Thursday, December 9, 2010

Winter Comeith!

Hello Supportive Blog-readers,

We suck at blogging. Ha! As I'm sure you're aware it has been forever since Devon or I posted and we are about to re-unite for Christmas festivities. So excited!

I know there are a million excuses on why we have gone dormant, but I wanted to share anyways: I got bored with my garden. There is something so special about watching your garden grow and there is so much life and beauty in it. Plus all that hard work you put in to make it happen. And then, your garden is done. You just have to wait. It's big and green and just not as easy to get excited over. I even got so lazy I stopped using my Aqua Globes because I didn't want to refill them! So they are officially decoration. I knew this would happen, too. My tomatoes took FOREVER to ripen and Matt ate all the cilantro so quickly we ended up killing it, haha. It doesn't grow back like the spinach does. My green beans were lack-luster at best and I just got bored.

Biggest Success: Lettuce. This little plant kept coming back more and more and more delicious. It was the one plant I was always excited to check up on. But then it got aphids! IN DOWNTOWN SEATTLE! So, I was officially grossed out and didn't want to eat it anymore. That was the day I turned my back on my garden.

Biggest Letdown: Tomatoes. Seattle is just not the climate. I think I may try once again next year but only with little cherry tomatoes. The big ones just didn't cut it. I had a lot of fried green tomatoes at the end of the season and really didn't get a big harvest. Besides, constantly hearing about the Franken-bush Mom got back in IL and how she didn't know what do with all of these tomatoes was just aggravating! No offense, Mom, super happy for you, but I haven't had a good tomato since leaving the East Coast!!!

The garden now looks sad, I refuse to post any pictures. Especially after revisiting the pictures of sunshine and water. While making my first round of co-worker Christmas cookies this weekend I fully intend on digging all the plants up and housing the soil for next year use. We are getting a lot of wind and rain now and my pots are flying around the patio.

So, we are going to shut down until next year's spring. BUT WAIT! THERE'S MORE! We can't shut down the blog!! Devon and I have talked about it and are hoping that maybe you all would like a say in it. Our favorite option is a cooking blog for the winter. We seemed to be very food oriented anyways (who in this family isn't?) while we had the gardens so we may as well continue. Plus, once Devon started putting up pictures of bruschetta and her cakes I had to run right away and make them. I figured we could start a cool recipe sharing, mouthwatering blog of our Kitchen Escapades. And then see how that goes. What do you all think?

One more thing... Neti's catnip! Also a major success, I harvested the whole plant and dried it. I am officially my cat's catnip dealer. I'll send some pictures when the crushing begins! I have a very happy cat.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Chicago- Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Bruschetta

Last night a few of my intern friends came over to enjoy so good food, knitting, and Twilight (don't judge). Every time we get together we always have the best food. Last night's menu consisted of Primo's pizza with ranch dressing, homemade pretzels, homemade guacamole goat cheese dip, homemade hummus with carrots and cucumbers, Ben and Jerry's ice cream, and my own contribution: roasted eggplant and tomato bruschetta with eggplants from the garden! The recipe is an original of Joe's and it was delicious; by far the best bruschetta I have ever had. Way to go Joey!
Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Bruschetta
3 small Japanese eggplants, chopped
3 medium tomatoes
1 French baguette
4 cloves garlic
3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
Salt & pepper
1/2 cup fresh basil, minced
Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Chop eggplant and tomato. Toss with olive oil and put on baking tray. Roast eggplant and tomato mixture in oven for 25 minutes; cool to room temperature. Slice baguette on the diagonal into rounds. Brush baguette slices with olive oil. Place bread slices on baking tray in oven until brown around the edges, about 15 minutes. While still warm, rub each slice with garlic cloves. Let bread cool. In a bowl, mix eggplant and tomato mixture with balsamic vinegar, 2 Tbsp olive oil, salt, pepper, basil. Spoon eggplant mixture onto each bread slice. Top each with Parmesan cheese.

Our garden also has produced the smallest green pepper in the world. Truthfully, it was still growing but it came off the plant prematurely. I'm not mad though because it is too cute.

