Menu of the week September 9 Tomatoes!!!

This week’s menu swap is hosted by Natalie at Gluten Free Mommy and the ingredient is a staple of mine: tomatoes!  Make sure you check out what everyone else is cooking up and go post your own menu there too.  I have only canned 2 batches of tomatoes, totaling about 36 pints.  I am a bit short this year.  I generally use at least a pint a week on average, if not two pints.  My garden is not kicking out the little red and yellow darlings as it has in year’s past.  It’s my fault for being a slacker gardener and not staking them, or caging them.  Oh well, the raised bed learning curve is high this year.

We are still working our way through cook books this week and here’s what we are tasting:

Sunday: Chilean

Tomatica con pulpa de cerdo (pork stew with tomatoes and sweet corn)

Monday: Italian

Chicken Parmesan and spaghetti with fresh garden marinara I need to use those tomatoes up and there is not enough to can this go around.

Tuesday: Asian (from Ming Tsai)

Chicken, scallion and rice noodle stir fry

Wednesday: On the road in Traverse City for work – lunch will be at Little Foot’s (no web site yet I guess) – my Aunt and Uncle’s take out Tex Mex restaurant in TC and dinner with my friend Pam at her new place in Leelanau County – a garden harvest.

Thursday: Mexican

Chicken Flautas with chipotle crema and fresh salsa ala Bon Appetit (Septembers recipes are not yet posted but I will link when they are).

Friday: Chinese (Also from Ming Tsai’s book)

Stir fried pork and tofu with black bean garlic sauce.

Saturday:  Pork fest – a moving away, blowout party for a close friend.  He requested pork, pork and more pork.  So we are cohosting and helping with the pork and asking everyone else to bring a side dish.  I would like to make Porchetta, but it will probably be pulled pork with a North Carolina mustard sauce or pork burgers with bacon.  Regardless, I am going to have to make a small version of a porchetta soon.

i’m out and it’s raining here

Menu of the week August 18th

This weeks menu is hosted by Mary Frances of Gluten Free (Cooking School).  Please visit her blog and check out all the menus and recipes!

Next week I am hosting the menu of the week and the key ingredient will be Eggplant, so start planning! The garden is out of control, so to tame it, I must harvest a few things like the 5 foot high fennel.  I canned 2 dozen pints of tomatoes last week and will have to do the same this week.

Sunday: Lunch (up at the cottage with friends)  Tomato bisque with loads of garden tomatoes and basil.

Dinner: Grass fed beef tacos with frijoles de olla and fresh salsa from the garden produce.

Monday: Bistro

Dilled fingerling potato salad (both the dill and potatoes are from the garden), grilled pork loin with a peppercorn crust and a salad with fresh local goat cheese, tarragon and blueberries topped with a tarragon vinaigrette.  My lettuce is mostly bolted now, so the salad might be a challenge.  Green beans with shallot tarragon vinaigrette as the lettuce is super bitter.  Time to plant more lettuce (3 weeks ago).

Tuesday: French Bouillabaisse with fresh tomatoes, herbs and fennel from the garden, frozen fish, scallops and shrimp from the freezer and white wine from MI.

Wednesday:  Thai

Rad nah (or lard nah) with tofu (still have some left from last week).  I might try this method.  I will be using collard greens as they are taking over one of the raised beds in the garden and shading my eggplant which I need next week!

Thursday: Italian

Homemade pesto from the garden basil over pasta with grilled something, probably chicken.

Friday: Vietnamese

Ga Xao Xa Ot  using a combo of this, this and this recipe skipping the red bell pepper (not a fan unless it is roasted).

Happy eating!

i’m out

Happy Solstice…Ode to the Garden

It is the longest day of the year!  I love solstice and this year it is on a Friday.  Our gang is celebrating with a grill out and that likely will include a bonfire by the end of the evening, that and a few bevies. Luckily for me, several of my friends are trained to memorize ingredients so they can tell me what is in something and several will make a dish that is gluten free (like potato salad).

It is the happiest day of the year for my garden, which is growing gangbusters now that the weather has turned into summer.

the garden just after rain

Since I am a green thumb blogger, I thought I had better get on with some garden gushing.  It amazes me how different the yard can look from one year to the other.  This year we added 10 4’x4′ raised beds for the garden.  The old garden space is still being used too!  It has three rows of potatoes, pole beans and cucumbers in it, along with a gigantic compost bin, well two of those.  The strawberries and asparagus are in that area too.  We already can’t keep up with the lettuce and greens. The raised bed closest to the house has herbs and the other one has lettuce to make it easier to run out and grab a fresh handful on a second’s notice.

