Gardening in the Southeast



There wasn’t much cooking going on this week, but I did get a lot done in the garden and picked up a new garden book I’m recommending for any gardener new to their region or anyone just starting to raise vegetables in your unique climate. As with any garden, it changes constantly so I also made a point to get out and take some photographs of what is blooming this week on one of our beautiful overcast rainy spring days. Entirely without my SD card. LOL. Photos attached were taken today in the sun.

the irises that someone threw in the gutter last year. They have a delicate fragrance.

the irises that someone threw in the gutter last year. They have a delicate fragrance.

Parts of the vegetable and herb garden are planted: bush beans, some tomato seeds, various summer and winter squash, basil, cilantro and I replanted some lemongrass starts. While I had hoped to start seeds indoors this year, that never happened. Southeast gardeners can, ans should, take advantage of the second fall season after the hot summer, so I should be able to start some seeds in July for transplanting later. Basil that went to seed last year has re-seeded its self, but I tossed in some more seeds, because, um, pesto.

chives are flowering

chives are flowering

This is my second try at keeping lemongrass year round. It doesn’t like cold freezing winters (hellooo polar vortex), though I was able to baby it though the two previous warmer winters. I’ve not quite found the right spot in the yard to take advantage of any micro climates: a spot on the southwestern side of the house might be best, so I’ll be starting a second set over there to compare results next year.

mint containment area

mint containment area

This is only my second year with raising vegetables in North Carolina after years of gardening in the Midwest and being raised by Midwest gardeners. My Grandma kept a farmer’s Almanac to consult about planting and my Nana canned the pears from her backyard tree.  I dove in with gusto last year after D and I built two long raised beds in the backyard for a combination of flowers and edibles. There was no reading or consulting experts. As a result, last year was a great learning experience: we had okra that grew 10 feet tall (apparently you can prune them for easier harvest, who knew), and we ate early peppers and cucumbers, but it was also unusually cool and wet, there were massive insect problems, and deer. Since I actually want to eat things grown out there, I’m grateful for stumbling over the Timber Press Guide to Vegetable gardening in the Southeast by Ira Wallace.

Timber press: helpful guides for vegetable gardening

Timber press: helpful guides for vegetable gardening

There are Timber Press Guides for every region (The Southeast has an illustration of okra – how appropriate). here is what I like about them so far:

  • It presents clear and simple directions. Expert gardeners may want more info, but beginners like me can get overwhelmed with too much info when what we want is to just get started.
  • The book is organized by month, so you can easily review what you can or should be doing that month in your garden or for your garden. Many seeds and plants are temperature sensitive, beans can go in late April, but okra seeds need slightly warmer temps to germinate.  Everyone can benefit from a build in calendar guide.
  • There are tips and directions for inexpensive options for everything from cold frames to mulch.
  • In the back and scattered through the book are easy to understand charts and guides on specific edibles.
Leah is very happy with her catnip, and I, with my new book!

Leah is very happy with her catnip, and I, with my new book!


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Never On a Sunday, a Sunday…

Dine for Autism in the Triangle is April 29th!

Dine for Autism in the Triangle is April 29th!

Today is the final day of my attempt at blogging daily. While I didn’t specifically set out to do 30 days, that time frame seems like a good stopping point. its been a good experience to blog daily. There are a few things I’ve learned in the last month:

  • While I think about food a lot, mostly eating it, this exercise made me much more aware of food related things going on around me. I think about food a lot, but having to look for ideas made me conscious of carrying the good camera, getting out and looking for new food, recipes, gadgets, etc.
  • Planning helps. The week I made a list of ideas and assigned them to a day made it much easier to blog when I got home after a long day of work.
  • Scheduling posts makes it easier too. Having a block of time to write more than one posting, and them letting WordPress release it was the only way I could make sure there was a post up almost every day.
  • I’m not likely to be a Sunday morning blogger. And Sundays/Saturday nights were the only days I missed all month. Getting up early during the week to blog turned out to be easier than I thought and much better than working late at night, but it was rare for me to start writing on a Saturday night or Sunday, even though I had more time. Weekends turn out to be even busier than weekdays, especially with it being gardening season.
  • It is tough to have two masters, or three, or four…Now that I’ll be spending more time in the yard, and at work (it’s my busy season), daily recipe posts are unlikely. Unless it’s a photo of vegetables or flowers.
  • Having said that, I’m over the pressure that every post has to be fantastic. It’s much easier to dash off a quick posting than I previously thought. I’m never going to be a great editor, or planner, but so be it. 🙂

One last plug: If you live in The Triangle region (Wake, Durham and Orange Counties in NC) get out today and Dine for Autism to raise awareness and funds for support services through the local Autism Society of NC’s three local chapters.

