Archive for the ‘Yay’ Category

29
Dec

planning a garden

   Posted by: Livia

So I have permission to garden in the lot behind my apartment’s backyard next year. And I think I want to start making a plan. That way, I can show it to the woman who owns the lot and have her specifically say yes and not be surprised. Also, I can show it to the guy in the apartment on the other side of lot who has also been eyeing the green space and he can pretend he gets to participate (and maybe help with the work). I can build in [insert pretty stuff here] spots for him because it sounded like he was more interested in flowers than vegetables.

I also want to mark on there which areas get the most sun (it’s a weird V-shaped pattern. And see if I can get the woman who owns it to have the junk mulberry tree cut down before spring because the other neighbor guy is attached to it, but it’s not a useful fruit tree and is listed in the Philadelphia greenlots guide as a weed tree that should be removed vigilantly – also, it’d be shading my tomatoes.

I want to suggest a small wall so that people don’t drive in and park on our seedlings and so that people are discouraged from walking their dogs there.

So I need suggestions of good edible things to plant in the full and partial shade areas.

And I’d love it if someone would volunteer to help me measure the lot – this means wearing very sturdy shoes that you don’t mind getting dirty.

29
Dec

Planning a garden

   Posted by: Livia

So I have permission to garden in the lot behind my apartment’s backyard next year. And I think I want to start making a plan. That way, I can show it to the woman who owns the lot and have her specifically say yes and not be surprised. Also, I can show it to the guy in the apartment on the other side of lot who has also been eyeing the green space and he can pretend he gets to participate (and maybe help with the work). I can build in [insert pretty stuff here] spots for him because it sounded like he was more interested in flowers than vegetables.

I also want to mark on there which areas get the most sun (it’s a weird V-shaped pattern. And see if I can get the woman who owns it to have the junk mulberry tree cut down before spring because the other neighbor guy is attached to it, but it’s not a useful fruit tree and is listed in the Philadelphia greenlots guide as a weed tree that should be removed vigilantly – also, it’d be shading my tomatoes.

I want to suggest a small wall so that people don’t drive in and park on our seedlings and so that people are discouraged from walking their dogs there.

So I need suggestions of good edible things to plant in the full and partial shade areas.

And I’d love it if someone would volunteer to help me measure the lot – this means wearing very sturdy shoes that you don’t mind getting dirty.

This was only my second time making Thanksgiving, so the food is still shiny, new, and exciting to me.

So I went with a very simple recipe for the turkey because my parents went wild and paid for a turkey, instead of earning a free one through buying groceries. And they splurged for a free range, sexy turkey. So I just chucked some onion, garlic, and herbs inside and rubbed the outside with an herbed garlic butter. After the first half of cooking, I basted with a mixture of the turkey’s juices, orange juice, and soy sauce. Easy, simple, and it turned out juicy and reliable. There was a surprising amount of white meat for a free range bird, but apparently it was an especially breasty breed of bird – but the white meat wasn’t anymore flavourful for the wandering around. But I do think you could tell a difference with the dark meat – with a richer and more complex taste. And a cruelty free holiday!

And my mother scandalized me by not letting me come up with a recipe for dressing – but, instead, she bought Stove Top’s cornbread dressing. And to doctor it, she stirred in sliced scallions right at the end. Yeah. But I have to admit, even if it was sleazy, it was still very tasty and we finished all of it.

She was also going to have our only vegetable be microwaved frozen sugar snap peas (because my father can’t have Vitamin K), but I insisted on a second vegetable (mostly because I still had an abundant amount of Swiss Chard in the garden to use up before first frost). So I melted two teaspoons of bacon fat. Once that warmed up, I tossed in three cloves of garlic, thinly sliced. Once that started to brown, I tossed in the Swiss chard (washed, leaves cut off the spines, and then sliced across into 3/4″ ribbons, still damp). I had meant to add red pepper flakes after, but I ended up getting distracted getting the meal on the table, so there weren’t any – and the dish was delicious without them. Not healthy, mind you, but delicious. My friend, who is a chef, was absolutely right – swiss chard must always go with bacon.

