Indian Summer Weekend

After a cold and wet October, at last a fabulous Indian summer weekend. Sunny and warm both Saturday and Sunday, with less wind on Sunday. I abandoned my plans to spend most of the weekend at my computer and enjoyed the great weather.

Saturday turned into a grand tour of west suburban Chicago. I attended the west suburban networking breakfast of Chicago Women in Publishing for the first time. There were only five of us, but we had a good discussion about using social media for business. Then from Naperville to Winfield (walked in a park) to Glen Ellyn (grocery shopping at Trader Joe’s) to Elmhurst (shopped for tea, visited the library, and walked around downtown) to Hinsdale (dinner and more grocery shopping).

Sunday was a stay-at-home day, with lots of cooking and gardening. I trimmed the irises back and cut down two large bags of saplings that were encroaching on my perennial bed. Still lots more to trim; that could be a full-time job, as could picking up sticks. The next two weeks are supposed to be warmer than average, so I left the chard, arugula, and container lettuce for another day.

I made roasted pumpkin-apple soup from the Dec. 2009 issue of Eating Well. That’s for Souper Monday at work. From November through March, volunteers bring soup on one Monday during the month. I also mixed the dough for Pumpkin Pie Brioche from the new book Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day. The dough smells great, but I didn’t bake it yet, as it needs to chill for several hours. Warning–if you try this recipe, use a big container to store the dough. My first choice wasn’t large enough, and I had a dough explosion! Fortunately, I checked before it completely overran the bowl.


Really, a Zucchini Spindle!

If your garden’s producing more than mine and you have too much zucchini, check out Linda Ligon’s zucchini spindle.


Cooking Ahead for the Week

Cooking ahead again, since this week will be busy:

  • Navy bean gravy, from Vegan Brunch by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. This was good with a baked potato and some plain Greek yogurt.
  • Sea slaw, from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. This combination of cabbage, wakame, and peanuts sounds odd but is really good. I’ve made it several times.
  • Grated carrot salad with parsley, lime juice, and olive oil
  • Couscous salad with tricolor couscous, red and yellow bell peppers, green onions, broiled eggplant, chickpeas, olive oil, and lots of rice vinegar
  • Hummus with freshly cooked chickpeas and extra tahini

The garden still isn’t producing much, but I did pick a few more tomatoes. I also weeded and planted a wild lettuce mix in the planter in hopes of getting some fall lettuce.


Perfect Summer Lunch

My biweekly produce box from Timber Creek Farms finally included some sweet corn. Two ears, steamed for five minutes, and homegrown tomatoes fresh from the garden this morning — a perfect summer lunch.


First Tomatoes!

Picked the first tomatoes of the season today, just about when I usually do, despite the cool summer that we’ve had. Three Sweet Hearts grape tomatoes, and two Orange Paruche cherry tomatoes.

I also picked some arugula. The beans and peppers are in flower, and there’s one eggplant.


Experimenting with Raw Foods

I’ve been experimenting with raw foods recently. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Eating Raw has been a good introduction. It covers ingredients, tools, techniques. Its recipes, though fewer than many cookbooks, sounded interesting. This weekend I tried and enjoyed several:

  • Orange-Ginger Vinaigrette
    This is a low-fat, tasting salad dressing that’s based on orange juice.
  • Fig Arugula Salad with Orange-Ginger Vinaigrette
    The arugula was freshly picked from my garden, and I added some homegrown leaf lettuce. This was good, but I prefer to enjoy fresh figs just on their own.
  • Indian Spice Samosas
    Based on cauliflower, plus fresh coconut, cashews, onion, peas, and spices. I dehydrated these for about 10 hours, but will shorten that the next time I make them. Spicy, but not overwhelming.
  • Cucumber-Green Apple Chutney
    The cucumber-green apple combination is refreshing. The sauce is based on orange juice and dates and is almost too sweet. Next time I’ll cut back on the dates and/or add some lemon juice or vinegar for a more piquant flavor.

I also made my favorite carrot salad: shredded raw carrots, chopped parsley, lemon juice, a little olive oil, and salt. This is good right away, but better after it’s been refrigerated for a few hours or overnight. Makes a tasty sandwich with some natural peanut butter and whole wheat bread.

If you’re interested in raw foods and live in the Chicago area, try Borrowed Earth Cafe in Downers Grove. Steve Pavlina also has a series of posts about his 30-day raw food trial.


Lilacs of Remembrance

Marion Plass in Lilicia Park, Lombard, May 5, 2004

Remembering my mother, Marion Plass, on this Mother’s Day with lilacs in bloom. She always appreciated them so much when I brought her a bouquet.


Gardening on Mother’s Day Weekend

A lovely day after a Saturday windstorm, but I didn’t get out in the garden until late afternoon. Still, I was able to lay some boards down and to plant sugar snap peas, romaine lettuce (De Morges Braun), and more Amethyst radishes. The pac choi, arugula, lettuce mix, and radishes planted last week are all up.

The windstorm on May 9 took its toll. More vanes were ripped off the decorative windmill, leaving it with only three! A large branch fell from the Chinese chestnut tree, narrowly missing the grapevines, which are now partially leafed out. Grapevine in fuller leaf

LilacIn bloom: lilac, bleeding heart, tulips, chives. In bud: allium, peonies, purple iris. Daffodils are fading.


Cooking on Mother’s Day Weekend

  • Prepped produce from this week’s Timber Creek Farms delivery: escarole, baby carrots, green beans, spinach, watermelon
  • CD’s famed tofu-broccoli enchiladas and cupboard enchilada sauce
    From Passionate Vegetarian. I cut down the chili powder to 1 tsp. I’ve made it before with more, but it seemed a little harsh.
  • Polenta with cauliflower and onions in tomato sauce
    From The Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook. Simple and very good, but makes a lot of polenta (and I didn’t make quite the full amount!).
  • Overnight started breadLaurel's overnight started bread
    From Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book. I’ve made this before, and it’s excellent. I used about 1.5 cups of home milled flour and King Arthur traditional whole wheat flour for the remainder.


Gardening Season Begins

At last, a beautiful spring weekend after a long, cold, wet spring. I cleaned up the flower beds and herb garden, picked up sticks from the lawn, and sowed a few seeds:

  • Arugula – Sylvetta
  • Lettuce – Wild Garden Mix
  • Pac choi – Ching Chiang
  • Parsley – Dark Green Italian Plain (used all the seeds)
    Some is coming up from last year, but that will bolt by early summer.
  • Radish – Amethyst Hybrid

Dill, chives, thyme, and mint are already growing.

Bleeding heartIn bloom: bleeding heart, daffodils, and tulips. The lilac is just starting to bloom, and the allium are in bud.Grapevine leafing out

The grapevines are starting to leaf out; their unfurling leaves are a lovely pink with green undertones.