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Amish Broccoli Salad

the salad, after marinating.

the salad, after marinating.

I’m not really sure what makes this broccoli salad “Amish,” but I definitely associate with with Midwestern potluck dinners, cookouts, and supper club salad bars. It seemed like the perfect accompaniment to the inaugural grilling of bratwurst on our new (all stainless!) grill. We were not sad to see the old grill go, though D might have been a little sad that the slightly less than helpful directions for assembling the the new grill, our empty propane  tank, and the rainy weather meant we didn’t have a chance to use it on our three day holiday weekend last week.

There are many versions of this raw broccoli salad, some using cauliflower along with the broccoli, or adding cheese or sour cream to the ingredients. The version my mom makes is very simple, and at first glance its hard to see how the few ingredients can come together to create something so delicious.  The salad tastes best if allowed to sit, refrigerated for about 4 hours for the flavors to soak into the broccoli, but I have successfully made and served this in less time.

The original recipes is below, but I’ve noted where we’ve adapted the dish to more modern times. This is an easy dish to make vegetarian or vegan by leaving out the bacon or using a bacon substitute and using a “veganaise” mayo made without eggs. Vegetarian versions might also benefit from chopped smoked nuts in place of the bacon.

Amish Broccoli Salad

Makes enough for a crowd. You can halve the recipe for a more manageable version.

2 bunches of broccoli, about 2.25 pounds

1 large red onion, sliced thin

1/3 cup of raisins (Mom uses golden raisins)

1/2 cup toasted sunflower seeds (I use pumpkin seeds and/or hemp seeds)

cooked bacon, about 4-5 slices, crumbled (Optional)


1 cup mayonnaise (“Veganaise” works great)

1/4 cup sugar (or other equivalent sweetener. I use other options.)

2 Tablespoons of cider vinegar

1/2 teaspoon of black pepper


Mix the dressing ingredients together. Chop broccoli tops into bite sized florets. Chop the tender stem parts. Peel the tough fibrous outer part of the stems and chop the inner parts to use as well. (Or, you can save the stems for use in a stir fry.) Add onions, seeds, raisins, and bacon, if using. Mix well and let sit for about 4 hours before serving.


Posted in Low/er Carb, Non-dairy, Salad, Side Dish, Uncategorized, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Spring Is Being Served


scrambled egg ingredients

scrambled egg ingredients

Get up right now and go to your local farmer’s market and pick up a vegetable to scramble into some eggs for brunch this weekend, like this asparagus. If you are lucky, there will be someone there selling farm fresh eggs, jam for your toast, and maybe even homemade baked goods. What more motivation do you need?

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French Fridays with Dorie: Green as Spring Veal Stew

the veal simmers in some aromatics

the veal simmers in some aromatics

I had already planned to make a smaller version of this week’s French Fridays recipe. We still have leftovers from Easter to polish off, so while the stew would be a nice break from finding creative uses for ham, a large pot of stew sitting around the fridge could be a problem (frankly I’m not sure there is even room!).  When I got to the store my decision was sealed:

Me: Do you all have veal stew meat, or maybe some shoulder I could buy?

Grumpy Butcher: If we have it, it would be in the case.

Worried Me: Yeah, Sorry, I checked and there is nothing in the case.

Grumpy Butcher: I can check the back, but it would be frozen.

Starting to Get Grumpy Me: It would be great if you could check. I’d love to buy some.

Even Grumpier Butcher: (Hesitates) I don’t think we have much.

Now Totally Annoyed Me: Whatever you have would be fine.

(10 minutes later) Butcher: I’ve got a pound.

Relieved Me: Great. I’ll take it.


the cooked veal reheats in the green as spring sauce

the cooked veal reheats in the green as spring sauce

My pound of veal and I grabbed up some spinach, dill and arugula and headed out the door, (forgetting the creme fraiche, which D would have to retrieve the next day). Halving a recipe is always interesting, but reducing one by two thirds is amusing. The end result was worth the effort. The bright green sauce blends the herbs and greens in such as way that no one flavor dominates but all meld together to in something that just tastes of spring.  Both of us enjoyed the light fresh flavors, and though I served it with some leftover gluten free pasta, it would have been fine on its own with a simple vegetable side dish.

the final dish, with a few carrots

the final dish, with a few carrots

Since 2011, a group of cooks and bloggers have been making their way though all the recipes in Dorie Greenspan’s “Around My French Table.” We don’t publish the recipes, but you can pick up your own copy of the book and cook along, or just enjoy all the great food to be found in its pages. 

