Adventures in Thanksgiving

A crazy busy week that began on Saturday before my birthday and culminated today in a marathon of cooking and experimenting.  It was great!

Reesie invited her ‘sweety’ over to have Thanksgiving with the family. He got to meet AJ and the pets… he survived the shock, ha ha.

One of the goals I set myself for this new year is to not just eat healthier, but to explore new possibilities. What better time to indulge than today?

First up, a departure from the sugar-laden sweet potato casserole with its marshmallow topping invitation to diabetes… instead I made sweet potatoes with coconut sauce and fresh coconut which provided natural sweetness and a surprising crunchy contrast to the creamier sweet potatoes.

This was yummy … next year I am going to find the purple sweet potatoes. That ought to add a nice pop! to the table ūüėÄ

Instead of traditional gravy I made a lovely gravy with vegetable broth, sage, and apple cider. It turned out great, even the kids loved it.

Cider-Sage Gravy

And green bean casserole with its mushroom soup and fried onion topping was replaced with wonderful fresh green beans sauteed with a touch of garlic, caramelized onion, mushrooms (in this case brown beech mushrooms for their lovely nutty flavor, shiitake, and oyster mushrooms for their ‘meaty’ texture), fresh ginger, and a splash of my favorite spicy szechuan sauce and sesame oil.

I took some new ideas, tweaked them to fit our tastes, and what was available, and had so much fun in the kitchen this year.  Truly another reason to be so thankful this year.

Can’t wait for the next special occasion to see what I can come up with next.

Hope your Thanksgiving was extra special too.

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Pumpkins in a pot…

My daughter loves…I mean LOVES pumpkin seeds.¬† Every year for Halloween the seeds from the jack-o-lanterns are saved, washed, and roasted..and vanish very quickly afterward.¬† This year she put some into a sandwich container to roast later…and when she went to roast them….they had sprouted!

Image result for pumpkin seed sprouts

The obvious thing to do, of course, is…give the seeds to mom.

Pumpkins don’t really ‘thrive’ here in the Lowcountry…too much heat, no cold snap.¬† But heaven knows if they were ever going to grow, this nice cool weather is the tome to try. So I dragged out my big ‘tree’ pot, dumped in mulch, and topsoil and voila!

Sprouts of pumpkin seeds

The pot will remain outdoors soaking up warmth and sunshine until fall chills arrive, then move to the porch where the sprouts are protected from any untoward weather.

Can’t wait till spring.¬†¬†Image result for 4 month old pumpkin plants

Hope springs….

April foolishness

A gorgeous day in the Lowcountry…mid 80s, clear blue skies and bright sunshine. Wisteria is coming back from the frosts that killed its first flush a couple of weeks ago, camellias and azaleas are offering a scant but determined final bloom and all around my neighborhood there are pinks, reds, corals, and soft purples rejoicing in Spring’s renewal. We have all the windows open every day and night and the fresh air is such a joy after the claustrophobic chill of winter.

The dogs spend a lot more time outdoors.¬† I spend more free time at the first wave of farm markets.¬† Last week’s excitement was over asparagus.¬† This week I am giddy over the prospect of first crop green (spring) garlic (as farmers thin their fields) and sugar snap peas.

Spring’s bounty in Asparagus, leek, and green garlic soup

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The bluebirds are nesting in the backyard. I love watching them skim across the open flight path between the azaleas on one side, the shrubbery on the other, over the ancient wisteria to their little houses along the back fence.¬† As we are contemplating the possibility of moving from this lovely old house to a smaller place the one thing I should truly miss the most is this yard.¬† Most people miss their homes…apparently for me home is the outdoors, not the in.

Which means I probably should not be surprised at little environmental themes that seem to be continually popping up in my writing. Who knew dragons had such an important environmental niche to fill?¬† (okay, so that doesn’t really surprise me as they would be an apex predator and as such a linchpen in their cycle…. I just hadn’t really given it much consideration till they showed up)¬† Glad they did.

 

Gardener–minus the Garden

It’s a hard thing for me to deal with this spring…yes, ¬†February is the beginning of our spring planting season here in the Lowcountry…and here it is March and I have precious little in the ground save the quickie crops…radishes, etc.

This spring…we are thinking we will be moving. ¬†If not right now, as soon as school ends, which is long before most crops will be grown and ready to harvest. ¬†How then to have a decent garden at a time when the uncertainty of the months ahead makes it ever more important to have my own source of vegetables? ¬†The pear tree is covered in blooms. ¬†If we are here long enough, there will be bumper crops of pears, blackberries and black raspberries. ¬†The blueberries are still in pots, I got them last winter on sale, and didn’t want them in the ground till I could be assured of no strange weather eccentricities. ¬†Now would be the perfect time to put them in…but…ya know, moving.

Herbs aren’t so difficult, they do well in planters as long as they have room to spread out. ¬†So this weekend, pots of Mexican oregano, tarragon, white sage, lots of new starts off my very old rosemary. I still need marjoram, cilantro, and basil (probably a couple of kinds, variety is the spice of life) as well as nasturtiums.

And then there is the entire issue of which crops to plant now, which I can pot and transport, which we will simply have to do without this season.  My much loved pod peas will be grown and ready to harvest in no time.  Things like cauliflower and broccoli?  Sigh.

The obvious alternative would be to see if I can budget a share in a CSA. ¬†This might be the best option…particularly in a transitional period where I will most likely need another year to get the garden itself ready for proper planting, and when our hectic lives are better suited to some crops than others, a CSA would provide a better range of produce. ¬†I am checking it out now and will let ya’ll know how it goes.

 

 

Getting ready to roll

This is VBS week and I am going out to help with bible school at a very poor inner city school. ¬†Worked at the school a year ago putting in garden beds so the school could grow their own vegetables, and was sad to hear from the children that the plants came up…and were allowed to die untended.

Perhaps this year, if I can get some help, I can go plant their vegetable beds and make it out to the school at least once or twice a week just to water and weed. Also thinking a few perennials would go a long way toward helping them have success…strawberry plants, blueberry bushes, sunchokes, ground nuts (Indian potatoes), scarlet runner beans, and kale. That alone would give the kids something to harvest almost year round down here. ¬†I need to put this up to the school and the church group.

Scarlet runner beans

Sunchokes (Jerusalem Artichokes)