Monthly Archives: May 2011

Summer in a Glass

Today marks the *unofficial* start of summer.  The weather is 94 and sunny, which sounds a whole lot like summer to me!  In an attempt to stay cool I made a pitcher of lemonade.  This is not the ultra-sweet, white-powdered stuff mind you, but real southern-style lemonade.

To make lemonade all you need are lemons, simple syrup (sugar will not dissolve in cold water), ice and water.  That’s it.

For the simple syrup I use a 1:1.5 sugar/water ratio.  Place 1 cup of sugar in a small sauce pan, add 1.5 cups of water and heat until sugar dissolves.  Since I use raw sugar my lemonade always ends up looking like tea. 🙂  I usually make a larger batch and keep in the fridge, that way I’m always ready when the craving hits!  Plus I use it when making iced coffee.

Slice and juice one lemon into a glass full of ice.  FYI, if you first roll the lemon on the counter top it will juice easier.  Add water and simple syrup to taste.  Enjoy!

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Lentils, mixed greens and a few veggies for good measure.

Last night I was not in the mood to cook.  Like not at all.  That has been the running theme this past week.  I’ve been living on fresh-picked garden salads, and soups squirreled away in anticipation for such meals.  The weather got real hot real fast.  Not cool.  I know my remaining brassicas are going to bolt just like most of the bok choy did last week.  This is exactly what happened last year.  Of my 12 plants I ended up with one small broccoli crown.  This year I have over 40 in the ground.  I have a feeling broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower will now be fall plantings, unless I can get them in the ground by early March.

When the weather is hot I lose my appetite.  Typically, I drink fruit smoothies and snack on tomatoes, peas, zucchini, and beans while working in the garden; once the sun sets I may have some toast and jam, but not much more.  After spending much of yesterday outside, when 7 o’clock rolled around I suddenly realized I hadn’t eaten much and I was starving, and of course, had no desire to cook.  Lentils to the rescue!

I love lentils; maybe it’s their earthy flavor, versatility, or the quickness to which they cook up. Regardless, they are a staple in my diet.

Lentils and Mixed Greens (makes 2 small servings)

1 cup dry lentils

1 1/2 c water

1/2 med onion, chopped

3 mushrooms, chopped

1/2 qt canned Amish paste tomatoes

handful mixed greens – I used Swiss chard, bok choy and mustard greens.

2 Tsp garlic salt

2 Tbsp cumin

1 Tbsp yellow curry powder

fresh ground pepper to taste

olive oil

Rinse and sort lentils removing debris, place in a small sauce pan, add water.  Bring to a boil, after 3 minutes reduce to a simmer, stirring occasionally.  Once lentils are cooked add cumin and curry powder, set aside.

Place onion in heated skillet.  Most of my cooking is done in cast iron (which gets wicked hot) so I set the heat at med-low to keep things from burning.  After onion begins to brown (2-3 minutes) add mushrooms, continue cooking for another 2-3 minutes, add tomatoes and greens.  Cover approximately 2 minutes to wilt the greens.  Add garlic salt and pepper, spoon on top a bed of lentils and enjoy.

I think when I reheat the leftovers I will add some fresh cilantro, basil would make a nice addition too, if my plants weren’t 3 inches tall!

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Garden Growth: May Edition

I’m a little behind in posting, but given the time of year that is to be expected!  That’s not to say I haven’t been writing, cooking, and photographing; I just haven’t had the time to sit down and meld everything into a fluid post.

You may remember me mentioning that this year I wanted to mulch the garden to reduce my time spent pulling weeds.  I’m 90% finished with that task and I couldn’t be happier with the results! Yes, a few weeds still pop up here and there, but nothing like the battle I underwent last year!  The layer of mulch has also allowed me to garden during this very wet Spring without sinking knee-deep into the mud!

Here’s the rundown of what I’ve got “growing on”.  The picture angles tend to jump around a bit, so I will try to make it least confusing as possible.

