Spring & Easter

mushroom-crostini-005BI’ve spent most of my life turning up my nose at mushrooms. That all changed last summer when I discovered the sublime flavor of chanterelle mushrooms plucked fresh from the forest floor and sauteed in butter with garden-fresh sage leaves. I blogged about my foraging experience in Duluth with Dick Ojakangas last summer. Beatrice Ojakangas immediately transformed our chanterelle harvest into a luscious appetizer.

That foraging experience was followed by my weekend at Mushroom Camp. After that, a visit to Dallas Flynn’s farm in Frazee, Minnesota. He sent me home with some of the shiitake mushrooms he raises. Those beauties went into a pasta dish. I became hooked on mushrooms.

On this Earth Day weekend, I’m making Mushroom Crostini. Buttery cremini mushrooms or creamy and light shiitakes are both good choices for this appetizer or snack. It’s so easy to make.

First, toast some baguette slices. Brush both sides of each slice with olive oil. I toast them in a grill pan. When the weather is nice, use your outdoor grill.

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eggsaladitalianplateWith Easter just passed, who isn't thinking about eggs? When I was a kid I loved dyeing and decorating eggs. But instead of using hard boiled eggs, I thought it was infinitely cooler to de-egg my Easter eggs.

I remember using one of my mother's sewing needles to punch holes on either end of the uncooked egg. Putting my mouth against the egg, I'd huff-and-puff and blow until the raw egg dropped into a bowl.

Admittedly that was a lot of extra work and there were risks. Making the holes and blowing into the egg could crack the shell. Worse, all that huffing-and-puffing sometimes led to hyper-ventilating, so my mother kept an eye on me, just in case I got dizzy and fell off the chair.

In my child's mind, that extra effort was worth it because the feather-weight shells, brightly dyed and covered with decals, were so much more artful than the heavy hard boiled eggs.

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lilies1Perennial bulbs such as daffodils, tulips, and lilies bring about some of springtime’s best qualities - all making for exceptional cut flowers as well. Even wintertime’s brisk and chilly climate can provide glimpses of floral beauty with Hellebores heralding the coming spring and giving the gardener a glimpse of what is to come. When all things become new again, unthawing from winter’s chill, consider lilies for an accent and spark of year to year blooms for the home and garden.

Bulbaceous and herbaceous lilies alike make fantastic additions to the garden. Planting lily bulbs in the spring ensures sprays of flowers to perfume your garden and interiors as well. Asiatic or Oriental lilies found in florists and flower markets can easily be grown in your own garden. Just think how wonderful it can be to cut ‘Casa Blanca’ lilies direct from your own garden! Hundreds of varieties in numerous sizes, colors, bloom times, and aromas can fill the garden and then vases inside.

Start with a collection of a few of your favorite colors and scents or add to a successful assortment already growing in the garden. Lasting for nearly a week as a cut flower and dousing the garden with intoxicating perfumes, lilies spice up the air and atmosphere of the gardening lifestyle.

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deviled eggs"I love deviled eggs and there are so many delicious variations. I'm making these for Easter dinner hors d'oeuvres and using some of the Smoked Sockeye Salmon that I brought back from a recent trip to Alaska. Deviled Eggs with Smoked Salmon"

7 large eggs (cold)
4 oz. cold-smoked salmon, very finely diced (about 1/2 cup)
2 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh chives
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons minced red onion
1½ tablespoons capers, rinsed and finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon packed finely grated lemon zest
3/4 teaspoon grainy mustard

Place eggs in medium saucepan, cover with 1 inch of water, and bring to boil over high heat. Remove pan from heat, cover, and let stand 10 minutes. Meanwhile, fill medium bowl with 1 quart cold water and about 14 ice cubes (one tray). Transfer eggs to ice water with slotted spoon; let sit 5 minutes.

Peel eggs and slice each in half lengthwise with paring knife. Remove yolks to a medium bowl. Arrange whites on serving platter, discarding two worst-looking halves. Crumble the yolks and add the salmon, 1 tablespoon of the chives, the mayonnaise, onion, capers, lemon juice, zest, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper (salt to taste) and mix. Mound the filling into the egg whites. Garnish with the remaining 1 tablespoon chives and several grinds of black pepper.

– Recipe courtesy of Cook Like James

EGGS coloredWhen it comes to holidays, I do not discriminate. Any excuse to bake massive amounts of new treats, purchase unnecessary packaging, ribbons, and lovely little boxes, then gift them to the those that I love gives me great joy. Easter creates endless possibilities. We don’t celebrate Easter, but why should my kids miss out on all the creativity that the holiday has to offer?

I had been reading about naturally dyeing eggs and I was trying to find an excuse to do this intensely laborious project. When I was asked by Levi’s kindergarten teacher for some cooking project ideas related to both Passover and Easter, it took me about 2 seconds to know exactly what I wanted to do with 25 kinders. Upon doing a little more research, I turned my kitchen into an Easter egg lab. Utilizing all my pots, pans, and bowls the mad scientist in me came alive and I could not have been in a more happy place.

Simple garden vegetables; beets, spinach, carrots, carrot tops, parsley, and cabbage make wonderful, rich colors. Storing the dyes in ball jars made transporting the materials to Levi’s class effortless. I waited to add the vinegar until right before the kids placed their eggs in the dyes of their choices. If you have the time, let the eggs rest in the dye for at least 30 minutes to an hour. The longer they sit, the richer the color.

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