Sunday, November 29, 2009


One of the things most important in a cook's career, is to "stage". A Stage (pronounced: Stahsh) is when you work in another Chef''s kitchen for a day, to a week, or even longer for free, so that you can be exposed to new techniques. Most of the times it is the only way to get a job in this industry. Because not only are you learning from the chef, but he is also learning about you. The way you move, work, how focused you are, how fast you adapt, and how much you know. It is also a great way for you to get a feel of the kitchen. How often is the Chef around, Is the style of food, the type of food you want to be working with, Do the cooks want to be there, Is there a strong learning environment.
There is a lot more to a stage than meets the eye, and it could easily be your foot in the door if you play it right. Not to mention, Staging is a great way to be exposed to what the rest of the industry is doing, Great way to network, and as i mentioned before, a great way to learn.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

In Over my head?

This past year was my first actual attempt at having a Garden, and overall i want to say it was successful. I went (and am still going) through a lot of trial and error, for Example: my Jalapeno's and Serrano's both fell short this year...the peppers were spicier than ever, but the fruit was not larger than an inch on each. I went on to realize (with the help of some veteran gardeners) that I had been over watering my plants. My Onions, started from seed didn't do well at all, and that primarily was just because I started them too late. I also received word that onion starts were the way to go, because the season is just to short, from a local farmer.
This among a few other things have actually kept me interested and have pulled me back to gardening In the future. Now that the growing season is primarily over (completely over for me) I am excited for the year to come. Thoughts of improvement, the troubles to come, what to grow, and where to plant it all, constantly have been running through my head lately. Improvement, will happen naturally, I hope. The troubles to come will be dealt with when they come my way. What to Grow is just now a matter of me narrowing down the list to more practical number.
As far as where to plant it all, Carolina's cousin Sue and her husband Ramone (who live next door ) were nice enough to allow me to use part of there yard to garden as well. In there eyes i'm doing them a favor, in my eyes they're doing me the favor. So it works out perfectly, and thanks to these past very odd 60+ degree days I've been able to get a head start on weeding and removing the rocks hidden beneath the soil. Believe me there is plenty of both on this soil. I'm hoping to buy some compost in the next few days as well as manure to help add life and nutrients into the soil, because, from what i can tell, it definitely needs it.
I hope that I am not in over my head.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Frost!? Already?

Is it normal for Illinois to have its first frost warning this early!? I walked outside and knew right away winter would be at my dorrstep sooner than I'd like it to be.. sure enough i look online and there's a Frost warning for Saturday evening

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Seed Saving: Tomatoes

Saving Seeds: 
              Just like everything else that i do, i strive for perfection. I want to not only learn how to garden, but to eventually be self-sufficient. It's a dream, but i would love to not have to go to the supermarket one day, instead solely relying on my own produce.. or that of other farmers/ homesteads.  From that point i want to try to raise poultry, then maybe a few lamb, and pigs.. However, i believe that the next step for me now is to save seeds, or attempt to.  I've looked into several articles, and watched several videos on saving seeds and for the most part what has said has been the consensus for saving Tomato Seeds. which is what i'm trying to do now. If anyone has any recommendations on a great book out there, i would love to read it but for now i will stick to the majority for now...

Vote for Dream Park

Go Bears!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Compost Bin

           There has been an addition to my Garden, my compost bin, and I have put a fair amount of thought into this, as far as width, placement, price, and materials. I didn't know how wide to make the Compost bin, or if I should just buy one, and if I did, where is the best place to put it? Should i use wood, what kind? 
               I finally decided, that buying one would cost way too much money, that I did not have. Remembering that I needed to make better use of my power tools, building one became my only option.  Now, I'm not going to lie, I was pretty excited about building this compost bin. I've always liked making things with my hands, for me its just more rewarding. 
             Based off of a $20 budget that I had given myself, I saved $17. Out of pure luck, I ended up finding a Generous amount of Scrap wood that had not been treated, some screws i found laying around, and only had to buy a few pieces of wood that I needed to use as a frame.
             Let me know what you think, I think it could have been better, but for now I am satisfied, it does its job, and holds a descent amount of compost.

Kentucky Pole Beans

                   Just like Everything else, growing these were like riding a bike for the first time. I had no idea what to expect, or what was to come but i was excited and yet nervous. I didn't know how big it was going to grow, or if the soil conditions were right, but i wanted to give it a shot, and i am glad that i did. 

There is one thing that i definitely would change, such as: growing the beans on a trellis, possibly with the cucumbers. I've seen this done somewhere, but i'm concerned that one will choke the other (because they are both vines) I will look it over unless someone has any info on the subject.

Cucumber Plants

These are my cucumber plants. I wish I would have planted three more plants so that I would have been able to yield more than 1 or 2 Cucumbers at a time, but I am grateful for what i have been able to yield. I also want to try other varieties, Possibly Lemon Cucumbers...Any Suggestions?

Cherokee Purple Heirloom Tomato

My Apologies for the bad picture, but this is the current state of my Cherokee Purple Heirloom tomato plants. I'm glad I chose this Heirloom as my first. I've had a great yield so far, and it grew very well. (not to mention that they are delicious) I've been fortunate to have enough tomatoes to feed my family and several of my friends. 

Forgive me for my Absence

Forgive me for my absence. I've had a streak of bad luck, beginning with the breaking of my camera. I will not continue to bore anyone with my problems, instead, i will just fill you in on what has been happening in my garden.

Monday, May 25, 2009


This was growing on the side of my stairs.


Because I had left my Garden unattended for three days i had some cleaning to do. There so happens to be a big tree next door, truth be told i'm not to sure the type of tree but i will find out, this means that i constantly have leaves and seeds falling into my garden.
Well as i was cleaning i realized that if i had decided to wait one more day i would have had a bigger weed problem. These seeds had begun to sprout, hopefully i got them all before they took root.

Saturdays Green City Market

I have always been a fan of the Farmer's Markets, but i haven't always had access to them. This year i told myself i needed to go as much as possible, and decided the only that would happen would be to work for one of the markets. It just so happened that the Green City Market was hiring, at the time. So you can find me at the Market every Wed. and Sat. 

This weekend i just couldn't help myself, and i had to do some shopping.
I had to buy some of that Beautiful Michigan Asparagus.

And who could resist Capriole Chevre Goat Cheese..Delicious!

The Mesclum mix also looked to good to pass up.

I also have become a great fan of Blue Marble Family Farm's dairy products. Their Drinkable plain yogurt is by far my favorite. (pics soon)

I will most likely make a Salad today of the ingredients listed above, and an omelet tomorrow of the Asparagus and Goat Cheeese.

This Last Saturday, there was a reported 5,200 people at the market!! thats great to hear. I know for a fact that I'm not the only one anxiously awaiting strawberries, because they sold out in the first 15 min!!!!!! I work at the market and i couldn't even get any! I'll have to try my luck on Wednesday As the Weeks go by, i will post more and more on the Green city Market.

Oregon Sugar Pod Pea!

The Past few days, for me, have been a little hectic. There was a lot i had to do but not enough time to do it all, and unfortunately my Garden went neglected for three days. Luckily nothing was lost or damaged. 

On a lighter note, while i was gone my Oregon Sugar Pod Pea decided to fruit! Just goes to show you the Beauty of mother nature.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

PIctures of the Garden

These Pictures were taken today in my Garden, by my girlfriend Carolina Montesino, of my Purple Cherokee Tomatoes...I tried taking the pictures myself but she just has this way of seeing through the eye of the camera, better than anyone i know.

More pictures of the Garden soon!!!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Beautiful Weather is Here!!...kind of...

So the weather has definitely been a lot nicer lately, which means i have also been busier than normal, my garden is well in the works, i will have more updates in the next few days on what's planted,  problems i've ran into,  and my trips to the market..

Friday, April 10, 2009

Anxiously Awaiting Beautiful Weather

Gotta love the city of Chicago...snowing one day, followed by a beautiful day the next. 
My plants are doing great!! Most of them are ready to be taken outdoors, but, because of the randomness of the weather here, i need to hold off just a bit.

the sugar pod peas look great easily over a foot tall....
my tomato plant nice and ready as well
       cucumber plants quietly waiting
serrano plants in no rush
lettuces new to the batch, will be ready soon
onions taking there sweet time

Friday, March 27, 2009


I for the longest time, have had this fixation for having everything new. No matter what it was, it had to be new, but lately -i guess because of this economy- i have been trying to make the most of what i have, trying to be more resourceful.
I use to help my Grandfather do yard work when i was younger, and just recently realized that the same tools we would use were still at Grandmother's house, stored away (new ones had been purchased) So i gave my Grandma a call and asked if i could borrow them, and well now the tools are back to good use.
Thanks Grandma!!!

Raised Bed

Now that my soil is turned and i've added organic matter, it's time to make the raised bed. For this i needed to stop at Lowes to pick up some wood.
 Vic helped me out with this one, and for that, i am very greatful, he helped me turn some ideas into a reality.  I can't wait until i can introduce my seedlings into it.

