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Back in the Vegetable Garden

Last year my vegetables grew great.

Until my garden was suddenly overcome by weeds and then the vegetable plants got so overgrown and mixed with the weeds which turned into a giant green jungle and I got so overwhelmed I couldn’t look at it.

This year I really wanted to avoid that. So I make sure to spend a few moments once a week pulling weeds and taming the vegetable plants as they grow bigger and bigger.

My camera did a good job with this picture. Check out the detail!

I planted okra for the first time!  But I’ve never cooked with it before, hopefully I can make something good with it.

This year I bought all my plants at a nursery instead of starting them by seed indoors during the winter. It was a lot less work but it took forever for them to get big enough to start making vegetables, so next year I’ll go back to starting seeds indoors.

So far I’ve managed to avoid becoming overwhelmed, and I’m glad to be excited about my vegetable garden again!

You can check out past veggie garden posts here. It’s been a while!

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Zucchini Noodle Spaghetti

I try not to eat pasta, too many condensed carbs make me sick, plus who wants all those calories? But that doesn’t mean I don’t ever find myself craving spaghetti..

That’s why I am obsessed with our vegetable spiralizer! I can make so many yummy dishes, with no pasta in sight!

 One of my favorites is spaghetti made with zucchini noodles.

All it needs is a few ingredients:

Three Zucchini
Parmesan Cheese
Sauce of your choosing- I used about half the jar
Italian seasoning

Cut the ends off the zucchini and spiralize them. I like to use the large noodle setting.

If you don’t have a spiralizer you can use a mandolin or a grater. But definitely recommend a sprializer! They’re around 20 bucks on amazon. 
Put a splash of olive oil in the bottom of the pot and cook on medium heat. 
Don’t add any water!
Zucchini is made up of quite a bit of water, so while the zucchini is cooking, I like to reduce the sauce to eliminate as much water as possible. In fact, I start simmering the sauce as the very first step. Before I even spiralize the zucchini.

 I prefer my zucchini noodles to be on the firm side, so I don’t cook them all the way through. Believe me, it tastes way better when the noodles aren’t all soggy!

Once the zucchini noodles are cooked to your liking, (I usually sample a little piece to check) dump them into a colander like you would to normal pasta to drain out any excess liquid. I usually use a large spoon to squeeze out as much as I can.

After draining, return the noodles to the pot and add the sauce, cheese and seasoning. And anything else you like to add to your spaghetti! 

I think it tastes much better than regular spaghetti. And my favorite part is, I can eat as much as I want without going into a major carb coma and gaining 20 pounds!

This recipe makes about four servings. Or two if you’re a zucchini fool like me!

Have you ever tried a veggie noodle recipe?

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Veggie Garden Update

I got all my veggies planted and am enjoying seeing them grow. I started most of the seedlings indoors about three or four weeks earlier than last year to give them a better head start, which ended up being around the last week in February .  I really think I could have started them earlier though, especially the peppers because they take a long time to sprout. Next year I am going to start them on the first of February, which will be fun because February is such a boring month for me!



My tomatoes are doing great!  I did three regular tomato plants and three beefsteak tomato plants. I am overexcited to have fried green tomato sandwiches!
My cucumbers are doing great too. I’m not a huge fan of cucumbers, but I kind of want to try making pickles so I planted them anyway.

I decided to add more flowers to my garden this year. I plants lots of marigolds and nasturtiums that I grew from seed to look pretty among my veggies and also to help keep bad bugs away from them.
 I love how the nasturtium leaves look like tiny lily pads. 
Last year suqash borers ruined every squash plant I had. So this year I put little shirts around them to protect them. Hopefully it works!  I planted so many different kinds of squash and gourds.
Cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower are coming along nicely. I put in new plants every couple of weeks to hopefully have a constant harvest.
Last year my Luffa plants failed miserably. They finally grew fruits but they didn’t mature in time before the first frost. This year I started them way earlier but dang bugs kept coming along and chewing them! Even though I put strong repellent on them. They look pretty sad but are making progress, I really hope they work this year!

My peas are doing great!  Last year they didn’t do anything. They sprouted, looked really bad and then died. This year a planted about 4 times as many thinking most of them would die, but, actually they all lived and now I have peas taking over an entire corner of my garden. But that’s okay because I love peas!

The only thing I am discouraged about are my carrots. I planted seeds weeks ago and they have barely done anything. I put a bunch of fertilizer on them so maybe that will speed them up. Haha.

Are you growing any vegetables this year? 
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Zucchini Carrot Apple Pecan Bread

I recently came across this recipe on pinterest and just knew I had to try it! I made a few modifications and halved the recipe because we really don’t need to be eating two whole loaves of bread, but you can always double it back up if you want.

