herbs

how a garden grows: planting the plants

So last we left the garden, the beds were ready but empty.

Not anymore.

Last year we started from seed, and had a spectacular fail where we lost everything because we brought them outside too soon. So in 2014 we ended up buying seedlings through Penn’s Corner, which they get from several area farms and Grow Pittsburgh. They did so well that we decided to do the same this year, and not go right back to trying to start from seed. Perhaps in a year where spring doesn’t include influenza and job changes, we’ll give that a whirl again.

Anyhow, here’s the breakdown of the plants we planted.

herbs

Herbs (containers):

Rosemary – $3.82
Chives (zombie chives from last year) – $0
Thyme – $4.17
Oregano – $4.17
Spearmint – $3.82
Cilantro – $3.82
Rosemary – $3.82
Dill (from seeds we had) – $0

Total Herbs: $23.62

rhubarb plant

strawberry hanging basket

Miscellaneous Plants

Rhubarb* – $13.90
Strawberry (hanging basket) – $13.90

Total Miscellaneous Plants: $27.80
* The rhubarb won’t produce until next year, but we just love it so much we wanted to give it a shot. Need to do some more research on taking care of rhubarb, since this is a new thing for us.

peppers and basil

broccoli

Peppers, Basil & Broccoli (raised beds)

Basil (one 4-pack) – $3.47
Broccoli* (one 4-pack) – $3.47
Hot banana peppers (one 4-pack) – $3.47
Jalapeno pepper (one 4-pack) – $3.47
King of the North sweet pepper – $3.82

Total Peppers, Basil & Broccoli: $17.70
*Trying broccoli again even though we haven’t had success in the past. Because we just love broccoli. Also, the cages are in the pepper and basil bed because we have been too lazy to remove them after the evening we had to cover all the plants because of the threat of frost. Thanks, southwest PA weather.

tomato patch

Tomatoes* (Mounds/Patch)

Earliana (2 @ $3.82) – $7.64
San Marzano (2 @ $3.82) – $7.64
Italian Sweet Beefsteak (2 @ $3.82) – $7.64
Roma (2 @ $3.82) – $7.64
Sun Gold Cherry – $3.82
White Cherry – $3.82
Cosmonaut Volkov – $3.82

Total tomatoes: $42.02

*All of the ridiculous logs in the main photo are there because they held down covers for the plants during the great frost threat. And again, too lazy to remove until we are definitely out of frost territory. I’ll choose to look at it as rustic instead of a hot mess. All of the plants are staked and caged.

Let’s just take a short time out for a little bit of a geek freak-out. Yeah, there’s a tomato in our patch this year called Cosmonaut Volkov. I can’t really explain the depth of my excitement about the name of this plant. Check him out. Grow little Cosmonaut, grow!

cosmonaut

The final two beds are empty looking right now, so I didn’t include photos. But one has corn planted, and the other one will soon have green beans.

Corn and Green Beans

Corn – $0 (seeds we had at home)
Green Beans – Cost TBD (*haven’t purchased the seeds yet, will add the cost to a later post)

Total: $0*

flowers 2015

Flowers

Pansy (one 4-pack) – $3.47
Antigua yellow marigolds (one 4-pack) – $3.47
Antigua orange marigolds (one 4-pack) – $3.47
Crackerjack marigold – $3.82
Dwarf sunflower – $3.82

Total flowers: $18.05

So that’s what the garden is shaping up to have this year. Everything looks to have survived the “frost,” with the exception of the pansies, though they might rebound.

Total cost of plants: $129.19

OK. So you are probably looking at that total and thinking, what the crap, Joanna. Lowe’s has plants for like 69 cents a piece. How can you have a small urban backyard that has a few raised beds and containers and spend $130 on plants?

A few reasons. We don’t just buy random plants at Lowe’s that will produce food for us to eat. Yes, plants at Lowe’s are better than no garden at all, but I like knowing that my plants are either organic or have been grown with natural methods, limiting the amount of pesticides that our plants have been exposed to. I don’t want vegetables that have been exposed to RoundUp or any number of other nasty sprays. We don’t use them in our gardens and we don’t want them in our plants.

Buying our seedlings locally gives us a higher measure of trust in the quality of the plant and where it’s coming from. It also means we’re supporting the same farms that grow food for us, our CSA organization and a local non-profit that gets more people gardening and gets more fresh food into the diets of Pittsburghers. And that’s something we get behind. Lowe’s doesn’t need our money.

