THE FIRST SALAD OF THE SEASON – #GARDENLOVE

IMG_0648We rolling in lettuce right now. Radishes are beautiful and tasty, too. My husband planted a variety of radishes, and the taste differences are subtle, but none of them are bitter as sometimes happens with older radishes.

I’m amazed at how fast the garden is growing. I’ll soon be pulling down the canning equipment from the attic and buying new jars to put up sauces, pickles, and relishes. I didn’t pack our canning jars from Pittsburgh — too much to move as it was. Time to stock up on freezer bags, too, for peas and beans that will surely come on quickly and soon.

The photo on the left was taken March 20, and the one of the right I took this morning, May 5. It’s a lovely, yet shocking, surprise. I guess my northern gardener adapted to gardening in the mountains with ease.

The bed with straw on top in the photo on the right is planted with approximately twenty-eight asparagus plants that arrived via mail the other day. We have to wait two years to enjoy their bounty.

Today, he’s building the last of the beds, and I’ve asked him to hold off on planting anything there. Fat chance. He has winter squash in pots ready for the ground. At least, I won’t have to deal with preserving those because they should store all winter long once harvested.

We went to the local farmer’s market on Saturday to see what others were offering in local food. They had about the same things we did. I should look into getting my own table at the market for later this spring.

How’s your gardening growing?

 

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From Seed to Table is FREE on Kindle through May 7, 2016. Grab your copy by clicking on photo or if you’d prefer the paperback, click here.

 

 

 

GRILLED PIZZA WITH VINE-RIPENED TOMATOES!

Seed 99 cents smallerFrom my gardening book From Seed to Table, here’s one of my favorite recipes when the tomatoes are overflowing the kitchen window sills. I miss having our garden this year, but thank goodness for local food markets and farmers markets. And to celebrate the harvest, you can download the book for only $0.99 on Kindle by clicking here???????????????????????????????

Grilled Pizza

This recipe is one I’ve been perfecting over the past several years, and it’s best made with the freshest of tomatoes from the garden. Pizza is personal. I’m sharing my personal recipe, but you may find other toppings you like better.

Just like with pie, it all starts with the crust. You can buy pizza dough, but this recipe is pretty basic and easy to make.

Pizza dough

1 pkg. dry yeast

1 cup warm water

1 tsp brown sugar

1 tsp salt

2 ½ cups flour (all unbleached white or use half white and half whole wheat)

Olive oil

Beat yeast, sugar, and water until well blended. Let rest for a few minutes. Add salt and flour and mix until dough forms. Knead on floured board until smooth (three-five minutes). Place in a warm bowl coated with olive oil. Cover with damp towel and leave in a warm spot. Allow to rise until dough doubles (approximately an hour). Punch down dough and roll into oblong roll on floured board. (I usually cut dough in half and place one portion in a freezer bag and freeze). Cut into ten to twelve (full dough recipe) or five to six pieces and roll each into a ball.

Roll out each ball into a thin circle, approximately six inches in diameter and place on cookie coated with olive oil. The smaller the individual pizzas, the easier it will be to put them on the grill. Grill at 400 degrees Fahrenheit on side with oil for two minutes or until a crust forms on the one side.

The trickiest part of the whole process is making sure the crusts don’t burn on the grill. You know your grill best. I’ve learned to do this by trial and error and mostly by hovering near the grill and watching.

After one side is grilled, make sure cookie sheet is still coated with olive oil and place crusts back on the cookie sheet with grilled side up. You are now ready to put the ingredients on top of the grilled side.

Pizza toppings

(For six pizzas – double if using full recipe of dough)

3-4 medium tomatoes, thinly sliced

2-3 cloves of garlic, minced

½ cup fresh basil, chopped

8 oz. feta cheese, crumbled

1 sweet or hot banana pepper, seeded and thinly sliced

8 oz. mozzarella cheese

Parmesan, salt, and pepper to taste

Place sliced tomatoes on the grilled side of crust. Sprinkle minced garlic evenly on top of tomatoes to taste. Salt and pepper the tomatoes to taste. Sprinkle basil and feta over tomatoes. Put on peppers. Finish with the mozzarella cheese. You’re now ready to put back on the hot grill.