Fits in the palm of my hand!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Chicago- Chocolate Zucchini Cake

In an effort to use the 3 zucchinis that were picked from the garden, I decided to make a delicious chocolate zucchini cake. I love zucchini bread, but lacked a really good recipe (tried Martha Stewart's and was sorely disappointed). Plus, Joe's grandparents had just gotten back into town from Florida and were going to be at his parent's house last night. As we always have dinner with Joe's parents on Saturday night, I offered to make a dessert. Thus, the chocolate zucchini cake with fresh zucchinis from my garden was created! Needless to say, everyone loved the cake. A great success! Now I have been bitten by the baking bug and want to keep baking things. Unfortunately, school work calls. Perhaps next weekend I can make another treat. Plus, Dina promised to send me her zucchini bread recipe so I can make good zucchini bread with the next couple zucchinis that pop up.

Chocolate Zucchini Cake
adapted from Mostly Foodstuffs blog.

3 cups grated zucchini
2 1/2 cups all-purpose floour
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
2 cups sugar
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 1/4 cups vegetable oil
4 eggs
1 Tbsp vanilla
2 Tbsp strong brewed coffee
1 cup chopped walnuts

4 oz cream cheese, softened at room temperature
2 tbsp butter, softened at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
squeeze lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup sifted confectioner's sugar
2 Tbsp milk

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and grease and flour a 10-15 cup bundt pan.
2. Set zucchini in a strainer or colander for at least half an hour to drain out excess liquid.
3. Sift flour, salt, and baking soda together. Set aside.
4. Mix together sugar and cocoa with a fork to incorporate cocoa completely and get rid of any clumps.
5. Whisk sugar and cocoa mixture with oil, eggs, vanilla, and coffee.
6. Add flour mixture to oil mixture and gently fold together until just combined.
7. Fold in zucchini and walnuts.
8. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 45-60 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean.
9. Let the cake cool in the pan for 30 minutes, then invert and finish cooling on the serving platter.
10. When cake is cool, make the frosting. Blend together cream cheese and butter until smooth.
11. Add vanilla and lemon juice.
12. Beat powdered sugar into cream cheese mixture gradually until smooth.
13. Mix milk into frosting to thin it out.
14. Drizzle over cooled cake as desired.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Chicago- Day 140: Vegetables!

I have vegetables! Hurray! The eggplant and zucchini are thriving with beans, peppers, and tomatoes on the way. The success of these plants is most likely due to the fact that Joe waters them twice a day because I am a lazy bum. Thanks to his TLC we will be snacking on veggies very soon.

We currently have 5 eggplants growing with one pretty close to harvest.
Look how large the zucchini plant has gotten.

Our first zucchini harvest. I think zucchini bread or zucchini cake may be next on the agenda.
Peppers are on the way. Look how cute.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Day 119: Seattle Jungle

Morning everyone! Just some updates on garden status. Matt has done some re-arranging on the patio as grill season is now in full swing. We also got some new bedside tables so we're feeling Seattle-style and re-purposing our old ones. Patio table!! It gives me some great room out on the patio so I added a few new pots. Speaking of new pots Matt surprised me with two BEAUTIFUL hydrangeas (my ultimate favorite) which I placed in one huge pot to let it grow.

Look how gorgeous
!Since my cilantro was used up I re-potted with a beautiful little blueish purple flower. Also, got a new pot for some marigolds to add a little color. And, a coworker of mine overheard me complaining about how my mint didn't have the greatest flavor.

She promptly ripped up a big chunk of her garden and brought it in for me! So, I have an amazing flavored mint transplant that is thriving (as mint commonly does). I've already thrown some in a big pitcher of lemonade. Yummy!

As far as old favorites that have been in the garden since Day 1... the tomatoes have beautiful little yellow flowers so I should have fruit in a month or so.

We have green beans!!! The plant had been flowering for awhile but I pulled back some of the leaves just last night and there's beans! Like, edible green beans!!! They look ready to pick but there's not really enough to make a sidedish for Matt and I so not sure what to do yet. Maybe I'll just incorporate them into a stirfry next week. Any ideas?

