Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Today is National Pistachio Day

In honor of the fact it is national pistachio day here's a great vegetarian recipe using pistachios.

Risotto with Squash and Pistachios

Prep:  8
15 min
Cook: 45 min
Total: 1hr
  • 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cups finely chopped red onion (1 lg)
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp kosher salt, divided
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 cups Arborio rice
  • 4 1/2 cup low sodium vegetable broth, divided
  • 4 cups roasted butternut squash
  • 1 oz soft goat cheese
  • 1/4 cups unsalted, dry roasted, shelled, chopped pistachios
  • 1/4 cups fresh mint, thinly sliced

1. Heat oil in large pan over medium heat and saute onion 10 minutes until soft. Sprinkle with sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper and saute 3 minutes longer until browned.
2. Add water and vinegar to pan and saute until all liquid has evaporated, about 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in rice and cook 2 minutes.
3. Add 1 cup of the broth and stir constantly until broth is absorbed, 3 to 5 minutes.
4. Stir in squash and 2 1/2 cups broth and bring to a vigorous simmer, about 5 to 7 minutes. Reduce heat to medium low and cook 15 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes.
5. Stir in remaining 1 cup broth and cook until rice is soft, about 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in cheese until melted, 1 minute longer.
6. Remove from heat, mound onto serving plates, and sprinkle pistachios and mint over top.

Nutritional Facts per serving
Calories     241.1 cal
Fat     7.5 g
Saturated fat     1.6 g
Cholesterol     4.4 mg
Sodium     459 mg
Carbohydrates     39.1 g
Total sugars     6.5 g
Dietary fiber     4.3 g
Protein     7.3 g

Hope you enjoy! 

Monday, February 25, 2013

February's Full Moon

Will you be looking up tonight? It's the night of the full moon.

Historically, the Native Americans who lived in what is now the northern and eastern United States kept track of the seasons by giving distinctive names to the recurring full Moons.

Each full Moon name was applied to the entire lunar month in which it occurred.

These names, and some variations, were used by the Algonquin tribes from New England to Lake Superior.

February's full moon's name is; Full Snow Moon. 

Usually the heaviest snows fall in February. Hunting becomes very difficult, and hence to some Native American tribes this was known as the Hunger Moon.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

RIP Tiger-birdie

How very hard it is to lose a much loved pet.
No matter their size, they touch your heart and bring happiness and joy into your life.

We lost our youngest budgie Tiger-birdie yesterday to a chest mass (the vet said this).
There was nothing she said that could have been done to save him.
Though we rushed through freezing rain and driving snow to get him to the avian vet over an hour away from our home.

He brightened our lives, made us laugh and was a great companion to Lucy (the older parakeet).
He chattered through the bars of his cage, well protected, from Gracie (our dog) who would stand and watch his and Lucy's antics for hours.

He will be laid to rest with our beloved lovebird, Harley, in our gardens.

Here he is with Lucy.... he is the little green/yellow budgie.  

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Other Coffee Uses

From a health perspective, good science says the jury’s still out on coffee drinking. But strong coffee and the spent grounds have a lot of other uses. For example: Cook with it.

You can use some of that leftover morning coffee to add depth and complexity to almost any marinade, gravy, sauce, frosting, or as as part of the liquid in a soup, stew, fruit smoothie, or dessert. Add a tablespoon or two of freshly ground coffee beans to a cake, cookie, or brownie batter (coffee has a special affinity for chocolate). Look online for thousands of recipes that use coffee.

Freeze leftover coffee for iced drinks or to thaw for cooking. Just pop into ice-cube trays and freeze.Then remove the cubes and store in a zippered plastic bag.

Use it in the garden. Coffee grounds have some plant-supporting nutrients; research has found they offer some protection against several plant diseases. Add to your compost pile, stir them into topsoil, or sprinkle a light layer around plants. They may help repel slugs and domestic cats from digging in your garden. Evenly disperse small seeds such as carrots, lettuce, and various herbs by mixing a few dried coffee grounds with the seeds before planting.

Bathing; Exfoliate, tone skin. Simply rub a handful of spent coffee grounds over face and body. Add a bit of olive oil to the grounds for a smoother finish. You can add a handful of coffee grounds to improve the results from a facial scrub or hair conditioner.

Treat hair.  For an instant shine, rub coffee grounds through damp hair after shampooing, or add a few grounds to your hair conditioner, then rinse. The coffee grounds will darken light hair.

