Monday, April 30, 2012

Asparagus with Olive Oil & Lemon

If you're in the S.E. Michigan/Northern Ohio region, chances are that you've gotten your first taste of fresh asparagus for the season already- yep, it's that time! I swung by the Ann Arbor market this past Saturday and there was a long line for fresh asparagus at the two booths selling it.

Being the formerly picky person that I am, I only recently started liking asparagus. By liking, I mean actually trying it. At any rate, I always want to buy it- it's one of the first green veggies in season in the spring that's not in the leaf greens family. I haven't accumulated that many go-to asparagus recipes; I hope to find 5-6 new ways to prepare asparagus this season. Here's one of them!

Asparagus with Olive Oil & Lemon
15 stalks medium sized asparagus
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon zest 
1 teaspoon lemon juiceSalt and freshly ground black pepper


  • Prep the asparagus by rinsing them well and cut off white bottoms and compost/trash them. Cut into 1 to 2 inch sections, slicing the asparagus at a slight diagonal angle.
  • Fill a medium sized saucepan half way with water, and bring to a boil. 
  • Add the asparagus and reduce heat to a simmer. 
  • Boil the asparagus for 2 minutes, then drain the hot water. 
  • While the asparagus are still hot, add olive oil, lemon zest and lemon juice to the pan and mix.
  • Add salt and pepper to taste
Serve and Enjoy!

What's your favorite way to enjoy asparagus?

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Silent Sunday

Basil growing in the kitchen windowsill
Garlic- such an amazing plant!
Spring view of the North bed

Happy Sunday, friends :)

Friday, April 27, 2012

Friday Favorites

My favorite things goin' on this Friday afternoon!

Just can't get over my asparagus-induced excitement- pretty amazing veggie! 

 Every week you get so see a variation on this picture, folks, I know- sorry. 
Speckles lettuce is a work of art!

 This tulip is a bit behind the curve on blooming time :)

Chives are about to bloom! Love the pop of color they add to the garden.

 If you're anywhere where these are sold: get them, ASAP! The Chili Lime ones, specifically. 
Best. Chips. Ever.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Herbs in the Garden

I have big plans to plant a lot of herbs in my outdoor gardens this year. The double-edged sword of concrete block raised beds is the 2 openings in each block- they're a great space to do some extra planting, but they're also a fun space for weeds to quickly crop up!

For the past several years, I've just planted herbs right into the garden, but as I expand my plant list each year, space is at more of a premium. So this year I thought, "Why not plant herbs right into the blocks themselves?"

I'll dry some of these herbs, use some fresh- when you grow them yourself, herbs are so much more flavorful! They add a lot of zing to dishes, they're pretty, and fragrant too- what's not to love?

So far, I've taken a few of my indoor herbs and transferred them back outside- two rosemary plants, an oregano, and a thyme plant. I also had a few lemon thyme plants that survived through the winter, and they got plopped into the holes as well.

They're handling the transplant well! Also inside under lights, waiting to be transplanted are Globe basil, Thai basil, Lemon basil, cilantro, sage, chamomile, lemon balm, bronze fennel, and more thyme. All in all, I'll have about 20 herb plants ready to line some of the raised beds out back.

What types of herbs do you have planted in your garden? 

Any new ones in the plans for this year?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

What's Up Wednesday

Garlic is looking good- nice and tall! In about a month to a month and a half, we'll have garlic scapes!

Little carrot plants are so dang cute. I like the point when they start to get their first fern-like leaves and you remember, "oh yeah- I planted carrots here!"

The first set of Potato plants are coming up as well

Can you tell what this is, besides a terribly out of focus picture of my hand? I had to share- It's a mini, tiny asparagus stalk!!!! I was worried the plants didn't establish, but looks like they're doing well! 

What's Up in your garden today?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Book Review- Landscaping with Fruit by Lee Reich

I was recently searching at my local library for books on backyard fruit, cultivating fruiting plants, and small-scale fruit growing and I found a keeper- Landscaping with Fruit by Lee Reich!

For anyone looking to incorporate some (or more) fruit into their landscape, this is a great resource. Lee is thoughtful and creative about the ways to use fruit in your yard, in both an attractive and functional way.

