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The Itsy Bitsy Spider….is not so Itsy Bitsy!

30 Oct Black and Yellow Spider

For about a month now, a black and yellow spider has camped out in my vegetable garden. He gives new meaning to the words, “spider plant.”

I’ve seen it spin it’s web

Spider Web

Spider Web (sxc.hu -Tinneketin)

around prey and I’ve noticed the spider grow in size (much to my dismay). I’ve never seen a spider like this before and I thought about getting rid of it, but it’s just so pretty!

I have no idea if it’s poisonous or not. It seems to stay in the same place, behind my house, in the backyard, in the vegetable garden.

Halloween Night

Halloween Night in my Backyard (sxc.hu -nvadim)

 

Soon I will have to remove all my withered, spent tomato plants (where Mr. Spider is hanging out as you can see from the photo below).

Black and Yellow Spider

Black and Yellow Spider in my Garden!

Does anybody have any idea how to remove a spider?

Maybe I’ll just let him stay and I’ll be the one to move!

Witch on a Broom

Witch in Flight (fleeing a spider perhaps?) (sxc.hu – angood)

Jack O' Lantern

Jack O’ Lantern (sxc.hu -xRaDx)

                                    

HELP!!!  Spiders are not for my good health!
Happy Halloween!

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New Food Friday – Harira

20 Sep sxc.hu - lamb - iubitzoaia- 1030219

Harira. It sounds like something you would say to your dentist when he has his hands in your mouth.

There are many versions of Harira. In fact, I created my own version when I departed from the recipe I was following. Harira is a soup – stew. It is a Moroccan dish that is eaten often, but particularly at the end of Ramadan, a religious holiday. I was attracted to the recipe because it calls for Turmeric which is a spice I have grown to love. Now you know why I have selected this recipe for New Food Friday.

A lot of attention has been given to Turmeric lately. More research is needed, but some studies show that it has anti-inflammatory properties. It may help fight cancer and it may protect against certain diseases. Read more here.

I like to add Turmeric to a chicken dish that I make. I shake it on the potatoes, carrots, and/or onions that I add to my baking dish. It is also great on a Focaccia bread recipe I love. More about that in next month’s New Food Friday.

Another reason I was looking forward to making Harira is that it also calls for cilantro. I grew my own cilantro this year and within the last few days it started to bolt. I grew it from seed. It grew in a hanging planter

Cilantro

Cilantro growing in a planter. See my rose bush in the background?

and it also grew in my vegetable garden. It would have continued to grow in my vegetable garden if a rabbit didn’t also like it a lot and chewed it to the quick! (Which is why I ended up growing it in a hanging pot.) But really, it is so easy to grow! And the fragrance! It smells wonderful! You have to try it!

Here is the recipe for the Harira. I substituted ground turkey for the lamb. (You can also use beef or chicken.) I also substituted the vermicelli noodles for brown rice. Many recipes say to add flour to thicken the soup. I didn’t want to use flour which is why I added raw rice. It helped thicken the soup. The longer you cook it, the more it thickens. Also, I used a no sodium tomato sauce.

Ingredients

6 – 8 oz lean ground turkey
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 bunch fresh cilantro, finely chopped (about 2 tablespoons)
1 bunch fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley, finely chopped (about 2 tablespoons)
2 celery stalks chopped
1 large yellow onion chopped
1 16-ounce can of low sodium garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained and rinsed
1 fresh tomato chopped
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1½ teaspoons pepper
½ teaspoon turmeric
6 cups water, divided
1/4 cup dry lentils, picked over and washed (I forgot to wash mine! I guess that means you won’t be dining over at my house anytime soon?)
3 tablespoons tomato paste, mixed into 1 cup of water
1 (14-ounce) can chopped tomatoes (I used fresh tomatoes again since I have so many of them this year.)
1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
1/4 cup brown rice

Optional Thickener:
1 cup flour
2 cups water

Instructions:
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the meat and any meat bones if you have them and cook for a few minutes, stirring to brown the meat.
  2. Add the chopped cilantro, parsley, celery, onion, chickpeas, fresh tomatoes, cinnamon, ginger, pepper, and turmeric.
  3. Stir in 3 cups of water. Heat over high heat bringing mixture to a light boil.
  4. Add the lentils, rice, tomato paste mixture, canned (or fresh) tomatoes, and tomato sauce and 3 cups of water.
  5. Cover the pot and heat the soup over high heat to bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and continue cooking, simmering for 45 minutes with the lid ajar to help condense the soup. Stir occasionally.
  6. Taste soup for seasoning. Add salt or pepper if needed.
  7. If you prefer a thicker soup, you can add the flour water mixture after cooking 45 minutes. But I think adding it will dull the flavor and add empty calories.

