Category Archives: Garden

Previous garden updates


5/21/11 Update

More planting

There has been less planting lately, but we are still getting some new things out there. Over the past few weeks, here is what we have added:

Purple cabbage
Curry leaves
Many varieties of tomato plants–Marsha brought over multiple seedlings that she grew in her basement, and she wasn’t even sure which kinds were going in here
Eggplant–at least two different varieties
Pepper plants, because the seeds didn’t seem to be sprouting

Using the produce

Finally, we are getting more usable stuff! The mint is insane already. I have used it in multiple ways, but the patch just seems to get bigger and bigger. I did minted lamb burgers on the grill a few weeks ago, and they were delicious. We had friends over and everyone loved them. Last week I made a very pretty and delicious chamomile mint tea (based onthis recipe, although I didn’t have quite 1/4 cup of chamomile flowers; the half a cup or so of mint made up for it):

This was so refreshing! I liked it so much, I asked Marsha to bring me more chamomile so that I can do it more often. I am planning on starting a new batch of mint liqueur today, part of my strategy to get a lot more out of my mint this year.

We have been using a lot of spinach. I go out before dinner many nights and pick a bunch of leaves to add to whatever I am making. I have used it in a sausage and tomato risotto, added it to soups, and put handfuls into fruit smoothies. The lettuce is looking very hardy, so I have been using that, too. I have added leaves to sandwiches and eaten many salads.

The cilantro that came back from last year is already flowering, so I need to take it and dry it soon, but in the meantime I have added it to guacamole and used it to top curry dishes, along with adding it to slaws and salads. I am thinking about taking some of the leaves and blending them with just a bit of water to freeze in small cubes to use in recipes for a more fresh flavor, too. I have another cilantro plant that is still not close to flowering, so we will have fresh cilantro for a while, still.

The asparagus has started producing this year, but not very much at a time. I have been picking one or two stalks every few mornings, and I have just been eating it raw. So delicious, but I am looking forward to getting enough to use in recipes. Hopefully next year.

The strawberries are falling prey to the the local wildlife. So far, I have eaten two strawberries that I found at the peak of ripeness. I think we need some netting if we are to save any more.

4/15/11 Update

We have so much more planting to chronicle this week.

On the effects of doubling the size of the garden

When I decided to double the size of my garden this year, I knew we would be getting more stuff, but I had no idea how much more. It doesn’t even seem like twice as much, it seems exponentially more. Is that possible? The planting went on for over an hour, and next week, there will be more. This week was all planting seeds, next week, Marsha will be bringing plants that she started in her basement. I am definitely going to have my hands full with preserving!

On the boy in nature

Wednesday, I took the boy out to look at the new garden, to see what we did with the new installation (he was at his dad’s house last week when the garden went in) and see if he had any questions to ask Marsha when she came the next day. He looked over everything with great interest. When we were done, he told me “Nature makes me calm. I don’t know why, but it does.” He really does amaze me—that is so insightful for an 8 year old!

Yesterday, he rushed home from school to make sure he didn’t miss any garden time, even offering another kid $1 to carry his backpack so that he could run faster. So cute! When Marsha arrived, he spent a long time out with her loosening the soil and planting like crazy. My job was to write down what was being planted on our handy little garden map (and make my own list to post on here.) At one point, I had to go inside for a bit to check on some things, and when I came back out, he ran around the boxes, pointing out what I had missed, wrapping his arms around the section where the watermelon was planted, pointing out the yellow squash area and the poles for beans. Near the end, he asked to plant some mystery seeds from the jar that Marsha keeps for seeds that fall out of their packets. She sifted out the dirt and handed him several seeds, and he looked through them, correctly identifying quite a few of them. He is definitely hands on in the garden!

What we planted

Banana melons
Pole beans
Scallop squash
Shiso–an herb I had not heard of; the packet says it has a flavor that has been described as curry-like and a combination of cumin, cilantro and/or parsley with a hint of cinnamon; it sounds delicious
Black Beauty zucchini
Striped Italian zucchini
Baby round zucchini
Lemon cucumbers
Armenian burpless cucumbers
Homemade pickle cucumbers
Yellow squash
Serrano peppers
Yellow bell peppers
Purple bell peppers
Orange bell peppers
Collard greens
Green/red bell peppers
Japanese eggplant
Purple ribbon lavender (French)
Hidcote dwarf lavender

Plants Marsha will be bringing next week

Tomatoes–many kinds
Italian eggplant
Various peppers
Whatever Marsha finds in her basement!


