Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Must Haves

Hello friends, the other night I threw together a rather tasty black bean soup for dinner, and it got me thinking about a few of the essentials that everyone should always have in their fridge/cupboards. Especially for people who are living alone or in pairs. My official list of must haves are:

Garlic (fresh or powder)
Carrots (optional in summertime)

A can of Black Beans
A can of chicken stock

Your Favorite Rice
Your Favorite Pasta

It is my belief that if you keep these basic ingredients on hand at all times you will always be able to feed yourself well. You could throw together a pasta dish, dirty rice or soup in no time. If you keep a decent selection of dried herbs on hand, you can also do anything from Italian to Mexican to a good old fashion stew. The bonus is that you can also grow many of the fresh ingredients easily in your backyard or patio. If you really want to get adventuresome, you could even try your hand at mushroom growing (really wanna try this)!

Weeknight BB Soup
(serves two)

5 small Roma tomatoes
5 cloves of garlic roughly chopped
handful of rough chopped onion
handful of sliced carrot
1 small jalapeno (optional if you are heat sensitive)
1 can of black beans
1 quart of chicken broth
Salt, Pepper and lots of Cumin to taste

The wonderful part of this soup is all you do is chop everything up, throw it in the pot with grace and style and let it simmer until the carrots are soft (about 20-30 minutest). I served it with a thick slice of buttered bread. The tomatoes can cause a slight film/bubbles to develop on top so you can either just scoop that off or wait until the last five minutes to add the tomatoes.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Fall Films

Its here....

If you don't know what I mean when I say this, then you haven't opened your windows this morning. Fall has come. As I sit here bundled up in my furry slippers sipping my second cup of hot coffee, I can't help but think about how nice it would be to curl up with a blanket and one of my favorite fall movies. It's the perfect time for movie watching. The garden is winding down to things that need less care such as greens and root crops, nature will soon take over watering duties and it is finally cool enough to pull out those fleece blankets you got for Christmas last year.

In honor of this wonderful turn in the weather, I'm compiling a list of my favorite fall films so that I don't miss any this year. There is only about a month to watch Halloween related movies and two months for fall movies in general. After that Christmas movies take over and well, that leaves little time for anything else. So I shall start my list here and feel free to add any of your favorites in the comments.

Practical Magic (this one gets multiple viewings in October. Midnight Margaritas!)

The Witches of Eastwick


Hocus Pocus


The Scarlet Letter

The Adaams Family

The Harry Potter Series



The Charlie Brown Halloween & Thanksgiving Specials (I actually hate all the peanuts specials, but lots of people love it so what the heck.)

I loved all your guys' recommendations so much I've added them to the list! I'll keep updating as more come in.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Peach Cobbler

So it has been a bit harder than I expected to continue posting now that I am back in school again. Not only do I find it hard to make the time to post, but its even harder to find the time to do the things which inspire these posts such as gardening and cooking. On top of all of that, it's been too damn hot to enter the kitchen for the last several weeks! I am hopeful however, that the weather is soon to change and the baking bug will once again return. In anticipation of that, I have a peach cobbler recipe for you all that is to die for. I know lots of people are attached to crumbly topped cobblers, but give this biscuit topped recipe a try. You won't be sorry. Oh and no picture for this one folks (note the too damn hot comment above), but you can see some on the blog I stole this recipe from.

Kristen’s Peach Cobbler

You’ll need:
6 cups peeled and cored peaches
1/2 cup sugar5
tablespoons unbleached flour
1 3/4 cups unbleached flour
6 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
6 tablespoons butter or non-dairy butter-cold
1/2 cup milk or dairy-free milk
2 tablespoons butter or non-dairy butter
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon cardamon

Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees. Peel and core the peaches and put them into a cast iron frying pan(I just used a regular glass baking dish). Mix in the 1/2 cup sugar and 5 Tbsp flour. Set aside.
Mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt. Add the cold butter and milk and stir until mixed. Spoon the biscuit mixture over the peaches.
Brush the melted butter over the cobbler. Mix the sugar and cardamon together and sprinkle on top of the cobbler. Put into the oven and bake until the top browns, about 45-50 minutes. Cool for about 20 minutes and serve with fresh whipping cream or ice cream.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Harvest Muffins

Hey everybody, we have another guest post! This one is from my sister Theresa up in the foothills. Hope you enjoy her ode to fall and tasty sounding recipe!

