garlic

Breakfast Kale

Looking for a healthy option for breakfast? Look no further because you’ve come to the right place–your garden. My kale is flourishing (despite a few wilting leaves due to the midday Florida sun) and that means it’s time for chowing!

kale in garden

One of my favorite ways to eat kale is sautéed with eggs in a breakfast scramble. Okay, I like this for lunch and dinner, too, but with kids around, we like to keep our food themes “stable.”

“Eggs are for breakfast, Mom. Not dinner.”

This is where I smile and say, “Sure honey, whatever you say.” Eggs and kale ARE perfect for the breakfast plate, and simple. Because everything we do here at BloominThyme is simple, not to mention delicious!

Kale Scramble

healthy kale breakfast2 eggs

12 leaves of kale, torn into large chunks, no stems

1 TBSP olive oil

1 TBSP butter

garlic powder, salt & pepper to taste

Heat oil and butter in a saucepan on medium heat. When butter is melted, toss in kale leaves and sauté until soft. More

September in the Garden

Is one busy time! Now that the dog-days of August are behind me, I’m gung-ho in the garden. So far, I’ve planted red beans, black beans, lima beans, broccoli, cabbage, kale, tomatoes, peppers, scallions–and these are in addition to my peanuts, okra and sweet potatoes still in ground. As the latter wane and the former blossom, it’s a great time to be in the garden. Mornings usher in cooler temps, a slight breeze and I think even the bugs have eased a bit.

Of course, I don’t have to worry about bugs, right? My babies are tucked away beneath the screens of safety!

broccoli under cover

Wishful thinking. Unfortunately, white flies are tiny enough to penetrate my barrier. Crickets don’t have anything else to do but crawl around the perimeter, looking for a way in. At least my tomatoes are safe from the dreaded brown moth that lays the hornworm eggs. UGH. I am definitely beating those beasts this season. And with my new daily maintenance schedule–a quick spin around the garden before breakfast and after dinner–I am SO on top of any marauders, they won’t stand a chance! More

There’s Always Next Year

Ever catch yourself saying this as you stand and gaze upon your garden?

I have.  Am, I should say.  My garden is going through some “growing pains” at the moment.  Most horribly, our frost “bite” right before Christmas.  Weather man modified his forecast AFTER I was able to prepare.  (Aaagh!)  Watching the news one evening, I found myself gaping at the television screen.  Hard frost?  Freeze, north of us?  Oh no…

Yep.  I have three forty-foot rows that look just like this one.  We salvaged what tomatoes we could, pulled the plants and still have these to clean up.  Tomorrow.  There’s always tomorrow.  Same fate befell my wax peppers, forcing us to clean, cut and can Christmas eve and Christmas day.  (Like I had time for that?!?!) More

We’ve Got Pumpkins!

And you will never see more excitement in the garden than kids discovering their first recognizable pumpkins.  Except in the case of worms and frogs.  Those are WAY exciting.

Granted we missed Halloween, but these are sugar pumpkins and we intend to cook them into pumpkin pie.  YUM! :)  Next up, our first tomato. More

Interesting Tidbits from the Garden

Did you know that parsley is a natural breath freshener?  Yep.  A couple of chomps on this distinctive green and you’ll feel minty fresh and ready to converse.  So next time you see that little gem on your dinner plate, pluck a few leaves off and plop them in your mouth.  Your table companions will thank you. :)

Basil?  This one is just pain delicious with a scent rivaling the rose–IMHO–but guess what?  It’s also good for digestion.  And you probably know that chamomile has calming abilities, but how about lavender?  I don’t know about you, but every time I catch the scent of lavender I’m instantly transformed into a relaxing machine!

But lavender does double-duty.  Not only is it perfect for bath time before bed, this plant is said to repel fleas.  *gee* Does it get any better?  Plant it everywhere–inside, outside, you name it!

Talk about two-timing duties, did you know that cilantro and coriander come from the same plant?  Yes, ma’am!  The first leaves are used as cilantro (think salsa), but if you let it continue to grow and flower, you’ll find yourself with a whole host of coriander seeds.  Awesome.  Just awesome.

One of my all-time favorite herbs is rosemary.  Not only does it make for a great hedge around the house, but this one provides a natural mental boost.  Simply brush your hands through its leaves and inhale.  Ahhh…….  Better yet, it prevents forgetfulness. Woo hoo!  I mean, who doesn’t need that?

And your kids will love this one:  how about growing your own sugar?  Well, in so many words, that is.  Stevia is a plant that produces naturally sweet leaves–leaves you can use to sweeten almost anything.  The kids and I made a lovely cucumber soup sweetened with stevia, and it was delightful.  (They ate it, anyway.)  But how about lemonade?  Pull a few lemons from that tree and juice them up, add a few leaves of stevia and blend.  Voila!  Instant homemade lemonade to die for.  Add a cup of steeped rosemary per gallon of lemonade and now you have yourself a REAL treat.  For this recipe and others, check out my garden blog Bloominthyme!