The garden has been started! This is my third year doing the backyard garden, and I am still ridiculously excited about it. I don’t do most of the planting and weeding work–Backdoor Harvest does that for me–but I do try to use everything that I can. Last year I really got serious about using up my garden produce; I’ve linked to several posts on my old blog about that below. This year, I am getting even more serious. I am getting a small freezer for my basement, and I am going to learn to can! I am so thrilled to be getting more and more of my food from my own yard, and I want to be able to take advantage of that through the winter, w
hen nothing is producing for me outside. We doubled the size of the garden this year, so that I have plenty of stuff to preserve.

I have created a spreadsheet to track what I want to grow, what we have planted, and to keep track of some recipes I want to try. Items highlighted in green have been planted, but here is a running list, starting with what we have at the initial installation on 4/9/11.

Here is a picture of the new garden boxes and most of the existing garden:

The new boxes will get summer plants tomorrow or possibly next week, when we are more sure there won’t be another frost.

Here is a picture of my fig tree. It isn’t very pretty, because I put some straw from back by the compost bin around it to help it stay warm, but it is the stick in the middle:

I am assured that this will get very big and have multiple figs this summer. I can’t wait!

State of the Garden

Already there, coming back from last year:
Tart Cherry trees
Kale (small amount)

Planted on 4/9:
More garlic
More spinach
Onions–red, white, yellow
Mustard greens
Sugar snap peas
Fig tree

Past using up the garden links

Using up the garden: Mint
Using up the garden: Turnip Greens
Using up the garden: Butternut squash, thyme and garlic
Using up the garden: Turnip greens, garlic, Anaheim chilis
Using up the garden: Various saved up pictures and meals

It is almost garden time!


After a winter of planning and searching the web for more and more things I could grow and make, and making a long list of plans and recipes, we are finally nearly at the time when I will have a garden in my yard again. Well, the garden is still there from last year, and there are even a couple of things growing (some spinach that apparently re-set itself, turnips that froze all winter and then started growing once the weather warmed up, thyme, garlic and onions), but the full garden installation is happening one week from tomorrow. We were going to try to do it tomorrow, but the gardeners tell me that the ground is too wet for the big installation we have planned.

We are doubling the size of the garden this year, which means that we will have to pull up some of the lawn. Currently, I have a flat yard behind my house, with a low wall on the side where there are 4 boxes, about 4′ x 4′, with sections in between that are maybe 2′ or 3′, and we plant all in there. There is another box at the end that has raspberries bushes that were planted before I moved in. Our new plan is to build new boxes out from the old ones, with a path in between. We are going to mulch some of the tree limbs I have out there for the path. We are also going to move all the herbs up to a section of ground next to my patio. I have a fig tree that I am going to plant in another section of the yard, and I am either going to get a couple of apple trees or a peach tree as well. This weekend I am going to go out and start chopping down one of the Bradford pear trees I have in my yard. I have two, and I want them both gone, but one of them is enormous, and I will definitely need some professional help with that one. The other one is relatively small, though, so I should be able to cut down several of the limbs myself, and then finish it off with Marsha and Melissa’s help when they come for garden installation.

I am saving the expense to get the big tree professionally cut down until next year. I am also seriously considering doing a sturdy grape arbor next year. Even if I get someone to help me and build it myself, that will cost some money, what with setting posts into concrete and making it nice and sturdy, but I love the idea of putting some chairs under the grape arbor and relaxing in the shade under my grapes in the summer. I may even start researching wine making. How cool would that be? I am not sure how realistic that plan is, but I plan to look into it.

