Saturday, November 5, 2016

Back Home, Back to Work ~ Asian Pear recipe for cough and respiratory dysfunction

Ahhhhh Vata Season!

The time of year where the wind picks up dragging the ragweed along with it and drying out the water in the air. Not only does this do murder for my sinuses, the whirlwind of Vata  picks up and creates restlessness in my mind and body which can be a real challenge for tuning into those subtle signs that you need to slow down, restore, and rejuvenate.

A few weeks ago this really hit me where it counts, quite literally in the crotch. As I headed into my third trimester I was pushing for as much active 'normalcy' as I could cram into a day with the rationale that once baby #2 gets here ... ain't nobody got time for that!  So let's combine some ambitious yoga hikes with rigorous Balanced Athlete sessions and dipping my feet back into the hot room for my yoga practice with the apparently stellar job the relaxin has been doing on all my joints and you have a perfect scenario for Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction. Let me just tell you how pleasant it is to feel the misalignment of your pubic symphysis and feel like its digging into your tissue. Working with wonderful experts I get to call friends I've gotten lots of relief and a big lesson in pulling back and listening better.

This probably could have been avoided if I had taken the initial hint when my respiratory system halted with bronchitis just a month before that. Slow down woman, the calendar is getting full, your list making is getting out of hand, and the ability to multi-task isn't supposed to be a personal challenge to win at it.

Anyway this fantastic remedy was not only super effective, it is one of the few things Sophia will eat consistently which means we have a good arsenal against her seasonal nighttime mystery cough.

Find the skinny on Asian Pears here

The recipe is simple and you can find lots of info on this as its an old Korean remedy, however I would add to not cook the honey as I have seen in many recipes. Honey's properties are lost when heated and some camps believe it actually becomes toxic.

Simply cut and if you prefer peel the pears and place in a steamer, steam until fork tender. Place in a bowl and drizzle quality raw honey, preferably manuka or locally harvested. Eat several times a day when respiratory issues flare up.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Marco Pollo

For whatever reason I decided to make this enormous portion of family style Spanish rice with chicken while John is away for the week. Not only do I have way too much, and am not really interested in eating so much meat especially with one of my carnivores away, but, I'm sure John will see this and shake his fists in protest shouting 'Why!!!???' from the airport as he reads about it. I haven't done a ton of intense cooking since the move, its not a big part of the daily lifestyle here and we are out a lot more so we keep everything really simple and quick. Oh and we also try not to have the oven on... like ever. So I'm sure he will be asking why I embarked on this amazing hearty meal in his absence.

For one thing, its been busy moving and exploring and settling in. For another, the largest meal of the day here is eaten at lunchtime between 2pm-4pm, so during the week there's no reason to invest in making anything big since John eats that meal at work and Sophia and I usually just have little bird meals while we bounce around all day. Dinner time here is both late and light, so as we get more accustomed there hasn't been a call to cook with much fervor. It's also stinking hot in the late afternoon and evening so who the heck wants to be in the kitchen?  The straw on this camel's back is now Sophia's relentless 'Mommay-ing' whenever I'm in the kitchen since its a bit set apart from the rest of the apartment. She doesn't really want anything, she just wants me to know I'm not getting any peace. Its actually kind of like Marco Polo without the fun of the pool and I'm not really ever hiding. She just keeps saying "Mommay.... Mommay!!" and I just answer back "Yes Sophia" so she can audibly sense where I am without actually stopping to look.

Well, I've had only a few experimental experiences and one was True Gazpacho, which I promise to post when I can give it the focus and time to really give clear and concise instruction. The simplicity of the dish and ingredients is only matched by its ability to be ruined by the smallest infraction. (Oooh let me save that for when I post it, that was artfully said wasn't it?)

My next and most anticipated venture will be a real Valencian Paella but I want to save that for after we actually visit Valencia and I have time to do some on site research. (mmmmmmmm research....)

