Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Check out my new website!

It's been a long time since I've posted, but I recently realized that people were still looking at The Sand Hill.  Life has been beyond busy, recently having started a new job, finishing up an old job, and growing my leather goods business.  You can see my recent work at

Monday, February 23, 2015

Pumpkin Bread

YUM!: A blog about food
Published in Sun Valley Magazine

Pumpkin Bread Recipe

Everyone’s Fall Favorite

Nov 3, 2014 - 09:44 AM
Pumpkin Bread Recipe
Everyone loves the smell of fall. Nothing says autumn like aromatic pumpkin and spices, and pumpkin bread is the perfect way to celebrate the season, whether it’s toasted for breakfast or served warm under cinnamon ice cream for dessert. I’ve been making this recipe for most of my life, and it’s really great because there’s enough to share.
I love making pumpkin bread with our own local pumpkins or winter squash, rather than industrial pumpkin in a can. To make your own pumpkin puree, cut a winter squash in half and bake on a cookie sheet at 350 degrees for about two hours, or until the flesh is soft, then puree in a food processor.I store mine in 15-ounce increments in Ziplocs in the freezer. Use just 15 ounces or under two cups for this recipe.
Mix your dry ingredients in a bowl. I like to sift everything together so it’s extra light and fluffy. In your mixing bowl, cream shortening and sugar. Mix in the rest of your wet ingredients. Add sifted dry ingredients. Mix in chopped nuts (I use pecans) and/or chocolate chips. I normally make one loaf plain and one loaf with nuts and chocolate chips. Make sure your loaf pans are greased and floured thoroughly. I use a decorative pan for pumpkin bread, and it’s really important to make sure you get into every nook and cranny so the baked bread will come out easily. Bake both pans together at 350 for 70 minutes. Check with a toothpick before removing from the oven.
Enjoy for breakfast, snack or dessert!

Pumpkin Bread Recipe

  • ⅔ cup butter flavored shortening
  • 2 ⅔ cup sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 15 oz. pureed pumpkin or winter squash
  • ⅓ cup water
  • 3 ⅓ cup flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • ⅔ cup chopped nuts
  • ⅔ cup chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour two loaf pans. Sift dry ingredients into a bowl. Cream shortening and sugar in mixing bowl. Mix wet ingredients and add sifted dry ingredients. Add nuts and/or chocolate chips. Bake for 70 minutes until brown.

How to Can Tomatoes

YUM: A blog about food
Published in Sun Valley Magazine

How to Can Tomatoes

Summer in a Jar

Sep 23, 2014 - 11:14 AM
How to Can Tomatoes
Four hundred tomato plants wreak a lot of havoc on my life. My husband owns Crazy Guy Tomatoes, an heirloom vegetable plant business, and we are constantly growing new varieties and breeding our own varieties of tomatoes.
We have hundreds, if not thousands of pounds of tomatoes at the end of the season. We share with our friends and neighbors, but we are left with a lot of tomatoes to process. Canning has been the easiest way to deal with all of the excess. It’s amazing to open a jar of summer in the dead of winter and cook a beautiful pasta sauce.
Canning generally scares people, but it’s really not difficult. You hear about botulism and other terrible canning results, but cleanliness and following canning instructions for your specific location make it pretty easy.
There are several methods to prepare your tomatoes for canning. In previous years, I have blanched and peeled tomatoes, but I am now using a food mill that I received as a wedding present. For milling, heat your tomatoes in a covered pot on medium heat for about 20 minutes, or until the tomatoes release their juices. Run the tomatoes through the mill—it will remove the skins, bad spots, and seeds, creating a beautiful, smooth puree.
In a canner on the stove, boil quart jars to sterilize. In a separate, small pot, heat new lids until there are fish eyes, but not until there’s a rolling boil. You can’t reuse lids, but you can reuse jar rings.
Remove the jars from the canner. Use a canning funnel on top of the jar. Add 2 Tablespoons of lemon juice or citric acid, and then fill the jar with tomato puree. Measure ½ inch headspace, wipe off the rim, and add the lid and ring. Repeat. Fill the canner with full jars and boil according to USDA instructions for your altitude.
This sounds pretty easy, and it really is—however, it takes quite a long time. I carve out full days to can, but I usually get about 20 quarts in at a time.
Good luck, be safe, and enjoy the fruits of your labor all winter long!



