Why Garden Weekend: Impact on the Earth

Note: Okay, I am fully aware it’s not the weekend. I am not even close. It’s Tuesday. In my defense, it’s been a crazy week. I have been in Ann Arbor, East Lansing, Indianapolis, Atlanta (Georgia, not Indiana– there is such a thing), West Lafayette, Lexington, and our little town… all in the last seven days. So, while I have been logging all those miles I felt like a great thing to write about for this week’s Why Garden Weekend would be how my food is not.

In Animal, Vegetable, Miracle Barbara Kingsolver writes, “If every US citizen ate just one meal a week (any meal) composed of locally and organically raised meats and produce, we would reduce our country’s oil consumption by over 1.1 million barrels of oil every week.”

When I read this statement for the first time it kind of blew my mind.

I knew that my food in Indiana, especially in the winter, obviously had to come from some warmer climate. But, I guess I didn’t realize the impact all this traveling has on fossil fuels, pollution and the planet.

We joke that my mom was “green before it was cool.” She was way into recycling. Food was not thrown away. It was eaten and left over’s became lunch. And if it wasn’t, it was composted, thrown in the woods or put down the disposal. Our school lunches never graced a brown bag. Instead, I had a purple, sparkly lunch box full of mix matched, wanna be Tupperware (ie. reused Parmesan cheese or cole slaw containers).

Because of my upbringing, I have always been kind of aware of the impact I make on the globe. I have never been a huge fan of bottled water and often am carrying around a reusable bottle everywhere I go. (At least when I plan correctly… See also: Weekend blog posts posted on Tuesday.) When I finally began doing my own grocery shopping I invested in some reusable bags and love using those. And I still use a reusable lunch box. (This new one is pink.)

It doesn’t seem like much, but it was a good start. And until recently, I knew these were things that I could do to minimize my footprint on the planet.

Then we had a garden and I realized I can do so much more to help the earth in my own backyard.

Our food doesn’t travel thousands of miles to our table or guzzle a ton of fuel. It is just a few steps off our back patio.

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Our food is rarely wasted. It is composted and put back in the earth to make more great food.

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Our food isn’t wrapped in plastic or put into tin cans. It’s processed in reusable Ball canning jars or picked straight off the vine with no need for a cardboard crate.

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Gardening has also made me even more aware of how precious the earth is thanks to being able to see what it can produce. I want to help conserve it. I want to keep it green and beautiful.

I love that gardening has given me this awareness and this power to reduce my impact.

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Ohio Is For Lovers.

Last week I was in Ohio for work and it turned out being for a little fun too.

On Tuesday, I was at Miami University for the first time in almost ten years. I grew up in Columbus and spent countless weekends in Goggin Arena at ice skating competitions or summer camps. I was even a second away from going there for undergrad.

The campus looked great and I had to laugh… parking was so easy. You know you travel to a lot of college campuses when it makes your day to park right in front of the building your meeting is in, with no meters, no weird permits, no time restrictions, etc, etc!

That night I drove onto Columbus and was able to spend the night with my mom. We split a bottle of wine and stayed up too late catching up. She’s super crafty (… like early Martha inspired crafty) and made Adam and I a cute Valentine. She also got me a perfect glass chicken container.

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I think she’s learning to embrace the chickens.

Wednesday morning I had some meetings in the Union of Ohio State.

I spend a lot of time in different Unions around the Midwest, and Ohio State’s might be one of my favorites. It’s brand spanking new, so that helps its cause, but the people who designed it really nailed it. It is such a spirited building. From the “OH” “IO” door knobs to the tremendously scarlet and grey tiled bathrooms; it’s a lot of fun.

So fun!

So fun!

Ohio Union restroom

After my meetings, my good friend Laura met me for a quick lunch. Laura and I grew up together giggling on the neighborhood swim team and talking on the phone for hours about middle school crushes. She now lives near Columbus with her husband Jay while she finishes up Optometry school at the University.

We still spend a lot of time chatting on the phone, but it was really nice to see her in person.

Our conversation turned to Valentine’s Day plans. We both like to cook at home and have husbands who enjoy cooking as well, so we are often sharing recipes and “what we made.” It sounded like we both were going to have pretty low key nights.

As I was about to hit the road that afternoon, I remembered a great boutique bakery, Pistacia Vera, where my mom used to get treats for special occasions. I could swing in there and pick up something to make our Valentine’s Day home date a little more special.

