Spring Rising

For the first time in weeks, I’ve gotten to leave work at my usual time this week. Wednesday, I took advantage of the non-rain sunshine (I can’t say it was warm…) and the daylight savings time, to get out in my backyard and assess the work that has accumulated over another winter.


There are tons of sticks from the many trees in our backyard that need picked up. And the moss has seemingly taken over. Does moss throw anyone into a rage like it does me? I know its prevalent this time of year because the grass it dormant, but it seems worse than usual. Our backyard is a constant fight because it has a lot of shade and the ground tends to stay moist. It’s the worst. Our gutters leach out into the back yard about 30 feet from the house, and that ground always seems to stay wet and mushy–perfect for growing tons and tons of moss. I’ve tried moss killer the past two falls, but it doesn’t seem to slow it down much. Please, if anyone has any pointers, I’d gladly welcome them.

At any rate, it was nice to see the signs of spring around the rest of my yard. The daffodils are pushing up and have tiny buds on them. In my flower bed, the irises have fresh spikey green shoots, along with tulips and more daffodils.

spring daffodil shoots

I had a low tunnel over two raised beds, and I took that off Wednesday evening. I hoed up a few weeds that had made there home in the beds and applied some fertilizer. We should be getting some rain before the weekend, so it will be nice and soaked in. I hope to plant some cool-weather crops this weekend like peas, kale, spinach and radishes.

I checked on my asparagus crowns that I planted two summers ago. Last summer, a few skinny stalks came up, but you aren’t supposed to harvest them the first year. There’s no sign of life there yet–I hope our super cold weather for a couple weeks in February didn’t kill them. I did notice the garlic chives coming up in my herb garden already, though. They are a welcome sight!


I am so ready for fresh green food. By the end of next month, I hope that I’ll be eating dandelion greens, morels and wild turkey. I hate to wish away any time of year, but I’m seriously over the brown hillsides and cruddy weather. I hope the saying is true this year–March certainly came in like a lion, let’s hope it goes out like a lamb.

PROJECT RECIPE: Lemon Ricotta Scallops

Who’s tired of winter? I’m tired of brown hillsides and dirty, salty vehicles. I’m tired of coats and gloves and flannel pjs. I’m so tired of hearty casseroles and heavy cold-weather food. Don’t get me wrong–I love casseroles and stews, but I’ve just had my fill for a few months.

I didn’t even realize how ready I am for something fresh and green until I was eating this and realizing what I am lacking. This is perfect early spring fare. The lemon makes it nice and bright and the ricotta is just right–not too heavy.

I found this recipe for Lemon Ricotta Scallops on pinterest. I love scallops, and it sounded like a quick and easy dinner, so it wasn’t hard to sell me on this one.

PROJECT RECIPE verdict: Keeper. This was almost too easy. As a matter of fact, I was making meatballs for dinner the next night while I made this. It comes together pretty quick, and there’s not a lot of active cooking time. Cook pasta. Sear scallops. Stir it all together with some peas, ricotta and lemon zest. Boom. Done.


How I changed the recipe: I halved it… mostly. I used the full amount of scallops and more peas than were called for. But everything else, I halved. I actually should have used less peas, probably. I did use frozen peas rather than fresh, but I dumped them in when I was mixing things up, then put it back on the still-hot burner and put a lid on for about 10 minutes. I also didn’t have fresh thyme, and I didn’t even have dried. All I had was ground. So, I just added a pinch.


You’d think since I halved it, it would have made two servings, but it actually made three generous servings. Enough for leftovers for lunch. And, now I’m craving fresh peas and herbs and everything that comes with spring. I hope it’s just around the corner.

PROJECT RECIPE: Dragon Noodles

This time of year, I have long hours at my “real” job. Often, when I do get home, I don’t feel like doing anything except hitting the sack. Or maybe zoning out in front of the tv with a glass of wine, then hitting the sack. Sometimes it’s nice to have a nice hot plate of something that I actually made, which is when you need an arsenal of easy recipes that you can be eating in a matter of minutes.

