Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Spinach is Ready!

As I said yesterday the spinach is ready to start harvesting. I thought it would take a lot longer and now it seems that I should have starting clipping a bit sooner. Some of the leaves were the size of my hand, however all my books said not to starting harvesting until there are at least 6 large leaves. Some plants only had a few huge leaves and others had some new growth. I have 2 half rows and I think that may mean we are going to be eating a lot of spinach in this house. Luckily I find that very exciting and cannot wait to create new recipes and try a few from my cook books.

 I clipped about 20 leaves and thought I would make myself a nice little salad.

First spinach harvest!!

Problem with that I idea is that I didn't have any other fresh veggies on hand to toss in...and although just a spinach and toasted pecan salad with a little whole mustard dressing would have been okay. It wasn't quite what I wanted. So I decided to make mini quiches...lol. I know its 30+ out there today and we do not have air conditioning, but I decided to start up the oven anyhow. I wasn't sure how everything was going to turn out. I have made what I call ham and Swiss tartlets before and I decided that would be a good base to add the spinach too. I went online to see if I should blanch the spinach before I added it to the mixture and got mixed information. Some places said it was a must to avoid soggy quiches and others just said to layer the spinach and put the mixture on top....But I decided to live on the edge and just chop up about 8 leaves and added to the mixture....and let me tell you they are soooooo yummy!! Can't wait for the hubby to get home to try them! Okay they looked a lot better in person.....not a food photographer here...and I am just using my phone to take the pics. But still very yummy

Spinach and Ham tartlets

Spinach and Ham Tartlets

1c Emmenthal Cheese, shredded
1c Gruyere Cheese, shredded
1c spinach, chopped
2/3c ham, finely chopped
1/3c Sour Cream
1/2c Whipping Cream
3 Egg Yolks
Salt and pepper to taste
24 frozen unbaked tart shells

Combine cheeses, spinach, ham, sour cream, whipping cream, and egg yolks.Mix well. Add salt and pepper. Place empty tart shells on a large baking sheet. Bake and 375F for 10mins.

Remove from oven. Divide cheese mixture evenly among the shells. Return to oven and bake 10mins longer of until filling is hot and cheese is melter.

Allow to cool slightly before serving.

Monday, 27 June 2011

Italian Oregano Bread with a trio of toppings

Up until this point this blog has been mainly about my garden. However, I do want to try and include some of my other favourite pass times as well. Today's post is going to be about one of the homemade appetizers that I made for father’s day.

All week I had been thinking that I wanted to make something different, but I didn't know what. I had not been feeling all that great so I knew I couldn't make anything over the top. I bought a few random ingredients at Costco that I knew I could throw together and make just about anything the trick was just to think about what to make. Finlay on Saturday night I came up with a few ideas. I was going to make Italian Oregano Bread with a trio of toppings and Grilled Portobello mushroom "pizza" (more on the Portobello in a later post)

I had looked through a few of my Italian cook books for bread recipes, but I didn't have all of or enough of some of the ingredients So I did what any home cook does I took the recipe I liked the best and made it my own. 

Italian Oregano Bread

1 1/4C warm water
1 tsp dried yeast
1 tbsp olive oil
4 cups unbleached white flour
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground pepper
1 tbsp dried oregano (fresh can be used too, this is all I had on hand)
1 tbsp dried parsley
1 tbsp dried basil

Put half the warm water in a glass mixing bowl and sprinkle the yeast on top. Add the sugar, mix well and leave stand 10mins. 

Sift flour into a mixing bowl (I used my Cuisinart stand mixer) along with salt and pepper. Add the yeast mixture, herbs, oil and remaining water. Gradually mix the flour into a soft dough, adding a little more water if necessary. 

If using a Mixer leave on low for 3mins or until dough becomes smooth and elastic. Otherwise tip the dough onto a floured work surface and knead for 5mins. Place dough in a mixing bowl and cover with a warm damp dishtowel and leave in a warm place to rise for about 2 hours. 

Lightly grease a pizza stone (I figured this would give it a crispier crust, but you can use a baking sheet). Tip dough onto a floured surface and knead for a few more minutes. Shape into a 20cm circle and place on the pizza stone. Using a sharp knife make criss cross cuts over the top of the dough. Cover and let rise for another 30mins. Preheat over to 425F/220C

Dust the loaf with a little flour and bake for 10mins then lower the temp to 400f/200c. Bake for another 20mins more or until loaf sounds hollow when tapped. If it still requires more baking time but the crust is getting to dark, place tinfoil on top and return to oven. Cook in intervals of 5mins and watch carefully that you do not burn in.

Once cooked transfer to cooling rack and leave to cool  slightly and then serve. 

