Tending the Garden: Kale #2

Today I was able to get into the gardens for the first time in a week. Last Saturday I’d picked the first of our kale, which is a new crop for us this year. I’d fully intended to get back to the garden last Sunday to pick the rest of it, but, of course, here in Iowa wait a few minutes and the weather will change. And it did…starting last Sunday and continuing through most of the week, we ended up with 4 inches of rain total. Way too wet in the gardens to do anything but sink in…..so both the weeds and the kale had lots of time to grow!

I definitely can see what the advantages are to having raised garden beds. Not only can you reduce weeds, but if you have a week of wet weather, you can still harvest your crops when they need it. Maybe someday, for a few crops anyway, I’ll try my hand at raised gardens.

It really turned out to be nice kale. We planted Dwarf Siberian kale, not knowing anything about kale on how to grow, etc. I’ve been impressed so far. It’s producing well so far, and while I’ve heard lots of people say that kale will grow straight through until frost, I’m still waiting to see how it will do if we have drought-like conditions. Our soil has a lot of clay in it, and while we’ve improved it over the years with organic material tilled in….it is still a clay-based soil and that can get rock-hard in a drought. I also am thinking about trying some of the full-sized varieties….if you have a favorite, please share what it is. 🙂

I ended up with 4 large dishpans overflowing with the kale, and while I did use some tonight for dinner in a kale slaw, I still ended up with 8 pretty full freezer quart bags. Definitely takes some time to de-rib all the large leaves that had too much time to grow this week…..will be watching closer and pick if I think it’s going to be wet for a few days in a row.

 

 

Making Homemade Pasta

I’ve always wanted to make homemade pasta. Any kind. My mother-in-law made homemade noodles. My sister-in-law makes homemade noodles. Our oldest son learned to make homemade noodles from my sister-in-law Eileen, and he makes pretty darn good ones. For Christmas one year, she and I each gave him a pasta roller machine (great minds think alike!), and I got myself the pasta attachment for my Kitchen Aid mixer. That was over 5 years ago, and my attachment has been sitting on a shelf ever since. I’d let everyone else make the pasta, and I just enjoyed it.

Yesterday I decided the box had collected enough dust, so I dusted it off and tried my hand at making homemade spaghetti. Not knowing what I was getting myself into, I didn’t realize that these probably aren’t the noodles to try on your first attempt at pasta making 🙂 But Kevin jumped in to help in the end, and all in all, it turned out edible. Travis, our youngest son, said it was actually pretty good, so I must have done something right!

I used Bob’s Red Mill basic pasta recipe using semolina flour. Really is an easy recipe to make, in my opinion anyway.

 

homemade-pasta

BOB’S BASIC PASTA RECIPE

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons water
2 eggs, or 3 egg whites, beaten
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1-1/2 cups semolina pasta flour

Directions

Combine semolina and salt, add beaten eggs (or egg whites), water and oil. Mix to make a stiff dough. Knead 10 minutes or until dough is elastic. Wrap dough in towel or place in plastic bag and let rest for 20 minutes. On a lightly floured surface roll out to desired thickness and cut as desired.

To top of the homemade pasta, the sauce was definitely a shoot-from-the-hip recipe using what was hand in the cupboard plus some fresh spinach and herbs from the garden. I think it turned out yummy, and I’ll be making it again soon. While I’m listing a recipe for this sauce, please know that I generally cook as my grandmothers did: Add this and that, taste, and adjust until it is how you like it. Measurements and amounts really are approximate, as I didn’t measure anything exactly. Use your tastebuds and adjust the sauce to your liking…and if you make adjustments or additions, let me know what you did and how it turned out 🙂

Creamy Tomato Sauce For Pasta

1-2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 small onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 quart home-canned tomatoes (drained of liquid)
1/8 cup dry red wine
1 small can mushrooms, chopped
Chopped fresh baby spinach, approximately 1/2 cup
Fresh basil, chopped, approximately 3 tablespoons
Fresh oregano, approximately 2 tablespoons
Fresh thyme, approximately 1 tablespoon
Heavy cream, approximately 1/4 cup
Parmesan cheese, approximately 1/4 cup
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Saute onion and garlic in olive oil until onion is translucent, about 4-5 minutes. Add in tomatoes, red wine, and mushrooms. Lower heat and let sauce reduce while you work on the pasta, stirring occasionally.

