In My Garden – January 2018

In My Garden – January 2018

January is a quiet time in the garden but also a time of promise. The promise of spring is there with the emergence of the first bulbs, and the sprouting of self seeded wildflowers. Snowdrops and hellebores are beginning to bloom.

The flowering current, Ribes sanguineum, against the garage is also starting to bloom. I think the hummingbirds will enjoy it. This is considered a red flowering current even though the blooms are pink. The flowers emerge before the foliage.

Flowering Current

Most of the same plants that were blooming in December are still in bloom but not as eagerly.

The biggest change is in the vegetable garden. My raised beds are now in place, all 5 of them have plantings that are doing well. Lettuce, kale, chard, radishes, cilantro, parsley, artichokes and arugula all do well in our mild winter climate with the winter rains. Chances are that I won’t need to worry about watering until sometime in April or even later.

The mulch, warmed by the sun, is the perfect place for a nap.

Casey in the sun

And we are finding some amazing mushrooms due to the wet weather. These were more than a foot across.

Mushrooms – That’s my foot for comparison

They have pores and I was told they are members of the porcini family, but I wouldn’t dare eat them. Some creature clearly doesn’t feel the same way though. Before the fence we had mushroom hunters crossing our property in mushroom season, maybe that is why we are seeing these now. I am told it can be a very profitable business.

Lastly an update on the meadow, the winter rains have been kind and things are greening like crazy. The bare spots are places where I have sown bunch grass and other drought tolerant grasses that need at least 55 degrees F to germinate. It has been too cold but they will hit a growth spurt when the weather warms a bit.

Meadow January 2019

Lastly, a couple of photos of the coast less than a mile from the house.

 

Storm on the coast

Sunset with storm clouds

The sunsets, with storm clouds on the horizon, are always stunning.

 

In My Kitchen – January 2019

In My Kitchen – January 2019

Happy New Year everyone! I hope your holidays lived up to your expectations. In My Kitchen is part of a collection of blog posts listed on Sherry’s Pickings. The posts come from around the world, describing kitchens and what is cooking from both hemispheres. Want to know the latest food trend in Australia and how they manage Christmas in mid-summer? Take a peak, it makes for fascinating reading if you are a foodie.

December was a busy month for me, making gifts and party food to share with friends and family. My responsibility at the feast included trays of roasted vegetables. Most of them were eaten on the day, but I did bring home some leftovers which I used to make this lovely stuffed sandwich.

Our annual New Year’s Day hike and chili party was up on the coast, a new location this year for the tradition. We hiked to the waterfall in Russian Gulch (now generously flowing after winter rains) and returned to a late lunch of chili, wine, salad and camaraderie.

Waterfall at Russian Gulch

Unfortunately the ground beef chili with beans was gone before I could take a picture. Both the chili and vegetarian tortilla soup were big successes. I will remake and post the traditional beef one as experienced tasters declared it the best they have ever had. No-leftovers attested to the truth of that statement.

So, what is new in my kitchen this month (or rather, mostly last month)?

Winter is citrus season, so I spent time preserving a glut of Meyer lemons (from our own tree), and a surprising gold mine of kumquats from the local grocery.

The lemon recipes can be found here, and the one for the candied preserved kumquats here.

I made a hot and sweet mustard, perfect gift giving and adding a punch to any kind of beef. Try it with roast beef or pot roast instead of horseradish.

I also made some sous vide lemon ginger curd. I’ve been making lemon curd for years but this is the first time I have used the sous vide method. The addition of some grated ginger added a little kick to the sweetness. There are a lot of recipes out there for making sous vide (in the water bath) lemon curd and I had a couple of colossal failures until I stumbled upon one that actually worked, the others resulted in a soupy mess and the loss of almost a dozen eggs. Look for a future post with pictures.

The holidays always bring me new cook books, my husband is well aware of my weakness for them.

In my kitchen I have…

You can read more about them on the following links:

Season

Salt Fat Acid Heat

Everyday Dorie

I’m looking forward to cooking and posting from them. Let me know if you have any of the books and can steer me to your favorite recipes.

