Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Turkey Time

After the preparation for, and the return from a two week trip to my Father's house in North Carolina, we are back home and planning our Thanksgiving meal just like everyone else. Truth be told, on Thursday we will be having our second Thanksgiving dinner this month.
Driving through St. Louis is nerve wracking enough, but quadruple the amount of cars going over the river and

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Fall Colors

Happy Halloween! There is no denying it, fall is here.  There was a good amount of wind blowing through my neighborhood all day.  Most of the trees were already bare, but those that were not, are now.  Saturday night we turn back our clocks and if you are like me, you are wondering how is it possible that tomorrow is November 1st?  Honestly, where did this year go?
Fortunately I love the Fall colors, with so many shades of orange, red and yellow.  Nothing says Fall quite like copper mums. 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Multi-Grain Museli

We've all heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  Here's a quick make-ahead museli that will give you a jump start on your busy day.  I adapted this from a favorite cookbook of mine, Grain Mains, which is loaded with delicious and wonderful whole grain ideas.
According to Wikipedia, museli was introduced by the Swiss physician Maximilian Bircher-Benne around 1900 for patients in his hospital where a diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables was an essential part of therapy.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Saving Heirloom Tomato Seeds

Having grown five varieties of Heirloom tomatoes this summer, I decided to try my hand at saving seeds from each.  Heirloom seeds have a shorter shelf life, but you can acquire new seeds each growing season, so I really don't see that as a problem.  The characteristics of a plant grown from heirloom seeds are true to that of the mother plant, unlike seeds saved from a hybridized plant where there is no assurance of what you'll get.  In the 1940's F1 hybrids were started in order to offer different varieties.  The hybrids had a tougher skin which gave them a longer shelf life, thereby improving the quality of shipped tomatoes.
To collect my seeds, I held one tomato of each variety over a glass container and squeezed the seeds out.  Clockwise from the top left corner: Black Krim, Dr. Wyche's Yellow, Green Zebra, Mortgage Lifter and Cherokee Purple.

Monday, October 28, 2013

End of Summer Eggplant

I have to admit these globe eggplants are a little on the small side.  Together the three of them barely tip the scale at just over one pound.  But it was either pick them or lose them, so I did.  Now what to do with them?
Luckily, I stumbled upon Barbara Kafka's easy and delicious Marinated Eggplant that is cooked in none other than a microwave.  While thinking this is too good to be true, what did I have to loose?

Thursday, October 24, 2013

DIY Energy Bars

When it's late afternoon and you haven't quite finished your To Do list, you might want to reach for one of these little beauties.   There is no reason you can't have a container of healthy energy bars on hand, especially when these are so easy to throw together.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Mostly Heirloom Tomato Soup

Just as cooler temperatures are settling in, I came across a basic cream of tomato soup recipe in the Soup & Bread Cookbook by Beatrice Ojakangas and was inspired to create.  As chance would have it, all my semi-ripe and green tomatoes on the vines had to be brought inside to finish ripening due to frost warnings.  But rather than looking at it as 'Darn, my dining room table is covered in unripe tomatoes',  I'm thinking this is a good thing.  I can keep tabs on their ripening progress and plan accordingly.  
The heirlooms I used are Dr. Wyche's Yellow, Cherokee Purple, and Mortgage Lifter, along with Green Zebra and Black Krim which are not pictured.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Sweet Potato Pound Cake

I don't know where this sweet potato pound cake recipe came from, only that I added it to my cake folder in February 2012.  Bob likes anything with sweet potatoes, for that matter he may have sent me this recipe.  Bob's birthday was yesterday and this was his birthday cake.
It is so moist and delicious.  I roasted and pureed the sweet potatoes the day before, which made the assembly on baking day a piece of cake (I couldn't help myself.)