Darken hair or cover gray temporarily. Dip freshly washed hair into a bowl of strong, dark coffee; squeeze out, use a cup to pour coffee through hair repeatedly. Pin it up under a large plastic bag for half an hour. Then rinse hair and dry as usual. For a more dramatic coloring, make a thick paste of instant coffee or finely ground beans with hot water and apply the paste to sections of hair. Pin up under a large plastic bag for half an hour, then rinse.

Control wood-ash dust. Sprinkle the morning’s coffee grounds on ashes before scraping them from your stove or prepare to empty the ash pan.

Deodorize closets, car interiors, fridge, and microwave. To remove stale or musty odors fill an empty butter tub with coffee grounds, punch holes in the cover and set the tub in your closet, car, or fridge. Alternatively, tie up a cup of spent or fresh coffee grounds in a pantyhose leg and hang on a hook in a closet or pantry.

Hide scratches in dark wooden furniture. Use a Q Tip dipped in strong black coffee to swab small scratches in dark-stained wood. For larger areas, make a paste of finely-ground fresh beans or instant coffee and a little hot brewed coffee, brush paste over area, let dry, brush off excess.

Remove stubborn stains. Use a wet coffee filter and a few spent grounds to scrub the stains from ceramic coffee or tea cups. Sometimes a few coffee grounds and a stiff scrub brush will clean up burned-on food or grease from pots and pans.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Holidays Today for Canada and the USA

MondayFeb 18Louis Riel Day in Canada   Louis Riel Day celebrates the achievements and life of Louis Riel, a Canadian politician who was a leader of the M├ętis people.                
MondayFeb 18Family Day in Canada   The Canadian provinces of Alberta, Ontario, Saskatchewan and British Columbia celebrate the importance of families on Family Day.
MondayFeb 18Islander Day in Canada    Islander Day is a day off for many people in the province of Prince Edward Island in Canada.  

MondayFeb 18Daisy Gatson Bates Day in the USA   Daisy Gatson Bates Day honors the life of Daisy Gatson Bates, a civil rights activist who played a key role in an integration crisis at Little Rock Central High School in 1957.
MondayFeb 18Presidents' Day (Washington's Birthday) in the USA    Washington's Birthday, also known as Presidents' Day, is a federal holiday held on the third Monday of February. The day honors presidents of the United States, including George Washington, the USA's first president.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Saturday, February 9, 2013

The Dreaded Damping Off Disease

Damping-off is a term used for a variety of fungal problems that lead to sudden seedling death. Beginners and experienced gardeners alike are frustrated and disheartened when it strikes.  The pathogens attack the tender stems and roots of the seedlings.  Some seedlings look pinched at the base of the stem, others flop over, and some wither away entirely.  Once the process is underway, it’s hard to save even a few of your plants.  Prevention is the best cure.

 Sterilizing your seed starting mix reduces fungal spores and other troublemakers.  Commercial seed starting mix isn’t necessarily sterile, especially once the bag has been opened.  Image
You can sterilize potting mix in the oven, using pans or roasting bags with a thermometer to monitor internal temperature.  Heat the mix in a 200 degree (F) oven to an internal temperature of 180-200 degrees (F) for 30 minutes. Baking potting mix does have a certain odor that many people (or their spouses) object to. 

 I like using the microwave.  I discovered the hard way that the potting mix must be moist.  Add 1 cup of water per quart or two of dry, soil-less mix.  Work out any lumps or chunks of compressed mix.  Additions such as moisture crystals, extra perlite, and time-release fertilizer pellets can be mixed in before microwaving. Put the mix into a microwave safe container with lid. I put my mix into a huge Tupperware bowl that holds nearly 2 gallons, but any microwave safe container with a lid will work.

Cover loosely, and microwave on high for 8 to 12 minutes, until you see steam condensing in droplets on the underside of the lid.  Close the lid tightly and allow the mix to steam at least 10 more minutes as the mix begins to cool.  

Steaming the potting mix also seems to “open up” the peat moss or coir so it absorbs water more readily.  Although it won’t be strictly sterile once you start fooling with it, unused mix can be sealed up for later use.
Put that sterile potting mix into clean planting containers.  If you’re reusing containers, clean them first with soapy water and bleach.

