Tuesday, July 30, 2013

End of July Garden Update

Since it is now mid-garden season here, I thought I would give a little update on how things are going in the yard.

The overall answer is pretty good, despite some small skirmishes with urban wildlife!

As you can see, the oregano has pretty much exploded, and the rosemary isn't doing to shabbily either!

The blueberries are also doing alright.  The one not pictured had a fight with one of the feral cats which did some digging next to it, but I managed to replant it a little deeper, and it is doing fine.  I won't be getting any berries this year, but I might next summer!

Creeping thyme flowers.  They are super teeny & my camera just did not want to focus on them.

Here you can see the chives and the creeping thyme, surrounded by hostas & daylilies.  They're in there pretty good, and I don't forsee having any problems with them.

Hosta flowers.  Generally speaking, I'm not a fan of hostas.  However, the large ones in this bed have put out some pretty spectacular flowers.

Okay.  So daylilies aren't totally boring.  They're kinda pretty.  I just wish there weren't so many of them in my garden!

Three of four strawberry plants are doing excellently, and are starting to set out shoots!  The fourth one - I'm not sure what happened with it (I may have planted it a little high) so it isn't doing great, but it is definitely hanging on.  I'm hoping it survives the winter, 'cause its buddies look like they'll have no problems with that.  Plus, delicious strawberries in my belly!

The back planter has clearly exploded with goodness.  It is like a jungle in a box.

Radish flowers, because no matter what I do, some of the little blighters always manage to go to seed on me, rather than producing good roots.  That being said, we have gotten to enjoy some of both kinds of radish (French Breakfast and Easter Egg)

The chocolate mint & spearmint are in a battle for the ages!  Who will win? Me! They'll eventually become tea, but we've also been throwing them into curries and things.

Globe basil is starting to flower.  I just can't keep up with them.  Hopefully, I'll manage to get at least a little pesto out of them.

The cilantro has also gotten quite big, much to the guinea pigs delight.  They love this stuff.

Thai basil flowers.  Thai basil is great stuff, especially in soup.  Plus, the flowers are tiny & lovely.

Golden cherry tomatoes.  I suspect I will end up having to race the raccoons for these.

Little finger carrots.  Something (I suspect squirrels) dug up most of my first planting.  Some of the second ones have come in, but now they're fighting with the beans & tomatoes for light.

Chioggia beets.  They suffered alongside the carrots.  I'm hoping that the few which survived get to a decent size by the end of the season.

Corno di Toro sweet peppers.  They're doing super-well, and I can't wait to try them!  I'm growing long cayenne peppers in the opposite corner of the planter to these & they're also doing great.

Black Krim tomatoes.  These are a beefsteak variety from Eastern Europe.  It is putting out quite a few flowers, so I'm hoping the raccoons don't steal too many of them.

Green beans.  I forget which variety I'm growing this year, but we've already eaten a fair amount of these and the yellow wax beans I'm growing.

How are your gardens doing?  

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Peach Season=Pie Season

Peaches are in season where I live now!

I am very excited about this!!!!!!!

Partner does not like peaches, which means that I only have to share with the tiny human and maybe the guinea pigs - if I feel like it.

I have made delicious peach pie!

Look at the super-peachy insides!

I have eaten too much sugar!!

Make your own peach pie:
1 prepared pie shell (I cheated an used a frozen Tenderflake)
granulated sugar
quick-cooking rolled oats
brown sugar
butter or margarine
peaches (I used a 3L basket of peaches, minus the 3 or 4 I had already eaten)

Preheat the oven to 350F
Peel and slice your peaches
An easy way to peel peaches is to cut a little X in the skin at the bottom of the peach, put them in a heat-safe bowl or pot, and pour over freshly boiled water from the kettle.  Let sit for 30 seconds to a minute, and then run them under cold water to stop them from cooking.  The skins should be loose and easy to rub off with your hands.
Put your peeled & sliced peaches in a bowl and sprinkle over a nice layer of cinnamon goodness.  Then add some sugar (I just eyeballed it - I think I used about a half cup).  Feel free to add a little bit, and then taste and adjust accordingly.
Then drop in 2 heaping tablespoons of cornstarch and stir everything together.

To make the crumble topping, mix together around a cup of oats with 2-3 heaping tablespoons of cold butter or margarine and 1/4 to 1/2 cup of brown sugar.  Mix together with a fork until it appears crumbly then pour over the top of your pie.

Bake in the oven for 50-60 minutes and then let it cool for 10 minutes minimum, despite the temptation to cut into it right away.

Eat pie. Get a sugar buzz. 

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Dinner Fail

We all have them sometimes - those days where all the little things that could go wrong, do go wrong.  Nothing *big* goes wrong on those days, but all the little things seem to pile up in your brain until you end up in a grumpy mood.

I had one of those days earlier this week, and the little things culminated in a dinner failure.  It was, unfortunately, not the kind of dinner failure where you throw up your hands and order in.  No, it was the kind of failure where you just sit and eat it anyway, because it just isn't worth it to fight the inevitable.

The day started with all of us getting up early, as partner had to work early that day.  Everyone was grumpy and things just rolled out from there.
By the time I had picked up the baby from daycare, and gotten home, I got a message from partner that he was also going to be at work late, so I was on my own to get dinner started.
I decided that I was going to try a new oven-baked falafel recipe, since it would require minimal effort once the falafels were put together.

I couldn't find the recipe.

I did find a pan-fried falafel recipe, so I decided to just run with that.  I thought I would do a celery root mash and a salad on the side to round things out.  Sounds good right?