At least 20 pounds of fresh, local tomatoes
Lemon Juice
Mason Jars (I use quarts for tomatoes), new lids, and jar rings
Canning Kit (jar lifter, funnel, head spacer, and lid magnet)
Remove tomato skins or mill tomatoes. Add to clean jar with two tablespoons of lemon juice. Leave ½ inch headspace. Wipe rim of jar clean. Add heated lid and and tighten ring on lid. Can according to USDA recommendations for your area.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Fertilizing Your Veggies

Grow Bigger and More Productive Plants
Jul 15, 2014 - 11:54 AM
Fertilizing Your Veggies
I’ve always heard a lot of complaining about vegetable gardening in the Wood River Valley. Zone 4 doesn’t make for the easiest growing conditions, but with a little sweat and elbow grease, you can grow more food than you could ever eat. Starting in early July and throughout most of the summer, regular fertilizing makes your vegetable plants grow big and strong, and increase productivity. Throw away your traditional fertilizer with a N-P-K that isn’t specific to our soil and use some natural products to maximize your yield. All of the products I mention are available at Webb Landscape.

Here’s my recipe for maximum vegetable production:
Early in the season you want to increase the Nitrogen in the soil to accelerate growth. We mix a plastic tub (about 15-gallon) with full strength Alaska Fish Fertilizer and Monty’s Joy Juice Growth Formula according to the instructions. Water your plants at the base with about a cup of the fertilizer and repeat your mix until your entire garden has been fertilized. A light watering before you fertilize helps the plant “drink up” the fertilizer. Repeat this fertilizer mix every two weeks until your plants have significant blooms.

After there are numerous blooms, change the fertilizer mix to increase the Phosphorus and Potassium, which encourages fruit growth. If you continue with the original mix, you will have bushy, green plants, but little fruiting. Your second mix should be half-strength Alaska Fish Fertilizer and full-strength Monty’s Root and Bloom. Fertilize like the first mix and repeat every two weeks until the fall.

These two mixes should take care of the majority of your garden for the whole summer. Tomatoes, lettuce, melons, squash, beans, strawberries and other veggies will show significant results almost immediately.

For chiles, we have a little different method: I am from Texas and my husband is from New Mexico. Almost needless to say, we love hot chiles, which we have struggled to grow over the years. It doesn’t get hot enough in Idaho to produce a lot of the traditionally hot chiles, but we have found the right varieties and the right fertilizer to keep our freezer full over the winter.

The chile fertilizer requires foliar feeding (pouring over the top of the plant). Every two weeks, mix 1 teaspoon per liter of Epsom Salt (yes, like the stuff you use in the bath), one teaspoon per liter of liquid kelp, half-strength Monty’s Joy Juice Root and Bloom, and Yucca extract, which is a surfactant. Foliar feed this fertilizer in the evening for maximum intake (stoma will be open) and the plant won’t sunburn. Repeat every two weeks.

These two fertilizing recipes may seem exhausting, but they’re not really time consuming and makes for a beautiful and productive garden. You can like Crazy Guy Tomatoes on Facebook and we’ll remind you when it’s time to fertilize. Happy Gardening!

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

4th of July Trifle

Yum! A blog about food

4th of July Trifle

Easy & Delicious Goodness

Jul 1, 2014 - 10:23 AM
4th of July Trifle
I’ve always worked in the fly-fishing industry, so by the time Independence Day rolls around, I am thoroughly exhausted and don’t want to cook. I’m usually the person in charge of bringing dessert for any party, and in the summer, I try to bring something cool and easy to make. My 4th of July Trifle is about as easy as it gets (no baking!) and is definitely a crowd-pleaser.
Trifles are really easy desserts because you basically stack a lot of delicious stuff in a fancy bowl and let it marinate. This version could be varied in almost any way. I have made a yellow sponge cake instead of buying the Sara Lee Pound Cake, but a homemade cake is not firm enough to stay in the star shapes that make this trifle extra festive. Also, not baking during my busiest time of the year keeps my house cool and is a great time-saver.
You can add or subtract to this recipe as needed (some cake and berries always mysteriously disappear in my mouth…).


