Friday, April 29, 2011

Pappardelle with Creamed Chard

My tomato seedlings were already planted basking in the glorious sun and rain of mid spring while my eggplant seedlings had to watch longingly from the window.  I suppose I could always stick them in with the roses, but they might get poked or, worse, forgotten.  So, out came the chard to make room in the vegetable garden.  It was actually PERFECT timing.  The chard had big leaves on a few plants but most of them were medium-sized and still young and tender... perfect.

Now, what do you do with a pile of chard (plus the rest of the spring onions)?  Well, I typed the word "chard" into a favorite food blog's search bar.  Then, tweaked it Cicada Cottage style.  My favorite way to prepare greens?  Cream and nutmeg.  This is a rich dish comfort food, beware.  Pair it with a tangy salad or a fruit plate and some super crusty bread.

Pappardelle with Creamed Chard
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

8 oz dried pappardelle pasta (or any shape works well here)

2 bunches chard, stems trimmed off
2 cups heavy cream, milk, or half and half
5 Tablespoons butter
4-5 green onions, sliced
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and FGP, to taste

Prepare pasta according to package directions.  Set aside.

Slice the chard greens into large pieces.  Rinse well, then add, still wet, to a large pot and cook, covered,  5 minutes stirring one or two times.  Meanwhile, warm cream (or milk) over medium heat in a small saucepan.  Drain chard, then wring out excess water.  Set aside.

In same large pot melt butter over medium high heat and add green onions and red pepper flakes, cook for one minute, add flour and whisk constantly for 2 to 3 minutes.  Then, while still whisking, slowly add the warmed cream.  Cook cream and onion mixture until it begins to thicken, a few more minutes.

Add chard, nutmeg, salt and FGP, and parmesan cheese.  Stir until smooth.  Add pasta, stir over medium heat to warm up the entire dish, serve steaming.  Best the first day, but still good tomorrow!

Serves 4-6

©Sweat Bread

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Bring 'Em In!

They are messy, and pricey, and don't last very long at all, but there is something that cut flowers in a vase bring to a room no other decor can touch.  I noticed a lot of purple in our yard, so I used that as the unifying element and brought 'em in!!


chive blossoms


false indigo


Japanese Maple

and the iris, that are beginning to bloom all over town here

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

"That which we call a rose, By any other name would smell as sweet"

 Fertilizing really pays off when it comes to roses!  I took these photos this morning around the garden.  I can't take any credit for the planting of them and Dr. Gooch did the fertilizing, but I am enjoying their form and fragrance.  Wish you could come take a rose stroll with yours truly.

Another wonder in the garden right now is this Bells of Ireland that Dr. Gooch planted by seed two winters ago.  Here it is even overpowering the Hibiscus next to it.  My dad, the florist and gardener extraordinaire, said he had never even seen one growing "in the wild".  

When we were dating, he would give me flowers with Bells of Ireland (or Moluccella laevis) in the arrangement.  He loves them so tried his hand at them in the garden.  They are in the mint family and are native to Syria, Turkey and the Caucusus.  They don't like hot, humid we'll see how they fare through the summer.  For now, they are a delight to watch.

This is my new favorite flowering perennial.  It is Baptisia Australis or "False Indigo".  It is in the pea family.  And does well in drought and even heavy clay soil.  A winner!

 A little bit of the west coast on the east coast!  We scattered some poppy seeds a couple autumns ago and now have a couple of plants that pop out each spring.  My sister, Katy, would love these!

And here!  My first ever peony bud.  The ants are attracted to a sap on the bud but do no harm.  They also don't "tickle open" the petals as commonly believed.

Vegetables are well and nice, but in the words of Claude Monet, "I must have flowers, always, and always." 

Monday, April 25, 2011

Kitty Litter

Copper River Tomato

Brandywine Heirloom Tomato

The tomatoes and tomatillos are now in the raised beds.  Just in time because the weather is quite warm this week.  I'll put the eggplant in later today. Vegetables like loose, well draining dirt (so do cats, it seems). My only pest (so far) is Linus, the cat next door.  My dirt is so sexy I have him convinced it's kitty litter. 

It's not.  And I sometimes want to shoot his little paws for digging in my beds. 

