Companion Planting: Friend or Foe

As an organic home gardener, I am always researching and learning from  successes and failures. I make mental notes and log what I’ve learned from current and past trials and errors, in preparation for my next seasonal garden plot! That prompted me to create my own comprehensive (or as much as I can) companion planting visual guide!

Back in the spring of 2014—after extensive research— I made a basic “companion planting” text chart of the main veggies often grown by home gardeners, such as myself. I found so much of the information intriguing that I decided to add the interesting tidbits under their respective produce. Midway, I thought “Hey, this would be so convenient if I made myself a visual chart for my fridge!” And that I did. 🙂 It is now in its third edition with updated original illustrations, more companions planting tips, and even information on edible parts of everyday produce, that most people are not aware of!

Here are some of my other gardening discoveries and experiences:

  1. Marigolds: Sweet, sweet, beautiful marigolds. These gals play nicely with many veggies! It’s best to plant some among the other produce, in addition to planting a border of marigolds around your garden plot to act as a “shield” against pests. The lovely scent and bright, captivating colors will distract pests. Unfortunately slugs and snails do love marigolds, so keep all your eggshells; let them dry in the hot sun for a few days. Crunch up the shells and sprinkle them along the base of all your marigolds. You could also lightly sprinkle table salt along the base.
  2. Florence fennel: This bad boy wears way too much of that delicious cologne and is a bit of a bully to MANY veggies. Keep him contained in his own pot, away from the garden plot, as he’s more  of a loner!
  3. Tarragon: What a thoughtful uncle he is, looking after all your vegetables—especially eggplant. Plant tarragon throughout your garden.
  4. Mint: This hardy social butterfly likes to spread its roots wherever possible. Unless you want mint to take over, it’s best to keep it under control. I’ve planted mint inside a large, shallow terra cotta pot that I then put down into the garden plot. This creates a barrier around the rhizome root system. Sadly, mint attracts aphids once the weather gets consistently above the 70s. If the tips of your mint sprigs start to curl and deform, you have an aphid problem. Plant chives and cilantro near your mint patches to deter aphids.
  5. Cilantro: This resilient little gal is a fighter and can withstand the coldest, bleakest nights during winter! She’s most vivacious during cool/cold weather and isn’t so fond of the heat. She’ll start to bolt (grow tall and flower) the second the weather gets warm. The upside is you can keep the seeds (known as coriander) and dry them for your cooking spice collection. The roots can be washed and added to soup stock. Her flowers also attract a myriad of sweet ladybugs. What do ladybugs LOVE to dine on? Aphids! Grow cilantro near your mint patches.

PURCHASE ON ETSY

This full-color chart is available as a direct-download, high-resolution PNG file on my Etsy Shop (Luluesque). Print it at home or the office and post it on your refrigerator as I have. ENJOY and Happy Gardening! 🙂

Haricot Vert Tofu Crumble

Haricot Vert Tofu Crumble

If you are a huge green bean monster, you will fall in love with haricot vert and never look back. Haricot vert is French for “green bean” (Haricot=bean; vert=green) and the variety is slender and far more tender than the American variety you see in the grocery store. This recipe makes enough for two entrées or a splendid side dish for your next dinner party.

Allumette vs. Batonnet vs. Julienne vs. Matchstick

There is not a strong difference between these four techniques of cutting vegetables into thin even strips, but each technique varies in measurements. This helps the vegetables cook evenly and also delivers a nice presentation to the dish. (Measurements below are courtesy of The Spruce, one of my favorite websites.)

  • allumette measures 1/4 inch × 1/4 inch × 2 1/2 to 3 inches; sometimes referred to as the “matchstick cut”
  • batonnet measures 1/2 inch × 1/2 inch × 2 1/2 to 3 inches; “rectagular stick,” like a fat French fry
  • fine julienne measures 1/16 inch × 1/16 inch × 2 inches
  • julienne measures 1/8 inch × 1/8 inch × 2 1/2 inches; it is the allumette, cut once more, lengthwise

NOTES

Always try to use organic ingredients when possible. The grocery bill can add up quickly and not all produce are covered in harmful pesticides. As a general rule, I follow the Dirty Dozen, Clean 15 list.


