31 July 2014

Late-Summer Wreath

I took a break from gardening today to update
our front door wreath.
I wish I'd taken a pic of the before--
basically, it was this burlap wreath with a small amount
of embellishment at the bottom.
Very understated.

I didn't have much time but after a quick trip
to Michaels, I laid everything out and went to work.
Looking for something that will give the feel of
"almost fall" to those who enter...

Other than working with food, I feel like I've almost
forgotten how to tap into my artistic nature!

Well, I'm happy enough with the result 
and it certainly matches the rest of the 
porch decor.  Pics on that soon enough.

While I had everything out, I thought I'd see what 
I could do with this plain wreath.  It's been
sitting on our piano waiting...

I plan on moving this to the mantel in a few weeks
when I start bringing out more fall decor.

Well, enough crafting for now.
Back to the garden and kitchen.

But my unfinished quilts have been calling...

Linked to:

28 July 2014

From the Garden to the Kitchen: Using Shallots

Some of my love of cooking is found 
in trying out new ingredients.  
In the garden, I love to try out new plants.
"New" is relative, of course.  
New to my kitchen, new to my garden.  
This year, I have 4 garden newbies, 
one of which is shallots.

I now find them to be very worth the effort.
They take up very little space,
and require minimal tending.  

You do need to put a little extra mulch on them
occasionally to keep them from drying out 
as they grow and spread apart.  

Notice that from just one bulb there are now 5 new shoots/bulbs.

Experimenting, I planted just one bag of 10 bulbs ($5).  
From what I've pulled so far, I'm estimating those
should bring a harvest of at least 30 to 40 shallots.  
I also found another bag later on clearance.
For $1, I figured it was worth trying a late planting.
They're doing fine so far, and stretching out 
my season so, good call.

A bag of just 2 or 3 small bulbs at the grocery store 
runs about $3 so, yep, worth it!  Not to mention the 
convenience of having them on hand and the 
peace of mind knowing they were grown in a
completely safe environment.

For the first shallots harvested, I found this recipe:
I also grow Yukons so...a good match!  
(recipe also below)

With this recipe, I discovered what happens when
 you toast mustard seeds.
Incidentally, this is why I dream of culinary school.
Who comes up with this stuff!?!
Just the smell of them toasting lightly in a pan was
indication enough of what was to come, 
and, oh my! the dish did not disappoint!
I'm now curious to find other recipes that use 
mustard seeds this way!

Fresh.  Simple.  And so delicious.
Bon appetit!

Do you have a favorite way of using shallots?
Linking to:

Recipe from Food & Wine
2 1/4 lbs small Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed but not peeled
1 t yellow mustard seeds
4 T unsalted butter, softened
1 T minced parsley
1 med shallot, minced
2 t fresh lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground pepper

In a saucepan, boil the potatoes in water to cover until tender, about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a small skillet, toast the mustard seeds over moderate heat until they pop, about 3 minutes. In a small bowl, mix the butter with the parsley, shallot, lemon juice and mustard seeds. Season generously with salt and pepper.
Drain and halve the potatoes lengthwise. In a large dish, toss the potatoes with the shallot butter and serve.

MAKE AHEAD The shallot butter can be refrigerated for 1 week.

Linked to 

27 July 2014

A Foodie's Garden

Am I a foodie because of my garden?
Or am I a gardener because I'm a foodie? 
How about....YES!

Lemon Boy tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, reg basil & purple basil.
Top with a little balsamic vinegar and bon appetit!

Over the last few years my passion for both
has really increased.

Cooking can just be good...or gourmet
depending on the quality of the ingredients.

Which is I why I grow as much as I can.
And I cook with them while they're fresh
as much as possible.

Cooking with what the seasons offer is
healthier, cheaper, better for the environment
and just better for the taste.

Corsican Chicken ready to bake with herbs and peppers from the garden.

Often throughout the growing season, you'll find
our countertops, pantry and refrigerator over-loaded
with produce waiting to be used while 
the flavors are at a peak.  

What we dined on this Sunday eve:
Steak fillet with herbed butter, red bell pepper, yellow squash and zucchini
sauteed lightly in quality olive oil from Sonoma Valley and Yukon Gold
All herbs, potatoes, shallots and veggies fresh from the garden.
In all seriousness, this dinner could've rivaled any gourmet restaurant.

