Tag Archives: arugula

A little insurance…

“Like a good neighbor…” tonight it wasn’t State Farm, but my garden that was there.

I had planned to make a salad using leftovers, including a giant bag of pre-washed, pre-cut kale.  I’ve resorted to these resource-guzzling bags of greens trucked in from who-knows-where in an effort to keep up our healthy greens intake during the off-season.  I’m so glad THAT is coming to an end.  And hopeful I won’t resort to this next year.

As I poured the kale into the salad bowl I discovered that much of it was rotten and moldy.  Ugh!  Such a waste.  And worse–it was the main feature of my dinner for the night.

Realizing there was nothing to salvage in that bag, I took the whole thing out to the compost and tossed it in.  While out there I glanced over to some lettuce I had put in on a whim last month.  It looked good!  I pulled it out.  Then, I went in the house for a few supplies and came back out to find other things for the salad.

I ended up with a delicious combination of romaine lettuce, baby kale (2 kinds), arugula, chives, radishes and pea tendrils.  This mix was so far superior in flavor and freshness to that sad bag of kale that I immediately realized (once again) how amazing a garden can be.  This was actual green food.  Not some trucked-in greenish food that was picked three weeks ago and put in plastic.

Chives and French breakfast radishes

Chives and French breakfast radishes

(From left to right)  Red Russian kale, Lacinato kale, arugula, pea tendrils, chives, romaine lettuce

(From left to right) Red Russian kale, Lacinato kale, arugula, pea tendrils, chives, romaine lettuce

Because I had a garden, my family ate better tonight than if I had not had one.  Because I had a garden, I did not have to leave my house to go to a store and purchase a new bag of kale.  Because I had a garden, I stopped for an extra moment–outdoors, in the rain no less–and thanked God for the food he was providing.  I’m so thankful to have a garden.

Now, take a look at tonight’s dinner!

The beautiful blend of greens!

The beautiful blend of greens!

Salad with chicken, chickpeas, chives and radishes added.  To the side you can see the homemade ranch dressing.

Salad with chicken, chickpeas, chives and radishes added. To the side you can see the homemade ranch dressing.

You didn’t think I’d forget dessert did you?  I went out in the light drizzle of rain today and happily harvested some rhubarb to make the pie my six year-old had requested.

Rhubarb pie, a perfect sweet-tart end to my garden inspired meal.

Rhubarb pie, a perfect sweet-tart end to my garden inspired meal.

There were a few things I wanted to share regarding tonight’s meal.  The first, is that my kids wanted to play a game in which I told them to look for a certain thing and they would find it and eat it.  So I would say, “Find the arugula!” and they would find one and excitedly hold it up to show me.  They got the idea to do this because I told them there were seven things from the garden in the salad, they wanted to find each one.  For once they were happy that I let them “play” with their food.

Second, the ranch dressing we had tonight was leftover from my son’s first birthday party this past weekend.  It went over BIG TIME with the crowd, so I thought I’d share a link to the recipe with readers in case you were looking for something new to try.

Ina Garten’s Buttermilk Ranch Dressing

There’s even a video of her making the dressing.  Check it out!

And finally, I just want to encourage anyone who may be reading this to try planting  a little something.  You don’t need to have seven things available to go in a salad in order to grow your own food.  One thing in a pot is good too!  In this day and age when we don’t know who grew our food or where it was grown, there truly is insurance in knowing that you grew something–anything.  It’s good practice to plant something if you can.  So, give it a try this season.  And may God bless your garden!

Prepping for Pesto

For many years I’ve wanted to purchase the BIG olive oil.  But I could never really justify it.  Until now!

With five family members and a garden full of green stuff, it’s finally time for the big olive oil at our house.  This week I bought it in anticipation of making pesto.  While the basil in my garden isn’t quite ready to be picked yet, the arugula is going gangbusters and with the upcoming hot forecast it’s destined to bolt soon.

Since I was prepped for pesto-making, it was easy to throw together some arugula walnut pesto for my freezer this morning in between other household chores.

I’m at a point where I don’t use a recipe, but if you are looking for a starting point here are some measurements:

4 cups packed arugula leaves
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

Start food processor and drop in garlic cloves.  Once chopped, turn off processor, add arugula, walnuts, salt and pepper.  Process a bit, then while leaving processor on, stream in olive oil slowly.  Continue processing until it reaches a nice saucy consistency.

I do not put cheese in pesto I intend to freeze.  It’s nicer to add the cheese later when using the pesto.  That way the cheese is fresh and I can customize the amount depending on how I’m using the pesto.

Pesto freezes nicely in small serving size containers.

Many sources will tell you to freeze pesto in ice-cube trays.   If this works for you, fine.  But I find that it’s hard to remove them from the trays and it makes my ice-cube trays smell like pesto.  Not good when I need to chill my lemonade.  The serving size containers are so much easier to work with.  They sell small and even very small sizes of these containers, perfect for pesto.  I will never go back to the ice-cube tray method again.  (Just thought you’d like to know!)

Pesto can be pricey.  To save money it’s possible to substitute a more affordable nut, as I did with my arugula pesto.  The traditional pesto nut is a pine nut.  These are delicious and I do use them, especially with a basil pesto.  But it’s fun to experiment with other nuts and the results are almost always delicious.

