~ For people who are passionate about respecting the earth, walking in nature, observing wildlife, local diet, making do, repurposing, organic gardening, foraging for wild plants and fungi, natural health, scrumptious healthy cooking, renovations, DIY, crafting, raising children simply and mindfully, taking time for stillness, and living in harmony with the seasons.
Summer is here and with it, fresh tomatoes and basil! My basil is flourishing in the greenhouse but I am relying on the Farmers Market and organic grocery stories to find the early fruit. I recommend using your highest quality extra virgin olive oil and sea salt flakes (i.e. Malden’s). A taste of juicy summer in every bite!
Tomato, Basil and Bocconcini Salad
This is a ‘rough’ recipe as the size of your salad will depend on how many people you are serving or how many fresh ripe tomatoes you bought at the farmers market.
3 medium-large ripe tomatoes
bocconcini, sliced (Note: I accidentally bought ‘cocktail balls’ of bocconcini but they worked just as well sliced in half)
extra-virgin olive oil
balsamic vinegar (just a sprinkling)
seal salt flakes and freshly ground pepper
Slice your tomatoes and bocconcini. Separate the basil into individual leaves. (You can coarsely chop these if your basil leaves are very large.) On a serving platter, begin laying the tomato slices and top each with a bocconcini slice. You’ll often see this salad arranged in a circle but play around and have fun with the design. This time around, I used a very long bread plate and arranged them in a long line.
Drizzle the tomatoes and cheese with olive oil and sprinkle with balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve. Enjoy every bite and keep in mind that this salad will never be this flavorful in the winter with store-bought fruit!
Nothing beats slow cooked food for tenderness, flavor and sensuality. The heady aromas and tactile pleasures of hand-grinding spices or hand-grating fresh ginger… The way your entire home smells warm and delicious all day long as the stew cooks, and of course the intensity of flavor and incredible tenderness as the meat literally falls off of the bone as you enjoy the meal with a glass of full bodied red wine… For this recipe, try and find the freshest prime local lamb in your area by visiting Alberta Lamb Producers.
2 pounds lamb stew meat, trimmed of fat and cut into 1-1/2 inch cubes
¼ cup vegetable oil
2 yellow onions, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon ginger, finely grated
1 tablespoon paprika
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 (28 oz) can organic diced tomatoes
½ cup plain yogurt
salt and pepper
½ cup packed cilantro leaves, chopped, for garnish
1 fresh tomato, chopped, for garnish (optional)
Put coriander and cumin seed in a mortar and pestle an hand grind to a fine powder.
Combine the flour and salt in a large resealable plastic bag (or plastic container with lid). Add the lamb and shake to coat all pieces completely.
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the lamb in batches and cook until browned on all sides. Drain browned meat on paper towels and transfer to slow cooker.
When the meat is done, add the onions to the pan and sauté, stirring frequently for about 10 minutes, or until onions are translucent. Add the ground spice mixture, garlic, ginger, paprika an cayenne and stir for a few minutes. Add the canned tomatoes and cook for another 5 minutes. Add the yogurt and mix well.
Transfer the tomato mixture in the pan to the slow cooker mix together. Cover and cook on low heat for 6-8 hours. Just before serving, season with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with cilantro.
1-3/4 cups Thai fragrant rice
14 fl oz can coconut milk
1-¼ cup water
1-½ teaspoon ground coriander
1-2 inch piece of cinnamon stick
1 lemon grass stalk, bruised
1 bay leaf
deep fried onions (optional) to garnish
Rinse rice with cold water until the water is no longer cloudy. Drain then add to a pot or rice cooker. Pour in the coconut milk and water then add the coriander, cinnamon stick, lemon grass and bay leaf. Season with salt. Bring the mixture to a boil, then cover and simmer for about 10 minutes.
Remove cinnamon stick, lemon grass and bay leaf and fluff up the rice with a fork. Then cover the pot again and continue to cook for another 10 minutes.
