Harvest

Last fall I planted a few baby kale plants along with some tomatoes and herbs. I hoped to get a few kale salads out of the plants and we have been eating kale from the garden all winter. The other day I looked at the garden and realized two things – 1) I have baby tomatoes just about ready to pick and 2) I really have to harvest and pull the kale. It is just getting too hot for it.

On Saturday, I harvested everything I could, pulled the kale out. I got a nice bunch of cherry tomatoes (purple cherokee, I think) and a lot of kale. A lot.

That is the large side of our sink, about ten inches deep, filled with kale. Filled. Picture two plastic grocery bags stuffed with kale, or one really large shopping bag, stuffed with kale. My four little kale plants gave us kale all winter and enough kale for batches and batches of pesto. All with benign neglect since I tend to let the garden go during the school year and only really check on it every now and then. I was kind of impressed.

The garden is a little sad looking now. This time if year in Jersey I was looking for what I could plant in a few weeks, maybe start some seeds so they would be ready for transplant, but in Florida, well … it’s time to let the garden rest for the summer. I do still have a few things in there, so I won’t totally neglect the garden, but for the most part, once the last of the tomatoes are harvested, the garden can rest.

The tomato plant looks awful, but there are still a number of blooms, buds and ripening tomatoes on it, so I’m doing my best to keep it alive. I picked up a watering system – terra-cotta spikes that fit a wine or other long necked bottle in it. This should slowly water the area over the course of a week or two so if I forget, the plant still gets water. I have one in and have three more spikes that I’m going to use as I acquire clear wine bottles (better to see if they need refilling) for the herbs that are left. I will say, the parsley did remarkably well with all of the kale cover – I’m not sure if it will last now that it is fully exposed, but we shall see.

I do have a little rosemary, oregano and chive in there also, along with one sad looking, but still alive poblano pepper. I’m hoping I can keep everything alive until the fall when I can plant some more. The big question is what to plant. The kale did excellent, but I might want to branch out.

I had to include this picture. Kale was the one food – the only food – that Arthas every rejectedIMG_20170415_105844. He just would not eat it. But, as I was making my batches of pesto, a leaf fell to the ground and before I could get to it (admittedly I didn’t rush cause he didn’t eat kale) he had the leaf and was munching on it. I figured he would stop after a bit or two, but no.  Nope, he
ate the entire thing. Leaf, stalk and all. So it’s official, there is not a single food that he won’t eat. Nothing. I’m not sure if I should be happy about this or worried. I’m just going to go with amused.

 

What a decade brings

This month is was ten years that I have had the kittens. Ten years since I lost Patches and created a whole new family with three little furry creatures to help the big furry creature get back to her normal self. Ten years since I went from a normal-ish person to the crazy cat lady and back to relatively normal. So what did the last decade bring? Well …

  • I lost Patches at 21 years old. That’s a long time to have a cat.
  • I adopted the three kittens and brought them home.
  • Bob and I started dating.
  • I sold my house in Jersey.
  • Bob and I bought a house.
  • Jessie, the kittens and I moved to Florida.
  • I found a temporary job.
  • I found a permanent job.
  • Bob and I got engaged and married (4 months – I can count that as one).
  • I quit my job and found another job.
  • I started grad school.
  • We lost Jessie (I still miss that little girl).
  • We adopted Arthas (he is awesome and I love him, but it was not an easy few months).
  • We lost Gracie (just picture tears. Still).
  • Leia and Arthas started getting along (thank heavens).

In these same ten years we have also visited five countries (or six if you count Scotland and England as separate countries and not as the “UK”), eight U.S. states, and multiple U.S. cities (I tried to count and just ended up forgetting some so … multiple). We have gone from eating almost everything to trying almost no grains to going mostly vegetarian. Friends and family have had children and we have seen them start school and develop personalities completely independent of their parents (probably the coolest part of interacting with other people’s children, but has to be scary as anything for the parents).

