Simple Roasted Vegetables

What’s one of the easiest, tastiest ways to enjoy eating your vegetables? Roasting them!  No matter what season it is, simple roasted vegetables are an excellent way to prepare an evening meal.  Roasting vegetables is one of the best ways to use up storage vegetables or just a way to clean out the crisper!

Roasted vegetables work so well as a side dish, a vegetarian meal or with meat added to the pan to create a one dish meal.  Try using chicken, pork or sausage made from chicken or pork.  Our favorite option uses local pork sausage mixed with as many veggies as we can fit on the pan.

Snip sausage with kitchen scissors.

Use a large cookie sheet or roasting pan.  I use my kitchen scissors to cut the sausage in 2″ pieces.

Chopped turnip and beets.

On to the vegetables!  A number of years ago, a friend mentioned that she had been just roasting veggies every night.  No matter what they were, she would simply cook them in the oven.  Broccoli was one veggie that she specifically mentioned.  I had always steamed broccoli.  After trying this method of cooking, I now roast broccoli whenever I can.  As you can see above, beets and turnip can be chopped uniformly to add to your pan.

Cauliflower and broccoli cook up nicely.

Cauliflower and broccoli cook up about the same when you roast them.  Broccoli tends to get a little singed on the edges.  Cauliflower is wonderful when roasted with garlic and then pureed to emulate mashed potato.  Just know that the garlic flavor is quite potent!

Parsnips and carrots have so much flavor.

What would this one pan dinner be without carrots and parsnips?  The sweet flavors are almost like eating candy.  This is one way to use up smaller homegrown carrots.  The ones that are a nuisance to deal with.  Give them a scrub, cut off the end and throw into the pan.  Sometimes our local farm stand has parsnips as big as your forearm.  It only takes one of these to make a meal special and give it that earthy, sweet parsnip taste.

Sweet potatoes are as sweet as can be!

Did I mention sweet potato?  Cut them into chunks or slice like in this photo.  They are fabulous.  It seems that when you roast vegetables, everything just goes together.

Brussel sprouts, mushrooms, cauliflower and beets, ready for the oven.

This past year, I started roasting brussel sprouts.  I’ve grown to love them in this way.  They are especially good with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.  Don’t forget that you can use pieces of white potato, asparagus, green beans and bell peppers.  Winter squash wedges are really good too.

Onions are do sweet when roasted.

Onions turn into pure perfection when roasted with other vegetables.  Soft with crispy edges.

Try not to overcrowd the pan!

I literally throw this meal together.  It’s almost like a convenience food for me.  I simply chop, assemble and then we are about an hour away from an awesome meal.  In my oven, the roasted veggies come out best cooked for about an hour at 400 degrees F.  Before placing in the oven, drizzle or spritz with olive oil if desired.  If you are using sausage, go easy on the oil.  Toss in some garlic cloves and sprinkle with salt, pepper, garlic powder or brown sugar.  Whatever you like.  Stir vegetables half way through cooking.

A delicious meal!

The resulting meal is so delicious and satisfying.  The flavors all blend together.  It may be simple to make roasted vegetables but the flavors are anything but.  I think that you should make it tonight!  If you have some vegetables in the fridge that are borderline or if some of your veggies stored from your fall harvest are looking sad, try this sumptuous one pan meal!  I hope that you will enjoy it as much as our family does!  Thanks for coming along this week as Everlongardener explores the simple art of roasting veggies!  Don’t forget to subscribe for free in the sidebar for my weekly garden related ramblings!

Hilary|Everlongardener

 

Itching To Garden

It doesn’t take long for the weary gardener to start dreaming about gardening once more.  That first seed catalog shows up and it starts all over again.  By November, many of us want that garden to be covered in snow so we can have a well deserved break.  But, as with most cycles in life, we soon find ourselves itching to garden!

Sometimes I hear people talking about living where you can garden year round.  I’m sure I could deal with that but a chance to regroup, recharge and start over also is appealing.  When I worked in gardening with a group of woman, we definitely needed a break from gardening by the time winter came.  While working at a nursing home, my employer would joke about getting older.  “When I get to that point, just replace my hands with trowels and I’ll sit in my wheelchair and move the dirt around!”  Or something like that.

Fresh garden produce!

