Monday, May 30, 2011

Gardening Adventures - Week 9

I know, it's been too long since I've been on here. My garden is still growing, albeit rather slowly.

I transplanted my broccoli, jalapenos, and onions. My onions are doing ok, but like everything else, growth is slow.

Most of my broccoli died, but I have three little sprouts that hung on for dear life, and they are getting more leaves and growing a bit, but are still just sprouts. I'm still hopeful.

The peppers...they seem to be stuck, not growing but not dying. Not sure what to think about that.

My corn is still growing, but not near harvest yet.

My carrots I thinned a little, and they are doing great.

The pumpkins are still slow growing, but steady.

My soybeans finally have teeny, tiny buds on them and may flower this week.

The best of all are the purple beans, which have lovely flowers coming out now and are by far the healthiest things in the garden (besides the weeds).

I also found purslane growing in both front and back yards, which makes me happy (I'm on a bit of an edible weed kick lately).

Oh, and the craziest part: the rose bushes we tore out of the ground to make room for the garden.

We tore them out and shoved them (in pieces) behind the a/c unit, and it has apparently re-planted itself there and is thriving! I guess life really does find a way :)

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Free-Rangin' at the Park

For those of you who may not know, aside from being the last day of the Earth's existence (haha, yeah, that was totally sarcasm), today was also the second annual "Take Our Children to the Park...and Leave Them There Day." Of course, being the parent of free-range children that I am, I participated, albeit in a modified way, in this mini-holiday.

Wait, wait, now before you call CPS...NO, I did NOT leave my two children, ages 25 months and 10 months, at the park by themselves.

Actually, I did what I do every time I take them to the park: I sat down on the grass and let them go off and play by themselves. Ruby never goes far - she plays in the grass or eats the dirt, or what have you, lost in her own little world and happy as a lark. Leonidas goes off to play on the playground equipment, climbing up the steps, rings, chains, bars, and slides...then climbing or sliding down, and doing this over and over and over again, happy as can be. So I suppose, this was really no different than any other day at the park. It just had purpose.

I wondered how many others were there under the same pretense. There did seem to be an unusual amount of parent-less children running about, but I had never been to this particular park, so that could have been the norm. As soon as we got there, he was befriended by an eight-year-old named Marilyn, who became his mother-for-the-day. He had so much fun! He learned a lot from Marilyn - how to climb up the ladder, how to go down the slide without scraping his stomach (after scraping his stomach the first time), and how to slow himself down on the swings without falling off.

In addition, for the first time in the history of his two years of park-going experience...Leonidas fell off the playground equipment!

Haha, it was fabulous! Don't worry, he's fine. He was fine within one minute of falling. He would have been fine without me, although I walked over to him anyway to make him feel more secure. He was climbing down the metal ladder, and had only gotten down one rung from the top before he tried to reach the next rung, found he was too short, and slipped off, falling down to the bottom level of the whole contraption. He landed well, didn't hit his head, and his "new mother" was instantly there, and eight-year-old savior, to apologize for not being there and to make sure he was not hurt. I held him for a minute, sat down with him, and after another minute, he was off...climbing the ladder again. Guess what - he learned what NOT to do when climbing up and down the ladder, and climbed it flawlessly at least a dozen times before we finally went home. On the way home, he told me, "My fall on the slide." "You fell off the slide at the park?" I asked him. "Yeah," he said, "my fall. My got hurt on the slide. My ok now. My happy." I think that pretty much summed it up.

I'm glad he had fun at the park with his friends. I'm glad he fell. I'm glad he learned from it with no permanent damage done, and I'm glad he's smarter and stronger from the experience. Of course, it HURTS me to see my babies get hurt, even for a moment. But it's so amazing when they come out of it healthy, strong, and above all, HAPPY. I am thankful for the opportunity to be able to give my child a lifetime of free-range moments of learning and laughter. And who knows, maybe next year when he's three, he'll be able to take the bus to the park himself, buy lunch for all his friends, then find a kindly-looking stranger to give him a ride home...

Totally kidding.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Garlic-Parmesan Potatoes au Gratin

This pairs wonderfully with Herb-Braised Chicken.

