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Jessica’s Garden: Surviving the Last of Winter

Grayson and Chris-playing in the snowfall

After being cooped up now for what’s seemed like weeks, we are craving Springtime and sunshine. Our family has tried to stay active with a healthy mix of activities, crafts and classic movies. But there are only so many times that a parent can handle watching ‘Finding Nemo.’

Dyed Rice Bucket

Last winter I scoured Pinterest for activities to keep toddlers content during the dreary Winter months. When we moved, many of the homemade activities ended up in boxes and storage. As we’ve focused on unpacking and truly settling into our home, they have begun to emerge. I dyed eight bags of dollar store white rice last winter during the snow storms.

As I continued unearthing boxes in the basement last week, the bucket of dyed granules appeared. Paired with some plastic gardening tools and a yard-sale-salvaged galvanized metal bucket, we have already survived countless hours with creative play. The activity cost somewhere around $15, but I’m calling it priceless. And reusable.

Cream of Roasted Potato Soup

These recent weeks indoors have certainly allowed time to sharpen my culinary skills. One of our family’s new favorite quick meals is my Cream of Roasted Potato Soup.  It’s hearty and filling and complete within the hour from start to finish.

Cream of Roasted Potato Soup

2 Tbsp Butter
2 Tbsp Flour
1 Red Onion or 2 Leeks; chopped
4 Medium Sized Yukon Gold Potatoes; 1/2″ diced
2 C Chicken or Vegetable Stock
1 1/2 C Fat Free Half and Half
4 Strips Bacon; crumbled or 1/2 Lb leftover ham; diced
Sea Salt and Fresh Cracked Pepper to taste
Olive Oil for roasting
2 Sprigs Fresh Rosemary; chopped
2 Cloves Garlic; finely chopped
1/2 C Parmesan or Asiago Cheese
6 Baby Portabella Mushrooms; sliced

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat diced potatoes in olive oil, salt, pepper, and rosemary.  Roast for about 20 minutes until golden and fork tender. While potatoes are roasting, sauté leeks or onions and garlic; add mushrooms and sauté until tender. Crisp and crumble bacon.  Make a roux with the butter and flour. After a couple of minutes, as roux begins to brown, gradually and constantly whisk in broth.  Once potatoes are roasted, add to soup base. Bring to a simmer. Add cheese and stir until melted and  incorporated. Add ham or bacon. At last minute, add half and half. Bring up to temperature but do not boil or cream will curdle. Serve with crusty bread for dipping.

Veggie Scrap Broth

I have always tried to make my own broth whenever possible since I began cooking for myself. It’s such a simple thing to do.  It’s hardly any effort to take a leftover chicken carcass or beef bones and add some veggies and spices to make a healthy and homemade broth.

But recently I had an epiphany about vegetable peelings. So lately I’ve been saving my scraps in the fridge for a couple days and making vegetable broth for the fridge and freezer.

Previously I would have composted or fed our chickens these scraps. Once the broth is made and the solids have been strained, it can still become either compost or chicken feed.

Sunflower Micro Greens

But I’ve also acquired a nutritious and simple household staple. Just add some garlic, a couple bay leaves, salt and pepper to a pot full of water and carrot peels, onion tops, mushroom stumps, cabbage stalks, etc.

The micro greens that Grayson assisted in planting last week are just about ready to harvest and eat. We tasted a few this afternoon and Grayson really enjoyed them. They have a similar crispness and wateriness as bean sprouts, but slightly more spicy.

They are great on sandwiches or mixed in with salads. It feels good to be getting back into the gardening frame of mind. Bring on Spring.

Posted By: Jessica J. Crawford Behnkes Garden Blogger

Stephanie Fleming was raised at Behnke’s Nurseries in Beltsville. Her Mom, Sonja, was one of Albert & Rose Behnke’s four children. She was weeding from the moment she could walk and hiding as soon as she was old enough to run, so many weeds, so little time. Although she quickly learned how to pull out a perennial and get taken off of weed pulling duty.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Love your posts Jessica — full of awesome common-sense tips! Thanks, and keep up the great work! kgh

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