Sunday, May 24, 2009

My Day in Food

Jake and I got the day started off right this morning with a new recipe for Oatmeal Cinnamon Waffles that I have been wanting to try. We harvested some rhubarb, which Jake whipped up into a yummy compote to put on our waffles.

Then, I baked two loaves of bread, which I made from a recipe in Nancy Baggett's book, Kneadlessly Simple, a book of no-knead bread recipes. I heard about her book during an interview with her on NPR and since I love making no-knead bread, I had to have this book. This recipe was the first of many I plan to try. I'd like to try and make a new bread recipe every week. I started making it yesterday morning, let it rise for more than 20 hours, and now have two delicious loaves of bread. I love it! I'm going to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on the bread to take on our hike tomorrow.

Speaking of hiking, when I looked in my recipe binder (a binder I started to store all of my favorite recipes and the ones I want to try) for the waffle recipe, I dusted off an old recipe for home-made energy bars that I have always wanted to try. I made them this afternoon for us to take tomorrow. They're fantastic! Way better than the brand name, processed ones.

Finally, I stumbled across another great recipe in the binder for "tea-dressed greens". I steeped two green ginger tea bags in 1/2 cup rice vinegar for 20 minutes. Then, I took out the tea bags and whisked in 3/4 c. canola oil, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, 1 teaspoon sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt. I dressed some fresh greens from my garden with this tangy dressing and topped it with a few slivered almonds. They only thing that would have made it better would be thinly sliced pear. Delicious.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The broccoli is coming!!!

For weeks now, I have been contemplating my broccoli "trees", wondering if they would ever bare fruit. I have four broccoli plants that I started inside in February that just keep getting bigger and growing more and more huge leaves. I can say for sure that I have learned that you need to plant those babies in the back or they'll shade any other plant trying to grow. So today, I was out in the garden, thinking about sacrificing a broccoli plant or two to make room for something else that would be more productive. When suddenly, I spotted the beginning of a broccoli - finally! I was so excited to finally see a bud that I ran in the house to get my camera and my phone to call Jake to tell him the exciting news. To say I was excited would be an understatement. Jake asked me if we should throw a shower from my baby broccoli. I'm so attached to them, that might not be a bad idea.

Finally, I wanted to post a before and after set of pictures of my purple potatoes. Technically, the "before" picture is not actually the first picture since when I planted them, you couldn't see the sprout. As I described before in an earlier post, I have been following a container method that involves filling up the container, little by little, as the sprouts grow. I have been mounding potting soil around the sprouts as they've grown and now, as you can see, they have finally reached the top and the 10 gallon container (trash can) is completely full. Now, I've just got to wait for the plants to turn brown and die off so I can harvest.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Ode to my Kitchen Garden

I have gone to the farmer's market every Saturday for my produce since December...until this weekend. I have so many beautiful greens that are ready to be harvested that I didn't dare buy more at the market. Tonight I made an amazing stir fry with baby bok choy, Swiss chard, and spinach. It was delicious.

Last night, Jake and I went out to the garden with two big bowls and filled them up with three different varieties of fresh lettuce, spinach, and basil for an amazing salad. I made garlic croutons with the spelt bread I made on Saturday and Jake made a yummy vinaigrette with some left over pomegranate juice that I used in a terrific asparagus recipe this weekend. Had I brought a fork out to the garden, I could have started eating my salad right there.

P.S. Thank you, Jake, for humoring me by taking all those beautiful pictures of my vegetables. They make me so happy!

Friday, May 15, 2009

So far, so good

It's time for some reflection. I've been wanting to write this post for a while. I was trying to wait until the official half-way point, but I don't think that's actually necessary. By half-way point, I mean half way through my year of local, home-grown, organic living, which I started in December. As I'm sure you remember, in December, I set a goal for myself to begin eating as locally and seasonally as I could. 

Here is what I have accomplished so far (the positives) :

1. I have gone to the farmer's market (the U District market is open year round) every Saturday to buy my produce for the week instead of buying produce at the grocery store. Case is point: a while ago, when I went into my local Safeway for some toilet paper, the check out guy, who knew me from previous shopping trips, asked me where I had been. 

2. As a result of my trips to the farmer's market, I discovered I love Brussel sprouts and asparagus.

3. I have not purchased a loaf of bread or any other processed food other than vegan bouillon cubes. I have been making my bread for the week every weekend. 

