Thursday, October 18, 2018

The makings of a dinner with Handsome Son, and a brave volunteer

The planets being in the right configuration, Handsome Son is free for dinner on a night when I have time and energy to do something about it. So here's the makings. 

Chicken breasts rolled with ham and cheese, eggwash and chickpea crumbs, then roasted red potatoes, parboiled, with carrots, garlic, grated Parmesan, red pepper flakes sort of strewn about. Whole garlic heads for making garlic butter for spreading. Everything can go in a 400f oven.  Nice prosecco cooling. Dates, almonds, bananas for dessert, no cooking just assembling.

And outside,  this little volunteer, probably dead nettle or a relative, standing up to a tough environment, and creating a natural artwork.

What I'll be doing, in a few, is continuing in this great book of musings about gardens, real and fictional, their places in art and writing and the lives of the gardeners. You need your tablet or  other reference aid ready to check on writers, painters, plants,as she mentions them and you need to know more, instantly.  Lively always lives up to her name, and at 85 she's as sharp as ever and as compelling.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Sunday health lunch with heath dessert

Home baked fresh bread roll, spread with labneh, one large slice each of farm tomato, getting near the end of the season. Virtue. Health. And dessert of Heath. Which is actually a health bar if you count mental health.

Aka my story and I'm sticking to it.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Much traveled wildflowers

Just reading Philippa Gregory's Earthly Joys, and hugely recommend it to anyone who loves plants and gardens and the history of how we came to have the plants we take for granted.

Here's a wild flower, spiderwort, aka virginiana tradescantia. Tiny sparks od blue, three petals.It showed up as a volunteer out front  this year. I had another on the patio which appeared in a pot, like a stray animal deciding to move in. This little stand is a different one.

Took me several days to catch these tiny flowers open. The first day I tried in the afternoon, forgetting that they close then. Then we had rain, and the flowers were open but it wasn't good for the camera. They are both wild and cultivated.

They're from the tradescantias, named for John Tradescant, the gardener and traveler who first worked for Lord Cecil in Elizabethan times, and later for other great gardens, designing, traveling in search of plants to study and introduce to England.

Every time we see his name in the Latin plant name, we get an insight into the extent of his travels in search of new learning.  And when you read this novel, based on flawless historical research, you come to understand that those famous English gardens are an amalgam of the flora of many countries.  My own is a native American, found in Virginia. But the tradescantias are very much settled in English gardens too, like many of his other finds.

And the horse chestnut, producing the candle-like blossoms in spring and the conkers beloved of little English kids in fall? He paid a lot to get five of those nuts from the middle East to propagate. Imagine the anxiety about keeping plants alive on long voyages home. Rather him than me, but do read about him. And his son, also John, also a gardener. They really changed a lot of the landscape.

And it reminds me how mad with joy I was on getting an American garden to find the amazing wealth of wild plant life and the friendly climate where you could grow tomatoes and melons out of doors! Just like that! To a newcomer all those years ago, raised in a cold northern climate, it still seems miraculous.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Dark days. Fight back.

Yesterday was a dark day. But with exquisite timing, my mail in ballot arrived the same day.

So I wielded my main weapon, and voted. Early. On paper which can't be hacked. And trust that at least some of the dozens of voters I sent applications to,  with a personal handwritten note of encouragement, have got their ballots and will vote.

US blogistas, please vote! Our republic is at a moment of great danger. Support candidates for gun sense, indigenous women in honor of the holiday, WOC because they're our backbone. Remember the heroes on the Senate judiciary were Kamala Harris and Corey Booker, poc.

This afternoon I'm at an art event to honor a woman artist, and get relief from the news.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Friday breakfast chez Boud

Here's the set up for breakfast.

Tray in the offing, with pot of tea,  slice of fresh banana/ walnut/ raisin/chocolate bits cake, yogurt cheese ready to spread, the whey ready to freeze for soup.

Yogurt cheese is a favorite around here. Just strain yogurt overnight in cheesecloth lined strainer over a bowl, save the whey which drains out for lovely soup addition, use the cheese like cream cheese only better. It's tangy without that waxy feel of cream cheese.

Good any time but excellent on toast, banana bread, scones.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

The biannual visit to the nursery, Fall edition

Beautiful October day, and it was time for the seasonal trip to the nursery.

The way it goes: Spring, potting soil and herbs,  lantana for the hummingbirds. This year's lantana is on its third bloom of the year. Fall is about potting soil, chrysanthemums, small pumpkin for step and later soup, it's a sugar pumpkin.