And then there is the dish of which I am the most proud. The sweet potato casserole. Everyone makes this dish, and there are hundreds of recipes for this on the internet – but the first five pages on google didn’t come up with the recipe I was looking for. All of the called for butter. Many of the called for heavy cream. I really liked the recipe that called for orange juice and zest, and then I was amused to notice that the orange juice was never used in any of the versions claiming to be lower fat. Also, while I remember from my youth great debates over whether one would add diced apples or crushed pineapple to the casserole, not a single recipe called for any fruit. So I ended up kind of making my own way to a healthy version of this side dish for my diabetic father.

Sweet Potato Casserole – topped with marshmallows

First off, I made made it in individual ramekins, instead of a large dish, so there would be portion control. I don’t know if it’s necessary, but just for the ease, I did lightly butter the dishes.

Roast and peel 2 medium sweet potatoes.

Core, peel, and dice finely half of a smaller apple.

Stir them together in a bowl with the juice of one orange and the zest of half of the orange.

Since my parents have on hand the sugar/splenda blend, I used that. It runs twice as sweet as a comparable measure of sugar. Start with an eighth of a cup and taste, adding up to a quarter of a cup.

For spices, I added cinnamon, sweet paprika, black pepper, and a few drops of vanilla extract.

Then I stirred in 1/2 a teaspoon of baking powder and 2 egg whites. Beat that thoroughly through the mixture.

Fill the ramekins, making sure to leave about 3/4″ from the top because not only do you need room for the marshmallows, but also you the casserole will rise as it bakes.

Then I popped the ramekins into the 325F oven with the turkey for 45 minutes. I pulled them out and let them cool (they did puff up like souffles, but the settled down and still had a light, fluffy texture).

Once the casserole is no longer piping hot, cover with the big marshmallows (size totally matters). And, yes, I used normal, storebought marshmallows instead of trying to find a healthy way around that part.

After the turkey comes out of the oven, throw the ramekins back in and switch it to broil. By the time everything else is on the table, the marshmallows should be perfectly browned and puffy.

Also there was gravy. Mmmm…

After the fourth basting, I sucked up about a cup of the drippings and set them aside long enough for the fat to separate out.

Toast some flour until is it as dark as you want it. My mother went with a nice almond color.

Then spoon the fat from the drippings and add it to the flour. If that is not enough to make a smooth pasty, add some butter.

Once that was smooth and ready to have liquid added, my mother poured in the drippings slowly enough that they’d boil and incorporate smoothly.

After the whole cup had been added, I warmed up another cup of vegetable broth, and she added that until she reached the consistency she wanted.

Then she added a little kitchen bouquet (I don’t know – it’s tradition. But you could also toast the flour more in the beginning). Even though there was soy sauce in the basting liquid, after tasting the gravy still needed a little more salt, too. She has a mixture of white pepper, thyme, and rosemary that she grinds herself – a pinch of that. And a teaspoon and a half of Manischewitz wine for richness.

And then after dinner, we had an apple pie I bought at my farmers’ market and the fior di latte and almond gelato I bought from Capogiro.

And now I am back home and making turkey stock from the carcass. Good times.

25
Jun

Herbs in my garden

   Posted by: Livia Tags:

I have managed to fill up all of my pot with herbs, and while I have plans to use some of all of them, I’m not going to be able to use all of all of them. So here’s a list of what I have, and if you are in the area feel free to swap or trade (or just plain ask) for some herbs, and I’d be glad to arrange a swap.

Herbs
Basil

  • genovese
  • lemon
  • purple
  • Thai
  • variegated

Chives
Cilantro
Dill (fernleaf)
Fennel (bronze, does not form a bulb)
Lovage
Mint
Parsley (flatleaf)
Rau Ram (Vietnamese Coriander)
Rosemary
Sage (variegated)
Summer Savory
Thyme

(also in garden – because I love lists)
Chicory/Radicchio
Delicata (still a wee plant)
Eggplant (Japanese)
Jalapeno
Swiss chard
Tomatoes (1 grape, 2 early girl, 1 roma)

(and I have some lettuce and some chocolate-colored cherry tomato seedlings)

I may have gone a bit overboard at my produce truck and the farmers’ market and berry picking.

