Category Archives: Spring

Getting Ready for the Garden!

This past weekend when the sun was shining and the temperatures were in the 50s and even 60s, my mind started to think of spring. The hardest part of this time of year is the waiting. I know, that’s common for many people dreaming of bathing suit weather and summer, but for me, I just want spring. I want to be cleaning out the garden, raking out the winter mess and cutting back that late season growth. I want to make the changes I’ve been dreaming about all winter. Really, I just want to play in the dirt! 🙂

As you may remember, we moved into our new house a year ago. This past year, spring, summer, and fall was all about assessment and clean up. Since we only ever saw the house in the winter, it was fun to watch it come to life. I spent many weekends pulling invasive vines, replanting saplings to better areas, trimming trees, chopping wood, and really bringing back the garden that had been neglected for a long time. After a year, it is great to see the yard take shape, and now we’re ready for the next planting, planting.
Planning the Garden

This winter, I’ve been like a kid in a candy store. Every catalog I get my hands on, I devour. Every book I’ve had on gardening, and ones I’ve been able to borrow, I consume. I’ve been doing a ton of research to make sure I’m ready for this spring, and, boy am I ready! I have some gardens laid out, and I can’t wait to get started. So, while I patiently wait for the weather to be ready, I thought I would share some of my posts over the years about late winter/early spring prep work for the garden.

Garden Planning and Catalogs

Ordering Seeds

Garden Clean Up

Think About Starting a Compost Pile

Even if you’re not as excited as I am, hopefully these posts will give you an idea or two. I just hope the warm weather continues so I can get out there, although something tells me someday soon I’ll be outside in my winter coat and gloves, raking out the beds! 🙂 Hurry up spring!

Seafood Macaroni Salad for Memorial Day!

It’s hard to believe Memorial Day is already here. It seems like spring just flew by, but I’m thrilled to celebrate the start of summer. Even though it looks like it will be a little cold, the weekend looks great. I’ll be spending the weekend with family and friends at the shore. Whether you’re staying at home or heading out-of-town, I’m sure for many the weekend will include a barbecue. This macaroni salad is a great addition to any barbecue or picnic. The recipe is easy, and the addition of seafood means you’re not just bringing the same old macaroni salad. It’s a sweet, crunchy, delicious side for your next barbecue.

To start, chop 2 bell peppers (I used a yellow and red but any will do), 1 small sweet onion, and 2 ribs of celery. Set them aside.pepperschopped peppersonionscelerychopped veggiesFor the seafood, you’ll need 3 small cans of small shrimp and 3 small cans of lump white crab meat. Drain the seafood well and set aside.shrimpcrabmeatNext, make the dressing. Combine a 15 oz jar of mayonnaise, 1/4 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon white vinegar, salt, and pepper. If the dressing is too thick, you can always add a little milk to thin it out.mayosugarvinegardressingalmost readyFor the pasta, I like to use elbow. It just seems like macaroni salad should always include elbow macaroni. Cook 2 lbs elbow macaroni according to package directions. Drain, then add back to the pot with cold tap water and drain again. Normally, I never suggest “rinsing” the pasta, but for macaroni salad, it works to cool the pasta down. elbowsFinally, mix everything together in the pot you boiled the pasta (no need to dirty something else). Add the pasta, veggies, seafood, and dressing, and stir thoroughly to combine. Give it a taste for seasoning, then refrigerate until cool. It’s best if you can make the salad a day before serving so the flavors can meld, but if you’re in a pinch, just make sure everything is cold.adding pastaadding veggiesadding seafoodadding dressingdoneI hope you all have a wonderful Memorial Day weekend full of family and friends, and maybe some sun! Enjoy!

Hitting the Garden Hard!

It seems like out of nowhere, summer arrived. It’s hot, humid, and wonderful out. With the warm weather, the garden has been bursting. It’s been a ton of work to clean out the garden, trim back trees, and weed, but it’s been amazing to see so many beautiful flowers and plant come to life. Before the dog days of summer really get here, I thought I’d take you for a little tour of the garden.huge rhododendronThis amazing rhododendron is my favorite plant. There are tons of white blooms bursting all over, and it’s HUGE.

 

white rhododendronDetail of the beautiful white rhododendron.

 

red rhododendronIn addition to the huge white rhododendron, there are several deep red ones. The blooms are a striking color.

 

hostasAlthough it’s a bit hard to tell, this is a pretty steep hill. I was thrilled to see hostas growing along the hill. I’m going to add a few other perennials to the hill, but this is a great start.

 

variegated hostasIn the front yard, there is this variegated hosta, which provides great contrast.

 

fernsThere have been ferns popping up everywhere. These are in a shady area under a pine tree. I may add some ostrich ferns to the mix, just to add some height, and maybe some Japanese painted ferns for some color.

 

azaleaIn the front yard, there are at least 10 azaleas. Some of them haven’t been cared for too well, but they all bloomed this year. This one was one of the show stoppers, even though early in the spring it was being attacked by a woody vine. It’s a beautiful coral color.

 

more azaleasAnother azalea that’s doing well in the front is this lovely lavender one.

