chilly friday garden update 10/5/10

It’s hard to believe it’s October already!   Although we haven’t had a drop of rain here in Moses Lake since July, there is now a distinct chill in the air and what few trees we have are beginning to shed their leaves in preparation for winter.  Despite the change in the weather, I am stubbornly continuing on with my garden, although the threat of frost means gardening season could be over any day now.  I’m already seeing some frost damage on both tomato plants:

But, miracle of miracles!  Little Tomato decided to produce a little fruit right at the very last minute.  I’m betting that, even if they get ripe, the taste of these late-season ‘maters won’t be great.  But still, way to go Little Tomato for coming through in the end!

Speaking of putting things off to the last minute, I finally put up some hanging baskets to fill the void left by my hanging tomato plants that were destroyed by wind earlier this summer.  One bonus to procrastination: I got the baskets on clearance for 99 cents each!  I filled each of them with ornamental cabbage, chrysanthemums and pansies.  I’m hoping at least the cabbage and chrysanthemums will be hearty enough to last a little while into the fall.

My herbs are continuing to do well despite dropping temperatures.  I think I’ll be taking the rosemary inside sometime in the next couple of weeks.

The lettuce seeds I sowed last week are beginning to make some tiny sprouts (too tiny to photograph well,  so you’ll have to take my word for it).  I hope they’ll survive long enough to produce a little before the cold weather really kicks in!

Well that’s it from me this week!  Hope everyone has a fantastic weekend.  

 

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alive and kicking

Hello dear readers!  Apologies for my long absence from the interwebs.  There have been a lot of changes in our household over the past two months.  The fun changes included visits from several friends and family members – it was a blast showing the best that eastern Washington has to offer!

The not-so-fun change was that, due to financial necessity, I began a full time job in August.  It is actually quite a lovely job where I have wonderful colleagues, but I certainly miss having more time to garden, craft, cook and write!  But lest you worry that DGP will fall by the wayside, let me assure you that, although my writing has been on hiatus, I have been busily keeping up as much as I can with my DGP summer projects.

Here’s a recap:

In the kitchen, I have been eager to take advantage of the abundance of local produce at its summer peak.  For the entire month of August my fridge was fully stocked with corn, peppers (both sweet and hot), peaches, basil and tomatoes.  Just last week I made this delicious corn and poblano chili soup.  Really, I think it should be re-named a bisque due to its creamy flavor and texture.  It was incredibly delicious and not overly spicy, since I omitted the jalepenos for Steve’s sake.  The roasted poblanos gave the soup a nice smokey flavor which complemented the sweet corn quite nicely.  I highly recommend trying it out while fresh, seasonal corn is still available!

Throughout the summer, I’ve been canning up a storm, trying to preserve the flavors of summer to enjoy year round.  Pictured below are a sampling of my summer canning projects: blackberry jam, pickled garlic scapes, cherry-lemon jam, “dilly” carrots, pickled beets, apricot-rosemary preserve, “boozy” cherries in a red wine reduction syrup, and dill pickles.

Vivian has enjoyed my canning spree a lot, as a jar box is her favorite place to sit these days.

Over the summer I’ve also had a chance to complete a couple “big” crochet projects (for me, anyway).  I went to Spokane in August for a joint birthday celebration with my friend Lina, whom I have known since I was only a tiny baby.  I made her this large market bag to take to the grocery store, the farmer’s market or even the odd trip to the pool.  I’m quite pleased that it actually turned out, since my previous attempt at a market bag was not so great!

Also in August, I completed my largest project to date: a baby blanket  for my friend Laura, which I gave to her at her baby shower last weekend.  The colors were meant to fit in with the jungle theme the parents-to-be chose for the nursery.  I was not intending for the pattern to look so much like camouflage, but luckily this aspect was a bonus for Laura’s husband Scott, who enjoys hunting and other outdoor activities.

After the big projects, I took a bit of a break and decided to make some cute little dish cloths with some durable cotton yarn I had lying around.  These may become a template for some future housewarming or wedding gifts.

Alas, my garden has suffered the most from my transition back into the working world.  Today I finally got out there and pulled out the lettuce that had gone to seed, as well as the nasturtiums that were spent weeks ago.  I’ve spread seed for lettuce, hoping to get a small crop in before the weather gets too cold.

