Asparagus: 2 Easy Ways (And 1 Bonus!) to Cook It

20170610_074448Every year, I come along with the hubs to local farmers’ markets with an offering of our garden veggies. Every year, while I’m behind the stand helping patrons, I also get several questions. Many follow the lines of…

“How do I cook that?”

It’s not surprising. Farmers’ market stands, ours included, can offer eclectic, regional, or new varieties of vegetables not found in supermarkets. I’m always happy when I encounter a person stepping out to try something new. It can take a lot of courage to try a new vegetable.

 

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Especially if it looks like that! Am I right? But, back on topic…

 

Just last Saturday someone at the market asked me how to cook asparagus. I thought I’d do a post here and there, showing you our favorite ways to eat garden fresh vegetables. To begin with…

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Asparagus!

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To Clean & Store

  • Rinse fresh asparagus well in cool water.
  • If you can’t use it that same day, store in a glass of water in the fridge. (Like you would cut flowers.)
  • Right before cooking, take each asparagus spear in your hand one by one. Wiggle and bend the stem near the base. This will help you feel where the stem gets too tough to chew. Snap off the tough ends.

 

Pan-Seared Or Oven-Roasted Asparagus

  • Leave as spears or break into smaller pieces, as desired.
  • Drizzle with oil.
  • Sprinkle with your favorite seasoning. (We enjoy good old salt and fresh cracked pepper.)
  • Toss around to coat.

> Pan-seared: Cook in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Stir frequently, or if you want a sear, less frequently.  Asparagus is done when it turns bright green and is tender to your taste. (About 10 minutes.)

> Oven-Roasted: Spread seasoned asparagus on a sheet pan. Pop it into a 450F degree oven. Stir at least once. As above, asparagus is done when it turns bright green and is tender.

(There’s no shame in sampling a few to check for doneness; Cook’s Prerogative, you know.)

Besides Pan-seared or Roasted, there’s another way we enjoy it. It’s great if you’re new to asparagus and need a little help warming up to the vegetable. 🙂

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Bacon-wrapped Asparagus

  • Wrap bacon around 2-3 stalks.
  • Grill or over broil 15-20 minutes, turning half way through.

> Usually, the ratio is about 1 lb of asparagus to every 1/2 lb bacon. It can be variable depending on the size of the stalks and the size of the bacon. I usually get a bunch of each and wrap what I can.

Extras end up as breakfast.

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Planting Peach Trees

Last week, we took a trip to my hubs’ folk’s place to plant some long awaited Red Haven peach trees. (“Long awaited” because Derek has been faithfully checking all the nearest Theisens Stores in search of this favorite variety since April.)

The truck being in for repairs made the journey more interesting than usual. We had to squeeze 2 peach trees, a stow-away pear, and two grown adults in our midsize SUV.

 

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Mr. Handsome

My traveling companions as seen from the driver seat.

 

 

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A.K.A. Mr. Sense of Humor

It’s hard to get natural photos of this guy. When the camera comes out, so does his goofiness. I’m learning I need to sneak up on him unawares.

 

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We had the chance to check up on the landscaping my hubs did last year. It’s really looking nice and the plants are growing nicely.

 

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Lovely Lilies

 

 

 

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Double mock orange in bloom — not only showy but smells so fruity!

 

 

Peach trees in the ground and watered; all in a good day’s work.

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Garden Beginnings 2017

The weather has been blissfully wonderful here! We’re been trying to soak in all the 70s we can get. When it comes to Iowa, the weather changes rapidly. It won’t be long until the 80s, 100% humidity, and thunderstorms of summer arrive. As you’re about to see, the garden is reveling in this weather.

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The watermelon patch is all planted. It’s also been raining a good deal here, and it’s made some of the seed a little late. We’re hoping this warmer weather will give them a boost to get out of the ground.

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Itsy baby sweet potatoes plants, newly in the ground, in between the watermelon sections. The hubbs enjoyed his potatoes so much last year, he’s nearly doubled the amount for us this year. I’m hoping they’ll be enough left after market for me!

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Cukes and zukes are happily situated in the hay. Behind them, the tomatoes are now in the ground. If you couldn’t guess from the red tiller, the weedy patch beyond is about to get it good.

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Tilling done! Each little orange flag marks a squash. I do so love squashes. Especially when you say it with some extra “r,” like “squawrsh,” it makes it even better. 🙂

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Green beans in on the fringe of the weed patch…

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… are weedy no more! Boy, is that tiller handy.

