Belated Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day – August 2013

Being a new blogger and all, I’m still adjusting to all the great activities I’m able to partake in with my new community. On the 15th of each month, garden bloggers from across the country post the lovely blooms that grace their garden that month. This was started by Carol at May Dreams Gardens. Her blog is super entertaining and I would highly recommend it.

Being the plant geek that I am, here is what has got me all hot and bothered during the month of August in my garden.

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Kaffir Lily (Schizostylis coccinea) is a relative to the Iris family and hardy to Zone 7. The beautiful blooms add late season color to the Pacific Northwest garden as the flowers will hold on til winter. They are an evergreen in this part of the country and a flower that I have fallen in love with. Even though I am in Zone 7a, I will be bringing it in the garage this winter to ensure that I do not lose it.

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I’m a sucker when it comes to Begonias. These tuberous Begonias were potted up later than I would have liked and they are finally blooming gorgeously. Recently, I have been doing research on buying some Begonia odorata for next year. A fragrant Begonia – what more can this girl ask for!

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Yes, Calla Lillies (Zantedeschia) are hardy in my garden. I have a small area that is sheltered by two sides of my house and I believe it is a microclimate for plants that would prefer to be grown in Zone 8. Typically, these beauties are sold at garden centers in our area to be used as annuals in container designs.

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When I moved from my Zone 5 garden in Michigan, I was absolutely floored seeing Hardy Fuchsias in bloom while visiting the Bellevue Botanical Garden. I couldn’t wait to have my own home again to be able to grow several Hardy Fuchsias. This variety is Fuchsia megallanica ‘Pat’s Dream’.

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I have several Coneflower (Echinacea) in my garden, but I was on a wild goose chase last year looking for this doll. It is the first double, orange Echinacea from Plants Nouveau with a fabulous name to match – ‘Hot Papaya’. It has been blooming its head of for several weeks.

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In my opinion when it comes to annuals, Non-Stop Begonias are the best bang for your buck for the shade. Their blooms brighten up the darkest corners and they come in a fabulous range of colors to choice from. And you know me, I haven’t found a Begonia that I don’t love.

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We’ll end with a gorgeous picture of the sunset on a beautiful summer day! I hope your garden is full of blooms and beauty.

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Simple Summer Sides – Green Bean Almondine

Last week, I was able to harvest my first round of green beans from my vegetable garden.

Green Beans are ready to harvest for dinner!!

Green Beans are ready to harvest for dinner!!

Beans are easy-to-grow by seed. Since the seeds are so large, they are easy to see and handle. There is no thinning required later on since they are easy to sow separately when planting.  I prefer to grow bush rather than pole beans as I don’t have many vertical structures for them to climb. I planted my seeds when the soil temperatures were around 60 degrees and the threat of frost had passed. If you have never grown beans, I would highly recommend it. Anything freshly picked from the garden just tastes so much better than any vegetable you can buy at the grocery store. They also make a great plant to show kids how to garden with since the seed germinates in one to two weeks. Seeds can be started in containers indoors or sown directly in the ground when the temps are that above.

Garden-grown green beans as the star of dinner!

Garden-grown green beans as the star of dinner!

I knew that I loved green beans, but I didn’t know how much I did until my husband and I ran across this recipe from the brilliant and talented Tyler Florence of The Food Network. Personally, it tastes like a grown-up version of green bean casserole to me, but try it out and see what you think. Thank you Tyler for elevating the green bean to be the star of the dinner plate.

Ingredients Needed:

Kosher salt

1.5 lbs of green beans

1/4 cup of sliced almonds with skins

1.5 tablespoons of butter

2.5 tablespoons of olive oil

1 large Walla Walla onion, sliced thin

Freshly ground pepper

Yield: 2 to 3 servings

First, dry roast some almond slivers in a pan. The natural oils in the almonds will be enough for them to brown without adding any additional oil. Once the almonds are lightly toasted brown on both sides. Sit aside to add to the final mixture.

