Tag Archives: Veggies

Vegetable Gardening

Twice in the last month I have had each of my sisters ask me about how to start a vegetable garden.  One has a rather large-ish city lot, but more interest in eating local than the actual act of gardening.  The other is helping a school create a large garden plot.  As I was researching various aspects of their projects for them, I came across mysquarefootgarden.net, which had a great comparison of three different types of veggie gardens:

Traditional Gardening

  • A large plot of earth tilled up, and organized in long rows.
  • Requires a lot of space, and a lot of work.
  • If you have good soil the startup costs can be very low–just purchasing some seeds.
  • Challenge:  weeds. Mulching can help, but you will inevitably battle as many weeds (or more!) as you have plants.

Square Foot Gardening

  • Garden beds are built and filled with soil. Raised beds are easier to access, especially for those with physical limitations.
  • Plants are spaced very close together, eliminating “rows.”
  • Utilizes vertical gardening–supporting plants with trellises, staking, etc. This reduces the space needed on the ground by growing vining plants up instead of out.
  • Challenges: startup costs can be much higher because beds must be built or purchased, and soil must be replenished each year. You may need fertilizer to provide enough nutrients for the plants to grow and thrive.

Container Gardening

  • For those with very small yards or just a balcony or a porch to use, container gardening is a great option
  • Many “dwarf” varieties have been developed to help those growing in such small areas.
  • Benefit: requires very little space.
  • Challenges: harvest may be limited, the soil will need constant improvement and fertilizer, and plants grown this way can be more susceptible to disease.

 

And because whenever I begin looking at pictures of veggie gardens, I have to dream a bit, here’s my ideal garden, a blend of traditional and square foot gardening!

Potager Garden

Starting Seeds Indoors

Welcome to another great year of gardening! I’m super excited to share gardening tips and tricks, and learn new things along with all the staff and customers at Lacoste this year!  This year on the blog I’m hoping to try out some “gardening hacks” from around the web, experiments with new varieties and old favourite plants, and as always new recipes from local produce! I hope you’ll come along with me, and share your experiences too!

Today, I have a few thoughts on starting seeds for springtime.  The other night we were watching a program on Netflix called “The Mind of a Chef”.  Chef Sean Brock is very keen on using heritage crops in his cooking, and is a big proponent of seed-saving from one year to the next. Starting seeds indoors can be a great way to get a head start on your garden for spring, and help to speed the transition out of winter!

By the end of March, it will be time to start any indoor seeding, so now is a great time to gather supplies.  You’ll need a growing medium (peat moss), containers (cell packs are available at the store, egg-cartons will also work!), and a variety of your choice of seeds.  Most seed packets will have general instructions regarding when to start the seeds, how much light they need, how far to space them and how to water, but here are a few more tips!

  • Moisten the growing medium (peat moss) so that it isn’t soggy, but rather similar to the consistency of a wrung-out sponge.
  • Cover the freshly seeded containers with a transparent lid.  Once the seeds begin to germinate (sprout), remove the lid to allow air to circulate, and the plants to become stocky rather than stretch out.
  • Grow-lights, or cool fluorescent tubes are the best option for providing light, however a bright sunny window will often do the trick too!
  • Water the seedlings when the top layer of the soil appears dry.  Use a small watering can with a fine spray.  Be careful not to overwater, as soggy soil can lead to a fungal infestation!
  • Seedlings first sprout with two “cotyledons” or “seed leaves”, once there are true leaves, you can begin adding fertilizer when you water. Begin at half strength for a few weeks.
  • Once the risk of frost has passed, and you’ve gradually acclimatized your plants to outside, you can plant your plants in the garden!

When you’re choosing seeds to seed, consider what you will actually use, and enjoy in your garden.  Basil is a great choice for beginners, as are beans.  If you’d prefer to skip the veggies, and concentrate on flowers, pansies and petunias are also quite reliable!

Before we know it, all those little seeds will have turned into mature plants that every at-home chef can use for their own delicious creations!

