Monday, April 29, 2013

Springtime Color & Butterfly Garden Re-Do

We had such lovely weather over the weekend, the boys cut the lawn, we had a BBQ dinner, enjoyed being outside and wandered around our garden paths.

Here was a nice surprise. An Airplant nestled in between two pine trees decided to put out a flower. A splash of color among a lot of greenery.

The little raised brick garden I put in about a month ago is coming along nicely with its red Salvias and white Pentas.

Looking South
But the butterfly garden is yet again sadly neglected and completely overgrown with Spanish Needle (which we all know the butterflies love). Also a pretty creeping plant Beach Sunflower (or something similar), has become rather invasive and crowded out the Milkweed and Coleus. Nothing will grow under Beach Sunflower. It's completely drought resistant and thrives in our sandy soils. So after pulling out two wheelbarrow loads of weeds............I was left with a whole lot of nothing butterflies like, except for the Dill.

Looking North

So a trip to the big box store was in order. Verbena, Lantana, Trailing Petunias and Kangaroo's Paw, Begonias, Pentas and Mona Lavender "Plectranthus."

Kangaroo's Paw



I have a rather shabby little fountain which I set up and got running. Maybe in a month or two I'll treat myself to a new one. The splashing of the water is very relaxing.

In order to define the space, I added some bricks around the revamped area and included a few pots of different colors and textures to add some height - Dianthus, Catmint, Mums. I'm fairly happy with the result. It just needs to fill in a little bit. Perhaps some Moss Rose/Portulaca would do the trick.

Tip: I added half a teaspoon of water crystals to each plant hole I dug and then I watered the area thoroughly with a soaker hose. 

This area is outside our patio so we can enjoy the view. Now I think I need a couple of pieces of garden art, but a gnome or plastic flamingo isn't on the short list. Something more rustic perhaps. I'll work on that and get back to you with an update in a week or two.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Meatless Monday - Mushroom, Spinach & Apple Lasagna

Complex and robust flavor. The apple layer adds an "oooh yum what's that?"
This healthy dish is wonderful for a light but filling dinner serving, a lunch dish or pot luck.

You will need:
10-12 No Boil lasagna noodles
3-4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup dry Parmesan/Romano cheese
Cooking oil spray
2 peppers - I used one sweet and one hot banana pepper, slice and dice
8oz mushrooms, slice thinly
1 or 2 squash, slice and dice
1 cup onion, slice and dice
1 apple
2 cups of spinach leaves
salt and pepper (optional hot pepper flakes, if you like some heat)
snipped basil leaves
24 oz Jar spaghetti sauce

Heat oven to 450F and spray a glass pan with cooking oil. Add the sliced/diced squash, onion, mushrooms and spray with oil and roast in the oven for 30 mins, then flip veg over and cook another 10 minutes. Remove from oven and lower oven to 400F.

The roasted vegetables will look like this. Slice your apple thinly and remove core/seeds.

Take a 13x9x2" pan and spray with oil. Put a 1/2 cup pasta sauce on bottom and add 3 noodles. Add 1/4 cup pasta, cup of spinach leaves, all the sliced apples, 1 cup of the roasted veg mix and enough mozzarella cheese to cover. Repeat layers with a final noodle "crust" topped with a little sauce, sprinkled with snipped basil leaves, the remaining mozzarella, 1/4 cup of the parmesan/romano mix (and if you wish some red pepper flakes for a little "kick."). I top my dish off with some fresh tomatoes from the garden.

Before Baking
Bake for 35-45 minutes uncovered on middle shelf. Let stand 10-15 minutes and serve.

Makes 4 generous servings. Approximate cost $14. Total time from start to finish 1hr 40minutes. You might not go back to eating regular lasagna with meat after trying this!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Mama Screech Owl and Her Baby. "Awwww...How Cute!"

A Lucky Photo Shot. 

Mama Screech Owl and her baby. Isn't that just a precious thing?

Not as close up as I would have liked, look at those big yellow eyes!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Broccoli and Tomatoes...Oh My!

The temperature in Zone 10 is ramping up and the recent tropical thunderstorms have enhanced production in the garden.

Remember this? From my recent post. 

April's Yield - A Veggie Update

Give that Broccoli a good shearing!
After the main head has been removed from the Broccoli, and little biddy side shoots are still being harvested, just give the Broccoli a really good shearing. At least a quarter of the plant off. Cut off all those "healed" side shoots and put them in your compost bin.

And, after two or three fairly decent yields just from just the off - shoots, and after the shearing, here is the result a week later from just one plant.

And here is the total Broccoli produce - just from side shoots, along with my tomato yield.

I have a variety of tomatoes ripening on a western window shelf, because if I don't pick them the Woodpeckers will pick at them. The larger green/yellow tomats are "Lemon Boy," also the best tomato ever in my opinion.

