Garden Meditations, Part II

garden16.jpgHere at Crowded Earth Kitchen, our garden has undergone an amazing transformation in only 20 days. Take a look!

Our tiny eggplant transplants have flourished, quadrupling in size!

garden2

The tomatillos proved vexing this spring, and were almost lost due to an infestation of pesky aphids. Here at Crowded Earth Kitchen we don’t use artificial pesticides, and instead tackled the problem using ladybugs.

Yes, ladybugs.
1500 Live Ladybugs – Good Bugs – Ladybugs – Guaranteed Live Delivery!

For just a few dollars, we were able to release 1,500 ladybugs into the garden. They lingered just long enough to devour the pesky aphids and lay a few eggs. Voila! Problem solved!

Garden5

Beans, Tomatoes, Kale, and Potatoes

Garden4

Peppers, Tomatoes, and Okra

Garden6

Zucchini and Yellow Squash

What is growing well in your garden? What could use a bit of extra love? Here at Crowded Earth Kitchen, we’d love to hear all about it!

Go play in the soil. Breathe deeply, friends!

Garden Meditations

garden2

Some may see a six inch plant… but a gardener sees a patch of lush orange pie pumpkins!

Here at Crowded Earth Kitchen, we nurture a big garden every year. Planning begins in late winter with seed sorting and dreaming, followed by starting indoor transplants in very early spring. As seedlings Continue reading

Vintage Post: Dandelion Honey

dandelionThis is a vintage post, but seasonally appropriate and lots of fun. Don’t spray toxins on your lawn… let those dandelions grow au naturel! The beautiful golden color and early summer fragrance of dandelions attracts bees, providing life sustaining nectar this time of year. Bees are HUNGRY in May and June, and if we want them around to pollinate our fruit orchards and vegetable gardens later in the season, we had better provide them with something to eat right now.

You can benefit from dandelions even more directly by making dandelion honey. Give this recipe a try – it’s delicious, and a great conversation starter!

Summer Squash Fritters

squash1Yellow summer squash have taken over my garden – what a delightful problem! Alas, yellow summer squash doesn’t seem to freeze as well as zucchini. We need to enjoy these sunny little veggies fresh, or cook them into something delightful before freezing. This recipe for Summer Squash Fritters accomplishes both – you can enjoy these as Continue reading

Savory Garden Pie

WIN_20160809_182515My apologies, friends. I’ve been playing in the garden, and haven’t offered up a new recipe for a few days now. What began a few weeks ago as a daily walk to the garden with a kitchen bowl has blossomed into a daily walk to the garden with a wheelbarrow. The harvest this year is amazing!

A few days ago, I pulled all of the beets in my beet patch. Oh my, what a job! The highlight of the morning was watching the kiddos gleefully spray a huge pile of freshly pulled beets with the garden hose. While most of the bounty found its way into jars of pickled beets, I saved a few for this Savory Garden Pie. With rich flavors of ricotta, walnuts, and earthy root vegetables, Savory Garden Pie makes a delightful dinner with a side salad and crusty bread. Bon Appetit!

108761Ingredients (Makes 1 pie, serves 6 – 8)

1 roll-out, refrigerated pie crust

2 cups part-skim ricotta cheese

1 tablespoon seasoning mix, such as Wildtree Picnic Salad Blend*

1 egg

1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese

1 cup chopped walnuts

3 cups sliced root vegetables (any combination of beets, carrots, parsnips, celeriac, or turnips would be delicious)

* Interested in Wildtree products? Feel free to email my favorite Wildtree consultant, Tricia, at adams4@ncn.net     

WIN_20160809_172404

Ricotta mixture with 1 teaspoon of beet juice for color (optional)

Directions

 

Step 1) (Optional) If you prefer your vegetables fork-tender instead of crisp, steam your sliced root vegetables in a steamer rack for 3 – 5 minutes.

Step 2) Roll out your refrigerated pie crust into a 9 inch pie plate.

Step 3) In a small mixing bowl, combine ricotta, egg, seasoning mix, parmesan, and walnuts. Blend well. Spread this mixture over the bottom of the pie crust.

Step 4) Arrange sliced root vegetables on top of the ricotta mixture. If desired, sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper.

Step 5) Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for 40 minutes, or until the crust is a deep golden brown. Allow to rest for 5 minutes before slicing and serving.

 

Herb Compound Butter

WIN_20160507_194649‘Tis the season for fresh herbs!

WIN_20160502_141040

Step 1: Combine 1/2 cup real butter with 1/2 cup loosely packed fresh herbs. Blend until evenly combined.

Fragrant, beautiful, and delicious, fresh herbs are bountiful in early summer. It’s easy to take big bunches of basil, long sprigs of rosemary, and cheerful sprigs of parsley, mint, oregano, and thyme for granted this time of year. (I forgot cilantro, tarragon, lavender… you get the idea!)

WIN_20160502_141706

Step 2: Transfer butter mixture to the center of a large piece of waxed paper.

Frugal cooks know that the season for fresh herbs is relatively brief. Once the very hottest days of summer arrive, delicate herbs begin to wilt and bolt, their best flavors gone for another year. Don’t worry, though – the flavors of early summer herbs are easy to preserve. Herb Compound Butter is the easiest, most reliable method for preserving herbs here at Crowded Earth Kitchen. Let’s get started!

WIN_20160502_141823

Step 3: Roll the waxed paper closed and refrigerate the compound butter until firm. Slice into small rounds for serving or cooking. Freeze in a covered container until needed.

Herbs don’t freeze well on their own – they discolor and lose flavor pretty quickly. However, herbs blended into butter freeze magnificently! The butterfat protects the delicate herbs, preserving their color and flavor. Every cook knows that herbs and butter taste wonderful together, so why not combine them for preservation? That’s really all “compound butter” is – butter blended with one or more ingredients. So easy!

What herbs should you use? Whatever herbs you like! Fresh springs of rosemary blended with real butter are one of my favorite flavor combinations. You may find that parsley blended with butter suits your palate, or perhaps a combination of oregano and thyme is more your style. Experiment! Enjoy!

Pecan Freezer Pesto

WIN_20150824_163338Now that the nights are cooler, my basil plants are looking pretty tired. The leaves are beginning to turn a paler shade of green, and I will lose them to winter soon. It’s time for a quick harvest! Luckily, my Swiss chard greens are looking fabulous. Today we’re making a simple pesto using a combination of chard and basil, with pecans instead of the more popular (and very expensive!) pine nuts. This pesto freezes beautifully, and will provide you with the wonderful flavor of fresh basil all winter long.

Ingredients (Makes 2 1/2 cups)

6 cups loosely packed chard leaves

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided

1 1/2 cups chopped pecans

3 cups loosely packed basil leaves

1 tablespoon sea salt

1 tablespoon lemon juice

WIN_20150824_172114Directions

Step 1) Combine chard leaves, pecans, and 1/4 cup of olive oil in a blender or food processor. Blend until fairly smooth.

Step 2) Add basil, salt, lemon juice, and remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil. Blend until smooth, using a rubber scraper to incorporate ingredients if necessary.

Step 3) Use a teaspoon to fill each well of an ice cube tray with pesto. Place in freezer until pesto is completely solid, then remove pesto cubes and freeze in a resealable freezer bag.

Add individual cubes of pesto to sautéed vegetables, pasta sauces, soups, and casseroles all winter long!