Sunday, March 25, 2012

An old friend finds a new home in the garden

Last summer we finally hacked down the rotted willow tree in our yard.  The willow was decrepid.  Willows don't do well in dry California.  The only reason I think it was planted by the insane tropical gardener who previously owned our home was to feed the gynormous philadendron. (savage gardening anyone?) In any case it had rust so out it went. Unfortunately this left a gaping hole into our neighbor's yard.  Who, though very nice, opted for the low maintenance basketball court in their yard instead of any greenery.

We, being bonsai folks and tree fanatics in general, agonized over finding the "perfect tree".  We toyed with the idea of a green japanese maple, but we wanted something larger than an ornamental.  Everything local was grafted and the price of a decent (more than a foot tall) tree was insane.

Then around rolls spring and one of our favorite bonsais starts to leaf.  We've had this elm for over 12 years.  It somehow survived our crazy anti-bonsai Weimairaner who liked to pull trees from their pots.  The form is lovely and Mr. has trained it's roots over a big rock.  And the light goes on.  We love this tree so giving it a forever home (OK I know that's sappy) actually meant something powerful to us.

I was a little concerned as we haven't trimmed this guys roots in a long time.  And sure enough it was root bound but the roots weren't strangling the tree so I think it'll do fine.

And here it is in place.

And as a bonus for all you savage gardeners.  Here's a closeup of the bloom on the philadendron who is still devouring the remainder of the willow stump.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Chicken Tortilla Soup

I've found Roast Chicken is the gift that keeps on giving.  First night you get roast chicken.  Next day you have chicken sandwiches or perhaps chicken burritos.  From there the possibilities are somewhat endless.  Well on my third day of roast chicken my true love I give to thee.  Chicken tortilla soup.

1 roasted chicken (picked over is fine there's still plenty of meat)
2 quarts of water
1 chopped onion
2-3 minced heads of garlic
1 can chopped tomatoes (if you can fire roasted with chilis even better)
1 teaspoon chili flakes (more or less depending upon how hot you like it)
2 tablespoons worchestershire sauce
1 1/2 cups frozen chopped okra
1 cup frozen corn
4 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 handful rice.

Put the whole chicken carcass in a dutch oven or stew pot. I roast my chicken stuffed with lemon and I'll even toss the lemon in. Cover with water and heat till boiling.  Keep at low boil for 45 minutes or until water resembles broth instead of water.

Remove chicken and set aside broth.  Allow chicken to cool then pull any remaining meat off .  Add meat to broth.  Add remaining ingredients except rice and return to a low boil for approximately 10 minutes.  Add rice and allow to cook for at least another 20 minutes.  This keeps fine (maybe even gets better) on the stove if you keep the heat low.  Salt and pepper to taste and serve in a bowl over tortilla chips.  Garnish with avocado slices or a dollop of sour cream.