Saturday, March 30, 2013

Spring Is Here! And a Garden Tour!

Back home from seeing our little Grandson. He is gorgeous! :) He weighed 7 lbs. 13 ozs. While we were gone, Pickles and Stella had to go to the kennel. When they got home with us, they quickly began to enjoy the familiar comforts of home.

Pickles picked a cozy spot on the bed

And Stella gave us a look like she had been abandoned and left homeless. She does look pretty rough right now. (Time for a bath and grooming). She would follow us around the house and just stare. You know the look -"How dare you"!!!

It is a good feeling to be back in one's own home and bed.  And with one's own stove. Oh the comforts of home! Our daughter has an electric stove, so it was a trick to try to adjust.  But we made do and were able to put out some tasty meals on it.  Now that we are home, it was time to get into our own kitchen to make something to eat.  First we will get a few things from the garden. 

By the way, when we got the call our grandbaby was going to come early, we were right in the middle of painting our kitchen and repairing our dishwasher.  The kitchen was completely torn up!  So we had to leave it, and of course, it was waiting for us when we got back, tired and hungry.  But we put our aprons on and got to it, and had it put back together all spic-and-span in no time.  How nice to have a shiny clean kitchen and a dishwasher working like new!

We felt like some fresh pasta, sauteed swiss chard, and chicken with mushroom sauce.  Mamie wanted something sweet, but did not want to add yet another dish to make, so we bought an Italian Cream Cake.  It was pretty good.

Doesn't take long to mess up the kitchen when we get busy in it!

Making your own fresh pasta is so easy, everyone should try it!  So much better tasting than store bought!

Four burners in action at one time!  We have had almost all burners going at once before with something in each oven! 

Swiss Chard just picked from the garden- It has quickly become one of our favorite greens. Oh, did I say garden? Lets go take a look.

Lettuce looks great. We need to get busy eating it! This type is nice and sweet.

Some of the Swiss Chard growing nicely. While we were at our daughter and her husband's place, we wanted to make some sauteed swiss chard for them. We drove all over creation trying to find it, and most of the people did not even know what it was.  We finally found some at a Whole Foods-we gained a new appreciation for our garden and it's bounty!  Next visit, we will put some in a cooler and bring it with us.

Shallots, looking happy!

More lettuce.

Pea's.  Better get to putting up a trellis for them!

Fennel. They are so cool and cute!

Spring cabbage.  It is also time to plant our various peppers and eggplant.

Blueberries here.  Walking the yard, you can hear the bees busily buzzing. Yes, spring is finally here! :-)

Pear tree blossoms.

This was a quick trip around the place. Later, as we settle back down from the adjustments of having a new grandson and seeing our kids together in one location, we will start posting some of the happy events going on in our lives. Yes, we do have a bright future :- ) Hopefully you enjoyed this little sneak peek.

Our daughter's silly kitty, Jewel.

See ya soon!

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Sunday, March 24, 2013


We haven't disappeared. Our daughter decided to throw our life into a whirlwind of unexpected events. 

She developed some health issues that necessitated her to be sent to the hospital early. Which meant Mamie was put on a last minute flight at 6:00 AM. So of course very little sleep and no time to pack as she would have liked.

But what a wonderful gift!!! We will let you know all the exciting news as we get the chance. Enjoy the picture; and we love our little Harrison.
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Friday, March 8, 2013

In Love With Swiss Chard-Really!

We have been growing swiss chard since fall.  We have had it in a few recipes, and tonight we just wanted something simple for dinner, but felt we needed something green.  So Mamie decided to cut some Swiss Chard and saute it up for an easy dinner.  She thought about how she would like to make it, and figured a little goat cheese and balsamic vinegar could not hurt a recipe, but in the middle of cooking, she tasted the simmering chard enveloped with caramely onions, and said-"No!  It is enough!  This is de-vine!!!"

Let me tell you people, this is de-licious!  We have some swiss chard that needed to be used from the fall; and we have some coming up for spring...

Spring crop... looking good...