When you start cooking your fresh pasta, add in the chopped spinach and fresh herbs. Add salt and pepper, adjusting to taste. When spinach and herbs have nicely wilted, add in cream and Parmesan cheese. Continue to simmer to keep warm, but don’t let sauce boil. Be sure to taste and adjust any seasonings if needed. Serve hot over fresh pasta.

Overall the meal was tasty. There are some things I will do differently the next time I make homemade pasta, like make really big noodles or ravoli so that I don’t have to mess with tiny spaghetti noodles (at least until I get the hang of it!), but it was fun, and I’ll definitely do this again.

One Bowl Brownies–Redux

It’s still too wet in the gardens today to do much of anything, and since Travis, our youngest son, and I were having chocolate craving, I decided to experiment with my favorite one-bowl brownie recipe. I’ve posted the original recipe in an earlier blog post, but I wanted to figure out a way to eliminate the 1 cup of vegetable oil that recipe calls for. Don’t get me wrong…the original recipe is a very good one, but after researching how bad vegetable oils can be to your health, with the exception, of course, of olive oil, I wanted to try the recipe with coconut oil. As it’s nice and warm in my kitchen, my coconut oil was in liquid form, so today was the perfect time to experiment!

One-Bowl Brownies Take 2

2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
4 eggs
2 cups flour
1 cup liquid coconut oil
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Mix all ingredients together until completely combined. Using the coconut oil in place of the vegetable oil will definitely make the texture thicker than the original recipe (see pictures below). Pour into an 8 x 10-inch greased pan. Bake at 350 degrees F. for 45 minutes, or until they test done. Frost with your favorite frosting/icing when cooled.

 

 

The texture of this brownie version is definitely more cake-like, not that it bothers me at all! While it did test as done when I checked with a toothpick, the very center still seemed a little softer…definitely needed to be eaten with a fork than with your hands. All in all, though, it was very tasty….the coconut flavor was mild, yet it still reminded me of a Mounds bar without the actual coconut texture.

Indian Lentils, Sourdough Bread, and Fresh Lettuce with Creamy Garlic Dressing

I think I went on a garlic overload tonight. I personally love garlic, and the more the merrier. Even so, I took into consideration that my family, while they do like garlic, aren’t the fanatics that I happen to be.

For dinner tonight, I decide to raid the cupboards and make something from whatever I found. I took inventory of the ingredients I had on hand and went surfing to find a recipe that would work with those ingredients. As I’m trying hard to eat more healthy meals, I wanted to do a vegetarian dinner, and in a house full of carnivores, that can be tough to do! I stumbled across two different recipes for lentils with an Indian-style theme. The first was from www.feedmephoebe.com and her Red Lentil and Spinach Masala. The other recipe was from www.wholenewmom.com and her Indian Red Lentils recipe. Of course, I had to make it my own, so I combined parts of each recipe, and I liked how it turned out.

 

 

Indian-Inspired Lentil Stew

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small white onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon garam masala
1/4 teaspoon dried cilantro
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 quart Roma tomatoes (home canned). Can substitute 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
2-1/2 cups lentils, rinsed
1 teaspoon sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 15-ounce can coconut milk
3-1/2 cups chicken broth
Approximately 5 ounces fresh spinach, chopped
Approximately 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil

In a large stockpot, cook onions and garlic in the olive oil until the onions turn translucent, about 5 minutes. Add in the cumin, garam masala, cilantro, and turmeric. Cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add in the tomatoes, scraping up any of the brown bits that formed on the bottom of the pan. Add the lentils and coconut milk. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring to keep from sticking. Turn down the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for approximately 30 minutes or until the lentils are tender. Right before serving, stir in the spinach and basil.

While I love Indian food, this was my first attempt at making it myself. I thought it was really good. This is a vegetarian dish, although it would be equally good with some shredded chicken breast and some chopped jalapenos for extra heat if you like a spicy dish. All in all, I’ll be making this again.