Slivered almonds dry roasting in a skillet.

Slivered almonds dry roasting in a skillet.

Next boil some water for the beans. Once the water has come to a boil add a large pinch of salt and your raw green beans.

Raw beans ready to add to boiling water.

Raw beans ready to add to boiling water.

By adding a pick of salt, it will keep the beans really fresh and green. This process of boiling the beans is called blanching by putting the beans in hot water, but only cooking them slightly so a crunch remains. Then removing and immediately putting them in an ice bath to stop the cooking process. The beans will boil for 5 minutes. While they are cooking get your ice bath ready.

As the beans are cooking, next start sautéing the thinly sliced onion. In a skillet, add olive oil and butter, melt and then add the onion. Have your range on medium heat (6 to 7) so that the onion will slowly caramelized. Once they are nice and caramelized, season with salt and pepper to your preferred taste. This could take up to 20 to 25 minutes for the caramelization process to occur.

Onions as they appear when first put in the skillet.

Onions as they appear when first put in the skillet.

Onions appearance after they have caramelized for 20 to 25 minutes.

Onions appearance after they have caramelized for 20 to 25 minutes.

Once the beans have boiled for 5 minutes – remove from stove, drain and put immediately into the ice bath. Let chill out for a couple minutes roughly. The ice bath will stop the cooking process within the bean.

Immediately after the beans have boiled for 5 minutes put into an ice bath.

Immediately after the beans have boiled for 5 minutes put into an ice bath.

Beans, onions and almonds are all cooked separately and then combined at the end to make the final side dish. Once combined, double check your salt and pepper level and readjust if needed.

The final side dish all assembled.

The final side dish all assembled.

Enjoy this simple summer side dish straight from the garden!

Danielle

Source: Original recipe from Tyler Florence – Green Beans with Caramelized Onions and Almonds. This recipe varies from the one above.

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30-Minute Jam Session

This jam session has NO music instrumentals involved – it was dedicated to the delicious summer fruits: strawberries and raspberries. Did you know that you can make homemade jam in 30-minutes or less? Neither did I; until the first time I tried. My grandmother, who is now in heaven, would make the most amazing, freezer strawberry jam. After she passed away, I started this tradition with my husband every summer in memory of her. Her angel always joins me in the kitchen watching over me.

My beloved Grandma holding my father around my age or younger.

My beloved Grandma holding my father around my age or younger.

In past years, we had only made strawberry jam, but this year we decided to make both strawberry and raspberry. I had all intensions of picking strawberries this year, but with the crazy heat (at least for the Pacific NW) we were having; it was a bit out of the question. Then one day, my husband and I came upon a market stand that we had never visited before and the fruit there was so luscious that we couldn’t let it be passed up.

Strawberries and raspberries from a local farm stand.

Strawberries and raspberries from a local farm stand.

After less than 2 hours and my husband’s help, we had made 3 bunches of jam resulting in 17 jars of freezer jam, which I know will make us very happy in the winter months to taste a bit of summer goodness.

The first step in this process is to get an apron on!

Wear an apron! Red fruits can stain most anything.

Wear an apron! Red fruits can stain most anything.

Jam making can be a bit messy and working with red fruit can stain your clothes, hands, towels, countertops, etc. When cutting strawberries, I always do so on a dark, plastic cutting board and using dark or red towels is a great idea as well.

There are only three ingredients that you need when making jam – fruit, sugar and pectin.

Three ingredients that is all that is needed!

Three ingredients that is all that is needed!

That is all it takes! If you would prefer to make sugar-free jam, there is specific pectin that you would need to buy. This recipe below is full sugar and soooo very good!

For all jam, it is very important to measure out all ingredients exactly or the jam may not set properly. I am going to show you the steps for creating raspberry jam – the method is the same for all fruit, but the quantities of fruit and sugar vary. Make sure to refer to this pdf from Sure Jell (click on regular Sure Jell pdf at top of page) for multiple types of fruits.

