chaos

Chaos noun, behavior so unpredictable as to appear random, owing to great sensitivity to small changes in conditions, also known as the effects of spring weather on the garden.

The weather this spring has been hard to predict.  Cool at night to highs of 90+ during the day, multiple days reaching 80+ and then in the blink of an eye, drops to the 40’s at night and days that barely cross 50.  Up and down and up and down…stretches of a week or more with no rain for a somewhat dry April, to rain nearly every day for the first full week of May.   Seedlings that emerged and then dampened off or the seeds just rotted altogether.  Plants that did grow at all for weeks and instead, bolted.  Then, suddenly, rain and more rain.  The garden was transformed nearly over night and I am now enjoying fresh picked produce by the basket!

 

IMG_5793This part of the garden does not get much direct sunlight and once the crape myrtle, which is not in the photo, leafs out completely, it gets little filtered light as well.  Last spring I spent a week amending the soil and adding shade tolerant perennials to the bed.  This year, nearly all of them came back except for a bleeding heart plant and they have truly filled the space.IMG_5795The iris actually gets enough light because it blooms before the crape myrtle creates shade.  Also in bloom are azaleas, dianthus and phlox.

IMG_5800Remind me to tell you the story of the gnome sometime… He is watching over the sunny part of the garden.IMG_5806Love the little blossoms on the strawberry begonia.

IMG_5817While I have put a lot of work into the perennial beds near the front door of the house, none of that compares to the amount of work the vegetable garden has taken.  We began in late fall of 2014 by composting the leaves that fell from our trees with grass clippings from the lawn and bags of coffee grounds from Starbucks.  In spring of 2015, I topped each of the beds with that compost and placed 45 bales of straw on the beds in the garden.  Throughout the year, I attempted to grow vegetables in the bales with out a ton of success. In early winter, when the bales began to tip like drunkards, I broke them down and scattered the straw on top of the compost along with more coffee, ground egg shells, compost (that includes litter from our hens) and a topping of purchased garden soil.

In February, we hooped two beds and I seeded them with cold hardy greens and lettuces.  Some seeds germinated nicely, others not at all.  We filled a third bed with purchased starts for cold weather veggies.  Things moved very slowly.  The beds were a little hot for the plants and I was beginning to get discouraged.  Finally, in April we began to see growth and were able to begin picking greens for cooking and salads as well as radishes and turnips.  My collection of lettuces are doing very well and I am picking them regularly.

IMG_5818Peas were slow to get going but have finally come on board.  Gotta love the tendrils and the way they tie themselves into knots.

IMG_5819Everybody loves surprise potatoes!  Must have missed one when I harvested them last fall.  not sure what it is but I am thinking it is most likely a yukon gold but the alternative is red norland; either way works for me!

IMG_5820A lot of firsts this year.  Ailsa Craig onions along with some radishes from an 8 year old package of seeds I found lurking in the box!  We have lots of mushrooms coming up in the beds.  Did you know that is a good thing?  There is a relationship between plants and mushrooms and when some combinations are grown together, you can actually improve your yields-this pairing was random and not of my doing but my fingers are crossed that it helps.  Want to know more about it, pick up a copy of Mycelium Running and read about it!

IMG_5822Chinese cabbage is doing so well-and I grew this from seeds!

IMG_5823The way chard glows when backlit never gets old.

IMG_5828These rutabegas are taking off in the garden.  If you grow them, be sure to eat the greens too!  Cook them as you would collards and the plant will be doing double duty.

IMG_5829Another of the firsts in our garden, salsify.  Have no idea if we will enjoy it but I saw some plants in Colonial Williamsburg in the garden the the local master gardeners maintain and decided it was pretty and it needed to live in my garden too!

IMG_5831Speaking of pretty, these radicchio starts have been stealing the show for a while now.  We pull a few leaves off from the bottom and are letting the heads fill out.

IMG_5832More starts, celery is taking its time.

Welcome to my garden, my little slice of earth.  Feel free to wander through and admire the plants, dinner will be ready just as soon as I wash the lettuce.

One bag of kale, part 4; greens and beans

IMG_1856In my final recipe of the series, I give you one of my favorite recipes.  This recipe is adapted from one by famed vegan chef, Isa Chandra Moskowitz and can be found in her book, Appetite for Reduction and on her website, theppk.com.

Living in the south for as long as I have has influenced many aspects of my life and my meal choices reflect my current location frequently.  The biggest change on my plate is the heap of cooked greens and beans, two things I have never disliked but I also never thought to make a meal of them either.  The difference from the ones I feast on and the ones typically found in the south it that there is no pig on my plate.  Yes, I am a meat eater, yes, I like bacon but truth be told, I like my greens without the added pork products.  Honestly, if they are made well, they do not need the bacon because they have tons of flavor all on their own.