So yeah. Ten years ago this month four precious kitties found a home. (Erin also adopted a cat when I got the kittens, but she was sensible and stopped at one. And I have to admit, there was something about Rosie that everyone just had to love.) Two of them are gone, and the hole they left will be felt for a long time. But two remain, and they are still as lovable as ever. I don’t regret a second of it, but I am fairly certain I’m not adopting three cats at one time again.

Tofu Spring Rolls

Last weekend Bob and I had my friend (who is also my boss) over for dinner. I wanted to do something snack-type food to keep the evening really causal as the main reason was to catch up and drink some good wine. … Ok we wanted to drink wine and catch up, but it sounds better the other way.

I have raved about Dana at Minimalist Baker before, and sure enough, her spring roll recipe was what I turned to for these. I didn’t follow her recipe exactly, but for the most part, these are hers.

I have an issue with using rice noodles in spring rolls. They are difficult to cut and bite into and always seem to pull out of the roll, which leaves a good mess. Given this, I went with rice instead. Basic, white, jasmine style rice. I also ditched the mint since I’m not a fan of mint in food.

As I started making these, I was actually super proud of myself for making them look like a spring roll. Usually my attempts end up a mess with maybe one roll that looks right. These … I don’t know what happened but they looked pretty perfect – all of them (ok, one I messed up on a little, but you can barely tell).

Best part of this – they were fantastic and I had lunch for Monday. Yes, I took tofu spring rolls for lunch on Monday, comments about my eating habits be darned.

I’m not going to list the recipe here, if you want it, head over to Dana’s site – and check out the quinoa taco meat while there.

Strawberry Fool

After the Wine Walk last week, I really wanted a good strawberry dessert. I didn’t necessarily want shortcake (ok I did, but it didn’t seem creative enough) and wanted something light. I decided to try my hand at a strawberry fool.

I found some beautiful strawberries at the farmer’s market. Plant City strawberries are still in season (getting to the end of the season, I think) so I decided to go for it. I love Jersey strawberries, but Plant City does strawberries right also – unlike tomatoes which Jersey still does best. With pretty, sweet, ripe strawberries ready, I set about trying a new dessert.

A fool is apparently a mock mousse. There are no eggs or gelatin in it, which is good. it also does not involve adding heat, so technically it is a no cook dessert. I read a few recipes and read the comments from a few recipes and decided to just wing it.

So … start with a pint of fresh strawberries. Slice down and set aside in a bowl. Add about 1/4 cup sugar and toss to coat. I also added a dash of vanilla extract just because I like the flavor. I set this in the fridge and went to run errands. When we got back, I took about 2/3 of the strawberries and blended them to a puree. The puree was surprisingly smooth.

Next came the base. I took one 7 oz container of Greek yogurt, 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract, two teaspoons powdered sugar and about 2/3 of a cup of whipping cream and blended them together using a hand mixer. I tried to get the mixture to whip up like whipped cream, and it pretty much did. To the cream I added the strawberry puree and mixed again. This made the mixture a little softer, but a little more beating had it at a good consistency. I folded in the remaining strawberries and divided into four serving glasses. I could have made five or six smaller desserts, but it’s strawberry. I let them chill in the fridge for a few hours.

The result was a light, strawberry dessert that didn’t feel like it added weight to the meal. Bob said it reminded him of strawberry yogurt, but I didn’t get too much yogurt taste in it. It was sweeter than yogurt and had less of the acid tang that yogurt is known for, but still had a little tang to it. I love the little bits of fresh berries in this, and can see it working with blueberries, raspberries or even really ripe mangos. (Val, mango palooza this year?? Mango fool??)

Recipe:

  • 1 pint fresh strawberries
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • vanilla extract
  • 7 oz Greek yogurt
  • 2/3 cup whipping cream
  • 2 tsp powdered sugar

Wash and slice the strawberries and coat with 1/4 cup sugar (dash of vanilla is optional). Toss well and refrigerate at least 20 minutes.

Puree 2/3 of the strawberries in a blender until smooth.

