Happy July – What’s Growing on?

We celebrated CANADA DAY very unceremoniously this year.. thanks to Covid-19.  Honestly, Bill and i aren’t ones to celebrate Canada day very ceremoniously any given year.  Not that we don’t love our country and where we live.. but we just don’t love crowds.  We actually really really really don’t like crowds, traffic, parking, etc.  So typically we get out of Dodge on Can Day (and often to the States) – but this year, he worked, and I stayed home & inside due to 36C weather with 80% humidity most of the day, where I happily enjoyed the quiet, my new AC, and baked up a storm.   I did find this video, which I love.  I’ll share it ’cause A) I love “Walk off the Earth”, (the band) and B) I do love Canadian Products.  (French’s)  Please click and enjoy this fun rendition of our National Anthem.

One of the areas that Bill & I love to roadtrip is along the North shore of Lake Erie from Niagara to Leamington here in Southern Ontario, Canada.  We did it a few years ago on our September wedding anniversary in my cousin’s sweet little red BMW convertible. (lookit me rockin’ the head scarf.. LOL!)

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Leamington is known for it’s tomato fields and (used to be for) the Heinz Ketchup plant.  In 2013, it was announced that Heinz was closing the Leamington processing plant, putting 740 people out of work.  The plant was the largest employer in this lovely  southwestern Ontario town.  Then French’s came along (my favourite yellow mustard company, who also happens to be Canadian!) and bought the plant, and started making French’s Ketchup.  French vs Heinz

There’s a WHOLE lot more to the story, and this blogpost by Treehugger tells more about the Ketchup wars.. (note: i did not factcheck her blogpost on French’s ownership) but it’s nice to know that someone resurrected this Canadian Ketchup plant.  I didn’t mean to go off on that tangent – cause A) i’m so not political, and B) I do love my American Neighbours.. we love visiting you, and spend most of our vacation time in your fair land.. but C) I am Canadian proud, and the Ketchup wars  (article from McLean’s magazine in link) were pretty real here in Ontario, Canada and on our grocery shelves a few years back.

🇨🇦There’s a bit of social economic (recent) history for you post-Canada day.  🇨🇦


So… on to the “topic du jour”… what is Growing in my garden at the beginning of July?  With a late start to Spring (very cold May, with snow & frost second week in) we’re catching up.  the cucumbers are blossoming and climbing really fast now.

Zucchini are also blossoming and going gangbusters (no fruit yet)

The eggplant is full of fruit (mostly only about 3-4″ long)

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I’ve been harvesting herbs, radishes, lettuces every day.. even this celery stalk to give it a try, and my first mini eggplant!

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I harvested most of the garlic scapes recently, and may have been incorporating them a bit too much into my diet.. even Guillermo is complaining noticing when he’s near me.  😉 Woops!  time to eat a lot more mint!

I made my 4th batch of garlic scape & radish green pesto yesterday (adding only lemon juice & avocado oil, pepper & pink Himalayan sea salt) and added it to rotini pasta, white kidney & black beans, radishes, grape tomatoes, carrot, celery and onion.  It tastes fantastic.. but WOW does it have a garlicky punch!

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I was also using the pesto on my morning egg white breakfast wraps in the last week.. Actually had one of these a morning last week before I picked up mom for some errands.  (Sorry Mom!)   She noticed.. but honestly, as any of her daughters will tell you, she has extra sensitive and seriously super sonic Garlic radar.

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Today I switched up my egg white wrap.. instead of a tortilla wrap, I used a Rutabega leaf, and added in some hot peppers and a bit of havarti.  Turned out fantastic, and saved me all the calories/carbs in the tortilla while packing an nutritional punch into my breakfast.

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I’ve been using ALL the edible greens in our salads.  Mint, basils (yes, plural, 2 different kinds) Rutabega leaves, radish greens, several kinds of lettuce, and now beet greens.. which are my favourite!

img_9646This Romaine (pic below) is the crunchiest.. it came from one of my earlier plantings of kitchen scraps from store bought lettuce. You can see we’ve been harvesting from it quite a bit.  It will get tough soon, so i need to finish harvesting it – never fear – there’s lots more plants coming from the kitchen scraps.img_9672

the lettuce bowls are all taking off (one with a sunflower!)

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I thinned the golden beets to encourage growth a few days ago, and googled beet greens to see if they could be eaten raw (knew they could be cooked) and yes, they can, and also pack a wonderful nutritional punch.  From whfoods.com (World’s Healthiest Foods)

Our WHFoods rating system places beet greens among our Top 10 foods in terms of their total nutrient rankings of excellent, very good, and good. Beet greens are an excellent source of vitamin K, vitamin A (in the form of carotenoids), vitamin C, copper, potassium, manganese, vitamin B2, magnesium, vitamin E, fiber and calcium. They are a very good source of iron, vitamins B1, B6, and pantothenic acid, as well as phosphorus and protein. Beet greens are also a good source of zinc, folate and vitamin B3.

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One thing i just learned reading further though.. is that they are HIGH in oxolates.. which is NOT good for Guillermo.. as he is prone to kidney stones and should be avoiding oxolates.. so they will no longer be going into his salads… (insert sad face here)

Whatever the case, the thinning of the beet row was important.. and as you can see, these lovely golden beets are doing quite well.

I seem to have a bug in my garden.. and need to research how to fight it. Yesterday I saw a few white moths fluttering around.. and noticed as well that the Daikon radish greens seem to be the most affected.  too bad, as I was looking forward to harvesting these greens and trying them out as well soon.

