Monday, September 27, 2010

Going Green

Trash day is once a week and once a week, I drag out the recycle bin, trash bin and bin with yard cuttings or trimmings but not always. The trash bin usually only has one trash bag and my wife and I were not sure why it was so little. Don't get me wrong, it is not an issue but we were just wondering.

After a few minutes we had come  up with the plausible answer. We were still putting out the same "trash" we always have but it was being separated and we now have a 75 gallon composting bin.

Compost Bin
Most of the kitchen scraps go directly in the bin and not the regular trash; including most vegetable and fruit scraps. My mom also stops by with scraps from her kitchen every now and then for my bin. Along with food, I toss in the grass clippings and fallen leaves from the front and backyard. Grass clippings are full of nitrogen and great for the garden.

Recycle Bin
The bin is supplied by the City of Lakewood and is also picked up on trash day. We toss in anything and everything that is made of plastic, cardboard or can be recycled. It is usually full or overflowing every week and none of this goes into regular trash.

Gardening
This is something I love doing for a few reasons. We have fresh food right outside our door that is just waiting to be picked and eaten. I know what goes into the food and much healthier.

I wrote a whole post as to why I garden HERE.

There are many blogs, articles and a plethora of information as to what is considered "going green" There is also a huge push from many directions to get mankind to do as much as possible to help preserve the planet. We are using so many resources, and hurting our planet with all the stuff we do to it.

Let's take care of our planet so future generations can enjoy it as much as we do.

Luis


Sunday, September 26, 2010

Heat and the Garden

If you live in Southern California, like I do, you know that it will be and has been very warm lately. It is not easy for the garden to deal with it. Luckily, I had already put up "posts" and hung burlap from them to help with some shade. I went out yesterday and hung the burlap back up and the plants are doing much better today. 


Like people, plants need to stay hydrated to survive. I went through and soaked all plants through and hope they will be fine but nothing is guaranteed. 


I will keep up the burlap probably for the rest of the week and water regularly. I know there are many out there that don't have the longer growing season that I have but it is just so hot. This summer was fairly cool and tomato season was a little slow but the heat is coming back with a vengeance. 


I did an online search and found some great articles on dealing with the heat in the garden. I hope they help bring some relief for those over-heated plants. 

1. Houston Grows: 10 ways to fight heat in the garden
2. How to Prevent Heat Stress in Your Garden Plants 

If there are any tips that are not listed here or on the linked pages that have worked for you, please let us know.

Luis

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Fall Plantings

Well,

I finally gave in and tore out the tomato plants in my raised bed. I put the tomato cage back in and toss in some snow pea seeds. Along with snow peas, I've added carrots and radishes but not sure how it will grow or if they will sprout up at all. Then again, I was shocked when anything came up the first time and this was what got me so interested in gardening.

I also got lettuce growing in a tray and have transplanted into a bed but not sure if they will survive. I am looking forward to early next year to when I will be starting new seeds indoors.

All in all, my first fall plantings were not a huge undertaking but I hope to get better at it.

Luis

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Beef w/ Salsa Verde

I had another "adventure" in the kitchen and thought I should share it. It also helps me get it out of my system and others can hopefully learn something from my mistakes.

Today we are having some beef and only because it was on sale. We love chicken but it sometimes gets to be too much and a little red meat sprinkled into the cuisine should not hurt. 

I was inspired by the last attempt at salsa verde with chicken here and just went with it.

Starting off with salsa itself:

Ingredients:
4-5 Tomatillos
1 Round Onion
1 Bell Pepper
1 Can of Diced Chiles (4 oz)
Cilantro
Lemon
Salt

Directions:
1. Wash and peel tomatillos.
2. Cut onion in half.
3. Dice 1 half of onion and other half just in chunks.
4. Same procedure with bell peppers as onion. 
5. Toss in chunks of bell peppers, onion, salt, can of diced chiles into blender or food processor. 
6. Squeeze out lemon into mixture.
7. Puree mixture and pour into saucepan.
8. Add in diced onions and bell peppers into saucepan.
9. Heat up mixture until hot.
10. Set salsa aside.

Next part includes the beef.

Ingredients: 
Beef
2 Tomatoes
1 Bell Pepper
1 Round Onion
Cumin
Salt

Directions:
1. Slice onion, tomatoes and bell pepper.
2. Add beef into large flat pan with just enough water to cover it.
3. Lay onions, tomatoes, and bell peppers on top of beef. 
4. Add salt and cumin to taste.
5. Let the beef fully cook.
6. If there is still a lot of water left, I just tossed some of it out.