Fall is my absolute favorite time of year. In fact, when FOX was a fledgling network they had a short lived science fiction show whose name escapes me, but on one episode one of the characters (a female Space Marine) was waxing eloquent about why she missed autumn on Earth….she said, “There is something so desperate and sexy about autumn….” I have always found that to be a perfectly fitting description. Desperate because it’s the last push to get the harvest in and the household/farmstead/den battened down and sexy because it’s when the vast majority of animals mate in order to ensure a spring birth….lots of action, activity and pheromones in the air! I myself have very fond memories of helping my father’s family with the fall harvest on their farm in Iowa . As a small child I couldn’t help much, but help I did and it was the one time of year that whole side of the family came together to work as a clan. Crisp mornings, sweatshirts, my dad’s big coyote-fur lined winter jacket that I would get to wear once he worked up a sweat, leather work gloves, the crunch and smell of dried corn, the pulsing sound of the combine, the ubiquitous snarl of a chainsaw that we and others were constantly running to try to beat the snow with firewood preparations, and the occasional crack of a hunter’s rifle echoing off the land are all indelibly burned into my brain….desperate and sexy indeed.

As such I am a sucker for anything “harvest” whether a theme (how about a harvest wedding…sans chainsaws, of course!), decoration, movie or recipe. I received a recipe recently called “Harvest Muffins” from one of my Yahoo user groups. The ingredients sounded like a slam dunk, but the first batch left a lot to be desired….they made the house smell wonderful, however the spices called for were just enough for aromatics and not taste. In addition, the cook temps and times called for resulted in a very dry muffin that resulted in the last two remaining being thrown out. Plus the quantity of raisins called for completely overwhelmed the recipe.

I did a second batch and the only thing that resembles the original is the ingredients list. All spices and the raisins have been significantly adjusted and the baking temperature reduced while the time was increased. This resulted in a muffin that not only smells GREAT while baking, but tastes wonderful and remains very moist inside. Bear in mind that even once the toothpick comes out clean these muffins retain a lot of moisture around the apple shreds and may appear underdone if you eat one right after baking. Give them some time to sit and the moisture disperses evenly through the whole muffin. I store them in a plastic tub with a light dishtowel draped on top to keep them moist but prevent molding. Also keep in mind that these are more like a zucchini or banana bread than a true muffin and as such don’t rise terribly high.

I hope you relish them as much as I do—they are utterly perfect for a desperate, sexy fall morning (or even a mundane, frumpy one!). Serve with hot coffee or plain black tea and enjoy!!

2 c all purpose flour
1/3 c sugar
1 TBS baking powder
1 ½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp baking soda
½ tsp ground allspice
½ tsp ground nutmeg

1 c apple juice/cider
1/3 c vegetable oil
¼ real maple syrup
1 large egg beaten
2 tsp vanilla

1 granny smith apple, peeled, cored and shredded
3 oz chopped walnuts (1/2 of a big package)
½ c golden raisins

Blend dry ingredients in one bowl. Blend wet ingredients in another bowl. Combine the two until just mixed and fold in the last three ingredients.
Divide batter into muffin pan (the cups will be pretty full)

Bake at 375 degrees for 30-35 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. The apple should still be really moist inside.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Julie & Julia

If you enjoy food and the warm feeling of love filling your heart, then the movie Julie & Julia is for you. Its a wonderfully crafted hilarious story, and while it's not as full of completed dishes as one would expect, it is full of yummy looking food preparation. I was inspired by one of the meals that Julie makes, and if you ask anyone whose seen the film, they remember it too.

It's a simple meal of pan fried bread topped with lots of fresh chopped tomatoes and herbs. The best part was hearing the crunch as Julie and her husband ripped into this dish animal style. I was feeling a bit carnivorous when I tried to make it, so I added some Italian sausage. Hope you enjoy my interpretation. Oh and a little warning, this recipe is very bad for you!

Open Faced Italian Tomato Sandwiches
(Serves Two)


Italian Sausage
2 Thick Sliced Sourdough bread
2 Roma Tomatoes
2 Small Yellow Tomatoes (Golden Jubilee)
2 Tbsp. Chopped Yellow Onion
3 Tbsp. Fresh Chopped Parsley
2 Tbsp. Ribbon Cut Basil
1 Tbsp. Fresh Thyme
2 Garlic Cloves minced

2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
1 Tbsp. Balsamic Vinaigrette
Tiny Dollop of honey
Salt and Pepper


1)Mix sausage and thyme and cook the sausage through. While the sausage is cooking, chop the tomatoes and all the herbs. Once the sausage is done, drain it on paper towels.

