It’s a new year, and most folks are resolving to get a bit healthier, or at least give it the old college try for a few weeks. If part of that “healthier” living involves your eating, then I have a treat for you: Brussel sprouts, a member of the Brassicas family. They kind of get a bad rap. They’re constantly brought into conversations about things people would rather not do… “I’d rather eat brussel sprouts than (enter completely unpleasant experience here, i.e. root canal).” Sometimes I feel a little pity for these bright green beauties, but I guess if most other folks turn up their nose, then that’s more for the rest of us!
The Bad Rap
So, why is there such a strong aversion to these green gems? I know living here in the south, there simply wasn’t a lot of exposure to them when I was growing up. Brussels sprouts thrive in places where they get at least one good frost, and I don’t know anyone who grew them in gardens when I was growing up. So perhaps people only like what’s familiar (and there’s totally science to back this up. Check out Duhigg’s book The Power of Habit if you want to be blown away by habits you didn’t even know you had!) And even if people are adventuresome enough to try a new vegetable, there’s always the question of how to cook them. I know this has stumped me quite a few times when a new leafy green shows up in my CSA box. What is this? What in the world do I do with it? (Sometimes new and different things simply end up as chicken feed around here.) So we have to be willing to break out of our frozen-pea-as-side-dish routine and find recipes to bring in new foods for our families to try. (Even if they seem reluctant!)
The Great News
If you’ve never really tried Brussel sprouts, but are basing all experience on that one time in the 3rd grade when you licked one and decided you didn’t like it, then I challenge you to let go of your childish (or adultish) picky habits and give them a go. Here are some great reasons why you totally should:
- Vitamin C! Step off orange juice, which only has 71% of your daily recommended intake of Vitamin C per serving (and don’t get started on how you’re ignoring the rest of the fruit just to get the juice). Brussel Sprouts pack over 100% (85mg) of your daily recommended intake in only 3.5 ounces. They’re like a vitamin powerhouse! The same is also true for vitamin k in these awesome sprouts; who needs to take vitamins now?
- Calories Shmalories-That same 3.5 oz. portion of Brussel sprouts only has 43 calories, which is definitely a win for those watching their figures. Even with some olive oil for roasting, these sprouts are an excellent side dish choice.
- Sulphoraphane- You can impress your friends and neighbors by spouting off this word the next time you’re in conversation. (Try to ease it in real casual like…) Basically, this is a phytochemical that recent research has shown has anticancer properties. While boiling your brussel sprouts may decrease this chemical, roasting and stir frying do not. So warm up the oven and get to roasting!
- They’re Delicious! Maybe you’ve had them before and would rather lick the sidewalk than eat them again, but I promise you, if prepared well (and not overcooked to oblivion), they’re super tasty. Try them simply roasted with olive oil and garlic or go a bit fancier by starting them in a skillet for some crispy edges, then moving them into the oven to finish them off. The ideas are endless (and so are the Pinterest posts)!
Tomorrow I’ll be sharing my super easy Maple Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Walnuts recipe, so be sure to check it out. It will give you a slightly sweet start to your long future with this fabulous vegetable! And I’ll also post about growing brussel sprouts in your own kitchen garden like we were able to do this year.
I’d love to know your favorite way to eat b-sprouts! I know I wasn’t always a huge fan, but I’ve been won over. Even the little gardeners gobble them up when they’re served with dinner. Have a great week and happy gardening!
We love our raised bed kitchen garden, and if you’re not familiar with this method of gardening, it’s super simple! (And I’ll be sharing all about it next month.) Once a veggie has run its course in the garden, you simply pull it up (which naturally loosens the soil), enrich with compost, and plant something else. So once some of our tomato plants kicked out, we simply pulled them up and planted some cabbage plants.
So now that our little cabbage patch has actually started producing, I decided it was time to cook up some of my Yaya’s shrimp and cabbage. It may be the easiest cabbage recipe ever, so it’s perfect for a busy weeknight meal. You can also make it as mild, or as spicy, as you’d like by simply adjusting your crushed red pepper and/or creole seasoning.
