 3 cups of roasted squash for your soup)
olive oil
salt & pepper

To roast, wash the outside of the squash, carefully cut open (sometimes it's easier to remove the stem first), and clean out.  Lightly drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Turn cut-side down in a large pan and cook at 375 degrees for 1 hour, or until squash flesh is very, very tender and no longer hard or stringy.

Allow the squash to cool, then gently scoop the flesh out into a large bowl, making sure not to get any skin.  You can either choose to blend your squash now, or wait until it is in the soup.

Should you care to stop here, I say go ahead!  Pureed squash is pure heaven in my book!

Second: Make the Soup

2-3 cups roasted squash
2 quarts chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
1 small onion, finely chopped
olive oil & butter
salt & pepper
immersion (or regular) blender

Cook the chopped onion in a little bit of olive oil and butter.  Once onion is tender, add chicken broth and squash pulp.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Simmer about 20-30 minutes.  

To puree the soup, either allow to cool and carefully blend a few cups at a time in a regular blender or very carefully use an immersion blender set on low to blend to a smooth consistency.  (Here is where it is easier if the squash flesh was already pureed to start with.)

- Roasting extra squash is good.  If you like a thicker soup, you add more squash flesh.  This is something you can eyeball.  The bonus is you get to eat any extra squash you don't use in the soup!

- This makes a lot, so throw some in the freezer for a cold winter day.  Or, a warm spring one for that matter.  Squash soup is good all the time!

- My mom made a version with sweet Italian sausage, and I have to say, it worked for me.  Gave it a nice zip and depth.

Monday, September 9, 2013

DIY Cookie Sheet Cleaner

Simply put  about 1/4 cup of baking soda in a small glass bowl and squirt in hydrogen peroxide until it makes a nice paste.

Then you rub it on the offending dirt/stain/grease. You can usually just use your fingers, but you can also use a small sponge as well.

Christmas Candy Sleighs

You'll Need:
Hot glue gun
1 standard Kit Kat bar
2 candy canes
10 Hershey bars (stacked 4, 3, 2, 1)
ribbon & a bow on top

Directions can be found here: http://ellynsplace.blogspot.com/2011/12/candy-sleighs.html

No Bake Pumpkin Cheesecake

A great choice for fall and Thanksgiving treats!
For the crust:
1 sleeve graham crackers
½ stick (4 T.) butter, melted
2 T. sugar
2 T.brown sugar

For the filling:
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree
3 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 1-ounce package cheesecake-flavored instant pudding mix
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 12-ounce container frozen whipped topping, plus extra for garnish if desired


Place the graham crackers in the bowl of a food processor and pulse the crackers into fine crumbs. Add the melted butter, sugar and brown sugar and pulse until combined.

Spoon the crumbs into individual 9-ounce plastic cups (or other individual sized cups for serving). Place in the refrigerator to set while you are preparing the filling.

In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese until light and creamy.

 Add the pumpkin, pumpkin pie spice, and pudding mix and beat until completely mixed, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl to ensure that all ingredients are well combined. Add the sweetened condensed milk and mix again until well combined.

Change your stand mixture attachment to the wire whisk. On slow speed, fold in the tub of Cool Whip until well combined.  Allow the mixture to sit in the refrigerator for about an hour to firm up.
Using a large pastry bag with a large tip, or a spoon, top the graham cracker crust in each cup with the pumpkin mixture and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Garnish with additional whipped topping if desired.
Recipe and photo source: afamilyfeast.com

DIY Ant Killer

Simple and made with common household ingredients.

A small, shallow dish
5 Tbsp of baking soda
5 Tbsp of powdered (or confectioners) sugar

Mix the two powders together and then place small amounts against the walls or other areas where you would not normally walk but where you would normally see the ants.  You can also leave some in a dish, as the picture shows.

The ants will be attracted to the sugar and will eat some of it and collect more to take home to feed others, so all of them will get their share.

The sugar and baking soda powders are similar in size and, once mixed together, the ants cannot separate the two items, so, as they eat the sugar, they will also ingest the baking soda, which they would otherwise never touch. This is the reason for using powdered sugar.