In my kitchen I have sous vide turkey thigh confit. Organic and free range turkey thighs went on special after the holidays and I could not resist. Cooked for 24 hours sous vide they are absolutely delectable and rival duck confit in my opinion. They can also be shredded and as a lower fat replacement for pork carnitas. They freeze well once cooked (for that matter you can season them, vacuum pack them, then cook them while still frozen as well).

Turkey Thigh, Seasoned and Ready to Cook Sous Vide or for the freezer

Now comes January, it’s time to step on the scale and take a reckoning. What has been the cost of the fun in 2018? Believe me it was all worth it. It was an eventful year. We enjoyed a cruise to Alaska and two weeks in Italy. There were  also a few more celebratory events such as the sale of our home in Oakland, a visit with a friend in Florida, and a week at the Ashland Oregon Shakespeare Festival (spent sampling wonderful restaurants and attending equally wonderful plays). The holidays (starting with my birthday in October) only added icing to the cake, so to speak. Time to clean up my act so I can enjoy our trip to Paris on the 31st of this month. I have almost 4 weeks to lose those extra pounds and I know how to do it.

Last January a few friends and I finished 28 days of the Fast Metabolic Diet. Collectively we lost over 50 pounds, plus reduced our cholesterol and blood sugar levels. It works. Don’t go to her website, I feel she has sold out to big business. The book and suggestions however, work. They come from the early days of her nutrition consulting business when she cared more about her clients than making money.

I am doing this with the same two friends as last January, please join us. I will post the best recipes but you can find additional posts if you look in my category “fast metabolism” on the right of the blog. The diet works and you will feel fantastic. One of my friends has continued to improve her health (and reduce her weight) through all of 2018 by following a very modified version of the diet for the whole year (even including a generous Manhattan on Friday nights).

And myself, I am still below my weight of a year ago but in need of a tune up. Those half dozen pounds don’t feel good in my clothes, and my sugar and alcohol consumption levels have crept up over the year. It is time for a re-set.

You can read my post from January of last year, describing the program here. It’s easy to focus on what you are not supposed to eat (dairy, wheat, refined carbs, soy, alcohol, sugar and caffeine) but what you do eat is whole grains, lots of vegetables, lean meat, beans, and fruit. In 28 days you will find your tastebuds have been “reprogramed”, you will taste the natural sugar in food. I promise you, it happened to all of us.

Thank you for visiting. Again, I wish you a happy new year full of health and happiness. It won’t hurt to add prayers for peace, sanity and compassion in the world of politics as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

December – Leftovers in a Toasted Bread Bowl

December – Leftovers in a Toasted Bread Bowl

Do you have a lot of leftovers from this week’s holiday? My contribution to the big dinner was roasted vegetables: carrots, onions, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower. This was a large gathering and I made a lot, no one should go home hungry from the big dinner. Most of it was consumed but there are still some leftovers and I have been searching for ways to use them up. Their time had come, it was use or toss or compost day. My usual solution to leftover veggies is to make a stir-fried rice dish, or a soup, or just toss them all into a salad with an interesting salad dressing. But, then in my search, I happened upon this recipe from Nagi at recipetineats for Christmas Leftovers Toasted Bread Bowl. Can you say melty cheese? It’s my personal achilles heal. Leftover turkey (or rotisserie chicken), veggies, any antipasti you happen to have around, and cheese. The mix could be anything and you don’t need to wait for Christmas or Thanksgiving leftovers.

My mouth was watering.

This sandwich is based on a traditional Italian sandwich, Muffuletta, usually made in a round loaf and served cold. It’s a big favorite for picnics because it can be made ahead and the flavors only blend and become more delicious with made ahead. It is quite famous in New Orleans as well where an olive salad is a requirement and they use deli cold cuts.

Serve it hot with crispy bread and melty cheese, or room temperature. Weigh it down and let the flavors melt together for a couple of hours if serving at room temperature. If it is cold, let it warm up a bit before serving.

At Nagi says on her blog post, it’s the perfect food to take on an international flight.

Use whatever you have on hand but start with a good bread with a hearty crust, a sourdough or artisan type would be perfect. I used a ciabatta from a local bakery which I cut in half horizontally, removing most of the crumb in the middle of of the top and bottom, leaving about 1/2 inch of the crust. You want all that extra room for the filling.