Saturday, October 12, 2013

On the corner of Summer & Fall

We are now at the corner of summer and fall.  While some days the temperature is in the mid 70's, the daylight hours are getting shorter, mums are in full bloom and you can't help but notice the golden leaves collecting on the ground. 
All the tomato plants from the garden with the exception of my still ripening tomatillos, have been added to the compost pile.  We have both anerobic and aerobic compost piles.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Red, White & Blue Potatoes

This summer we grew our first crop of potatoes.  After reading a little bit and talking to a few friends who had grown them we decided to give it a try. There are as many ways to grow potatoes as there are different varieties.  Having transplanted the horseradish to another location in the yard there was an available space to build a potato box.
I had purchased some red seed potatoes a few weeks earlier and set them in a cool place to sprout.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Pineapple Tomatillos & Oatmeal

For the past several years I've been growing Pineapple Tomatillos, tossing them into salads and eating them as a treat while I worked in the garden.  They are much smaller than the regular green or purple variety, about the size of your thumbnail.  In fact the only thing they all have in common is the little paper lantern that precedes the fruit, so to shield it as it grows inside.
There is the age old question... is the tomato a fruit or a vegetable?

Friday, October 4, 2013

The Squirrel Who Loves Tomatoes

The squirrel that shares in our garden harvest was filling himself, much the same as a bear about to go into hibernation, with cherry tomatoes.  Truly, as I watched him watch me, he handpicked nearly a dozen and enjoyed quite the feast.  However, I much prefer him eating those rather than taking a few bites out of a luscious ripe tomato, leaving 7/8ths of it to rot away.
Snowfall in the mountains doesn't come as a surprise when the calendar changes from September to October.  Even down in the foothills we are ready for the light dusting.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Fresh Tomato Focaccia

This has got to be one of the most fun and delicious things I have been making this summer...well, at least since my tomatoes started ripening.  Every one who tastes it, loves this bread.  I have tried a few recipes and my favorite version is inspired by Jeff Mauro.  It is created on a sheet pan, while I divide it into thirds as I stripe the dough with different tomatoes.  Be forewarned, it is really delicious and very addicting.
The left third is covered in oven roasted cherry tomatoes.  Down the center are green zebra slices.  The right side is covered in cherry and sun gold tomato halves which are placed cut side down in the dough.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Blueberry Lemon Bars with Lemon Glaze

Being rained in for a couple of days was a good excuse to do some baking.  I came across this heavenly dessert bar from Sweet Peas Kitchen called Blueberry Lemon Brownies.  I don't know about you, but for me a brownie needs to have some form of chocolate as an ingredient.
It could be cocoa powder, chocolate chips, Mexican chocolate, dark chocolate, even white chocolate, but there needs to be chocolate.  So in good conciseness I can't call these a brownie, but I can call them terrific and my friends loved them. 

Friday, September 13, 2013

Zinnia ~ Friday's Flower

The Zinna is my favorite annual flower.  It comes in many shapes and sizes, some being almost like teddy-bear sunflowers, others look like daisies and their colors are all over the chart.  They are quite happy to be cut and put in a vase.
I collect the seeds from the dried flower heads every year.  Yes, it takes some time to separate the seeds from the flower heads but it is well worth the time invested.  Come spring, I sprinkle the seeds wherever I want

Thursday, September 12, 2013

A Day in the Kitchen

In years past I would spend one week canning, pickling and dehydrating.  But as the garden continues to expand, each year I plant more, which in turn produces several waves of ripe produce.  I'm finding that I'd rather spend one day every couple of weeks processing in a variety of ways, whatever found it's way from the garden to the kitchen.  I actually look forward to that day and I'm not as exhausted as when working at it for a week.  With a sink full of tomatoes, you can guess what happened next.
Having Bobs help, 45 ears of corn were shucked, cleaned and cut from the

Friday, September 6, 2013

Leek Blossoms ~ Friday's Flower

Leeks are biennial and most of them will never bloom, as they are generally planted and harvested the same year.  The edible part is the bottom six to ten inches, depending on the size of the plant.  The leek, commonly used in soups, is a cousin of the onion although with a milder, more herbal flavor that sweetens as it cooks.
If you find yourself with an abundance of leeks at the end of the season, and you have the space to leave a

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Zucchini Ribbon Salad

I know zucchini week is over, but there are still more great ways to use this prolific vegetable.  Just look at these ribbons, aren't they beautiful? 
This salad is bursting with fresh summer flavor.  A mandoline comes in quite handy for shaving the zucchini into ribbons, but a vegetable peeler would work just as well.  I really like the simplicity of this zucchini ribbon salad from Dawn Perry, a Bon Appetit food editor.  I've made it a couple of times, varying the nuts and cheese and it's always good. 