INGREDIENTS

  • 1-pound package Haricot Vert
  • 1 medium carrot ~ julienned
  • 5 garlic cloves ~ thin slices
  • 1/2-1 block organic tofu, firm ~ all liquid pressed out, crumbled into desired size (see how-to notes in instructions)
  • white wine (I use chardonnay)
  • cooking oil
  • veggie seasoning ~ to taste
  • sea salt ~ to taste
  • black pepper ~ to taste
  • red pepper flakes ~ optional

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Remove all the liquid from the tofu block by hand-squeezing or weighing down the tofu with a heavy object on top. Sometimes I use a mortar (“bowl” part of the mortar-and-pestle combo). Crumble to desired size and set aside.
  2. In a large stainless steel pan, heat some oil on medium-high heat. Sauté the garlic slices until aromatic and golden-brown. Add the beans and carrots and cook the beans for about 5 minutes. Add more oil if needed.
  3. Splash a little wine into the pan and quickly cover with a lid. The wine creates steam, which helps cook the beans. Check the beans periodically. When the veggies are cooked to the desired texture, add sea salt, black pepper and other spices that you desire. Gently mix in the crumbled tofu with a spatula.
  4. Serve hot, garnish with red pepper flakes.

Edamame Super Greens Sauté

Edamame Super Geens Sauté

Edamame are young soy beans that have been harvested before they have ripened or hardened. You can purchase them shelled, still in the pod, fresh at the farmer’s market or frozen. I have never seen my local grocery stores carry them fresh. I like to keep a package or two in my freezer. They are great additions to chicken salad, quinoa, vegetarian chili, pasta dishes, veggie soups, or miso soup. Or if you are adventurous, you can make an edamame hummus dish, in lieu of chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans). Each cup of hulled edamame yields approximately 17 grams of protein!


NOTES

Always try to use organic ingredients when possible. The grocery bill can add up quickly and not all produce are covered in harmful pesticides. As a general rule, I follow the Dirty Dozen, Clean 15 list.

Super greens are leafy greens packed with vitamins, nutrients, and sometimes, iron.  Some of the popular ones are kale (curly or “dinosaur” aka lacinato), beet greens, Swiss chard, collard greens, spinach, turnip greens, radish greens, mustard greens, and watercress.


Ingredients

  • cooking oil
  • 1 large shallot ~ thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic ~ thinly sliced
  • 1 package frozen organic edamame ~ thawed and well drained
  • 2 bunchs of any organic “super greens” (see notes section above; I like to use lacinato and Swiss chard) ~ tough stems removed, chopped
  • 2-3 small organic carrots ~ skin left on, cut into 1/4 inch discs
  • sea salt ~ to taste
  • pinch sugar ~ to taste
  • fresh black pepper ~ to taste
  • cooked red or tri-colored organic quinoa (optional)

Instructions

  1. In a large stainless steel pan, heat some oil on medium-high heat. Sauté the garlic and shallots until aromatic and golden-brown. Add carrots and cook until mostly tender (about 5 minutes). Add in edamae and cook for a few minutes to warm them. Add a litte water to the pan if the ingredients start to stick.
  2.  Add greens and quickly sauté until the greens are wilted, or tender if you prefer. Season to taste.
  3. Serve with red or tri-colored quinoa.

Blueberry Zucchini Bread

Blueberry Zucchini Bread

If you blueberries, blueberry muffins, blueberry pancakes, sweet breads, etc., then you’re in for a treat! This densely moist bread is packed with mouthfuls of bursting blueberries! I tested out a few recipes and modified through trial and error, omitting, replacing, and adding as I went. This final recipe has the perfect balance of density, moisture, and sweetness. The grated zucchini provides moisture and you wouldn’t even know that someone had the nerve to sneak in…*gasp* zucchini!   🙂

So—why on earth would someone want to put zucchini in a sweet bread? It’s a vegetable. I’m not a food expert so I will share the information I learned from research. It’s because once upon a time successful farmers and home gardeners would have pounds upon pounds of zucchini and did not know what to do with them all…so they added them to baked goods. Zucchini is very prolific once it starts to thrive (assuming your zucchini crop was spared by the sesiid moths, Melittia Satyriniformis, that lay their eggs on the base of young zucchini plants, thus producing vine-boring larvae that destroy the entire plant, living and growing inside the tubular vines). Zucchini has a mild flavor and is high in water content, providing moisture to baked goods.  That’s the longer than necessary short answer. 🙂


NOTES

Always try to use organic ingredients when possible. The grocery bill can add up quickly and not all produce are covered in harmful pesticides. As a general rule, I follow the Dirty Dozen, Clean 15 list. I have been a loyal fan since 2004, when they first started. FYI, blueberries are listed as #15 and zucchini squash is #27. The lower the number, the higher the level of pesticides.


