Attempting to grow flowers (again)


It's gardening season again.

After the near epic failure of my cutting garden last year, it seems silly that I even thought it would be advisable to try again. Maybe next year I'll learn my lesson and just let it be a dirt pit for Ruby May to roll around in.

But alas, no lesson learned. So I opened up my Excel planning doc from last year and began to make some adjustments.  There were a few things that were certain: sunflowers, dusty miller, and white dahlias. I had fallen in love with the combo of white dahlias and dusty miller and could never go back. The rest was up in the air.

Dusty Miller // I'll recommend Dusty Miller to anyone who will listen. Not only is it beautiful but it's also versatile and drought resistant - at least in my experience. We had water restrictions last year and yet these babes did so well. How well? They are growing back again this year. I wasn't sure if they would so I did plant some contingency seedlings but doesn't seem like I'm going to need them. [Floret link]

Dahlias // Even though I would plant just a field of white dahlias, I've actually planned for three varieties. I wasn't on my game enough to get bulbs from Floret so I've picked my varieties from Swan Island Dahlias. I'll be doing: Snowbound, Bridezilla, and Arabian Night.

Sunflowers // I have a bunch of seeds leftover from last year - and my brother gave me some for Christmas this year. A real big variety so it'll be fun to see how they all grow in together.

Cosmos // I've planted two varieties of cosmos of which one was also a gift from a friend. The real variety is called Rose Bon Bon Cosmos but she crossed Rose because her sassy dog is called "Dixie Bon Bon". The other variety I picked up, Double Click Cosmos, from Kennedy's Country Gardens in Scituate.

Love-in-A-Mist // The only reason I'm planting these is because I had a bit of a blank space and figured it was worth a shot. Given how small these seeds are - and how windy the yard can be - I have nearly zero confidence in these but the name was super cute and whatever [Floret link]

Ranunculus // Of several failures from last year, ranunculus were definitely up there. I planted these babes and then NOTHING. So, just like the Love-in-a-mist I have really low expectations. But I just love ranunculus so much that the love won out and I Amazon Prime'd some bulbs. It did seem like I was potentially pretty late in planting these so I did try to jump start them via this method for a few weeks. Also, I bought two yellow ranunculus from Lowe's because I couldn't handle all the bare dirt.

Tuberose the Pearl // I ordered these bulbs from Burpee like two months ago - and they still haven't arrived yet. Bulbs are super confusing and far more intimidating to me than tomatoes. Like why am I behind on my ranunculus, but potential on time for dahlias, but too early for these ones? They are supposed to be a great cut flower and smell amazing.
So we'll see how this all goes. The good news is that in the last day the ranunculus have begun to peek out of the ground. When I was prepping the beds a bit and setting up the lobster bricks, I could see some rogue plants were starting to grow. I have a sneaking suspicion that they might be sunflowers but we'll see. I'm going to let them grow a bit and then replant them in the correct section because I'm the boss, not them.

Spring is here


 Spring is finally here - or so it feels like it.

If nothing else, mentally Spring has arrived. I no longer want to wear coats to work. Bye bye puffy jackets! I made my first batch of sun tea on a very sunny Saturday and I'm dreaming of pre-work mornings staring at my tomatoes. So pretty much just a rinse and repeat of Spring/Summer 2016. I'm honestly not sure what I would change - maybe more vacation days.

Recently, I've been working on fixing the dead spots in the lawn. A friend of mine asked me what I was doing one late Saturday afternoon and I responded "reseeding the lawn". So this is real now. I Last summer there were some incredible water restrictions which resulted in the lawn looking like splotchy bald man and so I'm trying to fix that. Everything on the internet tells you to only grow grass seed in the Fall, but what are you supposed to do when you realize its all dead in the Spring... just sit around and wait 5 months? Also, Lowe's really wants to sell everyone seed and dirt right now. Obviously I'm growing the grass anyway - or trying to at least. I'd like to understand why it is so easy to grow weeds - and less easy to grow grass.

