Thursday, April 30, 2009

Oh what to do with the agretti?

We absolutely love our CSA box which we have now been getting for 3 weeks. They provide an excellent variety of fresh produce that really encourages me to cook more vegetables. Sometimes it also forces me to get a bit creative. The 1 pound of Agretti (pictured above) was one of the offerings that was particularly hard to find a place for because it is not often used in American cooking (I hear it is an Italian green). Epicurious doesn't even recognize the word and there are minimal recipes available other places online. 

We have now received 2 batches of agretti in our farm boxes. The first batch we used in two ways. I snipped up some of it and sprinkled it in a green salad where it promptly got lost amidst the lettuce leaves. Also, that salad really didn't use up very much of the big batch we had received. A couple of days later our friends Patty and Edo came over for dinner and Patty helped whip the agretti into shape using one of the recipes that came with our CSA newsletter. She caramelized some onions for about 10 minutes in a big skillet and then added the cleaned agretti along with some salt and pepper. I usually don't like onions, but that dish turned out very well and went perfectly with the chicken we shared for dinner. 

Last week we received our second pound of agretti but this time I had a different idea about how to use it. I had read that you can use agretti in the place of spinach so I decided to test out that idea. I first envisioned mixing up an agretti quiche but when I started searching for spinach recipes on epicurious I instead found one for a Spinach and Matzoh Pie which was highly reviewed and looked quite good. So I decided to make Agretti and Matzoh Pie. :) 

It turned out quite well and Woodley and I both really liked it. It tastes something like spanakopita but lasagna sized spanakopita

The recipe can be found online at: Spinach and Matzoh Pie
I substituted 1 pound of cleaned agretti for most of the spinach and added in enough extra frozen chopped spinach to get up to 20 oz. total. (Sometimes our little kitchen scale is so useful!)

I think it would be a fairly quick recipe to throw together if you were using frozen chopped spinach. Most of my prep time went into cleaning and chopping the agretti but I did use all of it up and I know it will all get eaten!

Below are some pictures of this latest adventure in cooking:

Cooking the onion until golden (~15 minutes).

Adding the chopped agretti, spinach, dill, salt, and pepper and sautéing a little longer. 

Adding in the pureed mix of cottage cheese, milk, eggs, nutmeg, salt, and pepper as well as the feta. 

Once that mixture is ready to go you layer it with matzoh in a 13x9 inch pan and bake it for 30 - 35 minutes. I had a little trouble finding matzoh but I finally located them in a special 50% off cart. I guess it's almost not matzoh season any longer. I bought 3 boxes so I can make this recipe again later in the year. 

After it came out of the oven, I sprinkled it with a little extra dill.

It was supposed to serve 8. We ate it for 2 dinners in a row, gave a section away to friends, and I froze two other sections that we can use for dinner later in the month. I probably would have halved the recipe except that I wanted to be sure to use up all the agretti because I was afraid I wouldn't get to it if I didn't use it for this dish. 

Overall, I'd say it was a big success! The texture and flavor of the agretti worked perfectly and might even have been a little better than spinach. :) If you've got a bunch of agretti on your hands, I would definitely recommend testing out this recipe. 

Today I Realized...

Today was quite busy and filled with all sorts of special moments and lessons. Here are a few I captured on camera.

First, this morning I realized that it isn't a good idea to use parchment paper when you are broiling cheese toasts to feed your husband. This was what I pulled out of the oven. I also learned that Leila really really hates the sound of the smoke alarm. 

I absolutely love getting fresh produce from the farm each week. I picked up our basket of goodies today and was thrilled with all of it. The chard was particularly impressive. (Tomorrow I'll share a new recipe that you can make with agretti. I made it tonight for dinner and it was a big hit!)

I saw this watermelon in the store today and decided to indulge. The sweet taste and crisp texture reminds me of summer picnics and makes me long for big family picnics on hot summer evenings. 

