This is a Stewartia bloom with a bee enjoying a little bit of its pollen. If you look close, you can see the bee covered in pollen on its top and even down its wings. Bet he’ll be popular back in the hive. We have often thought about buying some hives and becoming real life bee keepers. Sounds a little dangerous, but fun. Do you or someone you know keep their own bees?
This is a very good sign. Earlier in the Spring, we planted two miniature citrus trees with plans to put them on the patio during the Summer and hopefully harvest some fruit. I think we might get our wish! After planting the shipped trees, there was about a month where it appeared there was little, if any, growth. Then all of a sudden and at about the same time, both trees erupted in a mass of blooms. There was a little bit of fragrance from the blooms, but not too much. Towards the end of June, the trees were placed outside where they receive several hours of direct sun. The blooms stayed intact for about a solid month and now many of the blooms have turned into baby fruit. Above is a picture of the Meyer Lemon tree and below is a picture of the Calamondin Orange tree. Both are packing some serious baby fruit!
So we’ve already talked about marmalade making with any oranges the Calamondin tree produces (with the help of regular oranges to make up any shortfall), but this is my vote for the Meyer lemons. It is one of my new favorite Summer drink recipes. Don’t worry if you don’t have Meyer lemons because regular lemons work just as well.
Meyer Lemon Drop
- Sugar, for rim of glass
- Powdered yellow food coloring (optional)
- Lemon slice, for garnish
- 1/4 cup vodka
- 1 teaspoon Cointreau
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons superfine sugar
Tint sugar with powdered yellow food color, if desired. Place sugar in a saucer. Moisten the rim of a martini glass with a lemon slice. Dip rim in sugar. In a cocktail shaker, combine vodka, Cointreau, lemon juice, and superfine sugar with ice; shake well. Strain into prepared glass. Make another, and another and then fall over.
So here’s hoping we get to harvest our lemons and oranges by the end of the Summer. We don’t want our marmalade jars and vodka to be lonely if the fruit doesn’t make it, do we? That’s the one thing with gardening…fruit today doesn’t always mean fruit tomorrow. A bad storm or a big bug can ruin your plans (and crop) in an instant. However, if they do make it and you see us walking slightly unsteady with lemon-scented breath, you know why. Do you have any lemon or orange recipes that you can share with us here at Acorns On Glen?
This is an old friend. It is our Clematis Bonanza vine which was one of the very first plants that we planted when we moved to Glen Road. That first Spring and Fall seem so far away. One of the reasons we bought the house was the big yard and many gardens that were dispersed around the property. Some gardens were nicely planted and others were vast mud holes. I knew that I could revive my gardening skills put away when I moved out of my childhood home in Iowa at age eighteen and make the gardens plush with vines, plants and flowers. Little did I remember that taking mud to plush meant a lot of blood, sweat and tears. That first year I lost almost as many plantings as ones that grew. Eventually, I realized that to make a dent in the mud, I would need to envision what I wanted in a certain area, research what grew in our area of Connecticut that looked like my vision and then utilize that particular plant in my garden. In other words, just because something was pretty didn’t mean that it was going to survive the hot Summers and freezing Winters that Connecticut has to offer. From my studies, I found the Clematis as the perfect flowering vine to cover my backyard fence. It did not prove me wrong and flowered there for the last five years.
Then I thought we had destroyed it. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, we did some construction to our home over the Winter and Spring here on Glen Road in an area that was heavily planted. We worked very hard with some landscapers to relocate many plants that we knew we could use after the renovation. However, we were told that the Clematis would most likely not make the move so we just left it where it was. I figured it would be driven over, built upon and then destroyed and we would need to start fresh with new plants. To my surprise this Spring, a large section of it rose from the ground and attached itself to the new fence that we had installed around the backyard, two feet from where the old fence once stood. It did what it had done for the past five years. It was amazing given the amount of construction work that went on in the area where it grew and prospered. When I noticed it this Spring, I got a wide smile on my face and laughed. It was if it was saying to me ‘ha ha ha, you can’t kill me off that easy’. I’m so glad that we didn’t.