So I just basically had an itch to sizzle some stuff together and decided to have a go at some real Spanish rice, I also for some reason really wanted to make some chicken (and then promptly take a pregnancy test for this odd craving). Sophia was also just down for what I could tell was to be a long and late nap. So here are the fruits of my very rare time alone to create in the kitchen here:

Arroz Con Pollo (Rice with Chicken)

4-6 Chicken Thighs (Bone in or out is up to you)
1 Cup (total) White Wine (use a few Tbsp at a time during recipe)
1 small or 1/2 large Onion
3 Garlic Cloves
2 Cups long grain white rice
1 Large Red Pepper
1 Medium Long hot or Poblano for additional spice (Can also just use Green Pepper for mild)
4-5 Cups Chicken Stock or see below in recipe can dilute with water also
Spanish Spice (recipe below)
1 Cup frozen peas
1/2 Tsp Spanish Saffron flakes

Spanish Spice
1/2 Tsp Tumeric
1/2 Tsp Garlic powder
1/4 Tsp Ground Saffron
1/4 Tsp Paprika
1/4 Tsp Salt
****If you want a shortcut to the seasoning but stay true to the Spanish authenticity, you can purchase packets of Paella seasoning on amazon and use one packet for a whole pot. Its very similar and if you only think you will use some of the seasonings for this dish, much more sensible option.****

This is authentic Spanish home cooking. This is NOT Goya boxed yellow rice.
This is Also ... SO simple and easy and delicious!

Start with chicken thighs 4-6 you can choose bone-in or not, up to you. My house prefers thighs to breasts as they are more flavorful and do not dry out.

Drizzle some Olive Oil in a large heavy stock pot or enameled cast iron (needs a lid). Take the Chicken skin side down and brown and turn once cooking nearly through (6-10 minutes total) adding just enough wine to deglaze pan as it cooks. Remove chicken with tongs and set aside in a bowl or on plate.

Toss chopped onion in same pot and swirl with a wooden spoon and then add garlic, cook for 2-4 minutes and let them become translucent. Deglaze again with white wine and let reduce.

Add 2 cups of rice and stir continually to absorb flavors and oils. Add diced Red and Green Pepper also. While continually stirring allow to cook for another 2-4 minutes, do not let rice brown. Add another splash of white wine to reduce again.

Add 4-5 Cups of liquid. You can use ALL chicken stock/broth, or you can cut with water but no less than a ratio of 50/50. So either use all chicken or half and half water and chicken if you want. Now add Spanish Spices. Stir and Take the chicken thighs and nestle them into the pot with the rice and liquid. Bring to a boil and then lower heat to low so it comes to a slow and steady simmer. This should cook to your rice directions and will depend on your climate. (20-30 min) until nearly all liquid is absorbed.

Finally, add the frozen peas and saffron and stir, and cover again. Remove from heat and let stand covered for 5-10 minutes.  One pot meal will feed your family all weekend!!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

New Kitchen, New City, New Country

So after just a few lifetimes have passed I am returning to a brand new Kitchen, not only because I am different but so is my physical kitchen. In a new home, a new city… a new country.  Since we last met in 2011, I had some pretty big life changes, my life really started to happen. We have the addition of our Daughter Sophia who is now 2, as every parent knows a whole new everything happens. Most recently we picked up and moved to Madrid temporarily (who knows?) which is another whole brand of new. This is a chance for me to pick back up where I left off, and try and grab some of the moments that make up this life to look back on one day.
Moving to Spain has proven to be both exciting and relaxing at the same time. The markets of Madrid are numerous and boasting lucious, ripe and local produce as well as a completely different set of ‘norms’ for fish, grains, legumes, and the various ways one can prepare Jamon (Ham).

If I were ever given the option to open a restaurant, I would choose to do so in Spain, very little work is involved in showcasing the amazing flavors, colors and textures so Tapas and Raciones come like the rest of the country… laid back and elegant without breaking a sweat.

