Thursday, July 31, 2008
Quesadillas de Frijoles de Anasazi, Arroz Integral y Verdura (Anasazi Bean, Brown Rice, and Vegetable Quesadillas)
This was also an excellent application for yellow summer squash. As I'm sure you've noticed if you've been reading this blog for any length of time, we are "beans and rice folks" (neither of us like tofu beyond tofu sour cream, we don't like seitan, and we most definitely do not like tempeh), and we are also quite obsessed with Mexican food. So it has been a fun challenge trying to figure out how to create "authentic" Mexican meals that utilize ingredients such as zucchini and summer squash that grow so well here in the Midwest. I can tell you from experience, the zucchini is harder to make "work" than the summer squash, we've had a few "hits" with zucchini, but also some "misses", things that were edible, but that weren't "blog-worthy" nor worth making again, so I was happy to find a meal that used squash that worked out really well. I can say though, with a little creativity and patience, almost anything can be used in Mexican food and it still taste "authentic", you just have to get familiar with the flavors and textures used in traditional Mexican cuisine.
Anyways, I've also gotten a few comments asking what, if any, produce used in our meals comes from our gardens. This excites me to no end that people enjoy the garden updates and our local food, so for the rest of the summer I will use a "legend" to show which fruits and veg came from our gardens, our CSA, the farmer's market, or the "regular" store.
The legend is:
no asterisk = from the grocery store
* = farmer's market
** = CSA
*** = Container or Community Garden
Without further ado, here are the pictures and the recipe.
NOTE: I am going to try to start "titling" my recipes in Spanish, since it is pretty much just Mexican food. Not only do I think this is neat, but I learn a little bit of Spanish along the way. Now, with that said, I am coming up with these translations via online Spanish to English dictionaries and translators, and they aren't always accurate. So if you know Spanish, and know I am wrong with my translation, please correct me, it will help me learn!
Quesadillas de Frijoles de Anasazi, Arroz Integral y Verdura (Anasazi Bean, Brown Rice, and Vegetable Quesadillas)
1 cup anasazi beans, cooked
1 cup long grain brown rice, cooked
2 tomatoes, diced ***
1 yellow summer squash, diced ***
1/2 onion, diced **
1/2 bell pepper, seeded and minced ***
1 hot banana pepper, seeded and minced ***
1 serrano pepper, seeded and minced ***
2 cloves of garlic, minced *
chipotle chili powder
Heat a few tablespoons of water in a small skillet. Add squash, onion, peppers, and garlic. Cook for about 10 minutes. Drain any excess water.
Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and season to taste.
Layer a few tablespoons of filling in warmed tortillas. Fry if desired.
I wanted to end this post with a reminder about the Quit Now Challenge. It officially starts tomorrow and it is not too late to sign up. I will be posting a reminder tomorrow to all you quitters out there that the challenge has begun!
'Til next time.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Anyways, flautas are also great as the oven only has to be on for a few minutes and they are great mediums for disposing of some of summer's abundance - we even got to use our first garden grown jalapeno and it was good.
These flautas got a big thumbs up from both Brett and I. The only thing I will do differently next time is not make so many, they are larger than they look!
Also, be forewarned, waiting to eat these things is torture. Flautas have some special insulation property that keeps them piping hot for a long time. So while you are starving, you have to stare down the steaming flautas hoping that your first bite won't involve scalding mouth.
I made two variations on this flauta. I tried them with and without a thin "schmear" of refried beans since we had them on hand. It was good with the refrieds, but Brett and I thought the flautas stayed crispier and had a good zing without them.
Black Bean and Veggie Flautas
Makes enough filling for 10 small flautas.
1 cup black beans, cooked
1/8 cup traditional refried beans (optional)
1/2 cup long grain brown rice, cooked
1 small tomato, diced
1 zucchini, diced
1/2 cup button mushrooms, diced
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
1 hot banana pepper, seeded and minced
1/2 bell pepper, seeded and minced
1/4 yellow onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
juice of half a lime
small flour tortillas ("fajita sized")
Preheat oven to 400.
Heat a few tablespoons of water in a skillet. Add zucchini, mushrooms, peppers, onion, and garlic, and cook for about 10 minutes. Drain any excess liquid.
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and season to taste.
Layer a few tablespoons of filling in each tortilla and secure each with a toothpick. Bake uncovered for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.
Monday, July 28, 2008
Other than that, we are starting to get tons of new growth on our pepper plants since we've picked all those peppers. Apparently, picking peppers promotes productivity (a tongue twister for ya). The cayenne pepper plant is a testament to this. Last week, we picked 6 or 7 off and there are far more than that starting on it. A couple of the larger "straggler" peppers are starting to ripen.
