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Mar 21 13

Seeduction

by Margaret

 

No, not the bread. I’m thinking about seeds and seedlings again. And creative seed packets. After all, it is spring.

I bought new seeds from the Hudson Valley Seed Library this year. I can’t wait to toss the poppies and cosmos in my garden once the soil warms up and softens some. (Come on spring!!)

 

bread tags, seedlings

 

I continue to plan my garden and cook up seasonal dishes even though I don’t blog about it often (other projects are keeping me busy). But, since spring is easing its way in through the cold, I thought I’d pass along some inspiration to you since I know it’s the time of year when we all start thinking about getting outside and planting again.

I will stop by here on occasion to share what’s got me thinking or giving me inspiration in the way of images and links, rather than content that I don’t have a lot of time to write.

 

 

 

 

If you haven’t already, be sure and check out these awesome (fairly) new sites/projects:

Made Weekly, a visual feast of ideas for any cook

Lark, a three-season cookbook/app you will drool over

Beeritual, craft beer reviews and images guaranteed to make you thirsty

 

Thanks for stopping by.

Enjoy!

 

 

Jun 5 12

Creative Tomato Supports 2

by Margaret

terra cotta pot

 

The thing about growing your own vegetables and messing around in your garden is that each year you can switch things up a bit. I like that.

Plant different varieties.

Dig out out the bigger pots from the back of your shed. Discover a terra-cotta pot you used to love and still do. Fill it with basil. And another with parsley.

 

potted basil

 

Really, gardens are easy to redecorate without much trouble. Throw in a new sculpture..made from anything with an interesting form like fallen tree limbs. Or yank out an over grown plant to give another more space. I love doing this. It’s so freeing.

radishes and basil, succession planting

 

Then again, growing something you’ve never grown before is also liberating. Not just a different variety, but an entirely new plant. Why get stuck on the same old same old?

For example, this year I tossed some radish seeds into my raised herb bed and we’ve been eating radishes for days now. I haven’t grown radishes in the past. I snuck a few basil plants in between the radishes so once I’ve pulled out the last of the spicy reds the basil can take up the rest of the space.  I’m just getting better at succession planting.  Next year maybe I’ll try carrots.

I also like to experiment with creative veggie supports. Last year is was tee-pee structures. This year it is stakes.

 

 

creative tomato stakes

 

The tee-pees looked good, but weren’t strong enough. I like these stakes made from fallen tree limbs and leftover bamboo poles.

 

 

I tied the tomatoes to the stakes with natural hemp twine which is super strong and biodegradable.

Because of the increasing amounts of shade in my yard, I created a new spot for tomatoes with a whiskey barrel planted beside my herb garden. I also transplanted one sun-loving perennial to make room for another tomato.

 

Oh, I love this new space! It’s so close to my back door I am tending to these plants far more than the others at the back of my yard.

 

 

This year I’m growing organic black cherry tomatoes that I fell in love with last summer while in New Hampshire, and trying Medford, a new-to-me slicing variety that I can’t wait to bite into.

 

More transformations are coming to the garden this summer including a tree that needs to come down which could possibly open up space for another raised bed. It’s a bummer to loose a tree, but it’s not so bad if I get more room to grow my own.

 

Change is good.

 

Apr 27 12

Finding Inspiration

by Margaret

white rooms, inspiration

 

The few blogs I read regularly, I read for different reasons, but all of them inspire me in some way.

A couple of them, for example, I check for simple recipes when I’m looking for food inspiration. Not just something to whip up—I can do that any day by opening my cupboards and rummaging around for a quick excuse for a meal. Like pasta and WHATEVER (jarred sauce, leftover veggies, grated cheese), but that’s not cooking. That’s feeding the family with WHATEVER is quick and easy.

Here’s what I mean: To find a recipe, and at the same time, inspiration, I’ll click on Joy The Baker because I love her blogging style. Her candid observations amuse me. She’s open and honest, a spirited nonconformist. She’ll tell you what’s on her mind, thoughts that make up her day, and follow up with a recipe that most often is some amazing treat she baked. And since Joy isn’t tied down by rules, once she even featured roasted garlic. It’s easy enough to do, but I hadn’t thought of roasting garlic in years..until that day when Joy blogged about garlic. She blogs about worrying (this brown butter banana strawberry bread recipe is the best I’ve ever made! Perfect for spring with local strawberries). About people in bikinis. About finding inspiration.

