planting garlic

Have you ever done it?

I hadn’t until last week.

I was given three beautiful home grown (thank you Mim) heads of garlic and decided this was the year I would experiment with growing garlic…we enjoyed one head and used these two for planting…

1. garlic heads

So I asked a few gardener friends of mine if they had ever grown garlic and most had…all agreed it had to be the simplest bulb to grow.

Finn and I broke apart each bulb and then headed out to the garden…

2.top view peeling

3.Finn peeling garlic

4. heads pulled apart

5. close-up cloves

It was a beautiful day. The mosquitos were quiet, the sun was warm and the ocean could be heard…

7.holding clove

It’s so simple – if, of course you already have a garden or area to plant in…

Make little holes. We went about 2 inches apart. 2 – 3 inches deep.

6. make holes

Pop a clove in.

8. little hand over row of holes

Cover.

9. cover with dirt

Cover well.

10. cover well

Tamp gently.

11. tamp down

Water (not shown). Finn moved right along to picking carrots…but you can see the completed row of garlic behind him…

pulling carrots

Mulch garlic bed well for winter (still have to do). Wait for spring…

So, have you ever planted garlic?

everyone should have fresh cut flowers

I was going to write about Finn’s first day of school (pre-school, that is), which was two days ago…or about the fact that I am now (and have been since early May) working, at night (to supplement our income) as a server (aka, waitress) at a super fun restaurant, with great people – but it’s still waitressing…in addition to keeping up with the house, the laundry, our business, the dishes…phew.

Days are long and the nights are late…mornings now begin only a few hours (or so it feels) after I’ve (finally) fallen asleep…oh the conundrum of working (or not working) as a mom.

Who knew?

But instead of sharing more about my busy life (I’m sure you can relate!), I decided to talk about the little luxuries growing throughout my garden and surrounding my home – my flowers. Flowers I started from seed months ago or planted as bulbs, years ago…

flowers in the garden

They are simply spectacular right now. And all that beauty cost me next to nothing to start – granted there is a time investment, but it’s oh so worth it!

sunroom

It makes me so happy when I look out my windows or pull into my driveway and see a variety of colorful petals and leaves looking back at me…especially when the hummingbirds are humming about…do you see them, there are two!

two hummingbirds

Morning glories, sunflowers, nasturtiums, lilies, beach roses, delphiniums, dahlias, poppies – all started for a few dollars…

nastursiums

zinnia

galdiolas 2

the time invested starting these little beauties is nothing compared to what I’ve gained – and will continue to gain…

a bunch of flowers

I’m already thinking about next years plantings…

sed starting packets

So when I spotted some discounted seed starting pots I had to pick them up – they were only .60 each, how could I not?

That’s 150 seedling beginnings for only $1.80!

Granted, I’ve used used egg cartons in the past, but my ‘egg guy’ has asked us to start returning them to help keep his costs down…so I do. With that in mind, I couldn’t pass this bargain up!

So while our household income has increased (slightly), so have our expenses (Finns education)…every purchase has a purpose (if not a dual one)… Whether it be for necessity or fun, everything is accounted for. But that doesn’t equate nothingness…

Living within your means or more appropriately, on a budget, doesn’t have to mean living without life’s little luxuries….grow your own flowers and enjoy freshly cut flowers all summer through!

It’s the simple things that make life, lovely…the first day of school, watching your child play on the playground with his new school mates and flowers in the garden…

finn at school

flowers in the garden

enjoy.

summertime potato salad

Potato salad is synonymous with summer in New England (well, at least in my world it is)…

Potato salad and Maine lobster.

Potato salad and hotdogs.

Potato salad and burgers.

Potato salad and veggie burgers.

Potato salad and kabobs.

Potato salad and grilled fish.

Potato salad and just about any sandwich you can think of…

Potato salad.

Need I say more?

Yum.

While I have yet to grow potatoes (on next years list); green beans I’ve mastered…

green beans I've mastered

green beans are what give this potato salad its’ crisp loveliness as well as its’ freshness…

Green beans and lemon juice to be precise.

squeezed lemon

Lemons are another favorite of mine. I love using lemon juice instead of vinegar…plus, lemon juice is so good for us – it’s alkaline (not acidic ) and high in vitamin C – both of which are immune builders…

Back to potatoes and green beans.

