East of Weedin'

Just another AreaVoices site

   Sep 27

Eating during a time of chaos

Since our baby was born in June, our diets have not been all that great. Managing three kids is different than two, especially when one of them is pretty demanding. Nearly four months out though, I’ve decided as a family we needed to get back on track. So yesterday our dinner came entirely from the farmer’s market.

There is some junk at the market but most of the products are healthy. I bought apples, carrots, brussel sprouts, red bell peppers and a couple of grass-fed sirloin steaks. As suppers go it was an easy one. I threw some olive oil and salt and pepper on the brussel sprouts and roasted them. My husband grilled the steaks and I  put out sliced peppers as a pre-dinner snack. Everyone ate without complaint. It was awesome.

With all the chaos of having a new baby, we had started eating more packaged food, thinking that it was the easier route. But last night’s meal was just as simple and a whole lot more healthful. Going forward I need to remind myself that healthy eating doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact my kids seem prefer the simple.

Speaking of simple, I have a ton of tomatoes and I was looking for a new way to use them. I ran across a recipe for a tomato and mozzarella quesadillas. I simply threw some mozzerella on a tortilla with some sliced tomatoes and a little basil and grilled it. It was pretty tasty.

 


   Sep 12

A snake, a frog and a hysterical dog

I came home to quite the scene on Monday afternoon. My dog, Molly, was barking and  jutting back and forth at something in the grass. Despite the fact that my hands were full, I decided to see what she was harassing. I wasn’t prepared for what I came upon. Just around the corner of our house was a snake, with the bottom half of a frog sticking out of its mouth.

I hate snakes so seeing it immediately gave me the creeps. Molly kept lunging at the snake. Amazingly the snake would lunge back freaking out the dog and myself. I started shrieking. I’m not sure why but it was a lot to take in.

My husband, who didn’t realize I had arrived home, came charging out of the house thinking I was being killed or something. It took him a moment to take in what was going on. Seeing their opportunity to escape the house, my four-year-old and three-year old ran out of the  house to join the chaotic scene.

We all stood in the yard for a moment watching the poor snake try to defend itself. Then we offered suggestions on what to do. My son wanted to pick up the snake and take it in the house. His suggestion was quickly vetoed. My daughter wanted to hit it with a stick. I thought that a more reasonable suggestion but not necessary.

In the end we decided it would be better to put the dog inside and leave it alone. A little calmer, I saw a teaching moment in the whole thing so we watched as the snake enveloped the rest of the frog. It was interesting to see the frog’s body disappeared into the snakes mouth. And then to watch the frog shaped lump move down the snake’s body.

Both my kids have told the story of the frog/snake fiasco to everyone we’ve come in contact with over the last few days. While it still gives me shivers thinking about it, I’m sort of glad it happened.

With all that being said, I owe my readers an apology. With the new baby, this summer got away from me. My garden consisted of onions, lettuce and tomatoes. At least it was something. A few weeks ago I tried tabbouleh and fell in love. Traditionally the dish is made with wheat bulgur but I’ve been making it with quinoa. Enjoy.

Tabbouleh

1 cup cooked quinoa

3 tomatoes, seeded and chopped

2 cucumbers

3 Green onions, chopped

Three garlic cloves minced

1 cup fresh parsley

1/3 cup fresh mint leaves

½ cup lemon juice

4 tablespoons olive oil

Mix all the ingredients together and then refrigerate for at least two hours. Toss again before serving.  Serve with pita bread.

 


   Jun 06

Slow but getting there

A cold wet spring and being nine months pregnant have taken their toll on my gardening progress. However, slowly and with some help things are starting to take shape.

The raspberry bushes I planted last year look great. My daughter asks every day when we’ll have berries and I have to tell her to be patient. Patience isn’t something she’s embracing though. We’ve also gotten cabbage, onions, tomatoes, lettuce, carrots and peas in the ground.  If there is a dry day this weekend, I plan to plant zuchinni, summer squash, pumpkins and peppers as well.