Ingredients:

Half a cup of butter
1 cup of sugar
1 egg
1/8th cup of orange juice
1/2 tablespoon of vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup of whole wheat flour
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
1 tablespoon of pumpkin pie spice (Or any combination of spices really!)
1 cup of shredded carrots
1 cup of shredded zuccini
1 half cup of diced apple
1 half cup of chopped pecans


Shred the zucchini and carrots in a food processor or with a grater, dice the apple and the pecans if needed and set aside. 
Soften the butter and cream it with the sugar, then add the egg, vanilla and orange juice.
 Mix the dry ingredients together in a separate bowl, then add them to the wet ingredients and add the veggies.

Once everything is mixed together, scoop it into a greased bread pan and bake at 350 until done, approximately 50 minutes.

Once it has had time to cool, slice into it an enjoy! 

I really liked this bread, the colored veggies were pretty and gave it an interesting texture and a yummy flavor! I would definitely bake this again.

Does anyone else’s kitchen turn into a disaster zone when they’re done baking?  I can’t seem to help but make a giant mess! It’s all part of the fun though.

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My Veggie Garden- Lessons Learned

All last winter I dreamed of starting my vegetable garden.

It turned out just as I had imagined it, but not everything worked out like I hoped. I learned plenty of good lessons this year that I will definitely pay more attention to next time.

Lesson 1) Trellises need to be staked in the ground

I made my own trellises this year and didn’t think about having to steak them in the ground, so whenever a strong gust of wind came about, they fell right over! Luckily my plants didn’t snap in half. The thinner ones I was able to push into the dirt but I couldn’t do it with the thicker ones. Next year I will probably attach some write to the bottom of them to push in the ground.

Lesson 2) Squash borers! 

These are the worst things ever! The stupid little worms hatch from eggs laid at the base of squash plants and bore their way up through the center of the plant, cutting off its water supply and killing it slowly. I lost every single squash plant I planted, and that was what I was most looking forward to. 🙁  Next year I will sprinkle repellent on them like crazy.

Lesson 3) Plant Early Crops Sooner

I waited too long to plant my cooler season crops like peas and spinach so they ended up not doing much and then burning up as the weather got hot.


Lesson 4) Self pollination is a good idea.

I had plenty of bees buzzing around my garden so I didn’t think I would have any problem with pollination, yet all my future squash would turn brown and fall off right after they were done flowering. Once I starting self pollinating each fruit, I didn’t lose any. Until the squash borers came around of course!

Lesson 5) Loose Dirt is Good Dirt

Around here our soil is a solid mass of red clay. It was a lot of work to loosen it up and and mix it with nice dirt so I probably didn’t do a great job with that. As a result my carrots, beets and radishes didn’t do to well, so next year I’ll make sure to get that dirt nice and loose! 


Lesson 6)  Hungry Rabbits!

Never underestimate the power of a hungry rabbit!  I had to wrap my fence in rabbit wire to keep these guys out, otherwise I think they would have eaten everything.

All in all it was a pretty good vegetable garden, I am really looking forward to next year!

What are some lessons you have learned about vegetable gardening?
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Cosmo the Hungry Rabbit

This spring a little rabbit moved in under our back deck.

I named him Cosmo.

I saw him almost every morning, hoping around the yard and munching on all the clover in our grass.




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But it wasn’t long before he discovered the yummy new veggies I had planted in my vegetable garden!

The fence was no match for this tiny guy! And he had quite the appetitie. He ended up eating three bell pepper plants, two hot pepper plants, three eggplant plants and an entire broccoli stalk all within a matter of days! I knew it was time to rabbit proof my fence if I wanted any hope of getting fresh vegetables.

And it worked great! You can check out my post about building it here.


I fed him fresh fruit, oats and water in hopes of being able to pet him, but I could never get close enough.

As he got bigger I saw him less, but he still came back to visit every now and then.



Then the best thing ever happened….
Cosmo had a baby!!!!!!!!

Now they both come visit my yard 🙂
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Veggie Garden Update- Plenty of Veggies!

It’s been a while since I’ve done a veggie garden update!



Ok so some of my bell pepper plants started growing… Well, whatever these things are… o____0 No idea what happened there.

Annnnd, I know you’re all wondering how my luffa plants are doing…

They’re doing great! They’ve taken over the fence and are starting to flower!


There is a future luffa, waiting to bloom and be pollinated!


I kind of let my broccoli get out of hand..
This is one of two gourds I’ve gotten. Sadly all of my squash plants got infested with squash borers and most of the vines died!! :'( I replanted them but I’m not sure they’re grow in time before the first frost hits. I was really looking forward to drowning in squash this year!

But other than my squash fiasco my garden has been doing great! I love going out and picking fresh veggies from the backyard.

What are your favorite vegetables to plant?

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Veggie Garden Update: Flowers Galore!

All of my vegetable plants are in bloom!


Tomato 

Cucumber

Squash


My Zucchini haven’t started yet



My bean plant has outgrown it’s trellis!

Good news, my Luffa sprout survived the rabbit attacks and  is doing great! Better news, I have TWO of them! Shortly after posting that update I noticed that two more luffa sprouts popped up, making three! But then a bug came and ate one of them so I was left with two. I’m just happy they grew!