Combine the two with a bit of mayo, lemon juice, salt and pepper and you have the makings for a delicious (and nutritious) potato salad.

Enjoy on its’ own or serve as a side to a number of mains…

Potato salad with green beans and onion (preferably, red onion)

print this recipe!

*adapted from the cook book, The Frugal Gourmet

Ingredients;

2 pounds potatoes (russet, gold, yukon), skin on

potatoes in white bowl

3/4 fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into 1″ pieces (this is one recipe I do not recommend using the frozen counterpart)

cut green beans

2 tablespoons olive oil (for blanching)

1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion (white or yellow onion could suffice (as I did here), though, I do recommend red onion – visually and flavor wise, red onion is what this recipe aught to have!)

2 hard boiled eggs

For the dressing;

dressing ingrediants

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (olive oil will suffice too)

1/4 mayonnaise

Juice of 2 lemons

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

salt and pepper

What to do;

Place the potatoes in a pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil uncovered.

Then simmer 30-40 minutes (depending upon type of potato used) or until very tender when pierced with a knife.

Carefully drain and allow to cool.

Once cool, peel and cut the potatoes into 1/2″ cubes.

potatoes cubed

While potatoes are simmering away, blanch the cut beans for about 3-4 minutes in a pot of boiling water (I just use a heavy bottomed skillet, filled 3/4 with water, add the beans and then toss quickly with tongs…) with a pinch of salt and 2 tablespoons olive oil.

blanching green beans

Quickly drain and rinse the beans under cold running water, to stop the cooking…you want them cooked, yet crisp.

Add to the cut potatoes, shredded egg, and onions.

ingrediants added

Prepare the dressing, pour over veggies and egg,

pour dressing

combine dressing with ingrediants

toss gently and finish with freshly chopped parsley, a pinch or two more of salt and freshly ground pepper.

finish with parsely

Enjoy.

versatile swiss chard becomes a tart

I’ve found swiss chard to be one of the most forgiving greens to grow. Having said this, kale is also very tolerant. For me, the challenge with kale is that it does not have the ‘softness’ that swiss chard has thus is not so easily substituted for spinach…swiss chard on the other hand, is.  Swiss chard is versatile, easy to grow, nutritious and abundant this time of year…

swiss chard ready to cut

Granted, kale grows well into the cooler months and can easily be substituted for spinach or any dark leafy green, though there is something about swiss chard (at least for me) that I just love…perhaps it’s the red and green contrast or simply its abundance all spring, summer and fall…you can count on swiss chard to be there when spinach is not. I like kale  but I love swiss chard…

swiss chard

I plant swiss chard in the early spring and enjoy it all summer and into the late fall…

baby swiss chard

During the hot days of summer I rely on it to become my ‘spinach.’ Spinach bolts when the weather turns hot – swiss chard does not…one row will give nutritious greens for months.

I simply cut the larger, outer leaves, and more grows back! Plant seeds, water, nurture, cut, grow, cut, grow, cut…grow…

Enjoy it in recipes which call for spinach or swiss chard. Simply cut or tear the leaves away from the thick stem, chop and then steam, saute, bake or add to soups.

swiss chard piled on board

My personal favorite is a swiss chard and ricotta tart. I use two different recipes. The one below is an open faced tart. Both require basically the same ingredients; the difference – one is open faced and one is not…

This recipe is the simplest of the two as it only requires a baking sheet and one puff pastry sheet…I have yet to make my own puff pastry, though I so want to…but, until then, a store bought one (without the high fructose corn syrup) will suffice…

So buy yourself a packet of puff pasty and get going!

This recipe also freezes well…plan ahead, bake ahead…dinner or a delicious appetizer is served…

Swiss Chard and Ricotta Tart

Print this!

Ingredients;

1 (17.3-ounce) package frozen puff pastry. One sheet thawed. Save remaining sheet for another project…

1 large egg beaten with one teaspoon water (for egg wash)

1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese

15 ounces ricotta cheese (one small container)

2 tablespoons olive oil (extra virgin, if you have it)

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg (fresh, if you have it)

12 ounces fresh swiss chard (frozen works well too – be sure to thaw and squeeze dry) – spinach can be substituted or a combination of the two.