When we’ve had the chance to get into the garden, it’s been a lot of fun. The kids are a lot more aware this year and have enjoyed helping. My kids are 3 and 4.  I have to remind my 3-year-old not to step on the plants but even he seems to understand that the little sprouts will produce food for us.

I guess I have PBS to thank for that. Several of the shows my kids watch have gardening episodes that have aired recently. Both kids have been more willing to try different vegetables because of a song Daniel Tiger sings. I’m not sure how long the trend will last but for right now I’m grateful and taking advantage.

The kids have also really enjoyed digging up worms and checking out various insects and beetles.  The bathwater is muddy at the end of some of our days but hopefully they’ve learned a thing or two from our adventures. I’m thankful that my kids and I can share this.

Baby #3 is due today. I’m really hoping he comes soon. In anticipation of his arrival and because I have copious amounts of mint, I decided to share a Mojito recipe from the Food Network website. As soon as I can I plan to enjoy one, I hope you will too!

Mojito recipe

Ice
6 ounces light rum
12 mint sprigs, or spearmint, 8 roughly broken apart
6 tablespoons fresh lime juice
4 tablespoons sugar
Club soda
4 slices lime
Directions
Place ice in beverage shaker then add in the rum, 8 broken up mint sprigs, lime juice and sugar. Shake well and serve over ice in a high ball glass. Top off each glass with a splash of club soda.

Garnish each with a slice of lime and a sprig of mint.


   May 17

Eating well…

A few weeks back I mentioned I will try to show examples of backyard to table dishes that I make.  Since college I’ve found it prudent to grow some of my own food. I enjoy gardening but it’s also a matter of trying to ensure my own health.

I meet a lot of people who tell me they don’t have time to garden and generally I don’t buy it. If you watch television for more than an hour a day, you can find time to throw a few plants in some pots and water them. In college I grew tomatoes and basil in buckets at my apartment. I got the buckets for free  from a friend who worked at Cub Foods and bought cheap plants at Wal-mart. The set up wasn’t pretty but those four or five plants provided me with countless meals.

I mean it. Tomatoes and herbs can be used on sandwiches, pizza; in pasta sauce, soups, salads, bruschetta, pesto, salsa and more. Two simple ingredients can lend themselves to a wide array of delicious healthful dishes. While many of those dishes need a few more ingredients, it cost a lot less when you already have the base. For those apartment years, I and my roommates ate quite well.

Tomatoes aren’t the only plants that grow well in containers. Leafy greens, herbs, beans, brussel sprouts and more can all be grown in containers. And while something pretty is always nice, a cat litter bucket will do the job.

Being a 30 something woman with ears, it’s sometimes frustrating for me to hear people talk about how expensive it is to eat healthfully.

Eating well isn’t nearly as hard as people make it. A little effort can take you along way and it’s fun. It’s not nearly as time consuming as people think and it is really gratifying to watch something grow from a tiny seed to an ingredient to feed your family.  I really hope to show that this summer through this blog.

 

 

 


   May 08

A pain

I had goals going into the month of May and I have not met them. My goals were to get my husband to till up my garden and to get cool weather crops planted..

The weather and my belly have stood in the way. Up until last Saturday, we still had snow on the ground, making it hard to get anything accomplished in the garden. The weather seems to have taken a turn for the better this week. On Sunday the sun came out, so I thought for sure I could do some stuff after work Monday.

Reality hit on Monday. I went to plant some seeds and found it really difficult to bend over. I am nine months pregnant.  I tried several other postitions but I was really uncomfortable. After getting a couple rows of lettuce in the ground, I gave up. I had hoped to get some peas and kale planted too but it’s just going to have to wait.

I know I sound whiny but I am disappointed. Usually my attitude is just do it but I’m uncomfortable most of the day anyway, adding to it just seems stupid. There’s still time to get things done and the baby will be here soon. My sister is coming to stay with us for a while so hopefully I’ll be able to enlist her help to get everything put in. One way or another I will get a garden planted this summer it just may be on a later time table than usual. Thank God I have a farmer’s market close by.

