Tuesday, May 19, 2020

SPRING HAPPENINGS, GARDEN NEWS, & A GREAT ROUNDUP OF MY RECIPES






Hello friends!  Just me.  I can't believe it's almost June.  I've been waiting for months for summer to roll around, literally.  This has been a very hard time for all of us and I have no doubt that we will continue to struggle with this pandemic and all it involves for a very long time.  Be strong and hang in there.  My family, friends and I have been very fortunate in not catching the virus.  We've all hunkered down in our respective homes.  I'm right up there with everyone else feeling sorry for myself being stuck at home day after day, but it makes me also feel a little guilty that there are people who are suffering from COVID-19, or lost someone special due to it, or perhaps out of work and  living on their savings.  It's a lot of mixed emotions and I think that can make tensions high.  So maybe we can focus on the good things for a bit.  I recently read this:  Worrying makes you suffer twice.  It rings pretty true for me but I worry and stress probably more than the average person.  But it's something to think about.

So, this is my herb garden last summer just off the back porch.  The chives and oregano come back every year in abundance, and sometimes I dig a little up and mix it into flower beds just for the fragrance.  I love fresh basil, isn't it insane what you have to pay for a just a few stems at the grocery store?  I get a few small plants in the spring and I have enough for all my recipe needs throughout the summer.  I tried mint one year, I loved the smell but I'm not a fan of it in foods, or even tea.  But it's super easy to grow, smells delicious, and can really take off.  If I'm ever inclined to do it again I'd plant it in a pot.  I like a medium size rosemary plant, usually in a pot.  I've never been able to keep it going indoors after summer.




Besides all the pretty things I have popping up outside, I have a ton of invasive weeds and plants.  Creeping Charlie decided to wreak havoc in my back yard a few years ago.  I was told the only way to get rid of it was to dig it up.  Really?  It's everywhere!!  I know someone who had it and they used a spade to make a little trench around it.  They mixed grass seed with topsoil and sand, and over-seeded the area and the new grass crowded it out.  Anyone have any other suggestions?

A few years ago I had a problem with Chinese lanterns crowding out everything in a large border of flowers along a fence.  Everything I read said, "Too bad. Nothing you can do, it will always come back."  And then one spring, it was gone.  It has never come back.  That very same area is now lily of the valley, which I absolutely did not plant.  It's pretty but you have to be a tiny little fairy and hover over it to see the teeny tiny flowers.  And then I read how poisonous it is, that you shouldn't even touch it without gloves.  Who knew?  Maybe I should stop researching my plants.  And finally, I saw all this unfamiliar stuff popping up in my spring bulb bed in between the tulips, daffs, and crocus.  What the heck?  Well it's fleabane, a sort of herb that has tiny little daisy-like flowers.  I had seen it in my yard here and there, I thought it was a cute weed.  But— it can take off and it sure did. I will be on my hands an knees plucking these little babies out for a loooooong time.




I’ve missed filling bird feeders at the lake. I can only do that from spring to fall when I commit to keeping them filled. While I’m whining about how bad nature has been to me, does anyone else have a problem with chipmunks, squirrels, or mice wreaking havoc near your feeders?  They are scavengers and they burrow tunnels, many of them under our patio.  There are a lot of dirty little secrets behind these lovely pictures. :-D




 One of the best gardening experiences I ever had in my years working in my garden was discovering this big, fat, striped caterpillar climbing on a dill plant and nibbling away. I watched this guy, and then a few more, and although my plants were stripped of their feathery dill,  it was awesome. Whenever I see a monarch, I wave and nod proudly. So anyway- plant some dill and feed a critter!

