Our Potted Garden, Spring Update 2011

Every spring I like to do an update on our potted garden, to look back and see what has survived the winter. Each year, we’re learning which plants are worth investing effort so we get as much enjoyment out of our garden as we put in. Here’s a link to last year’s update. During last summer, our baby son arrived 2 months early and I was also very ill, so our garden was severely neglected. But some plants really hung in there and have perked up after some recent tender care. The pumpkin and chamomile didn’t survive the winter though, and a new addition that’s been a success so far is the capsicum!

BASIL
I still have the three bushes of all-year-round basil. The eldest just doesn’t seem to want to give up, I keep removing the flowers, it keeps going on. Last summer the basil was very neglected and ended up very scrawny. I pruned it harshly, and now the three bushes are looking much better, even the eldest is still producing fragrant leaves. This is a surprise, as it must be 3 years old by now. The second season of sweet basil that the landlord Rose gave me finally died, but David’s father gave us some basil seeds planted in a pot when they last came to visit. These are now sprouted and David has planted the biggest of these into pots, we now have several new sweet basil plants for this season.

CAPSICUM
We collected some seeds from some capsicums and planted them in some pots. The strongest of the seedlings were planted into bigger pots, three to a pot. Now they are growing  fruit for our cooking! David keeps up the seaweed fertiliser on these, as with all the other flowering plants, to encourage them to keep fruiting and stay healthy.

CHILLIES
We’ve discovered to keep the chillies really happy, they simply need to be re-potted into new compost rich pots every year. We had several 2 and 3 year old plants that were looking terribly miserable and sure to die, we replanted half of them and they have done amazingly in a very short time. There are 3 very small 2 year old plants left that are in desperate need of a re-pot, which we hope to do this weekend. Even when they are scrawny, they still keep producing the red fruit so we always have some for our cooking. David’s father gave us a new variety of chilli plant, which now has its own large pot and is doing exceptionally well and is full of white flowers.

CHIVES
When the garden was being neglected, the chives suffered from a terrible case of a pest infestation, we think they were tiny black aphids. David had to spray them several times with pyrethrum until now they finally have perked up to their former happy selves. The problem though is that I’m guessing its because of that they haven’t flowered this year. Hopefully they will flower next season so we don’t loose our crop. David’s father has also given us some new chives, so we should be ok.

LAVENDER
After I pruned it last year, it has grown back and is flowering nicely, but now has some more branches growing in odd directions. It looks like it needs another prune, but I’ll wait till after the summer to do that. No cuttings of this bush have ever taken, so I still have just the one plant which is now 3 years old.

MINT
The mint was not happy at all after last summer, we lost the lemon balm and also the peppermint that was in the same pot. Luckily I had some peppermint in another pot and that is going fine. The mint looked awful, so we bought a special pot for it, a self watering one, because it really wants to be in the sun but also to be kept moist. Now the mint is doing great! These mints all used to be in hanging pots, as well as the strawberry, but we’ve given up on the hanging pots. They were the kind that has a coconut fibre lining which turned out be way too dry, all the moisture just seeped right out. The lining has been thrown into the garden for the birds, in case they want to use it to line their nests like they did last spring, and the metal cases are stored in the garage. Maybe one day we’ll live somewhere where they’ll come in handy.

PARSLEY
I don’t know what to do with our parsley! Its become very thin, with just a few individual plants, it doesn’t seem to be reproducing. It was supposed to flower and seed, which it has never done, and some of it is now 3 years old. David’s father has given us some new parsley so hopefully that will grow a bit better. Its so sparse at the moment that we can hardly use it in our cooking.

OREGANO AND MARJORAM
I still only have the two plants, one of each. They are looking very modest, but at least they survived last summer! They are now out in the sun with the rest of the plants. We’ve put all our pots where they can get rain, so no more pots under the roof. The oregano and marjoram are still in the same small pots on the shelf, which is now by the fence where they can get some sun.

