1.76 pounds of paprika

To be precise, it's spanish pimenton dulce (sweet paprika.) For years, pimenton has been a staple in my spice rack, along side cumin, coriander & turmeric. We use it in homemade chili powder, as well as tex mex, indian, spanish, mexican & asian dishes.

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I'm not sure if I can get through a pound & a half in a year, but I might. I was going through the 2 ounce containers like they were water - it was time to start buying in bulk.

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My husband can't make roast chicken without a healthy dose of pimenton, looks like we'll be eating a lot of roast chicken this year.....I welcome any recipes, this might be quite a challenge!

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Are you buying any spices in bulk?

New Year Black Eyed-Peas

Happy New Year! 2014 is here and we are ushering in the new year with a heaping bowl of black eyed-peas.

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After the ball dropped in Times Square, I filled my slow cooker with a pound of soaked black eye peas, a ham hock, 4 cups of stock, 6 cups of water, a bay leaf & 2 dried chili peppers. Eight hours (after cooking on the "low" setting) later I had delicious ham & perfectly cooked peas.

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As my husband picked the ham from the hock, I sautéed 2 shallots, and 2 garlic cloves in olive oil. Then I added in grilled corn, crushed tomatoes & diced roasted poblanos - all from the freezer. Once everything was warmed through, I added the peas & ham. Season to taste & serve with your fav hot sauce.

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Now it's keeping warm on the stove while waiting for my mother-in-law's corn bread. What a yummy way to celebrate the new year.

Happy 2014!

Split Pea Soup * clean out the fridge!

20131227-100921.jpg Time to repurpose that Christmas ham & clean out the veg in the fridge! Somehow a carrot & turnip from my CSA are still going strong, paired with some swiss chard, misc onions (scallions & a shallot), and those split peas, I have the makings of a delicious soup!

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Chop up whatever veg you have in the fridge, a clove of garlic & some rosemary tasted great in the soup. The red veg in the pic below is swiss chard stems. Remember - chard is a cousin of beets, without the beet flavor but with all the health benefits. So use the stems! Cook them up with the rest of the veg before the leaves go in.

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When adding the leafy chard to your split pea soup, this goes for any chard/kale/spinach, chop it as small as possible to keep it from being stringy.

This soup packed a mega-veg punch. All the holiday treats were great, but it's time to up the veg to keep healthy during the winter.

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In all, cooking time was about an hour and a half. Thirty minutes to chop, sauté the root veg & leafy greens, and to bring the 2 cups of dried split peas, ham & stock to a boil. Then it simmered for an hour or so until the split peas bloomed. As for seasonings - the ham was super spiced so I held back. Just a smidge of rosemary & a teensy bit of sea salt at the end.

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How are you repurposing your xmas goodies? Any fun new kitchen gadgets?

Happy Holidays!

bald eagle in woodstock?!

20131227-094232.jpg Yesterday, as we dug out from our mounds of Christmas goodies, my son spotted a bald eagle in a tree on waverly woods golf course. We went on a walk to see if it was plucking fish from the pond on 99 & dorchester but - no sightings.

This is a first for us, we spot hawks regularly. Perhaps this is a result of being close to the hoco conservancy. Whether its a migratory passerby or a new western howard county resident, keep your eyes & binocs at the ready!

Furlough Minestrone

20131014-121017.jpg The soup theme continues as we march into the end of another furlough week. This time, swiss chard from the garden is used up, stems & all, in a delicious vegetarian soup. Paired with chickpeas, the sweetness of the chard intensifies. If you chop the chard leaves small enough, they wrap perfectly around fusilli noodles - perfect for (sometimes) finicky kindergarteners.

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Gather whatever produce you have in the fridge & garden. Here's what I used:

- 8 cups of chicken or veg stock (or split that in half & use 4 cups of water & 4 cups of stock.) - canned tomatoes - 1 turnip, peeled & diced - 1 onion diced - 4 cloves of garlic, smashed & diced - 3 stalks of celery, diced - 2 carrots, sliced into rounds - 1 bunch of chard, remove stems from leaves. Chop both into bite sized pieces - 1 can of chickpeas, drained & rinsed - 2 tsp dried thyme - 1 bay leaf - olive oil to sauté veg - salt & pepper to taste - 1 box of whole wheat fusilli pasta, cooked to box directions & reserved separately. Don't forget to toss the cooked noodles in some olive oil...keeps them from sticking together - cheese to garnish: Asiago, Pecorino, or Parmigiana

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In a large dutch oven, or stovetop safe slow cooker base, sauté all your raw veg in the olive oil (less the chard leaves & tomatoes.) After they soften up, season with salt & add tomatoes, chard leaves, stock, thyme, bay, & chickpeas. Bring to a boil & simmer on the stovetop for 30-60 mins, or in the slow cooker on low for an hour or so...then switch to warm until service. Ladle the soup over fusilli noodles & garnish with cheese (I add hot pepper flakes) and garlic bread.

