Thursday, August 30, 2012

did the 26 survive?

Not the name of a new reality TV show. This is the end-of-August post to see how the garden fared this summer :-) If you recall, I planted a bunch of herbs, vegetables, berries and perennials in May, plus a few more throughout the summer. How did they fare? Well, it was a mixed bag. I am three summers into gardening in this yard, and still figuring out where the best places are for everything. And I think it's safe to say there will be some major yard & garden layout changes coming in time for next spring's planting...

Doing well:

  • Basil
  • Nasturtiums
  • Chile peppers
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Lemon cucumbers
  • Lemon verbena
  • Rosemary
  • Mint
  • Oregano
  • Lavender
  • Begonias
Doing ok:
  • Kale
  • Swiss chard
  • Tomatoes (still all green in late August ... weird)
  • Plants in barrel by the front steps
  • Lettuce 
Bad news:
  • Zucchini, acorn squash and summer squash (lots of flowers, no veggies -- yet)
  • Strawberries
  • Raspberries
  • Thai basil
  • Onions
  • White hydrangea
  • Cilantro
  • Sage
  • Wedding wildflowers
Cherry tomatoes and the squash patch

Peppers, tomatoes and herbs by the back door

Slow tomatoes

Nasturtium (you can eat the flowers and the leaves! great on salads)


What's left of the potted plants after the squirrels spent the summer digging them up

In the middle: pretty red begonias. On the far right: pathetic, wilted hydrangea that never took

Side yard, including three tomato plants

The giant lemon cucumber monster

Kale and basil

Lemon cucumber flowers

Swiss chard (small but tasty)

More garden posts:
Agriturismo (2011)

Sunday, August 19, 2012

two recipes for the price of one

Had a house-full of people around this weekend, with our former exchange student Lisa visiting from Germany with her boyfriend Jochen :) So much fun showing them around town, picnicking at the Pizza Farm in Wisconsin, and waterskiing at the lake.

After they left on Saturday, mom and Sarah and I spent a relaxing day here helping Sarah transition from her summer in Panama to her new job/life coming up in Oregon. One of the highlights was a new recipe we found in Real Simple. We made a substitution of Trader Joe's Harvest Grains (a blend of orzo, couscous, quinoa and others) in place of the quinoa below, but you could also use farro if that's what you have handy. You'll notice the recipe calls for pesto, so I'm also including my personal pesto how-to guide for delicious homemade pesto. Enjoy!

2 cups quinoa (or other grain), rinsed
1/2 cup olive oil
3 small sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
salt and pepper
1 medium red onion, sliced
2 bunches kale, thick stems removed and leaves cut into bite-size pieces
fresh pesto (about 1/2 cup or 3/4 cup)
toasted walnuts, optional

  1. Cook the quinoa/grains according to the package instructions.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the sweet potatoes, 1 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper and cook, covered, tossing occasionally, until the potatoes begin to brown and soften, 6 to 8 minutes.
  3. Add the onion to the pot and cook, tossing occasionally, until the sweet potatoes and onion are tender, 4 to 6 minutes. Add as much kale to the pot as will fit and cook, tossing frequently and adding more kale when there is room, until tender, 3 to 4 minutes.
  4. Serve the vegetables over the quinoa/grains, topped with 1-2 T pesto and some toasted walnuts.

Lauren's Pesto

I adjust the recipe according to how much basil I have on-hand. Here's an estimation of ingredients for about 2 cups of basil leaves, but you should experiment and add ingredients one-by-one as you go so as to customize the taste. Add to Cuisinart in the following order:

Basil leaves, washed and dried (about 2 cups)
Pine nuts, about 2-3 T.
Juice from half a lemon
1 T. olive oil
Parmesan cheese, about 3-4 T.

Add more olive oil if pesto is too clumpy or not spreadable. Add more cheese to offset too much lemon. Some people like to toast the pine nuts first; I find it unnecessary.

Pesto will keep in the fridge about one week, or in the freezer about 3-4 months.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


How many of you have Aztec dancers for neighbors? I learned tonight that I do. And they are awesome.

Monday, August 6, 2012

tomato poetry

For you, my friends, three haiku and a recipe.


college girlfriend night
hand-made pasta, fresh red sauce
extra basil, of course


sun is setting soon
boats moored at lake nokomis
perfect summer night



my newest toy
an "ergonomic" edger
the DVD helped


Lauren's Marinara Sauce
Makes about 6 servings

8-9 medium or 6-7 large tomatoes
half a large white onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
two generous handfuls of basil, coarsely chopped
olive oil
kosher salt
large bowl of ice water

1. Boil a large pot of water; add tomatoes to boiling water and pull out when skins pop (time may vary for each tomato). Transfer to cold water and peel skin. Allow tomatoes to continue to cool.
2. Saute onions and garlic in olive oil in a medium saucepan until translucent.
3. Chop tomatoes and add to saucepan, including seeds and juice.
4. Drizzle with olive oil and cook over medium-high heat for about 10 minutes (until some of the liquid in the pan has evaporated).
5. Simmer on low until ready to serve; shortly before serving, stir in basil and salt. Garnish with fresh parmesan cheese.

Serve over hand-made pasta and with a salad of arugula, watermelon, feta cheese and balsamic vinegar for an excellent summer meal ;-)