More What’s Blooming – A Virtual Garden Tour

This is a shot that I can’t even believe I took.  Even with temperatures stuck in the high 80s and many times in the 90s, a dragonfly still has the energy to fly over and enjoy the bloom of a butterfly bush in our front yard.  Even better, the dragonfly waited around long enough for me to get a couple of shots with my camera.  It doesn’t usually happen like this for me when I’m out taking photos.  Most things fly away faster than I can aim, focus and snap a picture.  Yes, Summer is here.  Temperatures are high, rain is scarce and there is a lot of humidity.  That doesn’t mean that flowers and plants aren’t blooming here on Glen Road.  To the contrary, a number of plants are in full bloom even with the harsh conditions.  So we hope you take a few minutes and enjoy a virtual garden tour of what’s blooming in our garden right now.  Here is what is happening:

We hope you liked our little virtual garden tour.  It is amazing that there can be so many blooms given the temperatures we have been dealing with here in Connecticut.  It just goes to show you that there is always a flower of some sort for every season.  All of the plants in this tour require very little water and still show off a dynamic and beautiful display of blooms.  What, if anything, is blooming in your neck of the woods given the hot temperatures we have been having?

A Toad’s House Or Did We Buy Some Bad Real Estate?

This is a toad house.  Have you ever heard of such a thing?  Neither had we until someone commented on Acorns On Glen that I should buy this guy a house.  Remember our little half-inch toad friend?

So we are told that these little guys like a house built for them that they can live under and not worry about predators likes snakes to eat them up during the night.  We guess we understand…who wouldn’t like a house built for them when they are born or when they get married?  Even more, would you like to get eaten during the night by a snake?  The little ceramic houses also protect them from the elements….sun, rain, etc.

So if all thing go according to plan, we should have a toad or two living in the two apartments that we constructed in a very short amount of time….one in the back yard and one in the front yard.  This is what we hope our happy toad family looks like in their new home.  Think ‘Extreme Makeover, Home Edition’ for toads.

Let us know….good idea or a huge rip-off?  Each house cost $13…not a huge investment and if it is successful, how great would it be to see where our toads live and be able to point it out to all of our city friends.  If it doesn’t work, can’t you buy plastic toads at the garden supply store and try to trick all your friends into believing they are real?  We’ll keep you posted on how they are received by the toad community.  I’m off to buy an ab cruncher and a few knives off the television.  Aren’t they guaranteed for success as well….just like the toad houses?  What do you think….will toads move in or will we have a vacancy all the rest of the Summer?

Clams And Sausage In Parsley Sauce With An Anna Pump Shout Out

This is a dish from one of my favorite chefs and one of my favorite cookbooks of all time.  It is clams and sausage in parsley sauce over linguine by Anna Pump.  I’ve written about Anna Pump before.  Anna has never had a television show that I know of and I don’t think her cookbooks have made her millions of dollars, but her and her store in the Hamptons, ‘Loaves and Fishes’, have inspired so many people to make great food using simple and fresh ingredients.  She has inspired people like Ina Garten and Martha Stewart, who both have taken her philosophies to the masses.  In 1985, she wrote ‘The Loaves and Fishes Cookbook’ and I have loved using it since the day I bought it.  There are a lot of cookbooks out there, but Anna Pump’s cookbook is one where you can feel how much she loves food and cooking.  A lot of cookbooks are printed to make the author lots of money.  Anna’s is not that type of cookbook.  You can read it and tell that she has a deep and true love for the art of food.  She is the rare type where the mission is the food and whatever comes after that is secondary.  If she published or not, if she became famous or not, it doesn’t matter.  The craft comes first and this craft is the art of making great food.  The only other chef I can think of with this same philosophy is Julia Child.