I looked up their address on my phone and saw that they had two locations. Their stand alone shop, that I remembered visiting, and then a location in North Market, which is just down High Street from the University.

North Market is Columbus’ only true public market and is home to over thirty merchants. The products offered are mainly local, organic or artisan created. You can find anything from specialty coffees, grass fed meats, baked goods, flowers, and much more.

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I had not been to North Market in a while and had forgotten what a neat place it really is. I love the eclectic, yet down to earth energy it has. There were some people clearly doing their shopping and others just stopping in for lunch with their coworkers.

I walked in with the plan to get a unique dessert, and walked out with a full, Ohio produced meal.

Here is what I got for our Valentine’s Day Meal:

A great wedge of Gouda at Curds and Whey.

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Curds and Whey had a huge selection of cheeses, caviar, and other little bites. I asked the cheese monger for the cheeses made in Ohio and he rattled off a few that were in the window, but mentioned that he had a wheel of local Gouda in the back.

Now, just to be clear, I don’t play favorites with cheese… but, if I did, Gouda would be a contender.

He asked if I wanted to try it.

Umm, yes please!

It was slightly soft, but still had a little bite with a salty, creamy taste. Winner.

It was a great little appetizer for Valentine’s Day.

How cool is Curds and Whey's card?! It's like Swiss cheese!

How cool is Curds and Whey’s card?! It’s like Swiss cheese!

Next up was wine.

At The Barrel and Bottle I asked for Ohio wines. The selection of wine was small, but the sales clerk, who was in the midst of a sampling with a distributor, said they are all great and drinkable. She pointed out the bottles that were dry.

There was a cabernet and a traminette that caught my eye. One of our favorite wineries in Indiana has a great treminette, so I gave it a go.

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Adam and I both loved how it complimented the Gouda and enjoyed it as we cooked our meal.

Next, were some grass fed filets from Bluescreek Farms. Bluescreek Farms raises their meat in the Columbus area and does not add growth hormones or antibiotics. They carry beef, lamb, pork, goat and veal. They are also involved in some local CSA’s.

Adam and I are both big fans of filet mignon so I went for the tenderloin filets. Adam prepared them with a little salt and pepper before we cooked them. They were tender and incredibly tasty.

For a side, I picked up some beets from The Greener Grocer. The beets were from the county just south of where Columbus is located. They added the perfect shade of pink to our Valentine’s Day… not to mention, beets are rumored to be an aphrodisiac… it just seemed appropriate for Valentine’s Day.

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And, finally, the whole purpose of the trip… dessert!

At Pistacia Vera I picked up four macarons, their signature treat, and a mini chocolate bombe. The bombe is a decadent mix of cake and mousse. My family has a regular (See also: large) one every Christmas… in fact, it’s so rich that one year it broke one of my parent’s Waterford cake knives in half!

Unfortunately, the bombe had issues on the four hour drive back to our house in Indiana… it was more like chocolate soup.

Gosh Dang-it!

Gosh Dang-it!

But, don’t worry, it still tasted great!

These are so fun and colorful.

These are so fun and colorful.

I can’t wait to take Adam back to North Market. Maybe during the summer when they are host to a huge, outdoor Farmer’s Market.

North Market
59 Spruce St.
Columbus, OH 43215
(614) 463-9664

Parking
On-site parking: $0.25 per quarter hour up to two hours*
* with a validation stamp from a North Market Merchant… So, buy something! You’ll love it!

Why Garden Weekend: Health

It’s no secret that vegetables are good for you. And when you have a well maintained garden, you’ll have a ton of vegetables.

Adam took this picture last August... So many veggies!

Adam took this picture last August… So many veggies!

I found that with a bowl of fresh cherry tomatoes on the counter, I am far less likely to even think about wanting to eat chips or candy. I want to eat the food that I grew. And, since you can’t grow a cheeseburger or chocolate bar, I am eating far more vegetables than I ever had since we started gardening.

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But, what might be even more of a secret is how good well maintained, backyard garden vegetables are for you.

Adam and I follow organic practices in our garden. Not because it’s “chic” and not because we are trying to avoid conventionally raised vegetables. We will likely never be certified organic, but that’s okay. We do it because we believe that food should be in its most authentic state, at least in the backyard. Tomatoes don’t need chemically infused fertilizers or pesticides. They need a little attention and some manual labor so that they can grow the way they were intended to. (Not to mention, in a backyard garden, organic practices are cheaper.)

