Baby food made easy

The garden has been a source of energy, nutrition, and joy for me and my husband. When we had a baby, it became so much more. It is a place to teach our child about the ecosystem of life, real food, colors, textures, and responsibility. And as our baby begins to eat solid foods, the garden has provided the majority of his nutrients. I can’t think of a better source of food than the fruit and vegetables grown in our own backyard. dsc_0117

You might be thinking, “are you serious?” First, you want me to find the time to make baby food and on top of that, you want me to grow the vegetables and fruits? Of course not! But maybe.. a little bit. How about I provide a few easy baby food recipes for 6+ month olds. Maybe you try these and then realize you can grow most of the vegetables in the recipes and decide to try gardening? Just throwing it out there!

In all reality, I didn’t quite know what foods/recipes to start with for my baby, so below are a few ideas that have worked for us. As to how this relates to gardening? Children are one more reason to try growing food, even a pot of tomatoes. Whether they are babies, toddlers, or teens they can learn from being a part of the gardening experience and hopefully build a love for real food straight from the dirt. dsc_0113

If you are certain that you don’t want an edible garden, sign up for a CSA or head to the Farmer’s Market to gather these vegetables and fruits. Include your child in the experience so that they can develop an appreciation for their food. 

My top 6 baby food recipes for 6+ months

When making baby food, my goal is to make a lot of it at one time. Prep all of the ingredients, and then combine them in different ways to create a variety of purées and finger foods, then store and/or freeze.

Your grocery shopping / garden harvesting list for the following recipes:

1 bunch kale – wash, tear into smaller pieces (remove from stem), steam

2 pears – peel and cut into chunks (no need to steam)

5 large carrots – if organic / from the garden I do not peel, wash, cut into small chunks, steam

1 can white/ great northern beans – wash and drain

1/2 cup lentils (uncooked) – cook in broth (vegetable or chicken or whateverdsc_0107 you have on hand)

1 apple – peel, cut into chunks, steam

2 handfuls of green beans – wash and steam

1 bunch of spinach – wash and steam

2 beets – peel, wash, cut into chunks, and steam

1 banana and/or 1 cup frozen/fresh blueberries – no prep needed

Once you have prepared these items, you can mix and match to create the recipes below. The allocated amount of each ingredient is a rough estimate. Feel free to add however much you want of each of the prepared ingredients above. The below assumes that you have already peeled, washed, steamed, etc.

Carrots, kale, pear purée
½ of the prepared kale 
1 pear
1/2 of the prepared carrots dsc_0100

Lentils, carrots, white bean purée
½ cup lentils
1 can white beans
1/2 of the prepared carrots 

Carrot purée or finger food
If you have leftover carrots, either keep as steamed chunks for baby finger food or purée and add a little cinnamon.

Spinach, apple purée
½ of the prepared spinach
1 apple

Green beans, pear, kale and/or spinach purée
Prepared green beans 
½ to 1 pear
Any remaining kale and/or spinach

Beets, blueberries, banana purée (Beets are recommended for 8+ months)
Prepared beets 
1 banana and/or 1 cup blueberries

Always feel free to add cinnamon, sage, mint and other spices to the purées for some added flavor.

This will make a lot of food, prepare to freeze and store it.

You can easily make these recipes by steaming the fruits and vegetables in a pot and blending them together in any blender. However, if you want to get fancy, I recommend this all-in-one BEABA Babycook – Sorbet baby cooker.

Freezing and storing baby food

When you are first starting solid foods, your child may eat closer to 2 ounces per meal. As you near 8-9 months your child may be eating closer to 4 ounces+ per meal. 

I recommend to have a variety of 2 and 4 ounce storage containers. These OXO Tot containers are great for storing and freezing OXO Tot 12-Piece Baby Blocks Set

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If you do make all of the food above, you will most likely need more containers to freeze the food. In this case, I love these Fresh Baby So Easy Baby Food and Breast Milk Trays

Or of course, just a good ol’ ice cube tray works perfect Kitch Easy Release White Ice Cube Tray, 16 Cube Trays (Pack of 4)

If you use ice cube trays, when the food is frozen, remove it from the trays and put into ziplock bags. Label the bags with the recipe name and date you prepared the food.