Raspberry Jam

Delicious, red raspberries

Delicious, red raspberries

Measure out 3 cups of crushed raspberries. Make sure to sort through the berries removing any spoiled ones. Wash and place into large mixing bowl.

Love this image and how the water was splashing out of the berries.

Love this image and how the water was splashing out of the berries.

Crush berries using a potato masher.

Use a potato masher for this process.

Use a potato masher for this process.

If you would prefer to remove the seeds, the liquid could be run through a sieve, but we found the process to be a bit tedious, so we let it be. With your liquid add 5 1/4 cups of sugar and stir until incorporated.

Stir in sugar to start the maceration process.

Stir in sugar to start the maceration process.

Let this mixture sit for 10 minutes causing the berries and sugar to macerate. While this is occurring, boil 3/4 cup of water in a small saucepan over high heat so that it comes to a boil quickly. Add your box of pectin to the boiling water, it will boil up a bit. Stir until it looks clear and remove from heat.

The water and pectin may boil up a bit.

The water and pectin may boil up a bit.

Let cool slightly before adding to your fruit mixture. Slowly pour your pectin into your fruit mixture making sure to stir continually whiling doing this. Continue to stir the mixture for roughly 6 to 8 minutes. A good way to know that the pectin has dissolved the sugar is to take a spoon and take a bite of the mixture.

Tasting the mixture is a great way to see the sugar has dissolved.

Tasting the mixture is a great way to see the sugar has dissolved.

If it still tastes gritty with sugar then continue to stir until the taste of sugar is completely gone. Next step will be to fill up your jars, open all your jars so that they can be filled in an assembly line fashion. 8-ounce jars work wonderfully and make for a great hostess gift when going to summertime parties.

Filling the jars.

Filling the jars.

If any of the lids do not have a secure fit when removing them, it would be best to get replacement lids. However, I have been using the same jars for nearly 7 years and they are still good. Fill each clean jar until it is full; leaving a 1/2-inch gap at the top for expansion. This was about 3 ladles for me. Place all the lids on your jars and leave on the counter for 24 hours to set.

Raspberry jam will now set for 24 hours.

Raspberry jam will now set for 24 hours.

After 24 hours have passed, place in the freezer and pull out as needed. Defrosting in the refrigerator or countertop.  Jam doesn’t just have to be used on toast or PB&J’s – it can be used to top ice cream, angel food cake, reduce to sweeten sauces and much more.

Jam makes a great topping for vanilla ice cream.

Jam makes a great topping for vanilla ice cream.

We repeated the same process above to make strawberry jam, but used 2 cups of strawberries and 4 cups of sugar.

The most beautiful, red local strawberries we have seen this season.

The most beautiful, red local strawberries we have seen this season.

Again there are many different jams to pick from, we have decided to make a new variety along with strawberry every year. I think for the summer of 2014, I may have to try peach or blueberry.

I hope these instructions will help you to explore the world of making jam. You’ll be very happy, you did, in the winter time when you think fresh fruit is sooo very far away.

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Garlic Scapes: What are they and how do you use them?

These are garlic scapes.

These are garlic scapes.

My husband and I love to go to the farmer’s market on the weekend. We often look for ingredients we haven’t seen before so that we can experiment with something new. Last year around this time, we found a farmer who was selling something really weird and interesting. After talking with the farmer and learning more about the product, we found out later they were garlic scapes. This year, we decided to grow hardneck garlic in our vegetable garden and I was able to harvest the scapes last week. After visiting the farmer’s market this weekend, we were able to find some items to pair with our scapes and have an absolutely fabulous recipe to share with you.

First, lets answer the question of what are garlic scapes. They are the flowers of a hardneck garlic, however, the flowers never actually appear. The scapes are harvested to promote more energy into bulb production instead of flowering. As you can see in the picture below, the scape is the curled stem emerging between the leaves. It is edible and has a mild garlic flavor. A garlic flavor that complements risotto just perfectly.

