Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Please, more peas

I am so happy to be starting on our garden this year. The only problem I see is that the warm weather is coming so quickly this year. I do think gardeners are never quite satisfied. One year it's too cold, the next, too rainy and now, it's just a bit too hot!

What will that do for my peas, or rather my pea pods? I think it will be fine as long as it doesn't get too hot before the vines grow.

Last year we grew tons of green peas and a few pea pods and the pea pods were the best. This year we really didn't want to shell and shell and shell peas so we went for just the pea pods to grace our stir-fries and salads and just for the yummy, crunchy goodness of them. I am hoping they have a growth spurt because we are ready for them. Come on peas, we are counting on you!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Garden Club Reminder

Just a reminder that Monday is the big day for our next Crossroads Garden Club Meeting! The time is 7:00 pm and the place is 3072 Hwy 154, Newnan, Ga. We are meeting in an old barn building that was once a craft store.

Our guest speaker will be Charlotte Nelson. She was featured in last year's gardening section of Newnan-Coweta Magazine. I have been to her straw bale garden and have witnessed her many gardening talents. She is also a club member and we are so happy to welcome her as our guest speaker. Even though our garden is a little more traditional, I think the straw bale garden is one I hope to use in the future, perhaps with my squash if I continue to have problems with vine borers!

Charlotte is a delightful speaker and I am really looking forward to this event.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Almond meal brownies

My husband loves sweets but it is hard to make something just for him since our 6 year old grandson is always around and always wondering how I could possibly make a dessert he can't eat.

This recipe satisfies them both. It is not a vegan recipe since it has egg whites, but it does contain maple syrup as the sweetener which doesn't raise one's glycemic index quite like other sweeteners. Great for someone who needs to stay away from sugars that feed yeast, the reason our little one can't eat most regular treats or desserts.

This recipe everyone enjoys.

I have doubled the recipe for an iced birthday cake that is delicious with a 7 minute frosting. This is definitely gluten-free, high in protein rather than just carbs and my husband asks for it all the time.

Here it is. My daughter adapted to it our taste from a Bob's Red Mill recipe. It is  not cheap because you are using ground almonds for the main ingredient.

Almond Meal Brownies

1/2 heaping cup cocoa
3 tablespoons corn starch
3/4 cup almond meal flour (you can use almonds that are very finely ground in a food processor)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, melted (use canola oil, if you are allergic to dairy)
3/4 cup maple syrup
3 egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla flavoring

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a mixing bowl, put the cocoa, corn starch, almond flour, baking powder and salt. Blend with wire whisk.

Pour in the wet ingredients -- melted butter, maple syrup, egg whites and vanilla flavoring.

Mix together with the whisk until well blended. Pour into a greased square 9 inch pan. We used a stone ware pan. Though it is oblong, it works well on this recipe because it keeps the edges from turning too brown.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes at 350 degrees. Don't overcook. Brownies aren't good when they are scorched. The top should be firm and the edges should not be browned.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Another spring and summer garden begins!

We are at least a week (or two) later than I wanted to be but we have our early crops in the ground. I have discovered those muscles that I had stopped using over the winter and they are still a little sensitive, even several days later.

We had already planted our Oregon Pea Pods and they are peeking through but aren't too tall yet. We also planted beets -- both golden and red, scarlet radishes, carrots, red and yellow onions, spinach, kale, bok choy, softneck garlic, lettuce and arugula.

With the weather being so warm, I am thinking we probably should get a few of our warm weather seeds in the ground, too. We have places picked out for squash, tomatoes and okra and this year and we hope to plant things like cilantro, basil, garlic, marigolds, alyssum and maybe other herbs to keep the insects at bay throughout the garden.

The hardest thing to do is to rotate each crop. We really must plan ahead because we want at least three years between growing plants in the same area. We are back to the first year for squash which will be planted in the original space on the right side of the garden and tomatoes that will be on the left side of the garden. It is really a bit tough but each year we have to keep better records than before to remember what we did the previous year (or two).

