Archive | July 2011

Garden Update #6

July has been an interesting month at the garden. After waiting and waiting and waiting some more, our tomatoes are finally starting to turn which is great. However, now that they are changing something has decided they are tasty. After waiting so long to have tomatoes, I do not want to share them with insects, birds, squirrels or whatever else might be nibbling on them, so I have resorted to bringing them home as soon as they start to change and letting them ripen on the counter. So far it seems to be minimizing critter attacks. Sadly the Purple Ukranian Tomato plant has bit the dust, but it did give us a handful of interesting looking fruit (first picture). Wonder if they will taste any different than regular tomatoes?

A few weeks ago another gardener and I were marveling over the fact that our kale was still going strong. Neither of us could believe that it hadn’t been fried by the heat or invaded by aphids yet since last summer the leafy greens barely made it through May. Five minutes after having that discussion, I went to cut some of our prolific kale only to find that it had acquired an aphid infestation since the last time I had looked at it closely. Following that unfortunate discovery we decided it was time to cut all the greens in the plot down to the stalk.

Last weekend we harvested our garlic since the stalks were completely dead (and had been for awhile). I am pretty sure we didn’t harvest early enough though because the heads were falling apart. Also I don’t think I provided the bulbs with the right amount of water because they certainly didn’t flourish like I had expected. But it was a garlic-growing learning experience and I think I have a better idea what to do next time around.

Although our plot seems awfully empty for this time of the year, we are still getting cucumbers and all four pepper plants are flowering and slowly  but surely producing. I guess we are in for a bit of a late harvest. But as you can see, we aren’t exactly hurting for tomatoes…

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Adventures in Baking: Sour Cherry Clafoutis

A few weeks ago we received both regular and sour cherries in our CSA delivery. I have never baked with cherries before, but I figured we didn’t want to eat the sour ones by themselves so I set off to find a recipe other than pie to try out.

I stumbled upon Cherry Clafoutis in our new Cooking from the Farmers’ Market cookbook and thought what the heck?

As I looked over the recipe I realized there would be one obstacle  — pitting the cherries. Without any kind of gadget. So the evening before I intended to bake my clafoutis I pitted the cherries. It wasn’t terrible, but if cherries are going to make a more regular appearance in baked goods, I think finding a pitter of some sort might be a worthwhile addition to our kitchen.

I set to work bright and early the next morning in an attempt to get the dish baked before the temperature reached the 90s. The recipe involved stove-top cooking, mixing ingredients in multiple bowls, and then baking in a separate dish. Considering that there weren’t very many ingredients, I wasn’t thrilled about dirtying every dish in the house, but I pressed on. What else was I going to do with a pile of pitted cherries?

Once all of the components were ready, I combined them in our small Le Creuset laying the cherries along the bottom and pouring the custard over them. The first issue became apparent—the dish I had chosen was too deep, so the cherries mostly stayed on the bottom instead of rising to the top like they should have. But I figured it would still taste the same, right? After 55 minutes I pulled the clafoutis out of the oven and it looked relatively like the picture in the cookbook.

But problem number two wasn’t far behind. A few hours after I had removed it from the oven, it seemed to have cooled enough for me to put the lid on. I am not sure what happened after that, but when I took the lid off after dinner to serve it, the dessert had shrunk and looked wet on top.

We ate it with vanilla ice cream and survived. It wasn’t as amazing as I had hoped it might be, but perhaps it was just first time clafoutis making jitters. Still not sure if this recipe is going to get a second try.

Too Darn Hot!

I have always believed that anything in life can be linked to a musical song — cleaning the kitchen? I might just burst into “In My Own Little Corner” from Cinderella. Going through a break-up? I definitely ran through “There’s a Fine, Fine Line” from Avenue Q a time or two. Super happy and just wanting to belt it out? You couldn’t hold me back from singing along with “Dancing Queen” from Mamma Mia!

So today as I watch the temperature climb and the “real feel” get even higher, I can’t help but burst out with “Too Darn Hot” from Kiss Me, Kate. Washington, DC, you and your crazy, humid summer days are already out of hand and it is barely mid-July. I am hopeful that this heat wave will break soon, because two more months of temperatures like today will have me singing a different tune. Maybe “Far From the Home I Love” from Fiddler on the Roof while I pine for a nice dry, hot California summer instead…

29 is Mighty Fine

As I enter the last year in my twenties I can’t help but reflect on what I thought I would be doing by the time I reached 30. Is my life “on track?” If I look back at any time line that I created in school I’d surely have performed in at least 5 Broadway shows by now, so I certainly haven’t succeeded in following that plan.

But as I enjoy my day off thanks to my pretty cool boss (self you’re the best!), I am pretty pleased with where things stand. I’ve had an extremely blessed 28 years. I am married to the man of my dreams, we live in an amazing city where we own a house, and I have my own business which continues to thrive. Really, how could I complain? I have even started pursuing the arts again in small ways such singing lessons. Hopefully auditions and vocal contests aren’t too far behind. It may not be Broadway, but it works.

Just because things haven’t turned out the way I envisioned at 10 or 18 or 25, doesn’t mean that they aren’t going right. I’ll happily accept that I may never have it “figured out” like I was certain I would by the time I finished college (and when I didn’t by then, I surely knew I’d have my life planned out by the time I finished graduate school…) and that’s okay. I’m just biding my time before I am out there playing Sophie in Mamma Mia! somewhere — that dream will never end, although at some point I may have to transition slightly and start hoping to play Donna.

Raised Garden Beds at Home

It’s been over a month since our garden bed project began, but thanks to a massive amount of work by my in-laws and husband, it looks like we will be growing some second harvest crops in our own backyard this fall.

We now have two 4’x8′ plots and one 4’x6′ plot to work with and my husband has been busy planning out a planting map that ensures we have the best possible companion gardening set-up that includes fruit, veggies, herbs and flowers. Loads of seeds and a few plants are en route to us, with the most exciting addition to our growing rotation being blueberries! Let’s hope that they not only grow, but when the time comes that we can grab a few before the birds eat them all.

I am really looking forward to only having to go as far as the backyard each morning to water and weed. It will also make utilizing our crops so much easier. If we need basil for dinner and it is right outside the kitchen door, there is no reason not to go grab some.

It won’t be long before we are planting our late harvest green beans, cucumbers and salad greens like spinach and arugula for fall dining. Even though our summer harvest is just starting to come in, I am incredibly excited about our new ability to garden year round.

The other side of our backyard is coming together as well. The far right edge has been tilled and mulched and a few flowers and bushes have been planted. Perhaps we will be able to enjoy our outside space this fall. If only we could figure out what to do about those darn mosquitoes…