We are doing a lot of household chores this weekend, inside and out. Here is my tentative plan for the weekend:

  • Finish stripping the caulk from my bathtub and recaulk the tub, so that we can use the shower without worrying about destroying the walls from leaking water
  • Remove the part of my bathroom sink drainage pipe with the hole in it, so that I am sure to get the right replacement part
  • Go to Home Depot and get:
    • A new drainage pipe
    • Plumbers tape
    • Some safety goggles (for the tree trimming)
  • Go to Target for some more shelves for the basement
  • Grocery shopping (I will do my menu and shopping list tonight)
  • Have the girl cut down the ornamental grasses so that the new growth can come up
  • Have both kids bag up the resulting straw for pickup on Monday
  • Start cutting down tree limbs
  • Work on organizing the basement, getting rid of as much stuff as possible
  • Clean out the pantry
  • Go through the pile of papers on my desk
  • Make some lunch salads for the week, maybe do some baking (scones, muffins)
  • Laundry, laundry, laundry…

Doesn’t that make you jealous? 😉 If I have time, I may buy a freezer for my basement, too. The garden is coming! I need to be able to preserve everything. Plus, I have been thinking about doing some cooking ahead again. Breakfast burritos are sounding particularly good lately. I cannot seem to get my morning routine arranged to accommodate a hot breakfast during the week, but I am tired of energy bars and toast.

It is supposed to be nice on Saturday, then rain on Sunday, so I hope to get the outside tasks completed Saturday, and do some of the organizing on Sunday. Maybe it is a Spring thing but I am very driven these days to organize and clean my house. Not that I was a total slob before, but I have a lot more drive and motivation and even excitement than I have the past few months. It is nice to check things off the list, and the house is so much more peaceful when it is in order. I am not planning on everything on this list being completely finished, but I would like to make some progress.

Not Really Vegan, Again


I have been thinking about absolutism, community, and perfection lately. This applies to many things, but most pertinently here, it applies to my diet and the diet I feed my family. On the one hand, there is the horrible, cruel factory farming/livestock industry, plus all the health issues associated with the consumption of animal products, not to mention the allure of a sub-culture. Who doesn’t want to be a part of a club, especially when you really do agree with club members? On the other hand, there is the isolation of disagreeing with so many people that take an absolute stance as an affront, and the difficulty of social occasions, plus the risk of what my Catholic background calls the error of scrupulosity: focusing so much on the details that you forget the big picture, why you are doing what you do.

I have gone back and forth between strict veganism and a nearly totally Standard American Diet all of my adult years. The fact that I am allergic to cow’s milk has always made vegan choices safer for me anyway, and I do feel better when I don’t eat meat. The main thing that draws me out of a vegan diet and straight back into a standard diet is the community aspect, or what I have called the problem of eating at other people’s houses (and restaurants, come to that). I would slip out of my vegan diet for a meal or two, and then feel so guilty about abandoning my principles that I would just dive back in to the standard diet, not making any effort to moderate the health or humane-ness of my food choices. It was all or nothing—if I couldn’t be a real vegan, why even try? I would still make the occasional meatless meal with a recipe I particularly enjoyed, but I would eat lots of meat, buy my eggs from the grocery store, and even eat the occasional dairy product, although I knew I would pay for it later due to my allergy.

Lately, I have been trying veganism all the way once again, and once again, it really isn’t working for me. My kids are used to me being all about the vegetables and healthy foods, but they aren’t vegetarians, and they have been missing what I had cut out. They like fish and eggs and goat cheese. The like several of the vegan dishes that I make, but they missed the other things. Truth to tell, so did I. So, I am backing off the full vegan thing again, but this time I am doing it more thoughtfully. I am thinking about my reasons for my diet choices, and what I am going to keep from the vegan experiment, and what I am going to get rid of.

I really like that being a vegan helped me to focus on eating a lot of fruits and vegetables. Not all vegans or vegetarians do this, actually, but I had health benefits as one of my major motivators, so I really make the effort to include as many fruits and vegetables in my diet as possible. There is no reason this needs to change because I am adding in a few more animal products, we will still be eating a lot of produce.

