Monday, January 30, 2012

Harvest Monday............01/30/2012

I finally decided to harvest all of the Baby Choi in the cold frame. I think it was just in the nick of time! Some of the outer leaves were turning yellow and they were just about to bolt.   

Do you believe that there are still hungry live slugs living in the cold frames?? Occasionally I leave them open for several nights in a row, hoping to kill off some of the bugs. I guess that once the Tatsoi is harvested, I should take the tops off. 

It was a decent harvest weighing in at 2.83 lbs.

Hop on over to Daphne's Dandelions, our host of Harvest Monday to see what's going on in Veggie Gardens around the globe!!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Thursday's Kitchen Cupboard..........1/26/2012

Since I did an inventory of all of our stored & canned goods and posted it last week, I thought that I better get the freezer inventory done as well. Here's what we have left.    

Baby Choi - (2) pkgs.
Blackberries - (1) lg. bag
Celery - (3) full pkgs. (2) partial pkgs.
Chard - (2) pkgs.
Corn - (2) pkgs.
Eggplant - (2) pkgs.
Leeks - (2) pkgs.
Peas, shelled - (5) pkgs.
Peas, purple podded - (4) pkgs.
Peas, snow - (8) pkgs.
Peppers, sweet - (8) pkgs.
Peppers, roasted sweet - (7) pkgs.
Pesto - (4) pkgs.
Strawberries - (2) 1 lb. pkgs.
Zucchini, fried slices - (2) pkgs.
Zucchini, sliced - (2) pkgs.

Scalloped Potatoes - (2) 1 1/2 lb. pkgs.
Zucchini Parm. - (1) 2 lb. pkg.

With what is left in the freezer along with the other stored goods and cold frame crops. I think that we will be good!      

Now onto some cooking from the cupboard this week. Sunday, Mark posted a Chicken & Lentil Soup recipe here. Boy, it looked good. So, I decided to make my own version. This is what I came up with.          

Chicken & Lentil Soup       

  • Olive Oil
  • 1 Large onion - chopped
  • 2 small cloves of garlic - minced
  • 1 stalk celery - chopped
  • 1 ½ Carrots (the last of the carrots) - chopped
  • 1 Pint Tomatoes
  • ½ Cup White Wine
  • 5 Cups Chicken Stock
  • ½ tsp Paprika
  • White Pepper
  • Bay Leaf
  • Chicken - fresh diced or leftover diced
  • ½ lb. Lentils - I used these little black lentils that we had

  1. Chop Celery, Carrots & Onions. Mince garlic
  2. In a large stockpot, saute onions in oil for a few minutes, add chicken & saute until onions are glossy. 
  3. Add Celery, Carrots, Garlic & Paprika and saute for about 10 more minutes
  4. Add wine and cook for about 2 minutes
  5. Stir in tomatoes, chicken stock, lentils, pepper & bay leaf
  6. Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for at least 1 hour or until the lentils are tender.
  7. You may add some salt if desired
  8. Serve and Enjoy!
I put a little grated Cheddar Cheese on my soup. You could also use Parmesan Cheese. "The Italian" ate his plain.

What's been going in or out of your Cupboard  lately???

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Trying to get a Head Start on some Carrots

Since we are now carrot less in this house. I thought that I would bring one of my big plastic pots that I grow carrots in from outside. I brought it to the basement to thaw out first. Then I added some composted manure, vermiculite, peat and some composted soil that I managed to chip off the top of one of the beds out back. I went outside a couple of times after the sun was shining on the soil for several hours (before the snow) and did manage to get enough for the pot.

After I added everything to the pot, I added more water. It was a bit too much so then I let it dry out for a couple of days. After drying out, the soil temperature was a bit too cold for germination. So I took one of the many rope lights we have and wrapped it around the pot. The next day the soil was warm enough for germination. 

