my favorite things

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.DSC_0031As 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. DSC_0048It’s simple to prepare. I rinse the leaves off, pile them up, slice them lengthwise 3 or 4 times, then chop it up.DSC_0056 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.

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Tomato Harvest

I’m picking all kinds of tomatoes daily now, and have found lots of yummy ways to use them.Tomato SaladGrape 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.salsa and ingredientsI 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.Tomato QuicheOn the days when I don’t pick many tomatoes, I’ll make an Herb and Tomato Quiche.Tomato PieIf I pick a lot, I’ll make Tomato Pie.Garden Vegetable SoupIf 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.

free heirloom seeds

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.

Free packaged heirloom seeds

a selection of seeds at the Woodbury, NJ seed bank

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.

heirloom vegetables, flowers, and herbs

Watermelon radish, Traveler jalapeno pepper, Monarda bergamot, Callipe blend carrots, White sage

I’m hoping my backyard looks like this in a couple of months.

tomatoes

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

Cherry tomatoes, chopped green pepper & onions with fresh oregano

Cherry tomatoes, chopped green pepper & onions with fresh oregano

How do you use tomatoes?

cool weather cooking

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.

Pork Loin with Roasted Carrots and Potatoes

gardening

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.