Baby Steps

So, here we are. …Not quite at a month yet, just a couple of weeks. I’m doing ok. Returning to normalcy is what it is.

I face rejection of my inner self- the unicorn part of me- the creative part of me- most of who I am. It is hard.

I am working on finding something good that will improve my situation.

I am also working on my ankle, and I wobble much like this little cygnet at the moment.

I got one cherry tomato plant this year- a type I haven’t tried before. It is pretty. I hope it does well. I did not want to do my former 4 because it cost too much and I didn’t have enough gardening supplies. I had one bag of soil left, so I chose one plant.

I used up two of my three gift cards, so I’m running low on the ability to buy an iced coffee or some such when out. This is important because I’ve been having stomach issues lately, and the (obviously non-alcoholic) drinks help.

I miss speaking to the nice people at the old pt, but have avoided it because I’m trying to move on. Mixed feelings.

I’ve been doing what I can to clean ancient messes. I’ve been doing it in spurts. I’m feeling better now, and that helps.

 

Garden Update

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Shortly after I wrote the last garden update, the first frost came, and with that, the end of the season. It was a good second season, despite some challenges.

Here’s what the cleanup looked like:

Image 1:

The buckets and colanders before the first rinse. I still need to bleach and rinse them again before putting them away. I chose feed buckets a couple of years ago because they seemed sanitary enough. I was using organic soil, so I thought, “may as well keep things as neat and clean as possible”. I went with the 12 quart size, based on what I read & what I could afford. They were expensive and, in retrospect, possibly unnecessary, but I like them. The colanders are for drainage. The tomatoes really seemed to take to this system the first year, which was why I kept using it. I like it and the plants like it, so I see no reason not to continue.

Incidentally, I wouldn’t call myself an organic gardener, although I think everything I used on the tomatoes happened to be organic. It was by design originally, but this year, I was just working with what I had.

 

Image 2:

Tomato cages, obviously. These are 42″. I also use garden twine to tie the plants to the cages. This was more of an issue when the leaves were huge, and less so once they had permanent buzzcuts, though the cages were still necessary to support the fruit. I also had to anchor the buckets and cages against the wind this year, so next year, that will be on my set-up list.

 

Image 3:

The remaining tomatoes in their storage bag. It’s been a little while since I put them in the fridge. Hopefully, they’re still fine.

 

Images -4-7:

The marigolds were amazing this year. Even with the stems half-gone, the flowers were still cheerful! I trimmed them to the bases, then pulled them out. What a root system! I also cleaned and recycled the bottles I was using for drainage. As I mentioned before, I don’t plan to use that system again. It worked just fine, it just seemed redundant.

 

Happy Harvest! ๐Ÿ™‚

 

Quick Garden Update

1

Just a quick picture today: this is what it looks like when I let the tomatoes ripen on the vine.

I was able to keep about 2/3 of the second harvest- which was fine by me, considering I wasn’t even sure there would be a second harvest at all. 2 or 3 split, the others had black spots… not bad for a beginner. The plants may not look pageant-worthy, but I’m just happy that they’re still hanging in there.

I might be able to make a second batch of tomato sauce yet!

 

Chik’n Burrito

1

These wraps/burritos were ridiculously easy to make, plus the mixture yielded plenty of delicious leftovers. What’s not to like there? I was trying to use up a few things- tomatoes from the garden, a frying pepper, part of an onion, nonfat Greek yogurt, Quorn, and a bag of “taco seasoning”.

Of course, typically, most cooks would work the spices themselves, but the seasoning packet was another gift intended to make my life easier, and it did.

My use of Greek nonfat yogurt mostly has to do with the fact that I had it, I like it, and it was already open. I opt for nonfat because of my zany stomach issues. I usually have yogurt around because it’s so versatile; rather than sour cream, which gets limited use.

I don’t fry as much as I used to since I purchased the indoor grill. When I do fry, I often use grape seed oil because it stands up to high heat well. I now mostly add olive oil for taste.

 

Chik’n Burrito:

First, I fried the chopped white onion and the green frying pepper in grapseed: HI at first, then MEDIUM.

Then, I added the Quorn. (I know it sounds like I’ve been promoting them lately. I’m really just trying to use up what’s around.)

Then, I sprinkled in 1/3 of the packet ofย  “taco seasoning“. (Not a sponsor. I also don’t typically use packets because it feels like cheating, but I liked this one, for what it’s worth.)

Then, I added some extra virgin olive oil & stirred. Meanwhile, the heat was still on medium.

Towards the end, I added in cherry tomatoes & mixed well.

I served them on these wraps. (Not a sponsor, but I wouldn’t complain if they sent me some wraps because these are one of my favorites).

 

Enjoy! ๐Ÿ™‚

 

Garden Update

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Tomatoes:

Here you can see some of the new growth on the cherry tomatoes. These pictures were taken after the plants had been fed. Production is still slower than before, but there are plenty of flowers and tomatoes coming in. The blight is still a problem- they pretty much need daily treatments to look like this. I skipped maybe two days after this was taken, and a few of the leaves are yellowing again. I’m not sure I want to trim the plants further, because it takes a while for them to get back up to speed. These are indeterminate plants, so I do have a little more leeway. This is one of those things where I have to look at them again and then decide.

 

Marigolds:

The marigolds are doing just fine, I’m happy to report- big, beautiful puffs of flowers! I have been dead-heading them, as advised, which really seems to have made a difference. I do feed them now and then as well. This year, I’m letting them grow as they please, so pardon the floral acrobatics.

I had rigged a drainage system underneath the soil in the flower boxes, which is why the marigolds haven’t grown sideways. It is basically a variation of what I did with the tomatoes, (which have colanders in the buckets). To make it, I cut a spring water bottle vertically, then poked holes in each half, then set them horizontally into the planters, with the narrow sides facing outward.