But, I'm thrilled for these seasons to return. I can't wait to not have planned anything for dinner and then be like "well I guess I'll just have a fresh caprese salad ... again". Only like 3-4 months for that to happen. In the meantime, I'm getting as much fresh air as I can handle. I did a lot of trail walking this winter and those trails are starting to get green again. I heard a rumor there might be some fiddleheads coming up nearby and so finding them is pretty much the only thing on my weekend to-do list.
[top] brand new baby cow at Hornstra. I can't admit how often I visit the baby cows because they might start to charge me. 
[1-2] Weekend visit to John Little Conservation in Marshfield
[3] I discovered this new (to me) trail in Marshfield and this incredible house is right off the path. It's actually owned by the town - and I'm in love with every little spec of it. All the windows. All the corners and nooks - and especially that giant tree. 
[4-5] I renewed my Trustees membership and then immediately put it to use at World's End in Hingham. It was one of the first warm spring days and Ruby needed to take a dunk to cool off. When people ask me if she likes to swim, I say no - but she does love to wade in the water. She has the spirit of an old New England woman inside of her and I love it.
[6] There are some birds building this nest next to the front door. While I still question their placement and construction skills, I feel like I have to let them have this spot - clearly I haven't be able to provide them with any other places to raise their children. Plus, optimistically baby birds for Eleanor and I to watch for a few weeks.
[7] I thought I had done a reasonably good job doing Fall cleanup but never actually emptied the planters of their mums, kale, and pumpkins - whoops. It wasn't super fun to clean out but now they have pansies... which is absolutely better than decomposing gourds. 
[8-10] Quick little afternoon trip to Weir River Farm. The cat is named John and he is apparently a ruthless killer - who also likes belly rubs.

beet pickled deviled eggs


Technically, these are called "beet pickled eggs" but it might be more accurate to call them "gently beet pickled eggs". But they look great right? Look at those beautiful pink edges.

I had inadvertently did not respond to the family text chain about what I was brining to Easter dinner. While I often ask others to plan in advance, I sometimes fail to do this myself. Sometimes I use this as an opportunity to do some last minute recipe planning - and that is how we ended up with these deviled eggs. This recipe is both shockingly easy... and a crowd pleaser. This appetizer won't disappear as fast as normal deviled eggs - but they will still be enjoyed. I think the next time I'll try to add a slightly salty or crunchy topping to them - either the crispy shallots from this recipe or perhaps some fried capers.

So the catch here?

  1. Time // You really need a solid 12-18 hrs at minimum for this recipe. I really missed that when I was trolling the internet. I picked up all the ingredients. Hard boiled my eggs. Then realized you need to let the eggs sit in the pickle business for quite a while - and the longer the better. I lasted for just under 12 hours.
  2. Container // You need to let the eggs pickle in a container that is non-reactive (e.g. glass) and can be airtight (e.g. a jar). Given my lack of advance planning, I was not prepared for this. I dumped out my jar of almonds and used that instead. 

If you do decide to make these - which you should - I would recommend using 1.5 jars of beets if you are trying to shorten the pickle (e.g. pink coloring) time. You can allegedly use the pickled beets in other meals (maybe avocado toast or a salad?) but so far they are still sitting my fridge. While I'm not sure if I'll get around to using them, I'll absolutely make these eggs again... perhaps with some beets from my own garden.

  1. Hard boil your eggs and peel them.
  2. Bring vinegar, sugar, salt, and 2½ cups water to a boil in a large saucepan, stirring to dissolve sugar and salt. 
  3. Add can of beets with juice, reduce heat, and simmer for about 20 minutes then let cool.
  4. Put your eggs in the jar and pour the brine over the eggs. Feel free to include some of the sliced beets. I'm not confident that it'll give you extra color but it won't hurt.
  5. Let the jar rest in your refrigerator for at least 12 hours. When you are ready, you can just pull the egg from the brine and use it however you like. 
Shopping List
7 hard boiled eggs
4 cups of white vinegar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 can of sliced beets

hot cross bun loaf


It feels like a lifetime since I wrote here - and nothing like a good seasonal baking event. Last year I made hot cross buns and I never like to make the same thing twice. I wasn't sure how many ways you could mix up "hot cross buns" but I do know that you can turn it into a loaf. Williams-Sonoma published a recipe and it only took me five years to stumble across it.

