Thursday, May 31, 2012

Thursday Kitchen Cupboard.. Pasta, Peas, and Pesto

I was rummaging in the freezer this week and saw that I still have frozen pesto from the fall.  My basil in the garden is quickly growing, so it was time to use up last year's harvest to make room for new pesto.  With pesto in mind and peas in the garden, a pasta, peas, and pesto recipe was perfect!  I found the original recipe on food network.  However, I made quite a few changes. 

Pasta, Peas,and Pesto

  • 3/4 pound rotini pasta
  • 1/8 cup good olive oil
  • 3/4 cup pesto
  • 1 lb chard
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2/3 cup ranch dressing
  • 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella
  • 3/4 cup peas
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water for 10 to 12 minutes until the pasta is al dente. Drain and toss into a bowl with the olive oil. Cool to room temperature.
Wash, dry, and chop the chard.  Saute the chard until it begins to wilt.  Drain any excess liquid.
In the bowl of a food processor, puree the pesto, cooked chard, and lemon juice. Add the dressing and puree. Add the pesto mixture to the cooled pasta and then add the mozzarella, peas, salt, and pepper. (I like peas fresh out of the shell with no cooking, but it you don't care for slightly crunchy peas cook them before adding to the pasta).  Mix well, season to taste, and serve at room temperature.

This was a great pasta salad for our Memorial Day cookout!  That's what has been cooking in my kitchen.  If you want to peak into other kitchens and see what others are cooking, head over to Thursday’s Kitchen Cupboard at the Gardener of Eden.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Toads in the Garden

Last year I made a little toad abode out of an old clay pot.

I put it out in the garden and waited.  No toads moved in.  However, a rodent decided it was a great place to store peanut seeds!

This spring not only do I have a toad living in the garden- I have three!  Of course they are not living in the house I made for them.  Instead they are living under a frost blanket I left laying in a path.  I suppose that blanket is going to have to stay.

Hopefully the toads will fill up on squash bugs, Japanese beetles, and all the other pests in the garden!  It sure appears that this toad is eating well.  Perhaps I need to increase the size of the toad abode door!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Solanaceae Woes

I just realized I did something not too smart.  Last year my bell pepper bed did not do well.  The plants wilted and produced very few, pathetic peppers.  I figured it was a bacterial wilt.  Fast forward to this spring.  I rotated my crops and planted the peppers in the bed that had previously grown root crops and some lettuce.

Then for the fatal mistake- I planted the previous pepper bed with potatoes!  I'm not sure what I was thinking.  I am aware that potatoes, peppers, eggplant, and tomatoes are all Solanaceae.  Now my potatoes are wilting and dying.

I need a giant sign on this bed to remind me no Solanaceae!  After reading about the different wilts, I think I have fusarium or verticillium wilt.  Both of these are caused by a fungus and unfortunately there doesn't seem to be anything I can do to save the potatoes at this point. 

They recommend no Solanaceae in the infected area for 4 - 6 years!  I sure hope I can remember. Also, planting mustard as a cover crop is suppose to help.  Mustard has anti-fungal properties and can help kill the fungal culprits.

Hopefully I'll get a few potatoes this year.  I've never tried a fall crop, but this may be the year to try.

Lesson learned!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Harvest Monday 5/28/12

I was a bit of a photography slacker this week, so I don't have too many pictures of my harvest to share.

The lettuce continues to grow and also bolt.  I have new lettuce seedlings to replace the bolting ones to hopefully keep the salad going.  I had a total of 10.7 oz of lettuce this week.  I also had 4.7 oz of Easter egg radishes to put in my salads.  I didn't plant a lot of radish this spring, so there's probably not too many more to harvest.  The early heat has made many of the radishes go straight to flowering.   The Swiss chard seems much more tolerant of the warm weather and has not bolted yet.  This week I harvest 7.1 oz of chard and a little bit of green onions (0.4 oz).

The biggest harvest this week was peas with 1.6 lbs.  I was also excited to harvest a few strawberries (0.9 oz) this week, despite the ongoing war with the mysterious strawberry thief

I think strawberries taste even better when you have to fight for them!

