Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Thursday, October 22, 2009

What's dead and what's clinging on









Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Cinnamon Butternut Squash Soup



I'm always in the mood for cinnamon, but especially in the fall. I just can't get enough!

about 3 lbs of butternut squash, peeled, de-seeded, and cut in cubes
4 c skim milk (or vegetable broth)
1/2 block of tofu
1 T cinnamon
1 t nutmeg
oil, salt, pepper

  1. Peel, core and cut squash in cubes.
  2. Pile on a baking sheet.  Spray with oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  3. Bake for 1 hour at 350˚
  4. Puree all ingredients in a food processor. (Careful not to fill it too full, do it in batches if yours has a small bowl.)
  5. Eat.
It's almost too easy. And too tasty, this stuff isn't going to last long :)

Monday, October 19, 2009

Saturday, October 17, 2009

My orchid is going to bloom!


I bought this guy at Wal-Mart — of all unlikely places — last year.  I guess I didn't take care of him very well (temperature, water, bad karma from shopping at Wal-Mart...who knows?), because all his flowers fell off within a week.  So I hacked off the stem, and waited. This summer he grew two leaves, and about a month ago I noticed him sending out new air roots and this new flower stem. 

I don't know what I'm doing right.  He's just sat on my dresser or this southeast window sill.  I kept him watered, but didn't do it regularly, or pay him any special attention.  The balcony garden took up too much of my time. I can't wait to see if he blooms successfully!  The flowers last year were perfectly white.  I'm going to have to rummage around my garden supplies for the stake and clips he came with to keep the blooms upright.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Fresh salsa


Although it doesn't really fit the season, I had the urge for some fresh salsa.

  • 8 Roma tomatoes**
  • 1 can of black beans
  • 1 Sweet pepper*
  • 1 Onion**
  • 1 Jalapeno pepper**
  • 2 Anaheim peppers*
  • handful of cilantro
  • handful of green onions*
  • 3 sprouts green garlic*
  • 1 T cumin
  • 1 t garlic powder
 * — came from my garden
** — came from my dad's garden

I enjoy it with salty tortilla chips, in an omelet, on top of scrambled eggs or as the filling in a quesadilla. Yum!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

How to overwinter your herbs


I couldn't bear to leave my fresh herbs outside to die in our horribly cold Iowa winter.  I'm in zone 4a, and I can't expect anything to make it through alive if it's outside.  But I'm hoping I'll be able to do something about the strawberries...still working that out though.

So first I dug the herbs out of the hanging boxes

Then I replanted them in individual pots.  That way I can better monitor their water needs and cater to their preferences.

The stevia and lemon verbena were already in individual pots.  Neither of them would have a snowball's chance in hell of surviving an Iowa winter.  But, I successfully overwintered that lemon verbena last year. It lost all it's leaves, though, so I guess it's deciduous.  But it's twice as big now!  Hopefully after I harvest the stevia it will grow back in the spring.

The rest get their own pots.  They're sitting in the southwest window of the bedroom.  It's the best light in the whole place, especially when the southeast window curtains are also open.

  • They need at least 5 hours of sun/day.
  • If you don't have a south-facing window, you can use a florescent light for 10-12 hours/day.
  • Use well-draining soil and let them dry out a bit between watering.  This will keeps the roots happy AND help control those annoying little flies.
  • Keep them cool.  They like the temperature in the 60s.
  • Reverse hardening off — like when you put seedlings outside in the spring, your herbs need to get used to your indoor conditions gradually.  Start by bringing them inside at night, and leaving them out in the sun during the day.
  • Wash them — I just threw mine in the shower for a few minutes. This'll get off any stray potting soil, loose leaves, and bugs. If you've had bug problems, you might want to wash them with soap.
  • Prune them — Experts advise that you cut off 1/2 to 1/3 of the plant.  I did that to the mints (they weren't looking too good).  But everything else is super lush so they just got a trim.  BUT don't harvest any more until you see new growth.  And be warned, that may not happen until early spring.
  • Fertilize in early spring when new growth starts.

If you want herbs to harvest during the winter:
  • You'll need to fertilize them monthly
  • You'll need to give them extra light
  • Don't expect them to survive until next year.  It's tough work producing all year long, and they might just wear out! You may have to start over with fresh plants in the spring.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Farewell pineapple sage


I didn't have enough pots to save all my herbs over the winter.  The orange mint and pineapple sage had to be left outside.  I'm curious to see if the mint survives, since I heard that mints are pretty tough.  (And honestly I didn't want to deal with the damn thing.  It ended up looking very wild and had sent all sorts of runners everywhere.) The pineapple sage I hacked off the branches and stuck them in a cup of water until I figured out what I wanted to do with them. 


Before I had a chance to use them one of the stalks bloomed.

I can't decide if I want to use it in some sort of recipe...what would it go with?  Or if I should make tea again?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

After the frost


Looking pretty bad after the frost Friday night.

