Nov
12

Roasted Green Tomatoes

Friends. I cherish them and hold them all at high regard.
A few of my friends, I can tell ANYTHING to (seriously, ANYTHING) without fear of judgement or ill repute, they are my favorite people on earth.
I have friends that fill what would otherwise be empty spaces in my life.
I have friends that make me laugh, keep me smiling.
My friends give me advice, build me up, and they tell me when I’m crazy.

Green Tomato

Among so many other things, one of the best parts of having awesome friends is that I learn a lot from my them….. 

Through a mutual friend in Florida, I got connected with a now-friend of mine who is chef-trained (score!). I tend to forget that she is chef-trained on most days that I see her because we get wrapped up in talking about life events, family, relationships, and other “deep” stuff, gossip.

The last time I saw Jordan, we rapped about gardening, the restaurant that she manages (they maintain their own garden), and the late-harvest green tomatoes that I’d recently picked. Besides making fried green tomatoes, I honestly wasn’t sure what to do with the heap of green tomatoes I’d had (and still have!!) and I shared that. I let Jordan tell me what she makes for dinner on any given night, I know she eats good.

Green Tomatoes

Effortlessly, Jordan taught me something simple and useful, she taught me a new way to prepare green tomatoes, which is where this instructive recipe comes from. Here is what I learned:

Quarter the green tomatoes and douse them in olive oil. Roast them in the oven at 350 degrees for about 10ish minutes, just long enough to soften them slightly. DO NOT add salt (and pepper) prior to roasting, the salt would pull the moisture out of the tomatoes, keep those babies juicy! // Add the salt and pepper AFTER roasting. If the tomatoes aren’t already rich enough for your taste,  add a small amount of barrel aged balsamic vinegar to the tomatoes after they come out of the oven.

I made a larger batch of these roasted tomatoes than I should have, I didn’t realize how rich and ambrosial the roasted greens would be. Less is more when you are serving roasted green tomatoes, and I prefer to eat them with a meal rather than independently.

As I type this out, I realize that I made a mistake last night. I SHOULD HAVE roasted the remainder of the green tomatoes I have on hand and served them with the mahi mahi and mashed potatoes I made for dinner last night. I knew my meal was missing something green but I didn’t want to leave the house, it was too chilly.

 

Roasted Green Tomatoes

Green tomatoes are little gems as far as I’m concerned, they are hard to come by. Can you buy them at the grocery store? I don’t really think so…. If you want green tomatoes, you almost have to grow them yourself.

Thank you, Jordan, for contributing to the reduction of waste in my garden and thanks for being my friend.

Love

Crista


Sep
08

Harvesting Chamomile

When I talk about the plants that I grow in my home garden, I often talk about WHY I chose each plant. I choose tomatoes because there is nothing better than a home-grown tomato, I chose basil and cilantro because they are herbs that I use often, and I choose peppers because they grow flawlessly and add color + flavor to my garden and my kitchen.

This is my first year growing chamomile, I chose it because it smells pretty, produces lovely flowers, and has a calming effect. One of my favorite tea blends, Chamomile Citrus from Mighty Leaf may have had an influence on me being drawn to chamomile.

Harvesting Chamomile

My chamomile plant started flowering long before I really knew how or when to harvest the buds. After my busy, travel-packed summer slowed down, I took the time to learn and was pleasantly surprised how stinking easy it is to harvest and dry the flower buds.

When the chamomile flowers are wide open, and the white petals are perky, it is the perfect time to harvest. In my photos, you can see that some of the white petals had begun to droop, at that point they are still harvestable however they won’t have as many essential oils to offer.

Harvesting Chamomile

Plucking the fully bloomed, tiny flowers away from their stems is easy, doesn’t take much effort. I used my thumbnail to get a clean cut right at the base of the flowers, and they all popped right off. Because it’s so pleasant and calming, I sniffed each flower bud as I plucked it. 

Now that I’ve begun harvest, I know that my chamomile plant will replace the plucked flowers with brand new ones to be harvested in the future.

My freshly plucked chamomile buds are sitting in a cool, dry place in my kitchen to dry out. Once dried, I will store the chamomile buds in an airtight mason jar until I’m ready to use them for tea. 