Friday, August 30, 2013

Zucchini Bites

A Week of Zucchini ~ Day 5 ~ Zucchini Bites
This is my first year growing these Baby Globe Zucchini.  I think they are just so darn cute, looking like they are going to be little green pumpkins, but they are every bit a zucchini.  
Having some beautiful Dr Wyche Heirloom tomatoes, one of the best tasting yellow tomatoes to be found, ready to harvest at the same time as the zucchini started the wheels turning.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Zucchini & Tomato Tian

A Week of Zucchini ~ Day 4 ~ Zucchini & Tomato Tian

Now you might be wondering what a Tian is, right?  Wikipedia states that a Tian is an earthenware vessel that is used for cooking and serving and it is also the name of the dish prepared in it.  Over time, the classic cone shaped vessel from the Provence region in France has changed as well as the dish itself.  In the 18th Century a Tian was typically a lean stew, where the modern Tian is a dish cooked with no added liquid and generally made with vegetables alone, more commonly called a gratin in the United States.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Zucchini, Brown Rice, Peppers & Cheese

A Week of Zucchini ~ Day 3 ~ Zucchini & Brown Rice
This is one of those comforting one pot meals that I could eat for days.  I adapted this recipe from one in the May/June 2009 issue of Eating Well.  When I make it for vegetarian friends, I exchange the chicken broth for vegetable.  If you'd like to make it even heartier, add cooked turkey kielbasa or sausage.
Zucchini & Brown Rice Casserole

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Curried Zucchini Soup

A week of Zucchini ~ Day 2 ~ Curried Zucchini Soup

Inspired by a recipe in Bon Appetit, I used two curry spices, traded the vegetable oil for coconut oil and added both toasted shredded coconut and cashews to the final dish.  I was pleasantly surprised with a thick, creamy and delicious soup.

Monday, August 26, 2013

A Week of Zucchini ~ Nut Muffins

Zucchini season has arrived.  Neighbors are giving them away.  Co-workers are dragging large bags to work, setting them in the office kitchen with a note that reads please help yourself.  I'm going to share a recipe for zucchini every day this week, and not one of them will be for bread...because everyone has at least one recipe for that.
I clipped this first recipe from the Miami Herald Newspaper thirty years ago and it has been a favorite ever since.  Slightly different than bread, this recipe is for zucchini muffins. Unlike bread, when making muffins, I don't squeeze the excess moisture from the zucchini, otherwise they'd be too dry.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Butchart Gardens ~ Over 100 Years in Bloom

While on vacation in Canada last month, my friend Kitty and I visited the fabulous Butchart Gardens, which had long been a dream of mine.  After hours of wandering the gardens and hundreds of photos snapped, we wanted to share the beauty of this amazing place.  Before coming home, we collaborated on an article and submitted it to the Key West Citizen Newspaper.  Here is the article as published.

Over 100 years in bloom and still going at Butchart Gardens  by Lori Harryman and Kitty Somerville

Friday, August 23, 2013

Agastache ~ Friday's Flower

If there is a plant that attracts both hummingbirds and butterflies, is hardy in zone 5, there is a good chance you will find it growing in my yard.  The Agastache, also known as Hummingbird Mint, Mosquito Plant, but more commonly Hyssop, is one of these plants.  It likes full sun, blooms between July and October and depending on the variety, of which there are many, grows between 2-4' tall.  
These two 'Black Adder' Hyssop plants were set at the back of the split rail fence last fall.  An easy care perennial, drought tolerant once established, they feature long wands that support dark purple bracts where soft lavender blooms emerge.  Unlike most plants, it's anise scent comes from the green foliage and not from the flower.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Green Bean, Red Rice & Almond Salad

Fresh green beans are plentiful this time of year.  The French Market Cookbook, written by Clotilde Dusoulier, pairs red rice with freshly steamed green beans for a tasty side dish.  A handful of ingredients produce a wonderfully nutty dressing that comes together quickly.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Hosta ~ Friday's Flower

Native to Japan, Korea and China, the Hosta is also referred to as a Plaintain LilyWhen grown in the wild, the leaves on this shade tolerant plant are usually green.  Nurseries carry a wide variety of greens, even a frosty blue.  The elongated heart shaped leaves can be edged in yellow, cream or white, with the reverse also possible; edged in green with white, yellow or cream as the dominate color.
The broad leafed perennial Hosta is grown from rhizomes, which are horizontal underground stems that produce shoots above and roots below.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Tomato Time Is Near

The number one vegetable planted by back yard gardeners is the tomato.  Some of us see more than the garden in front of us, we have a bigger picture in our mind.  We envision the pantry shelf filled with dozens of quart jars, waiting to be called on during the winter as a base for soup, stew, chili and marinara sauce.  Every year I tell myself I'm not going to plant as many as last year, but for the past several years it seems I haven't been listening.