So we picked enough (we thought) for two (we should have doubled it) and cooked it up...we were ooohing and aaahing and wishing we would have made much more!  Now, Mamie is from the South, but she is a "leetle" picky about her greens.  She loves raw spinach and cabbage in certain salads, but cannot stand the slimey cooked versions.  Some people can make a delicious pot of cooked collards, and Mamie will devour them.  But usually, they make her gag.  They can taste a bit like grass with the texture of warm paste to her.  However, Swiss Chard is a bit different.  It cooks up well, because it takes on the flavors of the seasonings and is not as bitter as some greens can be.  We are so looking forward to our spring chard!

This is the remaining chard from fall...

Tonight we were going to doctor up the simple recipe with a little goat cheese and balsamic, but after sampling it, Mamie felt that would be gilding the Lily.  It was wonderful just simply cooked.  Here is how we did it--

Now to preface all of this, we are healthy eaters.  We drink lots of water, and try to get lots of greens and fiber in our diets.  We do not gorge on red meat, but we do eat it once in a while.  We just are not ones to eat till we are stuffed.  We enjoy eating a variety of foods, but all in moderation.  So please do not have a cow when we mention bacon grease.  We do eat bacon, (occasionally) and we save the grease.  Just a little can add a lot to a recipe that has ingredients that complement the flavor.  Tonight we used a little.  Oh my, so good!  After a hard day's work, this was just what we needed to make us look at each other and smile...

A bit of swiss chard, olive oil, (a bit of bacon drippings), white wine, salt, pepper, garlic and onion...

Chop the onion, first cutting in half, and then in thin half-rounds.  Mince the garlic.

We will put a general recipe at the bottom.  Tonight we were just making a half-recipe.

Heat a little olive oil in a saucepan or skillet..

Add a bit of bacon drippings...

Saute the onions with a sprinkle of salt and pepper, lid on the pan, until they are softened and lightly golden.

In the meantime, pull out the stem from the leaf of the chard; you can just grip and pull with each hand, or cut out the stem with a knife.  Chop the stem into 1/4 inch pieces.  Then roll up the top green part into a roll, and cut into 1/2 inch strips.

After the onions are tender, add the swiss chard stems, another little sprinkle of salt and pepper, stir and cook a few minutes till tender.

Then add the sliced greens and a little dry white wine...then add the chopped garlic, put the lid back on and steam till tender.

Taste for seasonings; adjust.  Plate up and sprinkle on freshly grated parmesan cheese.  If you want to add some umphh, toss over some toasted pine nuts...

This may not look like much, but if you are a lover of freshness and flavor, this will knock your boxers off...

RECIPE:  a general guide:

Bunch of swiss chard ( about a pound or 12-15 stems)
Onion halved and sliced thin
clove of garlic, chopped finely
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. bacon drippings
salt and pepper
good 1/4 cup dry white wine (could use chicken broth)
Parmesan cheese, grated

Chop the onion in thin slices; chop the garlic.  Heat olive oil and bacon drippings over medium heat, then add onions.  Sprinkle a pinch of salt and pepper.  Put on lid, and cook until onions are tender and starting to brown.  While onions are cooking, chop the stems of the swiss chard into 1/4 inch dice, and roll up the green tops and chop into 1/2 inch slices. When the onions are tender, add the swiss chard stems, a pinch of salt and pepper, and saute till tender.  Then add the tops of the chard, add the wine and the garlic, stir, put on lid and cook until tender, about 3-5 minutes.  Taste and adjust salt and pepper.  Plate and top with grated parmesan.
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Thursday, March 7, 2013

Ciabatta Bread

This Bread is wonderful for a panini sandwich and is easy to make, if you have a good mixer or a strong arm.  We have posted the recipe before, but sometimes it helps to see it happen...
First we gathered our ingredients-
The flours,yeast, salt and water

then we measured the flour...

We weighed the flours...we have found a kitchen scale to be a great help for many applications....

Added the salt, yeast and warm water...

Then we started the KitchenAid mixer...

