Monday, February 21, 2011

Seedlings and worms

I tried starting broccoli seeds this year - inside and outside in the cold frame. I also planted lettuce and spinach in the cold frame.  The broccoli from inside the house has sprouted although it's pretty leggy.  The one goal I had for today was to replant the broccoli in a bigger pot but alas, I did not get to it.  The plants in the cold frame have also sprouted.  I'm going to try and plant tomatoes, peppers, cukes, squash and flowers in mid-March too.  We'll see how it goes.

My worms have arrived!  I was going on and on about the worms and Sean exclaimed he was going to have to learn as much about worms as I did about professional cycling - and since I think I'm fairly knowledgeable about cycling these days, he has a lot of catching up to do.

A friend at work is a biology professor and in a passing conversation with him, he mentioned he tried vermicomposting and that it didn't work.   I asked him about it and learned he had a Can o Worms system he was willing to give away.  The contraption is now sitting in my basement and the worms came this week. I consulted my book "Worms Eat my Garbage" by Mary Appelhof for how to set up the wormbed.    I shredded some newspapers and moistened them and put the whole mess on the bottom tray of the system.  Then dumped the worms and dirt onto the newspapers.  In an hour, I checked on the worms and they had all moved to inside the paper.  Over the next couple of days I have been putting kitchen waste into the tray above the worms. The idea is the worms will migrate up to the tray above, leaving worm castings below.


Cold frame seeds

Broccoli seeds

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Bumbleberry Pie

I don't do pie. I have a love/hate relationship with the crust.  All my life, my mother was the expert pie baker.  She taught me everything I know about cooking and baking and yet, I could never really master pie crust.  Oh, I can make one and it's edible but I have angst.  When I met Sean and discovered he was a pie baker extraordinaire. my angst increased.  Emma says Sean and my mother need to have a pie bake-off with her being the judge.  Because, of course, Brian does not eat pie.  Or cake.  Or any other kind of dessert expect vanilla ice cream and the occasional chocolate chip cookie.  "you can't make me eat that piece of pie mommy".  Ok honey, you don't have to eat that piece of pie.  More for your sister.

Years ago I read a very nice little book about pie.  Humble Pie, Musings on What Lies Beneath the Crust.  The author, Anne Dimock, writes about how pie has been  part of her life from the day she was born.  She writes about New Englanders loving pie for breakfast (of course, that and baked beans).  She writes about no matter what is going on in her life, there will always be pie.

Every summer, when we go to Maine, Emma and my mom make Blueberry Pie.  Sometimes Bumbleberry pie.  The berries in Bumbleberry are blueberries, raspberries and blackberries.  The recipe comes from the King Arthur Baking Book.

Emma loves pie.  Emma was also sick with a cold this weekend and I had the ingredients for the pie in the freezer.  So I decided to make it.  It came out pretty good and high praise from Emma when she said the crust was flaky.  I'll bring Sean a piece tomorrow and get the ultimate opinion.

I used blueberries (picked from Butler's Orchard), Blackberries (picked from the community garden), Sour Cherries (picked from Homestead Farms) and Peaches (Farmer Allan).  The pie is pretty tasty.

Fruit, with sugar, lemon juice and tapioca, ready to be cooked and thickened.

In the bottom crust

Top crust added

Yum, Bumbleberry Pie

What's blooming in February

The weather was very warm for a couple of days and I noticed some blooms in the garden.  Spring is soon to be here!

Someone was messing with my camera - I didn't realize it was on some funky setting until later.  This is the first bloom of winter jasmine.

Some sort of cocoon, hanging from the winter jasmine stalk

Hellebores - also the first plants to bloom

My gorgeous orchid.  This is best blooming since I've owned this plant

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

This week's cookbook

I read a lot of cooking magazines and have a lot of cookbooks but meal planning is not something I do that often.  Usually I just open the fridge and try to figure out what to make every night.  During the summer it's easier since I come home with fresh vegetables every other day.

Tonight, I took out some fish fillets and then grabbed the cookbook The Six O'Clock Scramble.  My friend Sherry gave this to me a number of years ago because her friend is the author.  There is also a newsletter the Scramble

I used the Quick Tilapia with lemon, garlic and capers.  Saute some chopped garlic in olive oil, add fish fillets.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Cook for 4 min, turn and season.  Add a glug of lemon juice with a sprinkle of capers and cook for another 4 minutes.  I served this with Israeli couscous and steamed carrots with butter.  Very easy and tasty.

Monday, February 7, 2011

A new challenge!

I think the Dark Days Challenge has died as there hasn't been any postings on the site since I think week 4 and we are now in week 11.  So time for a new challenge!  my friend Lynn, over at Mommy Porch  found a couple of new challenges.  While Sean has ordered the charcouterie book, I'm not so interested in that challenge. I did sign up to be a daring baker, at the Daring Kitchen site.

A secret recipe every month!  Woo hoo!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Let the 2011 gardening season begin!

