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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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New Food Friday – Almond Milk

15 Mar Milk Mustache-flickr

In my search to find lactose free foods that are high in calcium, I found almond milk. This particular brand (Silk), has 45% DV calcium with no lactose. I am very pleased to say that it is also delicious and is therefore the pick for this New Food Friday!

I love almonds, who doesn’t? So it’s no surprise that I love almond milk too.

sxc.hu sateda Almond Heart

Almond Heart sxc.hu sateda

Almond milk tastes like chocolate milk without the chocolate. But before you lactose intolerant folks run out and buy some, you should know that there are differences in the various brands of this type of milk in the event you want to cook with it. Aye, there’s the rub. There’s always a catch, isn’t there?

First, what about freezing it? Since an opened container of almond milk should be used before 7-10 days, I wondered if I could freeze some in the event I couldn’t drink it all in that time span.

According to the Silk website, the product changes in texture when thawed although you may still use it for frozen dessert recipes.

As it turned out, I had no problem drinking one cup daily for breakfast and finishing the container before the 10 days was up. The almond flavor goes great while eating a banana. I’m not a cold cereal eater in the wintertime, but I bet almond milk would be great in a bowl of cereal with sliced bananas!

So, can you heat it? Yes, you can with the Silk brand of almond milk.  I can’t wait to make hot chocolate with it. By the way, the recipes on their website are decadent! See http://silk.com/recipes 

If you can heat it, then you can bake with it so I made a batch of carrot/walnut/raisin muffins with one cup of almond milk.  

Carrot.Walnut.Raisin Muffin

Carrot/Walnut/Raisin Muffin made with Almond Milk

They came out great!

Many people make their own almond milk. It’s not that difficult. Here is one example.

Almonds and almond milk are very good sources of Vitamin E. Vitamin E helps with less cognitive decline as you age.  Some say almonds keep you thinking clearly and boost brain power. So, the benefits of almonds and almond milk go further than adding calcium to your diet and helping folks with lactose intolerance.

One cup of Almond milk also contains 25% DV of vitamin D. Vitamin D as you know, is the sunshine vitamin. We don’t get as much sunshine in the winter as we do in the summer when we’re outdoors more. It isn’t easy to get the vitamin D we need everyday so almond milk can help you reach those dietary needs too.

Here is the nutritional information.

Almond Milk Nutrition Facts

Almond Milk Nutrition Facts

 

This is an almond grove.

sxc.hu pv Almond Trees

Almond Trees sxc.hu pv

 

This is an almond branch with almonds.

sxc.hu pv Closeup of Unhusked Almonds

Closeup of Unhusked Almonds sxc.hu pv

 

This is your brain on almonds and almond milk.

sxc.hu plrang This is Your Brain

This is Your Brain on Almond Milk   sxc.hu plrang

The milk mustache in the Featured column is by Vengel Crimson – flickr

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New Food Friday – Tangelos

22 Feb Orchard sxc.hu/winterdove

Have you tried a tangelo? They look like an orange but are much less acidic. They are very juicy and very sweet. I am hooked on tangelos and so this post for New Food Friday is about tangelos!

Tangelos are grown specifically in Florida.

 I am on my third 5-lb bag of tangelos and I have one tangelo for breakfast everyday.

Bag of Oranges sxc.hu/JR3

Bag of Oranges sxc.hu/ JR3

I used to eat an orange everyday but they are too acidic for me. Once I tasted a tangelo, I was a convert.

Here are the Nutrition Facts.  

Nutrition Facts-Tangelo

Nutrition Facts-Tangelo Click to enlarge

 

When you take into account the smaller size of the tangelo compared to an orange, note that the average size orange is 180 grams and the average tangelo is 109 grams so don’t let the difference in calcium throw you (or the other differences either).

For myself, I prefer the smaller fruit. Oranges have morphed into a fruit that is so big that when I ate them, I eventually decided to just eat half. I wish they would stop growing fruit to such an enormous size! Even apples are ridiculously large these days. I wonder why this super-sized fruit growth hasn’t been addressed by health experts as they have addressed portion sizes for everything else, haven’t they!

Orange Branches sxc.hu pepo

Orange Branches sxc.hu pepo

Tangelos make a good snack during the day because they are low in calories and you can’t scarf them down in a hurry.

Tangelo Waiting to be Peeled

Tangelo Waiting to be Peeled

Tangelos are a cross between a tangerine and a grapefruit. This is surprising to me because they don’t look or taste anything like a grapefruit.   They are very sweet. There are several varieties and the ones I’ve had so far vary in the amount of seeds.

The tangelo in my photo had no seeds. The last bag of tangelos I bought had more seeds than the other two bags but for the most part, there are few seeds.