The environmental benefits of eating low on the food chain were a big benefit of veganism for me. It started out as a nice little extra, and moved into greater focus as I started thinking about environmental issues in general more and more. My backyard garden was a great way to address both the desire to get more fresh produce in my diet and the environmental impacts. There is nothing that reduces food impact like being able to go out your back door and pick dinner ingredients. I have had the garden for two years now, and I am loving it! The first year I didn’t use as much as I could, and I still bought a lot of supplemental produce, but the second year I used a lot more of what I grew. I feel so good about what I did last summer that this year I am doubling the size of the garden, and moving my herbs up to a dedicated herb garden by my patio. I am also planting more fruit trees (fig and peach this year, and maybe apple and plum next year), and I am planning to learn to can my output. I am very excited about this! Again, there is no reason that this will not continue, and continue to grow in impact in my diet, no matter what else I eat.

The biggest reason I went to the stricter diet this most recent time was animal cruelty. I still hate what animals go through to give us meat or eggs or dairy, but I am just not there yet on completely abandoning the animal products. I did find several places where I can get eggs from chickens that are truly free-range, which makes me feel much better about that. When I read Eating Animals, Foer decided to forego the truly free-range chickens, because he believes driving down the total demand for eggs would reduce the factory chicken farms more effectively. At first, this made a lot of sense to me, and in some ways it still does, but on thinking further, I find that I want to encourage the people who do raise chickens humanely by showing that there is a market for that. The thing is, I am finding a local source for my eggs, and that takes me outside of the industrial farming system, which I like.

In fact, a lot of the things that I like about the vegan diet—the environmental benefits and anti cruelty aspects especially, but the health benefits to some extent, too—are also benefited by moving to a more local economy. I like to support my local community as much as possible in everything, not just food, but it is nice to see how it fits into my diet as well. By growing a lot of my own food in my yard and supplementing as much as possible with foods from local farmers, I reap environmental benefits from the reduced travelling of my food, I reduce animal cruelty by buying from small farmers who treat their animals well, and I get the health benefits from food that is very fresh. Plus, I support my local community rather than some rich corporation.

Part of me feels very good about all of this, and like I am continuing to live my life in a way that supports principles that I feel strongly about. Part of me feels like this is all a cop out, and if I really cared, I would be 100% vegan all the time. However, I need to be realistic about what I want to do, and what I can do, and not beat myself up for not being perfect. So many times, we think of issues in extremes, as if any decision is all or nothing, and that there are no benefits to going partway. I don’t think this is a healthy way to approach life, though. Eating vegan 75% of the time and being conscious about finding more humane sources for the animal products I do eat reduces animal cruelty quite a bit over eating a standard diet. Similarly, sourcing my foods locally as much as possible and eating fewer animal products (and less of them) reduces my environmental impacts, even if I keep buying oranges and coffee and avocadoes and other produce that won’t grow locally, and continue to eat some animal products.

Forgiving myself for not being perfect is a healthier way to live, and one that allows me to continue to do a lot to promote local economies, animal welfare, the good of the environment and good health without the danger that I will give it all up as being too difficult. American culture has a strong puritan streak that often causes us to view large sacrifices as good for us, and people who cannot make those sacrifices (especially if they just don’t want to) as weak. I do agree that self-discipline and training myself to do without everything that I want right when I want it is important for a healthy lifestyle in so many ways. At the same time, making myself miserable by trying to make such sacrifices permanent isn’t healthy either, and just sets me up for failure. For me, being a strict vegan is too much self-flagellation. I know, that is a strong word, and it definitely does not apply to all vegans. Many people are perfectly happy to be vegans, and I say more power to them. But that isn’t true for me, and I don’t think it makes me any crueler or less dedicated to the environment or my health than people who go all the way. I’d even go so far as to say that if a majority of people changed their eating habits to be more like mine—with a big reduction in animal products (even if they ate meat other than fish, which I don’t plan to do), and an attempt to eat locally whenever possible—a lot of the problems with our modern food production systems would be reduced, if not eliminated, without people having to entirely give up the things that they enjoy. It seems to me to be a much more sustainable choice for society as a whole, and one that I can feel good about supporting.