 I have rambled on about food storage and expiration dates in past posts.  During these past few months of staying home as much as possible, when I do suit up and go to the grocery store, I buy an alarming amount of fresh foods.  And no- I'm not hoarding any one item, I just like fresh foods.  So I have been looking for was to stretch and extend the life of fresh fruits and veggies.  My refrigerator can get so packed that it becomes inefficient in maintaining the right temp.  Item are stacked precariously and bordering an avalanche when I'm reaching near the back of the shelf.  Well fear not,  you don't have to refrigerate everything, and some foods actually do better being left out.  But don't think that if it's not in the refrigerator section at the grocery store, that you can leave it out as well--some fresh foods need to be kept cool to last longer.  So I've have some prep and storage  tips broken down according to in-season fruits and veggies we are now buying.

Strawberries---The best thing you can do to keep strawberries fresh is soak them whole in a bowl of 1 part vinegar to 3 parts cold water.  10 minutes will do it.  This destroys the bacteria, or that fuzzy gray stuff on them.  Rinse the berries and let drain in a colander.  Place them on paper towels and let them dry a bit, then store in a tightly sealed container in your frige.  This works with other berries also.

Lemons---I've always stored my lemons in a bowl on my counter.  Not good, they don't make it much more than a week.  I buy quite a few of them at a time as I use them, the juice, and the peel quite a lot.  So, here's what the experts say:  Wash your lemons really well, dry them and then store whole in your refrigerator in a tightly sealed plastic bag.  They will last almost 4 weeks.

Herbs---Hardy herbs like chives, rosemary, basil and oregano can be washed, trimmed, and placed on a damp paper towel.  Roll it up jelly roll style and store in a sealed plastic bag in your refrigerator.  Tender herbs like parsley, cilantro, and thyme can be trimmed and placed upright in a mason jar filled with water.  Cover the top with a damp paper towel securing with a rubber band around the jar.  Refresh the water every few days.

Tomatoes/Avocados---Tomatoes do not like cool temps so it's best to store them on your counter. If they start to soften or the skin bruises, it's time to transfer them to the fridge and use them up quickly. Avocados are quite the same.  Keep on your counter but once they start to over-ripen, move to the refrigerator and use them as soon as possible.

Onions---I've always kept my onions and shallots on the counter.  it is however recommended to keep them in a cool, dry, dark space, in the mesh bag they came in, or you can use regular old nylons.  And of course, a bowl works fine as well.  I'm not one to run all over the house to gather up what I need to prepare meals, so the solution for me was to hang a hook in the stairwell going to my basement, just off the kitchen.  I leave them in their netted bag and so far, so good. I think a pantry or closet can work as well.


Now, on to recipes!





I love a light and fresh seafood dish in the summer.  This works for both lunch and dinner.   I was curious about the shrimp and marinade and I just happened to have a pound of nice sized shrimp in the freezer.  I served it over thin Thai noodles (my new love) but it would be great along side rice or pasta tossed with your favorite sauce.  Keep it light to compliment the tanginess and spice of the shrimp.  I took the liberty of giving it my own name.

Spicy Marinated Shrimp

1/2 to 1 lb jumbo shrimp
1/3 c packed cilantro, roughly chopped
1/4 c fresh lime juice (2-3 limes)
1/4 c olive oil
1 T honey
1/2 t chili powder
canola oil for cooking
S & P

Blend all of the ingredients except the shrimp in a food processor.  Place the shrimp in a large zip lock bag and pour the marinade over.  Place in refrigerator for no longer than 10 minutes or the shrimp will actually 'cook' in the acidic ingredients.  

Heat 1 T canola oil in a skillet or grill pan.  You can also do this on an outdoor grill.  Place each piece on and grill 1 minute on each side until lightly charred.  

As I've said, you can serve this in so many ways.  I am looking forward to having this as an appetizer for company over a bed of lettuce, it's great at room temp.  Something cool to counteract the spiciness would be a yogurt dip with cucumber slices or tortillas and a salsa verde.