Serve rice on a platter and garnish with the crispy, deep fried onions.
This recipe is taken from Rice & Risotto: Cooking with the World’s Best-Loved Grain by Christine Ingram.
Here we are at the end of October and I am still harvesting herbs and vegetables from the garden and greenhouse. The picture above features the heirloom tomatoes and peppers that I grew in the greenhouse all summer. I thought I would have been done weeks ago but there was just so much to do and with the reasonably mild temperatures (until this week) I was able to take my time in getting everything in.
I now have all of the onions (Spanish, yellow and red), leeks, potatoes, squash, peppers and tomatoes in.
I also harvested parsley, dill seed and coriander seed (they are just drying out a bit more so I will do a separate post on them). Tomorrow I will harvest the basil in the greenhouse and make a batch of pesto. I still have garlic, carrots, more beets, some hardy swiss chard and a few more cold-tolerant herbs left to harvest and then I will be done for the season. Wow! What an amazing first year!
And what do you think I did at the end of a long, cold and windy day of harvesting…?
My green tomatoes are ripening indoors very quickly and I needed a recipe to preserve some of this wonderful harvest. I like to use this salsa as a base and later add finely chopped cucumber, more fresh diced tomatoes, chopped cilantro, a squeeze of lemon and maybe even some chopped mango just before serving. Note: feel free to use Hungarian paprika to this recipe if you prefer a smoky flavor to your salsa.
4-1/2 lbs ripe tomatoes, peeled and diced
3 onions, diced
3 fresh chilis, finely chopped
1 green pepper, diced
juice of 2 limes
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1-1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon honey (or natural sweetener of your choice)
1-1/2 teaspoon paprika
Combine all ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil, stirring often. Boil gently until thickened, for about 30 minutes to one hour. Pour into hot sterilized jars to within 1/4 inch from the top. Seal. You can also freeze in containers if you wish. Enjoy!
Sweet, sour, tart and delicious. A great way to use up some of those green tomatoes from the garden. Note: the golden brown color comes from the brown sugar.
Green Tomato Relish
15 pounds green tomatoes 2 1/2 pounds onions, peeled and coarsely chopped 1 cup salt 6 cups brown sugar 4 green peppers, seeded and chopped 1/3 cup celery seed 1/3 cup mustard seed 1 tablespoon whole cloves 4 sticks cinnamon 2 tablespoons whole allspice 2 cups cider vinegar
Remove the stem end of the tomatoes. Cut tomatoes into fine dice. Alternate layers of tomatoes and onions in a large pot or bowl, sprinkling each layer with salt. Leave overnight.
The next day, drain off juices and place in a large preserving kettle. Add sugar, green peppers, celery seed and mustard seed. Tie the cloves, cinnamon and allspice in a cheesecloth bag and add to the pot. Pour in cider vinegar to cover and bring to a boil. Turn down heat and simmer for 2 1/2 hours. Remove from heat and discard cheesecloth bag. Pour relish into hot, sterilized jars, cover and seal.
Why do we ignore these underaged beauties? Probably because too few cooks know the epicurean diversity of green tomatoes. This is the season to change that. To start your new culinary adventure, try this taste test: Take a ¼-inch slice of a medium-size green tomato and sample it. Your taste buds will register a firm, fresh fruit with an immature tomato flavor and a hint of sweetness similar to a zucchini. ~Cameron George
Crispy Fried Green Tomatoes
4 medium green tomatoes
1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 large egg
1 tablespoon milk
1 cup breadcrumbs
1 cup parmesan cheese, freshly grated or shredded
vegetable oil for frying
Prehat oven to 375 degrees (F).
Slice tomatoes into 1/4-inch slices.
In a shallow bowl mix together flour, salt and cayenne pepper. In a second shallow bowl, whisk egg and milk together until well mixed. In a third shallow bowl, mix breadcrumbs with parmesan cheese.
