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…

Spicy Veggie Hash

Spicy Veggie HashHash It Out
When I was in elementary school, I learned that the month of March was all about shamrocks and leprechauns. As an adult, I know that there are a number of other things to associate with the month—like Daylight Saving Time, the first day of spring, International Women’s Day, and, of course, spring training.

Old habits die hard. So, of course when the calendar flips to March things like potatoes and corned beef pop in my head. I have to admit I have only learned to like corned beef as an adult. Growing up I wouldn’t touch it. Now I love it. but, I am not a fan of corned beef for breakfast.

Any diner worth it’s salt will have corned beef hash on the menu either as a regular item or as a weekend special. Personally, I can’t do it. That’s too much meat for me in the morning but I like the idea of it. The idea of corned beef hash is comfort food at its finest. I just can’t handle the reality.

When I found this recipe for Spicy Veggie Hash I was thrilled. It has all of the elements of a traditional diner hash without the cardiologist on standby after-effects. And, it has chilies. In my book, you can never go wrong adding chilies to anything…

Spicy Veggie Hash
Yields 4 to 6 servings
Adapted from The Breakfast Bible by Kate McMillan Read more…

Peas, Pasta, and Pancetta

Peas, Pasta, and PancettaSpring Forward
Over the weekend we moved nine cubic yards (I may have over-ordered.) of vegetable potting soil into my raised beds in anticipation of having an actual vegetable garden for the first time in about 10 years. The arrival of the dirt is one of the last steps before the real magic starts.

All of the family has been involved in this project. And, surprisingly without a lot of moaning and groaning from the younger crowd. In fact, I think they are excited to have something to devote their attention to outside. The three of them even built a compost bin. Because of that, compost has been a frequent topic of conversation around the dinner table. My how times have changed!

I started seeds weeks ago and already have a thriving variety in my husband-built DIY greenhouse. There are plenty of tomatoes in a wide variety of options—from cherry to giant-sized. There are peppers both hot and sweet in regular and snack-sized. I have a large number of strawberries in anticipation of some good jam. And, the herbs are coming along nicely.

Some of my favorites are already in the ground. The carrots and potatoes have popped up in my experimental grow bags. I’ve never grown anything this way so I am cautiously optimistic. My green beans are in the ground too.

But, what I am most excited about are the peas.

I love peas but I almost never grow them because they like the cold and you have to start them early in your garden. I was on it this year because, well, there wasn’t a whole heck of a lot of other things going on. They’ve started growing up the trellis and every day I go out there to see how much more they have grown. There are three varieties: English, Purple, and Snow Peas for my daughter. I admit to being a bit impatient for them to start producing. But, I know we’ll get there and at that point I’ll have more than I can handle.

In the meantime I daydream about all the different ways we’re going to eat them. Three of my favorite recipes from our archives are Ragout of Fava Beans, Peas, and Asparagus with Pecorino and Crispy Prosciutto, Stir Fry with Baby Boy Choy, Snow Peas, and Shrimp, and Spring Pea Soup with Burrata. And, then there is this gem for an easy weeknight dinner.

Peas, Pasta, and Pancetta
Yields 4 servings

This quick and easy dish makes for a great weeknight dinner. Just get some help shelling the peas. When purchasing fresh peas, remember that 1 pound of peas in their pods yields about 6 ounces. So, you will need a little over a pound and a half for this recipe. Read more…

Slow-Cooker Braised Butternut Squash

Slow-Cooker Braised Butternut SquashSlow Turkey
With a lot of people potentially making Thanksgiving for the first time this year, we at Piedmont Grocery have been looking for recipes that strive to make life a bit easier on the big day. The best option we found? Your slow cooker…

Stock
Good turkey stock is essential for many of the other dishes that make up a Thanksgiving feast. You use it for the stuffing, the gravy, and a little drizzle over the meat on the platter before serving helps keep it moist. Sure, you could buy turkey stock, and there are lot of good ones out there. But, nothing beats the flavor and nutrition of homemade stock. The drawback is the time it takes to make it.

Enter the slow cooker. Making stock in your slow cooker is the no-hassle way to have the good stuff on hand for the big day. Throw the ingredients in the cooker in the morning and walk away. By dinner time you have a rich tasty stock. Even better, set the cooker on low and do it in your sleep. Literally. Check out our post on making your own stock.

Sides
You can also use your slow cooker for the side dishes that you don’t have room for in the oven. No matter how big your oven is, chances are there will be something that just won’t fit. So, why not throw it in your slow cooker or Instant pot? There are so many Slow Cooker/ Instant Pot recipes out there for you to search that would work well for Thanksgiving or any day frankly. My favorites tend to be the squash recipes.

My favorite find is our recipe for Braised Butternut Squash with Pecans and Cranberries. It’s simple—but looks so festive on a platter. And, the best part is you put the ingredients in the crock pot and don’t have to think about it until you’re ready to eat.

If you’re one of those souls who is cooking for the first time this Thanksgiving, first, take a deep breath. There’s no need to make it more stressful than it needs to be. Nor does it need to be exactly like Mom would make. Everything is different this year so try to roll with it and think of ways to make it easy. No matter what you do to celebrate, the important thing is that you are celebrating.

Slow-Cooker Braised Butternut Squash Recipe
Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen
Yields 4 to 6 servings Read more…