I will say this in my defense, five of the eighteen tomato plants are strictly for canning purposes.  The San Marzano has very few seeds and makes a delicious sauce.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Arbutus Menziesii ~ Friday's Flower

Last month while vacationing in Canada, we hiked Jocelyn Hill in the Gowlland Range, part of the Urban Mountains in Victoria, BC and were rewarded with this stunning view looking South toward Mt. Wells.
While there isn't a flower in this post, the distinctive Arbutus tree, more commonly known as the Pacific Madrone and Strawberry tree in British Columbia, is worthy of highlighting.  It's an evergreen tree with a unique red papery bark that naturally peels away, exposing a smooth green trunk.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Today's Garden Happenings

Walking back to the garden I do Breathe In, and currently I'm having to duck down as I enter, otherwise I'd be hit on the head by the birdhouse gourds.
To my delight, the Wisteria is having a second flush of flowers.  I did a lot more trimming today, trying to keep the wispy ends in check.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Fishing for Salmon....and Catching

Our first instructions: be at the dock by 6 AM and have your fishing licenses.  I've heard before, 'If you're early you're on time, if you're on time you're late.'  We were early to the dock in Sooke, British Columbia, Canada, and you couldn't ask for a better start to the day.
Our Captain was a Frenchman named Luc.  He had been chartering his 25' boat, For Play, for seven years.  Upon our arrival, Luc asked if we liked crab...all four of us were yeahs...so he quickly filled a trap with bait that we would check before returning to the dock.  Water was calm, spirits were high, sun was coming up, a fast ride to our first spot and we started

Friday, August 2, 2013

Plume Poppy ~ Friday's Flower

The Plume Poppy, Macleaya Cordata, is drought tolerant once it's established, and a lovely perennial that looks good from the ground up.  Just because it can reach eight feet in height doesn't mean it's meant to be in the back of the garden.
It's gray-green lobed leaves can grow up to eight inches across and are just as interesting as the flowers.  I have Coral-Plume, which has light coral-pink flowers growing on thick large stems that do not need to be

Friday, July 19, 2013

Monarda ~ Friday's Flower

Monarda is more commonly known as Bee Balm, Bergamont, or Horsemint.  Wikapedia states the genus was named for Nicolas Monardes, who wrote a book in 1574 describing plants found in the New World. 
Apparently there are both annual and perennial, upright growing plants.  I have the most common variety, a pink blooming perennial, which grows between 3-4' tall, somewhere between mid and late summer.  In the wild,

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Vertical Knife Block

I've heard the experts say that you only need one good knife.  Honestly, I don't feel that way.  When I want a sharp, clean knife I want to be able to reach out and get one, not have to walk over to the other side of the room.  I have a lot of knives in my kitchen, and I use them all.  Having a couple of work stations, it made perfect sense to have knives easily available to each area.  After a few discussions with my husband, truly Bob-the-builder, I put in a work order (Bob loves work orders) for a vertical knife block that hugs the wall.   I love the practicality of it and that no counter space is compromised.
While we were re-inventing this corner, Bob built a 17" x 68" wooden sleeve of a sort, to fit over the 7" x 48" wall cap that was just above the

Sunday, July 14, 2013

No-Cook Peanut Butter-Coconut Fudge

I know this is going to sound crazy, but making this fudge is even easier than it sounds.  You can indulge yourself with this Peanut Butter-Coconut Fudge during the year, without feeling too terribly guilty for having it.  Granted, it is not the same fudge that you look forward to receiving in a little gift box from your___(friend, aunt, sister, mom, co-worker, neighbor) during the holidays.  At the same time, it's not loaded with all the sugar and calories either, and still tastes like a treat.
I stumbled upon this recipe by way of TheWimpyVegetarian.  I made it my way, which means: nuts belong in everything.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Golden Rain Tree ~ Friday's Flower

