August 27, 2011

Summer Garden

Today is all about being productive.  You have to just love the days where you wake up and feel like you can accomplish anything.  First thing on my list today was to share my experience with gardening this year with my blog readers.  Now that it is summer my garden is overwhelmed with fresh vegetables and I am finding new ways to sneak vegetables into every dish-even dessert!

This year I tried a few new vegetables and there have been successful yields and unsuccessful yields.  I had decided to try Kohlrabi and within a month or so it was clear that nothing was growing and that the foliage was dying.  I am not sure what went wrong, perhaps the really hot days in July was too much, but perhaps I will try planting it earlier next year.  The other misstep this year was my broccoli which I have heard is hard to grow in Calgary.  It all seemed to be going quite good and I was even starting to get broccoli florets until I went out the other day and there were tons of caterpillars that had eaten all my broccoli and its greens.  So out the broccoli and the caterpillars went before they could spread.  Thank goodness I had beets beside them and I do not believe they like the beet tops because they seem to be fine.  Oh well, we will try again next year.  My tomatoes also did not grow, I ended up with 3 tomatoes and they have still not turned from their green state, however a relative told me that you are supposed to fertilize them quite frequently so we will give it a go next year and fertilizer will be our friend.

Now to focus on the positives- my zucchini is growing like crazy!!!  Friends at my previous work told me to only plant two zucchini plants and I would have more than enough.  Well do you think I listened-of course not.  I had to plant three zucchini plants and now I have more zucchini than I know what to do with.  But I am quite happy with having an abundance of zucchini, I even made my first chocolate zucchini cake. The cake was delicious and not even too sweet as the zucchini kept it even for taste and gave the cake lots of moisture.

Gluten Free Chocolate Zucchini Layered Cake with Chocolate Cream Cheese Filling

1 package Betty Crocker Gluten Free Devil's Food Cake Mix
3 beaten eggs
1/3 cup water
1 1/2 cup shredded zucchini, unpeeled
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce (flavored or unflavored)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

Cream Cheese Frosting/Filling

400g container light cream cheese
1 1/2 cups gluten free icing sugar
1 tbsp butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup melted dark chocolate 

1. Heat oven to 350F.  Grease the bottom and sides of  two 8 inch square or round cake pans. 
2. Mix all the cake ingredients together until well blended and pour an even amount into each cake pan. 
3. Bake for 45-50 minutes until toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the centre of the cake. 
4. Allow cake to cool for a few minutes and then remove from the pan and allow it to completely cool on a baking rack. 
5. To make the filling, mix together all the frosting ingredients and set in a refrigerator until ready to use. 
6. To assemble the cake, place one of the cakes on a serving plate and cover with with ample cream cheese filling.  Top with the second layer of cake.  
7. To finish the top of the cake you could add more cream cheese frosting or cover with a light sprinkle of icing sugar.  Top with fresh raspberries and enjoy!

Other parts of my garden that are flourishing are the yellow golden potatoes which are delicious and yielded an earlier crop than my red potatoes I planted last year.  I have dug up a few and they are of a good size and they will continue to grow into September, so perhaps I will try to post a few yummy potato recipes. My beets are growing well, my red beets have grown much better than my golden beets which only some of them grew, others never got a start.  If you have a chance to grow golden beets they taste a bit sweeter and add a vibrant color to sauteed beets and carrots which is one of our favorite side dishes. 

Our lettuce grew like crazy or perhaps it might have to do with the large number of seeds I put in the ground in one spot, but we have been enjoying a variety of salads throughout the summer.  If you are just starting out with gardening lettuce is one of the easiest things to grow and even  with Calgary's short growing season you can usually replant at least once and get two crops out of the same spot in the garden.  Another easy produce item to grow is carrots.  Again, I think I planted way too many, but we will never complain about to many carrots!  This year we tried planting purple carrots which are quite unique in their appearance but I cannot detect a taste difference, but just for the difference in color I would plant them again and they grew bigger than my orange carrots. 

For peas I planted two varieties, a snow pea which requires a large fence or something to grow up against and I am not overly happy with the taste of the peas.  They are excellent for stirfries, but to just eat out of the garden then have very little taste.  The other variety I planted were snap peas which do not require a fence, but I would recommend a small fence for extra support.  Although there were less peas they were much fresher and crispier in taste, will definitely plant them again.  We also planted bush beans and they are growing really well and are very easy to grow.  Our green onions have flourished, but our yellow onions have not grown barely at all, but this is due to being overshadowed by my potato foliage.  This is an example of why it is important to plan and think about what will grow best where, each year you learn a little bit more of what works and what does not. The last item we are still waiting on are our cucumbers.  They have flowers and hopefully something will grow soon, but they are being a bit overshadowed by the three zucchini plants I just had to have!  

I also wanted to share an amazing place we went to in Calgary, it is called Big Hills Springs Provincial Park (out west on highway 567).  There are waterfalls galore and it is a simple hike for adults and kids.  We did some photos out there thanks to Lukowich Photography and wanted to share a few of my blossoming girls who are getting ready for Kindergarten in a few weeks (I cannot believe how quickly time flies!)

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