Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Garden 2014 recap

I finally had the chance to have my own garden last year! Dad, Josh and Tim helped me build it and Kaydin helped me weed, water and harvest it throughout the summer.

The first year was spent learning how things would grow in the area, how rain would run off (It didn't. Instead I had many swampy floods through my rows of veggies), and if the soil was deep and healthy enough. Some tweaks are in order as well as lots of expansion for 2015! I've got my plan made, seeds in hand, and hopefully some little seedlings growing at my brother's house!

But first I thought I'd do a quick run down of what happened last year.

In late April we built the garden, throughout May we added lots of soil, planted seeds and picked up plants at the farmer's market. June was spent hoping my seedlings would make it through the streams all the rain brought barreling through the backyard, and July and August I was actually able to harvest some stuff!

Besides all the rain I also tried combating all the rabbits that kept eating all my little plants. The beets tops had to grow back three times! I used all of the piles of dog hair that is abundant at our house during the spring and summer and that helped a little I think. I also paired that with marigolds that I've read is also supposed to deter rabbits. Finally, I would sometimes use a liquid pepper spray that my brother mixed up for me. It never solved the problem completely but the situation got better as the summer went on.

This fall I closed up the garden by adding all the compost I made throughout the spring and summer and covering the soil with some straw I got from Wills Orchard in Adel. 

Herbs- as always, my herbs did well and lots were harvested and preserved. I grew oregano, mint, basil, and rosemary.

Carrots- lots of green growth but because the backyard is new and mostly clay, I didn't get much of a harvest but a few knubs. I read that you can make pesto out of carrot tops so I saved them but never actually got around to making them into something.

Cucumbers- harvested many! And make some pickles.

Zucchini- Plant grew really well, harvested a handful of fruits and then the vines turned to mush and died. At least I got a few out of it.

Beets- Like the carrots, the beets didn't grow large. I only salvaged a few very small beets. I did however, enjoy the tops!

Bell peppers- A few small ones grew throughout the season that I was able to chop up and use.

Tomatoes, cherry- This plant performed well and I got lots of little tomatoes throughout the whole summer. Next time I will remember to empty my pockets every time I come in from the garden and not leave a few little guys in my jacket pockets for weeks! Yeah, not a fun find that far down the road.

Tomatoes, heirloom- I was able to get a few fruits from each plant. The plants just did not do well since they received so much water. I planted them on the west side of the garden and that was the first place all the rain streamed in. Plus, most of the fruit that did grow developed blossom end rot. Guess I'll be making sure I get more calcium in the soil this year.

Kale- not one single leaf grew this year. I had some rally small little guys going and then the rain would come. Then it would dry out an so would the plant. Major fail but I sure hope I get lots harvested this year!

Here's to lots of pounds harvested in 2015! Can't wait!

Have you grown a garden before?

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Make Ahead Freezer Smoothie Packs {+ Smoothies with Blue Diamond Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk}

During the winter my smoothie making usually goes on a hiatus. Just too cold to sip on a drink containing ice or frozen fruit.

A couple weeks ago, though, as the temps have started to rise, I pulled my smoothie ingredients out of the freezer and cupboard. Since we're coming back around to smoothie making weather I wanted to make the fast and easy meal even faster and easier.

It just took 15-20 minutes of my time on a Sunday afternoon and I mixed together lots of smoothie packs that are now just waiting for me pull out in the mornings when we're short on time.

To add even more nutrients, my liquid of choice when blending smoothies has been Blue Diamond Unsweetened Vanilla almond milk. Adds such a creamy texture and lots of calcium without the dairy. I mixed one up for Kaydin that had grapes, berries, and almond milk and it was her favorite one I've made in a long time. Sometimes just the fruit with no other added sweetener leaves her requesting honey. This time she sucked it down no problem stating she loved it! I credit it to the almond milk adding great flavor and creamy texture.

Make ahead freezer smoothie packs

tsp or two chia seeds
tsp or two hemp hearts
tsp or two wheat germ
1 cup mixture your choice of fruit (fresh or frozen)
handful of spinach
2-3 ice cubes
sandwich size plastic bags

Add all ingredients to the bag.
Store in the freezer and pull put when ready to blend a smoothie.

*Disclaimer- This post is sponsored by Blue Diamond. All opinions are my own.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Crockpot Corned Beef and Cabbage Soup

Every March the impending St. Patrick's Day holiday always has me craving corned beef and cabbage.

Last fall, my brother, Josh, introduced me to a new variation of the Irish classic. He sent me home with a bowl of corned beef and cabbage soup he'd recently made. It was fully enjoyed that week for my lunch at work.

I've been waiting for March to get here ever since so I could recreate his version of the St. Paddy's Day staple!

I didn't get much help in the recipe department though...

Me: Send me your corned beef soup recipe.
Josh: There isn't one. Put sh*t together.

Well ok then! He gave me the list ingredients and I was on my own.

But really, though, you don't need a precise recipe to pull this meal together. Just the known ingredients and your trusty crockpot!

We've always paired our corned beef roast dinners with potatoes, carrots, and onions. Just as we do with traditional roast beef. Those ingredients make up this soup recipe, too!

And-- just because we've been getting lucky with some awesome 60-70 degree weather doesn't mean your crockpot has to be packed away until next winter. I like to use the crockpot year round to achieve a great meal with minimal work. The crockpot is the perfect tool to get your corned beef pull-apart tender.

Corned Beef and Cabbage Soup

1 package corned beef (weight depends on how meaty you want your soup. I used one that was about 1 1/2 lbs) + spice packet that comes with the roast
1/2 bag baby carrots
1 large onion, cut into large chunks
2 lbs of 5 lb bag of Yukon gold potatoes (about 10-12 potatoes), quartered
1 medium head of cabbage, cut into large chunks
1 32 oz carton beef broth
2-3 cups water
1 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried parsley

1. Optional step: The day or night before you want to make your soup, place corned beef in crockpot on low and cook for 6-8 hours.
2. If cooking all in one day: Add corned beef and a few splashes of broth to crockpot. Cook on low for 6 hours.
3. Add remaining ingredients and cook on low another 4 hours or until all veggies are tender.
4. Shred corned beef before serving so it's evenly distributed throughout the soup.

What are your go-to foods for this time of year?
I'm thinking a mint milkshake with some thin mints thrown in is in order this week!