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Celebrate the Green

St. Patrick’s day is all about the green: shamrocks, leprechauns, and a sea of people in green clothing and beads downing green beer. (And celebrating a win for Michigan State in the March Madness tournament last night–go Sparty!).  For me, today was also about the green thumb and Opening Day of gardening season. Our unusually warm weather here in Michigan for the past week or so has caused my yard to begin greening up.  Tufts of grass several inches long have appeared in the backyard, and the grass has sent invasive runners into my flower beds.  I spent a good couple of hours this afternoon out in the glorious sunshine weeding a few of the beds and turning the soil.  I was tempted to keep going, but since my city does not offer yard waste pick-up for another couple of weeks, I decided just to fill up one good-sized container with weeds, and wait on pulling out some of the bigger stuff, like last year’s broccoli.  I didn’t pull it up in the fall, because on occasion I have had broccoli produce through January.  Although we had an exceptionally mild winter this year, the broccoli decided enough was enough and stopped producing right after Thanksgiving.   I was thrilled to have freshly picked broccoli to put on a veggie tray for Thanksgiving dinner, though, giving it just a quick rinse under the faucet before packing it up to bring to my sister’s house.  Who knew that small green bugs exactly the color of broccoli are still around in November?  I sure didn’t.  My dad was the lucky one to figure it out while munching on the crudités.  Twice.

The broccoli is a bleached-out, twisted skeleton of its former self, but other future edibles are greening up in the garden already.  A fresh tangle of chives has emerged from beneath last year’s growth, and my pot of mint is covered in a fragrant carpet of tiny leaves.  The garlic is getting tall, and the raspberry canes are beginning to sprout leaves.   I took a few minutes to sow some early lettuce seeds and sugar snap peas, which I didn’t get a chance to do last spring because the weather was so lousy.  I’m hoping this warm weather continues, even if it means having to cut the lawn while it is still technically winter.

So, with some hard work done for the day, it’s time to shower up, don some green garb and beads, and head out to celebrate the rest of St. Patrick’s day.  Cheers!

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Baseball, Hotdogs, Apple Pie and Mediterranean Salad

Mediterranean Salad

“We love baseball, hotdogs, apple pie and Chevrolet…” Remember that catchy tune to the Chevy commercial that came to represent the quintessential basics of America? Depending on your age, here’s a link to either a walk down memory lane or a history lesson: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E_Y-2vlOegI&NR=1

A few years back, that ad campaign was revived and updated to reflect our modern era: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_rYXmWY9HY4

Today is the day to celebrate all things American, and as the more recent Chevy commercial shows, the things that we love about our country–and baseball–have evolved to be as diverse as each of us living here. The United States is often described as a melting pot, where different ideas and cultures have melded together to make a uniquely American identity, as immortalized in this Schoolhouse Rock classic: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QpggZ9hDxC4

Another metaphor is to liken our nation of immigrants and descendants of immigrants to a tossed salad, where each individual is able to mix together but still retain its own individuality. Putting different flavors together is the American way, be it with people or with food. So, in the spirit of celebrating a bit of the essence of our hodgepodge country this Fourth of July, I have to share a recipe for a tossed salad of sorts that was recently passed along to me by my friend, Michelle. She brought this dish to a party, and I could not get enough of it. It uses two of my favorite herbs that we grow in our garden, basil and mint, and combines them with sweet and chewy dried cranberries, crunchy almonds, tangy lemon and a fun, tiny little pasta called couscous. Michelle made the recipe sans mint to suit her taste; this week I tested the recipe exactly as written. Both versions were delicious! And the chilled leftovers were perfect for lunch the next day.

So, if you are heading to a Fourth of July picnic and need a simple dish to bring–and don’t want something mayonnaise-based–give it a try. It will fit in just fine with the hot dogs and apple pie and will be mighty refreshing after a game of baseball. Thanks to “Lovely Lady Liberty, with her book of recipes…,” Michelle, and Giada De Laurentiis for this one!

MEDITERANNEAN SALAD

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/giada-de-laurentiis/mediterranean-salad-recipe/index.html