For my trio of toppings I went for a bruschetta inspired tomato topping, a mushroom topping and then just Simple Olive Oil and Balsamic vinegar. I know the last really isn’t a topping but more of a dipping..But you get what I was going for.  Just a word to the wise the tomato topping is simply a bruschetta in the North American idea of the Italian appetizer. In Italy bruschetta is roasted bread rubbed with garlic topped with olive oil, salt and pepper. There are many variations of toppings. I have learned that just calling the topping bruschetta is a big no no....but I still do..lol

Trio of Toppings

 Bruschetta topping
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
4 roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped (use one tomato  per person)
1 tbsp fresh basil minced
1tbsp fresh parsley minced
2tbsp onion, finely chopped
1 tsp red wine vinegar
1tsp balsamic vinegar
Pinch of salt and pepper
Mix all ingredients in a small bowl. Let sit on counter top for at least 30mins and no longer than 3 hours.
Mushroom topping
2 tbsp non salted butter
1/4c onion finely chopped
2c white mushrooms finely chopped
1/4c white wine
1 clove minced garlic
In a medium saucepan melt the butter over medium heat. Once melted add onions and cook for 2-3mins or until clear. Add mushrooms and garlic and cook for another 5mins or until mushrooms are done. Add wine and bring to a boil until liquid has almost fully reduced. Set aside and allow to cool before serving.

Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar
Pour equal amounts of oil and vinegar into a shallow dish. Start with at least 2tbsp of each and refill as needed.

First Harverst

As the title suggests today I started to harvest a few veggies from my garden. My Easter Egg blend radishes are ready and so is the spinach. The spinach leaves are getting big and are now the perfect size for a nice salad....albeit a small salad..but a salad nonetheless. Today I just clipped a few to taste and tomorrow I hope to make the aforementioned salad...lol

1st harvest of 2011... a very yummy radish

My radish crop has yet again been treating to a lovely mess of radish maggots. The first few I picked, like the one above looked great and I thought I was in the clear. However by the 3rd one I noticed the tell tale signs of worm "tracks". EXTREMELY disappointing. I had planted radishes 6 years ago in my first garden only to have to throw them all out do to those stupid little bugs. At that time I researched what to do, found out there was little I could do unless I wanted to use heavy pesticides, so I just didn't include them in my garden again. I had heard a few people here and there say the same thing in the past so year after year i left them out..Until this year that is. I had heard that since it was going to be a dry summer that the radish maggots would stay away and therefore I figured what the heck lets plant some. Oh well you live and learn right. I looked online and it says that the radishes are still okay to eat they are just no longer store quality. They suggests to just wash as normal and cut off any of the brown worm paths..so maybe not all is lost. I have an entire row of the Easter Egg blend and half a row of watermelon radishes. They are a few rows apart so we shall see what happens. I may just dig them all up in the next few days and plant something else. There is still a couple of months of growing time. The trick is to find a store that still has seeds out and to find something that will mature in 60days.

The root maggots can attack all root veggies. I noticed that my cabbage already have a few holes in them, but the Kohl Rabi appear to be okay. As for the cauliflower, beets, potatoes, and onions I can only keep my fingers crossed and try to not think about a horrible outcome at harvest time.

The wet weather has helped to keep the weeds down. I still have to go in and go between the rows. I think my mom is going to come out tomorrow to help me. I did about 20mins today and it was too much. At least I was smart and went in.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Week Five

This week started off a wee bit soggy...yet again. I have been trying to weed for the past week and every time the garden semi dries out it starts to rain again. I think God is trying to tell me that I do not need to weed this year..lol I wish it was that easy.  Luckily it is not at the point where the weeds are over taking anything.

Today I figured that everything was as dry as it was going to get and with the call for more rain this week I knew that I had to get my ass in the garden asap! I took my cute baby tiller (which has been named Phylis Tiller by my dad...lol) out the garden and lucky me I couldn't get the stupid thing to start again. However, I knew it worked so I just kept trying and trying. Taking a few breaks to catch my breath in between and YAHOO the little bugger started! I was a little throttle happy to begin with and wasn't sure how fast to walk, but I was making straight rows. I am sure my neighbours wondering what the hell I was doing going fast slow too fast fast slow, but I tried not to think about that. I was a total idiot starting such a labour intensive task at 4pm when the sun was beating down on me and I have no heat tolerance this year. By the time I had done 2 rows with 4 passes a row I was done health wise. However, I kept going for another 23 rows!! I know I know what was I thinking. When I started seeing spots and noticed a rash starting on my arms I figured I better get my ass inside and cool down. Just in case I wasn't a big enough dork after about 30mins I semi cooled off and went back outside. I don't know what I was thinking, but I got the rest of the garden done. Granted it took me another 10mins to start the damn thing again and I had to go back in the house twice to hydrate....but its done.
Now I just have to weed between the plants....I think I hate that part the most. You have to get down on your hands and knees and fight off the red ants and mosquitoes picking little bitty weeds...lol Oh well I am going to try and just do a row a day. I know I said the same thing about the tilling...but I think tilling is just a wee bit easier...and I actually liked it....and still have both feet..lol

