Sunday, July 27, 2008

Whoa...dude..........take a look at this mouse......

In the absence of catnip this year, I recently decided to sow some catMINT seeds. Seeing as how my husband and I are obviously getting lots of enjoyment out of the garden, I figured it was only fair to give our two cats a little garden fun as well. I got a late start on planting the seeds, which would have liked to be in the ground earlier this spring, but they seem to have sprouted very well and are developing their true leaves.

The seedlings were finally big enough today that I decided to pluck one and give it a whirl - I have never heard of catmint before and was a bit skeptical that it would be the feline wonderdrug that catnip is. I let both Cal and Ming do some sniffing and drooling and rolling around and this is what was happened:

Fact: Catmint is indeed every bit as intoxicating as catnip.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Ruby Reds

Tonight I feel like devoting an entire segment to (what should be) the centerpiece of any garden: the tomato!

My two Sweet 100 plants have started turning the past couple weeks with this hot, hot weather. I don't think this year has been as good as last year in terms of tomatoes - last year was absolutely sweltering every single day with very little rain. Still, I've been able to cull progressively larger handfuls of little red gems from my plants as the days go by. Nothing says summer like the sugary pop of a warm, sun-drenched tomato.

Several weekends ago I acquired yet another tomato plant to fill the void in one of my containers. I'm one of those people who sees a lonely orphan plant in a greenhouse and just has to give it a home. It's actually going to be a bit of a guessing game because the variety was not labeled, so I have no idea what to expect from this little guy. I can tell it will be a larger tomato, but have no idea beyond that. He's still getting over the shock of being transplanted and he'll probably start blooming here in a little bit.

I'm waiting patiently for our favorite tomato grower at Findlay Market to set up shop for the summer. All they do is tomatoes - they sell some of the juiciest, sweetest tomatoes at the market. Their yellow cherry tomatoes are absolutely sinful.

The more I read about heirloom tomatoes the more I want to give it a whirl next year. I've shied away from growing larger tomatoes on the balcony because they just aren't as happy in the constraints of a container. I wish I had some ground space so they could spread their roots and really produce, but alas, this is what I have to work with. I'm still curious about heirlooms though, as trendy as they seem to be right now. Hell, half of the veggies I planted this year were an experiment, I'm going to have to take some different risks next year. My mind will be busy planning this winter.

Oh, the possibilities!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Feeling a Little Buggy

This week I spotted some friendly transients in the garden. Strangely enough, both of them were hanging out around the cucumber.

1.) Stinkbug, basking in the evening sun's glow:

2.) Baby praying mantis, vigilant for a tasty morning snack:

My personal favorite snack lately has been a small bowl of sliced baby cucs along with cherry tomatoes, all sprinkled with just a little salt and black pepper.

I tried yet another recipe this weekend using some homegrown zucchini and eggplant. My yellow squash weren't quite ready yet, so I reluctantly purchased some. The recipe for Mediterranean Pressed Picnic Sandwiches out of Vegetarian Times was quite a hit: grilled eggplant, zucchini, and yellow squash layered with roasted red peppers and fresh mozzarella cheese, sandwiched in between olive tapenade and pesto on ciabatta.



We packed those puppies up and headed out for a day at a local vineyard, Harmony Hill, located in Bethel, OH. I'm ashamed to say this was our first trip to a vineyard, as much as we love our wine. Harmony Hill is snugged into a hilly homegrown nook east of Cincinnati. Peach, apple, and pear trees dotted the grounds while a few lazy donkeys eyed the visitors from near the grape fields. The owners were extremely accommodating, beaming with pride and that good old small town Midwest hospitality. It's hard for me to not envision myself living on a farm like this. I can only hope and plan for a plot of my own some day.

It was a sweltering 90+ degrees outside - not the best conditions to be drinking a fair amount of wine. Needless to say, we walked away with several bottles of both red and white which we'll save for the future.
Quite a tasty and inspiring little day trip!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Groovin' in the Kitchen

Cooking is therapy.

I can be an artist - creative- and as an added bonus, at the end of the day, my belly is full. What is it about cooking for yourself that is so satisfying? Is it a link to our more primal identities, back when humans had to hunt and prepare every single thing they ate? Is it that you're doing something good for yourself, treating yourself after a long day or week? Every now and then you can't beat some good carry-out, but in all honesty, I'd much rather take an extra 15-20 minutes and make myself something healthy, fresh, and fulfilling.

I'm so tired of the state of this nation's diet and health. Fast food, Taco Bell's "fourth meal", Doritos, margarine, Splenda, trans fat, turduckens, I'm sick of it all. Give me food that is pure and real - food you've prepared from start to finish. The renewed interest in gardening and fresh eating, not to mention the emphasis on eating less meat, has really spoken to me. Granted, it takes an enormous amount of time (and $$$) to eat a truthful diet, and I'm just as guilty of eating processed foods, but it's empowering to have a culinary identity.

I have a cozy habit of making a nice dinner on Sunday nights. Not sure where I picked this up, but I find that it's nice to have at least one good meal a night to look forward to and plan for. Some weekends I cook more than others, and this weekend saw me in the kitchen for several hours.

Saturday night I made my previously-mentioned Red Beet Salad with Orange Vinaigrette, in addition to a Fusilli, Zucchini, Corn, and Pesto dish. I wanted to use my first zucchini from the garden. This is a perfect classy summer entree - I'd definitely make it for guests:

Tonight I made another new dish: Middle Eastern Couscous Salad with Feta and Mint. Another refreshing dish that combines many of the wonderful tastes of summer. Think mint, cumin, coriander, jalapeno, garlic, tomatoes, edamame, olives, and lemon...

I spotted the first two crookedneck yellow squash this morning. It looks like they'll both be blooming in the next day or two...exciting!

Monday, July 7, 2008

A Little Bit O'This, A Little Bit O'That

It seems like every day there's something new a-popping.

Over the weekend I picked and cooked up the first eggplant, and boy was he a beaut':

I made my previously-mentioned eggplant parmesean hoagies - YUM. I can't say that I make fried food that often, but that one-or-so time per year is totally worth it, even if the apartment does smell like a greasy-spoon diner for the next week.

I also gleaned the first handful of cherry tomatoes today. The pinnacle of my garden every year is that first juicy sweet pop of a sun-drenched tomato. I can't believe how many little greenies there are on the vine...we're going to be eating tomatoes for the next couple months (not that I have ANY problem with that). It's a good thing I caged the plants this year - they're having enough trouble already just trying to stay upright under all that weight.

The jalapenos are finally big enough to pick - time to really start heating things up in the kitchen:

There are about 10 baby cucs on the cucumber plants. Lastly, I spotted my first zucchini today after weeks of vigilance:

I feel like a bee with all the pollinating I've been doing. It's not that I don't trust the bees, butterflies, and other bugs out there to get the job done, but I'd be crestfallen if, after all this anticipation, the little guys dried up and fell off just because there wasn't any pollinating going on. I'm just an anxious mama I guess - yet another reason there are no kids in our future. I worry enough about everything else in my life, having an actual human being to worry about would kill me.

I'll stick to my husband, the cats, and my garden, thank you very much - they're enough of a handful as it is.