Saturday, October 25, 2014

A Family Trip To The Pumpkin Farm

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Last weekend we went en famille to the Kingsley Family Farm to pick out our pumpkins.  We do this twice a year, in mid October and later on in December for our Christmas tree.  I know we can pick out pumpkins for less money elsewhere, but the entertainment here is so fabulous it's worth the markup in spades.  No matter how old you are, you will have lots of fun.

Where else can you find pumpkins the size of the ones above?

There is every kind of pumpkin here, too many to list and, frankly, I forgot to jot down the names!

Preserves, syrups, apple cider anyone?

It took us forever to find THE one...

And the winner is.....


This Cinderella pumpkin is now gracing our front door.  Unbeknownst to me, my daughter went around and found another just like it.  We now have the most expensive pumpkins of the neighborhood in front of our house!

Future Christmas trees.

This was my mother's first trip to the farm.

We have very determined shoppers in this family...they have been well trained/

But Madame Mere had another idea in mind and look who's waiting for her at the wheel...

With a little help from her grandson no my daughter watches in the background in complete disbelief.

This is much better than picking out pumpkins she says...

This is the second tractor she rides in the four months she's been here.  A real farm girl!

Heaven knows what they're talking about....

Was that Grammy?????

Meanwhile, back at the farm...

Why does this photo make me think of pate?

Every farm has a dog, right? He was the official welcoming committee.

I'm not familiar with this breed of cattle but they were beautiful and very, very vocal!

History repeats grandchildren look exactly like their father and aunt at that age...

Madame Mere's destination...more hydrangeas

MM on the lose..I think her boyfriend ditched her...

 Daughter in law and Harper are just happy to be on the sidelines.  We are all on pins and needles hoping she will turn out to be a redhead like her mom.

Finally, back to Lindaraxa's for lasagna, everybody's favorite...

where we offer free babysitting services from the Sous Chef, always willing to oblige.


They may the most expensive pumpkins in the neighborhood but they are a daily reminder of all the fun we had at the farm.  Priceless!



The cows have been identified by one of our readers and favorite bloggers, Chronica Domus as a heritage breed by the name of Belted Galloways

I just watched a documentary on Dumfries House in Scotland and saw some of these attractive cows being visited by Prince Charles, who is a big advocate for heritage breeds. "

See full comment below.  There were more cows out to pasture, I guess HE takes care of them!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Tortilla Soup

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Recently I came upon a recipe for Tortilla Soup that reminded me of a memorable one I had years ago at a restaurant in Nashville, Tenn.  After reading at the bottom of the directions that it took six hours to cook, I promptly discarded it.  Not because of the length of time, for I have made some dishes that take this long to nurture, but because I knew that an authentic tortilla soup did not take this long to cook.  So off I went and checked a few of the sources I rely upon, including Rick Bayless' Frontera Grill's Sopa Azteca, and came up with what I felt was an authentic recipe with a few twists.  Two of these were coriander and cumin.  I love coriander seeds for its fragrance and coriander for the nutty and peppery flavor it adds to Mexican dishes.

One of the ingredients I did keep from one of my sources was the addition of Swanson's Tortilla Soup broth, in lieu of regular chicken broth, for more depth of flavor.  I had used their Thai Broth and found it to be a positive addition to some of my Thai recipes.  It had a mild flavor and did not compete with the other spices.  As my best friend would was not offensive.

Tortilla Soup is a filling and flavorful meal that can be made with little effort but one that sings with an unmistakeable Mexican harmony.  Some of the recipes I came across had corn and/or beans, either red or black.  Others used flour to thicken the broth.  I wanted to stick to authentic so I discarded the use of both beans and corn.  As to the flour... it is called tortilla soup...they thicken the broth!

Don't be surprised at the short time it takes to cook the chicken pieces.  I thought it was a misprint.  It's not.  Although I am not an expert on peppers, the Anaheim was a winner.  One had enough heat for our taste.  Add more at your risk and heat tolerance!

 I hope you enjoy this as much as we did.  Madame Mere loved it and she's not much of a fan of Mexican food, though she loves her soups.