I'm a modest gardener, save seeds, already Italian and Thai basil seeds in paper bags. Also seeds picked up from a neighbor's sidewalk from some really pretty tall flowers. So next year's in hand.

Meanwhile I've done the outside bit for Fall, as you see.

You can see the patio from the front door so I like to make a scene to enjoy. I've heard from neighbors that they like it, too, always a good point.

And passersby on the street, we have a lot of them, can enjoy this. Background bronze chrysanthemum, Autumn Joy sedum, white chrysanthemum.

Next: lunch, Alison Weir historical novel, knitting.  A nap may insert itself in there somewhere.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Montauk daisies finally

They start to leaf out in spring, bigger and bigger and no sign of buds until you've about given up on them, then in October they suddenly get cracking and put on a show.

Passersby can see them againsyt the Autumn Joy sedum. Coming up the path to the door, and through the kitchen window.

I take all this into account when I plant. Small area, many vantage points. When they finally show up. They're like the last minute passenger hurtling to the departure gate.

There are wild flowers too, less spectacular but dear to me, like this spiderwort lovely blue sparks.

And here shy foliage among some creeper that runs its own life ignoring the gardener, are the closed flowers of scarlet pimpernel, cloudy weather makes them close. At the bottom you see a volunteer Montauk daisy which apparently has plans for next year.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Rescue dinner becomes five star discovery

Do you like the clickbait? As it happens it's accurate. So yesterday I boiled the last two farm redskin potatoes,  to make German potato salad today. It felt tender enough while keeping its shape. But farm potatoes seem much denser than shop bought, maybe because fresh from the ground. And they turned out to cube up a treat, but taste underdone.

So I shoveled them into the fridge to think. They were already dressed with oil, vinegar and seasalt.

So for Sunday supper I thought I'd roast them, being partial to roast spuds and opposed to wasting food. And cubed up a fresh tomato, some Colby cheese, in a cast iron pan. I put the pan into the oven for the warming up period, so the food already sizzled when I tipped it all in, with a bit more salt and oil. 30 minutes at 400f. And it had a bit of fat left from cooking hot italian sausage. You don't always have to clean pans like a sterilizing process.

And it turned out excellent. In fact I think I'll put a dash of vinegar in future roast vegetables, really good touch. So, accidental art in the kitchen happened.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Morning walk in the neighborhood

Sunny day, and a walk around the neighborhood yielded some interesting stuff.

The tree decorated with soda cans, slit, squashed down like lanterns, whirling in the wind and making a sort of tinkling whistling sound

Then, on the next corner a new crop of fungi reclaiming their ancestral space. Can any blogistas identify?

Such a change from the news.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Spin off idea from Two Fat Ladies

Self care in turbulent times for me includes the adventures of Two Fat Ladies the riotous aristo cooks, on library DVD. They careen all over the place on Jennifer's motorbike with Clarissa in the sidecar, cooking rich and indigestible food in exciting locations for hungry groups.

They source their own food, shooting their own game birds, fishing their sea catch, picking shellfish off rocks and strawberries in fields, short supply chain. I don't think they slaughter their own beef, but I expect they knew the cows by name. I like sourcing fruit and veg and honey more than animals.

And they break into song in medias res, Clarissa, the forner barrister, would approve the phrase. But here and there, though I wouldn't cook the food they love, they have great side ideas.

One is mustard butter, used for tiny sandwiches such as cucumber. Just mix softened butter with Dijon mustard.  Always on whole wheat bread. And you can slice your bread thin if you soak your knife in hot water first. There, two tips right off.

Later I'll try to use up some cucumber this way, but meanwhile a little slice of home baked along with farm tomatoes and Dutch cheese, and an Asian pear from the farm made a great lunch today. No cooking, all assembly.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Sign of Fall

The ficus tree, very healthy, plenty of leaves, in contrast to the failing tree that went to camp on the patio in May, is back in the living room.  She did not want to come in, scratched me, fell on my head, but I finally wrestled her in and into the giant saucer. After disentangling the drapes she'd clutched on the way in.

The reason she does so well outside is that she puts roots through the bottom of the pot into the earth, and pretends she's a wild daring outdoor tree. Then I have to cut them to bring her in and she does fine over the winter, but starts to fail toward spring, when she goes outside again.

As you see, she's brushing the ceiling now. I've root pruned her twice over the forty-odd years I've had her, since she was a little sprig of a tree perched on the back seat of my car coming home from the shop.

