Winter Smoothies

from the kitchen of Engrid Winslow

We know you can’t wait for spring and fresh veggies from your own garden – we can’t either! Here are a couple of smoothies and a juice drink made with readily available winter produce to tide you over. In addition, they are paleo-friendly, gluten-free, vegetarian and low in calories.

Tangy Apple Kale Smoothie (serves 1)

1 cup water
2 Granny Smith apples, seeded and cut into chunks
2 cups baby kale
1 frozen banana

Combine everything and blend until smooth.

Cinnamon Squash Pear Smoothie (serves 1)

1 pear, seeded and cut into chunks
1/4 cup frozen, cooked winter squash
1 tsp. Honey (or 1/2 tsp Maple Syrup)
1/4 tsp. Cinnamon

Combine everything and blend until smooth.

Early Riser Breakfast (serves 2)

1 beet
1/4 red cabbage
2 carrots
1/2 red bell pepper
1 orange, peeled
1 apple
1/2 lemon, peeled

Juice each item, combine and stir.

Cute food you gotta grow

by Sandy Swegel Oregano 952700-BBB

One of the new seeds we’re carrying this year ranks number one on my cute food meter and in my top three best and fastest cute appetizers. This wonder food? The little mini-sweet bell peppers sold in grocery stores in mixed bags of red, yellow and orange. They are wonderfully sweet and colorful. You can make an entire appetizer plate in less than five minutes if you stuff them with goat cheese or cream cheese.

Mini Sweet pepper appetizer recipe:
Slice peppers vertically. Fill with goat cheese, cream cheese or egg salad. Serve

 

 

Grilled Mini Sweet Pepper recipe.
Put peppers on a skewer. Coat with olive oil. 4 minutes each side of a preheated grill.

Are these easy and quick recipes or what?!

If you don’t have that much time, the mini-peppers are great for nibbling fresh just like cherry tomatoes or carrots. Chopped, they also make a plain lettuce salad beautifully colorful.

Fortunately, mini sweet peppers are also easy to grow. You need a warm growing season and you need to start the seeds indoors in most places, but peppers take up a very small footprint in the garden. They forgive you forgetting to water them. They love miserable hot sunny days. It’s easy to tell when they are ripe….you can see the bright red, yellow or orange colors from across the yard.

http://www.dadcooksdinner.com/2013/06/grilled-mini-sweet-peppers.html

 

 

 

 

Best Heirloom Vegetables

Grass and Wildflower Mixes

 

How to Become a Plant Nerd

by Sandy Swegel

You know you are a Plant Nerd When…
(Or How to Become a Plant Nerd)

You know every garden starts with graph paper. You draw a scale drawing with trees and fences.

You create an Excel file listing the times to seed and days to harvest. Your file shows when to plant second crops for fall veggies.

You automate your garden
You put a timer on for watering. Your smartphone calendar alerts you six weeks before the last frost. You have to use a moisture sensor to know when to water.

You know the scientific names of your weeds.

You make the most of what you have.
You never plant in rows…you know it’s more efficient to plant densely in quadrants. If space is limited, you grow vertically. If all you have is a balcony to grow on you figure out how to make a hydroponic system out of a Rubbermaid container.

Your garden is full of experiments.
You test everything before you believe it. You have one section of peas planted with inoculant and one section planted without inoculant to see if it matters. You plant carrots with tomatoes and measure yield to see if it made a differences

You collect data.
You have a max-min thermometer to see the actual temperature in your yard. You write down how many days it took pepper seeds to germinate. You record when the apple trees blossomed and when you got your first tomato. You weigh your giant pumpkin to see if it weighs more than you do.

You make use of technology.
You use frost cloth and low tunnels to extend your season, and red plastic mulch to increase tomato yield.

 

You have taste testings to see which tomato tastes better.

You know the variety names of the vegetables you eat.

You love problems in the garden because it means you get to come up with a solution!

In other words, you garden smarter not harder.

You’re my superhero.

