Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Morbid Plants

I have been developing a fascination for plants with morbid names. You might have noticed it starting when I blogged about Burning Hearts a few months ago. A patch of Bleeding Hearts, check. A pot full of Burning Hearts, check. So what shall be next on my morbid plant list you ask? Well, I have already purchased seeds for a little beauty called Love Lies Bleeding. Oh yes. It will be mine. Not only does it have a fabulous name, but just look at this amazing plant.

Love Lies Bleeding comes from more humid regions of the Americas, and is also apparently edible. It can be adapted, however, to grow in more arid climates. The plant can grow into a small bush, up to 4 feet tall. The cascading flowers can grow as long as 18 inches.

Another beauty I discovered today is a ground cover called Sweet After Death. Its name comes from the fact that while the plant has no scent while alive, its leaves smell like vanilla once they've dried. This would be a welcomed whiff as you walk down your garden paths in the fall. It does also flower, sending up white spires high above it's broad leaves.

I'm not sure how well this plant would thrive at my house. It is quite prevalent in the Pacific Northwest, which has a somewhat similar climate to the bay area. Perhaps I could sneak it in to a dark corner of the yard.

I think a rather tragic storyline could play itself out in my yard. Imagine if you will, walking down the side walk next to my house, first you pass some bachelors buttons, then a patch of (insert some sort of innocent female named flower, I'm sure it's out there), a few Burning Hearts (ah, young love), then Forget Me Nots (gasp, the lovers have parted), then Love Lies Bleeding (could no longer take the separation) and finally Sweet After Death. Very Romeo and Juliet I must say.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Testing Pea # 212,000

As I have lamented on this blog before, peas don't like to grow for me. I believe in all my attempts to grow them I have eaten two pods over the last two or three years. This year I already tried one batch of peas. They were all eaten by my other nemesis, senor snail.

I was not to be discouraged however, and for the first time in my pea attempts, planted a second crop. I put them in a shadier spot with worse soil and they are doing fantastic! I do fear that when I go home tonight they will all be dead (perhaps as I type this little snails are gnawing away at the leaves), but as of this morning they were all several feet high and one had even set a couple pods. I think this is the year my friends. Yes, this is the year.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Rattlesnake Beans

One new plant I'm trying to grow this year is beans. Jeffry doesn't eat green beans so they will be mostly for drying and using in stews over the winter. This will be a nice way to extend the harvest as we'll eat fresh stuff out of the garden during the summer, and have the dried beans to munch on during the fall and winter months.

I had hoped to get them in the ground sooner, but our unusually cool spring has forced me to hold off on many of my garden plans. Not only are daytime temperatures not getting above the mid 70's, but about a week and a half ago it was in the 30's when I woke up. That wonderful ocean breeze that I love so much in the heat of summer is also not helping. It blows in at about 5 o'clock and quickly rids the air of any warmth it had managed to accumulate during the day. I finally couldn't wait any longer however, and so far these little seedlings seem to be doing OK.

I've chosen to grow rattlesnake beans, which I purchased several months back from Baker Creek Seed Co. You might be wondering why I picked this bean over all others, the honest truth is unfortunately not filled with wisdom and research. I though they looked pretty, and the back of the Baker Creek seed package raved about how wonderful they are. Their pods are green with purple stripes running through them, and the seeds themselves are cream colored with reddish brown streaks running through them. Their colors just sounded like a work of art to me. The vines also grow to be 10 feet tall with 7 inch pods! That's gigantic, and another reason I wanted them. I can't wait to until later this summer when these colorful bean vines will dwarf me!

Anyone else excited about trying something new?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Where Have I Been?

It always seems like I stumble upon new blogs when the writer has just returned from a long absence. I have thus read a lot of posts with titles like, "Where I've Been" or "What I've Been Up To" and they usually contain some sort of apology for not writing more and a dash of self importance as they tell their readers not to fear, for they have been off doing exciting things but they appreciate the concern. As I was new to these blogs I hadn't been worried for their safety or pondering why on earth they hadn't written a new post in a week or more, but none the less I read their post describing their generally exciting exploits and by the time they were finished I was also happy that they were back so that I could look forward to future posts. Well, it's my turn.

I know you all have probably been wondering where on earth I have been. Was I in a car accident? Did I suffer amnesia and was waiting alone in a hospital room  for someone to come claim me and tell me my true identity? Did I suffer a stroke in the back yard and was currently becoming the main course for my chickens who were now starving because I hadn't been feeding them because well, I was dead? Did the snails finally fight back and decide it was time to launch an offensive? Did I finally go crazy pulling weeds and run off to the dessert to escape the daily chores required just to try and keep up with my yard? No dear friends, this is not it at all. In fact, wait for it....I've been up to some rather exciting things.

