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no churn coffee ice cream revisited

It’s been pretty warm and steamy in my neck of the woods recently, so what better way to cool off than my easy, no-churn coffee ice cream? Coffee ice cream is a favorite of ours but all you really need as a base for no-churn ice cream is heavy cream (I’ve used half and half on numerous occasions and it works great, too) and sweetened condensed milk. From there, the possibilities are endless.

how to make homemade ice cream dunkin donuts

In case you missed it above, here’s the link to my recipe: http://lolarugula.com/2013/01/05/homemade-coffee-ice-cream/

Stay cool and enjoy!

easy to grow flowers part two

In case you missed my recent post, it was part one of easy to grow flowers here in zone 5…at least for me. Currently, the crocus and daffodils have already bloomed, while the tulips, lilacs and bleeding hearts are all blooming here in early May. Just getting ready to strut their stuff are our very short-lived but beautiful alliums. These are sun lovers that don’t take up a lot of space but stand tall and beautiful on their own. They only bloom for a couple of weeks, but they’re so much fun and they’re part of the onion/garlic family so therefore, I love them.

lola_rugula_allium

Also, just getting ready to pop is all of our columbine. Columbine spreads, so be warned, but it’s a beautiful perennial that’s available in a wide range of colors. Bonus for me is that they are shade plants, though they do well in partial sun also.Wet, dry, cool, hot…once columbine has started to grow and bloom, it doesn’t seem to care very much about the conditions.

lola_rugula_purple-columbine lola_rugula_columbineHow can you resist their unusual flowers and colors? I sure can’t. My columbine bloom for a month or so but, because I have so many of them, it goes on longer than that, due to varying stages of their plant maturity.

Just a week or two away from blooming is my clematis. I love clematis but ours blooms only briefly due to the fact it gets only afternoon sun. Clematis likes lots of sun and can be a bit of a water hog if it’s quite dry, but its show blooms are worth it. Try and plant yours in a sunny spot and leave it…it’s not partial to being moved around but you’ll reap the rewards when you leave it be and let it do its thing.

lola_rugula_clematisAll of the above flowers are perennials for me here in zone 5. Some annuals that I love and that are easy here are cosmos and zinnias. Find a sunny spot, loosen up the dirt, toss in a little compost and then sprinkle some seeds around. You barely need to cover them; I sprinkle just enough dirt over them to keep them in their place. Keep damp for 5-7 days and you should see some sprouts. Then, just keep watered enough to keep the sprouts going and before you know it, you have flowers that go on and on and on and on. Trust me on this one.

lola_rugula_cosmos

lola_rugula_zinnias

I love cosmos and zinnias for their long lasting, colorful display…you really can’t go wrong with them.

Of course, for another perennial, coneflowers are beautiful and do well in all sorts of soil and light – I have a lot of luck with them in a few different areas in our yard.

lola_rugula_echinachea

Our irises are just a week or two away from blooming and they’re always a showstopper, especially in flower arrangements. lola_rugula_irises

Irises need to be divided every couple of years, so keep that in mind when planting them. If they become overcrowded, they won’t bloom as prolifically and will often push their bulbs out of the ground, due to crowding.

Our moonbeam coreopsis is another perennial that does really well here in Zone 5. I have some in full sun and some under some pine trees in partial sun and they all do really well. Their bright yellow flowers are a joy to see and they will spread if left in one place long enough.

lola_rugula_moonbeam

Back to annuals, my final favorite for now is nasturtium, which is not only beautiful but edible, too. Oh, that’s right. You can eat nasturtium, fresh off the stem. We enjoyed their blooms in salads for their colorful and spicy kick. Just make sure that the nasturtium you pick has been grown in organic conditions and not treated with anything. Here’s a shot of a patch of it we grew last summer:

lola_nasturnium and salvia

In case you’re wondering, that’s purple salvia alongside it. I’m not a huge fan of salvia, althought it does well here in Zone 5. My complaint with salvia is that it grows too quickly and too tall, so I’m stuck with a big, broken circle of foliage very early on in the season. It doesn’t make for a very pretty presentation, although I admit the flowers themselves are beautiful. Well, really, what flowers aren’t beautiful?

Tell me your flower and zone stories…I’d love to hear what does well where you live and what doesn’t. Thanks for stopping by and happy planting!

easy to grow flowers part one

Spring is upon us so I have flowers on my mind. Okay, who am I kidding? I have flowers on my mind all year long. If I’m not planting or growing them, I’m digging through catalogs and looking online for them. My husband and I spent many hours in the gardens this weekend, planting and relocating flowers (and veggies) galore. All of my flower gardening experience comes from trial and error; some things work, some things don’t, and some things just don’t like the spot they’re in, so they get moved. I’m not an expert, nor do I play one on T.V.

This is by no means a complete list – we have a lot, and I do mean a LOT of different types of flowers, shrubs, trees and plants in our yard. These are just a tiny selection of flowers that are easy to grow for me here in zone 5 – I will try and follow up soon with some more of them. Here’s a shot of a small section of one of our patios last year:

lola-rugula-yard

Mostly what you see here are dahlias to the left, some cosmos around the birdhouse and catmint to the right. I love all these different colors and prefer it when the gardens are just a little wild looking; to me, it just seems more sensual and exotic this way.

