Sunday Scenes of the Garden

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Plate of Greens–Stuffed Poblano Peppers

I realized today that it’s been a while since I ventured away from my easy dinners list. Sometimes, between seasons in the veggie garden, I fall prey to eating the same foods week after week while waiting for the garden to produce the new bounty. With a recent cold snap here, I cut a bunch of poblanos so I wouldn’t risk losing them to a possible freeze. Luckily, my yard is pretty protected, so there weren’t any freezing temps here, but I now had an abundance of peppers to use before they went bad. I gave quite a few to neighbors and family, which is one of the main reasons I grow food—not only to feed myself, but also those around me.

The poblanos have done very well since fall hit. Large and firm with a deep green, shiny coat, I knew they would hold up to a good stuffing. Stuffed peppers are a pretty easy dinner and can be easily customized to a variety of dietary preferences. Poblanos add a mini-kick and a depth of flavor that other peppers just don’t come close to. Since I had one last chicken thigh to use up, I figured a classic chicken and rice combo would be good to stuff ’em up. I also got excited to see bok choy in the grocery this weekend, so I thought I better use that before it got all wilty. My bok choy seedlings are doing well, but far from harvest time.

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So here we go with my version of a use what ya got stuffed pepper. While the rice was cooking in the cooker with coconut oil, turmeric, black pepper, and cumin, I got to chopping the veggies. Sliced yellow onion went into a saute pan with the chicken, apple cider vinegar (my way to keep meat from drying out), the juice of one limequat, olive oil, cumin and oregano. Since it was a boneless, skinless thigh, I knew it would cook quick enough so that the onion wouldn’t turn to complete mush.

img_20161212_183502.jpgThe poblanos went on the cast iron griddle with olive oil to blister. Yum. It was hard not to just eat them straight off the griddle.

Meanwhile, in a lidded pot, I steamed the rough chopped bok choy with water, butter, and a little garlic powder. Once the chicken started to brown, I threw a whole chopped shallot and two crushed garlic cloves into the pan. When the delicious scent of garlic started filling the air, I added a bit of water to pull the browned bits off the bottom of the pan and a couple scoops of the cooked rice and let all those flavors simmer together.

All of the spices and oils were melding into a hanging-open mouth moment of kitchen zen in my kitchen. It was time to stuff. My original plan was to include the bok choy in the mix for some crunch, but they had browned so beautifully, I decided to leave them on their own as a side. So I left those in the pot, pulled off the heat, while I cut the peppers and removed the seed pod. These poblanos had a massive amount of seeds, so had to remove most of them to have room for the filling. I stuffed the three peppers to overflowing and piled on the fresh grated pecorino romano, popped those babies under the broiler, and poured a glass of red wine. Since everything was pre-cooked and still hot, I just needed to get that cheese melty. Oh, yes. So melty.

I’m calling this dinner the Plate of Greens. And how about my timing with Pantone announcing the color of the year for 2017 as a vibrant shade called “Greenery”? Yep. I’m just that good. Not on purpose, mind you. Purely accidentally that good.

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Plate of Greens:

3 medium poblano peppers

1 boneless, skinless chicken thigh (you can substitute a non-meat option here easily)

1/4 medium yellow onion, sliced

1 large shallot, chopped

2 garlic cloves crushed

1 small head of bok choy

Pecorino Romano (or any cheese you like), fresh grated, enough to coat

1 cup Jasmine white rice

1 heaping tablespoon coconut oil (for rice)

Olive oil (use whatever you’re comfortable with for sauteing)

1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter (for the bok choy)

Spices I used:  turmeric, black pepper, and cumin in the rice. Oregano and cumin in the chicken mixture. Garlic powder for the bok choy.

 

Tomadough Tart. Or something.

First, you grow some scrumptious heirloom tomatoes. Then you pick ’em ripe. After that, you put them in doubled-up dough with dijon, herbs and cheese, bake, and then cram it in yer piehole and make contented animal noises. Hello, summer.

It looks a little sumthin like this:

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Jenn’s Tomadough Tart Recipe

Tart dough (I doubled this because I like a thick dough):

6 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 tablespoons water

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 tablespoon sugar

1 rounded cup of flour

Put the butter, water, oil, and sugar in an oven-safe bowl and bake on 410 for 15 mins. until butter starts to brown on edges. Pull from oven, pour in flour, mix and put into tart pan to cool for a few before forming around pan.

