It’s Garden Time!

We did It!!

We did It!!

Now is the time to start planning and planting you summer and fall harvest and your medicine cabinet for the year.  Yep, that’s right, you can plant a lot of the medicinal foods that will help keep you healthy year round, how’s that for a health plan?!

Last weekend Dana and I recruited my sister Elise and her boyfriend Dan to help us prepare the garden for the growing season.  Jen and Jeff at Green Meads Farm in Richmond, MA have once again generously loaned us some of their prime farmland.  Last year we accidentally killed our whole garden by using contaminated mulch.  It was free mulch, so at least we didn’t pay to ruin our garden, but still, I really missed having a garden last year.  So I was really excited to get out in the sunshine last Saturday with the horses in the paddock and everyone in the garden, including three dogs and at least one field mouse!

We started by ripping up all the weeds, by the roots, there were quite a few burdock plants and a lot of invasive comfrey too.  Comfrey is an awesome medicinal plant so plant it in a pot or somewhere it can safely take over if you want to grow some.  Once the whole area was cleared, Jeff used his tractor to bring in manure which we raked out evenly from edge to edge.  Dana used the rototiller to turn over the top layer of soil and the rest of us broke down all the cardboard boxes we’d saved up.  Cardboard is a great ground cover to keep weeds at bay, it biodegrades after a year or so,  it’s free and minimally processed.  Make sure to remove any staples and tape from the cardboard, and don’t use anything with lots of printing on it.

We laid the cardboard out in one big layer and then covered it with a lot of hay.  Once that was done, we gave everything a good soak with the hose to make sure the cardboard would start to break down and the wet hay was heavy enough that it wasn’t going to blow away in the wind.  Then of course it was time to relax and enjoy the afternoon sunshine!

Dana and I will be back on Sunday to plant some starts, we’ll pick up a bunch from Jaeschke’s in Pittsfield.  For more exciting heirloom varieties we get seeds from Johnny’s Seeds in Maine.  Here’s the short list of what we are going to plant:

Cabbages: easy to grow, easy to care for and you can turn your harvest into sauerkraut, which you can enjoy all winter long!

Lettuce and spinach: nothing like picking salad greens straight from the garden!  Plant spinach again once the warmest months have passed and enjoy another harvest.

Winterbor Kale:  as the name suggests this kale will keep on producing long into the colder months and sometimes through the winter!  Fresh garden greens in November?  Sign me up!

Herbs:  fresh basil is so delicious but you can also turn it into pesto which freezes well so you can enjoy it, you guessed it, all winter long!  We usually grow a few varieties of basil including Tulsi or Holy Basil which can be dried and used for tea.  Tulsi is an adaptogen that supports digestion, respiratory health and is very soothing when you feel stressed out.  I also love to grow lots of parsley and rosemary.  Herbs grow easily in pots and are perfect for your sunny porch.

Flowers:  sunflowers are easy to grow in all sizes and colors and you can harvest the seeds to eat or hang the heads to dry for an instant bird feeder.  Grow what you love and encourage the bees to visit and pollinate your garden.

Happy planting everyone!

 

 

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Dressing Up

This past weekend Dana and I followed our friends Mike and Becca to Falmouth on Cape Cod for the Harborside Music Festival; we sold Fire Cider and enjoyed the music, they silk screened tee shirts to go, you don’t see that everyday!

Mike silk screening tee shirts for his nephews, the ones they were wearing!

As part of our four days on the road, we drove to Springfield where we went to another Big E meeting; we are going to be exhibiting at the Massachusetts building for sure, we just have to figure out the dates.  From Springfield we went to Boston and got a chance to get out on the water, it helps when your sister is a sailing instructor!

Captain Elise with Dana, showing off her skills and the coolest Coast Guard approved P.F.D.’s

From Boston we drove to Cape Cod for the Festival and then back home to Pittsfield.  Dana and I were fairly well prepared as far as food goes but had to rely on some local grocery stores from time to time.  It is definitely more challenging getting enough green veggies to eat while on the road.  One of my favorite things to do is buy a box of spinach, slice up an avocado and add dressing- my kind of fast food.  We forgot to bring salad dressing so decided to buy some Annie’s Goddess dressing.  This used to be my favorite but I haven’t bought any in a long time.  You know me, I hardly ever buy something I can make myself so I was kinda looking forward to this but it was…disappointing.  Homemade is the way to go.  Not only because it tastes better but it’s fresher, has no ‘natural flavors’ or other mysterious ingredients in it and is way more cost effective.  So, here are some salad dressing ideas you can make in just a few minutes and have on hand for days.