Once the ants eat the baking soda it will react with the formic acid in their stomachs and cause gas. The bodies of ants are unlike humans and they cannot eliminate gas so it will build up inside them and cause them to literally explode

NOTE: Powdered sugar is essential. You cannot use regular white sugar because of the larger grains
of sugar.   The powdered sugar mixes exactly with the baking soda.

Image and recipe source (Facebook): http://www.facebook.com/groups/foreverfitwithpatti/

Frog Mosaic on a Rock

I don't have the directions for this project.  I saw it on Facebook today.  If I find directions I'll add them.  It looks like a really cute garden decoration.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

DIY: Laundry Soap 2.0

Way back, I shared another DIY Laundry Soap, one that I have actually used many times.  Here is another recipe I've seen floating around that has added ingredients, including a great smelling fabric softener.  I think I'll give this version a try!


4 lb 12 oz Box of Borax
3 lb 7 oz Box of Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda
3 lb Container of OxyClean
2 (14.1 oz) Bars of Zote Soap (or Fels Naptha if you cannot find Zote in your area)
4 lb Box of Arm & Hammer Baking Soda
1 or 2 (55 oz) Bottle of Purex Crystals Fabric Softener (or use 3 to 4 bottles of Scentsy Washer Whiffs)

- large container to store your soap
- Measuring cup
- Large mixing bowl or bucket
- Food processor

Use a food processor to grate the Zote (or Fels Naptha). Use a very large bucket and combine ingredients using a layering method. Take a small amount of each ingredient and layer it on top of each other, then use a large spoon to mix it all together. Do this about five times, or until all ingredients have been mixed in.

Using the Detergent:When washing, you need only 1 to 2 tablespoons, depending on the size of your load.

Note: If you opted to put the Purex Crystals in your batch, you can scoop the detergent right into your bottle and use the cap as your measuring spoon. There are 3 lines on the side and the middle one is approximately 2 Tablespoons.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Salad in a Jar

Found this on Facebook the other day.  It's a fun and functional way to prepare several salads for yourself during the week.  You can find delicious homegrown tomatoes and cucumbers at Country Harvest Greenhouse June through September.

Needed: Mason Jars with 2-part lids and bands, which provide a vacuum seal when closed tightly, preserving the salad items better.  Choose either a pint or quart jar, depending on the size of salad you'd like to make.

Ingredients/Arranging Your Jars:
Place the following in the jar in order from BOTTOM to TOP:

Shredded carrots
Cherry tomatoes
Chopped cucumbers
Sunflower seeds
Hard boiled eggs
Baby spinach

Store in fridge for a few days, but no more than a week.  When ready to eat: shake jar, place on a plate, and eat!

Ingredients are endless - red onion, radishes, peppers, romanie, argula, etc. Just remember to put the dressing at the bottom and the lettuce at the top -- keeps the salad from getting soggy.

Image and recipe source: shared on Facebook by Hillbilly Recipes

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

No Bake Energy Bites

A snap to make, totally delicious, and good for you. 
Don't forget to get your local, raw honey from us at Country Harvest Greenhouse!
1 cup (dry) oatmeal
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup ground flaxseed
1/3 cup honey
1 tsp. vanilla
Mix ingredients together in a large bowl. Roll into bite size balls. Refrigerate to set. Enjoy!!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Marinated Cucumbers, Onions, and Tomatoes

A healthy and tasty side dish.  If you don't have a garden full of veggies, we've got fantastic homegrown tomatoes and cucumbers at Country Harvest Greenhouse June through September!

3 medium cucumbers, peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 medium onion, sliced and separated into rings
3 medium tomatoes, cut into wedges
1/2 cup vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup water
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon fresh coarse ground black pepper
1/4 cup oil
Combine ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving
Recipe and Image Source: Natural Weight Loss Friends

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Blueberry Zucchini Bread

You can find homegrown zucchini at Country Harvest Greenhouse June through September, and Michigan blueberries in July & August.