It is so nice to be surrounded by kitties that like being close to their people! Outside we have the two neighborhood cats (Alpha and Beta). Today they watched me intently as I gardened and even accompanied me when I went down to get the mail.

Inside we have Leila. I think she was a bit sad today because I spent so much time outside and in the kitchen where she couldn't get very close to me. She's making up for it now though. Currently she's curled up in the crook of my elbow even as I'm typing. 

I really love the view out of our bedroom window. Below, in the garden, the roses are blooming and it is really quite lovely! 

And looking out the other way I can catch a glimpse of the lonely sheep grazing on the hillside. 

What a lovely day!


Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Garden Photos

Catching up from yesterday, here are some pictures of our growing garden. We planted the seeds about two weeks ago and they are doing quite well! 

The squash corner:

A zucchini plant:

A tiny corn plant:

Growing sugar snap peas:

The bush beans have been the most impressive so far:

And lastly, here's a little broccoli plant:


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Our Growing Garden

Unfortunately Blogger is having problems uploading photos currently (or at least it is having trouble uploading my photos) :( I hoped to post some photos along with an update about our vegetable garden but I'll have to add the photos later. 

About 2 weeks ago I actually got around to planting our garden. Woodley and I put together the planter boxes about a month ago following directions in the book, "All New Square Foot Gardening." I then collected a variety of seeds packets from the local nurseries and also from Bountiful Gardens. I ended up with quite a collection of seeds! 

It took me a couple of weeks to sort through the seeds. (I made many spreadsheets using google docs to keep track of their various germination times, companion planting preferences, days until harvest, and other details.) Finally, I decided that I had better actually get the seeds into the soil if were were going to have anything to harvest before we head north to Washington for the summer. 

We created 3 4x4 foot square garden spaces so altogether we have 48 square feet of garden space. Here's what I planted in each of the garden boxes. I've put a * next to the ones that already germinated.  

Box 1: 
Summer Squash - 1 crooked neck*, 1 lebanese light green*
Zucchini - 1 cocozelle zucchini* 
Chard - 3 bright lights chard*, 3 erbette chard*, 3 rainbow chard*
Basil - 4 genovese basil, 4 lemon basil*, 4 bail mix* 
Cauliflower - 2 all year round cauliflower 
Cucumbers - 1 chelsea prize cucumbers*
Beets - 19 of a variety* 
Melon - 1 halogen*, 1 charentais 
Pepper - 1 jimmy nardello's sweet Italian frying pepper, 1 yolo wonder pepper 

Box 2: 
Lettuce - 3 leaf mix*, 3 nouvelle-cuisine mix*, 3 bolt-resistant mix*, 3 garden babies butterhead*, a bunch of baby mesclun mix*, 3 heirloom lettuce mix*, 3 como-savoy*, 3 emerald oak* 
Agretti - 4 plants
Cabbage - 2 
Broccoli - 1 all-season broccoli, 1 di cicco* 
Spinach - 3 plants
French Sorrel - 4 plants 

Box 3: 
Cucumbers - 1 persian baby*, 1 cucumber mix, 1 space master, 1 snow's fancy pickling
Bush Beans - 4 dragon langerie*, 8 bush bean mix*
Soy Beans - 8 Envy* (for Edamame) 
Sugar Snap Peas - 8 bushes* 
Corn - 4 Argent*, 1 country gentleman*, 4 bodacious, 4 sweet early casino*, 1 golden bantam* 

It is so exciting to go down to the garden each day and see the progress the little plants are making! I can't wait to post pictures once the blogger bug is taken care of! 

One other great addition to our garden is a sprinkler with an automatic timer. Woodley helped set it up the other day and I love it because I know that the plants will get watered whether or not I remember to get up in the morning in time for the daily watering! It was also pretty easy to set up, which I appreciated. 