I made the Easy Sourdough Artisan Bread again to accompany this (see previous posts). This time I used only white whole wheat flour and baked it in a small cast iron Dutch oven. I really liked how the texture turned out when baking it this way, so I know it will be done this way a lot more in the future.

 

We also had tons of loose leaf lettuce from the garden to use in a salad tonight, and I wanted to make a creamy garlic salad dressing. This is where I think the garlic overload happened…again, I love garlic, but I was kindly told at dinner to cut back on the amount of garlic next time 🙂

Creamy Garlic Dressing

1 tablespoon loosely packed, minced garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup mayonnaise (I used Miracle Whip as I ran out of time to make homemade)
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese (fresh or from the green can is fine)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Smear the garlic and salt together with a chef knife to form a paste. In a blender, combine the garlic paste, mayo, sugar, pepper and Parmesan cheese together. Add in the vinegar and the olive oil. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before using. The dressing will keep in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Sourdough Bread and Rosemary Chicken

While I had planned to work on more kale today, after picking the first row yesterday and putting 4 quart bags in the freezer, the rain we got overnight put an end to that idea. We ended up with 0.8 inches, but it came fast, and the garden with the kale was completely soaked. It will be a few days before I can get in there without sinking in up to my knees.

So, I decided to spend my day cooking. The sourdough starter needed to be used today anyway, so that was the first task at hand. If you’ve never made homemade sourdough bread, you’re missing out on a delicious treat. It really is easy to get a starter going, and if taken care of, it will last you a long, long time. And with so many yummy recipes to be found on the Internet, you will be sure to find one that you and your family absolutely love.

My starter (and quite a few of my bread recipes) come from Better Homes & Gardens The Complete Guide to Bread Machine Making. These recipes can, of course, be converted to traditional oven baking, but when it’s hot outside (like today—about 85 degrees here in Iowa), I don’t like to heat up the house by baking in the oven, so I get out my well-used bread machine. I’d hate to guess how many loaves this little machine has made (thanks again Mom for the Christmas present from way back!!). I can just add the ingredients, watch for just a short time to make sure the dry-to-wet ingredient ratio is going to work, and then go about my business outside…and when I come back inside, I’m greeted with the wonderful aroma of freshly baked bread. I think that’s one of the best smells in the world!

I absolutely love King Arthur flours…perfect to use whether using a bread machine or traditional bread baking. I also use Bob’s Mill products (gluten, wheat germ, etc.). Wonderful products.

BASIC SOURDOUGH STARTER:

1-1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast (or bread machine yeast)
3/4 cup warm water (105-115 degrees F)
3 cups warm water (105-115 degrees F)
3 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons granulated sugar or brown sugar

Directions:

To make starter: Dissolve the yeast in the 3/4 cup warm water. Add the 3 cups warm water. Stir in flour and sugar. Beat with an electric mixer or medium speed just until smooth. Cover with cotton cheesecloth (I use a dish towel, which works just fine). Let stand at room temperature (75 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit) for 5 to 10 days, or until mixture has a sour, fermented aroma, stirring 2 to 3 times every day. (A warmer room speeds the process.) When the starter has fermented, transfer to a 2-quart or larger plastic container with a tight-fitting lid and refrigerate. (Note: I actually leave my starter out in room temperature, or at least I have so far. Will see how it acts this summer…may refrigerate it then. In any case, as I usually bake bread every other day or so, I go through the starter fast enough I haven’t had an issue with leaving it on the counter.)

To use starter: Stir starter thoroughly after removing it from the refrigerator. Measure amount needed; bring to room temperature. (The cold starter should be the consistency of buttermilk or thin pancake batter. If necessary, add water to thin the starter after it is stirred and before measuring.) Use starter in your favorite sourdough recipe.

 

 

****After using your starter, you will need to “feed” it. For every cup of starter used, replenish the remaining starter by stirring in 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, 3/4 cup warm water, and 1 teaspoon granulated or brown sugar. Cover; let mixture stand at room temperature for at least 1 day or until bubbly. Refrigerate. If not used within 10 days, stir in 1 teaspoon granulated or brown sugar. Repeat every 10 days unless starter is replenished.

