Garden Helpers

This week I made up a game called “Lumberjack.”  Max and I pretended we were lumberjacks heading outside to cut down a big tree — a broccoli tree!  He humored me and played along and even ate some of the “tree.”  The game’s effectiveness was weaker than anticipated since Max had no idea what a lumberjack was.  Ginger was unmoved by the whole thing.  She seems to take joy in not eating what I grow.  Really, she barely eats anything.  Pretty frustrating.   She spit out one of our very few strawberries.  Sacrilege.

We had a yummy treat tonight.  Had friends over whom we haven’t spent time with in too long.  Those events always get me motivated to put a little more effort.  For appetizer, I put out our own snap peas and I made green goddess dressing to go with it.  I’ve never made it before but it turned out nicely.  Here’s the recipe:

3/4 cup mayo

3/4 sour cream

handful of parsley

the leaves of a few springs of lemon thyme

1/2 cup of scallions

2 tablespoon of lemon juice

salt & pepper to taste

Combine in the food processor till it looks light green in color.  Serve.

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Bean there, Done that

  Here’s my idiot moment of the season:

We grew beans this year.  We had an amazingly large bounty.  We ate them raw, or broiled, or steamed.  We froze some.  We dehydrated some.  When we were sick of looking at them, we let what I thought were a “few” remaining pods hang on and dry on the vine (is it a vine?) so that we could save seeds for next year. 

Except… once we went to pick them, I realized we had a nice hunk of dried beans.  I started thinking that we actually had enough to make a meal of beans.  It never occurred to me that we could have that sort of yield. 

Max and I shelled the beans together and it was so much fun to share that activity with him.

Now, I must admit…. I don’t cook with dried beans.  I didn’t grow up with them.  I tried doing them in the slow cooker earlier this year and the meal was inedible.  No flavor, didn’t cook through.  But I really wanted to do our crop justice, so I was going to try again.

I again went the slow cooker route, but I added more ingredients for flavor.  At the end of the cooking time — still no flavor.  So, I found a recipe for boston baked beans and I mixed up the sauce and cooked it with the beans in the oven for maybe an hour.  I rescued the beans… and they tasted great.  Cooked through, lots of flavor.  Max ate them! I even made use of the leftovers by adding them to a shredded pork soup.

…I promised an idiot moment, didn’t I?   Well, it was probably a good week later that I realized that I totally forgot to save ANY of the beans as seeds for next year.   I guess I’ll have to order it online again and hope that I get the right variety. DOh!

Crop Fatigue

I’m approaching crop fatigue. 

See, you never know how things will turn out with gardening.  As you may recall, I had multiple attempts at growing cucumbers because I really wanted to make good pickles this year.  Well, the seeds didn’t seem to take, so I picked up some transplants.  Eventually, some of the seeds/seedlings that I had given up on came back to life.  Some plants have barely given me anything — we’re talking 1-2 pickles max.  Other plants have given me dozens.  This all amoungs to many jars of pickles. 

The problem is, I think the kind I like the best are the refrigerator pickles — not the kind you leave on a storage shelf for a year.  I didn’t count on that — and I certainly don’t have the fridge space to put up my entire crop (A TON).  The result is a lot of pickle jars being strategically stashed as gifts at various friends’ and family houses.  Likewise with pickled green beans.

The tomato plants have been producing at a steady pace, but I haven’t had such a glut yet here it made sense to make a bunch of sauce and put it up.  So, we’re basically just using them as they become ripe — if we get to them before the bugs do.  Max seems to be sick of tomatoes.  I used to save the grape tomatoes for him so he could pick them straight of the plant.  As he seems to be taking a break for a while, I figure they are fair game for us to eat.

Here’s a tip on a great new recipe I tried this week.  Inspired by the TV show “Cooking for Real.”  Take grape or cherry tomatoes.  Drizzle with olive oil, salt, pepper, and fresh thyme.  Cook at 375 for 30 minutes or until the skins burst.  It’s like candy!  We served it as a side dish to Salmon.  Next time I may add garlic.  (BTW, Max is a salmon junky — he yells “Oh Boy, Fish!”  when he sees it and it makes me happy)

It occurred to me that we’re only two months away from introducing Ginger to solid foods.  How fun!  Hope she takes to it.

Ickle Me, Tickle Me, Pickle Me, Too

Today I cracked open one of the fermented pickle jars I started last week from our very own cucumbers.  It was amazing!  It reminded me of the pickles my dad used to make when I was a little girl in Israel.