The Internet has made it so much easier to search
ways to cook with specific ingredients but I still 
love to peruse my own cookbooks and those 
from the and those from the library.  I then put our  
"approved" recipes in our family cookbooks.  

Because I feel cooking should never be 
thought of as a chore,
I want to start sharing some of these
garden-fresh recipes here.

Yes, cooking can add spice to our lives
but I think it is often overlooked as a wonderfully 
creative, and even therapeutic, outlet.
It can also be overlooked as
a learning tool to put us in touch with
 other cultures and even other times.
Just because we cook every day doesn't 
mean our cooking has to be "everyday".

11 July 2014

Growing Space: Success at Gardening Part 4

The greatest summer ever continues to deliver.

Not only was it wonderfully cool again yesterday morning, 
but I also get several more days off from watering.

A garden literally bursting at its seams.

Time to journal about where to garden. 
What kind of space do you have for it?

If you have no yard, invest in some great pots
and start container gardening.

The biggest issue I have with container gardening is the constant
watering.  In my climate, these pots can dry out quickly, 
requiring water at least daily, if not more.

I don't really have a great collection of pots as
I do this only for seeding herbs, eventually transplanting
 most, if not all, into the herb gardens.  Sometimes I 
will bring herbs in to cook with over
the winter.

If you have a small yard and think you don't have
room for a vegetable garden, think again.  
Think about your flower beds.

One of the herb gardens earlier this year

Vegetables can be grown in your existing flower beds.
Mix them right in there among the flowers.

Putting herbs closer to the house keeps them 
handy for cooking.

My herb gardens make up my "flower beds" along
two sides of my house.  Being a practical person,
I see more use in growing edible landscape!

Also think about growing upward.
Growing any plant that vines onto trellises can
increase your space exponentially--cucumbers,
peas, many types of squash and pumpkins,
melons, etc, all all do well on trellises.

If you are lucky and have plenty of space to choose
from, here are some things to consider when deciding 
where to put your garden(s).

Keep in mind the positioning of the sun during the 
seasons.  If the area is shaded in the spring, it will 
take longer to dry and warm up before you can plant.
You also want a spot that is sunny at least half of the 
day, and more is better.  If you can't avoid some shade, 
keep in mind a little shade in the hottest hours of the
 day can be a real plus. 

Avoid low-lying areas or you'll be dealing with too much
water which leads to fungus and rot.  If it's in your
budget, consider raised beds...eventually.  Pace yourself!

With all the rain we've had, I'm so glad we added the raised beds this year.
Drainage and soil aren't really issues so I chose to keep them to a minimal height.
Is water readily available?  The less time and effort
you can spend lugging around garden hoses, the 
happier you'll be.  Ask me how I know.
Can you keep a compost nearby?   You'll spend lots
of time going back and forth between the two areas.
If you can, just as with herbs, put the garden close 
to your kitchen.  You'll spend a lot of time going back 
and forth between these two places as well.
What about wind break?  nice breeze can make working
in the garden so much more pleasant, but a hot wind 
can dry it out quickly, and a big storm can do a lot of 
damage--even knock over taller plants.
My garden has a solid row of trees to the north.
To the south there is a row of trees that are trimmed up
high and a row of currant bushes below, allowing
 a breeze and protection.
Do you have room to expand?  ALWAYS start out
small.  You can add more space and other gardens
after a year or so learning what you can handle.  
My expansion was phased over 5 years or so.

These two long, narrow gardens were added several years after I started
my current garden.  Note also the heavy wind-break of trees to the north.
Obviously a spot with great soil would be ideal
but I would almost make this lower on the priority list,
especially if you're determined and patient.
The position of my garden fit about everything BUT 
good soil--it was hard-packed, clay-like and full of weeds.
A few years of intense composting brought it around
nicely.  One of my brothers still shakes his head 
in disbelief when he sees the soil I have now!

When it comes to gardening, 
where there's a will, there's a way!

09 July 2014

The Question of Time: Success at Gardening Part 3

Our weather has been so wonderful these
last months that I've been able to spend
time in my garden every. single. day.

Basically, that has never happened before.

Early spring in the garden

The timing couldn't have been better.
I really recommend gardening for therapy.
It's right up there with quilting and cooking.

Another angle, early spring.

It's all about allowing yourself to focus.

I spent hours leisurely--leisurely!--designing, 
planting and transplanting, pulling weeds and just
creating order.  Focusing.

I also spent lots of time at my cafe table,
working on my Bible study and journaling.

