Our garden is officially producing a small harvest! This past week we enjoyed some fresh tomatoes as well as a large squash from our garden. We have more of these veggies coming and even found some little tiny cantaloupes yesterday. Pretty excited this has been going so well so far and we are excited to be eating more fresh veggies this summer :)
When Chip and I first planted our garden, we really didn’t expect it to be a complete success. This was our first time really planting anything substantial so we assumed some things just wouldn’t do well. As of yet, our garden has been much more a success than we had ever anticipated. We’re seeing tomatoes and squash already grow, seeing the beginning stages to bell peppers and have utilized our basil and cilantro for multiple dinners.
While we spend time in our garden everyday, the size of our plants really snuck up on us. It seemed like all of a sudden, the plants were taking over the garden with the main culprits being the squash, cantaloupe and watermelon. One of our squash plants has gotten huge and is producing lots of little baby vegetables. SA friends, I’m hoping all of this squash will grow well and that we will soon be giving produce away. The cantaloupe and watermelon vines have gotten much longer than the little Lowe’s plant tag said it would. Our front cantaloupe was expanding towards our flowers across the future pathway and our watermelon vines were starting to tangle up with our zucchini. We also noticed that our tomatoes were no longer growing straight and were starting to lean with the weight of the fruit. It was garden chaos! I was feeling overwhelmed at the plants’ growth and getting anxious over how sloppy the garden was looking. So after talking to some friends and doing a little bit of research, we set off to Lowe’s on Sunday to buy some support rods. The plan was to use these on the tomatoes to help straighten them out and then get some taller rods so the cantaloupe and watermelon vines could grow up instead of out (and then whenever we hopefully see some fruit start to grow, we can let those vines down so the fruit won’t weight down the rod).
It took a bit of work, but I think the garden looks cleaner (although it kind of looks like a jungle…) and this should also help each plant get more sun. The watermelon was definitely taking over its area and hogging all the sun, so I’m not sure how much zucchini we’ll actually get, but that’s alright. It’s all about learning this year, right? And we have definitely learned a lot… we’ve already decided that next year we will do more tomatoes, way less squash, only one cantaloupe and one watermelon and less basil and cilantro. We’re still hoping to get some mulch back here and work on our path at some point. Here are some pictures from our work this weekend!
I really think Chip and I are meant to live the Italian lifestyle… while on our honeymoon, we became pizza connoisseurs, had wine with lunch like true Italians and on multiple days had gelato more than once. We absolutely loved it! So in honor of our short time in Italy, we’ve had several homemade pizza nights here at home and also made our own gelato last summer. I’ve been waiting all spring for it to be officially warm enough to bring our ice cream maker out again. Luckily, this day finally came yesterday. Our church was having their annual ice cream social and was the perfect way to inaugurate the homemade gelato season.
While Chip took his CFA exam this past Saturday, I spent some time trying to pick out a good recipe (I think I had the better end of the deal!). I used a recipe from a book we got as a wedding gift called The Ciao Bella Book of Gelato and Sorbetto. With a name like that, you know the recipes are going to be good! After going through some of last year’s favorite recipes (which include stracciatella and chocolate nutella), I decided to make a strawberry gelato for the first time. After I got our ice cream maker bucket in the freezer, I got to work on the base for the gelato (recipe posted below for whomever wants to make this!). Once I got the base chilling in the refrigerator, it was time to start working on the strawberries. This recipe calls for cooking a pound of sliced strawberries on the stove and then having that mixture chill, too.
I had both of these mixtures chill overnight and finished the gelato Sunday morning before church. The first step on Sunday involved blending 3/4 of the strawberry mixture with half of the gelato base.
Once this was all nice and mixed together, I whisked it into the remaining amount of the gelato base…
This mixture then goes straight into the ice cream maker. We have a pretty simple model from Cuisinart but it gets the job done really well :) We let the ice cream maker run for 20 minutes and then added the remaining strawberries for an additional five minutes. After that, we put the gelato into a tupperware bowl and had it freeze all day before taking it with us to the ice cream social in the afternoon. We’re going to consider this recipe a success since we came home with an empty tupperware dish! Maybe our future pizzeria will have a gelateria on the side… :)
Plain Gelato Base recipe:
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 4 large egg yolks
- 1/2 cup sugar
- In a heavy-bottom saucepan, combine the milk and cream. Place over medium-low heat and cook, stirring occasionally so a skin doesn’t form, until tiny bubbles start to form around the edges and the mixture reaches a temperature of 170F.