When you need the food, put the cubes into a bowl or into reusable food pouches. There are double zippers at the bottom of this pouch, Reusable Food Pouch (6 Pack – Medium) – Easy to Fill and Clean – Double Zipper Means No Leaking – Perfect for Homemade and Organic Baby Food – Suitable for Babies, Toddlers and Kids of All Ages, to insert the frozen food cubes or fill directly with fresh food and then freeze.

Lastly, if you are feeling inspired and want to get a little fancy with your baby food making, check out this cookbook Bébé Gourmet: 100 French-Inspired Baby Food Recipes For Raising an Adventurous Eater

I hope this post gives you a little inspiration to try making your own baby food and even more so, include your child in the food experience. Whether that be growing food, exploring a Farmer’s Market, or cooking together. There is so much to learn from food and it is more fun to enjoy it together!img_4858

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Winter squash + pumpkin recipes and planting

Confession: I totally missed the memo on planting winter squash. I was so focused on summer squash, that I wasn’t even thinking about growing my own fall decorations and more importantly, delicious fall and winter food. dsc_0087

So here we are, in the midst of fall and all of its glory. With Halloween right around the corner, pumpkins line patio steps and apartment balconies, and grocery bins are bursting with squash and pumpkins. And I suddenly realize that I want winter squash, of every kind, to line my steps, to spice up my fall decor, and of course, to eat!

Note to self: Plant winter squash and pumpkins (and gourds) next year (you should too). They are easy to grow and inexpensive (but do require some space).

What to plant:

  • Winter squash: acorn, delicata, butternut, and hubbard
  • Pumpkins: for carving and sugar pumpkins for eating
  • Gourds: if you have spacedsc_0086

When to plant: Direct seed in mid May. Winter squash need more time to mature than summer squash. You can also direct seed to grow your own transplants.

Reality check: We are well past May, so the opportunity to grow winter squash has passed, but it is added to the list for next year. The good news! Winter squash and pumpkins are readily available at the Farmer’s Market, Pumpkin Patches, and the grocery store.

NOW, getting to the actual motivation for this post – I encourage you to decorate for fall, Halloween, and Thanksgiving with winter squash and sugar pumpkins. They are beautiful, provide bold color, and the best part, when you are done using them as your autumn flair, you can eat them! So your decorations don’t go to waste. 

I have compiled a list of my favorite recipes that use an array of winter squash varieties and pumpkins. Check these out for some inspiration. 

Recipes for winter squash and pumpkins:dsc_0091

Winter Squash Pancakes with Crispy Sage and Brown Butter from Smitten Kitchen
Squash: you can use any variety
Are you kidding me? Pancakes for dinner?! Really they are for any time of day. Yummy!
Smitten Kitchen is an all time favorite of mine, check out her fabulous cookbook: The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook: Recipes and Wisdom from an Obsessive Home Cook.  

Slow Cooker Butternut Squash + Apple Soup from The Natural Nurturer
Squash: Butternut
Slow cooker? Say no more! Any recipe using my crockpot is worth trying – nothing better than the smell of dinner when you walk in the door after a long day! Not to mention healthy and delicious.
I have been following The Natural Nurturer for her easy, wholesome recipes that are intentionally crafted to be healthy, delicious, and family friendly. Check her out!

Chicken Sausage + Kale Stuffed Squash from Simply Real Health
Squash: Delicata
Not only is this recipe sweet and savory, but it is easy and healthy. Plus, 100% seasonal! I am still growing carrots and kale, and just finished harvesting my zucchini. You can find all of these ingredients at your local Farmer’s Market right now.
Sarah from Simply Real Health is the Queen of healthy, wholesome, tasty recipes that are designed for the seasons, so you can truly eat real food farm to table. Check out her cookbook: The Simply Real Health Cookbook: Easy Real Food Recipes For a Healthy Life, Made Simple.

Roast Pumpkin with Honey and Feta from Not Quite Nigella
Squash: any variety
I love this recipe – so simple and flavorful and you can apply it to any variety of squash or pumpkin.

Warm Winter Kale and Delicata Squash Salad with Maple Vinaigrette from Do You Even Paleo?
Squash: Delicata
Everyone needs a “go to” warm, delicious fall and winter inspired salad. Plus, if you still have kale in the garden, you can use that too!