Technically seeds are cheaper than seedlings, but we also spent money powering our grow lights last year and buying the starter soils and building the contraption that held them. So that differential seems like a wash. We also know that last year’s seedlings from these farms produced a redonk amount of vegetables, which is why I’m keeping track this year of expenses versus the value of the food we receive. I am confident we will get a return on our investment.

And in the meantime, I get to do what I’m doing right now – sitting on my back deck in front of my pots of herbs and flowers, relaxing in a funky green Adirondack chair, watching the sun set over Carnegie, watching the garden grow.

Total garden cost to date: $265.93

How a garden grows series
Raised bed and container prep

 

2014 resolutions – how did I do?

We’re finally to the last day of 2014.

Before I can finalize my goals for 2015, I need to check back in on 2014 and see how it went. You can see the other goal posts for 2014 here: January, AprilJuly and October.

Here’s how I did!

Mind

Read 75 books.

Knocked this one out of the park. As of right now, I’ve completed 99 books. There is a high likelihood that if I get to take a lunch break today, I’ll hit 100. I didn’t anticipate blowing this goal so far out of the water, but I shouldn’t be surprised. Reading is like plugging myself into the Joanna charger. I only feel like me when I have a chance to read every day, even if it’s only 5 pages. I read some truly great books this year, which is a post unto itself. I didn’t finish the two sub-goals of finishing Atwood’s canon and reading a Russian doorstop, so I am considering whether or not those are still goals for 2015.

Write letters on three issues to my elected representatives.
I wrote one in April on the DARK Act, and I wrote again in the fall regarding funding for food assistance. But I didn’t hit the third letter. Fall was a very busy time for us – the craziest of the year – so my ability to read up on the current food issues was somewhat limited.

medal resize 1Body

Run a marathon.

Done. Boom.

Drink 64 ounces of water a day.
This has been pretty close, so I’m calling it a win. I am trying to turn to water when I want coffee in the afternoon at my desk and I’ve done that more often than I’ve given in, so that’s a win too.
 

 

Home
Start my home brew kombucha.
Finished this one earlier in the year, though I need to get a better restart going. I tried to do one after the marathon was over, but the room wasn’t warm enough to inhibit mold growth. So I think I’ve found a warmer spot and will try again soon. This will be ongoing.

Sew a t-shirt quilt.
Did this. And also sewed this Star Trek Quiet Bookt-shirt blanket resize

Can one new thing.
We made one new variant of jam this year, but mostly we canned the usual.
Plant a bee-friendly flower garden.
I didn’t do as well with this one as I would have liked, but most of my flowers stayed alive all season, so that’s huge progress for me.
Make the chickens some treats.
Done. With two days to spare!

Organize the basement.
I did this. And then it creeped back to cluttered, and now it’s a mess again. I think when we put away the Christmas decorations, I’ll take that opportunity to work on it again. We’ve given over the larger room to Mark’s work space, so I need to make the best use possible of the remaining space. Definitely an ongoing challenge.

Pantry/Freezer Clean Out Challenge – Week 4

This week didn’t hold as much progress as last week on the challenge. We were out of town for Thanksgiving and had a few days where we ate meals elsewhere – at friends’ houses, etc. But I’m happy with the things we did use – and we didn’t add anything!

One evening for dinner, we cooked up the Ohio City Pasta – I believe we had red pepper and some sort of basil/spinach mix. It tasted great mixed (especially with a glass of leftover wine from Friendsgiving!).

ohio city pasta collage

We also needed another quick dinner one night, so we baked one of the frozen Pizza Joes pizzas. Pizza Joes is a local chain that’s centered around the area where I grew up, and I love them. My favorite pizza place ever. So when Mark travels to one particular site for work, he ends up near one of their locations and he will sometimes pick up half baked pizzas that we finish off in the oven. Much better than fully cooked pizza that’s frozen after the fact. We had the veggie ranch one.

pizza joes collage
We also gave a jar of the Penn’s Corner hot pepper jelly to a friend who was visiting to try, so that took one of the jars in the pantry. Though I’m less worried about using those up now that I know of a great marinade recipe.

So after week 4, here’s where we stand. Going to kick it up a notch this week.

