Monday, March 31, 2014

Chicken Afritada Recipe With Real Tomatoes!

Tomatoes here, there and in the DVD Player! We have a lot tomatoes that the last time I harvested them with my one-year-old baby I didn't notice she got one squashed inside the DVD player. Just look at our harvests below. I need to get to them before the critters do and it seems like the more I harvest, the more flowers and fruit I get.  So, with a surplus of tomatoes what can one do with them?
Last week's harvest.
Fresh tomatoes from the garden today. 
 How about this: Chicken Afritada with real tomatoes! I tried it and my food critic said it was yummy. Here's the recipe:

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: around 40-45 minutes
Makes about 4-5 servings

1/2 kilos chicken
Plenty of tomatoes (the first picture here, I think about 10), chopped
1 big potato (cubed)
1 carrot (cubed)
1 green bell pepper (seeds removed and sliced into strips)
1 small can of green peas
1 cup water or chicken stock
1 medium sized chopped onions
4-5 cloves of garlic crushed garlic
1 chicken broth cube (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
a little sugar (depending on how sweet you like it, I used 1/4 cup)

Wash chicken thoroughly. Drain and brown in a little oil with crushed garlic. Remove from pan and set aside. Saute garlic, add the onions then the tomatoes in a pot. Give the tomatoes a good squash to get the juices running. When you've made a bit of a paste add chicken, water and chicken broth cube.If you are using chicken stock, you can skip the chicken broth cube. Once it boils let it simmer for about 20 minutes stirring occasionally to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Then add the potatoes and carrots. Once they're fork ready, add the green bell pepper and the green peas. Season with salt and pepper according to taste. Continue simmering for about 10 minutes and add a little sugar. You can skip this, however, we like our afritada a little sweet. Simmer longer in low heat if you want the sauce to be thicker. Serve hot with plain rice.

Top 8 Lessons Learned From Growing Lavender in the Philippines

As some of you are aware, I usually post about my experiment on lavender growing in the Philippines in my main blog: But I thought of summarizing what I learned so far about raising lavenders here especially as one of my two french lavenders died this week. As for the true lavenders, a few more wilted since I did an update. It can be a little frustrating but I'm charging it to experience in the hopes of finding the right formula that will enable me to grow them well in the future.

True lavender thriving in the cool February weather. There's only about half left since summer started.

So here goes, my top 8 lessons learned so far:
1) Water only every 2-3 days.
2) Use a water sprayer and water them lightly at the base. Never over water or else they'll die.I can't highlight this enough.
3) Water early in the morning to give their roots a chance to dry throughout the day. Never in the late afternoon or evening If you skipped it, then just water the next morning.
4) The soil should have good drainage. I bought Folia Tropica potting mix from Ace Hardware. It has a good mix of sand, compost and coconut coir. I had the mistake of using leftover seed growing mix in the past and the ones I planted with those died because the mix is designed to retain water which is important for seeds to germinate but causes root rot for lavender.
5) Put some pebbles at the bottom of the pot before putting soil for better drainage.
6) Fertilize at least once a month.
7) Cut dead leaves as close to the stem as possible because that's where new leaves/branches sprout.
8) When transplanting lavender, take it as is and don't attempt to loosen the roots because they are super sensitive they'll die.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

From the Yummy and the Pretty Sides of Maegan's Garden

I started this blog a few months back with a goal of making one side of my small yard pretty and the other side yummy. And today, after 5 months I'm now enjoying fresh blooms and vegetables from my little patch of  the Earth. I've harvested fresh kangkong (Chinese greens), okra, radishes, eggplant and green peppers.This is where I get fresh basil and tomatoes for pasta, parsley for meatballs, malunggay for monggo and tinola, chives for fish and dill for salads. I shared some basil plants too with my neighbors and inspired them with what they call "green revolution".

Below are the plants and harvests from the pretty and yummy side of our little garden in the city.

From the pretty side of my garden, the pinks, red, orange, white and purple blooms started to make an appearance this month. Here are some fresh cut flowers and pictures of my flower patch where I grow zinnias, asters, carnation, sunflower (they will bloom in May) and recently, ageratum.

This is my flower bed. I used empty formula tin cans (painted white) to plant asters. I also planted some asters on the ground. The ones in little black plastic pots are basil as my left side of the garden is already full. The one in the middle planted in the big round clay pot are dill and sunflower. Though I also have about 6 other sunflowers in the bed itself interspersed with mostly zinnias, aster and carnation.

Budding zinnias
The pretty side--I can't wait until all the flowers are in bloom.
The pinkiest zinnia in the garden. :-) This is a semi-full bloom of the profusion series.

Red single bloom zinnia.

Blooming purple zinnia. This one is a semi-full bloom.
Asters. I planted them in painted white tin cans.
Even the asters on the ground with poor soil are blooming! :-)

Chives should be in the Yummy Side of the yard but again t's so full of plants as you will see later. You can also the full bloom red zinnia and white zinnias beside the chives.

Now let me show you the Yummy Side of the fence. Below, you can see my vegetable patch. It has tomatoes (big and small ones, the biggest is about the size of my fist), basil, eggplant, calamansi, malunggay trees, guava tree, parsley, squash, okra, green pepper and in the small plant box lemon tree seedlings. I used to have radishes which were so stunted and upland kangkong but they got some disease so I uprooted them both and transplanted the basil where they used to be. The tomatoes are bearing lots of fruit, I was about to uproot them because it's been 4 months and not a single  and fruit when I saw a single small flower and I decided to give them a chance. Within a month, it bore over 100 tomatoes and it's still blooming so I'm definite I'll be getting more. The only problem is the aphids. I already bought a sprayer and will take care of them as soon as my baby daughter let me have some gardening time.

Yummy side with my lavender plants at the back.

Today's harvest.
The tomatoes are about this big!
Below, you can see the eggplants. This is the first fruit and I hope to get some more. It's planted in a recycled mineral water plastic bottle (same as with the parsley and green pepper).
Green Pepper:

Below you can see a small growing guava tree which I think is planted by the birds. Underneath it,large Italian parsley and an eggplant.

Quite recently I also planted squash right where the sunflower didn't germinate on the left side. I never thought they would all germinate still for they've been sitting on the kitchen window sill for around 3 months and looked so dry. Our previous house helper wanted to plant them for herself but forgot to. I intended to feed the birds with it, but they grew to my surprise! I hope they grow healthy.

And of course, my lavender which was the main reason I got into gardening.

 It's been raining for two days and I hope it doesn't kill them. One of the two grown French lavender that I bought look like it's dying when I transplanted it two days ago. I will write about in another entry on lavender growing. By the way I put an update on my 5th month lavender growing experience in the tropics five days ago here: Lavender Growing Update: 5th Month

Not in the picture are: Calamansi which is under the tomato plants and floss flower (ageratum seedlings).

Over the coming days I will talk about each plant and what I learned about them. Just like people they have different temperaments and preferences which surprised me. This gardening experience is truly rewarding and it's my wish to share this wonderful experience with you.