Enjoy the pictures, the garden is so beautiful and such a jungle! Neti (the cat) loves sitting out there and now you're just completely surrounded by green. It's almost blocking out the water! But, not quite...

Oh and I promised Matt: Wanna know his favorite part of the garden? His "art piece". It's a 12 mm Bing moped carburetor.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Chicago- Day 105: Starting Anew

As I am sure you have all noticed, I haven't been very good about updating lately. The truth is with the construction on our deck (that lasted way too long), finals, a week in Seattle, and the beginning of clinical rotations, I haven't done much thinking about my garden...or tending to it. Yes, the honest truth is that I basically killed everything that I had. It has gotten really hot here so my spinach and lettuce bolted, my herbs sort of shriveled up, and I never did thin those carrots....oops. I had begun to give up on the idea that I could garden and that I should even attempt to restart. However, Joe in his unending optimism thought that it was a horrible idea to give up. So after a few days we decided that this weekend we would go back to Home Depot, get some new flowers and veggies and really get our garden going.

Now the thing about going to Home Depot is that it is really difficult to get there. The traffic is usually horrible which was another reason I just hadn't gotten around to adding anything to the garden. It was just too much of a hassle. In order to combat this problem, we decided it was best to get there early in the morning (see I do listen to my mom). Obviously, I had no problem getting out of bed at 7am on a Saturday...make that 8am on a Saturday. Well, lo and behold we got to Home Depot in about 5 minutes (minus the time it took us to get some Starbucks into us), a trip that usually takes at least half of an hour.I was a bit nervous that the selection wouldn't very good since the season started quite a while ago. However, there were still some vegetables that looked pretty good and a lot of flowers on sale (hello! geraniums for 79 cents!). In the end, I ended up getting zucchini, japanese eggplant, a cherry tomato plant, red bell pepper plant, lots of geraniums, day lilies, pansies, daisies, and these little pink flowers that I don't really know the name of. All in all, we hit the jackpot. But the adventure doesn't stop there.
Joe also needed to run an errand at GameStop which is located pretty close to the Home Depot. However, we reached the store about 10 minutes before it opened. In order to optimize our shopping time, we decided to head over to the Sports Authority across the street to find a table and chairs for our deck. "To Sports Authority?" you may ask. Why yes, apparently Sports Authority has seasonal outdoor items including outdoor furniture. Who knew! Luckily, we found a nice glass table with 4 chairs and an umbrella that is just perfect. A great addition to the garden!

Now we have a beautiful deck with a place to relax and sit out in the sun! Though it was a lot of work today, it has already begun paying off as I am writing this outdoors right now. A great relaxation spot. Enjoy all the photos.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Day 98- WOWEE! Lots of updates

First off, Devon and Joe came to visit! We had a great time, and it was fun showing off the garden. In fact, while they were here we used the basil for some yummy Washington farm fresh tomatoes and mozzarella and some oregano in burgers! It was all delicious! And it was wonderful having them here. Miss you both!

It's been awhile since posting because we're really just enjoying the growing and tasting of things. I have been doing a lot of propping my feet up with a drink and a good book and just relaxing in the new found sun (yes, it's sunny here! don't tell the tourists) No real big events to report, until recently.

For example, we ate all of the cilantro. Didn't know it was a use-it-or-lose-it plant, but alas, it is. So I need to get a new one of those. Also, we have decimated the lettuce. Which is good, right? But still, we ate it all. So, not sure whether it will regenerate or if I should plant something new. But two empty pots on the patio is sad. Except that everything else is booming! I've eaten many a strawberry...

See how pretty!! They are very tasty, too. Not as tasty as I imagined, especially after the eye-rolling goodness of the spinach, lettuce, and cilantro. But still, the beauty of their color alone is worth it!
And then, my new laziness add-on: Aquaglobes! Yes folks, they actually work! They are gorgeous, first of all, adding a big pop of color to the green of the plants.

