Happy 2019; I hope your year is off to a great start! I said I would do a couple of post on gardening in the New Year and thought it best to start off with one. Growing your own food doesn’t have to be scary and is certainly rewarding. I actually began growing by attending a fundraiser and participating in a ticket pull. While my goal was to win a bottle of wine, I instead won a few herb plants and my first tomato plant. After my first tomato came in, I was hooked and have been growing since then.
I’d like to start with lettuce since this is perfect weather to grow them in Louisiana and similar climates with temperatures at a low of 40 and high of 75 degrees. It’s important to note, soil PH is different in different areas and can even be different in your backyard. So finding the right spot to grow your crops is part of the discovery. You can always add compost and plant food with dirt when planting to create more PH balance. I learned through trial and error that I do best growing in planters for crops like lettuce rather than in ground. Lettuce needs good drainage, sun with shade for part of the day and regular water. Once I found the right spot, the greens mostly took care of themselves.
I brought a rectangular planter and drilled holes in the bottom to support drainage. With a mix of potting mix, organic compost and organic chicken manure, I had a great growing environment. The fun came in adding rows of different seeds for a pretty interesting salad mix. I included red and green lettuce, arugula and mesclun seeds in the bed for my salad. With rain every few days, I have not had to water the planters. It’s important to make sure the box remains moist. Once they start to sprout, it takes three to four weeks to grow into tasty salad greens. *Note: Growing herbs like parsley and cilantro is not only easy, but make great salad additions.
Considering squirrels are frequent backyard visitors, I covered my greens with mesh netting to prevent nibbles. I have not had any problems with nibbles nor other pest impacting the greens; however if you do, there are organic sprays that can be used such as Garden Safe, which I did need for tomatoes this past summer.
I’d recommend only cutting what you need for a meal to get the most fresh and best tasting greens. Rinse them well! I clipped them down to the base stem and added them to a sink of water to get off any extra dirt. Check out images of the stages of growth below.
Just starting to sprout (they do not all come out at the same time):
Gaining traction (about 2 weeks later):
Be patient. It’s worth it! (2-3 weeks later)
Seasonal soup is an easy win for the week and can be stocked in the freezer for easy access at a later date. I like to make a big pot and then break it down into smaller containers immediately. It’s important to break down large pots of anything: soups, stews, gumbo, etc. for food safety to ensure the food properly cools before being refrigerated or frozen. I’d recommend a couple of individual servings for easy lunch and 2-4 servings per frozen container.
I picked up some seasonal cabbage and kale from the farmer’s market and rounded out the veggie mix with mushrooms, carrots, onions and stewed tomatoes. To add smokiness, I browned a few strips of bacon to start the soup and layered on flavor with dried herbs. Check out the recipe below.
2 lbs. Cabbage, raw
2 cups Kale, raw
1 lb. Organic Carrots
14 fluid ounce, Stewed Tomatoes No Salt Added
8.00 oz, Baby Bella Mushrooms
6 fluid ounce, Tomato sauce, canned, no salt added
6 cup (8 fl oz), Water – Municipal
6 Slices, Premium Bacon
1 tbsp. salt
1 tbsp. coarse Ground Black Pepper
2 tsp. Italian seasoning blend
2 tsp. red pepper flakes or cayenne
2 cups of onion
4 cups organic Free Range Chicken Broth
- Rinse and chop cabbage and kale. Peel and chop onion and carrots and set aside.
- In a large pot, brown 6 slices of bacon until crispy. Remove the bacon and add in carrots and onion and a splash of water. Turn down to medium heat and cook until softened.
- Add cabbage, kale, stewed tomatoes, tomato sauce, water and stock to the pot.
- Dice mushrooms and bacon and add to the pot. Add all seasonings, mix well and bring to a boil.
- Once boiling, reduce heat and let simmer for 20-30 minutes.
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It’s easy to skip if it’s not part of your routine; if you are trying to maintain or lose weight, make it part of your routine. Of course the quality of the meal is important. Breakfast jumpstarts the metabolism and sets the stage for your energy stores for the day. I’m a big fan of big breakfast often including a fruit or vegetable with protein and a whole grain. If you are not a morning person, plan ahead to make sure you make a great start to your day.
Below are a few ideas to keep in your back pocket:
- Multi-grain bread
- Protein of choice (bacon, smoked salmon, egg or multiples)
- Frozen berries
- Spices like cinnamon or sweeteners like honey
Morning Muffins (can bake a dozen!)
- Yellow or green onion
- Protein of choice (bacon, sausage, ground beef, seafood
- Egg McMuffin at home with protein of choice
- Nut Butter and Banana
- Nut butter and jelly
After thanksgiving and being in two weddings in the past 3 weeks, I’m getting back to my healthy. That means more soups/gumbos and salads to combat the wonderful indulgences that the holidays and weddings provide.
Since I knew what was coming, I had already planted my winter crops and am excited to cook my first mustard green harvest. I’ve also already stocked my freezer with different soups and stews over the past several months, so the work is already done.
My salad crops of arugula, mixed greens and mustards are also nearing harvest. Growing is pretty easy and you can pretty much harvest any young greens for quick salads.