I found this recipe for dragon noodles on pinterest, and they definitely hit the mark.

PROJECT RECIPE verdict: Keeper! This was so easy. And it calls for ingredients that you probably have right now. It’s perfect for whipping up on short notice. And, the most important part–it’s so delicious! We were surprised it was so tasty since it really only calls for a few simple ingredients.

dragon noodles

How I changed the recipe: I didn’t have lo mein. I used whole wheat spaghetti. Also, I added a drizzle of sesame oil at the end. It was perfect with the spicy and fresh flavors from the sriracha and cilantro. Also, instead of only one egg, I used two.

I’ll definitely make this again since it was so darn easy, and you can pretty much whip it up with what you have on hand. Seriously, everyone pretty much as an egg, spaghetti, cilantro and green onions all the time, right? You could probably even substitute something like ginger and garlic for the green onions.

This was perfect for Meatless Monday. It was hearty and satisfying, even without the meat. The theme of the blog is meals on the cheap, and cutting the meat–even for one day a week, is a great way to save money. If you used soba noodles instead, it would have more protein, too.

How great is this blog? There are all kinds of simple recipes with simple ingredients that don’t break the bank. If the dragon noodles recipe is any indication how tasty any of the others are, this is definitely going to be a bookmarked site. It’s nice to mix up the usual recipe rotation every once in a while, and there are tons of easy and cheap recipes to mix in on this site. It’s worth clicking through the links above to check it out.

Guest Post! Yummy Mexican fare, including world’s deadliest dessert.

Hi gang. This is my busiest time of the year at my job, so I’ve farmed out my blog to my good friend, Tiff, for a day. We cook the same in a lot of ways, healthy, local, seasonable and sustainable. She’s got a great Mexican meal on tap for you, in case you want to take a trip south of the border to escape this seemingly endless winter.

The idea for this Mexican Lasagna came many years ago from Rachel Ray’s 30 minute meals. (Check out her recipe here:  http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/rachael-ray/mexican-lasagna-recipe.html ) Since I first started making it, I’ve tweaked it quite a bit, and it’s always different depending on what I have in the fridge.  I have added zucchini in the summer or frozen corn when there were no fresh veggies to be found.  It’s a very forgiving recipe that is a hit with my family.  I am always looking for ways to make our favorites better for us, and this dish is great for hiding lots of veggies.  I used locally raised lean burger browned with shredded carrots, onions, and red peppers for the taco filling.  A half of a pound of beef goes a long way because I add so many veggies.   I added some Pomi chopped tomatoes.  I order them from amazon when I am out of canned tomatoes from my garden.  They come in a box, so you avoid the acidic tomatoes reacting with the BPA lining of a can.   After the meat is browned and the veggies are soft I add taco seasoning. The ingredients recommended at http://allrecipes.com/recipe/taco-seasoning-i/ are a nice guideline.  I never measure them and it tastes pretty good just by eyeballing it.

I don’t eat meat, so on the side I had a skillet with all of the same ingredients except substituting black beans for the burger.  I have also added lentils and quinoa before; both were delicious.  I use a glass baking dish.  Pour some taco sauce on the bottom and add a layer tortillas.  I love the Ezekiel sprouted grain tortillas.  They don’t hold up well for wraps, but they are perfect for this dish.  They are hearty and super healthy.   I top the tortillas with filling (just beans for me and a little bit of both for the rest of the crew) and some shredded taco cheese.   Repeating the layers until it’s near the top of the pan.  Place tortillas on top and cover with salsa, cheese, diced green onions, and jalapeños.   Bake at 350° until hot and bubbly.


mexican lasagna

We eat it with Greek yogurt, salsa, and more jalapeños.   My five year old likes to pile his into a hard taco shell.  We had this for lunch with a couple friends on Sunday, and the entire dish was nearly devoured.

