1.19.2013

Resolutions - Part I

Every year, I struggle with a New Year's resolution.  Perfect example?  I'm typing this on Saturday... January-freakin'-19th.  Yup.  Enough said.  This year, I've identified a few areas of my life I'd like to work on.  I'll talk about them in phases so I don't scare myself.  ;)

The first resolution is to cook more.  Specifically, I would like to try a new recipe every week.  Will they all be earth-shattering feats of culinary delight?!?  Nope.  Probably not.  Long story short, I started back to work about a year ago and it really took a toll on the home front (it also affected the blogging, but that's another story.)  I was constantly searching for new, cheap, quick dinners and I think know it affected me in several ways.  You see, I love to cook.  I love to cook good food.  I once described it to my husband as a meditative exercise after a long day.  So when I went back to the quick and cheap, it made me feel unfulfilled.  I was also guilty of fixing quick dinners for cranky, hungry kids and the "family dinner" was tossed aside several times per week.  Totally unacceptable.

This year, I want to recommit myself to creativity in the kitchen and maintain the sacred family dinner.  Specifically, I want to incorporate ingredients from the garden in this exercise.  I'll be growing a few new varieties this year (romanesco, anyone?) so I'm excited to work that into my cooking.

To do a little catch-up, I started with the year with this recipe:

Potage Parmentier 
(Potato & Leek Soup)
- Julia Child

1lb potatoes, pealed and diced 
3 cups leeks, thinly sliced (white and tender green parts only)
2 quarts water
1 tablespoon salt
4-6 tablespoons whipping cream or 2-3 tablespoons softened butter
2-3 tablespoons minced parsley or 2-3 tablespoons chives

1.  Simmer vegetables, water and salt to ether, partially covered, 40-50 minutes until vegetables are tender.

2.  Mash the vegetables in the soup with a fork or puree in blender.  Correct seasoning.

3.  Off heat and just before serving, stir in cream or butter by spoonfuls.  Pour into a tureen or soup cups and decorate with the herbs.

4.  Good hot, cold or room temperature.

Leeks and potatoes from my garden

A few notes for future preparations:

- I used 3 tablespoons whipping cream and 1.5 tablespoon butter (I figured half of each would be a nice balance... and it was!)  
- It was a bit salty for my taste, so I will cut it back to 1/2 tablespoon salt next time.  
- Mental note... DO NOT OVER-FILL BLENDER.  Unless you like to clean.  If so, go right ahead and knock your socks off.  Next time, I'll blend just a few small ladle-fulls at a time.
- I garnished it with minced parsley and a little bit of sour cream... perfection!  
- I used leftover leeks and potatoes from the garden. 

Overall, I was shocked that such a simple soup came together this beautifully.  I fully admit I had my doubts when adding two quarts of water, but Julia came through (why did I even doubt her?)  Smooth, simple, clean flavors... the perfect opportunity to showcase the garden's flavors.  Will I make it again?  Sure!  I also may use it as a base for some other concoction.  Hmmm... 

Oh my gosh!  I almost forgot!  When pulling the leeks out of the garden, I was able to separate off new baby leeks that had sprouted from the base of the plants (they start out as bulbs attached to the base of the leek).  I now have a dozen baby leeks planted out and ready to get this 2013 garden party started.  Yahoo!

xo, k


1.16.2013

The Crud. Blek.

Just like everyone else on earth, I've been struggling to fight off "the crud" (or at least that's what we call it). It's not easy with little people to take care of, but at least I have a mom and dad who know how to make me smile...

So thanks, guys. I love you too!

1.15.2013

Lavandula...

This time of year is just cruel.  The ground is frozen harder than a rock and all the seed catalogs have arrived in the mail.  I've also had "the crud" so I've been locked indoors perusing the catalogs and plotting.  To say I'm "itching" to get outside would be an understatement!  With my new backyard design in the works, it makes it even harder (did I mention our master bedroom looks out on the backyard in all it's ramshackle glory?  *Sigh*)

In thinking about my backyard (which is actually my side yard due to the shape of our lot) I've settled on the idea that I want it to be a decorative space.  However, I still want to add a few edible elements (you know me... I love to eat what I grow).  So what was the first flower to come to mind when thinking of a decorative yet edible element?  Lavender!

I know, I know.  Most people don't think of lavender this way, but really it has many fabulous attributes.  Namely, I could use it to make my own homemade herbes de provence.  Oh, man.  I love this herb mix like nobody's business!  I'm sure you all know that so much of our taste experience is affected by smell.  Well maybe that's why this herb mix is so incredible... it's like eating the savory, the delightful, the sweet... everything.

And what will I make with this delicious herbes de provence mix?  This Chicken Pot Pie topped with puff pastry.  Incredible. Why don't I have a photo of it?  Not sure, but probably because I'm too busy thinking of eating it.  Long story short, my mother-in-law has been saving recipes for years.  When we were living with them during the big remodel, she busted out this oldie (Sunset Magazine, 3/01) and I just about died!  I've been making it ever since.

Maybe next winter I'll be sipping this too...

Does this look incredible, or what?!?  (รก la mode's recipe can be found here)

So here's to more lavender in the new year!


xo, k



1.13.2013

Backyard Plans

I think I have gardening ADD.  I start one project, then notice a weed in an adjacent bed that needs to be pulled, then I discover a perfectly ripe veggie... an hour later, the handy hubby is calling out from the front door, "I thought you were just going to plant two more seeds!?!"

So last week when I was out clearing off the back patio, it should be no surprise that my cleaning turned into pruning (every six months or so I attempt to tame Cecile.)  As I headed back to the yardwaste can with another mountain of clippings, I nearly killed myself trying to avoid stepping on a huge leaf growing out of the lawn.  What was it?  Turns out I have a calla lily growing up through the overgrown backyard lawn.  Seriously.  10 feet away, I discover a rose bush... also growing out of the lawn!  Of course I share the fun discoveries with the husband and he says, "Oh, ya.  I know.  I plow right over those suckers every time I mow the lawn!"  WHAT?!?  *Sigh*  

I've always pushed the backyard down to the bottom of the "to do" list.  We actually refer to it as the dog's yard.  Our pup likes to go out there and run around and throw toys, but it's always been a mess.  It's inconvenient to access and completely overgrown with weeds.  There are also half-dead plants and weird garden "treasures" left by the previous owners so it's just plain depressing.  Well, I think that may change.

On the bright side, it has lovely star jasmine growing along the fence, my buddy Cecile, a gorgeous lilac tree and now a sweet calla lily and honor rose (I found the tag in the weeds!)  With a little elbow grease (and a whole lot of mulch) I actually have the start of a pretty little English garden!  I also have a few plants that don't quite fit in the front that would make lovely additions to the back.  There is a pale pink hollyhock (a gift from my sweet friend) and a gigantic blue hydrangea that just don't fit in with the front yard's color palette.  Again, with some massive weeding and a little transplanting, I think I have the start of something special.  I'll share more precise details later, but for now I'll leave you with a few images that are inspiring my plans!

A cottage herb garden in Chelsea, England... loving the lavender, iris, alliums and a bit of sage! (via)

How can I NOT go completely bananas over a rosemary topiary?!? (image source unknown)

This beautiful garden really has it all... height, texture, boxwoods, roses... (via)

Now if only Seattle would make it's way back into the 40's, I'd be out there starting to make this little garden happen!

xo, k