Monday, February 28, 2011

Southeastern Flower Show

Last week I had the opportunity to visit the Southeast Flower Show at the Cobb Galleria near Atlanta -- which incidentally is still going on today. The theme this year was "In Tune With Flowers." I don't know who came up with this theme, but I can tell you I was very entertained by the exhibits and the theme was one of the chief reasons.

There were the usual exhibits of juried flower cuttings and potted flowers. That is always interesting. My flowers almost never compare.

And there are always some beautiful table settings. In the background, one of the speakers, Vince Dooley, in the background, is speaking to the audience in the Home Depot theater. As most Georgia garden enthusiasts know, Dooley is also a gardener as well as a famous former Georgia football coach. He was here speaking about his book on gardening and owing to the mad crush around him, quite an draw at the show.

This is one of the most unique water fountains I have ever seen, made from wind instruments. It was amazing.

I loved the small tables tucked into curtained "gazebo-like" structures. I would love to do that on my back porch.

The flowers on the table settings were not the only things to emulate. The dishes and decorations were beautiful.

Of course, I particularly liked the vegetable garden displays.

The flowers in this exhibit were gorgeous but I laughed out loud when I saw the name -- so imaginative.

And the "hats" in this exhibits were wonderful. This was one of my favorites -- loved the Audrey Hepburn photo in the background.

I did have the opportunity to photograph some beautiful and unusual cut flowers that were apparently lighted for that purpose.

One of my purchases, a Venus Flytrap.

I will have more on the interesting things I saw in the next few days.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

We planted our Late Winter/Early Spring Garden! Hooray! I really don't know what to call it but I do know that it is time for the cooler weather crops like lettuce, broccoli, greens, onions and peas. Gardens never look very exciting at first, do they?

Thanks to the weather that suddenly turned beautiful and dried up a bit, we were able to get into the garden and till, then plant. It really didn't take very much time. I guess I can say that, because I really didn't spend too much time in the garden. My gardening partners, my husband and my sister did most of the work and it really looks good.

We planted some of the seeds we had purchased at the end of the season last year, planted some saved seeds and bought some plants. All in all, I feel rather proud of us. Only problem is, our fence didn't work when we tested it. If we can keep the critters out until we fix it I think things will be fine. Lesson Learned: Check the equipment before you plant!

Here's the rundown on what we have planted.

We had mostly leftover carrots and we just planted them in rows. The varieties are Chatenay, Danvers Half Long, and Bolero Nantes (French carrots). We have never been very successful with carrots but this year we vow to thin them. We have never done that before.

Radishes, Early Scarlet Globe and Cherry Belle.

Spinach, Long Standing. We haven't been too successful with spinach so far but this is a new variety.

We really mixed up the lettuce. We had a wide row filled with mixed lettuce seeds, mostly Italian Mixture, also Great Lakes Head Lettuce, Ashley (a red variety), Flame (red) Royal Oakleaf and Little Gem. We also bought lettuce plants, mostly Buttercrunch and Romaine with a couple of varieties of Head Lettuce.

We planted a wide row of Dwarf Siberian Kale. We love kale. We planted a wide row of Mixed Greens that included, Turnip, Mustard, and Rape seeds. This is a very good mixture of greens for us and usually grows well. We have a nice wide row of greens.

For the peas, we had some leftover Oregon Giant Sugar Pods, Alaska Peas and we planted a nice long row of Sugar Snap Peas. I like the pods best but my family really likes the peas you shell. I hope we have both.

In addition to the lettuce plants we purchased broccoli, red and green cabbage, a few collards and Georgia Sweet and Red onions. We also bought a pot of cilantro because that is an herb that seems to prefer milder weather and last year we planted it a bit late. I hope we have a better crop this year.

That is all my garden news. We are now waiting for things to grow and shooing away animals until the fence is mended

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

An unusual surprise garden treat

Our garden is tilled and we are in the planting stages for our late winter/early spring garden.

When my husband (who is our expert family tiller) revved up his engine to till the soil, he uncovered some leftover vegetables deep in the soil where our turnip greens had grown in the fall. There were several pounds of turnips that were uncovered by the tilling process. He collected them and decided to bring them home to see if we could do something with them.

Washing them was a chore and I don't have a photo of how dirty they were when he brought them home but after that job was done I thought we might cook them, though I can't say I was enthusiastic about it.

Even though it is nice to get anything you didn't expect, turnips were never my favorite food. I like turnip greens but the turnips were always something I avoided as a child. I think my mother must have understood this because she never forced me to eat them -- maybe to take an occasional bite but I can't remember anything more than a very small bite and then saying, "No thanks."