Well, all of the hard work is done and the only thing left is to just add the salsa to the beef.  Mix everything well and serve. I am serving with boiled vegetables but I will leave that up to you. Rice may be a great option for this one. I may have some quinoa bowl from Fresh N Easy and it only takes 30 seconds to make. I just added something else.

As with most, if not all of MY recipes, chicken and beef can always be substituted for each other. Heck, if you are feeling more adventurous, you can toss in chicken and beef together! I emphasize MY recipes, because I can only speak for my cooking. I pretty much wing most of these recipes and then try to remember everything. It is more fun that way. 

Luis




Monday, September 13, 2010

Chile Verde with Chicken



I sent out a tweet earlier today looking for salsa verde as I have many tomatillos. I got a reply back from @favediets with this recipe and I decided to try it. I tried to stick to the recipe as much as possible but did not add the chiles and used about half the chicken. I am only cooking for 2 and 8 chicken thighs is a bit much. 

This is the recipe in question: Chile Verde with Chicken

I am still learning how to cook and reducing sauces or anything for that matter has not been learned. I did research online for best ways to do it and here are my thoughts on the recipe itself.

As I said before, I did not add the canned diced or chipotle chiles. I know this probably made it harder but if you have read my previous recipes, I do not do well with spicy food. With that said, the recipe is as simple as it seems. I did add about 2 cups of chicken broth because I did not see as to how the 1 cup would last for 45 minutes. Then again, it may have been because the canned chiles were not added and the liquid from that needed to be replaced. It took only about 30 minutes for chicken to fully cook and leaving it in the mixture would have resulted in dry chicken. I took out the chicken and let the rest of ingredients simmer. Once it seemed like it was done, I went ahead and put the chicken back in and added the lime juice and cilantro. I must say that it does smell amazing and cannot wait to have some later for dinner.

All in all, I liked the recipe but will need to find the canned chiles for the next time. They not only add necessary liquid but will also thicken the chicken stock and make it seem more like the normal salsa verde I am used to. I may try the chipotle chile the next time as well, it all depends on the mood I am in. I do not always want any sort of spicy. 

I will be adding a side dish or two but not much more. I will see what happens..

Luis 


Garden Update in Photos!

Hello fellow gardeners and readers!

I went out this morning and took some photos of the garden. I went ahead and created a set on my Flickr account to share it with all to see. I can talk about the way everything looks and describe as much as possible but nothing beats seeing it for yourselves.

All you need to do is Click Here.

I will be back later with another post.

Luis

Friday, September 3, 2010

Garden Update

Current Garden Photo
Hello out there,

I have been posting recipes and general info. but have not posted a general garden update.

Two raised beds have been built, plants were put into them and are now thriving. The first bed includes 3 eggplant, green bell pepper and 2 spaghetti squash plants. The squash plants were not planned as these are volunteer plants. Apparently, there were some viable seeds in the compost that was added when I originally filled the bed. I check the bed everyday for new seedling and have transplanted 3 into a small pot and may move them into a larger pot when necessary.

The second bed includes 3 yellow cherry tomato and habanero pepper plants. All four of these plants are full of fruit and more appears everyday. This one has no volunteer plants but I may end up popping in one of the seedlings into it and see if it works out.

I still have other tomato plants in 5 gallon pots, a red cherry tomato plant, beets growing in the same pot as the kumquat tree and countless seeds growing in egg cartons.

I am already looking forward to next spring and planning on adding another 3-4 raised beds. The construction of these will need to be spaced out as a job has not materialized as of yet. I still have some seeds from last season and they should be fine to bring me on some delicious veggies.

I hope to grow all of the same things as this year but also add a few more things. Crops have included: radishes, carrots, snow peas, eggplant, bell peppers, tomatoes, spaghetti squash and habanero peppers. Some new crops may include: potatoes, few different kinds of peppers, cucumbers, some kind of melon(s) and whatever other seedling may be on sale.

Well, that's pretty much it. If there are any suggestions to keep costs low or anything else, feel free to leave a comment. There is no reason to spend tons of money unnecessarily. 

Luis

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Dinner: Squash Soup, Baked Chicken Breast w/ Vegetables



I am back with not only a dish but a whole meal including soup. Don't worry, it is not difficult and anybody can do it.