We ran the mixer at a medium-high speed (6-8 on the Kitchen aid). This time it took just over 11 minutes to form a ball around the beater.  We are doing a half recipe so we just used the beater the whole time instead of switching to the dough hook.  This is what you want to see: stringy dough around the beater

Then we placed the wet dough into an oiled bowl to triple in size...(this took about 3 hours), top with plastic or towel while rising.

Then we divided the dough in two. Note:  This dough is very wet and sticky! (so place it on a well floured surface) let it rise for 45 minutes while you preheat your oven to 500. We cook ours on a stone but you can also cook it on a cookie sheet.  Use a pizza peel (well floured) or a rimless cookie sheet, and carefully put the dough on them, stretching them a bit into rectangles, and slide them onto the hot stone or cookie sheet.  Sorry we missed a picture of this.

Bake for about 15 minutes. Until nice and browned on the outside. As you can see, it really doesn't matter what shape they end up, they are still delicious!  Enjoy, and let us know if you try it.

This was the original recipe: (below is where we halved it with our measurements)  Original makes about 4 loaves.

350g bread flour 
150g semolina flour 

475-485g (~2cups) water 

2 tsp. yeast 
15g salt

Note: we halved the original recipe because we are cooking for only two. So this is what we used.

Bread Flour       6 1/4 oz. (1 cup + 2 1/2 Tablespoons)
Semolina Flour  2 5/8 oz.  (1/3 cup + 2 Tablespoons)
Salt   1 1/2 teaspoons
Yeast  1 teaspoon
Water   8 1/4 oz.  ( 1 1/16 cups)

NOTE: You can use all bread flour if desired instead of the semolina
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Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Longing for the warmth of spring

We are somewhat spoiled where we live when it comes to cold weather. But it still gets cold enough that we prefer to stay indoors. It rains a lot, so everything can get muddy, and overcast skies make us long for the warmth and the green of a sunny spring day. Poppy grew up in the West and loved to ski and enjoyed the snow and cold as a youth. But now, after 30 years in the south, he has become a true southerner. He used to always complain how hot it gets (which it does get hot-and muggy), now the complaints are how cold it is and "I can't wait for summer". He even says it with a little southern drawl, which he is proud of, even though he would never admit it. 

The other evening, we made a "spot of tea" and sat in front of the fire. This is a great time to talk about the garden and what we would like to do this summer. We reminisce about past successes and also the flops (which we have had many) yet we still make plans to try, try again. Yes, that is what life is all about, the constant learning of this amazing planet. And we have come to learn that one day we will have the perfect garden. But until that garden appears we appreciate what we have at the moment. Even if there are a lot of flops, they will never douse our enthusiasm for the hope of a better result.

So what are we going to plant? Tomatoes---YES! But as hot as it gets in the south they can split, also the cut worms (we don't use chemicals) how are we going to keep them out?  (We have been saving toilet paper tubes to put around the bases). Beans---Yes! What kind? Blue lake pole or bush or both? Squash---Yes! Zucchini, Yellow, Butternut (our favorite and a great success last year), Acorn...maybe? Corn---Yes! Can we find seeds that are gmo free?.......Oh, and definitely eggplant and all kinds of peppers, and one of Mamie's favorites-Pink Eye Purple Hull peas, and okra.  We will NOT be planting Brussels Sprouts again as Mamie thinks they taste like the way a baby's diaper smells!

Right now we have a bumper crop of different lettuces, the swiss chard took off like a rocket, our beets and the spring peas are about three inches tall.  Exciting!

As you can see we have plenty to talk about. But we always end up talking about our hope, the perfect garden.

And as we talk, Pickles and Stella snooze to the mumbling of our voices and enjoy the warmth of the fire. 

But as we talk what do they think about? Maybe lying in the sun on the cool green grass. Or chasing the cat to the other side of the yard.  More than likely Stella dreams of catching that squirrel that fusses and teases her with its spinning tail.  Perhaps Pickles dreams of playing with her favorite toy in the universe- a Frisbee.  But we will never know for sure.  

So we sip our tea and wonder .

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