I won't.  Shoot his paws.  I pulled the bok choy (that had bolted while we were at the beach).  We ate our bok choy for lunch and a yummy easy cauliflower dish that I made with diced up ham leftover from Easter dinner.  I'll give you the recipe as soon as I catch up from Spring Break '11.  

We had so much fun.  Today I've been spot-weeding.  And watering the fig tree.  Dr. Gooch can't figure out where to put it.   A Fig tree gets pretty large so we must choose wisely.

One more thing.  It is funny to me how winter truly makes me forget how LUSH it gets when the ground warms.  I love it.  It makes me feel like our acre is 10 and our neighbors are that many miles away (except of course for Linus).

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

We're Still in the Banks...

Letting these juicies ripen in our absence!  This is the most blooms I've seen on these plants.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Baby Plants

We are enjoying our family's spring break in the beautiful Outer Banks.  The sand is perfect and the water is icy.  After barely missing a tornado on Saturday we are extra grateful (and blessed) to be enjoying high 70s and sunshine.

While the kids and I are between beaching it, I thought I'd leave you with a few words about seedlings.  I left our itty bitty tomato, tomatillo, and eggplant plants in the care of my brother and his wife.  When I get back they will go straight into the ground.  But I saw at least one more night in the forties and didn't want to risk it.  Overprotective?  Maybe.  But after several weeks of babying these babies, one tends that way.

Seedlings, otherwise, are easy.  Water and sunlight.  We've been lucky this Spring with some warm days, so I've let the little plants outside.  They love sitting on the front porch.  This is good for them because it "hardens them off".  The breeze and direct sunlight makes their stems sturdier and more acclimated to the outdoors.  Tomato plants are unique though.  If your seedlings get to "leggy" from reaching for light in your window sill, you can plant the stems (which will grow root systems themselves) deeper to compensate.  Another reason to LOVE growing tomatoes!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

A Garden Stroll, Pit-Stop Gardening, and Clip and Go


filling up a large bowl of succulent spinach

clipping completed, small leave left intact

Clip and Go!  It's the method that keeps on giving!

One of my favorite things to do is take Dr. Gooch by the hand and walk the gardens here at CC.  After the two littles are in bed and the two olders are finishing up homework, we use the last of the days light to survey the progress.  If he's been at work all day I report (brag) on what I've done that day during what I call my Pit-Stop gardening:  Planted lavender amongst the Queen of Night Tulips that will take over flowering privileges come the summer months, weeded the slope by the garage, planted cucumbers to replace the ones I lost to cold temps, etc.  He oohs and aahs and pats my back and we discuss where to plant his new Fig tree!

I call it Pit-Stop because between household chores, meals, and four children, I pick weeds on my way to the mailbox or to feed the chickens, sow seeds during lunch, and prune trees and shrubs on my way to and from errands.  I always spend at least an hour puttering this way each day, but often (usually) two.  In this sense, gardening is not magic.  It does take time and effort, but a little goes a long way. 

Like my six spinach plants.  They will give me spinach all season and probably into the fall.  Sometimes, here, spinach will even "winter" and come back again next spring.  I'll do the same with my lettuce mix. Though lettuce will not winter.  

Take a stroll, garden in spurts, and cut and go!!  My triple tips for the day.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Herbed Omelette with Goat Cheese

What do you do with an abundance of homegrown herbs and eggs (and not much energy for anything too involved)?  This is my favorite way to eat an omelette.  I like the ham and cheddar and onions and tomatoes and mushroom, etc., etc., but sometimes it is all so fussy.  A mixture of herbs can add an unexpected flavor punch.  This one was taken to the next level by a few crumbles (smears?) of goat cheese.  For you anti-goat cheese eaters, try some fresh mozz or a nutty gruyere.

Herbed Omelette with Goat Cheese

5 Eggs
Salt and FGP
1/4 cup heavy cream
3 or 4 sprigs each of fresh herbs (thyme, dill, oregano, parsley)
2 Tblsp butter
3 to 4 Spring onions, sliced
3 oz goat cheese, crumbled
Siracha Hot Sauce (optional)

Preheat broiler on high.  Combine eggs, salt and pepper, and cream in a large bowl. Whisk until well combined.  Pick leaves off of herb stems and combine in a mug or glass.  Stick scissors down in the glass and snip until roughly chopped.  Add chopped herbs and spring onions to egg mixture.