Brown rice 2 portions beef stew Pizza Joes pizzas (2) (1)
Dark chocolate bar (56% cocoa) 1 portion corn and poblano chowder Cortland apples
Dark chocolate bar (75% cocoa) 1 portion mushroom bolognese Swiss chard
Unsweetened chocolate bar (1) (.5) 1 portion venison chili Thai veggie gyoza (half bag)
Penn’s Corner hot pepper jelly (3) (2) (1) 2 portions stroganoff Kaiser rolls (8) (4)
Penn’s Corner strawberry jelly 5 portions bolognese sauce Alexia french fries (1) (.5)
Penn’s Corner dilly beans (2) Hog jowl bacon Pork gyoza (half bag)
Evaporated milk Slab bacon Coconut chicken tenders
Bag sundried tomatoes Hot dogs Venison jerky
Stuffing mix (1.5) (.5) Hot sausage patties Roasted hot peppers
Honey buffalo sauce Venison sausage Roasted sweet peppers
Dried cherries with pits Hamburger patties Raspberries
CRO Bloody Mary Mix Pork shoulder Ripe bananas (1 million)
Chuck’s Hot Salsa Blueberries (3) (2) Frozen basil
Cinnamon applesauce Strawberries Apple cider
Pearl couscous Cranberries Pierogies
Maifun rice sticks Corn (2)
Rice Ramen Peas Grape juice
Orzo Macadamia nuts Homemade whole grain pancake mix (4) (3)
Braised eel Spinach and ricotta pierogies Fresh tomato sauce (2)
Coconut milk Harvest bread Roasting chickens
Whole tomatoes (2) Hot dog buns Chicken wings
Red enchilada sauce French bread Lamb chops
Whole canned jalapenos Ciabatta roll Ground lamb
Butter crackers Cheese tortellini Duck legs and thighs
Graham crackers (2) (1) Pizza crust Ham shank
Black turtle beans Ohio City pasta Kale sausage
Dried chick peas Pitas Pork neckbones
Dried kidney beans Puff pastry sheet Pork liver
Arborio rice Bear claw Pork heart
Partial dark chocolate bar (70%) cocoa PB donut Ham hock bones
Beef marrow bones Rhubarb thumbprint cookies Pork breakfast sausage
Beef neckbones Potato and pea samosas (2) (1) Country style pork ribs
Beef round steak Pork and vegetable dumplings (half bag) Chorizo
Beef soup bones Naan Puddin’
Catfish Green onion pancakes Beef heart
Beef hot dogs Oxtail (3) (1)
Beef mock tender
Beef shank Beef shank Beef cross cut roast
Beef stew meat Beef liver

 

 

Pantry/Freezer Clean Out Challenge – Week 3

This week we chipped away at more items from the pantry and freezer, making more progress than I anticipated. We were able in some cases to strategically use recipes for the things we wanted to eat that included some ingredients we already had. Which I guess is exactly the way you do this!

I made a delicious winter squash chowder with some butternut and acorn squash and kale from our CSA, and I toasted up the one remaining ciabatta roll for us to split as a side to dip. It actually went really well with the chowder!

winter squash chowder

When I posted last week that I was having trouble finding ways to use hot pepper jelly, Penn’s Corner tweeted me this link to a recipe for Spicy Pepper Jelly Marinated Pork Tenderloin. So I made that, with some roasted turnips and brussels sprouts and some bagged stuffing  from the pantry as a side. I highly recommend the marinade if you like spicy, flavorful marinades.

stuffing and pepper jelly collage

Friday night, I roasted two heads of garlic and took the leeks from the CSA and the bacon from the freezer and made toppings for Mark’s sourdough pizza crust. (He’s the pizza guy in the house.) Delicious, but let’s just say that using two heads of garlic as sauce, where we each virtually ate a whole head of garlic, was a bit….much.

bacon and leek pizza

One night we had burgers and fries, so we used up half of the kaiser rolls and half of the bag of fries.

fries and buns

Sunday night we had our annual Friendsgiving dinner with our best friends. Instead of a turkey, which we will all be eating this week, we decided to make prime rib. Mark did the prime rib, and chose a recipe that required roasting some other meat with it – so we used an oxtail, a beef shank and beef soup bones.

I did the dessert, and sort of lost my mind. I decided to make pumpkin brownies, which used up half of the unsweetened chocolate bar. And that’s when I jumped off the deep end and decided to make 3 homemade ice creams from the Jeni’s cookbook: salty caramel, maple with buttered nuts, and sweet potato with toasted marshmallow. And then make them into terrines. But I forgot that a mini loaf pan might be “mini” when it comes to breads, but when it comes to ice cream, it’s a LOT. And so it looked kind of like a giant brick on the plate. But it was delicious – just ridiculous.

