Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The green has arrived!

From this

To this!
With nothing but seed!  The dirt was hard and very clay-like.  Of course now I have grass popping up in all the places I don't want it but I guess you can't have it both ways...  

The garden is coming along slowly. However the containers of greens I started on the deck have already provided a steady supply of salads! 

Tomorrow's lunch consists of a pizza made on Naan bread with greens from the containers.  Tonight I made a Panzanella, an Italian bread salad using spinach from both my farm share (CSA) and my containers.  It was quite tasty.

I had some leftover sourdough kamut bread that I cut into cubes.  I sauteed some onions with one broken up sausage (I'd have used 2 slices of bacon if I didn't have sausage or if I had bacon on hand). Tossed in some onion and sprinkled on some olive oil.  Then I added the bread cubes and toasted them.  Right before I pulled it from the burner I added in the spinach to give it a little wilt.  I divided it between two plates and topped them with some diced pickled beets, 1/4 of a avocado diced (1/2 dived between the two plates) and some crumbled blue cheese.  I cheated and used bottled balsamic vinaigrette but I really should have made my own.  Less sugar that way.

Panzanella for 2:
1 sausage, casing removed and crumbled
1/2 of a large onion, diced
2 cups diced bread
4 cups spinach
2-3 pickled beets, diced
1/2 avocado, diced
2 tbsp crumbled blue cheese.
dressing of your choice.  

Easy peasy! 

An eggplant flower.  Even if I don't get a single eggplant, the flowers are really nice!

Sunday, May 24, 2015

My Coffin Bed and Wheatberries

So this weekend this happened:

I opened my last bottle of homemade red.  Yup, you are reading the label right, it's from 2013.  And it's finally really good.  And that was the last bottle.  

I finally finished my raised bed that resembles a coffin.  I took down 2 layers of boards cause I was getting damn tired of dragging wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow of dirt down to the back yard.  I did still manage to blow my Fitbit's daily expectations out of the water even with the reduction in workload (it was still a lot of work, tomorrow I expect to moan a lot).

Here's whats going on in my coffin bed.  Under the cloches are zucchini, eggplant, peas and peppers, two seedlings of each.  The tomato has the red plastic under it.  Supposedly the red under the tomato plant helps it grow.  It was too big to fit under the cloches so I'm really hoping the red mulch plastic works because I don't think it's really warm enough for the poor tomato plant.  Under the floating row is carrot, kohlrabi, kale and swiss chard seeds.  Mixed in all over the bed are onions, green onion (scallion) seeds and marigolds.  They are all suppose to help with managing pests.  I put a layer of newspaper fairly low in the bed and mixed coffee grinds in low and at the very top of the bed.  My soil is a mix of peat, compost and manure.  After I got everything in I remembered I had some sage I wanted to put in so it ended up in an odd spot.  Nothing is terribly neat or organized.  It's more higgledy piggledy.  I tried to leave space to sow more seeds over the summer for on-going harvest.  We'll see how that works out....

I prepped supper before heading out to the garden, knowing that I'd be too tired to do much after.  I deboned a very large chicken breast and stuffed it with sauteed spinach, garlic and feta.  I also cooked up some wheatberries.  They take an hour!  It worked out perfect as I let them simmer away while I enjoyed my morning coffee and brunch.  

I tossed the wheatberries with fresh basil, oregano and chives.  I toasted some pumpkin seeds.  Right before serving I add the pumpkin seeds and some feta.  That's it.  Simple and delicious.  It was a heavenly meal, well earned after a hard day in the garden.

Monday, May 18, 2015

A Jacob's Cattle Bean is Not a Chickpea

I made some veggie burgers with Jacob's Cattle Beans and some turnip tops (greens) in the food processor.  I added lots of herbs and spices.  I went for an Indian vibe.  It missed.  Tasted like cardboard.  Turns out you can't just swap out chickpeas and substitute Jacob's Cattle Bean.  In my defense, I was trying to use the local beans I had gotten in my farm share.

On the other hand, Jacob's Cattle Beans make awesome baked beans!

Everything has it's place.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Garden Update

Last Saturday I built my raised bed.  I did it mostly by myself.  Rulers?  They're for wimps!  My neighbor helped me force the 10 inch difference in sides into a lovely box.
My cousin thought it might be my mother's next home...  I didn't mean to make it look like a coffin.  I may take a layer or two off.  I just don't want Ollie to think its a giant dog bed.  Or be able to pee in it.  He has very long legs.  Another shot to give some perspective.
I learned a valuable lesson this week.  Instead of digging holes for the posts, it's better to sledgehammer them in.  It really does work and I just so happen to own my very own sledgehammer. Doesn't every girl?

