If I Plant it, it Will Grow – Cultivating Patience

Morning Gardens

As a society in general we spend our lives waiting, and in effect “wishing our lives away” …waiting for the weekend, waiting for vacation, waiting for our birthdays or holidays and the list goes on and on.  We don’t focus enough on the present moments in life and get impatient waiting for things to happen or events to occur.  I often find myself guilty of this and catch myself thinking “I can’t wait until my seeds come up, I can’t wait until my plants get bigger, I can’t wait until my tomatoes form, I can’t wait until I can pick and eat my tomatoes”.  Gardening is a great teacher and cultivator of patience.  It teaches us that in due time we will be rewarded by our patience when we take that first bite of a delicious sun ripened tomato or make a salad from lettuce just picked out of the garden.  Instead of spending our lives waiting and becoming impatient, why not appreciate and enjoy each moment, being still and observing all that is good in that very moment.

Black Krim Tomato

Tomato Seedlings

Growing tomatoes from seeds

to

seedlings

… to the garden.

Tomato plant

Growing Tomatoes From Seed For the First Time – What I learned:

I started a variety of heirloom tomatoes from seed for the first time this year.  It still amazes me that I took a tiny seed, planted it and look what I have now!  Nature is quite simply amazing!.

Besides cultivating patience, I have learned things that I will do differently next year.  I started my tomatoes too early (March 10th).

Our last frost date here in Ohio is May 21st.  Next year I plan to start my seeds inside the last week of March or the first week of April.  They grew so fast!!  I will also have a fan circulating around the tomato plants while they are growing under the lights.  This will encourage the tomatoes to develop thicker, stronger stems.  I will also be sure to keep the tomato plants 1-2 inches from the light.  I had tomato plants this year growing in different heights, and the tomatoes that were furthest away from the light grew leggy as they had to reach higher to grow to the light.  All is not lost if your tomato plants are too leggy!  I had quite a few like that this season and I planted them as deep as I could go up to the first set of leaves.

Soon … my patience will be rewarded and I will be enjoying tomatoes from my garden.  I am growing 20 tomato plants this season and plan to can salsa, sauce and enjoy many Caprese salads!

In addition to vegetables gardens I also enjoy several flower gardens throughout my yard:

One of my flower gardens

Iris

Lillies

my clematis

Happy Gardening and remember to enjoy the moments in life!

Watermelon Radish – Stunning Color for Your Salad

Isn’t this radish stunning?!  I love discovering different and unusual vegetables – my husband says “why can’t you plant “normal” vegetables and my reply was because normal is boring!  This was the first time I had seen a Watermelon Radish.  I grew these in my garden and could hardly wait until they were ready to harvest.  The wait was worth it – I love the color they bring to a salad and the taste is very similar to a regular radish. 

I ordered these from Burpee and following is their description of this radish:

“Heirloom treasure from China.

Heirloom. A beautiful and antique treasure from China, these large 3 – 3.5″ round roots are creamy white outside with a full central burst of watermelon rose. Flesh is crispy and mild, with a sweet flavor perfect for salads, garnishes, or cooking.”

I agree!  They are perfect for salads, garnishes and cooking.  Step outside the “norm” and give them a try!

Garden Update – If I Plant it, it Will Grow – Nourish Your Body … Nourish Your Soul

My last garden update was on June 2nd.  The garden is thriving and soaking up sunshine and daily water.  Pictured above is a basketful of kale and lettuce.  I am loving my garden lettuce salads.

I just took a look at last garden update and I can hardly believe the difference!  I am so happy with the progress of my first vegetable garden – it would seem I have inherited my father’s green thumb for gardening!  Woooo whooooo!!

Take a look.  The picture below was taken at the first of June.

The picture below was taken the first of July!  Amazing … this gardening thing is awesome!  I was curious yesterday and went out to measure my purple potato plants.  They measured 3 feet, 4 inches tall!  Wow … and the information that came with them said they are supposed to grow 2 feet tall.  I hope this means I will have loads of purple potatoes to dig up!  I also measured my tallest tomato plant and it measured 5 feet 7 inches already and has over 10 tomatoes on it.