This comes together very fast if you peel and devein the shrimp ahead of time.  I do this unpleasant task because I save big $$$.  In any case~~~you will love it and get great rave reviews if you serve it to company.  :-D


Stacked Iceberg Lettuce Salad

I was scratching my head the other day thinking that I couldn’t remember the last time I had a salad with crisp iceberg lettuce and tomatoes along with some goopy dressing at least since we stopped going to restaurants awhile ago. And I always go for the salad rather than soup at restaurants as an exchange for the greasy, calorie loaded entree I plan to order. So anyway, I was pawing through the veggie bin in my fridge and all I had was baby arugula, baby spinach, and baby wilted something or other. The next time I did a shopping I grabbed a nice head of iceberg and then I tried to recreate the salad of my youth before all the “super greens “ came along with their fancy balsamic vinaigrette’s. Is anyone else sick and tired of balsamic vinegar?  So here you have my latest and greatest summer salad. 

1 head of iceberg lettuce
4 stalks of celery, washed and chopped in 1/2 pieces
8 radishes, thinly sliced
6 oz feta cheese crumbles
3 oz chopped pancetta  (or bacon)

1/2 c mayonnaise
1/2 c sour cream
1 t Worcestershire sauce 
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
2 T fresh lemon juice
S&P to taste


Prepare salad dressing, cover and refrigerate. In  a small skillet, sauté pancetta. Drain and set aside. 

Assemble salad. Remove and loose outer leaves of lettuce. Slice the lettuce widthwise in 1/2 in pieces. Do this until you have 8 slices. You don’t have to be perfect, just try to keep the pieces together. 

To assemble, place one slice of lettuce on each of four plates. Top with a small amount of the radishes, celery, and pancetta. Drizzle a bit of the dressing over and a squeeze lemon.  Top with the last 4 slices and repeat with the veggies, meat and dressing.  Servers 4

*You may want to double the dressing.  It will stay fresh in your fridge for about 5 days and is perfect for sandwiches, burgers, or another salad if you are still craving that crisp, watery good stuff! And a final note, I was inspired by a recipe in The Smitten Kitchen cookbook. I love everything Deb created but I made several modifications.  





I know, this looks like one full plate and it is,  but trust me, this is just one simple recipe that I wanted to pass on and it is for the Parsley Glazed Carrots. Serve it along with a big juicy steak off the grill and some rice flecked with carrots and peas--another favorite from my childhood.  I came across this recipe last year around Easter, we all loved it and then tonight I wanted to make it again and had to pull the ingredients out of my head.  

I cook fresh veggies every single night.  It sounds time consuming but you can easily do it while you are at the stove working on the other parts of your meal.  The only veggies I don't buy fresh are peas (I get them frozen) and canned tomatoes and paste.   I don't have the patience to mess with peas.  I think that jazzing up your veggies makes them more tasty and you tend to add more to your plate, a great trick to get those nutrients.    So, very simply:


Parsley Glazed Carrots

4 cups carrots (sliced in half and then cut lengthwise very thinly into long spears)
S & P to taste
1/2 t sugar
1/4 cup water
2 T fresh lemon juice
2 T butter
2 T fresh parsley, chopped

*******

Add all ingredients except the butter and parsley to a sauce pan or skillet with a tightly fitted lid and cook over moderately high heat for approximately 7-10 minutes.  Toss frequently in the last 3 minutest prevent burning.  Remove from heat when they are lightly charred and tender.  Toss with the butter and sprinkle with parsley.  Serves 4-6.

The beauty of this recipe is that the small amount of sugar caramelizes the carrots, and the bit of charring makes for a crispness and earthiness that is softened by the butter.  I hope you try this as a side dish.  It really is delicious.


 I've also learned to love frozen peas and carrots.  I throw them in everything.  I made egg salad last week and thawed some to add to the mix.  It was a really nice difference and added some crunch.  I served it over a bed of iceberg lettuce.  For the record, my salad includes chopped, boiled eggs, mayonnaise, a small amount of chopped shallot, celery, garlic and onion powder to taste.  NO salt, you'd be surprised how much mayo has.  