Next I put some seed mats that I had made (Granny's famous seed mat tutorial can be found here) on the soil, covered them with some vermiculite and burlap. Now I have to remember to keep them moist in order for them to germinate.

Since the basement is quite cool, I think that I am going to leave the lights on for awhile

Once they start growing, I will move them to the table in the tool area of the basement and lower one of the shop lights to give them light. I'll keep you updated on how this experiment works out.

Are there any other crazy gardeners out there trying something new to get a jump start on the garden this year???

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Garden & Cold Frames January 20, 2012

I thought that I would take some pictures of the winter garden today. We are supposed to have our first winter snow starting tonight into tomorrow evening. I am really looking forward to a real snow. We haven't had any snow since our crazy Halloween Snow Storm!

This is the Cold Frame on the Left.
This is where all the Pak Choi was growing that I harvested a couple of weeks ago. There is some Kale, Collards & a Celery plant in the back. There's also two Tatsoi plants in the middle which will be harvested soon. In the front of the bed are some small lettuces. Later this winter after the Tatsoi is harvested I will put some more Kale, Collards and Arugula in this bed for some early spring harvests. 

This is the Cold Frame on the Right.
This side is pretty much packed full right now. There is one row of Kale in the back and also a row of Baby Choi which is really big. The center is packed full of Tatsoi , some lettuce and a few green onions. In the front of the bed there are some Escarole plants and more lettuce. Once this bed is cleaned out with the exception of the Kale, the bed will left empty until I sow carrots in it.

Some Escarole and lettuce tucked in.

Some baby lettuce plants

Some more lettuce and green onions tucked in between the Tatsoi

The spinach bed has spinach of every size in it right now. I hope that this bed will give a great spring spinach harvest!

There are still a couple of green parsley plants in the herb garden.

Is there anything going on in your garden, cold frames or greenhouse mid-winter??

The first Soil Blocks & Blogger Issues Update

For all of my fellow blogger buddies, I still can't comment on many of your blogs. Things were better for a short period of time yesterday. I was able to post a comment over at Veggie Pack's blog. Then things went bad again. I even tried using one of our newer computers. Hopefully, this issue will be resolved soon.

Update: I just discovered a way around the Blogger comment issue. I logged onto the internet in Google Chrome and everything works fine!

Now let's talk about some gardening! I finally got around to trying the new soil block maker that "The Italian" bought me for my birthday. I ended up purchasing a soil mixture on-line for my initial blocks. There are a few reasons for this decision. One, the garden centers around here are only open on the weekends right now and most likely won't have what I need in stock to make the blocks. Two, I wanted to see what the consistency of the mixture should be. Lastly, the cost of purchasing all of the ingredients would far out weigh the cost of buying a pre-made mixture for the small amount of initial blocks being made. I am however planning to purchase all of the ingredients for the big planting as this will be the most cost effective way to make a lot of blocks.

The blocks were extremely easy to make. I just combined the mixture with some water, let it sit and made the blocks. For any of you who are going to start making soil blocks this year, you can go here or to Johnny's site to read and watch some good videos on making the blocks.

This isn't the best picture...but, I didn't feel like uncovering them and taking more pics.

After I made them, they were covered with plastic and another tray. I will check on them periodicly to see if they need water. Once they germinate, I will remove the tray to allow light in.

I really think that the blocks will save me a lot of time and space. I really hate everything involved in using plastic pots.

I will do updates and things progress. Now, get making those soil blocks!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Thursday's Kitchen Cupboard...........1/19/2012

Last season I canned approximately 300 jars of goodness. My "Preserving Page" is not totally accurate since I tend to forget to add some things to it.

Yesterday I did an inventory of the canned goods in the cupboard. We started out with about 220 jars of misc. foods and 81 jars of tomatoes and tomato puree. To date we have 120 jars of misc. food and 38 jars of tomatoes and tomato puree. We gifted a lot of canned goods for Christmas as we always do. However, we did not gift one single jar of tomatoes or tomato puree. In five months we used 53% of our tomatoes and tomato puree. That means that I'm going to have to ration "The Italian's" tomato use in order to make it through. I guess that my 100 jar goal is a must around here.