What to Serve at a Christmas Party

veggies

For the past several years, we have hosted at least one Christmas gathering at our house, sometimes it’s a family gathering, sometimes friends, and often a work gathering as well.  Our friends-gathering started out as a retro-chic fondue party, but after a spilled pot of fondue oil, we’ve moved on to more casual gatherings for that particular group of people! The work-gathering occurs in conjunction with our Christmas party, so it is typically a little more formal.  The family gathering is somewhere in between, no fancy dress clothes, but typically a lower risk of spills (at least until all the babies are more mobile!) Each of these parties has its unique set of preparations that are required, however no matter what type of party you are hosting, making a plan in advance is a preparation that is essential everytime!

In October’s issue of Bon Appetit Magazine, Belle Cushing outlines 15 ideas for how to ensure a holiday dinner party sets off on a fun note.  As I was reading through the article, some of the tips seemed pretty straightforward, things like “make sure you have enough ice” and “good tunes are essential ”.  However, I was surprised that in a magazine that often seems to be on the far edge of new food trends, three of the suggested appetizers were Cheese Balls, Crudites (a.k.a. in my house as “Veggies and Dip”), and Shrimp Cocktail.  I had mentioned in a previous blog that the 70’s era houseplants are re-emerging as popular favourites.  I’m glad to see that the familiar appetizers from every single family gathering of my childhood are still popular favourites!

Of course, being a food/recipe/style magazine, the author had great suggestions of recipes to try for each of these appetizers.  However, realistically speaking if I’m hosting a dinner party and have determined a menu to cook, and cleaned up the house, it is very likely that I’m going to look for a bit of a shortcut where I can.  Luckily for me (and you too!) it is very easy, and just as tasty to pick up a Gourmet du Village dip mix, Cheese ball kit, and all sorts of sauces and preserves at Lacoste.  And because you mix them up yourself, you can embellish them and make them a part of your own secret recipe!

http://www.bonappetit.com/entertaining-style/parties/article/dinner-party-starters

Thanksgiving Recipes with Local Produce

I’m not sure about your house, but at mine, it seems like fall is moving very quickly this year! I can’t believe that Thanksgiving is coming up this weekend!  This year we’ll be attending two dinners, one of which will be at our house.  Fortunately, both are collaborative affairs, which mean that I personally won’t have to worry about cooking a turkey, or inventing a complete menu.  One of my favourite things about this style dinner is that it provides some freedom to try new recipes!  Fortunately, there is still lots of local produce available that can make these recipes that much more delicious!

I have a standard Butternut Squash soup recipe that I can make in my sleep, but the addition of the apples and herbs in this one, makes me think that I might need to expand my repertoire a little!

Savory Butternut Squash Soup

1 butternut squash; peeled, de-seeded, and cubed
2 carrots, cut in thick slices
1 med onion, cubed
2 gala apples, peeled, cored, and cubed
3 cloves of garlic
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 bay leaves
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp of dried sage
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp white pepper
1 cup light cream
32 oz vegetable stock, pre-made or from scratch

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Toss squash, carrots, onion, apples, and garlic in large bowl with olive oil and the dried herbs. Spread them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or tin foil. Roast in oven for about 40 minutes, or until squash is tender and lightly browned. Remove from oven and place the vegetable mixture into a large soup pot over medium heat.

Add vegetable stock.  Simmer for 15 minutes and then remove the pot from the heat. Working in 2-3 batches, puree the soup in a blender until smooth. You can add more vegetable stock if the soup is too thick. Stir in cream until thoroughly mixed and serve!

From: http://www.town-n-country-living.com/savory-butternut-squash-soup.html

I found this recipe in a magazine this summer and LOVED it, and even better, so have guests, AND kids!  As an added bonus, the potatoes can be boiled ahead of time, and the roasting done just before supper, which makes them a bit of a time saver!  I also have added paprika (smoked paprika would make it even tastier I’m sure!) with the salt and pepper, for an added kick.

