Driveway Garden Update

My friend recently told me that my garden was so “city girl” because of the orange buckets.  I had to laugh at this because I thought the orange buckets were so ugly, but my husband insisted on them because they were cheap.  My garden is “city girl” for a variety of other reasons, not the least of which is the weeds.  (Have I mentioned I hate pulling weeds?)

I am continually amazed that the garden does continue to grow despite my lack of skills, ability or positive attitude.  One of my tomatoes is actually RED, too.  It looks like a legitimate tomato that I might eat.  I know this shouldn’t surprise me, but it still does.  

Tomatoes are Red | Jersey Up!

Tomatoes are red, violets are blue…

I also have a few other budding veggies – a few peppers have sprouted, as well as some crookneck squash and my roma tomatoes are getting bigger.  My basil plant has gone to seed (this is a gardening lingo thing I picked up), and so I’m unsure if it’s still edible…thoughts?

Driveway Garden | Jersey Up!

Green roma tomatoes and blurry bell peppers.

Crookneck Squash | Jersey Up!

My husband also built a pretty utilitarian trellis for my cucumbers out of wood scraps we had in the garage.  We were supposed to stake the peonies in the spring, but forgot.  Oops.  Handy though, right?  

Upcycled Cucumber Trellis | Jersey Up!

I’m thinking it’ll look a little less Buffy once there’s cucumbers all over it.

I’m looking forward to eating these vegetables freshly picked.  And trying some canning recipes, though I’m still uncertain if I’ll have enough, even though my husband promises me I’ll have more than I can eat.  

I’m already thinking about what I’m going to do next year, and if I can convince my husband to make me a permanent garden so we can find another use for the hideous buckets.  

City Girl Gardening Woes

OMFG!!!!!!!! What the hell?!? Seriously. I thought I was super cool today as I was cutting fresh basil for my pasta salad. And then this happened.

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I cut off its branch to try and get it to fall down so I could kill it. (I’ve gotten really good at/comfortable with this since Mosquito Invasion 2013). I was totally afraid this thing could fly or jump or something. They can do that right?!

Snip branch. Fling branch. Scream. Gather myself and look for spidey to kill it. WTF?! Where did it go?!

I think I have enough basil actually.

Leftovers

We had family visiting recently and they brought A TON of food with them. So we have been eating leftovers all week.

I. Am. Not. Complaining.

Sooo, I have no new recipes this week. And next week we are visiting family in New Jersey (no, we are not bringing food). I will likely not post anything next week either because I will be stuffing my face with boardwalk fries and sitting on my parents’ couch.

Sorry, not sorry.

Black Thumb, Your Days Are Numbered

I was recently hit with the notion that I wanted to start a vegetable garden.  I get this idea in January when it’s cold and snowy and I’m dreaming of summer and fresh tomatoes.  I started pinning stuff to a “Gardening” board on Pinterest, which is what every great farmer does, I’m sure.  Then in March, I read Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal Vegetable Miracle, which really sealed the deal.  It called out to the hippie in me that wanted to go back to the land and live off of it or something (glossing over the hard work and dirty parts, of course).  I also caught myself wondering what would we do if the zombie apocalypse happened?!  Shouldn’t I know how to grow tomatoes and make cheese??  Obviously when the world is ending, these will be my two primary concerns.  My husband tells me I would most assuredly not make it.

My husband grew up on a farm.  They raised cattle for awhile, but also had what they call a small vegetable garden.  The chores I was complaining about as a kid pale in comparison.  He is now nostalgic for this life, which I for one think he had his memory cleaned out somewhere around 18.  Now that we have a daughter I find myself wanting her to understand where her food comes from.  It’s important to me that she eats healthy, and moreover enjoys it.

Okay, so you have to understand something about me.  I’m a city girl.  I don’t do dirt.  Or bugs.  (I have Pinterest nightmares of tomato plant beetles and slugs.)  I think food comes from a store.  I’m that girl that kills cacti.  This was made for me:

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Anyway, you get the picture.  But, I am committed to this goal, no matter how outside my comfort zone I am headed.  I’m going to do it, damnit, and it’s going to be successful!  (I say this now inside the air conditioning in front of a computer.)

My husband agrees to lend his expertise and after quite a bit of procrastination, more than a few panic attacks, and some borrowed horse shit/dirt (technical term), we are, sigh, moving forward.  There are now seven hideously orange buckets on my front lawn.  Why the front yard, you ask?  Vegetables need full sun, didn’t you know?  And apparently orange buckets are cheapest (?!) and this is a “temporary” container garden so as to not ruin the lawn, you know, in case you aren’t committed it doesn’t work out.

Container Vegetable Garden | Jersey Up!

Dear neighbors, don’t judge me.