And even worse the next day.

I'll leave the chives out until they die back.  Then I'll bring them inside and they'll start to grow tasty new shoots.

But I saved the herbs.  They'll live inside for the winter.

I'll cut back the stevia soon.  It'll have to be a nice sunny day so it can dry out quickly.
The other pots are lemon verbena and pansies.  I cut back the old growth on the pansies, they'll come back soon.

And the rest of the herbs are in the bedroom. 
  • spearmint + peppermint
  • oregano + variegated oregano + greek oregano
  • marjoram
  • sage
  • thyme + lemon thyme
  • lavender
  • rosemary

No basil though — I harvested it, but that's a post for another day!

I was surprised I didn't bring in very many bugs with all those plants.  Just a couple mosquitoes, a ladybug and half a dozen boxelder bugs.  I was preparing to wage a war on little flies and stuff.  But haven't seen any for the last 3 days.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Ginger and Pony devour carrot greens


I love my fuzzy composters.

Friday, October 9, 2009

OMG photos are gone!


Sh!t  :`(

I effed up my Flickr.  Will have photos fixed soon!

Here's what happened.

I use iPhoto to upload and organize my photos, then upload them to Flickr, which I then link to.

Well, I decided to consolidate my iPhoto folders, which resulted in Flickr losing track of them.  And there was no way to undo it.


So I tried to re-upload them all, but I have over 200, so Flickr deleted the old ones as I added more, compounding my problem!

So now I'm like, eff that.  And I uploaded everything to Picasa.  Which I think will work out much better.  For one, I can have about 10x as many photos, and it's WAY easier to link them to the blog editor. All I have to do is drag and drop, instead of copying the link and using the little link gadget.

Now I just have to figure out what the photos used to be, and relink them all.  Hopefully I can get it done this weekend.

I have a headache now.

Took me 4 hours, but the links are all fixed. And better than before, actually. Now they're a lot bigger so they can be clicked on to enlarge.

Cinnamon Carrot Soup


Had the night off (first time in 3 weeks) so I spent about 5 hours cooking!  So I'll have lots of recipe posts next week :D

I harvested one of the tubs of carrots.  The were so big and plump and juicy.  Not as flavorful as I'd like.  But they were better than grocery store baby carrots in a bag.

And the piggies got to enjoy the tops.  Of course I didn't give them all the tops. It'd have made them sick!  So I saved the extras by putting them in a cup of water and stashing it in the fridge.

So I had all that fresh carrot...what to do with them though?  Well it's fall, and kinda chilly, which put me in the mood for soup, and I've had some serious cinnamon cravings lately.  Cinnamon in apple cider, cinnamon candy... I figured it was time for something a tad more healthy.

 Cinnamon Carrot Soup
• 6-8 cups fresh carrots, scrubbed
• 1 large onion, sliced
• 6 garlic cloves
• 4 cups skim milk
• 1/2 block of tofu
• 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
• 1/4 tsp nutmeg
• 1/4 tsp cloves
• salt + pepper to taste

I scrubbed the carrots and cut the tops off, then cut them in half.  Put them on a baking sheet with a sliced onion and the garlic (still in the husks), spray some Pam and sprinkle with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Bake in 350˚ oven for 1 hour. 

Allow to cool for a minute, peel the garlic, add all ingredients to food processor and blend. I got the tofu idea from fresh365's post on broccoli cheddar soup.
Garnish with cinnamon.

I didn't bother to put it back on the stove to heat up.  Just threw single servings in the microwave and put the rest in the fridge for later.  

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Went for a drive – Iowa countryside


The boxelder is actually turning a nice shade of yellow this year. Last year the green leaves just fell off before they turned.

The weather this afternoon was perfect. So I took a drive and snapped a few photos.

Down the street the maples look spectacular. I wonder if it will improve or if this is as vibrant as they'll get?

You can click to make the photo bigger.
I love the architecture of Iowa barns. These 3 are great examples of the evolution of dairy barns.

The mottled colors in this valley caught my eye.

A couple more cool barns.

A local county park. It's so busy in the summer, felt really weird that I was all alone there today.

The corn turned awhile ago. But I guess the farmers have been waiting for things to dry out before they harvested their crop.

Speaking of crops...I'm about ready to bring some of mine in. There was a teeny film of frost on the ground this morning, but not up on the balcony. Still, I can't procrastinate. It's time to prep for winter!

Monday, October 5, 2009

It's fall


Love the color of the red maples, green grass, blue/purple sky and golden corn.
you can click on any of the images to enlarge

I'm totally envious of my neighbors. All I get to see out my window is a lousy yellowy boxelder tree and it's bugs that are trying to squeeze under the door.

Cardinal and gold on the ISU campus.

I love this tree. Sometimes I take a longer route to work just to check up on it.