Peeled Tangelo

Peeled Tangelo

Also, the type that I bought was not that easy to peel which makes it a challenge to avoid breaking the membranes and losing a drop of that delicious juice!

On the other hand, juice is going everywhere in the little Italian town of Ivrea. As you can see in the photo, the Italians have other uses for oranges besides eating them and cross-breeding them.

Annual Carnival in the Italian city of Ivrea sxc.hu JosipBroz

Annual Carnival in the Italian city of Ivrea sxc.hu JosipBroz

In this photo they are celebrating the Annual Carnival in the Italian city of Ivrea where they throw oranges at each other.

In the Valencia region of Spain, they hold a tomato-throwing festival. (Ironic isn’t it that they are throwing tomatoes and not oranges in Valencia!)

La_Tomatina Wikipedia - flydime

La_Tomatina Wikipedia – flydime

Fruit throwing is one way to get out your aggression. It’s also good exercise and apparently fun, therefore good for your health, although you could be hurt by getting hit. But at least it isn’t a bullet, some would say. Maybe we need to throw more fruit in America.

Would you stand under an orange tree? I wouldn’t, not even if the trees were on a patio with a fountain!

A fountain in the Patio of Oranges within the grounds of the Cathedral of Sevilla sxc.hu sueanna

A fountain in the Patio of Oranges within the grounds of the Cathedral of Sevilla Click to see the oranges. sxc.hu sueanna

It’s a good way to get unexpectedly clunked on the head.

Once I sat under an almond tree and an almond fell on me. It was like a missile and it hurt like heck! That’s right, a little old almond. They’re not so little when they are unhusked!

So,  for the time being, I’d rather eat than throw oranges or tomatoes or tangelos. Then again, maybe I’m just comparing apples to oranges.

Apples and Oranges sxc.hu cherrycoke.jpg

Apples and Oranges sxc.hu cherrycoke.jpg

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New Food Friday – Saigon Cinnamon

1 Feb Cassia tree

Cinnamon, what would life be like without it? Stores are named after it: Cinnabon. Strippers are named after it: Cinnamon Buns. Musical groups are named after it: Cinnamon Chasers.

As you may know, cinnamon comes from the bark of a tree. It is one of the oldest known spices. Arab traders brought it from China in 1700 B.C.

It’s that spicy, aromatic, and sweet-hot spice that we love to add to dishes both sweet and savory. This New Food Friday is about Saigon Organic Cinnamon.

If you will recall, last week we (we?) were eating roots of trees (Yuca Root). This week we are eating the bark of trees. If I keep following this path, next week we (we?) could be eating leaves of trees or sap from trees! Perhaps my subconscious is still showing reverence to the almighty tree, after writing a post about the American blight-decimated chestnut tree!

Whatever the case may be, I couldn’t wait to finish using my regular (cassia) cinnamon so I could try my Saigon Cinnamon (which is still cassia cinnamon). Unfortunately, due to misinformation I received on the Internet, this is not the cinnamon I was looking for.

Let me explain. There are two types of cinnamon: one is called cassia cinnamon and the other is Ceylon cinnamon, the “true” cinnamon. I thought I was buying true cinnamon. I was not. In the States, what we know as cinnamon is really the bark of a cassia tree.

Brewster's Cassia - flowering tree

Brewster’s Cassia – flowering tree (Photo credit: Tatters:))

According to the http://www.thefreedictionary.com, the definition of a cassia tree is a tropical Asian evergreen tree (Cinnamomum cassia) having aromatic bark used as a substitute for cinnamon.

English: Bark of Cassia siamia tree ocurring i...

Bark of Cassia siamia tree (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

However, as far as cinnamon goes, Saigon Cinnamon is absolutely delicious! If you shake some on your finger and taste it, it is sweet as if there was sugar mixed in with the cinnamon. This surprised me!

It has that wonderful zing to it and I’m sure you already know that the aroma is divine. It is hard for me to imagine how much better “true” cinnamon would be! But I will continue to be on the lookout for it!

True cinnamon comes from Ceylon from the bark of a true cinnamon tree.  However, since 1972, the island country known as Ceylon changed its name to Sri Lanka.

Tea plantation in Sri Lanka

Tea plantation in Sri Lanka (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is situated off the coast of India and is often referred to as the “teardrop of India.” This is due to its shape like a teardrop. To add to the name confusion, they still call the true cinnamon, Ceylon Cinnamon (and not Sri Lanka cinnamon). 

In this photo below, you can see the difference between Ceylon cinnamon (left) and Indonesian (cassia) cinnamon (right).

English: Ceylon cinnamon (cinnamomum verum) an...