They were usually chopped into small pieces boiled in water and served with butter and salt. I didn't think this was a good idea for our few pounds of turnips -- at least not for me, so I decided to try roasting them.

My husband had also brought home some stray garlic greens that had grown up in the garden and since baby garlic really has a mild flavor, somewhat like leeks, I decided to try roasting them together.

My first job was peeling the turnips. I thought that after overwintering, they might be hard and pithy but they were mild, sweet and tender.

I cut them in small pieces, lined a pan with parchment paper and oiled the paper with olive oil. Then I put all the cut up pieces of turnip and chopped garlic greens onto the parchment paper, added salt and pepper and poured about two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil over the top and stirred them a bit with a spatula. I then placed them into a 400 degree oven.

I stirred them about every 15 minutes and cooked them about 40 minutes until they were tender and browned on the edges.

My roasted turnips were a success. Even my 5 year old grandson ate a few. I think the really thought they were potatoes ... but he ate them. My husband was happy because I cooked what he brought home and adding the roasted turnips to my meal of grilled chicken, sugar peas, salad made it a little bit of a treat.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A better butter

 I love butter. I agree with the folks who say you can't have too much butter. It is tasty and adding butter or cream cheese to a recipe usually makes it a winner. Unfortuneately, I have to go easy on those ingredients to help my waistline and cholesterol numbers.

Here is a recipe we are using at my house to cut the fat and add flavor to toast, baked potatoes and things like the slow-cooker oatmeal I ate for breakfast. It won't work for everything. There isn't enough fat in this buttery substitute to saute or use in baking, but it is good as a spread and has only 1/3 the fat of butter. It also has more beneficial nutrients than butter. It is especially good for people who can't eat milk products. This recipe contains coconut milk which has been in the news of late as an ingredient with beneficial fat.

Buttery Spread

3/4 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons millet (or yellow corn meal)
1/2 teaspoon salt (or butter-flavored salt)

Place ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil on medium high. Turn down to medium and allow to simmer for five minutes. Transfer to a blender and blend on high for one minute. Place in a container and allow to chill overnight or until it sets.

Use as you would butter or margarine. If may get stiffer after a few days and if this happens, add a little water until it is a better consistency for spreading.

Makes one cup.

Monday, February 21, 2011

 As I was driving to work last week, I kept seeing these little yellow signs all over the place -- Movie Crew Parking and JN. I also noticed that Broad Street was blocked off in places. I decided to take some photos and see if it was the new movie called Joyful Noise that was filming in Newnan. (Those JN signs were a pretty clear clue.)
I found this on Facebook about the movie:
Dolly Parton makes her big screen comeback for the 2011 Musical "Joyful Noise", alongside Grammy-winning actress Queen Latifah. The gospel-musical centers on an unlikely friendship that's the result of a choir director's death. His widow (Parton) assumes she's going to be left in charge of the struggling choir, but a strong-willed mother of two (Latifah) has already taken on the job. Soon, they learn to work together, and with the help of the choir, make musical magic on stage. The two team up for Dolly's first big-screen debut since 1992's Straight Talk. Set to come out summer of 2011. Shooting starts in January. Who else can't wait?
Screenplay By:
Todd Graff
Produced By:
Warner Brothers 
 Pretty cool, huh? I am not a celebrity chaser but it is interesting when "Hollywood" comes to your town. I would have gone a street over and taken some photos but the police were stopping would-be gawkers, as I would have become. I am not sure if the stars were in our town but it is nice to have the movie filming here because I would imagine it helps our local economy.
The great thing about it was everything seemed to be handled in an orderly fashion. It was exciting for a couple of days for us and I think the filming will be moving on this week to Atlanta. I only wish I could have gotten some better photos.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Why I like to buy vegan cookbooks

I just received this great new cookbook in the mail. I have looked at it a number of times on Amazon and at Barnes & Noble and finally found it on Amazon at a price I liked. It is a book written by a couple of vegan chefs and I do think I will really like it. 

I love the fact that they add creamy dressings to soups -- what a novel idea to add flavor without adding fattening ingredients. The dressings or "creams" are made from low-fat tofu. I think it will make a great addition to a veggie soup.

There is also a great mock sour cream recipe I can't wait to try. The last time I purchased some "Tofutti" sour cream in the grocery store, I looked on the ingredients AFTER I brought it home and found it contained milk products. I couldn't believe that! I bought the tofutti because I thought it didn't have any milk. I just hate to buy foods with hidden ingredients. I can't wait to try the new recipe.

Why do I buy vegan cookbooks? I am not a vegan, though I do try to eat a mostly vegetable diet. It is mostly because many of my loved ones have food allergies and the vegan cookbooks give me really great suggestions without adding meat, cheese, milk or eggs. 

