4-22-14 Garden progress

The radish and spinach sprouts are coming up nicely. They are both more of a cold-weather plant, so I’m not surprised. The leeks are also thriving. Not pictured, I see little pops of green from the lettuce and chard patches, so they’re also finding their way.

The 8 tomato plants, not so much. I forgot that the past two winters had been so mild, and this one was so harsh. I still have about 15 tomato seedlings indoors that I will take care of for another few weeks and then put into the ground to replace the sad ones I have in the garden. They’re just too cold. I don’t think they will thrive. Oh well, live and learn!

The flowers are also doing well in their new bed.

Yesterday I put in a little flower bed by our ugly concrete stairs. I chose a variety of colors and textures and am excited to see what it looks like when everything grows up and spreads out. It draws the eye away from my still-just-a-dirt-patch veggie garden.

Yesterday I put in a little flower bed by our ugly concrete stairs. I chose a variety of colors and textures and am excited to see what it looks like when everything grows up and spreads out. It draws the eye away from my still-just-a-dirt-patch veggie garden.

New Recipe: Creamy Ramp Linguine

*Simple yet decadent, the exquisite taste of the ramps makes this dish a perfect spring dinner. Pairs well with a sweet white wine; we had a Gewürztraminer from the finger lakes region.

8 oz whole wheat linguine
1 bunch leeks (10-15 large or 15-20 small), whites and greens separated
2  TB olive oil
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp lemon juice
1/4 cup cashews, soaked for at least 2 hours
1/2 cup water
Parmesan cheese for serving (optional)

- Boil a large pot of water for the linguine and cook to al dente.
- Meanwhile, in a nonstick pan, heat the oil over low-medium heat. Add the ramp whites and sauté until tender.
-Add the ramp greens and red pepper flakes and gently cook until the greens are wilted. Add lemon juice and turn off heat.
- Blend the cashews with water, 1/2 tsp salt, and one or two of the cooked ramps until creamy and slightly green. Add to the pan to warm through and toss with pasta.
- Taste for seasoning and serve with Parmesan cheese if desired.

New Recipe: Creamy Ramp Linguine

*Simple yet decadent, the exquisite taste of the ramps makes this dish a perfect spring dinner. Pairs well with a sweet white wine; we had a Gewürztraminer from the finger lakes region.

8 oz whole wheat linguine
1 bunch leeks (10-15 large or 15-20 small), whites and greens separated
2 TB olive oil
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp lemon juice
1/4 cup cashews, soaked for at least 2 hours
1/2 cup water
Parmesan cheese for serving (optional)

- Boil a large pot of water for the linguine and cook to al dente.
- Meanwhile, in a nonstick pan, heat the oil over low-medium heat. Add the ramp whites and sauté until tender.
-Add the ramp greens and red pepper flakes and gently cook until the greens are wilted. Add lemon juice and turn off heat.
- Blend the cashews with water, 1/2 tsp salt, and one or two of the cooked ramps until creamy and slightly green. Add to the pan to warm through and toss with pasta.
- Taste for seasoning and serve with Parmesan cheese if desired.

Ramp Foraging

I realized it was ramp season when I saw a Facebook post from one of my favorite restaurants, touting that ramps had arrived in their kitchens. The only time I’ve ever had ramps was two years ago when they came in my veggie box for two weeks. They were DELICIOUS. There aren’t any farmer’s markets close to my area of the city (it’s not very hip), and fancy dinners aren’t in the budget plan right now, so I figured that the only way I’d get to taste some ramps this year was to forage for them myself.

I found an article online that mentioned a ramp colony growing in one of my favorite city parks. Off we went, yesterday after work, to find it. My husband figured that we were just going to get a good hike (this was, after all, date night). He was pretty skeptical that I was going to find anything, but we actually found the ramps within a matter of minutes! Digging them out was a little more of a challenge, but after about 20 minutes, we came away with a decent bunch of ramps.

As you can see, the bulbs we collected are on the small side. I’m considering going back to the patch in about two weeks to collect some when they are bigger. But either way, this weekend, ramps are on the menu! 

Planting Day - April 12, 2014

Planting Day went just as planned! Everything looks bare and dirty right now but it’s great to take first-day pictures so that you can look back and compare for progress.

2014 Garden Bed

My husband spent several hours getting the garden bed set up. Tomorrow, everything is going in the ground! This year we’re doing a 10’x2’ bed and using the square foot garden method again. I’m planting 8 varieties of tomatoes, leeks, spinach, chard, lettuce, and radishes. Additionally, I’ll have basil, cilantro, and sage in pots. The weather is supposed to be lovely and warm this weekend, so hopefully the babies will get a good start. :) 

Seedling Update, 3/15

The tomato seedlings really took off this week in terms of getting stronger and developing some “true leaves”. Today is the day that they get thinned out to one per plot. This week, I’ll start putting them outside in the shade for a few hours at a time to harden them off. Only a few more weeks until these babies can go into the ground!

These are the seeds I started one week ago. Look how much they’ve already grown!

The first tray has rainbow chard, leeks, sage, and lacinato kale seedlings. Of the four, the kale is really taking off! I poked a few more chard seed pods into the peat today, because the packet indicated that they had a low germination rate. 

The second tray has six kinds of tomatoes: Gold Medal, Italian Heirloom, Dester, Velvet Red, Cherry Roma, and Lemon Drop. They are all sprouting nicely! I will never be able to plant all 36 of them so I plan to give a lot of them away to friends and coworkers that also garden.

The seedlings are enjoying their first day in front of a window. They might not get a ton of sunlight, though, because we are due for a massive snow storm tomorrow night. We’re crossing our fingers that this is the last one before spring.

