I didn’t think about cooking until 5pm today – and the kids are almost done with dinner and it’s just a few minutes after 6pm!! With stuff in the garden coming in and our CSA starting this week I’ve really been into “Chopped” cooking. I am big fan of Chopped on Food Network. Four chefs are given a “mystery basket” with a set of ingredients that they must use – plus access to a well-stocked pantry and only 20-30 minutes to come up with each course. It’s supercool to see what great cooks can come up with with a limited set of ingredients.
Using this philosophy I’ve been clearing out my freezer and pantry. And with the addition of all of my fresh veggies it’s even more fun!
Today I decided to make a chili using the zucchini and onions from my CSA basket. Instead of rice I used some orzo that’s been hanging out in the pantry for a while. I added some vegan “beef” crumbles and kidney beans. I also realized rather quickly that I had no canned tomatoes – problem! Rooting around in my pantry I found a jar of roasted red bell peppers – probably bought to go into a dish I never made. And in the fridge I had some fancy italian tomato paste (in a toothpaste-like tube). Perfect! I used garlic, cumin, and chili powder for seasoning, added a skosh of BBQ sauce leftover from our BBQ beans a few days ago and BAM! Dinner!!
I’ve found that in a reasonably stocked kitchen you can almost always find something to substitute for a missing ingredient. Yesterday I wanted some more crunch in my pasta primavera sauce. I would normally use celery for that but, with no celery to be had, I used the reserved stalks of swiss chard from the night before. An excellent substitute!! The lack of tomatoes today seemed pretty bad – but I could have used tomato sauce as well if the roasted pepper/tomato paste thing had not worked. Beans are reasonably interchangeable – and the “wrong” bean can sometimes add an unexpected color or texture twist on a dish. Greens are another thing that are easy to exchange – although cooking times will vary. And keeping a variety of grains – quinoa, millet, rice, bulgur, barley – is a great way to keep things interesting. Have everything for tabbouleh – except for the bulgur – cook off some quinoa instead. It’s the twists that make cooking fun!
And here’s my tip of the day for scattered cooks. I start most of my saucepan/skillet dishes with olive oil, garlic, and onions. One problem I have is forgetting about the pan with the oil in it as I focus on chopping/prepping. My first step in almost any meal is to pull out my saucepan, turn on the burner, add my olive oil, and garlic. Then I begin my chopping. When the pan heats up I can begin to hear the garlic sizzle – which let’s me know it’s time to cook!! Otherwise I can get caught up in the prep and before you know it we’re eating at 9 o’clock at night! Peace!
Dinner tonight – Sauteed chickpeas with rainbow chard. This is ridiculously easy. Diced an onion and sauteed it with garlic in some olive oil until translucent. Added a can of chickpeas along with some cumin and tumeric and sauteed for about 5 minutes. Added the chopped chard and cooked uncovered until it had cooked down. I also added some Earth Balance towards the end for extra butteryness. And added some lemon juice right before serving.
Served with a saute of corn, zucchini, and bell pepper. Started the same way – onion,garlic, and olive oil. Added the zucchini and bell pepper with some cumin and chili powder. Once they were softened I added the corn and pea pods. A bright, warm, spicy dish!
Chickpeas from a can; chard from the garden; onion, zucchini, and pea pods from the CSA; corn from Chris’ parent’s garden (frozen for last year). YUM!
I follow a few gardening blogs and websites. One site that I totally love is LetsGrowVeggies.com. This is site is so simple and elegant and useful! Once you subscribe (it’s $9.95 for a yearly subscription) you enter your zipcode and it provides you with your first and last frost dates and it gives you handy charts of when to plant/transplant/harvest most popular veggies. There’s a spring chart and a fall chart.
It also gives you handy tips at the bottom based on the current date. Today’s tip for me is
“Today is Monday, June 18th. This week’s gardening chores include:
Carrots: Harvest by carefully pulling and twisting roots. Wet soil makes harvesting easier.”
Dinner tonight was freakin awesome!! Last year I was part of the first CSA in Huntington. This year I am the assistant coordinator!! I took the position because I am really excited about locally produced veggies and was really happy with the quality of the produce and the price ($80 for ten weeks of produce!!). I didn’t realize that there would be additional benefits. One of which is that the coordinators received some yummy veggies this week before the official season starts.
This lovely meal consists of sugar snap peas (from the CSA) sauteed in a little Earth Balance with garlic and then splashed with lemon juice. The pilaf is a wild rice blend with garlic, sweet onion (from the CSA), swiss chard stalks (from the garden), almonds, dried cherries, and diced dried apricots. The beans were sauteed with garlic and onion (from the CSA), BBQ sauce, and swiss chard leaves (from the garden). Oh yeah!
I have some more snap peas that we’ll be eating raw, some zucchini that will probably be eaten tomorrow, and more onions.