Enjoy & fingers crossed for an end to the shut down!!

Furlough Pho

A few hundred thousand of my contemporaries & I are furloughed. After the initial shock of the federal shutdown wore off - we are into day 14 now - I started digging deep into my freezer & garden to cook for my family. One of the recent family favs was my Furlough Pho. image

This was made of leftovers and with veg from the garden. - 4 cups of chicken stock (pantry) - 1 cup of shredded carrots (leftover from fish tacos) - 1 bunch of beet greens with stems, chopped (usually compost material, not this week) - 1 cup of mushrooms, sliced (CSA) - 4 cloves of garlic (from the garden) - 5 spring onions sliced (leftover from fish tacos) - 1/2 inch of ginger, grated (a freezer staple) - 1 tsp soy sauce (a pantry staple) - 4 stalks of lemongrass - 1 leftover roasted chicken breast on the bone (leftover) - 1 bunch of cilantro (garden) - juice of one lime & wedges for anyone that wants more - Thai basil leaves (garden) - 1 box of rice noodles

Sauté all the veg in sesame or olive oil until they are soft, add soy sauce and chicken stock. Add the chicken breast & lime juice, and allow everything to warm through. Shred the chicken into the soup, taste for salt & pepper. The beet greens and mushrooms really deepen the color of the stock, as does the bone from the chicken breast.

Serve over your fav rice noodles and garnish with cilantro, thai basil and sriracha.

This week I harvested chard from the front garden, so I'm making a minestrone...trying to keep cooking organically & deliciously on the cheap!

Garden Goodies 2013

20130901-182926.jpg Autumn is here & the garden is slowing down. This year I added lots of flowers to grow in place of many heirloom vegetables that I normally grow. The dahlias were front & center this year, along with French marigolds & zinnias. I did grow 3 varieties of tomatoes, a bunch of hot peppers, Mexican sour gherkins, greens & herbs - but only the tough survived. Here's a photo review of the garden goodies from my garden - I'm hoping the new addition to the family will be ready to get her hands dirty in the garden next spring!

Dahlias: Attracted butterflies, hummingbirds & bees

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Queen Sophia Marigolds: Attracted pollinators & discouraged aphids

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Hot Peppers: new to the group are the lemon drops, they will pack a punch in my chili powder

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Tomatoes: Italian, Hawaiian Pineapple & Abraham Lincoln Heirloom varieties were delicious, but not enough for canning this year

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Mexican Sour Gherkins: look like tiny watermelons, but taste like pickled cucs right off the vine. The little flowers attracted tons of pollinators as well as teeny parasitic wasps which took care of the tomato horn worms!

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Herbs: Most of my herbs over-wintered and bounced back in early spring. Including: sage, oregano & rosemary

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Next it's time to cleanup the remaining peppers, dry the fruits & plant some garlic. Hope you're enjoying the cooler autumn temps!

Learning About Dahlias

20130811-131949.jpg This year my garden is full of flowers. One of the newbies is the Unwin's Mixed Dahlia. They bloom in a variety of colors and grew from seeds instead of from a tuber. I have so much to learn about these gorgeous Mexican blooms, so I'll be devouring the American Dahlia Society website for tips and more information on the numerous dahlia varieties.

Are you growing any new flowers or plants this year? Any surprises?

Hope you are enjoying the summer!

Another Hiatus

Two weeks ago we welcomed another munchkin into this world! Now that my 5 year old has a mini-partner in crime, I'm taking a few weeks off to acclimate her to the outside world. Hopefully we'll be back to the farmer's markets & cooking with our garden bounty in no time, but if you need a little inspiration hit up Annie's blog for all things locavore.

Enjoy the summer & keep an eye out for pollinators & hummingbirds!

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June Blooms * looking for pollinators

20130613-141939.jpg Zinnias are blooming and Bachelor's Buttons are swaying in the breeze. My flower garden is bursting with color & variety this year. My garden goals were minimal: 1. Attract a wide variety of pollinators & 2. Keep the gardening on the low maintenance side, having a newborn & watching the garden didn't seem feasible. Goal #2 seems to be at hand, but I'm not seeing that many pollinators yet.

