Garden to table

Although it’s a rather frequent occurrence around our table, I love it when I sit down to dinner and realize that a majority of the food came from our garden.

In the kitchen, we transform plants . . .

. . .  into dinner.

Leek and sun-dried tomato risotto with broiled asparagus

Mixed greens with roasted baby carrots and beets

Of course, some of us start eating the plants before they make it to the dinner table (ahem, Sir).

Cancan can!

The fruits (and vegetables) of last year’s gardening and canning labors:

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From left to right on each shelf, starting with top shelf:

  • Green beans, catsup
  • Relish, pear preserves, more green beans
  • Tomatoes w/fennel, onion, and garlic, straight up tomatoes
  • Pickled beets, pickled onions, pears, more green beans

We grew everything pictured, except for the pears, which came from Matthew’s grandparents’ neighbors’ tree.  Matthew’s mom did most of the preserving and canning last summer and fall, since we were a little bit busy with this.  We contributed the green beans, lest you think we were total slackers.

Previous canning posts on HerGreenLife
Salsa, salsa, salsa
Pear preserves
We now return to our regularly schedule posting

Garden goods

Despite the craziness of having a baby in the middle of the summer, we managed to have a great year garden-wise.  Understandably, my involvement in the actual gardening, and in putting up the food, was even more limited than usual.  I just sat on my butt all day cared for a very demanding baby and enjoyed eating the garden’s bounty.  We canned some green beans, and my mother-in-law canned tons of tomatoes and froze lots of other veggies for us.

Last week, we made one of our favorite soups, Country Vegetable Soup with Pasta, almost entirely with garden goods, including fresh tomatoes in mid-December (picked green before the frost in early November, and ripened slowly inside since then).

Homegrown goods in our soup included leeks, tomatoes (fresh, not canned), onion, celery, sweet potatoes (subbed for carrots in the recipe, because that’s what we had), green beans (from frozen), and basil (also frozen) for the pesto.  We didn’t have any zucchini, so we just subbed more of the other veggies. Hearty and delicious, and so fun to have grown almost all of the ingredients!

In the end, the only non-garden item in the soup, other than the pasta, was the garlic.  We had a nice garlic harvest, but at the rate we go through garlic, I’m not sure we’ll ever be able to grow enough (though Matthew’s working on it 🙂 ).

Eating for two

I’m taking this eating for two thing very seriously.  After all, I do have a big baby to feed (10 lbs, 2 oz at birth and 10 lbs, 5 oz at 1 week).  Fortunately, we have an abundance of delicious food in our refrigerator (and freezer).

Red beans and rice, with sides of roasted fennel and sliced garden tomatoes

We have tons of amazing stuff coming in from the garden — tomatoes, potatoes, Swiss chard, kale, summer squash, onions, cucumbers, green beans — and we’ve found time to do a bit of cooking here and there.  We’ve also had family and friends deliver some delicious food, which has been very helpful 🙂

Gazpahco, Asian cole slaw, and grilled cheese with tomato and homemade dill pickles

Hungry baby, hungry mama!

Eat your greens

We have lots of produce coming in from the garden right now, but in sheer bulk, greens, namely, Swiss chard and kale, take the day.

Dino kale (foreground) and White Russian kale

While I get stressed about refrigerator space every time Matthew returns from the garden with a huge bag or cooler-full of greens, they do make for some tasty, healthy eating.

What do I do with these greens?
This Garlicky Greens recipe from 101 Cookbooks is a great starting point for either kale or Swiss chard.  We cooked up a big batch and used it in multiple ways throughout the week — it makes a quick and easy side dish, or pile some cooked greens on top of a piece of toast or a bed of grain, then top with a fried egg for a main dish.

Soups are also a great way to use a bunch of greens.  We currently have a bunch of kale earmarked for this Kale and Black-Eyed Pea soup recipe.  And for something very easy (and tasty and nutritious), check out Emily’s One-Pot Quinoa and Greens.  (The coconut oil is key to this recipe.  Tomatoes also make a good addition to this dish.)

I also made a big batch of crispy kale/kale chips, this time using tips from the Steamy Kitchen for the best way to get a nice, crispy result.  Another hint: Putting too much kale on the tray will prevent the desired crispiness — for best results, do small batches.  Crispy kale is delicious simply salted, or with a drizzle of homemade catsup (okay, pretty much anything is delicious with our homemade catsup, but that’s another story).

Finally, when life gives you Swiss chard (and not spinach, which we’ve never had success growing in quantity), make Swiss Chard Spanakopita!  We followed the Swiss chard prep tips from this recipe*, and then just subbed the appropriate quantity of Swiss chard in our tried-and-true spanakopita recipe.

Swiss chard spanakopita -- mmm, mmm, good!

*Don’t discard the stems!  Unlike some greens (like kale), that do have rather inedible stems, Swiss chard stems are not only 100% edible, they are super delicious.  If the stems are large, you may want to chop them and prepare them separately to ensure adequate cooking.  For this recipe, we blanched the chopped stems for a bit longer than the leaves.