With regard to other "stored goods", it looks like we are going have "just enough" garlic and onions. I am however increasing the amount of these two items in the garden this year since "just enough" is not enough. We are not going to have potatoes for much longer. I'm sure we will survive since we both need to loose some poundage right now. The potato plantings are also increasing this year. Although our squash storage is adequate, I am changing some of the varieties for this year.

We are definitely good in the herb and spice department. But, very short in the carrot department. We only have two carrots left. My new garden plans include a lot more carrots. There is enough frozen celery left to use for cooking. This year I am going to plant some celery later in the season and try storing it in sand for the winter.

As far as the frozen veggie inventory goes, I have yet to do it. I am positive that we will have plenty to get us through the year though....especially when it comes to peppers!

The cold frames have been doing very well. We did harvest all of the Pak Choi a couple of weeks ago and I am planning to harvest the giant Baby Choi soon.

So, what have we been cooking this past week?? Well, Tuesday I made a great Split Pea Soup! I found the recipe here. Sunday my in-laws gave us a great ham bone with lots of meat on it....and what a great winter dinner it made!

I only made a couple of changes to the recipe. I did not add salt or bullion cubes and used some beef stock and some water instead of all water. I also used ground white pepper instead of peppercorns.

Split Pea & Ham Soup

  • 8 cups water ( or a combination of water and beef stock)
  • 1 large ham bone
  • 2 cups green dried split peas
  • 2 large carrots diced small
  • 2 medium onions chopped small
  • 2 large celery ribs, include leaves, chop small
  • 1 large bay leaf
  • 2 beef bullion cubes -  I did not use any bullion
  • 1 teaspoon salt - I did not use any salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed black peppercorns - I used ground white pepper
  • 1 pinch dried thyme

1.   Rinse peas well in cold water and add to a large cooking pot.
2.   Measure 8 cups of water and add to cooking pot.
3.   Bring to boil, remove from heat, cover and let sit for 1 hour.
4.   Return to stove and bring back to boil.
5.   Add ham bone, carrots, onions, celery, bay leaf, beef bouillon, salt, peppercorns and dried thyme.
6.   Reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook for about 1 to 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.
7.   Remove ham bone and cut off any remaining ham, cut into bite size pieces and return to soup.
8.   Discard bone & bay leaf
9.   Adjust seasonings to taste.
10.  Serve & Enjoy!

As usual I forgot to take a picture before dinner! This is my lunch bowl the next day.

So, what's been going in or out of your Cupboard lately......and how's your inventory???

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Garden Planning.......Decisions, Decisions

I have been diligently working on the garden layouts for the plots. As of today, we have two plots side by side. We may get another plot. But, I am not counting on it.

I've managed to fit most everything in the smaller space. All of the paths aren't as wide as I had before. This little change has given me quite a bit more space then I thought we would have.

As many of you know, I have a lot of different varieties of seeds that I have collected over the years. Some of them I have purchased and others have been free or gifted to me. I don't plant everything that I have every year. But, I do plant a lot of different varieties each year.

I am having a hard time making a decision on the watermelons. I have four varieties and only two locations for them to be planted. I guess that I could plant two varieties in each location. However, I am concerned about cross-pollination??? For this reason I am thinking of planting two varieties.

These are the varieties of watermelon seeds that I have; Sugar Baby, Moon & Stars, Congo & Crimson Sweet. So, have any of you planted any of these varieties.....and how were they???

Here is a link to the Plots Layout. I was planning on posting this as a picture. But, I have been having technical difficulties all day!!! I also have detailed layouts completed for each bed. Once I get my computer issues under control, I will post them.

