In My Garden – August 2022

In My Garden – August 2022

If May and June are the season for rhododendrons, August and September are the season for dahlias here on the Northern California coast.

Above are a couple of pictures of the dahlias at the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens. The dahlia garden is a favorite site for weddings in August and September; they are are spectacular with an amazing variety of bloom shapes, colors and sizes. If you ever get to visit the area, the Gardens are a highlight and a must see.

In my own garden, I planted a dozen new ones this year in a sunny spot along the driveway. They are flourishing (unlike the bearded irises that were in the same spot before).

Above are a few examples from my own garden.

Although the dahlias are the stars (and the lawn is now mostly a brown field of dead grass and sand), there are some plants of note.

Red Hot Pokers

Kniphofia caulescens, a variety of red hot poker

We often see the pokers growing wild in abandoned fields. They need no summer water once established and come back each year.

Lily

Lilium regale “Regal Lily”

These lilies are scented and the stalks are about 10 feet tall!

Helenium autumnale ‘Red Shades’

Helenium autumnale ‘Red Shades’

I first saw Heleniums at the Botanical Gardens last fall during a nature watercolor painting class, it was love at first sight. It’s going to take a few years to get them established, the clumps form by offshoots ad should become larger each year. They bloom late in the season when everything else is starting to go to seed or become dormant.

Cuphea

Cuphea

Bees and hummingbirds adore Cupheas and they bloom almost non-stop all year. I have several varieties in the garden and they all seem to do well and are fairly drought tolerant after the first year. I think the one above is sometimes called candy corn plant.

Lavender

Lavender

The lavender is almost finished but a few weeks ago it was covered in both blooms and native bumblebees, much to my relief. The bumblebees were late this year for some reason and I was worried. But we had a relatively cool spring and perhaps it just took them a bit longer to start their colonies.

The pollinator garden is looking a little wild, lots of grasses right now, I cut back the Shasta daisies so it looks a little messy.

That’s my husband in the second picture putting in birdhouses. We had 4 in various places around the garden already and just put in 2 more. Of the 4, 3 were inhabited in the spring…2 with chickadees and 1 with tree swallows. We’d like to encourage the tree swallows since they eat insects, most specifically mosquitos. Since I don’t use any herbicides or pesticides, the birds are important to keep down the numbers of unwanted insects.

We’ve had lots of beloved visitors this summer, both human and of the canine variety. Here is our friend Marylinn conducting an orchestra of dogs.

 

I hope you all are enjoying the end of summer. I can’t believe it is already September.

What’s been happening in your garden?

 

In My Kitchen – July 2022

In My Kitchen – July 2022

It’s been several months since my last IMK post. In My Kitchen is part of a collection of posts from bloggers around the world, hosted by Sherry of Sherrys pickings. The posts detail what’s new in kitchens over the past month (or several months as the case may be). Click on the link to read them or join us. What’s new in your kitchen?

In My Kitchen, or rather on the back deck, is a new smoker/BBQ. It was a very generous gift from a house guest and we have just started using it. Last night we had the juiciest and most delicious pork chops I have had in my entire life. First smoked and then quickly seared. Unfortunately I don’t have any pictures because we gobbled up every last scrap and chewed on the bones as well. I apologize to any vegetarians reading this post.

Traeger Grill

Traeger Grill

In my kitchen I have some new whole wheat grains from Community Grains.

They are a California company dedicated to restoring the full meaning of “whole grain” to commercially available products.

From a study on their website:

“This study investigates whether current systems of whole wheat production and labeling meet consumer expectations for “whole wheat”:  a reasonable belief that 100% or certainly most of the kernel (“whole”) is contained in the output of any whole wheat mill and therefore any product made from it.  Dr. David Killilea developed a procedure for accurately determining levels of whole wheat in products labeled “whole grain” or “whole wheat,” taking measurements of a biomarker protein (wheat germ agglutinin—WGA) present in the germ of the wheat kernel.”

The results were fairly shocking in that many products labeled whole wheat are actually not.

In my kitchen I have some imported pumpkin torchio pasta which was delicious with a sauce of roasted butternut squash and fried sage leaves.

In my kitchen I have flowers, early summer is when Northern California gardens are in their prime. I love having freshly cut flowers in the house.

Flowers from the garden

Flowers from the garden

In my kitchen I have a new cookbook by Ali Slagle, I Dream of Dinner. She is a contributor to the NY Times food section.

I haven’t had a chance to cook from it yet although I am enjoying reading it. Have any of you tried anything?

The summer brings fairly simple meals around here, grilled chicken and sliced seasonal tomatoes being a favorite.

Chicken thighs on the Traeger grill

Leftovers make great tacos.

Lime Garlic Chicken Tacos

Lime Garlic Chicken Tacos

The garden has also been able to provide us with fresh zucchini and greens.

Zucchini from the garden

Zucchini from the garden

Because of the current uptick in Covid cases, I have been limiting how often I go to the grocery store for supplies. So occasionally the larder is somewhat bare. But I have found even a simple meal of roast asparagus and french toast eggs can be delicious. This meal reminded me of ‘toads in a hole’ as the eggs were baked in a hole in the bread.

A chilled glass of wine can make any meal memorable, even a simple one.

 

In my kitchen I always have dogs underfoot. My friend’s dog Heather was visiting and hanging out.

Casey, Quinn, Heather and Shanna

Casey, Quinn, Heather and Shanna

And here is Casey looking somewhat like a stuffed dog in her ‘thunder shirt’ which is supposed to calm her from anxiety.