 

treesThese are some of the trees providing lots of shade in the front yard. Thankfully it’s a mix of types of trees, including several red maples, adding a mix of color.

 

creeping phloxThis creeping phlox is not doing so well in the shady front yard. Hopefully it will take off when I move it to a sunnier spot.

 

vincaOn the side of the house, there is a spot under the pine trees that’s covered with vinca. It’s hard to see, but there are beautiful purple flowers all over the vines.

I hope you’re enjoying your time in the yard as much as I am. It’s been a lot of work cleaning out a new space, but it’s great to see some payoffs already!

A Sweet Treat…Kentucky Derby Pie!

The first Saturday in May means horse racing. At least that’s what I’ve come to find out. It’s the Kentucky Derby. While I’m not a big follower of horse racing, I do have an event to attend tonight to celebrate the race. So, if you’re going to bring something to a Kentucky Derby party, it might as well be Kentucky Derby pie!

Kentucky Derby Pie is essentially pecan pie with chocolate chips. With the addition of bourbon, it’s a sweet pie with a kick. I found this recipe in Southern Living. It’s an easy pie and bakes up beautifully.

This pie calls for a single pie crust. I used my standard pie crust recipe to make a 9 inch pie crust. Line a pie plate, with the crust, crimp the edges, and then scatter 1 1/2 cups chopped pecans and 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips on the unbaked crust.pie crustrolled outmeasuringpie crust readyadding pecansadding chocolate chipsPour 1 cup dark corn syrup, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 1/2 cup packed brown sugar, and 1/4 cup bourbon in a large saucepan. If you don’t have bourbon, you can just use any whiskey you might have on hand. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat. Stir constantly and boil for 3 minutes. Be careful, the mixture will bubble up a bit, but a large pan will hold everything. After 3 minutes, the sugars will be dissolved, then remove from heat and set aside.corn syrupsugarbrown sugarbourbonbeginning to boilIn a medium bowl, whisk 4 eggs. Add 2 teaspoons cornmeal, 2 teaspoons vanilla, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 cup melted butter. Whisk everything to combine, then slowly add about 1/4 of the sugar mixture, whisking thoroughly so you don’t cook the eggs. Continue to add the rest of the mixture and whisk to combine. Carefully pour the filling over the nuts and chocolate chips. I do this right next to the oven, with the pie already on a sheet pan so it’s ready for the oven. Bake at 325 for 55 minutes, until set.eggscornmealvanillabuttercombiningcombinedready for the ovenTonight, grab your big straw hat, a mint julep, and this dessert, and enjoy the Derby!

Springing into Spring with Tortellini and Spring Vegetables

Last weekend, the weather was perfect. Beautiful blue skies, white puffy clouds, and temperatures in the 70s. It was great. The weather got everyone excited for spring, including me. And when I think of spring, I think of spring food…and spring veggies.

This recipe combines one of my favorite pastas, tortellini, with peas, asparagus, and onions, sautéed in delicious bacon grease. Finished off with a little 1/2 and 1/2 and some Parmigiano cheese, it’s perfect! The bacon and vegetables are crisp, the sauce is rich and creamy, and the tortellini are the perfect cheesy carriers for this deliciousness!

Chop 6 strips bacon into thin, small strips. Cook the bacon in a large pot or dutch oven over medium low heat until crisp, about 5 minutes. I use the lid for this process so the bacon doesn’t splatter everywhere. Once the bacon is crisp, remove to a plate, but keep the bacon fat in the pot on the heat.baconslicedcookingcookedChop 1 medium onion. Cook in the bacon fat until golden and softened, about 5 minutes. Mince 4 cloves garlic. Add to the onion, and cook for another minute.chopped onioncooking onioncooked oniongarliccookedMeanwhile, set a large pot of water on the stove, and bring to a boil. Chop 1 lb asparagus into 1 inch pieces. Once the water is boiling, add the asparagus. Blanch for 1 minute, then use a slotted spoon to remove to a bowl. I do this instead of draining with a colander because that way you can use the same water for the pasta.

water boilingasparagusblanchingblanched asparagusAdd the asparagus and 1 lb peas to the onion mixture. I used frozen peas, but if you can get fresh, go for it. I don’t find a huge difference in flavor, so if you can’t, frozen works. Cook for a few minutes until heated through. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and 1/2 cup dry wine. I didn’t have any white open, so I used red. The flavor stays the same, it just adds a slight pink to the sauce. 🙂 Simmer the wine for a few minutes until reduced some, then add 1/2 cup 1/2 and 1/2. Bring to a boil and boil for a few more minutes until creamy and thoroughly combined.adding asparagusadding peasadding winesimmering wineadding 1/2 and 1/2almost readyIn that reserved water, cook 2 lbs tortellini according the package directions. Once cooked and drained, add to the sauce along with the bacon. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup Parmigiano cheese. Roll up 10 basil leaves and thinly slice into ribbons. Add to the pasta and enjoy!cooked tortelliniadding tortelliniadding baconadding cheesebasil leavesslicedadding basilall readyAlthough I don’t know if I mentioned it sooner, pasta is my one of my favorite meals. It’s no wonder I turn to this recipe when spring has sprung! 🙂

Baklava for Easter!