Tonight we're off to see Carmen at the opera. I'm so excited to see it! I've seen a performance of it once before in the Boston Commons while I was in the area for college. There were tens of thousands of people in the park for the free public performance and my group was very very far away from the stage. We could actually see the stage from where we sat, but we watched most of the performance on big video screens that had been set up closer to our location. It was a fun night out in the park with our picnic blanket. Tonight's show will be in a real opera house so I'm expecting a very different feel. :) Now I'd better go pick out a dress to wear! 


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Back Again! (How in the world did the last 2 weeks go so quickly?!?)

Wow! It has been a crazy 2 weeks since I last posted. I really didn't mean for there to be such a long break, but I guess life just gets busy sometimes. 

Below are some pictures of what we've been up to - and it's a lot! 

At the Alameda Flea Market in early April we discovered this adorable pink dress. It was just $35! I held it up and it seemed like it would probably fit. When I got home, I was thrilled to discover that it fits me perfectly! I really enjoyed wearing it for Easter. 

I baked 2 loaves of Buttermilk Bread. I think they were my best loaves yet! 

I couldn't help taking more pictures of the beautiful ranunculus around the house. :) 

In a fit of productivity, I organized my recipe binder and used clear plastic page protectors to cover all my recipes. When I splash water on pages that have been printed on our home printer the text immediately runs everywhere. I think the page protectors will help a lot! 

I also devised a system to organize all of our receipts! Normally they just lay around in boxes or bags or piles until I get fed up and throw them out. I probably keep them longer than is strictly necessary, but sometimes its nice to go back and find one easily. 

At Office Max, I picked up 2 expandable file folders, labeled the tabs with the months of the year, and designated one as 2008 and one as 2009. I then went through my desk and filed away all the receipts I could find. They are so orderly now! I love it!!

That project, combined with some other general filing allowed me to really get a handle on my messy desk. It is looking much less scary now! Yay!

Next came Easter and the Easter bunny! We awoke to find chicks, bunnies eggs, and chocolate all over the house! 

After church on Easter morning we had Woodley's parents as well as his aunt and cousin over for a late Easter lunch. I baked a leg of lamb which turned out wonderfully! (if you've never baked a lamb leg before, it's really quite easy. I used this recipe: Leg of Lamb with Garlic and Rosemary)

Woodley decided that it just wasn't safe to do astronomy from up top of the nearby hill that is also in the sheep's pen so he went to retrieve his telescope. In all the excitement, the sheep escaped. It almost made it down to the road, but Woodley fashioned a leash out of some rope and led it (much like Mary) back to its pasture. 

We signed up for a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program where we buy a share in a local farm and they supply us with a portion of the harvest. We joined Two Small Farms and picked up our first basket of veggies last week. There were lots of delicious items that were all extremely fresh.

One of the more interesting vegetables was Agretti which is an Italian herb. It has a slightly salty flavor that reminds me of the sea. I'm still trying to figure out how to use it up. There's a picture of it below. 

There was also a box of the most delicious strawberries! Some were very tiny but they were all juicy and sweet! Yum!

In the midst of all that other stuff we continued to work on the "Poplar House" up in Bellingham. We found out about 2 weeks ago that another person had made an offer on the house. That pushed us into high gear and we quickly put together an offer of our own. We found out a week ago last Friday that our offer had been accepted.

The following week was spent hurriedly trying to complete a variety of inspections on the property. The most important being the inspection of a buried oil tank (to make sure it hadn't leaked and contaminated the ground), we also had an electrician look at the wiring and did a survey. Finally, the following Tuesday we were able to confirm that the oil tank hadn't caused any contamination and we were ready to finish the sale. Following a brief mishap with the bank, we completed the sale and were home owners by the next afternoon! (Wednesday, April 15th)

Thursday evening we packed up the car and hit the road for Bellingham to spend the weekend at our new house! The 15 hour drive felt so long! We couldn't wait to get up there. My mom had picked up the keys and she handed them off to us as soon as we reached town. It was a beautiful weekend and the house was even more adorable than we had remembered! 