2) Mix together the olive oil, balsamic vinaigrette & honey. Toss in tomatoes and onions and mix well. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

3) Cover both sides of bread with butter. Press the chopped parsley and garlic onto one side of the bread. If you plan ahead, you can also mix the butter, parsley and garlic together then spread that on the butter.

4) Fry both sides of bread in a pan until golden brown. Immediately layer with sausage then tomato mixture. Sprinkle on top with basil.

You'll want to eat this IMMEDIATELY! Within five minutes it will be soggy so have the table set and the beers pours before you put it together. It would go great with a glass of cold Hef or a Pale Ale.

So go see Julie & Julia. Then come home and make this tasty late summer meal.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Cleaning Solution

I know I've already posted once today, but I've been holding onto this post for the past couple of weeks, and now is finally the moment. Ok, now is actually the time for homework, but trivial things like that can wait.

You see, I live with four other people, three of whom are now mechanics. In addition to this, our newest roomy brought with him a giant TV and gaming systems for the living room. This means our common areas have unfortunately started to smell like a mix of engine grease, man sweat and cigarettes. Disgusting. Our carpet has also received some unfortunate stain marks from the bottom of their greasy boots. On top of all of this, I began school three weeks ago and now lack the extra time to keep on top of their messes.

Alas, this situation has lead me to think about cleaning solutions and I have a recipe to share with you for an all purpose cleaner today. While I know that vinegar and water (which I use for my windows and mirrors) works great, I hate the smell of it. This recipe may cost a bit more upfront, but the ingredients will last a long time and it doesn't smell bad. In fact, you can make it smell however you like! Another thing I liked about this spray, is that it doesn't leave any sort of residue like the Trader Joes all purpose cleaner does.

-1 empty 32 oz. spray bottle
-3/4 c. Distilled White Vinegar
-1 c. Hydrogen Peroxide
-1 1/2 tsp. Castille Soap (Such as Dr. Bronner )
-30 drops Tea Tree Oil
-30 drops Essential Oil of choice (some of my favorite choices include lavender, lemongrass, rosemary, lemon verbena, spearmint, clove, cinnamon, anise, sage, grapefruit, lemon, and lime; experiment with one or a combo and see what scent makes you want to get lean and clean!)

The Deal:
-Place all ingredients into the spray bottle using a funnel or measuring cup with a spout.
-Add water until contents reach top of bottle.
-Shake vigorously and use with abandon!

*This recipe is found on the blog design*sponge


At the harvest dinner, we ended up with lots of carbs, particularly in the form of bread. I wish I had gotten a picture of Matthew's focaccia bread to share, he inserted basil leaves into the top of the bread so that they almost looked like little flowers coming out of it. It was awesome. Jeff and my breads were not quite so cool, but they are what I have a recipe for so that is what I will share with you now.

Jeff made three baguettes for the evening to go with the brushetta I had made the day before. In our first attempt to make this bread, we learned the very important lesson (or relearned in my case) that you shouldn't bake bread on dark cookie sheets. The bottoms WILL burn. Our first go at this bread was a horrible failure. They all burned, and although Jeff tried to save my terrible bread by lovingly scraping off the black part and saying it wasn't that bad, I knew the truth. I was particularly disheartened because the bread rises for four and a half hours, so it's not like we could just mix up another batch at 10 pm.

The next day Jeff gave it a second try and his attempt turned out far better than my first. Here is the recipe we used, slightly modified from it's original source.

French Baguette a la Jeffry


4 cups Flour
1 tbsp. Dry Active Yeast
1-2 tsp. Salt
1 3/4 cups Warm Water
1-2 Tbsp. sugar
Oil for bowl

How to make it:

1. In a bowl, mix together the flour and the salt.

2. In another bowl, combine yeast, warm water, sugar and half of the flour/salt mixture. Using your hands, mix until it forms a dough. Then, cover with a dish cloth and let sit at room temperature for 3 hours. It should triple in size.

3. Gently incorporate the rest of the flour/salt, using your hands.

4. Place on a lightly floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes. It should be supple and elastic when you stop kneading.