Serves 6

Harira

Chopping Cilantro for my Harira

I wanted to use my Heirloom tomatoes for this dish but they weren’t ripe enough. Since I had plenty of cherry tomatoes, I used them instead.

Let the Harira come to a light boil.

Boiling Harira

Boiling Harira after all ingredients are added

After 45 minutes of cooking, the Harira thickens.

Thickened Harira

Thickened Harira after cooking 45 minutes

I enjoyed two bowls full of the Harira with my Focaccia bread.

Bowl of Harira

Bowl of Harira with Focaccia Bread

They went well together! This was good and I expect that tomorrow it will be even better. Next time I will use lamb for this dish. Harira is high in protein and fiber. With all the tomatoes, fresh and canned, it contains a lot of lycopene which contains antioxidant and antiproliferative properties. Read more about it  here.

To your good health!

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It’s A Grander!

11 Aug Heirloom Tomato - 14.5 oz

OK, a Grander is a big sailfish and I’m talking about my tomato so I exaggerated a little.

Just a quick post since it’s already past 8:00 pm. Where did the day go? I had visions of writing so many things in this post and/or writing multiple posts and now I’m pushing it to write just this one since I have 4 clean loads of laundry on my bed waiting to be sorted and put away.

Back to my Grander. This summer I decided to plant heirloom tomatoes. I bought just one heirloom plant from Meijer. These things took off like gangbusters! I have never seen a tomato plant be so energetic. I did fertilize it a lot but I fertilized all my other tomato plants too and they haven’t run rampant on me like this one although they look healthy and productive.

Enough talk, here’s a photo. This was the first tomato to fruit from this plant. You should see the main stem! I’m going to have a heck of a time pulling it out of the ground when the season is over.

See, I’m just a frustrated writer who wants to write. Shut up Marcy and show them the tomato already! OK!

Heirloom Tomato - 14.5 oz

Heirloom Tomato – 14.5 oz

This is the biggest tomato I have ever grown! I’m getting a good yield from this plant and it’s barely mid-August. I haven’t tasted it yet. I plucked it because I didn’t want to take the chance that it might fall off and be eaten by bugs. I’ll let you know how it tastes.

Tomorrow tuna and egg salad sandwich with escarole leaves and fat slices of this tomato on rye. I promise to eat a slice on the side, lightly salted so as not to take anything away from the taste. Please heirloom tomato, don’t disappoint!

One of the big differences with heirloom tomatoes is that they are not as disease resistant as other hybrid tomato plants. Hybrid tomatoes generally have an inbred resistance to tobacco mosaic disease, but heirlooms don’t. Heirlooms are plants with seeds that have been handed down from generation to generation, just like heirloom jewelry and furniture! Heirloom tomato plants are known to have a flavor that is complex and rich. My mouth is watering! If it’s as good as it’s cracked up to be, I will be planting it from now on – inbred disease resistance be damned! I favor flavor!

OK, I’m off to watch TV whilst I fold and put away all my laundry. No rest for the weary! Cheerio!

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Signs of Spring: Wet Rains, Weeds, and Wandering Plants

25 May Columbine Flower

My garden is looking pretty and I’ve pulled a lot of weeds to get it to look that way!

Irises

Irises

We’ve had a lot of rain – like every other day. We’ve also had a roller coaster ride of temperatures, from low 40’s to mid-80’s.  It keeps going up and down!

First Rose of Spring

First Rose of Spring

When it’s cool, I make sure I get out in the backyard and get to work!

Flowering Thyme2

Flowering Thyme

I’ve had to mow the lawn weekly, unlike last spring/summer when we had the drought and I didn’t have to mow at all!

Boxwood

Boxwood

My neighbor’s lawn service shaved my Columbine flowers to the quick last summer but fortunately they came back full bloom. A resilient flower that mimics a resilient town in Colorado. When they spread out some more, I will transplant some to the front yard.

Columbine Flower

Columbine Flower

Half of the seeds I sowed in my vegetable garden died due to frost. FROST! In MAY! So, I went out yesterday and planted more seeds. My Cilantro survived though and it’s the first time I planted Cilantro.  Let’s hope there are no more frosts!

I have plants growing in my front yard also. Two of them,  I don’t know where they came from. One looks like a fir tree and it’s about 4 inches tall.  When it gets a little bigger, I’ll transplant it to my backyard. The other plant is a common spider plant. I transplanted it indoors last summer and the plant died. So, I was shocked to see another spider plant out front in the same spot where I removed the first one! The more I think I know about plants, the more they surprise me.

If you’re not growing a garden, you’re missing a lot of fun, good exercise, and Vitamin D.  It’s never too late to get started.

