Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Homemade Vanilla, berries and a green bean recipe

This past week has been a fairly busy week and as my running partner commented, "you guys are traveling A LOT this summer."  Yes, my running schedule has been kind of taking second (or third) fiddle.  The garden is looking pretty good.

Here in the Mid-Atlantic we got a lot of rain (as I think a lot of the rest of the country has gotten too).  My tomatoes will hopefully survive.  In one of my crazy "homesteader" moments, I decided to plant watermelon and pumpkins in some pots in the backyard.

Our backyard is composed more of clover than it is of grass and my husband and I are not really motivated to change it as the weeds from neighboring yards and common areas would ultimately take over our yard anyway.  Another big reason is we have a dog.

Our townhouse backyard is used more for him than it is for us.  Most of my gardening occurs upstairs in this great elevated, large planter my parents got for me.  It's great because no pests/squirrels, etc. get into it and I don't have to worry about my dog eliminating in my green beans.  Win-win.  Anyways, I decided pumpkins and watermelons are pretty protected from doggy gifts.  I also thought, our backyard already looks like a rain forest, so it wouldn't really wreck the appearance to have some plants there.  Well... when we got back from our last vacation, my husband commented that there was some plant that was climbing up our fence.  It actually appears like it could be out of "Jack and the Beanstalk".  My husband asked if it was the watermelon or the pumpkin.  I told him by the looks of it, I would guess the pumpkin.  The seed packet said "Giant Pumpkins, up to 100 pounds".  I didn't really believe that... But we will see : )

My green beans are looking good, I am making my first batch of one of my favorite green bean recipes I came up with randomly:

Meg's Mediterranean Green Beans:

Green Beans (1-2 handfuls), I usually boil them, but have done frozen and canned when needed.
2-3 Tbsp Olive oil
2-3 Tbsp Balsamic vinegar
Abundant feta cheese (I like to use Trader Joe's mediterranean blend feta cheese)
Oregano to taste

The pumpkins' success must be due to the fertility of our backyard.  Our backyard does not seem to be good for growing grass, but it seems good for growing everything else.  My raspberry bush, which I planted when we moved in about 3 years ago, is taking off as usual and is almost bionic, it even tries growing up between our paving stones and has taken out other plants.   I got about a pint of a raspberries from it daily last year.  I trimmed it back to the size of a medium planter and the thing has still taken off.

Next to the bush is a composter I got through our county.  (Check out if your county has a composting program, I actually was able to get the composter for free through Whole Foods and being a county resident).  Due to being a townhome and close to a large city, I don't compost food, mostly plants and old soil, some cardboard and newsprint.  Next to that is a potted grape vine which gave me two large containers of Concord grapes last year and is also bionic.  I actually gave a friend some clippings from my raspberry bush last year and she said it is taking off in her yard too.  The funny thing is, I asked the nursery I got the plant from, what is a good or organic way to keep it under control?  They said that they've really never had a problem, most people complain about the plants failure to thrive.  Hmm.

I also finally got around to making another batch of homemade vanilla.  This is super easy, makes great gifts for people at Christmas (it takes 4-6 months of sitting fairly passively, so now is the time to do it).   It's also very economical and money saving to make your own if you do a lot of holiday baking and it's better quality than what I have found in most normal grocery stores.


I used the above recipe and ordered the Madagascar vanilla beans from Olive Nation (see below link, where I believe you get a 10% off your first order, this post contains affiliate links, and if you make a purchase I may receive a small commission at no cost to you).


Last year I simply gathered all the leftover vodka that seemed to accumulate in my household and my parents' (it's amazing how many people bring vodka to parties/get-togethers and how much is just sitting around).  This year I broke down and bought a bottle.

So that's what I've been up to (plus another trip back to the midwest for an excellent family reunion and time for my son with his grandparents).

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