I also added some more crushed stone to even out the patio.  My Fitbit was overjoyed by the end of the day.  I think I may experience a higher level of exhaustion based on what my Fitbit says I've done during the day.  It's the power of suggestion.  Sunday was rest day...

I'll place patio stones on them later this year or early next spring but for now it tidied up the space. I'm actually quite fond of the stone and it gives more "de-muddifying" space for the dogs to drop some of the dirt and mud before they get to the back door.

Not a lot more got done in the garden (or on the treadmill for that matter) this week due to Ollie.  He strolled a little too closely to death's door this week.  I can speak flippantly about it now but last Monday night I thought he was gone.  I was worried he had an abdominal tumour that was bleeding out.  It's called Hemagiosarcoma and I've lost 2 dogs to it.  He was ok and then he was in complete distress. Thankfully it was only an obstruction in his stomach that his own digestive juices eventually resolved.  So another lesson learned this past week - just because it says it's "dog bones" doesn't mean it really is suitable for dogs to eat.

Ollie will be 11 in July.  Old age is not his challenge... I am.  Bad mummy.  I'll stick to treats I know and trust from now on.

I finally have some eggplant seedlings!  And my Zucchini are coming along nicely.
Although I went to the market this weekend and the seedlings there put mine to shame.

I don't have a lot of space or warmth to get a lot of seedlings going so I had planned to supplement my garden with plants from other farmers/garden shops.  I did buy mostly seed that could be directly sown.  Those should be in the garden now but the seedlings can't go out until after May 24th due to frost threats.  So I'm only half as behind as I think I am.

I should have done more yesterday but it was so gorgeous I just wanted to sit on my deck after morning errands.  I did get my wall done.
Once the threat of frost passes, I'll put some herbs and flowers in these handing planters.  The bag on the bottom right is actually a planter too.  Tomatoes will soon call it home.  I'm going to grow tomatoes in 3 different spots around the yard to see if I can find the spot they'll do best.  Your yard is a micro-climate, you have to learn to understand it and embrace it!

Last night I had the first burgers of the grilling season.  There is nothing so wonderful as the smell of meat on the barbecue!  I stuffed cheddar cheese in the middle and served them with my mom's homemade zucchini relish (I promise I'll share the recipe when zucchini is overflowing in the garden and market).  I also did a tomato salad.  The greens from the farm have been scarce so I'm trying to compromise until I can get local greens.  I bought a huge pack of greenhouse cherry tomatoes, tossed them with some feta, olive oil, dried mint, dried oregano and a splash of balsamic vinegar.  My buckwheat greens (see last post) went in as well.  It was a nice little salad!

Thursday, May 07, 2015

The Land of Dirt

Let’s look at the current situation in my yard/garden.


I’m hesitant to call it a “garden” as it’s barely more than a bit of dirt and some big dreams at this point.  But my speciality is difficult relationships so I’m optimistic I can make my dream to have a meaningful relationship with mother earth a reality. 

On a positive note, all my seeds have sprouted.  I’m even trying my hand at growing buckwheat greens.  You soak them for 12 hours like sprout seeds because, well they are sprout seeds…  Then you drain them for 12 hours in a sprout bag, jar or tray.  After that you put them in a tray of 1inch dirt and cover them for 3 days, keeping them moist.  I used an egg carton.  Then you take the lid off, water them daily and keep them in shade or indirect sunlight (which I’m pretty sure is just another word for “shade”).  After 7-10 days they are ready for eating.  I’m hoping to use them in sandwiches or on salads, soups or casseroles.  Gotta get your greens!

 All my lovely seedlings.

I’m struggling with my eggplant seeds.  I’ve reseeded them since the first batch didn’t spout.  I just don’t think it’s been warm enough for them.  It’s warmed up quite a bit now so I’m hopeful.  If these seeds don’t take I’ll try them directly sown in the garden under cloches.  I’m also planning on using the cloches for my zucchini and tomatoes.  The first batch of peas are already in their happy home with their cloche. 


I’ve got some nice greens coming up.  I’ll eat these as baby greens.  It will soon be time to thin these lines out. 


Due to the late melting of the snow and ice, produce from the farm is slow to come this year.  They couldn’t get to their greenhouses until the last week or so, never mind the actual garden plots.  This week we are getting fingerling potatoes, parsnips, carrots and a bag of sprouts.  That’s it.  Thankfully I had wilted and froze kale, stinging nettles, turnip tops, sugar snap peas and broccoli last season when each veggie was abundant.  I’m thinking roasted fingerlings with a beer can chicken and some greens from my freezer for Sunday when it’s supposed to be 22C.  (This translates to somewhere between 26C and 29C on my deck depending on the breeze.)  Maybe some Carrot Ginger soup for a night during the week.  And some lovely grilled pork chops with parsnip, potato, onion and greens in a British inspired Bubble and Squeak. 