Excuse the pictures this week, it has been really rainy, so the container garden pictures didn't turn out too well. We also didn't get as many pictures from the community garden as usual, but I think you'll get the idea of this week's growth nonetheless.
Here is the container garden:
Sorry, it was dark and windy - a tough combination.
A ripening cayenne.
Looking down into the petite orange bell pepper plant. As you can see, quite of few of these little lovelies are ripening.
The Super Chile. We think we've figured out that the problem is too much water, but we can't stop the rain. I think this poor plant might not survive all the rain we've been having this summer.
Pics from the Community Garden plot:
Most of what you see is the two butternut squash winding 'round and 'round.
An escape attempt:
Where'd that banana pepper plant go?
Our "first born" butternut
The roma plant is breaking out of its cage; it's covered with blossoms, too!
We're hoping the butternuts don't get too big before they ripen. Overall, it looks like this week's booty will be dominated by tomatoes, but when there are squash plants around, you never know...
'Til next time.
Sunday, July 27, 2008
We got a decent amount from our gardens this week, but I'm ashamed to say I was pretty lazy with the camera. Brett was good and took a picture of what he picked this week:
Pictured is a large zucchini and three Roma tomatoes. Not pictured are: a yellow straightneck squash, 1 banana pepper, 4 serranos, and 2 small green bell peppers. There are about 3 more Roma tomatoes that are probably going to be ready to pick today.
We got: 2 small apples, new potatoes (we got a bonus yellow potato), green beans, a cucumber, a yellow squash, sweet corn, a green bell pepper, an onion, and a tomato. I don't know what kind of tomatoes Dan grows, but these are meaty, delicious tomatoes, I keep forgetting to ask him.
Our farmer's market booty:
We've got 2 gorgeous ears of sweet corn, 2 bulbs of Music garlic (we've since had some, this is some of the best garlic I've ever had, bold, yet smooth, I can't wait to make refried beans with them!), 2 small yellow, white, and red onions.
This week's food preservation activities included:
- freezing 4 green bell peppers
- freezing 7 yellow summer squash (in coins)
- freezing 5 zucchini (some in coins, some shredded)
To freeze the bell peppers, I simple washed and dried them, cut off the stem, removed the seeds, stems and ribs, and sliced them. I then put them in a ziplock bag and Brett used a straw to suck the air out of it. The peppers should keep about 8 months like this.
For the summer squash, we followed these directions, for the zucchini, we followed these directions. We were in the kitchen for quite some time yesterday, this was a lot of squash! Brett was awesome and helped me out with the whole process which not only made it take less time, but also made it more enjoyable.
I think there is some sort of "rule" about passing the award on to 7 people, but that's not how I roll, rules are made to be broken, so we're doing this my way. Besides, these are really just pats on the back anyway. Muahahahahaha!
I am passing this award on to all the quitters in the Quit Now Challenge and also including Chile. These folks may or may not even have blogs, but they are brave, wonderful people who are willing to sacrifice and do their part to make this world a better place - they know as Brett and I do, that every little bit matters. So I may be going beyond the spirit of the Brillante Weblog award, but to all you quitters with blogs: Chile, Alice, Bee, Bobbi, Chessa, Cookiemouse, Brett, Leng (again), and Vegan CowGirl - I pass these awards on to you guys! Anyone who joins beyond this point, consider yourselves recipients as well.
To Claire and Courtney, since you don't have blogs, here is my rudimentary People Who Rock Award. :-)
'Til next time!
Thursday, July 24, 2008
The seasoned black beans and traditional refried beans combined with the crispness of the cucumbers and lettuce, and the juiciness of the tomatoes complimented for a great texture as well as flavor.
This taco salad will be appearing on our dinner tables quite regularly this summer.
Midwestern Taco Salad
traditional refried beans, heated
long grain brown rice, heated
diced cucumber (pared)
small can black olives, drained
Combine black beans with seasonings and heat up.
Layer tortilla chips, refried beans, black beans, rice, veggies, olives and salsa.
'Til next time.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Start With What You’ve Got and What You Use
One of the most important steps in planning a garden, this should probably be your first step is to find out what “hardiness zone” you are in, as this will show you how long your growing season is, when to plant, and what can be grown in your area. Knowing your hardiness zone will making determining what to grow much easier, seed packets often even have the necessary hardiness zone, sun, days to maturity and other important information on them.