Clematis is a genus of about 300 species within the buttercup family Ranunculaceae. Their garden hybrids have been popular among gardeners beginning with Clematis jackmanii, a garden standby since 1862. More hybrid cultivars are being produced constantly. They are mainly of Chinese and Japanese origin. Our Clematis Bonanza was introduced at the Chelsea Flower Show in 2006. This free-flowering Clematis blooms from midsummer into September. We have let Bonanza, with its purple-blue blooms up to 3 inches wide, grow along our backyard fence with much success. It is a hardy and vigorous vine and generally shunned by deer. This is always a good thing for our deer-ravaged part of Connecticut. Our only concern at this point is around the amount of sun the Clematis is receiving each day. Most Clematis prefer the full sun with some shade around its roots. Our new construction shades the Clematis for most of the day. We will need to keep an eye on it to make sure it can survive with only a few hours of direct sunlight.
So hats off to you Clematis Bonanza and your ability to survive against even the hardest of times. We are so glad you did. Here’s hoping you have enough sunlight so that we can bring you some new brothers and sisters in the Fall to help you fill in that backyard fence. What are your favorite ‘children’ living in your garden?
This is what I found on the granite posts that support our espalier apple trees. What the hell is it? A larvae of some sort with some fur or hair sticking out on the bottom. When I saw this on the post, I almost threw up. Again, what don’t I like? What’s my least favorite part of living in the woods of Connecticut? Yes, the critters. It can be as big as a beaver or as small as a hairy larvae, but the site of something like this from nature sets me free. I don’t really know when my critter fears began. As a kid I was always one with nature. I caught frogs and toads, tried to catch fish with my hands, used to watch the pheasant and quail fly around in the fields behind my house. Something changed and all I know now is that there is no joy…there is just a rush of heat through my body as my natural instincts instruct me to run for safety. It’s the weirdest thing.
The larvae has to be related to the caterpillar I found on the other side of the post. As a young kid, I would have grabbed the caterpillar, rubbed its furry little body and maybe put it into a jar with air holes poked into the top to watch it turn into a moth or a butterfly. Now, I attach the telescopic lens to my camera and zoom in from across the yard to get the picture.
Here’s what I’m hoping. Maybe the larvae and caterpillar have something to do with the luna moth that was stuck to the side of the house for so many days last month. Maybe the luna gracefully flew to the granite post to leave one more generation of its beautiful family and this is what I found. With my critter luck, I know that this caterpillar probably produced the larvae and out will come some hideous moth with fangs, a large wasp with a six-inch stinger or some strain of garden eating worm. Let’s pray for the luna moth!
So rest assured that I will be hitting the internet this afternoon trying to figure out what is stuck to the espalier posts. I may even go to the book store and buy a moth/butterfly book to see if I can figure out what is growing in the back. I pray it is not something hideous so I won’t have to go out there and knock it off the post. That would mean the neighbors would get to see another round of me screaming and running around like a crazy person. If you know what this is, please leave me a comment. In other words…..What is it?
This is another edition of Friday Dance Party on Acorns On Glen. It’s the time where we give thanks for making it through another week and for being alive and present here on Earth. How do we celebrate another week of living? We dance. So, are you alive this Friday? Are you and your family safe and sound? Take a few seconds now to be in the moment and realize what a great life you truly have. Did you give thanks for that?
Good, now let’s dance.
It passed. 10:30 PM NYC time right now!!!