And so, we wait.  Wait for death (more likely) or vegetables (hopefully).  At least the automatic lawn sprinklers will give me an edge.  And I’m not even going to talk about the manure issue/benefit.  I will be sure to keep you posted on all my gardening pitfalls.  Friends, there is nothing a little self-deprication can’t fix!

Tomato Basil Pasta Salad

I told you I’m all about pasta salads lately!  I wasn’t kidding.

Since I do monthly meal planning (post coming soon!), I have to use up the most perishable items first.  Sometimes I do a really good job of planning out my meals so we aren’t eating the same type of food all in the first week or two of my shopping trip.  Other months, like this one, I buy pretty perishable stuff for 3 different pasta salads.  Spinach, fresh basil, tomatoes, etc.  Good thing I love pasta salads – I don’t mind eating two in the same week.  Do you?

I got this recipe from my mother in law and I make it all the time.  It makes a pretty huge batch (which no one minds because we all love it) and is easy to serve at a BBQ or bring to a party as a yummy side dish.  Or add chicken and it becomes a main meal.  It’s also pretty affordable, which for a family on a budget, its nice to stretch your money and have a fresh, healthy meal go a little farther.

Tomato Basil Pasta Salad | Jersey Up!

Tomato Basil Pasta Salad

Ingredients:
1 lb penne pasta (or whatever kind you like)
4 cups diced roma tomatoes (~12)
2 tsp minced garlic (about 4 cloves)
1 pkg fresh basil (about 1/3 cup chopped)
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup olive oil
12 ounces feta cheese (regular, reduced fat or tomato basil flavor all work great)

Directions:
1. Mix everything except pasta and feta cheese.  Let it sit on the counter for about an hour.
2. Cook pasta according to package instructions.  Add pasta and feta cheese.

Special Note…
So, apparently, not everything can be frozen.  (What?!  I know!)  I froze a package of basil a long time ago.  Lo and behold, it was slimy and brown after it thawed.  I’ve seen on Pinterest somewhere that you can freeze herbs in olive oil.  Have any of you tried this?  Does it actually work?  What a bummer to waste such nice basil.  Also considering I’m doing a garden this year, I know I’ll have excess and wondering how to properly preserve basil.  I just think fresh adds so much more to a meal than dried.

Balsamic Chicken Pasta Salad

It has been really hot here lately.  Like 80+ degrees and humid.  I love summer.  Love being outside in the sunshine with bare feet in the grass.  But this year the mosquitos have been so awful.  End times swarming awful.  Pretty sure it’s due to the massive flooding we had this spring.  Supposedly their life cycle is almost up, for which I am grateful.  Even though the doctor says its safe, I feel bad practically drowning my daughter in DEET!  And we just haven’t been able to enjoy the outdoors as much as we’d like to.  With that being said, we have still pretty much switched over to grilling.

MY STOVE HAS NEVER STAYED CLEAN THIS LONG!

It’s a summer miracle.  For this month’s meal planning, I pretty much have stuck with marinated meats for the grill and easy side dishes.  Its cheap and efficient.  And it also convinces my husband to do a lot more of the cooking!  😉  I do still spend quite a bit of time in the kitchen.  It’s not so bad though, since my company is cute.

Kitchen Helper | Jersey Up!

Mama, I found your secret stash!

I’m in love with pasta salads lately.  They’re so versatile, easy to whip up on a moment’s notice for a party or dinner off the grill, and you can sneak in a lot of veggies without too much notice.  My husband is obsessed with balsamic vinegar and so this pasta salad screamed at me off the Pinterest page.  You could easily switch up the veggies to whatever is on hand or coming up fresh from the garden.  Or change to whatever pasta is on hand.  But I love me some tortellini!

Balsamic Chicken Pasta Salad | Jersey Up!

Balsamic Chicken Pasta Salad
Adapted from: Newman’s Own

Ingredients:
1 pkg frozen tortellini (or pasta of your choice)
2 handfuls fresh spinach
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
4 chicken breasts
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1/2 cup creamy balsamic salad dressing

Directions:
1. Marinate chicken breasts overnight with balsamic vinegar and dijon mustard.  You can just marinade while you thaw your chicken breasts, or have them prepped in the freezer beforehand.  Do whatever works best for you!
2. Prepare pasta according to package directions, and set aside.
3. Grill chicken breasts.  While they’re cooking, chop up your tomatoes and spinach.  Or whatever other veggies you decide to add.
4. Cut up grilled chicken and toss with pasta, veggies and salad dressing.
5. Chill in the refrigerator for an hour and serve.

The balsamic gives the salad a really nice bite.  I personally love meals that are all-in-one.  I don’t need a side salad or a side veggie.  It’s just all in one bowl.  Less dishes!  Less mess!  Simply the best.  Leftovers are even better, too.