Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Greater RoadRunner

I can't believe I actually photographed this guy.  This is a Greater RoadRunner, a member of the Cuckoo family that sprints all around the Texas landscape.  I say sprint because they are able to run up to 15 miles per hour and habitually stay on the ground which makes it very difficult to capture them on camera.

I was sitting at my desk the other day and this lovely critter appeared on the wall outside my office window.  I quickly grabbed my nearby camera and took as many shots as I was able to.  These were all taken through glass so they aren't as clear as I'd like them to be.  I'm just grateful I was able to get these shots at all.  Hope you enjoy :)

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Sweet Potato Chipotle Soup

Remember that wonderful new soup cookbook I wrote about recently?  Well this was the first recipe I tried out of that book.  Considering the abundance of sweet potatoes I harvested, I thought I would give this one a try.  And I was not was delicious and very easy!  My husband loved it.  Of course, he's never met a sweet potato that he didn't like :)  The soup has a mild chipotle flavor but you can adjust it to suit your desired level of heat by adding more.  I hope you try this one.  Even this kids might like it :)

Sweet Potato-Chipotle Soup
adapted from Soup of the Day
3 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 small sweet onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced or thinly sliced
1 chipotle chile in adobo sauce, minced
1 teaspoon adobo sauce (or not...depending on how spicy you like it)
2 sweet potatoes (1 1/2 lbs) peeled and diced
4 1/2 cups chicken broth (or you could use vegetable stock if you want to make the soup vegetarian)
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp chopped chives

In a large, heavy pot, melt the butter of medium-high heat.  Add the onion and garlic and saute until translucent, about 5 - 7 minutes.

 Add the chipotle, adobo sauce and potatoes and cook, stirring often for 5 minutes.

 Add the broth and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, until the potatoes are very tender, 30-35 minutes.  Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.

Working carefully, in batches, puree the soup in a blender.  Return to the pot and season with salt and pepper and heat through.  Serve, garnished with the chives.

I served this soup with a red cabbage and apple slaw and it was a delicious meal!

Buon Appetito!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Fig Tree

I simply can't believe this...I have figs on my tree!  No kidding.  The day after we got back from our trip to Paris & The Netherlands, I was walking around the property inspecting everything and as I was closely inspecting my fig tree, I saw it had little (and I do mean little) ripe figs!  I counted three that were ready to pick and a couple more that would be ripe in a few days.  Needless to say, I was surprised but thrilled!  And they were so tasty too :)

I planted this Celeste tree tree on April 2, 2011, and did not expect to get any figs this year.  I was hopeful for maybe a couple next year.  So you can imagine my excitement at getting figs this first year.  But I babied this tree through this long, hot summer.  Like my lemon tree, I kept a constant, steady drip of water on it all summer long and it grew like crazy.  This is what it looked like in April


and this is what it looks like now!

So far I've picked about 10 small figs off this tree.  Now I know I will likely lose the foliage and any unripened figs at the first frost of the season.  But I really believe that the tree is well established with a good strong root system and that if I protect it well this winter, it will come back next year.  And like all gardeners, I am forever hopeful :)

Friday, November 18, 2011

Wonderful New Cookbook

I need another cookbook like I need a hole in the head :) but when I was wandering through William Sonoma a couple of weeks ago, this gorgeous book leaped out at me (really it did)!  It's called Soup of the Day, 365 Recipes for Every Day of the Year, by Kate McMillan.  And Harry and I love soup so I simply could not pass this book up. 

And it is wonderful!  It's organized by month and the recipes are seasonal, which is how I cook.  Look at some of these soup recipes for November:

  • Savory Barley Soup with Mushrooms and Thyme
  • Apple, Leek & Butternut Squash
  • Sweet Potato-Chipotle Soup ( I have sweet potatoes?)
  • Lemony Red Lentil Soup with Fried Shallots (hmmm....seems I have lemons, too :)
  • Kale & Sweet Potato Soup with Lamb Sausage
See what I mean :)  

Since buying this book, I have made at least seven soups out of it and all but one have been delicious.  The one exception was just a little bland for my taste.  And they are the type of recipes that scream for "adding your own twist" which I *love*! The book is available at Amazon and it is worth every penny (in my humble opinion of course :)

There is not a lot going on in my Texas hill country garden at the moment, so I will periodically blog soup recipes from this book as Fall and soup weather are finally here in South Texas.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Lemon Tree

I cannot believe how beautiful and prolific my lemon tree is.  It's amazing actually.  I counted 37, yes 37, lemons on this tree.  It has done amazingly well this year and for that, I'm very grateful.  Since we had such an awful, hot, dry summer, I kept a constant drip of water on this tree all summer long and it worked because the tree is thriving and is full of lemons.  And some of them are as big as my fist!  Take a look...

Luckily they are not all ripe and ready to pick at the same time.  Now the challenge...what to do with them!  Not to worry...I've got a few recipes already planned and it'll be fun to research more :)  Stay tuned...

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Sweet Potatoes!

Yay!  I finally harvested my sweet potatoes and what a harvest it was!  This was the first year I grew these yummy tubers and I was very pleased with the results.  Although I probably did leave them in the ground about 30 days too long.  The trip to Paris & The Netherlands got in the way of that :) 

Two Saturdays ago, on a beautiful fall day, my wonderful husband and I set out to dig up that bed.  The first thing I did was turn the water off on that bed about a week before harvest.  This helps the ground dry out.  I then pulled back and removed all the green vegetation.  In doing so, I discovered this little critter.  I think it's just a garden snake; nothing poisonous.  But I had to physically remove him from my garden.  He liked being buried under the cool, damp, dark leaves.  I just brought him to the end of my garden fence and turned him loose.

Anyway, Harry and I started at one end and just began digging.  Since I have never grown sweet potatoes before, I wasn't sure how they grew.  Well, it seems they grow down and out.  So that made digging them pretty tricky.  We didn't want to damage or break any of the fruit.  So we just systematically dug in the garden with our hands and small garden tools until we dug up the entire bed.  It was a wonderful way to spend a lovely Saturday morning with my usually-very-busy-and-gone-a-lot-husband :) 

When all was said and done, we had harvested about 37 pounds of sweet potatoes!  Yes, 37 pounds.  We weighed the basket empty and it weighed three pounds.  So there ya go!

I had a dinner party for 13 people at my house the following Sunday and guess what was on the menu in addition to smoked tenderloin, sauteed kale and apple cake?  Sweet potatoes! :)  I scrubbed, peeled, cubed, roasted and mashed them with *lots* (and I mean Lots) of butter, milk and half-and half and they were Y.U.M.M.Y!