Friday Faves: Getting the Garden Going

Snow in April might normally put me in a funk – along with the droopy daffodils. But each morning I check in with my seedlings – tomatoes, basil, eggplant, cucumbers, zucchini, chard, beets, and snapdragons sprouting under the grow lights.

The zucchini and cucumbers burst forth with such enthusiasm that I’m going to have to move them out of their seedling tray today because they are close to pressing against the plastic dome cover that traps in the moisture and heat.

Snapdragon and nasturtium seedlings.

The beets, and the chard, are also sprouting – as are the tomatoes. Those, the tomatoes, I planted in peat pots to reduce the repeated transplant trauma that can occur between now and the time they go into the outdoor containers in mid-May (depending on the temps). The chard and beets will move into the cold frame – which has lettuce, arugula, and radish seeds planted in half – later this month.

 

Tomatoes, cucumbers, and zucchini seedlings.

My seed-starting set up is a DIY job, with grow lights sourced from Lowes, my basement, and Amazon. I will be curious to see how the plants respond to the various lights – which range from florescent to LED, and in price from $8 to $40.

Why does this make me so happy? Because I can imagine vines loaded with ripe cucumbers, and tomatoes. I am hoping for zillions of zucchini.

And did I mention that I also buy CSA shares from Gordon Post, a farmer in North East. His CSA is the best deal going, with so much variety, more than 200, that it can be overwhelming.  I can help you out on that this summer. I am buying extra sh ares and will be cooking prepared farm to table meals using Post’s produce starting in July. The chicken, beef, and pork will come from Parable Farm, just over the border in New York state.

If you want to buy shares in the CSA, and I encourage you to do so, we can work out a deal on me picking up your share and cooking with it, returning to you the part I haven’t used.

More on that as it develops.

So I’m in love with sprouting vegetables because they are a sign of hope, of the future, and of my new business.

In the meantime, asparagus is the closest thing we have to a seasonal vegetable right now. Although it’s not sprouting locally, it does serve as a reminder of what will be coming soon enough. This chicken breast, sourced from McDonald’s Meats, on Route 20 on the east side of Girard, is wrapped in bacon or prosciutto and stuffed with asparagus. Serve it with a lemon aioli (garlic and lemon mayo) over a mixed rice pilaf for a lovely spring dinner.

XOXOXO

Marnie

marnie@meadballs.com

Print Recipe
Bacon Wrapped Chicken Stuffed with Asparagus
Course dinner
Cuisine American
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Servings
people
Course dinner
Cuisine American
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Servings
people
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Place bacon in a oven-proof skillet, roasting pan, or rimmed baking sheet. Bake for about 10 to 15 minutes (depends on the thickness) to render off some of the fat and partially cook. Remove from oven before it browns (you need to be able to wrap chicken with it). Transfer to paper-towel lined plate.
  3. Line baking sheet with heavy-duty foil to cook chicken.
  4. Pound out of the chicken to approximately 1/2-inch thickness. Brush chicken breasts on both sides with pesto.
  5. Trim asparagus to remove the woody ends, and so the size is about the same as the chicken roll (so only the tips of the asparagus stick out).
  6. Place a piece of prosciutto over each piece of chicken. Place 3 asparagus spears on top of prosciutto and sprinkle with some cheese, if using. Roll chicken around asparagus. Wrap each roll with 2 bacon strips.
  7. Place, seam side down, on baking pan.
  8. Bake, uncovered, at 400 degrees for 30-40 minutes or until juices run clear. Check after 30 minutes.
  9. If your bacon is not crisp, place under broiler for about 5 minutes.
  10. Serve with a lemon aioli.
Recipe Notes

To make lemon aioli, follow this recipe from Martha Stewart. 

OPTIONS FOR LARGE CHICKEN BREASTS: If you really large chicken breasts, then they will be too big to roll. So cut each in half, width wise, being a little more generous to the thin end. Then pound. Or butterfly each breast, pound, then cut in half.

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Craving Green After Holiday Indulgences

Christmas week and the days leading into the new year are all about indulgences. We indulge our family, friends, and ourselves. Retailers count on it … who doesn’t buy a little something for themselves when out or online shopping?

And the food … please. I’ve baked dozens of cookies. And made bags of toffee topped with the best Virginia peanuts I’ve ever eaten. I made stacks of crepes, layered with Nutella, for Christmas morning. The theme for the past month was, “Why not?”

When my daughter, who is 14, asked for 365 T-shirts for Christmas, I thought, “Why not?” Why not, indeed. She was looking for an easy way to get ready for school each morning. Just put on a T-shirt, jeans, high-tops, and head to school. No worries about having worn it yesterday, or the day before.

Why not? Because American Eagle T-shirts cost nearly $30 for a plain, long-sleeved T.

When I mentioned this to a friend, she paused. “I get it,” she said. Instead of 365, she suggested 30. A month of T-shirts.

That was in November. I spent the next month hitting up every sale, both online and in stores, buying soft T-shirts. I hit the Old Navy $4 sale, 50 percent off sales, BOGO sales. On Dec. 21, I counted 24 shirts. By Dec. 23, when I wrapped, I had 28 (I would have had 30, but realized there were two duplicates). By the time Christmas Day was over, she had 37 T-shirts (courtesy of friends and family).

I bought 25 hangers (no, I wasn’t mean enough to wrap them). So each shirt has its own hanger. No more stuffing into drawers. No more “I don’t have anything to wear” (at least for a couple of weeks).

The total cost was about what I paid one year for an iPod.

Now that we are through Christmas, and the New Years is approaching, I am looking to scale back on the indulgences. Back to the budget. The extra Christmas cookies went into the trash when I realized I had eaten nothing for an entire day but cookies and toffee. And I wondered why I was bloated, had no energy, and was passing more gas than is experienced after Super Bowl party.

It’s time to switch gears and get more fruits and veggies into the system. The Utica greens recipe – named for an area of New York where they are popular – isn’t exactly dietetic. But it does make a meal based on greens. It is one of my favorites.

Enjoy your holidays.

XOXOXO

marnie

marnie@marniemeadmedia.com

Print Recipe
Utica Greens
Cuisine American, Italian
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Servings
side dish servngs
Ingredients
Cuisine American, Italian
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Servings
side dish servngs
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Bring 5-quart stock pot filled with 1 tablespoon sea-salted water to a boil. Add escarole and cook until tender (about 1-2 minutes if using Wegmans chopped escarole; about 5 minutes if yours is tougher). Drain.
  2. Reserve about 2 tablespoons each of breadcrumbs and cheese for topping. Mix remaining breadcrumbs with cheese, oregano and pepper.
  3. In a large ovenproof saute pan, heat butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add cooked greens to pan and stir to combine. Mix in chopped peppers, prosciutto, breadcrumbs/cheese mixture. Top with remaining breadcrumbs and cheese.
  4. Heat oven to broil. Place casserole under broiler for 4 to 6 minutes until brown, checking frequently. Remove from oven and allow to rest about 15 minutes before serving.
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