Although it's only late March, spring is definitely underway here in Texas. The Bradford Pear trees have already finished blooming and trees are just beginning to leaf out. The weather has warmed into the 60s and 70s most days. After a year of quarantine, I have a lot of pent-up energy for outdoor projects. Luring my three grandkids with a pancake breakfast, I got them over here to help me clean up the pool deck and transfer the furniture cushions from the garage to the back yard and rip open the trash bags in which they had been stored -very popular with Noah.
I want to "plantscape" the patio, so I headed 20 miles away to IKEA, where I have purchased large plants in the past. After winding my way through the Marketplace section, I came to the area where they have been before. Alas, no live plants. The trip wasn't a total waste, as I picked up new bathmats for our bathroom and metal skewers for kebabs. On the way back home, I stopped into Lowes and picked up four new patio plants, although they aren't the big ones I really wanted. My big yucca plant was damaged in the freeze and I'm waiting to see if it sprouts any new leaves.
We used to have a big Bradford Pear tree in the front yard, but it split open in a storm. These are considered junk trees, so we opted to cut the remainder down, grind the stump and plant a young maple tree. Unfortunately the new tree snapped in half during a wind storm. There had been a low wall of brick pavers around the first tree and these had just been stacked inside the fence, so I hit on the idea of using them to create a planting area. With the 50+ pavers, Our lawn service guys built a 15' x 4' planting area against the backyard fence. They filled it with good soil and even moved my standing garden to the other side and filled it to the brim.
This morning, off Andy and I went to the local nursery to choose some plants. It was not an original idea. The place was crowded with happy gardeners taking advantage of a beautiful warm day. The nursery's "half-off" section offers beautiful plants at a bargain price, and with the advice of a helpful employee, we chose five heat-resistant, low-maintenance plants to start our new garden. I plan to add to them with some colorful perennials at a later date.
The next task is to plant five large containers around the pool with colorful annuals that can stand the Texas heat, but I'll wait a couple weeks to do that. I also want to fill my standing planter with herbs and some other veggies at some point. Looks like I'll be doing a lot of watering in the coming months!
'll confess, there hasn't been much for me to write about recently, hence my absence from the blogosphere. During the past year, I've been doing a lot of cooking and baking, since we haven't been able to eat out much. We love Mexican food, which is everywhere in Texas. Here's a recipe that I developed myself, initially just using what I happened to have in the pantry and freezer. It has a richly intense flavor, without being overly spicy.
Pork and Poblano Stew
1 1/2 -2 pounds of pork loin, cut into 1" cubes
2-3 fresh poblano peppers
2 T. olive oil
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 t. cumin
2 t. chili powder
1 t. salt
1 t. pepper
1 cup chicken broth
1 16-oz. can of petite diced tomatoes
1 16-oz. can of green enchilada sauce
First, prepare the poblano peppers (this takes a bit of time). Char the skins of the peppers using a gas grill or open flame on a gas oven. Place the charred peppers in a paper bag and let them steam for 10 minutes. Then slide the charred skin off under running water. Cut off the stem end of the peppers and carefully open them up. Remove the seeds and dice the pepper into 1/2 inch pieces. Set aside.
Heat 1 T. of the olive oil in a large pot (I use my Dutch oven) and add the onions and garlic. Saute until transparent. Set aside. Add the remaining olive oil to the pan and brown the pork cubes. Add the onion and garlic back in, along with the seasonings. Stir to coat. Now add the chicken broth, tomatoes, reserved poblano peppers and enchilada sauce. Stir to combine and simmer either on the stovetop or in a 325 degree oven for about two hours, or until the pork is fork-tender. If the stew seems too liquid, remove the top to let the sauce reduce. If it's too thick, add a little more chicken broth. Taste frequently and adjust seasonings.
Serve over rice, steamed new potatoes or a square of cornbread. I like to put a dollop of sour cream on top, especially if it came out too spicy for me. Serves at least four.
Note: Some poblano peppers can be fairly spicy, but you can't tell from looking at them!
I'm Chris Barabasz, retired from a 35-year career managing communications for health care development (that's fundraising for you civilians). I'm a wife, mother, grandmother and freelance writer. My husband Andy and I moved from Delaware to Texas to be closer to our daughters and three adorable grandchildren.