Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Abundance and Balance

In this abundant season, thank goodness for healthy leftovers. Served warm the night before, this broccoli rabe, purple onion, mushroom, tomato and caper saute was a luscious cold salad for lunch the next day. Keeping healthy food close at hand is more critical than ever as our calendars fill.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Erin Go Bragh

Yep, I know -- wrong holiday. Yep, I know -- too many photos of juice. I'm only sharing this because, with a passel of company in our home last week, my glass selection had dwindled to the point that I was digging out free vessels my husband had earned from his consumption at Taco Mac. Who am I kidding, nothing matches in this household anyway . . .  except the things in the china cabinet which shall not be touched . . . because we break things. But I digresse. I'm sharing the photo because the green in the Guinness glass made me giggle. If you bear with me I promise I'll get around to referencing the more timely holiday, at least obliquely.

This time of year, at least in Georgia, the most lovely green in nature abounds -- the kind shot through with a rare flame of tangerine, gold or scarlet. This last breath of freshness set off by the foil of a fiery hue makes this my favorite time of year. For my daughter's 17th birthday celebration, we took advantage of the gorgeous season and enjoyed a four mile hike at Sawnee Mountain with a few of her friends. Here are some of my photos:

The quiet, ancient depth and magic of the wooded mountainside fed my soul somehow.

Magic: it's easy to imagine fairies gamboling across their plush carpet.


This bona fide abandoned gold mine (!) is bound to be haunted.

Spooky. -- There's your oblique holiday reference!

The season is fleeting so I'm going out to grab a little more of it.

Thursday, October 9, 2014


Dad came for a visit last week and we revved up the juicer. He's always been a good sport about my culinary adventures. The shade of this juice makes me think it was a sunny fennel, orange and ginger concoction. I poured these two for Dad and Andres. As I was serving them, Andres asked, "Do you have umbrellas for those?" I surprised myself a little when I said, "Why, yes -- yes I do,"

Having been an adult for a long time, I have a lot of stuff. While I have no recollection of the reason I have tiny umbrellas, I'm shocked I remembered in that moment that I had them but what is more surprising is that I knew where they were.  Service with a smile!

Monday, September 15, 2014

My Late-Summer Narnia Moment

As I was paying the bills this morning, some movement outside caught my attention and I was grateful to have a couple of minutes to watch this young lady. She was a pretty large animal, actually. I grabbed the camera and began snapping away, albeit badly since I was rushing through it. I knew my magical moments with her were numbered. Right away she heard the shutter of the lens and looked right at me for a couple of minutes:

This photo does not do the connection justice. With my shaky, nervous photography, I didn't catch the intensity of her gaze. She seriously stared right into my eyes through the window for a couple of minutes. I put down the camera and met her gaze. She wasn't angry or frightened. She was curious. After a while, she remembered her little one:

Regretfully, I got no good photos of the little dappled baby. Everything moved very quickly from the time he or she entered the scene. I snapped away, but my camera preferred to focus upon the dirt on the outside of the window instead of the magical garden wonderland.

Still, it was a lovely way to start the day.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Raw Tabouli

This isn't my recipe. Since I love this minted parsnip tabouli so much, I figured I'm better off not reinventing the wheel. This recipe is from Kris Carr's Crazy Sexy Kitchen. She and chef Chuck Sarno created this innovative salad with raw parsnips in the place of couscous. The parsnips are simply pulsed, dry, in a food processor along with garlic and then the other hand-chopped ingredients are stirred in. This no-carb tabouli is bright and delicious in flavor and, in Kris' words, "light as a feather". Since I am a never-enough-kale kind of gal, I served the tabouli atop a pile of it. Delicious!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

End of Season Harvest

The kids have been in school for three weeks already in the deep south, so the gardening season should be just about over, but I still have mostly green tomatoes, and plenty of other things sprouting anew all the time. Our weather has been hellish and soggy, like a jungle, and we all know plants love that.

