Friday, August 5, 2011

Harvest on the Table ~ Beet Greens and Pasta

Friends, I have a confession:  I've never used my beet greens for anything.  I am usually amused when I see lowly beet greens mixed in with other lettuces in salads at fancy restaurants.  Really? Beet leaves?  My mom used beet leaves to make a variation of pyrizhky, also known as beetnik buns - pinch off a small piece of bread dough, wrap a beet leaf around it, so that it's a small oblong shape like a cabbage roll, bake, and serve with warm dilled cream and fried onions.  I never liked beetnik buns.  So, each spring I seed my rows of beets and once the plants are a few inches tall, I thin them out.  The beet leaves go in the compost bin.  Yup.

This year I decided to try something different.  What if I let my beets grow a bit more before thinning them out, and then use the thinned ones for the greens?  But what to do with them besides throw them in a salad?

I found a recipe for cooked beet greens at  Scrolling through the reviews, I saw that most people praised it highly, and some offered further suggestions.  One reviewer suggested mixing the cooked greens with pasta, for a sort of warm pasta salad.  Sounded like a plan.

It took me a few bites to figure out what I thought.  I added in an extra 1/4 tsp of dried red pepper, so there is a nice little punch.  Overall, it is very good, but I think it could be "better" - from the perspective of someone who grew up on Ukrainian cooking, anyway.  I think the next time I make this, I will skip the sugar and the vinegar all together.  Beets + dough + bacon + onions is a very basic Ukrainian flavour combination.  Heh.  This could  be Lazy Beetnik Buns.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Harvest on the Table ~ Lemon Saskatoon Berry Pie

I made this pie for an event in 2007, and haven't made it since.  The first time, I found the recipe online, but of course I couldn't find it again.

Overall, it's pretty simple - pie shell, lemon pie filling, saskatoon berry topping (whipped cream on top if you're game for the extra calories).  I figured it would be easy enough to swing.

You didn't think I was actually going to make everything from scratch, did you?  I did plan to make a graham cracker crust, but the premade crusts were on special, and for 50 cents extra I was willing to take the easy route.  Plus, it's been so hot lately, the less I use the stove and oven, the better.

I unwrapped the pie crusts, and cooked the lemon pie filling according the package directions. For the saskatoon berry topping, I adapted a recipe from

4c fresh berries (saskatoons or blueberries), cleaned and picked over
1/2c + 2T water, divided
2T cornstarch
1/2c sugar
2tsp fresh lemon juice

Place 1c of the berries and 1/2c of the water in a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Then, reduce heat and simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring often, until juice starts to thicken (after 7 minutes, mine still didn't seem to have thickened, but by that point, the liquid had noticeably evaporated, so I figured it was close enough).  While the berries are cooking, mix 2T cold water with the 2T of cornstarch.  Once the berries are ready, add in the cornstarch mixture, the sugar, and the lemon juice.  (Honestly, I didn't have fresh lemons on hand, so I just squirted in some of the stuff from my plastic lemon.)  Continue cooking for about 5 more minutes, until thickened.  Once it starts thickening, it will go fast, so keep an eye on it.  When you have to start scraping the juices off the bottom of the pot, pull it off the heat and quickly fold in the remaining berries.

I don't know if it makes a difference or not, but I like my lemon filling to gel a bit before I put the berries on top.  According to the berry recipe on epicurious, the berries can sit out on the counter for a few days, so they should be okay while you finish up the lemon pies.  After pouring the filling into the shells, I refrigerated them for about 10 minutes.  I then careful sprinkled and spread the berry mixture on top of the pies.

4c of berries makes just enough topping for two 8" pies.  Next time, I'll probably make 5 cups of berries.

I like this recipe because it's fast and easy, and nice for the summer when you don't want to heat up your kitchen too much.  It also doesn't require a lot of berries, so if you don't have too many ready yet, or if you have to buy them from your farmers' market ($$$), you can stretch them a little further.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Saskatoons are ready!

The saskatoons are coming along nicely.  I picked about four cups worth today.  The birds are already doing a number on them, and I will have to hustle to pick them as they become ripe, but before the birds chow down on them.  At $5/pound at the farmers' market, they're a precious commodity.

Four cups isn't a lot, but enough for a couple of lemon saskatoon pies.  If I can get my heinie in gear tomorrow, I'll whip some up and post the recipe.  If you have access to saskatoons (or blueberries), what do you do with them?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Baby Patty Pans

Friends, do you remember my Veggie Report from June 25th?  Sort of iffy on it?  Okay, well these were my patty pan squash plants on June 25th:

These are my patty pan squash plants today, about 3 weeks later:

AND, I have a few baby patty pan squashes out there. I'm hoping I can harvest a few in a week or so.

I'd still be happy to hear your patty pan squash recipes if you have any to share.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Fertilizer Friday - I'm Baaaaaack!

Tootsie over at Tootsie Time hosts Fertilizer Friday each week, where participants fertilize their flowers and post photos of their gardens.  I like the meme because I''m not good at remembering to fertilize, or rather when the last time I fertilized was!  I took a break from Fertilizer Fridays last year, but decided to give it a go whenever I can this year.

