Sunday, May 30, 2010

Baked Jalapeno Poppers with Garden Herbs


Garden bloggers have been all over the herbs lately. I liked the post on Growing your Own Garnishes over at aHa! Modern Living — a blog I only recently started to follow. The awesome daily garden inspiration blog Studio 'g,' did a quick post on a container herb garden in an alley. And of course LotB has their photo contest! The prize? Labeled herb planters!

This spring I've really come to appreciate my herbs. I enjoyed them last summer, but now I can say that without a doubt they're the best part of my balcony. It's so easy to clip a couple chives to dress up a baked potato; or snatch a handful of oregano and basil to add to tomato sauce; or pinch a leaf of lemon verbena and a fistful of mint to mix for sweet tea; or a handful of sage, thyme and rosemary for Thanksgiving stuffing; or...well, you get the idea. I really rely on my collection of herbs to enhance (and sometimes inspire) my cooking.

My husband and I love the kind of jalapeno poppers you can get at any run-of-the-mill restaurant where the most popular item is beer-n-burgers. They're breaded and fried and absolutely one of my favorite guilty pleasures. (Plus being a vegetarian at a beer-n-burger joint isn't the easiest thing, and sometimes this is the only thing on the menu I can have...besides fried cheese.)

My homemade version takes advantage of the herbs I have growing right now, and adjusts to our diets, and my aversion to making battered foods. (I just hate getting my fingers covered in layer upon layer of eggs and breading.)

Baked Jalapeno Poppers with Garden Herbs

6-12 Jalapenos (depending on size)
8 oz cream cheese (1/3 fat)
1/2 c cheddar cheese
A handful of herbs — I used chives, green garlic, oregano, green oregano, and lemon thyme.
Salt + pepper

Heat oven to 350. Oil a baking sheet and set aside.
Slice the jalapenos in half, remove the seeds and membrane.
Add both cheeses to a bowl and heat in the microwave for 1 minute. Add minced herbs and mix. Salt + pepper to taste.
Spoon the cheese/herb filling into the peppers, dunk the filled side in the breadcrumbs, place on the baking sheet.

(Count yourself lucky if you have leftover cheese filling — it goes really well with crackers.)

Bake poppers for 30-40 minutes.
Serve immediately, but be careful, they're hot! :) We found they go really well with milk.

They turned out pretty good for being an experiment. My husband called them "restaurant quality," which I think is a complement. Really, the fresh herbs just made a huge impact.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Wildlife on the balcony — goldfinches


Last night I finally planted beans, a bunch more nasturtiums, and a few marigolds.

This morning I woke up to this.

This lovely lady goldfinch was having my marigolds for breakfast! I saw her mate flying around, but I didn't get a shot of him.

Last year I had hummingbirds going for the nasturtium flowers, this spring I had robins looking for worms, and now goldfinches! Awesome!

Chive flowers II


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Strawberries + Garlic — a plan to deter Japanese beetles


I had a helluva time last year with Japanese beetles. They liked my bush beans and cinnamon basil, and they really liked the strawberries.

My poor, poor strawberries. They were attacked by the beetles and got fungus spot. I spent several minutes every morning picking the bugs off and drowning them in soapy water. Some days I'd have a quarter cup of bugs! It was really gross work. I did not like it and I don't want to repeat it.

To avoid that unpleasantness this year, I'm using companion planting to deter the critters. In my online research 2 plants were consistently recommended for discouraging Japanese beetles — rue and garlic. If you don't know what rue is, well, it's a weedy looking, very large and smelly (that's what deters the beetles) plant from the Mediterranean. (And it'll give some people a rash like poison ivy.) Since I don't have a nice big garden where I can put such a plant in the corner (away from my skin) I'm going to go with garlic.

I grew garlic last year (and it was one of my favorite crops), but it was a few feet away from the strawberries. This year I planted garlic bulbs among my new strawberry plants. So now I have 2 crops in 1 pot — it's efficient and the garlic will protect the strawberries.

I'll also inter-plant garlic with the beans...whenever I get around to them. I was going to go to the store and get seeds last night, but I'm trying to ride my bike everywhere (and not drive at all). But it stormed, so I decided to stay dry and put it off for another day.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Tomato + Basil — classic companions in the garden and kitchen


Tomatoes and basil go together like peas and carrots, but I suppose that's another post :)

When grown together they are supposed to improve each others flavor and vigor, but that may just be an old wives tale, since I can't find any research to back up the claim. I will say it's convenient to plant them together so it's easy to harvest them together for all the tasty foods they go together in — soups, pastas, salads, etc.

The tomato I'm growing is the Patio by Bonnie. It's a very small, determinate plant. It's very sturdy, and not supposed to need support, but I gave it a little anyway since it can get pretty windy in Iowa. It's grown at least a foot since I bought it back in mid-April.