Classic Baked Acorn Squash from Simple Recipes
Squash: Acorn
So simple and easy and NEVER disappoints. Pairs perfectly with just about anything. Plus, it is even a good leftover! Full of nutrients, regardless of the yummy brown sugar and butter.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds Six Ways from Wholefully
Pumpkin
Whatever you do, don’t forget to roast your pumpkin seeds. I personally prefer the basic olive oil + salt. But may have to give one of these six other options a try this year!

What are your favorite recipes using winter squash and/or pumpkins? Please share!

And come May 2017, don’t forget to plant your winter squash!

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How to put your garden to bed

Just last weekend, I had the opportunity to take my very first Seattle Tilth veggie gardening class. It was awesome! It really hit me that I truly love gardening, actually love it so much that I get amped up talking about the soil ecosystem. I know I’m excited about something when I actually arrive early, and it did not disappoint.img_5862

I chose to take this class “Put Your Garden to Bed” because I always struggle with actually knowing when to call it quits and how to make the most of my garden during the winter. This class provided a plethora of knowledge, but to keep it simple, check out my key takeaways specific to a garden in the Pacific Northwest.

Soil is everything. I have said it before and I will say it again and again, the health of the soil ecosystem directly correlates to the health of the plants. Healthy soil is full of organisms that convert organic matter and compost into nutrients for plants. It is important to continue to build this ecosystem in the winter months. All of the takeaways listed below are recommended with the end goal of maintaining and building healthy soil through the winter months.

Remove warm season crops, keep cool season crops. This was my biggest question going into the class, which vegetables do I need to finish harvesting and remove and which ones can I continue to grow through the winter months?dsc_0025

  • Remove: warm season crops such as beans, tomatoes, squash, peas, basil, peppers, cucumbers, celery, and onions. These need to be harvested and removed as soon as possible in order to seed a cover crop, garlic, and/or shallots.
  • Keep: cool season crops such as kale, lettuce, leeks, beets, and carrots. These are much easier to keep if you protect with floating row cover or a hoop house + row cover. Also, it is important to continue to harvest these cool season crops and not let them sit in the dirt the entire winter as they could rot due to the increased wetness.

Remove any plants that have disease. If you have a plant with a disease, you need to completely move this plant off site. If you live in the PNW, this means to put it into yard waste and not a compost pile. Take it off the property.

Plant a cover crop. This is the money maker! Remember how “soil is everything”? Cover crops not only protect the soil from the impact of the rain, but they inject organic matter and nutrients into the soil, while also hosting a bacterial ecosystem during months when this can become dormant. The best part, cover crops are so easy to plant!

Like anything, there are a million different types of cover crops for different goals, check out this list. However, to keep it simple, just find a soil builder mix, basically a blend of cover crops, and sprinkle this on your soil. Cover with some dirt, water, and let it grow.

dsc_0035About 4 weeks before you plant your spring vegetable seeds, you need to chop back the cover crops and put them into the soil. Basically, use a shovel to chop them up and turn them into the soil. If possible, cover with a burlap sack so that the cover crops compost faster, injecting an abundance of organic matter and nutrients into the soil. Yay!

Plant garlic, shallots, and fava beans. You can grow a few vegetables in the winter months. You need to get these in the ground now. Check out this post about planting garlic.

Mulch. Your warm season and diseased crops have been removed, your cover crop and garlic, shallots, and/or fava beans are planted. Now, you can add mulch to help keep soil temperatures a little warmer. There are several types of mulch, learn more here. I plan to use straw to protect my cool season crop and garlic. you do not need to use mulch on the cover crops. dsc_0027

There you have it, your checklist for wrapping up the garden season and making the most of your garden during the winter months. It is best to do all of this now, in the month of October. So get to it!

My last takeaway – take a class at Seattle Tilth. From veggie gardening to composting 101 to making herbal salves, there is something for everyone. It is always a good time to learn and try something new.

Check out this Crimson Clover cover crop sprouting between tomato plants. dsc_0032

October garden to-do list

This post is for both active gardeners and those of you that want to start a garden or grow something. As much as we are starting to wrap up the 2016 gardening season, there is still plenty to be harvested, seeded, and prepped for the current season and next season (Spring 2017).