Garlic-Parmesan Potatoes au Gratin

5-10 medium potatoes
2 cups of milk
1/2 - 1 cup Parmesan cheese
3 garlic cloves
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil

Slice potatoes in 1/4-inch slices. Prepare a 12-inch square baking pan by cutting a clove of garlic in half and rubbing the cut side all over the inside of the pan. Let dry, then rub the inside of the pan with olive oil. In a medium saucepan, combine potatoes, milk, garlic, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for 5 minutes, until slightly thickened. Pour into prepared pan and sprinkle with Parmesan. Bake, uncovered, at 400F for 45-60 minutes.

Herb-Braised Chicken

This was part of a delicious dinner I cooked earlier this week. I haven't been doing a lot of creative cooking lately, and this was a pretty standard meat-potatoes-vegetable dinner that still managed to taste extraordinary.

Herb-Braised Chicken

2 Chicken breasts (boneless, skinless)
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 small onion, chopped
1 handful of fresh basil leaves, chopped
1 handful of fresh parsley leaves, chopped
4 sun-dried tomato halves, soaked in 1 cup warm water
10 pistachios, shelled and coarsely chopped
2 Tbsp. pine nuts, coarsely chopped
1 cup water

Begin by soaking the tomato halves in warm water. While they soak, chop herbs, onion, and nuts, and trim fat from chicken breast, if desired. Heat olive oil in a skillet with a lid. Saute onion and herbs for a few minutes until onion begins to soften and herbs wilt. Add chicken and cover. Cook 3-5 minutes until browned on one side. Flip to other side and cook, with lid on, another 3-5 minutes until the second side is browned. Add the soaking water from the tomatoes plus 1 more cup of water. Cover and cook until chicken is fully cooked (about 10 minutes). Replace water if it gets dry. Slice into thin slices and sprinkle with chopped pistachios, pine nuts, and tomatoes. Serve with garlic-parmesan potatoes au gratin.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

A New Way to Taste the Rainbow :)

What better way to make sure you get all your colorful fruits and vegetables than to drink them?! Just so I know I'm getting a well-rounded share of nutrients, I decided I'm going to have a different color juice every day of the week. I made all my juices for two weeks and put one week's store in the freezer. I've got green, yellow, orange, red, and purple, plus white (coconut milk) and a random mixture for day seven. Here's my beautiful rainbow:

Green Juice:
1/2 cucumber
1 apple
1 pear
1 handful spinach
1 handful carrot tops
Juice of 1 lime

Puree in blender on highest speed with enough water to blend. Strain through muslin cloth and add water to make 4 cups.

Yellow Juice:
1 mango
1/2 pineapple
Juice of 2 lemons

Puree in blender on highest speed with enough water to blend. Do not strain. Add water to make 4 cups.

Orange Juice:
2 carrots
1 mango
Juice of 3 oranges

Puree in blender on highest speed with enough water to blend. Strain through muslin cloth and add water to make 4 cups.

Red Juice:
1 beet
1 cup raspberries
10 strawberries
1/2 cup cranberry juice
Juice of half a lemon

Puree in blender on highest speed with enough water to blend. Strain through a fine mesh sieve and add water to make 4 cups. Add agave nectar to taste, if desired.

Purple Juice:
1 packet frozen acai pulp
1/2 cup raspberries
1 cup blueberries
5 strawberries

Puree in blender on highest speed with enough water to blend. Strain through a fine mesh sieve and add water to make 4 cups.

Roast Pork with Sake-Beet Reduction

This was last night's dinner, and it was a roaring success! The only objection I can think of is that it kind of looks like the pork is bleeding, lol. It could maybe use a little thickening, but with what, I'm not quite sure. Maybe I'll tinker a little. Anyway, here it is:

Roast Port with Sake-Beet Reduction

1 Pork Loin Roast
2-3 fresh beets
1/4 cup Sake
1 Lemon
Granulated Garlic
2 Tbsp. Butter

Preheat oven to 450F. Rub roast with salt, pepper, and garlic to taste. Place in roasting pan and roast for 30 minutes. Turn oven down to 250F and roast until thermometer inserted in several places in roast reads 155F, about 60 to 90 minutes. Remove roast from oven and let it rest, loosely covered, 15 minutes. While pork is roasting, peel beets and blend in blender with 1 cup water until pureed. Strain through a muslin cloth. Gently boil (being careful that it does not boil over) until reduced by half. Add salt to taste and juice of half a lemon (reserving the other half for garnish). When roast is out of oven, add the pan juices to the beet sauce, along with sake. Boil gently for 10 minutes. Turn off heat and add butter, stirring to melt and thicken sauce slightly. Serve over pork.

Here's the finished product: