A Recipe Fail + Starting an Organic Garden

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Happy Monday!

Since today is the day I usually post my Food Matters Project challenge post and I don’t have one to post – I thought it would be great to tell you why.  See, I had a recipe fail this week.  The challenge, selected by Evi and Sam from Fifth Floor Kitchen was Vegetables au Vin with Coq.  The recipe basically is a version of Coq au Vin with extra vegetables.  If you are not familiar with Coq au Vin, it is a French dish featuring braised chicken and mushrooms in a red wine sauce.  Sounds great right? Done well, it is wonderful!

So, I had this great idea to use up these dried Fava Beans burning a hole in my pantry and make a Vegan Fava au Vin using most of the ingredients in Bittman’s version except the bacon and chicken.  I learned a few lessons from the experience.

Lesson 1: do yourself a huge favor and NEVER buy dried, unhulled Fava Beans unless you want to spend 2 to 3 hours of your life peeling individual half-cooked beans.

Second, not sure if it was really such a great idea to take most of the Coq out of the Coq au Vin. I probably should have used Turkey Bacon or Chicken for an additional layer of flavor. Now, don’t get me wrong – the dish actually tasted pretty good but like I said I think another layer of flavor would have been great.

But here’s the truth, it looked disgusting. I mean disgusting.  Like I think there are nicer looking piles of brown stuff at the dog park disgusting.  And the texture was off.  The fava beans and eggplant melted into the sauce (which lent a nice earthy flavor) and without the Coq all I was really left with was a bowl of brownish-red sauce, some soft onions, mushrooms and green beans.  I don’t know about you but not my idea of a great meal. Definitely not delicious and not good enough for you guys!

I am not going to lie, I’m pretty upset.  Mostly because I wasted half of a bottle of delicious Merlot.  Secondarily, because I was hoping it would be awesome. That’s why I went with the great Merlot, I took a chance. But sometimes kitchen experiments fail and that’s OK!

The moral of the story is always experiment in the kitchen but never waste good wine.

If you want to see what the other Food Matters Project participants conjured up from the Vegetables au Vin with Coq, check it out here!

So now on to my (mini) organic garden endeavor.  Living in a place like Seattle, it’s pretty hard to NOT to want to garden, have chickens, compost, reuse rain water and probably have a goat – all while living less than twenty feet from the next house.  At this point, we just compost and have started a mini garden but give us a few more years here and who knows what we will be up to!

We went to the first Organic Edible Plant Sale of the season hosted by Seattle Tilth and finally pulled the trigger by buying a huge bag of Organic Soil, a variety of Gourmet Lettuces, Collard Greens, Dinosaur Kale, Totsoi (an Asian green I love!) and five herbs (Flat Leaf Parsley, Rosemary, Thyme, Oregano and Mint).

While we are lucky to have a large backyard, it is not suitable for gardening.  First reason is it is mostly shaded and this being Seattle, that’s a bad start.  Second reason is that it is paved and set up for entertaining and Barbecuing.  Not such a bad thing in the big scheme of things and I’m not complaining but doesn’t leave us much room to grow things.

My husband got excited and committed to building me some raised beds out front but after some discussion, we decided to get these Biodegradable Fiber Grow Pots and pot everything out front for maximum sun.  These pots are really inexpensive and can last one or two years. We figure if the gardening thing works out, we can compost them and build some raised beds.

Taking a tip from the knowledgeable woman at Swanson’s Nursery (amazing store!!), we threw some clean, empty cans in the bottom of each pot to use up some space and allow us to use less soil.

Next we carefully transferred all the plants into pots.  The Mint is alone in the smallest pot.  Next are the lettuce plants and lettuce seed.  Then from front to back we planted Collards, Kale and Totsoi (probably planted a bit too close together), and finally the remaining herbs; Parsley, Oregano, Thyme and Rosemary.

Some things I learned are:

  • Mint should be potted alone because it grows like crazy and will take over anything else it is near.
  • Try to place your plants at least 6″ apart to give the roots room.
  • Loosen the roots/soil a bit when transferring the seedlings to the pots.
  • Once you plant everything, leave it alone.
  • Don’t over-think the whole thing and be a lunatic.

I’m really excited to (hopefully) start growing some greens and herbs here.  I plan to write progress posts every couple of weeks and will be sure to include tips.  As well, I am hoping to feature these greens and herbs in many recipes coming your way!

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  1. Dianne says

    Oh how i love to read your stuff!! Thank you for sharing greatness and also…a recipe fail!! You make me feel human!

  2. says

    Oh you poor thing! I can understand your disappointment. I made my dish withough coq, bacon, or wine so it was a far cry from the original. I got the the end of making the dish and said okaaaaaayyyy….hmmmmm….what should I do with this now? I looked at everything in my pantry–it seemed like it would make an ugly pasta sauce…I have been eating a lot of quinoa lately…not in the mood for potatoes…and I finally decided on the polenta you saw. It was not my favorite recipe by any means but the polenta saved the day, I must say :) I’m glad you posted about your recipe fail because we all have them but seldom/never post them for all to see!
    Aura Caplett recently posted..Mushroom-Vegetable Stew Over PolentaMy Profile

  3. says

    I recently purchased my own little plants to start a garden. I choose cilantro, tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers, egg plant and Jalapeño peppers. :) Learning along the way!! thanks for tips!

    • EverydayMaven says

      Nice! I want to add cilantro, coriander, basil, dill, cucumber, eggplant and zucchini but need to wait until May because of the climate here. Also, to wait and see how this first round of growing works out!

  4. says

    I love your little herb garden! My mom has a gorgeous one at her house and she’s been inspiring me for a couple of years to make one of my own…mine would have to be a balcony herb garden though! :)

    Sorry to hear about the coq au vin…I do love your idea of making it vegetarian though!
    Faith recently posted..Pearl Barley Pilaf with Porcinis & PeasMy Profile

  5. says

    Sometimes things just don’t work out how we expected them to. I guess this is how we learn most.
    I would love to have some space to plant a little garden, but all I can do is plant some herbs on my windowsill.

  6. says

    If you are using packing peanuts make sure it is the non-water soluble kind also put a layer of landscape material over the peanuts to prevent soil from washing into the peanuts, not necessary but it is something I do.
    Your garden is off to a good start, looking forward to reading about the progress.

    • EverydayMaven says

      I wound up only using the cans this time but I’ll note that about the packing peanuts. Thanks Norma!

    • EverydayMaven says

      Thanks Sarah – I am hoping our little plants and herbs do well so we can pot a second round of summer veg in May!

  7. says

    I love that you are growing herbs… herbs are ridiculously expensive at the store and I usually never use up everything that I get anyway. I live in a small apartment and planting is difficult, but definitely not impossible. The Fava au Vin was a good idea, I’m sorry it didn’t turn out as great as you planned. I’m more sorry for the good Merlot, but thank you for the lesson on not experimenting with good wine. You live in Seattle? I live in Eastern Washington, Wine Country… maybe we could meet up someday!
    Margarita recently posted..Whole Roast Chicken and Vegetables au Vin… Even Better the Next DayMy Profile

    • EverydayMaven says

      We have to! We haven’t ventured to Eastern WA yet but plan to at some point. I will let you know for sure :)

  8. says

    Thanks for the heads up on dried favas. I always wondered about them. I spend a lot of time in the spring peeling fresh favas. It is one job that is so worth the work..

    Sorry about the fail, I served mine on a potato-parsnip puree…fail…I did not know that parsnips were sweet and it did not go with the sweet grapes I added.

    • EverydayMaven says

      Lexi the dried favas are a PITA! I will never buy the dried unhulled again. I am sure fresh is sooo much quicker!

    • EverydayMaven says

      Thanks! She also said that packing peanuts work great as a filler and allow for good water drainage if you have any of those lying around.

  9. says

    Don’t worry, even the original recipe didn’t look all that appealing… I was apologizing for the appearance as I served it! God bless fresh herbs though, (and it looks as though you’ll have plenty of those!) they help to make everything look better!

  10. says

    Well, nothing ventured, nothing gained, and that is so true when experimenting with recipes! But you’re right… you learned something anyway (always valuable) and you didn’t lose anything. Well, except for that merlot… But the pain will surely fade in time. And another bottle of that red might help console you in the meantime :-)

    Love how composted your “failure” into a post about starting an herb garden! That’s the spirit!
    Marcia recently posted..Slow-Cooked Coq au VinMy Profile

  11. says

    This gives me strength knowing that I am not the only one that misses the target in the kitchen sometimes. :) I hate when you put all that time into something and it doesn’t turn out quite right. But at least you had the other half of the Merlot to keep you company!
    Alissa recently posted..Kale Salad with Garlic Tahini DressingMy Profile

  12. says

    Oh my gosh…what a learning experience. I do think that it sounds like it should have been a fabulous meal. I like your attitude, though – definitely experiment…because you never know! =) I’ll be planting some herbs soon, as well – thanks for the inspiration =)

  13. says

    Having your own organic garden is awesome most especially when you will use it as your ingredients in your recipe. I remember way back how fresh are the leafy vegetables and you could really see how healthy they are and when cooked they give that satisfying natural taste.
    Lyka Ricks recently posted..Why is skeletal muscle striated?My Profile

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