Oh, yes, I went berry picking. Food in Jars had a post about local Pick Your Own berry farms, and I was totally sold on the idea. So a friend and I went out to Rowand Farms (no website?) in Glassboro, NJ to acquire cherries and strawberries. I’ve only picked apples before, and cherries are definitely harder – but then moving on to strawberries was like leveling up once more because you really had to look hard to find the pretty ones… plus stooping, but we knew that going in.

Now I have to make plans for all of this food:

Produce
1 nectarine
4 tomatoes
2 bunches of small asparagus
handful of shelling peas
radishes
slightly less than 1lb lettuce
2lbs cherries
3lbs strawberries
3 lemons
5 limes
2 grapefruits
4 rhubarb stalks
turnips galore
1 yellow squash
1 red pepper
1 carrot
1 parsnip
3 rutabagas
1 celeriac root
7 oz kale
1lb spicy mustard greens

ready to be harvested from my garden
radicchio
swiss chard
nasturtium flowers

processed produce
tail end of a jar of salsa
vodka pasta sauce
1/4 cup rice with turmeric, clove, and sundried tomatoes
Thai sweet spicy garlic sauce
chipotle in adobo sauce
jarred crab apples
pineapple juice
orange juice
fermenting peaches

dairy
sour cream
cheddar cheese
1% milk

protein
beef fajita leftovers (about enough for 3-4 quesadillas)
3lb beef roast
4 eggs

So now I need a plan
Monday, June 8
breakfast: 2 quesadillas with leftover fajitas

~*~

roast: foil packets of root vegetables with various spice mixes and garlic; asparagus

dinner: salad w/ half the lettuce, shelling peas (try one to see if they are good popped out, or if they need to be blanched), roasted asparagus, radishes, and nasturtium flowers – dressing: something mild and sweet – white balsamic and apricot jelly?

prep beef: 1/3 slice into thin strips and marinate with pineapple juice, jalapeno, black bean sauce (for stir fry); 1/3 slice into thin strip and marinate with salsa, chipotle, and lime juice (for something involving tortillas); prep the thickest third for roasting (studded with garlic cloves and tuck in some rosemary) and wrap for freezing

Rhubarb – make candied rhubarb and rhubarb syrup for camping

dessert – strawberries and milk

Tuesday, June 9
breakfast – try Kenyan collard green recipe with kale (uses a tomato); eat some strawberries

9am – meet real estate agent to go see a house I can’t afford

~*~

dinner: stir fry marinated beef with asparagus, red pepper, jalapeno, ginger, radishes; also saute some of the spicy mustard greens with garlic to have one the side. Make rice.

strawberries – try making small batch strawberry jam w/ shredded fresh ginger and 1 ground black cardamom jam

salsa – try making salsas from strawberries and cherries

Wednesday, June 10
meet friend for coffee; take radishes and sexy butter.

do I still want breakfast? – rest of the spicy mustard greens made like roman kale

take any remaining berries in to work

~*~

dinner: (psst: you still haven’t eaten your theoretical packets of roasted root vegetables, the yellow squash, maybe a tomato or two, nor the Mexican-ish beef) That could be an interesting start to a cottage pie…

cream cheese – cut some of my fresh herbs to make a cream cheese spread

pack to go camping – take

  • candied rhubard
  • rhubarb syrup
  • limoncello
  • rum
  • scotch?
  • camping cups and dishware
  • herbed cream cheese
  • hot sauce (but not my salsas)
  • if I feel really ambitious I’ll make a batch of raita, but looking at this schedule – I doubt it
  • again if I’m feeling ambitious, perhaps some of this ginger syrup
  • fig newtons
23
Apr

Gardening

   Posted by: Livia

I am very excited that I might actually have a real garden in my backyard this summer. I have done all of the prep work and put in the stakes for the tomatoes, and now all that’s left is putting the plants in the ground (and managing to have them not be killed by squirrels or lack of water).