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French Potato Salad

Cooked potatoes ready for peeling

Cooked potatoes ready for peeling

A little Throwback Thursday recipe for everyone: my Nana’s French potato salad. My “French Fridays with Dorie” followers are probably already wondering, is that in Dorie’s book and what makes it French? Excellent question. My Nana is Polish, grew up in Wisconsin, and to my recollection has never been to France. She’s not known as the best cook in our family, but she is known for her jello molds and for always having some sort of baked goods to serve when you visit. (It’s a somewhat unfair statement to make since there are a lot of great cooks in our family, so competition is fierce.) She does love to clip recipes and collect them from friends and neighbors, so we can only assume that this recipe made its way into her kitchen sometime after she was married and raising her family.

As to what makes it French? Your guess is as good as mine. Perhaps its the tangy from vinegar, yet a bit sweet from sugar, cooked dressing. Maybe its the mustard and mayonnaise or the additional richness of butter (yes butter!). Perhaps it as just the recipe writer’s idea of how to add a classy twist to a picnic standard to improve its marketing.


The dressing is cooked and awaiting the additions...

The dressing is cooked and awaiting the additions…

Regardless of how its got its name, this recipe has been handed down and still turns up at meals and festivities. It’s rich and creamy, with a good balance of flavors. The recipe is full of ingredients that will bring you back to the days before we through about good or bad carbs, dairy, butter, and sugar. Don’t skimp on the ingredients or try to make alterations – it won’t be the same dish. Make as a treat for those meals with friends and family where looking back, as well as forward, is an inevitable part of the gathering ritual.  Enjoy. 

French Potato Salad

1/2 cup of whole milk

1/3 cup sugar

1/4 cup white vinegar

1 Tablespoon of cornstarch

4 Tablespoons of butter

3/4 teaspoon of butter

1 egg

3/4 teaspoon of celery seed

1/4 teaspoon dry mustard/mustard powder

1/4 cup chopped onion

1/4 cup of mayonnaise

7-9 medium sized red potatoes – abut 2 pounds

2-3 hard cooked eggs (optional)

2-3 radishes, sliced (optional)

The day before you make the salad, boil the potatoes in their skins. Potatoes should still be firm, but cooked through. Cool overnight and then peel and slice. Cook and peel your eggs if using. Combine the first nine ingredients, everything except the onion and mayonnaise, in a saucepan. Stir the ingredients as they cook over a medium low heat and cook until they thicken. Remove from the heat. Stir in the onion and mayonnaise and cool. (Typically, I cool this in the fridge. It may develop a slight skin, but that will not matter in the final dish). Combine the sliced cooked potatoes with the cooled dressing, garnish with eggs and radishes if using. Cool completely in the fridge before serving.

a double batch for a big crowd

a double batch for a big crowd

Tips on the recipe:

  • Yes, add the onion and mayo when the dressing is still warm. The warm dressing will take some of the edge off the sharpness of the raw onion.
  • The only alteration I have ever made in this recipe successfully, with out changing flavor or texture of the dressing, was to reduce the amount of sugar and replace SOME of it with sugar substitute.
  • Overnight cooling of the cooked potatoes will ensure the potato pieces hold together firmly in the salad once they are sliced.


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Curried Carrot Tahini Slaw

We served this as one of our Easter dinner sides.

We served this as one of our Easter dinner sides.

This is a quick post to share with you all a recipe from Kathy Patalsky and her blog at that is focused on vegan food and cooking. “Whoa!” I’m sure you are saying, “I know how you eat, and its not vegan.” That may be true, but when you are avoiding dairy products, vegan cooking sites are very helpful for coming up with interesting sides, salads, snacks and breakfast items. Plus, the vegetarians in my life all benefit from expanding vegetarian options in my kitchen.

The recipe for this Curried Carrot Tahini Slaw was great just as is with many suggestions already for additions that allow you to customize it to your taste and the season. I made almost no changes to the recipe and I took a few of Kathy ‘s suggestions for additions so be sure to click on the link above for the ingredients and directions.

Notes on the recipe:

  • My version uses includes matchstick carrots and adds in the suggested mandarin oranges (I have a case I got on sale) and pumpkin seeds, which give it a nice olive green color to contrast with the bright orange.
  • This time I skipped the chopped sweet onion – mainly because we served another salad at this meal with chopped onion and I wanted to take this slaw for lunches during the week.
  • The dressing is great, so no need to change it. I however had a container of tahini sauce on hand to use up. Tahini sauce has lemon juice in it and is thinned out, so I added a bit extra sauce and cut back on the vinegar to compensate.
  • I was able to find the hemp seeds called for at our local natural foods store. They remind me of sesame seeds, but do have a different, maybe slightly sweeter and even nuttier flavor and reminded me a bit of pistachios.
  • Kathy suggests topping with some tofu cubes for a complete vegan meal. I’ve been topping it for lunch with leftover proteins from dinner to great effect.
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