I take pride in having an abundance of dried herbs from my garden in the kitchen and my meals seem to be more rewarding when home-grown ingredients are used. I look forward to sipping home-grown chamomile tea on the upcoming chilled, autumn nights.

Harvesting Chamomile

Love

Crista


Aug
20

on growing radishes

A perfect morning for me is one where I can roll out of bed when I feel ready, step in to my flip flops after giving the pooch a quick hug, and going out in to the garden to see what happened overnight while I was asleep.

While still clothed in my pjs, I oftentimes catch myself pulling weeds before brushing my teeth, hanging herbs to dry before breakfast, and lounging in the hammock before it’s time to get ready for my workday.

One morning last week, early before temps reached unbearable warmth, I’d decided it was time to pull the radishes that had been steadily growing in the ground for about 6-7 weeks. I couldn’t get a close look at the tiny red bulbs below the surface of the soil, but I could see the greens were overgrown and flowering. Convinced that the greens were maturing much faster than the radish bulbs, I’d trimmed the overgrown steams and leaves a few times.

I should have done it sooner. I should have learned more about planting and harvesting radishes before dropping the tiny seeds in to the ground. The little package of seeds I’d received gave thorough instructions about placing each seed about 1-2 inches away from the next about 1/2 inch deep. Instead of following directions, I dumped the entire package of contents into the ground and hoped for the best. 

That little package also instructed me to harvest the plants within 30 days, I paid no attention assuming I’d just know when it was time.

My very first radish crop has offered me a few vital learnings, and I am grateful. One of those learnings is to appreciate EVERY single tiny seed and to not take any of them for granted – one tiny seed can produce a beautiful, bountiful fruit on it’s own. Because I did not space my seeds apart, many of the radishes I grew were long and narrow instead of plump and round – the crowding didn’t allow enough room for growth. 

on growing radishes

If I knew then what I know now, there are a few things I would do different:

1. I would space the radish seeds 1-2 inches apart.
2. I would only plant 15-20 radish seeds at most, any more would go to waste or cause over-crowding 
3. I would remove any rocks, sticks, or rubble in the ground prior to planing the radishes, which will allow them more room for growth and prevention deformation.
3. I would mark on my calendar the day my radishes were planted and the approximate day of harvest (based on the seed packets instructions)

Unfortunately, my very first radish harvest was good for nothing more than feeding the compost bin, HOWEVER I have planted more seedlings and am confident that I will harvest an edible crop this time around.

on growing radishes

A few dishes I hope to make with my home-grown radishes include Roasted Lemon, Potatoes, Radishes, and Olives, Fennel and Radish Salad, and Radish Leaf Pesto

Love

Crista


Jun
08

home

Gardening is a new experience every year. I have gardened in an urban backyard, the city of Chicago, way out in the middle-of-nowhere Illinois, and in a few different urban settings here in Colorado. Each year and each location has offered different valuable lessons.

I have learned to embrace “bugs” as they play an essential role in maintaining a garden, and I’ve learned to share space with them. I have learned more about bees and why it’s important to protect them. And while I embrace most of the little buggers in the garden, I have learned that some of them can be a real pain in the ass (how about that wasp building a nest in my garden shed right now!)

I have learned where to purchase the highest quality starter-plants and how to properly plant them in the ground. 

I flirted with the idea of having indoor plants and renting a community garden space – both of which I realized aren’t for me.

Gardening in Colorado

Last year, I put a LOT of vegetable, herbs, and flowers in the ground because I had a lot of space to work with. Most everything grew well except for the cruciferous vegetables that were plagued with aphids. I never was able to harvest any of the broccoli, cauliflower, or kale that I planted. The 13 tomato plants all thrived until one plagued with aphids. Because the tomato plants were planted close together, the aphids spread from one plant to another quicker than a forest fire on a dry day.

Gardening in Colorado 

This year, I am gardening in a brand new space at my new house. The yard is huge but the space is not ideal for gardening – there is too much sun in most of the yard (which could scorch the plants) and too much shade in the other areas. An existing succulent garden came with the purchase of my home, which is something I had very little knowledge on – I’m still learning. There are tree stumps that are unidentified,  mulch, rocks, grass, dirt – so many existing elements that I’m unfamiliar with and learning about. 

Gardening in Colorado

In Denver, I learned that it’s typically safe to plant a garden after Mother’s Day however the crazy, uncommon rain and hail this spring have already shortened our growing season.

