Sunday, July 8, 2012

cooking from the garden

Wow, it's been a few weeks since I've posted anything!  My garden has been growing a lot in the past few weeks and I'm really excited about this update - I FINALLY get to start cooking from my very own garden.  There is really something special about growing your own food and then eating it.

Here is a picture of today's harvest:

About 2 pounds of green beans and one good sized zucchini! 
What am I going to do with all these fresh veggies?!  With the zucchini, I am going to make chocolate chip zucchini bread.  I love this bread; it is great for breakfast or a snack and is also very good for you.  

I will probably just end up blanching most of the green beans and eating them that way.  Green beans are my favorite vegetable, and I would love to grow them again next year.  Today, I harvested some of the green bean seeds for next year.  Harvesting your own seeds is a great money saver! 

Harvesting seeds!
To harvest green bean seeds, just split the bean in half, being careful not to damage the seeds.  Remove the seeds and set on a paper towel to dry.  Once dry, store in an air tight bag or container.  Remember to label your seeds!

Since green beans are my favorite vegetable, I want to preserve some of them to have in the fall and winter.  I've been canning for a few years now, but I have never canned green beans.  I did a little research and everything I found said that pressure cooker canning is the best method for canning green beans.  I don't have a pressure cooker, so I just hot water bath canned them.  I put a little salt and a garlic clove in the can.  This time I just did one can to see how it would turn out.  My hot water bath canning seemed to work well, but I cannot recommend it because it is not approved by the USDA.

my test run for canning green beans.
next time I will try and pack more beans in the can.

The pants in my garden are growing very nicely.  Here is an update in pictures: 

Sunflowers are blooming!  My favorite! 

green beans are doing very well!
 I will be canning a lot more, there is no way I can eat them all now.

Baby cucumber starting to grow

lots of tomatoes!  can't wait for these to get ripe 

green peppers are starting to grow! 

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Growing Season

Lots of exciting things happening in the garden this week!  We have had a TON of rain this week, but today has been sunny, mid 70's, and no humidity.  And the garden is loving it.  
Most of the plants seem to be growing well.  One of the tomato plants is doing better than the other.  The zucchini plant has about doubled in size.  Peppers and peas are looking great as well.  

Tomato Plant

Pepper Plants

Zucchini Plant 

I also added a little decoration to the garden.  I went to The Pottery Works in Lancaster, PA.  TPW is a paint your own pottery pottery studio.  They have tons of pottery that you can paint in any design or color that you want.  I painted a little gnome for the garden.  

He fits in very well, don't you think?

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Garden Update!

My backyard garden has had its ups and down over the past few weeks.
The green bean seeds sprouted and are growing nicely; they are about 4 inches tall today.  The sunflower seeds have also sprouted.  I planted started plants for green peppers, tomatoes and zucchini; those have responded nicely and continue to grow.
little green bean plants

The cucumber seeds did not do anything; I believe they died.  BUT.... yesterday I was at my mom's house and we went on a walk in the neighborhood.  One of my mom's neighbors was selling cucumber starter plants for $1 a plant!  The neighbor said that she had way too many to fit in her garden so she was selling the extras.  I picked up a few healthy cucumber plants!  
I planted carrot seeds and I think they started to sprout; there are little green grass like leaves where I planted the carrot seeds.  

I also made some more improvement to the garden: I bought a small fence to go around the garden.  I don't want the bunnies to be able to eat my veggies.  I live in a suburban neighborhood, so I don't have to worry about larger animals getting in my garden.  So I bought a fence that's about a foot and a half tall.  Home improvement stores and Wal Mart sell these kinds of fences.  You just stick them in the ground.  I also put tomato cages around my tomato plants.  I'm not really sure what the tomato cages do, but I know it's important!  

garden plot with new fence!  This plot has green beans, cucumbers,  zucchini, and maybe carrots! 

This plot has green pepper plants and tomato plants.  It's kinda hard to see the tomato cages in the picture, but I
promise they are there! 

The biggest thing that I have learned so far with my garden is that it is VERY important to water the plants a TON!  If it is not raining, you MUST water you plants!!!!  I normally water first thing in the morning and then again in the evening.  That seems to be working for now.  

I have come to really enjoy my garden.  It gives me something to do and I have a good excuse to be outside.  I'm looking forward to when my veggies come in!  I can't wait to cook with the food I grew in my own back yard!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Slow Cooker Pork Dinner

I decided to go to yoga for the first time in a long time(too long a time).  My yoga class was from 5:30p-6:45p, right over dinner time.  So I decided to throw something in the slow cooker to have ready for dinner when I got home.  I had some pork, potatoes, and carrots and made up a great dinner.  I was inspired by a roasted potato recipe that I made a while back.

