Gardening


I’m a day late and a dollar short with the flavor of the week but here it is…zucchini! Granted it’s not really a flavor and not used to describe anything except actual zucchini, but our late-blooming zucchini plants have been producing and I thought I’d share some recipes this week to help get rid of any extra harvests from your garden.

It all starts here: the male flowers grow on skinny stems (left, yellow flower) while the female flower grows on a shorter mini-zucchini (right of male yellow flower.)

A couple of developing zucchini with their flowers closed.

Zucchini has never been my favorite, especially when served as enormous, unappetizing chunks in stir-frys or pasta primavera (it’s like cutting half a cabbage and asking everyone to dig in!) One way I did enjoy it was when my mother would make panko-crusted sticks of zucchini, deep fry it and serve it up with a mayo-shoyu dipping sauce on the side…delicious! But what am I doing with these zucchini plants if I don’t like to eat zucchini? Well, the initial idea was to mainly eat the flowers tempura-style, but I’ve been on a healthier-kick lately so no deep frying in the kitchen, at least for now. But there’s another way to enjoy zucchini on a healthier level, and that’s by making them into noodles!

Zucchini noodles are a great way to use up any extras you have lying around and, like any vegetable, is an extremely healthy addition to your diet. One large zucchini (about 3/4 pounds) has only 52 calories and is packed with fiber, Vitamin C, Vitamin A, Folate, and B6, to name a few. Imagine replacing your regular pasta with nutritious zucchini noodles. Not only do you get more nutrients, but you save over 200 calories per meal!!!

Ready for a step-by-step on making zucchini noodles?

If you don’t have a vegetable spiral slicer, you can achieve similar results with a sharp vegetable peeler and a good knife. First, remove the skin from the zucchini. Use the vegetable peeler to peel of wide slices of zucchini, rotating after every two “peels”:

Rotate and slice until you reach the seeds. Stack two or three zucchini slices and carefully slice them into thinner noodle-like strands.

Use these zucchini noodles in place of regular pasta, just add them to your sauce and cook them gently for about 3 minutes to heat through. Enjoy an almost raw Zucchini Salad with Peanut Satay Sauce, or add a handful to your favorite chicken soup.

What’s your favorite healthy way to enjoy zucchini?

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Happy Monday! Busy weekend again with more home improvements.  But before I start showing those pictures, I want to share a recipe featuring our Flavor of the Week: basil!

This is one of those herbs that’s supposed to be really easy to grow, but I’ve always had trouble growing them in pots. Either the soil was filled with bugs, slugs destroyed them, or it was just too hot for their roots. I used to always buy huge bunches for $2 in Chinatown and they had both Thai and sweet basil varieties. The Thai basil has darker, thicker leaves and a more “peppery” taste. I made pesto with both varieties, and couldn’t taste much of a difference.

Here is a quick n’ easy no-cook topping for your pasta that can be kept in the fridge for a few days. If you don’t have enough basil, cut it with some baby spinach (they’re milder than the grown-up kind!) Add some cream and warm up before adding cooked pasta, or serve over chicken. Any way you slice it, it’s delicious!


Add more or less basil, if you like (less here.) The lemony creaminess of the pine nuts can shine on its own.

Lemony Pine Nut Pesto
The lemon combines perfectly with pine nuts, but feel free to use pecans, walnuts or cashews. Inspired by Pine Nut Cream recipe from Going Raw by Judita Wignall.

3/4 cups raw soaked pine nuts or other raw soaked nuts
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 garlic clove, mashed and chopped
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup basil leaves, torn
1 cup baby spinach leaves, torn

Add nuts to a food processor or blender and pulse or blend on medium-low until pasty but coarsely chopped. Add lemon juice, garlic, salt, and oil. Blend for a few seconds until combined. Blend in basil and spinach, turning off machine and scraping down sides when necessary. Enjoy on pasta, as a veggie dip, or sandwich spread.

On to home renovations!

KITCHEN: I primed more of the kitchen, as well as the cat’s litter box:

Primed cabinets on the right and wall on the left. And there’s our new fridge!

The cabinet doors went from red to white on the cats’ litter box, Trixie was the first to try it out.