Honestly, only the title makes this recipe feel seasonal... everything else makes it rather idea for a year-round morning snack. Despite accidentally cooking it at 400F - instead of 350F, the loaf turned out great. You'd think that it would have been totally torched but honestly it was rather perfect. I'd still tell you to use 350, but the outside was nice and crusty and the inside was just the right amount of squishy and cinnamon sugary. I think you could also make it a little tastier with some chocolate chips or nuts - but that really is a bit alternation from the traditional hot cross bun recipe. 
Rave reviews all around for this gem - and I'll absolutely make it another time. It's one of those recipes where you wish you have more of it than you actually do. I'll probably 1.5x it next time to get three loaves because I just don't want to share anymore than I need to. Here's how it goes...
  1. In the bowl of your stand mixer, combine melted butter, room temperature milk, and sugar. Sprinkle the yeast on top and let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes.
  2. In another bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and salt. Add to the yeast mixture along with the eggs, currants, and orange zest. Combine all the ingredients using the dough hook and knead the dough on medium-low speed for about 10 minutes. Scrape the dough into a ball, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let rise until doubled, about 1 1⁄2 hours.
  3. FILLING// In a bowl, stir together the softened butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon.
  4. Grease two 9-by-5-inch loaf pans. Dump the dough onto a floured work surface. Divide the dough in half. Roll each half into an 8 1⁄2-inch square. 
  5. Smear each rolled out dough with half of the filling. Roll up the dough and place seam side down in a prepared pan. Let rise again for about 45 minutes. Brush down the loaves with the egg white. 
  6. Preheat to 350°F. Brush the loaves with the egg wash. Bake until the loaves are golden brown and pull away from the pan sides, about 35 minutes. Turn out onto racks and let cool completely.
Shopping List
4 Tbs. butter
1 cup whole milk
1⁄4 cup granulated sugar
1 package active dry yeast
4 cups all-purpose flour
3⁄4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1⁄8 tsp. ground allspice
1⁄8 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup dried currants
1 Tbs. finely grated orange zest

For the filling:4 Tbs. butter, softened
2⁄3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 Tbs. ground cinnamon
1 egg white, beaten with a little warm water

For the glaze:1⁄2 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 tsp. whole milk

funfetti cinnamon rolls


I made funfetti cinnamon rolls... because I'm a giant adult.

I was invited - or I invited myself, it's hard to keep track - over to a neighbor's house for dinner this weekend. They were already covering the pizza and salad - so I wasn't sure what to bring. They have two adorable little girls so my brain immediately jumped to funfetti cinnamon rolls. I had seen a hacky video of someone making them this week and it made perfect sense. They used like fridge dough and then cake mix? Honestly, seems more challenging than this recipe here.

These cinnamon rolls looked so good coming out of the oven that I rather immediately ate one - despite dinner being right around the corner. They were amazing warm. I always feel like cinnamon rolls like this need a glaze - but for some reason it just isn't necessary here. 

