Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Container Garden: Fully Planted!

Cooper loves being out on the deck!  We're worried that he'll try to eat some of the plants as they get larger (he considered munching on some of our seedlings!)...we'll be keeping an eye on him.  Although he doesn't like Swiss chard. So I guess that plant is safe at least.

This past weekend, Nick and I finished planting everything in the garden. There aren't a lot of sprouts to show you yet, but we ended up changing the layout from what I had planned. We're trying to maximize the amount of sunlight that the plants get, and it works with the space, so I'm happy.

The shelves really gave us more space for lettuces and herbs. The lettuces have started to take off this week - I thinned them once last week, but I'm going to have to thin them again very soon! In the photo above, you can see the lemongrass that I regrew and planted - it seems to be doing well.  Just like with the green onions, I saved the root ends and placed them in water until they regrew roots. Then I transplanted them into dirt outdoors. 

Our tiny tomato and pepper plant transplants are doing well so far - they're SO small, but seem to be thriving. The oregano and thyme that I though had totally bitten it show signs of some new growth - I need to trim away the dead stuff, but I think they'll come back for me, especially with a little compost added.

The herbs in the railing planters are still doing fine, and a lot of the mint sprouted.

Hopefully we'll have some new sprouts by next week - I'm excited for things to really get started!

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Friday, May 4, 2012

Strawberry Balsamic Basil Popsicles

 Summer is certainly arriving here in Lincoln. We've had humidity, thunderstorms, and pool weather all week! And warm weather means it's time to bring out the popsicle molds again.

Strawberries finally went on sale at the grocery store this week, so I decided to make my favorite grown-up popsicle recipe. No, it's not a "poptail" - these are totally alcohol free. The grown-up part is the flavor - straight strawberry popsicles are delicious, but introducing a few other flavors makes things much more interesting.
I used this set of popsicle molds - and I think they work really well. The stick doesn't slide out of the mold (a problem I've hand when un-molding other molds), the individual molds are much more convenient than connected-type molds, and the tray to stand them up in the freezer is effective. The pops un-mold pretty easily when you run a little warm water over them. They're also BPA free and hold about 3.5 oz per mold. Of course, you can use whatever molds you have, or go the classic dixie-cup-and-a-wooden-stick route.

Strawberry Balsamic Basil Popsicles
These are based on a recipe from Women's Health Magazine, which I altered after making it a few times. Taste your puree before pouring it into the molds - if your strawberries were very sour, you might need a bit more honey.
Yield: Four 3 oz popsicles

3 cups hulled and halved strawberries, divided (approximate yield of 1 lb strawberries)
2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup chopped basil, divided

1. Combine 2 cups strawberries, honey, vinegar, and half of basil in a non-metal bowl (you need to use glass or plastic because of the vinegar).  Set aside for 1 hour.
2. Slice remaining strawberries.
3. When hour has passed, place contents of bowl in a blender and blend until smooth. Stir in remaining basil, and fill molds about 2/3 full. 
4. Place 1/4 of strawberry slices in each mold, pressing them in so they are covered by the puree.  Add sticks, and place in freezer for 8 hours or overnight.
5. To un-mold popsicles, run under warm water for a few seconds until pop releases from mold. Enjoy!

We've already finished off these pops, and we're scheming about what the next flavor we make should be. Any ideas? 

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Thursday, May 3, 2012

Garden Snapshots: New Sprouts!

I just wanted to share a few quick pictures with you today! Since planting about half of our outdoor container garden, we've got a few things starting to grow. 

Some carrot sprouts: (both Danver's Half Long and Nutri-red varieties)
Some dill sprouts:

The lettuces continue to do well, and the mint is starting to sprout! Some of the transplanted mint seems to have died, but there are tiny sprouts popping up all over the pot. 

The name of the game will be thinning - and soon. I probably planted too many seeds, but I've had such hit-or-miss luck with germination that I just wanted to get some in the ground (well, pot) and figured I could always thin them later.  Looks like we'll be having some sprouts salads this week!

Unfortunately, my thyme and oregano plants (which I purchased at the store on a whim) seem to have bitten the dust. I'm not sure why, but all of the other plants are doing well.  I still don't have any eggplant sprouting, but I'll be transplanting and planting the remaining plants and seeds outdoors this weekend. I'm excited to have the garden fully planted!

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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Smoked Salmon and Eggs Toast

I wasn't sure what to call this beautiful creation. It's a cross between two breakfast/brunch classics: a lox and cream cheese bagel, and eggs benedict.  So, lox benedict? Lox and eggs toast? I don't know. I decided to call it smoked salmon and eggs toast simply because I felt that was one of the most descriptive options, without getting too long winded.  In any case, it's a truly delicious combination.

Here's the basic idea: start with some form of tasty bread. I used whole wheat toast, but you could definitely use a bagel or english muffin half if you want to lean more towards one influence or another. But to make this really special, I would serve it over croissants sliced in half. That's probably too rich for an everyday meal, but perfect for a special brunch. 

Then, you spread the bread with a delicious creamy cheese, replete with onion (a nod to the lox bagel) and fresh basil. Fresh dill would probably also work, if you prefer. Then, top with a fried egg and smoked salmon. I left the egg yolk runny because that's one of my favorite parts of eggs benedict. A squeeze of lemon juice over the top is a nod to lemony hollandaise sauce.  And a perfect breakfast fusion is born!
I call for creamy goats cheese in this recipe; it has a texture and flavor like cream cheese, with the slight tang of goats cheese. I found mine at Trader Joe's.  If you can't find it at your grocery store, soft goats cheese or regular cream cheese will also work nicely. 

Smoked Salmon and Eggs Toast
 If you prefer, use bagels, english muffins, or croissants in place of the bread. 
Yield: 2 servings

4 slices of bread, lightly toasted
4 eggs
2 oz smoked salmon
1/2 cup creamy goats cheese or cream cheese
1/4 cup chopped basil, plus extra to garnish
4 tsp finely minced onion
Salt and pepper
1 lemon, quartered

1. Heat a skillet over medium heat. Spray with cooking spray, break eggs over skillet, and cover with lid (I do 2 eggs at a time). Fry eggs to desired doneness (I like mine sunny side up). If necessary, repeat until all eggs are cooked (this depends on the size of your skillet). Alternatively, you can poach the eggs.
2. While eggs cook, combine goat cheese, basil, and onion in a small bowl.  Stir to combine, and add salt and pepper to taste. Spread each slice of toast with 1/4 of the mixture.
3. Place one egg on each slice of toast. Top with 1/2 oz smoked salmon. Garnish with additional basil and cracked black pepper. Serve with lemon wedges.

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