Put a new pattern on the display cabinet:

The original burlap looked dull against a white wall so I replaced it with some fun polka-dots!

Primed the formerly red plant stand and covered the glass top with the same fabric used in the cabinet.

YARD WORK:

The other morning Trixie and I noticed this beautiful purple hibiscus in the back yard:

Looks healthy, but I think it would like more sun.

I’ve seen tons of these plants in red, white, and yellow at Lowe’s but didn’t think anyone would buy one to plant outside…won’t the freezing temperatures kill it? Apparently not!

Purple hibiscus

There were some other trees crowding it out and blocking the sun so I asked my husband to clear the area around it. Now there’s plenty of sunlight to reach the hibiscus, and looking at the newly cleared space is giving me some outdoor ideas…

The whole area behind the hibiscus is now cleared. It would make a lovely sitting area.

I am not much of a flower-planting person but after seeing this hibiscus, I think I’d want to add more color to this part of the back yard…and maybe add an herb garden!

As fun as it is to load up my Pinterest board with ideas for a dream kitchen or dream outdoor kitchen, I realized (after watching my husband do all the dirty work,) that nothing is more important than taking care of the basics: electrical and plumbing.

Last Sunday he started ripping out parts of our kitchen floor to replace some old pipes and wiring that ran from the basement to the kitchen. He installed a new line and electrical for our washer and dryer that’s now located outside on the porch:

You can see the box he installed behind the washer. All new pipes & electric.

It was pretty difficult because he couldn’t access the pipes from under the kitchen floor; there is the stone foundation directly underneath so he had to rerun the lines the same way as the old ones by going horizontal about 10-12 feet amidst the laid-up foundation and wooden beams supporting the kitchen. It wasn’t a straight shot and the space was pretty snug, but thanks to fish tape and an assistant with smallish hands, he was able to get the new pipes and electrical through.

Then the next difficult part was soldering elbow pieces to fit the small spaces, then to solder them together in tight spots, like under the sink and within the wall. After he made sure the water lines were leakproof, he moved out the washer and we now have an empty corner in the kitchen for our future bathroom!

Not sure how we’ll do it, but we’ll get a bathroom down here.

With all the stuff going on inside, the garden outside is growing. Despite my parents raising tomatoes and roses commercially, I didn’t inherit their green thumb. This is my first time having a garden and I love seeing new growth every day:

cucumber tendril

I planted chamomile where I could see the flowers from the kitchen.

Sammy by the squash. He is the most camera shy out of the three cats.

A gray and rainy morning giving our plants a good soak.

Salamander enjoying the much needed rain.

I hope your Friday morning is off to a good start. I’ll be back tomorrow with a light lunch recipe for this month’s Recipe Redux!

The previous owners of our home planted some fruit trees and berry bushes around the backyard. I sampled one of the blackberries black raspberries but it wasn’t ready yet…sour!

They looked ripe, but I’m told to wait until they are soft enough to practically fall off on their own.

Volunteer maples had taken root  around the blueberry bushes and grape vines, keeping them in constant shade and making them a bit scraggly. Although we felt a twinge of guilt for wanting them “removed,” some trees had to be cleared away to bring in more sunlight for the berries.

A tree was cut down on the left. You can see the amount of light that can now shine on the grape vines and blueberry bushes, far right.

The beginnings of a blueberry

Morning dew collected in a grape vine.

an abandoned birdhouse under the thornapple tree

little blue birdhouse

Have you ever seen happier clothespins? Good day to do laundry!

It’s been a great morning so far, and I’d like to continue this good feeling by passing on some awards to my fellow bloggers.

First, I’d like to give Richard@ REM Cooks  both the Sunshine Award and Versatile Blogger Award, and here’s why. Richard’s professional experience in the kitchen and love for food is evident in all his recipes, whether it’s a simple dish or something extravagant from luxurious crab meat to some lean green beans (okay, haricot vert, but it’s the same thing, right? ;)) He’s inspired me to try out some of his recipes, experiment with new flavors and be more fancy-yet-simple in the kitchen. He’s incredibly helpful and friendly if you have any questions, I suggest you read his blog immediately! Richard, your blog is awesome and your recipes are outstanding. Thank you very much for sharing.

