Where does the time go? And how does my fairly good garden grow?

I cannot believe it’s been over 30 days since my last blog entry! That’s simply unacceptable. It’s a good thing I’m not getting paid to do this ūüôā

Seriously, June was a busy month, (and that’s a good thing!) I started working again … freelance & from home for the most part. ¬†I make my own hours and can still make certain that my family is the NUMBER ONE priority. So far, it’s been really great, very lucrative & exciting. ¬†The Husband is super supportive & that is really the secret to my success.

Why did I get a job? ¬†Because I have home improvement projects that I want to get done & I don’t want to put a burden on our household finances. ¬†Next up: A fence between us and the neighbors to the east. ¬†Fences make good neighbors. ¬†I hope they get on the ball with us & get this accomplished before the end of summer. ¬†I’ve already had 2 conversations with this guy & he strikes me as a “Guy’s Guy.” ¬†Translation: He doesn’t want to discuss fences with the Fairly Good Mother. ¬†He wants to talk fences with The MAN of the HOUSE. ~Insert EyeRoll Here~

So, I’m busy & making money for fences and gardens and drapes and entertainment centers … but at what cost? ¬†No cost to the family – they’re good, well fed with delicious organic treats from my garden, but you know something’s got to give. ¬†Well then, what suffers? Writing. Blogging. Cooking. I’m seeking to find that balance. It took me a minute to work back in the exercise, but that is a necessary thing! ¬†I can’t deal with myself if I’m feeling bloated and creaky. ¬†Pilates is my savior. ¬†I love it. ¬†And thankfully, it feels like July will be less hectic and so I’m glad that I have a chance to catch up.

When you last saw my fledgling little fairly good garden, it looked like this:

the fairly good garden
the fairly good garden

Here’s what it looked like just 3 weeks ago when I fully intended to write a blog post updating you as to the condition of this garden:

the fairly good garden | June 2013
the fairly good garden | June 2013

Seriously – that was taken ONE MONTH after I planted the dang thing! ¬†I’ve reaped the LARGEST zucchini I have ever seen from this beautiful bountiful garden. ¬†I’ve eaten the sweetest strawberries, I’ve made pesto with my basil, I’ve made salad with my salad mix … and I just clipped off a brand spankin’ ruby red Habanero Chili and I cultivated a little baby artichoke, but I feel like it was the runt of the ‘choke family & so it did not get eaten.

prolly should have cut this guy when it looked like this, but I wanted to see if it would get bigger ... (that's what she said.)
prolly should have cut this guy when it looked like this, but I wanted to see if it would get bigger … (that’s what she said.)
and these weren't even the largest of the zucchinis!
and these weren’t even the largest of the zucchinis!
gardening is fun!
gardening is fun!

Things that are not going so well in the garden (*PLEASE, Tips, Tricks & Suggestions are ENCOURAGED!)

  • I have a Very Hungry Caterpillar roaming around the garden … Or perhaps there are two. ¬†I’ve met two of them and moved them to another area of the yard. ¬†They have wreaked havoc though! ¬†I used something that was non-toxic, all organic & totally safe – it was literally like pepper and $h!t or something … I cannot remember the name. It was a powder and I used it all in two applications.
  • HOLY Zucchini & Squash Leaves, People! ¬†I know for sure that Adam & Eve must have used these leaves as primitive undergarments. ¬†These are the LARGEST Freaking Leaves I’ve ever seen! ¬†And they’re prickly as f^ck. ¬†Seriously, get your damn gloves on before you go trimming them up! ¬†They crowd all the other veggies in my garden. ¬†I trimmed about 20% of the leaves back with no clear repercussions. ¬†Still got a massive zuke off that thing.
  • Cilantro is gone. ¬†It took off when the temperatures soared here last month & I’m sad because I was planning on making a kick-ass salsa with my tomatillos, tomatoes, chili peppers & cilantro. ¬†It went to flower, I cut it back (probably stupidly.) and 1 out of 2 of my plants is straight up dead.
  • Arugula went to seed. ¬†Also a victim of the 100+ temps here & I read that I should stop watering it and let the seed pods dry out then cultivate them for next season. ¬†Sound right?
  • Basil is stunted & I don’t know why. ¬†I snap off the tops when it starts to flower. ¬†Again, I think that the heat + the Very Hungry Caterpillar has something to do with it.
  • The strawberries aren’t producing as much as I thought. ¬†Same with my cucumber plant.
  • I think I over-planted … Oops! ¬†Live and Learn.

So there you have it, my dear friends … That’s what’s happening right now. ¬†I will snap more pics. ¬†I’m waiting for my tomatoes. ¬†Patiently. ¬†And the only one I saw had a nice little caterpillar hole in the bottom which made me want to put on my magnifying glasses & go on a Caterpillar hunt!

