Tuesday, May 29, 2012

How Does Your Garden Grow? {May 29, 2012} ...finally!

I have to start with this carrot. You see, we haven't had much luck with carrots over the years and when we saw these greens bursting forth from our garden, we really thought we were on to something great. The pride was incredible...and then we pulled it. Gardening sure can be humbling.

 These are some of my Hidatsa Reds. I threw seeds in every conceivable spot in our yard this year. This planter usually houses rosemary and tulips. This year I added in beans, sunflowers and potatoes. Yes, I had a couple extra...why not?

 Do you think I should thin out my cucumbers? I haven't had much luck with these over the years either. I planted some seed in some containers which I WILL thin, however, I am not sure what will be best for them after I do that. Tomato cage? Put next to a wall with a trellis? I am completely open to suggestions.

A special welcome to Flash, our newest source of fertilizer joy! He is incredibly sweet and the kids adore him. We haven't had a pet since our pup passed away two years ago. There is a pretty good chance that I just broke the dam. You see, at one point I had a 250 gallon salt water tank, 10 goldfish, 2 geckos. 5 toads, 2 hamsters and a dog. Then came the Lil Man and only the dog and goldfish stayed. I like pets...stay tuned.
 The peas are doing their pea thing. A friend, who is incredibly talented in the kitchen, suggested sautéing the tendrils and that they are one of her absolute favorite things. We are trying them tonight.

 Hmmm...pests. I am guessing that these are of the hoofed variety. The netting must go back down. Sad. The Good Apple will tell you that he doesn't mind if the deer eat his share of the chard, little does he know that it has been in all of his salads lately. Ya, take that. 

 The Lemon Balm is a constant battle these days, so buyer beware. Apparently, deer don't like to eat it...

...so they HAD to move right on to the chard!! It is encroaching on everything and I am pulling it out of my beds almost daily. Wahhhh. I know. Does my chard need a little thinning? Yes, and THAT is what I have been putting in our salads...the bits that I am thinning out! A friend gave me that great idea and we have been enjoying the "thinnings" from our spinach, chard and kale in most of our salads.

Our sunflower seed starts were over a foot tall and a wee bit pathetic, so I planted all 50+ of them today in various parts of the yard. Fingers crossed, these are another plant I have not had as much success as I would like. I had set out to plant them with the Lil Man since he started them, however, his new KungFu Panda toys won and I was left to plant on my own...or so I thought. Lil Miss (who had just ripped off her diaper and threw it in the grass) handed me each and every sunflower start. My mama heart was l e a p i n g. Honestly, it made my day to have her want to help out. Back and forth to the tray, she brought them to me, one by one. Love.

I am still doing my photo a day challenge and I just had to share this little beauty that I captured yesterday. I love poppies even though they never last long. Look at that red. Divine.

So...tell me...how is your garden doing?


Sunday, May 27, 2012


First, I was inspired. Sometimes all of the food rules are put on hold for a special day.

That being said. I have already dreamed up a better version of this. Stay tuned.

All photos are taken by Val Curtis and can be used with permission only.


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

How Does Your Garden Grow? {May 22, 2012}

Everything is growing. Last Spring was so wet and muddy and this year...well this year we have had a beautiful Spring. Sunny days followed by a day or two of rain, perfect for germination and growth. The weeds are noticing as well, but I am going to focus on the intentional growth.
Our peas are filling out nicely. The shelling peas in the background even have flowers!

We are adding radishes and asparagus to our meals. I just have to tell you, there is not any color enhancement in these photos. Deep greens and robust reds on our dinner plates. A friend suggested slicing and roasting the radishes. Ooh la la, I will be trying that this week.
Look at that. These are the days I linger in the garden. Last year was such a disappointment that these prizes feel like an incredible reward for returning to the task and believing in the possibilities of what can happen when seeds and soil meet.

We added our cherry tomato plants to the beds this week along with two broccoli seedlings and a patty pan seedling. I can't wait.

Signs of life in the garden: radishes, oregano, sunflowers, peas, spinach, romaine lettuce, cucumbers, strawberries, potatoes, corn, beans, pumpkins, raspberries, asparagus, artichokes, summer savory, chard, kale, leeks and apple gourds. Here we go. Excitement mounts as we make our daily rounds. This is why we garden.