I then cooked the dough at 375 for 15 mins. and let it cool completely before adding the filling.

Tart Filling:

As many tomatoes as will fill your tart. I know this is vague, but I used four different sizes of tomatoes for mine. I did three layers and that took one large, four medium, two small, and then six cherries. Do what feels right for you.

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**Be sure to put your sliced tomatoes out on a towel and salt them to pull the water out of them. You can do this while the dough is cooling. 

 

6 ounces of good goat cheese (you could use mozzarella if you prefer)

Pecorino romano, freshly grated

Fresh chopped herbs (I used scallions, thyme, and basil from my garden, but feel free to use whatever spices you like. Tomatoes go with most any of them.)

Dijon, enough to coat the bottom of the tart

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Coat the bottom of the cooked/cooled tart dough with dijon–a layer as thick as you would put on a sandwich. Then add your first layer of tomatoes. Tops with some of the herbs and a sparse sprinkling of grated pecorino romano cheese. Next layer of tomatoes and repeat with the herbs and cheese. Add the final layer of tomatoes, top with the goat cheese and any herbs you may have left. Pour the olive oil all over the top of the tart.

Bake at 425 for 30 mins. on the middle rack. Watch it so the cheese on top doesn’t brown too much.

Take it out and allow to cool for the flavors to meld and so it doesn’t fall apart when you cut into it.

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Meatless Monday: Black Beans, Quinoa, and…

One of my go-to, easy recipes for any night that I’m too tired to care is the simple dish of black beans and quinoa. I do sometimes make the traditional version with rice, but most of the time when I’m that tired, I’m looking for that extra protein punch from the quinoa. The leftover quinoa–because I way overdo it when making it, just like with pasta–is also good to have in the mornings with a couple of over easy eggs and avocado.

To start, I use the tri-colored quinoa mix for no particular reason other than I like the way it looks. I add coconut oil and spices like oregano and cumin to the water when cooking it to infuse some flavors. While that is doing its thing, I chop up white onion, fresh cloves of garlic, and red pepper and saute those in olive oil. Once the onions are starting to brown, I pour in the can of black beans with the liquid. Remember, these are the no-energy-to-care nights, so your preferred style of canned black beans are just fine.

After adding the beans, I toss in some oregano, cumin, smoked paprika, and salt & pepper (I like to add fresh garden basil when I have it in season near the end) and let all that simmer together while the quinoa finishes up. Sometimes I like to have a green veggie with my meal, as well. Depending on what is in season or what I have around it could be zucchini or broccoli or a small salad of spinach and arugula with a homemade shallot dressing.

But my secret, no-prepping or cooking needed veggie addition that I absolutely adore with my black beans, regardless of whether I’m having them with quinoa or rice, as tacos, or on a salad, is Slawsa. Slawsa is a really cool condiment that is a slaw/salsa mix. My favorites are the Low Sugar and Fire styles. It’s really good with a variety of foods, from topping hot dogs and burgers to spicing up deviled eggs, but there’s something about the Fire flavor in the same bite as the garlicky beans that I’m obsessed with.

wpid-img_20150914_185634.jpgPlus, it adds that purty color to my meal and we all know how important the look of the meal is to me for that all-encompassing enjoyment. That’s it. Easy peasy black bean dinner for Meatless Mondays or those nights when your garden of cares has clearly gone dormant.

 

Ingredients

One 15 ounce can of black beans

1 cup quinoa

1 tablespoon coconut oil for the quinoa

1 tablespoon olive oil for the saute

Cumin, oregano, smoked paprika, s&p (or any of your liking)

Garlic cloves

Green veggie of your preference

Slawsa

 

Roasted Chickpeas with Other Hippy Dippy Trappings

I’ve had this stack of canned chickpeas in my pantry for a while now. I go through phases of bean buying and at some point I must have had the thought that I would love a ton of chickpeas in my life. Sometimes I will use them straight on salads, but I haven’t done that in a while and these cans have been glaring at me every time I look in the pantry. They must be Catholic because the guilt coming off of them is strong.

Tonight was their night. I was tired after a weekend of gardening and painting, so I needed something easy to prepare and shovel down my yap.

I’ve seen various recipes pop up for roasted chickpeas recently and decided I would try that. Seemed simple enough:  chickpeas, oil, oven time, spices of your choice. It wasn’t baking, so I was confident mixing multiple recipe ideas and creating my own version.