The day after Mother’s Day, I put a few baby starter plants in the ground, within hours they were attacked by the craziest hail storm I’d ever seen. There was no way we could have known that hail storm was coming, it caught everyone in Denver off-guard. While the little babies didn’t die, they also didn’t get any bigger. It’s been a few weeks now since they’ve been in the ground, and we’ve had more rain and hail – I’ve actually had to stand in the pouring rain to cover the plants with pots to protect them from the hail on a few occasions.

I think two of the little babies aren’t going to make it and I’m not positive the others will ever grow any bigger. (They are pictured in the two photos above this paragraph.)

Gardening in Colorado

While at a Foodie Fest a few weeks ago, I was given a few packets of carrot and radish seeds. I’ve never grown veggies from seeds and I decided now would be a better time than ever to give it a try. Within 2 weeks, I have radish leave sprouting (pictured below)! I’m not sure if I planted too many seeds, too little, or just the right amount, but I’ll find out soon enough! 

Gardening in Colorado

Gardening in Colorado

I’ve never planted in a hanging box, but I have them available so I filled them with herbs. If there is anything in my garden that I am confident about, it’s these herbs. I look forward to the gentle breeze delivering the various herby scents in to my home through open windows this summer.

Gardening in Colorado

Because my baby starter plants are not doing well, I went out and purchased larger, more expensive starter plants – a few already had fruit on them! From now on, I think this is the route I’ll take considering I don’t have a greenhouse, no consistent way to protect my plants, and the unpredictable weather pattern.

I’m curious to see how the various sizes of starters I put in the ground will all thrive.

Gardening in Colorado

Gardening in Colorado

Clearly, there are succulents that can grow in the ground, and there are succulents that should remain in pots. I learned that very quickly. As you can see in these photos, one of my succulent plants has started rotting because of all the moisture and rain. I have dug it up and put it in a pot – There is a 50/50 chance it will survive and re-generate. Succulents don’t like being covered in dirt, but it’s been unavoidable with all of the rain. I go out to the garden after each thunderstorm and clean the fragile plants off. MOST of the succulents are doing ok, it’s these 2 that I’m unsure of.

Gardening in Colorado

While I’d like to say I’m off to a good start, reality is that it’s been rocky. However, I’m not discouraged, I’m having fun, AND I’m learning something new every day.

Wish me luck, my friends!!

If you’d like to track my progress, follow me on Instagram where I post photos daily and/or subscribe to my weekly newsletter!

Love

Crista


Oct
12

homemade apple butter

 This time last year, we were picking apples off the apple tree that grew right in the front yard. It was a luxury to have an apple tree, stemming, and producing fruit although the apples weren’t “perfect” like most of most of the apples available for purchase in the store. Our apples were disfigured and some of them were wormy – they required some “cleaning up” before being able to use them. But look, I’m not complaining.

Every year, I forget to get out to an apple orchard in late August or early September for apple picking – I always show up right at the end of apple picking season (mid-October) just in time for picking pumpkins. I love, love picking pumpkins, I’m going to go out next weekend to pick up a few, but I want the apples too! Do I need to set a reminder for myself next year??

Random: Someone once told me that if you plant the seeds from an apple, chances are it will grow in to a crab apple tree, even if the seeds came from a different variety. I guess most varieties are “clones” – it sounds like a complicated/unpredictable process to create those clones, I don’t even want to think about it or talk about it – I’ll leave it to the experts.

Back to last year: After picking the apples, coring, and cleaning them, we made several batches of apple butter. I wish I still had some – all of a sudden, I’m craving it again. I may make a 2014 batch, however it will be a small batch because I don’t have the space to can the excess AND it would have to be made with store-bought apples… which just wouldn’t be the same…. especially here in Colorado. I still haven’t figured out the best apples to buy in Colorado…. I miss Honeycrisp, we have them available here but they aren’t as great as they are in the Midwest…..