What’s the state of love in America? It seems that everyone in politics seems to have a view on the subject these days. If you live in the State of New York or close by in Connecticut like we do, you have heard a lot of people weigh in on the subject over the last few weeks. This is primarily due to the New York State Legislature working to vote on a marriage act that will allow same-sex partners the right to marry in the State of New York. Connecticut already allows it. I first have to tell you that we are very pro same-sex marriage. We look at it differently though in terms of views at Glen Road. One view is that if two people love each other, than they should be allowed to marry. Another view in our house is that same-sex partners should have the same rights and protections that others are given and this includes marriage. Another view in the house is that they would want to be married if the church recognizes the union and they care less about the government. Which one is right? I think that it is probably a mix of all of these opinions. So why does it bug me that the debate on same-sex marriage is such a big deal and so controversial? I just don’t get it. I just think it is so easy to see. I don’t think that God frowns on it like some, I don’t think it dilutes the bond of marriage traditionally held between a man and a woman and I don’t like politicians weighing in on something I don’t think many of them know too much about. Again, I like to keep it simple. I think it all comes down to love and love is one of the most pure and simple things we have. If you love someone, it is love. There is no straight love, gay love, Caucasian love, African American love, Hispanic love, man love, woman love, etc. There is just LOVE…the same feeling no matter how you get there. There is just LOVE and if you and someone else are in love, you should be allowed to marry if you are so inclined. The marriage that you enter should also be equal to all other marriages done in this country. It’s only fair…this is about equality. So to the same-sex marriage haters….if you don’t approve of gay marriage, don’t marry a gay person. Mind your own business…God forbid if you were told you couldn’t do something that someone could do! So that’s my rant on love. <deep breath>
Moving on, I do think I know something that we can all agree on regarding LOVE. I’m pretty sure that we all love living, music and dancing. Right? You’ve made it through another week and you are still kicking. Celebrate that fact by turning the speakers up on your computer and shaking it to JTX’s ‘Love In America’. You deserve it. Go ahead and shake that money maker and remember to love the one you’re with. What’s your opinions on LOVE…we’d love to hear them?
This is a transition period in our garden. The spectacular blooming of the more tender plants of Spring is over and the vast majority of the gorgeous blooms are just memories now. As we start Summer, the new wave of bloomers tend to come from more hardy plants and shrubs that are better able to take the hot temperatures and small amounts of moisture that Summer offers. The plants of Summer are a tough bunch. They can stand up to the brutal 100 degree days and seem to not mind too much if the raindrops are far and few between. You can just tell by looking at them. They actually look tougher than their Spring cousins. Hardier and thicker, their flowers seem to stare at you and say ‘what are you looking at?’ Remember when you were growing up and the ‘tough’ kids would hang out together and taunt other kids by saying thing like ‘come over here and we’ll punch you’ or ‘what’s your problem?’ or ‘what are you looking at?’. That’s these bloomers…the tough kids. They know how to get along with little help from others. They are scrappy. They need to be to make it through July and August. Enjoy our latest virtual garden tour and see what’s blooming on Glen Road.
When it is all said and done, we’re glad the tough kids are out there growing during the Summer. From now until the end of August, the days get so hot that it makes it difficult to spend a large amount of time working out in the gardens. Some light weeding, deadheading and evening watering is about all you can do without major heat stroke. Even though we stay indoors or by the pool more, it is still a great feeling to look outside and see that you still have flowers blooming. Raises your spirits even in the hottest of times. What are some of your favorite Summer bloomers?
This is baked ziti with a piece of Italian braciola on the side. It was made by our own Notorious B.I.G.–our Brooklyn Italian Grandmother. Yes, she is back and making another one of her all-time favorites. Most Sunday dinners always include her famous sauce and meatballs/sausage, but she doesn’t always include braciola. Her braciola takes thin slices of sirloin, adds a seasoned breadcrumb mixture along with cheese, egg and sausage and then they are rolled and secured with a wooden toothpick or cooking twine. After lightly browning them in olive oil, they are added into her gravy (sauce) to cook along with the meatballs and sausage. When I first met B.I.G., it was one of the first things she made and served to me. I loved it that very first time and all the times since then during the thirteen years I have known her. There is something so delicious about this little Italian meat dumpling that stands its own against the big pile of macaroni that always sits right beside it. I really don’t need the pasta at all. I could be very happy with just the braciola. I have always wanted to learn how to make it and I have finally gotten my wish. So here is B.I.G.’s recipe for Italian braciola–one of the best I’ve ever had. It all starts with the same bread crumb mixture she uses in her other recipes.
