My Failed Attempt at Revitalizing Our Raised Garden Beds

Do you see that large white flag being waved from our house?  That’s me, surrendering to the raised garden beds that came with the house.  After spending countless hours of pulling 10 foot weed roots with no end in sight, I’ve decided to call it quits on cleaning them up.  I wrote a post a few weeks ago how I was attempting to deal with the massive weeds in the beds.  I thought I had done a pretty good job weeding each box and solarizing it to kill any weed seeds:

Six weeks later, the beds now look like this:

Notice how the black weed-shielding fabric is puffed up in the middle?  That’s because ridiculous monster-sized weeds are growing under the fabric and a layer of newspapers.  I spent about an hour trying to re-weed this box with no end in sight.  That’s when I decided all my earlier hours spent cleaning it out were a sunk cost.  To keep going forward with these raised beds, I would constantly be battling these weeds.  We had a garden consultant stop by last week for an hour to help us i.d. some plants and figure out which plants were mature and needed to be transplanted.  She said that the weeds in the raised beds were not anywhere else in the area so it’s likely they were brought in with the original soil.

At this point, I think it might be easier to demolish these boxes and build new raised beds somewhere else in our yard.  I feel a little defeated because I spent so much time trying to clean out these beds, but I’m excited for a fresh start where I won’t be constantly battling the weed problem.  Have you ever started a project around your house or yard, and then realized it just wasn’t going to work out?

Domino Weeknight Dinner Party

Years ago, I had clipped an article from the now defunct Domino magazine detailing how to throw a weeknight dinner party.  Last night, I finally decided to use the menu from the article for a small dinner party we were having.  Granted, it was a weekend night, but it worked out for the best as I was a little short on time yesterday with a few other commitments we had during the day.  The article has a full timeline of how Nathan Turner goes from work at 5:00 pm to dinner on the table by 8:00 pm.  I find some of the details a little far-fetched considering he does not have any groceries, wine,  or flowers when he gets out of work, and still finds time to buy all this, re-arrange the flowers into a more aesthetically pleasing look, set the table, and oh yeah, prep and cook all the food.  However, it is a fairly simple menu to pull together for guests and I was pleased with the results.

The Menu:

Appetizers: Mixed olives, a cheese plate featuring 1 hard, 1 soft, and 1 semisoft cheese (I went with a brie, a Danish blue cheese, and an Irish cheddar), roasted red peppers, crackers, and  5-minute artisan bread

Dinner: Pesto-Crusted Rack of Lamb (recipe below), Potato and Leek Mini Gratins, and Roasted Tomato & Mixed Greens Salad

Dessert: Strawberry Rhubarb Slab  Pie - This was not on the original menu from the article, but I saw it in a recent cooking magazine and thought it looked really good (and it was!)  Stop back later this week on Fresh Produce Tuesday for the recipe…we are featuring Rhubarb recipes this week.

Pesto-Crusted Rack of Lamb
Recipe type: Entree
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
Ingredients
  • 2 racks of lamb, frenched and cut into individual chops
  • ½ cup pesto (you can buy store-bought or make your own)
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • cooking spray
Instructions
  1. Before the dinner party, spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray. Brush a small amount of pesto on each individual lamb chop. Pour the bread crumbs in a bowl and roll each chop in the bread crumbs. Cover with aluminum foil and put in the fridge.
  2. About 10 minutes before dinner, turn the broiler on high. Cook the chops under the broiler until a nice crust forms (about 4 minutes a side).

For the potato and leek mini gratins, just cut the white part of 2 leeks and 4-5 small, peeled potatoes into thin slices.  Pour a small amount of olive oil in each cup of a muffin tray and add a small amount of shredded gruyere cheese.  Add a layer of potato, then a layer of leeks, and more gruyere cheese.  Repeat these 3 ingredients until the cups are full.  Pour 2-3 tablespoons milk over each mini gratin.  Cover with foil and place in fridge until ready to make.  Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes, removing the foil halfway through.