The Golden rain tree is an ideal tree for the Front Range.  Apparently in the South, the tree is a fast grower and can be invasive.  In Colorado, with our short growing season and cold winters, this tree is a slow grower.  Moving into our house in October 1999, the tree was a small, 4' spindly specimen.  It's taken this long to reach it's mature height of 30'.  Another factor may be that the tree has weak wood, and limbs tend to break under a heavy spring snow, which does happen occasionally.  I look at that as nature's way of pruning.
There are not many trees blooming in mid summer, which makes the

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Sriracha-Glazed Chicken Skewers

Every month I look forward to the new issue of Bon Appetit Magazine showing up in the mailbox.  The cover photo for the July issue caught my attention; it was 2 chicken skewers.  But it was the caption that got me:  Sriracha-Glazed Chicken Skewers.  Just from reading the recipe ingredients, I knew we were going to love them, so I made a double batch.  Absolutely delicious!  It took more time to cut the chicken into pieces than anything else.   
Sambal Chicken Skewers
Serves 4

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Spiderwort ~ Friday's Flower

Here's one you might not have seen, The Spiderwort Concord Grape.  Grown in zones 3-9, it has bluish green, grass-like leaves with three petaled purple flowers.  The contrasting yellow stamens really set this off.
The Spiderwort grows in upright clumps 15-18" tall and about 20" wide.  Blooming late spring and summer, the small flowers emerge from clusters of buds on long stems.

Sadly, each flower lasts only one or two days, but new blossoms appear daily throughout the blooming season.  Growing in half sun/half shade, and moist soil is ideal for this perennial.
Since reading that you can propagate in the fall or early spring by division, I plan on doing this in September.   Mine has been in for at least three years, so I should have a nice thick mass of roots to work with.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Sammy is Back

About 5 years ago we discovered a small garter snake in the back yard; I named him Sammy.  Not sure where he winters, but he makes himself visible every summer.  A couple of weeks ago, we saw him for the first time this season sunning himself on a slab of warm flagstone.  Naturally, we can't be sure this is the same snake, but every year it's a little bigger and is now up to about 3 feet in length.  I'd like to believe that it is Sammy.  One day last year, I watched him slip into the pond and swim with the fish.
Earlier this week my husband was enjoying his morning coffee while watering the tomatoes when Sammy slid across his bare foot.  I've got to tell you, even knowing it's a non-threatening snake, if that was me, my coffee cup would be broken on the ground as I ran in the opposite direction.
While keeping our distance, here's a photo of the nest and a baby robin with his head lifted, waiting for food.  We've had fun listening to and watching the nest of four Robins being raised in the arbor on the side of our deck.  Both parents were always hard at work, returning to the nest with worms.  This picture was taken 8 days ago; they are all flying now, some better than others.
This morning I heard this little guy chirping but couldn't locate him.  When I noticed the Mom Robin land on a grate with a worm, I knew he must be down in the window well.  I took a box with me to the basement to put the baby in, but when I took off the screen and reached in, he just opened his mouth expecting a worm.  I was able to easily pick him up and bring him outside.  His mom waited as I set him in the grass; then they both ran into the garden.  I like happy endings.
At any rate, there is quite a lot of animal activity right now.  Although, having reinforced our borders, the itty bitty bunny that was making himself at home in the back yard, has relocated across the street under the deck of a family with four young children.  He visits our front yard daily.  Here he is taking a nap under a small wooden bridge in one of my planters, prior to his departure. 

Friday, June 28, 2013

Evening Primrose ~ Friday's Flower

Oenothera speciosa is a species of evening primrose known by many common names, such as pink ladies and pink evening primrose, while in Colorado it is generally referred to as Mexican evening primrose.  Wikipedia claims the name 'speciosa' means showy. 
Being drought resistant, this plant requires very little as far as soil or water, in fact it thrives in rock gardens and extreme sun.  Usually planted as a border plant along fences, walkways and rock gardens, this 12-18" tall perennial wildflower can easily become invasive if given optimum growing conditions.  I keep it in check by allowing it to live in a 3' X 8' succulent bed, along a brick path.
The Mexican evening primrose produces an abundant amount of delicate pink, cup-shaped flowers from spring through autumn.  Blooming both day and night, the flower tends to close during mid-day, when the full sun is directly overhead.

I think it's a lovely accent plant.  Perfect in that corner of the yard where the soil is poor, the sprinklers don't quite reach and the sun hits hard.