My beloved hubbs likes nothing more than to give me tours of the garden. He loves showing me what he’s been up to and I always get the latest updates about how the garden is growing. Though I daresay, sometimes I get a little distracted. (Taking fun shadows pictures, for examples…)

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Tators!!! We had maybe a row or two last year — now there’s a patch!!! Red, yellow, white, and purple. I’m excited to see how this turns out.

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Oh my, there must have been some seed in the hay we used last year. We seem to be growing some oats where the tomatoes were last year. Derek isn’t too worried about it though. There’s no such thing as a perfect garden this side of heaven. (Though the hubbs gets pretty close with what he can do. 🙂 )

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The oats are kind of pretty. I wonder if they’re edible… Hm…

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Gorgeous weather, gorgeous clouds. No picture can do it justice. All I wanted to do was flop down right here in the grass and watch this sky for a while.

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From March

Is there anything better than when the snow melts and all the land begins to wake up? The crisp chill of spring being subtly softened by the warming rays of sunlight.

It’s the time when we begin dreaming over seed catalogs about the year of gardening ahead.  We also bundle up and head out to freshening up the garden after a winter’s rest.

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The black and red raspberries got a fresh layer of mulch. Derek worked hard over the course of several weeks, hauling wood chips in his pickup, and forking them out by hand.

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Above are the blueberries also with a nice new layer of mulch. Mulching with wood chips, straw, and grass has really been helping the garden. Not only does it keep warmth and damp in, but it also keeps the weeds down. Less weeding means more picking. And preserving. And enjoying.

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The blueberry row. I don’t know how my hubbs does it. He can get rows so amazingly straight just by eye. If gardening were a superpower, I think he’d have it.

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The super gardener (my hubbs) also moved the electric fence line up. (It used to be behind that big line of bushes you see under the trees.) It’ll be a lot easier to maintain now. Plus, it moves the garden out of the path of the deer who regularly amble along down by the crick behind the trees.

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I’m not sure I have the arm-power to even lift that post driver. I’m in awe that he could pound in so many new posts! I’m so thankful to have a man with muscle around. (He’s awful good at opening jars for me, too!)

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Here we are, cleaning out my flower garden. It got a little out of control last year if you couldn’t tell. I’m excited to keep trying to increase my faithfulness in weeding in 2017. 🙂 Derek loves to garden so much, when he sees me go out to work, he can’t help himself. He has to come along and weed with me. (No complaints here!)

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This is my rock! Isn’t it lovely? Our landlords have moved in a bunch of dirt, and this rock came with it. It was so heavy, I couldn’t lift it. So I set out rolling it down to my flower garden to install it as a center piece. Derek, noticing what I was doing, came over, picked it up, and placed it for me. And he made it look easy. Again, am I glad for muscles!

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Last years tulips coming back — YAY! They lived!

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A view down to the crick that I couldn’t resist. God made this land beautiful indeed!

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Unique Clutter

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I’ve read many a piece of housecleaning advice, but never one that addressed situations like my living room during farmer’s market season. Honestly, there’s no clutter I’d rather have than vegetables.

I couldn’t help but smile.

Faithfulness springs forth from the earth,
and righteousness looks down from heaven.
The Lord will indeed give what is good,
and our land will yield its harvest.
 (Psalm 85:11-13)

 

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1st Christmas (Part 2)

To me, Christmas is full of awesomeness. A great chunk of said awesomeness is that Christmas provides a huge opportunity to love others, particularly my family.

My parents did so much for myself and my siblings to make Christmas awesome. I have piles of great memories: making (and eating) Christmas cookies together, picking out a daily candy canes with my little brother, anticipating moving the advent calendar, getting to open our stockings at any hour of Christmas morning. By far, my favorite memories are of the day we’d get together, crank up the Christmas music, break out the egg nog, and make a party out of decorating the whole house together as a family. My parents did a lot to make Christmas memories for us. That’s something I really want to carry on in my family.

Flashing forward to October 2016, I decided to quiz my hubby. “What makes it feel like Christmas to you? What do you enjoy about Christmas? What’s your favorite Christmas foods? What’s some of your best Christmas memories?” I determined to ferret out what makes Christmas a blessing to him. In the process, I got to know a lot more about my hubby as an added bonus! Peanuts in the shell, sugar cookies, apple cider, piano Christmas hymns, making snowforts…

A memory that stuck out to Derek was one of his grandma. He said he always remembered his grandma wearing Christmas socks. As a lover of all things soft and fuzzy, how could I resist?!

