The Best Laid Plans

Today I met with our neighbor Shiloh and her young daughter to plan our garden. Shiloh brought an armful of seed packets and I printed out a grid of our garden. Together we made a list of everything we wanted to plant.

We decided to try the block gardening method (also known as compact or square-foot gardening). Growing up, we always planted in rows. After doing some research, though, it looks like block (or compact) gardening sounds like the best option for maximizing a small garden space so we’re going to give that a try. We divided our (approximately) 10’x10′ garden into four 4’x4′ plots with walkways between them and put different vegetables in each square foot of garden space, depending on how much space that type of vegetable takes. We planned tomatoes, okra, and zinnias for the north/south sides of the gardens so they won’t shade the rest of the plants and gave the zucchini and sweet potatoes lots of room to spread out. We’ll probably add some pots of herbs, too, that can be moved around.

As of right now, our list of things to plant includes:

  • Tomatoes
  • Peppers (both sweet and hot)
  • Spinach
  • Beets
  • Zucchini
  • Lettuce
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Bush Beans
  • Onions
  • Okra
  • Greens
  • Cilantro
  • Zinnias

The only things we couldn’t fit were sunflowers and butternut squash. I may still see if I can find a creative way to plant the butternut squash. In late summer we should be able to replace some of the earlier plants with some more cool weather plants (we missed the planting window for some of the spring crops).

Shiloh has some seeds already (include some that she’s started inside). Thursday the Kansas City Community Gardens starts selling the warm weather plants, so I plan on going to pick up some of those, plus whatever other seeds we need (I get ten free packets). Shiloh is going to see if her friend will go pick up a truckload of compost for us from Missouri Organic, too. We may even be able to start planting a few things tomorrow.

This garden is really happening!

Garden Goodness

I’ve been missing our garden, so when I saw Maria on Sunday and she told me to come over and pick vegetables, I was delighted. I’ve been babysitting baby Lena (our  youngest housemate) and waiting for a slightly cooler day (which I finally decided just wasn’t coming since the temperature has edged over a hundred degrees most days this week), but I finally made it over to the garden this morning.

It sorely needed weeding, but it was still growing! Some of the vegetables (like the beans and cucumbers) were on their way out, wilted and molding in the dirt, but the butternut squash had exploded all over the garden, the quinoa was starting to form brightly colored orange and red buds just like the seed package had promised, several baby watermelon nestled under the leaves next to the squashes, the peppers were blushing bright red, and the zucchini was still going strong!

I spent a couple hours tugging out weeds, pulling out dead plants and vines, and avoiding spiders (the only thing I don’t like about gardening). These long, thin vines had wound themselves around a lot of the plants, so I had to carefully unwind each one so it wouldn’t damage the plants (if zucchini grow like the Kingdom of God, I’m convinced that these viney weeds grow like sin!)

And then, sweaty but satisfied, I came home, bearing two grocery bags full of homegrown veggies: butternut squash, zucchini, red peppers, hot peppers, onions, beets, baby carrots, and green tomatoes.

They became the highlight of dinner tonight:

Garlicky Baked Butternut Squash

(modified from this recipe)

Ingredients:

2 Tbsp. minced fresh carrot tops (the recipe originally called for parsley)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 butternut squash, peeled and cut into small cubes
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

Combine all ingredients (except for the Parmesan cheese) in a shallow 2 quart baking dish. Bake uncovered at 375 degrees for 45 minutes or until the squash is tender. During the last ten minutes or so of the baking time, stir in the parmesan cheese.

(I served this over quinoa, which was delicious. I think this has just become one of my new favorite recipes)

And of course, one of the best parts about cooking any kind of squash, is toasting the seeds:

Oven-Toasted Squash Seeds

Ingredients:

Seeds from 1 squash
Seasoned salt (or other spices) to taste

Directions:

Stir together seeds and seasoned salt on a shallow baking pan (I just use a small cookie sheet). Toast at 375 degrees until lightly browned and crispy, stirring often (watch carefully since they can go from almost done to burnt very quickly).

And for dessert (yes, I actually made dessert!) I found this interesting recipe for green tomatoes. It’s definitely not the traditional fried green tomatoes and makes me want to experiment more with tart green tomatoes:

Green Tomato Crisp

(modified from this recipe)

Ingredients:

7 firm green roma tomatoes (if you use bigger tomatoes, you could use less)
salt and pepper
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup coarse graham cracker crumbs
4 Tbsp. butter, cut into small pieces

Directions:

Thinly slice the tomatoes and layer them in an ungreased baking pan. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with the brown sugar, then with the cracker crumbs. Top with the butter and bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until bubbly and slightly browned on top.

(The pepper added an interesting bite to it, but I liked it. Next time I’d probably just cut down on the sugar a bit, just to make it a little more tart)

Fresh Vegetable Pizza with Pesto

I know I’ve been posting a lot about vegetables/food recently, but with garden and farmer’s market season here, I’m enjoying the abundance of amazing, fresh food.

A friend shared some fresh basil from her garden this week, so I was able to make pesto and, consequently, this pizza. It’s definitely one of my favorite ways to make pizza, so I thought I’d share the recipe:

Fresh Vegetable Pizza with Pesto

Crust:
(I used a thin crust recipe from this site)

.25 oz. package of active dry yeast
1/4 tsp. sugar
3/4 c. warm (110 degree) water
1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt

Pesto:
(adapted from this recipe)

2 c. fresh basil leaves
1/2 c. Parmesan cheese
1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil
1/3 c. pine nuts or walnuts (I left these out….because we didn’t have any)
3 garlic cloves, minced
salt and pepper to taste

Toppings:

3-4 fresh tomatoes (I used Roma tomatoes)
1 c. shredded zucchini
1 c. shredded cheese (or more or less, depending on your preference. I used a combination of white Mexican cheeses and Parmesan cheese)
(in the past I have also added other vegetables, including shredded carrots, chopped spinach, and mushrooms. You can pretty much put on whatever vegetables you like or currently have handy)

1) Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.

2) For the crust, disolve the yeast and sugar in the warm water and let rest for 8 minute. Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, combine the flour and salt. Pour the yeast mixture over the flour mixture and stir well. Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead for about two minutes, adding more flour if necessary (I found that I had to add quite a bit more flour because it was pretty sticky). Working from the edges to the center, press the dough into a 12″ circle. Place on a lightly greased pizza pan and stretch it to the edges. Bake for 5-7 minutes.

3) For the pesto, combine all pesto ingredients in the food processor and pulse until finely blended (the original recipe said that if you use walnuts, pulse them first before adding the basil and other ingredients, but because I didn’t use any kind of nut I didn’t do this). Spread over the pre-baked crust

4) Thinly slice the tomatoes and lay them over the pesto. Top with the zucchini and any other vegetables you want to use. Finally, sprinkle with cheese.

5) Bake for 5-10 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly and the edges of the crust are lightly browned. Enjoy!

P.S. Yesterday I applied to work at a local bistro that serves organic, sustainable, locally grown food. How amazing does that sound, huh?