vietnamese spring rolls

Vietnamese Spring RollsVietnamese Spring Rolls are essentially are bundles of salad wrapped in rice paper. They are very versatile and may be made with whatever fresh ingredients you have on hand. It takes a little bit of time to prepare all the ingredients and a little practice to wrap, but the resulting spring rolls are certainly worth the time and effort. Make these for your family or serve them at your next party and they are guaranteed to be a crowd pleaser.

…traditionally filled with shrimp and pork, noodles, and an assortment of vegetables and herbs.  They are eaten dipped in either a spicy peanut sauce or nuoc cham, which is made with fish sauce, garlic, and chilis, or both. What I love about them is that they are fresh, healthy, and a lot of fun to make (and eat!).

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creamy herbed polenta with mushroom ragout

We tend to associate comfort food with winter but this creamy bowl of polenta is also good on a summer evening.  Simple and comforting, it is like sunshine in a bowl.  It is luscious without being heavy and satisfying without being overly rich.  Well-made polenta, with plenty of butter and parmesan cheese, is delicious by itself.  Topped with an earthy mushroom ragout, it’s even better. I served this polenta alongside Grilled Lamb Chops marinated in olive oil, garlic, rosemary, and thyme and a green salad with a simple meyer lemon and olive oil vinaigrette.  The whole combination was hearty, yet still fitting for supper on a warm summer evening. Continue reading

gougères with goat cheese and chives

Chives are one of the easiest herbs to grow, and are a staple in my herb garden. They are hardy perennial plants from the same family as onions, leeks, and garlic. They grow in clumps with narrow, hollow leaves that reach about 6 to 12 inches in height.  In the spring, they produce a mass of beautiful, globe-shaped violet blossoms which, I learned recently, are also edible. I planted a couple of small plants about three years ago, and, since then, I’ve been spoiled with an abundant supply of chives all year round.

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my urban vegetable garden


Chris & I devoted most of the last week of August working on our new garden.  Chris tilled and leveled the soil and removed some tree roots left by two huge trees in preparation for the placement of four new raised beds he built.  I had it fairly easy; I was in charge of  selecting, buying and planting all the vegetables and flowers.  I included flowers around the vegetables to add splashes of color amidst all of the green foliage.  I also transplanted all the herbs that were scattered around in different pots to a single raised herb bed.  Now most of my herbs – French tarragon, Greek oregano, Italian parsley, rosemary, sage, lemon thyme, and garlic chives are together.  I also have basil but I read that it is the perfect companion to tomatoes so I planted them together in a separate pot.  The basil is supposed to keep insects away and even enhance the flavor of the tomatoes.

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my edible garden

As you can probably guess, I’m obsessed with gardening at the moment.  I’ve been enjoying my flower garden for the last month so now I turned my attention to my edible garden.   I like the convenience of growing and cooking with fresh herbs.  They grow with little care and attention.  However, I’ve neglected them for the last year and I needed a herb garden makeover.  The rosemary, oregano, and lemon thyme were repotted to plastic containers and moved to the corner alongside my beloved meyer lemon tree.  The pineapple sage was saved from the chopping block and repotted since I couldn’t part with the sweet scent of its leaves.  Plus during the summer, it has lots of little red flowers.   I added a small cilantro plant and some chives.  This year, I am also trying my hand at growing jalapeño peppers and two varieties of tomatoes – Sweet 100s and Yellow Pears.  If everything goes well, I should be able to start harvesting tomatoes in late July through the fall.
Could this be the beginning of my own locavore movement?  At least, I have the makings of some fresh organic salsa with the jalapeños, cilantro, and tomatoes.

Meyer Lemon

I’ve had this meyer lemon tree for about 5 years.  The first couple of years, it produced about 10-15 lemons total.  Once I started to apply some citrus food, it was happy and started to produce more and more fruit.  I’ve harvested about 75 lemons from each of the past few growing seasons.  I juice the lemons and store them in one-cup increments in a ziploc bag in the freezer.  It’s never been easier to make lemon curd and lemon bars.

Jalapeño Peppers

I planted a six-pack flat of jalapeño peppers I bought at Lowe’s for $1.98.  I wasn’t sure how this endeavor would turn out as the tall, gangly seedlings were barely able to stand on its own.  Now, four weeks later, I can see some buds forming.  I hope it develops into actual edible peppers.

Tomato

It looks a little silly to put a big huge cage over two little itty bitty tomato plants, but hopefully they’ll just shoot up and bear little clusters of edible fruit in a couple of months.  It’s so exciting to grow my own tomatoes instead of buying mealy tasteless ones from the grocery store.  I read online that growing basil next to tomatoes makes it taste better, although it was unclear if the article was referring to the tomatoes or the basil.  I think I need to make another trip to Lowe’s for basil.

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