Wednesday, May 28, 2008

How Does My Garden Grow

The vegetable garden is in it's 6th week. The main problems I'm having are slugs and whiteflies. I used beer traps to get rid of some slugs, it was a cheap treatment (thanks to Doug's friend Jeff leaving a 6-pack of Southpaw at our house) but it was pretty nasty cleaning out the dead slugs from the plastic cups. Gag. I treated the whitefly problem with some organic pesticide/fungicide spray but it's rained nearly everyday since I used the spray so I'll probably need to spray again. I hate those little creepy whiteflies, it seems like there are hundreds of them. I've read that marigolds can help get rid of them so I guess I need to get plant some marigolds in the garden.

So far the butternut squash, the watermelon, the cantaloupe and the summer squash seem to be growing the fastest, they're all in the same garden bed. I planted all of those from heirloom seeds that I bought from Seed Savers.

I'm still kind of nervous because I'm afraid my garden won't actually produce anything. But I've got my fingers crossed and I'm trying to be vigilante. Sadly my green peas have caught what I believe is some sort of root fungus. They started out really healthy but in the last few weeks they've wilted and their leaves have dried up.

My two cayenne pepper plants have some baby peppers on them and my tomatoes are starting to bloom too. The cucumbers, carrots and lettuce are still pretty tiny but hopefully they'll start getting bigger since it's gotten so warm in the last week.

Our hydrangeas are also blooming. When we first moved into the house last year the were all cut down to the base of the plant and they never bloomed last year because the morons that lived in our house before us had cut them down so far and hydrangeas bloom on new wood. But this year they are full of big heads and the best part is they're multi-colored. They're blue, pink and lavender. I love them. Growing up my mom had Nikko Blue ones and my grandmother had pink ones so I'm really excited to have multi-colored hydrangeas. Doug thinks that hydrangeas are "old lady plants," I have no idea why. Maybe the blue blooms remind him of blue-haired ladies?


This past weekend was a holiday weekend so what else did I do with an extra day off? I made more labor intensive dishes. I really, really love chicken salad. You can do almost anything with it. I really like the pre-made Waldorf Chicken Salad at Fresh Market, the crunchy grapes and walnuts add something special. But when you make it at home the possibilities are endless, you could do an Asian style chicken salad with wasabi mayo or a Mediterranean style chicken salad with sun-dried tomatoes and Kalmata olives, nearly anything.

My favorite chicken salad recipe comes from, it's Chicken Salad with Walnuts & Peaches. I first made it when my best friend and I hosted a bridal shower several years ago. It got rave reviews and I've been making it ever since. Usually Doug is not a fan of something like chicken salad, there are too many 'unknown' ingredients for him. But this past weekend I made some and asked him to try a bite. He did and he actually liked it, so I can add another dish to my lunch/dinner repertoire. The recipe is relatively easy but it does involved the poaching and shredding of chicken breasts, chopping an onion and peeling and cutting up peaches, the end result is worth it though.

Last week, around Wednesday, I bought a huge container of strawberries from the grocery store, mainly because they were on sale and when they're in season I eat strawberries several times a week. Monday afternoon I realized I hadn't eaten those berries yet so I pulled them out of the fridge and inspected them. They were still good but they weren't as sweet as the ones I bought at the Farmer's Market the week before so I went looking for a strawberry cobbler recipe. I didn't have any eggs on hand so I had to find a recipe that didn't call for an egg. I found this one on the Whole Foods website. I made it and it was great, not too sweet and not too soupy. The fruit is held together with a mixture of flour and sugar so it gives it a little more 'body'. I topped the biscuit-y part with raw sugar and butter and it was perfect, even better with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Tuesdays with Dorie: Pecan Honey Sticky Buns

This is my first Tuesdays with Dorie recipe, I *just* joined and I am so excited to be part of this bake-a-long. The book is Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan, it is huge and filled with tons of recipes for baked goods. There are so many fabulous blogs over there with even more fabulous pictures of the finished product. And every week one of the members chooses another recipe from the book for everyone to make, then we post about how we did it, what we thought about the recipe and pictures, all on Tuesdays.