We were so hungry I didn’t take much time to take good photos, but it was all great.

friendsgiving

So here’s where I stand now after three weeks. Made a lot of progress this week, for sure!

Brown rice 2 portions beef stew Pizza Joes pizzas (2)
Dark chocolate bar (56% cocoa) 1 portion corn and poblano chowder Cortland apples
Dark chocolate bar (75% cocoa) 1 portion mushroom bolognese Swiss chard
Unsweetened chocolate bar (1) (.5) 1 portion venison chili Thai veggie gyoza (half bag)
Penn’s Corner hot pepper jelly (3) (2) 2 portions stroganoff Kaiser rolls (8) (4)
Penn’s Corner strawberry jelly 5 portions bolognese sauce Alexia french fries (1) (.5)
Penn’s Corner dilly beans (2) Hog jowl bacon Pork gyoza (half bag)
Evaporated milk Slab bacon Coconut chicken tenders
Bag sundried tomatoes Hot dogs Venison jerky
Stuffing mix (1.5) (.5) Hot sausage patties Roasted hot peppers
Honey buffalo sauce Venison sausage Roasted sweet peppers
Dried cherries with pits Hamburger patties Raspberries
CRO Bloody Mary Mix Pork shoulder Ripe bananas (1 million)
Chuck’s Hot Salsa Blueberries (3) (2) Frozen basil
Cinnamon applesauce Strawberries Apple cider
Pearl couscous Cranberries Pierogies
Maifun rice sticks Corn (2)
Rice Ramen Peas Grape juice
Orzo Macadamia nuts Homemade whole grain pancake mix (4) (3)
Braised eel Spinach and ricotta pierogies Fresh tomato sauce (2)
Coconut milk Harvest bread Roasting chickens
Whole tomatoes (2) Hot dog buns Chicken wings
Red enchilada sauce French bread Lamb chops
Whole canned jalapenos Ciabatta roll Ground lamb
Butter crackers Cheese tortellini Duck legs and thighs
Graham crackers (2) (1) Pizza crust Ham shank
Black turtle beans Ohio City pasta Kale sausage
Dried chick peas Pitas Pork neckbones
Dried kidney beans Puff pastry sheet Pork liver
Arborio rice Bear claw Pork heart
Partial dark chocolate bar (70%) cocoa PB donut Ham hock bones
Beef marrow bones Rhubarb thumbprint cookies Pork breakfast sausage
Beef neckbones Potato and pea samosas (2) (1) Country style pork ribs
Beef round steak Pork and vegetable dumplings (half bag) Chorizo
Beef soup bones Naan Puddin’
Catfish Green onion pancakes Beef heart
Beef hot dogs Oxtail (3) (1)
Beef mock tender
Beef shank Beef shank Beef cross cut roast
Beef stew meat Beef liver

 

Pantry/Freezer Clean Out Challenge – Week 2

This week was a bit crazy when it came to meal planning, since we had to do a lot of unexpected changes at the last minute. Mark’s aunt passed away, and we had some out of town days and some takeout days. But life is always throwing you something unexpected, so we rolled with it and still managed to get a few items checked off the pantry/freezer list.

One day last week, I took the leftover corn and poblano chowder as my lunch one day. And I remembered why it is that we bothered to save it. It’s delicious.

corn and poblano chowder

 

One night we had a quick taco dinner, and instead of opening a jar of our homemade canned salsa, we tried out the jar of hot salsa we had picked up at a Farm to Table event a very long time ago. Delicious, with a hint of peaches.

hot salsa collage

Before we left for Cleveland, we were exhausted from running around all day and neither of us really wanted to cook. So we ate a ton of appetizers, including gyoza, green scallion pancakes and some samosas. Mark made fried rice from some leftover Chipotle rice and we made a dipping sauce from mirin, soy sauce and sesame oil. My phone photo doesn’t make it look too appetizing, but it was. Especially because it just took a few minutes to make. Which is exactly why we bought that stuff in the first place. I didn’t quite use up all the gyoza in the bags, but we’re getting close.

asian appetizers collage

Last but not least, Mark made his grandma’s cheesecake to take to Cleveland to share with family, since it was one of his aunt’s favorite. We used graham crackers from the pantry for the crust.

grandma's cheesecake collage

So at the end of week 2, here’s where we stand.

