You know those glorious days where the sun is shining and the birds are Wee Singing and flowers are springing up in time with your footsteps and you keep expecting Mary Poppins to cartwheel across your path with a fistful of lollipops?  I had one of those days on Sunday!

For starters, I woke up full of energy and decided at the last minute to attend church.  I attend Highlands Church Denver, a place so filled with love that it continually makes headlines… just like this article from the weekend Denver Post.  Jenny preached a great message on Jesus’ words on the cross, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”  That must have started the mental cartwheels right then and there, since the rest of the day was filled with little paradise shavings.

Afterward, I visited a local gardening nursery and bought some new babies for Garden J’Espere: borage/thyme/chives/scallions/lemon balm seeds for potting now.  For planting in May: okra (star of david heirloom), rattlesnake and purple pole beans, watermelon (moon and stars heirloom), melons (tigger heirloom), cucumber, and basil seeds.  At church Toya gave me her leftover brussels sprouts and broccoli seeds.  Came home, threw open the shed, and got to work weeding, enriching soil, and planting!  More of my turnips, kolhrabi, radishes, peas, and a tiny hint of onions are coming up now – very exciting!  Even the mustard greens and arugula are starting to show microscopic hints of sprouting.  Watching things grow tests all my patience reserves to the max… and patience is something for which I’ve never been famous.  But getting my fingers grimy and playing outside – now that’s something I’m good at!

Then an hour long walk in Cheeseman Park, where I saw the following… and also a hilarious moment watching a cute couple being photographed fall out of a tree, only to finally notice they were my friends Jeremiah and Jody.  Small world!

Because all good days naturally require good food, the day also involved a personal cooking frenzy.  I made: peach and blueberry steel-cut oats in the crockpot for breakfast, date and gogi berry energy bars, broccoli pesto, flatbread that became sunny-side-up egg and frisee flatbread for dinner, and vanilla strawberry rhubarb yogurt.

Whew, kinda embarrassing.  Oh yeah, then soaked beans for Monday’s lunch of black eyed pea fritters with horseradish dill sauce.  Everything was tasty (especially the flatbread – recipe to come later), but I think my favorite was the yogurt.  It’s just so shockingly easy and delicious, and very pleasing to make on your own when it takes rows upon rows these days to display at the store.  Also, it’s WAY cheaper than store bought for the amount you get.  This SUPER EASY YOGURT IN YOUR CROCKPOT FOR DUMMIES recipe is from my friend Rachel Hyder, who got it from a blog called Heartland Renaissance.  I’ve included my own experiment recipe for the vanilla strawberry rhubarb compote, an ode to spring that turned out really well mixed in.  Seriously, you need to make this yogurt TOMORROW and then flavor it however you dream of.  If you get started by 4 PM, you can hit the sack early and it will still be ready by morning… share the paradise, people. 🙂  There’s enough to go around.

SUPER EASY HOMEMADE YOGURT IN YOUR CROCKPOT FOR DUMMIES

Since I don’t drink cow’s milk, I’ve tried making this twice with soy milk.  The first time, I added a little sugar to help with culturing, and it kiiinda worked but turned out really liquidy and tasted too soy-like.  The second time was an utter failure because my circuit blew, ruining the whole consistent-temperature requirement.  This time I just gave in and used 2% organic milk (the original blog recipe calls for whole) and it worked perfectly!  If you like thicker yogurt, you can strain the final product through cheesecloth (sold at Bed, Bath, & Beyond).  Line a colander with cheesecloth, place over a bowl, and pour the yogurt in.  You’ll be left with whey in the bowl and Greek-like yogurt… haven’t tried this final step yet but might next time.

1) Put 1/2 gallon organic whole or 2% milk on LOW in your crockpot for 2 1/2 hours.

2) Keep covered and turn OFF for three hours.

3) Add 1/2 cup plain “starter” yogurt. (You want to use the full-fat kind with no other ingredients except for milk and probiotic cultures… the live/active plain kind.  I use Fage to help it become a little thicker.)

4) Cover with a heavy kitchen towel or blanket and leave overnight.

That’s it… ALL DONE!  Now wasn’t that easy?  I usually am running late for work in the morning, so I’ll just take the crockpot out of the base and keep it in the fridge until later for putting it in another container.  This makes a TON of yogurt – enough for me to have breakfast for two weeks and still plenty extra to use in dressings, recipes, and dinners.

VANILLA STRAWBERRY RHUBARB COMPOTE

I made this, mixed it into some yogurt, and thought it was delicious!  Alex said it was too sour though, so you may want to add more agave or honey than I did.  Also, I didn’t really measure out the fruit but have tried to estimate amounts here.  Oh, and I also used frozen rhubarb from last fall.  If you’re using fresh spring rhubarb (which you should!), it may not need to simmer as long.

1 1/2 cups strawberries

1 1/2 cups rhurbarb

1 tsp raspberry balsamic vinegar (or any fruit flavored kind)

1 TBL agave

1 vanilla bean (split down the middle and use the seeds from inside)

Combine on stovetop and let simmer, covered, on medium low for about 15-20 minutes, stirring very often so nothing sticks to the bottom.  You’ll know it’s done when it becomes jam-like and all softened, blending together.  Let cool afterward, and viola!  Oh, and be sure that you’re not allergy-ridden when making this.  YOUR KITCHEN WILL SMELL DIVINE.  Trust me, you’ll want all smellers on full alert!

   

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