Today we are havesting the rest of of our collards and Brussels sprouts. We are leaving the center stems of the collards because they are flowering. We hope to keep the pollinators and other beneficial insects coming back for more on a daily basis. It really feels good to get the garden started again!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Getting rid of carpenter bees

Yesterday, I was at my sister's house and the weather was perfect. It was so warm and nice and we watched as some friendly (to us), bug-eating lizards were sunning themselves. Then we were buzzed by one of the most invasive pests around -- carpenter bees.

These pests seek out wood to drill and burrow into to create a catacomb of perfectly round holes, then set up housekeeping and lay eggs that hatch young that burrow more wood. This cycle causes major damage and costly repairs. Can you tell that I despise this pest? Not  only because they are pesky and destructive but also because they get so close to you and hover.

They are often confused with bumble bees but they are not the same at all. They are like the evil twin of a bumble bee. Bumble bees are very helpful because they fly around spreading pollen from flower to flower -- just the thing we need in the garden. Though bumblebees will also buzz you, they at least serve a useful purpose in nature.

To identify them, the carpenter bee has a white spot on his head while the bumble bee's head is all black. Bumble bees are more hairy while carpenter bees have a slick underbelly. Bumble bees don't drill holes in your house, either. They are too busy pollinating flowers.

I found this Wikipedia image, above of carpenter bee damage. They are very destructive insects.

My sister told me how she had read that a grandmother took care of her carpenter bee problem by putting a bounty on carpenter bees. She told the the grandkids she would pay them for every carpenter bee they would knock down with a tennis racquet. They enthusiastically took her challenge and knocked down bees by the dozens. She was happy to pay her grandchildren and the next year -- no carpenter bees.

My sister and I decided to try this and she grabbed an old badminton racquet. We started swatting and before we knew it, we had downed five of the hated insects. I really think it will work to rid us of our pests and help us take our frustrations out on something that is really causing problems. It is kind of fun.

Just don't go after your bumble bees. They are probably more aggressive than the carpenter bees and they do sting (the male carpenter bees don't sting and they are usually the ones that hover). I am thinking a badminton raquet is best, too, since they are lighter that a tennis raquet. I would hate to get tennis elbow from swatting carpenter bees!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Green popcorn? It's for St. Patrick's Day!

I know today is not St. Patrick's Day but in all of our local schools the kids are wearing
green, drinking green punch, green Jello squares and probably eating more green food
coloring in a day than they should eat in a year.

I made some green popcorn for my little grandson from a recipe they sent home from school. I did have to change it a bit for his dietary restrictions but I thought I would share it.

8 cups of popcorn, popped
1/4 cup butter
3 tablespoons blue agave nectar
1/2 cup maple sugar
1 3 ounce package of sugar-free Jello

Pour popped popcorn into a large bowl. In a saucepan, melt butter on medium heat. Add agave nectar, and bring to a boil. Stir in maple sugar and Jello. Bring to a boil and stir for 4 to 5 minutes.

Remove from heat and slowly drizzle over popcorn.

Line a large baking pan with tin foil and bake at 300 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes, checking so that it doesn't brown. Allow to cool and store in an airtight container.

This was good with lime Jello but might be a bit odd with other flavors. I didn't think this was as green as I thought it would be but maybe that is OK since kids eat so much food coloring.

I intend to try it with a little more maple sugar to see if it will taste like candied popcorn.

Have a happy St. Patrick's Day!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

My St. Patrick's Day Pins

Saturday is St. Patrick's Day and while it isn't a major holiday for most of the US, it is a very big deal in Ireland and certain US cities with a large Irish populations. I know Savannah, Ga. is one of those cities, though the celebration there is more of a secular holiday now.

My grandmother used to say she was Irish, though we haven't uncovered any evidence in our heritage to support her claim. I always think of her when March 17th rolls around because even though we can't prove she was Irish, I remember her fondly on that day.

I pulled these images from my Pinterest account, some of which I probably will use for my grandchildren. They love both minor and major holidays. I particularly like the shamrocks above because I have always heard that St. Patrick taught people about the Trinity by using a shamrock. Even though many historians now say this might be a myth, I really love the way the artist at artprojectsforkids.org used a cross and hearts to make a perfect shamrock. I must say I think it represents St. Patrick, a missionary, better than the four-leaf clover that is supposed to represent "the luck of the Irish."