In the beginning, Derek dubiously agreed, mostly out of his love for me. We selected matching Christmas socks together as presents for one another, opened them a few days before Christmas, and TADA!

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A tradition is born! In the end, Derek enjoyed fuzzy Christmas socks far more than I did! Here we are, along with the two super-soft fuzzy blankets Derek got for me.

Derek also remembered playing lots of board games with siblings and cousins around Christmas. So out came the checkerboard! A rousing and competitive game of checkers ensued!!!

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We had no proper checker pieces, but spare pocket change made do in a pinch. This is dimes vs quarters. The game pieces were set. Derek, being the gentleman, offered me the first move. So, I began to strategize! (I grew up playing chess.) After about 3 minutes of my sitting hunched in deep thought, Derek gave me an excellent piece of checker’s advice. He said, “Don’t think about it so much. You gotta play by instinct.”

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Pennies vs dimes. We realized after the first game that quarters and dimes are hard to distinguish in the thick of battle. A switch to pennies was made. Here we stalemated. Not exactly sure how that happened…?img_1623

Taking my hubby’s advice to heart, I found it right on the money! I ended up schooling Derek in all but the last game. Here is my hubby being a good sport, remaining cheerful and gracious even in the face of imminent defeat. It takes a real man to lose with grace.

If you’re ever in a game of checkers, definitely take Derek’s advice!

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1st Christmas (Part 1)

It’s true; we’ve been married for 3 years now, but this is the first Christmas we’ve been able to celebrate as a couple together. It’s the first time we’ve both felt well enough to do Christmas activities!

I was so excited!!! I began preparing and planning in October. (I really enjoy the holiday season, if you haven’t noticed.) Thankfully, we, well, ahem, I dreamed big and kept our expectations small. We didn’t end up doing even half the things we dreamed about for Christmas! What we did have opportunity to do, we enjoyed immensely! (I’m sure that dream list will come in handy for future Christmases.)

The most lovely moist snow came down a week or two before Christmas. On a warmer day (30F), I happened to have off work and Derek, being all tuckered out, napped on the couch. I couldn’t resist it! The urge to make a snowman drew me outdoors.

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He’s looking a little rough in this picture, it being a few warm days later. He’d been quite perfect at the beginning, I assure you. On Derek’s awaking, I informed him we had a visitor and pointed out the window. You should have seen Derek laugh and shake his head!

And the baking! Oh my, the food is a highlight for the holiday season. It’s an excuse to cook in abundance; and no worries about their being enough mouths to eat it all. I felt very happy for the chance to make sugar cookies!

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This is the maiden voyage of my Kitchenaid. After three years in post-marital storage, I couldn’t help bouncing around at the chance to break it out and use it for the first time. As a small setback, it came out of the box brand new and… malfunctioning. A few youtube videos, some screwdrivers, and a little elbow grease got it up and running again. It handled a double batch of sugar cookies no problem. Now, if only I can find those needlenose pliers, I can finish the last little repair on it…

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Sugar cookies!!! Some ready for the oven, some fresh out.

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This sorry candy cane sugar cookie didn’t survive the transfer from the pan to the cooling rack. Tsk, tsk, and we all know what happens to malformed sugar cookies. 🙂 [Pretend you don’t see the bite mark out of the end.]

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Another casualty! This gingerbread man couldn’t take the heat of the oven and lost his head. He went the way of the broken candy cane cookie.img_1616

Frosting — the only part better than mixing and baking cookies!img_1615

I realized that only sprinkles for Christmas cookies I had on hand were these flower sequins. Sprinkles had slipped my mind while making the Christmas cooking shopping list. Oh well, it is only my 1st time heading up Christmas in a household. Gotta fail somewhere. 🙂

Plus, Derek didn’t notice. As long as nobody tells him, he’ll never know! Sh!

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Bedtime approached, and I ran out of time to frost all the cookies. Baking 2 batches after a day at work didn’t feel like meager accomplishment to me. I’m glad I got the important cookies frosted — those destined to wait for my sweetie when he got home late. Those are the ones on the plate. None survived the night.

To be continued… In Part 2!

 

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