Thursday, February 20, 2014

How My Garden Came To Be


**please note, I am not an expert and the below was my first garden and how it came to be, if you have tips for improving, let me know!**
 
**also note, this is a long post, sorry!**

The thought of a garden was intimidating to me.  Kind of like shooting in the dark. I didn't know anything about plants and how to take care of them. How much food do they need, how much light, etc? Is there a rhyme or reason to how to plant or do I just throw my seeds out there and hope for the best? But sometimes, you just can't let the unknown stop you.
 
My first step was to get on my local agriculture website and see what veggies grew best in New Orleans climate.  Once I saw all the options, I had to whittle it down as I was only going to have a 4' x 8' raised bed (and maybe a few pots depending on how it went). Let me tell you, its hard once you see all the possibilities, you can get really excited. But, I did it. Painfully. We ended up going with: Lima beans, bell peppers, okra, cucumbers, onions, tomatoes, carrots, cauliflower, basil, lettuce, rosemary, and thyme. Once I got what I wanted, I dug a little more. I took a piece of paper, wrote each item and then listed the following for each one I needed to plant (I used google and my local agriculture center website for this info)
  • When to Start Planting
  • Space between each plant/seed
  • Days to Harvest
  • How much Sun
  • How much water
  • *and any other info I thought I would need (like you should stake tomatoes and pole beans, etc)
In my research I came across what is called "companion planting," Do you know what companion planting is? I certainly didn't. I didn't know some plants can hurt each other while others can help.  But, they can. So I wrote down what I wanted to grow and went one by one down my list until I had each item with a list of what would harm it and what would hurt it. Kind of like this:
  • Lima beans
    • No -Onion, tomatoes
    • Helps-Carrots, cucumbers lettuce, rosemary
  • Carrots
    • No-None in my garden
    • Helps-Tomatoes, onion, lettuce

 And so forth.

Once I did that I wrote on tiny pieces of paper each item and moved them into a column accordingly.  Moving them up and down as I went down my companion list. For my garden, I ended up with the following layout scheme: 

Okra
Lettuce
Cucumbers
Lima Beans
Cauliflower
Carrots
Onions
Peppers
*Tomatoes-in pots
*Basil-in pots
*Rosemary-in pots
*Parsley-in pots
 
**I realized these things required a lot of space that I just didn't have and knew they would do well in their own pots.
 
Next step was to see how many seeds per row I should do. Each plant requires so much space between each one.  On a piece of paper I drew a big box and vertically listed my items down (just like above). Knowing I had around 48 inches (minus some since you can't plant right up to the raised bed) for each row, I took 48 and divided it by the amount of space each plant needed. This gave me a rough number of how many to plant per row.  I went with the largest space needed, just to be on the safe side. I didn't want anything to be squished and not get the right nourishment. 

So for an example (Lettuce  4-12 inches apart): 48 in / 12 in spacing = 4 plants.  I knew I also had to leave some room from the edges, and this is what I came up with:

 6 IN --> LETT --> 12 IN --> LETT --> 12 IN --> LETT --> 12 IN -->  LETT --> 6 IN

 I did this the whole way down on my page.  Since I only had 8 ft in length to work with, I went with 12 inches between each row, just to be on the safe side. 96 in total / 12 plants (not including potted ones = 12 in. spacing. I thought 12 inches was a good number to keep between each row. So, this would give me one row of each item I wanted.

 On the left side of each row, outside the box, I wrote down the days I could plant. Ex: 3/1-3/15. And on the right side of each row, outside the box, I wrote if it had to be trellised. Here is a copy of my example.
 
(This is not to scale obviously. Each item is only one row in reality and each row should be evenly spaced)

After all this Josh built my bed and we started our process based on my final page. So far we can only plant lettuce, cauliflower, carrots, onions, and herbs. Come 3/1 we can plant everything else.

It's a little time consuming on the front end, but much easier once you go to plant everything because you have all the information you need at hand. No guess work! Ours is slowly, but surely showing some signs of progress.

