I spent ten years working on my flower beds at my Blacksburg house. The "soil" is awful--red clay (fill dirt). Over ten years I amended the soil with top soil, manure, sand, you name it. For many reasons I became a daylily gardener. Oh, the joys of daylilies are many! By the time I moved to North Carolina in 2004, I had over 50 varieties of daylilies in my flower beds. I credit them with my winning the town beautification award. I had the most wonderful ritual during daylily blooming season which lasted from May until frost because I purchased daylilies that bloomed at various times. Each day when I would come home from work, I'd take off my shoes and head outside barefooted. (I can't help it; I grew up in Florida where shoes are always optional.) Then, I'd stroll along my flower beds oohing and aahing over every bloom. I would deadhead the previous day's blooms and pluck out any new weeds. It was the most relaxing time of my day and brought me indescribable pleasure. Since I have been in North Carolina, my flower beds in Blacksburg have gone to wrack and ruin. It would bring a tear to your eye if you could see the mess they have become. However, I will be moving back to Blacksburg and though it will take me a couple of years to rectify things, I won't mind all of the work. Yesterday, my new Oakes Daylily catalog came and I've been drooling over it. Oakes is the BEST place to buy daylilies in my opinion. If you don't believe me, head over to their website and see for yourself.
Store-bought BBQ sauce can be sticky-sweet. Here we doctor the sauce with ketchup, vinegar, and sugar for a rounded savor.
|1 1/2||pounds steak tips , cut into 2-inch chunks (see note)|
|1/4||teaspoon cayenne pepper|
|Salt and pepper|
|2||tablespoons vegetable oil|
|1||onion , quartered and sliced thin|
|1/4||cup barbecue sauce|
|3||tablespoons cider vinegar|
|1||tablespoon brown sugar|
1. Pat steak tips dry with paper towels and sprinkle evenly with 1 teaspoon paprika, cayenne, 1 teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Cook steak tips until browned all over and cooked to desired doneness, 6 to 10 minutes. Transfer to platter and tent with foil.
2. Add remaining oil, onion, and remaining paprika to empty skillet and cook until onion is softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in barbecue sauce, ketchup, vinegar, and sugar and cook until thickened, about 3 minutes. Add steak tips and any accumulated juices to pan and toss to coat. Serve.
Sour Cream and Onion Smashed Potatoes
Serves 4 to 6
If the potatoes are too thick after folding in the sour cream in step 3, stir in additional half-and-half, 1 tablespoon at a time, until they reach the desired consistency. This recipe can be doubled.
|2||pounds small red potatoes , scrubbed|
|4||tablespoons unsalted butter|
|4||scallions , white parts minced, green parts sliced thin|
|1||cup sour cream|
|Salt and pepper|
1. COOK POTATOES Bring potatoes and enough water to cover by 1 inch to boil in large pot over high heat. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 30 minutes.
2. SAUTÉ SCALLIONS Meanwhile, melt butter in medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook scallion whites until translucent, about 5 minutes. Whisk in sour cream, half-and-half, 1 teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper until smooth. Remove from heat, cover, and keep warm.
3. SMASH Drain potatoes in colander and return to dry pot; let stand 5 minutes. Using rubber spatula, break potatoes into large chunks. Fold in sour cream mixture until incorporated and only small chunks of potato remain. Stir in scallion greens and season with salt and pepper. Serve.
Both recipes come from Cook's Country. Enjoy! :o)
I receive the "America's Test Kitchen" e-newsletter every week. In this week's letter they were soliciting recipe testers for "Cook's Country" magazine. Brien and I discussed it and decided that is something we would really enjoy. They will send us a new recipe about once a week and we will cook it and give our feedback. I confess I'm pretty excited about this. :o)
Meanwhile, dinner tonight was New Orleans BBQ shrimp, cornmeal biscuits and the Garlic Cajun greens with andouille sausage.
