We have a garden!

Want to feed your family organic food? Yes.

On a budget? Yes.

Minimal (like seriously minimal) yard space? Yes.

We finally got a veggie garden going this year and are somehow managing to keep everything and everyone alive so we can actually enjoy what grows. If you want to read more about how we got started and how we are managing to grow loads of veggies (broccoli, snap peas, tomatoes, summer squash, chard, bok choy, kale, peppers, cucumbers, eggplant, tomatoes, lettuce, arugula, carrots, basil, green beans) in a small space (one 8’x4′ raised bed!), check out my guest post on the Adventures of Scuba Jack website. In the meantime, I thought I’d share a bunch of photos of the process and our pro-gardener Beatrice hard at work.
Continue reading!

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Chopped out

I’m not even going to try to be witty tonight because all I can hear running through my head is a repeating loop of chop this, chop this, chop this. I never want to see another knife or another veggie again. (I will probably change my mind tomorrow, though.)

Anyway, we had steak salads for lunch made with leftover steak from Saturday night’s grilling:

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Also in the salads: arugula from the garden (10 million times better than from the store — it’s super super hot and spicy), green onions from the garden, chives from the garden, romaine, tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, radishes, feta, and drizzles of balsamic and herby olive oil.

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Dessert was a teeny bit (like 2 tbsp) of leftover carrot cake oatmeal with extra pineapple, apple, cinnamon, and cardamom:

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Mom and I forged on throughout the afternoon to make enough food for 30 armies to send to my dad’s house: chicken cacciatore, beef-kielbasa-barley stew, and pumpkin grapenut pudding. Mom was in charge. I followed her commands. Chop this, chop this, chop this. At some point, I had a minor breakdown and abandoned the kitchen in favor of a nap on the porch bench. I am not made to be a sous-chef, nor am I made for large-scale food prep.

My dad came over around 7pm to collect the goods, and mom gave him detailed serving and reheating instructions. Dad, I expect a full report as you eat these things!

Sarah Whiting (aka Ting) and her friend Nora came over for dinner. I completely forgot to take people pictures, grrrrr. But I did take food pics. I made chips from the stale whole wheat roll-ups and guacamole from two avocados, black bean and corn salsa, fresh tomato, fat free sour cream, fresh lime juice, and cayenne.

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We ate it all very quickly (a significant portion is sitting in my belly now). We also enjoyed more Golden Star sparkling white jasmine tea spritzers (1/3 tea, 2/3 plain seltzer).

The main course was chicken-pineapple-onion-green pepper-kielbasa skewers. I’m pretty sure I spent hours skewering these things. John started them off in the stone grill outside, but they weren’t cooking fast enough, so we finished the job inside with a quick broil in the oven. Ting and Nora brought an awesome pesto-bean salad with tomatoes and fresh mozzarella. The plate:

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The skewers may not have been able to finish outside, but the sweet potatoes did, however, do quite well in the stone grill with perfect char.

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Dessert was fresh watermelon:

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And pizelle cookies:

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Dinner with the girls was so fun — Ting and I needed the chance to catch up, and we had some very interesting conversations, not the least of which was my mom’s recounting of her competitive bodybuilding days. And like I said, I’m exhausted. And stuffed. I’m heading back to NY at some point tomorrow, though I don’t know my exact schedule. And I’m too tired to deal with the bus schedule right now!

I can’t think of a question. What question would you ask now, and how would you answer?

Chop ‘n’ char

Wellllll, I spent the afternoon cleaning and organizing the fridge with/for my mom. The process resulted in turning up a bunch of wrinkly, old, dried, spotted vegetables that absolutely needed to find their way into our lunch. Some also had to go straight to the compost, unfortunately! What I could save included red pepper, yellow squash, garden asparagus, garden green onions, and the inside of a white onion:

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I really should have taken a pre-chop picture because you can’t tell the sorry state of the veggies in this one. Just imagine lots of wrinkles.

Obviously, this plate needed to turn into a pizza. The onions went into a pan with olive oil and a sprinkle (teeny) of sugar in the raw for caramelization; the veggies roasted at 450 for 25 minutes with olive oil, balsamic, salt, and pepper. For the pizza base, I toasted two stale Damascus Bakeries “Roll-Ups” on a cookie sheet at 450 for about 10 minutes until they were crispy. When we were finally ready for lunch, I spread a thin layer of tomato paste on the roll-ups and topped them with the roasted veggies, caramelized onions, and feta cheese. I put the topped pizzas in the oven for 10 minutes at 450 until the cheese got lightly browned and they were heated through. Here’s one of the finished pizzas:

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I still wasn’t that hungry after my huge breakfast, but mom and John were ready to eat! I trimmed a little bit off the end of each pizza for me and sliced the rest up for them:

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Here are my end pieces (topped with extra feta, of course):

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The rest of the afternoon involved more cooking and some napping. Somehow, every time I come home to visit, I never leave the kitchen. I wrapped parsnips, carrots, and a golden beet in foil for John to grill (with steak!) in the outdoor stone grill. Using this grill always makes it feel like summer! Here’s the view from inside:

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I wish NYC apartments came with that sort of green!