Here’s where I stand now with pantry and freezer items. I can’t wait to see more of these crossed off.

Brown rice 2 portions beef stew Pizza Joes pizzas (2)
Dark chocolate bar (56% cocoa) 1 portion corn and poblano chowder Cortland apples
Dark chocolate bar (75% cocoa) 1 portion mushroom bolognese Swiss chard
Unsweetened chocolate bar 1 portion venison chili Thai veggie gyoza (half bag)
Penn’s Corner hot pepper jelly (2) 2 portions stroganoff Kaiser rolls
Penn’s Corner strawberry jelly 5 portions bolognese sauce Alexia french fries
Penn’s Corner dilly beans (2) Hog jowl bacon Pork gyoza (half bag)
Evaporated milk Slab bacon Coconut chicken tenders
Bag sundried tomatoes Hot dogs Venison jerky
Stuffing mix (1.5) Hot sausage patties Roasted hot peppers
Honey buffalo sauce Venison sausage Roasted sweet peppers
Dried cherries with pits Hamburger patties Raspberries
CRO Bloody Mary Mix Pork shoulder Ripe bananas (1 million)
Chuck’s Hot Salsa Blueberries (3) (2) Frozen basil
Cinnamon applesauce Strawberries Apple cider
Pearl couscous Cranberries Pierogies
Maifun rice sticks Corn (2)
Rice Ramen Peas Grape juice
Orzo Macadamia nuts Homemade whole grain pancake mix (4) (3)
Braised eel Spinach and ricotta pierogies Fresh tomato sauce (2)
Coconut milk Harvest bread Roasting chickens
Whole tomatoes (2) Hot dog buns Chicken wings
Red enchilada sauce French bread Lamb chops
Whole canned jalapenos Ciabatta roll Ground lamb
Butter crackers Cheese tortellini Duck legs and thighs
Graham crackers (2) (1) Pizza crust Ham shank
Black turtle beans Ohio City pasta Kale sausage
Dried chick peas Pitas Pork neckbones
Dried kidney beans Puff pastry sheet Pork liver
Arborio rice Bear claw Pork heart
Partial dark chocolate bar (70%) cocoa PB donut Ham hock bones
Beef marrow bones Rhubarb thumbprint cookies Pork breakfast sausage
Beef neckbones Potato and pea samosas (2) (1) Country style pork ribs
Beef round steak Pork and vegetable dumplings (half bag) Chorizo
Beef soup bones Naan Puddin’
Catfish Green onion pancakes Beef heart
Beef hot dogs Oxtail (3) (1)
Beef mock tender
Beef shank Beef shank Beef cross cut roast
Beef stew meat Beef liver

 

Read more on the Pantry/Freezer Challenge

Pantry/Freezer Clean Out Challenge – Week 1

Yesterday I fessed up to the crazy amount of excess food we have stored in our pantry and freezers and created my own Pantry/Freezer Clean Out Challenge.

I didn’t waste a lot of time, deciding to ride the wave of motivation and start using up some items this past weekend.

On Sunday, we made waffles using the frozen homemade whole grain pancake mix. This mix actually comes in handy when you need a quick, weekend breakfast. But our problem is that we let the mix sit there unused because we rarely take the time to eat pancakes. This weekend, we decided to test the mix as a waffle instead of a pancake. (Finding that it works just great if you add slightly more mix to make the batter thicker.)

I opened a pack of frozen blueberries and we put half in the batter for the waffles and I put the other half in yogurt.

blueberry waffle collage

For dinner on Sunday, I was going to be home long enough that I could make something that took a few hours to cook, so I took two of the three packages of ox tail that we had and the two cans of whole tomatoes in the pantry (leftover from when we didn’t have any more of our home preserved ones last season) and a bunch of CSA items and made Braised Oxtail over Rigatoni from Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen.

braised oxtail collage

So that put a miniscule dent in the pantry and freezer stash. But that’s how I’m going to chip away at the excess!

Here’s where I stand now with pantry and freezer items. I can’t wait to see more of these crossed off.