While munchkin did help with the salad (I give her a big bowl and some lettuce leaves - she loves to rip them up and put them in the bowl), by the time her part was completed, she was tired, grumpy and hungry.  So, here I am, trying to cook with a one year old hanging off the back of my knees as she would not be distracted by anything, including her favourite crackers.

I forgot to add a potato to the cooking celery root, so the mash ended up pretty lumpy.  I also put too much milk in, making it watery as well.

For the falafels, I wasn't about to hand mash the ingredients with the munchkin on my leg, and I don't have a food processor.  I decided to try the hand blender, which resulted in a sort of paste.  I had to add double the amount of flour the recipe called for in order to get it 'good enough' in texture and consistency to fry.

The cucumber I was going to use for the salad went mouldy, so the salad ended up being lettuce, carrot and overripe avocado.

In the end, the only thing that worked out was the tahini dipping sauce I made to go with the falafels (and even that was runnier than I would have liked).

By the time partner came home (just as dinner was finished cooking), I think I looked something like this:

In the end, we all had full bellies, if unsatisfied tastebuds.

Fortunately, these days don't happen too often, but when they do, I'm really glad when the following day turns out better.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

A Tasty Summer Beverage

Now that the rain has passed through, an most of the storm damage has been cleaned up, the sun has returned with a vengeance!

This means that the kiddie pool has been set up on the back deck, we have tackled the garden again (at least a bit, the rain made all the weeds go crazy!), and are running errands the long way so we can enjoy the sunshine.  Subsequently, we are very *very* thirsty.

The corner store has a small produce section that is quite cheap.  This produce sections includes lemons and limes that are wrapped up on little styrofoam trays in packs of four.  As a result, my fridge now contains nearly 2 quarts of homemade lemon-lime ade.  A perfect drink for a hot summer day.

Okay, so it isn't 2 quarts anymore, because we drank some.  Can you blame me?  I had to make sure it would be good enough to post about!

To make your own lemon-lime ade you will need:
4 medium lemons
4 limes
1 cup simple syrup
cold water to fill your juice jug

To start, make your simple syrup - take 1/2 cup of granulated sugar and put it in a cup or a bowl.  Boil some water, and add a 1/2 cup of the just boiled water to the sugar and stir until all of the sugar is dissolved.  You now have simple syrup!  Set it aside for the moment.

One at a time, cut your lemons and limes in half and then cut a thin slice from one half (these will float in your finished ade, continuing to impart delicious citrus flavour.  You can put them in your final juice jug now).
Juice your citrus halves!  I juiced mine into a separate container with my little hand reamer.  Mine looks a lot like this one.  When all my lemons and limes were juiced, I strained the juice through a sieve, into the final juice jug I was using.  That way, I got the big bits of pulp and most of the seeds out of the final beverage. 

Now, fill your jug most of the way with cold water, give it a stir and then a taste.  Add your simple syrup until the sweetness is to your preference.  I added the entire cup, since I had pretty tart lemons and limes.

Now the hard part - putting your lemon-lime ade into the fridge to get nice and frosty.  I'm impatient, so it was hard to wait!  It was really worth it though - I enjoyed my first glass on the back deck with a friend, while our munchkins played in the kiddie pool.

If you want a more 'adult' version, I think it would definitely make a tasty punch with either vodka or gin.  If you'd like to switch up the flavour profile, you could do lemons with strawberries, limes with blueberries, or throw in a handful of diced frozen watermelon!  Mint might also make a tasty addition. 

Stay hydrated!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Happy Belated Birthday Canada! I Made Cake!

Woosh!  It has been a busy few weeks for me.  Mostly with the usual stuff, but busy is busy, right?

I hope all of my fellow Canadians had a good long weekend.  We spent part of it at a friend's cottage and it was lovely.  Not too many mosquitoes (although one did manage to get me on the sole of my foot!), beautiful weather, and good friends. 
The kiddo seemed to enjoy herself as well, although the big waves in the lake were too scary for her when we went swimming.

I was also smart, and booked 2 vacation days at work, to extend my long weekend, even though we came home on Monday.  I've used the last two days to be uber-productive!
My house is swept, vacuumed, and laundered for the most part. 
I've made pickles using local cucumbers and dill from the back garden.

The guinea pigs have a lovely clean cage:

And then today, after running errands and having a lunch date with partner at a really yummy Mexican restaurant (I had the vegetarian burrito), I made one-bowl double-chocolate cake with chocolate glaze.

I started with Better Homes & Gardens' one-bowl chocolate cake recipe as a base.  I added one cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips to the cake batter, and baked it in a round cake pan.
When it was done baking, I made a quick chocolate glaze using:
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
5 tbsp hot water
3 tbsp butter
one 100g 75% cacao chocolate bar, broken into pieces
I melted the chocolate & butter together in the microwave, and then stirred in the water & sugar until I had a nice glaze.  You may only need 3 tbsp of water, or you may need more - just keep adding water one tablespoon at a time until you get the consistency you want. 
After the cake has cooled for 10 minutes, remove it from the pan, and drizzle it with the glaze.  You should end up with something like this
I may have already eaten some, and it is as rich, if not richer, than it looks.
Oh, you may also run into the same problem I did with this cake.  Despite using a non-stick pan AND greasing it before hand, the chocolate chips stuck to the bottom a little, which has given my cake a bit of a lumpy top.  Just so you are forewarned.

Happy belated Canada - enjoy the cake!