I love the idea of mixing clams with sausage.  This recipe is somewhere between a paella and a pasta dish with seafood.  The sauce starts out very pale and reddens up after the addition of the chorizo sausage.  The sausage also adds a little heat to the recipe which is another thing I like.  Don’t get me wrong…this is not over-the-top hot, but just enough kick to make it interesting.  The parsley is also a nice addition.  I always use Italian flat-leaf parsley because I think it is less bitter than the curly variety.  The recipe below is modified from the original.  I use less clams, onions, red pepper and parsley than the original.  I just think the original will make too much food.  For example, the original says to use 6 dozen littleneck clams…that seems like a lot to me.  Try making this recipe….it’s like a delicious beach clambake in your own dining room.

Ingredients:

  • 3 dozen littleneck clams
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 cups peeled and finely chopped onion
  • 4 large garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 1 red pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 1/4 cups clam juice (can be found in a bottle in the supermarket)
  • 1 cup dry white wine (I used a Chardonnay)
  • 1 1/2 cups minced Italian flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
  • 3 cups sliced chorizo sausages
  • 2 pounds linguine

Directions:

Scrub the clams and set aside.

Heat the oil in a large saute pan.  Saute the onion, garlic and red peppers for 5 minutes over low heat.  Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables.  Stir to mix well.  Add the clam juice, wine, parsley and hot red pepper flakes.  Stirring constantly, bring the mixture to a boil.  Simmer for 5 minutes.

Add the sausage and the clams.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Simmer just until the clams open.  This will take no more than 5 to 10 minutes.

Place cooked linguine in a large pasta bowl and empty clams and sauce over the top.  Serve immediately.

This meal is easy because it doesn’t require a lot of side dishes to round it out.  We ate it with just a green salad on the side.  How easy is that?  This dish has so much flavor.  I was so happy how it turned out, but then again, Anna Pump’s recipes never seem to disappoint me.  Give this dish a try, and if you like it, go find some more Anna Pump recipes.  She is a really talented chef and worthy of the recognition.  What favorite chefs do you go back to time and time again that you would like to tell us about on Acorns On Glen?

Roasted Eggplant Caponata

This is a roasted eggplant caponata that we used as an appetizer last night when we had friends over for dinner.  It is an old Italian favorite our Brooklyn Italian Grandmother told me.  Although she had never made it, she told me that it was her sister-in-law’s specialty, so the pressure was on when I announced that I was going to make it.  There were a couple of questions about the recipe (“What, no celery?” and “She never used pine nuts.”), but the end result from Notorious B.I.G. was a huge thumbs up.  To me, that meant this eggplant recipe was a keeper.  It is one of those make ahead recipes because the longer you hold off on serving it, the more time the flavors have to mix and meld together.  You can absolutely make this a day ahead and keep it in the refrigerator until time to serve.  I served it along with some plain and multi-grain pita chips, but use your imagination.  Since it is a dip, we could have used regular chips, bagel chips, vegetables to accompany it.  It’s really up to what you are in the mood for when you serve it.  Try this recipe…the flavors are incredible together and by the empty container that was there at the end of the night, it was a hit.  As well, remember that it comes with the Notorious B.I.G.’s seal of approval.  Here’s how you make it.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large eggplant (1 1/2 pounds)
  • Olive oil
  • 4 ounces jarred roasted red peppers, chopped
  • 1/2 cup large green olives, pitted and chopped
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 4 large cloves minced garlic
  • 3 tablespoons minced parsley
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons drained capers
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Line a sheet pan with aluminum foil.  Place the whole eggplant on the pan, prick with a fork in several places (you don’t want an exploding eggplant in your oven) and rub with olive oil.

Roast for 50 minutes, until the eggplant is very soft when pierced with a knife.  Set aside to cool.

Halve the eggplant, peel, and discard the skin.  Place the eggplant, peppers and olives in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade and pulse until coarsely chopped.

Pour into a mixing bowl.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a medium saute pan.  Add the onion and red pepper flakes and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, until the onion is lightly browned.  Add the garlic, cook for 1 minute, and add to the eggplant mixture.