I have had nothing but problems since this computer updated last week! I can't even comment on some of your blogs!! Sorry Jane!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Thursday's Kitchen Cupboard..........1/12/2012

We had some good meals this week made with stores from our cupboard! We had a great Chili Con Carne made with canned tomatoes, onion, garlic and dried beans....all from the garden! We also used some of the fresh pak choi and frozen veggies in an Asian mung bean dish.

But, here is something else that was made with some stored goodness. Some of you may remember this post on goodies that I made with pears. "The Italian" decided to use the pear syrup and a pear to make a couple of Pear Martinis. Boy, were they good!

Pear Martini

  • 1 1/2 ounces of Vodka
  • 1 ounce of Pear Liqeur - he used Poire William
  • 1 ounce of Pear Syrup (this could probably be substitued with pear liquid from canned pears)
  • 1/2 of a canned Pear
  • Crushed Ice
  1. Chill martini glasses with crushed ice and water
  2. Add some crushed ice to your martini shaker then add all ingredients, except the pear
  3. Shake & pour
  4. Serve with half of a pear
  5. Enjoy!

Isn't that lovely??

I'm not a big pear fan.....but I really loved this martini! It was just right and not too sweet!

What's been going in or out of your cupboard lately??

Friday, January 6, 2012

It's Garden Planning Time!!!

I have been spending a lot of time working on this year's garden planning. So far, I have gone through all of my seeds & updated my list, ordered all of the seeds that I "NEED"  with the exception of seed potatoes and onion plants. The varieties and sources for them have been selected. All I have to do now is order them. Do you believe that I have 171 different varieties of seeds??

I have also created a new Excel workbook. This workbook includes a sheet with all of my veggie seed varieties, source of seed, how many days, age of seed, quantity and gardening costs. The second sheet has all of the dates for germinating & planting, how much we need and how many of each veggie will be planted where. The third sheet has all of the herbs & flower information. The fourth sheet is for the weekly harvests. This sheet adds everything up and calculates the value of the harvests. I am in the process of adding additional sheets to this workbook which will include details of each variety which links to the first sheet. I will probably add sheets with the garden layouts to the workbook also. Putting all this together takes a lot of time. But, it's much better then having the information in several different places. It will also make my life much easier when things get going in the garden. It may sound a little nerdy....but, I just love doing it!

I do have preliminary layouts for the plots and home garden done. Right now they are done in pencil on graph paper. You would think that I would have them done on the computer. But, I really like having them on paper. That way, I can change things and also take the paper with me to the plots....just in case I forget what I had planned.

This year I am adjusting the starting dates to many of the veggies for two reasons. One, last year I thought I was going to go crazy with all of the tomato, pepper and eggplant starts. The plants got so big so fast. I grow these for myself and four other people. Two, with the Community Garden moving. I really don't want the plants too big too early. At this point, it's anyone's guess when the ground will be ready over there.

So, what kind of garden planning are you doing???

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Thursday's Kitchen Cupboard............1/05/2012

Since we had a nice harvest of pak choi a few carrots and a little broccoli head last week. I made another Stir Fry using those veggies, some onions, peppers, snow peas, celery & chicken. It is such a pleasure to have all these wonderful veggies from our own garden right here in our cupboard! We were out of the "good" soy sauce though. So, I used a brand that can be purchased at any grocery store. Boy, what a difference a good soy sauce makes!

"The Italian" also made a easy pasta dinner called "Pasta Piselli". There are two different ways to make this Italian dish. One is with a red sauce and the other isn't. I think the one that he makes with a red sauce is more common in Sicily. I totally forgot to take a picture of it. Here's this great and easy recipe.

