Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Dandelion - Weed or Delicacy?

No, I didn't go out to the yard and dig up all the weeds growing in the lawn and turn them into a salad. But once in a while, "our organic farmer" (more on that at a later time) will throw into the box something unusual that will usually sit in the refrigerator way too long before I send it out to the compost because I'm not brave enough to try it or my prejudices get in the way. It used to be beets and swiss chard, but now these are some of my favorite foods. This time, it was fresh spring dandelion greens - the oh-so-common weed. I usually make this salad with mesclun and/or arugula but I was out of those and the big bag of dandelions sitting in my refrigerator for almost too long beckoned. It was surprisingly good! - just like the farmer said they would be. Could it be that I will anticipate the dandelion harvest each spring from now on?
The Salad:
Greens of your choice, cooked beets, blue cheese or goat cheese or feta cheese, lightly toasted walnuts, salt, pepper, a splash of olive oil or walnut oil, and a splash of champagne vinegar. Mmmmmm.

Monday, April 21, 2008

My Spring Babies

This is at least my 3rd year planting vegetables and herbs from seed and it never ceases to amaze me. I'm not sure why I am always surprised to see a tiny sprout coming out of the soil. It is truly a miracle what grows from a tiny seed.

My kids look at me funny when I call them "my babies" but I really do get attached to them, watching them grow, nurturing them and then having them reward me with delicious fruits to nourish my family. I remember last summer when we went away for a week and left the babies with a teenage babysitter (and cat sitter). When we got home, the beans, the round french zucchinis and almost all the sunflowers had been eaten to the ground! I went into mourning for days (I'm sure a longer mourning than if the cats had gone lost!) But after my period of mourning I planted more and (surprised again!) they flourished into grown fruiting plants. (The groundhog was later transplanted to a new home.)

What I will do with all these seedlings is another question. I certainly don't have room in my garden for all of them. I'll have to put some of them up for adoption to a good home and the rest I will squeeze into the tiny plot outside my kitchen door. Mark is working on a plan for a bigger garden next to the raspberry patch with a fence to keep out the deer. I feel though that it won't be the same as being able to watch over the babies right up next to the house with the bricks' radiating heat to keep them warm through the night.

Pictured below are Annie's zinnias. She planted a zinnia plant in preschool last year and it survived the summer, even providing shelter for a Monarch butterfly chrysalis which we witnessed in stages from caterpillar to butterfly. Grammy helped harvest the seeds from the zinnia last fall, and now - more babies! Behind the zinnias are Calendula which I'm told are the "2008 Herb of the Year". I have no idea what they will look like since the seed packet had no photo but the babies sure are cute. I guess I'll just have to be surprised!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Madison's Ice Cream Parlor

Don't these look yummy? Annie's best friend Madison made these a few days ago on a warm early Spring day with only one ingredient - chalk! I had just recently made some Raspberry Frozen Yogurt and taken pictures but I wasn't sure which ice cream looked yummier - mine or Madison's. Here's a photo of the frozen yogurt I made:

This was my first attempt to make frozen yogurt and it was really good! It was infinitely easier to make than traditional custard-type ice cream. The flavor is a little different- a little tangier- and we all enjoyed it. All you do is combine plain whole-milk yogurt, sugar, vanilla, and raspberry puree and freeze it in an ice cream machine for 20 minutes. My Cuisinart ice cream machine from Costco only requires that you pre-freeze the canister and the rest is automatic - no salt to mess with. I got the basic vanilla frozen yogurt recipe from 101cookbooks.com. Oh- and aren't Gerbera Daisies pretty? I'm having fun taking pictures... Happy Spring!

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Farm Fresh Eggs

My good friend came up behind me in my car the other day. We were both late taking our girls to school, but she flagged me down and jumped out of her car to hand me a package. Since our kids play together often, I figured the package would be perhaps a pair of little girls' socks left behind at a playdate or maybe a plastic container being returned. But it was something much, much better. It was a dozen eggs from her parents' farm! As any serious baker knows, you can hardly put a value on eggs fresh from the farm. I have considered having my own chickens just to have great eggs but it is almost certainly against the covenants set forth in the housing plan to which we belong and I do not know the first thing about having chickens! And undoubtedly, my neighbors would have something to say about it. Martha makes it look so great to have chickens although I'm sure she has staff members looking after her chickens and gathering their eggs! Fortunately, I have this wonderful friend who thinks of me and brings me these little treasures every week. Thank you!!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Sticky Buns

I'm on a quest to find the best sticky bun recipe. The recipe my mom and I usually use is from Betty Crocker, but my curiosity (and my pleading 5 yr old) led me to try a recipe from Cooking Light yesterday. They turned out pretty good and it probably saved some calories (but I'm not sure that matters after you've eaten half a pan of them!). I have to say Betty's is still the favorite but there are many more recipes out there just waiting to be tried. I think I saw a recipe for sticky buns in a cookbook that Mark gave me for Christmas called Big Sky Cooking. I don't know when I'll get to that one (I think I'll have to go on a diet first!) but I'll keep you posted!


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