On the up side, Little Tomato is  growing at an amazing pace, and has even produced a few delicious cherry tomatoes.

Other tomato continues to grow as well, and has an abundance of blossoms, but has yet to produce a single tomato!  Not really sure what’s going on there, but since it is now officially autumn I’m not counting on any from that plant this year.

Probably the most exciting garden news is that we have a new addition: a used barbeque grill donated by a couple of friends who are moving out of their house.  It’s a little late in the season to get a lot of use out of it this year, but can’t wait to grill up a storm next summer!

Well that’s the latest from DGP!  Hope your fall season is starting off well!

meatless monday 8/6/12 – tomato ricotta pie

Today’s Meatless Monday post is from a recipe from a blog which I follow and very much enjoy: A {Modern} Christian Woman.  I saw Stephanie’s posting for this Tomato Ricotta Pie and started salivating just reading about it.  As luck would have it, I had purchased some ricotta earlier in the week, but had run out of time to make the homemade ravioli for which it was intended.  Even better, the recipe would give me a chance to use the spring-form pan I’d gotten as a wedding present but was thus far unused.  I just needed to get a couple ripe tomatoes and I would be well on my way to enjoying this delicious-looking dish.

There was one obstacle in executing this plan, however: I have terrible luck with pie crust.  I have tried many recipes, including my grandmother’s “never fail” crust…and failed.  Most of the time I just can’t keep the crust together for fear of overworking the dough.  Other times I’ve made it too tough in an effort to keep everything together!  Given that history, I decided I’d forego the crust as written in the recipe and use the only crust recipe that has ever worked for me, from the rustic vegetable tart from Cook’s Illustrated’s January/February 2012 issue.  You may remember I featured this recipe on Meatless Monday several weeks ago – the link for that posting is here.

The great thing about the Cook’s Illustrated crust is that it is sturdy (meant for a free-form pie) and yet it remains flaky.   The secret to this texture is actually working over the dough several times, folding it into thirds and re-rolling it, much like one would make croissants (or so I hear, I haven’t tried it yet!).  It’s a time consuming process, but it is effective, and thankfully it worked just as well for this pie as it did the vegetable tart.   The whole wheat flour is a must, as it gives it a nuttiness to the crust that complements savory fillings very well.  And speaking of savory fillings, the one in this recipe was delicious.  Although ricotta is very mild on its own, combined with the sauteed onions and garlic, herbs and (of course) the tomatoes, this pie positively pops with flavor.  I highly recommend that you try it out!

 

update from the big farm and fun with beets!

As I mentioned in my last posting, we have had a wonderful time this month hosting three sets of visitors.  We have been touring, hiking, dining and wine tasting and it has been loads of fun.   I have to admit, though, it felt wonderful to get back to Cloud View Ecofarm this week to dig in the dirt and harvest some gorgeous veggies.  Pardon the pun, the experience really made me feel grounded.

When I arrived at 6:30, everyone was already busy in the market garden and the truck farm.  Luckily, this week I could find some folks to work with right away.  A rooster crowed noisily for about an hour while I helped harvest rainbow chard, and an affectionate farm cat climbed into my lap while I was bunching stems, making her best effort to get me to pet her instead.  Despite the distractions of these animal friends, we managed to harvest and process 100 bunches of chard for this week’s CSA boxes.   I just love how vibrant the stems can be!  Some of the plants had developed gorgeous, monster leaves. Each stem could probably make a meal in itself!\

After the chard had been picked and bunched, I headed back to help process the beets the others had harvested.  The beets were in three varieties: traditional red/purple beets, golden beets and chioggia beets.  I had never seen a chioggia beet before working for cloudview, and they are rapidly becoming my favorite.  Radish-red on the outside, sliced crosswise they show a red and white bullseye pattern.   Beautiful!

a mixture of sliced golden and chioggia beets

Once the beets had been picked over, sorted, bunched and rinsed, much of the day’s harvest was complete.  I got to go home earlier than usual, and was sent home with a bag of beets that didn’t make the cut for CSA due to splitting or other imperfections.  Although I love this beet salad I featured a few weeks ago, it’s been fun experimenting with projects like pickled beets:

Admittedly, I don’t really like pickled beets, but I wonder if I’d prefer them homemade. In any case, I am loving admiring the lovely hot pink brine!

