Saturday, December 20, 2008

Christmas Candy: Maple Almond Brittle

Nothing says Christmas like an indulgent edible gift for family and friends. Pecan Pralines (for my Louisianna born relatives) and a layered white and dark chocolate Peppermint bark are becoming main-stays, but each year I like to reach out and try something new and interesting (to me). This years theme has become candy making. Tonight I tried my hand at Divinity (clouds of airy sugary bliss) which turned into a giant blob of goo on my cookie sheet. Reading some articles on this treat I found that apparently EVERY southern woman knows that you don't make devinity when it is humid. I live in Houston!!! When is it NOT humid?? (5 days until Christmas and I was finishing up my shopping in a t-shirt, skirt and flip-flops.) Being a Texas transplant I guess I have a lot to learn.
In my atempt to save the evenings .goal of making a sweet treat, and inspired by my recent trip to Montreal and new found love of maple syrup, I decided to make Maple Almond Brittle . (Humidity be damned!). I used Montreal Maple Syrup and lacking the proper amount of almonds, I used an almond and pecan mix.

Maple Syrup, Sugar, and Corn Syrup bubbling away...
Brittle Cooling
Recipe (from Gourmet Magazine):
Maple Almond Brittle
1 1/2 cups Grade B maple syrup
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 cups sliced unblanched almonds, toasted lightly
In a heavy saucepan combine the maple syrup, the corn syrup, the salt, and the sugar. Bring the mixture to a boil over moderate heat, stirring and washing down any sugar crystals clinging to the side with a brush dipped in cold water, and boil the mixture, undisturbed, until it registers 300 degrees F on a candy thermometer. Stir in the almonds quickly and pour the mixture onto an oiled marble slab or a baking sheet lined with foil. Spread the mixture as thin as possible with a metal spatula and let it cool. Break the almond brittle into serving pieces.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Texas Turkey

Starting with my first year away from home in a quest for higher education I have dreaded the flight home to visit my family for Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving used to be my favorite, great food, and no present stress...until I moved away from home. The stress of Thanksgiving travel and high ticket prices coupled with more than one unplanned night spent in a random U.S. city en route to my final destination have soured me on the experience all together. Hence the initiation of Friends Thanksgiving, and the beginning of the fried Turkey tradition (drawn from my husband's Louisiana roots).
This year we decided to extend our thanks to the local farmer and seek out a Texas free range Turkey to share with our friends. Shockingly, this became a bit of a task. Local farmer's markets were selling local free range Turkeys for as high as $6.75/lb to a slightly more palatable $3.75/lb. Still...$88 for a 13lb Turkey? We love our friends...but maybe not THAT much...we could practically switch to Fillet Mignon for that price. Slightly angered at the elitist nature of the locavore movement, I almost opted for the free Kroger Turkey with a $50 purchase when...Co-Op to the rescue! Fran's Fryers, our normal supplier of chicken and sausage, carries Turkeys for $1.87/lb. We were floored at the price, with frozen Butterball Turkeys running $1.47/lb. We have 2 Turkeys on their way, local Thanksgiving is saved! :)

Veggie Claus Returns!!!

It has been quite awhile since we have received fresh veggies at our doorstep. We were starting to think Veggie Claus wasn't real. After Ike, the CSA had a hard time getting back on its feat, and to top that off, the CSA's computer crashed, leaving the member lists jumbled and some delivery lists lost. So after Ike, missed deliveries, and rain delays, the prodigal veggies are FINALLY back, and there was much rejoicing!!! :)
What we found on our porch:
  • 1 Dozen Eggs
  • Pie Pumpkin
  • Summer Squash (yellow and green)
  • Turnips
  • Radishes
  • Kale
  • Long Beans
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Green Onions
  • Roma Tomatoes
  • Grapes

Friday, November 7, 2008

Veggie Status

It has been a LONG time since I posted about the container garden. Some success, some failure. BIG lesson learned is to properly place seeds and thin out! The radishes and arugula completely failed. The sugar snap peas are still growing but are definitely being challenged. The swiss chard is struggling, but still alive. The good news is that the pepper and tomato plants are doing really well! The Black Pearl budded and has a new crop of little green tomatoes. The pepper plant is going strong as well and has 2 peppers growing...1 in the budding stage and one half grown! How exciting...I can almost make 1 WHOLE salad from this fall's work ;)

