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Summer Garden Party Ideas and Grilled Garden Pizza Recipe

June 30th, 2011

 

Growing a garden provides numerous benefits that are good for the body and mind: exercise, joy, a form of therapy, and more. From watching seeds sprout into bountiful harvests of homegrown foods to pulling weeds in the wonderful, great outdoors, a garden truly does inspire and cultivate the soul. And it’s the perfect backdrop for a summer garden party that showcases the tastes of summer.

Even though there are boundless opportunities to gather family and friends for good conversations, good fun, and good food, there’s something especially relaxing about a summer garden party. It’s not a big, boisterous party nor does it compare to an excitable holiday celebration. A summer garden party is a delightful, easygoing gathering where the freshest foods can be appreciated and enjoyed al fresco.

Summer’s already here, so why not plan a garden party for you, your family, and friends. Here are some simple, fun ideas:

Drinks – Place drinks such as canned soda, bottled water, canned or bottled beer, and bottled wine in galvanized buckets filled with ice.

Invitations and Keepsakes – Make your invitations fun: attach a piece of paper with all the party details onto a flower or vegetable seed packet. It is a garden party after all! Or send out a garden party Evite. For a keepsake, print out recipes of the dishes you prepare on garden-themed paper then roll them up and tie with a piece of raffia or give each of your garden party guests or couples a small bag containing a few of your garden vegetables.

Menu – The best summer garden parties showcase the flavors of the season, and the great thing about hosting a summer garden party is that you can make it as relaxed or elegant as you’d like. From grilled pizzas loaded with flavorful herbs and vegetables to low and slow barbecued ribs served with a freshly prepared garden succotash, there are endless dishes you can prepare with summer herbs and vegetables.

Music – Theme your music to your menu. Hosting a Louisiana Crawfish Boil? Then celebrate and savor the moments with some traditional Cajun/zydeco music. Serving lemon-butter chicken breasts with rosemary red potatoes and elegant asparagus spears? Then put together a list of your favorite classical songs. Music, at the right volume, relaxes party guests and is a great party enhancer.

Setting – You can pick any location to set up garden party tables: on the lawn near a garden or pool, on the patio, under a couple of trees, etc. Pick your favorite spot!

Silverware – Make whimsical utensil containers using used, washed food cans such as soup or vegetable cans. Remove the labels then paint the outside of the cans with different colors such as tomato red, corn yellow, or basil green. Or visit your local flea market for a variety of mix and match silverware, dish towels from yesteryear (for lining a basket to hold your silverware), or unique vessels for holding silverware.

Table Decorations – Showcase flowers of the season, such as hydrangea or peonies, in simple glass containers such as canning jars or set vases that are overflowing with summer flowers on the tables along with bowls filled with brilliant, bright fruit. Dress the tables with simple natural-colored cotton tablecloths or tablecloths with a colorful butterfly patterns.

Whether you plan a super simple or elegant garden party, make it special by highlighting the foods of summer.

Grilled Garden Pizza

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 garlic clove, minced

1 small red onion, sliced

1 green Yankee Bell Pepper, cored, seeded and sliced

1 medium Yellow Crookneck Squash, halved lengthwise then sliced

1 medium Costata Romanesco Zucchini, halved lengthwise then sliced

1 cup prepared pizza sauce

2 (10-inch) prepared pizza crusts

2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Fresh Superbo Basil leaves, rolled then sliced into ribbons

Preparation

Prepare grill for medium heat and direct cooking.

In a medium size bowl, combine oil and garlic. Add onion, bell pepper, squash and zucchini to bowl; stir to coat. Place vegetables in a grilling basket then place on grill. Cover and cook until vegetables are crisp-tender, about 10 minutes. Stir once or twice during cooking time. Remove vegetable basket from grill.

Top prepared pizza crusts with equal amounts of pizza sauce, cheese and grilled vegetables.

Reduce grilling temperature to medium-low heat. Place pizzas on grill, cover, and cook until cheese is melted and crust is hot, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle pizzas with basil before slicing and serving. SERVES 4

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The Farmer’s Garden

June 22nd, 2011

 

Guest Blogger Maureen Farmer has come up with the perfect solution for all of you ‘locavores.’  She has created a mash-up of her passions (gardening + web development) and as a result started The Farmer’s Garden – Your Online Resource for Local Produce.

The Idea

A few years ago, I tried vegetable gardening in one 3 by 6 raised bed to save money, eat healthier and become more self-sufficient. I was so thrilled with the outcome that the next year I enrolled in my State’s Extension Service Master Gardener program. I discovered that I had a passion for growing vegetables and wanted to learn more about gardening in general.