Also I tried my hand at beet chips this morning: beet chips:

Although these started with promise, this recipe was a bit disappointing.  I tried using Martha Stewart’s recipe, but my beets never got crisp!  They taste delicious, as the roasting helped bring out some of their sweetness, but the texture is soft, so they are not really finger food.  Maybe I ought to invest in a mandoline slicer to get truly uniform and thin slices.  Oh well, chalk it up to another learning experience!

Well that’s it from me today!  Keep enjoying that summer produce!

wednesday garden update 7/25/12

Sorry for my long delay in posting.   We have had a wonderful parade of house guests over the past ten days, and I’ve been keeping busy going to places like this:

Knight’s Hill Winery in Zillah

Lake Lenore Caves

The Grand Coulee Dam

Northrup Canyon – site of Grant County’s only forest

And cooking things like this:

Cherry Clafouti

Homemade pickled beets

Margarita Pizza

It was all a lot of fun, but it feels good to be back into the routine.  Thankfully, despite all the running around, the garden is doing well despite our continued (very) hot weather.  Little Tomato, which is now Big Tomato, got a trim this week, but actually it’s hard to tell from looking at the pictures!  No fruit yet on this plant…

Other tomato has a second fruit, but the first isn’t getting red yet!  I am getting impatient for tasty homegrown tomatoes!!

I also put a couple of basil seeds in the soil of other tomato, because one really can’t get enough basil.

Especially since my wall box basil has stayed the same size pretty much since it sprouted!!

The other herbs continue to explode

And the lettuce has made a comeback, though I think it still may be over soon.

We’ve started harvesting some carrots, so now I’m wondering what else to put in this box?

Luckily I’ve got more carrots growing over here.

And that’s it from me this week!  Tomorrow will be another posting about the Big Farm!

meatless monday fail: quinoa cakes

I’m sorry to report that this week’s Meatless Monday feature is not a delightful treat, but rather a recipe that had a lot of potential but ended up a disappointment!  While browsing food blogs last week, I came across this recipe for Quinoa Cakes by Gen Y Foodie.  It seemed like it would make a great meatless main dish –  I had most of the ingredients already, and I love everything that goes in it (quinoa – obviously-, sweet potatoes, garlic, onion, other veggies and spices).

Unfortunately, I ran into a few snags as I was making the recipe.  First of all, it was probably a poor decision on my part to try a recipe on a weeknight that had so  much chopping and other time-consuming steps.   I see now why Gen Y Foodie suggests making the batch on a weekend and freezing the remainder for future meals.  The next problem was that, midway through the recipe, a step read “add the broth,” but there was no broth noted on the ingredients list!  Luckily, I keep cubes of my homemade chicken broth in my freezer at all times, but I had to stop everything and defrost some, and then just guess how much to use!  Also, so much for “meatless.”

Despite these obstacles, I eventually got the quinoa made, vegetables chopped and sauteed, spices added and cakes formed.  They went into the oven for the recommended 20 minutes and by that time it was late and we were really ready to eat!  Unfortunately, we were very disappointed with the result!  Instead of being flavorful and hearty, the cakes were mushy and bland!  How did this even happen?  I wonder if I missed something along the way.

In any case, we were unhappy with the cakes and were left with the question of what to do with the remainder of the recipe which was yet un-cooked.  I didn’t want to waste what was leftover (particularly since it took so long to make in the first place!) so yesterday I decided to do a re-vamp in an attempt to improve both the flavor and the texture.  Since the garlic and spices hadn’t done much for this dish, I decided to add soy sauce, worcestershire sauce, sesame oil and chili oil to give the cakes some zip.  As for texture, I dredged the cakes in bread crumbs and opted to fry them in oil instead of baking.

Luckily, the changes made a huge difference.  The savory flavors of the soy sauce and worchestershire added depth that was not present in the previous version.  The bread crumbs and frying process added some much-needed crispiness.  It might have helped to bake the cakes to dry them out before frying, but I was not anxious to add a further step to the already-involved process.