The small red and green tomats are "Early Girl" a total dud in my opinion. Also non producers in my garden is the so called "Heatwave," and the equally misnamed "Solar Fire," (not shown here since all shriveled up and died in our 'heatwave' of 70 F, yup, totally worthless). I have yanked all three from the tomato bed. 

The temperature is already in the mid 80F here in South Florida, so Zone 10, do yourself a favor and stick with at least one Lemon Boy in your garden - they will still yield fruit into June.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

A Tale of The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Other Lepidoptera Sightings

Many years ago when our boys were little, and naughty......

Check out those mischievous faces!

We made the weekly ride to the library in order to beef up their vocabulary and reading skills. 

What with trying to keep track of two little boisterous and friendly youngsters, attempting to minimize their volume level to within library-protocol and restraining them from bouncing off the walls and the other patrons, I neglected to keep track of what they were having scanned out. You know, I was just too busy deflecting icy stares and numerous "tsk tsk's."

At home the boys proudly stacked up their hoard on the coffee table and we settled in for an afternoon of cuddles, reading and giggles - more giggles it turned out than we bargained for.........

"Me first, me first!" yells David, and thrusts a large multicolored book under my nose. 

"Is there something wrong with my eyesight? Did I suddenly become dyslexic?"

On the front cover was a monstrous caterpillar, but what on earth was the title all about? Oranges and caterpillars perhaps?

La Oruga Muy Hambrienta

David had mistakenly picked up the Spanish version of The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

Without missing a beat, I tried to read the Spanish text. My boys mouths dropped into two twin O's. You should have been there, I'm still laughing about it.

"Mommy! Stop speaking funny and read me story 'bout caterpillar!" David bellows.

It took a couple of belly laughs and many giggles to explain to David and Danny that the book was written in a different language and I couldn't understand it, but seeing their disbelief and puzzlement, I just decided to read it as I saw it, I mean what's a mom to do? Yep...if all else fails improvise.

Do you have a funny story regarding your kids?

Monday, April 15, 2013

Meatless Monday - "BeetLoaf"

Dinner is served with a healthy glass of juice!
This recipe is a little complicated but worth the effort, you get a meal and a great freshly juiced beverage.

For the BeetLoaf:

A Juicer
1 Large Beetroot, peeled, top and tailed, chop into 2 inch pieces
4 Large Carrots, as above
1 Large Apple, cored and cut into 2 inch pieces
1 Cup Spinach

1) Juice all the above 2) SAVE the pulp and remove to separate bowl

Now add to the juicer:
6 Strawberries, cup of blueberries, stalk of celery and 3 x 2inch pieces of cucumber. Set juiced beverage aside.

The juice and the pulpy beet, carrot, apple, spinach
Get a large bowl - add the beet pulp,
salt substitute and fresh ground pepper, a chopped pepper (I used hot banana pepper), chopped parsley and thyme, 2 beaten eggs, a cup of breadcrumbs and a cup of mozzarella. Drain and rinse a can of black beans, add to bowl and mash with potato masher. Add 1/4 cup of the juiced beverage and incorporate well into mixture. Heat oven to 350F.

Beetloaf mixture

Spray a meatloaf pan with Pam and press the Beetloaf mixture well into the pan with a spoon. The mixture will be quite moist.

Bake for 25 minutes, then add 1/2 cup more cheese on top, add freshly ground pepper and put back into the oven for 15 minutes. The consistency is somewhat closer to Lasagna than a Meatloaf but its very tasty. You should get four servings, unless of course you have two ravenous teenage boys in which case you might get only two.

Serve with your juiced beverage, and enjoy!

Dinner or Lunch is Served with Fresh Beverage

Friday, April 12, 2013

April's Yields - A Veggie Update Part 3

Lots of growth and more produce from the Springtime garden.

clockwise: Broccoli, Purple Carnival Pepper, Tomato, Hot Banana Pepper, Cauliflower, Spinach, Radish, Blue Lake Pole Beans.

What's done in my garden: Spinach, Lettuces, Arugula, Cauliflower, "Early Girl" "Solar Fire" and so-called "Heatwave" Tomatoes....really..I won't bother with either of those 3 varieties again.

What's ongoing and thriving:

Onion slips planted in November are filling out.

Back in November, when the daytime temperatures were between 75 to 79 F, I planted slips of onions and cauliflower transplants. In January I planted cabbages which are still maturing.

March Onions
Onions take "forever" to form mature bulbs, I'll probably harvest them in May...or maybe even June the rate they're growing! Onions like lots of water, so I have had to water them a lot as rainfall has been light this winter....doesn't look like much progress at the moment, does it? But all of a sudden they will form bulbs..although nothing as spectacular as a Vidalia.