SOURDOUGH WHEAT BREAD

**For 1-1/2-pound loaf (16 slices)

1-1/4 cups sourdough starter
1/4 cup milk or water
1 tablespoon cooking oil
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup bread flour
1/4 cup toasted wheat germ
2 tablespoons gluten flour
1 tablespoon brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon active dry yeast (or bread machine yeast)

**For 2-pound loaf (22 slices)

1-1/2 cups sourdough starter
2/3 cup milk or water
2 tablespoons cooking oil
2-1/3 cups whole wheat flour
1-1/3 cups bread flour
2 tablespoons gluten flour (will be the same amount no matter which size loaf you make)
4 teaspoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast (or bread machine yeast)

Select the loaf size. Add the ingredients to your machine according to the manufacturer’s direcgtions. If available, select the whole grain cycle, or select the basic white bread cycle.
Now for the Rosemary Chicken:

I had a package of leg quarters in the freezer, and I was trying to think up something different than the usual BBQ, honey mustard/Panko recipes that I always use. I was surfing the Internet and found a food blog (I’m sorry I don’t remember which one as I looked at many) where they talked about different marinades. Sounded easy enough and I’d been wanting to prune back my rosemary in the garden anyway.

Here’s the marinade I ended up making:

Lemon Rosemary Garlic Marinade

1 cup extra-virgin olive oil (I only use Bertolli’s as it is actual olive oil…some other brands may not actually be olive oil!)
3-4 gloves of garlic, depending on size of cloves and your preference
2 large springs of fresh rosemary
1/4 cup lemon juice (I used bottled as I was out of lemons…but fresh would be awesome)
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Pick off the rosemary leaves and place in bowl. Peel and smash the garlic cloves (smashing releases the yummy garlic flavors better) and add to the bowl. Add in the extra-virgin olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper, and whisk everything togeter until well combined. Taste to see if you need more salt and pepper. Pour over chicken pieces and marinate them covered in the refrigerator at least 4 hours (overnight would be better). Discard marinade. Bake chicken until juices run clear at 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Can also grill chicken until done (which would be delicious too).

No picture yet of the chicken, as it’s still marinading…but the marinade was delicious so I’m anxious to get this bird finished so we can eat!

Spinach

Yesterday I picked spinach for the first time this summer. We planted 3 small rows this time, although I’m sure it won’t produce enough for our family. Believe it or not, our sons’ favorite meal would be liver and onions, mashed potatoes, and spinach! It was really nice spinach too, although the bugs are starting to chew on the leaves….time to get out the natural bug spray Kevin!! I haven’t seen what’s doing the chewing yet, but we use a spray that has cayenne in it, and the critters don’t seem to like that too much. I use spinach in so many things, when the boys don’t eat it all. Spinach lasagna is one of my favorites, although I usually use it fresh and not from the freezer. Spinach salad with hot bacon dressing…yum! Fresh spinach on sandwiches in place of lettuce (although I could go out and pick that to use too).

Here’s a spinach recipe that I can’t wait to try. I found it on thekitchn.com

 

Spinach Lasagna Roll Ups

Makes four 2-roll servings

 

6 lasagna noodles
2 cups finely chopped baby spinach, about 3 ounces
1 cup low-fat cottage cheese
2/3 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (or your favorite)
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1/2 tsp. salt Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup spaghetti sauce

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Light grease a 9×9-inch baking dish. Cook the lasgana noodles in plenty of salted boiling water according to the package directions. Remove when they are al dente and lay out on a clean towel to dry and cool. Mix the spinach, cottage cheese, 1/3 cup shredded cheese, Parmesan cheese, garlic, salt, and generous amount of black pepper. Divide the spinach and cheese mixture evenly between the noodles, spreading the mixture over the entire length of each noodle. Roll up the noodles from the bottom to top and place in pan, side by side, touching. Pour the spaghetti sauce over the rolls and sprinkle the remaining 1/3 cup shredded cheese over the top. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until headed through and the sauce is bubbling.