Baby Red Potatoes (about a dozen or so, depending on size)

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper

Place potatoes in pan in one layer. Add enough water to cover by an inch. Bring to a boil, then simmer until potatoes are cooked through and can be pierced easily with a fork.Drain potatoes well and pat dry if necessary.

Preheat oven to 450F. Place on baking sheet and gently press each on with your palm to flatten. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle generously with salt & pepper. Roast potatoes for 20 minutes. Remove from oven; flip each potato over, drizzling with more olive oil if any looks dry and seasoning with more salt, if necessary. Roast for another 20 minutes or until potatoes are sizzling and crispy.

Serve immediately.

From: http://www.thewickednoodle.com/smashed-potatoes/#_a5y_p=2239987

14728712_ml

Dill Pickle Recipe

It is definitely produce-season at Lacoste; we’re continually receiving all sorts of local veggies and fruits, and some not-so-local fruits too (maybe one day there will be orchards of oranges and peaches here ;) ). All this produce means one thing to many people; myself included.  It is time to can all this summer-goodness so we can enjoy it long into the winter.

So far this year I’ve made both strawberry and raspberry jam, and have a bunch of peaches waiting in the fridge for me to tackle this week.  Salsa is on the horizon too, and likely some spicy beans. BUT the most important of all the canning I do is the dill pickles.  It is both the most important and the most work intensive.  Between washing and prepping the jars, the lids, and the cucumbers, peeling the garlic, and trimming the dill, making pickles it is definitely a two-person job.  Come to think of it, it is a three-person job, as these days someone needs to be on baby-sitting duty, to keep the little monsters away from the boiling, salty brine!

I wish I could share my recipe with you, as it is delicious, but it isn’t so much a formula as a general guideline.  It was given to me by a woman who worked in the nursery, and everyone loves her pickles, so my goal is to just make sure that they are as tasty as hers! Some years, depending on the freshness of the garlic and dill they may be more dill-y or more garlic-y, but they usually all are eaten by the time the next batch is ready!

Debbie’s Dill Pickles

Brine:

7 ½ cups water

7 ½ cups vinegar

½ cup salt

Fill the jar with as many cucumbers as you can, mixed with 2 dill flower heads, and 4 cloves of garlic.  Pour the brine to fill the jar, and seal up in whatever manner works for you!

Notes:

  • I make sure to use not only local cucumbers and dill (because they’re both plentiful this time of year, and so delicious!) but also local garlic.  I find its spicier, and more flavourful
  • To determine how many pounds of cucumbers to use, I usually assume that it’s a little less than the number of jars I make. i.e.:

30 lbs cucumbers = 26 Jars of pickles

(I used 12 bunches of dill and 16 bulbs of garlic)

  • I’m not sure if my method of sealing jars is safe from food-code violations, but the jars seal, and I don’t sell them.  I usually wash the jars in the dishwasher, and keep them in a 250° oven.  The lids I keep in a boiling pot of water.  After I pour the brine into the jar, I place the lid on, and while they cool, the button pops to seal them up.  I know there’s lots of ways to seal jars when you search google, but this works for me!

The occasional year when I’ve not made pickles, or run out early has convinced me that the effort is worth it, as I’ve yet to find a store-bought pickle that satisfies what I’m looking for in a pickle.  Hopefully this will be the year you try it out too!!  It’s fun and delicious, and make great Christmas gifts for neighbours, friends and co-workers!!

Roasted Vegetables

This weekend marked the first “official” day of fall.  There are many indicators that fall is upon us; first days of school, frost warnings at night, the return of the pumpkin spice latte, to mention a few!  January 1st often gets all the glory of “New Year’s resolutions” but I know for many, September is also a time of new beginnings, and a time to kick-start good habits.  Myself, after a summer of barbecues and wiener roasts, I’m ready to add in some more vegetables to my mealtime. Luckily for me, fall is the time of year when an abundance of vegetables are being harvested, and I have TONS of options!