The custom here consists of something in the morning for breakfast upon waking, then some fruit, possibly a croissant and coffee around 11am. The Spanish eat their big meal midday, at lunch which falls somewhere between 1:30-3pm. The folks here eat what we might see as a double portion for lunch, however this is to fuel them for the rest of the day, as they typically don’t eat again until much later, as early as 8:30 and as late as 10pm. Its just small plates of tapas here, a toast with some ham, stuffed olives, maybe a small antipasta or smoked salmon with capers. Its very different, but lovely.

Here at home we’ve been not only taking our cues with regards to simplicity, keeping things fresh and barely cooked as much as possible. With my penchant for all things staying as close to animal free as we can while balancing the salivating carnivores I live with, simple is best!

In one afternoon while taking a break from pounding the pavement exploring the city, I was able to whip us up a clean and vibrant pasta salad, whip up an experiment of mine with the amazing white cannellini beans into a lemony hummus, and steam us up a refreshing asian inspired miso dish that we could all share in its varied forms.

Given this is my first post in España, I will start with the pasta recipe as it includes their signature meat … Jamon. This time in the form of Bacon, which is sold by the block, and doesn’t shrink when you cook it. Naturally nitrate free here, easing the mind for my little baconater in training. Warning: Dish is so simple you may not recognize this as a recipe and keep scrolling to find one. Keep your time for the summer outdoors!!!!

I'm not going to lie, part of what makes it so easy to stay so simple here, and I mean simple barely turning on my stove and never my oven, is that the produce here is unlike any I've ever tasted. Its ripe and flavorful and doesn't seem to be picked too early for transit, probably because it doesn't have to travel far. Growing your own helps with this, something we probably will have to do in order to transition back home.
Its also super cheap, unbelievably.

So let's stick with short and simple and get back to our Mojitos please....

1) Make yourself your favorite colorful pasta, we use Farfalle or "Butterfly Noodles" around here.
2) Dice up a Deep Red large Bell Pepper or two, the more dark the hue of red the sweeter the pepper.
3) Loosely chop, or heck toss em in whole black olives.
4) Dice the onion of your choice, Red Onions add to color, but I like more mild in this one and use yellow.
5) Dice up some really ripe, vine ripe or roma tomatoes that fall off the vine when you shake them.
6) Squeeze half a lemon, Drizzle some amazing Olive Oil (its pretty abundant here as you can imagine)
7) Use your favorite spice (we found an amazing dried crushed pimento garlic mix here)
8) Freshly chopped parsley from the garden :)

Now.. everyone eats.... Next step add your choice of protein here we chopped from a block of butcher bacon, which is everywhere here including regular grocery shops and quick marts.

OR keep it Vegan and just toss in some of your favorite beans. I love these white cannellini beans that are found jarred here and am pretty much using them for everything!
Oh and you pretty much just toss in whatever you like. That's what we've done to keep our 'big meal' time simple and enjoy the summer. As you can see we are trying the best we can to settle into the relaxed nature of the Mediterranean.
Thats it! Grab your Mojito... or pour a glass of Red or finish your beer because Lunch is On!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Cinco De Mayo por la Fe

Muy Mayhem
I am sitting looking at the calendar in disbelief that almost a month has transpired since this event and I had not one stretch of time until now to sit and reminisce!  I've decided to dub this past month 'Mayhem 2011' for all of its madness and splendor! 

I also need to apologize to all of the amazing folks that joined for the Cinco De Mayo event and contributed such amazing recipes, commentary and assistance for the long wait to actually get your hands on the recipes shared from everyone!  Thanks for the patience and understanding while I went to half a dozen concerts, travelled cross-country and opened my home to some amazingly creative Coloradians.

The Spirit of the Celebration
Cinco De Mayo is a celebration of Mexican Heritage, Freedom and Democracy after the American Civil War.  The vibrant culture as well as delicious cuisine paired with the mysterious spirit Tequila make for a super fun adopted celebration here in the States.
With the collaboration of some really great friends, family and neighbors we had ourselves a Fiesta Feast Phenomenal!!! I encourage everyone to try this once, and you will be convinced to do it every year, with numerous hands on deck, it makes a lofty task fun and easy.