4. Any time I go into PCC or Whole Foods for anything, I pay attention to where things come from and try not to buy anything that comes from farther away than California. 

5. I finally put the space behind my backyard fence to good use by building three raised veggie beds. Square foot gardening rocks my world!

6. In February, I successfully started seeds inside, which are now growing like crazy in my amazing new beds. 

7. I started growing spinach (I know! Why didn't I get on that last year?) and it is amazing. It grows like a weed. 

8. In addition to spinach, I planted the following fruits and vegetables in my garden: 2 varieties of heirloom tomatoes, 2 cherry tomato plants, cucumbers, zucchini, delicata squash, butternut squash, peas, 3 varieties of lettuce, broccoli, dinosaur kale, Swiss chard, onions, red kale, bok choy, purple potatoes, carrots, yellow beans, green beans, fresh herbs, raspberries, rhubarb, strawberries, blueberries, and nasturtiums (an edible flower).  Having so many veggies growing around my house is like having a farmer's market or grocery store in my yard. 

9. I love to cook again. Before Jake and I started cooking Sunday dinners together, I was really not inspired to cook. Now, the thrill and challenge of putting so many delicious vegetables to use, both from my garden and the farmer's market, inspires me to cook every night and I actually have fun doing it. 

10. I don't eat dairy anymore because I'm finally trying to get a hold on my pesky seasonal allergies. At first, I thought giving up cheese was going to be devastating, but as it turns out, veggies and lots of other food for that matter, taste great without it - especially if it is fresh. I haven't really missed the cheese, really. 

Now for the things that I am working on (my goals) :

1. Once my outside garden started booming, I lost my connection to the indoor seed set-up routine. Next year, I am going to try to grow a second round of seeds inside instead of just one, like I did this year. I plan to get my own heirloom tomato seeds and basil seeds started indoors earlier so that they're ready to go out in late May and early June. Also, in order to do that, I may need to break down and buy a seed germinating heat mat. Having the house heat on in February, really got my seeds going. The basil and tomato seeds I tried to start later missed out on that heat they needed to get started. 

2. I'm going to try to plan for a winter harvest. My super friend, Radhi, gave me a Seattle Tilth class for my birthday, so I'm now signed up for a class titled, Winter Gardening

3. My next health/culinary goal is to start cutting back on salt a bit. I don't know if that will be as easy as the cheese-thing, but we'll just have to see how that goes. 

I'm already fantasizing about where I can put more veggie beds. I love thinking about what to have for dinner and then walking outside to my backyard to get the ingredients I need. My garden is a tranquil and beautiful space and just thinking about it puts my mind at ease. 

Monday, May 11, 2009

I heart Heidi Swanson!

If you've been following my blog, you already know that I love butternut squash and became somewhat obsessed with the amazing recipes I discovered that featured the squash. Well now, I think the same thing is happening with asparagus. I've never been anti-asparagus, but I am really just now discovering how amazing it is and part of that is because I've been making some incredible dishes with it. Here comes the big shout out to Heidi Swanson, her amazing cookbook Super Natural Cooking, and her blog 101 Cookbooks

Tonight I made part of a recipe from one of her books for an asparagus spinach "pesto" that is super delicious. I can't get enough of it. You just put the asparagus stalks from one bunch (trimmed and cut in half) into a pot of boiling water for about 3 minutes. Then, you put the just-tender stalks into a food processor, with a couple handfuls of spinach (which I harvested from my garden again tonight), 2 cloves of garlic, some olive oil, a squeeze of lemon juice, and a little sea salt. Puree and serve. I left the Parmesan and pine nuts out and it still turned out amazing! And it's super good for you too! 

Then, I made a recipe she recently posted for Carrot Oatmeal Cookies. They are really low in super and are delicate and flavorful, especially because they are made with coconut oil. Not an egg or stick of butter required. So yummy!

Finally, while I was waiting for my last batch of cookies to bake, I read the latest post by Willi Galloway on her blog, Diggin Food, titled Slightly Obsessed Gardening. I immediately connected with her sentiments. Anyone remember my post titled "Baby Pictures"? And just yesterday I was telling my grandma that it's just a matter of time before I start replacing my lawn with more beds for veggies. I think I've created a monster...  

