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Amazing Outdoor Wedding Ideas

Posted by LeAnn Kurtz on

I am running this blog post again because it's been one of my most popular, and it's almost "wedding season" again! So enjoy!!!


Who does't love a wedding? And there's something extra special about saying your vows outdoors in nature, enjoying family and friends in a more relaxed environment. I did it! Twice! Ok...now you know. My first wedding was in my parent's back yard in the beautiful Napa Valley, surrounded by vineyards. The second time, (and now my current, and final one), was at the beach in Northern California. My daughter was married in a rustic old barn. They were all beautiful ceremonies. 

I happen to adore upcycled, repurposed, DIY, and vintage decor, so if this is for you, here are some amazing ways to make your wedding memorable with unique, rustic and very affordable ideas. I think lighting, plants and those personal touches are so important, and your creativity really makes it your own.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Take a peek at our beautiful Boho Outdoor and Wedding Collection. All at great prices and all with free shipping!

 

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LeAnn's Hearty Stuffed, Baked Winter Squash

Posted by LeAnn Kurtz on

I grow many different kinds of Winter Squash in my garden that keep all year so it's fun to experiment with cooking them in different ways. I had some surprises come up this year, I don't know where they came from, but they weren't the seeds I planted. They were Carnival Squash, and Kabocha. Both are medium large and round and resemble small pumpkins. They turned out to be nice surprises! They climbed the trellis beautifully and produced lots of yummy squash! Most Winter Squash are interchangeable, so use whatever you have on hand for my squash recipes. They're all rich and delicious. And this one was a huge hit with my husband, who's not as enthusiastic about veggies as I am!! 

 

I found a similar recipe from the UK, and changed some ingredients to better suit what was in my pantry. It turned out wonderful! 

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 large, or 2 smaller Winter Squash, whatever variety you choose
  • 3 TBSP butter
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic chopped
  • Fresh or dried rosemary, thyme, or italian blend. (about 1 tbsp)
  • 1 med red onion, chopped
  • Handful of walnuts, coarsly chopped
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream, or half and half (both work fine)
  • 1 cup cheese (whatever kind you like! I used mozzarella and parmesan blended)

Make sure the outside of the squash is scrubbed clean. Cut the squash in half length ways and scoop out the seeds and soft fibers. Put in a roasting dish, add the chopped garlic, a pat of butter and 1/2 the chopped herbs of your choice to each cavity, then brush with a little oil, salt and pepper. (I use my hand and squish all the ingredients around the cavity so the whole squash is coated.)

Place in an oven preheated to 375 F and bake for about 1 hour, checking after 45 minutes, until the flesh feels very tender when pierced with the tip of a knife.

While the squash are roasting heat the rest of the butter in a saucepan over a medium heat, add onion and remaining herbs then gently cook for 10 -15 minutes until soft, add the cream and reduce by half until the whole mixture is thickened. 

Scoop the soft flesh and all the buttery, garlicky juices out of the squash and put into a bowl, leaving a thin layer of flesh still attached to the skin, so the squash holds its shape.

Roughly mash the flesh with the creamy mixture and cheese, then stir in the walnuts, and season a little more with salt and pepper. Leave a little cheese to sprinkle on top!

Spoon the filling back into the empty squash halves and scatter on the reserved cheese. To finish return the squash to the oven and bake for about 7 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbling. 

Try these variations:  I steamed and chopped broccoli and added that to the mixture. You can add kale, spinach, whatever you choose.  Also, you can have a complete meal in a bowl if you want to add some chicken, sausage (sausage works excellent with this), or any meat. Get creative! It's hard to ruin such a tasty treat!

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How to Prepare for Your Summer Garden

Posted by LeAnn Kurtz on

This is a rough guide with suggestions for what you can do to get ready for your spectacular Spring / Summer garden!

Keep in mind, of course, where you live and how the weather affects you. I live in Northern California wine country, so we have mild winters and can garden year round, with different crops. Yes, it does freeze here periodically at night, but no snow, and average daytime winter temps in the 50s and 60s. So, depending where you live, you can just start these projects according to your own weather. A little bit later in colder places, earlier in warmer climates.I don't want to get too technical because gardening should be fun, and done at your leisure...as long as you get those crops planted in time for summer!

1. Build you soil: One thing I work on all winter is composting. I have a big compost
tumbler which is off the ground, with a crank for turning. I dump all organic kitchen scraps (veggies, fruit, egg shells, coffee grounds) in there, with the exception of meat and bones. We also have chickens, so when I clean the coop, the poop and bedding goes in too. I know this is harder in snowy areas, but there are ways to make it work. Especially if you compost in one of these bins, off the ground. Here is a great link to composting if you need suggestions. When my composter gets full, I empty it in the garden and spread it out, and just let it sit until I'm ready for planting! I manage several large loads over winter so it's ready to go in spring. 

2. Plant your perennials: Things like trees, shrubs, vines, bare-root roses. Once it's hot, it's too late!

3. Start your seeds indoors: If you want to get a little jump on those indispensable summer veggies like tomatoes, squash, sweet and hot peppers, eggplants, cucumbers, start seeds indoors under lights in late February or early March. I like to use a little larger seed starting container, the 3 1/2 inch ones instead of the tiny ones. For one thing, I don't need so many of each plant, and if you have the room, it lets them develop a better root system and grow a little bigger before transplanting. Most plants are ready to plant after about 6 weeks...but this way, if your weather isn't cooperating, you can wait a couple extra weeks without damage to your plants. For a simple garden planting guide for your area, here's The Farmer's Almanac guide, and you just type in your own zip code!

