Thursday, June 30, 2011

Still alive!

Things have really started filling out in the garden. The first day we dug up the area, it seemed huge to me and I didn't think we'd be able to fill all that space... Now it almost seems like I don't have enough room. There are still some plants I had hoped to include that I don't have, either because I couldn't track down plants or seeds in time; or, I planted seeds and then killed them. Yes, I have managed to kill quite a few plants so far. BUT... There are still lots growing quite well. I think I'll even have fresh cucumbers soon!

I'd like to include a sketched plot of the garden eventually, but in the meantime, here are some photo updates.

First harvest! These are baby Rainbow Swiss Chard leaves. Before eating the above leaves, I had never tasted the plant. It's so colourful though, I wanted to include it in the garden. Turns out it's not my favourite tasting vegetable, but it does add some nice colour to a dish, and if I sauté it, it blends well with other flavours.

I didn't make anything special with our first food from the garden. Just a quick chickpea/potato dish to eat while working. It was a couple weeks ago now, so I can't remember quantities too well, but it went something like this:

Potatoes, chopped and boiled until soft.
Garlic and onion, chopped and sautéed with olive oil.
1 can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed.
Chopped rainbow swiss chard (yay!)
Baby spinach leaves
Cilantro, chopped.
Garam Masala powder
salt and pepper

Add spices to softened onion and garlic; add chickpeas and drained potatoes and stir together; add greens. Serve with lemon. Simple, but healthy and filling.

My niece Jordyn helps water the plants a week or two after we dug up the area.

Here you can see the trellises I made out of bamboo and plastic zip ties. It was a rather tedious and time consuming task, but when the cheapest pre-made ones I could find were $15.99 each (I would have needed at least six, and likely more than that), I decided it would probably be worth it. And it was--I made everything I needed and only spent $15 total. They aren't as attractive as the ones I wanted to buy, but hopefully they'll be covered with plants before long, right?

Here's the garden a couple weeks after the last photo. Looking greener!

And again.

And here, clockwise from the bottom right: cilantro, chamomile, basil, sweet thai basil, butternut squash, cucumber (so far, the fastest growing plant, I think), and the tomatoes that were eaten all the way back to just stalks a few weeks before by birds and beetles in the yard.

Oh, yes, there was a tomato fiasco! At the time, I was devastated because I'd been growing these tomato plants from seed since February. Tomatoes were actually the motivating force behind me starting a garden at all, and for a while there, I thought I was going to lose all the plants. Miraculously though, (or so it seemed to me!) my tomato stalks sprouted new leaves and have nearly caught up with the rest of the plants. Phew!

Those skewers sticking out of the ground had once supported healthy, young tomato plants.

More to come!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

When it's too hot to cook...

It's the first really, really hot day. Too hot to make oatmeal, too hot for a sandwich. But you've got to eat something, right?

In the summer, I often have smoothies for either breakfast or lunch. They're fast, healthy and easy. Summer is always a busy time too, so it's nice to not have to involve a lot of dishes (especially when you haven't got a dishwasher--the last thing I want to do is spend 30 minutes with my hands immersed in hot water).

My first smoothie of the season:

2 bananas
1 1/2 cups of frozen blueberries
1-1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4-1/2 cup ground flax seed (I usually put flax, oatmeal or both into my smoothies. Makes it a little more filling)
Enough orange juice to get the consistency you want (I probably used around 1 1/2 cups).

Blend and drink!

Serves 2.

And that's lunch!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Growing Supper

I've decided to try and grow a vegetable garden this year, since I have space for the first time. Now every morning my first thought after waking up is 'I wonder how the plants are doing.' Last night I even dreamt about the garden. Or the yard at least. There was lettuce, spinach, and rainbow swiss chard popping up all over the lawn where I hadn't planted it... If only it were that easy!

Now, I've never done this before... so who knows, I could just end up killing everything and getting stuck with an empty patch of dirt where the grass and Creeping Charlie once thrived. I did manage to kill a cactus once. But you have to start somewhere, right?

So here's the yard pre-roto tiller:

The long weekend in May was the first time we really had a chance to spend a good chunk of time outside. It's hard work, this gardening thing! After two days spent out in the sun hauling pieces of turf to the back of the yard and bending over to dig holes in the dirt for planting, my back was killing me! And oh, the sunburn! By the end of the holiday Monday, we were happy to just sit on the back porch, sangria in hand, surveying our work while it rained.

My first successful pitcher of sangria was a last minute throw-together. I know you're supposed to let it sit, but I hadn't had the idea in time for that. Maybe it was just the exhaustion tainting my perception, but I was pretty happy with it:

1/4 cup triple sec
1/4 cup gin
the couple shots of vodka we had left
1/2 cup of orange juice
1/2 freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
1 bottle of red wine
frozen blueberries instead of ice cubes

But before that was all of this:

Once we started digging up the garden area, we quickly became aware of the fact that our backyard is pretty much pure clay. It's so thick that I thought maybe we should just build a kiln instead and become potters since we've got an ample supply of the stuff under the grass.

So, off we went to The Glasshouse to pick up some peat moss and sheep manure to try and fix the situation.

We added six bags of manure and 3.8 cubic metres of peat moss to our garden and roto tilled the whole thing again. Here's the garden area after we finished:

On top of the vegetables, we thought we'd try and grow some flowers beside the deck.... so far it's just dirt. But soon there will be wildflowers and echinacea growing... Well, I hope there will be!

There was a small pile of bricks beside our front porch when we moved in here last October, so we relocated them to the back to use as stepping stones. I made a teepee for the climbing beans in the centre out of bamboo poles from the dollar store. You can see the few plants I got in the ground before it started to pour. From left to right there's Butternut Squash, English Cucumber, Tomato, Scarlett Runner and Golden Wax beans around the teepee, and more Tomato. In front is the garlic I started last fall.

Still lots more plants to put in the ground yet though...

Monday, May 23, 2011

You talked me into it.

I'm always posting pictures of food on Facebook. I love food, what can I say!? And I really like sharing it with people (usually to eat, but also to look at). Last time I updated my 'food' album, my friend Tiffany suggested I start a blog and share the recipes along with the pictures. Why not, I thought? I've also decided to try my hand at gardening for the first time this year, so it seemed like a good time to start documenting all-things-edible in my creative life.

So, to kick things off, here's the picture that inspired the recipe request from Tiffany. I made these a week ago for the first time. It was an experiment; to be honest, almost everything I make is an experiment... I'm lucky I have good friends who are willing to let me try things out on them when they come for dinner!


Preheat 1 1/2 - 2 inches of peanut oil.

4 shallots (or 1 small onion) chopped finely
1 carrot, coarsely grated
1 potato, coarsely grated (you could probs use sweet potato)
a handful of spinach, torn

Mix vegetables together and coat with 2 large tbl of plain yogurt.
Measure out 1 cup chickpea flour and season with the following spices (these quantities are approximate):
½ tsp tumeric
2 tbl garam masala
¼ tsp cinnamon
Red pepper flakes or cayenne to taste

Toast the following spices and grind with mortar and pestle before adding to flour:
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds

Whisk dry ingredients together and add to veggie mix.
Drop spoonfuls of the mixture into the oil and fry until golden. Remove from oil and place on paper towel. Serve 'em hot or they'll get soggy!