We had some sweet potato and spinach from the farm last week so I made sweet potato and spinach gnocchi.  I’ll have some of those frozen leftovers with some of the frozen tomatoes the farm has sent us in previous weeks.  I’ve said it many times before but it’s worth repeating, thank goodness for my freezer!  I also have bottled beets, not pickled, that roast up really nicely when tossed with olive oil and a splash of balsamic in a 400F oven for 30 minutes. 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Everything is better with BACON!

So I'm still suffering from CSA box bareness.  The box is pretty empty this week but I did get some turnip.  I love turnip.  Even if you don't, everything is better with bacon....

I cooked my lovely dish with a side of roasted rabbit.  Rabbit is fairly common in our meat share.  I was a bit skeptical to begin with but if Jacques Pepin cooks it, it must be good.  And it is!  If rabbit doesn't  float your boat or you can't find any, chicken legs would work great here.  Let's make this into dinner!

Roast Rabbit Legs with Mustard Maple Tarragon

Preheat the oven to 350F
Mix together the following:
  • Dijon Mustard
  • Maple Syrup
  • Dried Tarragon
Sear the rabbit legs in an oven proof pan (cast iron works great!). Turn them over and smear the mustard mix over them.  Pop the pan in the oven and cook until a meat thermometer reaches 160F.  About and hour or so depending on the size of your legs.

Turnip and Bacon with Mushrooms and Greens
  • 1 large turnip or 2 small (smaller are easier to cut)
  • 2 slices of thick bacon, use more if your bacon is thin
  • 1 medium onion
  • 6 - 8 mushrooms, I used cremini
  • 2 -3 handfuls of greens, I used spinach
  • a little salt and pepper to taste

  1. While the rabbit cooks, peel and cut the turnip into 1/2 inch chunk.  Get the turnip in a pot, cover with water and bring to a boil.  Cook until just tender with a fork, about 15 minutes.
  2. Dice the bacon into 1/4 inch chunks
  3. Put the bacon in a deep saucepan with 1 -2 inch sides and a cover.  But don't cover it yet1
  4. Saute the bacon until it's almost crisp
  5. Add in the onions and cook until tender and translucent
  6. Add in the mushrooms and cook until soft.
  7. Once the turnip is tender, drain it and add to the pan with the bacon mix
  8. Cover and turn to low until almost ready to serve.
  9. Right before serving toss in the spinach and cook until wilted.


If you like you can deglaze the pan the rabbit cooked in with some white wine and cream and toss it into the turnip mix.  Yum!
A pan of sauce and a pan of turnip!

The finished dish.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

I eat, therefore I garden. (and make Roasted Cabbage!)

I love my CSA but this time of year the CSA box can be kinda bare.  Hold on.  Do you know what a CSA is? I realized in my last post I didn’t explain so let me take the time to do so now.  It’s formally known as Community Shares Agriculture or a farm share.  Instead of the farm having to rely on commercial/corporate methods to get its products to market, it sells directly to the consumer.  What makes the CSA different than going to a farmers market is that we consumers commit to buying from the farm.  We buy a share in the farm!  We get a weekly delivery of whatever the farm is producing for a set price, no matter what happens.  There is risk in that if the farm has a bad year then so do you.  The extra plus is that because we “own” shares in the farm we are welcome to visit and even work on the farm if we like. 

My shares are with Taproots which is in the beautiful Annapolis Valley here in Nova Scotia Canada and they are in the process of becoming totally organic certified.  They have a couple of different farm shares you can participate in, a veggie share, fruit share, meat share, egg share and flower share.  The veggie and fruit shares come in two sizes, one smaller for 1-2 people and one larger for 4-5 people.  The flower share only runs for 10 weeks in the summer but helps the farm ensure biodiversity.  And they’re pretty! 

For the last 2 years I’ve had a small veggie, small fruit and meat share.  This year, since I have a freezer full of fruit, I’m getting a small veggie, meat, egg and flower share.  They also do a “Full Monty” which is everything the farm produces.  I may have to consider that next year but I’m worried it will be too much veg and fruit.  As I mentioned last post, I’m also looking to do some growing myself this year.  I’ll never be able to grow enough to replace my CSA which is not my objective anyway.  I love the idea of knowing where my food comes from but also watching to grow.  My CSA combined with my garden will do just that!

My criteria for garden planning was to pick plants that I don’t get enough of in my CSA, should mostly do well in containers and be hardy for my damp cool climate.  The seeds needed to be direct sow since I lack the space to properly start seedlings indoors.  I am also looking to overwinter and/or cold frame garden into the winter (preferably right through it but I’m not delusional).  I’ve got some non-GMO seed, mostly certified organic to grow mustard greens, spinach, lettuces, swiss chard, peas, zucchini, eggplant, runner beans, kohlrabi and herbs of all sorts.  I’m in the process of getting my deck rebuilt and extended, same for the patio below it as I mentioned in my last post.  But get this… the contractor figures he’ll be done in 2 weeks!  That’s before planting season really begins!!  And the contractor saved whatever wood was salvageable for planters and raised bed.  Reuse!

