Vegetables and storms

(070:  Summer vegetables.  Photo © 2009 by Robin)

M and I went to the dentist yesterday for our semiannual cleaning and check-up.  All is well with the choppers (since there is an inquiring mind out there that wanted to know).

A trip to the dentist also means a trip to our favorite Akron Italian market:  DeVitis.  We loaded up a few bags with all sorts of goodies including my favorite olive salad, artichoke salad, and cheeses.  Cheese is one of my big weaknesses when it comes to healthy eating, but I’ve found that a little bit of a tasty and strong cheese can go a long way without messing up the diet at all.

As I mentioned yesterday, I had a big bag of basil to deal with.  I bought the basil at the local farmers market on Saturday and stuffed it into the fridge until I had time to do something with it.  I got a good deal on the basil.  When I asked the man selling it how much it cost, he said he didn’t know because they hadn’t figured that out yet but how does $3.00 sound?  I said it sounded just fine and bought it.  To be honest, I have no idea how much a bag of basil that size should cost.  I suspect it might be more than $3.00.

I made two (one-cup) batches of pesto yesterday, using the basic pesto recipe from Mark Bittman’s How To Cook Everything Vegetarian.  Very simple stuff:  basil, pine nuts, garlic, freshly grated parmesan cheese, and olive oil.  Whirl it around in the food processor and voila!  You have pesto.  I toasted the pine nuts for the first batch.  I like them toasted and wondered if it would add much change to the flavor of the pesto.  I’ll let you know tomorrow.  We’re having pasta with pesto for dinner tonight.

What looked like a great deal of basil was reduced to a small amount in no time.  I also used some of the basil in the zucchini-tomato gratin I made for dinner.  Today’s photo collage is a small collection of the pictures I took while assembling the gratin.  The recipe for the gratin was from the recent Vegetarian Times magazine.  It was labor intensive.  There’s a lot of salting and draping of vegetables to reduce the moisture in them.  The zucchini, after the moisture reduction, then has to be fried in olive oil until golden before layering it with the tomatoes, basil, olives, and cheese.

Was it worth the effort?  I think so.  It was delicious.  Will I make it again anytime soon?  Not likely.  It falls into that “fussy foods” category (wherein the means involves a lot of fuss to get to the end or the completed project), and I prefer fresh, fast, and simple most of the time.  It is nice to have something a little beyond that once in a while, and I thoroughly enjoyed our meal.

We had some storms roll through yesterday.  I’ve been wanting to start a Tuesday video meme of my own.  Two Minutes at Breezy Acres, or something along those lines.   Two minutes may be a little too long so I could end up reducing it to One Minute at Breezy Acres.  In the meantime, here is yesterday’s two minutes of a summer storm as seen from the top of the new spiral stairs (where I was able to keep myself and, most importantly, my camera dry).

Sunday Signage

(060:  Club sign and reflections.  Photo © 2009 by Robin)

I’ve been busy, busy, busy, but thought I better stop in to solve the mystery of the fireworks photo from yesterday’s post.  The smoke in the original photo looks a lot like a flag to me.  The stream of light to the left is the flagpole.  But that’s me.  Apparently you all see many other things.

Yesterday was a full day.  It started with a good Muscle Max workout in the morning and just kept going until I fell into bed exhausted sometime around midnight.

When the weather starts to warm up here in the Bogs and spring is truly here, it seems like a long wait for the strawberries at Hilgerts to come in.  Perhaps it feels that way because of the long winters.  We’re all craving something fresh and sweet and locally grown.  Then, what seems like all of a sudden, the strawberries are ripe and ready for picking.  We fill up on the wonderful, sweet, deliciousness of the strawberries for a few weeks and then, what seems like all of a sudden, the raspberries and peas are ready for picking.  The process continues throughout the summer and into the fall, usually ending with apples and cabbages.

I bring this up because yesterday was the official start of canning and freezing season for me.  I picked up a peck of wax (yellow) beans at Hilgerts yesterday.  I was prepping, blanching, bagging, and freezing beans until about 9:3o last night.

(Wax beans.  Photo © 2009 by Robin)

The beans are gorgeous this year.  They were just picked, and nice and tender.  I hadn’t originally planned to have beans for dinner last night, but decided they were so good that we should eat some while they were still fresh.  We made up a big pot of new potatoes (also purchased at Hilgerts), ham, and beans.  Delicious.  I hope to get back to Hilgerts tomorrow to pick up some more beans.  Maybe green beans this time.  Or more wax beans if they still look this good.  The broccoli should be coming in soon.  You probably won’t hear much from me when that happens.  I’ll have 17 lbs. of the stuff to blanch and freeze.  It usually takes me about 2 days to get it all done.

This morning M and I took a walk as part of my plan to get in shape for all the hiking we plan to do when we go to Colorado.  I invited M along for the company.  He’s my favorite walking and hiking partner.  We walked 2 miles.  Not a lot, but today was a rest (or easy) day for me in terms of my exercise schedule.