Guess my thumb isn't as black as I thought. But it's probably still a little to early to tell.

Hope you plant a garden of your own and enjoy it as much as we do!

Taylor

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Love the Quirks

I love taking weird pictures of my dog. I can't help it. I just love his tiny ballerina feet, bulbous nose, and puppy eyes. He is a weird one. But I love him all the more for it! 


He's my favorite!

Hope you have something you love for all it's quirkiness!

Taylor

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

St. James Cheese Company-My Slice of Heaven


There is nothing better than cheese. Furthermore, there is nothing better than eating cheese with wine, fruits, and nuts. Going even further is getting to do all of these things in my favorite spot in New Orleans, St. James Cheese Company

It is a little slice of heaven. The place is stocked with what feels like your own personal cheese mongers. Have a recipe that needs cheese, ask em'. Have a question on how to create a cheese plate, ask em'. Want to know the best blue cheese, just ask.  It's wonderful. They even let you try some things if you are unsure before you purchase. You can choose from a variety (what feels like hundreds) of cheeses to take home. They even have a whole refrigerator case dedicated just to blue cheese. You can also find a vast array of goodies to go with your cheese. Anything from jam, jellies, crackers, cheese boards, books on cheese, some cured meats, and so much more. It's simply just wonderful.
      (this is just a side view. The real view if from the other side. That's the view with all the cheese!)       

But wait there's more!

You can also eat at this place too. Yep, right there in view of the cheese counters. They have a daily selection  of artisanal salads, artisanal sandwiches, the occasional mac-n-cheese, and even meat and cheese plates. You can't go wrong with anything here. I crave it constantly. They also offer a good selection of wines to go with your meal, either by the glass or by the bottle. The interior is a real cute teal color, with modern chairs and tables and modern cheese artwork all over the walls. It's got a really light and airy feeling. You can even eat outside under the somewhat covered patio as you enter the place. Or you can eat outside overlooking Prytania Street. This is what Josh and I do on a Friday night when the weather is nice. If you get there around six, the place isn't very crowded and you can just unwind from the week while enjoying some really great cheese and wine.

Are you hooked yet? Just wait, I'm still going!

They also have events all the time.  Basically like fun socializing cheese classes, usually with wine. Anywhere from $30-50 a person. Each class is different! They do classes on Irish cheese, or New World wind and cheese, Monastery Madness and SO many others. Their website offer a lot of information on their classes (under events). They make for a great date night if you are looking to change things up a bit.

I know, I'm hooked to.  It's why it's one of my favorite places in New Orleans. I wish I was there now. Definitely try it out if you ever get the chance!

Taylor

Monday, February 17, 2014

Sunday Dinner

Josh has basically been begging to cook beef bourguignon since we watched Tyler Florence cook it about 2 weeks ago on food network. He can't help himself. The guy loves a one pot meal that he gets to break out the dutch oven and dump a whole bottle of wine in. Since we like to cook, I personally like to try things we haven't attempted before, but yesterday I just didn't have any other ideas. So Josh won the Sunday dinner argument.

We have made many many many beef bourguinon over the course of our marriage. We have made Julia Child's Beef Bourguignon and Food and Wine Magazine's Own Version. I have even re-created my dad's beef burgundy (which is my favorite, but very labor intensive) a time or two. Ill try to post that recipe soon. All of these are wonderful recipes and always an arms reach away for my go-to weekend recipes. But since Josh saw Tyler Florence re-create a version that didn't seem to be as near time consuming or have a huge laundry list of ingredients as some, that was the overall winner last night.

          (It was so laid back for beef bourguinon, Josh had ample time to torture our poor fur child)


And a winner it was. This version is served over butter parsley pasta and topped with the crumbled bacon. It will definitely be added to my one-pot go to recipes.