L-R sunflowers, peas, carrots, cauliflower, and broccoli

(taken from opposite end as first picture) radishes, lettuce, beets, and spinach, flanked by peas

 bush peas, carrots, lettuce (behind carrots), and the beginning of my brassicas

Full view of the left side of the garden.

L-R swiss chard, brussels sprouts (behind the chard), mustard greens, carrots/beets/spinach/scallions/celery (behind the mustard greens), beets, radishes, green sprouting broccoli, and romanesco broccoli

 Same veggies as mentioned above, just from a different view.  You can better see the small rows of carrots/beets/spinach and scallions.

The left side of this picture starts the tomato patch, everything to the right is the same as above.  The edge of the garden in the lower right corner is a row of sunflowers.

 L-R 5 rows of tomatoes, tomatillos, carrots (that have not sprouted yet), and ground cherries.

I plan on putting in my beans, squash, and cukes in the space after the ground cherries, but need to pick up some more variegated fencing for the addition I tilled.

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Wordless Wednesday – Tom Thumb



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Food Feature – Kale

Kale is a variety of cabbage that parallels traits found more commonly in wild species, as opposed to the domesticated tight-head varieties seen at most farmers’ markets and food stores.  It is also called Borocle, which is thought to have originated from the Dutch boerenkool, meaning “farmer’s cabbage”.

Kale is a member of the Brassicaceae family, and also known as a Cruciferous Vegetable.  I’m just going to link rather than attempt to explain the ins and outs of biological classification.  By the way, that was me being kind of lazy; it doesn’t happen often, but I’m sure most of my readers don’t care about taxonomic rank.  If you happen to be one who does, I’d be glad to suggest further reading.  I’m sure I’ve worn out my welcome on those books at the library anyway.

Notice the cross like formation of the flower petals?  The word Cruciferae is Neo-Latin for cross-bearing.

Flowering kales, sold as ornamental cabbage, are edible as well.  Their rosette can be found in brilliant shades of pink, lavender, white, blue, violet, and red.  Growing up we always had the pink and purple shades.  I do believe flowering kale may make its way into this Fall’s edible landscaping!

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Why kale is so incredibly good for you:

1. When steamed, the fiber-related components bind easier to bile acids in your digestive track, which allows for easier excretion, thus lowering your cholesterol.

2. The Isothiocyanates (ITCs) in kale lower your risk for breast, ovary, colon, bladder, and prostate cancers.

3. ITCs play an integral role in assisting with the detoxification system.  I can surely attest to this!  I’ve eaten an obnoxious amount of kale over the last few days.  My over-wintered plants are beginning to bolt, so I wanted to eat them before the leaves turn bitter.  Have you ever been standing next to someone who has recently eaten a lot of garlic?  They seem to be surrounded by a strange aroma.  Yeah, well, kale apparently does that to me and I don’t think my coworkers are very happy about it!  Guess I’ll have to bring in a soy candle to burn when it’s a heavy kale consumption day, because I’m sure not going to stop eating this cruciferous veggie!

4.  With over 45 identified flavonoids, kale’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits are unsurpassed.  Oxidative stress and chronic inflammation are risk-factors associated with cancer.

Curried Kale

large colander packed full of kale

3 cloves garlic, minced

3 tbsp panang curry paste

1 tbsp sriracha

6 sun-dried tomatoes, chopped

1 tbsp sun-dried tomato oil

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp brown sugar

1 large onion, diced

3 med-large red potatoes, cubed (I don’t peel mine)

2 cups water

Sautee onions over med heat with olive oil until they begin to brown, about 6 minutes.  While the onions are cooking, in a small bowl, whisk together garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, sun-dried tomato oil, curry paste, sugar, and sriracha, then add it to the onions.  Cook for about 2 minutes, then add potatoes and water; mix well.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes.  While potatoes are cooking wash kale and remove large stems and midribs; slice into strips.  Add kale, cover, and continue cooking for an additional 10 minutes or until potatoes are tender.