Dredge each tomato slice in flour, then dip into the egg mixture (letting excess drip off) and finally coating with the breadcrumb mixture. Fry on medium heat until golden brown on each side. Remove from pan and place on a paper towel to rain excess oil. Place on a baking sheet and bake until heated all the way through, about 5 minutes.
I spent this lovely, windy afternoon in the garden harvesting potatoes (red, Yukon gold and banana), beets, spaghetti squash, pumpkins, acorn squash and onions. The wilderness surrounding the garden was breathtaking… The leaves on the surrounding aspen poplars have turned bright yellow and they almost seemed to vibrate against today’s clear blue sky. My sweet peas are finally in full fragrant bloom and the sunflowers swayed and danced in the wind…
Despite the back-breaking labor of digging potatoes, I always enjoy the process. The simple turning of the soil to reveal these tasty treasures always reminds me of an Easter Egg hunt, where one never knows what will be revealed under the black earth…
This Yukon Gold wins the prize both for size and most interesting shape…!!!
A small mountain of banana potatoes…
Another prize-winner for interesting shape, this time in the tomato category…
I harvested only two tomato plants today. Only twelve more to go! (What was I thinking planting all of these???) I hauled three wheel barrels full of ‘spent plants’ a bit of a distance to my compost pile (behind the chicken coop, still in progress) where they will decompose and be dug into the garden soil next spring to nourish next years garden vegetables…
It was a wonderful, productive and satisfying day. I still have much more to harvest but I think that today’s labor was a very good start!
The garden leaves an enduring impression of serenity, dignity and cheerful repose. As soon as you set foot in it, you breath a purer air.
We have been fortunate to have had such a hot and sunny week here in central Alberta. This is just what our gardens need to grow and catch up a bit after our cool, rainy summer. I was going to start harvesting and tidying up the garden for the winter this week but am glad that I waited, at least until this hot spell is finished.
Today, I thought I would take you on a little tour and show you what is happening in the garden today…
Sunflowers, in full and vibrant bloom…
Sweet peas growing up the fence…
Cheerful little Johnny Jump Ups…
Black-Eyed Susan Vine (climbing up the greenhouse)…
Mint… Flowering onion…
Hops… French lavender and chilies…
Summer squash and spaghetti squash…
I hope that your gardens are flourishing as well, wherever you may be!
When we bought the cabin last fall, we inherited this quaint little greenhouse. I love that it is made with recycled windows- a great repurposing project! Unfortunately, it had been neglected for many years and was currently being used to store junk. It needed a lot of work. The paint was almost completely worn off, the wood was rotting in places, ten of the window panes were cracked or missing altogether, there was broken glass all over the ground under the extra windows at the back of the greenhouse, and it had become home to a large colony of ants and a family of bats.
Here is a shot taken during the winter. I was told (by our realtor) that the tire is from a Model T Ford. Any collectors out there?
Of course I fell in love with the greenhouse immediately and couldn’t wait for spring to arrive when I could take on the enormous task of lovingly restoring it back to its original purpose: a vibrant place to grow things here in our short Alberta summers.
Inside, the soil was very dry and dusty and covered in bits of plastic sheeting that disintegrated into a million tiny pieces whenever you tried to pick it up. There were layers and layers of spider webs everywhere.
When spring finally arrived, H and I began by moving all of the junk out. I cleaned the interior thoroughly using a broom, a shop vac and buckets of soap and water. Just under the roof (not pictured here), there is a large rectangular reservoir made of tin. I believe it was used to hold water, which then flowed into a tank which directs the warm water into the irrigation hoses that are buried in the soil. This reservoir was one-quarter full of bat guano! I had to get up on a ladder, and wearing a mask and goggles scraped and swept up bucketfuls of bat poo. I also had to remove the birdhouse as it had an active wasp nest in it. I did this early in the morning while it was still cold and the wasps presumably sleeping. I wrapped the birdhouse in a pillowcase (in case they flew up and swarmed me), gently removed the nails holding it in place and put the birdhouse carefully on the ground some distance away, removing the pillowcase.