Despite the fact that I am technically a trained chef, while I can bake just about anything, my cooking skills sometimes are lacking and that is where Isa Chandra comes in, specifically her cookbook.  By using her book, I have learned how to make vegetable dishes every bit as amazing as the desserts I produce in my professional life.  Appetite for Reduction as well as Veganomicon and Vegan with a Vengeance are some of the most used books on my shelf and I highly recommend picking any of them up if you come across them.

This recipe uses the last portion of the big bag of kale, it calls for approximately 4 ounces or about 4 cups of kale or any other cooking green.  If you have been following this series, this is approximately 1/4 of the 1 pound bag; part 1 used half of the bag, part 2 and 3 each used 1/8 of the bag and this recipe uses the remaining 1/4.  To repeat the dividing process, for part one, use half the bag.  Take the remaining half of the bag and divide it in half.  Place one half into a storage bag and place it in the fridge till you need it.  Divide the remaining portion into two equal parts and bag each separately and store until needed.  For those of you that are not kale fans, try using mustard, collards or any other green suitable for cooking in place of the kale.

While I used white beans, specifically white kidney beans, you can use any bean you like.  The original recipe calls for black eyed peas, one of my favorites but I have made this recipe with chick peas, fava beans, butter beans and several different white beans, all with delicious results.  Do what you like, you’re the one who is going to eat it!

Greens and Beans

serves 2 as a main dish, 4 as a side

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 small onion, diced

1-2 cloves garlic, minced

4 cups, packed, torn kale with stems removed, about 4 ounces

3/4 cup broth, divided

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 (14.5oz) can white beans, drained and rinsed

3/4 cup tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes

1 tablespoon sriracha or other hot sauce

1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/4 teaspoon liquid smoke, optional

In a large, deep pot, heat the olive oil and saute the onions over medium heat until translucent, about 3-5 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook about 1 minute longer.  Dump in the kale, salt and 1/4 cup of the broth and immediately cover the pot for at least 1 minute.  Stir the greens and keep it covered to allow them the time to cook down, about 10-15 minutes and be sure to stir them occasionally to make sure they are cooking evenly.  Reduce the heat to medium low and add the beans, tomato sauce and the remaining broth and allow to cook for at least 5 minutes, covered.  Stir in the sriracha, paprika and the smoke flavor and allow it to simmer for another 5-10 minutes.  Check the seasoning and add additional salt and hot sauce as needed.

One Bag of Kale Recipes:

Autumn Kale Salad with Butternut Squash

Potato-Kale Hash with Chickpeas

Vegetable Barley soup with Kale

One bag of kale, part 3; vegetable barley soup

IMG_1664

For those of you who just joined, this week I am posting recipes using one bag of kale.  Everyone who shops in a grocery store has encountered the large, pillow sized bags of greens and probably most of us thing out loud, “I could never cook all of that before it goes bad…”  Well, worry no more, you can use that bag of kale before it turns to slime and you will wonder why you didn’t try this before.  Of course, you have to like cooked greens or this will not work for you!  To see the first two recipes, follow the links at the end of this post.

With the change in season, soups are appearing on the table often at our house.  Lunch or dinner, either will work, I enjoy a soup that is full of vegetables and beans but I really love it when barley is in the mix as well.  To make this soup, you can use whatever vegetables you like but to end up with a hearty vegan soup that is full of flavor, you do have to add some things to replace the flavor that meats and salts provide.  The kale will impart some flavor and contribute to the hearty profile, the beets will add an earthy quality along with color but the ingredient that really does it is the mushrooms.  They will take the flavor profile in a direction that is full flavored and satisfying without needing a single bit of meat or poultry.   Mushrooms and mushroom powders are the secret ingredient I reach for whenever I am making a soup or sauce that is meatless because they give it a similar flavor profile and add a richness that meateaters (and some former meateaters) often find lacking in a vegan recipe.

Vegetable Barley Soup with Kale

IMG_1684

serves 2-4

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 large onion, diced small, about 3/4 cup

1-2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 carrot, diced small, about 1/3 cup

1 celery stalk, diced small, about 1/3 cup

1 fresh beet, peeled and diced into small cubes, about 1/3 cup

1 1/2 cups diced mushrooms

6 cups vegetable broth, more as needed

1/3 cup pearled barley

2 cups chopped kale

salt and pepper

In a large pot over medium heat, saute the onions in the olive oil until translucent, 3-5 minutes.  Add the garlic and saute for an additional minute.  Add the carrots, celery, beet and mushrooms and saute for a couple minutes to get the mushrooms to release their juices.  Pour in the broth and the barley and bring the mixture to a boil.  Immediately reduce the heat so that the soup simmers slowly.  Continue at the simmer until the barley is soft.  The cooking time will depend completely on the barley and it can take from 30-45 minutes to soften completely.  As the soup liquid reduces, you can add additional broth or water.  Stir in the kale and cook until the it turns bright green and wilts a bit.  Season with the salt and pepper and serve with crusty bread or crackers.

One Bag of Kale Recipes

Autumn Kale Salad with Butternut Squash

Potato-Kale Hash with Chickpeas

Greens and Beans