Life on Regal-Hill: April 28, 2010

As the daytime weather continues to get warmer here at Regal-Hill, I want to be outside more to clean up winter debris or prepare the ground so I can set out flowers and other plants as we progress toward safer frost-free nights.
In the meantime, I enjoy watching some plants continue to grow that were started from seed here in the big window. As I write, the cabbage plants have four leaves and a fifth started. The tomato plants have at least four leaves and more are rapidly growing. It seems like every day more leaves grow on these plants. It really is interesting to watch them. Apparently the right conditions of sunshine through the glass window, protection from the wind and just enough water are making them grow so well.
I think that I have all the seeds I intend to plant this year, unless someone can tell me where I can get candytuft seeds. When I looked up candytufts online I found out Ferry-Morse is supposed to carry them but I can’t find them. Perhaps candytufts aren’t as popular as other flowers. I don’t know why, since they grow in poor soils with full to partial sun and well-drained soil. I never fertilized them or watered them as they grew very well; mine had beautiful white or lavender blossoms that looked much like lace. They were also nice to use in small bouquets.
We are making plans to separate the front of the house from new shrubbery and other plantings by adding a maintenance strip. It will probably be 18 inches wide and run the length of the front of the house. It is going to require digging up several rose bushes and other perennials, but hopefully they will do better if they are farther from the house. The strip will slope away from the house and I won’t have an excuse for not keeping the windows clean or whatever else needs to be done on the front of the house.
I know we have big plans and hopefully at least half of them will get done this year. It’s fun to plan and dream.
It is time to take a walk in the woods and dig some leeks. Enjoy them raw or in one of the following recipes. Wild leeks are smaller so adjust accordingly.

Leeks Au Gratin
8 hard-cooked eggs, peeled
10 medium leeks
6 Tablespoons butter
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1-1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup white cheddar, shredded (2 oz.)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (1 oz.)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Salt and ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Quarter eggs lengthwise. Arrange in a single layer in a 1-1/2 to 2 qt. round or oval au gratin dish or 10-in. round quiche dish, set aside.
Remove green portion from leeks. Have leeks lengthwise. Wash thoroughly, pat dry. Remove roots from leeks; cut leeks lengthwise into thin strips (you should have about 5 cups). Heat 4 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium heat, add leek strips. Cook leeks until tender, stirring occasionally. Spoon leeks over eggs in dish.
Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter in skillet, whisk in flour. Add milk; cook until thickened and bubbly, whisking to make smooth. Whisk in 1/4 cup white cheddar cheese, Parmesan cheese and cayenne pepper. Season to taste with salt and ground black pepper. Pour sauce over the leeks and eggs in dish. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup white cheddar cheese. Bake, uncovered, about 10 minutes or until edges are bubbly and top begins to brown.
Makes 8 to 10 servings
Better Homes and Gardens online

Leek-Gruyere Cream Soup
6 cups chicken broth
4 cups sliced leeks
1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
1 teaspoon fine herbs, crushed
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1-1/2 cups shredded process Gruyere cheese (6 ounces)
2 tablespoons snipped fresh parsley
1 cup whipping cream
Thinly sliced leeks
In a large skillet or Dutch oven combine 4 cups of the chicken broth, the leeks, mushrooms, fine herbs and pepper. Bring to boiling. Reduce heat and simmer, covered for 10 to 15 minutes or until leeks are tender. Cool slightly.
Place 1/3 of the leek mixture in a blender container or food processor bowl. Cover and blend or process until smooth. Repeat with remaining leek mixture. Return all of the smooth leek mixture to the kettle or Dutch oven; stir in 1 cup of the remaining chicken broth.
Combine the remaining 1 cup of the chicken broth and the flour until smooth. Stir into hot broth mixture along with shredded cheese and parsley. Cook and stir until slightly thickened and bubbly and cheese melts. Stir in whipping cream, heat thoroughly.
If desired, garnish with additional sliced leeks.
Makes 8 servings
Better Homes and Gardens online