(View of the pond from the road.  Photo © 2009 by Robin)

It was a nice morning for a walk.  There was a little more traffic than I was expecting.  I guess we must have been out during the time when most people are on their way to church.

When we returned home the plan was to do a little yoga, cook breakfast, and get on with our day.  At the end of the yoga workout M remembered that the Budweiser Clydesdales were going to be parading down one of the streets in Akron as part of the Italian Festival that’s going on there this weekend.  (I’m not sure what link there is — if any — between an Italian Festival and Clydesdales other than the selling of Budweiser beer at the festival.)

I turned off the stove and off we went to Akron.

(The Clydesdales.   Photo © 2009 by Robin)

We did get to see the Clydesdales, but not as scheduled.  Or someone posted the schedule (and the route) incorrectly.  The local newspaper had it wrong.  It was an hour later and they paraded a little further up the street, right in the middle of the Italian Festival with the food and drink vendors crowding both sides of the street.  Pretty poorly planned if you ask me.  The poor horses were crowded in between all the people trying to see them as well as the vendors.  It made it difficult for anyone trying to see the horses as well.  I hope the person in charge of that poor planning took note so they can do a better job next time.

(One unhappy horse.  Photo © 2009 by Robin)

Breakfast for us, as it turns out, was a big salad and a bowl of pasta.  M had the cheese ravioli with pesto and I had farfelle with brown butter and basil sauce that also included sundried tomatoes and prosciutto.  Yummy.  The garlic bread was not so yummy.  It was burnt and hard and dry.  I was hungry enough to eat it anyway.  I was happy to see they had some real Italian food at this festival.  In years past it looked like all they had was the usual carnival food, Italian sausage sandwiches with onions and peppers being the only nod to Italian food in the line-up.

And now I’m off to shower (finally!) and blanch some more veggies.  After that it will probably be time to start dinner.  I’m making a spicy cauliflower and potato curry tonight.  I’ll let you know how it turns out.

It’s worse than I thought…

(Weeds run amok.  Or, where are the vegetables in this garden?  Photo © 2009 by Robin)

This part isn’t quite so bad:

(Lettuces and bok choy.  Photo © 2009 by Robin)

Bok choy, for those inquiring minds that want to know, is also known as the “white cabbage.”  The stalk resembles stringless celery and the top is similar to romaine lettuce in appearance.   I was reading somewhere that in Hong Kong markets there are over 20 varieties of bok choy available.  I’m not sure which variety I’m growing (I’ll have to find the seed packet), but it’s very tender and tasty.

I spent a couple of hours in the garden, cleaning up the asparagus bed (barely visible in the first shot as the ferny fronds are blending in nicely with all the weed-greenery).  I wish I’d brought the camera along on the second trip out there (after lunch) so I could show you the progress I’ve made.  It’s going to take several days to get this mess cleaned up.  Anyone want to volunteer to come over and help??

I also picked enough of the lettuces and thinned out enough of the bok choy to feed a small army.  M and I had salad for lunch.  We’ll be having salad with dinner, along with some steamed bok choy.  There’s nothing like eating vegetables you’ve earned by growing them for yourself.



(Photo © 2009 by Robin)

You get two entries today because I thought you’d like to admire my bok choy.  I think it is very pretty.  And suspect it will be very tasty as well.  M and I will find out in a little while when I stir fry it with some other veggies and tofu.  I’m not sure about a sauce yet.  I’m leaning towards a Thai red curry, a simple sauce to make.

The garden is being overrun and overwhelmed by weeds.  All the rain and warmer temperatures have combined to speed up the growth of everything, but it seems like the weeds grow ten times faster than anything else.  I would like to get started on the weeding and would do so if it were not so wet and mushy out there.  Weeds are easier to pull when the ground is wet, but this is too wet.  Big clumps of the ground come out with the weeds and the veggies are disturbed by the movement.  I’m afraid I’ll kill them off with all the trauma.

More rain is expected on Friday and Saturday.  After yesterday’s deluge, we really don’t need more rain right away.  The pedal boat was almost filled with water by the time the rains finished last night.  That’s a goodly amount of water.  As I was driving around doing some errands this morning, I noticed the creeks are way up and there are yards with rain-ponds (ponds formed by heavy rain).  Our pond has overflowed its banks (and emergency spillway) as has the creek at the back of the property.

With more rain coming, the weeding will have to wait until Monday or Tuesday.  By that time the weeds may have taken over the Bogs and be working their way towards taking over the world.

Tomatillo guacamole

(018:  Yummy green stuff.  Photo © 2009 by Robin)

You’re in luck.  Today’s episode of Life in the Bogs comes with a bonus:  A recipe!

