Wednesday, May 25, 2011

My window garden, post 9 - growth, flowers, death to aphids

Its been more than a month since I updated everyone on my window garden, and I thought you might want to see how things are progressing. First, there's the mint. Now, the mint had some serious problems; it had a seemingly incurable aphid infestation, and it was losing lots of leaves and generally not doing very well, so back in April I decided to move it outside, to prevent the aphids from attacking my other plants. Turns out that they were California aphids (the plant came from sunny CA), and were totally unprepared for Wisconsin late frosts.

It's ALIVE! IT'S ALIVE!!! (Yeah, I know this quote is overused, but, I'm so happy that it's alive!)

In not so happy news, the garlic bit the dust. I'm pretty sure the potting soil I got for the first batch of plantings just held too much water for it. I'll try again for next year.

As for everything else, it seems to all be doing well.

Remember, those are more than 4 foot windows... I'm 5'7" and I can stand on the level of the plants and the top of my head *just* touches the ceiling.

The things with the giant leaves are eggplant. I'm hoping they'll help with the summer cooling bill... they're certainly trapping the light well enough! The plant hitting the ceiling is a tomatillo.

In this shot there's tomatillo, poblano, lavender, rosemary, and I've moved the cantaloupe over to this window as well. Everything (except the cantaloupe) is starting to get flowers...

These are flowers on one of the poblanos. Most sites say that you can't grow poblanos in containers. I'm glad I tried!

The rocoto pepper, which we have now dubbed Mumm-ra the Ever-living, continues to produce flowers and fruit. I processed some of its peppers into powder the other day; its very difficult because they are so crazy hot that even just grinding them will make your eyes and nostrils burn and cause lots of sneezing and discomfort. Still, its a great way to add heat and flavor to a dish.

Then there's the okra, which I've read and seen have beautiful, cream colored flowers. My okra decided to sort of forgo the whole flower thing. The flower never opened, it was there, then it sort of just dried up, and now I've got this little okra pod. Looks like some of the other flowers are doing the same. I'd say it was a rip, but I'm getting food out of the deal, so I'll live without beautiful flowers.

Most of the peas are doing very well; one pot isn't. I don't know exactly what happened, but one of the pots of peas just died. Still, there's flowers on most of the plants, so there should be peas soon enough. Of course, once they produce they die not too long after, so I'll be bidding farewell to these guys soon.

In the living room window, the marconi peppers, which I started after the poblanos, are growing nicely. There's signs that flowers will show up soon. I hope!

And the beans keep producing. Couldn't be happier with how many beans we've gotten... they've been producing for almost 2 months now. So flavorful and wonderful, even just as a snack (we've only ever gotten a handful of beans at a time, so they're pretty much been eaten as raw snacks).

Then there's the newest addition - an aloe plant given to me by Robbin! Its bloody huge and I'll probably have to break it into separate plants soon. One small problem is that its cat accessible; fortunately they don't seem to really enjoy chewing on it. Still, I'm thinking of getting the bitter spray and seeing if that deters them.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The no car challenge returns!

Its back and better than ever! I'm going to do the no-car challenge again, slightly modified from last time. I'll be doing this all summer long, from this weekend until it snows, so the rules are as follows:

  • No car for trips shorter than 5 miles, except to ferry children and animals. Riding along for trips less than 5 miles is ok, but I'll try and avoid it if at all possible.
  • If the trip is greater than 5 miles, I'm allowed to take a car, as long as someone else is in the car with me; carpooling only.

I imagine the first few days will be rough; winter was tough on my endurance. The biggest challenge I can foresee is riding out to Geiss; I'll have to figure out this weekend how to attach the trailer we bought at a garage sale last year. Trips to the grocery store are going to be ok, as I got a hook n' go shopping cart that's plenty light but can still carry 70 lbs. The only tricky part there is using an umbrella with it...

So wish me luck, and if you have any ideas, or questions, let me know.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Umami hamburgers

Now, generally speaking, I'm not a burger person. I think it comes down to the fact that I hate condiments, and most of the time burgers are slathered with condiments in order to disguise the meat. Now, I love good meat (even though I generally avoid ground beef like the plague, again, because most of the time its filler and has no real meat flavor of its own). So tonight I made my umami burgers, with sweet potato fries. The one condiment worth mentioning that I made was bagna cauda; slathering a burger with a garlic/anchovy/olive oil mixture only heightens the umami even further. Nom nom nom.

  • 2 lbs ground beef (pref. grass fed - so much more flavor - I like New Grass Farm)
  • 1/4-1/3 cup dry red wine (cabernet, syrah, chianti)
  • 2 tbls porcini dust
  • 1/2-1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 anchovy fillets, super finely chopped (the closest possible to paste consistency) - makes about a tablespoon

Knead all ingredients together thoroughly. Let sit in fridge about half an hour. Take out, make patties. Heat up grill, throw on until done to your liking. Serve on good buns (onion are nice).

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Savory sweet potato puree

Made this the other night. Its good for diabetics as a replacement for regular mashed potatoes because of its low glycemic index (among other things), and its good for everyone else because it tastes AWESOME. Cordi had half of the bowl all by herself. Very, very, very different than the usual thanksgiving sweet potato with marshmallow fare (here I will admit I don't enjoy the usual marshmallow fare).

4-5 sweet potatoes or yams
milk or cream
3 tbls butter
salt to taste
1.5 oz grated Parmesan, to taste

Cut sweet potatoes thin; I used my mandoline set to thick cut. Arrange in a saucepan evenly. Add milk (for healthy) or cream (for extra-delicious) to about halfway up the potatoes; also add a bit of salt. Heat over medium heat until just simmering, then turn down to low and cook about 20 minutes until tender. If you're using milk it will curdle, cream will not, but it doesn't really matter for the finished product. Dump entire contents of pan into food processor along with butter, and pulse until pureed. Add Parmesan and pulse further. Eat. Enjoy.