Here is your October checklist (according to my checklist):

  •  Harvest your Fall crop! And remove plants that have been fully harvested. This includes pumpkins and winter squash. I plan to leave leak and carrots in the ground at least through October, if not November. dsc_0031
  • Leave bean and pea roots in the soil. I recently read NOT to remove the entire bean and pea plant after it has been harvested. Cut it down to ground level and leave the roots in the soil to continue to release nitrogen into the soil. Many crops remove nitrogen from the soil, but peas and beans add nitrogen into the soil.
  • Add a floating row cover. To try to extend the fall crop season, add a floating row cover. The picture below is a hoop house + a row cover. I suggest building a hoop house in the winter when you are not competing with vegetables to install the hoops. So for now, try a floating row cover. dsc_0038
  • Plant garlic. Choose the location wisely, as the garlic will grow and live in this location until it is harvested in July. Plant either softneck (stores longer and tends to be what you find at the grocery store) or hardneck (doesn’t store as long, but bigger and richer in flavor and harder to find at a grocery store). Thanks to this Encyclopedia Botanica podcast about Planting Garlic, I have already purchased my garlic seed from my local Farmer’s Market so I am all ready to plant in October. I will grow primarily hardneck because we eat a lot of garlic (so I don’t need to worry about storage) and it is not typically sold at grocery stores. A 1/3 of my total garlic planting will be softneck. For more on planting garlic, check out this postDSC_0037
  • Plant Spring flower bulbs. You can plant tulips, daffodils, hyacinth, ranunculus, lilies, iris, crocus, and more in October. Make note of where you planted your bulbs. I have definitely dug these up a few months later when weeding. Don’t have a yard but have a deck? Then this is for you. You can absolutely grow these bulbs in pots.
  • Plant cover crops. Cover crops can grow in your soil during the winter, adding organic matter and nutrients, and keeping it healthy for next season. You can use clover, fava beans, rye grass, peas, buckwheat and more. If you decide to forego cover crops, be sure to cover your soil in mulch. For more information about cover crops, check out this post by my friend and fellow gardener.
  • Move citrus trees indoors. And any other houseplants that have been outside for the summer. I have a lemon tree that has been living outdoors, as temperatures begin to near low 50s at night, it is important to move indoors.
  • Plant blueberries and fruit trees. In the PNW, you can plant these now or in the Spring. dsc_0008
  • Prune and clean up roses. Of course, only do this after roses have finished blooming. Remove rose leaves on the ground to prevent disease.
  • Lift and divide perennials.  If you want to spread the love of any of your favorite perennials or share them with your friends. This is a great time to lift and divide them while the ground is still warm. Learn more here.

As you can tell, this is a great month to wrap up a fabulous 2016 and already start planting and prepping for 2017.

Important side note: You never have to feel like you need to do all of these things. It is simply a guide to help you decide what you want to do in your garden, yard, or in the pots on your deck.

What is on your checklist to do in the garden in October? Any tips and tricks to share?  

Garden insects – how to attract the good and reduce the bad

The garden is full of insects, which are so important. Helping to provide nutrients to the soil and pollenate the plants. We definitely want these creepy crawlers. However, there are a few that cause more harm than good. So how do we remove the insects that damage our plants and keep the ones that help to grow them?

My friend and an inspirational gardener, Tracey, has recently taken the time to learn more about garden pest control. She even built a bug hotel! She was generous enough to share some of her learnings (and awesome pics of her garden) with me, check them out.

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Megan: There are so many creepy crawlers in my garden, which ones are helping the garden?

Tracey: OK so I am so passionate about this… Where to start. There are so many beneficial insects. For every bad bug, there is a good bug waiting to help you.

Ladybugs are my fav. We release thousands every year – the trick is to get them to multiply in your garden. The babies are the ones who are the little assassins. They can eat up to 5000 aphids and soft bodies’ pests in their short life time.

I’ve also experimented a lot with Praying mantises, they feed on pests as well, but can also eat your beneficial insects so I’ve given them a rest.

Wasps – I have always had a fear of wasps, until recently! I LOVE beets, plant them ever year as much and often as I can. I started to get Leaf Miners. They are the larva of a nasty fly that lays its eggs on the underside of leaves of beets, spinach, and other veggies. The larva then feed on the leaf creating little tunnels that can destroy your crops. Paper wasps will literally rip the leaf open and grab the larva and bon appetite! They will also hunt caterpillars including corn ear worms, loopers, and cabbage worms. I love watching them eat!

Bees – super pollinators. I have several mason bee houses and am looking at getting a honey bee colony. The best pollinators around. Below is a Coneflower tucked between squash to attract pollinators.