Add the parsley, pine nuts, lemon juice, capers, tomato paste, vinegar, salt and pepper and mix.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a few hours to allow the flavors to develop.  Taste for seasonings and serve at room temperature.

It’s great having friends over for dinner and even better when you can serve them something new and delicious.  Our roasted eggplant caponata did just that.  It was the perfect start to a fun evening.  Well, the eggplant and a few glasses of wine were the start to a fun evening.  You get my drift.  Give it a try.  What do you like to serve as an appetizer at your dinner parties?

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words – Dragonfly Dreams

This is a little dragonfly warming up in the early morning sun.  They always look so magical and mystical.  Friends with the faeries and gnomes that live out in the woods or so my little five-year old neighbors like to tell me.  Makes me want to curl up and lay in the sun all Saturday as well.  What are your plans for the weekend?

Friday Dance Party – Shaggy’s Sugar Cane

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.

Wow, it’s been a hectic week here at work.  There was a new system upgrade (which really didn’t work that well) and so it meant a lot of late hours for my team and lots of stress.  This week I was pondering on where we should go for summer vacation and although no final decisions have been made yet, after this week, I need a break.  Whenever you have an extremely hard week at work, do you every so often think about just throwing in the towel and starting over from scratch?  This was one of those weeks for me, but every time I think about what I’d do if I could pick a different job, I can’t figure out the answer.  I just can’t think what I want to do when I grow up.  That’s what made me think of this song for this week’s dancing.  Why not give up all of this and move to a sugar cane ranch somewhere on a far away island?  I could do that.  Could I do that?  Can you see me as a sugar cane farmer?  Anyway, this is a great song by Shaggy.  So get your reggae beat going and sway to the sounds.  It’s been a rough week, but we’ve made it through.  We deserve to dance and dance hard.  Oh Whoa…Oh Whoa…Oh.  Do you ever think of giving it all up and moving far away and starting over?

Comfort Food With A Twist – Meatloaf

This is some real comfort food if there ever was some.  It’s good old fashioned meatloaf with some creamy mashed potatoes.  But it’s not your ordinary diner-style meatloaf.  It’s not dense and dry and covered in brown gravy.  No, this meatloaf recipe is a twist on that old recipe and produces a light and juicy meatloaf topped with a sweet and sour glaze made from ketchup and brown sugar.  It also is pretty quick to prepare because all of your vegetables just need to be chopped in large chunks and then ground in the food processor.  You don’t need to stand for hours dicing celery, carrots and onions.  It also incorporates three kinds of ground meat to make the meatloaf light and full of flavor.  I also use Pepperidge Farms as my white bread of choice when I make this recipe.  Why only Pepperidge Farms?  When I was younger and used to go to the grocery store with my parents or my Grandma, I used to beg to buy a loaf of Pepperidge Farms bread.  I figured since it was so much more expensive than the other loaves than it had to be like a slice of heaven when you ate it.  I would explain to them the facts of how it was made with care by jolly looking bakers who kneaded the dough with their own hands with tender loving care.  I would tell them about the ovens where the bread was baked and how it was wrapped in paper and then placed in the plastic bag for extra freshness.  Not only that, but they wrapped it while it was still warm from the oven.  This is why too much television is bad for a small child to take part in every day!  My parents or my Grandma would stare at me in disbelief that here was this small child reciting facts he had learned from a bread commercial.  It must have been this scary little feeling inside of them that always made them tell me no.  My parents and Grandmother were tough because I remember begging (and many times probably crying and screaming) to buy a loaf of this special bread.  Why don’t they see what I see in this delicious loaf that is so much better than the other white breads out here on this rack?  Now that I have my own money, I always buy Pepperidge Farms white bread to use at home.  I’ve come to realize that it doesn’t necessarily taste any better, but it’s just the whole principle of the matter, if you get my drift.  Bread aside, if you are looking for a comfort food classic with a twist, give our meatloaf a try.  Your family will love it.