In retrospect, I’m not sure going to that much trouble was necessary, but it was in response to the condition I’d found the planters in. I had excavated and bleached them prior to re-use- they had gotten very moist and it was disgusting. They were originally lined in plastic, which is great if you want to grow beetles, incidentally. The flowers seem perfectly happy with unlined containers, though. Next year, I will probably skip the drainage system altogether, since these homemade planters are (obviously) not water-tight.

 

Cherry Tomato Sauce: First Try!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

My tomato plants were obviously more prolific prior to the onset of black spot (which I treat by trimming the plant and applying fungicide). Still, I managed to accumulate 3 soup bowls full of tomatoes in the weeks prior. By the time I had that many tomatoes, I knew I wanted to try a sauce. Plum tomatoes are typically used, but I don’t grow those. So, I looked up a recipe that called for cherry tomatoes and gave it a whirl. You can find that recipe here. Please note, it is a recipe for a sauce, not a gravy. As I understand it, gravy contains meat drippings, whereas sauce does not. I’ve also been told there can be a difference in thickness- a sauce can be thinner, but doesn’t have to be.

All my life, I’ve had a taste for homemade sauces. I’ve been lucky enough to be able to occasionally eat at Italian restaurants featuring generational recipes. I’ve also watched sauces being built from scratch, happily taste-tested, and have a sense of what goes into a good one. For years, I’ve dreamt of making a sauce myself, but the amount of patience and meticulousness involved was a turnoff. Sure, I can savor it on the table… but to work for hours building it? I just wasn’t sure…

All this to say, my personal bar is rather high for homemade sauces, so, naturally, I personalized the recipe.

 

Method and Modifications:

*I read the comments on the original recipe, which influenced my choices when making modifications.

  • Because so many people commented that 425F was too high, I dropped it down to 400F and baked for 45mins.
  • Because others mentioned the liquid that would result from the cooking, I opted for a lasagna pan & lined the pan with foil for easy cleanup.
  • After baking, there was an excess of watery/oily/tomato-y juice in the bottom of the pan. I used a slotted spoon to retrieve the tomatoes & used the drippings for garlic bread. More on that later.

*I had some leftover plum tomatoes, so I sliced them & added them to the cherry tomatoes.

*Obviously, a single row of tomatoes was out of the question.

*I seasoned the tomatoes before cooking because I wanted the seasonings to seep in. I did not have fresh basil. I went heavy-handed on the garlic, dried basil, and oregano, and light-handed on the onion powder before baking.

*I may have used too much olive oil. I had a coating of garlic-infused evoo on the bottom. Then I drizzled plain evoo on the top, and stirred to adhere the seasonings to the tomatoes.

*I fried one pepper and about 1/4 cup of onion for taste, and added them to the tomatoes before I pureed them.

*I used a mini-chopper instead of a blender.

*Even though I drained the tomatoes before pureeing them, the sauce was too thin for my taste.

*Many sauces use tomato paste as a thickener. I had about a cup and a half left from a mixture of chunky commercially produced sauce with a can of paste added, so I used that to thicken the pureed tomato mixture.

*Finally, I added more seasonings after thickening- including ground black pepper.

 

Picture Key:

  1. Raw tomatoes over garlic-infused olive oil
  2. After seasoning & adding more oil
  3. After 30 minutes
  4. After 45 minutes
  5. After pulsing
  6. After adding tomato paste & sauce mixture to thicken

 

Post-script:

If I were to make this again, I would intentionally set out to establish a hybrid recipe. This means looking up a traditional recipe just in case I’m missing anything. Even though I ended up knowing a lot more off the cuff than I thought I did, it’s still nice to have the security of something written down to reference.

One of the things I liked about this meal was that it was entirely made from things I already had around. I served the sauce atop leftover ziti noodles that were mixed with peppers and onions, with the garlic bread on the side. Needless to say, it was delicious. I had about a week’s leftovers from the original leftovers+harvest. Yum!

 

Enjoy! ๐Ÿ™‚

Balsamic Grilled Eggplant with Diced Tomato

1

There’s just something about grilled food in the summertime. Although I adore bbq’d veggies, so far I’ve been sticking to the indoor grill because it’s so fast and easy. I’ve been living on grilled vegetables lately. The only thing that changes is the final preparation. Sometimes, I leave them as-is, sometimes I play with toppings. Grilled eggplant is one of my favorites.

This incarnation was incredibly simple to prepare to the point where it’s pretty much self-explanatory. But, here are the steps, just for convenience’s sake:

1. Preheated the grill

2. Diced the vine-ripened tomatoes

3. Peeled the eggplant using a knife & cutting board

4. Grilled the eggplant for about 4 minutes

5. Poured some balsamic vinegar and extra-virgin olive oil over both

6. Sprinkled with nutritional yeast, basil, oregano, and pepper

Enjoy! ๐Ÿ™‚

Yellow Tomato Leaves

Do any of my garden blogger friends know what’s wrong with these tomato plants?

These are Sweet Million Cherry Tomatoes. I’ve been pulling off the yellow leaves, but more keep turning yellow. I don’t want to lose them. I’ve put so many hours and so much care into them already.

I just wanted to enjoy some fresh tomatoes ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

2 4

Wordless Wednesday: Camp Dinners

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I didn’t take photos of every meal, but grilled veggie burgers and seitan dogs were pretty much the order of the day. Good stuff! ๐Ÿ™‚

Wordless Wednesday: Camp Breakfast

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

In other words, how many different ways can you make eggs, veggies, and faux breakfast sausages? I did not cook at all during this trip. Everything pictured was made by the gf. More photos to come! ๐Ÿ™‚