Getting back to the point about community, I have been writing this post for over a week now. Part of the reason for that is that I wanted to think this through thoroughly, and really articulate what I am thinking. Part of it, though, is that I strongly suspect that many people who look at this blog for vegan ideas will consider this a total copout. I feel like I am totally on the edge of the vegan community, and this won’t help. I know that I do not participate in vegan groups as much as some, because I have many other interests that take up my very limited online time, too. But I do love reading the vegan blogs and talking to the people I have met online through veganism. I suspect that I am writing this blog mostly for myself anyway; although sitemeter tells me that I get a steady stream of visitors, most of them seem to be looking for a vegan African peanut stew recipe or vegan camping ideas. So, this won’t likely change much, and all the people I like to read seem like nice people who won’t care anyway. This probably gets back to my feelings about perfectionism more than anything.

Using up the garden: Various saved up pictures and meals


wwwI have been cooking and using the garden produce, but I haven’t had a lot of blogging time to post about it, so this post is just going to be a mishmash of what I have available. First, pizza!

Here are two mini-pizzas with some chopped Anaheim chilis and basil leaves from the garden, along with some chopped mushrooms from the fridge:


And here they are out of the oven with Trader Joe’s sausage-less Italian sausage and Daiya mozzarella added to the top:

The next day, I used the rest of the basil I had picked to make some awesome, garlicy pesto. I didn’t really follow a recipe for it, I just added a bunch of washed basil leaves to the food processor along with some minced garlic, nutritional yeast and pine nuts, then streamed in some extra virgin olive oil while pureeing. So good! I used a little of it to mix with tomato sauce for some more mini-pizzas, but I didn’t take a picture of those.

I decided to use a bunch of the pesto to try and recreate a veganized version of the pesto cavatippi dish I like to get from Noodles & Company. Every once in a while I get this dish without the cream or added Paremesan, and it is so good. I am sure that there is some more parmesan in their pesto, but I try not to think about it, because I do love me some pesto. But, I thought I could surely do better at home with my fresh pesto, and looking at the nutritional info on the Noodles site, I think mine has to be better on some of those categories as well (particularly because mine has no cholesterol or saturated fats!)

Anyway, here is the picture:

And here is what I did:

Olive oil, 1-2 TBSP
1 pound of tofu, cut into small-ish squares
1 cup of sliced mushrooms
1 onion, diced
1 or 2 Anaheim chilis, diced (frankly, I am not certain about this one, but I have been adding them to everything–Marsha gave me some extras, in addition to the ones I have still growing outside, so I probably added these)
1 pound of whole wheat pasta (rotini is what I had on hand)
About half a cup of pesto, maybe more (I didn’t really measure, sorry!)
3 – 4 cups baby spinach

Start boiling the water for the pasta. Fry the tofu in the olive oil until browned on at least one side. I did this slowly, over medium-high heat, while I chopped the other veggies and chatted with my mom. This is one of those things that just takes some time, and you don’t want to stir too much, which is one of the hardest tasks for me. Add the pasta to the water in the other pot as soon as it is boiling. Once the tofu is browned on at least one side, addethe onions, mushrooms, and chilis. Gently fry all the veggies with the tofu, stirring occasionally. When the pasta is cooked al dente, ladle out a cup or so of the pasta water to add to the sauce, then drain the pasta.

What I did next, versus what I think will work better next time:

Actually did: Add the pasta to the skillet with the tofu and veggies, then add in the pesto and the reserved pasta water. Stir to mix, then add baby spinach in handfuls, covering to let the spinach wilt, then stirring and adding more until the spinach is all incorporated.

Next time I will: Add the pasta water and pesto to the skillet with the tofu and veggies, stirring to make a slightly thinned out pesto sauce, adding enough liquid to make it saucy, but not so much as to make it too thin. Add the pasta to the skillet, stir to combine, and then start adding the spinach a few handfuls at a time.

I also added a bit of Trader Joe’s everyday seasoning to this, because I add that to a lot of things these days. If you don’t have a Trader Joe’s nearby, or you don’t want to use a seasoned salt, Mrs. Dash salt-free seasonings are a good substitute.

I meant to add some cherry tomatoes to the skillet right before the pasta was added, so that they would cook down some but not completely lose their shape, but I totally forgot. That would make it more like the restaurant dish, as would a bit of wine, but I forgot that, too. Next time, I will probably add a little bit of wine with the pesto, maybe half a cup of Pinot Grigio.

I still have just a little of the pesto left, but I am not sure what I am going to do with that yet.