Well, the heat we had a few weeks ago has resulted in my lettuce and spinach bolting. Bolting is the term for when a leafy plant like lettuce goes to seed. The unfortunate side effect is that the leaves of said plant become bitter and inedible. Very sad. This is my first attempt at lettuce so I’m just happy that I got so much out of what I planted.
Since noticing the bolting I’ve been investigating ways I could have done better or differently to stave off the bolting. First, using the “cut and come again” method shocks the lettuce and helps prevent it from thinking it’s matured (we did that). Second, frequent light watering – hot, wilty plants tend to bolt sooner. We didn’t do that. Third, providing shade as the weather warms up. We didn’t do that.
I’m contemplating creating another (small) raised bed. One that will be exclusively for lettuce and that I will cover with a row cover or coldframe so I can extend the growing season.
because it’s so nice out today!! It started cool and gray and is just starting to warm up at 10:30am. Loving it!
First an update on the row covers – they did not work. Because I’d already been infested and the butterflies apparently had already laid their eggs. My kale and collards were decimated and I pulled them up already. I’m keeping my brussel sprouts and cabbage and being diligent about checking for cabbage worms and the eggs. The brussel sprouts are easiest to manage as they have much less dense foliage than everything else – and the cabbage is still hanging tough so I figured I’d give it a fighting chance.
While the fight with the cabbage butterflies/worms has been waged other parts of the garden have boomed. The red containers that house the strawberries and black cherry tomatoes have been recently mulched. And I’ve been rewarded with a huge amount of growth from the tomato plants and the strawberries, which had been looking rather peaked, have perked up.
I relocated the bell pepper plants to the back yard as the front yard was not getting enough sun for them to thrive. They have also perked up as well. The lettuces and radishes are still going strong and I’m eating as much as I can of their bounty before it gets too hot. My tomato seedlings, which I had almost despaired of have finally started to look like real plants so I’m very happy about that.
The bean plants seem very happy and strong. They grow so fast! I have some purple podded pole bean seeds headed my way and will be planting them amongst the Kentucky Wonder. I love the idea of the mix of colors amongst the beans. (Yes, I garden based on color!)
The zucchini has exploded!! If you look back and my previous post it’s hard to believe it was just ten days ago! The corn that the possum didn’t get is growing really well also. I just planted some more corn to fill in.
Other things that aren’t going well are the bed filled with the wildflower mix and sunflowers. Hardly anything has popped up, and something (possum, raccoon, or possibly just cats) keeping digging in there and sometimes pooping (I’m been pulling out the poop as I see it). I’m thinking of doing a scorched earth thing and tilling it and replanting with strawberry plants. They’re perennials so that’s a good thing – and next year I could add some tall stuff to grow against the fence. Thoughts? The same animals were pooping in another bed but once I put plants in there they left it alone – or I could do another cage until they’ve grown a bit.
Cabbage Worm Castings
And finally back to the cabbage “worms”. The pic above shows their castings (I thought they were eggs at first). If you see this on your brassicas you’ve got “worms” which are really the larvae of the cabbage butterfly. If you catch it early you can pull off the boogers and there are also some biological agents you can use on them. Also you should look for the actual eggs which are yellow and are generally on the underside of the leaves.
Aren’t these the cutest things! These beans have sprouted vigorously – no tiny weak seedlings here. I got a thumb’s up from one of my gardening godmothers today regarding the funky trellis – cool.
My garden is under attack!! This week my corn sprouted and was going gangbusters – I was so proud. Yesterday morning I woke up to a corn massacre. Most of the tender shoots had been pulled up and scattered in the bed – it seemed so malicious! Today one of my gardening godmothers stopped by and showed me the tracks that were left by the perpetrator – she believes it was a possum.
Aiiiieeee! Yesterday I ordered more seeds – I really want this corn to happen for me!! I also threw some netting (OK, it was tulle, I used what I had) over the bed last night. And today I created a cage to keep out any and all critters. Take a look.
No tools needed other than a pair of wirecutters. I did a simple whipstitch using some wire to join the two pieces of hardware cloth, used two pieces of landscaping border to hold it down and voila! The corn is safe, and I can easily remove the cage to replant and weed.
The other critter issue I’ve been having is cabbage butterflies. Cabbage butterflies are very sweet, white butterflies – who love to eat cabbage, kale, brussel sprouts, etc. Darn them!! I decided to use tulle on them as well. The netting I found at the hardware store was mostly for birds and the mesh was too big (in my opinion). So I went to the fabric store and bought several colors of nylon tulle and draped my various plants with it.
I used twist ties to close up the tower of tulle.
For individual plant I just draped the tulle them and tucked it around the plants. Easy peasy. We don’t have much wind around here – if we did I’d have to come up with some other ideas.
Planted potatoes today – and discovered that our corn has sprouted.