Friday, April 30, 2010

From Peat Pucks to Peat Pots

Friday was the big day! I transplanted the seedlings into pots. Good thing to, when I took off the plastic wrap (see last post) there were pucks that were completely dried out! I had 3 Tomato plants, Sub Artic Plenty, that were looking pretty wilted. I re-soaked the pucks before I planted them in the soil in the pots. I have more seedlings than I need so if some don't make it I'll still be fine.

Thin out the seedlings (leave just one plant in each puck) when the second set of leaves appears. See the tiny set of second leaves? Ready to thin!
Only some of the peppers had the second leaf sets when I thinned them today but the roots were sprouting out of the bottom of the puck so I should be okay. Really you want that second set of leaves to be fully developed before you transplant so again I may be a bit early on the peppers but I'm hoping they'll be okay. As you can see the second set of leaves on the tomatoes are fully developed and the roots were coming out the bottom of the peat pucks which means they were ready for transplanting.

I mixed crushed (more like chopped) eggshells, used coffee grinds, perilite, potting soil and some seed starter potting soil (at some point I realized I was not starting seeds so only a bit of this was used).

I should have soaked the peat pots first. I read that seedlings need water from below, not watering from above so that the roots reach down, good and deep. Remember I mentioned I re-soaked the peat pucks before they went into the pots. I watered the pots from the top thoroughly and then I've spritzed the pots a bit, we'll see how that works. The soil was good and loose so the watering should have soaked down deep. I plan to keep water in the trays I have the pots in so they well continue to absorb moisture up through themselves.
Now these lovely little green sprouts will sit in the sun for a couple more weeks to get good and strong. I'll stroll them out to the deck on really warm days and then harden them off a week before they go outside (keep them outside for longer and longer periods of time so they are used to the temps outside before they go in the ground).

I have extra pots to do some tomatoes on my deck. The extra pots are actually empty food grade plastic buckets from the bakery department at mom's local grocery store. They just toss the buckets in the recycling so if you ask they will gladly keep them for you as long as you pick them up asap.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

7 Day Healthy, Quick Menu

I'm finally getting around to posting the healthy, quick menu I promised back during the Paralympics. Month and a half late.... Wow!

When I do a menu for the week I balance out protein and carb sources. I make sure to include a veggie meal or two which is not only healthy but cuts costs. Each meal is linked to the recipe already on the blog. Create your grocery list by checking out each recipe and writing down what you don't already have on hand. If you are really feeling frisky double each recipe for freezing or lunches. The only recipe that isn't freezer friendly is the Greek Fajitas (actually you can freeze the meat and grilled veggies) but those leftovers are perfect for lunch!

The 7 Day Healthy, Quick Menu

  1. Chicken Fajita Pasta
  2. Maritime Seafood Chowder
  3. Heuvos Rancheros
  4. Pasta al Forno
  5. Greek Fajitas
  6. Jambalaya
  7. Beef and Broccoli Lo Mein

This menu is heavy on the can tomatoes which are extremely good for you. Try to get the low sodium or no salt added variety. You can always add more salt but you can never take it away....

Add a side salad to get an extra veggie serving into your meals or add more veggies in the meal itself. And don't be afraid of frozen veggies, especially in the off seasons!

Feel free to email me any questions!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Gardening - Getting Started

Last year I put in a veggie garden along the side of my house. It was not a success story but I never give up so I'm back at it this year, determined to be successful! My yard is not big and the space is shared with 2 very large hairy dogs so space for gardening is seriously limited. However, like most foodies, I like to know where my food is coming from so the idea of growing my own is very appealing and worth the effort of finding spots around my yard to do so. I've been guilty of a basic gardening mistake - I start my garden way too late and the veggies don't have time to fully grow before the harvest season. This year I was determined to be different. I've plotted and I've planned.... And am having a hard time resisting the temptation to commit the other common basic gardening mistake - planting too early!

So after consulting books, the net, friends and family and the farmers' almanac I have determined that I'm late getting my beets, onion and garlic in and late starting my pepper seeds. However, I am on time starting my tomato seeds and planting potatoes. My garden has 2 criteria. One it must be done on the cheap. I'm using some leftover garlic I bought from the store, you just separate the cloves and plant them pointed end up, the potatoes will be grown from some leftover from a bag of potatoes bought for cooking. The beets and onion are from seed, as are the tomatoes and peppers. It is cheaper to start from seed and I already had the peat disks and a bunch of peat pots to put the disks in as they grow. You need about 6 - 8 weeks when you start seed inside. The beets and onion seeds will go directly in the ground. The peppers and tomatoes are started below.

