Oh man, you guys are in for a treat! These may not be one-hundred percent authentic Mexican but dang are they good. You will NOT be disappointed. This recipe originally comes from my sister so I have to give her credit for the basic rub […]
Standing in the middle of my grandmother’s strawberry patch, I pick up the red fruits eager to make jam with her. To my left are many rows of tomato plants, beans, cucumbers and a lot of other plants that I have yet to learn their names. I am confident that I will know shortly. My grandmother is a very eager teacher. Fast forward 30 years and my grandmother is still teaching me via memories of gardening, food preservation and cooking with handed down cookbooks with her handwritten notations. It is no wonder that one of the many thrills in my life is gardening since it holds so many memories as well as being the perfect compliment to eating healthy whole foods. Now that the snow has melted, I’ve been busy preparing the garden for spring planting and thought I’d diverge from the recipe world for a moment to share what I do to prepare my vegetable garden and what my set-up looks like.
I begin each season with preparing the garden soil. I use raised beds because they are significantly easier to amend the soil nutrients than with an in ground tilled row-style garden. The soil here is extremely sandy so we built the raised beds and added a mix of black dirt, sand and compost which I acquired at the local compost site in a premixed “garden blend” of soil. To this, I’ve also mixed in peat moss and vermiculite. This forms the base of my soil. Every year, after establishing this base, I mix in additional compost which I make myself using kitchen scraps, chicken droppings and bedding from the backyard coop and the previous year’s spent vegetable plants that compost over the winter months.
I use a variation of the square-foot gardening method with a few personal changes to allow a little more space for certain plants. I’ve found this to be extremely space efficient, producing larger yields per square foot as well as provides a natural order and beauty to the garden. Every year, I’m a little crazy organized and map out my 8 garden beds with where I’m planting things so I can be sure plants are rotated each year both for pest control and for making it look pretty. Excuse the crumples and stains…the map gets drug around and re-looked at a number of times before it’s “final”.
Making my garden as organic as possible is important to me because everything you use in your garden is absorbed into your food and therefore into your body when you eat it. For fertilizers, I don’t use chemicals. The important trio to add as fertilizers or garden soil amendments are typically nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. For the nitrogen, this is usually covered with the chicken droppings and compost but in the past I’ve used blood meal or alfalfa meal for adding nitrogen content. I sprinkle on bone meal to mix into the soil for adding phosphorus. Kelp meal or a liquid kelp is what I use to enhance the potassium content of my soil. Alfalfa meal will also add needed potassium. After adding these soil amendments, I rake them in, being careful not to disturb any fall planted bulbs, like the sprouting garlic below, and let it absorb during the next few weeks with rainfall.
With the soil ready to go, I plant my seedlings indoors using repurposed Greek yogurt containers and paper egg cartons. I don’t start all of my seedlings early. Most of the ones I start early are the nightshade family of peppers and tomatoes plus any other long growing season vegetables like broccoli, squash and tomatillos. Tomatoes and pepper seedlings thrive with added calcium so I’ve added crushed eggshell to the bottom of each cup prior to adding the soil.
Most of the rest of my planting consists of seeds directly sown into the soil mid to late May when there is no more danger of frost. Here is the cute little greenhouse I currently use with a series of grow-lights strung above each shelf for my seedlings.
Here’s a peak at some of the fun seedlings that are just sprouting! Anaheim peppers, new mexico peppers, brandywine tomatoes and a series of herbs and perennial flowers round out the mix. You’ll notice there are more than one plant in each container. I usually plant more than one seed in each and then after the seedlings emerge, I pinch off the weakest one or two leaving the strongest seedling in each container.
Now it’s just time to wait until it’s warm enough for transplanting into the raised beds. In the meantime, I’ll plant some cold-tolerant seeds like spinach and kale to begin reaping the benefits in just a few weeks and enjoy the new buds on my orchard trees! I can’t WAIT for fresh apples, plums, cherries, pears and peaches from my own backyard!