To make the roasted tomato and mixed green salad, start by putting 1 pound of cherry tomatoes on a baking sheet and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Roast for 25 minutes at 375 degrees.  On a separate baking sheet, roast 1/4 cup of pine nuts for a few minutes until lightly toasted.  Once tomatoes are done, take the juices from the tomatoes and pour into a small bowl to make the dressing.  Put the tomatoes aside to cool.  Add 1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar, 3 tablespoons good quality extra virgin olive oil, and a pinch of sugar and salt to the tomato juices in the bowl.  Whisk together.  Place mixed greens in a large salad bowl.  Right before dinner is served, add the roasted tomatoes, pine nuts, feta cheese, and dressing and mix the salad together.

Source: Adapted from Domino magazine, October 2008

What do you like to serve for an easy dinner party?

 

Chicken Piccata

I made chicken piccata for dinner last night and I remembered why it is one of my favorite dinners to make. It’s fairly easy to have all the ingredients prepped and ready to go, and then make it in 10-15 minutes once it’s dinner time. The flavor in the sauce is incredible!  I like to serve it with egg noodles and roasted asparagus on one large platter.  We could have eaten it all last night, but I saved some leftovers for my lunch today.

Chicken Piccata
Recipe type: Entree
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 3
 
Ingredients
  • 1 lb chicken tenderloins (or slice up a large chicken breast into thick strips)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • ⅓ cup fresh lemon juice
  • ½ cup chicken stock
  • ¼ cup brined capers, drained
  • ¼ cup dry white wine (may be omitted)
  • 2-3 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
Instructions
  1. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Dredge chicken in flour and shake off excess.
  2. In a large skillet over medium high heat, melt 2 tablespoons of butter with 1 tablespoons olive oil. When butter and oil start to sizzle, add the chicken and cook for 3 minutes. When chicken is browned, flip and cook other side for 3 minutes. Remove and transfer to plate.
  3. Add the lemon juice, stock, capers, and white wine to the pain. Return to stove and bring to boil, scraping up brown bits from the pan. Return all the chicken to the pan and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove chicken to platter. Add remaining 2 tablespoons butter to sauce and whisk until melted and incorporated. Pour sauce over chicken and garnish with parsley. Serve with egg noodles on the same platter to soak up some of the excess sauce.

Source: Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis

Glazed Doughnut Muffins

My boyfriend was told last-minute by his work that he was going to have to go to Costa Rica on and off for the next few months and that he was leaving on Monday!  Our weekend was a blur of laundry, shopping, and packing to get him ready for the trip.  We ate most of our meals out that weekend because of the lack of time, so on Sunday morning I felt like I needed to make him sometimes special.  I didn’t want to go out to the store, so it basically had to come from ingredients I already had on hand.  I found this recipe while looking through blogs and knew it was perfect. These muffins were so moist and very much like a glazed doughnut . My boyfriend loved them and so did I!  It was the perfect sending-off treat.

glazed doughnut muffin

Glazed Doughnut Muffins
Author: 
Recipe type: Breakfast
Serves: 12
 
Ingredients
  • ¼ cup butter
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ⅓ cup brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1½ tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • ¾ tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2⅔ cup flour
  • 1 cup Skim milk
  • Glaze:
  • 3 tbsp. melted butter
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp. hot water
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spray a muffin pan with cooking spray.
  2. In the bowl of a mixer combine butter, oil and sugars until smooth. Add in eggs and beat until fluffy about 2-3 minutes. Next add in baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, cinnamon, salt, vanilla, milk and flour. Mix well.
  3. With a muffin scoop or ¼ cup measuring cup, scoop batter into muffin tin. Place muffin pan in oven and let bake for 15-17 until golden. Allow muffins to cool in tin for 5 minutes, then take out of pan and let cool for an additional 5 minutes.
  4. Prepare glaze by combining all the ingredients. Mixing until smooth. After the muffins have cooled for the 10 minutes, dip top of the muffins into the glaze. Let first layer of glaze dry and then dip in glaze a second time. Allow glaze to dry and serve.