When I was younger, I can remember going to my Aunt Antoinette’s for Easter dinner. While I don’t remember most of what she served those days, I do remember what she had for dessert one year. She had a whole tray of delicious baklava. If you’re not familiar with baklava, it’s a delicious, sweet, sticky, nutty Greek dessert. From that first amazing bite, I was hooked!

A few years later, while perusing my latest Martha Stewart Living magazine, I was thrilled to see the recipe in April 1996. There was a story about a Greek Easter, and this was one of the desserts shown. I excitedly made the recipe and proudly brought it to my Aunt’s that year for Easter. Of course, it was a huge hit, and ever since then, this has been a go-to recipe for me. It’s not very difficult to make, but it’s so impressive to serve, not to mention delicious!recipeTo start, you’ll need 1 pound phyllo dough. Phyllo is a super thin pastry. It’s sold frozen, usually in 1 pound size boxes. It’s usually right next to the puffed pasties and other desserts. Allow the dough to defrost completely before using it, otherwise the paper-thin sheets will stick together. phylloYou’ll also need 3 cups finely chopped walnuts, almonds, or a mix of the two. I generally just purchase chopped nuts and throw them in the food processor for a few seconds. It easy, just be careful not to run the food processor too long or you’ll make nut butter. To the nut mixture, add 2 teaspoons cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon cloves.

walnutschoppedspicesThe other component you’ll need is butter. Melt 2 1/2 sticks butter. I know it’s a lot of butter, but it’s worth it. The butter will be the glue to hold all of those layers of pastry, nuts, and spices together.buttermeltedBrush a 13×9 glass baking dish with the melted butter. Lay 1 sheet of phyllo flat in the buttered dish. Brush that sheet with butter, then add another sheet of phyllo, and brush that sheet with butter. Keep doing this until you have 7 layers of phyllo and butter.readybrushinglayers

On top of the 7th layer, sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the nut and spice mixture. Then top with another sheet of phyllo covered in butter. Top with another sheet of phyllo, and sprinkle another 2 tablespoons nuts and spices. Continue with phyllo, butter, phyllo, nuts, phyllo, butter, phyllo, nuts, until all of the nuts are used. Make sure you save 7 sheets of phyllo for the top. When the nuts run out, top with the 7 sheets with butter in between, similar to what you did to the bottom. Top the last sheet with butter.nuts and spicesdonealmost readyOnce the baklava has been assembled, score the top into diamonds. You only need to go 1/4 inch down, not all the way through. Bake the baklava at 350 degrees for 40 minutes until golden brown.scoredgoldenWhen the baklava is cooked, combine 2 cups sugar with 1 cup water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to a simmer and continue cooking for 3 minutes. Pour the syrup over the baklava and allow to cool completely. The baklava soaks up the syrup making it sweet, sticky, moist, and wonderful!sugarboilingpouringready to eatIf you’ve never had baklava, you need to give it a try. And it makes the perfect dessert for Easter! It’s what we’ll be having on Sunday. Happy Easter everyone!

A Whole New Start to the Garden!

How is it possible that it’s been almost a month since my last post? Last year I was on top of everything. I had already done my garden clean up, started seeds indoors, and even honored St. Patrick’s Day by making Irish potatoes. But this year, this year, I’ve done none of them, and I’ve let an entire month slip by. What can I say…I’ve been busy!

At the end of February, we bought a house. It’s in Kennett Square (the mushroom capital of the world by the way), about 25 minutes from our last place, and practically across the street from my work. Pretty nice, I know! But since then, there’s been cleaning, painting, packing, moving, unpacking, oh, and waiting WEEKS to get internet set up. Finally, after all of that time, and after 8 inches of snow the day before we had movers coming, we’ve settled in, and it’s time to return to normal.

With the move, I have an incredibly interesting situation on my hands with the garden. The house was built-in the mid-70s, and has very established trees. In fact, the back yard is incredibly shady. On top of the shade, the property also backs up to the woods and a creek. As a result, I’m thinking I might have to change my vegetable gardening practices, as I’m sure the critters will be an issue. Luckily there’s a large deck for pots.

The property has also been neglected for a number of years, so the trees, bushes, and plants are all completely overgrown. Over the next several months, I’ll be assessing what’s growing, what’s not, what might need to be cleared, and what additions and changes I can make. It will definitely be a different approach to my gardening the last several years, but I’m incredibly excited.Already, I’m starting to see some new growth and movement, and I can’t wait for more.TreesThe backyard is filled with trees. I can’t wait to see what they look like come spring.PachysandraPachysandra is everywhere. This is one of the few sunny spots. It seems prime for some perennials.VinesVines are also everywhere. They’ll have to come out too!RododendronThis amazing rhododendron is growing next to the deck.daffodilsThankfully some daffodils are poking through the ground.Flowering TreesTrees are showing some life!

I’m excited to see what comes up, what doesn’t, and what changes we can make. This year, I’m even more anxious for spring! Of course, tomorrow we’re supposed to be getting more snow, but at least that will give me some time to unpack more boxes! 🙂