For more delicious kale recipes check out the following posts: Kale Chips and Garlic, Kale and Chickpea Soup.

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Laundry, naturally clean.

I started using natural laundry detergent 4 years ago.  At first I was really skeptical of its proclaimed cleaning ability, especially since there were no bubbles.  I mean, its common knowledge that if you want to make something really clean you have to create bubbles, right?  Wrong.  After a bit of research I learned (chemical) foaming agents are added to conventional detergents (and shampoos) to make them sudsy.  I’m sure some corporate bigwig or mad-chemist came up with this great marketing scheme for adding bubbles to products to entice the public to purchase them.  Clearly, it worked.  In all actuality, it’s the agitation of the fibers that really gets the dirt out; you could wash your clothing, sans detergent, and it would still end up pretty clean!

Natural Laundry Detergent

2 C washing soda (sodium carbonate)

2 C borax (sodium borate)

1 C baking soda (sodium bicarbonate)

2 bars of natural soap, grated.

Combine all ingredients and store in a jar.  You can add a few drops of essential oil as well.  I’ve been trading with Libby, of Maylee’s Graden, for years; it was her vegan soap that got me hooked in the first place!  I’ve been using the above recipe for the past 3 years.  You don’t need to add much; I use two scoops, which is probably 2 Tbsp per load.  Obviously, I’m not a coal miner, so in reality, how dirty can my clothes get?  I do wash my *garden grubbies* separately though, and that load sometimes gets an extra scoop depending on how much dirt I’ve been crawling around in! 

As far as fabric softeners go, adding 1/2 cup of white vinegar and a few drops of lavender essential oil (my favorite and it’s antibacterial) to the rinse cycle is all it takes!  The vinegar smell will disappear once the laundry is dry, it even makes line-dried towels softer!  And since we are on the topic of laundry and chemicals, may I suggest checking out nontoxic.com.  My friend gifted me a set of their dryer sheets about 6 years ago and I was instantly hooked!  And yes, they really do stop static cling!  They are a bit of an investment, so if you’re tight on funds I’ve heard similar results can be achieved by tossing in a piece of polly fabric in with your cottons and vice versa!  

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Squirmy and Wormy

I’ve had a fascination with worms ever since I was a wee sprite.  My mother would tell me stories about how she would be outside gardening, and with every dig of the shovel, there I was poking around in the dirt collecting the worms.  This she did not mind; however, the fact that I would then place my new-found “friends” into the pockets of my overalls was another story!  Worms and washing machines are not a good combination and I still get flak for it to this day!

Now that I am older I no longer carry my “pet worms” around with me, but I am still very intrigued by them and all the wonderful things these small slimy creatures are capable of.

Oh, red wigglers, I ♥ you! 

I try to not disturb and annoy them too much, but I just can’t help digging around in their bin.  The rate at which castings (worm manure) are being produced is quite remarkable!  Last Sunday, I was adding some veggie scraps to their bedding and I decided to give the bin a good mixing.  I pulled out a handful of compost to inspect my friends (I want happy, healthy worms!) and discovered two worms completely entwined with each other.  At first I wasn’t sure what to make of this scene.  It looked as if they were fused together resembling an X with a large swollen middle.  I just stared at them wondering what was happening and then it hit me.  Brown-Chicken-Brown-Cow, they were doing the hanky panky!  It really was quite a sight to behold!  I felt as if I should put on a little mood music to the tune of Marvin Gaye!  Looks as if my worms are definitely pretty happy living in their current environment!

I will be harvesting my worms (and compost) around the end of the month.  The worms will be placed back into their container with fresh bedding and the compost will be used in the garden.  I plan on conducting several experiments regarding the use of vermicast, so I’ll be sure to let you know of my findings!

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Wordless Wednesday – Daffodils

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Lentil Patties

Sunday afternoon I started the seasoning process for a new-to-me cast iron skillet I scored several weeks back.  This is my second piece of cast iron, not including my enamel covered pieces.  I really love cooking with cast iron, and knowing that (with proper care) I will have them for the rest of my life makes my personal reduce-reuse-recycle-repurpose campaign all the more fulfilling!