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To get started, I drained the chickpeas and then rolled them between a clean dishtowel until they were dry. Pulled out the skins that came off in the drying process and then tossed them in a bowl with a combo of coconut and olive oil and salt. Coated them well and then spread out on a cookie sheet.

Into a 400 degree oven they went on the middle rack and I set the timer for 25 mins. Meanwhile, I looked in the fridge to see what I could eat with them. Found some leftover quinoa and broccoli. That would do. I sliced a whole shallot, two big cloves of garlic, and one garden jalapeno and sauteed those before adding the quinoa at the end just to reheat.

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About 10 mins. in, I turned the chickpeas and added the broccoli, which I had tossed in olive oil and a little pinch of salt, to the baking sheet. While I waited for those to roast, I mixed up about 2 tablespoons of various spices. You can use just about whatever you like from dried spices to fresh cut herbs. I went with cumin, smoked paprika, chili powder, a  little cayenne, and dried basil–since my garden fresh basil is gone now. Sad face.

They ended up taking more like 30 mins. to really wpid-wp-1443392856515.jpg
crisp up and while they were still oily hot from the oven, I poured the spices on top and stirred until evenly coated. They smelled and looked delicious. Tested one and they had a suberb crunch to them. Instant textural addiction.

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The quinoa went into a bowl with the broccoli next and then the crispy roasted chickpeas of delight on top. I have to say that I’m glad those mofos guilted me into finally using them. Those little nuggets of yum had the perfect pop.

The leftovers will go on my lunch salad tomorrow and will be so much better than just boring beans straight from the can. Now I’m full and dreaming of pie. Why didn’t I make a pie today? Someone bring me pie. Made with butter. A lot of butter.

Hawk Moths, Eggshells, and a Super Harvest Moon

I slept. I actually slept until 8:34 this morning. This is a fall miracle. The weather broke yesterday and I was able to open the windows and let the cool night air engulf my room last night. Fresh air and the sounds of nature in the night lulled me into the best rest I’ve had in months. Finally.

I woke up to the usual lovefest from my girls, Ruby and Frita. They start every morning giving and getting attention before we get out of bed. It’s their way of saying, “good morning, ma!” and I have to admit there’s no way to begin the day without a smile because of their routine. Once up, I made some coffee and went out to the back deck for some garden contemplation time. Today was my first day of seed planting, so I needed to have some sort of plan in my mind for the layout before getting started.

The coolness of the night was lingering and the hawk moths were everywhere. Flitting from flower to flower, faux hummingbirds of the insect world, they drank from the pink pentas, purple buddleia, and blue salvia alongside the Zebra Longwings and Giant Swallowtails. Big bumblebees zoomed in and sampled from the zinnias and horsemint on the breakfast buffet. The garden was teeming with activity and I was roused by it.

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With my first stack of seeds to plant, I was ready with a plan based on soil and sun exposure. Then I actually took the time to read the planting directions on the seed packets and realized I needed to soak the beet and chard for best performance, so I started those to soaking in some Moo Poo Tea. The radishes and carrots would be planted in the lower part of the yard where the sun is strong most of the day and the soil is rich and evenly moist. As root crops, I thought those would be the best conditions for their growth and flavor. The kale would do fine up at the top of the garden with a little less sun.

I set to work taking back that portion of the garden from the summer weeds that had taken over. As it usually happens when weeding, I just kept going and ended up cleaning out a much larger area than I needed for today’s planting. I also decided to move a few perennials while I was at it and before I knew it, I had completely forgotten my original task.

wpid-wp-1443300084948.jpgWorking my way around, I noticed that a few of the cabbages I planted the previous week had holes in their leaves. Chew holes. CABBAGE WORMS. They found it already? Dammit.

Luckily, I have been saving eggshells and was ready for this nonsense. I decided to take a break and prepare my organic cabbage worm (or maybe slug) defense–crushed eggshells. Not only are the sharp eggshells brutal on the soft bodies of worms and slugs, they do double duty as a beneficial nutrient by adding calcium to the soil.wpid-wp-1443300092215.jpg

A few quick pulses in the food processor and I had my organic, coarsely-ground pest death. I bagged it up and went back out to heavy hand it around the starter plants. I went ahead and encircled the broccoli plants as well. Even though they did not have any chew holes yet, I knew they were on the list of delectable delights that those pests liked.