I don’t have a real recipe for this, it is really about what you have lurking in your fridge. I can see it with stuffing, turkey, cranberry sauce, and mozzarella. One of my personal post holiday combinations..

There was a package of prosciutto that never made it onto the antipasto platter, some roasted garlic cloves, and the remainder of a jar of sweet relish I had served with cheese. I even found some deli chicken meat that needed to be used. Everything is a possibility. Add some slices of cheddar and gruyere cheese (also leftovers) and it looked like the beginnings of a feast.

Note: you will need something heavy to weigh down the sandwich. I used a cast iron skillet.

Step 1: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Step 2: Slice the bread horizontally and tear out most of the bread from the middle, leave about 1/2 inch inside the crust. Lay the bread on a large sheet of foil on a baking dish.

Step 3: Brush the inside of each half with olive oil.

Step 4: Place a layer of baby spinach, baby kale, arugula, or other greens on the bottom half.

Step 5: Start layering, veggies, meat, antipasto, more deli meat, then top all with cheese.

Step 6: Place the top on the sandwich and brush the whole with more olive oil, wrap in the foil tightly.

Step 7: Place the sandwich in the oven with the weight on top. Bake for about 20 minutes, then remove the weight and the foil and bake for another 10 minutes to crisp the bread.

Step 8: Let it sit for about 5 minutes, then slice and serve. Or, rewrap in the foil for later.

Delicious!

 

 

The season of leftovers is here! Thanksgiving, Christmas, and now New Year. I bet the folks at Fiesta Friday have a lot of them judging from the delicious goings-on in their kitchens. Come visit with Angie at Fiesta Friday #256 and my co-host  Mollie @ Frugal Hausfrau

Please add your own link but be sure to read the guidelines if you would like to be considered for the “Post of the Week”.

Happy New Year everyone!

 

 

 

In the Garden – December 2018

In the Garden – December 2018

You might think that here in the Northern hemisphere not much is happening in December. Not so, it’s a very happening place. Our northern California Mediterranean climate means many plants and shrubs are still blooming, and spring blooming plants are busy putting down roots with the winter rains. FINALLY! The garden beds at the back of the house have welcomed the addition of a lot of new plants (plus compost). The new annuals and perennials won’t flower until the spring, but that doesn’t mean nothing is happening. The lovely annual baby blue eyes, and short-lived perennial California poppies have already tripled in size. They will self seed (in fact there are a lot of seedlings from last year popping up) for this and next spring. It will be a lush planting come mid-spring.

This is what the back garden bed looked like the beginning of this month:

View to the back of the house

It doesn’t look that different a month later. There are a few more small plants, that’s all.

My wildflower meadow has progressed, you can see the new seedlings coming up from recent rain showers.

 

I worry that I seeded the area too densely; this was my first experiment with a wildflower meadow and pollinator garden. There are some transplanted perennials, a salvia, a few lavender plants, and a montilija poppy (also called a fried egg poppy), plus some plants that didn’t do as well in the back garden bed. This will be the third attempt with the montilija, they are very hardy as long as they like where they are situated. But if it isn’t to their satisfaction, forget it. This is a new site with really excellent drainage, we will see.The rest is from mixed wildflower seeds, over 50 different types which are specifically designed for the Pacific NW. I have also added some bunch grass seeds for the birds.

My goal of attracting and keeping hummingbirds in the garden during the winter has been a success. They are aggressively protecting their territory, visiting the feeders and, even more importantly, the plants. Feeders do not provide all the nutrients they need through the winter. None of the following plants (considered hummingbird plants) were planted in the garden until about March of this year.

Hummingbird at a feeder

The hummingbird plants currently blooming in the garden are of many varieties…salvias, sages, abutilon, nasturtiums, and cuphea. All of them have tubular flower shapes that attract hummingbirds. Most of the plants are still fairly small, but the variety is large. They will get much bigger and fill in the bed.

That’s the quick update for December. Oh…I almost forgot. I have 3 additional raised beds added to the existing 2. I planted 3 artichoke plants in the new beds; as well as seeded more lettuce, radishes and kale. According to Golden Gate Gardening by Pam Pierce (a gardening bible for bay area gardeners), it is iffy that the radishes and kale will grow this month. But the weather is weird and, who knows, it has been a lot milder in recent years.

