Matt brought me these tulips on Friday – aren’t they lovely? They’ve started opening up even more since I took this photo.

I finally took the plunge and ordered the food dehydrator I’d been wanting since last summer. After much deliberation, I decided on the Excalibur 3900. I started dehydrating things as soon as I got it!

I started with lots of fruit – oranges, limes, apples, bananas, and pears. The apple chips were so delicious I’ve almost finished eating them.

Then I moved onto crackers, and oh my.

I used Angela’s recipe over at Oh She Glows, and we will certainly be making these again. I wasn’t sure how well they would hold up because they’re just made with a bunch of seeds and water, but I think the chia seeds make a nice gel to hold them together. They are delicious with hummus and made a nice afternoon snack.



Weekending – Liz’s Surprise

If you have been wondering why the posts have been a little less frequent lately, it’s because we have been contemplating some rather important personal decisions around here, and I haven’t been spending as much time online. We have reached one decision but not the other, however we both feel at peace with things right now.

Since I can’t really get into the details of those on here, let me share with you the highlights of our weekend instead.

First of all, let me just remind you of where we live. I took this picture on the way to dinner the other night. I try really hard not to take it for granted that we live in such a beautiful area.

The real highlight of the weekend however was seeing my sister and helping her surprise my mom. My sister lives in Thailand and only gets to come home once a year, usually in April. She had a two week break from work in October and thought it would be nice to come home and surprise our mom. She bought her ticket in August and we have been keeping the surprise ever since! My dad picked her up at the airport in Charlotte, and Matt and I drove up from a wedding in Florence, South Carolina. Dad told mom that he wanted to meet her and my other sister at Olive Garden, and when they got there, Liz jumped out of the back of dad’s trunk.

Liz Surprises Mom from Ashley Wagoner on Vimeo.

Mom really had no idea.


20111016-230837.jpgMom and all of her girls!


Chicken Circe

Do you remember my {this moment} post from last Friday? It was a photo of a dinner party we hosted, and I had tried a new dish that I cannot wait to share with you.


I love trying to make new dishes, even when we have guests coming over. My philosophy is: worst case scenario, it’s horrible and we order pizza. So when I saw this recipe for chicken circe in American Terroir, I knew I had to make it. I noticed that it called for preserved lemons, which I had plenty of.

You might remember that I bought 90 organic Meyer lemons back in January when they were on sale 10/$2 – and one of the things I made with them was preserved lemons. I actually had no idea what one was supposed to do with preserved lemons, but I knew I should make them anyway. And last week I was so thankful to have them!


As it turns out, you just rinse the salt off them lemons and use them in the dish. Easy-peasy. If you don’t have 3 quarts of preserved lemons waiting for you in you in your fridge like I do, you should be able to buy them at your grocery store.

Anyway, on to the recipe.

Chicken Circe
*adapted from American Terroir

Serves 6-8

2 TBS extra virgin-olive oil
2.5 pounds boneless chicken thighs
Salt and pepper
2 14-ounce can chickpeas, drained
½ cup honey (use a spicy and robust honey if you have one)
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 TBS ground coriander
1 TBS ground cumin
½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 cup white wine
½ cup preserved lemons, chopped
Zest and juice of ¼ lemon
1 cup chopped walnuts, toasted (optional)
½ cup fresh mint, chopped (optional)
½ cup fresh parsley, chopped (optional)
1 cup couscous

Brown the chicken in olive oil over medium heat until browned on all sides. If your pan isn’t large enough to brown all chicken at once, do it in batches. Once all the chicken is browned, put it in a skillet or stockpot and add the chickpeas. Pour in the honey and add the garlic, coriander, cumin, and cinnamon. Add the preserved lemons and wine and stir to thoroughly mix the ingredients. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the chicken is tender and cooked, stirring occasionally. It should take 20-30 minutes. Turn off the heat and add the lemon zest.

Cook couscous according to package directions. I usually boil water at a 2:1 ratio to couscous, turn off heat, mix in couscous, cover and let sit for 5 minutes.

Serve chicken over couscous and top with toasted nuts and herbs.

This dish makes delicious leftovers!

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Garden Friends

While working in the garden yesterday I came across so many wriggly, crawling, hopping creatures! We have been working this garden space organically for three years now, attempting to use organic insecticide only as a last resort, and I am pleased to report that the harmful/beneficial insect life is starting to balance out. I know that there are some pests that can completely destroy crops, but I have found that good crop rotation, healthy plants, and careful monitoring goes a long way in restoring the balance of nature.

Last year we were overrun with Japanese beetles, so I bought one of those traps, but that only brought in hundreds more. This year I have been picking off and killing any that I see, and we have had much less damage. Last year we lost every single zucchini and squash plant to cucumber beetles. I sprayed them constantly but it was to no avail. This year I have been examining the plants and squishing any cucumber beetles that I see. I am proud to report that mid-August we still have a thriving zucchini plant! I did get slightly overrun with Mexican bean beetles on my green beans this year, but next year I will watch closely for them and pick them off before they can over populate. I have learned that one of the best defenses against harmful insects is squishing them with your fingers. Sometimes it still makes me gag to see the guts squirt out everywhere, but I’m getting better about it.

Anyway, here are some of the creatures I found yesterday, all of which are new to our garden!