And my tomato plants are just taking over. I walked out on the patio the other day and yelled, "Matt, it's a jungle out here!"
My catnip is also taking over, I didn't realize how big it would get.
Speaking of cats, with some new time away from gardening spent bent over my sewing machine I made a quick (and cute) little bed for Neti (the cat). She spends more time out on the patio then I do! She loves to watch the cars and people and birds fly by, so I figured I should make her a little seat so she wouldn't have to sit on the dirty/cold concrete patio. Look how cute!! I quilted it for extra warmth/padding and added ties in to the binding so that I could secure it to the grill so it wouldn't blow away. And little did I know I was adding a bit of a toy for her in doing so, as she likes to bat at the bows it makes. She loves it!

Needless to say, lots of updates. I'll let you know on the tomatoes. I got my first blooms, which Sara (the master gardener) told me to pinch off. Sad, but it should help the plant to bloom stronger and make heartier tomatoes. So, there is still plenty to look forward to. Until next time, blog-watchers!!!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Day 72: Seattle- Compensation

Well, after all the disaster (and the pep-talk from Mom) I found some good after all in the patio plants. For example...

I waited for Matt to come home to harvest the spinach and lettuce so he could try them. So over
the weekend I cut a bunch of the lettuces and the spinach and made a giant salad to share. Look at the lettuce!
For the salad I just used fresh, sliced avocado (my favorite) and a heavy sprinkling of parmesean cheese. I made the dressing myself-- olive oil, balsalmic, a pinch of dijon mustard and whisk! Drizzled over these deeply green lettuces and spinach it looked AMAZING!! I didn't want to eat it it was so pretty, but MAN was it good! I have never had such depth of flavor in spinach! And it was so fresh tasting and just amazing. Even Matt liked it!

And while I was cutting I found the best of all. I
have strawberries forming!!! There are a multitude of little green berries getting ready to plump up. Look at them! Just beautiful.

And to replace my giant pot of dead blueberries I went and got two basil plants and have them sharing their new pot with a tomato starter donated from Sara- a gardening guru and dear friend. Her garden is amazing and now her tomato plant has found a new home and it is thriving!

So all in all, I'm loving this and have lots more ideas for more next year. For example, I have already exhausted my lettuces and want more! But I have to wait, so next year? More pots!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Day 58: Seattle- Disaster Strikes!

OH NO!!!!! Seattle decided to go from a week of sun and 70 * to windy, WINDY, WINDY!!! I thought Devon lived in the windy city. We had up to 60 mph wind!! DOWNTOWN!! So needless to say, disaster struck on my beautiful plants. Man!

My tomato plant got completely turned on its side, so now I had to tie it up with pantyhose.

The whole top of my bean plant was blown off!! Will it survive? Can they generate new leaves? Look at that pathetic stick!

My two strongest, most beautiful strawberry leaves were blown over and snapped! I just cut them off at the root to try and ask it, nicely, to regenerate some leaves.
And on top of it all my blueberry plant has committed suicide. I'm thinking about switching to a new plant. It looks so sad I can't even bare to put a picture on. Picture a stick with shriveled up leaves. I can't seem to bring it back. I don't think my patio gets enough sun. :( So, it's not green gables here in Seattle. I am trying to recover it.

Some good news though, Devon is coming in T-minus 3 weeks to visit! Maybe she can coax my plants to health. And another little catnip sprout has popped out of the soil. So, I guess it's not all bad news, but it's mostly bad news. Looks like a stall here and in Chicago.

What's next?!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Chicago- Day 56: Under Construction

Though it appears that I have been a slacker because I haven't posted in so long, the truth is that I actually have NOT been a slacker- I've just been really busy with work/school/research. Even my weekends have been busy because I have had to go in to take measurements on my liver transplant subjects. Ah, good ol' research. It's for the betterment of science...and so I can graduate. haha. But needless to say, I'm a bit exhausted these days (this will not include a photo of my dark, under-eye circles).