Since then, every year I have expanded my garden by building one or two additional raised beds. Now I have eight raised beds and grow more varieties of vegetables and herbs every year. This year I’m trying potatoes and acorn squash for the first time. I also built a miniature greenhouse out of old metal storm windows so that I can extend my growing season. I also use it as a place to start my seedlings in the spring.

I tend to get a little carried away and end up harvesting more produce than I can eat, freeze and give away. I soon realized that I am delighted to give my extra vegetables and herbs away to my family, friends, and neighbors. People seem genuinely happy to receive a bag of mixed greens or a zucchini. As the saying goes – one of the most difficult things to give away is kindness; it usually comes back to you.

My current profession is a web application developer/project manager. Two years ago, I taught myself the PHP programming language to supplement my existing programming skills. Home gardening is growing more popular every year and everyone enjoys just harvested homegrown produce. I had the idea to combine my profession and passion to create The Farmer’s Garden so everyone can have access to locally grown food.

It’s Easy

The Farmer’s Garden is the place to post free classified ads to sell, trade or give away your excess backyard produce. Individuals and food pantries can also register and post wanted classifieds. Free registration is required to post a classified (we need to know your zip code for it to work), but anyone can search for ads within their local area.

If you’re looking for fresh locally grown seasonal produce, visit The Farmer’s Garden website. Simply enter your US zip code, select the radius that you are willing to travel and see what people in your area have to offer. Share your surplus harvest with people in your area. You’ll be surprised how wonderful a small act of kindness will make you feel.

Many backyard gardeners also grow varieties of produce not found in your local grocery store. This is a terrific opportunity to taste new foods. If you don’t know how to prepare something, ask the grower. He or she will probably offer you several tasty recipes to try. You might even make a new friend in the process.

Join Us

The Farmer’s Garden is relatively new, so if you don’t find what you’re looking for today, try again next week. We have registered users in almost every state and the number of visitors to the website has been steadily increasing every month. We’re growing every day.

About the Author: 

 Maureen Farmer is a master gardener and has loved plants all her life. She enjoys growing vegetables, herbs and flowers in her yard, writing gardening articles and giving advice to her acquaintances. She grows most of her own produce in homemade wooden raised beds.

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Spanish Seafood Dish

June 17th, 2011

Our guest chef has done it again! Check out Katheryne’s spanish shellfish recipe. Fresh mussles and clams come together with tomatoes, fresh herbs and white wine to create this great dish.  Enjoy!

 

Ingredients:
1 lb of cleaned de-bearded mussels
1 1/2 lbs cleaned little neck clams
2 cups white wine (a white table wine will work perfect)
1 cup of organic canned crushed tomatoes
1 small onion finely diced
4 cloves of garlic finely diced
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon of dried oregano leaves
the juice of one large lemon (about 1/4 cup)
3 tablespoons of butter or olive oil
handful of roughly chopped or torn cilantro leaves to garnish

Directions:
First heat either the oil or the butter on med-low heat in a big deep soup pot with a lid or dutch oven.  Once the oil/butter is hot add the finely diced onion.  Sweat the onions for about five minutes.  Once the onions have turned translucent, add the minced garlic and continue to cook for another two minutes.  Now add the crushed tomatoes, white wine, smokey paprika, cumin, thyme, and oregano to the pot to make a broth.  Turn the heat up to medium or until the broth begins to simmer. Let the alcohol in the wine cook off for about twelve minutes.  Add the mussels, clams, and the lemon juice and cover the pot with the lid.  Cook covered for about three to four minutes or until all of the shell fish have opened (that’s how you know they are ready).  Serve in a big bowl with crusty bread and garnished with cilantro from the Humble Seed.  The bright cilantro really awakens this hearty seafood dish.

*NOTE always check your shell fish prior to cooking to make sure they are all alive.  To do this look to see if all of the shells are closed.  If the shell is open, tap it on the counter, if it does not close, its dead, throw it away.

 About Katheryne:

Sustainability is very important to me because I believe that we should take care of the planet that gives us so much. Love the earth and it will love you back. Know where your food comes from; be informed about what you are consuming. By choosing to eat organically grown produce the impact that you are making on the environment and your own health is a positive one.  Living sustainably to me, is not about  what you are giving up, it’s about all that you get! You can check out my website and please be sure to “like” my Facebook page!

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Garbage in, Garbage out!

June 14th, 2011

 

You are what you eat, and in American, we are petroleum.  Some of you might be agreeing with me while others are scratching their heads. So I will elaborate for you. The following exert is taken from a 2004 article called, Eating Fossil Fuels by Dale Allen Pfeiffer. I provided the link below and recommend you read it in its entirety.