I just recently got to know Cinnamon@eat PRAY tri after several WIAWs, and she’s got good recipes mixed in with family stuff, work stuff, her faith, and a lot of good laughs. She just started her first 23 Paws party for us pet-loving food bloggers, and I think that alone deserves a Sunshine Award! Be sure to check out her 23 Paws Intro Page on how to link up, it’ll be fun!

Gabby over at The Veggie Nook deserves a ton of Sunshine Awards, if you ask me. The recipes she posts are healthy, simple, and delicious—what more could you want? Sometimes I read her posts in the morning and she may have an easy-to-make snack or breakfast item that I would immediately try (I’m in the kitchen already, so why not?) She also is constantly on the lookout for healthy challenges (she’s on a no-sugar challenge right now!) so hop on over if you need some motivation or inspiration for a healthier lifestyle.

My rendition of Gabby’s amazing “Lemon Coconut Hemp Seed Bites”


Mama’s Gotta Bake has one of the most beautiful collections of food photos I’ve seen. Desserts are her specialty, and once you look at her delicious cakes, you’ll see why! She definitely gets a Versatile Blogger Award for making the word “dessert” inadequate for the gourmet gallery of goodies she has to offer.

Anneke from notsoskinnycook gets a Versatile Blogger Award for creating a wide variety of delicious home-cooked meals and lovely photos of her food as well as her family enjoying her food! From broccoli soup to beef schawarma, Anneke has a nice collection of recipes with international flavors and universal appeal.

Beef Shawarma

Anneke’s Beef Shawarma with Peanut Butter Sauce (source: http://notsoskinnycook.wordpress.com)

Thanks again to my fellow bloggers for making food fun! :D

Here are the rules for the Sunshine Award:

This prize is awarded to “bloggers who positively and creatively inspire others in the blogosphere”As an award winner, there are a few rules to follow:

  • Thank the person who gave this award and write a post about it.
  • Answer the questions below.
  • Pass on the award to 10 fabulous bloggers, link their blogs, and let them know you awarded them.
1.  favorite color?
2. favorite animal?
3. favorite number?
4. favorite color?
5. favorite drink?
6. Facebook or Twitter?
7. what is your passion?
8. giving or getting presents?
9. favorite day of the week?
10. favorite flower?
 Here are the rules for the Versatile Blogger Award:

– Thank the award giver(s) and link back to them in your post
– Share 7 things about yourself
– Pass this award along to 15 or 20 bloggers you read and admire
– Contact your chosen bloggers to let them know about the award

Whew, this was a long one! Be sure to visit their blogs for some great food, beautiful photos and maybe an interesting story or two. Have a great weekend, and eat well! :)

“say it with flowers”

Peonies are one of my favorite flowers, and I only really got to see them in real life a couple of years ago when I picked up my beautiful wedding bouquet. Pink-hued roses, tulips and peonies made up this fragrant cluster which felt to me like five pounds worth of flowers! Since moving into our new home, we’ve been surprised with all kinds of flowers blooming around the property, including peonies.

Flowers aren’t the only things that have been thriving on our property (thank goodness!) My lettuce plants have successfully avoided the hungry rabbits and so far I harvested 5 heads. It was time to fill in the bald spots with some new plants, so I added some purple cabbage in between the kale (far left,) reddish-colored lettuce and a cucumber vine in the upper row, and planted a Roma tomato right next to the basket hanger (base of that skinny post in the bottom left corner):

Just the upper section with new plants was watered, we had lots of rain this week.

another 100 days and I’ll be eating home-grown purple cabbage!

Weeding and planting the new veggies made me kind of hungry, so I decided to make an Ultimate Salad for lunch! Although the only ingredient that came from my garden is the two types of lettuce, you gotta admit this salad definitely looks garden fresh! If all goes well, in a few months I should have another four ingredients from the garden: strawberries, tomatoes, cucumber and cabbage:

The ultimate salad with 14 fabulous ingredients: lettuce, cabbage, carrots, celery, cucumber, cauliflower, apples, grapes, strawberries, dates, tomatoes, avocado, sprouted  sunflower seeds and goat cheese.