Fresh Herb Dressing

I have been making variations of this all summer since we have lots and lots of parsley, basil and cilantro in our garden. Herbs are so easy to grow, they just need a sunny windowsill and some water.  Grow your own and skip the high priced packaged bundles in the store.

Chop up a handful or more of your choice of herb, feel free to mix them up too!

Use a ratio of 3 to 1 Olive oil to vinegar, Apple Cider Vinegar if you are on a strict Candida elimination diet, otherwise red wine vinegar is a good choice.

Add salt to taste, a mashed clove of garlic (this will help preserve the dressing if you want to save some for later in the week) and pepper, black or red hot, to taste.

Mix well, use a wand blender if you want a smoother, emulsified dressing.  Taste and add more of the above ingredients until the dressing is flavored to your liking.

Basil Balsamic

Olive oil, balsamic vinegar, chopped basil, parsley, a pinch of dried or fresh oregano and garlic.  Salt to taste. Hot pepper optional.

Creamy Tahini Dressing

Start with a couple of heaping spoonfuls of Tahini (sesame seed butter) and mix with some sesame oil or olive oil.

Add apple cider vinegar and salt to taste.

Add your choice of one of the following combinations:

1. chopped cilantro, lime juice, chipolte pepper

2. minced ginger, chopped parsley, mashed garlic clove

Fire Cider Dressing

Mix 3 to 1 Olive oil to Fire Cider, salt to taste, a couple teaspoons of spicy Dijon mustard and mix well to emulsify.  Add a mashed clove of garlic for extra health booting properties!

Zucchini and Spinach Gratin

It’s been cool out recently, and this combination of garden fresh veggies in a hot cheesy one-dish meal seems perfectly suited for our current Berkshire weather.

My sister and I made this without a recipe, if you've got the basic ingredients: greens, cheese and eggs, you can make a hot, healthy meal!

The recipe I found on Simply Recipes is pretty similar to what Elise and I came up with.  It calls for bacon and I think it adds a lot of flavor. For those of you who don’t eat pork, or meat, you can substitute butter and or olive oil (a couple tablespoons) to sauté the onions.  Tempeh bacon could also work nicely.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 lbs zucchini, grated
  • Kosher salt
  • 6 packed cups of fresh chopped spinach leaves, blanched and drained or 1 lb frozen spinach
  • 3 slices of thick cut bacon (about 3 ounces), cut crosswise 1/4-inch pieces.  Did you know you can get local bacon from your local Meat Market in Great Barrington?!
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 handful of parsley (about 1/2 cup of leaves, lightly packed)
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and mashed
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (we used half goat chevre and half sheep feta)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 eggs, whipped
  • Olive oil


METHOD

1 Grate the zucchini. Toss the grated zucchini with about a teaspoon of Kosher salt. Place the grated zucchini in a large sieve (or colander) placed over a bowl to catch the water as the salt helps the zucchini release its moisture. Let sit for 30 minutes or so, then squeeze out the remaining excess moisture with your hands or a clean tea towel.

2 Blanch the spinach, drain it in a colander and squeeze out the excess moisture with you hands.  Or, if using frozen spinach: thaw the spinach, let drain while the zucchini is draining. Then squeeze out the excess moisture with your hands or a tea towel.

3 Heat a large skillet on medium heat. Add the bacon and gently cook until lightly browned and most of the fat rendered out, about 10 minutes.

4 While the bacon is cooking, peel and finely chop the onion. Add the onions to the bacon and cook for an additional 10 minutes, until the onions have softened.

5 While the bacon and onions are cooking, prepare the parsley and garlic. Chop the parsley and garlic (I used a garlic press) and put it into a large bowl.

6 Preheat the oven to 350°F.

7 Place the zucchini and spinach into the large bowl with the parsley and garlic. With a wooden spoon, mix in the cooked onions and bacon. Mix in half of the Parmesan. Taste, and add black pepper and more salt to taste. Mix in the whipped eggs.

8 Coat the bottom and sides of a 2 quart casserole or gratin dish with a tablespoon of olive oil. Put the zucchini spinach mixture into the dish and pack it down. Sprinkle the remaining Parmesan cheese over the top and drizzle with a little olive oil.