Crocus are one of our first flowers to peek their heads up in early spring; they will even bloom in the snow. They are very small plants, but their early burst of color each year is always a joyful sign that winter has finally ended, which makes me a happy woman, indeed.

lola_rugula_purple-crocus

Daffodils are next to show their colorful faces, followed closely by tulips. Both of these bulb flowers bloom just a few weeks, tops, but their beauty is well worth the effort of planting them.

lola_rugula_daffodils

lola_rugula_pink_tulipNot a flower, but worth mentioning, mostly because I’m intoxicated by their perfume, is lilacs. We have a few different varieties and all of them are gorgeous and all of them are currently either blooming or getting ready to. Give them lots of sunshine and they’ll reward you with an unparalleled scent each year. They require little upkeep, aside from some minor pruning and occasional feeding. What they do not particularly like is being moved, so find a sunny spot where they have lots of room to grow and they’ll be happy.

lola_rugula_lilacs

Blooming with the lilacs right now in early May are all of our Bleeding Heart plants. These grow great for us and, as a bonus, they do best in the shade, adding a burst of color to the not-so-sunny areas of our yard. They also grow bigger each year and are easy to divide and transfer.

lola_rugula_bleeding-heart

Last but not least, at least for now, lilies are usually next to bloom, though I have to admit – the area deer tend to enjoy them before we ever get to see them bloom. Because of this, we’ve planted some close to our house and have been rewarded in our efforts. Beautiful and, apparently, tasty too.

lola_rugula_lily

Have you had luck growing any of these flowers? If so, or if not, let me know your zone and what issues you’ve had – I’d like to hear your stories.

Hopefully, if you’ve made it this far, you enjoy flowers as much as I do and can appreciate the labor that goes into growing them. Peace to all and happy blooming!

easy asparagus with ricotta and capicola frittata

Asparagus season is upon us even though my own crop is still quite a few weeks away from delivering. Take advantage of the great deals on asparagus now and whip together this easy frittata recipe for dinner, brunch or breakfast. Of course, you can also make it vegetarian by removing the capicola. No capicola on hand? Use prosciutto or even bacon…trust me, no one’s going to complain.

asparagus-frttata-ricotta-tart-recipe

easy asparagus with ricotta and capicola frittata recipe

  • 15-16 oz. ricotta cheese
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup freshly-shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup half and half
  • fresh chives, minced
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • a few slices of capicola, diced
  • 1 lb fresh, thin asparagus spears

Preheat oven to 375°

In a bowl, whisk together everything but the asparagus. Pour into a 10-inch (or close) non-stick pan. Gently press the asparagus spears into the top of the mixture.

Bake in oven about 35-40 minutes, just until edges start to turn golden brown. Remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes before slicing and serving.

Don’t sweat this if you don’t have pencil-thin asparagus! Just dice up your thicker spears and add them to the mix. Maybe not as pretty but, trust me, still delicious. I’ve done it both ways and it works like a charm. If your spears are super-huge, try blanching them first.

Of course, you can make this with any veggie you like; use your imagination and don’t be afraid to play with your food.

easy lamb recipes

Quite often I am awed and inspired by what my followers deem my most popular recipes because, quite often, they are not the recipes (nor the accompanying photos) that I aspire to be popular. A few people take the time to comment here on my site but many more share my recipes over and over again, particularly on Pinterest. If you’ve ever searched Pinterest for lamb recipes, chances are good you’ve seen one of mine. The fact that people search for how to cook lamb does not surprise me – a lot of people aren’t really comfortable preparing it.

My first attempt at cooking lamb many (many) moons ago went horribly wrong. It was an attempt to cook some sort of thin lamb chops – probably blade or shoulder chops – which seemed simple enough until I cooked them to an angel hair’s breath of dryness and toughness. They were flavorless and disappointing, to say the least. I swore I’d never make lamb again.

Flash forward just a year or two after that to me enjoying an Easter celebration in Connecticut, where I lived at the time. A good friend there, as luck would have it, is Greek. Her mother had a huge lamb roast cooking in the oven that day and the smell was enough to make me drop to my knees and send up a prayer. Rubbed with garlic, oil and spices and slow roasted to medium rare, I realized that I had no idea the real beauty of lamb or its possibilities.

So, how do you cook lamb shoulder or blade chops? These cuts are less expensive than a loin cut, so ideally you should involve a marinade and then a quick cook at a moderate to high temperature. The marinade helps break down the toughness of cut but the final cook should be fast and simple. You can also braise these (brown and then simmer slowly in liquid) but watch them closely so as not to overcook. Larger cuts of lamb shoulder can be braised for longer.

Here’s the photo of my most popular lamb recipe on Pinterest:

lemon oregano lamb shoulder chops recipe lola rugula

Not an incredibly staged photo, is it? But it’s still quite popular and I believe that’s because of its simplicity and, yes, it’s lack of photographic staging. We all like recipes that are somewhat simple and approachable and this easy lamb recipe is both. Lamb shoulder chops also make this recipe affordable, which we can all appreciate. What’s better than lamb with garlic, lemon, and oregano? Not much, I tell you.

Mint is also a traditional herb for lamb and once you’ve tasted the pairing you’ll understand why. My second most popular lamb recipe is lamb loin chops on the grill, made with mint, oregano and lemon:

lola rugula grilled lamb loin chops with garlic, oregano and mint recipeLoin chops are a more pricey cut of lamb but they don’t require marinating and they’re like any good loin chop – lean and tender.

One day I’ll feature my leg of lamb recipe but I can tell you this: it involves lots of herbs, olive oil and garlic, just like that long ago Easter lamb. I have, however, shared what I love to do with my leftover leg of lamb and that’s to make lamb stew.

easy lamb stew recipe

For me, there’s nothing more satisfying than a big bowl of this, along with a good book and a glass of red wine. A little crusty bread doesn’t hurt either.

I hope that if you’ve had a failed attempt at cooking lamb like I have, you’ll be willing to try these and give it another go. I promise you that lamb can be easy and flavorful with just a little bit of effort.

Happy spring everyone!

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