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Eat Local Challenge - Anniversary Mark's

So Monday the 6th was my husband and I's First Anniversary! I can't believe that a year has already gone by...a new house, a hurricane, a challenge :). I thought my husband had to work that evening so I had already cozied up to my new favorite food...the homemade chocolate pudding I posted about earlier...when the doorbell rang, and there he was! SURPRISE! I put down my pudding, and we were off to dinner at Mark's American Cuisine. We have been celebrating relationship milestones at Mark's for a few years, and we definitely consider it a special place. Over the years we have seen Mark's grow, but the high quality of the service and the food has not changed. I had the Eat Local Challenge in the back of my mind as I perused the menu, but I had already given myself a freebee for the WAS my first anniversary, and we WERE at my favorite restaurant. Alas, Mark's prides itself on its seasonal fresh cuisine and the chefs seek out the freshest produce throughout the country when creating their menu. They typically list the source of all of their menu items; including the state and farm where it came from. The nights specials included Texas Kobe beef served as boneless ribs and sliced flank steak...LOCAL! I was in, if only to stay true to the challenge :) We toyed with ordering an Inwood Estates Tempernillo to keep the local Texas theme going, but at $75 a bottle, we were not feeling that glued to the challenge...I have my limits. We were a bit annoyed at the wine list in general. When we first started going to Mark's we were truly impressed with their wine list. It offered a range of wines from the high 20's up to the reserve/cult wine category, with attention to quality and variety at each level. With their new sommelier, that is no longer the case. I think it is ridiculous that a restaurant would not be able to find a decent red wine that they could offer for under $50. Off the soap box. The dinner was amazing, and we finished if off with some delicious French Press Coffee and a trio of desserts featuring American Whiskeys as a common ingredient...kind of local. The desserts included a chocolate brownie, pecan pie with mint mojito ice cream, and an amazing creme brulee. Yum!! So despite the ever increasing prices at Mark's we will continue coming back for the beautiful food, local flavor, and romantic atmosphere...

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Eat Local Challenge: Weekend's Eating

Saturday night was St. Arnold's Pub Crawl...can't get much more local than that! 5 local bars took part in the ramble: McGonigels Mucky Duck, The Hobbit Cafe, Mezzanine Lounge, and finished off at Stag's Head. St. Arnold's Oktoberfest was the featured beer. Great beer and a well run event. St. Arnold's does a great job supporting Houston events, and is dedicated to giving
back to the community.
Inspired I guess, St. Arnold's seemed to be the theme for Sunday's cooking.
Hatterman's eggs for breakfast, then I went to work baking some Beer Bread with St. Arnold's Divine Reserve #7, a Weizenbock beer. I grabbed the recipe from another blogger...quick and easy.
1 Cup All Purpose Flour (I used half Stone Ground Wheat (from Texas!) and half St. Arthur's Organic Unbleached Flour)
1 Tbsp Granulated Sugar
1 Tsp Salt
12oz. Beer
1 Tbsp Baking Powder
Egg Glaze:1 egg & 2 tsp (10 ml) water, beaten

Heat oven to 375F. Combine flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder in a large mixing bowl. Slowly stir in beer and mix just until combined. Batter will be thick. Spread in a greased 8-inch loaf pan, brush with egg glaze if desired, and bake until golden brown and a tooth
pick stuck in the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes.Cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pan and cool 10 more minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Will keep for 1 to 2 days stored in a plastic bag or airtight container. May be frozen.

A St. Arnold's Inspired Dinner:
Chicken Burger with Sauteed Greens
The Ground Chicken came from Fran's Fryers. My husband mixed
in some local Texas-Texas Salsa and onion to keep the meat moist, since chicken is so lean.
We topped the burgers with our local Cheddar made with....St. Arnold's Divine Reserve 5, a Russian Imperial Stout. The flavors came together well. We topped the burgers with some Texas Mustard and Salsa. The Beer bread made for an excellent bun. The malty meizenbock added a wonderful richness to the bread...I can't wait to try some variations on this recipe.