Sunday, May 10, 2009

I got lots done in my garden this weekend. The moon was in Scorpio, a super productive sign, so, I had to jump into action. Also, it's finally May - the soil is warmer, the danger of frost has passed (at least I think it has), and it's time to get everything into the ground. It's funny to think back to last spring when I just planted everything all at once in April during spring break - not because it was good for the plants, but because it worked into my schedule. This weekend, I planted my cucumber, zucchini, delicata squash, and butternut squash seeds. I also planted all of my dahlia tubers. After all, I have to have some beautiful flowers to cut for bouquets in my garden somewhere. I dug up the dahlia tubers I planted last year and saved them for this season. We'll see what blooms.

Finally, I bought two heirloom tomato plants at the farmer's market. I decided that the seeds I tried to start inside are just not going to make it this season. I got them started too late. I do have cherry tomato plants in my garden now that I started from seed inside in February, so I guess I didn't do that bad with the tomatoes after all. I'll do even better next year.

I reclaimed a beautiful pot for one of the tomatoes that had been taken over by a root-bound, half dead shrub. I originally intended to transplant it, but my dad and I had to practically destroy it to get it out of the pot. Actually, it was my dad that did most of the grunt work to get that sucker out. Thanks Dad!

I got to do the fun work of planting my new tomato plant. As you can see, Beans likes to be involved whenever possible. He had to check out the compost that was going into the pot. The tomato is called a Japanese Truffle Heirloom. It's an indeterminate (vining tomato), so I got a square cage to put over the pot for it to grow into. And, do you recognize that cute little mosaic marker? The one I made when I was going crazy for my garden in a snow storm? It's finally getting put to use. Yes!

Thursday, May 7, 2009


I planted spinach seeds, along with many others, on March 25 in a raised bed covered with a cloche. I just harvested enough of that spinach for one serving, which I sauteed for myself with some fresh basil-spiked scrambled eggs and home-made bread. I started making my whole wheat no-knead bread recipe with whole spelt flour instead of whole wheat flour because Jake's trying to eat less wheat, but that's a story for another post. The bottom line: it took roughly 42 days to get from seeds to harvest.  On another note, if anyone's wondering about my potatoes - the vines continue to grow and I had to "mound" more soil around them today. I'll keep you posted!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

You grow girl!

There has been a lot of growth happening in my garden lately. My onions and carrots starting sprouting, my potatoes are growing, and my kale and spinach are going crazy. I harvested spinach again this week and this time the leaves were the size of my hand. Jake and I ate kale from my garden on Thursday and it was amazing. Super flavorful with nothing but a little olive oil and salt. Inside, I finally had my heirloom tomato seeds sprout. I think I might have started those too late, but I'm going to try to grow them anyway. It can't hurt to try, right?

I'm growing my potatoes using a strategy I learned from Gayla Trail's book, You Grow Girl. I bought a galvanized steel garbage can and drilled drainage holes in the bottom. Then, I filled it up about a third of the way with soil and buried my potatoes (little purple potatoes that I got from the farmer's market that had sprouted) about three inches deep. According to Gayla, when the potato vines start to grow, I should fill the container with more dirt, creating a mound of dirt around the vines. I continue that way until I fill up the container and the plant starts to mature and then turn brown - the sign that let's me know the potatoes are ready to harvest. I'm not really sure how the whole process works yet, but I saw some green in my potato container so I "mounded" some more dirt around them. We'll see how that goes.

Finally, Jake and I had a rockin' dinner tonight with asparagus galore. Roasting asparagus is easy and super tasty. You just heat the oven to 425 degrees, coat the asparagus in olive oil, put it on a baking sheet, and shake it around periodically so that it gets evenly cooked. Tonight, I put the bottom pieces in first since they're thicker than the tops and take longer to cook. It tastes really good when they get a little crispy. Then, I made a little asparagus/spinach (yep, from the garden) pesto, inspired by one of Heidi Swanson's recipes in Super Natural Cooking. I blanched about 9 asparagus sprigs in boiling water until just tender. Then, I pureed them in the food processor with a handful of spinach, one clove of garlic, some olive oil, and a little lemon juice. It was delicious! Who knew eating cheese-free "pesto" could be so good.