Today I’m off to pick and work up the kale. First time we’ve grown it, so I’m curious to see how it turns out…will let you know 🙂

Update On The Gardens

I hope you all had a great Memorial Day weekend…we had beautiful weather here in Iowa! We had a nice, quiet weekend here at home with Cody, Travis, and Kelsey….was nice to have everyone here for a long weekend!

We’ve definitely been busy around here the past few weeks in the garden. Since Memorial weekend was so nice, we got a good bit planted. We put in cucumbers (both for fresh eating and pickling), more radishes. The green beans and the lima beans were planted. Kevin planted a few ground cherries and the celery. I got in more garlic, hot peppers (jalapeno, ancho, Anaheim, cayenne, and habanero) and some bell peppers, although the bells aren’t looking too good yet.

We’ve also been eating a ton of asparagus, and I made a huge rhubarb strawberry crumble for supper on Sunday night…yum!!

Thought I’d post a few pics of how the garden looks after the weekend…as Kevin says, as soon as we finish hoeing and weeding, we quick take some pics while it looks nice….it definitely doesn’t look this way all the time  lol 🙂

This one shows the potatoes, broccoli, and cauliflower. There’s a new rhubarb patch, horseradish, and chives to the left of the cauliflower (out of the picture).

 

This picture is of the “big garden”…I think it’s 75′ x 75′. On the far left (out of this picture) are two 75′ foot rows of asparagus, green and lima beans (newly planted), garlic and more radishes (newly planted), and hot/green bell peppers. This shows a small portion of the tomatoes we have in plus the cabbage and onions.

 

 

 

Closest garden has lettuce, garlic, kale, brussel sprouts, more onions, carrots, beets, spinach, and 4 tomatoes that we planted way back in April….and 2 of them have on blooms finally 🙂  The farther small garden patch has peas, kohlrabi, and newly planted radishes. In the black tubs on each end, I have my herb garden….really small this year, but if it turns into anything, maybe I’ll convince Kevin to till me up a big patch for next year 🙂

 

 

I also came across a canning inventory sheet on http://www.sbcanning.com/  (fabulous website), and I thought I’d share it with you. I’m going to try to remember to record everything I can and freeze this year just to see exactly how much we do. I did this one other year a long time ago, and I think I used something like 650+ canning lids and forgot to count how many freezer bags we went through. Anyway…here’s the link for the inventory sheet:

Canning Inventory Sheet

Rainy Days Are Baking Days

Today was a dreary, rainy day, so what better thing to do but do some baking! I’ve been working with sourdough for about a month now, and instead of using my bread machine today, which I almost always do because I never have the time to do otherwise, I decided to break out my baking stone for a round loaf of sourdough bread.

I have a ton of recipes for different types of bread but not too many for sourdough, so I did an Internet search and found a terrific recipe at anoregoncottage.com.

 

easy sourdough artisan bread

Here’s the recipe:

Easy Sourdough Artisan Bread

 

3 cups flour (white whole wheat, whole wheat, unbleached, or a combo)

1 1/4 cup water (may need less if your starter is “wetter”- mine is a 100% hydration starter, fed an equal ratio of flour to water)

3/4 cup active sourdough starter

1 tablespoon honey

1 1/2 teaspoon salt

Mix all ingredients together in the bowl of a stand mixer just until combined and then let sit for 15 minutes.

Using a dough hook, knead for 5 minutes.

Transfer to a medium-sized bowl, lightly coated with oil. Cover with plastic and let rise for 3 hours, turning and folding the dough once or twice.

Remove dough, turn and fold again, and place it back in the bowl, seam-side up. Let rise for another 2 hours.

After the second rise, place a square of parchment on a cookie sheet and gently shape the dough into a ball or oval (using lots of flour, as the dough is moist) and set on the parchment. Make sure there’s a good coating of flour on the top, as this will make slicing the top later easier.

Set an enameled, cast iron dutch oven into a cold oven and turn heat to 450 degrees Fahrenheit (alternately, use a baking stone), and set the timer for 40 minutes.

When the timer goes off, slash the top of the loaf with a serrated knife (in 2 to 3 places), and transfer it to the hot pot by holding the edges of the parchment (or stone).