From "Cook's Country"
New Orleans Barbecue Shrimp
Although authentic barbecue shrimp is always made with shell-on shrimp, peeled and deveined shrimp may be used. Light- or medium-bodied beers work best here. Serve with Tabasco sauce and French bread, if desired.
|2||pounds extra-large shrimp (21-25 per pound, see note)|
|1/2||teaspoon cayenne pepper|
|2||tablespoons vegetable oil|
|6||tablespoons unsalted butter , cut into 6 pieces|
|2||teaspoons all-purpose flour|
|1||teaspoon tomato paste|
|1||teaspoon minced fresh rosemary|
|1||teaspoon minced fresh thyme|
|1/2||teaspoon dried oregano|
|3||garlic cloves , minced|
|3/4||cup bottled clam juice|
|1||tablespoon Worcestershire sauce|
1. SEAR SHRIMP Pat shrimp dry with paper towels and sprinkle with salt and cayenne. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Cook half of shrimp, without moving, until spotty brown on one side, about 1 minute; transfer to large plate. Repeat with remaining oil and shrimp.
2. MAKE SAUCE Melt 1 tablespoon butter in empty skillet over medium heat. Add flour, tomato paste, rosemary, thyme, oregano, and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in clam juice, beer, and Worcestershire, scraping up any browned bits, and bring to boil. Return shrimp and any accumulated juices to skillet. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, until shrimp are cooked through, about 2 minutes. Off heat, stir in remaining butter until incorporated. Serve.
Also from "Cook's Country":
Makes 12 biscuits
If you don’t have buttermilk, whisk 1 tablespoon lemon juice into 1¼ cups of milk and let it stand until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Avoid coarsely ground cornmeal, which makes gritty biscuits.
|1 1/4||cups buttermilk|
|2||cups all-purpose flour|
|1||tablespoon baking powder|
|1/2||teaspoon baking soda|
|12||tablespoons unsalted butter , cut into 1/2-inch pieces and chilled|
1. SOAK CORNMEAL Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Whisk cornmeal, buttermilk, and honey in large bowl; let sit 10 minutes.
2. PROCESS DOUGH Pulse flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and butter in food processor until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add to bowl with buttermilk mixture and stir until dough forms.
3. KNEAD Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface and knead until smooth, 8 to 10 times. Pat dough into 9-inch circle, about ¾ inch thick. Using 2½-inch biscuit cutter dipped in flour, cut out rounds (dipping cutter in flour after each cut) and transfer to prepared baking sheet. Gather remaining dough and pat into ¾-inch-thick circle. Cut rounds from dough and transfer to baking sheet.
4. BAKE Bake until biscuits begin to rise, about 5 minutes, and then reduce oven temperature to 400 degrees and bake until golden brown, 8 to 12 minutes more. Let cool 5 minutes on sheet, then transfer to wire rack. Serve warm or let cool to room temperature. (Biscuits can be stored in airtight container at room temperature for 2 days.)
The shrimp is divine and buttery and the biscuits are an excellent bread to use for sopping up the sauce. I would like to make a huge pot of pinto beans one Saturday and make these biscuits to go with them.
We had this for dinner last night and it was quite divine. Not only that, it was SUPER easy and quick to make. :o)
From Cook's Country:
5 T extra-virgin olive oil
4 large portobello mushroom caps, halved and cut into 1/2" slices
2 red bell peppers, seeded and chopped
1 red onion, chopped
5 T balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound companelle, fusili, or penne
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cup chopped fresh basil
1. Bring 4 quarts water to boil in large pot. Heat 3 T oil in large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add mushrooms, peppers, onion, 3 T vinegar, 1 t salt and 1/2 t pepper to skillet and cook covered, stirring occasionally, until veggies begin to soften, about 5 min. Uncover and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until veggies are tender and browned around edges, 10-12 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
2. While veggies are cooking, add 1 T salt and pasta to boiling water and cook until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup cooking water, drain pasta, and return to pot. Add cooked veggies, remaining oil and remaining vinegar to pot with pata and toss to combine, adding reserved pasta water as needed. Stir in tomatoes and basil and season with salt and pepper. Serve.
We had a bunch of basil that had gone bad so we had to pass on the basil. It was okay, but the basil will definitely add another dimension. We added fresh grated parmesano-reggiano and it was lovely. I'm considering adding kalamata olives next time as well for a little salt and tang.