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This morning, I broke out my mini-greenhouse and got my garden seedlings planted! That means that spring is here (along with allergies, ugh…) and now I’m patiently waiting for the real weather warm-up to happen so I can play in the dirt everyday and enjoy harvesting all that my garden has to offer. I just can’t wait!!! In the meantime, I’ll make fancy fun recipes, like this olive feta chicken roulade, that get me equally excited!
Roulade is just fancy way of saying a flat piece of meat or pastry, spread with filling and rolled up in a pretty spiral and sliced for delicious eating. I ended up making a large batch of this awesome kalamata green olive tapenade so decided to use that as a filling. Using a meat mallet, I pounded the chicken breast to be about 1/4 inch thick. Then, I spread on the tapenade and topped that with feta and baby spinach. Rolled up and sprinkled with a touch of poultry seasoning was all it needed to become this beautiful olive feta chicken roulade. This filling also works well as a stuffed chicken breast instead of pounding them flat and rolling up as roulade. Just make a large slit to form a pocket in each chicken breast and stuff with filling. Once roulade is cooked, cut it into slices for a pretty presentation!
- 2 chicken breasts
- ¼-1/2 cup olive tapenade
- ¼ cup feta cheese, crumbled
- handful of spinach
- poultry seasoning
- Olive oil
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Between two pieces of plastic wrap or silicone baking mats, pound out each chicken breast with a meat mallet to about ¼ thickness.
- Spread olive tapenade on one side of each breast and top with feta cheese and spinach.
- Gently roll it up as tightly as you can into a spiral and then secure with toothpicks.
- Sprinkle the outside of each roulade with poultry seasoning.
- Heat an oven proof frying pan (like cast iron) with olive oil.
- Sear all sides of the roulade and then place in oven to bake.
- Bake 20-25 minutes until chicken is cooked through.
- To serve, cut roulade into slices.
The last nine months (or more?) have been really taxing my creative brain. That’s not a bad thing, but my cooking mojo is on a much needed vacation after creating a minimum of three new recipes each week for months while working on a way cool project. […]
Apparently, enchilasagna is an actual word. Well, at least it is on the interwebs. It’s simply the combo of enchilada fixings layered in a pan just like a lasagna. That word seems strange so I’m sticking with easy and uncomplicated and just calling this an enchilada casserole. I know, how old school and boring! I assure you, the flavors are anything but boring and this dish is as uncomplicated as any other casserole.
This recipe works with beef, pork or chicken so it’s easily customizable and you can sub the black beans for white beans if you so desire. Enchilada casserole comes together in about thirty to forty minutes including the time it takes to make the super easy enchilada sauce. For flavoring the shredded meat, I pre-cook it with salt, pepper and little chili powder and then stir in about a cup of enchilada sauce. The layers are simple: corn tortillas, meat, sauce, beans, repeat! Monterey jack or queso quesadilla makes a perfect melty cheese to top the casserole with and can be layered into each layer if you like more cheese in your life. Top the baked casserole with fresh diced tomato, green onions, cilantro and pickled jalapeños for a spicy kick!
- 1.5-2 pounds pre-cooked and shredded beef, pork or chicken (season with salt, pepper and a little chili powder while pre-cooking)
- 4 cups enchilada sauce
- 18 corn tortillas
- 1 can black or white beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 cup (or more if adding between layers) Monterey jack or queso quesadilla cheese
- 1 tomato, diced
- 2 green onions, diced
- 1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped
- pickled jalepenos, optional
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Mix 1 cup enchilada sauce with the shredded meat.
- Lightly grease a 9x13 pan or other similar sized baking dish with olive oil.
- Spread ½ cup enchilada sauce in bottom of the dish.
- Layer 6 tortillas, then half of the meat, half of the beans and 1 cup of enchilada sauce (and cheese if desired).
- Repeat for another layer.
- Layer the last 6 tortillas on top and then the last half cup of sauce.
- Top with cheese if desired and bake 20-30 minutes until warmed through.
- Garnish with diced tomato, green onion, cilantro and pickled jalapeños.