First Year of Gardening Update

I haven’t given up on my garden, but I have not been taking very good care of it.  A garden is something that needs nurturing and constant attention.  One day of skipping watering or not picking a weed and it quickly becomes unmanageable.20160825_102638

My broccoli never grew so I pulled that up.  I have three carrots that are still growing.  I completely forgot that I planted fennel.  The neighborhood groundhogs ate much of my Brussel sprouts.  I was looking forward to them.20160825_102535

One bell pepper grew on my pepper plant.  That one was not my fault.  It was entirely too hot for it to grow well.  It was also too hot for my cucumbers.  I picked three before the plant yellowed.  I probably could have watered it more, but again, I just let it go.

The groundhogs got to my cantaloupe as well.  It was doing great, but an annoying little critter decided to help itself to the fruit.

The tomatoes and herbs are doing well still.  Most of the herbs have gone to seed at this point in the growing season.20160825_102554

My first year gardening had plenty of ups and downs.  From pest control to hot weather, I learned a lot including:

  • Water, water, water!  Plants need water to survive and won’t do well without it.
  • Pest control.  My grandfather helped me with pest control.  There are many different methods to keep bugs out of the garden and it is important to control pests before they take over.
  • Pick and prune.  Picking herbs and vegetables at their peak keeps the plants growing.  Pruning dead leaves and trimming plants that have gone to seed with prolong the garden season.

While the gardening season is not over yet, my garden is about done as far as harvesting goes.  I will have herbs and tomatoes for a few more weeks before winter sets in.  Next year, I hope to have learned enough to grow more vegetables and take better care of my garden.  This spring and summer was very hot so hopefully next year, the weather is also better.

Take good care of your garden and it will take good care of you.

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Easy Cabbage and Noodles

My co-worker lives up in Schuylkill County.  For those non-PA natives or those unfamiliar with the word, we pronounce it “skoo-cool.”  It is an hour drive from here to there, so there are some regional differences.  For one, she makes this delicious dish of cabbage and egg noodles.  When she brings it in to work, there are usually leftovers for me and my co-workers.

Cabbage and noodles sounds like a weird combination, but it is actually really tasty.  The butter makes every bite even more savory and addicting.

When I received the head of cabbage in the CSA last week, I tried to give it to another co-worker, but she did not want it.  I then decided to make my own version of the cabbage and egg noodles.  The Italian side of my family has a motto when cooking and that is, “You can never have too much garlic.”  My co-worker doesn’t add garlic to her cabbage and noodles, but because I can, I did.  I also added the shallot from this week’s CSA just to use it and give the dish a little more flavor.

Cabbage and Noodles

  • Servings: 10-12
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print
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Ingredients

  • 8 oz whole wheat egg noodles
  • 1 head of cabbage, chopped
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • ½ cup butter
  • salt and pepper

Directions

  1. Cook the egg noodles according to the directions.
  2. In a large pan, add the butter and sauté the shallot until it is soft.  Add the garlic and cabbage and sauté an additional 10 minutes or until the cabbage is soft.
  3. Add the cabbage to the noodles and stir.  Season with salt and pepper.

Notes:  I initially used 12 oz of noodles, but think it is better to only use 8 oz, especially if you have a smaller cabbage.

CSA Week 14 and Caprese Grilled Cheese

The CSA at Strites’ is over halfway through this week.  Our share this week included nectarines, sweet corn, gold apples, peppers, an eggplant, tomatoes, and a shallot.  Shallots are a type of onion and can be used just as an onion or garlic would be.20160823_121923

I really have to find something to do with corn as I still have some from last week’s share as well.  I’m thinking maybe grilling it or making corn fritters.  Corn can be frozen by blanching it first, cutting it from the cob, then sealing in a bag and placing it in the freezer.

We had a potluck at work on Monday and I used some of the fruit from last week to make a peach and nectarine crisp.  All I did was follow my recipe for clean eating apple crisp and replaced the apples with the peaches and nectarines.  It turned out fantastic.20160822_101519

The variety of tomatoes in this week’s CSA is called San Marzano.  They have thick skins, but a very sweet taste to them.  I decided to use these and the basil in my garden to make a Caprese grilled cheese sandwich.  I love anything Caprese as you may have noted last week when I posted the Eggplant Caprese Quiche.  There is just something about the combination of tomato, basil, and mozzarella that is irresistible.

The Caprese grilled cheese sandwich makes a quick and easy lunch.  Of course, I had to share some of the mozzarella with my cats.  I used Dave’s Killer Bread, which I have found to be the least processed bread that can be store bought.

Caprese Grilled Cheese

  • Servings: 1
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print
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Ingredients

  • 2 slices of bread of your choice
  • 4 oz mozzarella, sliced
  • 1-2 tomatoes, sliced
  • 6-8 leaves fresh basil
  • butter

Directions

  1. Heat a pan over medium heat.  Butter one side of the bread and place the buttered side down in the pan.
  2. Layer the mozzarella, basil, and tomato.
  3. Butter the second slice of bread and place it on top of the mozzarella, basil, and tomato.  Flip the sandwich over and cook until browned to your preference.

Cantaloupe Popsicles

My great grandmother grew up in Italy during World War I and in a family history interview, she said her favorite food to eat was fruit because they never got it a lot.

