MARTHA STEWART Living Magazine March 2011 - LIKE NEW

So, I have devoured the March Martha Stewart Living, gardening edition. Holy Moly. It is good. Of course, it also makes me want to convert our entire backyard into garden beds and grow a large money tree right in the center to fund all of my plant-related endeavors. So there’s that.

With seed germination day coming up, I have been reading catalogs, making lists, editing lists, ordering seeds, and thinking. The fact that the arbiters of spring, daffodils and hellebores, have begun blooming in the yard are (kind of) tiding me over, but mostly they are just making me impatient.

I do love daffodils more and more every year.

At first it was just because they were the only bulbs our gophers didn’t mangle over the winter, but now it is an affection based on their own merits. Right now I am staring at 7 daffodil blooms plucked from the yard yesterday in a vase on my coffee table — each one is different. Some have long ruffly necks and others have smaller, dainty proportions. Some smell like sweet vanilla and some smell like laundry detergent.

The variation even within blooms in the same genus and species is a humbling thing, and lends conviction that I should see the differences in PEOPLE as so lovely, interesting, and intentionally creative. The creator is purposeful in all of His creations, and it would serve me well to recognize it.

Too often I catch myself impatiently thinking life would be easier if the people in my life were just like me – there would be no need for arguments, decisions would be made efficiently, we’d be on the same page… yet how colorless would this world be? [And let’s face it, if everyone was going to be the same, we should all be Claire Hardin. Or The Pioneer Woman.]

How much more precious should our uniqueness be than that of my flowers? For WE have been fearfully and wonderfully made.

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We spent the weekend away with our dear neighbors at Gorham’s Bluff in North Alabama. If you’ve never heard of it, you should.

Turns out February is the perfect time for a middle of nowhere escape perched high above the Tennessee River.

There was biking, tree forting, picnicking, hiking, dining, reading, curling up by several fires, field frolicking, and cartwheeling.

Lots of cartwheeling.

Our cottage was the one with the bird’s eye perch on top.

Being away with my better half and friends who feel like comfortable family was a refreshing jolt for the winter doldrums.

Here are a couple of yummy recipes we made for the trip.

White Cheddar Pimento Cheese

Especially easy when you use your food processor to shred the cheese. May be made in advance.

1 pound white cheddar cheese, grated
1 small red onion, chopped
2 (4 1/2-ounce) jars pimentos, drained and chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 cup mayonnaise
White pepper to taste

Combine cheese, red onion and pimentos. Mix garlic with mayonnaise, add to cheese mixture; blend thoroughly. Add white pepper and stir well to blend. Serve with crackers.

Lemon-Poppy Seed Shortbread (Claudia Fleming, The Last Course), from Lottie+Doof

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons poppy seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar until creamy and smooth, about two minutes. Add the lemon juice, zest and vanilla and beat well.

In a bowl, combine the flour, poppy seeds, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix until combined. Form the dough into a disk and, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least 3 hours and up to 3 days or freeze for up to 2 months.

Preheat oven to 300° F. Roll the dough between two sheets of wax paper to a 1/4-inch-thick rectangle. return dough to refrigerator for an additional 15 minutes. Cut the shortbread into shapes with a two-inch cookie cutter, or use a knife, and place 1 inch apart on parchment-lined baking sheets. Do not reroll scraps, if using cookie cutter. Prick shortbread with a fork and bake until pale golden all over, 23 to 25 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

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If you decide to make a mix-tape of your own for your valentine, your sprout, or yourself, here is cute free downloadable CD case artwork (as well as an alternate playlist).

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Also, if you are fruit eaters, here’s another idea (and free downloadable art) from Twig + Thistle on making your produce more romantic:

Produce Messages

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February is a brutal month for FCL — our anniversary, Valentine’s, and my birthday all fall within a 20 day span. I wish it were more spread out as well, but that’s neither here nor there.

All that to say, Valentine’s sometimes gets lost in the shuffle. But, to get the Sprout and I in the mood on this snowy morning, I made a little (big) mix tape. Or mix playlist. Whatever.

While I’m quite decisive in most areas of life, I am severely challenged when it comes to whittling a playlist. So just know that these 40 (?!) songs will exactly fit on 2 CDs.

