Archive for May, 2012

The garden is doing great and tonight we had our first strawberries and the best spinach I’ve ever grown. Our soil is just too heavy for spinach to do well, but last fall I added lots of shredded leaves and good soil to a bed to make it nice and light and it seems to have made a world of difference to the spinach. The other inspiration for tonight’s dinner was the hunk of cheese and bag of mushrooms I bought at the farmer’s market last week.

Menu for Monday, 28 May

crustless mushroom° quiche

spinach* with tomatoes

toasted bread

yogurt with sliced strawberries*

elderflower* cordial

The crustless quiche was a sort of improvisation since I didn’t feel like making crust. And since the crust is just slightly sweet, it made the tangy quiche even tangier.

Crustless Quiche

Sautee sliced mushrooms° and let cool. Place on bottom of quiche dish. Mix 1 1/2 cups of yogurt with 2 eggs°, 2 tablespoons of flour, a bit of salt and some shredded cheese°. Pour over mushrooms and bake at 350F for 30 minutes. I tucked a little left over asparagus° into one end – a little treat for me.

Spinach and tomatoes

My husband bought some really awful looking tomatoes – you know, the hard orange balls that don’t really look, smell or taste much like real tomatoes. Well, the only way to deal with those is cook them down, which I did with some garlic and olive oil. Then I added the spinach until wilted. The spinach was so good it even made these tomatoes taste alright!

Yogurt topped with strawberries

Can’t wait until the strawberry:yogurt ratio is reversed!

Elderflower cordial

An experiment inspired by the Urban Farm Handbook foraging challenge and all of the elders flowering right now everywhere you look.

I found the recipe here and made a batch over the weekend.

I think it turned out too lemony and sour, but over ice with a bit of dandelion honey to sweeten it, YUMMMMMMY! We will definitely be making more of this.

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Well, it’s the end of May and I’m finally getting around to posting about April’s challenge! That’s mostly because it’s taken me this long to complete it…kind of. It’s also because my time is limited and I’ve been spending it in the garden. The challenge was hard, too, because it has so many parts to it. Not that I’m complaining…I like a good challenge! Okay, enough preliminary small talk….

Challenge Round 1 Plant seeds.

I’ve been starting seeds inside for a few years and the big challenges for me are knowing how much to start with – I usually start with too much – and having room for it all. We started in two batches this year:

Batch 1

  • head lettuce
  • broccoli


The earliest starts

I know, I know…use grow lights. That will be on next year’s list of projects. Yes, things get a bit leggy and it will be much better once I have the grow lights, but things seem to have worked out okay without it for now.

Earliest seeds sown outside

Hardening off the lettuce and chard

New transplants

Batch 2

  • tomatoes
  • peppers
  • squash
  • cucumbers

Corn started in TP rolls – just pop the whole thing into the ground.

What’s new this year – Chinese greens, broccoli, potatoes, polycultures.

Challenge Round 2 – Pest Prevention

This is still a challenge that I haven’t quite gotten up to speed on yet. I tried to grow some catnip to deter flea beetles, but it didn’t come up. I’ll have to try that again. I did manage to plant some marigolds among the tomatoes this year. That’s supposed to be good, right?

Round 3 Build a Trellis

Finally got around to making an A-frame trellis for the cucumbers. Our neighbors bought the empty lot next to them and cleared the brush. When I asked if I could take some tree branches and sapling trunks, they looked at me like I am crazy – it’s just trash to them – but said yes. I am quite proud of the little trellis I built out of them.


Round 4 Grow food for your chickens

If only we had them…

Round 5 Be lazy

Build good soil, mulch, let things reseed and grow perennials is what I took from the challenge post. Hmmm…I am trying to build good soil, however inept I may be at it. Still trying to figure out what to mulch with. Planted some asparagus, have rhubarb…most of the rest is annual. Love reseeding! Happens mostly with weeds, though.

But I think I ace this round based on pure laziness. I could have all the dandelions in my flower bed, but didn’t. I now consider it my dandelion patch and since we eat it, it’s a nutrient accumulator and its roots open up the soil,  I am telling myself that it’s not lazy, it’s smart!

This is just lazy…

Round 6 Share the Bounty

Giving some away…I give away lots of zucchini when the time comes, but let’s face it, giving away zucchini is not an act of sharing, it’s a necessity! But I am inspired to look into giving some of our harvest to a food bank or soup kitchen. More on that later, I hope.

So that’s the April challenge, long since passed, but still working on it here in my garden!

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Monday Menu

Last night was our first cook out of the year. It was warm and sunny and just right for grilling. The farmer’s market on Saturday was loaded with vegetables and I was ready for a wee break from arugula! It’s so simple, no recipes are necessary. But so yummy…

grilled portobellos°, onions° and tomatoes°

steamed asparagus° with olive oil and lemon juice

fresh carrot°, cucumber°, radish° and kohlrabi°


iced mint* tea

Don’t you love my Provencal table cloth and Polish pottery?!

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It was a cold and blustery weekend, so we spent it indoors, sewing and sowing.

Corn in toilet paper rolls, to be plunked roll and all in the ground as soon as it warms a bit.

I saw this cute and easy shirt pattern, and decided to try it. Here is the result:

I was so inspired, I stitched up some shorts for Olivia. She got inspired, too and made her own top.