Less water, more air
Wet conditions can promote damping off.  Don't overwater. Keeping your potting mix barely moist rather than soggy is essential to healthy seedlings.  If you water from the top, water between rows of seedlings and try not to drench the tops of the plants.  Bottom watering seems to help by keeping the soil surface a bit drier, also.  Pour water into a tray containing the seedling pots, and let them soak up as much as they can through the holes in the bottom of the pots.  After 15 minutes, pour off any excess so plants don't sit in water. 
Good air circulation helps prevent damping off.  I’m always tempted to cram as many plants as possible onto my light shelves, but overcrowding limits air flow.  A fan placed near your plants helps to keep the air moving.  

 Many people recommend removing germination domes and other covers as soon as seeds germinate or doing without covers altogether.  I put lots of little ventilation holes in the plastic domes for my trays.  The holes allow some air flow and keep the humidity from getting too high.  I do remove the domes once seedlings have several sturdy sets of leaves. 
Anti-fungal agents

Watering or misting seedlings with an antifungal solution will also help protect your seedlings.  One tablespoon of 3% hydrogen peroxide per quart of water is sufficient. You can also brew strong chamomile tea and add an ounce or two per quart of water. 

A one-time dusting of cinnamon or powdered charcoal on the soil surface can also be used as an antifungal agent.  Adding a top layer of chopped sphagnum moss, sand, or chick grit may help discourage fungi from growing on the surface of your potting mix.  

 Sterilize your seed starting mix.  Minimize wet conditions, and maximize air flow.  Add an anti-fungal agent to your water.  These steps will go a long way toward preventing the Dreaded Damping Off, and you’ll have healthy seedlings to set out this spring!

Friday, February 8, 2013

It's Seed Starting Time

Although generations of gardeners, myself included, have started seeds on sunny windowsills, the seedlings often end up tall and spindly. If you want flats of sturdy seedlings, but you don’t have a greenhouse, a light shelf is the way to go.

Sunny windowsills aren’t really as bright as they look, compared to outdoor sunshine. If you’re starting plants inside, artificial light is a big help. You can purchase wonderful shelf units with expensive grow lights, and they will certainly work. But you can get the same results on a much more slender budget.

Seedlings don’t need full spectrum lights; the cool fluorescent tubes in a cheap shop light are fine. A fixture with two 48 inch fluorescent tubes will provide enough light for two standard nursery flats (1020 size) of seedlings. It’s important to set up the light so that the height can be adjusted to keep the light just an inch or two from the top leaves of the seedlings as they grow. If you use a bookcase or storage shelf unit, you can hang a light over a shelf on adjustable chains or ropes. Just hang the fixture from the next shelf up (or from the ceiling for the top shelf).

The fluorescent lights that most of us are used to seeing are T-12s, which use 40 watts of electricity per 48 inch tube. There are some newer fluorescent lights on the market now, and I especially like the slim 32 watt T-8 tubes. Their electronic ballasts don't flicker, making the light seem brighter and cleaner to me. I also appreciate having just a little extra clearance when my tomato seedlings start reaching for the sky. 
If you want the most bang for your buck, the 48 inch tubes and fixtures are the most cost effective for the home grower. If your space is limited, fluorescent tubes do come in other sizes. Fixtures that take two 24” tubes should be easy to find and will provide enough light for a single flat of plants. Fluorescent fixtures and tubes are manufactured in a variety of sizes for the aquarium trade, but these can be costly unless you find them secondhand. The cheapest solution is usually to find a space where you can rig up a 48 inch shop light or two.

Your seedlings need at least 12 hours of light each day. Some people have good results running lights 24/7 for their seedlings. I usually run my lights for 16 hours on, 8 hours off. Putting your lights on a timer definitely simplifies things. Be sure to use a heavy duty timer that will take a 3 pronged plug. Using that third prong to ground the lights is important for electrical safety.
By May, I usually have 20 to 24 flats of plants under lights in the bird room. That may be more space than you care to devote to seed starting, but anybody can find space to start a flat or two of plants. I’ve heard of people putting flats on top of cabinets, raising them close to fluorescent office lights by stacking bricks under them. My first light shelf was set up in our utility room, over the washer and dryer. 

 Putting together shelves and hanging lights isn’t as exciting as playing in the dirt. But you’ll be so glad to have your seed starting space all set up and ready to go when it’s time to sow seeds.
Clear a space for a seed starting nook or a corner shelf, or make room for an entire bank of seed starting shelves. Rig adjustable fluorescent lights above each shelf, and put them on a timer. If you can, make space for one or two extra flats of plants. Once you start sowing and transplanting, your space will fill up faster than you’d believe!


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An american yankee up past the 49th parellel.


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