- Meanwhile, in a medium heat-proof bowl, whisk the egg yolks until smooth. Gradually whisk in the sugar until it is well incorporated and the mixture is thick and pale yellow. Temper the egg yolks by very slowly pouring in the hot milk mixture while whisking continuously. Return the custard to the saucepan and place over low heat. Cook, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, until the custard is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon and it reaches a temperature of 185F. Do not bring to a boil.
- Pour the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into a clean bowl and let cool to room temperature, stirring every 5 minutes or so. To cool the custard quickly, make an ice bath by filling a large bowl with ice and water and placing the bowl with the custard in it; stir the custard until cooled. Once completely cooled, cover and refrigerate until very cold, at least 4 hours or overnight.
Strawberry Gelato recipe:
- Plain base gelato
- 1 pound strawberries, hulled and thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- Make the plain base and chill as directed.
- Place the strawberries in a medium saucepan. Sprinkle with the sugar, then add the melon juice; toss until the sugar is dissolved and the strawberries are well coated. Let sit for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Place the pan of strawberries over medium-low heat and cook until the strawberries soften completely and the syrup just starts to thicken, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature. Transfer to a container, cover and refrigerate until cold, at least 2 hours (the strawberries can be prepared a day ahead).
- Reserve a quarter of the strawberries and syrup. Place the remaining strawberries in a blender or food processor, add half of the base and blend until fully incorporated. Whisk into the remaining base.
- Pour the mixture into the container of an ice cream machine and churn according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Add the reserved strawberries 5 minutes before the churning is completed. Transfer to an airtight container and freeze for at least 2 hours before serving.
This past Memorial Day weekend was a very special weekend. Not only was I getting a four day weekend from work (always love long weekends!) but our good friends Rachel and Mark were in town visiting from Chicago. After both going to Trinity and spending a couple of years here in San Antonio, Mark and Rachel made the move to Chicago last year so Mark could get his MBA at Northwestern‘s Kellogg School of Management. We hadn’t seen them since they moved last summer so we were extremely excited to spend some time together!
Mark and Rachel got into town late last Thursday night and spent some time on Friday hanging out with old friends. We then all met up at Dough for a tasty dinner and as you may know by now, I never turn down a meal at Dough! While we had a good hour wait for our table, the company was wonderful and the weather great (quick thanks to Haley for posting these pictures!).
After dinner at Dough, we went over to Dylan and Abby’s house to play some Phase 10. I’ve never played before and really enjoyed the game. Definitely recommend it for big groups!
Saturday was a long but rewarding day. Matt, Haley, Mark, Rachel and I signed up to help with Redeemer Serves the City, a service day organized by our church Redeemer Presbyterian Church. We were assigned to be on a team together doing some serious landscaping work at the Strong Foundation, a very inspiring ministry here in town. Chip wasn’t able to join us since it was the week before his CFA exam and he needed to take as many practice tests as possible so he spent a good portion of the weekend locked up in the Trinity library. While Chip got going on his studying, the rest of us met up at Matt and Haley’s house early on Saturday morning to load up his truck with all of our garden supplies… we’ve clearly spent a lot of time at Lowe’s!
We spent the day at the Strong Foundation focusing on the landscaping in the front of the building, pulling out all of the weeds and planting some new roses. Unfortunately I don’t have a picture of what the property looked like at the end of the day, but trust me, it looked great!
We all met up again later in the evening for dinner at La Gloria. Chip and I have been there a couple of times, but it had been a good year since the last time we were there. We sat outside on their patio and were blessed by another beautiful evening with nice weather, good food, fun drinks and great conversation.
On Sunday evening I was able to have a dinner with just Rachel and catch up on how the first year in Chicago went. I admire Mark and Rachel so much as they’ve adjusted to a new city with its different transportation logistics, new friends and new lifestyle as Rachel works full time and Mark excels in grad school. After dinner at La Madeleine, we came back over to our house to watch the Spurs game with everyone. We had a great time cheering them on as they won their playoff game (they just need to get their act together right now….).
For Memorial Day, we had a barbecue over at our house. Mark prepared some tasty burgers, Chip grilled some sausage and vegetables, Haley and Rachel made a delicious angel food cake and I made a pitcher of sangria. Needless to say we all ate a bit too much food! :)
I’ve been wanting to update this blog’s layout for sometime now. I really liked the color scheme I had chosen when I first started this blog, but have been keeping an eye out for a fresh, clean layout. Not sure if it’s spring transitioning into summer or just wanting to keep things simple, but I really wanted a new fresh and crisp layout. I have to admit I spent way too much time trying out different themes and layouts. I would like the colors of some, the font of others and the side bars on something else. In the end, this design had the most of the little features I wanted, so I’m now giving it a shot! Who knows, I could change it again in the next week…. :)
Blog layout before…
Blog layout after!