Saturday, April 24, 2010


It picked this rocker up and dropped it on its head, causing us to sit bolt upright in bed at 2:00 AM.

It had this tree whipping around so crazily that it ripped the twinkle lights right out of their sockets.

It tossed this pot rack, thus supplying The Muses and I with even more pottery shards for our garden art projects.

It caused this hammock chair to tie itself in knots, rammed a wheelbarrow into John's car and carried off the lid to my composter.

BUT...despite the fact that John's little weather station registered winds of 40 did not harm one - single - bottle on my little tree. Whew! Still, I think maybe we should get it planted in cement sooner, rather than later, don't you?

Friday, April 23, 2010


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Spring is such a strange season here where I live. The last week in March it dipped below freezing again, and I was worried that I had set my tomatoes out too soon. Now I'm dealing with bolting bok choy and cauliflower.

So many gardening questions running

through my head. So many decisions to make! I never did get a definitive answer on prepping the soil in the next phase of the Fiesta Garden - the beds that will hold mostly native perennials and shrubs. And, seeing as how I already had a lovely American Beautyberry, anxious to be snuggled back into the earth, I had to bite the bullet and make a call. I went with John Dromgoole's recommendation to leave the native soil as is (though I removed as many rocks as I could and put down a layer of newspapers to help smother weeds), top it with a layer of compost, then top that with mulch. He warned against filling your planting holes with compost though (no more than 20% should be mixed in with the backfill) as that could cause your plants to become rootbound.

That long top bed is all I'm likely to get planted this spring. Our summers are much more stressful on new plants than our winters are, so fall is actually the optimal time for putting in new perennials. That way they have plenty of time to get a nice root system established, before they have to deal with summer's horrors.

Well, spring was nice while it lasted, but I guess it's time to buck up, yank those bolting brassicas, and decide which heat loving veggies to plant in their place. I suppose I'll get the remaining two perennial beds prepped, and just let them sit for a while, get everything mulched, fill all my pots with bulletproof heat lovers, then adjourn to the Blue Hole, to float the summer away...

Thursday, April 22, 2010


I got a couple of bee-utiful grass-fed pork chops in my last order from The Bountiful Sprout, and when I happened across some nice blackberries - the first of the season to come from here in Texas rather than Mexico or Chile - I knew exactly what to do with them!

Pork Chops with Blackberry-Zinfandel Sauce
(recipe from Cuisine At Home)

2 T. chili powder
1 tsp. cayenne
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
4 bone-in pork chops (3/4 - 1" thick, 6-8 oz. each)
2 T. vegetable oil
2 T. shallots, minced
1/2 c. zinfandel
4 cups fresh blackberries, divided
1/4 c. chicken broth
2 T. sugar, or to taste
2 T. unsalted butter

  • Combine chili powder, cayenne, salt and pepper. Rub onto chops.
  • Heat oil in a large saute pan over medium-high. Add chops and saute 4 minutes on each side. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook 5-7 minutes. Remove chops to plate, cover, and keep warm.
  • Saute shallots in the pan over medium-high heat about 2 min.
  • Deglaze with wine, scraping up any browned bits; add 3 cups berries, broth, and sugar. Bring to a boil, simmer 3 minutes, then coarsely mash. Simmer sauce until slightly thick, add remaining berries, and cook until heated through.
  • Off heat, swirl in butter; season with salt and pepper.
  • Serve chops with sauce.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


It's a good bit shorter than planned, but it's up! The stakes on the bottom just aren't long enough, and the soil in most of the beds is so loose that, as soon as I started adding bottles to it, the tree tried to tip over. We finally moved it to the bed with the driest, toughest soil, buried it halfway up it's trunk, and still had to prop it with chunks of stone. What will happen when the first wind storm blows through here? Who knows? So for now, I'm just going to enjoy this tiny thing for all it's worth.

Did you notice how Wisdom Woman's magenta bottles just happen to pick up the color on the joints of those yucca bloom stalks? That was enough to keep me giddy all week!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Monday, April 19, 2010


My family has never been too good about eating leftovers. In fact, whenever my dad's mother came over to dinner, Mom would instruct us "Don't let Modie see you tossing those leftovers, or she'll have a cow!" If she couldn't keep Modie away from the kitchen while we were cleaning up, she'd come make a show of pulling out the tupperware and stashing everything in the fridge... where it would sit... until it was all wearing fuzzy green coats. Then she would make us toss it. I really, really hate mucking with stuff that's wearing fuzzy green coats.

Once I was grown, and responsible for my own food budget, I became much more appreciative of leftovers. In fact, I was usually more than happy to take them in my lunch the next day, but I always ate them pretty much "as is." And, any leftover ingredients that had been bought for a particular recipe, were still getting tossed.