3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup vegetable oil
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups white sugar
2 cups shredded zucchini
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 pint fresh blueberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease 4 mini-loaf pans.
In a large bowl, beat together the eggs, oil, vanilla, and sugar. Fold in the zucchini. Beat in the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon. Gently fold in the blueberries. Transfer to the prepared mini-loaf pans.

Bake 50 minutes in preheated oven, or until a knife inserted in the center of a loaf comes out clean. Cool 20 minutes in pans, then turn out onto wire racks to cool completely.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

DIY Jewelry Cleaner

Works well for gold-filled, brass, German (nickel) silver, and sterling silver.

1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 tablespoon dish detergent
1 cup water
1 piece aluminum foil

1. Heat water in the microwave for 1 or 2 minutes.
2. Cut a piece of aluminum foil that roughly covers the bottom of a small bowl (like a cereal bowl).
3. Pour hot water into bowl. Place salt, soda, and dishwashing liquid into bowl. Place jewelry on top of foil and let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes. Rinse jewelry in cool water and dry jewelry completely with soft cloth. Discard solution after use and make a new batch next time.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Roasted Asparagus

In place of the lemon juice, you can drizzle a little balsamic vinegar over the asparagus. Add a little freshly grated Parmesan cheese for an extra touch.

1 lb asparagus spears (thick spears are best for roasting)
1-2 Tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
Kosher Salt
Freshly grated black pepper
Lemon juice

DirectionsPreheat oven to 400°F. Rinse clean the asparagus. Break the tough ends off of the asparagus and discard.

Lay the asparagus spears out in a single layer in a baking dish or a foil-covered roasting pan. Drizzle olive oil over the spears, roll the asparagus back and forth until they are all covered with a thin layer of olive oil. (Alternatively you can put the asparagus and oil in a plastic bag, and rub the bag so that the oil gets evenly distributed.) Sprinkle with minced garlic, salt, and pepper. Rub over the asparagus so that they are evenly distributed.

Place pan in oven and cook for approximately 8-10 minutes, depending on how thick your asparagus spears are, until lightly browned and tender when pierced with a fork. Drizzle with a little fresh lemon juice before serving.

Serves 4.

Fresh Strawberry Lettuce Salad

A very fresh and healthy salad that combines all the goodness of early season crops - strawberries, lettuce, and even green pepper. 

During the month of June, you can find Michigan Strawberries at Country Harvest Greenhouse.

1/2 cup fat-free creamy salad dressing/miracle whip
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup white sugar
1/8 cup distilled white vinegar
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
1 head romaine lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces
1/2 red onion, sliced
1 cup sliced fresh strawberries
1/2 cup toasted pecans
1/4 cup red bell pepper, chopped

In a small bowl, mix together salad dressing, milk, sugar, vinegar, and poppy seeds. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Combine lettuce, onion, strawberries, pecans, and red bell pepper in a salad bowl. Toss with dressing.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Tomato Caprese Two Ways

Many thanks to my fantastic sister, Heidi, for sharing these simple and delicious recipes! 

May through September you can find homegrown tomatoes at Country Harvest Greenhouse.

Makes a wonderful light dinner or a nice side dish.

Large slicing tomato(es)
Basil leaves
Fresh mozzarella
Balsamic vinegar
Kosher sea salt
Olive oil


Prep: Wash and pat dry your tomatoes and basil.  Slice tomatoes and fresh mozzarella to similar thickness.  Chiffonade the basil.

To assemble, layer tomatoes and mozzerella on a plate or platter.  Sprinkle the basil on top.  Sprinkle on sea salt to taste, then drizzle with balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

These tasty little skewers -- meant to eat all in one bite -- are always a fresh and flavorful hit at parties.

Cherry or Grape Tomatoes
Basil Leaves
Fresh Mozzarella
Balsamic Vinegar
Kosher Sea Salt
Olive Oil
Long toothpicks or short skewers

*Note: Quantities of each ingredient depend on the number of skewers you want to make.  You will need equal parts of each, unless you'd like to go crazy and mix up the recipe a little.


