Monday, February 18, 2013

Grains as Salad

    On the dinner tables of my childhood, the starch was almost always potatoes!  That was pretty much it for us.  The variety came only in how the potatoes were prepared.

    My mother  mashed them,  boiled them, roasted them,  baked  them with the skins on, fried them  and occasionally,  scalloped them with milk and onions.  On rare occasions we had white rice instead of potatoes or a large bowl of spaghetti with Italian bread.

  I don't remember ever being bored with dinner as a child, but I was delighted, when, as a newlywed, I discovered  couscous, wild rice, tabbouleh,  quinoa and other grains.

   I added this recipe called Asian Rice Salad to my repertoire early on and have found it very useful and delicious.

   In winter, it satisfies my husband's craving for salad and my craving for a change of pace.  It is also a great dish to serve to  vegetarians since it is high in protein.  I have made this without all of the ingredients on hand, using whatever I had but I usually don't tinker with the dressing!

Asian Rice Salad                                         

2 cups of cooked, cooled  brown rice
1/2 c raisins
chopped scallions
1 red pepper chopped
1-2 stalks celery, sliced
1/2 c sliced water chestnuts
1/2 c bean sprouts
1/2 c raw snow peas
1/2 c pineapple chunks
1/4 c cashews
1/4 c toasted sesame seeds
1/4 c toasted (unsweetened) shredded coconut
chopped  fresh parsley

1/2 c orange juice
1/2 c canola oil
1-2 Tbs sesame oil
3-4 Tbs soy sauce
juice of 1 lemon
2-3 TBS dry sherry
minced fresh garlic
minced fresh ginger root
salt and pepper to taste

  Combine all ingredients and serve over greens.

This is delicious  served at room temperature with broiled boneless chicken breasts that have been marinated in soy sauce and lemon juice for an hour or two.

The next time I make this, I think I'll try using quinoa instead of the rice.

For 33 Shades of Green 'Tasty Tuesdays' where you can find loads of delicious recipes every week!!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Winter Companions

  When the snow flies and the garden is sleeping soundly under a white blanket, birdwatching becomes a diversion for us.

White throated Sparrow

 There are no flowers to photograph and no herbs to preserve, no weeding or mowing or planting to keep us busy so  we haul out the bird feeders,  fill them up with seed and sit back to wait for company to arrive in the yard.

Purple Finch

 The birds are faithful winter companions and,  having no children at home or pets to spoil, we treat them well.

Dove and Francis
 Over several years we've discovered that certain feeders and certain seeds attract the smaller, prettier song birds while the bigger more annoying birds stay away.

Purple Finch
 We use a feeder which discourages the bigger birds (and squirrels) by closing when there is too much weight on the platform.  We only offer sunflower seeds,  safflower seeds, niger seed and suet in special feeders for woodpeckers.

Downy Woodpecker
  The smaller birds reward us with hours of pleasure with their antics and songs.  We always know when a hawk is in the area.  The birds disappear and the silence and lack of movement is immediately noticeable.

Cooper's Hawk

 Yesterday we watched a Red-tailed Hawk circle for a few minutes before moving on.  What a beautiful bird he was! (Not that I want him to take any of my little birds! Still,  he is magnificent.)

Female Cardinal
   To make our yard more attractive, we added a bird bath as a water source and planted many small trees and shrubs to provide shelter and as food sources.

Red-bellied Woodpecker
I  have taken many of these photos over several winters and, although they aren't great, they give an idea of which birds winter over on Long Island.

Yellow-shafted Flicker

  This year we have added three  birds to our line-up.  A group of three or four tufted-titmice arrived when we set out the feeders and they have come regularly since.  I have not gotten a good shot of one yet.  They are somewhat skittish and don't pose very long before flying to shelter.

  The other new bird we've spotted this winter is a red-breasted nuthatch, a cousin of the white breasted nuthatch.

Carolina Wren
  It is always fun to spot a new visitor.  We have a book of birds to help us figure out what we are seeing.

Male Cardinal
  The Red-tailed Hawk was another new bird for us.  We've seen them while hiking but never in the neighborhood.

