Planning and Planting a Garden

Spring is in full swing and we’re finally planting our garden for the season. While we plant window boxes and an herb garden with everything from thyme, oregano, basil, lemon balm, and more, it’s our vegetable garden that takes the most work and today I’m sharing a big post about our 2018 garden and how we come up with what we plant.

We have a 16’x16′ raised garden bed that we built five years ago. Initially we used pallets to create the border, but upgraded to stones last year when the pallets were too rotten/stopped working as a border. After buying seeds our first year and failing miserably, we now buy our veggies from a local nursery who is only open from the end of April to the first or second week of June! They kill it, their plants are the best around, and their veggies are in line with our organic preferences.

To say we’ve had our fair share of trials and errors would be an understatement. And every year, we know something may do well and another thing will do poorly. Sometimes it’s our fault, and other times it’s just nature–too much or too little rain, cooler temps, or something else. Who knows! But, that’s gardening.

Growing our own veggies is essential in our home and helps us save a ton of money during the New England growing season. I’ll never forget a woman once remarked at how many vegetables were on the belt at the grocery store when I was checking out. Yes, vegetables have a leading role on our dinner plates most nights. But eating so many organic vegetables can be very expensive when we’re buying them at the grocery store year round.

I have fond memories of picking veggies in my grandparents’ garden growing up and eating them after wiping any dirt on my shirt. And Chris’s parents still grow a huge garden every year. So, starting our own garden–while a lot of work–isnatural. This means on top of participating in a local CSA where we get a full share, this year marks our 5th garden season and thankfully we have a pretty great plan. But how did we come up with this plan?

When planning our garden and picking what we’ll grow, we consider the following:

  • What do we get a ton of in our local CSA share? And/or, what do they grow better than we do (either because they just do or they may have more space for a particular veggie)? We get a lot of all different vegetables from our local farm, some of which includes broccoli, cabbage, corn, and garlic. So we choose to fill our garden with other produce we may not get as much of in our weekly farm pick-up. Plus, they’re way better at growing some of these veggies than me. Or something like corn or potatoes would take up a lot of space that we can better use to grow something different.
  • What can I buy for less money at the grocery store? I can literally buy 10 pounds of carrots for $10. So, I save the space carrots could take up in our garden and opt to buy them from the grocery store (plus we get some of the best carrots in our CSA share too!)
  • What can I grow and freeze? We eat as organic as possible in our home, but year round, some organic veggies are very expensive. So, we plant 20 pepper plants. I opt to grow a ton of our own and freeze them either on their own to cook with later, or already cooked into recipes (who wants chili? My freezer is often full of it by football season in the fall!). We plant tons of zucchini for the same reason. Conventional zucchini is laden with pesticides (hello, dirty dozen item!) and organic zucchini is expensive, so we plant 6 plants and harvest all we can–either freezing it as is, or cooking it.
  • What does our family really like to eat? Or not? Last year Isla loved picking fresh cherry tomatoes from the garden, so I made sure I picked out 3 cherry tomato plants this year. I also got 3 larger sized tomato plants for salads, making sauce, etc. In the past we grew larger cucumbers, but I opted for the smaller pickling size this year because we love homemade pickles, and they’re easier for the girls to eat when reaching for a fresh snack.

Once you’ve figured our what you want to grow, it takes some practice to lay it all out and make everything fit. Truthfully, we overfill our garden. But I’ve never regreted it! We end up with so much of everything and nothing tastes better than fresh vegetables, literally picked minutes before dinner. We or the ducks eat it so I never feel wasteful. Eventually, I’d love to tackle growing things like sweet potatoes and onions. But for now, I think we have another great garden to look forward to!

Here’s what we put in our garden, and how we lay it out:

garden-plan.png

We normally need two trips to buy everything we need, but for about $150 we get all the veggies, herbs, and flowers we’ll need for the year. Seriously, you can’t beat that!

The first time I went solo with the girls and tandem wore them for the first time. My selfie attempt was a fail, but thankfully our trip was a success. So many people commented that I was a super mom, but honestly I just felt like a mom doing what she had to do. I was just so happy the girls behaved!

tandem-wearing.jpeg

The second time we went, Chris joined and it was definitely easier. We both wore a baby.

chris-isla-babywearing
Side note: Does anyone else’s toddler scoff at the camera? This girl does not like having her picture taken lately!

michele-josie-babywearing

And both times we bribed Isla with a donut treat if she behaved. Yes, I’m definitely not above bribery. With an almost 2 year old, it works. Our favorite donut shop is down the road from the nursery. Who doesn’t love an Elmo donut?

Once we have our veggies, they typically hang around until we have the time to plant them. This year we really waited to make sure the weather wouldn’t be freezing again.

plants2

plants

Here’s a before photo of the garden, full of weeds (plus a cameo by a couple of our ducks):

garden-before

And an after. We still have to place newspaper and shredded straw to block weeds, but we can’t wait until we can start harvesting some of these veggies in a few more weeks!

garden-planted

Tell me, do you have a garden? What do you plant? Happy spring all!

Healthy Asian Ramen with Asparagus

Does anyone else love Asian food, but not love all the calories and salt that often come with it? Today, I’m bringing you a quick, easy, versatile Asian dish (it’s even vegan friendly!) that will make good use of a spring vegetable currently on sale at seemingly every grocery store–asparagus!

