Monday, May 9, 2011

Spring is Springing... But It's Not Quite Sprung

There are a few signs that winter is over and spring is finally venturing into Wisconsin.  Not the temperature, exactly.  It's hardly peeked above 60.  Right now, for example, the high today was 54 degrees.  The average temperature for today is 64.  I know I shouldn't expect to go swimming outside, but I'd at least like to pack up my winter coats!  Usually, I get to bring my mom Lilies of the Vally for Mother's Day, but they're hardly poking out of the ground.

There are signs of life, however:

Robin's Egg
Kohlrabi starting to come up
Daffodils in my front yard
Actually, I almost have enough rhubarb to make something!
Chives (and peas in the pot)


Wheat Grass

But, the most exciting signs of spring are taking place outside of my garden!  This Saturday was the start of the West Allis Farmer's Market, which, in my experience, is the biggest farmer's market in the area.  I won't say it's the best - because I certainly don't want to start a fight, and biggest doesn't always mean best, but it is definitely the biggest that I have been to.  They also seem to have the most plants, so that is where I tend to go to purchase plants for my garden.  What I have above were all started from seeds, or perennials. 

But this week, they had the most exciting thing in the history of ever:

I swear, there is salad under those tomatoes!
OMG: TOMATOES. And Cucumbers.  Yes, okay they're hot house grown.  But they were still much tastier than anything in the grocery store, and I have been feeling tomato deprived.  I asked the farmer how he could possibly have tomatoes and he answered: "Because I'm Magic!"  While I can rationally understand why a hot house is not magic, I am still going to believe that answer, because everything about growing food seems just a little magical to me.

I made a salad with ranch dressing.  It was awesome.

This weekend was also mother's day.  Jeff's family came over, and I made them brunch.  It was actually very hectic, because the eggs just would not get cooked, so I have no pictures.  But, I did have some very successful dishes, and I wanted to share those.

These recipes all serve 8 with leftovers

Make Ahead French Toast with Pears
This recipe was modified from one I found, in which you were supposed to cook down some apples with seasonings.  That's great if I had apples and/or time to cook them, but there has to be an easier way.  I went to Outpost and found a jar of canned pears from a local orchard, and substituted those.  Really, I am sure you could use any fruit.  I expect to be canning fruit myself this summer, so this could become a regular meal at my house next winter.

  • 1 pint jar canned pears (L)
  • 1 French baguette, sliced into 3/4 inch thick slices (L)
  • 4 large eggs (L)
  • 1 1/4 cups milk, half and half, cream, or some combination.  I actually used mostly buttermilk, because I had it for the ranch (L)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • Freshly ground nutmeg
  • Freshly ground cinnamon
  • Butter
Butter the bottom and sides of a 8x10 (or whatever large size you have) cake pan.  Lay pears in a single layer on the bottom of the pan, squeezing as tightly together as possible.  Lay overlapping slices of bread on top of pears.  Combine all other ingredients, and pour over the bread and pears.  Cover in plastic wrap, and store in the refrigerator overnight. 

When ready to bake, remove plastic wrap and allow dish to warm while pre-heating oven to 375 degrees.  Bake, uncovered, for 35 minutes, or until bread is golden and custard is firm.  Allow to sit 10 minutes before serving.

You could try to flip this, but I actually thought the bottoms of the bread were pretty, golden, and toasted, and I had no idea if it would look good if I did try to flip it, so I served it right out of the cake pan.  I had syrup, but hardly any of it got used.

Smoked Salmon and Spinach Egg Bake
 The recipe I modified for this said it would take 45 minutes.  I used 8 whole eggs and 8 egg whites, as opposed to the recommended 6/6, so I upped that to an hour.  It took about an hour and a half!! 

  • 8 whole eggs (L)
  • 8 egg whites (L)
  • 1 cup club soda
  • 1 cup milk, cream, or half and half (L)
  • 4 large handfuls spinach, washed and roughly chopped (L)
  • 3-4 scallions, white and tender green parts chopped (L)
  • 1/2 garlic head, chopped (L)
  • 1 cup cheese (I used 1/2 Carr Valley Snow White Goat Cheddar (L) and 1/2 Parmesan (L))
  • Kosher Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ground nutmeng
  • 1 smoked salmon fillet (L)
  • Butter
Whisk together eggs, club soda, and milk.  Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg to taste.  Stir in cheese, spinach, onions, and garlic.  Add in salmon and stir gently to combine.

Butter the sides and bottom of an 8 x 10 baking dish (I'm just realizing that I used the 8X10 on the french toast, so the dish I actually used might have been smaller... that might have been our problem!!) and pour ingredients in.  Bake at 350 degrees for an unknown amount of time, or until set in the middle.  I think if you use the right size pan, it should be 45 minutes to an hour.

Breakfast Potatoes:

  • 2-3 lbs new potatoes (Yay!  There are potatoes again too!!  No more weird substitutes... although I have grown to love me some celery root) (L)
  • 2 tbs butter (L)
  • Fresh Chives, minced (L)
  • 1/2 head garlic, minced (L)
  • Spices as desired.  I used rosemary (L) and paprika, but you could really use anything you wanted.
  • Lots of Kosher salt and pepper
Slice potatoes into 1/2 inch thick rounds.  Place in a pot and just barely cover with cold water.  Salt generously.  Bring to a boil, and cook until potatoes are just starting to get soft - not cooked through.  I have found this is almost exactly the time when the water comes to a hard boil.  Drain water.  Add butter to a large frying pan and melt.  Add potatoes, chives, garlic, and spices, and saute until potatoes are tender and start to brown.  These hold well in a warm oven, and reheat great!

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