Monday, April 19, 2010


So there's a brave new experiment going on these past few weeks in the City Girl household. We're starting this year's garden from seeds! This is a first for me, so I of course, sought some advice from the web. And I found this nifty little idea for starting seedlings in empty water or milk jugs.

Now, before you scold me for my ecological unfriendliness of buying water let me just say that we happen to live in a home old enough to have lead pipe connecting the city water service to our house. Supposedly not an issue if you run your water long enough before drinking, but would you take chances with the adorable twin boys we have? I didn't think so! So bottled water for the babes it is.

But even better if I can re-purpose the jugs right?! So the idea couldn't be simpler. You cut the jug in half, plant your seeds, put the top back on and supposedly this creates a greenhouse like environment which helps them grow even better! Since we have no room in my house for me to leave growing seedlings around anywhere, I had to put them out on our three season porch which is cold. So I also invested in a warming mat and grow light. I told myself it'll pay off in the long run. I didn't mark the day that the experiment started but I'd venture a guess it was around mid-March.

Here's some photos for proof of my City Girl experiment. See how big my tomatoes are getting! And these were taken a whole week ago! In the picture of four jug bases, the one with much smaller plants is my broccoli. All three others are tomatoes. Perhaps my experiment worked too good though: I had needed only six tomato plants and I have 15 healthy seedlings! All the better for sharing, right?

What new things are you trying this year in your garden? Next up, as soon as I get another break from those twin boys, The Great City Girl Garden Expansion! Yup, we're tripling the size of our garden space this year. Have I bitten off more than I can chew? Only time will tell!

Eastern European Vegetable Stew

We started a new tradition in the City Girl household in which our oldest (almost 5 year old) gets to choose whatever vegetables or fruit he wants at the co-op when we go shopping. I do this partly to let him feel like he 'gets' something of his own choosing at the store, and partly so he can feel invested in some of the fruits and vegetables we buy in the hopes that he's more likely to eat them.

Now, don't get me wrong. This kid is a fabulous vegetable eater and always has been! But we're talkin' the 'normal' veggies. You know, green beans, broccoli, corn, carrots, peas. Those kinda things. So last year when we joined a CSA there was plenty he turned his nose up at. So my hope was that by letting him have some fun with it during these winter months when we have to go purchasing them at the co-op, that he might get into some of these more 'unusual' veggies a bit more before this year's CSA starts up again.

So last week he declared,"Let's get some of these radishes!" while holding up a bunch of beets. After my chuckling subsided I explained that they were beets and told him I think I knew just the thing we could make with them.

Another one of our recent endeavors is to involve him more in the cooking. I find that when he has helped to make something, even something he might normally turn his nose up at, he's typically more invested and more willing (sometimes even eager!) to give it a try. So, we made Eastern European Vegetable Stew from the Moosewood Restaurant Daily Special cookbook. He helped cut the onions, using his kids' scissors. (Really it works great! Try it!) Dumped them in and helped stir the soup. I showed him what the beets looked like as I chopped them. And lo and behold Little City Boy ate not just one bowlful but THREE! He LOVED it! What a joyful dinner we had!

So City Girl wants to know: Do you have any tips for involving the kids in cooking? Anything that helps your kiddos get excited about trying healthy foods? I only recently learned the kid scissors trick and am psyched that there's now some 'chopping' Little City Boy can help with too! They work great on onions, peppers, spinach, and pretty much anything that's not a very hard vegetable. Of course, the grown-up has to do some work - I chopped the onions into slices first and then he cut up the slices with his scissors.

And don't you worry - This City girl is not holdin' out on you! In case you want to try it at home, here's the recipe. As I look at this again, I realize we forgot to add the cider vinegar but it still tasted great!

Eastern European Vegetable Stew
2 T vegetable oil or olive oil
2 c chopped onions
3 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 c peeled & diced potatoes
1 c peeled & diced carrots
1 c peeled & diced parsnips
2 c peeled & diced turnips and/or rutabaga (I used 1 c each)
2 c peeled & diced beets
6 c water
2 t salt
2 bay leaves
1 T minced fresh thyme (1 t dried)
1/4 c cider vinegar
5 c rinsed & chopped beet greens, Swiss chard, or spinach

1/2 c sour cream or plain nonfat yogurt (optional - but oh so good! City Girl would never eat this without it because in my opinion it makes the soup!!)

In a large soup pot, heat the oil and add the onions and garlic. Cover & saute on medium heat for about 7 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions are soft. Add the potatoes, carrots, parsnips, turnips and/or rutabaga, beets, water, salt, bay leaves, and herbs. Cover and bring to a boil; then cook on medium-low heat for 15 minutes.

Add the vinegar and greens. Gently simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, until the greens are tender. Serve garnished with a dollop of sour cream or yogurt if you like.