Sunday, May 31, 2009

Garden Update 5/31/09

Today was a pretty productive day in the OR garden - we got Jubilee corn planted (a little late perhaps, but we've got our fingers collectively crossed), bush beans, cucumbers and summer squash. We also mulched all the paths with cut grass to try to keep weeds down, and we mulched the strawberry plants and peas with it, too. (Read about it in Mother Earth News).

Pictorial updates:
Jubilee corn, 4 seeds per hill

4 hills of cucumbers (far), 4 hills of summer squash

Green bush beans; 1/3rd of row planted. Planting next third in 2 weeks, and the final third the following 2 weeks.

What is eating our Pac Choi? Any ideas on how to handle it appreciated.

Peas! We mulched them today and thinned them a bit (and ate the thinned plants in our salad!)

Turnips! I can't believe these guys are already germinated. They share a row with carrots, although we've got no carrots sprouting yet. :(

One of my dad's 3 peach trees! See the cute tiny furry peaches?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Growing Challenge: Check-in!

So, it seems I kind of can't have a challenge to work on. Actually, this isn't true! When I was reading Melinda's great blog, One Green Generation the other day, I saw her two challenges that she is running: The Growing Challenge and The Growing Challenge: Seed to Seed. Go there now and read about them!

I just signed up for the main challenge, although it would be cool to commit to saving seeds - so we just might do that, too! I'm excited to have a reason to document this and share it with others.

I wanted to update on our Oregon garden, which we're doing mostly from seed. With photos!!!

Overview: Right half of garden
Left Half of Garden
Right side, row 1: From left to right, Leeks, Scallions, Spinach (all almost invisible!) I'm a little worried about this row, it's not looking too active at this point.

Here's some spinach, I think...
Right side, row 2: Heirloom Lettuce, Pac Choi, Cabbage

Pac Choi!
Right side, row 3 (inside half): Snap Peas, Shelling Peas
Peas, glorious peas!
Left half (just planted yesterday, first 2.5 rows). First row is chard, kale, head lettuce (my dad requested it); second row is 2/3rds carrots, 1/3rd turnips; 3rd row (the wet half) is broccoli. :)
The back row:

Tomatoes! Three plants that we purchased as starts:

Strawberries! We have six plants, purchased as starts.

The tiller/waterer/toddler wrangler, extraordinaire.

So we still have LOT of work to do. Some of it I worry can't go in yet because the soil's not warm enough (note to self: buy a thermometer to check). Things like cucumber, summer squash, winter squash, bush beans, corn (all from seed). Silas and I are actually here in Oregon this week, so I might get some more planting done (if I can con my dad into re-tilling some of the rows). The dirt is SO freaking clumpy - it's like dirt rocks. There are a LOT of earthworms though, so I'm hoping that's a good sign. We did work a few bags of compost into the rows, so I'm hoping that will help a tiny bit. But I know this first year will probably be pretty rough because of the lack of organic matter in the soil. But we had to start somewhere!

Oh, and PLEASE! We are new at this, so if you have any pointers for us, we'd love to hear it!

Monday, May 18, 2009

What's on the Menu

My menu is abbreviated this week, because we're going out of town starting Thursday afternoon through Monday. Part of the time we'll be staying with my parents and cooking there, but we'll also be attending our first Unschooling Conference, Life is Good - we're so excited! So we'll be staying at the hotel two of those nights for the fully steeped con experience.

Monday: Tofu Pineapple Curry over Brown Basmati Rice (recipe from Vegan Express - new!)

: Gimme Chimis (out of Eat, Drink and Be Vegan - one of our faves!) and Mashed Chipotle Sweet Potatoes

: African Peanut Soup (from Local Bounty - new specific recipe, though we've had versions of this soup before)

Thursday: Leftover smorgasboard

What I've Been Up To...

I just took that bad boy out of the oven a few minutes ago. Yay, bread! It's half whole wheat and half (local!) white. I made some last week and it was really, really good and probably cost me less than $2 to make.

Farmer's Market, Revisited
This weekend we made it to the local farmer's market, and boy howdy has it picked up since the last time I was there! I was there probably a month or maybe a month and a half ago (it's year-round) but man, was I disappointed. There were so few veggies and they were SO expensive! And tiny. I can't even remember what I bought, but I walked away quite a bit poorer and much more down-trodden than when I arrived. Not so yesterday! Yesterday it was positively bustling with fresh food fervor - people lined up for local organic plant starts, veggies were piled high and inspiring, there was a band playing...and it didn't hurt that it was a gorgeous, sunny day! So I stuck to my meal plan and only bought a few food items, namely, some fresh asparagus, some spring carrots, an awesome mix of salad greens, including baby spinach and pea shoots (!!!), and some spring onions and garlic.