So, inspiration for good food is a typical reason I’ll go on over to my favorite blogs, and, like Joy The Baker, these favorite places I visit always include more than just recipes.  Stories, images, like-minded sensibilities.  Probably the same reasons you visit your favorite blogs.

read more…

Mar 20 12

Homemade Cold Frame

by Margaret

 

In March you:

• start your seeds (indoors) and

• tend to them daily by spraying them with warm water to keep them moist, and turning their light on and off to give both a bit of heat and a bit of light.

You can:

• add a box filled with Christmas lights that warm the seed tray’s underside (the seeds really like this method…an amazing amount of heat is thrown off by those lights).

 

And:

• allow your seeds to occupy their own corner on your office floor/dining room table/clothes dryer. It’s okay, the seeds won’t be there long, so you just deal with them. It’s best if they’re in a place you need to walk by everyday, that way you can check on them often.

 

 

But this March, because in the Northeast we’ve been hurled into spring temperatures at least a month or so early (I am loving this), you can also take your seeds outdoors to warm up for a few hours in the direct sun…hardening them off as they grow.

I did this this past weekend and within a day or so, my zinnias thanked me by sprouting.

And, because of the unseasonal weather, with the help of a cold frame, you can direct-sow your Red Planet Salad Mix and Arugula. Any cool weather-loving crop, really.

read more…

Feb 13 12

Seed Love

by Margaret

 

Since love is in the air, I’ve been thinking a lot about the people in my life that I cherish.

And also about the stuff I love that loves me back.

In particular, I have seeds on my mind.

If you love seeds the way I do, check out these one-of-a-kind resources guaranteed to warm your heart. And if you’re in the mood, wrap them up as a token of your affection and treat somebody you admire with the kind of love that grows. What could be better?

 

 

ORGANIC SEED BALLS

First, Moulton created Garden Bon Bons, hand-crafted truffles you aren’t supposed to eat, but are meant for play. It’s candy that you plant atop soil and watch grow…either next week on your sill, or, later, outdoors in a pot.

 

 

Then, such a sweet idea was accompanied by another, and Garden Pops appeared. Like the bon bons, these treats are meant for planting. In addition, the pops come tagged with a biodegradable lolipop stick and with choices like oregeno, basil or parsley pops, what’s not to love?

Moulton is an online store passionate for one-of-a-kind, quality garden tools and accessories. The clay bon bons and lollipops are made of organic compost and a seed, each one hand rolled with care before getting bundled in a package for you give to your sweetheart, or to keep for yourself.

Seed balls are a centuries-old, sustainable planting technique, the Native Americans typically using coin-sized balls of clay, compost soil and seed. The compost provided much-needed nutrients for seeds planted in poor soil conditions, and the clay kept insects and small animals at bay.

If you’re the creative sort, you can try making your own seed balls. Eva Eichorn, creator of ParaNoire, shows you how here.

 

 

 

ORGANIC SEEDS IN CONTEMPORARY ART PACKS

Then again, you may prefer unfettered seeds wrapped in creative packs rather than covered in compost. If you have a flair for the unordinary, check out the Hudson Valley Seed Library, where owners/farmers/seed savers Ken Greene and Doug Muller showcase local artist’s original illustrations printed on their seed packs. Each seed pack design is inspired by the seeds bundled inside. Ken and Doug offer a network of organic and certified naturally-grown seeds to locals in New York State and surrounding regions.

read more…

Jan 4 12

How to Vote With Your Wallet

by Margaret

Local Blue Cheese

 

Last summer I interviewed an organic farmer who said: “Every time you step up to a cashier to pay for something, you place a vote for the product. Your purchase is your endorsement.”

We were talking about buying food and the choices we make when assembling the ingredients for our meals: Organic? Small, neighborhood market? Nearby farmstand?

Yet, when you think about it, the farmer’s comment applies to everything you purchase, not just what you pick up as you travel down the aisle of your local food store.

You can impart your views on policies, organizations and people that matter to you every time you pick up new stuff and cart it home. All of our acquisitions, no matter what size, are product endorsements.

On a daily basis you might make hard choices like:

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Dec 20 11

Quick Wrap: Make Your Own

by Margaret

 

First I started crumpling. And twisting. Twisting really worked well.

Then I balled it up, unrolled it and balled it up again.

I even crushed it. And for fun, I asked my eight-year-old to get in on the action.

Before long, we turned a brown Trader Joe’s bag into wrapping paper.

The sheet was soft and imperfect, just like a piece of handmade paper.

I decided to cover a jar of Urban Apiaries to-die-for-local honey that I picked up at Talula’s, a gourmet food market that sells lots of local goods. Encased in the the bag-turned-gift wrap, my honey needed a bit of sparkle, so I attach the World of Good, Inc. ornament I purchased early in the day.