We love the view down the lake! We don't have a bed at the house yet so we camped out on the floor. It was so fun! 

After church on Sunday we stopped by Yeager's and purchased a canoe and 2 kayaks along with some paddles and life jackets. We figured as long as we have a house on the lake we better start using the lake. The boats were delivered within a couple of hours and we dragged them down to the boat house. 

And then we set out for our first boating adventure. My mom and I went in the canoe and Woodley took a kayak. It turns out we can boat over to the road near my mom's house in about 20 minutes which we think would be faster than walking!

Below is the view of our house from the lake with Woodley and his kayak in the foreground. 

We don't have a "real dock" but there is a small floating one that came with the property. It looked so nice in the misty morning!

Before we left yesterday I ran around the house and took pictures of some of my favorite things. 

One was a metal wall hanging of flowers that was left behind by the previous owners. It's sort of hideous but I kind of love it. :) 

Another one of my favorite things that I think will disappear when we remodel is the very pink bathroom. There's actually quite a lot of pink in the house. 

Before we knew it, it was time to hit the road again. We said our sad goodbyes to the little house and headed back to California. We're now dreaming of our next trip north! 


Thursday, April 9, 2009

I Hate Mopping

Of all the cleaning tasks that have to be done around the house, my absolute least favorite is mopping! It takes me so long to get motivated to do it that I only get around to it about once a month or so. Ugh.

However, a couple of months ago I read about a new mopping technique that is environmentally friendly and, actually, much more appealing to me than the old way of mopping. It takes just a bit of extra time but you end up with a much cleaner floor. I've included a description and pictures below in case you too hate mopping as much as I do. 

The picture above is of our "cleaning closet." We don't actually have a closet that is big enough to store our tall cleaning supplies so we mounted a storage rack on the wall of the office. Since the door is open most of the time we hardly see them at all but they are very handy when I need to get the cleaning done: 

I learned about this mopping technique from "Green Housekeeping" by Ellen Sandbeck. (I started reading it last summer, got half way through, and stopped. I'll have to pick it up again and finish it!)

You'll need:
a long handled squeegee (I got ours at a home and garden store)
a bunch of cloth rags (I use about 8 for the kitchen floor and 2 for the bathroom you may need more or less depending on the size of your floor and how dirty it is)
2 rubber-bands 
2 buckets 
your favorite floor cleaning solution 

Here's my squeegee: 

I keep the rubber-bands on the squeegee so I can use the same ones each time I mop. 

Start by filling one bucket with hot water and the correct amount of your favorite floor cleaning solution. 

I love bubbles! Looking at them makes me want to take a bubble bath right now!

Then take your cloth rags and toss them into the soapy water. 

Take the bucket of soapy water and rags, your squeegee and 2 rubber-bands, and your second, empty, bucket over to the area you want to mop. 

Pull out a rag (be careful that the water isn't too hot!), wring it out (but not too much - you want it to be a bit damp), wrap it around your squeegee (I fold my rags in half and then they just fit around once), and attach the rag with a rubber-band at each end. 

It took me a couple of tries to find a wrapping and rubber-banding technique that worked well and didn't allow the rag to fall off, but now it works perfectly!

Now, start mopping the floor!

When you feel like your rag has gotten a bit dirty, simply remove the rubber-bands, take off the rag and toss it in your empty bucket. (Since I fold my rags in half, sometimes I flip them inside out and use the clean inner side to mop again with the same rag.) 

The best part about this technique is that you never put a dirty rag or mop back into your bucket of soapy water so you know that you are actually cleaning the floor and not just rubbing the dirt from one part of the floor onto a different part. It does take a few extra seconds to switch the rags, but I think it's worth it (and kind of fun). 

When you finish mopping, your cleaning water will be pretty much as clean as when you started! 

At the end of mopping day I throw all my dirty rags into the wash so they'll be ready for next time!