1 head cabbage, chopped
1 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 onion chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 pepper (any color), chopped
1 lb. shrimp, peeled and cleaned
1 tsp crushed red pepper (or more if you like it spicier!)
salt and pepper (to taste)
creole seasoning (optional)
Heat butter and olive oil in a large dutch oven over medium high heat. Once butter is melted and oil is hot, add in chopped cabbage. Stir to coat the cabbage, and put a lid on your dutch oven. Allow the cabbage to cook/steam for several minutes, then stir. Once cabbage begins to soften, add in onion, chopped pepper, garlic, crushed red pepper and creole seasoning (if using). Replace lid and allow to cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Once pepper and onion are softened, add in shrimp. Replace lid and let cook for 3-4 minutes. Shrimp will be done when they are pink, and it doesn’t take long! Add salt and pepper to taste (remember you haven’t added any yet) and enjoy!
Serve with crusty french bread for a delicious dinner!
Our sweet middle child was gifted her very own Cabbage Patch doll this Christmas, and if you were a child in the 80’s, then you know exactly what I’m talking about. The turned up noses and yarn hair (and the rear end “tattoo”) are a permanent fixture in my childhood memories, so are stirrup pants, but we don’t have to go there. My parents actually bought this newest doll at Babyland General Hospital in Cleveland, Georgia. It’s true; there’s an actual place where Cabbage Patch babies are “born,” and if you happen to be in the area, it’s a fun place to stop with the kids.
While we aren’t growing that particular variety of cutie cabbages in our kitchen garden, we have managed to grow some beautiful and tasty green cabbages. We’ve had an unusually mild winter; it was 80 degrees last week, but today a flurry of snow greeted us briefly. The weather, she is a fickle mistress, but though winter may finally be arriving, we’re thankful for the longer growing season for our fall veggies this year.
The great thing about cabbages is that you can essentially cut them when you need them. No over-ripening going on here; they’re a laid back veggie, and that’s totally my speed. These beauties have the honor of being served alongside some tasty local shrimp in my Yaya’s awesome Shrimp and Cabbage recipe. I’ll be sharing that later in the week.
How about you; any cabbage patches out there? And what’s your favorite dish to use your cabbages (home grown or store bought) in?
Oh, another year has gone, and we’re now staring 2016 in the face. I distinctly remember thinking that by the time we were in the 2010’s, hover boards and flying cars would totally be a reality. Alas, my tires still wear out on the mom wagon, and the last news story I saw showed one of these new “hover boards” (definitely not the Michael J Fox version) bursting into flames. I think there may be a few kinks to work out…
I digress. The traditional southern New Year’s Day fare is black eyed peas and collard greens (that has a great bit of assonance, don’t you think? My fellow literary and poetry lovers will get this.) It just so happens that I found this great little recipe for slow cooker black eyed peas over at Skinnymom.com; it was a total winner. I love anything I can put in the slow cooker and not have to check on all day.
Now, the problem with our New Year’s fare comes with the fact that my hubs doesn’t like collards and neither do the kids. Who wants to go through all the effort of cleaning and cooking them if I’m going to be the only one eating them? Not me, no sir. So we found some middle ground and decided on kale. He likes it. It takes 2 minutes to make. Winner winner.
I love to grow greens, especially kale, in the garden, but this year, my late summer/early fall kale crop did less than nothing, so I had to go with the store bought variety. This kale recipe is so easy and delicious; it’s always on standby as a quick side dish at our house.
Super Easy Sautéed Kale
Here’s what you’ll need:
8-10 cups cleaned and chopped kale (you can do this yourself or buy it this way)
1/2 red onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp Balsamic vinegar (and more if you like an extra tang)
1/4 cup water or chicken broth (more if needed)
Heat large skillet over medium heat with a drizzle of olive oil. When pan is heated, add onion. Sauté 4-5 minutes, until they begin to soften, then add garlic.