I used hemp string for the job.

 

 

I was so pleased with the results I grabbed other gifts and began bundling them the same way.

Fresh greens came in handy as a topper delivering a natural touch.

It was so easy, and FUN, and I felt good about creating my own gift sacks made from paper I had planned to burn in the fireplace or recycle.

 

read more…

Dec 5 11

Mushroom Mania

by Margaret

 

Maybe it’s because I live in the Mushroom Capital of the World where an annual mushroom festival includes a mushroom soup cook off, a mushroom parade and mushroom tastings from a culinary tent featuring celebrity chefs like Jose Garces cooking up mushroom delicacies.

 

 

Or maybe it’s because at Saturday’s Winter Market I picked up a big, mixed bag of chemical-free, fresh mushrooms from Oley Valley Mushrooms.

 

Perhaps it’s because whenever I am in the mood for mushrooms (which is often), I can head to Mother Earth Mushrooms and pick up a variety of organic mushrooms and start cooking when I get home.

 

 

Whatever it is, I love mushrooms. And since I bought a bunch over the weekend, I’m cooking with mushrooms all week.

 

 

And I thought I’d share a few of my favorite mushroom recipes in case you head out to Southeastern PA to buy some for yourself, or you are lucky enough to have growers near you.

read more…

Nov 22 11

Holidays + Pumpkin Soup & Fried Sage Leaves

by Margaret

 

Holidays: Once-in-awhile you want to dive in, other times you just want to skip out. 

Either way, I always look forward to Thanksgiving.

And I don’t even eat turkey.

But it’s so not about the turkey. (You know that.)

 

 

It’s about gathering to celebrate the season’s bounty and taking time to appreciate and absorb it all.

Grateful for what you have. Simple pleasures.

Food. Friends. Family.

How you mix up your guest list or what you serve and when, is up to you—there are no rules.

Just don’t stress out if one dish doesn’t go as planned, or if it’s super late before everyone finally sits down.

I mean, heck, the leftovers “are the best part of Thanksgiving” anyway.

If you’re hosting a big gathering, though, preparation is a good thing. At my house we each have a role in preparation for the day: my husband is in command of the turkey, the dressing and the mashed potatoes. My son bakes the pumpkin pie (the day before). I play with the sides and place flowers everywhere (I love setting the scene). My sister-in-law bakes another pie and whips-up a cranberry side. The kids set the table and help clear when we are ready.

 

 

All of my ingredients for the feast came from local sources. In anticipation for the day I blanched and froze a pile of late summer green beans along with cooked pumpkin flesh ready for pie/bread/soup from the one cheese pumpkin I grew in the yard.

And at the West Chester Growers’ Market this weekend I picked up: potatoes (to mash), sweet potatoes, leeks, carrots, onions, garlic (to roast), bread (for stuffing) Brussels sprouts, broccoli and spinach for later in the week. The pasture-raised bird was ordered from Lindenhoff Farm.

My husband likes a more traditional menu. I like to experiment a little. So we do a a bit of both.

And with all that pumpkin flesh in the freezer, this year’s prelude to the feast includes pumpkin soup and fried sage leaves.

Happy Thanksgiving! (Here’s to mixing things up a little).

If you’re looking for a few interesting sides + good stories, check out the links below from my favorite food sites:

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Nov 14 11

Organic Spirits: ROOT, SNAP & RHUBY

by Margaret

 

First there was ROOT.

Then there was SNAP.

Next came RHUBY.

ROOT, SNAP and RHUBY are the delicious, 80-proof creations of Steven Grasse, the founder of Art in the Mechanical Age of Reproduction.

This Philadelphia company got its name from an essay written in 1935 by Walter Benjamin, German philosopher, essayist and cultural critic. In the essay Benjamin writes (among other things) how the artist is lost when their creation is mass-produced to satisfy the needs or imagination of the public.

Using Benjamin’s philosophy, Art In The Age “firmly believes in empowering artists producing high quality work marked by fine craft and intellectual rigor.” The company sells top-quality, hand-made products from clothing to totes to natural soaps, both online and at their flagship store in the Old City neighborhood of Philly.

Art In The Age also sells their own creative inventions like organic liqueur.

I have taste-tested all three with my two Scotch-drinking tasting buddies: my friend Julia and my husband Chris. When it comes to creative spirits, I trust their taste buds.

I usually stick to beer or wine, but I am always up for trying something new, especially if it smells delicious, looks inviting and is made with all-natural, organic ingredients.

If you’re looking for something new and delicious, I assure you one of the three spirits will tempt you, if not all.

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