The exciting new harvest of the week was one little Persian cucumber (1.7 oz).  It was still small, but I was impatient and wanted to put it into the salad for our Sunday cookout.  This was what it looked like a few days before I picked it:

Weekly total:  3.2 lbs
Yearly total: 43.02 lbs worth $97.37

That's all the harvests coming from my garden this week, to see what others are harvesting check out Harvest Monday at Daphne's Dandelions.

Happy Gardening!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Thursday Kitchen Cupboard...Veggie Pot Pie

With plenty of peas this week and carrots from a couple of weeks ago, I thought it would be a good week to make a pot pie.  I'm always trying different crust recipes. I want a healthy crust (wheat flour and olive oil), but not too wheat tasting.  Guess it is silly to want a wheat crust that doesn't taste like wheat!  This one was pretty good, but I'll keep searching for that perfect crust recipe.  This recipe is an adaptation from the Vegetarian Times Complete Cookbook.  I actually made two smaller pies and added chicken in one.  

Veggie Pot Pie

1 cup of all-purpose flour
1 cup wheat pastry flour
1/2 tsp salt
4 tbsp vegetable oil

1/2 cup vegetable stock
1/2 onion, chopped
1 cup carrots, chopped
1 cup peas
2 potatoes, boiled and cut into cubes
1/3 cup wheat flour
1/2 cup milk
1 cup vegetable stock
2 tbsp fresh parsley
1/2 tsp thyme
1/4 tsp sage
1 tsp soy sauce
1/4 tsp pepper

To make crust:
Preheat oven to 400°F. Whisk together flours and salt in bowl. Stir in oil until clumps form. Add 6 to 10 Tbs. cold water, 1 Tbs. at a time, until dough holds together. Shape into ball, cover with damp towel, and set aside.

To make filling:
Heat the stock on medium high heat in a saucepan, heat to a simmer and add onion.  Cook, stirring, for 3 minutes.  Add the carrots, peas and potatoes.  If the mixture begins to dry out, and 1/4 cup more stock.  Cook, stirring, for 3 minutes more.

Lower the heat and sprinkle the flour over the mixture; cook, stirring, for 2 minutes.  Combine the milk and stock in a measuring cup.  Slowly whisk the liquid mixture into the vegetables.  The sauce will start to thicken.  Add the parsley, soy sauce, sage, thyme, black pepper.  Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens.  Remove from heat.

Roll out the crust and place in bottom of casserole dish.  Fill the the dish with the vegetable mixture and top with remaining crust.  Bake until the crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbling, about 20 - 30 minutes. 

That's what has been cooking in my kitchen.  If you want to peak into other kitchens and see what others are cooking, head over to Thursday’s Kitchen Cupboard at the Gardener of Eden.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Battle for Strawberries

Spring started off with a bounty of strawberries.  I had about 3 1/2 lbs of oh so yummy strawberries.  I even had enough to make strawberry sauce for an angel food cake.  Life was good.

Then the strawberries started disappearing.  First it was the ripe ones.  Then even the green ones were pulled off and often abandoned.

A war had begun.

I assumed my enemy was the squirrels.  They run along the back fence and hop into the garden.  I have definitely caught them in the strawberry patch before.  My strategy was to build a squirrel proof cage so I could have delicious strawberries again!

I bought 1 inch plastic hexagon netting and used rebar and plastic piping to make the structure (this is what I use for my cold frames, so I had it available).  With a bit of cutting and zip ties to hold the pieces together, I had my squirrel exclosure:

I anchored the edges with retaining wall bricks and prepared to have tasty strawberries again.

I would love to say this story has a happy ending- the war was over and I won and celebrated by eating lots of strawberries.  Sadly that is not what happened.  There was a ripening strawberry in the center of the cage:

I watched and waited for the strawberry to ripen and one morning it almost looked ready.  By the afternoon it was gone!  Vanished! 

The war continues.  Perhaps my enemy was not the squirrels and is a vole living under my strawberry bed.  I now have a mysterious enemy, which is making the battle for strawberries difficult!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Harvest Monday 5/21/12

We finally got some decent rainfall last week, which the garden happily soaked up.  It has been in the 80s this week, which is more typical of late May around here.  Here's what I've been harvesting in my garden this week: 

I had a total of 12.4 oz of lettuce this week, so plenty of salads.  In my salads I added a few little radishes (2.1 oz).  I will probably have to harvest my lettuce patch soon because some of them are starting to bolt.  I'm trying to extend my lettuce season this year.  I got Grandpa Admire's lettuce seeds that are suppose to handle extreme heat and I'm starting some seeds every week, so hopefully the salads will continue!