So here's a recent harvest. Represented are dino kale, rainbow chard, basil, tarragon, Chinese longbeans, tomatoes and my surprise guest: purple cabbage -- that's it toward the bottom: silvery green leaves with purple veins.

The cabbage was a surprise because, well, sometimes my crisper is overly full to the point I lose track of things. About half a purple cabbage was in full-rot (thankfully in a plastic bag) by the time I found it. The rot was nasty, but a brand new plant had sprouted from the slime -- sort of like a cruciferous phoenix! I had a blank spot in the garden so I quickly buried the cabbage-Fawkes to see what would happen. I couldn't be more pleased -- the fresh young cabbage leaves are tender and flavorful.

I utilized my bounty with a delicious, gluten-free Quinoa-pasta salad:

I roasted the sturdier veggies before adding them to the mix. This salad fit the bill for the first college football party of the season. My son's school, University of Georgia, is off to a fantastic start!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Pho Fixin's

Have you enjoyed a fresh, steamy bowl of pho? This Thai soup has become a favorite of ours recently as we tend to enjoy "pajama days" on Sundays, or in this case, Labor Day Monday. Delivery meals are perfect for pajama days, but pizza doesn't cross our threshold very much anymore, and Asian restaurants tend to come and go around here for some reason. We have been enjoying a particular local restaurant's pho because the flyer boasts, "We deliver!" Well, as it turns out, not so much. I think the delivery guys don't show up on a regular basis. After a few weekends spent in the car driving to pick up our meal instead of in pajamas, I began to realize I always have some version of the ingredients for this treat here anyway, at least during garden season. Indeed, even the restaurant varies the ingredients based upon what's on hand.  Yes, there's a little prep work, but when you consider the time it takes to shower, dress and drive to and from the restaurant, I believe my pajama-version is more expedient, not to mention more economical and fresh!

In the pantry, I already had rice noodles and organic broth, which I brightened with some fresh lemon and a little tamari. From the crisper I pulled more lemons, spring and white onions and garlic (I toasted the garlic in a little coconut oil). From the garden I got my herbs (no shame in gardening in p.j.'s): purple basil, Italian Parsley and dill. I also found a nice jalapeno pepper in my garden today! Homegrown jalapano bonus: while just as flavorful and spicy as storebought, my homegrowns are slightly milder and are less painful and blinding when I inevitably put my finger in my eye sometime after prepping them. I'm always surprised at how the capzacin of the peppers lasts through several hand-washings. Still -- the homegrown is better!

We each choose our toppings/ingredients. I like a little of everything, topped with a squirt of sriracha. I always have plenty of leftovers which I store separately to retain freshness, but they don't last long.

Since my homegrown vegetables were sunk costs long ago, I'm not even going to count their cost, this late in the season. The rest of my cost today to feed 3 of us breaks down as follows, to the best of my recollection:

  • Noodles: $2.50
  • Organic Broth: $3.00
  • Organic Lemons: $1.50 (I buy them in bulk)
  • White onion: $.20 (I only used half an onion)
  • Spring onions $.50
  • Garlic: $.20
-- for a roughly out-of-pocket $8.00 cost vs. $30.00 at the restaurant. We all enjoyed the homegrown takeout!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Gluten-Free and Green

This was a big hit with the family. I liked the shape of this Tinkyada rice pasta -- it didn't fall apart. I think I've figured out how to work with this product. I cooked it two minutes fewer than the directions suggested, and rinsed it thoroughly with cold water while I finished cooking the veggies.

For the greens, here is what I did:  on medium-high heat I quickly pan-seared the broccoli in coconut oil, along with chopped ginger and garlic, leaving it for a little while to get crispy and brown -- just on the edge of burning -- before stirring. This only took about three minutes, stirring 3-4 times. Then I turned off the burner and added chopped scallions, shredded kale, a little salt and pepper and a dash of Tamari, stirring the veggies until they were wilted. Finally, I took the hot pan off the still-hot burner, added the cooked noodles and a drizzle of olive oil and stirred it all together. The whole process took about 15 minutes, including prep.

