Category Archives: food and cooking

Flowers open on Maundy Thursday.

For us Orthodox Christians, Holy Thursday is still four weeks in the future. So when I woke I wasn’t immediately thinking about the events of that day that my western Christian friends and family are commemorating.

Rather, I thought to go open the greenhouse door so that it doesn’t get over 100 degrees in there today. On Monday, before I had realized the effect of the sun’s changing orientation in the sky, and how it has been shining on the winter-shaded greenhouse more minutes of every day, I glanced at my indoor-outdoor thermometer to see — 113°. Uh-oh, I don’t think any of my plants would like that for very long.

Look what was blooming this first day of April: a Christmas cactus. It is one of many I propagated from the large cactus I gave away, and you can see in the picture below another five that I’d like to give away. If any of my readers who lives within an hour’s drive of me would like one of these smaller plants, please let me know and I will bring it to you. Maybe they will bloom soon, too…?

More scenes from the greenhouse, where the newer Love-in-a-Mist seeds are outperforming the older ones. The Winter Luxury Pumpkin starts are getting their secondary leaves. This is a small heirloom pumpkin that I got from Mary’s Heirloom Seeds. It has a reputation for good flavor.

I also picked asparagus early this morning, because the stalks continue to emerge at record speed and in record numbers. Only half of the crowns that I originally planted survive, but those produce more every year, so I really have plenty….. though I do wonder if one can ever have too much asparagus.

I accidentally broke off one crisp spear in the middle, and it only took me a few seconds to decide to eat it right then and there. That made me think back to various discoveries over my gardening life, of the many vegetables that are pretty tasty when they come right off the plant and are eaten “alive.” Asparagus is one of those that is sweet and juicy at that moment, but it loses flavor and tenderness fast. I used also to eat green beans, sweet corn, and bell peppers before I ever got them into the house.

First volunteer Delta Sunflower

I know one can eat Brussels sprouts raw, but I don’t think I have. And I’ve never grown them successfully, either. But since vegetables are the topic at hand, here is my favorite way to cook that one. Now that I have a standard  recipe and can count on success, it’s easy to have a container in the fridge that I can snack on. They are like candy to me, but more satisfying, of course.

In the front yard, in ascending order of the day’s favorites:

Returning to the most beautiful remembrance of the day….

So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.

“Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.

“For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.

“Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.

“As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me.

“This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”

John Chapter 6

Contentment outweighs fatigue.

Partly because of Annunciation this second week of Lent has been as busy as the first. Personal remembrances have given me a lot to do outside of church, too. I didn’t stay home all day even one day in the last seven; normally that kind of activity wears me out, but at the moment the contentment outweighs any fatigue. The outings and events have filled my cup with love and friendship and grace.

For my birthday I tried to perfect the honey-lemon-ginger cake baked in my Nordic honeycomb pan. But I didn’t. The friends I served it to were quite pleased, but to my taste it was doughy. It was vegan and lacked eggs, but those challenges can’t be the whole problem, and I will keep trying, because I’ve had plenty of vegan cakes that were nice. Maybe it needs more baking powder, or less flour. The picture shows it with the honey-lemon glaze poured on.

I also made a big pot of soup for that Friend Gathering. It was one of those unrepeatable concoctions, with most ingredients unmeasured, a vegetable bean soup into which I impulsively threw all the lemon juice that was left over from the cake (which uses a lot of zest). I should have added a little at a time. It made the soup too lemony, but eventually I hit on the idea of adding coconut milk to smooth it out, and that worked very well.

While I was cooking for a couple of days, I kept getting phone calls from children and grandchildren, wishing me a happy birthday. We had long chats that filled me to bursting. Each time I hung up after one of these calls, it would take me a while to reorient myself to the tasks waiting for me.

I am not going to show you all the interesting gifts I received, only this one, which includes a quote. A quoting candle! I hadn’t seen this kind of thing before; in this case the giver picked one of my own favorite quotes to personalize it.

Several hours this week were devoted to prepping vegetables for that soup and just to eat by themselves. The asparagus must be growing 2-3 inches a day, because I have to pick it morning and evening!

This month marks six years since the death of my husband. Bella went to the cemetery with me and my freesias, and at church prayers were offered in his memory. Having so many services to participate in means that the sensory input is laid on in layers day after day, in images of human and botanical beauty, and hymns that melt my heart. Incense is a joy you can’t experience through the computer; that and hugs are rounding out the experience of a worshiping community again.

Waiting for confession.