This is what's happening at the School of Yard Knocks this Fertilizer Friday:

Wave petunias in a whiskey barrel.  I bought these at the end of June for $6 for two packages at Canadian Tire.  They were pretty sad looking when I bought them, but I'm hopeful they will still flourish.

More of my bargain wave petunias:

My Therese Bugnet rugrosa finished her first round of blooms about 7-10 days ago, but is putting out new flowers again.

My beloved yarrow:

I have tomatoes!  I'm embarassed to say that I didn't even know I had baby tomatoes until I took my camera out there today to take these pictures.

I also have baby zucchini!  This is one of the yellow ones, but I also have baby green ones.

My patty pan squash plants are HUGE and putting out the blooms:

Two barrels of petunias in the foreground.  They don't get a lot of sun, but I'm hoping they'll still get a little bigger.

My clematis really does have buds!  I can't wait for them to open.

The first raspberries are *almost* ready (I had one the other day, and they are still on the sour side, but I couldn't resist).

What's happening in your garden this Friday?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Another Diaper Cake

My niece Marissa gave birth to her second child in April.  Her nursery theme was yellow with bees.  I found some cute yellow bee things (including a few little Gymboree outfits on eBay!).

One idea that I incorporated - and I'll freely admit I got this idea from a seller on who had a bee diaper cake for sale - was adding Burt's Bees baby products to the inside of the cake.

I also tried draping a baby blanket over the middle tier, which nicely covered the top and sides of the middle tier as well as the top of the bottom tier.

I decided to keep the "icing" decorations on this one  pretty plain.  I put bee theme ribbon around each tier, mostly as a way to keep the baby blankets in place (and on the top tier, the burb cloths).  Two pairs of bee-themed socks are diaper-pinned to the middle tier.  Some scrapbooking bee punchies are zotted to the top tier.  And the whole thing is topped off with a bee toy and some yellow facecloth rosettes.

Overall, I'm pretty happy with it.  It looks a little lumpy, frankly, but that's to be expected I guess.  Probably with more frou-frou for icing, the lumpiness is less noticeable.

For more detailed instructions on creating a diaper cake, see my post about the monkey cake.

Room with a View

Looking out from my bedroom window.  Thanks Mom for creating this beautiful space!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Inspiration Station

Friends, I have a problem.  I have no idea what to do with this area of the yard.  It's rather large - I'm going to guess about 12' wide x 20' deep?  Some of the plants in this area were established by Mom.  When she was alive, there was a large strawberry patch in the foreground.  The summer she was sick, one of my aunts and her daughter-in-law came and took a lot of the strawberry plants (I am sure that was done with my mom's blessing, but it left a large hole in the garden).  There were a few stragglers left, and I gave them to friends the next summer.  I'm not sure strawberries would have done well with Gabe and Archie tromping through them anyway.

Since then, it's basically just a weed haven.  I have no landscape designer abilities whatsoever.  I really don't need more growing space.  I was thinking of making cement blocks and putting them down here.  I envision weeds still growing between the blocks, and it's not a vision I'm keen to see to fruition.

Does anyone have any ideas for me?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Water Barrels

The City of Saskatoon has been experiencing problems at its water treatment plant since early June.   A mandatory ban on outdoor water usage was put into place for a few weeks, with a $300 fine to be levied on anyone breaking the ban.  Now, we are allowed to use sprinklers for a few hours a week (or we can fill a pail or watering can at any time and water that way).  The City has been encouraging people to use water barrels.

At the School of Yard Knocks, water barrels are a way of life.  The ones I use were cheap to buy and no-frills (no screen, no tap).  My parents always stressed that rain water was better for plants than the chlorinated water from the sprinklers.  It's "free" too - other than the cost of setting things up.  I have four 60-gallon water barrels - two off one downspout at the garage and two off one downspout off the back of the house.  I am currently down to about 30 gallons.  It's been hot and dry for a couple of weeks.

Usually, when all four barrels are bone dry, I will fill one each at the house and the garage with water from the hose, and let that sit for a few days.  My parents said the chlorine would evaporate (is that true?  I don't know).  I'm hoping we might get an unexpected rain shower before the weekend.

Do you use rain barrels?  How many do you have in your garden?  I'm considering getting a few more.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Laundry Day

Who else out there line dries their laundry?  No bottled detergent or fabric softener can beat that scent.

Friday, July 1, 2011

I found my clematis!

Okay, I found it a few weeks ago while weeding, but I did find it.  I totally forgot it was out there, and frankly I never expected it to survive the winter.  Tootsie over in Red Deer has a beautiful Jackmanii clematis; and I read an article last year in Gardens West magazine about clematis on the prairies as well.  The Gardens West article suggested planting the clematis root at an angle, so that spring melt doesn't pool around it.  Between the two of them, I figured I might as well give it a try - it's a beautiful plant.  It's still pretty small, but it seems to be putting out buds.  Fingers are crossed. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Idyllic Scents and Colours

My yard smells beautiful this year.  The lilacs are really pumping out the scent, and the frequent rains keep everything fresh.  My peonies are adding beautiful colour as well.