For lunch, I made Asparagus Leek Curry out of Local Bounty.
It was crazy good! I made a few substitutions: instead of leeks I used some of the spring onions and garlic, and I didn't want to open a can of coconut milk (it only called for 1 cup) so I used one of the plain coconut milk yogurts that have been haunting my fridge for a while now. The results were really, really good! I would probably use regular coconut milk next time (the yogurt has a sweetness to it, despite being labeled "plain). The spice combo of this recipe is off the hook - turmeric, cumin, cardamom, cayenne - really really amazing. We ate this over white Jasmine rice. And I was super proud of myself for using some previously frozen homecooked chickpeas instead of opening a new can. Bonus!

Leftover Transformation Shenanigans
I didn't get a picture of this meal, but I gotta say I *LOVE* transforming leftovers (that nobody wants) into new meals that we all do a little dance for! Last night for dinner I was poking around the fridge trying to figure out what we would eat then and what we would be eating for lunch today. The leftover Rustic Black-Eyed Peas and Mushrooms were glaring at me - I knew it was time to eat them or freeze them, and I honestly didn't think that I liked them enough to freeze them. So, to the cookbooks I went. I dug out Passionate Vegetarian and found a recipe for Hillbilly Hummus - and it saved the day!!! I threw my beans, some peanut butter, some of the spring garlic, salt, apple cider vinegar and some sage in the food processor, and voila! Totally new meal. We had the hummus in whole wheat pita pockets with some Chow Chow (also been haunting my fridge forever) and some of the fresh salad mix. What hummus was left over was devoured with the aid of tortilla chips. And my fridge is haunted no more!

Crazy Container and Topsoil-Bag Garden
On our farmer's market extravaganza we also purchased a bunch of plant starts (6 alpine strawberry, 3 (or 9?!?) broccoli starts, and 6 basil). Yay! We planted the strawberries and broccoli in bags of topsoil.

After we transplanted the broccoli, we started to wonder if there were more than one plant in each's a close-up, can anyone weigh in? We think there might have actually been 3 starts in each be continued.

We also had three tomato starts that we planted and I transplanted my perennial herbs (rosemary, oregano, chives) to bigger pots. (The thyme looks bad, but I think it's going to rally!)

Some of the basil went in the tomato containers, others are on their own in other containers.

We even planted some lettuce seed in two bags of topsoil. Oh, and some nasturtium seeds in a weird container left by the former tenants (trellis included!). So we're on our way with our goofy garden. Next up: peas! We just need more dirtbags. Heh heh.

Super Duper Bonus Points to anyone who can tell me what kind of flowers are growing behind the lettuce bags (the red ones). Peonies? I'll get a close up soon. There are a lot of mystery flowers on this property. Bless the former owner, she had a green thumb and we now we are lucky enough to reap the rewards.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Meal Planning: Wicked Awesome

So I have stuck to the meal plan all week, and I have to say that it pretty much rocks! Here are some (subpar) photos to chronicle our culinary delights this week:

Rustic Black-Eyed Peas and Mushrooms over (Leftover) Biscuits, with Simple Sauteed Kale

This was adapted from Rustic White Beans and Mushrooms from Vcon. I had planned to make it and then when I went to soak my white beans the night before I came to find that I had none. But I did have B-E Peas, so I figured, why not? I always leave the carrots in this dish, because we are big fans of cooked carrots. I had planned on serving this over the leftover Coconut Rice, but biscuits from Sunday were glaring at me from their place on the counter, so I dutifully heeded their call.

Silas had his beans earlier, and enjoyed some apple slices on the side.
Nearly Instant Thai Coconut Corn Soup
This is from Vegan Express, which I checked out the library recently, and it was AWESOME. I was kind of freaked by how much coconut milk was in it, but then I just got over it and enjoyed it. Plus it makes a lot - we froze 3 cups. Oh, and heres a mama tip: I knew Silas would turn his nose up at this because of the sliced scallions and red pepper, so I broke out my favorite kitchen utensil: the immersion blender. I blended his portion up and it was so pretty and orangey pink. He thoroughly enojoyed his "chowder."