I also love this rainbow made from fruit. The story of the pot of Irish gold hidden by leprechauns at the end of the rainbow has always been one of my favorites. When I was a very gullible child, I would have tried to chase the rainbow to the end if my parents had let me. This is one of the best decorative food displays I have seen at brandyscrafts.blogspot.com.

And this is so cute! A "sandwich" made from spinach tortillas with grated cheese or carrot for the beard. The fruit on the top looks very much like a rainbow to me. You can find this at brandyscrafts.blogspot.com.

If I could crochet, I would love to make this shamrock to use as a lapel pin. I don't know how, but maybe one day if I develop the skill and have the time. The details are at cache.lionbrand.com.

I really like the corned beef hash, above. I would also cook some of my Brussels sprout heads from my garden to go with it. Go to marthastewart.com to make this and also the one below.

I would probably never make these sandwiches --- but I really love them because they are so pretty, and perfect. I love cream cheese and cucumbers and maybe this wouldn't be as tedious as it looks. Go to marthastewart.com to learn how to make these pretty sandwiches.

I try not to use so much food coloring but I think I should make the popcorn like the bowlful, above right, this year.

And then I have two suggestions for entertainment, which won't add calories, just fun. For the little ones, Leprechaun Bingo. Go to partiesandholidays.blogspot.com to see this and more ideas.

And below is my favorite Irish movie. "The Quiet Man" is the perfect movie to watch for St. Patrick's Day. It is funny, sweet and it tells so much about Irish heritage.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Garden iPad cover

 The other day I ordered a "garden" iPad cover. It is not the perfect cover but it was reasonably priced and it will protect my iPad from scratches and dings. I ordered it because it has a garden theme and I thought that was appropriate for me.

I also wanted to tell you about a great iPad app I found. It is called GardinateHD. It was started by a gardener in Australia who developed it to help keep records of planting and maintaining your garden. It has a list of plants and the times you should plant them.

You can make notes about all you did to grow a certain plant and here is the thing I like best -- you can put in the date of planting and you can then see when the harvest date should be for your area. I think this is really great and I hope -- really hope it will improve my garden record keeping this year. So far it has been an enjoyable for me. You can even use an online version, but I don't know if it as helpful as the App. There is also an Android version.

If you are wondering if there is an app for almost anything, the answer is probably, yes.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Two things

I have some great news about our new Crossroads Garden Club. See the inhttp://twosistersgardening.blogspot.com/formation here.

My seeds are looking so good -- or should I say my plants. Above you can see my baby basil plants and my cilantro babies, too at the lower edge of the photo. They are beginning to put out second leaves. They are amazing!

At this point I will just say that I think grow lights are just wonderful. The difference in growing last year without a light and this year with a light is just night and day -- or should it be darkness and light? I do notice from the photo above that one of my little pots doesn't have a plant!! How did that happen? Anyway, grow lights. They don't have to be wonderful, a fluorescent will do. They also sell just regular lights at Lowe's and Home Depot that are made for growing and they fit in a regular light bulb and are very reasonable.

It is time now for tomatoes, peppers and eggplants. I will be moving these plants to another spot to start my next group of seeds. I would also like to grow a few flowers, especially alyssum and marigolds because they are great companions for vegetables. Some of these herbs I will grow in the regular vegetable garden, too. I am hoping this continues and I have all the basil I could possibly use.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Oh, the Places You'll Go, and other reflections

Today is the big release day for the new Lorax movie based on the beloved book, The Lorax by Dr. Seuss. More importantly, it is also the birthday of Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel).

It is hard to find a person who hasn't in some way been entertained and inspired by Dr. Seuss. The first of his books I remember reading is The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins. I also read If I Ran the Zoo so many times to my children that I can still recite most of it and who hasn't made green eggs for their kids? I never could bring myself to add green food coloring to ham, though.

In honor of this day, I found some rare plants inspired by Dr. Seuss. Do you think Dr. Seuss was inspired by any of these for his truffula trees?

"Mister!", he said with a sawdusty sneeze, I am the Lorax, I speak for the trees.
I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues,
And I'm asking you, sir, at the top of my lungs" --
He was very upset as he shouted and puffed --
"What's that THING you've made out of my Truffula tuft?"