On a side not, I’m hoping to put a fence around my garden this summer to keep the rabbits out. I don’t want anything too fancy. Some posts and chicken wire I think would work. Does anyone out there have good advice to offer on putting up a fence? Please share your experiences.

 


   Apr 19

Ready to harvest

Despite the continuous crappy weather, parts of my yard are starting to signify that spring is indeed here. Some of my bulb plants have risen from the Earth and the grass is starting to take on a greener hue, at least when it’s not covered with snow.

I am anticipating the sprouting of my asparagus plants.  I planted a dozen one-year old crowns from a local nursery several years ago and they should be ready for harvest. I was careful to follow the directions and dug trenches about six-inches deep. I covered the crowns with a couple inches of soil and then let the plants emerge and then repeated the process until the plants reached ground level.  The plants seemed to have flourished in their bed.

Asparagus needs time to establish deep roots and so it’s best to wait several growing seasons to harvest it. Amazingly those seasons for our household have passed and we’re ready for some garden fresh asparagus. I think with the  winter weather seemingly lasting so long into the spring months I’m a little more excited than I should be for it.

To celebrate the occasion I’ve decided to share some asparagus recipes. Most of the time I drizzle stalks with olive oil, give ‘em a good shot of salt and pepper and roast it. However last spring when asparagus was cheap, I tried a frittata recipe that I thought was good enough to make again. The recipe comes from the Good Housekeeping Vegetarian Meals cookbook.

Ingredients

8 large eggs

1/2 cup whole milk

1/8 teaspoon salt

12 ounces asparagus, trimmed

1 tbsp. butter

1 bunch of green onions

2 ounces of cream cheese

Preheat oven to 375. Using a whisk, beat eggs with milk, pepper and salt until blended. Cut asparagus into one-inch pieces.

In oven-safe skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add the asparagus and the remaining 1/4 tsp salt and cook, stirring often. Cook until stalks are tender. Stir in green onions.

Reduce heat to medium-low. Pour egg-mixture over vegetables, drop teaspoonful of cream cheese over egg mixture. Cook, without stirring, until egg mixture begins to set around edge, 3 to 4 minutes.

Place skillet in oven and bake until frittata is set and knife comes out of center clean. It usually takes 10 t0 12 minutes.

 


   Apr 04

Backyard to table

Talking with people lately I feel like a broken record. The weather sucks…

The snow has mostly melted in our yard but the ground is still very frozen. In fact we have several Christmas decorations that are still stuck in the ground. Hopefully we’ll be able to pry them up this weekend. It’s getting a bit embarrassing

Last year at this time, I had peas, lettuce and spinach planted. It looks as though it will be weeks before that’s a reality this year. I’ve gotten so desperate to put  something in dirt that I bought some potting soil and plan to plant some kale and lettuce in planters this weekend.

While I would be in a hurry no matter what, this year I am feeling a bit more anxious because I was hoping to get things in the ground before baby #3 comes. He’s due June 6 and I had it in my head that I could have a majority of my garden planted by then.  We’ll see how it goes.

Either way I am planning to do something new and hopefully helpful with this blog. Through the growing season I plan to provide backyard to table examples. While I have offered up recipes in the past, it’s always more appealing to see the finished project and I’d like to show how easy it is to cook that way. Oh what a garden variety makes and I hope to show the vast opportunities even a small garden can provide.

Best wishes as the days warm up!

 


   Feb 20

Use the last days of winter to learn

It’s been cold here in Minnesota, which is pretty much par for the course in February. However, March is just a week away and with it warmer temperatures are coming.

I am a reporter by trade and so I receive a lot of press releases. In the last couple weeks press releases indicating warm weather is on its way have started rolling in. Spring home and garden shows are going on. Garden and horticulture specialist are offering classes and community gardens are taking applications for membership. It’s so exciting!

Community gardening has definitely gained momentum from when I started seven years ago. In the last several years I have written at least a half dozen stories on community gardens opening. It’s wonderful and I hope it’s a trend that continues. If you are interested in joining a community garden I would start looking for a plot now. Most are taking applications and they will fill up fast. There are so many in the Twin Cities I wouldn’t know where to begin but if you need help finding something comment on this board and I am more than willing to help you find something.

