Backyard Vegetable Garden Must Haves

Backyard Vegetable Garden Must Haves

So, we’ve been doing this whole backyard garden thing for a while now. Every year we add a little more ground or another raised bed to expand our already, rather large vegetable garden. Along the way, we’ve picked up some great tools and even made a few of our own to help keep the work to a minimum so we an sit back and enjoy the fruits of our labor.

Here are some of our most loved (read old and decrepit) tools and favorite purchases (affiliate links are for products we have used and loved. Not just a random recomendation!):

a spade – Essential for shoveling soil and helping to move large amounts of topsoil or chicken poop.

drip watering system – This was a gift for my husband last year during a VERY dry summer. We didn’t want to run sprinklers all the time, nor was it good for the plants. Having strategic water on the plants when they needed it literally saved our bacon (or veggies).

Tomatoes as decoration works right? terra-cotta pots – We inherited most of ours from friends and family, but nothing can beat them for growing tomatoes and herbs. We’ve actually stopped planting seasonal flowers and coopted them all for vegetables. Is that taking it a step too far?

The lovely Ginger, exploring her new enclosure.chicken poop – Easy to source since we have our own flock of dirty birds, but seriously…this makes a great addition as compost! Having some great compost is life-changing if you plant your vegetable garden in the same area every year.

wine barrel – No explanation needed? Sadly, this one is retired from its wine making days, but will Don't mind the red chalk "paint" done by the girls.continue its life as a rain barrel. We’re also pretty stoked that we’ll be a bit more conservative about our water supply.

weed barrier – The squash plants always seem to overtake our raised beds, so we’ve been planting them directly in the ground these days. The week barrier makes a huge difference in keeping the weeds controlled while the young plants gain traction.
Next up, we’ll be working on our greenhouse so I’m sure I’ll be adding to this list as time goes on! What are some of your must have gardening items?

Boston Marrow Pumpkin Pie Recipe

Boston Marrow Pumpkin Pie Recipe

My husband LOVES pumpkin pie. I’m not a huge fan, there’s just something about the texture. However, when our neighbor kindly gave us a Boston Marrow Squash and we realized it’s famous for use in Pumpkin Pie, I just had to take a stab at it (literally) and find a great pumpkin pie recipe.

The first challenge was actually splitting the darn thing so I could roast it. I broke a knife point clean off. Next time, I’m getting a wedge and a mallet…no joke. Another method is to roast the squash before trying to cut it open. This would probably be a bit easier, but way less adventurous.

I placed the halves face down on a large cookie sheet lined with foil. Then I baked at 400 degrees for 60-90 minutes. Mine actually took about 55 minutes before the juices were gushing and bubbling in the pan. You can also try to cut the halves into smaller pieces but that just seems like you’re asking for trouble (see above). The good news is once you’ve got it open…you get millions of seeds!

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Once the squash was roasted to the point where a knife (not the broken one!) slid right through the flesh, you’re all set. I let it cool for a while as I wrangled kids into chairs for lunch, naps etc.

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Removing the flesh of the squash from the skin was pretty easy, most of it came away with a spoon and could easily be mashed into a puree. I ran a few bits through a food processor but really, they could probably have used a bit longer in the oven. Note for next time. The good news is you’re going to have way more puree than you could possibly need for one pie. You can easily freeze some for the next time around!

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Next up was the filling! I used three eggs (straight from our hens) and hand whisk them until yolks and whites were combined. Then I slowly added 1/2 cup white sugar, 1/2 cup packed brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1 teaspoon of allspice and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon (I like my spices!). Add in 2 cups of Boston Marrow puree and combine. Finally, add 1/2 cup evaporated milk (If you don’t have any hand, which I never do, you can simmer a little over twice the volume you want to end up with until it reduces. In this case, I used a little over 1 cup of whole milk.)

Slowly add the warm milk to the filling mixture. Finally, pour the whole lot into a pie dish prepared with a pie crust. I used a fairly vertically sided pie dish so the filling would be uniform across the entire pie.

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Pop this into the oven at 450 degrees for about 45-50 minutes. When an implement of your choice can be inserted at the center of the pie and come out clean, it’s ready! There should be little to no jiggle if you move the pie dish (similar to a quiche).

I have to say, for a person who doesn’t really enjoy pumpkin pie…this is pretty darn good! Official taste test by the hubbie to follow…

Recipe card below!

Pumpkin Pie

What’s on the lunch menu?

What’s on the lunch menu?

We have long been prone to offering our toddler very repetitive foods for mealtime. It’s easy, she eats them most of the time and they’re easy to keep in stock. (Grilled chicken, fresh fruit and veggies, spinach nuggets, oatmeal, raisins, yogurt, apple sauce etc.).

