The Big Thaw

 The Magical Cocoon Gene Manuel

The Magical Cocoon Gene Manuel

For every one that so desperately wants it to be Spring: I feel you, you’re tired of cocooning and hibernating. You want to shed some layers and spread your wings. But are we really ready?  Not me, I still have Wintery things to do. I am very busy in my ‘silk casing.’ I am still transforming.

Butterflies can’t fly when it is cold, so they emerge from their chrysalis at the perfect time the earth has changed its season and warmed the air enough for butterflies to do their thing. When we have Spring-like days too early, it literally fools with the natural order of things. Spring is off, then Summer is off, and then the butterflies die. SO. As the snow comes tumbling out of the sky, make a little cocoon for yourself of scarves, mittens and Flandanas and offer it up to the butterflies.  

 Glittering Butterfly Gene Manuel

Glittering Butterfly Gene Manuel

And what are my Wintery things that are keeping me busy? I’ve got taxes to do, I’m getting my arms and core in shape for kayaking season, and I am planning out my trip to Israel in June! I’m staying cozy, indoors on my yoga mat, twisting and breathing in the NOW to make sure I’m all prepared for the LATER.

Things are slower for me in these Winter months so now is the time for me to get my ducks in a row and make sure I’m ready for anything and everything when the season changes. What’s that thing you just can’t wait to do that the Polar Vortex has prevented you from doing? Are you truly ready for that thing? Maybe what you need to be doing is actually resting! Once the butterfly has done all of his transformational work inside the pupal casing, he too, gets to rest and wait for the signal from nature to emerge.

Thank you to my friend Gene Manuel who created the cocoon and butterfly images above. These little guys are actually for sale in tiny ACEO size, almost like artist collector cards! Gene is graciously gifting a beautiful butterfly print to one of you lucky readers! Real butterflies only have a lifespan of 2-3 weeks, but you can have an everlasting butterfly to gaze upon and inspire you through the rest of the Winter season. Please leave a comment below letting me know what is waiting for you after the big thaw of Winter and what you are doing to prepare. I will number the comments and then randomly draw a number and name a winner. Thank you again, Gene!

Butterflies aside, it’s President’s Day! I am actually related to the Adams presidents, so I say an extra special thank you to John and John Q. today. I will not be making a cherry pie in celebration, but instead I want to share two recipes that old George and Abe might have actually eaten back in their Wintery Februaries. State dinners were not as elaborate as they are now, and using seasonal produce was the only option. Two of my favorite winter vegetables are cabbage and celery root. They are sometimes thought of as lowly and humble, but they offer up such sweet, hearty flavor. They are superstars of the Winter kitchen.

I wrote an article for last year's Winter Issue of the Garden Gurus magazine and these were test recipes that I ended up not submitting. I don’t want the recipes or Cheryl’s pictures to go to waste so I am sharing them with you. They are healthier comfort foods and so easy to prepare.

Cauliflower and Celery Root Mash

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil over medium heat.     
  2. Remove knobby skin and root end of a washed celery root. Chop celery root into one inch cubes. (One large root yields 4 cups.)     
  3. Break cauliflower into one inch pieces. (One large cauliflower yields 6 cups.)
  4. Add the chopped vegetables to the boiling water and boil for 10-15 minutes until they are fork tender.
  5. Drain, reserving a ¼ cup of the boiling liquid.
  6. Puree the vegetables in batches in a food processor or blender. Add ¼ cup of milk and the boiling liquid as you go.
  7. Season generously with pepper and more salt if needed. Top with fresh thyme leaves.

“Grain” Stuffed Cabbage Bowls

  1. Peel away 4 of the prettiest and sturdiest outer leaves of a Savoy cabbage and set aside to use as ‘bowls.’
  2. In a medium skillet, heat 2 tablespoons grape seed oil. Add 1 cup **buckwheat groats (not a grain, not wheat at all, they are seeds and totally gluten free!) to the pan to toast, stirring, so they don’t burn. They will have a crunchy toothsome texture. You can leave them like this or boil like rice to get a creamier texture. Remove from pan and set aside.
  3. Melt one tablespoon of butter in the skillet and add 2 cups of shredded cabbage. Add salt and pepper, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes until the cabbage caramelizes and wilts a little.
  4. Combine with the groats and stir in chopped parsley. Spoon into cabbage leaves and serve.

 ** You can also use quinoa, farro, spelt, amaranth, or barley in place of the groats.