If your community doesn’t have one, start one! While it takes time and energy, it’s effort well spent that will benefit not only yourself but your community at large. There’s lots of good information about starting a community garden at http://www.communitygarden.org. It’s unlikely you would be able to establish something in time for this spring but it’s a good time to get people on board who like the idea and are willing to help.

To get ready for the upcoming growing season and to get out of the house consider taking a class. Here in the southern Twin Cities area a number of groups will be offering opportunities in the coming months. In particular the Dakota County Master Gardeners will host their Let’s Get Growing Spring Expo starting at 8 a.m.  March 9. Registration is going on now and it’s well worth the effort to attend. For more information about the speakers and vendors and to download registration forms, please visit their blog at http://blog.lib.umn.edu/mgweb/dakota/ .  Information can also be found atwww.dakotamastergardeners.org/home-2/ . School District 196 Community Education also has a variety of classes on home gardening coming up. Check out their catalog at http://district196.org/ce/.

While the weather still has some cards to deal, warmer days are near and so why not take advantage and learn something new. Let me know what you learn!

 


   Jan 16

Winter doldrums

It’s about this time every year I start really longing for warmer days. I have to admit I hate winter with a passion and it still boggles my mind that I chose to move north when considering colleges. However my husband and children are here and I like them. So Minnesota is where I will roost, at least for the immediate future.

I’m pretty stoked for spring to get here for several reasons. We are expecting our third child in June. While his arrival will mean we won’t have time to grow as big a garden this summer, we will still have something. For sure we want to grow pumpkins, peas, tomatoes, carrots and lettuce. Additionally my asparagus will finally be ready for picking and I have high hopes for the raspberry bushes I planted last spring.

My husband has agreed to help more this year especially at the beginning of the season when I’ll be nine months pregnant. I’m hoping my daughter also will want to help. This may not be our best gardening year but we’re still going to give the old college try. I’ve tried to pick vegetables and fruits that can survive a little neglect.

For now it’s all day dreaming and anticipation though. The one bright side to winter is the abundance of citrus fruits. We’ve had some really delicious pineapples and oranges this year. Over Christmas we also ate several pomegranates that didn’t disappoint. I’m not all that creative when it comes to fruits. I like to eat them as they are. I do occasionally like to grill pineapple and serve it with ice cream.

Here’s a quick grilled pineapple recipe:

Mix one tablespoon of lime juice, one tablespoon of olive oil, two tablespoons honey honey and one teaspoon of cinnamon together to make a marinade. Remove the pineapple peal and core it. If you have the proper tools, you can  slice the pineapple into rounds or you can cut into long strips. Coat the pineapple with the marinade. Place pineapple on a hot grill for a couple minutes until you get nice grill marks and then turn and grill the other side. You can baste with the remaining marinade if you like. Enjoy with a scoop of good vanilla ice cream.


   Sep 20

A mystery

Yesterday while I was picking tomatoes I found a rabbit carcass in my garden. The body was fully intact but the head appeared to have been eaten off. I’m grateful to whatever predator made short work of the rabbit. I’ve come to loath those stupid things. In fact I have new found respect for Elmer Fudd.

I wish whatever killed the rabbit would have gotten rid of the evidence though because I didn’t enjoy doing it.  My husband wasn’t too thrilled either. This morning when went to take the garbage out the headless carcass scared the crap out of him.

The find does have me wondering what killed the rabbit. I know rabbits have a number of predators but what would just eat his head off. Are there zombie rabbits out there?

I suppose the logical answer would be that the predator was scared off before he could devour the rest of the body. But logic doesn’t lead to a fun story.

Recently I have seen some sort of large brown mammal in the ravine behind our house. It’s not as big as a bear but it’s bigger than a weasel. I haven’t gotten a clear view of it but I know it’s back there. Maybe it eats rabbit heads?

Either way I have a mystery on my hands and an ally in the war against those wascally wabbits.