Life on Regal-Hill: Jan. 23, 2008

We here at Regal-Hill have been getting a number of seed catalogues. In fact they started before the New Year. Everyone is trying to be the first I guess. It is rather difficult to think about spring planting when there is snow on the ground and a cold wind even if the sun is shinning. Especially when it is only 30 degrees although that is much better than zero.
Most of the perennials are covered with snow or mulch and you don’t know if they are still alive or will be live by spring anyway. However it is fun to plan and dream of what one hopes to grow this year.
I would like to get at least one more hydrangea since I finally got one to do well here last year. It was a white one and I guess they are easier to grow than the Nikko blue hydrangea. Of course it would be even better to plant another white one and get two blue ones. Since I doubt very much that I will get the front porch I have wanted for a long time I might as well fill in with lots of bushes and other plants. Mock orange, Althea, Rose of Sharon or Spirea Van Houtte would be nice choices for more bushes as well. However I couldn’t afford to get all of them at once and it would be difficult to decide which ones to select the first year so I may end up with only a few.
Other plants to add to what I usually grow might include lavender. Both lavender Lady and Lacy Frills, the first white lavender from seed according to Burpee; look promising to plant although for us they have to be grown as annuals. Another perennial is phlox and yes—nice pictures easily persuade me, so Blue Paradise and David look very promising. The phlox I do have didn’t do so well last year although some reseeded and new growth of blossoms appeared before frost and that has never happened before here.
For annuals, I always get a number of plants even though they have to be repurchased and planted each year. Those include petunias, salvia, alyssum and lobelia.
I know it is early to think of gardening but now when there is more time to plan I like to plan or dream of what my array of plants will look like for the coming year and hopefully a number of years providing the perennials survive the cold winter weather.
Casseroles are nice meals to serve since they can be prepared ahead. Then they only need to be baked when you are ready to serve them.

Four-layered Baked Ziti
1 package (16 ozs.) ziti or small tube pasta
2 cartons (10 ozs. each) refrigerated Alfredo sauce
1-cup (8 ozs.) sour cream
2 eggs, beaten
1 carton (15 ozs.) ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1/4 cup grated Romano cheese
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
1 3/4 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
Cook pasta according to package directions; drain and return to the pan. Stir in Alfredo sauce and sour cream spoon half into a lightly greased 1-qt. baking dish.
Combine the eggs, ricotta cheese, 1/4-cup Parmesan cheese, Romano cheese and parsley; spread over pasta. Top with remaining pasta mixture; sprinkle with mozzarella and remaining Parmesan.
Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Uncover; bake 5-10 minutes longer or until bubbly.
Yield: 12 servings
Country Woman February/March 2008

Layered Tortilla Pie
1-pound ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
1 can (8 ozs.) tomato sauce
1 garlic clove, minced
3 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 can (2 1/2 ozs. sliced ripe olives, drained, optional
1 Tbs. butter or margarine
6 corn tortillas (6 inches)
2 cups (8 ozs.) shredded cheddar cheese
1/4-cup water
In a skillet, cook beef and onion over medium heat until meat is no longer pink; drain. Add tomato sauce, garlic, chili powder, salt, pepper and olives if desired; mix well. Simmer for 5 minutes
Lightly butter one side of each tortilla. Place one tortilla, buttered side down, in a greased 2-qt. baking dish. Top with about 1/2 cup of the meat mixture; sprinkle with about 1/3 cup cheese. Repeat layers, ending with cheese.
Pour water around the sides of casserole (not over top). Cover and bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or until heated through. Let stand for 5 minutes before cutting.
Yield: 4-6 servings
Taste of Home’s Casserole Cookbook