Chloe usually joined me.  

Chloe sometimes thinks she's a human.
She also loves to photo-bomb--watch for her!

Not every year offers this kind of weather...or time.
Believe me when I say this has been very unusual!

In planning your garden, it's very important to 
factor in the time you'll be able to devote to it.
Grab your journal for answering the following questions.

The questions aren't meant to deter you but to give you a more practical and honest
 idea about what you're undertaking.  Sadly, it's not all flowers and sunshine...
but then again, if it were, it wouldn't be as rewarding now, would it?
Are you willing to get up early to catch the cooler 
temps if you live in a warmer climate?
Do your kids play sports?  Other activities?
If so, you'll have schedules to work around. 
If you're planning on preserving, are you willing
to stay up late if you're schedule gets thrown?

Produce should be preserved as quickly as possible after picking.
Do you take vacations during the busy garden months?
If so, can someone cover while you're gone,
watering, harvesting and, if you're lucky, weeding?
Do you have others--spouse, children, etc--to help
in the garden or with other chores?
Even keeping things running in the house by making dinner or keeping up the
laundry can be a huge help when you're spending extra hours in the garden.
What other factors might affect your time?

Please Help Identify the New Chicks on the Block

I'm going to back up a little here.
(Probably be doing that a lot till I catch up!)

As we were down to only 6 hens (who weren't
laying well) I decided to order a new batch this year. 
They arrived May 1 and, as it often happens, I even 
received an extra.  Bonus!  I've never had this many!

It's a very good thing my dh built that 
great run a couple of years ago! 

I actually ordered 5 Buff Orpingtons, 
5 Black Stars and 5 Araucanas.  

Exhibit A:  Um, with those chest feathers, this isn't a Black Star or an Araucana.

I'm not sure what I have but, now that they are
10 weeks old, I'm pretty sure I didn't get my Araucanas--
at least not all 5 of them.
(Chicks are not that easy to identify as they 
lose feathers and change as they mature.)

Exhibit B

I've wanted Araucanas for quite a while,
especially for the different colored eggs.
We've only had brown egg layers.  

Exhibit C:  Will this turn into an Araucana?

Needless to say, I'm very disappointed.
Of course, I've now invested my time and money
in these so I guess we will make due.

Exhibit D:  My biggest hopes are on this one...

I'm not that familiar with very many breeds.
Certainly someone out there can identify for me?

Exhibit E

Please tell me at least one or two of these are 

06 July 2014

Growing the Dream: Success at Gardening Part 2

After an extra month or so of cool temps and rains,
it looks like summer has decided to show up
in Kansas after all.   96' today, 98' tomorrow.  
Yikes...and yuck.

Peas in front and back (on other side of zucchini);
 a little worn but still producing nicely.

I've pulled the peas and most of the beans, a process
that was painful for this gardener and cook as they
 were still producing; however, a look at the forecast
has taken care of most of the guilt I had.  I think these
crops would've started to fizzle in the heat anyway.

A pile of plants waiting, in the cool shade, for my boys to remove the beans
before the rest hits the compost pile.  Quality family time, right?  Not sure they
would agree now but years later they will.

Plus, we've eaten our fill.
I've also frozen and canned all we need.

For optimal flavor and vitamins, I always serve as much as I can 
of any vegetable straight out of the garden--often they're 
 just minutes old.  This year I was still able to put about 
25 cups of peas in the freezer--my best crop of peas yet.

Still, it would've been fun to see just how much 
of these the garden could've produced.
Oh well...

Peas removed, tidiness restored and space open for Jack-B-Littles.
Plan ahead for crop rotation and to make the best use of space.

Which brings me to today's lesson.
The most successful gardens all begin with planning.
My garden may be in full production but I'm still 
thinking and planning for next year's as well,
which is why I make lots of notes this year.

The most useful tool a gardener can have is a journal.

Mine is simply a 3-ring binder--green of course.
I keep a running journal throughout the year on my
computer, printing off a hard copy to go in the binder 
after the season is over.

If you're new to gardening, or you just want to 
play along, how about starting now with the dream.
Write down everything you'd love to grow in your 
garden next year.

Your favorite vegetables to cook with.

Flip through your recipe collection if it helps.

Add herbs for flavor.

Don't forget flowers for color, to draw bees and

even repel pests and bunnies!
(we'll get to that)

Growing Patience:  Intro to Successful Gardening

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