Current state of my back yard.  The dogs love it...
My CSA box was pretty small this week but I did make a great recipe from something in it that I wanted to share.  Cheap, cheap, cheap and easy!  Roasted Cabbage.  This is not your mother’s cabbage.  It can be quite tasty when not boiled to death.  And a great local green in the dead of winter…

Roasted Cabbage.
·         ½ a large cabbage, sliced in ½ in slices
·         Olive oil, to coat pan and toss with cabbage
·         1-2 tsp dried thyme
·         A smidge of salt and pepper
·         2 cups of grated cheddar or any cheese of your liking.  I used part cheddar and part Monterey jack.

1.       Preheat oven to 350F
2.       Grease a 9X13 in pan, a lasagna pan
3.       Toss sliced cabbage with olive oil, thyme, salt and pepper
4.       Layer in the pan
5.       Cook for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes
6.       Sprinkle with the cheese and cook another 5-7 minutes until the cheese is melted.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Back from my sabbatical

Ok, I wasn't really on sabbatical.  I can't believe it's been over 2 years since I posted last.  My joy for cooking hasn't waned, I just didn't need to talk about it.  I've been busy, working and living and enjoying a weekly CSA delivery.  But more about that in a minute. 

I needed to take some time to redefine my relationship with food.  I've always had a love of cooking going way back to being a latchkey kid who watched Jacques and Julia after school.  And I always had a love of healthy eating.  But somewhere along the way I went off in a whole gourmet, overindulging, overdoing it direction.  I got bored in life so I focused on the fun and joy in the kitchen.  About 2 years ago I got back the joy in my life so food no longer needed to provide me with that level of fulfillment.  Oh don't get my wrong, I can still whip up a gourmet meal.  They just tend to be lighter and simpler.  I still love to cook and eat well but my focus has changed.  It's back to healthy first and foremost.  We're talking about fueling the human body after all!

Now about that CSA.  It  has changed my relationship with my food supply.  Once you've experienced local, in-season food, year round, you'll never look back!  I am thrilled to see the local farmers markets becoming more and more popular even if in the dead of winter the local produce is scarce.  But it's hard to have local produce year round in this climate (it's cold people. very cold.  and snowy. lots of snow) so I have to supplement a bit at the grocery store and I did freeze a lot this past summer.  I have kale, turnip greens, stinging nettles all cooked and frozen, ready to pop into dishes.  I also get meat in my CSA.  Local, pasture raised, animals that I can go see anytime I want, the farm encourages it's members to stop by anytime.  And I have.  I've met the pork we're eating.  This year's CSA, which starts this week, we're also getting eggs.  Happy hen eggs!  We go through a lot of eggs in our house, always keeping a couple of boiled eggs in the fridge for quick, healthy snacks. 

Ok, I'm going to come clean.... This past weekend I went to boil 4 eggs, my usual Sunday morning chore.  I put them in the pot and put the pot on the stove.  I always listen carefully because to make the perfect hard boiled egg you should put the eggs and water in the pot, covering the eggs, put the lid on the pot, bring it to a boil and remove it from the burner, set the timer for 15 minutes while letting it sit.  Once your timer dings rinse them in cold water.  Tada!  Perfectly hard boiled eggs.  But you need to pull them off the burner as soon as they start to boil.  This is what you must listen for.  Well this weekend I heard a pop.  Did you notice the 3rd line above?  I put them in the pot and put the pot on the stove.... I forgot the water.  So when you put eggs in the pot with no water they pop and ooze out into the hot pot, cooking right onto said pot.  It was a lovely mess. 

In keeping with my love of local, I've developed a strong desire to grow more of my own.  I've always loved to garden but I really bought the yard for the dogs.  I've been watching British Cook and Author Nigel Slater as he his visits to his own garden and also local allotments (why don't we do more of these in Canada??).  I'm inspired by how much one can grow in small spaces.  So this year I'm going to garden around the dogs.  Containers, around deck posts, along the side of my house that's outside the dog yard....  I'm also getting my deck and patio rebuilt and my yard graded so I'm going to be dealing with delays to getting my garden set up.  I'm hoping to garden well into the winter.  Hoping.  We'll see! 

My seed order arrived just before Easter.  However the weather is not the slightest bit interested in cooperating....
Not a great picture but you get the idea of what my backyard is like at the moment.
How Canadian kids hang out.

It also snowed yesterday.  April 7th.  I can't even talk about it.  But once I get things growing under that snow in cold frames all that snow won't bother me one bit!