Now for my recent fixation and the world’s deadliest dessert: Flan.

My husband orders flan regularly at the Mexican restaurant and oohs and aahs about how awesome it is.  The last time he ordered it I googled a recipe, and I decided to make it for him.   I used a simple recipe that calls for sugar, evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, eggs, and vanilla.  This dish is nothing like I usually make.  With the exception of the farm eggs, it’s horrible for you. (Here’s the recipe:  http://allrecipes.com/recipe/spanish-flan/ )  The first flan was almost perfect.  It looked beautiful, but was lacking a little in consistency.

I did a little bit of research and found recommendations for baking in a hot water bath.   Just a couple days later and it was time for round two.  The worst part of making a flan is melting the sugar.  The dry method of just sticking a cup of sugar in the pan and stirring until it melted was time consuming, so I mixed it with water this time.  The wet method wasn’t much better.  The sugar started to crystallize around the edges of the pan.  As I tried to pry those crystals off, I splashed melted sugar over my thumb.   I ended up with a horrible burn, but my husband took over and this flan turned out even better.  The consistency was definitely getting there, so the hot water bath was a step in the right direction.



Bound and determined to make it perfect, we decided to make another one. My husband had figured out a trick for caramelizing the sugar.  Place the sugar in the pan you’re going to bake it in and instead of heating on low, you heat on high for just a minute.  We’ve been baking in glass, and he placed it on the stovetop.  Holy hell!  We should have known better.  This resulted in an explosion of glass and melted sugar all over the kitchen.  Thankfully, we no one was injured, but it was a massive mess.

I actually cannot even remember if we made another flan that day or not.  But we did try again; the flan wouldn’t get the best of us.  I was making the Mexican lasagna for lunch with our friends, and we figured it was a perfect time for flan.  My husband used a metal baking dish on the stove top and followed the same recipe.  Heating on high is definitely the way to caramelize the sugar.   It resulted in a very similar taste in about 3 minutes instead of 30.  The taste was awesome, but once again the consistency of the custard was just a little off.  I had to google some more tips on flan and custard consistency and found recommendations for running through a sieve.  I also think I beat the eggs a bit too much.   I guess I am still on my quest for making the perfect flan, so if any of you delicious potager readers have tips, then send them my way.


Now, I’m intrigued. I’ve never made flan before, but I’m gonna have to try that method for making it. Thanks so much, Tiff, for taking over for a day.

Food on the Tube

Old man winter has been particularly nasty the last few weeks. The Hubs and I like to hole up on the couch and watch either our DVR queue or something on Netflix on snowy and cold Saturdays. In honor of the recent Oscars, I thought I’d share with you some good food-themed movies we’ve recently watched.

Image Source: "Chef 2014" by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Chef_2014.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Chef_2014.jpg

Image Credit: IMDB.com

 A couple weekends ago, we watched Chef, starring Jon Favreau as chef who loses his job in a fancy restaurant after a difference of opinion with the owner and some unfortunate tweeting to a restaurant critic. He picks up the pieces a  starts his own food truck business–which amasses a huge following, thanks to a more effective use of twitter, all while he reconnects with his son and wife. It’s definitely worth a watch. It was also written, produced and directed by Favreau (I’ve seriously been a huge fan since PCU. Who remembers that one?) Make sure you have the fixins for Cuban sandwiches on hand if you’re going to watch it, though. I guarantee you’ll be craving them by the end of the movie.

The very same weekend, we also watched Jiro Dreams of Sushi. What a gorgeous movie! It’s a documentary about Jiro Ono, octogenarian sushi chef, who owns a Three-Michelin-Star sushi restaurant in a Tokyo subway station. I’m not making that up. I don’t know that I’ve every seen someone more dedicated to their craft than he is. It was all in Japanese with English subtitles, but I honestly didn’t even notice. I was so mesmerized by the way his hands moved making sushi. He’s been doing this for more than fifty years, and he makes a task which I am sure is incredibly difficult look seamless. I’m sure I’ll never get the opportunity to eat there, but I’d love to. For each seating, he memorizes the order of gender of the patrons sitting at the counter and whether each is right- or left-handed, and adjusts the sushi he prepares accordingly. Can you imagine? And he’s 85 years old, with no plans to retire.