What to do;

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Unfold one pastry sheet, pinching seams together, if necessary…and roll out to cover baking sheet. Fold over edges, just slightly, to create an edge. Brush with egg wash (if desired).

2. Prick bottom, all over with fork. Sprinkle half of the Parmesan over the bottom; place tart on lower rack in preheated oven, for 5-8 minutes, or until cheese lightly browns. Let cool a few minutes.

ricotta + pastry

3 .While baking, combine combine ricotta and next five ingredients.

ricotta ingredients

4. Chop and saute swiss chard, in a large skillet, over medium heat. Cook in batches if necessary. Drain excess liquid.

sautee chard

5. Spoon about 2/3 ricotta mixture onto the baked pastry shell and then top with swiss chard. Dollop remaining ricotta mixture…

toppings on pastry

6. Finish with parmesan.

7. Top with fresh basil.

8. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until set, in 350 degree oven.

pastry baked

9. Cut and serve.

enjoy!

tomato worms in the August garden

Tomato worms.

tomatoe worm

They are so well adapted for their environment – tomato plants.

tomato worm two

Their coloring, their form…mother nature has disguised them well…good for them, bad for organic gardeners…

They are quite the creature. Soft green body, white angular stripes, little black spots lined up along the white angular lines creating another line of sorts…the long reddish thorn/horn sticking out of the top of their head, their little white tipped sticky feet…I despise them. They can wipe out a crop of tomatoes in no time.

tomato worms on plate

Thankfully I found them before they devoured my beautiful, yet still very green tomatoes…they are a gardeners nightmare…

So, I disposed of them. One by one…

While clipping away all the excess leaves and stems on each of my 5+ foot tall tomato plants I also clipped them.

I felt terrible. Yet, it had to be done.

My tomatoes were under attack.

Homegrown tomatoes come once a year and the process is a long one, particularly in this region – I’m not going to let this beautiful menace of an insect eat my tomatoes. No way.

In each of them I saw the disappearance of my dreams…my dreams of slicing into a juicy ripe tomato – picked fresh from the vine (literally), grown and cared for with love, for months…those threatening horned headed creatures were not going to ruin my summer. No.

Instead, I apologized to each before snipping it in half. I felt terrible and relived all at the same time. My tomatoes are safe for the moment, though my eyes are opened now. My borage helped me last year, this year, not so much…

August in the garden

The squash bugs have been perpetrating my cucumbers ever since they were transplanted, poor things… though my daily retaliation (I hate squishing them – I cringe with every squish – yet one must do, what one must do) has helped and they are still thriving…sadly, my pumpkins not so much. I fear this may be my first year with no pumpkins – shame.

Oddly though, just across the garden, my gourds are going mad. I’m trying to train them to grow up the corn stalks…some have been listening, others are beginning to take over that section of the garden…either way, these beautiful ornamental gourds will most likely be gracing our trees (as bird feeders) and our home (as decoration) this fall. Or at least I hope…

gourds The bean flowers have produced a prolific crop of green beans. I’ve already frozen one batch and enjoyed another. Simply steamed then topped with butter and salt. Yum. So fresh. More green beans on the way…

green bean on the vine

I also planted Mexican sunflowers for the first time. They are great! Super full and so colorful, very different than the traditional sunflowers I’ve planted in the past…thanks Kate for the suggestion.

mexican sunflowers

My other new planting were leeks. They are looking good and I’m so excited to make potato leek soup with them! I think I’d like to try planting potatoes next year – though I’ll need to create a new garden for them…I’m always planning…aren’t all gardeners always planning or at least thinking about ‘next year’? …

I hope the corn makes it before frost arrives. I hate to even type that word (frost) but reality is reality and nights have been getting a bit chilly lately…summer is far too short here…note to self – start corn indoors and transplant. Then, perhaps I will have an abundant crop, in time…

August corn

Swiss chard is glorious and I will be posting about it soon – more specifically, swiss chard tart. It is so good, especially when paired with minestrone soup!

swiss chard

Radishes were fun. I had never planted radishes before but I came across a packet of free seeds (from a local store I frequent – also how I got my gourd seeds), so I planted a row – and in days (or so it seemed) I had radishes.

radishes

I will definitely plant this veggie again. Does anyone have a great recipe for radishes? If so, share in the comments section below – thanks!

Fennel is growing, slowly, but steadily…in its own bed, beside our breezeway…fingers crossed all goes well there too…I am so looking forward to some braised fennel…

fennel

All in all, for such a crazy summer (weather wise), the gardens (both the vegetable and flower) are doing surprisingly well. I’ve recently planted more lettuce and spinach seeds and am planning on planting garlic this year. A wonderful reader (thank you Mim) recently gave me three beautiful garlic heads from her garden and while I will enjoy two heads now, one will go into my garden for next year!

in the garden

(I’m all covered in the photo to thwart the bites from the incessant mosquitos…)

How has your garden fared this year?

Have you tried anything ‘new’? If so, what was it and how did it work out?

Love to hear your thoughts on gardening.

Happy planting!

life last week…

Last week was my week to prepare for an upcoming art show in which we exhibited…hence, my absence here…

Michael (my partner) has been busy for the past few months designing and building new pieces to showcase. Below, the back of one club chair and the root is a table base – both of which sold (yeah!),

back of club + table base while I have been busy with all the other things involved with owning one’s own art based business, Designs Adrift…and planning for an off site show. Below, our booth…

right side show space 2013

The exhibition took place on Mt. Desert Island.

A very beautiful and picturesque area of Maine…to say the least…

Somes sound is absolutely incredible and Acadia National Park is not too be missed…

The tiny cottage in which we stayed was situated perfectly within Northeast Harbor.

A ten minute walk and we would be in town. And the 20 minute commute to the show grounds afforded us a luxurious drive past grand estates and then into the Somes Sound…a magical fiord…

The narrow, winding two lane road, where fog and mist intermix with brilliant azure skies and green covered mountains (East Coast mountains) on either side of it, holding boats of all types… reminded me of being on South Island, in New Zealand…

It was an incredibly beautiful commute, and one we fully appreciated…particularly after all the hours we had spent preparing for the show and all the hours we knew were ahead…

Collecting the wood. Designing and building each piece. Deciding what should be showcased and where. Laying out the space. Pricing. Wrapping each piece for travel. Loading the U-haul trailer and remembering to bring everything we would need (shame I didn’t take any packing/moving photos)…

And then there was the food.

Lunches were kept simple with salads

bulger + red pepper salad

(garden veggies abound at the moment),

garden veggies

breakfasts were oatmeal with yogurt and fresh blueberries (in season here now), homemade raspberry muffins

wild raspberries

raspberry muffins

and on our last morning we savored a delicious quiche.

Dinners were one pot meals – chili, mac + cheese (cheese sauce below)

chili + cornbread

mac + cheese sauce

and a side of cornbread, black bean and sweet potato tacos complete with guacomole and on our first night, haddock chowder and blueberry pie for dessert; compliments of my cousin who lives in Northeast Harbor…

she is the reason we were able to stay in this posh town, for four days in July, over a weekend…Cheryl (my cousin) has a friend who does not use her home on the weekends…hence, our incredibly affordable, beautiful and convenient accommodation…thank you Cheryl and Margaret!

Back to the food.

Everything could be made and was made days in advance (except for the oatmeal) and then frozen. Voila. Meals were served with the least amount of effort and clean-up. Love that. Granted it’s a lot of work up front, but the pay off was worth it. Plus, they were all dishes I’ve made a zillion times before, so no checking in with recipes – just prep and cook…

Appetizers were enjoyed and prepared fresh.

Olives, goat cheese, guacamole, chips, salsa, hummus and sliced tomatoes topped with fresh basil leaves and freshly sliced mozzarella, to name a few…

Doesn’t sound like we’re ‘skimping’ now does it?

Budget doesn’t have to mean scarcity.

For me, it means to live within your means.

So why not do it as well as you can…(:

enjoy.

cosmo carrots + kids

Gardening is something I look forward to…despite this years crazy spring, super hot summer and now, mosquitos, things are growing and I continue to plant…and now am starting to reap the benefits…

I pulled the first few carrots of the season while Finn napped and as soon as he saw them (after he woke), he said, ‘Mamma, I want to pick carrots too!’