I don't think I've posted a photo of my lilac tree before.  I think it may need to be pruned?  I don't know anything about lilacs - my parents planted it.

I got this peony plant at Canadian Tire a couple years ago.  I am not sure of the variety.

An iris, planted by my mom.  My Auntie Mary says my mom was really frustrated that her irises never came up or bloomed.  Well, they do now mama :-)  (There may actually be an upside to not being as obsessive about weeding as you were!)

And these peonies were planted by my mom as well:

Gardens are a LOT of work, but certainly worth it.  Don't you agree?

Monday, June 27, 2011

My "Herb" Bed

Two years ago, I moved my herb bed frame out of a shaded area of the garden and into the sun.  I spent some time figuring out how to deter the dogs from walking on my plants, and how to pretty the whole thing up.  I blogged about that project in a serial extending over Part One and Part Two.

Since then, the bed has become nicely established.  It is surrounded by yarrow, which is threatening to take the whole thing over, but I do love my yarrow, so I'm not pulling it out (yet).  This year, for the first time ever (cue drum roll please!) two of my perennial herbs survived the winter.  I'm not sure what I did differently.  My Auntie Mary warned me about planting peppermint because she said it would be invasive, but I've had to replant all mints annually.  This year, though, my spearrmint and my oregano (!) both survived the winter.  The chives are also doing well in their converted canner planter.  I stuck a few more herbs in there (trailing rosemary, chocolate mint, and another oregano plant, which I bought before I realized last year's survived).  I always put some flowers in for colour too.

The view from my deck:

Quadrant 1 is mostly herbs.  Top row:  oregano, rosemary.  Middle row:  chocolate mint, petunia in shoe.  Bottom row: spearmint and another petunia.

Quadrant 2: snapdragons in the upper left; yarrow on the bottom left, chives on the right.

Quadrant 3 is mostly flowers, with daisies (which also survived the winter) in the basket on the left, yarrow in the bottom centre, and my new oregano plant on the right.  Snapdragons here and there for colour.
Quadrant 4:  the yarrow took over one of the herb containers, and scarlet runner beans are planted at the base of the trellis.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

And now for the Veggie Report ...

My veggies are coming along nicely.  We've had a good mix of rain and sunshine over the past few weeks.

I went a little crazy with my tomato purchases this year.  I have no idea what I was doing but I ended up with way too many tomato plants.  I have 17 planted and I sent 5 home with my Auntie Mary this morning. I know I have Lemon Boys and Sweet Millions, but there are at least two other varieties out there.  Will make a note the next time I go out (it's currently raining).

In addition to my usual bed of tomatoes, I stuck a row down the centre of this bed as well.  Those are beets on the sides.

National Pickling cucumbers.

Patty Pan squash (also known as Sunburst or scallop squash).

Kentucky Wonder pole beans and zucchini.  I have two beds planted like this - one with Gold Rush zucchini and one with black zucchini.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Crop Circles and Roses

I finally came in at 10pm tonight.  It was a lovely night - lots of light and not too hot; made good progress on my weeding.  I think I may have stayed out there too long though.  Someone (I'm guessing his name starts with "G") made himself a comfy place to sleep in my flower bed:

My own little crop circle!  How precious.  (Insert heavy sarcasm here.)

Those flowers may have taken a bit of a beating, but my Therese Bugnet rugosa is going gangbusters.  I bought it in August 2009.  It's quite well established and needs very little care.  I highly recommend it for Zone 2-3 gardens.  The Persian Yellow that I bought last year didn't put out shoots this spring.  I replaced it with another Therese Bugnet ($16 at Canadian Tire!).

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

My own Little Garden of Weedin'

I took time off work in early May to get some yard work done, but that didn't work out very well.  I got my cast off on May 2, and it took a full week before I could walk without crutches.  Then it was a matter of being able to stand or kneel for more than a few minutes at a time.  I'm walking well now, but I have a lot of catching up to do with the yard.  In the meantime, I started selling homemade dog cookies and dog food at the Farmers' Market every Sunday.  I've been spending my Saturdays baking and my Sundays at the Market.  My garden has been sorely neglected.

I'm reluctant to post pictures that would showcase my weeds in all their glory, so let's just do close-ups for now.  Therese Bugnet rose bud unfurling:

Chive flowers.  These are edible and surprisingly hot!

A peony bud ready to pop.

Yarrow buds.

The hanging basket I bought my mom for Mother's Day is flourishing.

The front yard is doing very well this year.  Most of the gout weed died off last year due to some mysterious disease/fungus thingie.  It came back, but in the interim, I think the other plants had a chance to get better established.  Usually you can't see the ferns for all the gout weed; and I noticed an iris blossom out there today.

If it wasn't for the weeds, I'd be pretty happy with how well the garden is doing.  With the veggies, my beans, zucchini, and cucumbers are all sprouted; and I'm sure I saw a few tiny beets popping out here and there.  All my seedlings (patty pan squash, several varieties of tomatoes and herbs, and flowers) are doing well too.