 

Photo Credit:  http://www.pinterest.com/pin/174796029262705028/

 

 

 

Basil and Chili: A Love Affair

by Sandy Swegel

Do you like chili peppers?  The plants are super easy to grow and tolerate a lot of droughts and benign neglect in the garden. The only problem I’ve ever had with peppers is that the seeds take forever to germinate. One year my seeds still hadn’t germinated for three weeks, so I gave up and bought plants…. only to have healthy seedlings come up the next week.  I decided I just hadn’t given the seedlings enough heat.

But new research this year taught me something new about seed germination that made me think maybe my pepper seedlings were just lonely.  Turns out that if you grow basil near peppers, the pepper seeds sprout faster and grow healthier plants than if you just grow peppers alone. Companion planting scientifically documented.  A controlled scientific study this year thinks it’s because the basil plants emit sound vibrations near the peppers.  We have no idea yet if the basil is just whispering encouraging words or playing a wild marimba tune.  But the chili plants come out and dance to the music.

Practically, here’s what I’m going to try.  I’m going to start my basil seeds in the tray next to the pepper seeds.  Basil always germinates first for me so I’m hoping they’ll come up and then peppers will come up faster.  I’ll plant both in the garden together too.  And finally, next August…I’ll fix a great salsa and eat them together. It’s a fiesta!

 Photo Credits and More Info:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/07/plants-talk-to-each-other-nanoscale-sound-waves-grow_n_3229021.html
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/13/130507-talking-chili-plant-communication-science/

Eggplant Pizza

by Michael Scott of Eagle Rock Backyard Farms

Ingredients:

5 cups heirloom tomatoes, chopped 2 large eggplants, sliced into 1 inch discs 1/4 cup onion, sliced 1 large red, yellow, or orange bell pepper, seeded and chopped 1 cup fresh mozzarella cheese, grated 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated 4 or 5 large garlic cloves 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar 2 tablespoons olive oil 2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped Salt & pepper to taste

Directions: Lay sliced eggplant onto a paper towel and salt lightly. Place a couple more paper towels on top of the eggplant. This will help draw some of the moisture from the eggplant and will make it a little more firm instead of soggy.

With a food processor, finely diced tomatoes, onion, bell pepper, and garlic. In a large skillet heat olive oil over medium heat. Add diced tomatoes, onion, bell pepper, garlic, balsamic vinegar, red pepper flakes, and salt & pepper to taste. Cook for 30 to 40 minutes until sauce cooks down and becomes thick.

While you are cooking the sauce down, heat oven to 350. Place eggplant onto a cookie sheet single layer and bake for 25 to 35 minutes until eggplant is slightly brown.

Top each eggplant with sauce, grated mozzarella, and parmesan cheese. You can either place the pizzas back in the oven until cheese melts or under the broiler to give your cheese a little crispness. This is how I prefer them. Sprinkle with chopped basil and Enjoy!

Growing for your Freezer

by Sandy Swegel

The avid vegetable growers on my gardening email list have noted that alas, despite trying to plan well, their freezers and pantries are almost bare despite the fact that there’s still snow on the garden. We’re fortunate to live in times with well-stocked grocery stores.

We’re also lucky to live with reliable electricity. I know how to can and make preserves, but the freezer is still the easiest way I know how to easily capture garden produce at their peak. I keep a baking pan in my freezer and bring in surplus I’ve picked that I won’t use today and after washing, spread the beans, peas, corn, cherries or strawberries on the baking pan for a kind of home flash freeze. Later when I have time, I bag up the frozen item to protect them from freezer burn. Easy and fresh. And despite what all the books tell us, we’ve had really good luck with freezing produce without blanching it first.

Suggestions on what items are good for freezing: Tomatoes of course…Sauce or diced, roasted or stewed. We agree tomatoes are the most versatile item in your freezer.

Prepared meals:  ratatouilles, bean stews, chilis, lasagnas, stuffed peppers.  Who isn’t delighted to find a home-grown, home-cooked meal in the freezer on a cold January evening ready to thaw and eat.