Landscaping with Fruit also has a nice section on home landscaping plans, as well as a 'Guide to Fruiting Landscape plants' section. In the guide section, each plant that Reich lists is rated on a scale he has created- beauty, taste, and ease of care are each factored into the ratings. The factor that makes this book stand out from other books on landscaping that I've picked up is that this isn't a book of crazy, fantasy fruit gardens. There is careful thought put into what you might want to grow, how much work each plant takes to grow successfully, and considerations you'll want to think about.

Raspberries trellised along the fence in my backyard

I honestly hadn't heard of at least 5 of the plants that Reich suggestes- the new ideas were appreciated! This is definitely a practical guide to adding more fruiting plants to your landscape. If you're one of those gardeners who has always dreamed of an arbor covered in grapevines or a trellis with (hardy) kiwi fruits, pick up Landscaping with Fruit and turn those dreams into reality!

Happy Reading!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Silent Sunday

'Speckles' Lettuces looking beautiful in the garden

Kale and onions in the side yard bed
If I can get my hands dirty in the garden, it's a good day.

Happy Sunday :)

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Strawberry Jam Smoothies

Smoothies are pretty much the perfect breakfast- any time of year! My ability to make smoothies year-round depends greatly on how ambitious of a canner I've been the past summer and what kind of frozen, local fruit I can get my hands on.
I accidentally discovered Jam Smoothies when I was trying to fix a blender problem- when making smoothies in the past, I'd add yogurt and ice first. The ice wouldn't crush quickly or easily because it would get all clogged up at the bottom of the blender.

I had several jars of strawberry jam from last season that hadn't set right- they are more "strawberry puree"- so I tossed some into the blender with the ice and yogurt. Voila! Enough of a liquid base that the ice broke down much more easily, and the strawberry "jam" added a hint of sweetness to my drink! If you're not a canner with unset jam, you should probably substitute strawberry puree for your smoothie instead.

                                                                                                                        "Jam" Smoothies

Ingredients: 1 pint Jam of your choice/or fruit puree
1.5 cups Frozen Mixed Berries
1 cup plain greek yogurt
6 ice cubes

  • Add the yogurt, the jam, and the ice cubes into the blender. Set the blender to "ice crush" and then blend until ice is incorperated into smoothie mixture. The liquid from the yogurt and jam will help you blend the ice down without having to manually un-jam (haha) the blended several times
  • Now add the Frozen Mixed Berries! Blend to your liking
Serve and Enjoy!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Tour of my Urban Garden

I spend a lot of my time on this blog posting about my garden and the veggies & fruits within it. I thought I'd give an overview of all the food-growing space I have, so those of ya'll who are interested enough to visit again could better visualize the space!

We live on a small city lot, between two streets that forks out in a "V" shape. The lot is about 1/10th of an acre- pretty small! Right now, all of the edible gardening I do, minus some herbs like lavendar and russian sage, are in the backyard. Currently. nearly one whole side of the backyard is devoted to edible gardening. Here's more about the spaces I grow in, and what I grow there!

Vegetable Beds

Raised Bed gardens
First stop on the tour is my vegetable gardens, and my favorite part of my outdoor space!  My veggie gardening mostly happens in concrete block raised beds, which we installed over the past several years- first we started with just the "S" shape you see in the foreground of this picture. The next year, I added the little tail that extends it closer to the house, and then this past fall I added a whole other section that runs up the side of the house up to the front fence.  All in all, this area totals about 260 sq ft.

What's planted in this space is the bulk of the vegetables I grow throughout the year.

Staples always on my planting list include:
potatoes, onions (sets, seeds, or transplants), tomatoes, carrots, peppers, lettuce, bush beans, and garlic.

New additions this year include:

spinach, kale, leeks and sugar snap peas.
Asparagus bed
This season, I cultivated a 10 ft x 1ft Asparagus Bed on the Right side of the house. I haven't seen much action out there so far, but I'm hoping these plants establish. I chose two varieties- Jersey Knight, and Purple Passion. They're a nice addition to the variety of edibles I grow!