Granted, when growers are producing far more tomatoes than I could even imagine in order to feed the planet, they need a little help in keeping diseases, weeds, and pests at bay. Enter the conventional vegetable.

And man, is there ever a debate about organic versus conventional food. Adam and I don’t even agree on everything.

One thing we do agree on is that if you are feeding your family vegetables, that is great. So few children, and adults, are eating nutrient rich vegetables that are grown with both conventional and organic practices.

Now, is one more nutritious than the other?

The jury is out on that one. There are tons of studies trying to prove organic is better than conventional or that there isn’t a difference, etc.

And, admittedly, I am not smart enough to even begin to try to prove one way or another. (I got my Bachelors in Hospitality for a reason… No science classes were involved.)

One thing I do know is that nutrient values are at their peak right when they are harvested. So, if you are in Indiana it may be better for you to get conventionally grown vegetables from the producer down the road versus organic vegetables from California that will have to travel for a few days.

Another thing Adam and I agree on: Buying local foods. It supports your community, and vitamins and antioxidants are more likely to get to your table.

So, in short, by gardening in my backyard, I know I am getting a vegetable full of the most nutrients possible.

But there are so many other reasons why gardening is good for your health outside of what you put into your mouth.

A big one is the physical activity involved with gardening. Gardening ranges from low intensity exercises, like weeding, to high intensity, like heavy lifting. Because there are so many different types of activity involved with gardening it is considered a full body workout.

Planting is considered a low impact gardening activity.

Planting is considered a low impact gardening activity.

The app “My Fitness Pal,” first of all, considers gardening activity. (It is still yet to recognize Pure Barre…) And second, says that for sixty minutes of general gardening I would burn 268 calories.

But, the amount of nutrients the vegetables produce or the number of calories burned may not even be the biggest health benefit of gardening. There are countless mental health benefits. (For the record: I like these reasons even more than the arguments for good nutrition and physical activity.)

The moving is good for your brain and happiness, but so is being outside. Breathing fresh air and soaking up a little Vitamin D helps you sleep better and feel more positive.

It may sound a little crazy… or “crunchy” or “Zen” (…I guess I’ll take Zen), but I love how working in the garden makes me feel more connected to the earth. Having a garden lets me get my hands dirty. Use all my senses with nature. I get to smell the vibrant herbs, feel the soil, and see the changes in a plant as it grows.

My job has me connected to screens, phones, and the road all day long so not only is working in the garden a major stress reliever, it brings me back to the basic elements. Earth. Air. Water. Warmth from the sun.

It reminds me through it’s simplicity that the world is beautiful.

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One Bird, Two Ways

This past fall, Adam and I raised fifty free range chickens for their meat, in addition to the egg laying hens.

If you knew me any time before 2011, go ahead and say it.

I know your thinking it.

Trust me. I thought it plenty of times too.

What. The. Hell.

What the hell am I doing with over fifty chickens in my backyard?

The only “chicken” in my backyard growing up was when we would play it in the pool.

Things that were in the backyard of my youth? A Jack Nicholas golf course and a large swing set… that was painted one of three colors permitted by the Home Owners Association.

I never looked into it, but chickens probably didn’t make that “permitted” list.

… Just a guess.

As insane as it does seem, it’s my reality. And, now with a freezer full of great, pasture raised chickens it all makes sense and it’s all worth it.

Don’t worry, friends… I have not totally converted. We took the birds somewhere else to get processed. They took care of everything, so our birds look just like a whole chicken I would get at the grocery store. Phew.

Adam and I have been experimenting with all sorts of recipes with these birds. This week, using one bird, we made two great and very different meals.

Because it’s only the two of us, we don’t need a whole bird for a meal so halving the chicken is a great way to insure there aren’t any left over’s. Here are the steps for dividing a whole chicken in half:

Note: I now understand why magazines, like Real Simple, walk readers through tips like these with illustrations. Photos of raw meat just don’t look that pretty. But, today, I am scraping vanity because I do think it helps seeing how it really works.

Put the chicken breast on a cutting board breast side down with the neck pointing away from you.

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First, starting from the front of the chicken, insert the knife and work it from the neck to the tail of the bird, cutting right along one side of the backbone. It is important to cut as close to the bone as you can.

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Make the same cut on the other side of the back bone and remove the spine.

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Keep the chicken breast side down and make a small slice in the skin and cartilige by the neck. Fold the chicken back and forth in order to snap the breastbone.

