Thursday, May 26, 2016

Beef and Noodles

 Brett was making dinner (Dortmunder Beer Cheese Soup from the Great Lakes Brewery web site) the other night, and accidentally opened the box of beef stock rather than chicken stock.  So then he tasked me with coming up with something to use up a quart of beef stock soon (otherwise it needed to go to the freezer).

How is it one box of stock turned into such an elaborate dinner!?  I guess that's just how I roll...because before I knew it, the very next day after work I was stopping at a small butcher on the way home to pick up a beef roast, and then while the browned beef and onions were simmering in stock, wine and herbs I was making pasta.  From scratch.

Turned out really really good - even if the final picture isn't exactly magazine worthy.  I cooked up peas as a side dish, but they worked really well stirred in, so you got some with every bite.  I DID have to add a fair amount (maybe 2 cups total, in about 1/2 cup increments) of extra water as the noodles were cooking.  Rather than have the hot stove top cranking out flames while the afternoon was soooo hot, I threw the whole Dutch oven in the oven at 350 for about 2 - 2.5 hrs.  Maybe that cooked off more of the liquid, or maybe it was going to need it anyhow.  Either way, it was good!

Here's the recipes I used - and aside from the cooking method, the only other substitution I made was using a few small pinches each of dried thyme, dried rosemary, dried oregano and dried parsley (didn't have dried marjoram - does anyone every keep this on hand?!).

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Garden Fruit - Mid May 2016

Here's a quick run through how the fruit are doing in the fourth week of May 2016.  I honestly can't believe how many fruit are still on the plants - we had SNOW and SLEET and HAIL and FREEZING TEMPS just a week and a half ago!  And I did nothing to protect any of the fruit (other than the blueberries).

Here's the 5-in-1 cherry tree, which is now more like 3-in-1.  The grafts have been slowly dying off, but it's looking like the surviving ones are super healthy this year!  SOOOO many little cherries!

My two-in-one Japanese plums are looking good!  Not a TON of plums that I've seen but I'll be happy with what I get!  Now the trick is for them to KEEP THE FRUIT....pleeeeease don't drop off!

And under the plums are the strawberries.  I think it's now getting to the point where the plum trees are big and leafy enough that they're going to shade out the strawberries, so I may have to reconsider where the strawberries are in future years.

I'm shocked at how heavily loaded the peach tree at the back of the yard is.  SO MANY little hard fuzzy peaches!  The one in the middle of the yard's not doing too bad either....

Looks like the blueberries made it through the freezing temps just fine!

Doogie was on his lead, and I completely forgot he was out there with me.  Took me by surprise just sitting there watching me roam around the yard taking pics.  "Silly human..."

Most of the currant shrubs are doing well and looking similar to this.  There's one that has super tiny leaves, and was loaded with blossoms, only now those blossoms seem to be shriveling with no signs of fruit.

The European pears are looking really healthy!  I have little pantyhose-sock covers to put over the apples, pears and Asian pears, and think I should be doing that any time now.  I've never used them before - the instructions say before the fruit is an inch across.  Uh oh!

The other cherry tree...I forget the variety - I think Ranier? - but this cherry tree is loaded!  It's all one variety, so not lots of little grafts here and there, which I suspect makes for a less healthy tree?

These three pics are apples - hard to believe these tiny, FUZZY little things could be big, plump, smooth skinned apples this fall!

And finally, strawberries under the Japanese plums and clematis....the strawberries are looking leggy.  Perhaps too much shade?

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Garden Veggies - Mid May 2016

Here's what's going on in the garden this week...

This bed is mostly garlic, with multiplier onions near the bottom.  Only you'll notice there's some gaps in the bed.  I don't know if something got to them over winter (does anything raid a garlic patch!?), or if I too heavily mulched them with leaves and left them on too long?  Clearly MOST of the bed is doing just fine.  Hm...

Just planted this past Sunday (5/22) - Tomatoes and peppers!  This is the second bed in from the south side (bed #2), which isn't something you care about but might help me in my crop rotation next year.  ;-)  This bed has all my paste/saucing type tomatoes - so Opalka, Amish Paste, Roma, etc.  I can only squeeze (VERY TIGHTLY) seven plants in to a bed, so I rarely get to plant more than one or two plants per variety because I plants so many different types.