Caution:  if you love both basil and rosemary, be aware that planting basil near rosemary can KILL your rosemary plant.  Who knew?

Got ants?   No problem.  Plant mint–peppermint, spearmint, plain mint–they’re all good not to mention they make wonderful borders along walkways and flower beds.  Last but not least is my beloved aloe plant.  You may have heard this one is good for burns and you heard right.  Anytime I burn myself slaving away over a hot stove or oven (the things I do for my family), I immediately cut a spiked aloe leaf and rub the gooey salve directly on the fresh wound.  I’ll warn you, it’s stinky (and stains), but doing so will eliminate any scar you may otherwise have suffered.  LOVE it!

So what do you say?  Know of any special herbs or plants in the garden with outstanding qualities that I missed?

Feeling a little Sassy, Saucy?

Me, too.  Or have been lately.  But I’m sure it’s just Valentine’s and all the excitement, hoopla and romance of the week.  Phew –  not sure I can take another minute of all this loving!  (You do know the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, don’t you?)  And good old-fashioned home cooking takes time.  It takes effort.  And we’ve haven’t even begun to tackle the dishes, yet.  But you know what?  When you try a recipe for the first time, and the result is a delicious meal…

It’s all worth it.  This week I made chimichurri sauce for the first time.  Originally from Miami, you may be surprised to hear I haven’t mastered this baby yet, but what can I say?  I’ve been preoccupied with paella and plantanos, picadillo, black beans and rice.  I went to restaurants for chimichurri—I didn’t make it at home.

Ah…but I do now! It was easy and yummy and healthy. If you ask me, these are the keys to success.  Now I’ll warn any vegetarians right now:  I served this in traditional fashion with flank steak and rice.  Yes, I had black beans and plantanos, but this sauce served over medium rare meat is amazing.  But if you don’t eat meat, don’t despair.  Try it over salad, over veggies.  It’s that good.

The main ingredients are parsley, oregano and garlic—all of which I grow in my home garden.  And remember those olive trees Mandy planted?  Well hurry up and get your “grow” on girls—I need some olives to…to…  What exactly do you do to olives to make oil?  Press them?  Puree them?

Sheesh, I still have a lot to learn.  Okay.  So I’ll barter for the olive oil.  I do want to maintain my “self-sustaining” status when I cook, but honestly, it can be a challenge.  Especially when it comes to the white wine vinegar needed for this recipe, though my husband assures me we can grow our own grapes and make our own wine.  Hmph.  This, coming from “tractor” man.  What the heck does he know about “growing” anything?  He’s a grinder (of soil).  I’m the grower around here.

Anyhoo, here’s what I did:  finely chopped the parsley and oregano, minced the garlic and mixed it with white wine vinegar and olive oil.  I’m no fan of salt, but you can add this and black pepper to your liking.  I used a mezzaluna knife—one of my favorites for chopping herbs—but you can also do this in a food processor.  And that’s it.  Pretty easy, right?  Now I snagged the original recipe from Williams-Sonoma, but after checking out a slew of others, changed it to suit my taste.  For full details, check the recipe section of my website.

Whether you’re a fan of Latin inspired dishes or not, this one is worth a try.  I think of it as the Latin version of tabouli–only oregano instead of mint.  Alright, alright—and none of the tomato, cucumber and bulgur.  Call it a wacky comparison at the dinner table, but that’s how it struck me. :)  (Some things there’s no explainin’!)

It was good.  “Hey Mikey!  Try it, you’ll like it!”

Options for Edible Borders

Mandy’s garden is really beginning to take shape.  The front planter is brimming with rosemary, cabbage and bok choy among others while her rosemary transplants are surviving.  (Sometimes, that’s all we can ask!)  She’s been busy adding herbs to her walkway as well, tucking them in between the Vs of each paver–which stopped me in my merry photo shoot tracks. 

AGH–you put them where?  I stared at them in alarm, then I turned to face her.  Bright-eyed and proud, she stood awaiting my reply.  How was I going to break this gently?  I mean, disappointing enthusiastic gardeners was not on the top of my list of things to do.  But she had to be told. 

“Um, Mandy…these oregano are going to spread quite wide and far and–”

“Oh, I know!” she chirped (she’s very happy that way).  “But those radish will clear out pretty quickly so I’m planning on having the oregano fill in the space.”

I smiled.  Well I do like a knowledgable garden gal!  She’d already planned for near catastrophe–or more specifically–how to avoid it.  “Perfect,” I replied and resumed the business of snapping pictures.

Not only does she have oregano in place, but parsley, thyme, chives, basil–the works!  And while some of these will grow to be a tad crowded, it’s nothing she can’t manage with a little clipping.  Besides, this woman plans to USE these herbs, not just gaze at them in admiration!

