Winter

mushroomshiitakesoupIn general, shiitakes come in two forms: the slender stemmed variety and the ones which are fatter, with thicker stems and caps. Mitsuwa and SF Supermarket sell the fatter variety, which have a meater flavor.

With so many on hand, they can be used liberally in pastas and soups, grilled, and sautéed with garlic and shallots.

But how to store the ones not eaten those first couple of days?

Everyone knows that mushrooms should only be stored in the refrigerator in paper bags because kept in plastic they quickly go bad. Use a brown paper bag--not a white one, which is coated with wax so the moisture stays inside the bag--in combination with paper towels. The moisture that normally accumulates on the outside of the mushroom is absorbed by the layers of paper.

Kept in the refrigerator another week or two, the brown paper bag-paper towel combination acts as a dehydrator pefectly drying the mushrooms. This technique only works successfully with shiitakes.

If by chance any of the dried shiitakes develop mold, discard and keep the good ones. In my experience, more than 95% will dehydrate without harm.

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grapefruitwreathFrasier Fir, boxwood, magnolia, grapevine – all traditional bases for wreaths. We can pick them up at garden centers and Christmas tree vendors and even grocery stores, but sometimes it is fun to spice up ye olde wreath with some seasonal flair.

In December’s issue of Southern Living, I took some traditional wreaths up a notch or two to festively deck our halls, doors, windows and tables with versions of wreaths donned with a bit of Holiday zest.

Rosemary and grapefruit – two of this Farmer’s favorites! From their scents to their colors and flavors, the combo of these two can be appealing to many of the senses. Sliced grapefruit and Meyer lemons combined with Savannah holly foliage and berries on a boxwood wreath is garden glam at its best!

Add fresh cut red roses in varying shades and sizes for a boost of elegance and fragrance. The jewel tones of the fruit and flowers on the deep green base are luscious!

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Winter-Root-Vegetable-PureeI have gone on and on here about how much I love mashed potatoes (one of my fave recipes). Who doesn't really? However, I do consider them "special occasion" food with their copious amounts of butter, cheese and cream. 

The rest of the time I often just puree cauliflower for a "faux" mashed potato fix and don't add much of anything, it doesn't need it. Kind of like this Winter Root Vegetable Puree, it has so much flavor from the veggies themselves. I love, love root veggies more than one can imagine, I'm not even sure where it came from. I didn't grow up eating this stuff. But geez it's such a yummy, low-calorie way to enjoy what your brain thinks is mashed potatoes. It totally satisfies my urge for that starch side dish.

One of the root vegetables I used was celery root. Have you ever used it or seen one? They are pretty ugly and look challenging to cut..but they're not. They peel easily with a knife and are available at almost every market. Try adding it to soup, it's delicious.

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bloodorancealmondcakeIt's March, and the weather is still pretty miserable. There are cold fronts, snow storms, dense fog, and freezing rain blanketing various parts of the country.

While I can't make the daffodils grow any more quickly, I can share a recipe for a refreshing Italian Almond and Orange with Blood Orange Compote that is sure to make you feel warm and happy. I created the recipe a few weeks ago and have since made it two more times. It's that good.

While this Italian torte bakes, your home will be filled with the bright scent of citrus. Since it's subtly sweet yet rich with almond flavor, it's ideal for pairing with a glass of Italian Vin Santo on a relaxing afternoon. It also makes a lovely formal dessert when dressed with a spicy compote of tart blood oranges soaked in honey, vanilla, cloves, and star anise.

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3beanchiliI love hearty spicy chili, especially during the winter months. This one is quick to make with just basic ingredients and guaranteed to warm you up on a cold day.

The variety of beans – red kidney, black and pinto – gives the chili a nice “meaty” quality. I think it has a nice balance of heat, but you can add extra cayenne or a chopped jalapeño to add a little more “fire”.

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