So that's done for the season.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Last tribute to Duncan

Today this card came from the vets, signed by both vets, and all the staff. And they gave him his correct full name. C.K.Duncan. Good people. Someone's chopping onions around here.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Sunday lunch

Whole-wheat home baked bread, fresh cucumber from friend's garden next door, sharp cheddar from Vermont. Five star.

Monday, September 10, 2018

First casualty of Florence

Florence isn't even here yet but a couple of sturdy gusts of warning and my black cherry sapling snapped off. See the sad little stump. The top practically somersaulted over the fence. There are suckers which I'll leave in place and see how they go.

Back to square one of planning for shade out there.

 inside the fence
Outside the fence

Monday, September 3, 2018

Labor Day 2018

The day we celebrate work by not doing any.

Starting with a breakfast of farm peach drizzled with farm honey, whole-wheat pancakes.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Chocolate Kitty Duncan, aka Duncan 2003-2018

Duncan left us this morning after a paralytic stroke during the night. It was sudden but the vet agreed to euthanasia, since this was something there's no coming back from.

What a friend he was, constantly at my elbow and happy to greet visitors. Even Indian friends who were nervous around cats loved Duncan and were amused when he hunted their bare toes.

Thank you Duncan. You gave me so much more than I gave you.

The reason for his name: he always claimed to be a black cat. But when the sun shone through his fur, it was a lovely deep reddish brown.

He never really recovered from marigold's death. But I guess they've now resumed playing and fighting and wrestling.  Meanwhile the house is quiet. Firsy time in decades there's no animal underfoot.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Reinforcements arrive to continue the mail-in vote push

I have started another wave of gotv activity, and, the Dollivers being on sabbatical at the moment, Ellen Wilkinson MP, and the Queen threw themselves into the work.

They're composing the notes on the post-its, to go into the envelopes. Ellen, Google her if you don't know, is totally in the right context here. The queen thinks they're party invitations, not being familiar with the electoral system. She doesn't have a vote. Or a passport.

In a manner of speaking they are Party invitations, really.

If Ellen and Liz like this, they may put in more appearances in the blog. As Liz says, one must see. Meanwhile, Ellen is in campaign gear, red hair flaming there, and the Queen's recycling her wedding outfit from Kate's shindig.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Looks like a dining table, but it's an outpost

I've joined with Action Together NJ, the Post it Posse, to be exact, and I'm in action as of today. The situation is that a whole lot of registered voters vote the dramatic four year elections and don't show up at midterms. This year it's vital to vote midterms, more than ever. And since NJ has vote by mail for everyone, it can't be easier.

Sooo the Post it Posse is a bunch of volunteers printing out the mail-in ballot app, adding an explanatory page about who we are and a handwritten post it note of encouragement. Then hand addressing the envelopes and sending it to the people on the list. If you've already got the app to fill in, chances are greater that you'll do it. And it means you vote on paper, unhackable.

I managed to get my printer to do a two sided app, from the official State website and the other materials, got a pad of post-it notes and my good pen, and once I get the right size emblopes, and a bunch of stamps, I'll be in business.

This is terrific for a girl like I, to quote Lorelei, because I'm working it at home in the cool, and it's important targeted work. I've been assigned a section of a town I used to work in, and I know the streets, also the community. This is very cool, less likely to annoy people instead of cheering them on. And it's NJ 07, high time for a change there to reflect today's world..

So when I'm not knitting, I'm an agent of change!  If any NJ blogistas want to take part, email me and I'll put you in touch. And puhlease, all US registered voters, please vote.

It counts! I've worked in local elections where everything hinged on a tiny handful of votes.   Vote thoughtfully, but vote.

Thanks so much, now for a pot of tea and a spot of sock knitting.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Rose of Sharon triumphs!

When only a little twig, she survived the renovation, heavy equipment dumped on her, trodden down and replanted twice,  stood on by meter reader, but in her second year here she is, more than one bloom, just flourishing! Yay Rose! Or Sharon! You choose.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Homemade pectin. New kitchen caper

Just wondering if it was worth it to take a longish store trip considering, to get a new supply of liquid pectin, since I decided I'm not a fan of the powdered no-cook variety, and decided maybe I could make it in some way.  

There must have been a way to make pectin before manufacturers produced it. So I did a bit of searching and came up with a way of doing it.  And, since I'm always up for a new thing to try in the kitchen on a day when it's too hot to go out in the afternoon, I got to work.