INGREDIENTS

  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup non-fat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups light brown sugar ~ can substitute with granulated white sugar 
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 cups finely grated or shredded zucchini ~ about 3 medium zucchini; I like to use an old-fashioned mandolin
  • 2 pints fresh blueberries

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 350° degrees. Lightly grease 2 large loaf pans.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, beat together eggs, oil, yogurt, vanilla, and sugar. Whisk in flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Do not overmix the batter.
  3. Gently fold in zucchini and blueberries with a spatula. Pour into the prepared loaf pans.
  4. Bake for 50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool about 20 minutes on cooling racks. Serve warm with butter and a hot cup of tea. ENJOY! 🙂

Beets and Feta Salad

Anyone out there love beets as much as I do? During winter I was a fixated on these royal beauties. I made borscht twice and this salad twice. It may be a bit late in the year for those that garden like myself, but luckily there’s probably a Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s near you! 🙂

INGREDIENTS

  • 4-5 medium beetroots ~ scrubbed clean
  • 2 garlic cloves ~ peeled and minced (optional)
  • 2 tbs organic parsley ~ leaves only, minced
  • 4 sprigs scallions ~ green only, chopped
  • 3 tbs fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 organic feta ~ cut into desired chunks (add more if you prefer)
  • sea salt ~ to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper ~ to taste
  • extra virgin olive oil ~ optional

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Boil the beets on medium-high heat for about 45 minutes. (The beets are cooked when a knife can be easily pierced through.) you can peel these, but I always leave the skins on. It’s good fiber and packed with nutrients! 🙂
  2. Strain the water. Allow beets to cool. Cut into chunks of desired size.
  3. In large mixing bowl, add lemon juice, garlic, parsley, scallions, and season to taste. Gently whisk. Add the chunks of beets and feta cheese. Gently fold with a spatula.
  4. Chill about 30 minutes before serving. Garnish with chopped parsley and scallions. ENJOY!

OTHER NEWS

If gardening is a hobby for you as it is for me, you are most likely a seed-saver. If not, it’s never to late to start! It’s a fun way to involve the kiddos, too! You can start by printing your own vintage-design seed packets, now available on my Easy shop. These are 100% original illustrations and designs made by yours truly. The back of each packet also includes a  companion planting list for that veggie/fruit,  along with a chef’s tip (when applicable) . Beetroot, eggplants, marigolds, radishes, and tomatoes are currently in the shop. I’m working on carrots, peas, cucumbers, basil, just to name a few.

Enjoy and Happy Gardening! 🙂

Leeks and Cremini Quiche

I cannot believe how easy it is to make quiche! 🙂 Quiche is one of my favorite dishes; I can have it for any meal or snack. Add a side salad or fresh fruit medley of nature’s seasonal goodies, and I am good to go!

Though this was an overall easy dish to make, I was still overwhelmed by all the recipes (apparently quiche is a popular dish!) and was a little nervous about my quiche coming out with a soggy bottom. Better Homes and Gardens has a pretty good page on how to prevent this from happening. My recipe is a combination of about five different recipes that inspired me. One of which looks amazing!

Serve your amazing quiche with a side salad, such as curly kale tossed with julienned carrots and paper-thin beet slices. Enjoy! 🙂

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 9-inch premade pie crust
  • organic butter
  • 2 large leeks ~ white and light green parts only, chopped
  • 6-8 cremini mushrooms ~ chopped
  • 1 cup organic half-and-half
  • 4 large organic eggs
  • 1 cup organic shredded cheese of choice
  • 1 tbs Mrs. Dash seasoning of choice
  • paprika~ to taste
  • sea salt ~ to taste
  • fresh ground black pepper ~ to taste

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Place premade pie crust in the oven, on the middle rack. Bake for 8-10 minutes. (The goal is to harden the shell, not bake it to a golden finish. This helps keep the bottom from becoming soggy once fillings are added.)
  3. While the crust is baking, sauté the leeks and cremini with butter, until the mixture is aromatic and cooked. Make sure any liquid has evaporated. Remove from stove.
  4. When the pie crust has lightly baked, remove from the oven and set aside.
  5. In a mixing bowl, lightly whisk the eggs, half and half, and seasonings of choice.
  6. Fill about 40% of the pie crust with the cooked veggies. Sprinkle on shredded cheese. Reserve some cheese for the top.
  7. Pour the custard filling all over the veggie and cheese. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top.
  8. Bake at 350°F for 40-50 minutes. (The quiche is cooked through when an inserted fork comes out clean. You should also have a nice browning on the pie crust.)
  9. Remove quiche from oven and allow to cool for about 40 minutes before slicing.