Freshly tilled garden

Everything is officially up. The carrots are a little sparse so I hope that the rest are on their way or well not sure what I will do. I guess if nothing is up in the next two weeks I may plant something else to keep the weeds down, but I will think more about that later.
My tomato plants have stretched like crazy in the past week and I think it is time to remove them from their pop bottle supports and place on the tomato cages. The cabbages are already starting to get eaten..so I had to "dust" them. I didn't want to have to do that, but it seems like the only way to keep the bugs away. The lettuce and spinach are the other rows that have peeked my interest. The spinach is starting to get leafy and I think we may be able to have our first feast with in the week. The lettuce is a little strange looking. Its a mixed blend so its hard to tell what is lettuce and what is weeds...should be interesting either way...maybe.
Tomatoes wanting a bit more space

In other news the humming birds are back. Perhaps they never left. I took down the feeders to be cleaned about a week ago and have not gotten around to putting them back out. However, after today's sighting I am just waiting for my sugar water to cool so they can go back out.
This year we have a few woodpeckers in the yard. They are cute to look at and hardly ever drum in our yard. We do have 2 30+ year old trees that have fallen down this year....but I do not think the two are connected.
Our yard is full of goldfinches this year, but they are not eating out of our feeder. Not sure why. They were feeding like crazy in late spring and then just stopped, the seed level hasn't changed in a month, but the little buggers are in the trees beeping all day...strange.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Week Four

Its hard to believe that the garden has been in for a whole month already! Summer is going by way to fast for me!

The week started off hot and very dry and I had gotten behind in my watering so I spent an hour and a half watering then garden only to get back in the house before the skies opened up and it rained and it rained and you guessed it more rain. It rained for almost 48hours straight. So now the garden is a bit water logged. However, if the weather keeps up like this a few really hot days followed by rain I think I would be quite happy. We have an old well in our yard that has a pump set up to it. So once I get the pump up and running I just use the hose to go up and down the rows. I think this helps cut down on weeds since the whole garden is not getting watered, but it is more time consuming. As long as the mosquito spray is heavily applies it is not that bad though. It give you a good close up view of what is growing, needs more or less water and what needs to be weeded.

I haven't done any work in the garden since last Wednesday when I unsuccessfully tried to till with the new tiller. I was convinced that I had broken it only to be proved wrong by my husband that started it on the first try and the proceeded to ask me what was wrong with it.....lol Oh well i guess I am just weak. I hope that everything dries out and I can give it a try later on this week. I am still a little afraid that somehow I am going to loose a foot or arm, but I am going to try anyhow..lol

I think everything is finally up. my Dad assured me that everything was indeed up. However, I have to go and check the carrots since they take about 85days to fully mature and I think it is just the weeds that are up and in a nice little row. All admit I haven`t even walked out to the garden since it started to rain. From the kitchen window everything looks like it has stretched, especially the cabbage. I didn`t think they were going to make it, but the appear to be.

My flower pots are starting to come along as well. I have had them in the garage for the past three days since the rain was just to heavy. This is the time of year that that find every other day I am dragging everything in cause it is raining, too windy or might hail and then taking them all out the next morning only to have to repeat the process again. Its a wee bit inconvenient and a lot of hard work, but it beats having to buy more flowers.

A few years ago we had a horrible hail storm. I was able to save most of my pots, but the majority of the garden was ruined. Its hard to put in all that work to have it vanish in seconds. Nonetheless, better the garden gone then the house!

All my trees have stopped blooming. By the looks of it I am going to get a bumper crop of crab apples and Saskatoon. I`m still not sure if the new apple trees are going to fruit this year, but we shall see.
My rhubarb is currently flowering, which I have never seen before and reminds me that I am going to have to Google that.

In other news my dad and I are going to try our hands at making sausage and or salami.....hopefully sometime in the next year. It should be interesting and yummy! I`ll keep you posted

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Week Three

At the beginning of this week I was getting a little be scared that nothing was going to come up. Even the radishes were not up and they only take 7 days max to start peeking out of the ground. A few more days of heat and by Wednesday almost everything was up! It is just amazing how that works.
A little hard to see but most of the rows are starting to grow

The well has a lot of water this year so keeping everything well watered is not as much of a chore this year. Walking up and down the rows with the hose is a lot easier than carrying watering cans from the rain bins to the garden and back. I think after 5 years i finally have my watering pattern down. I just try to water the rows that have things planted in them in hopes that helps cut down on the weeds. We do have a sprinkler or two that I could use but the time it takes to move that around the garden I could have everything watered!