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Lacewings – also eat insects and are great pollinators.

Megan: As a gardener that does not use chemicals for pest control, how do I get the pests under control?

Tracey: Well the best way I’ve found is to create a habitat that encourages beneficial insects to thrive. If they are there, they will help keep the bad guys in check. I have had a hard time finding any cabbage worms on my brussels sprouts this year, but I see tons of wasps around, so I know the wasps are doing their job!

Megan: How do I attract the good bugs?

Tracey: Bug Hotels! Create areas that they can live and find protection. I also like to leave old dead foliage and branches on the ground over winter. Critters can live underneath and get cozy.

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Megan: What else should we know about garden insects?

Tracey: I think that the more you learn about beneficial insects and what they can do for your garden, the more you will want to invite them in! I think right now one of the most important messages I have is to NOT use pesticides. You’re not just killing the bad guys, you’re killing the good guys too!

“The garden is one of the two great metaphors for humanity.
The garden is about life and beauty and the impermanence of all living things.
The garden is about feeding your children, providing food for the tribe.
It’s part of an urgent territorial drive that we can probably trace back to animals storing food.
It’s a competitive display mechanism, like having a prize bull, this greed for the best tomatoes and English tea roses.
It’s about winning; about providing society with superior things; and about proving that you have taste, and good values, and you work hard.
And what a wonderful relief, every so often, to know who the enemy is.
Because in the garden, the enemy is everything: the aphids, the weather, time.
And so you pour yourself into it, care so much, and see up close so much birth, and growth, and beauty, and danger, and triumph.
And then everything dies anyway, right?
But you just keep doing it.”

-Ann Lamott

Thank you Tracey! 

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You want to be healthy? Try gardening.

I know this is a bold statement, but growing your own food actually makes you feel mentally, physically, and emotionally healthier. More alive. Fulfilled. And grounded. I promise I am not making this up.

We live in a time and place where everyone is BUSY. There is so much noise in our lives. There is enough work to always be connected, lots of social media to be glued to your phone all day every day, and then there is the rest of our lives. It can get really congested super fast, leaving us feeling overwhelmed, empty, and exhausted.

I used to commute every day on the bus to my 9-5 downtown. I would immediately connect on my phone when I got on the bus, spend all day in meetings, attempting to answer emails while sitting in them, and then reconnect on my bus ride home. By the time I entered the house, I had been inundated with screens, lots of data – some important, some that just filled my brain with too much white noise, and I hadn’t spent a minute just “being present” or taking in my surroundings. I was tired and felt disconnected from my real life.

Everyone talks about being present and living in the now. Spending hours “pinning” inspirational quotes about being more creative, working less, getting healthier, living life to the fullest, and taking chances. I am definitely that person. I could pin as many inspirational posts as I wanted to, but it wasn’t until I actually stepped away from the noise that I truly started to become more creative, get healthier, and felt like I was really living, all by taking the chance and time to grow my own food. Get my hands dirty.  

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Suddenly I was making time before and after work to get outside, take in the fresh air, and root myself in the earth. Believe it or not, this extra time each day pulling weeds, picking berries, cutting greens for my lunch salad, grabbing a few zucchinis to share with co-workers, filled my mind with joy, made me think more creatively, and actually helped me to be a healthier person physically and mentally. I don’t have my phone with me when I am in the garden. I am completely and totally present in the moment. Even better, I actually see results from my hard work. 

When you grow food, you think in an entirely new way about food. For years I struggled with food and my body. Always trying new diets and never loving the way I looked. When I started growing food, watching it from seed to sprout, harvesting it and making something delicious with it, I viewed it as nourishing, wholesome, and literally felt better in my body after eating it. Before I knew it, I was snacking on green beans, and carrots, and savoring fresh raspberries for dessert (with ice cream of course). I began to love cooking, which triggered a whole new hobby. And now, for the first time, I feel so mentally healthy in my relationship with food and truly appreciate and value my body. I am stronger from working in the garden and I am happy because I give my body good fuel to have more energy and good health for myself and my family. 

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I know I am making all of this sound really easy. The cool thing, it is. There are always excuses – I don’t have a yard, I don’t have a green thumb, I don’t have space. Good news – you don’t have to have any of those things to grow something. Yes, you do need sun and water. So if you have those two things, then buy a container and fill it with a few seeds of your favorite vegetable or herb. Grab another one for fresh flowers. Start here. If you need help, ask me or a friend. And for all you parents, there is nothing cooler than seeing your kids learn through the garden – touching, tasting, and even growing their own veggies, but that is a post for another day.

