Monday, September 26, 2011

I love gardening (and books, and birds, and toads)

Last weekend, I took Veggie Pak's advice and went out to do some weeding. Though I'd planned to take the whole season as a loss after months of neglect, his advice about pulling weeds before everything went to seed was not only timely and sagely, but made me realize how freaking much I love gardening. Several times, my husband peeked out, and with dirt on my clothes, sweat pouring down my face, I stated, "Gardening is so fun".

It's incredibly rewarding to be on the ground hyperfocused on a task, and then stand back and see how much progress has been made. I love filling this blue can.

I even got to sow a row of fall greens.

I'm glad I got in the mood because this weekend, my new order of perennials from Bluestone arrived. Along with planting new additions, I moved several plants around. I absolutely LOVE moving plants around. Anyone the same way? I'm sure the moonbeam coreopsis will be so much happier in this spot - and passersby will more enjoy its reliable loveliness.

Above - lingonberries fruiting one tiny, tart, delicious berry at a time...
Below - the pepper garden going full force - poblano, cayenne, habanero, and jalapeno.

Tucked in the back, where I would never have strolled if I were sitting on my ass indoors like I have been all summer: pretty, delicate cyclamen.

And another benefit of all the fresh digging - birds coming to visit! I've never seen a woodpecker like the one above . And below, I've never actually seen any birds perch here, especially three! My husband bought me a really crazy bird book (was a birthday request). I wanted to learn more about birds and at least be able to identify some local ones. I even thought that as the talented whistler I am, I'd be able to learn some bird calls. But this book is really wacky. If you see a Great Blue Heron, you can communicate by saying deeply, "frahnk, frahnk, frahnk". A Scarlet Tanager will say, "hurry, worry, flurry, blurry". More literately, an Eastern Towhee will say, "drink-your-tea", and the elusive Olive-sided Flycatcher will say, " quick three beers"!

And last night, one of my favorite fall sights - garden toads. I don't know much about toads, but I'm certain that I never notice them except for around this time of year... I need a toad book.

In other book news, I'm excited about three books right now. The book above is a collection of stories written by women about turning points in their lives. One of the stories is written by Grace, one of my favorite bloggers (who happens to have a spectacular flower garden). The book below, is written by Ricki - another favorite blogger who has written a lovely, personal, common sense guide to gardening (and also makes these beautiful banners!).

Finally, I have been completely consumed by reading The Godfather. For the past two weeks, I have carried this book everywhere, have gone to bed at 9pm just so I can read for a couple hours, have brought a chair next to the stove to read while cooking, have skipped calling ahead for carry out just so I could order at the counter and read at the restaurant while waiting for my food, have encouraged the family to stop the convo and eat quickly so they can leave me alone at the table to read. For 2 straight days, I fantasized about being a crime boss. A generous one. You know. One that gets respect. Then I started getting paranoid - One day I dog-eared a page, ran out to pick up my daughter and at the stop sign down the road, I saw an unmarked delivery truck. As I passed it and looked in my rear view mirror, my first thought was that someone in there was paid to follow me. Anyway, despite having to set some fantasy vs. reality limits, I can say this is one of the best books I've read. I'm so sad that I only have about 50 pages left...

By the way, I know the movie is awesome and all, and we actually started watching it, but there is absolutely no comparison to the book. I would say the movie only includes maybe...1/2 of what's in the book. If you've seen the movie and enjoyed it, you REALLY need to read the book.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

GTTC: pizza and giveaway winner announced!

I don't know why we don't make pizzas more often - they're cheap, quick, fun, and incredibly tasty - especially when topped with summer goodies from the garden! The version on the left is topped with arugula pesto, fresh mozzarella, tomatoes and prosciutto. The version on the right is just brushed with olive oil and topped with garlic and herb goat cheese, tomatoes, and purple basil ribbons.

The variation below was made by the little one who enjoyed making it much more than eating it.

This week, I chose a name from all the GTTC entries made during this season. Holly from Tasty Travels is the winner of the Barefoot Contessa's Back to Basic's cookbook. Holly cooks up some incredible meals using the bounty from her plentiful garden. I'm not sure how much she needs a "back to basics" cookbook, but hopefully she'll find some inspiration!

Want to join the Garden to Table Challenge? Simply post about how you're using your garden harvests (or fresh market purchases), link back to the weekly GTTC post and link below.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

GTTC: fresh raspberry gratin and next giveaway announced!!

I spent some time purging the bookcases today - boy is this a difficult task. I added many books to the donation pile that were hard to give up - not because they were particularly good reads, but simply because I've held on to them so long. But I'm happy to not have too much of a hoarder mentality. I found a never-opened Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics cookbook by Ina Garten on the bottom shelf. It's a lovely book - don't know why it's not sitting with my other cookbooks. As I flipped through, I found a decadent sounding recipe involving raspberries - conveniently what I returned from the farmer's market with!