Prep: Wash and pat dry your tomatoes and basil.  Cube fresh mozzarella to similar size as your tomatoes.

Next, chop off the end of each tomato.  You're just looking to provide a flat surface so that the little skewers will stand upright on your platter when you serve them.

To assemble, first place a mozzeralla cube, then a basil leaf, and end with the tomato, with flat side facing away from the basil leaf.

Sprinkle with sea salt, then drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Cinnamon Butter

Super-easy, yet still impressive fancy spread.  Perfect for parties, or just enjoyment at home.  Perks up rolls and toast, sweet potatoes -- pretty much anything!


1 stick of butter, softened
1/4 c powdered sugar
1/4 c raw honey
1 Tablespoon cinnamon


Mix well and store in fridget in a container with a tightly sealed lid.

**We carry local, raw honey at Country Harvest Greenhouse.

Monday, April 8, 2013

DIY: Herbal Fire Starters

An all natural herbal fire starter.


1. Just take the leftover twigs from your favorite herbs, such as rosemary, and snap them into lengths of 4 to 8 inches (your preference).

2. Stretch a length of approx. 1 to 2 feet of string/twine on your work surface.

3. Lay out a small bunch of the twigs perpendicular to the string.

4. Stretch/draw out several cottonballs and combine them to form a cotton piece or "rod" that stretches the length of the twigs.

 5. Smear or soak approx. 1 tbsp of coconut or other natural oil into the cotton thoroughly and lay upon the twigs.

 6. Lay another small bunch of twigs on top of the cotton.

 7. Draw the string up and around the twigs and cotton to bundle them into a single piece. Wrap several times going up and down the length of the bundle and tie.

 8. Use to start a fire or to drive away mosquitoes, freshen the air, clean an area of scent, etc!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Apple, Arugula & Endive Salad (Curly Endive)

Endive is rich in many vitamins and minerals, especially vitamins A and K and folate -- plus it's a great source of fiber.  It's a slightly bitter green.

This salad packs a punch of flavor with the endive and the peppery arugula, sweetness of the dressing and fruit, and the tangy goat cheese.


1/4 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon orange juice

1 teaspoon honey

Dash of salt

1/4 cup pecans

2 heads of curly endive, chopped

1 cup arugula

1 apple, sliced thin
1/4 cup dried cherries or cranberries
1/4 cup goat cheese, crumbled (optional)


To make dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar, juice and honey. Season with salt.

In a small sauté pan, toast the pecans over medium heat. Allow to cool.

Mix together the endive, arugula, apple and cherries (or cranberries) in a medium-size bowl. Toss with enough dressing to coat. Top with the pecans and goat cheese (optional).

Sautéed Swiss Chard with Parmesan

Swiss chard is a nutritious, slightly bitter green that is high in vitamins A, K and C. 

Fresh, young stalks can be used raw in salads, while older, larger stalks are best served cooked or sautéedThe bitterness will fade with cooking.

Chard is a spring harvest plant and is one of the more hardy leafy greens, with a harvest season typically lasting longer than kale, spinach or baby greens.


2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil                                                    
1 tablespoon minced garlic                            
1/2 small red onion, diced       
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice, or to taste
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 bunchSwiss chard, stems & center ribs cut out & chopped together, leaves coarsely chopped separately
salt to taste           


Melt butter and olive oil together in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in the garlic and onion, and cook for 30 seconds until fragrant. Add the chard stems and the white wine. Simmer until the stems begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Stir in the chard leaves, and cook until wilted. Finally, stir in lemon juice and Parmesan cheese; season to taste with salt if needed.

Friday, March 29, 2013

DIY Easter Garden

Here's a fantastic Easter idea I just found online.  I've seen similar ideas, but this one is the most simple (and lowest in cost).  Even though Easter is upon us already, it is still a really fun idea to do over Spring Break.