Potatoes and pole beans in the dark

We have quite the list of veggies this year:

Leeks, bunching onions, onions, shallots, 31 heirloom tomato plants, 25 anaheim green chiles, poblano peppers, jalapeno peppers, okra, sweet peas, 3 types of eggplant, fennel, collard greens, swiss chard, purple cabbage, spinach, escarole, red lettuce, butter leaf lettuce and romaine lettuce, broccoli, broccoli rabe, brussel sprouts, cucumbers, pole beans, potatoes (all red throughout, all purple and muddled purple and russian bananas), one artichoke plant (keep your fingers crossed), asparagus, strawberries, rhubarb and carrots.

The herbs get their own list:
parsley, both flat and curly, garlic and regular chives, thai basil, holy basil, sweet basil, 2 varieties of cilantro, marjoram, savory, 2 varieties of thyme, lemon verbena, chervil, sage, rosemary, oregano, spearmint, and dill. Hops too, I guess I will count that as an herb.

the portable herb garden

Even though most of the veggies are in the raised beds, I still find it necessary to weed. Until the plants grow big and close, I guess I will get my weeding exercise.

garden in sunlight

i’m out and happy solstice

Gardening has begun!

garden harvest time

Things will look a little different in the back yard this year. When we decided to take the house off the market this winter, we decided to make the backyard a mini farm, minus the sheep. We have big plans that will take a while to accomplish, but the first phase of those plans begins tomorrow. Raised beds! We are rearranging the yard to accommodate the shining sun at it’s best and are gong for high production with 10 4×4 raised beds. The compost/soil mixture is arriving via truck tomorrow morning. Half of the beds are built and ready to go.

beginnings of the raised bed garden

Of course the lawn still looks scrappy from winter, but that will change soon. Now we can actually get out there and do some yard work now that spring has sprung. Can you tell what the darling BF has covered up with the trellis? Yes, we got Satellite TV this winter. The cord still needs to be buried. We will be planting climbing flowers on the trellis. The birds and squirrels seem to like the change.

We plan to take down the garage with it’s failing, leaking roof and put up a small storage shed instead and use the existing cement floor for a roofed over patio. A small 8×6 green house will eventually be added on too, to help elongate the growing season. The remaining chain link fence will be yanked out and replaced with wooden privacy fence so that we can not always feel like we are in the city. Chickens, yes, we are hoping to have a few chickens for eggs and it appears that the city ordinance might allow for that. No roosters! We don’t want to make the neighbors upset or wake up to early ourselves.

First though, the soil must arrive. I just started planting some seeds in our indoor greenhouse. We converted our dining room with it’s Southern sun and big windows to a seed prep area and brought the full spectrum lights from their winter room downstairs (to keep all the herbs alive over the winter) to the dining room. I have the electric blanket on the table with a table cloth on it to work as a heating mat as these seeds need 70-80F to properly germinate and thrive. I am about 1 month behind on the seed planting, but it took me a while to get organized. Next year, I can do it all in the green house.

Compost pile – we already have a good one going, but this pile will be composting all of our yard waste soon too, not just kitchen scraps. It will supply us with the nutrients we need for our garden plants.

the overwintered herbs

starting seeds

So, the process is underway, the thinking about it was the easy part, now it is time to get our hands dirty!

Maybe the cats will help us!

Clara on the warming mat for the garden starter

i’m out

Victory Garden Drive

Photo by Asparagirl

garden at dusk

I plant a garden every year. Some years I have planted one at the community garden too. This year, since we took our house off the market, we are making some big plans : raised beds and a small green or hoop house. The garage/shed will come down and be converted to something useable like a small storage shed and the cement flooring will be part of the base of the green house. When I couldn’t plant a garden in the ground, I used to plant the essentials to make me feel alive in large pots. Herbs and tomatoes generally. We just looked up the city ordinances and it looks like we might be able to have some chickens in the backyard too – how eggciting! ha ha 🙂