Overall, the re-vamped quinoa cakes were much better than the original, but I don’t think they’re worth the effort to do over again.     Hopefully next week I will have another delicious meatless feature to share with all of you.  Have a  great week, everyone!

sweatin’ it out on the big farm

I can’t believe I’m writing this, but after my last rainy visit to the Big Farm, it was actually quite nice to arrive at Cloudview at 7 am with the weather already at 80 degrees!  When I arrived, however, the farm was deserted; I couldn’t find anyone in the market  garden or the greenhouse.  Turns out, I was already too late!  Things are starting up earlier now that the eastern Washington summer has truly arrived with its temps of 100+.   I found out later that everyone actually had been working up at the truck farm since 6 am!  In the meantime, I figured that everyone would turn up eventually, so I killed some time wandering around and taking pictures of the animals.

Sure enough, I eventually found Nicole, Jeff and Jen hanging the garlic they had spent the first part of the morning harvesting.  I jumped in to help string the heavy bunches on wires in the drying shed.  For a garlic-lover like me, it was a beautiful sight to see row after row of hanging garlic!

After the garlic was safely stored for drying, I joined some others in the market garden to harvest Russian kale.  I found out too late that you are supposed to harvest a few leaves at a time from each plant!  Oops. I guess I still have a lot to learn about farming!  Luckily, everyone was understanding and there is still plenty of kale to be harvested!

After the kale was finished, the weather was really heating up, so I was glad for the opportunity to spend the rest of the morning inside, assembling boxes for the CSA and sorting food in the giant walk-in cooler.  Boy, did that refrigerated air feel great!

At about 11, everyone was ready for a break.  Having many errands to run, I reluctantly said my goodbyes, though I would have rather stayed for the group lunch (empanadas!) than sweat my brains out hauling around groceries, canning supplies and household purchases!  Oh well, at least I had the memory of another beautiful and fun morning on the farm!

wednesday garden update 07/11/2012

the garden view from my desk

It’s 7-11 day!  Did you get your free Slurpee yet?  I’ll tell you what, they may not want Slurpees, but my garden plants are THIRSTY.  Eastern Washington summer has finally set in, and the garden is really responding.  For the most part, the plants seem to be loving the heat.  Little tomato is not so little anymore!

My newly-transplanted tomato seems to be adapting well to its new home.  It helps we haven’t had strong winds over the last couple of days.  Even better? The heat has brought on my first teeny-tiny tomato!  Here’s hoping for many more.

The nasturtiums are going nuts in the hot weather.  They have made the balcony explode with color!  I hope that they do their job and attract some pollinators for the tomatoes.

The catnip also is responding well to he heat.  It’s getting some large leaves, despite having kitties munch it daily.

The only thing that doesn’t like the summer weather is the lettuce.  I water in the morning and the evening and still it gets droopy every afternoon.  I think we may be nearing the end of lettuce season here on the little farm!

Also, my basil plants on the wall planters seem to be stunted.  I swear they haven’t grown at all in over a month!  Maybe they just don’t have enough room.  I thought they’d at least do something after two days of 100+-degree heat, but no.  I think I need to find some more basil starts if I want to make pesto this year.

Well, that’s all for today.  Enjoy your Slurpees and stay cool, everyone!

men’s brimmed cap – a work in progress!

I know it’s a little warm outside to be crocheting winter caps, but I was just too tempted by this pattern.  Plus, I’ve decided that I’m doing homemade Christmas gifts this year and with homemade gifts it’s never too early to get started!

This pattern wasn’t too tough at the start.  It’s done in mostly single crochet worked in the round, with a row of double crochet every fifth row to add texture and structure.  Things got tricky when it came to the brim, however, as I’ve never done that type of piece before.  What was particularly difficult was finding a piece of plastic to make a form for it!  I had to do some scavenging around the house, and the only thing I found that had the  consistency I wanted was an empty plastic vodka bottle from the recycling!

So, with vodka bottle re-purposed, I have my first version of the hat.  It’s not bad, but the brim doesn’t do what it should.  Maybe I ought to invest in some actual interfacing next time instead of digging in the recycling bin!

