Category Archives: The Backyard Gardener

Pesto Presto!

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Here’s another garden favorite- hopefully you’re all still harvesting!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This recipe comes from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book and can also be found on their website here.  It is super yummy and although I haven’t figured out exactly how much it costs, I’m sure it’s cheaper than buying pesto, especially if you grow your own basil.  Here’s the recipe with my own comments in parenthesis.

Homemade Pesto

1/4 cup olive oil or cooking oil

1/2 cup chopped walnuts and/or pine nuts

2 cups firmly packed fresh basil leaves

1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese (or you could leave the cheese out like I did.  Still yummy.)

4 cloves garlic, peeled and quartered

1/4 teaspoon salt

Black pepper

In a food processor bowl or blender container combine oil, nuts, basil, cheese, garlic, and salt. Cover and process or blend until nearly smooth, stopping and scraping sides as necessary.  Add pepper to taste.  If you’re not serving the pesto immediately, divide it into 3 portions. Place each portion in a small airtight container and chill for 1 to 2 days or freeze for up to three months.

Super yummy and super fast! Pesto is great on pasta, bread with cheese and tomato slices, baked potatoes, or stirred into mayonnaise for a stellar chicken or pasta salad.  I love that it can be frozen so I can enjoy that basil taste any time of year!

Homemade pesto on baguette slices topped with mozzarella cheese and garden tomatoes

 

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Garden Tomato Gazpacho

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It’s harvesting time!  My corn and peppers this year are a little sparse, but the tomatoes and  zucchini are producing in abundance.  I thought I’d share a few of my favorite summertime recipes that will use a lot of that fresh garden veg.  Can’t let it go bad!

Today’s comes from an amazing cookbook called The Food of Spain I picked up from Borders a few years ago.  It not only has great recipes, but it’s full of the history of regional Spanish cuisine and beautiful photographs.  I don’t cook from it very often, but I do love sitting down and looking at the pictures from time to time.

Gazpacho is a Spanish chilled tomato soup- it’s easy to make and very refreshing.  A must have on a hot summer’s day!  Here’s a classic recipe with my own comments on the side.

Ingredients:

2 slices day-old white crusty bread, broken into pieces (I used fresh wheat bread.)

2 lbs 4 oz vine-ripened tomatoes, peeled*, seeded and chopped

1 red pepper, seeded and roughly chopped

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1 small green chili, chopped (optional)

1 teaspoon sugar

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar (I used balsamic vinegar)

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

*(the secret to peeling tomatoes is to score the bottoms, put the tomatoes in boiling water for 10 seconds and then immediately  plunge them into cold water and the peels should come right off.  Also, all of these ingredients that are going into the food processor don’t need to be chopped much.)

Garnish Ingredients:

1 cucumber, finely diced

1/2 red pepper, finely diced

1/2 green pepper, finely diced

1/2 red onion, finely diced

1/2 ripe tomato, diced

Soak the bread in cold water for 5 minutes, then squeeze out any excess liquid.  Put the bread in a food processor with the tomato, pepper, garlic, chili, sugar and vinegar and process until smooth.

With the motor running, gradually add the oil to make a smooth creamy mixture. Season to taste. Refrigerate for at least two hours.  Add a little of the extra vinegar, if desired.

To make the garnish, mix together the ingredients. Spoon the chilled gazpacho into soup bowls, top with a little of the garnish and serve the remaining garnish in separate bowls on the side.

I like to serve it with french bread or a baguette. Enjoy!

My First Real Garden

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Ahhhh….. springtime!  The temperatures are rising, the birds are singing, the flowers are blooming….. Whoops!  Hope it’s not to late to plant!

This was my exact thought process not two weeks ago.  It’s been so unusually warm this spring I probably could have planted a month ago.  But we just moved and even though there’s a nice spot of ground in the backyard for planting (hooray!) unpacking and organizing the house has taken precedence.  We finally got around to planting last weekend.   Neither my husband or I have ever planted a garden by ourselves.  Turns out it’s a lot easier when someone just tells you what to plant and how than trying to decide and figure it all out by yourself. 

We ended up buying tomato and herb starts because obviously we’d missed the tomato planting window and, well, my track record with herbs isn’t too impressive.  I expect the herb starts will do much better than my seedlings last year since they are well established and planted in the garden instead of pots.

We also planted several rows of corn, peppers, spinach, lettuce, cucumbers, watermelon, zucchini, and assorted squash.  I hope something grows.  I’ll keep you posted. 

Darn Racoons!!!

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Just look at that face.  Beady little eyes, mouth drawn up in a sneer, fangs that just scream out I want to nibble your corn!!! That’s right.  These fiece animals are corns worst enemy.  Just ask my garden.  Here is your answer.

The corn has been ravaged by the little guys.  Ok, big guys.  We were really looking forward to feasting on the corn!  Corn salads!  Corn Salsa! Corn bread! Corned Beef! Oh wait…   Anyway, I guess we know now not to plant corn in our garden next year.   The little beasts live in the dumpsters right next to the gardens.  They haven’t bothered our peppers, beets, green onions, tomatoes, carrots, parsnips, or summersquash.  Guess they just love that corn.  Anyone have any ideas to eradicate them?  Aside from a shotgun, I mean.  We don’t own one.  Meanwhile, there’s no saving this summers corn. 

Any ideas what we should plant instead of corn?

My Micro-Garden

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I love plants.  I love the way they look, the way they smell, the way they respond to light and water or the lack thereof…  Lately, I’ve become interested in home gardening.  What’s not to love about it?  You decide what you want to grow, you watch your seedlings sprout, you tend them, water them, pull the weeds around them, and eventually you see and enjoy the literal fruits of your labor.  And we all know that freshly picked produce tastes the best and is the most nutritious.  Growing your own food also eliminates the hassle and cost of going to the grocery store.  Plus, you control everything that goes on your veggies so you don’t have to worry about contamination and pesticide residue.

So what do you do if you’re like me and have no spot of ground in which to plant?

There are several options for us to choose from.  Many cities have community gardens where you can rent a garden plot for a minimal fee.  There are also a growing number of CSA groups that you can join and receive fresh produce from a local farm.  Farmers markets are also a good place to find excellent produce.

I decided to grow a micro-garden.  It’s harder than I thought.

I’ve discovered that my “green thumb” is more of a wilted brown.  My first hint should’ve been the low survival rate of my house plants.  But that was probably due to the low light conditions, right?  Besides, how hard could it be to grow herbs in your windowsill?  So I planted my seeds.  I followed all directions on the seed packets and I was so delighted when they sprouted out of the rich potting soil.  I let them grow a bit inside and then decided they needed to see the sun so I put them out on the front porch.  We had a cold snap and wind that night.  They were all dead by morning.

Undaunted, I replanted my pots.  Not wanting to repeat my mistakes, I kept the seedlings inside on the windowsill.    I made sure they stayed well watered.  A little too well watered.  I flooded the pots and the weak-rooted herbs fell over and died.

A little discouraged, I replanted.  I bought a spray bottle to spritz the young seedlings.  Now that summer was in full force I put the seedlings out on the porch.  They are growing, but it looks like a lot of the seeds just didn’t sprout this time.  I don’t know if they’ll survive the summer.

Luckily, my mother does have a green thumb.  She gave me some tomato plants that I re-potted and are now yielding delicious bite sized tomatoes.

What am I doing wrong with my herbs?