Green Pea Salad with Pea Shoots and Tarragon

Green Pea Salad with Pea Shoots and TarragonThe Vegetable Diaries
Spring break is here—which means it’s time to plant a veggie garden. I’m very excited. I haven’t had a true garden for many years. There have been too many other activities getting in the way of being able to take care of the plants. So, I am beyond motivated.

A few weeks ago I started my seeds. And, we had way too many cubic yards of good planting soil delivered that we used to fill our planter boxes. (I totally over-ordered.)

The waiting has been the hardest part. As a rule, you’re not supposed to plant until the temps stay above 50 degrees—and my patience has been running thin. I tend to jump the gun, usually planting a week or two too early. I showed better restraint this year. I did get the peas in the ground early though, mainly because they like the cold. But, I also chose a variety that is frost-resistant…just in case.

The recent weather has been great. But, the mornings have been a bit chilly. I am crossing my fingers that we are done with the frost. As of this post, all of my tomatoes are in the ground as well as the beans and peppers, both the bells and the spicier versions. I have been growing strawberries in my greenhouse which have recently exploded with so many berries. So, that’s some tastiness to look forward to. My peach tree is also showing significant signs of life.

I am experimenting with grow bags this year and I have to report that so far things are going well. I planted potatoes in them which are super easy to grow. And, from the looks of them, potatoes love grow bags. Grow bags are a great, inexpensive option for those who don’t have the space to have big planters. A friend of mine has had success growing tomatoes in grow bags. So, apartment dwellers take heart, you have options beyond a wine barrel or bulky planters.

With everything in the ground all that is left is the waiting. The peas will probably be the first to produce anything in great numbers. There’s nothing better than fresh peas right out of their pod. Although fresh picked corn on the cob might be a close second…and then there are the tomatoes. It’s great to have options!

Green Pea Salad with Pea Shoots and Tarragon Recipe
Adapted from Alex Guarnaschelli and the Food Network
Yields 4 to 6 servings

This is the ultimate salad for pea-lovers. It showcases three kinds of peas plus pea shoots—which are delicious if you have never tried them! Read more…

Amy’s Almost Battenburg Cake

Amy’s Almost Battenburg CakeBattenburg Bunny
When I think of Easter baking two things come to mind: Hot Cross Buns and Carrot Cake. They are two undisputed staples of the Easter celebration. But, as much as I enjoy a good carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, sometimes you just want to do something different. Be a rebel. Take a walk on the wild side. (Okay, wild might be a bit strong.)

My issue is while I know I want to something different, I’m just not sure what that might be. My strawberries are starting to bear fruit—but not nearly in the quantities I need for a dessert for a crowd. There are enough for a nice little snack while watering the garden, though.

Something lemony is always a good idea. The bright yellow color and bright lemony flavor are perfect for a Spring /Easter brunch or dinner. But, finding something new was challenging until I remembered a cake from one of my favorite TV show binges from this past year.

My mother-in-law had been telling us to watch the Durrells in Corfu on PBS for the past couple of years…well before lockdown. So, my husband and I decided to take the plunge out of a desperate need for entertainment. And, we were very glad we did. It’s hilarious, and made even more so because it was way too similar to how my husband was brought up.

Battenburg cake has a reoccurring part in the show. So, of course I was intrigued. I have never made one nor have I ever tasted one. But, there’s no time like the present…right? I found a recipe on Food 52 and have adapted it with lemon rather than marzipan and a buttercream frosting. So, while it may not actually be a Battenburg cake, it will still look like one!   Read more…

Olallieberry Scones

Olallieberry Scones

Berries A-Go-Go
I am a big fan of portable breakfast. I mean I also love pancakes and waffles and French toast. But, there is something about grabbing something personal-sized with a cup of coffee that is just too stress-free to pass up. And really, who doesn’t like a fresh croissant or a well-made scone? Or two…

I try to make muffins, or banana bread, or whatever every Sunday so that there is something to grab that is quick and easy Monday morning when no one in my house is really ready to face the new week. Now that spring has arrived my mind is turning towards the berries that should be available soon, most notably the olallieberries.

I became an olallieberry fanatic while going to school in Oregon. The berries there are ridiculous and you will find them everywhere in everything. I once enjoyed an olallieberry scone that was life-changing while walking to class one morning. I have been trying to reproduce it ever since. And, I’ve come close but haven’t gotten it right yet—but the fun part is in the trying.

As the days get warmer the local berry patches will start opening for U-pick. I plan to be first in line. While they may not be quite the same experience as their Oregon relatives, our local berries are so so good, especially warm from the vine. My mouth is watering just thinking about it—and about my next attempt at those magnificent scones.

This is one time where substituting frozen berries for fresh won’t work. The frozen berries would add too much liquid to the scones. So, it looks like you might just have to spend a beautiful day outdoors in a berry patch (or, yes, you could buy them too). It’s a dirty job but someone has to do it!

Olallieberry Scones
Yields 8 American-style scones Read more…

Irish Soda Bread

Irish Soda BreadPandemic Patty’s Day
I celebrated St. Patrick’s Day over the weekend because I decided to corn my own beef this year. And, since the cooking time is measured in hours, there was no way I would be able to make it on a Wednesday night. Hence the Saturday night celebration.

We had all the fixin’s: Corned beef, Champ (a.k.a. mashed potatoes with fresh chives), Irish butter, cabbage, and of course, the Guinness—which was in the cake as well as a pint glass. I also made Irish soda bread. But, here’s where things got sideways.

Soda bread is probably the easiest bread product you could possibly make. And, warm out of the oven with a generous smear of Irish butter…it’s heaven. I feel compelled to say that the soda bread you often see with the currents and/or caraway is not authentic Irish soda bread. Neither is the sweeter scone-like version. Tasty? Yes. Authentic? No. Traditionally soda bread is made with half wheat flour and half all-purpose flour. Last Saturday, this is where everything went wrong.

Like thousands of other people, I stocked up last year with ingredients for my pantry that were rapidly disappearing. Because of the lockdown I used a lot of those items. But, there were some that I didn’t use as much as I thought I would. I still have a significant collection of dried beans. Another example? My White Whole Wheat flour from King Arthur.

I knew the bag I had in the cupboard was old and I even bought a new one and had it on the shelf ready to go. For the life of me I can’t explain why I didn’t throw the old one out. I didn’t and I used the old one by mistake. Needless to say, the soda bread tasted stale right out of the oven—not a good experience to be sure and a big disappointment for me personally. I was looking forward to the bread.

Tonight I will be making another batch, this time with fresh flour. I have also started what I call the Pandemic Purge and have been going through my canned goods and everything else I stocked up on to see what’s expired. Thankfully, the Guinness is just fine.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!!!

Traditional Irish Soda Bread
Yields 1 loaf Read more…