In a separate bowl, combine yogurt and cream. Mix on medium speed until it begins to stiffen. Add vanilla extract and powdered sugar and mix again. Add pureed strawberries and mix to incorporate. Fold in remaining strawberries and divide among serving glasses or dishes. Chill at least one hour.

 

 

Red or White

Sarasota is full of charity event opportunities. If you look around, just a little, you can find galas, dinners, brunches, and just about any other kind of event you might want. We don’t partake in these on a regular basis, but one fund raising event we do try to make it to each year is the Wine Walk to the Ca d’Zan. The Ca d’Zan is the home of John and Mable Ringling and is part of the Ringling Museum of Art. The Wine Walk is their major fundraiser for maintenance and preservation of the home and the grounds. While that is why I’m willing to pay for the tickets, it isn’t why we really go. We go because it is a really nice event where we get to taste some good wine, eat some good food and enjoy a really pretty atmosphere. It’s a fancy date night and every married couple needs one or two of those each year.

This year the theme was Red or White and the grounds were done up in beautiful red and white seating areas, red and white flowers and red and white foods and wine. Each station had several varietals to choose from, along with some interesting snack type foods. Last year we found a few under $20 bottles of wine that we added into our rotation, and we were hoping to do the same this year. Unfortunately, this year all the wines I really liked were on the expensive side, so I have them noted for when I need a special occasion wine, but they are not something I’m going to buy for every day drinking.

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My favorite niblet of food this year was the strawberry shortcake. I fully admit, I am a sucker for a good strawberry shortcake, but I also know that it can go very wrong if the chef tries to get to fancy or too creative with this very simple, perfect dessert. (Strawberry shortcake, made with fresh, not frozen strawberries, is probably my absolute favorite dessert so I am a little biased, but I’m also super critical.) To make a good strawberry shortcake you need a really good base – something that will soak up some of the strawberry juice, but not turn soggy. You need fresh, ripe strawberries and you need really good cream with a touch of vanilla. Miss any of those, or try to add something weird like bourbon cream or “spice” and it just does not work. (Yes, I have had a bourbon cream strawberry shortcake and it was bad. When you feel like you had a short by taking a bite of cake, it is bad.)

This dessert was close to perfection. The cake was sturdy, but not stale. The chef used a little bit of strawberry jam to layer the cake and introduce some moisture. I thought this was brilliant for the setting – cakes will be sitting out for several hours and you don’t want soggy cake. The jam kept it fresh and light while providing some moisture that the macerated strawberries usually provide. The cream was very good – just a hint of vanilla bean to compliment the strawberry but not overpower the fruit. And the strawberries were fresh. Ripe, fresh berries. I *may* have gone back for seconds.  … or thirds.

Next year I’m hoping we can find some more every day bottles, but it was a  nice evening.

Paella

I’ve been a little lazy the past week. I did some work for school, and am a little ahead, but I didn’t do the crazy schedule I planned because I just decided I didn’t want to. Nice thing about being an adult, sometimes you can decide you don’t want to do something and that is all the reason you need to not do it. It doesn’t always work that way, but every now and again, it does.

But.  Since I wasn’t driving myself nuts trying to complete a class that has a month left to it, I did decide to try a recipe or two that I’ve been meaning to try. One was a vegetable paella from Plenty. I didn’t follow it exactly since I didn’t have the correct rice, don’t really like artichokes and didn’t have the required amount of sherry on hand, but I figured for a dish like this, it really was about the flavors and a little about the method, so I didn’t stress about it to much.

Amazingly I did have saffron in the house and I think that really makes the flavor of the dish. I didn’t have the short grained rice I thought I had (I have risotto rice, but apparently I was really running low so I didn’t use it) so I used a regular basmati rice. The texture was definitely different than the short grain rice would have given it, and it wasn’t as creamy as I anticipated, but it was good. We had leftovers so it also became lunch the next day, and it was even better.

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Recipe can be found here and it’s worth trying if you want something a little different.