This is my version of a humidity tray. I've always ended up killing the seedlings in a humidity tray so I wasn't keen on attempting seedlings with one this time and I didn't have one on hand anyway. Seedlings do need a good humid environment. It's amazing what you can do with a large pot tray and some plastic wrap! I think what I did wrong in the past was putting the tray directly in the sun. Apparently they should only be in a bright space but not in direct sunlight! As you can see, they are growing quite nicely.

I also suffer from another basic gardening mistake. I hate to thin out perfectly good seedlings. It goes against my fugal, efficient side to waste 2 out of every 3 seedlings! However it must be done. I went to do it today for my tomatoes (you can see the disks with little or no seedlings are the peppers, the other 15 disks are 3 types of tomatoes) and then read that it's too soon. I need to wait until the roots are penetrating the sides of the peat disks.

The second criteria for my garden is that I must be able to grow things here and there, where ever I can get some good sun and space that doesn't take away from the yard for the dogs to run and play and is safe from them. I have a strip along the side of the house that doesn't get full sun all day. It gets about 6 hours along the strip throughout the day so I'm going to put my root veggies there. Right along the back of my house there is full sun, it's protected a bit from the wind and the dogs are trained not to pee there That's where I'll put 2 - 3 tomato plants and 2 pepper plants. I have a lot of chives that grow there already. See my Chive Butter Pictorial for what to do with your abundance of chives.

I also have a blueberry bush! I may get a second. I only spent $7 on the bush. It's a 2 year old plant and I won't see any blueberries this year for sure. I have an area that had some fruit bushes but it's very overgrown and the bushes haven't done well since I bought the house because I didn't know what was what and just let the space grow. I'm going to clear it out and put the blueberry bush there. I'm just not sure what to do to keep the dogs out of that space. They've taken it over lately. I may have to fence it off a bit.

I will probably also put some of those tomato plants in some pots to keep on my deck with my herbs. I get great sun on my deck! The most important thing about growing anything in pots is to have pots that are big enough. You need really big pots to allow the roots lots of room. All of my herbs were very pot bound this spring and they were all doing so poorly. Also, anything done in pots needs a soil mix of about 1/2 potting soil and 1/2 some sort of moisture mix like perlite or vermiculite. Think less actual soil and more moisture retention. And remember to put some rocks or something in the bottom to allow proper drainage. A water logged plant won't grow any better than a dried out one will!

So why am I tell you all this? I'm going to take pics and keep you all posted as we go through the growing season. I'll share my successes, tips, failures, etc. And, of course, there will be recipes for the bounty... (here's hoping there is a bounty!)

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Tuna Pate

Since we are hot and heavy into shower season (the baby and bridal type, not the cleanliness type) I thought I'd share another great party dish. This pate always gets rave reviews no matter where I take it!

Tuna Pate

  • 1 can tuna, drained
  • 8 oz/ 250ml cream cheese, softened
  • 1 pkg ranch salad dressing mix
  • 1 tbsp dried minced onion or 2 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 1/2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 tsp dry mustard
  • 1/4 c fresh parsley, finely diced or 1 tbsp dried parsley (optional)

  1. Mix everything together.
  2. Line a small bowl with plastic wrap, fill with pate, press down firmly and smooth top
  3. Chill for a couple of hours or overnight
  4. Plate by unmolding in the center and surround with crackers OR
  5. Shape pate into whatever you want, a rattle for a baby shower is nice! And chill.

Wheat Thins are the best cracker to go with this pate.
May your showers be short on games and big on wine....

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Sausage Cheese Balls.... and list of excuses

Wow, has it been a while. I've been really busy getting ready for the gardening season and baby season. I've knit hats and booties for 3 different babies plus it's birthday month around here so that's more knitting. Whew! I still have a 7 day healthy menu to post. I'll get around to it....

But speaking of all things baby - I went to a baby shower this past weekend and I made a great party dish that is deadly simple. Sausage Cheese Balls are really easy and can be made ahead, even frozen before cooking. I like to make a batch at Christmas time. They are perfect for cocktails or tapas parties but also for having along with a brunch menu!

Sausage Cheese Balls - Makes 50 - 75 balls

  • 3 Cups Bisquick
  • 1 lb sausage meat, flavour of your choice, casings removed and crumbled
  • 2 cups grated cheddar cheese
  • dash of Tabasco sauce

  1. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl.
  2. Shape into 1/2 inch balls
  3. Freeze until needed or
  4. Bake at 350 for 20 - 25 minutes until lightly browned