In the United States, 400 gallons of oil equivalents are expended annually to feed each American (as of data provided in 1994). Agricultural energy consumption is broken down as follows:

  • 31% for the manufacture of inorganic fertilizer
  • 19% for the operation of field machinery
  • 16% for transportation
  • 13% for irrigation
  • 08% for raising livestock (not including livestock feed)
  • 05% for crop drying
  • 05% for pesticide production
  • 08% miscellaneous

Energy costs for packaging, refrigeration, transportation to retail outlets, and household cooking are not considered in these figures.

Our food now travels from between 1,500 and 2,500 miles from farm to table. With a highly efficient semi-truck getting 6 to 8 mpg your looking at an average of 286 gallons of gas to get that food to your table. The sad thing, is that it isn’t even good food. Modified, picked green, force ripened, altered, these are all common terms and practices. I challenge each of you to take a trip to your local grocery store with one goal, to leave with only REAL food. By that I mean no altered ingredients, no pesticides or hormones, no unnatural colorants or preservatives, just food grown from start to finish the way it did 100 years ago.  I am in no way a purest, but I did this on a recent trip as I strolled through, some isles were completely passed without even stepping down, and when I hit that final one with a meager amount of organic produce that I could only assume fit the criteria I came to the realization, there is NO FOOD HERE!!! Wow, Mother Nature gave us this beautiful planet, had everything figured out, and we didn’t think that was good enough. I am not a fan of scare tactics, my intent is to make everyone a little more aware; I am only briefly touching on this subject here and will elaborate more on different areas in future blogs. For now try to educate yourself a little more on the food you eat. My recommended reading this time is Tomatoland: how modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed our Most Alluring Fruit, by Barry Estabrook.

Just remember folks Garbage in, is Garbage out…  Thanks for your time, John Cavanagh

About John:

John Cavanagh has spent 20 years in the food service industry and is currently the general manager of Tuck Shop in the Coronado Historic District in Phoenix and Owner/ Operator of John’s Premium® Tonic Syrup. With his uncle being a third generation farmer in Montana, his passion and experience with food gives him a unique perspective on where agriculture is and should be going here in America.
www.tuckinphx.com
www.johnstonic.com


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Greek Yogurt with Summer Squash

June 8th, 2011

This cool summer dish is a healthy addition to any meal, or substantial enough to be served on its own. The beautiful colors, sweet and creamy texture orchestrate wonderfully on a warm summer day.

Ingredients:
1 butternut squash (halved) (pumpkin, acorn squash or even yams will work as well)
1 tablespoon plain Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon white truffle oil (Truffle oil is pricey and the recipe will work without it, however it really adds complexity and richness to the dish)
1/4 cup pistachios
3 tablespoons minced chives
Parmesan shaving for garnish (Pecorino or Romano)

Directions:
Pre-heat the oven at 375. Then remove all of the seeds and pulp from the 1/2 squash, and cover in olive or grape seed oil.  Roast at 375 for 20-25 minutes.  The squash should be firm but yet fork tender.    Let the squash cool at room temp.  Once it has cooled, cut the squash into 1/4 inch size pieces and toss with chives, pistachios, white truffle oil and plain greek yogurt.  Garnish with the shaving of Parmesan.  Super quick and simple yet full of nutrients and FLAVOR!  This recipe really allows the sweet buttery taste of the squash to shine through. Also you can chill the squash before you serve for an even firmer and cooler dish! Enjoy

About Katheryne:

Sustainability is very important to me because I believe that we should take care of the planet that gives us so much. Love the earth and it will love you back. Know where your food comes from; be informed about what you are consuming. By choosing to eat organically grown produce the impact that you are making on the environment and your own health is a positive one.  Living sustainably to me, is not about  what you are giving up, it’s about all that you get! You can check out my website here http://katherynecooks.com/ and please be sure to “like” my Facebook page!

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Themed Gardens for Kids: Pizza Anyone?

June 7th, 2011

 

Getting kids interested and involved in gardening is not only a great way to spend quality time together, it’s also a fun, adventurous activity for them, and it’s a great educational experience—you never know, you may have some future plant botanists or horticulturalists in your family!

Make gardening with the kids fun by allowing them to help plan the garden from the start. Incorporate a theme that will really get them excited, such as “Pizza Garden,” “Stir-Fry Garden,” or “Peter Rabbit Garden.”

Decide together what you want to plant and how the plants will be arranged in the garden then get in there and grow your own foods. You can also mark a wall calendar with fun, colorful gardening stickers on the days that you and your kids will be tending to the garden; this will give them something to look forward to, and it’s a great way to incorporate routine and responsibility into their lives.

Help your kids make and decorate some whimsical signs for their garden or let them pick out a few garden accessories to place in their garden.

