Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Next Life Farm

It was a cool, wet morning here in western PA so I decided to visit my friends at Next Life Farm. My mission was to check out their new "High Tunnel" that they constructed. Ken and Beth have been growing fun things in greenhouses and high tunnels for several years. How many, I am not exactly sure but we have known each other for quite a while. High tunnels, or hoophouses, are unheated greenhouses that can help market gardeners extend their growing season so that they can improve the profitability of their farms. Ken and Beth are Certified Organic growers. They sell their produce at the Farmers@Firehouse in Pittsburgh's Strip District on Saturday mornings May thru November, Indiana County Farmers Market,  and thru Penns Corners Farm Alliance. 

Beth's giant Rosemary. That's Bonnie standing next to it.

Beautiful Swiss Chard - Bright Lights

Bonnie stood next to this giant Rosemary 'Arp'. Beth said it has been growing for about 6 years. I told her if I had been planning something for dinner that called for fresh Rosemary, I would be cutting some of that. It was beautiful, and fragrant. This Swiss Chard has been growing in the cool greenhouse since last Fall. I wanted to start eating!!! Ken and Beth grow some of the most beautiful produce. They have a wonderful selection of heirloom tomatoes.The nasturtiums are picked and sold as edible flowers. Nasturtium blossoms have a peppery flavor that are fantastic in a salad of mixed greens. Scented geranium blossoms are also edible. We once made a Rose Scented cake once. It had a delightful hint of rose.

Yes, Beth's nasturtiums are blooming today.

Rose Scented Geranium

That was a great field trip today!!! Thanks Ken and Beth for sharing your wonderful world with us.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Spring Break

The kids are home from Nashville for a week of Spring Break. It's been a busy week of sleeping, resting, studying, eating, and sleeping. We took a trip to the Southside last night. Mallorca is a wonderful restaurant on Carson Street that serves up Spanish Continental cuisine like no one else in Pittsburgh. We started out for their famous Valencia Paella - assorted seafood, chicken and Spanish sausage with rice. However, we got sidetracked by the Mariscada - assorted seafood in Spanish brandy and wine sauce, lightly spiced. So we ordered one of each with an extra plate. It was a grand feast!!! You should see Molly go after that paella!!!! 
Valencia Paella

Ibiza Tapas & Wine Bar is next door to Mallorca. That's Tapas - not topless. The first time I told my husband I was at a Tapas Bar he heard "topless bar". Needless to say, he was eager to go until I explained it to him. We shall try Ibiza on our next adventure!!!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

No matter how long the winter, spring is sure to follow. ~Proverb

In all my 50 years, spring has always followed winter. I am starting have to have my doubts. However, spring does not officially start until Sunday, March 20. I believe winters like we have had just make us appreciate the warm weather when it finally does arrive.

Allstar Gourmet Lettuce MixIf you have not already ordered your garden and flower seeds, you still have time. I will be seeding in the greenhouse in the next few weeks. My favorite thing to start early is a salad mix. Pictured at left is a mix from Johnny's Seeds called Allstar Gourmet Lettuce mix. This mix of lettuces and greens are quick to sprout. They need some light but not much heat to grow. In about 20 days you can be nibbling on fresh, sweet leaves. Some of the annual herbs such as basil and cilantro are quick to sprout also. Anything fresh and green is such a delight after our long, dark, cold winter.

Menu planning is always an challenge for me. Fortunately, my family will eat just about anything that is put before them. They do not, however, usually care what we eat so they don't generally have suggestions.  It appears that it strains them to think of some one thing. Today was one of those days that no one cared or wanted to think about it. So we whipped up some turkey burgers using a recipe off line that we "doctored" just a bit. I think the best part was the sauce we made to eat with the burgers. It was a quick and easy meal.

Turkey Bean Burgers
1 cup cold leftover white or brown rice
1 pound ground turkey
1 (15 oz.) can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 tablespoon Montreal Chicken seasoning
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 ripe avocado
1 clove garlic, minced
1 lime, zested and juiced
1 jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup sour cream
Combine rice, meat and beans with spices. Form 8 small patties. Heat vegetable oil in large skillet over medium high heat. Cook patties 7 to 8 minutes on each side.
Combine avocado with the rest of the ingredients. Stir well together.
We eat these on our plates with a slice of cheese. We don't eat a lot of bread, but a good crusty roll with lettuce and tomato would be great.
As a side, we had Alexia's sweet potato fries - sea salt and pepper. I found these advertised in the Bon Apetit magazine. There are 3 flavors: plain, sea salt and pepper, and chipotle. I love the plain, my family loves the spicy ones. They are quick and easy to additives or preservatives.

Start planning now for those great summer evenings on the porch. It will be here soon.