You'll need:
Potting soil
a small terracotta flower pot
a large terracotta saucer
shade grass seed
twigs & string (to make crosses)
small stones
one large stone

Following example in the picture, fill part of the terracotta saucer with potting soil.  Place the small clay pot (the "tomb") on the dirt and pour more soil over top.  Gently pack it down.  Fill the area in front of the small pot with small rocks.  Place the large rock in front and off to the side of the small pot.

Create three crosses from the twigs and string.  Gently press into soil. 

Sprinkle grass seed generously on top of dirt, moisten with a spray bottle.  Keep the seed moistened by spritzing several times a day with spray bottle. Set it in a warm sunny location.

Grass should in 7-10 days.

Notes: You can use a plastic saucer and small pot.  If you use regular terracotta, I recommend you place something water-safer under the saucer.  Mold can build up under terracotta pots due to the moisture they retain, damaging the surface beneath the pot.

If you don't have nice little stones you can use, they are sold in home decorating departments at stores (often with the vases).

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Pina Colada Jam

Image Souce: Taste of Home
*Note* This recipe was written for use with the Ball Jam Mixer, which I do not have.  I've kept the ingredient list the same, but have altered the directions to suit regular stove-top jam-making.


2 1/3 cups crushed pineapple (about 1 med)
1/3 cup coconut rum (or coconut water)
3 Tbsp classic pectin
1/2 tsp butter or margarine
3 1/3 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup shredded coconut, coarsely chopped


PEEL and core pineapple. Coarsely chop pineapple, and then crush with a potato masher. Measure required quantity of crushed pineapple and remaining ingredients for your recipe; set aside.

Place crushed pineapple in a large stock pot.  Pour coconut rum or coconut water over pineapple and stir.  Stir in pectin.  Add butter/margarine to help reduce foaming.

Bring to a full rolling boil.  Then mix in sugar. and coconut.  When it returns to a full rolling boil, boil hard for 1 minute exactly.

Ladle into hot, sterilized jars with ¼ inch headspace. Wipe rims. Add heated lid. Screw on ring, making it finger tight. Process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Makes 4 half pints.

Here's a second option with slightly different ingredients:
(follow the same steps for making the jam)

Pina Colada Jam 2.0

3 cups crushed pineapple
½ cup orange juice
¼ cup lime juice
½ cup coconut rum
2 cups sugar
3 tablespoons Ball flex-batch Classic pectin

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Happy Dog Treats

These treats are a huge hit with my old doggie and my mom's puppy.  I made mine with a tiny bone cutter.

2 c whole wheat flour
1/2 c all purpose flour
1/4 c cornmeal
1/4 c sunflower kernals, finely chopped
1/4 c molasses
1/4 c milk
1 tsp salt
2T oil
2 eggs, beaten
Mix all ingredients, adding more milk if needed to make dough firm. Roll out onto floured surface to 1/2 inch thickness. Use any shape cookie cutter to cut out biscuits. Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until lightly toasted. To make biscuits harder, leave in oven with the heat turned off an hour or more.


- I didn't use sunflower kernals, I think I threw in some oatmeal instead
- I added some peanut butter

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

DIY: Shower Soothers

Baking soda
Rosemary essential oil
Eucalyptus essential oil
Lavender essential oil
Silicone cupcake pan - a pan that makes shaped ones would be fun
Optional, lavender buds


1. Mix 1 cup baking soda with 1/3 cup water (mix in optional lavender buds)
2. Fill each cupcake cup approx. half full with the baking soda/water mixture
3. Add a few drops of each essential oil to the half filled cups
4. add more baking soda/water mix to essentially fill each cup the rest of the way
5. Bake for approximately 20 minutes at 350 degrees
6. Allow to cool
7. Add a few drops of each essential oil to the top and bottom of each cup's finished material
8. Store as is for up to 6 months or more
9. You can add a few drops of each essential oil directly before use for more scent strength

To use a shower soother, place it on the floor of the shower, in water but not directly under the stream if possible.

Makes a great gift!! To gift, place soothers in individual treat bags, tie with a bow and a cute label.  Or, put several in a small decorative Chinese takeout-style container.