A month or so ago, we watched Somm, another documentary, this one about the grueling Master Sommelier exam. I’ve always joked that I would like to be a sommelier when I grow up, but achieving the prestigious master sommelier title is no joke at all. These people are serious about wine, and I think probably even a little crazy to attempt the exam. I thought the bar exam was ridiculously difficult, but this documentary made it seem like it would be child’s play compared to this exam. There is a tasting portion and a written portion. For the tasting portion, you are given a handful of wine samples, and you have to be able to identify with reasonable accuracy, the grape variety, region it was produced in, type of producer, and approximate vintage. All while being timed. You have about 4 minutes to gather all that information from about 2 ounces of wine. While watching, you’ll want a couple bottles of decent wine on hand to enjoy. And you’ll definitely never look at those cheap six-dollar bottles at the grocery the same.

There are tons of other food movies out there–mostly documentaries–worth watching. I hope everyone has had a chance to see Food, Inc. by now. Seeing it was a watershed moment for me. If you haven’t seen it yet, you must! We’ve come a long way in the seven year since it’s debut, I think because of the attention it shed on our food system. A Place at the Table is in the same category of tide-turning food documentaries, but with a focus on hunger in America rather than the broad shortcomings of our food system. The number of people with food insecurity (not knowing when or where your next meal will come from) in this country is truly appalling. It is an issue with many layers, but one that absolutely demands our attention. Also, this fall, I watched Forks Over Knives, a documentary I’d wanted to see for a long time. It’s about two doctors have done extensive research on a plant-based diet, and are treating folks with a range of chronic conditions. While plenty of evidence supports this approach for diseases like diabetes and heart disease, some of these patients are living with cancer that seemingly stopped growing when they adjusted their diets. This is a crazy concept, but one that I need is worth exploring further. I am a true believer in the old adage from Hippocrates, “Let thy food be thy medicine thy food,” and this film definitely embodies that philosophy.


Image credit: moviexclusive.com

In the feature film category, this past year, we watched Bottle Shock. It is based on the historic blind wine tasting in Paris in 1976, pitting French wines, seen by most as the best in the world, against the relatively up-and-coming California wines. In dramatic fashion, California wines won both categories–white and red. The poor tasting panel, all French, were mortified and vilified for years afterwards. The event was covered in the press only by an American with Time Magazine’s Europe bureau, George Tabor, who later wrote a book about the tasting. The movie is based on the book. Last summer, I read the book, and it was fascinating. If you don’t want to delve into the intricacies of wine making in both California and France, watch the movie, but I loved the book. Make sure to have plenty of good California wine on hand to watch the movie–and if you read the book.

There are a few more food-related movies left to get to on my netflix list, with the last few (hopefully) weeks of nasty weather. Maybe I should turn some of these movies into dishes… Hmmm, future blog post, maybe.

That time I made Welsh Rarebit

I love food with a story.

I have had this recipe for Welsh Rarebit printed off and in my binder for a long time (I’m not going to PROJECT RECIPE it, though, since it wasn’t from a food blog). I don’t know what caught my eye about it when I first found it. It just sounded weird, I guess. So, I printed it, and I started wondering what the back story was. Where did it come from? Why did it have such an odd name?

It’s basically toast with cheese sauce over it. And this is a real thing. I mean, I’m sure college kids eat stuff like this all the time. But this is a real thing. This isn’t your ordinary cheese sauce, though. It has dijon mustard and porter in it, along with cheddar cheese. The flavors were so complex. And even though there’s only a little bit of mustard, the taste is so prominent. It goes great with the bite of rye bread.