Individual vegetables, loose.  Here I take inspiration from the freezer section of the grocery and make small Ziploc bags of everything the grocery store freezer section supplies:  beans, corn, peas, okra, black-eyed peas, baby limas, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, red and yellow peppers. Basically, anything that would make a quick side vegetable to balance out a meal or something to give a soup or stock some extra zip. One great suggestion I’ll try this year is to freeze poblano peppers whole ready for stuffing.

Pre-cooked foods. Here’s where I’ve learned that pre-cooking some foods turns ordinary vegetables sublime.  Frozen cut spinach isn’t too impressive, but frozen spinach previously braised in olive oil and garlic is sublime.  Likewise, braised mixed kale with a splash of tamari is welcome.  A great way to freeze these greens is to lay them on freezer paper in a long thin log and wrap them up.  Cut off a section of what you need and return the log to the freezer. Cooked and seasoned beans.  I love green beans fresh but there’s something about them frozen plainly that is unimpressive.  But I like heartier beans like broad beans that have been cooked and seasoned.  Potatoes. I’m still experimenting with potatoes, but I’m so crazy for mashed potatoes that frozen individual servings of mashed potatoes with a little gravy disappeared by December.  The texture wasn’t as great as fresh…but they’re still mashed potatoes!  Shredded potatoes for hash browns are pretty good too. Roasted eggplant slices….ready to go for lasagna. Baby beets, well-cooked and seasoned. Stir-fry mixes of favorite vegetables pre-cooked to almost doneness.

Fruit. You can’t make enough of this. Keep trying, but whether dried or frozen, cherries, raspberries and peaches just disappear.  There’s still applesauce and a few strawberries in my freezer and some dried cherries I didn’t see.  Freeze more next year!

Now that my freezer is almost empty, I know how to plan for this year’s garden.  Plant more of the foods that disappeared by December and fewer of the foods that are still frozen from the year before last.

Grilled Stuffed Sweet Cherry Peppers

From the Gardens of Mike Scott of Eagle Rock Backyard Farms

2 dozen sweet cherry peppers
3/4 cup mozzarella cheese grated
3/4 cup provolone cheese grated
4 slices prosciutto diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons cappers diced
1 tablespoon fresh basil

Cut out stems and core of the peppers with a vegetable peeler or small spoon.

Combine all ingredients in a bowl except the peppers of course, and mix well. Stuff the peppers with the filling and thread onto wood skewers filling side up. Make sure to soak the wood skewers in water for a few minutes so as not to burn.

Grill over medium heat for about 5 to 7 minutes keeping the filling side up.

You can serve these as an appetizer, side dish, or what I like to do, on top of pasta. Enjoy!

From Mike’s summer garden, sweet cherry peppers and basil

Slow Braised Beef Ribs with Heirloom Tomatoes Served on Garlic Mashed Potatoes

From the gardens of Mike Scott of Eagle Rock Backyard Farms

1/4 cup olive oil
6 pounds beef short ribs
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves finely chopped
1 cup cherry tomatoes sliced in half
1 lb. cooked tender green beans
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 cup red wine
3 cups low-sodium chicken stock
2 cups diced plum tomatoes finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary finely chopped
3 thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
1 orange, zested
1-tablespoon fresh basil chopped, for garnish
2 tablespoons butter (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350. Heat about 2-tablespoons of the olive oil in a large Dutch oven over high heat.
Season the ribs well with salt and pepper. Over medium heat, brown ribs for 5 to 6 minutes on each side. You may need to brown them in batches. Remove the browned short ribs to a plate and repeat with remaining ribs and more oil if necessary.

Add onion, red pepper, garlic, and salt and pepper to the Dutch oven and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Add plum tomatoes and sauté for an additional 4 minutes. Add the wine, chicken stock, and tomato paste to the vegetables and cook, stirring, about 1 minute. Add the thyme, rosemary, and bay leaf. Return the browned short ribs and any juices that have accumulated back into the Dutch oven. Add the orange zest and butter (optional). Cover with a heavy lid and place in the oven and braise for 3 hours or until the meat is very tender and falling off the bone.