5. Lightly oil a bowl. Place dough in bowl. Cover with a dish towel. Let sit for 1 hour. It should double in size.

6. Preheat oven to 450°F. Knead again. Then cut dough into 3 parts and form each part into a long baguette. Place on a baking sheet. Let sit for at least 20 minutes.

7. Place a bowl of water in the oven. Bake baguettes for about 25 minutes (maybe less, check often towards the end). Remove the bowl of water after 15 minutes of baking and spritz the baguettes.

The other bread we made went off without a hitch. It was an herby pull apart bread which utilized lots of fresh herbs from the garden. The original recipe can be found here.

Herby Pull Apart Bread

6 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2½ tablespoons active dry yeast
2½ cups warm (120 to 130F) water
1 tablespoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 Tbsp. each finely chopped sage, rosemary and thyme
1 tablespoon melted butter

How to make it:
1. Grease two 9-x-5-inch loaf pans.

2. Combine 4 cups flour, sugar, salt, yeast, and 2½ cups warm water in a large bowl. Add herbs and stir until well blended. Stir in remaining flour until smooth. Cover and let rise until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.

3.Stir dough for 25 strokes.

4.Separate dough into 16 balls of equal size. Place 8 balls in each loaf pan in two rows. Cover and let rise until doubled in size, about 30 to 45 minutes.

5. Bake loaves 30 minutes at 375F. Reduce heat to 350F and bake 15 minutes longer, or until bread sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. Cover loosely with foil during the last 10 minutes of baking time to prevent over-browning.

6.Remove from pans immediately and brush with melted butter. Cool on a wire rack.

The balls will pull apart to dinner roll sized portions. I served it with butter that had just a bit of honey in it. The sweetness really complimented the herbs.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Good Food and Good People

Yesterday Jeff and I hosted our first harvest dinner with the bounty found in our yards. We quickly discovered that its an interesting challenge to try to make different tasting dishes for 9 people out of a limited number of ingredients, but we enjoyed it and learned a lot about what worked and what didn't. In this post I'd like to share with all of you the triumphs (failures and lessons learned will come later).

But first, here was our menu (things I used a straight recipe for are linked to)

Lemon verbena tea

savory herb bread
Zuchini soup
Fried squash blossoms
deviled eggs
chips and homemade peach salsa

Mashed purple potatoes with herb butter
Brushetta on baguette
local melon


Apple Galette with vanilla ice cream


There were three items in last nights dinner that really surprised me with how wonderful they turned out. The first, was iced lemon verbena tea. Honestly, I thought it might end up tasting like wood polish, but it ended up being a delightfully refreshing beverage which would be perfect to have in the fridge for after a long day out in the garden. Oh, and it's simple to boot!

Lemon Verbena Iced Tea

1) Boil water ( 1 cup of water for every 5 leaves).

2) Remove from heat, add torn up leaves and let steep covered for 20 minutes.

3) Strain tea into a pitcher and add honey to taste. Do not add ice until you pour the tea into your cup or it will water down the flavor of this delicate tea.

The second unexpected bit of deliciousness was the zucchini soup. Not that I expected this soup to be awful, but I didn't expect too much from it. It was something I had made once before when Jeff and I had an overabundance of zucchini. It works as a substitute for tomato soup with grilled cheese sandwiches.

Zucchini Soup

1) Chop 2 medium onions, 6 garlic cloves and 5 medium/large zucchini's into big chunks and fry them up with a little bacon grease.

2) Once browned, throw these ingredients into a blender along with 1 1/2 cups of fresh basil and pure with some chicken broth until smooth.

3)Return to pot and season with lots of cumin, salt/pepper and chipotle pepper to taste. You can also add more chicken broth if your soup is too thick. Allow the flavors blend over medium low heat for 15 minutes. Serve with a dollop of sour cream.

Last on this list was fried stuffed zucchini blossoms. This recipe really was an attempt to try to squeeze something different out of the garden. I was concerned because we didn't have enough zucchini blossoms so I used mostly pumpkin blossoms which are a bit more robust. I actually ended up preferring the pumpkin blossoms because they held up to being stuffed better and held more. I didn't notice any difference in taste.

Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms

1) Trim zucchini blossoms. This means cutting off the little "spines" that are at the base of the flower and cutting out the pistol from inside. Be careful not to rip the flowers doing this. You can still use them if you do, it's just a bit messy.

