Archive for April, 2010

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The Queen of Quiches

April 19, 2010

A note from Dianne:  This is the last of Judy’s three columns. I am sad to see it end, but as a mother of four and grandmother of nine Judy has little time to spare. If you’ve enjoyed her stories and recipes, please take a moment to comment, and perhaps in the future she will return with more kitchen goodies. Thank you, Judy, for sharing.

Written by Judy Crosby

Here is another recipe from the woman who hates to cook. My husband and I were invited for Easter brunch at our oldest daughter’s house. I volunteered to make quiche, even though I had never made one before. Two weeks earlier, I discovered a recipe for asparagus quiche and it sounded good to me.

The day before Easter, I felt so ahead of the game that I made two quiches and had them done by two o’clock. As I pulled them out of the oven I was a little disappointed, the quiches seemed flatter than I had seen a quiche. It must be this recipe, I told myself, as I sat them on the counter to cool.

At three o’clock my daughter called, “Mom, how many quiches did you make?” I told her two and then she hesitantly asked, “Could you possible make one more, there are going to be a few more people than I originally thought.”

“No problem,” I replied. The recipe had gone together fairly easy, I just had to run to the store and buy more asparagus and more eggs. When we hung up the phone, my daughter-in-law called, with a slight problem that took 45 minutes to work out. At last I was off to the store, when I returned, of course my husband was hungry, seems he still likes to eat three times a day, much to my dismay. I proceeded to whip up a fast, easy dinner, soup, and sandwiches.

After dinner, I got busy with my third quiche. I looked at the recipe and almost choked, WHAT, the recipe now called for ¾ cup of milk, where before I had read ¼ cup. NO, this couldn’t be right. I read that little tiny print wrong. I made the new quiche according to the specific directions. It came out of the oven at least an inch thicker than the two before it and looked so pretty.

I took a deep breath and cut into the first quiche, ate a bite. It didn’t taste very good so I threw those two quiches in the garbage. It was now eight-thirty p.m. throwing on my jacket I yelled to my husband as I ran out the door, “I have to go get some more milk and asparagus”

Upon returning home, I was quiched out. I couldn’t make one more quiche that night. I would get up early in the morning and make two more quiches. The next morning at six a.m., following the recipe exactly, I once again made two perfect quiches. I now feel like the queen of quiche making, I could probably make one with my eyes closed.

Here is the recipe (Please read carefully), don’t do as I do, do as I say. Copyright © 2010 Judy Crosby

Asparagus Quiche (1 quiche)     

1 lb. asparagus; ends snapped off, and cut into 1-inch pieces;

4 to 5 green onions, sliced thin (1/2 cup)

1 Tb. Olive oil

I sheet pie pastry

3 large eggs

¾-cup evaporated milk

½-cup sour cream

½ tsp. tarragon

1 ½ cups grated Swiss cheese

Adjust oven racks to lowest and upper middle positions. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Toss asparagus and green onion with olive oil and generous sprinkling of salt and pepper. Roll Pastry and fit into a 9-inch pie pan, evenly distribute asparagus mixture over pastry. Bake on lowest rack for 10 minutes. Remove from oven. Reduce oven to 300 degrees. Whisk eggs, milk, sour cream, tarragon, and ¼ tsp each salt and pepper. Pour egg mixture evenly over crust and sprinkle with cheese.

Put quiche on upper-middle rack. Bake until filling is just set, 30 to 35 minutes. Let the quiche rest a few minutes then cut and serve. Serves 6 to 8.

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Budding Garden Thoughts

April 18, 2010

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“Go meet the mountains.

They wait for you . . .

beside redwood trees,

riverside fishing,

campfire songs,

meadow flowers . . .

family fun.”

Copyright © 2010 Dianne Marie Andre

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Springtime Snow

April 17, 2010

Still in my PJs, every morning as I cross the great room and look through the front window, I think I’m in the high Sierra Mountains in midwinter. Since I would never live in snow land (hate the cold), this beautiful display of Snow in Summer (Cerastium) is my kind of make-believe white fluff beneath a deep blue sky.

Planted eleven years ago, Snow in Summer spreads across the outer northeast edge of my garden and blooms April through May. It’s an easy, no fuss perennial with silvery gray foliage year round that’s seldom troubled by insects or disease. I read somewhere that it is a native of Italy, also known as Mouse Ear, Chickweed, and Silver Carpet. You can start Snow in Summer from seed indoors, direct sow outdoors, or plant six packs. Mine is in full sun but it also grows in part shade. Because Snow in Summer is draught tolerant it does well in rock gardens.

Although Snow in Summer isn’t foot-traffic friendly and it looks like a field of dead oats for about a month after the blooms dry, the rest of the year this warm version of freezing-cold fluff is so pretty it’s worth keeping.

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Birthday Wish

April 15, 2010

Today is my first birthday.

This seems to be an important event to my owners.

Just look at the crazy hat I agreed to wear for a tiny stack of treats.

I hope being a year old doesn’t mean I’m too mature for toys.

The purple teddy next to my treats is one of my favorite toys . . . RUFF.

—Ralphie Andre

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Working Retreat

April 14, 2010

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 It’s Wednesday, and I am still thinking about the hot bubble bath in a clawfoot tub and the yummy meals prepared for me last weekend. Proprietor, Lani Eklund of The Inn at Locke House, offered a Weed, Feed, and Stay Retreat to anyone who would volunteer one workday in the gardens. In return, you’d receive three w-o-n-d-e-r-f-u-l homemade meals and one peaceful night at the Inn. Considering what a good cook Lani is, and how little opportunities I have to run away from home, it’s debatable who benefited most.