Eat Local Challenge - The Weekend Farmer's Markets

This weekend was dedicated to scoping out the local farmer's markets.
My employer offers a Friday farmer's market in the main lobby of their building. They bring produce in from Froberg's Farm in Alvin, Texas. I was able to pick up some red potatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, and some frozen cream peas and black-eyed peas.
With this I was able to pull together a Shepherd's Pie using the chicken from last night's dinner. Following the letter of the law, I was not able to use any carrots, garlic, onions... My husband loved the dish, but I am not sure we will make it a month without garlic and onions.
Saturday we headed downtown to the farmer's markets:
Bayou City Farmer's Market had some great items to offer including a wide array of summer squash (globe, pattypan...), Hatterman's Free Range Eggs, Bok Choy, Jams to name a few. Airline Farmer's Market off of 610. This market mainly has supermarket fare at reduced prices, but I was able to pick up some local items: 5lb bag of Pecans (they are in season and delicious!) and stone ground flour and cornmeal from Brazos Bottom Mills in Angleton, TX. I am on a quest to determine whether the wheat is actually from Texas or just milled here...all I can find on-line is the Texas Wheat Farm Association. Anyone know the answer?

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Day Two: Eat Local Challenge

Last night we received our order from Fran's Fryers (located North of Houston just outside of Dallas)!! Whole Chicken, Steaks, Chicken Breast, Ground Chicken, Turkey Breakfast Sausage and Link Sausage. All free range, antibiotic free, natural meat and poultry. I think we are set on protein for the challenge! I find that is one thing Texas has an ample supply of...local meats, poultry, fish and dairy products, and at a reasonable price.
Today's Local Menu:
Kefir, Figs, drizzled with Texas Honey and some Texas roasted Katz's Espresso
Went out with Friends to Neptune's Subs. Sadly no Texas items, so I just had a small salad and some Ozarka Texas water (they weren't serving tap water). Neptunes is located in area hit hard by Ike. Though not eating local food (not really any restaurants in Clear Lake that serve local food), I supported the local community, and the few restaurants that have been able to open back up.
Homemade Central Market Wheat Tortillas (one of the best parts of living in Houston...widely available homemade tortillas...I can't remember the last time I had the prepackaged version) and some Houston Dairy Maid's Redneck Cheddar.
Fran's Freyer's Whole Roasted Chicken
Delicata Squash
Some leftover Purple Fingerling Potatoes (not local, but leftover from pre-ELC...we didn't want to waste the few pre-ELC items we still have left in our fridge)
My new favorite thing!!! Homemade Chocolate Pudding
I grabbed this recipe from another blogger "Eggs on Sunday" she has more great recipes I'd love to try. I made this with 1% milk (from CM/Organic from regional cows), Sugar from Sugarland, Texas, and my exception...Ghirardelli Cocoa Powder (San Francisco..not SO bad). I leave out the chopped chocolate, though I will start experimenting with other add-ins. I promised my husband peanut butter chips.
Double-Chocolate Pudding
Adapted from Bon Appetit, March 1996
Ingredients (for 2 servings)
2 tbsp sugar (note: the original recipe had 1/3 cup, but I found that a bit too much for my taste)
2 tbsp good-quality cocoa powder
1 tbsp + 1 tsp cornstarch1 cup milk (I’ve made the recipe with all kinds - whole, 2%, skim - all work just fine.)
1 ounce chopped chocolate (I like dark, but use whatever you prefer)
1 tsp vanilla extract
In a medium saucepan, whisk together the sugar, cocoa powder, and cornstarch. Whisk in the milk. Heat over medium heat, whisking continually, until the milk comes to a simmer (don’t let it come to a hard boil.) Once it comes to a simmer and is gently bubbling, keep whisking it for 1 minute longer. The pudding should be quite thick at this point.
Take it off the heat and whisk in the chopped chocolate and vanilla extract. Divide among two cups and cover with plastic wrap before placing in the fridge to chill (if you don’t like skin on your pudding, place the plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pudding.)
Serves 2.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Go Texan! Restaurant Round-up!

