Gardening – Organic and Fresh (my April garden update)


So I started my garden about a month ago.. With 3 (4’x4’x8″) raised cedar garden beds (no leeching of pressure treated wood chemicals into my soil!), some, organic garden soil, organic soil conditioner with a high humus content, and peat moss mixed into some of my existing, very clay-like soil.  I also fixed up my original flower bed that’s about 5’x5′ and have some smaller garden boxes along side my house and deck containing various flowers / plants / edibles.

I’ve only planted a few things so far but I started a lot of seeds indoors and plan to buy a few more plants to round out the gardens.  I still need cucumbers, chili peppers and jalapenos, kale/swiss chard (might be too late though..) and yellow squash. I’ll update every now and then but here’s what I’ve got so far.

I’ve also been gifted two blueberry bushes 🙂 of different varieties for better pollination, and I have a raspberry bush I bought.  As of yet I can’t figure out where to put them.. in the front yard where I have space but hoodlums can steal my berries?? OR in the back yard where I’m pretty much out of sunny spots to plant.. HM!!

Herbs: Thai basil, basil, oregano, dill
Vegetables: zucchini, delicata squash, mixed bell peppers
Fruit: Cherry& heirloom tomatoes
Flowers: Nasturtium, marigold, some unidentified flower from a friend

Planted this season so far:
Vegetables: Sugar snap peas, garden peas, broccoli, spinach, mixed fancy lettuce, radishes
Fruit: strawberries

Returning Perennials:
Herbs: Rosemary, parsley, sage, mint
Flowers: mums, creeping purple flowers, some yellow wild flower

New plants that still need to be put in the ground:
Fruit: raspberries & blueberries (not in the ground yet)
Herbs: basil

April 22, 2011
Gardening, General


Garlic, Ginger, Leek: The Trifecta of Awesomeness


Any time you’re about to make a stir fry or curry, indian food or the like, start here.

These three ingredients have a permanent and integral role in my kitchen, and for good reason: they make food delicious.

Fresh garlic (much more flavorful than pre-diced or powder)

Fresh ginger (so good!)

Leek (because I won’t go near onion and everyone can agree leek tastes delicious)

IMG 1096 300x244   Garlic, Ginger, Leek: The Trifecta of Awesomeness

Trifecta of awesomeness: Garlic, Ginger, Leek

Need more convincing?

Garlic has many health properties, but here’s something you might not have known (I didn’t, until just now):

Don’t throw your chopped garlic directly into the pan immediately after dicing! Allowing the crushed or chopped garlic to sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes, you will maximize the health benefits.  This triggers an enzyme reaction that boosts the healthy compounds in garlic.

  • Garlic is a powerful antibiotic and is effective against toxic bacteria, viruses, and fungus.
  • Garlic is good for your heart: lowering blood pressure and decreasing LDL (bad) cholesterol
  • Garlic has antioxidant properties
  • Garlic promotes bile production to help reduce levels of fat in the liver.
  • Garlic helps ward off coughs and colds.
  • Garlic has high cancer-prevention properties. Meat cooked until blackened can produce carcinogenic (cancer producing) chemicals and research has recently discovered that when meat is cooked with garlic this effect is limited.
  • Garlic is a decongestant and expectorant. It is a surprisingly good source of vitamins C, B6 and the minerals selenium and manganese

.. I could go on.  But on to GINGER



When buying fresh ginger, seek out heavy pieces with a plump, smooth, somewhat shiny skin.  Wrinkled or cracked skin indicates that the ginger is drying and past its prime.

Storing ginger: Fresh ginger will get moldy fairly quickly in the refrigerator. You can wrap it (unpeeled) in a paper towel, put it in a plastic bag, and store it in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks. Or store it at room temperature like you would potatoes.  You can even eat the buds that sprout off fresh ginger (I haven’t tried this..).  You can also freeze your ginger though some people think that changes the flavor.  I frequently buy ginger in bulk and freeze it in meal-sized portions.  One suggestion is to store your ginger in dry sherry or Madeira wine in the fridge.  It will last up to 3 months this way and the little flavor you lose will be gained when you realize you have ginger-flavored wine to use in stir fries, salad dressings, and sauces…

  • Ginger’s carminative effect that helps break up and expel intestinal gas makes it a remedy for nausea, motion sickness, morning sickness and general stomach upset.
  • Ginger helps stimulate digestion and circulation
  • Ginger has been shown to help prevent certain forms of cancer
  • Ginger has anti-inflammatory properties and is a powerful natural painkiller.



How to buy leeks: the younger the leek, the more tender the flavor.  Select leeks with a clean white slender bulb, at least two to three inches of white, and firm, tightly-rolled dark green tops. The base should be at least 1/2 inch in diameter, although most are much larger, usually 1-1/2 to 2-1/2 inches. If the bottom of the leek is slightly bulbous, it is too mature.

Store leeks wrapped in plastic in your refrigerator, as the aroma they exude can be absorbed by other items in your fridge.  They will last anywhere from 5 days to 2 weeks.

Leeks can be substituted for onions in most dishes.

To cook leeks, slice off the root and use the tender white portion.  The darker green the portion of leek, the tougher it will be.  You can however peel off outer layers as you get towards the stalk and find light green portions of leek suitable to use.  Some people use the whole stalk though in those cases it’s best to use it to flavor a broth, but remove it before eating.