The basil isn't doing well though. It really didn't like all the rain we got the last few weeks. The leaves yellowed, and a few dropped off — a tell-tale sign of overwatering. But I swear I had nothing to do with it; Mother Nature is to blame.

They have been doing better since it warmed up. Highs are in the 80s, and it's supposed to stay this warm for the rest of the week. I hope they continue to improve.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Lettuce harvest


I've been eating the lettuce all spring, but not a lot, just a salad here, a sandwich there. But it got so hot this weekend (highs in the 80s) and it's supposed to be the same all week. So it had to come out of the garden before it bolted.

Here's the "before"
photo taken through the bedroom window

And the "after"

So, the fridge is full of lettuce. I guess my menu this week will be dominated by salads. Hooray!? I mean, I like salad, but I may have gone a little overboard with it this year.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

First pea flower becomes first pea


Just 3 short days after the first pea flower of the year, it became the first pea pod of the year. And yes, it's the exact same one. And now the vines are covered in flowers. I can almost taste the fresh peas...ommmmmm...

Peppers + Violas II


I know I just did a post about the peppers, but I have to bring them up again because they just started blooming. Plus I have some pretty sweet photos I can't wait to share.


Garden Salsa

Garden Salsa

Garden Salsa

Red bell
almost there!

Red bell

Carrot seedlings


Thursday, May 20, 2010

First pea flower


They're 2 weeks earlier than they were last year. Probably because I actually planted them on time!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Peppers + Violas


I like the way the violas peek out from under the peppers. And the peppers give them a little shade that they'll enjoy when things heat up this summer. Plus, since I put the peppers right next to the sliding glass door, the violas brighten up the view a bit.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Friday, May 14, 2010

Balcony garden update — after a LOT of rain


I'm not kidding when I say it rained for a week. Actually, looking at the weather history for May it's more like 2 weeks of rainy/cloudy weather. Check that link, then scroll about halfway down and check out that calendar. Don't let those little sunshine cliparts fool you; it's been absolutely dismal recently. But today the sun was out, pots dried out a little, and it actually feels like May!

click to enlarge

Hey! It actually looks like a garden again!

Lemon verbena, rosemary, and sage
The lemon verbena is super delicate. Seems every careless movement on my part results in it dropping a little cluster of leaves. The rosemary is gorgeous though (photo doesn't do it justice), and the sage looks just as fantastic as it did inside all winter.

Oregano, Greek oregano (in the back), and lemon thyme
The oreganoes are doing ok. I'm considering cutting back the lemon thyme to get it to put out some new, lush leaves.

Spearmint, peppermint, and marjoram
Bring on the mojitos!

Black-seeded Simpson lettuce

Ichiban eggplant.
Allegedly it does well in containers. I have 4 plants in different locations. We'll see how they do...

They didn't mind the rain. Now they're almost too tall for their stakes. I'll have to do something about that this weekend.

This year the "big planter" is full of flowering annuals that take part shade (which they'll get with the overhead planters taking most of the direct sun.)
The back edge is densely seeded with nasturtiums, I bought some cosmos seedlings, violas, and coleus. Oh, and there's 2 eggplants in the back. I'm not sure how they'll do with the part-sun, but their roots will have plenty of room.

Cosmos seedlings (from the free Renee's Garden seeds) and one lone pea that sprouted out of an old packet of seeds.

"Spitfire" nasturtiums are hanging in there. I don't think they liked all the rain, but they haven't died either.

These are a new bunch of strawberries. My plants from last year didn't live, so they went in the compost. They probably died because we had one of the worst winters on record. So, I'm trying to not beat myself up about it.

Also, the carrots have a whole container planted already, but it still just looks like a pot of dirt. I still need to (buy and) plant bunching onions and bush beans. Hope I can manage that this weekend. :D

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Sowing Nasturtiums


I sowed the nasturtiums in paper egg cartons on April 12.

I noticed the first seedling April 20.

By April 22, most of the Spitfire's had emerged.

All but 2 of the seeds I planted sprouted. One died after I accidentally let them dry out. (All the others recovered!) And one was snapped off when I carelessly knocked them over. So I was left with 8. After I hardened them off I planted them so they can grow up the trellis.

I planted a few others directly in pots. I probably could have done this for all of them, because it didn't give them much of a head start.

Also planted a few of the seeds I saved from my nasturtiums last year. Only 4 of those have sprouted so far — one of them just appeared yesterday. So I'm going to keep my eye on those for awhile longer.

"I'm growing Nasturtium "Spitfire" for the GROW project. Thanks, to Renee's Garden for the seeds."