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Arugula, Gorgonzola, and caper pasta

After our very wet spring, the weather is starting to dry and heat up. The arugula in the garden started bolting, so I needed to figure out what to do with it right away. I decided on a simple pasta recipe that combined some things I already had on hand.

I used all my bolting arugula–five small plants. They didn’t provide a huge amount of leaves, but it was enough.

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For the sauce, I very loosely followed this recipe that I found via a Google search.

I used veggie penne because that’s what I had available (I like to sneak in extra vegetables when I can). For the sauce, I used a bit of milk (measuring is not really my thing) and 2 or 3 ounces of Gorgonzola, stirred until the cheese was pretty much melted, then added some capers, the pasta, and the arugula and stirred until the pasta was coated and the arugula was melted. Super easy. I think this might have been even better with mushrooms, though, so I’ll try that next time.
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After a slow start to the garden, I am thrilled to have finally had my first meal this year with produce I grew myself!

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Quinoa sprouts!

After successfully sprouting the lentils, my interest in sprouting was renewed and I decided to give quinoa a try. I read that quinoa is quick and easy to sprout, and it is definitely true. It takes two days, tops, to get lovely sprouts. I used organic tricolor quinoa from the supermarket bulk section. The sprouts are so good.

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So far I have only tried them in salads. Their subtle, nutty flavor goes beautifully with a Greek salad, one of my favorites. This version of the Greek salad contains cucumber, tomato, feta, onion, spinach, olives, and a handful of quinoa sprouts topped with olive oil and black pepper.

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Tonight I tried something a little different: spinach salad with raspberries, dried cranberries, slivered almonds, blue cheese, and quinoa sprouts with pomegranate balsamic vinegar and lemon olive oil. This was fantastic.

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It’s like a dessert salad!

I went a little crazy with the quinoa and now have a sprouts that need to be eaten in a couple of days, so I’ll probably be eating a lot of these salads. But what to sprout next?

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Sprouted lentils

After my seed sprouting failure, I was determined to try something that would work in my sprouting jar. I remembered seeing these directions for sprouting lentils and decided to give it a try. I know lentils are really good for you, but I’m not a huge fan of the texture and flavor of cooked lentils–I figured sprouting them might be a good way to include more of them in my diet. I bought organic red lentils, since they were the only ones available in the bulk section of the local supermarket. They were a little less than $3.00 a pound.

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I soaked them for 24 hours and rinsed and drained them twice a day until they looked satisfactorily sprout-like. I think it took about 2 1/2 days.

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I was pleased to find that they taste really good. The taste and texture remind me of fresh baby peas. I think they will be good in stir fry, in pasta salad, or with tomatoes and feta. I’m very pleased to have a sprouting success.

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Sprouting seeds day 5(?): This is supposed to be easy!

After five days, my sprouts looked…pretty disappointing. Although I did have some reasonable-looking sprouts, I had a ridiculous amount of unsprouted seeds.

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I did some research on what went wrong and found that I likely didn’t drain the seeds well enough. I tried another batch with fewer seeds and drained them very carefully, but my results weren’t much better. This is supposed to be so easy that a child can do it! I will probably try this again with a different type of seed to see if I get better results.

On the bright side, the few sprouts that I got did taste good.

 

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Sprouting seeds day 3: Germination!

Well, technically they started germinating a couple days ago, but today their little roots are finally big enough to be visible without close scrutiny. I think they will really take off today and tomorrow. The seeds need to be rinsed and drained twice a day and kept in the dark. Since cabinet space is at a premium, I keep them on the counter, angled on a dish drying rack and covered with a towel. It is more exciting than it probably should be to check on them twice a day.

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This was the best photograph I could get through the glass jar.

The process has been a bit slower than I anticipated; I think the temperature may have something to do with it. The instructions say that a temperature of 70 degrees is ideal, but our house is never that warm in the winter. This is unfortunate both for me and the seeds. Unlike me, though, the seeds do not get a space heater.

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Sprouting seeds

Jared’s parents recently sent us a sprouting jar. Having been wanting to try one of these for quite a while, I was eager to get started. Along with the jar, they sent a pound of zesty sprouting seeds–a mix of clover, fenugreek, and radish. As per the directions, I added four tablespoons to my 1/2 gallon sprouting jar.

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The seeds smelled delicious.

I added one teaspoon of citric acid and 3/4 cup of water, then put it in a quiet corner to soak. They are supposed to soak overnight, so I’ll check on them in eight hours or so.

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And that’s it for the first step. If all goes well, I should have sprouts in about four days.

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I want (easy) candy

When I was growing up, my mother, sister, and I used to spend the weekends leading up to Christmas making cookies and other confections for the annual celebration at my grandmother’s house. It was very exciting to make old favorites and try new recipes as the freezer and refrigerator filled up with sweets. I don’t do much baking these days because we no longer have a big Christmas celebration and Jared and I have no self control when it comes to sweets in the house. This year, though, I decided to make some quick and (very) simple candies. I chose candy cane popcorn and peppermint bark, both of which involved the very satisfactory task of crushing candy canes with a mallet.

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Oddly, the supermarket where I bought the rest of my ingredients was out of candy canes except for a few rainbow cherry ones. I guess it is two days before Christmas, but I always thought that candy canes, like conversation hearts and Easter Peeps, magically replenish until the holiday is over, when stores sell leftover packages by the truckload for a quarter apiece. I managed to find a box of 28 mini candy canes at CVS; the whole box yielded about a half cup of crushed candy crumbs.

First I made the candy cane popcorn using this recipe. I used some fancy organic popcorn, since it’s what I happened to have on hand. Our air popper died a couple years ago and we never bothered to get a replacement, so I used the paper bag in the microwave method. I separated the good, fluffy pieces and put them in a big mixing bowl.

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I melted almond bark in a double boiler and poured some onto the popcorn, mixed it gently with a wooden spoon, and repeated until it was reasonably coated. Then I added some crushed candy canes and mixed again. I ended up using about half a package of almond bark. When the popcorn was satisfactorily coated, I put in the refrigerator to cool. The result was delicious. I think this would be really good with other ingredients, like almonds and pretzels.

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I decided to make two kinds of peppermint bark: chocolate vanilla and dark chocolate. For the first, I melted the remaining half of the almond bark, mixed in candy cane bits, and spread it on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Then I added half a bag of melted dark chocolate chips, swirled it together with a spoon, and sprinkled crushed candy canes on top. For the dark chocolate bark, I used the other half of the dark chocolate chips and a bag of extra dark chocolate chips. So easy and so delicious.

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Now to try not to eat it all in the next couple of days.