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The Last Rose of Summer

28 Oct Last Roses of Summer

I have a pretty rose bush called Peach Drift that is low maintenance and low in height but high in color and blossoms. It is considered a compact groundcover rose. I am very happy with this rosebush because the colors are gorgeous and the blooms are generous! Also, recently it was showcased on P. Allen Smith‘s television show.

The colors are pink, coral, and pale orange. I’ve had no problems with bugs or any problems and I’ve had it for four years. My only regret is that I planted it where I can’t see it from my patio doors! I just may decide to try and propagate it.

When the weather is gloomy and gray as it is today, you need a touch of mother nature’s beauty to feed your soul for your good health.

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Enjoy my last blooms of this summer’s passing.

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Trees in My Garden

15 Aug Austrian Pine and Colorado Blue Spruce

I’ve been living in my house for 15 years. During that time, I’ve planted a few trees, bushes, flowers, vines, vegetables, and herbs. The birds have done their share of “planting” too.

White Pine when it was a baby

This is what my White Pine looked like when I first planted it. It was about 3′ tall.  I bought it at Meijer where I get most of my plants.

I can’t tell from the photo if I started my vegetable garden or not. It doesn’t look like it.

You can see that I planted the tree a safe distance away from my house. Or, at least it appears that way.

Now, many years later, this is what my White Pine looks like. It’s not a baby anymore! It produces many pine cones.

White Pine “baby” is all grown up and still growing!

My vegetable garden has been in place for many years now too and the White Pine provided needed shade for it this summer. Even though this summer was a hot one and broke records, my house was not nearly as warm as it had been in years past. I think my trees have kept my property cooler. My once gigantic backyard now dwarfs in comparison to my trees!

 

Austrian White Pine

With a name like Austrian White Pine (above) you would think this tree would be very photogenic. I had to take 5 shots of it and I’m still not happy with the results. I ended up chopping the top off in the photo. I’ll try to get a better shot. But you can see the shape of the pine needles and the bushiness of the shape of the branches. It’s a very dark green which doesn’t quite show in the photo. It produces pine cones too. Austrian White Pines are slow growers.

You know, I didn’t take a shot of my Silver Maple, a tree that the birds “planted.” I just took a look at my backyard now and the tree is casting a good amount of shade on my house which I never realized before. This is the reason my bedroom is much cooler. When I saw this tree growing as a baby, I tried to hack it down. All that did was create two trunks. This was a very determined tree. It has gotten very tall and is now spreading out. I’m glad I didn’t kill it. I’ll get a photo of it soon to include here.

I’m also very proud of my Colorado Blue Spruce below. You can really appreciate the blue color of this spruce in contrast to my neighbor’s green tree behind it.

To learn more about my trees and to learn the Top 6 Reasons You Need Trees in Your Yard click this link.

Colorado Blue Spruce – love the blue

Photos of My Garden – Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme

26 Jul My Cherry Tomatoes

This is my “mystery” tomato plant. I now know why the tomato seedlings were on sale at the beginning of the season. All the other seedlings were cherry tomatoes. This one is a Bush tomato plant. How do I know? I know because I planted Bush tomatoes a few summers ago. They are beautiful to look at, juicy, and totally tasteless. You can see my cherry tomatoes in the background.

On the right are my onion chives (or scallions). See the round bulb at the top? It’s ready to flower and go to seed. I’ve got onion chives growing all over my garden. I allow it because they are a pest deterrent and it keeps me “rich” in onions.

I must say, knock on wood, everything in the garden is healthy. So far, I don’t see any pests. They probably all died of thirst or heat stroke. I did find a snake in my garden once. It was a green garden snake and it was dead. That wasn’t in my present garden though, it was when I lived in Lexington, KY.  However, if you want to read a story I wrote about a rattlesnake, click here.

After I watered the garden today, a butterfly flew up to me as if to say “thank you.” ; – )

This is the final installment (IV) of My Vegetable Garden, unless something pops up that I think you might enjoy. I want to try growing artichokes in the future because I am a big fan of them. I need to order them in the mail I think since it’s probably too late to find seeds in the supermarket. Hope you all enjoyed my garden as much as I do.

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Rewards for Doing Everything Right in Your Vegetable Garden

23 Jul sxc.hu/bury-osiol Paweł Zawistowski-raspberries

When you’ve done everything right in your vegetable garden, and when the stars and the moon are in the right position, and the weather has cooperated, and you’ve been lucky to boot, you can sometimes end up with too many vegetables! What? Too many? Yes, it’s happened to me. Let me tell you about it.

I had a surplus of tomatoes one summer. Here’s what I did with them and with other notorious over-producers in the vegetable garden. Click here to learn more.

I am not fortunate enough to be growing fruit in my backyard but boy, I am so itching to do so. Here is a recipe I made with store-bought fruit of which I had an over-abundance. This recipe has a terrible name: Raspberry Grunt. The name comes from the New England states as I understand it. They call it a Slump in Rhode Island and a Grunt in Massachusetts. I think it should be called a Plump.