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img_9667-1The climbing beans are taking off!   We have our first contender to reach past the railing.. i guesstimate it’s about 7.5′ tall now.

These guys are so fun.. i love the way they wrap themselves so tightly around the jute and climb climb climb!   No blossoms yet, I do believe that they suffer being on the East side. (not getting enough sun)  Hopefully that will change once they get tall enough and the upper leaves get almost all-day sun.

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Well, as you know from my last post on Salons being open… (and thankfully VERY safely here in Niagara… (masks, plexi glass, temperature taking, reduced services etc) I went in to deal with the “tinsel”.. and this is the result! My wonderful colourist added in some blonder highlights to tie in my 3″ grey tinsel Sparkly roots.. and I’m now a silver blonde!

It’s been a couple days now, and I still shock myself a bit when i look in the mirror.

Hope you’re having fun enjoying your gardens, new recipes, new hairdo’s now that salons are open again.. or trying something, ANYTHING new.   We’re never too old to learn.  Sometimes our attempts at “new” don’t always work out.. like the rhubarb & blueberry coffee cake muffins I attempted yesterday (no photos, they were that bad) but keep trying something new.  Keep learning, keep on experimenting and trying.. you never know what you’ll discover!

 

Salons are open! and an attempt at a Galette

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I recently saw a blog post on “Cooking without limits” for rhubarb galette.  I’ve never heard of galette!  But MAYBE this would solve my pastry issues!   Her recipe called for Agave.. which I thought for sure I had in the house.. but then remembered I brought it to work quite a while ago, and my cousin has been using it in his coffee…  so I substituted…  I cut up all the rhubarb in cute angle pieces, hoping to achieve the beautiful pattern that CWL (Cooking Without Limits) did.. but i could not figure it out..

I substituted honey in the pastry, and white sugar in the rhubarb.. but then drained the liquid from the cut rhubarb that sat in the sugar (and corn starch) for over an hour while the pastry was in the fridge.  (did I drain off too much liquid & sugar??)  so  I drizzled a bit of honey on the rhubarb after I laid it out on the pastry.  I have GOT to learn to check my pantry & ingredients before I start a recipe!!

 

The pastry worked out!!!  I’m so so happy!  I’ve never weighed flour before  – her recipe didn’t call for so many cups or scooped ingredients.. but 180G.. so I tared my food scale and weighed out EXACTLY 180 grams of flour, and exactly 150 G of cold butter, which i then grated.. (another baking hack I learned recently)  I’m not going to post the whole recipe.. you should really use hers if you want to attempt this … cause I fiddled it with it so much to match what I had in the house..  below before going in the oven.. (it’s more polygon than round.. but NOT bad for my first attempt!)

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And after…

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mmmm .. so glad we have French Vanilla frozen yogurt in the freezer.. we may just skip dinner and have Galette!  Rhubarb IS a vegetable after all!!

Note to self: get the Agave back from the office….


Yesterday I received a call from my hair salon that they are back open, and I have an appointment booked for about 10 days… time to integrate the Covid Silver linings into my new look!  My nail salon also re-opened yesterday, with really great protocols in place.  No walk-ins, they keep the door locked, you have to book an appointment, don’t touch all the polishes on the shelf (no prob, I usually bring my own) wear a mask, they take your temperature with a temp gun when you arrive, and you sanitize.. every other chair is bagged and ‘out of service’  putting you at least 3.5 m away from the next person, the techs are all masked with surgical masks, and then plexi hoods.   I also had to sign a release form/affidavit of my risks/level of contacts and agreeing to policy.  All VERY GOOD things.

So today, a little over 3 months since my last visit, I had a wonderful visit with my favourite Vietnamese ladies who do a fabulous job taking care of my feet for me.  They’ve raised their (very low) prices slightly – and I’m happy to pay it.  They can only do about 1/3 of their capacity, and they’re working hard cleaning in between – even more so than they always did in the past.   I have Happy Feet.  And soon I’ll have Happy Hair.

 

The hair salon also is doing similar protocol.. and limiting appointments to what they can do in 1 HOUR for colour, plus cut.  No blow outs, no styles.   All this will save me money of course too.. I look forward to what they’re going to do with this…

 

Garlic scape & radish greens pesto

IF ever there was a time to eat more garlic and not worry about it… it’ s now during Covid.  For those people who just won’t stay 6′ or 2 meters away… they certainly will if you’re eating raw scapes! 🙂

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I’ve just started harvesting my scapes.  I like to wait til they’re curly.  My favourite way to eat them is with a bit of rubbed olive or grapeseed oil with some S&P and maybe a bit of lemon juice or lemon oil, then grilled.  We’ll be doing that likely in the coming week.

I found THIS recipe as noted in my last post for radish green pesto.. and thought instead of using garlic, I would use the fresh scapes out of my garden.

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Scapes are the “flower head” centre stalk of hard neck garlic.  the stem at the bottom can be woody like asparagus, you want to snap them off.  but the whole head and stem can be eaten – I typically cut off the top flat green piece above the white head if using raw, but leave it on when grilling.   You do want to pull/cut these because they will rob your garlic bulb in the ground if you let them “bloom”.   Use them any way you would garlic.. and more.   They are much milder and sweeter than the garlic bulb that is growing in the ground below, and I find a lot more versatile.  The great thing is, your garlic plant is giving to you twice!   My cousin dries them, and also ferments them.. they really are fabulous fermented.  I’m hoping to get a jar (or two!) from her this summer.  We tend to share a bit from our gardens, and she ferments EVERYTHING… but the scapes are my favourite.

