Garden To Table Goodness

I have been meaning to follow up with the Let Your Garden Grow post for a while now. Veggies are happening!! So SO many veggies. I’ve actually considered opening an zucchini stand next to the neighborhood kids’ lemonade stand….but I don’t want to steal their thunder. Although the garden has had some ups and downs, as expected, it is flourishing for the most part.

There are a few lessons I have learned along the way that only a plant could teach me (and Google when the plant won’t divulge).

  • Patience is a virtue – anyone who knows me knows that I am not necessarily the most patient person. (Those of you thinking “understatement of the century” just hush)
  • Don’t cast off something as dead, even though it may look it. My tomato plant has looked AWFUL for the past month, but still keeps giving me yellow pear tomatoes. In return, I’ll keep watering it as its reward.
  • Never trust an automated watering system. The zucchini are wilting due to lack of water. The cucumbers are sickly due to too much water. The green beans are exploding due to the right amount of water. It’s like Goldilocks, but with plants and water. Yeah, ok, that was a stretch.
  • Do NOT plant Fall veggies in the Summer. They will not do well. RIP arugula. (On the other hand, my kale and spinach are rocking it!)
  • If your neighboring community garden beds are full of rotting veggies due to lack of picking, it’s a free for all. It drives me nuts that people decide to plant and grow all this food and then let it go to waste. That’s where I come in to happily harvest those veggies for them, and either take them home, to my restaurant for use, or to the Food Bank. There are too many people who do not have food to let all of that go to waste. *Soapbox moment of the day brought to you by neglectful, lazy plant parents*
  • Carrots are deceiving. They may look ready to pick, but the joke’s on you when you pull up a tiny root instead. This goes for turnips and radishes as well. Sneaky bastards.
  • Vine plants will choke out anything else around them. Beware.
  • I LOVE the feeling of picking my dinner, or lunch, or what have you. I have a hate-hate relationship with the grocery store. Going out to the garden or out my front door to pick fresh ingredients beats it all. It’s such a good feeling to know what you’re eating, how it was grown, and where exactly it’s coming from. For me, that’s exciting.
  • I’m proud of this first garden attempt. It has gone well for the most part and has been overwhelmingly rewarding.

Here are a few things I have harvested:

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Green beans, zucchini, yellow squash, peppers, wax beans, tomatoes of all shapes and sizes, cucumbers, eggplant, turnips, carrots, snap peas, green onion, broccoli, spinach, kale, lettuce, and radishes.

My kind of ‘grocery shopping.’

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Rainbow Salad

So….obviously cooking has never really been my thing. You’re shocked, I know. However, one of the very few things I do like to do in the kitchen is make salad. -ya cuz THAT takes an iron chef-

As long as there is minimal chopping to be done, I’m all for it.  I like it so much, in fact, that I decided to name my salad Rainbow Salad! Yep, claiming it as mine. …And THIS is where I understandably lose the majority of you readers right now.

But, for you poor, poor souls who are determined to continue reading, let’s get colorful!

Everyone knows what a rainbow looks like. Uh, almost everyone. Unless you’re colorblind, which is just extremely unfortunate considering my favorite color is red. Back to rainbows. The bottom line: there are a lot of colors. That’s what I think a salad should look like, too. Not only should it blast my tastebuds with goodness, it should be a flamboyant, cocky array of delight to my eyes as well. That’s right. A salad should be flamboyant. What can I say, I like pretty things.

I confess, though, I’m a hypocrite. One of my kitchen requirements is minimal ingredients. For Rainbow Salad, this is a lie. The more ingredients you have, the more colors there will be, hypothetically.

This is my take on Rainbow Salad. I suppose you could have a different approach. But why think outside the box?!

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Rainbow Salad ingredients. Some of them, anyway.