Cucumber and Cauliflower Salad

luluesque_cucumber-and-cauliflower-salad

If you are swimming in cucumbers from your summer garden, then you’re in luck! All my plants died in the scorching heat. 😦 For you lucky prolific gardeners out there, this is a great summer salad recipe to help use all those fresh cucumbers!

I’ve been alternating between kale salad (my go to!) and spring mix salad, and am frankly bored. I wanted to do something different. I was inspired by Food Network’s recipe, but decided to spruce up my salad with some cauliflower. I  have never seen this combination and I love cauliflower—why not? 🙂 This easy salad was a hit with friends and family. I love that it adds a nice fresh punch of crunch, hydration, flavor, and fiber to any main course!

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 English cucumber ~ ends removed, cut into 1/4″ slices
  • 1 small head organic cauliflower ~ cut or broken into small bite-sized florets
  • 1 medium shallot ~ thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sea-salt
  • 1 tablespoon, plus 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 sprigs fresh dill (or 2 teaspoons dried dill)
  • microgreens ~ I used a spicy mix
  • fresh ground black pepper ~ optional

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. In a large colander, toss the cucumber, cauliflower, and shallots with the sea salt and let it sit and drain for 20 minutes.
  2. Gently press the liquid out of the vegetables. Rinse well with cold water and drain.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine the vinegar and sugar and stir well. Add the cucumber-cauliflower mixture and toss to coat.
  4. Gently stir in the fresh/dried dill.
  5. Garnish with fresh microgreens and freshly ground black pepper. Serve chilled.

Fresh Peach Salsa

luluesque_fresh peach salsa

Oh the dog days of summer are upon us where I live! It dawned on me the other day that our sweltering summers are the equivalent of the freezing winters our northern counterparts endure. We just stay indoors down here because we can’t handle going outside. In fact, I’m so inactive during summer that I end up gaining weight! Ha! 😛

It’s a good thing this seasonal recipe is fat free and uses all the fresh summer ingredients that are in abundance and thrives in this heat! You can serve this with blue corn chips, as a side to baked fish, top off your burgers with this salsa, or just eat it fresh right out of a bowl!

INGREDIENTS
  • 2 small organic peaches ~ thoroughly washed, pitted, skin left on, diced
  • 1 pint San Marzano tomatoes ~ diced
  • 1/2 bunch organic cilantro ~ reserve only the leaves, chopped
  • 1 small serrano pepper ~ finely chopped
  • 1 small shallot ~ peeled, finely chopped
  • juice of 1 large lime
  • sea salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Gently combine all your ingredients in a large glass bowl
  2. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving

Spicy Black Bean Burgers

luluesque_spicy black bean burgers-fresh peach salsa

If you’re a pickytarian and won’t eat much meat, but are in dire need of protein, you may like this delicious recipe! Beans and legumes are a great source of protein and fiber, without the fat or sugar! One cup of cooked black beans provides about 15g of protein and 15g of soluable fiber.
I once made white-bean and shiitake burgers and they turned out pretty well! They were filling and quite easy to make. That was my first time to ever make bean burger patties and figured it was due time I have another go. This modified recipe was inspired by Food Network’s “Black Bean Burger” recipe.
INGREDIENTS / Yields 2 Servings (4 small patties) 
  • 1 small-medium shallot ~ peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 small clove garlic~ peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 (15-ounce) can black beans ~ rinsed and drained
  • 1 organic egg
  • 1 small organic serrano or jalapeño ~ finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup Panko crumbs ~ I’m using roasted garlic flavor
  • 3 teaspoon steak seasoning
  • Canola-coconut oil
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Pour the beans into a large mixing bowl. Using a spatula or fork, roughly mash about 75% of the beans, making sure you see some whole beans and chunky bean bits.
  2. Gently fold the remaining ingredients into the bean mash until well combined. If your mix seems a bit wet due to the egg, sprinkle a little more panko crumbs to the mix.
  3. Use your spatula to gather the mix and divide into four equal parts.
  4. To make the patty, scoop out a divided part, roll into a ball using both palms of your hands, then gently flatten the ball onto parchment paper. Shape the patties as you go along to help them look even. 🙂
  5. In a stainless steel skillet, heat some cooking oil on low-medium heat. You want to cook these burgers semi slowly so that they are cooked through, but browned on the sides. Add more oil as you cook, as the burgers will absorb some. Some of the bean bits may liberate themselves from the burger patties. You can attempt to mash them back into the patty.
  6. Serve with avocado wedges and fresh peach salsa.