This week's recipe was chosen by Madam Chow of Madam Chow's Kitchen. The sticky buns are made with a brioche dough, which you make first and have to refrigerate overnight. I was a little intimated at first because the recipe called for a stand mixer (which I don't have) but also said you could use a wooden spoon too. I ended up using a combination of a wooden spoon and my hands, which was sort of fun, squishing the butter into the dough. I was afraid it wouldn't rise, because this was really the first true bread I've made, but luckily it made it through. The next morning I pulled it out of the fridge and divided it into two, one part for the buns and one part for a loaf of brioche. The brioche part just went into a buttered loaf pan with an egg wash. The buns got a layer of butter and cinnamon sugar and then after being rolled up and sliced and were placed into the baking pan with the topping of honey, brown sugar, butter and pecans that I had made earlier.
I loved these sticky buns, they were so good. My husband said they were "dangerously good" which is completely true because the recipe (dough, topping and all) uses almost four whole sticks of butter. Tasty but not so healthy. I'll probably save this recipe for special occasions, not only for the butter issue but because it is rather time consuming.

Also the separate loaf of brioche I made was delicious, it has the consistency and flavor of croissants, very buttery and flaky but not too sweet. Wonderful with a smearing of apricot jam.
I'm already ready for next week's recipe of French Chocolate Brownies chosen by Di's Kitchen Notebook.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Herbs, a Symphony & Chicken

I got up extremely early yesterday morning and drove to Brighton to Anthony's Herb Festival. I went last year and it's a nice little place to go and buy herbs and plants and other random homemade things. I bought some onion chives, two different kinds of mint, two pepper plants, a spinach plant and a scented geranium. I also bought a bar of homemade lavender scented goat's milk soap (I even got to pet the goats) and a jar of homemade strawberry jam for Doug because he always complains we never have strawberry jam/jelly. My mom went too, she was going to work a shift in the Tipton County Master Gardeners tent, but she got there early so she could walk around and shop. The festival is at an actual farm and it's such a pretty piece of property, two houses and lots of barns and greenhouses. It's all beautifully landscaped too, if I lived on a farm I would want it to be this place.

I got home after the festival and started to cook because we had grand plans to go to the Sunset Symphony last night. The symphony is the final 'hurah' of the Memphis in May celebration. I was going to make a little picnic dinner for us to take and enjoy. Then about 3:30PM (while I was breading the chicken drumsticks) it started to get dark and the wind was blowing pretty hard. The heavens opened up and it poured. Luckily there were no tornado warnings or anything but I realized then we probably didn't want to go downtown to the symphony and sit on the muddy ground. So instead I made our picnic food and we stayed home and eat and watched two of the three Netflix movies we've had for at least two months. We saw "Who Killed the Electric Car?" and "The Business of Being Born" both really great, eye-opening documentaries.

I don't really have a recipe for the chicken or the pasta salad, but these are the ingredients and how I made them.

Oven Baked Chicken Drumsticks
6 drumsticks, rinsed with cold water and patted dry
1 3/4 c. panko breadcrumbs
1/2 c. whole milk or buttermilk
5 dashs of Tabasco sauce
2 tsp. cayenne pepper
4 tbsp. butter

Mix together milk and Tabasco sauce in large bowl, add drumsticks. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

Heat oven to 425F, line a baking sheet with two layers of aluminum foil, add butter and place the sheet in the warm oven just long enough to soften the butter. Mix together panko and pepper, remove drumsticks from milk marinade and roll in panko mixture. Shake off excess and lay on baking sheet. Bake the drumsticks for 20 minutes, then turn them over and place back in the oven for 20 more minutes.

Cleaning-Out-the Pantry/Freezer Pasta Salad
1/2 box of pasta shells (or any short round pasta)
1/2 bag frozen green peas
1/2 bag frozen broccoli florets
1/2 container Hormel Real Bacon Bits
1/2 envelope of Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing mix
1 small container sour cream

Steam or boil peas and broccoli florets together until tender. Drain and set aside in large bowl. Cook pasta until al dente, drain and mix together with peas and broccoli. In small bowl mix together sour cream and ranch dressing mix, add this to the pasta, pea and broccoli. Mix everything well and add the bacon bits. Serve chilled.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


I’ve always thrown around the idea of getting a tattoo. It’s one of those things that you just *can’t* wait to do until your 18, like voting, getting a credit card, smoking, etc. I don’t think any of my friends have tattoos, nor does anyone in my family (except my brother). By the time I turned 18 I wasn’t really thinking about tattoos, but in the last several years I started thinking about getting one again. There were two things that concerned me though; one is that I wanted it to be something meaningful, something I would want to have on my body forever. Two is that I wanted it in a location I could see and that would have minimal sagging/wrinkling over the years to come.