Source- adapted from Lil’ Luna

Fresh Produce Tuesday- Week #5 Garlic Scapes & Green Garlic

I had yet another tough week of finding the produce for this week’s Fresh Produce Tuesday.  I looked high and low for garlic scapes at several stores, but came up empty-handed.  Thank you so much to Georgianne Mora from A Cooking Life for letting me use the lovely picture above.

I originally had just scheduled garlic scape recipes for this week of Fresh Produce Tuesday, but last week Tracey from A2ZMommy and What’s In Between asked for suggestions for spring garlic that she saw in the store.  Spring garlic (also known as green garlic), is young garlic that is pulled to thin out the garlic crops, while garlic scopes are the curling, flowering stalks that are cut off the garlic plant.  I can’t wait for the farmers’ markets to get going around here so I can start making some of these recipes:

Time to link up your recipe featuring garlic scopes and green garlic!  Click on the blue link below to enter your Fresh Produce Tuesday recipe idea:

Here’s the current Fresh Produce Tuesday line-up.  And remember, the previous weeks’ Linky Tools are still open if you still want to submit your recipe for any of the past weeks.  Be sure to stop back next week with your Rhubarb recipes!

Week #1- March 27th: Asparagus
Week #2- April 3rd: Artichokes
Week #3- April 10th: Spring Onions
Week #4- April 17th: Peas
Week #5- April 24th: Garlic Scapes & Spring Garlic
Week #6- May 1st: Rhubarb
Week #7- May 8th: Fava Beans
Week  #8- May 15th: Radishes
Week #9- May 22nd: Lettuces

Girls’ Night Pasta

While I was visiting my parent’s house this past week, my mother and I shared a few dinners together while my father was out-of-town.  She had created this recipe for a delicious vegetable pasta dish and I was excited to have a meatless pasta night since my husband prefers low-carb, high-protein dinners.  She came up with this recipe to use up a few things in her fridge one night and I think the results were great.  It’s very spring-like and a simple dish to pull together…just add a glass of white wine and it’s an instant girls’ night!

Girls’ Night Pasta
Recipe type: Entree
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2
 
Ingredients
  • 6 oz. linguine
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1-2 cups sweet baby lettuce, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup tomato, diced and seeded
  • kosher salt, to taste
  • 6-8 basil leaves, cut chiffonade-style
Instructions
  1. Heat pot of water to boil. Add salt and pasta when the water is boiling. Stir occasionally and cook for 8-9 minutes. Drain, reserving ½ cup of the pasta water.
  2. Place the hot pasta in a large bowl. Stir in butter and Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus enough of the reserved pasta water to moisten. Toss in baby lettuces and tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with basil.

What sort of meal do you like to make for girls’ night?

Nan’s Nutella Cookies

I spent a few days this week visiting my parents out in upstate NY so they could see Baby T.  It was great to visit them and get a little mini-vacation for myself.  It’s a nice break from the constant cleaning, cooking, and chasing baby boy, and it’s also fun to catch up with my parents.  My mom made these Nutella sandwich cookies for my visit and I couldn’t get enough of them!  I have never tried Nutella before, but I have been converted…definitely on my to-do list to stock up on some back home!

Nan’s Nutella Cookies
Recipe type: Cookies
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 9
 
Ingredients
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup Nutella
  • 1 egg
  • ½ tsp vanilla
  • 1 and ½ cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ cup mini chocolate chips
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Cream butter with mixer for about 1 minute until smooth. Add in granulated and light brown sugar. Beat with the mixer on high speed for 3 minutes until light & fluffy.
  3. Add the egg, vanilla, and ½ cup of the Nutella and mix well on low speed.
  4. In a separate small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Add the dry ingredients into wet ingredients, and continue to mix on low speed until combined. Increase the mixer speed to medium and mix just until the dough is smooth. Fold in chocolate chips.
  5. Using a melon scooper, scoop out balls of dough and place on greased cookie sheet. Bake for 6-7 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool completely. Once cooled, take a cookie and spread generously Nutella. Top with another cookie. Continue to make cookie “sandwiches” out of the remaining cookies with the Nutella.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 2 cookies