While John was cooking, I whipped up a big ol’ bowl of kale chips for the table:

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Here’s my electric plate with charred veggies and super super super well-done steak, the way I like it:

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It was the perfect, perfect, perfect summer meal, even though it was cool and rainy outside. Plus, you know how much satisfaction I get from saving food that is on its way out (and this isn’t half of what we did!). However, I’m also exhausted — I’ve been on my feet peeling and chopping all day long. Takes a lot out of a girl!

To char or not to char?

Raw! (sort of)

Before my mom and I headed out for our walk this afternoon, I had the rest of this morning’s fruit salad as an inter-meal snack:

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Along with this carrot “core” dipped in fresh WF almond butter:

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Mom and I set off on a lovely walk for an hour or so, winding our way through the arboretum that leads to a nieghborhood park, chatting with each other, and chatting with neighbors.

Back home, we finally ate “lunch” around 7pm! I’d been working on preparing the various components of Gena’s raw zucchini alfredo over the course of the afternoon, with just a few adjustments.

To make the “noodles,” I used a vegetable peeler on carrots, zucchini, and yellow squash:

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I made a smaller portion of the sauce — 3/4 cup cashews instead of 1.25 cups — than the recipe because this house does not need any more leftovers! We also added some toasted sesame oil (I know that un-raws it, but it tasted good!) and soy sauce:

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My mom was a little bit hesitant about the highly caloric nature of this nut-based sauce, but I reminded her that the nuts were serving as the protein/fat part of the meal. The calories were definitely warranted and necessary!

For the final (and again un-raw) addition, I lightly steamed some broccoli and mixed in a few crushed dried garlic flakes, and that got mixed with the “pasta”:

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Here it is all mixed together with the sauce (and twilight porch-seating — you can see the grass in the background!):

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I honestly wasn’t sure how I would feel about this raw “pasta” — I was thinking it would just be like a refreshing summer salad, but it was delicious! I LOVED the sauce. It tasted like cold sesame noodles. Mom and John cleaned their plates, too. You must try this!

For dessert, I had a couple slices of sweet potato that I found in the fridge (they got treated to some cinnamon post-photo):

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Oh, right, I had more dessert after that, too 😛 My friend Steph (we’ve known each other since we were probably six months old!) and her husband Dan (who also went to high school with us) picked me up, and we headed over to a law school graduation party for Liz, also from high school, at her parents’ house (Congrats, Liz!). I got to chat with a bunch of people I hadn’t seen in years — so fun! I had loads of chips and guac, and then the cake came out:

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I had a small piece of each and then stopped there. I was too busy socializing 🙂

And now it’s time for bed! I’m getting myself psyched for the bird chorus to wake me up at 4:45 am again. I know I complain about morning birds all the time in Brooklyn, but I’ve gotten spoiled. It’s exponentially louder here in MA! I think I will go home next week with a greater appreciation for Brooklyn’s more moderate tweeting. Does leaving town make you appreciate things more at home?

Tres leches, tres veces

I’m speaking in Spanish again, so clearly I spent the day at a work event. And if I spent the day at a work event, you know that also means there was no shortage of food. The first order of business on the “mission retreat” agenda was lunch!

Here’s my plate:

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I had half of a grilled chicken and avocado wrap:

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Green salad:

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And some pasta salad:

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All delicious, obv. On the side, I had a cup (probably equal to about two cups) of tropical fruit salad (papaya, mango, pineapple, watermelon, strawberries, oranges, and grapes):

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I had seconds of the green salad and seconds and thirds of the fruit salad 😛

After lunch, we did a lot of ice breakers (fun ones, believe it or not!), reviewed the history of the agency, listened to a panel discussion by clients we’ve helped, broke into small discussion and reflection groups … and then it was time for cake!!! (Of course.)

Here’s my first slice of the beautiful tres leches (not as milky as the one I had last night, though!) along with two of Dorothy’s homemade oatmeal cookies:

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I supplemented with two jammy Pepperidge Farm cookies:

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And then proceeded to have two more slices of cake, one of which was mostly frosting:

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Since it was mostly frosting, it was ideal for dipping tortilla chips. I dipped quite a few, like so:

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We ended the retreat with a conga line and a daisy exchange. When I got home, I carefully arranged my daisies in the spread-eagle bunny bowl:

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Food aside, this “retreat” managed to get me even more excited about working where I do (as if I needed it). That’s usually the goal of most company retreats, but I think they rarely accomplish it so successfully!

On the way home, I stopped into Union Market for a sample handful of peanut butter-filled pretzels:

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After all of this indulgence, I was thrilled when Vani invited me to join her and Arthur (her dog) for a walk in the park. We ended up walking for nearly two hours! She also gave me a pack of stale Fig Newman’s that she didn’t want to throw away because she realized after opening them that they weren’t vegan and thought they would make a good “expansion challenge.” I liked her suggestion of grinding them up to make a pie crust. Keep your eyes peeled because this may be coming soon to a blog near you 🙂

For “dinner,” I just threw together a quick yet wildly delicious snack of chips and salsas left from the restaurant last night with the rest of my humbecuemole and a string cheese stick that my mom donated a while back. I got it melty in the oven and then topped it with some plain yogurt:

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I’m off to get some packing done now because I’m planning to head straight up to MA tomorrow after my class (the last of the semester, finally!). I’m looking forward to a few days of true summer relaxation because I always feel like I should be doing stuff when I’m here in NY. Do you need to leave town to relax?