Trifle Bowl
Small Star Cookie Cutter
2 Sara Lee Frozen Pound Cakes
1 pint Blueberries, washed
1 pint Strawberries, washed and cut
1 12oz. container of Cool Whip
Cut one pound cake into one-inch cubes and set aside. Cut the other pound cake into horizontal ½-inch layers. Cut out star shapes from the horizontal layers and cut up the cake remnants into cubes to use in the layers. Layer cake, ⅓ of Cool Whip, and ⅓ of mixed berries. Press the star shaped cake pieces around the bowl. Repeat the layer of cake, Cool Whip, and berries twice more. Refrigerate for at least one day to let flavors meld, and enjoy. Serves 12 large servings or 24 small servings.
4th of July trifle dessert recipe | Sun Valley Magazine4th of July trifle dessert recipe | Sun Valley Magazine4th of July trifle dessert recipe | Sun Valley Magazine4th of July trifle dessert recipe | Sun Valley Magazine4th of July trifle dessert recipe | Sun Valley Magazine

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Italian Cream Cake

Italian Cream Cake

A Southern Staple

Italian Cream Cake
A big birthday deserves a big cake.
When my friend Diane sent out “Save-the-Dates” for her upcoming big birthday celebration, I offered to make her cake. She chose Italian Cream Cake, which is my personal favorite, and has been my birthday dessert of choice most of my life.
Before I moved to Idaho, I had no idea that Italian Cream Cake was more Southern than Italian, but it was always a staple growing up in Texas for birthdays, baptisms or really anything worth celebrating. It does supposedly have some Italian roots, but it’s pretty unclear where the cake really came from. It’s very dense, with coconut, pecans and bananas, keeping it moist, fairly similar to the far inferior Carrot Cake (who wants vegetables in their cake?!). Cream Cheese Icing puts “the icing on the cake” and makes this moist and heavy dessert even more decadent.
My version of the cake is based on the recipe in my grandmother's first cookbook, The Good Taste Collection. I have modernized some of the ingredients and found that incorporating overripe bananas (very black) improve the cake greatly.
Italian Cream Cake recipe from Sun Valley Magazine.Southern Italian Cream Cake recipe from Sun Valley Magazine.
I’ve developed a few baking tricks over the years. With this recipe, I always beat my egg whites first and put them in a separate bowl so I don’t have to wash my mixing bowl twice or use a second mixing bowl. Laziness is the key to invention. Instead of buying buttermilk, which I will never use, I add one teaspoon of white vinegar to one cup of milk and let sit for five minutes. The vinegar will curdle the milk into buttermilk.
When I made the cake last week for Diane’s birthday, it needed to serve about 25 people so I made two batches. I opted to make a tiered cake—those are always more spectacular. I baked the first recipe in three 9-inch pans to create the bottom layer. After cooling, I iced between the layers, stacked them on a platter and crumb iced.
Southern Italian Cream Cake recipe from Sun Valley Magazine.Southern Italian Cream Cake recipe from Sun Valley Magazine.
To create structure in this very moist cake, I cut drinking straws and placed them throughout the top of the cake to hold up the second layer. I baked the second layer in three 6-inch pans and made a few cupcakes with the leftover batter. After cooling, I placed the second layers on a 6-inch cardboard round (I purchased a Wilton cake cardboard, but you can make your own out of a shoebox or whatever), iced between the layers and crumb iced.
I also placed straws in the top tier for added stability. After crumb icing, it’s important to chill the cake. This hardens the icing and allows a second layer of icing to be applied with no crumbs showing through. For this specific cake, I made four batches of icing; for a one-tier cake, I normally make two batches of icing (never skimp on the icing). After the cakes were iced twice, I left them in the fridge until a couple of hours before the party.
Southern Italian Cream Cake recipe from Sun Valley Magazine.Southern Italian Cream Cake recipe from Sun Valley Magazine.Southern Italian Cream Cake recipe from Sun Valley Magazine.
With another batch of icing, I piped a layer on the top of the bottom layer to attach the top layer. I then piped beads between the tiers and around the bottom to hide any flaws. To pipe, you can use a traditional tip and bag, but for these purposes, a Ziploc with the corner cut out works great.
Fortunately, my 100-year old lilac was in full bloom. I picked a few fragrant blossoms and placed them on the cake. Truly, the most difficult part of the baking process was getting the cake to Ketchum, over the highway bumps, on my friend’s lap.
One batch of Italian Cream Cake will serve about 18 people. I don’t recommend making these into cupcakes because they fall and leave huge craters, but that can be a plus if you want to fill them with icing.


2 sticks butter, softened
2 cups sugar
5 egg yolks
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup sweetened baker’s coconut
1 cup chopped pecans
2 overripe bananas
5 egg whites stiffly beaten
Cream butter, then add sugar; beat until mixture is smooth. Add egg yolks and beat well. Combine flour and soda, sift, and add alternately with buttermilk. Stir in vanilla. Add coconut, nuts, and bananas. Fold in, by hand, stiffly beaten egg whites. Pour batter into three 9-inch or four 8-inch parchment paper lined cake pans.
Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until cake tests done. After cooling, ice with Cream Cheese Icing.