Song Sparrow

Mourning Doves


  We are lucky to live on the North Atlantic Flyway.  Many migrating birds pass through in spring and fall and some will stop in our backyard.  Others, we  observe out in the woods and near the beaches along the shore.  But the best birds of all, are the ones who stop by everyday to say hello!

  Take away for today - Birds are good neighbors!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Hope for the Flowers

   Yesterday, I took a quick walk around the garden looking for some signs of spring. 

Tiny crepe paper petals

 My witch hazel (Hamamelis) never disappoints me.  It always blooms in early February regardless of dire weather predictions and cold temperatures.   Even when the bird bath is frozen and the anemic sun is still struggling to move north,  it unfurls  tiny flowers that look like confetti.

flowers in the snow
a good witch


February sun is enough for hazel
  Not much else going on, but then it doesn't take much to make a gardener's heart sing a spring song!  I find my garlic, small but  green and alive!

Garlic, planted in the fall, is coming up

Daffodils venturing out
The daffodils may be a bit premature but they pop early every year and seem impervious to the ice and snow, blooming in April no matter what.

Lenten Rose buds come right out of the frozen ground!
The Hellebore or Lenten Rose is sending out its flowers too and it will be blooming in early March even if we get the predicted blizzard.

Back inside!

When I'm too cold to putter, I return to the house and tend my indoor flowers, fussing over African Violets and Cyclamen .  I crush a bit of rosemary and a scented geranium leaf to inhale a whiff of  summer, then  pour myself a hot cup of herbal tea and wait for the snow.

Recuerda Mi Corazon 'Haiku My Heart'

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Armchair Trip To Italy

Off the beaten track in Rome

 A friend recently returned from a trip to Italy and her photos and stories brought back memories of our wonderful jaunt several years ago.

rooftops through a window
 I dug out my photos and relived the trip on a recent wintery afternoon.  Many of the photos I took were iconic shots like  the Colosseum, the Vatican,  fabulous church interiors, romantic shots of Venetian canals and other familiar landmarks. Like this:

Quintessential Venice

I noticed that these weren't always the photos that brought me back to that time and place though.

Vegetable market in Venice
   The photos that transported me to the sights and smells and sounds of Italy were the ones I took as we wandered around ancient back roads and down city alley ways.  They are not the readily recognizable places.  Nonetheless, for me, they are Italy.

I'm a sucker for columns and shadows
  I fell in love with the cobblestone streets, the ancient fountains,  the tile roofs,
and would still be there, standing on a corner in some small town trying to decide on the best angle to capture the light and shadow and show off  the flower boxes or clay pots to their best advantage.

Dusk in romantic Venice

For better or worse, the Admiral was there to keep me from running completely out of control.  

Stone and flowers

My favorite Venetian mask!

One of two brides I  captured on film

Mary art on a wall 

Fountains everywhere

Rainy street in Florence

Tile roof seen through a stone fence

Lights and Shadows on a ceiling

through a doorway

A work of art

a well placed clay pot

tourists in the rain

Art work for sale in a restaurant

Stairway to our apartment

bedroom in our apartment

Florence restaurant

Umbrian hillside

near Assisi

another fountain

Did I mention I like fountains?

bread and pastry heaven

OK so I went a little crazy with the fountains

So many alleys to explore

sausages for sale

late day silhouette 

nice ironwork to go with the stone walls

I tried to get lost but SOMEONE  kept finding our way back!

Cat with a view

Lunch with a view

Motorcycle with a view

Ready to pick

Every window looked like this

Hiking  old roads

decorative wall

one of our hotel rooms

rooftop patio

dinner for two

flowers everywhere

stone and clay-so warm on a cold winter day

Great place for lunch(and wine) during a downpour

Iron gates with a beautiful courtyard beyond

I was probably in a museum when I took this

    After taking this stroll down memory lane, I am dreaming about another trip to Italy.  Maybe if I skip eating, sell the cars and  start walking and sell one of my children, I can save up for another trip before I die.

Warm Thought for Today - When the snow flies outside my window, I can warm up with an armchair visit to Italy!  I think I'll take some pesto sauce out of the freezer for dinner tonight.
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