- 8 – 10 thin slices of braciola meat or sirloin steak (our local butcher cuts sirloin for us)
- 5 cloves of garlic, chopped into small pieces
- 1 1/2 cups of seasoned bread crumbs
- 3/4 cup of grated parmesan cheese, plus more for shredding
- 4 thin slices of Italian sopressata, chopped (nothing is bad with a little sopressata on it)
- 1/4 cup of finely chopped Italian parsley (I am told to tell you that it must be Italian–do not use curly)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 1 Italian sausage (about 6 – 8 inches long), hot or mild (whatever you prefer) cooked in olive oil
- 3 hard-boiled eggs
- 1/2 cup olive oil
Begin by preparing the Italian sausage link and the hard-boiled eggs and let them cool until they can be handled. While they are cooling, combine the garlic, bread crumbs, cheese, sopressata, parsley, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Mix all ingredients until combined with each other. Lay out meat slices and sprinkle bread crumb mixture over the top of each slice.
Next, take the cooled sausage and remove the skin. Chop it into small bite-sized pieces and spread them on top of the meat slices as well.
Do the same with the boiled eggs. Chop the eggs into small bite-size pieces and spread them on top of the meat slices.
Finish by grating some additional parmesan cheese on the finished meat slices.
Carefully roll each meat slice and secure with a wooden toothpick. You may need more than one toothpick to ensure that the inside stuffing does not come out during browning and then simmering in the gravy.
Heat the olive oil. When hot, add each braciola and lightly brown the meat. Continue turning until they are lightly browned on all sides. At this point, you can continue cooking if you would like until the braciola are completely cooked and eat them on their own. Most of the time, you will put them into your prepared gravy (sauce) after lightly browning them and let them continue cooking in the simmering gravy (sauce) until they are completely cooked through.
I have been to some of the finest Italian restaurants in the world and have quit ordering braciola because nothing compares to the braciola made by B.I.G. I tend to find that many times the restaurants where I have ordered it bring it out with little taste. Maybe they are scared to serve it to large numbers with too much seasoning in it or our family just loves large amounts of flavor coming from garlic, sopressata, egg, cheese and sausage? Who knows! However, these braciola pack a lot of flavor and taste. I can see them being eaten on their own with a salad or a side of broccoli rabe or as part of the traditional Italian dinner with macaroni and gravy. Whatever way you choose, you are in for a treat. Man, our Notorious B.I.G. knows how to cook. Did you learn to cook on your own or with the help of a relative like our Notorious B.I.G.?
This is the only nice part of deadheading in the garden. Every once in a while, as you are cruising through the garden and cutting off spent flowers, you see the occasional moth or butterfly trying to hold on to something that was once so plush and gorgeous. It happens every Spring. Your garden flowers come on hard and strong. You get such a magnificent display of color in all the blooms that open. All the beauty makes you proud to be a gardener. Then in a few short days for some flowers and a few short weeks for others, it is over. The blooms wilt and die. The dead flowers become a grim reminder that Spring is leaving. As a gardener, you then move into the next phase of gardening and what I officially think of as the start of Summer. The dreaded deadheading.
There are a lot of chores that a gardener needs to do during the growing cycle. There is none that I hate more than deadheading flowers. I like the chores that are about encouraging growth. I hate the ones that make me deal with the dead. There is no amount of songs on my iPhone that I can listen to that keep me motivated enough for the task of snip, snip, snipping dead flowers. The dead flowers are everywhere and the chore never seems to end. You can go through your entire garden and end up at your starting point and will still see dead flowers that you’ve either missed or they have died since your last trip through. It’s depressing!