Once garlic becomes fragrant (be careful it doesn’t burn), add in large handfuls of chopped kale (pile it in!) and then water or chicken broth. Immediately put the lid on your kale, and in 10-20 seconds you’ll see the kale wilt significantly.
Drizzle the balsamic vinegar over the top of the bright green kale and remove from heat. Add some freshly ground pepper and salt to taste. Even the littlest gardeners at our house will eat this up.
And the benefits of adding kale into your diet, whether sauteed or raw, are endless. It’s even worth the occasional kale piece getting stuck in your teeth. If you love kale, then you know what I’m talking about.
Serve with your black eyed peas and ring in the New Year like a boss!
I’d love to know what you serve your kale alongside, or what you plan to eat more of in the new year! Happy Gardening!
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I don’t know about where you live, but here the weather has been dreary for the past week, and it’s honestly taking its toll on my sanity. We’ve had an unusually mild fall and winter so far, but gray skies, even when it’s warmer, can still be a bummer. The early winter season is when our camellia plants begin blooming, and it always begins with the white variety, at least in our yard. (You can see a few pink blooming in the back.)
They’re so beautiful and lush that it’s difficult not to admire them, but why keep all that beauty outside? I love to bring flowers in the house, even if I occasionally bring a creepy crawly in with them. The tiny grasshopper infestation of 2014 made me hesitant to bring in hydrangea blooms this year, but I thankfully overcame that pretty quickly. They also come in such a large variety of colors, that you can have a color burst in any room in your house. Our pink camellia bush is much smaller than the rest, but that soft pink color is perfect for Valentine’s Day.
And the bright pink/red variety seems to be very popular in our area. We have three of these bushes in our yard, and since they bloom a bit later than the white variety, we are able to have fresh blooms in the house for over a month.
Camellias are fairly low maintenance; they’d have to be to survive our three-kid and two-dog lifestyle. How do you bring them indoors? I simply find a bloom that’s not fully open (when the petals are starting to bend backwards), and cut 4 to 5 inches of stem below the flower with a good set of pruning shears (or kitchen shears if you’re desperate). While I’m outside, I go ahead and take off most of the leaves, leaving just a few around the flower. These leaves around the flower help them to prop against the jar or dish you place them in, and it gives a beautiful pop of green to your small arrangement.
The next steps are the hardest… just kidding. Simply fill a clear glass jar, or low bowl, part of the way with water and begin adding the blooms. If you realize your stems aren’t touching the water, just add more. There’s really no trick to arranging. I’ve found that four or five blooms perfectly fills the space in a pint mason jar. That’s scientific measurement right there. Once the flowers begin to wilt, simply replace them with fresh flowers (and water, of course).
This is a perfect touch of beauty for your end tables, dining tables, or a sweet gift for a neighbor. If your camellias (or your neighbors!) are blooming, bring some in and enjoy them. They should last for at least a week inside. You could even fancy up your jar by wrapping it in season ribbon or a wide wrap of burlap. The options are endless! Enjoy!
If you’ve ever visited or lived in the South, then chances are you’ve seen (and hopefully tasted) hot pepper vinegar. It’s the condiment of choice for any type of cooked green, field peas, acre peas… the list goes on. The super fabulous thing about hot pepper vinegar is that it’s more than just a condiment!
- Is so easy to make; any greenhorn cook can do it!
- It’s beautiful, so it’s a natural DIY gift.
Now, while peppers and vinegar may not sound all that exciting, wait until you taste it. And you will have to wait, because after preparing the vinegar, you’ll need to give it some sit time in your pantry for a few weeks for the flavors to develop. But trust me, much like wine and your wedding day, it’s worth the wait.
Our garden’s pepper plants went the distance this year and survived from May to December, so with this last bowlful, I decided to restore our pepper vinegar stash.