Eggplant flower

 My green beans!

Pepper plant

I can’t wait for all the vegetables!

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Veggie Garden Update: The Finished Fence!

In my last veggie garden update, I talked about how a certain little rabbit named Cosmo had been visiting my veggie garden. 

I was using a rabbit repellent spray which seemed to be working, but shortly after my post that hungry guy ate ALL of my eggplant and banana pepper plants, most of my bell pepper plants, one chili pepper plant and entire broccoli plant! All in a matter of a few days! So I knew it was time to line the fence with rabbit wire.

First I had to seal the entire fence with a water proof and UV proof sealant. It took forever!
Then we took turns stapling the rabbit wire to the inside of the fence. It was tricky to unroll it, but the stapling part was fun! We had to be so careful not to squish the vegetable plants. At one point I screamed because I thought Steven had stepped on my last hot pepper plant. Turns out he had stepped just in front of it but I gave him a good scare! 
Making sure the gate was rabbit proof

We worked on it every evening for about a week. We were worried the wire would make the fence ugly, but I acutally like it! I think it makes it look more like a vegetable garden and gives it a finished look. If I had known this ahead of time we would have finished the fence before we planted the vegetables so it would have been easier. We ended up losing a few bean plants, one got squished and one got covered in the sealant, turned brown and died. But I had a bunch of bean plants so not big deal!

The fence has been up for a few weeks now and so far no more veggie fatalities! I can’t believe one little rabbit could do so much destruction, but at least now my plants are safe 🙂

It was fun building the fence, but I am looking forward to next year when all I need to do is rough up the soil and put the plants in the ground. 

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My veggie anniversary

I have now been a vegetarian for one whole year! I don’t remember the exact date I ate my last piece of meat because I never officially made a big decision to stop eating meat, it just sort of happened, and I know it was sometime during the last week of may. So I figured why not make June first the date of my veggie anniversary.  Or should I say, veggieversary! hehe. (I know, I’m a few days late writing this) Anyway, I thought I would share the story of my first year being a vegetarian.

Not eating meat was something I had wanted to do for years, but never thought I would be able to; there seemed to be so many good meals that contained all kinds of meat! And how would I cope at Thanksgiving? Easter? At summer cookouts?!! But one day last year I realized I hadn’t had any meat in about 3 days as a fluke, so I was curious as to how long I could keep it up. I didn’t really expect it to last that long but before I knew it a whole week had gone by!  I decided that maybe I would just try to avoid eating meat and only eat it on occasion, but whenever the occasion came up I felt like it would be cheating to eat it. Plus I’ve always liked to see how long I can keep something going, and the thought of starting all over again after I had a little bit of meat felt like a failure.

 At first it was kind of hard; I felt like I could hardly eat anything. I remember going to a charity cookout downtown for lunch one day with some coworkers and the only thing that was served was hamburgers. So I ate a tomato with cheese on a bun, and I don’t even like tomatoes very much! Another time I went to a wing restaurant and just snacked on celery the whole night. But I soon noticed that I didn’t even miss the meat, in fact, I thought a lot of meals were actually improved without it! Like lasagna! Being a vegetarian also made ordering at restaurants very easy, I usually only have about one or two options at most places and for an indecisive person like me, that’s great news! 

Throughout most of the year I was unsure I could actually avoid eating meat forever. For instance, before I became a vegetarian Steven and I had decided to serve a bunch of hot wings at our wedding and his uncle’s delicious beef stroganoff, which was one of my favorite meals. But surprisingly enough I didn’t feel like I was missing out by not eating it. I also thought for sure I would have to have my mom’s famous meat pie at Christmas time (something I would crave the entire year!) But nope. I didn’t even want that. It’s funny how once you stop eating something you eventually don’t even want it anymore. I used to love bacon, now the thought of it grosses me out. I think after declining the meat pie last Christmas was when I really knew I could be a vegetarian forever! 

I thought I would share a few veggie recipes, some of my favorites and some I would like to try.

Zucchini fritters– This look so good! Like healthy pancakes 🙂
Spinach burgers– We usually have store bought veggie burgers, but I’d love to try making my own!
Vegetarian bean chili– Just because you don’t eat meat doesn’t mean you can’t have chili! We made this last winter and it was sooo good.

Spinach balls– One of my favorite treats used to be my mom in law’s sausage balls so I was kinda sad about not eating them anymore. But then I found this amazing recipe and have made these a bunch of times!
  Zucchini squash sandwich– I came up with this yummy sandwich recipe when I was trying to come up with vegetarian sandwich ideas.


I’m so glad I decided to finally go for it and I am still surprised I was able to do it! I don’t even think twice about eating meat now. And  I also don’t feel  guilty when I see cows anymore. Haha


So if any of your guys have ever thought about being a vegetarian, you should try it! It may be easier than you think.