Two Grilled Pizzas

I officially love my bread machine. It's so easy to dump in the ingredients for dough and come back an hour and a half later to make it into something delicious. In this case, I divided the dough in what I thought was half but turned out to be more like 1/3 & 2/3rds. I threw the dough on the hot grill while I prepped the toppings. One was leftover pesto (taken out of the freezer earlier this week), local sun-dried tomatoes and sliced kalamata olives. The other was jarred marinara, with sauteed onion, garlic, mushrooms, kale and a touch of white wine. OMGYUM! They were both sooooo good.

Silas kept saying, "'Hank you mama, for the dewishus food!" You're welcome, little buddy.
In other news, I took a Thai cooking class last night with Pranee at PCC - so fun! The food was so good - grilled shiitakes, homemade red curry paste made into Phanang Portabello Curry which was served over Grilled Eggplant, Stir-Fried Lemongrass Rice with Tofu and Edamame, some delicious Prik See Ew (a spicy soy sauce condiment - my new love!), and a delicious Pineapple-Lemongrass punch. Pranee was a really fun instructor with lots of good stories. She kept saying, "See? It's so easy," while we looked on in total bewilderment. I mean, it was great to demystify techniques (like how to deal with lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves!) but it also looked pretty complicated to the Thai cooking novice. So I had to giggle every time she said that. But I'm sure, like everything, that with practice it will become easy. Just not quite yet. I predict that these recipes will appear on a menu plan soon!

Mindful Home Goals: Update!

So this week I've been really successful at sticking to some new goals. Here's what I decided to officially concentrate on this past week:

1. Keep the kitchen sink empty and shiny - this means dealing with dishes immediately. What a great one this is. It's so simple, and yet so profoundly affects my mood. It's so wonderful to go into the kitchen and have no guilt-inducing dirty dishes staring back at me. It's amazing to have every tool I could need to prepare the next meal ready and clean and waiting. It's just plain groovy to have a clean kitchen. And, like anything, it's easy to do if you stay on top of it. A few times I've wanted to leave a dish or pot in there to deal with later, but I forced myself to just deal with it now. And it only takes a few minutes! Really! Cleaning as you go is so much faster - 2 or 3 minutes here and there over the day instead of 30 minutes at once, where I stand feeling resentful and grumbly. I really thing that this goal (combined with meal planning) can save me a ton of money, because when I have a sinkful of dirty dishes, many times my mind has screamed "GET TAKE OUT!" instead of dealing with them.

2. Make the Beds Daily - another weird one, but like the clean sink, it greatly improves the overall feel of the house. It just feels more peaceful and streamlined to have made beds. And it takes like 2 minutes. It's a good psychic investment.

3. Meal Plan - This has been great. It's so nice not to have to worry what I'm going to make every day, because it's all planned out. It's a great way to use up the stores of frozen food and pantry staples that I have in the house instead of buying more. And I'm tracking my grocery budget really closely to see if we're saving money. I don't see how we won't, since nothing is wasted.

4. Keep the Dining Room Table Clear - we're REALLY bad at cluttering up every surface in the house. To cut down on this, I've implemented a new Inbox for incoming mail - now Chad and I both know where to go to deal with it. I also have to watch my piles of cookbooks and meal planning notecards (more on that another day). But I've been really good about keeping it clear and clean. Another psychic boost.

5. Get on Top of Laundry - sure I do laundry. But I almost always have a backlog. This week I've reduced the backlog significantly. I only do full loads, but this week, I've probably done 8 loads of laundry. I KNOW, right? But the plan is to get on top of it, and stay on top. Take the dirty clothes down every morning, assess to see if there is enough for a full load of anything, and do it. Fold and put away the same day, no excuses. We have been known to dress out of laundry baskets for weeks, so again, this might seem like a no-brainer, but not so much in our case. By next week I predict that we'll be down to laundry 2-4 times a week. And THEN I want to get my clothesline up! Bwahaahahaa!

At first I felt really boring and lame posting all this stuff, but then I reminded myself, "Hey! This is YOUR blog! You can put whatever you want on it!" And it's true, it's not like I'm trying to make money from this thing! So I hope I didn't bore you to tears.

