Thursday, June 21, 2012

Garden Flowers

For the past few weeks I've been trying to play catch-up on some projects that were in desperate need of attention. This past school year my boys had schedules busier than ever, and because of that I haven't had time to take care of as many things as I used to. One area in particular is our garden.
However - school and spring sports are now behind us...and the days of alarm clocks, driving from sport to sport, and letting my yard be overtaken by weeds are temporarily over {woo-hoo!}. At the end of a recent long and very arduous day working in the yard, I collected some blooms from a few of my favorite flowers.
When I brought them inside, instead of doing what I usually do...which is snip off the ends and arrange them the best I know how in a tall vase, I decided to try arranging them in a short square one. You know - the kind you might get an arrangement from a floral shop in?
In the past, I haven't had much luck with getting flowers to look anything like the ones from a shop. But I remembered reading an article on the website, Goop, that gave specific instructions on how to arrange flowers based on the kind of vase you'd like to use.
I gave it a try and it came out beautifully. The directions are fairly simple, and I honestly wasn't that far off using the methods I had previously attempted. A few tweaks, and suddenly I was arranging flowers like a pro. If your garden is currently overflowing with blossoms, I suggest you give it a try!
For this arrangement, I used a combination of blue and white Hydrangea, magenta Astilbe, and Buddleja {butterfly bush} blooms. I also made an arrangement with some yellow Yarrow mixed in - which I especially love. In the photos above, I used scalloped edge frames inspired by some I found on the website, Pugly Pixel - which I can't say enough nice things about. I'm obsessed!
Some other posts about the Garden - 2010's Garden | Ladybugs | Growing Container Potatoes | Peonies

Monday, June 11, 2012

Farmers' Market Pasta Salad with Spinach Pesto

As much as I love doing guest posts, I had recently sworn off doing any until I could get caught up on my own blog. Yet, just days after making this resolution, I received a guest post invitation from the folks at Bldg 25. I happen to be a follower of the blog, and a big fan of the clothing brand, Free People, which the site represents. If you're wondering what a clothing company's blog might have to do with food, hop on over, as you'll be pleasantly surprised to find blog posts about everything from diy projects to beauty tips, and much more.
Being a fan, I could hardly say no {I was also quite flattered to be asked!} - so I got to work developing this recipe, as part of their new series titled Living Local, which "explores the different facets of living a mindful locavore lifestyle". When given the option, buying local is always my preferred method when choosing the foods we eat, and I am quite lucky to live in an area that has some of the most extensive and plentiful Farmers' Markets around. 
For this recipe, I paid a visit to the Westport Farmers' Market, which happens to be one of my favorites. Not only because it's large, with a vast selection of locally grown produce, but also because they're committed to selecting vendors who sell organic, and non-GMO foods only. This results in one potential downside for me, in that there are so many beautiful items to choose from, I end up buying more than I intended to! As case in point, after arriving with the intention of buying one bunch of greens, this trip yielded two bunches of mizuna {one red variegated & one green}, a bunch of spinach, a bag of mesclun greens, and a small container of red orach micro greens...not to mention the items I purchased which were unrelated to this recipe. When I got home and mulled over some ideas, I decided to incorporate all of the greens in a pasta salad dressed with a pesto made using fresh spinach.
I love traditional basil pesto, but frankly I'm not the biggest fan of having it over pasta. Mostly because I find it can be too overwhelming a flavor when eating so much of it. I prefer using basil pesto in other applications, such as drizzled over fresh mozzarella and tomatoes, dolloped on homemade pizza, or substituting it for mayonnaise on a sandwich. This inspired my interest in making a pesto with a milder favor, that I could enjoy over pasta, and which allowed the ingredients served with it a chance to stand out as well.
I began by swapping out the basil in favor of fresh spinach, which is not only a notably milder green, but also a significantly less expensive one. Another change was the oil I used. The slightly bitter flavor of olive oil can stand up to bold-flavored basil, however, it's not as well suited for spinach. So, after experimenting with some neutral-flavored oils that I thought might work well with spinach, I decided the best match was grapeseed oil.
Finally, another component of pesto that I usually always have on hand, is good Parmesan cheese. But the day I made this, I happened to have a block of Grana Padano in the fridge. This turned out to be a blessing, because I actually loved it for this recipe. In fact, I might go as far as saying I preferred it.
Grana Padano is similar to Parmigiano-Reggiano in many ways, but some of the ways they differ are in texture, flavor and price. Grana is typically less expensive, the flavor is less salty and intense, and it has a slightly softer texture. In keeping with my goal of a 'less-overpowering' pesto, it worked very well. Try playing around with some locally-grown greens for this pasta's really about using what's available to you. Enjoy!
Some more of my Pesto favorites - Traditional Basil Pesto | Pesto Pasta Salad with Grilled Chicken | Roasted Tomatoes with Pesto | Roasted Almond Ricotta Pesto with Olives | Grilled Chicken Salad with Tarragon Pesto

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Happy 8th Birthday...

I feel badly that this post is nearly a week belated. It almost got lost in the abyss of 'posts that were supposed to happen but never did' but that file is getting mighty full. As you've most likely noticed, getting a chance to post here has been a complicated challenge this past month, and in my defense we were out of town on my boy's actual birthday. But still, I could have planned better.
It seems like the younger ones are always getting shafted, doesn't it? When my first son was born we documented his every move with photos, videos, and by noting his milestones in baby books. We picked him up every time he cried, slept with him every night because he wouldn't sleep in a crib, and the concept of sleep training was something I just couldn't fathom.
But then number two came along...and all that changed. When he cried, sometimes he had to wait. Sure, we took photos - lots of them. But somehow those never made it into photo albums. His baby book was never filled in, although I do have his records scattered in paper piles around the house. In the end, it all boiled down to simply not having the time I had with only one child.
The photo above is my mother's favorite picture of my son, because as she likes to say, his expression is pure joy. I love it because it shows is personality so well. He's the perpetual jokester, always smiling and constantly cracking people up. Even though he turned 8 years old at 11:30am on June 2nd, 2012, he'll always be my baby.