Next, what type of space do you have to work with? Will you be gardening in a small yard, a patio, in a window sill? How much of your available space are you willing to dedicate to a garden? After you determine where you want your garden to be, you need to gauge how much sunlight (full-sun, partial sun, shade, etc) that area receives and a rough estimate on the daily duration. I recommend keeping a gardening journal – perhaps I am just a nerd, but I write down my plans, what I did, when I fed the plants, etc., so I won’t make the same mistakes over and over or have to “re-invent the wheel” next year when I do it again.
Finally, in making the basic plans for your garden, you have to decide what it is you want to grow. What fruits and vegetables do you eat most often? Is this something that can be grown easily in your area? Just because something – say citrus – does not grow naturally in places like Missouri, with proper conditions, you can grow dwarf citrus trees inside. It takes a lot more effort as you have to create optimal conditions, but it is possible. I suggest writing down a list of prospective crops and then doing research to see if it can be grown in your area and what can be “companioned” with it, but more on this later.
Efficiently Use the Space You Have
This is the section of this post that Brett and I are just learning how to heed. When you grow food in small places, you must make the most efficient use of your space as possible. This means being creative and viewing your space in multiple dimensions.
When you have a yard, this is far easier. First you need to decide as to whether you are going to have a container garden, an actual plot in the ground, or both. If you are simply planting in the ground, I would recommend using a raised-bed style of permaculture. Permaculture is a living systems approach to human environmental design that seeks to mimic the self sustaining qualities of undisturbed nature. The basic tenant, at least in terms of gardening, is to create a system that can sustain itself with as few human inputs as possible. Not only does this make the work easier for us, the system just works better when we either leave it alone, or nurture the basic elements that sustain the system. It is no understatement to say that this can be a difficult project to get started, especially since many suburban lawns are, well, dead. But once the system is in place, it requires very little effort.
Essentially, to create a permaculture garden, you must first build up your soil and create your raised beds. Building up soil naturally can take hundreds of years, which obviously, we do not have. But we can help the soil along, by adding humus, or organic matter that will eventually be broken down into nutrient rich top soil. I will not go into the process in too much detail, as again, it depends on where you are and what you hope to get out of your garden. I would provide examples of what can be used to build up the soil, but the list is long, and it depends, again, on what you hope to do with your garden, how permanent you want it to be, and so on. For more information on the principles and how to’s for planning a permaculture garden, I would highly recommend reading or watching anything recent by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren, the “fathers” of permaculture.
For the rest of us who do not have a yard or perhaps no grass to speak of with which to garden in, we have to be a little more creative. We can easily think of our “floor space” where we can set pots or other containers to grow things, but there are also hanging baskets which are great for things like strawberries, other berries, and even cucumbers. Also, do not forget about your vertical space. Using hanging baskets accounts for some of this, but one can even have a small, narrow pot containing a vining crop like squash, place a trellis against a wall or other sturdy surface, and voila! There are also window boxes, and “banister boxes”, which are containers that have hooks to hang the pot on the banister of a porch. You can get a table and place sun loving plants on the table, and shade lovers or plant starts below where they will receive shade. The plants don’t need much space in between pots, so long as the greenery isn’t getting tangled. Basically, just leave enough room for your plants to “do their thing” and for you to be able to get to them to tend them. Beyond that, pack ‘em in; you actually create your own “micro-climate” by bunching different tiers (heights) of plants in a cluster. Fruit trees can even be grown in containers and pruned to grow flat against the wall, taking up very little space. I recommend the book The Edible Container Garden by Michael Guerra as a good starting point.Start Them Right
There isn’t much to say here besides do your research and learn how long it takes the seed to germinate as well as the number of days until they reach maturity. That way you don’t plant them too early or too late. We made this mistake here with our pepper seeds this year. We started the seeds back in April, and the starts we kept are just now getting to be about 7-8 inches tall. We didn’t do enough research to know that we should have started the seeds back in February.
Plant It Right
You can just stick a plant in a pot or the ground and hope it will grow, but this is not how I suggest you do this, not if you don’t want to be disappointed. Having a successful garden requires a little research, or, at the very least, a seasoned gardener to help you along the way. Plants require particular nutrients to function at their best – just like humans. Some plants like sandy soil; some do not. A quick Google search will bring up the specific soil requirements for the plants you wish to grow. Some like to be planted deep; for others, it isn’t as much of an issue. Some plants will provide nutrients or attract predators that will nurture or kill pests on other plants. Growing these things in the same space is called “companion cropping (or planting)”, where you essentially have two plants that have a mutually beneficial relationship together (such as a nitrogen loving plant in the same container as a nitrogen fixing plant like legumes). This takes a lot of the hard work of gardening out of the equation. Feeding isn’t required as much (and sometimes, if you get a really good set up going, not at all), and pests are kept to a minimum. A good site to read more about companion cropping can be found here.