I pulled out my trusty mini food processer, and before I got going on the pesto, I decided to pulverize all the egg shells we’ve been collecting to feed our garden.  We’re discovering that our green bin sometimes gets thrown right in the same  bin as the regular garbage on the weekly waste trucks, (so very disappointing!!)   so I’m hoping to do more composting, and using everything I can of my food.  Like the radish greens.  And all our egg shells, and coffee grounds to feed the garden.  These are going in the garden, because apparently in our area we are already very nitrogen rich, but our soil needs more calcium.  I baked the shells first in the oven, then cooled.  I’m guessing I could have processed them further into a powder, and may next time, but we’ll start with these.

Then a good clean out of the processor, and in went the radish greens, (prewashed several times and spun dry in my salad spinner) local cold-pressed grape seed oil with lemon from Niagara Vinegar Co., juice from half a lemon, heaping tbsp of Tahini, (the recipe link I shared from “From a Chef’s Kitchen” called for nuts, but i didn’t have any in the house that would work – so thought I’d try Tahini, and it worked.. really softened and rounded out any sharpness from the Scapes or bitterness from the radish greens) S & P and about 8 garlic scapes.

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The result is amazing.   I had quite a bit on some canape crackers.. and am now eating by the spoonfuls while I’m typing.. oh.. mmmmm.  SOOO yummy.

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I will definitely be saving all my radish greens from now on, and trying different pesto recipes.. and maybe even freeze some pesto cubes for the winter to have on pasta, chicken, in rice dishes.  mmmmm… Pesto season might be one of my favourites..

 

oh Guillermo… you better come have some, otherwise you’re not gonna wanna kiss me for about 3 days..

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now THAT’s a garden salad!

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did you know that Rutabaga leaves are edible?  I looked it up!
https://www.diynetwork.com/how-to/outdoors/gardening/growing-rutabaga-greens

If you remember… i had a big waxed Rutabaga on my counter a couple of months ago, and cut off the ends that were sprouting.. put them in water for a couple weeks.. then planted.

Pics from the last couple months :

 

They have TAKEN off in the garden!!  The root isn’t growing yet, but i have enough leaves for a few salads!

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The blogs I read said to take off no more than 3 leaves per plant.. I have 4 plantings, so this wasn’t a problem for tonight’s salad.

My sister and I had this interesting conversation about chlorophyl this weekend (found in our leafy greens and GREEN vegetables!) .. how important it is in our diet…  it makes us “less stinky”.  LOL!  There’s LOTS more great benefits… if you’re interested read HERE.
Just a few like:  skin healer, blood booster, cancer prevention, weight loss, natural deoderant, detoxification…  LOTSA great benefits!    

did you know that Radish greens are edible?

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Yup, they are too! Suggested to use for Pesto, not in salads because of their rough texture, unless you are using the very baby greens that are still tender.   I’m gonna bookmark THIS POST.. to make Radish greens pesto next time I harvest.. cause i think they might not be a proven winner in the salad bowl.

Last week I found a salad spinner on sale at my grocery store.  I’ve always wanted one, and with all the greens we’re growing in “Bill & Amy’s garden” I thought it was time.  Shhhh.. Guillermo doesn’t know yet.  Every time I bring home a new kitchen gadget he sighs… “where are you going to put THAT?” (cause even though we purged in a HUGE way 2 yrs ago when we demo’d our house for the renovation/demo and I have 3 times the cabinets.. somehow they’re all pretty full (but ORGANIZED!)   I’m pretty sure he’ll love it though, will have fun playing with it himself, AND I did have room, and still actually have a couple of empty cupboards… so.. until he reads this post… shhhh.. our secret.

So I wandered outside after work this morning (I’m working 7-10ish hours a week now during Covid.. the future is still unknown) with my salad bowl and started by picking the Rutabaga leaves, some mint and 2 kinds of basil and brought that inside to wash, spin and cut up.  the Rutabaga has a really lovely texture and a slight peppery taste… kinda like arugula. These I rolled in bunches, and then chopped all pretty fine.

Then I thought… what else do I have out there?  Another wander out, and I realized both my “salad bowl” lettuce and Romaine (from “Andy boy” lettuce roots, started in March in the kitchen window) were both ready for a bit of harvest.. and so were the radishes.

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I washed up everything really well, spun some more, and cut it all up, even the radish greens (super fine) and put them in the bowl.

I added in some cucumber & blueberries from the fridge (can’t wait til my cukes produce!) and roasted sweet potato before I dressed the salad.

I am SO looking forward to making lots of fresh salads out of our garden over the next few months, using the various greens, lettuces and other veg as they grow.  Beans, roasted eggplant, Daikon radish (and their greens!) peppers, zucchini.. mmmm   I think next year we’ll add in a few different potato varieties to the garden as well.

In the meantime we still have more “Andy boy babies and celery babies” starting in the kitchen window that I hope to plant this week to keep the crop going.

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I harvested a bit too much mint for the salad.. but it’s always great as a fresh tea, especially at hand while I’m blogging.

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Bon Appetit!