I don’t recall the Apple Butter recipe that we used last year but I found several recipes via Pinterest that caught my attention for this year:

Slow Cooker Apple Butter

Slow cooker Vanilla Rum Apple Butter

Apple Butter (no sugar added)

Cranberry-Apple Butter

Slow Cooker Ginger Spiced Apple Butter (no sugar added)

I love all the different variations of “apple butter.”  I’m especially liking the idea of the Cranberry-Apple Butter, maybe I’ll make a batch for Thanksgiving and serve it with warm biscuits! (Yes, I AM ready to start thinking about Thanksgiving.)
Which version catches YOUR attention? 

apple tree

Love

Crista


Oct
09

Today, it rained, and rained, and then rained some more. While I was chilly and felt “wet” all day long, I was thankful that the garden got some good ole’ rain water – it seems to have a different effect on the garden than hose water does – in a good way.

My garden is still producing a variety of peppers, tomatoes, and herbs but I’m not sure how much longer it’s going to last. My tomato plants are looking pathetic, some have died off due to whiteflies. The pepper plants are still holding on strong, and the herbs are doing the same. My broccoli, kale, and cabbage are all infested with aphids. I never did figure out how to get rid of them. I will definitely have to fight harder against them next year now that I know they’ll be a problem. Sigh. 

Because of the approaching end-of-season, I made sure to take some photos of the garden – they very well could be the last photos taken of the garden this year.

garden tomato

garden cherry tomato

garden amana orange tomato

garden cherry tomato

garden tomato

As you can see, I’ve still got a variety of tomatoes growing. I picked a bunch earlier in the week to make a Pink Pesto (recipe coming soon!) and another batch of Cherry Tomato Vinaigrette. I probably won’t use either one of them right away, I’m freezing them for a later date.

garden eggplant

FINALLY, eggplants! It took this long…..

garden chili peppers

garden pinot noir bell pepper

A pinot noir bell pepper and an orange jalapeño – I have no idea how I got a hold of these things – but they’re stinkin cool.

garden orange jalapeño pepper

garden pablano pepper

I’m hoping this rain will stimulate some growth for the weekend, I’m not quite ready for the season to end yet…. 

In other news, I’m looking to buy a house right now and I am adamant about finding a place with a big huge garden space – will you cross your fingers for me and wish me luck? The search has been tough, competitive, and stressful….

Love

Crista


Aug
06

kohlrabi

 KOHLRABI.
I’d only heard of it once prior to finding a little starter plant at the Farmers Market. A few years ago, I had kohlrabi in a salad at Trocadero in Milwaukee, WI (cool restaurant, btw!). The salad consisted of apple, kohlrabi, salted caramel pecans, and a black sherry vinaigrette. Yum, right? So when I came across that kohlrabi starter plant, of course I wanted to plant it – it reminded me of that awesome salad….

So I planted the kohlrabi, and I think I allowed it to get way too big. I had no idea what it would like like as it grew. Turns out, I don’t know much about kohlrabi period. I had no idea that it would form a big bulb (as you see in the photo above) – and I guess I didn’t pay much attention to what it looked like when I had it in that salad a few years ago – it was tossed with the other ingredients and I never took the time to identify it. (maybe I was starving and scarfed that salad down the moment it landed on the table??!)

Because I allowed the kohlrabi bulb to get too big, it split and ants started building a nest inside the split. It was quite the sight to see, actually. Those ants worked hard to build that nest and when I pulled the kohlrabi up out of the ground, I completely destroyed everything they worked for. Anyways, it was mine first.

From what I understand, kohlrabi is similar to that of a turnip or a cabbage, or even a combination of the two. It can be eaten raw and/or cooked. Although the leaves can be eaten, the “stem” or bulb is what is most commonly prepared. The taste and texture of kohlrabi is similar to that of a broccoli stem (however, crisp and juicy) and has a mild flavor.

So I’ve got this kohlrabi bulb hanging around my kitchen and I’m still not 100% sure what I’m going to do with it. I found a few yummy-looking recipes but I’m not yet sure which one I’ll try because I’m still not even sure exactly what the kohlrabi will taste like. 

Chili Dusted Kohlrabi Fries from Five and Spice

Beet, Kale, and Kohlrabi Salad with Grapefruit Vinaigrette from a Couple Cooks

Kohlrabi & Cabbage Slaw with Tahini-Lemon Dressing from Dishing Up The Dirt

Which recipe do you think I should try??

———–

I would have NO idea how to cut up my kohlrabi had it not been for this tutorial from the kitchn: How To Cut Up Kohlrabi. Thank goodness the internet exists. 