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I'm hoping that they're coming. My veg are running a bit behind schedule, maybe the bees & butterflies know. As I type, I see a bumblebee buzzing in the marigolds. Hope he gets enough nectar before the next round of storms come by. If I remember correctly, the pollinators seem to be out in force once my lavender plants bloom, they seem to be behind schedule too. As long as someone is around to pollinate my veg, I'll complain not!

Below is array of the flowers blooming in the garden, some I know, others I don't. If you spot one of my unknowns & know what it is please notify me!

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Chamomile

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Green Zinnia

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Pink Zinnia

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Arugula Blossom

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Queen Sophia Marigold

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Creeping Thyme

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Assortment of zinnias, marigolds & geraniums

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Lavender

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Thyme

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Assortment

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Spanish Lavender & Unknown

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Unknown (that comes back every year!)

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Black Viola

I love having an assortment of flowers blooming. It's a little unkempt, but quite beautiful!

Dill Lover: Black Swallowtail Caterpillar

20130613-141829.jpg While adding some crushed eggshells to my tomato plants, I was startled by odd things moving in my dill planter - my first black swallowtail caterpillars! For years I've grown dill in this part of the garden, always wondering if these guys would make an appearance and today they did!

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My small planter is home to 4 caterpillars, thankfully I have another dill crop that I can harvest from, so that these guys can have their own space. I might pick up a few plants from the farmers market this weekend, to feed the needs of us & them!

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A few weeks ago, a blogger friend in Texas posted about her dill going to the caterpillars. My son and I marveled at how so many were munching the dill bed. Apparently they like fennel too, perhaps I should hunt down some fennel plants for them. They might make for a better chrysalis home.

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Normally I squish & remove creatures that munch my crops, but theses aren't like those pesky cabbage worms that mutilate my kale. These guys grow into beautiful pollinators and I'm happy to have them in the garden.

Any fun surprises in your garden this year?

CSA Enchiladas

20130610-083755.jpg My first CSA pickup was full of greens galore. And after my fridge being on the fritz I remembered just how much I froze from the garden & CSA last year. So I made CSA enchiladas! Using chard, scallions, cilantro, garlic scapes, frozen corn, frozen tomatoes, dried hot peppers & a couple of store bought items we had a delicious enchilada meal that lasted 2 dinners and 1 frozen meal for when the baby finally arrives!

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Ingredients: - roasted chicken, either a rotisserie chicken or roast your own, skin removed & shredded - 4 garlic scapes, chopped - 1 bunch of scallions, chopped - 1 bunch of chard, washed well, chop leaves only, compost ribs (mine was red and I didn't want it changing the color of the dish - 1 bunch of cilantro, chopped - 1 cup of frozen corn - 20 oz of frozen tomatoes (or a large can of diced tomatoes) - 2 dried peppers or a few tsps of chili powder will do. I was going for smokey with a little heat. - Pack of corn tortillas - Jar of homemade salsa (or store bought) - 1 cream cheese brick, soft - 4 cups of shredded cheddar cheese - 1 tsp dried oregano - 1 tbsp ground cumin - 1 tbsp ground coriander - 1 tbsp smoked paprika - salt & pepper - garnish with sour cream, olives, hot sauce, etc...

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Method: - after you've roasted & cooled your chicken (or start shredding your rotisserie chicken) shred the chicken into pieces. Check for bones. Toss with cumin, coriander, paprika, salt & pepper. Reserve. - preheat oven to 375 - in a mixer, with the paddle attachment, add cream cheese, 2 cups of cheddar, scallions, scape, chard, & cilantro. Mix until just coming together, add the seasoned chicken & mix again. - in a pot, warm up salsa, tomatoes, dried peppers & oregano. Add corn. - in a large oven safe dish, add 1/3 of your tomato mixture (fish out those hot peppers!), then layer corn tortillas, 1/3 of the chicken mixture & repeat 2-3 more times. Top with shredded cheese. - cover the dish with foil & bake for 25-30 mins until bubbly - remove the foil and bake for another 5-10 mins - pull from the oven and allow it to sit for 5 mins, cut & serve!

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It was a hit. My 5 year old couldn't eat it fast enough and we all had a second helping. Originally I wanted to roll the tortillas in a more traditional enchilada style, but that would have involved steaming the tortillas to make them more pliable, and I was more hungry than patient. I think the layering (lasagna) technique made it easier to serve and I didn't have to fret about how much to roll into each tortilla. This was the perfect way to get through a bunch of greens from the CSA and to clear out some room in the freezer!