I'm working on removing all grains as I strive to recover my immune system, but with baby steps --I'm embracing gluten-free products from time to time. This one's a winner!

Monday, August 25, 2014

A Lovely Day!

Finally, after at least a week of oppressive heat here in the deep South, we do have a fresh and lovely day! I enjoyed my particularly delicious juice today on the screened porch with my pups. The juice was from garden cukes, half a bulb of fennel, an organic orange, a knob of ginger, a few broccoli stems and a big handful of Italian parsley. It was a very juicy batch, yielding 30 ounces! I'll enjoy a bonus glassful after lunch.

My garden pup, Emma, who always follows me out to the garden and plops down beside it while I pull bugs and caterpillars off my crops, tends to be camera shy, but I caught her!

Normally more ready for her close-ups, I had to look under the hammock to find Ellie today. She's going to hate this photo. I think the girls were just enjoying the weather.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Mind Blown

This morning I found a new vegetable at Publix which looked an awful lot like parsnips. It is called "Parsley Root". I quickly realized it IS parsnips -- attached to a bunch of parsley! This is a very sad, tired bunch of parsley, so I bought a prettier, parsnip-free bunch too, but I figured the roots themselves here would be better than the old, dried-up parsnips sealed in plastic I normally buy. I've never seen them fresh and unpackaged here in my part of the deep South.

Parsnips are probably my favorite root veggie. They are so sweet, mild and bright in flavor. My favorite way to prepare them is pureed. I peel and roughly chop them, then boil them for about 10 minutes and then puree 'em in a food processor with a little of the boiling water, some "butter" a little salt and a hefty dose of nutmeg -- transcendent. I'm not kidding.

Did you know parsnips are actually the roots of parsley? I love both. I know what I'm planting next summer.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Well, Hello Dahl-y

This photo shows hardly any Dahl, but this is the way I tend to eat -- veggies first -- in this case, with a hefty garnish of fresh cilantro and tomato.

The bowlful was inspired by one created by the lovely Sally Kitten at Of the Kitten Kind. When I saw Sally's recipe, I wanted it right away, but didn't want to make a trip to the market, so mine was made with what was sitting in my pantry: black and green lentils and green peas, instead of red lentils and yellow peas. As a result, mine took longer to cook and was still likely more "al dente" than one made from the more tender legumes, but I love it.

Dahl provides wonderful leftovers, since the flavors continue to meld and unfold with time. I'm still enjoying this batch. The warmly spiced curry concoction sustains as it calls to mind mystical scenes draped in shades of saffron and turmeric from a movie Wynne and I used to watch over and over again when she was tiny: "A Little Princess". Truth be told, my now nearly-17 year old and I still indulge in the film from time to time -- magic!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

My Summer 2014 Cocktail

This delicious variation on a greyhound (vodka and grapefruit juice) was created as I was culling the overgrown herbs from my pots outside. This is purple basil. It's amazing how adding a sprig really rounds out the flavor of this crisp summer cocktail -- sweet, fresh and smooth. Bonus: it's pretty!

As my other herbs finish out the summer, I'll be experimenting with more flavor combinations. I'll keep you posted.

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Bully

When we returned from St. John, I found that my cucumbers had gotten an attitude. They aren't supposed to be outside of their enclosure. Even the normally prolific Chinese longbeans are cowering on their edge of the trellis, tentatively reaching their tendrils away from the cuke. I found one climbing on the sprinkler nozzle. This photo was taken after I had chopped some cuke limbs from the mint and basil, who were trapped in their pots with no escape. One leg seems to be inching its way toward my neighbor's yard.

Here's the tomato plant striving to evade the grasp of the monster cuke, with nowhere to go but up. It's about as tall as I am now. I've used no fertilizer this year. Notice no tomatoes are on this plant. I think it needs all its strength to fight off the bully.