Love

Crista


Jul
04

Yesterday was a sad day. I had to dig up my plants that were planted throughout 2 garden plots provided to me through DUG: Denver Urban Gardens. I didn’t WANT to dig up, but I don’t feel like I had any other option. 

Denver Urban Garden

I was EXTREMELY excited to garden with DUG, I had been in contact with them for months waiting for an available plot to present itself to me and it FINALLY did. However, after that initial excitement, things started to move downhill pretty quickly. You see, someone was trampling my garden, someone dug up my tomato plants and stole my tomato cages, and a few weeks later, someone took two concrete blocks (I was using as stepping stones) out of the garden plots. And that’s not it – I was also promised a third plot (that was completely covered in weeds taller than myself). I had JUST come up with a plan to plant the seeds that were gifted to me at “On The Farm, Off The Hook” this past week SO I spent hours weeding the plot (do you KNOW how dirty that job is??) and prepping the soil, only to come back the next day and find that SOMEONE ELSE swooped in  and planted the space! THAT is STEALING! Luckily my seeds are still in my possession and not buried at the bottom of someone else’s garden mess.

I never even really got the opportunity to blog about my garden after it was planted because the “drama” started almost immediately. I kept waiting for the drama to subside so that I could focus on the happy but it seems like EVERY TIME I visited my plot (daily), I left feeling mad and upset. It shouldn’t have been that way. I was using that garden as an experiment, growing things I’d never grown before. It should have been a happy place, full of newness and positive energy. 

Denver Urban Garden

This week, I finally lost all confidence in that space, I knew that if I let my plants produce, there was a fat chance the fruit would be stolen from me. Or trampled on. Or who knows what else. So I moved all of my plants out of that space and in to the garden space behind the salon, where I’m confident they will be well looked after. Luckily, I had room for everything and didn’t have to abandon one single plant.

Before I made the decision to dig up all of my plants, I worked with the garden leader to find answers, but she had little to no information and/or skills to manage the challenges I was having.

In the middle of all this drama, I came across a blog post titled, “Community Does Not Mean Kumbaya” written by a garden leader and/or an employee of DUG. In the blog post, she expands on the drama and conflict that stems from the “community garden” community. Although an interesting read, I’m not sure that I found any relief in knowing that I’m not the only person experiencing conflict in the community. If anything, I’m even more turned off by the community gardening experience. I’m almost 100% sure I’ll never garden a community plot again. 

Denver Urban Garden

In the photo above, you see a tomato cage with two tomato plants planted in it. That cage and those plants magically appeared about one week after my two tomato plants went missing from my plot. I’ll never know for sure if those tomato plants were the ones I had planted or not, but I dug them up and took them with me anyway. I might know if they were mine after they start producing fruit. Gah, it makes me want to scream.

Everyone has a theory about what happened to my tomato plants but I’m about 100% sure it was the church groundskeeper who dug up my plants. He places a cinderblock in the space that my tomatoes were planted in – I doubt a thief from the streets would bother with the cinderblock. My belief is that someone from the church (probably the groundskeeper) and/or the other gardeners were the ones trampling my garden, and spilling piles of weeds in to it. Either way, the problem was obviously “on site” and I have no regrets moving my things off of that site.

I have been taught this lesson a time or two in the last few weeks: if there is someone or something that is presenting anger and/or negative energy to your world, it is best to remove it from your world.

Good-bye DUG.

Love

Crista


May
25

gardening

Welp, the garden is planted… for the most part – the hard part is over. Weeding, tilling, composting, planning, planting, and clean up – those are some BIG jobs. Luckily, we had a team of people working on it. 

Not all of the veggie plants that we’d like to have were available at the nursery we shopped so we’ve still got a little bit of work to do searching for the plants that we really really want to get in the garden (Amana Orange Tomatoes being one of those things) – we’re determined to find them! Other than that, we found a few pots that had been “abandoned” so we’re going to give them some lovin and bring them back to life with some pretty flowers.

garden till

After hours and hours of weeding the garden, we tilled the soil with a rototiller that was rented from Home Depot. Considering how big this garden is (we’re lucky!) I’m so happy we didn’t have to till the soil by hand (thanks Bob!)