Well...tonight is Go Texan! Restaurant Round-Up. Local restaurants are serving Texas based menus and a portion of the proceeds go to the Texas Food Bank. I am bummed I missed it! Some of the local restaurants have events going on throughout the month of October since it is Texas Wine month!
Would have been a great way to kick-off the eat local month....

Day 1: Eat Local Challenge

As I mentioned in my previous post, with Ike hitting the Houston coast pretty hard, our CSA has been knocked out of business for the near-term. No longer do I have the luxury of beautiful seasonal fresh fruits and veggies landing on my doorstep every Tuesday morning. Alas...we decided to continue on with the challenge and venture out to the markets to stock the fridge with the starts of our local cuisine for the next month. We headed to the Houston Farmer's Market behind Rice University. Living in Clear Lake, the 36mile drive for local fare has its obvious drawbacks, but we figure we go downtown at least twice a week that is how we justify it.
Nothing against the Houston Farmer's Market, but I have always preferred the Bayou City Farmer's Market for selection. The Houston Farmer's Market seems to cater more towards prepared foods and has a smaller fruit and veggie selection. That being said, we did find some great items including:
  • Katz's Coffee (locally roasted)
  • Blue Heron Farm (Goat Cheese) -located north of Houston
  • Houston Dairy Maid's - Redneck Cheddar (made with St. Arnold's Device reserve!) and Bosque Blue (They always offer a WONDERFUL selection of Texas cheeses)
  • Figs!!! Grown by a Houston woman in her back yard(best find every year...great to be a Houstonian)
  • Plum Easy Lavender Pizzettes
  • Pecans

Next stop: Central Market. They label the source of all of their products, so it makes it super easy to find local items:

Locally Produced and found at CM:

  • Texas Olive Ranch Olive Oil!!
  • Lucky Layla Farms Natural Plain Yogurt (Garland, Texas) I plan to use it as a starter for making my own yogurt with local milk
  • Kimchee from Houston (Banyan Foods) (they also supply soy milk, egg roles, wrappers the local community with a mission to stay local)....I have been eating their Kimchee for I have tasted
  • Texmati Rice (primarily grown in Texas!)
  • Texas Texas Salsa (my favorite, all natural and SO tasty!)
  • Austin Slow Burn - Southwest Pasta Sauce. (yes, we should be making our own from all the great tomatoes, but we thought we'd try it)
  • Fresh Wheat Pasta - made in Dallas (though I'd like to try and make it myself)

Local Veggies at CM:

  • Delicata Squash (had to check to see if it was is! We'll see how it tastes)
  • Yellow, Orange, and Red Tomatoes (Hydroponically grown, but very tasty)
  • OKRA (I think it grows like a weed in Texas)
  • Texas Baby Portobello Mushrooms (they also carry shitake, cremini...good range) from Gonzales, Texas...within 100miles. Apparently the company also sells Mushroom Compost as well...

My only concern so far....lettuce...leafy greens...I am not sure I can live without them...I'll keep up the search....

Monday, September 29, 2008

October Eat Local Challenge

My husband and I have decided to take out quest 1 step further and take on the Eat Local Challenge for the month of October.
1. What is your definition of local?
Our definition of local is anything grown or produced in Texas. We will try our best to support local producers even if all product ingredients are not necessarily local.
2. What exemptions will you claim?
Until our CSA comes back on line we will need to sort out our exemptions.
Spices (if not available locally)
Orbits Gum (don't think I can live without it)
Pantry Staples (Wheat, Oatmeal, etc) that are not grown in Texas
3. What is your goal for the month?
Our goal is to try and find local Texas producers and to support our local farmers. We also want to truly understand seasonality. We have been trying to eat local for the past year or so, joining a CSA, purchasing meats, poultry, and cheeses locally. When looking at our typical weekly groceries purchased at our local grocery store we were shocked to see how truly international our dinners were....Tomatoes from Holland, Olive Oil from Spain, Capers from Turkey...I'd love to travel as much as my food had.
That being said, we will try our best while out of town to eat local, and will not refuse dinner invitations with friends based on our local quest. We will do our best and hopefully learn something in the end!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Great IKE Evacuation

I have always doubted a hurricane would never hit Houston...Louisiana always sucks them in. In my last 6 years as a Houstonian I was right...until Saturday, September 13th. Enter Ike. My husband and I had a family reunion planned to Palm Desert, California leaving Saturday the 13th...bad timing. Thankfully Southwest allowed us to change our tickets to Thursday the 11th, and after closing up our house and a 7 hour wait at Hobby Airport (we were taking no chances) we "evacuated" to San Diego.

