Thursday, March 29, 2012

Plant Markers

This is a little project I saw on Craftsy, that looked like a more practical way to mark my seed plantings, while at the same time recycling. Use wine bottle corks, and write the name of the plant on it with a wood-burning tool, I used HotMarks from Micheals. Insert a stick in the bottom and the other end of the stick in the ground or pot. The only drawback I've seen is that the squirrels like to nibble on them; but squirrels get into everything.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

March Pay It Forward

This month's Pay It Forward is City People's Garden Center. To read about the Pay It Forward circle read last month's blog about it. This month I am deviating a bit from the blogger format, as the free info City People's provides is not online, but at their store; in the form of free workshops. They have knowledgeable people who give free workshops all the time. I went to one about keeping urban chickens, because I covet having my own coop one day. While I was there, I supported them by buying a blueberry bush for the yard. Check them out!


Monday, March 19, 2012

Potato Crust Tart

The theme for the Wild Things Roundup this month was "dock". I had to have a new recipe because I posted my Dock Roll-ups  recipe recently for fave recipes. This is a good thing, it made me try something new instead of using the same old recipe. I decided to make a tart, but being gluten free, I didn't really want a crust, so I used something yummier; potatoes. I've never mastered the art of hash browns, but I love them so I keep trying. If you have the art of hash browns mastered, you will want to use your method. I did look up a tutorial. It said the reason they come out mushy is because of the water content of the potatoes. OK, so to get the juice out they suggested pressing the grated potatoes with paper towels. After about my tenth napkin and a lot of guilt about using dead trees to soak up the juice, I decided there must be a better way; and there is: pick up handfuls of the grated potatoes and squeeze them really hard over a bowl. This not only required no paper products, but was a heck of a lot faster.

Anyone know of a use for potato juice? It seemed to separate into a liquid and a white paste, which I am assuming would be potato starch.

 I find with greens it's yummier to have a mixture of varieties, so I had dock and mixed greens, mostly brassicas, from the garden. You could try straight up dock if you like. The usual warnings about dock apply, if you have a known sensitivity to oxalic acid foods, this might not be the food for you; but cooking it helps neutralize some of the alkaloids. If you have never eaten dock, you might want to start with a small amount and see if you have any issues. This is a good practice with any unknown foods.

OK, here's the recipe:

1 large potato grated
 6 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 onion, chopped
1 large garlic clove, minced
4 tbsp. olive oil or butter
1 cup dock leaves, chopped
1 cup other wild or domesticated greens, chopped
1/2 cup grated good quality cheddar cheese
2 tbsp. grated Parmesan
pinch nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste

This is a dish that benefits from getting the ingredients together before starting to cook.  Just saying because I usually don't, I wing it like a mad woman while everything is already cooking. I like to blanch greens in simmering water and then dunking in cold water before adding to a recipe, because it seals in the color and looks prettier, but it's not absolutely necessary if you don't care as much about the looks as saving time.

Preheat oven to 375*. Add the oil to 10" skillet and let it get hot on about medium heat. I use a cast iron skillet so I can just pop it into the oven. If you don't have a cast iron skillet, move the potatoes to a casserole dish once they're done on the stove-top. Add the onions and garlic and cook until onion is translucent, a few minutes. Add potatoes in two batches, letting the first batch crisp a bit before adding the second batch. I tend to want to stir and it gets mushier. The tutorial said once both batches of potatoes are in, let them cook 6 inches on each side, turning once. I was stirring, so it took a little longer. Take the skillet off of the burner and add the greens on top in an even layer. Or put the potatoes in a casserole dish and add the greens. Mix together, in a good sized bowl, the eggs and milk, then the cheeses, nutmeg salt and pepper. Pour this over the potatoes and greens. Sprinkle a little more grated Parmesan cheese on the top if you like cheesy, and then put in the oven for about 20 minutes. The tart should be fairly firm towards the perimeter of the dish and a slight jiggle in the middle, this may take more or less time depending on your oven. Turn the oven to broil and cook for @ 5 more minutes, the top will start to brown just a little. Take out and let set for @ 5 minutes before serving.

This was so tasty I ate way too much and had a tummy ache this morning, so eat responsibly.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Free Flowers

While out and about in my neighborhood, I often come across pretty plants that are in parking lots or just happen to be on the side of the road, in public areas, and quite often I can even fashion a flower arrangement from something in my yard. I like having some greenery inside the house, and even more so when it is free! Lately I noticed some beautiful blooming camellias on the side of the road along the road that borders the fenced off airport property. They are not in any one's yard ( I wouldn't pick from someone's yard unless I knew them awfully well and had permission). In any case I only needed a few branches to make a bouquet (because I would never deflower a whole plant or make it look ugly, either). But picking a few blooms or branches from a plant in a public area never hurt anyone, and it cheers me up to see them in the house. I took a walk and got some exercise and collected some blooms.

I got enough for a good sized vase:

and another small sprig in a small vase:

I've also made arrangements using plants in my yard, even common plants can make a beautiful arrangement like fall arrangements using bits from my corn after harvest, or grasses, branches of holly and pine for winter holidays. Another idea is individual flowers floating in a bowl of water; it doesn't last long, but at the price it doesn't matter. 

It's also a good way to train your eye to see all the beautiful living things around you each day, and get out of the compartmentalized, store bought mentality.