The "Bed"

This right here is what i have to work with, she's a good 15 ft by 4 ft . Like i had mentioned before, i really wasn't too sure what i was getting myself into, until i first dug into the soil with my Grandfather's shovel. A few boxes of rocks later, and a couple of days later of digging and filling.          I decided i wanted to do a raised bed, as i was digging, i sure enough came across a ton of clay, and i figured a raised bed would most likely be better for the roots of my vegetables.  So after a couple of trips to Farmer's Market Garden Center (local Nursery/ Garden supply store). I bought some Top Soil, Peat Moss, Composted Manure, and Compost to help build my soil. Now i know, why buy compost when you can make it yourself?...
        Well i have some in the works...but its still a ways away from being done. I'm hoping i won't have to buy anymore of the above after this year.
        The soil looks and feels healthy, its rich and dark, yet light.

Update on Seedlings

here are the sugar pod peas that i planted 17 days ago (the one in the middle of the pic) i want to say its a good 6 to 8 in tall..

Monday, March 16, 2009

Beautiful Day Out..

                  So today was definitely a beautiful pre- Spring day, so i decided to work my little patch of land. I wanted to see what the soil needed, it was my first time working with it, so figured how bad can it be?... It looked workable, and at first felt nice, and soft (right amount of clay and sand). I felt lucky. I didn't think i was going to have to add that much into it.. then i stuck my shovel into the earth and knew right then and there i was going to be spending a good amount of time on it. There were tons of rocks all shapes and sizes. I dug about a foot deep just to ensure that my vegetables would be growing in the best conditions that i could offer. By this i mean, removing every possible weed and rock that i could find. As i dug deeper, i noticed that the soild was primarily clay.  
          After i cleared the area i was working on from the old soil, i alternated  the top soil, compost and old soil, and would mix it up, hoping that it would help make the soil workable. As of right now the soil does seem loose, but only time will tell. 
Clay throughout work area.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Farmer's Market Garden Center

I was trying to a find a local nursery here in Chicago, i know there are few, but didn't know which one to check out. I came across Farmers Market Garden Center, and it seemed to offer a few things i was interested in. So i decided to check it out.
I bought:
     Organic Vegetable Fertilizer
     Blackforest Topsoil
     Organic Compost
If you live in Chicago, then this is definitely a place to check out, very helpful staff, and a wide variety of everything pertaining to gardening 

New Seeds!!

Just a few days ago i recieved the third shipment of seeds ( i have one more on the way) and bought a few today.     

Todays Purchase: 
          Lemon Basil

Mailed in:
        Mammoth Dill
        Black Zucchini
        Cherry Tomato
       Spanish Onions

So Far So Good

The above picture is a sprouting sugar snap pea, that sprouted in two days! i was pretty surprised about that..because what i have read it takes anywhere from ten to fourteen days!

The picture below is a trio of purple cherokee tomatoes, they were the first to sprout of the tomatoes, and seem to be growing well.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Now that i have my seeds (most of them anyway), my grow light, paper pots, and soil...i'm ready to go.

  • First i wet my soil to get it evenly moist, i read that it is better for the seed to moisten the soil first, so that you don't flood the seed or wash it out.

  • Then i added the soil to my paper pots.

  • Added the seeds, topped the paper pot with more soil, and lightly pressed down.

  • I put them in a warm spot in my houseso that they germinate and under a grow light to replicate natural sunlight.

Now this is the moment of truth, will it grow?

How to Make Paper Pots

Paper Pots?

In doing my research, i came across these handmade paper pots by Lehman's  now i know what you might be saying.. $14.95 ?  I know...but i thought i'd give it a shot, and so far so good. The idea behind this is similar to the peat pots. When it comes time to transplant your plant, you can just put the paper pot in. no transplant necessary. The paper pots will naturally decompose.

Grow Light

Now i live in the Midwest, Specifically, in Chicago, so we have cold long winters and what seems like a short spring. I really wanted to get a head start on this growing seaon, so i wanted to start my seeds indoors, but because of the weather, i didn't want to put my seedlings near a window because of the fear of draft. So i went a head and bought a Grow light on line. Now it wasn't what i expected, but it seems to be working out well.

Composting Indoors

             I have been reading several articles regarding composting, most of them were for outdoors, and well, i just don't have the space or the weather to do that (yet) So, what i did, was take what i learned about composting outdoors and brought it indoors. 

             My compost bin isn't one that was bought from the store, just a simple bin i had laying around...that consists of vegetable scraps, fruit scraps, tea bags, a little bit of newspaper, and some personally dried out herb stems.

           Honestly i'm a little nervous about this..i wish i would have taken a picture of the start..but its i want to say about three weeks old...and for the most part smells sweet, but is starting to pic up a pungency..which i believe is part of the decompostion process. .But i'll keep you posted 

My Seeds Arrived!

So i just recieved some of my seeds in the mail, i know its a little late, but i decided that now is better than never. 

Seeds (left to right):
           Sugar Pod Pea
           Rutgers Tomato
           Jalapeno Pepper
          Cherokee Purple
          Serrano Pepper

wish me luck!