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What's your favorite way to make/eat enchiladas?

Scape & Sausage Penne

20130606-143025.jpg Fridge is out of service - and on the same day as our first CSA pick up of the season! Thankfully, the farmers market was open too. So we're shopping for one meal at a time until the fridge is in working order, hopefully there is also a new fridge on my horizon! My husband came home from the CSA with greens, onions, zucchini & mushrooms. I came home from the farmers market with sausage, garlic scapes, berries and cake. Dinner & dessert are served!

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Ingredients: - 5 Italian sweet sausages, casing removed & sliced - 1 small onion, diced - 2-3 garlic scapes, diced - 12 mushrooms - 1 zucchini - Olive oil - Your fav grating cheese (we are into manchego these days) - Salt & pepper - 1 tsp dry thyme - 1 tsp red pepper flakes - Box of pasta, we used penne

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Method: - get your pasta water going & don't forget your colander! Then cook noodles according to package instructions - in a large skillet sauté the veg in olive oil - after 5-10 mins reserve veg in a large bowl & cook sausage in olive oil - after 5-8 mins, add veg back in with sausage, add thyme & pepper flakes for kick. Taste for seasoning - when noodles are done, drain & toss in skillet - add some olive oil & shredded cheese. Finish with butter for something over the top.

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It was quick, delish & everything came from local farms, my garden & a bit from the pantry. Not bad for not having a working fridge! Thankfully the freezer is working, so leftovers went in there. Fingers crossed that I'll having a working icebox this afternoon!

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What do you do when the fridge is on the fritz?

Rigatoni Primavera

Using that yummy arugula pesto, I combined Italian pasta, Spanish manchego cheese & veggies from my farmers market to create a delicious spring dinner. The inspiration came from what's growing in my neighborhood right now! The arugula from my garden, asparagus from TLV Tree Farm & patty pan squash from a Virginia farm.

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Make this with whatever's in your CSA box or at your local farm stand!

Don't forget about the sweet stuff too - strawberries are inundating all of my farmers markets! When we aren't eating them out of the box, we slice, macerate in vanilla sugar, and toss over a buttermilk cake from Stonehouse Bakery.

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Arugula Pesto

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Arugula is growing like gangbusters & I can't keep up! Instead of tossing it in salads, I blitzed it up in the food processor & made pesto.

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Ingredients: - 4-6 cups of arugula - 1/2 - 3/4 cup of grated Parmigiano Reggiano - 1-2 garlic cloves - 1/2 cup of walnuts or pinenuts - 1 bunch of chives - juice of 1/2 a lemon - 1/4-1/2 cup of olive oil 20130530-160530.jpg

Method - individually blitz the cheese, walnuts & garlic. - combine the first 6 ingredients into the food processor & blitz while slowly incorporating the olive oil. - salt & pepper to taste - serve over pasta or roasted veggies

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Although arugula has a peppery punch, the pesto can be a little flat. That's why I added the chives & lemon. I have a feeling that most of our pestos will be basil-based this year, but I love making them with cilantro & chives too.

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Our dinner was fantastic with the arugula pesto. What are you doing with the greens in your garden?

I Spy: Garlic Scapes

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This year I grew my garlic in containers on the deck. Back in February, my garlic shoots were small but surviving. Today, they are growing tall & sending up garlic scapes! The light green bloom in the picture above, is a scape and is delicious!

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Over the next few weeks, the scapes will continue to grow & curl. Once I see 2-3 twists per scape, I'll harvest the scapes and grill, sauté, pesto & pickle them!

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Though I'll only harvest 15-20 scapes, I will be scouring the farmers markets for bundles of scapes. Last year I picked up a few from Love Dove Farm @ the Howard County Farmers Market at the Miller Library. If you grow garlic, check for scapes! If you don't grow it, look for scapes at your farmers markets in the coming weeks!

Foraging for Chive Blossoms

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Chives are blooming all over the garden. The purple & white flowers aren't just beautiful, they're scrumptious. Over the past week, I've carefully snipped partially open buds and brought them inside making a beautiful bouquet & a delicious addition to breakfast, lunch & dinner.

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If you don't grow chives, you can find these tasty gems at farmers markets. But I recommend giving them a try in your garden, no matter how small your space is. Mine have grown in the same container for 5 years & delight me with more blossoms each year.

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I love chive blossoms on anything you'd sprinkle chives; eggs, stir fry, chicken salad, roasted potatoes, cream cheese, lox, and especially in my farro risotto.