A fun aside about our garden this year, we are seeing new bird species. Collared Doves, baby American Goldfinches, Chipping Sparrows are all new inhabintants. So far, they are welcome. The doves are sitting on the top of our potato box posts every morning. They are like perfect little ornaments perched and watching. Love it. The baby goldfinches were sitting on the edge of the garden bed, patiently allowing my littles to watch them. We have seen the adults before, but never their littles. I Love Spring and the myriad of opportunities it allows to learn about growth, change and abundance by your own hand. Who are your feathered friends?

...and tell me, how is your garden doing? I can't wait to see!


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

How Does Your Garden Grow? {May 15, 2012}

Nasturtiums in.
Marigolds in.
Edible Wildflower mix in.
Howden and Sugar Pie Pumpkins in.
Cherry Belle radishes in.
Apple Gourds in.
**another secret planting of corn and beans**

We have been enjoying fresh mixed green salads, radishes and asparagus. So, why am I feeling like such a grump? Here is a sampling:

Do you see the common theme there? My garden is in jail. It used to be free. Free to grow. Free to stretch it's green limbs. Free to be pollinated and watered and weeded. Now I am in a constant battle with chicken wire and bird netting, screaming expletives while I am trying to enjoy the joys of gardening. I have NOT been feeling the love, even though everything is growing behind the maze of wire and nylon. It is as if the cages are defying the very positive psychological effects of gardening. Bah. Yes, I know. Debbie Downer.

One more whiney point. Two years ago, we planted 25 male asparagus crowns. Last year we ended up with red berries...EVERYWHERE. I am guessing male plants don't have red berries. This week, these popped up...EVERYWHERE. See a pattern?

potato plants
potato plant
cucumber seedlings
Hidatsa Red Bean plants

Yes, I realize that I should be happy about the verdant pictures above. Everything is growing and not getting chewed by teeth that do not belong to me or my family. I get that and believe me, I am happy we will be seeing the results on our table. Wah wah wah.

Do you have any helpful hints? 

HAPPY NOTE: Congratulations to TONYA! There was a three-way tie with 3 correct each. I used random.org and she won!  Tonya, you won a $20 gift certificate to Territorial Seeds. Send me an email with your mailing info. XOXO

I promise to be a bit jollier next week. Promise. Maybe I didn't get enough dirt under my nails this week or perhaps I wasn't able to pull enough weeds to get that euphoric surge of "making things right". Next week. 

I AM thankful that a dear friend went to the island Master Gardeners' Plant Sale and purchased some great starts for me and that two island friends brought six tomato starts to be added to our garden. LOVE and thank you for thinking of me. 

Most of all, I am thankful that the Good Apple and the Lil Man brought in a bouquet of flowers to me on Mother's Day. It was full of purple lilacs that had to be reached from the top of a ladder, parrot tulips and precious dandelions since my kiddo "knew I would just love them in there!". He was oh, so right.  Who knew that a hard-to-reach lilacs and a carefully placed dandelion would move me to tears? 

Well netting, be damned. There was joy from the garden this week.

So tell me, how is YOUR garden growing?

Friday, May 11, 2012

{this moment} wheels, blooms and bubbles

A Friday ritual. A simple, special, extraordinary moment.
A moment I want to pause, savor and remember with Amanda from Soulemama.


All photos are taken by Val Curtis and can be used with permission only.


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Roasted Veggies

Sliced and chopped
When OXO announced their SLICE IT UP blogger competition I started here; however, once I started slicing and chopping, I couldn't stop. Do you remember the scene in "The Long Kiss Goodnight" when Geena Davis realizes she has some knife skills in the kitchen? Well, maybe not like that, but this isn't a new problem. Whenever an incredible array of organic produce is at my fingertips, I want to roast it or grill it. Tonight was a roasting night. The best part of this recipe is that two trays will easily work their way into at least two meals. In this case, they served as a side dish to ravioli on the first night and alongside teriyaki chicken over brown rice on the second night.

We love our roasted vegetables in this house. I will add them to pasta, throw them in a tortilla with a little salsa and sour cream, add the to soups or serve them alongside meat. To be honest, I am not a snob when it comes to my roasted veggies. I will eat them hot. I will eat them cold. I will eat them with kosher salt and pepper and fresh rosemary. I will eat them with reduced balsamic. I will eat them plain. If it were up to me, they would be part of every meal.