Ch-Ch-Changes and Growth

The gardens are changing everyday.. showing LOTS of growth.  It’s an exciting time to be home and being able to play in my garden – and helps keep me distracted from the roller coaster of emotions I’m on for the last week or so – contemplating my future with regards to work & ministry and wishing that God would give me a sneak peak  into what’s in store.  I need to stop.. talk to my Father.. and rest in Him.  He is my Provider – not just of worldly goods, but of LIFE, health, peace, strength… Everything.   Every good and perfect gift comes from Him. As everything else changes around me- HE does not.

One very interesting gift He gave us this last week was a new job offer for Guillermo at a different steel plant with a different group of people.. with almost 2 hours longer (per day) of commuting.. It’s not what we would have chosen, but are hopeful that it’s the right fit for right now.    He’s been off work due to Covid for 2 months – and we’ve REALLY enjoyed our time at home together, working in the gardens, in the house.. doing ministry together for our church as it navigates through the pandemic.  We’ve been BUSY… and really enjoying the time.  Monday was his first day back – but to a different plant.   The new longer commute &  workday means a 9-930 pm bedtime for us.. and a 430 AM wakeup call for him.  I’m guessing that his dad reading this is smirking.. saying.. “Yup.. sonny-boy, just like when we farmed.. without the commute.”   

The best part is– he passes by his parents home just over halfway in his commute (~35 min drive from our home) every day, so he’ll get to see them more often.


Like each new flower and each new leaf that comes out of the ground – I realize that  I may be the one tending the garden, and watering it.. but He provides me with the strength, ability and the water… just like He’s providing us with what we need for everyday, whether it be the reliable old van with an odometre reading over 306,000 that is going to earn 720+ km more each week in the next 3 months, and the gas to fill it, or Guillermo the renewed strength and ability to do this new job.. the rest we need each night to start each new day..

EVERY good gift and EVERY perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. (JAMES 1:17 ESV)

In this world that is changing minute by minute.. and not all for the good.. It’s SO SOOO GOOD to remind ourselves that God doesn’t change.. and that He continues to give good gifts that help us to grow in Him.


this past weekend we noticed the first of the brilliant red poppies blooming. I’ve moved/transplanted and cut back these poppies so many times over the last 14 yrs we’ve lived here.. I have a love/hate relationship… the leaves are not pretty.. and they take up a lot of space.. and the flowers bloom for maybe 5 days out of the whole year IF we’re lucky..  so a whole lot of ugly and space for a very short time of brilliant beauty.  Is there a metaphor for life here?? Today, 4 days after writing this post.. the poppies are gone already.

The peonies are quite a bit better… they provide us with a fairly nice looking hedge for most of the summer… with prolific blooms for about 2 weeks (providing we don’t get a heavy rain).. and they give me the opportunity to share with others.  Last year the hedge provided close to 100 blooms for my niece’s wedding, and most years I give away at least a dozen large bouquets.   They are right on time this year.. and seem to be EXTRA tall! 5′ now, measured at almost 57″ a week ago)

Here’s a tour of how things are growing in our vegetable garden as of earlier this week – June 8, 2020)

First off we have our 3 zucchini (black beauty) mounds (planted from seed) that are getting quite leggy.. I fear they don’t get enough sun.. but we’ll find out in a few more weeks.  Next our transplated remaining rhubarb is doing quite well.  It got pelted by hail a little over a week ago, and has some holey leaves, but is mostly doing well.  We also transplanted some roots that didn’t show any growth yet at the time.. and they are also sprouting new leaves.  We’re quite hopeful that the new raised rhubarb bed will do quite well.  Next is first of 3 “salad bowl” lettuce containers.  They are at 3 various stages of growth which is perfect.. hopefully they will stay that way and give us lettuce for most of the summer. This one pictured is a repurposed Pointsettia planter from this past Christmas.

next we have our radishes!  Guillermo is not a radish lover.. but most of my family is, including my mom.  I hope to provide her with some fresh radishes soon.  I’ve done 3 separate plantings so far, each about 2 weeks apart.. and the first planting should be ready to harvest in the next week.. I pulled one today – and it was YUMMY!

Then i have a row of golden beets which are also suddenly taking off from their first little seedlings.

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I’ve had to remove a couple of plants, and have to remove still more.. (same with the zucchini.. but i’m protesting there)..

I don’t like Pruning. It is so hard for me to do – I grieve each little plant or branch i pull.. but in order for good growth to happen, pruning HAS to be done.   I wonder how hard it is for God to prune us?  Is it like the age old saying when a parent disciplines.. .“this is gonna hurt me a whole lot more than it hurts you?”  I’m not a parent, so I’ve never been the “discipliner”.. only the disciplinee.. and I’ve never quite believed that saying.

But.. now here I am, having to prune.. and remove plants that I lovingly seeded.. to make room for the better ones to grow and produce.. and I DON’T LIKE IT!!!

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oh and cucumber.. i have to thin those as well.. they are to grow up these two arches on the North side of the raised garden.   I’ve harvested all the kale now, leaving one stripped plant that is boasting beautiful yellow flowers now and about to go to seed.   The garlic and onions planted last fall are all doing amazing and should be starting their harvest in about a month.  In the meantime, I’ve been cutting back the greens on the onion as needed for salads and dishes. In the foreground is a 5 yr old transplanted sage flowering, and a mint I’m cutting back almost biweekly.  as well as 3 jalepeno pepper plants.   3 rows of Daikon radish were direct seeded on Saturday, almost a week ago) and  sprouted leaves in 3 days after direct seeding!  This is something new for me to try growing, and I’m quite exciting.  I love Daikon (Lo Bok) in salads, fish tacos, or just to munch on fresh.