Adapted from: Tyler Florence-Beef Bourguignon
Ingredients:
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 bacon slices, cut into 3-inch strips
  • 4 pounds beef chuck or round, cut into 2-inch cubes
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 3 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 1 can beef consume
  • 1 bottle dry red wine, such as  Burgundy (we used Bordeaux)
  •  5 cups low-sodium beef broth
  • Bouquet garnit (2 fresh rosemary sprigs, 8 fresh thyme sprigs, 2 bay leaves, tied together with kitchen twine or tied in cheese clothe)
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 pound white mushrooms, stems trimmed
  • pinch of sugar
  • 3 cups blanched and peeled pearl onions (we used a bag of frozen ones)
  • package of egg noodles
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons parsley
  • sea salt
Directions:
  • Put a large Dutch oven over medium heat and drizzle in a 1/2-count of oil. Add the bacon and cook until crisp. Remove it to a paper towel; crumble when cool and set aside to use for the garnish.
  • Season the beef with a generous amount of salt and pepper. Add the beef to the pot in batches. Fry the cubes in the bacon fat until evenly browned on all sides, about 8 to 10 minutes. You want a LOT of color here. Don't worry about the stuff sticking to the bottom of the pan-its flavor. Remove from the pot to a plate.
  • Add the tomato paste and flour to the pot and stir to combine. 
  • Add in the can of beef consume and whisk unit all combined.
  • Whisk in the red wine and beef broth; add the beef back into the pot along with the bouquet garni.
  • Stir everything together and bring the mixture to a simmer. Cook until the liquid starts to thicken and has the consistency of a sauce; this should take about 15 minutes. Cover the pot, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 1 hour.
  • In a small skillet, over medium-low, heat a little olive oil. Add the garlic and mushrooms and cook until the mushrooms start to brown, about, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the pearl onions and cook until onions are heated through.
  • Uncover the pot and add the mushroom mixture along with the pinch of sugar to balance out the acid from the red wine.
  • Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Turn the heat up slightly and simmer for 45 minutes longer, until the vegetables and meat are tender. You want the sauce to be like a thick gravy. Not like soup, or even stew. Gravy consistency.
  • Bring a pot of water to a boil, add salt and egg noodles and cook until done.
  • Drain and add to a bowl. Add the butter and stir gently until butter is completely melted. Add the parsley and a pinch of good coarse seal salt. Stir to combine
  •  Remove the bouquet garni from the pot.
  • Add pasta to a bowl. Add a few chunks of meat on top of the pasta. Add a few spoon fulls of sauce. Place onion and mushrooms around the meat and shower with chopped parsley and the reserved crumbled bacon before serving.
Hope you like it as much as we did. I'm sure you won't be disappointed.

Taylor!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Garden Void

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My garden desires are getting the better of me.

When we originally set out and got our garden up and running, I thought we would be spending hours with upkeep. Between watering, weeding, pruning, and feeding I thought for sure I might be feeling a little overwhelmed at this point. I now see overwhelmed would be a large exaggeration. Underwhelmed is more like it. Truth be told my expectations were probably a little off seeing as we only planted a 4'x8' raised bed, not some huge acre garden. But that's neither here nor there. 

It's just that I got myself all psyched for really getting into my new project. I was ready for it. Inspired almost. So instead of hovering over my bed like some crazy person wishing for something to happen, I decided to plant some herbs in some pots to fill my garden void.

Rosemary, basil, and parsley.

I'm hoping these babies provide some sort of garden entertainment for me until the other things really come in. 

At the least, maybe I can make some pesto?

Wishful thinking ahead, 
Taylor


Saturday, February 15, 2014

Take A Seat

Well our 65 year old, plastic bubbling, grimy, pink toilet was laid to rest today. And I could not be more excited! I can't believe it even lasted that long. It kind of sicks me out if I think about it to much.