Cute shorts, cute top, cute girl!

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We’ve been eating greens!

From left to right, that’s leaf lettuce, a spinach leaf, arugula, Chinese mustard greens and mizuna. I mostly planted arugula – lots of arugula!

I planted polycultures this year and so far, so good! They certainly look beautiful!

The garden is full of greens and we’ve had them lots of ways this week, so I thought I’d share them all.

grape and greens salad* with honey mustard dressing and sesame seeds

omelette with arugula*

boiled potatoes° with a mixture chopped greens*, garlic, olive oil and salt on top

pasta° with goat cheese° and greens*

more salad*, this time with nettle* pesto dressing

more salad*, with kohlrabi° and radishes°

What’s your favorite way to eat fresh greens? I am open to new ideas!

Recipe for Honey Mustard Dressing

Mix about 1/2 cup of oil with a touch of vinegar, ground dried mandarin peel, teaspoon of mustard and dandelion (or regular) honey to taste.

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Monday Menu

Due to celebrating with friends Monday evening, the second installment of my new feature is a day late. Well, it was  a good run while it lasted!

Today’s featured menu comes from Sunday night.

buckwheat kasha with mushrooms° and onions

sauteed grated carrots° with spicy peanut sauce

green salad (meant to have fresh greens from the garden*, but it was raining, and well, you know…)

pumpkin* ice cream

Ack! No photo…but at least a couple of recipes:

All my American cookbooks say to mix buckwheat groats with egg, cook until dry and then add water. But buckwheat is quite common here and the cooking instructions much simpler. Add to boiling salted water, let boil for a minute or two, take off the heat and wrap the covered pot in a towel. Drain and serve. I drained and added to sauteed mushrooms and onions. Two big thumbs up from the peanut gallery on this one! (It made a ton, so I used half in this meal and half the next night in a sort of hamburger helper stove-top, one-pot meal, using buckwheat instead of hamburger. No enthusiastic thumbs up, but they ate it without too  much grumbling!)

The carrots are easy. Grate, saute in a little butter until slightly soft but somehow still crisp. The girls had it plain, but I added spicy peanut sauce.

Spicy Peanut Sauce, from Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites

3 Tbsp peanut butter

1/4 cup water

1 garlic clove, minced

1/2 to 1 fresh chile*, minced

2Tbsp cider vinegar

1 Tbsp honey

1 Tbsp soy sauce

1/4 cup diced tomatoes (I skipped this ingredient – didn’t have any)

2 tsp. grated fresh ginger root

2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro (skipped it – don’t like it)

2 tsp fresh lemon juice

Puree in a blender until creamy. Keep in the fridge.

Like I said, the intention was to add the fresh arugula and mustard greens to the store-bought romaine, but I didn’t feel like going out in the rain to get it. If you’re looking for a perfectionistic purist, look elsewhere!

The pumpkin ice cream is so good. It’s your basic ice cream custard with pumpkin puree added. I used the last of my pumpkin from the fall. I added fresh ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg and it s sublime!

Happy eating!

°= from farmer’s market

*= from our garden

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Worm Update

Remember the worms? I don’t always remember that they are there, to tell the truth. They are very quiet there in the corner behind the door, living their wormy little lives. I checked on them last week and found they had just about consumed everything in the box and that lo and behold, the newspaper was actually gone, turned into beautiful rich dark compost.

But it’s full of worms and the idea is to separate the worms from the compost by getting them to migrate into a fresh pile of newspaper and food. Time for some worm wrangling!

The tools of a worm wrangler – shredded newspaper, food scraps, water.

With supplies at the ready, I removed the lid and went to work. Some worms were on top of the cardboard, sure sign they are looking for something to eat. I moved the worm-filled compost to one side and layered newspaper, food, more newspaper, wetting it nicely as I went.

You can see the nice dark compost on the left…can’t wait to feed it to my favorite plants! I covered the new food pile with cardboard and am now imagining a worm race to greener pastures. Perhaps when all is very quiet tonight as I lay in bed I will be able to hear the stampede!


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Rhubarb Streusel Cake

This recipe was given to my mother by our dear family friend, Ruth Strelbski, and reminds me of her when I use it. Not because she used to make it but because she used to cut things out of the newspaper and give them to people she thought would like them…And she was like an aunt to us growing up, a slightly crazy, mildly scary, but loving aunt! So if you make it, think of her (or your own slightly crazy, slightly scary but loving aunt)!

Rhubarb Streusel Cake (from the Intelligencer)

1 1/2 cup flour (I usually use a mixture of white and whole wheat)

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

5 tablespoons butter cut in small pieces

1/2 cup milk

1 egg

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (I use a packet of vanilla sugar as extract is not readily available here)

3 cups sliced rhubarb (or most any other fruit you want to use)

Combine dry ingredients in bowl of food processor*. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles corn meal. Beat egg with milk and vanilla and add while processor is running. Mix until just blended. Spread into greased 9×9 pan. Scatter rhubarb on top. In a small sauce pan over low heat melt 3 tablespoons butter, 1/2 cup brown sugar and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (or mistakenly grab the nutmeg and use that instead like I did last time!). Pour over the top. Bake in a preheated 400°F oven for 25 minutes

*I think the original recipe said to cut in the butter by hand, but I do it as described above.

We usually serve it warm with milk poured over, or with ice cream.

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