Saturday, July 19, 2014

Cool Summer Gardens

This has been the coolest summer that I ever remember in Chicagoland.  And after this past frigid winter with the Polar Vortex impact, I was looking forward to a hot summer.  But I must admit, temperatures in the  seventies have been pretty delightful. After this winter, we lost 16 roses from the cold.   So it has been interesting to see how the new ones have done in this cooler summer.

The rose bushes have not gotten as large this summer, but the blooms have been glorious.

The new climbing rose- adore this color!

Another new rose this year and one of my favorites- the black Baccara Rose and deep red with black undertones, velvet petals.

a new lavender color for this year, caught with a few raindrops after a shower.

This is a little garden by the back driveway where I grow squash, cucumbers, cutting flowers  and herbs.  It is very happy with the cooler temperatures.
Beautiful crookneck squash leaves with many yellow blossoms.

The baby squash are just beginning to grow.

The garden has grown so large, you can no longer see the stepping stones throughout the middle.

Mammoth basil leaves.

Lupines self seeding themselves from last year and are just now popping up between the squash and  cucumbers- almost 5 weeks later than last year!

Lettuce- loves the cooler weather!

Nasturtiums- very happy too!

A new herb for me this year- root beer plant with the little yellow flowers.

 Dahlias have never performed as well as this year!
 Borage flowers- beautiful to garnish salads.
so pretty on watermelon cubes as well!


 Tomatoes- so late this year too!

But the plants are huge and have none of the yellowing leaves  usually seen by late July!

If they don't start to ripen, I'm thinking there is going to be a lot of
 Fried Green Tomatoes in the future.
Clematis- happy happy!

Vines are growing up over the screened porch railing.

Hydrangeas just started to bloom last week.  The blooms are bigger than ever!
Love the complexity of this pretty fushcia plant.

White hydrangeas, red fushcia, and purple clematis- love the combination.

The grapevine arch is now covered in the heart shaped vine. 
I am so happy that it made it through last winter.

Another new trial plant for this year, one of my favorites, the hollyhock. Famous for hiding outhouses in the south, my grandmother always grew them!   I love their blossoms.  Definitely a keeper for next year!  Hopefully, they will re-seed themselves.


So in general, while the garden is later this year, I seem to have more time to enjoy it.
Usually, July is so hot around here, that plants are looking a bit worn out by now.  But not this year.
I am just hoping to have a ripe tomato by the middle of September!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Gale Gand at Elawa Farm- Backyard Entertaining

On Wednesday, friends and I attended another of  Gale Gand's cooking classes at Elawa Farm in Lake Forest.  For foodies and cooks, taking a class with Chef Gand is a "must do", if at all possible.
She's witty, funny and seriously entertaining, along with the fact that the girl knows how to cook!
This week's class focused on preparing a no-hassle meal for entertaining family and friends in the backyard. 

The Menu
Mint Limenade with Bourbon
Sriracha Deviled Eggs
Mustard Glazed Pork Tenderloin
Golden Beet Salad with Sugar Snap Peas
Pineapple Fruit Skewers
A nod to the mint julep with crushed ice and muddled mint

Chef Gand discussing the day to day challenges of raising teenagers- and wondering
why the bourbon looked a little lighter in color than usual ??????

Gale slices the golden beets into little divets- not the usual little squares.
So much prettier too!

 Sliced the blanched sugar snap peas on an angle!
Always thinking about the presentation.

Golden Beet Salad with Sugar Snap Peas


Piping the sriracha deviled eggs

The technique of peeling a pineapple

Imagine this pineapple filled with fruit skewers - cute idea!
Need some of that divine lemon curd from the last class to dip the fruit in-

After cooking the tenderloin in the oven to an internal temperature of 140 degrees and letting it rest,
Chef Gand slices the pork.

The perfect little bite - slightly pink and very  moist.

After class , we toured the organic gardens of Elawa Farm.
They grow vegetables and herbs to sell at the weekly markets at the farm.

Flowers are grown to sell at the weekly garden markets at the farm on Wednesday, Friday and Saturdays.

Hollyhocks are in season now and being sold at the market..
Being inspired by the class, I head to the Lake Bluff Farmers market and hope to find golden beets!
Success- and a few more goodies.

I'll make Gale's beet salad and try my hand at preparing that gorgeous romanesco.

But before I start on that beet salad -
A Mint Limenade with Bourbon sounds divine!

Cheers to Gale Gand!
Note:  Gale Gand is founding executive pastry chef and partner of the Michelin Star restaurant Tru in Chicago, host of Food Network's Sweet Dreams and the author of 8 cookbooks.  She just opened a new restaurant in Chicago called  Spritz Burger, with the Hearty Boys.  She has a root beer company, Gale's Root Beer and received a James Beard award as Outstanding Pastry Chef.  For more information about Gale go to