I based it on the recipe here.  The innaugural use of the pickle today?  Topping a homemade salmon burger with dill mayo on a brioche bun.  Best salmon burger ever!

The only bummer is that I wish this wasn’t a fridge-based recipe because I’d want to make enough for the whole year — and I don’t have a second fridge.  These are massive jars!

Compare and Contrast

One thing I can’t help but do is compare my children to each other.  Or, is it that I’m comparing my experiences with each child?  For instance:

  • With Max, I was chained to the pump and afraid of changing poopy diapers on the road, so I basically never left the house.  Compare with: just got back from a 7 hour road-trip out of state with Ginger (courtesy of 100% formula diet and ditching the cloth diapers).
  • With Max he didn’t sleep through the night till 18 months.  Ginger has slept through the night a few times already! (woo hoo)
  • Max was consistently in the high 90s for percentile on height and weight.  Meanwhile, my parents think I’m starving Ginger because she’s in the 40s and 50s. (BTW, I’m not!)
  • Today Ginger had her 2 month well baby visit with vaccinations.  When Max got his shots, it was so traumatic for me to hear him cry like that, that I probably cried as much as he did.  Now, knowing what was coming, I was calmer during the appointment, but had much more anxiety leading up to it because I knew what we’d be facing.

My gut tells me that it’s not healthy to compare the kids.  Each one is entitled to have their own life experience without constantly being measured up against the sibling.  But I’m not sure how to stop.  Either the comparison serves to mark celebration that something is going better this time around or, anxiety about whether something’s wrong because it’s different from before.  And then there’s the whole fuzzy memory issue — I doubt that I remember everything about Max correctly, so a comparison may not be fair on that front alone. 

Any tips out there?

In other new:  I’m proud of the dinner I cooked up tonight.  Having been out of town for a few days, we didn’t have a chance to buy fresh groceries.  Ginger was quite grumpy from her shots, so I thought I’d stay home instead.  I made a soup that is my take on minestrone, and all of it was from stuff scrounged from deep in the freezer, the garden, or the pantry — even though I casually thought there was no food in the house.  Here’s what I did:

Last night, I started chicken stock from a leftover frozen chicken carcass (we should invent a nicer word for this when it comes to cooking… ‘carcass’ is not too appetizing), left over carrot salad (our carrots), bendy celery, and our front yard torpedo onions.   Today I diced up some pre-cooked chicken apple sausage that I had in the freezer and some slightly overgrown green beans from the front yard.  Also from the freezer was a baggie of our snow peas from the winter garden.  I added a couple of tomatoes from our back yard, leftover shredded cheese from making a lunch quesadilla, and the dregs of a corkscrew pasta package (too small for a serving of pasta on its own).  Threw all of this into a pot (though at different stages based on their need) and served with chives as a garnish.

Sometimes I feel like a crazy person given all the random stuff I have in the freezer– from carcasses, to jars of stock, baggies of home-grown veggies, crushed egg shells, tops of leeks, breadcrumbs, what have you — and none of it organized particularly well.  It makes me feel like I have it somewhat figured out when I can pull together a meal that tastes as good as that did!  (The irony is, that when I had a diet of mostly processed foods, I felt more organized, because everything came in a box and lined up all nice in the freezer).  I feel like I need another freezer — but I have to organize the garage first.  Don’t get me started on that…

She Wore Lemon…

Ah, that brings me back.  I may not have mentioned it in a few years, but I’m a massive U2 fan (hence the Lemon title).   This year, I’ll literally be a “massive” U2 fan.  We have tickets to the U2 concert coming up and they are 3 days past my due date.  Yes, I’m planning to hold her in so I can go.

Anyhoo, our tiny little meyer lemon tree has produced a nice batch of lemons.  We use them in soda, iced tea, gin & tonics (none for me), etc.  One of the things I’ve wanted to do was to try my hand at preserved lemons.  But somehow, I felt it was too indulgent to do it with our relatively small crop.  However, tonight J. encouraged me to clean up the remainder of the crop to do with it whatever my heart desired.

It took me all of 2 seconds to jump on it and make preserved lemons tonight.  I plan on using them in middle eastern dishes, or with seafood, cous cous, who knows.  It’s so easy!  I used this recipe.  Now, the month-long wait to use it.

P.S., I enjoy the irony of using a “no preservatives” label on my recycled jar. for my preserved lemon.  It’s just so beautifully yellow… not sure the picture captures it.

P.P.S.  If any of you locals have an abundance of citrus — or any other crop for that matter, drop me a line and let’s see if we can hook up a marmalade/jam exchange or something.