With 15 tomato plants I have a feeling I’m going to be very busy making tomato sauce, salsa and canning tomatoes.  How great will that be to have in the winter months … so much better than canned from the store!

The bush beans are doing fantastic and will be ready to pick soon.

My smaller raised bed is also doing well.  I’m curious to see how my cauliflower will develop.  So far, it is just a plant with huge leaves.  If you see the holes on the leaves you’ll see that I share my vegetables with the insects!  Organic all the way!

The peas are finished – they don’t tolerate heat well and we’ve been in the midst of a heat wave.  Next year I plan on planting more snap peas – they were the best snap peas I’ve ever tasted.

Just like the Energizer Bunny my gourmet salad mix and lettuce keeps going and going and going.  Next year I’m planning to start some lettuce inside from seed.  The gourmet salad mix I planted outside from seed has done amazingly well.

Once potato plants flower you can dig up the “new” small potatoes.  I decided to let them go undisturbed and will wait until they are larger.  It’s actually surprising that I waited.  Patience seems to be my biggest challenge right now.  I keep looking at my carrots and beets and can hardly wait to pull them.  I did pull one of each and they weren’t ready yet, so I’ll need to be patient for a while longer.

Flower Gardening is also good for the soul!  In addition to my gardens, I have a lot of perennial flower beds.  Flowers were my first love, they are good for the soul, they are beautiful and brilliant, and they make me happy.

I have many different colors and varieties of Lilies.

Pink Phlox in bloom.  One of my favorite Phlox is the candy cane – the pink and white flower.

Like a burst of sunshine …

And at the end of the day, you can walk up the path, sit down and enjoy the bounty of your garden, relax and take in the beauty of the flowers and listen to the soothing sounds of the fountain nearby.

I cannot at the moment, think of a better way to nourish the soul and the body!

Grilled Asparagus Wrapped in Prosciutto

This was a taste treat and very easy to make! To keep asparagus fresh in the fridge, store it upright, in about an inch or two of water.

Ingredients:

  • Asparagus, bottoms trimmed
  • Prosciutto
  • Olive Oil

After asparagus has been washed and trimmed coat with Olive Oil, wrap each asparagus with a slice of prosciutto. 

Place on the grill for approximately 2-3 minutes a side until tender crisp.

Mmmmmm …. Enjoy!

Zucchini Boats

I’m always on the lookout for new recipes for vegetables. This recipe was a winner!  It is easy and quite tasty.  I made the recipe as written, but I think next time instead of roasting the zucchini in the oven I would grill the zucchini and then finish roasting in the oven to melt the cheese.

Stuffed Zucchini

Be sure to pack stuffing tightly in the zucchini shells so it doesn’t fall out as it cooks.

Ingredients

    • 4 medium zucchini, (6 to 8 ounces each), halved lengthwise
    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
    • Freshly ground pepper
    • 7 1/2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (1 1/2 cups)
    • 1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, halved

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Using a tablespoon, scoop out zucchini centers to form “canoes,” leaving a 1/4-inch border. Roughly chop centers; set aside.
  2. Arrange zucchini, cut sides down, on a rimmed baking sheet; bake 15 minutes. Remove from oven.
  3. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet over medium. Add onion and 1/2 teaspoon pepper; cook, stirring, until soft, 3 to 5 minutes. Add chopped zucchini, and cook, stirring, until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat; let cool slightly. Fold in feta and tomatoes.
  4. Turn hollowed-out zucchini cut sides up, fill with vegetable-feta mixture, and bake until top is lightly browned, about 20 minutes. Lift zucchini from baking sheet with a wide spatula, and serve.

Source:  Martha Stewart Recipes

Chili-Grilled Eggplant and Sweet Roasted Pepper Tartlets in Poppy Seed Shells

I’ve been trying to use seasonal vegetables and now that Fall is in full swing I’ve made quite a few butternut squash recipes. Not to overdo the Butternut Squash recipes, I started looking for eggplant, another great Fall vegetable.  I really enjoy grilled eggplant, however, I decided I needed to diversify and switch it up with some new recipes.  I came across this recipe (Monica has a great food blog – check it out!) that combined my love of grilled eggplant in a tart!  Not only does it consist of grilled eggplant and roasted red peppers (another favorite of mine), but it has ricotta cheese and lemon.  Perfection!  Speaking of lemon, I discovered a microplane that is perfect for zesting!  I wish I had known about this sooner, but I’m reaping the rewards now – what a great kitchen tool!  This recipe is a little labor intensive, but very good!  The lemon flavored ricotta along with the grilled eggplant and roasted red pepper is a perfect flavor medley that will be sure to please your palate.  Enjoy!