When slicing and chopping, err on the side of making your pieces too big; however, you want them to be consistent. This is where the mandoline is really handy with the sweet potatoes, parsnips, turnips, carrots, cauliflower, zucchini and yellow squash. Small pieces cook to quickly and tend to burn or get mushy. Throw some whole cloves of garlic in and you get a treasure hunt when serving. I usually add 10 cloves or so at the request of my family. I usually chop and slice everything and then break my veggies into two groups: slow roasters and quick roasters.

S  l  o  w roasters:
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Parsnips
  • Turnips
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
Quick roasters:
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Asparagus
  • Red, yellow and orange peppers
  • Broccoli
  • Zucchini
  • Yellow squash
This time I used sweet potatoes, red onions, asparagus, peppers and broccoli.

1) Preheat the oven to 475° and place two large baking sheets inside.

2) Cut the sweet potato and the onion using an OXO mandoline on the 3/4" setting. Slice the peppers into inch wide strips and cut the broccoli into florets.

3) Toss the sweet potato with 1 tbsp of olive oil and slide onto hot baking sheet, making sure they are in one layer. Set timer for 10 minutes.

4) Toss onions, asparagus, peppers and broccoli with 2 tbsp of olive oil. When the timer goes off, add these veggies onto the second sheet and give the sweet potato sheet a good shake. Set the timer for 15 minutes.

5) After 15 minutes, check all of the veggies. There should be a little roasting color, but no burning. If you need a little more time, check every 4 minutes.

6) Remove all veggies from the oven and transfer to a serving bowl. Serve immediately.

Ready to eat roasted veggies
Side note: Tonight I added a few dollops of rosemary, garlic and lemon butter I made for our steaks earlier in the week. It was a first and it WILL be repeated. (Add 1/2 c room temperature butter, 2 tbsp of lemon juice, 2 tbsp fresh rosemary and 5 cloves of garlic to a mason jar. Use a hand mixer to completely chop and mix the ingredients. Scoop into a square of wax paper and create a roll of butter, making sure it is completely covered. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and then you have a delicious flavored butter. Dollop away and add it to EVERYTHING - including your just grilled steaks.)

Tempura Veggies and Spicy Tuna Rolls

Have you subscribed to Mental Chew? Receive new posts via RSS or email (off to the right) starting today!

OXO offered their bloggers a challenge. SLICE IT UP! The winner gets $500 in OXO tools AND a tool that has yet to hit the shelves. SOLD!! I sent the email to the Good Apple and we started brainstorming immediately. When it came down to it, we decided to make our favorite meal: Tempura Vegetables and Spicy Tuna Rolls. This is an eat-as-you-go meal. I would love to offer you a finished photo with everything on one plate, but it would be a lie. We make some, we serve it and eat it. As you will see, we can't even keep little fingers out of the pictures! Cut up as much as you can tolerate eating. 2 cups of tempura mix will cover approximately 2 lbs of veggies.

Tempura Vegetables & Shrimp

  • 2 cups of tempura mix
  • 1 1/2 cups of ice cold water
  • Peanut oil
  • Sweet potato, peeled
  • Broccoli, cut into florets
  • Red onion
  • Asparagus
  • Red, yellow and orange bell peppers, sliced into wide strips
  • 10 cleaned shrimp (no shell)
  1. Using an OXO mandoline at 3/4" setting, slice the sweet potato and red onion.
  2. Heat oil in wok to 375°F.
  3. Mix tempura mix and water in a large bowl. 30 turns and it will be a little lumpy, which is expected.
  4. Make sure veggies and shrimp are patted dry to remove any excess water. Using tongs, dip into tempura batter and then place in hot oil. After 3 minutes, flip and remove when a light golden color is reached. Place on paper towel-lined plate, to remove excess oil.
  5. Serve immediately with your favorite dipping sauce. Our family favorite is the sauce from Bang Bang Cauliflower.

Spicy Tuna Rolls
Makes approximately 4 rolls
  • 2 cups of Niko Niko white rice
  • Seasoned rice vinegar
  • 1 lb of sashimi grade tuna
  • Seaweed
  • 1/4 cup mayo
  • Sriracha sauce
1. Using a rice cooker, cook rice according to package instructions. When done, remove from the rice cooker into a large non-metallic bowl and sprinkle with rice vinegar. Allow it to completely cool.