Photo source unknown


It took me a long time to try a fish taco but once I did I was sold.  I order them at restaurants whenever I see them, and if it's an outdoor dining place, it doesn't get any better than that.  I am also loving making them, and I usually serve them buffet style, which takes away a lot of extra work.   I had something similar these in San Diego a few years ago and I hope you give my recipe a shot.  I took the best ingredients and methods from a few good experiences.  Don't let the list of ingredients daunt you, nor the procedures.  At the end I give some tips on how to prepare part of it ahead of time.  As always, I stress that you line up all of your ingredients before you start anything!  If anything needs to be chopped up, get that done next.  Then get creating!!!


Blackened Fish Tacos with Avocado-Cilantro Sauce


 This is a somewhat spicy dish, but the heat is mellowed out by the slaw and creamy avocado dressing.



1.5 lbs. tilapia or cod fillets

1 1/2 t smoked paprika
1 t garlic powder
1 t dried oregano
1 t onion powder
1/2 t cumin
1/2 t salt
1/2 t brown sugar
1/4 t cayenne pepper
2 T veggie oil
12 corn tortillas

***For the slaw:


1/2 red cabbage, sliced thin

1/4 green cabbage, sliced thin
1/2 medium sweet onion
1/2 c chopped cilantro
Juice of 1 lime

***For the avocado-cilantro sauce:


1/2 c sour cream

1 ripe avocado, peeled and pitted
1/4 c cilantro
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
Salt to taste

In a small bowl mix together all of the spices and gently pat into both sides of the fish


Combine all of the avocado-cilantro sauce in a food processor or blender until well combined.


Prepare the cabbage slaw.


Use the veggie oil to lightly coat your grill or grill pan.  Cook the fillets over high but not direct heat, 4 minute per side.  This can also be done in a heavy skillet on your stove.  Remove the fish from the heat and if desired, warm the tortillas for 30 minutes on each side.


Gently break up the fish into large chunks.  Stack the tortillas in twos.  Distribute the fish evenly between the 6 sets of  tortillas and top with the slaw and sauce.  Serves 4-6


This recipe is not as busy as it sounds.  I make my sauce and slaw the day before and keep it refrigerated.  The spice mix can be made ahead, in fact, you might want to double or triple the ingredients as it makes a tasty seasoning for all types of fish and meats.


I'm leaving for the lake in a few days.  Not sure when I'll be back.  We took a little hike with Poppy around a college campus a few blocks away.  There's a big pond with a waterfall and a good amount of geese and very social turtles.  They are used to people and absolutely unafraid, even around dogs.  Anyway, Poppy waded in the water (first time ever) to get closer to said geese, and Yay!!!  She's a water lover!!

I'll be back later when I'm more alone at the lake after this holiday weekend.  Lot's of time for sure!!  And I want to share some family pics...

Be safe.  Wash your hands.  Sending ❤️ & 🙏 



25 comments:

Beth said...

You're such a good cook, Jane! Thanks for sharing your recipes. You truly are a woman of hospitality! Be very careful about growing mint. It is so invasive. Growing in a pot is a good option. Your caterpillar is a Black Swallowtail butterfly larva. They lay their eggs, and the eggs hatch, on parsley, dill, fennel etc. Monarchs lay their eggs on milkweed. In the past I have found a few chrysalises, and even seen the newly "hatched" (eclosed) butterly clinging to the plant and empty chrysalis, drying its wings before flying off. It's a wonderful thing to see! I love God's nature!!!
Enjoy the lake. Sounds so peaceful.

Scribbler said...

The recipes look wonderful and have me salivating. I will have to try your version of fish tacos. I am sure this rivals the best. Your observations on life and dealing with all the various trials and tribulations thereof are always thoughtful. Have a safe trip to the lake, and enjoy the holiday weekend.

Gypsy Heart said...