Ceylon cinnamon and Indonesian cinnamon (photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ceylon Cinnamon has citrus overtones and a rich buff color. It is less strong than cassia cinnamon, and lacks bite.  Ceylon cinnamon sticks are papery thin. It is the favorite cinnamon of both Europe and Mexico. It will shine in custard, cinnamon ice cream, Dutch pears, stewed rhubarb, steamed puddings, dessert syrups, or mixed into whipped cream.

According to the label of McCormick’s Organic Saigon Cinnamon,

Saigon Cinnamon Jar

Saigon Cinnamon Jar

it has been harvested from the central highlands of Vietnam and is the highest quality 100% organic cinnamon. That’s good enough for me! It was pricey as you can imagine. I think I paid over $4.00 for it for a 1.5 oz jar. It has a Best Buy date of October, 2014. It is long-lasting unlike many other spices which are best used within a 6-month period for optimum taste.

I decided to make cinnamon raisin bread with my Saigon Cinnamon. The results were great.

Cinnamon Loaves

Cinnamon Loaves

I baked two loaves on Tuesday and my house still smells like cinnamon. (You might want to remember this when the Christmas holidays come around, or if you want to sell your house!)  I love to pull apart a slice and “unwind” the curled bread. It brings out the kid in me, what can I say.

Cinnamon Loaf Sliced

Cinnamon Loaf Sliced

If you’ve never made cinnamon bread, you have to roll out the dough into a flat rectangle, brush with melted butter, and sprinkle a cinnamon sugar mixture over the whole thing. Then you sprinkle on the raisins.  Then you roll up the short end, or the end close to you, like rolling up a carpet.

Can you see in the photo where I began rolling up the dough? My recipe called for three eggs and I substituted two cups of white whole wheat flour for the white flour to make it more nutritious.

The recipe also called for a cinnamon, sugar, flour, butter, crumb topping which was just added work and totally unnecessary and then makes a mess when you slice it.

Cinnamon Raisin Bread is delicious toasted and buttered with or without jam for breakfast. I used to eat cream cheese and jelly sandwiches on raisin bread at school when I was a kid, which is very good! It’s also good made into French Toast although I haven’t tried that myself. I also like it plain as a snack while watching TV in the evening.

There are many cinnamon raisin bread recipes online and it is amazing that they are all different! Look for one that has a lot of good reviews or get one from a trusted site like Martha Stewart or Epicurious. Use whatever cinnamon you have on hand but if you are running out of cinnamon, try the Saigon Cinnamon. It’s very good! ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Winter Scenes Can Make You Relax

24 Dec Fireplace

There is nothing more beautiful than snowy, winter scenes. Oh yes, the ice and slick streets can be treacherous when you have to drive on them, but let me take you instead on a relaxing tour of gorgeous scenes of snow and ice.  Winter Scene

All you have to do is scroll; driving is not necessary. Grab a sweater because the scenes may make you chilly.Winter Scene

It is cold enough and therefore safe to go ice skating,  Have you ever been ice skating outdoors?Snow on the Lake

The sun has warmed up this lake. Can you feel the winter sun’s warmth? There is something about snow scenes on a lake that is so peaceful.

At a time when the holidays bring stress to so many, it’s good to take time out and appreciate mother nature’s beauty.Winter Willow Trees

Click this photo  with the Weeping Willow trees to see all the birds on the lake. They liked the scenery so much that they forgot to fly south for the winter. Winter in Hamburg

Nighttime brings out a different feeling in winter scenes.

Winter NightThe snow has muffled all sounds except for our breathing. I can almost see my breath in the air! Can you smell the pine trees?

Hot DrinkWe have arrived at our destination. Time to warm up with a hot drink.

Fireplace & TreeAnd maybe a nap in front of the fireplace.

Stay safe and warm this holiday season.  HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO ALL!

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New Food Friday – White Dragon Fruit

23 Nov Red-tongued Dragon

Last week, instead of me surprising you with a new food for New Food Friday, you surprised me when many of you let me know that you’ve been eating sardines all along. Some were lucky enough to have the fresh sardines! I am envious but I am happy to know that you are eating food that is good for you! My hat’s off to you fellow sardinians!

OK, so that upped the ante for me to find something more exotic to introduce you to on New Food Friday. I think I found it: White Dragon Fruit.

Fire-breathing DragonNo, no, no, there is no fire-breathing dragon involved and the taste is not fire-y hot either. Some say it is a mildly sweet taste; a cross between a kiwi and a watermelon.

No, White Dragon Fruit has nothing to do with a water-breathing dragon either.Water-breathing dragon

Or a lighted dragon either for that matter.Lighted Dragon

And no, I’m not talking about a Drag Queen. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.Drag Queen

I’m talking about a Dragon Fruit. The outside skin is a beautiful color. It is described as red but I wouldn’t call it red. It may be more of a cranberry color. The texture of the skin is waxy, like a candle.White Dragon Fruit      You can see how it gets it’s name because of the way the leaves simulate scales like a dragon’s scales. Yes, you’re correct, fish also have scales but we did fish last week. This week we’re doing dragons. What has gotten into you?  Was it too much turkey yesterday?