Also this week was 1.2 lbs of Swiss chard, which was turned into a tasty quiche.

Lastly this week was 8.8 oz peas.  I only have one word to describe them... yum!

Weekly total:2.65 lbs
Yearly total: 39.81 lbs worth $87.82

That's all the harvests coming from my garden this week, to see what others are harvesting check out Harvest Monday at Daphne's Dandelions.

Happy Gardening!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Thursday Kitchen Cupboard... Beet and Goat Cheese Salad

I've been eating a lot of salads lately.  I'm not complaining, I really love salads, but sometimes I get in a salad rut.  Today's recipe is my attempt to avoid a salad rut.  The recipe comes from the food network:

Beet and Goat Cheese Arugula Salad

  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons shallots, thinly sliced (I used onion)
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 medium beets, cooked and quartered
  • 6 cups fresh arugula (I used a mix of lettuces)
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, toasted, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries 
  • 1/2 avocado, peeled, pitted, and cubed
  • 3 ounces soft fresh goat cheese, coarsely crumbled
Line a baking sheet with foil. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Whisk the vinegar, shallots, and honey in a medium bowl to blend. Gradually whisk in the oil. Season the vinaigrette, to taste, with salt and pepper. Toss the beets in a small bowl with enough dressing to coat. Place the beets on the prepared baking sheet and roast until the beets are slightly caramelized, stirring occasionally, about 12 minutes. Set aside and cool.

Toss the arugula, walnuts, and cranberries in a large bowl with enough vinaigrette to coat. Season the salad, to taste, with salt and pepper. Add beets and sprinkle with the avocado and goat cheese and serve.

No salad rut here!  If you want to peak into other kitchens and see what others are cooking, head over to Thursday’s Kitchen Cupboard at the Gardener of Eden.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Revisiting April Goals

April was a crazy, busy month!  School was hectic, the garden was demanding attention, and my living room looked like this:

The couches are in the kitchen, the kitchen table is in the garage, and I don't function too well with things out of order.  On top of gardening and working I've been helping with prepping and installing the new wood floors.  I will be excited when it is all done, but not the best timing to remodel during peak gardening time!

Anyway, back to what did and did not get done this month:
  1. Make plant labels - I seem to have run into a road block with this project.  It was suppose to be simple: buy some shims, some chalkboard paint, paint shims, and get a white china marker to write on my lovely new labels.  It appears that this last step is more difficult than I thought.  I can't seem to find a white china marker around here.  I can order them on-line but it seemed ridiculous to pay more in shipping than the markers cost.  This weekend I'll be in Charlotte and I'll stop by some art stores, so hopefully I can finish this project and get my plants labeled.
  2. Plant sweet potatoes - I wanted to do this, but every time I went to the Farmer's Exchange they told me they didn't have sweet potatoes in yet.  They said to come back the second week of May.  It seems late to me, but I guess I should trust farmers since they have much more sweet potato experience than me.
  3. Plant seeds outside: peanuts, beans, corn, beets, carrots, radish, swiss chard, sunflowers, marigolds, nasturiums, yarrow, borage.. I planted everything except the peanuts and I should have them in the ground this week.  However, corn is highlighted because I planted an entire bed of corn, ~60 seeds and every single one of the seedlings was toppled!  I think I just had my first cutworm experience.  Now I've got to make a bunch of cutworm collars and replant!  
  4. Plant herbs: ginger, lemon grass, dill, sage, basil, chamomile.  I need to venture to the farmer's market next weekend and get the rest of the herbs to plant.  I bought some ginger root to try and sprout, but it appears shriveled and pathetic right now. 
  5. Transplant: Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, squash, melons.  I did get all my seedlings transplanted.
  6. Start woodland garden: I did start on the woodland garden-  I planted a border of azaleas and got some Virginia sweetspire to plant a border in another spot. 
  7. Work on front flower bed:  To make the flower bed more appealing in the winter I planted three holly bushes and a third spiral juniper.  I got a crossvine, which is native to here and attracts hummingbirds.  It is still waiting to be planted and needs a trellis for support.  Of course the flowers are stealing the show right now and the new evergreen additions are not very prominent.  

