We finally had our daffodils surface 2 weeks ago, and they opened this week with the warmth and sunshine. I love spring! The promises of long hope appear. It was a mild winter up until February, and then a severe cold that has been hard to shake off. When green life appears, I know spring is not too far away. This week I read a mime “Sometimes when you’re in a dark place, you think you’ve been buried, but actually you have been planted.” Like seeds, hope surfaces and eventually blooms nourishing our souls. But nothing says “spring” more than a babe, or two. Fresh joy springing forth in every smile. Grandbabies, Clara and Jefferson chatting on Facetime.
February’s arctic blast did so much damage to plumbing systems. My oldest daughter and her family are bunked up in a Super 8 motel while their homeowners insurance company get their house repaired after several pipes froze and burst, and damaging their furnace. It seems pretty dark to them still, but once repairs are completed they will have a new furnace, all new plumbing system, and much more. A real life “Schitt’s Creek” drama going on. Waiting for restoration is hard. So many more families have similar stories. Snow is being replaced with rain, thunder, and even a rainbow. The birds appear at the the feeders earlier.
I awake every morning now before 5:00am with those creative thoughts running in my head, those kind you just cannot tune out. It is like my body knows spring is almost here. A fresh garden project or recipe idea surfaces to respond to. My days as an employee wellness coordinator are drawing nigh on June 1, and God has already provided a semi-retirement job opportunity for me. I am now a culinary instructor at the local continuing education program. My joy of cooking and baking will be renewed to share with many others once again. Take a gander at my new page “Culinary Classes, Too” https://deannagreensandgardenart.com/culinary-classes-too/ on this website.
The new, fresh year began in the Florida Keys. Fireworks flashed its arrival in living color. The week to follow I soaked in some sunrises, sun rays, and sunsets too gorgeous for words. New vignettes and adventures, fresh insights and living in 2017.
The “F” bomb will be coming to our neck of the woods soon enough. I am starting to think about improvisations to ensure a daily diet of greens. My palette has grown accustom to fresh organic arugula and lettuce since May. I think a fresh pot of microgreens seeded every 3 or 4 weeks throughout the colder months will do it. I have the ceramic tile floor in the kitchen to put my pot(s) with the patio door to provide light. My herbs feed me nutrients also. Smaller terracotta pots of herbs will be seated in the kitchen window. The 480 square-foot room addition extending the kitchen into a family room and a small guest bedroom will give a new place for my green friends. There is always a place for green life in my home. How about yours? Where do your green friends stay in your home?
I use my abundant, pungent arugula in my salads as well as egg, pasta, and rice dishes these days. A little goes a long way, so most of my culinary creations as of late include my fresh grown arugula. One important aspect to the culinary arts is that improvisation goes a long way. It is easier to substitute ingredients with cooking versus baking. I find arugula can be used in place of spinach in most dishes and salads. There is a taste difference with these 2 greens, but cooking properties similar. Arugula like spinach is a great source of vitamin A and C as well as potassium, calcium, and magnesium. Arugula grows much like spinach, spring and autumn sowing here in Missouri.
I love creamed spinach! The best I ever had is crafted by the executive chef Gerard Germain. I learned much from the culinary experts while working at Dierbergs School of Cooking. Chef Gerard dazzles his students’ appetites with Italian and French cuisines. A first generation French immigrant applies his old world culinary magic in the kitchen of a fine Italian establishment in St. Louis called Tony’s. The next best thing is spinach in a white sauce over pasta. So here is my attempt to a lighter version of Pasta alla Fiorentina … Pasta Arugula (or the Italians say rucola), but my recipe is American-style. I lessen the butter and use a little olive oil as a base for the slurry as well as use whole milk instead of cream or half & half. Of course, arugula goes in the recipe instead of spinach. Noted for the recipe this evening, I cooked too much whole-grain pasta for the amount of white sauce I made, and did not add enough arugula. Fresh arugula shrinks considerably while sauteed. Tonight I served the Pasta Arugula with locally-made chicken Italian sausage and crusty bread. I sipped a glass of lavender sparkling water, and Dean downed a domestic beer this rainy summer evening.
As the summer solstice approaches we relish the vibrant blooms in the gardens and roadside, as well in our homes. Our dream is to bloom with our kin folk. Dean and I refurbished our living room, a blend of fresh and vintage. Midnight, our Labrador is ready for the companionship of kin, and is on the welcome committee at our home. In the meantime a few recent travels take us to our families in other Missouri towns. Dean is such a proud father and grandfather. He carries his digital camera to capture the moments and shares his finds with zeal.
Late April we were blessed with another grandchild. Elise is Dean’s first born grandchild. Beautiful baby. We took the occasion and traveled to meet her early May when she was less than a week old, and another one this past weekend. The last Saturday in April we honored my deceased father, aunt, and uncle with a Relay For Life team of kin at the cancer relay held downtown St. Louis. Mother’s Day was a visit to an old lookout point in St. Francois County with my daughters and their families. We had another May day trip to the Missouri Botanical Gardens with my brother and sister-in-law. And there is summer league baseball with our oldest grandson, Brendan. The first weekend in June we celebrated the 30-year birthday of Dean’s daughter, Liz as well as the birth of our youngest grandchild, Elise.
