Gumboot Adventures

gowing and growing green

August 17, 2011

Pesto Pre-Presto

Pesto Pre-Presto

The garden is in full swing and we’re enjoying its goodness at least every day and often at every meal! One of the ubiquitous family favorites at our house is fresh pesto. When the bright flavours hit our pallet, we know that summer has really, truly arrived.

Our pesto recipe is simple and traditional, with a little health zing: kale! A handful of garden fresh kale disappears into the strong flavours of garlic and basil. Around here, only the grown ups actually enjoy kale but since it’s a super food – packed full of nutrients and vitamins – so we sneak it into the kids every chance we get.

Italien Soup w/ Pesto

Italien Soup w/ Pesto

Pesto is great as a pasta sauce. For a quick, healthy, kid-pleasing meal we like to sautee the pesto with cubed tofu for a few minutes, before adding cooked pasta, olives and cherry tomatoes. It’s also perfect dolluped on top of a tomato based vegetable soup like minestrone or Italian Bean soup. At snack time, try pesto spread on rye crackers with fresh sliced tomatoes.

Basil & Kale Pesto Recipe

Ingredients:

1 cup fresh basil (leaves, stems, flowers – it’s all good)
¾ cup of olive oil
¼ cup pine nuts (it’s nice to roast these in the pan with a little olive oil first)
1/3 cup parmesean cheese
2 large cloves of garlic
5 kale leaves, off the stem

Directions:
Strip the leafy greens off of the kale stem. Disgard the stem. If desired, pan-roast the pine nuts in a bit of olive oil for a nice nutty flavour.
Combine all ingredients in a food processor.

Puree. Eat. Enjoy.

 

Salad Greens July 25, 2011

Salad Greens

Salad Greens (and peas, dill & strawberries)

The salad is doing well this year. That’s because it’s late July and yesterday was the first day of “summer” here on the wet wet coast.  Now that it’s hot – and assuming the heat is planning to stick around, the salad will now bolt.  Which means it’s time to eat it all up. Fast.

Until this year, I’ve never had much luck producing sweet lettuce. The heat and dry of summer have always got the better of us and the spring lettuce has consistently bolted early in the year, quickly become woody and bitter. So for the long spring lettuce season, I give thanks.  The peas, brocolli and cabbage are also doing remarkably well with this odd season. To extend the growing of these spring crops in the summer heat, we need to get on top of watering now.  Until this week, we’ve been leaving the watering to the elements. Luckily, the rain barrels are full after a wet spring so we should be able to ward off bitter bolting greens a little bit longer.

It’s also time to sow another round of greens. We’ll plant in the partial shade of some of the bushier veggies to keep these a little cooler and eat them young and fresh during the hot summer, um, weeks.  Strangely, it’s almost time to sow winter greens too – more kale, spinach and crests to go into what will be a covered winter garden in a couple months.

 

Hey Kids, We’re Growing Kiwis May 27, 2011

Hey Kids – we’re growing Kiwis!

Really? Where?

Growing What?

When I showed them the vines, planted happily in our West Coast garden, the excitement set in.

Kiwis are Good!

I have to admit that despite the fact that our Kiwi plants are currently little stubs with a few leaves, I share completely in their euphoria. The very idea of growing kiwi fruit in our cool West Coast climate is boggling and beautiful. I had planned on apple trees, plum trees, blueberries, raspberries, maybe even grapes – but I had no idea that we could have productive Kiwis. Apparently we can. And here’s the skinny:

Kiwi plants are aggressive woody vines that grow to be about 20 ft. They require strong support and like all fruit, good soil along with love and attention, including regular applications of fertilizer. (Remember, you’re going to eat the fruit, so keep it organic). Kiwi plants on the West Coast are reputed to be productive as early as their second year – though this is variety dependent.

Kiwi plants are dioecious – both a male and female plant is required for fruit production. For the patient guru male flowers have stamens, and the female ones have carpels. For the rest of us, plants without flowers look identical save one distinguishing feature –

Kiwi Plant - Male

The tag. You’ll need one male and one female. And obviously, you need bees and butterflies to make sure that those flowers come in contact with one and other. If not, the plant will need your assistance. And honestly – whose got time for that! I’ve planted our kiwis near a flowering plants that the bees love so fingers are crossed for nature doing what it does best.