It also helps to anticipate the needs of your plant and attend to them before the plants get too big and have a large established root system. If you are growing berries, set the trellis up before you plant the berries, that way it will already be in place when they need it. Planting peppers, eggplants, or other tall bushy crops? Go ahead and stake them up before they establish a root system, that way you don’t have to risk any damage. Growing tomatoes? Pick up a few tomato cages, I highly recommend tying the plants to the cages with Velcro tape if you can find it, this will keep them in place so they don’t hit the cage when it’s windy.
Plant Food and Drink
If you are growing in soil, in the beginning, you will want to feed your plants in roughly the same way I describe below for a container garden. Hay and grass clippings also make a great addition as mulch as they keep the weeds down and help retain moisture. Just keep in mind that anything applied to the grass while on the lawn will be absorbed into your crops. Over time, as the health of your soil improves, you will need to feed it less and less, perhaps eventually, not at all.
If you are gardening in containers, you can do much to create a self-sustaining environment that requires less feeding, but it will still require some. Depending on what you are comfortable with, I would go with some sort of organic manure. We like worm castings (poo), and from what I understand this is a “vegan” option of fertilization. This is not why we use worm castings, we use them because they work great and, at least to us, they seems more “sterile”, but if the “ethical” aspect is an issue for you, worm poo might be the way to go. Otherwise, get your hands on some local chicken or horse poo from organically raised animals. Or, if you are really brave, you can try humanure.
Watering is always an issue. Rains are not reliable, and using a sprinkler wastes an inordinate amount of water. So what to do? If you have a garden in your yard, you might try the “drip irrigation” method, as the water is dispensed in a slow trickle at a rate that it can be absorbed by the plant. I would recommend the “buried clay pot irrigation” method. This can be done in a raised-bed garden or a larger container garden. Essentially, all this traditional method of irrigation entails is burying an unglazed clay pot in the soil and filling it with water every so often. The pores in the clay will slowly release the water as the plants can take it up. This is likely a less expensive alternative to the drip irrigation system, and it also nice for larger containers. If planting in smaller containers, I recommend the “stick your finger in the soil to feel for moisture and water as needed” method. :-) Be resourceful with your water. Chile documents a way she captures the water used to wash her organic farmer’s market produce to use in her garden. Got a glass of water that got a little past it’s prime? Toss it in a watering can and use it when the plants need it. As I noted in my local booty update, we used the (strained to get the food debris out) water we had used to boil the corn and beans to water our plants. You don’t always have to use “fresh” water. I would, however, caution against using the “rinse water” from conventional or store bought produce, who knows what is on them, and you probably don’t want that going on your plants.
Tend and Enjoy
What I love about gardening is that, if you do it right or at least close enough, the plant does most of the work for you. However, things don’t always go perfectly: plants get attacked by bugs; leaves yellow and fall off; and fruits drop off before they are mature. This is part of having a garden.
To deal with insect infestations, first determine what is eating your goodies. Chances are, if the problem isn’t too bad, you will simply be able to manually remove the bugs. If you don’t want to kill them (which I don’t), you can generally relocate the worms and other larger bugs you find as we do. Aphids, those small little bugs (of many colors) that infest the new growth and blooms of plants (among other things) – well, I’m not so kind to them. They are so small that they generally meet their maker when they meet my thumb and forefinger, but gardening isn’t always pretty. You have to be able to decide, is it the plant or the bugs? ‘Cause they’ll eat your whole garden if you let ‘em. If manual remedies are not doing the trick, you have one of two options to choose from, the size of your operation is likely to determine which you choose. First, you can figure out what predator your pest has and try to find ways to attract them. Predators of aphids include lady bugs (lady beetles) and wasps, which can be attracted to your plants to eat your aphids. Not into the idea of attracting wasps to your garden? A safe, organic concoction we’ve come up with that works on aphids and does not damage the plant is a mixture of boiled, crushed garlic and ground cayenne pepper. After the garlic has boiled for a few minutes, strain the cloves out and let the water cool. Then spray this mixture directly on the affected areas of the plant. We usually come back an hour or so later to water/rinse the plants off. Wait a week and if the pest problem continues, repeat.
Sometimes plants get a little industrious. They begin to grow like crazy and then equally as suddenly, the leaves begin to yellow. This could be a sign of a “health problem” or an issue of over watering, but even healthy plants experience “leaf drop”. If you notice a wilting leaf, help the plant out and carefully remove it. Notice a limb that is skimpy on leaves and doesn’t have any fruit or much new growth on it? Clip it off. This will encourage new growth and will perhaps result in a limb with leaves and fruit on it.