Harvest Monday 5/14/12

I did not have a large harvest this week.  The most exciting harvest was two plump blueberries, which were eaten right off the bush.  I didn't have a camera in hand so there is no picture.  I planted two blueberry bushes this spring, so even a couple of berries is exciting.

My only other harvests this week was lettuce (4 oz) and peas (7.7 oz).  I was a bit lazy with photographing the garden this week, however, the peas were feeling playful:

Weekly total: 11.7oz
Yearly total: 37.16 lbs worth $81.18

That's all the harvests coming from my garden this week, to see what others are harvesting check out Harvest Monday at Daphne's Dandelions.

Happy Gardening!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Harvest Monday 5/7/12

I had an exciting harvest this week because I harvested something new for the year.  Of course I will keep you in suspense until the end of this post to find out what it is! 

Not so new, but always wonderful to have is lettuce.  Fresh salads are one of my favorite things from the garden.  Plenty of salads this week with 6.2 oz of lettuce:

The white veggies in that salad are radishes.  To be precise, one radish (0.4 oz) that I harvested a bit small to put in my salad:

I also finally harvested the last of the winter planted beets (1.75 lbs).  Many of these beets were small, but some were starting to bolt and they are occupying the bed where peanuts needed to be planted.  Despite their size, the beets are still tasty and colorful:

You may recall the pretty carrots I harvested last week.  This week I also harvested the rest of the winter planted carrots (1.6 lbs), but other than their colors they are not very pretty.  They were cracking and deformed and really hard to get out of the ground.  Many of them broke when I tried to pull them. 

The problem is that my raised beds are only four inches deep and these carrots were in the low terrace of the garden right next to the wall for the upper terrace.  When we built the garden we had to compact the dirt for the upper terrace wall and the place where the carrots were must have gotten compacted.  I'm impressed they grew as long as they did and hopefully they loosened the soil for future veggies. 

You will see no beautiful pictures of delicious strawberries this week because I harvested one little strawberry at 0.3 oz that was eaten before the camera showed up.  If only the squirrels would at least weigh their strawberry harvests before they eat them!  I'm going to the hardware store today to get some netting or wiring to hopefully end the squirrels stealing all my strawberries!

And last, after making you wait through the whole post is the new harvest for this week.. peas!  Not a lot yet (0.4 oz), but there's nothing tastier than fresh peas (I probably say that about every veggie the first time I harvest them!).

Weekly total: 3.8 lbs
Yearly total: 36.43 lbs worth $78.61

That's all the harvests coming from my garden this week, to see what others are harvesting check out Harvest Monday at Daphne's Dandelions.

Happy Gardening!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Thursday Kitchen Cupboard.. Quinoa and Chickpeas

Today's recipe is a random concoction that started with a colorful quinoa mix and what was available in the garden. If you are not familiar with quinoa it is a high protein grain that has a nutty taste- super duper healthy for you!  Here's my good for you recipe to balance the yummy dessert from last week:

Quinoa and Chickpeas
1/2 cup quinoa
1 cup water
1 tsp olive oil
1/4 cup chopped onion
2 chopped carrots
garlic powder
1 can chickpeas
2 cups Swiss chard
balsamic vinegar dressing

I added the quinoa and water to my rice cooker.  Meanwhile I heated up the olive oil and sauteed the onions for about three minutes and then added the carrots and garlic powder (I can't wait to have my own homegrown garlic, but that's still months away and somehow I had neglected to buy garlic!).  I cooked the carrots until they were tender and then added the chickpeas and Swiss chard.  I cooked until the chard wilted and then added the bean and veggie mix to the cooked quinoa.

You could eat this either warm or cold as a salad.  I had it as a salad (it's been 90 degrees all week here!) and added some balsamic vinegar dressing because it was honestly a bit bland.  I then topped it with a few sprigs of cilantro.

That's what has been cooking in my kitchen.  If you want to peak into other kitchens and see what others are cooking, head over to Thursday’s Kitchen Cupboard at the Gardener of Eden.