Welsh Rarebit (2)

Apparently, the dish was originally called Welsh Rabbit, and was an English tavern dish. It has always been simple toast with cheese sauce–there has apparently been rabbit in it, ever. It dates back to the early 1700s, and somewhere along the way, the name transformed into “rarebit” instead of “rabbit”. One theory is that peasants were not allowed to keep rabbits killed in the forest, but instead had to turn them over to the lords who owned the land. So, they used a little cheese stretched into a creamy sauce instead. But I doubt this is true. I suspect rabbit morphed into rarebit by people who simply didn’t get the “joke” that there was no rabbit in this dish. It became a cheeky term that seems to make as many people mad as those who like to call it this. But everyone knows what it means.

This dish was a great quick and easy dinner perfect for a cold winter night. I bought the fancy rye bread and really good sharp cheddar. With such a simple dish with few ingredients, it’s important to use quality ingredients.

I would definitely make it again because it’s one of those things that you can probably whip up if you happen to have rye bread and porter on hand.

If you’re down with cheese (hello? who isn’t) and some quick and easy food you can say is a fancy British dish (say with with the accent and it sounds better) you should definitely try this.

Welsh Rarebit

British Curry Chips

If I had to pick my favorite type of cuisine, it would be tough. I love Asian food. And I love Italian. But, I think my favorite type of food has to be bar food. Hands down. I love wings. Potato skins. Nachos. And a nice spicy IPA to go with it, or a hearty toasted porter.

While, really, the best part of bar food is the ambiance, in my opinion, sometimes the Hubs and I like to make pub grub at home and stay in. Particularly if there’s a game on. It’s almost like we’re there. Except my bathroom is a lot cleaner than the bar. That’s a good thing.

Last summer, when we were in Niagara Falls, we went up to Niagara On The Lake for the day, and we ate at an Irish pub before leaving town. We got burgers and fries, but you could substitute poutine (it was Canada, afterall) or curry fries for regular fries… Er, I mean chips. The Hubs got poutine, which was amazing, and I got the curry chips.

I never heard of them before, but they were really, really good. I figured they were fries with curry seasoning on them, but no. These were crispy and greasy fries with curry SAUCE over them. It was weird, but amazing.

Wintertime is the perfect time for bar comfort food like curry chips. Last Sunday, I decided to try and make them myself.

My first attempt wasn’t too bad.

curry fries (2)

British Curry Chips (makes 3-4 servings)

  • 4 to 6 medium thin-skinned potatoes (I used kennebec)
  • 2 Tb cornstarch
  • 4 Tb olive oil
  • kosher salt
  • 3 Tb olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tb all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 2 Tb curry powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp tumeric
  • 1 tsp corriander
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp red pepper flakes (depending on how spicy you want it)
  • dash of cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup parsley, chopped

Cut the potatoes into sticks for fries. Soak in a bowl of cold water for 15-20 minutes. Drain and pat dry with a clean dish towel. Place potatoes in a large bowl and toss with cornstarch. Drizzle with 4 Tb olive oil and sprinkle with a pinch of kosher salt. Toss to coat. Spread the potatoes on a baking sheet lined with non-stick aluminum foil (the dull side). Bake in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes. Turn and bake for another 10-15 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the 3 Tb oil in a large sauce pan. Add the diced onion, and saute until softened, about 6 minutes. Stir to keep it from burning. Add the garlic after about 3 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the onions and stir for a few minutes. Slowly add the stock, and whisk to combine. Add the spices. Bring the mixture up to a boil, then reduce heat, stirring constantly until the sauce thickens, about 2 minutes. Turn the heat down to low and add the cream. Stir to combine. Keep warm until the potatoes are done. When the potatoes are brown and crispy around the edges, they are done. Serve with the curry sauce poured over them and sprinkle parsley on top.