We have a section of my “kitchen scraps” that are growing amazingly well, 3 romaine (one didn’t make it) 4 celery (not pictured) and 4 rutabega… all from kitchen scraps.

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The new bean bed is taking off remarkably well.. the first plant has reached above the deck floor now.

I’ve really taken to container gardening..using every available space.. including the steps up to the deck where we have a ginormous mint plant, geranium, and my little herb garden that really needs a bigger container.

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I repurposed some flower pots from the garden centre to seed new kale plants for late summer/Fall planting (hoping to over winter & have for Spring harvest again) and 3 for Nasturtium to germinate in.  I hope to find a place to plant the Nasturtium where it can either trail or climb on the deck, giving shade and adding beauty with it’s orange, red and yellow edible flowers.  (behind the upper right nast. pot is a celery growing from kitchen scraps)

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We’ve REALLY been enjoying the new deck during this season, both during the day and into the evening. (showing the other 2 lettuce bowls at later stages of growth than the “pointsettia pot”)

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Never fear -there’s still lots of baking going on in “Bill & Amy’s Kitchen” … we found a VERY old partial case of Alexander Keith’s beer in the basement. (ewww) I had bought the case when a crew of guys came to build fences on our property line 5 years ago.  Thinking it had to be flat, and nothing to lose – I looked up recipes, and found one for Beer Bread. <–link to recipe here. It turned out pretty good. and VERY easy.

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Amazingly when I popped the top off the bottle, it was still quite fizzy- but i still wasn’t gonna drink it.   The bread was dense, but really sweet and flavourful.  Toasted well.  It’s recommended to go with soups, stews, chili.  I’m earmarking this recipe and stashing the rest of the case for Fall when I get back into the heartier cooking.

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More rhubarb/strawberry crumble, baked Kale chips, choc chip cookies, and a rhubarb/strawberry pie for my almost 92 yr old Father-in-Love.   I realllllly struggle with pie crust.  Guillermo really wanted me to make it with coconut oil, and I’ve tried a couple of different recipes.. (honestly, i did no better with butter or lard in previous attempts) but i just can’t seem to roll out a circle without big breaks or splits in the dough.

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This time I didn’t do a good enough seal around the edge.. and lost a lot of liquid to the bottom of the oven…. oh dear. Still, i’m hoping it tasted good, and it did look a bit pretty.  The heart cut-outs help. ❤️ 

This post has really got me thinking about the pruning, changes and hopeful growth in my own life – as I’m stretched in new ways.

God.. I’m trusting you as this pruning happens.  I know you are gentle and loving.

I leave you with this pretty edible bouquet of Sage flowers, mint and Kale blossoms.

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Blossoms, Beans & Baby Birdies

First off… is this not the CUTEST baby bird you’ve seen? 

Our Oriole family has been coming together to feed, Dad with baby daughter (pictured here) and sometimes Mom with baby son.  We have at last 3 adult males.. not sure how many females, the males I’ve been able to distinguish by their markings.  

Today Guilermo, with myself assisting, got the strings up for our growing beans.  I cannot tell you HOW excited I am for this.

As per my last post, I’ve been wanting to build my own “bean fort” for decades.. just like my Dad did.   The seedlings are doing well, and we look forward to watching them climb the Jute strings up to the pergola. 

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We buried the base board behind the beans, between the beans & the deck once we had all the strings evenly taut.  This is on the East side of the house, but we’re fairly confident they’ll get enough sun to grow and climb… they’ve already climbed considerably in the last few days, reaching for strings/poles not yet present.  I look forward to the big bumble bees and hummingbirds that will come to the bean blossoms in a few weeks.

My mom and I went on a “date” this morning, first time I’ve taken her to a store since she fell quite ill with pneumonia in early January.  We masked up and went to our favourite Dutch store to pick up some groceries and treats.  Afterwards we went for a nice drive on back roads and ended up at Creekside Greenhouses on Fairlane Road in Jordan, ON.

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They had a fabulous plant sale, and mom bought me 2 of these gorgous “million bell” hanging baskets.. $5 each!!   We both also bought ourselves a front porch planted basket of geraniums with trailing plants.  ($10 each!)  

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Around the garden many plants are blooming, promising of future seeds or yummy vegetables.. like this Eggplant, that has more blossoms than I can count.. wondering if I need to thin it?  Maybe I’ll wait to see which blossoms produce fruit first, then thin possibly..

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I did a major thinning/harvest of our kale a few days ago, and put all the kale stalks that were going “to seed”  in a large vase on the deck.

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that day we had Grilled kale with chicken drumsticks & sweet potato for dinner, and a big yummy kale salad  with chicken,broccoli, cooked squash, chick peas and strawberries for lunch.

I’ve also been making more Kale chips, and processing kale for omelettes and soups/salads. 

The Kale flowers in the vase have come out bright & beautiful in the last few days.   I hope to harvest some seeds from the bouquet to plant this Fall.

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One last walk around to the front, and you’ll find our Kwanzan Cherry gave up it’s blossoms during this past week’s heatwave. (last week of May, 4 days straight of mid-30’s temps each day) 

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and to the back again, behind the new deck, Guillermo built a cedar mulch walkway between the deck and the remaining peony hedge (we gave away about half of our 40+ foot hedge last year when the new patio & raised garden were built) , which is currently standing over 4′ tall – getting ready for an early bloom in spite of the very long cool Spring.

