Fresh-from-the-Garden Spring Rolls

Sometimes you just don’t have the time to dive into a multi-step recipe.  Summer days are often quite full of activity.  But summer is also the time when beautiful fresh ingredients abound.   Spring rolls to the rescue!  All you need to do ahead of time is keep a package of thin rice-paper spring roll wrappers on hand.  Follow the directions on the package, adding whatever fresh herbs and veggies are in season to make a beautiful but easy meal.  It can be fun to lay out the different ingredient choices and have each person make their own.  After ingredients are prepped, it only takes a minute or two for assembly.

spring-roll-ingredients

Delicious ingredient options:

-Any fresh herbs on hand: I love thai basil, regular basil, cilantro, mint, scallions, and parsley.

-Edible flower petals: It never hurts to add extra color inside and out!

-Thinly sliced veggies: really this can be any veggie you like eating raw.  Be conservative in your amounts – it is easy to be tempted to over-stuff your rolls.

-Protein and fat: A great way to use leftovers!  Sliced avocados, already cooked fish, pulled or ground meat, tofu (see below), toasted sesame seeds, strips of omelet, or bits or sausage or bacon turn your spring rolls into a satisfying and complete meal.

-Pickles: I prefer the garlicy gingery spark of kimchi in my spring rolls, but really any freshly fermented veggie will do.

-Leftovers: Do you have small amounts of cooked veggies, meat, or beans left over from a previous meal?  Include them in your ingredient offerings.

-Sauce: Dipping sauce is what really makes spring rolls so yummy.  The simplest option is a mixture of whatever of the following items you like and have on hand: soy sauce, rice vinegar, grated ginger, grated garlic, hot sauce, miso, olive oil and/or sesame oil.  Be sure to include at least one salty ingredient, something sour, and an oil.  I like to mix in a generous dollop of peanut butter for a wonderful peanut dipping sauce.

Thinking ahead?  Marinate some tofu. This is great to do in the morning before going to work.  Drain tofu and put into a container with soy sauce, rice vinegar, grated ginger, grated garlic, and sesame oil and shake gently.  Smear with a thin layer of miso paste and leave to marinate during the day. You can also give the same treatment to shredded carrots or sliced cucumbers for some yummy quick pickles.

spring-rolls

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Summery Garden Recipes

harvest

I’ll admit it: I’m not a recipe follower.  My approach in the kitchen is to start with whatever item we have in abundance, add spices or flavorings that we didn’t just eat in the past few meals, taste, adjust, and enjoy.

This leads to a broad diversity of results that carry us through weeks of enjoyable seasonal meals.  But sometimes I feel the need to switch things up.  To try something new.  Or to use some new combination of flavors I just wouldn’t have thought of when trying to pull together a quick dinner from scratch.

Sometimes, especially starting around August, I also start to feel overwhelmed by the abundance of certain veggies and tired of my standard way of preparing them.  Bring on the recipes!

Here are a few ideas we’ve enjoyed this summer:

beet-risotto

Beet Risotto: Crafted by a friend and creative chef, this fun combination, enhanced by a generous amount of lemon zest, was a great way to enjoy our first true harvest of beets.  Check out her other recipes if you ever need in-season inspiration!

kale-ribbons

kale-salad

Raw Kale Salad: I was doubtful at first – I don’t love raw kale or dishes without enough sour, salt, and fat to balance out kale’s strong bitter green roughage.  It turns out the trick is in fine cutting and dressing ahead of time.  Yum!

rainbow-pizza

Rainbow pizza: When I saw this online in January, I immediately thought: “I can’t wait to try this in August!”  If the cauliflower crust in this recipe intimidates you, try it with a regular crust.

zucchini-fritters

Zucchini Fritters: After inventing a handful of variations on meals featuring zucchini and summer squash, I was excited to find this one to add to my repertoire.

Homemade fudgesicles: Ok, we didn’t grow any of the ingredients in this one.  AND, we ate them all without taking a picture.  BUT, it is a simple recipe with relatively whole foods and very delicious results!  I especially appreciated how the subtle sourness of the yogurt enhanced the overall flavor of these delicious cold treats.

Be sure to send your favorite summer veggie recipes my way, I’m always in need of new ideas!