I reaped a harvest of one tiny tomato, three Chinese longbeans and seven very large cucumbers. Many more blossoms portend pickling, Greek salads and juice in my future.

Thank goodness I'm a juicer. This one bully-cuke, along with a tiny orange and an even tinier knob of ginger, yielded nearly 30 ounces this morning.

(That's not my pancake in the background)

I feel bad for the bullied veggies, but enjoy juicing organic cukes I don't have to peel first!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

St. John

I've been AWOL for a little while. In close succession, we hosted my wonderful sisters-in-law for the better part of a week and then jetted and boated off to the amazing island of St. John, USVI. This is a shot of Great Cruz Bay from our rented villa. I could definitely get used to this view and the active, no-nonsense lifestyle of this island, largely undeveloped and covered with wildlife. I wore a scarf around my head instead of attempting to style my hair and opted for sunscreen over makeup. We've encountered eagles, wild chickens, mongoose, deer, wild mules and donkeys, wild (or at least free-range upon the roadways) cattle and goats, peccaries (little, wild pigs) enormous sea turtles, sting rays the size of my kitchen table, huge fish which swam right up to our rented dinghy, and clouds of tiny fish which were not bothered when we snorkeled through their midst. As thrilling as the close encounters with the larger animals were, I'd have to say it was being enveloped in these clouds of tiny, iridescent fish that brought me closest to a transcendent state of mind. I'm a bit off-kilter as I resume real life now.

Imagining an alternate universe where this could be permanent real-life, I have to admit there are downsides. First, the price of the dwellings, and real estate in general. We checked the price of an empty lot in paradise and it was $80,000. The lot was a good 45 minute drive on winding mountain roads away from civilization. I cannot say enough great things about our gorgeous villa planted atop a mountain in paradise, but to many with western civilization sensibilities, a paradigm shift will be in order. The central living areas of most of these villas are not air conditioned. Individual units of varying effectiveness cool the sleeping quarters. It makes no sense whatsoever to turn on the oven. The entire living area becomes unlivable. I made the mistake of baking a potato, and won't do that again. Aside from cooking, I never spent time in this part of the house. The boys sat in front of the TV for the Germany v. Brazil World Cup game, but other than that we lived on the veranda overlooking the bay. The villa was perched upon and within a habitat of an unknown number of native species. As such, we had to learn to live with them a little. Truly, it was mostly my 16 year old daughter who had to live with them the most. Her bedroom was above the cistern, the source of water for the house. Water is delivered to these homes by truck, and the pipes for showering, laundry and dishes are fed from a large tank called a cistern. A section of the tiled floor under one of the beds in her room has a frame so the floor can be lifted for access to the cistern. I witnessed a few tiny critters evading capture through the cracks in the floor. They must be attracted to the moisture (don't drink the water). I joked with my daughter that she can now call herself the "mother of dragons" since most of her roommates were of the reptilian variety. The first night she was aware of them was unsettling, but since she is a wildlife lover who particularly loves baby animals, she became very brave and only worried about inadvertently harming the little guys who must have been newborns. They were less than an inch long with eyes way too big for their heads. They spent most of their time on the walls and ceilings. She thought they were adorable. I thought she was very brave. Once we re framed the villa stay as a highly luxurious camping trip, we all relaxed. This was around the time I stopped pulling out the blow dryer and makeup. Still, I insisted my daughter carefully shake out and inspect all her clothing before repacking it for the trip home.