DWARF LIME TREE
David’s mum helped him prune the lime tree when she visited us in the summer. This spring, it has sprouted shoots all over, even in the bare section that’s persisted all this time. Last season we did get a few more limes than the 3 we got the year before, and these got used in David’s cooking, mainly his spaghetti and meatballs. We lightly top dressed it again this winter, as we were just not brave enough to prune the root ball. Looks like it is doing fine without us doing that!

ROSEMARY
The rosemary is doing so well that I decided to invest in two new big pots for them. These plants seem very tough and managed the major neglect just fine! They were just kept in the sun the whole time, had good drainage, and didn’t complain at all.

ROCKET
Our amazing crop of rocket seeded in the winter, and we just finished collecting the last of the seeds. We have many, many seeds from the rocket now, it did so well. Now we don’t have to always wait for the rocket to flower and can keep up new crops for eating. I’m looking forward to making some salads, instead of just having rocket on sandwiches.

TOM’s GARDEN
When David’s dad visited us, he brought with him many seedlings from his home in Stanthorpe where he grows his own food. He also made a special planter box for Thomas with all sorts of plants in it, like beetroot and broccoli. There is lettuce and spinach, which we eat and there is plenty for us, as well as David has used the shallots in his cooking. Its busting with plants right now, and is a great addition to our potted garden.

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Feast for a Day – Valentine's (part two)

After much planning and a full day of preparation yesterday, this is what we actually ended up having for our special day-long celebration today for both Valentine’s and Chinese New Year.

breakfast
Love Heart Fried Eggs with Smoked Salmon, generous dollops of hollandaise sauce and a sprinkling of fresh chives
Homemade Tomato, Capsicum, Chilli and Garlic Pull-apart Bread
Peppermint & Lemon Balm Tea with honey
Chocolate Coffee with cream & sugar

mid-morning snack
Mint & Ginger Fruit Punch
Poorman’s Caviar with Corn Chips
Lemon Myrtle & Pistacio Biscotti dipped in cinnamon honey

lunch
Smoked Salmon & Carrot Sushi
more Mint & Ginger Fruit Punch

afternoon desert
Love Heart Icecream Cake with strawberries, chocolate sauce, and crumbled pink merringue

dinner
Lemon Myrtle & White Fish Cakes with Sweet Chill Sauce and Basil Fried Rice

How to make

Icecream Cake
6 scoops of strawberry shortcake icecream mixed with 6 cut up caramel chocolates, a handful of crushed cashews, 3 crumbled chocolate biscuits, press into a cling-wrap lined heart-shaped small cake tin and freeze overnight

Mint & Ginger Fruit Punch
1 can of fizzy soft drink (we used Lemon Squash), a tablespoon of fresh ginger juice (grate and mix with a little tonic water then strain), add cut up 2 nectarines, 1 orange, a handful of strawberries and love-heart shaped ice cubes, a handful of fresh mint leaves, top up with Mango Juice as required

Feast for a Day – Valentine's

It’s important for strong mental health to mark the passage of time with friends and loved ones by celebrating special occasions together. This year, Valentine’s Day falls on a Sunday so this will be the last weekend day for a couple of years. Next year, David will be at work. So David and I have decided we shall celebrate with a day long feast!

To design the menu, we came up with three words to describe our greatest hopes for our relationship, this being the time to celebrate “love”. We then assigned colours and foods to these themes, then created a menu with each dish containing at least one thing from each theme. Another way to describe this “spell” we made up is to describe it as a “positve affirmation”, because after you eat each dish, you could think or whisper the three romantic words together! The only hocus-pocus here is to remind ourselves of our goals for our life together, and to consolidate it in a yummy but meaningful way.

Passion – Longevity – Faith

Passion – heat, red, sweet, blood
(eg. chillies, pepper, honey, mint, tomatoes, red wine, red kidney beans, red capsicum, rosewater, strawberries, passionfruit, lamb, ham, salmon, wasabi, coffee etc.)
Longevity – life, health, trees, green
(eg. rosemary, basil, oregano, marjoram, lemon myrtle, lemon balm, olive oil, eggs, eggplant, apples, linseed, tree nuts, nutmeg, peas, dairy, flour, rice, citrus etc.)
Faith – earth, strong, white, reliability
(eg. potatoes, water, onions, carrots, chives, chocolate, garlic, ginger, groundnuts (peanuts), cinnamon, mayonaise, etc.)