I’ll keep you posted!

 

Eat ALL the food – it costs less! November 16, 2009

Making Pumpkins

Making Pumpkins - first to look good, then to eat!

Over the last two years we, like so many others, have made the shift from occasionally organic to almost entirely organic.  And while this definitely requires that a larger portion of our monthly budget be attributed to food, it’s “not as bad” as we feared. Yes, it costs more to eat well.  But not as much more as we were worried that it might.

While there are a number of factors that have mitigated the potential food cost crises that plagued our fears during this transition, they all stem from a common factor – we appreciate our food more!  So we waste less.  We eat out less.  We cook from scratch more.  And we eat more directly sourced foods.  Although all of these changes are without question, monumental, I think the single most important commitment has been to waste less food.   I won’t lie – it’s a constant challenge and requires continuous thought.  But everyday is a little easier as waste-free choices become habitual.

Now to really get you all pumped on this exciting lifestyle change, here’s a super glamorous truth. Reducing waste starts with good planning. Meal planners are the super heroes of smooth running kitchens and virtually eliminate “oops I didn’t use that and now it’s a rotten pile of mush on the bottom of the veggie drawer” or “the milk has chunks” waste.  And it’s not as dull, or as tedious, as it sounds.  Actually, I love having meal planners.  I update our five-day planner before placing our grocery delivery order and before picking up groceries.  This ensures that the brocolli’s cheese sauce has a definite repurpose in tomorrow’s mac-n-cheese casserole and that the leftover brocolli makes it’s way into the following day’s frittatta.  Leftovers magically and seamlessly become new meals while saving prep time and money!  As if this weren’t enough benefit for a 10-minutes-twice-a-week task, it also virtually eliminates the what-to-make-for dinner-tonight anxiety (that is annoying at best and leads to nutritionally inferior and costly impulse buys/orders at worst) and encourages the opportunity for the kids to look at cookbook with me and to participate in the meal choices.

Obviously, there are still the occasional items that pass that best before date (and I don’t mean the one typed on the yogurt, I mean the one that is evident because now the food is gross).  If you aren’t lucky enough to have backyard chickens, then this is where the compost bin becomes essential!

Suprisingly, making a sincere effort to minimize scraps on plates at the end of meals has also significantly decreased food waste.  It’s easy to overlook the scraps here and there, but we would be remiss to do so. Plus, it’s ridiculously simple to all but eliminate scraps. The solution – dish smaller portions and encourage seconds.  We like our kids to try a few bites of everything, so generally portion a small serving of each dish and allow seconds of choice foods when the plate is clear.  In so doing, I’d say we save approximately one “lunch”‘s worth of leftovers.  If that saves me buying lunch when I’m at work, we’re up $8.

Finally, we don’t intentionally waste anything. This is best illustrated using an example. Whole chickens are one of the most economical ways to purchase organic poultry, but they are a long shot from cheap! We roast chickens about twice a month.  When we do, we enjoy a yummy dinner.  Then I cut all the left over meat off the chicken and use that either for sandwiches, chicken pot pies or chicken curry. Then I boil the carcasses, and pull the final bits of chicken off the bones for chicken soup.  Lastly, I devide the broth, half for chicken soup right away, half for broth to be frozen for future use in any number of recipes. Or taking a recent example, we roasted and ate the Halloween pumpkins (mostly as soup).

pumkins - good soup when they're done being "spooky"

pumkins - good soup when they're done being "spooky"

In addition to bolstering the pocket book, reducing the amount of food we waste works with our overall green philosophy.  For example, returning to the roasted chicken illustration, we no longer purchase icky deli meat, bouillon/stock, packaged chicken parts (like breasts) or prefab soups.  All of these choices reduce the amount of energy (be it processing, packaging, transport, or product display) that our food requires.

This isn’t novel.  My grandmas all did it.  But somehow, meal planning skipped a generation and it’s a skill that we are learning anew. It’s a good skill, and I’m glad that the monetary incentive associated with eating organic has encouraged us to revist our wasteful food habits!

 

 
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