My husband likes to have some meat with his meals, so I made him a protein-packed tuna fish-stuffed tomato with a cucumber rosette:

A simple and beautiful gluten-free alternative to a plain ol’ tuna fish sandwich

Earlier this week I received more goodies from my family. My mom made a beautiful drawstring bag from some very special fabric (I will post more on this on Monday!) and my Uncle Paul got me this incredible gourmet bag of peaberry Kona coffee (update 6/17: I initially thought my dad got the coffee, but after reading the post he told me it was Uncle Paul who picked this up for me. Thank you Uncle Paul!) I’ve had 100% Kona coffee before, and not all coffees are the same (Sugai coffee farms also has good quality coffee beans) but this is the first time I’ve ever tried any kind of peaberry coffee:

Hualalai (pronounced “who-ah-lah-lie”) and Mauna Loa are the two volcanoes where Kona farmers grow their world-famous coffee

Peaberry describes the shape of an unfertilized seed in the coffee fruit. Instead of the seed forming two halves that make a whole (think of peanuts, cashews and pistachios that can be split equally down the middle) the fruit has one “pea shaped” seed.

Since the seed shapes are so different, coffee growers sort the peaberries out so as not to have uneven roasting in their batches. Because of this extra labor as well as the belief that a peaberry yields a more evenly roasted bean (thus a more delicious flavor,) peaberry coffee is more costly and often more valued than the other 95 percent of the harvest.

I brewed a cup of Kona peaberry and thought it was a very good coffee. It was flavorful, mild and smooth, and I didn’t need to add any sweetener! It’s such a nice gift from my parents uncle I’ll have to save the rest for Sunday brunches! Have a nice weekend, everybody, and eat (and drink) well!

Last month I started planting some lettuce and herbs around the outside of our house. I realize I don’t have much patience and would rather get trays of plants than start them from seed, because I seem to have forgotten what I planted in the trays. I think it was sweet and red rubin basil, but I’ll know for sure in a few weeks!

So far the lettuce has been untouched by insects and animals and the kale is taking a while to grow:

Mostly lettuce with cilantro up front, lemon grass, green onion & chives to the right and scrawny kale way in the back.

I also planted some easy-growing mint and sage in a planter by the patio, and this beautiful curry plant is doing great on its own:

The elegant curry plant: looks like rosemary, smells like chicken.

Now, both my parents were in the agriculture business, growing tomatoes and roses and a lot of other plants and produce. You would think that I inherited some of their talent, but I always found it a struggle to keep mint plants alive and can’t figure out why my basil won’t grow. This time it’s a little different, so I’m hoping my attempt at growing plants in the ground rather than black plastic buckets will break my streak of bad luck.

So while I wait for my plants to grow, I’d like to announce the winner of the Frito-Lay Gluten-Free Prize Pack! The winner was determined through an unbiased Canadian coin-toss. And now, the winner of this awesome giveaway is…..

Gabby from The Veggie Nook!

Congratulations on winning this awesome gluten-free prize pack! I’m sure you’ll enjoy munching on these tasty Tostitos and Lay’s chips while learning more about eating Gluten-Free on a Shoestring, woo hoo!

Now, earlier I mentioned those mystery seedlings possibly being basil plants (I really hope they are!) Here’s a good recipe to try with any type of basil pesto you may have. The walnuts (or pecans, if you prefer) give it a nice, hearty crunch and the addition of mushrooms give it a more meaty texture.

Walnut Pesto with Mushrooms – serves 2

1/3 cup walnuts or pecans, lightly toasted and broken into pieces
1/4 – 1/3 cup cream
1/2 cup basil pesto
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
additional walnuts or pecans for garnish
Cooked noodles

Instructions:

In a blender, add walnuts and  pesto, blend until combined and nuts are chopped, but do not puree.

In a medium frying pan, sautee sliced mushrooms in olive oil over medium heat until softened, about 3-5 minutes. Add pesto and walnuts, stir for about a minute. Slowly add cream and stir to combine for about 2 minutes or until it just begins to simmer.

Serve over cooked noodles, sprinkle with parmesan cheese and extra walnuts or pecans.