Oh, one last thing … what was for dinner tonight? ¬†Well, I have to share because it was so good … Another awesome find from Oh She Glows!¬† Veggie Spring Rolls (vegan-dish.) It was light, it was easy & it was so delicious! ¬†I licked the last of the peanut sauce off the blades of my food processor & no, I’m not joking. ¬†My dear friend had made this during her visit in April & I have been meaning to make it ever since then. ¬†So good. ¬†And perfect for not wanting to cook in 100 degree weather. ¬†And yes, I used my basil … but no, sadly, I had to purchase the cilantro.

Artichokes!

Artichokes | The Fairly Good Mother I love love LOVE artichokes. ¬†I have loved them since I first began scraping them with the nubs of my baby teeth. ¬†Artichokes are full of potassium, vitamin c, ¬†& fiber. ¬†And they are delicious. ¬†I have made them about 4,355 times in my adult life & this is how you do … or, rather, how I do:

1.  Take your artichoke, trim off the thorny tips with your kitchen shears so no one gets poked.

2.  Cut the stem bluntly at the base of the choke so that it can sit upright.

3.  Rinse your artichokes out & if you have the time, let them sit in a luke warm water bath for an hour Рif not, no worries, just rinse them well & tip them upside down to drain.

4.  Fill a large stock pot 1/4 of the way with water & sit the artichokes upright in the pot, they should be immersed about 1/4 Р1/3 of the way.

5.  Put the lid on top of the pot & turn your heat up high, bringing it to a boil.

6.  Once the water comes to a boil, lower the heat to a low roll ( med Рlow .)  And simmer for about 45 minutes to an hour.

7. ¬†You know your ‘choke is done when you can take a fork and stick it in and out of the base (stem) easily, (FYI, use a long ass tong fork to do this ‘cuz these chokes are HOT!)

8.  Flip it over on a slotted spoon to drain & then transfer to a bowl.

During the last 5 minutes your chokes are steaming, go ahead and make your dipping butter. ¬†One stick of butter serves 2-4 people. ¬†Melt a stick of butter on your stove top, squeeze in a half of a lemon, add a pinch or so of garlic powder & a dash or so of salt. ¬†You can get fancy with the butter – press some fresh garlic in there if you’d like. Serve your chokes with a wedge of lemon for peeps to add to their butter.

my artichoke | The Fairly Good Mother

NOW, after you’ve scraped off leaf after leaf of delicious artichoke meat with your choppers, you will get down to the thin leaves & instead of eating one at a time, you will scrape them in a bunch. ¬†YUM. ¬†Then, you will get to smaller and smaller leaves & eventually to the heart. ¬†You will need to scrape off the “chokers” (my mom calls them that, I don’t know what the scientific technical term is, but ¬†rumor has it, if you eat the chokers, you will die via choking. I kid. ¬†Sort of. ¬†ūüėČ ¬†I honestly don’t know because I’ve never eaten them, but the few that I’ve accidentally eaten didn’t feel good going down my throat.)

Here’s how you scrape the heart …

Scrape the chokers off! | The Fairly Good Mother Take a spoon and scrape off the chokers, cut off the rest of the stem & dice the heart, then immerse in your butter concoction. ¬†More salt (that’s what I do, anyway,) and voila! ¬†YUM, YUM, and MORE YUM!!!

My brother & I would literally make deals with one another for extra bites of each other’s hearts … “I will do your math homework if you let me have 3 bites of your heart.” ¬†And The Husband asks me to scrape his heart & I tell him that there’s a scrapers-fee of two large heart bites. ¬† YES, people, it’s that good & there isn’t a lot of heart, so savor each bite!!!!

This might not be the best picture, but i want to lick the screen right now!
This might not be the best picture, but i want to lick the screen right now!

Now, a couple of things to mention … You can get a steamer basket for your pot, I suppose, and that sounds great, but you don’t have to be that fancy. ¬†I am going to write down steamer basket on my Christmas wish list.

Also, there’s an odd short cut method my brother came up with, (in case you need to get the artichokes on the table faster than an hour.) ¬†Prepare them like I told you to above, and wrap them loosely in a plastic grocery bag. ¬†Pop them in the microwave for about 5 minutes to “loosen them up.” ¬†And then transfer them to the boiling pot of water. ¬†Should cut your cooking time in half. ¬†It doesn’t sound safe to me to be cooking plastic bags, but I’ve done it a couple of times & I live to tell you about this, so apparently it’s not going to immediately kill you ūüôā

Happy Dipping & Scraping!!

Every Day is Valentines Day Dinner

The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach … an old proverb, but a true one at that. ¬†Which is why, as a (self-proclaimed,) pretty good wifey, I enjoy the journey to the Husband’s heart, and cook for him pretty much every night. ¬†What was extra special about this particular dinner, is that I normally don’t make cocktails before hand & I normally don’t make dessert after.