Since my oven was currently occupied with the lengthy process of re-seasoning the skillet, I had to come up with a dinner that could be made stove top, and in a relatively short amount of time.  My niece had stayed with me for the weekend, 4 year olds are exhausting and I was starving!!  Lentil patties to the rescue!

Lentil Patties

1 cup dried lentils, rehydrated. (I had brown on hand but any variety will do.)

1/4 of a medium onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup seasoned bread crumbs, toasted

1/2 cup soy flour

1/3 cup water

olive oil

1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped (Last year’s cilantro self-seeded and is growing like a weed, this makes me extremely happy!!)

Because I typically only measure when it really counts, like baking, the following amount are guesstimates of how much seasoning I used. Feel free to adjust to your personal tastes.

several dashes of Worcestershire sauce (omit to make this vegan/vegetarian friendly)

1 tsp salt

2 tsp cayenne pepper

juice from 1/2 a lime

1/2 tsp paprika

1 tbsp cumin

2 tsp pepper

1 tsp ground mustard

Rinse dried lentils and place in a sauce pan with 2 cups water, bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer.  Cook for approximately 15 minutes or until soft.  In a large pan, heat a bit of oil over med heat and brown bread crumbs, transfer to a plate.  In the same pan, saute onion for about 2-3 minutes, add garlic, and cook for an additional 2 minutes.

Once lentils are cooked transfer to a food processor and pulse to mash them up; this can also be done by hand with a potato masher.  Add onion and garlic, pulse several times.  Transfer lentil mix to a large bowl and add spices, cilantro, Worcestershire, and lime juice; stir to combine.  In another bowl mix flour and water, then add to lentil mix; stir to incorporate.  Shape into patties (I made 7 palm-sized patties) and coat with breadcrumbs.  Place in skillet on med heat and cook until both sides are browned.

I paired mine up with some of my canned yellow tomato salsa and green beans. Delish!

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Garden Growth

Just a little photo tour of what’s growing around the property.

My “leafy greens” garden bed.  In the back (L-R) is a lettuce lovers delight mix, Flame Lettuce, and Tom Thumb.  Next 3 rows are Bok Choy, which will be ready for harvesting in another week or two, as will some of the lettuce!  It’s hard to tell from this picture, but I have succession plantings of bok choy and tom thumb.

Close up of my tom thumb lettuce, which is a butterhead variety.  Fully matured, they will be the size of a baseball.  Perfect sizing for a single salad!  An added bonus is they are pretty heat tolerant and slow to bolt, so with careful planning and placement, I should be able to grow throughout the summer!

French Breakfast Radishes, then Bloomsdale Spinach, Chioggia Beets, more Tom Thumb, then Black Spanish Radishes, flanked by Golden Sweet and Amish Snap Peas on trellises.  Once again this year I’m trying out yet another type of trellis, it looks similar to chicken wire, only larger.  Notice the imprinted dirt on either side of the sprouts?  That is my designated walk way.  It is important to not compact the soil by stepping where your seeds will be growing; this allows their developing root systems to move through the ground with ease.

Sugar Pod 2 Snow Peas, this particular variety is a bush pea and does not need trellising.  I have additional rows of lettuce mix as well as Imperator Carrots from my seed tape in this photo, but due to their extremely small size, they are not visible.

Violetta Cauliflower, Green Sprouting Broccoli, and Romanesco Broccoli.

Overwintered green sprouting broccoli starting to bud.

Cream Sausage Tomatoes.  I may be slightly premature in planting them due to our official “frost-free” date being May 15th, but I’m all about taking chances.  In the event of frost I can always cover them!

My cream sausage tomatoes are already fruiting!!

 My Russian Red and Blue Curled Scotch Kale transplanted to their new garden home.

 And because 14oo square feet in the main garden is not enough, I’ve decided to add more! 🙂

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