Brown rice 2 portions beef stew Pizza Joes pizzas (2)
Dark chocolate bar (56% cocoa) 1 portion corn and poblano chowder Cortland apples
Dark chocolate bar (75% cocoa) 1 portion mushroom bolognese Swiss chard
Unsweetened chocolate bar 1 portion venison chili Thai veggie gyoza
Penn’s Corner hot pepper jelly (2) 2 portions stroganoff Kaiser rolls
Penn’s Corner strawberry jelly 5 portions bolognese sauce Alexia french fries
Penn’s Corner dilly beans (2) Hog jowl bacon Pork gyoza
Evaporated milk Slab bacon Coconut chicken tenders
Bag sundried tomatoes Hot dogs Venison jerky
Stuffing mix (1.5) Hot sausage patties Roasted hot peppers
Honey buffalo sauce Venison sausage Roasted sweet peppers
Dreid cherries with pits Hamburger patties Raspberries
CRO Bloody Mary Mix Pork shoulder Ripe bananas (1 million)
Chuck’s Hot Salsa Blueberries (3) (2) Frozen basil
Cinnamon applesauce Strawberries Apple cider
Pearl couscous Cranberries Pierogies
Maifun rice sticks Corn (2)
Rice Ramen Peas Grape juice
Orzo Macadamia nuts Homemade whole grain pancake mix (4) (3)
Braised eel Spinach and ricotta pierogies Fresh tomato sauce (2)
Coconut milk Harvest bread Roasting chickens
Whole tomatoes (2) Hot dog buns Chicken wings
Red enchilada sauce French bread Lamb chops
Whole canned jalapenos Ciabatta roll Ground lamb
Butter crackers Cheese tortellini Duck legs and thighs
Graham crackers Pizza crust Ham shank
Black turtle beans Ohio City pasta Kale sausage
Dried chick peas Pitas Pork neckbones
Dried kidney beans Puff pastry sheet Pork liver
Arborio rice Bear claw Pork heart
Partial dark chocolate bar (70%) cocoa PB donut Ham hock bones
Beef marrow bones Rhubarb thumbprint cookies Pork breakfast sausage
Beef neckbones Potato and pea samosas Country style pork ribs
Beef round steak Pork and vegetable dumplings Chorizo
Beef soup bones Naan Puddin’
Catfish Green onion pancakes Beef heart
Beef hot dogs Oxtail (3) (1)
Beef mock tender
Beef shank Beef shank Beef cross cut roast
Beef stew meat Beef liver

Introducing the Pantry/Freezer Clean Out Challenge

Have you ever tried to put away groceries and realized you have no idea why there’s no room for anything in your pantry or your freezer? Or opened the cupboard to stare at a bunch of food and say “there’s nothing in here to eat!”

I’m ashamed to say that this happens to me a lot. For all that I write about how we use our CSA items (and we do), I too am guilty of the over-full pantry and freezer. We make a concerted effort to eat leftovers, and we rarely throw food out anymore. But part of that is because we have created a hoard in the freezer(s) and pantry.

I think it comes from a good place – the mentality of trying not to waste and to preserve and save food that’s perfectly good to eat. We’re good at eating up fresh food in the house because we know we’re racing the clock. But if it’s frozen or shelf stable? We’re actually pretty bad at that.

So I was thinking. Why not put it out in the open and make myself accountable to use this excess that I’ve accumulated? And the idea of the Pantry/Freezer Clean Out Challenge was born.

I went through my pantry, main freezer and chest freezers to determine what needed to be “cleaned out.” The things that have been sitting around for awhile, waiting for a use. I didn’t include things like baking items, spices, oils or staples that we use frequently, because they rotate in and out of the pantry on a regular basis. For cuts of meat that we use frequently (such as ground beef, steaks or venison), I left them off the list. Some freezer items were left off too, if they are used regularly – like homemade chicken broth or nuts.

I snapped some photos, but I’m embarrassed to say this is only part of it.

freezer items

pantry collage

The whole list is daunting. And it’s really embarrassing.

