is it Spring yet?

April 21, 2013 § 5 Comments

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If you haven’t noticed, I’ve been hibernating from late Fall into Winter into early Spring…

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The early bulbs and I thought it was safe to come out last month. They started to flower and I planted cool weather greens into the slowly warming raised vegetable bed. Whoops! An early April storm brought snow which normally isn’t a problem, but night time temperatures fell back to very low teens for a couple of nights. Oh, Dear! Believe it or not, the greens survived with just a little frostbite under their three layers of “floating row cover”, so we’ll have garden fresh salads soon I hope.

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No, I haven’t done a fast forward to late summer. I just hopped on a 2-hour flight to L.A. to see the folks! Back home in Colorado, hubby Phil and best furry friend Hana had to shovel out from another storm which brought a foot of snow! Hey, we need the water, so I won’t complain, but is it Spring yet?

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plum delicious!

August 7, 2012 § 14 Comments

Here’s last night’s dessert ~ backyard plum galette, vanilla ice cream (store bought) and plum sauce. Since our Baking with Julia recipe made a double batch of dough and I had enough plums, I went ahead and made two, and delivered the second one (still warm) to our good friends, Mo and Peter. It got a big thumbs up from everyone!

I started on this dessert in April; my hair just starting to sprout post-chemo, along with our fruit trees leafing out! I’m munching a yummy cookie from Lynn at Eat Drink Man Woman Dogs Cat, one of a box she sent me when I supported her in “The Big Climb” for leukemia/lymphoma research and support for survivors. Back to plums, doesn’t everyone grow their own? Actually, this is the first year we had enough from our backyard to do more than just taste. Colorado’s Front Range climate is not kind to fruit trees, so most of ours comes from the slightly milder Western Slope, which grows the most delicious peaches (I have not tasted the famous Georgia peach, however). And since our local abundance is stone fruit and not berries, this is what went into Flo Braker’s Berry Galette recipe.

We had to pick plums (and some small peaches) a little under ripe. By late July, the robins and squirrels have figured out there is a daily buffet of fruit in my yard. While I think there is plenty to go around, they eat or damage so much fruit, that we have to pick it under ripe and barely get our share. Luckily the plums ripened up nicely off the tree, the peaches not so much so I ended up composting those. 😦

This was a small batch of a simply made dough, so I thought it best to do by hand rather than in the food processor. The food processor is so fast, that it’s more difficult to control cutting in the butter and avoid over mixing and/or warming the small amount of ingredients. Dry ingredients, including a beautiful multicolored cornmeal went into the bowl which I mixed to blend.

Remove the ice cubes from now well-chilled water and add the yogurt or sour cream. What a great idea! I often use a little lemon juice or even vinegar to pie dough (helps keep it tender), but this adds a little richness and flavor too. Now you have to work fast, especially in the summer, to avoid letting the butter get too soft which can lead to a greasy, too soft dough and then a tough crust after baking.

I went ahead and used the whole stick of butter (what’s the point of leaving 1 tablespoon out?), quickly cut it into small pieces with the bench knife and tossed it into the flour mixture. If the weather’s warm and you don’t have air conditioning, chilling the dry mix in the refrigerator first will help.

Use a pastry cutter, a pair of table knives or your fingers (only if they’re cool enough though), cut and toss the butter pieces until the largest pieces are pea-sized. Add the chilled liquid, and gently toss and mix to evenly distribute the moisture. Keep a little iced water on hand if you need a little more just to moisten most of the dry mix; you don’t want a too wet dough which tends towards a tough cracker-like crust (remember, water + mixing = gluten).

My dough was a little dry (better than too wet), so I just pressed and folded it on itself a couple of times to bring it together; again you don’t want to overwork here either. The hour or so rest in the refrigerator allows the moisture to distribute more evenly, re-chill the butter and relax the gluten; all of this will make rolling a lot easier. See the butter bits and the colorful flecks of the cornmeal?

I prepped the plums while the dough chilled. These plums were easy to split and pit with my fingers (a lot faster than with a paring knife) and they were small enough to leave halved. I tossed them with the sugar, and then drained, hoping they would give up some of their juice before baking.

If you roll out two portions of dough, place them on a chilled parchment-lined sheet pan. Put the first one back in the refrigerator if your kitchen is warm, or it’s taking a long time to roll out the dough. The oven should be hot by now, and let any calls go to voicemail. Place the fruit onto the dough leaving a 2″ border, gently fold up and pleat; pressing the edge slightly at the bottom of each pleat helps keep the galette from opening during baking.

I did not glaze or sugar the crust before baking, but the small amount of sugar in the dough gave the crust a nice golden brown color after a full 40 minutes at 400°F. Wow, those were juicy plums! After a short 5 minutes of cooling, I c-a-r-e-f-u-l-l-y moved them using two pancake turners directly to platters; I didn’t want to serve galettes-with-parchment later. That sticky goo was a bit tricky to recover from the parchment and pan, but it made a yummy sauce!

Oh, and I drizzled the honey over the fruit after baking, instead of before. The tart plums definitely needed more sweetness, but I wanted to avoid more oven goo.

Here’s my breakfast next morning, and here’s the squirrel’s. That red plum was gone by the time I got this posted.

flowers for Mother’s day

May 13, 2012 § 4 Comments

“April showers bring May flowers”, but we experienced all those blooms almost a month early in Colorado. Right now, I’m catching up with my family in SoCal, but here’s a sampling from my Front Range garden last month. Enjoy, and Happy Mother’s Day to all you mom’s out there!

Snowy bird feeder and icy table and chairs after an early April dusting.

Peach tree in full pink bloom.

Flowering quince in apricot and coral are the first shrubs to bloom.

Early greenery provides needed ground coverage and texture.

Wind flowers and a few species tulips make an early showing.

Hellebores (Lenten rose) amazes me with its early showy blooms and foliage, while a small honey crisp apple tree blooms profusely this year and is a-buzz with bees.

Perennial Corsican violets pop up in the herb bed.

The last tulips and the first coral bells splash the garden with bright patches of red and pink.

Several types of hosta and the Japanese fern cover the ground with intricate patterns of shape and color.

Showy fragrant clematis and a small fern leaf species peony.

When we return from our trip, we’ll find out how the fruit trees have fared, and if momma robin has hatched her clutch of eggs in the apricot tree!

an early spring?

March 15, 2012 § 1 Comment

Our last snow storm almost, but not quite broke Colorado’s previous February snow total. That was just a couple of weeks ago. Now our daytime highs are reaching the low 70°’s, crocuses are blooming, birds are singing, bees are buzzing and today I saw my first butterfly flitting! Normally March is the month we see the most snow, but we haven’t seen a single snowflake yet. We’ll have a lot of catching up to do!

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