I was VERY happy that I decided to start my gardening endeavor in containers...the veggies were moved into the kitchen before we left!

We decided to take advantage of our few extra vacation days and tour San Diego. We headed to the beach and sampled some of the local breweries. Pizza Port in Solana Beach, Lost Abbey, and Stone. Stone had a beautiful beer garden and a wonderful restaurant. Nice way to spend an evacuation. In keeping with the "all things local" theme of this blog, not shocking to anyone I am sure, Palm Desert is not the source of the thousands of fresh fruits and veggies we receive from California year-round. Turns out Dates thrive in Palm Desert! Apparently they supply something like 90% of the U.S. Consumption of Dates.

Our wonderful friends who stayed in Houston kept us up to date with the hurricane status as it made landfall, and were able to navigate the streets the day after the hurricane in order to assure us that our house was still standing. It turns out we had some significant shingle damage which allowed water to leak from our 2nd story down into the kitchen. Except for the tree carnage, that was about all the damage we received. Our fabulous friends also spent their "Hurrication" free time cleaning up our yard and pool. Amazing!! We joked that we might leave the state for EVERY hurricane :)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Veggies Arrive!

Our CSA has been having some problems as of late. They have been down for about 2 weeks repainting and repairing their cooler, but this morning we woke to Veggies at our door! At last :) I sampled the free range eggs this morning...yum! The eggs came in all different shapes and colors, from jumbo white to a small pointy brown egg. I could taste a difference I think :)

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

When Life Gives You Limes...

My friend Iona has a lime tree which has produced profusely this summer! I guess lime trees love the hot humid Houston summer... She has had the tree for a year. She transplanted the tree from Galveston, stuck it in the dirt, and a year later, picked about 200 limes.

Given the surplus, she gifted me with a bag of limes. What to do with an entire bag of limes....LIMEADE!! Well...fancy Limeade

Lavender Mint Limeade

  • The juice of 9 limes

  • 1 cup Lavender Simple Syrup

  • Water (dilute to taste)

  • Sprinkle with fresh mint leaves

I got the mint off of my mint plant, which also has taken well to the Houston climate! Deliciously refreshing for the hot Houston summer...those that survive, quench.

I am thinking about using the rest of the limes to make Lavendar Mint Lime Ice Pops. We'll see how it goes. Thanks Iona!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Snap Peas and Tomatoes

I got my first two Blackpearl cherry tomatoes from my tomato plant! The leaves are curling a bit and a couple of the leaves have died on the plant, so I am a little worried the plant might have a bug/disease. Early blight?? Let's hope not...

The Sugar Snap peas are growing like crazy...11 days since planting and they are already trying to climb. I attempted to thin the peas out a bit and installed a wooden trellace. We'll see if they climb...

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Transplanting Time! (and some growth status)

8/30/09 The veggies have all sprouted and are growing like mad!
I transplanted some of the arugula and radishes into new pots in order to give them some room to grow.

Arugula Sprouts and Radish Sprouts

After the big transplant, I collected the and enjoyed some radish and arugula microgreens for lunch and dinner.

The Blackpearl cherry tomato is starting to change!

Slow Food Nation

Houston's very own purveyer of all things local, Monica Pope (T'afia, Beaver's), guest blogging for Alison cook at Slow Food Nation 08 in San Francisco.