Replace the hot lid and bake for 12 to 13 minutes. Remove the lid and continue baking for another 13 to 14 minutes, until golden brown (if using a stone, Gina at Homejoys uses an old roaster lid to cover her loaves to get a similar result!).

Remove to a wire rack to cool at least 30 minutes before cutting.

Makes 1 loaf

After I got the bread going, I was looking for something else to bake, so I decided to pull out my trusty, go-to New York-Style Cheesecake recipe. I first made this cheesecake recipe when Kevin and I first were married over 20 years ago. I had borrowed a bunch of cookbooks from the local library, and I came across this recipe. While I’ve since made hundreds of cheesecakes in lots of different flavors, this one is still one of my most favorites.
ricotta cheesecake
Ricotta Cheesecake

2 (8-ounce) packages of cream cheese, softened

1 (16-ounce) container ricotta cheese

1 1/2 cups white sugar

4 eggs, room temperature

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon good vanilla extract

3 tablespoons cornstarch

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/2 cup butter (not margarine), melted and cooled

1 pint sour cream

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly grease a 9- or 10-inch springform pan.

Mix the cream cheese and ricotta cheese together in a mixing bowl until well combined. Stir in the sugar, eggs, lemon juice, vanilla, cornstarch, and butter. Add the sour cream last and stir. Pour the mixture into the prepared springform pan.

Place springform pan in larger cake pan (I use my extra-large lasagna pan). Fill pan with boiling water so that it reaches halfway up the sides of the springform pan.

Bake in the preheated for 1 hour. Turn the oven off, and leave in the over for 1 hour more. (This helps prevent the top from cracking.) Allow cheesecake to cool completely in the refrigerator before serving. Top with your choice of fruit toppings, or enjoy as is!

 
Serves 8.
 
 

Spring Gardening

Spring gardening is well underway at the Wood household. We started earlier this spring starting seeds…some of which we’d never started from seed before. I spent the winter looking at seed catalogs and finding companies who only sold heirloom, non-GMO seeds. I firmly believe our health is at stake, and the first step in becoming healthier is to start in our garden. Plus, it was just plain fun again to be picking out seeds 🙂

Kevin and I have been gardening for over 20 years now, ever since we were married. Both our families had gardened and canned every summer, but I was never overly interested when I was growing up. But as we started our family, I became obsessed with making sure I knew where our family’s food was coming from.

This year we are back to our huge gardens again, after taking a couple years off when we really had no time due to us having a quilt shop…and boy do our cupboards show it! So, my goal this year is to fill up all the shelves (and maybe a few more!) with home canned goodies to cut back on our food bill.

So far we have established some grape vines…I actually wanted the grapes for the leaves, as I use them when I make dill pickles, but this year they’re finally setting on some grapes! We have Concord and Niagara varieties, so we will hopefully have some grapes to munch on this year, and maybe even some jelly if I’m lucky!

Our strawberry patch bit the dust a few years ago thanks to the resident deer population, although I did see a few straggler strawberry blooms in the patch this year. We’re not planning on replanting them (have tried 3 different times) as the deer always seem to get to them before we do. I have found a nearby pick-your-own strawberry patch, though, so we will not be going without them!

The fruit trees are all in bloom, and even our newest trees (Stanley plums and Northstar cherry) have blooms this year….I see pies in my future! We also have several apple varieties, pears, peaches, and apricots in the backyard that all produce yummy fruit. Our black raspberries also have sent up new canes, so I’m looking forward to them this year.

New additions to our “orchard” this year include dewberries (Kevin’s favorite), huckleberries, blueberries, gooseberries, and elderberries. Of course, after the gooseberries arrives, Kevin tells me that we have tons of wild gooseberries growing on our place….a fact I never knew! One day he took me around to show me all the gooseberries, and he’s right….if they all produce a small amount, I will be overflowing with gooseberries!! Anyone have any favorite recipes they would like to share??? I have a feeling I’m going to need a few.