Plus, they often use uncommon ingredients -- especially flours. I noticed this book uses some recipes made with garbanzo bean flour and other less common flours. This can be a good thing to replace common allergy foods like wheat.

Cookbooks labeled vegetarian are usually loaded up with recipes with cheese, eggs and milk. Vegan cookbooks never include those recipes. They don't use any animal products at all. They do include some interesting ways to give us the ingredients we love with the healthy benefit of recipes that contain less fat.

I know I will continue buying vegan cookbooks and I think they will help me lead a healthier lifestyle, especially if I eat mostly vegetables.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Blueberry Upside Down Cake

I was in a hurry the other day while preparing a meal for company and decided to make a last-minute dessert. I thought something with fruit would be nice and I knew I had frozen blueberries. I thought of a pie but pies take more time to bake than cakes so the next best option -- an upside down cake. It was
1. Easy,
2. Very good and
3. Fast.

Quick and Easy Blueberry Upside Down Cake

1-1/2 cups blueberries or enough blueberries to cover the bottom of a 9-inch cake pan
1-1/4 cup flour
7 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla flavoring

Spray a 9 inch cake pan with cooking spray. Pour blueberries in the bottom of the pan in a uniform layer. Measure 1/2 cup sugar in a measuring cup and spoon a few heaping teaspoons of sugar over the blueberries in the pan. Pour the remaining sugar in a mixing bowl and add the remaining ingredients. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes or until done. (If using fresh blueberries, it may take less cooking time.) Allow to cool for 5 to 10 minutes. Run a knife around the sides to make sure the cake comes out clean and turn upside down on a serving dish.

Serve alone or with ice cream or whipping cream. Store leftovers in the refrigerator.

I can't really tell you if it stores well because we didn't have any left!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine Wishes

It's Valentine's Day. I can't believe it arrived so quickly.

We have been so busy around here that we haven't made any really great Valentine's crafts. What a shame.

We did buy heart stickers to make cards and then made heart lollipop flowers from pink and red construction paper hearts, heart lollipops and the stickers. We also made candy favor boxes from clear hearts and stickers. It was fun but not very inspiring.

This year, I won't be able to spend time with my husband on Valentine's Day because he will be working so we will probably pick another night to have a "date." The positive thing is that we will probably get a better table at a restaurant.

I used to ask him not to buy me candy (flowers were OK, of course) but I would present him with his favorite box of chocolate truffles. That made him very happy until they changed the truffle recipe, adding fruit flavors, which he hates. Now I am always looking for truffles with no fruit flavors -- not always easy to find. Of course you can make some very good truffle treats but they are a bit time consuming because you have to dip each one in chocolate. Great if you have time. Here is a link for that.

Happy Valentine's Day and I hope your day is wonderful.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Effects of cold weather in the garden

Earlier this week, we had a light dusting of snow. It was perfect, really. It was just enough snow to look pretty, but not enough to damage any plants. The roads were perfectly clear and there was not an awful layer of ice, as there was on the last snowy day.

I have always heard that snow and cold weather was beneficial for gardens and while it may have some positive effects, like softening the ground, according to all I have read, the benefits are not as great as I always heard. Some of what I heard might have been just "old wives tales."

One of the things I always hoped was true was that a colder than usual winter could significantly reduce the insect population. While this may be somewhat true -- some bugs are killed with extremely  cold temperatures, bugs hibernate, burrow deep and migrate enough to avoid dying off to any large degree in our milder climate. After a really cold winter they may decrease a bit, but they will be back after a mild year.

There are some things you can do to help decrease insects in the garden. The number one thing is to till. Till deeply and, if possible, till before the last frost. Tilling at this time will dig up some of the burrowing insects so they will be exposed to the cold and will be killed more easily. It is unlikely you will get all of them, but getting rid of even a few can be helpful. After a terrible year like last year when bugs were such a problem, decreasing them even a little would be great.

I know we will be firing up the tiller as soon as it gets dry enough and just hope we can fight the bugs off a little better this year. If the snow and cold weather help us, that would be great. We would take all the help we can get.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A site for good solid health tips

Last year, a book called Dr. Ann's 10 Step Diet was recommended to me by my doctor who thought following its advice might get my bulging waistline under control. I read the book and really liked the information which was simple, made sense and was based on both scientific studies and Dr. Ann's own medical experience. Dr. Ann Kulze is a medical doctor and a nutritionist -- a rare combination in the medical profession.

After I read the book and began to follow her advice, I looked up her website and found tons of resources for healthy advice on nutrition. She gives you recipes and videos, delivered with a little bit of southern charm, since she lives in Charleston, South Carolina.