At one point I thought about getting a bee tattoo, not like a cartoon bumble bee, but a more refined, Napoleonic era bee. But I could never find just the right example of one. Then last week I saw a blog with a typographical tattoo, which led me to scan through Flickr for more examples of text tattoos. I got the idea that I would get the word ‘hope’ tattooed on my foot. I thought that would be a nice, optimistic word to get that would help encourage me when I get down about our baby troubles. So I looked for a nice font for a few hours and then it dawned on me I should just draw it out in my own handwriting. So I got a tiny sketch pad and wrote the word out in a few different variations until I found the perfect one.

I called my brother, who just got his second tattoo, and asked him for a recommendation. He told me about the artist who did his, who went to high school with us. I made an appointment with her for this past Sunday and so on Sunday afternoon Doug, my brother and I went over to Trilogy on Highland. The tattoo artist, Jessie, was great. She did such an awesome job. She was able to use my own writing and it turned out exactly like I had pictured it. It really didn’t hurt either, just a few stings. I absolutely love it and I can see it every time I look down at my feet. It’s a really nice reminder that no matter how disheartening infertility can be there’s still hope.

Monday, May 19, 2008

First Farmer's Market visit of the season

The Memphis Farmer’s Market opened the first part of May but I hadn’t made it down there until this past Saturday morning. I just started walking at Shelby Farms with my friend Regina on Saturday mornings at 8:30AM and the market starts at 7:00AM. After going several times last year I found that if you go too late all the good stuff is gone, so I like going as early as possible. Anyway, I managed to get up at 6:30AM, through on some clothes and get downtown to the market by 7:15AM. Parking was a little difficult because the Memphis in May BBQ Cooking Contest was this weekend too but I was still able to find a spot. The market has gotten a lot more popular since last year. It’s still early in the season, but there were lettuces, spinach, radishes, strawberries, peas, squash blossoms plus homemade jams, breads, locally made goat cheeses, locally roasted coffee, local honey, handmade wood items, plants and herbs and fresh flowers.
Most of the vendors are really nice, knowledgeable and ready to offer you a sample of what they’re selling. I did kind of get ignored by one vendor because he was busy chatting up another customer on how he cooks the radishes he was buying. The vendor was nearly a dead on impression of Matthew Mcconaughey’s character in Dazed and Confused, lots of ‘hey man’s’ and ‘yeahs’ in that slow, slightly stoned-sounding voice.

I’ve also found that some of the people that come to shop at the Market can be rather rude. I
was in line to buy spinach and an older woman clutching a massive bouquet of flowers wandered in front of me and cut in line. I didn’t say anything because I figured she didn’t see me through her flowers. Then, as I’m standing in the same line, another older woman reached in front of me and grabbed the last bag of spinach. That pissed me off but again I didn’t say anything. I’m just not a confrontational kind of girl. But it was still rude. Luckily the very nice gentleman farmer who was selling the spinach had more in his cooler and I just had to wait a few minutes. I see those kind of older women a lot out in public though, most of them look pretty well off and I doubt they’re used to showing very much graciousness in public.

When I left I had bought a bottle of honey from PeaceBee, a container of Chive-Garlic goat cheese from Bonnie Blue Farm, a container of freshly picked strawberries from Jones Orchard, a container of sugar snap peas (can’t remember the name of the vendor), the bag of fresh spinach from The Gracious Gardener and a package of Pecan Brittle from another vendor who’s name escapes me.

For dinner Saturday night Doug and I picked up some pre-made Chicken Oscar from the Fresh Market, so we had that, the sugar snap peas and then I served the strawberries with mini-pound cakes (again from Fresh Market) and homemade whipped cream I made before dinner. The whipped cream is so good and requires almost no effort. I just dump a small container of heavy cream and about ¼ cup of super-fine sugar in my mixing bowl and beat it with a electric hand mixer for about 5 minutes, or until it gets stiff peaks. It’s great, much better than Cool Whip.

Yesterday (Sunday) I ate some of the Chive-Garlic Goat Cheese on Kashi crackers and it was really good. The only downside is afterwards I had some killer garlic breath.