Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Gourmet Garden #Giveaway

This past January, I attended this year's Food Blog South in Birmingham, an amazing food blogging conference first organized in 2011 by Jason Horn and Shaun Chavis, that just keeps getting better and better each year. One of the neatest things this time, was the presence of a number of companies that wanted to work with the food blogging community. I had the opportunity to chat with several of them and was really excited when Gourmet Garden offered to send me some of their products to try. Now, for those of you who know me, I am particular about what I will and won't eat. I was pretty dubious about what tubes of herbs would taste like, so I was happily surprised to find that they had tons of fresh herb flavor and didn't leave a weird aftertaste. I also love that you only use as much as you need at one time and then refrigerate or freeze the rest, no more bunches and bunches of cilantro in the compost pile, big $$ savings for me.  

Since I had so many fun flavors to work with, I decided to have a little dinner party and put everyone to the test to get creative and come up with their own delicious creation. I didn't want anyone starving, so I baked some potato chips (side note, Ellie Krieger's recipe does NOT work, at least not in my oven) and made the first task of the night to create a tasty dip for them. When you combine 1 c of sour cream, 1/2 tsp Gourmet Garden Garlic Paste, 1 tsp Gourmet Garden Italian Herbs Paste, 1/4 c freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano and freshly cracked pepper to taste, you get the easiest dip imaginable, good not only on potato chips, but also bell peppers, cucumber sticks, pretty much anything you might like to dip in it. You could also be healthy and use Greek yogurt instead of the sour cream, but I had sour cream on hand, so that's what we used. 

Next, we worked on our main course, chicken, 4 ways. I gave everyone a chicken breast and they each got to create their own quick marinade using whatever flavors they liked. We had Italian style chicken, Asian style chicken, whatever sounded good. Mine had cilantro, chunky garlic, lemon grass, ginger and chili pepper, with just a bit of fish sauce and dark soy. I put them on the stove and had them cooking as we started our side dishes. I had roasted broccoflower and kabocha squash, cooked some penne, and whipped up some mashed potatoes earlier in the day, so they were a blank canvas for the herbs. My penne was sauced with essentially the same herbs as my marinade, in a little chicken broth and topped with kabocha squash. I think Todd's salad dressing of 3 Tbs rice wine vinegar, 3 Tbs olive oil, 1/2 tsp lemon grass, 1/2 tsp cilantro, salt & pepper to taste, was the hit of the night - I know that it is going to be added to my recipe collection!

Of course, what's a dinner party without dessert? I went with one of my favorites, cobbler adapted from Virginia Willis' recipe. Knowing that strawberries and basil make a pretty good combo, I added basil to the berries and also whipped it into the cream at the very end. While I got some odd looks over the green flecked whipped cream, everyone agreed that it really made the cobbler that much more flavorful.

If you would like to try Gourmet Garden herbs, you can find them at most grocery stores, or you can win your very own Gourmet Garden cooler full and have a party to see what delectable delights you can create!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

While Gourmet Garden did send me their products to try and are providing a giveaway for my readers, I was not otherwise compensated for this post. All opinions are my own.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

It's Spring, That Means It's Plant Sale Time!

 Picture from the Norcross Garden Club Plant Sale

I absolutely love buying new plants for my yard, I'm constantly on the look out for new shapes, new colors and plants with different bloom times so I can make my yard a riot of color all year round. Even though I am slightly less enthusiastic about the actual chore of planting said plants, that doesn't stop me from buying them in abundance. Sometimes that means they languish in their pots until they eventually succumb to the brutal Georgia heat, but for the most part, I do get them in and they seem to be pretty happy in their new homes.

Hamamelis x intermedia 'Diane' 

I always feel like I need more early color, so I have two witch hazels, poor 'Jelena' is still in her pot in my back yard, and after looking through old photos, looks like she has been there since at least 2011, but she still seems to be hanging in there. 'Diane' joined us last Spring and is planted in my front yard, she was absolutely gorgeous in February and March, maybe 'Jelena' will join her there sometime soon.

My camellias were just stunning this year, they have been blooming and blooming for months now. While I don't actually have space for anything so big as another camellia, I am coveting 'Black Magic' since I saw it at the Flower show last month. I may need to find a home for it somewhere in my yard.

While you may be thinking that I probably spend a fortune on plants, you would be wrong. I actually have scored some incredible deals by shopping all of the local plant sales, especially the pass-along-plants sections. These are really great because you know that they did well enough in our climate to be divided, so they are pretty much guaranteed to survive and thrive.

Gomphocarpus physocarpus Hairy Balls

I also love that you can find some really interesting plants, things that you don't find at your local big box store, like Hairy Balls, above. This is one of my favorite plants ever, even though it spreads like crazy, it still makes me smile. It grows to be about 6 feet tall with long narrow leaves, then it puts out the blooms that look like some kind of miniature amusement park ride, that then turn into hairy balls. They are full of silky puffs of cottony fiber that the seeds are disbursed on after they dry out. Even though they do self seed, they are very manageable because you can easily pull them up.

I always stock up on daylilies anywhere I can find them, because they are one of my favorite flowers and because the deer eat them faster than I can plant them. I keep saying I am going to join the Daylily Society of Greater Atlanta  because they invite me to join every time I see them at various plant sales, but my Saturdays are so busy with BBQ and Chef and the Fatman, it's hard to make the commitment. They are such incredibly nice people though, and always have the most jaw-dropping daylilies you have ever seen. Plus if you go at the end of the sale, they will usually toss in a few bonus plants for their best repeat customers. Below are some of my best bets for plant sales, but this is only a tiny fraction. For more great gardening events and sales, check out Walter Reeves Garden Events page.

Fri 8:30A-5:00P
Sat 8:30A-4:00P

33 College Street, Norcross, 30071
Fri 12:00P-6:00P
Sat 9:00A-6:00P

I am a member of the Norcross Garden Club, so I have to say that our sale is the best. Not only will we have nursery plants and tons of pass-along-plants dug from our very own yards for sale, but we are also going to have a number of workshops where you can learn how to make recycled plastic flower art for your yard, glass jar terrariums, or other fun garden projects. Don't forget a few extra $$ for raffle tickets, as our brown bag raffle will have plenty of great prizes to pick from! 

April 20
10:00A-11:00A Recycled Plastic Flower Demo
11:00A-12:00P Terrarium Demo
2:00P-3:00P Veggie & Herb Gardening 101 presented by Rebecca Caley of Caley's Kitchen Garden

Sat 9:00A-3:00P