So take a small chance and try to grow something. I promise you will feel more present, happier, more inspired to cook and eat real, good food, and a little more rooted in the earth you live on. Take a break from the noise, and enjoy the peaceful moments of living outside. Remember to stop and smell the roses, literally.

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How to use zucchini

It is that time of year and the zucchini is flowing. Do you have a basket full of this bumper crop? Tired of the same old zucchini bread? I think it is time for some inspiration!

Check out my top 3 zucchini recipes, made easy.

#1 Zucchini Ribbons with Almond Pesto from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

This is a new family favorite – delish and takes 10 minutes to make. No cooking required. Plus, there is a chance you have all these ingredients sitting in your kitchen right now. DSC_0019

Ingredients
1/2 cup almonds, toasted and cooled – I just bought roasted almonds
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 small garlic clove, peeled and crushed – I added a few more
Pinch of red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup olive oil
2 pounds medium zucchini, trimmed (about 4 medium, thin and longer if you can find them) – I just used a 10″ zucchini
*I added tomatoes because I have a bunch ready to harvest!

Directions 
Grind almonds, Parmesan, garlic and red pepper flakes in a food processor until they are finely chopped. Add the lemon juice, salt and olive oil and pulse a few times until incorporated.

Peel the zucchini with a vegetable peeler and place zucchini ribbons in the dressing-coated bowl. Toss the ribbons gently (your hands work best) attempting to coat the zucchini as evenly as possible. Serve at room temperature.

#2 Zucchini + Egg Muffins from the Simply Real Health Cookbook 

Perfect for entertaining or grabbing breakfast while you run out the door! A great dose of protein and veggies. And once again, you may already have all these ingredients in your kitchen. DSC_0019

Ingredients
10 organic cage-free eggs
1 zucchini, grated or shredded with excess moisture squeezed out (use a paper towel)
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup goat cheese, grated parmesan, or other artisan cheese of your choice (optional)
1 tablespoon freshly chopped herbs – I used chives, basil, and parsley straight from the backyard
Sea salt and pepper to taste

Directions 
Preheat oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit. Line a muffin tin with baking cups or grease the pan.

In a bowl, whisk all ingredients together. Pour batter into muffin tins and bake until cooked through for approximately 20 minutes. Broil for the last minute to get a nice brown crust.

#3 Greek Yogurt Zucchini Bread from Sally’s Baking Addiction

I know, I said “the same old zucchini bread recipe”, BUT this is definitely NOT the same old zucchini bread recipe.

It is flavorful (can anyone say orange zest?), moist (greek yogurt to the rescue), and healthy (at least I feel no shame enjoying a couple of slices of this deliciousness).

Check out the recipe here.

A few notes:

  • I highly recommend adding the walnuts and raisins. If you have a sweet tooth, add dark chocolate chips.
  • I did not have agave on hand, so I used 1/2 cup sugar.
  • I used coconut oil and it was perfect.
  • Definitely add the orange zest and don’t be afraid to pile it on.
  • I baked two loaves for 40 minutes on convection bake and they turned out just right.

Go get those zukes out of the garden or gladly accept one offered to you and enjoy every bite.

Extra! Just before sitting down to write this blog post, a friend sent me an email with a bunch of tips and ideas for using zucchini. I guess this is top of mind for everyone?! Check out these helpful articles:

How to turn 11 Zucchini into a Week of Meals 
Put That Cucumber Down – Pickle This Instead 
The Most Flavorful Zucchini is Also the Simplest Make-Ahead Side 

What are you making with your zukes?

 

August garden to-do list

As we wrap up the month of July, there is limited time to plant seeds for a Fall harvest. I am quickly taking inventory of my garden and making a to-do list for this final week of July and early August to ensure that I make the most of this precious dirt.