Living anywhere without an airport or a large harbor for freight obviously affects the price of everything, and the quality of perishables. We had packed a bag of dry goods, mostly rice, pasta and canned items, knowing the St. John markup would be substantial. As it turned out, I made do with a sad, almost rotten head of romaine, some grape tomatoes, an onion, some mushrooms and an even sadder bunch of kale for the week, along with some garlic, olive oil, dried herbs and spices left from the last tenant of the villa. We also enjoyed the remains of a couple of bottles of island rum from the prior tenants and similarly paid forward what was left and presentable from our own food and drink. While I've been mostly gluten-free since April, I had to resort to eating regular bread on the days we packed lunch since we would be away from food sources, hiking or boating. Gluten free bread is too expensive on the mainland, so I didn't even check the price on the island. I thought about buying a bunch of organic carrots, which actually looked pretty decent, but they were $14.

I basically put this upon most of my rice or gluten-free pasta (which I had packed):

Tip: lightly sauteing sad romaine or kale in olive oil and fresh garlic greatly improves it.

I was happy to pay the price of a week of lowered nutritional standards to reap the benefits of being in this amazing place. If it's ever in the budget again, I'd jump at the chance.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Dinner for One

Luscious -- and quick! This is one head of baby bok choy, quartered lengthwise and quickly seared on the cut sides in a pan of purple onions and mushrooms. I used only coconut oil. My latest obsession is MCT's (medium chain triglycerides). It's all about supporting the ole' neurology, and coconut oil delivers. This dinner was amazing and decadent and made me feel I was treating myself well. I felt special -- briefly.

My husband's been traveling for business and my son's at college taking a class, so my daughter and I have been enjoying rare "girls-only" time along with our lovely pups. We've spent a lot of time in pajamas, and have indulged in mindless TV, movies, board games and, best of all, long talks. The next day we were looking forward to more of the same, but, unexpectedly, a bunch of her friends texted that they'd found a Groupon for a bouncy yard rental castle (there's got to be an actual term for this). I love that my almost 17-year-old gets such a charge out of bouncing in a blow-up castle with her friends. Long story short, the bouncy thing didn't work out because, well, it's not a takeout pizza -- you've got to reserve it in advance, but the excitement for these kids had built to the point that they just had to get together. They settled for gathering at the home of one of her friends. I planned to pick her up at around 10:00 p.m. (boys and girls, so no sleep-over). I dropped her off and drove home. I was alone.

This was a strange and tantalizing situation. From birth I've not been alone. I went straight from my family's home to college where I had room mates. Upon graduation, after my family had moved to Florida, during my plan-less weeks I lived in my best friend's family's home in Alexandria, VA. After a few weeks, with all my friends taking a little time before settling down into their adult lives, I found some strangers to live with from "the Washington Post" (I didn't make much money!). After 6 months in a darling, albeit flea-infested, cottage at Tyson's Corner, I finally moved into an apartment with some of my very best friends. Those were wonderful years -- much like girls-only time with my daughter, but with jobs and boyfriends. From the apartment with my girls, I moved in with my boyfriend, who is now my husband. I've never lived alone. Many of my friends have, at one time or another. My husband has. Even my son has lived alone for a year.

Sure, during my years as a stay-at-home mom I was alone during the day with my husband at work and the kids at school. But that was different. With the family at school and work, there was always a self-imposed pressure to make something of my day. They'd be coming home at 4:00 with homework and 5:30 with a hearty appetite. I needed something to show for my time. Groceries, cleaning, laundry, organizing and cooking effectively used up the 6 hours each day.

Yesterday the pressure was off.  After dropping my daughter at her friend's, I put on music that I never hear and poured a small glass of wine. I carefully chose exactly the veggie gems which appealed at that moment and created a masterpiece. I resolved to use a couple of the hours ahead to find a movie to rent that nobody would choose, not even my sweet daughter. Like a lot of moms, I'm the default "peacemaker" so I would never impose my choice on the bunch of 'em.