The inside of a Dragon Fruit can be either white (with little seeds that are crunchy like kiwi seeds)White Dragon Fruit Sliced or red like the outside skin, or even yellow. There are no quills, spines, or needles to worry about on this fruit even though the tree from which it grows is considered a cactus.

The Dragon Fruit flower is gorgeous. Dragon Fruit FlowerNote the fire-y red stamen coming out of the flower. Again, mimicking a dragon’s breath. According to Wikipedia, the flowers bloom overnight and are pollinated by bats. All we need now is a vampire to round out the image of this fruit! The image below  is what the Dragon Fruit tree looks like. Dragon Fruit TreeAccording to the photographer, this is the largest Dragon Fruit tree in the world and is located in Icod de Los Vinos, in northern Tenerife (Canary Islands, Spain). Estimates of its age vary between 500 and 3,000 years old!

Nowadays these fruits are grown in Florida and California and it is said that they are catching on the way kiwi have caught on. Dragon Fruits are also known as Pitahaya.

Nutritional facts vary and may depend on which type of Dragon Fruit you purchase. The fruit I bought was manufactured by the Melissa brand which showed little beneficial vitamins or nutrients on her website for this fruit. Other websites said they are high in vitamin C, rich in phosphorus and calcium with free radical fighters known to contain phytoalbumin antioxidants. However, nobody would argue that they are low in calories and high in fiber. They are native to Mexico, Central and South America, East Asia, and Southeast Asian countries, among others.

How to Serve

Dragon Fruit tastes best eaten raw and chilled. You can sprinkle lemon or lime juice over a slice.  It is sometimes made into a sorbet or drink. I sprinkled lemon juice on my slices otherwise this fruit would hardly have any flavor at all in my opinion. I wouldn’t recommend serving the fruit at a dinner party because the black seeds stick in your teeth like crazy and everyone eating it would look like they had rotten teeth! It’s a fun fruit to try but unless I got a bad one, I would not be tempted to try it again. You might have a good laugh eating it with your kids due to all the seeds.

And Finally

When you’re draggin’ after eating all that turkey, eat a piece of Dragon Fruit to perk you up – it’s refreshing! That’s it folks. I’m all out of dragon jokes today. Have a good one.

UPDATE 12/8/12 :  Kenley, of Green Door Hospitality told me that she thought she saw Dragon Fruit being used as a beauty treatment in the movie, “Mirror, Mirror” with Julia Roberts. I watched the movie last night. Sure enough, they were slicing a Dragon Fruit and placing the slices over Julia’s  (who played the queen) eyes! Good catch Kenley! ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

28 Aug

 

Trees in My Garden – Part II (and Butterflies)

17 Aug Daylilies

After all the welcome rain we had yesterday, today is a beautiful, sunny day. I went out back to take more photos of my trees. Here is my Silver Maple. She’s a tall one isn’t she?  

Silver Maple with two trunks.

This is a better shot of my Austrian White Pine (below). I didn’t chop off the top in the photo and I think its green color shows up better in this photo.Austrian White Pine

This is a photo (below) I took a few years ago. There were a pair of them near each other. This butterfly is called a “Buckeye Butterfly.” The “eyes” protect it some from predators. Unfortunately not from lawnmowers.

OK, let’s throw in my Orange Daylillies  on this post too. Like most of the plants that grow in my garden, they have a mind of their own and as soon as I turn my back, they proliferate like rabbits!You may have to click on the “Home” menu to see these because I delegated them to the “Featured Image” location.

One hot summer, I dug them all up. (These were planted by the previous owner and the color orange does not go with the blue theme I prefer. ) It was so much fun trying to root up all the tubers. (NOT!) These are about as insistent and persistent as my Silver Maple.  Hmmm, and they’re right next to each other too. I wonder if there is something in the soil in that area that has something to do with their determination. You can’t imagine how much vinegar and salt I’ve poured over there to kill weeds and mulberry trees that are out of control. It did work on the mulberry trees but it hasn’t effected anything else over there. It’s a jungle out there!

Oh, and since we (we?) got on the subject of butterflies, I found two of them excitedly flitting around my sage plant. Do you see them? They’re hard to see. We (we?) call them “Cabbage Butterflies” in these parts. That’s all for today.

So, what does this have to do with Your Good Health? Everything. Gardening reduces your blood pressure. Being a part of nature is relaxing. Try it, you’ll like it.

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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

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