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Remove the “Keel” bone. This is the bone located inbetween the rib bones.

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Cut off any cartilige on the breastbone. Once removed, cut the bird in two down the middle of the breast.

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Make a small slice in the skin to tuck in the leg.

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Ta-Da... Done!

Ta-Da… Done!

With the first chicken half, we made Jerk Chicken.

We were in Jamaica the last week of Janaury and were welcomed back to the midwest by major snow storms and bitter cold. So, a couple nights ago, I picked up a six pack of Red Stripes and decided to make the quintessential Jamaican entrée.

Soaking up the sun!

Soaking up the sun!

My goal was to pretend like we were on the island, but once I put the chicken in the skillet, I didn’t have to pretend. My whole kitchen smelled like Jamaica. Yah, mon!

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1 habanero pepper, stem cut off
1 bunch scallions, but into pieces
2 cloves garlic smashed and peeled
1 ½ teaspoons dried thyme
2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon allspice
2 tablespoons soy sauce
Juice of one lime
2 tablespoons of vegetbale oil
3 ½-4 pounds chicken pieces

In a food processor, puree peppers, scallions, garlic, thyme, brown sugar, allspice, soy sauce, lime juice and oil.

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Put mixture into a large zip lock bag with the chicken pieces.

Let marinate in the refridgerator for at least one hour or up to twenty four hours.

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Grill until cooked through or sear on the stove in a skillet that can go in the oven and move into the oven for thiry minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. Use oil or spray to prevent sticking before cooking.

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If your going to have Jerk Chicken, you've gotta have some Red Stripes's to wash it down!

If your going to have Jerk Chicken, you’ve gotta have some Red Stripe’s to wash it down!

And with the other half of the bird I made a soup using some of our frozen garden vegetables. This super simple, spicy soup was easy to make and, excluding the spices, came straight from the backyard!

Frozen garden poblano peppers and sweet corn

Frozen garden poblano peppers and sweet corn

2 cups diced poblano peppers
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 diced large onion
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
4 minced cloves of garlic
32 ounces chicken broth
5 cups cooked and shredded chicken (Adam cooked the chicken the day before and seasoned it with a handful of spices from the pantry. Salt and pepper works great. You also could use a rotisserie chicken.)
4 cups of fresh or frozen corn
Black pepper to taste
Crumbled Queso Fresco or Moterary Jack Cheese for topping (If desired)

In a large pot, saute olive oil and onions over medium heat about 5-8 minutes. Add the spices and garlic and saute for a minute.

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Add chicken broth, shredded chicken, corn and poblanos and bring mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and let cook for thirty minutes.

Diced Poblanos

Diced Poblanos

Shredded Chicken.

Shredded Chicken.

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Serve right away. (… But, the left over’s make a great lunch!)

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Why Garden Weekends: Money

Okay, so… I had full intentions of doing “Why Garden Wednesday’s” all through the month of February to inspire you to start a backyard/balcony/windowsill garden this spring.

But, Wednesday came and went without a blog. I had been on the road for work, we had a major snow storm (again…), and I just wanted to spend sometime with this cute kid.

Sleep dude.

Sleepy dude.

Can you blame me?

Instead, welcome to “Why Garden Weekends!”

Spring is coming, even though it sure doesn’t seem like it in the Midwest, and every weekend in February I will be posting reasons on why YOU should start a garden.

So, without further adieu, Numero Uno, a reason top of mind for everyone: Money.

Last fall, I wrote as I reflected on the summer’s garden that gardening has definitely saved Adam and me a little cash. Thanks to the garden, I do not buy as a much at the grocery store and we are far less likely to go out to eat than we had been in the past. This is because we had so much food of our own to eat!

I have been seeking out garden workshops around Indiana to try to gain more knowledge and skill. At a program last September, put on by Purdue Extension, I picked up a flyer illustrating the benefits of gardening and the numbers listed for dollars saved. It’s impressive!

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Home gardening gives you a 1:25 cost benefit.

This means, if you were to spend $50 on seeds you could produce over $1,200 of food.

Here’s a break down of a few items from our garden explaining what we pay and what we could be paying if we were to purchase them at a store.

Organic, Pasture raised Eggs:

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Store Price: $3.50 per dozen

The chicks were $1 each and its $11 for feed every month. We get around 11 dozen eggs a month from our five hens. So, our eggs are about a $1.00 a dozen.

