The Backyard

The Backyard

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Eggplant Parmesan

New this year for both of us, is eggplant. I never really grew it before, but read about it in articles on healthy foods, and there are plenty of recipes in my favorite cookbooks. The variety I got this year grows like a zuchinni -- long and skinny. My mom was moaning she likes the fat ones to make eggplant parmesan, but you can make it with the skinny fruit too. Two recipes turned out exceptionally well: Ratatoulie and Eggplant parmesan. The parmesan was super easy - slice 3 eggplants, put in a covered bowl, drizzle with 3 tbspns olive oil and garlic (whatever you use -- fresh, powder, etc). Shake the bowl to cover the eggplant slices, then spread on a cookie sheet and bake for 20 minutes. Take out, put in casserole dish, cover with a small jar of spaghetti sauce and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Pop in oven long enough for the spaghetti to finish. And then there's the simple classic fried vege's -- whatever you have and we're now enjoying frying onion, zuchinni, eggplant, pepper, and a couple tomatoes are getting ripe and can be thrown in. I just said to Rick tonight, there's nothing like dinner from the garden. Its the best -- inexpense, fresh, and organic. I know exactly where the seeds came from and how the plant was grown. Nothing like it. Of course its nice to have the time to harvest and cook too now that I'm not constantly training to race.

Summer Romance

Growing season starts to get out of hand this time of year -- constant mowing of grassing, forever pulling weeds, and if you aren't careful, some of the plants just love growing as big as they can and before you know it, you're chopping them off. I had the pleasure last weekend of cutting off and pulling out several vines and plants that simply outgrew their britches. The candidates that got haircuts include the butternut squash vines which decided to completely consume my rose garden, leaving not even a path to walk through. The milkweed tends to grow IN the brick walkway rather than next to it (by the way, I grow milkweed as a perenniel directly in my front yard just for the monarch butterflies). And the tomatoes! I have 10 plants that are hanging thick with green fruit that when they start ripening, I'll be canning for a week which is exactly what I decided to do -- take a week's vacation in September to can tomatoes. Oh...almost forgot the zuchinni which consumed two pepper plants (but I had 14 other pepper plants to take their place -- no love loss there!). And Rick's not to fond of the Wisteria which sends out shoots that attache themselves nicely to the gingerbread work on the porch AND up UNDER the siding. But the bees LOVE the blooms in the spring, so the vine is here to stay. Lots more posts coming: plant feature - HOPS and I want to talk a little more about the milkweed as a perenniel.

Friday, July 25, 2008

If I Were a Vegetarian...

Well, I was vegetarian, and I try to be now, but sometimes there are animal-products we can't avoid. If you've been reading my link to "Healthy Chili" you read about my bike accident in June and the fate of two front teeth. Next week I start the process of getting implants in place of those two teeth which begins with extracting the remaining roots and chips of those teeth, then bone grafting is done in preparation for the implants in a couple months. I never thought much about the bone grafting until my boss says, "what kind of bone are they using?" What?! They use bone from something other than me?! Shit.. Now it gets freaky and if I was still a die-hard vegetarian leaning toward vegan ways, I'd be having a shit-fit and would opt for false teeth. My periodontist does NOT use bone from my own jaw, he uses cadaver bone (yes there are human bone banks!) or bovine! Cow bones in my teeth! YUK! They actually have better luck with bovine in getting the human bone tissue to grow. I did NOT want to know I might be getting cow bone in my mouth. If I was vegan, I'd have Polident ready and waiting. This is one of those things I simply can't think about.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

But why should we buy Organic?

That's a question that was posed to me this past weekend... "what makes organic produce better. Why should I buy it?" Of course there's the obvious reasons that I mentioned...the reduction of chemical and pesticide use. But the part that really sold the inquirer was my comment on nutrient and mineral depletion in the soil from chemical use/abuse/bad farming practices; thus nutrient and mineral depletion in the produce. The person asking was an earth science teacher, and he totally understood what I was talking about and he now "gets" the organic movement. I think we have another believer. It got me thinking about the stores... maybe they should have some sort of educational brochure on why buy organic? Oh that's right, it makes it look bad for the non-organic; kinda of like the milk labeling issue that's been going on.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

How Well Does Your Garden Grow

Zucchini season is here. We are about to be invaded with a gazillion zucchini. Luckily, there's just as many people who like zucchini and varied recipes to try this magnificent plant. I planted yellow zucchini last year and mother had a fit. So this year I was sure to get the green kind and its totally organic. She'll love it. I had thought my pepper plants looked weak -- that maybe the roots were stunted by the coco fiber pots they were grown and planted in. NOT. There's baby peppers on them! So in my haste a couple weeks ago, I threw down some pepper plant seeds just to make sure we had peppers this summer, and all of them sprouted too! I'm lucky we freeze a bunch, my mom freezes a bunch, my sister in law likes peppers, AND I have a bunch of friends at work that will surely take a couple peppers if offered. The tomatoes are interesting too. I'm calling them my surprise tomatoes this year cause I have no idea what I'm getting. All I know is I have 10 plants that are starting to bear fruit and have consumed their cages. They were a variety pack of organic heirloom seeds with no description of what each seed was. So I picked 10 seeds that appeared to be from a variety of plants, and we'll see what we have in a couple weeks. They certainly are healthy, vibrant plants. All the beets were pulled and pickled, and the compost is getting fed to the pepper plants this weekend. A 2nd batch of compost was started and I hope to get a 3rd started shortly so I have one last batch finished before fall comes. The Eggplant is doing its thing and we may have fried eggplant next weekend at the rate it's growing. The Butternut Squash plants are a healthy crop too. They were planted in an unusual spot -- in the center of the rose garden. My mom thinks they will take over -- they might! And lastly, the cantelope plants are vining like crazy. I had to laugh at my mom last year. She was growing some canning tomato plants, and when I planted the cantelope next to them, and the vines started growing into her tomato plants, she was concerned the vines would kill her maters. She was funny. Cantelope vines can be viscious... they ended up growing up and over the fence that surrounds them. But the lopes were delightful tasting so it didn't matter what a mess they made.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

The Best Sunscreen

I never thought twice about slathering on sunscreen other than is there enough SPF. But more and more studies are coming out proving many are laced with chemical ingredients (we knew that). But the part I like is they are ALSO giving reports of the best sunscreens available based on natural ingredients, organic ingredients, and lack of chmicals. My vote went to BADGER Sunscreen and I got both the 30 and 15 spf. It was expensive as hell ($16.00 for 2.9 oz!), but was worth every cent knowing its natural and organic. There's something special about slathering on organic plant oils and smelling like a big lavendar plant. Ha. Love it. I gave a tube to my mom and she stopped to visit and I was thinking to myself, what is that delightful smell -- oh that's right, its the sunscreen!

Here's a great link to the best sunscreens available. My vote is still Badger. Ordering directly from the company is easy, fast. Still a little salty, but worth every cent.