I didn’t want to subject him to the incessant mosquitos and thus, the required long sleeve shirt, long (thick) pants and gardening boots, so I picked while he slept…though when he told me he wanted to pick and wouldn’t mind ‘getting dressed’ (despite the 90+ degree day), out we went…

I was one proud mamma!

Look at these beauties.

veggies

Cosmo carrots (purple) and baby carrots, plus the first picking of basil and the never ceasing baby lettuce (under the carrots)…

Finn helped me plant all of these and I’m so happy he wants to help harvest too…I can only hope to instill a love for gardening or at minimum, an understanding of how food is grown and a respect for all that required to grow, organically…

pulling carrots

carrot freshly picked

double carrot finn + carrot

double carrot

fresh picked carrotshappy weekend!

cucumbers chili and lime

I first tried this refreshing and zingy snack while teaching in Mexico…years ago…

sliced cucumbers

My students (first and second graders) used to rave about it – actually, as soon as school was out they would run across the playground, throw open the gate and flee to the little shop right next door. Their specialty?  Fresh veggies (or fruit) with lime juice and chilies. The owner, a little old Mexican lady, would slice each fruit or vegetable to order, then press the juice from one or two limes into a plastic baggie, add the sliced veg, and a bit of red chili powder into it… then twist the bag closed and shake. Spicy and refreshing. Simple and nutritious. Cucumber slices marinating in lime and chiles – sounds good to me!

Here’s my take on this fun and snazzy snack;

Peel and slice one cucumber (watermelon and jicama are yummy too!).

Place in shallow bowl or on large plate.

Squeeze the juice from one or two limes (depending on the amount of veg./fruit).

Pour over sliced cucumbers, let rest (marinate) for a bit.

Add red chili powder – as much or as little as you like.

A bit of salt if you like too…

Enjoy!

Here’s the cucumber on the vine in my back garden…before being picked…(:

cucumber on vine

gardening in Maine, in the rain…

I’m surprised by how well my little backyard garden is doing, despite all the odds against it…

carrots

curly kale

Time constraints, a precocious three year old, fluctuating temperatures, heavy rains, Maine mosquitos (bad for me, not the garden) and the constant threat of insects (particularly slugs and snails right now)… makes gardening this year a bit of a challenge, to say the least. Granted there are always variables out of our control when growing one’s own, though this year, the wet and cooler temperatures are certainly above and beyond the ‘norm’…

borage

While Finn naps, I try to get out there – little by little more seeds are sown, weeds are pulled, additional mulch is laid and insects are picked off one by one…for me the key to having and enjoying my garden is simply getting out there, once a day, even if only for 15 minutes…to keep an eye on things and say ‘hello’. Yes, I do talk to my plants…why not?

lettuce leaves

I want to garden. I want to eat fresh organic greens. I want to pick (and then enjoy) fresh homegrown, veggies! I want super fresh, real food. My current budget won’t allow me to buy locally grown, organic tomatoes, but it does, if I grow them myself, from seed. Lucky for us, I like to garden. And I have space to garden…

one half of garden

Not only do I like to garden, I need to garden. For me, it’s innate. It always has been. I like to eat what I grow. Plus, the taste, is impossible to achieve with store bought vegetables. Nothing is more fresh than ‘just picked.’ Seriously.

freshly picked lettuce and kale

So, I garden.

I start seeds in the late winter/early spring, I compost, I save seeds, I read about companion planting and organic gardening. I teach myself and I learn as I go. Life is all about learning – it’s never ending – and for me, this years garden is teaching (and reminding me) that plants want to grow.

young corn

Every living thing wants to grow – despite set backs and challenges, we all want to and need to grow, vegetables are no different. So if you think you don’t know enough to grow a few plants, think again, they are forgiving (to a point) and they want to please you as much as you want to enjoy them…

green bean beginnings

So why not start a seed and see how it feels…you may just get hooked.

Don’t have a lot of space? Try plating vegetables/flowers in pots. A tomato doesn’t taste any better grown organically in the ground, in the country, in Maine as one grown organically, in a pot, on a fire escape in NYC…homegrown is homegrown, and that is always better than any store bought tomato…the best part of organic homegrown? Monsanto is not involved – at all.

Happy gardening – for yourself, your family and the earth!

enjoy.