Tiny Patio Gardening

Happy Sunday! 

One of the many things I love about summer is growing my own herbs. It is so rewarding to watch the little seedlings sprout and a bit later, reap the rewards of my success. Cooking with items from your garden makes you appreciate your meal in ways you never imagined. After a long day at work, I love to sit on my balcony and breathe in the fresh aromas of my herbs or revel in the relaxing atmosphere of greenery. You don't need to have a large yard to get planting either. Here are a few things I 've learned along the way for gardening in a small space.

1. Keep in mind your storage situation.
Do you have lots of room to store pots, shovels, and other gardening gear during the winter? Chances are, space is tight. When buying gardening supplies take a peek at the compact tools. We have a small hand shovel and use bins to store our extra gravel and soil. Our gardening equipment is small enough to fit in a corner when not in use.

2. Start your seedlings indoors.
Buy and start your seeds as soon as you can, ideally as soon as the seeds hit the stores. Plant your seeds in an egg carton and label each section according to the seed. Ferry your lil' seedlings outdoors during the day to get sunshine, water as needed, and bring them inside during inclement weather or at night. Once it they have sprouted and the weather has improved, transplant each section directly into your pots.

3. Ensure adequate drainage.
Use gravel or rocks to create a drainage layer at the bottom of your pots. As your plants will not be in the ground, the water accumulates in the pots and drowns the soil. Mediterranean herbs in particular like dry well-drained soil. So be sure your rosemary has proper drainage!

4. Find ways to hang your pots.
Use wire racks to hang your pots from the balcony railing. Purchase basket hangers or try making your own using rope. You could even try a macrame plant hanger!

5. Use small and portable pots.
This works well if you're only planting a couple of herbs. Using smaller pots allows for easy transportation if you need to bring the plants inside at any time (think cold nights or high winds).

6. Determine which plants suit your needs and space.
We love having a variety of fresh herbs on hand for cooking, so we made sure to plant all of our heavy rotation herbs. Maybe you like lavender or lemon verbena instead. Perhaps you want to gaze at an array of colorful flowers. Plan what you'd like to plant. Make a list of everything you'll need including gravel, soil, seeds, and bring it to the shop.

7. Plan ahead.
Set an alarm on your phone to remind yourself to water your garden. Before you leave for the day, check the weather report in case you need to bring your plants inside.

Once your plants get large enough, you can harvest your goodies! Use your fresh herbs to garnish your favorite dishes or create a beautiful bouquet from your flowers. Floral bouquets also make great gifts!

 Enjoy your garden! I'm sure you'll want to plant every year.

Lots of Love,

Meal Planning 101

Waste less food and save time and money by creating and following a meal plan schedule; its easier than you think!

Meal prep and meal planning are not the same things. Meal prep can be defined in two distinct ways. The most common form of meal prep is making a large quantity of one meal and dividing it into servings. You can also meal prep one or two specific ingredients that will be used multiple times throughout the week. You can incorporate meal prep into your meal plan by making a large quantity of one specific item you use in several recipes.

Meal planning is simply creating a set schedule of your meals for the week. Sit down on Sunday and compile a number of meals you'd like to eat for the week. Make a list of all the ingredients you'll need. Next, take a peek in your pantry and fridge to determine what items you already have and what you'll need to purchase. Your grocery list should contain everything you'll need for your meals plus items for breakfast, lunch, snacks, and desserts. Depending on the serving size of your meals, you may be able to use leftovers for lunch. The more familiar you become with meal planning the better you will be at guessing the additional items you need and the quantity of each. For example, we buy fruit for breakfast and enough for one piece per person for lunch. I buy a few in season, on sale fruits and veggies that serve as quick sides. Stick to your grocery list and you'll be surprised how much money you save AND how much less food goes to waste.

A few factors to keep in mind when creating a plan:
-Pay attention to the number of servings in each meal.
-Take stock of what item you already have, including staples like rice and pasta.
-Plan your meals around items that are in season.
-Note your schedule for the week and plan quick meals or have leftovers on the days you're short on time.
-Make a large quantity of staple items that can be used for different meals.
-Have a mix of recipes. Incorporate meals you have previously tried and a few new recipes, you've had your eye on.

Sample Week #1
Staple Item: Rice

Buddha Bowl
Use rice to create a base for the bowl and add sauteed carrots, zucchini, and bell pepper. Top with cooked chickpeas or other protein.

Sweet and Sour Cauliflower
Create a paste with equal parts flour and water. Dip cauliflower florets into the paste and bake in the oven until crispy, about 30 minutes at 450 degrees. Coat with your favorite homemade sweet and sour sauce. Serve over rice. This is great with any kind of sauce; my boyfriend LOVES buffalo!

Add chopped cilantro, a squeeze of fresh lime and a little bit of zest to leftover rice. Fold rice, beans, and various veggies into a tortilla. Try sauteing bell and jalapeno pepper, corn, and onions for the filling. Serve with salsa (check out my recipe here).

Make some good ol' rice pudding. Or add a bit of liquid sweetener to milk and pour over warm rice. Top with dried berries and cinnamon.

Sample Week #2
Staple Item: Sweet Potato and Black Beans

Mock Ravioli*
Cook a sweet potato until tender using your preferred cooking method. Top with pasta sauce and serve with roasted broccoli and garlic bread.
*The sweet potato is so creamy, you can barely tell it's not really cheese ravioli.

Hamburger and Fries
Make a hamburger patty using black beans. There are a ton of great recipes depending on your preferences. Use the sweet potatoes to make sweet potato fries in the oven.

Black Bean Tacos
Finely chop sweet potatoes and sautee with onions. Add black beans and chopped spinach to the pan. Add your favorite taco seasoning to mix. Serve on warm corn tortillas and garnish with cilantro.

Black bean brownies! Make sure to use regular black beans (no added spices) and you won't taste the difference between these and regular brownies.

Other great staple items include chickpeas, noodles, broccoli and cauliflower. Oats are great too! Use oats to make banana bread, overnight oats and even savory oatmeal with avocado and spinach.

Create a binder of your favorite recipes or add a folder to your phone screen with recipes you'd love to try!

What are your favorite recipes?

Lots of Love,