Sunday, July 19, 2015

Mid-summer garden tour

Raspberries, blackberries, string beans, potatoes, garlic scapes

Why is it that the day that I have time to do some much needed work in the garden, it is supposed to be the hottest day of the summer so far?  So I was outside at 7am trying to get done before the sun could do me in, but there was no escaping the oppressive humidity.

This year’s garden seems to be taking its sweet time to produce.  We had a late warm up for spring other than a brief abnormally summer-like hot couple of weeks early on and the heat now returning full blast.  We’ve had more rain than ever, recording the wettest June in the DC area in recorded history.  To further confound garden success, there has been a noticeable decline in the bee population and the flowers just don’t seem to be getting pollinated.  The foliage is beautifully lush from the rains, but fruit production so far has been lighter than in the past years.  This just makes me more aware how difficult it would be if we needed to produce enough food to be self sufficient.  

Views of some of the raised garden beds: 1 - eggplant, soybeans; 2 - tomatoes; 3 - squash, popcorn

The season still has plenty of time to unfold through July, August and into September.  I’m holding out hope that harvests will be more abundant in the coming months. In the meantime, I spent time getting the last spent plants from spring cleaned out and then planting for late summer and fall harvests.  Out with the straggly overwintered and spring plantings of peas, kale, collards, cilantro and lettuces that had bolted.  In went seeds for carrots, onions, a second crop of soybeans and lettuces that don’t mind a little heat.   

I hope you enjoy these few highlights from the garden this year:

Fruit and vegetable harvests

Eggplant, cucumber, patty pan squash, garlic scapes, basil, pineapple mint tarragon, garlic, green, purple and wax string beans

Eggplant, tomatoes, heirloom squash, green and purple string beans, Asian long and Asian broad beans







Thanks for reading!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Kitchen adventures: Vegan parmesan sprinkles

Vegan parmesan sprinkles on popcorn

I'm always looking for creative ways to pack more nutrition into any recipe but still have it taste great.  I'm always grating veggies into my recipes to replace some of the fat; like finely shredded zucchini or carrots into muffins, pancakes and waffles.  I also add a handful or two of spinach or kale to any smoothie without it changing the flavor but providing a vitamin and fiber boost.

Another thing I like to add to boost nutrition is spirulina.  It has been around in health food stores for quite a while, but is becoming more widely known as "superfoods" are gaining popularity.  It is a blue-green algae that is packed with nutrients.  Below is an infographic explaining the benefits of spirulina, and you can also learn more here.

Add some to your favorite homemade salad dressing or smoothie like in this smoothie bowl.

This bowl contains a spinach, raspberry, frozen banana and coconut water smoothie enriched with spirulina that is topped with granola, coconut, raspberries and drizzled with fig syrup.  Fantastic for breakfast or a snack.

Here's another tasty way to give spirulina a try as pictured at the top of the post:

Vegan parmesan sprinkles

makes approximately 1/3 cup

2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
2 tablespoons ground hemp seeds
1 teaspoon spirulina powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon sea salt (optional)

Put all ingredients in a small bowl and mix well.
To serve, sprinkle over pasta, popcorn, soup or salad.
Store in a covered container in the refrigerator.

I hope you give it a try.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Kitchen adventures: easy breakfast bowls

Freshly picked strawberries and greens become a breakfast smoothie bowl

Breakfast doesn't have to be complicated or time consuming to put together.  Using what you have on hand can make a hearty healthy breakfast in no time.  I love mixing lots of different textures in my bowl for a satisfying start to the day.

Here are two different bowls of goodness that don't really need a recipe and can be put together quickly with ingredients you have on hand:

Smoothie bowl

A favorite is a smoothie bowl like the one pictured above.  The base is a thick fruit and vegetable smoothie (whatever is your favorite blend)..  This one the smoothie is made from greens, strawberries, protein powder, almond milk, frozen bananas and maca powder. The toppings are fresh strawberries, chia seeds, homemade granola, cocao nibs, hemp seeds and a drizzle of agave nectar.

Hearty oatmeal

A more traditional breakfast is oatmeal.  This one is dressed up with some of my favorite toppings.

Oatmeal bowl

  • oatmeal (either cooked oats or raw soaked in almond or other milk overnight)
  • top with your favorite fruits, nuts, seeds, sweetener and milk

The bowl pictured above is oatmeal cooked with cinnamon, flax seeds and vanilla extract.  The toppings are blueberries, pecans, chia seeds, unsweetened coconut and a drizzle of maple syrup

Here are a couple of other quick breakfasts from previous posts:

Green Smoothie
Overnight oat and chia seed pudding
Sweet potato mousse

Having a good breakfast doesn't have to take too much time to put together to keep you fueled to tackle your morning.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Spring garden update

Swiss chard

After a late start, spring is finally underway.  The seedlings have been planted in the outdoor beds with just a tray of cabbage seedlings left to grow for another week or so before they are moved outside.  Here are a few photos of how things are shaping up so far.

Rhubarb, blackberries, strawberries

Kale, butter lettuce, Asian stir fry mesclun 

Peas, squash and cucumbers, garlic, green beans and tomatoes

I'm looking forward to sharing the garden with you as it continues to grow.

Thanks for reading!


Sunday, May 17, 2015

Potato vegetable fritters

Potato vegetable fritters

Spring gardening season is in full swing.  After a full day at the day job and trying to squeeze in some gardening before dark, dinner prep time gets squeezed.  Not wanting to fall back on takeout or prepared foods, we have been eating simple, but very tasty meals.  We adapted this original recipe for zucchini potato fritters to what we had on hand and increased the recipe to nearly triple so they could be our entree with a salad and to have leftovers for lunch the next day.  These little fritters were quick to prepare and tasty so will surely make repeat appearances on our menu.

Potato vegetable fritters

makes approximately 15
  • Add salt and pepper to taste.  
  • Roll about ⅓ cup of the mixture into a ball and then flatten to make a small patty.
  • If you have time, allow the patties to rest in the refrigerator to firm up for about an hour or freezer for 20-30 minutes.  (We didn’t have time and our potatoes were room temperature, so we cooked them right away, but if you are using freshly cooked hot potatoes, some cooling will be necessary to prevent the fritter from falling apart.)  
  • Heat a skillet on medium-high heat and coat the bottom with 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil.  
  • Cook the patties without crowding until golden brown on each side.
  • Drain on a paper towel and serve with your favorite sauce like ketchup, bbq, marinara or sweet and sour,

3 medium sized potatoes, cooked and grated or roughly mashed (removing the peel is optional)
2-3 zucchini or yellow squash, grated
2 carrots, grated
½ onion, chopped or grated
1-2 cloves, garlic, minced or grated
½ cup peas (frozen or fresh)
½-¾ cup whole wheat flour (more or less depending on the moisture in the vegetables)
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp dried thyme, ground sage, ground rosemary or your favorite herbs (optional)
sea salt and pepper to taste
oil for cooking (we used olive oil)

( I used a food processor fitted with a small shred disk to grate the cooked potatoes squash, carrots, onion and garlic , one after another into the food processor bowl.)

Put the grated vegetables into a large mixing bowl.  
Add in the peas, ½ cup flour, baking powder, herbs and mix well.  
Add more flour if needed to make a very stiff batter (if it is too soft, these will fall apart when cooking).  

These are also a great leftover grab and go snack right out of the refrigerator.

I hope you are inspired to still make simple homemade food even when time is short.  Your health and your tastebuds will benefit.

Thanks for reading!

Salad greens picked fresh from the spring garden