You must be very careful at this point so you don’t burn the bottom of the crusts. Again, I’ve had to learn from practice. For my gas grill (which is very old), this method works the best. I put the pizzas on the hot grill and shut the cover leaving burners on high. After 2-3 minutes (without opening the lid), I turn off the grill and let the pizzas sit while the grill cools down. After 20 minutes, the cheese is melted and the crusts are not burned. Sometimes I put the pizzas on the cookie sheet and place under the broiler for one minute to ensure a bubbly cheesy top. Sprinkle the finished product with Parmesan cheese.

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Final task: ENJOY!!!!!

Suffer the Garden

By Patricia Zick @PCZick

kitchen sink

kitchen window

We’ve been having a time with the weather so far this summer. For several weeks, the weather was hotter here in western Pennsylvania than in Florida. Then two weeks ago, the rains began. Our property sits on a plateau above the Ohio River and often our weather is different from what is reported on the local news station twenty miles away in Pittsburgh. This past week, we received heavy rainfall that wasn’t even recorded in the totals around the region. The weatherman said today that we’re double the average amount of July rainfall already. We might be triple that where we live.

Tomatoes do not enjoy soggy weather. They do best in dry soil. Right now, some are rotting on the vine. My husband must be vigilant in picking them before they fall. Also, we’re getting lots and lots of bugs on all the plants. Short of spraying with pesticides, we’re a little flummoxed with how to handle this invasion on everything from the raspberries to potatoes.

Alas, we do not starve. We’re eating something fresh almost every night. This past weekend I made our favorite bread and butter pickle chips.DSC02683Some of our plants love this weather.DSC02687 DSC02688Any suggestions for the bug situation that is wholesome for all living things? Hope your garden is producing and you’re enjoying the bounty of summer. Remember to eat local while the getting is good – local farmers’ markets are thriving right now.

For all your gardening needs - available on Kindle for $2.99

For all your gardening needs – available on Kindle for $2.99

The Challenge: Eat one meal per week made from local food

By P.C. Zick@PCZick

The thumbs and hands of a gardener are not green, but brown from the soil encrusted on them after planting a flat of tomato seedlings.

My husband Robert grows food for our table, and when it overflows the plates, I find a way to preserve the abundance for the months when the garden lies beneath the white stuff.

I’m not sure we save money because the seeds, manure, sand, mulch, organic fertilizers all cost. The electricity to can and freeze the vegetables runs up the utility bill. The water to sterilize the equipment may not be in the best interest of conserving that precious resource.

But that doesn’t matter when the first tomato ripens on the vine and nirvana exists on our taste buds. What price can be put on the taste of freshly picked spinach lightly steamed and tossed with butter, salt and pepper? Last year I ran out of our preserved tomato sauce and used canned sauce to make marinara sauce. The tinny flavor and red water consistency did not make up for the fact I bought that can on sale for 75 cents. Give me my sauce made solely with food we grew from the fresh herbs to onions to peppers to garlic and infused into our crushed yellow and red tomatoes any day, at any cost. No price can be placed on the value of knowing where that food came from and knowing how it was made.

The U.S. Census Bureau says nearly a quarter of us grow some our own food. Some of us make an effort to get down to the local farmer’s market whenever they open for the season. But still too far many of us have no idea where our food came from and what has been done to it. I don’t have enough space or time to go into those details here, but thankfully author Barbara Kingsolver gives us the details in her 2007 book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.

As our garden grows into its summer’s fullness, I’m reading Kingsolver’s nonfiction book, written with assistance from her daughter and husband. It is a memoir of gardeners and farmers and serves as a primer for agricultural history and food basics.

Our garden provides us with sustenance and satisfaction and the knowledge of filling our bodies with home grown goodness.But Animal, Vegetable, Miracle points out another good reason to eat locally as much as possible. The production of food, from the ground to our table, expends 400 gallons per person per year of oil. That’s 17 percent of our total energy use. Every step along the way to bring us the Jolly Green Giant uses petroleum in some form. If everyone committed to eating just one meal – any meal – per week that comes from locally and organically raised meats and produce, we could reduce our country’s oil consumption by 1.1 million barrels (not gallons) of oil per week, according to Kingsolver’s husband and co-contributor, Steven L. Hopp.

Now that is something to chew on and swallow.

Could you eat one meal per week consisting of food right from your backyard or neighborhood?