All posts tagged: how to

Harvest Cornbread

Summer is more so an emotion than a season. Annually it arrives, heat and hazy sunlight, a shimmering mirage of memories forgotten and ghosts of summers past, of childhood and yesteryears. And each summer has its own personality. Some come particularly hot and lazy, sprawling languid and driving anyone within reach to naps and slow eyed ruminations. Others come cool and soft, all lush greens and gentle breezes. But the best days are the rainy summer days.       Awake and ready to face the morning’s tasks, I wasn’t what you could call saddened at the sight of rain coming down the a.m. A cup of coffee and front porch sitting in the cool air came as much needed comfort. I frequently forget to pause lately and those not so subtle reminders are less pesky than welcome. Gardening is in full swing with necessary tasks compiled daily. Weed, water, harvest, prune, keep vigil for pests, fertilize, repeat. In that way, the art of gardening is imitating life lately. A series of tasks toward a higher goal eating …

Heirloom: Golden Zucchini

It’s strange, the difference a year can make. Looking back at how different one June can be from the last is nearly dizzying. Sometimes the comparison is heartbreaking. Other times it is a welcome reminder. In the garden, the difference between any two seasons is palpable and as one toils it isn’t difficult for the mind to wander between comparisons of this and last season’s gardens to this and last season’s daily challenges or successes. While the daily life of this summer has been more challenging than most, the season’s garden has been for the most part a dream. Especially the squash.         Two seasons ago, all my squash were attacked and rapidly killed by squash vine borers. By rapidly, I mean my plants were done for before I even realized what was happening as I had never encountered vine borers prior to that season. They also summarily destroyed my gourds and melons. Devils. Last season came torrential rains, blighting most of the garden and smearing the rest with powder mildew. When the rains finally broke, …

Spring Green Salad with Gorgonzola Vinaigrette

This is the strange time of year when change is exaggerated, when I look at photos of the garden from only a few weeks ago and the rate of growth borders on preternatural. Seeds just budding last month are mature plants now, in the process of producing. And a garden tilled not long ago all dirt and rows marked by hay and mulch has gone from shades of clay and dirt to shimmering bold greens of every tone.          The world seems greener this year than any years in recent past. Nature shivers emerald, all gossamer leaves on the rainiest days and bright forest tones in the sunshine. Most days are rainy, albeit not like last year. And warm. So warm already that the early greens and cooler tempered plants are bolting while the squashes and tomatoes are sprawling in their takeover for the season. With all the cool natured plants in a race to bolt, recipes center around making the fullest use of their produce. And so, a simple salad. Quick to make but as fresh …

Spring Pasta with Roasted Garlic Sauce

The words “purple is royal” have been uttered more than once in the last few weeks and as the garden fleshes out in emerald and lavender, ultraviolet and splashes of pearl, I wonder if I wasn’t feeling a bit royal when planting. Or perhaps I have more of my mother’s blood than realized (purple is her all time favorite). Or maybe it was a surprise for E (purple is also her favorite). Maybe all of the above.       Either way, the irises are blooming along the fence line, honeysuckle has just begun to perfume the air, and somehow an accidental very purple theme for the first round of blooms has been managed all over the property. It will change as the other flowers come in, pinks, scarlets, and heavenly blues. But for these few weeks, spring has come in royal, all velvet purples and soft lilacs against a deep shimmering green backdrop while indoors the season has come when fresh flowers are always on display straight from the garden.  The vegetable garden is also flush with green as all the first …

Natural hues.

The fertility rites of spring are in full force, trees budding and blooming, seedlings sprouted and growing voraciously, birds nesting, rabbits stirring. There is a soft beauty in the gentle themes of the Easter celebration, the stunning examples of years of adaption of the symbols of equinox rituals into the imagery of the Christian church, all bundled and prettily packaged in the palest tones of mother nature. And outdoors the velvety golds, pale yellows, baby pinks, dusty roses, bright lilacs, deep violets, and soft lavenders of the flora are particularly splendid in the early warmth of this precocious spring, the garden and flowerbeds are coruscant with luminescent young green, and the sky is the clearest blue nearly every day. Inspired by all the lambent colors of youthful nature, this year’s Easter (which came early for us as necessitated by our shared family) involved not only a garden themed Easter basket delivery from an early Easter bunny but also a game of playing botanist, chemist, and artist in the kitchen. This time not for a recipe, …

Seed starting and the novice.