I was able to plant two raspberry plants next to my strawberries. I don`t know if that is good or not but i couldn`t find anything in my books that said NO so i did it. We have one yellow and one red. They both have a lot of blooms...so i might even be able to make raspberry jam too.

All the fruit trees in the yard are in full blooms too and it smells wonderful out here.
We bought 2 apple trees to add to our already well established crab apple and Saskatoon trees. I put them near the garden to help block our view of the neighbours. So I not only hope that they grow big and bushy i also hope they produce some apples!

My parents came out and helped me weed. There was hardly anything to weed though which made things a lot nicer. My dad was able to put together my mini tiller that I bought and showed me how to use it. It was a little scary but I think it is going to make things a lot easier for me. Instead of killing my self over doing things by hand i can just walk up and down the rows and let the tiller do all the hard work. I am going to  have to practice at staying in a straight line...but as long as i dont till over any veggies I think I will be happy. Now I just have to stop thinking that I am going to cut my feet off and every thing will be okay..lol

Week 3 Raspberries and Strawberries are the 2nd row. The water bottles are for the birds
I was also able to plant all my pots this week. So I am officially ready to just sit back and enjoy summer.

Week Two

The weather was still a little cool this week and so far nothing has come up. I am not too worried yet since just about everything needs at least 14 days to germinate.

On the week end my Aunt was nice enough to give me a huge box of strawberries. I planted them by my cucumbers in what is going to become my strawberry/raspberry patch. I did not have the patience to plant each and every shoot so I just grabbed a handful and planted whatever chose to come along. Not exactly the best way to do it I am sure.....but it worked for me. I ended up with two rows of 8. So now I just have to keep the birds away and I just might be able to make fresh strawberry jam this year!
I read online that putting water bottles in your strawberry patch scares away the birds. I do not think that is true though since I am catching the birds sitting on top of the bottles...lol Might have to invest in some wire.

My hubby was able to till the back section of the garden for me so i was able to finish planting. I did 2 rows of red spuds and one row of Yukon gold. Its not a lot, however our taters always get scabs(which are still okay to eat) and they never seem to keep long enough. My mother in law plants a lot more so if we run out we can always steal a few from her. I am using her seed potatoes this year too sooo lets hope they are better than Walmart...lol I was hoping to plant purple and fingerling potatoes this year. However, every place i checked had caught blight in both of those varieties...so maybe next year!

After planting the potatoes I thought that I would be out of room, however that was not the case. I was able to plant 2 rows of wild flowers, one row of Zinnias and Dahlia and a row of marigolds! I did have veggie seeds left over so I could have planted more.....but then it would be way more than I could handle so flowers it was. I did end up with one row of nothing so I seeded some more lettuce and spinach...I also ended up buying some watermelon radishes and 2 cherry tomato plants.....Which brings the grand total to 25 rows!

My parents are going to try and come out once a week to help with the weeds and my hubby always helps too. Which makes things A LOT easier for me. It took a lot to keep the garden up when I was healthy and now that I am not the extra help takes some of the stress away. It makes me feel bad that people have to give up their time to help me do something that I really don't need to do. I am trying to work through that though.

Week 2 all 25 rows planted

Thursday May 26th -week one

This year I decided that I was going to plant a smaller garden....however that didn't seem to happen..

Luckily for me my parents and husband are helping me out quite a bit. My Dad tilled and My mom came out and helped me plant most of the garden. This year we also planted some "wild" flowers and sunflowers to help use up some space and make it a little prettier. If they help keep the grass from growing in and the weeds from taking over I wont complain.

In just a few short hours we were able to plant 2 rows of cucumbers ( a far more practical number than the 6 rows last year), 2 rows of peas, Green beans, purple beans, peaches and cream corn, 12 Roma tomatoes, radishes, carrots, purple carrots, mixed lettuce, spinach, beets, 4 cabbage, kohlrabi, leeks, garlic, and onions!! All that and there is still room for more. Some things we only planted half rows since even half a row may be more than I can eat!

We used the amazing row markers that my Dad made for me and I think we were able to keep everything straight or at least we decided it was good enough!

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Welcome to my garden

Hello and welcome to my garden. On here i am going to make weekly updates about my garden and other gardening related things that i am doing or creating. I hope you enjoy.