One “trick” I didn’t know before involves eggplant and salt!  To remove as much moisture as possible and reduce any bitterness in an eggplant simply peel and slice the eggplant and sprinkle liberally with salt and allow to sit for an hour.  Put the eggplant slices on a cooling rack with a jellyroll sheet underneath to catch the moisture.  You will be amazed at all the moisture that is removed from the eggplant.  Be sure to rinse the eggplant and pat dry to remove all the salt.

Chili-Grilled Eggplant and Sweet Roasted Pepper Tartlets in Poppy Seed Shells

Poppy Seed Tartlets shells
For the tart dough – makes 4

6 tablespoons poppy seeds
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoon unsalted butter, cold and cut into ½ – inch cubes
1 egg
2 tablespoon cold water

Preheat oven to 350F.  Put four 4-inch tartlet pans on baking sheet.  Combine the poppy seeds, flour and salt in a food processor and pulse 2-3 times until incorporated.  Add the butter and pulse again until resembles coarse bread crumbs.  Stir in the egg and cold water, pulse again until incorporated, test the dough by pressing with your fingers, it should come together.  Put the dough onto a lightly floured work surface, knead it a couple of times, then form it into a flat disc. (note: you can store the dough at this point, by wrapping it in plastic film. Refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 1 month).

Divide the dough into 2 pieces.  Roll one piece of dough out with a rolling pin to about ¼ inch thick.  Cut the dough to fit 2 of the tartlet pans.  Gently press the dough into each pan and trim the pastry flush with the pans to crate a neat appearance.  Roll the other half of the dough and line the remaining tartlet pans.  Place the baking sheet into the oven and bake until light brown, 12 to 15 minutes.  Put the tartlets on a cooling rack and let cool before removing the baked crust from each pan.

Put each tartlet shell on an individual serving plate.  Spoon 2 to 3 tablespoons of the ricotta filling into the center of each shell.  Top with 1/3 cup of chili-grilled Eggplant and Sweet Roasted Peppers, mounding it slightly.  Garnish with the balsamic Julienne roasted peppers.  Serve the tartlets at room temperature or, if desired, carefully place them on a baking sheet for warming.  Heat in a 350F oven for 10 minutes.

Cool Ricotta Filling:

½ cup ricotta cheese
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
½ teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon finely chopped red bell pepper
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
½ tablespoon whole milk
Salt (to taste)

Put all the ingredients into a small bowl and stir to combine well.

Chili-Grilled Eggplant and Sweet Roasted Pepper Filling

1 pound eggplant (about 2 medium)
¼ cup chili oil (found in most Asian markets)
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
¼ to ½ teaspoon ground cumin
Salt (to taste)
1 medium red bell pepper*
1 medium yellow bell pepper*
1 small clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Preheat the grill to medium.  Slide the eggplant into ¼ – inch-thick slices and put the slices on a baking sheet.  Stir the chili oil and the ¼ cup olive oil together into a small bowl.  Lighting brush both sides of the eggplant slices with the oil mixture and dust with a little ground cumin and salt.

Heat the grill.  Place the eggplant and peppers on the grill.  Roast the eggplant until soft and well marked by the grill, about 2 minutes on each side.  Remove from the grill to cool.  Roast the peppers until black on all sides, 10 to 12 minutes.  Remove from the grill and let cool.  Peel the black skin off the peppers and the stem, and take out the seeds.  Put the eggplant slices, the remaining 2 tablespoon olive oil, half of each of the roasted peppers, garlic, and a little salt in the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse until chunky, about 5 to 10 seconds. Remove from the bowl and season with more salt, if needed.

Cut the remaining roasted peppers into Julienne strips and toss with the balsamic vinegar.  Garnish the eggplant mixture with the Julienne balsamic peppers.

*Purchased jarred or canned roasted red and yellow peppers can be used to save time.