Source: Adapted from Erin’s Food Files

Fresh Produce Tuesday- Week #4: Peas

Welcome to our 4th week of the Fresh Produce Tuesday- today we are featuring peas.  I was hoping to find shelling peas at the grocery store, but I was only able to find snap peas and snow peas today.  The local farmers markets in this area don’t start for a few more weeks so unfortunately, I was out of luck in my search to find just plain peas.  That’s alright though- we can showcase many varieties of peas this week!  Here are 10 recipes featuring peas:

Also, just wanted to remind you of our Fresh Produce Tuesday schedule for the spring:

Week #1- March 27th: Asparagus
Week #2- April 3rd: Artichokes
Week #3- April 10th: Spring Onions
Week #4- April 17th: Peas
Week #5- April 24th: Garlic Scapes
Week #6- May 1st: Rhubarb
Week #7- May 8th: Fava Beans
Week  #8- May 15th: Radishes

Please link up your favorite pea recipe below!  I would love it if you could provide a link back to 2 Sisters 2 Cities or add our button to your pea-related post, but it is not required.

Painting Our Dining Room Furniture: After Pictures

A couple of months ago, I wrote a post how we were in process of decorating our dining room and decided to paint our dining room furniture.  I wanted to follow-up and show how our furniture looks now that the painting has been completed.  We are still in process of working on the rest of the dining room, so stay tuned for more pictures of the rest of the room.

First off, here are the before and after pictures of our dining room table (those are additional table leaves in the background):


Then, we had the grandmother clock painted:

And my favorite piece of all, the buffet table:

I love how all three pieces of furniture turned out!  The slate gray color is just what I had in mind.  I know some people would not consider painting furniture, especially family heirlooms like the grandmother clock, but it was the right decision for us.  The pieces were a little too traditional for what we wanted and the clock would have likely ended up in storage in our basement if we didn’t change it up a little.  If you can’t make a piece of furniture fit your style, what is the point of holding on to it?  Check out Painted Pretty for more painted furniture ideas…they do such a great job!  If you live in Boston, they are at the SOWA vintage market every Sunday.

Have you painted a piece of furniture in your house?  Were you happy with the results?

Tomato and Herb Bruschetta

I have been obsessed with tomato bruschetta for as long as I can remember.   I have a very clear memory of stealing some of my mom’s bruschetta she had made for company we were having over.  I snuck a few slices of French bread with bruschetta to the pool side, dipped my feet in the pool, and ate the stolen goods.  I think I was about 10-12 years old at that point.  What can I say…I have always had a mature pallet.  For most of my childhood birthdays, I requested surf and turf, making sure my mom got me my own lobster.   That’s what you get when your mom is a great cook and you are born a true foodie.

The other day when I was making my first homemade French bread,  I knew I needed to make some fresh tomato bruschetta to go with it.  Tomato bruschetta is really the best in the summer when you can use fresh tomatoes, making it a great summer appetizer.

Tomato and Herb Bruschetta

Tomato and Herb Bruschetta
Author: 
Recipe type: Appetizer
 
Ingredients
  • 3 ripe tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chopped basil
  • 1 tsp. chopped garlic
  • ½ tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • French bread
Instructions
  1. Cut, seed and chop tomatoes. Place in a bowl and mix in basil, garlic, oregano, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Serve with fresh French bread or toasted French bread.
  2. To toast French bread slice bread in ½ inch slices. Brush both sides with olive oil and place in an 350 degree oven. Toast 5 minutes on both side until bread is crispy. To add a hint of garlic to toasted French bread cut a piece of garlic in half and rub the toasted bread with garlic.

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