Saturday, January 28, 2012

OUR FIRST MEYER LEMON HARVEST


It's been a long wait -- almost two years -- since we bought our dwarf Meyer lemon tree at Lowe's.  It was small then, and we planted it in a smallish pot and placed it on our patio.  Last winter, it came inside our house.  By the time the winter was over, it needed to be repotted to a bigger container.  It was repotted again in early fall to yet another, larger, container and placed on a caddy with wheels.  We relocated the tree to just outside our garage doors, so that it could easily be wheeled inside during frigid weather.

Most of the first blooms fell off, as predicted, and others we picked off, leaving just two lemons for our first harvest.  As the lemons grew, they were dark green, then lighter green, then yellow, and finally orange-yellow.
  
The Meyer lemon tree is a cross between a Mandarin orange and a lemon, producing a sweeter, less-tart fruit that chefs and food enthusiasts love.  (Wal-Mart carries bags of Meyer lemons, and Harris Teeter carries the individually priced fruits at close to $1 each.)  Since Meyer lemon trees are a dwarf variety, they are perfect for container growing on a patio, or even inside the home in a sunny location.  They do require at least eight hours of sun daily, so location is critical, and care must be taken to not overwater them.   They can be planted in the ground in areas where winter weather is short and not severe, but they must be covered when temperatures dip below freezing.  Though the trees can reach 10-20 feet in height when fully grown, it is possible to keep them in containers if the trees are cut back once a year.

Our tree is completely covered with new blossoms now, some of which have already started to form fruit.
The intoxicating fragrance of the citrus blooms permeates the garage area, in a good way.   We're looking forward to a Meyer lemon meringue pie soon, hopefully by Memorial Day.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

QUICK AND EASY CHICKEN SOUP WITH BEET GREENS AND TORTELLINI


I hope you're in the habit of buying fresh beets.  They are wonderful when they're roasted, and so easy to do.  Just cut the beets away from the beet greens, scrub, wrap in foil and bake at 400F for about 40 minutes, or till tender when pierced with a fork.  Peeled and sliced, they're a great addition to a tossed salad, and equally good as a snack.  But what about those greens? Don't throw them out.  Get more bang for your buck by using them just like spinach.  In fact, that's pretty much what they taste like because they are a "cousin" of spinach.

Previously, I made delicious Beet Green Spanokopita, froze them, and baked some to accompany this soup.

With my latest bunch of beet greens, I used the smaller leaves to add to salads and used the bigger leaves for this wonderful soup.  The tortellini is a critical component of this soup.  It provides the "comfort" texture and taste.  Since it's fresh pasta, it cooks in no time, along with the other ingredients.  The beets and tortellini were both purchased at Harris Teeter.

The beets may appear expensive, but when you consider that you are getting two vegetables in one, it suddenly looks like a bargain.

Try this soup soon, and it may become your go-to chicken soup for cold wintry weather.  And, P. S., you can purchase rotisserie chickens on Sunday at Harris Teeter for $4.99 for your Sunday meal.  Monday's leftovers can be used to make this soup.  How's that for smart shopping?

Quick and Easy Chicken Soup with Beet Greens and Tortellini
Rating:  9.5 out of 10
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INGREDIENTS:
1 Tbsp. margarine or canola oil
1/3 cup chopped sweet onion
1 large carrot, peeled, grated on large holes of box grater
1 celery stalk with leaves, sliced or chopped
About 3/4 tsp. salt, divided
3 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
1-1/2 quarts Harris Teeter low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup water
2 cups fresh beet greens or spinach, chopped
¾ cup chopped or shredded cooked chicken
9 oz. pkg. of Harris Teeter fresh six-cheese tortellini

In 3-quart heavy pot, heat margarine, onion, carrot and celery over medium-high heat.  Cook 5 minutes, or till vegetables are softened.  Add 1/2 tsp. salt, parsley, broth and water.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 5 minutes.  Add beet greens (or spinach if using), chicken and tortellini.  Cook on medium low heat 5-6 minutes, or till pasta is tender.  Taste broth to adjust seasonings, adding up to an additional 1/4 tsp. of salt, if needed.  Yield:  4 servings

Thursday, January 12, 2012

GREEK LEMON GARLIC CHICKEN WITH POTATOES


Ever since our dinner at Taverna Mythos in Morehead City, I've been dreaming about Greek food.  So when I found this recipe, I knew I had to try it.  It's a simple recipe with few ingredients and it goes together quickly.  Perfect for a cold winter's day, the potatoes and chicken are nicely flavored and provide a comfort-food meal that will warm your innards.  Adjust the garlic down if it's not your favorite, and the classic tastes of lemon and oregano will still make this dish uniquely Greek.

Greek Lemon Garlic Chicken with Potatoes
Adapted from about.com Greek Food
Rating:  8.5 out of 10
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INGREDIENTS:
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
2 tsp. Morton kosher salt
1-1/2 tsp. Meditteranean oregano
1/2 tsp. black pepper
2 tsp. grated fresh garlic
1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 chicken, or two breast quarters, or two leg quarters
2 potatoes
1 onion, peeled, quartered
1/4 - 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth

In gallon-size resealable plastic bag, combine lemon juice, zest, salt, oregano, pepper, garlic, oil and broth.  Transfer 1/4 cup of marinade to a quart-size resealable bag.  Add chicken to gallon-size bag.  Seal bag and  refrigerate for 1-8 hours.

When ready to cook, heat oven to 375F.  Peel and quarter potatoes and toss in quart-size bag with marinade.  Place chicken skin-side down in roasting pan with potatoes around chicken.  Add onion around potatoes.  Pour 1/4 cup broth and any remaining marinade from bags over chicken and potatoes.  Bake 15 minutes, then flip chicken to skin-side up and continue to cook another 20-25 minutes, or till chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165F and potatoes are tender.  If additional liquid is needed, add another 1/4 cup of broth.  Yield:  2 servings