Container Gradening: food at my finger tips

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This year, for the first summer in I don’t know how long, we didn’t move. We stayed put. And this seemed like something worth celebrating, so I planted.

I have been dreaming about a garden for years and the stars finally lined up this summer. We would be in one place long enough to plant and enjoy the harvest. I have such wonderful memories of gardening (or at least eating out of the garden) as a kid. Summer snack time was grabbing snow peas off the vine as we ran past in the back yard.  And I have longed for this feeling of stepping out your door and finding fresh food ready to eat.

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This spring, after we cemented our plans to stay put, I started planning for a garden, with only one major obstacle left- space. We are renters, which means, we don’t really have a yard of our own, but we have a porch that gets full sun and this is where I set my sights. Container gardening. I seem to have picked a popular moment to catch hold of this trend as magazines and websites are touting this small scale type of gardening so finding information, suggestions, and advice was easy. It is all pretty basic. Gather some large containers or pots that drain well, fill them with high quality soil, and plant crops that do well in a confined space. Most types of veggies seemed to fit into this category, and after some debate, we decided on snow peas, tomatoes, peppers, and herbs.

To fill our containers, we attended the May Market and National Public Gardens Day hosted at Phipps Conservatory in the city P1070560(Pittsburgh, PA). It was fun to stroll through the vendors, chat with farmers, and select the plants we would be growing this summer. We picked out three types of tomatoes (a small red for sauces, zebra striped green, and purple), a sweet red pepper plant, two types of basil (curly purple and baby leaf), and oregano. We also planted cilantro and snow peas from seeds.

The porch is right off our living room and I have found that I love watching the progress of the plants as much as I like the harvest we have gotten so far. I gravitate towards the french doors that open out onto the porch several times a day, and I have noticed that my husband does the same thing. We have become garden watchers.

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I loved the excitement of spring and early summer as the fern like stems of the cilantro broke through the soil and as our tomatoes plants began reaching up and over the railing on the porch towards the sun in wild, lanky branches. The basil soon filled and overflowed from the pot and oregano stretched out leafy tentacles as we reached deeper into summer. Our giant cone shaped peppers have been teasing us with deep green for a month and it felt like we such a victory when last week when they finally started shifting into a rusty and then bright red. We will eat pepper soon!P1070556

When my cousin’s daughter came to stay with us for a few days, I saw this excitement and wonder at how our food grows spread through her. She loved “harvesting” basil and oregano. Snipping off pieces with scissors and them pulling the leaves off to scatter on her personalized, homemade pizza. There is so much wonder in watching things grow.

For the most part, our garden, so far, has been a success (knock on wood), if for no other reason than the joy we get from watching it grow and the handful of things we have eaten already- basil, cilantro, oregano, tomatoes. But we did have some failures: the snow peas burned up and one of our tomato plants looks like Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree, a shriveled stick with one lonely tomato. Lessons learned for next time.

But for now, I am truly enjoying the green out my window and the fresh tomato I have sitting on my counter for tonight!

Happy Summer 🙂

 


Homemade Egg Rolls

We have been looking for an excuse to make egg rolls since we arrived in Alaska. So when friends invited us over to watch Sunday night football, we already knew what we wanted to bring. Hot, crunchy, delicious egg rolls. A good reason to look forward to Sunday night.

We started experimenting with homemade egg rolls when we were living in Marquette, MI. It was easier and more customizable than I imagined, and super yummy. The recipe makes a lot so it is best to share these fried goodies with friends or family.You can even make them ahead and heat them up when you are ready to eat them, which is what we have done the last two times when we were taking them over to friend’s houses.

I am not usually in favor of frying food, but as my Gramp used to say, everything in moderation. And these are a great once in a while kind of splurge, well worth the effort. We have also, so far, been able to keep the splatter limited to the pot, which is something I always worry about with frying.

Beyond the the fact that these are so taste, I also like the whole process of making them. Lucas and I like to cook together. It is one of our favorite hobbies/activities. So on Sunday afternoon, we cranked up the tunes (we are currently loving Elvis), cracked open a beer, and got down to the business of chopping, mixing, wrapping, and frying.

Homemade Egg Rolls

1 package egg roll wrappers (packages vary in quantity depending on the brand, usually 15-25)

*Filling: the ingredients below will fill about 10-15 egg rolls depending on how full you stuff them. If you have more wrappers than that, double the filling ingredients.

2 tablespoons canola oil, vegetable oil, or olive oil

1 bag of cabbage

1 thinly slice carrot

1 cup chopped snow peas

1 cup finely chopped mushrooms

1 tablespoon corn starch

soy sauce

chili oil or sesame oil

dash of ginger

1 egg, beaten

canola, vegetable, or peanut oil for frying

Filling: Heat oil (canola, vegetable, or olive) in a large pan. Add cabbage. Cook 4-5 minutes until it begins to wilt. Add carrots, snow peas, and mushrooms. Cook additional 2 minutes. Slowly incorporate the corn starch. Add soy sauce and chili/sesame oil to taste. Add dash of ginger. Mix well and transfer to a large bowl.

**The filling can be customized to your personal tastes. You can add meat or swap vegetables depending on what you like.

Wrapping: On a clean work surface lay one egg roll wrapper in front of you like a diamond. On the lower half add two generous spoonfuls of filling (cabbage mixture). On the upper point brush the wrapper edge with egg, this will help with the seal. Take the bottom point and fold it up over the filling towards the top point. Fold the outside corners in. Keep corners pulled tight, use egg to seal if necessary, and roll the filling to the top point. With your fingers gently press down along the seams, using additional egg if needed. The finished egg roll should be tightly sealed on all sides. Set the egg roll aside and repeat with each wrapper until you are done.

Frying: In a medium sauce pan, pour in oil (canola, vegetable, or peanut) until it is deep enough to cover an egg roll. Heat the oil at medium high for at least 5-8 minutes. Once the oil is hot, carefully place one egg roll into the pan. It should bubble on contact. If the pan is large enough, add a second egg roll. Fry for 2-3 minutes, turning once during that time. Egg rolls should be golden brown. Carefully remove the egg roll, letting excess oil drain before transferring to a paper towel covered plate or cookie sheet. Repeat. As you continue to fry the egg rolls slowly turn down the heat so the oil does not burn or splatter. After frying, eat immediately, or place the egg rolls in a glass casserole dish or nonstick cookie sheet to reheat later.

To reheat, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the egg rolls for 25-30 minutes, or until hot. Serve with your choice of dipping sauce or plain.

Enjoy!