Monday, March 19, 2012

Spring Planting & Sweet Chard Dish

Spring for our ancestors, was the beginning of new life and a new year, after the darkness and the cold 0f winter began to give way to more sunshine. The Pagans believed that spring was the time of renewal and fertility. The Persians still celebrate the beginning of new year on the vernal equinox, with special foods and general family merriment. In this part of the year, I like to contemplate how to reanimate all the projects I have in progress, and reflect on my life goals, so as to be more in line with the season of growth and birth. More than anything, I like to celebrate spring by planting in the garden, and having a family picnic! Here are examples of beautiful things that nature is beginning to give life to in my urban garden. 

To the right is a picture of the apricot flower blossoms in February; but the picture below is  now, and it is pretty amazing that this apricot tree is budding with fruit, only after its first year in a very large pot! The Ace Hardware garden assistant couldn't believe I needed fruit tree fertilizer, until I showed him my picture. I guess, all that talking to and tending over, has paid off for this lovely tree. I hope to tell you about my brandied apricots, if all goes well!  

This year, I am trying a different variety of tomato since last year I was not very successful with the beef steak tomatoes. I have to admit going to the farmers market for summer tomatoes was a much more inviting than eating my own. I was able to make sauce out of them, and use them for pasta dishes, but definitely left me wanting for more flavor. All I wish for, is to have some delicious fruit to add to my summer salad, and the Sun Gold variety is sure to deliver.

I'm also attempting to a grow a more delicate butter lettuce this year. This is challenging, since I'm fairly new at growing food for our table. I'm not sure if I should have full sun or partial shade. Last year's lettuce grew well in total shade all through summer months too, though it called for full. Perhaps the full sun in Oakland, was just too hot for the variety I had invested in last year.  So this lettuce I am going to watch very carefully for any signs of wilting. To add to the spring garden, I am adding some onion, basil, and mint, and strawberries, that are coming back from winter hibernation. It's going to be a glorious Spring! 
The chard I planted in winter is still going strong today. This recipe I share, is my favorite combinations of flavors with my chard.  This recipe is easy and will compliment to any main dish. 

2 cups of tightly packed chopped chard
1/3 cup of dried tart cherries
1/3 cup of pine nuts
1 tablespoon of butter 
1 tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice. 
Salt and ground pepper to taste. 


First on low flame, place butter in iron skillet. Add pine nuts and brown for 3 minutes, then add dried cherries, and saute for another 3. Pine nuts cook quickly if not cooked on low. Next turn heat up to medium, and add chard and lemon juice. Saute chard in mixture of nuts and cherries and quickly take off heat in 1-2 minutes. add salt and pepper. Serve hot with your main entree. Serves about 2 -4 people depending on portions. 

Have a wonderful spring!  


Monday, March 5, 2012

Mother's Meatloaf

Mother's meatloaf and steamed veggies

Originally, I made this main course to show off the new china set I had received from my mother as a wedding gift. I found the china set in complete form, with pickle dishes, ice-cream bowls, not to mention all the serving platters, at our local Uhuru store. Lucky for me, Uhuru is a perfect place for estates to donate their precious household goods no longer in use, for a good cause. The china set is Bavarian Schumann- San Luis Rey design, and as you can see, a lovely wedding design. I found that all the dishes were in great shape, but the tea cups so delicate, I have already broken two! We can only do our best and nothing last forever, I tell myself. I would love to know more about the origins of this design, so please do share if you have information.

fresh marjoram 
Here is a great recipe to feed lots of hungry boys and girls! I went to my local butcher, and purchased grass fed, humanely raised beef for this recipe. It is very important to support local sustainable ranchers. This type of beef cooks much quicker than other beef, so be mindful of the clock. In preparation of meatloaf, the key to making it flavorful is in the fresh herbs, green onions, and spices. I usually serve this dish with steamed vegetables, that are seasonal from my garden. I try to avoid the starches, because it can leave you unable function the rest of afternoon!

2 ½ pounds of lean ground beef
2 eggs
2 slices of white bread (cut into small cubes)
1 cup of tomato sauce
1 cup of finely chopped green onion
1 cup of chopped fresh parsley
½ cup of fresh marjoram
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon of garlic powder
1 tablespoon of cumin
1 tablespoon of sugar
1 tablespoon of salt 
1 teaspoon of lemon pepper

Preheat oven at 350 degrees.

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Mash with hands or spoon. Place mixture in a loaf pan. Halfway through the cooking of the meat loaf, cover it lightly with foil, so the top does not burn. Cook for approximately 1½ hours. Take pan out of oven and carefully drain extra grease out. Allow a little bit of cooling, but serve hot with a dollop of tomato sauce and fresh sprig of parsley. Makes 6 generous portions. 
Enjoy with family and friends!