Just now I was sitting here, taking a mental inventory of what's in the fridge, wondering "Must I go to the grocery store today, or can it wait until tomorrow?" I was thinking, "OK, there's that leftover pork chop with blackberry sauce and roasted potatoes. It's probably enough for one person to make a meal of, but not two..." Then out of the blue, know what flashed into my head? An image of my mother-in-law, talking about how she always used her leftover roast, gravy and veggies to make the famous "Red Stew" that John loved so much. That got me to thinkin', "Hmmm, with all those chili spices I rubbed on the pork chops, I bet I could cut the meat up, extend the sauce with some broth or something, throw in some corn or hominy and maybe some green chilies, and come up with a darn good soup or stew!" Wow. Did that come out of my head? But wait - there's more!

Next, I began running through the list of ingredients that needed to be used up before they went bad: the leftover cherry tomatoes; half of the beautiful romaine lettuce and a few green garlic sprigs from last Wednesday's Bountiful Sprout pick-up; a small hunk of feta cheese; a piece of charcoal grilled steak that I stashed in the freezer... Suddenly, it happened again. Just like that guy "Chuck" on TV, I had another flash! Only this time, it was of a beautiful main course salad I made for John last summer, with a homemade Dijon vinaigrette dressing, and thin shavings of grilled beef and Parmigiano cheese. Wouldn't crumbled feta be just as good in something like that, with a few cherry tomatoes and slices of green garlic? Wow! I did it again. I don't know what's come over me, but I like it!

Of course, then I made the mistake of flashing over to that great article that was posted recently at the Simple, Green, Frugal co-op. That's when I heard the voice...a very calm, soothing, familiar voice...saying, "Calm down little Grasshopper. You have much yet to learn."

Sunday, April 18, 2010


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More pictures are posted in an album on my facebook page. The weather was not very cooperative yesterday, so we only made it to a fourth of the homes on the tour. Otherwise, there'd be a whole lot more pictures!


Picture me proud. We ate, not one, but two meals this week using ingredients we harvested from the Fiesta Garden - and I'm not just talkin' herbs and lettuce either! One evening I harvested some bok choy/poc choi (just in the nick of time before it sent up a seed stalk) and fixed one of Jamie Oliver's quickie stir fries - like the ones he's been using to teach people, on his Food Revolution TV show, that cooking doesn't have to be all that difficult. His latest cook book, of the same name, has a whole chapter on simple stir fries. We chose one that had some Thai flavorings (lime, cilantro, chilies, ginger, soy sauce) with chicken and noodles. YUM!

Another night we used some of our kale in a recipe for twice-baked potatoes with beer braised onions, from a website called Cooking Up a Story: A Show About People, Food, & Sustainable Living. It was so good - especially for someone who's leery of eating things like kale and chard - I just had to share the recipe with you.

Twice-Baked Irish Potatoes with Stout Onions and Kale (4 servings)

4 large russet potatoes, scrubbed (8-10 oz. each)
1 T. plus 1 tsp. olive oil, divided
1 1/2 c. thinly sliced onions (about 1 large)
1 c. Irish-style stout (I used whatever ale was in the fridge, but then, I'm not a beer-drinker)
1 bunch lacinato kale or Russian kale, about 3 oz. (chard or spinach would probably work too)
1 c. buttermilk
2 T. butter, at room temp.
1/2 tsp. mustard powder
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 c. grated cheddar cheese

  • Preheat the oven to 400 F. Rub the potatoes with 1 tsp. of the oil and place directly on the oven rack. Bake until they squish easily when gently squeezed, 45 minutes to 1 hour.
  • Heat the remaining 1 T. of oil in a large saute' pan over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring frequently until they begin to brown, about 15 minutes. Add a splash of the stout and scrape up any browned bits. Continue to cook, occasionally deglazing the pan with the stout until the onions are deep brown and nearly all of the stout is used, about 30 minutes total.
  • Tear the tough ribs and stems away from the kale and discard or use for stock. Roughly chop the leaves and add half the kale to the onions, tossing with tongs to wilt the leaves. Add the remaining kale, toss, cover and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.
  • With a serrated knife slice off the top quarter of each potato. Use a soup spoon to scoop out the flesh, leaving a 1/2-inch-thick shell on the bottom and sides. Mash the flesh with the buttermilk, butter, and mustard powder. Gently fold in the onion-kale mixture and season with the salt and pepper. Mound the mixture into the potato shells, sprinkle the tops with the cheese, and place on a baking sheet. Bake until the cheese is melted, about 20 minutes, and serve warm as a side dish or a vegetarian main course.
Bon Appetit, and puh-lease - pass it on to someone you know who is afraid of the kitchen or leafy greens!