Monday, April 28, 2014

In the Garden

I harvested the first of the radishes last week.  They were delicious - very mild.  This year I planted two kinds - French Breakfast and Amythest, because they tend to be less spicy than some other varieties.  I don't mind the spice, but the rest of my family prefers them on the mild side.  With these, I sauteed the greens in olive oil with spinach and garlic, and served the radishes on a veggie plate.  When I have a bigger harvest, I'll roast them - I love roasted radishes!

It's been too wet and I've been too busy to do much in the garden the last couple of weeks.  Everything we've planted is coming up nicely.  The lettuce is taking its own sweet time, though - I think I may have to come up with something to cloche them.  I have two beds completely planted and I'm saving the third for the things that will be planted after the soil warms up a bit more.

The herbs are going strong - this weekend we harvested some rosemary and chives to sprinkle on goat cheese sandwiches, and I put some rosemary and parsley in a pot of vegetable soup.

This coming weekend I'll need to put a layer of dirt over the potatoes.  They're growing like wildfire!

Last week I was reading an article about intensively planting fruit trees.  It said you can plant dwarf varieties as close as 24 inches apart and the competition will keep them small and more manageable.  I'd love to get some peach and pear trees in my yard, so I just might try that!  I want to put in a grape vine or two, also. We're talking about adding a slightly raised bed to the front yard so I may wait for that and put a couple out there with a decorative trellis. 

What's growing in your garden?

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Pineapple Rhubarb Sorbet

Earlier this week, I used Amazon gift cards I earned through Swagbucks (affiliate link) to buy myself this little gem.  And today, I got the chance to try it out.

I know that strawberry and rhubarb is the classic combination, but in this house we're fans of pineapple and rhubarb as well.  I just happened to have some fresh pineapple needing to be used up, and my rhubarb is going crazy in the garden, so I found a recipe online for rhubarb sorbet and improvised my way to perfection, though I am half tempted to add a little fresh mint or rosemary to it next time just to see what happens. 

Pineapple Rhubarb Sorbet
Makes 1 1/2 quarts

8 oz rhubarb, diced
8 oz fresh pineapple, diced
1/2 cup sugar
pinch of salt
3/4 cup water
3 T. light corn syrup

 In a medium saucepan combine rhubarb, pineapple, sugar, salt and water.  Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until rhubarb is soft, 10 - 15 minutes.

Carefully transfer mixture to a food processor and blend until smooth, adding corn syrup while blending (I'm guessing you could also do this with a blender or stick blender but I've never tried). 
Place in bowl and refrigerate until cold.

Freeze in ice cream maker according to manufacturer's directions (mine took about 16 minutes).  Transfer to a freezer-safe container and freeze for three hours or until firm. 

Monday, April 14, 2014

In the Garden

I am LOVING our raised beds.  Seriously.  We've taken all the backbreaking work out of the vegetable garden. 

Spring has unquestionably arrived here in Zone 8, and I spent most of the weekend in the garden.  The seeds I planted a few weeks ago are all up and doing great. 

This weekend, in the front yard I:

 - cleaned out the dead canes from the raspberries.  I've never done that before (this is year three for raspberries) and they look so much better!
 - ripped out the Spanish lavender (we killed it - I don't know if it was because we pruned it back too far or if it froze, or maybe both) and planted mint and chamomile.  These are in half barrels on the strip between the sidewalk and the street.  Someone remind me not to let the mint go to seed, please!
 - added parsley, blue hyssop, thyme, dock, and sage to the herb beds.
 - added 10 more strawberry plants to our strawberry beds.
 - my five year old, who doesn't follow my "edibles only" philosophy, added a nasturtium and a pansy to one of her flower barrels and planted entire seed packets of cosmos and purple coneflowers to another barrel.  This could be interesting...

In the backyard vegetable garden I:
 - harvested the rest of the green onions I planted in the fall (there were a TON). 
 - planted tomatoes, tomatillos, kohlrabi, turnips, radishes, peas, celery (we've never grown celery before), shallots, and pac choi. 

Two vegetable garden beds and all of the backyard half barrels are now full.  I have one more bed left to plant (except for the garlic already occupying one corner) and we will build two more beds this spring.

I'm really looking forward to seeing how we do this year!

What's growing at your house?

Monday, April 07, 2014

Chicken Pot Pie

This year, for the first time, we bought 1/4 of a pig.  With it, I bought the leaf lard so I could render it, because I've always heard that lard makes the best pie crust, but I've never tried it.  After I rendered it, the whole house smelled, well, piggy, as did the lard, and I knew I wasn't going to be using it for fruit pies! 

Yesterday I pulled some of that wonderful snowy white lard out of the freezer and decided to try it out.  I made up the crust and, sure enough, it smelled piggy, enough so that I had to bake a test piece to make sure it wasn't just going to be disgusting.  In fact, it was delicious!  Just a hint of pleasant porkiness and wow - the texture!  Amazing!  So I decided to make this recipe.

Chicken Pot Pie
Adapted from Allrecipes
Makes 1 9-inch pie

Crust for a 9-inch pie (my recipe is very similar to this one)
1/2 large onion, diced
1 c. sliced celery
2 large carrots, sliced
4 oz. sliced mushrooms
1/4 c. butter
4 cloves minced garlic
2 1/2 c. chicken broth
1/4 tsp. celery seed
1 tsp. dried thyme
1/3 c. flour
2/3 c. water
2 cups shredded chicken
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Prepare crust, placing the bottom crust in a pie pan (I made this in a deep-dish 9.5 inch pan and it would go just fine in a regular 9 inch pan).

In a large skillet, saute onions,celery, carrots and mushrooms in butter until carrots are just beginning to soften.  Add garlic and saute two minutes more.  Add chicken broth, celery seed, and thyme.  Simmer for five minutes.  Add chicken.  Mix the flour into the water until smooth.  Pour into vegetable mixture and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens and boils.  Turn off heat and let cool for 15 minutes.  Transfer to pie crust.

Add top crust, crimping however you prefer.  Cut 4 - 6 slits in the top crust for ventilation.  Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until crust is nicely browned and you can see the filling bubbling under the slits. 

If the edges of your crust start browning too quickly, make some 4-inch wide strips out of aluminum foil and wrap them around the edges of your pie pan.  This will help keep it from burning.