Organic Tomatoes:

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Store Price: $3.00 per pound

One tomato plant can give you around fifteen pounds of tomatoes. You could buy a tomato plant for about $2.50. We started our tomatoes from seeds and were able to get twenty plants of various varieties about six bucks. So, a pound of our backyard tomatoes were a whopping two cents.

Organic Zucchini:

I thought this was a funny picture from last summer.  Zucc's the size of wine bottles!

I thought this was a funny picture from last summer. Zucc’s the size of wine bottles!

Store Price: $3.00 per Pound

A packet of zucchini seeds is about $2.00. You could get about 10-15 zucchini plants per packet. Zucchini plants are like weeds. They just keep coming! We would get one zucchini from each plant about every day last summer. A typical plant will give you around nine pounds of zucchini each season.

We had six zucchini plants last summer making a pound of our zucchini about four cents.

Organic Cucumbers:

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Store Price: $2.00 per pound

A packet of cucumber seeds is about $1 and could give you thirty plants. We planted four cucumber plants and got about three pounds of cucumbers per week per plant when we were harvesting, making well over thirty pounds of cucumber for the season. Our cucumbers were less than three cents a pound.

Organic carrots:

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Store Price: $3.00 per pound

You have to sow carrot seeds directly into the ground. A packet of seeds is about $2.00 and you could yield at least thirty pounds of carrots from one packet.

We plan to plant many more carrot seeds next year. The taste of a backyard carrot versus a carrot from a bag of baby carrots in the store is amazingly different. It has so much more depth of flavor and at six cents a pound, why not?

When I start to add in our entire garden’s lettuce, broccoli plans, snap peas, strawberries, herbs, peppers, and more the savings really start to add up.

Money savings is one of the big reasons I enjoy sharing our garden stories. There are so many people in America struggling to feed their families, let alone feed their families well. Gardens help make this possible. The knowledge just needs to be shared. There are many groups around the nation such as Farm to School and Extension offices working to inform people the benefits of gardening and teach the skills needed.

Community and Urban Gardens are popping up in cities everywhere. And, SNAP, or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Plan, participants can purchase seeds or plants from any SNAP retailer or Farmers Market. This is awesome because the participants can use the seeds to grow food that they normally couldn’t purchase… in large quantities, too!

Still not convinced a backyard garden is worth it? Tune is next weekend and we will talk about your health.

Giveaway Winner and Happy Super Bowl!

Hope all you Bloom Babes are having a great Super Bowl Sunday!  Adam and I just got back from a great, relaxing and WARM week in Jamaica.  It has been nice to have today to unpack and get our lives back in order after living out of a suitcase.  

I am so excited to announce the winner of Bloom’s Among Friends Giveaway tonight!  As a newbie blogger it is so fun to see everyone’s responses.  I love that I asked for your favorite ways to prepare eggs because it left me incredibly inspired. From fried eggs in burgers to goat cheese in omelettes, ya’ll have made me want to get back on the wagon after a week in frozen drink paradise.  

Thank you for all your entries!  And, a BIG thanks to Among Friends for their amazing product for this giveaway.  Even if you aren’t a winner be sure to check out their store locator to find the products somewhere near you! 

And now without and further adieu….

The winner is BECCA!  

Becca shared her mother’s secret to Deviled Eggs– Horseradish!

… This is something my husband, the lover of all things spicy, would LOVE.

Becca- I will shoot you an email to figure out shipping the products to you!

Again, thank you all!  Enjoy the Super Bowl whether you are in it for The Seahawk’s, The Bronco’s, the commercials, the beer, or the food!

Here are a few fun Super Bowl Food Facts:

– Today is the second biggest day for most food consumption in America.  The first is Thanksgiving.

– Thanks to a career in the food industry, I am aware that ground beef prices have increased in the last couple weeks.  This is because it is the largest day of the year for beef consumption.  (… We are part of this trend… it’s chili for dinner tonight, complete with  frozen, summer sweet corn!)

– Dips are a Super Bowl Star.  Guacamole being a crowd favorite means that 208 million haas avocados will be consumed tonight.

– 1.25 Billion Chicken wings will be consumed this Super Bowl, according to the National Chicken Council, and it is also the 50th Anniversary of the Buffalo Wing.  In my book, that is something worth celebrating!

Enjoy!  Have fun!  And, may the best team >cough, BRONCOS, cough< WIN!!