First, I went away for Mother's Day weekend with the best of mothers. We stayed in cabins and ate at East West Cafe in Sebastapol (highly recommend stopping their for lunch if you're ever in the area). It was on that trip that I saw my first Banana Slug ever in the Armstrong Redwoods. He looks like he's about ready for bread making.

Later that week I was taken out to Chez Pannise for the first time. The food was amazing with a main course of lamb. The first course however, involved anchovies. I did not like them. I figure if Chez Pannise can't make them tasty  then I will never learn to like them. Oh and  while I was there, this happened:

Since then (in the past 7 days) we have booked the church, set a bridal shower date, set up consultations with two wedding dress shops, picked our wedding favors and purchased our wedding rings. Oh, I also had a 50's themed birthday BBQ at my house on Saturday. I made my own dress.

So as you can see dear friends. You had no reason to fear, other than for the fact that you missed my witty and informative posts. Those shall now resume again, so grab a glass of cool iced tea and read along.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Robin's Birthday Mac & Cheese

With Robin having a 50’s theme for her birthday, I thought back to my childhood days in the 50’s (OK a couple were in the 40’s) and remembered one of my favorite foods was macaroni and cheese. Of course, that was the “chedder only” version because, in the Midwest where I grew up, you didn’t ever do anything unusual or unique with food…mac and cheese was mandated by social law to be made from chedder cheese only.

When Robin and I were last in Disneyland we had some 4 cheese mac and cheese that was fantastic so I got on the internet and searched 4 cheese mac and cheese and came up with a very simple recipe that sounded like it was similar to the Disneyland version. I brought the ingredients to Robin’s and made it there. It went into the oven a soupy mess that I thought looked inedible but cooked up fine, and all the comments I got on it were great. It is not the creamy type that comes out of the Kraft box but more like the macaroni was coated with a very thick layer of dry cheese. Very unusual but very good. So if anyone wants to try it, here is the recipe as I made it.

Cook macaroni until just tender (I put the macaroni in the water before heating and timed it for 8 minutes after it began boiling). You definitely don’t want it mushy. Drain and set aside.

Heat 4 cups of cream (I used 2 cups of heavy whipping cream and 2 cups half and half because that is what I had) to scalding, remove from heat and stir in 4 ounces each of shredded chedder, jack, guyere and asiago cheese and mix until smooth. Mix with macaroni in an appropriate overproof casserole dish, top with bread crumbs and a small amount of grated parmesean. You can also add some Cajun seasoning to the bread crumbs…I added ½ teaspoon but would suggest more as the flavor was extremely mild…maybe 1 ½ to 2 teaspoons.

Bake at 375 for about 15 minutes or until top is browned. I let it sit for about 10 minutes before serving to let it set up some.

What little left overs I had went great with some ham and homemade applesauce the next day.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Tough Enough for a Man, but Specifically Designed For...

Happy Friday everyone! I just have to share with you this silly but adorable tool set that I saw at Wal-mart last night. Women of the world rejoice, you can now be handy without sacrificing your femininity! All it takes is dyeing the handles of your tools to create this magical transformation from sweaty man work to lady like industriousness*. Honestly though, as much as a pink tool set seems silly, the kit does include some good basics if you have the need. I believe there was also one in blue if you'd like a his and hers set. If you have an aversion to shopping at Wal-mart, you can also pick it up from amazon here.

*string of pearls and high heels not included.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Lemon Garlic Dip

Last night Mr. Jeffry and I got to enjoy our first real harvest dish, home grown artichokes. In addition to our artichokes, we grilled chicken legs and sweet corn on the cob. Considering the fact that we don't have corn holders, it was a rather messy finger lickin' meal, but going animal style every once in a while has its appeal.

I've never really been satisfied with dipping my artichokes in butter or mayo, I always feel like something was missing, like it could be better than it was. So last night I tried a little experiment. I chopped up about a tablespoon of preserved lemon and added it, along with a 1/4 tsp. of garlic powder, to about 4 Tbsp. of mayo.

I mixed it up about an hour before we ate so it would have time to steep and let me tell you, I was not disappointed. Jeffry didn't seem to be quite as excited about it as me, but he was satisfied by the original butter/mayo options, so for him it was not a moment of long awaited fulfillment. We had some dip left over so I used it like regular mayo on the deli sandwich I was making for lunch. Once again, very pleased.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Green Strawberry Love

They're Heeeeeere! Yes my friends the time has come, soon I will taste the sweet summery goodness of strawberries grown with our own four hands. They've been weeded, they've been fertilized and they've been watered, and now they are sending out runners (surprising considering this breed was suppose to not send many out) and setting what looks to me like some seriously tasty fruit. This guy even has some red starting to show!

It won't be long now until I have to find ways to use these guys up (I know, poor me!). I imagine many will simply be eaten as is, perhaps still wet from the sprinkler and warm from the sun, but I'd love to hear any recipes you may have. Dipped in chocolate? Strawberry shortcake? Preserves?