Ever notice that quaint little restaurant on Westheimer with the big pig on its sign...that's Feast. We have been wanting to go there for a long time. The chefs who run it are from England and have a love for local fresh/seasonal ingredients. We arrived early and were able to take part in their tasting menu...which they normally only serve on weeknights. Our waitress seated us in the rustic dining room filled with dark woods, providing a homey atmosphere. I find that fall in Houston is more of a state of mind than an actual change in temperature and season. While our fellow countrymen are donning their sweaters and cozying up for some warm apple cider, we Houstonians are still sitting in the high 80s/low 90s sweating through summer part II. I am ready for fall...I dream of it as I run in the mornings...picturing the crisp fall air and the feeling that I could run on forever...sadly I am quickly snapped back into reality by the ravenous mosquitoes and suffocating heat and humidity. Last night's dinner added to my fall fantasy; helped along by Houston's LOVE of air conditioning I was even able to pull on a sweater of my own :).
We started the night with some wine served up in humble juice tumblers and a warning from out waitress that we had 7-8 courses coming...chefs choice for the tasting menu.

First course: Ham, Potato and Parsley Soup. Delicious! The bits of ham and cream added a richness which was nicely balanced by the freshly cut flat leaf parsley. This was a favorite for the entire table.

Second: Tarragon Marinated Manchego with Almonds and Olives...this was served up with toast pints that had been rubbed with fresh garlic and tomato with a slightly spicy kick...or at least that was our guess.
Act 3: Fennel, Cucumber, Radish and Mint Salad. I'll never turn away fresh veggies. Very fresh and flavorful with a side of aioli..yum!
Fourth: Pan seared Sardines...they were huge and very fresh. Are we dining off the coast of Italy??? Sardines in Houston?? The chef later told us that a new fisherman that they are using
out of Galveston catches them on his week long forays out to sea...interesting. They are much larger than any sardine that I have had before. They were quite flavorful and well prepared. I am not a huge fan of the Sardine...all those little bones...brings back childhood memories of choking on trout bones...but still enjoyed the experience!
Number Five (still going): Red Beans, Pork and Carrots. This was the favorite of the night. The hearty dish was served up in a large clay pot with a delicious crust on the pork and perfectly roasted beans and carrots. We would have licked the bowl if we weren't afraid of burning our tongues and causing a scene.
Six (not much room left): Roast Bluefish, Fennel and Saffron Rice and Tarragon Tomatoes. Fish was moist and the the Tarragon tomatoes were amazing.
Seven (nearing the bursting point): Braised Beef Shank, Mashed Potatoes and Kale with Anchovies. Perfectly cooked, cut with a form beef and I can't get enough of the sauteed Kale...the anchovies received a mixed review, but I thought it brought an interesting way to add some salty flavor to the kale.
8: Compari and Orange Sorbet. Tart and refreshing.
Ninth: DESSERT! Always room for dessert. Chocolate and Espresso Rice Pudding. Amazing. Rich chocolate rice pudding topped with clotted cream. Wonderful ending to an interesting tasting tour.
Nine courses for $45...we'll be back.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Sprouts and Attempt at Raised Bed

Apparently my soil is very furtile and planting 10 seeds per hole was not the best idea. My current plan is to let them grow a bit more and then transplant. Ideas?
Arugula and Swiss Chard Day 4
My master not kill by little nascent veggies, I am going to thin them out in a few days and re-plant in my back-yard...formally known as the Elephant Ear garden...they have literally taken over my yard....

I plan to cover my mini-raised bed garden with plastic to kill off any unwanted vegetation...good idea?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Veggie Claus!!

My friend Jess has become my enabler. No longer am I just a sporadic supporter of my local farmer via the Houston Farmer's Market, but am now a full fledged share holder!! Jess linked me up with some local families who purchase bulk local grass-fed/free range meat and poultry. Our first order arrived a few weeks ago. We ordered some chicken breasts, chicken sausage, and ground turkey through this group from Fran's Fryers. Wonderful!! I'll need to post some of the recipes.
Jess also introduced me to Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). What a novel idea! Buy a share of a farm (based on your family size) and get whatever is ripe and in season that week! Being a recent transplant from Houston to the burbs I seriously have been missing my farmer's market and the best store on earth...Central Market.
While we tried to get into a few CSAs around town I stumbled upon a great alternative, an Organic City Co-op nearby. The Southeast Organic Co-Op offers weekly share buy-ins with a pick-up location near San Jac College in Southeast Houston. Great what a few people who care about what they eat can do!
Finally Monday morning I had a little surprise in my offer to join BlueStar CSA. This CSA is made up of a group of 22 farms in Alvin, TX. They deliver right to your door!! You just leave a cooler on your front porch on the given day and voila...fresh "organic" produce magically appears!! The kind lady who runs the CSA offered for us to join that day! I eagerly placed my cooler on the porch, turned on the light, and went to bed. I popped out of bed at the sound of our alarm, ran to the door, and their it first share! Neatly packed with care in my cooler was an assortment of beautiful produce...cantaloupe, strawberries, summer squash, long beans, green onions, yellow pepper, red potatoes... Being a LOVER of ALL things Vegetable I am in produce Heaven!
I was so inspired by the harvest that I planned my lunch already at 6am...before coffee and breakfast...Salad Nicoise. It was DELICIOUS. I haven't found anywhere in Houston that makes it right, but I am open to opinions!