I wanted to do an authentic and simple main course, and I decided to go with Pork and slow roasted one at that.  As my creative juices and salivary glands started to flow, I recalled a personal favorite from one of Mexico's finest and most fantastic descendants ... El Guapo Robert Rodriguez.  You may recognize films such as Sin City, Desperado, From Dusk Till Dawn, Planet Terror, Machete, or even Spy Kids.  Robert is also a very talented musician, he has scored numerous films and assisted in production of a plethora of Quentin Tarantino Films (another favorite of mine).  His band Chingon, named using the Mexican slang term for 'badass' or 'awesome' i.e. "That's soooo Chingon!!" (I'm totally going to start using that), has an album I recommend checking out.  Mexican Spaghetti Western is not only as badass as it is romance and rock n' roll, it is also the perfect soundtrack for any great Cinco De Mayo celebration.
Chingon - Malagueña Salerosa

So what was I talking about again?  Oh that's right, slow roasted pork, known as Puerco Pibil or Conchinita Pibil, is a traditional Mexican dish worth the slow roasted wait.  Featured in the film Once Upon A Time in Mexico, this dish is the obsession of Johnny Depp's character who finds the perfect version and then brutally murders the chef to "Restore balance in this country."  My pal Robert uses his Grandmother's traditional recipe and gives us a demonstration in the Bonus Features of the DVD.  Once I found this, I had my main course, oh and I figured out I wanted to cook the Pork too. (tee hee)

Puerco Pibil Recipe - Demonstrated by Robert Rodriguez

Here is the recipe in written form also.  I know, it looks a little involved, but honestly once you get the Annato and Clove ground finely the rest is super simple and its about a 15 minute prep and the timing works out perfectly so there is no need to second guess.  What was the most fun was I made the Pork before the party and as it was coming out of the oven to go in the crock to stay warm for serving, I let Robert do all the talking.  I'm sure the ladies found him much more entertaining than me.

Next I needed a Vegetarian option, and a good one.  I didn't have to search very far for this recipe, though some of the ingredients were definitely out of reach so I had to improvise.  My absolutely favorite Mexican restaurant El Rey at 20th & Chestnut has these amazing zucchini-blossom and corn quesadillas.  I have probably dragged each of my girlfriends to this spot at some point and all agree, much tastier than chicken quesadillas.  Its also always great to have a veggie option next to a 5lb slab of pork butt.  It also calls for a good serving of Roasted Poblanos in the recipe, which just happens to be my most favorite pepper of them all!
Finally, I added a fun option for everyone to test their skills or learn a new one at the Make-Your-Own Guac station.  I personally do not purchase avocados unless I am using them that day, and I purchase them ripe for the squishing.  I find that many avocados have been sacrificed to the busy schedule gods when I have bought unripe ones with the plans to 'make something with these later in the week'.  What I had not thought out was the possibility of an Avocado Shortage by waiting until Cinco De Mayo to purchase my wrinkly green friends.  I had everyone scouring poking and prodding local grocers and produce stands to gain a fine collection of mashable and mixable goodies.  Add those to a mix of chopped cilantro, limes, and a mixture of whatever you'd like to try in your guacamole.  I diced red onion, jalapeno, red chiles, garlic, bell peppers, tomatoes and spices and put them each in small dishes to choose from.  I let my bravest guests test the thick green waters and come up with their own concoctions. 
With the added ingredients and recipes of some seriously Bonita Senioritas, seductively yummy and strong Margaritas from one talented Muchacho, and the charming hosting by my favorite and Muy Caliente Mariachi, we really turned a typical Thursday night into a Fiesta Fabuloso!


A Lesson in Tequila while sampling Tequila (disclaimer: some of the information given may or may not have been slurred, especially towards the end of the lecture.)