Outside the garden has been expanded by about twenty feet in two directions and the fence reset, the ground has been tilled, and the overgrowth project continues in the woods, clearing, cutting, and stacking. Spring bulbs and early blooming shrubs are beginning their show and the early cool season’s veggies are hardening off while inside the early and mid-summer season vegetables are sprouting in rapid succession. All the prep for the growing season is moving rapidly toward fruition. Inspired by all this new growth of early spring and the sight of tables full of seeds starting, a quick guide to seed starting rooted in experience seems in order. Starting your veggies indoors gives you not only the advantage of a stronger harvest by besting your local climate but also of not spending a ridiculous amount of money on transplants and giving you a seemingly endless variety from which to choose. Besides, the satisfaction of nurturing your plants from start to finish cannot be understated. But if you’ve ever failed with seeds you know exactly how frustrating the process can be …

Gingered Shortbread Cookies

 In the early morning, long before dawn, the cold crept in and woke me. The fire was dying. A quick rekindling and coffee turned on, I took my first glance outside at the icy glaze glistening in the dark. The world had been coated overnight, the first ice storm of the season and winter hasn’t officially started yet.      But Thanksgiving is over, the Christmas tree is up, and plans for hanging outdoor lights are being bantered about. It is that time of the year. And so, since this is the time when homemade sweets are ever at the ready for grazing, a simple cookie recipe. Because I love gingerbread and usually make it around Christmas (to be fair, in my world anything ginger is acceptable any time of the year) but this year I crave the soft sweetness of shortbread, a sort of combination of the two seemed in order. All the sweet sharpness of ginger pairs beautifully with the buttery softness of shortbread, making these cookies a simple go to recipe for …

Winter Vegetable Salad

Love though I do Halloween, Thanksgiving is a very close second. Every year the pattern repeats: up pre-dawn, shower and coffee, begin the feast by 7am. Pies and goodies prepped the night before mingle with timeworn cookbooks and flying utensils while the Macy’s parade plays on tv. We’ll eat in the early afternoon, if nothing goes awry. The menu is planned well in advance, always essentially the same, with or without turkey (we’re a ham family) and with an occasional swapping of a side, albeit scalloped potatoes, deviled eggs, and dressing are absolute mainstays. Post feast come naps and decorating the Christmas tree to the tune of E’s excitement and George Bailey finding out it really is a wonderful life. And while those traditions repeat annually, this year something new to celebrate our first Thanksgiving in our home. My poor little 50’s kitchen table I’ve had since college has sufficed as our dining table for a time now, but its scant four feet by just under three feet surface hardly cuts it especially for larger meals. Knowing we wanted something …

Sacked.

                And the rain keeps coming, in downpours, torrents. With flooding all around us, they say this is a record breaking year. It is also a garden breaking year if it keeps up. With only a couple of types drowned, the beans are surprisingly unphased and the melons and then some are trying to put on, but most plants have been stunted. Next year, perhaps. In the meanwhile, attentions have turned back toward the house between summer vacations. Specifically the handful of flora planted have done well and while working on a few decorative projects for them it occurred to me to share a sort of addition to a previous post. While the five gallon bucket container concept may not be the most attractive of planters, they can be both hidden and dolled up. A group of them can be corralled in lattice of equal height to the buckets, lending a quick camouflage. But if you would like to use them as a light weight container for dwarf elephant ear rather than …

Campfire Sweet Potato Hash

In a collage style frame I keep snapshots from my first birthday spent with Josh, a birthday on the Illinois River, camping and floating and lazily enjoying the day. E frequently asks about those pictures, about “daddy’s river” as she calls it, one of his favorite places. And so, in spite of the river being up from all the rain, we decided to take E to her daddy’s river to camp. We scavenged a collection of rocks, driftwood, feathers, and shells, played in the late afternoon sunshine, and taught E to make daisy chains and how to improve her rock skipping game. And after dinner and a visit from a less than skittish raccoon, E had taken in all the excitement she could. Josh and I stayed up, watching one of the most beautiful moonrises I’ve ever seen, the sort of thing you can’t quite justly describe in words but it stays with you until the end, locked away forever in memory. The river whispered by, swift current and humble power, and we talked nonsense, relaxed, laughed. …