Pasta Piselli

  • Canned plain Tomato Puree, Sauce or Tomatoes
  • Olive Oil
  • Chopped Onions
  • Peas
  • Spaghetti
  1. Heat a little olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat and saute the chopped onions for a few minutes
  2. Add puree, sauce or tomatoes. If you are using whole tomatoes, I puree them with an immersion blender before adding them to the onions
  3. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer until sauce is thick. This should not take more then about 45 minutes, much less if you are using puree or sauce.
  4. Add peas and server over spaghetti
  5. That's it! Enjoy!
Another great dinner we have had recently is Paprika Pork Chops with Pak Choi & Kale

Paprika Pork Chops w/Greens

  • Pork Chops
  • Spices: Paprika, Salt & Pepper
  • Olive Oil
  • Wine for deglazing, I used a white wine
  • Stock, I usually used about 1 1/2 Cups of  Beef Stock for 2 Pork Chops
  • Cornstarch for thickening
  • Chopped Greens of choice. I used Pak Choi and Kale. I separate the stalks from the leaves of the Pak Choi as the stalks take longer to cook
  1. Salt & Pepper Chops and then pat them with a generous amount of Paprika on both sides
  2. Heat a little Olive Oil in a deep frying pan or french skillet over medium high heat. You can also add a little butter for flavor if you wish.
  3. Sear Pork Chops on both sides, then remove to a plate
  4. Deglaze pan with wine
  5. Add stock and some cornstarch for thickening. I used about 1 Tbsp.
  6. Bring back to a boil
  7. Return Pork Chops to pan, add the stalks of the pak choi, lower heat to a simmer
  8. Cover the pan and cook the chops until they are almost done. The time will depend on the thickness of the chops. But shouldn't be more then a few minutes on each side.
  9. Add the leaves of the pak choi and other greens of choice and cook for about 2-3 minutes longer
  10. This dish can be served over rice, by itself or with fried rice


What's been going in or out of your Cupboard lately?

Monday, January 2, 2012

Harvest Monday.............01/02/2012

This week's Harvest Monday post includes the last harvest of 2011 and the first little harvest for 2012.

The Pak Choi in the one cold frame was starting to bolt. So, I pulled all of it. It really turned out to be a great year end harvest!

Not bad for the end of December....31.55 ounces!
As you can see, the bugs are still alive and doing a little nibbling on the veggies. I certainly hope that we get some seasonably cold weather this winter. If not, I am going to have a real bug problem come spring!

The last four carrots from the cold frames were pulled.

The big carrot weighed in at 4 ounces!

There was also some spinach to pick in the spinach bed.

It wasn't a lot. Just enough to put in the bottom of the fish casserole I was making with the left overs from our Christmas Eve feast.

Yesterday we stopped by the plots. I wanted to check on things since I haven't been there for a few weeks.  While I was there I harvested a little broccoli crown.

Our first harvest of 2012...weighing in at 2 ounces!

Total weighed Harvests: 2011 - 2.64 lbs., 2012 - 2 oz. 

Carrots - 8.7 oz.
Pak Choi - 31.55 oz.
Spinach - 2 oz.

Broccoli - 2 oz.

Stop by Daphne's Dandelions, our host of Harvest Monday to see what's happening in Veggie Gardens around the globe!!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Gardening Year!

Last year was an interesting gardening year for me. I had the excitement and hard work of getting our plots at the Community Garden. Although the extremes in the weather made for some disappointments. Looking back at the pictures, it was an amazing transformation.

February 24, 2011

May 16, 2011

July 14, 2011

August 31, 2011

As many of you know, the Community Garden is moving to a new location this, I get to do this all over again! I am really going to need a lot of support and please remind me that all the hard work will once again turn into this





All in all I really can't complain about 2011. We got to meet 3 Garden Bloggers: Laura, Marcia and the crew at Spring Garden Acre. Now, what can be better then meeting some great new people?

We also ended the year with a harvest total of 726.25 lbs. Although I really did expect the total to be much higher. Who can complain about........

a couple of full cupboards, a full freezer and lots of other good veggies stored away to fill our bellies with great and nutritious food??

"The Italian" and I wish each and everyone of you a Happy, Healthy & Bountiful New Year!