Changes ahead! With the raised beds we should be able to more intensively garden and I am insisting that my dear BF plant those veggies that he will eat. I do a pretty good job of canning and freezing the produce. We have two small freezers downstairs, one for our sustainably raised pork, chicken and beef and one for all the veggies, fruit and misc stuff that one tends to collect in the freezer. It probably seems a bit much to most of you, but eventually, we do plan to move and get our little farmette going, but for now we have decided to pretend like we have it here in the city. Our basement stays pretty cool and is usually stocked full of apples and potatoes from the farm. It keeps our wine cold too, not quite castle temperature, but close enough. I think I have this stock up and be prepared for a large scale disaster mentality. Well, I know I have it. However, by having it, I am more self sufficient and never need to purchase canned tomatoes. I have all the green beans I need in the freezer and roasted green chiles and tart cherries too. I did not get a very good broccoli crop this year as it got too hot too fast, so we have eaten all of it unfortunately.

Last year, in the back of the garden, we planted asparagus for the first time and I planted a couple of strawberry plants too. Then we put the house on the market and the whole summer I wasn’t sure if I would be able to reap my harvest and hoped that whoever bought the house would enjoy the asparagus next year. I will be so excited to see the first asparagus spears popping up. Maybe I will even find some more morel mushrooms in the yard again! I have been rinsing them (when I find them up North) and always throwing the wash water out into the borders of the yard and now for two years, they pop up in the strangest places.

morels morel mushroom

The herb garden will spring back with life as soon as it is warm and the snow melts. I did bring several pots of herbs indoors for the winter and have enough rosemary for the neighborhood in our little “greenhouse” room. We installed some grow lights to keep them alive over the winter and overall, this first year, the cost was more expensive than buying fresh herbs all winter, but by next year, we will be saving fresh herb money! I need to figure out a way to keep the basil alive longer. The room is probably a bit too cold for it to thrive.

I recently heard about the Victory Garden Drive and wanted to share it with you. Having your own garden allows you to be self sufficient and “vote with your fork”. Your produce travels feet instead of miles and you have the satisfaction of seeing things grown and ripen. All of this increases food security too. I work in the agricultural and natural resources field, I know how quickly things could go bad for our food supply. We are really lucky to have the supply of food that we do have and yes, it is cheap, far to cheap. I will leave the Farm Bill, or the Food Bill as I like to call it, for another discussion another day. Never enough profit makes it’s way back to the farmer, unless they are directly marketing their produce at a farmer’s market. Quality foods taste better but do come at a price. You have the opportunity to know the person who raises your food when you shop at farmer’s markets or from the farm directly. We are striving to eliminate all meat, seafood and poultry that was not locally, sustainably and environmentally friendly raised, but this takes time and it definitely takes money. I have been on a lot of farms, some of them great and extremely well managed, some of them the exact opposite and I certainly would not have wanted to consume anything that was raised there. In the store, you don’t always know what you are getting, unless they take the time to market their specialty and package it as such. The innovative farmers have realized that the biggest part of their business is no longer growing the food, once they have that down, it is marketing to consumers like you and me, telling their story of how their food arrives on our plate.
I think the Victory Garden site above states the need to have our own gardens very clearly and very well. Please read it and let’s start a garden revival! If you need help planning your garden or wonder if it is possible to plant something in your soil contact your local Master Gardener through your local Cooperative Extension office. There is one in every county and they are connected to whatever university in your state is the agricultural university (Here that is Michigan State Univ). They have a wealth of information and not just on gardening, but on preserving your food that you grow too.

Photo by cwage

If you can’t plant a garden in your backyard, see if you can join a community garden.  In our city they ask for a $5-$10 donation if you can afford it and then they give you seeds and plants, typically from area greenhouses that are overstocked.  If you have space in your yard but can’t afford to buy plants, you can still sign up at the community garden, but not for a plot, just for plants.  They will even come and get the ground ready for you. At ours you might have to sign up for a job to help out at the garden, like filling the water barrels or helping rototill in the spring, but not all require this.  If you don’t have a community garden, go for pots on your porch or deck and fill them with the items you pay the most for, probably herbs.  If you can’t do any of the above, well, keep shopping at your local Farmer’s Market and smile.  When you are out in the countryside and see the land worked up, pull over and jump out of your car and take a deep breath and enjoy the smell of the freshly tilled earth.

i’m planning for food security and

i’m out