Ingredients:

  • 4 slices Pepperidge Farms white bread, crusts removed and torn into large pieces (I just know it is the best!!)
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped into eighths
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped into quarters
  • 1 medium carrot, chopped into quarters
  • 1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley
  • 12 ounces ground beef chuck
  • 12 ounces ground pork
  • 12 ounces ground veal
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 cup ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons light-brown sugar

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Pulse bread in a food processor until finely ground (you should have about 2 1/2 cups breadcrumbs).  Transfer to a medium bowl.

Pulse the large chunks of garlic, onion, celery, carrot, and parsley in food processor until finely chopped.  Remember to let the food processor do all the hard chopping work.  This is a huge time saver.

Add to breadcrumbs.  Add meats, egg, 1/4 cup ketchup, the mustard, Worcestershire sauce, 1 tablespoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper; mix together using your hands.

Transfer mixture to a 5-by-9-inch loaf pan.

Stir together remaining  1/2 cup ketchup and the brown sugar until smooth; brush onto meat.  I also poke six deep holes into the top of the meat with my finger before I brush on the ketchup mixture.  This enables the ketchup to penetrate farther down into the meatloaf and increase the flavor.

Set pan on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center reaches 160 degrees, about 1 hour 20 minutes.  Let cool slightly before serving.

Always a family pleaser, this little meatloaf with a twist is great as your dinner’s main course and then equally as good the next day in a sandwich or two.  It is also easy to pair up with almost any side dish.  A potato dish, a vegetable dish…..it all works with meatloaf.  Hope you like this new twist on an old fashion main dish staple.  What old classics do you cook up with some modern twists to them?

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words – Vacation Needed

This is where we might be spending our Summer vacation unless we decide on something to do as quickly as possible.  All of our friends are off to Europe, on cruises, at the shore.  Us….absolutely no plans.  While the hammock would be nice to lay in for a week, it’s not very exciting.  We need to make a plan and make it now.  What are your plans for Summer vacation this year?

Summer Update….Warts And All

This is a Summer update to some of the stories we have posted earlier this year on Acorns On Glen.  Can you believe it is the middle of July?  It doesn’t seem possible until you go outside and the hot sun beats down on you while you are gardening or messing around on the patio.  Time goes so fast.  I am remembering a saying that seems to hold some truth for us this year–the older you get, the faster time flies.  That sums up 2011 so far for us even though I am not admitting to getting any older.  On Sunday, we posted a virtual garden tour on what was blooming in our garden.  While we were walking around the garden, there were so many times we stopped and remembered that we had done a post on a certain flower or a certain plant earlier in the year.  So we came up with the idea of doing a post to show what has happened since we first posted the original garden or everyday life story all those months, weeks or days ago.  Some of the stories show progress and some show a different picture.  In the spirit of open and honest communication, we are going to share the good with the bad.  It’s what’s going on at Glen Road….warts and all!

In June, we posted an article entitled “Another Post About Legal Pot“.  We thought the title was funny as the post was about potting plants that we had purchased from White Flower Farm and not about the happy weed that most people would think about when they read the title.  Can you believe that it is one of our most visited posts?  We get it, it’s not the gripping story that unfolded, but the provocative title.  In our story, we show two collections of annuals that we received and planted in pots around our pool.  At the time we wrote the post, the pots looked pretty empty with the little plants placed in them.  Here are the pictures that showed the planting of the ‘Sunny Summer Annual Collection’ and the ‘King Tut Annual Collection’.  Pretty meager to say the least.

Well, we hoped in our post that our two collections would take root and grow and grow they did.  We have been lucky to have some long spells of sun interrupted by a few days of rain and this has been the perfect trick to grow our two collections into some impressive potted displays.  Here are the same two pots still sitting around the pool, but look at how well the plants have filled in.