When fruits drop off before they mature, this can be a sign of a number of things. The most obvious is weather, if it has been windy or stormy and you notice dropped fruit, I think we can chalk it up to that. However, more commonly, the plant needs food. If you notice, during periods of calm, sunny weather that your plant is having a fruit dropping problem, try feeding it (unless you just did this recently) or checking it’s moisture level. The plant could also be getting too much or not enough water.
I’m sure a common question is how often to feed and water your plants. Many folks will even give you solid number, but I think they are full of “hoo-ha”, we don’t all garden in the same conditions, and it's not like an oil change, done every certain number of days or “miles”. It takes common sense and time to figure out what works in your garden.
Watering your plant is simple enough, if you stick your finger down in the soil, say, about an inch, and it feels moist, it doesn’t need water. If it isn’t, it likely does. In my humble opinion, it is better, if you are using the “water as needed” method, to give light, frequent waterings, rather than large drenches. Heavy waterings are likely to leech the food out of the soil of a container garden, leaving the food at the bottom and useless. An important thing to add is that wet leaves exposed to sunlight are likely to get burned; either avoid getting water on the leaves or water when it’s dark. Wet leaves can’t breathe, so water is a friend to the roots but an enemy to the leaves.
Food is another issue. We tend to give our plants food about every 2 months (we give them a nice dose of food when we transplant them as well), so far, this has worked out for us. But of course, how often to feed depends on what you are growing and what you are feeding your plants, really time and experience are the best teachers.
Once you’ve gotten the basics down, enjoy watching your garden grow, be humble and have a sense of humor about your mistakes. That old adage about learning more from your mistakes than successes has thus far proved quite true in my life, and I’ve made a lot of mistakes gardening. And I’m sure I’ll make many more, but with each mistake comes knowledge – if nothing else, the knowledge of what not to do next time.
I hope this series has shown ways that eating a more sustainable, local diet can be not only affordable, but quite rewarding. I thank my readers, as always, for being able to get through the novels that I pass off as blog posts and the tips and suggestions you gave us. As usual, I am wondering if you all have learned more from what I’ve wrote, or vice versa.
‘Til next time!
Monday, July 21, 2008
We didn't have any work in the gardens this week, just picking what was ripe. We have no bug or animal problems so far. We'll finally have to go down and water the community garden (for only the second time this year) this evening. It's been really hot and dry here for a couple of weeks, and it looks like more of the same this week, and the soil was starting to feel a little dry.
Check out the container garden:
Are you ready for a healthy dose of pepper porn? This week's pictures were taken by the one and only Brett!
The Super Chile. We think this guy is slowly dying. Over the past few weeks, we've seen a lot of young peppers drop off, the leaves yellowing, and now, the whole plant is much lighter and quite limp looking. I think we may have overwatered it. We're not sure if it is going to make it or not.
I am partial to this serrano plant. It might be my favorite of our pepper plants (don't tell the others!). It is looking good. We've taken 2 more peppers off of it since my local produce booty update from yesterday.
For awhile, the poblano plant wasn't really doing anything other than getting taller. But when these things decide they want to start producing they go nuts!
This jalapeno plant is just gorgeous. And the peppers on the plant look so plump and nice! I can't wait until they ripen...
This is the Petite Orange Bell Pepper plant. It is really loaded down with peppers. One of them is starting to ripen.
Brett was having trouble taking a good picture of the Hungarian wax pepper plant. He ended up getting a picture of Nermal through the plant. They turned out pretty cool.
We just picked 7 ripe cayenne peppers off this plant and it started growing that and then some since we've picked them. Some are already almost 2 inches long!
The chocolate bell still only has one pepper on it. :-(
Regular bell pepper plant.
And on to the community garden:
One of our two zucchini plants.
A little zucchini.
The other zucchini plant.
A zucchini on it as well.
These are pictures of our two butternut squash plants. These things are flippin' crazy. Be warned that they will take over your garden if you ever plant one of these.
A couple of pictures of the small butternut squashes growing on the plants. There are tons, tons, of butternut on these two plants.
Yellow straigtneck squash plant.
Yellow straightneck squash.
One of our "regular" tomato plants.
The other "regular" tomato plant.
I took a ton of pictures of the Roma tomato plant to give you guys an idea of just how many tomatoes are on here. I've never had a tomato plant produce like this, I'm so excited. And they taste excellent, we ate our first couple of home grown Roma tomatoes on some Black Bean Burgers I made last Friday.
Not sure what this one is.
Well, that's all for now. I should be posting the final installment of the Sustainable Local Diet Series sometime in the next few days.
'Til next time!