Brown rice 2 portions beef stew Pizza Joes pizzas (2)
Dark chocolate bar (56% cocoa) 1 portion corn and poblano chowder Cortland apples
Dark chocolate bar (75% cocoa) 1 portion mushroom bolognese Swiss chard
Unsweetened chocolate bar 1 portion venison chili Thai veggie gyoza
Penn’s Corner hot pepper jelly (2) 2 portions stroganoff Kaiser rolls
Penn’s Corner strawberry jelly 5 portions bolognese sauce Alexia french fries
Penn’s Corner dilly beans (2) Hog jowl bacon Pork gyoza
Evaporated milk Slab bacon Coconut chicken tenders
Bag sundried tomatoes Hot dogs Venison jerky
Stuffing mix (1.5) Hot sausage patties Roasted hot peppers
Honey buffalo sauce Venison sausage Roasted sweet peppers
Dreid cherries with pits Hamburger patties Raspberries
CRO Bloody Mary Mix Pork shoulder Ripe bananas (1 million)
Chuck’s Hot Salsa Blueberries (3) Frozen basil
Cinnamon applesauce Strawberries Apple cider
Pearl couscous Cranberries Pierogies
Maifun rice sticks Corn (2)
Rice Ramen Peas Grape juice
Orzo Macadamia nuts Homemade whole grain pancake mix
Braised eel Spinach and ricotta pierogies Fresh tomato sauce (2)
Coconut milk Harvest bread Roasting chickens
Whole tomatoes (2) Hot dog buns Chicken wings
Red enchilada sauce French bread Lamb chops
Whole canned jalapenos Ciabatta roll Ground lamb
Butter crackers Cheese tortellini Duck legs and thighs
Graham crackers Pizza crust Ham shank
Black turtle beans Ohio CIty pasta Kale sausage
Dried chick peas Pitas Pork neckbones
Dried kidney beans Puff pastry sheet Pork liver
Arborio rice Bear claw Pork heart
Partial dark chocolate bar (70%) cocoa PB donut Ham hock bones
Beef marrow bones Rhubarb thumbprint cookies Pork breakfast sausage
Beef neckbones Potato and pea samosas Country style pork ribs
Beef round steak Pork and vegetable dumplings Chorizo
Beef soup bones Naan Puddin’
Catfish Green onion pancakes Beef heart
Beef hot dogs Oxtail (3) Beef mock tender
Beef shank Beef shank Beef cross cut roast
Beef stew meat Beef liver

So there it is. Each week, I’m going to show you what we’ve “cleaned out” from the pantry and freezer, with the goal being to use several things each week. It will take us awhile to work through the excess, but I have a few goals for this personal challenge:

  • Room in my pantry for things we use, so that nothing takes unnecessary space or gets wasted
  • New recipes that push me out of my comfort zone (what the heck is a beef mock tender?)
  • A new appreciation for eating food that we have instead of just food that we want

I’ll report back on Mondays to talk about what we used during the week. (Though since I got this idea on Saturday, I’ve already used several things, which I’ll talk about tomorrow.) I’ll also post photos on Instagram (@nextgenhouse) under the hashtag #cleanoutchallenge.

Do you have a freezer or pantry that’s overflowing? Join me and clean it out!

garden update: october

October is the time when the garden of the summer fades. And if your garden looked like a mess in the spring or summer, it doesn’t get any better once things start to wilt. Because then it doesn’t look so much like a garden, but a bunch of overgrown hobo weeds.

So instead of our garden looking like this right now:

Photo from backroads.org

Photo from backroads.org

We have this!

tomato 2 resize

This is our large tomato patch jungle, complete with collapsing fence posts and a chicken to the right, who just wants the fallen tomato that’s hanging out in the front. Not that she couldn’t pick off the ones hanging over the sides of the fence, too.

And here’s the cherry tomatoes.

Tomato 1 resize

We’ve reached our maximum saturation with the garden, picking the last of the tomatoes (both a blessing and a sadness). Even though the tomato plants are still hanging in (at least some of them), they aren’t ripening anymore on the vine with the change in weather. I’m thinking it’s time to go collect the green ones and try out Mark’s grandfather’s way of ripening tomatoes over winter. Rumor has it he took a box and layered green tomatoes in it with newspaper like lasagna, and then let it hang out in their cold basement. The release of ethylene over time helps them to ripen slowly. Might be a fun experiment at the least.

Some beds we have already ripped out, like this empty bed we used for green beans this year. They did really well, but eventually we pulled them when they stopped producing, so we can make way for some fall greens if we choose to plant some. (Though stay tuned on that one, because we’re a little behind on the fall planting.) As you can see by the big weed that sprouted in the empty bed.

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The corn was prolific this year, but we made a rookie corn mistake and left it on the plant too long. It basically became starch nuggets, and we had to just share it with the chickens because it did NOT taste good. But the dried stalks are going to make good porch decoration for me, at least!

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And last but not least, we have the peppers and chard. The peppers are still there, but like the tomatoes, have stagnated in their growth. I think we’ll let some of them go, though, since we already have an abundance of preserved hot peppers. The chard is still coming, but I’m letting it hang out while we eat up some CSA items.