I arrived at 9:00 a.m. Friday morning. The Inn is only ten miles from home so I didn’t have far to travel. After taking my bag to a Victorian-style room named The Langdon, I pulled on my garden gloves, grubby yard shoes, and sunhat. Other volunteers chose a different workday for their retreat, so it was only Lani and me pushing our gloved fingertips into the soil to rip out pesky weeds and zealous mint.

As I worked, colorful blooms swaddled my turned-down head and bowed shoulders. Within the hour, I pulled up an acorn seedling that had rolled in from the Inn’s oak grove, southeast of the gardens. The acorn’s taproot is twenty-seven inches long, a record compared to my collection at home! (Read Acorn Blues under Country Buzz.)

We weeded around the stocks of rosebushes, at the base of iris blades, under shrubs and herbs, between plants I recognized but couldn’t name. Some of the irises are 100 years old, as are the roses on the west side of the Inn. As we worked, we talked about our garden dreams, family, Facebook, blogging, and subjects I no longer recall. With heirloom plants at our fingertips and a house built in the 1800s sitting in the background, the scene reminded me of my great-grandmothers’ days when women stayed home and gathered to quilt, sew their gardens, preserve the harvest, and birth their children. All Lani and I needed was long bustled dresses and lace-up shoes.

After lunch, I weeded in a cool, damp bed under bushes that poked me in the head, and just about everywhere else on my person. Yellow Oxalis (Oxalis stricta) dominated the soil between the floras. In the 1800s, people planted Yellow Oxalis in fields and landscape. Oxalis puts on a pretty show with its yellow flowers, but today we consider this invasive clover to be a weed, an unwelcome disfigurement in our beds and lush, green lawns. Oxalis grows from a bulb. To control it one must dig the bulbs out with a shovel or use a good weed killer. I wasn’t aware of this at the time, so the bulbs are still beneath the surface which means that whatever I pulled up will grow back. This is probably grounds for Volunteer Recall.

We pulled up our stiff bodies and put our tools away at 5:00 p.m. Lani, who worked alongside me all day, made a delicious seafood dish and cucumber salad. My room was warm and comfy, the bubble bath soothing. When I folded back the covers, and laid my head on a pink check pillowcase, I felt like a young girl. I haven’t slept in pink sheets for years. What a treat!

In the morning, Lani whipped up her own recipe of Egg Florentine Bake. I wanted to weed again so I could taste more flavors of this professional cook, something I’m not. Through the screen door, I watched a blue jay splash in a birdbath over a weed-free bed. Weed-free beds will satisfy the heart of any gardener, especially when his or her stomach is full after a restful night. Copyright © 2010 Dianne Marie Andre

 

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Budding Garden Thoughts

April 13, 2010

“An empty plot is nature’s

design studio. Dig in . . .

express yourself.”

Copyright © 2010 Dianne Marie Andre

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Ever-Changing Garden

April 12, 2010

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Linden, CA | Seventy-eight-year-old Betty Mathis says it’s time to slow down, to curtail more of her 150-variety irises. Even fifty irises are work, as they need dividing every three years. Planted over time, Betty recorded the name and dates of each species on a simple pencil sketch she drew of the yard, divided into E, F, and G sections. Betty may be cutting back on irises, but walk around her one-third-acre garden and there are few signs of decline elsewhere.  

The garden emerged in phases after Betty and her husband built their two-story home in 1960 on one acre. Ten years later, when Betty spotted a couple of orphan poppies near the oak tree in their field, she decided to save them before they were disk under. Betty’s plant-saving measure eventually spread a sea of carroty blooms that flutter in the slightest breeze among her garden beds and in the surrounding field. “You never have to replant them because there is always going to be one coming up someplace,” Betty said, gazing at her poppy field.     

These unusual pink poppies came up in Betty's yard.

 

Betty has loved flowers since she was big enough to walk around her grandparents’ garden of dahlias and sweet peas. “It was my job,” Betty reminisces, “to pick off the sweet peas. That took an hour or two.” There were so many that every neighbor had bouquets. Betty’s grandfather contributed his flourishing blooms to corncobs! He claimed to dig a trench that he filled with corncobs covered with dirt before planting sweet peas seeds on top. “My grandfather was Polish so he had a since of humor.” Betty said with a grin, “I don’t know how much of this was bull.”  

Absent in Betty’s rambling beds are corncobs and formality. Instead, lapping pathways made of railroad ties are Gerber daisies, larkspur, bachelor buttons, daffodils, forget-me-nots, petunias, roses, hollyhocks, foxgloves, camellias, azaleas, hydrangeas. Betty starts most of her plants from seed. Ordering from her favorite catalogs (Park and Burpee) every year, Betty sows four to six flats covered with domes with overhead lights until they germinate. February or March, she puts them into the ground.  

“There’s no secret to success here,” Betty said. “Plants go in wherever I feel like putting them.” If a plant doesn’t fit into the mix of neighboring flowers, Betty moves it to another location. Betty does practice composting, using natural chicken or steer manure, and deep watering twice weekly when needed. When asked how she controls weeds, Betty replied, “Mr. Right and Mr. Left,” as she tossed up her right and then her left hand into the air.  

Commuters oftentimes stop at the end of the day to take pleasure in Betty’s garden. Others slip seed packets or a note of gratitude in Betty’s mailbox. One man, whose yard is bare, took photos that he enlarged and then covered a window in his house so he could look at flowers.  

Although Betty plans to cut back on irises, her love of flowers remains constant. After all, there are hundreds of low-maintenance horticultural choices, like Betty’s newest interest in lilies and peonies. Copyright © 2010 Dianne Marie Andre  

White Peonies

 

Betty Mathis

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