Steve modeling my first brimmed crochet hat

Also, every row of double crochet had a funny little bulge in it.  I think next time I will try to make that row without starting with a chain 3.  Other than that, I’m pretty happy with this first draft, though it won’t be going in anyone’s Christmas gift.  Here’s hoping that the next ones will be truly gift-worthy!

can anyone tell me how to avoid these bulges??

Do any of you crocheting bloggers have any tips for me as I make more of these?  Happy crafting!

meatless monday 7/9/12 – simple margarita pizza

One of the best things about Italian food is that, in general, the Italians keep it simple: start with excellent ingredients and then don’t mess them up.  Don’t get me wrong, I love a rich, French sauce that took hours to reduce, but when you’ve got fresh mozzerella, sweet basil and ripe tomatoes, you don’t need half a day or even an hour to get amazing flavor!  Hence, today’s Meatless Monday feature: Margarita Pizza.

Margarita pizza is one of my favorite dishes of all time, and it also just happens to be meatless.  What’s not to love about it?  That combination of crunchy and chewy crust along with the fresh, rustic flavors of the toppings is absolutely heaven.  Plus, this pizza is a crowd pleaser for all ages, which makes it perfect for entertaining.

The keys to success for Margarita pizza are fresh ingredients and fresh dough.  Luckily, as yeast breads go, pizza dough is quite easy to make (see recipe below).  If you’re not so inclined to make it yourself, many grocery store chains (like Trader Joe’s) actually sell frozen pizza dough that tastes great and makes fresh pizza even easier.

To make Margarita Pizza:

Ingredients:

1 5/6″  ball fresh pizza dough (1/2 recipe Easy Pizza Dough)

1/2 – 3/4 cup of your favorite tomato-basil sauce

1 large, ripe tomato, sliced into 1/4″ rounds

10-12 large basil leaves

1 large ball fresh mozzerella cheese, sliced into 1/4″ rounds

Directions:

1. Place rack in bottom position in the oven.  Preheat oven to 500 degrees.

2. Place ball of pizza dough on lightly-floured counter.  Flatten into 8″ disk.  Gently stretch disk into 14-inch round by pulling outer edge, giving the disk a quarter turn, and pulling again until it reaches desired size.  Place round of pizza dough on pizza pan or large cookie sheet.

3.  Evenly spread tomato sauce on pizza.  Alternately, you can skip the sauce and just put olive oil and minced garlic on the pizza crust.

4.   Evenly place tomatoes on the pizza.  Put pizza in oven to bake for 8-10 minutes, or until crust begins to brown.

5.  Remove pizza from oven and place rounds of cheese evenly on pizza and return to oven for 2-3 minutes, or until cheese is melted.

6.  Remove pizza from oven again and place basil leaves evenly on top of pizza.  Slice and serve immediately!

Here is a great and very easy recipe for amazing pizza dough.  Making it up in a food processor makes the process very quick and simple.  I can attest that bread flour works great in this recipe, as it creates a nice, chewy crust.  However, you can also use all-purpose flour and get good results.  This recipe makes enough dough for two pizzas.  I usually make one pizza and put the other ball of pizza dough in my freezer to use for another dinner.

Easy Pizza Dough (adapted from the Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook)

Ingredients:

4-4 1/4 cups bread flour

2 1/4 teaspoons (1 packet) instant or rapid-rise yeast

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 1/2 cups warm water (110 degrees)

Directions:

1.  Pulse 4 cups flour, yeast and salt in food processor fitted with dough blade (if possible) until combined.  This usually takes about 5 1-second pulses.  With food processor running, slowly add oil, then water.  Process until rough ball forms, 30-40 seconds.  Let dough rest for approximately 2 minutes.   Process 30 seconds longer.  If dough is still sticky and clings to blade, add remaining 1/4 cup flour 1 tablespoon at a time, until dough is no longer sticky.

2.  Transfer dough to lightly floured counter and knead by hand into a smooth, round ball.  Place dough in a large, lightly greased bowl.  Cover bowl with greased plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until doubled in size, 1 – 1 1/2 hours, before using.

3.  After dough has risen, transfer onto lightly-floured counter, divide dough in half and form into spheres.  If desired, wrap one ball of dough in double layer of plastic wrap and freeze for later use.

4.  Use remaining ball of dough to make a Margarita pizza or another favorite and enjoy!