So far, we are very lucky we don’t have a picky eater! We have always made an effort to take her out with us and feed her from our plates so she develops a taste for things. As long as she at least tries something, we try not to force her to eat anything she doesn’t want. Of course, at home there is often a game to be played so we do set some rigid requirements around our own dinner table. We are sticklers about eating what you ask for (no wasting food) and we are not afraid to let her “go hungry” if she’s being bratty. Let’s be honest, if she were actually hungry she’d be eating what was in front of her. There are also no toys at the table and we’re working on establishing conversation so there is a small bit of ceremony around the idea of a meal.

A recent phase developed of always asking for “something else” when she hadn’t finished what was in front of her. We had been in a habit of giving her one or two food items at a time and when that was finished, we’d move on to the next. Instead, we starting placing small amounts of each food on her plate to start with. If she wants more of something, she has to finish everything on her plate first. We also typically offer a “treat” once the meal is over, this usually happens to be an “ice yogurt” (a yogurt tube thrown in the freezer). If she doesn’t clean her plate, that’s fine, but she knows there’s no “treat” later. Other special treats have been smoothies, apple sauce or other foods we might not always have available. Variety seems key here as an incentive!

There are still plenty of food battles but those are the guidelines we try to live by. Consistency has always been our friend though at times, it’s so difficult not to give in! Lately, we’ve been trying to eat more often as a family. This is far more likely on weekends when one or both of us is home to cook (aka one cooks and one plays defense with the baby walker). With the babe heading towards one year, finger foods are a new source of frustration. So far, breads, grilled chicken, Cheerios and fruit are a hit. I refuse to start making three separate meals so baby Maggie is getting some major food exposure much more quickly than her sister ever did.

When I’m in a rut and need inspiration, there are a few places I can usually count on for inspiration:

Weelicious
She also has a cookbook!

100 Days of Real Food
Also with a book.

Super Healthy Kids

I tend to be more of an online girl myself, but that doesn’t always work for everyone!

PS: You’d laugh if you could see my “office” space today…I have to show you. At least I have tea and a view?

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Sunday dinner mashup

Sunday dinner mashup

Last week we were out of town longer than expected so we’ve been playing meal catchup all of this week. After a few meals out at friends and celebrating our anniversary, we had a hodgepodge of food left in the fridge by weeks end. The funny thing was, there was no coherent plan for any of it! So tonight I set out to create a meal (and leftovers for lunch tomorrow).

We ended up with chicken sautéed with a little olive oil after being coated in a medley of spices,

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jasmine rice with red onion, zucchini and garlic (cooked in the same pan as the chicken so it picked up some yummy flavor)

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and cauliflower with a little red wine vinegar, mustard and a titch of mayo.
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Sound random?? It totally was but it sure was delicious!

This week’a goal is to prep ahead as much as possible so we can all sit down to eat together as a family. We really love establishing that routine as a family norm and Lena definitely responds well to it. She’s much more likely to eat what she’s given without argument and/or coaxing. It’s difficult when I sometimes don’t walk in the door until after 5:30 but we’re working on it!

My black thumb.

My black thumb.

I freely admit that I have the farthest thing from a green thumb. While I adore growing things, if one happens to stay alive in my presence it’s through sheer luck.

I’m fairly adept at planting and the initial setup, it’s the tending and nurturing part that’s got me beat. I mean, it’s not like I have anything else to worry about. Fortunately, my husband enjoys the entire process and keeps me from neglecting anything too badly. There’s nothing quite so satisfying as watching your plants bear fruit!

We barely threw together our kitchen garden this year as we had a ton of outdoor projects that took precedence. Since this is our first year in the house, we weren’t sure on placement or light so just picked a spot based on proximity to the door. That said, we’ve got some decent herbs, a few zucchini and a load of Roma tomatoes just waiting to ripen. Our Meyer lemon tree has been happily ensconced on the porch for the last two months and is also showing positive signs of a good harvest.

There is great joy in seeing Lena’s face light up when she sees the little plant she put in the ground growing tall and providing something we can eat. It’s priceless to me that she knows where some of her food comes from and the work that goes into cultivating it, even if it is on the tiny scale of our backyard garden. There’s a certain satisfaction in knowing we have fresh, healthy food outside our door when we need it.

I have big plans for next year, hopefully Joe will be on board!!

Broccoli Slaw Obsession…

Broccoli Slaw Obsession…

This is a staple in our house. Not that I assemble it into anything resembling a traditional coleslaw, but just the raw ingredients. It’s crunchy, healthy and so versatile! My current favorite is a heaping pile in a wrap with some grilled chicken and a little spicy sauce (sriracha with mayo or sour cream works well). This has been my work lunch for a few weeks running now.

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My latest discovery? Rainbow salad…

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I’m thinking a little lemon juice, olive oil and mustard. How about you?

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