2)Mix ricotta cheese with your favorite fresh or dried herbs. I used fresh marjoram and thyme from the garden along with some garlic powder and salt and pepper. Put about a teaspoon in each blossom then twist the top of the blossom to seal it. Ricotta clumps well so I just used my hands to stuff them. A spoon was cumbersome.

3)Mix up a thin simple batter of water and flour. You want it thin enough that you can easily submerge the blossom in it. You can also add some spices to the batter if you like.

4) Dip blossoms and pan fry them in about an inch and a half of oil for a minute and a half on each side. Place on paper towels to drain, sprinkle with some salt and serve immediately.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Fresh Pesto All Winter Long

Perhaps I just don't have a discerning enough palette, but before I had homemade pesto I had no idea it was made mostly from basil! While the stuff from the store is tasty, it is no comparison to homemade. The main ingredient is easy to grow, the pesto itself is fast and simple to make and it stores all winter in your freezer so why not make it yourself?

This delicious basil recipe came from my favorite blog I tweaked it a little bit, adding a bit more garlic and cheese. That's the great thing about pesto, its easy to make it your own. I've also tried it with hazelnuts instead of pine nuts. Use what you have on hand and enjoy experimenting. With this simple of a recipe its hard to go wrong.

What you’ll need:

4 packed cups of fresh Italian basil leaves

4 cloves of garlic

½ cup pine nuts

½ cup Parmesan cheese (heaping)

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

Salt to taste


1. In a food processor, blend the basil, garlic, pine nuts and Parmesan cheese into a smooth paste. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Then, with the blade running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil. Process until the olive oil is thoroughly incorporated and the pesto is smooth. Give the pesto a taste and add salt if necessary.

2. The pesto will keep for up to a week if refrigerated in a covered container. Bring it to room temperature and give it a good stir before using it in a recipe. To freeze, fill the individual cells of an ice cube tray with pesto and place in the freezer until solid. Then, wrap each cube of pesto in plastic and place back in the freezer (I just throw them all in a ziplock). To freeze larger portions, line a small cookie sheet or pizza pan with waxed paper. Drop ¼ cup mounds onto the wax paper and freeze until solid. Wrap each mound tightly in plastic and store in the freezer. Drop the frozen cubes of pesto into soups or sauces. When using frozen pesto in a pasta dish, allow the pesto to thaw and then stir in a few teaspoons of pasta water before tossing it with the cooked pasta—this helps distribute the pesto throughout the pasta evenly.

This recipe makes about ten ice cubes worth of pesto. Two ice cubes coat about two servings worth of pasta.

You can get at least 2 harvests off each basil plant. Just make sure you leave about 1/4 of the plant each time you harvest it.


Sunday, September 6, 2009

Using Every Part

The other day I made the mistake of thinking I'd just run to the store and grab some chicken breasts for a dinner party I was doing that eveing. It was the first time I hadn't planned my chicken purchase for when it was on sale, and I was shocked by the regular price of chicken. I was pleasantly surprise however to find the split chicken breasts onsale. How hard could it be to turn them into breasts? I found out it was super easy, and by the time I was done I had seven breasts, a large handful of chicken bits and four cups of broth. My total cost, $4.50.

While there are directions online on how to debone a split breast, I honestly just took a go at it and chopped off the part that looked like the breasts I normally buy in the store. It's pretty easy to figure out, but incase you need directions, I copied these from Wikihow. I started by ripping off the skin so I could get a good look at the meat.

1) Place the chicken breast with the bone down on your cutting board.
2) Start cutting on the thickest part of the chicken breast.
3) Find where the bone starts. When the breast is split, this "vertical" bone is either on one side or the other, so one split chicken breast will have more bone in it than the other.
4) Cut down beside the "vertical" bone and follow it as it curves into the bone on the bottom. If
the piece you are cutting does not have this bone, just cut "horizontally" along the bone on the bottom.
5) Follow the bone all the way over to the other side of the piece of meat. Most chicken breasts only have one bone.
6) Trim off any unwanted fat or cartilage on the meat. Save all the non-meat leftover for making broth later, including the skin.

7) After you cut off the nice breast, go back over the leftovers and you can get a couple good pieces of meat from each split breast. From a package of split breasts I got enough meat to make a pasta dinner for three just off these bits.

8) Place all the non-meat bits in a stew pot and cover with water. Simmer with some salt for about an hour. Take it off heat and let cool (If you don't have time to do the stock right away, just throw it in bags and freeze it till you have time).