Tequila is Tequila is Tequila, probably the most erroneous thought process regarding spirits.  Tequila is actually more like a wine in the fact that there are more ages, regions and hacks involved than your typical alcohol.  I like Tequila because it is especially unique in that it is only truly Tequila if it is made with 100% Agave and distilled in the Mexican state of Jalisco, namely in the area surrounding the city of Tequila which is just outside of the city Guadalajara.  Mexico holds the exclusive legal right to the word "Tequila" and will gladly extend legal action towards outside countries attempting to manufacture its native product.
While I won't bore you with specifics you can find online in totality, it might interest you to know that Tequila comes in 3 or 4 different ages each with its own unique definitive characteristics that is a very personal taste preference which I find will vary greatly from person to person.  Blanco or Plata is the youngest version as it is bottled either immediately after being distilled and at no more than 2 months of aging.  Resposado, my personal favorite, is the medium age with a smooth and mild yet more complex character than the Blanco, aged a minimum of 2 months but not more than a year in barrels.  Añejo is the haughtiest of the bunch with a striking flavor and robust personality for the serious Tequila taster.  Añejo is aged from one to three years in small oak barrels.  There is also the addition of late, of the Super Añejo is aged over 3 years in oak barrels.  This category came into play sometime in 2006.
We all age to perfecion ... eventually
We not only did small flights of straight tequila sips to sample the differences in these ages, we also experimented with 'training wheels' (Salt, Tequila, Lime) as well as Sangrita which happens to be my preferred pairing with a neat caballito of Corazon Resposado.  Sangrita is a blended mix of Tomato Juice, Lime, and Jalapenos it adds a kick in the palate and some adventure to an already mischievous beverage.

Las Recetas

Zucchini Blossom & Corn Quesadillas
1 large Poblano or Anaheim chile pepper
Corn oil (I used Canola)
1 cup cleaned and chopped Zucchini Blossoms
½ cup diced Zucchini
½ cup fresh or frozen white Corn (I used organic yellow)
½ cup Chicken Stock (I used Veggie Stock)
4 large Flour Tortillas used for burritos (I used Rodriguez's grandmothers recipe but no Lard!)
6 ounces Monterey Jack Cheese, crumbled
(I did not have access to Zucchini Blossoms so I added more chopped zucchini)
Grill the chile over very hot coals or in a flame on top of the stove until blackened, about 10 minutes. Place in a paper bag and let steam for 10 to 15 minutes. Peel off the charred skin using your fingers or a sharp paring knife. Remove the seeds and coarsely chop the chile. Set aside.  This made the most amazingly perfect roasted Poblano!
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add the blossoms, zucchini, corn, and peppers. Lower the heat to medium-high and saute several minutes until the vegetables are soft, then add the chicken stock. Cook several minutes more over medium-high heat until all the liquid is absorbed. Let cool to warm.
To assemble the quesadilla, spread ½ cup of filling on one half side of a tortilla, keeping the filling within ¼ inch from the edge. Sprinkle with some of the cheese. Fold the other half over to dose. Lightly brush the folded tortilla with a little oil. Repeat with remaining tortillas. Place quesadillas on a lightly oiled grill or grilling rack and cook, covered, over medium heat, about 45 seconds per side, just until the cheese has melted and the tortilla is lightly browned. To serve, cut each quesadilla into 4 wedges with a sharp knife or pizza cutter. Accompany with Guacamole and Pico de Gallo or your favorite spicy salsa.
Queso Fundido por la Fe
 This one is pretty simple and I really didn't measure much.  I used my mini crock pot to melt together equal amounts of Monterey Jack, Chihuaha and Oaxacan cheeses and keep warm all night.
  I also cooked Chorizo I got from the same butcher in the 'Not Just Italian Market' where I got my Pork Butt.  Mixed the Chorizo and some Jalapeno together but didn't add to the Chorizo to the Cheese as usual so my Veggie friends could partake as well.  Traditionally you will saute Chorizo, Jalapeno and then add cheeses at the end to melt together.

Simply spoon or fork some of the creamy cheesy goodness onto a flour or corn tortilla and perfecto!