Our last frost date in DC is usually mid-April.  The time to plant broccoli transplants is mid-March.  This year, I thought I would try and start seeds myself.  So, if I was going to stick to the timeline for broccoli, this was the weekend to start.

Years ago, I bought this pot maker thingy from gardener's supply so today I unearthed it and made a few newspaper pots.  I have a whole seed starting kit in the garage but that is more appropriate for the tomatoes and peppers.

I also took my friend Kathryn's advice and planted some broccoli seeds in the cold frame - also put some lettuce and spinach in the cold frame too.

Broccoli in paper pots.  This is now sitting on top of the radiator, in the south facing window.

Cold frame, being prepped with more soil.

Seeds planted

Between my friend Edouard and myself, we really have almost all the seeds we need for the season.  I still want to order a few more from Territorial Seeds and Seed Savers Exchange.

The robins were going crazy in the backyard today. Most of the snow has melted and in the fall, I raked most of the leaves under the viburnum.  The robins love this leaf cover and go wild flinging leaves left and right.  I also saw a male cardinal and a hairy woodpecker.  A great day for viewing the yard.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The history of my granola recipe

My granola recipe is dedicated to Jackrabbit Johannsen.  Who?  He's the man accredited with introducing cross-country skiing to Canada.  He was also the grandfather of my friend and roommate in college, Chris.

How did I possible come by a recipe dedicated to this person.  It's a long story!

I went to college at McGill University in Montreal.   At the end of my second year in school, I was planning on moving off campus and was lining up people to live with.  My friend Julie said yes and she suggested another woman who lived in her dorm, Rachel.  Over the summer, Julie decided not to return to school so Rachel (who I barely knew) and I ended up living together, in an apartment not far from campus.

It was the perfect match!  She was calm, easy going and loved to cook.  How could we not be compatible.  We spent a lot of time that year cooking as I had recently become a vegetarian and Rachel and I loved to procrastinate by baking bread.  Although, we discovered that making bagels was really not worth it, given we lived in Montreal, home of fabulous bagels.  I had a friend Pete, who would go out jogging and leave a bag of bagels on our doorknob (I found out later that he was trying to woo me with bagels but I was a little dense about that).

Anyway, Rachel and I decided we wanted to keep living together our senior year but we added another friend Beth to the mix.  Beth decided that it was time to move out of Molson Hall (yes, you got that right) and asked if she could move in with us.  We said yes and I had planned on going up to the city over the summer to find us a place to live.   During out conversation about the living arrangements, I had asked Rachel if she wanted her boyfriend Chris to move in with us too and she said no.  Well, during the summer, she called me and asked ever so nicely if Chris could indeed move in with us.  (I have lots more stories about Beth - she is one of my best friends and we had many adventures over the years, before we were married and were traveling together.  Ask me about the toe-sucking Moroccan on the train from Barcelona to Madrid)

So the four of us found a lovely apartment that was near St. Lawrence Street.  As luck would have it, our other good friend Melissa lived around the corner from us on St. Louis Square.  The five of us spent the year eating, laughing and hanging out a lot.

Kneeling: Stacey.  Left to Right in back: Melissa, Beth, Chris and Rachel.

What does this all have to do with granola you ask?  Chris grew up in Mont Tremblant so for that year, we all spent quite a bit of time visiting his parents there.  One weekend we all went up to chop and split their wood.  We did a lot of cross country skiing and hiking.  I had my first experience with being in a sauna naked and then running out into the snow as Chris had a sauna in his house!  Chris's mother was Norwegian and the daughter of Jackrabbit.  She would cook LOTS of food for us when we would go up to visit and for breakfast, she would serve this wonderful granola.  I asked for the recipe and she pulled out this community cookbook and showed me the recipe and how it was dedicated to her father.  I don't remember much of the story but I don't think the recipe author actually knew Jackrabbit, only that the recipe had been developed in honor of someone who loved the outdoors.  My recipe is now on a fading piece of paper that is 27 years old.  That is ok, since I know it by heart.

As an aside, I bought a picture book years ago for my daughter and lo and behold, the dedication was to Jackrabbit Johannsen.    The title is Race of the Birkebeiners by Lise Lunge-Larsen.  This is a wonderful story and the illustrations are lovely.

oh, and Chris and Rachel were married a couple of years after we graduated  and now have 4 lovely children and live in Seattle.  Beth is married with two beautiful girls and lives in London.

Crunchy Granola

5 cups rolled oats
1 cup sesame seeds
1 cup sunflower seeds
1 cup wheat germ
1 cup powdered milk
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup honey
1 cup coconut
1 cup raisins
1 cup nuts

Mix dry ingredients (first 5) and add oil.  Mix well.  Bake at 300 for 45 min, stirring every 15 min.  Take out of oven and add honey and the rest of the ingredients.  Bake for another 15 min. This makes a very sticky granola.

The only modification over the years is to cut back on the oil and honey. I use 1/2 to 3/4 cup of oil and honey.  I usually use pepitos instead of sunflower and I add all sorts of dried fruit instead of raisins.  I also don't measure the coconut, fruit and nuts but just put in handfuls of the stuff I want.