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July in our Vermont Garden

Ahhh, July.  In our Vermont garden, July means…

Days that actually feel summery.

sunny-cucumbers

Drought.

Followed (hopefully) by dramatic afternoon thunderstorms (hopefully not too dramatic).

lake-storm

First tastes of beans, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, blueberries, blackberries, broccoli, cauliflower, eggplant, peppers, husk cherries, tomatillos, basil, summer squash, raspberries, and sweet corn.

late-july-harvest

Followed quickly by an overwhelming abundance of beans, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, blueberries, blackberries, broccoli, cauliflower, eggplant, peppers, husk cherries, tomatillos, basil, summer squash, raspberries, and sweet corn.

Saying goodbye to peas and asparagus.  See you next spring!

end-of-pea-season

A chance to try out colorful sunshine-infused recipes I collected in the dark depths of winter.

Rainbow-Salsa-Ingredients

A relief from constant mowing as dry parts of the lawn turn crispy brown.

A proliferation of one garden bug, worm, beetle, or another.

japanese-beetle-harvest

Knowing that the hotter, sweatier, and dirtier I get, the better jumping in the lake will feel.

Lake-Champlain

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Celebrating Beauty in Daily Life

Events near and far over the past few weeks have provided me with a steady stream of reminders to cherish the bounty, beauty, and stability of my daily life.   It is an incredible luxury to live in such a beautiful place AND have the time to tend a bountiful garden, walk regularly in the forest, swim in the lake, and prepare meals with delicious fresh whole foods.  Here are some pictures I took while remembering to intentionally soak in the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and textures in and around our home.

I am grateful for:

edible-flowers

Edible flowers

view-from-philo

The view from Mt. Philo, and that Mt. Philo is in my back yard

daily-harvests

Daily harvests

shades-of-green

Shades of green

sunsets

Camp porch sunsets

grandmother-trees

Grandmother trees

this-breakfast

Tasting the rainbow

sharing-the-harvest

Having food to share – with friends and wildlife

orange-yolks

Orange yolks

Lake-Champlain

Long swims in Lake Champlain

food-as-art

Food as art

rainbows

Standing out in the sun and rain to admire a rainbow

wheelbarrow-of-weeds

A full wheelbarrow of weeds

patterns-in-nature

Having time to notice beauty in nature

 

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Garden Pest E-rabbit-cation

mr macgregor

Err… I mean garden pest eradication.  My focus in the garden has transitioned from weeding to pest eradication.  Yes, there are still weeds, but when I walked through the garden several mornings ago and found pea vines snipped from their roots, a major pruning of our aronia bushes, AND the my first sighting of cucumber and Japanese beetles, I realized my priorities needed to change quickly!

Read this post to see some great pictures and get practical tips to eradicate our most common garden pests organically.

This post puts a nice twist on garden mysteries and will help you avoid garden pest disasters.  We realized this week that baby bunnies could fit through the holes in our garden fence.  Uh oh!  We’re now lining the bottom section of our fence with chicken wire, which has smaller holes.  Meanwhile, I’ve been channeling my inner Mr. McGregor and literally running through the rows chasing baby bunnies out of the garden with my rake!

garden-rabbit-removal

Speaking of channeling book characters, I’ve also been working on my Captain Hook impersonation.  Armed with long sleeves, pants, and a sharp machete, I’ve been busy axing down mature parsnip plants.  A machete is much better than a weed whacker which will spray plant juices everywhere.  The juices of the parsnip make your skin highly sensitive to the sun, leaving burns that take months to go away.  It is important to fell these irritating plants now before their seeds mature and create thousands of baby parsnips.

machete-parsnips

Despite my recent focus on death and destruction, I’m now feeling much more happy and calm when I wander through the garden each morning.  I no longer have to worry about finding plants mysteriously felled or infested now that our pest populations are being kept at bay and our neighborhood rabbits are locked out.  They’ll have to look elsewhere for their next yummy meal of peas, beet greens, and lettuce.

mid-july-garden

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Late June in the Garden

*Yes, I did mean late June… this mid-July rainy weekend is allowing me to get all caught up, and I couldn’t skip over the joys of the transition from leafy greens to other vegetables and fruit in the garden!*

late-june-salad-harvest

Along with our bounty of lettuce, we’ve happily begun to harvest some sweet, crunchy, and spicy veggies to add some diversity to our garden meals.  Late June brings asparagus, strawberries, peas, kohlrabi, and garlic scapes to Vermont gardens, along with a continued bounty of edible flowers and tender herbs.

strawberries-peas

I love savoring the firsts: our first two pea pods – our first spear of asparagus – the first taste of a freshly sun ripened strawberry.