“Let us be grateful for the people that make us happy, they are the charming gardeners that make our souls blossom.” Marcel Proust
“To eat is a necessity, but to eat intelligently is an art.” ~ Francois de La Rochefoucauld, French author wrote. This author lived an exquisite lifestyle in his French chateau in the 1600’s. And the one and only saucy “The French Chef” herself, Julia Child was an American chef who brought the French cuisine to the everyday American in the mid to late 1900’s. This “mindful, purposeful eating” is an art almost lost, but has been resurrected once again with the farm-to-table restaurants and crafted foods and spirits in today’s food culture. The term “slow food” was coined in Europe in the 1980’s, and has come to the United States full swing.
Locavorism is encouraged. Niche farmers, gardeners, and chefs bring fresh meats, fruit, vegetables, and herbs to their plates and that of their community. The Bent Pig and Hannahway Farms in Farmington and Chef Jack MacMurray at Chandler Hill Vineyards in Defiance are such people. Farmer’s markets will open this month with their early crops. An American diner such as Ethyl’s in O’Fallon, Missouri has their crafted meats, slowly smoked which fills the neighborhood with a mouth-watering aroma. After work one evening this week I devoured their pork sandwich served with a heaping dollop of coleslaw between the bun and sweet, smoky BBQ pork, Carolina-style. I slowly savored every bite. Local does not always mean the best as my stop at a small cafe for a warm bite before my doctor’s appointment yesterday morning reminded me of that. A “Popeye omelet” described on the menu said bits of bacon with spinach and Swiss cheese. But mine had chunks of bacon fat that resembled the Swiss cheese. Gross! I could not finish it! The smell of bacon turned my stomach tonight when I came home to my daughter preparing a “brinner ” menu for her family. See how long it takes me to get over the bacon phobia. I usually love the leaner slices! Tonight I created an overnight french toast using leftovers: day old raisin bread bargain bought at a local bakery soaked in an egg-milk mixture laced with some of my home brew vanilla extract, and then topped with leftover reduced-fat cream cheese spread and fresh blueberry sauce. Tell you how it turned out on my next post.
So go back to my original quote “to eat intelligently is an art”… it means to eat within a set budget as well as “lean, clean, and green”. It takes some planning and improvisation. My health goal this year was to lose at least 20 lbs. Patronizing those farmer’s markets, growing my own veggies and herbs, and eating more plant foods will help me achieve that goal. Based on this week’s visit to the doctor’s, I have lost. As long as I do not eat too many slices of that french toast, and keep to veggie omelets, I will do accomplish my goal tastefully.
I just told Father at church last week, I need to be more present moment. My job requires planning weeks and months ahead, and family life the same sometimes. I miss moments in the planning. Nothing like being present moment with a stomach bug. I came to a screeching stop. Not knowing which end to put on the toilet, and then sleeping most of the day and night the next 36 hours. Every waking moment is a “thank you” for life and sleep. I could hear and see the spring rains come down several times, raindrops rolling off the windowsill. The birds sang to their heart’s content. I went from eating nothing to sipping ginger ale to nippling a couple of saltine crackers, and finally today able to keep a piece of toast and a boiled egg down. I have always felt stock made from the bones can cure many ails, so a couple of chicken breasts went into the crockpot with Deanna Greens and Garden Art fresh herbs and Hannahway Farm’s homemade wine. I will be sipping a cup of homemade chicken soup for tonight’s dinner.
This afternoon I managed to put my jeans and a blouse on, and I believe I lost a couple of pounds. Not my idea of a weight loss program, but I will take the reduction any way. The trees and grass are greener. “You gotta take the thunder with the rain”, I tell our Midnight, our 85 lbs labrador/flat coat retriever mix. He is terrified of thunder, but loves the rain and sleet. He snuggled on the bed yesterday as a couple of thunder showers went through. More violent today, storms. This afternoon tornado watches and warnings have been issued. Midnight and I will keep a watch out. I find that relationships are a bit like storms, too. There is a time to play in the rain, and a time to find shelter from it. Gotta take the thunder with the rain.
“Herbs deserve to be used much more liberally,” quoting food writer and chef, Yotam Ottolenghi. I keep telling my friends, family, and co-workers the marvelous benefits of herbs. Bursting flavor and full of nutrition! I recently found this guide, the ANDI guide which rates foods based on nutrient density. My ravings on herbs are justified according to ANDI. ANDI stands for “Aggregate Nutrient Density Index,” a scoring system that rates foods on a scale from 1 to 1000 based on nutrient content. ANDI scores are calculated by evaluating an extensive range of micronutrients, including vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and antioxidant capacities.
Here is a list of basic herbs and their scores to illustrate this concept.