But we did notice a wee bit of a bug problem with the cabbage.  Seems someone is chewing holes in her leaves.  Solution?

Follow your nose!  And the stinkier the better when it comes to organic pest control.  By that I mean garlic, coffee, compost, manure, mint…really depends on what beast you’re after for which method you choose.  Check the Garden Elements section of my website for full details, but with some experimenting on Mandy’s part, I’m sure she’ll find just the right concoction to rid her garden of pests.  Let’s hope for some windy days ahead, too.  Will help minimize the front porch stench.

No worries!  We’d rather be temporarily inconvenienced by the all-natural aromas than permanently poisoned by toxic alternatives. :)

 

Mandy’s Companions in the Garden

Companion planting is a key to organic gardening. It helps reduce the need for pesticides, weeding and even fertilizing!  How so?  Well take corn and beans–neither of which Mandy is planting at the moment, but it makes for a great case in point. 

Beans fix nitrogen into the soil, while corn uses lots of nitrogen!  It’s a heavy feeder you know.  So you could plant beans and corn next to one another.  Add a line of squash around their base and voila!  You have weed protection.  The wide leaves of the squash will shade the ground thereby reducing the ability of weeds to grow!  In fact, this is a technique used by Native American Indians years before the invention of fertilizer sprays and such.

In Mandy’s case, she’s planting cabbage and rosemary together, carrots and beets in the row just below them.  Rosemary makes a wonderful companion for cabbage and carrots because it repels cabbage moths and carrot flies.  Carrots and beets are great friends too, so lining them in the same bed makes perfect sense.  I mingle beets with my garlic as the garlic helps to improve the flavor of the beets.  And beets could use a little help in this department if you know what I mean.

The only words of advice in companion planting are the obvious:  make sure they are indeed companions and second:  each plant has enough room to grow and mature without being overtaken by its pal.  Otherwise, the friendship may suffer. :)  You see, these red cabbage may have been planted too close to the struggling rosemary transplants, but only time will tell.  Stay-tuned and happy gardening!

 

Florida’s Sea Garden

The family and I went scalloping this last week and reaped quite the bounty–and not only scallops, but starfish, blue crabs, fish–the works!  Easy, fun, this was a great trip.  For full details on our adventure, check out my blog here.

While out on the boat scavenging for scallops, we ate well.  No, not fresh veggies (though we did have fruit).  Boiled peanuts are the preferred diet for scallop hunting and while I’d like to lay claim to them as my own, I cannot.  Mine are slated as “football peanuts” and won’t be ready until August/September.  These gems came from one of our farm-friendly families and were boiled on site to perfection in their handy-dandy boiler.  Have large pot, will travel!

And let me tell you, they were good.  If you’ve never enjoyed boiled peanuts, you’re in for a treat.  Easy to make, you simply soak your green peanuts in salted water and cook like you would a roast in a crock pot.  Monitor as they simmer and add water as needed, since the peanuts will soak up the water in your pot. Usually takes a few hours before they’re ready, but when soft–serve warm! 

Another treat for your large pot is crabs.  The kids had a ball catching these little guys and of course they wanted to eat them so Mom tossed them into a pot of boiling water and ta-da!  Crabs for dinner.

Which go very well with scallops.  These were soaked in butter, wine and garlic and served over pasta.  Makes for a nice vacation dinner, don’t you think?

And we do like to eat on vacation!

 

Garden Tomato Pizza Sauce

Put those tomatoes to work–make a pizza sauce!  I did.  Fresh ripe ruby-red tomatoes make the most delicious sauce and don’t worry if yours aren’t ruby-red ripe (mine weren’t either).  They still taste divine.  Add a few of your garden garlic, half a sweet onion, some dried oregano and my garden goal has been achieved:  tomato sauce made entirely from my garden!

Except for that olive oil you bartered for with your cousin Vinny from Italy.  But that’s okay.  I’m at somewhat of a disadvantage–not an olive tree in sight here in Central Florida.  There aren’t any bay leaf trees, either (but I’m not looking for any).

And if my family knows what’s good for them, they won’t point the fact out.  Best to leave mom to her fantasy world.

Speaking of my family, my daughter prepared the homemade pizza dough all by herself and put the pizza together.  She’s an awesome chef.  Sweet!

As to my sauce, it was easy.  Simply de-stemmed the tomatoes, cut them in half, pushed the seeds out and tossed the tomato flesh into my Cuisinart and pressed ON.  Beautiful!  Next, I poured the tomatoes into a pan and added the fresh garlic, half a sweet onion, dried oregano.

–and yes, a bit of salt (you’d be amazed by how much salt is pre-added to canned tomatoes) and allowed the mixture to simmer for several hours prior to spreading onto the dough.

Bake for about 15 minutes and you have ooey-gooey-golden-dinner-delight!  Pepperoni side for the boys, cheese for the girls–a feat to be proud of, for sure.