My garden planning starts in the summer.  As things grow and mature, I think about the next year.  What will I do differently?  How can I improve or simplify something?  I may see new varieties late in the season and add them to my list of ideas.  Or I see plants or methods when I’m out and about that I would like to try.  It’s a never ending process.

Come, sit for a spell!

After a fresh blanket of snow I worry about the tiny garlic cloves nestled in the dirt.  I think about the small salad greens under layers of protection.  I wonder if the carrots that I left in the ground have enough mulch (probably not!).  Yet, there is nothing I can do about it at this point. Just have to wait it out and see what the spring brings.

Greenhouse surrounded by snow.

During severe weather, I often imagine the early settlers trying to make it through the harsh winters.  I remember the characters in the book Come Spring, a novel by Ben Ames Williams about a local town in the late 1700’s. Trying to grow and put up enough corn to last the winter. Barely surviving the winter and some didn’t.  Scrounging for the first spring dandelions and wild onions to eat. Winter is so different for us these days.  Sure, we have storms, bad roads and cold but it’s not the same as roughing it in a cabin for months on end.  Just a few things that I reflect upon that makes me appreciate being in a snug house when the snow flies.  We can talk about being more self-sufficient but how many of us would survive?  In an interview with “no work” gardener Ruth Stout, she admitted that she hadn’t been to the grocery store in 14 years.  Can you imagine?  Her gardening techniques may have been seemingly haphazard and yet she did fine.

60-70 degrees in the greenhouse.

Although there is very little work to do in the greenhouse, time spent in it is good for the soul.  Temperatures soar on these bright February days.  The plastic sides are usually covered in frost but the sun pours in just the same. It would be a good idea to tidy it up on one of these sunny days before things get too hectic.

Snow on the woodpile.

With our recent blizzard, fine flakes of snow filtered through every nook and cranny of our wood shed.

Anyone home?

I was thinking of all of our pollinators and beneficial critters as I took this picture of our bat house.  I’m not really sure if the bats took up residence in there but I do see bats at dusk and sometimes dawn, flying against the dim sky.

Winter scenes.

Even with the gardens under a blanket of snow, there are plenty of photo ops around the yard.  That blazing sun just makes everything look picturesque!  I’ve especially been enjoying the hydrangeas this winter.

Still flowers to capture in the garden!

Many of you will be starting seeds soon.  I have to admit that my seed starting skills are a bit lacking.  I’m more of a direct seed kind of girl.  A few of my friends grow some very sturdy seedlings.  I have started some onions as part of an experiment and a few tomato seeds that came free from Baker Creek Seeds.

Last year at this time, I was posting about Gardening In February.  The weather was so mild, that I decided to clean up several garden beds right then.  We were also tapping trees for maple syrup.  For now, I’m just as happy that there is snow on the ground and that there is a bit more time for garden planning.  That’s all for this week here at Everlongardener.  How is your garden planning going?  Are you itching to garden?  Leave me a comment or a question.  I would be glad to hear from you!

Hilary|Everlongardener

DIY Pressed Flower Notecards

Ever since I was little, I’ve been pressing flowers in the summertime.  Every dictionary and encyclopedia we had was jammed with Queen Anne’s Lace, roses and just about any other wild flowers I could get my hands on.  Nowadays, I have my trusty 5 year old helper to assist me with all of my crafty projects.  With some blank cards and pressed plants we were ready to make some DIY pressed flower notecards!

In August, we went out to the garden to find flowers for pressing.  Not all flowers work well for this.  Look for flowers that have single petals.  You can even plant ahead for your future projects.  We like cosmos, nasturtiums, lobelia, individual hydrangea blossoms and French marigolds.  Pansies, daisies, borage, California poppies, delphiniums and ferns.   The possibilities are endless!  In fall, we collected various fallen leaves to press also.

On a dry day, pick the freshest specimens.  Fully opened flowers work best.  Bring a basket and scissors with you into the garden.  Press them as soon as possible to prevent wilting.

Pressing flowers last summer!

If you don’t have a real flower press, any heavy book will do.  Make sure that you use sheets of paper under and over the flowers that you press so they won’t bleed in the pages of your books.

Checking to see how our flowers turned out.

We were excited to see how our sweet little blooms did, sandwiched between the layers!  Like tiny jewels, our pressed flowers were adorable and glowing with color.

Make a flower garden picture!

