Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Gifts of Early December

Winter is almost here. 

 I can taste it in the coolness of the air. 

 I can see it on my breath. 

The time has come to dial down the noise and spend some quality time meditating and praying. 

For me, early winter is the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas, when I like to skip away from the bustle of preparing for the holidays and spend some quiet time in the woods.  

It isn't terribly cold yet and the sun obliges with shadows that are only this interesting once a year. 

My eyes notice textures and colors that are obscured by the green and gold of other seasons.

The light is free to play on the water.

And the mauve and gray tones compete with black and white in the late afternoon clouds.

The hearty birds stand guard over the wetlands and provide company for a solitary walker.

My heart feels bigger in the last weeks before the solstice.  I find so much to contemplate in the silence of the woods.  Everyone else is somewhere else and I can find all the gifts I need, right here in the woods. And I give thanks for them!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Fresh Sage - A Delicious Twist

OK.  There is a good reason I named this blog 'The Healthy NUT.'  I am just a little crazy and this post may prove it.   I have had almost no desire to cook much lately, relying on easy summery recipes that require a minimum of time in the kitchen.  We eat lots of salads and fresh veggies, chicken and fish.

Recently a friend e-mailed me asking for some recipe ideas for a bumper crop of sage.   I suddenly had a burning desire to make something I could garnish with fried sage. Usually I make  vegetarian cassoulet or bean soup in the fall and  both recipes are enhanced by the frizzled sage on top.    But who wants to make a meal like that in August.

Today while in the market, I spotted a butternut squash  -already peeled and cubed.  A recipe was forming in my (crazy) brain.  I added a package of crumbled gorgonzola to the basket and I knew what we were having for dinner.
Perhaps it was the 13 inches of rain that fell on us in 24 hours that gave me a yen for comfort food, but this is what I cooked up tonight.

Quinoa Risotto With Butternut Squash and Fried Sage Leaves and Gorgonzola

Olive Oil
4 cloves ofGarlic
1 Onion
A handful of fresh sage
1 cup tricolor quinoa
2&1/2 cups of water or broth
2 cups of cubed winter squash 
1 cup of gorgonzola cheese, crumbled

Coat the squash with olive oil and bake in 400 oven for about 30 minutes.

Heat a generous amount of olive oil  and fry the sage leaves quickly.  Remove from the heat when they are crispy and drain on a paper towel. 

In the same pan, heat more oil (a tablespoon) cook the onion for 3-4 minutes add garlic and  quinoa.  cook for 3-4 minutes until quinoa starts to jump around in the pan. Slowly add water or broth, 1/4 cup at a time and stir as you would risotto.  Keep stirring and adding the water. This will take about 25-30 minutes for the quinoa to cook.  

Add salt and pepper to taste.  Turn off the heat and fold in the gorgonzola and the roasted squash.  Garnish with the sage. 

I served this with a straight- from- the- garden -yellow- tomato- and -basil - salad and a simple dressing. Drizzle with olive oil and a splash of balsamic vinegar.  Salt and pepper to taste.

Anyone who has read my recipes before knows that I like a recipe that can be changed up with whatever is on hand.  I can envision this working with asparagus and goat cheese or sun-dried tomatoes and parmesan cheese.  

Today's Take-away 

               Sage - It's not just for Thanksgiving anymore!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Midsummer's Daydream

Rik Emmett Midsummer's Daydream - music for garden dreaming.

   The days have been warm and sunny, the nights cool and breezy.  The summer has been good to us.  Perfect weather for getting outside in the garden to work, then dawdle, then work a bit more.


 I was wandering around early one morning when I realized that, in summer, my garden is all about attracting the birds and the bees and the butterflies.

African Blue Basil

The bees love my basil and I've planted several varieties for them to enjoy since I keep picking the flowers off the sweet basil so there will be an abundance of it for pesto making in late August.

The purple coneflowers in the back round pull in the American Goldfinches. All summer they stop by to check on the progress of the seed pods.  Then in the fall they keep coming to eat until they have exhausted the supply of seeds.

My 'Carefree Rose' holds court in the center of the herb garden, and is finally acclimated to the move.  And ready for a close-up this morning!

Just as he was purported to do in life, Francis stands so still that the birds often land on his head to rest.  He is almost hidden in the lobelia, but the doves and the cardinals know where he is.

The sunny garden has been handed over to the hummingbirds and butterflies.  There is sage, monarda, honeysuckle, lantana, butterfly bush and trumpet vine along with the lobelia to lure them into my world.

Bee Balm or Monarda

Trumpet Vine

 And of course, what hummingbird garden is complete without this aggressive climber - a trumpet vine.


Last year we discovered this plant, an annual called the 'cigar plant' or cuphea while we were hunting for herbs at the Peconic River Herb Farm.  The hummingbirds were crazy for it at the farm.  So, of course, we HAD to get some this year.  I'm delighted to report that we've had a male hummingbird visiting us at least twice a day for the past two weeks and he visits every nectar plant in the garden before moving on!

Coleus - center stage in the shade

I have fallen in love with coleus For the shadier garden spots.  It is an easy-going annual that can add a real pop of color in mid-summer when the shade plants are mostly green.  The best part of coleus is this.  I can take cuttings at the end of summer, root it, grow it in the sunroom all winter, then move it outside to live in the ground all summer.
Two varieties of Coleus - there are so many to choose from
 I am also spending a bit of time each day harvesting and drying herbs and flowers for use all winter.  Iam collecting chamomile, calendula and St. John's Wort flowers to make a lovely skin cream once I have enough flowers.  More on that another time.  And I pull weeds for an hour or two every now and then.
But mostly what I do is stop to smell the roses, write in my garden journal and
indulge in midsummer daydreaming!

My treehouse
Finally, when the mosquitoes arrive, it is time to retreat to my own private treehouse.  I was trying to get a bug's eye view of the sky with the bee balm in the picture, when I suddenly noticed my sunroom in the back round.  Nice view looking in or out!

I hope you find a garden for daydreaming..... today and everyday.
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