We are well on our way to being more self sufficient. We have had our first salads, a mixture of different mesclun seed mixes, arugula, and baby mustard leaves. The greens were picked only an  hour before we ate them. They almost doesn’t need any dressing.

 

The lettuce mix is so wonderful compared to the grocery stores, much more tender and delicious.

The baskets are to keep off the birds while the plants are small. So far I haven’t noticed a problem but I experienced a lot of plant loss in Oakland due to birds and squirrels. There are too many predators in Fort Bragg, they keep the squirrel population very low.

 

 

December – Gifts From the Kitchen

December – Gifts From the Kitchen

This year I am having fun making many of the gifts I am giving during the holidays. As well, it is wonderful to have something ready for hostess gifts when invited to a party. Wrap any of these in a pretty tea towel for a personalized gift.

Here are some ideas, most have been posted on my blog over the past few years.

II didn’t realize I had so many recipes for lemons! Skip past this section if they are not available to you. But, if you are lucky enough to a backyard lemon tree (or don’t know what to do with ALL THOSE LEMONS), here are some options, make:

Meyer Lemon Confit

Confit Meyer Lemons in Olive Oil

Candied Meyer Lemon Slices (would work with regular organic lemons, wash and maybe add more sugar as Meyers are sweet):

Candied Meyer Lemon Slices

Meyer Lemon Indian Spiced Pickle

What about preserved lemons? Use some holiday spices such as cinnamon, cloves, and allspice in the preserving process.

Preserved Lemons 

Preserved lemons

There is Lemon Marmalade

Meyer Lemon Marmalade

Just the thing for Christmas tea.

Meyer Lemon Marmalade, Toast and Tea

There is Meyer Lemon Aigre-doux. This is an Italian sweet and sour preserved lemon recipe, wonderful blended with olive oil for a lemony salad or roasted vegetable dressing.

Meyer Lemon Aigre-Doux,
Preserved Lemons

And lastly Lemon-Lime Curd, amazing on any kind of holiday bread or toast. You could also make this all lemon curd or even all lime curd. Panettone anyone?

Lemon Curd

Lemon Lime Curd

What about homemade applesauce? Apples are readily available in many areas. Add a few cranberries to the simmering apples to color them pink or red. Homemade applesauce is so much better than any commercial one you can purchase.

Gala Applesauce

Consider a pretty crock of cheddar beer dip or spread. Use a sharp cheddar and one that is the darkest orange for the best color (I used a white sharp cheddar which wasn’t as pretty).

Cheddar-Beer Dip

Or a jar of homemade mustard, there are two recipes on my blog. Choose the one that fits your schedule. Here is the second for hot and sweet mustard, it’s quick and easy.

Hot and Sweet Mustard

Give it in a pretty container for a special treat.

What about spice mixes? Most of the commercial spices are full of sugar, preservatives and other ingredients you don’t want to put in your food.

A popular mix with my friends is the Fennel Spice from Michael Chiarello. Although it is easy, I find most folks would rather receive a jar than make it themselves. I have given it many times in the past and it is always a much appreciated gift. He also has an excellent toasted chili spice. I use it to coat port tenderloin (or a slow cooked shoulder of pork) before I cook it sous vide. It’s also great on grilled chicken. For a vegetarian or vegan option it is wonderful coating slices or wedges of sweet potatoes.

Fennel Spice Before Being Blended – Can’t you just smell those fennel and coriander?

Pork Tenderloin Coated with Vinegar Then Coated with Toasted Spice Rub

There are other bloggers who have amazing spice mixes, Mollie from the Frugal Housewife has a delicious “smokin’ Chipotle Taco Seasoning‘. Any Mexican food fan would love a jar. She has a number of other spice mixes and blends, all of which don’t contain any preservatives or additives you don’t want to feed your family. Plus, they taste better than commercial blends. The Foodbod is another source of various spice blends, focused on vegetarian cooking. She is also the queen of sourdough. She sells her own starter on her bread website, which is full of tips and instructions.

You’ll also find a number of spice mixes on my Pinterest page.

I am taking these last minute ideas to Angie’s Fiesta Friday #254. Join the party by adding your own link. The co-hosts this week are Antonia @ Zoale.com and Kat @ Kat’s 9 Lives