Now if you are thinking that I am a proper locavore who is doing this to be closer to nature or organic gardening or some such, let me tell you how I first got into gardening. My sister and I went to Space Camp, so we got on a list that was invited to try growing Seeds from Space! Sorry, let me say it again = Seeds From Spaaace! *glee*

So before the Challenger explosion, a satellite (the Long Duration Exposure Facility – LDEF) was installed into orbit. The plan was to see how well various construction materials would withstand orbit in space, and they contracted out space to non-government experiments as well. And one of the experiments was to test 25 pounds of seeds.

So we received our packet of seeds, and we weren’t told whether they were space seeds or control. And we got out a little lab notebook and grew them. And it was awesome. They were delicious. My sister and I had never had read tomatoes ripened on a vine before. And we preserved seeds and observed the same strain of tomatoes for about three generations. And then we started adding other varieties and some hot peppers… and we had kept a garden ever since. And ever since I’ve moved to the city, I have been craving my own garden, instead of having to drive out to the suburbs to forage from my parents’ garden.

This year looks like success.

So I’m planning what to plant:

Garden

  • 4 tomato plants
    • 2 early girl
    • 1 grape
    • 1 roma
    • I am really tempted to try to plant more, but I don’t really have the space, and I don’t know that I’ll be sharing the harvest with that many people
  • hot peppers
    • 1 regular jalapeno
    • I saved seeds from my neighbor’s garden last year that had small jalapenos that turned red quickly
    • maybe something else
  • Squash – I saved some delicata seeds last summer, so I’ll see if they sprout. Otherwise, I have no idea. But just 1 squash, whatever the variety
  • Herbs
    • Basil – I hear it does especially well near tomato plants
    • Cilantro? I always manage to kill it in pots. Maybe it will do better in the ground
  • onions? I have an onion that was sprouting that I properly rooted. I hear that alliums help deter insects

Small pots on my porch

  • 6 – 4″ pots (need to buy 3 more to replace cracked ones)
    • dill
    • parsley
    • sage
    • thai basil
    • marjoram or savory
    • lovage
  • 6 – 6″ pots (need to buy 2 to replace cracked ones – there was an incident with a dog with a loose leash on my porch last summer)
    • bronze fennel
    • more parsley?
    • more rosemary
    • lettuce
    • ?
    • ?
  • up to 4 – 6-8″ pots (I have three plastic 6″ whose rims are too wide for the other plant stand)
    no plans yet for this stand

Step 3: Profit!

I want a whole field to plant. There are so many things that I just keep not even considering because I don’t have the space.

26
Mar

Spring Cleaning and Planning

   Posted by: Livia

Confronted with unexpected free time, I considered crawling back into bed and cuddling my cat, but instead I got out my broom and tidied my porch. Well, actually, first there was emptying last year’s pots back into the container of dirt; mixing the completed compost into that container, too; moving all the containers and plant stands to one end of the porch; sweeping half the porch; piling the containers of dirt (compost one on bottom) in the corner of the porch and arranging the plant stands; getting together all of the trash hanging out on the porch (broken glass from when the roofers were by (not my window), broken flower pot, cover to the plant shelves that got broken by the roofers, etc.); and finally, sweeping the other half of the porch.

Whew!

And then I got to eat breakfast sitting out in the sunshine on my re-happied porch. That’s totally a word.

Now I have to plan what I’ll grow this summer –

Not tomatoes. The squirrels won that war.
Same goes for lettuce, sadly. Well, at least not in a convenient container… maybe on one of the more tricky plant stands.

Though at the very end of Fall, we had a visit from a hawk or a falcon-type bird (I just saw it out of the corner of my eye as it flew by) that put a dent in the squirrel population, so maybe that’ll help.

I think my biggest plant this year will be a hot pepper plant – so there, squirrel bastards!