My seeds came! I planned ahead and ordered from Seed Savers Exchange this year. Six varieties of heirloom tomatoes, rainbow chard, lacinato kale, leeks, Aunt Maye’s Bibb lettuce, white sage, watermelon radish, cilantro, spinach, and basil. They also sent me a bonus packet of Eden’s Gem melon seeds, which I may give away.

My seeds came! I planned ahead and ordered from Seed Savers Exchange this year. Six varieties of heirloom tomatoes, rainbow chard, lacinato kale, leeks, Aunt Maye’s Bibb lettuce, white sage, watermelon radish, cilantro, spinach, and basil. They also sent me a bonus packet of Eden’s Gem melon seeds, which I may give away.

Raspberry scones

Raspberry scones

Orange “chicken” seitan with veggies and rice.

Orange “chicken” seitan with veggies and rice.

I haven’t had the creative energy to post lately, but here’s what our valentines day dinner looked like. We were going to have dinner at fabulous Vedge in Philadelphia but the weather and my hubby’s back injury prevented that from happening. So we made nachos (with tofurkey “chorizo”) and I baked pineapple upside down cake from Isa Does It, which is “Isa-ly” my new favorite cookbook.

Perhaps I will order some seeds today and start planning the garden. After the ridiculous amount of snow and cold temperatures we’ve had, I am dreaming of spring!

Heirloom Tomato Soup

The last harvest of tomatoes from a few weeks ago finally all ripened in the fruit bowl. After the big Thanksgiving dinner last night, I needed some simple food for my tummy today. The solution was this bright, orangey-yellow heirloom tomato soup. I roasted the tomatoes for 30 minutes at 450 with garlic and onion, then simmered everything in a quart of veggie broth (and a few TB of Earth Balance) for about an hour and puréed it with the immersion blender. Add some basil (I didn’t have fresh, so I used dried), and voila! Delicious tomato soup with a really fresh taste, perfect for a cold day.

Now I’m extra bummed that it will be so many months until tomatoes are back in season.

We are being hosted for Thanksgiving dinner at my aunt and uncle’s house. This is what we are bringing over— a vegan apple berry pie that I baked this afternoon. Recipe here. I also made some cashew whipped cream to go with it.  Happy Thanksgiving!

We are being hosted for Thanksgiving dinner at my aunt and uncle’s house. This is what we are bringing over— a vegan apple berry pie that I baked this afternoon. Recipe here. I also made some cashew whipped cream to go with it.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Changing Seasons, Changing Habits

I wrote a little bit about this last year, but it’s time again. I suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, which is caused by a chemical imbalance in my brain that happens when the days get shorter and there’s less sunlight. This results in me being less energetic, maybe depressed (sometimes for weeks on end), needing more sleep, and generally being a lot less motivated than I am during the rest of the year. This isn’t a big confession. I’m pretty frank about it with people. It’s a disorder that’s not my fault, and it’s not some kind of shameful secret. There is undoubtedly a lot of stigma regarding mental illness, but I prefer to operate as if there isn’t. It’s also a lot easier for my friends and loved ones to be supportive if they know what’s going on with me.

I’ve learned over the past few years that in order to succeed in the winter (defined here as anything between “Fall Back” and “Spring Forward”), I have to change my daily habits. The changes I’ve made to my routine have really helped to lessen the effects of S.A.D., especially last year, when I was only depressed for about three weeks. If you suspect you have S.A.D. or Winter Blues, you could try some of these for yourself:

1. No alcohol in the winter. If you’re already tired and depressive, downers just make things worse. It might not feel worse at the time, but I’ve found that having a few glasses of wine makes me more depressed for a few days afterward. I’m sure I’ll have a glass of champagne on my birthday (December 31st!) but other than that, it’s just not worth it to me. Your results may vary.

2. Exercise daily, outside if at all possible. Now, I really don’t like the cold. And in the winter, the last thing I feel like doing is leaving my warm-ish apartment and going outside in the cold and wind and grey for an hour. But daily walks (especially in the morning, but any time is good), interspersed with some jogging, really gets those endorphins up and makes me feel energized and positive. The sunlight you get is a bonus. If it’s icy outside, below freezing, or otherwise dangerous, a treadmill is a fine alternative. Of course, as anyone who has ever been depressed will tell you, it can be difficult/impossible to drag yourself out of the house. That’s why I think it’s important to get into a routine while you’re still feeling pretty energetic and happy.

3. Clean eating. Winter is famous for its “holiday pounds” from eating pie and what-have-you. But all that sugar+white flour will make me feel nice in the moment, and then I’ll crash. Not to mention, putting on extra winter weight when I already feel sad/bad about myself is not helpful. My main “comfort food” in winter is soup. Hot, steamy, creamy (cashew cream, that is) soup. Butternut squash, kale, potato, yams… I make at least one big pot of soup per week, and then I bring it to work for lunch. Winter also tends to be the time I relapse into eating dairy, but I am going to really watch it this year.

4. Light Therapy. I can’t stress enough how much sticking to a light therapy routine helped me last year. I bought a therapy lamp and set aside an extra 30 minutes each morning for light therapy. This time of year, I sit in front of it for 10 minutes a day. In the dead of winter, I’ll up it to 20. I also highly recommend this book written by the doctor who came up with light therapy for S.A.D. 

5. Humor This is something I also started last winter, and it stuck with me all year. When I get home from work at the end of a tough day and everything seems overwhelming, I throw on an episode of Arrested Development or The Big Bang Theory. You might scoff and say, “Watching TV? Really? That’s your coping method?” Yup. But I only watch funny shows, because what I’m really aiming for is to laugh. Here’s some info about the health benefits of laughter. It really works for me when I feel myself sliding into a mental pit.

So, there you go. That’s my plan for avoiding S.A.D. this year. By the way, the links and products I included are just because I really like them, not because anyone paid me to say that.