Something else popped up in my garden this week, praying mantis hatchlings! There's always something fun going on in the garden - I'm hoping to see humming birds & butterflies feasting on zinnia nectar soon!

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What's happening in your garden?

May Showers & Flowers

20130519-100505.jpg Another gloomy May day. Good for my plants, flowers & ground water, bad for my laundry - the procrastination continues! I was lured outside by all the bright greens, pinks, purples and bold contrast colors. Though, I suffered a lot of dampening off this year basement work = poor air circulation, surprisingly, my green envy zinnias bounced back and are starting to bloom. Last year I made the mistake of directly sowing zinnia seeds outdoors - they took forever to grow & bloom - it wasn't until August that I finally had a flower! This year I started 10 indoors, and they all seem happy and eager to attract humming birds and butterflies.

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Herb flowers are also gorgeous. Since moving my chives & sage to pots, they overwinter and come back with dynamite edible flowers each year. Above is a sage blossom. Full of sweet sage nectar, this year I might try frying them with sage leaves & serving with some butternut squash pasta.

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I grow flowers for their beauty and for attracting pollinators & good bugs to the garden. Marigolds (above) and Bachelors Buttons (the bud below) attract bees, butterflies, lady bugs & lacewings.

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Below are chive blossoms. They are just about to bloom and are delicious. I have a crop on my deck and on my patio - and they'll make it into salads, atop frittatas and as a finishing touch in stir fries.

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My front garden is jam packed with flowers this year. African Marigolds, Zinnias, Dahlias, Geraniums, Spanish Lavender, Daisies & a few herbs too. Most of these flowers will be low maintenance & require only a bit of watering & deadheading.

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My favorite is still the black viola. It reseeded itself over the winter and found two shady spots out front. That's reason enough for me to water every other morning.

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The next flower on my radar is one that I don't want to bloom, the delectable garlic scape. My fingers are crossed that the cool spring means more scapes and larger garlic bulbs!

What's popping up in your garden?

Inspiration: Arugula Sprouts

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This weekend was beautiful & full of digging in the garden. When I don't have much time for lunch, I tend to look around for something fresh & quick. The first thing I spotted - arugula sprouts! Paired with a loaf of super seedy bread from the Roots Bakery, hydroponic tomatoes from Hummingbird Farms (find them at Roots & Harris Teeter), a sprinkle of sea salt, a crack of pepper, and some fruity olive oil - lunch was served.

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What do you reach for on warm spring days? I spotted some mustard greens too - I might have to do some pickling this weekend.

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Jay - My Cooking & Gardening Companion

20130426-160243.jpg This was a devastating week. On Thursday my adorable Scottish Terrier, Jay, passed away. It was sudden, we are shocked & I'm at a loss. Jay was the very definition of spunky & he was so until the end. We had no idea that a tumor was growing inside him. His vigor, appetite & desire for walks never waned. And an appetite he had...

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Since adopting him in 2006 from a local breeder, Jay was the king of veggie treats & our own live vacuum. Not a grate of cheese was missed by his nose. Teaching a three year old show dog how to be a house dog was quite a challenge for us. Jay taught us about endless patience & that his bladder knew no bounds. From the first time we met him he would pee where he liked, and that first time it was on Josh. Thankfully, we taught him that the outside was his bathroom. I'm still not sure if it was some compromise....you give me as many baby carrots as I want and I promise to pee outside.

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We bonded on endless neighborhood walks & Sunday soup cooking. His fav veggies were broccoli, carrots & celery. Though when we visited my family, he was treated to ham, eggs, chicken, beef & lamb. Spoiled he was.

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Jay turned our house into a home, a young couple into a family & adored being a big brother to our son Jack. We learned so much about ourselves, and in my heart I thought we had more time. I knew he was slowing down, but that was ok. He still knew when it was 3pm and the best sniffing spots in the back yard. I had plans of a long maternity leave full of walks to the pond, around Centennial Lake & wherever else he wanted to go. Having him for my first maternity leave was a miracle. When I felt frazzled, exhausted & anxious, he'd snuggle right up to me and insist on a scratch. He melted away my worry and insecurity. He made me a good mama.

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Now I have a fridge full of celery, empty water dishes & comfy puppa beds. I'm not sure when I'll be ready to put them away. But I do know that I'll feel a little better after doing some gardening this weekend. I'm on the hunt for a tough, spunky perennial to add to the garden in Jay's honor.

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I love you Jay. You will never be forgotten. I'll always listen for your bark, paws & snoof.