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Again, note that there’s nothing picturesque about these gardens. They are overgrown and wild at the moment. But that doesn’t mean we didn’t get a ton of amazing food from them this year. Which perhaps illustrates one of the coolest things about gardening – you don’t have to be perfect at it to do it. You just do the best you can with what you have and nature surprises you with its resilience and abundance.

Have you finished off your garden for the year or are you still going strong?

 

 

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garden update: early september

Really, this post should be subtitled “The Tomato Jungle” because that’s pretty much what we have going on right now. It’s kind of a hot mess in our backyard right now.

But let’s start with a few things that aren’t tomatoes. After the great chard harvest of 2014, the plants are rebounding and we’re getting another batch. I hope this lasts into the fall.


It seems like our bell pepper plant is slowing down, but this poblano one? It has exploded with tiny peppers, just recently. Where the heck were all these guys in August?


Storms have collapsed some of our corn stalks, but we were able to salvage the ears of corn from them so really this just looks worse than it is.


Now if I can just get the broken stalks out of there so it stops looking so much like a scene from the Wizard of Oz.

Beans need a final pick, but I haven’t been able to get to them because of this situation.


Those pictures are from two different pickings, within 4 days of each other. Our tomato plants have been heavy with green tomatoes for more than a month, and recently they finally decided to start to ripen. Like gangbusters.

I pick some of them slightly early, as soon as they turn a little bit red, because of this situation.

The plants are so big they are collapsing over their too-small cages (that was our big fail with these things this year) and falling out to where the chickens can reach them. So I try to grab them as soon as they go slightly red, to bring them inside to ripen, outside of the reach of the tomato hungry ladies in the backyard.

Some of the stalks are breaking and dying off, which is probably due to their weight. Not pretty or garden blog worthy, surely, but I can’t complain about how much these plants have produced.

Though seriously, we have to do better with caging and trellising next year. This one is just begging to be set free.

So far, we’ve been freezing tomatoes to keep up with them. I’ll do a post on that at some point, too, but from just a fraction of the tomatoes in that first photo of the on our island, I got 15 pounds of frozen tomatoes, ready for sauce and chili.


I hope to can at least a batch of them this year, if not two, and possibly do some salsa as well, depending on how the peppers look. We’ve done more freezing than canning this year, which is weird, but at the same time, we’ve had less available weekend time due to triathlon and marathon training.

We’ve been able to preserve most of the tomatoes from the garden thus far. I just hope I can keep up as we get the final deluge!

How’s your garden doing? Are you still harvesting or ready for fall? 

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garden update: early August

Really the subtitle of this post should be “all the green tomatoes” because primarily, that’s what we’ve got going on in our garden right now.

Yep. And there’s more.

These ones look almost like pears or peppers.


This is just a tiny snapshot of the tomatoes we have going on right now. You can imagine the scope of the tomato issue when I show you that this is what the tomato beds look like right now.


Yeah… It’s kind of a jungle. We don’t win awards in this house for aesthetics, that’s for sure. But in just a few weeks we will likely be up to our eyeballs canning tomatoes and making salsa. I’m not complaining because they taste pretty great. The few that have ripened so far were made into the first batch of fresh tomato sauce (which we freeze) and it filled the house with the best smell – like the best of summer.


Beyond the tomatoes, the beans have been producing like mad. This was not even all of what I picked the other night. I had about another two bags of that size.


So the netting we have to keep the chickens out is still askew from me ripping it apart to get in there and pick. I was racing a thunderstorm that night so I was moving as fast as possible. Again, not winning any awards for aesthetics.


None of our cucumber plants made it, but we have had so many cucumbers from our CSA and my grandparents’ garden that I’m honestly kind of happy we don’t have any more.

One really cool thing though, is this bed of sweet corn. 

It’s so tall – and we’re seeing some silk. Here come the ears!


It will be pretty awesome to have a few ears of corn from our own backyard. Crazy to think just a couple months ago these were just seeds. 

The chard is also still doing well. Big huge leaves and vibrantly colored stalks.


Last but not least we have peppers. Lots of those coming, of different types. Hopefully right around the time for salsa.


Late August is the peak time for us for gardening and canning, so I’m trying to stay ahead of the game with what veggies we’re eating and preserving with a little white board on our fridge. 

How’s your garden doing?