Mel's Magífico Mango Salsa
3 Mangos Diced
1 Red Onion Finely diced
1-2 Red Bell Pepper Chopped seeds removed
1-2 Jalapeno Finely diced seeds removed
Cilantro chopped and added to taste
Juice of 1/2 - 1 Lime
The best part about this recipe .. simplicity!  Just mix together and serve, can let sit in refrigerator also to let the juices marinate, like a fine wine this gets better with some aging :)

Killa Kati's Glorioso Guacamole 
3 Avocados
3 Slices Pineapple Diced
1 Red Onion Finely chopped
2 tbsp Pineapple or Orange juice
Finely chopped Cilantro to taste
Salt Pepper to taste
Finely diced Jalapeno (optional)
Again, simplistic and wonderful ... mix together and serve immediately with your favorite Nachos !

Loco Laura's Sabroso Salsa Fresca
 4 Cups chopped fresh Tomatoes
1/4 Cup finely chopped White Onion
1 Jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1 Tbsp Olive Oil (could also use vegetable oil)
1 Tbsp Vinegar
1 Tsp ground Cumin
1 Tsp Salt
1 Garlic clove, minced
Approx. 2-3 tbsp. fresh chopped Cilantro (optional)
1/2 Lime (optional)
When preparing jalapeno pepper, be sure to discard all seeds and rinse pepper, as this is what makes it extra spicy. In a bowl, combine all ingredients. Cut the lime in half and squeeze the juice from one half into the bowl. Mix well. Let stand for about 1 hour. Serve at room temperature. Store in a covered container in the refrigerator.

A Special Thanks to :
Mandón Mel and her Magnifico Mango Salsa
Killa Kati and her Glorioso Guacamole en Pineapple
Loco Laura and her Sabroso Salsa Fresca
Sugar Skull Mariachi and his Manic Mango n Lime Margaritas
Muy Caliente Muchacho and his hosting skills
Clasico Colleen and the Perfect Nachos from 320 Market
Dulce Danielle and her Sweet Endings (who somehow evaded el camera)
Alegre Aurora and the Don Julio Resposado

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Spring is for Suckers...

I think we can safely say that Spring has Sprung!  At the start of Passover, its time to head into the busy and beautiful season of rebirth and beginnings.  Life, in all of its forms and ways, is busy growing and in that whirlwind sort of way that I feel Spring comes and goes.  There is just so much going on, its both refreshing and intimidating to try and capture it all with such a short breath into summer.
I can't help but feel compelled to talk about Passover just a bit.  In Jewish tradition, Passover is remembering the events in the Biblical book of Exodus, specifically celebrating the freeing of the Israelites from ancient Egypt.  The term Passover refers to the 10 plagues unleashed on Egypt to persuade the release of the Jews, the final and worst being the death of each families' first born.  The Israelites were instructed to smear the blood of a spring lamb on the doors of their homes so that the spirit of death would pass over their home.
 I am, in many forms, a sucker for tradition, even if they aren't mine per se.  As you may have also guessed, I am a sucker for reasons to throw dinner parties.  As I am not Jewish, and celebrate Easter, I like to prepare Lamb for Easter dinner in the spirit of both Traditions and bring the Biblical stories together.  My Grandmother on my father's side has always done this meal, and I am happy to carry on that tradition.  Look for the recipe and photos over the weekend.

What else am I a springtime sucker for?  Who doesn't love all of the colors and aromas that spring brings us in the form of Flowers??  If you aim to resist, you are only cheating yourself of the most vibrant and eclectic mix of paint-worthy muses.  So I choose to indulge every year.  This year I have been really chomping at the bit to get out in the dirt, but the weather has been so sporadic it has made me wary.  A few weeks ago I cleaned out my front flower beds and the wreckage winter left all throughout the yard from our trees.  I planted a few choice annuals, and purchased some heartier plants to put out back, and I waited to plant the more delicate ones.  I was fortunate to hold off on the snapdragons and stock because we got one last (fingers crossed) blast of snow a few days later.  I know the 'Don't plant until Mother's day' rule of thumb, but that's a safe-guard for the lot to ensure no danger of frost.  I like to start early and get the most out of the garden, even if I have to start them indoors.  I, for the first time ever, started my seeds indoors and we are ever so ready to get into the dirt.  This will also be the first year of my Organic Veggie garden which I cannot wait to build this weekend!

