On March 30th, my eldest turned 28. She and her boyfriend came down from Brooklyn to celebrate last weekend.Here’s birthday girl, Lauren, with our formerly feral cat, Brippy. This picture was taken in the middle of a party. Brippy has adapted.This is my youngest daughter, Laney, and Brippy. Laney is the one who tamed her with love and attention and time and treats. When Laney comes home from college, Brippy will often play hard to get – punishing her for her absence. But Laney is the only one who gets this melt down head-on-the-shoulder hug. This is my son, and Laney’s twin, Patrick. Oh, and Riley. Riley knows how to seek out the best sofa/pillow experience.Here is a quick shot of some family members at the party. I don’t usually include family photos; we’ll see if I get the business.My brothers in law made this amazing onion bread for the party. Spike and Daniel recently moved up from Florida and we are so happy to have them so close!Here’s my new favorite thing – the cutting board Spike and Daniel gave me. It’s a cut from a tree of theirs. Pretty awesome. Oh, and those rosemary bar nuts? Amazing!
My vegetable garden is in full production this time of year, and I’ve come up with some strategies to not waste a bit of it.Tomato pie is a favorite. It gets a layer of goo over it before I cook it, but that wasn’t a pretty picture.Green beans, daikon, and cucumbers all get thrown into the same brine. I don’t trust my canning skills, so I just put them into the fridge. I also toss hot peppers into an empty jar of pepperoncini (save the brine). This preserves them until we get around to eating them.I make pesto out of the basil and freeze what I don’t use.
I keep a big bowl of salsa in the fridge all season long. We eat it with pizza, eggs, pasta AND Mexican food.Lastly, I just chop it all up to add to salads, sandwiches & cooking. Whatever’s left over gets frozen and added to soup in the fall. What do you do to manage the produce?
I’ve been thinking about my favorite vegetable to grow, harvest and cook, and to my utter surprise, it’s swiss chard. It’s super good for me; it has vitamins K, A and C, and it is anti-inflammatory & has anti-oxidants.As a plant, it’s easy. It always grows; I’ve never had one die on me. It forgives me if I don’t pick it at just the right moment. It keeps growing all summer, and it’s pretty. It’s simple to prepare. I rinse the leaves off, pile them up, slice them lengthwise 3 or 4 times, then chop it up. I saute it in olive oil and water with onions, garlic, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes (because red pepper flakes are good with everything). It’s tasty just like that. But I make a ton of it and keep it in the fridge to do this:
- add to eggs and omelets
- spread over sautéed chicken & top it with swiss/parmesan cheese
- spread on top of pizza
- add to any kind of pasta
- add to soups and beans
- toss into salads
- spread onto toasted bread (with or without cheese – oh never mind – WITH cheese)
So I have to give an A+ to swiss chard: healthy, easy, simple, delicious.
I’m picking all kinds of tomatoes daily now, and have found lots of yummy ways to use them.Grape and cherry tomatoes retain their shape well, so I use them with onions and green peppers and lots of herbs in Tomato Salad. I pretty much always have a bowl of this in the fridge.I also keep a bowl of fresh Salsa at all times. I take it easy on the jalapenos, because not everyone likes it as spicy as I do.On the days when I don’t pick many tomatoes, I’ll make an Herb and Tomato Quiche.If I pick a lot, I’ll make Tomato Pie.If I am overwhelmed with tomatoes, I’ll chop them up, saute with onion & garlic, and add anything I have in the vegetable drawers. This has cabbage, mushrooms, corn, and, of course, lots of fresh herbs. I don’t fuss much with it now, I just freeze it all for later. Some cold December evening I’ll thaw a container and add some cooked chicken or beef or lentils. I’ll adjust the seasoning then, and think back on the days when my garden was bursting and it was too hot for soup.
So, not only do my local libraries supply me with all the books I can read (no small task), the Woodbury and Pitman branches here in Gloucester County, NJ also lend out seeds.
They give me free heirloom seeds; I plant them, enjoy the bounty, and give them back some seeds at the end of the season. (And no fines if it doesn’t work out.) Sweet deal!
Below are just a few of the flower, vegetable and herb seeds I picked up. All it takes is a library card.
I’m hoping my backyard looks like this in a couple of months.
Every year around this time, I start to run out of ways to use up all the tomatoes. Here’s a list of my current favorites:
1) tomato & pesto sandwich
2) tomato pie
3) tomato salad with green beans & black olives
4) pizza topping
5) salsa (always)
6) halve cherry tomatoes, chop green pepper & onions & sprinkle with oregano. Keep in the fridge ready to add to: pasta, omelets, salad, soup, quiche, or pizza
How do you use tomatoes?
I avoid my oven in the summertime; I don’t like how it heats up the house.
So by fall, I’m really hungry for all of the things I haven’t been cooking: bread and baked potatoes, pot roast and cinnamon buns.
I’ve made the switch now, and I’m enjoying the winter menu.
I also like how all it takes is a little bit of prep work . . .and the oven does the rest.
I’m going to miss you, my little vegetable garden.
My garden is only 8 feet by 16 feet, but every summer is changes the way I eat.
I can’t keep myself out of the garden. The laundry is piling up and my desk is a mess because I am spending way too much time checking on the progress of the sweet peas and planting flowers around the herb garden.
There’s something so compelling about planting a seed and watching it sprout, nurturing the plant and then picking and eating the produce. It feels like a little bit of magic, and it makes me see vegetables in a whole new way.