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I think Spring blossoms are my favourite.. the promise of more.  

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Beans, Beans.. good for your heart…

…………………

and then you’ll want another meal, of BEANS, BEANS good for your heart!

we ate a LOT of beans as kids.. trimmed them, cut them.. ate them.  And yet, I still love beans.  My dad grew them, we trimmed them, mom cooked them, and we all ate them.   green beans, and “sneijbonen” or scarlett runners.  One of my cousins just reminded me that Dad used to call them ‘throat cutters’.   IF you wait too long to harvest them, they are pretty tough.. and then you just want to keep them for the legumes inside – which are fantastic.  Bigger than a kidney bean.. great colour, and so meaty.

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My mom used to cook them up in bacon fat with big cut chunks of bacon, and we’d eat them with mustard.  MMmmmm’mmm. Must buy bacon…

They also make a great candle holder.

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Funny story about these particular (scarlett runner) beans in the pic above.. they’ve been in this vase for about 3 years – and just this past Christmas I had a lit candle on top, which ended up melting into the beans.  A few weeks later, I poured the beans out, dusted them, and removed all the wax.   Fast forward to about a month ago, I decided to see if any of the dried beans were viable, so I soaked them for a few days in wet paper towel, and sure enough, they sprouted!    A couple of days ago, I planted those sprouts into our new bean bed, along with 2 other varieties of pole beans.

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This is the 2nd of 3 new raised planters that Guillermo is building this Spring.  This one is alongside our new deck/pergola, with the hopes that the beans will grow right up the side and onto the pergola. He’s lined the insides with Delta house wrap to protect the wood from rot, and the bottom with landscape fabric to keep weeds out.

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In a few weeks it will be really neat to put this photo side by side with the climbing beans.

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We’re not new to pole beans… we’ve been growing them for years behind our house, on the South side, where they would follow strings as high as we would allow them.  I’m sure they would grow up 5 storeys if we had enough string.  These pics are from previous summers.

I learned from a wonderful hobby gardener.. my Dad. He would grow scarlett runners up the side of his 2 storey steel barn, where they would reach the roof, and then curl on back.

opa's garden beans and sunflowers

He also built a gazebo in the backyard on top of an old black walnut tree stump, and then grew beans up two sides of the gazebo.  We would sit in the shade under the vines and pick the beans, eating them raw.  (ps.. while my mom has to be the most photogenic person I know.. my dad.. not so much.)

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Whenever I play in my garden, i think of my dad and how he loved to grow things. He even used his own chicken manure from the chicken pen we had right in our Main Street village backyard.    He grew so much of our food, and we had incredible bounty to share and to store up.  Mom worked hard in the kitchen, with no Air Conditioning in the hot summer months, peeling, chopping, canning and freezing so many meals of food that kept our family going for months.  My sisters and I weeded, helped harvest, and helped with the chopping, peeling.  (to this day, i HATE peach fuzz and juice running down my arms)

Mom’s kitchen was busy every summer with canning peaches, pears, making grape juice, apple sauce, parboiling beans for freezing in milk bags.. and lots of other vegetables too – all to feed her family.

I haven’t gotten into canning yet, but I have frozen quite a bit of our produce.. and hope to do more this summer/fall, and will share the experience with my readers as we harvest.

Eat beans.

They’re good for your heart.  🙂

 

 

 

 

A clenched fist cannot receive

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Yesterday I told a story about our rhubarb thief in the golf cart from many years ago, and my resulting passive aggressive response.    I’m not happy about that.  Honestly, we very gladly and willingly give from our garden.  It was the cutting of the stalks at the time that irked me more than anything.  (pull your rhubarb people, don’t cut it!)  I found this great video on youtube about how to harvest if you’re interested..

I had a conversation with one of my sisters last night, about open hands and closed fists.  I’m not sure where the quote originated from.. but I found these 2 on line..

“We cannot sow seeds with clenched fists. To sow we must open our hands.”

— Adolfo Perez 

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“When you clench your fist, no one can put anything in your hand.”

— Alex Haley

When we hold on too tightly to things, we cannot receive.. and we can often crush/destroy those things that we hold on to the tightest.   Jesus himself said “it is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35) .. and if you yourself are a giver.. you know exactly what He was talking about.  If you’re not a giver.. you may never understand that until you open your hands and give – and find out the true blessing it is.

Honestly I don’t give in order to receive, but I’ve found it a really wonderful byproduct.

A year ago, we had to reallllly quickly move our veg/rhubarb garden for the construction on the back deck/patio.  We gave away about half of our rhubarb plants at the time- and we moved the rest to a temporary dirt pile beside our fence, with the intentions of building a new raised bed dedicated to these wonderful vegetables that we treat as fruit…

Guillermo built the fabulous new bed this week, a little over a year later. (WOW, time flies!!!)  A raised bed for our poor aging backs that suffer when bending to pull the delectable stalks.

Pic below, moving the old rhubarb patch April 2019.

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In the past year since we moved the rhubarb one shovelful at a time, it’s more than doubled.  We gave away half, and now we have double what we started out with!   So today again I put a call out on Facebook.. first come first served.. and gave away 7 mounds of rhubarb plants.

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One friend brought me grape hyacinths in return!  (Thanks Helen!!!)