Scapes before they are harvested from the garlic plant.

Scapes before they are harvested from the garlic plant.

Let’s get to cooking! We are making Wild Mushroom & Garlic Scape Creamy Risotto.

Great as a small appetizer or full dinner for guests and family.

Great as a small appetizer or full dinner for guests and family.

Here are the ingredients that you need for this recipe:

- 1 Walla Walla onion, finely diced

- 2 to 3 cloves of garlic, finely diced

- 4 Tablespoons olive oil

- Salt and Pepper

- 6 cups chicken stock

- 2 cups arborio rice

- 1 cup dry white wine, Chateau Ste. Michele Dry Riesling worked nicely

- 5 ounces crimini mushrooms

- 6 ounces shiitake mushrooms

- 4 ounces oyster mushrooms

- 5 to 6 garlic scapes, removing top 2 inches of flower which can be woody

- 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter

- 1/2 cup heavy cream

- 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, plus some for topping

Directions:

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring your chicken stock to a boil. Once boiling keep the temperature maintained so that it will remain hot. While your stock is coming to a boil, prepare your mushrooms. You will want to clean them gently with a wet paper towel and do not submerge them in water. Keep the stems and set them aside. Once the mushrooms are cleaned, slice so they are about 1/4″ thick.

Clean mushrooms with a wet paper towel.

Clean mushrooms with a wet paper towel.

With the stems that you set aside, rinse them with a strainer. Making sure to remove all the dirt and then add them to your stock. The stems will steep in the stock and give it a mushroom flavor.

Using mushroom stems in stock can add another flavor dimension.

Using mushroom stems in stock can add another flavor dimension.

In a large sauté pan over medium heat, slowly cook your finely diced onion in olive oil until they are translucent and tender. Add your garlic until it is fragrant and cook for roughly 1 minute. Season your onions and garlic with salt and pepper. Next you will add your Arborio rice and toast it for about 1 to 2 minutes.

The start to an absolutely fabulous meal!

Now deglaze your sauté pan with dry white wine. Make sure it is one that you love to drink because the favor will become concentrated in the recipe. Plus it makes a great complement to serve the risotto with white wine. Let the wine reduce to about half.

Pick a wine that you like to drink as it will concentrate in the risotto.

Pick a wine that you like to drink as it will concentrate in the risotto.

After the wine has reduced, ladle in chicken stock – only one ladle at a time. Continue stirring until the stock has evaporated and repeat this process. Stirring as much as possible.

Put in one ladle of chicken stock at a time and let it reduce.

Put in one ladle of chicken stock at a time and let it reduce.

Now we are going to cook our mushrooms. In a separate sauté pan, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil on medium-high heat.

Do not salt or stir mushrooms as they cook.

Do not salt or stir mushrooms as they cook.

Add your sliced mushrooms to the pan and cook until golden brown. It is best to not stir them very frequently and do not add salt until after they are cooked all the way. Once your mushrooms are golden brown, season with salt and add your garlic scapes.

Add chopped garlic scapes to mushrooms.

Add chopped garlic scapes to mushrooms.

Let the mushrooms and scapes marry in flavor for about 3 minutes. Add butter and let melt over medium heat. Taste the mushroom mixture and season with salt and pepper to your preferred taste.

Season each mixture while cooking.

Season each mixture while cooking.

Back to our Arborio rice, you will know when the rice is cooked because it will release its starches and start to look creamy. It is important to taste all the components of the dish. Once the rice is al dente, go ahead and remove from heat. With your mushroom mixture, add cream and stir to incorporate. Now add your mushroom mixture to your Arborio rice. Next add your parmesan cheese. Taste to see that the seasonings are too your liking and if not add more salt and pepper.

Great as a small appetizer or full dinner for guests and family.

Great as a small appetizer or full dinner for guests and family.

Serve as a small appetizer for dinner parties or a large weekend meal. Top your plated risotto with a bit more parmesan cheese, pour a glass of that dry white wine and enjoy!

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