M and I made shrimp fajitas for dinner last night.  They were awesome.  The marinade for the shrimp and veggies that I made spiced everything up just right.  It was pretty simple stuff:  lime juice, ground cumin, chili powder, garlic, salt & pepper.  The best part, as far as I’m concerned, was the tomatillo guacamole.  This was the first time I’ve made it and I sort of followed the recipe in The Complete Cooking Light Cookbook.

Here is what I came up with:

  • 1 medium avocado, peeled and halved
  • 6 tomatillos*
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • Cilantro to taste
  • 2 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced

*I used canned tomatillos because I had them in the pantry.  If you want to use fresh (which is what I will do next time), you can find information about preparing them here.

Put the avocado and tomatillos in a food processor or blender and twirl it around until smooth.  Dump the mixture in to a bowl and stir in the rest of the ingredients.  Add salt and pepper if you like.

(Grilled veggies for the fajitas.)

And now, I have a big bag of cherries I need to pit, package and freeze.  I nearly forgot all about them.  That could have been a disaster (for the cherries).  It’s a lucky thing that M reminded me about them today at lunch or they might have rotted away in the fridge while I was busy getting ready for the upcoming nuptials.

(Grilled shrimp.)

Today’s weather:  Temps in the 60’s.  Rain.  The garden is loving it.

To market, to market

(002.  Fresh from the market.)

M and I paid our first visit of the season to the Hartville Market this morning.  We came home with lots of fruits and veggies.  Perhaps too many for the two of us to eat so I’ll be busy this afternoon trying to decide what to do with some of it.  The photo above shows a small portion of what we bought.

Pictured:  Asparagus, red cabbage, broccoli rabe, green onions, and I think there’s a loaf of crusty sourdough bread underneath it all.  We also brought home a flat of strawberries, some bananas (I’ll be making banana bread later as I bought the entire 4 lbs. for $1.00 deal not realizing how many bananas there are in 4 lbs.), Vidalia onions, broccoli, green beans, and some cherry tomatoes.

Most of the produce this time of year is not local.  There were a few spring onions and radishes from this area, but most were shipped here from California or Florida.  Although I would prefer to buy local, this is the time of year when I start craving all the colorful foods we’ll be seeing later in the season.  Since my asparagus isn’t fit to be picked this year (not enough of it), I bought a few bunches at the market.  It looked too good to pass up.  I’m not quite sure why no one had any locally grown asparagus.  People should be harvesting it now.  Maybe they’re keeping it all for themselves (can’t blame ’em for that).

We also did some of our other shopping while out and about.  The cats are now well supplied with both food and litter (one naturally leading to the need for the other), the liquor cabinet is stocked, and I won’t need to grocery shop for a while.  Our first stop on this excursion was Hartville Hardware, one of my favorite hardware stores.  I like it so much better than Lowe’s or Home Depot, and it’s local.  (All this talk of things local reminds me of The League of Gentlemen and Royston Vasey.)


We were both quite hungry when we returned home around noon so I put that loaf of crusty sourdough bread to good use.

Some much needed rain came through a little while ago.  I hope it was enough to water the garden.  I’m not sure it was so I’ll need to go out later and have a look.  I planted the lettuces and bok choy this past week and the seeds need a good soaking.

(Chasing geese:  Today’s view of the pond.)

A family of geese came by, hoping to stay for a while.  That’s M at the left of the photo, attempting to scare them off before they make too much of a mess.  The babies are cute, but just as messy as the adults.  The geese are swimming away on the right, probably taunting M by simply moving to the other side of the pond.

Mission accomplished

(Today’s view of the pond.)

Today I successfully completed the two 30-day goals I signed up for on February 2nd.  I’ve been alcohol-free for 30 days and I walked over 100 miles in that same time period.

I’m enjoying, as Garrison Keillor put in his advice to the newly 50, the vacation from alcohol.  The loss of the empty (non-nutritious) calories has been a big bonus.  It leaves room for other non-nutritious calories such as Starburst Jelly Beans or Cadbury Caramel Eggs.  Not on a regular basis, mind you.  Just as the occasional treat.

(Jelly beans and sunlight.  Photo © 2009 by Robin)

I have to walk more to make up for the jelly beans and caramel eggs.  😉

After taking today off as a kind of rest day (I walked only 2 miles), I’m looking for a new challenge.  I plan to stay alcohol-free for a while as I whittle away the excess weight.  (Less jelly beans, more walking!)

I made a risotto with butternut squash and feta cheese for dinner last night.  Yummy stuff, but it didn’t photograph well.

(Unphotogenic risotto.)

I’m not sure more light would have helped in this instance.  Perhaps I didn’t pose it well.

The weather here in the Bogs continues to be bitterly cold.  I’m a little weary of the cold and being cold.  This is the first winter that the cold has bothered me.  I’m beginning to have a little more sympathy for those who always want the heat turned up.

It’s supposed to get above freezing tomorrow.  That will be a nice change of pace.