Just click on this link to the Hearts and Things playlist if you’re interested in humming along to what we’re humming along to this week.

Two projects tackled this week – both (kind of) food related.

The first: recipe organization.

Everyone has a unique system for organizing recipes. Some are more efficient than others. Mine did not fall into that category.

I love to tear recipes out of magazines (or dog ear recipes, and leave stacks of 3 year old magazines all over our house). I have a cardboard magazine holder stuffed with torn-out magazine recipes, printed out 3 x 5’s from the computer, and hand-written recipes gathered from friends. Every time I need one of the recipes, I dump out the growing pile on the kitchen table and hunt through the stack one-by-one (and invariably the one I’m looking for is always on the bottom of the pile).

I’ve been intending for at least a year to transcribe all of these recipes into my hand-written recipe book. I knew I’d have ALL THIS TIME being at home with the Sprout. Right. That’s reeaallly working out.

So, the rain, cold, and runny-nosed child kept me home long enough this week to be able to trim all the torn recipes, categorize them, and glue them into a spiral notebook. So much less work than transcribing — and now in many cases, I have pictures of the food as well.

I heart organization.

The next project is only obliquely food related… but much more fun. GARDEN PLANNING!

Don’t mock my 96-pack of Crayons. They make me happy.

For anyone who’s contemplating a vegetable or flower garden, I so encourage you to sketch it out to scale before you start planting. I still fight the battle each year of planting way too much in my small space (read: pumpkins) – but it would be so much worse if I didn’t draw it out beforehand.

First, read your seed/flower catalogs. Make a list of what you like. Research to make sure it grows well in your area, and write down the size/watering requirements. Sketch out your garden – how do you want it to look? Do you want space between all your plants, or do you want more of a cottage garden look? Do you enjoy weeding (if you do, will you come move into the house next door)?

Then think through which seasons in which the plants will bloom/ripen, their colors, etc., and get to sketching.

I have this great sketchpad that makes this easy. I’ve seen it at several different shops. You can also buy it from Terrain. If you remotely love flowers or garden-y things, you will love this shop. I also have a birthday coming up. Ahem.

Even though there’s ice on the trees in our yard this morning, the fact that

THIS

is going on outside under the leaves and frozen tundra in our yard makes me immeasurably happy.

You are my favorite mammal

Because you give the best hugs.

Because you would stay up late digging a garden for me in the dark.

Because you are almost always right.

Because you eat our tomatoes, even though you hate tomatoes.

Because you are so patient with the Sprout.

Because you roughhouse with the Goose.

Because your heart is still full of adventure.

Because you tolerate decorative pillows.

Because you encourage my creativity.

Because you make me want to think more, and harder, about more things.

Because you walk around the house with a baseball bat when I hear a noise in the middle of the night.

Because you get my humor.

Because I want to spend time with you more than anyone in the world.

Because you are a faithful friend, son, believer, worker.

Because I want to spend three times three times three times three times three times three more years being married to you.

Happy Anniversary.

So, this dress that my mom sewed.

You know my abiding love for handmade, passed down things. This dress, sewn with pieces of lace from my mother’s wedding veil, from my grandmother, and 100 year old lace from a close friend – well, it is at the head of that category.

There are significant bits (literally) sewn all over the dress – more than I will belabor here. All that to say, it made my heart so happy for Sprout to have and wear it.

We had such a sweet celebration with family, close friends, food – we are blessed to be the recipients of so much genuine love.

Bits of happy for today.

This 10 minute project brightening the kitchen window.

Idea credit: Dottie Angel

While I’m on hearts, here are some other fun ideas.

Fabric Heart Garland

Free Printable Sentiment Poster

This adorable Heart of Gold print from Banquet.

In non-heart matters, these little girl shoes are so stinking cute.

Joy Folie

As is this West Elm pillow.

Cooking with fresh things = eventually, less flab. Also, side bonus: fresh scraps for the compost pile.

Happy surprise: this wreath I made for a baby shower three weeks ago is still kicking it on my front door (sans ranunculus).
And happy that even on dreary days, I get a Narnia-esque scene when I peek out the back door.