Pork, whatever cut you like, however much you want to make
2 cups new potatoes, cut in half
1 cup carrots, cut into bite size pieces
4 tablespoons red wine vinegar 
4 tablespoons dijon mustard
2 tablespoons olive oil 
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary 
salt and pepper to taste

Start Cooking:
1.  In a small bowl, mix together the vinegar, mustard, olive oil, rosemary, salt and pepper. 
2.  Put everything in the slow cooker and cook on high for about 2 and a half hours.  Or on low for twice the time.  

Tips and Hints:
1.  I made extra to use for lunches and for the rest of the week.  
2.  This also freezes really well.  


Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mother's Day in the kitchen

My little sister just got home from college yesterday.  Hannah goes to a college located in the mountains of North Carolina.  She loves it there, but it's a long way away from south central PA.  It worked out great that Hannah could be home for mother's day this year.  We bought our mom and new stereo for her gift; her old one was on it's last leg.  Our mom isn't really into "things."  She likes experiences more than material things.  So we decided to spend the day in the kitchen together.  We made a whole bunch of stuff, but I would like to share one of our favorites: fresh guacamole.  


2 avocados 
1 tomato, diced 
juice of 1 lime
green onions, thinly sliced 
cilantro, chopped
salt, to taste 

Start Cooking:

1.  Cut the avocados out of their skin and place in a medium bowl.  

2. Use a fork to mash up the avocado.  You can make it smooth or chunky, it's up to you. 

3.  Mix in the rest of the ingredients.  It's really up to you how much green onions and cilantro you want to add.  I suggest starting with a little bit, tasting, then adding more if needed.  

finished guacamole! 

Tips and Hints:
1.  Store in the fridge, in an air tight container.  Guacamole will last a few days this way, if you don't eat it all first. 
2.  Serve with corn chips, nachos, tacos...  



Monday, May 7, 2012

chocolate chip banana muffins

Chocolate makes everything better!  A statement that I always believe to be true.  When my sister and I were little, our mom would put chocolate chips in healthy foods to get us to eat them.  It worked!  And I'm sure it will work for other picky kids, and some picky adults too!  I still put chocolate chips in many different recipes.
My mom has been making these chocolate chip banana muffins for as long as I can remember.  We are not sure where the original recipe came from; what I am going to post is mom's adaptation to some unknown original recipe.  

1 egg
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/3 cups mashed bananas.  use a fork to mash the bananas.
1/2 cup chocolate chips.  You can also substitute chopped nuts or raisins, but who would want to do that?
1/3 cup veggie oil
1 teaspoon vanilla 
3/4 cup white flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup wheat bran 
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon 
1/4 teaspoon salt

Start Cooking: 
1.  Pre heat oven to 375 degrees.  Grease 12 regular size muffin tins
2.  In a medium bowl mix together egg and sugar.  Then add bananas, oil, and vanilla.  Mix well.
wet ingredients

3.  In a large bowl, mix remaining ingredients(dry ingredients).  
dry ingredients

4.  Pour banana mixture into the dry ingredients and gently fold.  DO NOT over mix!!!  If you over mix, your muffins will be tough, dry, and chewy(eew!).  
wet and dry mixed together
5.  Spoon the batter into the greased muffin tins.  Bake for 15-20 minutes.  Mine normally take about 18 minutes.  Muffins will be golden brown when done.
6.  Let cool for a few minutes in the muffin tin, then turn out onto a cooling rack to finish cooling.  

finished muffins!

Tips and Hints:
1.  DO NOT over mix the batter!!! I know I said it before, but this is the key to good muffins!  
2.  Can't eat them all before they go bad?  These muffins freeze really well.  Cool completely, then freeze.  Thaw out when you are ready to enjoy! 


Saturday, May 5, 2012

Gardening Adventure!

As some of you know, I moved into a great new house this January 2012.  Along with my great house, I got a nice back yard, with lots of open space.  I then got the brilliant idea of planting a veggie garden this year.  After some planning, and looking into all the details, I felt a little overwhelmed with everything.  But I thought, what the heck, I've made it through worse!  So started my gardening adventure!   

This morning, I spent two and a half hours working in my yard; weeding the garden bed, edging it with rocks, finding old boards to make walking paths with, and a brief run in with poison ivy(oops!), and finally planting some seeds.  So far I have planted green beans, cucumbers, carrots, and a few kinds of sunflowers, all from seeds.  Lets hope they make it!  

My garden, as of today
And this is what I have to show for 2.5 hours of work!  Doesn't look like much yet, let's hope it starts looking like something worthwhile soon!  I bought some tomato and sweet pepper starter plants that I will be adding to the garden in a few weeks.  

I hope to cook a lot from my garden.  No farms, no food, right?  Can the same be said for backyard garden plots?  I also hope to buy and cook locally and in season this summer.  Stay tuned for more garden adventure updates and local/in season cooking posts!