I want an Amazon Kindle so badly that I could spit. Well, maybe not actually spit but pretty close to that badly. Let's just say that I really want this little gadget, moreso than I've ever wanted any piece of current technology. I am unimpressed with fancy cell phones, the Wii, iPods and iPhones yet this electronic reader that fits in your purse has me obsessed. Obsessed I tell you.
Every time I scan Amazon I see books that I want to read right now and the Kindle price is always less than a real book. I have read multiple reviews of the Kindle that assure me that it is pleasurable to read on and is extremely handy to boot - has reference guides and newspapers and dictionaries as well as being able to hold 2,000+ books. Did you just read that last sentence? 2,000 books! An entire library that will fit in your purse. Mecca, heaven, bliss, to me at least.
Alas, I am not buying a Kindle. They are expensive and I am trying to scale back and I have stacks of real books that I own and from the library all over my house just waiting to be picked up and read. I just want to stop obsessing about the Kindle. Please, if you own a Kindle tell me all the awful things about it, OK?
I am trying to figure this out. My good friend Bonny, yarn expert that she is, has been giving me some lessons and has been incredibly patient. Knit, purl, knit, purl, hope to not make any mistakes since I am clueless on how to go back and fix them! Crochet is a bit more forgiving, you just pull the yarn and bye-bye mistakes. This is supposed to be a hat. Let's hope it doesn't take 12 years to make like my first crochet project did.
Are you ready for this? These are all the seeds I have plans to grow. Now, it seems like an incredible amount of plants but these seeds will take me from February through late Fall '09 with planting. And the herbs will all go in pots all over the place - the deck, the front walk of my house and the patio that we will be having poured this spring. My neighbor and I are splitting some of the seeds and I am sending even more seeds on to Liz to see how they fare in her garden in Virginia. Bob and I are building another long skinny bed that will just be for tomatoes and basil and two more in ground and mulched flower beds in the backyard. We are trying to make the backyard a pleasant place to sit, entertain, and for child's play so we are trying to carve out little "rooms" that will make the small area as efficient and pleasant as possible. I spent far too much money last year on annuals at the plant nursery so this year I chose direct seed, fast growing varieties and a few that will most likely self-seed for next year and the years to come: poppies, globe amaranth, sweet peas, bishop's lace, four 'clocks, hollyhocks, forget me nots, zinnias and sunflowers. And I am planning on trying the Indian companion planting of corn, squash and beans to get the most bang for the space.
I will note with a * if the seed is a repeat from last year.
Lettuces (split to be started in four cold frames in early March and then in early September):
De Morges Braun
Black Seeded Simpson
Henderson's Black Seeded Simpson
Amish Deer Tongue
*Red Wing Lettuce Mix
Mache- Verte D' Etampes
*Rainbow (no success last year due to pests)
Asian Winged Bean
Chinese Red Noodle Bean
Ching Chang Bok Choy
*Siamese Dragon Stir Fry Mix
Chinese Chives Mix
*Siam Queen Thai Basil
*Parsley/Giant of Italy (I grew this and flat leaf last year and both were excellent)
*Peppermint (still alive on my kitchen windowsill)
-I am not growing feverfew again- wow that is a prolific (weed-like!) plant.
Melons and Squash (in ground in community garden):
Butternut Squash (maybe, I am the only one in my family who likes it)
Zucchini/Black Beauty (maybe)
Amish Pie Pumpkin
Green Fleshed Pineapple Melon (Ananas D'Amerique A Chair Verte)
Sugar Baby Watermelon (ice box sized)
Patio Red Marconi
Thai Little Red Chili
Brussels Sprouts/Catskills (Fall planting)
Carrots/St. Valery (free pack of 800 seeds, probably try them in a deep container)
Cucumber/Early Russian and Early Fortune
Beans and Peas:
Asian beans listed above
Sugar Snap Peas
Orange Fleshed Purple Smudge
Italian Pompeii (hybrid)
And last but not least, the flower varieties:
Giants of California
Bachelor Buttons/Red Boy
Sunflowers (we are dedicating a corner of the yard for a sunflower bed with zinnias in front):
Mexican Sunflower- Torch
and various varieties of:
Red Angels Trumpet
four o' clocks
I have gotten the initial approval to create a community garden in my neighborhood. Woohoo! Details will follow as I get them worked out.