I haven't responded to your posts in awhile...I'm guilty of spending too much time on IG and FB. 😄 Thanks for sharing your latest & all the great recipes! We have a LOT of Mexican food here and I adore fish tacos! Enjoy your weekend and stay safe. 😊
xo
Pat

Doreen@foxdenrd said...

I’ve recently added a LOT of herbs to my garden and I love it. Every day they find their way into one recipe or another, so thanks for the tips. Question: why did you say June is here? Did I fall asleep for 12 days and not know it?

Michele said...


Hi Jane. Um... did I miss a good deal of time? You just started out this blog saying you are so glad it is June.

Today is May 19th, right?

Oh dear, something is really off here, yikes.

Hugs.

Karen thisoldhouse2.com said...

Wonderful post! So many delicious recipes! and I love your lake feeder. I decided to embrace the squirrels and I even have one with a white spot on her head - named her spot. Another with a reddish tail, she's ginger. We plan to spend plenty of time at the cottage this year, since vacations anywhere else are definitely a no - go until the virus calms down and perhaps there's a vaccine or treatment that works? I bet the lake house will be a respite for you if you head out there. We are so lucky to have a "place to go"

Vee said...

Hmmm...I have avoided fish tacos, but may have to try one.

Be very careful with the lily of the valley. I kill it now whenever it pops up in my garden with vinegar and a bit of salt sprayed on its leaves. I attempted to rip it out years ago and it has such a strong network of roots that I hurt my back very badly. I may not have been the same since.

Happy late spring!

Preppy Empty Nester said...

Hi Jane... thanks so much for the tips on preserving the strawberries, lemons, etc. I am a HUGE FAN of fish tacos. When I was eating Lean Cuisines every day I used to throw in frozen peas and carrots and it made it so much more filling. Safe travels to the lake and stay healthy.

Jeanie said...

Great post and thanks for all the tips about the best ways to hold onto fresh produce. I had never heard the strawberry thing before, and while I refrigerate lemons, I didn't know about the plastic bags. Well done!

This is what google said about Creeping Charlie (I have it too) but I don't want to do this in my garden because of what else is there. So your call! "In order to kill creeping charlie, you must apply dicamba based herbicide to your lawn in early fall when creeping charlie plant is growing most actively, which will leave it weakened enough so that it will have a difficult time surviving the winter."

Somehow, I can't make me do this.

Parts of northern Michigan are opening up this week and I think it is too soon. They don't have many cases but I think the tell will be in three weeks. We'll see.

Kim said...

Glad to hear you're all well, Jane! That's great news. I love the quote about worrying. It's so true, I've heard it often over the years. I wish I could tuck worry away...not my strong suit, so thanks for the reminder. And that caterpillar is crazy!! He's right out of a storybook! Stay safe and be well!

La Contessa said...

LINING up the INGREDIENTS is KEY!
I learned that TIP LATE IN LIFE!
LOVE FISH TACOS I TOO TOOK ALONG TIME TO TRY!!!
I CANNOT GROW MINT............WHAT IS THE DEAL EVERYONE SAYS ITS SO EASY!!!!!!!!!
WE GROW OUR OWN BASIL AND MAKE PESTO FOR THE YEAR FROM IT AND FREEZE!
MUCH CHEAPER TO GROW THAN BUY IN GROCERY STORE!

I'm not moving much during the day.........NEED TO CHANGE THAT!THE garden calls as the FIRST FLUSH IS GONE..............
TAKE CARE AND NEW POST UP OVER YONDER AT MY PLACE!
XX

Amy at Ms. Toody Goo Shoes said...

