Sunday, May 12, 2013

What’s growin’ on?

Now that we’re into May, there’s a lot going on in the garden. Fred worked hard this spring installing some brick edging along the garden to create a physical border with the lawn, and it looks great. In mid-April, we bought a new small tiller & truckload of compost/topsoil mix for the garden and turned it in.
For vegetables this year, we’ve planted a couple tomatoes, a few cucumbers and squash plants along with some green beans. To keep the deer away from the green beans, Fred built the a-frame cover pictured below. Everything is growing slowly so far with the cold weather we’ve had to date. Both the plants and myself are much looking forward to the warmer weather for some real growth spurts!
may garden
The flowers we planted in the past couple years are truly welcoming us into Spring this year, too. While a welcome sight, they do present a logistical problem with the garden layout. Currently, flower bulbs are interspersed throughout the garden – which makes it difficult to till up the entire area. Instead, we’re able to only till certain areas. Conveniently, many of the flowers have done so well and have naturalized to the extent that this fall will be the time to divide them, which will provide an opportunity to move them to a more fitting location.
may flowers

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Herbed Crackers

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What to make when the markets are dry of fun fruits and vegetables? What’s left when there isn’t inspiration found in seasonal bounties? Onions are always a possibility. The other steady option is flour. And once you get starting becoming friends with flour, and learning about the delicate and amazing qualities of yeast, flour is fun to explore. It rises and bubbles and makes the most delicious of delights. You can punch it and pull it, and it will bounce back and be even better.

I always thought cracker recipes were overrated. Who wanted to toil making such an easily obtainable and shelf stable product? Aren’t Wheat Thins or Carr’s Water Crackers good enough? And selling at $6 a packet, I would never buy herbed flatbread crackers. But I did have some fun making  them! And truth be told, they aren’t the same as Triscuits, Wheat Thins, or Carr’s. They’re in a ballpark of their own.


1 cup warm water (about 110°F/43°C)
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
3 cups (15 oz) all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
3 TBs of extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp coarse salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 large egg whisked with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
sea salt, for sprinkling
1/4 cup minced herbs, I used fresh minced rosemary & thyme

First, activate the yeast by combining the warm water, yeast and sugar. Once it has become foamy, stir in the flour, oil and coarse salt until a dough forms. knead the dough about two minutes, adding as much flour as necessary for it to become smooth and not sticky. Put dough in an oiled bowl, cover and allow to rise for about an hour or until it doubles in volume.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Turn out the dough on your work surface and divide into 16 equal portions. Roll out each piece on a floured surface until very thin, approximately 4"x10". Place rolled out sheets onto parchment lined baking sheets. Continue to roll out all dough and then brush with the egg wash and sprinkle with sea salt and herbs.

Bake, rotating sheet halfway through baking, until crisp and golden, 18-22 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheet then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. You can keep the crackers in an airtight container at room temp for up to 1 month, or Freeze for up to 3 months. It is important that the crackers cool completely before storing though, as otherwise they will become stale quickly. 

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Roasted Tomatoes Pomodoro Al Forno

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When I was little, I didn’t care for tomatoes. I would order my hamburgers and chicken club sandwiches “with no tomatoes. ” Ketchup and tomato sauce were of no issue, of course. But the actual unmodified fruit was not to be consumed by yours truly until I came into my mid-twenties. In childhood, I was also “allergic” to apple sauce, but that’s a different issue entirely.

Once into adulthood, I realized my prejudice against tomatoes lay strongly in that my mother always ordered everything “with no tomatoes.” In the pursuit of a diverse and appreciative palate, I started eating tomatoes. And I liked them.

I’m not saying I like every tomato. Like many, I feel tomatoes are best avoided in winter when they are typically mealy from being grown hydroponically and without the sunshine and natural settings that produce the juicy, umami filled tomato of the summertime.

But what about during the winter months? Take heart, my fellow tomato lover – there is still a way to enjoy the delicious tomato. In fact, I think this recipe will give a summer tomato a run for its money. And truthfully, it all lies with the humble can of whole plum tomatoes. With a little time, and olive oil, these tomatoes are so delicious; you may be able to wait until summer.

Tomatoes Al Forno

Based off Molly Wizenberg’s recipe featured in Bon Appetit.

  • 2 - 28 ounce cans of peeled whole plum tomatoes
  • 1 Cup Olive Oil
  • 1.5 teaspoons dried oregano
  • ¾ teaspoon sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
  • Crackers or toasted baguette, for serving.

