How We’re Using Our Summer Harvest.

It’s been a minute since I’ve updated, so here we go.

Over the month of August, the backyard garden kicked into high gear, and we had a few pleasant surprises:

  1. We had no idea there were 2 massive highbush blueberry plants already in our backyard – so exciting! For a couple weeks I was picking a small bowlful a day.
  2. Our green beans finally took off, producing weekly harvests for us to enjoy.
  3. The bugs (aphids?) finally left the chard alone, so we’ve been enjoying not having to cover or monitor the plants so much.

A few new learnings / things we’ll keep in mind for next year’s garden:

  • The pumpkin plants are very susceptible to mold; once they started growing fruit, they seemed to get fussy with humidity / morning dew. We’ve been spraying them a milk and water combo which seems to somewhat be keeping the mold at bay.
  • I suspect we would have had a lot more pickling cukes had our set up been different – next time we’ll use tomato cages or something similar so there’s more space and support for them to grow vertically.
  • In the past we’ve had a lot of tomatoes that split while growing – we seem to have avoided that this year; we believe it’s because we’ve been watering the soil instead of the plant/leaves.
  • Though the beans did eventually take off, we’re still not very happy with the plant overall. Next year we’ll try something different from the Blue Lake Pole Beans.
  • Next year we need to do more reading into determining when each individual veggie is ready to be harvested, and make sure we pick them at that exact time.

Besides all the weeding, watering, and everything else that’s been going on, there’s also been lots of cooking! This has been my favourite part of our garden experiment this year: the challenge of picking produce at the right time, and finding ways to use or preserve it all so we can fully enjoy the *fruits* of our labour.

I thought I’d share a few of the recipes I’ve been using so far with all of our great produce this season.

What to do with…

Tomatoes, Peppers, Basil & More.

Salsa is the perfect recipe for using up lots of odds and ends from the garden. We planted several banana pepper plants and some green chili peppers, so salsa is a great way to use them up so you enjoy some heat but not too much. I typically just chop up anything suitable from the garden (this year it’s been the hot peppers, tomatoes, and basil), mixed with some store/market-bought chopped veggies like:

  • cucumber
  • red onion
  • orange or yellow pepper
  • garlic

I seed the cucumber and tomatoes, and place in a bowl with all other chopped veggies. Then:

  • Season with salt and pepper
  • Drizzle a little white wine vinegar over top; mix it all together.

It’s super fresh and so delicious!

Swiss Chard.

One of my favourite ways to use chard from the garden is with this recipe from Martha Stewart – One-Pot Chicken and Rice Swiss Chard. Any one-pot meal is a bonus in my books, plus, I love a reason to cook with the dutch oven! This recipe is also excellent for work-lunch leftovers. :)

Pickling Cucumbers.

Pretty self explanatory – we pickled these with fresh dill and garlic; YUM CITY. If you’re into preserving, I highly recommend getting Bernardin’s guide to home preserving – it has everything you need to know about the process, and more!

Basil.

Basil is a perfect topper for so many things (my favourite way to use it is on top of scrambled eggs, with a couple chunks of goat cheese mixed in). It’s also the base of the almighty pesto, which I love using on top of soups, and in grilled cheese sandwiches.

Pine nuts cost a million dollars, so use a nut-free recipe if you want to save a couple bucks.

Pumpkins.

Last weekend I picked a few of the sugar baby pumpkins, roasted them in the oven for just over an hour, and then pureed them. I had about 4 or 5 cups of puree, which I’ve since used in these delicious recipes:

Kale.

Salad: This spicy kale and quinoa black bean salad is actually the best thing – ever. One – it uses a bunch of kale. And Two – I used sriracha as the hot sauce. What’s not to love?! This salad is perfect for sharing – think BBQs and picnics, and the leftovers are just as delicious for lunches and sides for a few days to come. YUM.

Frittata: I’ve recently discovered turkey bacon, and how delicious it is. Pair it with kale in this delicious frittata recipe for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

Need to try:  I haven’t tried making this at home yet, but I LOVE the kale caesar salad from 2 Doors Down. I got some applewood smoked bacon from the market last weekend to try it out!

Tomatoes.

We had 8 tomato plants, all of which produced a lot of fruit – and of course, all at the same time. I made a couple different versions of sauce, as well as a fresh tomato soup, more or less following these recipes:

I froze the sauce flat in large ziploc bags – ready to be turned into pasta, pizza sauce, etc.

Corn.

Friends introduced us to this recipe, and if you want to improve your life tenfold, you’ll try this recipe ASAP – if not sooner – because Mexican street corn IS WHERE IT’S AT.

We also made up a HUGE batch of homemade corn relish, which has all been canned and preserved for a wintertime pick-me-up. This is another Bernardin canning favourite.

Blueberries.

We whipped up a canned batch of blueberry jam, and I killed the ol’ peach & blueberry cobbler at every summer gathering possible.  This is a recipe my mom used to make when I was a kid, so she had the inside scoop: you should always double the crumble recipe. Smart woman.

Noodle Bowls.

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a recipe, so here it is.

A few nights ago I had a couple of girlfriends over for dinner. It was a great night of wine, good food, and even better company. I wanted to make something simple, yet delicious, and it also needed to be meat-free to suit the vegetarian among us.

I landed on these supremely delicious, Vietnamese-style noodle bowls. They were such a hit, and so simple to make. A friend asked me if I’d been blogging about my culinary adventures lately, which made me realize: I haven’t. So with that little bit of inspiration, here’s a new recipe!

Rice noodle & veg bowl.
Rice noodle & veg bowl.

Ingredients:

  • Firm tofu
  • Vermicelli noodles
  • Sriracha
  • Sesame oil
  • Carrots
  • Cucumber
  • Green onion
  • Toasted sesame seeds
  • Peanuts

Directions:

Chop tofu into square chunks and place in a bowl. Drizzle & toss with sesame oil and desired amount of sriracha sauce until thinly coated.

Fry tofu chunks on medium heat until slightly crispy, and golden in colour.

While these are frying, bring a medium pot of water to boil. Once boiling, remove from heat and place desired amount of noodles in the water. Cover, and let stand until ready to assemble bowls. Drain water right before placing in bowl to be served.

Chop cucumbers and carrots into matchstick shapes. Dice green onion.

Once tofu is ready and noodles are drained, assemble your bowl by starting with rice noodles on the bottom, and topping with your carrots, cucumbers, green onion, tofu, sesame seeds, and peanuts.

Drizzle more sriracha and sesame oil on top.

Enjoy with fork or chopsticks!