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This year we’ve only been able to pull a tiny amount, enough to give a handful to my mom, and for one strawberry rhubarb crumble/crisp.

Recipe:
crumble with big fork or pastry cutter:

2 cups rolled oats
1 cup Brown sugar
1 cup softened butter
1 cup whole wheat flour
Cinnamon to taste

Reserve about 1.5-2 cups of the crumble.  Press down about 1/4 thick layer on bottom of greased 9×13 pan, and bake for 10 minutes in 350F oven.

cut up rhubarb & strawberries in a bowl – about 6-8 cups.. depending on how much fruit you want (more the better for me!!), cover with about 1/2 cup white sugar and 2 tbsp of corn starch and coat all the fruit. (i do this same recipe for blueberries, apples.. you name it.. adjust the cornstarch and sugar accordingly.  (Add a tbsp lemon juice when doing apples/blueberries.)

after 10 minutes baking the crust, pull out of oven, top with fruit mixture and then the reserved crumble, and bake for 45 minutes.   Let cool before slicing.


 The rhubarb we’re keeping  (for now) has been moved to it’s new bed, with room for 3 mounds of zucchini I planted beside it.

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The first I heard about the concept of “clenched fist vs. open hand” was from a dear friend, Laura Schular many years ago.. and it was in regards to prayer.. we need to have our hands open rather than clasped when we pray in order for us to receive.   Not that God is beyond the posture our hands are in.. but it really helps us to ready our hearts and minds when our posture is involved.

open hands

 

 

Kale Chips & Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup

I may have a Kale thief. 

The other day I came home from doing groceries, and came out back to see what Guillermo was up to, and noticed one of my Kale plants stripped bare in the middle….

Hrmmm. Not mentioning any names, but I think I’m related to her.   🙂 

A few years ago I had a rhubarb thief.  I knew exactly who that was too.  They left golf cart tracks all the way through our wet lawn from beside my garden right to their house.   That particular thief actually cut the rhubarb stocks off with a knife, which kinda irked me just a little.  I’ve always been taught, you PULL rhubarb.. never cut it.  Pulling strengthens the root, and more grow back.  So…. harnessing my passive aggressive tendencies, I pulled some of the best and reddest juiciest stalks, washed them, and personally delivered them in a nice basket.. just so they’d have enough.  Don’t laugh.. I’m not proud of it. Honesty I’m glad to share from my garden- it’s not mine anyways… it’s all God’s. He’s the one that makes it grow- I’m just the gardener.

I dunno if you know this about me… but passive aggression is a very strong trait in my family, and somehow I got a triple dose of it.    It’s something I’m working on..  and working on….

Back to the Kale…. I harvested several leaves from a couple other plants (they are all going to seed now) and brought a bin full inside to wash up and break into large chunks. 

I don’t have a salad spinner, so I wrapped them up good in 3 tea towels and left them to dry over night.   Today while I was making soup and quiche for a dear friend going through cancer treatments, I decided to make kale chips in the oven. I had enough for 4 full cookie sheets.

If you’re new to my blog.. let me say.. i’m not your typical ‘recipe blog’… I look for recipes all over the interweb.. and when I find one.. i give credit to where I found it.. and typically don’t write out the whole recipe, unless I’ve done some major changes to it.  Please do go visit the original blogs where I’ve linked if this is something you’d like to try.

I found THIS GREAT RECIPE on line from “Oh She Glows” for All Dressed Kale Chips.  They turned out FANTASTIC.   Here’s the “dressing” (from Oh She Glows site)

 

I did 2 trays at a time in a 300F convection oven as she directs – and turned the trays halfway through.  My oven tends to run low/slow.. so I did a full half hour.  (She suggests 25 min total)

I will say this.. the process of rubbling oil on the kale and getting my hands all oily was the very best thing for my hands that are so dry and chapped from all the gardening I’ve been doing.   I’ve never used Nutritional Yeast before, so i was really curious about this recipe. 

I had bought some a while back hoping to use it sometime, and this was the perfect recipe to try it out on.   I didn’t have cayenne.. but these kitchen staples of mine were what I rubbed in before going in the oven. One thing I learned last time I made kale chips.. go VERY easy on salt.. kale has a natural saltiness that comes out when baked.. you don’t need hardly any added salt at all.

They turned out so crispy and yummy… even Guillermo (not a chip guy) said they were “not bad”… (that’s high praise coming from him!) LOL

While the kale chips were in the oven, I got going on the Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup – a recipe I found HERE several years ago.  I love this soup.  It’s so easy, Springy, and zesty flavourful. 

I spent some time on the deck yesterday cutting up the carrots, celery & onion (I couldn’t bear being stuck inside!) and put the prepped veg in the fridge for today.  I like making “flowers” with the carrots for some interest in the soup.  Some of them look like windmills.. but they’re still cute.

 

This recipe calls for boneless skinless chicken legs.. but I only had breasts – which I cut up in 1″ small pieces and fried up with a little Avocado oil and garlic in my cast iron Dutch oven.   

After the chicken was cooked through, I removed it, and put the celery, onion, carrots in to cook.  Then thyme for about a minute, then 2 tetras of No sodium organic chicken broth. (1800 ml)  The recipe calls for 5 cups, but i’ve found that the orzo sucks up a LOT of liquid, and I always do more veg/meat than a recipe calls for anyway..   