Casey

Casey

Sadly she has been having a doggie version of night terrors. We are hoping that medication will calm her, so far it is having only limited effectiveness.

And that’s my update. I’d love to hear from you if you leave a comment.

 

 

In My Garden – June 2022

In My Garden – June 2022

I honestly don’t know where to start. Everything is in bloom! June is gorgeous here in N CA. Although the rhododendrons are mostly finished (there are still a few blooms popping up here and there), everything else is in full flowering mode.

Just look at the variety in the bouquet above.

The sweet peas add their fragrance to any room where I place them. I especially like them in the bedroom where their scent fills the air when I enter the room.

Sweet Peas

Sweet Peas

The vegetable garden is in full swing as well. I decided to pass on planting tomatoes, cucumbers and beans this year. There simply isn’t enough sun for heat or them to do well and their performance has been disappointing.

But zucchini, which we love for grilling, is having a bountiful harvest. I planted several varieties and colors.

zucchini

zucchini

There are lots of other vegetables, greens do especially well because of our cooler weather.

New this year is our Traeger smoker, a generous gift from a house guest. Please let me know if you have any favorite recipes. It’s all new to us and we are still experimenting.

Traeger Grill

Traeger Grill

Also new is the metal whale on the railing behind it (but I think my husband installed it upside down).

Nasturtiums are almost overwhelming the dwarf lemon tree in this half barrel.

Nasturtiums

Nasturtiums

There are lots of flowers everywhere.

Happy gardening and have a wonderful 4th of July.

June – Garlic Lime Chicken Tacos

June – Garlic Lime Chicken Tacos

Looking for the perfect way to use up any leftover chicken from your 4th of July BBQ? This one will also get you out of a hot kitchen and put dinner on the table quickly. No leftovers? A rotisserie chicken from the store works well. You could also saute or grill a few boneless chicken breasts or thighs and give them the same treatment. Any way you choose, this is quick and easy.

Lime Garlic Chicken Tacos

Lime Garlic Chicken Tacos

The recipe is simple but toasting the tortillas directly over the gas burner on your range, or on the grill, or even on a grill pan, makes a huge difference. That toasty and roasted flavor adds something special, as does the cilantro and lime crema.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lemon
  • 2 limes
  • 1-2 tablespoons finely minced jalapeno
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely grated or minced
  • 2 avocados, peeled and pits removed, diced or sliced (sprinkle with a little lime or lemon juice to keep them from turning brown)
  • 16 cherry tomatoes, cut in half or quartered (or some jarred tomato salsa)
  • 6 cups of leftover chicken
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons of neutral oil
  • 12 corn tortillas
  • 6 oz of cheese (Cotija, feta, cheddar, Monterey jack, or other) shredded or crumbled
  • 4 tablespoons chopped cilantro for garnish
  • Cilantro and lime crema

See the previous post for the cilantro and lime crema.

Cilantro Lime Crema

Cilantro Lime Crema

If you don’t have any leftover chicken on hand either – saute 2 large cubed boneless chicken breasts or 5 cubed boneless thighs in the oil until cooked through. Remove the pan from the heat and proceed with the recipe.

Or, brush with oil and place the whole breasts or thighs directly on the BBQ. When cooked, remove from the heat, slice and proceed with the recipe.

Method:

  1. Prepare the lime and cilantro crema.
  2. Juice the lemon and limes, place in a small bowl with the minced garlic and jalapeno. Set aside until ready to use.
  3. Place a skillet over medium heat, add the oil. When the oil is hot add the leftover chicken, cook until heated through.
  4. While the chicken cooks, toast the tortillas over a cooktop burner, grill top or grill pan. Use tongs to turn so you toast both sides.
  5. When the chicken is heated, toss with the lime/lemon juice mixture, salt and pepper.
  6. Stuff the tortillas with chicken, avocado, tomato, and cheese. Garnish with the crema and cilantro.

I bet the folks over at Fiesta Friday would find this useful. It’s Fiesta Friday #438, a virtual (can you believe how many things are still virtual!?) blogging party that predates Covid. Angie hosts the party and I am this weeks cohost.

Click on the Fiesta Friday link to find ideas for celebrating the 4th, decorating your home, or keeping the kids busy with crafts now that school is out.

 

June – Cilantro and Lime Crema

June – Cilantro and Lime Crema

Cilantro Lime Crema

Cilantro Lime Crema

 

Use this easy and quick lime crema to add flavor to tacos, tostadas, nachos or drizzle it over a bowl of tortilla or black bean soup. During the warmer months I keep a small jar of it on hand to add a cooling (although you could make it ‘hot’) jolt of flavor. Dairy products will soften the heat of spicy foods.

I only used a tablespoon of finely minced jalapeno but feel free to add more if heat is your thing.

Ingredients:

  • juice and zest of 2 limes
  • 1 cup of sour cream
  • 1/4 cup of finely minced cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon of finely minced jalapeno (or more to taste)
  • pinch of kosher salt

Method:

  1. In a small bowl whisk together all the ingredients, saving a few zests of the lime and cilantro leaves to garnish.
  2. Refrigerate until ready to use.

That’s all there is to it. It will keep a few days in the fridge, thickening slightly.

I bet the folks over at Fiesta Friday would find this useful. It’s Fiesta Friday #438, a virtual (can you believe how many things are still virtual!?) blogging party that predates Covid. Angie hosts the party. Click on the link to find ideas for celebrating the 4th, decorating your home, or keeping the kids busy with crafts now that school is out.