With a large garden, this quickly changes into harvest management.  Which evening is free to pickle all the garlic scapes?  We missed a day harvesting peas – remember to leave extra time tomorrow to harvest two days worth.  Did that kohlrabi double in size last night?

I never regret the constant magnetic pull these bounties have, drawing me outside into the garden and inside into the kitchen.

Kohlrabi

If you’re growing garlic, this time of year yields an abundance of beautiful garlic scapes.  My favorite way to use scapes is to ferment them.  I will admit that fermented garlic is an acquired taste.  The smell is probably what some people think of when they complain about the stinkyness of foods like kimchi.  However, when cut small and used as a garnish, pickled scapes add a wonderful earthy garlicy flavor to a dish and are a great way to enjoy your scapes throughout the year.

scapes2

Naturally Fermented Garlic Scape Pickles:
– Pack as many scapes as you can into glass Mason jars.  I like to pack some using only vertically trimmed spears and some that allow the twisty shapes to wind around the inside of the glass.
– If you have whey from strained plain yogurt or brine from a previous batch of saurkraut or fermented veggie, add a splash to each jar.
– Add 1 scant teaspoon sea salt to each pint of veggies.
– Fill each jar the rest of the way with water and place lids on top without screwing them on (this allows gasses to escape and avoids making fizzy pickles while keeping out dust or flys).  Place jars on a plate or flat-bottomed dish on your counter (this keeps your counter clean in the event of an overflow during the fermentation process).
– Let jars sit at room temperature for at least a week.  Every day or two I screw on the lids tightly and tip the jars over a few times, coaxing out the air bubbles.
– When the color of the scapes has changed throughout each spear, they’re ready for a taste test.  If they’ve soured enough for your tastes, put into your fridge to slow the fermentation process.
– When you’d like to use, gather several scapes and cut straight across, making small rounds that add great garlic flavor when used as a garnish.

pickled-scape-garnish

scapes1

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Feasting on Herbs and Flowers

spring-herbs2

This is my favorite time of year to include a big handful of herbs and flowers in every meal.  Herbs have fully leafed out and are starting to grow tender new leaves.  The flowers in bloom are ever evolving, and you’d be surprised to learn how many of them are edible.  While we’re waiting for our first peas, beans, cucumbers, and carrots, I love highlighting the wonderful flavors of backyard and garden herbs and flowers.

tea-flowers

Make tea: Both herbs and flowers make wonderful tea.  Standard flavors like chamomile and mint are easy to grow in your garden and are best harvested at this time of year.  Other familiar blooms and leaves also make great tea!  Try red clover, stinging nettle, sage, rosemary, raspberry leaf, lemon balm, catnip, or rose petals.  Spices from your kitchen like ginger, cardamom, and cinnamon make great additions to tea blends.  Want to dig deeper?  Get a book or look online to learn the healing properties of your favorite herbs and flowers.

fresh-herb-tea

spring-herbs1

Make Herb Pesto, Dip, Sauce, or Dressing: I’m always surprised by how big a bundle of pungent herbs can be used to made a small dish of delicious “pesto.”  Try blending the herbs in your garden with sprouted sunflower seeds, olive oil,  parmesan, and lemon juice for a delicious pesto.  Add a small amount of chicken broth or coconut milk for a wonderful sauce to top your meals.  Add more oil and vinegar, and perhaps some plain yogurt, mustard, and garlic to make a delicious green dressing.  As a bonus, herbs are packed with nutrients and a variety of healing properties.

herb-pesto

Garnish Generously: Flower petals and finely chopped herbs made delicious and beautiful garnishes for meals and toppings for salads.  If you don’t have many choices in your garden, wander into your yard (make sure there are no pesticides or pet waste!) or nearby fields.  Dandelion greens and petals, clover petals, violets, wood sorrel leaves, purslane, chick weed and lambs quarters are all nutrient-packed wild leaves, “weeds,” and flowers that are plentiful and tasty.

may-salad-ingredients

may-salad

 

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