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RED

  • I use grape tomatoes. Do I cut them in half to make life easier when I go to eat this scrumptious bowl of healthy delicousness? Of course not.
  • Dried cherries. Because they’re delicious.
  • Sometimes I use red peppers. I say sometimes, because more often I use:

ORANGE & YELLOW

  • Bell peppers. Mmmmmmmm. Unfortunately these do not come already pre-cut at the store, but I’ve been managing so far. They add the perfect pop of flavor.
  • Sometimes I add carrots, but not very often.

GREEN

  • This is where you can get CrAzY! Use your imagination. Go wild. Be dangerous,  you salad innovator, you.
  • I typically use spinach and kale for my salad base. Already pre-cut and packaged, of course.
  • Green onions. Did you know if you leave the base of the green onions (the white part with the roots), you can put them in some water and grow your own?! Nah, I haven’t tried it either. I should, though.
  • Cilantro. For some zip.
  • Avocado. If they’re affordable, which doesn’t happen very often in Colorado.

BLUE

  • Blueberries. CHA-CHING! I love blueberries on salad! No cutting, chopping, or hacking required. This is the moneyball to any salad, in my extremely humble opinion. You doubt me? Try it. Then maybe we can be friends again. Maybe. -I also thouroughly enjoy strawberries on salad, too-

PURPLE

  • Red onion. Ok, so they’re called red onions, but they look pretty purple to me. So I’m going to leave it at that. If you’re like me, chopping onions is one of the least lucrative kitchen tasks known to man. Every time I do it, I end up looking like I just finished watching some moving, heartfelt movie with a sappy ending. Complete with puffy eyes and runny makeup. But, they taste fantastic, so bring it on.

Congrats, ladies and gents. We’ve successfully completed a rainbow -like every other toddler on the planet- . If you decide to pretensiously argue with me about skipping out on Indigo, we’re going to have words. Specifically: Really!? You’re correcting me on a food rainbow! Get over it.

The rainbow may be complete, but the salad is not. *Gasp* That’s right – it gets more colors!

BROWN/GRAY

  • Portabella mushrooms. Surprisingly, I don’t buy these pre-sliced. Instead I opt to save 50 cents and slice them myself at home. I know they are a love/hate food, but I happen to love them. I could talk for a while on truffles…but I won’t. I love the mushrooms in the salad, but you could also drizzle truffle oil on the entire thing. YUM! Truffle oil just happens to be expensive and something I don’t necessarily think about when I go to the store.

BLACK

  • Black pepper. I’m slightly addicted. I put pepper on everything. Even if it already has pepper in it, it probably isn’t enough, so I’ll drench it with some more.
  • Sometimes I add chia seeds as well. *Self promotion: for my article on seeds, click here.

WHITE

  • Sliced almonds. If I had the oomph to glaze or candy them I would. Instead, I just buy pre-sliced almonds and generously add them in. You could add in any type of nut or seed.
  • Cheese. I often don’t add cheese to my salad right away. If I feel like it later, I’ll add either blue cheese, goat cheese, feta, or parmesan.

Dressing

  • You can add any sort of dressing to this. I usually do the same thing every time:
  • Olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette. OR
  • Sea salt, olive oil, and lemon juice. -if I’m feeling exceptionally enthusiastic, I’ll add crushed red pepper-
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One rendition of Rainbow Salad

I think we’ve almost run out of colors. Well, there you have it. That’s my basic Rainbow Salad. Obviously there are thousands of variations -but mine’s the best-. You could always add chicken, shrimp, steak or any sort of protein to it as well. I could go in to the health benefits of everything listed, but I think I’ve bored you enough already. I make a giant bowl of this weekly, that way whenever I want some I can just go to the refrigerator and grab it without having to do any more chopping.

-sidenote: if you cover the salad, make sure it can breathe. It has mushrooms in it, which can get slimey if there’s no airflow-

For those of you who think this was a ridiculous post, I completely agree. But, you did finish reading the entire thing…

Dear Skittles: Taste the rainbow? …NAILED IT!

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