Feeling less like an idiot on account of marmalade

If I had the energy, I’d dig up the post where I made 8 jars of marmalade and didn’t know what to do with it as I don’t have many opportunities to sit down with a piece of toast (or pancakes, HA!) for breakfast.

Well, staring at those jars one too many times, I decided I needed to make something magical happen with them.  Lightning struck twice this week.

First I got the hankering for some sort of sweet baking product.  I also had a Ghiardelli brownies Kit that was taking up space in my cupboards.  Viola!  I combined the mix with 2 eggs and half a cup of marmalade and a teaspoon of vanilla.  Let the drooling begin!  It was a big hit with the entire extended family.

Tonight, I used the other half of the jar with this recipe.  It was a big hit.  I used the rosemary I’ve been growing and served it along side a carrot, bell pepper, green onion (home grown), salad.

This is so validating and makes me thing that I could make a ton of marmalade next time I have the opportunity and not feel guilty.  I could also probably give away jars with that recipe.

Tomorrow Max gets some of the chicken to take with him to school, and somehow, I know it will be a big hit there, too. 

No energy to take pictures.  You’ll just have to trust me on this one. 🙂

Creamed Spinach & Chard

(First, thanks for the baby motrin tips on the post below.  Either it did the trick, or the phase is passing.  Long story short, we’re all sleeping better)

A few months back, we were eating out at a restaurant with J.’s family.  We ordered a bunch of things we though might work for Max.  He really liked the creamed spinach.  That’s when I was inspired to plant a bunch of spinach so that I could one day make him our very own creamed spinach dish.

Flash forward.  I made the dish (and supplemented with our chard.)  I chopped the stems into it, too, which is why there are little red and yellow touches in there.

I quickly sauted the stems and some garlic in a little butter & olive oil, then I set aside.  I sauted the greens, then set aside and chopped.  Then I made a rue with butter, milk & a little cream and a big pinch of nutmeg. Added the stems/garlic and greens and served immediately. S&P to taste.

Max wouldn’t even taste it, but I loved it.

Blackberry BBQ Sauce To Die For

First, my apologies.  We devoured dinner and forgot to take pictures until there was nothing but rib bones on the plate.

Inspired by what I saw at Blue Moon Organics last week, I decided to use up the leftover pint of blackberries we had by making a blackberry BBQ sauce.  It was fantastic on baby back ribs.

The only change I made to the recipe was cooking it on the stove top for just a few minutes on low heat rather than putting it in the microwave.  If you ask me, it didn’t really need any heating at all as we basted the ribs with it and put them under the broiler.

We ate the ribs alongside a nice heirloom tomato and cucumber salad.

We promised ourselves we’d repeat the meal this week so that I can take proper pictures.  See the sacrifices I make for you guys?

We took a 2 hour walk today.  Along the route there was a man selling cases of strawberries.  Since I could smell them from across the street, I had to get them.  We had two pints for dessert and I’ll use the remainder for jam.  The case was $10.  Normally we’d pay $7 for 1/3 of the size.  Sounds like a good excuse for strawberry jam to me.  I’ll be using Ina Garten’s recipe.  However, I think I’ll skip the liquor as I don’t have any at home and would rarely use it.

And weight progress… have dropped 3 pounds so far from my plateau.  Let’s hope I can keep it up!

Pump Up the Jam – Revisited

I made jam (or possibly a thick sauce) yesterday out of the apricots on my parents’ tree.  I had made a test batch about a week or so before, and it was mighty tasty.

I took the pits out of a bunch of apricots. (maybe 3 pounds? maybe more?).  I didn’t even bother taking the skin off, which is a huge time saver.  I added 1 cup of water. (next time i”ll do 1/2 cup).  Brought to a boil, then a soft boil for 20 minutes or so.  Use immersion blender till it’s all same consistency.  Then add 3 cups of sugar. and the juice from 1/2 a lemon. (around 2 tbsp).  I also put in the zest of the lemon.  I let it continue at a gentle boil till the mixture held its shape on a spoon.

For jarring, I sterilized wide mouth 1/2 pint jars.  I looove the new jar tongs!  MUCH safer than trying to use regular kitchen tongs.  Then I funneled the mixture into the containers, leaving 1/4 inch of space on top.  Then I covered with sterlized lids.  Then submerge the jars in water and boil for 10 minutes.  Let cool and give away to family members…because I don’t need 5 jars of apricot jam.

Next adventure: Plums!

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