  • Leeks are a good source of dietary fiber, folic acid, calcium, potassium, and vitamin C.
  • Leeks are easier to digest than onions, and have laxative, antiseptic, diuretic, and anti-arthritic properties.
  • Leeks have been shown to have some anti-cancer properties


Food, General


Amazing coconut veggie stir-fry


I’m not sure why this turned out so freaking amazing, and there’s probably no way to exactly replicate it but you can try, and make your own combinations.. most ingredients are interchangeable ..


Here are some tips from yours truly:

  • Veggie ingredients == whatever is in your fridge.  Though I do recommend a combination of leafy, crunchy,  and sauce-soaking veggies.

Here’s what I mean by that, with some examples:
Leafy == kale, Swiss chard, leafy Chinese broccoli, spinach
Crunchy == broccoli, Chinese broccoli, carrots
Sauce-Soaking == broccoli florets, squash, zucchini

IMG 0901 300x225   Amazing coconut veggie stir fry

Chinese Broccoli

1. diced garlic
2. diced fresh ginger
3. diced leek (sub onion if you DARE, but it’s my enemy)

In fact, I frequently keep a tub of all these things chopped in my fridge as I can make a lot of dishes with them..

  • Things that pack punch (flavorful veggies)

1. Fennel (why should you eat fennel? cancer-preventing, vitamin c-providing, fibrous awesomeness described here)
2. ?? help.  I’m sure there are more


IMG 0899 300x225   Amazing coconut veggie stir fry

Fennel (if you don't know what it looks like). You can eat the whole thing! So delicious and healthy.

  • Things you can always add at the end of the cook time

1. Water chestnuts
2. Baby corn
3. Button mushrooms or regular mushrooms
4. Bamboo shoots

  • Things to top/garnish with

1. Fresh herbs (Thai basil is tops.. then cilantro/regular basil/parsley etc.)
2. Crunchy raw veggies like cucumber, radish, sprouts or snow pea shoots


I like to boil diced sweet potato or white yam until soft and then add it to the stir fry.  This makes the dish creamier and sweeter without artificial sweeteners or fattening dairy products.  It works best if the sweet potatoes start to crumble or fall apart in the stir fry


IMG 0904 300x225   Amazing coconut veggie stir fry

Boiling sweet potatoes to add sweetness/creaminess to a stir fry


Ingredients (in this stir fry):

  • 4 carrots
  • 1 whole bulb/stalks of fennel
  • 1 zucchini
  • 5 stalks of Chinese broccoli
  • 1 whole bunch of colorful Swiss chard
  • 1 sweet potato
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup diced ginger
  • 1/3 cup diced leek
  • fresh Thai basil
  • spices/sauces: paprika, hot curry powder, ground black pepper, basil, turmeric, hot sesame oil, soy sauce.  Don’t be afraid of spices.. add hot ones a little at a time so you don’t ruin the dish. On a big pot of food like this remember it will take a lot of spice to add flavor.  Experiment.
  • **Coconut powder (to taste), 1/2 cup stock (chicken or veggie) and 1/2 cup water (or just 1 whole cup water), 1 Tbsp corn starch (for thickening)

    IMG 0909 225x300   Amazing coconut veggie stir fry

    Coconut powder from the H Mart in Catonsville


**I like coconut powder because you have more control over the amount you want in your dish and can add to it little by little, which also controls the ABSURD FAT CONTENT in a can of coconut milk (read: 57 grams of fat per cup…at least it is good fat).  I dislike it because you then need to make up for the creaminess.  This was accomplished with extra liquid such as chicken broth and water combined with corn starch.  Not a lot was needed as this was more of a stir fry than a curry.



  • Chop all your veggies.  Keep your harder/crunchier veggies in one bowl and leafy in another.  This way everything can cook to a desired doneness without overcooking certain vegetables
  • Start boiling your diced sweet potato on one burner.  Let it boil for 5-10 minutes until soft and then set aside.
  • Start your stir-fry with a suitable oil.  I like Grape seed oil.. it’s healthy (as far as oils go), and has a high smoke point.  Add as much to your wok or pan as you need (PS you need a BIG pan or wok for this many veggies..)
Grapeseed oilIMG 0905 225x300   Amazing coconut veggie stir fry
  • Add your garlic, and leek and saute for a minute.
  • Add all your crunchy veggies.  Saute for 5 minutes or so with the heat fairly high.
  • Add ginger, hot sesame oil, and leafy veggies and continue to saute.
  • As veggies begin to wilt, add the sweet potato, spices (to taste), stock, and coconut powder
  • Once you have the flavor right and the veggies are ready to eat (still a little crisp hopefully), add a little water and corn starch to thicken it just a tad.  It helps the spices stick to the veggies, I’ve found.
  • You can top your stir fry with garnishes or more fresh herbs.  Lots of Thai basil is highly recommended.
IMG 09061 300x225   Amazing coconut veggie stir fry

Veggies being sauteed


EAT.  Go to bed.  Repeat.  This should make about 4 full meal portions, depending on how hungry of a person you are, and if you’re going to go seek rice because you require some form of classic ‘carb’ in your meal or if you need more filler…  etc etc, but this is delicious on its own!

IMG 0910 300x226   Amazing coconut veggie stir fry

Awesome veggie stir fry / curry-like dish



April 7, 2011
Food, General, Recipe




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March 10, 2011