I am a huge sucker for Bulbs, namely Tulips and Ranunculus, I just love the bold variations of color, and the strong heavy weight they carry alone.  I never find the need to put either in an arrangement with other flowers.  Tulips I love simply by themselves cut in a clear vase.  The thick green stems and leaves with the large bright head stand perfectly on their own.  I particularly love to arrange cut tulips in a rectangular vase for a modern look.
Ranunculus are what I refer to as "Like Roses, only better".  They are such stable hearty flowers, yet their ruffled petals have a dainty and romantic quality to them all the same.  They resemble the underskirts of 'Can Can' dancers as they kick their gams towards the sky.  These lovely ladies are also available in a variation of colors, one of my favorites being the bright pink with an equally bright green center.  I found them to be the definition for perfection in a bridal bouquet, as they are equally as beautiful in white.  I started a group of these indoors and cannot wait to plant and see those beautiful blooms come to life.
Brightly colored Ranunculus
My bridal party flowers (by Mom) Ranunculus, Hydrangea & Green Hypercum Berries 
I will never feel that my garden is ever complete no matter where I may live without Irises lining the sides of my house.  My mother effortlessly spread her Japanese and Siberian Iris throughout the shadier parts of the pathways to our backyard.  This is a surprisingly shade tolerant Iris with full blooms in deep purples and sometimes white.  By next year, I vow to have a hearty selection of these wrapping around the side of the house and along our fence.
Siberian Iris
I also planted a few of my husband's favorites.  Also another staple in my Mother's expansive garden and one she liked to also use in salads when we had guests for dinner.  Pansies!  Fun and adorable, the pansy is a vibrant inexpensive way to perk up any flower bed.  I cannot help but picture the taunting and singing pansies in Disney's Alice in Wonderland - I still see the little faces every time I see this flower.  With the thousands of variations, one can get really creative in planting a painterly mix of sizes and colors.
I was able to plant another of my favorites for the first time this year, I strategically placed a few hot pink Stock plants in pots by the front steps of the house, and intermittently throughout the patio area.  Stock is an extremely fragrant flower, and it just begs you to draw near and indulge in a good whiff!  I love Stock and Lavender near any sitting area, however I keep in mind that both do draw bees near, it is a sort of balancing act one must do in order to enjoy the sweet benefits minus the sting.
Pale pink and purple Stock

Hearty Heather another bee favorite I planted this year
And finally.... Poppies!!  I am hands down the world's biggest sucker for Poppies.  Everything about them is in my opinion, fantastic.  The bright, slender stem that almost comically balances its disproportionate head,  not exactly straight up to the sky with a whimsical detour just before the flower bud.  Its like when I try to draw a straight line, what an artfully playful path up to that large, vivid red top.  I love the depth and character of the red poppy, though I do enjoy the white, yellow and orange almost as much.  There is something about that shade, its a shade of red that I believe inspired the color for Superman's cape, Wonder Woman's corset, and Iron Man's armor.  Its spectacular! Simultaneously the petals are so dainty with such a definitive stance.  When the wind blows slightly they wobble about on their stilt-like stems with all of the characteristics of a flamingo in its proportion.  Then you have the contrast of ebony in the middle with striking specks of white.  The poppy is without a doubt, something I would put on a list of top ten favorite things.  Some Day One Day, I will live where I can have a field of them of my very own.

On days when it is lovely enough to stop and smell the flowers, I suggest taking a leisurely lunch when you can.  Get outside, go for a little stroll.  If you can't, roll down the windows and let the air in, enjoy the sunshine and get out there and break up your workday.  If you work near the city limits or have a day off and want to break up some window shopping, there is a little secret slice of smiles you can give yourself near one of the busiest shopping districts in Philadelphia.  Chestnut Park is like a little hideaway refuge that is just made for brown-bagging your lunch or sipping on coffee and tea while enjoying the outdoors. 
Starting tomorrow and continuing through June you can enjoy live music from 12 - 1:30 pm.  I would encourage anyone who wants to get a jump start on enjoying spring to meander by for a much welcomed interruption from the ordinary.
Check out the details here .