For the veggies, we have quite a bit in the ground so far, with the later crops yet to be planted when it’s a bit warmer. Peas, radishes, kohlrabi, spinach, beets, kale, carrots, onions, potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, lettuce, and tomatoes are in and doing pretty well (even after the hail storm this afternoon). We’ve been enjoying our asparagus and rhubarb too. Yet to be planted are cucumbers, butternut squash, zucchini, spaghetti squash, pumpkins, bell peppers, hot peppers, ground cherries, pole green beans, lima beans, and bush green beans. We have grown popcorn in the past but don’t need to this year, and we don’t plant sweet corn because of all the deer and raccoons around. We do buy massive quantities, though, from a farmer friend who has the most absolutely sweetest corn there is so we can freeze a bunch of it. I’m sure I’ve forgotten something and will have to squeeze it in the garden somewhere!

I’ve also planted a big (for us anyway!) herb garden. I use a lot of herbs when I cook and when I can spaghetti sauce and salsa, so why not grow my own to use fresh? I put out lots of garlic, rosemary, basil, oregano, thyme, chives, parsley, and cilantro. I tried growing from seed some medicinal herbs too, but those didn’t turn out as well as I’d hoped. Maybe I’ll try again next year, as I really want to establish a medicinal herb garden. I do still have calendula and echinacea seeds to put out when it’s warmer, so hopefully they will turn into something yet.

Blueberries on a Winter’s Day

This weekend I’m faced with a project I’d been looking forward to, and also dreading, for 20 years….my oldest son is bringing his girlfriend home to “meet the family.” My oldest is a level-headed kind of man….he was old and wise beyond his years when he was 4, and I’m so proud of him now. If he’s found someone he wants us to meet, she must be very special.

I knew something was up a couple weekends ago when he said he wouldn’t be home that weekend because he was going with his girlfriend to meet her parents….suddenly I’m frozen in time wondering where my “little 9 lb. 4 oz.” baby went. I’m sure you mothers out there can relate to this feeling. You’re so proud of the son you raised, but you’re not quite ready for the next phase in his adulthood….him starting his own family. You want to hang on to that little man just a little bit longer, but you know you can’t. You move from his mother, who was the source of comfort and information in the beginning, to the person who must stand by on the sidelines and watch as your child begins that walk of life that you’ve prepared him for. I’m actually looking forward to meeting her. Anyone who has captivated my son’s attention like this must be someone special, so I’m looking forward to accepting her into our family.

So….for this momentous occasion, I’m planning to (hopefully!) knock it out of the park with my supper and Sunday brunch menus, because if she’s going to hang with my son, she better know how to keep his stomach happy!! (And I will supply her the recipes to do just that  lol)  For supper, I’m planning a traditional lasagna only made with turkey burger (as requested) and lots of spinach. That’s how I got my boys to eat some veggies when they were little….just stuff those veggies into every dish you make, and most of the time they won’t even know the veggies are there! For breakfast/brunch on Sunday morning, I’m going to use a recipe that I got from my oldest stepdaughter. We had visited her and her family one weekend, and she made this most amazing breakfast French toast. My boys refused to leave until I had the recipe so that I could make it for them at home!! I’ve seen various similar recipes for this out on the web, and I have no idea where she got this particular recipe. All I know is that it is a homerun for a breakfast casserole…..and I hope you enjoy it as much as we have!

 


INGREDIENTS:
12 slices day-old bread, cut into 1-inch
cubes
2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, cut
into 1 inch cubes
1 cup fresh blueberries
12 eggs, beaten
2 cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup water
1 cup fresh blueberries
1 tablespoon butter
DIRECTIONS:
1. Lightly grease a 9×13 inch baking dish. Arrange half the bread cubes in the dish and top with cream cheese cubes. Sprinkle 1 cup blueberries over the cream cheese and top with remaining bread cubes.
2. In a large bowl, mix the eggs, milk, vanilla extract, and syrup. Pour over the bread cubes. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
3. Remove the bread cube mixture from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before baking. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
4. Cover and bake 30 minutes. Uncover and continue baking 25 to 30 minutes until center is firm and surface is lightly browned.
5. In a medium saucepan, mix the sugar, cornstarch, and water. Bring to a boil. Stirring constantly, cook 3 to 4 minutes. Mix in the remaining 1 cup blueberries. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes, until the blueberries burst. Stir in the butter, and pour over the baked French toast
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