When I go back to Blacksburg one of the first things I must do (in addition to finding a job) is to attend to my long neglected flower beds. I spent more than ten years working on my yard and it showed. Over fifty varieties of day lilies bloomed each summer and many other perennials graced my beds. Each spring I'd fill in with showy annuals. Things have gone to wrack and ruin in the five years I have been gone and it will probably take me another ten years to set things right again. But I am dreaming about doing it. It is backbreaking work and not something I much enjoy. But the results are worth it. Maybe this spring I won't toss out gardening catalogs. Instead I'll drool over them.
Oh, I love tomatoes. I probably garden simply because nothing beats the taste of a fresh tomato right off the vine. Last year I took the heirloom plunge only planting heirloom varieties in my garden. I like the idea of having plants with history, plants that seeds were saved from because of their taste and not because they don't crush easily during shipment. Even better, I can save their seeds and I can't do that with hybrids. With that said, I am thinking there is room for a hybrid tomato plant in my garden this year because the productivity is a lot chancier with heirlooms than with hybrids. Hybrids are bred to be disease and weather resistant and I can probably get a lot more produce than I did with the heirlooms and because I want to can and make salsa and sauce with the tomatoes this year I need a workhorse variety.
If I had 5 acres of land in which to garden I would possibly have room for all the tomatoes I would like to grow. Since I actually have four 4x4 beds and am building another 2x10 bed this spring, and other things need to grow as well I have to be choosy. Last year we employed Mel Bartholomew's Square Foot Gardening method and frankly, for tomatoes I wasn't impressed. The vines did well but they just didn't produce like they should have. I think tomatoes need more space than one square foot, 6 inches deep. Then again, I've seen widespread complaints from gardeners all over the country that 2008 was a particularly bad year for tomato production, so maybe it wasn't the spacing. I am going to commit to eight tomato plants this summer unless I am able to wrangle more space at either our local community garden (only if a spot become available) or if my neighbor and I are able to convince our neighborhood's developer to give us a place here to make a small community garden for our neighborhood (I'll update if anything comes of this).
Last year we grew seven varieties:
Green Zebras, Dad's Sunsets, Reisentraube, Siletz, Wapsipinicon Peach, Sarah Black's and Brandywine
Of these varieties I would like to replant Green Zebras, Dad's Sunsets, Wapsipinicon Peach and Brandywine again. I much prefer tangy tomatoes to sweet and the Green Zebras and Dad's Sunsets have incredible flavor so they are definitely getting a spot. The Reisentraube are little red cherry tomatoes and they were fine but I would like to try a different cherry variety this year which is why they are being passed over. The Wapsipinicon Peach didn't survive transplanting and they sound so interesting from their description that I really want to try again and see if I can't get them to produce. The Brandywine is the most popular heirloom variety and the flavor was great but the two plants I had in the garden produced miserably. I'm not sure I want to waste space on them again. The Sarah Blacks produced well but were too sweet for my tastes.
Here are the varieties that I've ordered seeds of:
Orange Flesh Purple Smudged (tangerine in color with very purple tops - Ella pick!)
Paul Robeson (a famous black tomato known for it's flavor)
Amish Paste (famous for production and canning/sauces)
Sub-Arctic Plenty (50-59 day variety that will produce early and be replaced by another plant mid-summer)
Anananas Noire or Black Pineapple (multi-colored striped, fun for the kids)
White Currant (white cherry tomato)
White Tomesol (one of the very few true white tomatoes, supposed to have a fruity flavor)
Isis Candy Cherry (early cherry tomato variety - 65 days)
So, as you can see if I replant the ones from last year and choose a hybrid and grow all the new varieties I am way over budget for space with tomatoes. Choices, choices.
I have been doing a lot of soul searching lately and have decided that 2009 should be the year I live my beliefs. Because of that I have a lot of changes planned for this next year. I can live on far less than my current income and will do just that. Even though it means that I can spend less and must live a fairly austere existence, I know this new commitment will be worth it. I will return to Blacksburg and will live simply. If I cannot find employment, I will force myself to live well on an income that is far less than one-third of what I make now. Quality of life is far more important than having an income that facilitates a life of relative ease. A satisfied mind is the ultimate goal; is it not?