DRAFT Feast for a Day menu (will post fotos of what we actually did later)
(if you use this idea on your website, please link back to my blog, thanks!)

breakfast
Peppermint, Lemon Balm and Ginger Tea (passion, longevity, faith)
Hot Chocolate Coffee with Cream (passion, longevity, faith)
Heart-shaped Eggs Benedict with Smoked Salmon and Chives (passion, longevity, faith)
Garlic and Tomato Homebaked Bread (passion, longevity, faith)

morning tea
Heart-shaped Rosewater and Peanut Cookies (passion, longevity, faith)
Spice Milk Chai, incl. caffiene, ginger, nutmeg etc. (passion, longevity, faith)

lunch
Salmon and Carrot Sushi Rolls with Sweet Chilli Sauce and Wasabi (passion, longevity, faith)
Mango Juice with sprigs of mint and ginger (passion, longevity, faith)
Apple Juice with floating strawberries and a dusting of cinnamon sugar (passion, longevity, faith)

dinner
Roast Lamb with Rosemary and Garlic (passion, longevity, faith)
Basil Fried Rice with Peas, Onion, Red Capsicum and Chilli (passion, longevity, faith)
red wine (passion) to be served in green glasses with white ribbon (longevity & faith)
Garlic and Tomato Homebaked Bread (passion, longevity, faith)

snack and drink ideas
Pistacio and Lemon Myrtle Biscotti with Honey and Cinnamon dip (passion, longevity, faith)
Hot Apple Tea with Cinnamon and Honey (passion, longevity, faith)
pappadoms with carrot and margoram dip (passion, longevity, faith)
corn chips with tomato and onion salsa (passion, longevity, faith)
Poorman’s Caviar  – red capsicum, eggplant, garlic (passion, longevity, faith)

desert
Love-heart Shaped Pavlovas with Strawberries, Cream and a drizzling of chocolate sauce (passion, longevity, faith)
Strawberry Shortcake Icecream with a dusting of sweetened cocoa powder (passion, longevity, faith)

make before the day
garlic and tomato bread
rosewater and peanut cookies
peppermint and lemon balm tea
hollandaise sauce and pavlova shells (or merringues)
pistacio and lemon myrtle biscotti

The Best Way to Serve Nachos

Whenever we’ve eaten nachos at restaurants or elsewhere, David and I are usually disappointed by how it’s served. You have to eat all the dip before getting to the chips at the bottom which are almost always soggy by the time you get there.

I made my version of nachos for David last week and here’s a picture! We have a separate small bowl each which has some nacho salsa in the bottom, and I serve this with a fork. On top of the nacho salsa I put a sprinkle of grated cheese, a dollop of sour cream and some sweet chilli sauce. Some plain corn chips are then stuck in the top where you can get to them easily, the rest of the corn chips I serve in a separate bowl.

I’d forgotten I had bought some prepared nacho salsa, as its been ages since I’ve made this and thought I might need it. But I went on auto pilot, this being a common recipe from my past. I made a vegetarian salsa for the nachos, with a red kidney bean and tomato base. Here’s a photo of the ingredients before I began. I also added some soy sauce and sugar later to taste.

Vegetarian Nacho Salsa
1. fry a finely chopped onion, a diced capsicum and some mushrooms, a fresh chopped chilli with seeds removed, a teaspoon of garlic, some olive oil
2. move the mixture to one side of the pan while you add a drained can of red kidney beans and squish them lightly with a potato masher
3. add a can of chopped tomatoes, stir it all up well
4. add fresh herbs like oregano and basil, also soy sauce and a tablespoon of sugar to taste
5. serve with plain corn chips, grated cheese, sour cream and sweet chilli sauce