There is too much to get through and no need for small talk. Let's get right to this.

Ingredients:
Squash

Kitchen Tools:
Food Processor or Blender
Microwave
Microwave Safe Dish

Directions:
1. Clean off squash.
2. Dice squash into small chunks.
3. Toss in squash into blender or food processor.
4. Puree the squash.
5. Empty squash into microwave safe bowl.
6. Pop into the the microwave for a minute or so to heat it up.

That's it people! Nothing to it. As far as the type of squash, I will leave it up to you. I used crooked neck squash but most are suitable. A great choice would be Butternut.

Now on to the main course! This is has 2 parts.

Part 1:

Ingredients:
Eggplant
Round Onions
Zucchini
Tomatoes
Carrots
Chicken Breast
Olive Oil
Salt
Pepper

Directions:
1. Wash all vegetables.
2. Cut up Eggplant, Onions, Zucchini, Tomatoes, and Carrots.
3. Place all cut vegetables into a bowl.
4. Add salt and pepper to taste.
5. Lightly coat baking dish with olive oil.
6. Pour out vegetables into baking dish.
7. Place chicken on top of vegetables in baking dish.
8. Start pre-heating oven to 350.

Part 2:

Ingredients:
Tomatillos
Bell Peppers
Onions
Habanero Peppers (optional)
Salt
Garlic

Directions:
1. Remove outer "shell" from tomatillos.
2. Wash Tomatillos, Bell Peppers and Onions.
3. Coarsely chop tomatillos, bell peppers and onions.
4. Using blender or food processor, puree tomatillos, garlic, bell peppers and onions. (and habaneros)
5. Add Salt to taste.
6. Once "salsa" is done, pour all over chicken and vegetables in baking dish.
7. The baking dish now goes into oven at 350 for about 45 minutes. (Make sure chicken is fully cooked.)

The habanero peppers are optional as I know these bad boys pack a punch.

That is it for this one. I tried to explain it as best as I could and hope everything was understood. If there are any questions or clarifications are needed, just ask.

Luis

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Composting

We now move onto composting basics. I am still learning about what can be composted but started off with some basics. The first round came up good and has been great for the garden.

First, we gotta start by buying or creating a compost bin. These can be free, cheap or expensive and it is only limited by your creativity. I started off by just making a big pile behind the garage and turned it every now and then, It worked for a while but it got too big and turning was a pain. I gave in and did some research on some bins. I started with standard bins and ended up looking at rotating tumbling bins.

The first ones that I looked at were just "box" like bins and offered no real help to turn the materials. The size of the bin did not bother me because I have the room for it. I was at Costco with the wife and stopped in my tracks when I saw the most amazing thing I had seen in a long time. Tied to a rack was a massive 75 gallon tumbling / rotating compost bin and she was a beauty. It was just what I had been looking for and I had to have it. When my wife walked by me and saw the look on my face, she just said I could have it as a birthday gift. I never thought, even for a second, that I would want a compost bin. She knows that look and I would not take "No" for an answer. The fun part was getting that box inside and out of a 98 Toyota Corolla.Once it was out, even more fun began.

The fun continued once I finally put the thing together and filling it. The box recommends that 2 people put this thing together and there is a reason for it. It took me about 4 hours by myself and it took less than 20 minutes to fill.

To fill this bin, I had to wrangle in the materials for it. I had just taken down a vine that had been falling off a wall and that was the first thing in the bin. I tossed in the pile I had going from behind the garage. Next came all of the vegetable scraps from the kitchen, including mom's kitchen. All of those scraps that normally go in the trash are now going into this bin and the road to gardener's black gold is taking shape.

Once filled up, I just rotate it every few days and wait for it to decompose. The bin sits in the sun and the heat helps the material break down faster. Once it is broken down, it can be mixed with soil where you are planting.I used my first batch for my raised beds and it has been doing wonders. My plants have shown new growth and more fruit has been coming in.

Well, I started trying to write a post as to how to compost but ended up sharing my experience. I hope you learned something anyways and  I will add some links that should redeem me.

I hope you will keep coming back.

-Luis

p.s.: Here are some links with more information on composting:
1. Composting Guide
2. Composting 101
3. How to Compost

This is the compost bin I am using:
Costco-Lifetime 75-gallon Tumbler Compost Bin
I bought mine in the spring and paid only $99 and not the current $175 asking price. Shop around.