For openers, a blood-orange cocktail with raspberries was a welcome hello to The Husband who had just gotten home from a long day at a new job.  blood orange cocktail | The Fairly Good Mother

blood orange cocktail w/ raspberries
Serves 2

Ingredients

    • 2 oz blood orange juice
    • 4 oz Vodka
    • 3 oz Cointreau
    • 1 oz lime juice
    • raspberries

Method:
Place 3-4 raspberries in the bottom of each chilled martini glass.  Add all other ingredients to a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake well, strainer into glasses. Garnish with raspberries.

For the main course, I actually made very simple lightly breaded pork chops with a warm goat cheese salad, but I didn’t feel like writing up the recipe right now – I’ll do it later & update the post here. ¬†So, you’re getting a recipe for a dish I make quite often & is elegant enough for a special occasion, but easy enough for a weeknight meal … sorry, I can’t believe in the many years I’ve been making this dish, that I have never once taken a picture!

lemon-artichoke chicken with steamed chokes & jasmine rice 

Prep & cook time – 45 mins to an hour
You can either use 2 or 4 chicken breasts – I make the same amount of sauce for both.

Ingredients
2 or 4 boneless / skinless chicken breasts (you can pound them or not pound them, I usually don’t go to the trouble unless they’re really thick.

  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 jar (14 oz) artichoke hearts, drained
  • 2 tbsps dry cooking sherry
  • 2 tbsps grated lemon peel (i love my microplane)
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 c whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup parmesean cheese (optional)

Method:
Preheat oven to 350, Salt & pepper them, use some lemon pepper seasoning if you desire it a little more “lemony”… melt butter in frying pan over medium-high heat. ¬†Add chicken and cook, turning once, until browned (about 4-5 mins on each side) Transfer chicken to a 9×11 cooking dish and put chopped artichoke hearts on top of chicken.

Add sherry, lemon peel & lemon juice to remaining butter in frying pan; stir over medium heat until well blended & hot Рabout 2 to 3 minutes.  Add cream & stir, let thicken a bit until bubbling.  Remove from heat, pour sauce over chicken & artichokes, then sprinkle with cheese if desired.

Bake until sauce is bubbling & golden brown on top – about 20-25 mins.

free happy snoopy.jpgBecause Valentine’s Day isn’t a government holiday & 5 times out of 7 falls on a weeknight, let’s make this easy. ¬†I love the Trader Joe’s frozen organic jasmine rice – just pop it in the microwave for 3 minutes & then serve it as a side to this flavorful dish.

And you might say it’s artichoke ovrekill, but around these parts we love our chokes …what can I say, I’m a California girl born and bred – artichokes & avocados every day! ¬†And steamed artichokes go along well with this dinner. ¬†Some of my friends say they’ve never steamed an artichoke – I say, CRAZY!

artichoke

They’re easy to make, you trim the pokers off the tops of the leaves, cut the stem off so the artichoke can sit upright, rinse them out, (best way to do that is to let them sit in a sink – or a bowl – of cool water for an hour,) drain them, and then put them in a large pot with a little bit of salted water – covering them 1/4 of the way or so. ¬†Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to steam … they take about 45 mins – an hour, you can tell when they’re done b/c a fork will go in and out of the stem with ease!

We love dipping the leaves in drawn butter infused with lemon & garlic, and then scraping the meat off the leaves with our teeth. ¬†When you make the heart, let it cool all the way down & be sure to scrape the “chokers” off before dicing up the heart. ¬†It’s so apropos for Valentine’s day ‚̧ ¬†One of these days I’ll get around to making a video about artichokes.

If you’re not into chicken, how about grilled swordfish and a¬†cilantro-lime cream sauce. ¬†you can still do the steamed chokes, or you could do a sauteed zucchini squash as a side-dish. ¬†Swordfish is a great fish to serve to non-fish lovers because it’s the ‘steak of the sea’ & very mild. And the jasmine rice is a great companion to this dish as well.

2011-Chenin-Blanc,-Mendocino---280px2Some wines that would rock these dishes are:  2009 Rouseanne from Zaca Mesa, 2011 Sauvignon Blanc from Morgan Winery, or 2011 Chenin Blanc from Elizabeth Spencer.

Dessert is so easy … or hard, depending on what you’re looking to do after dinner? ¬†Cook some more in the kitchen or in the bedroom? ¬†Or both? ¬†I vote for these¬†mini cheesecakes with raspberry sauce¬†from Annie’s Eats¬†, or dark chocolate walnut-chunk brownies, from Martha, (I add walnuts.) ¬†Both you can make ahead of time and serve in the bedroom if you desire.

Happy Valentines Day!