This bed is divided up a bit more, and includes onions (not shown), leeks...

...and beets.  The beet seeds got washed together , and aren't very evenly distributed.  At least that's the story I'm going with.

Behind all the veggie beds at the very back of the yard is the massive pile of leaves I'm composting.  These leaves only just got set free from their lawn size garbage bags this weekend - they've been sitting on veggie beds or, before that, were destroying the lawn on the north edge of the house over winter.  Now that I'm mowing regularly and can get plenty of grass clippings, I decided it was time to rip open the remaining, I dunno, 30 bags?  They got dumped out in alternating layers with grass clippings.  Later I'll stir 'em up, adding more weeds and grass clippings.  The neighbors are even trying to clean some of the scum from the pond, so when I'm around I get that from them and add it to the pile!

Just to the south of the leaf pile is the bed that's got the trellis this year.  That bed gets started with peas, then it'll get cucumbers and probably gourds.  And maybe some runner beans.  We'll see, I have a love/hate thing with runner/pole beans.  (I think I'll love them, and most of the time I don't)

Here's bed #7 (yes, we skipped some of the beds) - farthest north.  It's the other bed that got planted with tomatoes this weekend - all my slicers.  Those include (if I remember right), Chef's Choice Orange, Black Krim, Brandywine, Green Zebra, Stupice, Cordova, and one other that I'm blanking on.

Uh oh - I just looked up the Cordova tomato because I didn't remember what it looked like (it was a freebie packet).  Turns out it's a paste tomato as well.  Bummer!  I mean, good for sauce making later this summer if it does well, but bummer that it cuts into my slicers.

I also need to find somewhere to tuck in two more plants that I didn't make room for - Ildi (small yellow grape tomato) and Black Cherry (sometimes called Chocolate Cherry).  I really don't eat many cherry/grape tomatoes, but they're fun to grow, handy to have when you do want them, and, um, well, normally produce a ton of tomatoes.  Plus I won't have any issues tossing them in the grinder/saucer when making sauce....

Garden Flowers - Mid May 2016

Yesterday was veggies.  Now let's take a look at flowers.  Then later we'll get to fruit!  Here's how things are looking in the fourth week of May 2016.  I shouldn't have as much to say here because it's mostly the clematis show...

Check out this frizzy one!

Wanna see something other than clematis?  How about this invasive mint my friend Mary infested me with many years ago.  ;-)

While there are grapes growing on this fence, you know you're really looking at all those crazy viburnum blossoms in the background!

So the garden bench has pretty much been neglected so far this year.  It seems to be sinking into the ground, there are wild blackberries growing in from behind, and weeds underneath.  I really want to remedy all of this, maybe raise it on pea gravel, maybe paint it, get those weed under control, and start enjoying the bench again.  I got a lot of use out of it last year...but have hardly been out in the yard this year.

Above the bend are the honeysuckle blossoms about to burst open!

And hidden in the honeysuckles?  Mrs Bluejay.  She's got maybe 5 or 6 speckled green eggs in that nest.  (Can I blame my neglect on the bench area because she doesn't like me being back there?)

Walkway from the back corner of the yard with the bench up the north side of the yard.  I LOVE how this is starting to get almost a canopy from the plum trees, maple, viburnum, redbud, etc!

It's getting to where I can tell which lavender in the north edge bed made it through winter.  Now I have to learn how to take care of lavender.

Looking back towards the back corner - about time the bearded iris started blooming!  I'd love more!  And between the viburnum, lavender, and iris, you might be able to tell that I'm trying to restrain myself and keep this sort of a purple/white/green bed....  I did just get some clearance creeping phlox that got planted in this bed as's a similar light blue-purple as the lighter parts of the iris - I hope it survives being planted!

Elsewhere in the yard - alliums!

Alliums and bees!

Chives and more clematis in the herb bed.

The variegated willow standard, plus some of the Miss Kim lilacs that are about to overwhelm us in the living room when the windows are open this week!

Let's wrap up with more clematis!  Here's the one (or two!?) by the greenhouse...

...and just off the back of the deck.