The rest of the season in basil:

  • Mostly, I just went out before cooking many, many things and got a small handful of fresh basil leaves to add to the dish. 
  • I did make the Sweet-Basil Tapenade from Veganomicon for my birthday open house, but I forgot to put it out, :-(. I ate some of it after the party, though, and it was a mixed success. I have been using the Grade B maple syrup lately for it’s richer maple taste, and that may have been a bit too much for the tapenade–I suspect it was supposed to be mostly pesto-y with some sweetness, but it was very sweet and maple-y, just a little too much. I may try again next year with some Grade A maple syrup, or less syrup or something. 
  • Like the mint, I should have been using more of this earlier. Although I did use basil a lot when it was growing strong (I don’t think there was a week that went by once it was coming in that I didn’t use it two or more times per week in recipes), I could have used a lot more when it was growing back in almost as fast as I picked it. I could probably have made a big batch of pesto every week and popped it in the freezer without noticing a decrease in the amount of basil I had available for other uses. 
  • Next year, I want to try basil lemonade, like the mint and lavender lemonades that I made this yea
In other news, I still have a lot of greens to use. For brunch last weekend, I made the Collard Greens and Sausage recipe from Vegan Brunch, although I used turnip and mustard greens, mostly. It was really good, although I think I could have cooked it a bit longer. Doesn’t it look pretty, though?

I made pumpkin pancakes and cranberry ginger sauce from Vegan Bruch as well to go with, along with hash browns. Such a yummy, nutritious and filling brunch!

I have a LOT of parsley out in the garden. I cannot believe how well that herb is still growing. I gather that it is supposed to be biennial, but it never died off this summer, and it is still going strong out there. I think I am going to ask a friend to let me use her dehydrator to preserve the rest of it soon, because I don’t want to just let it die, but I am not sure what else to do with large quantities of the stuff. Another thing to research for next year.

Here is a mostly non-garden dish, with some pretty parsley sprinkled on top:

The garden is mostly done for the year. I have a few Anaheim chilis, and some turnips and beets to dig up, along with all the parsley, but my days of going out to pick dinner ingredients are numbered. I still have a big adventure figuring out what to do with all the turnips that are coming in, but for the most part, the work and preserving food is finished. I think I did pretty well this year, barring the time when I was broken and couldn’t do much. I am feeling pretty good about expanding the garden next year, and now I just need to start planning what I want to do with all the extra space. Also, I want to review these posts about what I did this year and what I want to do differently next year, along with some research for new things I can do next year to make sure I grow what I want and preserve it well. I have a few things that I will carry into the winter months this year, but not many. Next year, I would like to do a bit more preserving for long term. So, I don’t have to stop obsessing about the garden after all, even though this season is ending! That is a post for another day, though.

Using up the garden: turnip greens, garlic, Anaheim chilis

Standard of my favorite ways to use up veggies is to add extra veggies to a likely looking recipe. I think most recipes are improved by adding more veggies, with improved taste and definitely superior nutrition! I found a couple of good candidates for this treatment when I was deciding what to make for dinner last night.

First, I have been trying to make more soups, to get more veggies into our diet, and now that I am working at home, I can actually use my crockpot (which really irks me–all the recipes have 8 hour or less cooking times, which is too short for the days that I got to the office), so I went to my copy of Robin Robertson’s Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker, and found this awesome recipe for French White Bean and Cabbage Soup.

I mostly followed the recipe, but the biggest change I made was to add a bunch of veggies. Marsha brought me some extra veggies last week, including some red bell peppers and one last zucchini. My zucchini plant died long ago, but they had one more plant that reseeded itself and produced a few late squash. So, I chopped those up and added them to the skillet for the intial sauté. Here is a picture of the veggies waiting to be softened (except the garlic):

As you can probably tell, I sliced up some baby carrots, rather than using a big carrot. I like to buy those for the kids lunches and fast cream of carrot soup. I also substituted 8 fingerling potatoes, some golden and some red, sliced thinly, for the Yukon Gold potato, and I added just a bit more thyme than the recipe called for, because I love thyme. I did not add the liquid smoke, because I can never seem to find that in the store. Here’s my bowl of the finished product:

For the main dish, I found this awesome recipe on the Vegetarian Times website. These days, I am always looking for recipes for greens, both because they are so healthy, and because I have a bunch of turnip greens in the garden that I want to use. Again, I mostly followed the recipe, but I did add an Anaheim chili to the onions and garlic. I also added a whole can of tomato sauce and water to make the full liquid amount, since I was out of veg stock, and a lot of extra garlic. I meant to add some baby spinach at the end, but after running to the Halloween store, then Target, then back to the Halloween store, then to Trader Joe’s, where I bought soy sausage, but forgot to buy more veg stock, I was feeling a bit frantic at the end of the cooking time, and I totally forgot. Next time. Here is my plate of this dish:

Predictably, the boy liked both dishes–he helped with the greens and sausage–but the girl was not a huge fan. I am going to wear her down eventually, I know.

Other things I have done lately with turnip greens and Anaheim chilis:

Tofu scramble: I used the recipe from Vegan Brunch, adding the chili with the onions in the beginning, and the greens near the end of the cooking time

This Yummy Yam curry: This did call for greens, but really, there aren’t many recipes that I don’t find suitable for a nice mild chili or pepper.

Using up the garden: butternut squash, thyme and garlic


I got two butternut squashes out of my garden this year. It doesn’t seem like a lot, but last year I had a big long vine with lots of flowers and no squash at all, so I was pretty thrilled with these two. Of course, they were ready to pick while my hand was broken, so I couldn’t really do anything with them—they are hard to cut! But, they also last a while, so it was not a problem.

I am feeling a lot better these days, and I have been having some success with chopping when I use my left hand to stabilize the knife and apply some of the cutting pressure. When I was trying to decide what to do with those beautiful butternuts, I was thinking about how much we have been enjoying risotto lately. The kids will eat a lot of things if they are in risotto, and I find it very relaxing to stand there with a glass of wine and stir for 25 minutes or so.

I based my recipe loosely on this one from Food Network, but only as a starting point. I didn’t get a picture, but it was very pretty. I made sure to show the kids the red saffron that would turn our risotto yellow. I love that kind of thing. It’s the chemistry of cooking! (That is why I used to be so obsessed with fudge, back when I wasn’t vegan. I need to find some good vegan fudge recipes. Not that this has anything to do with risotto.)

Saffron Butternut Squash Risotto

1 medium squash (maybe 1 ½ – 2 pounds)

Halve the squash and remove the seeds. Peel the squash and chop into small, bite-size chunks. I put them on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet, sprayed with a little cooking spray, and tossed with a little bit of Everyday Seasoning, which is a seasoned salt from Trader Joe’s. I put those in a 400 degree oven and got started on the rest.

6 cups veggie broth
4 sprigs fresh thyme, fresh from the garden

I put this in a pot on the back of the stove, and warmed it up, then turned the heat down to low.

1 medium onion, chopped
3 or 4 cloves garlic, minced
1 TBSP olive oil
1TBSP Earth Balance

Melt the butter and olive oil together in a skillet, then sauté the onion and garlic until translucent. Add:

1 ½ cups Arborio rice

Stir to make sure that the rice is coated with the butter/olive oil mixture. Add:

½ cup dry white wine

Pour a glass of wine for the cook to sip while stirring. You have to open the bottle anyway! Stir the wine into the rice, and continue cooking until the wine is fully absorbed. Add two ladles full of the warmed broth, along with:

1 tsp saffron
Several twists of the Everyday seasoning

Then, it’s all about the stirring. Add more broth as the rice absorbs the broth already in the pan. During this time, make sure to keep an eye on the squash in the oven. When it is roasted to perfection (25 – 30 minutes), remove it from the oven and set aside while you finish the risotto. When about two thirds of the broth was incorporated into the rice, I started adding some baby spinach as well, a handful at a time. I don’t have a measurement on this one, I just kept adding spinach until there was lots of green in the dish. When all of the broth was incorporated, I turned off the heat and added:

¾ cup nutritional yeast

Wow, this made the risotto so creamy and rich tasting! The final step is to add the roasted squash.

Everyone loved this. My mom thought it was fantastic and even the kids ate the spinach without much complaining. I will probably do something different with the other squash from the garden, but we will definitely have this risotto again with store-bought squash.