April Onions
Cauliflowers are done. It has been such a warm "winter." If I had planted more (as transplants in December and January) I might still be harvesting them to (maybe) the end of April. I tied off the Cauliflowers with their own leaves - "blanching" - to keep the heads white, Cauliflowers have very shallow roots, so they don't need a deep space to thrive in....but like the onions they also need a lot of water, so they share the same veggie bed as the onions. I can't recommend growing this enough. Home grown Cauli is just awesome! You can break off the florets and eat them raw with a ranch dip - or blue cheese - very healthy!

March and April Cauliflower "White Cloud"
March Cabbages
April Cabbages
As you can see the Cabbages have spread out and bare compost-earth is no longer visible. I hope they don't all bolt before I can harvest them. Cabbage, Broccoli, and Cauliflower seedlings prefer temperatures below 75 degrees Fahrenheit. In Zone 10 we are already in the mid 80's.


Packman: After we harvested the main heads, we have been able to harvest broccoli shoots every day for over 2 months now and allow me to give you a word of advice. When the little broccoli shoots get smaller and smaller, give the plant a really good haircut - maybe a 1/4 off the whole plant. It will spring right back- really it will! I let a few buds mature into flowers because the hummers and those cute-little-green-bees can't get enough of the yellow flowers.

Give that Broccoli a Haircut.....please!
I have a second planting in place (Waltham) and they are maturing nicely, so we will enjoy home grown Broccoli into late May.

Danvers carrots are a teeny bit crowded, but our Cockateil loves to eat the nutritious shoots, so when I thin them out "Sunday" gets a treat.

April 11th 2013
For years I have vacillated between growing tomatoes in the ground, and growing tomatoes in large pots. This is the pot that has a small, sunken pot in the middle in which I put the hose to water both the tomato and the nasturtiums.

Same potted Tomato: March 29th 2013
The potted tomato is three times larger than a transplant planted at the same time in one of the vegetable beds in the garden.


The pineapple is coming along. Homegrown pineapple is so much juicier than those bought in the store.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Meatless Monday - Beet and Bean Goulash Soup


One hour before starting the soup, chop 8oz organic Tempeh into bite size pieces. Spray a glass pan with Pam and sprinkle Marjoram, salt substitute and fresh ground pepper into pan. Toss the tempeh in the herbs, give a quick spray with Pam and add more Marjoram, black pepper and salt substitute. Put in the fridge to allow the tempeh to absorb seasonings.

14.5 oz can of white beans - Cannellini - drained
1 large beetroot with its greens - chop beet into small pieces, wash greens
1/2 sweet onion - chopped
2 sticks of celery with leaves - chopped
1/2 cup chopped summer squash or corn
14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
4 cups of water with 2 vegetable bouillon cubes
small can tomato sauce
2 teaspoons each cumin, coriander, chopped garlic
3 teaspoons dried oregano (add the oregano when the canned tomatoes are added)
1 tsp each ginger and paprika
1/2 tsp tumeric
optional: 1/4 cup of elbow macaroni
Grapeseed Oil or Canola

Heat oil in pan and saute onions 2 minutes, add the garlic and beets and saute about 6 minutes, the onion will be soft, the beets still al dente. Remove from pan to a bowl, and add more oil to coat bottom of pan, when hot add the tempeh pieces. Allow to sizzle then add the cumin, coriander, ginger, paprika and tumeric. Drizzle a little more oil over tempeh to prevent from sticking to pan. After 5 minutes add the 4 cups of water with bouillon cubes, the canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, the drained, white beans, and the 3 teaspoons of oregano. Now add the beet/onion mix and the chopped celery and squash. Let simmer for 20 minutes and then add optional 1/4 cup elbow macaroni. Shred the beet leaves and put them over the top. Servings: 6 to 8.

 After 15 minutes serve with sour cream if desired.

My husband just loves the rich, red broth. I like all the veggies as well. Personally I also thought it tasted better the second day.

Meatless Monday - Penny's Fiesta Soup

This very versatile recipe comes courtesy of a friend: Penny. It doesn't have many ingredients (a huge plus for busy moms) and yet the soup base looks very flavorful and rich. I can't wait to try it!

Thanks Penny!

Penny's Fiesta Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil
Protein of your choice Boca crumbles, tempeh, or chicken breast for the non vegetarian
2 cans tomato sauce
1 can mexicorn
1 can Ro*Tel® Original Diced Tomatoes & Green Chilies, undrained

4 cups veggie broth
1 bunch green onions
1 can black beans
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon taco seasoning
Shredded cheddar and sour cream (real or vegan)
Corn tortilla chips

In a regular stock pot heat oil and then add your protein, stir and heat through 4-5 minutes.

