Garden 2016: Planting

This past weekend I planted my garden. It’s a bit early for Minnesota standards, so fingers crossed I didn’t jinx the weather.

The garden was planted earlier this year for two reasons:

  • It’s been craaazy nice this spring, confirmed by the Old Farmer’s Almanac that last frost was April 30.
  • I can’t go to the plant sale I went to last year, so Aaron and I went to the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum sale Saturday. (Read my review of the Arboretum.) It’s put on by the same group as the sale last year, but it’s not as busy and the selection might be greater, focusing on Minnesota specific, heirloom and new hybrid varieties of plants.

Related: Tips for first-time gardeners.

Since we had the plants and a gorgeous weekend, and frost/freeze seemed behind us, we planted. We probably put more—and by more I mean too much—in the garden, but we plotted out where it will grow and how big it will all get much better than last year. One wrench in the system was that each plant was sold as a four-pack, so we ended up with lots of plants.

Garden 2016 | Kale and Ale

Garden 2016 Containers | Kale and Ale

This year we planted:

  • Carrots-Rainbow
  • Cucumber-Spacemaster
  • Kalettes-Autumn Star
  • Pepper:
    • Sweet Rainbow mix
    • Thai hot
    • Candlelight
  • Basil
  • Tomato
    • Sungold
    • Celebrity
    • Czech’s Bush

I’m really excited to see how this turns out and try new varieties. After canning last fall for the first time, I’m not worried about having too much food. It’s a very relaxing hobby and after-work activity that supplements our CSA membership. Check back here and the Kale and Ale Facebook page throughout the summer and watch my garden grow!

Minnesota Landscape Arboretum living roof | Kale and Ale

Minnesota Landscape Arboretum living roof where the vegetables and herbs were being sold

What are you growing this summer?

Friday Links

There are lots of good reads this week! What have you been reading? Since there’s a lot to cover, let’s dive right in.

With a name like “Farm to Fable,” you know it can’t be good. Spoiler: It’s pretty appalling, and sometimes scary, what restaurants are doing, serving and saying about the food they serve. It’s a long, engrossing read by the Tampa Bay Times worth your time if you care about food or integrity.

To counter this, imagine a sustainable home garden. A guide on Active shows you how to get started with a garden in your yard. Talk about my happy place; how amazing would that be?

RELATED: Tips for planning and growing your garden and what to expect when joining a community supported agriculture (CSA) program

The Washington Post has this food video satirizing a genre of lazy social media shares: The quick food video. As the article points out, it’s high on processed food and light on technical details. I see these ALL. THE. TIME. and wonder how many people actually make what they are sharing on social media?!? What is your stance on this, I would really love to hear in the comments. Watch the mock video below.


Grilled cheese tips | Kale and Ale

National Grilled Cheese Day was this week, and my guest blogger and boyfriend Aaron shares tips and tricks for the perfect grilled cheese. Um, yum. Trust me, these are no-fail, dressed-to-impress tips. Did you celebrate the special day? If so, how?

Thug Kitchen Party Grub review | Kale and Ale

And this week I posted my first cookbook review, Thug Kitchen’s Party Grub. Check it out and find a recipe from the book. Be sure to sign up for my e-newsletter, the next cookbook review also features a giveaway!

Friday links

Hello, wonderful friends. Has this week been as much a struggle for you as it has for me? Living so far north, the time change means it’s dark when I wake up, making it much more difficult to get moving. Here’s hoping next week is easier!



Beyond Vegetarian: More specific labels like “climatarian” and “reducetarian” can help people stick to their food choices by making them feel like part of a community. This is a really great article, as I am so often asked if I eat fish, chicken, etc. My answer (in my head) is always “no, I’m a vegetarain.” I believe the specific labels both explain ones diet and often the reason why they have that diet. What do you think of this often hot-button issue?

For my runner friends: 8 ridiculous things people say to runners. Question: How many of these have you heard? Answer: Too many!


Are you thinking of planting a garden or joining a community supported agriculture program for the first time this year? If so, be sure to check out my guide on CSA and garden planning and steps.

No-bake peanut butter chocolate cookie | Kale and Ale

No-bake peanut butter chocolate cookie

If you are looking for an easy vegan and gluten free dessert, make this: No-bake peanut butter and chocolate chip cookies. I made them for a work lunch yesterday and they were easy to  make and crazy tasty.

Have you signed up? I am starting a newsletter, sure to be the easiest way to stay updated on new Kale and Ale blog posts and happenings. With a few fun things planned for the spring, now is the time to get on the list and make sure you don’t miss anything! Sign up here.

Produce Preservation Tips

How to preserve produce | KaleAndAle.comYou have a lot of produce one way or another. It could be that all the tomatoes in your garden got ripe at once, corn was a crazy good deal and at its peak at the farmer’s market, or zucchini was in season this week in your CSA. No matter the reason, you just can’t eat it all and want to preserve it.

No matter how many times a coworker brings in food from a home garden or tree, or whatever is the “it” food of the week at the CSA, I pride myself on not being wasteful, and extending the produce of the season into the off season.

I know others have these same issues, and I’ve been so crazy busy the past week preserving food and know I will be as we sprint toward the first frost here in the Twin Cities, that I wanted to share my tips with you, and I want to hear your tips on how to preserve food.

My favorite ways to preserve food include:


I tried this for the first time last week. Not going to lie, it was a lot of work but the early tastes are delicious and it was fun to make and see the science of it. I got a lot of tips and recipes from the Ball jar website.