1 8 oz. package cream cheese, softened
½ stick butter, softened
4 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Beat cream cheese and butter until smooth; add sugar and vanilla; mix well. Spread on cake.
Southern Italian Cream Cake recipe from Sun Valley Magazine.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Summer Garden Prep: From Sun Valley Magazine

Summer Garden Prep

Hard Work Now = Summer Fun Later

Sun Valley Magazine

May 27, 2014 - 09:57 AM
Summer Garden Prep
Summer has definitely started in the Wood River Valley. My trees are blooming, my perennials are budding and dandelions are blowing wildly through the neighborhood. Sunny weekends are a great time to get your yard and gardens in shape for months of enjoyment. Here are a few chores to get your garden ready and make your yard beautiful.


The smell of MiracleGro makes me think fondly of my childhood, but I would never dare use anything blue on any plants at my house. For a really long time I didn’t fertilize my flowers at all, because our vegetable gardens are spaced around our house. A couple of years ago I discovered Bloom Kaboom (available at Webb Nursery and Sun Valley Garden Center) and changed my tune. It’s basically a natural compost tea that you dilute and water your plants with.
A two-week wild rose bloom turned into a three-month bloom; a two-bloom peony turned into a 10-bloom peony. I normally do a round of fertilizing in May and then again in June to ensure maximum blooms. It is safe to fertilize your annuals again in July, August, and even a warm September to keep things happy until fall.


Small Western Bark (available at all local garden centers) is something I always splurge on. As my flowerbeds have expanded over the last six years in my house, it gets more expensive every year, but besides aesthetics, mulch keeps the ground moist and the weeds down. Mulch will slowly break down and add more nutrients to the soil. I always wait until all of my plants are up before I lay mulch down so I don’t smother them.
Summer garden prep tips from Morgan Buckert!Summer garden prep tips from Morgan Buckert!


When we set up our sprinklers for spring, we check for any leaks (there are always new leaks) and replace any pipes or heads. Maintaining your sprinkler system reduces water waste and keeps the water pressure up for all those hard to reach corners of the yard. We set up our sprinklers for 30 minutes at 10:00 p.m. every other day. Watering at night and for long periods of time conserves water and reduces the frequency of watering. We have been participants of Trout Friendly Lawns since it’s inception. They can provide you with more information on water conservation and help you set up conservative watering.


Summer garden prep tips from Morgan Buckert!Years of summer sun and winter cold can really wear on your patio furniture. I store my furniture in a shed over the winter. When I take it out in the spring, I clean it all off with a hose, then I wax all of my metal furniture. It sounds ridiculous, but the wax keeps the furniture clean and protects the color. I just use Turtle Wax or any other car wax—it reminds me of washing the car as a kid. I normally hit up my cruiser bike while I’m at it (then I look good cruising to work or the store).


Perennials are amazing. They are an investment, but over time they will expand and can be split or moved. It’s great to trade your extra plants or establish new beds with additional plants. Iris and daisies are some of the most prolific perennials—they are great to fill-in some empty spaces. Check with a local nursery for the correct time and method to split your perennials. Last year I put in a new shady perennial bed with Hosta, Lily of the Valley and Bleeding Heart, which is looking great after a little Bloom Kaboom. This year, I’m going small and have just bought some Astilbe to fill-in a few spots and add color to my front flowerbed. It’s difficult to pass up a new peony, though.


The best part of spring gardening is planning, purchasing and planting all of my annual containers. I make a list of all the containers I need to fill, explore Pinterest for new ideas and start the shopping! An important thing to consider when planning is any parties you might be having throughout the summer and fall. A few years ago my house was on the Hailey Garden Tour, so I wanted my flowers to be at their best in July and planned accordingly. Last year I got married in September so I planned some fall colored accent plants and replaced my summer flowers with fall mums, pansies and kale. It saved some money planning in advance and looked great. The world is your oyster when you’re planning your annuals—go crazy!
Summer garden prep tips from Morgan Buckert!


This is a whole different can of worms. Our vegetable gardens are almost an acre, require a whole year of planning and provide us with food for most of the year. The most important thing about planting vegetable gardens in the Wood River Valley is that our last frost date is May 28. We plant June 1, but in the last few years we have had frosts until late June in Hailey. Watch the weather and your plants will thrive.
You can buy the heirloom vegetable plants straight from our garden at all three Wood River Valley Webb Nursery locations! Look for vegetables labled Crazy Guy Tomatoes or check out our Facebook page.
Now it’s time to sit, have a cocktail, and enjoy all the hard work!