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Asparagus is a super veggie in my book. It’s full of vitamins and minerals like A, C, E, and K, plus chromium. It contains glutathione, a powerful compound which helps eliminate free radicals in the body and break down carcinogens. Among other pros, asparagus is a natural diuretic, so instead of storing water after eating this dish (sorry General Tso chicken!), you should find yourself losing excess water weight. Score!

ramen

This dish is packed with protein from not only ground meat or seitan, but from millet and brown rice ramen noodles. These noodles are an awesome Costco find and now a regular staple in our pantry as long as Costco carries them. They’re ready in less than 10 minutes and one serving contains 4 grams of protein and just 130 calories. Even if you leave the meat or seitan out of this recipe, you can create a meal of complete protein by combining these noodles with the veggies. I used ground beef when I made the recipe this time, but however you prepare your meal, I’m sure you’ll love the gingery, saucy flavor of this healthy spring dish.

asparagus-ramen

Healthy Asian Ramen with Asparagus

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 1 lb ground beef, pork, turkey, or seitan 
  • 1/2 cup diced yellow onion
  • 4 cloves garlic, diced and divided
  • 1 bunch asparagus, chopped
  • 1.5 tbsp coconut aminos
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp rice vinegar
  • 3 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp Sambal oelek (ground fresh chili paste) or siracha sauce–someimes I add more for more heat
  • 3 pads (6 servings) of millet and brown rice ramen
  • sesame seeds, for garnish (optional)

Directions

  1. Heat a skillet to medium and brown your protein of choice. Remove from pan and set aside when done.
  2. Leaving a small amount of fat in the pan (or adding 1 tsp of cooking oil of your choice) add the diced onion, half the garlic, chopped asparagus and cook until tender, or about 6-8 minutes.
  3. While the veggies are cooking, bring a pot of 6 cups of water to a boil. Cook the ramen according to the instructions on the package.
  4. When the vegetables are cooked, add your protein back to the skillet plus the remaining garlic, along with the rest of your ingredients (coconut aminos through the chili paste/siracha). Stir to combine and let cook for about 2 minutes.
  5. Drain your noodles and combine all the ingredients in a bowl or layer on your plate. Garnish with sesame seeds and enjoy!

If you try this recipe, let me know what you think in the comments below. Additionally, what’s your favorite way to eat asparagus, or do you have another favorite spring vegetable? 

 

 

What I Ate Wednesday – Week 3

Happy Valentine’s Day all! As I summed up yesterday, we enjoyed a day full of love-themed festivities in our home today. While we enjoyed some outdoor time (it was finally warm enough to take the littlest peanut outside), we also finished some Valentine’s for Isla’s classmates at daycare and enjoyed dipping strawberries. Then we finished our day with a “red” dinner of red lentil pasta with red sauce, plus salad.

The last few weeks have brought full on teething back for Isla and feeding her has been a struggle. While thankfully her spirits have been great, these two year old molars are no joke and food she normally loves have been met with total disdain. I’m operating by the “fed is best,” motto and when worst comes to worst I’m packing her with high calorie foods and smoothies. This includes foods like beans, bananas, nut butters, avocado, oats, chia, whole milk yogurt, etc.

Meal planning has been more simple with the hope that she will eat something (really, anything!) at all. I’m barely using any recipes this week, opting instead for things like rotisserie chicken and bagged salad, and other go-to’s like eggs and chicken sausage.

Here are some photos of what we’ve been eating this week, followed by a comprehensive list of the meals gone by and to come.

aussie-bites
A high calorie snack option this week includes these Aussie Bites from Costco. One cookie = 130 calories and lots of good for you ingredients.
bagged-salad
Bagged salad for the win!
black-bean-brownies
Isla loved making (and eating) these Black Bean Brownies
pasta-veggies-sausage
In a pinch for time one evening, I threw together some pasta with tons of veggies and sauteed chicken sausage
rotisserie-chicken-salad
One of the easiest meals around here is bagged salad with rotisserie chicken or beans. This is especially great on a night when I threw together a mash up of “toddler” foods or a smoothie for Isla’s dinner.
salmon-leftovers
Here’s some leftover salmon from last week, with green beans and mashed potatoes. This ginger kombucha on the side is $4.50 off at Costco through this weekend!
trader-joes-almonds
One of my naptime treats has been these almonds from Trader Joe’s. These have been and probably will always be one of my favorite TJ’s items.

Breakfasts: 

 

 

Lunches/Dinners: 

  • Pasta with Veggies and Mild Italian Chicken Sausage
  • Rotisserie Chicken
  • Red Lentil Pasta with Tomato Basil Sauce
  • Quinoa Fried “Rice”
  • Roasted Turkey and Mozzarella Open Face Sandwiches with Kale, Tomato, and Black Fig Balsamic Vinegar
  • Eggs with Chicken Sausage

Sides: 

  • Taylor Farms Mediterranean Crunch Chop Salad
  • Mashed Potatoes
  • Green Beans with Garlic
  • Sticky Sesame Cauliflower
  • Roasted Beets and Carrots
  • Homefries
  • Fruit Salad

What are you eating this week? Share in the comments below.