To Garden or Not to Garden is never a question.
Okay, I know this, and yet I have hope that something can remain consistent. I would so love to be able to count on the weather to do something “normal.” No such luck here in southern Colorado.
I planted about four weeks ago. Had little sprouts coming up of cold-hardy veggies. Last week a major cold-snap came through like we haven’t had, period, in years. The wind was vicious and made the temps, which would have been bearable on their own, plummet to an unacceptable level for greens, root veggies and more.
Could I have done something different? Sure. I thought about covering everything, but then took the chance that we would actually see the 2-4 inches of snow predicted and that would provide the perfect insulation for the temps and wind. Should I have known better? Sure. But I chose to try something that didn’t work and in so doing, learned a valuable lesson. Better to be safe than sorry. Life does go on.
The human spirit maintains that, in the face of adversity, we must move forward. We must move through the current trial set for us. It is only through trying that we learn and, as I am fond of saying, if we are not learning, we are dead. Not an option!
So, I will muster on, planting a new crop of cold-season veggies after this week and the next storm that is scheduled to come through in hopes that we are far enough into the spring that the timing will work and I will still get a spring crop of radishes, peas, greens and more.
Wish me luck, or better yet, get out and plant with me in spirit!
Pear and Blue Cheese Tart
A super-easy tart from Sunset Magazine! Cut it into small pieces for an elegant appetizer or slice it into large wedges and serve it with a green salad for a light meal.
Yield: Serves 8
Total: 30 Minutes
- 1 sheet thawed frozen puff pastry (8.6 oz.)
- 1 large egg
- 2/3 cup gorgonzola dolce cheese
- 1/2 small onion, sliced
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 ripe pear, thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
- 1. Preheat oven to 425° with a rack set on bottom. Lay dough flat on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Poke holes all over dough with a fork, leaving the outer inch untouched. Bake until dough starts to puff, about 10 minutes.
- 2. Whisk together egg and cheese until smooth and spread over dough, using a spoon to move mixture toward the corners. Sauté onion in oil in a frying pan until softened. Scatter onion and pear over cheese.
- 3. Bake until pastry is golden brown and egg has set, about 15 minutes. Sprinkle with thyme and cut into squares.
- Note: Nutritional analysis is per 2-piece serving.
I know, it seems like it’s the dead of winter, but now is the time to start planning for April and May when you will start planting here in Colorado.
Shameless plug: My annual gardening class starts February 18, 2012. Eight sessions over 16 weeks include hands-on activities, tons of information and a lot of fun to get you thinking about what would make this Your Best Garden Yet! Saturdays, 9-10:30am.
However, as I have said in the past, getting organized and really zeroing in on what you want for the season is key. Starting small is also key. If you have never gardened before, pick something as easy as herbs which require less care or a tomato in a pot. If you have gardened before, maybe your choice is to incorporate a new plant into your garden this season. I have been gardening since I was a kid and I can still find something to try that I’ve never done before.
So, if you are interested in having the Best Garden Yet, please let me know. For just $200, you can get all the information you need to spend years gardening more and more successfully. And it’s fun!
Shameless plug: My annual gardening class starts February 18, 2012. Eight sessions over 16 weeks include hands-on activities, tons of information and a lot of fun to get you thinking about what would make this Your Best Garden Yet. Saturdays 9-10:30am.
I sit here stirring and stirring, which is something you have to do for the most truly amazing caramels I’ve ever tasted. These caramels are well worth the hour and a half to make them, the 6-8 hours for them to cool and set, and the hour plus to cut and wrap them in parchment for delivery.
As a health counselor, you would think I would advise against sugary treats. The reality is that everything is okay in moderation. From an Ayurvedic perspective, I actually am a little more balanced if I include a little sugar in my diet. This is not the same for everyone, and I usually limit myself to natural sugars, but this time of year calls for a little something special. It makes me happy to bake and make treats, so I do!
I amended the following recipe to include a tablespoon of sea salt, which is all the rage and gives a little balance to the sweetness of the candy. When they are finished and slightly set, I will sprinkle them with a little rosemary, ginger or Portuguese sea salt for fun.
Last year, I made a half-batch with agave instead of corn syrup. It took about 20 minutes to get to 232 instead of 1 ½ hours. Not sure if that’s because of the smaller batch or the change in ingredients, but they were also delicious.
If you decide to try these, you truly do need to stir almost constantly to keep the candy from browning on the bottom of the pan. You will also need a candy thermometer and a heavy 6- to 8-quart stockpot. I’ve amended the recipe to Colorado Springs’s altitude, so if you are trying this at lower altitudes, you will need to cook it to a higher temperature, about 8 degrees more at sea level. Also, 232 degrees is hot and caramel is sticky, so please, please be very careful with this recipe! Otherwise, enjoy and have a merry holiday.
Shirley’s Wonderful Caramels
Reprinted from Candymaking– an HP book
These taste so good, everyone will ask for this recipe. If you don’t happen to have a 6-quart pan, cut the recipe in half and pour the caramels into a 9” square pan.