With the chicken broth, I added in the cooked chicken and a fresh rosemary sprig.  (from Bill & Amy’s garden!)   Once it boiled, added in 3/4 cup of dry orzo, and simmered for 10 minutes.   Then I turned it off, removed the lid – and stirred in the juice of one lemon, 2 tbsp of fresh chopped parsley and about 1 tbsp lemon zest – and let it cool so I could portion it out for freezer/reheating.  it’s BEST when served immediately.. but it’s good later too. Here’s a closeup of the soup in a bowl. See those cute carrots wheels?

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As for Bill and Amy’s garden… the rhubarb/squash bed is done and ready for me to transplant.. and the pole bean bed is well on it’s way!  We’re having the BEST week of weather here in Niagara.. today it’s about 21 C with perfect blue skies and no humidity.

 

We are SO thankful to have our backyard to work in while we’re isolating during Covid.. to have this time now to work at home.  God is GOOD.  All the time… God is good.

This morning, before heading into the kitchen, I spent a couple of hours working on recording one very small 4.5 minute devotional video for our kids at church.  We have a really great summer intern who’s been doing some on line devotionals, crafts and other things for our kids at church while we’re not able to worship together. 

She asked me to do a short video for next week.. and wow, it is NOT easy.. i was happy to do it though.  My hats off to her and our Pastor who do this every week! I look forward to sharing the finished product with you next week when it airs… but in the meantime.. enjoy this blooper..

Update on Bill & Amy’s Garden

We had a very rainy “Victoria Day” weekend here in Niagara, Ontario.   Not as rainy as the weather forecasters predicted, thank God.  I actually spent some time in prayer about it, because originally they were calling for over 100 mm (over 4″) with dangerous flooding all in one day, plus the two other days of light rain.  Before the rains started, I picked an armful of tulips from our yard to bring in the house.

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Turns out we only had sporadic light rain for 2 days.. it was actually very lovely, and just what our gardens & fields needed.  We could likely use more.. but I’m not complaining that our current forecast is for 5 days of sun and lovely mild weather.  Not too hot, not too cold.

The kitchen scraps are doing well.  I planted 2 more romaine from our kitchen window sill and it’s taking well.

I have rutabega scraps from this big root end that I cut and have growing in a bowl of water, and not sure when to plant it. do I wait for roots?  (note to self.. google that..)

The zucchini and boston lettuce seeds I planted 5 days ago are already sprouting.  I bring them outside in the sun on nice days, and otherwise keep them in the house by a South facing patio door.

 

I wasn’t expecting visible growth so quickly, but am excited for it.   Nothing yet on the jalepeno peppers, other lettuces, radishes or cucumbers – but i’m hopeful.

Our Kwanzan Cherry tree survived the snowy cold weekend of 10 days ago, and now is in perfect beautiful bloom.

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A few days ago, we planted the 5 large white hydrangeas we bought on sale at Easter and kept in our living room for 6 weeks.  We also planted 2 blue hydrangeas from last Easter that survived the winter on the patio in their pots.   All together they will be  a lovely backdrop for the Liberation 75 tulips that are also finally in bloom along with Orange Star of Bethlehem.

One of the tulips broke off (squirrels!), so I brought it inside and placed it in this lovely bud vase we picked up 4 years ago at my Cousin’s flower shop in Renswoude, Netherlands.  It’s Italian glass, and one of my favourite special pieces.

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Today we planted 4 kinds of heirloom tomatoes, and the herb garden.   I pulled out a very pervasive and root bound mint plant from our main garden and gave it it’s own pot.

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Even though I had planted it in the garden, 4″ plastic pot and all.. the roots shot out and around and it kept sprouting up in other places.  It may get a little shock for a few days, but will likely thrive better in it’s own pot, cut free from the old plastic pot and give my garden more space for lettuces and other veggies.

 

Guillermo has been hard at work on our new raised rhubarb and squash bed.  I’ll share more pics when it’s done.. this is just a teaser. He’s lining the sides with Delta wrap to preserve the wood on the inside.

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I found this valiant Dandy of a Lion peeking it’s way through the rhubarb patch today.. and hadn’t the heart to pull it.  Tomorrow I  need to pull rhubarb & buy some strawberries.. if you know what I mean… 😉img_9258

Orioles and hummingbirds are back at the feeders, I’ve been graced with many photo ops with the Orioles, but none yet with the hummingbirds… I hope to soon to be able to share the hummingbirds with you.

We finished our puzzle of Prinsengracht, Amsterdam just as the rain ended.  I’ll admit, Bill did all the hard parts.   This was our first puzzle we completed left missing ONE piece.  For now I’m keeping the puzzle  on the table, in hopes that we’ll find that piece.. along with my car keys i’ve been missing for 2 weeks… Arrrgghh

I’m really looking forward to sharing more of Bill and Amy’s garden with you in the coming weeks.

Our main thought for this week is one that our Pastor brought up in this Sunday’s message about God’s faithfulness.   It was our church’s 90th anniversary celebration, and I was blessed to be able to partake in a virtual choral group singing “Great is Thy Faithfulness”  Click HERE for the link to the video.

The question I leave you with is this…

Do you have a standout memory of God’s faithfulness that ignites praise in you?
What was the situation? How did God prove Himself faithful?
What helps you remember that time in your life?
I’m ruminating on this.. and thinking I need to spend more time remembering.. building “cairns” to God’s faithfulness.  Writing, recording… cause you know what?
God is good.
All the time.
God is good.