A few notes:
  • This recipe is really easy. The only things that are important are your initial water temperature (so you don't kill the yeast) and planing enough time for the dough to rise. If you need immediate cinnamon rolls, here is a recipe for that.
  • Dough cutting - I was trying to make the dough stretch enough for the hosting gift - and give me 2 or 3 rolls for testing (and eating). The original recipe says this will make 12 rolls but I probably managed to get up to 16 or so. The thinest I would slice the dough log is probably just over 1 inch.
  • Baking - I baked this recipe two ways: (1) in a muffin pan and (2) in a disposable round pan. The muffin pan is the perfect method as far as I'm concerned but the disposable pan made gifting them so much easier. I'll absolutely do this again and might even try just putting 2 or 3 rolls in a baby loaf pan as well.
Here's how it goes.
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, sprinkle yeast over water and milk. Add 1 Tbsp sugar and stir to combine. Let sit for 5-7 minutes to allow mixture to bubble and active.
  2. After the yeast is foamy, mix together the remaining sugar, egg, and egg yolk.
  3. Switch to the dough hook and begin adding in flour. Add 2 cups to start, mix it, then another cup of flour.
  4. While the mixer is still on low, add in small pieces of the softened butter. I went with like 1/2 Tbsp slices. BUT - add them in one at a time. When you've finished adding in all the butter, then add the last cup of flour and knead the dough until it is smooth and pulls back from the sides of the bowl.
  5. Add in your confetti sprinkles in thirds. It doesn't have to be precise but it'll help to get the sprinkles more evenly distributed in the dough. Ideally, you can do this while the mixer is still on low - but this is how I spilled sprinkles all over the counter.
  6. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let it rest until it has doubled in size (approx. 1 hour)
  7. Dump the risen dough on a lightly floured surface and roll into a rectangle. The dough will be so beautiful! This isn't really scientific - but it'll be maybe about 1/3 inch thick.
  8. For the filling, combine softened (or melted) butter with the sugar, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Spread this over the rolled out dough.
  9. Roll the dough into a long log and sliced into the sizing you want. 
  10. Cook in a 350F preheated oven  for about 30 minutes. The time will depend a bit on the size of rolls you cut and the pan you cook them in.
Recipe is slightly adapted from this original post on The Little EpicureanShopping List
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 cup whole milk, room temperature
2 1/4 tsp dry active yeast
1/4 cup + 1 Tbsp granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 large yolk
4 cups flour
5 Tbsp butter, room temperature
1/2 cup confetti sprinkles
Cinnamon Sugar Filling:1/3 cup butter, softened
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon

pork and cabbage tacos with pineapple salsa


I can't even pretend that this is a meal I would have selected on my own. While I'm normally on board for trying almost any type of ingredient (I currently draw the line hard with sardines), cabbage just isn't the type of thing I pick up - ever.  Not for any good reason either. It just never struck me as interesting - and I think I still stand by this statement. No negative vibes for cabbage, just also no gold stars either.

So this was my second of three Blue Apron meals with the first being the DELICIOUS smoky cod dish. The benefits of a meal like is are really that leftovers are ready in a pinch - but the downside being this is only really an "at-home" food. I can't take leftover tacos to work. 

Other great notes about this meal:
  • Pineapple // super refreshing and sweet. 
  • Protein Mixture // While I always love pork, I'd probably mix half ground turkey and half ground pork the next time. 
  • Cheese // I've never had this type of cheese (Cotija) before - and clearly I need to break out of my shell. I'm not sure that I'd be able to find this at my suburban grocery store but it is worth a shot.

  1. Preheat the oven to 450
  2. Cabbage // Thinly slice the cabbage and combine in a bowl with the juice of 1/2 lime, olive oil, salt and pepper. Toss it around and then let it sit. You want to do this first because it needs more time to marinate together.
  3. Salsa // Super easy. Dice the pineapple into small pieces and add in jalapeno to taste. I don't like things super spicy so I just did a quarter of jalapeno. Juice the rest of the lime (e.g. 1/2 lime) and then zest it.  Mix and let sit.
  4. Pork // Heat a skillet with olive oil to medium / high heat. Cook the pork until it begins to brown. Break down the larger pieces with a spoon so as to have a more uniform mixture. Add garlic, tomato paste, the spice blend, and 1/2 cup of water. Cook until the sauce is the consistency that you like. 
  5. Tortillas // Toss the tortillas into the heated oven for about 1 minute. Keep an eye on them. You are just trying to warm them up. Other people would suggest wrapping them in tinfoil but it seems unnecessary.
  6. Plate // Use the cabbage as a taco base, then add the pork filling, and salsa on top. Sprinkle with the cheese and season with a tiny touch of salt. (I don't season throughout the process rather I wait for the end to control more how much salt I use)
Shopping List (for two)
10 Ounces Ground Pork
4 Flour Tortillas
4 Ounces Cubed Pineapple
2 Cloves Garlic
2 Scallions
1 Lime
½ Pound Green Cabbage
2 Tablespoons Grated Cotija Cheese
2 Tablespoons Tomato Paste
1 jalapeno, tiny diced
1 Tablespoon Mexican Spice Blend (Ancho Chile Powder, Smoked Paprika, Garlic Powder, Ground Cumin & Dried Mexican Oregano)