This weekend, strap on those gloves and do this:

  • Clear out any remaining crops that are harvested, dead, or no longer producing food you want to eat. For me, this will be broccoli, spring kale, and spring carrots.
  • Plant seeds for harvest in Fall (September and October). My favorites: carrots, radishes, salad greens, kale, turnips, lettuce, spinach, arugula, beets, swiss chard, cilantro, bok choy, and broccoli (best as transplant).
  • Weed, with lots of sunshine and hopefully lots of watering, weeds are bursting. Keep your garden clear of weeds to make room for these new sprouts.
  • Thin your new sprouts (hopefully you already put some seeds in the ground earlier this month, if not, there is still time). DSC_0015
  • Fertilize if necessary (it is a good idea to fertilize your new beet sprouts).
  • WATER
  • HARVEST! My carrots, beans, cucumbers, zucchini, and summer squash are growing like crazy. Don’t miss their peek times for picking and enjoy those fresh summer flavors.DSC_0790
  • Tend to your tomato plants. Prune if necessary and harvest.
  • Extra: start thinking about flowers you want next spring/summer. You will want to buy bulbs to get into the ground in September/ October. DSC_0002

You will not regret dedicating this time to the garden when you have fresh veggies into the Fall!

Pruning tomato plants

I have grown tomatoes for a few years, but this is the first one that I have pruned my plants. To be honest, I didn’t know to do this before now. Ultimately pruning will lead to more, high-quality fruit.

I was suddenly so aware of all the yellow leaves and extra branches and off shoots. I am not an expert, but this is how I am pruning my tomatoes:

  • Only “indeterminate” types of tomatoes should be pruned. These are typically tomato plants that require staking for support.
  • Remove stems with yellow and dying leaves. DSC_0634
  • Remove little off shoots (suckers).DSC_0633
  • There should only be about 3 main stems, if more develop, remove them.

I have highlighted the minimum when it comes to pruning. Since I have never done this, I am starting with the basics as I learn the art of pruning tomatoes.

Before and after pruning:

Have you ever pruned tomato plants? Please share your tips and tricks!

July is the month to plant

Now is the time to plant your seeds for a Fall harvest. Most likely your Spring crop is coming to an end and it is time to reset for the Fall. Did you miss the boat on planting a garden this last Spring? Have you always wanted to try growing veggies? Don’t fret, you have another chance and it is now.

July is sort of like the “New Year” for gardeners. A great time to reset, clean house, and try new things based on what you learned or didn’t do but wanted to do in the Spring. What you need to do now:

  • Finish harvesting your Spring crop – my lettuce bolted (the heat causes the plant to produce flowers and seeds and abandons leaf growth) so I harvested the remaining lettuce leaves and then removed the plants. DSC_0588
  • Clear out any plants that are done producing crop – peas, radishes, broccoli, garlic, and spinach have all completed their Spring harvest and have been cleared from my garden beds.
  • Prepare your soil – after you make space, be sure to add compost and fertilizer to the soil. Learn how to get your soil ready for planting. 
  • Decide what you want to grow this Fall – July is the perfect month to direct seed carrots, radishes, and green beans. I am also taking a chance and direct seeding lettuce, spinach, arugula, and beets (sometimes the seeds don’t germinate when soil temperatures exceed 75 degrees fahrenheit).
  • Get your seeds in the ground and WATER – it is hot and dry. Be sure to keep your soil wet so that your seeds can germinate and grow. DSC_0625

If you have extra time and energy, grow starts of lettuce, kale, broccoli (and any other plants that you can easily transplant). This is my backup plan if it becomes too hot and the lettuce seeds that I directly seeded don’t germinate. I will start lettuce, kale, and broccoli in starter containers and keep them in a cooler location (on my deck). Then I will have plants that are ready to be put into the garden bed as soon as another plant has completed its harvest.

One key lesson that I learned last year was to plant Fall crop in July and early August at the latest. So plant your seeds now and try to directly seed one more round at the end of the month. You should have crop that lasts up until the 1st frost (November in Seattle).

What to directly seed now:

  • Carrots
  • Bush beans
  • Radish
  • Lettuce
  • Arugula
  • Spinach
  • Beets
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Chard
  • Collards
  • Peas – I am going to try one more round of peasDSC_0627

Note: If you don’t have a yard, but have a deck or outdoor space, you can still grow veggies. This is your time! Find pots, old tubs, whatever fits in your space. Be sure to prepare your soil and then directly seed into the containers. Make sure there are drainage holes in your containers.

Don’t miss this prime time to plant for Fall crop and possibly, try growing veggies for the very first time.

Always feel free to leave questions or tips in the Comment section.