Tuesday, April 26, 2011


Last October, I planted a section by the back porch with a Florida wildflower mix.  I followed the simple instructions of clearing all the grass/weeds out of the area, dispersing the seeds, then passing the rake over them.  I sprinkled for three weeks, then just left the patch alone.  Well, lo and behold, a couple of weeks ago that area that looked like it might be invaded with weeds, suddenly burst into bloom.  It has been such a delight to arrive at home and see the profusion of flowers back there. 

I love wildflowers.  Planting our local varieties ensures that we have lots of flowers for weeks on end, as they are happy with our weather and soil conditions.  They don't require lots of fertilizer or watering.  In fact, I didn't fertilize that area at all, and the sprinkler system doesn't reach it either.  Our little patch is buzzing with the sound of bees collecting nectar.  We know from past experience that they need all they help they can get!


I love the little white and pink phlox blossoms. This time of year, we can see them growing along the highways and country roads around Central Florida.

I love this video from the Florida Wildflower Foundation. I  bought our wildflower seed from the Florida Wildflower Growers Cooperative.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Harvest Monday - Squash, Carrots, Cucumbers, and Okra

This is my harvest today, fresh out of our garden just this afternoon! Zucchini and yellow squash started producing last week. We've been eating lots of this almost every day. My carrot patch is about done, I still have a few in the ground. Our first cucumber was ready on Saturday, and today we have all of these, yumm! But what I'm most excited about is that okra is back. I'm planning on our first gumbo dinner of the season this coming weekend and just can't wait for that. This is our third year planting okra. I think I finally got it right by planting in March. I planted again in April and plan on doing so again in May where all the kale were just last month. Successive planting may keep us in okra all through the summer. I really look forward to freezing some in tomato sauce for gumbo year round!

I am linking with Daphne's Dandelions - Harvest Monday today.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


I have been relearning how to bake and restocking my pantry recently.  Wheat is out, and so are most of the other glutenized foods in it.  I've kept rye for honey cake, as it is one of Don's favorites, but for the most part, I am adjusting to cooking gluten-free.  Becoming a good gluten-free baker/cook is very important to me.  I can't imagine how sad life would be without bread, pizza, most desserts, pasta...  plus I just like good food!

Last week I made this...
Both Australia and New Zealand claim to be the creators of the Pavlova - a light and airy, meringue base with fruit and whipped cream on top; apparently, in honor of a Russian ballerina of that name.  I used kiwis in mine.  I like it with strawberries too, another reason to plant them in the garden next fall.  I thought the kiwis were a good choice, a taste of New Zealand...

I've loved this dessert ever since I first tried it, on Gabi's high school graduation trip to Great Britain, three years ago.  We visited a church in London one Sunday.  After the service, the pastor and his wife invited us over for dinner at their home.  What a lovely treat that was.  We had Pavlova with strawberries for dessert, and it was scrumptious.  Visiting with a local family, one that is as involved in their communit as pastor's families usually are, was one of the highlights of our trip.  Pavlovas now have this wonderful memory attached to them in my mind.

Here is the recipe she shared:


3 egg whites
1 pinch salt
1 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 1/4 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1 pint fresh strawberries - I used sliced kiwis this time


1.Preheat oven to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C). Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Draw a 9 inch circle on the parchment. An easy way to do this is to draw around the outside of a 9 inch pan with a pencil.

2.In a large bowl, beat egg whites on high speed until soft peaks form. Add 3/4 cup of the sugar gradually, while continuing to whip. Make sure sugar is completely dissolved. Mix together the remaining 1/4 cup sugar with the cornstarch; lightly fold into meringue with vinegar.

3.Spread a layer of meringue to fit circle on parchment, approximately 1/2 inch thick. With remainder of mixture, pipe or spoon swirls around the edges to form a shallow bowl shape.

4.Bake at 300 degrees F (150 degrees C) for 1 hour. Turn off oven, but leave meringue in oven for an additional 30 minutes. When cool, the meringue should be hard on the outside, and slightly moist on the inside.

5.In a large bowl, combine the cream and half a cup of confectioners sugar, and whip until thickened. Decorate with fruit of your choice; strawberries are excellent.


I am linking with the Hearth 'n Soul Blog Hop today.  Here is the part of the statement of their mission:
We hope to embrace not only the “expected” areas of real food, but also those who want to incorporate healthier choices without sacrificing their love of food…how it tastes, the memories it conjures up, the comfort it brings...

The warm comfort of the home hearth…stories, anecdotes, lessons, adventures, journeys, recipes, meals, beverages…we want to share the “why” of how food feeds more than just our bodies…

I like it!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Harvest Monday - kohlrabi, artichokes, and swiss chard

We got artichokes!
Both of my first time crops were ready for picking last week - Artichokes and Kohlrabi! 

I can't begin to tell just how delicious these artichokes were...  Steamed and then dipped in just butter and a little of sauteed garlic, heavenly.

So, growing artichoke plants is easy... getting all of them to produce a "choke", not so easy.  Only one of our plants actually flowered.  I don't understand why the others didn't, so this is an on-going project.  Now we have to decide what to do with them.  They are really beautiful plants, the perfect edible landscaping, I think.  Artichokes are perennials, so I'm tempted to relocate them to a sunny spot near the back porch. 

My other new crop - kohlrabi.  I try to plant something new every season.  The artichokes were definitely new, but kohlrabi was even more because none of us had ever even tasted it. 

If you ever plant kohlrabi, just know that the root is super tough... I had to go get a shovel to cut the thing off...  I thought it would be as easy as pulling out a carrot, but no.  It might have some use as a construction material.