smoky cod over roasted potatoes and pickled shallots


Despite my love of grocery stores and cooking, there is something incredibly appealing about how meal delivery services package and send their meals. After getting about one million offers in the mail, I decided to try out Blue Apron recently. I was in a bit of a cooking lull and it was only $30. While I will never become a regular subscriber, I did totally appreciate the convenience and luxury this meal gave me.

On a random Monday night, I made smokey seared fish with roasted potatoes and pickled shallot. I've never pickled anything (except cucumbers) for a meal and that will be changing. So easy and so different. Plus, there was nothing about this meal that made it challenging to replicate - which is why I've written it all down here so I can do it again.

This recipe is really about making the components. The potatoes take the longest so start there and make your way through the other components. Theoretically, by the time you get to the fish your potatoes are either done or close. Then put it all in a wide, shallow-ish bowl (or plate) and you are good. P.S. I'm becoming a firm believer that all meals should be eaten out of bowls.

  1. preheat oven to 450
  2. Potatoes // Cut potatoes into 1/4 inch slices and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt. Cook in the oven for about 20-25 minutes. Keep half an eye on them and you can flip them over after the first side is lightly brown. Remove from the oven.
  3. Pickled Shallots // Thinly slice the shallot and place in a pot on the stove. Add the sugar, vinegar and 1/4 cup of water. Heat to boiling and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Pull from the heat and let cool.
  4. Cod // On the base of a plate, combine a little bit of flour and paprika. Take your cod fillets and pat them dry with a paper towel and then press one side lightly (but firm) into the spice mixture. Heat a skillet to medium/high heat with a bit of olive oil. Take the cod fillet and place it spice side down into the skillet. Cook 3-5 minutes on the first side and then flip for 2 minutes. You'll know it's ready when you have a nice brown crust appearing on the spice side.
  5. Sauce // Just after you've flipped your fish, you can make the sauce. It's really easy. Just add 1/4 cup water, butter, chopped figs, and chopped garlic. If you are feeling indulgent, spoon your sauce over the fish a bit. It's not necessary but it does add some flavor. Pull the skillet from the heat and squeeze a lemon over the fish.
  6. Plating // Divide the potatoes amongst two plates/bowls and combined with a healthy handful of arugula. Add the pickled shallots (w/o the liquid) and mix it up. This is the base for your fish. Then just plate your fish on top and pour the sauce over each fillet. Sprinkle with chopped almonds.
Shopping List
2 Cod Fillets (6 oz each)
2 Cloves Garlic
4 cups arugula
1 Lemon
1 Pound Russet Potatoes (approx 2 large potatoes)
2 Tablespoons Butter
2 Tablespoons Red Wine Vinegar
1 Shallot
1 Tablespoon Sugar
3 Tablespoons Roasted Almonds
2 small dates
1½ Tablespoons Smoky Cod Spice Blend (Rice Flour & Smoked Paprika)

chicken tagine with apricots and pistachios


Probably about 6 years ago, I made my first chicken tagine. I've always reflected positively on that meal. The flavors of a tagine are just incredible - and really all without my favorite sins of salt, butter, or cheese. I tore out this chicken tagine recipe from Real Simple relatively recently and got around to making it this weekend. If you have a relatively strong pantry, you probably will only need to pick up the apricots. It's always incredible to me what magic can come out of my cabinets.

