Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Brilliant Blooms

Can you name them all?

It is very hot this week.  Luckily we've had a good amount of rain so everything green is shooting up and out and blooming big instead of drooping down and shriveling parched.  Summer is in full swing here: fireflies, swimming, popsicles, and ZUCCHINI coming out our ears!  Just keep that rain coming.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Better Than Delivery Margarita Pizza

I used my little cabbage heads in a spaghetti dish a la Martha Stewart last night.  It was fine.  There were bread crumbs and bacon (and how can it be all bad with bread crumbs and bacon), but I didn't LOVE it. My leeks are quiche-bound for the Memorial Day weekend festivities...so, today I give you pizza.

There are MANY nights when the Doctor is working and the rascals and I are left to fend for ourselves.  Such is the perfect night for this pizza.  And here are the reasons why:

Nothing to nit pick
A hot meal

There is something that fresh mozzarella gives to this pizza that regular mozzarella could never give.  So if you can get it, use it.  Also, homemade pizza dough is best of course, but remember, we are fending for ourselves here.

We paired ours with steamed broccoli, for a complete meal.

1 lb pizza dough (we use Trader Joe's)
1/2 cup pizza sauce (again, TJs)*
10-12 1/4-inch slices fresh mozzarella cheese
olive oil for brushing
kosher salt
corn meal for baking

Pre-heat your oven with a pizza stone inside to 500 degrees.  (If you don't have a pizza stone, ask for one for your next birthday, anniversary, or belated mother's day.  It will change homemade pizzas forever for good).

Sprinkle corn meal on your pizza peal (or an unrimmed cookie sheet).  Stretch your dough to fit your stone.  I like mine square because my stone is square.  Set the stretched dough onto the corn meal making sure there are no sticking spots.  If there are, lift and add some more corn meal.  Brush entire dough with olive oil.  Spread pizza sauce over dough leaving 1-inch all the way around.  Cover sauce with slices of mozzarella.  Finally, sprinkle edges with salt.  Carefully slide (with the aid of a spatula to release the dough from the peal) pizza onto stone.

Bake pizza for 12 to 20 minutes depending on your oven.  Crust should be golden brown and parts of cheese bubbling.

Fresh mozzarella, when baked, can get juicy.  This is what makes it so good.  Let your baked pizza sit for 5-7 minutes before serving to let the juices reabsorb a bit.  Serve with a chiffonade of fresh basil if you wish.

*A quick sauce can be made from one can of diced tomatoes blended in a food processor (with the juice).  Cook the sauce until thickened a bit (5-10 minutes) with some olive oil and garlic in a skillet.  Salt and FGP to taste.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Fantastically Fast Mr. Fox: A Sad Tale

Dr. Gooch was already out at the beach.  I had spent the previous night and all morning packing the car and the children to make the drive out to join him.  As we spoke on the phone I wondered aloud whether the chickens (3 laying, 3 two months old) would be okay if we left the coop door open so they could freely go in and out while we are away (three nights).  

Yeah, they'll be alright.

If I had only thought through it though.  If I had just remembered that most likely it had been a fox that had come not weeks before this and taken our young barred rock rooster (that we were saving to eat ourselves).  If I had realized that this fox would have informed the whole fox family of the jackpot of plump free-ranging chickens at Cicada Cottage (left unattended).  [Because it felt like they just KNEW we had left them unattended].  

If only.  But I didn't think this through and the rascals and I came home to several piles of feathers in the yard.  The remains of six last struggles.  I had not been there to protect this helpless hens and they were gotten.  

Over the phone, we said over and over to each other, "I'm just so sad about our chickens."  It was a surprising feeling that I experienced due to the loss of poultry mainly used for eggs and eventual meat.  Yet, they had become a part of our daily ritual. 

They emerged from their coop as we did from our beds.  At the sink, washing cereal bowls I would watched them excitedly strut around the yard beaks to grass grabbing bugs and greens for breakfast.  They would come running from resting spots when I brought out the "chicken bowl" of kitchen scraps or a cup of wheat.  They selflessly gave three gorgeous eggs each day.  Then, as I washed the dinner dishes at the end of a day they would march up that skinny ramp to roost for the night and we'd send a runner down to lock 'em up for safe sleeping.

We helped each other and gave what was needed.  Except for that fateful night of neglect.  It was the first night we were away for there were only 3 eggs layed.

We made the horrid discovery Monday night.  Dr. Gooch found some young hens needing a home on Craigslist and by Friday at 1pm we had six new chicks.  Three black, three white.  We hope they'll be laying eggs come Fall.  

A Happy Ending.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Stake and Tomatoes

The heat is on.  Summer is unofficially here.  Everything is growing like crazy.  We are still having rain every third day or so, too.  Big rain.  So there is little for me to do in the vegetable garden.  Except, of course, stake the tomatoes (and the tomatillos above).

The tomato is a vine and it needs some taming to keep away rot and pest.  I tried the tomato cages and felt they were more hassle than help.  Now, I keep it simple.  A stake and a tie.  Last year I cut up some Hanes panty hose and used those strips to tie them.  This year I didn't have any on hand, but I had too spools of garden twine.  So, be gentle, and give those tomatoes a lift.