So, I was really skeptical once I got these two out of the ground, thinking that that bulb was going to be as tough as rocks. 

This is it, after peeling and putting it through the food processor grinder.  I don't have a picture of the final product - Kohlarbi and Cream.  That's because I didn't have time to grab the camera, it disappeared that quickly!  Next year, I'm planting a whole bunch more of this SUPER easy and delicious vegetable.

Kohlrabi is in the cabbage family.  Food historians have found it mentioned in an old Imperial Roman cookbook dating back to the year 1 AD.  Later, in 800 AD, Charlemagne ordered it planted in his imperial gardens. 

The kohlrabi leaves are also edible, they resemble collards and are just as easy to grow.

We also had lots of swiss chard last week.  An oldie from our garden that I love.  Aren't those stem colors fun?

I made a nice risotto with it.  Well, it could have been better if I'd had arborio rice, but it was still great. 

I've been working on my risotto recipe lately, as it is one of my favorite ways of eating rice.  I think the best risotto I've ever had was one I had about a year ago, served at Zorah's, a charming small family owned Mediterranean restaurant in Lakeland.  I'm so sad, because I heard that it closed two months ago.  Here is what chef Jose from Zohra's said last year about how to make his yummy risotto:
My Risotto is soaked overnight in a chicken stock, the next day I add cream and parm. cheese reduce down to proper thickness.  The key is staying with Risotto when cooking can't leave the area, I use the basic italian herbs for flavor.  No salt as the stock has plenty.  You just keep playing with it until you find your proper levels.  No real recipe more so tasting until you make it happen. 
The one thing I've learned about experiments in my vegetable garden is to not be shy; I planted five artichoke seeds and eight kohlrabi - they all came up and produced the most yummy veggies!

I'm linking with Daphne's Dandelion's Harvest Monday post, check it out and learn what vegetables others are growing in their gardens!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Out of Denial

I am still alive! I thought I should mention that since I haven’t been posting at all the last few weeks.

If the truth be told, I haven’t been feeling well for a long time, but lately I just haven’t even had the energy to blog any more. I haven’t been functioning. Last week, Don came to me and said I should really go back to my gluten-free diet. I was on it last fall, some of you may remember a few of my baking posts, and I was feeling a lot better then, even well! The thing is that I wasn’t totally convinced that gluten was the problem. However, a few months later – I’ve been barely able to put one foot in front of the other by mid-afternoon. By evening, when I did most of my blogging, I was collapsed in bed and in pain too… joint pain, which began in just my ankles and was progressing to almost every joint in my body last week, coinciding with the great bread sales at Publix…

So, I’ve finally dealt with my denial. Really, if you’d asked me two weeks ago, I would have told you I was fine – ask Barbie. I am either gluten intolerant or have Celiac Disease. There, I said it. I am not too interested in getting the official diagnosis, as it may involve being put under, something I save for life or death situations only… I lost my best friend in my early 20s to anesthesia, so… anyway, I don’t need the doctor’s diagnosis, I have all the symptoms and they clear up when I stop eating gluten; so I quit gluten again just three days ago, and I’m already feeling better. At least the joint pain isn’t killing me at night, and I’m writing this at 3:00 – I’d be in bed taking a nap to recover before dinner at this point in the day just last week; and this after spending the day at Epcot yesterday – walking non-stop all day. We got year long passes in the beginning of March, but I think our weekly trips to Disney did me in too. So, I guess Don started to be concerned when he saw firsthand how exhausted I was and the pain I was in.

Since Michelle (9) has been on a gluten-free diet for over a year now, I am very familiar with what I need to do. It is a huge project for me though, because buying gluten-free products is expensive. Buying for one, it’s doable, for more than one… I’ll have to be cooking from scratch a lot more. Baking breads, muffins, cakes, pies, using gluten-free flours can also be expensive if you buy those small (1 lb.) gluten-free flours at the health food store or even the grocery store – they seem to be carrying many more gluten-free products these days. What I attempted to do last fall, when I was on the diet, was to grind and mix my own flours myself. There is a world of grains, nuts, and other foods that one can bake without wheat flour, and I know one of these days I’ll be able to bake a loaf of gluten-free bread that I’ll truly like.
In my twenties, I spent a few years living in Europe and enjoying amazing food. It was a great learning experience. I used to live down the street from a wonderful bakery in Geneva, where I would go and buy warm baguettes every morning, croissants several times a week, pain au chocolat, cherry and apple tarts, almond croissants… It was where I first ventured to speak my first words in French, the boulanger would correct me… I loved it. Once a week, there was a fresh market right on our street – I was spoiled in the food department for sure! The fish monger, another one of my French teachers, and the fromager would park their carts just feet from our building.  After a few years, I came back home and began learning to cook some of the foods I missed. Along with my cooking experiences, I also started gardening. I love the fresh veggies and herbs that come out of my garden, both because of how much healthier they are being organically grown and fresh, but also because I love to cook them – they add so much variety to my table.  But mostly, I think it was having that fresh market at my doorstep that spoiled me to death!  I must have fresh vegetables a short walk from my kitchen now.  I guess now I will have to become a full-time baker too.  I'm looking forward to the challenge and am thankful for all the bloggers out there who post about their own journeys and share recipes and experiences too.

So, I’ve been a closet Celiac for the last few months, I guess. I wouldn’t even admit it to myself. Denial is amazing, if you don’t admit to something, you don’t believe you are it – but you still are.

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