9 Bake in a 350°F oven for 40-45 minutes, until the top is nicely browned. Serve immediately. Reheats well.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6.

Sesame Spinach Salad

I know spring is finally here when I start craving things like dandelion greens and spinach salad, even if the weather has different ideas.  This salad is really easy to make, it takes about 5 minutes and will feed two people as a side and one hungry lady as a meal.  The toasted sesame seeds are the only time-consuming thing so make more than you need and keep them on hand!

Sesame salad with baby spinach, mesclun greens and black and white sesame seeds

Ingredients for Sesame Dressing:

1 Tablespoon each: apple cider vinegar, tahini and sesame oil

salt and pepper to taste

1 clove garlic mashed/pressed

Few drops of water.

This dressing can easily be doubled or tripled if you want to make some to have on hand.

Here’s what you do, whisk all the ingredients together in your salad bowl and then slowly add a few drops of water, whisking in between to your preferred consistency, usually all it takes is a teaspoon or two.

Add in greens: baby spinach is awesome, dandelion greens are a delicious detoxifier, mesclun mix, or all three!  Toss to coat evenly with the dressing.

Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds, swirl them around in a cast iron skillet over medium heat until they start to pop and smell super sesame, about 5 minutes.

Done!  The dressing only has about 200 calories and will cover several big handfuls of salad greens, a quick and easy way to add some green to your diet.  I made this yesterday for lunch and added a chopped hard boiled egg and some hot sauce for a complete meal.  I bet it would be good with grilled spicy shrimps, chick peas or left over roasted chicken, ect, you get the idea.  Enjoy eating this healthy and delicious salad and if you have variations, I’d love to hear about them!

Blackened Salmon with Spinach, Stinky Cheese and Balsamic

Blackened salmon over baby spinach, Roquefort sheep cheese, pecans and balsamic dressing

I vividly remember the first time I made blackened fish.  I blackened the ceiling of my kitchen and set off all of our fire alarms.  I was living in a top floor apartment in Rockland, Maine, the ceiling in the kitchen was slanted low over the stove.  At the last moment I hesitated over the searing hot cast iron skillet, I couldn’t bring myself to cook something without oiling the pan and then WOOOSH! as soon as the oil (that I did NOT need) hit the pan it ignited, flames licking the low ceiling, the fire alarms going crazy while I learned a valuable cooking lesson, NEVER add oil to a red hot dry skillet.  Thankfully no real damage was done and I did successfully make wasabi coated blackened tuna which was delicious and totally worth it.

One more cautionary note about this recipe in particular, you need good ventalation because heating up cayenne is like maceing yourself if you don’t ventilate the room.  An added bonus of inhaling cayenne is that your sinuses will be totally clear by the time you are done cooking!

The salmon fillet in oil, pressed garlic and lemon juice

First, you need about 1 pound of salmon, wild caught.  Seriously, farmed salmon has no life or taste but it does have added coloring, you’ve been warned to stay away!

For the Marinade:

Mix 1 Tablespoon lemon juice and 1 Tablespoon olive oil with one clove of pressed garlic in a shallow dish large enough to hold the salmon.  Coat the salmon with the marinade on both sides and then let it sit while you get your blackening spice mix together.

Spicy Cajun style spice blend: hot paprika, thyme and cayenne

For the spice blend:

2 and 1/2 tablespoons Paprika (sweet or hot)

3/4 teaspoon cayane

1 teaspoon Thyme

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1 and 1/2 teaspoons salt

Once you have the spices mixed, go back to the salmon and generously coat one side with the spice blend.  Put your lightly greased cast iron skillet on high heat and turn your overhead fan on.  If you don’t have one I suggest opening a window and directing a table fan to blow the smoke/pepper out.  Once the skillet is HOT place the fish, spiced side down and let it cook for about 3-4 minutes depending on the thickness of the fish.  You can pour any left over marinade on top of the fish in the skillet and then generously dust that side with the spice blend.

Blackening the salmon in a barely oiled cast iron skillet.

Flip and let cook on the other side for another 3-4 minutes.

For the salad:

Whisk together 1 – 2 Tablespoons of Olive oil with 1-2 teaspoons of balsamic vinegar and dash of salt and pepper per serving.  I usually do this in the dish I am going to serve in.

Add baby spinach, a heaping tablespoon of crumbled Roquefort cheese and a tablespoon of toasted pecans, toss together.  Add a serving of blackened salmon on top and eat immediately!