I will have salsa for a very long time to come. Someone who cans suggested tomato sauce and I love that idea because I will know what’s going in it and it can be canned in one- or two-meal can sizes, as I just don’t go through a jar from the store quickly.

Canning salsa |

Canning salsa verde


This has long been my go-to method. Freezing is easy and quick, and you have food stocked in your fridge for the off-season. It’s important to note that food that has been frozen won’t have the same texture or consistency once it’s defrosted, but what you freeze will be great in smoothies, soups, casseroles, things of that nature. And think come a cold winter day how great it will be to have food in your freezer you don’t need to buy that is home-grown!

In the photo below I have a vegan squash soup that I froze because it made a lot. If you aren’t sure how something already made will work in the freezer and through being defrosted, put one serving in the freezer and try it out to know for next time. Also, when freezing some foods need to be blanched, and use the right items to freeze it (freezer bags, tin foil to prevent frostbite, etc.). I like to label and date things so I quickly know what it is and how long it’s been in there.

Read more on the USDA freezing and food safety website.

Freeze produce |

Freezing broth, veggies and soup

Quick pickle

Simply put, prepare what you want to pickle, put it in an airtight jar, and put vinegar and flavors over it. It’s a great way to add flavor and preserve something you can’t eat quick enough but want to enjoy. I especially like to quick pickle cucumbers, green beans and beets. I eat them straight, and on salads and sandwiches. I’ve made this flavorful beet recipe a few times. See the Serious Eats guide to quick pickling to get started.


A dehydrator is large and can be a big initial investment, but if you have a lot of food to preserve or like the taste of dehydrated foods, it’s worth it. Dehydrated foods have so many uses, from fruit as quick, sweet snacks to raw crackers and granola to veggies so they don’t take up as much space or spoil before they are added to soups later. Read my post here about what I bought when I got a dehydrator.

Make broth

As noted on the left in the freezer picture is cubes of broth. Homemade broth is great because you know what’s (not) in it and you can use all the scraps from carrots, onions, potatoes and other veggies (and meat if you eat it) for the broth. So to me that’s win-win! And I love putting it in ice cube trays because I know how much broth they hold, so when a recipes calls for a certain amount I grab the right number of cubes. Read how I make my own broth here.

Give away

Gain favor of family, friends and coworkers in the easiest way: Give them extras of food you already have! This is a tried and true method, and at my last job it was very common and the best way to make new best friends.

What is your solution when you have too much produce?

First-time Garden Tips

Buying garden plants |

Picking out plants for the garden.

For many years I’ve known when I owned a home I would have a garden. I became a homeowner a year (and one week, but who’s counting?!?) ago, just in time to rake a crazy amount of leaves. As soon as the snow was off the ground this spring, I began to plan my garden and once frost was over, I dug in, but early fall is the perfect time to start planning your garden for next year. Start today by seeing how and when the sun is in your yard to decide what types of plants might work best, and thinking about what you would want to grow to eat this time next year. See the “Gardening Tips” bullet points below for more tips and the USDA website for more info.

Previously I have tried container gardening with no success, as in figuring out the exact moment the basil plant won’t survive and taking off all the leaves to break even on the plant. I know the soil is better in the upper Midwest than it would be in the sandy ground of Florida, but I didn’t know what to expect. What I ended up with is an embarrassment of riches. It’s getting to the point that I keep watching the weather and I know I’m going to run out of time (typical plant hardiness zone 4B issues, I tell ya!) before it starts to frost and I’ll still have green tomatoes and other plants producing.

Garden just planted |

The garden early on.

Garden end of season |

The garden last week, near the end of the season.

Very soon I’ll be picking a lot of green tomatoes and grabbing the potted herbs and bringing them all indoors to salvage what I can. Check back Monday as I give tips on what to do with a large bounty at the end (or anytime) during the season when the produce is coming faster than can be consumed and to preserve for the colder months.

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Gardening Tips


  • Once you figure out what you want to grow, find out how much space to leave and how big the plant will get.
  • See what amount of sunlight each plant needs and if your garden will provide it
  • Once you know these two things, see if what you want to grow is still realistic with the size and location of your garden.


  • Build what you need. Fencing that animals can’t get through is good. Next year I’m going to add a trellis on one side for the yellow pear tomatoes that are up to 10 feet tall.
  • Build your garden in a way that you can still reach the ground to weed and pick produce. I’m going to add a paved path in the middle of my garden next year to walk through the middle.
  • Add dirt, if needed, and till the garden to make it easier to plant and for the roots to grow.
  • Buy any supplies you might need (tools; fencing; watering items; fertilizer; twine, cages or poles for growing; etc.).
  • Plant in pots what can—or should—be kept on its own, especially plants that spread and creep, are made to be hanging plants, or would be better to be oved to more/less sunlight.


  • I was told by a longtime gardener it’s not really worth starting from seedlings because the space/time/items needed aren’t often worth the return.
  • Rotate crops year to year to maintain the soil.
  • Trim back/prune branches as they begin to grow so they don’t get out of control and to get healthy, bountiful produce.
  • Water and drain as recommended for the plant
  • If a plant is on its last leg, give it some love with water and plant food. One tomato plant came back that way.

As mentioned above, my next post will be about what to do with all the harvest.

If you have gardened, what tips would you pass along to first-timers?

If you want to have your first garden, what else would you like to know about?