Just as I was ready to plate my entree, I heard the chime from the other room -- there was a text. My daughter needed to be picked up early after only 3 hours with her friends. The host had an appointment. I had to smile. It's nice that the kids do their own social planning now -- it's good for them to actively create portions of their lives. The parents all know one another, and there is an express understanding that the host will always have a parent home, etc. For the time being, none of the kids in this group have followed through with getting their licenses, so I can be sure she will be where I dropped her off. But the outcome of yesterday's get-together is a perfect illustration of how child-like these wonderful kids are, despite being wise beyond their years in so many other ways. When the kids were planning, I caught snippets of it: "Bouncy house -- yay! where? whose yard? oh, that stinks, laser tag? you don't want to? okay. movie? which one? no, I want to see the first one before the sequel . . . . her house? . . . . his house? okay."

I wolfed down my fabulous food and retrieved my girl. I was so happy to see her! The momentary thrill of being alone suddenly revealed itself for what it was: a novelty. We happily tucked into another game of "Sorry!"

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Glow Juice -- It's Alive!

No, I didn't empty a glow stick into this fresh veggie juice. Yes, I am just as surprised as you that 100% organic veggies and fruits produced such an otherworldly shade.  With this juice, I stepped out of my comfort zone of sweetening with an apple and instead used an orange. The juice contained: One large bulb of fennel, complete with stalks and fronds, 1/4 head of green cabbage, one head of romaine, 1 whole orange, including peel, 1 whole lemon, also including peel. These veggies produced over 20 ounces of juice, so I sipped it all day long over ice. The flavor was amazing -- sublime. For those who are not fond of the licorice notes of the fennel plant, try it with orange and lemon first before you pass judgement. The juice was light and mild, yet bursting with fresh flavor -- alive!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Zucchini "Noodles"

Just a quick pretty photo today of some luscious, fresh veg. This is a pile of raw zucchini noodles topped with a compote of fresh grape tomatoes, onions, garlic and oregano and basil from my garden. This was light and delicious. I counted it as dinner, my husband counted it as a side dish.

Being in a "weeding out" phase of life, I'm reluctant to add to my kitchen drawers, particularly if the item is pricey, but the "spiralizers" out there have long intrigued me. Still, I've resisted the urge to drop $20 for another veggie chopper -- until I found myself in the "As Seen On TV" aisle in our local Walmart. There it was, the Veggetti, right next to the nausea-inducing "Pedi-Egg"(for shaving dead skin off feet) and "Tag Away"(for skin tags), for the low, low price of $14.88. All items being hermetically sealed and unused, I swallowed my pride and a little bit of bile and popped that gadget in my cart.

I'm reasonably impressed with the initial results of this gimmick. The strands of squash are indeed "noodle-like" and, best of all, it hardly takes up any room and is dishwasher-safe. I'm sure it'll only work well with softer veggies, but that's okay with me. There is a small un-grated cone of zucchini that never makes it to the blades, but it's easily dispatched with a couple of slices.

I enjoyed the raw noodles with the warm compote, but liked the leftovers even more the next day, very slightly warmed. Next time I think I'll prepare the hot compote and then briefly stir the noodles into it before taking it off the heat. That should be just the right amount of cooking to maximize flavor without compromising texture. I definitely see more veggie noodles in my gluten-free future.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Rainbow Chard Harvest

This lovely chard is the first veggie I've harvested this season. Yesterday it was 89 degrees in the deep South, so these greens will be getting bitter any day now. I'm not opposed to that, but I'd like to try them tender and sweet first. Being a slow learner with gardening (i.e. I can't be bothered with an almanac -- for now) this is the first time I've cut the greens instead of pulling out the whole plant. It'll be fun to see what happens next. I love the way these fresh stems look -- they remind me of candy. I chopped the stems and sauteed them in coconut oil and olive oil with a couple of cloves of garlic, then added the tender greens very briefly before taking them off the heat. It was delicious. I regret there is no photo of the cooked greens. In this summer season, dinnertime seems to have devolved into a feeding frenzy/circus, with various and sundry friends, schedules and agendas. I'm at the stage in life now when "letting it be" seems much more appealing than attempting to reign in this happy chaos. Long story short, by the time I pulled out my camera, the food was mostly gone.