Salad Nicoise Recipe:

Small Red Potatoes (boiled with salt), boiled long beans, tomatoes, hard boiled egg, tuna, olives, capers, and salt&pepper.

Dressing: red wine vinegar, Dijon Mustard, and Olive Oil (my new favorite: ArteOlivaHEB/Central Market in a gold "box" container)

Monday, August 25, 2008

Veggie Babies!!!

I puttered out my door at 6am to water my new garden and low and behold.....Sprouts!!! I have Sprouts!! The Arugula and Radishes have pushed through the soil and are displaying their tiny little leaves.

They are so CUTE!! My little seedlings have hatched! I feel like I should have had this experience at an earlier age, but alas...this city girl is growing something! :) (I think I saw a pea sprout too, but I'll hold back the joy until it is official)

Veggie Buddies!

Since I found my Lowes garden experience a bit less than thrilling I decided to head to Maas Nursery( in Seabrook to get some real gardening help!

Success! I picked up some mint and bell pepper transplants as well as a FABULOUS looking tomato plant. The name got can you pick a plain old slicer tomato over that. This will be the gem of my little garden :) I planted the Blackpearl in a 5 gallon pot. Reading a bit about my new gem online, I found that it can grow up to 12', produces continuously, AND tastes like Concord Grapes when chilled...we'll see about that last one.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Let the Planting Begin

Planting Day!
With my house warming gift of a basil plant wilting pitifully on my windowsill, I decided it was time to move it outside into the sun, and start my little garden. I have never grown anything before, and have successfully killed every single house plant I have owned. However, this time I think it will be different! I have a house with a real yard, live in a sub-tropical climate, and blinding optimism! I figure that starting with a container garden is the best option for a starter garden in Houston. We have clay for soil here, and I am not so blindly optimistic to rip up my backyard without testing my skills.
I had dreams of heading to a local nursery where I would be guided through the ins and outs of Houston gardening...however Sunday found me heading to Lowes. With tele-assistance from my brother-in-law in Denver, I worked my way through the garden section to search out seeds, pots, and some soil. First off, the seeds. Lowes doesn't have the best selection (shock!), so I went with what I thought would be yummy and what was available and would potentially grow in the Houston fall, or summer part two. I grabbed the following Ferry-Morse seed packets:
  • Arugula
  • Sugar Snap Peas
  • Sparkler Radishes
  • Swiss Chard
  • Cilantro
  • Parsley
Next up....some potting soil and containers. Eyeballing the packets and the growing constraints of my soon-to-be plants, I chose 3 containers: 2.5 ft wide x 1 ft deep wooden trough, 2 ft wide x 1 ft deep barrel, and a shallow 2 foot wide bowl for my herbs. I chose some Miracle Grow Organic potting soil.

Donning long sleeve shirt, leggings, gloves, and a hat (the mosquitoes are insane right now!) I set to planting. I placed my containers in my backyard deck in an area that gets full view of the sun from about 9:30am to 5pm. I transplanted my basil plant into the herb bowl and added in the cilantro and parsley. The Arugula and Radishes were planted together, and the swiss chard and sugar snap peas share the barrel. I gave my little seedlings a good watering and some well wishes for a good sprout!

Harvest Plan (per the packets)

  • Arugula - October 2nd

  • Sugar Snap Peas - November 1st

  • Sparkler Radishes -September 18th

  • Swiss Chard - October 22nd

  • Cilantro and Parsley - ?