plants & flowers

I’ve planted and maintained several herb & veggie gardens but this is my first experience with planting flowers. Picking them out was kind of a shot in the dark for me because I don’t know much about them. I picked out perennials in hopes that we won’t have to purchase as many flowers next year. I’m pretty satisfied with my choice of flowers and how they look in the garden, we’ll see if we can keep them alive & well-maintained. Haha! Either way, it’ll be a learning experience…..

starter plants

gardening gloves

planting strawberries

This raised pot was being used as an ashtray so I was pretty excited to restore it back to what it was originally intended for – a planter. We placed it at the edge of the garden and planted strawberries. I never knew that strawberries grow best in a hanging planter, last year I had them growing on the ground. This planter will work perfectly for our strawberries, allowing them to hang and mature happily.

planting strawberries

strawberry plant

garden design & layout

We spent a lot of time designing and planning the garden layout prior to planting. We found these stones in the backyard (again, abandoned) that we used as stepping stones which will allow us to move throughout the garden without getting muddy. 

tomato plants

tomato plants

chocolate mint

broccoli

The little starter plants are so adorable, for now, they look miniature in the big, huge garden bed…. but not for long. 

starter plant

planting a garden

flowers

flowers

flowers

I’m in love with the vibrant color that these flowers offer the space. They’re so good to look at (and super photogenic). 

marigolds
Allure Salon owner - Garden

I can’t thank Nicole & Bob enough for allowing me to partner with them on this big garden project. They have allowed and supported me taking over the space in their salons backyard, they jumped on board with the idea on an instants notice and offered a helping hand. We’re all in good company with this project.

Allure Salon Garden - Denver

And thanks to Patrick for his knowledge and helping hand. Oh, I mean, “Patrick, a Local Triathlete” (he insists he be referred to as such- cute, right?) This guy dug every single hole for us, which takes big strong muscles. (really, it’s not an easy job) I’m grateful for the accompaniment, especially from a big, strong, knowledgable man. 

One of the coolest things happened as we were finishing up yesterday… we all hi-fived while acknowledging appreciation and successes…. it felt good to be a part of a team rather than taking this project on solo. 

Love

Crista


May
23

I’m spoiled.
I didn’t think I’d get to garden this year because I don’t have space at my apartment. Luckily, the salon owner, Nicole, that I work for has offered up the salons “backyard” to garden and plant flowers. She’s even enlisted the help of her husband, family, and staff! All of the salon employees I’ve spoken with are really excited about having the garden in the back, and they’re all willing to pitch in and help out. They’ve even talked about hosting a little “Farmers Market” at the salon – it’s going to be adorable! 

While I was at the salon today, I took a few photos of what the backyard currently looks like, you’ll see we’ve got a LOT of work to do – no big deal, we’ll have plenty of helping hands!! 

garden-beds-weeds-allure

This bed that you see here all be filled with fruits, veggies, and herbs by next week (if all goes well). I think we’ll have about 8-9 tomato plants, a few strawberry plants, some beets, carrots, several herbs, cauliflower, butternut squash, broccoli, maybe some eggplants. eeeeeeeeeeeeeee, I’m so excited! 

garden-beds-weeds-allure-3

First things first: we’ve got a LOT of weeds to pull. I started pulling a few today, it’ll be quick & easy. 

garden-beds-weeds-allure-2

Along the sunny wall is where the tomato plants will be lined up, I haven’t decided what we’ll put in the shaded area yet… I’ll either need to find a plant that’s happy in shade or use that area as a walkway. Designing the layout of the garden has been really fun!! 

garden-beds-weeds-allure-5

On the opposite side of the backyard, there will be a bed full of pretty pretty flowers.

garden-beds-weeds-allure-4

garden-beds-weeds-allure-7

This planted has obviously been used for cigarette butts in the past – not any more! I plan on emptying it and putting the strawberry plants in it. Apparently, strawberry plants like to hang – I never knew. (I did it all wrong last year) 

garden-beds-weeds-allure-6

We’ve also got several pots that we will plant with pretty flowers – and possibly sit at the front entrance to the salon.

Wish us luck tomorrow as we begin the process – I ask for “luck” because it’s been rainy here in Denver and it’s supposed to continue all weekend…. But I’m thinking we’ll luck out.

(I’m so excited, I can hardly wait for tomorrow morning to be here!!)

Love

Crista