This praying mantis was so still and so cleverly camouflaged that I thought he was a stick for a long time. Apparently they have a big appetite and are skilled hunters. They eat moths, Mosquitos, aphids, beetles, grasshoppers and even roaches. Interesting fact: sometimes female praying mantises bite the heads off of the males they mate with!

Did you spot the toad? I saw three of them yesterday and shrieked each time they jumped out of the spot where I was digging because I hadn’t seen them. Frogs and toads can eat close to a hundred insects a day, so they can be very helpful in controlling insect populations.

Now let me introduce you to a tomato hornworm. This one was about the size of my pinky. These worms are easily identified by their large size, 7 straight white markings down the side, and small horn on the end of their body. Contrary to popular belief, they will not sting you. I never seen one of these in my garden before, but according to things I have read, they can eat down an entire tomato plant in a matter of hours.

At first I was panicked that our plants were infected with hornworms and were going to be eaten, but before killing this one I did a little bit more research and discovered that the white eggs on it’s back were larva of a braconid wasp. This wasp will lay its larva inside the hornworm, and they eat their way to the outside of the wasp as they hatch. This process kills the hornworm. I decided to leave this worm alone and hope that once these wasps hatch, they will kill any more hornworms in our garden. I have found it quite interesting to read about braconid wasps and how they can inject a virus into a host which allows the parasites to grow inside the host undetected! The best part about these wasps is that they don’t even sting you!

Crispy Flatbread Pizza

Here is our most recent garden harvest:

I feel so blessed that we are getting such an abundance of fresh produce right now. I spent all day yesterday making strawberry vanilla jam and freezing green beans, zucchini, bell peppers, and peaches. We will be eating well way into 2012!

Given all of our fresh produce, and the fact that our local Earth Fare weekly special was free fresh mozzarella cheese, I decided to make flatbread pizza tonight.

We usually switch between two different pizza dough recipes, depending on how much time we have and what type of pizza we feel like eating. Mitch’s basic pizza dough has been our staple for several years. It is a thick and delicious crust, but it requires at least 1 1/2 hours for the dough to rise. Sometimes we just want fast and quick pizza, and I have started using the Smitten Kitchen’s recipe for Rosemary Flatbread as our crust recipe. There is no rising involved, and you can easily go from ingredients to crispy pizza in less than 30 minutes. We’ve tried several flatbread pizza recipes, and this is the only one we’ve found that is actually thin and crispy instead of thick like focaccia bread.

Flat Bread Pizza
 *(adapted from the Smitten Kitchen’s crisp rosemary flatbread recipe)

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh chopped rosemary
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh chopped oregano
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
Combine dry ingredients in bowl of mixer. Add water and olive oil and mix until dough forms a soft ball in the middle. Divide dough in half and roll out or press out with fingers onto baking sheet. Bake at 450°F for 6-8 minutes until the crust is crispy. Put tomato sauce, cheese, and toppings on cooked crust. Bake for another 4-6 minutes until the toppings and crust turn a golden brown.

Serves 2-3 people. We often double this recipe in order to have leftovers.

Topping options:
Sauteed onions and bell peppers.

Vegetable: onions, bell peppers, tomatoes, kale, and zucchini

Margarita: basil pesto instead of tomato sauce, tomatoes, mozzarella, and fresh basil

The pizzas were delicious, and I love that fact that every single topping, except for the mozzarella cheese, was from our garden! We are down to one last jar of tomato sauce and one last jar of basil pesto from last year’s harvest!

Garden Tomatoes

It seems our tomatoes have survived the early blight long enough to start ripening! It was touch and go with the tomatoes this year because we had so much rain early this summer, and the tomatoes couldn’t quite get dry enough. We spent hours spraying on organic copper fungicide and cutting off infected leaves, limbs and fruit to try and slow down the spread of the disease caused by fungus. I honestly wasn’t sure that we would get any fruit at all, and I am beyond thankful to be getting some ripe ones!

You can see that we trimmed all of the leaves and many stems from the first two feet of the plants. It helped keep the blight from spreading as quickly, and it caused more air to flow between them which helped dry them out faster after rain.

Unfortunately, a few of our Speckled Roman fruit got infected, but I’m hoping that some of it will still be ok. See how the fruit is kind of red and yellow striped? I’ve never grown these before, but they are supposed to be great paste tomatoes. I was looking forward to growing these tomatoes all year, and if they all get infected, I will try them again next year!

The first large tomatoes to ripen were the Estivas. These are a pretty standard early ripening tomato, and our plants have already produced more fruit this year than last year. 

I love seeing the progression of fruits ripening!

We always grow cherry tomatoes! These are Sun Cherry Tomatoes – they usually ripen early, and we love to munch on them during the day.

This year we planted 40 tomato plants:

Bambu Resort, Guatemala

While in Mazatenango, Guatemala we stayed at the Bambu Resort. The rooms were clean and spacious, the grounds were beautifully kept, the food was delicious, and the staff were very accommodating. I would definitely recommend staying there if you happen to be in the area. I’m including a few pictures of the grounds below.

 Aren’t the flowers on these trees amazing? They almost look like beaded jewelry!

Unfortunately I was in meetings the whole time so I didn’t have a chance to enjoy the pool area, but it looked quite nice. 

I was absolutely amazed by this flower on one of the trees. It was about the size of two of my hands put together, and it had beautiful purple and white coloring. I loved how this little flower was growing out of the base of this rather large tree.