So I have 3 stands:
the first one will hold 6 3″ pots
the second – 6 4″ pots (but the bottom three are very low and get a bit blocked on sunlight)
the third – 4 larger pots (haven’t tried to see how big will fit and be stable – I might just do 4″ here, too)

Herbs:
2 parsley (4″)
2 thyme (3″)
rosemary (still live one from last year in 3″, 2 new in 4″)
1 dill (3″)
1 fennel (4″)
1 basil (3″)
1 thai basil (3″)
1 sage (3″)

Not Herbs:
1 hot pepper plant (first choice = serrano, but this one seems a good bet for a smaller container) – largest pot

So what am I missing? What would grow well in a 4″ pot but not look irresistible to a squirrel?

(I’m planning this so late because I don’t really have room inside my tiny apartment to start things from seeds – though I will try starting a few seeds late now that it’s almost warm enough to have them outside)

25
Apr

I feel all productive

   Posted by: Livia

Things planted
4 different kinds of lettuce
spinach
arugula
mustard greens
scallions

Things nurtured
my thyme from last year has sprouted a few leaves, so I am watering it instead of pitching it in favor of a new plant.

I have mulched around the blackberry plants from last year (which will not be producing blackberries this year because they were cut down when the property manager cut down the poison ivy, but they have many happy green leaves already, so I think they are fine for putting up nice brambles this year).

I almost adopted a stray cat in my backyard. He always comes up for pettings and food, and I don’t think he knows how to hunt. So I put him in my cat carrier and took him off to my vet to get checked out and then fostered off to my mother… only the cat came back positive for feline leukemia. So he’s back in my backyard, and I have bought some wet (non-prescription) cat food to make sure he gets more regular meals.

Things spited
I have herbicide, and I have gone after all of the new sprouts of poison ivy. I suspect this will be a losing battle because the original vines are well entrenched and healthy in spite of the vigorous hacking that my property manager had done to it. And it not has its origin on a property not managed by my guys, but also it has a foothold in a third property (which is a parking lot and has no one to complain about the vines). But I am doing my very best to fight this war nonetheless. I might end up being one of those creepy neighborhood people who calls up and complains about things her neighbors are doing (i.e. not maintaining their backyards). Good times ahead.)

Things yet to be grown
The garden shops aren’t stocking herbs yet, so I bought some seeds for herbs (which were on sale because it’s a little late to be starting seeds at this point) and I might start those tomorrow. I’ll put a few thyme seeds in with the recovering thyme so that I can make sure there’s enough mass come seasoning time. Next summer I’ll see what pots of herbs are for sale at the farmers’ market.

I plan to have in 3″ pots (6 pots): thyme, rosemary, dill, sage, mint, lime basil (or some foreign basil that looks hardier and tasty)

In 6″ pots (up to 6 available): flat-leaf parsley, celeriac, maybe some more lettucy things, a small hot pepper plant (if I can find one small enough)

in larger pots: leeks, and maybe some other oniony thing (what? I totally read that the allium family keeps bugs away from the garden). And then I have one large flower pot that might work for a tomato plant… still deciding about that.

fannish duties
2 stories beta-read: for 1 I still need to hear back which kind of feedback the author wants, and the other one has been delivered and I’m waiting to see whether the author is insulted by my brusque style.

Neil Gaiman – showed up way early for his talk, camped out (and did the beta reading), listened all attentive-like, and then was very dignified and polite about asking for an autograph for my mum (and explained that the crazy woman didn’t actually want her name in the book, just his). He read “Instructions,” “The Day the Flying Saucers Came,” “Orange,” and a chapter from the children’s book he is in the middle of (and was still in rough draft and handwriting). Meanwhile, if you are in New York, he’ll be reading there tonight for eight minutes – only eight minutes because it is with other really nifty people – one of the first two things from our reading as he was taking the opportunity of our reading to time them for that one… which is odd since I’d first heard “Instructions” as an audio file, where it was clearly five minutes long.

And now I am at work.