Using a glue stick, we carefully placed the tiny flowers onto the cards.  Use your imagination!  Patterns, abstract, wherever you want to place them.  Pressed flower creations can even be framed under glass.

Position flowers where you want them to go.

Tweezers are very helpful.  But, these little fingers were eager to participate!

Add some foliage to your flowers.

Because we pressed foliage along with the blossoms, the cards have a very natural look.  Like miniature flower gardens ready to send in the mail!

Autumn leaves can be used too!

The colors of these autumn leaves really stayed true!

Cut clear plastic to fit cards.

After you have positioned all of the pressed flowers, it’s time to make sure they are not going to be crushed.  By using clear contact paper or laminating sheets, you can ensure a beautiful card that someone can treasure for some time to come.  They will adore their virtual bouquet!

Pair your card with an envelope.

Feel free to make your own cards and envelopes if you have the skill.  Blank cards and matching envelopes can be purchased in most craft or art stores.

Our finished cards, ready to send!

This project has made me look forward to next years flower gardens.  What to plant and what to preserve.  What crafts do you like to save for winter snow days?  This is an excellent nature craft for kids.  I hope it gives some inspiration to you!  Thanks for checking it out!

Hilary|Everlongardener

Grow Your Own Sunflower Shoots

Of all the microgreens and shoots out there, sunflower shoots may just be king of the windowsill.  Easy to grow, quick to mature, a snap to harvest and totally nutritious!  If you haven’t tried growing your own sunflower shoots, it may be the new winter food you have been looking for.  What exactly are sunflower shoots?

Sunflower shoots are the young, edible seedlings of sunflower plants.  Within a weeks time, a batch of sunflower shoots are ready.  A nutritional powerhouse, they are full of vitamins, minerals, amino acids and protein.  They are also considered a complete protien.   Check out the impressive nutritional information at Markito Nutrition.  As for taste, they are crunchy with a pleasant nutty flavor.  They almost have a succulent quality about them.  In the article A Salad’s Surprise Shot of Flavor, chef Robert Newton says, “They taste like a sunflower seed, kind of, but with chlorophyll.”  I would have to agree!

Start with some sunflower seeds.

It is said that you can use black oil sunflower seeds for growing.  If food safety is a concern, purchase seed from a reputable sprout company that tests for food-borne pathogens.  The Sprout House is a good company.  I’m sure there are many sellers out there.  At Savvy Gardening, they recommend a 12 hours soak for the seeds, then another rinse and soak.  I’ve had great result without even soaking but it would probably speed things along.

Planting shoots and microgreens.

Sunflower shoots can be grown in a plant pot, seed starting tray or a recycled container.  The roots are shallow.  Just make sure you have a few inches of soil.  Use a food safe growing mix.  No fertilizer is necessary.  Press down the soil and scatter the seeds thickly across the surface of the soil.  Sprinkle additional soil over seeds.  Some growers just firmly place another tray over the seeds to block the light for a few days.  For the home grower, covering the seeds with dirt works just fine.

They are growing!

Within a few days, your little shoots will be reaching for the sun to become a thick sunflower shoot forest!  You can even have a few batches going at once for a continual harvest.

Sunflower shoots emerging!

As your shoots grow, pick off the seed coats to allow them to open fully.

Sunflower forest, ready for cutting.

When the shoots are at 4″ or so, cut them with scissors.  Always wash shoots in cool water and store in a bag.  They will last when stored in this way for a few weeks.  Don’t allow them to grow beyond the shoot stage.

Give Shoots a thorough washing.

Sunflower shoots make a fantastic plant to grow with children.  The seeds are big enough for even the tiniest of hands to grasp and they love watching the fat seedlings rise up through the soil.  Getting my son to even try them is another story all together!

Salad garnished with shoots and microgreens!

Typical uses for sunflower shoots are salads, sandwiches, smoothies and can be used as a garnish.  But, think beyond this.  Try them as a substitute for bean sprouts.  Throw them last minute into a stir-fry.  Use them anywhere you think they will compliment the meal.  Sunflower shoots are an excellent way to get through the winter and a wonderful addition to your winter windowsill garden!

For more information on shoots and microgreens, go to my articles Easily Grow Windowsill Microgreens or Grow Pea Shoots in 4 Super Easy Steps.  Thank you for joining me this week at Everlongardener and happy growing!

Hilary|Everlongardener