Also on my gardening to-do list today was to harvest the leeks and the cabbage.  

Leeks will go in a quiche or Creamy Leek and Potato Soup.  The cabbages were surprisingly salvaged from the ravage wreaked on them by cabbage worms.  Three solid (though smallish) heads perfect for some summer slaw.

I just love the bounty of summer.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Cantaloupe Freeze

I used to have a job at a local smoothie shop.  For a very short period of time we sold a cantaloupe smoothie of which I couldn't get enough.  It was the perfect way to eat that vitamin packed fruit.

The other day it was buy one get one free on the juicy orange melon at our grocery store.  I brought home two really ripe ones.  I cubed one and then froze the cubes in a freezer bag.

2 cups ice
1 1/2 cups frozen cantaloupe pieces
2 cups milk
2 generous scoops of your favorite frozen yogurt (I used TJs "pleasantly tart" nonfat plain)
1 Tablespoon honey (or sugar)

Blend.  Take it outside and watch your own melons grow above your potatoes.  What!?  You haven't planted a melon yet.  Do it today.  Stick a seed in the ground.  Easy as smoothie.  Serves 2.

©SweatBread 2011

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Plant Them Well and Let Them Govern Themselves

It's good advice.  Especially if you started with good soil and it rains every three days.  But, even the best advice doesn't come with guarantees.  This is the last cabbage (and Brassica in general) I will plant in the Spring.  In the Spring those little white moths flit around laying eggs in tender leaves which hatch little green worms that feast feast feast on my heads.  

The number of Seven Dust applications needed to keep these cabbage edible is not worth the toxicity.

 Same cabbage, planted late summer/early fall will have no pest damage at all!!  If you live in a climate, where there are 10 growing months in the years you have this luxury.

healthy leeks take a long time to beef up.  i will harvest these for quiche and a potato leek soup this week.

peas are finally flowering

just as with people, some thrive and some seem so stunted for no particular reason.  growing in the exact same soil this little tomato plant is about the height of my hand, while the others from the same seed (see in the rear of the photo) are four hands high.  

Crookneck Zucchini.  I think these blossoms have the prettiest color.  Katy, could you make me a spring dress that flows and glows like a squash blossom?

I love these little bells.  They will get big and be perfect for some gumbo, or stuffed with spicy rice.

This little pod is a baby baby tomatillo.  my first try with these, I'll let you know how they turn out.

Was it the hail or is there a bug in the yard partial to the leaves of my struggling eggplant?  Hmmm.

Tomatoes!  Tomatoes!

If you plant nothing else new in your yard, may I suggest this Verbena Bonariensis?  It adds height and dreaminess to your garden scape.

Hollyhocks, bright and pale pink, another tall bloomer.

we love spiders

I love hydrangeas.  Add lime for pink, aluminum for blue.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Bring 'em in, Dude.

There is no sense in leaving all the flowers out in the yard.  Unless of course you LIVE out in the yard and can enjoy them there all day.   (Which sometimes, like when it feels like I'm being pecked to death, not by the chickens, but by the children, I am tempted).  I'm starting a movement:  BRING IN THE FLOWERS!!!  They make everyone happy, especially the mama.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Saturday Night Turn

I walked around the yard tonight after I put the children in their beds.  Prodded out of doors by their promises to stay put, I took a turn around the yard.  All the way around.  I do this a handful of times during the day if I am home.  I've been home most of the day feeling miserable with a cold.  

On these turns, I usually pocket a few eggs from the coop.  The other day I pulled up all the lettuce that had begun to bolt and then harvested the red kale (all of this made room for the beans, which I planted on a morning turn today).

I discovered a good sunny spot for the fig tree and Dr. Gooch planted it.  It's his fig tree, so his approval was crucial.  He may beg to differ (meaning he may not believe that I believe his approval was crucial), but it's true to be sure.

On a turn tonight I plucked a twig from an unknown-to-me tree (to take inside and give it the ol' dichotomous key treatment), I frowned at the eggplant that don't seem to be thriving as well as I'd like, but saw that my cosmos and wildflowers that I poked into the ground last week have sprouted.  It's all this wonderful spring rain we've been getting.  I watched the hens.  The younger girls (now three) like to head in for the evening earlier than the older ones.  But Gloria and her gang kick them out and demand first choice as far as roosting goes, so the non-layers have to step aside and then resettle themselves.  Every single night.   The same ritual.  Our lone rooster was killed the night before last.  All that remains is a smattering of pretty black and white feathers by the compost pile (Dr. Gooch disposed of the mangled body before the rest of us had even stirred). I wonder if they miss their man.

Then, it begins to be too dark to see anything but the silhouette of the three great Willow Oaks against the sky.  I come in.  The unknown tree is another (younger) Willow Oak but with larger leaves.  The chickens are settled.  All six.

I'll go to bed congested but content to have this little bit of earth for the six of us.

Happy Mother's Day.

RIP,  Mister Rooster