Broccoli and cabbage plants surrounded in safety, it was time to get back to the seed beds. First, I lightly hand-tilled some mushroom compost into the top layer of loosened soil. Then I spread the seeds, sprinkled more of the eggshell bits on top, and covered with a thin layer of pine straw–just enough to protect the soil from washing away when watering or in the rain. Watered everything in and put a few pruned rose branches around the seeds to keep critters out. Once I see those little seeds sprout, I will hit them with Moo Poo Tea to get their root systems going strong.

With the weeds eradicated, perennials relocated, and seed beds planted, it was time to relax on the back deck once again and appreciate the changed view. In the weekends ahead, I will be adding more and more. Remember, I went a bit overboard when buying seeds this year, so I still have a lot of work ahead of me. Some of the areas will have to wait until my fall tomatoes are done and other spots will open up as perennials and larger deciduous plants lose their leaves, allowing the sun in. I will also do subsequent rounds of the root crops so they aren’t all ready at the same time.

Overall, it was a productive day in the garden and my timing could not have been more perfect. We are supposed to be getting a few days of rain coming up and nothing is better than rain for those transplants and seeds. Also, I have done some research on gardening by the phases of the moon and with tomorrow night’s super harvest moon and total eclipse, I am interested to see how this round does compared to the ones I will plant in the next few weeks/months. I’m keeping notes this year.

Let me know your experiences with gardening by the phases of the moon and don’t forget to go outside and look up tomorrow night if you have clear skies!

 

 

No Patience Girl Strikes Again: Garden Edition

Not only does patience evade me in the kitchen, it is also nowhere to be found when it comes to the garden.

We had our first coolish snap here in North Florida this past weekend and while at my favorite local nursery, Native Nurseries, I couldn’t resist picking up a few starter packs of veggies for the fall/winter garden. It’s the right time to start seeds, but a little risky on the small starter plants because we are guaranteed another heat wave before the weather truly breaks.

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But I just could not say no to those little four packs of cabbages and broccoli. I needed them. They needed me. It was mutual, so it happened. I chose “Red Acre” cabbage, “Golden Acre” cabbage, and “Belstar” broccoli.

(That Poohtea Bucket was made for me by a creative friend to brew manure compost tea in for my veggies. Don’t you just love it?)

They also had an endangered native called Brickellia cordiformis “Flyr’s Nemesis” which is a big time butterfly favorite, so I obviously had to add that to my purchases. Although rare in the wild, it’s supposedly easy to grow and propagate, so I’m optimistic in trying it. Here’s what the blooms will look like when they open…IMG_8629

 

 

 

As I was heading to checkout before I could grab anything else, an unusual bloom caught my eye.

wpid-wp-1442362242206.jpgWhat was that lavender-ish, spotted lovely? Oh, a Dotted Horsemint (Mondarda punctata)! Another Florida native that I did not have in my yard…yet. Picked up a gallon size pot of that because I love all beebalms and headed home.

The weekend itself got away from me, so I didn’t end up getting them into the ground until this afternoon. Recently, after seeing some pictures of my harvests from last year compared to this year’s summer harvests, I knew it was time to amend my soil. Overall, I have great dirt from years of leaf mulch and garden rotations, but it was clearly time to give it a boost. I want big production for fall/winter. I’ve got plans for those veggies. The freezer is already full of homemade veggie and chicken stocks ready for soups!

I gathered up the cabbages and broccoli and placed them with a general idea of what else would be added in the weeks ahead. For each starter plant hole, I mixed in two scoops of mushroom compost, a good dose of Jobe’s Organic fertilizer, and watered them in with Moo Poo Tea (which is the best stuff ever). If that doesn’t give them the best chance ever? I don’t know what will. Even better, it’s supposed to rain tomorrow and the next day. Nothing, nothing at all, beats all natural rain after planting.

As the baby veggies settle in for the night, I’m busy looking through my seed collection which has now reached 14 packets including this weekends additions…

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Did I not mention that I also bought more seed packets while at the nursery? Whoops. I did.

Clearly no patience girl is here to stay. I can pretend that baking has helped slow me down and taught me to do things in order, but the fact is, I can’t be stopped. I need all the foods, all the plants, and all the words (I may or may not have another shipment of books on the way as well) right now!