Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Garden B.F.F.s

Today has been chilly and rainy, a perfect day for gardening, and for soup. Therefore, I have a little of both for you in this post. If you're into gardening at all you are probably familiar with "companion" planting. This is the idea that certain plants have "best friends" they like to grow near. They also have "enemies"; plants that won't do well together. A good example of plant "enemies" would be zucchini and watermelon. I once planted these too close together so they were cross-pollinated. The resulting produce were pinkish, weird zucchinis and watermelons with hard, white, flavorless flesh.

I took advantage of the fact that plants and seeds like to be set out during rainy weather to plant spinach and basil and parsley seeds. I sowed the parsley in between the tomatoes because parsley is a good friend to tomato plants. Both will grow better if they are near one another. Roses are a good companion for parsley as well. I might get some more seeds and put them out around my roses. 

The parsley is sown in between the tomatoes.

I got the metal fencing panels, which I'm using as plant supports, at Aldi for just $7.99 each. I think they look so much more elegant than last year's mesh and rebar homemade plant supports. I've always really wanted a pretty vegetable garden of the sort you see in Old Salem or Colonial Williamsburg, with a fence or boxwood border and beautiful plant supports. My cousin, Realpha, inherited my great-grandparents' house in Michigan and turned the entire side yard into a beautiful garden. Her husband built a picket fence and all sorts of lovely wooden trellises and things for her. They have the garden laid out in square plots inside the fence, each bordered with lettuces as edging, and linked by gravel paths. I get severe garden envy every time I visit! Our garden is coming along, however. I put in more blueberries and strawberries with flagstone edging. Jerry has plans to bring sod up to the flagstone.

Clammy, cold weather calls for soup, so last night I made a favorite, Beer Cheese Soup, adapted for my diet. Instead of using flour, I thickened the soup with copious amounts of pureed cooked vegetables. It's thick and creamy and hearty, but still wheat-free. It does have beer and cheese, which both contain carbohydrates, as do vegetables, so this is a reduced-carbohydrate recipe, not a carb-free recipe. Of course, dense bread or pretzel bread would be perfect with this soup, but you could substitute coconut flour bread instead. Look at my Pinterest Carb Control board for many different recipes. Since we aren't on Induction anymore we had fresh pineapple with this soup. Contrary to popular belief, you may start adding fruit back into your diet after the first two weeks on Atkins, to the point that you can still eat it and continue to lose weight. Here's the recipe:

Hearty Beer-Cheese Soup
1/4 cup salted butter
1 whole sweet onion, chopped
1/2 small head of cabbage, chopped
4 small carrots, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1/4 cup coconut flour or soy flour
3 teaspoons prepared or dry mustard (dry will have a more intense flavor)
1/8 teaspoon pepper
2 cups cream
1 cup chicken broth
12 oz (2 1/2 cups)  cheddar cheese, diced or shredded
1 (12 oz) can beer

Melt butter in a Dutch Oven or soup pot. Add onion, carrots, and garlic and cook until the vegetables begin to soften. Add the cabbage and parsley and continue to cook 10-15 minutes until all the vegetables are soft. Puree the vegetables in the pot with an immersion blender or move to a food processor or blender and puree. Return the vegetables to the pot and add the coconut flour, pepper, and mustard. Stir until thoroughly mixed. Gradually stir in the cream and broth. Bring to a boil and reduce heat. Simmer, stirring frequently, 10-15 minutes until the mixture is thickened and bubbly and heated through. Stir in the beer and cheese. Cook and stir until the cheese is melted and the soup is hot. Do not boil the soup once you've added the cheese, as this will result in separation and a grainy texture. Serve hot.

My mug is from the Grand Traverse Lighthouse Museum shop in Northport, MI.
My owl trivet came from a local antiques store.

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