I've seen a massaged kale salad recipe incorporating chard. Only the shredded kale is massaged with the lemon, salt and oil, and the raw chard leaves, being more tender, are shredded and added last. If my chard plants proliferate, I'm going to give it a try. A bumper crop of dino kale is next on my chopping list.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Roasted Veggies

I've had some luck recently with a couple of roasting experiments.

Basil Zucchini Wedges:  I tossed the wedges with gluten-free bread crumbs, chopped basil from the garden, salt, pepper and olive oil, then roasted them for 25 minutes at 425. The basil was so delicious roasted, and the wedge-shape of the squash allowed for more crisping surface. I've not put this into a recipe format yet because I believe I'd like these better at a higher heat for less time (more crispy, less mushy). I'll share future results.

This is Buffalo Roasted Cauliflower: I blanched the cauliflower first, then tossed it with Texas Pete hot sauce, gluten-free bread crumbs and olive oil, and roasted it at 425 for 30 minutes. This could have also benefited from a higher heat. My bottle of Texas Pete was the shaker kind, so I only liberally sprinkled the cauliflower with the sauce instead of coating it. I need to do some more testing to come up with the proper amount. This wasn't very spicy, but it was good anyway. I'll keep you posted on how this experiment evolves.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Set to Pop (Garden Shots)

Set . . . to . . .


Here's my peony bush, lush and lovely, finally benefiting from my benign neglect [see Peony Update for backstory on this]. Peonies are on my short list of favorite flowers (the others being gardenia and iris) and I feel this little bush has forgiven my past transgressions and is ready to send me Mother's Day love this weekend!

The color juxtaposition of this little lantana plant in our front border is lovely.

Here's my first sunny yellow iris in a large bank of them I planted a couple of years ago in our dry river bed. I received a couple of large bags of these from my friend, Ann, who was splitting her tubers a couple of years ago. These things go bananas and multiply in a marshy or wet area of the yard. I don't mind. I have the perfect spot for them.

Here's a kousa dogwood that was in bloom in my "jungle" a couple of weeks ago. It's a different variety from the ones I grew up with in Virginia, but it brings sentimental thoughts whenever it's in bloom. I also have three of the Virginia-type dogwoods in the backyard, but they bloomed even earlier, during the worst of the pollen when you don't really want to go outside without a gas mask around here, so I missed taking photos of them. The indigenous ones in the back are lovely trees though -- large and tall for dogwoods, so I bet they are a century old or so. Our lot was one of the last cut into a virgin forest.

Repeated shots of the same vegetable garden can be tiresome, so I'll try to avoid too much of that, but the rainbow chard is so photogenic, isn't it? If you look closely, you might see tiny little leaves that give the initial appearance of moss. I believe it is the "wild ground cover" that took up residence in the garden last year due to the shadier conditions from the maturing trees nearby. I thought I had eradicated it by pulling last year, but you may recall that the roots of this mystery plant are deep but fragile (so there is always some left behind), and have amazing powers of underground regeneration. I wasn't going to use weed killer in my garden, obviously, so I covered the whole thing all winter with a blanket of newspaper. This mystery plant seems to be saying thank you for the warm blankie. I salute your fortitude, little weed. Welcome back, I guess.

There are a few additional unidentified weeds here and there. Last year I pulled whatever seemed to be out of place, and then I missed a few days and realized that the pulled "weeds" were actually veggies from the year before that had self-propagated. My recent MS issues include memory loss, so I don't really remember much more about the regretful over-regulation of last year's garden. As such, I have decided to give these apparent interlopers a chance to identify themselves a bit more fully before I decide if they should stay or go. Not all surprises in life are welcome, but surprise garden veggies will be!

Has Spring sprung where you are?