Here’s what you’ll need:
Two handfuls of hot peppers (very accurate, I know)
Whole garlic cloves (optional)
Empty, clear jar with lid (I like to use leftover maple syrup jars)
Directions: Wash off peppers and gently slice the tops off–this will expose the seeds and membrane to the vinegar, and that’s where the heat is. While you’re slicing, place vinegar in a small pot on the stove over medium high heat. The amount of vinegar you need depends on how big of a jar you’re using. Pack your jar full of the peppers; when you don’t think you can cram another pepper in, add two more or add in a few peeled, whole garlic cloves. This will give your pepper vinegar an extra pop.
Once your vinegar has reached a slow boil, use your funnel and fill your jar almost to the top. (You do want all of the peppers to be covered by the vinegar.)
Let the jar cool, then screw on lid and place in a cool, dark place for several weeks (a pantry or cabinet is perfect). The vinegar should keep in your cabinet for months, or until you use it all and make more. Enjoy!
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Why Winterize your garden?
“The sun has gone to bed and so must I…” While your gardening year may or may not have been as successful as a Rogers and Hammerstein musical, you’ll still need to think about giving your garden a rest. To winterize your garden is a break for both you and the soil that produced many a pretty plant (hopefully). Giving your garden soil a much needed rest is important. Plants naturally use the minerals and nutrients in the soil, so your garden needs time to replenish. This is similar to our need for nourishing food and a good night’s sleep to replenish!
Over the years, I’ve tried different methods of winterizing our garden. These ranged from doing absolutely nothing to covering the garden area with different materials. When we had a traditional row garden, I used tarps to keep the weeds down and the ground (slightly) warmer. Now that we’ve started square-foot gardening, I’ve been mulching our beds in the winter. It’s simple and effective.
3 Easy Steps to Winterize the Garden
- Clean out any leftover (i.e. dead) plants and any debris that won’t break down.
- Use a garden rake to even out and break up the top layer of soil. (I prefer a bow rake, since its strong rake head breaks up dirt and grabs left behind roots.)
- Optional: Add a layer of compost to feed the soil over the winter months. (Don’t know how to compost? Check out How to Start Composting and How to Direct Compost!)
- Spread a thick layer of mulch over the top of your soil. Voila!
Last winter I mulched two beds in pine bark mulch and two beds in cedar mulch. The beds mulched with pine turned out great, while those mulched with cedar eventually grew weeds and had some bugs. It could have simply been that specific batch of mulch, but I’ll be shying away from cedar mulch in the future. Some folks use hay or straw, which can be a good option if you have it available. I’ve even used pine straw and fallen leaves some years and the results have been great!
In the spring, I simply rake away the mulch layer (or mix it in if it was thin layer of leaves) and begin mixing in my compost. I’ll do this a few weeks before planting. You can reserve the mulch for using around your plants in the garden. This is a great way to keep moisture in the soil and cut down on weeding.
For now sit back and enjoy the late fall and winter months, and give your soil the much needed rest it deserves. You can even start planning out your spring garden. You know what they say about the early worm!
I’d love to know how you winterize your garden and if another technique has worked for you! Have a great week and happy gardening!
As a youngster, pickles are a vegetable unto themselves. They magically appear in the fridge–crisp, crunchy, and either salty or sweet. Freshly picked from the grocery store shelf, or if you were really lucky, “put up” by Grandma during the summer. Then, we eventually find out that these sandwich partners/burger buddies are actually cucumbers! Mind blown. Who knew eating vegetables could be so delicious??
Pickling cucumbers are a smaller cousin to other cuke varieties, and you can grow them on the ground or on a trellis or support of some kind. I use tomato cages, since they are in the middle of my raised bed.
As your cucumber begins to blossom, the tiny cukes will begin to grow. As with other cucumbers, you don’t want your cucumbers to become too large. If left on the vine too long, they will get fatter, not longer, and this means the seeds will be larger = not good. Who wants a pickle with giant seeds?
Tips and ideas to implement in your own kitchen garden.