The dessert was fabulous! Now back to this essentially new cookbook. No idea where it came from. It was more than likely a gift (maybe from my mom?). Sorry in advance if it was from my sister who might be reading this, because...this week, I'm going to give it away. For a chance to win, join the Garden to Table Challenge by posting about what seasonal goodies you're cooking and including a link in the post back here. Link below and earn one entry to the giveaway. I'm drawing from every entry earned during the entire 2011 season of the GTTC. Winner of this great cookbook announced next Saturday!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

GBBD - September 2011

September is a month of few blooms and maybe few words this time too...

Don't feel so fulfilled after this 3 photo post? I don't blame you. Visit May Dreams Gardens to see what's blooming all over the world!

Monday, September 12, 2011

"Even the raccoons don't want your tomatoes"

Above: a young raccoon searching for remnants of kitty food. Below: one of the three young raccoons popping out of the trash. Every night, I sit and listen helplessly as the raccoons ravage the trash can. I really need to take some action on this.

My husband has commented repeated about my "poor garden", and the other day, told me that even the raccoons don't wan't my tomatoes. Ouch. That could be really hurtful if I didn't accept the fact that this year, I'm getting exactly what I'm putting into my garden...nothing.

Below: no melons for us. Above: the little 4x4 I built this summer. Guess he's right, every cat food crumb gone, the garbage picked through, the tomatoes...untouchable.

Above: a lovely green garden bed - too bad it's lush with weeds. Below: morning glories gone wild and growing over a strong structure...of roses.

And when the cat repeatedly uses the garden beds as her litter box...I just can't get ahead!!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

GTTC: spicy chocolate kisses

While hurricane Irene was making a mess outdoors, we were making a mess indoors. My daughters found the Hershey's Kiss making machine from the depths of the game closet. It's pretty cool actually, the gun melts the chocolate that you squeeze into the mold. Then you cut out foil squares, cut out the paper strips, and another little contraption wraps the chocolate into a perfect little Hershey's Kiss. We each made our own set of 4 chocolates (each set taking waaaay too long!!!), my set contained bits of dried cayenne pepper - little spicy chocolate kisses!

What are you doing with your peppers or other garden harvests? Join the Garden to Table Challenge - post about it with a link to this blog, then add your blog to the link below!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Growing, Buying, Cooking - Sweet Potato Leaves

Sweet potato greens are among my favorite Asian greens to eat. They're mild, tender, and delicious, and are extremely easy to grow (see any signs of pests on the organically grown plant above?). The bonus is that at the end of the season, there are potatoes to dig as well!

GROWING SWEET POTATOES - My family grows a Chinese white variety of sweet potato because although the flesh is not as sweet and buttery as a traditional russet sweet potato, the leaves are tastier. To start your own slips, cut a sweet potato in half or large chunks. Place the chunk in a jar of water so that half of the potato sits above the water and half of it sits in the water. Use toothpicks stuck in the side of the potato to help with this task (think: 3rd grade science project). Once you see some healthy shoots growing from the top of the sweet potato, remove them carefully and place them in a cup of water. In a few days, they will root. Keep the water in the cup fresh. When the roots are about an inch long, the "slips" can then planted in the garden. Sweet potatoes grow well in soil that is loose and piled in mounds. Water well for the first few weeks, but water gently so that mounds don't erode. A big healthy plant like the one in the photo above has an abundance of leaves ready to be harvested.

BUYING SWEET POTATO LEAVES - I have never seen sweet potato leaves in a neighborhood supermarket or even at my large and diverse city farmer's market. It may be worth a trip to the Asian supermarket to see if sweet potato leaves are available.

COOKING SWEET POTATO LEAVES - Like most Asian greens, sweet potatoes are typically eaten cooked. The dish above is an easy family favorite. The greens are simply washed, boiled in a large pot of water for several minutes until tender, and then drained and topped with a few shakes of oyster sauce and lots of chopped garlic which has been flash fried in several tablespoons of oil. The garlic and garlic-flavored oil both are poured onto the tender cooked greens.

Friday, September 2, 2011

GTTC: summer corn pasta

This summer corn pasta is easy to throw together and contains flavorful savory ingredients everyone loves (and probably has on hand). Cook chopped bacon and drain on paper towels. Cut the kernels off about 5 ears of corn. Puree half of the corn along with about a cup of chicken broth. Add all the corn, the bacon, and a chopped onion to a large pot and simmer until corn is tender. Cook pasta in pot of salted water. Add cooked,drained pasta and about a cup of the cooking water to corn mixture. When hot, remove from heat and mix in about 2-3 cups spinach or arugula. Season with salt and pepper and top with shaved Parmesan.

What are you harvesting and cooking this week? Is it tomatoes galore for you? Summer gazpacho season?

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