Tag Archives: garden

Logan rocks the fishing derby!

15 Jun

As the school year winds down (today is their last day), things have been crazy busy with field trips, birthday parties, sleepovers and scout activities. We are having so much fun, but are definitely ready for summer vacation to get underway so we can sleep in a little later, float around the pool in the afternoons and clean some closets (Shh! The kids don’t know about the closet-cleaning part!).

Last night was the year-end Cub Scout event. Our Scoutmaster lives on 40 acres and has a small lake on his property, so he hosted a fishing derby. Everyone brought a dish to share and the kids had a blast fishing. But the highlight of the evening was my one-and-only Logan, who not only caught the most fish, he took home the trophy for catching the biggest fish! He caught a 14.5″ bass, but his winning catch was a 17″ bass. He was so excited he could hardly stand it. My animal-loving kids had no problem releasing their fish back into the lake. It was definitely a night to remember.

Logan with his Scoutmaster and his 14.5″ catch; Logan with Dad and his trophy-winning 17″ catch

Because I have two boys in the Cub Scout Pack, we contributed two things to the potluck — super easy Chocolate Chunk Cookies (from the Duncan Hines website) made with farm fresh eggs, and a delicious little salad that takes advantage of fresh herbs from the garden (recipe to follow).

I can’t remember if I mentioned this in an earlier blog post, but the wild turkeys that have been visiting our property for the last 5 or 6 years decided this year that my garden looked tasty. About 2 weeks after I got the initial seeds in, they stomped their way through all the beds, digging up dirt, tossing seeds everywhere and leaving large holes in areas I had already planted. What a mess. Because many of the seeds had not even sprouted yet, I decided not to weed or try to figure out what was left until I could identify them above ground. So I waited. It’s been a few weeks now, and I’m left with half a row of peas and half a row of beans still in place. I’m missing all of my Swiss chard and most of the rainbow chard. Though my zucchini and yellow squash are growing, I have discovered squash plants growing in other areas where I didn’t even plant them. To top it off, the weeds have gone crazy. I’m so disappointed in my mess of a garden that I can’t even bear the thought of pulling all those weeds out.

The only thing to truly survive is my area of herbs. I planted these from seedlings I bought at the local greenhouse so they are nice and strong and growing well. They came in handy for this recipe. The Mediterranean flavors of this salad work well with just about anything you grill, but especially with veggie burgers, chicken or fish (ethically raised or wild caught, of course). Though this started as a recipe from Cooking Light magazine (June 2005), I have changed it enough that I’m calling it mine. The nice thing about it is that it actually tastes better the next day, so assemble it ahead if you can. Plus, it can be served chilled or at room temperature, making it ideal for a potluck or summer barbecue.

Mediterranean Chickpea and Fresh Herb Salad
serves 8

1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano leaves
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
3/4 cup chopped red onion
20 grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise
1/4 cup pitted and sliced kalamata olives
1/4 cup sliced green olives

In a large bowl, whisk together the vinegar, olive oil, lemon juice and garlic. Stir in fresh herbs. Add the chickpeas, black beans, onion, tomatoes and olives. Stir well to combine and coat everything. Refrigerate at least 3 hours, stirring occasionally. Serve chilled or at room temperature. Enjoy!


My Garden!

5 Aug

I’ve never been what you might call a Green Thumb. I’m actually quite successful at killing houseplants and pretty much anything I plant in my yard. Have been my whole life. As a matter of fact, it’s kind of a joke in my family…how I couldn’t keep a houseplant alive if my life depended on it.