Herbs/ ANDI Score
Bay Leaves/ 271
Basil rated the highest of all the herbs! Such an easy herb to grow in terra cotta pots in the kitchen window sill or in a sunny garden spot. Our bed of herbs in the screenhouse of our greenhouse include a few varieties of basil. Genovese, lemon, and Tai to name three. In the heat of the summer, it is prolific! Basil nutrients rate up there with arugula, leaf lettuce, and radishes. It’s about 50% the value of superfoods kale and garden cress, but 4 or 5 times more than soybeans or pinto beans. The Italian and Mediterranean cultures include basil in many of their recipes as well as Thai and Mexican cultures. Where I live and work in the St. Louis, Missouri region, there is an Italian restaurant or pizzeria on every corner of the block and in between. We love our pasta and pizza! My home kitchen has the flavors of Italy with my own fresh homegrown basil. Cost pennies to grow. Last night I made homemade pizza with a cup of fresh Genovese basil leaves cut into strips and atop tomato sauce, Italian sausage, Canadian bacon, garlic and black olives. Sometimes its a veggie pizza, with chunky tomatoes, mushrooms, bell peppers, spinach, arugula, black olives, etc. You know, the plumposity of veggies in a single slice of pizza pie! Then there’s pesto! It’s flavor tastes how the word sounds when you say it. PEST-O! More flavors to discover in this nutrient dense herb … sweet, lemon, Tai, spicy, lime, Genovese, cinnamon, anise. Cannot wait to make some lemon scones with the lemon basil this weekend. What herb has captured your taste buds?
Friday seems so far away when I return to my Clayton office on Monday mornings. My weekends are full. Never bored. With six grown children and their growing families, a greenhouse, and per diem retail sales at the local herb and spice shop, boredom is never an issue. Herbal tea soothes Monday’s madness. Wish I could be where these herbs grow … Quaintness in the quiet of a countryside garden. Monday’s evening chores include the creation of an Italian bowl with zucchini, yellow squash, fresh basil, Italian sausage and rotini in zesty tomato sauce topped with an Italian cheese blend. After cleaning the kitchen, off to the closets once again. I am lessening the wardrobe, giving away and throwing away. Keep these fashions long enough, they will be considered vintage! Monday night’s sleep rolls into Tuesday so quickly…
Hot herbal cinnamon tea greets my Tuesday afternoon break at the office. The AC is working overtime this humid July day. Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s thoughts go to Dean and I’s house hunt. We met some monumental financial goals this year with hopes of a simply charming home to call “our own” before year end. It is interesting to view other people’s homes, thinking of the history lived in them. We desire a home built over 50 years ago, when quality reigned. Large is not necessary. Quaintness is. This quest to turn an antiquated house into a picturesque home is exciting. Old Town St. Charles has been in our thoughts, but open to other neighborhoods in the St. Louis area. We would like a yard large enough to occupy our Labrador retriever, Midnight when he is outdoors. Our green plant friends such as flowers, herbs, and vegetables are quintessential to our life, so space for them is paramount.
What does “quaint” look like to you? So how about this “Escape Cabin” designed by architect/artist Kelly Davis?
This might work when Dean & I are ready to retire!
As a personal chef by nature I wonder if I should name my summer time culinary creations a nosh, dish, bowl, or plate. I improvise when I cook in my kitchen. With the ingredients in hand from the garden or farmer’s market, they make way for creativity. A casual menu on a whim. This summer my herbs climb with the summer humidity. My chicken risotto served in individual bowls one weekend was laced with a leafy green herb Dean brought home from the greenhouse. It had a spicy bite to it unknown to be parsley as I had thought it might be by its look. When returning to the greenhouse mid-week for watering, I discovered on the garden sign it was watercress added to Sunday’s risotto bowl. I had never grown or cooked with this newly discovered herb before, and it paired deliciously with the farm fresh eggs for egg salad on dollar rolls last night. I hear it is the new kale in the farm-to-table culinary world. Just 1 cup of chopped water cress is power-packed with potassium and vitamins A & C. There are only 4 calories in 1 cup of chopped watercress. Calorie breakdown: 8% fat, 42% carbs, 50% protein. Oh, the flavors burst, so it goes a long way!
Fresh sprigs of dill were snipped into the red potato-celery salad. This week a spare bottle of local summer ale went into the crockpot with the turkey breast sprinkled with lemon pepper from the Olde Town Spice Shoppe, slow-cooked for 10 hours. Succulent! Accompanied with farm fresh, roasted yellow beets, red potatoes, and carrots in a bowl! The leftover turkey breast had filled a casserole dish of enchiladas another night. When I cook, I cook for 2 or 3 meals, using one dish to accent another. Rarely does food go to waste in my home. That stock left from the turkey breast is put into the freezer and will make another risotto another rainy night. Tonight it is small plates of Three-Cheese Italian Herb-Veggie Foccocia and Italian Breaded Chicken Tenderloins. What nosh, dish, bowl, or plate are you making tonight with your garden fresh ingredients?