I replaced all cracked and missing windows with panes taken from the extra windows that were once leaning against the rear of the greenhouse. Then I taped all of the window glass with painter’s tape, inside and out, in preparation for painting. As you can imagine, the taping was very tedious with all of those individual window panes. (And I taped all of the windows THREE TIMES during this process!) We should have bought shares in the company before I started this project!
Next, I primed all of the wood, inside and out. I had to give it two generous coats as the first coat seemed to be completely absorbed into the old, dry wood.
Here is a look at the interior after priming…
Here is a view of the back of the greenhouse…
Next came two coats of exterior semi-gloss black paint. The roof still looks awful as it needs to be replaced but that will have to be a future project.
Once the paint was dry, I took off all of the painter’s tape and washed the widows thoroughly. Then I re-taped the windows in preparation for caulking. I caulked the interior windows with black caulking, peeling off the tape before it set. This makes the caulking job look ‘clean,’ leaving crisp straight lines. Once again, I cleaned the windows.
Here’s a corner view. You can see where I transplanted some peonies that were previously growing in the front yard. My neighbor C also gave me some rhubarb, which I planted on the left side here.
Here is a view of the front. There is still an old damaged door (not shown here). It has some bats living in it so any time I am working in the greenhouse I can hear them scratching away in there. I will be replacing this door with a secondhand French door from the Architectural Clearing House in Edmonton. Unless any of you have a glass door you want to sell me on the cheap? I’ll even cook you dinner out here as part of the deal…
Here is the back of the greenhouse. I hung up some old rusty tools that I found around the property. I also moved the concrete blocks to the future chicken coop location as they will come in handy as part of the foundation there.
Here are a few shots of the interior…
Inside, H and I removed half of the dry, dusty soil. We added and dug in manure, compost and potting soil and then topped this with three inches of mulch to hold the moisture in. This picture was taken in early June.
I planted four different kinds of tomatoes, six different kinds of chili peppers, six different kinds of basil, parsley, cilantro, summer savory, tarragon, chives and there is a nasturtium plant in there as well. (I also have lots of herbs growing in a separate herb and tea garden as well as in my veggie garden).
Here is a shot taken just today. Notice that the tomatoes are growing up a length of string for support. This is old baling twine that I found near the barn when we were cleaning the manure off of the concrete pad. A length of this twine is tied to a nail on a beam above, the lower end is loosely tied to the base of the tomato plant while it is still young. As the tomato grows you gently wind the string around the plant. Be sure to provide some slack so that the twine doesn’t become too tight.
This is still a work in progress. I still have the door and roof to replace and I would like to caulk the exterior windows. I plan on putting a flagstone path in the ground at the front door along with a few large red clay pots with some bright red flowers. I am also looking for a weathervane to install on the roof. I have planted a few vines at the two front corners of the greenhouse, which, I hope over time will grow up the corners and under the roof line. Next summer, I will install brackets for two hanging baskets for more bright red flowers (yes, I really like red).
All in all, this has been a very useful restoration project so far. Did I mention that the greenhouse already has power, water, shelves to store my terra cotta pots and a little potting table? As it has been a cool, wet spring and summer so far here in Alberta, my plants in the outdoor gardens are healthy but still small. Meanwhile, the plants in the greenhouse are thriving and gigantic in their warm, humid little home. One of my tomatoes is now even touching the ceiling, it has grown so high!
I hope you enjoyed seeing this restoration project take shape. I actually just painted the back wall and installed the rusty tools just this afternoon. We have had so much rain that finishing the painting kept getting postponed.
I’ll keep you posted on any further developments with the greenhouse. In the meantime, I look forward to hearing about your own gardens and restoration projects!