Then add the rest of your ingredients except the cheese, sour cream and chips. Simmer on low for 1-2 hours.

To serve: Place a handful of broken tortilla chips in a deep soup bowl. Ladle on the Fiesta Soup over the chips. Add shredded cheddar and a dollop of sour cream just before serving. Yum!

"*I accidentally bought Ro*Tel Chili Fixins diced tomatoes and green chilies and the soup came out great with the addition of the extra spices.

The great thing about this soup is it is very adaptable. You can add more or less spice for your taste, and you can throw in whatever veggies you happen to have on hand.

I'm always adding something different so it never comes out the same twice and it is always good."

Friday, April 5, 2013

Owl Returns: Hoot Hoot Hooray!

Our neighbor's yard is just over 1.5 acres, wooded, slightly larger than ours, and they also have a little biddy pond. Over the years they have continued to plant lots of Florida native plants; Beautyberry, Stoppers, Wild Coffee, Firebush, Firecracker etc., and indeed when this city raised family moved in next door they were very helpful in getting us off on the right foot by suggesting shrubs and trees to support the local wildlife. Their yard supports an abundance of wildlife for sure.
Mature Slash Pine
Their enthusiasm for encouraging and providing nesting, feeding and stop-over places for birds and butterflies alike became my passion too. Indeed over the years hubbie and I have grown from seed and planted many new Slash Pine Trees (see my blog Pine Tree Magic), and plants and shrubs that attract butterflies and hummingbirds. We also put up nesting boxes, and didn't immediately take down any dying or bug infested trees (known as snags) but left them for the Woodpeckers - who will move into a bug infested tree almost immediately. 

Consequently a tad of friendly rivalry has developed over who gets to "host the hooters." My neighbors had painted their new box a bright yellow, and they were thrilled last year to have the Screech Owls nest in the box, while I pouted next door with a box full of squirrels (do I REALLY need any more of those?)

Anyhoot, without further preamble, guess who got the Mama Screech Owl's seal of approval this year?

Sometimes, the shabby chic-vintage look works. And check out those little teeny tiny deadly claws. Wouldn't want to be a little critter. Mouse Hears a (W)Hoo! Oh No!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Spring Cleaning, Cleansing & Juicing

What's your definition of Spring Cleaning  Cleansing?

In South Florida we might be forgiven for already shedding our "winter" sweaters, boots, jeans and extra layers and blankets for lighter apparel.....well it did get into the 40'sF a couple of nights.  I'm already reaching for the capri pants, shorts, t-shirts, and the ever popular flip flops, to get me through our steamy 90 ++ degree F summers!

I didn't ask for a December present 2012. I figured that there would be something I would want in the New Year that I would enjoy. So having given it some thought, and a considerable amount of research, I decided a month ago to get myself a juicer.

Huron Juicer
The Hurom slow juicer is a slow, cold pressed juicer. It does not damage the raw ingredients with frictional heat. The Hurom juices anything fresh; almonds, carrots, celery, beets, fruits, veggies - with the exception of ice cubes and frozen vegetables/fruits.

Now that Spring has officially arrived - I thought a little Spring Cleansing of my body was in order to beef up my immune system and flush out all the extra  calories. After all, those numerous winter slow-cooked-beef and lentil dinners, with taters and bread for dunking add up.

So I gathered together some fresh salad.

Ripe Pear and Tomato 
 I pushed the salad, pear, cucumber and tomato into the juicer.......

Celery, Carrots Up Next

The juicer pours the freshly pressed juice out on the right and the peel and roughage emits from a separate spout on the left. Unlike other juicers, with the Hurom, you don't get a frothy head (think a Guinness) on your fresh juice...not that there is anything wrong with a Guinness either, but not for breakfast.....

Stirred but hold the ice please, but maybe a teeny squeeze of lime juice to perk it up. Fresh and Delicious! This was a breakfast. At noon I was famished and made another juiced drink with blueberries, peaches and pears. My aim is to replace a minimum of one meal a day with a juiced product.

The roughage is like compost-ready-to go. And that's where it goes, straight into the compost. Of course it could be added to a soup, stew or even cookies.

Cons: It's pricey! And the Hurom has quite a few interlocking parts that took more than a few times to get the hang of assembling and disassembling.
Pros: The Hurom Co. include a how-to video and recipe booklet with the machine. Clean up is really easy. Also the the machine is reassuringly solid -  as in, it needs a permanent place on the counter-top because it's heavy! It's quiet. The beverages it produces are awesome. It makes the best fresh orange juice I have ever tasted, and here in the Land Of Orange Trees, you know that a huge plus. 
------ Cheers!

Click Here for a great link page item, regarding cleansing, by Dr. Oz, via O.
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