Of course, fries are better, if they’re well… fried. But I don’t have a fryer, and these are healthier. They were almost as good as the fried ones I had at the Irish pub.

Curry sauce on fries might seem weird, but Great Britain has a strong Indian culture–and of course, a great pub culture. So, really, curry sauce and chips go together perfectly. There was even a short-lived tv show in the Sixties in England called “Chips and Curry”.

If you like curry sauce, you def need to try this. It’s definitely an interesting take on bar food–and went great washed down with an IPA.

PROJECT RECIPE: Indian turkey with chickpeas and spinach

I love Indian food. I love cooking it almost as much as going out to have it at an Indian restaurant.

For the longest time, I was solidly against Indian food. I chalk it up to a bad experience the first time I ever tried it. So, I thought I didn’t like it for a long time. I’m glad I gave it another chance. I can’t get enough of the exotic spicy food nowadays.7:007

I had a couple wild turkey breasts in the freezer from last spring season. Fresh turkey breast is great when its lightly breaded and fried. But I think, when its frozen, it gets tough. So I thought this recipes would be great since it braises slow and low in the oven for about an hour–the best way to cook tough cuts of meat.

I think I must’ve stumbled on this recipe for Indian turkey with chickpeas and spinach on pinterest. I can’t remember.

indian turkey and chickpeas (2)

PROJECT RECIPE verdict: Eh. I wasn’t “wowed”. The best part of the recipe were the chickpeas because they got nice and soft braising in the pot for so long. It was better leftover, like some stews usually areIt seems like it is probably relatively healthy. It was absolutely full of spinach, mushrooms and chickpeas–a great way to get your fill of vegetables.

How I changed the recipe: I mentioned I used turkey breast instead of turkey thighs. I love dark meat, so that might have been better. But I didn’t have any turkey thighs. Also, I didn’t have quite enough curry powder, so I just added some tumeric and cumin to make up the difference. I thought it was a little bland. Looking back, maybe if I’d actually followed the recipe, this might have been better. Maybe I wasn’t fair with it. I do have another turkey breast in the freezer, so maybe I’ll give it another try.

indian turkey and chickpeas

PROJECT RECIPE: Roasted Carrot Soup with White Miso

Soup recipes always get my attention because I eat it for lunch about everyday. Year-round. The best thing about eating soup year-round is using what’s in season. Tomato soup in late summer. Adding greens in fall and spring. I like to make a big pot on Sunday afternoon to take for lunch all week. This carrot soup with miso was a nice recipe for winter.

I have been following the {never} homemaker blog for a while. The recipes are solid healthy fare, and she sprinkles in stories about running and fitness, and sometimes it motivates me to hear about how other people exercise. Sometimes.

The recipes are always simple and straight forward. I’m a big believer in that. The best recipes, in my opinion, just let the ingredients be the star, not super-fussy techniques. This recipe for Roasted Carrot Soup with White Miso measures up.

carrot miso soup (4)

PROJECT RECIPE verdict: Keeper. Carrots and miso are such an interesting combo. I honestly had no idea what this would taste like, but it was really good. Miso is so salty, and roasting the carrots and onions made them nice and sweet. It was that really good combo of salty and sweet like bugles in vanilla ice cream. Well, maybe not, but it was really, really good. Plus, it was really, really easy. It took about 45 minutes or an hour total, but most of that was the time the vegetables were in the oven roasting.

carrot miso soup (2)

How I changed the recipe: I didn’t. But this soup is a little thin. I think next time, I’ll roast a big potato in the oven along with the vegetables and toss it in the blender to mix in the soup and mix it up a little. Or maybe a couple tablespoons of cornstarch to thicken it up. I like my soup with a little more body than this.

But, it’s pretty yummy like it is. It has such an interesting taste from the miso. Definitely not my same ol’ soup every day.

carrot miso soup

It’s worth checking out through the links above. And checking out some of the other recipes while you’re on the blog taking a peek.