Once the ribs are tender, remove the ribs to a platter. Taste for seasoning. Add salt and pepper, to taste. Serve the short ribs over garlic mashed potatoes, if desired. Add cooked tender green beans, sliced cheery tomatoes, and drizzle some juice on top. Garnish with fresh chopped basil. Enjoy!

From my Mike’s garden: heirloom cherry tomatoes, plum tomatoes, green beans, red bell pepper, onion, basil, rosemary, and thyme.

Grilled Summer Garden Sandwich

From the gardens of Mike Scott of Eagle Rock Backyard Farms

Grilled eggplant, squash, red bell peppers, and onions, topped with provolone and mozzarella cheese, fresh sweet basil, and sriracha mayo, served on a toasted garlic roll.

Coat veggies with olive oil and salt and pepper to taste and place on a hot grill. Cook until veggies are tender. Spread a mixture of crushed garlic and butter on the insides of the bread and place on grill until bread is slightly toasted. Cooking the veggies and garlic bread on the grill will give this sandwich a really wonderful smokey flavor. Place veggies on buns and top with provolone and mozzarella cheese, fresh basil, and sriracha mayo. The sriracha mayo is what sets it over the edge. Enjoy!

Sriracha Mayo

3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon sriracha hot sauce
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon soy sauce

Mix, the above ingredients in bowl or cup. You can cover and place in refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Depending on how many sandwiches you are grilling, you can double and triple the recipe. I made more to dip our crispy fries in. So good!

**Sriracha usually can be found at most large food chains in the Asian section

From Mike’s summer garden: eggplant, yellow squash, red bell peppers, onions, and sweet basil

Huevos Rancheros Salsa Verde with Slow Roasted Pork

 From the gardens of Mike Scott of Eagle Rock Backyard Farms       

 Roasted Salsa Verde

1 1/2 lb. tomatillos
2 Jalapeño peppers OR 2 serrano peppers, stemmed, seeded and chopped
1/2 cup chopped white onion
1/2 cup cilantro leaves
2 garlic cloves crushed
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon cumin
Salt to taste

Remove papery husks from tomatillos and rinse well.

Cut in half and place cut side down on a foil-lined baking sheet. Place under a broiler for about 5-7 minutes to lightly blacken the skin.

Place tomatillos, lime juice, onions, cilantro, chili peppers, sugar, and cumin in a food processor (or blender) and pulse until all ingredients are finely chopped and mixed. Season with salt to taste.

Makes 3 cups. You will use 1 cup for this recipe and have 2 cups to refrigerate and use on other dishes or with chips.

Huevos Rancheros & Slow Roasted Pork

1 (4 lb.) pork shoulder butt, roast
4 garlic cloves
1 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
3 tablespoons (or more) butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 corn tortillas
8 large eggs
1 1/2 cups (packed) grated Monterey Jack cheese (about 6 ounces)
Salt & Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 500 degrees F. Rub pork with olive oil, crushed garlic, salt & pepper. Place in a roasting pan and brown all side on the stovetop.

Turn roast fat side up and add ½ cup of chicken broth to roasting pan and place in oven. Bake at 500 degrees for 30 minutes. Bake at 250 degrees for an additional 3 ½ to 4 hours.

Transfer roast to cutting board and let stand 15 minutes. Pull    shreds apart with tongs into chunks.
In a small saucepan, use 1 cup of salsa verde and ½ cup of chicken broth. Bring to a boil and then simmer for about 5 minutes.

In a nonstick skillet, melt 1 tablespoon butter over medium-high heat. Add 2 tortillas; cook about 1 minute per side. Transfer to baking sheet. Repeat with remaining tortillas, adding more butter to skillet as necessary. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in same skillet over medium heat. Crack 4 eggs into skillet. Cook eggs to desired doneness.

Add ¼ cup of salsa verde to plate, place tortilla on top, add shredded pork and top with eggs. You can add a little more salsa verde to the top of your eggs. Sprinkle with Monterey jack cheese and fresh cilantro. You can place plates in the oven to melt the cheese. Enjoy!

From Mike’s yard: Tomatillos, jalapenos, onion, cilantro, and today’s fresh eggs.