Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Waiting Game & Rhubarb Two Ways

I don't know about the rest of you but I have to have "a little talk" with myself at this time of year. And each year - knowing more, planting more, having learned a tiny bit more - the talk gets more serious. You see, at the end of actual planting, mulching, screening and thinning,  I fall into the trap of wanting to do more.  More than just the daily watering, weeding, pinching back - you know, the normal things required of any garden and especially an edible one. I am anxious. Everything is so tiny. Gee,now that I've pulled the last of the radishes, shall I move something? I wonder if I should get a few more (fill in the blanks here) plants at the garden center and plant them in that spot next to the squash? And so on and on goes my inner conversation. 

And, I know it's time for my "little talk". I remind myself that gardening is one of the major teachers in my life. Gardening has taught me patience.  Gardening has taught me to step aside, let go, wait and see. All of which are totally contrary to a good chunk of my make up! 

There's a great heading to a section of The Vegetable Gardener's Bible by Edward C. Smith entitled, "Don't Just Do Something! Stand There!"  I'm trying.  I really am trying!

Recipe:  Rhubarb Syrup and "Jam"

One of the easiest and one of the best things I've done with rhubarb in a long time. It could not be easier and you use pretty much all of the rhubarb too, which is nice.

Put one cup of chopped rhubarb into two cups of water 
Stir in one cup of sugar
Bring to a boil
Lower heat and simmer until mixture thickens (about 20 minutes)
Stir occasionally 
Put a very fine strainer over a Bowl and strain the syrup from the pulp

What you have is rhubarb syrup and an amazingly delicious pulp that we've taken to calling jam.  Jar the pulp/jam and keep in the 'fridge. It's great with cream cheese, peanut butter, or eaten like apple sauce with a spoon.  You won't have to worry about it going bad, believe me!

The syrup is sweet and delicious. It makes a real thirst quencher mixed with seltzer; it's a nice iced tea blend - don't sweeten your tea and just add a bit of syrup to taste; and lastly from my experimentation, it's delicious with vodka as a Rhubarb Martini. Eight ounces vodka, four ounces rhubarb syrup, and a few shakes of orange bitters if you have them, but that's optional. Shake over ice and pour into two chilled martini glasses with a strawberry garni in each. Delicious and pretty.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

A Sweet Memory in the Garden

Today I was busy today catching up on lots of weeding, feeding and general maintenance tasks in our urban garden/homestead - things I didn't get done last week while preparing for Mother's Day. I decided to move some potted things around, create a different look - you know how you make yourself crazy. Your heart says, "sit down, enjoy!" But your mind says, "just one more thing . . ."

I found myself staring at The Face. I smile whenever I look at the Face - now even more so. The Face and the perennial  Gay Feather planted in it were the last purchases we made from our Garden Guru, Tim, who left us way too early two years ago. 

Over the years, from an apartment terrace to the purchase of a home and a "real" garden, Tim advised us, corrected us, and most importantly, infected us with his love of growing things. Making the trip to his Garden Center at each season was always a joy for us. Our friends would give us gift certificates to the place on holidays and birthdays, knowing how much we loved it.

Sadly, the garden center is also now gone. It wouldn't be the same for us anyway. But I look around my garden and I see plantings that Tim recommended over the years and tools that I use every day just like he said I would. And I look at The Face and I smile. Remember to build cherished memories with your garden, along with everything else you pull from it. 

"When the world wearies and society ceases to satisfy, there is always the garden" (Minnie Aumonier).

Thanks for the lesson, Tim.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Cream Cheese Saga

About a week ago I brought up the topic of Cream Cheese - specifically about the availability of non-Kraft produced cream cheese. We are gradually working all Kraft products out of our lives (see the list available of companies being held hostage by Monsanto) and while we don't count a lot of Kraft products as staples, this sure was one!

I learned that the blocks sold by the Amish people are Kraft; I learned that Breakstone is Kraft; and I learned that the cream cheeses sold with bagels at bagel shops are mostly Kraft.

I also learned that the French cheese, Neufchâtel, is very much like creamed cheese with less fat. But unless you buy it from France, the Neufchâtel available in the U.S. is - wait for it - made by Kraft!

Thanks to some friends, I do have a couple of pretty straightforward recipes for home made cream cheese, which I'll definitely be trying soon. But thanks to our Headhouse Farmers Market this past Sunday I have a couple of other - delicious - options.

Below is a picture of "Quark" produced by the creamery at Hillacres Pride in Peach Bottom PA. It is delicious and really just like cream cheese - I have already tried it in all my favorite preparations! Also, our friends at Birchrun Hills creamery (makers of Fat Cat and a number of other fabulous local cheeses) want me to try their "creamy cheese" - which they tout as a perfect substitute for the Kraft stuff. So next week will be the taste test for that.

I should have known to start with the folks who produce real food!

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Views from the Urban Garden

Every morning now provides something new in the growing beds and pots. This morning it was the first Squash seedling pushing through the soil and a number of Cucumber seedlings!

Our "salad bed" continues to flourish. Lettuces - four types, two types of radishes and two types of arugula. There are also a number of pepper and eggplant seedlings in there too! They will be the highlight of the bed as the weather gets hot.

Lastly - from what I see this morning - there are a lot of Hydrangea on their way!

The last shot is one of my new favorite things. Italian canned cherry tomatoes. While we wait for our locals to come in, these are a wonderful treat. They are delicious just tossed in a skillet with some sautéed onion and garlic and good extra virgin olive oil and then poured over pasta. Great for Brushetta as well. Check them out!