-- From The Lorax, Dr. Seuss, 1971

By Fort Photo, Michael Menefee: "Oh Gee!" the Lorax said with glee, "I've found a green bee in a truffula tree!"

From Lolabud: Remnants of my clematis blooms, a reminder of Dr. Seuss', The Lorax.

From Lee Sie's Photostream: The Truffula Trees

From MegaGood: Flowers from a Dr. Seuss Arrangement

From Doug's Blog: A Garden of Dr. Seuss Flowers in Boston Near the Location of the Reformation 500

From Nathan's Two Cents

From houzz.com: Great Design Plant: Tree Aloe (Aloe barberae). Plant this Dr. Seuss-like evergreen for an added character in your garden

From Eric Toensmeier - writer, trainer, plant geek: This was apparently Dr. Suess' inspiration for the truffula trees in The Lorax. Theodore Giesel (Dr. Suess) lived just down the road from my house, in Springfield MA.

From Floral Sense: The Blog: Thing 1 and Thing 2

Also from Floral Sense: The Blog: And my floral interpretation of the Lorax trees in the theme colors

From amyfancher.com: Sculptural flower arrangements inspired by Dr. Seuss!

From Project 365, A Picture a day ... and maybe more: Truffula tree

From Rwanda on the Wing: I am not sure Dr. Seuss visited Africa before writing and illustrating The Lorax, but if he had, he would have seen his fictional truffula trees. The umuko, as it is called in Kinyarwanda, or Erythrina abyssinica, lights up the hillsides of Rwanda.

I don't know where Dr. Seuss got his inspiration but he certainly has continued to inspire us, gave us joy in reading and sometimes taught us a few lessons from life. I am pleased to join everyone in celebrating his accomplishments.

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.”
“From there to here, and here to there, funny things are everywhere.”

“And will you succeed?
Yes! You will indeed!
(98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed)”

-- From Oh, the Places You'll Go, Dr. Seuss, 1990

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Snack time!

I am sorry to say this is not a healthy recipe or a gluten-free recipe. This is however an easy recipe and sometimes easy wins for me. I also thought it was tasty and made a TON of snack mix. This will serve a large crowd.

I made it because I wanted something tasty that wasn't corn chips or potato chips. This just seemed a more festive alternative. The taste reminds me of chips and onion dip combined in a form that is less messy. Here's the recipe and I will follow it with some gluten-free suggestions.

Ranch Snack Mix

1 box of Crispix Cereal (approx. 12 ounces)
1 box of Cheese-it Crackers (regular-sized box, approx. 13.7 ounces)
1 bag of small-sized pretzels (approx. 10 ounces)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 packages of Hidden Valley Seasoning Mix
2 gallon baggies or a very large bowl

Divide between 2 gallon bags, equal parts of the cereal, cheese crackers and pretzels. Leave enough space to carefully roll the bags to mix in the oil and the seasoning mix. If you would like, carefully stir the mix with a large spoon.

Drizzle  the olive oil between the two bags and roll so that the oil will blend into the mix.

Add one package of Hidden Valley Seasoning mix to each bag. Rolls until seasoning mix coats everything, and you're done. This should last in a sealed container for up to two weeks.

Note: I don't believe the size of the boxes really matter or how much of each ingredient you add. I like the Crispix best so I would probably add more of that than anything but you can make this your way or make a half recipe if you don't need such a large quantity. I used a very large plastic bowl that held the two gallons of mix and I carefully turned the bowl until all was mixed. Be careful not to break the ingredients because you don't want to be left with crumbs in the bottom.

By the way, my husband commented that this stuff was just too good and we were going to have to do something with it because it was making him f

For a gluten-free alternative: Crispix is not gluten free because it contains barley, so substitute Rice Chex for the Crispix. For the cheese crackers use either Wellaby's Cheese ups or Shar Cheese Bites. Glutinos has a gluten-free pretzel that is good and the Hidden Valley Ranch Mix is gluten-free so here are my gluten-free alternative suggestions. I think adding the seasoning would enhance these gluten-free products and make it even better for a party. I think it would be good enough to serve to all guests.

If you try the gluten-free mix, please let me know how it turns out.