I must admit that as much as I like her advice, I do find all diet books to be a little dry and boring. Maybe it is impossible to make a diet exciting. Dr. Ann certainly does try but I have always found it hard to concentrate when reading a self-help book of any kind. That is why I like her videos and newsletters even better. Every month I receive her newsletter via email and I go on her site and watch her new videos, view her recipes and tips. There are a few other things I really like:

* She really loves seafood and highly recommends it. Hooray! I do, too.

* She eats so many vegetables that she has an orange glow. I need an orange glow. It would probably be better than a tan.

* She uses big scientific words but she also explains herself -- great for a person who doesn't deal everything in big scientific words.

* She is very energetic and is obviously happy with her work.

* Even though she does sell a number of items on her website, there are quite a free resources. That is becoming rare these days.

* She also likes green smoothies.

I did lose a clothing size but I can't attribute it all to reading this book. I can't eat as many carbs as she recommends but I do like her advice, especially the recommendations based on studies like drinking water before meals helps with weight loss and eating fat-free dressings seems to slow absorption of phytochemicals. Great tips.

Here's her website if you would like to check her out.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Healthier snack foods

I know it's not a surprise to anyone that we watched the Super Bowl on Sunday. Didn't everybody?

We also had all our favorite snack foods, including pizza from our favorite pizzeria and some great wings from a local wing place.

We did try to have a few healthy things -- a fruit tray, a veggie tray with Tofutti sour cream, salsa and chips and a no-cheese, cheesy dip. (You can tell we have some milk allergies in our crowd.)

We all enjoyed the dips but the cheese dip was probably every one's favorite. It is cheesy, thanks to the nutritional yeast we added. It looks like regular cheese sauce because it is colored with a red bell pepper. For those who just can't tolerate milk products, this is a very good option. Next time you really MUST have cheese dip (or sauce) try this instead. Your digestive system will thank you.

No-Cheese Dip

2 cups water
1 cup raw cashews
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1/2 large red bell pepper
1 teaspoon onion powder
1-1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons arrowroot powder (1 tablespoon corn starch will work as well)

Blend first seven ingredients in blender on high for at least two minutes until completely smooth. Pour into pan and heat at a medium heat stirring frequently. When close to a boil, mix arrowroot powder with a little of the mixture. Add back to the mixture and stir well. Allow the mixture to come to a light boil and thicken. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Mock Sour Cream Onion Dip

1 container of Tofutti sour cream
1 teaspoon dried onion flakes
Spike seasoning, to taste
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
Optional: 1/4 teaspoon parsley flakes

Mix all ingredients together and allow to stand for a half hour so that the dried onions become reconstituted. Enjoy with a carrot sticks, cauliflower flowerettes, broccoli, celery sticks or any bite size vegetable you like.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

A frog and a "Rockoon"

"It's time to do crafts!" I have been hearing that quite a bit around my house. How can you keep a five-year-old entertained? First tell them to go outside and pick up some rocks. If we had smooth, river rocks, it would have been very nice, but these were probably gravel rocks. Using gravel takes more creativity. A small child doesn't really care. A rock is a rock.

We used hot glue to "build" the frog. After this, we painted the frog with acrylic paints. and we were ready to play, or at least ready to hold down papers on a desk. Can you see the smile that was painted beneath the eyes? This frog can watch you do homework, too.

This is practically a free craft because you can always find rocks.

Our inspiration for rock creatures? Mr "Rockoon," given to me by a very talented artist years ago. See what you can do if you have a good imagination? If nothing else, you can keep a child entertained.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Egg white omelets and eating at Paula's for breakfast

Last week we had the opportunity to have breakfast at a Paula Deen restaurant. It was both good and bad. The food was tasty but I am here to tell you that the amount of butter being used in the food was unbelievable. I know that butter tastes good and the food was somewhat above par for a breakfast buffet. Healthy? Not even close -- and we had egg white omelets -- cooked right before us.

The photo above was of my husband's plate. I had half a very tasty muffin, an egg white omelet and fruit. The photo of his plate was better and I think it does look good.

I did make a couple of discoveries. I had always thought egg white omelets were very bland and unappetizing, but the omelet in the center of the photo had egg whites, fresh spinach and mushrooms. I could do that quite easily. My first discovery -- I like egg white omelets and I will make them at home from time to time.

My second discovery -- if I have a chance to eat at Ladies and Sons, Paula Deen's restaurant in Savannah, I will save my calories and eat there because it is a real treat. If I have the opportunity to go to a Paula Deen breakfast buffet rather than eat fast food I might choose the fast food. It was better than some breakfast buffets but it really didn't knock my socks off. Sorry Paula.