So why do I do it? Because dealing with the dead helps bring back life. If left to their own devices, many flowers will bloom heavily for a short period of time, then set seed, thinking they’re done for the season. Deadheading interrupts this cycle. You’re actually fooling the plant, forcing them to send out another flush of blooms to try to complete the reproductive cycle. The blooms in the second or third display may not be as large or as numerous as the first, but they are certainly worth the effort. This is especially true for roses, day lilies and flowering annuals that inhabit a large section of my garden. For the bulb population like alliums and tulips, deadheading flower and stem down to the ground helps keep the energy in the bulb versus having the bulb send it to the flower to produce seed. Deadheading these perennials helps to strengthen the bulb for next year’s growth.
So if you ever see me in my garden with a sad or bored look on my face, you will know it is deadheading that is what is bringing me down. Please try to distract me….it won’t take much. I know I’ll be happy when the next round of rose blooms come around, but in that moment, I would give anything to be somewhere else. What garden chores are your least favorite?
This is some finely chopped sage. It is for the crust of a lemon tart that I made for dessert. It is no secret that I don’t really like citrus flavors in the food I cook. I’m not a big fan of zest in anything and I don’t like to punch up any flavor with citrus juice. When the troops were asking for something that had lemon in it, I had to think what recipes I had that at least had something in it that would interest me. I have been reading Martha Stewart’s ‘Pies and Tarts’ and I saw this recipe for a Marbled Lemon Tart with a Sage and Cornmeal Crust. This sounded different enough. This was what I would make to get the lemon lovers their fix. I was actually surprised. A crisp crust that contained sage and cornmeal, along with lemon curd that had its bite taken down a few notches by the addition of creme fraiche. It was pretty good. So let’s make a lemon tart that even non-lemon heads can handle.
For the Sage-Cornmeal Crust:
- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
- 3/4 cup coarse yellow cornmeal
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh sage
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
- 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- 3 large egg yolks
- 5 tablespoons ice water
Pulse flour, cornmeal, sugar, sage, salt and lemon zest in a food processor until combined. Add butter; pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal. Whisk egg yolks and ice water in a small bowl. With machine running, add to flour mixture through feed tube; process until dough just holds together. Turn out dough onto a work surface. Divide in half, and shape each portion into a disk. Wrap in plastic, and refrigerate 30 minutes (or up to 2 days). On a lightly floured work surface, roll out 1 disk to a 10-inch round. Fit into a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom; trim edges flush with rim. Refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour (or up to 1 day). Reserve remaining dough for another use (it can be frozen up to 3 months). Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Dock the shell by pricking the bottom of tart shell with a fork. Bake until golden brown, about 25 minutes. Let cool.
For the Filling:
- 1/4 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
- 1 tablespoon cold water
- 6 large egg yolks
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
- 3 tablespoons creme fraiche
Sprinkle gelatin over cold water in a small bowl, and let stand until softened, about 5 minutes. Whisk together egg yolks, sugar, and salt in a large heatproof bowl. Gradually whisk in lemon juice. Place bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, and whisk constantly until mixture has thickened and registers 160 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. Whisk in gelatin mixture.
Remove from heat and whisk in butter, a few pieces at a time, until smooth. Let cool, stirring occasionally. Prepare an ice-water bath. Place bowl of yolk mixture over bath and stir until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes.
Spread curd into crust; smooth top. Dollop creme fraiche on top. Using a wooden skewer or the tip of a knife, swirl creme fraiche into curd to create a marbleized effect. Refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours (or up to overnight).
In my rush to get the dessert out to the lemon lovers, I forgot to take a picture of the finished product so I included a copy of Martha’s so you get the feel. While no one’s dessert can look as good as one shot by a professional photographer, mine was pretty close….let’s just say in a more ‘rustic’ way. Given that I usually give citrus the cold shoulder, even I thought this dessert was pretty tasty and refreshing. So when lemon is the name of the game, give them something different with a lemon tart with a marble swirl in a sage-cornmeal crust. It’s the perfect summer treat. What desserts do you make that contain lemons?