Today, the day after Annunciation, is given to the commemoration of the Archangel Gabriel, who announced to Mary, “The Lord is with thee!” And in such a way was He with her, that He is also with us, ever since, and unto ages of ages. That fact is of course connected to the message on the candle:

Wherever there is beauty,
Christ the Word is speaking to your heart
of the love the Holy Trinity has for you.

Pasties for Cheesefare

Florentine pasties 09This recipe that has been a family favorite seems like a nice one to share this week, which for us Orthodox is Cheesefare Week, a.k.a. Butter Week, the last before Lent that we eat eggs and dairy. It was on a post about picnics that I first published it several years ago, but there’s no reason to wait for picnic season to enjoy these hand pies.

I found  the original recipe in an unusual place: a newsletter that our power company used to send with the bill, and which always included a recipe or two. They stopped this practice 20 years ago, but these pies became a tradition for me. They keep well and I think they taste best at room temperature.

Florentine pastie bittenChanges I made to the recipe below: Use butter, of course, never margarine, and add some salt to the pastry dough. Or just use your own recipe for pie dough. I don’t think I have ever included the cottage cheese in the filling; it seems as though it’s the first time I am even seeing that ingredient in the list!

I like to make the filling the day before assembling the pies. I thought of trying to use fresh spinach next time, but I don’t know how I would figure out the conversion ratio. I’ve noticed over the years that frozen spinach most often comes in 16-oz packages now, and there are fewer stems than when I used to always buy it in cardboard-wrapped blocks. I’m sure you could just use the whole 16 ounces.

Also, I would never say “pah-stees,” because my husband’s Cornish ancestors made pasties nearly every day for the men to take into the mines for their midday meal, and they pronounced the word “past-ease.” Are we to think that Florentines would say anything different?

Florentine Pasties crp

Greens, munchers, and seeds.

As I woke on Sunday morning I saw through the slats of my window blinds the full moon going down, against a background that was being colorized from gray to pale blue. Well, it probably wasn’t quite full — because Kate had sent me a picture she took from Panama City, of the full moon on Friday evening. Pretty close, though.

When I went to church I admired the flowering plums, and after my ZOOM church school class that afternoon, I planted SEEDS! A day after the full moon, a few hours before March dawned….

I was so glad to have a surprisingly balmy afternoon to work in, out in the garden. The day before, I had set up lots of little 6-pack  trays with potting soil, so that the soil could wick up water and be thoroughly moist. And because I ran out of time to plant anyway.

Two friends, Tim and John, had at different times given me seeds of Love-in-a-Mist from their gardens, one nearby and one in Oregon. So I planted them together, equal amounts, but in such a way that I could tell them apart. When they start sprouting I’ll update my blog report on what I’ve got going in there.

In the planter boxes I poked another (double) row and a half of snow peas into the soil, near where chamomile is coming up through the volunteer sweet peas:

I did some trimming and weeding in the rest of the garden, and discovered these caterpillars munching at my Yellow Bush Lupine. They are Genista Broom Moths, and I threw a few dozen of them into the green bin along with the trimmings. I’ve never noticed them as moths, but they look like they would be easy to miss. Maybe they will be a regular thing now that I have my lupine, which is the type of perennial and evergreen food they are known to like.

I feel about my collard patch the way some people feel about their chickens, or dahlias. They are so beautiful and healthy this year, I feel very proud and thankful, and want to take their picture again and again. Especially now that they are starting to flower, and I know I will need to pull them out and put summer squash in their place in another month or so. There were jungles of Hairy Bittercress in the grove of collards. I pulled weeds and pretty much scalped the plants to cook up a truly huge mess of greens.

Hairy Bittercress

Here is my absolute favorite way to cook collards. It’s a great recipe for church fast days and I make a big batch and put containers in the freezer.

COCONUT BRAISED VEGAN COLLARD GREENS

1 bunch collard greens
1 can of full-fat coconut milk
1 Tblsp. soy sauce
1/2 Tblsp. rice vinegar
1 bay leaf
1 pinch red pepper flakes (opt.)
1/2 tsp. sugar

Wash the greens and chop into bite-sized pieces. Put everything in a pot and simmer until tender. Add a little water if necessary and adjust seasonings to taste and to the quantity of greens.

I have made these several times with different amounts of collards every time. This last time I had at least eight quarts of chopped raw collards but still only used 1 can of coconut milk.

If you have a springtime garden, I hope it contains the minimum
of unwanted munchers and plenty of tender greens. To your health!