Pizza Garden

A Pizza Garden is as much fun for the adults as it is for kids. Why? Because who doesn’t like pizza? And this themed garden is shaped like a pizza!

Place a stake in the ground, attach a 3 ½ foot piece of string to the stake then mark off a circle, keeping the string tight. Divide circle into six wedges.

In each wedge, plant classic pizza ingredients: 2 to 3 basil plants, 1 to 2 bell pepper plants, onion, 2 to 3 oregano plants, 2 to 3 parsley plants, and 1 tomato plant. If you plant more, you can always transplant them into another area of your yard.

It just doesn’t get any better than homemade pizza made with fresh herbs and vegetables from your own garden.

Stir-Fry Garden

Stir-fry is one healthy meal, and fresh-from-the-garden vegetables make it simply amazing. This is a great dish for experimenting with your favorite food flavors.

Some classic stir-fry ingredients include: bell peppers, bok choy, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, chives, garlic, green beans, hot peppers, squash, etc.

With stir-frying, foods cook fast so they retain their flavor and texture, and cooking fresh ingredients contain less calories than packaged stir-fry entrées.

Peter Rabbit Garden

Beatrix Potter’s characters are great inspiration for kids to garden, and this theme is a wonderful way to educate kids on nature and animals.

Plant a variety of herbs and vegetables along a border or in raised beds then tuck garden bunny statues in between the plants. Name the statues after The Tale of Peter Rabbit characters: Peter, Flopsy, Mopsy, and/or Cottontail. Even though Mother Rabbit forbade her children to enter Mr. McGregor’s garden, your children’s garden can be a cozy home for their sweet garden statues.

Parsley, sage, thyme, bush beans, cabbage, and carrots are perfect for a Peter Rabbit Garden.

Making fun, meaningful, and long-lasting memories with family is so important, and this is an activity your kids will cherish for their whole life.

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Why Every Gardener Needs a Potting Shed

June 2nd, 2011

 

No gardener should be without a potting shed. It one of the most versatile of all gardening accessories, and it can enhance your gardening experience by far more than what you would pay for it. It is a storage area, a greenhouse and a workroom all in one, and yet it takes up relatively little space. It is the perfect place to plant seeds, plan your garden or just relax. Most potting sheds have a potting table, space for larger tools, several large windows, and plenty of shelves for seeds, soil, fertilizer, small gardening tools and young plants.

A potting shed is the ideal place to plant seedlings or move plants to larger pots. Potting is a messy job, and the shed helps to keep the mess out of your house and off of your floors. To clean up afterwards, all you need to do is wipe the table and sweep the dirt out the door. At the same time, the shed provides shade in the summer and shelter from the wind and rain, so it is much better than potting plants outside. In addition, the table in a potting shed is at the perfect height for you to stand while planting instead of bending over and straining your back.

A potting shed also organizes and protects your gardening supplies. It gives you a place to lock up your lawnmower, shovels, hoses and gardening shears so that thieves aren’t tempted by them. It keeps tools out of the weather so that they don’t rust, and it protects larger tools from temperature changes that can ruin them. Most potting sheds have tool racks in them, which makes it easy to find your shovel or rake when you need it. A potting shed is also a great place to store hoses and watering cans in the winter so that they don’t freeze and break.

Another advantage of a potting shed is that it protects your plants. It can be extremely discouraging to work hard at a garden only to have it eaten by animals, and a potting shed prevents this from happening. It also protects delicate young seedlings from wind and extremes of temperature, and it keeps slugs and snails away from them. Not only that, but a potting shed allows you to start your plants much earlier than you would otherwise be able to. The large windows in the shed give your plants plenty of light, and grow lights can be added for additional warmth if needed.

If you need a space to plan your garden, a potting shed is perfect for that as well. It is warm and dry, and it has plenty of space to spread out seed catalogues or sketch out garden plots. It is also quiet and away from distractions, so you can think about your garden or anything else you’d like without being disturbed. If you want, you can leave your seed catalogues lying around in the shed without worrying about other members of the family bothering them. In addition, you can use the wall space in the shed to hang a calendar where you can mark your planting dates or make a weeding schedule.

You can also use your potting shed after your plants have finished growing. If you raise herbs or flowers, you can dry them in the shed. If you grow onions, you can hang them from the ceiling and allow them to dry without getting in your way. You can arrange bouquets, put herbs in jars or store potatoes. In fact, you can even use your shed for things unrelated to gardening: such as crafts, pottery or art. The possibilities with a potting shed are truly endless, and every serious gardener needs one.

This guest post was written by Thomas O’Rourke on behalf of Tiger Sheds – where you can find your very own potting shed. Please get in touch if you’d like to find out more.

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