I purchased a small box of raspberries at my local Meijer because they looked so fresh and plump and the price was right. I had no idea what I was going to make with them. I did what I usually do, checked my cookbooks, looked online, etc. I found the Raspberry Grunt on Martha Stewart’s website. Well, I didn’t have enough raspberries and her recipe also called for blackberries. I didn’t have any of those. But I did have some nectarines and some plums on hand so that is what I used.

The reason I was drawn to this particular recipe is because I didn’t have to turn on the oven. It cooks on the stove top. We’re probably going to hit 100 degrees again today and I don’t want to make my air conditioner run anymore than it has to!

First, I tasted one of the raspberries. Wow! Talk about tart! I would have rather bitten into a lemon. So, I made sure I added more sugar than the recipe called for. That is the opposite of what I usually do in a recipe. Here is what the fruit looked like when everything was rinsed, peeled, and cut into slices.

My Recipe

1  1/4 Cup sugar

1/4 teasp. plus pinch cinnamon

3/4 Cup all-purpose flour

3/4 teasp. ground ginger

1/3 Cup milk, room temperature

3 Tablesp. unsalted butter, melted

2 Cups raspberries

2 nectarines, pitted and peeled

2 plums, pitted and peeled

2 Tablesp. lemon juice or orange marmalade

3/4 teasp. baking powder

salt

Directions

Mix 2 Tablsp. sugar and 1/4 teasp. cinnamon and set aside. Wisk flour, 2 Tablesp. of the sugar, baking powder, pinch salt, and ginger in a bowl and set aside.  Stir milk and melted butter in small bowl. Mix the milk/butter into the flour mixture and set aside.

Put the fruit into a skillet and add 2 Tablsp water. Add the remaining pinch of cinnamon. Add the lemon juice or marmalade and the remaining sugar. Cover and bring to a boil over medium-high heat stirring occasionally.

Drop 8 large dollops of batter on top of the fruit mixture. Using two spoons to do this helps. Space them evenly apart. Sprinkle the cinnamon/sugar mixture over the top of the batter dumplings. Cover and reduce the heat to medium or lower depending on your stove. Cook until the dumplings are cooked through and the juices are bubbling, about 12-15 minutes. You can serve it warm as is or with cream drizzled on top or ice cream.  I also like it served cold.

Here is a photo of the results.

My take on the taste and texture.

Even though I added 1/4 cup more sugar than the original Martha Stewart recipe, my fruit was still too tart. I didn’t add lemon juice as was required in the original recipe either; I used my homemade orange marmalade instead which was very sweet. Yet I still wanted to pucker because it was tart! True, I didn’t drizzle cream or serve it with ice cream which would have helped a lot. So, if you use berries, especially raspberries in your recipe, you may want to add more sugar, especially if you don’t serve it with cream or ice cream.

The dumplings. Now this is what made it worthwhile. These dumplings were out of this world. They were fluffy, big, tender, and delicious. I ate two but I wanted to eat four. This was my breakfast today. I’m going to have some for dessert after dinner too! It may not taste as tart when it’s cold.

Extra Tip. The other thing I did differently was that I used powdered milk. So, I mixed 1/3 cup water with 3 tablespoons powdered milk. The box directions say use 5 tablespoons powdered milk to an 8 oz glass of water to get 8 oz of milk. I added a lot more than was needed. Why? We need our calcium for good health. I add powdered milk to a lot of recipes. You can’t tell the difference.

I will definitely make this again using different fruits. I might even use frozen fruit to make it easier and quicker.

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Photos of My Garden – Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme

19 Jul sxc.hu/ pat61nl Patrizia Schiozzi http://fotografie.patriziaschiozzi.nl

This is a very robust sage plant above. I pick the leaves and it comes back threefold. It not only makes food taste good, but it’s a beautiful, full plant and a lovely greenish-blue color that matches my Colorado Blue Spruce and my “White” pine.

I’ve neglected watering my thyme on the right, because it was taking over my vegetable garden.  It is also very hardy and very fragrant. You can see how brown my grass is in the lower part of the photo  due to the drought we are having in Indianapolis and surrounding areas. Yesterday we actually had some rain! Phew! What a relief! I never thought I’d be worried about rainfall!   Continued……

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Photos of My Garden – Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme

19 Jul My Harvest - Marcella Rousseau

Above is my potted cherry tomato plant. There are no tomatoes on it because I picked them all. It’s so convenient to pick and to water. I just slide open the patio doors and dump a glass of water on it!
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On the right are my garlic chives.  Would you have guessed that garlic chives could have such pretty flowers? 
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Continued…….
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