We'll see how they do. Anyone have any asparagus advice?

Space for Herbs
During the Spring-Fall, I start seeds indoors using my homemade seed starting shelves. During the Winter months, these shelves have another function- keeping alive more tender herbs that wouldn't produce well outdoors!

This is the first year that I bought/brought in herbs for the Winter, and while I didn't have enough to use them tpo often, it sure was nice to use a little homegrown oregano or thyme now and then!

I ended up planting all the herbs outdoors, in the holes of my cinder block raised beds!

Backyard Fruit
In my backyard, I have several fruit areas, where I've taken advantage of space and sun to grow some sweet treats!

As of this year, I have 7 black raspberry canes- 4 along the back inside fence, and 3 that I transplanted on the side of the house by my raised beds. These really produced for the first time last summer, and it was such a pleasure to walk out back and pick a few berries! The canes I have (not sure what variety I have) produce small, purple/black berries that are really sweet.

Apple Trees
In addition to raspberries, we also have apple trees (planted super-close to the garage for some reason) and several small blueberry bushes.
The apple trees produce small apples that squirrels love to pick off and throw around my yard and eat. This season is going to be the season that I show those squirrels who's boss. I want to eat a few apples, damn it!

Blueberry bushes
The blueberry bushes have been kind of overshadowed in weedy beds for the past several years so this year I dug them up and re-planted them where the majority of the raspberry canes are. I hope they do better in that location- it would be great to have a small, steady crop of blueberries.

I'm also supposed to be getting an apricot tree delivered soon- still looking for a home for that!

Dwarf Cherry trees
We purchased these two dwarf cherry trees last year although one was mis-labeled as an apple tree- whoops! Last year we harvest 1 cherry from each tree which cracked me up! There are lots of blossoms on the trees this year and they've grown some- crossing my fingers for like 8 cherries per tree this year!

In the future, I'd love to add some grapes, as well as some hardy kiwifruit. Both of those grow well on arbors and trellises and it is easy to find cold-tolerant varieties. It's important for me to not get too carried away though- I want to make sure I can manage the garden and plants that I have now and make sure they are healthy and fruitful!

Friday Favorites

These are some of my favorite blogs to follow lately

Chiot's Run 
Susy gardens in N.E. Ohio, and her blog is simple and beautiful. She takes breathtaking photos of everyday life in the garden, and I look forward to each post!

This is a new blog for me- I just stumbled upon it recently. Allison, blog owner, writes about her efforts towards a "homemade" life. I'm excited to catch up and see more posts from homesprout.

100 Days of Real Food 
Lisa's blog at 100 Days of Real Food started off as a family challenge- to go 100 days without each processed foods, and focus on real and whole foods. I've enjoyed reading through the experiences, which I can really relate to, and I'm glad she's kept blogging 

Civil Eats
This is a great website, devoted to a whole assortment of blogs on topics close to my heart: local eats, young farmers unite, rooftop gardens. In addition to their themes, they also share a lot of relevant information about food systems, both locally and nation-wide, as well as relevant legislation and advocacy around eating, agriculture, & food.

What are your favorite blogs to follow? I'm always on the look-out for new blogs!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

What's Up Wednesday

This is what's "up" today in my garden!

Since I planted some of the cold-hardy crops early, I've been able to harvest out of the garden already, which is exciting! Today for lunch I cut off a few kale leaves, pull the last of the over wintering carrots, snipped a few chives, and cut some lettuce leaves, for a really nice salad. Add some Michigan dried cranberries, some walnuts, and some homemade dressing- one filling meal!

Got to plant my potato order from Seed Savers Exchange- Yukon Golds, Mountain Rose, German Butterballs, and Rose Finn Apple fingerlings! As usual, ordered too many- will have to share with the neighbors :)

Here they are, waiting to be tucked in. Why are rows in the garden so appealing to the eye? 

I also planted two varieties of bush beans- Light Red Kidney beans from High Mowing, and Provider Bush beans from Seeds of Change. The ones in the jar are beans I saved from last years harvest- they're so pretty! I also had some left from the seed packets last year, but it was neat to plant the seed I had saved too.