4. Start slow developing flowers indoors: Start seeds of flowers that are slow to develop, such as lisianthus (Eustoma grandiflorum), wax begonias, petunias, and geraniums.

5. Direct seed colder climate vegetables: Direct-seed radishes, spinach, carrots, peas, onions, and cabbage family vegetables. Once again, use the Farmer's Almanac guide to customize for your area. 

6. Time to cut down your cover crops: If you planted cover crops this winter, it might be time to cut them. You can chop them up and leave them to compost in the beds, or add the material to your compost pile.

7. Start planning your garden layout: There are several online garden planners, but I think my favorite is the Farmer's Almanac Garden Planner. This is a fun and creative way to plan your garden, allowing for fences, planter boxes, flowers, shrubbery, even patios, decks, furniture, you can plan your entire yard if you want! 

8. Work on those bigger projects like raised beds and planter boxes: There's always plenty to do in your garden, and if you want to add special touches, they can seem overwhelming. If you start early, it's more enjoyable and I find I can enjoy different aspects of gardening year round! Build or repair fencing. Put together raised bed boxes. Put up some cute bird houses. Decorate flower pots...paint rocks...make stepping stones

There's a world of creativity for you to explore!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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LeAnn's Slow-Cooker Lentil Stew

Posted by LeAnn Kurtz on


Well, the cold weather is here, and nothing sounds better this time of year than a warm, rich stew. This recipe makes enough for several people, it's easy and makes the house smell so good. Just throw it all in, and go read your favorite book!
Ingredients
2 cups green lentils, rinsed
4 cups chicken broth (of vegetable broth)
1 med yellow onion, diced
2 carrots, diced into large pieces
1 med yam or sweet potato, diced into large pieces
1, 28 oz can diced tomatoes, drained
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/8 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander (or, you can use Tandori Spice in place of the tumeric and coriander if you happen to have some)
1-2 large jalapenos, diced (To your taste. You can leave these out if you don't like it spicy)
Instructions
  1. Rinse the lentils thoroughly (1-2 times).
  2. Add all ingredients to a crockpot, turn on low and cook for 5-6 hours. Below is a picture of the slow cooker ingredients, ready to go!
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Roasted Winter Squash Soup

Posted by LeAnn Kurtz on

I love this recipe because unlike most squash soups, you roast your squash first, which adds a lot of depth and richness to the flavor. Also, there is no cream, so it's very low in fat and calories, yet super creamy to the pallet. You can even make it Vegan without compromising any of its rich flavor. The perfect Wintertime soup!
Makes 4 Bowls, or about 6 Cups
INGREDIENTS
  • About 3 pounds of Winter squash. Skin peeled with a veggie peeler, then seeded and cubed in 1-2 inch cubes. (you can use butternut, kabocha, acorn, delicata, whatever you like!) As you can see, I have many to choose from!
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • ½ cup chopped shallot or onion
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Up to 4 cups (32 ounces) vegetable broth
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons butter, to taste (substitute olive oil for dairy free/vegan soup

  

INSTRUCTIONS                          

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit and use a little olive oil on a sheet pan to keep it from sticking. Place the squash in a bowl and toss with about 1 tbsp of olive oil,  salt and pepper. 
  2. Place squash on baking sheet and roast until it is tender and completely cooked through, about 30-35 minutes. 
  3. Meanwhile, in a medium skillet (or large soup pot, if you’ll be serving soup from that pot), warm 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add the chopped onion and 1 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring often, until the onion has softened and is starting to turn golden on the edges, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds, stirring frequently.
  4. If you have a high performance blender like a Vitamix (if you are using an immersion blender, as I do, see notes at bottom), transfer the cooked shallot and garlic to your blender. Add the reserved butternut, maple syrup, nutmeg and a few twists of freshly ground black pepper. Pour in 3 cups vegetable broth, being careful not to fill the container past the maximum fill line (you can stir in any remaining broth later). Secure the lid and select the soup preset. The blender will stop running once the soup is super creamy and hot. 
  5. If you would like to thin out your soup a bit more, add the remaining cup of broth (I used the full 4 cups, but if you used a small squash, you might want to leave it as is). Add 1 to 2 tablespoons butter or olive oil, to taste, and blend well. Taste and blend in more salt and pepper, if necessary.
  6. Serve immediately (I like to top each bowl with a little more black pepper). Let leftover soup cool completely before transferring it to a proper storage container and refrigerating it for up to 4 days (leftovers taste even better the next day!). Or, freeze this soup for up to 3 months.
NOTES
IF YOU ARE WORKING WITH AN IMMERSION BLENDER, add the reserved squash to the pot, then add the broth, maple syrup, nutmeg and a few twists of freshly ground black pepper. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 to 20 minutes so the flavors have a chance to meld. Carefully use your immersion blender to blend the soup completely, then add 1 to 2 tablespoons butter or olive oil, to taste, and blend again. Taste and blend in more salt and pepper, if necessary.
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