My lack of gardening has not been completely my fault either. My landlord is having work done on our porches so I will have to delay any more planting or beautification until it has been completed. As you can see, my garden temporarily has been moved indoors so that the painters don't paint over it!This hasn't stopped me from harvesting though. I was able to harvest all of the radishes and they taste delicious! Home grown really is the best. As you can see my lettuce is overflowing and even my carrots are getting a bit out of hand. Hopefully the construction will be finished up next week and then I can add my warm weather vegetables and some flowers. I sure the transformation will be beautiful. My cilantro is also popping up! Hooray!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Seattle- Day 45: Many Successes, One Failure

Let's just get that failure out of the way and move on to the good stuff. My basil died. Slowly but surely, my basil died. I knew picking out the plant at the store that it wasn't the healthiest but I was just so anxious to get everything I wanted. Note-to-self for the future: just pass on the icky plants. But basil is my favorite! This is just my excuse to go back to the De-pot and find two plants! I think maybe the issue was too much water in the tomato plant it was sharing a pot with, not enough sun, and chilly weather. So the next run-around should be great.

And now for the successes!

My spinach is actually starting to look like spinach and has created these amazing little leaves. I can't believe I'm going to eat this stuff eventually!! It's too cute!

Praise God the beans sprouted!!! Take that Doubting Devon! They sprouted strong as ever!! I found another coming up and have one yet to show his head. I am SUPER excited about it. MAJOR success.

My lettuce is kicking butt! (Mom's read this blog, so I have to say butt) I'm sure you can see that I have thinned them out a lot. Next year? More pots of lettuce. Well, that's what I think now, we'll see how often I harvest it when it's eating time. I don't want to be inundated with lettuce. Although, I'm not sure that would actually be a problem.

And now, for my favorite and most successful accomplishment- STRAWBERRIES! This is the most amazing plant. I can literally see it reaching for the sun in the morning. It has just grown so much, more than any other plant, and it has 5 beautiful white flowers that will soon yield fruit. Well, I don't know about soon. I'm still learning. But look how beautiful!!

Funny Story: Matt and I started eating the cilantro, since it is taking over the pot. I made yummy beef vegetable soup (Grandma's amazing recipe, my favorite) and put sour cream and fresh cilantro on top. Matt took the first bite and asks in a horrible, disapproving, tragic voice, "What did you do to the soil?" "Oh, no!" I said, "Does it taste bad? It's just regular potting soil! Is it really that bad?!" He looks me straight in the eyes and says, "No. This is the best cilantro I have ever eaten! Can we grow more?" Haha! Needless to say, Matt is now a full supporter of the garden and can't wait to eat more. See our pretty soup?

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Chicago- Day 36: New Additions

Although this weekend should have been jam-packed with homework (stupid Metabolism), I instead decided to add to my garden. So spontaneously on Saturday I decided it would be a great time to plant my herbs, much to the detriment of my metabolism grade. I headed over to the De-Pot (aka. Home Depot) after fighting tons of traffic (which brought on fits of anxiety) and found a huge array of plants! Although they already had tomato and pepper transplants out, I opted for herbs that I knew would thrive in the still slightly cool weather. This week's lows are in the 50s and I don't want to risk killing anything if the temp dips too low. New additions include: common sage, German thyme, Greek oregano, Italian flat-leaf parsley, and cilantro. I wasn't as brave as Dina and opted for cilantro seeds instead of the transplant. I would surely have messed up the taproot and then been disappointed.

By the way, how can you plant all those plants in your apartment? I made SUCH a mess on the porch. I had dirt everywhere and crap laying around. My house would have been a mess if I had to do it right off the kitchen. Thankfully, Joe was also there to be my muscle-man!

Luckily, my mess was cleaned up and my plants potted in time to go out for a Joe-family function and STILL not do my homework. Oh well. The stress-relief from gardening was more than worth it.

Also, I decided to test out a radish since it has been about 30 days since they sprouted. It was so cute! Taste testing revealed a good, mild flavor but the radish wasn't quite firm enough. I guess I will leave them in the soil a couple more days to see how they fare.
Since my spinach is growing pretty big I had to pull out one of the plants because it was getting overcrowded. That gave me an early taste of the spinach as well. First tastes of the season!