Friday, March 30, 2012

Whispers from Mother Nature

Dreary day, but brightened by signs of

     Where did March go?  Now it's almost gone and the usual March just didn't happen.  For two weeks, it was so very warm and beautiful.  No one is complaining about that.
     The warmth hastened the arrival of the colors of spring this year.  Unlike the almost sudden, dramatic burst of colors in fall, one could miss the quiet arrival of spring.  But, the colors in the trees and also on the ground are equally as beautiful, just more subtle.  While the mornings are still freezing, it begins some time in March with a haze of red buds on the maples more easily seen in the wood line against the backdrop of barren trees.  Gradually it becomes stronger and is joined by a faint green filling in the spaces. 
     The crocuses pop up in spite of the cold or warmth for that matter.  They must have some inner clock.  Then the green fronds of the daffodils appear, followed by wave after wave of colors.  Each develops at its own pace. Each provides a unique color from yellow to orange to pink in a variety of shapes.  

       Day after day, there is a new whisper of color from mother nature.   Spots of purply-blue vinca pop up among  the daffs.  Forsythia join in with their unmanaged branches shooting this way and that.  

      Then one day it seems that mother nature has whispered all the greens from her palette for lawns and shoots of new plants. The colors are coming - stop and watch the display.
   Spring is arriving at our farm.  Thank you March, and adios. 

A fun recipe adapted from Cooking Light Fresh Food Fast

                    Grilled Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms
2 (4 1/2-inch) portobello mushroom caps
2 tsp olive oil, divided
1 garlic clove, minced
¾ cup minced onion
1 ½ tsp chopped fresh oregano
½ cup bagged baby spinach leaves (used more)
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese (used more on top, broiled to melt cheese)
1/3 cup Italian-seasoned panko (Japanes breadcrumbs) (used plain panko, added Italian   seasoning)
1 ½ tsp balsamic vinegar
½ tsp black pepper

1.(Prepare grill) Heat a nonstick skillet.   
2. Remove brown gills from undersides of mushrooms using a spoon; discard
3. Heat 1 tsp oil  over medium-high heat.  Add mushroom caps saute gill side, flip   flip and add garlic, and onion; saute 2 minutes.  Remove caps and add oregano and
spinach; saute 1 minute or until spinach wilts.
4. Place spinach mixture in bowl and stir in remaining 1 tsp oil, cheese,
panko, vinegar, and pepper.  Divide filling among mushrooms. Sprinkle tops with additional cheese if desired.
5. (Grill 7 minutes.)  Heat in pan, melt cheese under broil.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Not Just For Breakfast

Fresh and comfortingly warm!
     The warm days are a delight and a tease this time of year.  Could mother nature just forget that it is still not yet officially spring?  Hopefully.  But the nights are cold and frequently below freezing.  The warm reminders of the previous day create the hope for a new day dawning with warmth, but frankly, it's not going to happen. 
     So now, look forward to what?  Surely, not lugging a 5 gallon water jug (1 gallon water = 7 lb Who really needs to think about this?) and a bucket of grain down to the chicken house with ungloved, by now, incredibly cold hands. No gloves this morning - yesterday afternoon was wonderfully warm, remember?  If ever there was a remote possiblility to think today would be different, it is quickly erased by freezing fingers which help to remind that it is not warm, not spring, and not likely to be warm any time real soon.
      However, if lucky though, there will be a freshly laid egg or eggs all delightfully warm to carry back to the barn.  Comfort and warmth straight from mother nature - how neat is that?

Warm comfort food dessert - low in calories, too! YUM
White Chocolate-Cherry Rice Pudding

3 ½ cup 1% low-fat milk, divided
1/3 cup dried cherries (or craisins)
2  Tbs light brown sugar
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
1 Tbs butter
1/8 tsp salt
1cup instant rice
1 (1-ounce) pkg. sugar-free white chocolate instant pudding mix
   Cinnamon sticks (optional)

1. Bring 1 ½ c milk, cherries, and next 4 ingredients to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Stir in rice; cover, and reduce heat to low.  Simmer 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2. While rice mixture cooks, prepare pudding mix according to package directions using remaining 2 cups milk.  Stir prepared pudding into rice mixture.  Serve. Garnish with cinnamon sticks, if desired.
  Adapted from the book Cooking Light Fresh Food Fast - my new favorite book of recipes to cook.