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May, 2011

  1. Planting potatoes: Part 2

    May 27, 2011 by Daniora

    Now that the weather here has gotten significantly better and we are officially past the threat of frost (May 15th is the official day here), the time has come for my potato experiment to get underway.

    Bag folded ready for planting.The grow bag came from Gardener’s Supply Company. It’s a great alternative to plastic or ceramic pots if you intend to plant a bunch.  They fold completely flat for storage and are lightweight and porous.  I opted for the very festive “Poppy” color instead of basic black. The first step in the instructions is to fold it over about halfway down.  This is so the plants can get enough sun. It will later be folded up to add more dirt for the growing plants.  By burying the stems as it grow, the instructions claim that we’ll wind up with a bigger yield.

    For potting soil, I chose Miracle Grow Organic soil.  I didn’t really want anything with a whole bunch of chemicals since I’m growing food, not flowers.  I’ll admit, I’m not entirely pleased with the consistency of the soil.  There are a lot of fairly large wood chips mixed in. It looks a lot like compost that isn’t quite ready or that hasn’t been sifted sufficiently.  However, we soldier on and hope for the best.

    I’ve also made a major deviation from my original planting plan.  Instead of ordering seed potatoes, I picked up some plants from my local garden center.  I did this for a couple of reasons.  First, and probably most significantly, the seed potatoes were really only purchasable in large quantities.  This meant that a whole bunch of them would be going to waste.  If I were planting more than just this experimental grow bag, it may have been a cheaper option.  Secondly, here in New England, we have a notoriously short growing season.  This is particularly hard on fruits and vegetables. I figured that by buying plants that were already growing, I’d have that much of a head start.

    I do have a confession, though; I have no idea what variety of potatoes these are. So, when harvest time comes, we can all be surprised together.

    The instructions for using the bag say to put four inches of soil, add the seed potatoes, and cover them with an additional couple of inches of soil.  Since my plants are already sprouted, I put a good six inches of soil in the bag and planted my seedlings.  I gave them a good watering (it is hot out there today!) and they’re all set.  When the plants get eight inches tall, I’m supposed to add more soil, so I’ll be updating again then.

    Stay tuned!

  2. Rotini with Sausage and Mushrooms

    May 16, 2011 by Daniora

    Dried Porcini Mushrooms

    Dried Porcini Mushrooms

    This is the recipe that introduced me to porcini mushrooms.  They come dried and have to be reconstituted with hot water.  They have a fairly strong earthy flavor.  I use them in meaty pasta sauces and in mushroom and spinach risotto.  If you really don’t care for the porcini, you can make this using only the button mushrooms, but the recipe has a far better flavor depth if they’re included.  Since using Italian sausage in pasta sauces is so popular, you can usually find it without the casings at the store.  If you do have to remove the casings, all you have to do is use a sharp knife to slit the casing open and turn out the interior.

    Rotini with Sausage and Mushrooms

    1 ounce dried Porcini Mushrooms
    1 cup hot water
    1 tbs butter
    1 large onion, finely chopped
    1 1/4 pounds Italian sausage, casings removed
    1 pound button mushrooms, sliced
    ½ tsp dry rosemary, crumbled
    ½ cup dry, white wine
    1 bay leaf
    1cup beef stock, or canned broth
    11/4 pounds rigatoni pasta
    1 cup half and half
    11/2 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese
    Salt and freshly ground pepper
    Chopped fresh Italian parsley
    Fresh rosemary sprigs
    Additional Parmesan cheese

    Rinse Porcini mushrooms. Place in small bowl. Pour 1 cup hot water over and let soak until softened, about 20 minuets. Drain porcini, reserving soaking liquid. Chop porcini, discarding hard stems. Set aside.

    Melt butter over medium heat in a heavy skillet. Add onion and cook until beginning to soften. Add sausage, increase heat to high and cook until just no longer pink, breaking up with a fork, about 6 minutes. Add fresh mushrooms and dried rosemary and stir until mushrooms begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add porcini and wine and bay leaf and boil until all liquid almost evaporates, about 4 minutes. Add stock and porcini soaking liquid, discarding any sand at the bottom of liquid. Simmer until sauce is syrupy, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes.

    Cook pasta and drain.

    Add half and half to sauce and boil until thickened slightly about 2 minutes. Add sauce and 1 1/2 cups of cheese to pasta and stir over low heat until coated. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to platter and sprinkle with parsley.

  3. Jelly Roll Baby Quilt

    May 4, 2011 by Daniora

    Last August, some friends of ours had a precious little girl named Ainsley.  About 2 months before she was born, I started working on a quilt for her.  I got behind on some stuff, and decided to save it for Christmas.  When Christmas rolled around, I was again really busy and didn’t finish the quilt.  It’s finally finished and has been sent off to them.

    Deatil of quilt blocks

    It’s my first quilt using a jelly roll.  For those not in the know, a jelly roll is a collection of 2 1/2″ strips of coordinating fabrics.  Moda makes some of my favorite fabrics, and their jelly rolls are a good (and affordable) way to get a sampling of them. In addition to not having to cut the fabrics, there are a lot of free patterns using jelly rolls to choose from.  I used this Whirly Wheels Baby Quilt pattern from the Moda bake shop. The only change I made was that I only used 12 squares instead of 20.Jelly roll baby quilt

    I loved this pattern since the last few quilts I had done had been relatively simple, and I was looking for something that was a bit more challenging. This was also the first quilt I made with my brand new sewing machine.  A few of the squares turned out a little lopsided while I was getting used to the new equipment.

    Edge stitches

    As a little added detail, I put a decorative stitch all along the border.  This took ages (and tons of thread) but I think it really adds a cute touch. It also manages to catch the binding on the back that was a little uneven. This quilt had a lot more steps and took a bit longer, but I think the end result was really fantastic.