Our Sprout got sprinkled on Sunday morning at church. She was THAT CHILD who squirmed and squeaked and spoke her mind the entire time we were on stage.

A good reminder that she is in need of the cleansing blood of Christ.

It is such a real thing. In every moment of every day, I NEED the blood of Christ. For the strength to attempt to exhibit the fruits of the spirit to my family. For the power to make tough decisions. For the perspective to know that my approval is not based on others’ opinion of me. For the reminder that my own efforts are worthless in and of themselves, and for the grace that allows me to fail over and over.

And yet. how. hard. is. this. to. remember. To be real. More real than the orange juice I am drinking right now. It is so much easier to fall back on my own justifications, ala ‘I’m doing a pretty good job.’ And then my need of His blood is exposed all over again.

Praying that our Sprout would understand this early, and that it would be part of who she is. This is the blessing that FCL shared in front of the church Sunday morning, written for her.

Our prayer is that you will be blessed with wisdom to discern good from evil, so that you will taste and see that the Lord is good. We pray you will grow in that wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and in favor with man. That you will not seek the approval of man or be conformed to the world, but instead let your adorning be the precious beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit. That you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord – yet know that, even when you don’t, nothing can separate you from His love and that God is greater than your heart. We pray that you will share in the sufferings of Christ and count it all joy. That you will learn to be content. That you will run with endurance the race God sets before you, fighting the good fight of faith in the strength of His might. That you will never fear, save the Lord, and that you will know the voice and see the face of the Good Shepherd. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.

Oh, and there was a gown. Baptism is obviously not about the gown. But oh, this gown. Sewn by her grandmother. It requires a whole other post.

We recently hosted our first dinner party of the year. I love winter dinner parties. They are cozy and twinkly and warm and unrushed.

Here’s the run down on the menu:

Goat Cheese with Pistachios and Cranberries (from Real Simple)

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons roasted pistachios, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons dried cranberries, chopped
  • 1 8-10 oz log of fresh goat cheese
  • crackers or bread, for serving

1. On a large plate, combine the pistachios and cranberries.

2. Roll the goat cheese in the fruit-and-nut mixture to coat. Serve with the crackers or bread.

Fresh Rosemary Focaccia Bread (from The Painted Garden cookbook)

Ingredients:

  • 3 1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp unbleached white bread flour
  • 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast (one packet)
  • 1 tbsp castor (superfine) sugar (I use regular sugar and it works fine)
  • 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
  • 1 large egg
  • 12 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • coarse sea salt

1. Preheat the oven to 475. Grease a 12 x 8 baking sheet.

2. Measure the flour into a large mixing bowl and make a well in the center of the flour; add the yeast, sugar and salt in the well. Gradually pour the water into the well, stirring until a soft dough forms. Turn the dough onto a floured board and knead for 2-3 minutes, until it feels smooth and elastic and does not stick to the board, adding more flour as necessary. The more you knead the lighter the texture of the bread will be. Return the dough to the large mixing bowl, cover with a damp cloth, and leave to rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1-2 hours, depending on the humidity.

3. Turn the risen dough onto a well floured board, making a well in the center, and crack the egg into the hollow. Bring the edges of the dough into the center, gradually kneading in the egg. This is meant to be a sticky job; egg will ooze everywhere. Don’t be tempted to add more flour, as this will make the bread denser. Wash and flour hands halfway through, if necessary. Eventually, when the egg is fully incorporated, the dough should be very soft and smooth. Once you have a smooth, almost manageable bulk, shape it to cover the base of the greased baking sheet. Cover with a damp cloth and leave in a warm place to rise a second time, for 30 to 40 minutes until doubled in bulk.

4. When it looks nicely puffed up, press the rosemary into the dough, covering the surface evenly. Don’t  be too gentle in pressing in the topping; you want to create small hollows to collect puddles of the olive oil. Drizzle the oil over the top followed by a generous sprinkling of coarse sea salt crystals. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until the focaccia is golden brown. Remove from the baking sheet as soon as it’s cool enough to handle, and cool on a wire rack.