Speaking of smelling the flowers, I recently went on a mission to liven up my Spring and Summer scent selections.  I came across some really nice scents for spring.  I've always been an avid fan of Betsey Johnson's scent, which I will probably always wear until they stop making it.
  I also found myself loving Romance by Ralph Lauren, and
Daisy by Marc Jacobs.  I feel that perfume is an incredibly personal choice so I won't try to sway you, your nose has to be your guide here, but I will say that Daisy is absolutely marketed for spring and with good reason!
Love the new bottle and the bright yellow daisy :)
Those that know me, already know that I'm a sucker for Art, and the Arts in general.  I am also a sucker for fashion, in a very particular way.  I appreciate fashion, I know from experience the pitfalls of overindulgence in it, and I absolutely try to seek out the true artisans when I look for fashion to pay homage to.  Now through June 5th the Philadelphia Art Museum has an exhibit that I am very excited to see, which blends the worlds of Art and Fashion together more so than they already are.
Roberto Capucci: Art Into Fashion, promises to be edgy, bold and full of all the things I love about spring as mentioned above including color and vibrancy.  Capucci, an Italian couturier and artist, creates pieces of art that have graced the frames of Marylin Monroe, Jackie Kennedy, Gloria Swanson and more than a few Noblewomen including Princess Maria Pace Odescalchi, who owns the castle where Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes were married.  Some of his more abstract pieces might resemble something our current lover of the bizarre, Lady GaGa, might suit up in.  For more info check out The Philadelphia Art Museum's website.
 I couldn't wait to plant my garden almost as much as I couldn't wait to get my bike out this year.  I have done 2 rides into work already, and am happy to welcome many more rain free days to do the same.  Whether you mount up for a leisurely stroll around the neighborhood, a challenging trek through the woods, or because you got pumped up listening to Queen, this is the weather for Biking!  Not too hot and warming up enough to take the chill out, this is literally a fun for the whole family kind of thing to do.  I am looking forward to taking mine to Assateague Island for some beach rides!
Pledge to ride and check out devoted to "Safer and more convenient bicycling options for everybody".
 And finally, I wouldn't be a well-rounded sucker if I wasn't a sucker for all things cute.  When it comes to spring and cooking, I came across a new, and adorable ingredient that has until now, never been invited to my table.  The radish is a root I am very unfamiliar with, this week my Dad stopped over and handed a bag to me with "Here, no idea what to do with these, maybe you can use them."  I didn't bother to ask for a back story, and tossed them in the fridge.  I decided to do some research and experiment, turns out radishes were very highly regarded in ancient Greece, the patients of Androcydes were often directed to eat them as a preservative against intoxication.  High in vitamin C and antioxidants, the little Super Mario-like vegetables looked like they were ready to come out of the fridge.
 I found staying simple was the best way to acquaint myself with the cute lil red heads.  Most root-vegetables mellow in flavor after baking so I decided to do roasted radishes and see how it went.  Turns out, this is a great low-carb alternative side to roasted potatoes, and you can add any type of flare you like to liven it up and pair it with another entree.  What's really fun about radishes is they also come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors, and you can toss a mix of them together for a really exciting presentation like the one below tossed with thyme, olive oil and fennel seed.
Simple Roasted Radish
Preheat Oven to 450F Degrees. Clean thoroughly.
If smaller radishes, slice through center of stem into halves, if using a larger variety can quarter much like a roasted potato.
Toss with extra virgin olive oil  and season with coarse sea salt and fresh ground pepper.
Line on baking sheet cut side down and roast for 15 minutes stirring once midway through.
Drizzle with fresh lemon juice and serve with watercress, or fresh chopped parsley.
 And if you find you don't like roasted radish, you can always get creative with them and toss them in a salad or give them to your kids to play with.
And now, fellow suckers, I leave you with a 1UP to kickoff your spring!