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Archive for the ‘Gardening’ Category

Lord.  Have any of you tackled that crazy flu that’s been going around?  Whenever I’ve had the flu, there’s been one day when I feel like I’m going to die, then 3-4 days of ickiness.  Well, this was a doozy.  My mantra was “I’m going to die”, and I repeated it hourly for 7 days.  Ridiculous.

Luckily, I have the world’s most patient nurse, so was able to send out for Gatorade and Fudgesicles (the only things I could stomach).  Unfortunately, I then got him sick, so had to reverse roles for another week.  Sheesh.  Thank god that’s over, and next year?  Flu shots for everyone!

I haven’t quite gotten back in the kitchen (currently littered with empty Gatorade bottles, numerous straws and Dayquil packaging), but I have been able to take advantage of this lovely weather and play in the garden.

We planted the east side full of melon and winter squash, mulched the whole lot and started the waiting process.  I can’t wait to see what works, what doesn’t, how they all look – we’re planting a lot of new and interesting stuff this year from Baker Creek Seeds, so the experiment continues.

The west side you’ve seen, but now it’s chock full of tomato seedlings, scattered among the broccoli, and the front is full of summer squash, pumpkin and fennel seeds.

Just as we have risen from the depths, I expect these seeds to do the same (we’re very metaphorical around here)…

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Aside from these beautiful, happy broccoli, Lynelle and I now have a blank canvas on which to plant. Chris snapped this picture as we came home from the gym last night – it gives a sense of our new space. The back bed is still going strong, with those strong artichokes, nasturtiums and cauliflower, and I’m starting to clear out some of those winter veggies.

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We’ve already planted some tomato seedlings in amongst the broccoli, figuring that when they’re coming up, the broccoli may be on its way out – we’ll see how that works out! The rest will go according to the plan .  I started some melon and squash seeds, all the while knowing that they don’t like to be started.  They apparently can’t take the stress of transplant, so you’re supposed to direct-seed them into the ground.  Well, I couldn’t wait, so I tried it anyway.  I’ll test the prevailing garden wisdom – I’m sure that’ll work out fine.

My garden approach is guilt-free, because I fully expect to kill everything the first time I attempt to plant it.  That way, when some plants grow and thrive, I’m thrilled.  It’s all a learning experience.

I’m encouraged by all the gawking from people passing by – we’ve had many people come by and say that they’ve become inspired!  It is a little disconcerting to look out your front window and see strangers staring at your house, but ultimately exciting.   Time to get to growin’!

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It’s gonna be a good summer.

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So, how’re things?  What’s that?  Where in the hell have I been?  Uh…

Well, it began with THE LAWN. I’m pleased to report that, aside from a little edging and compost-adding, the garden has grown. As soon as it’s pretty enough to post, it’ll be here in all its glory. My seedlings are still doing really well (thanks, Ikea!), so I can’t wait to put them in the ground now that things have warmed up around here.

Then the project-monster expanded his reach. He crept inside the house, approached the kitchen, and knew he’d found his prey. In reality, Chris gave me the lovely Valentine’s Day present of re-vamping my kitchen – new paint, new grout, new shelves, new butcher block table, new everything. I was tickled pink at the idea and so pleased to see the results, but in between I got a little cranky and impatient. It’s tough to take a girl out of her favorite room for a week and a half!

Anyway, it’s almost all done and beautifully shiny and bright. I’ll be making up for lost time in the days to come!

Before the turmoil, I had been reading Julia Child’s My Life In France, inspired by a book club on The Kitchn. Although I don’t have half the patience or ambition of this amazing woman, I was inspired to get a little French up in this biz.  Enter the soufflé.

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Dude!  Souffles aren’t that hard – I had no idea! 

Provencal Goat Cheese and Herb Soufflé (adapted from Epicurious)

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
5 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 1/4 cups whole milk
1/4 cup dry white wine
6 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon minced fresh basil
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
1 cup crumbled chilled soft fresh goat cheese (such as Montrachet)
1/2 cup (packed) grated Gruyère cheese (about 2 ounces)
8 large egg whites

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Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 400°F. Generously butter one 10-cup soufflé dish or six 1 1/4-cup soufflé dishes (I used six individual soufflé cups and had overflow, so I filled the above dish also.  This makes a lot – invite friends)!  Heat olive oil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and minced garlic. Cook without browning until mixture begins to bubble, whisking constantly, about 1 minute. Gradually whisk in whole milk, then white wine. Cook until smooth, thick and beginning to boil, whisking constantly, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Mix egg yolks and salt in small bowl. Add egg yolk mixture all at once to sauce; whisk quickly to blend. Mix in 1 tablespoon basil, 1 tablespoon thyme and 1 teaspoon rosemary. Fold in cold goat cheese and Gruyère cheese (cheeses do not need to melt).

Using electric mixer, beat whites in large bowl until stiff but not dry. Fold 1/4 of whites into lukewarm souffl
 base to lighten. Fold in remaining whites. Transfer soufflé mixture to prepared dish. Sprinkle with ground black pepper.

Place soufflé in oven; reduce heat to 375°F. Bake soufflé until puffed, golden and gently set in center, about 35 minutes for large soufflé (or 25 minutes for small soufflés). Using oven mitts, transfer soufflé to platter and serve immediately.  And they mean immediately.  I snapped some pictures before the sagging happened, and it happened so quickly! 

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Oh yeah – a rimmed baking sheet is helpful.  Forgot to mention that.  Add some nasturtium-studded salad, and you’ve got a beautiful meal that even Julia would be proud to serve – Bon Appetit!

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Whew.  And I thought the first part was ambitious!  After spending a leisurely afternoon at our local coffee shop thumbing through seed catalogs, my neighbor and I decided that we’d need more room. We’ve got to have somewhere for all those melons, squash, beans and greens to go! Behold, the progress:

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Broccoli already planted, even before we’re done.  As you can see from this picture, we’ve got quite an addition going.  Since this was taken, we’ve finished this side and have moved on to expand the garden on the far side of the pathway.  I’m quite pleased with the pathway that we created from broken pots and a few Home Depot pavers:

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The after picture is still to come – we’ve got about 3 feet left on one half of the lawn to dig, then comes the borders.  If you’ve been wondering why I haven’t been posting much lately, this is the answer!

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I couldn’t help myself, and started summer seeds today.  January, right before a huge storm – brilliant.  But, I figure, it’s San Diego – how much colder could it get?  My neighbor and I have decided that the garden is ready for a massive expansion, so we’re taking out another big patch of lawn.  I’m hoping these will be ready to take center stage in a couple of months…

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Plus, how cute is this IKEA greenhouse?  I’m summer-smitten.

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Before this season, I didn’t know what suckers were on plants, and now I’m obsessed with searching for them.  As the tomato plants grow, they produce side stems or suckers which, if left alone, will grow just like the main stem.  They’re the shoots which grow directly in the angle of two other shoots, cutting a 90° angle into two 45°s.  They’re fine in theory, but they take energy away from the main stem, causing smaller tomatoes that take longer to grow.  Can you spot the two suckers in the above photo?

At the beginning of the season, I was more vigilant about pinching these off so that my fledgling plants would have all the energy they needed to produce plenty of fruit.  Maybe I could slack a little now, since they’re already well established, but it’s become habit.

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So, I’ve taken to pinching the suckers off while I’m playing search and destroy with the hornworms (who have grown to OBSCENE sizes, by the way, and are responsible for the bare stems in the first photo)…

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I don’t even know what to do with these, outside of squeal and point.  They’re terrifying, really well camouflaged, and can decimate a plant in a day.  Bastards.

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