I also save money by adding cheese later.  Sometimes I don’t even add cheese since it’s yummy without.  Or I will just put cheese over a dish made with pesto, such as sprinkled over pasta or a pizza made with pesto sauce.  Don’t try to save money by using the green can of Parmesan in pesto.  Always use a real wedge of cheese (domestic is fine, imported is divine) and grate it yourself.

And of course, the number one money-saver idea I can offer is to grow your ingredients yourself.  Basil (and arugula) are very easy to grow in a backyard garden or in pots.  You can grow a large amount and really stock up the freezer for the winter.  Parsley, mint and cilantro can also be used for making pesto…. each has its own unique flavor.

Photos from the month of April.

To better view the photos in this edition of “Photos from…” click on a photo.  You’ll be able to scroll through a slide show of all the photos.

The beet ravioli recipe is here:  Michael Symon’s Goat Cheese and Beet Ravioli.  I substituted ricotta cheese for the goat cheese and sage for the tarragon with delicious results.

Gathering Greens & A Few Other Things

Washed, bagged salad greens are perhaps one of the greatest inventions of our modern times.  Sort of.  It’s completely convenient and easy to dump them into a bowl and dress them for a salad, or into a skillet to saute for dinner.  They are clean and crisp, and relatively inexpensive.  But when I think of the gross amount of water and energy used to bring those greens to my table, I cringe a little bit.

Somewhere out in California or Mexico, depending on the season, those greens were grown, washed, bagged, loaded on a refrigerated truck, driven to Wisconsin, kept cold by refrigeration until they made their way to my house and ultimately my mouth.

It seems ridiculous because it’s so easy to just plant a few seeds out in my yard and eat fresh(er) greens anytime I want (as the season permits) using virtually a fraction of a fraction of the amount of energy used to bring me those bagged, washed grocery store varieties.

Don’t get me wrong: I do occasionally treat myself to box or bag of grocery store salad in the dead of winter.  I’m not a purist by any stretch of the imagination.

But I am thoughtful about my greens, and thankful I can grow ’em myself 7 months out of the year.

I like to grow spinach, arugula, head lettuce, leaf lettuce, swiss chard and will be adding kale to the lineup this year.  In addition we also eat the tops of our radishes and beets.

When I’m ready to make a salad or saute something green, I head outside.  Using a kitchen scissors I make quick work of gathering what I need.  As I cut, I put everything directly into my salad spinner.

I take the salad spinner insert outside to harvest greens.

Arugula fresh from the garden, prior to washing.

Once inside I use the salad spinner to bathe the greens in very cold water… this perks them right up and brings them to the perfect temperature for serving.  At the same time they are getting nice and clean without the use of machinery or bleach or anything else those big salad growers out West are using.

I spin them dry in the spinner and we are ready to use them.

When I want to prep the greens in advance of using them or I just have more than I can eat at one time, I store them in a plastic bag with a paper towel in it.  This seems to keep them crisp and they usually last at least a week in the refrigerator, sometimes longer.

Bagged arugula is ready for the refrigerator.

If I discover a more earth-friendly way to do this that doesn’t involve plastic or paper towels I’ll be happy.  But for now this works marvelously for me.

Now on to a few other items.  This time of year tomato plants are growing very quickly and putting new leaves, branches and blossoms every day.  I am in the habit and pinching off the “suckers” that grow between the stem and branches.  It helps to develop a stronger plant.

"Suckers" grow at the point where the stem meets the branch. At this size they are easy to pinch off.

We’ve also had some excellent bird viewing around the garden these last few days.  Our robins have been carefully guarding their eggs.  I’ve noticed that they take turns, one of them tends to sit on the nest most of the time and when it’s the second one’s turn to be on guard duty he prefers to sit on the edge of the nest or in a nearby location.  The fence that hides our air conditioner seems to be a favorite location.

This nest is so sweet. It's getting more difficult to see and photograph it as the honeysuckle has filled in.

Mr. Robin on his favorite perch at night. He's noticed me taking his picture.

Here is Mr. Robin in the background and the trellis where the nest sits in the foreground. He never lets the nest out of his sight and is quick to run other birds such as cardinals out of the yard.

Mrs. Robin dutifully sits. I wonder if these lights surprised her the first night they came on.

A yellow finch stopped by for a drink at the honeysuckle. I've also spotted hummingbirds here.

And finally, I’ve been very busy putting all the starts and seeds into the garden beds this last week.  I’m happy to report that (for now) everything is in!  There will be some successive planting and late season planting later on, but the big spring dig is done and I’m very pleased with how it’s come together so far.

Herb bed and trellis with honeysuckle.

Vegetable bed with the grid still in place. I've planted using a square foot approach this year.

Photos from the third week of May.

Salad mix just picked from the garden and ready to take a spin in the salad spinner.

Momma robin has been sitting on the nest quite a bit.

Hidden Picture: Find the friendly backyard insect eater.

Leaf lettuce right out of the garden is fresh and nutritious.

Peppery, bright arugula is one of my favorite things to grow.

Lots of garlic is doing really well in the garden bed adjacent to the garage.

French breakfast radishes.

Photos from the fourth week of April

Yellow tulips finally opened today!


Here comes the rhubarb.


These chives were clipped last night for dinner... fresh oniony flavor.


Arugula is tiny, but growing.


A row of radishes.




Spinach starts are now outside and doing well... should be able to harvest baby spinach soon.


Oregano leaves are plentiful. This is now a three-year-old plant.


Here's something to enjoy tomorrow.