Roasted Root Vegetable Salad (from Southern Living)


Total: 1 hour, 30 minutes
Yield: Makes 6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2  large sweet potatoes (about 1 1/2 lb.)
  • 4  large parsnips (about 1 lb.)
  • 6  medium beets (about 1 1/2 lb.)
  • 3  tablespoons  olive oil, divided
  • 1 3/4  teaspoons  salt, divided
  • 1  teaspoon  pepper, divided
  • 1/2  cup  bottled olive oil-and-vinegar dressing
  • 1  tablespoon  chopped fresh parsley
  • 1  tablespoon  horseradish
  • 1  teaspoon  Dijon mustard
  • Fresh arugula

1. Preheat oven to 400°. Peel sweet potatoes, and cut into 3/4-inch cubes. Peel parsnips, and cut into 1/2-inch slices. Peel beets, and cut into 1/2-inch-thick wedges.

2. Toss sweet potatoes and parsnips with 2 Tbsp. olive oil in a large bowl; place in a single layer in a lightly greased 15- x 10-inch jelly-roll pan. Sprinkle with 1 1/4 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper.

3. Toss beets with remaining 1 Tbsp. olive oil; arrange beets in a single layer on a separate aluminum foil-lined 15- x 10-inch jelly-roll pan. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper.

4. Bake at 400° for 40 to 45 minutes or just until tender. Let cool completely (about 20 minutes).

5. Meanwhile, whisk together dressing and next 3 ingredients. Place vegetables in a large bowl, and drizzle with desired amount of dressing; toss gently to coat. Serve at room temperature or chilled over arugula with any remaining dressing.

I felt a close kinship to Dwight Schrute as I chopped my beets.

Potato Gratin with Rosemary Crust (from Southern Living)


Total: 2 hours, 20 minutes
Yield: Makes 10 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1  (14.1-oz.) package refrigerated piecrusts
  • 1  tablespoon  chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/4  teaspoon  freshly ground pepper
  • 2  cups  (8 oz.) shredded Gruyère cheese, divided
  • 1 1/2  pounds  Yukon gold potatoes
  • 1 1/2  pounds  sweet potatoes
  • 1  teaspoon  kosher salt
  • 2/3  cup  heavy cream
  • 1  garlic clove, minced
  • Garnish: fresh rosemary sprigs

1. Preheat oven to 450°. Unroll piecrusts on a lightly floured surface. Sprinkle rosemary, pepper, and 1/2 cup cheese over 1 piecrust; top with remaining piecrust. Roll into a 13-inch circle. Press on bottom and up sides of a 9-inch springform pan; fold edges under. Chill.

2. Meanwhile, peel and thinly slice Yukon gold and sweet potatoes.

3. Layer one-third each of Yukon gold potatoes, sweet potatoes, and salt in prepared crust. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup cheese. Repeat layers twice, pressing layers down slightly to fit.

4. Microwave cream and garlic in a 1-cup microwave-safe measuring cup at HIGH 45 seconds; pour over potato layers in pan. Sprinkle with remaining 3/4 cup cheese. Cover pan with heavy-duty aluminum foil. Place on a baking sheet.

5. Bake at 450° for 1 hour. Uncover and bake 25 minutes or until potatoes are done and crust is richly browned. Let stand 10 to 15 minutes. Carefully transfer to a serving plate, and remove sides of pan. If desired, carefully slide gratin off bottom of pan using a long knife or narrow spatula. Garnish, if desired.

Bev’s Pork Tenderloin

Credit to the lovely Beverly Bendall for this delicious recipe — our favorite way to eat pork tenderloin.

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Ready in: 6.5 hours

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp sherry
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried minced onions
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 pinch garlic powder
  • 2 (3/4 pound) pork tenderloins (we usually get 2 1.5 pound tenderloins)

1. Place above ingredients, except pork, in a large ziploc bag. Seal, and shake to mix. Place tenderloins in bag, seal, and refrigerate for 6-12 hours.

2. Preheat grill for high heat.

3. Lightly oil grate. Place tenderloins on grill, and discard marinade. Cook 20 minutes, or to desired doneness. Slice into medallions and serve.

and… Ice Cream Sprinkle Creations for dessert