- 2 c. light corn syrup
- 1 (14oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
- 1 ½ c. milk
- 1 c. whipping cream
- 1 c. butter
- 4 c. sugar
- 2 t. vanilla
- 2 c. nuts (optional)
Butter a 9”x13” baking pan; set aside. In a heavy 6-quart Dutch oven, combine corn syrup, condensed milk, milk, cream, butter and sugar. Place over medium heat and stir occasionally with a wooden spoon until mixture comes to a boil. If sugar crystals are present, wash down sides of pan with a wet pastry brush.
Clip on a candy thermometer. Cook, stirring constantly, to 232 degrees F, if in Denver/Colorado Springs (240 degrees F at sea level). This part takes approximately 1 ½ hours.
Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla and nuts (if using). Pour without scraping the pan into prepared baking pan. Allow to stand at room temperature overnight. Cut into about 1” squares. Wrap in waxed paper.
Makes 117 pieces.
Merry Holidays – you can give up buying multi-vitamins and put that extra money toward Christmas gifts. Okay, I know a lot of you are going to cry foul, so let me just give you the facts as reported: A recent news article cited a new study: “…women who took multivitamins were 6 percent more likely to die than others.” You can read the rest of the article at this link: http://www.denverpost.com/fitness/ci_19167099.
That said, calcium was the one supplement in the study that appeared to be beneficial. They don’t specify every supplement they were tracking in the study, but I’m guessing they did not study the use of supplements designed to help chronic conditions such as joint issues. My experience has been that if you have a specific condition, supplements can be very helpful to get you through it until your diet and body can handle itself again.
All this is to say that everything should be applied in moderation and with solid reasoning. “We think the paradigm ‘the more the better’ is wrong,” wrote Dr. Goran Bjelakovic and Dr. Christian Gluud, two European physicians. Too few vitamins may result in vitamin deficiency, they wrote, but too many may “increase the risk of toxic effects and disease.”
Know why you are taking supplements and, as with everything, it’s good to take some time off. I usually take summers off when the sun is shining and a wide variety of fresh food is plentiful and picked at the peak of its nutritional value.
So, I just finished interviewing several local businesses for Table Talk and it was a truly interesting show. I learned, for instance, a few good things to remember if you plan to deep fry a turkey for the marvelous holiday that is upon us. I was involved in deep frying a turkey long ago and it was a little scary being around all that hot oil.
Because you heat the oil to 350 degrees, you must be extremely careful. Remember, water boils at 212 degrees at sea level and about 202 degrees in Colorado Springs. When that lands on your bare skin, it causes trouble, so imagine something almost twice as hot. BE CAREFUL!
That, however, is not the first tip. First, make sure your turkey is fully defrosted. That means it needs to be kept in the refrigerator for at least two and possibly three days before you cook it for a 14 pound turkey. It will take more time for a larger bird.
Second, make sure is that your bird is completely dry when you drop it in the oil. Any water or moisture will cause the oil to splatter and could result in some serious pain. Drying it with a super absorbent towel that you can then put in the laundry is best.
Third, turn the propane off for just the time period when you lower the bird into the oil. If you do happen to spill or have an accident, you won’t have a grease fire on top of it all.
Common sense, all of it, but maybe you just don’t want the hassle. You can always contact Robert at The House Chef (719) 9644-0234 or http://www.coloradohousechef.com. He makes a Cajun spiced turkey that is moist, tender, nicely spiced and just plain delicious.
Happy Thanksgiving All!
Autumn is, of course, a time to focus inward. With the shorter days and cooling temperatures, our fiery natures, so dependent on warmth and lots of sunshine, are also cooled, giving us a perfect opportunity to slow down and rejuvenate.
Plants give us a perfect example of how to do this. They withdraw the parts of themselves that bear fruit and provide nourishment to their roots. Leaves turn gorgeous colors and then let go in order that the tree or shrub may survive the winter to blossom again. They have stored, in their roots, all of the good energy that the sunshine, water and soil nutrients helped them create and they will make good use of it through the winter while they grow more slowly, or not at all.
People can and should do the same in the autumn. Five great ideas for this:
1. Schedule less. Plan to spend an evening curled up with a good book once a week instead of rushing to the next event.
2. Take on an afternoon or evening yoga class to stretch your body and your focus.
3. Eat the fall/winter harvest: apples, pears, potatoes, squash, root vegetables, which are slightly sweet and very grounding.
4. Go for a hike. Getting out in nature is one of the best ways to create calm. Fall/winter hikes where there is typically less to focus on outwardly, allows you to enjoy the moment in a very different way.
5. Get to bed earlier. People’s bodies really do respond to day length. Staying up late causes your body to go into stress mode, fueling unnecessary fires which will keep you up even later.
Simple solutions and simple steps to take advantage of the quiet of winter and come into spring and summer full of life and energy, ready to blossom again!