I always feel like I could write a book when commenting on your posts. So first, I love planting herbs. Aside from cooking, I like to snip them and place in a vase for a fragrant bouquet in the kitchen.
The weeds are wreaking havoc in my beds. My husband and I spent endless hours pulling out onion grass which has taken over.
My bird feeders are keeping me sane during quarantine. They are highly entertaining, and I spend way too much time taking pictures. The chipmunks are OUT OF CONTROL. They are everywhere. I wouldn't be surprised if they find their way into my house. Which is when I will put out a For Sale sign. Ugh. Squirrels are everywhere, too.
Thanks for the food storage tips. Some are new to me, and I'll give them a try.
Your recipes all sound delish. I now have a craving for iceberg lettuce, with blue cheese dressing. Yup, I'm sick of balsamic, too.
Glad to hear you are off to the lake! Have a great time!!!
Amy xoxo

Decor To Adore said...

Oh that shrimp looks SO good! I am fighting honeysuckle vine in my garden in addition to weeds. May you stay happy and healthy!

It's me said...

Hello Jane.....what a lot of nice recipes....glad you are safe....a month ago i had a scrimp allergic reaction ...I was very scary and call the doctor in the evening.....o my o my.....now I do not eat them anymore...so sad for me I Really like them.....now I try eat no meat any more only chicken and fish...and I really like it...I think I do eat much chicken also in the future ...because I think that is better too...I am safe right now ...and I am glad for that ..such a strange scarry world we life in right now...stay safe.....love from me and leaf ❤️🍀🙏

Lorrie said...

Hello Jane,
What a lovely chatty post. My garden is growing well. I tried planting some lily of the valley bulbs early in the spring, but something - bunnies or squirrels - kept digging them up and eating them. So I gave up. Maybe that's not a bad thing.
Herbs grow year round here so I have a huge rosemary bush that I can clip from, and sage stays during the winter too. Oregano, parsley and thyme are perennial and return each spring. Basil and dill I have to plant each year. I love cooking with fresh herbs.

The shrimp recipe looks delicious and I do love fish tacos. Like you, I cook fresh vegetables every night, too. I do keep frozen peas and frozen corn in the freezer. When this pandemic began I stocked up on some frozen broccoli and butternut squash, but I haven't used those packages at all. I will likely use them to make soup soon.

Enjoy your time at the lake. We are opening up here in BC and I went shopping yesterday. It was a different experience - had to stand outside in the rain for 35 minutes before getting into the store (Home Sense). But there was good conversation in the lineup and I think I'm going to keep a book in my purse for such occasions. We have to get used to the new normal.

'

amontanalife.blogspot.com said...

Your food looks so good, I wish I liked to cook...lol Have a great time at the lake. I will be puttering about in my garden. Take care. Kit

Rita C at Panoply said...

Best line that sums up the world of blogging and life in general:
There are a lot of dirty little secrets behind these lovely pictures. :-D

Your foods intrigue me, Jane, especially since I have found myself more in the kitchen than ever in recent years. I have baked and cooked, keeping us from even doing curbside for the most part (until recent reopenings, and then only select places. Have you tried Chick Fil A's chicken parmesan boxed meal prep kits? I liked it!).

It's interesting to read how we're each dealing with this weirdness. I hope a vaccine is developed sooner rather than later, and that its side effects won't kill us before the virus might. Be well, stay safe, and enjoy your lake time.

deb said...

fabulous post Jane ~ you've been keeping busy.
have a wonderful weekend xo

Maggie said...

Hi Jane,
Loved this post full of news and ideas and scrumptious looking recipes which I think I will be trying very soon, once the sun starts to shine again.
Glad to know that you and yours are staying alert and staying safe.
Maggie

Mereknits said...

Those recipes look delicious. Thank you for all the tips on fresh food storage. Hope you are having a wonderful weekend. Stay safe.

Doreen@foxdenrd said...

Let’s see if this works with a different redirect.

Btw, I love carrots. Any which way, and I tried your recipe the other day. Delish!

Doreen@foxdenrd said...

Seems it’s still an issue. Let me try something else.

Terra said...

Your recipes sound scrumptious, am I invited to come over and dine with you? After lockdown of course. I have lost interest in new recipes now that I live alone. Last night I made a favorite, a lamb burger with tzatziki on the side and cherry tomatoes serving as the veggie. Easy things.

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