A few weeks ago, every time you flushed the toilet, it would leak into a good sized puddle. We have tile floors, so we would just wipe it up, sanitize, and keep on movin'. I finally reached the end of my rope though. It was the moment I walked into the bathroom and saw josh sopping up the freshly made puddle with the bath mat. That's right, the mat my clean feet step on each time I get out of the shower. How many days/weeks had he been doing this? I know I hadn't washed the bath mat lately. And let's be honest, I know Josh wouldn't have washed it. Have I mentioned how fun it is to try to figure out how to live with a guy? Needless to say, we needed a new toilet...and bath mat maybe. So that's what we did Saturday. Nothing says bonding like installing toilets. 

We mulled seriously over the options of toilets (if having a tape measure on your jeans doesn't scream serious, I don't know what does)

We picked out our new one
......and a few herbs to be planted, because let's get real here, no way was I actually gonna be involved in touching all parts of a 65 year old toilet...I had better things to do. Like plant. I definitely got the better end of the odor job here.

Then we installed it. Well, Josh installed it and I laughed as he moaned about blue plastic gloves and kept making vomiting sounds. 
I didn't last long. I just came back at the end to see the new piece of beauty.
And what a beauty she is! No more pink. And certainly no more plastic that would bubble up. Pure toilet bliss.

I guess I can look past my now nasty bath mat and appreciate Joshy for saving us a few bucks by replacing the toilet himself. I guess I'll keep him around for now. The bath mat, not so much!

Taylor



Friday, February 14, 2014

Strawberry Valentine

Happy Valentine's day. That means sweets galore. Chocolate things, tart things, fruity things, and so much more. The possibilities are endless. Which is great for me since that is Josh's favorite food group of all time. Have I mentioned all the king cakes and pies? I'm pretty sure on his death bed, sweets would be his last meal choice.  Needless to say, his Valentines day wouldn't be complete without a little sweet treat. And what kind of Valentine would I be if I didn't indulge him a little? It is a holiday after all.

This year I opted for the tart route. It tends to be a preference of his for candy. So a big box of "sweet-tarts" is what I got him. Nothing fancy and sadly, nothing homemade. There was just no time this year. Let's be honest though, as long as it's a sweet, he doesn't really care where it comes from. Bonus for me!

In previous years though, when I can make something home-made, one of my bigger hits was a heart shaped strawberry pizza. It was gone by the end of the day. I'm pretty sure pink icing was caked in his beard for the better part of the day. Not a crumb was left. 

 

STRAWBERRY PIZZA
-adapted from Pillsbury
Ingredients
1 roll of Pillsbury sugar cookie dough
1 8 oz package cream cheese, at room temp
1 tub of cool whip, at room temp
1/2 cup sugar
1 box strawberry gelatin
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 quart strawberries, cut into slices
*optional-strawberry extract

Directions
  1. Spread the cookie dough on the bottom of a pan (heart shaped pan, jelly roll pan, really just any low pan with sides.
  2. Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes. (I do mine for 9-10 cause I like my cookies chewy)
  3. Let cool completely. Otherwise, you will have a runny stick mess on your hands. And a cookie that doesn't look to appealing.
  4. Beat the cream cheese and sugar together (either with a hand mixer or stand mixer).
  5. Add the vanilla extract and beat again.
  6. Gently fold in the tub of cool whip
  7. Add half of a bag of strawberry gelatin to the icing mixture and give it a good stir. It will turn a pretty shade of pink.
  8. Since I like my icing to really taste like strawberries, I add about a 1/4-1/2 tsp of strawberry extract. Just a small splash. And mix it in
  9. Spread the icing mixture over the cooled cookie.
  10. Top with strawberries. However you want to arrange them. Don't worry about it being to pretty, the whole thing will be gone before you know it! No one will even remember the design.
I'm pretty sure if Josh thought this was an option for his V-Day sweet this year, he would have been disappointed in the sweet-tarts. But what he doesn't know won't kill him. There is always next year!

It's always such a hit item that I often make it in a regular round pan and bring it to all kinds of events. Just make sure you have the recipe on hand as you will be asked for it. Multiple times. You will quickly turn into someone's favorite person. Someone even told me that they now ask for that on their birthday instead of cake.

Taylor