A few notes:
  • Quick // Unlike many meals that are rich in flavor, this one is really done in about forty minutes start to finish. There is no marinating and you only chop 1 thing - an onion. 
  • Quinoa // A tagine like this absolutely requires a grain - and quinoa is a good fit. I'm not a raving fan of quinoa these days. I overdosed on it in salads for like a year and just haven't been able to get back into it - however, it's perfect in this case. 
  • Chicken // The original recipe called for chicken thighs but I am working through the contents of my freezer.... so I went with chicken breasts. I had two oversized thinly sliced chicken breasts and that worked out to about 4 servings.
So go ahead and make this meal - and absolutely don't skimp on the pistachios and the dried apricots. This is a great meal for the Sunday night dinner that you'll enjoy a few more times that week.
Here's how it goes.
  1. Mix the cumin, ginger, coriander, cinnamon, and salt together in a large bowl. Add the chicken and toss to coat.
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven over medium high. Add the chicken and cook until browned, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate.
  3. Add the onions to the pot along with 2 tablespoons of water. Cook, stirring often, until the onions are soft, about 5 minutes. Return the chicken to the pot along with the canned tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, apricots, and broth; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer until the chicken is cooked through, 20 to 25 minutes. Serve over the quinoa, topped with the parsley and pistachios.
Shopping List
1 1/2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 big chicken breasts, cut into 2-in. pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
14.5-oz. can diced tomatoes, drained
2 cups cherry tomatoes
2 cups dried apricots
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
Cooked quinoa, chopped fresh parsley, and roasted, salted pistachios, for serving

clodagh bread

For like the last 10+ years I've made Irish Soda bread each year for St Patrick's Day. I've really pared back the baking in recent years - but there were some years that I shipped out 8 or so loaves. This year I think I only have 4 loaves on my list - and one belongs to me. But, last week when I was tearing through some magazines I came across this run of recipes for St. Patrick's Day ... and they all looked really great.

... But this clodagh bread captured my attention. When I tore out the recipe, I neglected to save the picture but I remember it being kind of an enchanting rustic loaf of bread. Irish soda bread feels country and rustic. For pretty much no good reason, Clodagh bread does not. It's perhaps in part because I still am not sure how to actually say "clodagh".

Some things that are really unique about this bread?
  • 7 ingredients - of which 2 are types of flour. You could probably make this bread right now ... if you have whole milk. Because of the lack of fat via shortening or butter, I think the whole milk and whole milk yogurt is actually important.
  • Glaze. I was really questioning whether or not I was doing this right - but I painted the entire loaf pretty aggressively with the yogurt milk mixture. After 30 minutes in the oven, the loaf gets this incredible shine that my bread has never had before.
After mixing the ingredients, my dough was much drier than I expected. If I had more whole milk or yogurt, I would have liked to add a little more in to pull the dough together better. I was pretty worried that the bread would be very dry - but the glaze adds a great deal of unexpected moisture. It's absolutely required. I'm still going to make Irish Soda Bread this year but it's nice to have another traditional Irish recipe in my repertoire.
Here's how it goes.
  1. Preheat the oven to 425°. Into a large bowl, combine the two types of flour, baking soda, sea salt and rosemary. Ideally, you'd sift the flours together but life isn't always ideal - just combine them as you would.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk 1 3/4 cups milk and 1 cup yogurt. Slowly pour the milk mixture into the well in the flour mixture. Combine either with a wooden spoon or by using a dough hook on a stand mixer. 
  3. Using lightly floured hands, dump the dough on the counter. I decided to split the loaf into two for easier sharing. Shape the dough into a round loaf and transfer to a baking sheet. 
  4. Cut a large X into the top of the dough. Cut about an inch through for the X (or up to 2/3 of the way through the loaf).
  5. In a small bowl, whisk the remaining 2 tbsp. milk and 2 tbsp. yogurt. Using a pastry brush, coat the bread with the milk and yogurt mixture. Sprinkle with sea salt.
  6. Bake 20 minutes. Reduce the heat to 375° and bake until the top is dry and deep golden brown and the bread sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom, about 35 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack, at least 2 hours.
Shopping List (adapted from this original recipe)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
3 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp. flaky sea salt
1 tsp. finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 3/4 cups plus 2 tbsp. whole milk
1 cup plus 2 tbsp. plain whole-milk yogurt
Web Analytics
© WHAT JEN DOES • Theme by Maira G.