Now, the orchard up the street from my house has plenty of fruit:  apples, cantaloupe, watermelon, peaches, nectarines, plums, etc. so I have been eating a lot of fruit lately.  Yesterday, I ate half a cantaloupe by myself before I went to work.  I’ve also been snacking on watermelon this afternoon.  Fruit is so versatile.  You can eat it plain, cooked in a meal, or baked in a dessert.  Fruit can be served any time of day, too.

My mom buys real fruit popsicles from the grocery store, but they have added sugar, so I thought I would try to make my own and see if they turn out better than store bought.  This recipe is for cantaloupe popsicles, but you could easily substitute another fruit.  Use about 1-2 cups of fruit of your choosing.  You can also substitute a can of coconut milk to give your popsicles a more creamy texture.

Cantaloupe Popsicles

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print
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Ingredients

  • ½ cantaloupe, chopped
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Directions

  1. Combine all of the ingredients in a blender and mix until smooth.
  2. Pour into popsicle molds.
  3. Freeze overnight.  Enjoy!

 

CSA Week 13 and Eggplant Caprese Quiche

This week’s CSA included: peaches, apples, nectarines, corn, an onion, and a cabbage. The nectarines are not quite ripe yet so I am going to let them sit until they are ready. The apples are good for baking and also eating plain so I do not know if I will make anything with them this week. I also picked up a cantaloupe when I got my CSA so I might make a fruit salad and use a little bit of everything.week13.png
Lynn at Fresh April Flours posted her recipe for Crustless Caprese Quiche at just the right time. My eggplant from last week was beginning to look a little sad and I did not have enough ripe tomatoes for the whole recipe so I substituted one of the tomatoes for chopped eggplant. Instead of shredded mozzarella, I used fresh and just layered chunks of it on top. I used the onion from this week’s CSA and the basil was fresh from my garden. I don’t like using just egg whites, so I used 5 whole eggs instead of the 4 eggs and 2 egg whites.20160817_125352
In addition to all of her healthy recipes, Lynn has a lot of dessert and baking recipes as well, so check out her site!
My neighbor came over as I was preparing the quiche and remarked how good it smelled in my house. Not only does it smell good, but it tastes delicious and is healthy, too!20160817_125518

Clean Eating Sweet Pickles

The Dill Pickles with Hungarian Peppers turned out quite well.  They were mildly spicy.  The only issue is that they were slightly salty.  I will probably cut down on the salt the next time I make them.  My father had no problem with them and finished off the entire jar.

After eating all the dill pickles, he then asked me to make him sweet pickles.  The sweet pickles were actually easier to make than the dill pickles and only need a week in the fridge before they are ready.  Not only are these pickles tasty, they are also clean eating.

My grandparents’ garden is overflowing with cucumbers right now so these are fresh from the garden.  The mustard seed is also from my grandmother’s cupboard.  She did not grow it, but I did not have any so I had to borrow some from her.  Honey sweetens these pickles where sugar normally would.  The onions give the pickles a nice kick and c’mon, who doesn’t like onions?

Clean Eating Sweet Pickles

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Ingredients

  • 2-3 cucumbers, sliced
  • 2 cups vinegar
  • 1 cup honey
  • ½ Tbsp mustard seed
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • ½ Tbsp salt

Directions

  1. In a small pan, bring the vinegar, honey, and spices to a boil.  Stir until the honey is dissolved.
  2. Place the cucumbers in a jar and pour the vinegar mixture on top.  Seal the jar.
  3. Allow to cool on the counter and then refrigerate.  The pickles will be ready to eat in one week!

CSA Week 12 and Clean Eating Peanut Butter Caramel Sauce

The CSA for this week included: corn, a cantaloupe, lettuce, an eggplant, peaches, and early gold apples.  I am hesitant to give the eggplant to my co-worker again this week.  I want to try it again and see if my tastes have changed since the last time I ate it.  I might switch it out and give her the cantaloupe instead.  Although, I did find a tasty recipe for cantaloupe popsicles so I am torn.  I want to keep everything!20160809_124923

Strites’ Orchard participates in a Farm-to-Table dinner that supports the Hope Lodge in Hershey, PA.  Hope Lodge provides no cost housing to patients and their families while they receive cancer treatment at the Penn State Hershey Medical Center.  Other local vendors participate as well.  The event is held at Strites’ and costs $150 per person.  For more information, visit http://www.acsfarmtotable.org/.

Generally, caramel sauce is not clean eating.  There are recipes out there for caramel sauce that are sugar free and even vegan!  The following recipe is clean and the added peanut butter makes it a great dip for apples. It’s an easy three ingredient recipe, though I may add a little vanilla extract the next time I make it.  It does taste a lot more peanut buttery than caramel, but it is still a good substitute for the classic sugar-laden caramel sauce.

Clean Eating Peanut Butter Caramel Sauce

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Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp peanut butter
  • 2 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup milk (I used almond milk)

Directions

  1. Mix the peanut butter and syrup in a sauce pan over medium high heat.  Bring to a boil and mix until the sauce thickens and turns a deep golden color.
  2. Pour in the milk and stir until the sauce is smooth.
  3. Store in the refrigerator.  The sauce will thicken slightly as it cools.