Preheat the oven to 250°F. Pour half of oil in a rectangle baking dish. Half and seed tomatoes, laying cut side up in the pan. Drizzle with remaining oil. Sprinkle with sugar, salt and oregano. Cook for one hour, then flip the tomatoes over in the pan. Cook another hour. Remove from pan and into a smaller dish, keeping tomatoes covered in oil. Enjoy with crispy bread or crackers (I enjoy them with triscuits).

Joy to your World,


Friday, April 27, 2012

Tea Party


Tea Parties. The word itself conjures so many images. Images of ruffled summer dresses and lace gloves, miniature treats and dainty tea sandwiches, holding a cup with one’s pinky up, or perhaps even the fantastical party of the Mad Hatter in Alice’s Wonderland?


This weekend I hosted a tea party. I borrowed some family heirlooms and had the occasion to use some of my own, and we enjoyed our fancy tea to celebrate a bride-to-be. The fare consisted of tart cherries scones, with lemon curd & clotted cream, and three types of tea sandwiches, with tea biscuits and petite fours. The tea sandwiches were of three varieties: egg salad, cucumber & strawberry.


So we nibbled and drank tea with our pinkies up. I only felt like the mad hatter once when I burnt myself by accidentally touching the hot silver teapot top! It was nonetheless lovely to enjoy tea with the ladies.

To create the fanciful tea sandwiches, simple mix together this general spread and spread as little as possible to coat both sides of sandwich bread, add some paper thin slices of whatever you like (strawberry, cucumber, radishes, etc.), and then cut the crusts off!

Tea Sandwich Spread

  • 1 8oz block cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup peeled & seeded cucumber, diced fine
  • 1/4 cup minced red onion
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 TB fresh herbs – tarragon, basil, parsley or mint

Thursday, April 19, 2012

CSA Box #1

Today I received the first box from the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) subscription, offered by The Produce Box, that we joined.

This CSA seems so different from the one previous bad experience I've had. In that prior experience, it was through one farm directly that charged you up front in the off-season. This came with a hefty tag of ~$600. At that time, it didn't seem prudent. Additionally, that farm's CSA did not offer any choices and would deliver whatever the farm could at that point - which was a nightmarish concept after many friends relayed stories of getting boxes full of the same undesired vegetable week after week.

So happy was I to realize that The Produce Box is actually a network of farms that offer you weekly Box Choices an the potential of skipping weeks. Adding to that you have the luxury of paying as you go, without any obligation to pay for the skipped weeks. I'm happy so far! And they even included a nice newsletter with recipes and farm news. So I'm glad that we’re getting to experience this fun farm-to-table shopping. This weeks rundown is:

  • 1 large bunch spinach
  • 1 large head Romaine
  • 2 quarts strawberries
  • 2 (greenhouse) cucumbers
  • 2 (thin) carrots
  • 6 sweet potatoes
  • Cost: $23

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Wine Authorities

2501 University Drive, #6A, in the same shopping center as LoYo, Durham, NC


Last night was Date Night. Fred and I went down to the Duke Forest corner of Durham by US 15/501 and had a surprising outing to Wine Authorities. While there, we also picked up a batard from Guglhupf that they were selling at the wine store. Additionally, they also had Escazu chocolates, Meat from Farmhand foods, and various other meat, dairy and gourmet food products from regional farms & producers. I was very impressed by the “small market” they had set up near the cashier.

Most people in Durham have heard of Wine Authorities. It was our first venture into the store together, and we were pleasantly surprised to find everything to help craft a romantic or gourmet experience. Also of note, is if you elect to enroll in their customer database, it will track your wine purchases for you, so you’ll never have to wonder what that great vintage was a week after the recycling’s gone out!

Joy to your World,


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Simple Spring Eats

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Springtime is one of better seasons innately because it ushers in a new season of fresh produce. By late March, aren’t the first ripe strawberries of the season (from Elodie Farms at the Saturday Durham market) a happy sight? Sprinkled with a little homemade sucre vanille they are a luscious dessert!

Asparagus seems to be on sale at all the supermarkets, such a pocket friendly treat in the height of its season. We like to grill it crispy with salt and pepper. Roasted in the oven it is a lovely way to heat the house in winter – but now I’m looking forward to keeping that heat outdoors and welcoming the Grilling Season!

Best yet, simple tartines made from the deliciously charred “market bread” from Loaf, slathered with nutella, butter and fleur de sel, or cream cheese are the best way to break fast in the morn. Simple gourmandise at its best.

Joy to your World,