We accompanied our meal with this wonderful and inexpensive Rioja voted Wine of the Year for 2013 by Wine Spectator.  Open early and let it breathe!  By the way, it is CVNE and not CUNE as it looks.  It stands for Compania Vinicula del Norte de Espana. and was only $10 at Costco.  

Tortilla Soup

Serves 6


6 tablespoons cooking oil

8 6-inch corn tortillas, halved and cut crosswise into 1/4-inch strips

1 Anaheim chili, stemmed and seeded

1 onion, chopped

4 large cloves garlic, smashed

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 1/2 quarts Swanson's Tortilla Broth, canned low-sodium chicken broth or homemade stock

3 cups canned crushed tomatoes in thick puree (one 28-ounce can)

2 bay leaves

1 1/2 teaspoons salt or to taste

1/4 cup lightly-packed cilantro leaves plus 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro (optional)

1 3/4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 3/4-inch pieces

1 avocado, cut into 1/2-inch dice

1/4 pound cheddar, grated or a combination of cheddar and Monterey

Mexican crema, sour cream or creme fraiche

Lime wedges, for serving


Quickly toast the chile by turning it an inch or two above an open flame for a few seconds until its aroma fills the kitchen. (Lacking an open flame, toast it in a dry pan over medium heat, pressing it flat for a few seconds, then flipping it over and pressing it again.)

  1. In a large heavy pot, heat the oil over moderately high heat. Add half the tortilla strips and cook, stirring, until pale golden, about 1 minute. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Repeat with the remaining tortilla strips.
  2. Reduce the heat to moderately low. Add the onion, garlic, and spices; cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Add the broth, tomatoes, bay leaves, salt, cilantro leaves, if using, and one-third of the tortilla strips. Bring to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, for 30 minutes; remove the bay leaves.
  3. In a blender, puree the soup in batches; pour it back into the pot.  Add the wine.  Add the chicken, bring the soup back to a simmer, and simmer until just cooked through, about 1 minute. Stir in the avocado.
  4. To serve, put the remaining tortilla strips in bowls, top with the cheese, and pour in the soup. Sprinkle with the chopped cilantro, if using, and serve with the lime wedges and crema or sour cream.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Gardening Into Fall... Ornamental Kale

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Until this morning, mild temperatures have been the order of the day here in Georgia and it has been difficult to get into a Fall mood.  Thus far my front yard, as well as my cooking, have been in transition mode waiting for cooler weather to get into the swing of Autumn decorating.  Most of the materials I use are in a room in the basement and you know what is happening down there...les appartements prives de Madame Mere, or the never ending story.

I am so sick of this remodeling that it will be hard for me to enjoy it once the contractor and his crew leave the house.  Suffice it to say they were supposed to be finished by September 1, but the painting and the wood floors are still to be done. I can't even think of what it will be like to go back to normal...whatever normal is.

One of the benefits of the setback has been looking for inexpensive things to transition into the pumpkins while keeping some of the annuals that are still doing well.  Take the geraniums...they just won't quit.  Same with the dahlias.  Enter ornamental kale and cabbage.

I  have never used either so, with guidance from one of the staff at the local nursery, I picked up three kales and one cabbage.  Originally they we intended to go in the ground but there was still too much going on there so I decided to use an urn and  keep it simple,  That way I could move it around come Christmas time.   The kale will turn a deep fuchsia in the winter and the cabbage white in the center. At some point I will have to think of something to replace the white mum I added to the back of the urn. That is, if these things do what they are supposed to do and don't die on me!

It's a shame to replace the white geraniums.  They keep throwing new buds.  If they don't stop soon I will just have to delegate them to the back.

I have never bought this color of chrysanthemum before.  They have turned out much lighter than I thought and I can't wait for them to go away.  They were $10 for the four of them at Costco.  I can't do my favorite burgundy mums unless I pair them with another color so they stand out against the brick and the mulch.  

There's a pot of burgundy mums in the back waiting to be paired with some pumpkins once the pink mums go away.  It's been so dry recently the sprinklers have been going on every day and the walkway is a mess.  It needs another good power wash before someone slips and we lose our house!

As I finish this post, it is cool enough to snuggle with the Sous Chef under my down comforter.  Here comes Fall!

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