Friday, May 2, 2014

Gluten-Free Grilled Cheese for Breakfast

My camera seemed to like the sandwiches in the back row better, but hopefully you can see the contents of these yummy, albeit blurry, morsels. This morning I was craving something substantial for breakfast and so I started thinking about grilled cheese. Of late, my diet is more carefully curated that usual, so I feel a little guilty about including gluten-free bread and daiya non-dairy cheese. These qualify as "filler" foods on the new plan, which is more nutrient-dense. To make myself feel better about eating this I decided to incorporate some delicious, decadent veggies. I sauteed half a red bell pepper and sliced half an avocado -- these scored for rainbow vegetables and healthy plant fats. Since my gluten-free bread slices were tiny, I decided to make two sandwiches -- vegan, gluten-free grilled cheese "sliders" really. Delish!

To avoid a soggy interior, I started by toasting the bread while the pan was warming to medium-low. Next, I distributed the daiya shreds on all four slices, then put a lid on the pan for about 3 minutes. The closed heat melts the "cheese" more effectively, gluing it to the bread sooner so the bread doesn't burn. I added the veggies next to only one side so putting the two sides together later would be less of a mess. I put the lid back on for another couple of minutes to be sure the "cheese" was pretty well melted, then I put the cheese-only slices on top of the veggie-ful sides and flipped the sandwiches over until well-toasted. It is best to use a low - medium heat for all this since the daiya is slower than dairy cheese. This was a wonderful breakfast and it only took about 8 minutes.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Garden 2014

It was so good to get my hands in the dirt again! Learning every year from experience, this year I'm being conservative with the tomatoes -- two plants should be plenty. The garden no longer has much sun because of the growth of trees, so I've got the tomatoes at the sunny end, along with a few cucumbers planted along a trellis. The other trellis is for the Chinese long beans -- free to me every year since I save a few beans from the ones that get lost in the mature bean bramble at the end of the season. Also "free" to me this year are the French breakfast radish seeds left over from last year. The rest of the plants were not very expensive though -- 99 cents for about 100 Georgia sweet onions, and $3.00 each for 8 packs of lacinato kale and rainbow chard ($3 per 8-pack, not per plant!). The herbs, which I've planted in pots, cost no more than if I had bought small packages for cooking in the produce section, and will produce all summer long, and just may come back again on their own next season. Sometimes a mild winter will afford a rebound crop.

Every year, mild or not, my peppermint pot has prolifically bounced back, but this spring I found the pot to be infested with thousands of [fast moving] ants or termites. I picked up the pot and ran it away from the house, away from the garden, but had to put it down quickly before extremely well-organized and speedy regimental lines of soldiers made their way into each armpit.  Ughhhh (shudder)! I was quick and calm enough to effectively swipe the vanguard from my limbs before I was chowed-upon, which supports my theory of termites versus ants. I wonder how well Pinocchio would have fared in the same circumstance. So I repurposed a different pot for the new mint. The termite pot may need to be a loss, unless I can come up with some non-toxic way to eradicate the critters without sending them somewhere else I don't want them.

Last season provided two particularly good gardening wisdom nuggets:
1. Onions are the best deterrent to darling woodland creatures who would eat my food! I planted them all around the perimeter of the garden and also more thickly around tender greens, which happen to be Peter Rabbit's favorite.
2. Don't use soil containing fertilizer. Duh. I was a lazy gardener last year. I wound up with long, lanky tomato vines with nary a fruit.

This year I used my compost for the first time, which finally looked like soil and not garbage:

Some newspaper is still visible there, but that was part of my "brown matter" and will break down pretty easily. I stirred in a bag of peat moss to lighten the mix. I have a dual-chamber composter. It is interesting to compare the different stages of decomposition of each. The compost really doesn't stink! You just have to be careful what you put in it -- only veggie matter.

Here's the sad garden before I cleaned it up a bit and gave it new life. I had covered it with newspaper for the winter in an attempt to eradicate weeds. I don't know if it'll work.

"Ahh," I can almost hear the garden saying as it gets its first drink of the season, "that's better,"