I needed unripe apples,which I don't have, or quinces, which I also don't have.  However I thought it might be an idea to try Granny Smith green apples, and I picked out six of the greenest in the produce department at the Asian store.  Just under three pounds, for future reference in case I ever do this again.

Then scrubbed and rinsed and scrubbed them again, and
chopped them, pits, core and all, into rough bits.  Added enough water to cover, and cooked it all down. 

I arranged two layers of cheesecloth artistically over the top part of the steamer I was cooking the fruit in, slung over a big bowl, so as to be ready to drain it. About 45 minutes later, the fruit was cooked down, very soft, and I started the draining.  Left it for a few hours, then squeezed the cheesecloth to encourage, or bully, the juice to come out.

Then put all the juice back into the cooking pot, now clean again, and cooked it down to about half in volume.  Took, hm, maybe up to an hour, didn't count, boiling constantly to concentrate it.

Ended up with a container of a sort of applesauce, the mash, that is, from which I took a little bowl to test as dessert with a touch of sugar, not bad at all.  Froze the rest, probably for an apple crumble, waste not, want not.

And now I have four cups of pectin, measured into containers, and ready to freeze. You'll notice the tried and true recycled freezer containers, they're indestructible.  I also tested my ladle and found that two scoops is about one cup, always good to know. This was the good bit, that you can freeze this stuff till ready to use it.  I did a bit of math and decided that one pint of the homemade is about enough for one of my smallish batches of fruit.  And homemade works best with small batches.

I'll report back when I use it for an actual jam.  But meanwhile I feel like a pioneer lady, in my handpainted and dyed apron, ready to  sweep the cabin once I find my broom. Listening to Lord Peter Wimsey detecting in an audio book on YouTube kind of spoils the effect, but I do like a nice murder while I cook.

So this is what happens when I'm too lazy to drive to the store.. 

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Thrills and spills in the kitchen

I made a wonderful lunch as planned, farm tomato, farm mozzarella, homegrown basil, sea salt, Tunisian olive oil I'm trying and liking. Chardonnay vinegar I made from leftover wine. And cherries and apricot dessert. Doesn't get much better.

Then I embarked on no-cook apricot jam, using the pectin that's supposed to work. Followed all the directions and ended up with something awful. The sugar had failed to dissolve, and the whole thing didn't work.

 Sooooo I tipped the two jarsworth into a pan and boiled the jam, until I got the metal spoon test working, to show the sugar had melted and the pectin had worked. You know this test? 

When a  big metal spoon, dipped in then held up to drain results in the jam coming off in more than one stream at once, you're done. Sterilized the jars again, just in case, and found that the jam now only filled one. 

 So this is rescue apricot jam! We'll see how it works after a night in the fridge.

West Windsor farmers market great haul today

Seized on the chance of apricots, very short season, maybe a bit of jam will happen. And Kennet Square mushrooms, cherries, first locals I've seen this year, first tomatoes. And farm mozzarella for great lunch today, with homegrown basil, homemade vinegar. Eggs from the same farmer who produces the mozzarella.

And a great new addition to the market, a grain farmer! The oats were harvested yesterday on his farm a few miles away. He has other grains and is working on hulling barley. I'm seriously planning on stocking up on produce from this farmer. Nothing like fresh flavor in flour like anything else.

The first taste of anything is the best. Today cherries, apricots, mozzarella and tomatoes,all first tastes of the year. Tomorrow breakfast oatmeal with sliced apricots..

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Peppermint harvest and geranium discovery

On care package run to handsome son, now down with flu, it seems to be going around, I found a stand of peppermint growing all over, where long ago a misguided neighbor had planted it in the ground, rather than a pot.

So I picked a few stems to replant in water then a pot, my own having sort of vanished, and with the leaves I took off, made a great Sunday morning drink back home. Spoonful of lemon ginger marmalade mixed with glass of water, peppermint leaves torn and added. Good for flu convalescing.

Back home I did a bit of pruning, and found that what I had thought was spearmint was, on closer inspection, rose geranium, another lovely flavoring for desserts. I had it years ago, lost track, then it shows up now. Surprising that in such a small area you can lose plants.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Potatoes again, but different dressing

The second half of the potato harvest for the year. Steamed again, but with a sauce of melted butter and fresh picked Italian basil, named to specify it's not Thai basil. No need for salt, plenty in the ham.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Steamed new potatoes

First half of the harvest, steamed for about ten minutes, dotted with butter, sprinkled with fresh picked thyme, some smoked ham. Great small lunch. Dessert farm blueberries and yogurt.

Doesn't get much better. No need to do a lot when the ingredients are this good.