But when it comes to my vegetable garden, I’m pretty dog-gone proud of myself! My vegetables are growing beautifully and I’m harvesting something every day. Actually, my garden has sort of gone crazy. I’ve already harvested all of my peas, green beans, yellow wax beans and lettuces. I’m currently picking zucchini, yellow squash, tomatoes, little cherry peppers and a couple of small beets.
I’m also starting to harvest these interesting little items I planted — Lemon Cucumbers. They’re an heirloom variety and they are quite unusual. They’re the color of lemons, about the size of a tennis ball, yet they taste like a cucumber. Very juicy, too. We’ve enjoyed them in salads, mostly. But the other day we made 10 jars of homemade pickles (to be blogged after we’ve taste-tested them!), and one of the jars includes wedges of the Lemon Cucumber.
One of the funny things about this garden is that the squash, watermelon, cucumbers, gourds and pumpkins are taking over. I have vines going everywhere and every day I’m out there shifting them around, trying to keep them from getting all tangled with one another! In one of my raised beds, I have my 4 tomato cages with tall plants. But the other day I went to check on them and here was this baby crookneck squash hanging up in the tomato cages. I thought, what on earth is that all about?! I started digging through it and found that one of the vines of the ornamental gourds I planted had wound its way across the bed and up into the tomato cages. I tried to direct it out of there, but it was holding on tight and I didn’t want to break it off.

The other thing going absolutely nuts in my garden is the watermelon. I’ve never planted it before so I didn’t know what to expect. The vines are very long and I swear they grow a foot a day! On the day this picture was taken, I had 14 watermelons growing on the three plants. I told my mom about it and she said the nutrients in the vine can’t possibly feed all of those watermelons and I may not get any of them to grow big enough to ripen. She said I needed to pick some of them and toss them.

Okay, I tried. I really did. I picked three of them that had just started growing and put them in my compost pile. I couldn’t bring myself to throw out any of the bigger ones. They’re my babies! I felt horrible just tossing them away! Sigh. A few days later, I did end up picking the biggest one to see if it was ripe. It wasn’t.

All in all, we are loving this size garden. It’s just right for a family of five. The kids enjoy helping out (especially Brady, who goes out there first thing every morning to see what’s changed from the day before). And there’s nothing better than enjoying fresh foods right from your own backyard. Awesome.

Peas and basil and corn, oh my!

26 Jun

I love summer's bounty of fresh vegetables. My garden is growing like crazy and we've already enjoyed various fresh lettuces for the last several weeks. My tomato and green bean plants are covered in blooms, and the squashes are trailing vines and blossoms right over the edges of the garden boxes.

Today, I harvested my first batch of peas! I remember shelling peas as a kid, and eating many of them straight out of the pods. If you ever have the chance to do that, I highly recommend it. The taste and texture are completely different than the frozen peas you get in winter (and don't even mention canned peas to me. Blech.)

Another thing I love? Fresh basil. It's my all-time favorite herb. I have a big pot of it growing on my patio, along with a variety of other herbs. It's fantastic chopped and sprinkled on fresh sliced tomatoes, delicious over pasta with roasted vegetables, tasty in vegetable soup. And, it contains magnesium, potassium, iron, calcium, vitamin C and vitamin A — all of which are beneficial to healthy blood pressure.

Oh, and I love corn on the cob. Is there a more perfect summer food? (Ok, maybe watermelon…or tomatoes…) But, really. Is there anyone that can resist those beautiful, golden ears of corn drizzled in butter (vegan, of course) and sprinkled with cracked black pepper? I don't think so. I wish I had room in my garden for rows and rows of sweet corn. I'll just have to get them at the farmer's market. Here's something interesting I'll bet you didn't know about sweet corn: it offers many health benefits! Apparently, cooking it releases antioxidants that can substantially reduce the chance of heart disease and cancer. Sweet!
My second Eating Well challenge recipe from the July/August 2010 issue combines both of these wonderful flavors into savory little pancakes…and they are divine. My kids devoured the Corn & Basil Cakes (page 37) in no time and were begging for more! 
When I first looked at the recipe, I thought, "half a cup of chopped basil?!" But I went with it, preparing the recipe exactly as listed in the magazine, and I'm so glad I did. I was afraid the basil would overpower the whole pancake, but it was just right. They are super easy to make, have a minimal number of ingredients, and would be absolutely fabulous alongside anything you decide to barbecue…chicken, ribs, tofu, portobello mushrooms, whatever. 
Challenge recipe #2 — another success! Now on to #3…

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