9) Strain broth and pour into a pitcher. Leave in the fridge overnight.

10) Skim off the fat and pour broth into quart bags and freeze.

Kay's Tomato Basil Soup

Here is my first guest blog for your enjoyment. Hope you enjoy my Mother's post!

Home Canned Tomato Soup

Back in the good old days when Robin and her brother were little and we lived in Grass Valley, we used to go up I 80 to Emmigrant Gap in the winter and play in the snow. After getting cold, wet and worn out we would trek on up to the Rainbow Lodge for some steaming soup. I think the best I ever had there was their Tomato Basil. Normally I’m not a fan of pureed soups but this one was spectacular. Since I have an overabundance of tomatoes this year (after 2 years of limited success) and I have already canned all of the salsa and chili base I can use, I was looking for something else to make. I’m not much of a pasta eater so ruled out the marinara sauce and decided to try some homemade tomato soup. My first batch was to “tomato-y” since I made it pretty much like I canned my chili and soup base with tomatoes, celery, peppers and onions. The next batch I really liked so here is my experiment.

1) Peel a bunch of tomatoes and cut them into pieces into a regular strainer so the juice will go into a bowl (fresh tomato juice is one of the delightful byproducts of the soup).
You will need 15 cups of tomato pulp to make 8 pints of soup. Depending on the type of tomatoes you use, this should give you over 2 quarts of pure tomato juice for your enjoyment.

2)Dump the tomato pulp into a large pan (dutch oven works great) and add 1 medium onion cut into chunks, one large head of garlic, 15 small peeled carrots (the kind you get in a bag) and either a cup of fresh basil or 2 tablespoons dried basil leaves (I used the dry because I stripped my basil for my first try).

A note on the garlic…..since the French use lots of garlic and don’t peel it, I didn’t peel mine either…just popped them into cloves and cut off the root end. They don’t even need to be cut up (neither do the carrots) because you are going to liquefy them in the blender.

3)Boil everything together until the carrots are soft (about 45 minutes) stirring occasionally. Let cool a bit and then liquefy it all in the blender in batches.

4)Now comes the fun part. The conical looking steel contraption you see in the picture is an old fashioned food strainer. It is great for juicing or making fruit butters. You just sit the strainer in a large pan, pour the liquefied mass into it and run the wooden masher around and around until all you have left is the dried pulp which you throw on the compost pile. I got mine 6 or 7 years ago at Emigh Hardware.

5)When you have the thick liquid all strained, bring it back to a boil, put into jars and water bath for 10 minutes for pints (15 if you make lots in quarts). This is also a good time to taste and add any additional spices you might like. I don’t add salt to my cooking as I have gotten used to using herbs for flavoring and prefer it.

6)To serve just add some cream or milk to taste and heat. Goes absolutely great with a toasted cheese sandwich.

After you have cleaned up, sit back and enjoy a big glass of fresh tomato juice (additional ingredients are up to you) and think about how good that Tomato Basil soup is going to taste on a cold rainy day this winter, and how good you feel knowing that you can pronounce every ingredient in it.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Some Things Like it Crowded

Dear friends,
I hope you've all been enjoying your long weekend over the last couple of days, I know I've enjoyed mine a bit too much. However, as I sat here on the couch I realized I hadn't posted in a while, so I have set my very sunburned fingers to the keyboard.

I have read a lot of different sites and articles warning about not planting your garden too densely. While this may be true in some cases, in the summer heat of Sacramento, some crowding can help shade certain plants. My plants get by with a little help from their friends (I couldn't resist). The best example I have of this is my herb garden, which didn't start thriving until my peter pan squash decided to take it over. Can you spot how many different herbs I have in this picture?

The answer is five. If you pull back that beautiful sqash, you would find chives, basil, thyme, marjoram and parsley all living in the cool shade the squash provides. For the longest time my herbs were remaining small and stunted under the constantly sunny, hot and windy conditions that unfortunately plague the only spot in my yard that I can have an actual garden. Here are a few pictures of the happy plants.
I should also mention that Jeff and I double dug my garden before we planted it. When you dig the dirt down about two feet and then fill it back in, you can plant things closer together because the roots can grow deeper easily. I read about the method on sunset's website somewhere. I seem to remember it's a French style of gardening. If you aren't using raised beds I definitely recommend it.