2. In a small bowl mix mayo and as much Sriracha as you can handle!

3. Dice tuna, into 1/4" chunks and add to mayo mixture.

4. Place seaweed on bamboo sushi roller. Add a thin layer of rice on seaweed leaving a 1/2" space along the bottom edge. Scoop 5 tbsp of tuna mixture along the middle of the rice. Roll from the edge with rice in a tight roll to the open edge. Brush rice vinegar along the open seaweed edge and seal the roll shut.

5. Pour rice vinegar over your sharp knife and then SLICE IT UP! Serve with wasabi and soy sauce.


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

How Does Your Garden Grow? {May 8, 2012}

Every week I think that nothing will get done in the garden and then lo' and behold, it does by some sheer miracle.

This week, I opened my garden journal from last year to see when I did my major planting. It was May 15th. Seeing that it was the 6th, I was feeling pretty good. Last year we had rain. Lots and lots of rain. So much rain that I gave up finding a sunny weekend to plant and went out in the pouring rain and planted most of garden in 45 speedy minutes.

This year, there was no need to race. The sun was shining. The kids were playing. I was digging.

Strawberry plants
I weeded my strawberries for starters and then removed all most of the hay from the beds. I decided to keep it over the gravel between our beds. The weeds and I have had enough of each other. Maybe this will slow them down, ha ha ha. 

Now it was time to plant. 

For some reason, I feel summer edging it's warm fingers into our lives when I am making mounds for my summer squash. 6 for the zucchini. 6 for yellow squash. 4 seeds per mound which will be thinned to 2. Done. I planted three rows of Bantam corn (itty bitty 5 foot rows) at the southern of my largest bed for the Good Apple. He really wants corn and hopefully something will be recognizable by Father's Day. Surprise! The Tiger's Eye beans went in between the corn rows. We will see how that works out. Yes, another experiment in the works and not how I had planned the beds AT ALL. 

Herbs and cucumbers ready to go.
As I was planting, I was thinking about the 30 some containers I have around the yard and I decided to plant 3 varieties of cucumbers (both slicing and pickling), basil and summer savory in 6 containers. Later this week, I will plant some romaine lettuce in containers as well. You do realize that since I freed up all of the space in the beds that I will get to plant something unplanned in there, right? Unplanned space never lasts long around here. Ideas are already whirling around my Teflon Brain (nothing sticks here, it just whirls).  After all of the seeds were nestled in to their new homes, I promptly put chicken wire over the top. Birds

Lil Miss spying on the Towhee
Speaking of birds, the Towhee is back. I am not kidding. Lil Miss and I were moseying about the garden this morning and I could hear his call. Next thing I knew, he popped around the corner as if to say, "Ah ha fool gardener! It is I!" and he started doing his Towhee thing all over the yard. At least my peas are already growing, but I am a bit worried about the corn and the beans. Bird netting time.

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned these blood meal "bells" I placed around my tulips to attempt to keep the deer away. They are working. Now that I typed that, I am afraid they will no longer work. But seriously, my tulips are all still standing (except for the spent batches I pulled today). Small miracles. Yeah for the stinky little blood meal bells. I think I will be lining my big beds with them.

White lilac
So, plants are growing. Seeds are planted. You can smell the intoxicating fragrance of the lilacs in the yard and as you walk down the street. Forget-me-nots are peeking out of the planters and pumpkins and gourds are still waiting to be planted. Sunflower starts are stretching their necks toward the sun, much to the pleasure of a certain almost 5 year old. The sun is warm on our shoulders as we fertilize the soil. Good times in the garden.

Finally, the herbs are growing well. A little spindly, but they are growing. Remember how I so wisely labeled them with a dry erase marker? Well, with a little help from a gardener friend and some deductive reasoning, we figure it out. Can YOU identify these herbs? I will have something special for the reader that has the most correct by Sunday, May 13, 2012 at 11 PM PST (Mother's Day...don't forget!). Just submit your response in the comments. I will announce the winner during next week's "How Does Your Garden Grow?".

On that note, share with me. How is your garden growing?

 === Past issues of How Does Your Garden Grow? ===

Friday, May 4, 2012

{this moment}: pen to paper

A Friday ritual. A simple, special, extraordinary moment.
A moment I want to pause, savor and remember with Amanda from Soulemama.

All photos are taken by Val Curtis and can be used with permission only.