One of my favourite ways to eat more veggies is in soups; I feel like you can pack a ton of nutritious goodness in one small bowl.  It’s a bonus that most soups are quite easy to make!  My go-to soup these days is Butternut Squash soup.  I’ve made it so many times that I can do it without thinking, and in less time than it takes to order a pizza! I tried a new one last night, and it took longer, but was definitely worth it!

Butternut and Roasted Vegetable Soup

1 Butternut Squash

1 Leek

1 Onion, peeled, cut in half

5 Shallots, peeled

1 bulb Garlic, cut in half crosswise

2 Carrots, peeled, cut into 2 inch pieces

2 Stalks Celery, trimmed

1 Small bunch of Fresh Sage Leaves, stems removed

Olive Oil

Salt, Pepper

Cinnamon

Honey

6 – 8 Cups of Chicken Stock

Parmesan Cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 F. or 180 C. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut the butternut squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds, reserve them. Trim the root and the toughest part of the green end of the leek, cut it into quarters lengthwise from the root end toward the green, stopping before the end so that the layers are held together, rinse well under cool water, dry. Lightly coat the vegetables and sage leaves with olive oil. Spread the vegetables on the baking sheet. Sprinkle all of the vegetables lightly with salt, pepper and whole sage leaves. Sprinkle the butternut lightly with cinnamon and drizzle it with a few drops of honey. Roast the vegetables in the oven, checking after about fifteen minutes, remove them as they become soft and turn golden brown on the edges and reserve them. When the butternut is quite soft, scoop out the flesh, cool it slightly, squeeze out the garlic to remove the peel, add with the rest of the vegetables to a food processor and puree until smooth. Place in a stockpot and add the stock. Simmer the soup for a few minutes, adding more chicken stock if necessary to achieve desired consistency. Lightly toast the butternut seeds in the oven. To serve the soup, sprinkle with toasted seeds and shaved parmesan.

Taken from: http://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/member-recipes/Butternut%2520and%2520Roasted%2520Vegetables%2520Soup/1594

 

Bonus: We’re currently selling free-range chickens at Lacoste, so after you’ve roasted one up for your Sunday dinner, while you’re cleaning up, toss the carcass in the pot, and make some broth!

I usually chop an onion in half (skin and all), break a few carrots and stalks of celery into chunks (unpeeled), toss them in a pot with some salt, pepper and a bay leaf or two.  It usually comes to a boil by the time the dishes are done, and then I let it simmer for an hour or two, strain out the broth and throw it in the freezer until next soup day!

Veggie Time

It’s a new season here at Lacoste! We’ve cleared away much of the giftware to make room for our Farmer’s Market!  Much of our produce is from Manitoba Farmers, with whom we’ve had ongoing relationships.  We’ve been carrying local, greenhouse tomatoes, rhubarb and asparagus for some time now, but we’ve now expanded and all your favourite garden vegetables are arriving daily!

I know many people look forward to fresh garden veggie, so here’s an idea how to incorporate them into your dinner!

Farfalle with Carbonara and Spring Peas

http://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/pasta-recipes/farfalle-with-carbonara-and-spring-peas

1lb Bowtie Pasta

1 Egg

7 Tbsp Heavy Cream

Sea Salt and Ground Black Pepper

12 Slices Bacon, roughly sliced

3 Handfuls of freshly shelled peas

2 Sprigs of Fresh Mint, leaves picked, (slice most of it, but reserve some for garnish)

2 Handfuls Parmesan, freshly grated

Bring a large pan of salted water to boil, and add pasta, cook according to package instructions

Whisk egg in a bowl with cream, salt and pepper

Cook bacon in pan, until crispy and golden

When the pasta is nearly cooked, add the peas for the last minute and a half.  When cooked, drain in a colander, and save a bit of the pasta water.  Add the pasta to the bacon and stir in sliced mint.

Add the egg and cream mix to the pasta, while the pasta is still hot, so the residual heat will cook the egg.  Toss it all together, season with salt and pepper, sprinkle with parmesan and the reserved, whole mint leaves.

Enjoy!