I’ve been trying my hand at growing everything from tomatoes and peppers this spring and summer to now garlic and turmeric. If you are interested in growing some of your own food, I’d encourage you to start with herbs or indoor micro greens. Both were great starts for me and after conversations with my local farmers, I’ve since expanded to other things and built simple boxes for my crops. Growing can be work depending on how much you are doing, but it’s been so rewarding to eat things I’ve grown myself.
To prepare these greens, I just rinsed, chopped and sautéed them in olive oil with garlic for 5 minutes; simple and tasty.
I’m considering a short spring growing series. What do you think? 🙂
Thanksgiving brings together family with food and fun and also brings the opportunity to share gratitude. In addition to time with family we all look forward to our favorite dishes for the Thanksgiving holiday. While I am certainly looking forward to mirliton dressing, I will also prepare a healthy side to share my gratitude for health in this season.
I fell in love with the oyster mushrooms from the Red Stick Farmers Market and wanted to share this tasty idea a side option. With multiple varieties of kale in season, I selected the tender Dino kale and sautéed them with garlic and the mushrooms for a quick and easy side dish. You can always substitute any other mushroom of choice. Check out the recipe below.
In addition to this recipe, the savory sweet potato dishes in my last post would also make great seasonal sides. I challenge you to make a healthy dish and add it to the mix this Thanksgiving. Be sure to share your creations!
Sautéed Kale and Mushrooms
4 cups of Kale
2 cups of oyster mushrooms diced
6-8 cloves of garlic minced
1 tbsp. Olive oil
1/2 cup of water
1 tsp. Red pepper flakes or cayenne
Salt and pepper to taste
- Rinse kale and slice leaves in half longwise before chopping.
- Heat oil over medium heat. Peel and mince garlic and add to oil. Add red pepper flakes.
- Chop mushrooms and add to garlic. Add in kale and stir well for one minute.
- Add water, top and reduce heat to low for 3-5 minutes or until tender.
- Salt and pepper to taste.
Every fall, we are lucky to have the delicious sweet potato crop produce in abundance. Sweet potatoes, like all potatoes, have their share of nutrients and vitamins such as high fiber, iron, calcium, B vitamins (energy) and Vitamin C (immune boost). Of course by name alone, this starchy vegetable lends itself more to desserts; however sweet potatoes are a great addition to many savory creations. After purchasing a couple of sweet potatoes from the Chenier Farm at my local farmers market, I used the potatoes to make two sides: rosemary and garlic chive roasted vegetable medley and savory mashed sweet potato. These are great side dishes for any protein of choice. If you want to keep things simple, bake chicken, which you can season 2 to 3 ways on one baking sheet, and steam the leafy green veggie of your choice. Check out the recipes below.
Mashed Sweet Potato
1 large sweet Potato (2 -2 ½ cups)
1 tbsp. butter
½ cup of milk
3 tbsp. green onion
½ tbsp. garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste
- In a medium pot, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil.
- Rinse and peel sweet potato. Cut in half then slice.
- Boil for 12-15 minutes or until tender.
- Strain water. Add butter and mash potatoes with a fork.
- Add milk, green onion and seasoning. Mix well.
Roasted Vegetable Medley
1 large sweet potato (2 cups)
6 medium turnips (2-2 ½ cups)
1 tbsp. avocado or olive oil
2 tbsp. fresh chopped rosemary
2 tbsp. garlic or regular chives
½ tbsp. cayenne pepper (optional)
1 tsp. smoked paprika
Salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Rinse and peel potatoes and turnips.
- Cut off both ends of turnips but leave stems to stabilize the root while cutting. Cut it in half, then slices. Dice the sliced turnips. Repeat with second half, remaining turnips and potatoes.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Rinse and chop herbs.
- Add vegetables, oil, herbs and seasoning and mix until evenly coated with your hands or a spoon.
- Spread vegetables into an even layer on parchment paper. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until vegetables are tender. (Test with a fork. Fork should slide easily into and out of the diced veggies.)
Prepping ahead goes a long way toward helping you stay on budget and curbing the need for take out under the notion of “I don’t have any thing easy to cook at home.” It’s helpful to always keep a couple of quick cook options stocked in the freezer whether leftovers from a large batch of beans or meat sauce, or pre chopped veggies and seasoning that can be added to your protein of choice. Seasonal vegetables like squash, zucchini and potato can last for several months in the freezer and make an easy breakfast, lunch or dinner meal in a pinch. I’ve added sausage and have also smothered it with onion and garlic to go with chicken. It can also be seasoned a variety of ways to keep things interesting.
A quart size bag makes 2 to 3 servings and a gallon would make roughly 6-8 servings. It’s best to chop and freeze it in your preferred quantity. You can always add bell pepper and/or onion (green, white or yellow) to your mix for added flavor. Personally I prefer a higher ratio of the squash and zucchini to the potato for a higher fiber, lower card ratio.
After thoroughly rinsing the veggies, I chopped roughly a cup to 1 1/4 of squash and zucchini and a 1/2 cup of potato. when adding the onion and bell pepper, add only a cup of the first two veggies to make sure the quart size bag has space.
As some of you may have seen last week, I am attempting to add a videos to support these post. That will be a work in progress :). Please share your thoughts and happy prepping!