Here are the light red kidney beans, ready to be covered up!

What's Up in your garden today?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Book Review- Eating for Beginners by Melanie Rehak

I stumbled upon 
Eating for Beginners by Melaine Rehak at my local library, and decided to give it a read. It met my selection qualifications (which are an eye-catching book spine, and an enticing cover), and it got bonus point for the topic of eating/food!

Eating for Beginners is a non-fiction account of a period in the authors life, and her foray into conscientious eating, which coincided with her beginning a year of interviewing/shadowing/working at applewood restaurant in Brooklyn, NY. applewood is owned by a couple, a family really, and they allow Melanie to essentially intern in the kitchen with no previous experience, in order for her to immerse herself in the world of restaurants, sourcing local produce, and appreciation of food. 

During her experience year, Melanie visits several farms, a cheese maker, a Famers' meat co-operative. a produce delivery company, and a fisherman, all of whom supply food to applewood restaurant. The reader also gets to hear about Melanie's successes and trials in the kitchen, and favorite recipes are included as well.

I enjoyed the candidness of the book, as well as the opportunity to "visit" the different locales that Melanie went to- as someone who thinks carefully about each food decision I make, I really learned a lot from Melanie's trips, and I identified with her
learning process and struggle to make informed eating choices.

In the end, Melanie seems to strike a healthy balance of making conscientious food decisions while knowing that everyone has to decide what's right for them. If you like to cook, if you're getting into the world of local, organic, and sustainable food, or if you're simply a thoughtful eater, I'd recommend this book to you!

Happy Reading!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Homefries with Kale, Onions, and Garlic

I harvested my first kale leaves (curly dwarf kale) from the garden this morning, as well as a green onion, and though, "What to make for breakfast with these?" I spotted russet potatoes I have left over and thought "Homefries!" 

I'm always trying to sneak kale into different recipes- I don't love it as much as others do, but kale is really healthy for you, it's pretty, and it's cold-hardy which is important here up North! So here's the recipe I cooked up- it was quite good. 

Homefries with Kale, Onions, & Garlic
2 medium russett potatoes, peeled
3-5 kale leaves
1 scallion/green onion
1 clove of garlic
4 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

  • Pour the olive oil into a small frying pan and set on the stove, on medium heat
  • Meanwhile, dice up the potatoes into small, hashbrown-ish pieces (1/2 inch is good)
  • Add the hashbrowns into the sizzling pan, and let them brown a bit
  • Dice up the green onions and mince the garlic- add to pan after about 5 minutes 
  • Cut the kale leaves from their stems, and chop into small pieces
  • Taste potatoes or poke with a fork, to see how much longer they need
  • Add kale to the pan when potatoes are almost finished.
  • Add salt and pepper to the dish as needed
Serve and Enjoy!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Silent Sunday

Newest backyard bed- Speckles Lettuce and Leeks

Sugar Snap Peas
Mountain Rose Potatoes curing before they are planted
Salad- Spinach from the farm at work, lettuce from at the garden at home!

Happy Sunday :)

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Make your own Microwave Popcorn!

Did you know you can make your own microwave popcorn bag at home, instead of buying those pre-packaged Orville Redenbacher ones that are $5 for 3 popcorn bags? Making your own homemade microwave popcorn can save you some money, especially if you're a big popcorn junkie, and it also allows you to control how much butter, salt, etc is on your snack! It's really simple- let me show you how!

Supplies needed:
brown paper bag
popcorn kernels


Open the bag

Pour in popcorn kernels- between 1/4-1/3 of a cup of kernels

Now you're going to fold the bag, so the popcorn doesn't come popping out while in the micro. This particular folding technique is courtesy of my favorite chinese restaurant in Toledo!

Fold Left side towards the right, in a triangle shape

Take the top Right side of the bag and fold it straight down,
like so

Take the remaining flap that exists, and tuck it into the little pocket you've created. Then stick it into the microwave, laying flat like a microwave popcorn bag.

2 minutes and 17 seconds later- Voila! Awesome, healthy, cheap homemade popcorn. Top with whatever you'd like- butter, salt, herbs... it's up to you!

Enjoy! :)