Stay tuned to see if my dedication to a clean house flags! And what will be on the menu for next week! Hugs to all.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


It's been a while. I've been cooking, but very very uninspired. I think it was the winter doldrums, you know? Now that we're getting some sun in our part of the world again (she types as it rains...) I've been feeling very inspired, motivated, and spring-cleaning-ish.

New Direction?
I've been thinking a lot about either starting a new blog or changing and expanding the focus of this one. I'm not sure where I'll end up yet. But lately I've been bitten by the organizing/cleaning/decluttering/money-saving/meal-planning bug...that is to say, sustainable, mindful home management. So you may be seeing more posts on those topics in the near future. Or you may see me linking to a new place where all that stuff will be. Let me know if you have an opinion either way. But there will still be delicious, vegan food. Just, you know, more than that.

Big New Goal: Meal Plan!
And follow the dang thing...
Monday: Honeybaked lentils with coconut rice, baked winter squash with ginger; leftover squash got leveraged into pumpkin Squash Muffins, yum!!! Super double bonus: Made homemade whole wheat bread! (Used bread machine dough cycle, which is the awesome).

Tuesday: (frozen) Pesto with spaghetti, chopped leftover celebration roast, and sun-dried tomatoes, steamed broccoli with lemon, red leaf salad with chopped Pink Lady apples and local hazelnuts with homemade balsamic vinaigrette

Wednesday: Rustic Black-Eyed Peas with Mushrooms, (leftover) coconut rice, garlicky kale and more of the red leaf salad combo from Tuesday

Nearly Instant Thai Soup with Corn (from Vegan Express), more salad combo!

Pizza night with pesto, broccoli or kale (depending what's left!), sun-dried tomatoes

Breakfast: biscuits and gravy, grapefruit. Dinner: Burrito night out with friends

Breakfast: Pancakes! Dinner: Indian Night! Chana Masala (with extra gravy to freeze), cumin rice, salad

Mac and Cashew Cheese, [whatever fresh veggies I buy at the farmer's market Sunday]

Tuesday: Gimme Chimis (from ED&BV), Guac & Corn Chips

Wednesday: African Peanut Stew, bread

: Out of town; play by ear

Garden in the Works!

Did you know my parents have a mostly empty 2 acre field behind their house? Well, they do. And we are lucky enough to use some of that field for an awesome kitchen garden! This is a little tricky, because, well, they live 3 hours away. But we visit about every other weekend so the little dude can get his fix of grandma crack, so we're hoping that we can keep it going and maybe bribe my parents with produce to water and weed occasionally.

This past weekend Chad went out to roto-till the sod into our garden. And that sucked. A lot. So my dad went across the street and asked if his friendly neighbor wouldn't mind using his tractor to dig up our beds. $40 later, voila! Garden. We measured 3 foot beds and figured out our paths, and altogether, we figure we have about 700 square feet of actual gardening space. Woo-hoo!

So far we've planted:
  • 6 Quinalt strawberry starts
  • 3 Tomato starts
  • Snap peas
  • Shelling peas
  • Leeks
  • Scallions
  • Spinach
  • Cabbage
  • Pac Choi
  • Heirloom lettuce
And we have a LOT of space to go. My dad insists we grow completely insane and not-of-this-climate things like corn. But we'll also have lots of bush green beans, carrots, kale, chard, summer squash, broccoli, and possibly potatoes and bell peppers (although we have to start peppers inside and I'm not really sure I'm that ambitious this year.) We also hope to put in some perennial herbs. Oh! And we convinced my parents to plant 6 fruit trees! Woo-hoo! 3 apples (gala and honeycrisps) and 3 peaches. I'm so excited! Our plan to transform their land into Post Peak Oil readiness is underway, bwaaaahaaahaaa!

We're also planning on container gardening at our place. We've got three tomato starts ready to plant, and some chives and oregano to re-pot (who knew they were perennial? Not me until they came back to life recently!) And our thyme is coming back. Our rosemary never died, but might need a larger home. I'd also love to do some salad greens and some kale in some half whiskey barrels. But we'll see how far we get.

The raspberry canes are starting to look leafy and productive! I can't WAIT until fresh raspberry time!

Ok, off to rid my kitchen sink of dishes. It's another new goal of mine - empty, shiny kitchen sink. Dishes washed and dealt with immediately. It doesn't sound like a big deal, but man, it really improves my mood and encourages me to spend more time in my kitchen.

Smelling the lilac blooms from our backyard is a big incentive, too.