Sometimes your best intentions in the garden turn out to be disappointments.  Take our story in April on Grace Kelly coming to see us on Glen Road in the post entitled ‘Grace Kelly Moves To Glen Road‘.  If Grace Kelly visited or moved in that would be news to us because we missed it.  Our post was about a tree rose where a Grace Kelly rose bush was fused to a tree trunk and the small tree would bloom with Grace Kelly roses all Summer.  Here are a few shots of the tree rose that we planted and placed on our patio.  So full of potential at the time!

So to be honest, things looked great at the beginning of Grace’s growth.  She pushed out a few leaves on the top branches and hopes were high.  Then she just stopped, dried up and died…or so we thought.  At about the time we were ready to give Grace and her soil a final resting place in our compost pile, we noticed that she decided to change her mind and grow from the bottom of the container and not from the top of the branch like she was supposed to do.  So we have left Grace in her same spot to see what she produces from the rose branch that is growing from the base of the pot.  Do you think we will get a pretty pink rose by the time Fall comes to visit?  Look hard at the base of the pot and you can see the spindly little rose branch growing.

Remember when we were ‘Hot For Horseradish‘ and ‘Raising Rhubarb‘ in April?  We planted some horseradish and rhubarb at about the same time and we were so excited for them to grow and then come back in 2012 for some harvesting.  Well, we will have some rhubarb, but the horseradish had other plans.  Here are our horseradish and rhubarb plants from back in April.

Needless to say our horseradish patch is now a nice little track of dirt and mud.  Did the plants just pack up and leave?  Maybe they didn’t want to live by the sweet and sour goodness of the rhubarb?  Whatever the reason, our horseradish struck out while our rhubarb hit a home run this season.

There are even updates from our post on Sunday ‘What’s Blooming – Another Virtual Garden Tour‘.  In that post, we talked about our best garden buy ever, which were the long-blooming day lilies from QVC.  Well since that post where we showed two blooming varieties, a third one has opened its buds to display a brownish bloom that will last for a couple of months.  Maybe it’s the child of the original yellow variety and the coral variety that we showed you on Sunday.  Remember them?

We are not sure we remember this variety from previous years.  Can that be possible that it just came out of no where?  Doubtful, but stranger things have happened in our garden.  Again, notice the almost brown color of the petals.  As well, the dark purple middle is a killer.  So gorgeous and, best yet, long lasting.

Remember this little stunner from our trip to Christie’s auction house in June in our post ‘Lots Of Bling – Christie’s Important Jewels‘?

This little diamond ring set with an oval-cut diamond, weighing approximately 46.51 carats, flanked on either side by a pear-shaped diamond, weighing approximately 1.01 carats, mounted in platinum was estimated to go for anywhere from $2,500,000 to $3,500,000 in auction.  Guess what the final bid price was when the dust settled at the auction?  $4,226,500!!  A steal (or to steal it is the only way we would ever be able to own such a gorgeous diamond!).

Lastly, we had made a smart little comment about our Asiatic lilliums being some of the first flowers we planted at Glen Road and, while we were excited that they came back year after year, they were not the most vivid colors we had ever seen.  We tried to get out of putting them down by saying we weren’t the most vivid color either after six years on Glen Road, but it didn’t work.  Here is what we snapped on Sunday in ‘What’s Blooming – Another Virtual Garden Tour‘.

Well this morning on a little garden stroll, another Asiatic lillium had shown its face.  Guess what?  The blooms match our embarrassed faces.  How dare we make fun of our lillium tribe.  Our new bloomer is a dark red.  We may be less than vivid in our six years here on Glen Road, but don’t bring the lilliums down.  They are a diverse nation if we have ever seen one.

So we hope you enjoyed our little update of what’s been going on here at Glen Road.  The garden and everyday life are amazing and fun things.  With every great story, there is another one where things just didn’t go exactly as planned.  That’s life!  Well, for all our less than stellar performances, we guess there is always next year…or the year after….or the year after.  You get our drift.  What good or crazy things have been going on for you this Summer?