Heat butter in nonstick skillet over medium heat.  Once butter begins to bubble add egg mixture. Turn heat down.  For the next minute (or less) gently scraped holes into the omelette with a wooden spoon.  Add goat cheese sprinkled across omelette.  Cook for another minute (or less) then place pan in oven under broiler for another minute.  Remove carefully.

Gently release edges of omelette from the pan.  Fold omelette over in half.  Slide onto serving dish.  This is good with any salsa or even just fresh tomatoes on top (the best).  I didn't have any on hand so I opted for the flavorful heat of Siracha.

Serves 2.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Seasonal Forgetful Disorder

It is late on a Monday.  The last hour of the day actually.  I spent nearly the entire day outside.  After a big thundery rain we had a hot day.  High 80s for sure, maybe even a few minutes in the saveitforsummer 90s.  Between those two conditions it was like living in a greenhouse.  The garden seemed to explode right before my eyes and nose.  With the Wisteria still offering up waves of sweet air, I walked around finding a smattering of surprises (as well as some old standbys that were right on time).

I love the idea of sneaking seeds into unsuspecting spots and forgetting about them.  I tried this same technique when I was young, maybe 13.  I had a huge volume of Anne of Green Gables, into which I never quite delved.  Too quaint for me, maybe, not enough disaster or grief.  I know.

Regardless, I had the idea of hiding a twenty dollar bill in the middle of this volume feeling like it would be swallowed up by the thick pages and, that when the fancy struck, I would stumble upon it and...well, imagine the delight at coming into money that way.  At least, it sounded delightful to my 13-year-old self.

It never worked.  I always remembered it was there and it was recaptured as quick as the changing whim of a young teen.

But, sneaking a seed into the ground at Thanksgiving, or even early Spring, one has high chances and good odds at being taken aback by the height and color that might spring forth.

When seasons pass, things are forgotten.  One might sense that the fullness felt after a Christmas Eve feast will last her at least until April Fool's Day.  Or that burning sensation of an afternoon in August makes you think that come the "relief" of January temps you will never again crave such a wave of heat.  Not so.  Seasons have a way of wiping the slate.  I suppose, if we remembered everything, we would be too tired to get our hands dirty again and wait again for the blossoms and the buds.

But instead of Exhaustion there is Anticipation.  Spring has arrived and it flows so slowly here in the Southeast.  So, take your time, and walk with me through 20 photos from today!

This California Poppy popped out of nowhere!  The daffs are looking tired, so they are happy for some help.

Oh Columbine! Oh Columbine!  How graceful are your stems.  This one was a leftover from last years wildflower seed fling.

I just loved this shot.

These hollyhocks were also a part of that fling and they are BURSTING at the stem.  Just look at that bud.

I love this view.  The CC looks like it is going to be swallowed up between the Chocolate Vine and that climbing rose.

These are at your Local Lowe's right now.  Hardy and reliable.  Salvia.

Such stature, such stately strutting, these Lilies that have yet to bloom.

The mystery shrub/vine...still cannot track it down.

Absolutely no editing here.  This is the actual color and texture of this early rose.  An English Antique.

Queen of Night Tulips under a Jap Map

Yes!  That is MY foot.  And a pine pollen dusted sun-worshiping tulip.  Everything right now is dusted in pine pollen.  Even my bathroom sink.

Speaking of sticking seeds in the ground.  Try sunflowers, these are only beginning, but...just you wait!! They get so tall even birds struggle to reach them.

They were just so beautiful in the afternoon light.  It was worth getting mulch in my ears for this shot.

Another, different sort of poppy.  Did I fling these seeds or did you Dr. Gooch (let's see if we can get him to leave a comment).

"Y" plant a Japanese Maple?  Because they come in every color of the rainbow.

Even on such a WARM day, the Wisteria reminds us it is indeed Spring.

Hosta, about a week old, pushed through under trees just starting to leaf out.  Hostas like shade.

Corel Bells will bloom in June, but who needs flowers when your leaves are this gorgeous!

Tender Veggies and herbs and a soccer goal in the distance.